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

Against Dog Whistle-ism

I.

Back during the primary, Ted Cruz said he was against “New York values”.

A chump might figure that, being a Texan whose base is in the South and Midwest, he was making the usual condemnation of coastal elites and arugula-eating liberals that every other Republican has made before him, maybe with a special nod to the fact that his two most relevant opponents, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, were both from New York.

But sophisticated people immediately detected this as an “anti-Semitic dog whistle”, eg Cruz’s secret way of saying he hated Jews. Because, you see, there are many Jews in New York. By the clever strategem of using words that had nothing to do with Jews or hatred, he was able to effectively communicate his Jew-hatred to other anti-Semites without anyone else picking up on it.

Except of course the entire media, which seized upon it as a single mass. New York values is coded anti-Semitism. New York values is a classic anti-Semitic slur. New York values is an anti-Semitic comment. New York values is an anti-Semitic code word. New York values gets called out as anti-Semitism. My favorite is this article whose headline claims that Ted Cruz “confirmed” that he meant his New York values comment to refer to Jews; the “confirmation” turned out to be that he referred to Donald Trump as having “chutzpah”. It takes a lot of word-I-am-apparently-not-allowed-to-say to frame that as a “confirmation”.

Meanwhile, back in Realityville (population: 6), Ted Cruz was attending synagogue services at his campaign tour, talking about his deep love and respect for Judaism, and getting described as “a hero” in many parts of the Orthodox Jewish community” for his stance that “if you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you.”

But he once said “New York values”, so clearly all of this was just really really deep cover for his anti-Semitism.

II.

Unlike Ted Cruz, former London mayor Ken Livingstone said something definitely Jew-related and definitely worrying.

A month or two ago a British MP named Naz Shah got in trouble for sharing a Facebook post saying Israel should be relocated to the United States. Fellow British politician Ken Livingstone defended her, and one thing led to another, and somewhere in the process he might have kind of said that Hitler supported Zionism.

This isn’t totally out of left field. During the Nazi period in Germany, some Nazis who wanted to get rid of the Jews and some Jews who wanted to get away from the Nazis created the Haavara Agreement, which facilitated German Jewish emigration to Palestine. Hitler was ambivalent on the idea but seems to have at least supported some parts of it at some points. But it seems fair to say that calling Hitler a supporter of Zionism was at the very least a creative interpretation of the historical record.

The media went further, again as a giant mass. Ken Livingstone is anti-Semitic. Ken Livingstone is anti-Semitic. Ken Livingstone is anti-Semitic. Ken Livingstone is anti-Semitic. Ken Livingstone is anti-Semitic. I understand he is now having to defend himself in front of a parliamentary hearing on anti-Semitism.

So. First things first. Ken Livingstone is tasteless, thoughtless, embarrassing, has his foot in his mouth, is inept, clownish and offensive, and clearly made a blunder of cosmic proportions.

But is he anti-Semitic?

When I think “anti-Semitic”, I think of people who don’t like, maybe even hate, Jews. I think of the medieval burghers who accused Jews of baking matzah with the blood of Christian children. I think of the Russians who would hold pogroms and kill Jews and burn their property. I think of the Nazis. I think of people who killed various distant family members of mine without a second thought.

Obviously Livingstone isn’t that anti-Semitic. But my question is, is he anti-Semitic at all? Is there any sense in which his comments reveal that, in his heart of hearts, he really doesn’t like Jews? That he thinks of them as less – even slightly less – than Gentiles? That if he were to end up as Prime Minister of Britain, this would be bad in a non-symbolic, non-stupid-statement-related way for Britain’s Jewish community? Does he just say dumb things, or do the dumb things reflect some underlying attitude of his that colors his relationship with Jews in general?

(speaking of “his relationship with Jews”, he brings up in his own defense that two of his ex-girlfriends are Jewish)

I haven’t seen anyone present any evidence that Livingstone has any different attitudes or policies towards Jews than anyone else in his general vicinity. I don’t think even his worst enemies suggest that during a hypothetical Livingstone administration he would try (or even want) to kick the Jews out of Britain, or make them wear gold stars, or hire fewer Jews for top posts (maybe he’d hire more, if he makes his hiring decisions the same way he makes his dating decisions). It sounds like he might be less sympathetic to Israel than some other British people, but I think he describes his preferred oppositional policies toward Israel pretty explicitly. I don’t think knowing that he made a very ill-advised comment about the Haavara agreement should make us believe he is lying about his Israel policies and would actually implement ones that are even more oppositional than he’s letting on.

Where am I going with this? It’s stupid to care that Ken Livingstone describes 1930s Germany in a weird way qua describing 1930s Germany in a weird way; he’s a politician and not a history textbook writer. It seems important only insofar as his weird description reveals something about him, insofar as it’s a sort of Freudian slip revealing deep-seated attitudes that he had otherwise managed to keep hidden. The British press framed Livingstone’s comments as an explosive revelation, an “aha! now we see what Labour is really like!” They’re really like…people who describe the 1930s in a really awkward and ill-advised way? That’s not a story. It’s a story only if the weird awkward description reveals more important attitudes of Livingstone’s and Labour’s that might actually affect the country in an important way.

But not only is nobody making this argument, but nobody even seems to think it’s an argument that has to be made. It’s just “this is an offensive thing involving Jews, that means it’s anti-Semitic, that means the guy who said it is anti-Semitic”. Maybe he is. I’m just not sure this incident proves much one way or the other.

III.

Nobody reads things online anymore unless they involve senseless violence, Harambe the gorilla, or Donald Trump. I can’t think of a relevant angle for the first two, so Trump it is.

Donald Trump is openly sexist. We know this because every article about him prominently declares that he is “openly sexist” or “openly misogynist” in precisely those words. Trump is openly misogynist. Trump is openly misogynist. Trump is openly misogynist. Trump shows blatant misogyny. Trump is openly sexist. Trump is openly sexist and gross.

But if you try to look for him being openly anything, the first quote anyone mentions is the one where he says Megyn Kelly has blood coming out of her “wherever”. As somebody who personally ends any list of more than three items with “… and whatever”, I may be more inclined than most to believe his claim that no anatomical reference was intended. But even if he was in fact talking about her anatomy – well, we’re back to Livingstone again. The comment is crude, stupid, puerile, offensive, gross, inappropriate, and whatever. But sexist?

When I think of “sexist” or “misogynist”, I think of somebody who thinks women are inferior to men, or hates women, or who thinks women shouldn’t be allowed to have good jobs or full human rights, or who wants to disadvantage women relative to men in some way.

This does not seem to apply very well to Trump. It’s been remarked several times that his policies are more “pro-women” in the political sense than almost any other Republican candidate in recent history – he defends Planned Parenthood, defends government support for child care, he’s flip-flopped to claiming he’s pro-life but is much less convincing about it than the average Republican. And back before his campaign, he seems to have been genuinely proud of his record as a pro-women employer. From his Art of the Deal, written in the late 1980s (ie long before he was campaigning):

The person I hired to be my personal representative overseeing the construction, Barbara Res, was the first woman ever put in charge of a skyscraper in New York…I’d watched her in construction meetings, and what I liked was that she took no guff from anyone. She was half the size of most of these bruising guys, but she wasn’t afraid to tell them off when she had to, and she knew how to get things done.

It’s funny. My own mother was a housewife all her life. And yet it’s turned out that I’ve hired a lot of women for top jobs, and they’ve been among my best people. Often, in fact, they are far more effective than the men around them. Louise Sunshine, who was an executive vice president in my company for ten years, was as relentless a fighter as you’ll ever meet. Blanche Sprague, the executive vice president who handles all sales and oversses the interior design of my buildings, is one of the best salespeople and managers I’ve ever met. Norma Foerderer, my executive assistant, is sweet and charming and very classy, but she’s steel underneath, and people who think she can be pushed around find out very quickly that they’re mistaken.

There have since been a bunch of news reports on how Trump was (according to the Washington Post) “ahead of his time in providing career advancement for women” and how “while some say he could be boorish, his companies nurtured and promoted women in an otherwise male-dominated industry”. According to internal (ie hard-to-confirm) numbers, his organization is among the few that have more female than male executives.

