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Links 9/15: Linkua Franca

From the Department of Omens: Why is everyone having weird dreams about Jeremy Corbyn?

Myths and facts about medieval fighting, mostly good for ruining your enjoyment of things: “Spears were the medieval and ancient weapon. Swords are always a secondary or tertiary weapon for warriors, meaning that you would only use your sword if your main weapon was lost/broken/inappropriate. If you are not wearing armour or have no shield, once they commence sword fights end in about 1 second.”

The time Bill Clinton’s haircut caused a national scandal. The time a dispute over hairstyles killed hundreds of thousands of people.

If Avatar: The Last Airbender had a Game of Thrones-style introduction.

Most of the Japanese Parliament, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, are members of Nippon Kaigi, a nationalist organization dedicated to reviving the Japanese Empire, “breaking away from the post-war regime”, and restoring the status of the Emperor as a living god. (h/t Noah Smith)

Chomsky would have a field day with this headline: Jewish Man Dies As Rocks Pelt His Car In East Jerusalem. I think this is one case where the passive voice would actually be less weaselly.

To make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe. Creating a sandwich from scratch, on the other hand, only takes 6 months and $1500.

Emmanuel Nwude was a Union Bank of Nigeria director who made $242 million by pulling the greatest Nigerian scam of all time.

Chinese firm invents large-scale 3D printer that can create ten houses a day for $5000 each. Just what China needs – more housing! Also, printing houses from mud?

Carly Fiorina demands to know what Hillary has done during her 20 years in politics. Democrats step up to the challenge and list a bunch of her greatest accomplishments.

200 proofs that the Earth is flat, in case you need to prove whatever philosophical point might be proven by somebody making a site with 200 proofs that the Earth is flat.

A few weeks ago I mentioned some problems with Chomsky’s Cambodian genocide scholarship. Jim has a whole well-cited list.

Popehat scoops me on something I’ve always thought was a good idea: given that some people want “safe” colleges with trigger warnings on everything, and other people want “free speech” colleges where they are confronted with disquieting new ideas, why aren’t different colleges drifting to one side or the other and letting the market decide?

Otto von Bismarck’s grandson Gottfried von Bismarck also made history books – by dying with “the highest [blood] level of cocaine that [his doctors] had ever seen.”

Troll Research Station in Antarctica.

Did US news deregulation cause the recent increase in political polarization?

Last links post I linked to a rap version of the Iliad. I neglected to mention that the author is trying to rap-ify the whole thing (!!) and has a Patreon account set up to fund the project.

Latest campus free speech problem: threats to expel students who criticize Israel, courtesy of Dianne Feinstein.

Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million to fix the Newark school system. It mostly failed. Some speculation about why. One example where donations without systemic change didn’t do any good.

Gwern asks any modafinil users reading this to take a survey about their response to the medication for his research. Participants will be entered into a drawing to win extremely predictable prize. Related: is President Obama using modafinil?

Shaven chimps look kind of like a really buff Gollum.

Is Milo Yiannopoulos The Only Responsible Tech Journalist Left On The Planet?, asks Milo Yiannopoulos.

The full chemical name of the protein titin is the longest word in the English language at 189,819 letters. If you want, learn it at home with Mavis Beacon Teaches Titin

Why is China, which has a billion people and lots of money, so terrible at soccer? One interesting theory – the government bans all small gatherings that aren’t pre-approved, putting a big regulatory hassle in the way of people who might otherwise start random back-alley soccer games, and maybe this sort of grassroots-level introduction to the sport is important enough that even throwing money at big gleaming stadiums can’t make up for it. Somebody should study countries that over/under-perform their fundamentals in sports versus countries that over/under-perform their fundamentals in academia/science and see what the correlations are.

1960s: “You can’t fight here, this is the war room!”. 2010s: Brawl breaks out in Japanese Parliament during debate over pacifism

“Good morning, Mr. Machiavelli. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to prevent Cesare Borgia from conquering Florence. You will serve as our official ambassador to his court. You will shadow the Duke-Cardinal as closely as possible, report to us about his character and tactics, and develop a strategy to keep him from adding Tuscany to his expanding kingdom. While at his court, you will need to maintain yourself and your team with grandeur sufficient to make him take us seriously as a political force, but we can’t send you any funds to pay for this, since Borgia has so completely destroyed peace and order in the region that bandits are rampaging through the countryside robbing and murdering all our couriers. This message will self-destruct in a few weeks when your office is inevitably looted and burned, but if you throw it in the fire that will speed things up.” Somebody linked me to Ex Urbe a few weeks back, and now I am passing on the favor. Read the one about the Borgias first, but the whole Machiavelli series is superb.

Does the season in which you were born affect your skill at chess? Also, “a similar pattern has been found with schizophrenia, and the possible link between these two phenomena is discussed.”

Between-populations factors explain 24% genetic differences in height and 8% of genetic differences in BMI across Europe. Now that the only two massively polygenic traits that might vary among national populations have been successfully studied, I look forward to never having to read any further research of this sort ever again.

“Contrary to popular perceptions, today both property and violent crimes (with the exception of homicides) are more widespread in Europe than in the United States”. What caused the ‘Reversal Of Misfortunes’?

There are probably lots of Barack Obama lookalikes making some money as impersonators, but only one who is a Han Chinese man in Guangzhou. Also, holy @#$%, that Chinese guy looks exactly like Barack Obama.

Computational linguistics: where king – man + woman = queen

This creepy Bay Area kidnapping case was so bizarre that the police said it was a hoax until the kidnapper wrote in to complain that this was unfair to the victim. Also: gangs of gentlemen-thieves flying crime-drones.

What did the Chinese think of the most recent Republican primary debate? Apparently “Jeb” sounds like “penis” in Chinese.

People were pretty nasty to Vox when they rejected that article on negative utilitarianism for political/PR reasons. But they have redeemed themselves by publishing The Case Against Equality Of Opportunity and it’s pretty good. I broadly agree with it although I think it requires a much broader rejection of philosophical paradigms and reorganization about how we think of things than could be included even in an article of this length. Also: Vox reinvents the concept of anarcho-tyranny without noticing. Also also: don’t miss Eight times politicians fired actual guns at abstract concepts.

Dutch study shows rampant sexism in scientific community. Dutch establishment promises reforms, says they will push “gender awareness” on everyone involved. Outside observers point out basic statistical error, actual results show no gender bias at all. Original authors say it doesn’t matter and the Dutch scientific community is still sexist because grant review forms use “gendered language” like the word “excellent” which is apparently “male-coded”. Dutch establishment says reform and gender awareness programs are “still a good idea, regardless of the paper’s quality”, and vow to push ahead. Why are we even bothering to do science anymore? Why don’t we just write the only acceptable conclusion on a piece of paper beforehand and save however much it cost to do the study?

Florida Man has finally found a worthy opponent: Puppy Shoots Florida Man. In case that article is too depressing, here is a man with a tiny train full of dogs.

Maybe the most Chinese paragraph ever: “Khorgos, on the border with Kazakhstan, serves as a cautionary example: two years after the go-ahead China has built a city consisting of a number of multi-story shopping centers in the desert. In one of those buildings, for example, there are roughly one hundred shops, each one of them selling exactly the same product: fur coats. By way of contrast, on the Kazak side stands only a yurt and a couple of plastic camels”

If there were some kind of EA bingo card, I think I could win the game just with this sentence: Chris Blattman says that an African program to encourage entrepreneurship with direct cash grants might be the most effective development program in history.

Corporate prediction markets tested at Ford and Google found to be 25% more accurate than traditional expert forecasts.

Tumblr user kontextmachine on the First Servile War.

Noahpinion on Whig history vs. Malthusian history vs. Haan history. Whig history is “We’re doing better because progress is the natural state of the world”. Malthusian history is “We’re doing better because we’re in the boom part of an endless inescapable boom-bust cycle.” Haan history is “We’re doing better but who cares, everything is fundamentally flawed in a way no material progress can fix.

Robin Hanson’s book The Age of Em is available for pre-order, by which I mean “available for gaping at the neat spherical city picture on the cover”.

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1,151 Responses to Links 9/15: Linkua Franca

  1. Alexp says:

    The link about medieval fighting myths is wrong about leather armor and the ease with which chainmail is pierced.

    • anon85 says:

      He’s also wrong about swimming in armor (swimming in clothes is already difficult).

      • Zebram says:

        Wrong. People historically had webbing between the toes and fingers that we have now evolved away from.

      • ivvenalis says:

        He obviously knows more about history than swimming. Ever jumped in the water with a 11kg brick? It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s got basically zero buoyancy, just like armor. People can “fly” in water, but not air, because they’re buoyant. Get rid of that and you’ll “swim” as well in water as you can in the air.

        • suntzuanime says:

          People’s ability to fly in water also has to do with water’s greater viscosity, meaning that flapping their wings generates more lift. IIRC they make lifeguards dive down and retrieve a 20 lb brick at the bottom of a pool to get their license, and I doubt they could fly out of an equivalent pit.

          • roystgnr says:

            Viscosity doesn’t matter as much as you think. In this graph:


            You can see where changing the viscosity (which is inversely proportional to the Reynolds numbers at the bottom of the graph) by several orders of magnitude still only varies the drag coefficient on the left within a single order of magnitude, and that’s only if you count the dip around the transition point to turbulence. At very low Reynolds numbers drag goes up proportionally to viscosity, but those are “swimming in syrup” level Reynolds numbers, and IIRC lift doesn’t give you the same effect.

            The big difference between lift (and drag) in air versus water comes from density; both lift and drag are directly proportional.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Yes, I was thinking of density but said viscosity; I apologize for the error.

        • ThrustVectoring says:

          The higher density of water also helps – moving a given volume of water at a given speed gives you more momentum than moving the same volume of air, which means you can “fly” with smaller “wings”.

      • onyomi says:

        While I think he overstates the case a bit, I think he’s trying to dispel a common myth that plate armor was ridiculously heavy and impractical; as if it were just a toy for cowardly aristocrats who didn’t have to actually move.

        The reality, I think is probably that while it surely slowed you down somewhat, it might not have been as restrictive as one might expect, especially if tailor-made, and certainly offered great protection against many of the threats one would face on a medieval battlefield. Probably it was only the expense that kept everyone from wearing it, rather than any inherently cumbersome quality (though needing help to put it on is also a bit of a minus if you need a bunch of people to all be ready to fight at a moment’s notice).

        And related to the swimming; I don’t think he’s claiming one could swim well in armor; just that one wouldn’t necessarily immediately drown.

        • Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous says:

          And related to the swimming; I don’t think he’s claiming one could swim well in armor; just that one wouldn’t necessarily immediately drown.

          I suspect a lot of the drowning had to do with the fact that everyone that historically tried swimming in armor:

          1. Was fleeing from a long day on the battlefield so they were exhausted and probably panicked.
          2. Very well may not have known how to swim in the first place, but it was a damn sight better to try than stay and get slaughtered or captured.

          The fact that some of them actually managed to made it across the water hazard in these sorts of situations lends (very weak) support to the idea that it might actually be possible.

        • anon85 says:

          Swimming becomes very hard very quickly if you’re wearing something that’s even slightly restrictive and non-buoyant. I think most people will fail to swim for long in heavy boots, for example. Swimming in armor sounds completely impossible; I doubt you could stay afloat longer than a couple minutes, if that.

      • Nornagest says:

        My Hollywood pet peeve is swords drawn from a scabbard slung over one of the shoulders.

        You can’t draw from there. Try it; it can’t be done, not with anything longer than a gladius or wakizashi. Even if the scabbard pivots freely on the strap, which is unrealistic, you can’t get enough arm extension for the tip to clear the scabbard without dislocating your thumb, and that only with a shorter sword.

        If swords were ever carried that way, they’d have to have been drawn from a scabbard held in the left hand after shrugging it off the shoulders. But you never see that.

        • Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous says:

          Myth buster! I just did it with my saber. 😉

          Also, notching the side of the scabbard you draw to made it way easier with my toy swords as a kid.

          • Nornagest says:

            I may have to modify that to straight swords — but I can’t do it with my cutting sword. Although that’s probably a longer blade.

            I stand by the pet peeve, though. You mostly see it with longswords or longer, and ain’t no one got the wingspan for that.

          • Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous says:

            But maybe I should be clear that I am being tongue in cheek. I actually second your pet peeve.

        • My solution long ago, for a great sword, was a short scabbard about half the length of the blade. It was attached to the strap. The other end of the strap was a leather ring. Put the point of the sword through the ring and into the scabbard. Put the strap over your shoulder.

          To draw, hold the scabbard with your left hand, draw out the sword with your right. When the blade clears the scabbard the strap is no longer attached to the sword at the lower end, so you can swing the sword. The ring runs down the sword and off by centrifugal force and the sword is free to be used.

          I have no evidence that it was ever done that way in period but I still have the sword and scabbard and wear them, over mail, every Halloween to welcome trick or treaters.

    • In particular he doesn’t seem to know about cuirboulli, which was a common form of inexpensive armor.

    • Shenpen says:

      My beef: it is ENTIRELY about battlefield fighting. Most fantasy is not about the battlefield but e.g. stories like travelling to somewhere and sitting in a tavern with your trusty sidearm (sword) when suddenly some robbers attack you. At that point you don’t say excuse me guys let me fetch my poleaxespear from the stables. You probably don’t have the shield with you either, not even the buckler, that would be too paranoid and clumsy.

      Tolkien’s Fellowship should not be compared not to the Battle of Visby but to some guys deciding to go on a pilgrimage to Rome or the Holy Lands.

      • haishan says:

        From what I understand there was way more fuckin’ on a typical pilgrimage than there was in LotR.

      • Cole says:

        Depends on the fantasy you read. I’ve read plenty of fantasy books with large scale battles. Wheel of Time has a mix of large scale battles and small groups of people on journeys. Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive has medieval battlefields. I think if I went through my goodreads/amazon history I’d find about 7-10 other more obscure fantasy series with large scale medieval battles.

        • Luke Somers says:

          The pikemen were the bulk of most Wheel of Time armies.

          The swordsmen were the officers and bodyguards.

        • LTRFTW says:

          Spearmen were the vast majority of soldiers in The Stormlight Archive, and Shardbearers are overpowered enough that they aren’t really intended to be representative of normal swordsmen. Darkeyes weren’t even *allowed* to carry swords.

      • Sigivald says:

        Reminds me of the quote, above, “If you are not wearing armour or have no shield, once they commence sword fights end in about 1 second.”

        Well, yeah, except that real people fighting for their lives against another armed guy tend to be very conservative about it, because they don’t wanna die.

        A swordsman against an unarmed man? Yeah, that’s a quick slaughter.

        • Luke Somers says:

          I’ve been in mock swordfights, and yeah, it was all about the half-commits and feinting around the edges. Those examples were suicide, or at best if you absolutely needed to wrap things up in a great hurry and were willing to take great risk to achieve it. It was a lot more like the buckler example than the greatsword example.

        • Anonymous says:

          Under the assumption that “commence” refers to the first serious exchange rather than the moment the fighters start to feel each other out, it’s still true in a sharp fight.

          The point the writer seems to me to be trying to make is that sword fights aren’t nine-minute extravaganzas out of Scaramouche, they end with the first exchange and that exchange is terribly swift.

          • Gbdub says:

            Consider sport fencing – exchanges last seconds at most, and usually end with at least one side receiving a blow that would be devastating with real swords.

            Supposedly the rules of right of way were developed to prevent careless fencing that ends with both parties skewered.

            Obviously sport fencing is not real dueling, but the core concept of trying to stab somebody that doesn’t want to be stabbed is the same, and it doesn’t take long. I doubt that real sword exchanges between unarmored opponents trying to kill each other usually lasted more than a few seconds.

          • Nornagest says:

            When I fenced in college, I occasionally saw points that took a couple minutes to be decided — but yes, ten to twenty seconds was more typical. Less in saber, but that’s probably the least realistic of the Olympic weapons. Exchanges between good fencers aren’t usually decided after the first attack, but more than three to five is uncommon.

            That’s something of a special case, though. Sport fencing comes out of smallsword play, and those were exclusively civilian weapons that were heavily optimized for speed and suitability for the lunge — and even there, epee play is a lot slower than foil or saber. People also tend to be more cautious when there’s actual points on their weapons.

        • Marc Whipple says:

          I once won an impromptu knife-fighting bout (with practice knives, of course) by, as soon as the start was called, using my forearm to defect my opponent’s knife up and away while drawing my own across their abdomen.

          After the pass, I jumped back and said, “I win.”

          My opponent said, “No, you didn’t, we both got cut!”

          I replied. “I’m bleeding. You’re dead. I win.”

          The judge nodded and said, “Yep. He may bleed out or lose his arm later, but your guts are all over the ground.” (Note that nobody had specified that this was a touch match. 😉 )

          More generally, the thing about melee combat is that unless you are vastly outmatching your opponent, you’re going to take damage. (S.M. Stirling once observed that the winner of a knfie fight is the one who goes to the hospital instead of the morgue.) If you accept that you’re going to get hurt and are willing to get hurt on purpose, you can end the fight before your opponent is ready to commit.

      • Njál says:

        Most fantasy is not about the battlefield but e.g. stories like travelling to somewhere and sitting in a tavern with your trusty sidearm (sword) when suddenly some robbers attack you. At that point you don’t say excuse me guys let me fetch my poleaxespear from the stables. You probably don’t have the shield with you either, not even the buckler, that would be too paranoid and clumsy.

        In Njál’s Saga, when Gunnar Hámundarsson is sitting in his house he’s suddenly attacked by some enemies. At which point he fetches his trusty hewing-spear and bow, which produces not less than two of the great laconisms of world literature.

        • Actually, he makes use of the halberd (whatever it actually was that’s the usual translation) when he spots the man who is climbing up on the house to see if he’s home. Which leads to one of the two laconisms. And even before that he’s warned by the howl of a dying, but loyal, dog.

          By the time the attack starts he’s had plenty of time to get ready.

          • Njál says:

            Actually, he makes use of the halberd (whatever it actually was that’s the usual translation)

            Oh, is that considered the correct English term? “Hewing-spear” is what it was called in the one English translation I read, which is why I used it. In Swedish it’s normally called the equivalent of “spear-axe”, and the original Icelandic is “atgeir”.

            It’s true he has some time to prepare himself, I guess I just assumed the robbers weren’t in the tavern already when they attacked.

    • Milan says:

      He’s also wrong about what it is like to wear plate armor. I wore it. It is not just weight, it is also how heated that thing gets on the sun. It is also that it has to fit super perfectly in order to not “restrict movements” and your definition of “not restrict movement” must exclude all kinds of restrictions. Naked men can, if fact, stand up or jump or roll or whatever much faster then the one in armor. Especially when tired and overheated.

      And definitely, I would like to see him swim in plate armor. I take it that he did not even tried to swim in normal 20 century clothes, like t-shirt, jeans and shoes. It is much harder then swimming in speedos.

    • Nornagest says:

      It’s hit-and-miss in other areas, too. This turned out longer than I anticipated, but here’s the braindump:

      He’s right about the weight of a medieval sword, but training for two hours with one will absolutely tire you out unless you’re an experienced swordsman. Fighting with a sword for two hours is insanely difficult, and that’s where training really shines. You sometimes hear stories about one warrior killing ten or twenty, and that did really happen sometimes — but usually in the context of long battles, where poorly trained people would barely be able to lift their weapons after a while.

      An unarmored duel with swords would be over quickly, but “one second” is exaggerated unless at least one participant isn’t trying to stay alive.

      One on one, sword and spear are evenly matched, while a halberd or glaive will usually beat both. On the battlefield, you want spears for the initial clash and a shorter sidearm for when the lines break down and things start getting chaotic. He’s right, however, that spears were by far the most common and probably the most generally useful military weapon in pretty much all medieval cultures.

      I wouldn’t recommend trying to grab your opponent’s blade bare-handed under any circumstances. With gauntlets it’d sometimes be safe.

      Longswords and bastard swords are pretty much the same thing. They were rare in the first half of the Middle Ages but gradually became the most common military sword. You’d use them with two hands, but we usually use “two-handed sword” to mean a larger weapon, mostly a late medieval/Renaissance thing and always rare.

      A katana is just a sword. Not much better than European swords, not much worse, whatever partisans of either side will tell you (and there are lots of partisans). Japanese access to metal lagged European for most of its history, though, so Japanese swords would have been more expensive than European of equivalent quality.

      He’s right about wrestling being important: Western wrestling has a long military pedigree and e.g. German longsword manuals cover it in some detail. But don’t take that to mean sweaty groin-punching. The objective would have been to get your opponent into a lock or pin and stick a knife into a joint in his armor.

      The YouTube video of the archer is really cool but probably not representative of what archers would be doing in period.

      • alexp says:

        also, boxing gloves only weigh 8-10 ounces each and their enter of gravity is right in the middle of your hands, making them much easier to wield than sword.

        Still, just about anybody would be dead tired after 5 one minute rounds of boxing.

        • Anonymous` says:

          But with boxing gloves there’s no lever advantage; you have to make your own hand move fast enough to deal damage. Swords have to take less energy than that, no?

          • Nornagest says:

            It doesn’t take a lot of power to get a sword to cut — little enough, in fact, that most guys who start sword training swing too hard to cut well*. But you need to move your entire body to get good structure and stabilize a cut or a block or parry, and that, more than the swing itself, is where the exertion comes from.

            I’d say it’s roughly on par with boxing. Harder on your knees and traps, less hard on your arm muscles, about the same on legs and core. And it gets worse the heavier your armor is.

            * “Guys” here is gendered; most women start out by swinging too gently. This is probably due to acculturation rather than anything physical — I’ve seen children and old ladies cut well.

          • Steve Johnson says:

            “Guys” here is gendered; most women start out by swinging too gently. This is probably due to acculturation rather than anything physical — I’ve seen children and old ladies cut well.

            It’s almost certainly mental and genetic.

            A woman will not normally face a life threatening adversary in open combat. Her assailant’s goal is almost certainly going to be rape and her evolutionarily correct strategy is to put up token resistance so that she can disavow responsibility later (also to make sure she doesn’t get stuck with the genes of a totally incompetent rapist) and get the best of both worlds – successful raider / rapist genes (which are better than the genes of the men who failed to protect her) and no social disapproval for willingly having sex with the invaders / raiders.

            Swinging effectively might change her assailant’s calculus from “just disarm her” to “kill her because she’s not worth the trouble”.

            Men don’t have the same privilege.

          • anodognosic says:


            1. You make a hash of the fitness-mazimizer/adaptation-executor distinction and

            2. I’m disturbed by the specificity of your just-so story

          • Nita says:

            Well, Jim has graduated to snuff stories, so now someone else has to regularly remind us how much women love rape.

          • Deiseach says:

            her evolutionarily correct strategy is to put up token resistance so that she can disavow responsibility later

            Steve Johnson, do you want to be punched very hard in the face? There are professional services who accommodate persons desirous of physical impact for a fee, please try those rather than coming on here and trying to get it for free.

            I am less than gruntled with your assumptions. Steve Johnson – making extremely conservative (so theologically conservative Calvinists love him to bits and quote him wholesale for their understanding of predestination and justification) 4th/5th century Catholic bishops look like 21st century sex-positive feminists by comparison:

            (S)ince no one, however magnanimous and pure, has always the disposal of his own body, but can control only the consent and refusal of his will, what sane man can suppose that, if his body be seized and forcibly made use of to satisfy the lust of another, he thereby loses his purity?

            …Nevertheless, for our purpose of refuting those who are unable to comprehend what true sanctity is, and who therefore insult over our outraged Christian women, it is enough that in the instance of this noble Roman matron it was said in her praise, There were two, but the adultery was the crime of only one. For Lucretia was confidently believed to be superior to the contamination of any consenting thought to the adultery. And accordingly, since she killed herself for being subjected to an outrage in which she had no guilty part, it is obvious that this act of hers was prompted not by the love of purity, but by the overwhelming burden of her shame. She was ashamed that so foul a crime had been perpetrated upon her, though without her abetting; and this matron, with the Roman love of glory in her veins, was seized with a proud dread that, if she continued to live, it would be supposed she willingly did not resent the wrong that had been done her. She could not exhibit to men her conscience but she judged that her self-inflicted punishment would testify her state of mind; and she burned with shame at the thought that her patient endurance of the foul affront that another had done her, should be construed into complicity with him. Not such was the decision of the Christian women who suffered as she did, and yet survive. They declined to avenge upon themselves the guilt of others, and so add crimes of their own to those crimes in which they had no share. For this they would have done had their shame driven them to homicide, as the lust of their enemies had driven them to adultery.

            From which we see, even in those days were not wanting Steve Johnsons to say of raped women who did not commit suicide “Well, that’s because she enjoyed it! She wanted it!”

          • Anonymous says:

            A woman will not normally face a life threatening adversary in open combat. Her assailant’s goal is almost certainly going to be rape and her evolutionarily correct strategy is to put up token resistance so that she can disavow responsibility later (also to make sure she doesn’t get stuck with the genes of a totally incompetent rapist) and get the best of both worlds – successful raider / rapist genes (which are better than the genes of the men who failed to protect her) and no social disapproval for willingly having sex with the invaders / raiders.

            I have heard something very similar with regards to the evolutionary basis for the case of forcible copulation among mallard ducks.

          • Anonymous says:


            I think what Steve is trying to say is that given two hypothetical women who are raped, it is the one who gets over it and doesn’t kill herself is the one who will probably have more progeny down the road, thus passing whatever genetic inclination/ability towards not dying due to rape she possesses to her children. Further, in the same line of logic, the woman who puts up some resistance – but not enough to result in her own death – is probably going to have more progeny than a woman whose response to being raped is her death, or the woman who submissively accepts it, regardless of the strength (being a proxy for a good genotype) of her would-be rapist. None of this means the woman necessarily enjoys any of this, however.

            Do you have an argument that isn’t outrage?

          • Nita says:

            Mallard ducks secretly crave rapist genes more than anything, and put up a token resistance to rape only in order to avoid accusations of infidelity from other ducks?

            This theory fails to explain the evolutionary arms race that has resulted in corkscrew penises and labyrinth vaginas, or the fact that male mallards sport elaborate mating plumage. Why bother wasting all those resources on colorful feathers instead of becoming better at what females really love — rape?

          • Anonymous says:

            Because rape is obviously not the optimal mating strategy? If it were, it would dominate the others.

          • Deiseach says:

            Anonymous, I consider when someone argues that ALL women only PRETEND to resist rape because they CRAVE THOSE REAL MANLY MEN GENES RAPISTS POSSESS rather than the (presumably) BETA CUCKOLD ORBITERS wussy sissy men who couldn’t murder the rapists first (and then, I also presume, drag the saucy bitches off for a bit of raping themselves in order to prove they do too possess REAL MANLY MEN GENES) –

            – can you suggest any other response than outrage? “Ooh, it must be EVOLUTIONARY ADAPTATION”.

            Yeah. That’s why mallards gang-rape female ducks and even drown them in their mating enthusiasm. Being drowned is really evolutionarily beneficial to passing on your genes, doncha know!

            I’m not going to bother being cool, calm and logical in a reasoned response here. It’s a shitty statement and I’m treating it as shit.


            Now, Anonymous, please don’t react with outrage but give me a clearly logically reasoned rebuttal of why you personally are not a rapist and why you don’t want to use violence to force women to have sex with you so you can impregnate them.

            Because otherwise I’ve got to assume that, just as women only feign resistance to being ‘raped’ so they can avoid social stigma and bear the cuckoo’s offspring which will be supported by the non-rapist male failure who didn’t stop her being a slut in heat who opens her legs to anyone she deems possessing real manly man genes, the corollary of that is that all men really are either rapists who can’t be bothered to stick around and support the offspring they father on the sluts, or the failed males who end up cuckolded and raising the real manly man rapist’s child.

            Which are you, Anonymous? Real Manly Man Rapist or Failed Male Cuckold? And remember, don’t be outraged!

          • Anonymous says:


            Now, Anonymous, please don’t react with outrage but give me a clearly logically reasoned rebuttal of why you personally are not a rapist and why you don’t want to use violence to force women to have sex with you so you can impregnate them.


            The short answer is because it’s not the 1300s and I’m not a mongol invader. Had I tried the rapist mating strategy, I would very likely be shortly imprisoned for life, if not hung for my crimes, and most if not all of my prospective offspring would probably be aborted. This strategy is not effective, perhaps especially in modern circumstances of relative peace, effective policing and acceptability of infanticide.

            A better question you might ask would be why I’m not an artificial fertilization technician who fraudulently swaps sperm samples for his own.

          • Nita says:

            So, why is it not the optimal strategy? Steve alleges that rapist genes + lack of social disapproval is “the best of both worlds” for females. Ducks have no social disapproval. Therefore, if Steve’s idea applies to mallards, then rape should be the only successful strategy for mallard males.

            This strategy is not effective, perhaps especially in modern circumstances of relative peace and effective policing.

            Well, now I know what I would want to do to you if law&order broke down. (Hint: it’s not sex.)

          • Anonymous says:

            So, why is it not the optimal strategy? Steve alleges that rapist genes + lack of social disapproval is “the best of both worlds” for females. Ducks have no social disapproval. Therefore, if Steve’s idea applies to mallards, then rape should be the only successful strategy for mallard males.

            He’s wrong on that; this situation is highly unstable.

            I can see it stabilizing rather quickly, as males band together in order to lay claim to a certain amount of females (say, one) each that nobody else is allowed to have access to, supporting each other to preclude violations of their mates (it is largely impossible to successfully do alone; you must sleep sometime). This produces paternal certainty, paternal investment and in consequence high fertility (as measured by offspring surviving to reproduce) overall. Rapists might get overall a high amount of fucks, but they don’t actually stick around long enough to ensure that the female they inseminated is actually impregnated, that she actually gives birth to the child and cares for it until it is independent.

          • Rape being a successful strategy in some or even most cases doesn’t mean that it’s the universally successful strategy; plenty of animals have fairly complicated and distributed sets of mating strategies and behaviors.

            This isn’t to say that I think there’s any particular evolutionary pressure for token resistance in women. Genes seem slow and culture seems fast. I don’t suppose anyone has studies of gender-based chimp-on-chimp violence handy?

          • Anonymous says:

            This isn’t to say that I think there’s any particular evolutionary pressure for token resistance in women.

            It’s probably a weak pressure – avoid rape like the plague, but if already raped, take the consolation prize of not dying.

          • Deiseach says:

            because it’s not the 1300s and I’m not a mongol invader

            So, Anonymous, what you are saying is that you would rape if you thought you could get away with it?

            Steve Johnson using “evolutionarily correct response” is bollocks, because:

            (a) you think nobody ever tried aborting or infanticide before Planned Parenthood came to enlighten the world? Let me quote you some Ovid, from “Amores”, Book II, Elegy XIII

            Why submit your womb to probing instruments,
            or give lethal poison to what is not yet born?

            (b) Do you really think women pregnant by men not their husbands had much chance of raising those illegitimate offspring with social sanction?

            (c) From the sample of St Augustine I quoted, one of the reproaches the pagans heaped on Christians for making Rome soft and introducing immorality was that women were discouraged from killing themselves for being raped! A properly moral society depended on honourable conduct where women would not pollute the family name or make their husbands the upbringers of another man’s child. How genetically successful is a rapist, or the woman who submits to rape, when it’s likely she will be forced to abort the pregnancy (and that is still one of the reasons put forward for abortion rights), if not kill herself to clean the stain from her family and her husband’s name, if not killed by her own father or husband (or have you really never heard of Virginia killed by her father rather than give her over as a pretended slave for the sexual pleasure of the decimvir Appius Claudius?) and if she survives and bears the illegitimate child, be plunged into disgrace and poverty (because the rapist is not sticking around to make sure his seed has been successfully sown and look after the child, unless we’re talking about women taken as booty in battle as concubines and slaves and brought back to the conqueror’s lands).

            He also phrases it very insultingly: “so that she can disavow responsibility later” – ah yes, the loose wanton whore who really wanted to fuck that hot blond Viking stud plundering and killing, but didn’t want her BETA CUCKOLD ORBITER husband to know that she was hot to trot with any other man so she pretended to ‘fight’ him off but oh what could she do when he was so big and strong and manly and now she’s pregnant by him?

            And of course, in the middle of an armed attack, the first thing you’re thinking about is “do these raiders possess superior genes which will be beneficial to any future offspring of mine?”

            no social disapproval for willingly having sex with the invaders/raiders

            Again, to quote the pagan Roman example, if you don’t kill yourself, this is taken as proof that you did willingly have sex with the invader/raider, part of the reason St Augustine conjectures Lucretia killed herself:

            (S)he burned with shame at the thought that her patient endurance of the foul affront that another had done her, should be construed into complicity with him

            That the bishop of Hippo is not talking through his mitre is demonstrated by Steve Johnson’s assertion that raped women made pregnant by their rapists are only submitting to their genetic destiny and evolutionarily preference for strong real manly men, which is why they only put up token resistance – as a figleaf to cover their acquiescence to sex!

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Rape being a successful strategy in some or even most cases doesn’t mean that it’s the universally successful strategy; plenty of animals have fairly complicated and distributed sets of mating strategies and behaviors.

            Indeed! Those interested in this fascinating subject should read The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People.

          • Jiro says:

            Do you have an argument that isn’t outrage?

            What he gave isn’t actually an argument. It’s a just-so story. i could easily give an equally unprovable argument the other way around: Women willing to die to avoid being raped acts as a precommitment. Like many precommitments, it is a disadvantage once you get in the situation that makes you follow through on the precommitment (the woman dies and doesn’t pass on any genes), but a larger advantage from having opponents know you are precommitted. Credibly precommitting to “I will die to avoid rape” reduces the chance of being raped, thereby increasing the chance of being able to select who to procreate with, thereby increasing the chance of procreating with someone with better genes, thereby increasing the chance of one’s own genes surviving.

          • anon says:

            That’s not an argument against his just-so story, since now you just have to look if women fight to the death to avoid rape or not to provide evidence for one claim and against the other. To show that his story doesn’t work as an argument, you’d have to make up your own just-so story that is comparably (not much more nor much less) believable, is proven by the same evidence yet has the opposite claim.

            If your stories claim opposite things but also require opposite proof, there is no conflict. You’re not exposing the folly of just-so stories as a category of argument like that.

          • Sylocat says:

            I wonder if the real reason Steve Johnson hasn’t been banned is because his posts are a pretty reliable way to make NRXers look bad.

          • Jaskologist says:

            This seems like a good place to link to marine flatworms, which reproduce via Jeb fencing. The loser gets pregnant. Not sure if that counts as rape or not.

          • Cauê says:

            I was also disturbed by Steve’s just-so story (but couldn’t find a good argument besides “cool story – did you test it?”).

            But his comment is being misinterpreted. He talks about the supposed optimal behavior in that situation, without ever speaking about how desirable it would be to get in that situation (presumably: opportunistically for the male, in addition to his standard strategies and after weighting costs, and just about never for the female). And it’s not properly token resistance, as it’s resistance enough to fight back those she could fight back. “Women love rape” is a nonsensical reading.

          • Randy M says:

            Not to support nice discussions about stabbing people being all mucked up with rape talk, but another reason women would want to defend their homes even perhaps to the point of death would be all the young children they likely would already have. The evolutionary math doesn’t really support risking havin gmaybe one “superior” child by an invader if your three young ones are killed in the looting/burning/etc.
            I suppose that the children might have been threatened to gain her compliance, but that wouldn’t translate into “under-aggressive sword swinging genes.”
            This conversation is odd.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            Mallards of Gor!

          • Nita says:

            @ Jaskologist

            Ah, the beauty of competition. Those flatworms must be both happier and more productive than the egalitarian commie leopard slugs, who impregnate each other.

          • Nornagest says:

            Damn it, I knew I shouldn’t have added that last bit.

          • Cauê says:

            Damn it, I knew I shouldn’t have added that last bit.

            Since it’s derailed already, do you think most women “start out swinging too gently” against other women as well?

          • Nornagest says:

            I was talking about cutting practice — called tameshigiri in Japanese martial arts, but WMA stylists do it too — where you’re facing a bundle of damp straw rather than a person. There is a particular range of velocity where beginners can cut well: above it the cut tends to be wobbly and lacking the proper extension, both of which are way more important than power, and below it the cut stalls partway through the target. There are exceptions, but most men, especially young men, cut too hard when they’re starting out; and most women cut too softly. It’s easier to add power than to remove it, incidentally, so at this level and in this context women often advance more quickly.

            (You can extend this range with skill. On the low end, sharper weapons also help.)

            The goals of partnered practice — kumitachi if you’re being weeby — are different, and below a fairly advanced level the power you put into it is almost totally irrelevant; ideally you want (almost) every offensive move you make to be capable of cutting a target, but this isn’t a realistic goal for beginners. Proper targeting is far more important: you don’t want to be aiming for your opponent’s weapon or the space in front of them or over their heads. Very common problem for beginners but I haven’t noticed any particular gender bias there.

          • Jiro says:

            To show that his story doesn’t work as an argument, you’d have to make up your own just-so story that is comparably (not much more nor much less) believable, is proven by the same evidence yet has the opposite claim.

            I only need to provide an opposing story that as believable as his and is proven by the same evidence that he already has. Since the amount of evidence he has is zero, it proves his story and mine equally, so my story qualifies.

          • anon says:

            You’re providing a competing theory then, not showing that just-so stories are stupid as an argument type.

            I misunderstood you since I was thinking you’re trying to do the latter.

          • I’m actually curious about the root-level comment, now that I think about it; how does swinging less hard work as an improvement for non-reed cutting? It seems odd to me that all else being equal, you’d see a linear relationship between force and trauma when wielding a blade; I can imagine that you’d get a ragged and ugly cut when trying to cut reeds, but I can’t really understand how, in a hitting-a-person scenario, using less force would equate to a more damaging blow.

            Is it just because it’s hard to control blows as an amateur, and so you want to train to the point of using some but not all of your strength, get form down pat, and then ramp up strength until you can deal with things like rib cages and other inconveniences to getting the cut you want on an actual target?

          • Nornagest says:

            Is it just because it’s hard to control blows as an amateur, and so you want to train to the point of using some but not all of your strength, get form down pat, and then ramp up strength until you can deal with things like rib cages and other inconveniences to getting the cut you want on an actual target?

