"Talks a good game about freedom when out of power, but once he’s in – bam! Everyone's enslaved in the human-flourishing mines."

Freedom On The Centralized Web

I.

A lot of libertarians and anarcho-capitalists envision a future of small corporate states competing for migrants and capital by trying to have the best policies.

But the Internet is about as close to that vision as we’re likely to find outside the pages of a political philosophy textbook. And I am far from convinced.

Let’s back up. Internet communities – ranging from a personal blog like this one all the way up to Facebook and Reddit – share many features with real communities. They work out rules for punishing defectors – your trolls, your harassers – and appoint a hierarchy of trusted individuals to carry out those rules. They try to balance competing concerns like free expression and public decency. They host cliques, power grabs, flame wars, even religious strife. They try to raise revenue, they establish a class system of Power Users and Premium Users, they deal with resentment from people who aren’t getting their way. They develop a culture.

The job of a community leader, be they a blogger or the CEO of Facebook, is a lot like the job of the Mayor of New York City: create a pleasant community where talented people will want to live and work, where wrongdoing is met with swift punishment, and where you can collect revenue without annoying your constitutents too much. But it’s even more like a hypothetical corporate state CEO in a Patchwork or Archipelago – wield absolute power, tempered by the knowledge that your citizens can leave at any time – and if they don’t, skim a little off the top of their productive activity.

In theory, this is supposed to lead to amazing communities as corporate states optimize themselves to get more customer-citizens and new polities arise to take advantage of deficiencies in the old.

In practice, we tried this with the Internet for a couple of years, and then moved to the current system, where individual sites like blogs and little storefronts are in decline and conversation and commerce have moved to a couple of giant corporations: Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Amazon, Paypal.

These companies aren’t exactly monopolies. To some degree, if you’re unsatisfied with Facebook you can move to Twitter. But they’re not exactly competitors either – there are a lot of things Facebook is good for that Twitter fails completely, and vice versa. It’s like Coca-Cola vs. milk: in theory you’ve always got the choice to drink either in place of the other; in practice you usually know which one you need at any given time. In that sense, there’s no real Facebook competitor except eg Orkut or Diaspora, which no one uses.

Which suggests one reason why these sites are so dominant: their main selling point is their size. Facebook is the best because all of your friends are on it; if I made a much better Facebook clone tomorrow no one would go unless everyone else was already there (Google found this out the hard way). Amazon is the best because you can buy pretty much everything you want there; Paypal is the best because most sites take PayPal. So not only do they have no competitors, but it’s really hard to imagine one ever arising. In order to compete with Facebook, you not only need a better product, you need a product that’s so much better that everybody decides to switch en masse at the same time. The only example I can think of where this ever worked was the Great Digg Exodus, where Digg screwed up their product so thoroughly that everyone simultaneously said “@#!$ this” and moved to Reddit.

So instead of “let a thousand nations bloom”, it ended up more like “let five or six big nations bloom that we can never get rid of”.

II.

It’s a truism that the First Amendment only protects citizens from the government, not from other citizens. Nothing stops a private college from expelling any student who criticizes the administration, and nothing stops a private business from firing any employee who doesn’t support the boss’ preferred candidate. We apparently place our trust in the multiplicity of the market to maintain some semblance of freedom; out of thousands of competing companies, not all will ban the same political positions; if too many did so, other companies would start offering freedom of speech as a benefit and poach the more repressive companies’ employees and customers.

It’s a little concerning that we accept this argument about freedom of speech when we don’t accept it for anything else. We don’t trust the free market to necessarily preserve racial equality – that’s what anti-discrimination laws are for. We don’t trust the free market to necessarily preserve worker safety – that’s what OSHA and related regulations are for. We don’t even trust the free market to necessarily preserve fire safety – that’s why federal inspectors have to come in every so often to make sure you’re not secretly plotting to let your employees fry. Whenever we think something is important, we regulate the hell out of it, rights-of-private-companies to-set-their-own-policies be damned. But free speech? If you don’t trust the free market to sort it out, the only possible explanation is that you just don’t understand the literal text of the First Amendment.

The argument for non-discrimination laws is that discrimination isn’t just random noise. If a couple of companies here and there decided to discriminate, then they might be easily overtaken by nimbler companies willing to take any employees and customers who came to them; and even if they didn’t, a couple of companies here and there discriminating wouldn’t be the end of the world. The argument for non-discrimination laws is that discrimination can take the form of global social pressure in favor of discrimination, enforced by punishing defectors, to the point where certain races can find themselves locked out of the economy altogether.

Concerns about freedom of speech come from much the same place. Back when homosexuality was really taboo, you’d have a very tough time finding any reference to it, let alone a positive reference to it, in any newspaper or TV channel in the country. All the big companies knew that talking about it (or letting their editorial staff talk about it) was the sort of thing that could get them in trouble, and they had no particular incentive to do so – so they didn’t. Yes, eventually they reversed that policy, but I’m not exactly going to be able to cite an example that didn’t later become okay and still have everyone believe it’s a good example of something it was wrong to have banned!

But even when homosexuality was banned from formal discussion on the news, there was still the opportunity to discuss it with your friends in private. I don’t know much about the history of the gay rights movement, but I understand it was a few small groups of like-minded people who managed to coordinate such discussions among themselves using non-mass-media that started some of the activism that eventually led to it become accepted more generally.

Nowadays that’s a little more complicated. If every company in the world decided that their profit margin required them to appear Tough On Homosexuality, it wouldn’t just mean no mass media editorials. Insofar as a lot of the public square has been annexed by Facebook and Twitter and Reddit, the discussion can be kept out of the public square in a way it couldn’t have been previously. Insofar as the economy relies on PayPal and Amazon as a currency system and marketplace respectively, companies can just decide that currency cannot be used to support gay rights, in much the same way that for a while currency could not be used to support WikiLeaks. The nuclear option is that Google decides not to show gay-related sites in its search results, so that you could make as many persuasive arguments for legalizing homosexuality as you want and no one would ever find them unless you knock on their door and hand them the URL directly.

(The thermonuclear option is that browsers just include some code to refuse to render any site relating to homosexuality, and now you’re done. But that is ridiculous – who would ever believe that browser companies would take it upon themselves to be the arbiter of people’s personal beliefs about homosexuality?)

This is not entirely theoretical. You want some really weird porn? You probably won’t find it on Amazon, according to the delightfully-named article Amazon’s War On Bigfoot Erotica. After they got bad press for hosting some kind of out-there stuff, they decided that anything which offended too many people’s sensibilities was a liability. This echoes a much more serious decision from a few years earlier: Paypal threatened to suspend the accounts of any companies selling sufficiently gross erotic books. Booksellers, many of whom made only a tiny percent of their profit from erotica, claimed that their hands were tied; if you can’t use PayPal, selling on the Internet suddenly becomes a much more dubious proposition. This story has a happy ending; Paypal eventually amended their policy to limit it to much more specific cases. But for a while, it was touch-and-go enough that a few people started wondering: “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t have entrusted our entire commercial infrastructure to a private company with no accountability.”

Advocates of net neutrality like to worry about a “two-tiered” Internet, where the companies that can make sweetheart deals with the ISPs are easy for everyone to access, and everybody else can only be accessed with a bit more money and a bit more trouble. Well, I worry about a two-tiered marketplace of ideas. Write decent erotica, socially approved erotica where everyone has heterosexual sex and then goes to church afterwards, and you can sell it on Amazon, collect profits using PayPal, talk to your friends about it on Facebook, and advertise on Reddit. Write weird erotica, the kind that other people might find offensive, and you might have to start your own website, take payment via some inconvenient method like Bitcoin, have trouble advertising it by word of mouth, and not be able to talk about it on literary discussion forums. It’s not that you’ve been banned from writing your erotica. You can write it. It’s just that practically nobody else will ever hear about it or buy it, except maybe the tiny fraction of people who are already extremely clued-in to the weird erotica scene and know exactly where to look for it.

This isn’t so much different from the old days when nobody would talk about homosexuality. Indeed, one could argue that the modern world is friendlier to people with unpopular ideas – there are more opportunities to self-publish, to bypass traditional bookstores, and to get covered in weird niche news outlets.

But at the same time, the amount of the information ecology controlled by private companies has increased drastically, and if private companies don’t like you, now you have entirely new problems.

III.

I used to think that there was enough demand for a free marketplace of ideas that if a company become too restrictive, another one would spring up to replace it. Then I suffered through the conflict between Reddit and Voat.

Reddit recently alienated (no pun intended) some of its users, who decided to move en masse to an alternative Reddit-like platform called Voat, whose owner promised not to restrict content unless it was illegal (in his home country of Switzerland, which permits a lot). I don’t want to get into the details too much (though I did explain my perspective on it on Tumblr), but suffice it to say that (one) (small) part of the problem was that people thought Reddit was failing its free speech principles by cracking down on various unsavory groups.

HL Mencken once said that “the trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.”

There’s an unfortunate corollary to this, which is that if you try to create a libertarian paradise, you will attract three deeply virtuous people with a strong committment to the principle of universal freedom, plus millions of scoundrels. Declare that you’re going to stop holding witch hunts, and your coalition is certain to include more than its share of witches.

So while some small percent of Reddit’s average users moved over, a very large percent of its witches did. Sometimes the witchcraft was nothing worse than questioning Reddit’s political consensus. Other times, it was harassment, hate groups, and creepy porn.

(I don’t want to get into the eternal “you’re hosting child porn!” versus “photos of clothed fifteen year olds aren’t child porn, they’re perfectly fine!” debate, except to say that when the universe finally runs down, and we all succumb to entropy, the second-to-last post on the ultra-cyber-quantum-internet will be “posting holograms of neotenous transhumans is totally in conformity with the First Law Of Robotics as long as they are older than thirteen million years and created the hologram themselves”, and the last post will be “lol u r a perv”)

I feel obligated to say that, in spite of CONSTANT MEDIA SMEARS, Reddit’s community is amazing, puts in astounding effort to help its members and fight for good causes all over the world, and that the representation of weirdoes and neotenous-transhuman-hologram people is no higher than any other part of the population. But that’s not zero. And a disproportionate number of those people became interested in the new site.

Already, we see why the typical answer “If you don’t like your community, just leave and start a new one” is an oversimplification. A community run on Voat’s rules with Reddit userbase would probably be a pretty nice place. A community run on Voat’s rules with the subsection of Reddit’s userbase who will leave Reddit when you create it is…a very different community. Remember that whole post on Moloch? Even if everyone on Reddit agrees in preferring Voat to Reddit, it might be impossible to implement the move, because unless everybody can coordinate it’s always going to be the witches who move over first, and nobody wants to move to a community that’s mostly-witch.

But the problem isn’t just natural self-sorting. The problem is natural self-sorting, plus enemy action. Remember, the big corporations do what they do because it’s what everyone in society is demanding. To break from that mold is to pretty much set yourself up as everyone’s enemy and invite retaliation. The media and Reddit’s SJ community quickly denounced Voat as Public Enemy No 1; as a result, in its first week it got DDoS attacked, deleted by its hosting company with no explanation except “the content on your server includes politically incorrect parts”, and had its PayPal account frozen. As a result, the Great Reddit Exodus was placed on hold while they tried to get their site back up, and by the time they did Reddit had switched CEOs and the momentum was gone.

Advocates of free-market governance and “let a thousand nations bloom” like to talk as if overly restrictive laws in one polity will immediately result in the rise of other competing policies that throw off their shackles and outcompete the first. But even on the relatively lawless Internet, where startup costs are so low that a random student from Switzerland can decide on a whim to take on one of the largest websites in the world, it’s way more complicated than that.

IV.

Actually, the whole Reddit thing left a bad taste in my mouth.

It would be paranoid to say that there are people for whom fighting against free speech is a terminal value, but let me make a slightly weaker claim. There are people who consider themselves the protectors of decency, who notice that their opponents are usually using the value “free speech” to oppose their demands, and so “free speech” to these people becomes the equivalent of “small government” or “tolerance and equality” or “family values” – a value which most people agree is good, but which has gotten claimed by one side of a political argument so hard that for the other side it becomes an outgroup signal and sign of cringeworthy bad arguments which must be shot down. These people don’t quite have fighting free speech as a terminal value, but you might as well model them as if they do. These are the people who say “freeze peach” in the same way other people say “but mah jawbs!”

And these people have a winning strategy. I’ve seen it with Reddit and any other website that gets on their bad side. The strategy is weaponized stereotype campaigns. If a site tolerates witches, describe it as a witch site about witchcraft populated entirely by witches. It’s super easy. By happy coincidence, Slate even has an article calling people out on it this very week.

Think about it like this. No matter how many brilliant artists, scientists, and humanitarians Islam produces, in the mind of a good chunk of Westerners it will always be associated first and foremost with terrorism. Redditors, Diggians, Tumblrites, 4chanistas, Instagramastanis, Slashdotmen, Metafilterniks – all are groups that the average person knows a whole lot less about than they do Muslims. A concerted campaign to irrevocably identify an entire online community with a few atrocious actions by its worst members will succeed pretty much instantly. There are 36 million Redditors, so unless they advertise solely in the saint demographic, we expect the worst members to be pretty bad. Therefore, Reddit is at the mercy of anyone with the resources to start such a campaign. Reddit Inc’s main asset is its brand, so it has every incentive to cave – even a principled leadership would rather make a few administrative changes than sacrifice the whole to save some Holocaust deniers or whatever.

After that, the site’s userbase has two options – either suck it up, or go off somewhere else. Go off somewhere else, and they’ll get DDoSed, taken down by their host, and slowly starved of money like Voat, at the same time as the same media forces accuse the new site of being a hot spot for witchcraft – this time with good reason. The new site might not die out completely, but it will be sufficiently established in the hearts of everyone as a Bad Place that it will be stuck in the same equilibrium as central Detroit – only people with no other options will go there, because it is inhabited mostly by the sort of people with no other options.

The worst possible end-game for this is the two-tier marketplace of ideas mentioned above, with an unfortunate twist – everyone knows that the second tier is inhabited entirely by witches, and therefore being on the second tier is sufficient to convict you. Unpopular ideas are gradually forced out of the first tier by media smear campaigns, and from then on everyone believes the effort was justified, because it’s one of those second-tier ideas that you only find in the same sites as the racists and trolls and child pornographers. You’re not a second tier kind of person, are you? No, we didn’t think so.

I have no particular solution to this. Certainly the well-intentioned solutions other people are working on, like a decentralized crypto-Reddit that can’t be moderated even in principle, are unlikely to help (hint: what is the most striking difference between Bitcoin marketplaces and normal marketplaces?) My primary hope is that it’s just not a real problem. Certainly there has been very little in the way of speech restriction so far, and what little there has been has been against things which, on the object level, I’m happy to see gone. It’s entirely possible that we’ll escape with only a few things banned that probably deserve it. I certainly hope this is the case.

I’m just annoyed that we’ve gotten ourselves in a corner where we have to depend on hope.

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528 Responses to Freedom On The Centralized Web

  1. Sniffnoy says:

    Certainly the well-intentioned solutions other people are working on, like a decentralized crypto-Reddit that can’t be moderated even in principle

    There is, of course, the old solution of “everybody go back to using Usenet”, which Reddit is kind of the modern-day equivalent of. Not crypto, certainly decentralized.

    It seems then to some extent here the problem is not the Internet but the Web and the model of doing everything as websites. Forget the Web, make a whole new protocol for whatever it is you’re making, distribute clients for it… problem then of course is getting anybody to use it.

    (Also, minor point, but fire safety should probably be regulated regardless of the issues you mention due to the negative externalities of fire.)

    • brad says:

      I’m old enough to have used Usenet for discussion rather than d/l binaries, and that was my initial thought as well. But even leaving aside the client issue, and it’s a serious one, the real problem is moderation.

      Suppose you agree with this post and think the we hate fat people people absolutely should have a place on the public square where they can collectively hate fat people. You still need effective moderation to keep the we hate fat people conversion from being drowned out by people pushing illigal Canadian Viagra, not to mention the pro fat types. Usenet, or at least the alt hierarchy, was good about letting anyone create a group — remember alt.wesley.crusher.die.die.die — but it didn’t have great options for moderating a group. Your choices were pretty much killfiles and the coordination difficulties that imposed, or having someone approve every post.

      I’m not really into reddit, but from what I understand their moderation tools are better but still not great. While the network effects discussed in the post would still make it very difficult to compete, if you wanted to that would be the tech angle I would look at.

      On a completely separate note, google was the most prominent example in my mind of a new product come out and getting everyone to immediately switch. There were search engines before that, altavista was a big one, but google was so much better that you not only started using it but told everyone you knew to switch too. Gmail for free mail was pretty dramatic too, but the network effects are less important (though not unimportant given the linked concerns about deliverability and spam filter quality).

      • birdboy2000 says:

        The problem is how to get moderation which deals with spam and OT posting but where the admin doesn’t turn into a petty tyrant who bans everyone who disagrees with them, or who looks at them the wrong way.

        This is sadly much more difficult than it sounds. I’m not even joking – the story of my internet life is of community after community deteriorating and often dying outright because of moderator action, and I have examples from 1999, 2015, and everywhere in the middle.

        I think theoretically it’s possible to build systemic barriers, but it would require levels of community accountability pretty much no website even has the tools to enact. Nor the interest – the website as individual private property is half the problem, although nonprofit ownership isn’t a panacea (For instance, Wikipedia) and even on sites where the tools exist only the anarchists (and the communities dedicated to anarchism, as opposed to any other topic) make use of them.

        Honestly, at this point I’ll take the spambots and raids over the moderators, but how get enough people to agree and come back to usenet to make it worth checking? There’s one newsgroup I still post to and it’s small (and a shadow of its former self) but at least active; the others I can go days without seeing a post.

        • William O. B'Livion says:

          Hire virtuous moderators.

          No, really. Hire someone who is utterly disinterested in the topic and give them a short, reasonably encompassing set of rules, and enable a supermajority of registered/paying subscribers to “vote them off the island”.

          If they don’t care about the topic, their rules are defined, and it’s their *job* to follow the rules their incentive is to the median, not the extreme. Then again you’d have to have a reasonably large income stream for that to be worthwhile.

          • blacktrance says:

            There are two potential problems with that. First, it requires paying subscribers (unless it’s financed with ads). How many redditors would pay for reddit, and what effect would a registration fee have on membership? Second, even if a moderator starts out disinterested (guaranteeing that is a problem to begin with, since it’d probably be easy to conceal), how do you keep them that way? After a few months of interaction with the regulars, there’ll be people they like more and troublemakers they dislike, and politics will be spontaneously generated.

          • “Hire someone who is utterly disinterested in the topic and give them a short, reasonably encompassing set of rules”

            That’s how humanities.philosophy.objectivism, where i used to argue with Objectivists (including Jimmy Wales), was run, except that I think the moderator was a volunteer, not an employee. An outsider interested in moderating, not a party to the conversation. Worked pretty well.

          • J. Goard says:

            @David Friedman:

            Ah, I remember those days so well. I’m ashamed to say, that college freshman never truly appreciated what he was gaining from exchanges with people such as Jimmy and yourself.

        • brad says:

          That’s a problem too, but it is easier to get people to switch from alt.we.hate.skinny.people to alt.skinny.people.suck (now with less oppressive moderators tm) than it is to get them to switch from /r/wehateskinnypeople to /v/wehateskinnypeople.

          • TrivialGravitas says:

            I went through this on Reddit with the attempted move from /r/xkcd to /r/xkcdcomic (the head moderator of xkcd made some really unpopular moves concerning his links to pickup artist and antisemetic subreddits, then banned everybody who complained), and it was pretty monumental (it’s almost a shame /u/soccer gave up, since we’d have a proper case study).

            There are some things you can do to simplify this. like advantage activity over name or subscriber count in searches. But, there’s another downside, which is these sort of takeovers can be used by withhunters to gain power. I missed this one, but as best I can piece together some Redditors decided that the mods of r/feminism (recently liberated from the same guy who had been stomping on r/xkcd) were secretly MRAs because they were willing to criticize prominent feminists (because y’know, nothing says intellectually vibrant movement like a complete unwillingness to tolerate internal criticism) and the end result is an r/feminism today where pluralistic feminism will get you banned without explanation.

        • James Picone says:

          That’s what Slashdot’s metamoderation and reddit’s upvoting/downvoting are for, surely?

          • brad says:

            If appointing moderators run the risk of getting moderation that takes place entirely at the object level rather than the meta-level, crowd sourced moderation guarantees it.

          • birdboy2000 says:

            In theory, yes. In practice, reddit has the regular kind of moderators too, and they have a habit of putting their thumbs on the scale when they don’t like the way metamoderation is going. (Heard rumors about the same problems at Slashdot since Dice bought them, can’t verify.)

      • Randy M says:

        Google search is a bit different, I think, because it doesn’t really matter what search engine anyone else is using, which is different from social media sites.
        Myspace is the classic example of a social site which faded from prominence; perhaps the only once-widely used one.

        I wonder if it is possible to set up another site which interacts with Twitter or Facebook? Certainly those companies have no reason to facilitate it, but perhaps a new site can use your facebook identity to drag that data over, with better filters or interface or whatever competitive advantage they might bring.

        • William O. B'Livion says:

          Disporia interacts with facebook to some degree.
          https://wiki.diasporafoundation.org/Integrating_other_social_networks

        • Jacob says:

          Both Twitter and Facebook have sufficiently rich APIs that this is do-able. However, if you think Facebook is an evil corporation and don’t want to post anything on it, then posting to *Diaspora and having that post to Facebook doesn’t solve the problem.

          • Randy M says:

            Well no, but I don’t think those people are the one’s Facebook’s hypothetical competitors are courting. They want the one’s who like Facebook, except for X,Y, & Z which new Fakeblock has, but they can’t use Fakeblock because all their friends are on Facebook and then how would they know what’s up with their friend’s kids/dogs/lunches?

      • fubarobfusco says:

        On classic Usenet, you used a server run by someone at your university, tech company, or local service provider, and all your posts could be traced to that server. So if people really objected to your behavior, they could complain to your local admin, who might warn you or kick you off.

        And if a server became noticeable as an uncontrolled source of abuse, its peers could stop exchanging traffic with it — in effect, close their borders to the rogue state; impose embargo. Or issue control messages instructing other servers to ignore messages from the rogue.

        The major newsgroup hierarchies ran as a semi-democratic, semi-anarchic system (with referenda on new group creation!) on top of this frankly feudalistic underpinning. But any server operator could choose not to carry a newsgroup they didn’t want to carry, or decline traffic from a server that emitted too much crap.

        This all broke down once too many users were on large commercial services that didn’t handle abuse complaints in the up-close-and-personal way that a university sysadmin with a vision of himself as a Knight of Cyberspace could … and which couldn’t realistically be embargoed.

        The other major system that works kinda-sorta somewhat like this is IRC, although there the feudal-level politics work at a rather coarser granularity.

        In the case of classic Usenet, the feudalism was somewhat necessary: The typical user had neither the resources, nor the skills, nor the time, nor the inclination to run a server. Nor did the typical user have the necessary political connections to other server operators.

      • Deiseach says:

        Google as a search engine was so incomparably superior to its rivals that it won and has kept my loyalty. As for its other offerings, I use Chrome so infrequently as to count as “not really at all”, I have a gmail account that I don’t use, and their attempt to push Circles and Google+ was so creepy and hard-sell that it made me angry.

        The problem is that a lot of the companies Scott mentioned are not acting out of principle (apart from “how do we protect our revenue base”), they’re reacting to public pressure. The way rainbows were festooned across every possible social media platform the moment of the Supreme Court decision? All about signalling how they’d happily take your nice gay and lesbian money with no fear or favour. Remember the pasta company kerfuffle?

        So although I’m sceptical that a site that showcases the works of Chuck Tingle has some particular animus against Bigfoot, if indeed you cannot find your fix of hot cryptid love it’s more likely that a sufficient number of people complained about quasi-bestiality and threatened to take their business elsewhere if Amazon carried those titles than that Jeff Bezos decided that it was immoral trash.

        The problem is people. The problem is some people will organise to shout down other people’s expression, and some people will abuse freedom of expression to promote harmful material. I don’t think markets or corporate states can fix that.

      • kernly says:

        Ideally spam filtration, and filtration in general, would happen client side rather than server side.

        You still need effective moderation to keep the we hate fat people conversion from being drowned out

        I don’t think this is that big a problem. Of course people do “raids” on places they don’t like, but they almost never hang out in places they don’t like on a permanent basis. The glaring exception is when there is a modding team to co-opt, in which case “victory” is possible through them. This happened in /r/subredditdrama, as far as I can tell, with SRS basically taking it over. If you can’t get the mods to agree with you, then the original inhabitants will tend to make it a singularly unpleasant place for you to be.

        Also, client side filtration could really help with this – pillars of the pre-existing community could hand out whitelists and blacklists while the problem is ongoing. It would be nice if there were pretty subtle tools, like if you could have a whitelist that just puts “approved” posters on top and posters you disapprove of on the bottom, or makes disapproved posters automatically collapsed/click-to-expand, and automatically collapses a block of disapproved posters. It could be possible for two communities to exist in a given forum or a given thread entirely separate, dark matter to one another.

        • brad says:

          Ideally spam filtration, and filtration in general, would happen client side rather than server side.

          At least in terms of spam, server side filtration is *much* more effective. This comes up a lot in proposals for encrypted email.

          This post by a former gmail engineer is long and technical, but a fascinating look at the challenges of fighting spam:
          https://moderncrypto.org/mail-archive/messaging/2014/000780.html

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          > It could be possible for two communities to exist in a given forum or a given thread entirely separate, dark matter to one another.

          Or in a given Internet, perhaps. I’m on a few large, heavily moderated websites that are very civilized but not, or perhaps because, they aren’t well-known except to their target group. Getting there through a Google search feels like walking a street of cheap loud shops where there is one discreet door, and behind it a doorman, and a quiet posh membership club. SSC is an example except that it’s more visible via links from Salon etc, but Salon itself is on a relatively quiet street.

          So it’s possible with a well-informed chauffeur for such places to _be_ one’s New York or wherever. On the Internet I guess that would mean a good RSS, a selective Friends List at LiveJournal or Dreamwidth, etc.

          So perhaps the new system is already here, hidden not quite in plain sight.

          Of those select websites I know, one uses Facebook but is a hidden and closed site, another is readable via Facebook but screens applicants; both are ad-free and without the usual Facebook clutter. Another has its own server and apparently paid staff who are experts in the topic, though most posts are from sincere readers and are high quality; it is ad supported but with low key appropriate ads and not cluttered and overgrown like Web-MD.

    • nydwracu says:

      It seems then to some extent here the problem is not the Internet but the Web and the model of doing everything as websites. Forget the Web, make a whole new protocol for whatever it is you’re making, distribute clients for it… problem then of course is getting anybody to use it.

      I will probably never get around to writing Birch, but, if it existed, which it does not…

      It occurs to me that it might not be a good idea to go around dropping excellent startup ideas in a room full of Bay Area startup sorts. But the trick is to figure out how to get Joe Sixpack and Jayden Soy-Latte into the dark alley so you can hit them over the head with a brick and they wake up the next day with a real live honest-to-God server wired into a decentralized communications network totally sidestepping all this feudalist Web jabberwocky sitting in their basement and no idea how it got there.

      • Autolykos says:

        It occurs to me that it might not be a good idea to go around dropping excellent startup ideas in a room full of Bay Area startup sorts.

        Why not? Ideas are cheap. I tend to have about an order of magnitude more reasonably good ideas (i.e. good enough that I would do them if I had the time) than time and energy to build them, and I expect that to be true for pretty much everyone here. Someone else “stealing” them and making them fly is the best thing that could possibly happen.

        • When you are young, you are afraid other people will steal your ideas.

          When you are old, you are afraid they won’t.

          • Chris Thomas says:

            I hope you don’t mind that I have been taking credit for coining that line.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Chris

            I doubt that David was the original coiner either. I’d guess it might have been a remark made to the original coiner of “If a man is not a Liberal at 20, he has no heart; if he is not a Conservative at 40, he has no brain”, way back in the Neolithic Age.

            ETA: Changed Paleo to Neo.

          • I don’t know if I am the original coiner, but I’m not aware of anyone saying it before I did.

            The original of the “If a man is not a socialist before …” line is apparently 19th c. French, with “socialist” replaced by “Republican.” At least, that’s my memory of the conclusion of someone else’s research.

          • Chris Thomas says:

            I just thought that by the logic of the quote, David should be happy to have me plagiarize him. All in good fun of course.

  2. Jiro says:

    A lot of libertarians and anarcho-capitalists envision a future of small corporate states competing for migrants and capital by trying to have the best policies.

    But the Internet is about as close to that vision as we’re likely to find outside the pages of a political philosophy textbook.

    And it sort of sucks.

    I don’t think it’s close enough to count. Sites respond to outraged mobs because outraged mobs easily cause them to lose revenue, either because the site depends on advertisers for revenue, or the site actually is run by advertisers, and advertisers are risk-averse and easily affected by mobs.

    Governments are paid for by taxes. And in this case, the fact that you can’t avoid paying taxes is a feature–mobs cannot cause the government to lose revenue except for the vanishingly small population who actually gets up and walks out of the country after listening to the mob. If the mob lasts long enough, it might eventually influence the government by votes and lobbying, but the bar to doing this is pretty high compared to making advertisers worry.

    A concerted campaign to irrevocably identify an entire online community with a few atrocious actions by its worst members will succeed pretty much instantly.

    Is this a Gamergate allusion?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      It is an “everything that has happened online in the past several years” allusion.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        See:
        >”4chan is a mix of /b/ and /pol/”
        >”Reddit is a hive of mysoginistic neckbeard atheists”
        >”Tumblr is an unholy gathering of teenage girls and gender studies majors with far too much free time”

        • Deiseach says:

          Chesterton, “The Man Who Was Thursday”, set up is that Syme needs to challenge the Marquis to a duel for Plot Reasons:

          “This man has insulted me!” said Syme, with gestures of explanation.

          “Insulted you?” cried the gentleman with the red rosette, “when?”

          “Oh, just now,” said Syme recklessly. “He insulted my mother.”

          “Insulted your mother!” exclaimed the gentleman incredulously.

          “Well, anyhow,” said Syme, conceding a point, “my aunt.”

          “But how can the Marquis have insulted your aunt just now?” said the second gentleman with some legitimate wonder. “He has been sitting here all the time.”

          “Ah, it was what he said!” said Syme darkly.

          “I said nothing at all,” said the Marquis, “except something about the band. I only said that I liked Wagner played well.”

          “It was an allusion to my family,” said Syme firmly. “My aunt played Wagner badly. It was a painful subject. We are always being insulted about it.”

          “This seems most extraordinary,” said the gentleman who was décoré, looking doubtfully at the Marquis.

          “Oh, I assure you,” said Syme earnestly, “the whole of your conversation was simply packed with sinister allusions to my aunt’s weaknesses.”

          “This is nonsense!” said the second gentleman. “I for one have said nothing for half an hour except that I liked the singing of that girl with black hair.”

          “Well, there you are again!” said Syme indignantly. “My aunt’s was red.”

          “It seems to me,” said the other, “that you are simply seeking a pretext to insult the Marquis.”

          “By George!” said Syme, facing round and looking at him, “what a clever chap you are!”

          Moral (if any) of the story: if someone is looking for an excuse to be insulted, they’ll find it 🙂

        • merzbot says:

          I don’t think the generalizations are that far off. As a socially dysfunctional degenerate weeaboo I feel more at home on 4chan than on any other major website, but /b/’s childish douchebaggery and /pol/’s earnest bigotry permeate the other boards to the extent that I don’t go there much anymore.

          Likewise, there are reasonable people on tumblr. But you need to be so incredibly selective about who you follow if you want to avoid frustratingly oversimplifying and unnecessarily hateful social justice posts that I decided to just delete my account instead.

          And a substantial portion of reddit’s userbase lost its shit when a subreddit literally called /r/fatpeoplehate was banned. There’s a lot of bigotry on that site. But there’s some good stuff too, of course. It’s the only one of those three communities I still participate in regularly.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >And a substantial portion of reddit’s userbase lost its shit when a subreddit literally called /r/fatpeoplehate was banned. There’s a lot of bigotry on that site. But there’s some good stuff too, of course. It’s the only one of those three communities I still participate in regularly.

            When you build a community around the terminal value of free speech, and then make changes that go right against that value, even if it’s for perfectly legitimate reasons, people are going to be pissed.

            My usage of reddit is far too limited and too far removed from these kinds of things for it to matter to me, but I’d be pretty angry if, say, /pol/ was deleted.

          • fubarobfusco says:

            And a substantial portion of reddit’s userbase lost its shit when a subreddit literally called /r/fatpeoplehate was banned.

            Part of the point of brigading (of various sorts) is that it can make a noisy minority out to seem to be “everyone’s against me”.

            If you’re the woman trying to get into a Planned Parenthood while a mere half-dozen religious fanatics are screaming at you from the sidewalk, you’re gonna feel pretty surrounded, even in a city of 100,000 people who aren’t screaming at you.

    • William O. B'Livion says:

      > mobs cannot cause the government to lose revenue

      You mean like Greece?

      • Jiro says:

        No, because that falls under “If the mob lasts long enough, it might eventually influence the government by votes and lobbying, but the bar to doing this is pretty high compared to making advertisers worry.”

      • Tracy W says:

        In Greece the government lost revenue, or at least cashflow, and thus created the mob.

    • Jeff Kaufman says:

      “except for the vanishingly small population who actually gets up and walks out of the country after listening to the mob”

      I thought that the libertofuture competing countries would make it really easy to move between them, because easy movement is what gets you strong completion?

