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The Future Is Filters

Related to: The Toxoplasma of Rage

I.

Tumblr Savior is a neat program that blocks Tumblr posts containing specific words or phrases. For example, if you don’t want to hear all of the excellent reasons going around Tumblr why you should kill all men, you just block “kill all men” and they never show up. Add a few extra terms like “white dudes” (nothing good ever came of an article including the phrase “white dudes”), “trans”, “cis”, and “pictures of my vagina”, and you can make Tumblr almost usable.

(My own Tumblr Savior list is an interesting record both of my psyche and of mid-2010s current events. Sometimes I imagine a future cyber-archaeologist stumbling across it and asking “But, but…why would he ban the word ‘puppies’?” Poor, poor innocent future archaeologist.)

I recently learned about Twitter blockbots. These are lists maintained by some trustworthy people, such that subscribing to the blockbot automatically blocks everyone on the list. The original was made by some people in the social justice community to help block people they figured other members of the social justice community wouldn’t want to have to deal with. Although some people seem to be added on by hand, the bot also makes educated guesses about who to block by blacklisting accounts that follow the feeds of too many anti-social-justice leaders.

There are rumors of a similar anti-SJ block list of people who engage on online mobbing and harassment in the name of social justice, but I can’t find it online right now and I think it might have been taken down.

An article I read recently (but which I can’t find right now to link to) proposes a higher-tech solution for Facebook’s harassment problems. They want Facebook to train machine-learning programs to detect posts that most people would consider trollish. So far, so boring. The interesting part comes afterwards – instead of auto-blocking those posts, Facebook would assign them a certain number of Troll Points. Users could then set an option for how their Facebook feed should react to Troll Points – for example, by blocking every post with more than a certain amount. That way, people who were concerned about free speech and who enjoy participating in “heated discussion” would be able to do so, while people who wanted a safer and more pleasant browsing experience could have a very low cutoff for taking action.

But the really interesting part got dismissed after a sentence. What if instead of combining everything into Troll Points, Facebook assigned the points in different domains? Foul Language, Blasphemy, Racial Slurs, Threats, Harassment, Dirty Argument Tactics, et cetera. And then I could set that I don’t care about Foul Language or Blasphemy, but I really don’t want to see any Threats or Racial Slurs.

(obviously the correct anarcho-capitalist solution is to have third-party companies making these algorithms and selling them to individual Facebook users, but in a world where Facebook is trying to become more and more closed to third-party apps, that’s probably not going to happen)

So, take all this filtering technology – Tumblr Savior, Twitter blockbots, and hypothetical Facebook Troll Points, combine them together, project them about ten years into the future with slightly better machine learning, and you have an Internet where nobody has to see, even for an instant, anything they don’t want to. What are the implications?

II.

The most obvious possibility is that everyone will be better off because we can avoid trolls. In this nice black-and-white worldview, there are good people, and there are trolls, and eliminating the trolls is a simple straightforward decision that makes the good people better off. This is how The Daily Beast thinks of it (How Block Bot Could Save The Internet), and as anyone who’s been trolled or harassed online knows, there’s a lot of truth to this view.

The second most obvious possibility is that we will become a civilization of wusses safely protected from ever having to hear an opinion we disagree with, or ever having our prejudices challenged. This is how Reason thinks of it (Block Bots Automate Epistemic Closure On Twitter). Surely there’s some truth here too. How hard would it be to create a filter that blocks all conservative/liberal opinions? Just guess based on whether a text links to foxnews.com or dailykos.com, or add in linguistic cues (“death tax”, “job creators”, etc). Once such a filter existed, how many people do you think would use it proudly, bragging about how they’re no longer “wasting their time listening patiently to bigots” or whatever?

But I don’t think the scenario is quite that apocalyptic. If you’re getting all of your exposure to opinions you disagree with from them being shouted in your face by people you can’t avoid, you probably are not going to lose much by not having that happen. The people who are actually interested in holding discussions can still do that. When I was young and therefore stupid I used to hang out at politics forums specifically for this purpose.

The third possibility is that there would be a remarkable shift of discourse in favor of the powerful and against the powerless.

Terrorism has always been a useful weapon of the powerless. The powerful get laws passed through Congress or whatever, but the powerless don’t have that opportunity. They need to get people to pay attention, and blowing those people up has always been an effective tool in that repertoire. We see this most obviously in places like Palestine and the Basque Country. Likewise, as many people have pointed out, the recent riots in Baltimore can be thought of as a group of powerless people trying to make their anger heard in one of the only ways available to them. It would be politically un-savvy to call this “terrorism”, but as acts of destruction intended to promote a political struggle, they probably fit into the same cluster.

But the next step down from terrorism is annoyism. Terrorism is meant to convince by terrorizing those who ignore your cause; annoyism is meant to convince by annoying people who ignore your cause. Think of a bunch of protesters shouting on a major road, or throwing red paint over people wearing fur, or passive-aggressive Tumblr posts starting “dear white dudes”, or, in probably the purest example of the idea, the Black Brunch protests, where a bunch of black people burst into predominantly white restaurants and shout at patrons about how they’re probably complicit with racism. Even if there’s no implicit threat of force, the point is it’s unpleasant and people can’t ignore it even if they want to.

And so the traditional revolutionary chant goes: “No justice, no peace.” But the thing about filters is that they offer the opportunity for peace regardless of whether or not there is justice. At least they do online, which is where people in the future are going to be spending a lot more of their time.

Imagine you are a rich person who doesn’t want to have to listen to people talking about how rich people need to be socially responsible all the time. It makes you feel guilty, and they are saying mean things like that you don’t deserve all of the money you have, and shouting about social parasites and so on.

So you tell your automated filter to just never let you see any message like that again.

There is an oft-discussed division between politically right or neutral loud angry people (“trolls”) and loud angry people on the political left, (“you are not allowed to dictate the terms on which victims of oppression express their righteous anger”). Machine learning programs will not accept that division, and the latter can be magicked out of visibility just as easily as the former.

Imagine being able to put an entire movement on mute. While I can’t deny the appeal, I’m not sure we – and especially not the social justice community, which is currently laughing at the complaints of people who object to their blockbot – have entirely thought this one through.

III.

The part I find most interesting about all of these possibilities is that they force us to bring previously unconscious social decisions into consciousness.

I think most people, if asked “Is it important to listen to arguments by people who disagree with you?” would answer in the affirmative. I also think most people don’t really do this. Maybe having to set a filter would make people explicitly choose to allow some contrary arguments in. Having done that, people could no longer complain about seeing them – they would feel more of an obligation to read and think about them. And of course, anyone looking for anything more than outrage-bait would choose to preferentially let in high-quality, non-insulting examples of disagreeing views, and so get inspired to think clearly instead of just starting one more rage spiral.

And I think most people, if asked “Is it important to listen to the concerns of the less powerful?” would also be pretty strongly in favor – with the caveat that people can recognize annoyism when it’s being used against them and aren’t especially tolerant of it. The ability to completely block out annoyism, combined with people being forced to explicitly choose to listen to alternative opinions, might make groups that currently favor annoyism change tactics to something more pleasant – though possibly less effective.

I think the result would be several carefully separated groups with their own social and epistemic norms, all of which coexist peacefully and in relative isolation from one another – groups which I would hope then develop their own norms about helping powerless members. This would be an interesting step towards what I describe in my Archipelago article as “a world where everyone is a member of more or less the community they deserve.”

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647 Responses to The Future Is Filters

  1. Steve Johnson says:

    Terrorism has always been a useful weapon of the powerless.

    Nope.

    Terrorism is a useful weapon for the powerful to concede issues that they want to concede. (Left wing terrorism)

    “We should start a dialog with the moderates to undermine the extremists”

    If you’re not on the left, terrorism is a great way to get you and your whole family annihilated.

    Same idea as this:

    There is a commonly accepted division between loud angry people on the right (ie “trolls”, “harassers”, “aggrieved entitlement”) and loud angry people on the left (ie “you are not allowed to dictate the terms on which victims of oppression express their righteous anger”).

    It applies to actual violence as well.

    • DanielLC says:

      Terrorism is a useful weapon for the powerful to concede issues that they want to concede. (Left wing terrorism)

      I’m not sure what you mean. Can you explain this a bit more?

      • Steve Johnson says:

        There something the left wants to do but there’s too much opposition – various “programs”, removal of restrictions on welfare, etc to use a few related examples – so they get a cut out group to riot or blow stuff up or “take action” in some other way. Then they “concede” the issue by doing what they wanted to do in the first place.

        • DrBeat says:

          You imply a level of planning, secrecy, and self-control on the left that is just not supported by any of the facts available.

        • Cauê says:

          Can you describe how such a thing happens, but using moving parts rather than amorphous forces?

          How exactly do they “get a cut out group to riot”? Who decides to do this? Who is in on it? How much coordination is involved?

          • “Who decides to do this? Who is in on it? How much coordination is involved?”

            I’m not sure there has to be coordination.

            One version of the story is an actual conspiracy, with leftists organizing demonstrations and some of them trying to make them turn violent. But another is just talk—telling people that their poverty is someone else’s fault, and nothing will be done about it unless they express their rage in some form those in power can’t ignore.

          • Steve Johnson says:

            Bingo.

            Exclude the actual reasons for black dysfunction from public discourse (low IQ, high time preference, higher levels of aggression, etc.) and constantly talk about how racism is to blame. Riots occur and the rioters talk about racism because they’ve been told their whole lives that racism and oppression have been keeping them down. Use the rioting as evidence of racism. Circular without any active conspiracy (except for the conspiracy to exclude a class of explanations for observed phenomena from public discourse – and that conspiracy is quite open).

        • SpaghettiLee says:

          At the moment, I’m failing to come up with a single concrete example of this happening in the manner you say it does. No one is bombing people in the name of opposition to welfare reform. Did you have any real-world examples?

          • Steve Johnson says:

            You can start by reading “Radical Chic and Mau Mauing the Flak Catchers” by Tom Wolf for some recent history.

            Steve Sailer’s excellent coverage of the Ferguson fiasco is a recent example:

            http://www.unz.com/isteve/hi-lo-tag-team-in-action-soros-bankrolled-ferguson-pogroms/

            Now, we haven’t reached the point where any concrete action has been taken in response to Ferguson and in fact it was more a get out the vote effort for the midterm elections but the idea is the same. Leftist agitation is justification for leftist policies and programs and the left generously funds leftist agitation through laundered government grants.

            On less dramatic front the EPA will give grants to environmental groups who then turn around and sue the EPA to adopt rules that the EPA wanted to impose in the first place.

            Here’s the first google hit I found for this:

            https://epafacts.com/transparency-problems/collusion-with-environmental-activists/

          • SpaghettiLee says:

            OK, so, a large sum of cash whose spending nobody tracks or is responsible for is nonetheless definitely being used to ‘keep mobs in the streets’, as if street riots required some sort of entry fee.

            Let’s take it at face value and assume that the money is being used for its stated purpose, to draw attention to police injustices and police violations of civil rights. Are you really prepared to condemn donating money to a cause you believe in as ‘agitation’? Because that seems like it could backfire.

            If we’re going to instead assume that it’s a conspiracy to stir street violence, I’ll need more proof than you’re presently providing: who is getting this dark money, how are they actively using it to cause street violence? If I was a black protester and George Soros offered me and my organization $33 million, I think I’d be more likely to use that money to better the circumstances that lead to cases like Ferguson, or at least make a more comfortable life for myself. Unless you’re assuming that people are out there throwing bricks through windows because they enjoy it and would rather be doing nothing else.

            If the left is orchestrating police injustices to pass gun control laws or civil rights violations, they’ve had plenty of opportunities; we seem to have a new case like this every two months. Yet there are no major laws or new social programs that have passed in response, largely because the US Congress and the Missouri statehouse, one or both of which would have the authority to pass such laws, are controlled by people who definitively are not on ‘the left’, and probably see it the same way as you do.

            Also, if I was masterminding this conspiracy, I’d abandon ship on a ‘get out the vote’ program that resulted in one of the biggest smackdowns for the left wing in recent electoral history, matched only by, well, four years ago. A conspiracy that only meets its goals sporadically and incompletely despite conditions being seemingly ideal for them to put their plan into motion is more accurately described as an interest group.

            I would also point out that we started talking about domestic terrorism and, when pressed, you provided an example of corruption in the judicial system. They are in fact different.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Saying “the Left” without further qualification is an overgeneralization, but I think that some concrete examples can be found.

            For instance during the 70s in Western Europe the organized Left, in the form of Socialist/Communist parties and trade unions, launched a series of very much annoying strikes, protests and riots, and in some cases even terrorist attacks, in order to allow the moderates to negotiate and obtain concessions.

            I wouldn’t say there was perfect coordination between the moderates and the radicals, in some cases the radicals actually attacked the moderates, but I think that in general they thought of themselves as playing for the same team and the strategy was deliberate.

            The Right also attempted that, but apparently they couldn’t produce credible moderates that could negotiate, hence they ended up being perceived as mindless thugs.

            Arguably, the Right was successful at it much earlier, in the 20s in Italy and the 30s in Germany, Mussolini and Hitler took the power under the pretense of moderating the civil unrest that their own thugs were causing, therefore, in the post-WW2 era, everybody in Western Europe was immunized against this tactic when it came from the Right.

          • Saint_Fiasco says:

            >For instance during the 70s in Western Europe the organized Left, in the form of Socialist/Communist parties and trade unions, launched a series of very much annoying strikes, protests and riots, and in some cases even terrorist attacks, in order to allow the moderates to negotiate and obtain concessions.

            The issue is confounded a lot because of the agitators and false flag operations common in the Cold War era. I don’t know if people in Europe were more naive, but in Latin America I remember people being *very* paranoid about agitators and spies in any overly-enthusiastic leftist group.

          • Yildo says:

            @vV_Vv:
            You’re describing opportunism.

            For the mirror version ascribing malicious conspiracy to the Right doing the same thing, please see Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Sure they may have been agent provocateurs, but I doubt they could have operated without the broad support of certain segments of the population.

          • Leonard says:

            If the left is orchestrating police injustices to pass gun control laws or civil rights violations, they’ve had plenty of opportunities; we seem to have a new case like this every two months.

            There are criminals and even the occasional innocent being killed by police almost every day in America. This was true before Ferguson. It will be true for the foreseeable future. And yet it only became a thing recently. Why?

            It’s that “seem” that is confusing you. News is not an objective set of facts. News does not just happen. People — reporters, editors, journalists — select what is news and what isn’t. Those people have power. Why was Ferguson news? Because the media made it news. OK, why did they do that?

            Could a narrative of a white police officer gunning down an innocent, unarmed black man serve any powerful party’s agenda in America? If so, which party?

            Hint: journalists overwhelming give money to Democratic candidates, not Republicans.

          • BBA says:

            The so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” was also news only because the media made it news, and it being a story very much served a right-wing agenda.

          • Another hint:: most media organizations are iwbed by, and mist journalists ultimately employed by, very rich people.

            And another: the left find plenty of Manufactured Consent to complain about.

        • Deiseach says:

          You appear to be conflating agents provocateurs with terrorism per se; certainly there have been groups or even elements of government which have used third parties (unknowingly or not) to stir up trouble in order to further their ends; this includes the British authorities in Northern Ireland allowing or even provoking terrorist acts by both Republicans and Loyalists in order to convince the politicians, in the wake of public outrage, that greater powers, more budget, or a free rein for themselves were needed to deal with the problem.

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes, agents provocateurs are used for those purposes, but that is the opposite of what SJ is talking about.

        • Surlie says:

          In the brave new autoblocking future, I’d hope the bots would be smart enough to filter this out like the conspiracy nonsense it is.

        • Harun says:

          Maybe this example?

          The Left wants illegals to be allowed to vote, get healthcare etc. The politically electable left makes occasional references to this, but its the La Raza activists who do the rabble rousing…

          Or they convince a bunch of kids to arrive so that they can show them on TV?

          I’m still not buying this…its just creating issues and memes.

      • Rangi says:

        What it sounds like to me:

        Left-wing annoyism is evidence of the left wing’s righteous anger at those in power. Right-wing annoyism is unacceptable trolling and will be blocked.

        Left-wing terrorism is evidence that we should cooperate with the moderate left to appease the extremist terrorists. Right-wing terrorism is unacceptable violence and will be put down.

        Read “is” to mean “is popularly seen as” or “is made to look like (by left-wing propaganda)”. (To those who think society’s popular views are orchestrated by the left-wing Cathedral, I guess those are the same interpretation.)

        • Jiro says:

          This may or may not be what he actually meant, but I think it’s pretty accurate. Except that “left-wing” needs to be expanded to “left-wing, or has some matches with ideology of the left”. Hamas isn’t actually left-wing, but they’re anti-West and anti-Israel. Likewise for Iran.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Except that “left-wing” needs to be expanded to “left-wing, or has some matches with ideology of the left”.

            Well, the far-right groups have generally more in common with far-left groups than any of them has with the centrists mainstream. AKA Horseshoe theory.

            Hamas isn’t actually left-wing, but they’re anti-West and anti-Israel.

            Case in point.

          • Erik says:

            Is “horseshoe theory” actually a thing on other than the verbal grouping level?

            When a pacifist lumps together as “warmongers” those who perpetrate an aggressive war and those who shoot back, I can understand what category the pacifist is pointing at, but I don’t think it it’s a useful category for features other than non-pacifism.

            I feel that “horseshoe theory” is a gloss on moderates similarly saying “extremists” about all non-moderates. One could invent a “horseshoe theory” about practically any spectrum of opinion and lumping together the endpoints as non-middlers based on some superficial similarity. For example, Jews and Nazis both wanting ethnostates, but someone who isn’t near either endpoint of the Jew-Nazi spectrum is going to have a long row to hoe to convince me that those two endpoints are sufficiently close to another another for the spectrum to be described as a horseshoe.

          • Nita says:

            So, the category is “leftists, anti-West people and antisemites”? What do they have in common?

          • AngryDrake says:

            @Nita:
            Having more Jewish members than you would expect?

          • DrBeat says:

            Is “horseshoe theory” actually a thing on other than the verbal grouping level?

            To me it is, but for me ‘horseshoe theory’ doesn’t show that the ideas of the far right and the far left are similar, it shows that people are attracted to them for the same reasons.

            I think what extremists have in common is lack of empathy. They can’t envision how other people think. As you get further on the extreme, you get people who don’t understand HOW someone can have different beliefs than them; go further and you hit the people who don’t understand THAT people have different beliefs than them. The far-left and the far-right believe very different things, but what they have in common is that on a fundamental level they can’t understand that not everyone else has the same mental state they do. Thus, the constant accusations that your opponent’s actions are motivated by evil or the desire to make things worse: just assume that your opponent believes everything you do about what actions will produce what consequences, and then the only possible explanation for their different actions is that they want different consequences — and since you want Good Things, they must want bad things!

            This is also where you get observed commonalities like the desire for censorship — different opinions cannot be sincerely held, so obviously anyone trying to say those things is just trying to cause harm, and must be stopped.

          • Mary says:

            “Well, the far-right groups have generally more in common with far-left groups than any of them has with the centrists mainstream.”

            That, in my experience, is generally because the “far right” is a far-left group that people are still calling right because Uncle Joe said all his foes were right.

          • Mary says:

            “I think what extremists have in common is lack of empathy. They can’t envision how other people think. As you get further on the extreme, you get people who don’t understand HOW someone can have different beliefs than them; go further and you hit the people who don’t understand THAT people have different beliefs than them. The far-left and the far-right believe very different things, but what they have in common is that on a fundamental level they can’t understand that not everyone else has the same mental state they do. ”

            One notes that this is contradicted by Haidt’s results, that found that far-right-wingers in fact understand their political opponents better than any leftist of any degree.

          • DrBeat says:

            You got a link for those results? I’d like to see them.

          • onyomi says:

            Yeah, I think it’s weird to call Fascism “far right,” even though I understand that’s how it’s been used in the 20th century. To me, people on the “far right” should believe the opposite of people on the “far left,” and that is not what fascism is. The far left is theoretically about cosmopolitan socialism, while fascists are about nationalistic socialism. Two different flavors of socialism do not a good political spectrum make.

          • Held In Escrow says:

            Horseshoe theory basically just says that as you reach the edges, it’s hard to tell super right and leftwing authoritarians apart or to tell super right and leftwing anarchists apart. That’s because the actual values espoused by each side (in the case of authoritarians) tends to be overshadowed by their support for nerve stapling dissidents to wipe out wrong think or (in the case of anarchists) that we’d all be better off if we didn’t have any government.

            Now, the actual type of wrong think or what sort of community would evolve out a government free world differ based on their ideology, but that tends to get missed amid the boot on your face or roving bands of cannibals.

          • Mary says:

            I know what horseshoe “theory” says. On the whole it seems to be attempting to plaster over the obvious holes causes by calling all Uncle Joe’s opponents “right-wing”

          • Mary says:

            Well, I got a quote from Haidt:
            “the results were clear and consistent. Moderate and conservatives were most accurate in their predictions, whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives. Liberals were the least accurate, especially those who described themselves as ‘very liberal’.”

            Don’t have the time to track it farther from here:
            http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100141871/why-liberals-cant-understand-conservatives/

          • ” just assume that your opponent believes everything you do about what actions will produce what consequences, and then the only possible explanation for their different actions is that they want different consequences — and since you want Good Things, they must want bad things!”

            I don’t think you have to go very far left to encounter that attitude. It’s pretty much the norm of FB postings from people attacking the Republican party, for instance.

          • onyomi says:

            David, I remember watching this debate https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9YVqZN9LJk
            between you and a philosopher on Youtube, which seemed to turn on him saying that political disagreement was about fundamentally different goals, and you saying that it largely amounted to disagreements about means (that is, we all want basically the same thing, but have different ideas about how to get there).

            I used to agree more with your view, but as I have debated people with opposing viewpoints over the years I have come to see that, in many cases, they do seem to be envisioning a different sort of future from me. That said, I do think that if my ideological opponents agreed with me on what I think would be the results of my preferred policies, there would be far less opposition.

            I also tend to be more in favor of arguing from an ethical point of view, because I find people can always pull up competing statistics to try to prove an empirical case one way or the other. But I am also still sympathetic to your view and often think “if only I could help people envision how nice anarcho-capitalism would actually be they would agree with me on trying to bring it about.”

            I wonder, do you still feel roughly the same as you did then?

          • Onyomi:

            I think my view on that question hasn’t changed much. I note that Haidt’s results show both sides exaggerating the difference in their moral views, liberals more than conservatives.

            I agree that dueling statistics are a problem. On the whole, I prefer to use logical arguments. The reason to expect an increased minimum wage to reduce employment for low wage workers is obvious once pointed out, and doesn’t depend on whose statistical results you believe. It’s possible to make a theoretical argument the other way, but considerably harder and less persuasive.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @onyami

            I think political disagreements on economic issues are about means, not goals. But for social issues, the goals are different.

          • cassander says:

            >“left-wing, or has some matches with ideology of the left”.

            The traditional euphemism is fellow traveler

          • @Mary

            Haidt ‘s results relate to moderates and conservatives, and they’re not the far right.

    • I think that there is a lot of mood affiliation going on here. There are awful powerless people who have used terrorism to advance their awful goals, and you can still say it’s a “weapon of the powerless”.

      The Nazis did their share of terrorizing and it played a part in getting them into power. More recently, anti-semitic acts of terrorism have been effective at driving Jews out of some European countries. Golden Dawn in Greece probably got some propaganda benefits from their own acts of terrorizing the immigrant populations (as well as certainly driving some away from Greece, which was one of the goals). Blowing up abortion clinics certainly has had an effect on abortion availability in the US.

      • Gbdub says:

        The distinction of terrorism isn’t the perpetrators, it’s the targets. Targets of terrorism are rarely powerful – usually unarmed civilians. They may be proxies for a powerful force, or the terrorism may be designed to compel action by the powerful, but the act itself is “punching down” at a soft target.

        The attack on Charlie Hebdo was clearly terrorism, but it’s hard to describe guys with automatic weapons as “powerless” compared to an office full of unarmed copy writers.

        I think violent action against a powerful force is more properly called an “insurgency” or “guerrilla warfare”.

      • RCF says:

        I think that there’s a distinction between “powerless” and “not in power”. The Nazis in the early 30s weren’t in power, but they weren’t “powerless”. They were more capable than the average German of bringing their agenda to prominence through legal means, and certainly more so than Jews. The KKK’s agenda was largely opposed by official government policy, but many government officials were KKK members, and the KKK were hardly powerless, especially compared to black people. The idea that terrorism is a tool of the powerless is true only in the sense that the truly powerful can simply arrest anyone they don’t like.

        The idea that the only way black people have to get people to pay attention to police brutality is by rioting is absurd. The riots, if anything, are taking attention away from police brutality. People rioted in Ferguson, and Wilson went free. No one rioted in LA (that I know of), and Donald Sterling is out an NBA team. This “We have no other way to get people to pay attention to us!” nonsense is simply a pathetic excuse for mindless violence.

    • Eli says:

      Ok, that’s just bullshit. Please, name a country and a time period, and I do mean today rather than in the 1970s, in which left-wing terrorism is:

      A) the most prominent form of terrorism, AND/OR
      B) prosecuted disproportionately less often than other forms of terrorism.

      If we intend to talk of today’s USA, then as far as I know about the numbers, the most prominent form of terrorism today is far-right, neo-Nazi-and-KKK-style stuff, followed by Islamism (which is basically the far-right of the Muslim world), followed by left-wing eco-terrorism.

      Prosecution of far-right terrorism appears to have increased under Obama after being disproportionately uncommon under Bush.

      • Because blacks rioting violently in two cities in the past twelve months isn’t terrorism, it’s protest.

        Left-wing terrorism in the US has been so successfully apologized for that it’s uncouth to even call it terrorism.

        • Nornagest says:

          It’s not terrorism, it’s a riot. (It’s also protest, but once people start burning cars and smashing bank windows, “riot” fits.) We have a different word for that because it describes a different type of conflict.

          This isn’t some kind of newfangled distinction: compare the Alexandrian riots with the actions of the sicarii.

          • Yeah, maybe this was a bad example. Rioting is certainly a form of political violence which the left routinely supports, but it’s not the same thing as terrorism.

        • Steve Johnson says:

          Not just rioting but specifically the pattern of interracial crime which in the United States is hugely disproportionally black on white.

          It’s relatively random, intended to frighten the group to which the victim belongs and is intended to hold territory.

          Matt Yglesias getting polar bear hunted in DC is a terrorist response to gentrification.

          The reaction is “that’s not terrorism, that’s just random stuff that no one controls” – that’s because it’s allied with the left. When you see any violence that goes the other way it’s national news and is discussed as if it was part of a terrorist campaign as opposed to a random isolated instance that’s only of interest in the local area.

          That’s what it means for terrorism of the left to be ignored.

          • To expand the definition of “terrorism” to include street crime is just as tendentious as to expand the definition of “rape” to include leering.

            And besides, as we have discussed in previous threads, the U.S. is experiencing a dramatic decrease in crime rates across the board.

            Not to say that crime isn’t still a problem, but a genuine terrorist network would find itself perilously undermined by a perception that the worst was over, that the risk was receding.

          • Eli says:

            Matt Yglesias getting polar bear hunted in DC is a terrorist response to gentrification.

            I google-searched what you wrote here to see what you were talking about. All I came up with were right-wing blog entries. Is there any real news, or at least outside-your-favorite-cluster news, recording that Matt Yglesias was mugged or beaten?

            Ah, it appears he was randomly clocked one time. The attackers took no money or other belongings, and made no statement or demands whatsoever, and weren’t even identified.

            And you’re supposing this is left-wing terrorism? But Yglesias is a progressive-oriented journalist! He’s the bloody darling of the whole left-liberal media-o-spheric machine! Why would they attack their own?

          • Steve Johnson says:

            Eli –

            I figured being on a rationalist site I could count on some statistical reasoning from the crowd in making my points but it looks like I have to be more explicit:

            1) There is constant low level violent aggression going on from blacks towards non-blacks that the left supports
            2) This aggression is basically random but is political in nature in the sense that violence used to protect territory is political
            3) Said violence is underreported for lots of reasons – in the specific case of DC and Baltimore the city governments are black run and more than willing to overlook the measures necessary to keep a city majority black

            4) Very few people are nationally known pundits and if one of them is randomly attacked either something very improbable happened or there are a lot more random attacks than is commonly reported.

            Considering all the evidence the conclusion is that there are a lot more random attacks than are commonly reported. This fits in with the evidence that known attacks don’t get major coverage if they don’t fit the narrative.

            Is this terrorism? It fits the definition. It’s motivated by a political aim, it’s random violence aimed at making a group think they’re not safe and everyone knows why it’s being perpetrated.

            And you’re supposing this is left-wing terrorism? But Yglesias is a progressive-oriented journalist! He’s the bloody darling of the whole left-liberal media-o-spheric machine! Why would they attack their own?

            You’re kidding, right?

          • Nornagest says:

            What’s the base rate here?

            I don’t know anything about Yglesias, but this apparently happened in DC. That’s a high-crime city, and North Capitol is one of its most violent streets. Now, this took some finding, but there were 6,720 simple assault arrests there in 2013. Assume a clearance rate of 20% (which is probably generous for a crime of that nature) and we’re looking at 33,600 events in a population of 650,000.

            So, before factoring in ethnicity, we’d expect a resident of that city to have had about a 5% chance of getting assaulted during that year. Most crime and especially most simple assault happens between people who know each other, which makes this an unusual case, but that’d be countered to some extent by the fact that he was in a dangerous neighborhood.

            We could fiddle with the numbers more from here, but the general picture should be clear: that’s a fairly low rate, but it’s not low enough to make me go looking for some kind of systematic, politically motivated trend of black-on-white assaults. Particularly since all the white DC pundits who weren’t attacked (and there are a lot of them) are invisible in this analysis. And double particularly since the only place I’ve ever heard of “polar bear hunting” is on neoreactionary blogs, despite having lived in some fairly violent cities.

          • “The attackers took no money or other belongings, and made no statement or demands whatsoever, and weren’t even identified.”

            Surely the fact that they didn’t take money makes it look more like terrorism, less like street crime.

            “But Yglesias is a progressive-oriented journalist! He’s the bloody darling of the whole left-liberal media-o-spheric machine! Why would they attack their own?”

            Do you assume that a random black teenager who thinks it would be fun to beat up a white guy first asks the white guy for his political credentials?

          • DrBeat says:

            Is this terrorism? It fits the definition. It’s motivated by a political aim, it’s random violence aimed at making a group think they’re not safe and everyone knows why it’s being perpetrated.

            No it’s not. It doesn’t fit any of those criteria.

            – It is not carried out for a political gain, it is carried out on impulse or due to fleeting emotional states — the vast, VAST majority of crime is impulsive, and criminals are more impulsive than noncriminals. No demands have been made, no attempt to tie this into any cause has been made. If this was actual terrorism, the terrorists would say “Hey, here is what you can do to make us stop”, and when The Left tried to suppress knowledge of it, they would oppose this.

            – It is not aimed at making a group feel not safe because it is not planned. It is aimed at fulfilling a state of “I am angry! I want to hurt someone!” or “I want something! I’ll take money from someone!”. If black criminals were motivated by wanting to make whites feel unsafe, they would target primarily white people, instead of primarily black people.

            – By “everyone knows” you mean “everyone thinks it is perpetrated for an entirely different and entirely incompatible reason from the one I propose”. The Left thinks it is perpetrated because blacks are poor, powerless, incapable Saints of Victimhood and yells at anyone suggesting otherwise until they are shamed into silence.

          • Steve Johnson says:

            “Stay the hell off of our turf!” is a political message that is quite clearly received even by those who pretend they don’t get that explicit message – they know which blocks should be avoided. Why avoid those blocks? Lightning strikes? No – political terrorist action at random on those who fail to heed the warning.

            The left shouting down anyone who suggests that the groups carrying out the terrorism don’t have the authority to do so is merely the rhetorical weapon that prevents collective action to stop the terrorist assaults – it doesn’t dilute the content of the message being sent.

          • DrBeat says:

            The left shouting down anyone who suggests that the groups carrying out the terrorism don’t have the authority to do so is merely the rhetorical weapon that prevents collective action to stop the terrorist assaults – it doesn’t dilute the content of the message being sent.

            Except that if the message is “do not go into our territory”, then the left’s constant shouting of “If you don’t want to go into black people’s territory, you are racist and evil and should be annihilated with shaming!”, it does negate the message being sent!

            Your position is gibberish. You can only defend it by acknowledging carefully-selected facets of certain parts of reality, while ignoring everything else that is true. It totally implodes when exposed to any other fact.

          • Steve Johnson says:

            Except that the left doesn’t shame people for not moving into black neighborhoods – it does the opposite and shames them for moving into black neighborhoods. As you can see from the reactions to the Baltimore situation the left is ambivalent about gentrification.

            It’s not one dimensional because the gentrifiers are often also on the left – Matt Yglesias gets polar bear hunted I’m sure while he was working on a column about how bad gentrification was.

          • Nornagest says:

            The Left being ambivalent about gentrification I’ll grant you (from where I live, it looks more like actively hostile to gentrification), but I’m not seeing the link to Yglesias or to street assault more generally. For that matter, it’s not even necessarily about black neighborhoods. The latest gentrification flashpoint in Oakland is about selling public land (currently being used as a staging area for construction) to build a proposed condo tower; I happen to know the surrounding neighborhood pretty well, and while it’s as poor as most of East Oakland it’s populated mostly by Laotian and Vietnamese immigrants.