            Yep. Control is super important with a cutting weapon. Lining up the angle of the edge with the angle of the swing, extending properly and with the proper timing (a sword is not swung like a baseball bat), not starting transitions between cuts too early, etc. are all far less intuitive than you’d think they are, and if you don’t have them all at least reasonably well done then you won’t cut at all well no matter how much power you put in. There’s even the potential to damage your weapon if you’re cutting something hard; reeds alone won’t do this, but reeds with a bamboo core can. So can wood, or armor, or bone.

            In terms of emphasis, cutting with a sword is in many ways more like shooting (with a bow or a gun) than like, say, boxing. All form and focus, with strength as a limiting factor for some advanced applications rather than something you usually want to be pushing. Very advanced students can use all of their strength in a cut without compromising form, but they generally don’t need to.

            (Dampened reed mats, by the way, are used because they’re a decent simulation of the density and toughness of flesh. A bamboo rod is sometimes inserted into the middle of the bundle to simulate bone, but usually not for beginners.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Robert Liguori:
            I think the principle is similar to many other physical disciplines. You want to remove oppositional tension in your muscles. You only want to fire the muscles that move the sword in precisely the way it needs to move.

            I’m not sure if you have ever played golf, but trying to “swing hard” is a really good way to mishit or even not hit the ball if you are a beginner. And even if you do hit the ball, you aren’t actually hitting it “hard”. The face isn’t square to the velocity of the club at moment of impact. The club isn’t moving with the speed that it would if some of the wrong muscles weren’t firing.

          • Jeff Heikkinen says:

            I thought I saw that Steve was banned? If he isn’t, why the hell not? I’m okay with letting the odd neoreactionary post here, but this is open rape apologia with an evpsych just-so story so obviously tacked on the phrase “fig leaf” wildly overpraises it.

          • Anonymous says:

            Don’t see why Steve Johnson should be banned when angry communists are still allowed to post. Communism has done far more damage to the world than NRX is ever likely to.

          • Zykrom says:

            How much damage is anime Marxism likely to do to the world?

          • Nita says:

            In practice, you can* say anything around here as long as you don’t resort to crude insults too often. So don’t worry — Steve is safe.

            * Although abusing this freedom may not be in your best interests.

            On the other hand, even if, say, 10 people converted to communism on SSC, they would be unlikely to start a revolution or take over a factory on their own. But hurting loved ones because they’re all lying bitches anyway is well within the power of individuals.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            At risk of facing Nassim Taleb’s wrath, if SJ hasn’t been banned by now, it’s unlikely he’ll be banned in the future, barring a major slip up.

            I’m OK with it, though, this place would be less colorful without a sprinkle of rape apologia.

            >How much damage is anime Marxism likely to do to the world?

            Admittedly, my knowledge of post 2011 chinese cartoons is almost non-existant, but I’m seriously drawing a blank on communists there… unless you consider Instrumentality.

          • onyomi says:

            I would also support the idea that no one should be banned for the content of their ideas; only for rudeness.

            Which is likely to do more damage? Rape apologists or Marxism apologists? Honestly, probably the latter. There are historical examples of Marxism becoming popular enough to wreak terrible havoc; I find it less probable that enough men would become convinced of a strange story about sexual evolution to start raping more than they already might have. Already being illegal and widely condemned, rape is the sort of thing which, if you were going to do it, reading something on a blog isn’t going to stop you, but if you weren’t going to do it, reading something on a blog isn’t going to make you start.

          • Nita says:

            There are historical examples of Marxism becoming popular enough to wreak terrible havoc

            …in particular historical circumstances, which are unlikely to occur again.

            The narrative of “women are evil selfish bitches who are hurting men, especially YOU, with their cunning treachery” has played its part in several unstable individuals going over the edge and shooting multiple people relatively recently.

            So, rebellion of peasants and the proletariat: very unlikely these days. Mass shootings: rare, but do happen these days. Relationships breaking down or becoming abusive due to distrust: happens all the time.

          • onyomi says:

            I think warmed-over Marxism still has an uncomfortably high persuasive power for a lot of people. It won’t happen again (at least in the developed world) as it happened before, but people could be convinced it is worth trying on the theory that “it’s different this time.” After all, Bernie Sanders is polling at what, 40%?

            Not that it’s a short step from electing him to the gulag, but his presidency would be an economic disaster for sure–one that would cause a lot of very real suffering.

          • alexp says:

            Which is likely to do more damage? Rape apologists or Marxism apologists?

            Rape apologists.

            Any Marxism in the modern Western world is going to be of the 1970-1980s Scandinavian flavor, or at worst 1980’s Soviet flavor, not the Stalinist Gulags and Chekas style.

            Even then, the chances of a communist takeover will probably not be meaningfully increased by a few communists talking about communism on SSC. Any more than the chances of that NRXers talking up NRX on SSC will meaningfully increased the chances of a NRX takeover. And I’d find an NRX takeover much more hellish than a communist takeover.

            Regardless, Steve Johnson’s rape apology is much more likely to tip a few impressionable readers towards thinking that rape is ok and thus lead to people being raped. From a utilitarian standpoint, the fewer places people like Steve Johnson have to express their repugnant views, the better.

            Also, from a slightly more legalistic direction, Steve Johnson’s comment was:

            1. Unkind (obviously)
            2. Untrue (also self explanatory, though some here will disagree)
            3. Unnecessary (it was in response to comment thread speculating as to how physically tiring a medieval sword fight would be.)

          • Cauê says:

            I’ll be honest now, this sounds very confusing to me. I don’t consider myself new to the internet, but somehow I’ve never seen people defending that “rape is ok”.

          • Sylocat says:

            I don’t consider myself new to the internet, but somehow I’ve never seen people defending that “rape is ok”.

            Check out WeHuntedTheMammoth sometime.

          • Cauê says:

            Can you give specific links? The five first pages have nothing of the sort, and the site doesn’t look worthy of my time.

          • Nita says:

            A quick search of WHTM turned up these quotes from Roosh V:

            While walking to my place, I realized how drunk she was. In America, having sex with her would have been rape, since she couldn’t legally give her consent. It didn’t help matters that I was relatively sober, but I can’t say I cared or even hesitated.

            I won’t rationalize my actions, but having sex is what I do.

            I got her down to her bra and panties, but she kept saying, “No, no.” I was so turned on by her beauty and petite figure that I told myself she’s not walking out my door without getting fucked. At that moment I accepted the idea of getting locked up in a Polish prison to make it happen.

            I was fucking her from behind, getting to the end in the way I normally did, when all of a sudden she said, “Wait stop, I want to go back on top.” I refused and we argued. … She tried to squirm away while I was laying down my strokes so I had to use some muscle to prevent her from escaping.

            And this one from our old friend, the Hugo-nominated editor Vox Day:

            The fact that some of the lawless governments in the decadent, demographically dying West presently call some forms of sex between a husband and wife “rape” does not transform marital sex into rape any more than a law that declared all vaginal intercourse to be rape would make it so.

            Plus some screenshots from a 4chan/pol/ thread and a subreddit devoted to the subject.

          • Cauê says:

            The quote by VD isn’t nearly enough to know what he’s talking about, but yeah, I had forgotten about marital rape – I’ve seen Christians and Muslims saying that’s ok, I’ll concede that. The rest does go beyond what I had seen, even in 4chan, and I’m putting it with diaper fetishism and the Time Cube in “needles the internet will eventually find in the haystack and then show me” (or maybe trolling, I don’t feel like investigating).

            Nevertheless, please bear with me, there will be a point.

            Let’s take as a point of comparison crimes that people do say “are ok”: say, internet piracy, blasphemy, selling drugs, and statutory rape. We do see people who go down for these claiming they didn’t do anything wrong, and that a better society wouldn’t have a generalized rule against that behavior.

            Meanwhile, we see people telling stories about times when they stole something (in the story they might have “taken” it), or killed someone. They may say they were justified, they may say they regret it, they may even say it wasn’t a big deal in their particular circunstances, but they’re not going to say that “stealing is ok” or “murder is ok”. They don’t want a society without prohibitions on these crimes. Also relevant, thinking “murder is ok” is not why they did it.

            Rape is like the second group, but activists talk as if it was like the first. (I’m linking to this SSC post here, though it may have been more relevant to a preview draft of this comment)

            If that reddit guy were prescribing death as punishment for the transgressions he mentions (while explicitly leaving out, as he does, the women he would consider “innocent”), would it be an example of “murder is ok”? The same religious people that say marital rape isn’t rape will often ask for (or inflict) the death penalty for rapists. Do they think “rape is ok”? (or that “killing is ok”, for that matter?)

            Maybe this is pedantic, but I can’t help but feel it’s at least adjacent to something important.

          • brad says:

            I don’t think the fact that a (sub)culture universally and forcefully condemns “true rape” — which it defines as a stranger jumping out of a bush, dragging a woman into an ally and forcibly penetrating her as she screams, scratches, and struggles to get away — immunizes it from the “rape culture” critique.

          • Cauê says:

            Your description is way too strict. There’s a lot between this scenario and the frontlines of the fight over the boundaries of the word. Also, the fight over what “is ok” is a parallel but different one – there’s much that people will say “isn’t rape” while maintaning it’s “not ok”.

            Finally, there are many “rape culture critiques”, and it’s hard to say whether something passes it without a description of what is meant.

          • People here seem to be missing the point of the old legal view that forced sex within marriage wasn’t rape. It’s a question of what agreements are or are nor revocable, like the question of whether you can sell yourself into slavery and so give your owner the right to treat you as a slave—something permitted in many past legal systems.

            I sell you my car, but don’t actually deliver it. You come and take it away. We don’t count that as robbery, not even if when you came I told you not to take it, because robbery is taking someone else’s property and the car was your property once you paid for it.

            A woman gets married in a legal system where one of the terms of marriage is consent to intercourse. If that consent is seen as irrevocable—as my selling the car is irrevocable once you pay me for it—then intercourse is with consent, hence not rape.

            In the Islamic legal system, both parties have a legal right to intercourse, although the rules are not symmetrical. The husband’s right is to have sex any time he wants unless there is some reason, such as health problems, not to. The wife’s right is to have intercourse a specified number of times a month—I don’t remember the details.

          • Cauê says:

            David, I don’t think people are exactly missing this point. It’s just that “forcing your spouse to have sex” is within everybody’s definition of “rape” in this conversation, so it counts as an example.

            Though I do think it’s important to add that there’s quite a bit of space between “right to sex” and “it’s ok to use violence to force your spouse to have sex”, with all gradations of coercion in between. I’ve seen people arguing both ends (with those arguing the former invariably being mistaken as arguing the latter).

          • Nita says:

            @ Cauê

            That’s an interesting idea, but I think I have a simple explanation: it’s very rare to see someone argue in favor of something that could be done against them.

            No one wants to get murdered, so instead of “murder is OK” we see “killing infidels who deliberately offend the Prophet is righteous”. No one wants to get raped, so we instead of “rape is OK” we see “you can’t say no after you’ve taken your clothes off — men have testosterone, you know” or “a man can’t rape his wife”.

            (Although “marital sex is never rape” seems gender-symmetric, I have a hunch that Vox Day doesn’t think he, or any “real” man in general, could be physically forced to have sex by his wife.)

            Yes, there is a difference between what they say and “murder is OK” or “rape is OK” — but that doesn’t really help the dead French cartoonists, or the women Roosh bragged about having raped.

          • Jiro says:

            Nite: That argument proves too much. We *want* to be able to say “I don’t want my stuff taken, but if I bought something and the person I bought it from disagrees after the fact, I get to take it anyway”, or “I don’t want to be kidnapped and put in jail, but I think bank robbers should be put in jail” or any of a number of other cases where we want something done to other people and not to ourselves.

            Of course you could reply that those cases are “different”, at which point your opponent will claim that killing people who offend the prophet is different from killing people who don’t offend the prophet.

            (And if you say “what if other people kill those who offend *their* society’s prophet, he can ask you why you don’t think it’s okay for other people to jail those who commit *their* society’s idea of crime. It all depends on how you generalize, and generalizing from “people who kill this prophet” to “people who kill whoever they think of as a prophet” is *not* obviously a correct generalization.)

          • Nita says:

            @ Jiro

            We *want* to be able to say “I don’t want my stuff taken, but if I bought something and the person I bought it from disagrees after the fact, I get to take it anyway”

            Uh, sure. People can say that, no problem.

            But imagine that Bob says “if you invite me to your home, and I see something I want, then I get to take it, even if stupid propinazis would call it theft”, after telling several stories of successfully overpowering hosts who were seemingly unacquainted with this rule and tried to hold on to their stuff.

            A casual observer would think “Bob seems to believe that taking stuff is OK”, although 1) Bob did not say “taking stuff is always OK”, 2) Bob talked only about taking stuff after being invited, so his behavior in other circumstances remains unknown, and 3) it might be that Bob only invites people to his home if he’s willing to give them all his stuff.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ David Friedman
            If that consent is seen as irrevocable—as my selling the car is irrevocable once you pay me for it—then intercourse is with consent, hence not rape.

            Islamic law makes better sense here. You have irrevocably contracted for someone’s services (within thee limits of reason and common sense]. If you contract for someone to provide life-time tune-ups for your car, that does not mean you can walk in and get a tune-up ten times a day all year, 24/7. You have to make an appointment for a time during business hours, while the equipment is not down for maintenance, etc.

            If the garage fails on reasonable delivery, you sue them. You don’t break in and use violence.

            [My browser will probably not be able to get back in this long comment section.]

          • Jiro says:

            Nita: There are some cases (like your example) where we see someone taking something. It happens, of course, under particular circumstances. But we characterize that as “he thinks it’s okay to take things”, not “he thinks it’s okay to take things under these circumstances”.

            There are other cases where we see someone taking something–and we *do* characterize it as “he thinks it’s okay to take things under these circumstances”.

            You can arbitraily condemn or justify pretty much any behavior you want to by choosing whether to characterize it in the first or second manner. If you don’t like someone killing infidels of type X, you can characterize it as “he thinks killing is okay, limiting it to infidels is just an unprincipled exception”. If you do like it, you characterize it as “he thinks killing infidels of type X is okay, he doesn’t think killing non-infidels or infidels of type Y is okay”. If you don’t like prison, you say “he thinks it’s okay to lock people up” or “he thinks it’s okay to lock up lawbreakers”. If you do, you say “he thinks it’s okay to lock up people who broke laws that were created democratically and benefit the populace”.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ David Friedman
          If that consent is seen as irrevocable—as my selling the car is irrevocable once you pay me for it—then intercourse is with consent, hence not rape.

          Islamic law makes better sense here. You have irrevocably contracted for someone’s services (within thee limits of reason and common sense]. If you contract for someone to provide life-time tune-ups for your car, that does not mean you can walk in and get a tune-up ten times a day all year, 24/7. You have to make an appointment for a time during business hours, while the equipment is not down for maintenance, etc.

          If the garage fails on reasonable delivery, you sue them. You don’t break in and use violence.

          • “you sue them. You don’t break in and use violence.”

            You take for granted a society where people almost never enforce their rights themselves but instead depend on the legal system. That’s not an accurate description of all societies, not even all functioning ones.

            An example I came across researching Jewish law. If a contract has been carelessly drawn so in one place it says I owe you a hundred zuz and another two hundred, the court can only force the smaller outcome–make me pay you a hundred zuz. But if you have vindicated your right yourself by seizing two hundred zuz from me, the court can’t make you give a hundred back. It doesn’t know I owe you more than a hundred so can’t make me pay more, it doesn’t know I didn’t owe two hundred so can’t make you take less.

            That’s one example of a pattern that I think is quite common historically–a legal system where, at least some of the time, people expect to vindicate their rights themselves.

            It’s too easy to take the customs and institutions of our society as more universal than they are.

      • anon says:

        > On the battlefield, you want spears for the initial clash and a shorter sidearm for when the lines break down and things start getting chaotic.

        This is my biggest personal pet peeve. What you described is not something that practically ever happened.

        Maintaining a line is the most important thing anyone in the battlefield is thinking about, because being part of a line *keeps you alive*. “When the lines break down”, *fighting stops*. If the middle of the fight turns into a confused melee like a hollywood battle or a re-enacment by hobbyists who have no strong incentive not to get hit, both sides would pull back until they can re-establish lines. You don’t need a short weapon on the battlefield for the time when you don’t have a line because if you don’t have a line, you are running really fast away from the people who do have a line.

        • Nornagest says:

          You’re right that maintaining a line is incredibly important in pre-modern warfare, but I think you greatly overestimate the discipline of medieval armies and the degree of control that commanders had over their troops. Medieval battles didn’t always degenerate into disorganized melees, but they often did: cavalry charges would falter, communications would break down, people would give into the urge to individually pursue fleeing troops after one side broke, etc., and the result was often vicious close-quarters fighting before anyone managed to reestablish control. (If they did; a melee often turned into a rout for the weaker side.) The Battle of Stamford Bridge for example ended in a melee after the Norse shield wall broke, and that’s just the first example I can think of.

          This is where we get the word “melee” from, actually.

          • John Schilling says:

            This. In particular, note that one of the hardest problems in military command is getting soldiers to not immediately and vigorously pursue a defeated enemy in close combat. The United Kingdom exists because Harold Godwinson couldn’t pull that one off when it mattered.

            When a line or shield wall collapses, it collapses asymmetrically. On one side, a collective mental shift from “We must hold the line or we will all die” to “I must run first and fastest or I will die with the rest”. And when that happens, the other side doesn’t hold back, much less pull back. Their soldiers first double- and triple-team anyone on the losing side who is fool enough to stand and fight, then chase down and cut down everyone who didn’t run first and fastest.

      • AnotherAnon says:

        I do Kali (Phillipino marital art) with sticks/swords that are on the lighter side. But an hour hard workout with constantly clashing sticks really gets my shoulders/forearms. I am in good shape. You can get in shape to swing a sword for a couple of hours but its serious work.

        Though people accustomed to medieval manual labor probably would be in better shape.

        • A very long time ago when I was much younger, I was in a crown tournament final against my blood brother. The three fights took a long time, since we were used to each other. I remember at one point wondering why I was feeling tired and discovering that we had been fighting for something over an hour. The total for the three fights, as best I recall, was four and half hours, but it was spread over several days, the first part being called when it got dark.

          There is at least one current West Kingdom fighter who I would guess goes for several hours of successive fights. One Pennsic he had been charged by the king to fight a thousand fights. I believe he completed them in the first week.

          I can’t speak for his swords, but I used a rattan sword of reasonably accurate weight.

      • PGD says:

        How can people today possibly know this stuff about fighting with swords? People wave swords around today, but nobody actually fights with them in the sense of cutting, slashing, or killing any more. Lessons from no-contact karate or kung fu would be totally misleading for an actual fight, similarly here.

        • Nornagest says:

          Well, in my case, I study a Japanese sword art, and I have studied classical fencing (and Olympic, but that’s far less applicable) and a smattering of Korean saber and German longsword. Only the former was used in combat recently enough for reliable reports to be available (mainly in China; swords saw little effective use in the Pacific), but it tallies well with my experience of the latter. Reading between the lines, the link’s author is involved in some kind of reenactment, which I’ll leave you to form your own opinions on.

          That being said, a working knowledge of martial arts history is adequate to cover most everything I said in the ancestor.

        • John Schilling says:

          We do have written and illustrated manuals on how to use swords to kill people who are trying to kill you with swords, written by people who had experience killing with swords other people who were trying to kill them with swords. Admittedly we are a bit short on some cultural and historical swordfighting traditions, particularly the early medieval period, but we’ve also got historical recreationists who are willing to take a severe bruising trying to figure out what techniques seem to work with wooden swords.

    • TrivialGravitas says:

      Just going off the quoted section the whole thing is probably garbage. Certainly many many armies were based on spears, I’d guess, though I’m not sure, that it was most infantry until the point where firearms completely dominate. But there are many examples of fighting formations that used a sword as the primary close combat weapon. Most of the staggering 2 millennia of Roman military tradition (starting during the Samnite wars) were sword and shield formations for infantry, Vikings (the axes were a thing too but came later in the viking age), the Anglo Saxon forces at Hastings. The Persian ‘Immortals’. Machiavelli wrote glowingly about the ability of armored men with sword and shield to decimate spear/pike formations that would otherwise withstand heavy calvary charges. This is all just off the top of my head.

      Having done western martial arts I can also vouch that while Hollywood drags swordfights out FOREVER 1 second is again too far in the other direction, the only fights I’ve had like that were against total noobs or fencers (who take a few days to figure out that people can go around not just forward and back).

  2. John Schilling says:

    Regarding swords, I think it would be more accurate to say that some variety of pointy stick was always the preeminent battlefield weapon, but that swords were the preeminent social-purpose or civilian weapon. Which one is more important depends on what sort of life you lead, or what sort of story you are telling. Rather like pistols vs. rifles today.

    The one thing he misses is helmets. Hollywood, for obvious reasons, doesn’t do helmets, but putting a guy out in the line of battle with a suit of plate, a sword, and NO HELMET, tends to ruin it for me.

    Also, and David Friedman will of course correct me if I am wrong, I have been told that part of the reason we don’t see spears in visual fantasy at least is that there’s no good way to fake a spearfight without risking real injury. “Flynning” is well-established for cinematic swordplay, and the SCA has more realistic but tolerably safe techniques, but spears have more weight and more leverage and once you get past poking gently at people you need more specialized training than the average stuntman has.

    • Alexp says:

      Spear and polearm fighting has always been a big part of Chinese martial arts films. Brad Pitt (‘s stuntman) did a pretty good job with spears in Troy.

      • John Schilling says:

        I guess I don’t watch enough Chinese martial arts; could be a cultural difference in how stuntfighters are trained.

        I did recently rewatch Troy, and remember a whole lot more spear-throwing than hand-to-hand spear combat. Did just cue up the Achilles v Hector due, and counted 40 seconds of spear vs. spear (including audience reaction shots and some conspicuous spear-flynning) before getting down to 1:50 of traditional swordfighting.

        Also, Hector was an idiot. A man is allowed to wear a helmet when fighting a vain lion.

        And while we’re on the subject, I’ll give “300” credit for one decent scene of hot phalanx-on-phalanx action before turning the Spartans into oily nekkid swordfighters.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          Also, Hector was an idiot. A man is allowed to wear a helmet when fighting a vain lion.

          If Hector was smart, he would have told the Trojan archers to pump Achilles full of arrows instead of fighting him in a duel. So long as he is trying to do the honorable thing, he might as well go all the way.

          Then again, if Hector was smart, there would have been no movie, because he would have just given his brother a good beating and returned Helen to Sparta as soon as he discovered her.

          And while we’re on the subject, I’ll give “300” credit for one decent scene of hot phalanx-on-phalanx action before turning the Spartans into oily nekkid swordfighters.


          • Lesser Bull says:

            *Then again, if Hector was smart, there would have been no movie, because he would have just given his brother a good beating and returned Helen to Sparta as soon as he discovered her.*

            A point so old that I think Herodotus made it

          • Deiseach says:

            If Hector was smart, he would have told the Trojan archers to pump Achilles full of arrows instead of fighting him in a duel.

            Different mindset; archaic war wasn’t so much like war as we think of it (rows of soldiers attacking one another), it really was champions (professional warriors) and supporting levies, with the champions fighting one another. In fact, the idea of “total war” wasn’t really in vogue, given that a lot of ‘wars’ were border skirmishes between neighbours and there were rules and restrictions so that in many cases they were mostly show combats (think of the condottieri who, as hired professionals making a living from war, were not interested in dying for a cause or killing other professionals so who engaged in showy but as bloodless as possible battles only when they could not fight indirectly).

            You don’t want to kill too many of your own people (who are not a professional standing army but will go back to being farmers and tradesmen after this raid/civil war/trading mission) so you support a warrior caste who operate by rules of honour and they engage in showpiece battle duels and the mass of the ‘poor bloody infantry’ get stuck into one another as little as possible.

            So Hector is not just the king’s son, he’s the Champion of Troy (as Cú Chulainn is the Champion of Ulster and Sir Gawaine is the King’s Champion – and Sir Lancelot is the Queen’s Champion). He’s fighting on behalf of, and representing, the king and the city of Troy. Achilles is the corresponding Greek champion (as well as having personal reasons to fight Hector, i.e. to avenge Patroclus).

            Hector having the Trojan archers shoot Achilles full of arrows as a pincushion would not have been a wise strategic move; it would have been seen as breaking the terms of engagement and that meant all bets were off and the Greeks could engage in wholescale slaughter (as they eventually did with the stratagem of the Wooden Horse).

            Speaking of Cú Chulainn, from the Táin Bó Cúalnge and the mindset of why single combat by champions was the model of warfare (bolding mine):

            Then Medb gazed at Fergus. ‘What terms does yonder man demand, Fergus?’ said Medb. ‘I see no advantage at all for you in the terms he asks’ said Fergus. ‘What terms are those?’ said Medb. ‘That one man from the men of Ireland should fight him every day. While that man is being killed, the army to be permitted to continue their march. Then when he has killed that man, another warrior to be sent to him at the ford or else the men of Ireland to remain in camp there until the bright hour of sunrise on the morrow. And further, Cú Chulainn to be fed and clothed by you as long as the Foray lasts’.

            ‘By my conscience’ said Ailill, ‘those are grievous terms’. ‘What he asks is good’ said Medb, ‘and he shall get those terms, for we deem it preferable to lose one warrior every day rather than a hundred warriors every night’.

          • Eric says:

            In one of the other famous mythological duels of champions, the victor took your advice, David took out Goliath at a distance with his sling.

          • stillnotking says:

            From what I’ve read of warfare in the ancient world, Deiseach, I think you have it exactly backward — the big, showy contests of champions were just fluff; the real fighting was always done by the “poor bloody infantry”. It’s not as if the Greeks were going to turn around and go home if Achilles lost, although poets enjoyed the fiction that they might. Then as now, there’s just more drama in mano-a-mano competition.

            Steven Pinker presented archaeological evidence in The Better Angels of Our Nature that casualty rates in ancient wars were definitely higher, probably MUCH higher, than in modern ones. Lack of efficient command structure and unit discipline were the main reasons — warriors back then were not professional soldiers, other than guys like Achilles, who were the classical equivalent of WWF wrestlers. The real war was troops lining up and hacking at each other until one side broke and got slaughtered. (Along with any civilians who were around. The sacking of a city in the ancient world made My Lai look like a pool party, and the commanders couldn’t have stopped it if they’d wanted to, which they didn’t.)

            We think of war as being more savage today than in the past, but in fact the opposite is true — our nostalgia for “civilized” war is nostalgia for fiction.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Ehhhhhh. Cú Chulainn, Achilles and Hector weren’t really part of the ancient world so much as they were of the mythic world, where honing your kung fu will grant you immortality and action movie heroes end up killing the big bad hand to hand despite guns being everywhere. Despite that, she isn’t wrong in saying that combat by champion is a very different thing from mass combat in general. The early Irish(or Celts in general) as well as other people did have strong customs of single, ritualised combat, and comparing that with, say, the Punic or the Mithradatic wars isn’t going to help anyone’s arguments in doing well.

          • I can’t speak to the situation in classical antiquity but in saga period Iceland, even at the end of the period when things were breaking down into something close to civil war, people on the losing side who surrendered were usually allowed to go free unharmed, unless the victors had something against that particular person.

      • onyomi says:

        I feel like that film was really underrated. Which is a shame, because I want to see more movies set in ancient Greece and Rome.

    • SFG says:

      Here’s something I haven’t heard: how much of our popular views come from popular but silly sources such as Lord of the Rings and Dungeons and Dragons? Leather armor, anyone?

      These things propagate in weird ways–I remember hearing from a kid about the Pokemon movie, where someone was trying to catch birds with the power of fire, lightning, and cold, and thinking, ‘weren’t those the only spells that did damage by level in 1st ed D&D back in 1975’?

      • Alexp says:

        D&D contributes to lot of misconceptions about history, but leather armor was real. (studded leather armor wasn’t)

        I don’t get the idea that armor had to be metal. There are plenty of examples of shields made from hide, hell that’s the origin of the word “aegis”. Most Greek hoplites wore cuirasses made from layers of linen and glue.

        • anon says:

          Leather was occasionally used, but linen, cotton and even wool was much more common as armor, for the simple reason that they were much more effective for the same weight. However, movies tend to prefer leather armor over padded jacks for a very simple reason — someone wearing leather looks cool, while someone wearing a jack looks like the michelin man.

        • ivvenalis says:

          That, plus it depends on what time period you’re looking at. In Antiquity, lots of soldiers were literally fighting naked, or close to it, and leather would be a huge improvement over that given all the scrapes, cuts, slingstones, etc. I don’t think wearing leather (or less glamorous padded textiles, as anon pointed out) is any dumber than a modern soldier wearing a flak jacket.

        • anon says:

          If you took the argument of the Linen armor from the fact that the classical greek cuirass is called ‘linotorax’ i’d like to point out that the term is modern and was taken from a piece of poetry. There’s no evidence of actual linen cuirasses. In fact linen was pretty expensive. It’s suggested that it was most probably just hardened leather as most other armor at the time.

          Also, IIRC spartan soldiers wore bronce cuirasses.

      • JonCB says:

        Best example i’ve heard recently… Priests and “edged weapons”. Complete fabrication added for “gamey” reasons. There is plenty of documentation of priests on crusade using swords.

        Also, one for anyone who has a 3rd edition PHB… check out the picture they give for a “Rapier” and prepare to giggle.

        • Peter says:

          I thought that, regardless of whether or not the D&D blunt cleric weapon thing was actually historically accurate, the idea that medieval priests used blunt weapons goes much further back. (Well, I say that, I’d previously thought it a bit odd, I mean D&D has many odd elements but that particular one stretched credulity quite a bit, and then I encountered the idea in a respectable history documentary (which didn’t mention D&D at all) and hmmm). See the debate surrounding Odo of Bayeux and his club and all that.

          I did a bit of googling and it seems that there are 19th century sources for this sort of thing.

          • Jeff H says:

            There are 19th century sources for a LOT of common misconceptions about medieval combat, including some that Gygax gets blamed for.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            I think the fabrication entered D&D at about the same time as the Cleric class. Someone in Gygax’s original gaming group had a mini of a bishop as part of his medieval wargaming army, and wanted to use it in either D&D or Chainmail, so they made up the Cleric. The bishop was wearing armour and wielding a mace.

            Of course, the reason why the bishop was modelled using a mace was probably the 19th-century misconception based on Odo and Turpin.

            There is medieval canon law against priests shedding blood, but I don’t think it specifically bans edged weapons. It does specifically ban priests from performing surgery. AFAIK it was honoured more in the breach than in the observance.

          • Echo says:

            There’s a neat bit in Jean de Joinville’s memoir of the 7th crusade where a priest is mugged. Enraged, he grabs a crossbow, finds and shoots one of his assailants, and bludgeons the other to death.
            He’s brought before a court of King Louis IX and the crusade’s priests, and of course immediately defrocked… Only for Louis to offer him a spot on his retinue as a man-at-arms.

      • Deiseach says:

        Do you mean movie LOTR or book? Because the movies definitely went for Hollywood (er – New Zealand) History and spectacle over anything approaching common sense, never mind historical accuracy.

      • Emile says:

        > Here’s something I haven’t heard: how much of our popular views come from popular but silly sources such as Lord of the Rings and Dungeons and Dragons?

        I asked pretty much that question on r/AskHistorians, and had some pretty interesting replies.

    • ivvenalis says:

      Swords were clearly the pistols of the day. They’re even both “sidearms”!

      • Peter says:

        Counterexample: Roman legions. During the aggressive expansionist phase of the Roman Republic and early Empire – the time that Rome got it’s reputation for being very deadly – the legionaries were definitely swordfighters – yes, they also carried pilums, but those were just to soften up the enemy before hand-to-hand combat – the legionaries certainly weren’t javelin skirmishers. They definitely weren’t spearmen or pikemen or halberdiers or anything like that.

        • Lupis42 says:

          In particular, the pilum, like the Daneaxe, is a weapon specialized for getting past the other side’s shields.

        • Schmendrick says:

          The early Roman legions certainly fought in a spear phalanx; the Triarii were explicitly organized in a Greek hoplite style. The Hastati generally fought as skirmishers and the Principes were what we generally think of as “legionaries” with curved rectangular scutum, gladius, and pila. The Triarii were the oldest, most seasoned fighters, only committed at the vital point and where it was imperative that the line not break.

    • Deiseach says:

      He does have a good point about swords versus some kind of polearm, though; think of it as handguns versus rifles – which does a modern army use?

    • onyomi says:

      He mentions several times how stupid it was to fight with a one-handed sword and no shield, which makes a certain amount of sense, but: does this mean that the whole dueling culture is based on a pretty unrealistic mode of sword fighting? (Obviously you don’t want to go into a battle dressed like Inigo Montoya and bearing only a saber or rapier, I thought in the one-on-one, controlled setting of the duel, maybe this was actually better, due, perhaps, to speed concerns, and especially after the introduction of the very long, very stabby rapier? It’s hard to imagine pair a shield with that–it seems like it would get in the way?).

      • John Schilling says:

        Practical dueling culture made heavy use of cloaks and/or daggers in the off hand, maybe bucklers.

        But this is just another outgrowth of the one dichotomy the original article completely missed, that between battlefield and social/civilian combat. It would be exceedingly foolish of me to go into a fight with only a pistol, when I have several military rifles I could use instead. But, unless you attack me when I am in my own home, the pistol is the best that I can expect to have close at hand. And it’s probably all you’re going to have, because almost anyplace you could reasonably expect to find me you’d be arrested[*] if you were seen carrying a rifle.

        I don’t know that in e.g. Renaissance Italy you’d have been arrested for carrying a halberd around town, but it wasn’t practical or socially acceptable. Shields other than small bucklers were particularly cumbersome and carried the same “this guy is looking for trouble” stigma. If a modest sword is all you can carry in most of the places you’re liable to wind up in a fight, you learn to do the best you can with just the sword and hope that the same constraints apply to your adversaries.

        [*] Red-state open carry activists may substitute “stopped, questioned, and generally harassed by police who think you are a damned nuisance and will be looking for an excuse to get you off the streets”; same end result.

        • alexp says:

          Also, I’m not sure how practical a halberd would be for disorganized, small scale combat.

          Even in an open field, I imagine it would be a bit cumbersome and would leave you open unless you have people in formation defending your flanks.

          And if I’m wrong there, it still seems like it would be useless indoors.

          • John Schilling says:

            The previously-mentioned Hector/Paris duel from the movie “Troy”, Oberyn vs. The Mountain in “Game of Thrones”, and I’ll add Doug Jones’ Prince Nuada in “Hellboy II”, are readily-accessible cinematic demonstrations of what can be done with a spear in disorganized small-scale combat. Halberds just add to the fun with the side-swiping choppy and pokey bits. Basically, run.

            Indoors I’ll grant you, at least in hallways or crowded taverns. Open things up a bit, and the bit with the Swiss Guards carrying halberds isn’t just a silly tradition.

            …aand, now I just had a mental image of a Fiat 500 with a roof rack for half a dozen halberds.

          • Peter says:

            When I spent some time with Viking re-enactors, it seems that you could just about get away with using a spear in single combat, but a sword was probably better – whereas in a shieldwall the spear was far better.

            Apparently in Japan, the naginata – a polearm – got used quite a bit for home defense, although if we’re looking for a firearms analogy here this is more a shotgun than a handgun or rifle. It also ended up being a woman’s weapon – to this day apparently naginatajutsu is considered a woman’s sport. That said, the home-defense-for-women version of the weapon is apparently a bit smaller than the battlefield version.

          • onyomi says:

            And interestingly, the style of spear play used by Oberyn in GoT was 100% kung fu. I wonder if this reflects more practice among the Chinese at using it in a cinematic context.

            That said, watching the medieval weapon guy use the spear in the linked video, the differences between Chinese and Western spear use are much smaller than the differences between say, barehanded kung fu and Western wrestling. Though a lot of the differences among the later may be more superficial and/or performance related than it seems.

          • Nornagest says:

            And interestingly, the style of spear play used by Oberyn in GoT was 100% kung fu. I wonder if this reflects more practice among the Chinese at using it in a cinematic context.

            Probably. But we’ve got to consider where that comes from, too: we have a decent amount of source material on European longsword fencing (though Game of Thrones actors go for flynning as often as not) and very little on spear or halberd technique aside from what’s survived in bayonet drill — the manuals we have do go into it a bit, but very rarely in detail. Western martial arts stylists do their best, but it’s inherently going to be a lot more reconstructive.

            (As to wrestling, don’t compare it to kung fu, compare it to jujitsu. There’s quite a bit of overlap.)

          • Matt says:

            My understanding of halberds is that they excelled against (mounted) plate, were relatively cheap to make, and were even effective in the hands of peasant farmers. A halberd could stab through armor, slice off a horse’s head, or simply hook a knight’s armor and pull him down – sort of like a medieval shotgun (just point it in the right direction and it will kill some one). I’m not sure it would be possible to use a halberd while taking a stairwell, but I think you’d be fine in an open field.

          • Nornagest says:

            The problem with halberds and other pole weapons optimized for chopping (as opposed to thrusting) is that they lose a lot of their usefulness in close order. They excel in personal combat when given some space to work with, and even allow infantry to engage heavy cavalry; but to use the weapon to its full potential, you need to be dispersed enough that a closely packed block of spearmen will roll right over you. The Swiss mixed them in with pike formations, but they must have been used only as spears until the lines broke down.

            For the same reasons, though, a lot of units tasked as personal guards or constabulary used them.

          • Echo says:

            Didn’t town watchmen usually carry a sort of staff/spear with a weighted end? Pretty sure they didn’t carry swords.
            A pole weapon is good for a number of things, from poking drunks in the gutter to crowd control.
            Extended reach isn’t just a combat thing: it expands your “personal space field” via threat of a good clubbing, much more so than a modern truncheon.

        • keranih says:

          @ Alexp –

          Halberds were, by the martial arts teachers who instructed me, well known as a woman’s weapon, to be used by the housewife (and possibly her daughters, and maids) against bandits and roaming soldiers. So no, not in open fields, but on home ground, with limited attack options (the walls and fences of the home courtyard) and specifically against people who were prioritizing taking you alive with little risk to themselves.

          WRT “indoors” remember that until quite recently, we all of us spend much more of our time outside. Inside was smokey, dank, smelly, and only slightly warmer than outside. You can see this today in the more impoverished cultures, where life is lived in the courtyard, the parking lot, inside the homestead walls, and on the streetcorner but not under roofs.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            This was true in Japan, yes. Elsewhere, especially where heavy armour was a concern, this was not the case.