Meanwhile, when I check out sites like Women Hold Up Signs With Donald Trump’s Most Sexist Quotes, the women are holding up signs with quotes like “A person who is flat-chested is very hard to be a 10” (yes, he actually said that). This is undeniably boorish. But are we losing something when we act as if “boorish” and “sexist” are the same thing? Saying “Donald Trump is openly boorish” doesn’t have the same kind of ring to it.

This bothers me in the same way the accusations that Ken Livingstone is anti-Semitic bother me. If Trump thinks women aren’t attractive without big breasts, then His Kink Is Not My Kink But His Kink Is Okay. If Trump is dumb enough to say out loud that he thinks women aren’t attractive without big breasts, that says certain things about his public relations ability and his dignity-or-lack-thereof, but it sounds like it requires a lot more steps to suggest he is a bad person, or would have an anti-woman administration, or anything that we should actually care about.

(if you’re going to bring up “objectification”, then at least you have some sort of theory for how this tenuously connects, but it doesn’t really apply to the Megyn Kelly thing, and anyway, this)

And what bothers me most about this is that word “openly”. Donald Trump says a thousand times how much he wants to fight for women and thinks he will be a pro-women president, then makes some comments that some people interpret as revealing a deeper anti-women attitude, and all of a sudden he’s openly sexist? Maybe that word doesn’t mean what you think it means.

IV.

I don’t want to claim dog whistles don’t exist. The classic example is G. W. Bush giving a speech that includes a Bible verse. His secular listeners think “what a wise saying”, and his Christian listeners think “ah, I recognize that as a Bible verse, he must be very Christian”.

The thing is, we know G. W. Bush was pretty Christian. His desire to appeal to Christian conservatives isn’t really a secret. He might be able to modulate his message a little bit to his audience, but it wouldn’t be revealing a totally new side to his personality. Nor could somebody who understood his “dog whistles” predict his policy more accurately than somebody who just went off his stated platform.

I guess some of the examples above might have gotten kind of far from what people would usually call a “dog whistle”, but I feel like there’s an important dog-whistle-related common thread in all of these cases.

In particular, I worry there’s a certain narrative, which is catnip for the media: Many public figures are secretly virulently racist and sexist. If their secret is not discovered, they will gain power and use their racism and sexism to harm women and minorities. Many of their otherwise boring statements are actually part of a code revealing this secret, and so very interesting. Also, gaffes are royal roads to the unconscious which must be analyzed obsessively. By being very diligent and sophisticated, journalists can heroically ferret out which politicians have this secret racism, and reveal it to a grateful world.

There’s an old joke about a man who walks into a bar. The bar patrons are holding a weird ritual. One of them will say a number, like “twenty-seven”, and the others of them will break into laughter. He asks the bartender what’s going on. The bartender explains that they all come here so often that they’ve memorized all of each other’s jokes, and instead of telling them explicitly, they just give each a number, say the number, and laugh appropriately. The man is intrigued, so he shouts “Two thousand!”. The other patrons laugh uproariously. “Why did they laugh more at mine than any of the others?” he asks the bartender. The bartender answers “They’d never heard that one before!”

In the same way, although dog whistles do exist, the dog whistle narrative has gone so far that it’s become detached from any meaningful referent. It went from people saying racist things, to people saying things that implied they were racist, to people saying the kind of things that sound like things that could imply they are racist even though nobody believes that they are actually implying that. Saying things that sound like dog whistles has itself become the crime worthy of condemnation, with little interest in whether they imply anything about the speaker or not.

Against this narrative, I propose a different one – politicians’ beliefs and plans are best predicted by what they say their beliefs and plans are, or possibly what beliefs and plans they’ve supported in the past, or by anything other than treating their words as a secret code and trying to use them to infer that their real beliefs and plans are diametrically opposite the beliefs and plans they keep insisting that they hold and have practiced for their entire lives.

Let me give a snarky and totally unfair example. This is from the New York Times in 1922 (source):

I won’t say we should always believe that politicians are honest about their beliefs and preferred policies. But I am skeptical when the media claims to have special insight into what they really think.

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1,273 Responses to Against Dog Whistle-ism

  1. null says:

    Note that this is not unique to current media, as shown by the fact that someone connected Obama misspeaking and saying he’d been to 57 states with ‘taking oaths to the Muslim Brotherhood’. http://www.mediaite.com/tv/rep-louie-gohmert-obama-57-states-gaffe-hints-at-loyalty-to-islamic-states/

    I make no claim as to the relative frequency of these incidents.

    • Alsadius says:

      The most amusing part to me of the “57 states” line is that he was running in the primary at the time, and in Democratic primaries, 57 different states and non-state groups vote(the usual 50 plus DC, Puerto Rico, Guam, Marianas, Samoa, Virgin Islands, and Democrats Abroad). I didn’t realize this until last year.

      If you look at the full clip, it’s clearly not what he meant, but it’s still funny.

      • CatCube says:

        It’s similar to people who mock G.W. Bush for “misunderestimated.” A politician made a simple gaffe, and it’s taken as a larger indictment of him.

        There’s plenty of good reasons to dislike President Obama. That he was exhausted on the campaign trail and mixed up the number of constituencies and number of states isn’t one of them.

        • Xeno says:

          Also, I have occasionally pointed out that some Gaffes “Misunderestimated” , “Decided” get wider circulation than others, as “57 States” or Marine “Corpse-man” or “Have you seen the Price of Arugula?”. If you have heard only one or the other, you may be in an echo chamber.

          • CatCube says:

            I had actually forgotten about the “corpseman” one, since as you said, it’s not published by regular media outlets (especially comedians) the way that Bush’s gaffes were.

            It probably doesn’t hurt Obama that many of the people that mocked Bush on national TV would have made the same mistake themselves. (I’m in the Corps of Engineers, and it’s common for “corps” to attract mispronunciation and misspellings–“US Army Corp of Engineers”–even by fairly educated people.)

        • Alsadius says:

          “Misunderestimated” was not a gaffe. It was a tongue-in-cheek mockery of the people who were misunderestimating him, and they were too blinded by superiority to notice. It sums up his entire political career in a single word – it sounds stupid, and it pisses off the self-described elites, but it’s really not stupid at all.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          It wasn’t even that much of a gaffe. “Misunderestimated” is a bad word, but “overhyped” and “overexaggerated” are bad in precisely the same way and I see people using them all the time.

    • ryan says:

      I’m glad I took a moment to hover over some of the links. Otherwise, I might have taken at face value Scott’s assertion that declarations of Trump’s open misogeny were all over the media. How had I miess this? I read more newspapers than anyone I know. So it turns out what “all over the media” meant was a handful of bloggers, alternet and maybe something in Glamour magazine. Hoo-boy. Talk about sensationalizing things. I expect much better from this blog.

      • Outis says:

        Well, everyone seems to think that Trump is “openly sexist”. If that notion was only advanced by the blogs Scott cites, and not by the newspapers you read, perhaps that just means the blogs are actually more mainstream than you think, and the newspapers less.

        • HP Blount says:

          Doesn’t this link back to what Scott was saying about Tribes. How, on the face of it, it may seem impossible for Scott to know so few republicans despite living in a republican state and 40-50~% of the American people are republicans. Yet, when you factor in how we can become isolated within our social groups, so unintentionally, with the subtle politicisation of things as mundane as what restaurant you eat in.

          When Scott says that *everyone* thinks Trump is openly sexist, he’s really just falling victim to a trap he has spoken about himself. What he means to say is *everyone I come into contact with* thinks Trump is openly sexist.

  2. Berl says:

    I basically agree with this, but would offer one caveat, which is that people’s comments can often help indicate when an existing policy or organizational principal or whatever is MORE COMPLEX than it appears to be – that while it shouldn’t be discounted completely it should be investigated and perhaps not treated at face value. For example, say you go to interview the (male) CEO of a company that is famous for promoting women. The COO attends the meeting with you and the CEO, he treats her respectfully, but then as soon as she leaves he looked at you, rolls his eyes, and says “Dames! Amiright?” Nothing about the external situation has changed, but perhaps things aren’t quite as they seemed, and perhaps this has implications for judging why the CEO pursued these policies and what he might do in the future. Thus while as I said I agree 99% with this posts, I do think that on-the-faceism can be taken too far; just as dog-whistleism can be (and is). Trump might be an example of this.