            That’s not to say that political violence doesn’t happen around the gentrification issue. During May Day protests in Oakland, for example, some cars were burned in front of an Audi dealership, which had been displaying them on land branded as the “Rebirth of Oakland Square”. That’s what anti-gentrification violence looks like in real life: semi-spontaneous vandalism aimed at symbolic targets, not this ridiculous polar bear business. Giving something a cute name does not establish a pattern.

          • In Detroit when I lived there, locals, black or white, left or right, didn’t like the word “gentrification”, because anyone who used it was plainly an out-of-town reporter, totally ignorant about the city.

            Detroit had (and has) a gigantic surplus of housing going to waste. Literally nobody is being priced out or forced out of Detroit. The affluent folks left a long time ago, and they’re not coming back.

            You want to fix up a Detroit house and live there? Great! No Detroiter would object.

            But Detroit has at least as much street crime as the cited examples of Oakland or Washington. Maybe suburban whites take that as a signal to stay away, but the notion that attacks or robberies or rapes are somehow anti-gentrification “terrorism” is utterly ridiculous.

          • DrBeat says:

            White people are shamed for moving into black neighborhoods (gentrification), moving out of black neighborhoods (white flight), and not being in black neighborhoods (segregation).

            Also, you still haven’t addressed the fact that terrorism is planned and street violence is impulsive and the perpetrators of such violence do not make an effort to make their message and demands explicit, which every other terrorist does.

          • Steve Johnson says:

            7.4 million hits on google for “terrorists who made no demands”.

            Looking through the links a pattern emerges – when the choice of victim and location makes the message clear the terror group doesn’t need to use words and so doesn’t.

            The Taliban blows up schools and shoot students in western schools.

            Same for Boko Haram.

            Inner city American groups resist the reversal of the ethnic cleansing they implemented in the late 1960s.

            The location and target is the message.

            Reverse the pattern for a moment and imagine how the American left would view it – blacks who wander into white neighborhoods are randomly beaten (and not robbed – showing that robbery wasn’t the motive). Criminals disproportionally target members of that ethnic group. The left / the state wouldn’t hesitate to call that terrorism and crack down on it harshly.

            As far as planning goes – would that excuse fly if the situation were reversed? No. Even so, you don’t need to have central planning to have a team. Bounties don’t have central planning – people fulfill them because of the payout but no one is specifically directed to fulfill a particular bounty. Beating up members of different racial groups is its own reward for young men – make it known that you won’t be punished and you can do some good for your community by holding turf for your tribe against the evil invaders and that’s all the coordination you need. The left supplies plenty of rhetoric depicting the invaders as evil aggressors.

          • Nornagest says:

            As far as planning goes – would that excuse fly if the situation were reversed? No.

            If residents of a white neighborhood randomly attacked black visitors more often than they randomly attacked each other, it would (correctly) be cited as evidence of institutionalized racist violence. If they attacked black visitors at the same or a lower rate than they attacked each other, it would (again correctly) be called a dangerous neighborhood. (It might also be called evidence of racism, but that’s because availability heuristics suck.)

            Without evidence of that kind of disproportionality, the whole argument falls apart, though even with it “terrorism” would be a ludicrously overloaded word. And for the third time, I still don’t see any such evidence. You do have more to point to than one pundit getting decked, right?

          • Cauê says:

            when the choice of victim and location makes the message clear the terror group doesn’t need to use words and so doesn’t.

            Well, the choices of victim and location don’t seem to be making the message at all clear in this case, if that’s the message. The unpopularity of the hypothesis is evidence of that.

          • DrBeat says:

            Those hits are for things when terrorists who made no demands before a given specific act. The Taliban and Boko Haram have made demands, they have made it clear what they want and that they will kill people until they are given what they want.

      • Gbdub says:

        What attacks have actually been perpetrated by far right “neo-Nazi and KKK type stuff” in the US lately? The groups themselves may be more populous, but what have they actually done? Islamist terror has been far more common – since 9/11 you’ve got at least the Fort Hood shootings, the Boston bombings, now this thing in Texas…

        I agree there’s not a lot of far left terror in the US, but most rioting is incited or encouraged by “left” elements (e.g. WTO riots), and that’s just as destructive in many cases.

        • Eli says:

          From the data, I must update my position: the far-right attempts to stage more actions, but are usually stopped by the FBI, unlike Islamists, who more commonly manage to complete an act of terrorism.

          The other prominent factors appear to be the targets: usually either Jewish institutions, or government ones. Apparently, people of many different stripes can join together in hating Jews and the US federal government.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Mapping left/right to something like Islam is silly. I don’t think that axis works across time and culture.

        All that said, in the US, it’s the left which comes closest to being allies of the Islamists, not the right. See this NY Times editorial, arguing in sympathy with the Texas shooters, and trying to accomplish essentially the same goal by different means.

        (Fun bonus fact: I ran into that article due to this McArdle tweet, which also links I can tolerate anything except the outgroup. SSC’s traffic should be reviving any minute now!)

        • AFC says:

          Oh my god, the rage, THE RAGE!!! A filter might have prevented that NYT article from raising my blood pressure. (I feel a strong urge to take it apart, piece by piece. But I resist.)

          Moving back on topic, it’s interesting to note that the person filtered (i.e., Jaskologist) would have been someone choosing to post an article with which they disagreed (unless I’m mistaken about that) and that it was posted as a point of evidence of what someone else believes.

      • randy m says:

        Can you reference 2 instances of right terrorism? I’m really curious how you count to get out higher than Islam. Let’s say starting ,2000.

        • Zykrom says:

          Which aspects of Islamic terrorism do you think are right wing, vs left wing?

          For two instances, the libertarian who flew his plane into the irs building, the unabomber.

          Every once and a while, you hear about a gov’t employee being killed in a rural area, and sometimes an abortion clinic being attacked, and sometimes a mosque being burned, ect.

          Now that I think about it, it seems like if you want to essentialize, you could say that right wing terrorism is about incentivizing compliance, and left wing terrorism is about raising awareness.

          • Nornagest says:

            Timothy McVeigh fits the “right-wing terrorism” mold better than the Unabomber, I think. Though it’d be a stretch to say the Oklahoma City bombing was motivated by incentivizing compliance.

            Ted Kaczynski was a deeply weird guy and his ideology doesn’t map very cleanly onto the left/right spectrum; it bears a passing resemblance to some anarcho-primitivists I’ve known, but only a passing one.

          • Anonymous says:

            McVeigh was before 2000 (as was the Unabomber).

            Here is a list of anti-abortion violence. There has been one murder in America since 2000 and a number of bombings and arson.

            Here is a list of attacks on mosques. Search for the words “burn,” “fire,” and especially “arson.”

            I have never heard report of a suspicious death of a government employee in a rural area.

          • Zykrom says:

            re: govt employees, back when I was in a leftest echo chamber, they talked about this all the time. How common this sort of thing is, but I was hearing a lot of it around 2008.

            I agree this there isn’t very much rightest terrorism in the US, but I was really responding to the “name two” thing, since I take that as a challenge.

            @Nornagest, it’s possible for a rightest to use ‘left terrorism’ by my definition. Notice, it didn’t exactly work. The reason I call it rightest vs leftest terrorism is because the reactionary theory about terrorism needing an elite backer looking for an excuse to compromise seems to apply to one, and not the other.

          • Anonymous says:

            And yet you failed the challenge.

          • randy m says:

            Muslim terrorists are not right or left. They are not a part of American discourse by and large, which isn’t to say there are differences in reaction to islamic terror or its purported aims but it is disingenuous to count, for example, the shooting last weekend as left of right.
            I asked for two examples of right terror, and you could give only one, and if quibble with the characterization of stack as v right ist. Well you retract your claim?

          • Zykrom says:

            It’s not really failure. I’ve got a plane, a shooting, and a lot of arson. Clearly, that’s > two.

            Ironically, my googling for Islamic terrorism in the US (first result, http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/americanattacks.htm) can actually put me into clear overachieving status, since it mentions one muslim killed in revenge for 9/11, (and an anti gay killing, but since it was done my a muslim it doesn’t really count as right wing I guess).

          • Jaskologist says:

            back when I was in a leftest echo chamber, they talked about this all the time. How common this sort of thing is

            I don’t doubt that at all. Interestingly, in the right-wing echo chamber, they regularly talk about how the left tries to pin every act of terrorism on the right, generally before the facts become known and show the opposite.

            The IRS kamikaze guy, for example, quoted favorably from the Communist manifesto, and criticized politicians for not doing more on health care reform. Why not classify him as left-wing? Trying to map literally crazy people to left or right is a fool’s errand.

          • Hadlowe says:

            @Zykrom –

            Joseph Stack (IRS building suicide attack) is another guy who didn’t really fit into any ideological spectrum cleanly. Quoting the communist manifesto in a suicide note is not typically something you would associate with the right in America. His wikipedia article includes approving quotes from Steve King and Noam Chomsky.

          • AFC says:

            I read Kaczynski’s entire “manifesto,” and I’d say he’s definitely not right-wing or left-wing by any ordinary definitions of these terms. He’s just off the axis. Left- and right-wing, for all their flexibility, always refer to ideas about how society ought to be structured, but Kaczynski legitimately seemed not to care. He just wanted to live in the wilderness, and he wanted revenge against the people who were spoiling the wilderness (and to stop them from finishing the job).

            To call that left- or right-wing would be like calling paperclip-maximization left- or right-wing.

          • RCF says:

            “McVeigh was before 2000 (as was the Unabomber).”

            There is also the question of whether an FBI building constitutes a civilian target.

        • There was an attempted bombing of the 2011 Martin Luther King Day parade in Spokane, Washington.

      • Anthony says:

        I’d be willing to bet a small amount of money that ecoterrorism is more frequent than far-right (non-Islamic) terrorism in the United States over any time period since the 1970s.

        • ddreytes says:

          I’m fairly certain that the same could be said for fundamentalist Christian (IE, anti-abortion) terrorism.

          A pox on everyone’s houses, dammit!

        • AFC says:

          Maybe, but I’ve seen some pretty non-terroristic things called eco-terrorism. For example, freeing minks from a commercial farm was called terrorism (and led to a conviction for terrorism — or at least “animal enterprise terrorism”). So, I wouldn’t naively trust any statistics on that one.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_Enterprise_Terrorism_Act

      • Dain says:

        In sheer numbers of terrorist acts radical environmentalists are actually the biggest offenders: http://www.start.umd.edu/news/trends-terrorism-us-new-report-analyzes-terrorist-attack-data-1970-2011

        Thing is, it’s mostly property damage. When it comes to violence that actually kills, right-wing and Islamist terrorists punch (speaking of punching down/up/whatever) above their weight in numbers.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          Thing is, [‘eco-terrorism’ is] mostly property damage.

          I suspect that’s more a stretching of the term ‘-terrorism’ than a fair comparison of what is actually being done by different parties.

          • Dain says:

            Yea, and by including property damage it makes it less outrageous to call Baltimore rioters terrorists. Especially because the media is overwhelmingly claiming there’s a political motive for it all.

            Thought experiment: If environmentalists destroying corporate property in the dead of night is terrorism, are Baltimore rioters destroying small business property in the light of day – something much more intimidating – also terrorism? Recall that the terrorism designation is mostly used to describe acts targeting lay people.

          • Nornagest says:

            You can call it terrorism if you want to stretch that word to include politically motivated small-scale vandalism, but at that point I think it’s stopped being a useful category. I mean, gang conflicts are, basically, political; you have two groups butting heads that both want to locally monopolize the use of force. And they’re definitely no strangers to intimidation tactics. Does it thereby follow that every NS13 tag I see is an act of terrorism?

            Fundamentally, I don’t think political motives are doing enough work in that word. Calling something terrorist almost inescapably encodes a political stance toward it, but what else do most acts of terrorism share?

            Some possibilities:

            1. Planning. Terrorist acts are premeditated, not spontaneous; they are staged operations with specific targets.

            2. Explicit motive. Acts aim to achieve specific political effects, and if those effects aren’t obvious from the choice of target (e.g. an abortion clinic), then demands, claims of responsibility, or a manifesto are likely to surface.

            3. Drama. Targets tend to be chosen more for symbolic or propaganda value than for strategic or economic effect or maximum casualties.

            4. Transgressiveness. Terrorism breaks conventional rules of conflict, and aims to do so as flagrantly as possible to maximize its psychological impact. Mass killings of civilians are the modal example, but kidnapping, hostage-taking, deliberate destruction of cultural icons, and the like would also qualify.

            Baltimore fits none of these. ALF creeping into a fur farm and releasing all the minks fits 1, 2, and maybe 3.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            “You can call it terrorism if you want to stretch that word to include politically motivated small-scale vandalism, but at that point I think it’s stopped being a useful category.”

            That’s certainly on the way to what Lewis called ‘verbicide’. I don’t like the word ‘terrorism’ applied to bombing abortion clinics, or even murdering abortionists,or bombing/shooting up synagogues — or anything else that is a straightforward attack on the practical means of doing whatever the attacker dislikes. People who are not involved in abortion, or who are not Jews or Muslims etc etc, have nothing to fear from those particular attackers (except as corollary damage). We may need a term for that.

            My language sense says that ‘terrorism’ is shocking deadly mass violence to random (or symbolic) targets — to strike terror in everyone.

  2. What I want is filters that will be able to auto-find evil twins: that is, people who are like you in most ways but differ in some important respect. Finding evil twins seems to be the most productive way to have discussions that could actually change your mind.

    You could do corpus analysis on your own writings and everyone else’s writings and then bin odd phrases (like they do for Amazon books) so you can find people who almost overlap with you. Then if you want to read about an issue on which you disagree with many of the main points (say, “white dudes”), just search for someone who says that a lot but also says a lot of the things that you say.

    • Rangi says:

      That *does* sound useful. It’s easy enough to try and be open-minded by not setting up a filter against opposing views. It’s harder to find discussions opposing your views which you don’t mind reading, since most of them will be full of references and cultural cues that you don’t understand and make it harder to read. People who are largely similar to you but disagree on key issues are probably the best way to seriously consider those issues.

    • onyomi says:

      I often feel like I am an evil twin with most of my social circle, given that I am culturally blue tribe and working in a very blue field (liberal arts wing of academia), yet believe very red/gray tribe-ish things about politics, social justice, etc.

      • 27chaos says:

        As I live in the opposite environment and have political opinions mostly opposite yours, I am your doppelganger.

        • onyomi says:

          So you are a leftist in a bastion of right-wingers (though I am really more of a libertarian than a traditional right-winger)? I am genuinely curious what that is like.

          • Cole says:

            I’m not the person you asked. I’ve been gray tribe most of my life. Among red tribers I’m blue and among blue tribers I’m red.

            It feels mostly the same being a political minority for either group. There are discussions where you have to tread very lightly if you don’t want to be ganged up on. You have to swallow a lot of statements you find really stupid, usually beliefs that are mostly meant to signal tribal allegiance are the most annoying. If I can drag an issue out of their tribal mindset then its worth discussing.

            One difference I’ve noticed between being a minority in either tribe is what insults you will be called. Among blue tribers the worst insult you could be called is a racist. Among red tribers the worst insult might be to call someone a traitor. If you get called either of these things by a tribe then it obligates other tribe members to keep their distance from you until you have atoned in some tribal specific way.

            I don’t know about you, but for me politics is very tiresome. I train the people I’m around to associate political discussion with me as something very boring or something I only treat on an academic level.

          • onyomi says:

            Although I associate myself more with the gray tribe, I do tend to find political discussion amongst a group of red tribers much easier and more comfortable than amongst blue tribers.

            Amongst red tribe members I feel sort of like a hardcore socialist talking to a group of Hillary Clinton supporters: they may think I go too far, but they are broadly sympathetic to my worldview.

            Red tribers may disagree with my views on drugs, foreign policy, and secession, but they are still sympathetic to my Reagan-esque “government is the problem” worldview.

            By contrast, even if I can get blue tribers to agree with me on many key points, there tends to remain a fundamental divide summed up by a supposed Bernie Sanders quote I read on facebook: “the government doesn’t regulate Wall Street, Wall Street regulates the government!”

            The blue tribe worldview is that money is the root of all evil, and I am extremely unsympathetic to that, thinking instead that unjust authority is the root of all evil, with the result that a deeper level of agreement is very hard for us to achieve.

          • @ 27chaos & onyomi

            Please form a joint blog to discuss political issues in interesting and unexpected ways 🙂

            @Cole

            I’ve had quite similar experiences, though I’ve not had much experience with far-right types, I’ve certainly been considered the token “lefty” in centre-right circles and the token “right winger” in left-wing circles (“neo-lib” amongst those being polite).

            It makes it very tempting to conclude that even highly intelligent people are kind of like tribalistic sheep, but though I see myself as someone that rationally selects correct arguments from both sides, I guess it could also be argued I’m a contrarian ***hole. I definitely think if there is ever any correct political position, it will come out of synthesising the legitimate elements of both the left and right wing views. I’ve not found too many that seem to agree on that just yet…

    • I used to interact with someone on Usenet who, I suspect, regarded me as his evil twin, or should have. When we posted simultaneously in response to something, we usually said the same things, often in almost the same words. But whenever he responded to a post of mine it was to attack it.

      My conjecture (never tested) was that he viewed me as someone like him in many ways but with some fundamental flaw or error, hence felt it was his duty to criticize what I said. The alternative possibility was that he had a grudge against me because of some past interaction, possibly not online, of which I was unaware.

      • Paprika says:

        Maybe it’s a future you time travelled to the past to try and avert(or cause?!) some apocalypse! That would explain the similarity and why he seemed to single you out…

      • Shatterface says:

        Sounds like the ‘narcissism of small details’.

        Particularly in SJW circles, they are more likely to dogpile ‘allies’ for minor infractions than genuine opponents.

        • Spotted Toad says:

          See “Aaronson, Scott.”

        • Velociraptor says:

          I suspect that may cause them to lose in the long run; see http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2015/03/fellow_traveler.html

          However, it seems to me like there is a liberal media bias in the sense that people writing for established news organizations tend to take the liberal side and it’s intelligent bloggers like Caplan taking the conservative one. Seems like it’s always a news item when the mainstream media says something negative about SJ, e.g. Chait’s piece or http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.html?_r=0 So I’m not sure who will win in the long run.

        • alexp says:

          That’s a characteristic of all human social groups, not just SJWs.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heresy

          • Fazathra says:

            Some groups are more tolerant of heresy than others though and, ironically, SJWs are probably the most loudly intolerant political group in today’s America.

          • Eli says:

            No, the most loudly intolerant are probably still the politically-active wings of evangelical Christianity, culminating in the Westboro Baptist Church.

            But, you know, they don’t have blogs, and are boringly mainstream.

          • Fazathra says:

            I’ll grant that, actually. I completely forgot about the WBC and their antics. Still, second most intolerant group in America is hardly a point of pride and, at least from my perspective, the SJWs are much more worrying as they wield much more power. When was the last time the Westboro Baptist Church got a CEO fired?

          • @Eli, I’m not sure I can agree with you. The evangelical Protestants that I know are apologetic and deferential to a fault, rarely engage in public shaming of their opponents, and behave with a circumspection born of the fact that they know their values aren’t shared by most. WBC is an extreme outlier, and I’m having a hard time of coming up with a second example that even approaches it.

        • Dain says:

          I was told recently by a progressive that the “ally-industrial complex” is actually a thing. And a bad thing.

    • Sylocat says:

      According to the Outgroup Equation (proximity plus small differences), that would lead to more animosity and hostility rather than less.

  3. Nicole says:

    I have to wonder how much these “annoyism” things you mention are effective from people being directly annoyed and thus becoming aware of it, or news/blog coverage later on. I mean, as a white person no one ran into a brunch I was in, but I saw plenty of coverage of the “Black Brunch” thing regardless. And people already select their news sources in whatever method they choose to.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I wonder how the ability to respond to “this is an outrage” which “then why didn’t you filter it out?” will affect this kind of coverage.

      • Jacob Schmidt says:

        Why? “Just ignore it” and “just don’t read it” seem very common from where I’m sitting. I wouldn’t expect another possible action in that cluster to significantly change much.

        • tautology says:

          Because not reading is for once and filtering for ever?

        • Eggo says:

          The response to “don’t read it” is “I can’t allow it to exist, because it’s problematic“. Filters won’t change that: book burners will still hunt for books to get outraged over.

          • Deiseach says:

            I tend to agree that filtering won’t be the panacea that everyone thinks; as for annoyism, I imagine they’ll just ramp up their tactics in order to get around filtering (and really, won’t the first thing anyone does, once filters come onstream, will be to find some means of hacking or getting around them?)

            I think I should try Tumblr Saviour; there are posts where I have to deliberately refrain from getting into it, because my knee-jerk reaction is to start yelling in outrage and I know that (a) this is not useful to either me or the person who posted (b) I’m not going to change their mind (e.g. on abortion); they regard my opinions as not just wrong but as actively evil and harmful (c) it’s not good for my blood pressure or state of mind to get into a fight that I don’t need to get into.

            Filtering sounds like it’ll help me avoid such occasions in future.

            I am also a tiny bit sceptical about “seeking out opinons opposite to yours” because right now, with the referendum for same-sex marriage gearing up in my country, I have not seen one example in the media or elsewhere saying “Well, the ‘No’ campaign may have a point or should at least be addressed”.

            I have seen plenty of the parties in government (to a greater or lesser extent) pushing for a “Yes” vote, plenty of approving stories in the media about people tearing down “No” campaign posters (imagine the treatment of the story if it were a group going around tearing down “Yes” campaign posters), some shock and horror about “No” campaign posters (again, nothing about images being used on “Yes” posters) and in general a concensus that the only way to vote is “yes”.

            Which is fine, and as I’ve said before, I’d probably agree with same-gender civil marriage without any great degree of either enthusiasm or outrage, but if anything can persuade me to vote “No” it will be the “Yes” campaign and the attendant cavalcade of smuggery and condescension (the Mrs Brown radio advert was the last straw for me).

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Deiseach
            if anything can persuade me to vote “No” it will be the “Yes” campaign and the attendant cavalcade of smuggery and condescension

            If I had $40 to spare, I’d probably join WorldCon to vote for Brad’s Sad Puppies slate of Hugo nominees, just because of the nasty attacks on him. Well, no, because then I’d have to read the non-Puppy nominees, to be fair, lest some of their authors may be neutral or nice, so should not be caught in a cross-fire. Which is the situation of nice Gays in Ireland, apparently.

            (As is, I don’t have to read either the MilitarySF or the sort of books that are recommended because of the demographic of the author.)

          • I tend to agree that filtering won’t be the panacea that everyone thinks; as for annoyism, I imagine they’ll just ramp up their tactics in order to get around filtering (and really, won’t the first thing anyone does, once filters come onstream, will be to find some means of hacking or getting around them?)

            I agree with your conclusion but disagree with your confidence in hacking.

            For example, look at how spam filters have changed email. A few years ago, I had to wade through as many as a thousand unsolicited commercial messages per day; nowadays, the only spam I see are from a few entities that I have incautiously invited to communicate with me.

            Spammers have tremendous financial incentives to get around filters, but there are a lot of different kinds of filters, and they are constantly being improved.

            I don’t know if spam is still being generated at the levels of ten years ago, but if so, I’d guess that well over 99% is never seen by the intended recipient. Spammers have lost the filtering war.

    • Shenpen says:

      Seen some videos about it, it is very weird to my barbarous Eastern European eyes, because I think people trying this here – regardless of colour – would find an enraged cook drop-kicking them out of the restaurant. That is of course illegal, but that is the point, I think Annoyism is a result of Western law enforcement being really, really effective. It is so effective that Western people can reasonably assume that they can annoy others – carefully choosing a way that happens to be fully legal – and they will not physically assault them because it is very likely that the assaulter gets arrested, and also sentenced, so people normally just don’t do that.

      The point here is that because laws cannot possibly cover every potential annoying scenario, cannot make all of them illegal, if law enforcement for physical violence is very efficient, you have to deal with things like this.

      In other words, it may be better if law enforcement is not that effective. That if no bones are broken the police does not really care much about investigating the issue (which is roughly the case here).This forces people to behave in mainly non-annoying ways.

      So, we over here have the positive utility of people generally behaving in non-annoying ways because they know an ass kicking is likely because an arrest for that is unlikely, and the negative utility that sometimes when people are beaten up for other reasons, when they were clearly in the right and their assaulter in the wrong, that is obviously bad. The question is, where does it balance best, most positive, least negative utility?

      I would say, if the police prosecutes only cases where physical violence results in actual damage done, and more than just a black eye or bruise, so based on the medical diagnosis, that may be a good compromise. This is enough leeway so that people can police themselves the annoying people by promising a good ass-kicking, and yet not so much leeway as serious violence goes unpunished.

      • Saint_Fiasco says:

        I think that the consistency of enforcement is more important then the effectiveness.

        For example, if the police are less likely to intervene only if they don’t like the owner of the restaurant (his political affiliations, his race, his stingyness with protection money) then it can get really bad. If the police are consistently enforcing only really important laws because they don’t have the manpower to go after restaurant owners or pot smokers, that’s not so bad.

        It’s the same with bribes. When only rich people can buy lobbyists and regulators to change laws, it’s very unfair. But when anyone can bribe a policeman to look the other way, it’s less unfair. Corruption for the masses.

        • Gbdub says:

          I do think we’re setting up some bad incentives though – compare the number of progressives willing to practice annoyism against Christians, who mostly won’t blow you up, vs. Muslims, who just might put a fatwa on your head. When really from a progressive standpoint, Islam as currently practiced is as bad or worse on most social issues.

          And I don’t buy the Gary Trudeau “punching down” crap either – most fundamentalist Christians are poorer/less educated/less connected than the coastal liberals mocking them. Certainly a lot of the most devout Christians in the US are poor Hispanics and African Americans.

          The only difference seems to be how likely the target is to respond violently.

          • Saint_Fiasco says:

            But in a system with not-evil but overworked ineffective police (like the one Shenpen describes), wouldn’t the police go after the muslims (because they hurt people) and leave Fundamentalist Christians alone (because they only annoy people)?

          • Gbdub says:

            I’m talking about Muslims/Christians as targets of annoying, not perpetrators of it. And as far as public condemnation of annoyers vs. terrorists, consider the Westboro Baptist Church vs. the Texas shooters.

            In the former case, we get lots of “I support free speech, but…” directed at the perpetrators of annoyism (the WBC).

            In the latter case, we get the same articles, but pointed at the (intended) victims!

            Incidentally, I nominate “I support free speech but…” as the official leftist counterpart to “I’m not a racist but…” Good rarely comes after either.

          • Saint_Fiasco says:

            I would expect Christians to be targets of annoyance more than Muslims because Christians are closer to the in-group, and are therefore the “true” out-group.

            Fundamentalist Muslims are seen as uncivilized and a lost cause.

      • Clockwork Marx says:

        The main consequence I see in this case is that unpopular minorities are silenced out of fear while powerful majorities are free to be annoying as they want.

        Legal protection may allow groups like the Westboro Church to annoy people with impunity, but this seems like a fair trade-off compared to the opposite extreme faced by religious minorities in Pakistan, gays in Uganda, blacks in the Jim Crow-era South, etc. In these cases, coalitions willing to do violence to anyone who annoys them control the ideological landscape.

        I know you aren’t advocating the extreme case where mob justice is used to settle most ideological disputes and the police just look the other way, but this strikes me as a common enough outcome to justify laws (and enforcement of said laws) guaranteeing protection of all speech from violent retaliation.

      • Deiseach says:

        I wonder how effective Annoyism really is as a tool to change outlooks, rather than as a group action which affirms bonds and gives the nice sensation of the glow of virtue to the participants?

        My vegan brother annoys the hell out of me with links about vegetarianism/veganism versus omnivorism and his animal rights activities on Facebook, but he hasn’t converted me from eating animal products 🙂

  4. Mark says:

    There are rumors of a similar anti-SJ block list of people who engage on online mobbing and harassment in the name of social justice, but I can’t find it online right now and I think it might have been taken down.

    The original one was here. Not only did it compile a huge list of Twitter accounts to block, but that list (many thousands of names long) was actually uploaded to GitHub in addition to the code that generated it. IIRC SJ-types seized on that fact and claimed that the repository was being used to organize targets for harassment, which got it removed.

    • TrivialGravitas says:

      No, it was identical (save for the ‘blacklist’ which is used to generate the blocklist by checking followers of said) to an anti GamerGate block bot and the blacklist mostly consisted of the people who promoted said bot. They couldn’t make such claims without implicating themselves.

      It got taken down cause the guy who made it had restraining order out against him from the one person on the blacklist who had no relationship to GGAutoBlocker.

      • Mark says:

        No, it was identical (save for the ‘blacklist’ which is used to generate the blocklist by checking followers of said) to an anti GamerGate block bot and the blacklist mostly consisted of the people who promoted said bot. They couldn’t make such claims without implicating themselves.

        As far as I can recall, the anti-GG repository just contained the handful of Twitter handles from which the actual blacklist was generated, whereas the anti-SJW repository had both. Am I misremembering?

        • TrivialGravitas says:

          They both have both. Generating the list takes hours because twitter will only give you data so fast unless you pay them.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        I don’t understand why a restraining order means you can’t create a piece of software that includes someone’s user name along with thousands of others.

        • Godzillarissa says:

          I don’t know that much about restraining orders, but if they forbid you to hassle people, why would you be allowed to put those people on a publicly available blacklist? That’s a bit like “I can’t call and harass you, but I can put up signs around town.”, or in this case, the internet.

          Which doesn’t warrant the takedown of the software, but I guess one could argue (however daft and sinister that would be) that the software was supposed to hassle that one person and the rest of the usernames were just noise to hide the true purpose.

          • Tracy W says:

            @Godzillarissa: There’s a big difference between a court saying “you can’t talk to this person” and a court saying “you can’t talk *about* this person”. The latter is much more harmful if the court happens to be wrong about the value of the speech in question.

            Eg say A thinks that the way B treated them was a crime, but the courts disagree. Banning A from talking about B means that A can’t coordinate with other people who have suffered similar events, limits A’s ability to try to persuade people to change the law to make B’s behaviour a crime, means that A can’t try warning people away from B.
            Of course this may be all very unpleasant for B to hear about and to see, and it may be entirely unfair to B, but we know courts do make mistakes from time to time, so limiting their powers to control the conversation does make sense, even at a cost to Bs.

          • Godzillarissa says:

            @TracyW: Thanks for your reply, that was a nuance I did not think about. Are there really restraining orders that keep you from talking to a person and that’s that? No further conditions?

            I would think that there should be (no idea if there is, actually) a category between “don’t talk to them” and “don’t ever talk about them” as in “don’t actively harm them, even if you don’t talk to them”.

            So, at the very least, blacklisting a person seems to be limiting their interactions and possibly even threaten their reputation. In any case it was an active step against a person that had a restraining order against the initiator. And even if that doesn’t hold in court, it’s a valid reason for github to worry, I’d guess.

          • Tracy W says:

            @Godzillarissa, I’m not a lawyer, and there’s a lot of differences between countries or even states within a country but I think most restraining orders ban contacting someone (including by email, letters, texts) and being the same place as that person, and also asking others to contact the person on your behalf.

            And some restraining orders have been written restraining what people can say to other people as well. Sometimes higher courts have overturned these.

            If A is threatening B’s reputation, I think that generally around the world B can take a defamation action, or report A for blackmail, depending on what is meant by “threatening”.

            The distinction I was drawing was more about what the law should be, as opposed to what it necessarily is.

        • Eggo says:

          Because the legality doesn’t matter, and the goons at github (who are triggered by rugs with the problematic word “meritocracy” on them) were just looking for an excuse to remove it?

          • Godzillarissa says:

            That’s kinda what I was getting at in my second paragraph above, although I’d have assumed they were just scared shitless of legal consequences of cleverly manipulated half-facts.

            Oh well, I don’t have that much of an idea of the climate surrounding that incident, so may I ask why you think the actively wanted to put it down? Were they just taking the “good” side in that whole #GG mess?

        • TrivialGravitas says:

          It’s possible to write a restraining order that way, but Github made the decision, not the courts, so it’s irrelevant if it covered it or not.

      • Tab Atkins says:

        It got taken down cause the guy who made it had restraining order out against him from the one person on the blacklist who had no relationship to GGAutoBlocker.

        No, it got taken down because the guy who made it was a stalker/harasser, and the core of his blocklist (the handful of accounts used as the seed for the full blocklist) were people he’d actively stalked/harassed in the past. This isn’t word-of-mouth; some of them were my friends. GitHub peeps recognized that this wasn’t “identical” to the anti-GG blocklist, it was just an extension of the person’s harassment, and took it down.

        • Eggo says:

          Checking out your blog makes me somewhat suspicious of your trustworthiness on this issue, what with the Literal Human Scum stuff.

        • Mark says:

          GitHub peeps recognized that this wasn’t “identical” to the anti-GG blocklist, it was just an extension of the person’s harassment

          What exactly do you mean by this? I have trouble envisioning how his alleged prior stalking means his blocklist did more harm than its counterpart.

  5. Cauê says:

    An article I read recently (but which I can’t find right now to link to)

    This post, perhaps?

    http://lesswrong.com/lw/m4g/could_autogenerated_troll_scores_reduce_twitter/

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Why are both that post and this post hypothetical? Is it just a coincidence that they come on the tails of twitter’s announcement of automated abuse detection?