          • onyomi says:

            I knew the naginata was considered a women’s weapon, but I had never really thought about why until now: men are more likely to be out in public, hence they need a more portable weapon, e. g. katana. Women are more likely to be called on to defend the home, and so the more formidable if less portable naginata might make sense.

          • keranih says:

            @Stephan –

            I studied in an Eastern tradition. I’m actually drawing a blank on any tradition (real, not LoTR) for women’s arms in defense of the home prior to the American frontier. (There has to have been one…)

            What sort of armor was typical for low foot soldiers?

          • Stefan Drinic says:


            There has to have been one is incorrect, as there were in fact none. Even the Japanese example is fairly dodgy: the naginata as a weapon for a woman to defend her home with refers only to a tradition amongst samurai women, who were but a small subset of women in general. Women(and most men) belonging to other castes would have no martial tradition.

            Besides, what kind of home defence other than a knife would you even need/have? Not to mention some traditional kind? Defence against whom, too? If there’s an intruder in your house and your husband isn’t present, which would be unlikely for most agriculturalists, do you hesitate because grabbing your kitchen knife isn’t feminine?

            You may want to overthink the whole premise of your question concerning women and weapons again, because I’m not following it too well.

            The armour question, at least, is easier. It really depends on the time period and culture in most cases, but padded linen and boiled leather were relatively inexpensive and affordable for many. Depending on how far off into the realm of ‘low’ you want to look, they might have had nothing but spears and shields, but at this point we’re looking at peasant levies and people who really ought not to be called soldiers in the first place.

          • keranih says:

            @ Stefan –

            People (bandits/soldiers/levies out of good general order) attacked farms/homesteads/villages. (Not always, but often enough.) The people in those farms/homesteads/villages defended themselves. (Not every time they got attacked, because if they were lucky they’d run first.) That’s the part that I see as inevitable.

            The primary defensive weapons of a traveling farmer/cowman would not be the same as those used by his wife at home. Nor would the arrows used by the boy-child for bring down small game.

            My point is not “femininity” but practicality.

            I’m looking for the ‘real life’ version of the women of Scandinavia as shown in The Vikings. Does that help?

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Kinda, I guess. Problem is- I’m coming up with blanks. Either no such weapon existed, or I can’t think of any. In either case, I don’t think it’s unlikely that women simply weren’t expected to fight enough for a tradition to spring up around it.

          • LeeEsq says:

            @keranih, as far as I can tell, there was no tradition of teaching any European woman of any social standing to formally defend themselves. They might have used whatever was at hand if they really needed to but the assumption seemed to have been that all formal martial training was for men.

        • onyomi says:

          Yes, I think this is a good point: whether in Renaissance Italy or Edo Japan, you could (if you belonged to a certain social class in the case of Japan), get away with (or even be expected to be) walking around with one or two swords without either looking ridiculous and/or massively inconveniencing yourself. Since “about town” is the time when you’re likely to get into a civilian fight, you have to make due with what you have, even if, you would, if you could, also have a shield in such circumstances.

      • CatCube says:

        Don’t forget “modern” duels with pistols, where the fighters would stand there in one place while their opponent took a shot (yes, I know that duelling pistols were very inaccurate–still). Duelling has always had crazy rules to satisfy honor, that you wouldn’t see in warfare or meeting engagements.

  3. Tom says:

    National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson had a field day with the NYT headline. Peep game:

    • Barry says:

      That’s quite well done. The sad thing is that kind of nakedly disingenuous coverage is basically standard.

    • Alex Binz says:

      Thanks for the link. That was as good a take-down of the typical(ly appallingly bad) Israel-related journalism as any I’ve seen.

      It was interesting to watch the Reddit thread on the New York Times article as well — I’m wondering if the left-libertarian view on these matters has slowly shifted to one much more sympathetic to Israel. Very few strident anti-Israel voices, at any rate, and this on the /r/worldnews subreddit that is not exactly conservative. The backlash against the UN Human Rights Council for the Saudi Arabia news has also been interesting to watch.

    • Agronomous says:

      Usually I appreciate snark, but I think in this case both Scott’s and Williamson’s entertaining sarcasm is just bolstering an unacceptable status quo.

      The author of the NYT piece is focusing on exactly what we should focus on: the underlying cause of these incidents. The problem is not Palestinian violence; the problem is not Israeli violence.

      The problem is Stone Violence. If you’ve ever been to the Middle East, you’ll know that there are stones literally everywhere. It just makes it easy for someone—either unthinking or with homicidal intent—to pick up one of these lethal lithics and use it to take a life, or maim someone. Is it any wonder the Middle East is the part of the world we think of when we think of stoning? We need to get all these stones off the streets. I know this will be difficult, and will take the will and determination of the entire community, but the results are worth it.

      A good natural experiment that illustrates the advantages of a stone-free society is Antarctica: because of the natural inaccessibility of stones there (being buried under glaciers), almost no-one there has access to stones. As a result, their rate of homicide-by-stone is literally zero. Antarctic rates of other Stone Violence are similarly amazingly low, with the rate of suicide-by-stoning also being zero. There’s also no evidence of a substitution effect: deprived of stones, Antarctic residents do not simply murder each other with icicles or sled-dog bones instead: there really is something about stones in particular that leads to violence and death.

      I’m not saying a stone-free society is achievable everywhere else in the world, but it’s certainly something we could aim for. Is it really so hard to just gather up all the stones littering the ground and bury them somewhere, or crush them, or dump them in the sea (the Japanese, who have quite a low death-by-stone rate, do this a lot)? We could offer bounties for people who turn in their stones (or any stones they find lying around), no questions asked: pennies for pebbles, bucks for boulders, cookies for cobbles. We could at least start by removing stones from our schoolyards, where they are all too often wielded by children against other children. Yes, there are costs to achieving a stone-free society, but think of the benefits.

      Think of the children.

      • Cauê says:

        And this is why I wish we had upvotes.

        • Alex Binz says:

          Yes, but if we did, this would be the start of a karma chain.

          Everyone: “Wow, that comment was funny! Have an upvote.”
          1/2 of everyone: “Yes, he definitely deserved an upvote, I totally agree. Have an upvote.”
          1/4 of everyone: “Hmm, perhaps you’re right, maybe upvotes would dilute the intellectual heft of these comments and lead to rampant self-promotion. Have an upvote.”

          …etc. ad nauseum. Not saying you’re wrong — the above comment was *really* funny, and I wish there was a way to sort it somewhere closer to the top so others would read it, but I’m not convinced Reddit ‘upvotes’ or Facebook ‘likes’ are the way to get there.

  4. Fazathra says:

    The vox article on equality of opportunity seems rather confused to me. It reads like one long isolated demand for rigour. He goes on and on about how terrible and dystopic a total enforcement of equality of opportunity would be, but then somehow doesn’t seem to realise that his own preferred solution – equality of outcome – would likely end up way more totalitarian and dystopic if enforced to the same standard. And if he wishes to retreat and claim that he only wants society to move more towards equality of outcome, rather than a total implementation, then the same can be claimed for the equality of outcome supporters! It’s not like the politicians and economists he quotes are some kind of equality of opportunity paperclippers whose only goal in life is maximising equality of opportunity and who are incapable of trading it off against other factors such as not living in a totalitarian hellhole, so the whole arguments reads as rather strawmannish.

    Basically, his argument seems to be something like:
    1.) Some people have an ideal
    2.) This ideal is impossible to fully implement because of reasons A,B,C
    3.) Therefore, we should fully implement my ideal instead. (And let’s just carefully omit any question of whether my ideal is any more implementable than theirs)

    • Sniffnoy says:

      I largely agree. On top of that, he seems to go back and forth between supporting “equality of outcome” and supporting just “a minimum for everyone”. Sure, they’re related (the latter is a weak form of the former), but they’re not the same thing.

      I have some other complaints about the article too but I’ll skip them for now.

      Tangential note about equality-of-outcome, equality-of-opportunity: I notice there’s a number of cases where someone suggests some equality-of-outcome measure, others respond that we should go for equality-of-opportunity, not equality-of-outcome; and the original person response, “Well, we haven’t even achieved equality of opportunity, so what’s the problem?” As if equality of opportunity is a weak for of equality of outcome. It’s not! They’re fundamentally different things, and things intended to achieve equality of outcome do not necessarily get you closer to equality of opportunity, just because some of them do!

      • I didn’t find the article to be mounting much of an attack against anything I believe in. I take the central issue to be that people shouldn’t have opportunities systematically denied to them. I haven’t go much enthusiasm for capping opportunities to make everyone equal, since you can’t really do that with the things that are the result of luck anyway, although there’s a case for making people pay through the nose for purchased opportunity such as private education.

        • Steve says:

          Agreed. I feel like he took the phrase “Equality of Opportunity” as literally as possible and ended up arguing against something that no one is really advocating for.

    • Nita says:

      doesn’t seem to realise that his own preferred solution – equality of outcome – would likely end up way more totalitarian and dystopic

      He never actually argues in favour of equality of outcome. He says we should use the following metrics:

      If people’s incomes are growing. How equal the income — and wealth — distribution is. If poverty is falling. If life expectancy is increasing. If children are learning. How long kids are staying in school. How many people lack permanent homes. How many illnesses — physical and mental alike — are going untreated.

      …to arrive at this end point:

      a world in which there might be some inequality but deep poverty is a thing of the past

      His position seems to be that reducing suffering is more important than any kind of equality.

      • keranih says:

        His position seems to be that reducing suffering is more important than any kind of equality.

        Agreed – there is a disconnect between what he professes to care about (inequality, or ‘wealth on a relative scale’) and what he’s arguing for (less misery, more “absolute wealth”.)

        And of course there’s not an easy answer either way. We can surely right now – with the tech we have – force a substantial number of people into living lives of less misery. (*) And if we made everyone hew to a commonly accepted standard of “good enough” we would be accheiving some degree of ‘equality’ – but by removing a large degree of individual expression, choice, and other components of freedom, not to mention the downsides of having the official version of “a good life” be mistakenly bad.

        (*) This quasi-utopia assumes a compliant enough population and a firm enough political will to properly channel capital, labor, and social pressure into the “right” channels. (By definition, these are not the channels that would be taken outside of the intervention.) Hence it is a fairy tale.

    • David Byron says:

      Well the ideal is entirely possible with Communism of course. So are you just saying capitalism is incompatible with the moral virtues of fairness and equality?

      • Cole says:

        Is equality of outcome or opportunity possible in communism? I’ve never heard of a communist state that has not ended up with a ruling elite that enjoys more privilege for themselves, and for their progeny.

        • David Byron says:

          There’s no distinction between equality of outcome and equality of opportunity. Either one necessarily implies the other. It’s a false dichotomy created for propaganda purposes I assume. Equality is equality.

          • The standard argument that equality of opportunity doesn’t imply equality of outcome is that people, despite starting at the same starting line, will make different amounts of effort, and have different intrinsic abilities. How does communism remove those factors?

            ETA: Note that outcome doens’t just mean money. You can try paying everyone the same, but you still need to ensure that everyone enjoys the same amount of acclaim and renown.

            And the fact that you have to flatten outcomes by flattening wages implies that equal outcomes isn’t a natural consequence of equal opportunities, implying in turn that hey are not the same thing.

      • Swami says:

        Imo, free markets are entirely compatible with fairness. Fairness as in impartial. Fairness as in the rules we would choose before the “game” starts among competing alternatives.

        The trouble with equality isn’t inherent in the relationship of the term to markets but of the term to itself. The issue is that equality of opportunity and equality of outcome are incompatible terms. If people are in any way different in ability desire or preferences, then we will see inequality of outcome. Thus correcting for something inherent in humanity requires jury rigging the rules of the game — usually after the fact — to hit an absurd and arbitrary result.

        Extreme egalitarianism is simply silly. It is the type of poorly thought-out framework which future generations will scoff at — “what were they thinking? Oh, they weren’t!”

        • David Byron says:

          Yes this charming fiction that the CEO that get’s paid 500 times more is somehow just playing the same game as the workers. So it must be the fault of the workers they aren’t rich. Such a shame that the workers don’t agree and so they must be forced by threat of violence to play the capitalist game.

          > Extreme egalitarianism is simply silly

          And from the capitalist perspective so is any amount of equality.

          > what were they thinking?

          They were probably thinking, as most humans do, that equality and fairness are a moral good.

          • Eh, in any country with low friction to starting small businesses, they can be; the worker can quit, start their own company with their own saved resources, and compete with the CEO who formerly employed them.

            They will probably lose, because most small businesses do go out of business, and because competing with someone established enough to have employees suggests that the CEO was able to grow their business a certain amount.

            ‘Fair’ does not mean that two people with different sets of salient attributes will have the same result. A fair race is one in which everyone is treated identically, not one in which outcomes are equally distributed among racers.

            This sucks if you’re the slow guy and the race is for the stakes of “Don’t get eaten by wolves.” It sucks arguably more when you’re in a soceity with no wolves, but with great fear of wolves eating people and having more wolf pups, and which holds regular races and shuns the slow-of-foot no matter their other wonderful attributes. In that case, the soceity’s judgement of their slow-of-foot as needing to be tormented and ostracized until they grew faster would be unfair, but the races they held would be; the races would be testing for fleetness of foot, and doing so accurately. (Now, basically any society would rapidly grow an elite class who wrote exceptions into the footrace rules to advantage themselves, or who got honorary first-place trophies without having to compete, but that’s still a different problem than the race itself not being fair.)

          • @Robert
            Having inherited money to start a company with makes things a hell of a lot easier than scrimping your seed fund over decades. There is a lot more to fairness/equality than low friction.

          • Shenpen says:

            They are not forced by the threat of violence – they are free to go somewhere else, homestead other property for themselves or suchlike. I think you are making the classic Marxist mistake of thinking capital is somehow a fixed thing in the world, and basically whoever owns it gets to dictate to everybody else because everybody else needs to use it to work with or die. But it is of course not so. People don’t necessarily need other people’s capital to work (think freelancers) and more, new capital can be made (think China).

            The problem with the Marxist model is that capital is modelled basically like feudalism – and feudalism in a continent that is “full” and no chance to homestead. Malthusian feudalism kinda. This is a very poor model for that.

            I mean if the world would be so full that it was really so that no new capital can be made or homesteaded and we are reduced to fighting over who controls existing capital, I’d rather pull a Malthus and focus on reducing population instead because that would be a sorry way to live.

          • Shenpen says:

            >They were probably thinking, as most humans do, that equality and fairness are a moral good.

            Why do you think most humans think like that? At best most WEIRDs do (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic) but the normal human thinking is tribalism, status games and any inequality that is personally beneficial.

            In other words, most people who support you think you are a useful idiot, they will lie and tell you they want to be equal, but in reality they want to be the new boss simply.

          • Swami says:


            Of course they are playing the same game. As are sports stars, entertainers, musicians and others who make hundreds of times more than the average. Nothing prevented me as an infividual from pursuing a career in business management, sports, entertainment or music. Well, nothing other than aptitude and interest. I was good at some things and less good at others.

            Free markets require a type of equality to flourish. Specifically they require equality of opportunity as defined by the same rules applied impartially to all competitors. Exceptions to this rule degrade its effectiveness.

            On the other hand inequality of outcome is absolutely 100% essential to the operation of markets. Until you grok this, the entire concept of markets will simply escape you. Fortunately we can solve impoverishment via non market mechanisms. And we do, using the fruits generated by said markets.

            Equality of outcome is NOT A MORAL GOOD. It is an error in your grasp of human nature, which until corrected will continue to lead you to absurd conclusions which promote human catastrophe (see the track record of socialism vs markets).

            People have different goals, desires, tradeoffs, values, interests, skills and talents. Thus it is absurd to assume they can or should or would ever even want to achieve equal outcomes. The key is to make the rules unbiased.

            Fairness is a moral good. It is good because it leads to better outcomes as judged by those adopting the norm. But fairness as explained earlier must be viewed as impartiality and lack of privilege (private law) not lack of exogenous advantage.

        • @Swami

          Freedom isn’t compatible with itself, since it means both lack of regulation, and presence of unimpeded voluntary exchange. Critics of free market thinking hold that the first, deregulation, would lead to the domination of markets by a few large players, monopolies, cartels and son on, leading in turn to an *absence* of the second kind of market freeeom.

          Models show highly unequal outcomes emerging form randomly distributed players. Believing that markets are compatible with fairness requires believing that such windfails are fair.

          • Swami says:


            Thanks for the reply. Just to clarify, i was not suggesting that absolute freedom was compatible with itself or with markets. Markets are by definition regulated, whether formally or informally.

            Your comment then seems to delve into the two types of freedom, positive and negative. No argument from me on the tradeoffs between the two.

            So far, so good, but then you fumble the ball on fairness (which I have already defined somewhere in these 750 plus comments which nobody can now find). You are here conflating fairness or impartiality with equality of result. It is entirely possible for my mother to play Kobe Bryant fairly at basketball and be defeated 300 to zero.

            Equal opportunity is about the same rules being applied impartially to all. It virtually guarantees disparities in outcome, with no limit on how great the disparity can be. As another example, Taylor Swift and I can compete fairly to sell records. But she will sell millions, and I wouldn’t sell one. My voice sucks, I have no training and no desire.

      • Shenpen says:

        The point is that Communism would violate other virtues / goals.

        In other words fairness is not an “overriding goal”.

        (To be fair, I don’t consider equality or fairness a moral virtue at all. Life is a game, money is a high score table. Why take the game away from people? Would make the game so much more boring. Some amount of equality of opportunity does make sense, it makes the game fairer. Life is about status points, money as a high score is one of the proxies of that.)

        • Tatu Ahponen says:

          Generally, in computer games, you are allowed to change the difficulty if the current setting is not suitable for you.

    • RNG says:

      Agreed. I also don’t see why one can’t be for equality of opportunity AND for a reasonable and rising standard of living for everyone.

      Incidentally, what would be a more accurate phrase for the goal that everyone rises in success and position according to their personal qualities? ‘Meritocracy’ seems close.

      • HlynkaCG says:

        The problem is that meritocracies are unfair to those with less merit. 😉

      • Urstoff says:

        Fortunately for us in the Western world, market-based liberal democracies produce equality of opportunity and universal increases in the standard of living better than any other social/political organization.

    • Daniel Kendrick says:

      The article reminds me very much of George Reisman’s “Freedom of Opportunity, Not Equality of Opportunity”, which attacks equality of opportunity from the opposite, libertarian angle. He makes the exact same argument that equality of opportunity is impossible to implement and would be disastrous if attempted.

      But what he argues for, calling it “freedom of opportunity”, is that the government should not restrict people’s ability to use all the opportunities available to them: i.e., it should implement a policy of laissez-faire.

      Part 1

      Part 2

  5. Nathan says:

    I also liked the anti-equality of opportunity article (despite disagreeing with it somewhat), but disagree that it in any way redeems Vox. The piece rejects Red tribe morality (people should get what they deserve) in favour of Blue tribe morality (we should take care of everyone). It’s exactly the sort of piece I expect Vox to run.

    If they were to run an article arguing (for example) that “equality” of any kind is a terrible goal to aim for, THEN I would be pleasantly surprised.

    • Anonymous` says:

      Most “equality” goals seem pretty bad, but what about equality of treatment?

        • Phoonbix says:

          You can redistribute wealth (although if you try to redistribute too much of it most of it will simply disappear) but attempts to redistribute things like “respect” or “status” can never succeed.

          There are dynamics at play in human relations which operate on a primal level and have always existed and always will.

          You won’t ever succeed in redistributing these things, but you can do an awful lot of damage trying.

        • keranih says:

          The article, to my mind, shows most clearly the very shallow reference pool of the author, and how poorly the implications have been thought through.

          A few notes, some of which were echoed in the comments to that article:

          – Japanese society is crazy rigid and status-obsessed, compared to the USA. The use of honorifics reflects this.

          – There are portions of the USA which still retain formality of manners and use a lot of honorifics. Those parts of the USA are regarded by outsiders as being racists and rigid.

          – The author emphasizes the innate dignity of any work – including poorly paid, low skill work – and suggests that everyone should agree with his values. While I do agree that work has its own worth, I wonder if the author would agree that those who do not work have less dignity. I also reject the idea that hand-made items are inherently more valuable – because of the menial labor that has gone into producing them – than mass-produced like items. I especially wonder if a society should value hand-crafted shovels more than mass-produced shovels.

          • CatCube says:

            Your point about hand-made stuff being inherently more valuable plays well with Scott’s other link to the video where the guy spent $1,500 and 6 months completely handmaking a sandwich.

            I went to that video expecting to laugh at some hipster nonsense, and was very pleasantly surprised to find out the author’s true point about how much we take modern commerce and manufacturing for granted.

          • keranih says:

            @ Catcube –

            Well, it’s not like he started with his own aurochs, either. But I found the thing very engaging, and I say that as someone who prioritizes “raising your own food” coupled with an awareness that a farmer doesn’t mine their own iron or Texas Crude, either.

            It has never been traditional for everyone to be equally skilled at everything.

        • Ghatanathoah says:

          I’ve often thought about the possibility of redistributing things other than money, although more in a sci-fi “what if” sense than as a serious policy proposal. In particular, I’ve noticed how leftists who are all about redistribution when it comes to money suddenly turn into hardcore libertarians when someone discusses the problems of unequal romantic outcomes.

          • Nita says:

            Becoming someone’s unwilling “romantic” partner in prison is considered a much worse fate than having to pay a fine. Why do you think that is?

          • keranih says:


            Try proposing that GPAs be cross-leveled – but only do it on your feet, near an open door.

      • Nathan says:

        I’m not really trying to argue a substantial point here, just pointing out an example of an argument that would go against the prevailing Vox worldview, which they refuse to publish anything contrary to.

        I mean it doesn’t particularly shock or upset me that a website has a strongly left wing point of view. Bias gonna bias. Its the pretense of even handed objectivity that bugs me.

      • HlynkaCG says:

        Equality of treatment seems like a pretty bad goal too.

        Would the justice system to treat people exactly the same regardless of guilt or innocence?

    • David Byron says:

      Well he’s assuming a capitalist society. All those problems go away under communism. Is it necessary to reject the concept of equality and fairness to support capitalism?

      • Wrong Species says:

        There is no concept of complete equality in capitalism because there is no practical way of actually achieving equality. Saying that the problem goes away under communism is like saying that the problem of scarcity goes away in a world without scarcity.

        • Anonymous says:

          Nah, it’s more like saying that the problem of scarcity goes away if you shoot anyone who complains about scarcity.

      • Shenpen says:

        You are assuming capitalist society is a creation that can simply be changed and not something like a fixed property of human association.

        At some level it is true, but not the way you think. The opposite way. The natural society is simply based on violence. Everybody owns so much property as they can phyiscally protect.

        Capitalism, is a step towards civilizing things. Instead of everybody using force to protect their property, they write down on paper who owns what and the state protects it.

        It is unclear if such a nice civilized way of doing things can be maintained or we are back to sheer violence, think gang turf war type of collapsed society.

        Communism is yet another step of making things nicer and it almost possibly cannot be done, it would just make capitalism collapse into tribal violence faster.

        So it is true capitalism is not rooted in the nature of things. But property is rooted, because property is simply a factor of violence. Capitalism is property through less violence. The mistake is that if you abolish capitalism you simply make things return to violence based gang turf property.

        In this sense, capitalism is a fixed feature. In the sense that you can make things worse but probably not better, because to make things truly better you had to abolish violence itself and that is a hilarious idea. Just like abolishing sex. There are few things people love more than violence or sex.

        • Revealed preferences; there are currently a large number of people trying to emigrate from countries characterised by large levels of grassroots violence to counties characterised by small levels of state-sanctioned violence. So: no, people don’t like violence. Evn if they like what they expect to get from it.

    • Cauê says:

      Yeah, I found Scott’s “they have redeemed themselves” weird before even clicking the link. Arguing against equality of opportunity as an ideal is well within Vox’s pattern of “Here’s why blue tribe liberals are right about this” articles.

  6. Earthly Knight says:

    A non-novel observation: I find it curious, reading through the FIRE archives, that while almost all censorship on college campuses is one-directional, expressing any strong opinion whatsoever on the Israel-Palestine conflict can get you into trouble. This is the one place where both sides have successfully weaponized the victimhood and hate speech memes, and the effects on reasoned dialogue and debate are exactly what you would expect.

    (This comment previously corrected a typo).

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Sorry, typo/Freudian slip on my part. Fixed.

    • Saul Degraw says:

      Part of the concept for a reasoned dialogue is a reasonable solution. The number of people like me who hope for a 2 state solution is getting smaller and smaller every day. The Palestinian crowd and the far-right nationalist Israelis are now all about the one-state solution which means the end of Palestine or the end of Israel.

      • Steven says:

        The Palestinian crowd . . . are now all about the one-state solution which means . . . the end of Israel.

        Um, “are now”? For the last 67 years, there’s been a two-state solution available at any time the Palestinians decided they’d be satisfied with such a solution.

      • HlynkaCG says:

        A reasonable solution is only reasonable if both sides agree to it.

        To paraphrase General Mattis, the opposition gets a vote.

    • RCF says:

      Regarding the free speech issue: Scott presents trigger warnings and new ideas as being opposed. The implication is that the purpose of trigger warnings is to warn people that they’re about to be exposed to new ideas.

      • Nornagest says:

        It implies that a consequence of trigger warnings is to dissuade people that otherwise might be exposed to new ideas. I very much doubt that’s the intention, but you know what they say about the road to Hell.

        • suntzuanime says:

          I feel like if you want people to actually engage with new ideas, especially ideas they might have some pre-existing bias against, it’s very important that they not know what’s coming until it’s too late.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            I thought you were going to say, “I feel like if you want people to actually engage with new ideas, especially ideas they might have some pre-existing bias against, it’s very important that they not be turned away by offensive things that are not relevant to the idea.”

        • RCF says:

          Hmmm, this raises a question I haven’t seen discussed in conversations on trigger warnings: what is the intended response? To just not read something at all? To brace oneself before reading it? To delay reading it until one is in a mentally strong mood?

          • Nornagest says:

            Well, the original idea was to warn people with PTSD-like conditions that what they’re about to view might trigger their symptoms and that they might prefer to do something else. I’m not sure how well it would have worked — conditions like that can cue off of all sorts of seemingly unrelated minutiae, like wet surfaces or the smell of pine trees. But they don’t always, and it probably doesn’t hurt to e.g. warn people that they’re in for sudden loud noises or lots of blood.

            These days it seems to function as more of a purity signal, targeting stuff that might be seen as problematic rather than stuff that’s actually likely to provoke mental health issues. I suspect the objective there is more to just let readers know that what they’re about to see is Bad, and thereby control its framing, though charitably it might be rooted in a misunderstanding of what’s likely to trigger a reaction.

          • James Picone says:

            “Hey, you might want to know that I’m about to discuss thing X here. If you really, really don’t want to read about thing X for whatever reason, now is your chance to look away”.

            Thing X optimally selected for “things that a largeish group of people find personally upsetting” like rape, domestic abuse, or which text editor is the best.

            In a blog-post context, I am all for that. In an educational context, depends. If it’s a “You can skip out on this assignment at no penalty”, I think the costs outweigh the benefits. If it’s a “If you must skip this lecture, skip it, but be aware of potential threats to your grade” then sure, go ahead.

            An attempt at explaining: I am really, really good at mulling over shit long after it has happened, making myself rather upset. Friendly conversation with a friend in a safe place about highschool can bring me to the brink of tears, for example. Certain smells, certain locations, certain turns of phrase, all of them are quite capable of activating that memory of That Time I Did Something Stupid and then I feel shit for an hour while part of my brain picks it apart. I don’t think that’s an unusual thing, of course, I think that’s quite common.

            For some people, discussion of rape or domestic abuse is capable of sending them into similar patterns of thought. I don’t really expect society to warn me before discussing $CHILDHOOD_TRAUMA, because other than the school thing most of them are likely not widely shared. But people who have been raped/had a friend raped/were nearly raped/etc. are a large enough contingent likely enough to be rather upset that in some contexts it’s worth warning people beforehand.

            Similar explanation: Here in Aussieland television regulations require television stations to disclose classification prior to airing if it’s >= M, with a list of why. For example, there’ll be a screen that says:

            “This program is rated M, for mature audiences. It contains:
            – Adult themes
            – Sexual references
            – Stylised violence

            Parental guidance is recommend for younger viewers”.

            In addition to that, for certain categories, many news shows will warn you if their program will contain particular kinds of image (and I don’t think this is legislatively required): pictures or video of dead people, for example. Every TV channel that showed that dead Syrian child warned viewers about it beforehand. (Also if the dead person is indigenous. There’s an indigenous cultural belief thing that looking at pictures of dead people prevents that dead person from moving on in some way in their cosmology. I don’t know the full details).

            Trigger warnings are like those classification warnings: a way for viewers to control whether or not they see things they’d prefer not to. This is a power that can be used for good as well as ill.

        • Jaskologist says:

          It occurred to me recently that trigger warnings are really just a reinvention of the old concept of hysteria. If you’ve ever watched any old Looney Toons, you’ve doubtless seen a scene where a woman spies a mouse, and leaps onto a chair in hysterics, clutching her skirt. Other entertainment from earlier eras may have women fainting from some shock. We moved away from that for a while, but the basic idea that there are some subjects which will cause women to lose control of their faculties by even their mention seems to be making a comeback.

          Granted, trigger warnings aren’t technically gendered, but it does seem to be targeted at/demanded by women the overwhelming majority of the time. The resemblance, at any rate, has been tickling my brain.

          • Nita says:

            Yes, let’s diagnose our opponents with obsolete psychiatric disorders.

          • Jaskologist says:

            On the contrary, this is counter-intuitively, me giving them the benefit of the doubt. They’re the ones claiming that the certain subjects will make them lose control of their faculties. My general view of that self-diagnosis ranges from complete disbelief to belief that it’s only true because they need to grow up already.

            Seeing that the same basic concept has existed for a few thousand years causes me to reconsider that.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I do worry that a significant part of what motivates the trigger-warning crowd is the old benevolent-sexist idea that women are too fragile and delicate to talk about upsetting subjects. It makes it worse that a lot of the buy-in has come from colleges where the women are predominantly white and affluent.

          • Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous says:

            I’m sorry, I thought hysteria was the reason your wife gave for frequently needing the long and expensive services of a gigolo doctor.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        I’m not sure why you’re talking about triggers: Scott certainly does not have any in-principle objection to content warnings, and neither do I, so long as they are voluntary. The problem is with censorship, which might sometimes masquerade as compulsory trigger warnings, but is mostly orthogonal to the issue.

        • RCF says:

          I thought the impetus for my comment was rather clear: Scott wrote: “given that some people want “safe” colleges with trigger warnings on everything, and other people want “free speech” colleges where they are confronted with disquieting new ideas”

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Oh, okay. I was talking about the Greenwald article and was confused by the abrupt segue. Apologies.

  7. Saul Degraw says:

    1. I am not having dreams about Jeremy Corbyn. Should I feel left out?

    2. Colleges, the market, free speech, and trigger warnings. I suspect that this is because people pick what college or university they attend for a wide variety of reasons and the free speech or trigger warning reason is only a top concern for a small handful of students and not enough for competition (remember people who pay a lot of attention to politics are weirdos). Most students seem to pick on the factor of “What is the best (in terms of prestige) college/university that admits me?” But even then we might be only talking about a handful. I had a roommate that applied to his state’s flagship public university simply because he knew he could get in and was too lazy to deal with the entire process. Attitudes about colleges and universities vary wildly by geography. I grew up in an upper-middle class suburb in the Northeast. The attitude when I was growing up was something along the lines of “raise your kids in a good public school district and then push them so they enter one of the elite private colleges or universities.” Elite in this case means the Ivies, Duke, Stanford, the Seven Sisters or other small liberal arts colleges, MIT, CalTech, Emory, Rice, etc. I went out West for law school. My similarly raised law school classmates (upper-middle class with professional parents) generally seem to have gone to private school for K-12 and then went to whatever UC accepted them. Needless to say but my East Coast self found this reversed. My East Coast small liberals arts college had students from all over the United States and world but 60 percent of us grew up in Upper-Middle class suburbs in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts and attended public school. So Trigger Warning vs. Free Speech is one of many concerns and probably not a top concern for most students.

    • SFG says:

      Exactly. If I’m a conservative and the only Ivy I get into is Brown, I’m going to go and avoid getting in trouble with the SJW mafia so I can go on to my banking job.

      • Saul Degraw says:

        Brown might not help you get a banking job according to this famous article:

        Banking jobs really depend on HYP and S pedigrees according to the article. Maybe a quant or two from MIT or CalTech.

        My SLAC alma mater was generally known as the second-choice for Brown rejects when I attended (note: it was my first choice). We did not have many conservatives or libertarians during my time but there were a few and they did not seem too angry/upset with the situation but this was before trigger warnings.

      • Saul Degraw says:

        That being said Brown seems to be the most liberal of the Ivy Leagues. Dartmouth has a reputation for being the most conservative, traditional, fratty. The rest are big enough to be mixed. Are there a lot of left-wing students at Harvard and Yale? Yeah but there are also “secret” organizations like Skull and Bones which are as close to as the U.S. gets to old school aristocratic elitism.

        • Alexp says:

          While Dartmouth has the reputation of being the most conservative and fratty, I’m not sure if the former has been true for a while. And even if it is, it’s only relative to other Ivies. In absolute terms it’s not conservative at all and has had plenty of issues with SJWs recently.

          As for Skull and Bones, it’s not really a bastion of old school aristocratic elitism anymore. Since it traditionally drawn from poets, aspiring writers, playwrights, and the like, it’s been very liberal and long ago opened it’s doors to women, LGBT and minorities.

          • Saul Degraw says:

            You know I am a liberal and not very impressed with using SJW as a descriptor or sneer, right?

            I think trigger warnings are bunk but I meant my statement in an ideologically neutral way and not a pro one side or another way.

            The fight over trigger warnings v. free speech is really still just a handeful of anecdotes in my observation and not reflective of what goes on at the overwhelming majority of colleges and universities across the United States. There does seem to be a lot of internet amplification that turns molehills into mountains.

            My statement was that the whole trigger warning v. free speech is very much a minority issue even for students who identify solidly as being on the left and on the right. The reality is simply that it is irrelevant to most students. Whether it should be or not is another issue.

          • The_Dancing_Judge says:

            i went to a UC law school. I will personally testify that in pretty much every class i was ever apart of, anytime something that might get one of the SJW-ery types up in arms came up, everyone would shutup and not talk. And by that i mean things like discussions on rape-shield laws or sexual harassment laws and the like. Not even anything partisan. (lol conlaw was pretty boring when only 3 people out of a class of 30 would open their mouth and all three were VERY far left due to the especially ideological nature of the conversation).

            The danger of accidentally saying the wrong thing and getting attacked on the public law school facebook for being evil made sure everyone shut the hell up.

            I think people who havent been in school recently dont know quite how bad self censoring has gotten, at least in professional schools where getting the wrong rep is a terrible idea.

            And this is in the context of discussion among a class body that is 95% leftist and 5% libertarian. There were straightup leninist marxists for goodness sakes who would proudly talk revolution if the class was related to econ. Its not like there was any hint of conservatism or (lul) reactionary thoughts that were being expressed (or self suppressed).

            Anyway SJW inspired fear is not all made up. And seriously, woe to the few more socially challenged members of the class that were not so aware of the danger, that opening their mouths at the wrong moment could land them in the middle of a lawschool wide facebook shit fest.

          • Alexp says:

            I’m also a liberal (though in community, that’s not saying much), but I’m fine with SJW as a descriptor and occasionally as a sneer.

            I graduated before trigger warnings became ubiquitous, but I still saw plenty of people run out of town for somewhat offensive opinions. It’s not a big deal to most students, since most students tend to not write op eds in the school newspaper, but I think it’s still an issue.

          • Peter says:

            Saul: has my basic position on “SJW”. I’m a liberal, literally fully-paid up and almost literally card-carrying. When I first encountered the term, I thought, “yes, something which can express my frustration with those terrors of the internet (and beyond) who are nominally ‘on my side’ but I really wish they weren’t”… and then I noticed lots of people using the term far more broadly.

          • Saul Degraw says:


            I am more or less concurred. I think there is a lot of excess but I associated the term SJW as a sneer from the far-right and people like the noxious and authoritarian Vox Day.

          • keranih says:

            @ Peter, Saul –

            I interacted with some of the SJWs in fandom back before Gamergate, when oppression olympics, tone policing, privilege knapsack, and CRT/intersectionality were getting traction. While I am not progressive, I know those who were, including many who have since strongly distanced themselves from the excesses of the SJWs. Those progressives use the term SJW to indicate people without moderation, humility, and/or charity, who use social media and emotional manipulation for self-serving, power-seeking means while declaring themselves in the service of a higher cause.

            So, for me, it is both an insult and a identifier of negative behaviors.

            This presents a quandary. I would like to continue to have a term that sums up what SJW is/does. I would also like to *not* use a flash point word that is going to get in the way of communication. (Similar words that cut out rational exchange: Tea-bagger. Cluckservative. Pinko. Wet-back.)

            Do you have suggestions?

          • nil says:

            SJW is almost literally a sneer; the eye rolling and air quotes around “warrior” are practically audible.

            I use the term “illiberal left” whenever possible. More descriptive and doesn’t stink of faux internet masculinity. At the rate things are going, though, I’ll have to give up the ghost before too long–“SJW” has become remarkably mainstreamed in the last year or two.

            (although being called illiberal is likely to offend some leftists who arrived at their politics more haphazardly than I did and fail to realize that they’re not, in fact, liberals, and run afoul of the widespread misunderstanding of what liberalism is)

          • Tibor says:

            Saul: I have been wondering about this for a while. It is hard get a good feeling for how serious this issue really is in the US when you rely on reading about it from across the ocean. I mean, I have encountered things during my PhD in Germany that I really did not like – for example a mandatory “diversity competence” seminar run by a woman a very left-wing bias. Among other things which were more boring than annoying (and a hilarious moment when she, a German who now lives in neighbouring Austria tried to use that as an example of how difficult it can be for people to integrate in other cultures…with the implied conclusion that the locals should respect the customs of those who come) We were shown a video of a former Bill Clinton advisor who had this rant about old white men controlling everything and the conclusion was “less power to bad corporations, more power to academians!” if I caricature it a bit. When I objected to that inpterpretation I was shushed and told that this was not what she was asking about (her question was something like “how does this relate to diversity”). On the other hand, when we were supposed to give a rating of that seminar and about 80% of us rated it highly negatively, the university decided not to employ that women for future courses anymore (although this seminar still is mandatory for the future students in our grant program). Other then that, there is the “language police” of officially using the word “Studierende” (something like “those who are studying”) instead of Studenten, despite that “Studenten” has always been used as a both gender neutral and male noun (whereas “Studentinnen” is a special noun for female students only). I was told by my former German language teacher who studied humanities that their works were downgraded when they used the normal language as opposed to these terms, which is quite ridiculous. There are some “soft skills” courses at the Uni for women only, which I find a bit weird, but since these courses are mostly garbage anyway, I do not really care much.

