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Five Case Studies On Politicization

[Trigger warning: Some discussion of rape in Part III. This will make much more sense if you’ve previously read I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup]

I.

One day I woke up and they had politicized Ebola.

I don’t just mean the usual crop of articles like Republicans Are Responsible For The Ebola Crisis and Democrats Try To Deflect Blame For Ebola Outbreak and Incredibly Awful Democrats Try To Blame Ebola On GOP and NPR Reporter Exposes Right Wing Ebola Hype and Republicans Flip-Flop On Ebola Czars. That level of politicization was pretty much what I expected.

(I can’t say I totally expected to see an article called Fat Lesbians Got All The Ebola Dollars, But Blame The GOP, but in retrospect nothing I know about modern society suggested I wouldn’t)

I’m talking about something weirder. Over the past few days, my friends on Facebook have been making impassioned posts about how it’s obvious there should/shouldn’t be a quarantine, but deluded people on the other side are muddying the issue. The issue has risen to an alarmingly high level of 0.05 #Gamergates, which is my current unit of how much people on social media are concerned about a topic. What’s more, everyone supporting the quarantine has been on the right, and everyone opposing on the left. Weird that so many people suddenly develop strong feelings about a complicated epidemiological issue, which can be exactly predicted by their feelings about everything else.

On the Right, there is condemnation of the CDC’s opposition to quarantines as globalist gibberish, fourteen questions that will never be asked about Ebola centering on why there aren’t more quarantine measures in place, and arguments on right-leaning biology blogs for why the people opposing quarantines are dishonest or incompetent. Top Republicans call for travel bans and a presenter on Fox, proportionate as always, demands quarantine centers in every US city.

On the Left (and token libertarian) sides, the New Yorker has been publishing articles on how involuntary quarantines violate civil liberties and “embody class and racial biases”, Reason makes fun of “dumb Republican calls for a travel ban”, Vox has a clickbaity article on how “This One Paragraph Perfectly Sums Up America’s Overreaction To Ebola”, and MSNBC notes that to talk about travel bans is “borderline racism”.

How did this happen? How did both major political tribes decide, within a month of the virus becoming widely known in the States, not only exactly what their position should be but what insults they should call the other tribe for not agreeing with their position? There are a lot of complicated and well-funded programs in West Africa to disseminate information about the symptoms of Ebola in West Africa, and all I can think of right now is that if the Africans could disseminate useful medical information half as quickly as Americans seem to have disseminated tribal-affiliation-related information, the epidemic would be over tomorrow.

Is it just random? A couple of Republicans were coincidentally the first people to support a quarantine, so other Republicans felt they had to stand by them, and then Democrats felt they had to oppose it, and then that spread to wider and wider circles? And if by chance a Democrats had proposed quarantine before a Republican, the situation would have reversed itself? Could be.

Much more interesting is the theory that the fear of disease is the root of all conservativism. I am not making this up. There has been a lot of really good evolutionary psychology done on the extent to which pathogen stress influences political opinions. Some of this is done on the societal level, and finds that societies with higher germ loads are more authoritarian and conservative. This research can be followed arbitrarily far – like, isn’t it interesting that the most liberal societies in the world are the Scandinavian countries in the very far north where disease burden is low, and the most traditionalist-authoritarian ones usually in Africa or somewhere where disease burden is high? One even sees a similar effect within countries, with northern US states being very liberal and southern states being very conservative. Other studies have instead focused on differences between individuals within society – we know that religious conservatives are people with stronger disgust reactions and priming disgust reactions can increase self-reported conservative political beliefs – with most people agreeing disgust reactions are a measure of the “behavioral immune system” triggered by fear of germ contamination.

(free tip for liberal political activists – offering to tidy up voting booths before the election is probably a thousand times more effective than anything you’re doing right now. I will leave the free tip for conservative political activists to your imagination)

If being a conservative means you’re pre-selected for worry about disease, obviously the conservatives are going to be the ones most worried about Ebola. And in fact, along with the quarantine debate, there’s a little sub-debate about whether Ebola is worth panicking about. Vox declares Americans to be “overreacting” and keeps telling them to calm down, whereas its similarly-named evil twin Vox Day has been spending the last week or so spreading panic and suggesting readers “wash your hands, stock up a bit, and avoid any unnecessary travel”.

So that’s the second theory.

The third theory is that everything in politics is mutually reinforcing.

Suppose the Red Tribe has a Grand Narrative. The Narrative is something like “We Americans are right-thinking folks with a perfectly nice culture. But there are also scary foreigners who hate our freedom and wish us ill. Unfortunately, there are also traitors in our ranks – in the form of the Blue Tribe – who in order to signal sophistication support foreigners over Americans and want to undermine our culture. They do this by supporting immigration, accusing anyone who is too pro-American and insufficiently pro-foreigner of “racism”, and demanding everyone conform to “multiculturalism” and “diversity”, as well as lionizing any group within America that tries to subvert the values of the dominant culture. Our goal is to minimize the subversive power of the Blue Tribe at home, then maintain isolation from foreigners abroad, enforced by a strong military if they refuse to stay isolated.”

And the Blue Tribe also has a Grand Narrative. The Narrative is something like “The world is made up of a bunch of different groups and cultures. The wealthier and more privileged groups, played by the Red Tribe, have a history of trying to oppress and harass all the other groups. This oppression is based on ignorance, bigotry, xenophobia, denial of science, and a false facade of patriotism. Our goal is to call out the Red Tribe on its many flaws, and support other groups like foreigners and minorities in their quest for justice and equality, probably in a way that involves lots of NGOs and activists.”

The proposition “a quarantine is the best way to deal with Ebola” seems to fit much better into the Red narrative than the Blue Narrative. It’s about foreigners being scary and dangerous, and a strong coordinated response being necessary to protect right-thinking Americans from them. When people like NBC and the New Yorker accuse quarantine opponents of being “racist”, that just makes the pieces fit in all the better.

The proposition “a quarantine is a bad way to deal with Ebola” seems to fit much better into the Blue narrative than the Red. It’s about extremely poor black foreigners dying, and white Americans rushing to throw them overboard to protect themselves out of ignorance of the science (which says Ebola can’t spread much in the First World), bigotry, xenophobia, and fear. The real solution is a coordinated response by lots of government agencies working in tandem with NGOs and local activists.

It would be really hard to switch these two positions around. If the Republicans were to oppose a quarantine, it might raise the general question of whether closing the borders and being scared of foreign threats is always a good idea, and whether maybe sometimes accusations of racism are making a good point. Far “better” to maintain a consistent position where all your beliefs reinforce all of your other beliefs.

There’s a question of causal structure here. Do Republicans believe certain other things for their own sake, and then adapt their beliefs about Ebola to help buttress their other beliefs? Or do the same factors that made them adopt their narrative in the first place lead them to adopt a similar narrative around Ebola?

My guess it it’s a little of both. And then once there’s a critical mass of anti-quarantiners within a party, in-group cohesion and identification effects cascade towards it being a badge of party membership and everybody having to believe it. And if the Democrats are on the other side, saying things you disagree with about every other issue, and also saying that you have to oppose quarantine or else you’re a bad person, then that also incentivizes you to support a quarantine, just to piss them off.

II.

Sometimes politicization isn’t about what side you take, it’s about what issues you emphasize.

In the last post, I wrote:

Imagine hearing that a liberal talk show host and comedian was so enraged by the actions of ISIS that he’d recorded and posted a video in which he shouts at them for ten minutes, cursing the “fanatical terrorists” and calling them “utter savages” with “savage values”.

If I heard that, I’d be kind of surprised. It doesn’t fit my model of what liberal talk show hosts do.

But the story I’m actually referring to is liberal talk show host / comedian Russell Brand making that same rant against Fox News for supporting war against the Islamic State, adding at the end that “Fox is worse than ISIS”.

That fits my model perfectly. You wouldn’t celebrate Osama’s death, only Thatcher’s. And you wouldn’t call ISIS savages, only Fox News. Fox is the outgroup, ISIS is just some random people off in a desert. You hate the outgroup, you don’t hate random desert people.

I would go further. Not only does Brand not feel much like hating ISIS, he has a strong incentive not to. That incentive is: the Red Tribe is known to hate ISIS loudly and conspicuously. Hating ISIS would signal Red Tribe membership, would be the equivalent of going into Crips territory with a big Bloods gang sign tattooed on your shoulder.

Now I think I missed an important part of the picture. The existence of ISIS plays right into Red Tribe narratives. They are totally scary foreigners who hate our freedom and want to hurt us and probably require a strong military response, so their existence sounds like a point in favor of the Red Tribe. Thus, the Red Tribe wants to talk about them as much as possible and condemn them in the strongest terms they can.

There’s not really any way to spin this issue in favor of the Blue Tribe narrative. The Blue Tribe just has to grudgingly admit that maybe this is one of the few cases where their narrative breaks down. So their incentive is to try to minimize ISIS, to admit it exists and is bad and try to distract the conversation to other issues that support their chosen narrative more. That’s why you’ll never see the Blue Tribe gleefully cheering someone on as they call ISIS “savages”. It wouldn’t fit the script.

But did you hear about that time when a Muslim-American lambasting Islamophobia totally pwned all of those ignorant FOX anchors? Le-GEN-dary!

III.

At worst this choice to emphasize different issues descends into an unhappy combination of tragedy and farce.

The Rotherham scandal was an incident in an English town where criminal gangs had been grooming and blackmailing thousands of young girls, then using them as sex slaves. This had been going on for at least ten years with minimal intervention by the police. An investigation was duly launched, which discovered that the police had been keeping quiet about the problem because the gangs were mostly Pakistani and the victims mostly white, and the police didn’t want to seem racist by cracking down too heavily. Researchers and officials who demanded that the abuse should be publicized or fought more vigorously were ordered to attend “diversity training” to learn why their demands were offensive. The police department couldn’t keep it under wraps forever, and eventually it broke and was a huge scandal.

The Left then proceeded to totally ignore it, and the Right proceeded to never shut up about it for like an entire month, and every article about it had to include the “diversity training” aspect, so that if you type “rotherham d…” into Google, your two first options are “Rotherham Daily Mail” and “Rotherham diversity training”.

I don’t find this surprising at all. The Rotherham incident ties in perfectly to the Red Tribe narrative – scary foreigners trying to hurt us, politically correct traitors trying to prevent us from noticing. It doesn’t do anything for the Blue Tribe narrative, and indeed actively contradicts it at some points. So the Red Tribe wants to trumpet it to the world, and the Blue Tribe wants to stay quiet and distract.

HBD Chick usually writes very well-thought-out articles on race and genetics listing all the excellent reasons you should not marry your cousins. Hers is not a political blog, and I have never seen her get upset about any political issue before, but since most of her posts are about race and genetics she gets a lot of love from the Right and a lot of flak from the Left. She recently broke her silence on politics to write three long and very angry blog posts on the Rotherham issue, of which I will excerpt one:

if you’ve EVER called somebody a racist just because they said something politically incorrect, then you’d better bloody well read this report, because THIS IS ON YOU! this is YOUR doing! this is where your scare tactics have gotten us: over 1400 vulnerable kids systematically abused because YOU feel uncomfortable when anybody brings up some “hate facts.”

this is YOUR fault, politically correct people — and i don’t care if you’re on the left or the right. YOU enabled this abuse thanks to the climate of fear you’ve created. thousands of abused girls — some of them maybe dead — on YOUR head.

I have no doubt that her outrage is genuine. But I do have to wonder why she is outraged about this and not all of the other outrageous things in the world. And I do have to wonder whether the perfect fit between her own problems – trying to blog about race and genetics but getting flak from politically correct people – and the problems that made Rotherham so disastrous – which include police getting flak from politically correct people – are part of her sudden conversion to political activism.

[edit: she objects to this characterization]

But I will also give her this – accidentally stumbling into being upset by the rape of thousands of children is, as far as accidental stumbles go, not a bad one. What’s everyone else’s excuse?

John Durant did an interesting analysis of media coverage of the Rotherham scandal versus the “someone posted nude pictures of Jennifer Lawrence” scandal.

He found left-leaning news website Slate had one story on the Rotherham child exploitation scandal, but four stories on nude Jennifer Lawrence.

He also found that feminist website Jezebel had only one story on the Rotherham child exploitation scandal, but six stories on nude Jennifer Lawrence.

Feministing gave Rotherham a one-sentence mention in a links roundup (just underneath “five hundred years of female portrait painting in three minutes”), but Jennifer Lawrence got two full stories.

The article didn’t talk about social media, and I couldn’t search it directly for Jennifer Lawrence stories because it was too hard to sort out discussion of the scandal from discussion of her as an actress. But using my current unit of social media saturation, Rotherham clocks in at 0.24 #Gamergates

You thought I was joking. I never joke.

This doesn’t surprise me much. Yes, you would think that the systematic rape of thousands of women with police taking no action might be a feminist issue. Or that it might outrage some people on Tumblr, a site which has many flaws but which has never been accused of being slow to outrage. But the goal here isn’t to push some kind of Platonic ideal of what’s important, it’s to support a certain narrative that ties into the Blue Tribe narrative. Rotherham does the opposite of that. The Jennifer Lawrence nudes, which center around how hackers (read: creepy internet nerds) shared nude pictures of a beloved celebrity on Reddit (read: creepy internet nerds) and 4Chan (read: creepy internet nerds) – and #Gamergate which does the same – are exactly the narrative they want to push, so they become the Stories Of The Century.

IV.

Here’s something I did find on Tumblr which I think is really interesting.

You can see that after the Ferguson shooting, the average American became a little less likely to believe that blacks were treated equally in the criminal justice system. This makes sense, since the Ferguson shooting was a much-publicized example of the criminal justice system treating a black person unfairly.

But when you break the results down by race, a different picture emerges. White people were actually a little more likely to believe the justice system was fair after the shooting. Why? I mean, if there was no change, you could chalk it up to white people believing the police’s story that the officer involved felt threatened and made a split-second bad decision that had nothing to do with race. That could explain no change just fine. But being more convinced that justice is color-blind? What could explain that?

My guess – before Ferguson, at least a few people interpreted this as an honest question about race and justice. After Ferguson, everyone mutually agreed it was about politics.

Ferguson and Rotherham were both similar in that they were cases of police misconduct involving race. You would think that there might be some police misconduct community who are interested in stories of police misconduct, or some race community interested in stories about race, and these people would discuss both of these two big international news items.

The Venn diagram of sources I saw covering these two stories forms two circles with no overlap. All those conservative news sites that couldn’t shut up about Rotherham? Nothing on Ferguson – unless it was to snipe at the Left for “exploiting” it to make a political point. Otherwise, they did their best to stay quiet about it. Hey! Look over there! ISIS is probably beheading someone really interesting!

The same way Rotherham obviously supports the Red Tribe’s narrative, Ferguson obviously supports the Blue Tribe’s narrative. A white person, in the police force, shooting an innocent (ish) black person, and then a racist system refusing to listen to righteous protests by brave activists.

The “see, the Left is right about everything” angle of most of the coverage made HBD Chick’s attack on political correctness look subtle. The parts about race, systemic inequality, and the police were of debatable proportionality, but what I really liked was the Ferguson coverage started branching off into every issue any member of the Blue Tribe has ever cared about:

Gun control? Check.

The war on terror? Check.

American exceptionalism? Check.

Feminism? Check.

Abortion? Check

Gay rights? Check.

Palestinian independence? Check.

Global warming? Check. Wait, really? Yes, really.

Anyone who thought that the question in that poll was just a simple honest question about criminal justice was very quickly disabused of that notion. It was a giant Referendum On Everything, a “do you think the Blue Tribe is right on every issue and the Red Tribe is terrible and stupid, or vice versa?” And it turns out many people who when asked about criminal justice will just give the obvious answer, have much stronger and less predictable feelings about Giant Referenda On Everything.

In my last post, I wrote about how people feel when their in-group is threatened, even when it’s threatened with an apparently innocuous point they totally agree with:

I imagine [it] might feel like some liberal US Muslim leader, when he goes on the O’Reilly Show, and O’Reilly ambushes him and demands to know why he and other American Muslims haven’t condemned beheadings by ISIS more, demands that he criticize them right there on live TV. And you can see the wheels in the Muslim leader’s head turning, thinking something like “Okay, obviously beheadings are terrible and I hate them as much as anyone. But you don’t care even the slightest bit about the victims of beheadings. You’re just looking for a way to score points against me so you can embarass all Muslims. And I would rather personally behead every single person in the world than give a smug bigot like you a single microgram more stupid self-satisfaction than you’ve already got.”

I think most people, when they think about it, probably believe that the US criminal justice system is biased. But when you feel under attack by people whom you suspect have dishonest intentions of twisting your words so they can use them to dehumanize your in-group, eventually you think “I would rather personally launch unjust prosecutions against every single minority in the world than give a smug out-group member like you a single microgram more stupid self-satisfaction than you’ve already got.”

V.

Wait, so you mean turning all the most important topics in our society into wedge issues that we use to insult and abuse people we don’t like, to the point where even mentioning it triggers them and makes them super defensive, might have been a bad idea??!

There’s been some really neat research into people who don’t believe in global warming. The original suspicion, at least from certain quarters, were that they were just dumb. Then someone checked and found that warming disbelievers actually had (very slightly) higher levels of scientific literacy than warming believers.

So people had to do actual studies, and to what should have been no one’s surprise, the most important factor was partisan affiliation. For example, according to Pew 64% of Democrats believe the Earth is getting warmer due to human activity, compared to 9% of Tea Party Republicans.

So assuming you want to convince Republicans to start believing in global warming before we’re all frying eggs on the sidewalk, how should you go about it? This is the excellent question asked by a study recently profiled in an NYMag article.

The study found that you could be a little more convincing to conservatives by acting on the purity/disgust axis of moral foundations theory – the one that probably gets people so worried about Ebola. A warmer climate is unnatural, in the same way that, oh, let’s say, homosexuality is unnatural. Carbon dioxide contaminating our previously pure atmosphere, in the same way premarital sex or drug use contaminates your previously pure body. It sort of worked.

Another thing that sort of worked was tying things into the Red Tribe narrative, which they did through the two sentences “Being pro-environmental allows us to protect and preserve the American way of life. It is patriotic to conserve the country’s natural resources.” I can’t imagine anyone falling for this, but I guess some people did.

This is cute, but it’s too little too late. Global warming has already gotten inextricably tied up in the Blue Tribe narrative: Global warming proves that unrestrained capitalism is destroying the planet. Global warming disproportionately affects poor countries and minorities. Global warming could have been prevented with multilateral action, but we were too dumb to participate because of stupid American cowboy diplomacy. Global warming is an important cause that activists and NGOs should be lauded for highlighting. Global warming shows that Republicans are science denialists and probably all creationists. Two lousy sentences on “patriotism” aren’t going to break through that.

If I were in charge of convincing the Red Tribe to line up behind fighting global warming, here’s what I’d say:

In the 1950s, brave American scientists shunned by the climate establishment of the day discovered that the Earth was warming as a result of greenhouse gas emissions, leading to potentially devastating natural disasters that could destroy American agriculture and flood American cities. As a result, the country mobilized against the threat. Strong government action by the Bush administration outlawed the worst of these gases, and brilliant entrepreneurs were able to discover and manufacture new cleaner energy sources. As a result of these brave decisions, our emissions stabilized and are currently declining.

Unfortunately, even as we do our part, the authoritarian governments of Russia and China continue to industralize and militarize rapidly as part of their bid to challenge American supremacy. As a result, Communist China is now by far the world’s largest greenhouse gas producer, with the Russians close behind. Many analysts believe Putin secretly welcomes global warming as a way to gain access to frozen Siberian resources and weaken the more temperate United States at the same time. These countries blow off huge disgusting globs of toxic gas, which effortlessly cross American borders and disrupt the climate of the United States. Although we have asked them to stop several times, they refuse, perhaps egged on by major oil producers like Iran and Venezuela who have the most to gain by keeping the world dependent on the fossil fuels they produce and sell to prop up their dictatorships.

A giant poster of Mao looks approvingly at all the CO2 being produced…for Communism.

We need to take immediate action. While we cannot rule out the threat of military force, we should start by using our diplomatic muscle to push for firm action at top-level summits like the Kyoto Protocol. Second, we should fight back against the liberals who are trying to hold up this important work, from big government bureaucrats trying to regulate clean energy to celebrities accusing people who believe in global warming of being ‘racist’. Third, we need to continue working with American industries to set an example for the world by decreasing our own emissions in order to protect ourselves and our allies. Finally, we need to punish people and institutions who, instead of cleaning up their own carbon, try to parasitize off the rest of us and expect the federal government to do it for them.

Please join our brave men and women in uniform in pushing for an end to climate change now.

If this were the narrative conservatives were seeing on TV and in the papers, I think we’d have action on the climate pretty quickly. I mean, that action might be nuking China. But it would be action.

And yes, there’s a sense in which that narrative is dishonest, or at least has really weird emphases. But our current narrative also has really some weird emphases. And for much the same reasons.

VI.

The Red Tribe and Blue Tribe have different narratives, which they use to tie together everything that happens into reasons why their tribe is good and the other tribe is bad.

Sometimes this results in them seizing upon different sides of an apparently nonpolitical issue when these support their narrative; for example, Republicans generally supporting a quarantine against Ebola, Democrats generally opposing it. Other times it results in a side trying to gain publicity for stories that support their narrative while sinking their opponents’ preferred stories – Rotherham for some Reds; Ferguson for some Blues.

When an issue gets tied into a political narrative, it stops being about itself and starts being about the wider conflict between tribes until eventually it becomes viewed as a Referendum On Everything. At this point, people who are clued in start suspecting nobody cares about the issue itself – like victims of beheadings, or victims of sexual abuse – and everybody cares about the issue’s potential as a political weapon – like proving Muslims are “uncivilized”, or proving political correctness is dangerous. After that, even people who agree that the issue is a problem and who would otherwise want to take action have to stay quiet, because they know that their help would be used less to solve a problem than to push forward the war effort against them. If they feel especially threatened, they may even take an unexpected side on the issue, switching from what they would usually believe to whichever position seems less like a transparent cover for attempts to attack them and their friends.

And then you end up doing silly things like saying ISIS is not as bad as Fox News, or donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to the officer who shot Michael Brown.

This can sort of be prevented by not turning everything into a referendum on how great your tribe is and how stupid the opposing tribe is, or by trying to frame an issue in a way that respects or appeals to an out-group’s narrative.

Let me give an example. I find a lot of online feminism very triggering, because it seems to me to have nothing to do with women and be transparently about marginalizing nerdy men as creeps who are not really human (see: nude pictures vs. Rotherham, above). This means that even when I support and agree with feminists and want to help them, I am constantly trying to drag my brain out of panic mode that their seemingly valuable projects are just deep cover for attempts to hurt me (see: hypothetical Bill O’Reilly demanding Muslims condemn the “Islamic” practice of beheading people).

I have recently met some other feminists who instead use a narrative which views “nerds” as an “alternative gender performance”, ie in the case of men they reject the usual masculine pursuits of sports and fraternities and they have characteristics that violate normative beauty standards (like “no neckbeards”). Thus, people trying to attack nerds is a subcategory of “people trying to enforce gender performance”, and nerds should join with queer people, women, and other people who have an interest in promoting tolerance of alternative gender performances in order to fight for their mutual right to be left alone and accepted.

I’m not sure I entirely buy this argument, but it doesn’t trigger me, and it’s the sort of thing I could buy, and if all my friends started saying it I’d probably be roped into agreeing by social pressure alone.

But this is as rare as, well, anti-global warming arguments aimed at making Republicans feel comfortable and nonthreatened.

I blame the media, I really do. Remember, from within a system no one necessarily has an incentive to do what the system as a whole is supposed to do. Daily Kos or someone has a little label saying “supports liberal ideas”, but actually their incentive is to make liberals want to click on their pages and ads. If the quickest way to do that is by writing story after satisfying story of how dumb Republicans are, and what wonderful taste they have for being members of the Blue Tribe instead of evil mutants, then they’ll do that even if the effect on the entire system is to make Republicans hate them and by extension everything they stand for.

I don’t know how to fix this.

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824 Responses to Five Case Studies On Politicization

  1. Watercressed says:

    >What’s more, everyone supporting the quarantine has been on the left, and everyone opposing on the right.

    >Is it just random? A couple of Democrats were coincidentally the first people to support a quarantine, so other Democrats felt they had to stand by them, and then Republicans felt they had to oppose it, and then that spread to wider and wider circles?

    Is right/left reversed here?

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      He seems consistent here (Democrats support…on the left), but yeah, that seems backwards compared to every supporter or opponent of quarantine I know.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yes, thank you.

      • Rachael says:

        It’s still saying “What’s more, everyone supporting the quarantine has been on the left, and everyone opposing on the right.” (It confused me until I read the later paragraphs.)

      • GMHowe says:

        Scott: The paragraph near the beginning that starts with, “I’m talking about something weirder.” still says, “What’s more, everyone supporting the quarantine has been on the left, and everyone opposing on the right.” Shouldn’t the emphasized words “left” and “right” be switched?

  2. I think you mixed up Republicans and Democrats on the quarantine issue earlier in the post.

  3. Matthew says:

    I notice that this post has almost entirely abandoned the “red/blue is not the same as Republican/Democrat” distinction in the original outgroup post.

  4. Andrew Hunter says:

    Side note, irrelevant to actual discussion: where did the “Subscribe to comments on this post” option go?

  5. Alyssa Vance says:

    “The Blue Tribe just has to grudgingly admit that maybe this is one of the few cases where their narrative breaks down.”

    At the risk of stating the obvious, ISIS exists largely because of the Iraq War, which the Red Tribe (generally) supported and the Blue Tribe (generally) didn’t.

    • Tristan says:

      An excellent Blue tribe point! THIS is how we shift the blame from those murderous but misguided muslims in ISIS and lay it where it rightly belongs – on the Red tribe.

      • Anonymous says:

        It’s not wrong. There are places where the Blue Tribe is in the wrong, this is not one by any stretch of the imagination. You can make as many snarky comments as you like – the facts don’t change.

        • Anonymous says:

          Yes. And the facts are that Muslims have been conquering people and preaching that it is their right to subjugate the world to them for generations before the Iraq War.

          Nice try.

    • Anonymous says:

      We appreciate your openness in admitting that your tribe is, in fact, right 100% of the time.

    • Despite identifying as a member of the Blue Tribe, it is far from obvious to me that the Red Tribe caused the existence of Islamic State.

      The standard argument is that Obama pulling out troops too early and inadequately preparing Iraqi forces (as well as not taking earlier military action in Syria) allowed the rise of extremist groups.

      It is unclear to me which is true, but the narrative can be spun in either tribe’s favor in “obvious” ways.

      • Anonymous says:

        >Despite identifying as a member of the Blue Tribe, it is far from obvious to me that the Red Tribe caused the existence of Islamic State.

        They got rid of Saddam, and barred everyone in Iraq who knew anything about running military or government from power. The resulting power vacuum is clearly to blame for IS success in Iraq.

        >The standard argument is that Obama pulling out troops too early and inadequately preparing Iraqi forces (as well as not taking earlier military action in Syria) allowed the rise of extremist groups.

        The disastrous result of the Iraq invasion is the reason why there isn’t support for putting anything meaningful on the table (ground forces) to destroy IS. The “standard argument” very much includes the debacle that was the Iraq invasion.

        • FeepingCreature says:

          Saddam, from a cursory googling, has killed between 100000 and 700000 locals. ISIS seems to have killed about 10000 so far, but I’m not sure how their rate looks, if they’ll flatten out, or scale up.

      • Xopher Halftongue says:

        Neither the Blue Tribe nor the Red Tribe created Islamic State. The muslims of the Islamic State created Islamic State, in order to kill other muslims who are deemed “not muslim enough”.

        • Protagoras says:

          Wait, are you suggesting that it’s not all about us? I take it you’re not an American, or you’d never make such a ridiculous suggestion.

    • BenSix says:

      Ah, but while it could be argued that the Iraq war created the conditions in which extremist groups could flourish, the blue tribes are still left with the fact that the extremist groups exist.

      Sometimes different aspects of a phenomenon are more or less favourable to different tribes, and they emphasise some while ignoring others. Leftists and liberals are all too willing to criticise the US for allying itself with the mujahideen in Afghanistan, for example, but much less keen on talking about the jihadist ideals that underpinned the movement. Rightists love to talk about jihadist ideology but can be much less keen on talking about how its enablement by the United States.

      Sometimes a clear understanding depends on a synthesis. Or perhaps I’m just being an example of this.

      • Lesser Bull says:

        This is interesting. The right likes to grumble that leftist interventions into the economy and society create more of the problems that fit into the left narrative and strengthen left politics. The argument is that welfare/family breakdown create more poverty and dysfunction that voters don’t trust heartless conservatives to solve. Here we have a plausible Left international version of the same thing. The right’s hamfisted foreign interventions create more disorder and radicalism that seem to, and arguably actually do, require more intervention to solve.

      • Just some guy says:

        Maybe the whole post is. We’re the purple tribe, clearly superior to those deluded simpletons of the other tribes! Won’t you join us, or are you too much of a gullible automaton?

    • vV_Vv says:

      [hyperbole]
      But the Iraq War happened because these crazy foreigners were causing trouble back then. Damn! Will these people ever learn?
      And then, of course, the incompetent and cowardly Obama didn’t crush those towelhead goat f*ckers before they got hold of the weapons and equipment of the corrupt Iraqi army and started beheading people.
      [/hyperbole]

      See how easy it is to spin it one way or another?

    • AJD says:

      It’s worth noting that the Blue tribe sees little difference between groups like ISIS and the Red tribe—or rather, differences only in degree but not at all in kind. They are both violent conservative religious extremists who hate our freedoms.

      • Ghatanathoah says:

        This is one reason I’ve always had far more hatred of Islamic extremists than a typical Blue/Grey should have. At one point in my youth I read about Islamic extremists and was like “Oh, these are the third-world-country-versions of the religious conservatives I dislike so much. Since they behave far worse than religious conservatives in my country, I should logically hate them far more.” And I do.

        I’ve since realized that attempting to get your emotional reactions to be proportional like that is Hollywood Rationality. But in spite of that I still really hate Islamic extremists.

        • Hanfeizi says:

          Ah, but that’s your annoyingly logical grey tribe side coming out. It’s the same side that gets people like Bill Maher and Sam Harris in trouble when they start calling a spade a spade. Their “blue tribe” credentials are beyond a doubt- the “red tribe” will have nothing to do with them. But their trans-tribal logic makes them an annoyance within their own camp.

        • Doug S. says:

          Would upvote if possible…

    • Eldritch says:

      I am fairly immersed in the Red opinion-o-sphere, and here’s my impression of the other side’s view.

      The Red Tribe opinion is the rise of ISIS is causally linked to the Iraq War , but that it specifically resulted from the Iraq War’s utter bungling, which can be blamed on the Blue Tribe.

      • Doug S. says:

        Me, I blame the Iraq war’s bungling on the Red Tribe, or at least a certain subset of it. Many experts said it would take “several hundred thousand troops” to control Iraq. Basically, the problem was this: the way Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq was the only way it could be ruled: by destroying any potential challengers to his power with extreme force, and rewarding his most important supporters with as much power and wealth as he could. Anything less, and he’d have ended up with insurgents that wouldn’t go away. Many Iraqis don’t really want a low-corruption democracy; they want a leader who will funnel them, personally, as large a share of the spoils as possible, which means a dictatorship (or something close to it) with a relative of theirs as the dictator.

        Iraq was an empire, not a nation. The United States is a nation; Americans consider themselves as having obligations to other Americans that they don’t have to people in foreign countries. If Japan bombs Hawaii, New Jersey goes to war. (And if someone in Afghanistan crashes planes into buildings in New York City, Texas goes to war, too.) If Germany bombs England, well, we’ll give them weapons and let them sort it out themselves. As far as many Iraqi Shiites are concerned, Iraqi Kurds and Sunnis might as well be foreigners – if someone wants to go bomb Kurdistan, that’s their problem. In a sense, Americans treat their entire nation as “their tribe”. Many Iraqis treat their extended families – a literal tribe – as “their tribe” and not much else.

        There’s another reason why it was going to take several hundred thousand troops to control Iraq; we weren’t willing to go in and be the bad guys. There is a simple method by which any regular army can defeat any insurgency. It is called collective punishment. The ancient Romans knew this. The Nazis knew it. Stalin knew it. Saddam Hussein knew it. The British knew it, although they’ve probably forgotten it by now. If the general population is more afraid of the insurgents than they are of you, you’re not going to be able to get their help no matter how nice you are. And it’s a lot easier to become more terrifying than the insurgents than it is to make people less afraid of insurgents. Which is why many people told them they you needed several hundred thousand troops in the first place – if you’re not going to do what Saddam did and just kill everyone who looks at you funny, you need to work damn hard to protect people. Which takes a lot of manpower, a lot of money, and a lot of casualties – if the insurgents are killing more civilians than soldiers, you’re not protecting them well enough.

        As for ISIS, well…

        Fuck ’em. They’re about as awful as the Nazis, they just don’t have the power to do as much damage as the Nazis did. Assad is an evil bastard, but he’s ordinary evil, the kind we can live with because they’re “part of the plan”. These guys are rabid dogs, deserve no more consideration than rabid dogs, and should be killed like rabid dogs.

    • Buuut! ISIS could never have arisen if we’d stayed in Iraq longer and not left an incompetent government and a power vacuum behind. Its all the fault of those wimpy Blues for running away from the fight too early!

      [You can also justify military intervention in blue langauge by framing it as a humanitarian attempt to help the people under attack, and killing the bad foreign people just happens to be the best method to do so. (This especially works when they’re minorities, see the disproportionate attention to the Yazeedis) ]

    • Eli says:

      When talking about Islamist groups, I generally wish I could get all my fellow Blue Tribe members to understand that these are basically the neoreactionaries of the Middle East, but with actual power and guns and infrastructure.

      • Nornagest says:

        Well, it’s a reactionary strain that arose when modern liberal globalism intersected with the local traditional cultures, contradictions emerged in the resulting syncretic meme complex, and a few people (disproportionately, but not exclusively, those most interested in taking ideas seriously) couldn’t hack it and decided to resolve the contradictions by adopting normative cultural mores more traditional and less compromising than the actual root culture ever was.

        Neoreaction as we know it ’round these parts came about through basically the same process (except read “San Francisco” for “modern liberal globalism”), but you could say the same for, say, Protestant evangelical Christianity, which is about as neoreactionary as Hillary Clinton.

      • Eggo says:

        We’ve got the guns and the infrastructure here, too. Still working on the power, but it’s gonna be fun when we get it 🙂

    • Watchmaker says:

      As a gray, I’ve wondered why Democrats didn’t blame Republicans MORE for mess they made in Iraq. I can imagine ISIS being held up as an example of Republicans meddling issues they don’t understand. Instead, they largely ignore ISIS. I had assumed it was because neither side really cares about foreigners, but I like this explanation as well. ISIS may be caused by Republicans, but they still fall into the Republican narrative.

      • cassander says:

        you can only blame the other side for so long when you’re the guy in power.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I’ve seen it tried. But it’s hard given that Blues have been running the Iraq War for as long as Bush was. If they had any better ideas on what to do, those should have taken effect by now. And indeed, back during the 08 election, it was promised that all of these things would improve.

        Plus, all rhetoric until very recently was to the effect that with Bush gone, Blues have fixed things up (“Al Qaeda is on the run”) and even pooh-poohing the specific ISIS threat (Al Qaeda’s JV team). Even non-Bayesians know that when somebody keeps making bad predictions, you shouldn’t pay their next explanations much heed.

  6. Char Aznable says:

    Setting aside all substantive content of the post, it’s surprising that #gamergate has made it into a post here (much to my utter dismay) but The Fappening was denied its chosen branding and changed into “nude pictures of Jennifer Lawrence”. I know Tumblr and Reddit are the triggers for a lot of content here but it’s getting to the point where just seeing #gamergate drains all my energy and this wasn’t somewhere I really expected it to come up.

    I just want that movement to finally fracture where the people who still genuinely think it’s about integrity in gaming journalism realize that the hash tag has been so thoroughly co-opted they stop using it and the people that use it to defend their harassment of women and perceived SJWs can return to just being regular assholes without a convenient banner to unite under. I might think the earnest fear some people have that maybe a developer gave some dude on Kotaku money to say that Resident Evil 6 was actually really good is preposterous but seeing them act as glue for previously disparate (or at least less obviously united) hate groups just makes me sad.

    Sorry to ramble about #gamergate on something otherwise unrelated. I hope it’s not gauche.

    • AR+ says:

      *Partisan reply deleted out of agreement w/ below comments.*

    • Anonymous says:

      left, not gauche.

    • lmm says:

      It’s pretty gauche. You are being very politically partisan.

    • Geirr says:

      You should delete this post. It is of negative value.

      • Char Aznable says:

        I wholly regret everything. I could’ve condensed the post into “wahhhhh it’s here too?!” and had my intended effect minus the inclusion of statements that allowed for commentary. Not how I intended my first comment on the site to go.

        I also don’t know how to delete a comment once the edit window has passed.

        • AR+ says:

          Well, now it has substantive commentary of its own, and commentary that ties directly into the OP at that, so it would be inappropriate to delete it now, unless Scott opts to wipe the entire sub-thread.

          • Char Aznable says:

            Harald expected there to be discussion of gamergate and I accidentally provided an opening. It doesn’t look like people are actually interested in talking about it and I (along with at least one or two other people) would feel better if my comment didn’t exist.

        • von Kalifornen says:

          With Three Times As Much Commentary!

    • Harald K says:

      Yeah, I expected there would be gamergate discussion. I told myself I would at least read the whole post first before diving in.

      When finding out about gamergate, I did something few people apparently did. I went and read the post that started it, Eron Gjoni’s thousand word-post about how his former girlfriend emotionally abused him in the classic ways (social isolation, gaslighting, etc.) and cheated on him with multiple people.

      You want to take a bet which “tribe” Eron Gjoni belongs to?

      Yeah, bluest of blue. He’s born and bred in the briar patch that is tumblr. In his eyes, he’s warning people about a cynical abuser who doesn’t believe the things she claims to believe. But the blue tribe rallied to her defense, to a ridiculous level, trying to keep the post from being discussed everywhere, even on forums as open on 4chan. Despite the fact that it was not just about abuse, but pretty damning about games journalism and the games industry (especially the indie part of it).

      And this is the problem, see. Gamergaters are not the red tribe. We are, in SSC terms, grey and blue. But seeing us being hatekicked that way, made the red tribe media take notice. Suddenly Milo Yiannopoulos, the gay and transphobic Breitbart writer, who had previously been pretty scornful of gamers, is doing AMAs on reddit and playing FTL. No, I’m not overjoyed about that either, and I hope he fails in this pretty blatant attempt to win people to his tribe, but the blue tribe media only has itself to blame with its censorship and blind pushing of the anti-gamer (“gamers are dead”) narrative.

      But you know what side we’re really on? The other side from all this obsession with owning the narrative. We really hate it when people push the line you do now, “if you’re one of the good ones you need to prove it by denouncing gamergate”. No. There are things more important than winning.
      I don’t have to prove my loyalty to your tribe, I know what I care about and if you don’t that’s your problem. Even if I would, I think there’s no point in changing your clothes when they’re being actively smeared. (The new clothes will get smeared just as quickly).

      I don’t want to play by Alinsky’s “Rules for radicals” (a book that has come up a lot lately, mentioned by Gjoni and was recommended to us by one of the more “sympathetic” people in the media). I’d rather be honest than win by those dishonest tactics.