      • Velociraptor says:

        That announcement is pretty interesting. I’m getting a strong reasonableness vibe. I wonder if Scott has any concrete suggestions for them. They seem pretty approachable.

  6. blacktrance says:

    I think the result would be several carefully separated groups with their own social and epistemic norms, all of which coexist peacefully and in relative isolation from one another

    The problem is that the different groups are still fighting over common resources. The most prominent of these is the government – you can block the people you don’t like and the SJWs can block the people they don’t like, but when it comes time to vote, the weaker groups won’t be able to isolate themselves from the stronger groups’ influence. You also share the streets with them, so if they start throwing rocks through shop windows, blocking traffic, or otherwise annoying people, Internet filters won’t do much to help. Yelling at people on the Internet is bad, but meatspace (potentially violent) confrontation is even worse.

    • Cauê says:

      This. Internet arguments sometimes are about something.

    • onyomi says:

      “…when it comes time to vote, the weaker groups won’t be able to isolate themselves from the stronger groups’ influence.”

      Unless they start physically segregating themselves to live near people who share their online bubble. This seems like a likely eventual consequence, and might result in waves of secession/archipelago dynamic, etc.

      • Zubon says:

        Unless you actually secede, that just strengthens one’s opponents in the American electoral system. Urban areas tend to be very blue, rural areas tend to be moderately red, so the legislature is red because there are a few very safe blue seats (95% blue vote in Detroit) that “use up” most of the blue votes.

        This would also be a reason for Scott’s previous post on not knowing any creationists. Red areas are more “purple” than blue areas, and blue people are more likely to live near people who share their bubble.

        • TrivialGravitas says:

          I live in Utah and I don’t know any creationists. Some of that is probably that I do know some just not well enough to talk politics, (coworkers and such) but the last time I encountered a creationist who spoke about it off a religion debate forum was 2005. Demographics are an insufficient explanation here.

      • blacktrance says:

        Literal secession (i.e. that results in separate governments) is well outside the Overton Window and would be difficult to achieve. For one thing, there’s the stigma of the Civil War. For another, groups that secede can’t be dominated, which is objectionable to the would-be dominators. For example, if Conservatopia tried to secede from the US, there would be an outcry of “Don’t let them be bigots!”, if technolibertarians tried, it’d be “Don’t let them get out of paying their fair share!”, for more leftish progressives, it’d be “Don’t let them betray America!”, etc. Without an agreement of mutual non-interference, the different groups will vie for dominance and not let anyone leave.

        • onyomi says:

          I actually think a secession movement could succeed right now in the US if only a significant majority of the inhabitants of an area strongly desired it.

          There would be lots of bluster about being unpatriotic, threats about how everyone would lose their social security, etc., but if a big enough group (say, a strong majority of the inhabitants of an area at least as big as Rhode Island) were really behind it, I don’t think anyone would have the appetite to stop them militarily anymore.

          This is also what I wish would happen, if you can’t tell.

          • SpaghettiLee says:

            Who says military intervention would be necessary? I believe most attempts at state-level secession would fail simply from lack of resources. Especially conservative states that agitate for it: they are all, except for Texas and Alaska, net positive recipients of federal income tax, and many of them depend on Federal spending from the military. Where would they make up these funds? Trade agreements with the nation they just seceded from? Foreign countries that are somehow going to be immediately responsive to an ideology-fueled breakaway backwater? Most Americans don’t recognize Somaliland or Abkhazia, why would China and Russia recognize the Independent Republic of South Carolina?

            With a few exceptions, I think most state-level secessions would end with the state in question asking politely to be let back in after a few years in the wilderness.

          • onyomi says:

            The question of how successful such an experiment might be would depend on myriad factors that are difficult to predict, such as the ruling ideology of the breakaway state, whether or not the federal government attempted to restrict trade with people living there (I predict they could not get away with it if the area were sufficiently large), its geographic location and access to resources and trade routes, etc. etc.

            That said, I think Texas and Alaska are among the most likely candidates if such a thing were to happen at a state level (though it’s interesting to think whether say, a single city could secede if truly committed–I think it is possible so long as it is enough people that it can’t plausibly be construed as some sort of cultish rebellion a la the Branch Davidians).

            I can imagine scenarios in which it would be a success and scenarios in which it would be a failure. The key point is I don’t think the American people would be willing to put up with the measures necessary to *ensure* it would be a failure.

          • shemtealeaf says:

            Onyomi,

            I share your desire for secessions to happen, but I think the government has many ways to destroy a secessionist movement without actually attacking it.

            1) Restrict trade via international pressure.

            2) Restrict trade even more via a naval blockade. It doesn’t even have to be particularly effective; it just has to be enough of a problem to drive up the price of anything the secessionists want to buy.

            3) Cut off communications access by making it illegal for any internet/phone provider to deal with the secessionists. If necessary, cut any underwater cables running to the area.

            4) Cut off travel, making it impossible for the secessionists to ever see friends/family that are still in the US.

            5) Seize out-of-state assets held by secessionists.

            6) Offer immediate amnesty to anyone who wants to leave the secessionists and return to the US.

          • Jiro says:

            The idea that conservative states are net positive recipients of Federal money is a very misleading factoid that has been constantly spread by the left and is a combination of the following distortions:

            — Red states are more likely to have military bases and other government installations. The figures count as this being paid to the “state” when it’s really just the government paying itself.
            — Red states are more likely to be rural, so have more highway expenditure compared to the population. Highways are infrastructure that benefits the country in general, not just the state in which the highway funds are being spent.
            — People often work in blue states and retire to red states. This counts as paying taxes to a blue state and receiving government benefits in a red state.
            — Several other problems that I don’t remember at the moment.

          • Anonymous says:

            Jiro, all of those are reasons that the statistic is relevant to secession. And Lee even mentioned the military bases!

          • Troy says:

            Jiro: might demographics also play a role here?

          • Jiro says:

            The point is that the Federal funding doesn’t benefit the state in the way that naive statistics would seem to indicate. So they would not be relevant to secession, because even if secession causes them to lose that funding, the actual benefits would not decrease in the way indicated by the numeric value of the funding.

            And while he mentioned military bases, that was only to give them as an example of spending, which he then proceeded to count as 100% of its value. Spending $X on a military base does not produce 100% of X worth of benefit for the state, because the government is giving the money to itself.

          • Spending $X on a military base does not produce 100% of X worth of benefit for the state, because the government is giving the money to itself.

            But the government doesn’t just send the money back to Washington. When the base is created or expanded, the previous property owners get compensation. Local people are hired to work on the base. Local vendors are paid to supply things to the base. The service members themselves are paid, and even if they live on the base itself, they spend their wages in the local economy.

            When closure of a military base is proposed, the local community and its elected representatives always rise up in united and determined opposition. You think that’s because they don’t want to lose the honor of hosting the U.S. military?

          • Jiro says:

            It produces some benefit. But you can’t count 100% of the amount.

          • It produces some benefit. But you can’t count 100% of the amount.

            Not locally, perhaps, but none of that money is literally paid right back into the federal treasury. Whether it’s spent on tanks or weapons systems or barracks or airbase runways, all of it is used to hire people or buy stuff.

          • Jiro says:

            Yes, but it’s not all used to buy stuff within the state.

        • SpaghettiLee says:

          A region can’t be dominated so long as it’s not literally the property of another country? I find that hard to believe. Ask any country the U.S. has ever invaded and maintained a military presence in, or whatever parts of Africa are beholden to Chinese interests.

          • blacktrance says:

            It can be dominated in the sense that its foreign policy and economy can be subject to influence, but that’s different from how different groups in the US want to dominate each other. For example, if SJWs wanted some poor allied dictatorship to pass a law banning discrimination against homosexuals, they couldn’t do it by passing a law in Congress nearly as easily as they could if they wanted to enact that same law domestically.

        • Gbdub says:

          Why go with whole-hog secession? Just bring back Federalism in its original form, and significantly reduce the power of the central government.

          That way California could go all People’s Republic without meddling from Alabama senators, and Texas could be God’s country if that’s what they want.

          You’d end up with something like a hopefully more effective European Union (at least you’d have a common language and strong currency?).

          • cypher says:

            You can’t keep a single currency like the EU is and not have unified spending like the US does, otherwise you get what’s happening with Greece endangering the Euro. A few regional currencies might work.

          • onyomi says:

            @Gbdub,

            But what realistic means do we have of achieving strong federalism in the current system? Even if we get two-term president Rand Paul there would be pretty severe limits on what would be possible, though it would be a start.

            This is why I hope either Rand wins or Hillary wins, but a Jeb win is the worst of both worlds from my perspective. If Rand wins he can start pushing the federal government in a more federalist direction. If Hillary wins it may sufficiently piss off people in Texas and Alaska to start seriously considering secession. If Jeb wins the Alaskans and Texans will sadly tend to view him as one of their own even as he does little differently from what Hillary would have done.

            Plus, I would say that wide-scale secession is more fair to everyone: *I* for example would like Rand Paul, his father, and people who think like them to run not only the federal government, but the govmt of every state in the United States, but I’m sure there are at least 50% of Americans who think that would be a disaster. Why force that change down my ideological opponents’ throats? Instead, let California try to run itself as a super blue state and Texas try to run itself as a super red state and see which turns out better. I will move to whichever state is the most libertarian, assuming it has a reasonable climate.

            Why don’t I do that now? Because, with our current federal government (which is actually a national government), the real differences between living in the various states are too minor to play a major role in my decision making.

            I used to think the way to libertarian paradise was by electing a lot of libertarian presidents, senators, etc. Now I think it is more likely to be found in a combination of waves of secession and/or laws which do not enforce a libertarian solution, but rather *allow* one. No need to enforce a gold standard, for example, if you simply legalize currency competition.

          • RCF says:

            Ron Paul is no libertarian, especially on a state level. He wants less federal power so that state governments will be more able to pass anti-freedom laws.

          • onyomi says:

            Yes, Ron Paul is a libertarian.

          • blacktrance says:

            Ron Paul is an Old Right conservative, which looks libertarian compared to most elected politicians. When it comes to social issues, he tends to support federalism and criticizes the federal government even when it gets it right (from a libertarian perspective), and tends to be a social conservative.

          • onyomi says:

            That may be where much of his thinking developed out of, but if anyone is a libertarian, Ron Paul is a libertarian. He is a foundational personality in the libertarian movement as it exists today, as much as Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand, or Ludwig von Mises. Most younger libertarians were first exposed to libertarianism through Ron Paul in some way or another. To say Ron Paul is not a libertarian is almost wrong by definition in a world where he helped define what it means to be a libertarian.

            He may present an old-timey “I just want to follow the constitution” facade on the campaign trail, but he is a voluntarist, meaning basically an anarcho-capitalist, as revealed in more candid interviews. The fact that he is more culturally conservative in his personal views has no bearing on his highly libertarian political views. If it did, Lew Rockwell, Hans Herman Hoppe, and many others who describe themselves as libertarian, and who are major forces within the libertarian movement would be disqualified as libertarians.

            I personally think using drugs and prostitution are bad ideas, yet I want drugs and prostitution to be legal. Libertarian means “live and let live,” not libertine.

            The fact that he is against abortion is also not a contradiction. He believes fetuses are humans. If you think a fetus is a full-fledged person then abortion is murder. All libertarians I know are against murder.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ onyomi
            “Why don’t I do that now? Because, with our current federal government (which is actually a national government), the real differences between living in the various states are too minor to play a major role in my decision making.”

            This Leftist applauds this forum, where that kind of statement does not draw ad hominem.

          • RCF says:

            “That may be where much of his thinking developed out of, but if anyone is a libertarian, Ron Paul is a libertarian.”

            No one has a better claim to being a libertarian than Ron Paul? What about someone who is pro-choice and anti-government sponsored discrimination?

            “Most younger libertarians were first exposed to libertarianism through Ron Paul in some way or another.”

            Well, that’s just bare assertion.

            “To say Ron Paul is not a libertarian is almost wrong by definition in a world where he helped define what it means to be a libertarian.”

            Libertarianism is defined by supporting liberty, not by following a cult of personality.

            “He may present an old-timey “I just want to follow the constitution” facade on the campaign trail, but he is a voluntarist, meaning basically an anarcho-capitalist, as revealed in more candid interviews.”
            Anarcho-capitalist, with special exceptions for his own personal bigotries and prejudices: anti-abortion, anti-gay, and pro-dominionism.
            “The fact that he is more culturally conservative in his personal views has no bearing on his highly libertarian political views.”

            Nonsense. His bigotries have had practical affects on his political actions, such as trying to prohibit federal courts from hearing any case in which the plaintiff alleges discrimination on the basis of religion or sexual orientation … even if the defendant is the government.
            “If you think a fetus is a full-fledged person then abortion is murder.”
            That is utter nonsense. Beliefs don’t change reality. Whether Ron Paul believes an embryo is a full-fledged person has absolutely no bearing on whether abortion is murder. It’s really a thin distinction to be making, between someone who opposes liberty because they don’t value liberty, and someone who opposes liberty because they hold false beliefs that lead them to oppose liberty while believing that they are supporting it. Taken reductio ad absurdum, your line of thinking would mean that no action could every be condemned as anti-liberty, as there can always be some belief under which it is pro-liberty. For instance, everyone who professes to not believe in Christianity is possessed by a demon who is forcing them to say that they don’t believe in Christianity, when in fact they do. Torturing them forces the demon to leave. Therefore, it is not contrary to libertarianism to torture anyone who disagrees with Christianity.
            And he doesn’t merely want to make killing fetus illegal, he wants to make killing an embryo illegal. You have to be completely nutso to think that an embryo is a full-fledged human being. Do you really want a complete nut in charge of the US?

          • onyomi says:

            Ron Paul is not in favor of government-sponsored discrimination. Really, I can’t believe I’m having this debate. It’s like arguing that the pope is Catholic. I’m sure someone could point to somewhere he has failed to uphold the ideals of Catholicism, but he’s still *the pope*.

            Your take on his abortion stance is pure question begging on what is at least partially a metaphysical question. Furthermore, if you disqualify pro-life libertarians from *being* libertarians then you are eliminating about half of the libertarians I’ve ever met.

            I’ve been socializing in Libertarian circles and following the political movement for almost twenty years. I have a good sense of the beliefs and history of its membership. 99% of self-described libertarians I’ve met would say that Ron Paul is a libertarian, even if they don’t agree with him on every issue. Who are you to tell them they’re wrong?

            The only way this debate makes any sense is if you are trying to use some older definition of libertarianism, as sometimes insisted upon by people like Noam Chomsky, but I don’t think that’s what you mean. I assume we’re talking about the political and ideological movement which includes Mises, Hayek, Rand, Rothbard, et al., as that’s what almost everyone in the mainstream means when they say “libertarian” nowadays. Von Mises was also against abortion. Are you now going to claim he wasn’t a libertarian either?

            You don’t get to redefine a political label to mean what you think it *should* mean when millions of people are using it to mean something else. To do so is pure sophistry.

          • blacktrance says:

            He is a foundational personality in the libertarian movement as it exists today, as much as Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand, or Ludwig von Mises. Most younger libertarians were first exposed to libertarianism through Ron Paul in some way or another. To say Ron Paul is not a libertarian is almost wrong by definition in a world where he helped define what it means to be a libertarian.

            You can be a foundational personality in a movement without subscribing to its ideology. For example, one can say that historically Hobbes was foundational to liberalism despite not being a liberal himself. If many people were introduced to EA through HPMOR, that wouldn’t make Eliezer an EA. Ron Paul introduced many people to libertarianism and is foundational in today’s libertarian movement, but he’s still not a libertarian.

            And I’m not saying that Paul isn’t a libertarian because he’s personally conservative. He’s not a libertarian because his conservatism extends beyond the personal – for example, he’s opposed to same-sex marriage.and wanted to ban flag burning.

          • RCF says:

            “Ron Paul is not in favor of government-sponsored discrimination. Really, I can’t believe I’m having this debate.”

            You’re not having a debate at all. A debate is where you actually support your claims. I’ve supported my claim that Ron Paul supports government-sponsored discrimination. You’ve simply asserted that he doesn’t, with no attempt to justify your claim. Apparently, you’re just a blind follower of Paul who refuses to listen to any criticism of him.

            “Your take on his abortion stance is pure question begging on what is at least partially a metaphysical question.”

            You fail to identify what question you think I’m begging.

            “Furthermore, if you disqualify pro-life libertarians from *being* libertarians then you are eliminating about half of the libertarians I’ve ever met.”
            I’m not eliminating him solely on that basis.

            “Who are you to tell them they’re wrong?”
            Asking someone “who are you to say X?” is a really pathetic response to someone saying X.

            “The only way this debate makes any sense is if you are trying to use some older definition of libertarianism, as sometimes insisted upon by people like Noam Chomsky, but I don’t think that’s what you mean.”

            I am taking “libertarian” to mean exactly what it says: supporting liberty. That seems like a rather more legitimate definition of libertarianism than your circular “Libertarianism is defined as being what libertarians believe” definition. You seem to be more interested in hero-worship than pursuing a principled ideology. Paul’s record is much more consistent with opposition to federal government power than it is with opposition to opposition to government power in general. I don’t know of any case of Paul opposing state government power. Thus, it should be clear to anyone not enamored of Paul that he is better described as an anti-federalist than as a libertarian.

            “Von Mises was also against abortion.”

            Perhaps I shouldn’t be engaging with your argument from authority, but Von Mises’ Wikipedia page does not mention abortion. Googling “Von Mises abortion” does not, as far as I see, bring up any relevant results. If Von Mises was in favor of anti-abortion laws, those views were not very prominent. (Also note that being anti-abortion and being anti-choice are not the same thing.)

            “You don’t get to redefine a political label to mean what you think it *should* mean when millions of people are using it to mean something else. To do so is pure sophistry.”

            Both the meaning of the word liberty, and I believe, the predominant usage of the word “libertarian”, are inconsistent with supporting government-sponsored discrimination. You are the one engaging in sophistry, by simply engaging in argument by assertion on the issue of whether Paul supports discrimination, and engaging in argument by assertion and argument by popularity in asserting that Paul must be a libertarian because lots of people think he is. Libertarianism is not a synonym for anti-federalism. Supporting anti-abortion, ant-gay, and anti-atheist laws as long as it’s the states that are passing them is not “libertarianism”.

          • I am taking “libertarian” to mean exactly what it says: supporting liberty. That seems like a rather more legitimate definition of libertarianism than your circular “Libertarianism is defined as being what libertarians believe” definition.

            I’m not a libertarian, but I can certainly see a distinction between the philosophical construct and the political faction. Both definitions are valid, but the political one has more real-world relevance.

            To be a Democrat or a Republican in the U.S. has practically nothing to do with the meanings of those two words, and a lot to do with “what Democrats believe” or “what Republicans believe”.

          • RCF says:

            A Democrat, with a capital D, is a member of the Democratic Party. If you want to say that membership in the Libertarian party is defined by the Libertarian party, that’s much more legitimate than claiming that libertarianism is defined by what libertarians say it is.

            “I’m not a libertarian, but I can certainly see a distinction between the philosophical construct and the political faction.”

            But what right does any particular faction have to the term “libertarian”, other than supporting liberty? A bunch of people pointing to each other as being “libertarian” doesn’t make them libertarian.

          • But what right does any particular faction have to the term “libertarian”, other than supporting liberty? A bunch of people pointing to each other as being “libertarian” doesn’t make them libertarian.

            Forgive me, but I’m reminded of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) split in 1969. There were two factions. Both claimed to be the legitimate left-wing SDS. Each called the other faction “right wing”.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Unless they start physically segregating themselves to live near people who share their online bubble.

        Assuming, of course, that the other groups would be willing to more or less leave your bubble alone. Given the current cultural and political climate, I don’t think that very likely.

      • chaosmage says:

        For a dissatified group in a well-functioning state like the US, secession will always be more costly than mass emigration to a much weaker state.

        Religious fundamentalists of various types have done such maneuvers several times in history. Several examples are groups of protestants moving through Europe, typically to relatively undeveloped areas that welcomed their well-educated manpower. The quakers moving to the US was pretty much a variation of that theme.

        The refugees to Taiwan when China became the People’s Republic are a counter-example, because you might call that secession although of course they won’t. But post civil war China wasn’t exactly a hard to leave environment, especially because the real estate was getting dispossessed anyway.

        So I believe we’ll see a tribe of people collectively moving to some place like Suriname or Niger, and trying to take it over by democratic and capitalistic means, before we see one earnestly attempting to secede from a modern state. And whenever that happens, my guess is they’ll probably be strongly religious members of some monotheistic religion.

        • onyomi says:

          Well, the libertarian Freestate Project is an explicit attempt to do just that, though I don’t think they’ve been super-successful thus far. I also don’t know whether they plan to secede once libertarian reach a critical mass. I do suspect that if any one state in the union were to comprise more than 50% libertarians, the chances of secession would become exceedingly high.

          No idea whether any future secession from the US is more likely to be a state like Alaska that has “had enough” with the federal govmt, or somewhere to which people have moved for explicitly political and/or religious/cultural reasons. If a state declared intent to secede from the union in order to be more libertarian (as opposed to in order to be more socialist, which is also conceivable, and, I believe why Scotland was trying it), I would certainly be strongly tempted to move there myself.

          • chaosmage says:

            I strongly disagree. A libertarian majority in a state would make secession even less likely.

            If a state managed to get a libertarian majority in its government, it could go on and make lots of libertarian changes in state legislation and regulations. That would give the project something quite unique of great value. Most of all, an opportunity to advertise libertarianism to the world. That state would become the barometer by which libertarianism is judged. If they can grow faster and be happier than non-libertarian US states, that’s a huge benefit. If they, in a hopeless attempt to secede, get into a huge confrontation with the rest of the US, they’d not only lose, they’d tarnish libertarianism for pretty much ever.

            From my cursory knowledge of history, successful emigrations/secessions have been from fairly autocratic states that did not have significant states rights like the US does.

          • onyomi says:

            “autocratic states that did not have significant states rights…”

            Where we disagree is in the belief that this description doesn’t apply to the United States now. “States rights” are increasingly irrelevant in a world of ACA, CommonCore, high federal income tax rates, social security, medicare, medicaid mandates… and it is a transparent, if not always conscious goal of the progressive movement to make it so. “State power” is viewed as an agent of racism, parochial thinking, underhanded “stealing” of jobs from more union-friendly states, etc.

            I don’t think any state legislature currently has the power to create a real libertarian experiment right now. They could become more libertarian-ish, but it might just end up looking like Bobby Jindal’s Louisiana, where you don’t get much credit and everyone blames you for shutting down libraries, etc.

            Example: many states don’t have a state income tax, but that is still a minor part of the tax burden most Americans now shoulder, the bigger portion coming from federal income taxes.

            Almost all libertarians I know strongly object to income taxation, if not all taxation, on ethical and/or practical grounds. I can’t imagine a state of 60% libertarians being satisfied with the tiny amount of liberty they could carve out within the national govmt framework.

  7. William O. B'Livion says:

    I want a filter that tells me what other people are filtering and auto-unfriends them for being cowards.

    Then again I’ve offered to friend about 5 non-family members. All there rest of my list were people who’ve found me, and I’ve always been vocal and more than a bit crude.

    As to:

    But the next step down from terrorism is annoyism. Terrorism is meant to convince by terrorizing those who ignore your cause; annoyism is meant to convince by annoying people who ignore your cause.

    Very soon annoying someone about a cause they don’t like will be argued to be terrorist.

  8. social justice warlock says:

    Crowdsourced epistemic closure: what are some “nonpartisan” bullshit alarms good for filtering? e.g.

    lawmaker
    happens next (and any well-known clickbaity formulations)
    [any celebrity name]

    • I found that blocking just a couple of news sites (specifically Buzzfeed, but a couple of other ones I can’t remember) improved my Facebook feed immensely.

      I would also be a fan of anything that could filter listicles regardless of content.

      • Nornagest says:

        Clickbait sites are so prolific and so multifarious that curating my Facebook feed is a game of whack-a-mole, but it’s definitely a lot more pleasant with curation than without.

    • Susebron says:

      “debunked” (although that could get some false positives)

    • yli says:

      Here’s some filters, most of which are too extreme, but still fun to consider:

      * Don’t read anything written by a journalist
      * Don’t read anything that’s ad-supported
      * Don’t read anything published on a “news site”, like gawker, wired or nytimes
      * Don’t read anything written by a person that got paid to write it
      * Don’t read anything that you guess wouldn’t have been written if the writer didn’t get paid for it.
      * Don’t read anything on a platform that you guess wouldn’t exist if not for advertising.
      * Don’t read anything not written under a pseudonym
      * Don’t read anything not written under “Anonymous”
      * Don’t read anything that you guess wouldn’t have been written if the writer was only allowed to publish anonymously.
      * Don’t read anything that wasn’t leaked or otherwise published accidentally

      • Gbdub says:

        Doesn’t Scott get paid to write this? I mean I don’t think it compares to the income from his day job, but he’s got a few ads and is an Amazon affiliate…

      • Lambert says:

        The only thing I read written by an approximation to journalists is The Onion, from time to time.

    • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

      Superlatives in general.

  9. I’ve read that terrorism is less likely to be useful than you might think, unless very carefully organized; while it does succeed in getting attention, people typically don’t believe that the terrorist attacks are being carried out for the reasons the terrorists claim – and in particular, they don’t believe that meeting whatever demands may be made will result in the attacks stopping.

    (And indeed, it seems that they often won’t, because many terrorist groups are held together by social bonds more than by the nominal cause they are serving. In these cases, I’m told, causes tend to mutate as necessary in order to keep the group alive.)

    IIRC, terrorists are more likely to be believed if they restrict attacks to military targets. There was more to it, but I don’t recall the details. (Does anybody have a link?)

    There are some obvious exceptions, including Palestine – perhaps because their demands as stated are so unacceptable to the Israelis that belief or disbelief is moot?

    • Banananon says:

      Were you perhaps reading Gwern’s Terrorism is not Effective? Or perhaps Terrorism is not about Terror?

    • Pku says:

      Palestine doesn’t seem to be an exception so much as the classic example of this – for a start, terrorism has definitely not helped their situation. Also, nobody in Israel really believes giving any demands will help (to the point where when arguing with my more right-wing friends, it’s generally more effective to take the line “OK, giving up X won’t stop terror, but it won’t increase it and might be beneficial for other reasons while also making Palestinians’ lives easier).

      • Gbdub says:

        Does Hamas want peace with the Israelis on any terms? I mean, the Palestinians as a whole probably would be happy with some sort of negotiated solution, but given that “blow up Israel” is more or less Hamas’ sine qua non, actually succeeding would seem to risk much of what influence they currently have.

        • Zykrom says:

          I know this isn’t what you intended (probably) but it’s really amusing for me to realize that Hamas is actually a Class of People dedicated to Solving a Problem (the destruction of Israel) and, well….

      • I was oversimplifying, I guess – in broad terms, the Palestinian complaint is that Israel is located on land they consider to be theirs. Modulo fine detail, I think this is generally accepted as an honest position. (Not a useful one, certainly, but that’s a different issue.)

    • Lambert says:

      Also schneier wrote about it once.

  10. Justin says:

    Being born into money already *is* a filter. Think of how often and, I feel, accurately, the wealthy are decried as out of touch with reality, and now multiply that across every person alive. Not to decry the benefits involved, but technology being more accessible will mean an increasing number of people will fall into these behaviors. Hell, Social media sites already work on hiding certain posts from certain people, usually in ways detrimental to certain social movements. I’d suspect they do it much more than they’ve told us, too, but that’s just me.
    Now combine with plenty of factors at work that end up keeping people inside, or at least making going outside unnecessary. Combine with services that allow you to never leave the house to, well, do pretty much everything. Each house becomes a bubble you only leave to go to school or work or relatives, if that.
    Financial factors still mean a lot of Millenials are living at home, or sharing houses/apartments with friends. If it keeps up, extended family living situations may be the norm, as they were throughout most of history. Which coincides nicely with rising social acceptance of polyamory and online dating/hook-up apps and decreasing focus on “traditional marriage”. Need love and acceptance? Need sex? Find it without leaving home!
    Arguably, something like Archipelago is possible if people just stay inside their homes (living with people like them, or at least only interacting primarily with those like them) and interact mostly online in filtered interactions. Combine with concepts like “decentralized governments” and that pretty much sums it up. (The Internet can even be your transhuman intelligence.)
    Of course, this doesn’t fix a lot of problems and creates new ones. And it fixes some problems, too, maybe more than I’m seeing. Frankly, if this is the way toward Archipelago, we just need to work out the bugs (UBI comes to mind). That said…none of this is to say it will be better or worse. Merely different.

    • mobile says:

      Being born without money is also a filter. *Everybody* is out of touch with reality. Leveling that charge some other group is just shorthand for “those guys are out of touch with *my* reality”.

  11. Kiwanda says:

    I want a filter that doesn’t remove posts that disagree with me, or “incivil” ones, but does remove boring, or stupid, or intellectually dishonest posts, or those that tell me nothing new. All those comments that are basically “me too, I’m with the team!” can go, as can the pure ad hominem ones, and the strawman-destroyers, and the black-and-white fallacies. But comments like “You dumb asshole, !” are fine.

    • This still leaves a potential problem with segregation of different opinions, because what seems boring, stupid, or intellectually dishonest to different people is influenced by their pre-existing beliefs. Even if you’re careful not to let your prior beliefs directly influence your judgement, your approach to deciding what is boring, stupid, etc. is typically a large part of the cause for your beliefs, which creates essentially the same bias. Then again, if you think an argument is boring, stupid, etc. then that argument is unlikely to make you more open-minded, and blocking it might actually make you more open to the underlying idea.

      • “what seems boring, stupid, or intellectually dishonest to different people is influenced by their pre-existing beliefs.”

        To some extent. People with quite a wide range of beliefs seem to find Scott’s posts neither boring, stupid nor dishonest. I’m critical of the environmental movement, but while I think Mann is a flake, I think Hansen, although possibly mistaken about important things, is a reasonable person.

      • Pku says:

        I feel like if you’re already seeing an argument as boring, stupid, or intellectually dishonest to the degree where you actively took steps to filtering it (even if that step was as easy as pushing a downvote button), you’re more likely to be closed off by it to new ideas it presents than opened up to them. (Also, are you by any chance related to Assaf bar-Natan?)

      • Kiwanda says:

        (In my comment, I meant the quote to be “You dumb asshole (left angle bracket) point that disproves something I said (right angle bracket)”. Darn html, show what I mean, not what I say.)

        Yes, hypothetical wish-fulfilling ideal filters might be hard to implement. However, the intellectual dishonesty, etc., of an argument is independent of whether I agree or disagree with its conclusion. (I hope you’re not taiking “filters” to refer only to ones implemented by human beings with human failings.)

      • Anonymous says:

        >Even if you’re careful not to let your prior beliefs directly influence your judgement

        What else is there to judge by?

        • Mary says:

          “I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past.” Patrick Henry

    • Grumpus says:

      This. And what’s interesting is, a keyword filter already does this to some extent, by filtering out people who are only looking to score in-group points by using certain terms, or who otherwise don’t venture particularly far outside the framework du jour. The only problem is cases like this one, where the term is used in a meta discussion. I want a filter on unironic uses of buzzwords. sigh.

  12. Robin Hanson says:

    You see to say that choices made consciously tend to be made more according to far ideals, relative to near desires. I’m not sure this is true. There are some contexts where conscious choices would be made according to far ideals. For example a choice that you talked a lot about in a blog post. But many conscious choices can be made in contexts much more conducive to domination by near desires.

  13. FullMetaRationalist says:

    Given the title, I expected a post about the Fermi Paradox. Was not disappointed.

    So I recently read an article about how one day, karma might signify the amount of text consumed rather than the amount of text written & upvoted. Such a system would encourage a more thoughtful discussion rather than a shouting match. (Unfortunately, I don’t remember where I read this or how it would be implemented.)

    With this in mind – I speculate that if (and when) internet filters become common-place, something analogous to reading-karma will become a status symbol. This new karma may roughly approximate “open-mindedness” (as defined by the variety of communities one hasn’t blocked from their news feeds). E.g. “I only block posts which include the word ‘Justice’,” boasted Tom indiscriminately.

    • Matthew says:

      Given the title, I expected a post about the Fermi Paradox. Was not disappointed.

      I also expected a Fermi Paradox post, but wasn’t clever enough to come up with this response. Well done.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      Considering how it’s a point of pride among Twitterati how aggressively they block opposing views, no matter how politely or hesitantly expressed, I suspect you’re being way too optimistic here.

      • Autolykos says:

        That might also have good sides, though. I prefer my idiots to be open about it and proudly wear their close-mindedness as a badge of honor, so I can instead find the interesting people more easily.

    • Lambert says:

      I was incredibly relieved to find that this post was not about the probable destruction of humanity.

      • Eggo says:

        After seeing twitter, the probably destruction of humanity sounds like sweet, sweet release.

    • The ETs are blocking us?

    • Taradino C. says:

      The Discourse forum software tracks how much each user reads, and the requirements for moving up the ladder of user levels include reading increasing numbers of posts.

    • Nice take. I can see it now, ww3 unavoidable because negotiations got blocked by political troll filter. Let’s hope somebody invents an anti-filter before the human society fragments into a gazillion warring circle-jrks.