            That said, this is still quite far people being expelled for “wrong” opinions, denouncing free speech, everyone shouting rape all the time and these sort of things which seem like everyday fun activities at US college campuses today. So the question is, how real is this actually? Media always blow things up, and it is not particularly interesting to write that there are 5% ideological idiots around and sometimes they have their go, but 95% of the people are ok and do not have to be afraid to say what they think or whether they will be proclaimed a rapist after having an ill-advised one-night stand after heavy drinking at a party. Then the question remains how does one actually find out whether the things are really that bad or not? Through statistics maybe, but is there any statistics related to this? I have perhaps read some 10-20 articles in that vein about the US college campuses (including one about a German exchange student who was haunted by probably quite a bit crazy girl who carried a mattress around as an “art project” and a reminder of having been raped..despite all investigation pointing to the opposite direction…and who was lauded by Hillary Clinton as a “brave young woman”…but again, this might sound worrisome if it were more than Clinton’s signaling towards the far-left voters and resulted in any actual policies).

            Ideally, I would love to hear people who do think this is a real problem AND those who do not tell me why and back it up with some hard evidence (not anecdotal articles).

          • Peter says:


            Yeah. The recent Puppy interestingnesses have been a particular case of this, with many of the Puppy side using “SJW” to mean “anti-Puppy”. I’m anti-Puppy, but don’t like the contemporary social justice movement either – certainly not the more troublesome ones in SF/Fantasy fandom.


            It’s a quandry. Here I tend to say something like “SJ types”, I suppose in a “I’m not using the W, but people round here should know what I mean.” I’d really like it if “illiberal left” or something caught on; I want something that isn’t in danger of being hijacked by the right.

          • JBeshir says:


            From the UK, my reaction to the stories coming out of the US is more or less “I do not recognise these extremes” as well. Yeah, the student unions don’t offer groups they view as stirring division a platform, but I’ve never encountered witch hunting like this.

            I’ve wondered if the UK’s strong tendency towards shorter single-subject undergraduate degrees with no “liberal arts” mandatory/usual extras has left it without the kind of “everyone thinking about liberal arts” environment that would lead to those things.

            Or maybe the big difference might be that in the US there’s a lot more regard for freedom of speech trumping norms on speech, and so I think more people who reject or have walked away from norms against openly denigrating non-political groups to win at ethnic tension, norms about at least nominally treating everyone as having similar moral worth, and norms against “stirring shit up” and disrupting cooperation when it isn’t useful to you personally.

            At least in online communities and in the reported stories I see a lot of people getting frustrated with what they see as the other side’s unwillingness to be nice and rejecting niceness themselves. If that’s more reflected on the ground there I could see it increasing a tendency towards witch hunts.

          • brad says:

            ” AND those who do not tell me why and back it up with some hard evidence (not anecdotal articles).”

            I’m firmly in the camp that thinks that it is a minor movement of limited effect mostly on college campuses and in certain rather niche online communities, but how do we go about proving a negative?

            I’ve pointed out before that the class of “victims” is rather small in the context of a nation of 320M people, but the response was that they were trying (succeeding?) to shift the culture which makes us all victims. I don’t know how to definitively refute that, or show that whatever changes there are aren’t so terrible.

          • alexp says:

            @Saul while I try to avoid sounding like Vox Day, I don’t usually associate SJW with him, as much as I would terms like “cuckservative.” SJW seems to me to have gained traction largely outside of the alt right, mainly with groups adjacent to, but outside of the illiberal left (I like that term) and I don’t think the alt-right has successfully co opted it. So to me, the fact that Vox Day says the term is like the fact that Hitler loved his dogs and was a vegetarian.

            @Kerinah While “Tea-bagger. Cluckservative. Pinko.” are words that end rational exchange (if it was ever there in the first place), “Wet Back” is on a whole different level.

          • Tibor says:


            My first reaction is to sound the libertarian panic buttons and cry “freedom of speech in dangers, to the battle stations!”.

            My calmed down reaction is “so we are talking about some dozens at most people who ended screwed up by idiots in a country of 300 million and blowing this up is perhaps the same as turning a few actual horrible rapes into a ‘rape culture’ that needs to be eradicated cost it what may.”

            But one could argue that what we see is the few who were brave/unwise enough not to keep their mouths shut. One could live a relatively oppression-free life in a communist country if he only were in line with all the Party bullshit. I guess that a survey of actual university policies over all major universities in the US would give one an idea of what is going on.

            about student unions: I have never heard of these around here. I mean there are some students groups and even a student’s senate or something, one can vote to it but I never cared and I don’t even know what they do. Campuses seems to be more of a place where the cheap student housing is (although many students live in regular apartments anyway and for PhDs it is hard to get the cheap student housing) and possibly a mensa rather than anything else. This is also mainly due to the fact that the universities in Europe tend to be situated within a city (and typically spread out) rather than forming isolated campuses.

          • keranih says:

            @Tibor –

            I have no clue how one would go about accurately and reproduciblely measuring social offenses against men/conservatives/free speech. To me – and forgive me for going on, but I’m trying to avoid a godwin moment – it’s like measuring the level of general public discomfort with one-eyed one-horned flying purple people eaters before the feds add OEOHFPPEs to the census tract. If we don’t count them, we don’t know how much money they make, how many of them move from the Upper Midwest (where OEOHFPPE settled after leaving Mars) to other parts of the country and how many are the target of major felonies.

            It’s a problem. It leads to group think and group blindness. I don’t know how to quantify it.

            @Peter – if you could come up with a way to prevent opponents from turning a neutral word into a sneer, or to prevent advocates from co-opting and re purposing/reclaiming an insult into a badge of honor, I would like a copy of your manual.

            @JBeshir – I know of several progressive people who used to value civility above all else. Now they – these specific people – extend tolerance to all expressions of emotion by “marginalized” people – except the person getting dogpiled by a twitter mob. I have to recognize SCC for swimming against that tide.

            @alexp –

            While X, Y, and Z are words that end rational exchange (if it was ever there in the first place), W is on a whole different level.

            Context. Context. Context. As the Virginian said, Smile when you say that, partner.

            Alernatively – I reject your ordering of offensive words, and insist on being able to define my own.

          • Peter says:

            @keranih: the anti-hijack property of “illiberal left” is the “illiberal” bit; you’re saying “these people are bad because they’re not liberal”, i.e. implying it’s good, even necessary, to be liberal. So the sort of American conservatives who like to use “liberal” as a sneer probably won’t be adopting it. I *hope* – human nature can be a funny thing at times.

            “Illiberal left” isn’t intended as a neutral term.

            ETA: some people on the radical left also use “liberal” as a term of abuse; this is fine. The more I hear that, the more I like to identify as liberal.

          • Saul Degraw says:

            @keranih @tibor

            Illiberal Left works as a phrase but it is unlikely to catch on.

            I am not a gamer or in fandom. The thing I try to remember about all this stuff is that most of the participants are very young. 18-21 year olds have never been known for being able to distinguish between a sledgehammer and a fine brush. Political movements of all stripes have always depended on being able to whip up the young into a fury of rage.

            I went to a very liberal undergrad and all of my friends still identify as being on the left to varying degrees. A lot of my friends are in a “kids these days” mood and I suspect that this is because they are in their mid-30s and starting to feel older.

            I am also old enough to remember a movie called PCU that came out when I was 12 and it seemed to parody the same ideas and fears. The PC movement died down when I was in college from 1998-2002 and seems to be flaring up again.

            I suspect that the net has something to do with it because the net amplifies loner voices on the right and the left. So the ideological fringes can meet and work together instead of being the one fascist in town or the one unreconstructed communist in town.

          • alexp says:

            There’s a different in kind between an insult to someone’s political affiliations and a racial slur.

            Yes, context matters. Context is also why the word is worse. If you were to call me a wetback, I’d just laugh at you. In Mexico, it’s a class based rather than race based insult. In the United States, however, against specific people, it’s an insult to a core and immutable part of a person’s identity that has the force of hundreds of years of overt racism and systematized oppression behind it.

            If you don’t agree with that, that’s fine. How about you walk in a barrio in LA and start calling people there wetbacks. Smiling or not, see how that works out for you, partner.

          • Nita says:

            @ Tibor

            I don’t think students at a prestigious European university would come up with the idea of chanting NO MEANS YES, YES MEANS ANAL, either. The USA is a special place.

          • nil says:

            @Saul Degraw Yeah, in my opinion the Internet is most of the story when it comes to the recent bruhahas over illiberal leftism. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Twitter, specifically, has a hugely outsized influence–its structure greatly discourages nuance and context while facilitating mobs, and it’s been involved, often centrally, in practically every mass shaming->ostracism I’ve heard of. From my view (which is, admittedly, biased to find excuses for my fellow leftists), the essence of leftist bullying is an amalgamation of individual actions which in individual form would either be reasonable, easily ignored, or both, but are coordinated and facilitated through communication technologies into being something potentially very potent and malign.

          • Tibor says:

            Saul: I am also inclined to believe that this is mostly the effect of being young and dumb. When I first learned about libertarian ideas maybe four or so years ago (that is at the age of about 22) I was preachy about it and probably quite annoying. Not exactly aggressive, but it is not such a stretch to imagine myself like that. I also have some friends who are either conservative or left-leaning and they also told me to shut up at right moments sometimes 🙂 Also, I remember watching some discussions of Milton Friedman with college students from the 70s and 80s. The only difference between them and these kind of students nowadays seems to be that they were supporting communism and had more balls (were not afraid of being confronted with other ideas, only responded to them angrily) 🙂 Also, their clothes and hairstyles were more funky 🙂 Yet one does not see a generation full of communists in their 40s in the US today. Somewhere down the road, most of them lost both their communism and most of their hair.

            Nita: I dunno, there are fraternities in Germany that practise the so called “academic fencing”. It is like fencing, except you do not wear a mask and you wear the scars on your face as a mark of honour. That is pretty stupid in my book.

            By the way, for some reason, there are fraternities in Germany, but no sororities. Also, people join fraternities often because it means very cheap housing – the pattern is that the older “brothers” who work, support their fraternities financially.

            Other than that, my impression is that there is generally less “campus life” in Europe (or at least in Germany or Bohemia). In did my undergraduate in Prague (both Bc. and Ms.) and while there were some occasional dormitory parties, that was about as far as the campus life would go. About a half of the students lived in the flats around the city (as opposed to dormitories) and the between-faculties interaction was close to zero. In fact, apart from the fellow mathematics students, I have only ever talked to some one or two computer science students (who were the same faculty as us but a different study program and they had classes in an entirely different part of the city), never even met any humanities, or medical students. A lot of the people also go home to their town every weekend or every other weekend (which is kind of easier if you can cross your country by car from one far end to the other in about 5 hours than if you study in California and come from New England:) ) so at the weekends the dormitories were half-deserted.

            I have never been an undergrad in Germany, but a telltale sign of the same pattern is that, judging from the common special deals and events in pubs and clubs that day, the main party night seems to be Wednesday (this is actually not so much true in Prague, because there are still enough students who do not go home every weekend and obviously even more people who are not students at all). Why Wednesday? Well, it happens quite often that students have no lectures on Friday and they they leave the city right after the last lecture on Thursday.

            So this is probably quite far from the US campus life, the students tend to stay a lot more in contact with their high-school mates and less concerned about student unions and such stuff.

          • keranih says:

            The people on the right whom I have heard use the word “liberal” pejoratively have meant it as “calling out” people for elitism, disdain of the values of the common man, and anti-federalism. In that case, I think they would find “illiberal left” to suit quite well.

            @ Saul – The people I specifically thinking of were in their 30’s then. We’re all a lot older now. I agree that the fierce moral urgency of now is an eternal problem, but this goes deeper than that, imo.

            OTOH – what would happen if we treated “SJ-type” behavior as uncouth and immature idiocy? Would that help control it?

            @ Alexp –

            Get back with me when you find a person who has, actually, stood up under “centuries of racism and overt oppression” – instead of just surviving the same 30-40 years of lifetime as the rest of us get.

            Oh, and when it’s equally unacceptable for me to be labeled a “honky bitch”.

            Until then, I’ll hold with a tighter definition of words – ones that derail convos, and ones that don’t. Trying to prioritize one type of uncharitable & abusive behavior over another is highly unhelpful.

            To the conversation, that is. It might serve some participants very well.

          • alexp says:

            I strongly disagree with you, but can easily see that this conversation will lead nowhere productive.

          • Saul Degraw says:


            I would argue that there is a difference between dueling scars which are something dumb you do to yourself (assumption of the risk) and the Yale chant which is explicitly violence against others while having no damage to yourself.

            A better example might be that Oxford club of rich dolts that thinks property damage is okay as long you pay cash upfront for repairs.

            There are some parts of university culture which are always the same including drinking. Stefan Zweig recalled in his memoir about how German/Austrian University students proved their manliness by how much beer they could drink in one gulp. This goes into the more things change, the more they stay the same.

            Though the residential nature of American colleges and universities is pretty unique as is the largely rural locations of many. NYU students tend not to stay in the dorms for longer than necessary. At my college, people stayed in the dorms for all four years because the college was located in an economically depressed area (former industrial town/exurb with a very wealthy college in it) and there was nothing of a college town really.

          • Held in Escrow says:

            SJW has suffered heavily from what Freddie DeBoar calls critique drift. It started as a handy term for a class of internet nutjobs but proved to be too useful and started getting thrown about as a slur against anyone who thought that we there might be some sort of race/class/gender issue in anything ever until it lost all value.

            In effect, when SJW was being used by the adjacent communities to said SJW, generally the moderate left, it had bite because you couldn’t write off the sayers as being part of what all Blue Tribers agreed was evil. But then the altright got a hold of it and started slathering it around everywhere, which made the term toxic for the modern left and instead became a signifier for someone’s membership in Club Evil.

          • Tibor says:

            Saul: I dunno, do the Yale students actually go about forcing girls to have sex with them against their will?

            By the way, this reminded me of a writing I saw in a pub in Germany the other day (in German obviously):
            “When a lady says no, she means maybe. When a lady says maybe, she means yes. When she says yes, she is not a lady.”

            It seems to me that the Yale chant is a (much) more crude and less funny variant of the same thing. I find the pub verse funny and even relatively accurate in some occasions. It is about on the same level as similar “women’s jokes” about men, which sometimes are kind of funny, sometimes you probably have to be a woman to laugh about them and sometimes they are simply lame. The Yale chant ( the thing with yes means anal is what you meant by a Yale chant, right?) is immature and perhaps funny for a fratboy after 5 beers, but I doubt it has more sinister intentions behind it than that joke verse in the pub. I would be surprised if it were meant in any way as an aggression against women (though if I were a woman and heard a guy who were interested in me say that, I would probably think he was a simpleton and quickly lose interest).

            About the campus life – are the students at NYU less involved in the student unions and similar things than their “rural” counterparts?

            By the way, the comments system here is horrible for any prolonged discussion 🙂

          • Cauê says:

            Small aside:

            I am not a gamer or in fandom. The thing I try to remember about all this stuff is that most of the participants are very young.

            This is often said but I have no reason to think it’s true. From my year of not-participating-but-following gg, my intuitive guess would be an average closer to 25 than 20, with most of the more influential voices closer to 30 than 25, and a significant number well past that. I don’t see many teenagers, and would be very surprised if “most of the participants” turned out to be under 20.

          • Nita says:

            @ Tibor

            It seems to me that the Yale chant is a (much) more crude and less funny variant of the same thing.

            Well, not quite. The old joke is a comment about women: “every women is either a lady or a whore, and ladies always play hard to get”. The chant is not a comment on what women mean when they say “yes” or “no”. It’s a counter-proposal to feminist norms of consent (e.g., “no means no” and “yes means yes”): “let’s just rape everyone!”.

            (The organizers claimed it was “satirical” — I suppose the reasoning is that having sex only with consenting individuals is an outrageous limitation of freedom that must be mocked mercilessly until the tyrannical feminists see the error of their ways?)

            Also, there’s a difference between one person saying something crude during a conversation, and a mob of people shouting “NO MEANS YES” under your bedroom windows at night.

          • Cauê says:

            Nita, do you honestly think those students were seriously promoting rape?

          • Nita says:

            @ Cauê

            I believe they seriously thought that shouting “we’re gonna rape you” outside their fellow students’ windows is both a hilarious initiation rite for their new members and an awesome way to show those pesky feminists who’s boss on the Yale campus.

            If I had just moved across the country to study, and heard a bunch of male students shouting that chant at night, I would be scared, and I certainly wouldn’t feel like I was starting the next stage of my life in a cool community of learning-minded peers.

            The guys who organized this seem like bullies to me. Most of them probably aren’t rapists, but, at least in my experience, bullies who are given free rein tend to get worse and worse over time.

          • Cauê says:

            I believe they seriously thought that shouting “we’re gonna rape you” outside their fellow students’ windows is both a hilarious initiation rite for their new members and an awesome way to show those pesky feminists who’s boss on the Yale campus.

            Ok, this makes a lot more sense, and is probably broadly right. But…

            If I had just moved across the country to study, and heard a bunch of male students shouting that chant at night, I would be scared,

            … then this doesn’t follow.

          • Tibor says:

            Cauê: Actually, I don’t find that in conflict either. One thing is to say “they are probably just idiots”, the other is to be a freshman student who is first time out of her hometown and hears a mob go around shouting that. That mixes with the stories she heard about the rape culture on campus and it is not hard to see why she could be scared by that.

            It could be just me, but a mob shouting some stuff walking under your window can be kind of scary even if you don’t recognize the words they are saying.

            I tend to agree that this is mostly bullying. At the same time I think that action enforces reaction. The more aggressive the SJW people get, the more aggressive their now very articulate opponents get and vice versa. One groups sees the other doing something bad, they react with being just as bad in the other direction, the first group gets even worse and so on.

            It sounds a bit stupid, but I think there is really no other way than for everyone to just try to be a bit more nice to each other. The problem is that everyone is like “those bastards gotta start acting nice first”. Scott’s articles about SJWs here seem to me to be a kind of way one can be nice without waiting for the others to be nice. A bunch of Yale frat boys doing SJW bullshit upside down is quite the opposite.

          • Nita says:

            @ Cauê

            Have you ever passed by a group of “tough” young men looking bored and hungry for some violent entertainment? Intellectually, you know that most of such groups will not harm you. They might ignore you completely, say something crude, make you flinch and laugh at you, but usually they won’t physically assault you. And yet, the average person would experience some fear during the encounter.

            Well, to me, any group of men can be like that. Even a single man could probably subdue me easily (I try not to dwell too much on that fact). My well-being depends on their goodwill.

            And people who like mean verbal “jokes” of that sort often also like “practical jokes” that aren’t necessarily funny to everyone involved. First they let you know that your wishes don’t matter. (Their fun is what matters.) Then they enjoy watching you cringe, rage or cry. Then they try to come up with new ways to have fun.

            Edit: Also, we know now that the guys who were doing the chanting were being hazed in this manner by the older students in fraternity. But if you just heard a crowd chanting, you wouldn’t know that, and might think that a bunch of your fellow students are expressing their sincerely held views on sex.

            I mean, I firmly believe that most people are decent people. But if someone outright goes “yay rape!”, it seems imprudent not to update your beliefs about them at all.

          • Tibor says:

            Nita: Well, I am not a woman, but while I think I can understand someone being scared by a shouting mob, I think that what you described in the last post is more or less projecting the worst possible things that can happen and they trying to think about them hard to forget them 🙂

            Two average guys would beat me anytime, I don’t know any martial arts so one guy that does would do the same, I don’t own a gun and if I did I would not be able to use it fast enough if someone attacked me from a few meters away (unless I walked around with the gun in hand which would result in me being assaulted by weird guys in uniforms and cars with flashy lights who don’t like that for some reason) so my position is not really that different in that (and so is that of most people including most men).

            I think the mob thing is what is scary, not just because there are many of them and you would not stand a chance, but because mobs have a mob mentality and a mob chanting something sounds like trouble. But I really do not like mobs, demonstrations (even peaceful ones) or anything like that. The people in such a group cease to be individuals to a point and become a scary mass. But I even find it uncomfortable when I am at a big concert and the people do what the frontman of the band tells tells them to do like “now everybody go yooo-hoo” or the sort of stuff like that, which a lot of people in fact seem to enjoy, so I might have some minor irrational fears of my own here.

          • Cauê says:

            Nita, Tibor, I don’t disagree with your last comments, but I’d like to remark that they have nothing to do with what they were shouting, only that they were shouting.

            I am familiar with the… unease one can feel when close to (or interacting with) a mob even when rationally one shouldn’t expect actual violence (in my case: football fans chanting after games; people coming from protests and political rallies; organized leftist students in assemblies or protests; fellow workers in a strike I didn’t join, probably more). But I wouldn’t take that feeling as much of a point about anything.

          • Nita says:

            @ Cauê

            Would you really feel the same amount of unease next to crowds chanting “Free Tibet! Free Tibet!” and “Men are scum! Kill all men!”?

            If so, I think you are an unusual person.

          • nil says:

            It’s at least as much about the values being expressed. To wit, “people are more concerned about sexual assault than they ought to be,” and, probably, at least some acceptance of the idea that it’s okay to at least initially not accept no for an answer–and I don’t (necessarily) mean rape, but rather the far more common practice of responding to an initial “no” with pressure and cajoling rather than sexual de-escalation (which at best puts women in a very unpleasant social situation and at worst makes it more difficult for them to properly evaluate/mitigate risk of sexual assault).

            Finally, even though I’m fairly confident in guessing that almost all of those dudes are not particularly rape-prone, they were creating camouflage for those that were.

          • Tibor says:

            Cauê: That is quite a good point, but while the mob is definitely an important amplifier, if the mob shouts something that I can not entirely unreasonably interpret as we are going to rape you, does not make it better. If it was a mob chanting the name of their favourite football club it would be something else. That is something that one knows and can easily fit into the model of the world, but this is just something weird and if you are not used to it I can imagine that it can be scary.

          • Cauê says:

            Would you really feel the same amount of unease next to crowds chanting “Free Tibet! Free Tibet!” and “Men are scum! Kill all men!”?

            If so, I think you are an unusual person.

            I don’t think people saying “Kill all men” actually want to kill all or even some men. It looks about as likely as those students actually intending to rape people.

            If I believed that, sure, that would be more worrying. As it is, however, my guess is that the mobs angry at me for not joining the strike or for defending capitalism were about as uncomfortable as one angry at me for disagreeing with feminism would be.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            “Kill all men!” is not a credible threat.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Caue

            “Kill all men!” is not a credible threat.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @nita @tibor:
            I heard that chant 25 years ago as the pledges of a certain fraternity were walked around campus and “forced” to chant it. I was in a fraternity myself at the time, albeit one that wouldn’t and didn’t do anything like that.

            I think the most important thing to realize is that this is a pledge activity. It is specifically designed to pull the pledges together and raise the cost (not monetary, social cost) of entering the fraternity.They are engaging in this particular chant this because it is wrong to do so. The pledges know it, the brothers know it. The is one of the things that cements the brotherhood together, sort of like jumping someone into a gang.

            One of the things they are trying to do is weaken the pledges bonds to the rest of the campus, which results in stronger internal bonds. Now why that particular chant? Because its tradition, one that has been passed down orally from brother to brother. It would not surprise me if the frat that did it at Yale is the same one that did it at my school.

            In any case, they aren’t signaling an immediate intention to rape, but they are signaling that they won’t be bound by the mores and customs of society. I tend to think that this kind of attitude is corrosive and does increase rape, on the margin. I highly doubt this was the only corrosive thing that the brotherhood engaged in, so, yeah, I would tend to view that fraternity as far more of a threat than the average student on campus.

          • Tibor says:

            I don’t think it would increase actual rape either but it is still something I cannot label as positive or neutral. I am not saying those students should be forced to leave the school or something, I think this is closer to the kind of behaviour we could call the dorm administration to deal with – when there was excessive noise at night for example (I had to live above some freshmen who had a huge speaker sound system in their room and playing music all the time…I only heard the bass “thump thump” but when you do that all day till like 1-2 am then it makes you crazy…when they are unwilling to put it down you can either go there and fight them or call the administration to deal with them) someone could be threatened to have to leave the dormitory. Likewise, if people do something like this in campus you could tell them they would have to live somewhere else instead (although this is probably a much bigger problem if you study at a rural university than if the uni is in a city). It has nothing to do with actual studying, so that should not be affected.

            Also, your explanations kind of makes sense, although I have never had any experience with being in a fraternity or actually even seeing one, in Bohemia these are not a thing, in Germany they exist but since you do not have these rural campuses you do not come in contact with them, especially when you are a PhD student who is really not that much in contact with undergraduates. But since you apparently have some first-hand knowledge about fraternities, I will trust your word here 🙂

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “Likewise, if people do something like this in campus you could tell them they would have to live somewhere else instead ”

            They already do live somewhere else, the fraternity house (Well, the brothers do. The pledges probably don’t, but that would just increase effect of of the hazing. Pledges kicked out of campus housing would just end up living with a brother in the house or off campus.)

            Fraternity and sorority houses are typically private houses that are near or directly adjacent to campus.

            And I’m not sure why you think this won’t increase rape on the margin. I think this community (SSC, I mean) is very sensitive to the idea that dehumanizing/deindividualizing others encourages/allows people to engage in all sorts of bad behavior. Especially when you consider that this is highly unlikely to be an outlier (in terms of required behavior of pledges and accepted behavior by the brothers) and that the pledges are likely to be freshmen or at most sophomores.

          • Cauê says:

            And I’m not sure why you think this won’t increase rape on the margin.

            You would expect to see it in statistics. Apparently college students are less likely to be raped than non-students – which doesn’t necessarily mean they wouldn’t be even less likely without these chants, but do we have reason to think this?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think that’s the wrong reference class.

            The question is, given a large enough cohort of college attending males in the first or second semester, randomly selected for inclusion into one fraternity that uses these types of hazing tactics and another that doesn’t, what is the effect of pledging, initiation and membership in said fraternities? Do you say a statistically significant rise in rapes committed by the first group over the 4 to 5 year period at college?

            I will say good luck trying to run that experiment! I’ll further say that you will have a really hard time controlling for selection biases in non-random samples. And even further you will have a hard time gathering stats on whether or not the men have assaulted or raped people. When it comes to it, some of them may have no knowledge that they have engaged in the behavior (memory being affected by alcohol consumption).

            Anecdotally, as a fraternity member, I found the attitudes about general respect for anything other than themselves prevalent in many fraternities to be sorely lacking. It was not long after I left college that one of the fraternities on campus had their charter revoked for holding an event called a “Chicken Kickin'” wherein the fraternity members put a live chicken down in a circle of people and kicked it until it was dead. I personally witnessed a pledge at a fraternity separate his shoulder in a pickup football game and his fellow fraternity members did nothing to help him. He walked himself to the hospital.

          • Cauê says:

            I think that’s the wrong reference class.

            Sure. My point was that (afaik) we don’t have good reason to think the effect exists, and the data that come closest to being relevant don’t point in that direction, which doesn’t help.

            But it shouldn’t be as hard as you say. Are fraternity members more likely to rape than other students? What if we control for family income and GPA? How do offense rates compare between colleges that have fraternities and those that don’t?

          • Tibor says:

            HeelBearCub: Wow, those things you describe seem pretty hardcore. I thought the academic fencing thing was more or less the most idiotic thing students would come up with 🙂

            What I don’t think is that if you ban students from chanting “no means yes and yes means anal”, especially if they are doing it deliberately to provoke, that this is going to reduce rape.

            From your description, frat boys really seem pretty horrible (I am also puzzled then by the apparent eagerness of the SJWs to concentrate on throwing filth at “geeks” and “neck-beards” instead of these macho fratboys) and apart from economic reasons I can hardly see why anyone who is not too stupid to at least get a university degree (that is not really that high a bar, but still) would want to join a fraternity. Although I have a distaste for big organized groups in general, so I guess it is hard for me to really fully grok it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I don’t think it’s particularly fraternities. It’s groups of young men engaged in the particular social status games that young men play. The question is whether those games are rewarded or punished by the larger society.

            To the extent that fraternities are allowed to keep their broad social status while engaging in this type of behavior, then these tactics are rewarded.

            If you moved to Russia, to a majority Czech neighborhood, and nativist Russian college students made a habit of marching though the neighborhood shouting “Fuck the Czech’s in the ass because they like it”, and this was accepted with a shrug and a “no big deal”, you would draw some conclusions about the broad Russian society. And you would be right.

            How a large group reacts to what a smaller sub-group does tells you something about the larger group.

          • Tibor says:

            HeelBearClub: Fair enough, not a bad point. Although I have experienced anything close to this sort of behaviour from either neonazis or extreme left-wingers (antifa), it does not seem like something “young men like to do” in general, especially not those who attend a university (then again, 95% of the people I ever met during my undergrad were mathematics, physics or computer science students, their way of showing off us to make arrogant comments about the stupidity of anyone who does not study mathematics, physics or computer science rather than going around in groups and shouting things :))) ).

            I wonder why there are no fraternities in Prague (or other Bohemian university towns). It is not banned or anything (probably would have been 26 years ago, but that is more than 5 generations of students already). Anything close to a student organization seem to be things like the “film club of this and that faculty”. Maybe other faculties are a bit different, I would expect the students of humanities to be more “socially engaged” in all directions but I am pretty sure that fraternities do not exist (I always wondered what those were when watching US movies).

            Maybe, as I said earlier, it has something with people generally going to their hometowns every 2 weeks on average and the universities being in the middle of cities so the students generally spread out too (dormitories and parts of the universities are also usually in various parts of the city, traditionally each dormitory has its own “majority” faculty, so one is a “lawyer” dormitory, one is a “medics” dormitory, one is a “maths/physics/computer science” dormitory and so on in the sense of usually mostly students from those faculties requesting a room there.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “universities being in the middle of cities”

            The US has, as you seem to be aware, the general habit of putting very large universities in relatively remote settings and then a village -> town springs up around them. Taking a guess, this has something to do with the availability of land in the US (see “land grant university”, for example) as compared to the Europe, where land at the time of the growth of institutions of higher-learning was far more in private hands.

            This seems like a recipe for developing social life on US campuses that is fairly insular. Throw in the period of US prohibition (and the much later raising of the drinking age to 21), and you further encourage social activities that are private in nature. I haven’t done the research to say those two factors are what drove the development and growth of “Greek” tradition in the US, but it seems plausible.

        • alexp says:

          Tibor-“I dunno, do the Yale students actually go about forcing girls to have sex with them against their will?”

          Some probably do, but I think the main issue is the particular brand of fratboy humor that consists of saying something offensive, and that’s it. Seth Macfarlane is one of the most prominent champions of this. I happen to be a fan of this too, but I haven’t made too many jokes of that nature recently.

          Oops applied to wrong nest post.

          • Saul Degraw says:

            Also to @tibor

            I would say that campus rape is a universal problem. Now universities have been reacting in bad ways and taking away due process protections for the accused but that does not make it less of an issue.

            If the frat brothers chanted it in their own house, I would dismiss it as crude and vulgar and immature but private. IIRC they went about chanting it around campus and this creates a distinctly different experience because it becomes a kind of unwelcoming jeer. Yale is a private university and does not need to follow the First Amendment in these cases.

            When people complain about being PC, what I hear is “I don’t want to think for two minutes about whether what I am going to say or do treats people different than me with disrespect and indifference.” Complaints about PC often seem to be complaints on treating people with dignity and decency.

            There is also just a lot of unthinking. There was a story about a Goldman Sachs team building/bonding trip at a Strip Club. How is that supposed to be welcoming towards women? This is something that could have easily been avoided if people stopped to think for two minutes about “Is action X likely to alienate group Y?” There are plenty of booze filled locations that are more gender neutral than a strip club.

            Maybe the choice of the strip club was not explicitly hostile or intentional but it does reveal a kind of antipathy that wishes we were back in the old days when women were only in the Secretaries pool.

          • Cauê says:

            I would say that campus rape is a universal problem.

            Rape is a universal problem. The spotlight on “campus rape” is hard to justify.

            When people complain about being PC, what I hear is “I don’t want to think for two minutes about whether what I am going to say or do treats people different than me with disrespect and indifference.”

            This assumes the conclusion. My experience is that people complaining about me complaining about PC don’t want to think for two minutes about whether their premises might be wrong.

            Snark aside, I mostly really, really don’t want to live in a society that punishes thoughtcrimes (and inevitably also speech that becomes criminal because someone could misunderstand it for thoughtcrime, and so on). Especially when I question the content of the ideologies that define thoughtcrime, which is every time so far.

          • Tibor says:

            Nita: (hopefully you find it, that other thread is already too long to write conveniently to) Shouting it under your bedroom window at night? Well, yeah that is a bit different, but you did not mention that the first time 🙂 I though this was something some frat boys at Yale would sing as a “funny song” during a frat party or whatever. That attached link did not work here at first for some reason (which is why I did not read it), now it does.

            Saul:Same as above, I did not see that this was about a mob going around the campus and chanting that. I can imagine how that can make one feel a bit uneasy. At the same time I am inclined to agree with alexp interpretation if them just wanting to do something that will make a lot of people angry and have a big laugh about that later on.

            The other stuff: I do not see why a Goldman Sachs teambuilding should be required to care about being welcoming to women any more than a private university should be required to care about the first amendment on their own property.

            I think that sometimes you might be right. People might scream “PC” because someone tells them “you’re being a dick”. Other times, it is the other way around, some people get offended by every little thing and make a big deal out of it. The Germans have a saying that something is “like a Czech village” to them, which means that it does not make any sense. When I heard about that, I found that actually pretty funny (and I am Czech). There are people who would do a big deal out of this, call anyone who uses that saying a bigot or something and so on. That is the other extreme. Also, it seems strangely asymmetrical. Imagine that there was a saying “this is like a black neighbourhood to me” in the US with the same meaning. That would be exactly the same, but I would expect people to make a lot of fuss about that. Similarly, I was at this one concert and the singer was African. The music was not bad but then she stopped and started talking (that is almost always disastrous with musicians 🙂 ) about how African women are beautiful and that none of European women are even close to that. Now imagine, say a German singer going to Cape Town and saying that German women are much prettier than Africans and they don’t even come close. I mean, in both cases it would be equally idiotic, but while the African singer was rewarded with an applause, the German would probably have to end her career over that.

            Generally, I think it is good when everyone can say their bit, however idiotic, it is quite helpful – I know who the idiots are right away and stop wasting my time with them and everyone can decide for himself what is idiotic from his own perspective.

          • Saul Degraw says:

            Goldman Sachs should care for a variety of reasons.

            1. The 1964 Civil Rights Act and various state versions were passed over 50 years ago and they are not going away. The law bans gender discrimination in the work place and it is not hard to argue that a team building/bonding event at a strip club violates these laws or comes really close to doing so. These laws are not going away anytime soon and they should not.

            2. Women are part of the workplace now and they are given substantive position and authority. The world of Mad Men is dead and gone and not coming back. There should also be a consistency between outward and actual actions. Maybe not Goldman but there are plenty of other firms that like to shiny PR about diversity and being a discrimination free zone but end up still holding to actual retrograde practices.

          • Tibor says:

            Saul: Well, my opinion is that if you discriminate qualified people (as in not hire them) based on things other than their qualification, your more sensible competition is going to end up with an advantage over you, so I am not sure anti-discriminatory laws are necessary. I am also not quite sure how they can really work in practise. Say, I don’t want to hire a woman (or a man for that matter). I invite her to the interview and then I say that the other candidates were better. The law only comes into effect if I am stupid enough to say “I am not going to hire you because you are a woman”.

            Then there are professions where the gender does matter and I am not talking about a strip dancer job. A friend of mine is a construction engineer. She told me it is hard for women to get promoted at the job, I asked her why. She said that it is not that the bosses would be anti-women or anything, but if you are a low-level manager, you have to go to a building site, talk to the builder there and tell them what to do. They are usually not quite the smartest people and they “won’t have a chick tellin’ me how to build a goddamn wall”. So you could try to convince these kind of guys otherwise or you just promote a man to that position. Later, the managers do not have to directly work with builders, but they have to go through that stage first and that is the problem. You could say this is sexism again, if only on the part of the builders. Well, yes, but good luck trying to change the way builders think about this.

            For the record – I was in a strip club once, for about a minute, I felt really embarrassed there and I did not like it, so I would feel very unwelcome at that Goldman Sachs meeting myself…but a company is not a kindergarten and if this is a big deal for me, I can just get a job elsewhere (hanging around a frat-boy like group if businessmen would probably make me do just that, regardless of my sex 🙂 ).

          • anon says:

            >When people complain about being PC, what I hear is “I don’t want to think for two minutes about whether what I am going to say or do treats people different than me with disrespect and indifference.”
            (I’ve been here for years do I quote?)

            Acknowledging that say Person of Color is a legitimate and useful word means you’re buying part of the argument of the people who insist on using the term. Making the effort to keep up with their latest opinions on what constitutes politeness means you either agree with them or greatly respect their opinion. Heartiste would call this giving them frame control, and its pretty submissive especially if not reciprocated.

            Expecting the frat brothers to go all “woops, better be polite about X in public” is expecting them to join or at least submit to the ideology that demands respect and politeness with respect to X.

            I struggle to think of an example from the right, maybe soldiers or war veterans? Following the expectation that you should be respectful to “the people who protect our freedom” would be equivalent to making the concession that soldiering is an honorable and virtuous profession, while being rude about them lets you break out of the whole ‘honor the military’ frame at the cost of opening you up to complaints that you’re an asshole?

          • brad says:


            Generally, I think it is good when everyone can say their bit, however idiotic, it is quite helpful – I know who the idiots are right away and stop wasting my time with them and everyone can decide for himself what is idiotic from his own perspective.