    • Econopunk says:

      Turn the tables and say that after an interview that consists of 2 interviewers (1 male and 1 female) and 1 interviewee (male) ends, one of the interviewers, a female, leaves. As the interviewee is about to leave, he remarks to the still-remaining male interviewer, “Dames! Amiright?” Would the male interviewer higher him? If the male interviewer later tells the female interviewer what happened, would the female interviewer hire him? And if the electorate is the interviewer and presidential nominees are interviewees, would we (depending on who “we,” is, of course) want to hire this interviewee?

      With a politician, of course, they have voting and policy records, so you can always go with that. But politicians to have terms and it’s not always easy to remove a politician from office once they’re there. (Let’s say a politician wins 55% of the vote. Once he’s in office, he starts talking smack about the 45% that didn’t vote for him. But to impeach him, you need 60% of the vote. Shouldn’t the 45% be concerned that they’re stuck with this guy for the term?) Plus, Trump has never held a political office in his past, right? So we can analyze his business practices (but these are private matters and thus he’ll have an easier time hiding or doing PR-makeup on them – I mean, the quote above is from his book, which can’t exactly be assumed to be unbiased) but not his political practices.

      Do dog whistles immediately mean that the person is secretly evil? No. But should we ignore all dog whistle-remarks? I don’t think so. I think it’s totally fine to use them as opportunities to investigate someone’s political record – because we should be investigating everyone’s public political record all the time, anyway. Politician’s do have power and we consider their words to often be more powerful than the average person’s – otherwise, we would never interview them in newspapers and on TV since we would purely use their past voting records to analyze them.

      Basically, society seems to evaluate people in society in different ways, depending on the person’s profession. You can evaluate them like the SATs evaluate students – purely their record – or like interviews – that involve a lot of dialogue that doesn’t get written down at any point. We seem to evaluate scientists like the SAT evaluates students – we value Watson for his contributions to DNA even if he is sexist and racist. We seem to evaluate politicians like interviewers – even if a politician’s records and accomplishments are so-so, we tend to give a lot of praise for powerful or skillful orators. And if we praise politicians for good speech, it’s natural to criticize them for bad speech. I can’t find any sources now, but I recall that there have been studies showing that people are happier when a leader/president they have inspires them regardless of the political leader’s actual policy success. I imagine if the political leader does the opposite and has gaffes and faux pas all the time, there’s the opposite effect. Past political records are the most important thing, but there’s no need to willfully ignore dog whistle-remarks.

      • My reaction to the “dames” hypotheticals is that they tell us very little about the speaker other than that he isn’t as careful as he might be about what he says. There are lots of ways in which men and women have different styles and there is nothing particularly odd or misogynist about a man finding some feature of women’s style of interaction irritating or a woman finding some feature of men’s style irritating. Most people, if they were honest, would confess to being bothered by some characteristics of even their nearest and dearest–certainly my wife, current holder of the world’s record for having put with me for the longest time, would.

        It’s a bit of a jump from “that feature of that woman’s style of interaction irritated me” to “dames,” with the implication that it’s true of women and general, but a much larger jump from that to “he has a low opinion of women.”

        • MugaSofer says:

          I’d be willing to bet that it correlates with other sexist attitudes.

          • Anonymous says:

            Just wondering – would you also be willing to bet that a white person having black friends anti-correlates with racist attitudes? I would, but the standard claim seems to be that of course it doesn’t. Though perhaps that’s due to common tendency to see matters in terms of blanket proof/disproof rather than varying degrees of likelihood, correlations, etc.

          • Subbak says:

            I think it’s also that the “I have a lot of black friends” is often seen as a convenient lie, given that for sufficiently public people we already know who they associate with.
            And then there are people who manage to sound even more racist when they use that defense, like that French politician (Nadine Morano) who, after making a racist comment about Arabs, said “I’m not racist, I have a friend from Cameroun, she’s blacker than an Arab”. Yeah…

        • Jeff says:

          I think it depends on how sarcastic the remark is. Someone who repeatedly judges all women after an encounter with an individual woman probably has some sexist tendencies. But if said in a clearly facetious way, then it just means they have a (perhaps off-key) sense of humor and aren’t necessarily sexist at all.

      • LPSP says:

        >Watson
        >Sexist and racist
        Thanks for the chuckle. Pretty good post in any case.

    • Hanfeizi says:

      As an aside:

      Alan Greenspan was long looked upon as a feminist because of all the promising female economists he hired and surrounded himself with. In his memoirs, he replied that it was nothing of the sort- they were less desired by other shops on the street because they were women, so he could pick up great talent at a lower cost; it was simply being a shrewd businessman and exploiting a market inefficiency.

      I wonder if Trump is similar.

  3. AnonymousCoward says:

    When the media and others point these things out, my thinking is that they’re actually pointing out the politician’s failure to perform the shibboleths of their readers’ tribe. The things you are and aren’t allowed to say are arbitrary, but if you were a member of the right tribe you would know which ones you are and aren’t allowed to say. Thus a gaffe is something that outs a politician as not a member of a tribe – and thus not worthy of that tribe’s admiration.

    The better politicians become at performing membership of tribes they don’t belong to, the more subtle the distinctions between allowed and disallowed utterances must become in order to distinguish true tribe members from imitators.

    • E. Harding says:

      Bingo. But I think it’s meant as something more than that. Most Dems do really think that “Trump’s a racist and sexist”! is a winning argument to undecideds.

      • cassander says:

        It won’t make the undecideds support your guy, but it very well might keep them from supporting Trump.

        • Furslid says:

          This, but not necessarily because it makes them like Trump less. It’s because calling someone sexist or racist is an obvious prelude to attacking their supporters.

          “Trump is racist” also can mean “I will be nasty to you if you support Trump.” Many people take the warning and don’t support him. Why risk a decent relationship for a candidate the undecided voter doesn’t feel strongly aboutn.

    • Fazathra says:

      When the media and others point these things out, my thinking is that they’re actually pointing out the politician’s failure to perform the shibboleths of their readers’ tribe. The things you are and aren’t allowed to say are arbitrary, but if you were a member of the right tribe you would know which ones you are and aren’t allowed to say. Thus a gaffe is something that outs a politician as not a member of a tribe – and thus not worthy of that tribe’s admiration.

      I think it’s simpler than that. Trump and Cruz etc were running as republicans. Racist/sexist etc are leftist political insults (anti-semitic is more bipartisan). They effectively have no meaning beyond ‘this person is bad. Don’t vote for him.’ Of course leftist media outlets are going to find ways to attack any republican candidate as sexist/racist etc no matter what they say or do. If the republicans somehow reanimated MLK and ran him tomorrow the media would suddenly discover that he was secretly a racist white supremacist all along who hates women and jews. It’s just standard political shit-flinging really.

      • lunatic says:

        Racist and sexist obviously have meanings beyond “this person is bad”, even if some people might be too liberal in their use.

    • Anthony says:

      Is saying that people are complaining that someone is “not a member of the tribe” an anti-seimitic dog-whistle?

      • Dain says:

        Exactly! It’s like, I understand how broaching the subject may be admissable in the abstract and cool on its own terms, but who apart from someone at least ever so marginally more amenable to anti-semitic thinking would even bring it up? At least relative to someone who NEVER would?

        That’s where we’re at now.

    • Dain says:

      I think many of the more thoughtful progressives know that Trump is no klansman, but you see this rhetoric (as I did just today) because it’s a useful strategy for motivating their side to get out there and prevent him from becoming president. The opposition at any given moment, as you know, always THE WORST POSSIBLE MANIFESTATION OF ITSELF EVER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD because it’s useful to believe that. Only in retrospect, when they’re no longer a clear and present danger, can the truth be uttered (e.g. with Reagan, it seems).