      • Jaskologist says:

        In my understanding of the history (admittedly not very detailed), Gamergate was itself the result of a heavy-handed filtering attempt. Didn’t it all start with a number of major gaming sights trying to block discussion of a certain topic, and then following it up with a bunch of “gamers are over” articles?

        When your message to someone is “you may not speak, and we hate you, and we are going to change you,” well, you’ve closed off all non-horrible avenues of rapprochement. Since this was also being done to blueish greys, who have been raised to accept SJ-style tactics, that’s what they fought back with.

        • Cauê says:

          There are of course background reasons and precursor events, and there have been a few escalating events, but yes, in terms of number of people added, I would agree that the initial attempts at silencing the discussion, and then Gamers are Over Day a couple of weeks later, were the ones who drew in the majority of people who are now there. Streisand effect, strong as ever.

        • DrBeat says:

          Except that Gamergate isn’t really any more horrible than the normal level of background antagonism faced by everyone on the Internet with a recognizable name; anti-GG has certainly forced more women out of game development for having The Wrong Opinions than GG ever did.

          People all seem to agree that GG is horrible, because they are up against people who use victimhood as power and do everything possible to magnify their perceived victimhood.

  14. Jonathan Haidt and others have conducted research showing pretty convincingly that righties can model the thought processes and beliefs of lefties much more effectively than vice-versa. This matches what I see on political blogs; right-wing satire of lefty tropes often has a subtlety and edge that left-wing satire of right-wing tropes lacks precisely because lefties have so little actual understanding of their adversaries.

    I predict that in Scott’s future this asymmetry will give the right an advantage in memetic warfare. Being able to sneak past the other side’s filters will be increasingly important; thus being able to convincingly imitate the other side’s rhetoric will be as well. Not easy to do that if you don’t have a generative model of their thinking.

    Maybe the Left will up its game under selection. Or maybe not.

    • Matthew says:

      This matches what I see on political blogs; right-wing satire of lefty tropes often has a subtlety and edge that left-wing satire of right-wing tropes lacks precisely because lefties have so little actual understanding of their adversaries.

      Can you provide some examples? This doesn’t match my experience at all. (Also note that Haidt’s research shows extreme liberals being worse than extreme conservatives at ideological Turing tests; the conservatives aren’t actually good at it either; just less bad.)

    • Zubon says:

      If the right wing is already better exposed to and understanding of left-wing ideas, I’m not sure if that makes it odd or intuitive that almost all the examples are left-wing filters of right-wing ideas. Hygiene theory? – if you are almost never exposed to opposing ideas, you react more strongly to them and need an ideologically sterile environment, whereas people who have regular exposure have less sensitivity.

      Ideological bubbles seem to be one-way mirrors. Outside light does not get in, but everyone outside can see what you’re doing in your bubble.

    • Rick Hull says:

      If a major distinguishing characteristic between left and right is that the left is soft-hearted and shies away from unpleasant truths, while the right is hard-hearted and often embraces unpleasant truths, then it makes sense that the left would shy away from arguments from the right, while the right has more tolerance in trying to understand the left.

      • SpaghettiLee says:

        If that were the case, then you’d be right. However, I see no reason to take that argument as fact simply based on the assertion. The Just World argument, the idea that people will be allotted what they deserve based on how hard they work for it and how morally righteous they are, is arguably the biggest case of ‘shying away from unpleasant truths’ in modern American society, and it is not leftists who believe that. What about the unpleasant truths of institutional prejudice and bigotry? Climate change and environmental degradation? Wage stagnation and decreased social mobility? Corporate influence in politics? Most conservatives and libertarians I talk to think those all either aren’t problems, or they’ll work themselves out, or it’s the left’s fault for making such a big to-do out of them.

        I am very new here, but I do have a suspicion; when people here think of ‘the left’, do they think of upper-middle-class people with all the attendant demographic expectations and affectations, who are not in any way policy wonks and get by on a general feeling that if everyone is nice to each other there’s nowhere to go but up? Or is it the kind of leftist who can explain at the drop of a hat why deeply-embedded perverse incentives in a capitalist society inevitably lead to degradation for all but a privileged few and the only way out is to burn the whole thing down? I generally think of the latter when I hear ‘leftist’ (and I assure you that a lot of people in that latter group deeply despise the former), but if people are actually referring to the former, perhaps that is why I’m confused.

        • Wrong Species says:

          I feel like you vastly overestimate the ability of the average leftist to explain things “at the drop of a hat”. The average person, progressive or conservative, does not know anything about politics.

          • SpaghettiLee says:

            I never meant to imply that such a person was the ‘average’ anything. They are quite rare.

        • Nebfocus says:

          You fail the ideological turing test by claiming the conservatives believe in the Just World argument.

          • g says:

            There is evidence that justworldism correlates with support for conservative politics and with a bunch of other things known also to correlate with that.

            It would be a gross oversimplification to claim that everyone on the right, or no one on the left, believes in a “just world”, but I don’t think that was actually SpaghettiLee’s intention.

          • Error says:

            From what I’ve seen, it shows up in different forms on both sides; the liberal version seems to be “they will (or should) get what they deserve”, while the conservative version seems to be “they deserved what they got.”

            Their respective reactions to wealth and poverty seem like a decent example of this.

          • Julie K says:

            The liberal equivalent is the belief that their side will ultimately triumph because they are on “the right side of history.”

        • Troy says:

          I am very new here, but I do have a suspicion; when people here think of ‘the left’, do they think of upper-middle-class people with all the attendant demographic expectations and affectations, who are not in any way policy wonks and get by on a general feeling that if everyone is nice to each other there’s nowhere to go but up? Or is it the kind of leftist who can explain at the drop of a hat why deeply-embedded perverse incentives in a capitalist society inevitably lead to degradation for all but a privileged few and the only way out is to burn the whole thing down? I generally think of the latter when I hear ‘leftist’ (and I assure you that a lot of people in that latter group deeply despise the former), but if people are actually referring to the former, perhaps that is why I’m confused.

          I can only speak for myself, but I find the latter much more annoying than the former; and were I to use ‘leftist’ in a derogatory or mocking sense it would almost surely be to refer to the latter.

      • Zykrom says:

        I think it’s more like “the left emphasizes current problems and downplays future risks, the right does the opposite”

        Even that isn’t really accurate though, see global warming.

      • Lady Catherine Buttington, Phd. says:

        That isn’t the reason. It’s because conservatives are more intuitive, and it’s harder to model someone’s intuition than their stated principles. When conservatives state their principles, there’s usually a lot that’s left implicit that liberals aren’t privy to (and which they themselves would have a hard time articulating and may not be fully conscious of).

        • onyomi says:

          That is not the stereotype, at least not among the right wing. The right wing perceives themselves as hard-nosed realists and the left as bleeding hearts, motivated more by good intentions, utopian ideals, and/or the desire to signal intelligence than the desire to actually achieve desirable ends.

          Of course, liberals like to say “reality has a liberal bias,” so I guess it’s inevitable that both sides will view themselves as more objective.

          Overall, however, I’d say that the left wing has the more emotional, “touchy-feely” reputation in the US.

          • alexp says:

            to me “intuitive” applies in a Burkean or Chestertonian sense.

            Liberalism/Progressivism has foundations in the idea that you can and should rebuild society from the ground up and thereby redress historical injustices and inefficiencies.

            Conservatism has foundations in the idea that thousands of years of human tradition should have inherent weight in determining how things should be and that essentially, we shouldn’t rock the boat too much.

            Conservatism in that sense is more “intuitive” because while progressive intellectuals often explicitly lay out their assumptions and syllogisms that they used to arrive at their conclusions, conservatives will often instead poke holes in the progressive assumptions and syllogism and argue that since the way things are worked for our ancestors, they should work for us too. Of course that’s a very crude approximation and most conservatives don’t explicitly think in those terms, instead honoring “traditional” virtues.

      • Eggo says:

        Nothing that noble. It’s just that we can’t go five minutes without being exposed to lefty culture, so we get thoroughly steeped in it.
        The bitter satire is just a coping mechanism, as a substitute or complement to alcoholism.

        • Deiseach says:

          This. I’ve found it amusing (and a touch frightening) how easily I could churn out pastiches or parodies of progressive Christian boilerplate almost on automatic pilot simply by using a few stock phrases (“God’s dream of shalom” is a good one) and the thing just unfolded almost of its own accord through fingers from keyboard to screen with little intervention by brain.

        • Maware says:

          Leftist cultural hegemony isn’t a fantasy. There’s a lot of talk about how retrograde or backwards the USA is, but considering our mass media has extirpated Christianity from the airwaves in even a sanitized form, I find that talk empty air.

          Leftism is now in the position Christianity was during the Victorian era. Not that everyone follows it, but it’s the cultural schema people validate themselves and others against.

    • Fazathra says:

      I don’t think this is any is the inherent nature of lefties and righties, but just currently reflects the left’s dominance of the press. It is much harder for a rightist to insulate themselves entirely from leftist points of view when they are propagated by pretty much the entire MSM while the leftist would pretty much have to seek out right wing points of view to hear them, so it is no wonder really that the left are so much poorer than the right at understanding their opposition as many have probably only ever heard caricatures of right-wing thought at which they are meant to point and laugh, while the average rightist will likely have read hundreds of pieces of leftist news preaching to the choir.

      • Maware says:

        It’s so bad that you find those talking points in places where you’d expect them to be totally irrelevant. Tech news sites, for one. I think part of the spawning of Gamergate was due to leftism being so omnipresent that it began popping up in gaming sites. Sites which people mostly read for reviews and historical/listicle pieces.

    • Saint_Fiasco says:

      Most research of that type is done in Universities, were leftists ideas are relatively more dominant. Maybe the results would be different in a different (sub?)culture that was dominated by rightist ideas.

      If that were true, and if it were possible to get a memetic advantage from that, then it would be like a balancing force, with rightist rhetoric being more effective in leftist-dominated environments and vice-versa.

      • Lesser Bull says:

        Probably. I know a fair number of rural Red Tribers, who get all their news from talk radio and like-minded friends on Facebook. they don’t have a very good model of the left.

        But its harder to be isolated Red Tribe than isolated Blue Tribe, IMHO.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I am going to echo Mathew here, and say this doesn’t seem to match the available evidence. Colbert being the 800 pound gorilla of an example.

      Red-tribe is more tribal/insular than blue tribe (both ideologically and in practice), which also seems to be a point against the theory that they are better at modeling others beliefs. Red-tribe seems much better at engaging in mocking, but this seems like humor as an exclusionary tactic, a way to enforce acceptable boundaries by stigmatizing those outside them. Those within red-tribe find those jokes funny (see Obama as witch-doctor as just one of countless examples) but they don’t tend to be funny to those outside the tribe.

      • You say “Red-tribe is more tribal/insular than blue tribe (both ideologically and in practice)”. I think this is where your reasoning fails.

        I see both sides as equally tribal and insular (it helps that I spent most of my childhood outside the U.S. and never developed the habit of identifying with either tribe as an adult).

        The real difference is that Red Tribe sees its insularities as virtues, while the Blue tribe expends a great deal of self-deceptive effort pretending it doesn’t have any.

        You might want to re-read Scott’s essay “I can tolerate anything except the outgroup” with this distinction in mind.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Red-tribe and blue-tribe both insulate from each other. Let us not confuse “more” with “always” or “less” with “never”.

          Red-tribe sees the world as filled with enemies to be defended against. Red-tribe criticizes blue-tribe for wanting sit around and “sing kumbaya”. Red-tribe has been shown to have stronger disgust reactions. Red tribe draws most of its support from relatively homogeneous communities.

          Blue-tribe is urban and is a more heterogeneous coalition. Blue tribe wants to protect innocents in far off lands (perhaps to the actual detriment of those actually living there).

          This is what I mean about more vs. less insular. Again, don’t confuse relative measure with absolute measures. Blue-tribe can absolutely behave in insular and mocking ways.

          • Cauê says:

            Red-tribe sees the world as filled with enemies to be defended against. Red-tribe criticizes blue-tribe for wanting sit around and “sing kumbaya”. Red-tribe has been shown to have stronger disgust reactions. Red tribe draws most of its support from relatively homogeneous communities.

            Do you put feminists, social justice types, and/or environmentalists on the blue tribe?

          • Lesser Bull says:

            Nobody I know voted for Nixon.

            Blue tribe is much more insulated from Red tribe than vice versa, because the Blue tribe is more geographically concentrated and runs the cultural and discursive organs.

            That’s not a Blue Tribe weakness. It’s a Blue Tribe strength.

        • Sylocat says:

          The real difference is that Red Tribe sees its insularities as virtues, while the Blue tribe expends a great deal of self-deceptive effort pretending it doesn’t have any.

          That’s a popular stereotype, but lately it seems to be the other way around. In the Gamergate debacle, it’s GG who claim to be open to alternate viewpoints and opinions, while everyone else is outright stating that GG is not worth taking seriously and they don’t want to hear from them at all (a position which I confess I don’t find entirely indefensible).

          • Cauê says:

            That one really doesn’t map well to blue tribe X red tribe.

          • NN says:

            GamerGaters seem to be more gray tribe, with a few exceptions such as Milo Yiannopoulos and Adam Baldwin who are clearly red. But then, both of those people have stated they became interested in GG because they saw a bunch of people who stereotypically seemed like they would be part of the blue tribe (though they used words like “leftist” and “feminist”) complaining about blue tribe activists.

            A few months back, someone did a GG political survey (which was by necessity an internet poll, so take it with a grain of salt) and found strong agreement to “abortion should be legal,” “gay marriage should be legal,” and “our civil liberties are being excessively curbed in the name of anti-terrorism” but also strong agreement to “words like racism, misogyny and homophobia are losing their meaning through increasing misuse,” “opposing gay marriage or abortion should not negatively impact an individual’s career or business venture,” and “‘positive’ discrimination is no better than any other form of discrimination and should be opposed.” Responses to questions about economics were mixed. All of which are pretty close to Scott’s description of gray tribe characteristics, especially “libertarian political beliefs,” “vague annoyance that the question of gay rights even comes up,” and “getting conspicuously upset about the War on Drugs and the NSA.”

            Results of the survey are here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1rRMK0Jz-p_7PN7SBvQwcv-QDMChdjumssNzLZVmQLy0/viewanalytics

            A discussion of the results by the person who ran the survey starts here: http://gamepolitics.com/2014/12/29/editorial-gamergate-political-attitudes-part-1-movement-right-wing#.VUwYumeUC70

      • Jaskologist says:

        Isn’t Colbert the anti-example to your point? His entire shtick is to mock the right. Stewart runs along the same lines, and both are highly revered by the left for doing so.

        • DrBeat says:

          Their mockery used to be insightful satire, though, not just sneering and ‘Look at them, they think different things! They suck!’

          Used to.

        • Gbdub says:

          My thoughts exactly. Colbert at least tried to do satire, and while he replicated the mannerisms of a rightist pundit, I don’t think he “got” his target enough for it to come off as anything but a crude caricature to someone sympathetic to the target. Which most of his audience was absolutely not, so he was successful in ratings at least.

          And in the Obama era John Stewart has mostly just sucked. I keep seeing stuff in my newsfeed titled “watch John Stewart absolutely DESTROY so-and-so” and 90% of the time it’s just Stewart mugging incredulously at the camera while playing some often out-of-context clip of some dumb rube. Occasionally he’ll throw in a few sound bites that could have been clipped verbatim from the DLC. It’s basically the Two Minute Hate for liberals, with a better laugh track.

          • Yes, even I can see this, even though I’m not a conservative and on some significant issues am more likely to agree with Stweart than his conservative targets.

            I think Jon Stewart is a bright man who has fallen into laziness because he can rely on tribalism and epistemic closure in his audience to get him laughs even when they aren’t really merited..

          • DrBeat says:

            My thoughts exactly. Colbert at least tried to do satire, and while he replicated the mannerisms of a rightist pundit, I don’t think he “got” his target enough for it to come off as anything but a crude caricature to someone sympathetic to the target. Which most of his audience was absolutely not, so he was successful in ratings at least.

            Actually he was — at one point — good enough that conservatives watching him were most likely to believe he was a conservative, pretending to be a liberal satirist, in order to actually make fun of liberals.

            I don’t know if they did a similar study with late-era Colbert, but I doubt it would have the same result.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          No, Colbert’s schtick is satire. You can’t get any more comically satirical than Colbert. It’s not seriously satirical, the reductio ad absurdum of Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” being the go to example of that.

          If you don’t identify the Colbert character of the The Colbert Report as satire, then I think we have a very, very different understanding of the definition of satire.

          Yes, one can mock through the use of satire, but this is different than straight mockery. Colbert the character is associated with any number of positive traits and stereotypes. He is smart, engaging, funny, handsome, etc.

          This is different than dressing the object of your humor in any number of negative stereotypes. For example, the urban (and therefore nowadays liberal, but this has not always been the case) caricature of the “country bumpkin” is mockery (and would make a bad vehicle for engaging in satire).

        • Isn’t Colbert the anti-example to your point? His entire shtick is to mock the right. Stewart runs along the same lines, and both are highly revered by the left for doing so.

          I think Colbert and Stewart are both men of the left, so they often find humor in mocking the right, but their central goal is to be funny. I think more than half of the humor on Stewart’s show is nonpolitical.

          Fox News attempted to create a conservative mirror image to Jon Stewart with the Half Hour News Hour. It was a total failure, because being funny was NOT the prime goal.

      • Cauê says:

        The part about mocking… I’ve been trying to find something to say about it that’d still be nice. Instead, I’ll just hint that the not-nice things I’ve decided not to say would have been necessary and true.

        • Zykrom says:

          Hinting that you could have won the argument but refusing to do so is vastly ruder and more annoying that almost anything you could have said.

          • Cauê says:

            That wasn’t quite the intention, but yes, you’re right. I apologize.

          • Anonymous says:

            Kudos for apologizing.

            Now could we hear those arguments? Scott specified only two are necessary for a reason. 🙂

          • Cauê says:

            Colbert and Stewart have already been mentioned, but they’re just the tip of an entire very successful genre of comedy that’s well described as “mocking the right”.

            “humor as an exclusionary tactic, a way to enforce acceptable boundaries by stigmatizing those outside them” is such an appropriate description that I did check to make sure the comment didn’t have the signs switched by accident.

            And, while mockery as a status play is common in all sides of all blueXgreen conflicts, it does look more characteristic of some groups than others. This shouldn’t be hard to recognize, for instance: “Aww, sweetie, it’s cute that you think you know what you’re talking about, but why don’t you go play with your friends and let the grownups talk now”.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          If you are thinking that I intended or implied that blue-tribe does not engage in mocking (which is essentially a form of ad-hominem argument), I assure you this was not my intention.

          I am talking about relative measures, not absolutes.

          Now, if you think there is relatively more use of mockery in liberal discourse, I’m willing to have a conversation about that. My prior is informed (I’m sure) by confirmation bias.

          • Cauê says:

            Sorry again about the tone, I don’t know what got into me today.

            Anyway, I’m curious about what examples you would give, actually. For instance, I can list dozens of comedians that routinely mock the right on the terms you described, but when I try to think of some mocking the left, I come up with people mocking the left for not being lefty enough.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Documented comments on Fox News Articles is one example.

            I won’t actually list out any of the comments here, as those are all racial. And most of the comments are simply seeking to be outrageous, but many of them are “jokes.” If you look at all of those “jokes” in that list of generally offensive comments, my prior says that you can’t morph those jokes into ones that would be accepted by blue-tribe, but they are common-place in the comments section of red-tribe websites.

            Now, if you are one of those who want to argue that Southern Democrats of the 60s were really blue-tribe, then I’m not sure where we go from there.

            If you want to argue that there are offensive blue-tribe members, I won’t argue with you, but the question is how accepted are they? Would similar comments go unchallenged on a blue-tribe site?

          • Cauê says:

            So when you say Red-tribe, you basically mean “racists”? Or is there more to it?

            If you want to argue that there are offensive blue-tribe members, I won’t argue with you, but the question is how accepted are they?

            I must again ask whether feminists and SJ are included in “blue-tribe”.

            Would similar comments go unchallenged on a blue-tribe site?

            Similar as in “offending blue-tribe sacred values”, no. Similar as in “offending outgroup sacred values”, sure.

            But did those comments really go unchallenged? The comment section was removed from the original article.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yes, I would certainly include feminists and social justice activists in blue tribe, and there certainly is plenty of venom applied to discourse there (but can you give me examples of jokes that are mocking?).

            As to whether I mean only racists, no, I don’t. You bring up femists, so I will now use the the example of a stock joke that you will see in red-tribe circles when a non red-tribe woman does something of consequence “She needs to get [me/him] a beer.” There are many different words you can fit into that general joke form.

            Gays – plenty of material you can find.

            Lesbians – all the gay material, plus all the female material.

            Academics, etc. the list could go on. Each group comes with ready made negative stereotypes that are used to make statements that are intended as jokes. Hence the often seen back-and-forth of “joke” -> “that’s -ist” -> “it was a joke!”

            I have the prior that red-tribe tends to divide the world into more “other” groups than blue-tribe. That leads me the idle-musing that when it comes to ad-hominem caricaturization, red-tribe has more available material to draw from.

            Now, none of this means anything about any particular person who identifies as red or blue. And not only that, there are sub-groups within each tribe that don’t fit as well with the generalization. So none of this necessarily applies to anyone who is reading this comment.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            And while we are asking for specific examples, can you give me some specific examples of red-tribe using satire? And here I am thinking especially professional satire (i.e. professional comedians).

            Another prior I have, and I said this in another comment, is that satire is most easily applied against the powerful and successful, and that means it tends to be a more natural blue-tribe mode.

          • onyomi says:

            Adam Carolla comes to mind as a comedian with broadly right wing-ish views, though he doesn’t so much satire the left as rant about them in ways meant to reveal absurdity.

          • Anonymous says:

            Wait, I thought “blue-tribe” meant that you were raised by middle-class, college-educated parents in either urban or suburban areas. Do “red” and “blue” map to “left” and “right” now?

          • onyomi says:

            I’m not sure whom you’re responding to, but no, Red Tribe roughly corresponds to “red states,” i. e. GOP voters, and Blue to “blue states,” i. e. “liberals, progressives, Obama supporters,” etc.

          • Cauê says:

            Ok, HBC, I think we’re not talking about the exact same thing here.

            This thread started, a long time ago, in response to Eric Raymond’s comment on “right-wing satire of lefty tropes” and “left-wing satire of right-wing tropes”. So I interpreted your comment as referring to one tribe mocking the other tribe, specifically in the context of political topics.

            But you’re not talking about the red tribe mocking the blue tribe, as I initially understood it, but about mockery by racists, sexists and homophobes as a red tribe thing.

            I’m not feeling like arguing over whether that’s fair. But, in a way, we’ve just been exemplifying Scott’s insight that “The Blue Tribe has performed some kind of very impressive act of alchemy, and transmuted all of its outgroup hatred to the Red Tribe.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Cauê:

            Maybe I need to be even more explicit. I am not talking about whether blue-tribe mocks people. Clearly there is a significant part of blue tribe that does. The question is whether the mockery takes the form of humor. Does blue-tribe find the straight mocking humor funny? Do they engage in this form of humor amongst themselves? Or do,they prefer it to come as satire?

            For example, are blue-tribe members likely to circulate “hayseed” jokes within their group? Certainly the trope exists, and should be ripe for exploitation. But I don’t see that kind of humor circulated. Maybe I am missing.

            What is I see much more of is in the form of, say, “Tom Tomorrow” where they are satirizing the talking heads on Fox News and substituting “Ozzy and Harriet” for the typical red-tribe member.

            I think those are two distinct kinds of humor.

            And this is all in the context of responding directly to the proposition that red-tribe is better at satire because they are better at modeling blue-tribes inner workings. So, it all seems relevant.

            Race, gender, orientation, and class issues are what broadly unite the blue coalition, so when one makes mocking jokes about blue tribe members, those are going to frequently be the topic of said humor. How else doses one know they are in blue-tribe?

            And finally, I’m not sure where you are getting any sense of hate from me. I don’t hate the members of red-tribe.

          • Cauê says:

            I don’t know why you thought there was an accusation of hate, but that surprised me. Nothing like that was intended.

            I’m not getting the point of the distinctions you make, to be honest. They use mockery, they expect their audience to find it funny, and they’re right. They use it to assign low status to red tribe positions, and expect the audience to find funny that “these people actually say this stuff!”, and they do. Not about “hayseed”, that’s not the outgroup; conservatives are. I don’t see how the exact kind of humor makes a big difference.

            Anyway. I’m genuinely sorry, but I confess I’m losing interest in continuing this conversation.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “I’m losing interest in continuing this conversation.”

            Fair enough. Agree to disagree.

            As to the hate thing, I was perhaps to concentrated on the fact that you used the word “hate” in your link and that Scott spends a great deal of time in that article talking about how blue-tribe hates red-tribe (an argument I am sympathetic to, btw.) I see that wasn’t what you intended, so no apology necessary (but also accepted).

          • Lesser Bull says:

            @HBC,
            my prior is that Red Tribe has less need to engage in boundary-maintaining mockery precisely because they are better at dividing up the world into “other” groups and/or because the Red Tribe divisions are often at demographic joints. Easier to maintain means less maintenance needed.

      • Anonymous says:

        Red-tribe is more tribal/insular than blue tribe… which also seems to be a point against the theory that they are better at modeling others beliefs.

        One man’s modus ponens is another man’s modus tollens. The empirics that the red tribe is better at modeling beliefs is evidence against the red tribe being more insular.

    • rsaarelm says:

      This matches what I see on political blogs; right-wing satire of lefty tropes often has a subtlety and edge that left-wing satire of right-wing tropes lacks precisely because lefties have so little actual understanding of their adversaries.

      Could be a selection effect in a left-biased media sphere. Stupid right-wing satire gets purged as unacceptable wrongthink while stupid left-wing satire is just inoffensive noise. The clever 1 % of left-wing satire gets lost in the sea of dreck, while the 1 % of right-wing satire that’s clever enough not to just get shouted down as it shows up stands out when most right-wing stuff has been scrubbed away as unseemly.

      • I think you’ve put your finger on one of the drivers, yes.

      • g says:

        In a hypothetical universe where lefty satire of rightists and righty satire of leftists are equally common and equally good, I would expect people whose sympathies tend rightward to report that righty satire of leftists is better, and vice versa.

        I lean leftward; my experience is that the lefty satire of rightists I’ve seen is sometimes amusing, whereas the righty satire of leftists I’ve seen is almost always just mean-spirited and stupid. Eric leans rightward[1]; his experience is that lefty satire of rightists is boring and stupid while righty satire of leftists is subtle and edgy.

        None of this seems to me to require any explanation in terms of actual differences of quality; the obvious psychological explanations suffice.

        (Suppose you favour the Green tribe over the Purple tribe[2]. You will see more stuff written by Greens mocking the Purples than vice versa; really good satire is rare so you may well see some really good pro-Green satire and no really good pro-Purple satire. You will be more readily impressed by pro-Green material, and more readily offended by pro-Purple material. You will forget most of the eminently forgettable stuff you see, and remember the things that you found particularly funny (which will be mostly pro-Green) or particularly offensive (which will be mostly pro-Purple). End result: you remember seeing a bunch of impressive pro-Green stuff, and a bunch of offensive pro-Purple stuff. Conclusion: The Greens are cleverer, wittier, nicer, and less unfair. Your counterpart in the Purple tribe, of course, draws the opposite conclusion.)

        [1] It is quite common in libertarian circles to deny that libertarianism is on the whole a phenomenon of the right rather than the left. I appreciate that politics is not one-dimensional, that libertarians’ views are by no means identical to those of generic right-wing authoritarians, etc., but none the less I think it’s clear that for most purposes libertarians group more naturally with the rightists than the leftists. Not least because in many places the political right has moved towards libertarianism in recent years.

        [2] Colours chosen not to match either of the usual US political colours. Though as it happens, in the current UK elections the two most extreme of the parties mainstream enough to get into TV debates etc. happen to use those colours.

        • The situation is not as symmetrical as you suppose.

          if I was merely reporting my impression that righties are better at satirizing lefties than the reverse, you might be warranted to suppose that I lean rightward and are reporting my own bias.

          However, in this case the primary evidence is the Haidt study; I am reporting my experience as the reason I find that credible.

          Therefore I suggest that you should consider the Haidt study reason to question your perception of me “leaning rightward” and of your own reaction to political satire. It does not only support my impression, it suggests a generative model to explain my impression. It doesn’t do the same for you.

          • g says:

            I understand. I’m merely suggesting that your observations aren’t very much confirmatory evidence for Haidt’s thesis because similar observations would be expected even without the asymmetry Haidt finds.

            I agree that if in fact rightist satire of the left is better than leftist satire of the right then Haidt’s research may feel us something about why.

            (My supposition that you lean rightward is not an inference from your preference for rightist over leftist satire. I’m sorry if I was unclear about that.)

      • onyomi says:

        I also think left-wing satire is fundamentally easier to do. This is because the left-wing sees itself as the ally of the disenfranchised, whereas, for better or worse, the right often ends up defending the status quo and/or the values of the past. Is it easier to make jokes about rich, old white men, or is it easier to make jokes defending Western civilization?

        It’s related to one of the concerns I have about the power of fiction and film to effect change. I have no doubt that it has the power to effect change, but the problem is that it’s always much easier to make a poignant film about greed and corruption bring someone to ruin than a film about how free enterprise allowed someone to get ahead. Similar with science: how do you make a sci-fi film in which someone invents some weird new technology and everything works out great? There has to be a dark side, a soylent green in order to create dramatic interest.

        This is one of the more impressive things to me about Ayn Rand.

        • Nornagest says:

          how do you make a sci-fi film in which someone invents some weird new technology and everything works out great?

          You use the technology to enable the conflict rather than causing it. Captain Kirk wouldn’t be fighting Klingons without warp drive, but he’s not fighting Klingons because of warp drive.

          • onyomi says:

            I guess that is one way, though not really satire. Of course, neither is Atlas Shrugged. Star Trek is also interesting by virtue of being utopian, but with most of the dramatic interest coming out of the sort of problem we might expect even in a utopia, rather from some inherent flaw in the utopia. Also, Star Trek does not send a right-wing message.

            Off the top of my head, it’s really hard for me to think of any very successful right-wing satire at all. I consider LOTR to be one of the best pieces of conservative-leaning (in a Burkean, Georgist kind of way) literature ever, but again, not satire.

            I do also think that there is a more general sense in which it is difficult or impossible for comedy to be anything other than reinforcing of the dominant paradigm, whatever that may be. This is because people don’t find it funny to have their ideas substantively challenged.

          • Do you count “Yes, Minister” and its sequel as satire? British TV programs (I think) and books.

          • Troy says:

            Also, Star Trek does not send a right-wing message.

            Au contraire, mon capitain:

            (1) Starfleet is a meritocracy, and functions well because of specialization and a chain of command.

            (2) Although there are no big differences in the way humans from different ethnic groups on the show are portrayed, alien species are (realistically) portrayed as statistically different from humans in important respects. For example, Klingons are more violent than humans, even if there are particular exceptions. Numerous shows suggest that these differences are more than skin-deep, and that trying to raise (e.g.) a Klingon among humans, while not impossible, is difficult.

            (3) The Prime Directive is based on the conservative insight that changing long-established social customs usually does more harm than good, even if those customs are non-ideal.

          • onyomi says:

            Star Trek certainly has *some* messages that could be interpreted as conservative, but it also has a lot that could be considered liberal. We are talking about a future with a world government based in San Francisco under which everyone works for the joy of self-improvement rather than money. Also, first interracial kiss on tv and not only men, women, black and white serving alongside each other, but humans, androids, and aliens serving alongside each other in relative harmony.

            I think Roddenberry’s original conception was vaguely utopian in a more left-wing vein, though that got smoothed out a bit over time. I’m not saying it has a strong ideology either way, just that it isn’t obviously right wing.

          • Jaskologist says:

            They take way too much credit for that kiss. In the story, the characters were forced to torture each other and then forced into the kiss. They might as well have had Kirk rape her and then called it the first interracial love scene.

            Season 3 is such a wasteland. And that episode is made all the more painful because the starting premise of a society modeled on Plato’s Republican had such potential, but they did absolutely nothing with it.

          • DrBeat says:

            The characters being forced to kiss each other by Alien Shenanigans was the only way the network would allow them to air it. They were being as transgressive as they could possibly be while still being aired. They deserve all the credit they get for that kiss.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Troy

            (2) Although there are no big differences in the way humans from different ethnic groups on the show are portrayed, alien species are (realistically) portrayed as statistically different from humans in important respects. For example, Klingons are more violent than humans, even if there are particular exceptions. Numerous shows suggest that these differences are more than skin-deep, and that trying to raise (e.g.) a Klingon among humans, while not impossible, is difficult.

            As for Spock, the half-breed is the one … not to occcasionlly go meta, but to live in meta. The humans sometimes touch meta, when bouncing off his Vulcan side. We see one Vulcan showing meta: Spock’s father, after he married a human immigrant and lived with their son. If the father had immigrated to Earth and married a human … we might have Spock and the Methods of Humanity.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Making the kiss non-consensual and awful really seems like it undermines the intended message to me.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ onyomi
            Star Trek certainly has *some* messages that could be interpreted as conservative, but it also has a lot that could be considered liberal.