            At least from a US perspective the debate isn’t really on “If you say X you should go to prison”. Taking that position from either the left or the right puts you well outside the mainstream in the US today.

            The real point of debate is what is an appropriate / fair / reasonable response to hearing speech you find highly offensive. Some endorse free speech norms are such that you couldn’t do much of anything except respond with lots more words explaining why you disagree (after recasting whatever the offensive statement was in the most charitable way possible). Others think it is okay to personally avoid these “idiots” but it is beyond the pale to encourage others to avoid them. Others are okay with traditional communal speech norm enforcement but think that the internet changes everything. Some people make a distinction between individual responses even if coordinated and some sort of “official” entity responding (whether that’s a school, a workplace, or a tech conference). Other people think that free speech is about the government, and you speak at your peril vis-à-vis social consequences.

          • Tibor says:

            brad: Well, in Europe this is different. First of all, any nazi symbols and stuff like that can get you to prison in probably all of Europe. Some countries also have additional laws, for example Sweden has some laws that make spreading negative stereotypes about minority groups illegal. Now, I acknowledge that this is a lot better in the US (am I defending nazis? Depends, I think one of the things they like about being neonazis is that it is something illegal, gives them a sense of being underdogs and rebels. Plus it would really be pretty handy to be able to spot one right away from a hakenkreuz tatoo on their arm or something).

            But then there is the other thing which is harder to put a finger on. You may not go to prison for saying something “wrong” but you may get into a lot of trouble, lose your job and so on. Internet is a great thing, but it does seem to help these sort of “incidents” to occur. I don’t think that any kind of laws can help sort this out though.

          • Saul Degraw says:


            Yes it means treating people who are minorities as human and dressing them on terms of respect and equality.

            Minorities are not required to be subservient to slanderous terms or offensive terms. People know when they are being insulted because of their race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

            These are groups of people with long histories of being marginalized and they are fighting for their full and free rights to participate in social and economic life.

            I am Jewish. Would you say I am crossing a line by telling people that the old phrase “I Jewed the price down” is offensive. Or said that kike was unacceptable?

          • Tibor says:

            Saul: (sorry for responding for someone else)

            Part of my family on my mother’s side died in concentration camps because they were jewish. Still, I would not say that “jewed the price down” is a problem. I think context is everything with these sort of things. As you said, one can usually tell when what is said is meant in a derogatory or aggressive way. But it often is not. It is hard to interpret something like “gas the jews” as not aggressive, but there are other things where it is teasing at most and “jewing the price down” seems like much closer to that in my book. I have a problem with people who ring the bell each time something could be possibly under some circumstances interpreted as aggression instead of limiting it it to the case when it clearly is meant that way. Of course, you could go the other way, sort of like when the mafia comes to the show owner and tells him “we are your buddies” when they actually are intimidating him.

            Bottom line is that one should not be too quick about labeling everything as offensive. A jewish joke can be harmless and not aggressive or point to some hidden antisemitic side of someone who says that. I say jewish jokes now and then, mostly about the stereotypical moneygrubbing and being cheapskate and stuff like that, and I would probably have to be mentally instable to be antisemitic. It would not be appropriate in some settings of course, but that is already something else as labeling it offensive (generally, I do not like the universal term “offensive” which suggests that it is just offending to everyone, I can be offended by something, but that does not entitle me to call it “offensive”, other people might be ok with it).

          • Cauê says:

            People know when they are being insulted because of their race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

            Do they?

            Looking at possible false negatives, I’ve more than once seen concerned white people helpfully inform minorities that they should be insulted by an offense they hadn’t seen as such.

            Looking at false positives… my God, the false positives. I’d be surprised if they weren’t the source of at least 50% of conflicts involving the subject, but I don’t know how to assess this.

            Which is much of the point: do people know? How could they tell if they didn’t? How often are they wrong?

          • anon says:

            I’m describing a more general mechanism. Demands for increasing politeness can be used to shift the frame in favor of your politics but they can also be used for the opposite effect, unless you’re far enough left that cthulhu is always swimming toward you anyway. This doesn’t change my claim that they can be a means of pushing politics, and thus it can be completely reasonable/rational to be impolite (see: allegedly Trump, I don’t really follow American politics).

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            @Saul @Tibor

            And I too am Jewish with family who died in the concentration camps.

            I always understood that the lesson of the Holocaust was not Nazi’s are bad, or even don’t be anti-semetic (both are simplistic easy answers for people who want to avoid the real lesson).

            The real lesson is don’t dehumanise people. Ever.

            That goes for people dehumanising minority groups, people dehumanising majority groups.

            It even goes for people dehumanising majority groups because they were dehumanising minority groups.

          • Tibor says:

            Forlorn Hope:

            I can agree with that. But there is a lot of space between a mildly racist joke and dehumanizing people. In fact, the way I see it, labeling a group of people as eternal victims who cannot help themselves and need the enlightened concerned white people to give them advantages is sort of dehumanizing. We can have a laugh when we hear a joke about Englishmen or Frenchmen, why not Ugandians, Arabs or Jews? Of course, “kill those miserable English bastards!” is not a joke and it is not clear what is already meant as an agression rather than teasing and mocking but in this case, I believe that it is in fact the intention that counts (although it can still be objectionable to tell a inapropriate joke like that sometimes, but then it should be followed by “you sound pretty stupid when saying that” and not by “how dare you marginalize these poor people?”.

            Positive discrimination is still discrimination and as long as someone does not argue that one should not make any jokes about any group of people whatsoever (which I think is a pretty stupid position) then it should be ok to make jokes about everyone (but of course not in every situation). Actual dehumanization looks more like “gas the jews”, “god hates fags” or “women are all whores who belong to the kitchen”, “Germans were/are all nazis”, “white dudes are the worst scum on earth” and they are used seriously in tone. I have no problem with someone denouncing people who say these things, but them some people use a milligram-precision scale for what a kilogram scale should be used for and jump up at every milligram they measure.

          • brad says:


            Life is short, and the world is full of people. Why waste my time with someone who says “jewed the price down”? Maybe they’ll be some small false positive rate, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

            And to respond to something from earlier:

            But one could argue that what we see is the few who were brave/unwise enough not to keep their mouths shut. One could live a relatively oppression-free life in a communist country if he only were in line with all the Party bullshit. I guess that a survey of actual university policies over all major universities in the US would give one an idea of what is going on.

            I don’t see why you want to reject anecdotes on this point. You don’t need data to find out if people are living in Stalinist fear, you can just ask. Looking at the university policies might even be misleading on this point as it is more of a de facto question than a de jure one.

          • gbdub says:

            “I don’t want to think for two minutes about whether what I am going to say or do treats people different than me with disrespect and indifference.” Complaints about PC often seem to be complaints on treating people with dignity and decency.

            Jumping in late, but that’s a pretty uncharitable interpretation of PC complaints.

            To me the problem isn’t people getting offended by stuff like “jewed the price down”. That’s certainly offensive (and its not that its ever not offensive, just that in the right context, a little good-natured offensiveness can be fun).

            PC becomes a problem when you get euphemism treadmills – e.g. Negro-> Colored-> Black-> African American-> Persons of Color -> Individuals With Actual, Experienced, or Self-Identified Skin Melanin Content Greater than the Strictly Local Mean. (I probably got the order wrong somewhere in there). And I don’t mean to pick on those individuals – you see the same treadmills in relation to homosexuals, the mentally ill, the developmentally disabled, the overweight, and so on.

            It seems clear that at some point these treadmills are less about policing actual offensive references and more about signalling ingroups and outgroups. Less about respect for the minorities and more about shaming away any potential dissent. So I think the point that intent matters is a good one.

            And outside the euphemism treadmill, PC can also be used to shut down debate. “No, you’re white/cis/straight/thin/male you’re not allowed to express an opinion about #BlackLivesMatter/Caitlyn Jenner/gay marriage/body shaming/Planned Parenthood”. And in those cases it really does constitute “setting the frame” and creating taboos that close out any rational exchange of ideas. “Shut up and listen to me” is not “having a conversation”.

            So yes, I think we should all do our best to avoid offending people. I also think we should do our best to avoid getting offended by stuff said in naivete or minor inadvertent insensitivity. You can educate (and learn from) someone who gives you the occasional “microaggression” – unless you blow up like its an act of war and run them off. Don’t turn potential allies into enemies.

          • brad says:

            Just as an aside, I’ve now seen complaints about “person of color” on here several times. But it isn’t a substitute from black along the lines of negro -> black -> African American. Instead it is a substitute for minority. I’m not sure that substitution was driven by the same euphemism treadmill. More like minority wasn’t a great choice to begin with because it can be very ambiguous (i.e. do you mean underrepresented minority? what about minorities along other axes than race/Hispanic?).

          • gbdub says:

            Understood that “person of color” is not a drop-in replacement for “black”. But some black individuals, particularly those with strong SJ opinions, seem to frequently self-describe as “persons of color” and take offense if they are not referred to as such (and again, this seems to be even more outgrouping of white people – now you’re not even a color, you’re a lack of it).

            In any case I was intentionally exaggerating to absurdity for effect.

          • Tibor says:

            The reason I don’t feel well about anecdotes is that in a group big enough (such as all the universities in the US) you can always find some anectodes that confirm whatever you want to confirm ( I think Scott actually had a nice post about that problem recently with the evil cardiologists thing). Statistics is the best (of course, even that can be used to lie, but it since I know something about statistics, being a a probabilist, I notice those kind of lies easier), policies do not always work. I mean communist Czechoslovakia nominally signed that international people’s rights document (I forgot what it is called now) but when people demanded that it be implemented they ended up in prisons (while others were “convinced” to publicly denounce the efforts of those first people…the so called Charta 77 and the following communist Anticharta). Call me naive, but I doubt American universities are as bad as the one-party communist government, so while de jure is likely not exactly the same as de facto, it should not be entirely different from reality.

            Otherwise I more or less agree with the last few comments.

            By the way, I have a friend who is Colombian. I know she is a bit annoyed when one uses the term Americans to mean US-Americans (because she also considers herself American in the sense I am European). She does not make a big deal out of it, but I know she does not like it. I don’t like Czech republic being called Eastern Europe (Bohemia was an important part of both the Holy Roman Empire and the Austrian Empire and always firmly entrenched in the affairs of what is called Central Europe, having very little contact with Russia or Ukraine and other actual eastern European countries, except for the really unfortunate period of 1948-1989, while Austria, which is considered a western European country is just to the south, with Vienna being even about 400 km to the east of Prague), so I think I understand how she feels about it. So when talking to her I am trying to not be a dick although I still use American to refer to US Americans sometimes anyway…mostly because there is just not a good name for US Americans otherwise (by the way this is a really funny Canadian song about this ) and since she is not an SJW-like idiot, she is ok with that too (and I don’t start jumping up when someone refers to the Czech republic as an “eastern european” country either). I think this is how reasonable people go about these “microagressions” ( I find that term extremely stupid by the way). Various people have various issues with things that may seem vain or petty to others but if they are not dicks about it, I will mostly try to accommodate to them when speaking to them. If they are dicks about it, then I feel like no need to do so (in fact I have a strong desire do the exact opposite). Then again, I probably would not say “person of colour” instead of “black” (by the way “negro” simply means black in spanish and does not have any negative connotations) or call someone who is fat with whatever euphemism someone came up with lately (after having started regularly working out which I do at home with no equipment apart form my body, doors, towels and a table, therefore for free and together less than 2 hours a week, I have lost any respect to anyone who complains about being fat and how hard it is not to be unless he has some sort of a medical condition that causes this). I also feel like the personal pronoun “he” is a better neutral pronoun than “they” which just sounds awkward to me (I find “she”, as used by Scott, also fine) So I guess that some of these sensitivity issues are probably more sensible and some are less. It might sound trivial, but I guess the real solution is that people just relax about these things a bit and don’t assume the worst about others when they use some terms they do not like.

          • Psmith says:

            “I still use American to refer to US Americans sometimes anyway…mostly because there is just not a good name for US Americans otherwise ”

            Usonian. Pointlessly obscure, but a good word otherwise.

          • Cauê says:

            I’ve been using “US-American” following what I believe to be the German custom, which looks sensible enough. Around here I use “USian”, following somebody’s lead, but I’m not sure who anymore.

    • Saul Degraw says:

      Other things that go into college decision include geography, geography, geography.

      I was allowed to apply as far as Ohio (Oberlin) by my parents. Reed in Portland, Oregon was out of the question as was Stanford. The West coast was deemed too far. I suspect that lots of people choose colleges that are far enough from home to give independence but close enough so you can get home for a weekend if you want or need to. My alma mater was two hours from my house by car and a bit over three by train. I liked Colby in Maine but in reality it would have been a pain to get to.

      From what I’ve read, first-generation college students often don’t know which schools are elite beyond the obvious ones. Friends of mine are the first in their families to attend college. They probably could have gotten into a school like Williams or Amherst or Swathmore if they knew what those schools were. Instead they just applied to their state schools because that was known. I have heard anecdotes about first-generation college students asking “Is M.I.T. a two year school or a four year school?”

    • JBeshir says:

      Yeah, it struck me as really obvious that the world we observe is explained by the fact that for the vast majority outside the “people with fascinating and strong political opinions” bubble, any preference they have on trigger warning policy is drowned out by much stronger preferences on rank/academics/cost/etc.

      This would leave the answer to the question of “Why don’t we split institutions by trigger warning policy?” as the same as the answer to “Why don’t we split institutions by length of grass on their fields?”; in a market with a near-infinite number of institutions specialising in everything at every level of rank, academics, and cost I suppose you might get close enough to identical on every more important metric for that to become a significant point of separation, but in the real world the very finite number of highly ranked institutions that exist and the limited level of research that buyers put in to choice of institution prevent this.

      As with a lot of politics, in this case the costs of being somewhere which is ideologically incompatible are lower than the costs of switching to an inferior but ideologically compatible competitor in people’s minds, so they fight for a better deal where they are rather than exercising exit and switching to a competitor and sustaining a market in the matter.

      You could have niche institutions for the minority of people who are prepared to pick an otherwise inferior option to get an institution where they never have to encounter trigger warnings or worry someone might express negative opinions about their worldview, or where they get comprehensive trigger warnings and speech restrictions, but I would strongly suspect unless people start caring way, way more about this, enough to avoid MIT or Harvard if they deem their politics incorrect, this will always be a very fringe thing and not settle the pushing for a better deal in non-niche institutions- and if the behaviour of political parties at the extremes is any guide I’d expect the niche institutions to be rife with internal conflict about exactly *how* strongly ideological they should be and in what ways, too.

    • I know decent people who’ve started identifying as Social Justice Warriors. They think Social Justice is good. They can’t see fighting for it as bad. They don’t care about the horrid behavior of a lot of SJWs. They have constructed a good parts version of Social Justice.

      I have no idea whether people like that will dilute the badness of Social Justice, supply cover for the badness, get corrupted, or leave eventually.

      • Nornagest says:

        I predict they’ll start taking anti-SJ criticism personally, since once you’ve pulled a label like that into your identity it’s really hard to believe that criticism of it is only directed at the bad ones. Which will make them resentful. Which will give support to the thinking behind the bad behavior, which will then tend to self-reinforce.

        So, in short, my money’s on “corrupted”.

      • brad says:

        Odd, I’ve never seen or heard of anyone describing themselves as a “social justice warrior”. I would have thought that usage was either entirely pejorative or almost all pejorative with a tiny bit of tongue-in-cheek self identification.

        • John Schilling says:

          I’ve heard (good and decent) people describe themselves as “into Social Justice”, but not specifically as “Social Justice Warriors”

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          I’ve definitely heard people describe themselves as “social justice warriors” — at least saying so on the Internet — but they were universally the worst people.

  8. Held in Escrow says:

    On the Vox piece; there are days where I feel like I should just dress up and go door to door preaching the good word of Rawls. There are several flaws in his analysis (he does a bit of a hit on the stupidly effective EITC in favor of a BGI), but I really want to send him a copy of A Theory of Justice.

    On tech journalists: I’m a fan of David Auerbach, and he’s done some good writing about online leftism as a fellow member of the Blue Tribe as well.

    • SFG says:

      Very minor point, but I remember reading Auerbach on Slate arguing that he was trying to get his daughter to be a scientist instead of a princess….which, while being a princess isn’t a realistic goal, whiffs way too much of ‘I am going to force my children to fulfill the dreams laid out for me by my ideology’ for my taste.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Wanting your daughter to be a scientist instead of a princess is a convenient excuse for a man too lazy to carve out a realm with the strength of his sword-arm. (Spear-arm?)

        • John Schilling says:

          What’s with this “instead of”? Deja Thoris was a princess and a scientist, or at least a leader of a scientific expedition. And she’d have had nothing to do with any man too lazy to carve out a realm with the strength of his sword-arm.

          Earth’s few “princess” jobs are all filled up for the coming generation, but we haven’t decided what sort of government Mars is going to have and that really needs to be settled in a generation or two. So I think princess/scientist is an entirely reasonable ambition for a young lady of suitable virtue, quality, and proper upbringing.

          • LHN says:

            Wonder Woman too: in her first published adventure, she perfected the purple healing ray that saved Steve Trevor’s life.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Queen is a reasonable ambition for a young lady. Princess is properly an ambition for the young lady’s parents, or possibly siblings.

          • Salem says:

            Earth’s few “princess” jobs are all filled up for the coming generation

            Harry is still single.

          • anodognosic says:

            Let’s not forget Princess Bubblegum.

          • AlexanderRM says:

            Seeing the number of scientist-princesses other commenters have come up with (Wonder Woman, Princess Bubblegum), I’m curious- how does this compare to scientist-princes people can come up with?

          • LHN says:

            Mister Miracle is probably more of an engineer, but he’s a genius inventor and the son of the king of the New Gods, so he arguably counts.

            (There’s a real dearth of princes among superheroes in general, I think– they tend to rapidly ascend to the kingship like Black Panther and Aquaman. Namor’s a prince, but not a scientist, and Doctor Doom is a scientist who rules what’s effectively a principality, but he’s not a hereditary ruler and doesn’t AFAIK use that title.)

          • anodognosic says:

            @ AlexanderRM It’s not so easy, but then again, in pop culture, princess – woman + man != prince.

          • Chris Conner says:

            @ AlexanderRM

            Girl Genius is rife with both royalty and scientists, but the only scientist I can think of who is also technically a prince is Tarvek Sturmvoraus. Gilgamesh Wulfenbach is the son of Baron Wulfenbach, but the Baron rules most of Europe, so Gilgamesh has the social standing of a prince, if not the actual title.

            In the real world, I can think of a few near-misses. King Sejong the Great was involved in the development of hangul, one of the greatest orthographies ever, but it’s not clear how much of this is his own work.

            Louis de Broglie was an honest-to-God Nobel-winning scientist, but a mere duke. Guillaume de l’Hôpital was a Marquis. But, you know, when we’re reduced to looking for marquises, we’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

            The Saudi royal family is vast and includes thousands of princes. Given that the country is so rich, it would be surprising if none of them were scientists, but I couldn’t name one.

      • Forlorn Hopes says:

        You mean this?

        I’m pretty sure that’s satire. Satire that’s significantly less crazy than the stuff it’s satiring so really hard to detect.

        Search for it on KotakuInAction for a break down.

      • Dain says:

        At this Global Mobile Internet Conference thing I’m attending in SF, diversity is a big theme. At one point Monday in a Q&A sesh about women in tech, a guy stood up and vented his frustration that his junior high afterschool STEM program was mostly attracting boys, not girls.

        What a shame, to overlook interest because of gender imbalance. In the school I went to, any teacher would be ecstatic by ANYONE being overtly nerd enough to show interest in something like that.

        Anyway, curious what he does with his OWN kids. Sigh.

    • Zebram says:

      I’ll have to read some more analysis of Rawls, but I never found his case any more convincing than any other political philosophy. It all seems like a bunch of made up social constructs. People just choose what appeals to them and I don’t see why there is any moral value to these appealing feelings. What is the evidence that his theory has some intrinsic value or moral value?

      • The_Dancing_Judge says:

        precisely. there is no effective “ought” in rawls.

        idk if i’d agree with his theory even on risk management grounds. i think i’d take a more risky bet behind the veil of ignorance.

        • AlexanderRM says:

          Agreed, Rawls as I understand it is a ludicrous degree of risk-aversion. Which is a shame because I really like the formulation otherwise, to the point that I’m starting to refer to myself as a Rawlsean instead of a Utilitarian, even though my variation of Rawlseanism basically works out to Preference Utilitarianism; anyone know a good term for agreeing with the veil of ignorance concept but disagreeing with his conclusion?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Just call yourself a Rawlsian. Endorsing people doesn’t mean endorsing their math errors. But if you want someone who proposed the veil of ignorance first and without error: John Harsanyi.

          • ” anyone know a good term for agreeing with the veil of ignorance concept but disagreeing with his conclusion?”


            Harsanyi came up with the veil of ignorance long before Rawls and drew the correct conclusion. Behind the veil you choose the society with the highest average Von Neumann utility.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Just call yourself a utilitarian. Without Rawls’s risk aversion shenanigans, the veil of ignorance argument reduces to utilitarianism.

          • Shenpen says:

            Hm, I am probably the most right wing guy around here, and I tend to agree with your probably more moderate respondents. What I instantly noticed at reading Rawls was extremely high risk aversion, skip this – imagine a pre-birth gamble – and you are close to utiliarianism indeed.

            Where I would disagree is the following:

            – Rawls is basically asking you if you were a god what kind of world would you create see the usual libertarian and conservative arguments against playing god, being too ambitious with politics, unconstrained vision, Sowell etc. etc.

            – The problem is that utility is not very well define. For example it is often reduced to money, but I basically see money as a high score card and simply enjoy playing the game. So I would not necessarily want the kind of world that makes me better off as the total sum of money but the kind of world where playing the money game is as such the most satisfying. In other words there should be inequality or else the prize of the game is boring. Thus inequality is a positive, boredom-staving good for me.

            This makes utility calculations fscking hard, don’t you find? Obvious I’d rather not have anyone starve, that would make things too harsh, but I definitely want some people to be less able to afford designer clothes than some other people as that belongs to the game, belongs to what makes it exciting.

            Sometimes I wonder if I would go along with Communism if they made the economy irrelevant because it would only produce basic staples but every status point in life, every challenge, would be about some different kind of game. I guess I am surprisingly close to saying yes, and surprisingly close to think that could be workable, because people would simply invest all their cutthroat-competing desires in those other games.

          • Anonymous says:

            >>I am probably the most right wing guy around here

            Oho! Looks like someone wants to play “I’m So Right-Wing That…”!

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            >I am probably the most right wing guy around here

            It depends on what you consider “more right wing”. I mean, Steve Johnson is unparalleled in his regard of women as baby bags, but I’m pretty sure you’ve got him beat in the “there is literally nothing wrong with having a tyranic despot” department.

          • Anonymous says:

            >>I’m pretty sure you’ve got him beat in the “there is literally nothing wrong with having a tyranic despot” department.

            Tyrannic despotism is hardly exclusive to the right-wing. I mean, communism officially endorsed tyrannic despotism until such a time that the people could despotically tyrannize themselves.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Okay, okay, how about “There’s literally nothing wrong with a tyranic despot that doesn’t pay lip service to the ideals of equality, progress or some other nice-sounding higher value”?

  9. Saul Degraw says:

    TV Deregulation and Polarization: I am not buying it. I think we are returning to a historical norm and it happen to coincide with TV deregulation. I suspect that the 50 or so years of post WWII mass consensus was the exception rather than the rule. For most of U.S. History, there have been various factions and parties that really, really disagreed with each other and really, really disliked each other.

    • Mary says:

      More likely the regulation masked the actual polarization, and inhibited people, just as forcing everyone to parrot the Communist line probably inhibited people from thinking really anti-Communist thoughts.

      • LeeEsq says:

        My guess is that this is more or less right. There were certainly a very loud Far Right and somewhat quieter Far Left during the Cold War period. The people that favored Taft over Eisenhower so the New Deal could be repealed or the JBS society. There was always a strong Evangelical subculture, it was just underground. During the Counter-Culture a big and wacky Far Left emerged. It wasn’t so much as regulation as the media availability kept most of this unnoticeable. There were only so many TV and radio stations, no cable, no internet, and running your own magazine or newspaper was expensive without patronage from a wealthy fellow traveler. This left a lot of the less mainstream voices on the pamphlet and newsletter level.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          I think we are returning to a historical norm and it happen to coincide with TV deregulation. I suspect that the 50 or so years of post WWII mass consensus was the exception rather than the rule.

          Having been there at both ends of this period, I notice the coinciding with major advances in technology for the masses. The post-WWII boom brought a television into every living room, and soon the whole world was watching Huntley and Brinkley, so consensus. In the 1990s the WWW came in, and everyone could write a little html and post their own news where the whole world could see it, if they looked for it, and no one knew you were a dog. Then Google counted how many other pages linked to yours, so flash snowball.

          So we’re back to a few offline news sources with platforms of their own and money to promote their own websites, sucking the oxygen away.

      • Steve Johnson says:

        CIA asset William Buckley’s job was to make sure that the only right was the right that was palatable to the left – i.e., the state. The National Review existed to purge the right of anyone actually on the right.

        Only with the development of the internet has an intellectual right re-emerged.

  10. SFG says:

    My personal take on Corbyn is that the dreams demonstrate that he is an avatar of Cthulhu, who will bring us all to ruin.

    Nitpick: literal crackhead appears to be the great-great-grandson of the Chancellor, and this is kind of a standard ‘rich kid parties too hard’ story…maybe he thought his blood *was* iron? Arresting, though…according to Wikipedia, he had HIV, HBV, and HCV!

    The Israel thing bothers me. Why should the State Department’s rules have anything to do with a college’s policies? More and more I wish there were a formal way to sever yourself from the Tribe. We’re either SJWs fomenting the nanny society on the left, or neocons dragging the USA into wars on the right. I mean, I did do the prosciutto-and-cheese sandwich on Yom Kippur thing, but that doesn’t really count and we all know it. They need to come up with some sort of reverse mikvah involving lard and the German national anthem.

    Ah, Mavis Bacon. I remember Letter Invaders, myself. Jai alais, anyone?

    “Now that the only two massively polygenic traits that vary among national populations have been successfully studied, I look forward to never seeing any further research of this sort ever again.”
    Are you trolling the Sailerites here? Is race still banned now that Ozy doesn’t have open threads anymore?

    I have to say, I gain infinitely more respect for any blogger who reads both Breitbart *and* Vox.

    • grendelkhan says:

      Typing of the Dead, for me. I can still remember the godawful voice acting.

      I have to say, I gain infinitely more respect for any blogger who reads both Breitbart *and* Vox.

      I’m more impressed that he still reads Jim. I saw the URL, wondered, is this the same Jim?, then prepended ‘blog.’ to the hostname, and saw him writing about how women love men who will murder them on a whim, and some weird cuckolding stuff about Scott. (Does he think Ozy and Scott are still together? Ah, it’s hard to tell.)

      • merzbot says:

        Between the direct neoreactionary endorsements in recent links posts and the winkwinknudgenudging that scientific racism is right, I’m getting a little skeeved out by this blog.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          Without scientific racism, how would we have the physical anthropology to identify people by race?

        • AR+ says:

          Well, he’s a doctor, you can hardly expect him to support magical racism.

        • SFG says:

          It probably is in the sense that at least some of the polygenic traits such as IQ, conscientiousness, or aggression that everyone gets worked up over probably do differ in mean value by population group (not just by race). Do you really think that every one of the hundreds of alleles affecting personality type has exactly the same distribution in every ethnic group?

          Of course, just because you believe that doesn’t mean you have to hold the neoreactionary/fascist position–you could believe that we should import more desirable immigrants to improve our gene pool, that we should use genetic engineering to help disadvantaged groups, or any countless other things. I’m actually curious to hear what liberals would do–eventually people are going to figure this out, and most of America is not Nazis.

          • I think your comment about an uneven distribution is right in a sense, but I think brain-related genetic traits such as honest/liar selfish/generous smart/stupid individualist/collectivist etc. (where they exist) would have reasonably similar fitness across continents/regions. They seem to be primarily strategies for navigating group dynamics, and I can’t think of any significant regional variance in the evolutionary forces for those dynamics, at least not over a long enough historical period? Unless you’re a group who has spent many many centuries in mathematics related jobs, its hard to imagine selective forces that would be strong enough. More likely strategy variance is very localized, where it exists. (edit – I have a strange sense I just walked into a metaphorical quagmire for some reason)

            I think you’re right that a liberal engagement with genetic difference of this kind isn’t commonly discussed or known if it exists at all, even though your examples suggest there’s nothing stopping it from existing.

          • Anon says:

            Exactly, IQ is mostly genetic and this is just a fact. Once we get enough tagged genomes, no one will be able deny it. The military will certainly have this once they start taking full genomes of all recruits. I think religiously blank slate attitudes will just have to change, becoming flat-earth equivalents once we have an open source database of millions of genomes tagged with their donor’s IQ. Reality is not a political opinion. Politics should be about our reaction to reality.

          • nil says:

            Direct environmental effects on cognition are starting to become more mainstream within liberalism–specifically, the “lead theory” is becoming increasingly accepted on the left as an explanation for the crime wave of 1975-1995. I’ve never seen a mainstream source posit this as an explanation for group differences, but it seems like a logical resort for people who still don’t want to refer to genetics (doubly so if you include Vitamin D, although that’s obviously starting to get out onto the thin ice)

          • Nita says:

            I’m actually curious to hear what liberals would do

            Well, you could read the Vox article linked in the OP. Either that, or Scott’s stuff about genetically engineering everyone to an IQ of 400?

          • xq says:

            Well, you could read the Vox article linked in the OP.

            Yeah. Genetic differences in IQ between individuals or populations is a big problem for equality-of-opportunity liberalism, but not really for equality-of-outcomes liberalism. We don’t want people to live shitty lives just because they drew poorly in the genetic lottery, so we give them resources to live a decent life.

          • Steve Johnson says:

            I think your comment about an uneven distribution is right in a sense, but I think brain-related genetic traits such as honest/liar selfish/generous smart/stupid individualist/collectivist etc. (where they exist) would have reasonably similar fitness across continents/regions. They seem to be primarily strategies for navigating group dynamics, and I can’t think of any significant regional variance in the evolutionary forces for those dynamics, at least not over a long enough historical period?

            Luckily evolution isn’t bound by your imagination.

            Here’s are two concise complete demolitions of your argument –

            1) Average brain volume differs by race
            2) All races except Sub-Saharan Africans have significant neanderthal genes and large numbers of those genes are related to brain development

          • Randy M says:

            “Genetic differences in IQ between individuals or populations is a big problem for equality-of-opportunity liberalism, but not really for equality-of-outcomes liberalism.”
            Well, it’s a practical problem, if not a philosophical one. The stronger the current, the harder it is to swim upstream.

          • @Steve Johnson

            1) Average brain volume differs by race

            I for one welcome our super-intelligent whale gods with their giant super-intelligent brains. Perhaps you should at least start your argument with neuron count – its more plausible.

            2) All races except Sub-Saharan Africans have significant neanderthal genes and large numbers of those genes are related to brain development

            Neanderthals lived in smaller social groups, and we know social group size is positively correlated with overall brain development, which suggests the opposite of where I’m fairly certain you’re going with this. However, I think you’d be right if you made a more modest suggestion they had improved skills in certain areas (tool use iirc). But you should also consider the selective pressures at work – what would make intelligence so valuable on one continent that wouldn’t make it valuable on another? No one (on SSC – I don’t mean generally) saying there is literally no differences, but I don’t think there is anywhere near strong enough case at this point to suddenly conclude race is an amazingly powerful factor.

            Also, everybody including liberals already know people are born more or less intelligent, for example due to their parents – why should that be fatal to liberal narrative (I think criticisms of PC/SJW are quite valid but this seems fairly odd to me)? If anything I’d imagined die-hard liberals would respond by saying it proves the need for reverse discrimination to even the playing fields, which most of us on SSC would probably agree is adverse to meritocracy.

          • NN says:


            From what I’ve read, the usual theory is that colder climates select for intelligence because you need to be smart to survive during the winter. Personally I don’t buy it because going by that one would expect Alaskan Natives, who are descended from East Asians and have lived for thousands of years in one of the coldest and harshest environments on Earth, to be exceptionally intelligent. But the statistics I’ve looked at seem to show that Alaskan Natives have an average IQ about 10 points lower than that of Central and Northern Europeans. Unless smallpox disproportionately kills people with high IQs, I find it very hard to reconcile this data with any conceivable evolutionary explanation for racial IQ differences.

          • Desertopa says:

            “I think your comment about an uneven distribution is right in a sense, but I think brain-related genetic traits such as honest/liar selfish/generous smart/stupid individualist/collectivist etc. (where they exist) would have reasonably similar fitness across continents/regions. They seem to be primarily strategies for navigating group dynamics, and I can’t think of any significant regional variance in the evolutionary forces for those dynamics, at least not over a long enough historical period?”

            I personally find it doubtful that significant variation in these traits would hew particularly close to racial divisions for those reasons, but I think that some measure of variation on a subpopulation scale may be more plausible. Some subcultures place much more value than others on qualities like conscientiousness or reliability, and it might not take many generations before a set of cultural norms that, for example, make prolific absentee fathers much more reproductively successful than fathers who commit to stable family units, could have a significant effect on the distribution of genes in the population.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            They seem to be primarily strategies for navigating group dynamics, and I can’t think of any significant regional variance in the evolutionary forces for those dynamics,

            Hm? Maybe I’m missing something, but getting along in a group would be important where shelter from the cold is needed, but less so in a warm jungle where you can forage, and sleep, alone.

        • PDV says:

          I mean, scientific racism is trivially right. There are differences in mental traits between populations, and anyone who denies that this is true is both thoroughly mindkilled and a moron.

          The reasonable question that no one debates because it is SPIDERS is what the morally correct consequences of that fact are.

          • Steve Johnson says:

            The reason no one admits the obvious is because it’s fatal to the progressive narrative.

            It’s not racism, it’s different racial abilities and temperaments that cause different outcomes.

            It’s not sexism, it’s different abilities and inclinations…

            Progressivism “works” (out-competes rival ideological systems) in part because it can bully each of its opponents with threats of public exposure as a thought criminal (who is legally unemployable) by backing the opponent into a corner where the choices are concede the argument or speak thoughtcrime.

            There’s no way in hell they can afford to give up that edge.

          • LeeEsq says:

            @Steve Johnson, how do you reconcile your belief that women and Africans have lower IQs than other people with the fact that once you removed the legal barriers to them achieving educational success by the millions?

          • SFG says:

            He didn’t say *women* had lower IQs, just different abilities and interests. They’ve been pretty successful in medicine, for example–the sort of ‘helping profession’ that would be nicely predicted by the old stereotypes.

            Besides, you’ll notice groups’ outcomes diverge greatly once oppression is removed. Some groups, like Jews and now Chinese people, you have to actually *oppress* to obtain equal outcomes!

            Thing is, even if you accept racial differences and so on, inequality still persists, and groups will continue to compete for resources. Probably black and Hispanic leaders will demand government help to compensate for the IQ difference. And if we got rid of our squeamishness over eugenics that didn’t involve, you know, massive death camps as practiced by you-know-who, we might actually do some good. We could actually pay black people with college degrees to have more kids, for example.

          • Nita says:

            medicine, for example–the sort of ‘helping profession’ that would be nicely predicted by the old stereotypes

            A friend of mine frequently cuts other women open and then sews them back up. Sure, she is helping them, but it’s not the kind of helping the old stereotypes would predict.

            In fact, I would say the public perception of medicine has changed with the gender composition of the profession. If women became the majority among lawyers, we would be sagely nodding along and going “ah, sure — defense attorneys protect their charges, and judges try to resolve conflicts peacefully — just like mothers!”

          • LeeEsq says:

            @SFG, there is simply no evidence that eugenics works because animal husbandry isn’t really applicable to humans. There isn’t even a lot of evidence that any attempt at eugenics wouldn’t degenerate into a massive human rights disaster. Impatience, laziness, and a lot of the raw hated and bigotry that exists in spades in people who believe in eugenics will guarantee that.

            Also, when beliefs about racial differences were much more widespread and their proponents could express them more openly, they were used to justify forcing poverty on the groups deemed inferior, because they wouldn’t no better and don’t need anymore, or potentially superior, so they wouldn’t take everything for themselves.

            This is not a great track record. I think the evidence shows that even if it ignores some facts, liberalism has a better track record in making sure that persecution and massive humans rights disasters do not happen.

      • Phoonbix says:

        Jim has the gift of saying original things that make you think.

        Very few people possess this.

        It is true that this only happens occasionally and the price you have to pay is to read everything else he says, but personally I feel it is worth it.

        • suntzuanime says:

          It’s too much for me to stomach personally, but I’m not going to snipe at someone who makes the opposite judgment, especially when they run a blog where they can distill out the good bits for me.

          In particular his bit about “how many cities are you planning to burn in the name of equal opportunity” has stuck with me, in a “haunting-your-nightmares” sort of way.

          • grendelkhan says:

            I’m with you on the distillation bit. I don’t see where the value in the whole “Eugene versus Debs” thing was, or in the weirdly shaky factual claims, or any of that stuff. It takes more mining than I’m willing to do to get anything useful out of his writing. (Is there something shady about claimed transistor sizes? Damned if I can tell what he’s talking about, but I can’t find a darned thing to back it up, and I wasted too much time on that.)

        • I haven’t interacted with Jim for a long time, but a good deal back in the Usenet era. My impression was that he was bright and interesting but had an unfortunate taste for offending people.

          • grendelkhan says:

            I’ve seen that; Eric Raymond does that. Whatever Jim does is some kind of metastatic version, a vigorous reaction against being told ‘you can’t say that’ taken to its furthest possible extreme.

            (It turns out that I passed by him, ships-in-the-night style, on r.a.s.f.w about six years ago. Huh.)

        • Jaskologist says:

          He makes a lot of interesting connections. The difficulty is determining if they’re also real.

          Using the Murray Gell-Mann principle, I’ve found him a pretty mixed bag when it comes to topics I’m knowledgeable in.