      • 27chaos says:

        Now that one person from each side of the gate has spoken, I propose that neither speak of it again, nor anyone else. It’s slightly unfair that Harald got an opportunity for rebuttal, but this is the last defensible Schelling point we’ve got.

        • AR+ says:

          Schelling points are those positions which are settled on in the absence of communication. If you have to argue for it, then it isn’t a Schelling point.

          • Anonymous says:

            Thank you. This mistake is a common one

          • othercriteria says:

            Even if a Schelling point can be constructed/discovered by agents using their own knowledge, surely it can’t hurt to bump the knowledge up to common knowledge.

            It’s not as if Red Tribe and Blue Tribe are on an island with fixed known population and can see everyone’s affiliation but their own…

          • Anonymous` says:

            There’s a clear analogy between natural-feeling points of compromise and zero-communication Schelling points, though. I don’t think it’s very harmful to merge them.

      • social justice warlock says:

        But you know what side we’re really on? The other side from all this obsession with owning the narrative. We really hate it when people push the line you do now, “if you’re one of the good ones you need to prove it by denouncing gamergate”. No. There are things more important than winning.

        That’s very brave of you.

        • AndR says:

          Oh, we’re doing bravery debates now?

        • Illuminati Initiate says:

          *facepalm*

        • Harald K says:

          Is this supposed to be sarcasm? Anyway, no it’s not “brave”, it’s the rules everyone should play by. There are people who reject that they have any sort of moral obligation towards their political opponents. On the SJW side, you’ll even find people saying that openly, with very few speaking up against it (those who do, stop being SJWs in my eyes, and become just SJ people).

    • memeticengineer says:

      You’re kind of doing what the post is talking about – framing a discussion in your tribe’s preferred narrative to prove the badness of another tribe, and rejecting their own narrative construction of the same events. See how hard it is to stop, even when aware of the phenomenon?

    • Eli says:

      I have nothing useful to add here, so sieg Zeon!

  7. Alejandro says:

    On the topic of how quickly non-political issues can become political when seen as part of one’s side Narrative, see also the top-rated comment in all Less Wrong history, which was written 5 years ago by some dude called Yvain.

  8. >”I don’t know how to fix this”

    In a small way, you’ve already begun to.
    I remember in one of your earlier posts, one about ‘defending scoundrels’, you brought up the idea of defending the scoundrels not because you were on “Team Scoundrel” but on “Team I Really Hate Bad Arguments”

    Society needs Team I Really Hate Bad Arguments. It needs a force diametrically opposed to outrage culture, and with posts like this, and the posts on Weak Men and Superweapons and Bingo cards, you’re creating a primer for people who want to join that Team.

    • call_me_aka says:

      This is depressingly naive. Recall that Scott’s ultimate point in the post on tribal loyalties was that he too was engaging in that sort of performance–defending the Grey Tribe from the Blues. It might be possible, on an individual level, to just Hate Bad Arguments, but as soon as you try to rally people around that banner you have to rely on the same group-bonding mechanisms that gave us the original mess.

      Scott levels a lot of Bad Arguments against SJ, and my consistent reaction to the better ones is, “You are bizarrely dedicated to proving a certain kind of person wrong.” There is a lot of Grey Tribe bonding on this blog, deeply suspect to this yon Violet. I was waiting for Scott to realize this with bated breath, but that’s just because Greys are my nearest and most hated outgroup.

      I don’t know how to fix this.

      You don’t. Intellectual virtue is impossible at the group level. On the individual level? Maybe, if you keep repeating, “It might be true, but that’s probably not why you think it.”

      • call_me_aka says:

        Also, just for fun, I’m going to marshall some evidence that we Violets have known this all along. One of my favorite (unfortunately lapsed) Violet bloggers wrote about this extensively a couple of years back:
        http://yourbrainonecon.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/policy-rationality-vs-cultural-identity-heuristics/
        http://yourbrainonecon.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/signaling-vs-truth-seeking/
        http://yourbrainonecon.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/lunch-the-coalitional-nature-of-ideology-etc/

        • ciil says:

          Just for clarification … who is the Violet group again?

          • Irenist says:

            Socioeconomic and subcultural Blue or Gray tribers with Red beliefs in some or all domains–e.g., conservative New York Times columnists, theist nerds, etc. The prototypical Violet is probably someone like Ross Douthat–a conservative Catholic who probably faces huge social pressure at the office to drive a Prius or whatever.

            (I’m a Violet; I’m a relatively traditionalist Catholic who reads Slate Star Codex pretty much daily, e.g.)

            Violets spend a lot of our time in Blue/Gray milieux at home, socially, and at the office, so we spend a disproportionate amount of our time feeling oppressed by the need to closet our Red beliefs in various Blue/Gray settings, even though objectively that’s not a very severe form of oppression. Blue/Gray folks who think all conservatives/theists are dumb tend to draw our disproportionate ire the way SJ strands of Blue get Scott’s Gray ire up.

            call_me_aka’s point above about Gray rationalist naivete was like the Violet equivalent of red meat rhetoric from a Red pol–very tasty indeed for me, even if a guilty pleasure.

          • call_me_aka says:

            I don’t feel oppressed, possibly because I’ve known a lot of Violets and spent time around them before becoming one myself. But it’s also possible that I’m so successful at signaling Blue/Grey in some respects (liberal arts major, went on to get a programming job, hipster demeanor and tastes) that people don’t realize that I think Red things.

          • Q says:

            @Irenist and @Call_me_aka , can I have an example of a news story, historical situation etc., which violet tribe can use to prove their view of the world, while the grey tribe might be embarassed by it and would likely play it down ?

          • AlexC says:

            Socioeconomic and subcultural Blue or Gray tribers with Red beliefs in some or all domains–e.g… theist nerds

            so we spend a disproportionate amount of our time feeling oppressed by the need to closet our Red beliefs in various Blue/Gray settings, even though objectively that’s not a very severe form of oppression. Blue/Gray folks who think all conservatives/theists are dumb tend to draw our disproportionate ire the way SJ strands of Blue get Scott’s Gray ire up.

            Ooh! I have a tribe!

            Genuinely, I feel startlingly reassured to discover there’s a word for those of us who’re socially Blue/Grey but have a few key Red beliefs (into which category theism, and certainly any kind of evangelical Christianity, appears to fall). No, “reassured” isn’t strong enough. “Pleased”? Not quite… “Relieved”. That’s it. 🙂 I’m not alone! I have a tribe!

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            those of us who’re socially Blue/Grey but have a few key Red beliefs

            Like southern mocking bird eggs, blue/gray with red speckles? Most of my speckles are New Age, white light I suppose.

          • Irenist says:

            @Q:

            Violet v. Gray news (ish) items would include things like theologians’ op-eds mocking Richard Dawkins or Lawrence Krauss for having an amateurish misunderstanding of metaphysics, or when Megan McArdle, blogging as Jane Galt wrote “A really, really, really long post about gay marriage that does not, in the end, support one side or the other” in which she deployed Chesterton’s fence, marginal utility, and some Moldbug-esque telling historical vignettes to imply that maybe, just maybe, SSM might not be such an obviously correct idea.

            I think the go-to historical situation would probably be something like eugenics. The smart, quantitative, proto-transhumanist people were mostly for it, and proto-Violets like Chesterton (super-Catholic yet kind of oppositional, got on really well with atheist interlocutors) were squarely against it.

            News items might be things like inhumane/jerkish/Orwellian things coming out of Silicon Valley that a more small-c conservative disposition might’ve avoided. Or something. Can’t think of any off the top of my head, and it seems spiteful to try really hard. Let me know if you want me to make another attempt.

          • Nornagest says:

            News items might be things like inhumane/jerkish/Orwellian things coming out of Silicon Valley that a more small-c conservative disposition might’ve avoided. Or something. Can’t think of any off the top of my head, and it seems spiteful to try really hard.

            I predict things like that to be easy to find and hard to verify. There’s a whole toxic little cottage industry of journalists dedicated to looking at Silicon Valley and reporting on whatever comes out this week in the smuggest, most clickbaity, least charitable way they can conceive of. Or, failing that, just making shit up.

          • Emile says:

            Nornagest: eh, you get the same cottage industry around politics, fashion, TV … anything people are interested in.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “theologians’ op-eds mocking Richard Dawkins or Lawrence Krauss for having an amateurish misunderstanding of metaphysics”

            Given they reject the existence of metaphysics (in the sense that they don’t accept things beyond nature and think most other metaphysical questions are nonsensical) I’m not seeing exactly what theologians can point out.

            “Megan McArdle, blogging as Jane Galt wrote “A really, really, really long post about gay marriage that does not, in the end, support one side or the other” in which she deployed Chesterton’s fence, marginal utility, and some Moldbug-esque telling historical vignettes to imply that maybe, just maybe, SSM might not be such an obviously correct idea. ”

            I have on my bookshelf a copy of Gentlemen, Scholars and Scoundrels. It contains a magazine article defending segregation from 1956 by T R Waring. It is clear, concise and rationally sound. I have never seen an argument defending miscegenation laws that is remotely as rational. The same applies to gays; you can make rational arguments against legalizing homosexuality, but you cannot make rational arguments against gay marriage once you have legalized homosexuality.

            “The smart, quantitative, proto-transhumanist people were mostly for it, and proto-Violets like Chesterton (super-Catholic yet kind of oppositional, got on really well with atheist interlocutors) were squarely against it.”

            I don’t see any reason to believe proto-transhumanists were in favor of it- the goal of eugenics was social control to prevent the deviants and handicapped from becoming a burden on society. Given its support (In 1937 polls showed that 2/3 of the American population supported Eugenics), the fact that a substantial section of blues were opposed to it (socialists) and the tribes don’t match up so well for the time period (progressives supported it and were “liberal”, but support was often phrased in overcoming sentimentality and had support in the south) leads to the conclusion that what fits Eugenics best is nonpartisan issue. It has something for everyone which is in part why so many countries adopted eugenic programs.

          • Irenist says:

            @Samuel Skinner:
            Interesting questions and thoughts. Hopefully this is a helpful reply:

            Given they reject the existence of metaphysics (in the sense that they don’t accept things beyond nature and think most other metaphysical questions are nonsensical) I’m not seeing exactly what theologians can point out.

            Mostly what’s pointed out is slovenly thinking. E.g., misrepresenting the First Cause Argument for God’s existence to contain the assertion that “everything has a cause” (which that argument does not assert); confusing a physical definition of nothing (like a quantum vacuum governed by physical law) with a metaphysical definition (which cannot accommodate the presence of formal causes like physical laws); not understanding that divine “simplicity” in metaphysics has nothing to do with biologically derived notions of complexity or the lack thereof; and generally refusing to acknowledge that naively positivist monist materialist reductionist naturalism is itself a metaphysical position which should be defended rather than blithely assumed. Indeed, the writers mentioned in my prior comment tend to be dismissively impatient with mastering metaphysics (e.g., the Courtier’s Reply complaint when asked to do the metaphysical equivalent of reading the Sequences before leaping into LW debates), and to come off like people who, when confronted with an economist trying to argue against rent control, insist on following their socially situated common-sensical intuitions instead of taking some time to listen and learn.

            BTW: I’m answering because you asked. I don’t think it would be polite or productive to get into a debate about metaphysics, theism, etc. in a deeply nested comment on a blog hosted by an atheist rationalist, so while I’m happy to satisfy your curiosity by clarifying what I take theologians who carp about New Atheists to be complaining about, I’d prefer not to defend the carping theologians I’ve mentioned in this forum. I like hanging out here, and I think turning myself into a religious apologist in this forum would be a really rapid way to wear out my welcome. Thanks.

            *

            I have on my bookshelf a copy of Gentlemen, Scholars and Scoundrels. It contains a magazine article defending segregation from 1956 by T R Waring. It is clear, concise and rationally sound. I have never seen an argument defending miscegenation laws that is remotely as rational. The same applies to gays;

            Race != behavior; racism != traditionalist sexual mores.

            you can make rational arguments against legalizing homosexuality, but you cannot make rational arguments against gay marriage once you have legalized homosexuality.

            The SSM debate boils down for purposes of the McArdle post to asking whether we can put up a Schelling fence right at SSM to keep us from sliding down a slippery slope, or whether it needs to be higher uphill (like at a sodomy ban). In that limited sense, it resembles one of the sub-arguments regarding abortion—is birth a good Schelling Fence, or ought we to ban abortion so as to be able to coherently ban infanticide?

            I’m not opposed to civil SSM myself, although SSM won’t ever be a sacrament in a version of my Church that I’d recognize. However, the McArdle article I cited was a fine discussion of the introduction of no-fault divorce, with the implication that SSM might be similar. McArdle talks about how socially well-adjusted yuppies seem to have stable marriages again, but that in the absence of pre-1960s social norms, marriage has collapsed among lower class people, with various bad effects. She talks about how no-fault divorce (meant to rescue women from batterers, etc.) made divorce less stable at the margin (in the marginal utility sense AND the socially marginalized sense). As divorce normalized at the margin, the margin of normal divorce kept rising through the ranks until it swamped the lower classes. This was not an anticipated effect when proto-Blues and proto-Grays proposed no fault divorce; they committed the typical mind fallacy, and reasoned that since the Chesterton’s Fence of social stigma wasn’t holding their marriages together, society had no need for stigmas around divorce and they ought to tear that pointless Fence down. (Happy terminological coincidence: Chesterton Fences are often ancient, organically evolved Schelling Fences, which is why tearing them down is dangerous.)

            McArdle’s article hints that “how does it affect your marriage?” questions about civil SSM may be missing similar unintended consequences. E.g., perhaps normalizing gay sex led to SSM (as you say—and I agree), and normalizing SSM is already leading to an uptick in interest in polyamory, polygamy, etc. Now, the latter is reportedly really great when practiced by exemplary people like Scott. Then again, exemplary people like Scott are also the sorts of people whose marriages were never held together by mere social stigma at the margin! So maybe normalized SSM eventually gets us to normalized polygamy, and that ends up being really, really exploitative, and possibly leads to an extremely clannish stratified social equilibrium where we basically march the West right outside of the Hajnal line (to speak metaphorically) and civilization collapses into looking like Somalia. Now, I don’t buy that, which is part of why I don’t oppose civil SSM. But I do think an argument that we ought to converge on a Schelling point uphill (relative to the slippery slope) of civil SSM (or uphill of repealing sodomy laws, or normalizing contraception, etc.) can be coherently made. At any rate, I thought McArdle’s post was a good example of Violet-think (not least in its tentative, suggestive, nuance-weighing style), so I mentioned it when asked for examples. (I think McArdle is actually not especially Violet generally, btw.) I’m not arguing against civil SSM here–just providing a cite.

            *

            You “don’t see any reason to believe proto-transhumanists were in favor of” eugenics. Well, Wikipedia’s Transhumanism article tells us that “biologist Julian Huxley is generally regarded as the founder of “transhumanism” coining the term in an article written in 1957”; the article on Huxley tells us he was President of the British Eugenics Society from 1959-62. That’s just the most obvious example. Another would be JBS Haldane, who flirted with eugenics before later repudiating it. Examples could be multiplied.

            You write that “what fits Eugenics best is nonpartisan issue. It has something for everyone which is in part why so many countries adopted eugenic programs.” This is also false. Proto-Violet G.K. Chesterton wrote an entire book called “Eugenics and Other Evils,” and proto-Violet William Jennings Bryan (social conservative, but also populist, pacifist and a lefty on the Free Silver monetarist question of his day) opposed Darwinism (as I do not, btw, just to be clear) at the Scopes Monkey Trial because, as Bryan told the jury in the “fifth indictment” part of his closing, he felt that Darwinism opened the door to eugenics. [To his credit, Scopes’ attorney Clarence Darrow also opposed eugenics; I presume he didn’t share Bryan’s worry of a Darwinism/eugenics link.] Again, examples could be multiplied. Indeed, opposition to eugenics is probably one of the key diagnostic traits of the Violet tendency historically—so that Violets constitute precisely the party for whom eugenics had no appeal, which in turn renders eugenics other than non-partisan. Accordingly, eugenics was not a case of “everybody does it”; it was a case of proto-Grays leading the charge and proto-Violets being mocked as reactionary for resisting. That’s a conflict pattern of transhumanist Gray vs. bioconservative Violet I expect to see repeat itself in the decades ahead—particularly as Blue/Red economic divisions lose salience compared with biopolitics and technopolitics in an increasingly technological, possibly more post-work future. (Indeed, it’s that sense that Gray/Violet captures tomorrow’s divisions better than today’s historically contingent Red/Blue that made me bother to suggest adding Violet to Scott’s scheme in the first place.)

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “(which that argument does not assert); ”

            The first cause argument requires everything to have a cause so that we can infer that the universe has a cause. If there are things inside the universe that don’t have causes than there is no reason to claim the universe falls into one category or another.

            ” confusing a physical definition of nothing (like a quantum vacuum governed by physical law) with a metaphysical definition (which cannot accommodate the presence of formal causes like physical laws); ”

            We only have physical nothing to examine. There is no reason to believe metaphysical nothing has actual existence.

            “not understanding that divine “simplicity” in metaphysics has nothing to do with biologically derived notions of complexity or the lack thereof;”

            According to wiki divine simplicity covers both usages
            – (1) God has no spatial parts (spatial simplicity).
            – (2) God has no temporal parts (temporal simplicity).
            – (3) God is without the sort of metaphysical complexity where God would have different parts which are distinct from himself (property simplicity).

            “generally refusing to acknowledge that naively positivist monist materialist reductionist naturalism is itself a metaphysical position which should be defended rather than blithely assumed. ”

            Why? We see no evidence that contradicts it and we have seen repeated evidence that contradicts other positions. It also happens to be internally coherent which is not something all positions share.

            “Indeed, the writers mentioned in my prior comment tend to be dismissively impatient with mastering metaphysics ”

            Because it doesn’t have a consistent metric to be measured against so there is no way of knowing if one expert is any better than another.

            “Race != behavior; racism != traditionalist sexual mores.”

            Metaphors do not have to be exactly the same to be valid.

            “The SSM debate boils down for purposes of the McArdle post to asking whether we can put up a Schelling fence right at SSM to keep us from sliding down a slippery slope, or whether it needs to be higher uphill (like at a sodomy ban). In that limited sense, it resembles one of the sub-arguments regarding abortion—is birth a good Schelling Fence, or ought we to ban abortion so as to be able to coherently ban infanticide?”

            Once you accept that homosexuality isn’t wrong and gays are people you cannot consistently deny them the same civil liberties as other members of the population. There isn’t really any other options.

            “. McArdle talks about how socially well-adjusted yuppies seem to have stable marriages again, but that in the absence of pre-1960s social norms, marriage has collapsed among lower class people, with various bad effects. ”

            We already had that mentioned on this blog. The increase in divorces came before the change to no fault divorce law. People keep assuming the 1950s were remotely typical when 1945-1970 were the most aberrant years in American history.

            It also runs into the issue that other countries don’t have similar divorce rates despite having similar divorce laws.

            “So maybe normalized SSM eventually gets us to normalized polygamy, and that ends up being really, really exploitative, and possibly leads to an extremely clannish stratified social equilibrium where we basically march the West right outside of the Hajnal line (to speak metaphorically) and civilization collapses into looking like Somalia.”

            Except we know what the arguments against gay marriage look like and the arguments against polygamy look like. The arguments against gay marriage look exactly like those against interracial marriage while the arguments against polygamy don’t.

            And in fact having polygamy doesn’t prevent the bad effects of polygamy- men are perfectly capable of living with multiple women. In fact there are plenty of countries where it is socially acceptable and expected for a men to have a wife and mistress and there are defined social roles for the mistress (France is notorious for this). Heck, Hugh Hefner is pretty close to the image of “rich man surrounding himself with attractive women for sex” and he had his own television show.

            Oddly enough American, French and Latin American society haven’t collapsed.

            “That’s just the most obvious example. ”

            Both of those men were leftists. I’m not seeing how you separate them from the rest of blues- the progressive and eugenics movement after all believed in the improvement of people through better living conditions and education as well as eugenic intervention.

            “You write that “what fits Eugenics best is nonpartisan issue. It has something for everyone which is in part why so many countries adopted eugenic programs.” This is also false.”

            From wiki “eugenics in the US”
            -A 1937 Fortune magazine poll found that 2/3 of respondents supported eugenic sterilization of “mental defectives”, 63% supported sterilization of criminals, and only 15% opposed both

            “it was a case of proto-Grays leading the charge and proto-Violets being mocked as reactionary for resisting. ”

            I’m pretty sure William Jennings Brian was a red. How are you distinguishing these colors?

          • Irenist says:

            @Samuel Skinner:

            The first cause argument requires everything to have a cause so that we can infer that the universe has a cause. If there are things inside the universe that don’t have causes than there is no reason to claim the universe falls into one category or another.

            Nope. I really don’t want to play religious apologist, or turn this into a metaphysics 101 space. So here’s a cite to Ed Feser (sorry, Scott!) instead: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/07/so-you-think-you-understand.html
            .

            We only have physical nothing to examine.

            How does one “examine” zero space and zero time (which IIRC is what Krauss was talking about)? It sounds more like something you (justifiably!) posit as a limit case than like something you “examine” in a lab, since examination takes time and involves instrumentation that takes up nonzero space. But I know far, far, far less physics than I wish I did. So maybe I just misunderstand you?

            There is no reason to believe metaphysical nothing has actual existence.

            Of course metaphysical nothing doesn’t have actual existence. That’s the whole point of the concept. That doesn’t mean it can’t do theoretical work, just as the number zero does.

            [Wikipedia cites on Divine simplicity]

            Spatial, temporal, and property simplicity are indeed posited of God in classical metaphysics. I don’t disagree. “Simplicity” in the sense that an amoeba is simpler than a human (which is the sense in Dawkins’ argument that any Creator must be complex to be able to create, to which argument I was alluding) is not. For a discussion, you can read the old essay by Terry Eagleton (whom I think is a Blue, actually) on Dawkins in the London Review of Books—which is helpful for Violet tribal taxonomy, since it’s perhaps the archetypal example of Violet-style snark about Dawkins (“Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.”). Indeed, Eagleton’s review shows up in RationalWiki’s entry on “sophisticated theology,” which seems to be the standard Gray term of derision for the Violet-style religious apologetics. Here it is:
            http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n20/terry-eagleton/lunging-flailing-mispunching

            Why? We see no evidence that contradicts it and we have seen repeated evidence that contradicts other positions. It also happens to be internally coherent which is not something all positions share…. [Metaphysics] doesn’t have a consistent metric to be measured against so there is no way of knowing if one expert is any better than another.

            Talk of “evidence” and “metrics” assumes what is at issue: whether a positivist, scientistic denial of metaphysics is tenable, and whether “evidence” and “metrics” and kindred concepts exhaust our epistemological resources. Likewise, whether reductionist materialist naturalism is internally consistent is far from a settled issue. Here’s another Feser cite, broadly akin to an LW Sequence: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/05/mind-body-problem-roundup.html

            Once you accept that homosexuality isn’t wrong

            The English term “homosexuality” is, unfortunately, confusing as to whether orientation or behavior is meant. Obviously, an inborn orientation isn’t morally wrong. (An innate temptation can be disordered, perhaps, but not unethical.) Whether acting on that orientation is morally wrong is precisely what’s at issue between, e.g., natural law proponents and SSM proponents. The precise question at issue is whether being gay is like being amicable (an inborn disposition that’s positive to act on) or like having a bad temper (an inborn disposition that’s negative to act on). Traditionalists say it’s like the latter. In my case, that opinion is rooted in Thomist natural law discourse about what behavior conduce to human attainment of our essential telos. The amount of inferential distance that would have to be covered between your naturalism and my natural law before we could even talk about the specific issue of SSM in a mutually comprehending way that wasn’t just flinging shibboleths at each other is vast. Here, along with the links to others of his posts that it contains as further cites, is another Feser cite: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/10/whose-nature-which-law.html

            and [accept that] gays are people

            Politics is the mind-killer: don’t just recite rhetoric. No one ever failed to accept that gays are “people.”

            you cannot consistently deny them the same civil liberties as other members of the population. There isn’t really any other options.

            Yes, once you accept that homosexuality in the sense of behavior isn’t wrong, then obviously SSM is a great idea. That’s not where the debate is; everyone who thinks what you think already endorses SSM.
            .
            The current, fast-dwindling debate is between people who don’t accept the behavior. There’s the people who think “law is a teacher,” and that civil SSM would set a bad example by endorsing gay relationships. (I personally find this group of arguments unpersuasive in the extreme.) There’s the people who worry that civil SSM will lead to the marginalization of traditionalist-affilliated institutions, like the Catholic adoption agency in Massachusetts that was forced to choose between violating its values by placing orphans with gay couples, and closing. (These people make what I consider to be very important religious liberty points.) On the other side are tolerationists like me, who have traditionalist ethical/moral values, but think that a Lockean liberal order ought to have room for a diversity of conceptions of the good life, and that as long as gay couples and their families leave us traditionalists in peace, there’s no reason not to be neighborly and leave them in peace by letting them have civil SSM.

            The increase in divorces came before the change to no fault divorce law. People keep assuming the 1950s were remotely typical when 1945-1970 were the most aberrant years in American history. It also runs into the issue that other countries don’t have similar divorce rates despite having similar divorce laws.

            I stand ready to stand corrected. Could you point me to the discussion, please? Sounds well worth a read.

            The arguments against gay marriage look exactly like those against interracial marriage

            Nope. It’s your mental model of anti-SSM arguments (“gays aren’t people”; “I accept gay sex but not SSM”) that looks like the arguments against interracial marriage. Indeed, your caricature seems to be a Blue/Gray tribal meme elegantly evolved to flatter you into thinking precisely that your tribe is part of today’s version of the Civil Rights struggle, and the Red opposition of civil SSM (which, to repeat, I am not part of) are just a bunch of irrational bigots. Although the assumption that one side of a policy debate is motivated by no more than “irrational animus” was convincing to the Romer v. Evans court, a rationalist should be able to do better: “policy debates should not appear one-sided.”

            while the arguments against polygamy don’t.

            Well, I already said that I personally think civil SSM is a perfectly good place for a Lockean liberal order to build a Schelling fence. I was giving an example of what a Violet-style slippery slope argument would look like.

            And in fact having polygamy doesn’t prevent the bad effects of polygamy- men are perfectly capable of living with multiple women. In fact there are plenty of countries where it is socially acceptable and expected for a men to have a wife and mistress and there are defined social roles for the mistress (France is notorious for this). Heck, Hugh Hefner is pretty close to the image of “rich man surrounding himself with attractive women for sex” and he had his own television show. Oddly enough American, French and Latin American society haven’t collapsed.

            They haven’t collapsed, but their libertine norms of de facto polygamy for high-status males seem to make those societies woefully patriarchal on lots of axes. For me, the data you’re citing confirms me in (culturally, not necessarily legally) opposing not just polygamy, but also in (culturally, not legally) opposing extramarital sex.

            [Julian Huxley and JBS Haldane] were leftists. I’m not seeing how you separate them from the rest of blues- the progressive and eugenics movement after all believed in the improvement of people through better living conditions and education as well as eugenic intervention.

            Well, I said “proto-transhumanists.” Are you conceding the bailey that proto-transhumanists were often eugenicists, and shifting to the motte that proto-Grays (defined as classical Manchester liberals or something?) were not? Indeed, the sort of personality type (nerdy rationalists) who today tend to be libertarianish were usually leftish back in those years. So I’m not sure that there’s much of a “proto-Gray” history to recover if only Manchester liberals are to count. Indeed, I assume Scott wanted to do something more interestingly novel with his taxonomy than just Blue = Democrats, Red = Republicans, and Gray = Libertarians; we already had the words “Democrat,” “Republican,” and “Libertarian.”

            A 1937 Fortune magazine poll found that 2/3 of respondents supported eugenic sterilization of “mental defectives”, 63% supported sterilization of criminals, and only 15% opposed both

            I’m pretty sure that proto-Violets would have opposed both: orthodox Catholic intellectuals, for example. Apparently thoroughgoing proto-Violets were at sub-15% of the American population at one time. Okay.

            I’m pretty sure William Jennings Brian was a red. How are you distinguishing these colors?

            Great question. Political and cultural coalitions remix, as you said yourself. Bryan was a rural populist, which was quite reddish of him. However, he was also a pacifist who campaigned hard for looser monetary policy, which is quite bluish of him. He was also a prohibitionist—which at the time was a socially conservative reform primarily supported by progressives; i.e., a purple issue. He’s thus sort of a purple figure overall. Given his devout religiosity, his shade of purple looks kind of violet. Not wholly violet—he lacks the cultural blue/gray-ness and the opposition to prohibition/the drug war that tends to characterize Violets today. But about as reddish a proto-Violet as the bluish coiner of the term “transhumanism” strikes me as proto-Gray: a model this simple is going to butcher data, and a model based on contemporary political/cultural tribes is going to butcher data even worse as we try to apply it further back in history. E.g., Bryan lived in an era when the party of the nascent welfare state was also the party of segregation. Does that make the Democrats Blue or Red? It’s difficult to apply the contemporary big tribes (socially conservative capitalists vs. socially liberal social democrats) to Bryan’s world; applying terms for what are nowadays only nascent tendencies (Gray, Violet) to that bygone world is even harder. Nevertheless, along with its combination of Blue social milieu and Red beliefs (which Bryan did not entirely share, although I imagine being in the Wilson Administration was a pretty bluish workplace milieu for him), one of the defining features of a lot (not all, but a lot) of Violet discourse is an affinity for a political tendency akin to the founding platforms of Europe’s Christian Democratic parties—socially conservative and fiscally liberal—and endless kvetching that neither U.S. political party (being Big Red and Big Blue) represents that purple tendency. Bryan was a straight-up proto-Christian Democrat on all dimensions, which makes him about as good a proto-Violet as I hope to find at the level of national elective office in his period. YMMV. That’s okay. It’s just a toy model.
            .
            Nice chatting with you.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Nope. I really don’t want to play religious apologist, or turn this into a metaphysics 101 space. So here’s a cite to Ed Feser (sorry, Scott!) instead: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/07/so-you-think-you-understand.html

            And from the blog
            “What defenders of the cosmological argument do say is that what comes into existence has a cause, or that what is contingent has a cause. ”

            That isn’t appreciably different from “everything has a cause”. You can only get around it by saying that God didn’t come into existence, but there is nothing that stops you from saying that the universe didn’t come into existence and that the big bang was essentially a really awesome phase shift.

            “How does one “examine” zero space and zero time (which IIRC is what Krauss was talking about)? It sounds more like something you (justifiably!) posit as a limit case than like something you “examine” in a lab, since examination takes time and involves instrumentation that takes up nonzero space. But I know far, far, far less physics than I wish I did. So maybe I just misunderstand you?”

            No, you appear to be understanding correctly. Meanwhile we can’t even do limit case for metaphysical nothing.

            “Of course metaphysical nothing doesn’t have actual existence. That’s the whole point of the concept. That doesn’t mean it can’t do theoretical work, just as the number zero does. ”

            You first have to prove it has a correspondence with reality before you can actually use it for work- it is perfectly possible to make systems of math that don’t have any correspondence. There is no reason to think metaphysics is any different.

            “Spatial, temporal, and property simplicity are indeed posited of God in classical metaphysics. I don’t disagree. “Simplicity” in the sense that an amoeba is simpler than a human (which is the sense in Dawkins’ argument that any Creator must be complex to be able to create, to which argument I was alluding) is not. For a discussion, you can read the old essay by Terry Eagleton (whom I think is a Blue, actually) on Dawkins in the London Review of Books—which is helpful for Violet tribal taxonomy, since it’s perhaps the archetypal example of Violet-style snark about Dawkins (“Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.”). Indeed, Eagleton’s review shows up in RationalWiki’s entry on “sophisticated theology,” which seems to be the standard Gray term of derision for the Violet-style religious apologetics. Here it is:
            http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n20/terry-eagleton/lunging-flailing-mispunching

            I’m pretty sure the Dawkins quote you are referencing is Dawkin’s rejecting the concept of divine simplicity by pointing out sensory and thinking apparatus require complexity and the amount of complexity required for God is magnitudes higher than anything else we have encounted in reality. It isn’t him misunderstanding it- he rejects the idea God is made out of one thing because that contradicts everything we know about how living things interact with the world around them.

            “Talk of “evidence” and “metrics” assumes what is at issue: whether a positivist, scientistic denial of metaphysics is tenable, and whether “evidence” and “metrics” and kindred concepts exhaust our epistemological resources. Likewise, whether reductionist materialist naturalism is internally consistent is far from a settled issue. Here’s another Feser cite, broadly akin to an LW Sequence: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/05/mind-body-problem-roundup.html

            I’m not seeing why it is something questionable. Materialist empiricism worked. We can mess with people’s thought processes and personality by stabbing them in the brain- dualism has to come up with epicycles to explain such a result.

            “The English term “homosexuality” is, unfortunately, confusing as to whether orientation or behavior is meant. Obviously, an inborn orientation isn’t morally wrong. (An innate temptation can be disordered, perhaps, but not unethical.) Whether acting on that orientation is morally wrong is precisely what’s at issue between, e.g., natural law proponents and SSM proponents. ”

            I’m referring to acting upon it here. Once sodomy is decriminalized and homosexuality is no longer classed as deviant behavior it isn’t possible to treat homosexuals differently than any other group in society. I mean you could, but it isn’t logically supportable and falls apart (which is what we are seeing right now).

            It would be like if nudity was totally decriminalized. You may not like it, but you don’t really have any ground to stand on for opposing naked people using government services like everyone else.

            “Yes, once you accept that homosexuality in the sense of behavior isn’t wrong, then obviously SSM is a great idea. That’s not where the debate is; everyone who thinks what you think already endorses SSM.”

            If they think it is morally wrong they should be pushing for laws banning sodomy. If there aren’t laws against it, it is hard to argue the legal system should treat gays any differently.

            “On the other side are tolerationists like me, who have traditionalist ethical/moral values, but think that a Lockean liberal order ought to have room for a diversity of conceptions of the good life, and that as long as gay couples and their families leave us traditionalists in peace, there’s no reason not to be neighborly and leave them in peace by letting them have civil SSM.”

            One side thinks the other is inherently and morally wrong. Exactly how on earth is toleration supposed to work in this case? One side is going to get what it wants and the other side isn’t. Either gays get marriage or they don’t.

            “I stand ready to stand corrected. Could you point me to the discussion, please? Sounds well worth a read.”

            http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/10/31/the-poor-you-will-always-have-with-you/

            “Nope. It’s your mental model of anti-SSM arguments (“gays aren’t people”; “I accept gay sex but not SSM”) that looks like the arguments against interracial marriage.”

            No, people against interracial marriage used natural law, slippery slope and damage to children arguments. Seriously the first judgement in the Loving case had the judge declare:
            “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And, but for the interference with his arrangement, there would be no cause for such marriage. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

            That is a pretty clear natural law argument, no?

            “Indeed, your caricature seems to be a Blue/Gray tribal meme elegantly evolved to flatter you into thinking precisely that your tribe is part of today’s version of the Civil Rights struggle, and the Red opposition of civil SSM (which, to repeat, I am not part of) are just a bunch of irrational bigots.”

            As the reactionaries like to say stereotypes exist for a reason.

            “rationalist should be able to do better: “policy debates should not appear one-sided.””

            Try to make a non-one sided debate for interracial marriage. There are plenty of issues where it is impossible to make non-one sided debates. Greys exist specifically because of the substantial number among blues (like nuclear power opposition, GMO opposition, religion, etc).

            “They haven’t collapsed, but their libertine norms of de facto polygamy for high-status males seem to make those societies woefully patriarchal on lots of axes. For me, the data you’re citing confirms me in (culturally, not necessarily legally) opposing not just polygamy, but also in (culturally, not legally) opposing extramarital sex. ”

            Polygamy is an effect, not a cause of patriarchy. It reduces the availability of women which should increase their status (exceptions- societies with dowries).

            “Well, I said “proto-transhumanists.” Are you conceding the bailey that proto-transhumanists were often eugenicists, and shifting to the motte that proto-Grays (defined as classical Manchester liberals or something?) were not? ”

            Proto-transhumanists isn’t defined. Do you mean people who wanted to improve humanity? Since that was the goal of the eugenics movement ALL of them would be proto-transhumanists under that definition. Not only were the interested in breeding, but pollution and education. Of course if you accept pollution and education to change people as proto-transhumanism than the majority of reformers in human history were proto-transhumanists.

            “Indeed, the sort of personality type (nerdy rationalists) who today tend to be libertarianish were usually leftish back in those years.”

            Are we talking tribe or personality type here? Because tribe is not defined by personality type and it is perfectly possible for nerdy rationalist to be blue.

            ” However, he was also a pacifist who campaigned hard for looser monetary policy, which is quite bluish of him.”

            That isn’t blue at all. At the time, war was for establishing an empire (to benefit big business) and looser monetary policy made it easier for hard working farmers to repay their loans. The man was a red populist through and through. Blues wanted war in order to civilize foreigners and build an American empire. Conscription was though to be a jolly good way to subsume class distinctions under a common tradition of service.

            ” He was also a prohibitionist—which at the time was a socially conservative reform primarily supported by progressives; i.e., a purple issue.”

            Just because something is supported by part of the other tribe doesn’t mean if you support it you become more like them. There are people on the left and right who are against government surviellence, but no one it makes them more similar to each other.

            ” Bryan lived in an era when the party of the nascent welfare state was also the party of segregation. Does that make the Democrats Blue or Red?”

            Both. The Democratic party had wings from different tribes. There is a reason Scott uses tribe instead of party. The same held true for the Republicans of the time- the progressive wing and the business wing (blue and red) were in the same party.

            This came about because Democrats became a regional party after the civil war and the country was realigning.

            “socially conservative and fiscally liberal—and endless kvetching that neither U.S. political party (being Big Red and Big Blue) represents that purple tendency. ”

            Mike Hucklabee?

            “Nice chatting with you.”

            I suspect the amount of words makes this go a bit past a chat.

          • Irenist says:

            @Samuel Skinner:

            That isn’t appreciably different from “everything has a cause”.

            Sounds like you’re conceding that you were incorrect to state that the “first cause argument requires everything to have a cause,” and retreating to a slightly different claim. I’m grateful: you’re already practicing far more argumentative grace than Richard Dawkins ever has in this area.