            I always saw early Star Trek as presenting quite liberal things as messages to their current audience: the racial diversity on the Bridge, the Cold War as a far away joke (Russian Lt. Checkov believing that X, Y, and Z were invented in Russia), slighting or condemning references to mid-20th-Century as a sort of Dark Age before World Government (which qualified us for acceptance into the Federation), etc.

            @ Troy

            I don’t recall Meritocracy/Chain of Command ever being presented as a message. Troy, were there stories where some visited planet of the week was too chaotic, unorganized? Like FTL drive, the Starfleet Chain of Command was part of the background — and usually Kirk violated it (for reasons of compassion or other McCoyian emotions). The Prime Directive came across to me as a Liberal concept: tolerate the odd customs of those odd natives, they may know better than we do — and Kirk or someone usually found a way around that, too.

          • onyomi says:

            @David, I had not heard of the show, but it does seem, at least, to be a parody of politics in general, if not from a specifically right-wing perspective (though arguably making politicians look silly is inherently more conservative). I’ve heard House of Cards may be sort of similar in that regard, albeit more serious.

            I do worry also about the effect of the many tv shows and films which portray federal agents and the like as, essentially, superheroes, always cleverly thwarting all kinds of horrendous threats to our safety while everyone goes about their lives, oblivious.

          • Troy says:

            @onyomi:

            Star Trek certainly has *some* messages that could be interpreted as conservative, but it also has a lot that could be considered liberal.

            Yes, I agree. I was largely being contrarian.

            @houseboatonstyx:

            I don’t recall Meritocracy/Chain of Command ever being presented as a message. Troy, were there stories where some visited planet of the week was too chaotic, unorganized?

            Good question. I am not sure. I’ll see if I can think of any.

            The Prime Directive came across to me as a Liberal concept: tolerate the odd customs of those odd natives, they may know better than we do

            I think this idea is prevalent on the left today, but I also think it’s a fundamentally conservative idea, and that by not extending the same logic to their own culture progressives are generally being inconsistent.

            For example, the TNG episode Half a Life has Lwaxana Troi fall in love with man from a society where, by custom, all people commit ritual suicide at age 60, which the man she falls in love with is approaching. This ritual seems barbaric to Lwaxana, but is an integral and meaningful part of this man’s culture. Although the episode certainly doesn’t whole-heartedly portray the custom as a good thing, it also shows the benefits that it has to the society and the problems with trying to overthrow a long-established custom. This sounds to me like a fundamentally conservative message.

            As another example, even the DS9 episode Rejoined, in which a Trill continuing a relationship from a previous host is an obvious metaphor for homosexuality, while the suffering of Dax and Kahn for not being able to continue their relationship is obvious, the advantages of the taboo against this are also explored. Somewhat ironically, the emotional distance that an alien taboo has allowed the no doubt predominantly progressive writers to explore the advantages of taboos around sexuality in a way they could probably not do with real-life examples (like homosexuality).

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Troy, were there stories where some visited planet of the week was too chaotic, unorganized?”

            If you count civil war, than Legacy.

            “The Prime Directive came across to me as a Liberal concept: tolerate the odd customs of those odd natives, they may know better than we do”

            Its first introduced in The Omega Glory, an episode that involves Space Americans fighting Space Maoists. In TOS where cultural development was an inherent law of the universe (so that you had Roman planets with secret Christians) it makes sense.

            Its weird in TNG, because they include “do not prevent civilizations from being exterminated” and “letting people leave communities to see the rest of the universe” under the rubric. It is Hollywood liberal so it doesn’t fit under the right/left distinction as well.

          • James Picone says:

            I’d always interpreted the Prime Directive as a moral heuristic intended to stop you doing things that look like really good ideas but usually turn out to be terrible, kind of like Eliezer’s picture of ends-don’t-justify-the-means in a utilitarian moral philosophy.

            Kind of assumed that the Federation had decided/inherited from the Vulcans the heuristic because historically trying to uplift cultures turned out to be a disaster in any number of unforeseeable ways.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Samuel Skinner
            Its weird in TNG, because they include “do not prevent civilizations from being exterminated” and “letting people leave communities to see the rest of the universe” under the rubric.

            Whatever its motives In-Universe, I always saw it from Out-of-Universe, as a background structure that made for good stories. Either there was the in-crew conflict about how and whether to violate it, or it gave the crew an out as soon as the interesting part of the story finished. I don’t recall it ever being presented as a message from Roddenbury to the audience, like the racial diversity of the crew, etc.

          • Troy says:

            I’d always interpreted the Prime Directive as a moral heuristic intended to stop you doing things that look like really good ideas but usually turn out to be terrible, kind of like Eliezer’s picture of ends-don’t-justify-the-means in a utilitarian moral philosophy.

            That’s funny; I always saw this as one of the chief advantages of conservatism (in the literal sense of being very careful about making changes to society). 🙂

          • Troy says:

            One other thought: the value of individual freedom is a very common Star Trek trope. There are several dystopian episodes about situations that look like paradises but that involve deception or captivity or some other kind of lack of freedom.

            Obviously freedom isn’t a value just for conservatives, but one common criticism of progressives by conservatives today, at least in an American context, is that their policies are unnecessarily coercive.

          • onyomi says:

            Yes, I also often thought of the Borg as some kind of metaphor for scientific socialism.

          • Troy says:

            As an aside/returning to the earlier topic: A Canticle for Leibowitz is one of the best works of literature/media I know of propounding a conservative worldview, and I think it is at least in parts satirical: e.g., the exchange between the monks and the learned secular academic about St. Augustine’s idea that life forms might have evolved, with the latter politely listening to this idea and then dismissing it as religious hogwash.

          • I’d say that Saruman’s regime in the Shire is satirical of the sort of communism which adds a lot of rules and industrialization while impoverishing people.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I feel like satire is almost inherently a vehicle that attack the opinions of those who are powerful or successful.

          You can satirize Bill Clinton (or any sitting president), it’s very hard to satirize your average schlub, because it rapidly devolves not into attacking their ideas, but attacking them. Presenting an idea that seems smart using a smart and successful character and allowing us to realize it is monstrous or stupid is satire. Presenting an argument from a character who is unsuccessful or unintelligent essentially becomes an ad-hominem.

      • Gbdub says:

        Honestly I think purely partisan satire is just going to suck generally, because I don’t think you can make good satire without at least sympathizing with the target (not “agree with” but “understand where you’re coming from”).

        I lean right, but my favorite satire is South Park and The Onion – what they have in common is that they are relatively equal opportunity offenders.

        A particularly good example is a South Park episode mocking Mormonism (the one where they interject scenes of Joseph Smith “finding” the golden plates with a soundtrack of “Dumb-da-dum dumb dub dumb dumb…”)

        But at the end, the new kid who Stan has rejected because of his weird religious beliefs goes off on him, and tells Stan what a jerk and idiot he is for mocking someone who has a great life and a loving family (much closer and more functional than the Marshes) just because of his religion.

        It’s perfect – anyone who takes too much joy in the Mormon mocking gets a nasty little jab thrown their way at the end, and it shows that Matt and Trey “get” what draws a lot of people to religion even when it seems ridiculous.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        On the other hand, assuming that some sort of panel of really-impartial judges ruled that the anti-left satire really is better than the anti-right satire, that could tell us something about the standards the panel is using. If being really funny is important, you can show us favoring snail darters over developers; but we can only show rightists as favoring money while seniors eat cat food, which isn’t funny.

  15. Erik Christensen says:

    I think most people, if asked “Is it important to listen to arguments by people who disagree with you?” would answer in the affirmative.

    While I agree this is probably the case, I think you’re being a little optimistic about whether this would actually help matters. I don’t think people are making the mistake “I don’t have to listen to conservatives, and I never did,” but rather, “I no longer have to listen to conservatives, because I already fully understand all of the arguments they have made and ever will make.”

    So they’d happily check the box for “do you not want to listen to conservative arguments?”, not because they think they shouldn’t listen to conservative arguments, but because they think they don’t HAVE any left to listen to.

    • Eggo says:

      Agreed. I find myself turning off listening to members of the opposite side, simply because what they’re saying is almost always a BuzzGawk misquotation of a book I’ve already read.
      I expect it’s either the same on the other side, or they just assume that we’re no more than the cartoon parodies their media make us out to be.

    • Brn says:

      This morning, I was listening to Bloggingheads discussion from Tuesday about students trying to block speakers on campus that they disagree with. Very near the beginning, the liberal said, almost word-for-word, “I no longer have to listen to conservatives, because I already fully understand all of the arguments they have made and ever will make.”

      • Eggo says:

        I had to check because I didn’t think you could possibly be serious… Oh dear.

  16. CaptainBooshi says:

    The first thing I wondered was what kind of arms race would result from these filters? I would imagine that any real advances in filtering would then be responded to by tactics to get around that. Would you infiltrate real-life events and then cause a scene so that people have to talk about you? Maybe try to break the filters by co-opting the vocabulary the opposite side uses so that the friendly fire becomes unacceptable? I can’t imagine people would give up annoyism, on either side. Whether or not it’s effective, it’s definitely emotionally gratifying, and that alone will make people seek it out.

    • Eggo says:

      We’ve already seen that with multi-level marketing and timeshare scams, haven’t we? Faking real human interaction just long enough that people let their guards down, then “hey, have you heard about this great investment opportunity from scamcorp?”

  17. I remember being vaguely concerned when you wrote the following in your Archipelago post:

    “They can take advantage of trigger warnings to make sure they expose themselves to only the sources that fit the values of their community, the information that would get broadcast if it was a normal community that could impose media norms. As Internet interaction starts to replace real-life interaction (and I think for a lot of people the majority of their social life is already on the Internet, and for some the majority of their economic life is as well) it becomes increasingly easy to limit yourself to transsexual-friendly spaces that keep bad people away.

    The rationalist community is another good example. If I wanted, I could move to the Bay Area tomorrow and never have more than a tiny amount of contact with non-rationalists again. I could have rationalist roommates, live in a rationalist group house, try to date only other rationalists, try to get a job with a rationalist nonprofit like CFAR or a rationalist company like Quixey, and never have to deal with the benighted and depressing non-rationalist world again. Even without moving to the Bay Area, it’s been pretty easy for me to keep a lot of my social life, both on- and off- line, rationalist-focused, and I don’t regret this at all.”

    I worry that you might be underestimating the tendency for people with committed beliefs to form echo chambers that block all disapproved opinions. Echo chambers are really satisflying; it took me a long time to grow tired of the echo chamber I had created around myself in reading various atheist blogs. Better filtering might only exacerbate the problem. Now I feel like I’ve mostly gotten past that stage in my life, and have come to recognize and dislike the “echo chamber” feeling whenever I have it. But in general it’s not very hard to fall into the echo chamber trap, and not everyone has the tools to escape it.

    • Bugmaster says:

      But in general it’s not very hard to fall into the echo chamber trap, and not everyone has the tools to escape it.

      It isn’t really clear to me that escaping the echo chamber is even a generally desirable thing to do. I personally tend to avoid echo chambers, but this is most likely not due to any empistemic virtue on my part; but rather due to the fact that I’m a contrarian and a generally unpleasant person by nature, and thus have not yet found an echo chamber that would suit me. In any case, what is wrong with finding a community you like, and sticking with it ?

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        I’m a contrarian and a generally unpleasant person by nature, and thus have not yet found an echo chamber that would suit me.

        In my case, “that would put up with me.”

    • Maware says:

      You’ve just described a cult. Rationalism isn’t immune to that; if anything cults do not prey on the gullible, but on smart but naive people who love elegant solutions to things. The focus on non-marital forms of sexuality, too: plenty of cults with asexual or polyamourous (free love) spawned in the nineteenth century out of new thought. There is nothing new under the sun.

      • Bugmaster says:

        Not necessarily. As far as I understand, a cult is built around a single leader; everyone else follows him with utmost devotion. So, you could argue that a cult is a special case of there more general echo chamber, where the message that gets amplified is, specifically, “the leader is good, the leader is great, we surrender our will, as of this date”.

        • Nornagest says:

          I can’t think offhand of any cults (or, for that matter, other religious movements) that have gotten started without a charismatic leader figure, but it’s not too uncommon for them to survive the leader’s death: take modern Scientology for example.

  18. Ash says:

    Right now there are many journalists using these automated blocking lists. The claim is, the people on the lists are harassers. But any reasonable inspection shows that’s just not true for the vast majority of those blocked.

    It should be considered unethical for a journalist who would claim xyrself unbiased, objective to use the current blocking lists.

    • Eggo says:

      It would be a mistake to allow fact-checking to define the narrative, don’t you think?

    • Sylocat says:

      The claim is, the people on the lists are harassers.

      Not really. Just that they choose to associate with known harassers (and in some of the cases, “harassers” is putting it very mildly), and thus are statistically more likely to be harassers and just dickheads in general than the populace at large.

      If you want journalists to be open to opposing opinions, well, there’s plenty of people who DON’T follow anyone on this list of seven well-demonstrated assholes, who can make those points reasonably for you.

      • Cauê says:

        I don’t think Scott would be happy if we opened the floodgates about GG, and I don’t intend to initiate arguments about them, but I would ask that, if you must accuse, at least be specific enough to allow verification and/or defense.

        (also, the thing was initially distributed as “A Twitter tool to block some of the worst offenders in the recent wave of harassment” – which apparently includes Kentucky Fried Chicken)

        • Sylocat says:

          To clarify, the bit in parenthesis referred only to the seven people on the core blacklist. I don’t claim that everyone on the autoblocker is evil.

          I’m sure there are any number of reasons why a perfectly decent person would, for perfectly valid personal reasons, decide to associate with cretins like RogueStar and PressFart. Problem is, there’s too much noise there to get a signal from. And autoblocking people who knowingly associate with those cretins is the best way to filter out the crazies from the sane GGers.

          (also, the thing was initially distributed as “A Twitter tool to block some of the worst offenders in the recent wave of harassment” – which apparently includes Kentucky Fried Chicken)

          Wait, what? Did KFC’s Twitter account wind up following multiple people on the blacklist?

          • Anonymous says:

            KFC follows 43.7k people. It used to be on the blacklist, but no longer.

          • NN says:

            KFC’s Twitter account, like many corporate Twitter accounts, is set up to automatically follow anyone that follows it. Milo Yiannopoulos and one other person on the blacklist whose name I cannot recall had both followed @kfc at some point, and so @kfc had followed them back, and thus it ended up on the blocklist.

            This is one of many, many reasons why creating a blocklist based on who follows whom on Twitter is a dumb idea.

          • Sylocat says:

            Well, it could also be argued that ordering your corporate Twitter account to automatically follow anyone who follows it is also kind of a dumb idea.

            Regardless, though… it may be a dumb idea to make a blocklist like that, but in the aforementioned circumstances, it could easily be the least dumb of the currently-available options.

  19. SUT says:

    NYT comes down on the side of the filters http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/07/opinion/free-speech-vs-hate-speech.html

    Honestly, what’s the right’s form of this call for censorship? …They get mad when people burn the Flag sometimes? Honestly, I’m trying to think: soldiers/veterans are kind of untouchable too, but not to the point of “Hate speech” talk.

    • Toggle says:

      You find plentiful examples in the moral majority/religious right. Don’t ask, don’t tell, banned books in school libraries, etc.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        “Plentiful” in the sense that you have to dredge back to the ’80s and ’90s, mind you. It’s been a while since the Moral Majority boogieman had any real influence outside of largely rural enclaves, and even then the inhabitants are now vulnerable to online mobs.

        • g says:

          DADT was repealed in 2011.

          This page shows no decline to speak of in number of attempts to ban books between the 1990s and the 2000s. (I couldn’t find figures for actual bannings, but it’s the “call for censorship” rather than actual censorship that’s under discussion so that’s OK.)

          • Julie K says:

            You think all the calls to ban books come from the right?

          • Mr L says:

            The number of students in the U.S. has increased considerably since 1990. Given that the complaints appear to have remained relatively flat in terms of actual numbers, that’s evidence of a decline.

            There’s also a significant shift in targets from schools and libraries to nebulous ‘other businesses,’ but I don’t know if that matters.

          • g says:

            (Reply to Julie K; can’t actually reply because of thread nesting limit.)

            I wasn’t actually making any comment on the right-versus-left issue, just pointing out that attempts to ban books in school libraries are not a thing of the past, contrary to ThirteenthLetter’s comment. However:

            Almost any statement about all anythings is false. But yes, it appears that most attempts to get books banned come from the right rather then the left. This page lists the 10 most frequently “challenged” books of 2014 — i.e., the ones libraries have most often been asked to remove — with typical reasons given. Taking them in order: 1. Both left (“cultural insensitivity”) and right (“anti-family”, “sex education”); my impression is more right than left. 2. Hard to be sure, but looks like right (“political viewpoint”; AIUI the viewpoint in question is distinctly leftist.) 3. Right (“anti-family”, “promotes the homosexual agenda”). 4. Right (“sexually explicit”; “contains controversial issues” seems likely a complaint from the right given the author). 5. Right (“nudity”, “sex education”). 6. Right (“anti-family”, “nudity”). 7. Hard to be sure, (“offensive language”, “violence”). 8. Right (“drugs/alcohol/smoking”, “homosexuality”, “sexually explicit”). 9. Probably right (“drugs/alcohol/smoking”, “sexually explicit”). 10. Probably right (“sexually explicit”).

            I’m working on the assumption that it’s mostly the Right rather than the Left that has a big problem with children’s books talking about sex and drugs and so forth; that seems to me like a pretty safe assumption, but your mileage may vary. Things like “anti-family” and “homosexual agenda” are extremely clear indicators of Right-ness, of course.

          • g says:

            (Reply to Mr L; can’t actually reply because of thread nesting limit.)

            US population seems to be going up about 10% per decade over the relevant period. That’s not huge. There may well be a decline in book-banning attempts, but it certainly hasn’t fallen off a cliff. In particular, ThirteenthLetter is wrong to suggest that bringing up book-banning attempts means “dredg[ing] back to the ’80s and ’90s”.

          • randy m says:

            The conflation of banning books, and removing books from libraries, let alone school libraries, is silly.

          • I’m a liberal and an ACLU member, and I think the whole annual banned-books crusade is a gigantically overblown publicity stunt.

          • g says:

            Randy M, the comment I was replying to referred to “banned books in school libraries”. I took that to mean banning (or attempting to ban — the issue was analogues of a “call for censorship”) books from school libraries. I don’t see how I’ve conflated anything I shouldn’t have, or been silly. It looks to me like I was responding to precisely the claims at issue.

          • g says:

            Larry: yup, publicity stunt. None the less, there are people trying to get books removed from school libraries, and that is a form of attempted censorship, and it does appear mostly to come from the right rather than the left, and it isn’t a thing that happened in the 80s and 90s but doesn’t happen now.

            And it’s actual censorship — group A deciding what group B should be prevented from seeing — unlike self-selected filtering as discussed by Scott in this post, and unlike saying “doing X is bad and I wish they’d stop” like the NYT editorial that SUT grossly mischaracterizes as a “call for censorship”.

            (The NYT editorial says: ridiculing religion is protected free speech, it doesn’t justify murderous attacks, but some particular instances of ridiculing religion are motivated by hate and the people doing that are acting wrongly. That’s no more a “call for censorship” than saying that the NYT editorial is ill-conceived is.)

          • Lesser Bull says:

            I would be surprised if the calls to remove books from children’s libraries weren’t mostly made by rightists. My model of librarians is that any books the left strongly disapproves of probably wouldn’t be on the shelves in the first place.

        • Dain says:

          I think it’s interesting the way that parental advisory warnings have become déclassé just as trigger warnings are coming into vogue. Same general idea, different motivation.

    • suntzuanime says:

      On the issue of soldiers/veterans, one of the notable people who lost their job to a social media lynch mob was a leftist who took a picture of herself flipping off a military cemetery. While the words “hate speech” might not have been used, because the left owns those words, the right definitely has motivation to censor anti-veteran speech.

      • SUT says:

        Thanks Sun, exactly what I was looking for. However, I think this is a Donald Sterling issue – “Sorry customers, but we’re glad to say That guy doesn’t work here anymore.”. Not the same as NYT call for censorship.

        > editorial that SUT grossly mischaracterizes as a “call for censorship …The NYT editorial says: ridiculing religion is protected free speech, it doesn’t justify murderous attacks, but some particular instances of ridiculing religion are motivated by hate

        Imagine if you will, the day after that guy who flew his plane into an IRS building. The WSJ says “Look, violence is never OK, BUTTTT… The Sec101f of income tax sure does create perverse incentives to one income households, blah blah blah”

        There is a law of the excluded middle in commenting on ‘publicity acts of violence’. You don’t get to say violence is never right and then lecture the victim, or about the behavior we all must adopt to make sure there is never even a motive for an attack again.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        On a thin tangent here, I’m not sure that the number people who got fired is a good proxy for which side instigates the most firings. It might just measure which sort of jobs are easiest to get fired from.

  20. Tom says:

    How is this any different from all the low-tech methods we had to insulate ourselves before the Internet? The wealthy and the powerful lived in secluded communities and belonged to private clubs where they could interact with other wealthy and powerful people.

    That goes on to this day. Even the merely middle-class can and do choose to live in towns or neighborhoods that have few minority residents. Major cities often have nearby suburbs for well-off people who enjoy access to the city but otherwise can’t be bothered to interact with the unwashed masses.

    The final point is that most people just don’t care about Internet political debates. They’ll come home from work and unwind in front of the TV. They’ll use social media to keep up with friends, not as a place to debate strangers. Honestly, a lot of these sites are themselves filters. You can live an online life and ignore reality. You speak of terrorism and annoyism–to be effective you need offline results. Would the Montgomery Bus Boycott have been as effective if it were just a group of people deriding the bus company on Twitter?

    • Sylocat says:

      Exactly. It’s like when David Wong wrote that article where he claimed the internet has created “Thought Bubbles.” Uh, no, it hasn’t, it’s just made David Wong aware of the existence of Thought Bubbles outside his own.

  21. Velociraptor says:

    If the filters are used properly, I think they could turn out great. The research I’ve seen suggests that people rarely change their mind based on hostile arguments that represent attacks on their identity: http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/i-dont-want-to-be-right So I don’t think we stand to lose much if we cut this “trollish” dialogue. I expect my view of the feminist movement would be much more favorable if I was only exposed to the top 25% most thoughtful feminist writing online (e.g. this thoughtful piece by feminist Katherine Cross where she talks about how (a) recent pieces opposing feminism’s “call-out” culture haven’t been sufficiently thorough in their research but (b) “call-out” culture is definitely a problem). Indeed, it seems like the most extreme stuff often has the opposite of the intended effect; for example, the most virulent Gamergate accounts just inspire the other side to greater fury. (I suppose more virulent writing does a better job of firing up people who are already predisposed to agree with you though?)

    The median voter theorem suggests that whichever side of a conflict does the best job of moderating itself and seeming reasonable is more likely to win in the view of popular opinion. (That’s why one of the best ways to discredit the other side is to spread the most extreme and unreasonable examples of what they’re saying.)

    If activists were smart enough to realize this, I could imagine creating blocklists of people on their own side, in order to shut down the unreasonable people that are just causing their side to lose points. (E.g. some Gamergate activists have complained that feminists cherry-pick abusive Gamergaters and even stage “false flag” abuse operations against themselves (seems implausible to me), so it seems these complaining activists could be motivated to tell feminists exactly who they should be ignoring.) This could also make it easier to disclaim the activities of the worst activists on your side (just point out the fact that you think they should be blocked). Broadcasting the views of someone that had been blocked by their own side could be considered “out of bounds” for discussion among reasonable people. Even their own side says they’re crazy; they’re just yelling to get attention and no one should listen to them.

    Then we’d just have to get people to prefer blocklists created by the side they disagree with. For example, I could subscribe to a blocklist of feminists created by Ozy or Katherine Cross, since she seems like a pretty reasonable feminist who also recognizes that there are folks in her camp whose opinions we could all do without. Subscribing to Katherine’s blocklist could be a relatively cheap way for me to think of myself as someone who gives folks on the other side a fair listen… after all, if Katherine thinks this person should be ignored, that seems like a pretty good reason to actually ignore them.

    This also provides a nice resolution to whatever the latest controversy is, e.g. feminists can accuse Gamergater X of saying ridiculous stuff, and Katherine’s counterpart on the pro-Gamergate side can assent and add Gamergater X to their blocklist, thus providing an endpoint to the discussion and a way for the reasonable people on both sides to win.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Examples of false flags have been identified; the question is what fraction of the most obnoxious dialogue they make up, not whether they exist at all.

    • Cauê says:

      Scott, the comment monster ate my long rant (maybe it got offended by the url for GNAA’s wikipedia page). It’d be just lovely if it could be rescued.

      • suntzuanime says:

        This certainly says *something* about the value of filtration, though I guess we’d need to see the rant to determine exactly what.

      • Cauê says:

        Anyway, the gist of it was that yes, many have been identified (there were examples).

        But they’re not “self-inflicted” (well, at least not most of them), they’re the work of trolls, who just want to see the world burn and get free publicity. It’s extremely frustrating how many people who really should be familiar with the internet fail to even generate this simple hypothesis. Even a simple Cui bono? should make one think twice, but no…

    • Velociraptor says:

      If the filtration system I describe got enough buy-in, maybe responding to a person the other side had blocked could even be a blockable offense.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        Too draconian. If someone on the list was found, by a Reaonable Person, as worth responding to, maybe the list needs a separate category, perhaps labeled Limbo.

        • Velociraptor says:

          I disagree. I think reasonable people are currently making the mistake of responding to unreasonable people far too frequently. If a reasonable person responds to you, that’s not much evidence that you’re reasonable in the current discussion climate.

    • Harald K says:

      E.g. some Gamergate activists have complained that feminists cherry-pick abusive Gamergaters and even stage “false flag” abuse operations against themselves (seems implausible to me), so it seems these complaining activists could be motivated to tell feminists exactly who they should be ignoring.

      This has been tried. Most famously, the anti-harassment patrol found out that one of the persons sending death threats to A.S. was a Brazilian clickbait journalist. This information was forwarded to A.S. so she could pursue it, but she didn’t, nor did she acknowledge it.

      About self-threats being implausible… there are several examples that when people post screenshots of the threats, it’s obviously themselves that made it. “Posted 5 seconds ago”, even with stuff that identifies the screenshot taker as the logged-in user making the threat.

      Self-threats isn’t the only explanation for this – it could be, for instance, that whoever made the threat mailed the screenshot to the victim themselves (maybe with a faux-concerned “Did you see this?”) and they just reused it. But if so, it would be easy for the victims to clear up. They have never done that, instead when stuff like “5 seconds ago” is pointed out to them, they just take it down and pretend it never happened.

      This is the age of clickbait. Any dirty trick that makes people share your name/the name of your publication in social media has surely been tried. Whether the purported GG victims are amoral enough to do that is an open question, but I don’t think anyone should disagree that they are very social media-savvy.

      • Zorgon says:

        I had someone on Facebook claim that the bomb threat against the recent Non Reproductively Viable Worker Ants meetup in DC was justified because of that specific death threat which was traced to a Brazillian journalist. That’s right – a serious bomb threat which led to an entire meetup of several hundred Worker Ants being evacuated and the building searched was “justified” by a completely fake threat against Saint Anita by a non-Worker Ant. “Justified.”

        I’m currently wondering when the first serious casualty is going to happen. I’m going to guess relatively soon. The longer the NRVWA movement continues, the more desperate the antis become; they are very clearly used to getting their way.

        • Velociraptor says:

          Wow, sounds very Lord of the Flies esque.

        • Sylocat says:

          The “bomb threat” was a single Tweet from an anonymous account.

          • Cauê says:

            Which is why it wasn’t taken seriously by them, and is mostly being used as a way to compare and contrast the different reactions to equivalent situations.

            Edit: well, I do feel a bit silly rereading the comment you’ve replied to, but I’ll let this up.

            Zorgon, how serious are you? The history of internet drama should be enough to give a very, very low prior to this kind of thing ever amounting to anything.

          • Zorgon says:

            Apologies for my late reply, been busy watching my country descend into barbarism.

            I’m… semi-serious. The bomb threat against the GG meeting was taken seriously mainly because it was in DC, and AFAIK every bomb threat in DC is taken seriously.

            But the point remains that to date, there hasn’t been a single bomb threat against SJWs that has ever caused any more than a momentary email to the police/FBI. Even Sarkeesian’s talk at whichever university was cancelled by Sarkeesian because she didn’t get the armed guard she demanded and they refused to create an exception to that state’s carry rules.

            All that’s kind of irrelevant, though. We’ve reached the stage where threats are “justified”. I have not yet experienced anyone in GG, even on 8chan, referring to threats against the various “targets” of GG as being “justified”. Ever. “Exaggerated”? Sure. “Fabricated”? Sometimes. There’s even occasional suggestions that they’re “solicited”, as with Brianna Wu’s attempt at fishing on her game’s Steam forum for insults to screen-grab.

            But never “justified”. Because threats are never justified… except to SJWs, it seems.

          • Sylocat says:

            I have not yet experienced anyone in GG, even on 8chan, referring to threats against the various “targets” of GG as being “justified”. Ever.

            Except, y’know, the people gleefully boasting about having sent those threats, and the people egging the aforementioned people on…

          • Cauê says:

            Unless you’re talking about self-identified unaffiliated trolls (like examples I posted in other comments here / EDIT: and including baphomet, which Zorgon mentions below), then I don’t know what you mean.

            I’m not exactly sure what people think when they see the GG people asking for proof of these things (I’m aware there’s a meme going around that allows the dismissal of this with a simple “oh, I can’t believe they’re asking for proof again!”). But the reason they do it is simple: they don’t know what you’re talking about either.

          • Zorgon says:

            AFAICT they are usually talking about one of two things: baph, or IRC logs.

            The former is not GG, but certainly enjoys the near total freedom to engage in trolling granted them by people who like to pretend they are (not to mention the anger from GG at this). The latter is literally impossible to trace to any given instance of abuse and is even less reliably identifiable as GG.

            Given the mention of it being on 8chan, I can only assume Sylo is talking about baph.

      • Cauê says:

        It happens without explicit coordination as well. When they display a tweet with an actual threat, and you go to the timeline of the person who sent it, you will see, 100% of the time in my experience (n=about 40 times by now?), one of the following:

        a) a new or little used account who has never once interacted with the movement in any way, or
        b) someone who had been speaking against the movement and suddenly throws out a couple of stupid tweets with the hashtag.
        (I’ve also seen c) people sending stupid tweets with the hashtag to get free game keys that trolls offered to whoever would do that; but I don’t remember one of these being “promoted”)

        (on the other hand, seen exactly zero times in my experience:
        a) somebody who had been actively supporting and interacting with the movement and then made threats, or
        b) somebody who sent threats and was subsequently welcomed by the movement, or
        c) the movement approving of threats)

        • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

          >a new or little used account who has never once interacted with the movement in any way

          Let’s be fair, if someone is to make threats, it is a basic safeguard to create a throwaway account.

          Which is why I consider self threats to be plausible, they’re easy to make and pretty effective, they discredit your opponents and it’s really hard to prove they’re fake.

          So that brings the question, why do you (Velociraptor) consider fake threats implausible?

          • Cauê says:

            Indeed. The consistent repudiation by the movement is better evidence. Also the fact that they can only lose from that.

          • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

            >Also the fact that they can only lose from that.

            While that is true, crazy people who form part of your movement and end up being a liability are a staple of all not formally established groups.

            Whether the group should be accountable for them or not is a different discussion.

          • Cauê says:

            This is true as well.

            But does the crazy person even “form part of the movement”? The heuristic people have been using to decide this is “have they made threats? then they’re part of the movement”. Meanwhile, the usual case is that the movement either has never interacted with said person before, or has actively fought them (e.g. that Brazilian guy, the GNAA).

          • Two parallel cases which come to mind are Leon Czolgosz and Elliott Rodger, both mentally ill misfits, lightly connected to specific social movements, who unleashed lethal violence with huge national visibility, and afterwards became discrediting symbols for the movements they were linked to.

            Leading members of both movements disavowed the violence after the fact, but that didn’t make much difference.

          • Nornagest says:

            The same thing happened after the Columbine shootings, as nerds or goths of a certain age are likely to recall.

          • DrBeat says:

            Elliot Rodger had literally and not figuratively nothing to do with the MHRM. He did not go to MHRM websites, he did not use MRA terminology, he did not talk about MHRM issues, he showed no so sign of MRA influence whatsoever, and the entire point of his tirade and rampage was based in an idea that MRAs completely and openly reject: the idea that a man’s worth is dependent on his ability to get sexual attention from women.

            Elliot Rodger was as much of an MRA as he was a Mennonite.

            He became a “symbol” of how bad MRAs are due entirely to feminists wanting to claim that people who aren’t them are responsible for all bad things. There was nothing the MRM could have done about him because they didn’t know he existed; it is not an illustration of how hard it is to police your movement from crazies, it is an illustration of how little you can do to defend yourself if feminists decide to lie about you.

          • NN says:

            Nornagest is exactly right that “The same thing happened after the Columbine shootings, as nerds or goths of a certain age are likely to recall.” Because in reality Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were not goths, nerds, or loners by any reasonable definition of those words, but the initial media reports painted them as all of those things because that fit a stereotype. Also, the use of the Isla Verde killings to attack MRAs reminds me a lot of how the Religious Right blamed Columbine on the secularization of society and used it to advocate for school prayer.