  4. Anonymous says:

    Is it anti-Semitic to want and support Jewish people moving to Israel?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think if it’s so that there are fewer of them in your own country, yes.

      If it’s just because you think they’d like it better there or something, maybe not, but I think it would be a terrible idea to say it because you will definitely get confused for the first group of people.

      • Anonymous says:

        Is there any difference if a Jewish person expresses this sentiment, vs. a non-Jewish person? (Can a Jew be anti-Semitic?)

        • Evan Þ says:

          Yes, just like an African-American can be racist, and a woman can be sexist. It would, of course, be marginally less likely than for a Gentile.

          • Anonymous says:

            There are those who would claim that women cannot be sexist, and american blacks cannot be racist. You might dismiss them without a thought, but of course the dismissing viewpoints not sufficiently close to yours in argument-space is precisely what being closed-minded is.

          • Cliff says:

            Well an African-American could be racist AGAINST asians, for example, but a Jew can’t be anti-Semitic against some other group of people. I think it’s much rarer for a black person to be racist against other black people than to be racist against asians or whites, but I’m sure it does happen.

            Anonymous, I recommend that you refer to the post on trolling. We can’t be bothered with refuting absurd arguments all day long that hinge on re-defining commonly accepted words as convenient.

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          I’m very concerned because I think the Jews want to drive the elephants to extinction because the trunk of an elephant reminds them of an uncircumcised penis. I’m absolutely serious about that… Jews are sick, they’re mental cases.

          Dear Mr. Osama bin Laden allow me to introduce myself. I am Bobby Fischer, the World Chess Champion. First of all you should know that I share your hatred of the murderous bandit state of “Israel” and its chief backer the Jew-controlled U.S.A. also know [sic] as the “Jewnited States” or “Israel West.” We also have something else in common: We are both fugitives from the U.S. “justice” system.

          Both quotes by Bobby Fischer (He denied being Jewish, but I am not sure in the ethnic or religious sense).

          • LPSP says:

            Last I checked his family was jewish on at least one side, but no religous pratice for one or more generation before him.

        • Anonymous says:

          Thanks for the answers.

          Tangentially – what is the minimum standard for being sexist nowadays?

          • ChetC3 says:

            There isn’t one. Anyone, at any time, can come to the conclusion that a person is sexist, and use their first amendment rights to express that.

        • Yehoshua K says:

          Yes, there is a difference, but also yes, a Jew can be anti-semitic. If I, as an Orthodox Jew living in Israel, say that “I would like more Jews to move to Israel,” it’s reasonable to interpret that in a non-antisemitic sense. If Karl Marx or Bobby Fischer, both of whom were of Jewish ethnic background and confirmed anti-semites, said the same thing, we should probably interpret it in an anti-semitic sense.

          • birdboy2000 says:

            Marx wasn’t an anti-semite. He was anti-religion, but there was no racial character to his opposition to Judaism as a faith – an opposition mirrored by his opposition to pretty much every other faith.

          • TexasLamar says:

            Birdboy, Marxwrote something called on the jewish question, full of quotes like

            What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money.…. Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of man – and turns them into commodities…. The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange…. The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the man of money in general.”

            And many other quotes that are as bad or worse liking Jews to a money-grubbing, parasitic race who can only be redeemed by giving up their identity and assimilulating to the wider society.

            The average gentile or even non-ideologue jew could be expected to be reliably identified as anti-Semitic for quotes such as these, but as an ethnic Jew and then founder of a very academically influential movement that spawned many More Marx often gets a free pass.

          • birdboy2000 says:

            I’ve read “On the Jewish Question” and still don’t consider him an anti-semite. Hostile to Judaism, sure (and just as hostile to Christianity) but you’re missing the distinction I’m making; anti-semitism suggests a racial inferiority, not something which could be removed through assimilation.

            “Money degrades all the gods of man and turns them into commodities,” incidentally, struck me as the real point of that piece. Well, that and “No one in Germany is politically emancipated. We ourselves are not free. How are we to free you? You Jews are egoists if you demand a special emancipation for yourselves as Jews. As Germans, you ought to work for the political emancipation of Germany, and as human beings, for the emancipation of mankind.”

          • nydwracu says:

            anti-semitism suggests a racial inferiority, not something which could be removed through assimilation.

            Wanna bet?

      • vV_Vv says:

        So Zionists are (or may be) anti-Semitic?

      • ad says:

        IIRC from Timothy Snyders Black Earth, the pre-war Polish government really did support Zionism as a way of getting Jews out of Poland. To the point of supporting Zionist attacks on Britain in Palestine whilst trying to get Britain to ally with Poland to protect it against Nazi Germany.

  5. E. Harding says:

    This is like what I said in one of my posts:

    “The popular display of the Confederate flag at present cannot possibly be generally a symbol of slavery or racism. What, do Democrats seriously think that White Republican Southerners bearing the Confederate battle flag are going to rise up, march into the inner cities, put the n*ggers back in chains, and drive them to the countryside to push their unemployment rate to Soviet levels? Do they think they’ll re-institute segregation and Jim Crow the moment they’ll get their hands on government without Federal obstruction? It is obvious that even Democrats cannot be so lunatical as to believe such things. ”

    Also, dog whistles do exist. But typically they stand for something concrete. I had the feeling the whole ridiculous Syria strike non-proposal in August 2013 was one giant dog-whistle. But to whom? Possibly Saudi Arabia and Turkey. I did not for a minute think Obama was ever seriously considering strikes on Syria.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I doubt the Confederate flag shows secret racism, but I would expect people who fly the Confederate flag to be more racist (within the relevant Overton Window) than people who don’t.

      • K says:

        I’d expect people who use the word “N*gger” in their post (quoting themselves) to be more racist than people that don’t.

        • E. Harding says:

          🙂 Funny, but consider the context. Sure, I have semi-seriously proposed limiting the franchise to white males under the age of 30, on the basis that this is the most revolutionary group of people who are most closely connected to the lessons of the past few years. But I never use the term in everyday language, and am only using it to double or triple the offense people would experience while reading my wildly implausible and offensive hypothetical scenarios, which are already offensive and implausible enough as they are. Mostly, it’s out of anger with those who say that the confederate flag is racist, therefore it must never receive any person’s support. I still can’t tell what, exactly, these people are thinking.

      • E. Harding says:

        Sure. But what’s the point of left-wingers denying the typical “Southern pride” justification? And, again, if modern confederate flag-bearers do get into total power, what are they gonna do to harm minorities? I doubt it would look something like the Redemption of 1876-1900.

        • Subbak says:

          Why would it be okay to fly a Confederate flag and not a nazi flag (I’m not saying allowed, I know flying a nazi flag is legal in the US and I’m not having that debate here and now)?
          In particular, there are a lot of people who, with good reason, associate the Confederate flag with a “fuck black people” symbol. When someone keeps flying it even though they have made their problems with it clear, it’s kind of spitting in their face. If you think “flying the Confederate Flag to celebrate Souther pride in is OK”, then by that same token you should think flying a nazi flag to celebrate the first highways built in Europe should be OK.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            It’s not a bad analogy, because both German and Southern pride have been heavily stigmatized. Far out of proportion in my view.

            That might seem prudent when you’re thinking about it in a “Never Again” sort of way or are pushing an internationalist ideology. Though ultimately, as in the case of Weimar Germany and the South during Reconstruction, stripping people of their pride and sense of community leaves them open to demagogues and extremists who are willing to provide it.

            I don’t think liking ‘Gone with the Wind’ and respecting Stonewall Jackson, or enjoying ‘Das Boot’ and respecting Rommel for that matter, should be considered a black mark on your character. Not all of history is pleasant but people will respect their ancestors nonetheless.

          • Anonymous says:

            I think that longevity is one of the main reasons. Hitler ruled over Germany for about a decade, while the American south has had a distinct culture for hundreds of years. Nazi Germany isnt really seperate from the rest of germany and therefore the flag isnt a part of their heritage like the Southern flag is a part of Southern Heritage.

          • Subbak says:

            @Anonymous: OK, I’m not American so I guess my US history is spotty, but was the Confederate flag used at all before the civil war? Because if not, it was in use for an even shorter time than the nazi flag, and entirely associated with a war to defend the right to have slaves.