            You can only get around it by saying that God didn’t come into existence,

            Indeed. However, that God is eternal is something that classical theist metaphysics argues for; it’s not merely asserted. A good place to start might be with the statistician William Briggs, who recently began a weekly blog of Aquinas’ Summa Contra Gentiles. Briggs does a good job of explaining Aquinas’ jargon (which often uses the same words we do to mean different things, as, e.g., “motion” means “change” for Aquinas, not just local motion as it does for us); without translation of the jargon into modern idiom, Aquinas’ arguments usually seem ad hoc and insufficiently grounded. Relevant for the inquiry into whether God came into existence is Chapter 15, “That God is Eternal”: http://wmbriggs.com/blog/?p=13226 You won’t want to dive right into that one, though, since it presupposes the prior 14 chapters, to which you can navigate from the “SAMT” index link at the top of the Chapter 15 post.
            .
            BTW, although the Summa Theologica is more famous, it’s intended as a summary text for seminarians. The Summa Contra Gentiles (the title of which you could fairly translate as the “Sequences Against the Heathens”) by contrast, was written to aid the missionary efforts to the Islamic world of Aquinas’ fellow Dominican friars, and is dedicated to arguing from first principles for the existence of a monotheist God (not that Muslims would argue that) and then to showing that the attributes of the God of the Philosophers thus demonstrated (with which the Muslim reader would presumably have been in agreement) were consistent with Christian dogmas like the Trinity and the Incarnation. The SCG is accordingly a better book to start with than the ST.
            .
            Aquinas’ argument in the SCG begins with no more assumptions than that something (anything, not necessarily the whole universe) exists that is the product of change, demonstrates that nothing can exist unless an Unmoved Mover (i.e., an Unchanged Changer) exists, and then carefully demonstrates that there can only be one such Unmoved Mover, and that the Unmoved Mover must be simple, eternal, and all the standard omni-predicates of God. Importantly, the Unmoved Mover argument does not require that the universe had a beginning—it assumes only that some change has occurred, and rests on the distinction between actuality and potentiality in Aristotelian thought. Aquinas, like other Aristotelians, always thought that a beginning for the universe could not be logically demonstrated, but had to be taken on faith from Genesis. So Aquinas crucially does not need the universe not to be eternal to mount his argument.
            .
            Also importantly, after demonstrating the existence of the God of the Sophisticated Theology Philosophers, Aquinas then painstakingly shows the Christian God to be in accord with the God so described: he thereby preempts by centuries the depressingly standard atheist objection nowadays that “Even assuming you’ve proved that the God of the Philosophers exists, that’s just Sophisticated Theology about some abstract ‘Being,” that has nothing to do with the God of the Bible who goes around zapping Bronze Age shepherds when they get out line.” Indeed, Aquinas thought proving the existence of God was the easy part, and spent most of his effort on preempting exactly the “Sophisticated God != Bible God” objection that people like Jerry Coyne seem to think is so novel. Of course, people like Jerry Coyne seem to think that “Sophisticated Theology” is a novel, desperate “God of the Gaps” move to the motte by contemporary Christians, rather than the mainstream of Christian theology since before the Neoplatonism of Augustine and the Aristotelianism of Aquinas, so I suppose I shouldn’t expect Coyne to know any better.

            but there is nothing that stops you from saying that the universe didn’t come into existence and that the big bang was essentially a really awesome phase shift.

            Well, as I said above, Aquinas’ argument works even if the universe is eternal. However, as it happens, I understand that physics does stop you from saying that “the universe didn’t come into existence.”
            .
            Indeed, evading the (misunderstood version requiring a beginning of the universe) First Cause argument by positing an eternal multiverse really is what Coyne and Dawkins accuse Sophisticated Theology of being: an ad hoc “[multiverse] of the [logical] gaps” argument. And it fails: even a multiverse is finite in time. This is discussed at length in Fr. Robert Spitzer’s “New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy.” The review of the book at Think Atheist (which ought to be a source you can trust) concedes this point, before (fairly, IMHO) going on to say that Spitzer’s later “fine-tuning” intelligent design arguments don’t demonstrate anything and Spitzer’s use of “fine tuning” amounts to goddidit.
            Here’s the link: http://www.thinkatheist.com/profiles/blogs/book-report-for-new-proofs-for-the-existence-of-god
            Here’s the concession that on current physics, even multiverse theories, time is finite in the past:

            [Spitzer begins] by detailing the prevailing scientific theories on the birth of the universe (big bang theories, expansion, string theory, multiverse, etc.) and shows (not incorrectly) that all these theories suggest that there was an ultimate beginning to everything. Time is not infinite in the past. A dozen chapters are dedicated to proving this one premise: at one point, something was created from nothing…. The mathematicians playing with the various scientific hypothesis of the origin of the universe seem to show that, at some point, our universe was created. Prior to this creation absolutely nothing existed. The universe is not infinite…. [Spitzer] offers many interesting facts and I don’t see him misrepresenting the current scientific theories.

            Now, the reviewer goes on to reject the fine-tuning part of Spitzer’s book, as I said. That’s fine. But once you concede (as, AFAIK, the current physics requires you to concede, and as “a dozen chapters” of Spitzer’s book, that I will not attempt to summarize here, show) that the cosmos, be it a universe or a multiverse, is not eternal, then the jaws of the First Cause Argument close on you inexorably, even if you misunderstand it to require a beginning of the universe! That’s why when Fr. Georges Lemaître proposed the Big Bang, he was derided so widely—people knew what it meant, and figured a Catholic priest was motivated reasoner. Of course the Catholic priest-physicist has turned out, even on (so far entirely speculative) multiverse theories, to be right on this point: the cosmos is not eternal, as the blogger at Atheist Thinker concedes. To reject that because it doesn’t accord with your beliefs is to repeat as an atheist farce the Catholic tragedy of our persecution of Galileo.

            You first have to prove it has a correspondence with reality before you can actually use it for work- it is perfectly possible to make systems of math that don’t have any correspondence. There is no reason to think metaphysics is any different.

            Nothing just means “zero of anything at all.” Zero is presumably a respectable mathematical concept.

            I’m pretty sure the Dawkins quote you are referencing is Dawkin’s rejecting the concept of divine simplicity by pointing out sensory and thinking apparatus require complexity and the amount of complexity required for God is magnitudes higher than anything else we have encounted in reality. It isn’t him misunderstanding it- he rejects the idea God is made out of one thing because that contradicts everything we know about how living things interact with the world around them.

            It contradicts a materialist understanding of how living things think and interact with the world. You can’t just assume that understanding. The “mind-body problem roundup” I linked to argues against it at length. Speaking of which,

            I’m not seeing why it is something questionable. Materialist empiricism worked. We can mess with people’s thought processes and personality by stabbing them in the brain- dualism has to come up with epicycles to explain such a result.

            They’re not epicycles; they were always part of the theory. Aquinas understands human sensation, imagination, and cognition as being mediated by the body. He even has a whole section in the ST arguing that without divine intervention, disembodied souls in the afterlife wouldn’t be able to sense or perceive anything, because sensation and perception are bodily mediated for humans. The assertion that neuropathological research requires epicycles in Aquinas’ theory of mind is like the assertion that Sophisticated Theology is some novel retreat rather than being just, well, theology: it’s historically ignorant.
            .
            However, Aquinas does hold that certain forms of abstract cognition are immaterial; it is these which Aquinas takes to characterize the thought of God, angels, demons, and disembodied human souls. James F. Ross’ important argument that this kind of thought must be immaterial is posted to the internet here: http://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/courses/43151/ross-immateriality.pdf
            Ross’ argument for immaterialism seems to me unanswerable; if one were only going to bother to read one thing I linked to, the Ross paper would be the one to read.

            One side thinks the other is inherently and morally wrong. Exactly how on earth is toleration supposed to work in this case? One side is going to get what it wants and the other side isn’t. Either gays get marriage or they don’t.

            They get marriage. The question is whether the society that has chosen to institutionalize gay marriage will allow various Christian institutions to stand aloof from it. The tolerance in question is whether gays will tolerate Christians.

            “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And, but for the interference with his arrangement, there would be no cause for such marriage. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” That is a pretty clear natural law argument, no?

            Wow. Okay, conceded: that’s a natural law argument. A really bad natural law argument. And not one in line with the Thomist tradition (indeed, Renaissance-era Spanish Dominicans used Thomist arguments to demonstrate that all humans share the same essence as rational animals, so racially based slavery in Africa and the New World was sinful, and were tarred as medievalist reactionaries for making that argument). But it does look like the sort of half-assed natural law argument that a certain kind of Southern U.S. Protestant might have made.

            Try to make a non-one sided debate for interracial marriage.

            You could have made a (wrong!) non-one side argument for segregation generally (that ending it would destabilize the social order, e.g.) of which arguing against interracial marriage would have been a part. I’ll agree you can’t make that argument on its own if desegregation is assumed.

            There are plenty of issues where it is impossible to make non-one sided debates. Greys exist specifically because of the substantial number among blues (like nuclear power opposition, GMO opposition, religion, etc)

            Two of these arguments involve trade-offs: nuclear fission is carbon-free but leaves a legacy of dangerous waste; GMOs can have beneficial nutritional profiles, but tampering with complex ecosystems through cross-pollination of GMO and wild plants could have unforeseen consequences. Just because these arguments have a right answer doesn’t make them one-sided, it just makes one of the sides correct; if you use one-sided to mean “has a right answer,” you’re emptying the term of any useful meaning. Your third example is religion, which, as I’ve been discussing, has far more, and deeper arguments in its favor than you seem to think. Indeed, even if atheist Grays are correct to reject religion, the quantity and sophistication of theological arguments for religion make theism vs. atheism two-sided, not one.

            Proto-transhumanists isn’t defined. Do you mean people who wanted to improve humanity?

            The Transhumanist Declaration, e.g., does seem so broad that it (almost) amounts to just “people who want to improve humanity.” However, I take the core of the transhumanist movement to be the ambition to improve humanity through biotechnology and cybernetics, with other ubiquitous transhumanist interests like cryonics, space travel, existential risk mitigation, AI research, etc., being related to that core ambition either as enabling technologies or extensions. Accordingly, I would judge historic figures interested in the biotechnological or cybernetic alternation of humanity to be proto-transhumanists, i.e., precursors of today’s transhumanists. On that (IMHO commonsensical) definition of proto-transhumanists, *of course* proto-transhumanists were interested in eugenics. It’s almost tautological: the only thing that saves it from tautology is that the word “eugenics” has a state-sanctioned aspect that not all modern, libertarian transhumanists would support. But proto-transhumanism (as I have defined it) arose when leftism, not libertarianism, was the fashion among nerds, so proto-transhumanists very much tended to support eugenics.

            tribe is not defined by personality type and it is perfectly possible for nerdy rationalist to be blue.

            Sure. But Grays were defined as nerdy rationalists who were libertarianish. At the turn of the twentieth century, even libertarianish nerds were moving leftward (e.g., J.S. Mill) into modern Blue “liberalism” (hence the confusing name). You’re not going to have any proto-Grays at all if you don’t broaden out the category when looking at its history.

            ” However, he was also a pacifist who campaigned hard for looser monetary policy, which is quite bluish of him.”
            That isn’t blue at all. At the time, war was for establishing an empire (to benefit big business) and looser monetary policy made it easier for hard working farmers to repay their loans. The man was a red populist through and through. Blues wanted war in order to civilize foreigners and build an American empire. Conscription was though to be a jolly good way to subsume class distinctions under a common tradition of service.

            Reds are against big business and hard money while Blues are in favor of racist imperialism?!

            ” He was also a prohibitionist—which at the time was a socially conservative reform primarily supported by progressives; i.e., a purple issue.”
            Just because something is supported by part of the other tribe doesn’t mean if you support it you become more like them. There are people on the left and right who are against government surviellence, but no one it makes them more similar to each other.

            Right. But the policy was purple, not just the supporting coalition. Prohibition would be like if today’s tribes gave rich people a massive tax deduction for getting abortions—the policy, in itself, combined Blue and Red elements.

            ” Bryan lived in an era when the party of the nascent welfare state was also the party of segregation. Does that make the Democrats Blue or Red?”
            Both. The Democratic party had wings from different tribes. There is a reason Scott uses tribe instead of party. The same held true for the Republicans of the time- the progressive wing and the business wing (blue and red) were in the same party.

            Excellent point!

            that neither U.S. political party (being Big Red and Big Blue) represents that purple tendency. ” Mike Hucklabee?

            Nah, his proposed Fair Tax is way too regressive to quiet our kvetching. But he does have Violet elements, like his religiously motivated pardons of capital criminals and commutations of prisoners’ sentences, for which he took a lot of heat from purer Reds. So certainly a good suggestion.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Sounds like you’re conceding that you were incorrect to state that the “first cause argument requires everything to have a cause,” and retreating to a slightly different claim. I’m grateful: you’re already practicing far more argumentative grace than Richard Dawkins ever has in this area.”

            I’m not conceding anything. Everything has a cause except god isn’t appreciably different from everything that comes into existence has a cause except god because it doesn’t come into existence.

            In both cases god is asserted to be exempt from the rules regarding everything else. The two claims are logically equivalent.

            “Indeed. However, that God is eternal is something that classical theist metaphysics argues for; it’s not merely asserted.”

            Yeah and historical inevitability isn’t asserted, it is argued for by Marxist materialism. You can’t use your conclusion as evidence for your premise. Logical arguments do not work that way.

            “demonstrates that nothing can exist unless an Unmoved Mover (i.e., an Unchanged Changer) exists, and then carefully demonstrates that there can only be one such Unmoved Mover, and that the Unmoved Mover must be simple, eternal, and all the standard omni-predicates of God. ”

            That doesn’t work. We have no way of knowing if things inside the universe can be generalized to properties of the universe as a whole.

            “However, as it happens, I understand that physics does stop you from saying that “the universe didn’t come into existence.””

            It doesn’t. We know time and what we see around us came into existence, but we don’t know about what was there to start with (and where exactly it would fit on the definition of part of our universe or not).

            ” And it fails: even a multiverse is finite in time.”

            No, it isn’t. Time is a property of the universe (and it is- that is the point of the whole space time thing).

            “Nothing just means “zero of anything at all.” Zero is presumably a respectable mathematical concept.”

            I currently have zero sheep. I do not have “-i” sheep, but I can use that notation for math that does correspond to reality.

            “It contradicts a materialist understanding of how living things think and interact with the world. You can’t just assume that understanding. The “mind-body problem roundup” I linked to argues against it at length. Speaking of which,”

            Dualism doesn’t get around the fact that things are made of parts. You seem to be saying that dualism means that the spirit is a single part. However you run immediately into the issue that people are different and all souls are made of the same stuff. In the biological world we get around that by having different organization of parts. Souls have to run by similar rules.

            “They’re not epicycles; they were always part of the theory.”

            Epicycles were always part of geocentrism as well (well, the technical version that was eventually worked out by the greeks). Epicycles are things added to a theory that cannot be observed, tested or measured but are necessary for the theory to work.

            “He even has a whole section in the ST arguing that without divine intervention, disembodied souls in the afterlife wouldn’t be able to sense or perceive anything, because sensation and perception are bodily mediated for humans. ”

            And? No one has ever argued against that- the existence of eyes has never been taken as a refutation of the existence of souls. However

            “Aquinas understands human sensation, imagination, and cognition as being mediated by the body.”

            If imagination and thinking are done by the body why assume the soul does anything?

            “The assertion that neuropathological research requires epicycles in Aquinas’ theory of mind is like the assertion that Sophisticated Theology is some novel retreat rather than being just, well, theology: it’s historically ignorant.”

            We know that you can destroy the ability to remember things. Are you agreeing that the soul doesn’t include memory?

            “However, Aquinas does hold that certain forms of abstract cognition are immaterial;”

            If they are, than such forms of cognition would not be vulnerable to brain damage. I’m sure you have empirical evidence for such claims?

            “They get marriage. The question is whether the society that has chosen to institutionalize gay marriage will allow various Christian institutions to stand aloof from it. The tolerance in question is whether gays will tolerate Christians.”

            Than the gays win. Churches can already refuse to marry non-members and can already self-select membership.

            ” A really bad natural law argument. ”

            How is it bad? Single creation does not contradict God having special purposes in mind for specific ethnicities of humans and desiring separation between them. You know, like what he does with the Jews.

            “You could have made a (wrong!) non-one side argument for segregation generally (that ending it would destabilize the social order, e.g.) of which arguing against interracial marriage would have been a part. I’ll agree you can’t make that argument on its own if desegregation is assumed.”

            That is a general argument against change of any kind. That is hardly a debate.

            “Two of these arguments involve trade-offs: nuclear fission is carbon-free but leaves a legacy of dangerous waste; ”

            Nope. Fission produces dangerous waste… just like every other form of power generation. It is actually less radioactive then coal power.

            “GMOs can have beneficial nutritional profiles, but tampering with complex ecosystems through cross-pollination of GMO and wild plants could have unforeseen consequences.”

            So can hybridization which is what farmers have been using for decades prior. Given GMOs involve changing specific genes and hybridization involves cross breeding (so we aren’t positive what genes are being changed) I’ll leave what is more controllable as an exercise to the reader.

            Both those items are better than the status quo; it isn’t a good argument to defend the status quo by attacking them on criteria where they are improvements of the status quo! It would be like attacking interracial marriage on the grounds that there is a smaller amount of possible interracial marriages than there are intraracial marriages.

            “Indeed, even if atheist Grays are correct to reject religion, the quantity and sophistication of theological arguments for religion make theism vs. atheism two-sided, not one.”

            Sophistication of arguments is irrelevant, only the level of support from evidence matters.

            ” Accordingly, I would judge historic figures interested in the biotechnological or cybernetic alternation of humanity to be proto-transhumanists, i.e., precursors of today’s transhumanists.”

            You are using two different versions of biotechnical alteration of humanity here. There is the “altering the gene pool of the human race” and the “altering the genes of individual humans”. Transhumanism is the latter, not the former. They aren’t really comparable- one is focused on social improvement while the other is focused on giving people the ability to breathe in space.

            “Sure. But Grays were defined as nerdy rationalists who were libertarianish. At the turn of the twentieth century, even libertarianish nerds were moving leftward (e.g., J.S. Mill) into modern Blue “liberalism” (hence the confusing name). You’re not going to have any proto-Grays at all if you don’t broaden out the category when looking at its history.”

            Sure I can. Scotts definition puts greys firmly in the group of technocrats (with libertarians attempting to solve politics)- individuals who think the solution to issues is expertise and reason. This would be mercantilists, supporters of enlightened despotism, members of the French revolution who introduced the metric calendar, Oswald Mosley, the Technocrats of the 1930s and Molberg.

            “Reds are against big business and hard money while Blues are in favor of racist imperialism?!”

            They were at the turn of the century. Blues believed that inferior races could be improved by white tuteledge. There is a great quote by Teddy about how eventually the white man would leave Africa and Asia in a couple hundred years, but it would be fine because by that time the natives would have taken after the requisite instruction and would be culturally similar to the Angle-Saxons.

            The same with business. Look at TRs attitude towards it- monopolies were bad, but conglomerates and accumulation were good because it was easier to work government policy through a few firms rather than many.

          • Irenist says:

            I’m not conceding anything. Everything has a cause except god isn’t appreciably different from everything that comes into existence has a cause except god because it doesn’t come into existence. In both cases god is asserted to be exempt from the rules regarding everything else. The two claims are logically equivalent.

            If the latter claim were a mere assertion, the two claims would be logically equivalent. But there are in fact good reasons to think that God is eternal, uncaused, unchanged, etc. Thus, it is not arbitrary to say that God is different from everything temporal, caused, and changeable.

            “Indeed. However, that God is eternal is something that classical theist metaphysics argues for; it’s not merely asserted.”
            Yeah and historical inevitability isn’t asserted, it is argued for by Marxist materialism.

            Okay, so Marxists made bad arguments, so argument is never any better than assertion?

            You can’t use your conclusion as evidence for your premise. Logical arguments do not work that way.

            Indeed they don’t. E.g., when you claim below that “Sophistication of arguments is irrelevant, only the level of support from evidence matters,” are you justifying that assertion with arguments, or evidence? Because if it’s with an argument, then sophistication would be nice. If it’s with evidence then you’re using your conclusion as evidence for your premise. Anyway, which conclusion do you allege is being used as evidence for which premise in, e.g., the Summa Contra Gentiles?

            “demonstrates that nothing can exist unless an Unmoved Mover (i.e., an Unchanged Changer) exists, and then carefully demonstrates that there can only be one such Unmoved Mover, and that the Unmoved Mover must be simple, eternal, and all the standard omni-predicates of God. ”
            That doesn’t work. We have no way of knowing if things inside the universe can be generalized to properties of the universe as a whole.

            The “universe as a whole” is irrelevant. Aquinas’ argument is grounded in concepts like actuality and potentiality *within* the realm of everyday objects. Aquinas is arguing that every potential must be actualized by an already-actual cause, that accordingly an infinite regress of potentials is impossible, and that, thus, an always-already-actual cause (i.e., God) must exist. Here’s a restatement where the example used is “a pen which is here and now being moved by a hand, which is here and now being moved by muscles, which are here and now being moved by nerves, which are here and now being stimulated by the brain, which is here and now being sustained by blood and oxygen, et cetera”:
            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2014/10/fr-robert-barron-revisits-the-argument-from-motion.html
            An arm moving a pen is what the example is about. “The universe as a whole” (and a Humean-style Fallacy of Composition objection lying in wait, I’m sure) has nothing, at all, to do with it.

            ” even a multiverse is finite in time.”
            No, it isn’t.

            The Spitzer book to which I cited above argues that all inflationary cosmologies (e.g., Borde-Vilenkin-Guth) and string cosmologies (e.g., Steinhardt-Turok cyclic ekpyrosis, Gasperini-Veneziano multiverses) “must have a beginning.” Is that assertion wrong? How?

            Dualism doesn’t get around the fact that things are made of parts. You seem to be saying that dualism means that the spirit is a single part. However you run immediately into the issue that people are different and all souls are made of the same stuff.

            Souls aren’t made of anything at all. They are formal essences. Souls are no more “made of stuff” than the number 2 (which is also formal) is made of stuff. No ectoplasm or ghost in the machine is being posited. (You may wish to assert, wrongly (and less wrongly!), that the number 2 is just a generalization of an operation like putting two pebbles in a bucket to count sheep.)

            In the biological world we get around that by having different organization of parts. Souls have to run by similar rules.

            To say that souls have to have similar rules to material objects is to beg the question against immaterial souls. It’s like an undersea fish who doesn’t believe in the surface saying that flight must work exactly like swimming, and that if air isn’t buoyant like water then the whole theory of “flight” must be incoherent.

            Epicycles are things added to a theory that cannot be observed, tested or measured but are necessary for the theory to work.

            Like multiverses and atheism?

            If imagination and thinking are done by the body why assume the soul does anything?

            They’re done through the body, not by the body alone. Soul and body together get us qualia; body alone gets us p-zombies.

            “However, Aquinas does hold that certain forms of abstract cognition are immaterial;”
            If they are, than such forms of cognition would not be vulnerable to brain damage.

            Depending on the brain damage, the soul couldn’t express its capacity to cogitate.

            I’m sure you have empirical evidence for such claims?

            Empirical evidence concerns measurements of matter. Souls are immaterial. I do however, have an argument for such claims. Please read the Ross paper: our ability to distinguish between the operator “plus” and the Kripkean operator “quus” (and other such Quinean indeterminacies) requires immaterial intentionality. (No, your computer doesn’t use the “plus” operator. It shuttles electrons around chips and you interpret that as addition. The intentionality is yours, not the machine’s.)

            We know that you can destroy the ability to remember things. Are you agreeing that the soul doesn’t include memory?

            No. I will agree that the embodied soul of a brain-damaged person may not be able to access its memories.

            Than the gays win. Churches can already refuse to marry non-members and can already self-select membership.

            You’re missing the point; it’s not freedom of worship. Can Catholic Charities of Massachusetts refuse to place orphans with gay couples? Can Gordon College require its students to refrain from all sexual behavior other than straight marital sex? Can evangelical bakers refuse to make cakes for gay weddings? It’s not about whether civil SSM will be granted; that battle is over. It’s about whether civil SSM can coexist with tolerance for anti-SSM Christians, or whether gays are going to be sore winners and refuse to tolerate Christian “diversity” on this issue. Before this, my part of the sub-debate on SSM within the traditionalist community was whether we should stop opposing civil SSM in the hopes that gays and traditionalists could tolerate each other; my opponents argued that I was being naïve, and gays would marginalize us once the law was on their side. My opponents sadly appear to have been correct.

            ” A really bad natural law argument. ”
            How is it bad? Single creation does not contradict God having special purposes in mind for specific ethnicities of humans and desiring separation between them. You know, like what he does with the Jews.

            A Thomist natural law argument always beings from all humans, qua rational animals, having the same telos. Ad hoc reasoning without that context is, to this Thomist, bad natural lawyering.

            [Opinions about who should have won/ought to win various arguments]

            You seem to be using “one-sided” to mean “one side is right.” And you seem committed to that. Okay.

            Sophistication of arguments is irrelevant, only the level of support from evidence matters.

            I’ll ask again: Do you have an argument for this? Or did you weigh or measure something to arrive at this opinion? Or what?

            “altering the gene pool of the human race” and the “altering the genes of individual humans”. Transhumanism is the latter, not the former.

            Nope. This is becoming an argument about definitions, and seems to have already have fallen prey to quite a few of the 37 Ways Words Can Be Wrong. However, in common usage, Transhumanism, both historically and in recent times (as opposed to in your own idiosyncratic usage), has included advocacy for both germline (gene pool) and somatic (individual) biomodificaton. As an example, here’s an excerpt from the “Position on Human Germline Genetic Modification,” adopted unanimously by the World Transhumanist Association Board of Directors December 24, 2005.

            Genetic modifications that adults make on their own genetic material, both somatic and germline, should be approved on the basis of their safety for the adult subject, with appropriate informed consent about any teratogenic risks if modified genetic material is passed on to children. There should be no penalties for adults who knowingly modify their own reproductive cells, or for health care providers who have given adequate information about risks and benefits, even if that use is not approved as a therapy for the modification of sperm, eggs and embryos ex vivo.

            There should be state funding of inheritable genetic therapy research in both animal and human trials. In the United States, the National Institutes of Health should reverse its ban on funding of inheritable gene therapy research. Funding policy should not distinguish between somatic or inheritable therapies, or “therapy” vs. “enhancement,” but should be based on the feasibility, safety and potential benefits of the treatment. There should be state funding for long-term prospective studies of the safety and impact on health of inheritable gene therapies. But there should not be a mandatory registry of the subjects of inheritable genetic therapies.
            Finally, given the potential for genetic therapies to exacerbate inequality, we believe safe, beneficial genetic therapies should be made as universally accessible as possible. Highest priority should be placed on making universally accessible genetic therapies that provide intrinsic benefits [1,2] – such as health, longevity and intelligence – as opposed to germinal choices and genetic therapies that do not provide intrinsic benefit, such as height and gender.

            Now, you can No True Scotsman the WTA as not your kind of transhumanist, but honestly debating definitions is getting tiresome.

            Sure I can. Scotts definition puts greys firmly in the group of technocrats (with libertarians attempting to solve politics)- individuals who think the solution to issues is expertise and reason. This would be mercantilists, supporters of enlightened despotism, members of the French revolution who introduced the metric calendar, Oswald Mosley, the Technocrats of the 1930s and Molberg.

            If you’re thinking of technocrats who think the solution to issues is expertise and reason, you’re also thinking of blues like Herbert Croly, aren’t you?

            “Reds are against big business and hard money while Blues are in favor of racist imperialism?!”
            They were at the turn of the century.

            More definitional disputes, I guess. Progressives were in favor of some of those things, and rural traditionalists against them. But today’s blues and reds have ideological ancestry on both sides of the politics of those days. Anyway, I don’t think this definitional dispute is going anywhere, either. Cheers.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Item ended up at the bottom of the list because I choose the “post comment” at the top. Continue there.

        • Mr. Breakfast says:

          I don’t want to dismiss the violet category out of hand, but in this and other comment threads all I have seen are examples of how self-described violets live as blues but retain certain red beliefs, or names of specific non-conforming blues who fit the violet concept.

          Could you link me to the discussion where the other traits of a “tribe” in this taxonomy are identified? Questions I have include:

          What are the violet communication channels which form the violet echo chamber and what news stories have been promoted or silenced there? On what issues do the information states and positions of violets show statistically unlikely levels of in-group conformity? What is the overarching violet narrative about the world? What are some examples of reflexive violet prejudices? Who are the violets’ outgroup?

          Think of the notable people who have been proposed to be violets: do you as a violet feel overwhelming dread at the thought of criticizing those individuals in the presence of non-violets?

          Does the Violet tribe conform to the tribal afilliation model being discussed? If it does not, does it invalidate that model? Or is it just a dodge to exempt violets from the call to self criticism put forth by the “outgroup” post?

          • Irenist says:

            Could you link me to the discussion where the other traits of a “tribe” in this taxonomy are identified?

            Um…I guess this could that discussion, if you want?

            What are the violet communication channels which form the violet echo chamber

            Definitely Douthat, “The American Conservative” magazine, to a certain extent blogs like “Front Porch Republic” (localist, agrarian, Wendell Berry-ish), and a lot of the Patheos blogs’ Catholic channel (e.g., CFAR-fan Leah Libresco and Peter Thiel-fan Pascal Emmanuel Gobry, and Mark P. Shea, although he’s sort of a Red/Violet hybrid) and probably a bunch of the Protestant and Orthodox blogs (but I’m Catholic so I don’t much read them). A lot Inkling (i.e., JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis) fandom. Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig’s blog. The ridiculously named “Gilbert! (Magazine of the American Chesterton Society), and a lot of the rest of the distributist/Chestertonian tendency within Catholicism at blogs like Ethica Politika. First Things publishes a lot of Violet stuff, although also some Red stuff. Not all Violets are Catholic, but that’s the only Violet experience I know personally. And not all Catholic nerds are Violets—a fair amount of Chesterton fanboys, e.g., are more reactionary and sort of hyper-Red Tribe.

            what news stories have been promoted or silenced there?

            Blues, Reds, and Grays behaving badly tend to be shouted to the rooftops. Dirty laundry in Violets’ own denominations is far less silenced than one might think, given that Violets tend to think of themselves as “cosmopolitan Reds” in much the same way that Grays are kind of “rationalist Blues,” so airing that laundry confirms us in our cosmopolitanism (and we blame Reds or Blues for it). I can’t actually . . . think of what we’re silencing, actually. Seriously, I can’t. (I mean, Violets look to insights from far left and far right alike. We obviously have the most objective viewpoint. Right?) Oh, dear. Well, whatever we’re silencing, I’m as guilty of it as the rest of us Violets.

            On what issues do the information states and positions of violets show statistically unlikely levels of in-group conformity?

            No stats handy, but… Anti-SSM and anti-abortion views are more often than not coupled among Violets with enthusiasm for narcotic legalization and tolerance for the welfare state. Theoretical anti-SSM views are pretty much universally coupled with deep discomfort and revulsion at overt hostility to actual gay people in this group.

            What is the overarching violet narrative about the world?

            Catholic edition: Standard Christian salvation metanarrative of history + “Neither of the two major parties/tribes represents us, because neither of the two major parties really follows Christ. Blues don’t see that traditional morality is importantly true, and Reds are repulsively hard-hearted and intolerant.” (I don’t know that the “overarching narrative” would include a nascent, smaller group like Grays.)

            What are some examples of reflexive violet prejudices?

            Blues and Grays are deeply naïve about where libertinism will lead civilization. Reds are “hard-hearted and intolerant.”

            Who are the violets’ outgroup?

            Any of Blues, Reds, or Grays, I guess. I think Violets are nerdy enough that Grays are probably the most proximate neighbor, and therefore the most threatening outgroup. Hence the incessant snark about Dawkins and metaphysics, etc. But Reds (like us but not pop-savvy enough) or Blues (why must they lump us in with Reds??) aren’t Us, either.

            Think of the notable people who have been proposed to be violets: do you as a violet feel overwhelming dread at the thought of criticizing those individuals in the presence of non-violets?

            Chesterton was likely a pretty big anti-Semite. I’m not sure, because I haven’t read up on it. But the thought of it is so, so depressing for me that I never do get around to reading up on it. And typing that was, literally, viscerally uncomfortable. I could multiply examples, but would prefer not to, thanks.

            Does the Violet tribe conform to the tribal afilliation model being discussed?

            Sure. A lot of people who hang out in the above mentioned blog-spaces tend, based on my own anecdata anyway, to adopt more of the overall Violet package over time. Group polarization, affective death spirals, halo effects, etc., abound. Which is about what you’d expect with a human group.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            Irenist:

            Ok, I can sort of see the outlines of the culture you are describing. I am only conversant with a few of the Violet touchstones you mention, but that is consistent with it being a distinct alien (to me) tribe.

            But I reflect on how I ended up here:

            I am a vaguely committed libertarian/anarchist who never followed a rationalist blog previously. A couple of weeks ago a chain of interesting comments led me from from C4SS to BHL to SSC and LW (I had read some BHL and LW material previously but never hung around long). Now, inexplicably, I find myself in this parallel universe where apparently intelligent and well informed people discuss things like their opposition to Neoreactionary thought, as if NR is a serious and coming thing. I find myself reading the “outgroup” post which is one of the most perceptive things I have encountered in a long while, and so now it seems actually important to stick around and watch how this “tribes” idea gets explored.

            You, Irenist, appear to be the champion of the “Violet” tribe concept. The culture you describe makes sense, it’s coherent, I get that. Two of your violet touchstones are Wendell Barry and G.K. Chesterton, right?

            Wendell Berry’s work I know passing well, having first lighted upon him at the end of an investigative chain that IIRC started with Permaculture and passed through Joel Salatin. Some readings from Wendel Berry subsequently helped my wife and I align upon and clarify major points of our shared life goals. WB is one of the few writers who I could actually see getting really emotional in defense of. But for me his work always fit natively to an anarchic, non-theistic, basically “Gray” back-to-the-land world view.

            Chesterton on the other hand I have only encountered through an aunt who is archetypally red. Maybe I am misjudging her, but my observation in this one case is that fanatical loyalty to Chesterton does not imply many of the other qualities you say typify a violet.

            Of course, why should it? None of these anecdotes need typify any tribe. What I am dancing around is this: the very ease with which individuals and influences translate across these group boundaries means that they are behaving in a way very unlike what was described in the “Outgroup” post:

            “There are certain theories of dark matter where it barely interacts with the regular world at all, such that we could have a dark matter planet exactly co-incident with Earth and never know… This is sort of how I feel about conservatives.”

            In this framework, a “tribe” is a total pervasive cultural environment. In contrast, your own and others’ descriptions of Violet life often revolve an acute awareness of the Blues and Grays who surround you and the details of their cultures and how they differ from your (hidden) convictions.

            On a less grand level, think about being inside a Whole Foods Market: you are surrounded by a carefully designed and constructed 360deg. completely immersive Blue cultural experience. The people are Blue tribe, the products, the decoration… everything down to the exact wording used in the “handwritten” signage is laden with Blue cultural cues.

            A Red equivalent might be found by walking into a Cabellas or Bass Pro Shops.

            Where is the Violet equivalent to this? When do you experience this complete immersive reinforcement of your identity and world view? Once a year in ? The Reds and Blues have thousands of fully equipped and operating safe spaces for their cultural expressions.

            It is this very quality of non-overlapping immersive cultures that the concept of tribes was proposed to address. Please pardon a strained hand-waving metaphor:

            Red and Blue are sufficiently massive to have a memetic “event horizon”: one can be so deep within Red or Blue intellectual territory that movement along any line of thought leads only to other points within red or blue space. Gray may have this quality, I don’t know, I haven’t seen it. But Whatever-I-am doesn’t, and i have my doubts that Violet does either.

            A SFW corrollary of rule 34 is basically “If you can think of X, there are a handful of people on the Internet who call themselves ‘The X Community’.” The numbers of people on the Internet are large enough to find a few others on a site the content of that already closely appeals to your interests who would identify with the culture of your tribe. I don’t think it follows that “the Violets” are a phenomenon of the same order as what was described as red or blue.

            What seems more likely to me is that if Red and Blue are truly a thing, they suck. The beliefs and mythologies which support them have cracks large enough to drive a truck through, and many, many people either fall out of one or the other for some reason. Maybe some other people were just accidentally left standing when the music stopped and never got attached to a tribe in the first place. I don’t know what you would call most of those unaffiliated people, whether they wander around the margins of the great tribes knowing they will never be really at home as I do, or whether they are just oblivious to the whole thing. But I do know what I would call people like you and your fellow Violets and any other lost tribes out there, People who have a fully developed tribal culture that is not the home team in any place:

            Mohicans.

          • Irenist says:

            @Mr. Breakfast:

            Great comment; all excellent points. I think you’re right that Violets (who are probably smaller than Grays, much less the other two) are defined primarily by their Venn diagram intersection with the other groups, and accordingly do lack immersive Violet spaces.

            Further, I think you’re entirely correct that, if the key thrust of the color-tribe taxonomy exercise is (and your reading of Scott’s post is persuasive) to identify groups that are sufficiently broad/deep that they can be oceanically immersive the way rural Red culture and urban Blue culture can be, then I should retract my proposal for a Violet group, b/c Violets aren’t really like that ever.

            Are Grays ever? Maybe just in Silicon Valley? Or do Grays mostly just hang around Blues a lot, and so they’re not ever immersive either? I don’t get the vibe from Scott’s writing that he could just ignore Blue even if he wanted to. Accordingly, I think if Gray hadn’t been included, I would have understood the taxonomic project in a way that would not have prompted me to propose Violet.

            Anyway, I’m not terribly invested in whether Scott’s model benefits from breaking out my lot into a separate tribe or not. Whichever works best for SSC purposes is fine with me.

          • call_me_aka says:

            Mr. Breakfast makes excellent points, but there’s something a little bizarre about holding a culture to that high of a standard before acknowledging it as a potential locus of tribalism for the people involved. For example, I grinned widely when Irenist couldn’t think of something Violets would downplay or suppress; I had had the same difficulty, and I liked Irenist a tiny bit more for it. Those are tribalist warm fuzzies if ever there were any.

            The thing is, the depth of the immersive experience that Red and Blue America can offer their respective tribe members is exceptional. Most people everywhere have managed to be perfectly (bloodily!) tribal while still having some exposure to their outgroups. I’m living in Europe at the moment, and there are people who speak a completely different language just a couple of hours away, and that’s totally unremarkable. The hatred that Londoners and Parisians seem to harbor for one another is not mitigated by the fact that they interact way more than Blue and Red Americans do. But Londoners and Parisians don’t have to pretend that they’re the same people, and they don’t share a cultural legacy that actively denies and suppresses group identity. America, particularly Blue America, is where we don’t have tribes, and so they can only form on a huge, unintuitive scale.

            I’m not sure where I’m going with this, so I’m going to do a 180 and say what do you mean we can’t provide an immersive safe space. I know it’s fashionable to talk about internet communities, but people spend a lot of time on the internet! My RSS feeds are as carefully curated as my friends, probably even more so.

      • Robert Liguori says:

        But there is an actual world, with actual properties that exist independently of what values various tribes hold about it. Rallying people around the Hate Bard Arguments tribe should be done with caution, as a cursory example of various long-lived organizational groups suggest that it’s very easy for a group to become decoupled from its original stated values, but again, even with that proviso, true things are true even if you’re saying them for tribal points.

        Also, I notice that I am confused in your reply to the best of Scott’s bad arguments. I’m pretty sure he’s still spent more words on this blog proving neoreactionaries wrong; are they the certain group you were thinking of? (I do admit that writing a novella-length thorough denunciation of neoreactionary argument and apologia is bizarre, but in the best possible way.)

        • call_me_aka says:

          Sure, true things are true even if you’re saying them for tribal points. The claim was, “It might be true, but that’s probably not why you think it.” In other words, just because the things you think are relatively true (i.e. truer than those other things you don’t think) doesn’t mean you don’t have motivational biases that prevent you from thinking something even truer. The point is to caution against a particular failure mode, not to discount the possibility of success.

          As to whether Scott spends more time arguing with neoreactionaries than SJWs, I don’t know and I don’t particularly care. My general impression is that he spends a lot of time arguing with neoreactionaries because they’re easy/tempting to argue with (i.e. they’re relatively articulate and make explicit claims, they’re pretty obviously evil but their claims are close enough to being true that it’s worth articulating why they’re not, etc.), but he argues with SJWs because he hates them and they seem to enjoy some mainstream success (i.e. they’re more culturally powerful and/or better at getting people to act the way they want than he is). Different attitudes, different blind spots.