          • Zorgon says:

            The Elliot Rodger/MRA bullshit storm made me seriously reconsider all of the stories connecting various lone wolf killings to bodies like the militia movements.

            I mean, the guy was about as far from an MRA as you can possibly get. But literally no-one wanted to know, there was a narrative, and that was that.

            Between Rodger and the GG farrago, I no longer trust the media on… well, pretty much anything even remotely emotive.

        • Cauê says:

          Correction:

          (I’ve also seen c) people sending stupid tweets with the hashtag to get free game keys that trolls offered to whoever would do that; but I don’t remember one of these being “promoted”)

          Well…

      • Sylocat says:

        the anti-harassment patrol found out that one of the persons sending death threats to A.S. was a Brazilian clickbait journalist. This information was forwarded to A.S. so she could pursue it, but she didn’t, nor did she acknowledge it.

        Out of curiosity, what sort of “pursuit” or “acknowledgement” would you have wanted to see from her?

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          And, where would you have expected to see it?

          • Sylocat says:

            I’m also unsure what the effective difference is between “I’m sending you death threats because I want to hurt you” and “I’m sending you death threats because I want attention and just don’t care if you get hurt.”

            I mean, if one of the many people threatening her turned out to just be doing it for blog hits, well, that’s not exactly a This-Changes-Everything bit of news, you know?

          • DrBeat says:

            It does when she claims that the threats she receives are motivated by gamers’ hatred of women, and the fact she receives threats is proof of gamers’ hatred of women.

            Since this is a fundamental, load-bearing pillar of her damseling, it actually is a pretty big deal.

          • Cauê says:

            It changes many things.

            It changes how one should react, for instance. If trolls are out for publicity, and you want fewer threats by trolls, then you shouldn’t react by giving them publicity and thus showing trolls that “yes, this works”.

            For instance, it didn’t take long at all for trolls to realize that, if you troll anywhere near GG, even very transparent, low-effort trolling can show up on the New York Times. And with the bonus that the blame will certainly fall on a group that’s going to be mad about it. How much better can it be? Here’s notorious troll Weev saying how he loves “how we are infuriating both the feminists and the gamergate f*g**ts all at once”. The return of investment for them is just phenomenal.

            (Around that time, it was actually true that anyone speaking publicly about it was risking being targetted. Only the dynamics behind that was very different than what people were assuming/reporting)

            It changes how likely it is that a given threat presents real danger (an insane stalker is something completely different from an internet troll, which is closer but still different from some righteously angry member of the enemy tribe).

            And it’s got to change your model of the world! A world in which this is all fueled by hate and/or misogyny looks quite a lot different than one in which this is mostly trolls doing their thing for their usual reasons, and riding on a blueXgreen internet battle/dramafest.

        • Zorgon says:

          IIRC, the claim at the time was that due to the apparent perpetrator being a non-US citizen, relevant law enforcement was only interested if the victim requested they investigate.

          Sarkeesian was not interested. At all.

          This was not the standard run-of-the-mill threat of the kind almost all e-celebs get (see Kazerad’s quotes on this for examples); this was the threat based upon which she very publicly and loudly cancelled a talk at a University, a threat which got her into the headlines of papers and the front pages of blogs across the media.

          Oddly enough, it seems like Sarkeesian didn’t want that particular golden egg to be associated with anyone except The Enemy(TM).

          • Sylocat says:

            This was not the standard run-of-the-mill threat of the kind almost all e-celebs get (see Kazerad’s quotes on this for examples); this was the threat based upon which she very publicly and loudly cancelled a talk at a University, a threat which got her into the headlines of papers and the front pages of blogs across the media.

            So, you’re saying that this one guy is singlehandedly responsible for the dozens of different Twitter accounts and e-mail accounts and other social media accounts all sending her the abuse that she so eagerly screencaps?

          • Zorgon says:

            I… have no idea how to respond to that. It bares no real resemblance to the argument at hand. Are you perhaps confusing me with someone else?

          • Cauê says:

            This one guy had over a dozen confirmed twitter accounts, and yes, he was responsible for a lot. But no, not all of it. See my other comments here for better hypotheses of the origins of most of the worst examples.

          • Zorgon says:

            More to the point, though, I wasn’t actually talking about the other threats. I was talking about the Big Kahuna, the endlessly repeated one that got her into the papers and on the TV.

            I thought I was fairly clear in what I was talking about. Am I wrong? Was there some uncertainty about which threat in particular I was talking about? Or was this just an attempt at goalpost shifting and/or conflation?

        • Harald K says:

          The journalist made death threats, pretty obviously illegal both in Brazil and in the US. The way you pursue that is by reporting it to the authorities.

          As for acknowledgment. I guess it’s not mandatory, but when you’ve loudly accused a certain group of sending you death threats, and someone from this group says “Here’s proof this one wasn’t us”, isn’t it reasonable to at least tweet an acknowledgement?

          “Looks like at least some of the threats did not come from gamergate” – a tweet never made, which would have increased my opinion of A.S. by a lot.

          • Sylocat says:

            Wait, THAT’S all the acknowledgement you wanted? Uh, I hate to kill your rage-buzz, but she actually did that. I first heard about this guy when she herself Tweeted about the info she’d received.

    • Eggo says:

      Oh god, that Cross “article”. If that’s the top 25%, Gender Studies is a bigger waste of money than I already thought.

      • Velociraptor says:

        I don’t follow feminist writing online seriously so maybe there is better stuff out there. In any case, it’s certainly better than “Dear White Dudes”.

      • Peter says:

        Evidently people’s mileages vary; I can’t say I entirely agree, OTOH I think I like it more than, for example, the Jon Ronson pieces that prompted it, and I think it’s potentially a useful contribution to the conversation.

        The article is missing something though, and I think there’s a problem in general with activism. The article explicitly mentions forgiveness, but there’s this idea that forgiveness goes with repentance; people are more willing to forgive those who repent than those who don’t. If someone does something selfish or thoughtless or jerkish or whatever, then it is relatively easy for them to apologise or shut up or at any rate not try to stand by what they said. If, on the other hand, someone does something in the name of activism that other people see as wrong, then it’s a lot harder for the first person to cop to wrongdoing, as they tend not to thing that what their doing is wrong – in fact they’ll tend to think that the people telling them to stop are doing wrong and that it’s those people who need to stop and repent. And so the situation escalates.

        I suppose what I’m asking here, along with the moon on a stick and a pony, is for there to be a generally-agreed-upon way to engage in proportionate, non-escalating backlash.

      • JDG1980 says:

        Yeah, I started to read it and wasn’t impressed at all. It was the distorted description of the Adria Richards incident where she started to lose me. Cross describes Richards as a “technologist”. She wasn’t. She was a “developer evangelist”, or, to put it more plainly, her job was marketing to geeks. By going out of her way to “call out” two guys at a conference for a mildly off-color joke, and then afterwards not only not backing off but doubling down, Richards made herself toxic. She can’t be effective at her job of “evangelizing” to developers if developers hate and fear her because they’re worried she will try to get them canned over some silly “microaggression”. In contrast, the two guys were actual programmers, whose job skills had nothing to do with their social graces, and not surprisingly they were able to get rehired.

    • Deiseach says:

      That’s a lovely, reasonable position and I sadly think that nobody will ever adopt it.

      Again, taking examples from the religion vs. science culture wars, there are some atheists who argue that moderate believers should be shunned every bit as extremists; that moderates only give colour to the extremists by propping up the religious tradition they both share because they come across as nice and reasonable and as having harmless views about doing good and being nice; that the denials of moderates that extremists are real Christians/Muslims/whatever are disingenous at best and downright lies at worst, because after all, don’t you both claim to believe in Jesus/Allah/the Tooth Fairy?; that moderates are hypocrites and the extremists represent the real face of the belief and what it is really about; that if moderates were honest, having ditched so much of the sacred books or laws or beliefs, why not go the final step and give up belief in deity/deities/the supernatural altogether?

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      This could also make it easier to disclaim the activities of the worst activists on your side (just point out the fact that you think they should be blocked). Broadcasting the views of someone that had been blocked by their own side could be considered “out of bounds” for discussion among reasonable people. Even their own side says they’re crazy; they’re just yelling to get attention and no one should listen to them.

      Once this had been well established, it could be very helpful in a Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies situation.

    • Fazathra says:

      This also provides a nice resolution to whatever the latest controversy is, e.g. feminists can accuse Gamergater X of saying ridiculous stuff, and Katherine’s counterpart on the pro-Gamergate side can assent and add Gamergater X to their blocklist, thus providing an endpoint to the discussion and a way for the reasonable people on both sides to win

      Doesn’t this just hand victory to whatever side is least willing to block their extremists because once the opposing side’s true extremists are blocked, the other side can just complain about progressively more moderate opponents and paint them as extremists because they are, in fact, the most extreme non-blocked people of the opposing side and then get them blocked too until the views that were once considered moderate on that side are now blocked for being extreme, at which point the war is essentially won.

      • AngryDrake says:

        Yes. I believe this has a name – Salami Tactics.

      • Velociraptor says:

        Thanks for the criticism. What if each side had an agreement to equal concessions? Imagine a Google Chrome extension that censored the worst extremes of all sides maintained by a thoughtful, politically diverse team.

        I honestly think some rich, well-connected effective altruist should create a “Foundation for Thoughtful Internet Discussion” and invite a bunch of prominent people on both sides of important issues, plus a top mediator, to be in the same physical location (helps for getting along) and discuss this right now… this stuff is only going to get worse and its best nipped in the bud IMO. If the Internet is humanity’s nervous system, outragism is a brain infection.

        • AngryDrake says:

          How do you stop entryists from taking over the foundation?

          • Velociraptor says:

            Hm, good question. Maybe invite people to work there instead of accepting applications? You could invite people on the basis of (a) having a large social media following and (b) not being totally unreasonable. Then all the foundation’s employees could promote the Google Chrome extension to their followers. Entryism would still be possible but you’d have to build up a social media following, which would take time.

            Also, you’d keep the foundation balanced in headcount. Let’s say it was 10 reds and 10 whites. The best the whites can do is get one of them to masquerade as a red in order to make the de facto balance 9 vs 11… but that would require gaining a social media following among the red crowd, which is a very difficult ideological turing test to pass. (In general, ideological turing tests could be a great hiring mechanism.)

            In any case, we already have this problem with e.g. the US government bureaucracy etc. and it seems much more survivable than the current toxoplasmosis of rage thing.

          • Zorgon says:

            I think you underestimate the extent to which some entryists will go to subvert an organisation they believe will benefit their cause.

          • Velociraptor says:

            Do you think the scenario I describe would be worse than the status quo? Or do you have any better ideas? In the pre-internet days, political movements competed on the basis of entryism and face-to-face conversations… if done well, this foundation could bring us back to that.

          • Zorgon says:

            I think that this would have the same effect as all other potential bodies for “reasonable discource” have had over the course of history – inevitable co-opting by entryists resulting in the corrupt body being entirely abandoned by whichever side did not get their entryists in first, and the body degenerating into yet another weapon with which to beat the outgroup.

            I have no better alternatives. I’d be a much happier man if I did.

          • Velociraptor says:

            ‘the same effect as all other potential bodies for “reasonable discource” have had over the course of history’

            It might be worthwhile to look over the list of failures and do post mortems. Maybe we can come up with a better design based on what hasn’t worked. What failures do you have in mind?

    • stillnotking says:

      This dynamic is already well-known and easily taken advantage of, e.g. “Even the liberal New Republic…” syndrome. Find (or create) a plausible “moderate” version of an opposing view, and play it up to make your opponents look like extremists whom even their own side repudiates.

      Political discussions in the rationalist community are like analyses of the physics of bar brawls. The actual participants understand the thing much better, even if they can’t necessarily articulate the rules.

      • Velociraptor says:

        If “extremist” means “person who tries to get attention by spreading outrage rather than being thoughtful”, isn’t discrediting “extremists” a good idea?

        • stillnotking says:

          “Extremist” means whatever one side can plausibly construe it to mean.

          • Velociraptor says:

            I’m not sure you read my proposal… in my proposed scheme, “extremist” refers to someone discredited by their own side.

          • stillnotking says:

            I was specifically responding to that. “Discredited by their own side” is a tactic. All you need is a sock-puppet version of “their own side”.

            I don’t know if there’s an actual law to the effect that “all efforts to improve the reasonableness of political discourse will immediately be hijacked for partisan purposes”, but there should be.

          • Velociraptor says:

            It wouldn’t be just anyone on their side. It’d be prominent people. For example, Tracy Chou is pretty cool, so she could create a blacklist of feminists who just spew vitriol (I won’t name any names). Now let’s say you had some hypothetical Gamergate user that thinks Tracy isn’t being harsh enough. In order to replace Tracy in terms of credibility, they’d first have to become just as much of an advocate for her “side” as she has. That’d be lots of work, that’d require passing an ideological turing test of gaining the acceptance of the community Tracy is a part of, and it would also mean doing a lot of work to fight for the movement that they’re opposed to.

            I don’t know if there’s an actual law to the effect that “all efforts to improve the reasonableness of political discourse will immediately be hijacked for partisan purposes”, but there should be.

            The key is to be sufficiently clever at designing an institution so that it’s an improvement over what exists (for example, democracy is an improvement over the bloody coups you see in African dictatorships, but it accomplishes the same purpose of figuring out who the next generation of rulers are). To that end, thanks for your critical comments… hopefully by collaborating we can come up with something reasonably robust. 🙂 Personally the Toxoplasmosis of Rage institution looks so terrible to me that I don’t think it should be hard to improve on it, but I digress.

      • I used to think of that as the “even Nixon” tactic. (“Even Nixon found it necessary to regulate capitalism.”)

        I regret to say that my fellow wingnuts made insufficient use of the “even Clinton” tactic in the 1990s.

    • Jaskologist says:

      some Gamergate activists have complained that feminists cherry-pick abusive Gamergaters and even stage “false flag” abuse operations against themselves (seems implausible to me)

      Seems entirely plausible to me. How many times has a college hate crime turned out to be a hoax? I’m even at the point where I assume that any well-publicized account of a rape on campus is a lie, because that’s overwhelmingly been the case lately. And those hoaxes are produced by the same general demographic that you’re talking about.

      • Velociraptor says:

        Sure, I don’t know. That was pretty much the least important part of my post; I was attempting to extend an olive branch to the side I’m not a part of. Wish people hadn’t concentrated on it so much.

        • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

          It’s kind of a sore spot with GG sympathizers and anti-SJ people in general, because it’s kind of an “online discussion superweapon”.

    • randy m says:

      If moderates purge extremist s at their foes prompting, shortly those moderates will be the most extreme remaining, and this the next target.

  22. suntzuanime says:

    Take heart! Some very wise people have assured me that there is a Great Filter in humanity’s future.

    • Harald K says:

      There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.”

      Something like that?

    • stillnotking says:

      Turns out that all the other civilizations just have us blocked on Galactic Twitter.

  23. Mike Hatley says:

    Actually ‘filters’ are dangerous and inherently limiting. Here is a great place to start: http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles?language=en

  24. suntzuanime says:

    How convinced are we that a remarkable shift of discourse in favor of the powerful and against the powerless is a bad thing? I mean it’s dissonant with Social Justice ideology, but that’s not at all the same thing. If this article is addressed specifically to the leftist levellers I understand, but otherwise I think you need to actually think this one through rather that just implying that anyone who disagrees with you hasn’t.

    • SpaghettiLee says:

      Depends, I suppose, on what kind of power you’re talking about. In the limited realm of ‘internet discourse populated by blue tribers or their closest Gray cousins’, SJW-type people have a lot of power in terms of setting the terms of that discourse and attacking people who don’t agree to those terms, and a lot of people are willing to put up with that, because even if they don’t agree with the movement’s actions, they’re liberal enough to sympathize with the goals, which gives the SJWs moral authority. In an arena where whoever comes up with the quickest, most cutting verbal attack, well, there are few things angry people on tumblr are better at than quick-forming rage.

      That doesn’t stop me from remembering though, that in actuality, rich and privileged people really do have a disproportionate share of power, and that distorts society in many ways. This is the sort of argument (and I know you’re just suggesting it but not necessarily defending it) that anti-SJW liberals fear most and have been warning against: in the face of tumblr-fueled madness, the proposition that “Since all those crazy people are so obsessed with social equality, doesn’t it make you wonder of equality of any sort is suspect?” And it doesn’t really surprise me when people buy that.

      • Eggo says:

        Yes, there are a lot of us buying that general argument. Usually stated as “ok, apparently liberalism eventually eats itself. Revert to a backup and try a new political system”.

      • AngryDrake says:

        That doesn’t stop me from remembering though, that in actuality, rich and privileged people really do have a disproportionate share of power, and that distorts society in many ways.

        Isn’t this like the primary demographic where SJWs come from?

        • Zorgon says:

          Exactly what I was about to say. It’s important to remember that despite the insistence of the New Left, the powerful/powerless axis remains orthogonal to the left/right axis.

          • g says:

            It’s not parallel, but it certainly isn’t orthogonal either. See, e.g., this article by Andrew Gelman (wealth and preferring Republican over Democrat are positively correlated) and this article finding that getting abruptly richer by winning a lottery tends to be followed by a rightward shift in voting.

            That’s wealth rather than “privilege” or “power” more generally. Those are harder to measure, but e.g. the correlation between race and politics in the US is well known (members of “less privileged” racial groups tend to vote Democrat rather than Republican).

          • Zorgon says:

            I was going to point out the “wealth” vs “power” thing, but you already did.

            My experience has been that it’s not a straightforward wealth-class->political-class thing at all. The left seems to cluster around the middle class and the right around the upper and lower ends of the scale. This is my observation in the UK and US; other cultures may differ.

            Regardless, I’d suggest that there is no real connection between the cumulative amount of actual power (which is to say, access to the machineries of social and legal force) and political alignment on the left/right scale. Besides anything else, if there was, one side would likely not exist.

          • g says:

            I think the statistics disagree with your observation that politics goes R,L,R with increasing income. See, e.g., the plots in this article.

          • randy m says:

            The right sea itself as the middle attacked by the bottom and top as well. But a lot depends on where you draw the line of left vs right on issues and where the divisions around the middle class are.

        • Simon says:

          I’d rather say that the cosmopolitan cultural elite stereotypically associated with social justice activism are in general culturally “progressive” but not traditionally left-wing.

          Hence why people like Slavoj Zizek tend to be rather distrustful of that segment. This might be clearer if you live in a country that doesn’t have a two-party system like the US. (or a stronger oldschool left-wing influence on the overall political landscape)

    • Velociraptor says:

      “How convinced are we that a remarkable shift of discourse in favor of the powerful and against the powerless is a bad thing?”

      Arguably we want Silicon Valley to remain the geographical epicenter of software development talent to make AGI-related cooperation easier. Based on the thinking I’ve done about a brain emulation future, a single benevolent em corp would probably result in better outcomes than a free-for-all. Not clear how those are related to the current topic of discussion. (But I’m certainly not in favor of politicizing these topics given how sane discussion of them has been already; let’s not lose that.)

    • stillnotking says:

      One of the big puzzles of history is why the left/right dichotomy is so robust. A leading theory is that it boils down to competing observations: those on the left observe that people in power tend to be evil, while those on the right observe that people in power tend to be smart. Both observations are accurate.

      • Jon Gunnarsson says:

        But this theory would suggest that the left should be in favour of reducing the power of the state, while the right should be in favour of expanding it. This may have been true of the political spectrum of the 18th and 19th century when you had (classical) liberals on the left and monarchists on the right. But it doesn’t describe recent politics where generally favours a larger government and the right at least pays lip service to wanting to limit the size of government.

        • onyomi says:

          Yeah, I would say the exact opposite seems to be true in the US today.

          To me, it seems like the right distrusts political power and dismisses concerns about economic power, and the left distrusts economic power and dismisses concerns about political power.

          • Fazathra says:

            Isn’t this just because that in the 19th century the government was broadly rightist, and in the twentieth (and 21st) it is broadly leftist. I mean, no political group would want to attack their own power base.

          • Jon Gunnarsson says:

            That may be true, Fazathra, but it amounts to a denial of stillnotking’s theory since it means that people on the left today tend to trust those in power more than people on the right do.

          • Fazathra says:

            That may be true, Fazathra, but it amounts to a denial of stillnotking’s

            which makes sense, because I do deny stillnotking’s theory. I think that attitudes to power and the state are essentially orthogonal to the left-right axis and can shift about depending on historical whim.

            since it means that people on the left today tend to trust those in power more than people on the right do.

            and they don’t, at least in the US?

        • Fezziwig says:

          Interesting, I read it the other way around.

          If bad things happen in government because the people in power are evil, then you can fix it by replacing them with good people, by putting good people in power over them, by passing laws which forbid them to be evil, or maybe by educating them so that they turn good. If the problem is that they’re _smart_, then…what? Replacing them with dumb people sounds like a cure worse than the disease. It might work to pass a law, but they’re smart: if you leave a loophole, they’ll find it. Maybe you can adjust their incentives so that the smart thing to do is also the socially-responsible (or whatever) thing to do, but probably you don’t know how to do that. To take away their power, so that they can no longer use their intelligence to do things you don’t like, seems to be the only reliable alternative.

          • Jon Gunnarsson says:

            What stillnotking suggested was an underlying reason for the (alleged) historical stability of the left-right spectrum. So were not talking about a few particular powerful people being evil, but of a general tendency of powerful people being evil. Something along the lines of Lord Acton’s statement that “Great men are almost always bad men,” and about the corrupting tendencies of power.

            If this tendency has persisted over centuries, it can’t just be a few bad apples. There would have to be systemic reasons, such that merely substituting one ruler for another would be unlikely to solve the problem. So if you hold such beliefs, you would have to be extremely wary of giving anyone a large amount of power. Hence you’d want to greatly reduce the power of the state.

        • Harald K says:

          But this theory would suggest that the left should be in favour of reducing the power of the state, while the right should be in favour of expanding it.

          There are other forms of power than state power. In a democratic state, ideally the state’s power is your power, or at least power you can hold in check.

          It’s easy to look like you are all in favor of abolishing the powers that be, if what you’re really after is a selective abolishing of power, where your preferred power base can go in and fill the vacuum. Of course, that goes for much on the left as well as the right.

      • Cauê says:

        Is it robust? But the meaning changes completely with time, place, and who you happen to ask.

      • cassander says:

        the left right split isn’t about power, it’s about hierarchy. the rightist instinct is to uphold it as either virtuous or a necessary evil, the leftist impulse is tear hierarchies down.

  25. “a world where everyone is a member of more or less the community they deserve.”

    This reminds me a bit of Nozick’s Utopia—which I have been arguing can be approximated by online communities, better as VR gets better.

  26. Ben says:

    I hope your optimistic view comes true but I don’t think it will because the incentive structure for online content works against it.

    The fundamental currency of the internet is clicks and everything that gets you those clicks, facebook shares, retweets, etc. If you want to see a horrifying example of the click race in action check out the John Oliver video sweepstakes: http://www.theawl.com/2014/10/the-john-oliver-video-sweepstakes

    Every week John Oliver’s monologue comes out on youtube and somewhere around 60 sites all embed the video in hopes that they will win those tens of thousands of clicks for the week. There is no content here, some poor guy, probably with a high priced journalism degree is spending their time posting content that everyone else on the internet will be posting to pull down clicks.

    The political combatants on twitter have recognized the power of clicks and it has brought about the newest weapon in online political discourse, donotlink and related sites that allow you to view, attack, become outraged by, sites from your opponents all without giving up those precious clicks.

    In this environment it’s hard to see how smart, reasonable folks carve out a niche that has any real influence. To get the shares, retweets and above all clicks you want barbs and witty one liners. You don’t want a 5000 word piece carefully considering the pros and cons of a concrete, realizable policy proposal, you want 500 words of tribal meat. Don’t believe me, go check the Alexa rankings, in the top few news/opinion sites on the internet you have Drudge (currently linking above the fold a post about Obama arming gangs for the coming race war) and Gawker (no introduction needed). Now pull up your favorite site for careful, well-reasoned, respectful analysis and be depressed by its likely 5 digit rank.

    It seems entirely possible to carve out a filter bubble (that’s an ugly mixed metaphor) where only well-reasoned, respectful analysis is allowed but it isn’t at all clear how that bubble has any influence. Without clicks can anyone afford to inhabit that bubble as a full time job and if we’re all a bunch of folks chatting away in our spare time how will our voice be heard in above the din of sniping outside the bubble?

    The other potential impediment to this utopian bubble is the filters themselves. As much as we’d like a filter to be viewpoint neutral it probably won’t. Sure those fancy machine learning algorithms will themselves be viewpoint neutral but the variables they consider and the training sets will be designed by people with biases. To be clear I’m not assuming ill intent, rather the intellectual and philosophical blind spots we all have. If you fundamentally believe that there are no valid arguments against same-sex marriage that do not rise from animus it may color your choices. Similarly if you cannot philosophically comprehend how someone could not believe in god (I vividly remember during a unit on Judaism in High School a very nice, very religious girl asking the teacher “How come Jews don’t believe in Hell if they’re all going there?” and not seeing anything wrong with the question) the decisions may not be viewpoint neutral despite the best of intentions.

    On its own this isn’t a problem, in an ideal world you’d build an intentionally ideologically diverse team to work on these algorithms to limit what viewpoints may sneak in but in practice that probably isn’t going to happen. Again, not necessarily from ill intent but simply because culturally the folks working on these algorithms skew Blue or Grey. Going back to the Alexa rankings mentioned earlier you can see this pretty clearly. In the top 300 US sites there were only a couple of sites that skew Red, the aforementioned Drudge and NYPost.

    If the filters themselves encode these underlying belief systems then it’s not hard to imagine them having a net negative influence on internet discourse, again even if no one ever steps in trying to bias them

    • Eggo says:

      That was the part that got me: the “machine learning” might start neutral, but the machines’ handlers will make sure it doesn’t stay neutral for long. Before long they’ll have all the same continually-updated social rules governing outrage that their human masters use. (“No, don’t block her: she’s only an ironic misandrist!”)

      I wonder if our first AIs will be driven insane even before they become sentient?

    • Lambert says:

      Do not lose hope. There is still a lot of thoughtful writing out there, one just has to search for things that are not the writer’s primary profit revenue. Independant blogs such as A&D, Thing of Things and, of course, SSC.

      I remember that which matters most… we are still here!
      -Morpheus

    • I think some sites address this by attaching reasonably thoughtful articles to rage-inducing, clickbaity headlines. For instance, the articles on Vox are almost always better written and more evenhanded than the titles would suggest.

      • Tom Womack says:

        That’s the battle between columnist and subeditor that has been going on ever since the Thunderer started thundering in 1788: the headlines sell copies, the journalism keeps readers.

    • Jos says:

      It’s a demand side problem. Based on my feed, my friends in all tribes enjoy reposting things that confirm their viewpoint, so they like “member of other tribe says stupid thing” headlines.

      If people liked more “this is a challenging viewpoint, well expressed, that made me think”, then you’d see more of those.

    • Maware says:

      I’m worried that the machine learning will be just as effective as other machine-derived algorithms for content. Sometimes youtube seems to think I speak spanish, and Hulu’s ad servers tends to assume I am a middle-aged soccer mom despite never watching anything but anime on that site, ever.

      • Deiseach says:

        Hulu’s ad servers tends to assume I am a middle-aged soccer mom

        So what’s your opinion on Memphis Depay signing for Manchester United rather than Liverpool? 🙂

  27. Pollyanna says:

    Absurdly optimistic take:

    Determining, with a filter, whether a post *actually* supports or opposes a political opinion is AI-complete. The only reason it looks trivial is because movements tend to pick their own vocabulary: someone who says “statist” is probably a libertarian; someone who says “intersectionality” is probably left-leaning; someone who delivers no verbs other than deliver probably delivers an MBA.

    Given filters, anyone who wants to argue is going to have to actually discuss things using meaningful words and System 2, rather than trying to Orwell the opposing viewpoint out of existence.

    • suntzuanime says:

      I like it. From time to time I ponder the problem of “Light Side persuasion”, which is fundamentally a problem of how to sneak past ideological filters that are implemented within the brain, so there’s no reason something similar couldn’t be done to an AI, and the feedback of noticing when we’re being filtered (if that’s technically feasible) might make us better at getting each other to consider our substantive points once they’re heard.

    • Alex Godofsky says:

      Given Poe’s law, it may be AI-hard instead of AI-complete.

    • Any thoughts about how hard it would be for a computer program to detect sarcasm and parody? This isn’t something people can do perfectly, but I expect that getting a computer up to average human ability is way beyond ordinary natural language.

    • randy m says:

      I believe that’s a relevant xkcd about comment spam filter leading to boss that produce insightful comments.

    • #! says:

      Why do you say that’s “absurdly optimistic”? It seems likely to me.

      That seems reducible to the Turing Test* — “How would you classify the opinions of the writer of this post, and the context and content of it?” “How about this one?”, and it seems possible that we could reduce the Turing Test to this — start it in a politicized context and pick an ideological perspective, and reply with an comment you find on that topic, matching your chosen ideology.
      (Eh… that specifically is iffy. There’s probably a better one, though.)

      And importantly, unless we have that sort of detection — actual ideology and content, not just keyword-matching — it will always be possible to find a break in the filters, and to flood through them until that specific pattern is added. Which will in effect be exactly like barging into a white establishment and yelling that they’re all complicit. And then that establishment gets better security, and the protesters find another establishment or way in.

      (* By “Turing Test”, I mean “how you think it would be” — having a conversation with a computer that is indistinguishable from a conversation with someone at a party. So neither the “how it is tested now”, by having a conversation with a computer that can roughly approximate a poorly educated kid from Ukraine who doesn’t know any English (or Ukrainian?), nor the “how it was initially stated”, by having a conversation with a computer that is harder to tell that it’s a computer, rather than a human, than it is to tell that a human is one gender, rather than another which they are pretending to be.)

  28. Terrorism has always been a useful weapon of the powerless.

    Which is why the powerless US has to resort to terrorism through drone bombings when fighting the powerful Pakistani militias.

    • Zykrom says:

      No one said terror(ism?) wasn’t also a useful weapon of the powerful.

        • Gbdub says:

          I think labeling as terrorism any action of an organized military / militia against a primarily military target is problematic.

          “Asymmetric warfare” certainly, but not “terrorism”. While evoking fear is certainly part of drone strikes, that’s true of most military action. “Fair fights” might be chivalrous but they are lousy strategy.

          What makes something terrorism, in my mind, is the deliberate selection of a nonmilitary target.

          So you might call the carpet bombing of Dresden “terrorism”, but dropping a JDAM on a munitions factory is probably not.

  29. Harald K says:

    Did you hear about China attempting to adopt this censorhip 2.0?

    Machine learning programs will not accept that division, you say. Funny that you of all people should think that a machine learning system can’t be trained to incorporate political biases. It’s the easiest thing in the world to teach a system that “kill all men” is ok but “kill all [anything else]” is trollish and offensive.

  30. Bugmaster says:

    The thing about filters is that, if you flip them around, they can act equally well as emitters. Even today, sentiment analysis makes it relatively easy to influence diverse audiences; in Scott’s filter-tastic future, this will become a lot easier. If such a future does come to pass, I predict that Internet discussions will be dominated by autonomous agents trying to sell people on the latest ideology/politician/brand of shampoo. Most real humans will either use some other medium to communicate, or simply cease trying to communicate in meaningful ways altogether (as many people today have already done).

  31. scav says:

    “a world where everyone is a member of more or less the community they deserve.”

    One of those exhilarating “be careful what you wish for” possibilities. I am cautiously in favour of this.

    • Eggo says:

      Just think: in the age of religion we’d have to wait until after death to experience hell. What wonders our modern thinking has brought us.

  32. Erik says:

    I object to the statement that terrorism and annoyism are useful tools of the powerless. They’re useful tools of clients who may be individually weak but have powerful patrons. I think you’re making a mistake here akin to confusing a footsoldier with an army.

    In a world where e.g. the Black Brunch protesters are powerless, I expect them to get crushed in short order. Something on the order of forcibly removed from premises first time, imprisoned or beaten second time, shot third time, whether by legal procedure or by vigilante action. That this isn’t happening suggests to me that they’re not powerless. That this could have happened in the past, if I read history rightly, further suggests to me that there is a significant patron power on the side of the Black Brunch protesters who changed things in their favor.

    Similarly, if the Palestinians were all that powerless, why wouldn’t they get crushed by the state of Israel? It wouldn’t even take any overt military actions to start the crushening; no need for the world to see soldiers or blood, just buy/nationalize/issue political orders to the companies supplying electricity to the Palestinians, and turn it off for good. Similarly with the other goods Israel supplies to the Palestinians. What leverage have the Palestinians got to avoid being crushed? I’m pretty sure it’s not the Israelis feeling nice, nor the Israelis worrying about their public reputation. Some power, I say, is on the Palestinian side.

    Generally, what stops the powerful from using their power to brush away the allegedly powerless?

    IMO, that the allegedly powerless aren’t quite that powerless. Not that I claim any credit for this line of thought. Athrelon:

    Imagine that you’re an anthropologist studying a reclusive hunter-gatherer tribe. After gaining their trust and learning a little about their customs, you approach an average tribesman and ask him who he thinks is most unfairly down on his luck, and deserves a hand up in life. After thinking a bit, he might mention a lovable loser who’s down on his luck, has fared poorly in recent hunts, and is married to a less attractive woman than he could otherwise have.

    He would not be likely to mention the leper that the tribe expelled a year ago.