      • Jiro says:

        “Easy” is a relative term. I wouldn’t expect that, even if it’s easy to move, it would be as easy to move as it is to send out a Twitter message about how some site is evil.

      • Loquat says:

        You mean, as easy as it now is to move from one town to another within the United States? Because it’s still a huge pain in the ass to find a new job, find a new place to live, pack up all your stuff, and unpack it all in the new place. Plus if all your friends and family are in one area it’s going to be awfully tempting to stay near them, especially if you have young children you want help with.

        • Adam says:

          So much this. On a pure quality of life level, living in Texas is oodles better than living in California, and my wife and I are always doing cost of living comparisons to convince ourselves of that. But it’s hard to be away from everyone I knew growing up and my entire family. If not for the Internet and especially Facebook, and fairly cheap air travel, I don’t think I could do it.

    • alexp says:

      Question about those reproductively viable worker ants:

      I was involved in a discussion about it in a progressive aligned forum where it was dismissed as a movement of misogynists engaging in harassment, doxxing and rape and death threats of prominent online feminists. I argued that you couldn’t judge a movement by it’s worst members. Then I realized since I was never really involved with the movement and it’s been almost a year that I have very little idea what the “moderate” members, who didn’t engage in any of that terrible behavior, wanted?

      So what was it actually about? Something more specific than “ethics in gaming journalism”?

      • James Picone says:

        AFAICT it’s got the Occupy Wall Street problem – lots of people who want vague, entirely-unspecified things. I think the proposition you’d find broadest support for is ‘Fuck Gawker’.

      • stillnotking says:

        Ethics in gaming journalism was the point of coherence, but I think most GGers would agree that the underlying issue is dislike of SJ values being promoted/mandated in gaming.

      • no one special says:

        James is correct about the ants having the OWS problem. Here’s some common themes I’ve seen:

        Calling out media on its misrepresentation of Gamergate. Some times it feels like this is the vast majority of the discussion.

        Media watchdoging. They’ve collected a big list of “bad actors” in the games media. http://www.deepfreeze.it is the place to go to see the list. (Ethics 1.*)

        Identity protection. Early on, there was a slew of articles about how gamers suck and should be ignored, by the gaming press. A lot of gamers are upset that they’re being attacked by people who are supposed to be on their side.

        There’s a bunch of upset about ideology in the gaming press. People will complain that they give ideologically approved games higher ratings than they deserve. (See ‘Gone Home’, ‘Sunset’) (Ethics 2.*) For practical purposes here, ideology always equals social justice feminism.

        There are some people who are concerned about pressure being put on authors to conform with an “approved” ideology. There’s a lot of “let the market decide” going on here.

        There are some anti-feminists, who see that the ants seem to be successfully pushing back. They’ve jumped on the bandwagon. Some right-wing pundits have also jumped on the bandwagon, but most ants seem to be liberal. I guess we’ll see if Breitbart pandering to them makes any vote Republican next year.

        There’s a set of internet celebrities who have “opposed” the ants, and made enough of a nuisance of themselves to be able to get mentions on a regular basis. Drama-loving types will talk all about what those people are up to.

        So, most of the ants just talk on twitter/8chan/reddit (/r/KotakuInAction). The ones that actually _do_ things have long-running letter-writing campaigns to kill the ad revenue for sites they consider to be unethical*. Sometimes there are short-running charity drives, or calls to “take over” a hashtag because people they don’t like are using it.

        The short story here is this is gamers vs game journalists. The fighting is fierce because the stakes are low.

        * A note on Ethics: Pretty much all the ants agree that the problems I’ve called Ethics 1 are real, and a problem. Some believe that Ethics 2 is also a problem where others do not. (There are probably some anti-feminists who believe that “journalisming while feminist” is unethical.) So when a given ant says they’re concerned about ethics, there’s more digging to do to find out what their actual position is.

        There’s a bit of a civil war inside the anthill about ethics-only vs anti-sjw. Other big news is preparing for a debate hosted by the Society for Professional Journalism. None of the anti-s or games journalists invited were willing to come, which the ants are crowing proves that that the anti-s never had a legitimate leg to stand on in the first place.

        I’ve never seen them planning harassment, and I’ve watched them on Twitter, Reddit and 8chan.

        • Tyre says:

          stillnotking: “Ethics in gaming journalism was the point of coherence, but I think most GGers would agree that the underlying issue is dislike of SJ values being promoted/mandated in gaming.”

          Some of it isn’t even the SJ values, but the way they’re being promoted. A lot of it has to do (not just in this case, but lots of similar events) with Journalists/Bloggers/Activists using academic terms they picked up either from others in their profession or social circle and putting them in articles reviewing or talking about video games or other types of pop culture. These articles are then read by people, particularly STEM types (present, more read company excluded) that you might stereotypically find reading about video games, who suddenly feel alienated. For example, “patriarchy” and “misogyny” a defined academic meaning far different from most people definitions. So calling a game’s view on something misogynistic may make perfect sense in a social justice setting but when read by people without the proper background it sounds like you’re equating their favorite game with, say, Elliot Rodger.

          From the outside it sometimes appears there’s a bit of motte and bailey going on with GG, because when attacked they would sometimes go back to “It’s about ethics in games journalism!” even in a thread in /r/KiA that happens to be between two other threads about how SJWs are ruining gaming/journalism/the world. There’s a community I lurk at that is entirely too fond using the “it’s about ethics in _____ blank!” joke to make fun of anything they don’t like, and it’s incredibly tiresome. However, a lot of it is because of the diversity of a leaderless movement where there are people that genuinely want to discuss game journalism ethics, people that are there to complain about “SJWs”, a whole lot of people that want to do both, and people that feel that they’re hobby is under attack by some new threat that isn’t the “video games cause violence and are satanic”. And having the media dismiss them as evil misogynists helped cement an “us verses them” feeling among the group even if their goals are different.

          no one special: “I’ve never seen them planning harassment, and I’ve watched them on Twitter, Reddit and 8chan.”

          From what I can gather, most of the harassment planning was on IRC, and by people who may or may not have even been affiliated by GG.

        • brad says:

          The thing is that games journalism has never had any ethical standards and few outlets do to this day. We are still in the games equivalent of the payola era (not that music journalism isn’t still pretty bad, but that’s a different story). From an ethical point of view, ideological based reporting would be a big improvement over the outright corruption and cognitive capture that has and continues to dominate the industry.

          So it is a little hard to take critics seriously when they complain about the ethical moles on the industry but largely ignore or just pay lip service to the giant gaping ethical wounds.

          • Protagoras says:

            This is certainly why I’ve never been able to take the ants seriously as advocates of ethics in gaming journalism.

          • stillnotking says:

            I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the gaming community has ignored the gaping ethical wounds. The Jeff Gerstmann/GameSpot scandal was a big deal despite having nothing to do with politics. Most gamers, if you asked them, would probably agree that games journalism has always been shoddy, even by the standards of an enthusiast press.

            Still, it’s certainly fair to say that people get irrationally het up when politics does get involved. This is as true of GGers as anyone else.

          • Tyre says:

            The Gerstmann situation did cause a ruckus, but it was all the way back in 2007. There’s been no indication that the relationships between game websites and major publishers have changed since then, which is a problem. But GG’s ethics concerns lie more with finding any possible connections between tiny indie developers (mostly with a SJ-bent) and game journalists. These connections are anywhere from “the journalist/developer donated a small amount to the other’s Patreon” to “they once tweeted at each other”. Unfortunately, they haven’t done much with unearthing evidence about AAA game publishers paying websites for positive press and therefore misleading thousands and thousands of customers.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            There was also the so called “Doritosgate” in 2012, it’s hardly unprecendented.

            More on the topic, as someone who wasn’t a part of GG, but occasionally browses /v/, there is not a single community as critic of the gaming industry in general and gaming journalism in particularly than them. The reason it was GG in particular that got as big as it did was because they got far more support from both inside and outside 4chan (for a variety of reasons: lulz, sticking it up to SJWs, pent up frustration with gaming news, fighting a culture war, the fact that the main target of the campaign is, by many accounts, a pretty detestable person, etc.) and that the scope was small enough that something might’ve come out of it (fighting a bunch of indie journalists and devs is far easier than fighting a bunch of massive corporations).

          • DrBeat says:

            But GG’s ethics concerns lie more with finding any possible connections between tiny indie developers (mostly with a SJ-bent) and game journalists.

            Because these people are choking the indie scene to death in order to wave its corpse around as a flag that shows off how they Believe the Proper Things.

            Any schlub cannot found his own triple A developer and release a title to compete with Call of Duty. Any schlub SHOULD be able to make and release his own indie game. The Social Justice Clique, through their ideological control of gaming press outlets that would notice indie games, and through their ability/willingness to unleash mobs of Twitter locusts on anyone who hurts their feelings, is doing everything in their power to prevent people outside their Proper Thinking Clique from being able to make games that are played and appreciated by others.

            That’s a really, really big deal.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Brad – “The thing is that games journalism has never had any ethical standards and few outlets do to this day.”

            It’s long been known by the community as a whole that games journalism was thoroughly corrupt; as others mentioned, we had Gerstmann’s firing and Doritogate, and a host of other scandals over the years. Starting a few years ago, though, it seemed there was a new breed of Games Journalism coming up, a cleaner, more honest set offering actual journalism rather than rewritten press releases. Outfits like The Escapist and later the Penny Arcade Report aimed to offer writing that could be taken seriously. PAR’s motto was actually something along the lines of “fixing games journalism”, and at the time, they really seemed to be doing that. Their rise coincided with the flowering of the Indy Games scene, and the general feeling was that the entire industry was going through a renaissance, moving closer to being a serious artistic medium, with mature creators, mature critics, and mature consumers. You started seeing a lot more high-profile arguments about whether games were “Art” or not, including the one with Ebert.

            When people talk about “ethics in games journalism”, that’s the journalism they’re talking about. The big IGNs and Gamespots and such, the community wrote off years ago, but the new journalists and the indy scene wasn’t just *for* us, it *was* us.

            Then you wake up one morning and discover that a bunch of the journalists have, say, colluded in secret to protect an abuser, to that end have unilaterally declared that anyone who disagrees with their ideology is hereby anathema within the community, and will be purging wrong-thinkers henceforth.

            I actually am a member of the Indy games community. I don’t give a shit if some IGN stringer gets a hundred-dollar-bill enema from Treyarch to call CODBLOPS GotY. I care powerfully if a small clique of ideologues have seized control of the community I make my living in and have started carrying out ideological purges and hailing Jack-Thompson- Rule-63-Edition as the second coming of Christ. We had something beautiful, and they’ve burned much of it to the ground.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            @Protagoras

            The old style ethical breaches involving AAA devs typically involves inflated scores, and can easily be compensated by a savvy reader adjusting their expectations and checking user scores.

            The new style ethical breaches involves attacking the morality of developers and gamers for their tastes and even stretches into outright libel, for example Brad Wardell’s case. And basically, it makes the whole community feel like a hostile and toxic place where as the old style didn’t.

          • Nita says:

            @ Forlorn Hopes

            What was the libel in Wardell’s case? I thought he outright admitted to being a sexist asshole, claimed that it’s his right as the owner of the company, and then used his former employee’s petty revenge to file a counter-suit and shut the case down?

            Also, the way you describe it, it sounds a bit like GG folks just want everyone who dares criticize them to be fired — you can take bribes or whatever as long as you stroke everyone’s egos :/

          • DrBeat says:

            What was the libel in Wardell’s case? I thought he outright admitted to being a sexist asshole, claimed that it’s his right as the owner of the company, and then used his former employee’s petty revenge to file a counter-suit and shut the case down?

            You think wrong. The lawsuit was not filed in retaliation for the sexual harassment suit; they were originally filed around the same time (which makes sense, since both were allegedly about events around her leaving the company), but Wardell’s suit was delayed and refiled in federal court. Kotaku could have checked this, but did not, because it does not fact-check when it would end up getting in the way of a Evil Nerdy Men Are Threatening To Wonderful Virtuous Women story. They just said what they wanted to be true, and you believed it.

            This is kind of the problem #GamerGate is there to draw attention to.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Nita – “What was the libel in Wardell’s case? I thought he outright admitted to being a sexist asshole…”

            He admitted to being a sexist asshole in the sense that everyone is a sexist. Similar concept to “everyone’s a little bit racist.” He can point to a whole bunch of female employees who’ve worked directly under him for a decade plus as evidence of his good behavior. That may not be good enough, but then, why is the burden of proof on him in the first place?

            “…claimed that it’s his right as the owner of the company…”

            …Actually, he claimed that he’s a leader, and that means being an asshole sometimes. It’s not exactly an unheard-of viewpoint.

            “…and then used his former employee’s petty revenge to file a counter-suit and shut the case down?”

            The witnesses the former employee named directly contradicted her story. She had no corroboration at all for her accusations, and in fact her own witnesses provided Wardell with an alibi for one of the incidents. She dropped her suit, formally apologized, retracted all her claims, and agreed to a unilateral gag order, in exchange for which Wardell dropped his suit.

            Why is that not good enough to consider his name cleared? What should he have done instead?

            “Also, the way you describe it, it sounds a bit like GG folks just want everyone who dares criticize them to be fired — you can take bribes or whatever as long as you stroke everyone’s egos :/”

            If you take bribes from the Triple As, you can be safely ignored. Your ability to harm people is limited to getting them to spend 60 bucks on a bad game, and only that if they’re dumb enough to believe anything you say. You’re a joke, and people treat you like one.

            When you set yourself up as the arbiter of video-game morality and start burning peoples projects and careers for ideological warmth, you have the capacity to do serious damage to the industry as a whole. There are a bunch of people who don’t want to see that happen, and they will make stopping you a priority.

          • Nita says:

            @ FacelessCraven

            Here’s the quote I have:

            I am an inappropriate, sexist, vulgar, and embarrassing person and I’m not inclined to change my behavior. If this is a problem, you will need to find another job.

            #4, Again, I am not willing to adapt my behavior to suit others. IF you find my behavior problematic, I recommend finding another job.

            I’m not some manager or coworker of yours. I own the company. It, and your job here, exist to suit my purposes, not vice versa. The company is not an end unto itself, it is a means to an end which is to further the objectives of its shareholders (in this case, me).

            It seems like he’s saying, “giving me an opportunity to make sexist jokes at people who don’t appreciate them (you) and to talk shit about people behind their backs is what this company is for“. That’s way different from “sometimes a leader has to be tough”.

            Perhaps he should have put the duty to take his comments about her nipples with a smile in her contract.

            But hey, at least he agreed to stop talking shit about her fiancé 🙂

            Unfortunately, I have no idea how to find out whether an apology made under threat of losing a huge sum of money is genuine. So, I guess the moral of this story is — remain impeccably professional even when your boss is an utter asshole and rubs it in your face.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Nita – “It seems like he’s saying, “giving me an opportunity to make sexist jokes at people who don’t appreciate them (you) and to talk shit about people behind their backs is what this company is for“.”

            That’s certainly an interpretation you’re free to employ. It seems to me though that your logic is circular. You seem to give the worst possible interpretation to an email because Wardell is an asshole > Wardell is an asshole because the employee said so > You believe the employee’s accusations because of the email.

            Again, I point out that his accuser named witnesses to corroborate her accusations, and instead those witnesses said that her story was false. Or how she did, in fact, destroy critical company assets prior to quitting without notice. Apparently neither of those facts are more important than an acerbic self-description in an email? What does it take before we can conclude that an accusation is false?

            You don’t seem to like that Wardell defended himself legally against a serious accusation. What should he have done instead? Is this like the Cards Against Humanity guy, where claiming innocence is just more proof that the accused is a bad guy?

            For what it’s worth, here’s his side of the story.

            http://www.littletinyfrogs.com/article/458579/The_long_lasting_effects_of_dishonest_reporting

            On the other hand, if you think Listen and Believe is the way to go, then what about Gjoni?

          • Nita says:

            @ FacelessCraven

            That’s certainly an interpretation you’re free to make.

            Well, how else can I interpret it? He explicitly says that it’s not about him being a leader (“I’m not some manager”).

            You seem to give the worst possible interpretation to an email because Wardell is an asshole

            I honestly had no opinion about either the case or Wardell’s character until I googled his name and read the email. I still have no opinion about the case — I’m not an expert on sexual harassment law, and it’s certainly possible that he did nothing illegal. But if the email is real and he didn’t write it in a fit of insanity, it seems to indicate that his character is that of a smug, unrepentant asshole.

            You don’t seem to like that Wardell defended himself legally against a serious accusation.

            I don’t like how the counter-suit hopelessly muddled the situation. That’s why my previous comment ended with the conclusion that Miseta should have acted differently.

            For what it’s worth, here’s his side of the story.

            Thanks, that’s good. Although the part where he says “If I had actually done something remotely wrong, you would never hear of it” is not very reassuring.

            On the other hand, if you think Listen and Believe is the way to go, then what about Gjoni?

            What about him? He had the misfortune to get involved with someone unfit for a relationship, and even more unfortunately, she didn’t write him an email saying “I’m a lying, cheating, utterly self-centered person, and I’m not inclined to change my behavior. If this is a problem, you will need to find another girlfriend.” That would have made the “Zoe post” a lot more concise and effective. As it is, not a lot of people actually read it.

            So, I wouldn’t recommend either getting romantically involved with Quinn or working for Wardell to anyone.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            What was the libel in Wardell’s case? I thought he outright admitted to being a sexist asshole

            The libel was that he committed sexual harassment, which I point out is distinct from being an asshole.

            I read all your posts in this thread, none of them present anything to suggest Brad moved beyond being an asshole to actual harassment.

            Even the evidence that Brad is an asshole is pretty shaky. We have an email, but emails don’t contain tone or context. Brad claims it was sarcasm and we have strong evidence to support that.

            Multiple female employees finding Stardock a good employer to stay for decades. Stardock putting women in charge of projects key to the company. The fact he won his court case with many women testifying in his favor.

            Does that sound like the behavior of someone who’d boast to his entire company that he’s sexist?

            Also, the way you describe it, it sounds a bit like GG folks just want everyone who dares criticize them to be fired

            There are ways to do criticism without creating a toxic culture. Key points include:

            Respecting differences of opinion and different cultures.
            Respecting authorial intent.
            Favoring debate over punditry.
            Avoiding weak-men arguments.
            Double avoiding weak-men arguments that involve serious accusations. (E.G. When you call out death threats; make sure you only call out the people who’re actually guilty. Not everyone who disagrees with you all at once.)

            The society of professional journalists ethics code says that a journalist should diligently seek out and report on alternative points of view even if they find them abhorrent. I think if the games press did that (while avoiding weak men arguments) Gamergate would never have happened.

            Thanks, that’s good. Although the part where he says “If I had actually done something remotely wrong, you would never hear of it” is not very reassuring.

            He’s saying if he did something wrong he would have admitted guilt and paid a large sum of money in compensation in exchange for her keeping quiet.

            That’s pretty much standard practice in industry. What’s worrying about admitting guilt and paying compensation before it goes to court?

      • Niklas says:

        The obvious universal – and thus not very meaningful – point of cohesion is that all of them claim to care about “ethics in gaming journalism”.

        I’m not gonna get into the neverending argument over whether yes indeed this is what they’re all about or no it’s actually just a front for harassing women etc.

        But one thing that’s clear is that you cannot signal being both a social justice advocate and a Gamergater. If you involve yourself in it, the SJ community will not accept you as one of their own and thus consider you problematic.

        Which, in turn, creates another point of cohesion for Gamergate: Preference of associating with a group SJ considers their enemy. If you cared about SJ, you wouldn’t do it.

        Which itself is sort of a mortal sin in that community, I suppose.

        • Sodium says:

          I believe the anti social justice stance of GG is not so clear cut. It depends on the kind of SJ activism.

          If you went out and gave food to the poor, from my point of view GG probably wouldn’t have any problem with that and might even support you if there was some relation to video games or they thought it would annoy their opponents.

          They’ve donated significant funds (about $70,000, I believe) to a group trying to get more women into game development.[*] While part of the motivation may have been trolling of certain parts of the SJ community, I believe that doing this indicates that their issues are not with the concept of SJ itself or with women in the gaming community, as is often claimed.

          Reading their posts, they have issues with what some in their communities call the “authoritarian left,” which is used to describe those parts of SJ activism that attempt to change patterns of speech or forms of expression and shame those whose behavior is considered offensive. They also don’t like “identity politics” very much.

          On the other side, if somebody openly identifies as sympathizing with GG, they will likely have a much harder time being welcomed amongst SJ activists, because GG is commonly perceived as being anti-SJ in general.

          Disclosure: I’ve been following GG’s activities on 4chan and 8ch since pretty much the beginning, but never participated in any of their activities (emails, twitter, etc.). I may have made occasional posts in related threads (likely less than 15 overall) and tend to agree with some of their commonly raised concerns about ethics in games journalism.

          [*] https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-fine-young-capitalists–2

        • J says:

          The disconnect here is two completely different spheres of perception with regard to “Social Justice” and everything that comes with it. Some of gamergates most popular public proponents, “rallying people” to make up a phrase (as opposed to rallying points), still identify as outright feminist. Clearly the concepts of equality and advocacy thereof aren’t what the problem is here.

          The point of contention comes between word and deed. The people gamergate opposes claim to be fighting for equality against horrible things and so on and so forth, but tend to be the sort of people like Amanda Marcotte… people so distasteful that their actions pushed even our good host to finally make a truly substantive disownership of a self-professed feminist (“vogon in a skin suit” was the metaphor iirc).

          The problem comes when those same people, Mr. Slatestar’s vogons-in-people-suits, happen to control the media and be the ones professing to the public that they’re poor innocent victims of a horrible misogynerd goobergate murder death kill squad. You wind up with exactly what this post describes.

          After all how do you challenge a group of people who not only happen to control the media, but also have as their primary marketing gimmick “equality” and society’s natural prejudices to favor women as victims?

  3. Toggle says:

    There’s also a solution to this problem which involves rapid turnover of the medium itself. Facebook rose to prominence because ‘social media’ became a thing, and Twitter got big because it popularized a new-ish format. So if you want to make a new community that isn’t witch-heavy, you just have to organize it in a novel way that people like.

    That’s not something you can really do on demand in response to specific problems (a la Reddit), but it will also reliably happen at intervals just because of basic market forces. And the new idea marketplaces are going to be optimized for the early adopter ethos, not the purity ethos- at least at first. The tiers may reestablish themselves eventually, but for whatever reason, witch-hunters always seem to come late to the party, adapting communities rather than adopting new ones. That seems like a source of ‘churn’ in a system that might otherwise stratify out the way you describe.

    • fermion says:

      There’s also a generational effect, at least for social networks. Facebook’s primary benefit is ‘everyone you know is on it,’ but for kids and teenagers that also means that their parents are on it, so they look for different networks. Whether this effect is enough to eventually unseat Facebook as the dominant social network remains to be seen.

    • Liskantope says:

      I’m not sure how well it works as a deliberate solution, since I suspect it takes a real genius to come up with a creative new format for a social network on demand. Still, those creative people who have good ideas for new formats might be advised to lie in wait for an “opening” such as Reddit’s recent conflict.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I don’t know how important it is that the Big Social Network get overturned every few years if this isn’t agile enough or predictable enough to ensure that consumers can choose between multiple sites to seek the best option.

      • P. George Stewart says:

        I think the point is that the micro-logic of the a-c perspective, while unassailable on its own terms, doesn’t quite describe the actual process. What’s played out in the ideal scenario by frictionless actors choosing amongst alternatives that spontaneously arise to meet their need, is played out in real terms (in the full complexity of real life) by larger providers who “satisfice” enough of the needs to capture the biggest audience. IOW, nobody is fully pleased with the service, but everyone is pleased enough to use it.

        So you don’t get that obvious range of choices at the micro level, but you do get a fairly predictable churn of the large providers. What people seem to tend to drift towards on the large scale is 1) advert-free, 2) free speech, and 3) ease of use (esp. with reference to current tech). You won’t be able to predict where they go, because the place they will go to hasn’t been invented yet (it’s not available as one of the range of choices), but they will go at some point – if only because of 3), the tech changing.

        Incidentally, in your OP you talk about the management of the community “skimming” some off the productive workers – for a-c, of course, the point would be that the management would be being paid by the productive workers for the service of providing a productive environment.

        In a sense, just as I always thought when I was a socialist, it’s about education, education and education. Eventually, given freedom to think, people will tend to drift towards the real life equivalents of 1), 2) and 3) above. But it’s never going to happen overnight, and there will always be setbacks, and always the small possibility of some extreme reversal.

    • fubarobfusco says:

      Twitter got big specifically because people could use it from their phones some years before “phones” were pocket Unix workstations.

    • Zorgon says:

      The particular drivers of a platform change can be a bit convoluted, though. The original surge in membership of Google+ occurred in the wake of wildly unpopular changes in FB. To this day, practically every friend I have still has a G+ account, nearly all dating from that period, and nearly all unused. At the time it seemed like another Digg-scale exodus event.

      So what happened to cause all those people to change their minds? Well, part of it was some poor decisions on Google’s part and some remarkably quick backtracking and additional features on the part of FB which took the wind out of the exodus’ sails.

      But one thing that was instantly noticeable was that the tech press (and by extension eventually the mainstream press) began spreading stories about G+ being a “ghost town” even as a cursory search of a few interest areas would turn up hundreds of posts. But this fitted neatly with one of Google’s mistakes; in the absence of FB friend list migration tools, there was nothing to prevent the immediate experience for a new user (with few or no people circled) from following that pattern. It took significant effort to build a G+ circle network, on a par with building a Twitter following. In the absence of magic populating tools, G+’s design turned an exodus into a million empty rooms.

      Thing is, these stories were not just appearing. Moloch cannot be avoided, of course, and his children will not be denied their fill. A little work by those of us who enjoyed the place for its microblogging and community-building potentials eventually dug up where the “ghost town” meme had originated: news sites specialising in social media marketing news. At the time, G+ had no real path to third party monetisation and was not at all friendly to marketing use. It didn’t even really have much in the way of a game setup at all. About the only thing it did for businesses was enhance SEO somewhat.

      So it got meme’d to death. Soon enough there were jokes everywhere about things being “almost as empty as Google Plus, lol*!” And lo, the monkey-brain was victorious and Moloch took his scalp once again.

      Even I don’t use it any more.

      (*astute readers will notice the similarity to “Actually it’s about ethics in game journalism, lol!” The two phenomena have been sufficiently close for me to notice that they tend to be the same people, too.)

    • Niklas says:

      The tiers may reestablish themselves eventually, but for whatever reason, witch-hunters always seem to come late to the party, adapting communities rather than adopting new ones. That seems like a source of ‘churn’ in a system that might otherwise stratify out the way you describe.

      It seems to me that it’s the phenomenon of Internet witch-hunting as perpetrated by digital natives (instead of older generations of people and media afraid and somewhat ignorant of the Internet as a whole) that was late to the party. The modern witch-hunters are themselves pioneers and early adopters.* I doubt they’ll be late for the Next Big Thing.

      In any case, it’s pretty clear that whatever new options appear, the “witches” will flock to the ones with a laissez-faire approach to moderation first. So that’s a major problem for any new social network attempting it, even if it would win over a majority of Western internet users otherwise.

      *: Speaking of, I’m somewhat surprised I haven’t seen any attempts at creating an anti-Voat yet, given that the Blue Tribe is similarly pissed at Reddit’s management (and significantly more so at its userbase) than the Greys.

      • Derelict says:

        Hubski seems to consider themselves an anti-Voat these days, although they don’t brand themselves as such and they existed long before Voat did.

      • 4bpp says:

        It is not clear to me to what extent the design principles of Reddit/Voat – that is, easy account creation, multiple identities, high churn, insulated and largely self-governing communities – can even still be seen as compatible with Blue Tribe principles anyway. With the bluest subcommunities within it tirelessly shouting how bad Reddit is and how they are basically only sticking around to expose its badness from within, I don’t think the idea “like Reddit, but more blue” formulated in that way would gain a lot of traction. But if your candidate set of blue reddits is interpreted a bit more liberally (no pun intended), though, wouldn’t Tumblr eventually wind up in it?

        (Additionally, I think, the idea of infiltrating and effecting change from within, rather than emigrating and shaping your own environment, has been part of the Blue playbook for many years now. I get the impression there was an -ism term for it, but it eludes me.)

  4. Steve Johnson says:

    Nothing stops a private college from expelling any student who criticizes the administration, and nothing stops a private business from firing any employee who doesn’t support the boss’ preferred candidate. We apparently place our trust in the multiplicity of the market to maintain some semblance of freedom; out of thousands of competing schools, not all will ban the same political positions; if too many did so, other companies would start offering freedom of speech as a benefit and poach the more repressive companies’ employees and customers.

    The progressive state is a single voice pretending to be a thousand different voices.

    Yes, they all ban and believe the exact same things. No, no competitors will spring up and offer freedom of speech as a benefit – because freedom of speech is racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, etc.

    The exact same thing is going on with Twitter, Facebook, Amazon Google, etc. To get large you have to offer a product that people want to consume. Once you are large you have to be rolled into the progressive state and do what you’re told.

    The argument for non-discrimination laws is that discrimination isn’t just random noise. If a couple of companies here and there decided to discriminate, then they might be easily overtaken by nimbler companies willing to take any employees and customers who came to them; and even if they didn’t, a couple of companies here and there discriminating wouldn’t be the end of the world. The argument for non-discrimination laws is that discrimination can take the form of global social pressure in favor of discrimination, enforced by punishing defectors, to the point where certain races can find themselves locked out of the economy altogether.

    The actual argument for non-discrimination laws is that abilities aren’t distributed evenly between groups so by requiring employment of people solely because they are members of a certain group you have actually installed a Party Member who will then police the organization for any violations of progressive thought. It’s a huge advantage to not have to comply with non-discrimination laws and not hire zampolits / diversity officers.

    (which of course is ridiculous – who would ever believe that browser companies would take it upon themselves to be the arbiter of people’s personal beliefs about homosexuality?)

    This is a tongue in cheek reference to Branden Eich and Mozilla, right?

    • CJB says:

      You know where I got my best books about the Progressive State and it’s Horrors?

      Amazon. And the Public Library (I got a Michael Savage book there last time. And they had TWO copies of “The Bell Curve”. Both of these books make terrible reading.)

      Same place I got the ones about Oh No George Bush is Coming To Do Terrible Things to Our Butts and Ronald Reagan Will Sell Us All to the Contras and Nixon: Can we survive him AS A PEOPLE?

      There is nothing more quickly dated that political fears. Hunter S. Thompson’s work on Nixon might’ve struck a chord at the time, but today it seems…..really childish, actually.

      “Yes, they all ban and believe the exact same things.”

      Meh. I started subject all rhetoric to the “My Friend Lawrence” test. Or, if it was MRA rhetoric, the “My Boss Natalie” test.

      Lawrence is a nice gent I worked with- we’d go on smoke breaks and occasionally talk politics. He knew I was pretty right wing, he’s pretty left wing. So when someone goes “All The Progressives!” I think “Lawrence does that?” And the answer, as per any of my actually quite progressive friends, is “No.”

      I think that we’re all, collectively falling prey to what I think of as the “Too many fucking people” problem.

      “TEN THOUSAND people signed a petition to legalize shooting dogs in the street!” “The station received TWO THOUSAND complaints.”

      There’s 320 MILLION people in the US. That’s a fuckity ton of people, and we’re simply not able to cope with that, because our society has trained us to think of ten thousand as large numbers. It ain’t. We’ve gone through a huge population explosion without really readjusting our conception of numbers- like people who don’ t get that gas in 1920 cost about as much as it did today, adjusted for inflation.

      It also means the fringes of our collective bell curve extend much further- so you end up with “significant” populations of real whackadoo people- often enough to keep a small internet community alive, therefore giving them some weird bit of legitimacy.

      For me, the really noticeable issue is in, say, the Right (my tribe) complaining about BS on college campuses….but they end up writing forty (million) articles citing the same “Seattle Area College institutes class in “Why Honkies Should Die”” Or notice how the “Black Lives Matter” keeps citing the same brief list of names over and over, until inevitably something bad happens to another dude.

      The RATE across the population is very low, is my point here.

      • I’m reminded of the time I read “You won’t find these ideas in a university library!” in a university library.

      • Drake. says:

        i don’t usually post here, because it makes me feel inadequate, but: i found your comment very illuminating, and it’s resolved a lot of issues i don’t think i even realized i had. perhaps i’m the only one, but i get incredibly tired reading droll political screeds like the thread root — especially on a blog allegedly for meta-level thought. thanks.

        • CJB says:

          If this was directed at me- thank you kindly!

          If not, please carry on. I’ll sob in the corner so as not to disturb you.

        • Steve Johnson says:

          If you read my original post as partisan you misread it entirely.

          I don’t even know who Michael Savage is [a wiki search shows that he’s some sort of conservakin – “Savage has summarized his political philosophy in three words: borders, language, and culture.”]. Someone like that defines the outer edge of what’s acceptable to say. Presumably his solution involves voting for the right candidates. As snark enlightenment put it on twitter –

          people seem to believe the president is something like the CEO of america but nothing could be further from the truth

          — Snark Enlightenment (@jokeocracy) July 13, 2015

          the more exact equivalent to US president, at the mcdonald’s corporation for example, is the actor who currently plays ronald mcdonald

          — Snark Enlightenment (@jokeocracy) July 13, 2015

          Being in favor of a different actor to play Ronald McDonald isn’t a change – no matter who that actor is.

          My actual point was this – Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. all evince the same culture – progressive good think – not because they’re all afraid of the same customer backlash – but because they know that staying on the right side of the progressive state is all.