          • call_me_aka says:

            Sorry, I just realized it sounds like I’m backtracking on my claim that intellectual virtue is impossible on the group level. I still think that, because even if you can get a group to think things that are, on average, truer than what other groups believe, there’s no way to use group-bonding mechanisms to cultivate genuine intellectual virtue in individuals, because that involves training yourself out of feeling good about other people agreeing with you and that’s in tension with wanting to be in a tribe with them.

          • Lesser Bull says:

            it sounds a lot like you’re saying’ Scott argues with people I disagree with because they’re wrong and he is interested in truth, but he argues with people I like because of HATE.’

            Am I wrong?

          • call_me_aka says:

            Ugh, sorry, rewriting my response because bad wording.

            You *are* wrong, because I don’t much like SJ folks either. I roll my eyes at “liberal piety” a lot, and tend to lump the kinds of internet feminists that Scott argues with into that category. Violet, not Blue. But in any case, I feel like using this as an example distracted from the actual point I was trying to make (about the tradeoff between bonding and truth-seeking) and I regret it. If y’all can please avoid the object-level debate, it’d be much appreciated.

          • Lesser Bull says:

            OK, thanks for the clarification.

            There are two points to be made, and I’ll mention your object level stuff in making those points, but hopefully its clear that I’m mentioning it as an example only.

            Point 1 is that its easy to be disgusted by someone but also disgusted by someone who attacks them, and when that happens its usually because the original someone is a member of your tribe. Could you be anti-anti-SJW? Sorta seems like it from here.

            Point 2 is that in a community that is aware of tribalism, defining your tribe down is a high-status move. It allows you to pose as objective when you assert larger tribal interests. I’m not saying that the grey tribe or the ‘violet’ tribe is a partial delusion, but I’m not saying they aren’t, either.

          • call_me_aka says:

            Also, you make it sound like I said that arguing with a group because it’s easy/temping is somehow admirable. It’s not! It’s pretty clear to me that NRs are people who like making arguments (like all the rest of us here) but it’s often much more useful to try and engage people who aren’t as invested in figuring out what they believe and trumpeting it loudly. It’s much, much harder to engage someone who doesn’t want to argue, so we often miss out on good ideas that are harder to defend argumentatively.

        • call_me_aka says:

          What do you mean by “defining your tribe down”?

          Edit: Wrong nesting level is unfixable, sorry.

          • Lesser Bull says:

            “Defining your tribe down” means coming up with a niche special snowflake tribe that you allegedly belong to without any larger loyalties. So whereas a Blue tribe member defending SJWs against attack while saying he didn’t like them himself would be suspect as a tribal move, a ‘Violet’ tribe member can say its just, you know, her actual position. Not saying that’s what you are doing. But its obvious to me that in a community where people know about tribalism (which is all communities, at some level, but this more than most) defining your tribe is a powerful rhetorical move that opens up lots of options. Another example is the NRx guys who are TOTALLY not conservatives, just ask them. Which is somewhat true, but also somewhat false.

          • call_me_aka says:

            This is a fair point, but Grey and Violet are still important categories, because bubbles. It matters who you perceive yourself as primarily interacting/arguing with. I may be Blue in some very large sense (certainly if you sent me to the deep south I’d be hoppin’ liberal), but that’s true of Scott as well. And yet we seem to interpret and respond to liberal piety on race and gender pretty differently, in ways that are reasonably well predicted by our positions within our respective social circles.

            So what I would say is yes, I’m anti-anti-SJW, but I don’t think of that as a crypto-Blue sympathy. My irritation with Scott comes from the same place as my skepticism of liberal piety (or my impatience with polyamorous people, for that matter): you’re all too goddamn clever, and get off my lawn.

          • nydwracu says:

            Marxism-Nixonism will win. Marxism-Nixonism will win.

          • Q says:

            “you’re all too goddamn clever, and get off my lawn.”
            – Now you totally lost me, I do not understand a damn thing. If you were an anti-intelectual type, you would not be reading Slate Star Codex. Or would you ?

            As I asked elsewhere, can you give me a specific example of a story etc, which circulates in your group, but is likely to be downplayed by a gray tribe ?

            I want to emphasize, that this is a “friendly” question. I expect, there really are such little facts or stories, but what are they ?

          • call_me_aka says:

            I won’t have time to answer this until tomorrow, by which time this comment thread will probably be dead, but do check again.

          • Irenist says:

            @Lesser Bull and @Q
            Maybe my Violet proposal was special snowflakey–I’m biased and not the best judge. But I know I’m differ substantially in my views from Red, Blue, or Gray as described, and a few people even on this Gray blog seem to be coming out of the woodwork to claim the term, sometimes with open relief at recognition. Which is all anecdata, but hey.

            That said, you could, if you felt like it, take a look at First Things writer Jody Bottum’s book “An Anxious Age,” the second half of which is an attempt at a sociology of religion for millennial Catholic intellectuals. He uses composite characters to illustrate his theses. His “Eleanor Portman” composite is a pure Violet. There are Portman-types in every American denomination and religion right now, and I think elsewhere in the First World as well. Their views are very similar to each others’, and very dissimilar to Blue, and Gray along axes like sexual morality and devout theism and to Red (on almost everything else). I have no idea whether the group is as large as “Grays” (which honestly loomed snowflakily overlarge for me relative to Red/Blue when I read Scott’s initial post), but I think if Gray is big enough to be an analytically useful group, so is Violet. But, YMMV. No worries.

          • blacktrance says:

            My hypothesis is that if you’re a member of a small (but not too small) group, you will be disproportionately exposed to its members and views. Compared to Red and Blue, Grey and Violet are small, but if I were judging based on things my friends post on Facebook, I’d conclude that Greys are by far the dominant group, with a small but vocal minority of Blues and a near-negligible minority of Reds.

            Violet is probably even smaller than Grey, but it’s large enough for Violets to come across a significant number of other Violets.

          • Matthew says:

            In all of the threads since this terminology came up, I feel like the entire classification process has been rigged against the left, in the sense that, any time a blue makes rational/intelligent arguments, people argue that that person is actually a gray. This is not similarly the case for reds. This invariably makes the blue tribe look ridiculous; of course they’ll look ridiculous if one excludes anyone remotely rational by definition.

            I personally tend to identify as an anti-SJW blue. If everyone else is going to label me gray, I think that just proves the blue-gray distinction isn’t all that well defined.

            I’m idenifying as Cobalt from now on, in protest at disagreeing with basically every characterization of the blue tribe I see on here. Tumblr SJWs are not the modal blue.

        • Sigivald says:

          I can’t stand bard arguments myself.

          Minstreling, jongleurisation, the lot of it; can’t we just reject all the bardic arts from argumentation?

          (I would apologize, but I’m not sorry, because that typo was too perfect and I cannot, God help me, resist a pun like this.)

          • Franz Panzer says:

            Yeah all thos Bards coming in, making arguments. There’s no point in having an discussion if they can convince you of their oppinion every time due to their high charisma.

            (Damn, you got there before me.
            I agree. Absolutely hilarious spelling error)

      • Michael R says:

        Have to disagree with you on this one Call me Aka. I don’t always agree with Scott’s views, but I rarely doubt that he is trying to the best of his abilities to avoid Bad Arguments.

        I think he’s pretty good at it, it’s why I’m reading his blog. In fact, I would have thought that was the whole point.

      • Irenist says:

        “Intellectual virtue is impossible at the group level.”

        Howdy, fellow Violet! Your insight above reminds me of, and maybe seems like an instance of, Christian foreign policy realist Reinhold Niebuhr’s contention that individuals can be moral, but institutions can’t. (In “Moral Man, Immoral Society”).

      • Paul Torek says:

        Intellectual virtue is impossible at the group level.

        Nah.

      • Lloyd says:

        Excellent points, mate, and stated with unusual insight and clarity. I must therefore assume you more than passingly familiar with philosophy.

    • Irenist says:

      Didn’t groups like Politifact or FactCheck start as “Team I Really Hate Bad Arguments”? IIRC (which I may not), I think they did. It seems pretty routine lately to denounce them as partisan.

      Scott’s posts are great, and I gather that much of the rationalist stuff from CFAR and LW is great, too. But philosophers have been trying to inculcate careful respect for logic, and awareness of the tools of rhetoric, with the institutional backing of (once?) prestigious university departments, for centuries.

      I think the problem is that Scott’s Moloch is an awfully, awfully powerful countervailing force, and one that lives inside the genetically given biases and incentive structures even of people trying to form a Team I Really Hate Bad Arguments.

      • Anonymous says:

        It might be possible to have a team of super-partisan people (with serious standing in their respective community) committed to intellectual honesty and have each of them critique their own side’s bad arguments, after input from the opposite side’s advocate.

        • Patrick says:

          Unlikely. The various political tribes disagree on issues that, in at least some cases, have objective answers which show one or the other tribe to be objectively wrong. If Tribe X is objectively wrong about issue A, then when you recruit a member of Tribe X to critique Tribe Y’s arguments about issue A, you’ve just recruited someone who either isn’t very smart, informed, or honest, or else you’ve recruited the one member of Tribe X who is a heretic on the issue, and whom Tribe X will not accept as an expert.

          • Sigivald says:

            Are there such issues and cases?

            I’m not sure I’m aware of any.

            (I know many in, say, economics, where there is very good reason to believe one side* is right, as close to objectively as economics can get.

            But not “this is an observation on the level of physics”, objective.

            I can’t think of any matter of partisan contention of values or preferences that is objectively provable either way, for or against** my own beliefs.)

            (* Naturally in the cases I have in mind, they agree with my beliefs, for obvious reasons: I may be deluding myself so thoroughly I can’t catch it, but if that is not the explanation, I change my mind to match awkward facts.

            I have done so in the past, so I know it ain’t impossible, which makes me discount the delusion argument.

            Which may itself be delusion; how could I even check, if my existing attempts to check are insufficient? “Sest Lavvie”, as we say.

            ** Likewise obviously, on the against.)

          • Ken Arromdee says:

            Sigvald: Creationism is the best known example.

          • Clockwork Marx says:

            Creationism isn’t falsifiable though. You can explain away anything that doesn’t seem to fit by invoking God’s omnipotence and his “mysterious ways”. The framework supporting this belief can absorb any data you can throw at it.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Clockwork Marx, if creationism is unfalsifiable, no theory is falsifiable. It’s always possible to save a theory from refutation by invoking auxiliary assumptions, but sometimes it’s just obviously cheating. Saving creationism definitely involves going deep into the obviously cheating territory. Actual statements by actual creationists tend to recognize this; while they will admittedly sometimes invoke painfully ad hoc assumptions, they more commonly just misrepresent the evidence.

          • BenSix says:

            There is a difference between the question of whether a theory is falsifiable and whether its advocates will accept its falsification. Some creationist ideas are falsifiable whether or not the theorists would agree.

            My issue with Patrick’s comment is with the idea that if something is objectively wrong one cannot be smart, informed and honest yet agree with it. Human activity either is or is not significantly affecting the climate, for example, but I don’t think one has to be stupid, ignorant or deceptive to take either perspective. We have tremendous powers of rationalisation.

          • stubydoo says:

            Creationism itself is unfalsifiable, but any given particular supposed proof of creationism can be falsifiable. And as best as I am aware, all of the supposed proofs of creationism that have ever been cited have in fact been falsified.

          • Deiseach says:

            Re: Creationism (and can I expess how fed-up I am of seeing this horse being flogged?), fideism is a heresy, so “We ca’t explain it , therefore God did it!” is not actually a permissible attitude to hold within Catholicism.

            Not that that stops some Catholics from falling into the habit of dong that very thing, but I really would appreciate some recognition that a minority view arising out of 19th century American revivalism is NOT a universal view within historic global Christianity.

            Yes, vitally important as the U.S.A. may be, not everything revolves around it. I really don’t know how big a deal Creationism is in America, but the only traction it gets overseas is from American influence.

        • Irenist says:

          Patrick is correct as to why this wouldn’t work. In sum, prophet without honor in his own country and all that.

          I can think of quite a few examples of people who prominently broke with their political tribe on a certain issue, and are now only listened to about anything at all by the other tribe. Interestingly, this often has the effect of pulling the dissenter’s views toward that of the newly receptive tribe over time. IOW, the dissenter’s views on the rest of their memeplex are more likely to be changed by their new incentive structure than the initial dissent is likely to change the views of the dissenter’s original tribe. Moloch is wily.

      • Lambert says:

        Perhaps a moratorium on politically sensitive topics (perhaps the entire object level, save for examples of meta level arguments).

        • call_me_aka says:

          I can’t tell whether you’re being serious, but this is actually exactly why I’m happy shutting down research on IQ and race.

        • Lesser Bull says:

          The natural consequence of that would be that what topics are politically sensitive itself becomes a politically sensitive topic.

      • call_me_aka says:

        Can you elaborate on why you think this is a Moloch problem?

      • grendelkhan says:

        Add Snopes to that list. They read as scrupulously Team I Really Like Accuracy to me, but, of course, I can’t really tell. (Is this article actually nonpartisan, or an obviously transparent attempt to seem nonpartisan?)

        Could some Red Tribe members weigh in?

      • Doug S. says:

        Didn’t groups like Politifact or FactCheck start as “Team I Really Hate Bad Arguments”? IIRC (which I may not), I think they did. It seems pretty routine lately to denounce them as partisan.

        “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.” — Stephen Colbert

  9. Anonymous says:

    How worried should I be about ebola? There’s an official red answer and an official blue answer to the question. I see some sense and some nonsense in both these official answers. Can I use my slate star codex training to get any clarity? It seems a lot more important than getting clarity on video games, or democracy.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      My understanding is that there is very little risk of the infection spreading in the First World. Although there will certainly by a few cases of people who come from Africa and infect others, the infection has a spread rate < 1 in the First World, which means that the average person gives it to less than one other person, which means that eventually the series converges with a small finite number of people being infected. So each person who brings the virus over from Africa will infect some small (single digit, probably) number of people before their particular outbreak fizzles out. The problem in Africa seems to be that it has a poor health system, people don't really get how important it is to quarantine/stay away from the infected, and everyone lives cramped together with poor sanitation. That gives it a spread rate greater than one, which makes it an epidemic. I recently offered to bet someone $100 that there would be no major Ebola epidemic in the First World, and I stick to that.

      • Anonymous says:

        You are saying: the blues have it. I know these arguments and mostly believe them, but have started to get uneasy the past few days. Haven’t you?

        The first ebola patient in the US has now infected two nurses. That doesn’t mean “r = 2 > 1 in the first world”, it could just be bad luck, but doesn’t it lend a little bit of credibility to the more hysterical red arguments? A little bit of credibility is enough to feel pretty uneasy.

        And I worry about India.

        • It’s part of the Blue narrative that ‘we Blues are canny enough to see that the scientific establishment is right’. It’s part of the Red narrative that ‘we Reds are canny enough to see through the corrupt partisanship of the scientific establishment’.

          It might well be that the Red narrative is more accurate than the Blue one (i.e., it may be that much of science is biased and unreliable), but the practical consequence of these two narratives is that Blues tend to defer too much to experts, whereas Reds tend to overestimate their ability to outperform experts. So the practical consequence is that Red narrative fails less gracefully, with respect to the goal of answering factual/scientific questions correctly.

          • Gilbert says:

            Not true in the general case.
            For example, in the IQ/race-cluster of questions those roles are pretty much reversed. Same if the question is about any biologically based psychological differences between the sexes. Also history, for example the conflict thesis, which is basically Blue creationism.

            Basically every tribe has an expert-trusting narrative where its narrative agrees with the experts and a smarter-than-the-experts narrative where it doesn’t.

            Or, in other words, nobody actually trusts the experts, but everybody uses them as a cudgel where convenient.

          • Lambert says:

            Hypothesis:
            The Church is to Red Tribe
            as
            The Scientific Establishment is to blue tribe
            (Feel free to find the Grey eqivalent that lurks in my blind spot (Invisible hand / free market?)).

          • Lambert: I’d say Greys defer to the scientific establishment even more strongly than Blues do. (This is largely true even for LW, and LW is one of the more skeptical-of-scientific-practice Grey communities out there.) Blue is a lot more associated with back-to-nature culture (therefore anti-GMO stuff) and feminist culture (therefore some distrust of male-dominated sciences) than Grey is.

            Gilbert: I agree it’s not universally true. (GMOs, etc.) And priors would lead me to expect Blues to be especially bad at IQ/race stuff. But I’m not sure the mainstream Blue position is actually less accurate than the mainstream Red position.

            Mainstream Reds don’t say ‘black people are worse-off because they’re genetically inferior’ (nor do they give due reverence to IQ scores). Mainstream Reds say ‘black people are worse-off because their own culture has made them lazy and callous’. Mainstream Blues respond, ‘no, black people are worse-off because white culture systematically deprives black people of resources and opportunities’. It’s possible that most Reds are secretly biodeterminists, but their rhetoric assumes the same ‘blank slate’ picture as the Blues — that’s why they blame black people for their own problems, rather than seeing black people as victims of (social or biological) circumstance.

            People’s mental image of biodeterminists is ‘white supremacists’, and they are completely marginalized. Greys like Stephen Pinker might be the closest thing to ‘quasi-mainstream biodeterminism’, and Pinker is culturally closer to Team Blue than to Team Red. The breakdown of ideas in and around LessWrong isn’t representative of the stereotypes and central tendencies of U.S. politics and intellectual life.

          • Susebron says:

            @Lambert

            I think that would be “science” as well, to an even greater extent. Perhaps the Blue equivalent would be “academics”, while Gray would limit itself to “science”?

          • Nick says:

            Lambert, how broadly do you mean “the Church”? If you’re talking about the Catholic Church, that can’t possibly be true. Many Red Tribe Catholics ignore the Church on plenty of issues, like torture, just war theory, environmental care, treatment of LGBT people, just economic policy, and I don’t even know what else. If you ever skim the archives of Mark Shea’s blog, you’ll see him catalog a lot of this stuff. And that’s just the Catholics themselves, the Red Tribe as a whole is hardly uniformly Catholic.

            It’s a bit more complicated than that because most of those whom we might consider serious Catholics in the sense of taking the Church as a legitimate authority on these things (this is a horrible way to put it etc etc) do fall on the right, but it’s an “all serious Catholics are Red but not all Reds are serious Catholics” thing, and there’s still a fair amount of counterexamples. Actually I’m more interested in the counterexamples from the left personally because I want to see what serious Catholics can make of socialist, Marxist, feminist, LGBT, etc theory, commentary on the rightwing stuff has been done absolutely to death. But I digress.

            All that said I don’t know who I would guess the Red Tribe treats like the Blue Tribe treats The Scientific Establishment. But I would concur with the other criticisms that I think it’s more nuanced than “the Blue Tribe listens to The Scientific Establishment.” If I had to offer something in place of that, I’d say it’s something like what Susebron suggested, maybe “Blue listens to the humanities, Grey listens to the hard sciences.” But still no idea who Red listens to.

          • Anonymous says:

            Being Catholic predicts being Blue, not Red, so your first thought when Lambert says “Church” should not be Roman.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            Lambert:
            “The Church is to Red Tribe
            as
            The Scientific Establishment is to blue tribe”

            Is itself kind of a blue talking point. Both tribes, like many other cultures I can think of historically, have preffered sources of knowlege that fall on both sides of the rational/verifiable vs superstitious divide.

            Blues as a group do trust and respect certain evolution popularizers, climate researchers, pharmaceutical and other medical researchers, anthropologists, some but not all computer science types, and French economists.

            Blues also seem to trust and respect “Eastern” mystics, alternative medicine providers, futurists, bald-assertion-based social theorists, and the agencies that label which food is virtuous and which is not.

            Meanwhile Reds show a consistent support for engineers of all kinds, petroleum geologists, nuclear energy physicists, seed company and other agricultural researchers, certain evolutionary theorists, some but not all computer science types, and Austrian economists.

            And yes, Reds still respect the input of Christian mystics, though recently, anti-govornment conspiracy theorists are making strong inroads in their loyalty.

            My point is that it is biasing to describe one tribe in terms of it’s intellectual alleigance to only it’s purveyors of verifiable knowlege and the other tribe in terms of alleigance only to it’s preffered purveyors of superstition.

          • MugaSofer says:

            Reds care about the Church and Blues care about Science in exactly the same sense – they use it as a talking point.

            Neither of them are actually starting with their chosen authority and taking actions based on it. Obviously.

            Saying “yay Science” or “yay the Church” is just being used as code for “yay the Red/Blue tribe”.

          • Anonymous says:

            Breakfast, what are examples Red vs Blue expert opinions of computer science types?

          • Anonymous says:

            When a Red Triber cites Haidt as showing that the Red Tribe understands the Blue Tribe better than vice versa, and points out it’s Sceince, what’s that?

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            Anon:

            I was trying to point out the ambiguity of each tribe’s feelings about “Tech” generally, I don’t know that either tribe really treats computer professionals themselves as authorities.

            Blues had this whole “Apple good, Microsoft bad” narrative back in the ’90’s, also “teenage PC hobbyists good, corporate and millitary IT bad”.

            Nowadays Blues seem to love citing generalities about the world being deeply interconnected because the internet, but also have a library of CS-related bogeymen such as the “Randroid Tech Billionaire” and the “Misogynist-internet-troll-who-can-only-exist-by-abusing-anonymity”.

            Meanwhile, Reds seem to have never fully decided if computer technology is the work of the good guys or not. Are computers and the internet the products American ingenuity and the free market system, or are they tools for the elevation of paper pushers, the outsourcing of jobs, and the delivery of decadence-inducing smut and faux-worldliness?

            I am sorry, I realise I have no evidence and my categories here are not very clear. I just wanted to suggest that both tribes at times find it useful to identify with IT/CS experts, and at times to be distant from them.

          • Andrew says:

            The Red tribe listens to economists and people who are successful in business. Especially the latter; those are the people who have _proved_ they can win. They must know what they’re talking about, and if you want to win too, you’ll listen to them.

        • Matt C says:

          My wife and I were talking about this. She said “what happens when this hits Mumbai?” and I fumbled around for a while and eventually concluded the Indian government had better make sure it doesn’t.

      • Joe from London says:

        Your confidence that there will be no major Ebola epidemic presumably exceeds 0.5 – could you quantify it further?
        My concern is that the spread rate of <1 applies for "small enough Ebola cases that Western governments can treat each one specially", whereas if there were 2000 cases, this mightn't be the case, and spread rates might exceed 1 for a while.

        • Zargon says:

          My understanding is that (for the most part) it’s not by virtue of government response that the first world likely enjoys an average spread rate for ebola < 1, but rather, it's because the first world has good sanitation, which can't be overloaded (at least not by this).

          • Randy M says:

            Which is good, because we don’t seem to be able to treat it. Swine flu, bird flu, sars, etc. didn’t take off, so I’m not inclined to think this will either, but then, this one is an epidemic somewhere, and having tried to treat a case here ending with a dead patient and two more infected individuals does not instill confidence.

            Side note, I recall the other medical worries mentioned being ‘media scares’, to an extent, with frequent stories to the effect of “Avian Flu: Should you be worried? Probably! Stay tuned!”, while with Ebola it is more like “Ebola–it can’t happen here, and here’s why”
            Is the media different, or just my perception?

          • Deiseach says:

            the first world has good sanitation

            Phew, how reassured I am in the face of this story that hospital hygiene practice is robust enough to stand up to any threat! Or maybe it’s just Irish hospitals, maybe every single American hospital is perfect? Every single one of them?

        • RCF says:

          Also, if it takes off in the third world, the fact that each case that makes its way to the first world has a “finite number” of descendant cases won’t be all that comforting. A few million cases, each which leads on average to less than one further cases, is stull a lot of dead people.

      • chaosmage says:

        Could India handle Ebola?

      • Deiseach says:

        Tribal allegiance: Green for my nation (I’m not an American so American politics have very little equivalence to my own politics – “Republican” has a very different meaning over here).

        Cynical opinion: Not a doctor or anything associated with the health professions but I have two notions (a) now that Ebola has hit the West, instead of just being “Oh that’s just Africa, so what if it’s another plague yet again?”, this time it will be taken seriously and more progress towards treating/curing it will probably be made in a short time than up to now, once it’s our precious bodily fluids that are in danger (b) I have no faith in “Western medicine, so wonderful, we’ll not see any kind of epidemic worth the name!”

        Sure, this isn’t the 14th century and the Black Death anymore, but to say about any disease “Pish tush, that can’t get through our sterling defences!” seems to me to be tempting fate. Look at the resurgence of measles, which depends on herd immunity: wonderful Western sanitation doesn’t seem to stop it spreading though a class full of small children once enough parents jump on the anti-vaccination bandwagon.

        I think I’d prefer a little bit of paranoia and panic-mongering to over-confidence in this instance.

      • Murphy says:

        I’ve been giving this a lot of thought in the last week or so.

        The worrying thing is that the normally quite sedate part of me that studied biochem is sending a lot of “that’s worse than it should be, maybe start worrying” signals when I see the infection rates going exponential and the number of medical staff dying. Meanwhile the people on the forums I frequent have been talking it down… but not in a really intellectually rigorous way but rather in a puzzlingly dismissive way along the lines of : “Ha, ha, why would any right-thinking person be worried about it killing a lot of people here”

        Your post made me look at that in a new light: that since they’re mostly blues they’re opposing the reds they see shouting for quarantine and talking up the threat.

        I know enough details about previous outbreaks to worry that this one seems more contagious, the fact that first world hospitals which knew what they were dealing with still ended up with multiple infected staff despite being able to focus lots of resources on the tiny number of patients is particularly worrying.

        I don’t think the possibility of it spreading in the first world is >50%, more like in the ~1% range but it’s a bad enough possible case to be worried about.

        Just for a hypothetical: the outbreak does get really bad and hits a few big developing countries like India and China where it’s likely to spread. [Your opinion? weak point in the chain?]

        Early news about experimental treatments morphs into various conspiracy-beliefs that the US/UK/EU have a cure, they’re “just keeping it for themselves.” [Your opinion? weak point in the chain?]

        At this point if you’ve got a bit of money and someone you love starts showing signs of the disease you’re going to want to get to somewhere where they can be treated and you’re going to spend whatever resources it takes. So as tens of millions die in china and India both the healthy wealthy and sick wealthy try to flee to the west en-mass. Quite sensibly, it’s what I’d do if I could in that scenario. [Your opinion? weak point in the chain?]

        People-smuggling booms. Lots of people trying to get somewhere safe are getting smuggled in under the radar, at some point quarantine is enacted but it’s not easy because, well, numbers and there’s a lot of people trying to make money off smuggling people. [Your opinion? weak point in the chain? I think this is probably the weakest. ]

        at which point it becomes a matter of whether the hospitals can cope and whether they get better or worse at handling the disease as time goes on and they lose staff.

        At the same time the virus isn’t very well adapted to humans and so is under a lot of selection pressure…. to quote the director of NIAID

        “We’re left with a situation where if, in fact, this thing smolders on and on, we know mutations will accumulate,” he said. “And that has its own set of problems. We’ve really got to get this thing shut off.”

        I’m seeing a conflict in my own head between the part of me that reads research papers and the part of me which hangs out in the bar with friends and it’s the usually-calm research-paper reading side that’s sending the warning signals.

    • Geirr says:

      Not very. If Nigeria can handle it it’s well within the capacities of more or less any OECD member state. I’m not as confident in thar as I’d like to be, but all the doubt is on the sanity of the CDC/American political class, not whether containing Ebola is difficult for any state capable of doing better than Nigeria on most healthcare metrics.

      • nydwracu says:

        Right. Ebola is something Nigeria can manage. What’s worrying is not so much Ebola as whether Western states can function as well as Nigeria.

        I wonder how many nurses came down with Ebola in Nigeria — oh, apparently eleven. So two probably isn’t such a sign of incompetence.

  10. Eliezer Yudkowsky says:

    Your ‘global warming for conservatives’ paragraphs were great. If you could just bring yourself to say it with a straight face…

    Well, you probably couldn’t take over anything. But you could maybe write for the Colbert Report. I mean, I’m not sure *how*, but it’s very easy to imagine Stephen Colbert reading off those paragraphs. In fact once you imagine that, it’s hard to *not* hear him reading those paragraphs.

    • AR+ says:

      Hmm, interesting, when you combine this w/ how a non-trivial fraction of conservatives see Colbert as being legitimately conservative. If he just says it in Serious Mode it might get some attention.

    • The Anonymouse says:

      The argument behind those paragraphs is persuasive (to a certain mindset) and would probably be effective, but the overall feeling I got about the presentation was “Wow, Scott, you’re a better writer than this. Ideological Turing test fail. You could fake this way better than you just did.”

      • 27chaos says:

        It felt uncharacteristically disdainful of Republicans and the right, whereas Scott’s normally very good at avoiding partisanship. It was almost bitter in tone.

      • DonGS says:

        The paragraph about Russia and China was definitely the weakest point in that regard. Nothing else in it really broke my immersion much.

      • gattsuru says:

        I’m not sure it’s actually persuasive, as opposed to something people who dislike the conservative position think is persuasive.

        If you read the study, you’ll notice it’s not actually about purity/disgust options changing the opinions of people who actively disagreed with anthropocentric climate change. It shows that people who already cared >80% as much about environmental harm found one sort of pro-environmental pamphlet to be less persuasive than a pamphlet on neckties, which in turn was less persuasive than another pro-environmental pamphlet. It’s not obviously clear that this propagates to folk who very strongly distrust a topic (<15%! of Democratic belief).

        I mean, you can actually talk to people who are really skeptical about climate change. The selection probably won’t hurt, but it doesn’t actually match the sort of things that these people say among themselves, even for the bits of pro-environmental policy that they do agree with. And disgust/purity don’t really explain why, say, the email dump from East Anglia was such a big story for the Red Tribe, nor why they’re so focused on Al Gore’s jetsetting.

        ((I’m also not convinced that the disgust/purity reaction really models very well in general. Blue Tribe dislike of GMOs vaccines sometimes takes anti-corporatist messaging because Monsanto would have to try hard to be any more evil, but naturalistic fallacy stuff shows up pretty often and even the anti-corporatist discussions reliably revolve around disgust/purity.))

      • David Hart says:

        Scott, you’re a better writer than this. Ideological Turing test fail

        I thought it was part of the Blue/Grey tribe narrative that the Blues and Greys are bad at ideological Turing tests 😛

      • Eggo says:

        It was a Liberty Prime satire of an argument that would convince conservatives, and it was amusing to just about everyone who read it, as far as I can see.

        Reds actually enjoy a lot of the parodies created to mock us, simply because blues try to insult us by exaggerating cultural values they see as pathetic, but we value. “Haha, look at their silly hyper-patriotism” just doesn’t work on us, and we’ll happily embrace lines like “DEATH IS A PREFERABLE ALTERNATIVE TO COMMUNISM.”

        So yeah, as a tongue in cheek joke, I don’t think it was intended as disdainful.

    • von Kalifornen says:

      I’ve heard tales of proto-fascist enviromentalists that sound just like the Red enviromentalists.

    • chitonous says:

      If you think this sounds in any way sincere, you don’t hang around any Red Tribe people with brains (obvious Blue Tribe joke goes here).

      Broadly speaking, the way to make it Red Tribe is authoritarian, the way to make is Blue Tribe is totalitarian (obvious Red Tribe joke goes here).

      • von Kalifornen says:

        Is that really accurate? The Red Tribe does seem to be Right-Wing Authoritarian, but some of them are pretty hostile to personal authority at high levels.

        • chitonous says:

          More of a “you have personal authority, but you’d best make the right choice” sort of thing.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Agreed. Upon reading them, I expected that excerpt to go viral. I continue to.

      (There are a few writing slips where the imitation of red veers into caricature, but the general points are brilliant)

    • Error says:

      I wonder if the Report takes suggestions. A cursory google search doesn’t turn up anything, though the home page does have social media links for services I don’t use.

      In my wishful-thinking-world, tweeting a link to the section in question at him stands a chance of getting it read.

  11. somnicule says:

    You’re fixing it with your garden. Keep up the good work.

  12. lmm says:

    When I read the first line I thought “well, it’s obvious that the left would support a quarantine because it’s big government, needs of the many stuff”. When I finished the paragraph I noticed that I was confused.

    Is the left-right politicisation different for different countries? Or am I just or off touch? Part of me thinks I’m experiencing the traditional shift to the right as one gets older – but even thinking that, it still seems right.

    • Daniel Speyer says:

      The left does not value big government for its own sake.

    • Emile says:

      I don’t know if you read the version where Scott had switched the sides around, but I did and immediatly found it wrong/surprising. I haven’t been following the social media too closely (I avoid news and commentary and facebook politicky spam), but for me it was still obvious that quarantine/travel bans was the kind of things the right would prefer.

      • Aris Katsaris says:

        I don’t know if Scott fixed some other paragraph, but it’s still switched around in at least one spot, seemingly claiming that the left supports the quarantine and the right opposes it.

    • Auroch says:

      While your logic doesn’t come to the correct conclusion, it’s basically accurate. But for a couple different reasons, it didn’t fall out that way: academics and bureaucrats (high- and less-but-still-significant-status Blues) have tried quarantine before and found that it doesn’t work because everyone tries to hide the fact that they’re sick, and also the Red Tribe tends to be much more sanguine about big government that affects Dirty Foreigners instead of them.

      For contrast, see: immigration. In theory, Republicans/conservatives/Red, who favor less government, should support minimal restrictions on the flow of people and Democrats/liberals/Blues should support controlling it to optimize the country, but in practice it’s a different aspect of Red/Blue values, fairly dissonant with the liberal/conservative portrayal, which dominates here.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Can you name a specific quarantine that didn’t work? Can you point me to discussion of what went wrong?

        (Please, no examples that define “didn’t work” as didn’t work perfectly. I’ve seen enough of them already. And Taiwan’s first SARS quarantine is an example that is said to have backfired, but that claim is usually bundled with the claim that the second quarantine worked great, which was a lot more than currently done in the west for ebola.)

        • Jaskologist says:

          I want to second this request. I’ve noticed “quarantine doesn’t work” being pushed as the common knowledge recently, but this does not match what I remember being common knowledge last year. Plus, the crew pushing it are the same ones who a week or two ago were saying that it was highly improbable that ebola would reach the US at all.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I must admit that it really is being pushed by the CDC. As far as I can tell, it is completely false. Maybe there is some more complicated cost-benefit calculation that doesn’t fit in a soundbite, but they could say something like “we don’t think there’s need of a quarantine at this time.”

    • Aris Katsaris says:

      > When I read the first line I thought “well, it’s obvious that the left would support a quarantine because it’s big government, needs of the many stuff”.

      There’s something very wrong with your understanding of the world, if you are under the impression that the left opposes people coming to the First World from Third-world nations, and that the right supports it.

      • Ken Arromdee says:

        Which just brings up the point: no matter which side the left and the right supports, this still shows that everyone believes what fits the narrative. If the left supports it, then it fits the narrative because they like big government; if the right supports it, it fits the narrative because they like closing the borders. “People believe it because it fits the narrative” becomes unfalsifiable; no matter which side believes what, you can always claim it fits the narrative!

      • RCF says:

        Well, immigration drives down wages, which would help employers but hurt workers.

        • Aris Katsaris says:

          Seriously, if you live in the actual universe, you can just *observe* whether the Left supports immigration, you don’t need to figure out reasons for why it would support or oppose it in order to determine whether it does so.

          • RCF says:

            When it’s framed as poor people looking for work, the left supports immigration, but there are other framings that make the left less likely to support it. The AFL supported The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, for instance. And when it comes to “outsourcing”, which involves the same issues as immigration, the left is generally opposed.

          • Anonymous says:

            The AFL opposed immigration a lot more recently than 1882. for example, 1982.

          • Setsize says:

            There is a lot diversity among Blues along the protectionist/cosmopolitan axis. For example, my father-in-law will reliably caucus for the democratic candidate who has the most protectionist proposals. Labor unions have consistently been on the more protectionist end of that spectrum.

            (And prior to the early 1980s, labor unions were not really seen as the entirely-Blue creatures they are treated as today.)

            Outsourcing is supported by having free movement of goods and capital without the free movement of people and labor; if people you are outsourcing labor from were free to move to your country, you wouldn’t be able to pay them as cheaply. In that construction it is consistent to oppose outsourcing while favoring more open immigration.

        • eqdw says:

          Well, immigration drives down wages, which would help employers but hurt workers.

          I was happy to have a friend link me to this paper today: STEM Workers, H1B Visas and Productivity in US Cities

          It seems to strongly disagree with you, at least in terms of high-skill immigration.

          • Ken Arromdee says:

            It seems to strongly disagree with you, at least in terms of high-skill immigration.

            The qualifier swallows the general point.

            People who oppose immigration in the sense referred to here are opposing immigration that consists mainly of low-skilled workers from Mexico.

    • Randy M says:

      You are right, the difference is that the left now sees the whole world as the many, and hurting the feelings (or to be more charitable, increasing the risk of panic) of a whole continent is too heavy a price to pay to prevent a few deaths of Americans.

      The right supporting empowering the federal government by wishing for a quarantine would seem out of character (think of libertarian death penalty opponents who oppose capital punishment because they don’t want the government to have the power to kill), however, the restrictions called for are not quarantining a city or American state, but restrictions on people entering the country. It would be interesting to see how the debate plays out in a domestic epidemic scenario, though I suspect we’d find when the chips were down both sides were more open to utilitarian suggestions, God forbid we have to find out any time soon.

    • Johannes says:

      Disregarding the case of Ebola, the “left – right” opposition is very different in most other countries. And one thing that is unfortunate about otherwise excellent blog discussions is that politics are parochialist and America-centered.
      To begin with if one takes a 180 degree scale with “ultra-right” on 1, ultra-left on -1 and centre at 0 (or i), the Democrats are only a tiny bit left of center.
      So most of the left spectrum is actually empty or maybe there are some fringe groups with hardly any voice or influence.

      Almost all European “social democratic” parties are in many respects (welfare, free public education, governmental regulations) to the “left” of US democrats and until recently, many conservative parties in Europe were to the left of US democrats (except on gays and similar issues). To put it bluntly, European conservatives often were Strong government conservatives.
      Of course, one should better distinguish more dimensions, one traditionalist vs. personal freedom axis, one small vs. big government, one tightly regulated economy vs. anarchocapitalism etc.
      It’s even more complicated now, because while on economic issues almost everything has been shifted way to the “right” (neoliberalism) to the extent that in Germany now only the leftmost party supports tax rates that were standard during the conservative government in the late 1980s, but the mainstream “conservatives” shifted to the left on some social issues (gender, gays etc.). This pisses of tradcons, but there is not yet a real party to the right of the mainstream conservatives.

      • Ghatanathoah says:

        I wonder if the leftward and rightward shifts you identify are a result of the tribal narratives colliding with reality and reality winning.

        Most people are less economically left wing than in the past because it has become so obvious the Left was wrong about the economy. Most people are less conservative about social issues in the past because it has become so obvious the Right was wrong about gender and gay rights.

      • Q says:

        “Almost all European “social democratic” parties are in many respects (welfare, free public education, governmental regulations) to the “left” of US democrats and until recently, many conservative parties in Europe were to the left of US democrats (except on gays and similar issues).”

        I can confirm. I worked in the USA a few years ago. I would have voted for left there, if I had the rights. However, after coming back to Slovakia, I consistently vote for right. In both cases, the choice feels obvious to me, like a difference between sanity and insanity.

      • anonymous says:

        On the other hand, Europe is much to the right of the US when it comes to race and etnocentrism. Most European countries have a clear idea that an (Italian, Slovak, whatever) is defined as someone who was born and bred within the culture, and ideally their great-great-grandparents also were, and this is hardly compatible with being black or having an accent. Americans are very left-wing in their tolerance of immigration and extreme anti-racism; it’s funny that some Americans even believe that their country is particularly racist!