    Being powerless is partly a function of social perception. Those whom people verbally describe as “powerless” are frequently the ones whose current individual power looks lower than people feel it ought to be, and so people help them. Whereas those whom people feel should have much less or no individual power don’t get verbal descriptions like “powerless” – they get slurs.

    And Moldbug:

    Who was stronger – Dr. King, or Bull Connor? Well, we have a pretty good test for who was stronger. Who won? In the real story, overdogs win. Who had the full force of the world’s strongest government on his side? Who had a small-town police force staffed with backward hicks? In the real story, overdogs win. Don’t think the losing party in this conflict didn’t try its own “civil disobedience.” And even its own “active measures.”

    When I try to imagine the archetypically powerless against the powerful, I imagine Jews in Nazi Germany somewhere around 1933 to 1939, when the Nazis are in power with an emergency decree, but not yet distracted by fighting half the world. And when I imagine Jews trying to fight that Nazi regime with terrorism, my mind returns a hypothetical expected outcome along the lines of “Jews die sooner, more often and more painfully”, because terrorism in this context is handing Hitler more Reichstag Fires on a platter.

    • Zykrom says:

      There are quite a lot of degrees between being ‘powerful’ and being completely marginalized to the degree of Jews in Nazi Germany.

      Being powerful isn’t at all the same as having powerful people who will look out for you in a limited context. If it were really a matter of elites just looking for an excuse to do whatever, they wouldn’t need the terrorists in the first place. Certainly, there has to be someone who doesn’t support the cause, then changes to supporting it.

      • Fazathra says:

        If it were really a matter of elites just looking for an excuse to do whatever, they wouldn’t need the terrorists in the first place.

        Even the greatest powers need a purported casus belli to act as they wish.

        Certainly, there has to be someone who doesn’t support the cause, then changes to supporting it.

        Not necessarily, a terrorist attack or whatever could simply provide a schelling point around which one side could coordinate their narrative and activism and thus able to win an issue via temporary concentration of forces and then, once issue is won, it is manifestly easier to defend than it was to win it in the first place and so can be done without any more than the usual coordination.

        • Zykrom says:

          Who’d evaluating the casus belli, and how are they not clearly an even greater power?

          I agree with you about the schelling point thing, but, not everyone or even most of the people who gather to attack the point are going to have known they wanted it beforehand.

          It isn’t a matter of anyone needing an excuse, since the left has perpetual permission to be leftist, and so on for the right. Terrorism, or other ‘raising awareness’ type things, cause both armies to take to the field outside your castle. So it isn’t that, say, the Palestinians, are particularly powerful, it’s that their side in the IvP conflict is inherently sympathetic to people who are.

          • AngryDrake says:

            Who’d evaluating the casus belli, and how are they not clearly an even greater power?

            Peers – other powers, big and small. In the world of powers, there’s no culture of law, but there is a culture of honour.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Zykrom – “Who’d evaluating the casus belli, and how are they not clearly an even greater power?”

          The model of power you’re describing seems very limited to me. You’re saying, “What can I make happen, and who can stop me,” where more powerful people can do more and can be stopped by fewer.

          It seems to me that in the examples above, power is a resource that you spend to make things happen. Actions taken by the powerful change the price-tag of specific uses of power; this does not mean that they aren’t powerful, merely that they use their power efficiently. Arbitrary war has an extremely high cost in most societies, while war via a cassus belli comes at a fraction of the price. This does not mean that the leader has no power, merely that they are spending it wisely.

      • Erik says:

        There are quite a lot of degrees between being ‘powerful’ and being completely marginalized to the degree of Jews in Nazi Germany.

        Yes. For example, being a client of someone powerful. (As in client and patron, not as in customer.) Which I argue is a class sufficiently different from the powerless to be worth noting. Scott said “Terrorism has always been a useful weapon of the powerless” and I’m arguing that there’s a very, very important conditional that’s been left out which you really should keep in mind if you’re powerless and considering whether you should use terrorism. Terrorism is a useful weapon of the powerless if you have a strong backer of some sort. Similarly annoyism.

        Let me try with another example to demonstrate: Persons A and B are unhappily married. A takes out a unilateral divorce. B is even more unhappy with this, murders A, publishes a warning to A-like people, also threatens judges. Story hits headlines. From here I foresee events falling somewhere between two stereotypical paths to a degree and position depending very much on whether B has a supporter larger than the local legal system.

        In one archetypical case, if A is male, B is female, and this takes place in some backwards middle eastern or south asian country, then I imagine this will be a useful (if small) step towards effecting change of the sort B likes because B will have the backing of the “international community” pressuring the country to become more progressive in its treatment of women. B’s claims that A was an abuser will be taken at face value and serve as an excuse for her behavior. B might even get refugee celebrity status in some other country.

        If on the other hand A is female, B is male, and this takes place in some progressive european or american country, then B will have no backer and will get absolutely nowhere with his demands for reform but will instead be held up as an example of how the country must become *even more progressive* in its treatment of women. B’s claims that A was an abuser will be laughed at. A might even get martyr celebrity status.

        • Zykrom says:

          I agree with the factual basis of what I think you’re saying but disagree with the connotations of calling people ‘clients’ and ‘backers’

          I don’t think it makes sense to say that all women everywhere are ‘clients’ of a given entity in particular just because that entity will sometimes come to their defense.

          On some level, the phrase ‘useful weapon of the powerless’ in inherently oxymoronic. If they have useful, effective weapons, they aren’t technically ‘powerless.’ So, you’re kind of expected to read them as being, ‘powerless except for this tool.’ Especially since the tool only works really unreliably and you don’t actually get to choose what it does, only what conflict it will be used in.

          Obviously, people with Power are going to get involved at some point, but I don’t think it makes sense to portray them as having all the agency.

    • Harald K says:

      Why, the argument that King was really the powerful one, could equally well be used to argue Jews were the powerful ones. You don’t see many Nazis these days do you?

      There are many different sorts of power, and they aren’t fixed either. Israel’s government certainly has the physical power to just kill all Palestinians in the occupied territories. It’s just that it is not remotely worth it for anyone who would contemplate going down that path, no matter how immoral.

      Even on a single, one dimensional issue, power to cause and power to prevent are not the same thing. Some things are “overprevented” – many have an effective veto against it, even if they have little power to make it happen, should they want it. Other things are “overcaused” – although you can cause it to happen, you can’t cause it to not happen, because so many other people can cause it to happen independently of what you do.

      • AngryDrake says:

        Why, the argument that King was really the powerful one, could equally well be used to argue Jews were the powerful ones. You don’t see many Nazis these days do you?

        This doesn’t fit. The Nazis were crushed by even stronger forces, not by the Jews, and I don’t think the Jews had much patronage until the aftermath of WWII.

        • Sylocat says:

          The same argument could be applied to Moldbug’s example.

          • AngryDrake says:

            No? The CRAs did have backing when they started their activism, unlike the Jews in Nazi Germany.

        • Harald K says:

          Yes, the Nazis were crushed by even stronger forces “allied with jews”. No, not really allied with jews of course, but by the twisted Moldbug logic of success = power, they would be.

          Martin Luther King did not end segregation without help from “stronger outside forces” (a lot of white people) either.

          • AngryDrake says:

            I think we’re arguing past one another.

            I’m saying that the Allies were largely unconcerned with Jews in Germany, especially seeing that the atrocities concerning them only came to light very late in the conflict, and the Soviets were purging Jews on their own. Both the Allies and the Soviets were waging war on the Axis for reasons entirely unrelated to the Nazis’ treatment of Jews. In addition, I don’t see examples of Jewish terrorism, except perhaps the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising – which was swiftly and ruthlessly crushed.

            MLK is an entirely different sort of situation. You have the activists protesting and terrorizing, opposed by some parts of the establishment, while aided by other parts of the establishment. They did have domestic patrons with power, unlike the Jews.

      • Fazathra says:

        There are many different sorts of power, and they aren’t fixed either. Israel’s government certainly has the physical power to just kill all Palestinians in the occupied territories. It’s just that it is not remotely worth it for anyone who would contemplate going down that path, no matter how immoral.

        Judging by the amount of ethnic cleansings in history, many would likely perceive it as totally worth it if there weren’t an “international community” and large parts of domestic opinion that are opposed to genocide. I would call that power.

      • Erik says:

        You’ve got a tense mismatch there between “were” and “these days”. You saw a lot more Nazis back in those days. (A lot more fans of ethnic cleansing in general, come to think of it. After WW2, the Allies did their own cleansing of large parts of Europe – Germans here, Poles there, Ukrainians Ruthenians over there.)

        • AngryDrake says:

          “Ukrainians” is the wrong term to use in this context. Back then, you’d use “Ruthenians”. Ukrainians is the nationality of the custom-made Ukrainian state, similarly to Palestinians.

          • randy m says:

            I did not know that, thanks.

          • Matthew says:

            Ukrainian nationalism started in the 19th century, and outside of the Carpathians, the term Ruthenian was in decline. You weren’t actually in error.

      • The Holocaust was so shocking, unusual, and publicized that people tend to underestimate the importance of Hitler’s expansionism.

        If Hitler had decided to stay in Germany’s borders or maybe just grab a few territories around the edges, he could have killed all the Jews, Roma, people with mental problems, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, etc. he could reach, and he probably would have died of old age and fairly well respected.

        As it was, his war killed some 40 million people (I think– those numbers are harder to find than numbers for the Holocaust, which proves my point). Empire-building still gets a pass, morally speaking. Why aren’t Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, Chaka Zulu considered mass murderers?

        As far as I know, there were people who were opposed to Hitler for his expansionism who considered it a pity that saving Jews was a side effect of stopping Hitler.

        Star of the Unborn (1946), a very peculiar science fiction novel, is what got me on to this subject. The narrator (an Austrian like the author) is transported to the far future, but he hasn’t forgotten the past, and he’s very angry at Hitler while not seeming to have heard of the Holocaust. It took me a while to figure out what he might be so angry about, and then it hit me— World War 2!!!

        • onyomi says:

          Paradoxically, people seem to be much more forgiving of political leaders who get their own people killed than of political leaders who kill “others,” be they foreigners, or outgroup members within the polity.

          Stalin and Mao are still reasonably well-respected within their respective nations, for example.

          • Fazathra says:

            I’m fairly sure the kulaks were pretty damn othered by the time Stalin got around to killing them. Also, isn’t the reason Stalin and Mao get a free pass on their killings while Hitler doesn’t is that them and their ideological allies won the war, while Hitler and his didn’t.

        • Nornagest says:

          Well, Napoleon was an archetypal bad guy in Anglophone fiction before Hitler took that role over from him.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          It took me a while to figure out what he might be so angry about, and then it hit me— World War 2!!!

          You might also compare timelines of regard for the Kaiser, before and after news of their various atrocities came out. The Waltons at first refused to believe in the Holocaust because stories of Kaiser atrocities had turned out to be fake. But I think “Down with the Kaiser!” may have started earlier.

    • Julie K says:

      The Palestinians are certainly not as powerless as protesters in Syria or Iran.

  33. Anonymous says:

    The ability to completely block out annoyism, combined with people being forced to explicitly choose to listen to alternative opinions, might make groups that currently favor annoyism change tactics to something more pleasant – though possibly less effective.

    Less effective at what? Making people shut up? Because it’s really hard to imagine something less likely to make people change their minds than annoyism. Outright violence, maybe?

    Good riddance, I’d say.

    See also: lightcoffeephobia.

    • suntzuanime says:

      I think that both annoyism and outright violence are better at changing minds than you think. People pretend to have their minds unchanged by these things, both to save face and to not encourage such tactics in the future, but unconsciously it’s hard not to calculate “oh, using racial slurs gets me yelled at, I shouldn’t do that”.

      • Anonymous says:

        But that’s shutting up! That’s not changing one’s mind! You haven’t addressed any reason why a person might use racial slurs at all!

        Now that you’ve said this, I noticed a problem with my argument. It’s terribly easy to change people’s minds by annoyism. You may change them in the direction of them thinking you being annoying prig, for example. I should have said “it’s hard to imagine something less likely to make people change their minds in the way you actually want them to change their minds.”

        • suntzuanime says:

          The reason why a person might use racial slurs is because they think they’ll get away with it. I dunno, call me a behaviorist but I think that if you change someone’s behavior that’s as close to changing their mind as you need to worry about.

          Like, people do not proceed rationally from thoughts and beliefs to actions. All their life experience sort of ferments inside their brain resulting if you’re lucky in a coherent set of behaviors. Being shown that a belief leads to actions which lead to danger makes that belief seem less appealing to the unconscious process of fermentation, which shakes out as less of that belief in the finished product.

          • AngryDrake says:

            The reason why a person might use racial slurs is because they think they’ll get away with it.

            Or they might want to signal affiliation with people who use racial slurs. Or they just really hate the race in question. Or they want to piss off someone who hates racial slurs.

          • Zorgon says:

            Or they might want to signal affiliation with people who use racial slurs. Or they just really hate the race in question. Or they want to piss off someone who hates racial slurs.

            All this. People rarely do things solely because they think they will get away with them.

            Take chan culture for example. It is festooned with racial and homophobic slurs; only after a significant amount of digging does it become clear that this behaviour is primarily aimed at enforcing a particular mode of engagement, since the kind of people who cannot cope with racist and homophobic language will be unable to post there. It’s a sort of de-facto filtering system.

            (Ironically, many non-white and non-straight people are quite capable of getting past this filtering technique. I think it’s because the slurs are literally applied to everyone. As I think I’ve mentioned before, this has reached the point where the word “fag(got)” has almost no power left at all on chans, to the extent that the term “gayfag” has arisen to describe gay people.)

          • Cauê says:

            Or they might want to signal affiliation with people who use racial slurs. Or they just really hate the race in question. Or they want to piss off someone who hates racial slurs.

            Or they might be trying to be PC but aren’t up to date on which words are currently unacceptable. Like, is “colored” ok in the US today? “POC” is, so it looks like it should be, but who knows.

            Or they might be using the word in an entirely innocent way, and only fall into “pissing off people who hate racial slurs” after being repeatedly told they’re horrible people anyway. “That’s retarded” is currently a common example, that the filter here will probably accept (btw, automatic filters don’t understand the use/mention distinction!). Another example is people from the US getting mad at people in other countries for using “blackface”.

          • Sylocat says:

            I dunno, call me a behaviorist but I think that if you change someone’s behavior that’s as close to changing their mind as you need to worry about.

            Even closer than that, given the extent to which people’s worldviews get reshaped to rationalize behavior whose real motives we don’t want to admit.

      • Fazathra says:

        Maybe I am more spiteful than the average person, but being shouted at, especially by random people on the internet is much more likely to make me do more of whatever I was doing to be shouted at because, well, fuck them.

        • onyomi says:

          I feel similarly, but I have a very contrarian personality, which seems to be a common trait among libertarians (and maybe some other political radicals), but not among the general public.

          I think Suntzuanime’s take on how behavior influence’s though may be closer to the truth for most people most of the time. An idea which you can’t express without fear of negative social repercussions tends to become, all else equal, less appealing.

          And I think the opposite case is at least as strong, if not much stronger: imagine you didn’t care much about politics to begin with but discovered that when you started parroting views of a certain slant everybody in your social circle started giving you hearty (literal or metaphorical) pats on the back…

  34. Salem says:

    Imagine you are a rich person who doesn’t want to have to listen to people talking about how rich people need to be socially responsible all the time. It makes you feel guilty, and they are saying mean things like that you don’t deserve all of the money you have, and shouting about social parasites and so on.

    Tangential to your main point, but I wonder whether this is genuinely how you model others, because you seem to come up with this or similar examples an awful lot. And it stuns me in someone who is normally quite empathetic.

    I’m not particularly rich (although I suppose it’s all relative), but for me and people like me who get annoyed by the constant blather about how rich people need to be socially responsible, it’s not that we feel guilty – because we don’t buy into the premise. I’m not a social parasite, I do deserve all the money I have, so what on earth would I have to feel guilty about? This stuff is annoying because it’s lame, contra-factual, self-contradictory (and normally hypocritical) nonsense that has been refuted a thousand times, and is almost presented in a hyper-combative manner that would be objectionable on its own even for neutral content. And indeed the reason these people are “shouting” about this kind of thing is that it can’t be argued in a civil manner without inviting ridicule – it’s only the force of passion that gives this kind of thing the least appeal.

  35. maxikov says:

    Next on tumblr: “white male cishet shitlord calls Baltimore protesters terrorists – well, what else could you have expected from him?”

    On a more serious note, it’s tremendously easy to use machine learning to distinguish left and right yelling. And you can totally blackmail facebook into only allowing to filter the latter.

  36. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think this trend skews discourse in favour of the powerful. The reverse, rather. Rich people have always had gatekeepers and the ability to live in their own private bubbles. You don’t need automated filters when you have a PA.
    It’s pretty clear that this is a trend which allows people in relatively powerless positions to develop language and communication styles, and, ultimately, ways of thinking, in which experiences like their own are central, without being disrupted by angry assholes who don’t want them doing that.
    It’s always been easy for the powerful to ignore the powerless. It’s never before been possible for the powerless to collectively ignore the powerful. I think it’s pretty great. Let people go their own way and evolve their own communities. Communities can cross-pollinate when their members feel like it, which might not be till their own internal norms are established. Obviously some of the communities that evolve in this way could turn out to be fetid bubbling pools of GamerGate, but hey, that’s what the filters are for. (That said, it must be acknowledged that filters don’t entirely solve the problem of insular online cults which turn aggressive towards outsiders. But they solve it much more than they aggravate it.)

  37. Zykrom says:

    I’m kind of insulated from the culture wars going on right now, and there’s something that been bugging me. When people get ‘twitter lynched,’ why can’t they just ignore it?

    Is it really that easy to get someone’s employer to fire them via twitter?

    • suntzuanime says:

      I dunno about “easy”, but it’s definitely something that happens. Someone was keeping a list of people who got fired after being targeted by a twitter outrage storm but I don’t remember where it was. It’s not a trivial threat.

    • AngryDrake says:

      It’s certainly possible – just look at how both parties of Donglegate got fired. Not sure how actually prevalent that is; it seems to affect mostly a handful of individuals at a time, because getting twitter lynched requires popular attention, and popular attention doesn’t do division very well.

  38. Murphy says:

    I wonder if a bot could be trained to spot posts with a high “logical fallacy” score…

    Filter out poorly formed arguments before they ever reach you, for those that make it through auto-highlight sentences which may not be logically sound.

    Run factual statements through something like the databases used by siri and wolfram alpha to check for obvious factual errors….

    • I’ve been making a politically-neutral list of Idiotic Arguments that might be worth filtering:

      1. We aren’t ruthless enough but They play hardball.

      2. All hail the experts! What? They disagree with Us? Then … QUESTION AUTHORITY!

      3. Anybody who disagrees with Us but can cite an actual fact is smart but unwise.

      4. They are full of ignorant morons who refuse to find out anything about contrary opinions. We are thereby relieved of any responsibility to find out anything about Their opinions.

      5. Yes, We have a crackpot or two on Our side but We have them under control. Their crackpots are running the show.

      6. The social, economic, or geographic groups currently associated with Them are parasitic on the social, economic, or geographic groups currently associated with Us.

      7. They are deliberately pursuing unhealthy policies in order to kill off the surplus population.

      8. We can’t trust the government and therefore need more of it.

      9. If you want to defend someone’s rights you must be prepared to take care of them for life.

      • Salem says:

        But some of these arguments aren’t idiotic at all, and may sometimes be true and relevant. I’ve given some examples below; I have chosen these to be non-controversial but there are plenty of controversial ones too!

        (1) It’s very possible for one side to do badly because they are less ruthless than the other. Sure, most such claims are nonsense, but not always. The Treaty of Paris was the source of huge political controversy in its day precisely because it was negotiated between a French government playing hardball and a British government that was much too accomodating. This was because the new British government (not the one that had fought the war) didn’t approve of the war in the first place and just wanted to end it as quickly as possible. This resulted in giving up huge gains and abandoning Britain’s wartime ally. This overshadowed British politics for the next decade.
        (5) Every group has crackpots. Not every group has them running the show. There were plenty of crackpots opposed to the People’s Temple, but that doesn’t mean they’re all equal.
        (6) This is relevant if the parasitism is what brings Them together. For example, saying “I’m opposed to Boss Tweed and his cronies because they are parasitic on honest New York taxpayers” is a perfectly sensible argument.

        I would add that (7) sounds unlikely, but if true is a really strong argument!

      • FullMetaRationalist says:

        This reminds me of Popehat’s article The Difference Between Us And Them.

      • Magicman says:

        That was funny. I find 2 & 5 to be the most egregious and common but perhaps I just recognise them more easily.

      • cassander says:

        >8. We can’t trust the government and therefore need more of it.

        I like to call this the underpants gnome theory of governance. Phase 1, realize that bad people control the government. 2, Give said government more power. Phase 3, ?. Phase 4, bask in the glory of a world where the bad people have been disempowered.

        • Matthew says:

          I’m curious if you two are genuinely opposed to the existence of Inspector Generals, which are, after all, additional bureaucracy created to deal with the fact that the rest of the bureaucracy has issues with waste, fraud, and abuse.

          • cassander says:

            So my academic background is organization theory and government bureaucracies, so I actually have some complicated opinions on the subject. I will try to be brief.

            Bureaucracies always try to systematize good management. Some of the ways they do this, like setting up standard practices, rules of operation, creating rules and norms for resolving conflict are good. Many are essential for large scale operations. But they, particularly in government, almost always go too far. organization gets piled on top of organization, veto points proliferate, and over time, no one can do anything without asking half the government for permission. People spend all day in meetings “coordinating” their activity while the quality of their activity declines.

            Because of this trend, I tend to err on the side of assuming that all such parallel structures should be presumed pernicious unless proven otherwise. A small IG office set up as a high level access point for people lower down the totem pole to report breaches of law is a good idea. A large IG functioning as a system of commissars looking over everyone’s shoulder is a very bad idea. Not only will it have the pernicious effects mentioned earlier, but in the long run it probably won’t even catch all that many wrongdoers, because its very size and involvement with the line organization will eventually cause it to go native, so to speak. There is obviously a lot of space between those two extremes, but I tend to feel that at the end of the day, there is simply no alternative to giving people authority and them holding them accountable for their results. unfortunately, government tends to recoil from both of those principles.

          • @cassander

            Do you have a blog or anything where you talk about such issues and where people can interact with you? Know any good forums for those kind of organisational topics?

          • Eggo says:

            Seconding that. Your ideas are intriguing to me, and I wish to subscribe to your blog.

          • DrBeat says:

            A large IG functioning as a system of commissars looking over everyone’s shoulder is a very bad idea.

            Heresy! *BLAM*

  39. Shenpen says:

    I cannot exactly put it into words, but at some nonverbal level I sense something very weird about this.

    Suppose you as a mod ban someone from a subreddit. This should be understood as a fairly hostile,aggressive move, essentially a punishment, equivalent to a ball gag. Now suppose that instead a mod doing it every subscriber individually filters out that person for themselves, like on IRC puts them on ignore list. The result is the same, and what weirds me out is that it feels aggressive and not at the same time.

    In the first case, it is aggressive, unfriendly, punishing, because it is something the mod does to the poster. In the second case, it is something an audience does to themselves i.e. deciding to not listen to this guy and put them on ignore.

    It feels aggressive because it is the same effect. It feels not aggressive because it is something done to yourself, not to the other person. WTF? I feel very confused now.

    I guess the point I am trying to make is how people who get filtered should react, and will react, and similarly, doing the filtering will be socially seen as an aggressive move, as a form of ass kicking, or more like a polite “nah, thanks, not interested in your stuff anymore”.

    I guess I have the weird feeling because I think that people will see this as a HUGE status-prestige fight, being blockbotted will be seen as a huge status loss, and many an online shitstorm will be perform about it, yet, it is not something done to the person being blockbotted but it is something people do to themselves: deciding what gets into their reading feed, what not, and it is what is downright weird here. People who will seeth with anger over getting blockbotted will be angry over something that is not done to them, but readers doing it to themselves.

    Am I right when I feel the weird here?

    • Murphy says:

      Thing is: a mod blocking someone is a single person making a choice for many, say a thousand people. if one of those thousand actually wants to hear they still can’t.

      A thousand people blocking someone is a community decision with each individual free to not go with the rest and listen.

      The grey area is curated blacklists with one person making the choice for thousands.

  40. Zorgon says:

    If there is one thing I would like the Internet in general to have, it’s decent smart filters for phobias.

    I have two connected phobias, both of which are visual in nature. The Internet is aware of these phobias (in general, not specifically with regards to me) and has produced large amounts of visual trigger material about them.

    I cannot search for material about those phobias without being confronted by images containing them. Google immediately puts image search results up front. Pretty much every search engine does the same. Nearly all articles do likewise.

    Meanwhile, every so often someone posts one of these in some random context as an “edgy” attempt to be funny. And every time I spend the next 20-30 minutes attempting to recover (at minimum – at one point my work colleagues changed my screensaver to a triggering image as a “joke”. I almost quit on the spot).

    I would give almost anything to be certain of not encountering these sorts of things again. So I kind of understand the desire to be away from disturbing material, even if the idea of considering opposing ideologies “disturbing” is absurd to me.

    • Murphy says:

      Sounds like you’d need a pretty high end filter scanning images, akin to Park Or Bird.

      http://parkorbird.flickr.com/

    • Velociraptor says:

      I think Google Chrome has an option that lets you turn off all images when you’re browsing the web. Makes it harder to waste time too. You could use a different browser if seeing images was critical.

      • Julie K says:

        In IE, you can uncheck “show pictures” under Internet Options>advanced>multimedia, though doing so doesn’t remove all picture-based ads.

    • Anonymous says:

      I have a few visual phobias that the rest of the world knows nothing about, and one solution I found is to change my browser settings so that it does not load images when I search. (The other solution is to make the window very small.)

  41. I’m amused that Scott’s filtering strategy is so similar to my own. For example, I recently had to mute the entire city of Baltimore. Sorry for all the good non-rioting (excuse me, “protesting”) folks in Baltimore.

    Anyway, while it’s often said that you benefit from talking to people with different values, this often isn’t true. It can be harmful, and it can actually decrease your ability to empathize with their positions in the particular person you’re talking to is a bad example of their type. For these purposes, I bin writers into three rough categories: Smart, Simple, and Stupid. The Smart writers are the ones who are insightful, original, thoughtful, and fair. The Simple writers largely just repeat the main points of their side or point to things that you already know, but they aren’t obnoxious or irritating about it. The Stupid writers link to clickbait, call people names, exhibit extreme epistemic closure, etc.

    Read Smart people from both sides. You’ll learn things, and it’ll be fun. (Scott is the prime example of a Smart writer that I disagree with.) Read Simple people from your own side, because it’s nice to have your values reaffirmed. Don’t bother reading Simple people from the other side, because you won’t learn anything from them and exposure to the Simple version of their ideas will tend to make you think they’re dumber than they are. And don’t read Stupid writers at all.

  42. shai says:

    It won’t take long for people to start filtering everything but the worst and most outraging content from groups they disagree with

    • Godzillarissa says:

      Oh well, if people like to be pissed off all the time that’s fine.
      I can always just filter them and that’s that 🙂

  43. Albatross says:

    As a person who doesn’t feel well represented by Fox News or Mother Jones, this sounds terrible. I’d end up banned by both liberal and conservative groups and have to live a lie to participate in online society.

    I also think block bots would be terrible for society. The rapid opinion shift on gay marriage among Christians and conservatives has to do with an out group appealing to the core principle of the in group. Many, many people who ten years ago were adamant gays shouldn’t get any civil rights have come around to certain minimums like serving them pizza and letting them marry.

    On the liberal side, there are also insular issues where feminism has forgotten minorities or the poor and needed to be reminded. How far would the Rolling Stone article have gone in an insulated group before people realized it was fiction?

    Rather than bot monitoring, I favor human monitors who use judgement and nuance. Every professional athlete and celebrity needs a twitter editor. One that understands humor, sarcasm and emotion. Bots are terrible at those things.

    • randy m says:

      What rolling stone article do you mean? I can think of one likely, but it has nothing to do with minorities or the poor (and yet, was still an injustice somehow).

  44. Professor Coldheart says:

    Imagine being able to put an entire movement on mute.

    Is this different from what happens today in degree? Or in kind? I see this as an extension of the sort of things that redlining achieved in the U.S. in the 20th century, but not a radically different program.

    Good stuff, as usual.

  45. Jos says:

    Two random thoughts:

    1) I guess filtering would fit well with trigger warnings. My wife and I were just talking that trigger warnings themselves must be pretty upsetting to people who are upset by the content, but this way you’d never even know that the trigger tagged portions of an essay were cut out.

    2) If I were optimistic, I might hope some space would emerge for thoughtful people who can engage without trolling. I want to read one or two people who disagree with me civilly and smartly – Ramesh Ponnuru or Matt Yglesias, etc. – even if I think they’re wrong. But learning that some of my friendsl post things on facebook that start with “Hey, white people!” just makes me think less of them, and causes a lot of strain as I try not to engage.

  46. Mike H says:

    Has anyone posited that the existence of filters could cause people to make better, less trolly arguments?

    Just trying to circumvent the filters seems like an excellent lesson in critical thinking. It could improve overall discourse.

    • Jos says:

      I like to think I posited that on the post immediately above yours. 😉

    • Murphy says:

      It depends what people call “trolly”. I once had someone cut off all contact because I contradicted a cracked.com article posted to their facebook and linked to actual stats. I made the mistake of acting like a member of the hated outgroup by disagreeing which meant I was by default and indisputably a troll.

  47. chris says:

    Wait… we can mute the SJW’s?

    Blockbotting doesn’t sound so bad after all…

  48. ryan says:

    I can’t be the only one who sees this as a logical extension of censorship to include not just whole websites but specific concept on otherwise acceptable websites. The issue is things like high school and public library internet filters. No porn, OK, I think we can all get behind that. But adding websites with politically unpopular ideas to the filter is already commonplace (think eg stormfront). This kind of technology allows more sophisticated censorship, you don’t have to block all of twitter, just the tweets with the content you want to censor.

  49. DavidS says:

    Really interesting post! Particularly because I think this is an interesting continuation of general internet trends (people being able to find sometimes very niche online communities where everyone agrees on some given topic etc)

    However, I thought this bit was sadly too optimistic

    “The part I find most interesting about all of these possibilities is that they force us to bring previously unconscious social decisions into consciousness.”

    People are lazier than this. If this goes mainstream, I imagine it will be either
    a. done tribally. i.e. you sign up to a general filter made by ‘people like you’ in some sense. This seems to be what happens in your examples: people don’t fine-tune, they just join the ‘social justice filter’
    OR
    b. automated. You flag posts you think are trollish and it works out by pattern-matching this with other users and other posts what else you might find trollish in future. This could have very interesting side-effects because it might pick up real-world correlations – if ‘white dudes’ correlates a lot with certain substnative topics, the programme might think you actually don’t want to know about these topics. It might even be right!

  50. Anonymous Coward says:

    >There is an oft-discussed division between politically right or neutral loud angry people (“trolls”) and loud angry people on the political left, (“you are not allowed to dictate the terms on which victims of oppression express their righteous anger”).

    Only a subset of the left sees it that way.

    I don’t know why so many rationalists here make it out like the vast majority of the populace agrees with SJW views and considers conservative views unacceptable. Half the country votes Republican, guys. And your average Republican is further from the center than your average Democrat.

    • Jaskologist says:

      If one half of the country is Republican, then isn’t it mathematically necessary for their average to be exactly the same distance from the center as the other half’s average?

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Huh?

        All you need is the proper distribution curve. Not every distribution curve is a bell curve.

      • Nornagest says:

        About a third of the country is (registered) Republican and another third is Democratic. There’s also a big independent bloc. There’s a few percent more Democrats than Republicans, but independents are more likely to be right-leaning, so it balances out in elections.

    • Erik says:

      I don’t know why so many rationalists here make it out like the vast majority of the populace agrees with SJW views and considers conservative views unacceptable.

      That is not my impression. Who makes it out like this and how?

      • Sylocat says:

        See Eggo and Maware upthread.

        • Erik says:

          Not seeing it. Maware said there’s a “leftist cultural hegemony”. Eggo similarly said that one “can’t go five minutes without being exposed to lefty culture”. These aren’t statements about the views of the general populace.

    • Zykrom says:

      Rationalists live in the bay area.

    • maxikov says:

      Because a disproportionately large percent of rationalists live in New York City of San Francisco Bay Area, have an advanced degree (i.e. spent on campus far longer than average), and are, according to Scott’s polls, very supportive of feminism themselves, from which it can be concluded that they read feminist blogs, and comments to them, made by non-rationalists. I have to constantly remind myself that not every American woman is a feminist, because that’s what my availability heuristic very confidently tells me.

  51. HeelBearCub says:

    obviously the correct anarcho-capitalist solution is to have third-party companies making these algorithms and selling them to individual Facebook users, but in a world where Facebook is trying to become more and more closed to third-party apps, that’s probably not going to happen

    In what way is facebook not already the anarcho-capitalist solution? They are not being forced by government to break third party apps. They are following the dictates of the profit motive.

    Seriously, why isn’t facebook a glaring example of some of the failure modes of anarcho-capitalism?