          When those companies are growing they’re all about the customer focus – that’s how they grow. Once they reach size they then meld with the progressive state and become part of the whole structure. Why? Carrot and stick – make bad loans that the progressive state wants made and you get bailed out, provide data about your customers and get massive federal contracts, don’t provide funds to the varied and sundry progressive fronts for graft and find yourself with an anti-trust investigation. There are so many rules and regulations that no business is actually legal – any could be subject to ruinously expensive investigations and regulatory lawsuits. Reddit doesn’t appoint Ellen Pao because she’s a good candidate for CEO – they appoint Ellen Pao as a vague favor that will be remembered later. We have a massive, capricious and growing government that sees any unapproved thought as a threat and has already officially outlawed having certain thoughts – sure you don’t go to jail for thoughtcrime but if a company hires a known thoughtcriminal then there’s a bounty put out on the company that hired the bad thinker. The process of collecting the bounty is a discrimination lawsuit where if the plaintiff proves that the company knowingly hired a thoughtcriminal the plaintiff is entitled to a large amount of money.

          Scott is worried that the web is centralizing because of network effects and that the large networks that form will be cowardly because they’d fear another player would benefit from defections and the network effects would work against them. What’s really happening is that the all seeing eye of the progressive state doesn’t take notice of a company until it grows quite large. Once the company is large it slowly merges with the progressive state – starting with pockets of employees whose only job is to cave to outside “pressure” from people that they already know (heartiste banned on twitter due to a complaint from some marginally vaguely employed SJW who is friends with the head of bannings at twitter, for example). It’s a classic play for progressives that goes back very far – a 36 year old example is the Carter administration Justice Department choosing to settle a lawsuit over disparate impact in the civil service exam with a consent decree that eliminated the civil service exam.

          Here’s a google example:

          http://isteve.blogspot.com/2013/06/google-unpersons-mangans-blog.html

          Here’s a 200+ person list of purges:

          https://handleshaus.wordpress.com/2013/12/26/bullied-and-badgered-pressured-and-purged/

          • olivander says:

            this comment came out a lot meaner than I intended. sorry

          • creative username #1138 says:

            The purge list seems to be a combination of actually outrageous purges that deserve to be criticized and non-stories.

            Just three examples:

            2001: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Two Hundred Years Together goes unpublished in the U.S.

            Because we all know that the US is famous for publishing translated non-fiction (it did by the way get published & translated in both France & Germany, which has probably a lot more to do with publishing culture in these countries than with censorship)

            19-OCT-1974: Sir Keith Joseph deemed ineligible for Chancellor of the Exchequer for this notorious speech.

            Politician makes controversial speech gets crappier job in politics instead of the one he wanted. The guy was made a Baron after retirement it’s not like they hounded him out of England.

            18-NOV-2011: Sepp Blater pressured within FIFA.

            Some people criticized Blatter for something he said. Some people defended him. He didn’t lose his job or face any sort of formal censure.

          • Erik says:

            Indeed, the list errs on the side of inclusion.

          • Deiseach says:

            Dear sir, if you’re holding up Sepp Blatter as an example of an unfairly persecuted man, I think you’ll find a distinct lack of sympathy (most people who have an opinion on the matter are divided between should he be hung up by his thumbs or tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail). He is an example of someone who has taken to heart the advice from the Parable of the Unrighteous Steward: “And I say to you: Make unto you friends of the mammon of iniquity; that when you shall fail, they may receive you into everlasting dwellings.” Sepp used patronage and bribery to build up a support base for himself so that even with the current investigation into corruption, he managed to dodge being slung out on his ear (but has graciously offered not to stand for re-election and to resign when his current term of office ends).

            The Glenn Hoddle affair I remember, and I do think it was not intended as a “slur” but was rather an unfortunate way of expressing his spiritual (but not religious) beliefs. Though this was probably the last straw for the English F.A. as regards his reliance on what I’ve seen described on here as “woo”, such as using the faith healer Eileen Drewery (also, possibly more distressing to some, his conversion as a ‘born-again’ Christian). So this gave them the excuse they needed to get shot of him – his worst crimes were not living up to the English public and media’s over-inflated expectations of what success the English football squad can achieve in European and World Cup championships – they’re expected (unrealistically) to win the European championships and are still looking for another World Cup win after their one and only triumph in 1966 (every four years, it’s hyped up to “This time we can go all the way to the final!” until they’re dumped out in the second round). If he’d been winning big matches, he could have run around naked with a live chicken on his head saying he was the re-incarnation of Buddha and nobody would have minded.

      • Publius Varinius says:

        > There is nothing more quickly dated that political fears.

        Political fears become dated like any other fear when they don’t come true. The same thing happened to Y2K, even though it was a reasonable concern at the time. Or the New Ice Age. Or whatever.

        Sometimes, a political fear comes true, and there’s no going back.

        Suddenly, Secretary of State appointments start to last for 9 years instead of the usual 4, then for an indefinite amount of time.

        Suddenly, Freedom House no longer considers your nation a consolidated democracy.

        Suddenly, civilians are no longer allowed to appeal to the Constitutional Court.

        Suddenly, the licenses of the three most popular radio stations are revoked.

        Suddenly, the constitution is replaced, the new one outlaws gay marriage, criminalizes homelessness, gives the government the sole right to decide which religious organizations are considered acceptable, and the authority to transfer judicial cases from one court to another.

        Suddenly, the government has the right to ban “controversial” and “disturbing” campaign ads on commercial radio and television stations.

        Suddenly, private companies are nationalized en masse, and private pension funds accumulated over a lifetime completely disappear.

        Suddenly, it is retroactively declared that you own the state $10000 for a university degree that you received for free. You’re ordered to pay back your merit-based scholarships as well.

        This happens in an EU member state. You emigrate. Then you find out that the (non-libertarian) population of the other member states not only doesn’t care, but they keep pushing for very similar policies. And then your concerns are dismissed as quickly dated political fears.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          > Political fears become dated like any other fear when they don’t come true. The same thing happened to Y2K, even though it was a reasonable concern at the time.

          That might be steelmanned as “After the Y2K danger (which was real) was averted, some people began saying it didn’t ‘come true’, thus dismissing the actual need for preventing it.”

          When a warning is heeded and disaster does not occur, that does not support a claim that the warning was false. (It may or may not support a claim that the warning was true; for that we’d have to look at the details of what was done and what did happen and why.)

          • The obvious test in the case of Y2K would be comparison of different countries. My rather casual impression at the time was that some places people were going to a lot of trouble to avoid the problem, others were more or less ignoring it, and neither group suffered any serious difficulties when doomsday arrived.

            Am I mistaken?

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            I first heard it talked about in the US of course, and istr some projects for working on it, probably with grants. Whatever patches the first crews came up with, were shared with other countries, which may be a reason those countries had little trouble.

            Though iirc, the developers of later-generation software had foreseen the problem and coded accordingly — so it was the early adopting countries that needed to patch.

  5. Anonymous says:

    A concerted campaign to irrevocably identify an entire online community with a few atrocious actions by its worst members will succeed pretty much instantly.

    It’s actually much worse than this. It costs about a fraction of a penny to astroturf a site with shitposting bots difficult to discern from shitposting people. There’s zero need for real witches, all you need to do is create them. 🙁

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Or you just go and shitpost because it’s fun.

      I have to say, if you told me I could say all the horrible things I ever thought, and have it all blamed on my enemies who would suffer for it. . . well, that sounds close to wireheading.

    • Pete says:

      And yet people fall for it every time.

      I’ve long thought the easiest way to make large amounts of money would be to get some friends to set up some twitter accounts to send me abuse, advertise the hell out of the abuse until I inevitably get actual abuse, signal boost that then categorize anyone who politely disagrees with my opinions as also abusers, then count my donation money.

      It might only work a small % of the time, but it takes so little effort that it’s worth a try.You probably need some sort of public profile first, but not much of one.

      • Nita says:

        Well, then, what’s stopping you?

        • AngryDrake says:

          A non-vestigial conscience, perhaps?

          • Nita says:

            According to Pete, it’s “worth a try”. And I would really like to see how rich he gets… oh wait, either success or failure of such a scheme would fit right into Pete’s theory. Never mind, then.

          • Pete says:

            I have no public profile, it goes against my ethics. I’m incredibly thin skinned and wouldn’t be able to handle the genuine harassment that would inevitably follow if it was a success. I’ve never done an actually analysis of how likely it is to work (which I would do before undertaking such a venture).

            But to give some high profile examples of people who have made considerable financial gain from being harassed – the homophobic pizza parlour, Anita Sarkeesian, Matt Taylor, Rebecca Watson, to a certain extent Thunderf00t. I don’t think any of those people actually did what I suggested, but there’s an industry of people who are making money on the back of being harassed. AnonymousCoward below seems to have seen examples where exactly what I have said has happened.

            It is of course possible, maybe even probable, that there’s a selection bias – that millions of people are harassed and only a few make considerable money off that harassment but they are the ones who are visible. I concede that point. My few percentage is probably fractions of a percentage, which makes the equation far less worth it.

            As an aside, I think you were unnecessarily hostile. It was a fairly flippant throwaway comment about a phenomenon I’d noticed and a thought I’d had without intending to have full rigour. You would have been better served politely pointing out your objections.

          • Deiseach says:

            the homophobic pizza parlour

            And here we have a wonderful example of exactly what Scott was talking about: we know these people are witches because only witches would say the kind of things they said!

            So expressing an opinion that yes, a religious freedom law is a good idea because people shouldn’t have to go against their consciences and giving as an example that although you’d serve gay customers who came in the same as anyone else, you wouldn’t cater a wedding becomes “homophobic pizza parlour refuses to serve gays in blatant example of discrimination!”

            Which gets blown up, posted all over the place, and evokes such amusing japes as a silly woman ‘jokingly’* asking for volunteere to accompany her to burn it down and an organised campaign to leave bad reviews (even if you’ve never been a customer or don’t even live in the same state) in order to ruin their business, as well as the run-of-the-mill death threats, etc.

            This means the business closes down because the owners (and it’s a family-run business) are afraid that some of the threats really will come true; that someone will try burning down their business or show up to attack them. A campaign to raise donations on their behalf is set up – all of which is legal – and now it’s “homophobic pizza parlour deliberately engineers campaign of harassment, makes mega-bucks out of it”.

            Nicely done, Peter. I hereby award you (by virtue of my authority as a Marvel comics reader back in the glory days of the 70s) the coveted Marvel No-Prize for correctly parroting the party line as you’ve been instructed to view it.

            *I stuck “jokingly” in scare-quotes because if someone put up a tweet or whatever calling for volunteers to help burn down a LGBT centre in the wake of the Supreme Court decision, would that be treated as “it was obviously only exaggeration and parody, not serious intent” or an inducement to hate crime?

            What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

          • Not That Scott says:

            if someone put up a tweet or whatever calling for volunteers to help burn down a LGBT centre in the wake of the Supreme Court decision, would that be treated as “it was obviously only exaggeration and parody, not serious intent” or an inducement to hate crime?

            Inducement to hate crime.

          • Anonymous says:

            This means the business closes down because the owners (and it’s a family-run business) are afraid that some of the threats really will come true; that someone will try burning down their business or show up to attack them. A campaign to raise donations on their behalf is set up – all of which is legal – and now it’s “homophobic pizza parlour deliberately engineers campaign of harassment, makes mega-bucks out of it”.

            Are you intentionally misrepresenting Pete‘s post? He’s asserting the existence of the phenomena, not any involved party’s intentions.

            Nicely done, Peter. I hereby award you (by virtue of my authority as a Marvel comics reader back in the glory days of the 70s) the coveted Marvel No-Prize for correctly parroting the party line as you’ve been instructed to view it.

            SURVEY SAYS::
            _____ _ _ _____ _ _
            / ___| | | |_ _| | | |
            \ `--.| |_| | | | | | | |
            `--. | _ | | | | | | |
            /\__/ | | | |_| |_| |___| |____
            \____/\_| |_/\___/\_____\_____/

          • Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous says:

            *I stuck “jokingly” in scare-quotes because if someone put up a tweet or whatever calling for volunteers to help burn down a LGBT centre in the wake of the Supreme Court decision, would that be treated as “it was obviously only exaggeration and parody, not serious intent” or an inducement to hate crime?

            Are you… are you actually asking that, or are you making some kind of meta joke about the whole Reason subpoena thing?

          • Derelict says:

            @ Not That Scott

            Inducement to hate crime.

            I think that was a rhetorical question. Unless you think the people saying to burn down the “homophobic pizza parlour” isn’t inducement to hate crime?

          • Nita says:

            @ Pete

            Sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you.

            It’s just that this kind of discourse — “HERE’S MY BOLD THOUGHT (but don’t expect me to support it) (in fact, it’s probably completely wrong, haha) (it’s just a random thought) THAT I’VE THOUGHT FOR A LONG TIME (but never bothered to analyze in earnest :))” — is one of my least favourite things. It just seems sneaky, somehow.

            Did you notice how Deiseach jumped in to defend to pizza place, although you explicitly said you don’t think they’ve done anything bad?

            I don’t know what you were trying to do with your comments, but apparently they did have a certain effect on the audience.

          • AlexC says:

            Did you notice how Deiseach jumped in to defend to pizza place, although you explicitly said you don’t think they’ve done anything bad?

            Um, no. Pete described them as “homophobic”, an adjective which carries quite some judgment in it. He said he didn’t think they did what he’d suggested – i.e. Pete doesn’t think the pizza place in question were deliberately milking outrage for money – but that’s rather different from “they haven’t done anything bad”. My understanding of the situation is pretty close to Deiseach’s. Just as “any [business] could be subject to ruinously expensive investigations and regulatory lawsuits”, so anyone who expresses non-progressive opinions is at risk of attracting the attention of a local newspaper and then a very large and capricious mob of Tumlbrzens and Twitterers.

      • AnonymousCoward says:

        Would be? I’m pretty sure there are tons of patreon accounts for people who do just this — and several folks have been caught ‘abusing’ themselves while forgetting to log into their alt accounts. I’ve stopped taking allegations of abuse seriously because of it, which sucks for the people actually being abused…

        • Deiseach says:

          Suicide threats and fake reports of suicide were a definite thing in online fandom a few years back; generally the stereotypical 14 year old fanfiction writer not being able to cope with criticism of her magnum opus, alleging that she was struggling with psychological difficulties and/or abusive family and school circumstances, and threatening that she was being driven to suicide by everyone being mean to her.

          Often, though not always, followed up by silence on her part, then an alleged friend would report that So-and-So had killed herself and we the ungrateful mean horrible fans who laughed at her had driven her to do it. Then it would turn out that the “friend” was the original person posting under a fake name from a sockpuppet account and pretending she was dead.

          Some people had a whole string of these to their credit.

  6. Liskantope says:

    There’s an unfortunate corollary to this, which is that if you try to create a libertarian paradise, you will attract three deeply virtuous people with a strong committment to the principle of universal freedom, plus millions of scoundrels. Declare that you’re going to stop holding witch hunts, and your coalition is certain to include more than its share of witches.

    I think this general phenomenon took place with regard to r/femradebates (which I first heard of through SSC), even though r/femradebates isn’t particularly laissez-faire in terms of “free speech”. Some people got together and decided to create a place on Reddit where feminists and MRAs could discuss gender issues without kneejerk reactions or being banned for their views. Essentially, it was probably viewed by many as a place where one had relative freedom to voice skepticism of feminist ideas. The result, as far as I know (not having visited there in months) is that the place became overwhelmed with MRA sentiment, so much that some of the prominent feminist participants quit due to being tired of their posts getting constantly dogpiled. I wouldn’t call these MRAs “witches” or “scoundrels” because they mostly seemed like fairly reasonable people, but I would say that r/femradebates failed in its attempt to represent a free and open marketplace of ideas.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      The problem here is supply and demand. MRA’s have a large, unsatisfied demand of speaking spaces, Feminists can just go elsewhere.

      • DrBeat says:

        This, plus the significant number of feminists who believe the sign of a fair and intellectually honest space is one where people are not allowed to disagree with them.

        When you have one group of people who are used to being attacked every single time they voice their opinion, and another group of people whose opinion is so popular they can claim the very fact that people disagree is harmful and threatening to them and proves that disagreement must be taken away, one of them is going to be way better at defending their ideas than the other.

    • Not That Scott says:

      the place became overwhelmed with MRA sentiment, so much that some of the prominent feminist participants quit due to being tired of their posts getting constantly dogpiled

      from a comment above

      I have to say, if you told me I could say all the horrible things I ever thought, and have it all blamed on my enemies who would suffer for it. . . well, that sounds close to wireheading.

    • Faradn says:

      Another possibility is that MRA discourse has a greater focus on feminists than the reverse, so the MRA’s would be more interested in debating feminists than the reverse.

      • Nornagest says:

        It’s plausible that feminism is more central to MRA discourse than MRAism is to feminist discourse — not all, but many, MRA grievances can be laid at the feet of one thread of feminism or another, while to feminists MRAs are just one of the many forces of reaction. But they’re definitely mutual boogeymen in a Web context, even if the feminist idea of “MRA” seems also to cover Redpillers, pickup artists, frustrated geeks with bad fashion sense and hygiene, and miscellaneous trolls. And bronies, oddly enough.

        (To be fair, the MRA idea of “feminist” seems to begin with Andrea Dworkin and end with Mary Daly. With a stopover in Valerie Solanas if you’re feeling inflammatory that day.)

        • DrBeat says:

          The MRA idea of feminist begins with “The things done by feminists, with the support of feminists, using the political power of feminism, acting in the name of feminism, attacking their enemies as being non-feminist, that advance sexism, punish men, and make life just a bit less tolerable.”

          Most feminists aren’t out-and-out psychotic in their hatred of men. But they do hate men. The results of their actions harm men, the things they demand and use their power to enact are always things that hurt men.

  7. CJB says:

    I guess the thing becomes- typically, large numbers of everyone become very ticked at perceived censorship and raise a lot of cain- as was noted in every example.

    Ultimately, what it boils down to is we, individually, have to act to keep our freedom. This is true in the real world as well. *Insert politician here* would clearly be happy to remove *Insert fundamental freedom here* due to their voting on *important political issue here* if *Insert group here* didn’t start a letter writing campaign/online petition.

    So I guess my answer is I’m blase as long as I’m not blase, if that makes any sense?

    Further- the tone I’m seeing here is sort of “why won’t this complex system stay in equilibrium?”

    We’re in an unusually free period in an unusually free country- which means we think about freedom the same way we do about raw potatoes. Like- why? Who wants one? I want the special DEE-lux fried with cheese and bacon bits potato.

    But the instant you start restricting it, the more important it becomes. People in third world countries fight and die for the right to vote (sometimes. Sometimes they just fight and die cuz they’re in blood feuds.)

    Underground “zines” or such are figures of fun in the US, where we can buy Mein Kamph at Barnes and Noble. (PS, any german speakers- have germans evolved a new phrase to refer to their struggles changing a tire?) In the USSR, Samizdat was something eagerly sought after, as were illegal radios. They still are today in China, or North Korea, or Burma, or wherever.

    The repeated edicts, book burnings, official condemnations, angry sermons and such indicate that they had this problem in pre-enlightenment Europe (As well as I’m sure everywhere else).

    Complex systems don’t stay in equilibrium. The human urge to be free (Or at least, the urge to be a snarky teenage rebel doing what THE MAN doesn’t want you to do) will always flare, then fade into complacency. The human urge to dominate and control will creep up and so on, ab antiquo. Once you give a population the right to consume whatever intellectual material they choose, it’s really hard to take it away….not impossible, but really hard.

    And as Curtis Yarvin demonstrates- trying to ban bad ideas is usually a terrible idea. It’s the only reason anyone knows who Salman Rushdie is, after all.

    • Steve Johnson says:

      And as Curtis Yarvin demonstrates- trying to ban bad ideas is usually a terrible idea. It’s the only reason anyone knows who Salman Rushdie is, after all.

      I’m pretty sure that Moldbug demonstrated that the way you actually ban ideas is through obscurity. I’ve been reading through his list of recommended books and even though none of them are banned none of them are talked about because they belong to dead intellectual traditions.

      Once you’ve gone through that communication with people who haven’t becomes an issue because you no longer share the background assumptions.

      It’s like the Wittgenstein quote about the lion.

      • James James says:

        I just read “Neoclassical economics as a strategem against Henry George” (http://homepage.ntlworld.com/janusg/coe/) by Mason Gaffney. Did you know that Henry George wasn’t just a fringe political theorist, but that his book “Progress and Poverty” sold more copies in America than any other book except the Bible in the 1890s, he just barely lost the election for Mayor of New York in 1886, and that the Single-Tax movement had successes all over America until the 1920s? Now it is almost entirely forgotten, and we are left with leftwingers who want to tax income and capital, and rightwingers who want to tax income and capital a bit less. Taxing land and not taxing income or capital at all is entirely off the mainstream agenda.

        • Steve Johnson says:

          By coincidence I did happen to know (some of) that.

          Yes, that is a perfect example. There hasn’t been any advance in knowledge that has shown the idea of a land tax to be a bad idea – it’s just from a dead school of thought.

    • MartinW says:

      And as Curtis Yarvin demonstrates- trying to ban bad ideas is usually a terrible idea. It’s the only reason anyone knows who Salman Rushdie is, after all.

      What do you mean? Assuming that you are referring to how Yarvis got kicked out of a software conference, where he had been invited to talk about a technical topic completely unrelated to his politics, then it seems to me that was a great example of mob justice being very successful.

      He never got to give that presentation, which might have otherwise given a nice little boost to his career as a software engineer. And the rest of us got a strong reminder that if you have any non-mainstream political opinions then you had better either keep them to yourself or make very sure that nobody will ever be able to link your Internet pseudonym to your real-world identity.

      Sure, there was some pushback against the conference organizer for giving in to the mob so easily. But does that mean that the next conference organizer in such a situation will take a more principled stand? More likely, it just means that future organizers will make sure to carefully vet the politics of any potential speakers, in order to pre-emptively identify anybody who might cause controversy, and quietly shuffle their proposed talks into the ‘rejected’ pile.

      Also, I’m not sure that the whole flap led to a significant increase of interest in his ideas from people who might not otherwise have encountered them. The comparison to Rushdie is accurate in the sense that everybody knows about how Rushdie got banned, but very few people would be able to explain in detail exactly which ideas he was banned for. We just know that an outgroup (Islamic fundamentalists) declared him an enemy for writing something, and therefore he must be on our side irrespective of what he wrote exactly.

    • Shenpen says:

      Why do we even now Moldbug’s real name? THIS is the only bad thing really. The Internet is supposed to be a happy anonymous place where you shing flit on other accounts and then turn off the PC and go home from work and live your life. Was he stupid enough to deanonymize? Someone doxxed him?

      • Smithely says:

        Moldbug outed himself.

        If I recall correctly it was because he was boosting his urbit start-up thing on his blog.

        He also engaged in a few irl public debates with opponents.

  8. Positron42 says:

    I didn’t understand why people flocked to Voat rather than just taking advantage of the fact that reddit’s code is publicly available on GitHub and launching a fork that preserved reddit’s old policies. There’s still the issue with witches gravitating towards fork!reddit, but there might have been more potential to have an easy way to migrate user data of non-witches and have a more substantial part of the old reddit userbase, rather than users having to start anew on Voat.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      I was of the understanding that Voat was essentially a fork of reddit’s code base. A fork with a different enough interface not to infringe trademarks, and with some changes that a lot of redditors, including but not limited to the people running it, think are good ideas.

      • Positron42 says:

        They claim their source is original: “Voat source code (apart from third party libraries listed below) has been written from scratch in a programming language called C#. That other website is written in an entirely different programming language. Did we just port their code? Not at all. We use entirely different architecture and what you are looking at right now is the result of hard work of several dedicated people over a period of nearly two years.”

        • birdboy2000 says:

          Huh. Consider me corrected and surprised. I guess they reverse-engineered (or just copied) most of the features – I have only about six posts there, but it looked like reddit with a different color scheme.

    • frnzkfk says:

      I looked into something related last year. However, Reddit’s code (and indeed, entire architecture) kinda sucks and disintegrating their trademarks from the codebase would have been a fairly large pain. Maybe not larger than starting from scratch, if you’re going for a straight clone. But then, the core functionality of reddit is relatively easy to throw together yourself—the hard (technical) part is scaling in a cost-efficient way.

    • Zach Pruckowski says:

      I assume because scaling is hard/expensive. Like reddit has hundreds or thousands of servers (or the AWS equivalent), so even serving a tiny fraction of reddit’s traffic is a non-trivial thing to do. Especially since your early adopters are going to be the more resource-intensive posters/commenters and not the read-only lurker types.

      Also I think some of the reddit algorithms are closed source, like the one that handles spam detection or vote fuzzing or a more complex version of the ranking algorithm. But that’s based on something I read or heard a while ago and could be outdated.

      I’m not saying it’s impossible, just that “start your own reddit” is much more difficult than “start your own blog” even if both Reddit and WordPress are open source.

    • gattsuru says:

      Reddit’s source code is publicly available, but its user databases are not. Migrating users would be fairly difficult no matter what the ending language would be. Combined with the many technical issues with the underlying code that make it unappealing to use or update, it makes a lot of sense to not take Reddit’s code samples, even before considering the political effects

    • Earnest Peer says:

      Sounds very much like “Programmer does programming project for fun and self-fulfillment, news at 11” to me.

  9. Alraune says:

    Eternal packing-up-and-moving-every-five-years has been the price of freedom as long as I’ve been online, which is kind of annoying, but it’s worked. I don’t see a reason to expect that trend to change now, especially since the monetization efforts for the larger social networks have been hit-and-miss at best.

    • Derelict says:

      Eternal packing-up-and-moving-every-five-years has been the price of freedom as long as I’ve been online

      Try 18 months.

  10. birdboy2000 says:

    This is a good post. Again you say what I’ve been thinking with ten times more eloquence and elaboration.

    As a minor correction/clarification, however, this was not the first week of Voat’s existence. It was the first week after reddit’s purge, and it grew tremendously in traffic as a result, but the site had existed for a little over a year already (wiki says April 2014 founding) was probably the biggest reddit clone when the purge happened. and one which explicitly welcomed people who didn’t like its current policies. Kind of like how 8chan had been around for about a year before anyone had heard of reproductively mature female ants.

    • Peter says:

      Again you say what I’ve been thinking with ten times more eloquence and elaboration.

      This is one of the great things about SSC. Scott Alexander blogs so we don’t have to.

  11. onyomi says:

    It was really hard to keep reading as you pretty much lost me at “It sort of sucks.”

    As a post on worrisome trends in online communities, this works, but the implication that the internet has somehow failed more generally in its community-building promise just seems to me to be… completely wrong, especially posted here of all places.

    • Sam says:

      Strongly agree, except for the part where you imply that any particular trends in online communities are important enough to count as actually worrisome.

  12. Chris Thomas says:

    David Friedman likes to describe the American Socialist Party in the progressive age as a political success story. They never got more than a tiny percent of the vote, but by the 30s, both major parties had adopted many of their policy goals, partially as a way to avoid losing votes to the fledgling party. With that in mind, I think when you talk about competition, you focus too much on the kind where a new company comes in to rectify the injustices of the old, and not enough on the above kind of competition. This “potential completion” is always around the corner, even if no new company ever starts. A new company may even start, scare an existing company into repenting, and then fail to become successful. I feel like like Ello may have had an effect like this on Facebook, causing them to be a little less privacy invasiony. I could be wrong about that though.

    • veerb says:

      This is definitely the case. The example Scott alluded to of Google+ was a huge gift to Facebook: each feature it would introduce was rapidly implemented by Facebook, which actually had the userbase to make it useful; most notably a focus on easy ways to categorize who can see what.

  13. cassander says:

    I use microsoft word. I don’t like it much, and I assume with a little bit of work I could find something I like better, but at the end of the day, word is good enough. It’s precisely mediocre, and people like mediocrity . That’s mediocre in the traditional sense not of terrible, but blandly just below average. No one has exceptional taste everywhere, there’s plenty we all like served up lukewarm, comfortable, and convenient. Word sucks, but I know that if I mail some guy in china a word document, he’ll be able to read it. Any market, in forums, cars, or government, is going to have a a couple big mass market players in the middle soaking up most people most of the time, but that’s not evidence that markets are failing, just the opposite. Markets don’t move the vast majority of people most of the time, what they do is cater to the outliers, allow the people with genuinely unusual tastes a way to get what they want, and that is massively welfare enhancing. Not just does it make the lives of the people with the unusual tastes massively better, but sometimes those people manage to kick the whole market into offering genuinely better stuff.

    • Pku says:

      You could try switching to Google docs: it has fewer features but it’s a lot simpler to use, backs up everything automatically, and lets you transfer it to a docx or PDF (I switched to it after I got a computer that for some reason didn’t come with office and I didn’t feel like spending the money to actually buy office – if something like that ever happens to you, just remember it’s an easy switch).

    • AngryDrake says:

      MS Word is actually pretty good, compared to the alternatives.

    • Muga Sofer says:

      I actually have tried to shift to a better word processor than Word a few times. Every time, it turned out to be worse.

      I now use the WordPad app that came free with my PC, which is identical to Word except slightly faster and with most of the features stripped out. It still remains better than any of the alternatives I’ve tried.

    • Error says:

      It’s actually been quite a long time since I had to do something for which *any* word processor was necessary. 90% of useful tasks currently powered by Word can be done as well or better with a plain text editor — especially now that markdown and other forms of lightweight markup are becoming widespread.

      Related. Though it was written before lightweight markup spread and doesn’t take that into account; in particular I wouldn’t recommend latex as a source markup for most people.

    • Chalid says:

      Many MS products have been optimized to appeal to corporations, not individuals. They might suck for you but they don’t suck for the megabank buying 30000 Office licenses.

      (And of course if the corporation you work for forces you to use Word, you are more likely to use it on your personal machine out of familiarity, which makes everyone in your network marginally more likely to use it too…)

    • Derelict says:

      That’s mediocre in the traditional sense not of terrible, but blandly just below average.

      I wasn’t aware mediocre was used that way (as “terrible”).

  14. TomA says:

    Forest for the trees. First comes internet addiction, then corporate tyranny on the internet arises to take advantage of the new resource opportunity. Inevitably, the addict blames the pusher when things don’t turn out well.

  15. Spaghetti Lee says:

    I don’t know what it is about Reddit that drives some people so completely up the wall. I’m just still giggling over the fact that Gawker had a very similar tiff featuring free-speech absolutists vs. site execs concerned about branding and image, after they’d spent two weeks playing Scolding Nanny. “Toxic culture”, indeed.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      As an extreme cynic, I should note that reddit is a major source of poached content for many of the websites demonizing reddit. Same with 4chan.

      A lot of websites which run on outrage also run on linking to other people’s non-monetized content with ads slapped on, and on paragraph-length “articles” to make it not quite as skeevy as outright plagiarism. It’s easy to see why these sites would want their users to not go to the source.

      (I am sure there are other issues involved – however, I am an extreme cynic.)

    • Earthly Knight says:

      Note that the blowback against Gawker began when they outed the CFO of Reddit’s behemoth parent company, Conde Nast, and that the Gawker executives folded just as soon they started taking heat from sponsors, many of whom also advertise in Conde Nast’s publications. I must confess, I’m a mite suspicious that we just watched a corporate intrigue take place in full public view.

  16. nydwracu says:

    The difference between patches and websites is that patches are sovereign and websites aren’t. Since Voat isn’t sovereign, it doesn’t control its own currency; since Voat doesn’t control its own currency, it has to rely on external payment systems like Paypal; since Voat has to rely on Paypal, Paypal can attack Voat. Since USG is sovereign, it controls its own currency; since USG controls its own currency, it can collect its own taxes and enforce its own tax laws; since USG can collect its own taxes and enforce its own tax laws, Paypal can’t attack USG.

    It would be possible for patches to contract out key functions of government to external corporations. Some countries do this today: look up De La Rue or Giesecke & Devrient. (Paypal can attack Voat, and the EU can attack Zimbabwe. Not that the EU is particularly sovereign. Is it a coincidence that this ran only a few weeks before G&D stopped doing business with Zimbabwe? I don’t know. But America conquered Germany and stabbed its old enemy, the UK, in the back, and then Germany gained a lot of power in Europe. America is sufficiently closely, um, allied with Germany that its ambassadors there often don’t speak German, much as the Normans who ruled England didn’t speak English.) But it’s unlikely that a patch would allow itself to become reliant on a competitor like that. Contracting would be least unlikely across patches that target different and non-overlapping market segments that are unlikely to have conflict, but I can’t think of any examples like that.

    Will the network effect be a problem for patches? Well, is it a problem for cities now? I don’t know. People keep moving to San Francisco despite its staggering failures of governance, including but not limited to an allergy to building anything whatsoever and the occasional appearance of human feces in such places as subway stations and coffee-shop floors. But, when it comes to cities, people seem to often vote with their feet.

    (My family has been in Maryland since forever, but all of my living relatives in my grandparents’ generation left except my grandparents, and everyone in my parents’ generation left except my parents and one of my uncles. I will have left by the end of this year, and I doubt I’ll ever move back. Maryland did not do well in the postwar era.)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The relevant analogy seems to be putting sanctions on a country. The International Community seems moderately competent at locking people it disagrees with out of the global economy. The important world economic institutions refusing to deal with Iran seems about the same level of inconvenience as PayPal refusing to deal with Voat.

      As for network effects, this seems likely to be a disaster in real states. The libertarian state will of course be full of child pornographers and so on, the progressive state will be full of every poor person who wants generous welfare benefits, and the white supremacist state will be full of white supremacists, who are usually not exactly the supremest of white people.