        • Desertopa says:

          I’ve heard a few people say this before, but I haven’t actually seen any examples which I found legitimately thought provoking or valuable, whereas I can credit a lot of other neoreactionaries with that even if I don’t actually agree with them. Honestly, I’ve found the level of Jim’s discourse to be dramatically below that of most self-identified reactionaries in the Less Wrong and Slate Star Codex cluster, and the fact that many people identify him a sort of spokesperson has made me inclined to take them less seriously, since it makes me suspect that, while they might make more sophisticated and socially palatable arguments themselves, Jim’s mindkilled and intellectually bankrupt arguments represent the sort of positions which really resonate with them.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        I don’t read Jim, someone linked me to this.

        • grendelkhan says:

          Oh, that makes a lot more sense.

          … you know, I’m sorry to have stuck my nose into the unpleasantness. It’s gotta suck beyond measure to have your personal life become fodder for people whose worldview centers around being aggressively mean to others.

        • Echo says:

          Just because the supposed “actual results” show the opposite conclusion, it’s no reason to question his lived experience of being made to feel unsafe by reading your blog.

      • Nita says:

        Well, that was… something.

        There was an Ottoman Sultan who had several thousand girls in his harem. He discovered that one of them had slept with another man. He killed the man, but could not find which girl was at fault. So he killed them all and dumped their bodies in the river, which was choked with bodies. [..] Who gets pussies wet? Scott or the Sultan?

        Technically, the Sultan did dump “several thousand” female bodies into water, which does tend to be wet. Hard to beat a huge number like that!

        • Deiseach says:

          If the Sultan found out that some man had slept with one of his harem, or went around boasting that he had slept with one of the harem, and the Sultan was able to track down and have the man killed, you would imagine he’d question the man first about which of the women he had (allegedly) slept with?

          Or checked that this wasn’t a smear tactic by the man’s enemies (or the Sultan’s enemies, if it came to that), to make him look bad and get him killed?

          I think this is whatever the historical version of an urban legend is: oooh, powerful male is so powerful and autocratic he can murder (undefined but very large number of women) on a whim! Powerful male is so powerful and autocratic, he can have so many women he isn’t even able to keep track of them! But to give the ordinary man a laugh at the expense of the powerful and autocratic male, even he can’t control women’s legendary lustfulness and deceit (so has to resort to mass murder)!

          I’m quite sure there were autocratic Sultans who murdered their wives/concubines. Historically they also tended to murder fathers, brothers, sons and anyone else opposed to/a threat to them getting the throne. But unattributed unnamed sultans who murdered some indefinite number of women plus one allegedly guilty man is the trope, the Platonic Ideal of the Sultan (and the threat of the Eastern Peril over-running Europe).

          Never mind that being powerful and autocratic male with the power of life and death means the women had about slim to no chance of refusing his proposal of marriage/concubinage, so it says little about their real attraction/sexual desire.

          If we’re supposed to take it as Actual Historical Incident Proving Women Wanted To Marry That Sultan – well, some women apparently strike up romances and even marriages with convicted murderers. That does not mean all women think murder is sexy, just that some people have their wiring connected up wrong.

          Hey, have you heard about the leprechaun in the líos field that will give you a crock of gold if you manage to catch and keep hold of him? No? But you believe in Ottoman Sultans and their filling the Bosphorus with bodies?

          I’d heard it was the bowstring and the silken sack were the favoured methods of execution and body disposal myself, but my sources being historical fiction, that may not be completely accurate. And certainly murdering “several thousands” of women would run you up a big bill in bowstrings and sacks!

          Perhaps the tale quoted has its origins in the same kind of rumours Miss Pardoe, in her travel book of 1838, recounts:

          “…(A) low door, of which the bars are now thickly overgrown with rust, and the bolts immoveable from disuse, known as the Pasha’s Gate, through whose ill-omened opening, tradition tells, that recreant or suspected nobles who suffered the bowstring, were formerly cast into the deep waters of the harbour; while romance, greedy of her own legend, asserts that hence were also hurled the degenerate beauties who chanced either to offend, to weary, or to disgust the Sardanapalus of the hour, to the mercy of the

          – “rolling waves, which hide
          Already many a once love-beaten breast,
          Deep in the caverns of the deadly tide.”

          The one assertion is, however, probably as apocryphal as the other; for the sluggish waters of the port must assuredly have been less inviting to the ministers of death than the hurried current of Marmora, where, scarcely an arrow’s flight from the Seraglio walls, it rushes towards the gulph of Nicodemia.

          • Nita says:

            If we’re supposed to take it as Actual Historical Incident Proving Women Wanted To Marry That Sultan

            Oh, no no no. The claim is that modern women, upon hearing this story, will get sexually excited:

            Women are turned on by this story to this day.

            — Jim

            Like a true Alpha Male, he doesn’t bother to present any evidence for this statement.

          • Mark says:

            “My own opinion is that such people generally suffer from disordered digestions, which cause their minds to take a nasty turn. They fancy they are ‘realists’ when they are only obscene. They go grubbing in the sewers for their realism, and refuse to believe in the grass and flowers above ground – which, nevertheless, are equally real!”

            Seems to me that this sort of thing is born of a desire to make kindness seem foolish.
            Or perhaps I should say that people have evolved to minimize false negatives with regard to other people’s bad intentions?

          • Like Deiseach, I’m suspicious of the story given without any details that would let you check it.

            One of my rules of thumb is to distrust any historical anecdote that makes a good enough story to have survived on its literary merit—or because it supports a view some people want supported.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            Waaah! I edited a comment, within a couple of minutes of posting it, and now it is marked as spam.

  11. Saul Degraw says:

    I thought the Vox piece was pretty good and largely spot on but I am still cynical about the chances for GBI within my lifetime. I read the article as being a plea for GBI. GBI is something I can support but it is still only with in the realm of the wonks.

  12. Siahsargus says:

    You know, for all the criticism of “Whig History” I see, I have yet to see anyone that critiques Whig history take shots at modern math, aerospace engineering, microsurgery, or quantum physics. Hell they might even praise the “hard sciences” for not being liberal. Most of the critique is directed at social politics and ideologies, and it intentionally veers away from scientific progress, it acts like it’s not important to the fabric of society. Like technology is this flashy veneer that coats the unchangeable social structures derived from human nature.

    But I think technology has much more of a profound, and immeasurable effect than that. I think very few people would argue against the impact that factories, cars, or computers had on the decades following their inventions. I love seeing what I can do with new technology. Every year I’ve had a faster computer – same hard drive, different cpu, gpu, and occasionally motherboard, and I objectively pay less in terms of FLOPS with each successive year. I’m not even buying top of the line, either. I’ve been able to explore a bigger and bigger internet every year, at faster speeds, full of opinions I would have never been exposed to otherwise – and this includes neoreactionary thought. I’ve made songs that are too short to be played on vinyl, cds, or mp3s, that pass by in meters measured in the hundredth of a second. Even if nothing else in society ever changed again, the quality of life would improve proportionate to the quality of available technology, since it’d be the only remaining variable.

    Now I should probably put a quick disclaimer here: I am not a proponent of Whig history when it comes to cultures. Cultures are a total crapshoot. But I feel like globally, median humans have been on the up-and-up for the last fifty years now, and if that’s Whig history, get at me then.

    • Saul Degraw says:

      Aren’t we all just whiging it though?

    • The_Dancing_Judge says:

      problem with whig history is its optimism. tech progress can continue without it being good for humans: see, eg Nick Land.

      • LHN says:

        In particular, it was strongly challenged when wars on an unprecedented scale and the rise of totalitarianism shook its convictions to their roots.

        The postwar recovery of the West and the end of the Cold War may have made that reaction less acute. (Though the enduring popularity of dystopia suggests not.) But I think the knowledge of what was done at the cutting edge of science and tech and in full possession of the heritage of the Enlightenment, to people who can’t easily be dismissed as a faraway outgroup, isn’t something that’s easy to entirely forget. After such knowledge, it’s hard to regain the same trust in an inherent tendency towards a better future that pre-1914 triumphalists had.

        • Eli says:

          This is very true, but I think the accusation of “Whig history” still often goes too far.

          And I don’t even mean the accusation coming from “reactionaries” against “Leftists”. I mean the accusation coming from my archaeologist-anthropologist friend who studies the Ottoman rule of Israel for a living.

          Consider two things historians and anthropologists have a tendency to say:

          1) The “Dark” Ages weren’t. They suffered from a lack of organized intellectualism, political unity, and written records, but they were in fact an active period of history during which lots of things happened that later turned out to be important to the Enlightened parts of history.

          2) Belief in steady human improvement, even if stochastic and backsliding, constitutes a sin called “Whig history”.

          These seem contradictory. At some point, we have to admit: hey, there has been some actual progress. We’ve not achieved everything we could have hoped for, but over the long term, it looks more like we’re subject to our own intentional actions, and thus have to be wise, than like we’re subject to random forces of nature, and have to accept our fate.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      I have yet to see anyone that critiques Whig history take shots at modern math, aerospace engineering, microsurgery, or quantum physics.

      Then you have not been paying attention– the history of science was once a complacent Whig narrative of the triumph of the forces of enlightenment and rationality over ignorance and superstition, but this was shattered a half century ago by Hanson, Feyerabend, and Kuhn, the last of whom you will at least have heard of. Sweeping claims about the Inevitable Forward March of Science Towards Ultimate Truth are generally eschewed now, but where they are not they tend to be cast in more circumspect terms and concern progress in narrow disciplines.

      The Inevitable Forward March of Engineering Towards Niftier Gadgets continues apace, but this is a separate matter.

      • James says:

        I suspect Kuhn would admit of science making “progress” in the sense of “increasing usefulness”, if not in the sense of “convergence to truth”. I admit to not being an expert, though.

        • FrogOfWar says:

          Your suspicion is correct.

          The last chapter of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is called “Progress Through Revolutions”. Throughout it, Kuhn treats it as obvious both that science progresses and that this progress cannot be explained by claiming that it is getting closer to truth.

          He settles on an evolutionary analogy whereby science progresses from past theories rather than towards a final theory. As you do, you could largely characterize this as an increase in usefulness, which Kuhn describes as an increase in the number of puzzles solved and the precision with which those puzzles are solved.

          That said, it’s also worth noting that Kuhn and Feyerabend didn’t have the last word on scientific realism and today a huge majority of philosophers endorse it:

          Scientifc realism requires at a minimum that science increasingly approximates truth. Maybe it doesn’t also approximate Truth (let alone “Ultimate Truth”), but no one’s ever bothered to explain to me what the capitalization changes.

          • James says:

            Nice to know my absorption of Kuhn via Rorty wasn’t totally off!

            I have a first paperback edition of Structure of Scientific Revolutions around here and swear I’ll get round to reading it, someday….

            And those philosophy survey results are really interesting, and not just the ‘scientific realism’ one!

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Scientifc realism requires at a minimum that science increasingly approximates truth. Maybe it doesn’t also approximate Truth (let alone “Ultimate Truth”), but no one’s ever bothered to explain to me what the capitalization changes.

            You might look for an explanation in the unnatural locution you deploy in the preceding sentence. Our best scientific theories “increasingly approximate truth,” whatever that means. But are they true without qualification? Will they ever be?

          • FrogOfWar says:

            I don’t think the idea of approximate truth is that unclear, and what unclarity it does possess is likely owed more to ‘approximate’ than to ‘truth’. What’s involved in the notion will presumably differ depending on the area.

            In an area with many different, often independent claims, like evolutionary biology, approximate truth may just be taken to mean a high proportion of true claims. That we and the apes have common ancestors seems pretty solid. But presumably at least some of the claims of evolutionary biology are false if for no other reason than the sheer number of them and the fact that scientific evidence is not logically conclusive.

            In other areas you may need a more exotic notion of approximation, like how the theories that replaced classical mechanics approximate its predictions at everyday speeds and sizes. And, I would expect, how any replacement of general relativity would end up approximating its claims in the areas that we have tested it. Ideally, the theory would have close to the same ontology as well.

            On whether general relativity will in fact need a replacement or if it is already true in an unqualified sense, I don’t know. But I take myself to be deferring to experts in expecting it to need revision (something something unification of quantum mechanics and relativity something something).

            I’m also sure that the likes of Kuhn and Feyerabend weren’t just making this rather modest claim in denying that science aims at the truth.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            In an area with many different, often independent claims, like evolutionary biology, approximate truth may just be taken to mean a high proportion of true claims.

            As it happens, this is not a promising way of cashing out “approximate truth.” Because the reach of scientific theories extends into counterfactuals, any false theory is liable to have both infinitely many false consequences (sometimes indenumerably many) and infinitely many true consequences.

            I’m also sure that the likes of Kuhn and Feyerabend weren’t just making this rather modest claim in denying that science aims at the truth.

            You’re right that they were primarily concerned with the historiographical claim, but it was your weird choice to counterpose this against scientific realism, not mine.

          • FrogOfWar says:

            I brought up scientific realism because a rejection of scientific realism by Kuhn and Feyerabend forms part of the basis for their historiography.

    • John Sidles says:

      To agree with the parent comment, and to rephrase the point in the language of Michael Harris’ Mathematics Without Apologies (2015), the large-W Whiggish, large-I Ideology of large-M Mathematics, large-F Foundations, and large-S skepticism indeed has led only to few and partial successes (as is commonly the case with large-M Movements).

      Yet in contrast, in recent decades the small-w whiggish (wouldn’t small-w wilburite be better?) small-i intention of small-m mathematics, small-f foundations, and small-s skepticism has been marching from STEAM strength to STEAM strength, and there are solid mathematical reasons to foresee that accelerating rates of STEAM progress can be sustained throughout the 21st century.

      Sustaining this accelerating small-w whiggish/wilburite STEAM progress is of course the explicit intention of organizations like Google, Nasa, and D-Wave.

      Who is to say that these organizations — and their clients and customers — can’t continue to accumulate new capabilities and realize progressive advances?

      “The race is not always to the swift,
      nor the battle to the strong,
      but that’s how the smart money bets.”
         — Damon Runyan

      Prediction  Fearing further realization of small-w  whiggish  wilburite gains — technological, scholarly, pedagogic, and social — the large-C Cthulhuian right will soon attack the mathematical community’s accelerating embrace of  whiggish  wilburite language like intention, yoga, performative, avatar, and narrative.

  13. onyomi says:

    Am I weird for thinking “king – man + woman = queen” makes perfect sense right away?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I mean, it does, the question is formalizing it and getting computers to understand it.

      • onyomi says:

        Ah, okay, I thought the implication was that this computerish way of conceiving of word valences was somehow weird or counterintuitive.

    • Paul Kinsky says:

      There’s an algorithm called word2vec that, given some collection of text, spits out a multidimensional vector representing each word. These vector word representations exhibit the kind of clustering and additivity we naively expect, so things like “king – man + woman = queen” sort of work.

      Vector representations of words make really good input for neural networks, especially compared to character-based representations.

      Further reading:

    • Loyle says:

      Probably not. But I’m certainly weird for wondering what “king – man =” that we’re adding to to get queen. Personally, I would intuitively think (king/man)*woman to get some inherently royal variable and applying that to a woman instead of man. Aesthetically “(queen + king) = R*(woman + man)” seems more pleasing than “2R + woman + man”

    • PSJ says:

      I completely disagree that it makes sense. Queen has a very different connotation that king, as they may or may not be the actual ruler whereas kings are nearly always the actual ruler (among other usage differences). It’s a “nice” formulation but misses all of the nuance that make representations of linguistic concepts actually difficult.

      • onyomi says:

        Yeah, I was thinking about that. But are the historically exigent connotations which a queen different from a male queen in most peoples’ minds really “part” of the language, or are they, in some sense, divorceable from it?

        My introspective sense of how language works is that concepts and notions are prior to any language, and my brain looks for words that try to fit what it already knows it’s trying to say. Though it is also definitely true that the discipline of putting ideas into words, and especially writing them down, can shape ideas as well.

      • Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous says:

        Does “King – male + female = Queen (suo jure)” make you feel better?

        Queen is difficult because it can refer to a wide variety of concepts. In addition to the suo jure connotation, there are, for example, Queen consort and Queen mother. And whatever you would call Edith of Wessex after Edward the Confessor died. Queen sister, maybe, at least until Harold Godwinson was knocked off… but after that? IIRC, there is some evidence that William still treated her as a Queen of some sort until her death. Those courtesy titles for female relatives are a sonofabitch.

  14. John Salvatier says:

    > Now that the only two massively polygenic traits that vary among national populations have been successfully studied

    Don’t people strongly expect IQ to end up being massively polygenetic? The latest results show 74 SNP hits for cognitive ability:

  15. onyomi says:

    I find the soccer theory quite improbable. There are all kinds of fields, parks, etc. in China where people could play soccer without being bothered. They do occasionally try to crack down on the old ladies dancing in the park, but only if they get too unruly.

    • Alexp says:

      There are so many reasons why China might be terrible at soccer, it’d almost be a waste of time to try and list them.

      Genetics, I think, is pretty low down the list however. Japan and South Korea field competitive national teams. They’re probably solidly second tier as opposed to the bottom of the scrapheap Chinese team. The Japanese and South Koreans do however, have trouble getting big enough guys to play goalkeeper or centerback competitively.

      • Deiseach says:

        Part of it at least is that they are only beginning to adapt the sport and then they go up against long-established teams.

        How good would a Chinese baseball team playing against the likes of (has to go look up a famous American baseball team) the New York Yankees? Does this mean that the Chinese are naturally bad at hitting a ball with a stick?

        Give them a few generations and then we can talk. I mean, MLS is only about starting to really get its feet under it as a viable contender, and even there I can see differences in tackling, pace, reading the game, etc. when compared with the European leagues. (I am immensely tickled that Robbie Keane, God bless him, is LA Galaxy’s star striker, for instance. That’s a function of the opposition he faces in the MLS as much as his natural talents).

        It takes time to get good at something new! 🙂

        • lmm says:

          It takes time, but it seems rather Lamarckian to say it takes generations. Professional footballers train for what, ten years before making the big leagues? China should be able to do the best possible ten years of training, by throwing money at foreign coaches if necessary.

          • alexp says:

            They train formally for ten years. They likely started kicking a ball (or bag of rags, or bunch of plastic grocery bags wound tightly together) around since they first started walking. I think one of China’s problems is the transition from that stage to the formal training stage.

            Then there’s the massive amount of corruption with any formal training academies and professional leagues in China. The training methods that seem to be inspired more by Wusha training montages than modern sports science. And finally that all the tiger mothers would rather have kids study inside than play outside.

          • Matt says:

            You need good competition and coaches at every level of play. It takes longer than a decade to build those sorts of institutions and to acquire the necessary status (to steal good athletes from other sports).

          • Deiseach says:

            It’s not individual players, it’s the whole culture; successful native coaches (instead of bought-in foreign expertise), clubs with a tradition of being domestic and international winners, the small boys in the park jumpers for goalposts soaked into the mindset of the nation – you can certainly pick out eleven gifted individuals and drill them in the best techniques, but that doesn’t make a team.

          • Richard Gadsden says:

            It takes ten years from the point where the coaching and cultural drives match those of the countries that are good at the sport.

            Even where there is lots of coaching and playing of soccer, you still get England where the national team isn’t as good as you’d expect because the cultural drive is to learn the wrong things.

        • Based on the salary budgets of MLS teams, they do quite well. LA Galaxy’s salary hit is something like 19.5 million dollars while Manchester United’s is 326.8 million. That they manage to be competitive in friendlies and, more to the point, in CONCACAF (e.g. the North American soccer federation) competition is a testament the quality of the player development and managerial acumen of the American game.

          A better comparison, if you’re looking for the best players in the league, include Sebastian Giovinco, who had a successful stint at Juventus and other Serie A clubs, is only 28 and gets call ups for the Italian national team, and Obafemi Martins, who Seattle managed to sign despite being a key part of Levante’s European campaign (and would be the best player on the Nigerian national team if the Nigerian manager wasn’t a grudge-holding moron).

          On the whole MLS is something like college football in the United States. The quality of play is lesser, but not to the point where it affects the enjoyment of the spectacle, and greater investment in local teams and a more interesting competition structure make it a more entertaining product than their ritzier competitors. Parity in MLS, in particular, ensures that the season is far more exciting than the 3-way race most European leagues boil down to. With 4 weeks left in the season, 5 points separate first place from ninth in MLS as it now stands. When was the last time you saw such a competitive race in Europe?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            >Based on the salary budgets of MLS teams, they do quite well. LA Galaxy’s salary hit is something like 19.5 million dollars while Manchester United’s is 326.8 million. That they manage to be competitive in friendlies and, more to the point, in CONCACAF (e.g. the North American soccer federation) competition is a testament the quality of the player development and managerial acumen of the American game.

            That’s just the top heavy nature of sport salaries, where there are huge pay gaps where the difference in ability is not that high.

          • Deiseach says:

            I agree MLS is getting better, much much better, but it took longer than “take a bunch of home-grown talent and coach them for ten years” to get there, which is the point I’m making about China.

            I mean, Ireland has a professional basketball league and uses (or used to) a lot of imported American talent, but would anyone seriously expect an Irish team to be up there with the likes of (whoever is a successful American professional basketball team)?

            It’s going to take time to get there, if ever we do. Contrariwise, native (not Irish lads on J-1 visas) US GAA teams are not going to be challenging Kilkenny in the All-Ireland any time soon (she said bitterly, we having been knocked out of the competition by the Cats once again. And yes, they went on to win the final. Once again).

    • Steve Sailer says:

      If I were a high-ranking Chinese CP official, I’d want to promote American-Japanese style corporate spectator sports rather than communal European style soccer. European-style soccer clubs constantly worry EU elites in ways that Americans have a hard time understanding.

      A major difference between the US and Europe is that almost every European country has a rudimentary set of localist/nationalist organizations for young men already in place due to the more organic nature of sports over there.

      The English Defence League, for example, emerged in part out of soccer hooligan firms.

      In the US, however, spectator sports were organized from the top of society down, which has largely kept them from being a vehicle for mass populism. For example, American football evolved among rivalries between universities with national pretensions: Harvard v. Yale, Army v. Navy, and Notre Dame v. USC.

      Similarly, professional sports in the US always had a strongly corporate, upper-middle-class air. …

      In contrast, European soccer clubs mostly emerged from their indigenous communities. European soccer teams sponsored local youth leagues that served as feeder systems for talent. American college basketball coaches, though, are lauded not for their training, but for scouring distant slums to recruit genetically gifted one-and-done stars.

      In recent decades, European soccer has been corporatized, with importation of South American superstars and fairly successful efforts to suppress hooliganism by making the spectator experience more genteel, like that of American football. Still, unlike American sports, soccer furnishes the skeleton of a system by which nationalist loyalties could potentially be organized.

      • Artemium says:

        As a european and I football fan.. I have to say that is a damn good analysis.

      • Emile says:

        That’s pretty insightful, thanks! I’m familiar with both American and French culture, but hadn’t noticed how the sports held different places in society (apart from the fact that college sports is much bigger in the US than in France), and the implications of that…

      • LeeEsq says:

        There is the often mentioned comment that after World War II, soccer was one of the few if only acceptable ways to express patriotic pride in Europe. I think this is right. Sports fan culture in America and Japan was always more controllable and less political than it was in Europe. A Yankee fan and Met fan might have gotten into a heated argument but there was never going to be widespread minor to major rioting if one team beat the other in a subway series. Most sports teams try to come across as non-political and inclusive as possible in their marketing while European football team fandoms are much more communal because of their less formal and commercial origins. This allows sports fandom to be a political organization in a way not possible in the United States.

        • Tatu Ahponen says:

          Huh? Apart maybe from Germany, it has not been particularly hard to express patriotic pride in most European countries.

    • David Byron says:

      Well it’s a propaganda piece. Like saying Koreans get taught their great leader plays a perfect game of golf. The more improbably the story the better, because it shows how alien Communist countries are.

      • Nathan says:

        Hi David,

        Since you’ve been talking positively about communism in the comments here, would you do me a favour and write something addressing the incentive and distribution critiques of communism at some point. I’m sure it would spark a lot of discussion so in the next open thread or something would probably be good.

        Specifically, I’m wanting to hear how the right resources are supposed to end up in the right places without a price system (Scotts review of Red Plenty is a good exposition of this argument), and what your solution would be to the disincentive effects of not profiting from your own work but everyone else’s.

        This is a genuine request, as I’ve never had the opportunity to discuss communism with an actual communist.

        • Agronomous says:

          To my fellow anti-Communists:

          The way we engage with David will be very important to this comments forum. You think he’s wrong, I think he’s wrong; can we explain why without giving in to impatience and snark? Can we explain why some of his questions sound somewhat insulting without insulting him back? Can we introduce historical evidence of the results of Communism without telling him he’s advocating the slaughter of millions? Can we avoid the ever-present peril of Merely Signalling?

          Probably. Its worth a try, anyway.

  16. suntzuanime says:

    That link about the curvature of the earth is mistaken; the earth is spherical, not flat.

  17. onyomi says:

    Regarding sexism awareness, I think this is the root of a lot of problems: the notion that certain things are just so good, so universally necessary, that there is no case in which more is not called for. These include: education, democracy, women’s rights, minority rights, anything “anti-discriminatory,” etc.

    • Zebram says:

      It’s always seemed strange to me that what comprises a ‘basic right’ in all these areas seems to increase all the time. No matter how high absolute wealth rises, the same percentage of people are still in ‘poverty.’ The argument generally tends to be that gross inequality is a moral travesty, regardless of absolute wealth. That could be the case, but most proponents do not want total equality. Instead, it seems they want to stop at some arbitrary distribution. Perhaps someone can explain the justification, but I haven’t seen one I have been satisfied with yet.

      • Richard says:

        For economic equality, this is what I’ve always thought obvious, if simplistic: (and I may be totally wrong, not spent much time checking facts)

        Too much inequality causes revolts.
        (as in the french revolution)

        Not enough inequality stops society by causing division of labour to stop working.
        (If I earn 20 arbitrary units of wealth after taxes in a high-end job and the guy at the garage earns the same, then I have to pay 20 AU + taxes + overhead and it is more profitable for me to fix my own car than to work overtime and pay the guy at the garage to fix it.)

        • Zebram says:

          Sure, but I was wondering if there is any argument for inequality being immoral in itself, not necessarily because of the results. I mean, if you could convince a society not to worry about relative wealth and only focus on absolute wealth, and therefore not revolt over inequality, suddenly inequality would not be immoral anymore because there would be no terrible effects. I’m wondering if there is some sort of deontological viewpoint rather than the consequentialist one.

          • Not exactly what you are are asking for, but … .

            I think most people believe there is a level of income above which all expenditure is basically frivolous. Typically it’s about twice their own. They know what things they considered spending money on and didn’t. They are much less conscious of things they would have considered spending money on if they were ten times as rich as they are, so those don’t go into their intuition of what life could be like.

            It goes the other way as well. If you are used to a house or apartment in which each child has his own room, you see two children sharing a bedroom as a bit harsh but not intolerable. But a whole family sharing a room is horrible poverty that nobody should have to put up with.

            If twice your own income is the most that is of any real use and below half people are living in hell, it’s natural to want to transfer from those above the first limit to those below the second.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:


            Money is power, and inequalities of power have inherent problems once they grow beyond a certain size.

          • Murphy says:

            @David Friedman

            There’s also the utilitarian approach where you can look at income distributions, see that the effects of wealth on things like self reported happiness, longevity etc tend to either top out above a certain point or look like a logarithmic distribution.

            If people gain massive quantities of happiness from going from 10K per year to 25K per year but gain approx ~0 additional happiness from going from 85K to 100K (which appears to be the case in reality) a system which makes the former happen gets more points even if it impacts the latter slightly.

            Ditto for health, if billionaires only gain a tiny fraction of a QALY over millionaires due to the additional care they can afford over the course of their life but that person on 10K gains dozens of QALY’s or more from being pushed up to 25K a system which makes the latter happen more gets more points even if it impacts the former slightly.

            By that approach the billion in the red section here should take priority and the fact that in the last 25 years humanity has more than halved the size of that group is a triumph


          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            One of the implications of the mindset described by Prof. Friedman is that middle-class people living in the developed world have happened upon what is, sub specie æternitatis, the one correct level of consumption. This has always struck me as something of a miracle.

          • David Byron says:

            So you’re anti-equality and fairness? or if you do think inequality is wrong it’s only because of the danger it presents to the rich?

          • Murphy says:

            @Cerebral Paul Z.

            If they have it wouldn’t be any more so than the “miracle” that we live in a universe where the strong nuclear force is just right for stars the size of the ones we see to have fusion. If it was higher or lower the stars would be larger or smaller to match.

            Middle class people tend to be those who can pay for essentials and still have some disposable income but aren’t generally rich enough to just throw unlimited money at anything that vaguely annoys them.

            If something were making them terribly miserable middle class people would likely throw a modest amount of money at it thus any problems that can be solved with a modest but not-huge amount of money are likely to be solved. There may be some big sources of misery which might be solvable in future with modest amounts of money but it doesn’t sound that odd to me.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            The part about miraculousness was irony; my real point was that our ideas about deprivation and excess are conditioned by what we’re used to. By the standards of two centuries ago, we do throw unlimited money at anything that vaguely annoys us; by the probable standards of two centuries from now, there are a lot of essentials we can’t pay for.

          • Anon. says:


            Within-country variation in happiness, above subsistence level, has zero to do with absolute levels of income. It’s all about the relative status (or in evolutionary terms, relative fitness).

          • multiheaded says:

            Sure, but I was wondering if there is any argument for inequality being immoral in itself, not necessarily because of the results.

            I think that simple diminishing marginal utility is as close as you would come to that. As far as I’m aware, most far-left/Marxist types certainly don’t advance an argument that inequality is immoral “in itself” (the “itself” itself goes against materialist philosophy).

        • Tibor says:

          I am familiar with this argument, but I think it is a bit outdated. French revolution poor were many times poorer (in absolute terms) than we are today and enduring the rich nobility flashing in-your-face wealth. At the same time, the rich were mostly rich for being born to a high status, the society very caste-like (although current France, with the de facto career-determining school system seems to probably the most caste-like society in Europe).

          In that scenario the revolution could have been equally caused not by income inequality by itself but by income inequality AND absolute poverty AND system barriers that prevented one from escaping that poverty relatively easily. No OECD country has poverty in this sense, only the income inequality remains (by the way, I also find it interesting that the inequality measure GINI index ranks the Czech republic as a fourth lowest, with only Norway, Denmark and Slovenia above it, despite that both Norway and Denmark have a much more extensive welfare state…but I digress).

          I think income inequality induced rebellion sentiment (and general unhappiness) is a function of relative income inequality and of absolute wealth. It is increasing in relative inequality and decreasing in absolute wealth and such that the more absolute wealth I have, the more inequality is needed to increase the desire to revolt.

          • multiheaded says:

            y’all don’t know nothing about the French Revolution btw; but explaining in detail would be too much work for me. Find a history book!

            (like, okay, a *little* bit of it was about rampant and conspicious wealth inequality as such; but there were far far more forces at play)

        • Deiseach says:

          By that argument, you are saying that it would pay the guy in the garage more to extract his own teeth, write his own legal documents, or programme his own computers than to pay someone else to do it.

          If the assumption is “anyone who is in a high-end job is smart enough to be able to fix a car”, perhaps that is true. But not everyone is good enough at all the skills needed; some people simply do not have mechanical aptitude. It may be more profitable in time or convenience (not having to take the time from your free time after work to fix your own car; being able to leave it in to be fixed and have it ready while you are at work) to pay the guy in the garage after all.

          Or are you going to sew your own clothes, bake your own bread, and do all the tasks in the same way that the man who made his sandwich from scratch did?

        • David Byron says:

          So you’re anti-equality and fairness? because it “stops society”

          I can’t help thinking you’d have a different view if you worked at the garage instead of the high-end job in your hypothetical example.

          • Pythagoras says:

            Equality seems to be a shibboleth hereabouts. Many Gordon knots could be unknotted by accepting that equivalence is a pragmatic and realistic aim, rather than insisting on ideological grounds that everything-must-be-equal.

      • lmm says:

        Human morality is always messy and incoherent. I can write an evolutionary just-so story for this particular phenomenon if you like. See also Alexander’s earlier “Class Warfare has a Free Rider Problem”

      • Svejk says:

        There are some highly desirable resource “pies” which do not grow with increasing wealth; two of the more notable are land and mates (social power/agency may be a third). When inequality is within certain bounds, the division of these resources is compatible with reasonable levels of life satisfaction across society.

        To give an example: in a society where inequality is relatively low, the opportunity cost of foregoing marriage to a wealthy mate is not so high as to seriously disadvantage the non-wealthy. But is a society with gross inequality, where choosing a less-wealthy mate results in enormous heritable disadvantages (persistence dependent on magnitude), it is almost irresponsible not to choose the wealthier mate. In societies where monogamy is not strictly enforced, this can lead to large swathes of the population being locked out of the mating market or facing persistent social and economic disadvantages. Low mating success and low sense of personal agency can lead to unhappiness.

        I smuggled social mobility into this answer, but I think it captures people’s intuitions.

        • Jaskologist says:

          While the amount of land does not technically grow, building up is a way of effectively accomplishing the same thing for most purposes.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Problem is, packing people together increases discomfort and decreases status. Would much rather live in a suburban house than an apartment, even if both have equal floor area. Being allowed to discriminate would ameliorate some of the problems (note the difference between a college dorm and a housing project), but not allowed to discriminate.

          • science says:

            That argument to be reifying a personal or at best cultural aesthetic preference into an immutable fact of the matter through the expedient of a vague nod in the direction of pop evo psych.

          • Svejk says:

            Preferences revealed through markets indicate that most people in the developed world prefer detached or semi-detached homes with gardens by the time they reach their child-rearing years. The real difference appears between those who favour compact urban homes with smaller gardens and those who move outwards for more space. Beton boxes don’t satisfy most people unless the area is highly desirable for other reasons, and desirable locations are also subject to competition.

        • John Schilling says:

          But for these cases, the inequality that causes real social harm would be inequality at or near the bottom, yet the inequality that gets most of the complaining is at or near the top.

          If the top 1% of men all get their pick of wives, nobody else much notices except that their fantasies of banging supermodels become slightly less plausible than they otherwise would have been. If the top 1% get their choice of wives and two mistresses each, that means 2% of the population at the bottom are lonely. That’s hardly a catastrophe, especially since it would really be smeared out so that it’s really the bottom 20% being 10% lonelier than they otherwise would have been.

          But if e.g. half of inner-city men have jobs and half do not, and no inner-city woman will marry an unemployed bum when she could be the Other Woman to someone with a job, that is a recipe for trouble.

          And it’s not trouble that can be helped by bringing down the one-percenters. Not even by redistributing their wealth at the bottom, unless you’ve got a much cleverer method than I have seen for doing that redistribution without introducing perverse incentives. GBI doesn’t do it, because GBI+job will still trump GBI alone (especially at the future-prospects level, which is a big thing for potential mates).

          • I actually think negative income taxes for the lowest bracket(s) could avoid most of the perverse incentives. It’s most well known advocate is economically right, but it could be sold on the left because it helps the poor. The only disadvantage I can see would be that you’re very slightly distorting the market forces in labour (some previously unviable jobs become viable), but far far less than most comparable left or right wing economic policies I can think of.

          • David Byron says:

            Since the problem is differences in money, taking the stolen money from the rich and returning it to the workers, would fix that problem. All you seem to be saying is that you don’t like the solution, not that there is no solution.

            It seems like a lot of people here are just anti-equality and pretty open about it which is refreshing albeit immoral. If you are anti-equality it makes sense to support capitalism as an ideal I suppose, but why stop there? Why not bring back feudalism?

          • John Schilling says:

            The claim that the money in question is stolen, while an article of faith in some circles, remains to be proven. And few things are more systematically destructive to civil society than a broad policy of falsely accusing people of crimes they didn’t commit.

            Meanwhile, a big part of the inequality problem that ought to be addressed is the inequality between the actual workers and the persistently unemployed – complicated by the fact that we don’t want to destroy the incentive to work in the first place. Giving money (stolen or otherwise) to workers is a good move on the incentive-to-work front, but it increases the worker/unemployed inequality. That seems likely to incite riots, or worse.

          • David Byron says:

            @John Schilling

            “we don’t want to destroy the incentive to work”

            Why? It’s probably inherent that people like to keep busy with a hobby or feel like they are contributing to society positively, but I don’t think you mean either of those things, which are likely hard to change aspects of human nature anyway.

            What you probably mean by “incentive to work” is the pressure on a person to debase themselves to serve the elites. In which case, yes we do want to destroy that.

            Btw when I say “workers” I mean the class. The unemployed are included. Also I made a point of saying the elites wealth is stolen as a counterpoint to your wholly unsubstantiated claim that it was not. While an article of faith in some circles, that remains to be proven, wouldn’t you say?

          • FJ says:

            “Inequality of wealth leads to inequality of mates, which is a recipe for trouble” is an interesting theory. Is there any evidence that income inequality actually leads to mating inequality? You mention “inner-city men” and their supposed romantic troubles: but is there any evidence that those men can’t get laid?

            I’m aware of evidence that *marriage* rates for black women are relatively low, plausibly because of a shortage of “eligible” men. But that’s very different from showing that poor men don’t get laid, or that rich men are somehow monopolizing all of the women. My very unscientific impression is that the real phenomenon is a relative improvement in poor men’s sexual prospects: they can flit between sexual partners without the messy restraints of matrimony. Moreover, I was under the impression that black women are relatively likely to have sex with and marry men of *lower* economic prospects than themselves, rather than trading up. I don’t know of a lot of hedge-fund guys with a harem of girls from the slums.

          • Svejk says:

            In a skewed pool, with increased competition, potential mates can make the rational choice to spend more time competing for the top 10%, say, than forming secure attachments to someone in the bottom 50%. The top decile can effectively monopolize a lot more of the ‘market’. I’m not super attached to this argument, but it is in wide circulation.
            John’s point that the focus should be on lower-quartile dynamics is more important, I think.
            If one-percenters use their money and social/political power to keep labour markets perpetually loose, so that upward mobility is difficult, that might count as an example of how gross wealth inequality exacerbates the problems of the lower quartile.
            Additionally, I think the problem is less that lower-status potential partners (mostly men) are competing with an employed man for mistresses, but rather that they compete with government support, or simply fall beneath the level at which maintaining them within a family unit is attractive. What might seem superficially attractive for some men – a lifestyle with no secure attachments to a home, spouse, and children – does not appear to be associated with high life satisfaction.