    • Walter says:

      Left argues from greed/ambition, or more charitably it wants to change something/build something/cause something to happen. To make an argument sound lefty talk about what’s to be gained.

      Right argues from fear;/caution, or more charitably it wants to preserve/defend/ something/ resist some pressure. To make an argument sound righty talk about what would otherwise be lost.

      Individual positions adopted by parties that are avatars of lefty/rightist sentiment can be whatever the needs of the moment demand, they just have to be phrased correctly.

    • Tab Atkins says:

      I could see it backwards – Blue supporting quarantine because of needs-of-the-many, red opposing quarantine because Freedom, but it doesn’t gel well enough with the rest of their values, particularly purity/disgust in Red and opposition-to-anything-that-could-possibly-look-racist (because it’s African in origin) in Blue.

      I think the current dichotomy makes for a more reasonable story.

  13. Dan says:

    Two other theories about Ebola quarantine opinions:

    Theory A: The President is a Democrat. There isn’t a quarantine. Therefore Republicans favor a quarantine and Democrats oppose it.

    Theory B: One party is naive about the government’s ability to use its powers for good and favors top-down, command-and-control regulations to make things right. They also have a “we’re all in this together” collectivist mindset that makes them want the government to step in and protect large groups of people. The other party is aware of the limits of government power, and the perverse incentives and workarounds that inevitably arise when the government tries to use blunt tools like bans. They also value rugged individualism, chafe against policies that involve restricting people’s freedom for the “greater good”, and think people should take care of themselves. So, naturally, the latter party will end up advocating for travel bans and quarantines while the former party opposes them.

    • 27chaos says:

      Theory B is what I thought was going to be discussed after glancing at this post, but it predicts the opposite of what Scott has noticed. I’m not sure whether to call his (and several other commenters’) observations into question or to reject B.

      Commenter lmm agrees with B as well, it seems, in the comment above yours.

      • Auroch says:

        I think this is one of the useful aspects of Red/Blue rather than liberal/conservative: The basic liberal/conservative values w.r.t. government would suggest that the positions on immigration are swapped, but other aspects of Red/Blueness dominate here instead.

        The quarantine shakes out along those, immigration-like lines, naturally.

    • Daniel Speyer says:

      > One party is naive about the government’s ability to use its powers for good and favors top-down, command-and-control regulations to make things right.

      I honestly didn’t know which party you were referring to in this sentence until I checked the fnords in the following sentence. That suggests that this is more of a slogan than a description of any aspect of reality.

      • Mark says:

        I think the whole point was to give a just-so story that could apply equally well regardless of who supports/opposes quarantine.

    • Quixote says:

      A seems very simple. So its probably likely to be true.

    • Theory A strikes me as the obvious theory. But given that my priors are with Scott on whether a quarantine is a good idea or not (i.e. it isn’t), this sounds like a kind of partisan explanation: the government is doing something sensible, and the Republicans are opposing it for no other reason than that there’s a Democrat in office. On the other other hand, my true belief is that such explanations are often right no matter what people who would like to see false balance between the two sides say.

      • gattsuru says:

        … the government is doing something sensible, and the Republicans are opposing it for no other reason than that there’s a Democrat in office

        I don’t think it actually boils down like that. If you talk to these folk, they have a compelling argument for a quarantine being effective, they have obvious evidence that the current method has risks, and they don’t see the rewards to palliative care as being as high enough to justify those risks.

        They can be and likely are wrong — their model doesn’t really work if you presume palliative care has any serious impact on the average number of infections, which seems to be the case — but at the very least it’s trivial to explain as rationalization and more compelling to explain through trust modeling.

    • Ghatanathoah says:

      Theory A reminds me of an article I read about how Republicans used the exact same rhetoric to oppose Clinton’s interventions in Kosovo that Democrats used to oppose the Iraq war. I can’t find it again, unfortunately, but I remember one Republican was even quoted as saying there was not a “clear exit strategy.”

      • Eric Rall says:

        If this is the quote, the Republican in question was Bob Dole:
        http://www.cnn.com/US/9512/bosnia/12-13/pm/

      • Luke Somers says:

        This seems odd to me. Is it just tribalism, or do the main criticisms against the Iraq war simply not apply as well to Kosovo?

        Well, in retrospect considering that Kosovo worked out pretty well while Iraq didn’t, I’m leaning towards ‘not just tribalism’.

        • Q says:

          A rich guy from Saudi Arabia organizes attacks on important US buildings. As a consequence, the president of Iraq must be removed. Huh ? I think the Kosovo case did not have these absurd features.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            There were many differences on the object level. On a meta level, we can compare the Republicans’ statements when a Democrat, Clinton, was president, to their statements when a Republican, Bush, was president. Under Clinton, they said that we should not be trying to enforce our ideas of democracy on a part of the world/cultures not ready for it. Under Bush, they said we were fighting for Iraqi freedom and Afghan nation building (ie elections etc).

            Iirc, both times the Democrats stayed closer to the object level.

      • Doug S. says:

        In the 2000 election, the position taken by the Bush campaign was that the Clinton administration was too interventionist. They flip-flopped on that almost as fast as FDR abandoned his campaign promise to retreat from Herbert Hoover’s unprecedented levels of government intervention in the economy.

        • Jaskologist says:

          The Iraq War started March 20, 2003. This is closer to the end of Bush’s first term than the beginning, so I’m not sure what you would consider a “slow” flip-flop.

          In the search for partisanship, you’re all ignoring the impact of 9/11. This was a big deal, and people really did re-evaluate their positions in light of it. It explains the revised Bush position on nation building much better than “he was in such a rush to flip-flop that he didn’t even do it until the third year of his term.”

          You want a flip-flop, explain why opponents of Iraq-bombing engaged in nation-bombing in Libya.

    • Walter says:

      A seems plausible, sigh.

    • Dan says:

      Theory A is really only a partial explanation. It explains why Reds would say “The government is bungling this and the bad thing is (partially) their fault”, while Blues say things are under control. But it doesn’t explain why the Reds would choose “quarantine” as the alternative that the government should be doing instead. Maybe that’s just the most plausible alternative?

    • Eli says:

      Theory A is simplest, and also fits the data that Republican Congressmen have been known to plan to attack Obama no matter what position he actually takes.

      • cassander says:

        you mean like how democrats attacked bush for expanding the welfare state and signing an education bill that ted kennedy wrote? Of course republicans are going to attack obama, that’s their job.

        • Eli says:

          you mean like how democrats attacked bush for expanding the welfare state and signing an education bill that ted kennedy wrote?

          Exactly like that!

          (When trying to trigger me into tribal-defense action, remember that I’m a communist, not a Democrat.)

  14. 27chaos says:

    The conservative argument is a bit silly the way you’ve phrased it, but reading Jared Diamond’s Collapse was the first thing that made me realize on a gut level that the environment is important. Our natural resources are the absolute foundation of our economy and ultimately all modern civilization, so they need to be protected if we want to prosper.

    This line of argument avoids relying on either aesthetic appreciation of “Nature” or shallow veneration of “Science”. Those are the two standard narratives we see from the left. If you’re going to poke fun at others’, what are the reasons you think Global Warming is important? I think even your intentionally silly patriotism example is better justified than most people’s.

    This isn’t a tribally motivated attack. Just my genuine opinion. I’m a registered Democrat, but I do think the conservative framing is better here and want to know why reasonable people might disagree.

    Also, can we somehow check what attitudes about Ebola in other countries are? There’s going to be some communicability (pun) of attitudes due to transnational interactions, but the information would still be somewhat helpful. It seems like doing this should be easy, yet I can’t actually think of how it might be done without a work intensive study.

    • Mark says:

      The patriotism argument is a bit silly the way you’ve phrased it, but reading Jared Diamond’s Collapse was the first thing that made me realize the environment was important. Our natural resources are the absolute foundation of our economy and ultimately human civilization, so they need to be protected if we want to prosper.

      Yeah, at least for the conservatives I’ve been reading, you’d definitely want to invoke “decadence” and “decline.”

    • Randy M says:

      “There’s going to be some communicability (pun) of attitudes due to transnational interactions”

      I think that’s not so much a pun as an explicit analogy.

    • nydwracu says:

      I think the best way to frame it for conservatives would be to bring up peak oil or energy-related geopolitics, get them to buy into alternative energy (there was an article a while back about the Tea Party pushing solar panels or something like that), and then, “oh, by the way, global warming, so we should probably get our engineers on this soon.” Maybe say some bad things about the Saudis while you’re at it.

      • blacktrance says:

        IIRC, Mitt Romney tried something like this in 2008 and 2012, framing it as energy independence. It didn’t get much traction.

        • RCF says:

          I wonder whether Al Gore did more harm than good, by accelerating the process of concern about global warming becoming associated with the left.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            I think it was inevitable that the oil companies and other industries would lead the Right to reject that concern.

    • Anonymous says:

      “The conservative argument is a bit silly the way you’ve phrased it, but reading Jared Diamond’s Collapse was the first thing that made me realize on a gut level that the environment is important. Our natural resources are the absolute foundation of our economy and ultimately all modern civilization, so they need to be protected if we want to prosper. ”

      There are issues with collapse. The sections on Easter Island, Greenland and the Maya are wrong. Current evidence from Easter Island supports the idea that invasive species and not overharvesting were responsible for the extinction of their trees, the idea that the Norse in Greenland didn’t eat fish while every other Norse did is less likely than they simply used fishbones to make tools and the situation with the Maya is inconclusive (I don’t remember enough of the details).

      Also conserving resources is a bit silly. If they are energy resources than they are pretty interchangable- no reason to conserve coal if you have plenty of natural gas. If they are physical resources and they can be recycled, no need to conserve them is the cost of reclaiming them is cheaper than mining for more. If they are physical resources that can’t be recycled, you need to find substitutes anyway because the world isn’t making any more zinc.

  15. Regarding Rotherham,

    The Left then proceeded to totally ignore it,

    Yasmin Alibhai Brown, herself British Asian Muslim and very much on the Left, wrote an article which I thought was an exception to this, the only one I found in a sea of Left multiculturalist apologia:

    Within some British Asian circles, the West is considered degenerate and immoral. So it’s OK to take their girls and ruin them further. Some of the most fierce rows I have ever had have been with Asian women who hold these disgusting views.

    Being on the “white” side of this emotionally, although fairly liberal politically, I found this breaking of tribal ranks (in both political and ethnic senses) very helpful, even moving.

    • Slow Learner says:

      Yeah, I have to say I saw Rotherham as a very British (maybe European) story, and I was not expecting to see it covered in American media [it was covered across political lines in the UK].

      • BenSix says:

        But in the British media there was a different problem. The right banged on, with justice, about multiculturalism and political correctness. The left banged on, with justice, about social isolation and official incompetence. What neither did, for the most part, was address all of the factors that had led to and enabled the calamity – meaning that there may be no changes whatsoever.

        Ignoring an issue can be less problematic than framing it through blinkers. At least the former sometimes leaves the facts in good condition for someone to come across.

        • It was also tied into another existing narrative of “low status women being abused and the police ignoring it” which had come up with Jimmy Saville scandal (famous television presenter and serial child abuser, crimes not properly investigated). Which exists on both sides, though the right empathised the “vile paedo” line and the left the “establishment are bastards” side.

    • Deiseach says:

      What I’d disagree with in Scott’s version is that in Rotherham, it wasn’t only the police who failed, it was Social Services most crucially. And that ties in with local politics, and that ties in with local councillors not wanting to rock boats by outraging local communities by seeming to pander to BNP (although it seems nowadays their thunder has been stolen by UKIP) propaganda attitudes about “Your men are all rapists! You come over here to steal our women!”.

      Nobody, whether you’re talking about Right or Left, comes out of that looking 100% spotless. The Jay report makes that very clear; sometimes the police response was excellent, sometimes it was dreadful, and the local council in Rotherham had services under severe pressure, which it didn’t understand and didn’t prioritise when it came to child sexual exploitation.

  16. Timothy Johnson says:

    You conclude, “I don’t know how to fix this.” But I think you have the beginnings of a solution already.

    Just take the argument you wrote for why Republicans should fight against global warming. Then turn it around, and argue why Democrats shouldn’t care about it so much. You don’t have to come up with perfect logical arguments, just ones that sound emotionally convincing the first time someone sees them.

    The goal isn’t to convince anyone; it’s just to get people to start thinking about these issues for themselves in a new light. Repeat the same process for a few other controversial issues, and you might see people starting to break out of the ruts that their thinking has fallen into.

    I want to test out your global warming argument on the Republicans that I know, and see how they react to it. But I really think it could work.

    • Hainish says:

      “Then turn it around, and argue why Democrats shouldn’t care about it so much.”

      I’m not sure I’d expect this to work, since Democrats care about the issue for a different set of reasons.

      • Gilbert says:

        Well, that’s why you need to turn it around.

        For example, the pitch could focus on Kyoto-like arrangements holding back third world industrialization after the West already got its pound of flesh, thus neatly preserving extant exploitation structures forever.

        • nydwracu says:

          One of these days someone should write a post-peak oil sci-fi novel where the Sahara gets eaten by an empire (presumably masterminded behind the scenes by the French) and becomes a solar-generating world power.

  17. David Moss says:

    More whites asserting that black people are treated fairly *after* Ferguson, reminds me of Drew Westen’s finding that partisans presented with evidence directly opposing their support for their candidate ended up *more* committed to their candidate.
    http://www.uky.edu/AS/PoliSci/Peffley/pdf/Westen%20The%20neural%20basis%20of%20motivated%20reasoning.pdf

    • Ken Arromdee says:

      I have an alternative hypothesis: People who think Ferguson is overblown, will then conclude “That example of racism isn’t even real. If the supposedly most important example of extreme racism that the blues can come up with isn’t even real, then there probably isn’t much substance to accusations of racism.”

      It is perfectly logical to decide that if the best evidence–or even the typical evidence–for X isn’t very good, that X is less likely to be true. And this doesn’t require Scott’s explanation, so Scott is just giving us a just-so story, not really explaining the red reaction to Ferguson.

      Edit: It seems that several people here have said this already.

  18. Peter says:

    Compare and contrast the current ebola stuff with the 2009 swine flu stuff, where vaccines were a big thing, and I remember the American right being the anti-action side.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Just FYI the far right (i.e. steve sailer et al) have covered Ferguson quite extensively, although admittedly it was mainly by attacking the blue tribe narrative and making it conform to the red tribe mold. See:

    http://www.unz.com/?s=ferguson&searchsubmit=Search&authors=steve-sailer&ptype=isteve&commentsearch=exclude. There are three pages of articles on ferguson by stever sailer here, compared to just three articles on Rotherham.

    And the dreaded jim: http://blog.jim.com/culture/ferguson-chimp-out/

  20. Steve Johnson says:

    But when you break the results down by race, a different picture emerges. White people were actually a little more likely to believe the justice system was fair after the shooting. Why? I mean, if there was no change, you could chalk it up to white people believing the police’s story that the officer involved felt threatened and made a split-second bad decision that had nothing to do with race. That could explain no change just fine. But being more convinced that justice is color-blind? What could explain that?

    It’s pretty simple. The case was a fiasco for progressives (as was Trayvon Martin – for basically the same reasons). The narrative is that angelic black people are shot for no reason all the time by whites. The reality is that they get away with lawless behavior for a long time and some rare black person gets shot for pushing the same exact stuff with the wrong man.

    Trayvon Martin had burglaries covered up because the numbers (of black students being arrested in that district) “looked bad”. He pushes a bit too far with an armed guy – assaulting him by slamming his head into the concrete after attacking him – and gets shot. Michael Brown committed a strong-arm robbery then assaulted a cop (after walking in the middle of a street – a blatant assertion of power) – pushed the same stuff he’d been getting away with too far with the wrong man and got shot.

    Those are the best examples progressives have for their narrative. When your best examples completely fall apart under the slightest amount of scrutiny you’re clearly not telling the truth.

    • Froolow says:

      If that were the case, it would be difficult to explain why black people felt justice was *less* colourblind after the Ferguson shooting – surely they would agree with the white people questioned that the ‘rare black person get[ting] shot’ was evidence of justice in action, if it were easy to see that the black person getting shot unequivocally deserved to be shot.

      • Tom Womack says:

        Nobody unequivocally deserves to be shot. We had fairly serious riots in London, and an enormous number of ongoing law suits, in a case where a man who was known from surveillance to have just collected a gun, and who it turned out had thrown the gun out of his car minutes earlier, was shot by armed police who stopped the car.

        “Walking in the middle of the street” should not be a capital offence!

        • Froolow says:

          Perhaps I was a bit uncharitable to Steve Johnson when I characterised his argument as “Progressive people find it difficult to pretend there is racial prejudice in the police when the best example progressives can find of a black person getting shot by the police was unequivocally deserving of being shot”, but I hope he doesn’t take offence – what I wanted to get across was that if it was *really* obvious that Brown was in the wrong (as in, ‘So obvious the progressive media couldn’t possibly spin it that he was in the right’) you would expect to see black people agreeing that the police were more colourblind than before (or at least, not changing much in their opinion overall). That suggests to me that it was not obvious that Brown was in the wrong (in the way I define it above – ‘obvious enough that a partisan media source can’t spin it enough to placate progressives’), which means we need to look elsewhere for an explaination of why there is such a divergence of opinion between white and black people in answering that question.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Not everybody is accessing the same suite of facts (another consequence of suppressing inconvenient stories). How many folks do you know who thought, or think to this day, that the Trayvon Martin case had anything at all to do with Stand Your Ground laws?

          • a person says:

            I think if the issue is a “black vs. white” one, then people will mainly choose their opinion based on tribal affiliation, pretty much regardless of what the actual facts are. For example, I’m under the impression that many black people were calling for OJ’s innocence during the famous trial, even though now looking back it seems pretty clear that he was in fact guilty.

          • von Kalifornen says:

            Definitely different facts fir Trayvvon. Most people I know were completely unaware of any evidence for injuries to Z. I still don’t believe that could be anything better than “racial profiling, starts fight, escalates even losing”

    • vV_Vv says:

      There were better examples of at least plausible police misconduct, though not necessarily racism, that happened shortly before Brown’s shooting: Eric Garner dying while being put in a choke hold during arrest, and John Crawford being shot while holding a toy gun.

      These incidents may have contributed to raise tension until Mike Brown’s shooting, and when it turned out that he was a poor poster child for the cause, it was already too late. Alea iacta est.

      Similarly, in the #gamergate case, tension in the nerddom over SJW entryism has been mounting for years, then the Zoe Quinn-Kotaku incident happened and all hell broke loose, and when it become apparent that the original incident was probably overblown, it was too late to stop the outrage. Alea iacta est.

      This mechanism allows the Reds to criticize the Blues over raising race relations and police behavior concerns by accusing them of being black supremacists who just want to justify the behavior of a criminal, and it also allows the Blues to criticize the Grays over raising SJW entryism concerns by accusing them of being misogynists who want to control the sexual behavior of a woman in a matter of no public relevance.

    • Deiseach says:

      Excuse me, is this an example of American insanity? If a person walks in the middle of the street, then they are provoking the police to shoot them because that’s “a blatant assertion of power”.

      I don’t know whether to hope this comment is a leg-pull or to be afraid that it’s serious and genuine.

      Do you really not realise how crazy (yes, I mean crazy) you sound to non-Americans when the attitude is “Well, we give our cops guns, what do you expect them to do with them?” I understand that Michael Brown was accused of stealing thirty dollars worth of cigars. I did not understand that the U.S.A. had reintroduced the death penalty for petty theft.

      • Steve Johnson says:

        Excuse me, is this an example of American insanity? If a person walks in the middle of the street, then they are provoking the police to shoot them because that’s “a blatant assertion of power”.

        Walking in the middle of a busy street forcing traffic to stop for you is a blatant assertion of power. It says “I am not bound by the conventions that you are because I am above the rules” – it’s exactly the same type of behavior as this: http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2013/01/28/cars-doing-donuts-shut-down-highway-880-in-oakland/. It’s an assertion of control of public space specifically meant to intimidate people into viewing the aggressors as authority. That alone isn’t provocation for being shot by the police but it’s far past the line for getting confronted by the police. Once someone is in a confrontation with the police assaulting them is amazingly far over the line into what should get you shot. Imagine what happens if a pro-social person confronts someone who would do that.

        Daylight strong-arm robbery is the same type of act.

        • eqdw says:

          > Walking in the middle of a busy street forcing traffic to stop for you is a blatant assertion of power. It says “I am not bound by the conventions that you are because I am above the rules” – it’s exactly the same type of behavior as this: http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2013/01/28/cars-doing-donuts-shut-down-highway-880-in-oakland/.

          I live near Oakland, and I see poorer looking people walking in the middle of the street all the time. I’ve wondered about this a lot, until one day a progressive homeless rights activist friend of mine told me the following:

          “They’re walking in the middle of the street because it’s the safest place for them. Late at night, when there isn’t too much traffic, walking on the sidewalk can be dangerous. You have no idea who or what might pop out of a doorway or back alley, and if a homeless person gets robbed or assaulted, nobody is going to care. And so, they walk in the middle of the street as a way of maintaining visibility and distance from any potentially dangerous surprises”.

          Their explanation always seemed a little bit pat to me. Plus, as a cyclist, I’ve got a healthy fear of cars and I wouldn’t trust a car to see me at night. But, just thought I’d share what The Other Side thinks about this

          • Anonymous says:

            Steve Johnson talked about a busy street in the day, while the activist talked about an empty street at night. Both explanations are probably correct, but they are explaining very different behaviors.

            You said you see poor people in the middle of the street all the time. If you mean all times, such as during the day, you should ask your activist friend to explain that, too.

          • eqdw says:

            @anonymous

            > You said you see poor people in the middle of the street all the time. If you mean all times, such as during the day, you should ask your activist friend to explain that, too.

            That was basically my reaction as well. She had no response beyond “they do it for the same reason”. Which struck me as decidedly less convincing given it was in broad daylight

          • Deiseach says:

            If pushing someone counts as “strong arm robbery”, then I think this is another instance of what seems to be the push in the U.S. to make even petty offences even more ‘criminal’ so that they attract more severe jail sentences, and thus reflect better on the ‘tough’ attitude to crime and criminals when it comes to election times.

            No wonder you have bulging prisons, and no wonder it’s financially attractive for the private companies to get involved in running prison services.

          • memeticengineer says:

            I was curious what exactly “strong-arm robbery” means. I have not heard this term outside the context of Ferguson. Apparently it just means a as taking or stealing something from a person using force or threats but without using a weapon. In other words, it’s all the kinds of robbery that aren’t armed robbery. (Any theft that involves use or threat of force is robbery).

            This is odd since people seem to use it like it means “particularly extra bad/violent robbery”, but it doesn’t mean that at all.

          • Anonymous says:

            ME, legal definitions don’t match common definitions. Normal people don’t distinguish between larceny, robbery, and burglary. If people use “robbery” to include purse-snatching (technically larceny), then it is useful to have the phrase “strong-arm robbery” as something stronger. But I don’t think the common use of “strong-arm robbery” matches the legal use, either. I think it means robbery with actual (unarmed) violence, not just a threat. But it’s hard to determine common use.

          • memeticengineer says:

            My impression is that people started using the term in reference to Michael Brown because the police used it. And then maybe latched onto it because it sounds menacing. And that it’s previously not a phrase that people commonly used at all.

            But maybe I am wrong? I don’t remember ever hearing the phrase “strong-arm robbery” before the Ferguson events. But it’s possible I am atypical.

          • Anonymous says:

            Google has a million hits for strong-arm robbery, including many other news reports. Maybe they’re all lazily echoing the police, but it’s not just this one case.

        • jrayhawk says:

          > Once someone is in a confrontation with the police assaulting them is amazingly far over the line into what should get you shot.

          No, that would be disproportional response. The first party to introduce the threat of deadly force (as determined by a court of law) into a situation is criminally responsible for it, be they police or civilian. Mere assault does not inherently qualify. (IANAL)

          • Randy M says:

            True, though once assault has of any sort has taken place, it is much more likely to be the explanation for the cops subsequent escalation of their own than simply racial bias.

            Escalating from assault to deadly force too quickly is a problem, but a much different one than to escalate from walking down the street to deadly force, and if that is what it is presented as, people are going to find that it isn’t evidence of racial animus, even updating in the opposite direction.

        • Deiseach says:

          And here was me thinking walking in the middle of the street was a great way to get killed by being hit by a car.

          Apparently in America you are in more danger of being killed by the police than by traffic accident – how reassuring? Between this and the recent comments about “Oh come on, nobody shot up a school in Ireland? Not even once?” I am beginning to understand the popularity in YA fiction of dystopias – you lot are currently living in one, where public murder is regarded as simply another fact of everyday life.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Apparently in America you are in more danger of being killed by the police than by traffic accident

            I’m 95% certain this is not actually true. I bet there’s even a Sequence about this kind of conclusion-jumping.

          • Leonard says:

            The number of police killings is not officially tracked, but a little googling shows it is on the order of about 400 people per year. The vast majority of these are considered justifiable.

            Compare that to ~32000 deaths in vehicles. Of course, the vehicle deaths affect almost everyone, whereas the police killings are mostly men, black, and poor. And criminal. So, from the POV of a black male criminal, the police are very dangerous and you are in a dystopia.

            More seriously, our inner cities (== black ghettos) are indeed dystopic, and perhaps the awareness of that does increase interest in dystopic fiction here in the States.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            It is officially tracked, they just haven’t published any numbers since 2009.

          • Nick says:

            To be fair, Deiseach, my model of Ireland has shifted from “vast Catholic potato farm” to “bureaucratic dystopia” thanks to your comments about your job in previous threads.

          • Nornagest says:

            This sort of nationalist dick-waving is painfully boring and I’d really love not to do it. Can we get on that?

          • Deiseach says:

            I’m not sure if I need to say this or if you are being tongue-in-cheek, but no, I didn’t actually believe there are more police shootings than car accidents.

            That was hyperbolic overstatement used as a rhetorical device in reply to the proposition that by walking in the middle of the street, you are justifying the police in shooting you dead.

          • vV_Vv says:

            I don’t think anybody claimed that jaywalking is a reasonable cause for the police to shoot you dead.

            The claim is that jaywalking is a reasonable cause for the police to stop you. If the police stops you and an altercation ensues, then shooting may or may not be justifiable, dependeing on the details of the incident.

          • Deiseach says:

            Excuse me, Nick, why do you assume all our potatoes are Catholic? 🙂

            Though we did just celebrate National Potato Day. And we have a theme park devoted to crisps (you call them potato chips) – or rather, Mr Tayto (you have Disneyland, we have Tayto Park).

            Re: the job – I think all bureaucracies are dystopic. The thing to remember is that the people on the front line (the ones who deal with members of the public) get the abuse, while the real power lies far, far up the line with the senior civil servants and the politicians.

            And to tie in with what happened in Rotherham, the Social Services are useless. I saw it in my last job (local education) and I’m seeing it here (social housing). It’s a combination of social workers being overstretched and overburdened with case work, no new recruitment to bump up the numbers (because of the embargo on public sector recruitment – and the next time you hear politicians promising to ‘trim the fat’ out of the public sector and cut the burden on taxpayers, remember that public servants/civil servants include teachers and social workers, not just paper-pushers who take long coffeebreaks) and new social workers coming out of university training with heads full of 70s fluffy nonsense theory, looking at their job through rose-coloured glasses and no real-world experience.

            Thanks to confidentiality requirements etc. I can’t give details but just today I heard an egregious example of someone milking the system re: foster care, and of course, there’s no social worker/social services monitoring or intervention. We can’t just dob ’em in (much as we’d like to); we need grounds for a complaint (other than one of my colleagues who has the facts on the ground via ‘my parents live in that village and everyone knows the woman who is the foster carer is first in the pub and last out of the bookies’ office’) and even if you do get the social worker to take notice, probably they’ll have the wool pulled over their eyes because people like that know how to play the game. It’s only when the social workers get a bit of experience and have their eyes opened that you get results – and then they get burned out, leave, and are replaced by another wet-behind-the-ears greenhorn.

            I don’t know what the Social Services in America are like, but I’d not be surprised if they were much the same.

          • Doug S. says:

            The number of people killed by bullets in the U.S. each year and the number of people killed by cars in the U.S. has become about equal in recent years. Most of the deaths caused by bullets are suicides.

      • nydwracu says:

        The only way to understand America is to understand that our civil war started at the founding of America and never ended. The War of Secession was just the point when it came into the open.

      • Lesser Bull says:

        Do we care how it sounds to non-Americans? it’s not about you.

        • Deiseach says:

          When you drag us into your wars, it’s about us. You are the crazy person with the gun collection who may indeed start running amok and shooting up the whole street – that makes it about us.

          • Lesser Bull says:

            I would love to see the logic that connects Ferguson to “dragging you into wars.” More to the point, I would to see what passes for the logic but isn’t–it would amuse me.

    • Tab Atkins says:

      I never tracked the Trayvon case well enough to talk about it well, but:

      Michael Brown committed a strong-arm robbery then assaulted a cop (after walking in the middle of a street – a blatant assertion of power) – pushed the same stuff he’d been getting away with too far with the wrong man and got shot.

      This is blatantly untrue.

      1. Brown *shoplifted*, not “committed a strong-arm robbery” (and the shopkeeper didn’t feel it was important enough to report it to authorities, so Wilson didn’t know about it and it has no relevance here).

      2. Brown did not assault Wilson. Here’s a DailyKos story laying out the incident timeline with tons of interviews and direct evidence (such as recorded audio).

      3. I don’t know about you, but walking in the street was common when I was a teen as well. Calling it “a blatant assertion of power” is bizarre and feels like an attempt to paint it as an aggressive action that would justify an assault.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        If that wasn’t a strong-arm robbery, what is?

        Does 911 not count as authorities?

        • Tab Atkins says:

          If that wasn’t a strong-arm robbery, what is?

          Actual strong-arm robbery.

          You’re being very non-central right now. Have you ever shoplifted, or known people who have? Pushing past/shoving a clerk who suspects you and is trying to stop you from leaving isn’t uncommon.

          That said, others are saying that he didn’t shoplift at all, and it was a result of a different argument between him and the clerk. I don’t know enough to comment on that.

          I mean, shoving people isn’t cool. But it’s not an attack, except in a narrow “it’s technically in the same category, if we’re bringing up legal definitions” sense.

          Does 911 not count as authorities?

          Again, the shopkeeper did not call anyone. I’m pretty sure that what I said was accurate.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            So who did call 911? How do you know?

          • Tab Atkins says:

            I’m not sure, but Luke says that a bystander may have. I haven’t heard of any 911 call, so I can’t comment on the veracity of Luke’s words.

            I read an interview transcript with the shopkeeper, though, where he definitely said he did not call the police (this was right when they were playing the narrative that Brown was targeted as a robbery suspect).

          • Mary says:

            Did anyone say the police were looking for him as a suspect?

            Possible, I suppose, before the story became clear — news is like that — but all the arguments on the subject I saw were that the robbery showed both that Brown was willing to resort to violence, and had reason to be edgy about police. (Just because you and I know the police weren’t after him for that, doesn’t mean he knew.)

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Here is the police report on the robbery.

            Mary, when the police released that, they said Wilson was looking for Brown. But they kept changing their story. The final version was that that was not his task, but he happened to hear the incident broadcast was suspicious of the cigars he saw.

          • Nornagest says:

            …had reason to be edgy about police…

            Those of you that know me know I’m far from an SJW, but that proves exactly nothing in the context of black America. Almost every black guy I know is edgy around police. My regular martial arts training partner, who’s a smart, stable guy with a good job, a steady girlfriend, and a master’s degree, tenses up when sirens pass while we’re training. There is some obvious cultural distrust going on here.

            Granted, this comes out of living in Oakland — a high-crime city with gang problems and a trigger-happy PD. I don’t know if it generalizes, nor how far it does if so.

      • RCF says:

        There was physical contact between the perpetrators and the victims. Therefore, it is legally considered a strong arm robbery. You appear to be either very ignorant, and willing to make claims without checking to see whether they are true, or just dishonest.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          I suspect that in many contexts, the phrase “it is legally considered” may correlate positively with what was called in an earlier discussion “a featherless biped”. That is, a term that suggests to the general public something quite different from the actual object being referred to (ex: “Martin Luther King Jr was a criminal”).

          • RCF says:

            Tab Atkins categorized as “blatantly untrue” various claims, among them the statement that “Michael Brown committed a strong-arm robbery”. This claim was not blatantly untrue, it was a claim about Michael Brown’s criminal actions that, according to criminal definitions, was true. TA said that MB “shoplifted” rather than committing a robbery. What distinction was TA making, other than the precise definitions?

          • Tab Atkins says:

            The distinction I’m making is in the normal use of the terms.

            You attempted to use the fact that Brown committed “strong-arm robbery” to justify his eventual shooting by the police. Casting him as someone who commits “robbery” makes him a criminal, and throwing in the scary word “strong-arm” makes him sound violent, like the sort of person that might attack an officer, which then got him shot.

            In reality, he shoplifted, and shoved a clerk when he attempted to stop him. This is also known as “stupid shit teenagers do”. This happens all the time without much consequence, legal or otherwise; that is very much different from robbery, which is not common, and frequently comes with legal/penal consequences.

            This is pretty much a textbook non-central fallacy use. Pointing to legal definitions does not defeat this accusation; the whole *point* of the non-central fallacy is appealing to technical definitions so that someone who is a fringe member of a group can be cast as a core member of the group; in this case, the group is “violent criminals”.

            So while your statement may have been correct by a strict technical sense (though that’s questionable – I’m very much not convinced it would stand up in court), it was blatantly false in its implication. Unless you’re willing to argue that shoplifters deserve to be executed, or that shoplifting indicates cop-fighting tendencies (neither of which are true, by my own frequent experience), your statement did not actually lead to your conclusion. It was either untrue (if interpreted colloquially) or a non sequitur (if interpreted technically).

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            So while your statement may have been correct by a strict technical sense … it was blatantly false in its implication.

            +1 like

            @RCF, see ‘motte and bailey’. In this case, the motte is your legal definition, which most people are unfamiliar with.

          • Anonymous says:

            The robbery is relevant for two reasons. One is that it was reported and broadcast, so that Wilson could have been, as he apparently claims, looking for Brown. The other is as an example of “a blatant assertion of power” and for connection to his other actions. Indeed, the violence in the video tape is not simply pushing past the clerk to get out the door, but coming back to intimidate him. He did not use violence to escape someone he feared, but made a point that he did not fear.

            You keep criticizing the use of “strong-arm robbery” while refusing to give a definition, just insisting that everyone around you is dishonest. The behavior of everyone else, falling back on the legal definition (and, yes, it would stand up in court; pushing someone is the canonical example of escalating from larceny to robbery) matches memetic engineer’s claim that there is no other use.

            Styx: what is your definition?

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            Here the meaning depends on what group will be hearing it. Lawyers and police may think of a definition in a law book saying that any physical contact makes a ‘strongarm robbery’. Laymen will think of a meaning like the one described in http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/strong-arm, which in several lines specifies using force or threat “to make someone do what is wanted”. Synonyms include browbeat, bulldoze, bully.

            If in fact what the suspect did was to brush by the clerk while escaping, that is not what will be suggested to the general lay public by ‘strongarm robbery’.

          • RCF says:

            @Tab Atkins

            “You attempted to use the fact that Brown committed “strong-arm robbery” to justify his eventual shooting by the police. Casting him as someone who commits “robbery” makes him a criminal, and throwing in the scary word “strong-arm” makes him sound violent, like the sort of person that might attack an officer, which then got him shot.”

            You seem to be confusing me with Steve Johnson.

            “This is also known as “stupid shit teenagers do”. “

            Now who’s engaged in the non-central fallacy?

            “ that is very much different from robbery, which is not common, and frequently comes with legal/penal consequences.”

            It wasn’t different from robbery. It was robbery, it’s not common, and it is illegal. This idea that “It’s not as bad as most robbery, so it’s okay” is absurd.

            “This is pretty much a textbook non-central fallacy use.”

            No, it’s not. You’re trying to turn the non-central fallacy into a weapon to refuse any label that is insufficiently central.

            ‘Pointing to legal definitions does not defeat this accusation”

            It does defeat the claim that THE LABEL IS FALSE. You don’t get to call a claim “blatantly false” just because you can think of some valences in the statement that are misleading, and your insistence otherwise show a deep contempt for the concept of truth. You did not merely say “Hey, Steve Johnson, your label of “strong-arm robbery is misleading”. You said that it was false. You said that Michael Brown did not commit a strong-arm robbery.

            “that shoplifting indicates cop-fighting tendencies (neither of which are true, by my own frequent experience)”

            Being willing to shove someone to steal something from a store absolutely should cause an update on the probability of getting in a fight with a cop.

            @houseboatonstyx
            “@RCF, see ‘motte and bailey’. In this case, the motte is your legal definition, which most people are unfamiliar with.”

            The motte and bailey consists of three things. There is the bailey, a claim that is useful, but unsupportable. You have not presented anything as being the bailey. The second element is the bailey, which is something that is supportable, but vacuous. You claim that the legal definition is the bailey, but the fact that Michael Brown shoved someone is hardly vacuous. The third element is equivocation, of responding to attacks on the bailey by substituting the motte, which I have not done.

          • Tab Atkins says:

            “This is also known as “stupid shit teenagers do”. “

            Now who’s engaged in the non-central fallacy?

            “ that is very much different from robbery, which is not common, and frequently comes with legal/penal consequences.”

            It wasn’t different from robbery. It was robbery, it’s not common, and it is illegal. This idea that “It’s not as bad as most robbery, so it’s okay” is absurd.

            It’s clear you don’t have many friends who shoplifted as teenagers (or who will admit to it). It’s common, it’s low-harm (hardly harmless, but still, not that bad), and it’s absolutely not indicative of someone being a violent thug likely to assault a police officer, which is what was directly implied by the OP.

          • RCF says:

            First, I note that you haven’t apologized for mixing me up with Steve Johnson.

            Second, we aren’t discussing someone who shoplifted, we’re discussion someone who committed robbery. You accuse Steve Johnson of engaging of the non-central fallacy, but at least the category that he is putting Michael Brown in, Michael Brown is actually a member of. You, on the other, hand are ALSO engaging in a non-central fallacy, of trying to locate Michael Brown in the “shoplifter” category, and trying to pretend that since shoplifting is not indicative of violence, Brown’s actions aren’t indicative of violence. So that’s ALSO the non-central fallacy, except that it doesn’t even have the virtue of being literally true.

            I wrote “Being willing to shove someone to steal something from a store absolutely should cause an update on the probability of getting in a fight with a cop.”

            You responded with “It’s clear you don’t have many friends who shoplifted as teenagers (or who will admit to it). It’s common, it’s low-harm (hardly harmless, but still, not that bad), and it’s absolutely not indicative of someone being a violent thug likely to assault a police officer, which is what was directly implied by the OP.”

            So, in other words, I made a statement about what shoving someone says, and you responded with what shoplifting says, which is not what I was talking about. This is very dishonest behavior.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Civility warning!

          • RCF says:

            What I said is both true and necessary. Tab Atkins, on the other hand, is posting unkind and untrue statements. I do not see how accusing Steve Johnson of posting “blatantly false” statements is not uncivil, but criticizing such accusation is.

          • Anon says:

            RCF, without speaking for Scott, it’s generally accepted that insulting people is significantly less civil than criticizing the things they’ve said. Maybe this is not as it should be, but that’s still the way it is.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            “Blatantly untrue” is an insult. RCF turned around and said the same thing back to Tab Atkins, unpacking the comment.