      I have a theory that the reason communes never work isn’t just that they have crappy organization, but also that the people they have to organize are the sort of people who join communes.

      • nydwracu says:

        Have you read that communistic societies book that Moldbug linked a few times?

        (Also, how newsworthy are communes that work?)

        • drethelin says:

          Hutterites regularly found working communes and have done so for a long time.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Communes based on religion (e.g., Amana) or ethnicity (e.g., kibbutzim) can work pretty well for a generation or two. The grandkids often want to secularize and privatize the commune, but a half-dozen decades or so is a decent run for most kinds of voluntary institutions.

          • nydwracu says:

            For some of of the communes covered in that book that managed to survive for a generation, the problem was that there weren’t any grandkids, because there weren’t any kids, because the commune was Christian and required celibacy.

          • CJB says:

            The only good review of communes in the United States I’ve ever encountered was the discussion in “The Last American Man”. (which is a truly fantastic book.)

            Essentially, in the course of discussing her subjects difficulties with communal living, the author traces a number of other communes. The conclusion she comes to is almost without exception, those that survived more than an exceptionally brief time quickly abandoned anarchy for long lists of rules and a nearly autocratic leader.

            The one exception she discusses survived through a careful screening process.

            The problem of “The only people who show up to communes are the sort of people who show up to communes” rapidly becomes an ongoing difficulty for the books subject.

        • olivander says:

          Do you have a title?

        • The_Dancing_Judge says:

          is there anywhere that has moldbugs primary source reading list. I have read a few of his books and have a few more bookmarked but so many of them got lost in the shuffle of blogposts.

          There really needs to be a blog dedicated to reading old books – wouldnt have to be from an alt-right perspective*, i would suffer a left-liberal doing it just to get my foot in the old-book-but-not-assigned-by-college-polisci-professors genre.

          *nothing wrong with a left perspective of course (beside being wrong), just that thats the viewpoint that colored my 20+ years of education. the reason moldbugs cites are so great is because they are relics.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            It’s more fun to start with someone current talking about, say, GKC; then read GKC talking about Shaw; and so on further back.

            It makes a clearer foothold, or series of footholds, too.

          • The_Dancing_Judge says:

            The problem with that is alot of time, the really interesting stuff is off in its own little world, sealed from “mainstream” old books.

      • Linch says:

        I think you had an extra negative there “not usually not” 🙂

      • Shenpen says:

        The truly interesting part is that how tribal group loyalty like nationalism changes it. A rich area in a country usually cannot say I want all my taxes spent locally, instead of supporting all the poors who live in the other area, because it would be seen as horribly unpatriotic, effectively secession. (Or actual secession, Singapore got away with it, because while it is understandable why its Chinese elite did not feel too in-group with Malays, I don’t know what threats could the use on the Malays to let the milk cow go… it was really not in their interest.) Yet not wanting to support poor people accross a border is perfectly OK. Us / Them is really working perfectly here…

        So it seems to be whether the poors will get welfare really depends on whether enough of the richs feel sufficiently ingroup and tribal with them.

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          It’s not so much a case of ‘do the rich like them and consider them kin enough’ as well as it is ‘do the rich think they will get lynched.’ The beginnings of the modern welfare state in the nineteenth century did not come about because the elites suddenly decided the poor were people they cared about, but because there was a very real chance that if they did not make poverty more bearable, they’d see their homes and livelihoods burn.

          • Shenpen says:

            Does that predict that welfare stops exactly at national borders? Why? Because armies stop lynch mobs better at national borders? Forget huge countries like the US – why didn’t the Belgian poor hop over wealthier to Luxembourg for a bit of lynching? Was not too far. In other words, why will the Luxembourger elite pay welfare to people inside the border but not outside, even though that border is hardly bigger than that of a US city and not exactly defended by a huge army?

          • Earnest Peer says:

            @ Shenpen: I do think that’s predicted. The local Lord can’t use his army to stop the lynch mob because his army consists of the same people who would be the mob, but the neighboring Lord is not similarly afflicted.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Stefan
            > [not because] the elites suddenly decided the poor were people they cared about, but because there was a very real chance that if they did not make poverty more bearable, they’d see their homes and livelihoods burn.

            More realistically now (within borders) is that poverty breeds petty crime, which higher income people don’t want happening in their nearest supermarket parking lot. And sincerely feel sorry for beggars they pass every day.

      • anon says:

        I have a theory that the reason communes never work isn’t just that they have crappy organization, but also that the people they have to organize are the sort of people who join communes.

        As a child my family made a couple abortive attempts to join a religious commune which my younger sibling still refers to as the BruderCult. This theory made me LOL.

    • Pete says:

      Huh. I used to work for De La Rue. Never thought I’d see them casually referenced.

      My understanding was that G&D decided that the amount of money they were making from Zimbabwe wasn’t worth the negative publicity they were getting, rather than any direct political pressure. There was direct pressure to not provide Iran with money/equipment however.

      The results were essentially the same, the methods getting there were different. This is what people who claim that freedom of speech is only a legal issue don’t seem to get. It’s the results of suppressing free speech that we want to protect against, not the means.

    • vV_Vv says:

      The difference between patches and websites is that patches are sovereign and websites aren’t. Since Voat isn’t sovereign, it doesn’t control its own currency; since Voat doesn’t control its own currency, it has to rely on external payment systems like Paypal; since Voat has to rely on Paypal, Paypal can attack Voat.

      Uh? From a legal point of view, Paypal is a company just like Voat.

      In principle there is nothing that stops Voat from making the same arrangements with banks that Paypal has and setting up its own money collection system. Probably you need some government certification for anti-money laundering and anti-tax evasion regulations to do that, but it doesn’t look like something impossible to obtain.

      But of course we all know that Voat is not going to do that. And there is no anti-Paypal ready to step in and provide financial services to the underdogs like Voat, WikiLeaks and thousands kill-all-Jews websites.
      The closest equivalent is Bitcoin, which of course has a well-earned reputation for being the cursed currency used by witches to trade their forbidden sorcery items.

  17. Pku says:

    I think the thing that fire safety, workplace discrimination, and OSHA all have in common is that they apply to very few people (well, slightly more for the second one), but for those it does it really sucks. So the average company can more or less afford to ignore them (a few companies will get sued and shut down, but implementing workplace safety puts you at a ridiculous disadvantage to someone who didn’t and got lucky, so it still wouldn’t be worthwhile for companies to do it). So government intervention is useful there (in theory, at least, though it can also be taken to ridiculous lengths), because it forces people to ignore their bias against considering low-probability scenarios.
    (OK, that may have been overanalyzing a throwaway example while ignoring the point of the post. The post itself is great though, and I have nothing to add except “thanks for writing it”).

    • drethelin says:

      This is only the case post-regulation. Pre-regulation, workplaces were a LOT more dangerous.

      • Glen Raphael says:

        Pre-regulation, workplaces were a LOT more dangerous.

        Pre-regulation, the workplace fatality rate was rapidly declining; post-OSHA it merely continued to decline at approximately the same rate. The impact of the regulations on safety appears to be trivial compared to the impact of ordinary market pressures such as the effect of safety on salaries and insurance rates. (see figure 1)

        • Lupis42 says:

          Oddly, I posted a different version of that same graph on the last open thread.
          The idea that there’s a clean dividing line between “dangerous dirty sweatshops” and “modern safe workplaces” seems to be one of those false things that everyone knows.

        • BBA says:

          Most state worker’s comp laws predate OSHA considerably. Do you not consider those “regulation”?

        • Adam says:

          Also, Reagan cut their budget nearly 20% and it didn’t go back up until Clinton’s second term, and workplaces didn’t become appreciably less safe because of it. It seems to me that the greatest forces impacting worker safety are 1) technology replacing humans at doing many of them, and 2) foreigners replacing Americans at doing the rest of them.

    • krstck says:

      > So the average company can more or less afford to ignore them (a few companies will get sued and shut down, but implementing workplace safety puts you at a ridiculous disadvantage to someone who didn’t and got lucky, so it still wouldn’t be worthwhile for companies to do it).

      As an anecdote, this doesn’t line up with my experience. At my former employer (manufacturer, worth ~$5 billion), there was constant panic over OSHA fines. I don’t remember the exact figure, but something in the line of many thousands of dollars for “each violation” (the one I remember getting in trouble for on my shift was a pallet stacked up vertically against the wall). Also, it’s definitely in the company’s best interest to prevent any injuries because those are extremely financially threatening because of fines and lawsuits, workers comp, etc… We regularly fired people for even coming close to getting injured.

      I just don’t think the statement that “implementing workplace safety puts you at a ridiculous disadvantage” is accurate in this day and age. There isn’t a ton of regulation, but there definitely is a fear of workplace injury – or, more accurately, lawsuits and heavy fines.

      • Pku says:

        I may not have been clear, but that was what I was trying to say: That without OSHA, businesses can easily think “well, no one here will get injured” and go on (and if we remove potential lawsuits, there’s nobody but the potential workers talking about it – and most potential workers wouldn’t think an accident would happen to them, so would probably ignore regulations). With the threat of regulation fines, it’s suddenly a (relatively) low-cost by high-probability threat, so it gets taken care of.
        (The example I was thinking of, regarding “implementing workplace safety puts you at a ridiculous disadvantage”: Say a town has a dozen plastic toy manufacturing plants, but no OSHA. Six of them put in safety regulations, but those cost them money, so they’re quickly outperformed by the six plants that didn’t and doomed to obscurity. One of those has an accident, gets sued, and goes bankrupt as a result, but the other five dominate the market and hit it big (until they start having enough workers that lawsuits actually become a high-risk possibility and they start implementing safety measures, by which point several workers have lost limbs overall)).

      • If an employer thinks they might be lucky enough to not injure workers, they’re more likely to be correct if they have a small operation. The bigger the company, the more likely they are to have a typical rate of injury for whatever level of safety precautions they’re taking.

  18. onyomi says:

    Anarchocapitalism doesn’t necessarily predict “let a thousand nations bloom.” It predicts “let as many nations as people find it worthwhile to have bloom.” In some cases this means diversity; in some cases uniformity. In cases where uniformity or widespread use is a major part of the appeal, then we should expect uniformity. I, personally, am not sad that there aren’t more credit card companies, and to the extent that it’s hard to compete with Paypal, a lot of that is probably banking regulation, not free market dynamics (and I can already think of a couple of good alternatives which exist now, including Dwolla and Bitcoin).

    I also disagree with the idea that Facebook etc. could not be replaced: look at Myspace. Google+ was poorly designed for the general public, and counterintuitive. If the difference is big enough, people will switch. They may not have been willing to shell out for betamax, but they did shell out for DVD players, and Bluray players…

    • nydwracu says:

      Facebook can be replaced. Facebook can’t be replaced by a Facebook clone. G+ is too much like Facebook; the only differences I know of are that the privacy settings were slightly better for a while and that G+ is tied into Google, which kills it for me.

      There’s no reason for people to switch en masse from Facebook to a Facebook clone, because the Facebook clone is just Facebook. There was a reason for people to switch from Myspace to Facebook: Facebook was better feature-wise than Myspace. There’s no reason for anyone to switch from Bluray to something that’s exactly like Bluray but incompatible with it, but there was a reason for people to switch from DVDs to Bluray.

      • onyomi says:

        Yes, exactly. There must be enough of a difference to make switching worth the trouble. When there is, people will switch. Until then, they’ll stick with the platform they and all their friends are already using. As it should be.

      • Shenpen says:

        And anyone writing a truly better Facebook is facing the race of adding everything Facebook has + the extra features vs. Facebook only having to add the extra features.

        It seems to me it is just better to wait until the established ones screw up. MySpace screwed it up when they allowed everybody to pimping their profiles so disgustingly that everybody with taste moved. Remember when in Iraq Facebook was used by high status officers and Myspace by low status soldiers? Facebook was the clean, classy, not overpimped app. Myspace did not notice this trend or it was too late to reduce customization options.

        Facebook can screw up by being too evil with privacy. Reddit can screw up by wielding the banhammer.

        The competition must wait it out, and move the right time.

        • I don’t know if a new social site could win by having less of what makes Facebook annoying– in particular, having a feed with a more reliable and sensible sequence.

    • Quixote says:

      Google+ was / (is?) much better than Facebook. It had better hang out features. Much better privacy controls, it was a lot easier to share things to a controlled group of people (ie to share with family but not friends, to share with friends but not work, etc).

      Plus on an information control side, you already use Gmail, so Google already can infer your social network and so G+ has very little marginal cost to information loss. On the other hand if you use Gmail and Facebook the number of large tech corporations which know everything about you goes from 1 to 2, a 100% increase.

      G+ had a lot going for it, what it didn’t have was all the Facebook users. Facebook beat G+ pretty much entirely by being an incumbent network.

      • onyomi says:

        I am not very computer savvy by the standards of SSC, but I’m probably above average by the standards of society as a whole. My initial reaction to Google+ was “I don’t get it.” Like, “I don’t understand how this works or what it’s supposed to be.” That, in and of itself, is a major failing.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ onyomi

          Google made it loud and clear to me whenever I logged into Gmail, that if I clicked their biggest button, my political handle would immediately show up on “everything at Google”.

          Having one little real name at Facebook so I can read others’ Facebooks, doesn’t send that name outside sfaik.

          • onyomi says:

            That was another big problem with it, and annoyed me endlessly when they took over Youtube and such. It’s like, “No, no, no. I don’t want to connect all my accounts together under my real name! Do you understand why people use the internet at all?”

          • CJB says:

            Oh, here was my fun thing.

            One time I got a popup on youtube saying “Hey *realname*! Would you like to be *real name* on youtube or *made up silly name* on youtube?”

            And I clicked “made up silly name” only to discover that it changed it EVERYWHERE. My official g-mail account-MyName@gmail-was showing up in other peoples contacts list as “silly fake name”.

            THe only way I could find to fix it?

            Activating my google+ profile, which is where you can change your name.

            And then they had the literal gall to give me this snarky “Most people don’t change their name very often, so are you SURE?” screen.

            There’s this effect I read about somewhere, wherein everyone in the group feels the need to go along with what they think everyone else thinks, even though no one is thinking it.

            IE- a bunch of gang members, none of whom individually want to kill someone, but none of whom feel able to say so for fear of the others, even though none of them actually want to do it.

            And I wonder if that’s what happens in these functionality meetings. Everyone is thinking “No! If your computer autosyncs to your tv, people will end up showing porn to the whole house you morons!” but no one wants to sound pervy.

          • Loquat says:

            @CJB – probably the Abilene Paradox, named for an anecdote about a family that wastes their time and annoys everyone taking a trip none of them actually want to take.

            I can totally see that happening in a tech meeting – someone trying to look smart suggests autosyncing using whatever buzzwords are big at the time, and nobody wants to stick their neck out arguing against the buzzword o’ the month.

          • Deiseach says:

            That was what turned me off – the whole “And you can log in with one account AND EVERYTHING WILL BE CONNECTED.”

            That, combined with the arm-twisting to “sign up to Google+! We have Hangouts! And Circles!” left me unimpressed.

            I don’t want to connect my various accounts; I do different things with them for different purposes. I particularly don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket because I know you’re not gathering data to make things smoother for me, it’s so you can sell it to businesses and target advertising and ensure I get even more junk “Want a bank loan? Going on holidays? I see you visited the bookstore – would you like to buy our new bestseller?” messages than I already do.

            And the whole insistence on Hangouts struck me as vaguely creepy, anyway. I’m not 16 anymore, I don’t “hang out”. This seems more like an attempt to get me to supply you with a list of people you can target to sign up to your services.

            Really, I don’t even sign in to my Google account ordinarily because I don’t want them tracking my Internet usage (more than they already do).

            My attitude to the increasing push to “Have one account linked in everywhere” is to adopt a position of paranoia: WHY DO YOU WANT TO KNOW THIS ABOUT ME? YOU’RE TAKING DOWN ALL MY DETAILS, AREN’T YOU? YOU’RE GOING TO SELL MY ORGANS MY DATA TO COMPANIES SO THEY CAN TRY AND SELL ME TAT!!!!

    • RCF says:

      The key is to not ask people to replace Facebook. How many people bought DVD players and immediately threw out their VHS? If Facebook gets replaced, it’s probably going to be with something that starts out as a supplement, not alternative, and eventually takes over all the functions of Facebook.

    • Adam says:

      This post definitely seems a little premature to me. The worldwide web has existed for 20 years. That’s a really short span of time compared to the typical lifecycle of a nation-state. Also, Facebook as it stands now isn’t even much like a community. It’s more like a planet, serving as a host to communities, which I suppose is effectively true of Reddit, too, though I’m not a member of Reddit so can’t comment too much. But I’m in plenty of secret Facebook groups that are effectively closed communities and the only interaction with larger Facebook is when they banned a few of the people for not having real names.

  19. Enio says:

    I always feel like Scott’s epistemology is spot-on with these posts.
    Maybe that just means I agree with him.

    It’s upsetting that the people doing the witch hunts never seem to be able to understand things on a decent level like this, the best example being how “think of the children” can be used to champion almost any cause, among other things, just because people don’t think critically about some concepts. They just know it’s a Bad Thing, so they should obviously be against anything related to the Bad Things (“We need to ban encryption because it is used by pedophiles and terrorists! You don’t want to support pedophiles and terrorists, now, right? That’s what I thought. I’m glad you support me.”)

    It’s sterotyping, but stereotyping too far, past where a semi-proper Bayesian update would get you.

  20. Andrew M Farrell says:

    Does anyone know of a good history of either the UC protests for free speech or the Hollywood blacklists of the Red Scare era?

  21. E. Harding says:

    “We don’t even trust the free market to necessarily preserve fire safety – that’s why federal inspectors have to come in every so often to make sure you’re not secretly plotting to let your employees fry.”
    -Federal inspectors come rarely (though they have lots of power). Insurance company inspectors actually have an incentive to come often. Though without Federal regulation, a few bad actors will likely skimp on fire safety, the vast majority will not simply due to the insurance costs.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I was actually thinking in terms of “there must be lots of fire exits for employees and they must be informed of the Official Evacuation Plan”.

      • fubarobfusco says:

        I would expect the typical office building gets more visits from the local or state fire marshal than from OSHA. Large factories, possibly the other way around.

        • Autonomous Rex says:

          OSHA inspects 40,000 workplaces a year. Out of 8 million. You will see OSHA once every 131 years. And if you get caught, its a certain guarantee that the fine will be much, much less than the cost of making the safety improvements.
          In 2011, for violations involving fatalities the median penalty in was $5,175.
          Here’s a temp getting crushed to death in his first ten minutes on the job:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNcsTRQNZLE

          • meyerkev248 says:

            FWIW, an ongoing issue at my workplace right now is that:

            * They’ve been packing more and more people into the buildings.
            * Tech is 80+% male
            * Therefore, once we’re done violating OSHA laws on the minimum number of square feet per employee, we’re deep into violating things like the minimum number of bathrooms (Even if we were 50/50, we’d still be in violation, so when we’re 90/10 on some floors….)
            * So highly paid technical engineers are in effect getting paid to spend hours a day hiking over to other buildings to use the bathrooms and hoarding toilet paper in their cubes.

            And of course, since all our HR people are women (for reasons described by Neil Stephenson in passing), the company is refusing to fix this citing core company values.

            And since the golden handcuffs are golden indeed, everyone just puts up with it.

            So of course, once someone finally left and reported it to OSHA, they… did nothing.

            /And let’s not get started on the stuff they were pulling at the golf course I used to work at.

          • Autonomous Rex says:

            So their taxes are too high 😉

    • Creutzer says:

      Okay, dumb question: Why is it assumed to be a given that companies will want insurance for injury to workers? That presupposes a whole lot about the legal system.

  22. Nathan says:

    The sticking point for me is that we’ve been through many different versions of the “everyone uses it because everyone uses it even if it sucks” phenomenon. VHS was clearly inferior to DVD, but everyone had VHS players. Everyone used Windows because you needed to be able to read windows files. People hung out on MySpace because all their friends were on MySpace. Etc.

    Edit: Badly beaten by onyomi

    In theory this problem seems insurmountable. In practice it goes away pretty quickly. I don’t know what the biggest online community will be in 2030, but I’m willing to bet money it won’t be Reddit.

    • Anonymous says:

      > In theory this problem seems insurmountable. In practice it goes away pretty quickly

      In practice it doesn’t, everyone is still using windows (but maybe not in your bubble) and you are seriously overestimating the number of people that used myspace compared to facebook. There are no network effects in play with VHS/DVD, it’s not equivalent.

      The only big mass exodus was digg to reddit and it was a kind of perfect storm with digg fucking up the community and the user interface simultaneously and at the same time an alternative being readily available.

      • Good Burning Plastic says:

        > There are no network effects in play with VHS/DVD, it’s not equivalent.

        Not *direct* ones, but the more DVDs there are around the more DVD players will be made and the more DVD players there are around the more DVD will be made, which while not as strong as the network effects for social network websites it’s not quite negligible.

    • Liebowitz and Margolis have a book, _Winners, Losers & Microsoft_, which argues that the pattern in software is serial competition. At any one time there is a dominant product in a niche, but then someone produces a better product for that niche and it rapidly becomes dominant.

  23. Not being able to rationalize the English language is another example of coordination failure caused by high switching costs.

    • nydwracu says:

      Oh come on what do you mean I can’t reply to this in Deseret without the characters all disappearing. It is The Year Of Our Lord Two Thousand Goddamn Fucking Fifteen and we still don’t have proper Unicode support.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        We don’t?
        Edit: we don’t.
        Try again: 𐐀𐐁𐐂𐐃𐐄𐐅𐐆𐐇 ; 𐑐𐑑𐑒𐑓𐑔𐑕𐑖𐑗

        • nydwracu says:

          Does it only work on edit? I’ll make this comment, with Deseret characters between these brackets: []…

          …and when I tried to edit it and add them, the edit didn’t show up at all. Will this work?

          Huh. I can edit this comment as long as I don’t put the characters in.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I didn’t strike out “we don’t” because we still don’t.
            I used hex: 𐐀 for 𐐀 (and 𐑐 for shavian 𐑐).

  24. Professor Frink says:

    The problem is that when I run a company I need to be able to fire employees that are actively hurting my company (I’ve had an employee who bad mouthed an important client on a facebook post, and I’ve had an employee who used an ethnic slur to refer to a client in a twitter post, both had to go).

    When a company like reddit decides to monetize by selling ads, suddenly the contributors aren’t just users they are content creators (effectively employees). What is reddit supposed to do when certain areas are tanking their ad revenue?

    • drethelin says:

      What do you do if one client bad-mouths another client on facebook? Do you stop taking their money?

    • Shenpen says:

      Is it measurable that they hurt the company?

      Are Americans really so sensitive that they would organize a boycott instead of doing the time-honored way of avenging insults: challenge to fight, the employee, not the company? Aren’t they afraid of looking like huge pussies? Isn’t it a “KICK ME I AM WEAK” type of move on their side?

      • Nita says:

        Presumably, “important client” means someone who doesn’t need to organize any boycotts, as their individual impact on the business is large enough.

        And why would a well-off person get into a fistfight with some working-class asshole over a twitter post?

        Look, I know you have some sort of intellectual fetish for “manliness”, but most people’s values are a bit different.

      • James Picone says:

        I have quite literally never seen anyone challenged to a fight over anything.

        Are you sure you’re not the one who’s strange?

        • Shenpen says:

          Chalk it up to cultural difference. I just don’t understand how can you keep assholes not being assholes otherwise. Lots of verbal bullies and generally obnoxious tongued people never shut up unless they get one. It’s like the Internet.

          • Professor Frink says:

            Cultural differences? Where are you from?

            I’ve lived in several countries and have never seen people challenged to fights outside of bars. I’ve never seen (say) a CTO of a company challenge anyone to a fight.

      • Professor Frink says:

        Organize boycotts? I have no idea what you are talking about.

        The situation I’m thinking of is fortune 1000 company that is responsible for a ton of revenue calls you and says “person X who you sent in to do job Y wrote a long facebook post disparaging our business practices on facebook. We find this unprofessional and won’t be hiring you guys again.”

        • RCF says:

          If the complaints are legitimate, would you still fire the employee?

          • Professor Frink says:

            Yes, commenting about a company on a publicly available facebook post (when you’ve signed an NPA) is highly unprofessional.

            And, in the end, I need clients more than I need employees.

          • RCF says:

            And firing someone for discussing unethical and/or illegal activity is unethical. And do you mean NDA? Would you fire them even if the post isn’t based on confidential information? If one of your employees get screwed over by one of your clients, and warns others, you would fire them over that?

          • Professor Frink says:

            Yes, NDA, sorry for the typo.

            As to the rest, this is getting too vague to answer. I don’t know what I’d do in every possible situation. I only know what I have done in specific situations, along the lines of “You should see the databases at company X, they are a mess, these guys don’t know the first thing about….” No one is going to hire us if they think we’ll blab their technical problems to the world.

            If someone were to whistle blow that a client was doing something illegal or unethical that is a much more complicated question. I don’t know what would happen.

  25. I’ve noticed that there seem to be a different group of exploitative monopolistic corporations that cannot be resisted every few years. After a few years of dominance, they either disappear or become tame. IBM and even Microsoft are no longer able to inspire fear.

    • Jiro says:

      Microsoft is requiring UEFI secure boot in motherboards while not requiring manufacturers to let you disable it, something Microsoft can only demand because they still have a monopoly in a large sector of the market. That’s this year. The inevitable consequence of this is to kill Linux for home users, and Microsoft knows it. And that’s just a side effect of the main purpose, which is to have a fully DRMed operating system that only Microsoft controls. And there’s nothing we can do except sit back and wait.

      And Microsoft is not letting people disable updates in Windows 10. (And if you can’t see how that strikes fear into knowledgeable people’s hearts, you haven’t been payng attention.)

      • Does this mean my next computer will have to be a Linux computer with UEFI simply in order to prove a point?

        • Jiro says:

          It’s happening in steps. The first step was to have it with a requirement that it can be turned off. The second was to have it without a requirement that it can be turned off. Companies, not wanting to debug or support the off version, will then not let be turned off, because as long as Microsoft has the market clout to demand it in the first place, the incentives will then align in favor of the companies acting this way.

          It makes installing Linux an inconvenience. It also means you can’t build your own kernel, and that Microsoft controls the signing keys that will let you run Linux.

          And Linux isn’t even the target; the target is DRM.

      • Shenpen says:

        The desktop is dead, so let them keep its sorry carcass. We’ll just use Android devices. Jailbroken.

        The cannot be as delusioned as to think the desktop is the future and maintaining a grip on it matters. But since the screwed up their ability to compete with Android, they don’t have much choice.

        Like tt’s 1930 and you can only buy horse carts from one company now. Be afraid! Or maybe laugh at them.

        • James Picone says:

          The desktop is dead

          Funny joke.

          I don’t think people will ever stop needing computers with decent UI and excellent input devices, significant amounts of processing power, wired internet, a decent screen, etc. etc..

          • Shenpen says:

            Most of which can be plugged into an Android device, or will be very soon. Even the processing power is a solvable problem by plugging your tablet into a desktop docking station every time you need it. We are not there yet, but isn’t it clearly the direction?

          • CJB says:

            Yeah, I’m sure its much harder to lock down the little sealed box made with tiny micro components than it is the cubic foot box with screws you can actually see.

            And ultimately, it strikes me that the people jailbreaking phones are probably already the sort of people who are more than willing to put together their own linux compatible computer.

        • Murphy says:

          Don’t rely on jail-breaking always being an option. currently it is but that’s because it doesn’t hurt googles market share to allow jailbreaking.

          The idea of actually owning your hardware, actually having control of it, is gradually dying with the shift to i-devices and android where you never have root unless you exploit security flaws.

          Even the newer versions of windows don’t really treat the admin account as the highest level user.

          Newer motherboards all have Trusted Platform Module (aka you as the owner do not have the highest level password/key and they will not give it to you).

          General purpose computing controlled by the owner of the device is gradually being eroded and that’s a worrying trend.

  26. Dan T. says:

    A concerted campaign to irrevocably identify an entire online community with a few atrocious actions by its worst members will succeed pretty much instantly.

    I remember parts of the media back in 1995 trying to do this to the Web as a whole, at a time when it was still a newfangled thing that was just barely starting to get known by the general public. There were some sensationalist articles about how the Web was full of porn and other unsavory stuff, and it gained enough traction to get Congress to pass some laws trying to regulate and censor it, though most of them ended up being declared unconstitutional. Ultimately, though, the moral panic blew over as the public found the “neatness” factor of the Internet to outweigh its seaminess, while business saw lots of money to be made. The public ever since has continued to joke about how “the Internet is for porn” (as Avenue Q sings), but even uptight church ladies use it anyway.

  27. Douglas Knight says:

    Reddit Inc’s main asset is its brand

    But didn’t you start this essay by saying that people have wound up on a small number of sites, suggesting natural monopolies? Thus, isn’t its main asset its user base?

    (Actually, I understand why Amazon and Facebook are natural monopolies, but Reddit, in its role as host for topical discussion boards, does not seem to me to be a natural monopoly. Any particular topic may be winner take all, but I don’t see much synergy between different topics.)

    • Daniel Speyer says:

      There’s at least some synergy. I like being able to check all my reddit subscriptions at once.

  28. CDave says:

    Redditors, Diggians, Tumblrites, 4chanistas, Instagramastanis, Slashdotmen, Metafilterniks

    It seems something of note and potentially worth exploring more, within the greater context of this post, that out of this entire list of Internet communities most of them are largely hands-off/disorganized/fractured except for one notable exception: Metafilter (and maybe Slashdot, though it looked like that had fractured pretty hard the last time I wandered there).

    Reddit is, depending on whether it’s related to something good (We raised money for charity! Yay Reddit!) or something bad (/r/jailbait is an isolated incident! We’re disconnected communities sharing a site interface! Usenet 2.0!) either shares site culture/community/norms or is a loose fence around a sub-cluster of communities.

    Metafilter, on the other hand, seems much more intent on being one community, with clear in/out behavioural lines (For better or for worse. I know some people can’t stand it, while others feel right at home). A lot of this seems to be that Metafilter has much stronger/more deliberate moderation than most sites I’ve run into. I’m not sure where it fits in the two-tier framework, since by design it’s never really going to be Tier 1 Social Place, but it also manages to shed witches/scoundrels in a way which avoids Tier 2 Problems.

  29. George says:

    So while some small percent of Reddit’s average users moved over, a very large percent of its witches did. Sometimes the witchcraft was nothing worse than questioning Reddit’s political consensus. Other times, it was harassment, hate groups, and creepy porn.

    Sounds like it would be a very clever move for Reddit to foster the formation of Voat(s) to offload their less desirable users…

    • Murphy says:

      That only works is the place you offload them to lasts and holds them. Otherwise they just come back in greater number having formed a stronger internal culture.

  30. Glossy says:

    “In that sense, there’s no real Facebook competitor except eg Orkut or Diaspora, which no one uses.”

    This is true in America. And your more general point about such companies being a bit like natural monopolies is true too.

    However, Facebook does face real competition in the former Soviet world (which has more than 300 million people) from a site called V Kontakte (In Contact). Without looking it up I would guess that Facebook and V Kontakte have roughly equal market share in the Russosphere.

    Why? I’m guessing it’s because the Russian government wants to have a public space free of NSA, CIA, etc. spying. You can’t have real sovereignty without nukes and you can’t have it without your own information space either. V Kontakte is a private company, but I’m guessing that it cooperates with Russian security agencies in the same way that Facebook, Google, etc. cooperate with the NSA. And it would be really foolish for the Russian government to let Facebook beat V Kontakte in the Russophone marketplace. Just like it would be foolish for the US government to let a Chinese or a Russian company beat Facebook or Google in the US market. A Chinese or a Russian company would spy for its own government, not for the NSA.

    I think that China has its own equivalents of Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.

    So that’s what it takes to give these companies competition – foreign governments interested in sovereignty.

    • Nita says:

      Not to deny any government influence, but didn’t VKontakte have first-mover advantage in Russia (which is a somewhat isolated market for the purposes of “online community for offline acquaintances”)?

      (According to Wikipedia, the founder of VK has had to leave the company due to his lack of cooperation — so, the Russian government does care about social networks.)

    • That’s not going to last. Once upon a time every country/language had its own search engine. Now it’s google in 99% of them. Once upon a time many countries had dominant local social network, like Poland’s Nasza Klasa. Vast majority of them fell over and died when facebook came.

  31. eqdw says:

    Regarding this whole Reddit drama, you know what’s kind of odd? All of the positive mainstream media coverage of Ellen Pao. For the better part of the last decade, every. single. time. the CEO of a major company was in the news, they were framed with class warfare and OWS rhetoric. It didn’t seem to matter if they had donated a billion dollars to some charity or whatever, you would hear ad nauseum about how unfair society is that they had a billion dollars in the first place.

    Pao is a member of the 1%. She was the CEO of the tenth most popular website in the world. And yet for some reason nobody thought to use the standard framing.

    I’m not big into conspiracy theories, but when I see shit like this, it’s really tempting to wonder if the idea of The Cathedral is more accurate than we’d like to think.

    • Galle says:

      After the initial banning, the formerly banned subredddits threw the mother of all temper tantrums, which took over r/all for about a day. Calling her a Nazi, of course, but also death threats, rape threats, and the whole “Chairman Pao” thing, which ranges from “vaguely racist” to “extremely racist”. Christopher Lee had to die to even make a dent in it.

      So, basically, she got positive news coverage because her opponents made themselves look like the biggest assholes possible.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Long before the recent Reddit meltdown, the New York Times had made Ellen Pao its poster girl by heavily promoting Pao’s lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins as part of its long-running narrative about the Silicon Valley Brogrammer Menace. The Times repeatedly skipped mentioning Pao’s rather comic marriage to serial discrimination litigant / shady hedge fund guy Buddy Fletcher.