          • HlynkaCG says:

            David Byron says: Why? It’s probably inherent that people like to keep busy with a hobby or feel like they are contributing to society positively…

            This is an assumption without evidence. Even if taken as true how can you be sure that these “hobbyists” are going to produce the goods and services desired in the volumes needed? It seems to me that you’d end up with an over-abundance of artists and a serious shortage of plumbers and doctors. Division of labor breaks down.

            As for the rest of your comment, we don’t just “debase ourselves” in the service of “the elites” we debase ourselves in the service of our children, the elderly, academics, and those members of the lumpenproletariat that you have elected to include among the ranks of “the working class”.

            Fact of the matter is that the productive portion of a population has to produce enough to support both itself and the non-productive portion or everyone suffers.

          • FJ says:

            @Svejk: again, my highly unscientific impression is that 1%ers don’t spend a lot of time or effort on plotting how to screw the lower classes, either sexually or economically. It’s possible that 1%ers act in self-interested ways that happen to have negative effects on the lower classes, but if so that’s probably a side effect rather than the main objective.

            One can come up with a theoretical scenario in which wealth inequality causes women to hold out for top-decile mates, or where low-income men become so dissatisfied with endless no-commitment sex that they riot in the streets. I’m just saying that these theortical scenarios don’t seem to occur in the real world. Note “seem”: I’m open to evidence that I’m wrong and there really are mass protests of men shouting, “We have too many sexual partners!”

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            One can come up with a theoretical scenario in which wealth inequality causes women to hold out for top-decile mates, or where low-income men become so dissatisfied with endless no-commitment sex that they riot in the streets. I’m just saying that these theortical scenarios don’t seem to occur in the real world. Note “seem”: I’m open to evidence that I’m wrong and there really are mass protests of men shouting, “We have too many sexual partners!”

            The thing about young men without wives and children of assured paternity is that they are not accountable; they have nothing to lose. You can’t give a young man a low time-preference by giving him access to an endless supply of no-strings-attached hookups. See the story of Black September, a terrorist group that was successfully disbanded by encouraging their member to settle down and get married.

          • Svejk says:

            Why does it matter if the effects of inequality are intentional or not?

            I’m not convinced that the grand “coming apart” is caused or exacerbated by inequality, but if it is, and an increasing proportion of the population of the West are likely to live in subcultures like the inner city or Appalachian US, I think that misery and possibly social unrest is likely to increase increase.
            As far as I know, the most unequal US state is California, with extreme wealth importing massive poverty, and it seems muddle class Californians do not like the direction their state has taken over the last 40 years , even though they can now enjoy burritors delivered by drone. Europe has a number of case studies where the bottom grows while the middle and top remain more constant with reasonable economic growth, and people are beginning to express dissatisfaction with that state of affairs as well.

        • SUT says:

          @Svejk incredibly insightful comment…Sure 100 years ago even a King couldn’t get antibiotics, but he could also king people around, which is a big part of what drives life satisfaction.

          One other resource pie not keeping up with demand is access to highly desirable occupational niches. Academia is the classic example for SSC-like people – it seems like anyone who wanted to be a tenured professor could become one two generations ago, now it’s a pipe dream. Another example would be Wall St.

          Although you could make more income as a petroleum engineer than a junior i-banker or average professor, you don’t get the culture and the location that make these “dream jobs”.

          So another symptom of inequality is never ending one-upsmanship in credentialing for desirable life work. Not even for income, but for interesting work.

      • Well, I think it’s possible for people to be worse off economically even if incomes are rising (which, to be clear, they haven’t for the past 40 years for the working class). If the most important goods are rising in price and the security of being able to stay at a comfortable level of income is decreasing, that can mean the average person’s life is worse off than it used to be even if it’s easier to afford the frivolous stuff. Education, housing, and health care have all become much more difficult to afford over the past half century than they used to be, and people are much more likely to lose a job and knock them down a few socioeconomic rungs than they used to be. Smartphones are cool, but that’s a pretty poor trade.

        • keranih says:

          Education, housing, and health care have all become much more difficult to afford over the past half century than they used to be

          Objection! Facts not in evidence, proposition contrary to lived experience, and absolute/relative metrics for determining value not specified.

          • In Australia the average morgage is significantly higher as a proportion of average household income than it used to be, but I suspect this may relate to increaingly status-see…. I mean luxurious housing people are so keen on these days. Basic housing at the bottom end of the market is not much cheaper than mid though, in comparison to what I hear about the US housing market.

          • stillnotking says:

            In practice it’s impossible to disentangle status-seeking from pragmatism; which one is wanting your kids to attend a good school, for example? Also, status is pragmatic! There’s a tendency in these discussions for both sides to assume that status-seeking behavior is delusional or superfluous, but status — and all that it implies: self-respect, mating opportunities, number of friends, etc. — is far more important to happiness than, say, being able to afford food that tastes better than beans and rice.

          • Yes but its pursuit is destructive and zero-sum. You don’t counter it by pretending that you yourself do not need to maintain status, that’s obviously self-defeating, you counter it by refusing to acknowledge and abide by the status of others, by treating everyone as you find them (on merit) not status. In the end status becomes an ineffective strategy and people have to instead further themselves by direct merit instead. Actual merit I’m happy to acknowledge.

      • nil says:

        IMO, relative inequality is important to our society because we are social creatures with deep-seated social instincts. It’s not rational, but it’s deeply, and I would argue intrinsically, human.

    • LTP says:

      Also, that when you are accused of lacking those things, you get in a Kafka trap situation.

    • suntzuanime says:

      People so traumatized by the plight of marginalized groups that they’ve sworn to never think on the margin again.

    • RCF says:

      Anyone else find Scott’s description slightly ambiguous as to whether it was asserted that the word “excellent” is male-coded, or that a Dutch word translated as “excellent” is male-coded?

      And isn’t there something a bit sexist about asserting that “excellent” is a “male” word?

      • Pythagoras says:

        Luce Irigaray, in her descriptions of gendered words and concepts from a very French viewpoint, has built vast castles in the air, on foundations so shaky that several translators-into-English of her works have felt it necessary to supply mitigating comments.

  18. onyomi says:

    Can we libertarians now update the parable to “I, Sandwich”?

  19. LHN says:

    Apparently “Jeb” sounds like “penis” in Chinese.

    And so millions of people named Wang and Dong were at last avenged.

    • Zebram says:

      Watch Trump use this to full effect. “I beat China all the time. How do you think Jeb is going to beat them? He’ll get laughed out of the country.”

    • Michael Watts says:

      I know a Chinese guy whose full name is 王东东 Wang Dongdong.

      “Penis” in Chinese is actually 屌 diao. The referenced word is probably 鸡巴 jiba, slang for penis but literally “chicken” (鸡) with some sort of obscure nounal suffix attached. So pretty close to “cock”, actually.

      • onyomi says:

        Diao is also slang. The anatomical word is yinjing 阴茎.

        • Michael Watts says:

          > The anatomical word is yinjing 阴茎.

          No argument.

          > Diao is also slang.

          In my experience (not especially extensive), Chinese people reject diao as “overly medical”. How sure are you about this?

          (Also, the character 屌 itself specifically indicates that it refers to a body part, with the 尸 radical. I’d agree that polite medical contexts will use 阴道 instead of 屄, but I’d hardly call 屄 slang. It’s quite vulgar, which is a problem 屌 doesn’t seem to have, but it’s not slang, it’s just a rude word that everyone knows and uses in its primary sense.)

      • Fake Namerson says:

        The Mandarin speakers I know typically use ‘jiji’, which I am told means ‘little chicken’.

  20. Navin Kumar says:

    why aren’t different colleges drifting to one side or the other and letting the market decide?

    Because everyone is lying. The vast majority of college students care about partying, or getting good jobs, or some combination of the two. Posturing over “safe spaces” or “free speech” is cheap in-group signaling. They would never choose a less-fun or less-prestigious school in exchange for a safer space or freer space.

    Schools are aware of this, and formulate policy based on criteria like “what would the press say?” or “how do we get the most annoying group to shut up?” or “what is least likely to get us sued?” instead of worrying about applicants.

    • LHN says:

      I don’t know about that. I suspect a rather higher percentage of university administration (including, on most campuses, a significant element of governance by tenured faculty) have strong opinions on those issues than students do.

      And the administrators tasked with determining student yield from the application process are unlikely to have much influence on university speech policy.

      • My impression from my daughter’s account of Oberlin was that the students were more of an intolerant political monoculture than the faculty. When she pointed out to one professor that he had said something in class that took for granted a negative view of conservatives or conservatism (I’ve forgotten the details) he apologized–it hadn’t occurred to him that not everyone in the class had left wing views. And I think later apologized in class.

      • Navin Kumar says:

        That too may be a factor.

    • I really liked how you phrased this for some reason.

    • Adam Casey says:

      My impression is that like 0.1% of students really do give an overwhelming shit about this stuff (where you can also sub in LGBT stuff, disability stuff, black people, you know, all the other excluded group things), and those are the people you hear. So people aren’t lying, they’re just silent and hence assumed to also care about this crazy fringe issue. Then given that the loud people are 0.01% or whatever they have no power in the market.

    • Swami says:

      But don’t parents influence college choices? I wouldn’t send my kid to a school with no conservative faculty and/or which was captured by SJW’s. And I am not conservative. I think it would be harmful to his experience.

      My thought is that this is a problem which is fairly recent in extremity. Twenty years ago, there were only liberal news outlets. Fox saw the opportunity and capitalized on it. Brilliant move on their part, effectively setting themselves up as a near natural monopoly of right of center news. Now I see the same opportunity for balanced colleges.

  21. E. Harding says:

    Other than work on the START treaty and support for adopted children, none of Hillary’s accomplishments listed are persuasive positives. The Iran sanctions were a net minus (it was the Syrian Civil War that forced Iran into desperation; the Syrian Civil War also had a lot to do with Hillary’s foreign policy, but not in a good way). Iran is not a threat, has no nuclear weapons, will never have nuclear weapons, and has never had any intention to acquire nuclear weapons. Sanctions on Iran were merely a spiteful move to cripple the livelihoods of the Iranian people. Any person who supported them or views them as a great accomplishment is of dubious ethical principles. Also, remember Benghazi. Not the four Americans -those are simply a minuscule fraction of the hundreds upon hundreds of lives that perished in that city since 2011 thanks solely to Obama/Hillary. Had Gaddafi recaptured the city in a few days (which would have happened had not NATO intervened), there would be no Mediterranean migrant crisis and no second Libyan Civil War. Though there’s no question lots of people would have died, there would have been far fewer than actually did. As Secretary of State, Hillary was merely another tentacle of the Great Satan. Under her, the world is a less safe and more militantly Islamistic. The killing of Bin Laden was merely a cruel, deceptive farce. It was only after Bin Laden was killed when militant Islamists started taking territory in Syria, in Iraq (post-Bush), and in Libya.

    Enough nepotism. Trump 2016!

    • Zebram says:

      I don’t see anything wrong with nepotism per se. Trump’s company is going to be left to his children, which I have no problem with. It’s his company, after all, not mine. Of course, that is a private company atleast nominally in the ‘free’ market, while government is an involuntary organization.

    • The_Dancing_Judge says:

      i cant tell if this is parody or not. either way, im convinced.

      • E. Harding says:

        This is not a parody. I’ve expressed these views pretty consistently. I also correctly publicly predicted there would be no U.S. attack on Syria in Summer-Fall 2013 because the U.S. doesn’t really want the Syrian government to fall -then it would actually have to build something up. It wants planned chaos. And the Syrian government is weak, so any bombing would put it at risk of falling.

        I also have a conspiracy theory that the U.S. government didn’t really want us to believe Syrian government forces launched those chemical weapons in August 2013, even though they pretty obviously did. They gave evidence for it, but that evidence was so unconvincing, everyone put it in the same bucket as Iraqi WMDs. The conspiracy theory sounds plausible, but is by no means certain.

        But, in any case, the above was a point to establish my credibility and an aside. It wasn’t meant to go this badly off-topic.

        • CatCube says:

          I think your statement “It [the USG] wants planned chaos.” confuses “having no political will or good options” with “cunning plan.”

          If the US is ruling the world, then trust me, ruling the world is not as cool as it sounds.

          • E. Harding says:

            No political will or no good options is one thing: not kicking Turkey out of NATO, not verbally condemning Turkey and the Turkish people at every opportunity, launching strikes against AQ in Yemen, but doing nothing to prevent it from gaining territory, overthrowing the government of Libya, supporting the ouster of Assad in words, if not in concrete steppes, sanctioning Syria, opposing Russia’s attempts to strengthen and expand the Syrian government’s realm of control, and throwing around fireworks at IS positions while not actually using them to prevent IS expansion (except into Erbil) and pretending something has been accomplished to make the world safer is quite another. This is assuming the U.S. is not giving orders to the Islamic State, which it may well be doing. The U.S. has larger error bars for preferred IS success than Russia has with Novorossiya. Again, the U.S. gov’t wants planned chaos. It is not indecisive. If it was, I’d expect total isolation from the region and its conflicts (no airstrikes!), plus the removal of sanctions on Syria.

            The U.S. does not rule the world. For example, it can only rule Afghanistan using Stalin-level cruelty (which it is not willing to directly commit to), and can never rule Donbass while Putin’s in power, despite the pretensions of a thousand neocons. It also does not rule China.

          • CatCube says:

            I was deployed to Kuwait during late 2013-mid 2014. I’m not very high up in the decisionmaking process, but I’m pretty confident in my “indecision” assessment, having had to deal with decisions (or lack thereof).

            Complete disengagement like you’re saying would be a decisive move, as it would be an unambiguous signal of priorities and necessitate breaking alliances of 20 years (Kuwait and KSA, primarily). Muddling on from where they were when ISIS started to pick up steam without making waves, which is what is going on, signals indecision.

            Oh, and “This is assuming the U.S. is not giving orders to the Islamic State, which it may well be doing,”? Hahahahahaha!

          • Doctor Mist says:

            “This is assuming the U.S. is not giving orders to the Islamic State, which it may well be doing,”

            Wow. Yeah, I skimmed right over that. That is seriously fringe.

            E. Harding, did you get carried away in your own rhetoric (something I’ve been known to do myself, if truth be told)? Or is that something you really credit as possible?

          • E. Harding says:

            Yeah, I’m willing to credit it as possible. It’s more far-fetched than Russia giving orders to Donetsk+Luhansk republics (roughly 99% probability), but it’s not out of the ballpark. I give it 30% probability, at the very least.

            If it really is indecision, it’s still bad. “Assad must go”, but no decisive aid to rebels, or airstrikes on Assad. “IS must go”+airstrikes, but no aid to Assad, or any significant ground coordination with anyone, except with the Syrian Kurds in Kobani/Tell Abyad. I don’t think the President is that stupid. He’s as smart as I am, if not smarter. I suspect planned chaos, not unplanned chaos.

            I don’t mind being seriously fringe when the evidence favors my opinions. Who do you think is more seriously fringe, “kill Erdogan” me or Tom “attack Russian planes” Cotton?

          • Doctor Mist says:

            @E. Harding:

            I give it 30% probability, at the very least.

            If you really think the U.S. government could put together a plan like that, carry it out, and keep it a secret, I begin to see, at last, that leftists might be sincere in their (to my mind) insane assertion that a centrally-planned economy makes any sense at all. My mind boggles.

            If it really is indecision, it’s still bad.

            No argument here.

            I don’t remember what you said about Erdogan. Cotton’s suggestion about attacking Russian planes is certainly fringe, but — how shall I say this — it’s one thing to believe a false thing about future consequences, and another thing to believe a false thing about present circumstances.

            Also, I would strongly suspect that Cotton’s remarks are rhetoric, safe to make because he knows there is no chance his proposal would be acted on. You’ll recall, I was willing to give you the same benefit of the doubt, but you only accepted 70% of it. 🙂

          • E. Harding says:

            I think a centrally planned economy makes sense; it’s just really inefficient, can hold decent countries back if without proper leadership (e.g., North Korea) and doesn’t really work well at directly satisfying consumer preferences. Also, when a centrally planned economy transitions to capitalism, convergence with the capitalist countries becomes very difficult due to the costs of forming entirely new institutions.

            Is Russia significantly influencing (if not directly controlling) the decisions of Novorossiya secret? Just up the secrecy some levels, and you can have the U.S. secretly controlling IS.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Is Russia significantly influencing (if not directly controlling) the decisions of Novorossiya secret?

            No, not at all.

            Just up the secrecy some levels, and you can have the U.S. secretly controlling IS.

            A lot of levels.

            Not to mention a free press, and an opposition party, and no gulags or polonium poisoning.

            But I have to say, I do consider the requisite secrecy to be the smallest obstacle. As little regard as I have for the people in our current administration, and as wrong-headed as I think their policies are, it bemuses me that apparently I still hold their character in higher regard than you do.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Doctor Mist:
            Do you have some previous knowledge that E. Harding is left-leaning? Because I don’t read that off him, but you seem to be…

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            It’s irrelevant whether they are left leaning or not. The point is that if there’s people who think the US governemnt is capable of all the machinations necessary to control IS and keep it a secret, it’s perfectly believable that someone would think a centrally planned economy works.

          • Doctor Mist says:


            Do you have some previous knowledge that E. Harding is left-leaning?

            Wow, thank you! Looking back over a number of threads, I cannot see where I got that idea. That removes a bunch of my confusion — I took the idea that America is evil enough to be running ISIS to be more leftist than rightist, but could not reconcile that with the idea that Obama is evil enough to be running ISIS, which seems more rightist than leftist.

            I hereby forgive you for mixing me up with Dr. Beat. 🙂

            Except I don’t know whether I was mixing up E. Harding with somebody else or just dropping him into a frame and then not listening after that. Sigh.

            In future I will try to do better.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            @Whatever Happened to Anonymous:

            What you say is true, but the force of the argument is weaker. Yes, for any nonsensical idea you can probably find somebody who espouses it, but that’s sort of not very interesting.

            In contrast, I thought I had teased out something more intriguing. The leftist assertion that the U.S. government could plan the economy effectively could just be wishful thinking or hero worship, but in that case wouldn’t tend to be paired with fears that the U.S. government would do evil things with equal effectiveness. I thought I had detected a leftist mindset that was being applied consistently, with surprising results.

            I was misguided. Never mind.

            (E. Harding, sorry for talking about you behind your back in front of you.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Doctor Mist:
            To be fair, there are some things they said that could drop into a “non-interventionist left” framework. I just read the totality of what they are saying as more likely to be “non-interventionist, libertarian right”. I am not even saying that I know what the right odds are to put on E. Harding being on the “right”.

            But, yes, I thought you were reading them as definitely left, and that seemed unwarranted. Thank you for being so gracious about it.

          • E. Harding says:

            Not to mention a free press, and an opposition party,

            -Most people in Russia accept the press is generally not free* , but it really doesn’t matter. The Internet is free. Russian TV does a lot more frontline Novorossiya coverage than American, from which you can readily infer the Novorossiya troops are being backed copiously by Russian military equipment&expertise. Pretty much all the news Americans hear about Russia is covered on Russian TV, as well.

            Russia has an opposition party: the Communist party.

            Russia’s gulag days have long been over.


            I think I lean far right, but what do I know? My favorite bloggers are Scott Sumner (who is God), Steve Sailer, and our host, Scott.

            A. Karlin (Russian/British/American HBD/Russia/Social Science blogger) and The Right Stuff (warning: leans Nazi) are also good. I think searching through my blog posts and Disqus comments would help confirm my place on the far right.

            I’m not non-interventionist per se. I was formerly non-interventionist libertarian, but I moved away from both of these in 2011-2013. I supported the French intervention in Mali and would support an intervention in Libya, Iraq, and Syria for the same purpose. I totally oppose the present-day allied interventions in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq, as they either have no real on-the-ground effect or are backing the wrong side, or just add more destruction in the midst of a bad situation, or all three.

            BTW, I supported Obama as opposed to Romney (hack! hack! hack!) in 2012, but I regretted it later, due to the rise of the Islamic State (which only began in 2013).

            “(E. Harding, sorry for talking about you behind your back in front of you.)”

            -Don’t worry about it. But, in any case, if you desire to find out what positions a person holds, look at what he writes.

            BTW, I’m Russian-American, in case you were wondering. Gentile, unlike in Scott’s case, and of more recent immigrant origin, so I make fewer errors about the country than our host.

            “As little regard as I have for the people in our current administration, and as wrong-headed as I think their policies are, it bemuses me that apparently I still hold their character in higher regard than you do.”

            -Again, I believe Obama is smart, about as smart as I am, if not more so. He’s a former constitutional law professor, for goodness’ sake! So if he’s as smart as I am, if not more so, he should see the consequences of his actions. I do. He very, very likely does as well. Hillary, too. As I cannot accept “stupid” or “ignorant” in these situations, I must accept “evil”. Kerry and Trump are a different story, and are probably poor enough thinkers to not to comprehend the whole picture.

          • Agronomous says:

            E. Harding wrote:

            A. Karlin (Russian/British/American HBD/Russia/Social Science blogger) and The Right Stuff (warning: leans Nazi) are also good.

            Huh. Whatever.

            Wait: “leans Nazi”? “Leans Nazi”? “LEANS NAZI”?

            Maybe I better check this out….

            AAAAAAAHHHH! Holy crap! It’s like a big site parodying offhand anti-Semitism and racism that never gets to the punch line! They really believe all this crap! And they say it all in such a normal tone of voice! It’s like the nineteenth century called, and they want our minds back!

            It’s like I turned over a rock, and found a giant maggot which is infested by normal-size maggots which are infested by micro-maggots! And the rock was on my pillow!

            I’m going to have to shave my head and go be a shrill SJW for a month just to get this awful crap out of my head! (Quick, give me 10 ccs of income-inequality talking points and the flash for a Ferguson tattoo!)

            Yes, yes, theoretically I’m in favor of Niceness, Community, and Civilization, but what I’m practically in favor of right at this instant is running the fuck away!!!1!!

            TL;DR: Would Not Recommend.

          • Agronomous says:


          • E. Harding says:

            Agronomous, see, this is what happens when you ignore warnings. I’m normally anti-TW, so the fact I put one there should have been a clue. And I do not renounce my recommendation. I read both Communists and Nazis (both of whom make awesome as well as nonsensical points), both neocons and anti-neocons, both SJWs and Steve Sailer. I don’t read Paul Krugman, though, because I generally find him a hack. Of all them, I consider neocons to be the worst, followed by Krugman. Scott Sumner is probably the best. Noah Smith would be almost as good if he was much, much less blind and deaf (though, sadly, not mute) on the subject of race. This is adjusted for respectability.

            “It’s like the nineteenth century called, and they want our minds back!”

            -Kind of the point, you know? Late 19th century U.S. immigration policy was all about “is it good for the Whites?”. When leftist thinking in establishment media gets so extreme as it does today, there has to be a reaction. At TRS, you see a part of that reaction.

            “I’m going to have to shave my head ”

            -I don’t think that would end in results concordant with your intentions. 🙂

    • “Iran is not a threat, has no nuclear weapons, will never have nuclear weapons, and has never had any intention to acquire nuclear weapons.”

      Then why are they willing to bear large costs, economic and political, to build a nuclear industry?

      I’m not arguing that they shouldn’t want nuclear weapons–given their situation, it seems an obvious policy objective if they can manage it. But I can’t see any explanation of their behavior other than trying to get them.

      • LtWigglesworth says:

        One theory that I have seen is that a nuclear weapons programme basically acted as leverage in order to bring the US and other nations to the negotiating table re. sanctions.

        I don’t really buy it though. I think that the aim was to get to the point where they had a break-out period of a few months in order to act as a deterrent to Israel and Saudi Arabia (one an undeclared nuclear state, and the other the worlds 3rd largest military spender).

        However I don’t regard a nuclear Iran as a huge threat. We are living with a nuclear North Korea and a nuclear Pakistan. And the government in Tehran seems a lot more stable and sensible than that in Islamabad.

      • E. Harding says:

        North Korea got nuclear weapons, at least partly during a famine. Iran could have done the same at and in the same time. The desire of the Iranian leadership to keep some kind of nuclear capability is probably due to three things:

        1. A desire to keep a civilian nuclear program running in case the oil runs out.

        2. National-pride based reasons; to show the Iranian people Iran’s independence from the West.

        3. Having an intention of getting a capability to acquire nuclear weapons is not the same as having any intention of acquiring nuclear weapons. If the Iranian leadership does have an intention of getting the capability to acquire nuclear weapons, it must have this intention due to security fears: the Middle East is a volatile place, and a capability of producing nuclear weapons at least provides better protection from the remote threat of nuclear weapons attacks or massive land invasions by Israel, the U.S., or Pakistan than no such capability. Just like if the U.S. government wants the capability to destroy Tehran, does not mean that it actually wants to destroy Tehran.

        Remember, it takes less to construct a nuclear weapon than to construct a civilian nuclear program.

        • “and a capability of producing nuclear weapons at least provides better protection from the remote threat of nuclear weapons attacks or massive land invasions by Israel, the U.S., or Pakistan than no such capability.”

          Having the capability to develop nuclear weapons is much worse protection against a nuclear attack or invasion than having nuclear weapons.

          • John Schilling says:

            Having the capability to develop nuclear weapons, but not actually having nuclear weapons, is worse protection than not having the capability to develop nuclear weapons at all. You still have all the enemies you used to have, whom you have to deter or defend against with nothing but the conventional weapons you do have. You now also acquire a new set of enemies that are generally devoted to nuclear nonproliferation and/or specifically worried about what you might get up to if you do acquire nuclear weapons. These new enemies will perceive a narrow window in which they can act to stop you without themselves getting nuked, if they act quickly. And you have to deter or defend against these new enemies with just the conventional weapons you already have.

            If you have the capability to develop weapons and people believe you have actually done so, you are in somewhat better shape. But at that point you’ve already paid about the same material and political cost as if you’d actually developed nukes, your deterrence will collapse if the enemy calls your bluff or if there’s a leak in your security, and you have no defense when deterrence fails.

            Having nuclear weapons, offers substantial security advantages to dictators, rogue states, and besieged regimes everywhere. Being seen to have a nuclear-weapons or dual-use nuclear program that hasn’t actually produced any weapons yet, is a dangerously unstable position that you generally want to pass through as quickly as possible.

          • NN says:

            Actually, that’s pretty much exactly the situation that Japan is in. In geopolitical analysis, they’re considered a “de facto” nuclear armed state because they have the capability to create their own nuclear bombs in a few months, should they decide to do so. This seems to have worked out pretty well for them.

      • John Schilling says:

        Iran’s nuclear arms program, which at least used to be very real, was motivated by the threat of Iraq. That threat receded but did not vanish after 1991, and came back in a new and more frightening way in 2003 – now the threat was of a pro-western Iraqi regime supported and armed by the United States, sitting on Iran’s border and potentially driven by all the old grudges both Iraq and the US have with Iran.

        In 2004, news of Iran’s rather advanced nuclear program leaks out, perhaps not coincidentally or accidentally, and We Need To Talk. It isn’t clear whether Iran’s intended outcome is, A: Iran has nukes, everybody knows Iran has nukes, so no more attacking Iran, or B: Iran trades its nuclear program for diplomatic concessions in postwar Iraq that prevent the emergence of an American puppet state by e.g. giving the intrinsically pro-Iranian Shiite majority the balance of power in Iraq. During the early negotiations, the Iranians are incentivized to say the same things whichever of these goals they are pursuing. Active progress on Iran’s nuclear program slows dramatically while everyone talks about this, but there are ongoing efforts behind the scene.

        Later in the decade, it becomes clear that there isn’t going to be a strong independent or American puppet regime in Iraq, and the threat of an Iraqi invasion of Iran is about nil. And to the extent that such a threat might exist, it doesn’t take nuclear weapons for Iran to thwart it; running guns to the Iraqi Shiites will suffice. So now they have a nuclear arms program whose original purpose (whether as weapons or as bargaining chips) has evaporated. But they are still suffering sanctions for having the program, and they invested too much in it to walk away. Yes, sunk cost fallacy, but these are human beings we’re talking away.

        So, for most of the last decade, Iran’s strategy has been to try and get something of value out of all this sunk cost, even though we have little of positive value to offer Iran and little we can really threaten them with. It is unclear whether their preferred outcome is a nuclear arsenal (covert if necessary) that they have no present use for but which might be handy against some future threat, or a politically camouflaged kludge of a treaty-of-sort-of-friendship with the United States. Or, if we’re being completists, freedom to pursue their nefarious master plan of destroying Israel with nuclear fire, though that one is exceedingly unlikely. Or, also unlikely, a civilian nuclear power industry for its own sake – though until this is thoroughly settled one way or another they are going to insist on the civilian nuclear power industry as a way to keep nuclear armaments plausibly on the negotiating table.

        At this point, Iran can build nuclear weapons any time it wants, and neither the treaty nor the sanctions we had before the treaty will do much to stop that. So the original poster’s certainty that Iran never will have nuclear weapons, seems unwarranted and could use some justification.

        • E. Harding says:

          Well, as you say, the purpose of any Iranian nuclear weapons program has evaporated. So I’m sticking with my assessment.

          I still doubt Iran ever had any intent to acquire nuclear weapons, though the threat of an Iraqi invasion is at least some kind of plausible motive for it.

          • John Schilling says:

            The original purpose of Iran’s nuclear arms program has evaporated.

            But then the US didn’t shut down its nuclear arms program on 8 May 1945, or 2 September 1945, or on 25 December 1991.

          • Nornagest says:

            on 25 December 1991

            You being an honest-to-god rocket scientist, you’d probably hear more about this than me — but as far as I know the US hasn’t deployed a new nuclear weapons system since the Trident II (in 1990). Work at the National Laboratories continues, and there’s talk about that Reliable Replacement Warhead thing, but even if not shut down as such it’s slowed to a crawl relative to Cold War standards.

          • John Schilling says:

            The B61 Mod 11 was introduced in 1997 as an earth-penetrating nuclear weapon to destroy deep underground bunkers with a minimum of fallout and collateral damage. Very specifically a post-cold-war weapon; the old way of dealing with such targets was to gently parachute a somewhat-unstable B54 down to ground zero, unleash nine full megatons of Kaboom, and destroy everything for about fifteen kilometers around and half a kilometer down.

            As the name implies, the B61-11 was the best we could do while pretending we weren’t building new nukes; it uses a lot of recycled bits from earlier B61-series bombs. There has been ongoing low-level work towards a new-build “Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator”, but there’s never been a time when both Congress and the White House agreed that an unambiguously new nuclear weapon would be a good thing.

        • meyerkev248 says:

          So I have to ask:

          * America, at the height of WW2, with no prior experience puts their best eggheads in a room with a reasonably unlimited budget, and spends 3 years getting from nothing to a nuke.
          * Iran, under reasonably existential threat, with plenty of third world examples to copy off of including a direct neighbor with at least one “I’ve heard of them” person selling nuclear secrets (Mild Caveat: I’ve also heard people saying his stuff doesn’t work) puts a bunch of their eggheads in a room, waits ~30 years, and gets… nothing. At least that we, Joe Schmo Public, have heard about anyways.

          So what’s up with that? Do they just suck that much?

          • Held in Escrow says:

            Iran didn’t really want nukes. Iran just wants to be the regional power and for everyone to buy its shit (and let Iran buy their shit) so that their economy and people can flourish. They tried to be our friend after 9/11 and we spurned them which led to Iran getting real antsy about us throwing some Freedom their way.

            So Iran basically starts up a nuclear program with the intent of being able to threaten a breakout so that nobody will fuck with them. Iran doesn’t actually want nukes because they’d be slapped with sanctions forever and ever AND the KSA would rush to get nukes which absolutely nobody in their right mind wants to happen. But by getting to the edge and stopping Iran can say “hey, we just want to be friends and are totally willing to toss this shit away if you let us back to the big boys table.” Seeing as they’re the one government in the Middle East that has their shit together, being able to freely trade and not worry about invasions means that they’ll rise to the top quickly and they don’t need nukes to threaten anyone.

          • John Schilling says:

            The United States in 1941-1945 didn’t have to try and hide its nuclear program from people who had satellites and who knew what a nuclear program looked like.

            The Iranians probably learned everything they need to know to build a nuclear weapon, from scratch, by the time they shut down the Parchim site in 2004. But actually building a nuclear weapon requires almost literal alchemy on an industrial scale, and doing that when all of your facilities have to be buried and camouflaged is rather tedious.

          • LtWigglesworth says:

            Its really hard to enrich Uranium. Really really hard. The US built the largest building in the world (K 25) as part of the Manhattan project.
            You can’t do that now without it being seen by satellite and then JDAM’d a couple of days later. Hence Iran has had to bury any facilities, and bury them deep in order to keep them safe.
            The US could also source Uranium fairly freely, especially when compared to Iran, this made it easier to stockpile material without sanctions or attacks.

            Once you have sufficient fissile material making a crude gun style bomb is very simple in comparison.

            Developing a implosion bomb would be more difficult, but not would be any significant impediment once the fissile material has been stockpiled.

            As in interesting aside, even Switzerland had a nuclear weapons program and had fissile material for a fair number of weapons (the air force wanted 400) until the mid ’70s.

          • E. Harding says:

            Guys! I think we’re missing the international comparisons. How did NK get nuclear weapons? Pakistan? Israel? And why couldn’t Iran have done the same?

            Also, good point about the KSA+sanctions, Escrow.

          • John Schilling says:

            North Korea got nuclear weapons by working slowly but steadily towards that goal for at least thirty years, collaborating closely with the A.Q. Khan network, and not caring that the rest of the world knew that North Korea was trying to build nuclear weapons.

            Iran couldn’t have done the same because A: Iran was busy fighting a desperate war for about a decade of that period, B: Iran’s access to the A.Q. Khan network was mostly indirect via North Korea, and C: Iran actually does care what the rest of the world thinks and had to make more of an effort to hide things.

            Reasons why Iran could not duplicate the Israeli path to nuclear weapons are left as an exercise for the student.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            > They tried to be our friend after 9/11 and we spurned them

            FYI, that’s not really the case. The “deal” Iran offered seems to have been more freelancing on the part of a well-meaning Swiss ambassador than anything else.


    • lmm says:

      I don’t think you can simultaneously claim that sanctions on Iran both were harmful to its people and didn’t affect its politics. As for the Syria side, interventions are never going to be precisely calibrated. If I donate $1000 to stop malaria is that wasted because Gates would have done it anyway?

      Libya wasn’t about immediate effects. Compare danegeld. Heck, we’re better than bingo here: the comparison with Hitler is fair, in that far fewer people would have died if we’d simply let him have Poland.

      • E. Harding says:

        “I don’t think you can simultaneously claim that sanctions on Iran both were harmful to its people and didn’t affect its politics.”

        -Sure I can. I can also do the same with the My Lai massacre. Or, more controversially (but still pretty much correctly), the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

        “If I donate $1000 to stop malaria is that wasted because Gates would have done it anyway?”

        -If Bill Gates was somehow perfectly substituting your donations, sure, why not?

        “Heck, we’re better than bingo here: the comparison with Hitler is fair, in that far fewer people would have died if we’d simply let him have Poland.”

        -Triple bingo. Hitler already simply had Poland, and Britain and France couldn’t stop him from doing so, and shouldn’t have declared war in 1939. That was stupid. But the case of Gaddafi is not equivalent. It’s as if Britain and France did get Hitler out of Poland, but Poland turned into an anarchic wasteland because Britain and France refused to seriously back any side during its fledgling post-Hitler civil war. And Britain and France both were fine with inviting Hitler to their posh conferences just weeks before a Polish revolt broke out, and when it did break out, they all pretended that We Have Always Been at War With Hitler.

        Libya wasn’t about human rights.
        Gaddafi was stabbed in the back. Never trust the perfidious West.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          “-Sure I can. I can also do the same with the My Lai massacre. Or, more controversially (but still pretty much correctly), the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

          I’m sure the Japanese forged the minutes of their meetings and lied about their motivations when they said it was a factor.

          • E. Harding says:

            Japan would have surrendered to the U.S. anyway, due to the Soviet threat. Surrendering to the U.S. beats surrendering to godless Communists. Citing the bomb as a factor was an excuse, not an ultimate reason.

            BTW, could you link to those minutes you’re talking about?

          • Alexp says:

            Why would they surrender to the Soviets? Did the Soviets suddenly have tanks that could swim?

          • Protagoras says:

            The Japanese had few planes or ships left, and hardly any fuel for either. The Soviets had plenty of planes they no longer needed in the West, and so could have easily established total air supremacy and with that taken out any Japanese ships that tried to get in their way in the waters around Japan. Japan isn’t all that far out to sea. I’ve seen people cite the lack of much Soviet sea power as a reason Japan couldn’t really have been fearful of the Soviets, even after the Soviets rolled up the Japanese forces in Manchuria in days, but with no meaningful Japanese ability to oppose a crossing, I’m sure the Soviets could have improvised some way of getting their forces into Japan before too long.

          • Eric says:

            Yes, the Japanese navy and airforce were in ruins in late 1945, but amphibious invasions are hard, and the Japanese had demonstrated the ability to put up fierce resistance from dug in positions in the face of overwhelming air and naval superiority on several Pacific islands. The Soviet invasion of the Kuril Island had trouble, even though it only lasted a couple of days before the Japanese were ordered to surrender (the whole thing occurred a few days after the August 15 announcement)

            The Soviets probably could have managed eventually, especially since the Americans would have been generous with providing ships and landing craft, but I don’t think it would have been a cakewalk, or have preceded the planned American invasions.

          • alexp says:

            An amphibious operation even when you have complete control of air and sea is an incredibly difficult endeavor that requires thousands of transport ships, amphibious landing land ships, naval artillery support, air support, and more importantly the experience and institutional knowledge of how to coordinate all those elements. The Western Allies had all of this, including the accumulated institutional experience going back to the disaster at Gallipoli and later Dieppe, to Guadalcanal, North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Normandy, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and many more. Even with complete control of the sea and air in the later battles, none of them were easy.

            But regardless, this isn’t even about how easily the Japanese could contest a landing. This is about the Soviets literally not having enough ships to transport and supply an army to invade the Japanes Home Islands. They could have shipped a division and occupied the northern tip of Hokkaido. It would have made the peace settlement interesting, but that’s it.