          • Anon says:

            Douglas, Tab’s comment described Steve’s comment, not Steve himself, which is the distinction I was trying to highlight. Is this a somewhat silly distinction? Possibly. Is it nevertheless one which is widely regarded as important? Yes.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Grammatically, yes. It is also a “description of a comment” to say that it is emitted by a lying piece of shit.

          • Anon says:

            Yes, strictly grammatically. Despite this, neither of us (I would have expected) would have trouble identifying your example as being about a person, whereas “this claim is obviously false” is, to my mind, quite clearly not.

            I am having trouble understanding what you disagree with. Do you disagree with the claim that comments about* what someone says are generally regarded as substantially different, in terms of civility, from comments about the person themselves? Do you disagree that Tab’s comment was about what Steve said, whereas RCF’s was about Tab personally? Is the disagreement elsewhere?

            * [where “about” is used in the common English sense, rather than meaning the strict grammatical referent]

      • Luke Somers says:

        He definitely shoved the shopkeeper, man. The defense I’ve seen was that he paid for everything he took. That right there is a much better explanation of ‘no criminal complaint’ than that it was shoplifting.

    • Luke Somers says:

      > Michael Brown committed a strong-arm robbery then assaulted a cop

      As I’ve seen it:
      it was a very peculiar robbery in which he left the money paying for the stolen goods behind. The shopkeeper was upset with him for being presumptuous and was trying to void the sale. The shopkeeper didn’t even call the cops – it was a bystander.

      I have been unable to find any evidence one way or the other on this.

      The point that he shoved a shopkeeper stands.

      • Luke Somers says:

        Hmm. Having read almost all of the report, I see that the shopkeeper did give a report indicating that things were indeed stolen, even if part of it was paid for.

        • Anonymous says:

          Where do you get the claim that he left any money?

          • Luke Somers says:

            He visibly walked out of the store with things that were not listed in the theft report.

          • Anonymous says:

            You had this belief before you read the police report. Where did you get it from?

          • Luke Somers says:

            A somewhat unreliable source, it seems, given some (slight) discrepancies between its claims about the police report and the actual police report. Sorry I can’t be more specific; I read about Ferguson from a bunch of places, and this was buried in among them.

  21. Salem says:

    If there was no change [in white people’s feelings about the fairness of the justice system after Ferguson], you could chalk it up to white people believing the police’s story that the officer involved felt threatened and made a split-second bad decision that had nothing to do with race. That could explain no change just fine. But being more convinced that justice is color-blind? What could explain that? … My guess – [a]fter Ferguson, everyone mutually agreed it was about politics.

    I don’t think it’s interpreting the question politically. I think the simplest explanation is that people are engaged in a mixture of evidential and social cognition. “If Ferguson is your best example of unfairness, then clearly the American justice system must be fair.”

    In my toy model, there are small numbers of activists (interpreted broadly) who can raise the salience of issues, but most people are broadly rationally ignorant, and take cues from the activists. So I didn’t know anything about medicine, but I noticed that there was a controversy over vaccination leading to autism, and so I worried that maybe the MMR jab is bad. Then, more evidence came in. Strictly speaking, the fact that no link to autism could be shown in a small number of children shouldn’t cause me to update substantially in favour of MMR being safe. But it did, because it debunked Wakefield and his supporters. It undermined their credibility, and made me update away from them having any substantial argument, and it lowered the salience of the issue.

    So if I have little personal experience of the American justice system, I might well take cues from activists and think it unfair. But if I look at what happened in Ferguson, conclude that it was no big deal, and I see those self-same activists proclaiming it the worst-thing-ever, then it’s going to undermine the credibility of those activists in just the same way.

    EDIT: Steve Johnson, above, appears to be an example of someone who updated in this way.

    • Steve Johnson says:

      Nah, I’m a reactionary – I didn’t update to believe that the system is race blind and fair after Michael Brown got shot.

      My prior is that we live under anarcho-tyranny where everything is illegal except crime and that races have radically different levels of spontaneous aggression (as well as different socially tolerated levels of aggression). The Michael Brown incident confirmed the reactionary view quite well, thank you very much.

      My post above was why someone who starts from somewhere other than the reactionary position should shift more towards the reactionary position (if the best example they have is terrible …).

      • Franz_Panzer says:

        “Everything is illegal except crime”
        *headscratch*
        what?

        • Tom Hunt says:

          The less pithy-oneliner way to say it: There are, generally speaking, people who are basically law-abiding and people who aren’t. This can of course be twisted by circumstances, but it holds true for most first-world societies. The former contingent makes very little work for law enforcement, under a sane regime. The latter contingent is small and makes most of the trouble, where ‘trouble’ is read as crime, chaos, violence, and so forth.

          It is far easier to deal with the first contingent than the second. Basically law-abiding people, after all, don’t usually intentionally make trouble. And under current circumstances, there are incentives both against actually enforcing the law against the high-crime contingents, because they have certain anomalous demographics and so enforcement invites howls of racism, classism, &c., and against doing nothing, because law enforcement is often scored on the number of arrests/prosecutions/whatever it’s responsible for. Under these circumstances, there is a tendency for law enforcement to begin looking hard for any excuse to press cases against basically law-abiding people who break some essentially trivial regulation, while seeking to avoid doing the same against actual criminals. Hence, anarcho-tyranny: the government is merciless to civilians, but makes no attempt to curb chaos. An example would be the classic case from the Rotherham scandals, in which families of the victimized girls who attempted to act against the gangs on their own were arrested for “disturbing the peace” or “spreading racial hate” or whatever.

          • Franz_Panzer says:

            Regardless of whether that is correct or not, the implication that I am supposed to get that from “Everything is illegal except crime”….

            I mean, if you want to spread your ideas/oppinions/ideology around you should be aware that the people you want to spread your idea/oppinion/ideology to are probably not well versed in your incredibly condensed inside-lingo.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            @Franz_Panzer: The expectation is more that you will google the term “anarcho-tyranny” and stumble into an article such as this which explains the concept.

        • memeticengineer says:

          I think the neoreactionary concept of “anarchy-tyrrany” is that many things are illegal which shouldn’t be, but on the other hand, things that are truly wrong (“real crimes” in some sense beyond the legal) such as violence and theft are effectively not illegal because the laws are not sufficiently enforced.

          (To be clear, I don’t endorse the view that the US is an anarchy-tyranny in this sense.)

          • von Kalifornen says:

            Another common view is that thete is lots of free – floating state power and people like to throw it sound, but no consistent hegemony.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      I think the simplest explanation is that people are engaged in a mixture of evidential and social cognition. “If [X] is your best example of [Y], then clearly [Z] must be [non-Y].”

      or as said below,
      (if the best example they have is terrible …)

      I think this is an important point that deserves a snappy name of its own. Referring to summary judgment might be accurate, but too obscure for general use. Perhaps ‘The Weak Strongest Case Fallacy’. ‘Fallacy’ used very loosely.

      [ Not to agree with your object level X and -nonY here.]

  22. Leo says:

    Correctly predicted the left and right’s attitudes to quarantine from “the right is big on sacrificing weak members to save the group, the left is big on never hurting anyone except those who suggest such sacrifices”.

    • Lesser Bull says:

      The two nurses were big quarantine advocates? What I am gently trying to suggest is that only the first half of your rule of thumb seems to fit.

      • Leo says:

        Be less gentle and explain your reasoning, because I have no idea what your point is.

        • Lesser Bull says:

          This is your rule of thumb for the left:

          “Correctly predicted the left’s attitudes to quarantine from “the left is big on never hurting anyone except those who suggest such sacrifices””

          So far, the only people hurt by the lack of a quarantine are the two Dallas nurses.

          Neither of the Dallas nurses was pushing strongly for a quarantine that I can see.

          Therefore your rule of thumb for the left is wrong.

          The real answer is that your rule of thumb for the right should also be the rule of thumb for the left, its just that the left has different goals for which its willing to sacrifice the weak and a different u nderstanding of who the weak/unimportant are.

          • Leo says:

            Ah, I see. No, by “hurting” I mean actively causing harm or refusing equal treatment, not all sorts of harm. Obviously if the lack of quarantine causes half of everyone in the world to die of Ebola that’ll be rather harmful, but that’s not “hurting” anyone in the sense that refusing an Ebola patient a hug and a kiss is hurting them. (Although no one defends that, because common sense still exists.) The nurses hadn’t tried to quit their job or asked for more safety precautions or anything; you can’t frame their contracting Ebola as someone more powerful throwing them overboard for the greater good.

  23. naath says:

    I think if you want to compare “Rotherham” vs “celeb nudes” it’s important to remember that the “celeb nudes” story was an *American* story. Rotherham is a UK story and my general experience is that UK stories are much less reported on in the US than US stories are reported on in the UK. The UK papers were full of it. Even the left-leaning ones.

    And alas where once Rotherham had a problem with accusing Pakistani criminals of crime because OMG RACISM now the whole bloody country is busy assuming that this type of ghastly crime is somehow unique to Pakistani gangs, it is not.

    • Anonymouse says:

      The UK has had Afghani/Pakistani rape gangs in Rochdale, Telford, Oxford, Rotherham, Derby & Manchester so far and I think it’s a fair bet we’ll discover they have gone on in every city with a sizeable South Asian population.

      https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/269399/Race-and-cjs-2012.pdf latest data suggests that minority groups do commit more rapes per capita, but the issue here is not rapes simpliciter but gang rapes & grooming gangs

    • Lambert says:

      Observations from the UK:
      no mention of race, more about police desponse (and lack thereof)
      discoveries of paedophillia are nigh-constant in the news

      • 27chaos says:

        Is pedophilia or acting on pedophilia memetic to some extent, I wonder? I know it makes me feel intensely awful when I even hear the world. And something that powerful might get stuck in someone’s head in a bad way.

        • Eggo says:

          No, but hysteria over it certainly is, hence mobs throwing bricks at those disgusting paediatricians, because that’s basically the same as “paedos”, right?

    • ckp says:

      As Anonymouse said above, the rape gang phenomenon is widespread among South Asian communities up and down the country. Asians, as defined by the census, make up ~4% of the UK population, while Whites make up 92% – 23x more Whites than Asians. I don’t need to tell you that there aren’t 23x more White rape gangs.

      As for “the whole bloody country is busy assuming that this type of ghastly crime is somehow unique to Pakistani gangs” – please, point to me a major publication that dared go that far. The most right-leaning papers will go is decrying political correctness, they won’t actually join the dots.

  24. Quixote says:

    As is often the case, I think you are missing a simple but boring explanation in favor of interesting ones. Liberals tend to defer to people with more technical expertise than themselves. They defer to physicists about the age of the universe even though they never studied that. They defer to biologists about evolution even though they only took bio 101. They defer to geologists meteorologists and other climate scientists about global warming even though they don’t know the models. They defer to health professionals about smoking even though they haven’t studied the chemical or statistical basis for that conclusion. And when the epidemiologists at the CDC say no quarantine they defer to them. Deferring to experts is just what liberals do.

    • BenSix says:

      I think they can be pretty sceptical about intelligence researchers, evolutionary psychologists, economists, pharmacologists, Arabists, nutritionists…Doubtless, in many cases, rightly or wrongly, they would claim that these people are not experts but this is what Red Tribers say about climate scientists.

      • Quixote says:

        As a factual matter, I think most liberals probably agree with:
        – what the majority of mainstream biologists at prestigious institutions say about intelligence
        – what the majority of mainstream biologists at prestigious institutions say about pharmacology
        – what the majority of academic scholars of middle eastern history or Islamic religion say about Arabs

        and with significantly lower confidence than the above:
        – what the top economists suggest about fiscal and momentary policy (in so far as they have options about those issues at all)

        • Tom Hunt says:

          As a factual matter, from my admittedly limited sample, no liberal I’ve ever talked to has even known that testing shows a significant gap between black and white IQs. If this had gotten into the media as “something the experts believe”, then quite plausibly liberals would defer to it. But it hasn’t, even though it is quite demonstrably something the experts believe. (The existence of the gap is noncontroversial except among utter morons; its provenance (environmental, genetic, test bias, whatever) is a subject of debate.)

          It’s not a matter of liberals actually going out and looking up what the experts say when they want to form an opinion about any specific subject. This, I think, would be fairly defensible on objective grounds. It’s a matter of one tribe, which has taken “listens to the experts (unlike those nasty outgroupers)” as its gang sign, using expert opinion as a club when it’s convenient, and burying it when it’s not.

          • nydwracu says:

            I don’t think “listens to the experts” can provide an explanation of either tribe’s actions. Insofar as one tribe does listen to one specific set of experts, it’s much less because that tribe sees that set of experts as The Experts than it is because that set of experts tells that tribe what it wants to hear.

            There are ‘experts’ (people in relevant positions of authority) who think intelligence isn’t even a real concept — like Howard Gardner. And there are social psychologists who conservatives are inclined to take seriously, like Jonathan Haidt. (I think they’re both wrong, but Haidt’s model is at least useful for rhetorical analysis.) The reasons for this look clear to me: Gardner tells Blues what they want to hear (the world is fair and everyone has talents that are basically equal), and Haidt tells Reds what they want to hear (their moral vision is more complete than that of Blues).

            On the other hand, there might be a real cultural difference there. I don’t think this maps clearly to Red vs. Blue, but there’s one culture that epistemically privileges everyday experience and ‘noticing’, and another culture that prefers to outsource thought to people or institutions that they judge are sufficiently moral to be trustworthy. I would put Robert Anton Wilson, Steve Sailer, and the ‘smart redneck’ talented tenth of the Reds in the former camp, and moral-majority Reds and most Blues in the latter camp. That’s probably correlated with “tries to figure out where people are coming from” vs. “tries to divide people into good/thedish and bad/elthedish”.

            But no, I intuitively think that model is wrong; it seems too beneficial to the Reds. Are there cases where Reds prefer not to notice things, and prefer to trust official-sounding authority?

            Probably. Evolutionary psychology might fall into that camp, but a better example is the practical consequences drawn from HBD. You hear people saying that current black behavior is biologically inevitable without trying to find the historical high-water mark of black behavior in America. Also economics, although the Grays are also guilty of that.

            …so no, I don’t see any way to salvage that. All groups pick and choose their experts, it seems.

          • Leonard says:

            Are there cases where Reds prefer not to notice things, and prefer to trust official-sounding authority?

            Eh? One of the official Blue narratives against the Reds is that Reds trust the police, the military, and the government in general too much. Whereas the Blues are the “reality based community”, bravely “speaking truth to power”.

          • Nornagest says:

            I would put Robert Anton Wilson, Steve Sailer, and the ‘smart redneck’ talented tenth of the Reds in the former camp…

            Today on “sentences that have never been uttered before”…

            Are there cases where Reds prefer not to notice things, and prefer to trust official-sounding authority?

            The snappy-but-probably-wrong answer is of course “religion”. It’s true for e.g. creationism, but I don’t think it generalizes well, and Blues and Grays probably overestimate the importance of religious narratives in Red thinking.

            “National security” is probably a better answer; consider the WMD debacle in the Bush era.

          • Anonymous says:

            Leonard, that’s somewhat different. Reds mainly trust the instincts of the police. They trust them when they say: in the heat of the moment, it was a reasonable decision to pull the trigger. It is not often that the police make a pronouncement ahead of time that people can divide on. There is a good comparison between stop-and-frisk and quarantine, but that’s not typical of what it means for Reds to trust the police.

          • Ballast says:

            Causation of the gap is mostly genetic. I tried to explain this to some leftist SJWs and their only response was “das raycissss!!!!!”

          • RCF says:

            “As a factual matter, from my admittedly limited sample, no liberal I’ve ever talked to has even known that testing shows a significant gap between black and white IQs.”

            They just frame it as “IQ tests are biased”. And they pissed off at you if you try to get them to define what “biased” means.

          • grendelkhan says:

            As a factual matter, from my admittedly limited sample, no liberal I’ve ever talked to has even known that testing shows a significant gap between black and white IQs.

            This strikes me as particularly unexpected. The justification for the Blue Tribe’s twitchiness about SATs and IQ and such is that they demonstrate bias (rather than genuine differences) in some way. How would that belief stand on its own without the idea that black and white groups have different average scores? I can’t make sense of that.

            I have seen things like a published scientist (experimental psychology; teaches statistical methods) mentioning that stereotype threat entirely explains the IQ gap. (This is a misreading of that very enticing first graph.) I don’t think that they were too foolish to read the paper; I think that they’d seen that graph on tumblr and engaged in some motivated stopping.

            I’ve also had someone actually flinch away in horror when I used the phrase “bell-shaped curve” (I was trying to explain a normal distribution; this had nothing to do with IQ or testing or even people.) The phrase had such terrible negative valence that I might as well have said “Aryan”.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            People lose their jobs for pointing out the agreed-upon science: e.g., James D. Watson on black-white IQ gaps, Jason Richwine on Hispanic-white IQ gaps, and, to some extent, Larry Summers on male-female high end IQ gaps.

          • RCF says:

            @Steve Sailer

            I’m not familiar with the other two, in the case of Summers, it’s not settled science, but Summers didn’t present it as settled. He said that this was one, out of many hypotheses. So simply acknowledging that a hypothesis is being considered, without endorsing it oneself, is enough to draw the wrath of feminists. And the attacks quite often misrepresented Summers as saying that “women can’t do math”.

          • Anonymous says:

            Note that very few people actually criticized Summers for simply considering a hypothesis. A very common form criticism of Summers was that he should have also offered hypothesis X, usually one he did offer.

        • BenSix says:

          Intelligence researchers and pharmacologists are not, or, at least, need not be biologists. I suspect that most leftists and liberals would defy mainstream opinion not because of their denial of the most obviously controversial stuff but as I think that most of them would reject IQ itself – which, regardless of its merits, goes against the field.

          I suspect you are right about Arabists but, then, the field is part of the left-dominated humanities (which is not proof that they are wrong but does suggest that their conclusions will be more favourable to leftists regardless of their perception of their expertise).

      • Jaskologist says:

        Blues certainly like to claim that they “listen to experts” much more frequently than Reds do. It seems to be a big part of their self-image, which is interesting in itself.

        • BenSix says:

          Being “pro science” often appears to be a means of distinguishing oneself from rednecks, as is evident from the fact that it only seems to entail “mocking creationism”.

          • coffeespoons says:

            No, they tend to mock homeopathy/general pseudoscience too. That was the big thing in the UK sceptic community a few years ago, at least.

          • BenSix says:

            Ah, yes, fair point. But in the UK we have “Daily Mail readers” rather than “Texan evangelicals” so there is a need to expand one’s range.

          • Jaskologist says:

            In the US, I would bet that somebody who is very into homeopathy or alternative medicine is Blue tribe. Same for being anti-vaccine.

          • coffeespoons says:

            Hmmm, yeah, I don’t think hippies who refuse to vaccinate their children and go to homeopaths are the typical daily mail reader. I guess sceptics often have two outgroups? Daily mail readers are one and homeopathy using hippies are another.

          • Matthew says:

            People, people, people. The question of attitudes to vaccination and political affiliation has been empirically addressed , repeatedly, and there is little correlation between ideology and antivax. In fact, the recent surveys showed the very conservative to be a bit more likely to hold antivax views than the very liberal.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            As a US left coast mostly-Blue environmentalist who shops in the woo woo section of Whole Foods, I’m surprised. I thought anti-vax was an exclusively Red thing; can’t imagine any of my crowd going in for it. I would link anti-vax with Red ‘Preppie’/’Survivalist’ people who stock guns and dry food in family bunkers in the flyover north woods, and with members of fundamentalist Christian congregations.

          • Tab Atkins says:

            And as someone in the exact same camp, I held the exact opposite view – I seem to mostly see antivax from the woo left. Shows what personal experience is worth. ^_^

          • The Anonymouse says:

            See, that’s interesting. Out here in Bluesville-on-the-Willamette (that is, Portland, where young people go to retire), I see antivax primarily represented by the homeopathy/heart chakra/anti-fluoride/anti-GMO crowd.

            Anecdata, of course, but it’s interesting to see it going both ways.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            Well, we might distinguish Blue organic adults who pass up the Flu of the Year shots, from Red parents who crusade about measles vaccine causing autism. Some of my best friends are the former, but I know of the measles autism people only from written sources.

          • John Henry says:

            Anti-vax is probably more of an emerging Violet tendency than a Blue or Red one. Fits better with the mistrust of centralized authority and trust in nature/higher power.

        • Irenist says:

          I haven’t personally observed anti-vax sentiment among Violets, John Henry. I’ve observed quite a bit among Blues attracted to New Age woo, and among older Reds of the sort who pass around email forwards about anti-vax, or why you should buy gold now, or whatever. Of course, Violets are a smaller group, so it’s easy to oversample the other two.

          • Matthew says:

            I already provided links to actual empirical research on this question.

            Why do people keep playing dueling anecdotes when there is survey data avaiable showing no correlation between ideology and anti-vax?*

            (*excluding, of course, the HPV vaccine)

          • Anonymous says:

            Matthew, read comments before replying to them.

          • Matthew says:

            Anonymous, my comment was placed there because it was more convenient nesting, but is directed at all of the comments that have followed my earlier one, not just Irenist.

          • John Henry says:

            My guess is that, as Blue starts to get replaced by Grey, Violet will grow to encompass the crunchier camps within Blue, including the hippies and New Agers, even as Grey absorbs some of the Big Industry interests from Red. Anti-vax will probably remain a fringe interest (just as it is today) but it will see a lot more sympathy from Violet than from Grey.

    • Vaniver says:

      They defer to biologists about evolution even though they only took bio 101.

      Right, like James Watson.

    • gattsuru says:

      This seems to fall apart pretty quickly: the Blue Tribe is not known for deferring to economists for topics like rent control or corporate taxation, nor is it known for deferring to Monsanto or even non-corporate domain experts before opposing genetically-modified organisms. And then we get to gun control…

      I /expect/ there’s different levels of trust in different sorts of experts, but even that has issues (conservatives trust economists, so obviously they hate tariffs… wait). The general model is far too simplistic.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        This is an honest question, do you happen to know some good papers to read on effects of gun legislation on various things?

        • gattsuru says:

          I’ve gotten deep enough down the rabbit hole that I have to think twice before linking to the extremely pro-gun Gary Kleck, but the other papers listed here are pretty strong.

    • cassander says:

      I think you have the causation backwards there. the experts in our society are those that are credentialed by academia. Academia is overwhelmingly blue tribe. therefore, it produces “expert” results that just happen to coincide with natural blue tribe biases. with a lot of subjects, like chemistry or civil engineering, there are no salient blue tribe beliefs at stake, so the result is pretty clean. But once the results start to have political implications, like with most of the social sciences, things get murky pretty quickly. the best example of this is robert putnam, who is so blue tribe he looks like a new england puritan. after discovering that diversity reduced social trust, he sat on the findings for years and tried to find some way to disprove them. now, to his credit, he ended up publishing anyway, but it isn’t hard to imagine someone less honest or less secure in his position not doing so.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        But on things like IQ, academics who actually study the subject don’t disagree very much. They just tend to maintain a low profile to keep from getting Watsoned.

    • RCF says:

      As the word “expert” means “person who authority people defer to”, the claim that people defer to experts is somewhat tautological.

      • Anonymous says:

        It does? Perhaps to you it has different connotations, but to me it just means somebody who is highly knowledgeable in their field and has nothing to do with deference.

  25. Lesser Bull says:

    *s it just random? A couple of Republicans were coincidentally the first people to support a quarantine, so other Republicans felt they had to stand by them, and then Democrats felt they had to oppose it, and then that spread to wider and wider circles? And if by chance a Democrats had proposed quarantine before a Republican, the situation would have reversed itself? Could be.*

    Probably not. Here’s a data point. I am a Red Tribe member. Can’t really help it, I was born that way. When I first heard that a Liberian had Ebola in Dallas, from a neutral news source, I was shocked and surprised that our government had let him in to the country. As much as I purport to go around thinking that the Left is evil and insane and stupid, my unconscious still believes that they would do the patently obvious thing, which my unconscious defines as quarantine. Now, when I stop making unconscious assumptions and consciously think it through, I agree that at this stage, the risks aren’t such that quarantining Liberia, etc., is the only rational possible choice. But my instincts still are what they are, so it still makes sense to me that you’d quarantine unless there are strong reasons against it. But it seems that the Blue Tribers who run the country right now have the opposite instinct–you don’t do mean, divisive stuff unless you absolutely have to.

    *Much more interesting is the theory that the fear of disease is the root of all conservativism.*

    I’m a little doubtful of this research, if only because most academic research on conservatism is done by folks who have strong motives to frame conservatism badly. That said, its a commonplace on the right that the fundamental insight of the right is that things are much better now than they could be and could go very badly wrong, whereas the left seems to take the view that things are pretty sucky right now and naturally should be much better than they are. This doesn’t always seem to line up with the actual political positions the two groups end up taking, though.

    • The Anonymouse says:

      That said, its a commonplace on the right that the fundamental insight of the right is that things are much better now than they could be and could go very badly wrong, whereas the left seems to take the view that things are pretty sucky right now and naturally should be much better than they are.

      Even just mentioned in passing, this is one of the better one-sentence summaries of the divide I’ve yet heard.

      • Franz_Panzer says:

        There’s also a different frame for just about the same thing:
        The right thinks that things were better in the past, are okay now and will get worse unless we go back to the old ways (or at least don’t get rid of any more of it). The left thinks that things were worse, are now still not good enough but we can make it better by continuing the change

        So for me that summary says nothing new, but ignores the tribes views about the past.

        • Lesser Bull says:

          You have to go pretty far right to find people who think that things were unequivocally better in the past. The mainstream right position is that most/many things are better now than in the past, but that doesn’t mean the past was full of horrible people or doesn’t have lessons for today or wasn’t better than today along at least a few axes. That sounds pretty nuanced for a political position, but in my experience that is the mainstream right position on the past, at least in America. My guess is that the right is forced into a nuanced position because it doesn’t want to reject either the present or the past.

          • Franz Panzer says:

            I agree up to a point. I think the acceptance of the past decreases the farther you go back. So if you want someone to say “150 years ago everything was better”, I agree with you, you have to to go to the far right (e.g. neoreactionaries who fawn over the austro-hungarian empire). But if you go not too far into the past, and say “In the 60s everything was better” I think you would find a lot of agreement on the not that far right, while the left would say that, due to the conditions for blacks, women and gays back then, it was still pretty bad.

          • Lesser Bull says:

            I read a lot of mainstream conservative sites and I’ve never seen anyone argue that conditions for blacks, women, gays, etc., were acceptable even 20-30 years ago. I’ve only seen that kind of argument from reactionaries and NRxers.

            Look at Ross Douthat on the sexual revolution, for example. He is a full blown Catholic social conservative, but the strongest argument he can make is ‘yes, the sexual revolution is a good thing on the whole, but there are some downsides’

          • Franz_Panzer says:

            I’m sorry, but I don’t have the time to look for quotes from better sources, so I’ll just take the easiest one: from the wikipedia page off Ann Coulter:

            “In 1960, whites were 90 percent of the country. The Census Bureau recently estimated that whites already account for less than two-thirds of the population and will be a minority by 2050. Other estimates put that day much sooner. One may assume the new majority will not be such compassionate overlords as the white majority has been. If this sort of drastic change were legally imposed on any group other than white Americans, it would be called genocide. ”

            “If we took away women’s right to vote, we’d never have to worry about another Democrat president. It’s kind of a pipe dream, it’s a personal fantasy of mine, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. And it is a good way of making the point that women are voting so stupidly, at least single women.”

            She is definitely someone in the mainstrem media. I can accept that she does not represent the mainstream political view of the right, but she is accepted amongst the right.

          • AJD says:

            I read a lot of mainstream conservative sites and I’ve never seen anyone argue that conditions for blacks, women, gays, etc., were acceptable even 20-30 years ago.

            I don’t think Franz was saying that mainstream conservatives would say that, e.g., “conditions for blacks were better”; ratther, that mainstream conservatives would say that “conditions”, in general, were better, and probably not realize that in making that judgment they’re (among other things) only taking the perspectives of white people into account.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      the left seems to take the view that things are pretty sucky right now and naturally should be much better than they are.

      You probably meant something different by ‘naturally’, but it made me remember the opinion I used to have (with, apparently, Marx) that if the stiff, corrupt things were smashed, something better would come up ‘naturally’.

  26. coffeespoons says:

    The Jennifer Lawrence nudes, which center around how hackers (read: creepy internet nerds) shared nude pictures of a beloved celebrity on Reddit (read: creepy internet nerds) and 4Chan (read: creepy internet nerds) – and #Gamergate which does the same – are exactly the narrative they want to push, so they become the Stories Of The Century.

    So I was annoyed about the Jennifer Lawrence photo leak and that was not because I hate “creepy internet nerds.” I like nerds! I was annoyed because lots of people said “if you take naked photos of yourself you deserve this kind of treatment.” Feminists critisising something involving nerds isn’t always because they hate low status men :(. Are you triggered enough by feminism that you’ve started to see it as such?

    [Yes it is not the most important thing in the world, and is probably less important than Rotherham (though both are less important than, say malaria), but it’s important to me because I identify with women who have nude photos leaked.]

    • Tab Atkins says:

      Yes, this. It’s the privacy violation (people *should* feel free to take sexy pictures of themselves if they want, and shouldn’t fear them being put into the world against their will) and the slut-shaming of “you deserve this, you whores” that made me angry about the whole thing. The status of the perpetrators was frankly irrelevant, other than “oh lord, 4chan again, those fuckers”.

    • MugaSofer says:

      This is just me, my sample is skewed, etc.

      However:

      >I was annoyed because lots of people said “if you take naked photos of yourself you deserve this kind of treatment.”

      I have seen many, many more people saying this than people actually saying “if you take naked photos of yourself you deserve this kind of treatment.”

      A lot of people take nude selfies. Slut-shaming them has gotten significantly harder, because now “phone got hacked” is something the average person worries about.

      I have seen people arguing that “this kind of treatment” somehow doesn’t harm celebrities. (And thus pretty transparently justifying their own actions, I think.) But this is actually the first time I haven’t seen slut-shaming as the predominant media response to leaked sextapes etc.

      • Tab Atkins says:

        Yeah, the *media* response has been good about this incident. The “those sluts deserved it” response was from the people trying to defend The Fappening and its related stuff.

        (I stay away from 4chan most of the time, but I saw a lot of screengrabs of 4chan posts, and a few reddit ones, basically saying “the sluts deserved it”.)

      • Null Hypothesis says:

        Not to say that I agree with the “they deserved it.” sentiment. But as a general statement, one has to wonder how emotionally damaging you can consider leaked nude photographs to be, of people who have regularly appeared fully naked in movies.

        It doesn’t make it right, or okay. But it kind of goes to the old black-humored joke of “If a man forces himself on a prostitute, is it considered rape, or shop-lifting?”

        Adjusting it to the current topic: “If someone steals a nude photograph of a porn star, is it a violation of privacy, or shop-lifting?

        When assessing bad behavior that results in psychic harm, rather than physical harm, you can’t claim something is equally bad to all people. The damage is more or less purely based on how they feel about the experience, and how they can convince others they feel about it. And while most people may be expected to react similarly, its also understandable to assume certainly people should act differently than normal.

        Again, not to minimize any pain being felt, or to justify the actions taken. And I think in this specific situation, I don’t believe J.L. has appeared fully naked in film before. But some of the other actors… they are fully right from a privacy standpoint, but their lamentations of personal embarrassment ring somewhat hollow.

        • Protagoras says:

          Evaluating psychic harm on a case by case basis produces an incentive for victims to over-react, in order to get their cases taken more seriously. This may reduce the chance of victims who aren’t good at playing the victim role getting justice, as they are drowned out by the better actors. There also seems to be evidence that the strain of playing the role of victim is not psychologically healthy even for those who are good at it. So it is almost certainly best to assess crimes that do psychic harm on the basis of their overall effects, and not try to evaluate exactly how damaged each particular victim was.

          • Null Hypothesis says:

            I’d fully agree, if you have a system that actually conforms to that. Often I see the bar set at a minimum, regardless of the psychic harm done, but in many cases the punishment is increased when the victim expresses a strong feeling of psychic harm. Such as in the case of male student expulsion from college campuses, without any form of evidence or due process.

            Overall, because it varies from person to person, which makes for bad law, and its something difficult to individually quantify or prove in the first place, punishment should be separate from psychic harm inflicted, and based purely on the act itself.

            Also, as a side note, can the current state of professional soccer be considered a case-study for this phenomenon?

    • Illuminati Initiate says:

      The feminism vs low status men stuff isn’t usually so much about the actual positions of feminism as it is about rhetoric coming from the feminist movement as a whole. While many individual feminists, such as yourself (and Ozy and Multi as mentioned by Scott) have admirably gone against the “nerds are evil misogynists” meme, large amounts of feminists, including some that appear to be minor movement leaders, have embraced it with glee. I agree that posting nude pictures of people against their consent is bad, but the responses to this sort of thing (gamergate, nice guys, etc.) continually horrify me.

      Despite this I don’t really think I have a problem with feminism itself, and when Scott uses this to say “feminism is bad” I think he is making an error. “Bully low status, socially awkward and nerdy men” is not an inherent part of feminism, It’s just something that happened to become latched on to it.

      • Anonymous says:

        But how can you necessarily distinguish between “inherent part of feminism that feminist leaders support” and “non-inherent part of feminism that feminist leaders support.” If the answer is, as it appears to be defacto, that the good bits are inherent and the bad bits are not, then this just seems extremely epistemically fishy, especially as feminists are generally unwilling to apply the same logic to groups they are opposed to e.g. the MRM.

        • Illuminati Initiate says:

          Honestly it seems easy enough to distinguish to me. You can support feminism without wanting to bully nerds for the same reasons you can support communism/capitalism without supporting gulags/helping fascists and theocrats murder people. Both those things were bad things done in the name of communism/capitalism, but it’s easy enough to imagine communists/capitalists who don’t support torturing and murdering dissidents/helping bloodthirsty fascists and theocrats. Not only can I easily imagine feminists that don’t hate nerds, I was responding to one.

          As for MRAs my opinion on them is basically the same as my opinion on feminism, and I don’t see any reason why they are incompatible.

          • veronica d says:

            All I can say is that some of us see this and are trying in small ways to turn the tide. But it is a big tide.

            But feminism is on the whole correct. Sexism is real. It hurts women more than men. A balanced society is worth fighting for.

            I’m not sure what to ask from nerds. I don’t expect you to sit meekly while people kick you. I suppose I can ask this: look for feminist theorists who are not saying abusive things about nerds. Listen to them.

            Note, you may not agree with them. They may offer critique you do not like. That is different from abuse.

            (In other words, there is a difference from saying, “You’re showing male privilege” and “Ha! Neckbeards!”)

          • cassander says:

            >the same reasons you can support communism/capitalism without supporting gulags/helping fascists

            considering that literally every single instantiation of communism produced its own system of gulags, I’m you can’t really claim that.

          • Illuminati Initiate says:

            @Veronica d

            Thank you.

            @Cassander

            I knew someone was going to say that (: which is why I used both examples. I disagree, but they were both just examples.

            Oh yeah, and before any silly argument starts over this, I was not trying to say that bullying and mass murder are even remotely comparable evils. I was just using them as rather extreme examples as to why opposing an ideology because someone does something bad in the name of it is silly.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        “Bully low status, socially awkward and nerdy men” is not an inherent part of feminism, It’s just something that happened to become latched on to it.

        I wonder when it got latched on. Obviously some time since the 1970s, when Marlo Thomas was doing “Free to be / You and me.” We were for uniting all non-jocks (including nerds) against jocks.

    • Zorgon says:

      It’s worth bearing in mind that outside of zero-consideration places like 4chan, the message wasn’t actually “you shouldn’t take nude pics if you don’t want people to see them” in about 99% of the supposedly “sexist” statements people were so quick to call out on Twitter etc.

      Nearly all of them instead said something on the lines of “you shouldn’t put nude pics on the Internet if you don’t want them to get hacked.” Which is probably a bad way of putting it, but this isn’t victim blaming, it’s nerd-speak shorthand for “The Internet is not secure. Not ever. Seriously. No matter how many times you change your password. No matter how good you think your antivirus and firewall package is. Stop putting sensitive things on the Internet. Stop doing it. It will not end well.”

      They’re not saying “your nude pics are the problem, slutbag.” They’re saying “putting nude pics on the Internet is like putting them in a big glass display case in the middle of the street and thinking they’re in a safe.” They’re addressing an object-level error, not making meta-level commentaries on the people making the error.

      I have a special degree of sympathy for the specific people burned by this incident, because many of them were not actually aware that their devices were backing up their pictures to the iCloud service, and I think a lot of the nerd-type responses like the ones I gave above missed that. But it’s not slut-shaming, it’s Internet security awareness. I’ve not generally gotten the impression the people in question were particularly bothered that Jennifer Lawrence took some nudes of herself.

      (One other note, though – I get mildly irritated when people parrot the media line that the Fappening was a “4chan hack”. Some bunch of hackers sprung the pics from iCloud then offered them to 4chan, knowing that there would be a likely buyer from the hordes on /b/. 4chan certainly has a history of performing raids and hacks, but this was not one of them.)

  27. “If this were the narrative conservatives were seeing on TV and in the papers, I think we’d have action on the climate pretty quickly.”

    Maybe the outcome would either be Blue Team switching to climate skepticism (“you know, cap-n-trade sort of sounds good, but it’s mostly about giving large hidden subsidies to large corporations. Ever wonder why they keep pushing for these climate change ads? And who will have the most trouble paying higher gas and heating prices, I can assure you the country club will still be heated! Even if climate change is true, 1 degree over 200 years cannot be so bad. What, those extreme predictions of catastrophe? paid for by corporations. I mean, 15 years ago, which prediction said there would be a climate lull. Scientists have had their brains destroyed by eating GMOs, anyway.”) or, even worse, inaction. When there is generalised consensus but localized resistance, sometimes you get inaction (see annual farm bill).

  28. pwyll says:

    I don’t know how to fix this.

    Well, we’re effectively forced into this kind of side-choosing adversarial warlike tribal behavior by democracy. If you remove democracy, would we still feel such a compulsion to politicize everything? I doubt it. Whenever I travel abroad I feel temporary relief from the need to pick sides and be partisan because I’m not under the illusion that I have political power. Of course, I have no political power at home either, but since the mob *does*, you feel a strong compulsion to join it… and so society’s mutual estrangement gets a tiny bit worse every day.

    • Anonymous says:

      Mobs have political power under any system. Under kings, forming actual, in-person mobs with torches was the preferred expression of political power.

      If I so choose, I can escape political tribalism by going to the local fundamentalist/liberal church where they are fuming about disgraceful priests that won’t call homosexuality sin/bigoted literalism and take a peak into what the dominant mode of mind-killing tribalism used to look like when people didn’t have formal political power.

      • Halfwitz says:

        >Under kings, forming actual, in-person mobs with torches was the preferred expression of political power.

        This was never very practical and is completely impractical today.

    • eqdw says:

      > Whenever I travel abroad I feel temporary relief from the need to pick sides and be partisan because I’m not under the illusion that I have political power.

      I wish that worked for me. I’m a Canadian citizen in the US; I can’t vote, nor exercise any political power whatsoever here. I live in a very, very, very blue area, an area so partisan that they make jokes about how partisan they are. I’m discovering more and more that I feel like a weird grey/violet tribesman, and the constant shitty reasoning and bad policies by people trying to out-progress each other still pisses me off. A lot.