        For example:

        http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/13/upshot/the-kleiner-perkins-lawsuit-and-rethinking-the-confidence-driven-workplace.html?abt=0002&abg=1

        The jury’s decision was humiliating to the Times.

        My guess would be that a lot of what you read in the Times about examples of Silicon Valley sexism and the like is there because it serves the interests of other big money interests to feed Times’ writers dirt on their rivals.

        • Anonymous says:

          Perhaps it would make more sense in this context to cite an example from before she went to reddit.

        • Steve Johnson says:

          My guess would be that a lot of what you read in the Times about examples of Silicon Valley sexism and the like is there because it serves the interests of other big money interests to feed Times’ writers dirt on their rivals.

          That’s one way of putting it.

          Another would be that the power to plant news in the New York Times is valuable to interests in Silicon Valley and gives them an edge over interests in Silicon Valley who lack the power to plant news in the New York Times. Cultivating that power then takes the form of befriending people who have that power – like Ellen Pao.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            I have a wholly evidence-free suspicion that the interests promoting the hysterical news coverage of Pao’s lawsuit were more powerful than Pao herself.

          • Steve Johnson says:

            …and yet Ellen Pao parlayed a horribly shoddy legal case into a CEO position.

            Who’s really got power when if you’re rich you have to give money to grifters or lose your money?

          • Nornagest says:

            How do we know that the legal case had anything to do with her hiring, as opposed to e.g. plain old nepotism?

          • John Schilling says:

            Plain nepotism would tend to say, “I’ve got you covered – in six months when the lawsuit is over and the controversy dies down, we’ll hire you on at seven figures. In the meantime, if you need a loan…”

            True nepotism would prefer to offer the beneficiary the kind of job Steve Huffman wound up with, rather than the one Ellen Pao got. Which synergizes neatly with the above, as it turned out.

            Neither of these tendencies is strong enough to constitute proof, so without further evidence all we have is suspicion.

          • DrBeat says:

            Stories like this aren’t promoted by shadowy groups who decide it aligns with their interests.

            They are promoted openly and brazenly by people who like the way it makes them feel about themselves.

      • Erik says:

        but also death threats, rape threats,

        I feel this is a dishonest method of arguing that can be applied to practically anything, like saying “Did you know there are literally *large number* of *type of criminal* in *country*?”
        Reddit gets millions of visitors every day. If we suppose that douchebagginess follows a normal distribution, that means that out of every million, there are 30 people who have 4 or more standard deviations of douchebagginess beyond the normal. Getting sent nastygrams from these utter douchebags doesn’t say much about “her opponents” in general.

        Or to demonstrate another way how easy it is to get tough talk on the internet and how little it should count for when generalizing over large groups: I got a death threat from the pro-Pao side.

        and the whole “Chairman Pao” thing, which ranges from “vaguely racist” to “extremely racist”.

        No, it ranges from “sucker for obvious pun” when someone is perceived to be behaving in a totalitarian manner and has a name which sounds like Mao (for another obvious pun, see the “Emperor/Empress Paopatine” thing), to “vaguely racist” because “extremely racist” should be reserved for worse things than being compared to any of Hitler/Stalin/Mao on the Internet.

      • Tarrou says:

        Oh man, I do love me some argumentation by victimization. It’s so in right now.

        But as a proud black transgender triracial inverse bisexual anti-monogamite, I have to say your “death threats, argument invalid” is superseded. Why, only yesterday, every person on the planet threatened me with rape and death. And did I mention the triracial inverse bisexual thing? It’s racist to disagree.

        • Glen Raphael says:

          There desperately needs to be a standardized abbreviated form of this argument. Just as Godwin’s Law eventually inoculated Usenet debate against “your view/side is like Hitler and therefore wrong”, we now need an inoculation against “your view/side is racist and/or abusive and therefore wrong.”

          • AnonymousCoward says:

            I hereby attempt to coin such a law, which rightfully deserves to be named after MsScribe.

            MsScribe’s law:

            In any dispute that divides a previously united internet community, a side believing it can gain the sympathies of the masses by doing so will eventually accuse the other of being sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, or otherwise bigoted toward minorities or marginalised groups, attempting to discredit them on an issue that until that point did not pertain to identity politics. This will occur regardless of the sexual or racial composition of either side.

        • Deiseach says:

          Tarrou, I know that even framing the question is oppressive, threatening, micro- and macro-aggressive, and denying the validity of your identified orientation, but I have to ask for clarification:

          I can’t figure out if “inverse bisexual” means you are straight or gay, or if it means you’re asexual 🙂

      • stillnotking says:

        the whole “Chairman Pao” thing, which ranges from “vaguely racist” to “extremely racist”

        The problem with this argument, other than its obvious ridiculousness (imagine the counterfactual if her last name were Spitler), is that it contributes to the ongoing degradation of “racist” as a meaningful accusation. If that is actually your goal — one never knows on the internet — then congratulations, you’re helping achieve it.

        • Mary says:

          Ongoing? Do you have any evidence that it has any meaning left at all?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I’d say it’s pretty safe to call dylan roof a racist.

          • Randy M says:

            If Dylan Roof is “racist” and people who say “Chairman Pao” are “extremely racist” the word seems mighty flexible.

          • Steve Johnson says:

            Left?

            It was always meaningless.

            As near as I can tell “racist” ranges in meaning from “holds accurate beliefs about average group traits” to “is a white person” (all white people are racists, no non-white people can be racist – that’s exactly equivalent to stating that “racist” means “white person”).

          • Machine Interface says:

            “Racist” has the objective meaning of “one who adheres to the ideology of racism”. Racism is defined as the two-fold belief in:
            1) The existence of essentialist and discrete categories of human beings based on lineage and known as “race”.
            2) The existence of a resulting natural hierarchy between the aforementionned categories.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @Machine Interface: If I’m reading you right, by the definition you just gave all the SJers are “racist” and most of their opponents aren’t. AFAICT, SJers claim that:

            (1) “white” is an essentialist and discrete category of human beings (and there are others – at a minimum there is a “not-white” category), and
            (2) there exists a “resulting natural hierarchy between the aforementioned categories”. For instance those in the category “white” have more “privilege” and others have less; there is a hierarchy in terms of how much “privilege” different groups have.

            So by your definition all the SJ folk are “racists”. Whereas those who object to terms such as “white” (and perhaps prefer not to delineate various races as “marked” in that way) and/or those who are skeptical of the SJ concept of “privilege” must not be “racist”. Right?

          • Nita says:

            @ Glen Raphael

            Remarkably, both of of those are incorrect.

            (1) “Whiteness” is not essential, but socially contingent — e.g., Ashkenazi Jews and the Irish have become a lot “whiter” over time.

            (2) The hierarchy of privilege is not natural.

          • Machine Interface says:

            It is possible that a subset of social justice activists hold racist beliefs.

            It is also possible that a subset of racial realists hold racist beliefs.

            It is probably more likely, however, that these subsets hold beliefs that only line up with racism in the sense of being a rationalization of xenophobia (the feeling of fear, hatred or contempt for members of outgroups defined among racial, national, clannic, geographic, religious, cultural or linguistic lines), but not in the minutiae of the beliefs.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @Nita: I completely agree that what’s considered “white” has changed over time but it still seems to me at any given point in time the category is regarded by the race-obsessed, aka, by “racists” as well-defined and core to understanding a person’s role in society.

            Google says “Essentialism is the view that, for any specific entity (such as an animal, a group of people, a physical object, a concept), there is a set of attributes which are necessary to its identity and function.”

            Given that definition, somebody who says #allLivesMatter and thinks we should be colorblind isn’t an essentialist with regard to race. Somebody who says #BlackLivesMatter and views each new conflict through the lens of race IS an essentialist with regard to race. The SJWs claim whiteness or blackness is an attribute which is necessary to understanding how society functions; somebody who resists that point of view fails to be an essentialist.

    • Steve Johnson says:

      It’s not just the fawning media coverage.

      How the hell does someone with her track record [her most noteworthy accomplishment being a sexual discrimination lawsuit that took a jury about 20 minutes of deliberation to shoot down] even get that job?

      Pure Cathedral – she gets appointed because she’s part of a network that has power. Some people in that network are in public positions while others are in nominally private roles.

    • Shenpen says:

      Today feminism > socialism, plain simply.

      Socialism is dead. Today authors who tell women to become top capitalists are applauded by the Left.

      I think nyrwdw… this guy who also comments here wrote that in the US liberalism took over leftism. Seems true.

      I should also add, in some european countries economic leftism is in the process of going right-wing and gets combined with nationalism.

      Interesting times.

      • birdboy2000 says:

        At least from the point of view of the press – which is after all owned by very rich individuals. Feminism, unlike socialism, costs them nothing to support.

      • Randy M says:

        The great thing about the coining of the “SJW” term is that it can differentiate between the letists who care about poverty issues and the coalition attempting to gain spoils based on marginalized victim status without using the now-comically ironic term “liberal.”

      • Steve Johnson says:

        Feminism and socialism aren’t meaningfully different – just an argument over who should get the spoils of looting the productive economy.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      Because the media has memory for characters, Ellen Pao’s media journey works like this:

      >Pao vs Kleiner Perkins (or whatever was the name of the firm): Big Venture Capital firm are default bad guys, by opposing them Ellen Pao is, by default, the good guy. She’s also a (highly remunerated, and allegedly unpelasant, but it is honestly not that relevant, and bad from a clickbait perspective) female, minority worker, so she’s even more of a good guy.
      >Pao vs Reddit: Reddit is already an established villain, not a collective of people, but an amorphous blob with the worst qualities of each of its members, Pao is already a hero (a tragic hero, even, since she lost her lawsuit). Perfect setup for a story.

      Really, there’s no grand conspiracy, it’s just storytellers trying to tell a story that’ll resonate with their audience.

      >Pure Cathedral – she gets appointed because she’s part of a network that has power.

      She got appointed because it was a great PR move for Reddit (who has a target on its back from internet media), plus, makes for an easy fall guy for when they try to implement their policy changes.

      >Today feminism > socialism, plain simply.

      Only in some places of the internet. Unfortunately, on most of the places of the internet that I (and probably you) frequent. The truth is that feminism isn’t even that popular: less than half of the women in the US identify as feminists in public, time magazine had a huge fallout with their “Words we need to stop using article”, Hillary Clinton (whose public positions are a good indication of what political analysts think people care about) dropped the “War on Women” campaign and hopped on the “income inequality” bandwagon in a heartbeat.

      Unless with feminism you mean “Women should have equal rights”, because I suspect that’s going to stick around.

      • Saint_Fiasco says:

        female, minority worker

        Aren’t Asian women overrepresented in tech?

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          And women are overrepresented in the human race, that’s not what minority means around these parts, lad.

          • Saint_Fiasco says:

            I was talking about the ‘Asian’ part. I know women are underrepresented in IT jobs.

            The reason I’m confused is because usually the relatively affluent minorities are despised more than the poor ones. So Pao should get ‘good guy’ points for being a woman, but being Asian (as opposed to Black or Latino) should be seen as a point against, because Asians are as likely to be a part of the 1% as Caucasians.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            It was a joke. Speaking seriously, and at the risk of being uncharitable (well, more uncharitable than “internet reporting is all about pandering to your base with pretty stories that also make your outgroup mad, in order to maximize clicks”, anyway), I think you’re giving them too much credit. Minority status is completely context dependent: Because she’s the hero, then you frame her minority status as something positive. If she were a villain, it would be ignored (because even if they are part of a “priviledged minority”, we’re still not quite at the point of accepting racism yet).

          • Earthly Knight says:

            It’s a mistake expecting any kind of consistency from the media when it involuntarily reclassifies the part-black, part-hispanic killer of Trayvon Martin as white, but nods along in silence while the white European diversity officer at Goldsmiths styles herself a racial minority. The bromide that race is socially constructed takes on a sinister tone when it turns out to mean that the media knows in advance which race is the villain race and which the heroic underdog race, and constructs the players in the story accordingly.

      • Nornagest says:

        less than half of the women in the US identify as feminists in public

        This could be rephrased as “there are fifty million or more public feminists in the US”, which by the standards of most social movements is amazingly successful.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          The number I read about was closer to “less than 20%”. And what does Feminist mean to each person obviously muddies the wáter.

          Still, I admit that talking about it in absoulte terms gives a different perspective to the size of the movement.

      • Steve Johnson says:

        sj – >Pure Cathedral – she gets appointed because she’s part of a network that has power.

        whatever happened to anonymous – She got appointed because it was a great PR move for Reddit

        Tomato / tomato. It’s a “great PR move” to appoint someone who’s connected with the Cathedral. Objectively speaking, it wasn’t really good PR was it? Still got positive NYTimes stories though.

      • DrBeat says:

        The truth is that feminism isn’t even that popular

        Feminists can make demands to hurt people, and have their demands met, solely because they are feminists. Feminists can say “I want this, and I am a feminist. You have to do it.” and get what they want. If you cause a popular feminist to be upset, they will ruin your lives because you made a feminist upset. If you disagree with a feminist in public, you are wrong and you are a bad person who should be hurt and is unworthy of love, because of the fact you disagreed with a feminist. Feminists can make things up that are obvious self-serving lies, and say “I believe this because I am a feminist”, and everyone else is forced to respect that lie and treat it as a sacred belief.

        Feminism has so much power in the social sphere it’s like fucking cheating. Maybe only 20% of people will call themselves feminist, but the majority of the rest will attack people who hurt a feminist’s feelings, believe lies told by feminists because they are feminists, give into the demands of feminists because they are feminists, and excuse the misdeeds of feminists because they are feminists.

        • Anonymous says:

          Have you tried risperidone?

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          >Feminists can make demands to hurt people, and have their demands met, solely because they are feminists. Feminists can say “I want this, and I am a feminist. You have to do it.” and get what they want.

          I’m going to need a source for that, bro. I mean, I kind of can guess what you mean, but “we” are becoming increasingly inmunized to this, when feminists do something dumb (false rape accusations, the protein world fiasco, etc) they are being met with a lot of backlash.

          Unless you live in Sweden, in which case, I’m sorry.

          > If you disagree with a feminist in public, you are wrong and you are a bad person who should be hurt and is unworthy of love, because of the fact you disagreed with a feminist.

          Only in the internet, not even the whole internet.

          >Feminists can make things up that are obvious self-serving lies, and say “I believe this because I am a feminist”, and everyone else is forced to respect that lie and treat it as a sacred belief.

          This has little to do with them being feminists, and a lot to do with them being women in the internet. Ask a self professed “male feminist” (or “ally”, I’ll be damned if I can keep up with the terminology) if what they say is respected and treated as a sacred belief.

    • Tyre says:

      The me, the most irritating thing about media coverage of the Pao situation was the conflation of two different groups. One the one hand, you had the users livid over the banning of r/fph, who were already angry at Pao’s being Reddit CEO anyway for reasons Scott talked about in his Tumblr post. The other group were the moderators who shut down dozens of the site’s most popular subreddits (including subreddits made up mostly of users who supported shutting down /r/fph) for hours over the firing of the admin that assisted in organizing AMAs and the general discontent with lack support from management. When the moderators ended their boycott after management said they would fix the mod tools, members of the first group sent them messages (some rather nasty, of course) because they saw them as ruining their best opportunity to get Pao to leave.

      I would think the moderators had more of an impact with respect to Pao’s exit than the first group despite the online petition calling for her dismissal, but most media reports entirely downplay the moderators’ actions. Not that it matters, because Reddit’s management will continue the same policies even after it used Pao as a (rather effective) scapegoat.

    • RCF says:

      If you can afford to take several months off work to live in a tent in a park, you’re part of the 1%. Wildly privileged people pretending they’re oppressed was the core of OWS from the beginning. Sort of like how so many newspapers’ editorial boards took a stance criticizing the Citizens United decision, oblivious to the hypocrisy of media megacorporations urging opposition to a court decision that found corporations to have a constitutional right to speak on political matters.

  32. (The thermonuclear option is that browsers just include some code to refuse to render any site relating to homosexuality, and now you’re done. But that is ridiculous – who would ever believe that browser companies would take it upon themselves to be the arbiter of people’s personal beliefs about homosexuality?)

    This isn’t equivalent to a centralized service like Facebook or Google censoring though; if Firefox or Chromium included such a misfeature, it’d be forked in a hot nanosecond with the offending code removed. Network effects don’t lock people into a particular canonical version of an open source project in the same way that they do for a centrally provided service not amenable to forking or user modification.

    This, of course, points the way to a solution: build protocols with ecosystems of open tools around them, not centralized platforms which can act as chokepoints for social control. The answer is not a better Facebook or a better Reddit or a better Twitter, but modernizing and restoring the old, decentralized services like USENET.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      ” if Firefox or Chromium included such a misfeature, it’d be forked in a hot nanosecond with the offending code removed. ”

      Yeah, you could do that. But would Github host your fork?

  33. Peter says:

    I once found a comic of the same style as xkcd debunking the xkcd definition of censorship. The founding fathers had intentionally left censorship undefined and they didn’t buy the xkcd definition. Unfortunately, I can’t find it anymore.

    • Pete says:

      That’s clearly xkcd’s worst comic. If nothing else, it ignores the roughly 7 Billion of us not protected by the first amendment.

      It also ignores hundreds of years of thinking on the value of free speech and the reason it needs protecting, going back at least as far as JS Mill.

      Anyway, was it this one?
      http://i.imgur.com/cbLtmZg.png

      Edit to add: or maybe this one? http://sealedabstract.com/rants/re-xkcd-1357-free-speech/

      • Peter says:

        It was the second one. Thank you, Pete!

      • Derelict says:

        That’s clearly xkcd’s worst comic. If nothing else, it ignores the roughly 7 Billion of us not protected by the first amendment.

        I’ll admit it was the comic that made me stop reading xkcd.

        And that sealed abstract comic is great. I just wish it were slightly better formatted and didn’t use an “imitation Munroe writing” font.

  34. oligopsony says:

    Abolishing decentralized soft-coercive censorship is impossible for the same way that abolishing violence is impossible. Of course, we can have a debate about what’s worth soft-coercively censoring, and do, but I suspect most of us don’t want to do that directly because those debates are tired and boring.

  35. ddreytes says:

    I agree that this is a real (structural / social / not especially partisan) problem. But I do think it’s somewhat less bad than you make out, if for no reason other than 4chan still exists, and is still fairly popular.

    Alright sleep now.

    • Simon says:

      Didn’t 4chan a while ago finally give the boot to all the NS/WP types on /pol/, though?

      • Erik says:

        Sort of. Lots of them moved to 8chan.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          Not at all, 8chan’s version of pol is mostly left wing (which is not surprising, since it was pretty much built by GGers, which are mostly left wing and care about stuff, meaning they are earnest in their leftiness), while NatSocs and “Race Realists” are still alive and kicking in /pol/ classic (and still mostly trolls).

          As for GG, it’s banned in the same way race and gender are banned in OTs here, the fact that it was actively banned for a while (mostly in order to lay low, but still) is a bit worrying, but even then 8chan emerged as an even freer alternative.

          • Simon says:

            That’s… odd, I thought GG was for the most part a right-libertarian backlash against a perceived left-progressive cultural hegemony within gaming journalism. The public faces of the “movement” (Adam Baldwin, C. H. Sommers, Milo Yiannopoulos) certainly have their loyalties to the libertarian right.

            Then again I haven’t played video games since back in high school, so I guess I’m pretty out of touch with the subculture right now.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Simon – polls in r/kia found the majority of ants to be moderate/left with a strong libertarian bent. That matches fairly well with all the people I know who sided with them. Heck, before GG I thought I was a feminist. I voted for Obama the first time around, and stayed home the second because I felt like he was too much like Bush.

            The most representative “public face” the movement had was probably John Bain, who I’m pretty sure wouldn’t appreciate being described as “Libertarian Right”. You don’t see mainstream leftist icons siding with the movement because the blue tribe consensus that it was untouchable formed too fast.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >That’s… odd, I thought GG was for the most part a right-libertarian backlash against a perceived left-progressive cultural hegemony within gaming journalism.

            Well, I’d that’s one of the reasons for its popularity. A lot of people don’t enjoy the “SJ = Left / Non-SJ = Right” trend that’s been going on. It didn’t work out for them, because now they’re all misogynistic neckbeard reactionaries, but hey, they tried!

            >The public faces of the “movement” (Adam Baldwin, C. H. Sommers, Milo Yiannopoulos) certainly have their loyalties to the libertarian right.

            Yes, because these are the ones who decided to side with them, for a variety of reasons. Most of the GGers don’t care about their political affiliation, because for them “Shit that’s ruining gaming” and “Political stuff that actually matters” are two very different things.

      • Kyle says:

        There’s a “White Pride” thread on /pol/ right now with 50some replies and 20some image replies, so I’d assume not.

    • _vk_ says:

      I’m afraid 4chan has been kill in this sense since last September when GG discussion was banned.

  36. knz says:

    Do you actually go on reddit? You seem to have fallen into the same trap all the other people writing about reddit have — casting it into something that suits their ideology. Gawker/Jezebel/etc. paint reddit as some invincible army of racism and sexism. You seem to be saying it’s a poor, helpless victim, at the mercy of the SJW media.

    In reality, most redditors aren’t flaming bigots, and most redditors don’t care about media coverage of reddit. The few times a negative article about reddit hits the front page, it’s met with amusement. And in response, reddit upvotes horrible caricatures of Gawker and Tumblr. It’s all fair.

    Later on, I’m not sure if you imply that reddit will become “first tier” or “second tier”. If you mean the former, you should actually check out some of the worst subreddits — reddit is _extremely_ permissive because its subreddit system lets people avoid having to engage with the “second tier” part of the site. The only reason r/fph got banned was because it ventured outside of its own subreddit to harass other people, and even when it was banned, the ‘second tier’ ideas just moved into the first tier! Now every day or so there’ll be a post on the front page dog whistling about the dangers of obesity.

    Since reddit is clearly not ‘first tier’, I guess you must have meant that reddit will become second tier because of all the negative press about it. But reddit has been taking the same amount of negative press for _years_ now, and nobody on the site is worried. At least here, the SJW media machine isn’t nearly as strong as you think it is.

    • James Picone says:

      You should probably read Scott’s tumblr post about reddit stuff – it’s linked in the article above.

      (Broadly, the problem with that narrative is that the SJW areas of reddit were probably worse for brigading and general harassment, but they didn’t get touched).

      • Simon says:

        “Broadly, the problem with that narrative is that the SJW areas of reddit were probably worse for brigading and general harassment, but they didn’t get touched” <- I dislike the term "SJW"; because how often it's used as a thought-terminating cliché to mean "person I disagree with", but that generally matches my experience of every type of unforgivable behaviour or bad habit stereotypically associated with the right in practice being something I see left-wingers engage in way more often than even the most extreme rightists I know. As someone who continues to support mostly left-wing causes in practice, what with me being a contributing member of a trade union, I find this extremely disturbing.

        Not-so-fun fact: The only of my exes who's right-wing actually gets *more* misogynistic hate mail when she participates in political debate online than women of the left do. Before her I dated an avowed Marxist, so it's not like I don't have any comparable points of reference.

        • AnonymousCoward says:

          I for one wish SJWs would give their philosophy a name and stand by it, but of course part of their strategy is to pretend that all decent people agree with them already, and so they’re actually in the majority and only need to label their enemies and not themselves, so we’re stuck with SJW. Maybe I would call them “antipluralists” or something, in the sense of them seemingly being against political pluralism. But maybe that doesn’t quite capture the essence of them.

          • “but of course part of their strategy is to pretend that all decent people agree with them already”

            A dangerous tactic when you get into real world politics, since it gives you the Silent Majority that was supposed to elect Barry Goldwater and results today in lots of people on the left who honestly believe that if Bernie Sanders can get nominated he’ll win in a landslide.

          • Anonymous says:

            They have taken a name for their philosophy: social justice. But this name does not lend itself to referring to people, hence SJW.

            There are a couple of other points. Older SJ people are not happy with this use of the term. And much of the point of the W is to condemn tactics, not necessarily the philosophy of where they want to go.

        • candles says:

          I can’t remember the name for it, but there’s an interesting historical phenomenon where members of movements almost always end up called by nicknames that were originally intended derogatorily by the people who coined those nicknames. I can’t remember which of the following terms fit that rule, but I know that at least some of “Unitarian, Mormon, Quaker, Whig, Tory”, fit that bill, for example. Eventually, over time, most of the stigma drains and the name just sort of sticks. SJW is a clunky acronym, so it probably won’t stick, but if it did, it would be a very, very typical thing to have happen.

          • Anonymous says:

            Whigs and Tories, Quakers and Shakers, yes. Anabaptist was originally pejorative. I’m not sure about Baptist.

            I think that the word “Unitarian” was made up by the Anti-trinitarians themselves.

            I don’t think Mormon is a good example: they do follow the Book of Mormon. They don’t want to be called that (even today), but it’s more polite than naming them after the founder, like Lutheran or Mohammedan, which is a subtle dig that they follow a man, not God. But it is the Lutherans who have adopted that name, even though Luther was just a scholar, while Mohammed and Mormon were prophets. I think Calvinist (and Arminian) are internal names, though not official.

          • Simon says:

            See also “Cultural Marxist” and “neo-liberal”. I’ve never ever once seen a follower of Frankfurt School sociology identify as the former (except jokingly), nor a follower of Chicago School economics identify as the latter.

      • knz says:

        Okay, I read it, and was pretty disappointed. I thought Scott was usually smarter than this.

        “The problem started when the administration started shadowbanning anybody who complained about the new policy or about Pao personally. … This was when they lost me.”

        I’ve seen people complaining about being shadowbanned for complaining about Pao about… five times. And literally _every single time_, it has turned out that they really were shadowbanned for something completely different, say for posting white supremacy memes on r/pics.

        There is no narrative where it makes sense for Pao to go around banning people who disagree with her. The very fact that there are tons of 2000+ upvote comments disagreeing with her totally disproves it.

        I am disappointed that when something social justice-y comes up, Scott seems to lose his bullshit filter.

        “Yes, there was some ill will because nobody would touch /ShitRedditSays, which was a social justice subreddit dedicated to brigading the opponents of social justice, but at this point I don’t expect anybody to apply the same rules to the SJ people as the rest of us, so whatever.”

        Brigading wasn’t even the issue, harassment was. Of course brigading isn’t allowed either way, but it’s not taken seriously enough to deserve a subreddit ban. Then a large amount of r/fph people swept their harassment under the rug to make it look like the issue was brigading.

        I am disappointed that Scott cannot tell the difference between telling fat people to kill themselves and pressing a downvote button.

        “Worse, the media ignored all of this and framed it as “LOOK A WOMAN IS IN TROUBLE THAT MEANS ALL SILICON VALLEY NERDS EVERYWHERE ARE SEXIST AND SHE IS A HERO”. ”

        …yeah, Scott has obviously not seen r/all for the week or so this drama was happening. This is not like the Scott Aaronson drama at all. It was really, really overtly sexist. There is nothing wrong, even in principle, with calling the trolls harassing Pao sexist. It’s just a fact. I am really, really disappointed that Scott rounded this situation off to the nearest cliche.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Pao seems incompetent, but shadowbanning people who dare complain sounds cartoon-villain-like. Your enemies are seldom that stupid.

          • DrBeat says:

            Shadowbanning is, according to the admins, only for spambots.

            There is an entire subreddit devoted to people asking “Have I been shadowbanned?”, the answer is usually “Yes”, and zero percent of them are spambots.

            That shadowbanning is being misused is absolutely incontrovertible. Maybe you don’t find it convincing that people are being shadowbanned for disagreeing with admins. But the admins are already lying about how they use shadowbanning; why should we trust that they’ll only be willing to tell so much of a lie and not lie about using it to get rid of people they dislike?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            DrBeat, can you point to such a policy? Can you point to the admins talking about shadowbanning at all?

          • Jaskologist says:

            Just this past week, I watched reddit mods in r/programming of all places, silently vanish a thread for being critical of GitHub’s Code of Conduct, then silently vanish the thread asking why the first one was deleted, then the thread which implied that the first two deletions were wrong, and finally a third one on the same topic. No explanation was given. Posts which were supportive of the CoC were left alone.

            I don’t find it a stretch to believe that people who will erase whole threads for badthink will do the same to individuals. In fact, I think it is much more likely than the claim that they’d draw a line there.

            Also, this comment from spez reads like an admission to me that they’re using shadowbans on real people.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Jaskologist, “admission” is an odd choice of word. Spez doesn’t like the current system, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t consistent. Indeed, the fact that they don’t have any other punishment for real people demonstrates that DrBeat is full of shit.

            Moderators and different than Admins. Only site-wide Admins can do site-wide shadowbans. What you saw in a subreddit was probably local moderators. Maybe they lie about their policies and/or have crazy policies, but they cannot (shadow)ban people outside of their subreddit.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The easy test is to show the person who was shadowbanned merely for complaining.

        • Eluvatar says:

          I’m disappointed too.

          I usually find much more careful consideration in Scott’s writings.

          As I remember Scott as having acknowledged being personally threatened by some angry ‘SJW’ messages, I would have expected Scott to anticipate bias in himself when discussing anything ‘SJW’ related.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I read the tumblr post and said “this is excellent! I wonder, though, if it’s because I’m biased to believe it.” I then promptly forgot about my bias.

            It was only when knz pointed out the line about shadowbans that I realized my thought process. While reading the essay I thought “wait, this was never confirmed” and then “well if Scott says it, it must be true” which was really “it would confirm my worldview if this was true so it must be true.” I totally forgot about that shadowbanning sentence and how much work it did for me in proving that Pao was horrible and just remembered that Pao was horrible.

            A good examination of my own bias.

    • Anonymous says:

      > The only reason r/fph got banned was because it ventured outside of its own subreddit to harass other people

      That’s not the real reason IMO – there was one incident where that happened that the admins keep bringing up as an excuse. The real reason was more likely that FPH threads had started regularly showing up on the front page of r/all, thus attracting media attention. That’s why the only significant change in the recently announced reddit policy is that objectionable material (by some yet to be determined definition) will be hidden by default.

      (FWIW I don’t really approve of FPH itself but I’m concerned about the general chilling effects of giving into SJW pressure to censor things. Although I’ve never seen reddit as a good venue for politics anyway.)

      • stillnotking says:

        The “brigading” thing was most definitely an excuse; many other subreddits (notably the popular SJW hangout /r/ShitRedditSays) regularly engage in brigading without getting so much as a warning for it.

        /r/FatPeopleHate’s subject matter was a necessary condition for its banning. Most people seem to be arguing over whether it was a sufficient one, which is irrelevant.

        • Galle says:

          The idea that SRS brigades is mostly a phantom. It was basically dead at the time FPH was banned.

          (Not that SRS didn’t earn its reputation as a hive of scum and villainy, it’s just that it’s days as a hive of scum and villainy were long gone)

          • stillnotking says:

            It’s still around, although a lot of them have migrated to /r/subredditdrama and other subs in the “fempire”. You’re right, their glory days are probably behind them; the fact remains they did a ton of brigading for a long time and never got banned for it.

          • Galle says:

            The explicit reason Reddit gave for not banning SRS under their new harassment policy was that they’ve basically been dead since long before the harassment policy was implemented. Not making the law retroactive isn’t unfair, so you can’t use SRS as an example of a subreddit that has been unfairly not-banned.

          • stillnotking says:

            Brigading, previously known as “vote cliquing”, was against reddit rules since the inception of the site. It’s been recognized for years that SRS/SRD are de facto vote brigades, even though they deny (probably truthfully) any organized effort in that direction. FPH didn’t formally organize either, and brigading was explicitly forbidden in the sub’s rules as well as reddit’s. That didn’t stop FPH from being banned.

          • Galle says:

            The weird thing is, everyone knows that SRS and SRD brigade, but nobody’s ever actually seen them do it. SRD’s anti-brigading rules are extremely strictly enforced, and SRS just doesn’t have the population to form a meaningful downvote brigade these days – in fact, while I don’t have the reference on hand, someone actually took a look and found that being linked to SRS usually proceeded a comment getting UPVOTED.

          • Secretariat says:

            SRS has the practice of putting scores to comments they link in post titles. During peak SRS it was common to see posts tagged [+50] that clicked through to [-50]. Some kind of stray voting pattern was going on.

          • Nita says:

            @ Secretariat

            In major subreddits, the huge wave of voters that flock to popular posts can change things a lot.

            E.g., I’ve often seen comments like “ugh, this gem is buried and the top comment is a dumb joke!” under the top comment.

            On the bright side, this might mean that, contrary to SRS fears, the majority of reddit users don’t like racist comments and rape jokes all that much.

          • stillnotking says:

            Also, there were people who replied to every comment SRS linked with the message that they’d linked it, in an effort to counteract the brigading.

            That the brigading happened is incontrovertible. It happened to me, personally, at least twice. The most obvious instances were when every comment on a “problematic” post got downvoted. Even innocuous, banal comments would be sitting at -100, which simply doesn’t happen unless someone has an axe to grind.

  37. Jeremy says:

    My first thought is that this is an issue of “revealed preferences” as them economists would say. Some people care about the marketplace of ideas, and some people don’t. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the more libertarian site is attempting to take users from the less libertarian one. What if most people really are apathetic, or actively against being part of a community that accepts weirdos. Then it seems less like a coordination problem and more like a few ideologues trying to optimize everyone for an objective that is held only by them. I suppose that’s the most cynical way you could look at it.