            @Dr Dealgood: Plenty of people who enjoy “Das Boot” would be appalled at the idea of flying a nazi flag, and I assume the same is true of people who enjoy “Gone with the Wind” (or even the much more pro-South “The Birth of a Nation”) with regard to the Confederate flag.

            re: pride of sense of community, it reminds me of that.
            http://lesswrong.com/lw/fm/a_parable_on_obsolete_ideologies/

          • caethan says:

            There is no “Southern flag”. Hitler ruled Germany for longer than the Confederacy existed. If longevity grants legitimacy, then the Nazi flag is more legitimate than the Confederate battle flag.

            I have no problem with Southern pride. There are lots of things to be proud of – good food, good manners, pleasant people, and everyone is proud of their own culture. There is nothing to be proud of about the Confederacy. It was borne in treason by fools in defense of a cause which was, as Grant said, “one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse,” who were too stupid to realize they could never have won the fight they started.

          • Fahundo says:

            Semi-related: the swastika meant something completely different before the Nazis appropriated it. I am entirely in favor of people displaying swastikas because they like the design, or because they like having a visual representation of the four faces of Brahma or whatever.

            Also–the crucifix is a symbol of one of the most horrifying forms of execution that has ever existed, and yet today it is seen as a positive image.

          • keranih says:

            In particular, there are a lot of people who, with good reason, associate the Confederate flag with a “fuck black people” symbol. When someone keeps flying it even though they have made their problems with it clear, it’s kind of spitting in their face.

            That someone has emotional reaction ‘X’ about thing ‘Y’ is not a requirement that I have the same reaction to Y.

            In terms of Confederate vs Nazi debates, however, it’s possible to substitute the German flag for the Nazi flag, if one wants to celebrate German culture. There is not a handy substitute for the South to use for celebrating their culture.

            Which is part of the point – to many people, the anti-Stars and Bars campaign isn’t about promoting racial equality, it’s about making Southerners feel bad about being Southerners.

          • Jiro says:

            Hitler ruled Germany for longer than the Confederacy existed.

            Hitler ruled Germany only for a small percentage of the time Germany had a flag at all. The South only had a flag as the Confederacy.

            If the only time Germany was a country was under the Nazis, I’d expect a lot more Nazi flags, since there isn’t any other choice.

          • Saul Degraw says:

            When I was in Japan for the first time during the winter of 2000-2001, I saw a young woman cosplay in a complete SS uniform. The only difference was that she was Japanese and had a long purple hair. She was doing this in a public area.

            I wasn’t triggered but it did strike me that it was a good thing that this would be considered socially unacceptable in most of the United States and Western Europe.

            The Nazi regime was truly horrible and we should be shocked by their imagery. I don’t necessarily think being nonchalant about everything is good.

            I wonder how much the Japanese learn about the general horribleness of the Nazis though in their educations.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not American so I guess my US history is spotty, but was the Confederate flag used at all before the civil war? Because if not, it was in use for an even shorter time than the nazi flag,

            Southern culture has existed, distinct from American culture, for centuries. It has, distinct from American culture, much to commend. Nazi culture, distinct from German culture, existed for less than a generation and had, distinct from German culture, almost no commendable aspects.

            That the former Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia is now taken as an emblem of Southern culture, is an accident of historical vexillology of no great significance – as note that most people cannot recognize the actual flags of the CSA or the historical origin of the oft-misidentified “confederate flag” unless it is spelled out for them.

            This, means now what it is perceived as meaning now, without regard for what it may have meant in 1855, 1865, or 1875. And this,

            and entirely associated with a war to defend the right to have slaves.

            …is incorrect. Some people now associate it in that manner, some do not. From 1979 to 1985, a period longer than the entire civil war, that flag was throughout American culture and with little controversy associated with approximately all of the positive aspects of southern culture and approximately none of the negative ones. Times change. And historical fact, whether from 1865 or 1985, is a poor guide to understanding modern perception.

            The flag means what people want it to mean, and they won’t always agree on that and they may change their mind.

          • More recently, the Confederate flag was used as a symbol of supporting segregation.

            I have no idea what a good substitute symbol for pride in the good aspects of the region would be.

          • Matt M says:

            “More recently, the Confederate flag was used as a symbol of supporting segregation.”

            And more recently than that, it was a simple for liking country music, cheap beer, and NASCAR.

            But then some kid shot up a black church and it turned out he liked it too and since then it has once again become a symbol for slavery, oppression, and racism.

            Weird how that works.

          • Nornagest says:

            was the Confederate flag used at all before the civil war?

            No. In fact, what we usually think of as the Confederate flag wasn’t even the flag of the Confederacy; it was the battle standard of certain Confederate military forces.

            (Even before the end of the Civil War, though, some Southern citizens had started treating it as a regional symbol. I don’t blame them; it’s a much better design than any of its national flags.)

          • I’m not sure if this is a valid argument, but black southern culture isn’t wildly different from white southern culture, at least in some respects, but I haven’t heard of black southerners using the Confederate flag to symbolize their culture.

          • Psmith says:

            I haven’t heard of black southerners using the Confederate flag to symbolize their culture.

            http://texasconfederateveterans.com/BlackSupporters.htm
            https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/07/21/outspoken-black-advocate-for-the-confederate-flag-killed-in-miss-car-crash/

            (This post not necessarily intended as a serious argument.).

          • Z says:

            I haven’t heard of black southerners using the Confederate flag to symbolize their culture.

            If you’ve spent enough time with working class people in Arkansas, you would have seen it firsthand.

            While almost no one I’ve ever known to use the flag down here is racist, they almost all have a decidedly anti-government outlook.

            I’m not sure I’ve ever even heard it called the “confederate flag” in person by another Arkansan, instead it’s always referred to simply as the “rebel flag”.

          • keranih says:

            I’m not sure if this is a valid argument, but black southern culture isn’t wildly different from white southern culture, at least in some respects, but I haven’t heard of black southerners using the Confederate flag to symbolize their culture.

            Leaving aside how the flag has been coopted by a variety of people – because one can find examples of everything – the South isn’t the only place where there is a difference between the culture of one race/ethnicity and that of others. The symbols for “Mexican” rodeos in Colorado, f’zample, are not the same as the PBR in Calgary, despite the overlap.

            For what it’s worth, I think the anti-Confederacy movement misjudged their hand and moved a little too soon. Had they been content to wait another generation, this wouldn’t have even been an issue.

            Again, if people aren’t going to promote something other than Dixie and the Rebel Flag (and yes, it’s interesting that it is being labeled “the Confederate Flag” than the previously more common ‘Rebel’ moniker, because why do you hate Rebels? Are you a Sith?) as a cultural touchstone for the region, they would be better served in just saying “racism is bad” and cutting out the middle man of “racism = CFB = bad”.

          • Karl says:

            If you want to show your German pride, the most obvious way is to use an actual German flag (I’m wearing a shirt with the German flag on it right now). If you choose the Nazi flag, you must be intentionally indicating something other than German pride. With southern pride, it’s less clear. There’s not a more obvious symbol that one is from the American South than the Confederate flag (one could use the flag of their actual state, but it doesn’t mean quite the same thing and most of them aren’t immediately recognizable), so I’m inclined to give Confederate flag displayers a little more latitude.

          • keranih says:

            A little fiction on the subject.

            Heh. (Very well written, by the way.) But without much…I would want to say charity, but ‘faith in the future’ is closer to what I mean, I think.

            People from outside the South sneer at eating watermelon, grits, fried chicken, cracklings and hushpuppies, as low class ‘black’ things, but that doesn’t stop white Southerners from liking those. Or talking in a Southern accent.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            it’s possible to substitute the German flag for the Nazi flag, if one wants to celebrate German culture. There is not a handy substitute for the South to use for celebrating their culture.

            The irony is that the “Stars and Bars” that most people think of when they hear “Confederate Flag” started as exactly that. The flag of the Confederate States of America looked like this. The flag currently known as “Confederate Flag” is actually the battle standard/guidon of Robert E Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Lee was seen by many on both sides as the living embodiment of everything that was to be admired about the South and Antebellum society in general. This made him (and his standard) a natural symbol for reconstruction-era southerners to rally around.