      Please tell me the secret of your apathy!

      • pwyll says:

        When I go abroad, it’s to countries that are farther removed from Anglosphere power struggles. Given the shared language and culture I don’t think there’s much separation between the US and Canadian “civil wars”.

    • Lambert says:

      Not democracy per se, but the current system of 2 party representative democracy

  29. Anonymous says:

    Wait, so you mean turning all the most important topics in our society into wedge issues that we use to insult and abuse people we don’t like, to the point where even mentioning it triggers them and makes them super defensive, might have been a bad idea??!

    I think this particular pithy quote admirably sums up a lot of the problems surrounding modern political discourse. It is increasingly extremely hard to talk about actual problems without dealing with tribalist allegiances.

    Thank you for writing this.

  30. Ken Arromdee says:

    From the start of your article:

    There’s a question of causal structure here. Do Republicans believe certain other things for their own sake, and then adapt their beliefs about Ebola to help buttress their other beliefs? Or do the same factors that made them adopt their narrative in the first place lead them to adopt a similar narrative around Ebola?

    My guess it it’s a little of both.

    From later on in your article:

    Sometimes this results in them seizing upon different sides of an apparently nonpolitical issue when these support their narrative; for example, Republicans generally supporting a quarantine against Ebola, Democrats generally opposing it.

    In other words, your certainty about what causes a split on the quarantine has drastically changed within the space of a few paragraphs. Initially, picking sides to support a preexisting narrative is one of several factors, it’s a possibility, maybe it’s a little of both. Later on, picking sides to support the narrative has suddenly turned into the reason. I think this is a little disingenuous.

    I’d also argue with a lot your specific points. For instance, closing borders is one of those issues where a significant number of Republicans disagree (Bush certainly didn’t try to close the borders).

    And in the case of global warming, the problem isn’t that global warming was tied into the blue narrative. Or rather, it is, but there are different types of being “tied in”. One way to tie an issue into a narrative is to use the narrative to support the issue (because you support X, where X is a Blue policy, you should oppose global warming). Another is to use the issue to support the narrative (because global warming is a problem, you should do X, where X is a Blue policy). It’s the second type of tying which leads the reds to oppose the idea that there is global warming. The red equivalent, therefore, would not (as you suggest) be “because Communism is bad, and the Communists contribute to global warming, global warming is a problem”–the red equivalent would be “because global warming is a problem, we should nuke China/support Bush/etc.”

  31. Pingback: response to scott alexander | hbd chick

  32. I’m surprised more people haven’t started pushing the obvious left-wing (and libertarian pacifist) line on ISIS: is is completely horrible, and also Bush’s fault and proof that American military interventions in the middle east will have terrible unintended consequences and we should just stay far, far away for the foreseeable future.

    • Tommy says:

      Or Paleocon isolationism. Paleocons (We should not spill one drop of American blood to improve the situation in Whereverstan, it’s none of our business, interventionism is a product of save-the-world naivete) and hardline liberal opponents of intervention (It’s imperialism, a product of the military-industrial complex designed to get more contracts for Halliburton and defend American hegemony) propose the exact same policy presciption on foreign affairs, based on 180-degree different interpretations of what the motivations of those proposing intervention are.

    • Sean Haugh (libertarian running for North Carolina Senate) has taken that position. I don’t think he’s even typical libertarian, let alone conservative.

  33. Irenist says:

    I thought the attempt at Red environmentalist rhetoric was pretty good. However, I’m not that well qualified to judge it, since as a Violet my environmentalist sensibility is shaped more by writers like Tolkien, Wendell Berry, and “Crunchy Conservative” Rod Dreher (all of whom write of conserving the old land and its old ways in elegiac tones), none of whom might appeal to typical Reds all that much, given the demonstrated lack of traction for “Creation care,” stewardship rhetoric among Reds generally when churches have tried it.

    However, I think Scott’s survive/thrive take on Red should play a bigger part. Just as Ebola is kind of like the survive/thrive post’s zombie epidemic in the way that it triggers Red fears, I think the more catastrophic global warming scenarios (melting permafrost releasing methane, e.g.) can and should be sold as civilization hanging by a thread for maximum Red rhetorical impact.

    That said, I think Scott’s right that, given contemporary politics, green policies just aren’t going to be salable to Reds as a group. Rhetoric like his can convert a few individuals in conversation between trusted friends, but I don’t think the macro effect amounts to much.

  34. Nisan says:

    The bit about global warming is the kind of thing I would expect a Red Tribe version of George Lakoff to produce.

  35. no one special says:

    My guess – before Ferguson, at least a few people interpreted this as an honest question about race and justice. After Ferguson, everyone mutually agreed it was about politics.

    (Background: Liberal/Blue)

    I watched the Ferguson story erupt over twitter, and I noticed a slow but relentless push in the media coverage, and the social media discussion. Scott describes Ferguson as being “police misconduct involving race” — but at the beginning of the scandal, there was much more focus on the “police misconduct” part, while by now, most of the discussion focuses on the “race” part.

    Watching this happen in real time, it felt like a relentless grindstone, moving the topic from police misconduct to race. I can’t help but notice that police misconduct is a relatively neutral issue that both Reds and Blues can get behind, where race is much more specifically Blue aligned. Changing the narrative from police misconduct to race changed it from a neutral issue everyone could support to one where only one tribe could play. It was non-partisan, and became partisan.

    • Leonard says:

      What you observed is the left adapting away from their original narrative — racist police kill innocent unarmed black because racism — to a cloud of squid ink around structural racism. The problem was exactly that the original narrative would not stand up. There may have been police misconduct, but that is by no means clear. There certainly was, however, misconduct on the part of Michael Brown. We have the videotape.

      “Racist police kill innocent blacks everywhere” is something that fires up black and blue voters. “Policeman kills hulking black strongarm robber who charged” might fire up some black voters, but not the blue.

      • no one special says:

        What you observed is the left adapting away from their original narrative — racist police kill innocent unarmed black because racism — to a cloud of squid ink around structural racism.

        Nope. I’m not saying that didn’t happen, but I’m talking about an earlier transition from “WTF are the police in Ferguson doing?” _to_ “Racist police kill because racism.” The earliest reports looked like this:

        Why are the police waring Camo? Is that a tank? I heard they threw tear gas into people’s yards. People can’t leave their homes. This is crazy. _The police in Ferguson are out of control._

        • Tab Atkins says:

          Police militarization isn’t something the average person can really *do* something about. We can get angry about it, and maybe remember it when it’s politics time, but ultimately only politicians have the power to change this.

          Racism, on the other hand, is something we feel we *can* affect, by talking about it.

          I think it’s rather natural, then, that the topic drifts from thing-we-can’t-do-much-about to thing-we-feel-we-can-do-something-about.

          • memeticengineer says:

            Do you actually think it’s easier to make the police less racist than to make them less militarized? Or just that people feel that way?

            I ask because it is a surprising claim. I would expect equipment and tactics are easier to change than the the secret dark feelings in people’s hearts.

            Also, per Scott’s graph, it seems like the actual result of talking a lot about racism in the context of Ferguson has been to slightly increase racism.

          • Clockwork Marx says:

            I tend to see targeting the dark feelings in people’s hearts as a fool’s errand, at least on an institutional level. Better to build structures into the organization in question that make these abuses more easily punishable.

            Idk for sure whether it would be easier to pressure law enforcement into adapting increased oversight then pressuring them into demilitarizing. Although it does seem far easier to get an organization to adapt new methods of oversight then to get it to willingly give up some of its power and significantly change the way it functions.

          • Tab Atkins says:

            Do you actually think it’s easier to make the police less racist than to make them less militarized? Or just that people feel that way?

            I think people feel that way – politics is impersonal, but attitudes can be changed by an impassioned argument, man.

            I agree with you that the reality is the exact opposite – while it’s not trivial for politicians to reverse police militarization, it’s not impossible either, and once they make it an issue it’s not hard to actually enact in any individual case (I believe, but could be convinced otherwise by people more in the know). Racism, on the other hand, is built into our lizard brains; all we can do is shuffle around who the outgroup is.

          • Tab Atkins says:

            I think I’m stating things too cynically in my last comment, actually.

            Police militarization is something that the average person can only affect through political means – talking to representatives, and paying attention in politics so they can affect voting. Once you’ve gotten awareness out, you’re pretty much out of options (other than expensive ones, like actually dedicating time to political activism).

            Fighting racism, though, is something you can try to do one person at a time, in your spare time on the internet, and it triggers your righteousness feelings as a side benefit. We have an effectively limitless well of people to attack for racism.

            So I think the conversation shifting from police militarization to anti-racism is a natural consequence of simply running out of things to do in the first topic.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            I think it’s rather natural, then, that the topic drifts from thing-we-can’t-do-much-about to thing-we-feel-we-can-do-something-about.

            There is a third way that talking about X can do something. When X is relatively unknown, making it known as a general problem that may be relevant anywhere, to anyone, can get some change going. Aside from the obvious, it may interest some hardware hackers in making some useful gadgets. For widespread support, the meme “It only happens to black people [so white people are safe]” is counter-productive.

          • memeticengineer says:

            Fighting racism, though, is something you can try to do one person at a time, in your spare time on the internet, and it triggers your righteousness feelings as a side benefit. We have an effectively limitless well of people to attack for racism.

            (emphasis added)

            Other folks said the conversation shift was about pushing the tribal narrative and attacking the outgroup. That seemed uncharitable to me, but it seems like you agree with them.

          • Tab Atkins says:

            Other folks said the conversation shift was about pushing the tribal narrative and attacking the outgroup. That seemed uncharitable to me, but it seems like you agree with them.

            I disagree that it was *about* pushing the tribal narrative. But there was an element of the tribal narrative from the beginning, and once we ran out of other things to talk about, we shifted to talking about the one thing we never get tired of talking about: how racist everyone else is.

            (I say this as a proud SJW, who is convinced the Ferguson police have a terrible dynamic with the population of the city, driven strongly by a racial bias, among several other factors.)

            There’s a difference between doing something *on purpose* and it just happening because that’s how things tend to work.

          • memeticengineer says:

            Tab, I think you could benefit from re-reading “I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup”. People don’t push their tribal narratives and attack the outgroup *on purpose*. Most people don’t even consciously think in those terms. People do it because it feels good and that’s just how things work out. That’s why it’s so insidious. The ultimate point of the Outgroup post is: when you find yourself attacking people, and it makes you feel righteous, and you never get tired of it, you should immediately become very suspicious of what you’re doing and why.

            I notice I am confused that you’re apparently aware of doing this, and aware of the relevant concepts, but do not show even a glimmer of self-doubt. Now updating towards lower value of clear explanations of meta-level ideas. I will have to try to be even more vigilant for this pattern in myself.

            (And the point of this “Case Studies” post, as I see it: pushing the tribal narrative is often not very effective, because by design it alienates those who do not already agree. So not only is it done for the wrong reasons, but it’s also the wrong thing to do, at least in consequentialist terms.)

          • Tab Atkins says:

            The fact that my opinion and a leftist “Boy, I sure do hate the outgroup!” opinion look similar doesn’t necessarily mean my opinion is wrong. Reversed stupidity is not wisdom, etc.

            I’ve read the Outgroup post several times and spent significant time reading the comments and thinking about the topic; I’m very aware of its core point (which I believe you correctly described). I still feel that the best explanation of the police response to the situation is a department deeply disconnected from their community due to racial biases, along with several other reasons (militarization helping promote a department culture that supports shows of strength against the public, rather than empathy, for example).

          • memeticengineer says:

            I still feel that the best explanation of the police response to the situation is a department deeply disconnected from their community due to racial biases, along with several other reasons

            That’s totally fine, and I would give this explanation high probability myself.

            But, at least as I understood this subthread, we weren’t talking about whether racism is one root cause (and perhaps even the major one). I thought we were talking about whether the correct reaction to this is to focus on racial bias to the exclusion of other factors, and mainly by repeatedly calling particular people and groups racist. You defended this course of action based on the fact that attacking people for racism is fun and feels righteous. Probably true! But that’s a terrible basis to decide whether it’s the right thing to do. That’s all I’m saying.

  36. “This can sort of be prevented by not turning everything into a referendum on how great your tribe is and how stupid the opposing tribe is, or by trying to frame an issue in a way that respects or appeals to an out-group’s narrative.”

    This will never happen. The incentive to journalists is to be the first to find the best way to slice and dice the latest controversy in a way that just so happens to amount to an indictment of the bad guys. “I’m holy, the other tribe is evil/stupid” is the reason most people read sites like HuffPo, Jezebel, Return of Kings, etc. Non-ideologized information just can’t deliver a dopamine hit like an ideological narrative can.

    • Leonard says:

      I agree that not politicizing everything will never happen — in democracy. The reason for the dopamine hit is the lust for power. In democracy a mob is powerful, and so democracy will evolve means of organizing mobs.

  37. There are well-known political narratives which are neither Red nor Blue.

    For instance, “Freakonomics” made famous the hypothesis that crime dropped in the 1990s because of Roe v Wade.

    This hypothesis may or may not be correct – it doesn’t matter for my purposes. What does matter is that: (a) the hypothesis gained a surprising amount of currency; and (b) has plenty to outrage both Blue and Red groups.

    I’ve heard Blues react with outrage because the hypothesis implies that the aborted babies were much more likely to have grown up to commit crime. This is taken to imply all sorts of racist and classist ideas.

    I’ve heard Reds react with outrage because the hypothesis implies that legal abortion (something they oppose) has reduced crime (something they think is very desirable).

    The hypothesis is certainly not an in-group narrative for either Red or Blue. Yet despite this it’s received quite a bit of thoughtful attention. It’d be interesting to understand why that is, in the light of Scott’s arguments.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      attention, yes. thoughtful attention?

      • Irenist says:

        Yeah, I think Gray tribe. And libertarians. And economics and policy pundits generally. A good comparison case is Kevin Drum’s writing in “Mother Jones” on the lead/crime link. It’s a lot more impressive than the abortion/crime link, but it’s not really particularly fun for either group to contemplate. So it hasn’t encountered really strong opposition, but nobody seems that passionate about it, either.

    • blacktrance says:

      Some Blues (e.g. SJWs) are outraged by the idea, but others nod along and say it’s obvious. Reds tend to agree that it’s a plausible conclusion but say that it’s not a morally acceptable method of reducing crime.

      • Randy M says:

        That’s my point of view. Interesting, but ultimately unhelpful phenomenon. We don’t live in the world where the most moral policies are always the easiest (though they do tend to be the best long term).

    • A.Person says:

      Neither Red or Blue, but some much more minor affiliation would absorb this study into its narrative, unfortunately.

      Which group both holds a racist outlook, while not holding to the universalist, religion spurred condemnation of abortion that the Reds do?

      National-Socialists. In a more moderate, and general sense; eugenicists.

      • Illuminati Initiate says:

        Eugenics historically was not really tied in to fascism in any sense other than that they also did it (in a much more fascist kind of way, ie. mass murder). It was supported by a lot of people with very different ideologies, though the ways they wanted to carry it out were different (Most eugenecists just wanted to sterilize people, not kill them like the nazis). And today non-murderous eugenics is more a grey tribe thing than anything.

    • MugaSofer says:

      There are well-known political narratives which are neither Red nor Blue.

      “Freakonomics” made famous the hypothesis that crime dropped in the 1990s because of Roe v Wade.

      Is this actually famous?

      They made it slightly more well-known, but I got the impression it’s vastly less effective as a political narrative than the other examples. (Thank God.)

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes, it is famous. It is the basis of all of Levitt’s fame. It’s about 90% as famous as Levitt.

        No, it’s not effective as a political narrative. It was talked about, but no one endorses it as an argument. I don’t know why MN called it “a political narrative.” It’s something that could be a political narrative, but no one actually uses it that way.

  38. Luke Muehlhauser says:

    > If I were in charge of convincing the Red Tribe to line up behind fighting global warming, here’s what I’d say

    This part was hilarious to me.

  39. James Babcock says:

    The great thing about the Grey tribe is that its grand narrative is meta enough to almost always encompass the correct position: problems in the world are caused by stupid and confused people. My tribe is the greatest because regardless of whether it’s the Red or Blue tribe that’s confused or stupid at the moment, Greys remain free to choose correctly. My tribe is the greatest because we can look at issues like ebola and ISIS, and do proper utilitarian calculations. The world would be better if more positions of power and influence were held by members of my tribe. My tribe’s only weakness is that we have a hard time including people who aren’t smart enough. My tribe is the greatest!

    (This comment is entirely serious and literally true.)

    • Irenist says:

      Hmm. That sounds like a plausible sort of sentiment to attach to, say the rationalist community (CFAR, LW, etc.). I wouldn’t share that sentiment, but I could see why someone could reasonably hold it.

      But Scott defined the Gray relative to the Blue as “the half-branched-off collection of libertarianish tech-savvy nerds.” That’s a rather more heterogeneous group, and it seems like a less defensible subject for your claims.

      Are you defining Gray tribe a bit differently than Scott? Or do you have a higher opinion of how often “libertarianish tech-savvy nerds,” generally, actually engage in explicit utilitarian calculations and whatnot than I do? Because to me, “libertarianish tech-savvy nerds” seem to have relatively predictable failure political failure modes, too. (Unless you’re a libertarian yourself, I think doctrinaire libertarianism would be the obvious example here. If you are, carry on.)

      • Anonymous says:

        What do you mean by Libertarianism? I find alot of people who are very negative of libertarianism take the term to be pretty extreme. Other people consider Scott a libertarian. (despite him writing an anti-libertarian faq. To be fair that FAQ was pretty moderate).

        • Irenist says:

          I mostly just meant “that which Scott opposed in the FAQ.” I’m pretty sympathetic to a lot of libertarianish ideas myself, actually. I just think that “libertarianish nerds” (or any other group) are “always smarter and righter than everyone else,” which is my uncharitable reading of the post above, is kinda sorta implausible, just based on what we know about the nature of human cognition. I mean, they have LOTS of great ideas, but nobody’s perfect.

      • James Babcock says:

        To the motte!

        No, I define the Gray tribe as only including the *most virtuous* of the half-branched-off collection of libertarianish tech-savvy nerds. People who do not engage in explicit utilitarian calculations and whatnot are fake Scotsmen, not true Greys.

  40. Nornagest says:

    If I were in charge of convincing the Red Tribe to line up behind fighting global warming, here’s what I’d say…

    That was spooky. Kind of like waking up one morning and going to work, but finding when I stop at Starbucks that the only thing they serve is cold protein brine and all my money is fuschia instead of green and has pictures of an alien god-empress on it.

  41. eqdw says:

    > Another thing that sort of worked was tying things into the Red Tribe narrative, which they did through the two sentences “Being pro-environmental allows us to protect and preserve the American way of life. It is patriotic to conserve the country’s natural resources.” I can’t imagine anyone falling for this, but I guess some people did.

    As a foreigner, this is something that has *always* confused me about American politics and American Christianity.

    I was raised in Canada in a very religious conservative household, in a religious neighbourhood, with religious friends. I went to church regularly. I was, at the time, very Christian.

    And yet, climate change, conservation, environmentalism, etc., all of these things were very important to me. And my family. And my community. And my church. In fact, I think I may have even sat in on sermons growing up extolling the virtue of not wasting, not using more than your fair share.

    Scott, you say you can’t imagine anyone falling for that, but for me, I can’t imagine any religious person thinking anything *else*.

    My post-hoc theory is that the particular religious culture I came from has historically been very tight-knit, insular, agricultural communities. Historically, they were fairly communistic in nature, and had a very direct interest in not spoiling the nearby environment. Without the benefits of privatization technology (for lack of better term), they needed to reinforce social mores against wasting communal resources. Nowadays, even as they’re more or less fully integrated with modern western culture, they still carry that strong moral conviction towards conservation.

    When I hear American conservatives talk about how Jesus gave us this land to do with what we please, it drives me crazy. Every piece of theology I was raised with framed the issue as “Jesus gave us this land to watch over and take care of, because we’re responsible people who want it to last for our children and their children and their children after them”.

    tl;dr: you might think that selling environmentalism that way is flippant, but a few hundred thousand Mennonites in Canada believe that, in that framing, as a matter of culture and theology.

    • Oligopsony says:

      As a foreigner, this is something that has *always* confused me about American politics and American Christianity.

      I was raised in Canada in a very religious conservative household, in a religious neighbourhood, with religious friends. I went to church regularly. I was, at the time, very Christian.

      And yet, climate change, conservation, environmentalism, etc., all of these things were very important to me. And my family. And my community. And my church. In fact, I think I may have even sat in on sermons growing up extolling the virtue of not wasting, not using more than your fair share.

      Scott, you say you can’t imagine anyone falling for that, but for me, I can’t imagine any religious person thinking anything *else*.

      My stereotype about your religious background and ones like it (perhaps extending to the whole Violet realm) is that they tend to be rather antinationalist, so the particular line Scott talks about is hitting another group altogether – am I wrong here?

      • Irenist says:

        I think you’re exactly right, Oligopsony.

      • eqdw says:

        > My stereotype about your religious background and ones like it (perhaps extending to the whole Violet realm) is that they tend to be rather antinationalist, so the particular line Scott talks about is hitting another group altogether – am I wrong here?

        Oh, there’s no doubt that Scott is not talking to my religious background. As many other commentators like to point out: a lot of his commentary is subtlely US-centric, and I wouldn’t expect Canadian religiousity to cleanly slot into the US Christian Conservative narratives.

        Additionally, Mennonites are fringe even by religious standards, so I’m used to a lot of their views not being represented by the mainstream.

        I was really just trying to highlight that there is at least one group of people who doesn’t think it is ridiculous to draw that link between patriotism (in this case to a cultural group rather than a state) and environmentalism. Scott’s commentary implied that he thought this was self-evidently silly

    • Deiseach says:

      I always have to stop and consciously flip the “red” and “blue” for ‘conservatives’ and ‘liberals’, given that on this side of the Atlantic, Red is Labour (well, more a washed-out pale pink these days) and Blue is Tories (Conservative Party).

      The mix of religion and politics is another thing altogether.

  42. red/blue says:

    Red blue tribe. Red blue pill? Matrix! Evil twin! Which is which? So many levels that I’ll be reading this over and over. Does Ebola care. Is there any point. I’m going to have an existential crisis when I can work out what that means.

  43. Roe says:

    Two of Ross Douthat’s latest columns point to an interesting counter-example where conservative & liberal values have aligned behind the same law, but for different reasons: California’s “Yes means yes.”

    Liberals like it for the obvious reasons, conservatives like it because they think it will scare men away from being promiscuous and into long-term relationships.

    • Nornagest says:

      Nice illustration of the “bipartisan == stupid and evil” theory.

    • call_me_aka says:

      You make it sound like a baptists-and-bootleggers sort of thesis. I read those columns as pointing out that liberal rhetoric on this issue sounds an awful lot like conservative rhetoric on other issues (law as moral prescription, etc.) and so let’s stop talking about conservatives as the only ones “forcing their beliefs” on others.

      • Roe says:

        I did over-simplify to make the point (Douthat points out liberals are divided amongst themselves) – and I kind of took it as writ that both tribes try to use legislation to enforce their morality (liberals on gun laws, for instance).

        Douthat’s conclusion (in the second article) was to speculate that both tribes were probably wrong about what knock-on effects the law would have, and that it’s probably going to make things worse.

    • Jaskologist says:

      I don’t think there’s enough evidence here to claim an actual alignment. Something passing in California tells us only that Blues support it; we can’t extrapolate to Reds from it. Are any red states looking to pass a similar bill?

      This is an imperfect barometer, but a quick National Review search gives articles by three different people opposed to it:
      “This is a misguided attempt to micromanage sex, and an insult to both men and women.”
      “California sexual misconduct bill creates a consent muddle.”
      “An Enabling Act for the Salem Rape Culture Trials.” (this one really, really hates it)

      Until I see some conservative coming out in favor of it, this looks like a case of imagining what a conservative in your head would do rather than listening to real ones.

  44. In a strange coincidence, at least one widely-read blogger comes out in favor of bullying gross nerds.

    • Nornagest says:

      That reads as satire or sarcasm to me, although I have no idea who this person is and might be missing some context.

      • veronica d says:

        Right now people on my side are either angry, frightened, or both. Many of them are saying dumb things. Some of those things are clearly meant as hyperbole, which maybe makes them okay, maybe not. Pick your poison. But I hope that folks can take a deep breath and realize, this is not a good time.

      • veronica d says:

        Oh, and he is the guy from ValleyWag, so yeah, statements like that are a big problem.

        • Nornagest says:

          ValleyWag… oh, that thing. Probably not sarcasm, then.

          Well, that’s 0 for 1 for the principle of charity.

          • veronica d says:

            Well, I love ValleyWag. But then, I work for one of their favorite targets. So it’s a perverse pleasure.

      • memeticengineer says:

        It’s not sarcasm. His history of written output is a history of hating “privileged” gross nerds in the name of SJ.

        • veronica d says:

          Well, his main target seems to be arrogant jackasses in Silicon Valley, who seem fine targets to me. I don’t cry much when when he takes shots at (for example) Paul Graham.

          His problem is he shows no discernment. He is a broken clock, right more than twice a day only because the Valley is thick with jerks.

          • memeticengineer says:

            I believe there are people who are in the first place in favor of social justice goals, and stomping on nerds is just collateral damage. But Sam Biddle shows every sign of being the opposite – SJ is the trendy pretext for his hatred for nerds.

            Consider his whole-hearted support for the anti-commuter-bus campaign, where the brunt of hatred and mockery is faced not by the elite billionaire puppet masters of Silicon Valley, but by everyday working nerds trying to take a bus to work. Even when Valleyway trains its fire on the elite, when a guy in New York from a money family bashes Silicon Valley folk for having money and using it, it doesn’t come off as a critique of the upper class from the working class. Instead it sounds like an indictment of those gauche nouveau riche for lacking the class and elegance of old money.

            Paul Carr’s takedown explains it pretty well.

            Also: targeting “arrogant jackasses in Silicon Valley” comes off very differently when it’s a group policing its own excesses, and when it is an attack on leaders of the outgroup. Paul Graham has doubtless said some jerky things, but I’m not ok with Sam Biddle using him as fuel for his anti-nerd jihad.

          • Anonymous says:

            Why is Paul Graham a jerk. I have no real knowledge of Paul Graham beyond the essays on his blog. But for the most part his essays gave me the impression he was an ok fellow.

            I know he is part of running Hacker News and Y Combinator and maybe he is an asshole in that capacity?

          • eqdw says:

            @memetic:

            Paull Carr’s article was why I did what I talked about in this article. I kept reading that, and wanting to know what he was talking about, but resenting constantly clicking through to VW articles

          • veronica d says:

            I dunno. The bus thing seems more like a proxy fight over gentrification. I’m not sure if I’d go from there to “anti nerd” jihad.

            Which is to say, Biddle is relentlessly anti-brogrammer, and anti-smug-VC, on and on — he skewers SV culture in many ways it deserves. On the other hand, I’m a tech nerd. I work for SV big-tech. But still, I don’t feel targeted by him. And I’ve ridden those busses. (Sometimes. I’m an East Coast gal, but from time to time I visit central command.)

            Anyway, Biddle is not the hill I’m going to die on. That tweet was clearly messed up and I do think he has problems.

          • Anonymous says:

            Biddle is anti-brogrammer? Really? Isn’t he anti-(complaining about brogrammers) on the grounds that they don’t exist?

          • memeticengineer says:

            Sam Biddle’s attacks against “brogrammers” seem to be that they’re just dorky nerds, not cool like real bros. Also that, unlike actual bros, sometimes they are not even white. (Seriously, read the article).

            Here’s his words about *real* bros: “Sometimes they’ll talk playfully about sluts, or hedge funds, or cool ties—at their occasional silliest, the perfect, shimmering hybrid of the southern boor and the northern prig. Really, they’re benign. Friendly guys and very well educated, but it’s highly unlikely that they’ll end up working on the next app you download.”

            Does this sound like a guy who cares more about social justice than hating nerds? ~Don’t worry, no gross app development here, we’re just benign guys talking about sluts.~

            He’s literally just a bro using SJ as a pretext to hate on nerds. It’s the most parsimonious explanation for the evidence. I know you said he’s not your hill to die on, so I feel bad piling on, but I think Blue Tribe folk should realize that Sam Biddle is not actually on your side.

          • veronica d says:

            @anonymous — Not that I know of, but then I’m just a casual reader of ValleyWag. But that’s not the impression I get.

            Have a link where he suggests that?

            (Edit: this was crossposted w/ memeticengineer, in case that’s not obvious.)

          • a person says:

            Sam Biddle’s attacks against “brogrammers” seem to be that they’re just dorky nerds, not cool like real bros. Also that, unlike actual bros, sometimes they are not even white. (Seriously, read the article).

            Holy shit, I cannot believe someone actually got paid for writing this. This is a new low for shitty Gawker articles.

            This guy seems to only be able to view the world in broad, sweeping, utterly reducing stereotypes. Proof that Malcolm is not a “bro” includes that he is hard working (?), is wearing a flannel shirt (??), was excited about “having recently added a Pinterest button to Behance” (???), and that a woman who he works with “isn’t forced to wear a tube top or dance on a couch at work” (???????).

            This reads like some sort of alternate universe leftist Heartiste, only without the insight.

            He’s literally just a bro using SJ as a pretext to hate on nerds. It’s the most parsimonious explanation for the evidence.

            This seems like the opposite of what’s going on in that article? He identifies himself as a nerd a few times and heaps massive amounts of scorn onto bros.

          • no one special says:

            The “brogrammer” concept is designed to allow the transfer of scorn from “bros” onto nerds. It allows those who use it to blame any given nerd for all the excesses of “bro” culture.

            I’ve never met a brogrammer; Only an ocean of nerds. But I live in the midwest; Maybe silly valley is full of them. I’ve never seen one though.

          • veronica d says:

            I’ve definitely met brogrammers, which is a term that seems to apply to men who are nerds in one sense, but in another sense who exhibit a callous hyper-masculinity, which can be quite hostile to we non-bros (and specifically quite hostile to women).

            The myth is that they congregate among like-minded peers, mostly in the startup space. I don’t know. I’ve only worked for one startup in recent years, and it was not bro-ish at all. On the other hand, I have a couple woman friends at startups. They complain of the bro-zone.

            Anyway, I suspect there is a certain “eye of the beholder” facet to this.

          • no one special says:

            I’ve definitely met brogrammers…

            Huh. Update applied.

            It would be interesting to get a map of where they roost, either geographic or topical. (or economic?)

          • memeticengineer says:

            On brogrammers themselves:

            They seem to exist, but also seem to be relatively rare. I’ve occasionally seen specific people online self-describe as brogrammers but never met one in real life. I have also seen startup hiring pitches that feature brogrammer-ness, apparently without irony.

            Most tech and/or folks seem to disdain them. So do I. Nerd culture has enough problematic aspects without throwing in a chewy swirl of bro culture.

          • veronica d says:

            @memeticengineer — I wonder how much of this belief is propped up by the bad startup pitches, compared to the number of actual brogrammers in the world. Cuz yeah, I see the ads more than I see the brogrammers.

            Also, I think that a lot of women working in tech have to deal with a kind of constant, low-grade sexism, like this. That guy might be a perfectly decent fellow — I dunno — but that presentation did not go over well with women (to say the least).

            Thing is, I bet a lot of feminist would describe that guy as a “brogrammer”, cuz that is the term they have available to describe sexist men in software, especially those who humblebrag about their hot but demanding girlfriends. On the other hand, a lot of men would probably see that guy as just “Jonathan who works on the build system.”

          • Tab Atkins says:

            I have also met “brogrammers”. In the Silicon Valley scene, they seem more concentrated in startups – I don’t see them often at Google, but I may be mistaking them for marketing folk.

            But I’ve definitely partied with people who satisfy the stereotype.

          • MugaSofer says:

            >This reads like some sort of alternate universe leftist Heartiste, only without the insight.

            Offtopic: does anyone have links to this claimed “insight”? I keep hearing about it …

            Tried looking for it a few times, but he’s written a lot of stuff and all of it makes me want to punch him.

    • eqdw says:

      It’s not the first time he’s made shitty comments about me. Although your link is a little bit less personal than last time.

      Note to self: don’t get drunk and pull stupid publicity stunts

  45. veronica d says:

    On this

    I have recently met some other feminists who instead use a narrative which views “nerds” as an “alternative gender performance”, ie in the case of men they reject the usual masculine pursuits of sports and fraternities and they have characteristics that violate normative beauty standards (like “no neckbeards”). Thus, people trying to attack nerds is a subcategory of “people trying to enforce gender performance”, and nerds should join with queer people, women, and other people who have an interest in promoting tolerance of alternative gender performances in order to fight for their mutual right to be left alone and accepted.

    I would love to see both feminists and nerds gravitate to this understanding. I would love to see feminists accept it. I would love to see nerds embrace it. (I say this as a female feminist nerd.)

    But I don’t see how to get there from here. And sure, partly that is because the Jezebels of the world will keep throwing bombs. Fine. But there is another side. The problem is this: it does not describe all nerds, not hardly. For many male nerds, it is not that they don’t want to perform masculinity. In fact, they want to very much. There problem is that they perform it poorly. So you get the red pill and fedoras and hyper-masculine first-person shooters and much raw woman-hating.

    Which, look, the woman-hating I experience from nerdy men on the Internet is damn relentless.

    So both of these men exist, the kind-hearted, femme-boy nerd just looking for a break, and the raving -chan troll who wants to explain to me what my genitals smell like.

    So, anyway, I think I can tell the difference and I really, really, really try to get it right. But it is a completely toxic and broken social situation.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      This is probably naive, but I keep returning to the idea of writing up a document of things we can all agree on–things like ‘having hair on your neck is not, in itself, a crime’ and ‘no one is obligated to be attracted to anyone’–that we could use as a Schelling point to condemn the bad nerds and not the good nerds, and condemn the condemnation of good nerds and not the condemnation of bad nerds.

      • veronica d says:

        Yeah.

        Thing is, right now my side will have none of it. Which sucks a lot.

        Personally I suspect this is for not-good reasons, that some people actually enjoy mocking nerds. It feels good to kick those beneath you.

        (Remember the “NiceGuys of OK Cupid” thing? Did you ever notice how much people loved passing around pictures of fat, hapless nerds, as if those guys were the worst misogynists on OK Cupid.)

        (I did it also. Most of us did. I’m not proud.)

        So, anyway, baby steps. I do what I can.

        • no one special says:

          Can I just say thanks for existing and speaking? My echosphere is full of the worst feminism-as-a-service types ginning up outrage, and it’s easy to forget that feminism and empathy are not mutually exclusive.

          You’ve provided a nice counter-example, while still clearly being an orthodox feminist, and sometimes I need the reminder that you exist.

        • Zorgon says:

          Likewise, thank you. Feminists who will admit to their movement’s painful tendency to “kick down” are rarer than hen’s teeth.

      • 27chaos says:

        socialrulesdrama.xkcd.jpg

    • Nornagest says:

      Truthfully, the gender performance theory of nerddom reads to me more as “when all you have is a hammer” thinking then as genuine insight; it’s the kind of thing you’d come up with when you’ve started from a highly prescriptive gender binary covering the entire spectrum of human interaction and need to explain the existence of (male) nerds in that light. It is more compassionate than pointing to random 4Chan trolls and assuming that they represent nerds at large, and that’s good, but it only goes so far.

      “Alternative gender performance” is certainly one of the things that can contribute to guys being pushed into nerd culture in school, but it’s not the only one. There are lots of other things that can do it: being too awkward, too studious, interested in the wrong things or with the wrong intensity. Not all of these are gendered issues, as evidenced by the fact that girls and women do sometimes get called geeks or nerds for much the same reasons that boys and men do. (And not everyone that gets called a nerd in school grows up to partake in nerd culture, of course, but we can ignore those that don’t.)

      The experience that male nerds share, therefore, isn’t an alternative approach to masculinity: it’s exclusion from non-nerdy social circles, including those that would normally lead to early experimentation with sex and romance. (I don’t know why young nerds don’t date within nerdy circles; adult nerds do, though the gender ratio’s often badly skewed. Maybe it’s just that peer pressure isn’t pushing them to break gender-segregated clique lines.)

      That’s pretty fundamental to the nerd identity. The reaction to it isn’t. Some nerds decide that the wider culture’s gender and sexuality norms don’t work for them, and look for alternatives; the kink scene’s full of these, for example. Others blame the beneficiaries of those norms: that’s how you get /r/TheRedPill. A lot just withdraw. I don’t think the nerd culture as a whole prescribes any particular approach to gender and sexual expression, though: indeed I think a lot of its problems come from the fact that it doesn’t have a cultural handle on gender and sexual expression.

      It’s a messed-up scene in a lot of ways. But I don’t think you can call it misogynist or queer (if I may use that word this loosely), even though it contains prominent streaks of both.

      • veronica d says:

        +1

      • Tab Atkins says:

        (I don’t know why young nerds don’t date within nerdy circles; adult nerds do, though the gender ratio’s often badly skewed. Maybe it’s just that peer pressure isn’t pushing them to break gender-segregated clique lines.)

        Got it in one, at least in my experience and what I saw of my social circle when I was young. All girls were mysterious and hard to understand, nerdy girls included, and though there’s a lot of angsting about the lack of dating, there really isn’t much in the way of direct social pressure to “go for it” and ask people out.

        There are a bunch of associated cultural factors, too: introversion, lack of date-worthy social gatherings, etc. I helped myself a lot by attending more concerts, because I was lucky enough to have to decent teen-centered small concert venue nearby that often drew mid-level bands that were popular among me and my peers.

        queer (if I may use that word this loosely)

        Yeah, you’re using it correctly. It’s being reclaimed as a generic “not cishet-normative” disclaimer these days, due to the unsustainable explosion of letters to add to the LGBTXYZ acronym-fest.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        +1. In particular, as a self-identified male nerd, I’ve always felt much farther from femininity than from masculinity. I’ve actually toyed with the idea that my nerdiness is a form of hypermasculinity; concern for aesthetics and popularity is stereotypically feminine, and I cared about these less than the bros. This fit nicely with the autism-spectrum theory of nerddom.
        (N.B. a linguistics study I participated in actually identified my speech as ‘hypermasculine’)

      • Doug S. says:

        Steve Urkel and Screech Powers were both representatives of a specifically male archetype… (Are these TV shows too old to reference and assume everyone gets it?)

      • Zorgon says:

        Definitely agreed about the early experimentation with romance part.

        Something I remember strongly from the transition from school to university was the sudden explosion of potential available partners within the “nerdy” circles I preferred. I don’t know what it is that specifically keeps “nerdy” school cliques quite so separated. For a long time I thought that “nerd” women simply lacked the strong social norm regarding finding a boyfriend that mainstream teen girls had, but from talking to a large number of them since then I’ve learned that wasn’t the case at all – the pressure to pair off was just as strong for them as it was for us. That I was able to construct such a theory just illustrates how isolated we were from one another.

        My current theory is that nerd culture at a school level is forced by its highly artificial context to remain atomised and can’t form a coherent subculture in the way it does later in life. Once it does, nerds start dating nerds with considerable fervour.

      • LTP says:

        I think the reason a lot of nerds don’t date other nerds is that they just don’t know many or any nerds of their desired gender. IME, it’s very common for nerds to have no friends in real life, or to only have 1-3 close buddies but otherwise no social life off the internet.

        Also, as a non-kinky nerd, I really envy the communities set up for nerdy kinksters. I wish there were vanilla equivalents.