  38. Shenpen says:

    The all too obvious solution is to split. When imgur started to ban fatpeoplehate images, they made slimgur. Slimgur will probably never be used for anything else, anyone who thinks it is a fat hating site will be correct. Meanwhile, imgur is getting almost free from fat-hate. Isn’t it a good outcome for everybody?

    >The worst possible end-game for this is the two-tier marketplace of ideas mentioned above, with an unfortunate twist – everyone knows that the second tier is inhabited entirely by witches, and therefore being on the second tier is sufficient to convict you.

    >You’re not a second tier kind of person, are you?

    But anonymity! These arein’t persons, these are account, login names! If slimgur is your idea of second tier, only login names get associated with it, and the association is generally correct. In fact the logins are often like TheKingOfShitlords so it is all kinda obvious. What is the issue with it?

    The only real issue is doxxing / involuntary breach of anonymity. THAT is what needs to be punished mercilessly and everybody will be happy.

    Why not have a “liberal” forum like Reddit, a “shitlord” one like Voat, a Reactionary one like Social Matter and so on?

    These sites are basically participative newspapers. What is the issue with them being categorized? Like, everybody who writes in National Review is obviously a conservative. Writing to National Review is a reason good enough to be hated by liberals. Is that bad? The same way conservatives can hate everybody who writes to Salon.com. So Reddit becomes Salon.com and something else becomes NR.

    What is the issue with this all? Why do you want different people to write the same media?

    • Nita says:

      The only real issue is doxxing / involuntary breach of anonymity. THAT is what needs to be punished mercilessly and everybody will be happy.

      The problem is that not everyone can be anonymous.

      1) Anything that intersects with the “real life” world can make anonymity impossible or inconvenient. Eliezer couldn’t recruit people to MIRI. David Friedman couldn’t explain the arguments in his book. Scott Aaronson couldn’t discuss quantum computing with colleagues and strangers. Reddit employees couldn’t interact with the community.

      2) Regaining and maintaining anonymity is hard. E.g., our Scott is not anonymous. He could throw this blog away and start again, but he would have to either change his style and subjects, or live in constant fear of being discovered.

      Sure, small-time plankton like us can enjoy our freedom, but it has major limitations, and in some ways rests on the reduced anonymity of whoever is hosting the site.

      Besides, if everyone was anonymous, how would you punish the doxxers?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      99% of people will see that something is on the witch sites and dismiss it out of hand as low status. No newspaper will cover any witch idea, no politician will consider any witch-related proposal, and any witch exposed as a witch will be fired from their job and ostracized from their friends. “That’s the sort of idea you only find on witch sites” will be taken as a knock-down argument, and any idea can be relegated to that status with a little bit of popular/media effort.

      If all you want is to discuss witchcraft with three of your witch friends, fine, you can still do that. If you want an Overton Window larger than a peephole, you need something stronger.

      • DataShade says:

        Yeah. Try starting a conversation “I was on 4chan’s /b/ yesterday when I saw someone make a really good point” and if anyone who knows about 4chan is still listening past “yesterday” you’re probably talking to a mirror.

        • Nornagest says:

          If you start a conversation with “I was on 4Chan’s /b/ yesterday…”, and you are not talking to someone you know to be a channer or at least a fellow traveler, then you are being remarkably tone-deaf. Try “I saw a post yesterday that said…”, or even “I read yesterday that…”.

          • Randy M says:

            Especially if you pronounce the “/”

          • Saint_Fiasco says:

            Try “I saw a post yesterday that said…”, or even “I read yesterday that…”.

            I hate when people do that. I have been spoiled by the Internet, where it’s very easy to share the source of whatever you heard, and now can’t help but assume that people who “read things somewhere”, without specifying where, are bulshitting.

          • Randy M says:

            You can conversationally “clikc the hyperlink” with the command “Oh yeah, where did you read that? I’d like to check it out.”
            Althought granted that does fairly often return a 404:Bad Gateway.

          • Nornagest says:

            it’s very easy to share the source of whatever you heard, and now can’t help but assume that people who “read things somewhere”, without specifying where, are bulshitting.

            Attribution norms are different in casual conversation. Giving an attribution for something in person, unsolicited, is likely to be seen as an attempt at a status play*, and most Internet-native sources are so incredibly low-status that using one in this context is about a step above growing a second head that has horns and fangs and utters only blasphemy.

            This isn’t even chan-exclusive; 4Chan is about as bad as it gets, but Reddit or Tumblr or some random blog that your interlocutor’s never heard of aren’t much better. Wikipedia isn’t too bad, being only mildly disreputable.

            * (E.g. “I read in the New York Times that…” “Well, I read in the Wall Street Journal that…”)

        • Shenpen says:

          But the point is, don’t put the points you want to get accepted by the mainstream people into 4chan. Put the quirky stuff there which they would not accept anyway.

      • Shenpen says:

        But if the split is more or less accurate and the witch sites contain into witch info, the rest of the people would dismiss it anyway. If I have an nrx opinion, does it matter if people dismiss it because it is an nrx opinion or because it is on an nrx site? While my non-nrx opinions I can just put on a different site with a different login.

        You see – and I mean this reference only purely in the tactical sense, I don’t agree with them – the KKK realized this long ago. Most people will not accept what they say anyway, so they just say it anonymously, wearing the hood. Then they take it off an live a normal life. Everything KKKish is said wearing the hood and everything non KKKish without a hood Is there any other setup that could lead to better outcomes from their viewpoint? I seriously doubt so.

        Stupid as their goals are, from a tactical and organizational viewpoint they are a perfect example of how to get away with something unpopular.

        They would be marginalized anyway for opinions like that, even if it was published in a normal magazine with a face and name. So – and this is the clever part – they fully present themselves as marginal and anonymous, which actually attracts recruits through being mysterious and different.

        Or perhaps a more leftie example, anarchists wearing balaclava and throwing stones during Davos type stuff. Don’t they look more interesting, more like an elite or avant-guarde, than as if some guy discuss the same views openly in the media?

  39. Murphy says:

    I’m not so sure the stereotypes about 4chan fall so far from the mark and I’m comfortable familiar with 4chan.

    The denizens of 4chan or at least /b/ glory in being the asshole of the internet but at least they’re the *funny* asshole of the internet.

  40. Publius Varinius says:

    It’s a truism that the First Amendment only protects citizens from the government, not from other citizens.

    It is a truism, but an irreleveant truism. The right to free speech does not come from the First Amendedment, it merely reaffirms that right for citizens of the United States.

    The right to free speech is affirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as follows:

    “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”

    You can hold the belief that freedom of speech is not a good right to have, other rights trump it, or even that rights are not a good idea in general, and one should prefer some utilitarian dictator. You shouldn’t hold the belief that freedom of speech was intended to apply to the government only: it explicit applies to any kind of interference, and any medium, anywhere.

    • Shenpen says:

      … except the problem whether private property rights override it or not.

      Arguably they are stronger rights – the world could simply not function as we know it if any magazine was forced to publish every reader letter if the reader wishes it so, if anti-Microsoft protestors could march inside Microsoft’s offices unimpeded, if you cannot throw out someone from your yard as long as they are chanting political slogans, and so on.

      But this is a closed issue. Private entitites can censor because the Left wants them to censor and the Right wants no interference with private property. So who would challenge it?

      • Publius Varinius says:

        any magazine was forced to publish every reader

        Free speech rights don’t force anyone to publish anything. When cast as a duty, the right to free speech does not say that you have a duty to publish anything; it says that you have the duty to not interfere if someone else does. The duties of individuals and private corporations are identical to government duties in this sense.

        I agree that it’s possible for private property rights to override free speech rights in some cases.

        I agree that this is a closed case. But equating “free speech” with “First Amendment” is disingenious nonetheless.

        • Aegeus says:

          How much of a “duty to publish” you have is *exactly* the issue here, because Reddit et al. provide a publishing platform for their users. If Reddit doesn’t have a duty to allow FPH-ers to publish on their site, what was the issue with their banning? They can still speak “without interference,” they just can’t use Reddit’s platform to do it.

          Basically, if Reddit cannot ban a subreddit, it is obligated to keep it, therefore it has a duty to publish it.

          • Publius Varinius says:

            I am not here to decide which of the two conflicting rights (association and free speech) is more important in the case of reddit. In fact, I never had an issue with reddit banning stuff. If I had an issue with anything, it was e.g. the Moldbug’s case, and the case of Gawker media, which are much more black and white cases of actual interference; but I don’t have very strong feelings about these either.

            I’m merely here to point out that Scott’s assertion about the scope of free speech is mistaken.

        • “Free speech rights don’t force anyone to publish anything.”

          A bit up the thread, someone posted a link to a cartoon parodying XKCD which included a quote from the ACLU about net neutrality being an important free speech issue. Saying “you have to carry the following sort of material on the same terms as you carry other sorts of material” is a forcing people to publish something.

          • Randy M says:

            For certain novel meanings of “publish.”
            A magazine cannot publish every letter because it would be unwieldy and costly. Perhaps when weighing the rights we should consider the relative costs to the publisher? If a new subredit has no marginal costs, perhaps we should forbid moderation.

            But then, what about an individual’s blog? Does the right of Free Speech imply that Scott must allow any and all comments? Even those simply saying “You suck”? Even double posts?

            How do you draw the line between Starslatecodex, Reddit, and the ISP itself in a way that maximizes liberty, justice, etc.?

          • Shenpen says:

            With due respect it looks a bit noncentral-fallacy type thing to me. The potential cost – in image and everything – for the National Review to have to publish a full page article written by an SJW is not even comparable to neutral ISPs working as channels not throttling some sources of bits more than others.

            I mean in the first case, the natural default behavior is to publish stuff the readers agree with an in the second case no throttling is normal and throttling selectively is a weird trick.

      • Nornagest says:

        Let’s say it’s the mid-19th century and you’re looking at railroads. Cars haven’t been invented yet, let alone a highway system capable of handling huge amounts of freight traffic, so rail is basically the only economical option for moving heavy equipment to large parts of the country. This offers scope for a lot of anti-competitive practices and other misbehavior from generalist rail lines, and you’d like to stop that.

        But wait! There are also a lot of specialized rail lines out there, designed to handle timber or ore or a bunch of other stuff. Requiring them to modify their service to accept passengers and general goods would be incredibly expensive, and wouldn’t actually buy you anything, since no one wants to ship a million tons of furniture up a mountain to a coal mine in rural Kentucky.

        So you come up with the concept of a common carrier, which obliges among other things that if you’re setting out to provide a service to the general public you don’t get to make unprincipled exceptions to it, and apply it to the former but not to the latter.

      • BBA says:

        In Robins v. Pruneyard the California Supreme Court ruled that the positive free speech right in its state constitution applies against private property owners in some contexts. The gist of it is that you can’t be banned from gathering signatures for a petition on a sidewalk or in a park, but in modern suburbia the shopping center has replaced the sidewalk as a public forum, even if it’s privately owned. (This notion has been rejected at the federal level and by most of the other states to consider it, and even in California it’s been curtailed in recent years.)

        There aren’t any sidewalks on the Internet.

    • Peter says:

      The UDHR dates back to 1948 – the First Amendment dates back a lot longer to 1791. Except that for much of its history the First Amendment only regulated the federal government; the states could restrict free speech unhindered by the First Amendment – “Congress shall make no law…” and all that. The history seems to be complicated but current thinking is that the Fourteenth Amendment (1868) makes it apply to State governments; however it seems this style of interpretation seems to go back to the 1930s – at least if my rather cursory internet research is right.

      (Also, why is it that I know more about the history of free speech law in the USA than in my own country?)

      Also, you seem to be taking a natural rights perspective here – correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think that any of my paragraph applies if you take a (IMO more sensible) positive[1] rights approach. One problem among many that I have with natural rights is that whenever anyone tries to say what they are, then the things they come out with are hopelessly vague, and end up being either toothless or requiring courts (or worse) to sort out. So you find that the declarations giveth and the interpretations taketh away – or giveth strange and wonderful things which were nowhere to be found in the declarations. I mean, some of the decisions of the US Supreme court seem to have produced similar effects to Acts Of Parliament here in the UK at pretty similar times, and I support those Acts of Parliament (well, the ones that spring to my mind right now), but with the latter I can see where they come from.

      [1] In the positive-vs-natural rather than the positive-vs-negative sense.

      • Publius Varinius says:

        I took a natural rights perspective because American legal philosophy is based on a natural rights perspective. Normally, I have a slight preference for positive interpretation too. In this case, both perspectives lead to the same conclusion.

        From a positive law perspective, humans have the right to free speech as set out in the binding UN charter, which the First Amendment does not and cannot override.

        From a natural law perspective, humans have the right to free speech as set out in the UN charter as agreed by all member states. By natural law humans have always had that right, the fact that the First Amendment codifies only a small subset of that right is irrelevant.

        • Peter says:

          UDHR: if it’s binding, as in actually binding and not just said to be binding, how is it enforced? Who is in charge of interpreting it? I did some looking but can’t really find it. The ECHR has a court, the US Constitution has a court, but the UDHR? If there’s no court, in what sense is it law?

          • Publius Varinius says:

            The International Court of Justice is the supreme court associated with the UN charter (incl. UDHR). Legally (and in the decisions of the ICJ), the obligations under the UN Charter override the terms of any other treaty or law.

            The Security Council is tasked with enforcing the terms of the UN charter. Unfortunately, as you well know, this whole Security Council thing did not work out too well. When these violations are handled (rarely), the standard procedure is to set up individual Criminal Tribunals by UNSC resolution instead of going directly to the ICJ, which usually handles lawsuits between sovereign applicants only, but in theory has the authority to override tribunal proceedings.

          • BBA says:

            As I understand it the UDHR is aspirational and is not binding on anyone, though it’s sometimes cited as persuasive authority.

            The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) is a binding treaty based on the UDHR. It has no internal enforcement mechanism, but requires member states to incorporate its provisions into domestic law. Of course there’s no way to enforce inclusion in domestic law either. When the US ratified ICCPR, the Senate attached a statement saying, roughly, “this doesn’t make any changes to domestic law and our courts can’t enforce it” so that was that.

            There’s an optional protocol to ICCPR that allows individuals to petition the UN Human Rights Committee for review of their countries’ compliance with the treaty. Many countries (including the US and UK) haven’t signed on to this, and in those that have there’s no way for anyone to enforce UNHRC decisions (e.g. Waldman v. Canada).

        • brad says:

          From a positive law perspective, humans have the right to free speech as set out in the binding UN charter, which the First Amendment does not and cannot override.

          Maybe there’s some meaning of “positive law” I’m missing, but in domestic legal terms, the hierarchy of laws is:
          US Constitution > Federal statutes = treaties > State Constitutions > State laws

          Within that schema the UN charter is a treaty. The Charter however does not contain the discussed provision. Rather it is in the UDHR which is a General Assembly resolution. Under international law such resolutions have no direct binding effect, although they can be evidence of customary international law (CIL) which do have binding effect.

          In any event all this line of argument strikes me as a rather weak appeal to authority. De facto international law does not require countries to pass laws e.g. forbidding employers from firing employees that publicly espouse views the employer finds loathsome. If you wish to argue for such a norm it would be more effective to argue for it directly than to argue it is required by the UDHR.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I don’t think the UDHR is very meaningful in real life. If I tried to tell Reddit “YOU CAN’T DO THIS, IT’S AGAINST THE UN DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS”, I’m not sure I’d get very far.

      • Publius Varinius says:

        Then again, “IT’S AGAINST THE FIRST AMENDMENT” won’t get you very far either.

      • Shenpen says:

        I actually think they like to look progressive and progressive ususally see UHDR as a gold standard.

    • Anonymous Pedant says:

      It is a truism, but an irrelevant truism.

      Irrelevancy is the defining characteristic of a truism; that’s what separates it from a truth.

      Sorry for the nitpick, but all “ATM machine”-type tautologies give me a bad itch in the upper spinal regions.

  41. stillnotking says:

    My go-to example against the AnCaps was always poker rooms: Very often, the most popular poker rooms in a given city end up being the ones with the worst policies (highest rake, poorest floor supervision, etc.), simply because poker players have to go where all the other poker players are, and management takes advantage of this. Whichever room ends up being the most popular — often for reasons of poker-unrelated branding and tourist traffic — can get away with murder, despite all of their customers having an absolute right to go play somewhere else.

    • Shenpen says:

      Are you even sure that is a bad thing? A sensible, mathemathical market where people go for the best value / price ratio would be kinda boring. This setup sounds more adventurous.

      • stillnotking says:

        While some of the floor decisions I’ve seen from underpaid/undertrained staff have been genuinely entertaining — my personal favorite was the ruling that a player who’d verbally declared “all in” was just kidding — paying an extra five bucks an hour doesn’t seem worth the dubious thrill of Calvinpoker.

  42. MarkW says:

    “We don’t trust the free market to necessarily preserve racial equality – that’s what anti-discrimination laws are for.”

    Not exactly. In the bad old days of the Jim Crow south, pro-discrimination laws *required* businesses to discriminate some of whom wouldn’t have done so otherwise. The best known example was the segregation of New Orleans street cars that was legally forced on private operators who did not want to segregate their passengers and had not been doing so before. The operators may have been racist, but segregation was bad for business as it made running their business more complex and costly:

    http://www.newyorker.com/culture/new-orleans-journal/the-black-star

    But of course it’s not just ancient history–in 2004 here in Michigan (as in other states), voters passed a ballot proposal that banned same-sex marriage and civil unions. The proposal also had the effect of banning same sex partner employment benefits previously offered by universities and local governments — so again, we had state regulation not protecting against discrimination but rather imposing it where it had not existed before. The same was true of the national DOMA that had the effect of clamping down on state-level relaxation of anti-gay discrimination.

    And right now, we have state-enforced discrimination against undocumented workers where — as in the case of New Orleans street cars — private businesses would strongly prefer NOT to discriminate against undocumented workers in hiring. We’re also seeing calls to clamp down on sanctuary cities — trying to force local governments to increase their discrimination against undocumented workers. It is a bad mistake to think that government regulation will always be anti-discriminatory or that the national government will always be the most tolerant. In fact, historically, the most serious and deadly ethnic discrimination has been by the state. Majorities can be extremely tyrannical.

    • suntzuanime says:

      What do pro-discrimination laws have to do with the reasons for anti-discrimination laws? We don’t trust the market to do good things, and only our opinion changes as to whether “good things” means “promote racial equality” or “keep blacks away from me”.

      • MarkW says:

        “We don’t trust the market to do good things”

        Perhaps not, but we should. There’s no doubt that many private businesses would be willing to hire undocumented workers if not threatened by the government, is there? When the anti-gay marriage proposal passed in Michigan, private companies (unlike universities and state and local governments) were free to continue providing same-sex partner benefits and did so. Even though that initiative passed in Michigan, over 40% voted against it, which left a big pool of tolerance — provided, of course, the government doesn’t clamp down and prevent that tolerance from being expressed (as it did with Jim Crow laws in the south or as it’s doing now with undocumented workers).

        The bottom line is that yes, you can trust that there will arise some private businesses (either because of their personal tolerance or merely because of a focus on the bottom line) to serve unmet needs of disfavored minorities EXCEPT where government actively prevents it.

        • oligopsony says:

          The reasonable version of not trusting the market isn’t not trusting some firms to find it in their interest to do good things, but not trusting firms in general to not find it in their interest to do bad things.

          • MarkW says:

            We’re dealing with human beings — of course some will do bad things. But is the state the only/best/most efficient way to address it (or, as in the case of taxi cartels, is there a real chance the state will make the situation worse)?

            And it’s becoming clear there’s never been a time in history where businesses were *less* able to get away with bad behavior. How long can a tourist hotel provide crappy service to a steady stream of one-time customers? Or a shoddy product continue to sell on Amazon? Or a bad driver with a bad rating continue to get fares on Uber?

      • Pro-discrimination laws provide evidence that giving the government the powers it needs to prevent discrimination may be imprudent , since how those powers get used will depend on what it is politically profitable to do with them, not on how people opposed to discrimination want them to be used.

        • Richard Gadsden says:

          The (libertarian?) idea that it is possible to deny Governments the powers to do things – any things – seems entirely ridiculous to me.

          Governments demonstrably have those powers because they have done those things. The question is not whether they should have powers to require people to discriminate or not to discriminate but whether creating a rule that says they shouldn’t exercise them at all is more effective than creating a rule that says they shouldn’t exercise them in pro-discriminatory ways.

          • John Schilling says:

            Governments have in the past executed people for saying, “The King is a Fink!”

            What do you imagine would happen if Barack Obama were to call up the FBI and say, “Donald Trump called me a Fink; go have him shot”? Would not happen. And it wouldn’t matter if is was an anonymous nobody instead of Trump, or if he called a CIA drone base rather than an FBI office, or if Obama had a democratic majority in congress to pass the “Go ahead and kill Donald Trump” law.

            It is demonstrably possible to create a government that will go into gridlock if it tries to do certain things. It is possible to create mismatched incentives within the machinery of government such that certain things, even if ordered from the highest levels, cannot in practice be done. Arguably, this constitute harnessing Moloch to productive, or at least protective, use. I don’t know how things work where you live, but we’ve had great success with this technique in the United States.

            But it works a whole lot better, with less friction and greater reliability, if the list of Things The Government Can Not Do is simple, comprehensive, and internally consistent. If you try and fine-tune it so that the government cannot tell people who they must or must not do business with except that it can tell people that they must bake wedding cakes for gay couples, now you’ve got a hackable system for the government telling people who they must or must not do business with.

          • MarkW says:

            “The (libertarian?) idea that it is possible to deny Governments the powers to do things – any things – seems entirely ridiculous to me.”

            There have been times when the power of government has been significantly reduced — this is in some sense what the ‘Whig’ view of history was about — the Magna Carta, the ‘Glorious Revolution’, the classical liberalism of the 19th century. Things that governments once did routinely become unthinkable — for example, governments once imposed sumptuary laws:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumptuary_law

            Which dictated what clothes particular classes could wear. Even as late as Shakespeare’s time, theatrical companies were given special dispensation to wear clothing above their station only while acting in stage productions.

            Governments are now denied this power that they once wielded. Closer to home, governments once banned interracial marriage, alcohol, and gay sex acts — all powers which have been lost. It won’t be surprising if the government soon loses the power to ban marijuana as it did with alcohol. I’m not saying it’s easy to restrict the range of powers that governments may conceivably exercise. But it is possible and has happened.

        • Shenpen says:

          To my Euro ears “giving the government power” sounds weird. Does the “Average Joe” in the US seriously have the power in his hands, and is allowed to decide how much power to give to the govt? This sounds highly idealistic, almost like believing in a really pure form of democracy. True power never really resides as the average folks, they cannot really give it. (Robb Stark may try to decide to not give power over the North to King Joffrey, but the average peasant has no chance.)

          Perhaps, does the “we” rather relate to more non-government high-powered actors? So should one rather imagine it as corporate moguls, city mayors, university deans getting together, metaphorically, and deciding if they give some of their own, far higher than Average Joe’s power to the government?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Shenpen – It may be idealistic, but an awful lot of us see it as the way the nation should and must work. The government serves us, and does so at our sufferance. To the extent that this ideal has become less of a reality, that is a bad thing that should be corrected if at all possible.

          • Shenpen says:

            @FacelessCroven – service and power are different things.

            The point is – putting public opinion pressure as “Hey Mr. Powerful man really use your power to give me that e.g. new motorway or I vote on someone else” is perfectly realistic.

            But public opinion pressure as “Hey Mr. Powerful Man from now on I want you to be completely unable to do thing X” – now that does not sound to realistic, right?

            The difference is, that the politicos want power and everybody else wants their problems solved. So putting pressure to _use_ power for what you want it to be used is realistic, because both sides get what they want. Putting pressure to have less power is a lot like depriving them from that one thing they want out of it. That does not sound likely.

          • Nita says:

            @ Shenpen

            A popular solution is to have more than one group of powerful men and let them counteract each other’s influence in predefined ways.

          • Tibor says:

            Well, Switzerland is pretty “euro”, I’d say (not EU, but despite the tendency in the EU media to make no distinction between the word “Europe” and “EU”, there actually is one). At the same time Switzerland seems to be as close to the “Souverän = the people” model (der Souverän is actually the term used in their laws and constitution for the citizens of the country) as possible, closer than any other country I know of actually and about as close as one could possibly get within a state society. I should add that I am not a patriotic Swiss citizen, I am actually from an EU country and sadly, your description is largely (and perhaps increasingly) true for EU countries.

        • Anonymous says:

          I agree with this in principle. It is never going to be practical to want the government to just do the things you think are good things and not do the things you think are bad things. Government power can be scaled back in meaningful ways, by getting rid of specific departments. Wanting to abolish the FDA is far more achievable than wanting the FDA to continue to exist but to stop making its bad decisions and continue making its good decisions, and if its effect is on net negative, then this change will be beneficial.

          I’m a little uncertain how well this applies to discrimination, though. A government department set to tackle discrimination is not a neutral agent like the FDA, which will sometimes do good things and sometimes do bad things that people on the left and right will generally agree are good and bad respectively. A government department set to tackle discrimination and promote diversity and equality or whatever is very explicitly left-wing. Any mistakes it makes will be viewed by one side as mistakes and by the other side as a good thing, or at worst, as neutral. I really can’t think of anything that a government department like this could do that would be viewed as just as bad by most people on the left as it would by most people on the right.

          As a result, I worry that you will have trouble convincing anyone on the left that this government body does more bad than good, because it really only has the power to go in one direction, which will only upset people who think that is a bad direction. You are never going to see your country’s equality department enforcing discriminatory ideas that are unpopular on the left, so it seems to me that this argument – if they have the power to do things you like, they also have the power to do things you don’t like – will not work on anyone who leans left.

          • I would see it not in terms of “abolish this department” but “maintain this legal rule,” where the legal rule I want to maintain is freedom of contract/association—a transaction between two people happens if and only if both want it to. I think one can have both a culture and a legal system in which violating that rule is very difficult. The U.S. has moved away from that rule over my lifetime, both culturally and legally, and I think that unfortunate.

      • Jon Gunnarsson says:

        Anti-discrimination laws have the secondary effect of pro-discrimination laws. Whenever you make any sort of decision, you discriminate. If you decide to hire Alice over Bob, you’ve discriminated in favour of Alice and against Bob. What anti-discrimination laws do is to threaten punishment for discriminating based on certain criteria. This means that people then have to discriminate based on different criteria. Whether these new criteria are more or less fair is uncertain.

        To take a realistic example, suppose you run a firm and want to use some kind of IQ test as part of your hiring process, i.e. you want to discriminate based on IQ. However, you believe that this may result in charges of racial discrimination, so instead of using the IQ test, you discriminate based on academic degrees, which you believe won’t run afoul of anti-discrimination law. The law hasn’t changed the fact that you discriminate, it just changes the criteria you use.

  43. Beliavsky says:

    “Nothing stops a private college from expelling any student who criticizes the administration”

    Are you sure? A college education can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and courts could be sympathetic to someone who was expelled for reasons deemed frivolous. There is an implied contract between school and student — you pay tuition, do the work, and at the end get a degree. I don’t think schools have complete freedom to renege on granting the degree.

    • Jiro says:

      Look at what colleges actually do in the case of rape accusations made with little evidence. They do, in fact, have near complete freedom to renege on giving what the student paid for.

      (Although part of the reason they act this way is government interference, specifically the Title IX letter.)

      • DataShade says:

        “Little evidence admissible in a court of law” isn’t the same as “little evidence admissible in an administrative disciplinary hearing.”

        If tuition is a contract, the student policy handbook is the fine print that no one reads.

  44. “We don’t trust the free market to …”

    “What you mean we, whiteman?”

    You start out by describing a libertarian vision of society. You then invisibly morph over to taking for granted beliefs held by everyone except libertarians—according to which failures of the market require anti-discrimination laws, OSHA, and various other things that most libertarians oppose.

    So far as your legitimate point about limitations in a competitive model, for speech or other things, it hinges on circumstances where bigger is better, producing natural monopolies. I pointed out more than forty years ago in _Machinery_ that the stability of the model of anarcho-capitalism I was sketching depended on economies of scale in the rights enforcement industry not going far enough to produce an equilibrium with only a small number of firms.

    The problem you see with speech is likely to be less serious in the online world than it has been in the past in realspace, because one is no longer limited to social interactions with the people who happen to live near you. So your problem only exists in situations where a single player, or a very small number, hold an effective veto over everyone. To take your example, there is no particular reason to expect Paypal to maintain a monopoly position—it’s already facing competition from Bitcoin and it has always faced competition from the credit card companies. If Facebook becomes restrictive in the ways you imagine, one can continue to chat with friends about non-political matters there while maintaining a presence on G+ or mailing lists or blog sites for talking about unpopular things. There’s are reasons I prefer posting here to posting on the FB political groups.

    The one important monopoly with the power to limit free speech is the government, which can and does pressure financial institutions, not just one institution but all the ones it has control over, to lock out people it disapproves of. You know my solution to that problem.

    • MarkW says:

      “according to which failures of the market require anti-discrimination laws, OSHA, and various other things that most libertarians oppose.”

      Yep. Who do you trust more to provide a safe driver and properly-maintained car — the local regulated taxi companies or Uber?

      • Vaniver says:

        Yep. Who do you trust more to provide a safe driver and properly-maintained car — the local regulated taxi companies or Uber?

        The root question here is whether or not it’s possible to overpay for safety.

        To use an example that’s easy to discuss, consider arsenic in drinking water, and suppose further that arsenic is a linear harm no-threshold poison–that is, twice as much arsenic is twice as bad for you, half as much is half as bad for you, regardless of the level, and any amount of arsenic above 0 will cause damage.

        Filtering arsenic out of drinking water has well-understood solutions; for engineering reasons, the costs are mostly fixed, rather than variable. That means that if I buy a black box that reduces the amount of arsenic from 50 ug/L to 10 ug/L the cost is the mostly same whether I run 10 gallons through the box or 10 million gallons through the box. (ug/L means “micrograms per liter.”)

        The costs of transporting water are high, though, and so instead of having one super-box somewhere that all the water in the world flows through, every town needs to buy their own box. Suppose also that better boxes that filter out more arsenic are more expensive.

        One approach is to set limits: “no town can provide water to its citizens with more than 10 ug/L of arsenic.” Another approach is to set prices: “since the human cost of arsenic is $X per ug/L, towns will buy boxes such that the price of a better box is not lower than the human cost of not using that box.” (A variant is to let each town decide what the value of $X is.)

        The limit approach sounds find but ignores the fact on the ground, that large cities should have much, much lower arsenic levels (since they divide the cost by the number of residents, which is much larger) and small towns should have higher arsenic levels (since a town of 50 people will get very little extra years of life from purifying their shared water source, but will have to pay as much as a city for the box).

        But that means you need to be willing to say “Paying $X more for Y more safety is too much.” It could be that people prefer the cheaper and less safe option, not because they’re idiots that don’t value the future, but because the safety is actually too expensive relative to other options.

        • MarkW says:

          In the case of taxis vs Uber, it’s not a question of overpaying for safety Taxis provide a low margin of safety, not higher. Anybody who’s spent time in cabs is fully aware how badly maintained some are as well as the dubious quality of many of the drivers. When you hail a cab, you have little idea what you’re getting until you hop in the car. Maybe it’s not even a real cab. Maybe the driver is picking you up to mug you — an endemic problem in Latin America:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Express_kidnapping

          Taxi regulation purports to be about safety, but that’s a pretext — it’s really about rent-seeking.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I am pointing out the hypocrisy of one particular (large) group, not saying no one has ever wanted to get rid of OSHA.

      • But your use of “we” reminded me of the classic Mad Magazine cartoon.

      • Anonymous says:

        @Scott Alexander

        I did feel that statement was a bit presumptuous. The reasons you offered might be reasons you and other people think these laws -should- be in place, but it’s not why they -are- in place. They’re in place because the political system happens to have produced those laws. They might be popular with different people for different reasons, might have some good justifications and some bad ones, but picking out your preferred reasons and saying that’s why we have those laws implies agency on the part of a fairly mindless process that is influenced by a million different things, and sometimes produces good results, sometimes doesn’t.

        Similarly if I were to take a law you disagree with, and say that we have that law because of X reason, I think that would be a little presumptuous too – suggesting more legitimacy in the law than is really warranted, as though it were created by a committee of wise philanthropists rather than by the political process.

    • Eli says:

      What you believe, or the utopian fantasies you sketched out 40 years ago, don’t matter in the slightest when compared to what’s actually true — which ends up being stuff that you refuse to believe.

    • Tibor says:

      I would just like to add that in case of Paypal, it is nowhere nearly as popular in Europe as it seems to be in the US. I actually almost exclusively use Paypal to buy stuff online from US-based sources. Otherwise I mostly use “Giropay”, “Sofort Überweisung” or simply a VISA card.

  45. gattsuru says:

    What’s weird is that it doesn’t really make sense for there to be single social media sites with any degree of success. Companies, yes — there’s a huge amount of technical knowledge and infrastructure overlap between even widely different corporations, and fairly few diseconomies of scale — but individual sites shouldn’t have that much overlap. There’s no particular reason that Tumblr.com is the communication method of choice for social justice blogging and weirdly objectifying porn, when it’s literally a hundred-dollars-per-year difference to have multiple subdomains, but that’s what we’ve got today and there are actually some fairly strong forces going against any change to that concept. This is part of the reason that there’s such a strong “call them a witch” effect : we’ve moved into increasingly large domains where natural intuitions about probability make less and less sense.

    The easy answer is that brand recognition is important, but that’s not clearly ‘right’. Offline, intentional brand fragmentation is a common thing, where it’s not unusual for an individual company to try to fill the same niche from multiple different names and with very minor tweaks. There are five Big Publishing Houses in the United States, and if you go through SciFi or Romance genres you’d barely ever see their names directly.