  52. TomA says:

    I think you are underestimating the power of mental habit as it relates to one’s deeply engrained beliefs. People rarely change their mind in later life and filtering discordant messages is simply a palliative remedy for emotional unease. You presume too much efficacy in the role of debate as it relates to the pliability of one’s mental state.

  53. SCPantera says:

    Isn’t there an additional risk that if filters become efficient enough to completely tune out anything one might consider an annoyism, the purveyors of that annoyism will simply escalate to the point where their annoyingness is relatively unfilterable?

    e.g. “Riot/Bombing/Hacking Power Grid Networks/Random Assassinations @ [city] this Saturday, sponsored by [some Tumblr group]!”

    I mean, until filters are powerful enough to keep bricks from going through windows I guess.

  54. Much more powerful than blacklists are something we already have and are already exercising: Whitelists.

    For example, my feed on Google+ consists of a select few people I choose to read, because I’ve expressly chosen to follow them. That doesn’t protect me from a troll that chooses to respond to a post from a person in my ‘trusted circle’ (<– deliberately exaggerated word choice; I don't think of it as my trusted circle, but in all honesty, that’s probably a fair description, and sometimes it helps to call a kettle a kettle), of course, but all in all it prunes what I come in contact with quite heavily.

    That’s been remarkably effective at keeping me in a peaceful, constructive environment.

    The disconcerting flip side is that there are whole slews of topics that I am entirely unaware of, and not necessarily because I’d want to ignore them. Relative to others in my circle of friends (<– the one not just on G+; speaking in general, here), it often takes a while before even major international news catches up with me.

    Basically, I don't think adding a blacklisting layer to my internet surfing would increase the degree to which my internet is filtered, and I have the suspicion that's generally true for a lot of people.

    Which is to say, I suspect in most cases blacklisting isn't so much going to isolate people more (the whitelisting is doing that far more effectively), but, to muse positively, it might genuinely help in reducing the effectiveness of real trolling – people who barge in somewhere not to have a productive discussion, but genuinely just to attack. I don’t know how prevalent that is, though. I think I’ve seen it happen all of once in my G+ feed, and that’s not for lack of angry discussion – and it was clear the account that did it generally went around trolling various posts. (If it’s that rare, then individual blocking suffices.)

    I digress. I don’t get out enough, even virtually. Make of the above what you will.

    • Mengsk says:

      I actually do something similar on my facebook. I have my news feed blocked entirely, but I still get notifications when people who I have labeled as “close friends” posts something. Which basically accomplishes the same thing.

      The funny thing is that, as a consequence of this (and the fact that I don’t go out of my way to follow any other news source) I didn’t realize that the baltimore riots were happening. That was a slightly sobering experience.

      • If it makes you feel better, I’m still not up to date on that subject – I heard there were riots, and that’s about the sum total of my knowledge. A very thin sliver. (Granted, I may be partly excused by living in Germany.)

        I’m also evidently not interested enough to look it up myself now that I did eventually hear about it, so maybe the filters are working as intended, after all.

        Perhaps it would ultimately be better if they did not work as intended. The jury’s still out on that. If I’m a conspiracy theorist ten years down the line, you know what went wrong. 😉

  55. Hyzenthlay says:

    Personally, I’d like a way to filter out “people who use images of screaming/crying babies to represent their opponents’ positions or concerns.”

  56. Mengsk says:

    I’m not sure how different this is from what happens normally– is my blocking SJWs from my news feed substantially different from my grandparents only watching fox news. Blocking my news feed may be more active, in so far as I actually have to press buttons and insert key SJW phrases, but I’m suspect this is a distinction without a difference.

    Additionally, the problem of “unwanted posts showing up in your news feed” seems to be a problem unique to people who share an extended social circle with people who share different political views. As far as I can tell, the main people who meet this description are “students”, either in high school or college, mainly because students have a significantly larger social circle than most adults. The people who post SJW articles that reach my news feed are people I met in college. The people who post conservative drivel that makes it to my news feed (a significantly smaller amount) are people I met in high school.

    So it seems like a news feed blocker doesn’t do much more than restore the natural order of things where once again I don’t have to think about the political views of acquaintances from high school and college.

  57. Looks like someone in the old LW “weirdtopia” thread called it: http://lesswrong.com/lw/xm/building_weirdtopia/35vf

  58. Nestor says:

    I installed youtube comment snob a few years ago (?) it basically does a check for

    Number of spelling mistakes
    All capital letters
    No capital letters
    Doesn’t start with a capital letter
    Excessive punctuation (!!!! ????)
    Excessive capitalization
    Profanity
    Filtering on custom words and phrases

    And removes the egregiously retarded at least. It’s now no longer youtube exclusive but I haven’t bothered adding more sites, I guess maybe I should?

    Oh and I have to comment on this:

    we will become a civilization of wusses

    You mean even more? There was I thinking we’d reached peak butthurt already.

    I shudder to think of future people who’ll make the current crop of tumblerinos look like rugged individualists in comparison…

    • Deiseach says:

      Excessive punctuation (!!!! ????)
      Excessive capitalization
      Profanity

      That’s me filtered out, so, even if you don’t throw in “Irrational and over-emotional ranting on obscure topics” 🙂

    • fwhagdsd says:

      “rugged individualists” fuck you

  59. Matthew says:

    As with every other “tribes”-related post, the comments on this one are proving remarkably mindkilled.

    Seriously, I expect arguments of the quality “most journalists are Democrats” on an ordinary crap political blog, not here.

    Also relevant: Were the Nazis right-wing? and In what sense were the Nazis socialist?.

    Scott, seriously, a bit of authority discouraging the conservative circle-jerking would be timely, assuming you value your garden not simply turning into the comments of a run-of-the-mill conservative blog.

    • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

      >Seriously, I expect arguments of the quality “most journalists are Democrats” on an ordinary crap political blog, not here.

      Well, aren’t they?

      • Matthew says:

        Yes, but most of the owners of media conglomerates donate more to Republicans than to Democrats, so you have to believe that the reporters have more sway of the editorial slant of the paper than the people writing their paychecks for that to be particularly relevant.

        • Cauê says:

          Honestly, you could have just said that, instead of complaining that someone made the argument.

          How is it preferable that an authority “discourage” arguments you don’t like, instead of shifting the balance by engaging with them?

          • Matthew says:

            I would expect that most people have seen the argument played out before and are tired of it. I certainly am.

            Again, I don’t want the comments section of this blog to resemble the comments section of your typical political blog.

        • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

          Could you spoonfeed me some data about that? From a short Wikipedia search, what I come up with is, for major conglomerates:
          -Comcast: Brian S Roberts. Democrat
          -News Corp: Rupert Murdoch. Australian, but also Conservative.
          -Time Warner: Jeffrey Bawkes. Democrat
          -CBS and Viacom: Sumner Redstone. Democrat

          • Matthew says:

            I don’t think we’re talking about quite the same thing. I’m referring to their campaign contribution distribution, not the party registration of the CEO (which I would consider to be cheap talk).

            For example, Comcast may have a CEO who is a registered Democrat, but according to the Center for Responsive Politics, they give slightly more money to Republicans than Democrats.

            Here’s the profile for General Electric, which owns NBC. (Scroll down). They favor Republican committees and politicians by about 5-1.

            You can look up other conglomerates pretty easily. If you Google “[x company] political contributions”, the opensecrets.org profile for them should be in the first few links.

          • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

            >I’m referring to their campaign contribution distribution, not the party registration of the CEO (which I would consider to be cheap talk).

            I agree that looking for revealed preferences is probably a better choice. The only problem I have with this information is that I’m not familiar with how PAC’s work. Do they pool money from board members? shareholders in general? The reason I went for the highest profile individual in the company is because, in general, most shareholders and even board members have minimal input on these kind of things.

            For whatever it’s worth, GE no longer owns NBC

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Brian Roberts is not merely the CEO. He really is the owner.

          • Deiseach says:

            Rupert Murdoch is “whatever benefits Murdoch’s global media corporation”, not particularly Conservative or anything else.

            He’s also an American citizen (again, presumably for tax or other purposes involving being able to buy American companies or hold a share in American media markets). In Britain, he did use his influence to get his newspapers to back the Tories, then Labour and now (seemingly) the Tories again, depending on which party in government would come up with the most goodies for business in general and his businesses in particular.

            The corrupting affect there is not so much political parties affecting the media slant, as the other way round: if a powerful media tycoon can use his media interests to slaughter you with negative PR affecting public perception, then you want to keep him on side by cosying up to him and his employees (see the headline for the 1992 election boasting It’s The Sun Wot Won It.

            Then again, this can backfire: the allegation that the Guardian’s letter-writing campaign to the people of Ohio in support of John Kerry made them rush out to vote for Bush, whether or not it was the case, makes me laugh 🙂

        • DrBeat says:

          The people actually writing the words of the journalism have more influence on what the journalism supports than the people writing the paychecks, yes. The people who write paychecks do so because they don’t want to write articles themselves, they want people to do it for them.

        • cassander says:

          >Yes, but most of the owners of media conglomerates donate more to Republicans than to Democrats, so you have to believe that the reporters have more sway of the editorial slant of the paper than the people writing their paychecks for that to be particularly relevant.

          This is a really terrible argument. First of all, even if you are correct, owners is almost always a rather diffuse group of people who do not share an agenda and do not oversee day to day operations in any meaningful way.

          Second, let’s say you’re right and owners are a relatively homogenous group with both the will and power to push an ideological agenda. In that case, can you explain why they insist on hiring left leaning reporters? And why do so many on the left willingly publish the lies/propaganda/whatever that the owners conspiracy dictates as the party line?

          • Matthew says:

            I think you are attributing a view to me that I don’t hold, for the most part. The media’s biggest failings are not particularly ideological in nature. And in the absence of a monopoly, there are incentives not to stray completely from the truth, because people will notice and switch to a competitor.

            That being said, it is pretty noticable that, for example, there are something like three reporters left in the entire US on the labor beat, when that used to be a staple of most metropolitan newspapers.

            If you recall, Scott’s original post on tribes explicitly posited that red/blue does not exactly line up with right/left. The owners of the media conglomerates are, for the most part right/blue, and that is pretty much what you get.

            The media is pro-gay rights, for example, because the blue tribe conservatives don’t really care about that. But, for example, the media elite treated austerity as the “serious person’s” position and basically ignored anyone with keynesian or new keynesian views. You may have noticed Krugman being… mildly irritated in his characteristic understated manner… by this over the years.

            And the much of the establishment media’s foreign policy views are decidedly right-of-center. Ron/Rand Paul supporters notwithstanding, a randomly chosen American who thinks US foreign policy relies too much on military force is more likely to be left than right. But again, the media establishment treats readiness to make the “tough choice” to use military force as the “serious” position. Great for the military-industrial complex.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Paul Krugman’s exasperation about how the media elite all ignore Keynesian perspectives, which he wrote extensively about in his column for the New York Times. Sure.

          • Matthew says:

            Ross Douthat has been a columnist for the New York Times. Is that evidence that the media establishment leans anti-abortion?

            One does not make an argument from outliers.

          • cassander says:

            >But, for example, the media elite treated austerity as the “serious person’s” position and basically ignored anyone with keynesian or new keynesian views. You may have noticed Krugman being… mildly irritated in his characteristic understated manner… by this over the years.

            I have noticed Krugman’s blog, which is precisely why I think the assertion is questionable. I remember lots of stories about the how the plague of “savage austerity” would lead to grandmothers starving in the streets, or some such, despite the fact that with the exception of the greeks, no government on earth actually reduced spending during the crisis, and most increased it.

            Now, granted, my politics are miles from Krugman’s who has sadly reduced himself to little more than a highly credentialed crank with a byline, but look at it from my perspective. Krugman’s crankiness aside, the keynesians have gotten a UK defined as the poster child for austerity, despite the fact that the the last decade or so has seen government spending as a share of GDP has rise from 35% to 45% and inflation adjusted per capita spending rise about 50%. If that is austerity, I tremble to think what extravagance would look like, and if that bespeaks weak keynesians, I would’t want to see strong ones.

            >And the much of the establishment media’s foreign policy views are decidedly right-of-center.

            In some ways, not in others. The media is, in general, much more pro-intervention than the public. But once the shooting starts, it’s far more sympathetic to restraint, while the public tends more toward a “kill them all, god will know his own” sort of mindset. Iraq is the perfect example of this, really, the media was relatively more enthusiastic than the public about going to war, and decidedly more pessimistic about the surge.

            In general, I would agree that the media is pro-establishment, pro- “serious people”. As it happens, though, virtually all of those people and establishments are culturally deep blue. Sure, they’re older so they’re not quite up to date on the latest in fashionable leftism, but all have been steeped in blue dye for virtually their entire lives.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I was mostly just struck by the irony, but yes, I would say that Ross Douthat’s column in the New York Times is a good counterexample to claims that the media elite basically ignores anyone with Douthat’s views.

          • Deiseach says:

            with the exception of the greeks, no government on earth actually reduced spending during the crisis

            Excuse me – Ireland? Or have I been imagining the last seven years or so? Unless you mean a ton of public and borrorwed money was poured into propping up the banks and not “burning the bondholders”, in which case yes, spending did increase.

            But social welfare rates were cut (I can personally attest to this, my previous and current jobs involved and involve working with people on benefits and the rates went down dramatically in certain cases), public sector spending was cut, pay and benefits in the public sector was frozen or cut (again, working with teachers, saw how their perks were whittled down or outright taken away, as well as how things like the Haddington Road agreement affected civil and public servants), social housing was dead in the water, etc. etc. etc.

            Health is the only thing that continued to over-run budgets, and it always does that, and even there, there were moves to reduce or claw back (centralisation of processing and awarding medical cards, revocation of discretionary medical cards, etc).

            And the usual Irish solution to an Irish problem, which is emigration: Australia has received more than its fair share of our people over the past few years.

            This of course didn’t stop the usual cronyism scandals but I can assure you that government spending cuts and “austerity budgets” were all the go.

          • “And in the absence of a monopoly, there are incentives not to stray completely from the truth, because people will notice and switch to a competitor. ”

            That assumes that what the media are selling is information. For the most part, it isn’t. They are selling entertainment.

            The most consistent bias, in my experience, is towards distortions that make a better story.

          • onyomi says:

            @Matthew

            What from one perspective feels like your side’s ideas are not being taken seriously from the other side feels the same way. You say, for example, that Keynesianism was not taken seriously, but Keynesianism is the theory behind the bailouts and stimulus money, and Paul Krugman is the most widely-read economist in America.

            From my perspective, even the use of the word “austerity” was buying into the left’s rhetoric, because “austerity” sounds bad to most ears, and what most people meant when they said austerity was not lower taxes and lower government spending as the libertarians would have wanted, but *higher* taxes and marginally lower government spending. Moreover, in most cases, what passes for a cut in government spending is a reduction in planned increases.

            So, from my perspective, it feels as if cutting government spending was never taken seriously, as was the idea that the bailouts and stimulus were counter-productive never taken seriously. Virtually ALL mainstream media reports I have seen on the economy since the crisis, whether on MSNBC or Fox, begin with the assumption that TARP was either good or else a necessary evil. Similarly, the idea that mild deflation might not be catastrophic is also literally never entertained.

            Lastly, most journalists *are* liberal, and by liberal I mean “voted for Obama twice,” not “radical labor activists.” This is because they are English and liberal arts majors. I teach at a liberal arts college. This isn’t my vague impression. I know and teach many English majors. They are all varying shades of blue. I have seen on campus countless Obama ’08 ’12 bumper stickers and literally 0 Romney and McCain stickers. Also, ours is not even that liberal as slacs go, nor is it found in a blue state.

            So, while I’ll admit that there is a strong tendency to view one’s own side as more ignored or underrepresented, I can assure you that red tribe is more underrepresented in the mainstream media. To say otherwise would be almost as absurd as claiming academia itself doesn’t lean left.

            I will, however note one thing in sympathy with your view: there is a big center to both the Republican and Democratic parties which actually agrees on most substantive issues when push comes to shove. We might describe this as the Mitt Romney-Hillary Clinton spectrum. What do these two fundamentally disagree on? They are both hawks, they both agree we need social security, medicare, and the income tax, they will neither of them cut any major special interest programs like farm bills, they have basically the same views on trade policy, etc. etc.

            In other words, there is a large swath of “reasonable” opinion in the middle which is extremely frustrating to anyone who isn’t a “moderate,” because it excludes almost all ideas, left or right, that would amount to a substantive change in the status quo. It is obvious how this state of affairs serves established interests: no matter who gets elected the checks keep going out, the unions stay relatively in check, etc. etc.

            That said, from my perspective, at least, the range of acceptable opinion has shifted leftward dramatically over the past century, so what might have seemed a reasonable conservative position 50 years ago now sounds radical. Take medicare, for example: when the idea first came up conservatives fought it bitterly. Now conservatives say “we can’t have Obamacare because we need to save those funds to keep your Medicare strong!”

          • onyomi says:

            @David, yes this seems unfortunately to be very true, and I think Michael Huemer makes a good case that the media cannot effectively play the “watchdog” role ascribed to it in a democracy. Which will get better ratings: an in-depth analysis of the upcoming farm bill vote or a report on Lindsey Lohan’s latest escapade?

        • Emlin says:

          I think it’s possible that on political issues which are relevant to the running of those businesses (regulations, tax issues), Republicans may be more favorable. But that’s a pretty limited slice of the political landscape and doesn’t preclude the owners/people who direct campaign contributions having a liberal bent on many other issues. It’s difficult to evaluate, because whereas you can look at a reporter’s work directly, you can only infer influence/pressure from above, unless someone complains about it publically.

      • Julie K says:

        Mickey Kaus wrote a blog post on Slate shortly after the 2008 election, responding to someone’s claim that “the public believes journalists to be more Democrat-leaning than they actually are.”
        He pointed to a poll showing that of 57 Slate writers, 55 had voted for Obama, 1 for McCain and one for an independent, and concluded that there wasn’t much room for the public perception (56 or 57 votes for Obama instead?) to exceed the reality.

    • suntzuanime says:

      I expect arguments of the quality “*sneers at opposing arguments*” on an ordinary crap political blog, so maybe you’re right that there’s some cleaning up that needs to be done.

      • Nornagest says:

        I’m really starting to hate the word “sneer”.

      • Matthew says:

        Is this ironic or just not self-aware?

      • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

        I expect arguments of the quality “I expect arguments of the quality X on an ordinary crap political blog” on an ordinary crap political blog.

        But seriously, I mantain my stance from when this came up before, we don’t need more conservatives, we need more liberals.

        • Cauê says:

          We do need more liberals. To add to the conversation, not to complain that non-liberals are talking.

          • Matthew says:

            I didn’t complain that non-liberals were talking. Do not misrepresent my comment.

            I complained — accurately — that the quality of argument has declined.

          • Cauê says:

            Adding that “a bit of authority discouraging the conservative circle-jerking would be timely”.

            But ok, I could have been more charitable.

          • Matthew says:

            Let me see if I can explain this in a more extended fashion.

            The debate on this blog used to be largely intra-blue/gray, and the criticisms of blue, particularly SJW-blue, pathologies didn’t assume that conservatives didn’t have their own pathologies — it just wasn’t of interest, because it was the far outgroup. But within the confines of this blog, pro-SJWs have basically ceded the field, so now you have a bunch of red tribe adherents and red-sympathizing libertarians having lengthy back-and-forths on how much better red tribe argumentation is than blue tribe argumentation. See the constant misrepresentation of Haidt’s graph as if it showed people getting steadily better at modelling their opponents the further right you look.

            As it happens, unlike the modal blue/gray triber, I don’t live in a bubble. I’ve never been to SF, and only passed through the airport in NYC. I live in a district that has voted about 55-45 for the Democrat in both of the past two presidential elections, and my workplace is probably at parity because of people driving in from more rural areas. On guns, the modal position is definitely at least moderately red tribe. I’m exposed to ordinary red tribe thinking regularly. And frankly, they’re just as awful, if in different ways. Listening to commenters here, who I suspect are subconsciously comparing themselves (i.e. the kind of red-triber who reads Scott) with the lowest-common-denominator blue-triber and then crowing endlessly about their superiority gets very, very tiring. I guarantee you I model the beliefs of the red tribers around me better than they model mine, as is readily apparent from the number of things I don’t remotely believe that I have had attributed to me.

        • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

          > we don’t need more conservatives, we need more liberals.

          God, I’m retarded. I meant to say, “we don’t need less conservatives”.

          • Deiseach says:

            No, you’re not retarded, but I think you meant to say “We don’t need fewer conservatives” 🙂

            My ideal filters will block people who use “persay” instead of per se, and in return, normal people’s ideal filters will block people like me who gripe about “That’s not the correct grammar, dagnabbit!”

    • James Picone says:

      Sort-of-agree.

      I’m hesitant to get involved in political fights here, because a lot of it seems profoundly American in a way that interferes with my ability to discuss issues – are the people who look insane to me actually insane, or is the political climate profoundly different in the US? – but the comment threads here have turned into pretty ostentatious red-vs-grey arguments on whether the left is the actual worst, or merely stupid. It’s not high-quality discussion. It’s conspiracy theories and hilariously one-eyed talk about how right wing satire is biting and left-wing satire is shallow and bravery arguments about how *saturated* culture is with left-wing memes.

      I have no idea what a good solution would be, though.

  60. TheExplorer2323 says:

    As a restaurant owner, how would one protect his customers (his business) from being annoyed on by a random black bruncher?

    • AngryDrake says:

      A bouncer? Security personnel not afraid to kick misbehaving people out?

      • TheExplorer2323 says:

        So the places attacked did not have security personnel… that would actually makes sense. From the “rich white people in a restaurant” description I imagined something else.

        • AngryDrake says:

          I don’t know. From experience, I’ve never actually seen security personnel in a restaurant, but I don’t like in the US.

  61. Limi says:

    Boy am I glad to hear someone other than myself say this,particularly someone with a voice actually listened to by others. I don’t think you go far enough however – like your blockbot laughing link, there is a meme going around at the moment that only cis white men care about freedom of speech. Unfortunately, it seems to be largely accurate. This does not speak well for people outside of that group however.

    Freedom of speech is the most fundamental right that empowers the powerless. Without it – and it is not a strawman to claim people are advocating against it, I have seen it many times from social justice fans – the balance of power goes to those with the power to make laws, and that is never minorities. It is driving me mad to hear people advocating silencing dissent and censorship, it’s like they have no knowledge of history or even common sense. I hope more people follow your lead Scott, thank you.

    • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

      >there is a meme going around at the moment that only cis white men care about freedom of speech. Unfortunately, it seems to be largely accurate.

      Nah, that’s just outgroup homogeneity by SJ types. I can’t, in good faith, recommend people to visit /pol/, but if you do go, you’ll find a lot of diversity within the flags displayed, and it’s one of the places in the internet which holds freedom of speech to the highest regard.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Without it – and it is not a strawman to claim people are advocating against it, I have seen it many times from social justice fans – the balance of power goes to those with the power to make laws, and that is never minorities. It is driving me mad to hear people advocating silencing dissent and censorship, it’s like they have no knowledge of history or even common sense.

      Totally agreed. Cf. also: “The so-called ‘presumption of innocence’ and ‘due-process’ is just a way of entrenching white male privilege.” Generally, one of the aspects of oppression is that people are more willing to believe that you’ve done something evil without sufficient proof, and punish you accordingly (e.g., lynchings in the 1920s Deep South). Things like the presumption of innocence are far more necessary for oppressed groups than for those who are already privileged.

    • BBA says:

      I feel like free speech is becoming like federalism (at least as it works in the US) – a principle that lots of people give lip service to but virtually nobody actually supports.

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        Free Speech in the US lasted until the second presidential administration before being curtailed because the anti-federalists were filthy pro-French traitors. It didn’t get applied to the states until 1925.

        So the present isn’t exceptional when it comes to support for the ideals of free speech- everything just looks weird because social media and the period 1920-1970 messing with our expectations of normal.

        • BBA says:

          That’s a pretty arbitrary marker for when the US “did” and “didn’t” have free speech. For one thing, many state constitutions had freedom of speech provisions well before 1925 – perhaps honored even less than the flawed enforcement of the First Amendment but they were there. For another, obscenity laws were much stricter than anything we have today until the 1960s. (Writing about homosexuality was deemed inherently “obscene” and thus illegal until 1958.)

  62. Good post. I wrote the post about troll points referred to here:

    http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/m4g/could_autogenerated_troll_scores_reduce_twitter/

    Concerning the three different possibilities, I think that people do tend to adjust if apps, or for that matter other technological innovations, have negative consequences. I therefore find it unlikely that these sorts of filters will destroy the whole public debate, and that people will just watch that happening haplessly. (It’s a common mistake to suppose people will fail to react in this way to changes, particularly among tech-dystopians.) Therefore I think the most negative scenario is unlikely. That said, I find the effects of these filters hard to predict.

    “The part I find most interesting about all of these possibilities is that they force us to bring previously unconscious social decisions into consciousness.”

    Yes. That seems to be true of social media in general. On Facebook, you have to take a very conscious decision of whether to befriend or unfriend someone. Previously, such decisions were seldom as explicit.

    In this particular case, it seems to me that this feature could be an advantage. At present, people are blocking others on a case-by-case basis, typically without much thought. The principles on which they do this are usually not very thought through either, and no doubt often unconscious or sem-conscious.

    Under these filter schemes, you would instead just take *one* decision – how to set your filter. You would have plenty of time to reason through how to set that filter, using System 2 rather than System 1. Presumably, there would be lots of discussion among people and in the media on how to set the filter. It seems to me that that could potentially lead to better decisions, though again, it’s hard to predict.

  63. grort says:

    I would like to know more about: “When I was young and therefore stupid I used to hang out at politics forums specifically for this purpose.”

    The obvious problem with this is that politics forums are inhabited by people who want to persuade rather than to understand, so conversation with them is unlikely to be productive. But — I mean, if your goal is exposure to differing viewpoints, I would guess that lurking on politics forums would work reasonably well for that?

    • I’m showing my age here, but online politics fora before 2000 (going back to Usenet and dial-up bulletin boards in the 1980s) were nothing like the monocultures and echo chambers we have today.

      Of course I was looking to persuade people, but that wasn’t possible without understanding where they were coming from, and I often modified my own views as a result.

  64. Dain says:

    Elliot Rodger’s association with MRA/HBD/anti-feminism or whatever BEFORE his killings may have been nil, but there’s some semblance of it AFTER. See Lion of the Blogosphere, who delved in to the matter with gusto. Like the left after 9/11, he didn’t seek to excuse the murders but to understand them. Of course politics is relative, and this gets seen as a form of sympathy, which isn’t 100% off the mark.

    https://lionoftheblogosphere.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/final-summary-of-elliot-rodgers-autobiography/

    • I don’t know anything about Lion of the Blogosphere, but I’d hate to see his very careful and factual analysis of Elliott Rodger and his life be the critical link to the MRAs.

      Elliott Rodger had misogynistic views. Further, he was an active participant in an online incel community called PUAhate. That site was taken down after the shootings, but it’s indisputable that there was a lot of misogyny there. There may have been some “red pill” content, but in general PUAhate was presumably not a place to find sophisticated analysis or theory.

      Thought experiment: imagine that the killings were carried out by a woman (call her Ella) who was angry at how she had been rejected by the men in her world.

      And let’s say that she was a participant in an online community of women who expressed a lot of misandry. Not sophisticated analysis, just rage.

      It is not hard to imagine that a feminist writer would write about Ella’s life and what motivated her to carry out a mass shooting, along the lines of what Lion did for Elliott.

      Moreover, it is pretty certain that the rage-against-men web site (the female mirror image of PUAhate) that Ella took part in would be characterized in the media as “feminist”.

      And headlines would proclaim Ella as a feminist mass murderer.

      • DrBeat says:

        Except that for the analogy to work, she would have to never ever ever mention anything said by feminists, her entire rage would have to be based in premises feminists explicitly reject, and this would also be an alternate universe where feminism hasn’t spent a great deal of energy making itself synonymous with anyone who values women in any way and shaming anyone who disagrees. Her only connection to feminism would have to be joining a forum that hated people who were sometimes linked with feminists.

        And the headlines would never proclaim Ella a feminist mass murderer, because that would make feminists upset, and making feminists upset is grounds for annihilation. Ella’s rampage would be all over the news as proof of how much men hate women, how much guilt men should feel, and how men should do more to put women’s needs above their own. If she hated men because she thought they were threatening, their lives had no inherent value compared to her own, and they did not do enough to serve her emotional needs, then people would characterize her as a feminist, due to similarities with traits feminism actually has in actual reality. If she hated men because they were transmitting sounds into her teeth, which has nothing to do with why feminism hates men, then not even MRAs would call her a feminist. Well, a couple would, but they’d be told to stop being stupid.

  65. Mer says:

    God knows how one would automate this, but I think own view is closer to “it is important to listen to NEW TO ME arguments by people who disagree with me.” I no longer feel particularly impelled to have the same discussion over and over with different people, unless those particular people are important to me personally or vice versa.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      Assuming a filter that can be customized by each user (ie, that works like a WordPress eater-of-any-post-containing-forbidden-words) it would be not too hard to add a whitelist feature: a list of posters who can say anything without their posts being eaten. This could include people you trust to use forbidden words only ironically or when quoting (as with seen in stomachs higher on the food chain), or people you like well enough to read them anyway.

      Or, back to your point, people you can trust to reply only to new arguments on the other side.

  66. While I admit that on occasion a sheltered garden grows something beautiful, the potential for filters to fragment our society into a series of warring echo chambers is horrifying. Filters have always existed, but this systematisation of them is certainly unprecedented. I’m not sure it’s automatically going to favour the powerful, because historically they’ve already had filters that regular people don’t have access to. This might just give everyone access to the same kind of sheltered stupid. Depends if the filters are open or not, and who controls their content I guess. But no matter who controls them, I think they have the potentially to be incredibly harmful to us all, because the truth is complex, and if a filter hides that complexity, then it’s hiding the truth from you, even if its doing so with a voice of comforting agreement.

    I think there’s a significant group of us, some clustered around places like SSC, that don’t buy into the infallibility of any particular political camp. We don’t want to be limited to the narrow mantras of this echo-chamber or that one. We want access to the most eloquent versions of all reasonable arguments, so we can assess and synthesise them all. We want to see all relevant evidence, not just the evidence that suits this agenda or that one. For us it’s an effort to generate a true understanding of the world and to use logic and reason to decide what political “recipes” actually result in beneficial outcomes. In a world that increasingly favours convincing over learning, and rhetoric over logic. we’re going to have to fight to keep that project alive.

    We don’t want to filter opinions, we want to filter quality. We don’t want to wade through an endless swap of fallacious reasoning, rhetorical tricks and irrational rubbish. We want reasons, arguments, and evidence. We want intellectual pluralism, because the truth need not fear lies if the fight is fair.

    If filters are creating echo-chambers, then let’s filter the echo chambers. People that deviate from the tribe’s rhetoric aren’t suspect, it’s the people that don’t. If someone wants to critique a view, a good sign of authenticity is the ability to eloquently and comprehensively describe what they oppose. So for intellectual pluralism, an acceptable filter eliminates not the plurality of views, but the distorted straw men, the gross misrepresentations, and above all dogma that lives only in the absense of alternative views. A stream of information that contains the language of only one school of thought is less reliable than one that contains several, because if someone is smart enough to propose an idea, they should be smart enough to describe competing arguments in an eloquent manner. This is the kind of heuristic that we should use to create the anti-filter.

    The truth is larger than all of us, and if we are to see it in all its majesty, then we must cooperate to create the biggest, clearest lens we can.

    (I wonder if this arrogant rant of mine would pass the filter it proposes)

  67. Pingback: Filtering the filters | Arbor Vitae

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  69. Matt M says:

    1. Aren’t they already doing this, but in a much worse way? My understanding is that Facebook automatically filters posts for you based on some algorithm it has that determines what they think you would find most interesting. You don’t get to see every post from every person or page you follow unless you deliberately to go their page one at a time and specifically ask for it (in a very UNintuitive manner, I might add). They never ASK you to set up a filter or anything, they just track you and then do it on your behalf. My understanding is that Google News utilizes something similar. Although that’s easier to customize if you choose to – but how many people will choose to? If the default is “trust our algorithm to give you one side of every story” and it takes a certain amount of effort to specifically ASK for alternative viewpoints, most people won’t bother.

    2. But even putting all that aside, you also have to trust that the filters will be offered and will function on an equitable level. Coming from the right, I would suggest to you that most conservatives believe that Facebook, Twitter, and Google are run by a bunch of left-wing kooks who are every day scheming up new ways to use their power and influence to promote left-wing political agendas. I think there would be a lot of suspicion that they might, for ideological reasons, decide that a “liberal” filter can filter out ALL conservative content, and that’s totally cool, but those crazy conservatives NEED to be exposed to alternative viewpoints, and theirs would also sneak in a few Huffington Post pieces regardless of whether the reader wants them or not.

    • Even though I’m coming from the centre/centre-left (and would find plenty of common ground with the average tech entrepreneur), I totally agree and hope that people across the spectrum will work together to prevent things degenerating into a war of filters.

  70. Nathan says:

    We’ve always had filters. When someone in meatspace says something to you that’s too immature, you don’t take it seriously, sometimes you don’t even hear it because it didn’t pass your filter. I’ve been known to not even notice that someone made a sound because they didn’t say something that was relevant enough to my interest. Surely that’s not a freak occurrence.

    I believe that offloading our filters to software will make us less aware of them, not more.