          • Matt M says:

            It’s interesting to bring up Rommel though. For a long time, Robert E Lee seemed to occupy a similar space of “worthy opponent whose military record merits respect, even if they fought for ideals we find abhorrent today.”

            I was certainly brought up to believe that by my military-buff but completely blue-tribe father. One of his favorite movies was Gettysburg, where Martin Sheen brilliantly portrays Lee as something of a God on Earth (no coincidence the follow-up movie was titled Gods and Generals).

            But that seems to have taken a sudden change over the last five years or so. Who is to say that it won’t eventually change for Rommel too?

          • 75th says:

            I’m not sure I’ve ever even heard it called the “confederate flag” in person by another Arkansan, instead it’s always referred to simply as the “rebel flag”.

            Fellow Arkansan chiming in. Not only is it called the “rebel flag”, but the phrase “The South will rise again!” is popular amongst its admirers.

          • Subbak says:

            re: Rommel, it strikes me that I should really ask my German co-workers what is the opinion of him in Germany. The image I had was sort of like that he was (along with Speer) one of the “slightly less bad” nazis in that they (probably) had reservations with the whole let’s kill all the jews thing. Sort of like Italian fascists. That wouldn’t make them good people, but less toxic than the ones who actively participated in and encouraged the Holocaust. I would still be suspicious of someone who considers him a hero.

          • Nornagest says:

            Wiki says Rommel wasn’t a member of the Nazi Party, though he doesn’t seem to have been particularly opposed to it either, at least during its earlier history.

            I seem to recall that the Nazis had a lot of trouble penetrating the high officer corps of the German army, a fact that may have contributed to them building their own private army in the SS. A lot of those guys were linked to the old-school aristocracy, while Nazism drew most of its support from the middle and working classes and tailored its style and rhetoric accordingly.

          • Brian says:

            Well, if you can show me a substantial group of people flying the Nazi flag to celebrate the Autobahn, we’ll talk.

            On the other hand, Hindus who display a swastika as a positive symbol in their religion should be deferred to, unless they start ranting about Aryan supremacy.

          • TrivialGravitas says:

            Meta comment: I’ve heard the nazi/confederate flag comparison before, and it was just met with cries of Godwin, its interesting that in this place people point out a relevant difference.

          • Alliteration says:

            @Brian
            “Well, if you can show me a substantial group of people flying the Nazi flag to celebrate the Autobahn, we’ll talk. ”
            This may be difficult because flying the Nazi flag is illegal in Germany. (exceptions exist for educational purposes)

          • Subbak says:

            Well, if you can show me a substantial group of people flying the Nazi flag to celebrate the Autobahn, we’ll talk.

            My example was deliberately ridiculous, but if you want something real and sort of close, spend enough time in comment sections of newspapers (a.k.a. the cesspit) and you’ll inevitably find someone going “Well, say what you want about Hitler, but at least he got the German economy back together”. Which is blatantly transparent code for “I think Hitler was a great guy”.

            So sure I can’t find an honest example of people praising positive aspects of the nazi regime without them not-so-secretely saying they’re nazis. But OTOH I don’t really believe people who wave the Confederate Flag / Rebel Flag to honor “Southern culture” are doing so entirely honestly.

            Now I haven’t really addressed before your argument of there being no other flag, instead I’ve used the nazi comparison which is not entirely appropriate. I’ll admit that’s because I hadn’t quite articulated the following argument:
            What did Southerners use before the civil war to signify Southern pride? You mention that there was a distinct Southern culture long before the civil war, so I assume that it must have had symbols of its own? And if not, couldn’t people simply use southern state flags? Couldn’t people simply use the shape of the South (maybe with a US flag underneath) to signify pride? After all, this is already common for Texas.

          • eh says:

            Rommel is not at all equivalent to general Lee, for the simple fact that Lee wasn’t forced to kill himself by two generals as a division of soldiers surrounded his house.

            In popular culture in the west, Rommel is seen as a tragic victim because of his mistreatment by the regime he aided, and is next to Medea in the list of people that the blue team pity. Lee is just a very effective dead hero from the wrong side, and is more like Guderian than Rommel.

          • John Schilling says:

            Rommel is not at all equivalent to general Lee, for the simple fact that Lee wasn’t forced to kill himself by two generals as a division of soldiers surrounded his house.

            I can’t speak for Germany, but I’m pretty confident that the popular conception of Rommel in the United States has relatively little to do with his suicide and more to do with his archetypal Magnificent Bastard status. Which puts him pretty close to Lee in being perceived as a supremely talented commander, fighting bravely to defend his country without condoning its villainy, and ultimately doing the right thing in the end.

            If the Germans see him differently, I’m not sure who they would see as a Lee equivalent. Doenitz, maybe, but again that may be shaded by my American perception.

          • Nornagest says:

            you’ll inevitably find someone going “Well, say what you want about Hitler, but at least he got the German economy back together”. Which is blatantly transparent code for “I think Hitler was a great guy”.

            Maybe it reads differently in Europe, but I’d be more inclined to treat it as code for “I like saying edgy stuff to wind people up”. More evidence of being an asshole than evidence of any serious bigotry.

            What did Southerners use before the civil war to signify Southern pride? You mention that there was a distinct Southern culture long before the civil war, so I assume that it must have had symbols of its own? And if not, couldn’t people simply use southern state flags?

            I don’t know. There are lots of Southern regional symbols, some of which have unfortunate connotations in some contexts (“Dixie”), some of which don’t (magnolia flowers, the cuisine). But while there was definitely a cultural divide, I think it’s safe to say that antebellum Southern culture was less unified than anything you’ll find after the war, for reasons which are probably obvious.

            Many of the Southern states didn’t have state flags before the war, or had different ones. And a lot of the modern state flags of the South are based on Confederate national flags, more or less transparently; until 2001 (and still for Mississippi), representations of the Confederate battle flag were common design elements. Many still resemble the Confederate national flag.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t see much of that about Hitler, who occupies a unique space as “pure total evil” in polite society.

            But you DO see plenty of things like “at least Mussolini made the trains run on time” or “at least Stalin got Russia industrialized” and things like that.

          • Anonymous says:

            Say what you like about Hitler at least he killed Hitler.

          • nydwracu says:

            I have no idea what a good substitute symbol for pride in the good aspects of the region would be.

            I hope you realize why we’ll never pick a substitute.

            And why would we? The Yankees don’t have a problem with the flag — they have a problem with our existence. That a distinct Southern culture continues to exist is what offends them.

          • DrBeat says:

            Say what you like about Hitler at least he killed Hitler.

            Yeah, but he also killed the guy who killed Hitler.

        • Nornagest says:

          And, again, if modern confederate flag-bearers do get into total power, what are they gonna do to harm minorities?

          I have no idea, but the fact that a perspective is unthinkable (viz. not in the Overton window) now doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way after a major realignment. You are proposing a major realignment.

          Of course, banning symbols on grounds of possibly contributing to some unspecified bad thing in the future is probably a bad idea.

      • Richard says:

        I wouldn’t. The confederate flag is mainly a statement saying “I don’t like yankee (or New York) values imposed on me” The original value that was imposed happened to be about race, but things have changed.

        This explanation covers every single confederate flag carrier I’ve met, some of them are also black.

        • E. Harding says:

          I was referring to typical Democrats, as represented by all but one Dem US House members.

          • Richard says:

            @E.Harding

            My reply was to Scotts “I would expect people who fly the Confederate flag to be more racist”.

            I suspect you and me are more or less on the same page.

        • I think part of what the confederate flag represents is a form of regional patriotism: “My ancestors fought courageously in a losing cause and I’m proud of them.”

          • Subbak says:

            How would you feel about a German man saying the same?

          • Goblinonymous says:

            @Subbak – About the same as a Confederate descendant. It’s fine to take pride in your ancestors sacrifices and battlefield heroism, as long as the pride doesn’t extend to the ideology they were fighting for.