    This does happen online still, to a small extent. Tumblr is a subcomponent of Yahoo, after all, though this largely reflects history rather than intentional design. There’s some intentional fragmentation in the furry fandom, although this leads to evaporative cooling at best and some really gross witchery more often.

    ((It’s worth noting that at least some concerns are time-specific. We’re unusually vulnerable to DDoS attacks right now, because some specific vulnerabilities in certain types of DNS haven’t been patched, and they’re heavily exploited.))

    • Deiseach says:

      Offline, intentional brand fragmentation is a common thing, where it’s not unusual for an individual company to try to fill the same niche from multiple different names and with very minor tweaks.

      The publishing thing, though, is partly a result of the merger craze of the 80s where individual firms were gobbled up and amalgamated under the umbrella of large houses, until you ended up with the likes of the Big Five.

      They all brought their lists with them, so the resulting PortmanteauName* company could be publishing, under different imprints, everything from cookery books to academic textbooks. So it wasn’t really top-down decision to “we should diversify”, it was more “bottom-up” separate smaller publishers each specialising in something all being smooshed together, including the parent company deciding to sell off (say) the military history list to another company because it didn’t fit with what the new owners wanted to concentrate on.

      *e.g. the publishing house George Allen & Sons became George Allen & Unwin by a take-over became Unwin Hyman by merger was sold off eventually to HarperCollins, itself the result of Wm Collins & Sons merging with Harper and Row. As a child, I had a mini-hobby about learning off and recognising the colophons of publishers, so as the old companies folded or were snapped up, I was a little sad to see the historic colophons go and the new logos of the BigHouseGroup being slapped on instead.

      • gattsuru says:

        That’s true to an extent: Tor was a separate company under Tom Doherty, and only became part of the “Big Five” after several different mergers and buyouts. Baen and its unintentionally retro style are a little more complicated, and seem to have been an intentional psuedo-spinoff from Simon and Schuster, and then there’s the mess that is the Saga and Atria imprints. Orbit was a separate imprint from day one, but for MacDonald Futura, and it’s only after several reshufflings that it went to Hatchette. Silhoutte was intentionally formed as a shell for Simon and Schuster, in the romance genre, but in response to corporate law and the oddities of the 1970s Mills and Boon wars, rather than conventional appeals — though, on the other hand, the Spice imprint did come about solely because of the more explicit nature of its focus. There are occasional clear examples, but they usually revolve around teen- and tween-oriented books, or otherwise very distinct changes in content and market.

        And I guess that happens in the electronic world, too : Google hasn’t turned YouTube into a complete copy of Google Video from a branding perspective, even if it has done so technically and financially. LiveJournal has its own weird brand history (I think /Russian/ now?). Maybe with time we’ll see sub-branding become more common, between the natural economies of scale and brand recognition, and it’s just that the modern social web is so young.

        On the other hand, the natural divides for online media are pretty drastically different than for offline ones. Hasn’t been much of a history of buying for focus, rather than tech or userbase

  46. tcd says:

    “It would be paranoid to say that there are people for whom fighting against free speech is a terminal value, but let me make a slightly weaker claim. There are people who consider themselves the protectors of decency…”

    Unsurprisingly, H.L. Mencken was also bothered by this too often unmentioned group. His “protectors of decency”, the prohibitionists and cultural panderers, that he spent his time unmasking appeared in his mind to have a common cultural heritage: puritanism. You can not appreciate this point without reading Mencken’s own thoughts on the matter, so here is as good a starting point as any from his Book of Prefaces, “Puritanism as a Literary Force” (gutenberg tends to get caught in spam filters, so fix the link when pasting):

    http://www. gutenberg.org/files/19355/19355-h/19355-h.htm#IV

    [ Even today, as a thought experiment model the puritan legacy in both the blue/red tribes. If you grant Mencken’s premise that puritan culture is very much a part of American culture, then have fun thinking about what happens when you mix post-modernism and puritanism. ]
    [[ Keep it up Scott, I rarely comment on anything but I can make an exception for Mencken. ]]

  47. MattW says:

    “So not only do they have no competitors, but it’s really hard to imagine one ever arising.” I find this statement a bit disingenuous. I’m sure if I offered you a hundred bucks you could imagine a dozen plausible explanations of how Facebook died.

    Also, I think you’re cherry-picking your narrative points here. You mention anti-discrimination laws, but not Jim Crow laws. You say that the media refused to mention homosexuals for decades, but I’m pretty sure Will and Grace came out before the first state legalized gay marriage.

    It sounds like you’re confusing libertarian ideologues’ rhetoric with some sort of promise of instant satisfaction for every ill that has befallen the world ( not necessarily your fault, that’s the impression they leave most of the time). The way I always thought of it was that if you traveled to an alternate libertarian universe, you could still find a textbook on the history of the wars of the world; it’d just be about half as long.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yes, when social movements change, the laws that they pressured into existing change. This is a poor substitute for actual protection from having social movements impose laws upon us. How does the fact that when racists were in power they mandated discrimination, and when anti-racists were in power they mandated non-discrimination, disprove the contention that people are really into mandating things?

      • oligopsony says:

        This is a poor substitute for actual protection from having social movements impose laws upon us.

        What does a world look like where human society exists but social movements, broadly speaking, aren’t contesting how it’s regulated? Or did you mean something more specific than that?

      • MattW says:

        It only proves that this sort of thing happens in traditional governments. People are really into mandating things. And after reading this post, I feel more comfortable that anarcho-capitalism would do a much better job at protecting me from those kinds of violations. I mean just look at how fast and furious the reaction/counter-reaction was in your Reddit example. It didn’t have to wait four years to get played out only to be swept under the rug at the last minute…

  48. rsaarelm says:

    Anyone else curious about Yudkowsky’s “attempted successor to Wikipedia and/or Tumblr and/or peer review” mentioned here?

    • Vaniver says:

      So, I think the underlying problem is more social than technical, but in order to explain that I’ll need to sketch out what I think Yudkowsky’s idea is. (I haven’t talked to Yudkowsky about this, so these are my ideas that I think EY would mostly agree with.)

      Right now, scientific arguments mostly exist in journal articles. These are highly compressed and short summaries of how an experiment was done / an argument was constructed, along with some details about the results of that experiment.

      What if we tried to aggregate articles together? There’s a thing called a “review article,” where someone reads a bunch of papers, and tries to put them together to give a sense of a field. “These are the people working here, this is what they’re doing, this is how I see things changing.” But a trouble with review articles is that they’re immediately out of date. If I publish a review article about statistical techniques in modeling of semiconductor manufacturing equipment in the same journal issue as a new article detailing a statistical technique in modeling of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, I’m already out of date!

      But something like Wikipedia would solve this problem. The other author adds their article to the site, and then updates the review article to discuss their piece as well (or leaves a comment on it, or so on).

      The actual technical change I would make here is something like “wikipedia+ownership+side comments,” with maybe a bit of forking and pull requests and so on.

      Right now, peer review is a handful of individuals with some connection to a journal (or a connection to a connection) looking at a paper and checking for obvious mistakes. I’ve redone the simple math in papers–“hey, your mean at the bottom of this table isn’t actually the mean of that column, I think you transposed these digits”–but I have never rerun the experiment in a paper, and it is unheard of to do so for peer review. There are also a handful of suggestions on “you could improve X” or “you should show us Y”, but there’s not much in the way of substantive back and forth.

      But comments on a page make much more sense, because issues can be raised whenever they’re noticed. I’ve read lots and lots of papers where I underline sections and write in the margin “Idiots! Consider ___”–if I was able to do that publicly, I’d drop the “Idiots!” part for politeness but other readers would get the benefits of what I noticed. (And in cases where I was confused, I would have my confusion fixed and anyone else confused the same way would also benefit.)

      Right now, those sorts of issues are raised by emailing the authors (inherently private and slow to respond) or writing letters or articles in response. Comments (especially side comments!) make this much faster, cleaner, and clearer.

      But there are social issues; if someone writes a boneheaded article and I write a sharp takedown of that article, then we’re potentially looking at a flamewar. (You may have heard about all the people who don’t publish their failed replications because of pressure from the original author.) It is not clear if these can be easily resolved or not–on the one hand, maybe everything is tied to a real person so that people can easily determine how much they trust the author of every comment, and on the other hand, maybe everything is anonymized to some degree to allow as free a conversation as possible.

      Thirdly, one huge problem with writing scientific things is that the compression process is long and painful and not particularly effective. Much collaboration is not done because of the frictional costs involved, and open math projects (where people post conjectures / solve tiny pieces of the overall puzzle) seem to work considerably better than solitary math projects. If you could read Max Tegmark’s tumblr where he sometimes writes up ideas for cosmology papers he / his grad students won’t have time to do, then all of grad students in cosmology might become more effective (since they don’t have just their advisor’s ideas to pursue, since they can also grab Tegmark’s). This makes more communication happen, and in particular more back-and-forth communication, ideally dramatically increasing the spread of knowledge / speed at which collaborations take place.

      • A feedback mechanism you don’t mention is the academic workshop, where papers are given and criticized before they are published. Ideally (but not often enough) it is done under Chicago rules, meaning that participants are expected to have read the paper in advance and the author gets a short introductory period to say things about it, after which it is open season. It’s the closest thing to thinking in multiple minds that I have observed.

        • Vaniver says:

          I don’t think that can be fully replicated online, because in person we have way more media channels to select from when communicating.

          One might get close with something like the doomed Google Wave would be the right approach for that sort of thing–much more of a chatroom feel than Tumblr or forum commenting.

      • brad says:

        You haven’t really said anything about incentives. Journal articles are the currency of academic advancement and participating as a peer reviewer is somewhere between required and heavily encouraged.

        • Vaniver says:

          You haven’t really said anything about incentives. Journal articles are the currency of academic advancement and participating as a peer reviewer is somewhere between required and heavily encouraged.

          It seems to me that the content associated with one’s sciwikitumbpeer’s account could become the currency of academic advancement as a replacement for journal articles. This seems like it would benefit scientific support work quite a bit, as well as people with good taste / good speculators.

          I am no starry-eyed idealist about academia, though, and that basically means “if the NSF / NIH / etc. all switch to sciwikitumbpeer as their required system, and a bunch of old people used to an old system switch at once.”

      • Shenpen says:

        Making something with one of the goals being reducing flamewars, and borrowing some of the tech ideas from Tumblr? Hm.

        If anything, I would do the opposite: identify what exactly makes the Tumblr and Twitter tech attract flaming idiots.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          I’ve seen an argument that Tumblr ended up such a mess due to it being an art platform that was re-purposed for blogging.

          It seems to me that there’s a strong argument that the fundamental format of twitter is flawed.

          • Deiseach says:

            Well, there isn’t one monolithic Tumblr. There are several communities which use it for different purposes (one former division was between so-called ‘hipster Tumblr’ and ‘fandom Tumblr’) and these rarely interact but sometimes rub up against one another and naturally friction results.

            How it became a (or one of the) social justice platform I don’t know; possibly because LiveJournal went downhill and Dreamwidth does not seem to have taken over its popularity.

            Also there’s been a lot of unhappiness since Yahoo! bought it and is very definitely trying to shape it into something that can be marketed to the masses and attract that sweet, sweet advertising revenue (the amount of “sponsored” bollocks that crops up now in the middle of your dash is really annoying, and the “improvements” tend to be less what people are asking for and more on “how can we cram in third-party content to monetise the site?”)

            Tumblr is very easy to use, even for a hopelessly tech-incompetent dinosaur like me, which is probably its attraction (I originally got a Tumblr account only because my nephew was on Tumblr and I wanted to follow him; next thing I knew I was in the middle of all these new fandoms/bursts of enthusiasm from new fans of old fandoms I’d been following since forever and here I am now three years later)

          • Shenpen says:

            @Deiseach

            My theory would be that it is because on Tu and Twi if you comment (tumble or retweet) something it is not seen under the original post, not only seen by people who go there, but it is seen in your own posts. So if popular people with lot of followers pick up something it gets known fast.

          • Adam says:

            Deisaich is totally right here. I’ve maintained a tumblr account for about five years now but all I’ve ever used it for is to follow bloggers who repost porn gifs, a happy little subcommunity that effectively has zero interaction with the rest of tumblr. Those are the only posts I ever see. Things like, say this. (NSFW).

            I had no idea that social justice advocates used tumblr as a platform or that it even had that reputation prior to reading SSC.

            Okay, I guess that got filtered, but the user name is sluts-love-slaps.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        Right now, peer review is a handful of individuals with some connection to a journal (or a connection to a connection) looking at a paper and checking for obvious mistakes. I’ve redone the simple math in papers–“hey, your mean at the bottom of this table isn’t actually the mean of that column, I think you transposed these digits”–but I have never rerun the experiment in a paper, and it is unheard of to do so for peer review.

        There is one exception to this rule. The journal Organic Syntheses only publishes synthetic procedures that have been successfully repeated in the lab of one of the editors.

    • another_anonymous says:

      In addition to what Vaniver wrote above, see also this series of blog posts with some suggestions that I think EY would approve of (and which in any case seem interesting) — I’m linking to the last, as it’s the most concrete (though the others are also worth reading) .

      The author seems to be in the LW/SSC-sphere, so they might be reading this…

  49. oligopsony says:

    I feel obligated to say that, in spite of CONSTANT MEDIA SMEARS, Reddit’s community is amazing, puts in astounding effort to help its members and fight for good causes all over the world, and that the representation of weirdoes and neotenous-transhuman-hologram people is no higher than any other part of the population. But that’s not zero. And a disproportionate number of those people became interested in the new site.

    Reddit is great, but it’s a medium, not a community. Of course we can talk about the different sorts of things encouraged by the medium itself – like how 4chan’s anonymity is built to create Xbox live in text form, or how Twitter is for whatever reason constant drama – but reddit is actually unusual in how siloed its communities are (since you subscribe directly to them, not users.) This is what’s great about reddit – tons and tons of super-niche communities with absolutely nothing to do with one another. The default subs by definition are outside this core competency, which is perhaps why they’re boring garbage.

    • DataShade says:

      It’s a medium that fosters community; I don’t now anyone who uses Reddit who is subscribed to just one subreddit.

      It’s the Archipelago of Internet Bulletin Boards.

  50. Jaskologist says:

    If you’re interested in watching this kind of thing live, check out the programming subreddit. There was a highly up-voted thread critical of GitHub’s new Code of Conduct. The thread was silently delisted so that nobody can find it without having the original link handy.

    A followup thread was posted asking why the previous article was delisted. It looks that one has been killed as well, again with no explanation from the mods.

    • This is interesting. I think one of the main thing reddit lacks is a way to achieve transparency in post moderation. If something is illegal, sure disintegrate it entirely, but if something is just offtopic wouldn’t it be better to at least encourage mods to put it into a publically visible “removed” tab so that any mod bias would be obvious? A while back I had some concerns about my post being removed from /r/philosophy (I suspect there is one or mod postmoderny mods who don’t like my sciency approach to philosophy). I tried posting the “removed” tab suggestion in /r/ideasfortheadmins and the idea got downvoted to bits and some really harsh response (including one very passive aggressive post in particular). I accept some of the critcism, but this problem is serious imo and could use further work to try to address it. A market only functions where people have correct information about the “products”.

  51. DataShade says:

    I think it was in his SXSW 2012 closing remarks that Bruce Sterling talked about “The Stacks,” a set of “vertically-integrated social media empires,” who “aren’t really part of the internet, altho’ they sort of embrace and extend it … they’re not against the internet, they’re just in favor of their own thing.”

    “And the stacks are winning. People love the Stacks. The Internet is scary now, it’s full of cyberwar; you can be robbed, killed… And they’re not bad guys, the Lords of the Stacks. Bright, energetic, creative people. But a free people would not be so dependent on these Napoleonic mogul figures.”

  52. John Schilling says:

    In Olden Times, which a few of us here still remember, we had television to tell everyone what they needed to know and what they ought to believe, as determined by a few cultural gatekeepers employed by major corporations. And we had the internet, where a tiny handful of nerds and geeks could talk about anything they desired with the sum total of human knowledge to support them, if only they had the technical talent and the persistence to find the good stuff and the other clever people in an internet without search engines.

    In the Brave New World, we will have the Googleplex to tell everyone what they need to know and what they ought to believe, as determined by a few cultural gatekeepers employed by major corporations. And we will have the rest of the internet, where a tiny handful of nerds and geeks can talk about anything they desire with the sum total of human knowledge to support them, if only they have the technical talent and the persistence to find the good stuff and the other clever people in the parts of the internet the search engines refuse to index.

    The only differences are that this time both systems will run on the same physical substrate and low-level protocols, fortunately one robust to censorship, and this time “sum total of human knowledge” won’t be as much of an exaggeration.

    But this is the natural state of human affairs. There will be a place for the majority to have safe and mostly passive discussions of consensus-acceptable material, and there will be little niches where nerds and geeks can talk about everything else. There will be occasional disruptions as specific forums come, go, and shift roles, but probably no transformative change.

    In the long run, us geeks may find it to have been a needlessly disruptive mistake to have promoted the mainstream internet as the replacement for television in its “where the majority gets what it wants” role. Naively, hopelessly optimistic to assume that this would result in the majority adopting our freakish norms of open discussion. And, for a while, the niches we will be able to find will be inferior to what we had in the golden age right before the internet became huge.

  53. Smoke says:

    The only example I can think of where this ever worked was the Great Digg Exodus, where Digg screwed up their product so thoroughly that everyone simultaneously said “@#!$ this” and moved to Reddit.

    Friendster, Myspace, Usenet, AIM, RSS… The internet has made lots of communities/communications media obsolete. Heck, we saw the rise and fall of Secret just in the past 5 years or so. I’m dubious that the ones we have now will be around in 50 years given the apparent pace of evolution.

    Anyway, your Toxoplasma of Rage post makes me think that info hazards are real and if companies have an incentive to consign nasty statements to disreputable lower-traffic sites, that may be a good thing. It honestly seems like a decent tradeoff between letting people say stuff while putting up barriers to the internet becoming a giant ragefest.

  54. Nathan Cook says:

    I just archived voat.co so everyone can see what its front page looks like right now. It’s 90%+ libertarian with a sprinkling of quintessentially ‘reddity’ stuff and one joke in somewhat bad taste. Drilling down to the comments doesn’t appear to show a huge number of fuckwads either.

    I think you’re equivocating pretty hard between “nice” and “desirable” here. Voat is objectively more boisterous, hence less nice. Well, nice is good for /aww, not so good for /politics.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      When I wrote this article, the top article on Voat was about a fat librarian getting angry because she saw a person on Voat at the library, peppered with very nasty commentary about how she should hit the gym instead of worrying about things like that.

  55. Machine Interface says:

    Theory: most people love censorship, they just hate the *word* “censorship”, because the word is associated with bad authoritarian governments; but censorship itself is fine as long as it can be framed “reasonable limits to free speech”, “decency” or “this is not an opinion, this is just hateful”.

    So the US are convinced they are the freeest country in the world regarding speech because-the-law-says-so, because they redefine “censorship” as something that strictly originates from the government, even though at the same time no other country has such a prominent history of privately originated censorship, from the hays code to book burnings to media smear campaigns to the conspicuous rarity of articles advocating gun control or criticizing israeli foreign policy in most major newspapers.

    And at the same time, France is convinced that it is the freeest country in the world regarding speech, even though french law virtually allows the explicity censorship of *anything*, only nuanced by the very inconsistent application of these laws in practice, depending on the dominating political zeitgest of the moment; but it’s no “censorship”, there is no “censorship” in France, there is just a “justifiable curtailing of hateful or dangerous speech” (including but not limited to racism, negationism, anything having to do with underage porn —in France even privately drawing an underage person having sex is illegal— the apology or inticement to any illegal action —which makes drug legalization advocacy almost impossible—, defamation and libel of any kind —if you accuse someone of being corrupt without sufficient proof, you can be prosecuted—, advertisement for female contraceptive, and so on and so forth).

    No one likes “censorship”. Even North Korea has a provision for the preservation of “free speech” in its constitution. But almost everyone loves censorship.

    • Eli says:

      Theory: most people love censorship, they just hate the *word* “censorship”, because the word is associated with bad authoritarian governments; but censorship itself is fine as long as it can be framed “reasonable limits to free speech”, “decency” or “this is not an opinion, this is just hateful”.

      Supporting theory: most possible propositions are wrong. Troll mobs are able to reliably attack and destroy communities because they don’t have to give a shit about truth-tracking. Troll mobs are able to get in everywhere that there isn’t moderation, aka: censorship. Therefore, some degree of censorship is a good idea wherever you don’t want troll mobs to roam.

      My experiences as a reddit moderator have nothing to do with this post, surely /s.

      • anon says:

        4chan hasn’t been destroyed by trolls even though the moderation is mostly limited to removing illegal content and very blatant shitposting (like if you are obviously trying to derail a thread with 0 subtlety to your efforts and a majority of readers report you instead of assisting with the derailing).

        • Nita says:

          Well, it’s the trolls’ home base — why would they want to destroy it?

          And for most communities, turning into 4chan would be a kind of destruction.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            What they mean is that 4chan has been impervious to numerous attacks from outside trolls. Of course the resident trolls would not destroy their community.

          • anon says:

            There are many civil parts of 4chan (see: /ck/, /tg/ or anything that isn’t /b/ really) that have just learned how to deal with trolls due to always having them around. They’re not immune to it and I have seen some regular threads get overrun and permanently shut down because of it, but generally it works out well enough, even though a large part of the community enjoys provoking people.

            Mostly it seems to be about learning to ignore what you don’t like instead of poking it, and poking those who don’t practice the same restraint. Which is why we have all those memes about bait and laughing at people who reply to it, as well as laughing at people who ‘let their jimmies get rustled’.

          • Nita says:

            @ anon

            Of course, such a shift in behaviour selects for participants who have fewer sore spots — e.g., middle-class teenagers without major problems. When communities that contain more sensitive people (and function as support groups) get frequent visits from trolls, the result is growing paranoia and decline.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      Excellent points, but I do have to quibble when you say:

      the conspicuous rarity of articles advocating gun control or criticizing israeli foreign policy in most major newspapers

      I have to ask if you are perhaps referring to some other United States of America? Any time there is a high-profile shooting the major newspapers fill up with pro-gun control editorials, and the only reason you aren’t reading much about Israeli foreign policy right now is that they aren’t fighting with the Palestinians just at the moment. Next time Gaza starts chucking unguided rockets at Sderot, I promise you the New York Times and the AP will once again be publishing nothing but thinly repackaged Hamas press releases.

      • Machine Interface says:

        The debate among Middle East pundits, wrote the media critic Eric Alterman in 2002, is “dominated by people who cannot imagine criticizing Israel.” He listed fifty-six “columnists and commentators who can be counted upon to support Israel reflexively and without qualification.” Conversely, Alterman identified only five pundits who consistently criticize Israli behavior or endorse pro-Arab positions.[…]

        Consider the columnists who have covered the Middle East for the New York Times and the Washington Post in recent years. William Safire and the late A. M. Rosenthal were passionate defenders of Israel (and in Safire’s case, especially favorable toward Ariel Sharon); today, David Brooks consistently defends Israel’s position. Thomas L. Friedman is more moderate; he has been critical of some of Israel’s policies […], but he almost never takes the Palestinians’ side or advocate that the United States distance itself from Israel. Nicholas D. Kristof is frequently critical of various aspects of American foreign policy and wrote one controversial column in March 2007 decrying the lack of serious discussion of U. S. relations with Israel. But the Middle East is not a frequent theme in his commentary and he certainly did not take a pro-Palestinian position. Maureen Dowd has been sharply critical of pro-Israel neoconservatives, but like Kristof, she rarely writes about the Jewish state or U. S. policy toward it. No one in the Times‘s stable of regular columnists is a consistent defender of the Palestinians, or even as evenhanded as former columnist Anthony Lewis, who retired in 2001.
        […]
        In recent years, the only prominent columnist who has frequently criticized Israel is Robert Novak, whose column is syndicated by the
        Chicago Sun-Times and regularly appears in the Post. Still, Novak is hardly a champion of the Palestinian cause. The fact is that the “other side” has no equivalent of Safire and Krauthammer, or even Friedman and Cohen, at either the Times or the Post, or any other major American newspaper, for that matter.[…]

        The media’s reporting of news events involving Israel is less slanted than their editorial commentary[…]. But still, to discourage unfavorabke reporting on Israel, groups in the lobby organize letter-writing campaigns, demonstrations, and boycotts against news outlets whose content they consider anti-Israel. […] One CNN executive has said that he sometimes gets six thousand e-mail messages in a single day complaining that a story is anti-israel, and papers such as the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Miami Herald, the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Washington Post have faced consumer boycott over their Middle East reporting. One correpondent told the journalist Michael Massing that newspapers were “afraid” of AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups, saying that “the pressure from these groups is relentless. Editors would just as soon not touch them.” As the former spokeman for the Israeli consulate in New York, Menachem Shalev, once put it, “Of course, a lot of self-censorship goes on. Journalists, editors and politicians are going to think twice about criticizing Israel if they know they are going to get thousands of angry calls in a matter of hours. The Jewish lobby is good at orchestrating pressure.”

        (John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, The Israel lobby and US Foreign Policy, 2007, Penguin Books, p. 170 to 172)

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          Out of curiosity, why did you think a lengthy, contextless quote — from Mearsheimer and Walt’s The Israel Lobby, of all things! — was going to convince anyone who wasn’t already one hundred percent on your side?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            You seem to be implying that a source that disagrees fundamentally with your opinion is therefore laughably untrustworthy?

            I’m actually in the middle. The newspapers seem full of support for gun control, and empty of meaningful criticism of Israel. If I had to hazard a guess, you think Israel is pretty A-OK. I think it’s pretty damn awful. We’d probably disagree strongly about what constitutes “meaningful criticism”. It seems to me that the press is not willing to give our own police and soldiers the benefit of the doubt they routinely extend to Israel’s police and soldiers. I think that is a rather odd thing to do.

          • Machine Interface says:

            Anyone is free to provide counter-evidence, or evidence that the situation has radically reversed in the eight years since Mearsheimer and Walt’s book has been written.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            “You seem to be implying that a source that disagrees fundamentally with your opinion is therefore laughably untrustworthy?”

            No, I’m saying outright that this source, specifically, is laughably untrustworthy. Get back with something whose authors don’t cuddle up to anti-Zionists if you want anyone who isn’t already an anti-Zionist to pay attention.

            “If I had to hazard a guess, you think Israel is pretty A-OK.”

            They’re a country, they do good stuff and bad stuff. They should be judged on their actions, as every other state should, and all on the same scale. Would you disagree with that?

          • Machine Interface says:

            Refering to Mearsheimer and Walt as anti-zionists is an ad hominem. They both have stated explicitedly, numerous times (including in the book), that they recognize Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself; they both take a rather unsympathetic view of Iran in the book.

            The vast majority of the people they quote in the book cannot be described as anti-zionist either. Many of the citations are from the leaders or representatives of pro-Israel lobby groups themselves or from Israeli officials, and the rest are mostly from American journalists and politicians very few of whom can be described as unsympathetic to Israel.

            The book’s goal was to open a debate about the disproportionate amount of influence exerted by American pro-Israel lobby on American media and American foreign policy, ultimately to the detriment not only of the U. S., but also of Israel itself, as it pushes the U. S. to back up Israel in policies and military operations which have negative outcomes for Israel, both in terms of PR and in terms of concrete military results on the ground.

            The authors are excessively careful in the formulation of their criticism and point out several times that the actions of American Israeli lobby groups do not relfect a consensus of opinion within either the American Jewish community nor within Israeli society.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @ThirteenthLetter – “They should be judged on their actions, as every other state should, and all on the same scale. Would you disagree with that?”

            Indeed not. And judging them by their actions (both those of the state itself, and of significant demographics within it) is precisely what I think the press does not do. I reiterate that if our press held the Israeli police, military, or even civil society to the same standard it applies to our own, the news stories would look very different from what we currently see. Do you disagree?

          • CJB says:

            “I reiterate that if our press held the Israeli police, military, or even civil society to the same standard it applies to our own, the news stories would look very different from what we currently see. Do you disagree?”

            I absolutely agree.

            For example: when the US is attacked by the duly elected representatives of an elected government (Do you know Hamas was a legally elected political party that was a voting majority at the start of the second intifada, and is still the largest party in Palestine today? I had to go hunt that little tidbit down myself.) and in the course of proceeding against a military force a few civvies get killed, you don’t get front page articles about it.

            I’d lay money Obama has killed more innocent muslim civilians this year than Israel has in the past ten-how much coverage do ongoing DOD drone strikes get? Hell, Iraq, the most hated of all the hated wars, killed- I’ve never seen a number I can trust, honestly. But a LOT of civilians. Not much coverage there, either, even under Bush. The talk was always about how expensive it was and how much Halliburton was making.

            A few weeks ago (and probably this week too) the Saudis killed about 30 civilians bombing Yemen. How much coverage did the supposedly anti-muslim/Israel loving media give to that? Compared to say, the possible wrong but certainly much less wrong “evicting palestinians”? I heard about it from very, very, VERY non-mainstream sources. How much coverage did Egypt closing it’s borders to Palestinian refugees get?

            We live in hope that the media will treat anyone else with the same brutal, constant, unremitting scrutiny they apply to Israel.

            They don’t have to apply deliberate “Israel is WRONG” criticism, any more than they need to outright say “cops are murderous racists and we hate them”. They just have to put “Cop shoots black guy” on the front page every few months and bury the far more common “Ten people shot at Detroit block party” or “Another cop shot from ambush” on one of those little sidebars- and pretty soon the narrative is ‘cops only attack unarmed black people’.

            You don’t explicitly state the narrative- you present a list of incidents and ignore the incidents that don’t fit the narrative.

        • Deiseach says:

          Argh. I hate this because it is such a minefield. Any criticism of Israeli policy or politicians is read as anti-Semitism; saying that one is anti-Zionist is no longer enough because now the accepted (by certain parties) reading is that anti-Zionism is merely a fig leaf to cover anti-Semitism and is a face-saving exercise indulged in by anti-Semites. Pro-Palestinian = terrorist, or at least fellow-traveller, and anything less than “Israel is and always has been 100% wonderful in how it treats Palestinian Arabs” is “pro-Palestinian” is “pro-Hamas” is “terrorist, or fellow-traveller with terrorists”.

          Not helped by the fact that anti-Semitism genuinely exists, and some people really do use any stick to beat the dog.

          • Creutzer says:

            Wait, what? Isn’t being critical of Israel’s behaviour vis-a-vis palestinians the current orthodoxy on the left?

  56. Deiseach says:

    Well, I’ve probably set myself up for accusations of being a RACIST!!! now, but honestly, this is the kind of thing that would have me hitting the rum to go with my Coca-Cola were it not for the liver enzymes result of my last blood tests.

    Did you know, my friends, that the comb was not invented until Walter Sammons in 1920? Or ironing boards were completely unknown to humanity until Sarah Boone in 1892? Or that all of America would have starved were it not for the vast slave-labour grain and livestock farms stretching from the Midwest prairies to the windy plains of Canada? Okay, I’m extrapolating a bit with that last one, but it naturally follows from a statement like:

    There are very few crops that have flourished because the nation was built on a slave-supported system.

    Tumblr, I love you for fandom interaction (I am engaging in very mutually satisfying delusional fanworship of a particular actor playing a particular part on a particular show, and we’ve even invented our own cultus with a rival denomination to inveigh against; the religious wars-cum-heresy hunt we and them engaged in was one of the most fun nights I’ve had online), but I wish you’d stop driving me nuts over history.

    (a) Person makes snarky and, granted, somewhat unpleasant remarks about Black History month
    (b) Someone replies in high dudgeon
    (c) Original person more or less goes “What did the Romans ever do for us?” except about African-Americans
    (d) Second person reels off list of “Suppose you ended up in fantasy All-White America where there were never any black people – WELL GUESS WHAT YOU’D BE POOR, DIRTY, AND STARVING BECAUSE – ”

    – and then we get combs were not invented until 1920 by an African-American man. And apparently because I’m an idiot and masochistic with it and can’t keep my damn mouth shut when I see history being mangled, I had to put up a post rebutting all this. So I’m just sitting back expecting the HORRIBLE RACIST!!! response to that.

    Sobriety is over-rated.

    • Loquat says:

      That’s hilarious. I’d be tempted myself to go with the minimalist response of posting a labeled picture of a comb from a 3000-year-old tomb, though I’m not sure if that’s more or less RACIST than making an actual rebuttal argument with words.

      • Deiseach says:

        I would be laughing, except that it’s taking the whole Black Athena notion to the reductio ab absurdum and if I thought it was meant tongue-in-cheek, I’d be happier.

        But having the pendulum wildly swing to “Every single important invention of the Industrial Era was invented in the United States by African-Americans” is not correcting misinformation, it’s perpetuating it. And when we get to “your white children in your fantasy white America would be unkempt because without African-Americans, the comb would not exist” – I don’t know what to say to that.

        If I thought it was someone engaging in an elaborate leg-pull as a humorous rebuke to the “What did Black people ever do that was worthwhile?”, I’d appreciate it (because yes, the role of African-American people in contributing to what are now everyday conveniences of life should be acknowledged; if Thomas Edison is mythologised as the great inventor and American genius, I see no reason why the man who made elevators safer for use by inventing automatically closing doors should not be as widely known and celebrated).

        But unfortunately I think it’s the kind of psychological reassurance by spinning a fantasy where the downtrodden are the heroes and saviours and unacknowledged holders up of the world that is very appealing to a movement or a culture seeking to establish a sense of solidarity and self-worth (I mean, I’m aware of it in Irish history and politics; I’m aware of our own foundation-myths, and movements such as the Celtic Dawn which served a similar purpose for us as the Black Athena movement serves for African-Americans).