          • John Schilling says:

            The Soviets had plenty of planes they no longer needed in the West, and so could have easily established total air supremacy

            The Soviets had plenty of planes with a combat range (means, one way but carrying reserves and weapons) of roughly 300 to 700 km, but no fighters or attack aircraft that could reach even 1000 km. The distance from Vladivostok or Khabarovsk to the western coast of Hokkaido is about 650 km; there are a few other plausible airbase sites at 400-500 km distance, but that’s not a recipe for air supremacy over the landing beaches. Well, not more than once. Bases on Sakhalin Island would be closer, but being an island means you need ships and sea control and ports to support sustained air operations.

            And as others have already noted, that’s not the problem anyway. When people discuss the impracticality of Operation Sea Lion, when General Eisenhower calls the Higgins Boat a war-winning weapon, they aren’t talking about having to fight your way past an enemy’s navy. Even granted complete air and naval supremacy, amphibious invasions are hard and require specialized assets the Soviet Union did not have. Otherwise, you’re just sending bite-sized chunks of seasick cannon fodder, and the Japanese still had cannons.

            The United States and United Kingdom, by comparison, had over a thousand warships, ten thousand Higgins boats, and ten thousand combat aircraft committed to an invasion of Japan. The Japanese knew this. They had seen a coming-attractions preview in Okinawa, their intelligence analysts had correctly determined the basic Allied invasion plans and the resources committed, and their response was essentially “Bring it on!”

            The contention that Japan then surrendered because Russia’s two light cruisers and eleven destroyers were going to carry out an invasion of the Home Islands, is not credible.

    • Anonymous says:

      “It was only after Bin Laden was killed when militant Islamists started taking territory in Syria, in Iraq (post-Bush), and in Libya.”

      For a murderous extremist, bin Laden was a gentleman, quite concerned with the lives of Muslim civilians.

      I want him back in charge of the global Jihad.

      Taking him out was stupid.

      • Jiro says:

        I’d think that we’d prefer an extremist who is willing to kill Muslims to one who doesn’t. If the extremist is willing to kill Muslims, it’s going to be a lot easier for Muslims to figure out that he’s a bad guy. Compare Muslim reactions to ISIS to Muslims’ reaction to bin Laden; they know very well that when ISIS gets in power, their heads could be on the chopping block next.

        Of course, a lot of people will die from ISIS in the meantime, but a lot of people would die from al Qaeda too. Better a genocidal tyrant with lots of opposition than a genocidal tyrant who everyone treats as a slightly eccentric cousin who causes embarrassment for everyone in the family.

  22. Steve Johnson says:

    Outside observers point out basic statistical error, actual results show no gender bias at all. Original authors say it doesn’t matter and the Dutch scientific community is still sexist because grant review forms use “gendered language” like the word “excellent” which is apparently “male-coded”. Dutch establishment says reform and gender awareness programs are “still a good idea, regardless of the paper’s quality”, and vow to push ahead. Why are we even bothering to do science anymore? Why don’t we just write the only acceptable conclusion on a piece of paper beforehand and save however much it cost to do the study?

    But Scott, that’s exactly what we have now.

  23. Steve Johnson says:

    Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million to fix the Newark school system. It mostly failed. Some speculation about why. One example where donations without systemic change didn’t do any good.

    Why is China, which has a billion people and lots of money, so terrible at soccer?

    Genetic differences explain 24% of between-national-populations differences in height and 8% of between-national-populations in BMI across Europe. Now that the only two massively polygenic traits that vary among national populations have been successfully studied, I look forward to never seeing any further research of this sort ever again.

    I somehow suspect there’s a common thread here but I just can’t tease it out.

    • Anon says:

      Given that China’s immediate neighbors do not suck quite so much, I don’t think that common factor is likely to be present.

      • E. Harding says:

        Yeah, and China has a billion people. Communists can be efficient at sports when they want to be. Remember Soviet Hockey and the East German swim team.

        • The_Dancing_Judge says:

          yeah i think a billion people is enough to overcome any genetic deficiency just based on the tails

          • suntzuanime says:

            Shouldn’t it be enough to overcome any cultural or political deficiency based on the tails too?

          • Michael Watts says:

            I don’t think so; cultural pressure can make its mark on the whole distribution. One key difference here is that genetic restrictions just happen, while cultural restrictions are (potentially, and commonly) enforced.

            Another difference is related to the absurdity of thinking that a population of a billion can overcome, by sheer numbers, the cultural deficiency of not speaking French. They can’t, and a country of a billion with no cultural interest in soccer is unlikely to produce much in the way of soccer players. (The analogy here is not exact, but I think it’s good enough to be relevant.)

          • suntzuanime says:

            I bet you could find a soccer team’s worth of perfectly fluent speakers of French in China.

          • fubarobfusco says:

            Chinese athletes do not have tails; that’s a racist myth.

          • Michael Watts says:

            I bet you could find a soccer team’s worth of perfectly fluent speakers of French in China.

            This misses the point. They didn’t get that way through random variation that permits people to occasionally know French. The only way to learn French is by being instructed. Without the influence of existing French speakers, no amount of variation will ever result in French.

          • suntzuanime says:

            And no matter how much genetic variation, a population of consisting of common earthworms will not produce a competent soccer team. Neither seems true of the Chinese.

            (In theory, French could be reconstructed by random chance, but I will grant you’ll want a lot more than a billion people to do that.)

          • drethelin says:

            Cultural or political “deficiency” changes the incentive structure for said tail-people. It’s possible that picking among the Chinese you could assemble a world class soccer team, but that there are not enough incentives to gather these people together as-is. Perhaps there just isn’t enough popular interest to pay potentially world-class athletes to play soccer as opposed to engaging in some other activity.

          • alexp says:

            Hence Yao Ming.

            However, it is indicative of the problems with Chinese State sponsored centralized sports development that it never managed to develop anyone like Jeremy Lin. While Jeremy Lin turned out to be nothing more than a flash in the pan, it says something that by far the best ethnically Chinese point guard ever is Taiwanese man who was born and raised in the United States.

            And unlike in basketball, there is not one easily measured physical trait that can predict soccer skill.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            The Jeremy Lin thing is why I brought up academics as well. IIRC no Chinese person in China has ever won a Nobel in science. Eight Chinese people outside China have – four born outside China, and four who left China before they became famous. Clearly China is doing something wrong in the sciences, but I don’t know if it’s just “not being as rich and having as much existing infrastructure as the West” or something deeper.

          • keranih says:

            @Scott –

            IIRC no Chinese person in China has ever won a Nobel in science. [snip] Clearly China is doing something wrong in the sciences…

            Alternate hypothesis – the Nobel Prize is an award rooted in Western values of [something, maybe individualism? solitary achievement?] that are not expressed in the same way in Chinese culture. Ergo, the number of people acting in a way that would ultimately result in a recognition by the Nobel Prize committee is far lower in China than in parts of the world more heavily emphasized by the West.

            In other words, it’s maybe not the science in China that is lacking, but our metric (ie, whatever the Nobel committee uses) is maybe biased in a way that emphasizes specific Western-type achievement over more general human science achievement.

            Without 40 planets and 10K years to establish a baseline for average human normal, I’m not sure that we could get a good answer.

          • John Schilling says:

            This. The scientific Nobels go to no more than three individual human scientists; if a particular scientific community emphasizes group-level efforts and every publication starts with the name of the research institute followed by an author list that reads like the first chapter of the New Testament, that’s not a recipe for Nobels.

            It’s not that we’ll remain wholly ignorant of the names of the top Chinese scientists, but they won’t stick out in our memories in the way that makes them an obvious pick for individual awards.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            >In other words, it’s maybe not the science in China that is lacking, but our metric (ie, whatever the Nobel committee uses) is maybe biased in a way that emphasizes specific Western-type achievement over more general human science achievement.

            That’s a fine sounding theory, but you’d have to explain what makes “Chinese science” different than “Western science”, so that there could be a distinction. Preferably some chinese discovery that could’ve won an award if it weren’t for bias.

            EDIT: Ninja’d with part of what I was asking for.

          • anon says:

            Could’ve sworn that it was here I read a post about how the Russian scientific community is so isolated from the West that we’re independently rediscovering drugs they made decades ago. Not because of intentional obfuscation but simply because the Russian scientists of the last century didn’t bother translating their stuff in English.

            I would assume the same is happening with Chinese Nobels.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Anon, perhaps you are thinking of this by Scott, about Russian drugs. But it doesn’t have any examples of the drugs being rediscovered in the West. You may be interested in me on abiotic oil.

            In the 50s and 60s, the Soviets did great work on pure math that the West didn’t hear about, but that was more than a language barrier. Part of it was that the Soviets didn’t want it disseminated. Another part was that publication was very politicized. Now that there are lots of Russian academics in the West, the language barrier is largely gone. Same with Chinese. The language barrier is a bigger deal with Japan.

            Moreover, current academics in China do translate their work because Western journals are much more prestigious.

        • Richard Gadsden says:

          East Germans cheated, especially in women’s sports.

          … with PEDs, there’s cheating and cheating, but the DDR did the real stuff.

          People will voluntarily take PEDs that increase their risk of being physically disabled at 50 and even their risk of heart attack at 50. Very few non-transmen will voluntarily take androgens. You go pumping large doses of androgens into teenage girls/young women without their consent, and that’s something that I think even those who think that athletes should be allowed to risk their own health with PEDs would oppose.

          China had a period when they used EPO in women’s long-distance running before there was a test. All the women’s long-distance track records are still held by Chinese women from the early nineties.

          State support for using drugs makes it a lot easier for athletes to use them without getting caught.

  24. zz says:

    >Latest campus free speech problem: threats to expel students who criticize Israel

    Not if you read The Torch. Latest campus free speech problem is an administrator telling students handing out constitutions “No free speech today.

  25. Saul Degraw says:

    Greenwald and Israel and students getting kicked off campus: Not buying it because of the source. Greenwald is about as biased against Israel as Mondoweiss.

    Now there have certainly been embarassments like what happened to Steve Salaita but there are plenty of examples I can think of where Zionist or at least Jewish students felt intimidated by Palestinian activists who know very little and care to learn very little about Jewish history and the causes of Zionism. My alma mater had to send up an e-mail last year because of heated rhetoric on campus and Jewish students feeling like they were getting a lot of heat and fire.

    • suntzuanime says:

      In America, saying you feel “intimidated” or “like you’re getting a lot of heat and fire” is not supposed to be sufficient cause to violate someone else’s right to free speech.

      • Saul Degraw says:

        I didn’t say it was but I am not buying Greenwald’s proof that there is a massive action against critics of Israel on college campuses.

        • suntzuanime says:

          If anything, the existence of critics of Israel on college campuses lends support to the claim that there is a massive action against them. “How can I be killing you if you’re not all dead yet?”

      • My initial reaction to someone saying they feel intimidated is to try find out if they are *actually* being intimidated or not, rather than just crying “social justice” or “free speech”. We’re losing our common sense judgement and reasonable reactions to people being a**holes and whingers, because we’ve become more interested in some barely applicable abstracts. I wouldn’t want lay apolitical intuition to be deciding national policy or economics, but in this case I think its entirely the appropriate approach.

    • Held in Escrow says:

      I was originally really in Salaita’s camp and even followed his twitter for a while, but there were some (now deleted) super anti-Semitic shit that he posted which kind of made me think that Urbana-Champaign may have made the right decision albeit for the wrong reasons.

      That said, I can buy the story about cracking down on anti-Israeli speech. I think it’s godawful and should not be done although when you have Palestinian student groups putting up actual Nazi propaganda I can understand the drive to do something.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Greenwald has, in the past, essentially admitted his reporting is not to be trusted. His theory, as I understand it, is that all people have bias, you can’t get away from it, so you should therefore embrace it and write as an activist. I’m having trouble finding a link to when he wrote it at Salon.

      My sense is that Greenwald doesn’t believe in trying to be objective. He doesn’t want to overcome bias. He thinks his biases are right and correct and all that is good in the world. He writes almost entirely from his id. Greenwald seems like he is roughly the opposite of someone Scott should be linking to favorably.

      Toxoplasma is sort of Greenwald’s thing.

      • 27chaos says:

        I have gotten the same impression from Greenwald. At the same time, some of the stories he’s written have been pretty good. I don’t trust him, but he is good for scouting out ideas in a certain story area.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I can’t stand him. Every time I try and read something by him, the intellectual seams seem to show. I perceive him to be lying, rather than mistaken. He essentially says he is willing to lie in support of his chosen causes, so I really don’t know why I would waste time reading him.

          I mean, sure, read him as you would an opposing viewpoint. But the opposing viewpoint he represents isn’t ideological, but methodological. Read him to find out how to spot and combat dishonest discourse.

          I find the level of effort required to wade through something like that to be too much. Much like trying to engage with a troll in an online forum, it just seems unlikely to generate positive results.

          • 27chaos says:

            He was the first person I ever read who was severely critical of US foreign policy in the Middle East. I’m probably inclined to give him more credit than he deserves for that.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        [Greenwald’s] theory, as I understand it, is that all people have bias, you can’t get away from it, so you should therefore embrace it and write as an activist.

        That may be a good thing up to a certain level. I’d rather see a writer’s bias admitted and zis side presented fully, so I can read someone on the other side thereby getting both sides. When writers present as impartial, you don’t know which side’s facts they may not be mentioning.

        But that’s just up to a certain level. It is (was?) nice to at the top level have a few newspapers of record whose facts we can trust to be complete and accurate.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Oh, I agree that it’s good to know people’s bias.

          But, Greenwald seems to take this to a level that is more “PR representative for my chosen cause”. That’s different than even an editorial page opinion piece.

  26. Toggle says:

    Glad to see you putting in a plug for Ex Urbe! Dr. Palmer has a really excellent and expressive way of teaching people history. I also predict that you (Scott) will get a lot out of her upcoming science fiction series, Terra Ignota, which will be published by Tor starting in May next year. They just did a cover reveal for the first volume, “Too Like the Lightning”, and let you preorder it:

    (Full disclosure: I have a congenial personal history with Dr. Palmer and am not even remotely unbiased. And I contributed a guest post to Ex Urbe once.)

    ((But seriously, read the book if you can.))

    • Alex Binz says:

      Ever since I clicked the ‘Ex Urbe’ link, I have been going through her posts like mad. This is some seriously amazing stuff. The Machiavelli series in particular has both one of the clearest formulations of ethics theories *and* one of the clearest summaries of Renaissance Italian politics I’ve ever encountered. The ‘Spot the Saint’ series has given me the shortcuts to identify a whole bunch of really important stuff I never understood before in medieval and Renaissance art. Now for the ‘History of Skepticism’ series.

      Damn, this is fun!

  27. Jiro says:

    You are not going to have competitions between “safe” colleges and “free speech” colleges because the whole reason students feel “unsafe” is that “unsafe” has become a code word that means “do what I say or you’ve committed a Title IX violation and the government will shake you down”. You can’t compete if trying to compete puts you under the foot of the government.

  28. stuart says:

    “some problems with Chomsky’s Cambodian genocide scholarship.”

    This seems excessively kind.

    How many instances of dishonesty (much of it obviously deliberate) would it take on Chomsky’s part for you start to doubt the impressiveness of his political output? This is a serious question. His critics claim he does this a lot and are happy to provide examples.

    • David Byron says:

      Is Chomsky denial part of the social culture of rationalists? I’m trying to figure out where they are most irrational.

      • Sastan says:

        Chomsky is a very intelligent, very partisan, and very crazy man. I have no doubt that if his toast burned in the morning, it would somehow turn out to be the fault of the United States, globalism, capitalism and Henry Kissinger.

        On some occasions, this puts him in perfect synchronicity with the facts, but when it doesn’t, he certainly doesn’t mold his opinions to the facts. Quite the opposite.

      • Nornagest says:

        “Chomsky denial”? Are we just calling anything we don’t like “denial” now?

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          Why, you’re not one of those Chomsky denial denial denialists, now, are you?

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m a Chomsky denial denialist, but I don’t think I’m a Chomsky denial denial denialist… unless I lost track of the meta-levels somewhere in there.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Well, it depends of whether you interpret “Chomsky denial denialism” as refusing to acknowledge “Chomsky denialism” as a thing, or as the denial of the denial of Chomsky, that is, acceptance of Chomsky.

          • Vorkon says:

            I am a staunch Chomsky denialist. The man they call “Noam Chomsky” is entirely a myth. His existence is nothing more than a piece of propaganda intended to fool gullible fence-sitters toward leftist positions. All those books and essays he was purported to have written? All written anonymously, by people using a well-known pen-name in an attempt to lend credence to their theories. His work is no more real than presents left by Santa Claus, or money left by the tooth fairy.

            The figure known as “Noam Chomsky” was originally based on a mythological creature named “Chompsky,” a gnome from Slavic folklore with who was said to devour bad little children who expressed too many right-wing ideas. Opportunistic leftists coopted this existing myth to create their own boogeyman, a supposedly real-life figure who would prey upon the same fears that once caused right-wing children to shudder in their beds, in fear of being chomped up, and use that primal terror to attempt to influence their behavior as adults.

            Wake up sheeple!!!

        • David Byron says:

          That sounds like a “yes”

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m speaking for myself, not for the social culture of rationalists. But if you think Chomsky’s so well-attested that any criticism of him amounts to “denial”, I don’t think you’ll find many fellow travelers here. Even among our far left.

            Needless to say, I also think they’re right to be skeptical. Actually, I think I might be a little more strident than that.

      • Randy M says:

        You can’t take random commenter posts here as being representative of any particular subculture (leastwise not while I’ve been posting). If you found Scott’s recent article on Chomsky’s book to be “denialism” I… think you struggle at charity and open-mindedness.

      • stuart says:

        I wouldn’t call it denial in Scott’s case. He at least recognises that there might be a problem, unlike Chomsky’s fans. I just wonder how many instances of deliberate dishonesty disqualify you from being taken seriously?

        • Nornagest says:

          I don’t think Chomsky was being deliberately dishonest. I think he believed every word he said about the Khmer Rouge and their little buddies, even after the regime fell and genocide memorials started popping up on the killing fields.

          I don’t know if this is better or worse, credibility-wise. At least with a liar you know where you stand. With someone capable of that much rationalization…

          • I think Chomsky was deliberately dishonest in his presentation of the evidence–treating Porter and Hildebrand’s book as a serious source. Chomsky isn’t stupid, and the book is transparently Khmer Rouge apologetics.

            But it’s possible that he really believed that there had been no mass killing.

          • stuart says:

            I never quite know with Chomsky. He might have believed the there were no mass killings, but when I say deliberate dishonesty I mean his handling of source material. For example, when he writes

            “Space limitations preclude a comprehensive review, but such journals as the Far Eastern Economic Review, the London Economist, the Melbourne Journal of Politics, and others elsewhere, have provided analyses by highly qualified specialists who have studied the full range of evidence available, and who concluded that executions have numbered at most in the thousands…”

            He is referring to a letter to the editor that appeared in the Economist. He knows this, but attributes the view in the letter, Economist. I can’t see how this is not deliberately dishonest. There are plenty of other examples, of course.

          • stuart says:

            Right, tough to know which one would be worse.

    • Beezus says:

      More evidence, as if any were needed, of the peculiarly sad, quixotic fate of the “Chomsky truthers” movement, peopled by a uniquely angry and desperate clutch of people. The examples are kind of amazing in how weak they are. What fascinates me about this phenomenon are that the most dedicated haters of Chomsky are on the left – usually, a particular subset of Anarcho-capitalists. Something about their particular brand of irrationality just makes them foam at the mouth over Chomsky. It’s weird.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Anarcho-capitalists are leftists?

        • onyomi says:

          Most anarcho-capitalists are definitely more right-wingish than left-wingish though they might chafe at the binary. There are some, like Roderick Long, however, who call themselves “left libertarians,” yet who might also describe themselves as anarchocapitalists and love Ayn Rand.

          As discussed in Comment Sandiego, there is a problem with the word “anarchism” that it has a certain connotation due to the likes of Proudhon and the association, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, of the term with radical left wing terrorists.

          Anarcho-capitalism is, in a way, a very American sort of anarchism, I think, because it is not focused on tearing down traditional class systems and land ownership like old-fashioned left-wing anarchism. This latter preoccupation is probably, at root, a remnant of feudalism, and the history of land ownership in the UK.

          To Americans, however, the idea that the common guy needs to tear down society in order that he should not be shut out of the possibility of land ownership, however, is kind of a bizarre non sequitur. Hence, most likely, the American anarchist’s focus on eliminating the state without necessarily radically changing social norms about property ownership, etc.

          As I said in the other thread, though this is a newer “brand” of anarchism, I think it is also at least, if not more deserving of the title, since the etymology means “without rulers,” not “without a system of private property and landed gentry.”

          • LeeEsq says:

            According to the works of Eugene Weber and other historians of late 19th century France, there were European anarchists that saw themselves as rightist anarchists. They never really delve that deeply into their beliefs so it is hard to figure out what distinguished themselves from leftist anarchists. From what I could tell they seemed to be aristocrats who believed that getting rid of the state would allow natural social hierarchy to govern but can’t be certain about this.

            Precedents to anarcho-capitalism do exist in 19th century America. There were American anarchist figures that weren’t hostile to land ownership. I think that seeing anarchs-capitalism as existing as a full idea before the 1960s is a bit of an anachronism.

          • onyomi says:

            Yeah, I don’t. I think basically David Friedman and Murray Rothbard invented it. But I do still find it a very “American” brand of anarchism, and it is interesting to think about philosophical and cultural precedents which may have lead to it. Arguably even some Native American tribes lived in a relatively anarchic fashion as compared to the Aztecs, Inca, et al

          • LeeEsq says:

            Anarcho-capitalism probably appears to be so American because most other anarchists would have argued that the market and capitalism are creatures of the state.

          • Gustave De Molinari in the 19th c. wasn’t that far from the modern A-C position, although there’s a good deal of detail missing.

          • onyomi says:

            Oh yeah, I tend to forget about him, and should probably read him more. Were you influenced by him when you first wrote Machinery, David, or did you come up with the ideas more independently?

          • I had never heard of Molinari when I wrote the first edition of _Machinery_.

      • stuart says:

        This is really, really, not true. Scott’s link is enough to show that’s nonsense. The topic is a big one, effective genocide denial. And Chomsky’s dishonesty runs through the piece. Big topics, deliberate dishonesty in handling source material = weak?

      • How about this article? I don’t see how you can possibly read this and still think it’s “irrationality” from “a uniquely angry and desparate clutch of people” to say that Chomsky was badly wrong about this subject in particular.

  29. nimim. k.m. says:

    The Vox article correctly points out that equality of opportunity as an ideal utopia would actually be a dystopia. I fail to see how this is supposed to be a novel observation. Likewise, anyone who has paid any serious amount of thought to history of socialism probably see all the problems in implementing it fully. As an example related to the ideal of equal opportunity, there wasn’t to be ability to inherit ones parents’ property in the Soviet Union, at least not any significant amount, and that turned out quite problematic.

    Aldo, the criticism of social mobility statistics seems quite arbitrary:
    “Suppose we’ve actually achieved equality of opportunity, and people from poor backgrounds really do have plenty of chances to make it ahead — but none of them take those chances.”

    I don’t think these statistics are analyzed in the vacuum: quite often they are used to compare different societies. For example, quite often one cites some study shows that there is less social mobility in the US than in some other country. Would we be justified to conclude that it’s likely that there are as good or even better opportunities of social mobility in the US than in that other country, but the people in US are just not taking those opportunities? Not without analyzing what the people in the US and that other country are actually doing with their lives.

    For example, it’s probably quite likely that a study would show people universally want a better life and maybe even are trying to do something for that effect. Maybe the people in the US are doing the wrong things to achieve that (as a potential explanation to assumed social mobility study results mentioned before), but are the opportunities to do the right things real if people don’t know about how to take them? Wouldn’t it be more sensible to conclude that a real opportunity is such that people know it exists? Should we blame the poor of being poor if their ideas about how be less poor are misguided, I hope not.

    In addition, we *also* compare less abstract statistics than the ones based on the income distribution, like how likely it is for a person from a low-income family background to end up with a tertiary degree that enable a high-income profession (law, medical profession, engineering). Of course, research that would e.g. try to determine the real academic capabilities in different social groups and then compare that with the real academic outcomes is *definitely* not easy, and while most of the research supposed to do such a thing referenced in political debates is more or less problematic, I don’t agree that it’s something we shouldn’t even try to research. For genetic and parental and other environmental reasons that couldn’t be negated without totalitarian dystopia, one probably would not expect total social mobility, but it doesn’t make all attempts to measure it pointless.

    I’m also a proponent of basic income and inheritance taxes. If the utopies suck, it doesn’t mean we can’t do a better job in providing better opportunities and raising the basic level of standard of living, or an alternative world without any effort to do something reasonable to alleviate inherit problems in all human societies would somehow be more better or just. The problem is determining which is a reasonable thing and which is not.

    • Interesting comment, but if I could just make one point:

      As an example related to the ideal of equal opportunity, there wasn’t to be ability to inherit ones parents’ property in the Soviet Union, at least not any significant amount, and that turned out quite problematic.

      Call me nuts, but its not clear to me why we’d think of their inheritence tax as the cause of, or even a significant contributor to, their disasterous problems. If they also subsidised cosmetic dentists, should we be wary of that as a potentially murderous policy? (affirming the consequent?)

      Or I may have missed your meaning somehow. Otherwise I think you make some good points.

  30. Nita says:

    This creepy Bay Area kidnapping case was so bizarre that the police said it was a hoax until the kidnapper wrote in to complain that this was unfair to the victim.

    Ugh, those emails from kidnappers reek of that smarmy tone 4channers take when they’re trying to sound “serious”.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      They’re also freaking long-winded. There has to be a news site that’s summarized it well…

      (For instance, this one is mercifully much shorter, but leaves out many of the details that make the case so unusual…)

    • anon says:

      It was long-winded, but worth the one-hour read. Better than a lot of fiction I’ve read, and way more interesting due to allegedly being not fiction. It’s my favorite link to come out of these links posts, yet I can’t share it with anybody because its too long to link to friends and expect them to read it.

      I’m confused by the discovery of one of them – I can imagine him suffering enough stress to panic and do something stupid like attempt a repeat shoddy kidnapping, but they stated that they destroyed most of their gear yet the stuff was found in his own home?

      I don’t get what you mean by smarmy tone. To me it read normally, but then I’m a channer so what do I know.

      • Nita says:

        I don’t get what you mean by smarmy tone.

        I would like to explain, but that would involve digging for examples of channer-written “serious” texts and retyping from screenshots, both of which are tedious. So, I’ll just describe how it comes across to me: it’s like they’re trying way harder to impress an imaginary audience than to do anything more relevant (e.g., convey information).

        It’s an OK tone for communicating with the Scientology cult, but in more normal contexts it feels out of place.

        • anon says:


        • Zorgon says:

          Thank you very much. All of the supposed “letters” were ringing some kind of bell in my head and I couldn’t figure out if it was the False Flagging SJWs “Opening Up The Conversation” bell or the Creepy Stalker Obsessed With Victim bell.

  31. DrBeat says:

    Just summarizing that story as “Milo Yiannopolous says Milo Yiannopolous is the only decent tech journalist left” criminally undercredits it.

    First, he has a point, in that the subject of the story is the UN Women report on “cyberviolence against women”, that other tech journalists were talking about, and somehow none of them noticed that this report was an absolute disasterpiece. So Yiannopolous is asking, very fairly given the context, “How in God’s name am I the first one to be talking about this? Why am I the only one who read it?” The story is less “Yiannopolous reports Yiannopolous is fantastic, wonderful tech journalist with pleasing scent” and more “Yiannopolous reports Yiannopolous is only tech journalist who did not fuck up so badly as to get his penis stuck in a toaster.” If everyone around you has their dick stuck in a toaster, I think you get to say you are the most competent person there.

    Second, reporting it as just “Yiannopolous says Yiannopolous is best tech journalist” tries to act as though his self-conception is the entire story, and not the utter catastrophe that is the “cyber violence against women” report.

    • Well said. I have mixed feelings about Milo, to say the least, but I think you’re correct about his intent here. I also think the article was a little bit tongue-in-cheek, as that’s very much his style.

    • James says:

      But I feel like linking to the piece at all is a tacit acknowledgement that it has merit. The jokey summary is just an extra little flourish/aside.

    • Anatoly says:

      “How in God’s name am I the first one to be talking about this? Why am I the only one who read it?”

      Maybe because it doesn’t matter? The UN is a vast bureaucracy that produces thousands of meaningless reports every year. Is this one different? why? what’re the real-world consequences of its production?

      • suntzuanime says:

        That would be a reasonable position to take if the other outlets did not mention the report at all, but they talked about the report as if it were meaningful and important. If you’re going to be reporting on the issuing of a document and talking about what it means, reading the document seems like basic journalistic due diligence.

      • I think that there’s a host of people willing to pretend that a terrible meaningless report is both good and meaningful, and only one willing to say otherwise, is pretty newsworthy.

        Of course, I haven’t read the report myself. Has anyone here? Would they like to weigh in?

        • suntzuanime says:

          It’s a badly written attempt to push for more censorship in the name of protecting women from cyberviolence, which is recognized as just as lethal as physical violence. It represents a typical European view of freedom of speech, which is to say you’re free to say anything that doesn’t bother anyone. Nothing really surprising except how badly sourced it is, but the media giving it play are definitely trying to push an agenda and deserve to be a little embarrassed.

          • Artemium says:

            It is even worse when you compare all the publicity that this report got with some major world issues that should be much important to feminist causes. (like freaking S.Arabia being a member of that same Human Rights committee at UN).

          • unsafeideas says:

            Fascinating take, given that Americans tend to be way more sensitive then Europeans lately. Especially when it comes to what supposedly offend supposedly all women. It is American game critics that lately call games misogynists for the crime of breasts being bigger c-cup and it is Americans who get offended the most and then demand this or that person to be fired or removed.

        • Ever An Anon says:

          Haven’t read it either, but the the thing has been getting a pretty good kicking online. Some people online with more free time than I have poured over the thing and found some really bizarre bits.

          My favorite is that one of the citations is a link to a file on the writer’s own hard drive, and when the file itself (a pilot study on the use of WhatsApp in India I believe) was dug up its authors explicitly warn people not to generalize from their results in exactly the way the report did. And it’s not like it was a great study to begin with either.

          Another gem is that its definition of violence against women and girls includes “blasphemous libel,” without any explanation of why or how that could be construed as violence or even being particularly directed against women. Maybe insulting the Virgin Mary? Odd thing to put in a VAWG report anyhow.

          • Brian says:

            My preferred footnote was the one that described Hasbro as “Hasbro Interactive: Official U.S. distributor of Pokémon (abbreviation for “Pocket Monsters”), the killing game designed for toddlers beginning at 2 and 3 years old; Dungeons and Dragons, the medieval satanic and magic fantasy game; Risk II, a “ruthless quest for world domination”. One of the Hasbro Board members is Paul Wolfowitz, the co-head of George W. Bush’s team of foreign policy advisors.”

            UN, everyone in this room is now dumber for having read your report. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

          • Nornagest says:

            That’s the most metal description of Hasbro I’ve ever heard.

            Granted, I haven’t heard a lot of them.

          • John Schilling says:

            Hasbro is now also the official distributor of Diplomacy, the game that teaches the values of lying, cheating, treachery, and betrayal. Also a ruthless quest for world domination.

          • E. Harding says:

            Look at Hasbro’s board now:


            Hm. Considering Ann Coulter’s snide remark, there must be a lot of Jews in the United States.

          • SFG says:

            E. Harding: yeah, but given that it seems to be started by three brothers, one named Hillel, most likely it was founded as a family firm and I’d expect some carry-over.

            I actually do think Jewish over-representation in media affects policy toward Israel, but Transformers and D&D…sorry, having a hard time feeling the outrage.

          • BBA says:

            Hoo boy. The citation to a 15-year-old paper by a LaRouche affiliate is just embarrassing. As batshit conspiracy theories go, LaRoucheism is barely more coherent than Lizard People or Time Cube. And that line about “blasphemous libel” was pretty transparently dropped in there to get a religious-conservative state on the panel to endorse the report.

            Clearly this report was not meant to be read, it was meant to be shoved in people’s faces.

          • Susebron says:

            “The objective is not to ‘drive’ perpetrators and predators
            further underground (into the Undernet for instance)”

            According to Google, Undernet is an IRC host, not some sort of secret hidden Internet or whatever. What were they thinking?

          • Nornagest says:

            Probably “darknet”. Which just means stuff not indexed by Google and is mostly painfully boring, but some of it does involve black markets and suchlike.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree that the piece was good work. Milo decided to frame it that way, and I decided to stick with his framing.

      I am a little worried that it’s kind of silly to attack the piece for having poor references. If it had been given to a different UN staffer, maybe it would have had great references – it’s not like other people haven’t made these same points before. The references have no relation to the fundamental weirdness and philosophical problems with what they’re doing. It’s just a cheap shot – although I agree given that it’s available it’s an okay shot to take.

      • Ever An Anon says:

        The sloppiness is revealing though: obvious basic errors not only slipped through whatever review process the UN has for these reports but went completely unremarked by nearly every journalist weighing in on it. Pro or con, nobody actually read it in a critical way.

        That’s the big story, not the UN’s lame apology for censorship.

      • DrBeat says:

        The entire report is garbage, but since it is ideologically motivated garbage, defenders of The Ideology will say that it’s right and people who disagree must hate The Ideology and thus be evil.

        Attacking the references exposes the garbage nature of the report in a way that The Ideology cannot deflect by just layering on more of The Ideology.

        Also, what Ever an Anon said.

    • Error says:

      If everyone around you has their dick stuck in a toaster, I think you get to say you are the most competent person there.

      …and my fortune file gets a new quote…

    • anon says:

      I had never heard of Milo Yiannopolous before reading that article, but Milo Yiannopolous is on my RSS feed now. I can appreciate bold articles where the author is willing to stick his neck out like that, hopefully his content is as reliable as he claims.

      • Cauê says:

        I can appreciate bold articles where the author is willing to stick his neck out like that, hopefully his content is as reliable as he claims

        I’ve known of him for a year (insert here the obligatory “I don’t agree with much of what he says, but”). This past year I’ve found his content to be as reliable as you hope for, which didn’t prevent him from being accused of outright lying in maybe five different articles. I found those accusations to be roughly as well sourced as this UN report.

      • Megafire says:

        Milo Yiannopolous is an arrogant asshole. This is not a quality unique to him in the field of tech writers, but what is unique about him is that he’s entirely honest and straight-forward about the fact that he’s an arrogant asshole, which is honestly kind of refreshing and one of the main reasons I enjoy reading his work.

        • 27chaos says:

          I prefer when people know they are arrogant assholes but recognize that as a flaw in themselves and try to compensate for it. When you know you’re an arrogant asshole but you embrace it, you can travel to crazytown at the speed of light. I think people often give too much credit to other people just for seeming “bold”, exhibit A is Donald Trump. I don’t see remarks such as that as courageous, but rather as an intentional choice to seek out a particular demographic for support, whether in the form of ad revenue or cash. Whether or not Milo ends up on the side of the truth is coincidental to what motivates him, because he’s a jerk.

  32. JonCB says:

    RE: Medieval Fighting…

    For someone of his stated credentials there seems a lot to be desired about this post. I was going to do a much deeper post but finding the documentation that I would owe this forum while at work is going to be difficult. So just some thoughts, which i can unpack if anyone has an interest.

    Swords: There is almost as much variance in swords as there is in every other weapon available… as such any section that talks about “Swords” is going to have problems. Long swords as purely a knightly weapon is a myth… documentation exists of Archers being required to carry Long Swords as an example.

    Leather Armour: As it is written I have massive problems with this section. I think it’s probably not completely wrong if you’re hugely specific about semantics and period but if your period isn’t “Late medieval” and your semantics aren’t “only leather on all the places” then I think you’ll have a hard time proving “Historically, this does not really exist” since i’m pretty sure I have seen documentation showing otherwise. Off the top of my head… Leather Lamellar and Leather Bracers.

    Maille: This section i’m mostly OK with with two additional points. Firstly, Maille has a funny history of effectiveness with both extremes being commonly documented (and tested in the modern setting). I wouldn’t consider this point settled at all. Secondly, Good maille becomes quite heavy if you’re not wearing it correctly. Anyone who watched the episode where the mythbusters build team tried to do an obstacle course in maille has seen what happens if you don’t belt your mail tightly on your hips.

    Plate: This section is a mixed bag. The information about movement in plate is mostly right although I think it downplays the restrictions a little particularly on mid to low quality plate. Targetting the visor or the joints was FAR from a supernatural thing, it was something people trained for. The wrestling (that was mentioned) changes subtly compared to unarmoured combat because the movement restriction of armour can be used to cripple(e.g. joint locks that will separate shoulders). Fior Di Battaglia(an Italian fighting manual) specialised in this.

    Bows: This seems a little more ad hominem that it should be but i’ve seen plenty of panning of his video source as being basically wrong about any statement it made about historical bow-work. I don’t fundamentally disagree with his points except to suggest that it’s a whole lot more complex than is portrayed here.

  33. The medieval combat stuff is right in some things, such as weight of swords and armor and the importance of wrestling. But it’s full of generalizations that might apply to some times and places but not others.

    For instance, spears vs swords. There are lots of descriptions of combats in the Icelandic sagas, one on one or small numbers. Spears are typically thrown. Hand to hand combat is mostly swords and axes, occasionally a halberd. The shields mentioned are sufficiently thin to be routinely cut through by weapons. One set of rules for holmgang, judicial combat, permitted each side three shields, assumed to be each in turn destroyed. The point I think he may be missing is that spears are relatively cheap compared to swords, since wood was cheap and iron expensive. That explains why spears are so common, especially in large number combats.

    • Tibor says:

      Then again, the Macedonians employed the phalanx probably not for the reasons of it being cheap. The pattern was, as I understand it, that the Macedonians used highly trained and top-notch equipped forces which proved to be a winning strategy against the Persian levée en masse approach to warfare…but I am not 100% sure about the quality of Persian troops. Swordsmen seem to have been only used as an auxiliary force to defend the vulnerable flanks of the phalanx. Ultimately, the more mobile Roman cohorts seem to have been a good strategy against the phalanx, being able to outmaneuver them…but I am not sure why a proper response to the invention of stirrups and subsequent dominance of armoured knights on the battlefield was not countered by a reinvention of the phalanx (I can only think of economic reasons, since the phalanx does not work if you don’t have very well trained soldie