          • Subbak says:

            But the flag represents best what people are fighting for, not the individual sacrifice. So if you think their fighting is commendable even though the ideology and government they were fighting for was evil, then why should you honor them with the symbol of that government?

          • keranih says:

            So if you think their fighting is commendable even though the ideology and government they were fighting for was evil, then why should you honor them with the symbol of that government?

            What substitute symbol do you propose they use?

          • Saul Degraw says:

            And they fought in a losing cause which was a law to keep slavery alive!!!

          • onyomi says:

            I feel like there is a real cognitive dissonance when it comes to commemorating dead soldiers.

            On the one hand, as a society, we don’t generally hold individual soldiers responsible for the justness or injustice of the war their leaders send them to fight. This may or may not be okay. I, personally, think it is wrong to fight for a cause one thinks is unjust just because one is following orders, but many others seem to think that patriotism and unswerving devotion are more important than whether or not one’s leaders happen to be correct in a particular case (or that their correctness is not for the individual soldiers to judge).

            If we agree that individual soldiers are responsible for fighting for an unjust cause, then I think we have to seriously reevaluate all the respect we give to veterans of, for example, the Vietnam War. In fact, it seems like most soldiers should be convicted of murder.

            If, on the other hand, we agree there is some merit to the idea that fighting for your country is different from just fighting, and that different standards must apply when one’s nation advisedly or unadvisedly chooses to send people to war, then it seems like we can’t celebrate the Vietnam vets while tearing down all the statues of Robert E Lee (as they are currently trying to do in NOLA).

            Either we’re comfortable celebrating the patriotism of people who died for a cause irrespective of the justness of the particular cause or else we have to start being a lot more stinting with our praise of veterans, and possibly even jail a great many of them.

            Though I think the Vietnam and Iraq Wars were largely unjust, I am very uncomfortable jailing or hating on veterans of those wars (outside cases of obvious abuse like Mai Lai and Abu Ghraib), so I do think that, so long as we have governments of the sort we have now, and the attitude toward military service we have now, we have to apply a somewhat different standard to soldiers than to someone who just shoots somebody on the street.

            Related is the Japanese Prime Ministers’ refusal, thus far, to bow to pressure to stop visiting the Yasukuni Shrine commemorating Japanese soldiers who died in the Pacific War. I think their cause was as unjust as the South’s cause in the Civil War, but I still think it would be horrible to tell everyone “no, you cannot mourn grampa who fought and died for a cause he thought was just, because we now know he was wrong.”

          • A. says:

            From my family lore of another civil war, I would imagine that this is not only about those who fought courageously, but also about those who died – or perhaps even more about those who died.

            I am not from the South, so I may be wrong about this particular situation. Still, imagine your family tree is littered with names of people who died in a war, some fighting, some completely senselessly as helpless victims.

            I’d fly the flag of my side (more precisely, the side my relatives died on) as a tribute to the dead. (Not if it was a flag generally accepted to have bad connotations. However, the current outrage over the Confederate flag seems to be very recent, very politically motivated, and perpetuated by politicians who not all of us are sympathetic to, so this situation is certainly not unambiguous.)

          • In the spirit of nitpicking– even if you want to celebrate Confederate soldiers, that might be different from celebrating Lee, who had a lot more choices than an average member of the army did, though I believe he was more at risk than a modern general would be.

          • onyomi says:

            Given Lee’s extensive prior military background, I think it would have been much harder, and seen as much more of a betrayal, for him to claim some sort of “conscientious objector” status, than for the average 18-year old Southern farmhand.

            He even opposed secession personally, and some have argued, slavery itself (though the case for that may be weak), so it’s clearly a case of someone doing what his society demanded of him, given his prior training, without much regard to the desirability of the cause.

            We might say it would have been better for him to defect to the “right” side, but given that, on his value system, that would have been a terrible betrayal, it’s hard to make a case that he acted wrongly by his own lights.

            So unless we want to endorse the principle that a general should switch sides any time he thinks his side is in the wrong (and maybe we do? but I don’t think most would), I don’t see how we condemn Lee.

          • SUT says:

            Confederacy was fighting to secede and govern independently (however brutish it was). All states that wanted to secede did so voluntarily, not after they were invaded and their president replaced with a puppet. Nazis were expansionary and evangelical, starting with France which was clearly “not theirs”, and even had begun training governors for individual provinces in North America for when they got there. (source: Ken Burns’ The War).

            Second difference pertains to Overton window creep, which is considered more an element of the Nazi rise to power and the Holocaust. It would have been very un-German to smash someone’s windows a couple years before Kristalnacht at which point it became quickly became uber-German behavior. The symbol and the movement quickly converted civic behavior toward a negative. Meanwhile, the confederacy was not markedly different in their social treatment, pre/post the time their symbol stood for something. For this reason, it would be more disturbing to start see swastikas on the uptick

          • There’s a middle ground. Lee just doesn’t get statues.

          • Cypher says:

            @onyomi
            It’s basically because an army has to be coherent and hold together in order to maintain the state’s sovereignty. If all the soldiers become radical individualists, they might engage in motivated reasoning not to fulfill their role during a war. Some may not agree, but that’s the reasoning behind honoring the soldiers even if the war was dumb.

            As for Lee, the question should be asked regarding his personal ideology. Was he pro-slavery, or did he fight out of nationalistic duty? When combined with the first matter, it’s an important difference.

          • onyomi says:

            “There’s a middle ground. Lee just doesn’t get statues.”

            So any nation or culture determined to be on “the wrong side of history” is not allowed to commemorate their war dead?

            Also, I think there is at least some difference between proposing a new statue, today for Robert E Lee, which would raise the question of why we’re choosing to single him out for commemoration at this particular point in history, and proposing to tear down a statue of him which has been standing for 100 years, which, to me, smacks of trying to sanitize history.

          • onyomi says:

            @Cypher

            “As for Lee, the question should be asked regarding his personal ideology. Was he pro-slavery, or did he fight out of nationalistic duty? When combined with the first matter, it’s an important difference.”

            My sense is that he was against secession, personally, and ambivalent about slavery; the problem is, on his value system and the military culture he was trained in–one which I think continues to some extent today–I think cowardice and betrayal would have been considered much greater moral failings than fighting for an unjust cause.

            And, as John Schilling said, Southern culture was distinctive and not at all all bad. To the extent Southerners think he was fighting for “the South” as a broadly construed cultural entity, I think it is justifiable to have a statue of him, even if it would not be, were we to think of him as purely fighting to maintain slavery, which is not how I think he would have seen his own actions, nor how he is perceived by most Southerners today.

          • Matt M says:

            I believe Lee’s writings made it very clear that he felt a solemn “duty” to fight for Virginia, and would have done so regardless of the particular issues involved.

          • Subbak says:

            My personal opinion is that all monuments commemorating dead soldiers should stress that war is a horrible thing and that these people were victims of human folly, and not make them “heroes dead for a noble cause” or something.

            Now obviously the vast majority of monuments fall short of this. For example, according to Wikipedia, there are less than a hundred WW1 monuments in France that can be qualified of pacifist, and I think every city, town or village has at least one WW1 monument, which means they must be more than 30 000 of them.
            So it would be pretty hypocritical of me to ask that the Southern civil war monuments respect this while all others do not. So I think that until society gets over the whole patriotism and war glorification thing, having “normal” civil war monuments in the south is fine. And having monuments for German soldiers who died in WW2 should be OK.

            Flying the flag is a different matter. In my ideal world, monuments to dead soldiers would have no flags because this shouldn’t be about patriotism which i s a thing I reject anyway. However, for flags that are heavily associated with oppression, there is an extra objection available. Nevertheless, a Confederate flag on a monument to dead Confederate soldiers is IMHO not nearly as bad as one flying in front of a state capitol.

          • Montfort says:

            So unless we want to endorse the principle that a general should switch sides any time he thinks his side is in the wrong… I don’t see how we condemn Lee.