        And if you really are coming away with the idea that combs, mops, brushes, lanterns and the like were unknown or unused until 19th-early 20th century African-Americans invented them – you’ve got no sense of time (anything going back 100 years is Ancient History), no sense of proportion (you really think the rest of the world was doing what? going around in the dark with straggly hair?) and you’re denying reality.

        Furthermore, if it’s patently ludicrous that combs were invented by a 20th century African-American man, unfortunately that is going to reflect on the real achievements: if I can’t believe in Walter Sammons as the inventor of the comb, how am I going to take your word for it about Alexander Miles?

        • Nita says:

          Eh, perhaps you should be saying all this to the woefully undereducated people you’re upset at?

  57. Eli says:

    I recall someone saying that, “Well-tended gardens die by neglect.” Well, we need some publicly-owned, publicly-maintained and publicly well-tended gardens.

    This is fairly simple for a society that’s more based on cooperating than on trying to optimize for degree Malthusian struggle, so I expect someone outside the United States should come up with it soon enough.

  58. walpolo says:

    The first section is fairly eye-opening. I’m now tentatively in favor of something that never occurred to me before: laws protecting people against private censorship, much as our laws now protect us against private discrimination. At a minimum, I would say that people everywhere ought to have the same protections government employees now have against workplace retaliation for their off-the-clock expressions of opinion.

    • nyccine says:

      …laws protecting people against private censorship…

      The Founders didn’t forget this when drafting the Fist Amendment; granting the state the authority to declare a private individual’s actions to be “censorship” effectively negates the entire Free Speech clause. There is no world where the State, once given this power, does not decide that speech it doesn’t like is tantamount to censorship, and crushes it. You can see this reasoning already online, as mere disagreement is treated as “oppression” and “harassment.”

      • walpolo says:

        Let’s say the rule is that you’re not allowed to fire anyone or deny them services because of their expressions of opinion. That’s why I was saying, make it like the free-speech protections government employees already have under the First Amendment.

    • Rohan says:

      That’s not really fair to the company though. Let’s say X-Corp employs Anna. Anna says something horrific on Twitter. People identify Anna as an employee of X-Corp and start boycotting X-Corp. X-Corp’s sales crater. X-Corp cannot fire Anna and halt the bleeding.

      You can’t force people to keep shopping at X-Corp after they decide they don’t want to. Whereas you can’t really boycott the government, so the government suffers no real penalty from being unable to fire Anna.

      In a perfect world, people wouldn’t boycott or avoid the company for the employee’s off-the-clock expressions of opinion. But in a world where they do, you have to let the company be able to protect itself.

      • walpolo says:

        The same goes mutatis mutandis if it’s early in the 20th century and Anna is black. Anti-discrimination laws are unfair to companies in the same way.

  59. Quinn says:

    It’s not just the First Amendment, of course; it’s the Fourth Amendment as well. Your hosting service can voluntarily give up your information if the government asks for it, because the servers belong to them.

    In a saner world it would be the owner of the information who acted as the gatekeeper, not the owner of the hardware where it happens to reside, but…

    • Derelict says:

      In a saner world it would be the owner of the information who acted as the gatekeeper, not the owner of the hardware where it happens to reside, but…

      Corporations are in favour of this too, but exclusively in the context of intellectual property, not freedom of speech.

  60. Albatross says:

    I prefer corporate censorship to govt censorship because companies at least seem to keep the majority of the people satisfied. I get nervous when I read about France’s speech decisions because it could easily be corrupted.

    My suspicion is that replacement companies will get better at launching when their competitors are down. I see Voat couldn’t beat Reddit, but Yahoo could have if it had been ready. A quick marketing campaign, get some prominent “saint” defectors and Yahoo uses to dilute the “witches” and grab enough of the market share to launch.

    • Nornagest says:

      Yahoo is not going to build a Reddit clone on spec, then launch it months or years later to capitalize on a witch hunt in the original, because building scalable web services is expensive, ramping up services after a long period of downtime is also expensive, and most of the people who’d pay to avoid a witch hunt are witches (or could be painted as such once the inevitable mud-slinging starts). There’s not enough money for too much reputational risk.

      On the other hand, witch hunts aren’t the only reasons that userbases become unstable. Yahoo launching a clone of another service to capitalize on unpopular privacy or marketing decisions, for example, would be a lot more likely — assuming it had such a clone lying around.

  61. Max says:

    I was reading this in disbelief… Are you actually defending Ellen Pao policies and unhappy with the outcome of her attempt to police Reddit for “better quality discussion”?

    This was a case of community going against corporate overlords and winning and yet you are on a side of corporate overlords now?

    You are attacking internet because you think big corporations de facto rule it and at the same time denounce redditors revolt?

    My logic circuits are fried …

    • Nita says:

      Hmm, I thought Scott was going too easy on fatpeoplehaters. I guess that means the post is well-balanced after all?

      • Shenpen says:

        Possibly. I think the ridiculous HAES campaigns and gigantic near-immobile whales going “I am beatiful” and pushing for “redefining beauty” and Tess Monster and generally all that narcissistic, solipsistic, “reality is what my feels say is” mentally ill sh_t the professional butterhuffers tend to generate lately really deserved a pushback, a dose of reality, because it started to feel like a virtual reality show now. And for that I endorse of FPH. But they do tend to go overboard e.g. taking photos of people without their consent is too much. I would prefer if they would stick to mocking the voluntarily self promoting eatbeasts such as the Loch Tess monster. There are enough of them without having to harass people who did not choose to go public.

        (BTW I am a beerbellied guy myself but I am not unrealistic about it: I hate it and understand it is only my fault, and would never think of publishing a photo and telling people this is somehow good.)

        • Nita says:

          Well, you’re free to hate your body if you want, but why should other people hate theirs?

          Also — pushback? HAES and such are the pushback.

          • Shenpen says:

            Because if something is 1) aesthethically shit 2) unhealthy 3) limiting 4) is a result of vices like gluttony and laziness, it is more or less an objectively bad thing, and the body-hate (not self-hate: rather the self-love that I am not my body, and me deserves a better body) should intensify until weight loss happens. (Basically I need to hate my gut more than I like my alcohol addiction. And people whose addiction is not even alcohol just food, should fix it so easily it is not even funny.)

            HAES is the pushback? Against what? Fatassitude was far more mocked in the past, and it almost became accepted before this FPH – HAES conflict was set up. The point is, to understand the correct perspective here, back in the past at around 120-140 kg everybody understood it is time to stop because it is too much, I can’t buy clothes ,cannot walk up stairs etc.

            But basically what happened in the recent decades that some really delusional people allowed themselves to go 200 kg and up, 300, 400 kg, so the problem is that we got the point where they could really tell themselves this is somehow okay.

            And this is the delusionality that started the FPH pushback. Look at it at on voat. It is all the people who are not 1960’s fat, like 110 kg, but like 170kg and post shit like “I am fabulous today”. It is primarily about the delusion, it is primarily about to preserve sanity and reality.

          • CJB says:

            http://www.nhs.uk/news/2015/03March/Pages/Parents-fail-to-spot-that-their-kids-are-obese.aspx

            Because their statements and actions contribute to shit like this. Going “oh, it’s just puppy fat, oh it’s perfectly healthy, everyone has a different biology” ignores that many children considered “normal” by their families and communities are facing serious health issues.

            Honest thought- I think the big ramp up in it is a combination of the incredibly widespread obesity epidemic with increasing public healthcare.

          • Shenpen says:

            A parallel. Many people think smokers are gross, kissing them is gross, even the skins smells gross, if they smoke anywhere near you it is gross even outside, and it is unhealthy. It is also limiting i.e. running out of breath when active.

            Smokers accept the fact that a lot people see them as disgusting. They manage it. Find a smoking partner. Don’t smoke near others. Don’t stand near others. Don’t participate in activities with not smokers. And admit openly it is unhealthy.

            Now look at what the Tumblrinas are doing. The complete opposite. That is why FPH is a pushback. Eatbeasts had nothing to push back against – they were treated like smokers, which is normal, smokers accepted that treatment, porkers started yelling loud they are beautiful and healthy and so on…

            And this is very similar actually – both tobacco and fast food or sugar would be okay in small quantities. The problem is both beind addictive.

          • Nita says:

            @ Shenpen

            1) Eh, some people think men are “aesthethically shit”. Should all men hate their bodies?

            2,3) How does hate help with this? Lots of people overeat to deal with negative feelings. Making them feel worse is counterproductive. On the other hand, HAES emphasizes taking care of your body with proper nutrition and exercise — if people take it to heart, it should improve both their physical health and their emotions.

            4) But according to your logic, you should hate yourself, not your body. You don’t deserve anything better — the body you have now is the result of gluttony and laziness, an accurate reflection of your disgusting character. And I’m thin, so I must be super-virtuous — bow down before me, pathetic hambeast!

            5) Alcoholics can reduce their drinking until they quit completely. And then just stay the fuck away from alcohol. The same strategy won’t work with food. Jeez, you’re even worse than the food-based fatties, you weak-willed worm!

            6) “Fatassitude was far more mocked in the past, and it almost became accepted before this FPH – HAES conflict was set up.” The USA has a lot of fat people, and a lot of shitty attitude to fat people. I guess all those not-that-fat Americans are terrified that if they stop hating they’ll get really fat — just like you seem worried that if you change your mind about bullying fat people, you’ll drink too much and get fatter.

            7) Yes, some people are literally delusional. What might help them is actual mental health treatment, not being an object of some random assholes’ entertainment.

            8) No, smokers don’t “accept the fact that a lot people see them as disgusting”. They consider themselves normal and don’t refrain from flirting with non-smokers, for instance.

            @ CJB

            When “overweight” = “disgusting hambeast”, of course most parents won’t see their child as “overweight”.

        • merzbot says:

          FPH literally banned people for sympathizing with fat people. I don’t know how you could believe it’s anything but a subreddit for people who want to bash fat people. (Or rather, people fatter than they are.)

          • Shenpen says:

            I don’t understand this point. Yes, of course it is about bashing fat people. But primarily about bashing the delusions of delusional fat people. Secondarily everything else. This is just something one would expect from the title? Check on voat if you are interested.

          • Max says:

            So create a subreddit (I am sure it already exist) to love and praise fat people and ban people for hating on them.

          • Nornagest says:

            about bashing fat people. But primarily about bashing the delusions of delusional fat people.

            That would be /r/fatlogic, which is still around.

        • Have you considered a friendly neutral attitude towards your body? Something in the range of “this is the body I’ve got, and it’s not likely to change much any time soon”.

          Is there anything hating fat people for being fat is supposed to accomplish? There are still a lot of fat people.

          • Shenpen says:

            That would be equivalent to resigning myself to saying I am unable to change something because I lack the willpower. That would lead to actually hating myself (my character, person) instead of just the body I wear. It is a fight on or die trying type of thing, like defending a castle, there is no other proud option really.

            The accomplishment would be turning off justifications. Basically the only acceptable justification in 90% of the cases something along the lines of “yes, I will, but currently I am too weak willed for this”.

  62. cgag says:

    I once posted on reddit about an idea for a kickstarter for social movements, for example, pledging to move to Voat if 100k other people will on the same day.

    No one replied because it turns out I was hellbanned (shadowbanned).

    I’m curious if anyone thinks such a thing might be useful or has other ideas for overcoming the problem of everyone needing to move at once.

  63. IRS says:

    I agree that this is a worry—you need a sizeable group who prioritizes free speech to move the marketplace. But you also need it to move the politicians; I am unconvinced that there are societies in which a democratic government would protect the marketplace of ideas but private companies would not. I would rather be informed that my society is not one that can sustain a properly open forum (or substitute any other non-aggressive goal) by the failure of a commercial venture than by being dragged to prison, so I incline toward trying to keep the government out of it (acknowledging that this, two, is only feasible in certain societal states).

    But I still find your conclusion odd—“I’m just annoyed that we’ve gotten ourselves in a corner where we have to depend on hope.” What else can we do, when we set our sights on what is not “ours”, in the old Stoic classification? One can always strive, but any goal more socially involved than making the best of the circumstances presented will always be out of our complete control (as is easily proven by applying symmetry to the potentially exclusive goals of all actors).

  64. Anonymous says:

    I expect someone has already pointed out the irony of you writing a post lamenting the centralization of internet discourse onto a handful of giant corporations, then uploading this post to your personal website, where you regularly get hundreds of comments on each post you make.

    Seriously though, I think this is less true than you suggest it is. The big internet companies are obvious because they’re big. Everyone knows about Google and Facebook and Twitter because everyone uses them. But I expect most people have a lot of other websites they personally use that not many others do. These megasites certainly exist but I don’t think they make up the bulk of the internet traffic in the way you’re suggesting.

    For a reason why they exist, one possibility that strikes me is that something like Twitter or Facebook is better when you want to talk to specific people who you don’t know well enough to have private conversations with. With Facebook you can add a large number of people you know in real life, who in turn will have added a large number of people they know in real life, who in turn will… and so on. With Twitter you can follow celebrities and other public figures easily. In this kind of situation, having everyone you want to communicate with on a single platform is very useful.

    On the other hand, when you’re talking to a few people you know well, you can choose whichever platform you like, because you can make this decision within your group. When you’re talking to people on the internet you don’t know well, again this can take place anywhere. In both of these situations, the group of people you are talking to is isolated enough that you can take your conversations anywhere. When it comes to celebrities and real life friends, everything is much more interconnected and so needs to be all in one place for the system to work.

    • SSC is fairly a-typical though. I’m guessing it easily would be in the top 5 for hits and posts in the rationalist-blogosphere? Depending on whether LW and that sort of thing counts.

  65. K. says:

    I feel obligated to say that, in spite of CONSTANT MEDIA SMEARS, Reddit’s community is amazing, puts in astounding effort to help its members and fight for good causes all over the world, and that the representation of weirdoes and neotenous-transhuman-hologram people is no higher than any other part of the population.

    Let me just say: I am extremely pro-free-speech, and pro-spaces-for-radical-free-speech. I think that 4chan, for example, is genuinely wonderful in many ways, and I am very glad it exists. And my opinion of Reddit is not based on the media – I’ve been a Redditor for years.

    I also think that Reddit is an intensely and obviously toxic community, in ways that even 4chan is not, and I think that the internet and the world would both probably be better off if Reddit had never existed.

  66. Banananon says:

    Small typo:

    The argument for non-discrimination laws is that discrimination isn’t just random noise. If a couple of companies here and there decided to discriminate, then they might be easily overtaken by nimbler companies willing to take any employees and customers who came to them; and even if they didn’t, a couple of companies here and there discriminating wouldn’t be the end of the world. The argument for non-discrimination laws is that discrimination can take the form of global social pressure in favor of discrimination, enforced by punishing defectors, to the point where certain races can find themselves locked out of the economy altogether.

    I think the first sentence there should read: The argument *against* …

  67. Derelict says:

    You write some of the timeliest articles ever. I was just thinking about the whole “arguing about freedom of speech” issue yesterday and then you come up with something about it that lets me feel a little better that somebody feels pretty much exactly the same way I do about it and can express their thoughts better.

    I’m thinking of writing a Socratic dialogue on the whole “literal text of the First Amendment” issue. Would you be interested?

  68. anon says:

    I’m about as worried by too much free speech as by too little. I do like this post; I would like to see more concrete examples.

    Question. What prompted Google to obediently implement removal of “revenge porn” links, while being more resistant to implementing European norms on their European domains with the right to be forgotten? Or is this in my head?

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      Probably the potential for blowback. Not conforming to European standards annoys Europeans. Having a revenge fic that someone brings to life brings down the wrath of everyone if it looks like you are being an enabler.

  69. Alex says:

    I have no particular solution to this. Certainly the well-intentioned solutions other people are working on, like a decentralized crypto-Reddit that can’t be moderated even in principle

    Anyone know if there are currently any serious attempts to engineer a distributed crypto-Reddit? I’d like to learn about them, but my Google-fu is inadequate.

  70. Steve Sailer says:

    Reliance on advertising revenue rather than old-fashioned subscription revenue makes media properties overly sensitive to hate campaigns by social conformism enforcers.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      Someday someone will find a way to make each minute you spend at a site, cost you some fraction of a cent, charged painlessly to your ISP bill. Then many, many things will change.

      It’s on its way at PayPal. I recently signed up for a blog at a small new operation, which required me to advance authorize PayPal to pay them for whatever site elements I drag in in future.

      • Max says:

        This is a glorious idea. Some parts of me hates ” billing by the minute” but another part wants actually reward the sites I actually read (like this one).

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          It would have a timeout; if no sign of action after X minutes, the meter stops charging till you pick up. The first minute should be free, too.

          • John Schilling says:

            That’s not how the internet works. You don’t spend minutes at a site like, e.g., this one. Your browser spends milliseconds grabbing data. You then spends as much time as you want staring at a browser window that is not “at” the site, has neither signaled to the site “My user is still looking at your data” nor “My user has stopped looking at your data”. Maybe, as a result of what you do with your browser, your browser will follow up with another millisecond of data-grabbing.

            Paying by the kilobyte or character of text is obviously doable and likely beneficial if done right. Paying by the minute would require particularly intrusive and, so long as private citizens are allowed to actually own computers, trivially hackable DRM. I don’t doubt that some future CEO of a reddit-like corporation will try it someday, but that will just bring another bit of ugliness to the debate over freedom on the centralized web.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            John, that is exactly how the web works. Lots of web sites send a message home when you close the window.

          • John Schilling says:

            Not sure what you mean by this; can you explain what you mean by “web sites” and “home”, how these relate to the user’s browser, and which physical hardware the three are running on?

            Concrete example: On a separate laptop, I just opened a browser window to reddit’s lead story, which in under a minute filled with much content. I then went over to voat, ditto. There is one browser window open on the machine, showing voat content.

            Then shut off the laptop’s wifi using the hardware switch. Go back to reddit, which my browser is happy to display from the local cache. I now have reddit content displayed, which I may spend many minutes perusing if I so desire.

            In the brave new world of pay-by-the-minute, who is billing me – reddit or voat? How, given that I am on an airgapped machine, do they know? If I genuinely want to stop viewing and stop paying for reddit content, what do I have to do? If I genuinely want to stop paying for reddit content but my battery just died, am I stuck paying by the minute for reddit until I get my laptop back up and running and connected to the internet? How does reddit know the difference between “computer is turned off” and “computer is happily displaying reddit content but wifi is turned off”?

            In a decade, the answer may well be that I can’t own a computer, I can only rent one from Google or Apple, and unless I drop off the internet for good their spyware will eventually tell reddit and voat what I was really up to. But that’s an unsatisfying future, and it certainly isn’t the present.

    • Shenpen says:

      Having almost no overlap between users and customers ( = people who actually pay) is a bit of fscked up situation anyway. The usual stuff: moral hazard, no skin in the game, principal-agent…

    • Steve Johnson says:

      In theory, yeah. You can model companies as cowardly and the left as much more likely to try to bully companies because they see politics as central to their lives (and don’t even view it as politics – merely “being a decent human being”). However, that is not how it actually works in practice.

      In practice how it happens is how Heartieste got banned from twitter.

      Some SJW gets a job in charge of bannings at twitter. She then gets a complaint from her friend who spends her time looking for excuses to request bannings. The twitter banning czar then says “well, we have to bow to the community pressure”. In the actual incident Heartiste got banned for retweeting a photograph (of diversity expressing differing cultural standards around sexuality) – the original account didn’t get a ban but his did. Why? Because it was an excuse.

      People here have acted like that too – someone once requested a ban for me on the grounds that “he says women can’t farm”. In other words, some transparently bullshit reason that serves as an excuse for someone on the left to issue a ban that they already wanted to issue. It’s not “community pressure” in any way, shape or form.

  71. Eggo says:

    “practically nobody else will ever hear about it or buy it, except maybe the tiny fraction of people who are already extremely clued-in to the weird erotica scene”

    This Gallery Is Pining For The Fjords?

    Of course, if it turns out that the witches were producing most of the content and spending most of the money, the situation can turn out very differently. I believe this is the case on reddit, where the vast majority of the media-supported trolls only participate in small subreddits dedicated to hating the rest of the community. They’re generally downvoted to oblivion anywhere else.

  72. Salem says:

    In theory, this is supposed to lead to amazing communities as corporate states optimize themselves to get more customer-citizens and new polities arise to take advantage of deficiencies in the old. In practice, we tried this with the Internet for a couple of years, and then moved to the current system, where individual sites like blogs and little storefronts are in decline and conversation and commerce have moved to a couple of giant corporations: Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Amazon, Paypal.

    But how is the second sentence a contradiction of the first? Facebook, Twitter, etc did and do optimise themselves to get more customer-citizens. That’s why they have so many. New groups do arise to take advantage of the deficiencies of the old, but of course not all such new groups succeed.

    There’s a theme of “market power” running through this post, but even more is a theme of “small is beautiful.” And that’s fine as a personal aesthetic, but it’s not a contradiction of the libertarian prediction or idea. It is emphatically not “If you don’t like your community, just leave and start a new one.” It’s more like “if you don’t like your community, you can leave and start a new one, but if you want anyone else to join you, you’d better offer them something better than they can get elsewhere.” Or even more accurately “If people who don’t like their communities are free to leave and start new ones, then we will have a better dynamic of community optimisation than if everyone was stuck in place.” There is no necessary prediction of a multitude of tiny communities.

    You seem to lament the fact that it’s hard to start a new community. But it should be hard, in a world where you are competing against existing communities already optimised to attract members. The communities we see are a selection of winners, not a selection of all the communities that were created. You seem to lament the fact that some people don’t get to live in their little snowflake community, but the joy of the internet is that they can. Just they can’t force anyone else to join them, and seeing that, they don’t want to. Go back to the top, and remember that the idea was communities competing, with some living and some dying. The idea that every community will flourish was specifically anti-predicted.

    Other people have addressed your “market power” style arguments better than I can, but I really do think you are listening to the importunate chink of a half-dozen crickets and ignoring the thousands of great cattle in the field. Most people really like Facebook, and if they didn’t, they would leave. Remember Myspace. The market power concerns are really just piggybacking on your love of smallness.

  73. So Scott, when will you be creating the Archipeligo of Ideas, where a variety of citizens from a full range of political camps can put forward any abstract idea they want, but where ad hominem, fallacious reasoning and social intimidation is ruthlessly supressed by randomly selected users acting as minimalist hobbsian leaders? X-D

  74. When reading your description of a hypothetical world in which queer sexuality is effectively banned from public discourse on the Net, I wondered if that isn’t the actual current world for a lot of people: Chinese, South Koreans, Indonesians, … Does anyone reading this know?

    • CJB says:

      From anecdotal evidence- the Tienanmen Square Massacre, probably one of the top ten most iconic moments in history, thanks to a certain picture, is almost completely unknown within china due to their extremely effective censoring of it.

      I have no sources, no links, no nothing but some stories, however, so take it with a whole chunk of that pink Himalayan salt.

      • Derelict says:

        The people who were university students in Beijing at the time certainly remember it (which is my own anecdotal evidence). But that’s just because they were there.

  75. dont-really-have-1 says:

    Ummm, if I’m not mistaken, this is referred to as “progress.” Did I get that right?

    • Derelict says:

      If you don’t mind me asking, what exactly are you referring to as “progress”? The development of a two-tier speech system, the gradual demonization of opinions most people seem to deem bigoted, or something else?

  76. lib-boy says:

    As David Friedman noted in Machinery of Freedom, its all about economy of scale. Software has a very large economy of scale, leading to a greater number of smaller firms. Government services almost certainly don’t have anywhere near the same economy of scale.

    • lib-boy says:

      Sorry, that should read “a smaller number of larger firms”.

      I’m also disappointed this article doesn’t explicitly mention network externalities, which are of course the reason many online firms are so large. These externalities can be overcome of course, but the larger firms typically work well enough that it isn’t worth the bother. If you view network externalities as legitimate costs there’s not even any market failure here.

  77. Shenpen says:

    I just want to say I am a “witch” (reactionary) and I still don’t understand why Scott is worrying for us. To rephrase my other example, and also a nod to Deiseach, we witches can just work like for example how Irish independence movements worked. Say acceptable things in plain sight (Sinn Fein) while in the night put on a balaclava and say or do things they don’t accept. Obv. not actually violent stuff, just posting unPC content anonymously on “second tier” or more like dedicated reactionary or other “witch” sites. Marginalization, when accepted openly, is a recruiting strategy, it attracts the romantic and the brave.

    Scott has this strange view that people want to use their full name and post non-controversial things to sites that are halfway controversial (tolerate but do not especially endorse controversial content) and then it will be bad for them if people reject it because it was on a halfway controversial sites and they don’t want to get persecuted. But why would this matter? Why would it happen so?

    Why would we have mixed blue-red pill sites in the long run? (In the original Matrix sense, not the sexual sense.) Why would someone post blue pill content on red pill sites? Why not just have red pillers post red pill views on red pill sites under a login and everything else on other logins on blue pill sites or even in their own name? For the red, balaclava on, for the blue, sleep on. Easy.

    Maybe I am really missing something here. We don’t need mixed-content, mixed-pill sites and login names used for both. Especially we don’t need to not keep our logins secret.

  78. Shenpen says:

    > In practice, we tried this with the Internet for a couple of years, and then moved to the current system, where individual sites like blogs and little storefronts are in decline and conversation and commerce have moved to a couple of giant corporations: Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Amazon, Paypal.

    But people often read Face or Twitter through third-party social news apps. I think things are necessarily moving towards some kind of an interchangeable format. The point is, software is elusive, very difficult to lock down. Imagine a web service, that puts your Face, Twitter etc. posts into a common XML format and then it can be read by a wide variety of apps. If BetterFace is made, you just plug that in and people read it the same way.

    We almost got it right with RSS. We could have almost made it not matter if it is a blogspot post or a reddit post. OK that failed, but something like this can happen and then it will not be the user logging on to a few corporate websites, it will many corporate websites sending messages to users.

  79. Laura B says:

    I think we need to wait until most of the people who grew up without the internet have died before we see reforms of this nature. Nearly all politicians are completely out of touch with the realities of the internet age.

  80. David J. Balan says:

    It seems like a similar mechanism is at work in lots of other places. For example, think of the people who leave ultra-orthodox Judaism. Doing that is really costly in a lot of different ways. So who’s going to do it? A handful of brave and sane people, who with their eyes open have chosen to bear those costs in order to live the life that they want to live. But most will be people who basically have no choice but to bear those costs; they are not cutting it in the ultra-orthodox world, due to mental illness, unsuitability for Torah study, sexual abuse, trauma, etc. For these and other reasons, they are not the kind of people who the typical ultra-orthodox person wants to be like. And this fact is used to great effect by the ultra-orthodox establishment. To anyone who might be thinking of leaving, they can say “look at those people who left, is that the team you want to be on?” It also provides a perverse incentive for the establishment to make those costs as high as possible, partly because higher costs reduce the number of leavers directly, but also because it increases the fraction of “undesirables” in the leavers pool, which makes joining it an even less attractive prospect.

  81. The (Schumpeterian?) idea of free market competition that makes the most sense to me, is that isn’t so much about having competitors right this second that makes a market competitive, but about having the plausible threat of competitors in the future. Large companies get economies of scale, and changing suppliers can be expensive, so you might expect a monopoly to persist in a free market sometimes, as long as the monopoly doesn’t behave too badly.

    Maybe we can say the same thing about the anarcho-capitalist archipelago. Even with no barriers to moving people or property, it’s probably still going to be expensive to switch governments (the price of helicopters is too damn high!), and more so to convince your friends and family to switch with you. Citizens would probably put up with a lot of government misbehavior without actually moving. (Is East/West Berlin before the wall an example of this?) If there are also big economies of scale for people living in the same state, the misbehavior error bars might be really big. On the bright side, you could expect political improvements just by bringing down the cost of moving.

    Anyway, if all that is right, we shouldn’t declare market failure just because we don’t see a lot of competitors in any given market. Instead we have to ask whether the misbehavior of the monopolist is out or proportion to the cost of replacing them. As you point out, Scott, a world where for some reason we had to have a hundred Facebooks, might actually suck a lot.

  82. Ross Levatter, MD says:

    It’s certainly not the case that libertarians are accepting of regulatory schemes like OSHA and the ADA. This just today in USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/07/27/ada-americans–disabilities-act-lawsuits/30702519/

    Numerous articles in Regulation magazine over the years have been strongly condemnatory of OSHA regulations, cost-effective, contradictory, cronyistic.

  83. Alia D. says:

    The answer to this problem is not less censorship but more, that can destroy the centralization and so make censorship ineffective. If so can get a site like reddit or Facebook to really consistently only allow liberal ideas or only allow conservative ideas then you create a large group of social interactions that really have to go somewhere else. If you cam then get the socialists to start banning blacklivesmatter or vice versa and get GOP faithful to start banning tea part or vice versa you can really get the balkanization going. Once you have dozens of different groups then leverage becomes a lot less cost effective for the protectors of decency. So the next equivalent of gay issues will be able to find a network to congregate in and start spreading ideas through.

  84. Scoundrel says:

    > deleted by its hosting company with no explanation except “the content on your server includes politically incorrect parts”

    First reaction: that can’t be true. Wouldn’t every hosting company have a standard form letter stashed somewhere with a made-up unverifiable reason for abruptly deleting content with no notice, to prevent criticism?
    Second reaction: But no, wait. The point of deleting Voat was to prove their bona fides. If you come up with a clever dodge and say it’s not really about politics at all, your closest friends will know you’re a genius who put on over on the idiot Creationist, but random strangers will take you at your word and think you have insufficient contempt for the people you were trying to signal contempt for.
    From Why I defend scoundrels: the dumber and louder and more strident an argument you make, the more it signals how much you hate him and how little you respect him.

  85. Peter Gerdes says:

    Luckily humans seem to come equipped with a couple mechanisms which ameliorate this danger (it wouldn’t surprise me if these are the result of genuine evolutionary benefit to exploring unpopular approaches).

    First, people tend to feel an attraction to contrarian or other socially frowned upon movements/meetings. Youth is continually, deliberately doing everything they can to explore (and even announce) the forbidden. I mean how many people read Mein Kampf for it’s historic value (or even because they are racists genuinely interested in it’s intellectual contribution) and how many because it is forbidden? People will go out of their way to use the dark seedy internet underbelly where anything goes and that constant trickle of exploration smooths a binary distinction into a smooth slope and ensures that unapproved forums just slightly more filled with witches than the approved ones will be there for anyone who wants to stray from the allowed content.

    Your model predicts failure because you assume that new communities would be created by downward migration (people from the approved site switch over to some more free site) but the stable effect is created by upward migration. As a popular site gradually censors more and more content the people most interested in talking about that content are motivated to explore other options. They raise the level of discussion at the sites they move to and, ironically, those sites keep the witches at bay by being smaller (greater sense of shared standards) and punishing what they define to be inappropriate behavior more harshly. As these sites grow the ratio of witches who would join to valued contributors falls even as the sense of shared standards weakens.

    Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, people hold grudges. Maybe I accidentally step a bit over some line reddit has drawn and get a comment pulled or some kind of ding. A rational individual might shrug and move on but a human will endure a fair bit of trouble to show reddit by going somewhere else. More importantly those who feel strongly about not shutting down disagreeable speech will feel an instant desire to choose up sides against those who sneer fway peach.

    Or to put the point differently, I would be quite scared if some aliens came down and tried to censure certain unpopular topics. Used subtly and with discretion it would be quite effective. But the allies of those pushing for censorship will inevitably overreach. Censorship of catcalls, suggestions for girls to suck their dick etc… might go fine….but inevitably someone starts trying to censor posts which discuss whether they like big breasts or small and soon even discussing whether women are inherently less good at math/gaming/whatever is under attack by an ally. Sure, the people with actual power may see these spinoffs as silly, even harmful, but they can’t avoid the ideological association and inevitable backlash.

    There are otherwise normal intelligent people out in the woods with large rifles right now preparing to defend against Obama’s imminent declaration of martial law. They may have pretty crazy views about politics but talk to them about car engines, computers or whatever else they know about and they are totally normal. We need only 1/100 of that to keep the internet free.

  86. How on earth are you so insightful? What you say here seems to be quite correct and more than a little concerning. I have to go think about this for a while.

  87. Quinn Lewandowski says:

    Hi. I’ve been reading through this blog for a few days, so I have… observations.

    First, you’re really smart and a good writer and I’ve really enjoyed a lot of what you have to say; what I haven’t *enjoyed*, I’ve appreciated, at least. So thanks. I send as much sincere gratitude and appreciation as I can convey here.

    There are a lot of areas where we disagree, or at least where our value intuitions don’t line up, and that’s odd for me and a little threatening because you’re very obviously not an idiot, and I’d sort of gotten used to being able to intellectually run roughshod over anyone who I disagreed with.

    Partly as a result of this, most of the articles on here provoke very different emotional reactions from me at different times, which is a reason I’ve held off commenting. (It seems tactless to say, ‘you don’t know me, but I completely agree with most of this essay but for really different reasons, but not this one part of section three… etc). If I comment again I probably *will* be saying something like that, though, because my mind isn’t good at doing what I want it to, and commenting in a sub-optimal way is better than not commenting at all.

    This is a long prelude to say- I think you’re right about this, and it scares me. I hope you’re wrong, at least about some of it.

    This actually applies to a lot of what you talk about in this blog. I have a worldview which is based on people being more rational than they actually are, and this is helping to disabuse me of that notion, which is a very good thing but kind of really painful.

    I hope this finds you well, when you read it.

    Quinn Lewandowski