    • Bugmaster says:

      FWIW, I don’t think that those “raving -chan trolls” are necessarily motivated by their hatred of women (though, human diversity being what it is, some probably are). Instead, I think they are motivated by their desire to hurt someone in general — and they are very good at figuring out the optimal way to hurt someone. So, if you’re a woman, they will focus on your genitals. If you’re a man, it will also be your genitals, just a different set of them. If you’re gay, it will be your sex life. If you’re disabled, it will be your disability. If you’re blonde, it will be your hair color… and so on and so forth. If they can’t figure it out on the first pass, they will keep dictionary-attacking all of your attributes until something finally makes you snap.

      Such people are probably relatively rare (as a fraction of overall population), so in real life you’re unlikely to encounter them. However, the Internet provides an easy mechanism for concentrating all of them together in one place, so they seem a lot more numerous than they really are.

      That just my unsubstantiated hypothesis, anyway.

      • a person says:

        I really really disagree with this. Out of curiosity, how often do you actually go on 4chan? From what I’ve seen, most of the boards are genuine hives of misogyny. 4chan hates everything to an extent, but they REALLY hate women, and despise feminism. They also will frequently explicitly state that their hate from women stems from their lack of romantic success. I wish I had some choice screencaps to show you, this is the best I can do for now.

        • no one special says:

          The only thing they hate more than women… is themselves.

          If this is a representative example, I just feel sorry for them.

          • veronica d says:

            It’s a very toxic subculture, very destructive. This stuff terrifies women, particularly public figures. Which feeds back on geeky men. Which feeds back again.

            Yeesh.

            Look, I have to work hard not to get sucked into this cycle. It would be easy. My Twitter feed is full of links like these. Basically, it’s pretty hard to be an online feminist these days and not encounter this stuff constantly.

            And when it is not us publishing the links, it’s one of these guys jumping into our mentions. My Twitter block list is long.

            The RedPill is one of the worst mind-viruses to hit geeky men.

        • Tentative theory, based on little information: What’s really going on is a war on empathy, and women symbolize empathy.

        • Anonymous says:

          You are seriously underestimating how huge (and as it follows, diverse) 4chan is. Tens of millions of people diverse. As in replace “4chan” with “Australia” to realize the scope of your generalization.

          Futhermore, there’s no meritocracy of opinions so you’ll see everything, not just the one popular opinion.

          As such you’ll see people saying “everyone on 4chan likes x” and someone saying “everyone on 4chan hates x”. It’s a haven for confirmation bias and revisionism.

          Though I will agree with misogyny being overrepresented.

          • Matthew says:

            As in replace “4chan” with “Australia” to realize the scope of your generalization.

            4chan is, no doubt, a diverse place. But this is still a misleading analogy. Most of the community that makes up Australia are there by accident of birth; everyone on 4chan chooses to associate with 4chan. In almost every meaningful sense (other than nationality), the population of Australia will be more diverse than the population of 4chan.

          • Anonymous says:

            truly, I exaggerate

            nonetheless it seems like an idea enviable to the boldest of trolls to call a population of that size misogynist or anything else for that matter. I seem to recall a blog post about “weak men” that could seem to explain why it just might cause marxists and neoreactionaries to put aside their differences to flame someone on twitter.

          • a person says:

            Obviously not every single 4chan user is a misogynist but

            1. There are enough misogynists on 4chan that the overwhelming impression that one gathers when one browses the site is that the community is misogynistic

            2. I have no doubt that when 4chan users seem to rally around an anti-feminist cause, most of the vocal ones are genuinely doing so due to their hatred of feminism.

          • suntzuanime says:

            “Hatred of feminism” is not the same as “hatred of women”. Please don’t equivocate between the two.

          • Tab Atkins says:

            You can draw a distinction between the two, but in practice they end up looking remarkably similar.

            (Intellectual hatred of straw feminism or Tumblrism, as often shows up here, is only distantly related to the “hatred of feminism” that most people end up experiencing, at least in my experience. It’s possible you live in a more enlightened world where people have rational arguments about feminism over snifters of bourbon. If so, I envy you and your lack of terrible, hurtful namecalling, and graphic, terrifying violence and death threats.)

          • suntzuanime says:

            “‘Hatred of feminism’ is not the same as ‘hatred of women'” is not the same as “‘hatred of feminism is always polite and coldbloodedly intellectual”. Please don’t equivocate between the two.

          • Zorgon says:

            Hatred of women can very easily be a cause of hatred of feminism.

            Unfortunately, the use of “hatred of women” as a defence against criticism of feminism is not actually connected to whether that criticism is driven by hatred of women (or even hatred of feminism). The logic goes:

            – Feminism seeks to help women.
            -> Feminism is good for women.
            -> Things that challenge feminism are bad for women/hurt women.
            -> Wanting to challenge feminism must be based on wanting to hurt women.

            It’s not quite superweapon-level, but it’s close.

          • Tab Atkins says:

            -> Wanting to challenge feminism must be based on wanting to hurt women.

            It’s not quite superweapon-level, but it’s close.

            Yeah, that sort of narrative definitely happen, and it sucks. :/ Still true for at some people, unfortunately. SOCIETY IS HARD.

    • 27chaos says:

      I don’t want that understanding to become popular because I don’t want nerdiness to be viewed as an aspect of my gender or my beliefs about gender. If being nerdy is argued by feminists to be a good thing, nerds will become less popular due to their association with the unpopular feminists.

      I don’t even like the idea of nerdiness, to be honest. Identity claims like that are very confining because other people will treat you differently based on them and because you’ll internalize them and treat yourself differently.

      • Male-presenting nerds are already looked down on to a significant extent because they don’t exemplify standard ideals about what men should look like, act like, etc.; and likewise for female-presenting nerds falling short of ideals about how woman should look and act. Recognizing that fact doesn’t mean that nerdiness is intrinsically gender-ish; knitting and football have different gender associations we shouldn’t lie to ourselves about, but if I like knitting that doesn’t mean I have to identify as ‘a man, but one who likes knitting’. Knitting is not an aspect of my gender, but people’s perceptions cause it to be a gendered activity.

        • Lesser Bull says:

          Sorta, but it’s more that nerds are deficient on some standards that cut across the sexes. For instance, the stereotype that nerds don’t know how to dress well or groom themselves. The sex stereotype is that fashion and grooming is a stereotypically female domain, so in a way nerds are being faulted for presenting as too male.

    • vV_Vv says:

      It seems that this idea of male nerds as men who defy traditional gender norms of masculinity is a quirk of modern American culture.

      Historically, the ideas of masculinity in the Western culture had a tension between the Apollonian (rationality, self-control, moderation) and the Dionysian (emotion, excess, ostentatiousness).

      Both aspects were considered important for a well-rounded man, although the preferred balance varied over the times and places.
      (I suppose that similar concepts also existed in non-Western cultures, for instance the Samurai were supposed to be well-educated and level-headed).

      It seems that modern American culture has come to identify normative masculinity with the Dionysian (e.g., jocks, gangstas) while deploring the Apollonian (nerds).

      • Tab Atkins says:

        Not really. The Apollonian aspect is embodied by the stoic, squared jawed Renaissance man, the guy who can coolly solve problems and loves his mother.

        Nerds hit an aspect of this, but they’re not central in it, imo.

      • a person says:

        It seems that modern American culture has come to identify normative masculinity with the Dionysian (e.g., jocks, gangstas) while deploring the Apollonian (nerds).

        You really think that society celebrates arrogant obnoxious dudes and “deplores” level-headed, intelligent men? Perhaps if by modern American culture you mean the ecosystem of a middle school.

        For examples:

        * Look at how much people hate the Jersey Shore guys, and the intense negative stereotype surrounding it and brands like Ed Hardy or Affliction.

        * In superhero movies like Spiderman, Batman, and Iron Man we admire the hero at least partially for their intelligence and rationality.

        * The negative reception to NFL player Richard Sherman’s outburst a year or so ago shows that even among “jocks” we like them to composed and put-together.

        Brash, argumentative guys probably are considered highly masculine because they are in fact highly masculine. High testosterone usually correlates to this type of ostentatious behavior.

  46. JohnMcG says:

    I think one more factor in the politicization is that Ebola is that the incentives drive the parties.

    For Republicans, it’s win-win. If Obama does put in a quarantine, he’ll be blamed for all the hassles that generates. If he doesn’t and Ebola spreads, he can be blamed. If he doesn’t and Ebola fades, nobody will remember. It’s not as if Democrats will be able to brag about how they did nothing and things turned out OK.

    • DanielLC says:

      Don’t Republicans brag about how Reagan did nothing and the economy turned out okay?

      • Jaskologist says:

        No, they brag that he cut taxes.

        • cassander says:

          reagan is a great example of both narratives getting it wrong. red and blue both massively exaggerated the actual amount of tax cutting reagan did. Taxes in 1979 were 18% of GDP, in 1989, they were 17.8% of GDP.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Taxes have hovered around the same percentage of GDP for the past 60 years. That doesn’t mean that significant changes haven’t been made to tax rates in that time.

          • cassander says:

            Did you really just say that “the overall tax rate hasn’t changed significantly, that doesn’t mean the the overall tax rate hasn’t changed significantly”? marginal rates have changed, sure, but marginal rates are meaningless on their own.

          • 27chaos says:

            Overall vs specific, I think?

          • Alex Godofsky says:

            > marginal rates have changed, sure, but marginal rates are meaningless on their own.

            Actually, marginal tax rates are the most important.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I said that tax rates are not the same thing as tax receipts (which are also not the same thing as tax receipts as % of GDP), because they aren’t. In fact, the standard Reaganomics claim is that you can lower tax rates without lowering receipts by the same amount (and possibly even raising them). That’s whole idea of the Laffer Curve.

  47. a person says:

    Given the narratives of the blue and red tribes as described, does anyone feel like the parties should have opposite stances on gun control?

    Imagine this:

    Red – “Poor people in inner cities, gang members, drug-addicts, and teens who consume too much violent media are running around rampant with firearms, endangering public safety. Public officials who are soft on crime refuse to do anything about this epidemic.”

    Blue – “The reds are bigoted and think poor people can’t be trusted with firearms. In reality, however, things usually work itself out. Most people are good people, which means that the average firearm is more likely to prevent a crime than it is to cause one. These communities are more self-policing than we think.”

    • no one special says:

      I recall that the NRA was actually pro-gun control when the Black Panthers were open carrying.

      • Patrick says:

        …yup. And modern proponents of gun ownership still haven’t forgiven the Black Panthers. Which is about all you need to know about them, really. Every time they talk about the need for an armed public to defend “our rights,” remember that they still haven’t forgiven the Black Panthers for doing exactly what they say is necessary, under far more extreme circumstances, and remember that people like me aren’t in the “our” who’s rights are to be protected by the armed public.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Does it make sense to assign agency to the NRA?

        The NRA supported a 1930s gun control bill. I don’t know if it supported the 1967 Mulford Act, aimed at the Black Panthers. But its reversal did not wait for the Panthers to go away. It was divided over the 1968 federal gun control bill, which it did help write, eliminating most of the provisions. The faction that opposed the enacted provisions spent the next decade taking over the NRA, creating the organization that we know today

        The NRA flipped, but the individuals composing it did not. And maybe neither did Reds. The NRA was founded in 1871 by rural northerners. Today it it made up of rural southerners. I don’t know when that changed.

    • Dude Man says:

      Keep in mind that there is a large cultural component to the red and blue tribes, and guns are an important in the rural areas of America.

    • blacktrance says:

      There are two reasons why this doesn’t happen. First, the typical (or stereotypical) Red likes being able to have guns and doesn’t live in close proximity to poor people in inner cities, so the Reds’ stance is switched. Second, Blues put more stock in the authority of government institutions, e.g. “Why do people need guns to defend themselves when we have the police?” or “Killing people to defend yourself is barbaric. We need better education and social services to prevent crime in the first place”.

      The above Red and Blue arguments align better with Communitarian vs Libertarian.

    • cassander says:

      you could say the same thing about almost any issue. In the 60s the kennedy and johnson admissions pushed a supply side tax cuts with the promise that cutting taxes would result in increased revenues. why? to pay for the social programs they wanted to pass. they were opposed by the right (not the republicans, the right) for reasons of economy, a right that had just spent the 50s fighting a losing battle against increased military spending. “my body, my choice!” is a hell of a lot more natural coming out of red mouths than blue. Team red vs. team blue is not about policy preferences, it is about the motivations behind those preferences.

      • 27chaos says:

        Let’s play Anti-politics! This exercise will increase our willingness to think outside conventional paradigms. Take the values and assumptions of one group and use them to support policies they’d more commonly oppose. Or use total randomization for an even odder experience!

        • Sam Rosen says:

          I’ll start:

          Gay Marriage: We need to stop promiscuity of all sexual orientations and encourage The Family.

          Military Spending: The federal government needs to be smaller and less powerful. Balance the budget!

          Military intervention: It’s racist to care less about Rwandans than white Americans.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            Pollution: His smoke has blown across my property line.

            UBI: Means testing wastes man power; trim those bureaucrats.

            Closed borders: Allowing immigration sends the message that only a honky country can help you.

          • Salem says:

            Some of these are not anti-politics, they are widely held on the right (although not necessarily majority positions).

            Your position on gay marriage is the position of the Conservative Party in the UK (and why they legalised gay marriage), and your position on US military spending is the “paleocon” or “Old Right” one in the US.

          • Illuminati Initiate says:

            I’ve actually heard some LGBT activists argue something like this: the gay marriage campaign has been problematic because it essentially operates by making gay people seem more like they are conforming to sexual norms so that they are more socially acceptable, and venerates marriage over other relationships styles, so it throws flamboyant, promiscuous and polyamorous people under the bus.

            I think they are probably correct to some extent.

            Edit: AJD already pointed this out below in response to blacktrance.

        • Salem says:

          Unborn children are the weakest and most vulnerable among us. This glibertarian nonsense of self-ownership neglects the fact that we aren’t isolated individuals, we are part of a community, with shared responsibilities to each other, not just fixed and arbitrary rights. As currently exercised, abortion is the exercise of private and arbitrary power and gender privilege – a reactionary custom, and everything we oppose. Those who try to justify it on the grounds that the unborn “aren’t fully human” are disgusting reactionaries much like those who justified slavery against African-Americans on similar “reasoning.” We are supposed to be forever widening our ambit of moral concern to include more than just straight, white, cisgender, adult males; it is long past time that the countervailing force of government stepped in to prevent society’s private oppression of the unborn. Abortion should be illegal – or if legal, heavily regulated, allowed only on the agreement of both parents, and the approval of a government expert certifying that the situation is an appropriate one.

          • Tab Atkins says:

            This one scared me with its plausibility. 🙁

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            As for a Rightwing argument for abortion: My body is my property; no one can tell me what to do with it or in it. When and how I evict a trespasser is up to me. Parasites have no rights. What a fetus ‘is’ is a matter of my individual opinion. I have no responsibility to others, human or not, born or not. The only right involved is my Constitutional”right of privacy” to control my own body — so says the Supreme Court.

            Hm. That’s a pro-abortion argument we leftists are using already.

          • MugaSofer says:

            I want to join a mirror-universe political party 🙁

          • Irenist says:

            @Salem: As you might expect, your comment above basically IS a Violet-style argument against abortion. We really think much of what you just wrote. Red beliefs, blue mores.

        • no one special says:

          Public Broadcasting: Subsidizing public broadcasting causes a news monoculture; We should end that subsidy to have a greater diversity in news broadcasting, allowing underserved groups to have news broadcasts that target their interests.

          Affirmative Action: Affirmative action programs single our racial minorities and “mark” them, making them the targets of harassment. We should end those programs to improve the social circumstances of minority students.

        • blacktrance says:

          same-sex marriage: Government recognition of same-sex unions encourages gays to arrange themselves in (previously exclusively heterosexual) patriarchal families and suppresses truly alternative lifestyles, as well as decouples one specific gay right from other more important LGBTQ issues. Instead of radically dismantling current society, same-sex marriage threatens to absorb homosexual people into it.

          immigration: Immigrants, especially from third-world countries, tend to hold illiberal views, and their presence reduces natives’ support for the welfare state. To preserve progressivism at home, we have to prevent the importation of those who would vote to dismantle it.

          free markets: Freedom of association liberates low-status people and others who are suffering from discrimination by reducing the importance of social capital, and freeing them from having to justify their desires to the socially powerful. Being able to buy something with money instead of having to ask for permission disproportionately helps disadvantaged people. Social conservatives afraid of “crass materialism” have a point – for example, if a transsexual person can simply pay for a sex change surgery instead of having to wait for the procedure to be approved by government bureaucrats who tend to do what’s socially popular, they’re considerably freer and better off. Instead of having to deal with Authority (whether societal or political), people can simply trade value for value.

          • AJD says:

            Government recognition of same-sex unions encourages gays to arrange themselves in (previously exclusively heterosexual) patriarchal families and suppresses truly alternative lifestyles, as well as decouples one specific gay right from other more important LGBTQ issues. Instead of radically dismantling current society, same-sex marriage threatens to absorb homosexual people into it.

            This is pretty close to an actual non-rare left-wing argument.

          • Ken says:

            free markets: Freedom of association liberates low-status people and others who are suffering from discrimination by reducing the importance of social capital, and freeing them from having to justify their desires to the socially powerful. Being able to buy something with money instead of having to ask for permission disproportionately helps disadvantaged people. Social conservatives afraid of “crass materialism” have a point – for example, if a transsexual person can simply pay for a sex change surgery instead of having to wait for the procedure to be approved by government bureaucrats who tend to do what’s socially popular, they’re considerably freer and better off. Instead of having to deal with Authority (whether societal or political), people can simply trade value for value.

            This has long been one of my go-to arguments for free markets, and I’m surprised and disappointed that it has gotten very little traction over the years…

        • mayleaf says:

          GMOs:

          Blue Tribe: Socioeconomically disadvantaged people suffer the most from high food prices. Thanks to advancements in modern science, we can now grow safe, nutritious crops at minimal cost, which improves accessibility of healthy food to those who need it the most. The overwhelming majority of scientists agree that GM crops are safe; the entire “organic food” industry is a sham that caters to the privileged white upper class and keeps food prices high. Glorifying the purity of “organic” food while condemning more affordable options is little more than thinly veiled racism and classism.

          Red Tribe: Liberal scientists are determined to play God and tinker with the DNA of the very food we eat, without concern to the safety of their fellow Americans. Instead of adopting these potentially unsafe and toxic crops, we should stick with tried-and-true traditional methods of agriculture.

          …Put that way, it almost seems surprising that these aren’t the standard party positions.

          • Susebron says:

            Well, the Blue Tribe still has a lot of “nature” rhetoric, which is why the GMO thing isn’t a Blue universal, and I’m not sure how much the Red Tribe specifically supports GMOs.

          • blacktrance says:

            The Red Tribe is usually neutral on GMOs. It’s mostly a Grey vs Blue issue.

          • Anonymous says:

            What does it mean to be “neutral” on GMOs? No one is pushing them; it’s just choice vs banning GMOs. And why would someone push them, since they have won in the marketplace? I suppose that Reds might not have noticed the issue, but since it’s a farm issue, it seem rather unlikely.

          • blacktrance says:

            They don’t take a strong stance on it. They oppose GMO labeling because it’s regulation on business, but they don’t care about GMOs as such, as opposed to many Blues who are actively opposed to them. The Blues would march for a GMO ban, but the Reds wouldn’t march against one.

    • Lesser Bull says:

      You need to recall that Red and Blue aren’t just randomly assorted purely ideological coalitions. Red is rural, Blue is urban.

    • John Henry says:

      This whole thread is an excellent illustration of the incoherence (or at least increasing irrelevance) of the two primary tribal narratives, and the need for them to be replaced by the more consistent (or at least increasingly meaningful) Grey and Violet tribes.

      • Susebron says:

        Blues aren’t going away. Coherence may be another matter, but Grey is insufficiently Blue on certain issues to replace Blue, and Violet is unlikely to replace Red. I know less about the specific dynamics of Red (I know I should probably learn more in order to rationally engage, anyway), but I doubt that Violet is going to supplant them. Violets (from the descriptions I’ve seen) seem to be Blue on the issues which are still meaningful and will probably stay meaningful in the Red Tribe, but Red on the issues which matter less. Except theism, of course, but there are plenty of theistic blues.

      • nydwracu says:

        I hope not. Greys tend to come across like they’ve been run through a narrow band-pass filter, and my reaction to Violets would be the same as Marinetti’s reaction to his proto-Violets if they weren’t prone to occasional flashes of sanity in their struggle against the Blues.

        What I’d like to see is a recovery of what we Reds [sometimes like to imagine we] once were: gun-toting, beer-swilling rednecks with walls lined with bookshelves.

        I don’t know who our opposition would be. I can’t think of anything that would let me clearly pick a side in that circumstance, unless the Blues stick around.

  48. Ryan says:

    Another thing to consider with HBD chick is that women tend to take less kindly to coddling rapists than men do, more of a personal/empathetic connection to the victims.

    On global warming: Have you read Dan Kahan’s blog over at http://www.culturalcognition.net? It’s exactly what you’re talking about except a lot deeper on the subject.

    Here’s the unfortunate truth about your alternative narrative. If that was actually the narrative from the start, if global warming were presented as a red issue, about isolating the US from the world, making sure the filthy third worlders were never allowed to build coal plants and start defiling the atmosphere, waging the energy cold war with China, trying to get tariffs and embargoes on their goods, and so on:

    You’d lose the blue tribe. Well, more precisely, you’d have never had them from the start, and they’d grow into your enemy over time.

    Sorry, there’s no way out of this bind.

    If you want to deal with global warming, invent an economically viable fusion reactor. You have no other option.

  49. theLaplaceDemon says:

    “Another thing that sort of worked was tying things into the Red Tribe narrative, which they did through the two sentences “Being pro-environmental allows us to protect and preserve the American way of life. It is patriotic to conserve the country’s natural resources.” I can’t imagine anyone falling for this, but I guess some people did.”

    I have seen this in practice, in an individual case (not a group-wide thing). A fundraiser got a self-proclaimed Tea Party member to donate money to an environmental lobbying organization by selling it as “watchdog-ing those untrustworthy politicians so they don’t go back on their promises to protect our resources” or something like that.

  50. Jack LaSota says:

    Gah! You used Google result counts to make an argument! Google fakes them! It always reports orders of magnitude more than there actually are. Try flipping through the pages, 10 at a time. Usually it stops at a few hundred. (And the number that they report in the same place as the original changes).

    Edit: This post is a perfect example of the “Only say anything when you disagree” failure mode.

    • memeticengineer says:

      You’re right that the counts are faked (well, estimated). But the listed results remove near-duplicates (from spam blogs and content farms) more aggressively than the source for the estimated counts. So don’t assume the number of actual listed results is true either.

    • Anonymous says:

      Do you have a reason to believe that the opaque algorithms biases the comparison towards one side or the other? Do you have a better idea than google counts? If no and no, then no problem.

  51. Matthew O says:

    Apparently France has had its own tribal wars going on for more than a century. This short little snippet is a fascinating read, and the podcast even more so if you get a chance to listen to it:
    http://newbooksinhistory.com/2010/06/17/ruth-harris-dreyfus-politics-emotion-and-the-scandal-of-the-century/

  52. Matthew says:

    Reading this comment and those above it has led me to a realization that I hadn’t quite been able to formulate the last time the subject came up.

    Previously, we’ve had a discussion of “cis by default” vs. “viscerally invested in one’s sex/gender” (where I came down as the apparently rare individual here clearly in the second category).

    What I notice reading many of the discussions about nerds here is that for some of you, nerd actually seems to be an affirmative identity you’re really invested in. Whereas, while descriptively I am clearly a nerd (love board games, science fiction, learning for its own sake, elegant math problems, and also am socially anxious), I’m not emotionally invested in the category. I’m “nerd by default.”

    I think this is why I have trouble wrapping my head around discussions of “nerd culture” — for me, nerdiness is, a) a collection of traits, of which any given nerd may not possess the full set, and b)a category imposed from outside by social exclusion. I understand the fact that some nerd/geek qualities are now higher status and more mainstream than they used to be, but it’s still hard for me to understand people waving the nerd banner at the ramparts. Like I said, some of us are just nerd by default.

    • blacktrance says:

      I’m “nerd by default” but I’m still invested in nerd culture because the whole of nerd interests is greater than the sum of its parts. Its various aspects (interests, forms of interaction, etc) feed each other in a way that causes them to be more appealing together than separately.

    • Nornagest says:

      nerd actually seems to be an affirmative identity you’re really invested in

      There was a bit of this in the comment you linked, but I might as well go into more detail: “nerd”/”geek”/etc. has both descriptive and normative senses. You can be a nerd descriptively without identifying as such. You can even enjoy media aimed at the nerd culture (American comics post-1990 or thereabouts, for example) without identifying with it.

      There’s definitely a culture, though, and not just because some kinds of nerdiness are in some sense cool now. (Actually, I think that’s almost entirely unrelated.) Like most identities, though, it’s not something you consciously choose to invest yourself in. More on this later, maybe.

      Personally, I’m descriptively a nerd but I have serious problems with the culture. It’s in some ways a culture I grew up in, though, so I can’t claim to be entirely outside of it. Awkward place to be, to be honest.

    • TGGP says:

      I’m also quite nerdy without having any investment in “nerd culture”.

    • veronica d says:

      Well, I was at a group event last night, and “the nerds” were a pretty clear category among the women there. And it mattered, regardless of whether I wanted it to matter. And in fact, some of the non-nerd women there were pretty far into “Mean Girls” space, which — I find them entertaining. They can throw some heavy shade and it can be fun to watch. But they are not kind, and I do not trust them. The nerd gals, on the other hand, were mostly pretty chill and we kinda “got” each other.

      So, short version, identities are not arbitrary. There are real social reasons they emerge. They matter.

      (Fun story, one of the women is a kinda-halfway-notable feminist blogger. And the difference between what she writes and how she acts is — well — it surprises me. I agree with what she writes. I am entertained by her in-person antics. But golly the disconnect.)

  53. Thomas says:

    > If I were in charge of convincing the Red Tribe to line up behind fighting global warming, here’s what I’d say:

    D…do we have permission to try and spread this on social media seriously? I’m not the most versed person in ethics but that seems like a serious net good for humanity (sans nuking China…)

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      Clean energy theoretically ought to fit right in. All in our own boundaries, promoting US industries, no need for importing oil, technological leader of the world, technological problems are grist for yankee ingenuity, don’t let the Communists get ahead of us — etc.

      But the oil companies started their memes long ago, and I doubt that view is reversible.

      • Zog Karndon says:

        Oh, please. Big Oil spent hundreds of millions of dollars on alternative energy during the 70s, and lost their shirt.

        If they thought the money was there, they would invest. But it’s not, and they won’t.

  54. cassander says:

    my quick and dirty answer to why red tribe is pro quarantine? the core belief of red tribe is that america is the shining city upon a hill, and their duty is to defend it. the core belief of team blue is that america isn’t the shining city yet, but it can be, and their duty is to build it. keeping something bad out is the natural inclination of defenders, but is too simple a task to interest builders.

    Also, there is an easier way to get the red tribe on board with climate change. decide on how big you want your carbon tax, then write a bill that does nothing but A, imposes that tax, B, cuts other taxes slightly more, say 5%. Not a rebate program, not tax credits, actual tax reductions. You can pick whatever taxes you want to cut, but it is best if you can eliminate whole classes of tax, the bigger the better (payroll taxes would be ideal). Then get up there, tell the world you have a plan to save the environment and cut taxes, and dare republicans to vote against it. any time any republican objects, just shout “i want to cut your taxes and save the planet, but republicans would rather protect the oil companies.” If you’re cutting the payroll tax, you can even say “I want to cut taxes, save social security and protect the environment, but republicans would rather protect the oil companies.” You’d win in a landslide. the biggest obstacle would be getting the left onboard with simply cutting that many taxes, the instinct (and interest group pressure) to meddle is just too strong.

    • Lesser Bull says:

      This has already been tried. It didn’t work. Google “John McCain”

      • cassander says:

        It won’t work for a republican, it would work for a democrat. Presidents accomplish the most when they steal the other side’s issues, and taxes are the ur-issue of the right. They’re the thin glue that holds a disparate coalition together. Climate change is much less essential to the left.

        • Lesser Bull says:

          Many of the democratic politician and public policy guys who have advocated for cap-and-trade have included compensating tax cuts as part of the package. Hasn’t got them anywhere.

          • cassander says:

            A few have, I wouldn’t say many. And it didn’t go anywhere because, as I said, the party won’t embrace the idea, they’re too wedded to the hope of taxes going up for both ideological and practical reasons.

  55. Ballast says:

    Thing with Ferguson is that it was never political to begin with. A thug who robbed a store was rightfully shot when he attempted to harm a police officer. He happened to be black (as HBD would predict) and thus the issue became one of “racism.” “Racism” is naught but an insult used by leftists to stifle discussion of truth and facts. It’s the same insult used to rail against honest scientists who are merely following the data where it leads them vis-à-vis race differences in intelligence and crime. Ultimately this whole situation is a fault of leftists. If they paid any heed to the scientists who do research on topics like this, nothing like this would have happened, with blacks in a furore looting businesses. This is not political. The leftists have made it political.

    • Jake says:

      You sure do sound totally apolitical there!

      • Ballast says:

        The question is whether it was ever proved. IT WASN’T. Not only do I use an ISP that uses dynamic IPs, shuffling, I assume, around the whole Southern Ontario region where I am located currently (actually don’t live here primarily,) but I think Scott has an entirely irrational notion that all who are pro-HBD on his blog are the same person. It is indeed disconcerting that the actual imitator might live closer to me than I would have imagined, but even then, it isn’t me. It’s someone with the same ISP. The person impersonating Scott is definitely an SJW rather than any HBDer. Truth of the matter here is that Scott is accusing me of doing this mainly as a way to insult the entire field of HBD out of some personal agenda. Perhaps he isn’t as grey as he tries to convince us?

        • 27chaos says:

          Either Scott is biased and lying or someone associated with HBD is biased and lying. Which do I believe?

        • Wulfrickson says:

          This seems like an easy claim to check: Scott can look through the IPs for Ballast’s other comments and see if they change periodically and all trace to southern Ontario.

          Also, comment reported for gratuitous insults to our host based on zero evidence. Dude, whether you’re telling the truth here or not, you should know better than to try crap like that.

          • Ballast says:

            Insults? To Scott? No, it’s more pointing out the truth rather than insulting. It’s not hard to notice that Scott doesn’t have a good opinion of HBD, contrary to HBD’s well-vetted provenience in mainstream, reliable science. He pretends to be grey, but who’s he fooling?

          • Wulfrickson says:

            It’s not hard to notice that Scott doesn’t have a good opinion of HBD

            Um, where exactly are you noticing this? Did you miss the part of this very post where Scott referred approvingly to a blog that literally has “HBD” in its name? As far as “good opinions of HBD” go, that alone puts him well into the top quintile.

            (I think I’ve used my italics quota for the day.)

        • Nick says:

          I’m genuinely confused. If you’re actually really confident that Scott was just wrong about this because of the way your ISP works, why did you then accuse him of anti-HBD activity? This doesn’t make sense if you’re telling the truth about the ISP thing, but it doesn’t make sense as some kind of strategic move against him either.

        • Nornagest says:

          Not plausible, dude. There aren’t that many HBD bloggers in the first place. The chances of there being another one that’s located on your ISP and in your geographical area and who’s interested enough in Scott to do that sort of thing is very small already; things like that do happen sometimes, but I’ve only seen it when information spreads through offline social networks. If it’s not you, in other words, it’s someone you know.

          And now you’re asking us to believe in this convenient IP collision? Back when I was doing user-facing administration, if someone had made an analogous claim, I wouldn’t even hesitate before pulling the trigger.

          • Ballast says:

            Do you know how many people live in my geographical area to even comment on that? And I don’t have any interest in Scott, I only found this blog and started commenting with the post on political tribalism, that too when some HBD blogger tweeted about it, I think Jayman. And unless you have some idea about the number of people who frequent HBD websites, don’t even comment. It could number the millions, some bloggers rack up hundreds of comments for each post. And lastly, I have no interest in impersonating Scott in any way, whatever that will accomplish. I did see the comments by the impersonator on some blogs I check out, but I didn’t understand that they were impersonations since I didn’t know Scott’s actual name or blog. He goes by Scott Alexander everywhere. And I have plenty of reason to believe that Scott is not quite pro-HBD. He never includes an HBD viewpoint in his blog posts and doesn’t link to any HBD blogs or anything like that. Not that he is vehemently anti-HBD, but I can only hope that an increase in HBD commentors around here will be a turning point.

          • Nornagest says:

            Do you know how many people live in my geographical area to even comment on that?

            Not precisely, but I don’t need to. More people in your area (or, more precisely, more people served by the local branch of your ISP) makes it more likely that it covers people with the required characteristics, but it also means the chances of an IP collision are proportionally lower.

            The biggest limiting factor isn’t “near you”, it’s “interested in Scott” (although “HBD” probably comes within an order of magnitude). But “near you” is good for a few bits of entropy, and you don’t need all that many.

          • Ballast says:

            There’s also the fact that there is more than one dynamic IP providing ISP in my area, so the number is far lower than the estimated population of internet users. But the fact still stand that I was only recently introduced to SSC, while on the other hand I’ve been following HBD blogs for years now where reference to Scott has been made disparagingly (especially concerning the NRx FAQ.) It could just be one of these people who by chance lives near me (and many people live in Toronto and use my particular ISP and was probably assigned my current IP before.) But I still hold that this whole thing was not done by any HBD follower, but rather by SJWs who wish to tar HBD, or as far as I can discern from the faked comments on GNXP. Other comments by the impersonator, which I’ve only seen on one other site, follow in the same vein.

        • MugaSofer says:

          >The question is whether it was ever proved. IT WASN’T.

          >The person impersonating Scott is definitely an SJW rather than any HBDer.

          >insult the entire field of HBD out of some personal agenda.

          Yup, it’s confirmed.

          • Ballast says:

            Or not. I laid out the reasons why it isn’t me behind this thing. Unless you or anyone else has more proof beside a coincidental IP conflict with a dynamic IP, I am really not too interested since it really has nothing to do with me anyway.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      This poster is banned indefinitely for several reasons.

      1. Statements like “Racism is naught but an insult used by leftists to stifle discussion of truth and facts.” I think there might be a few other things racism is.

      2. You’ve made like a dozen comments on here now and every one has been pushing the same line. I try to tolerate people making taboo comments here, but I don’t have much sympathy for one-issue folks who are here only to stick taboo stuff on every post. I feel like I have more than enough people here willing to give me the HBD side of things, and most of them are less in-your-face about it than you are.

      3. I still think you’re impersonating me. I mean, I guess it’s possible that it’s someone else from Ontario with your IP. But then, I suppose in that case I’m unfairly thinking worse of you because I’m lumping you into a large group based on your area of origin, then condemning that entire group because of the criminal actions of a few of its members. I’m sure you wouldn’t know anything about that.

  56. Ballast says:

    But forget the above. What this is about are the empirical facts of the matter, and how they are skewed (largely by the left) to fit their narratives. There is a preponderance of data behind biological criminality of blacks and some other groups. One such datum being MAOA, amongst many other data. This is definitely not in support of the leftist interpretation of Ferguson, is it? I wonder why Scott doesn’t write more about leftists straying contrary of the facts vis-à-vis HBD?

  57. Pingback: Five case studies in politicization

  58. Steve Sailer says:

    “Ferguson obviously supports the Blue Tribe’s narrative.”

    Giant black guy goes on crime spree, shoves around tiny convenience store clerk while stealing cigars on video, attacks cop in his police cruiser when cop tells him to stop walking down the middle of the street, gun goes off in police car, crime spree guy gets shot, black mob burns down wrong convenience store and paints “Snitches Get Stitches” …

    • Ballast says:

      One saving grace of SSC at least is the new commentors. Hopefully more HBD people comment on here rather than SJWs.

      Anyway, Steve is right. Ferguson can only support blue tribe’s narratives if they thoroughly skew and doctor it.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Similarly, Ms. Jeantel’s testimony at George Zimmerman’s trial suggested that Trayvon Martin’s attack on Zimmerman was a gay-bashing. But, tens of millions of liberals remain convinced that Zimmerman attacked the 12-year-old Trayvon out of White Privilege.

        It’s all about who controls the Megaphone.

  59. Steve Sailer says:

    In my review of Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind,” I argued that the central dividing line in the 21st Century between white conservatives and white liberals is that conservatives tend to have concentric loyalties while liberals tend to have leapfrogging loyalties that make them feel like they are better than conservatives. (Of course, nonwhites are encouraged by white liberals to have concentric loyalties):

    http://takimag.com/article/the_self_righteous_hive_mind_steve_sailer/print#axzz3GN1fHkkY

    So, sure, Ebola Guy from Africa gives ebola to a couple of Americans, but that’s a small price for them to pay for me not being one of those horrible white conservatives.

    • pwyll says:

      conservatives tend to have concentric loyalties while liberals tend to have leapfrogging loyalties

      Scott actually made a very similar point in this piece: http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/04/22/right-is-the-new-left/

    • Anonymous says:

      The leapfrogging theory of liberalism is false.
      Sailer writes: “to root for Manchester United’s soccer team is conservative…if you are a Mancunian. If you live in Portland, Oregon, it’s liberal.”
      But hey, do European liberals follow Nascar? Of course not!

      Speaking as a right-winger, liberals are very consistent – just as they say, they always root for the underdog, whom they perceive to be “oppressed”. And it just happens that white Americans, as an ethnic group, are the global overdog (no one can honestly deny it), and therefore, from a white American perspective, liberals have to be anti-themselves. But black (or female an so on, similar reasoning applies) liberals are perfectly allowed to favor their own type and still be liberals; their loyalty doesn’t have to leapfrog, because blacks and women are perceived to be lower than and oppressed by white straight men. European liberals are perfectly allowed to put Europeans before Americans (I know some who are disgustingly racist towards yankees), but never before third world immigrants. Here in Italy, southern Italians are the underdog, so northern liberals empathize with southerners, and southern liberals… also do – no leapfrogging.
      As for “soccer”, which Sailer says is an overdog liberal favorite, well, soccer is seen as the underdog because it’s the favorite sport of the “rest of the world”, which is the underdog relative to America.

      If sometimes liberals seem inconsistent with the overdog-underdog principle, it’s because:
      1) an objectively overdog group manages to get away with being considered underdog
      2) some groups are simultaneously “oppressed” and “oppressor”. For example only few liberals speak against oppression of various minorities in Muslim countries, but that’s because they don’t want to be perceived as favoring the perceived American oppression of Muslims.
      3) another essential component of liberalism is that great “canopy” institutions (the federal government, the UN) are seen as disembodied spirits with no self interest. They are not considered to be players in the game pursuing their own goals, and therefore can’t be “overdogs” – they have no place in the totem pole but sit outside it.

      • Tab Atkins says:

        This is canny and well-written, and I support it. Its central point, that the “leap-frogging” or self-hatred that liberals are sometimes accused of is an artifact of perception, with white Americans looking mostly at white Americans (and, in other countries, analogous things happening with their own power groups), and missing that it’s the power dynamics that matter, seems well-supported and strongly explanatory.

        • Anonymous says:

          Just for clarity, I – the anonymous who wrote the refutation of Sailer – don’t actually believe that underdog groups are “oppressed”.
          Some of the groups perceived as underdogs aren’t even such (example: Jews).
          I’m actually a right-winger.

          • AJD says:

            In what sense are you characterizing Jews as “not underdogs”?

            Listen, privilege exists on multiple axes. Someone can be p