            I’m sometimes uncertain if people recall that as the Civil War broke out Lee was an officer in the (federal) US Army, not some Virginia militia. In onyomi’s framing, Lee “switches sides” by continuing to serve his commission, and doesn’t “switch sides” by resigning his commission and subsequently accepting a command in an army at war with the one he was just serving in. A third option, resigning his commission and retiring to somewhere people won’t bother him, seems not to have been considered, but is implied to somehow also count as “switching sides.”

            I think it’s quite fair to condemn someone for voluntarily accepting a new commission to fight a war that they think is wrong.

          • Nicholas says:

            I wonder how our descendants will feel in 100 years, when the flag they’re all arguing about region-priders flying is ISIS’s, and the general whose statue is being torn down is Osama bin Ladin’s.

          • John Schilling says:

            Robert E. Lee: Roughly neutral on slavery, weakly against secession, in favor of the United States of America but not unconditionally so, unconditionally opposed to anyone invading the Commonwealth of Virginia for any reason, unconditionally opposed to anyone fighting a protracted guerrilla war in Virginia for any cause. One ought to think twice about waging war in Virginia while such a gentleman is alive.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Nicholas

            I’m surprised we haven’t abolished the Stripes/Stars yet. After all, we had a disastrous loss in the War of 1812, which was purely a result of our aggression against Canada. How can we subject Canadians to a life of knowing that all of us jerks still have a positive opinion of then-President James Madison?! Forget “Father of the Constitution”. Does. Not. Matter.

          • Matt M says:

            John Schilling,

            I think one of the more interesting things that is generally unknown to the public about the civil war is all the states (including Virginia) that fully intended to not secede and to remain neutral right up until the moment that Lincoln decided to march his army through their territory over their objections.

          • Patrick says:

            If the whole “maybe the confederate flag stood for racism, segregation, and domestic terrorism, but now it just stands for southern pride” argument was valid, the sort of people who fly the southern flag would be willing to admit that the confederate flag stood for racism, segregation, and domestic terrorism. But they’re not, because they identify with the groups who were engaged in the racism, segregation, and domestic terrorism, and regularly apologize for those groups. Which is about as much of a QED as you could want as to what they mean when they talk about “southern pride.”

          • hlynkacg says:

            If the whole “maybe the confederate flag stood for racism, segregation, and domestic terrorism, but now it just stands for southern pride” argument was valid, the sort of people who fly the southern flag would be willing to admit that the confederate flag stood for racism, segregation, and domestic terrorism.

            For fucks sake that’s why no-one actually flies the confederate flag outside reenactments. They fly the Rebel Flag.

          • Z says:

            If the whole “maybe the confederate flag stood for racism, segregation, and domestic terrorism, but now it just stands for southern pride” argument was valid, the sort of people who fly the southern flag would be willing to admit that the confederate flag stood for racism, segregation, and domestic terrorism. But they’re not, because they identify with the groups who were engaged in the racism, segregation, and domestic terrorism, and regularly apologize for those groups. Which is about as much of a QED as you could want as to what they mean when they talk about “southern pride.”

            Do you actually know people who fly the rebel flag personally Patrick? Is that what they’ve actually told you?

            Because I know lots of these people personally and the ones I know wouldn’t hesitate a second to tell you that the Confederacy sucked.

          • Matt M

            “I think one of the more interesting things that is generally unknown to the public about the civil war is all the states (including Virginia) that fully intended to not secede and to remain neutral right up until the moment that Lincoln decided to march his army through their territory over their objections.”

            Um, that sounds to me like they were already thinking of themselves as not subject to the federal government.

          • keranih says:

            Um, that sounds to me like they were already thinking of themselves as not subject to the federal government.

            Yes. This was a fairly typical stance for individual states at the time, who had the impression (from statements in the Constitution, of all places!) that the power of the Federal Government to compel the states to do things was rather sharply limited.

            This had been the default position of the Founding Fathers, had been in slow and gradual decline over the near-century since 1776, and took until WWII to become pretty much obsolete. It’s always been highest in those regions physically and culturally furthest from the northeast seat of power.

          • John Schilling says:

            Um, that sounds to me like they were already thinking of themselves as not subject to the federal government.

            In rather the same sense that the British voters now considering the Brexit think themselves not subject to the Federal Government of Europe.

            Does the Union Jack become symbol of intolerance and bigotry, if the Continent decides it is? If Brussels decides to march an army through the Chunnel (as if), do we blame the British? Does it matter who wins, or that the population of the remaining EU nations is larger than that of the UK?

          • Subbak says:

            In rather the same sense that the British voters now considering the Brexit think themselves not subject to the Federal Government of Europe.

            Oh, did someone install a federal government in the EU without telling me?

            More seriously, you really can’t compare USA pre-civil war and EU now. One of the very big reasons is that the executive body of the EU derives from the national executive bodies, which make up the European Council and appoint the European Commission (a.k.a. European Government). The legislative body is however not directly dependent from national politics, which is why many people who would like to see a tighter union (i.e. something closer to a federal Europe) wants to expand its relatively limited powers. The Commission also doesn’t directly implement European administration but rather makes sure national governments do, with the Court of Justice as its only enforcement tool if they don’t.

            Also, while I’m not saying the EU is entirely toothless, but its teeth only go so far as the treaties, so the most severe thing it could do if a country was entirely ignoring its laws and decrees would be to unilaterally denounce the treaties with them. So a war would not only be unthinkable for political reasons, it would be unthinkable because there is zero legal basis for it.

      • 27chaos says:

        It is not a very subtle secret symbol, but it still is one. The racists who fly the confederate flag don’t care if leftists believe they are racist, or if moderates suspect they are racist. It’s not the end of the world to them if someone calls them racist without having any solid proof – in fact, sometimes they even enjoy this scenario. What they do care about is having plausible deniability – which, in the cultural context of the South, the Confederate flag can provide them. A secretly racist politician would be ill advised to associate with the flag, but some hick who just wants a job at the local manufacturing plant can afford much less subtlety.

        I think you are wrong if you believe Confederat flags are a blatant symbol of racism. The flags are all over the place in the South. Almost all the people who associate with one deny explicit racism, and fairly often they even sound believable when doing so. I’d estimate over a third of all flag users are being truthful when they say they do not (significantly) sympathize with racist beliefs. Therefore, Confederate flags are not a strong predictor but only a moderate predictor of overt racism, which means they are a workable symbol for secret racists.

        Although, now that I think about it, it’s more like the combination of plausible deniability and the costs to accusing someone of racism together are what allow the flag to be a usable symbol. If either existed without the other, I think the flag would finally go away. As it is, the flag is something even vehement nonracists will pointedly ignore or perhaps politely criticize, while racists can use it to coordinate almost unopposed. So, you’re kind of right, but kind of not. The flag is far from the best secret symbol of racism imaginable, but racists in the South still use it that way and get a degree of success from it.

        • I’m not sure how far back this story is set, but I talked with a woman who said she was from Florida, and it wasn’t until she was in college that it occurred to her that the flag might be offensive to black people. When it did occur to her, it seemed entirely reasonable.

          I’m estimating that she was in college some thirty years ago or so. Maybe forty years ago.

          • Luke Somers says:

            I had something similar occur to me in grade school in 1990 or so. IIRC, this fellow also maintained that he knew a bunch of non-racist KKK members.

    • Thecommexokid says:

      Let us suppose that an aspiring politician in the American South has a Confederate flag flying in his front lawn. He explains when questioned that the flag celebrates his Southern cultural heritage, and is in no way meant to glorify the practice of slave-ownership.

      I agree with you to some extent, in that I don’t think that the display of the flag is evidence of some secret set of beliefs that he is trying to keep hidden. I believe that he means what he says.

      But presumably he chooses to fly the Confederate flag despite knowing that the entire African-American community is near-unanimously opposed to its display (as are many other individuals). So although his statement does not constitute evidence that he would re-enact slavery if given the opportunity, it does constitute evidence that he values his own personal notion of cultural heritage more highly than he values the opinion of the entire African-American community.

      And if the man is an aspiring politician, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with assuming, based on this evidence, that he will value his own personal notions over the opinion of the entire African-American community in other policies, too. Potentially including policies with much greater impact than the display of flags.

      • E. Harding says:

        OK. But changing the symptoms is not necessarily the same thing as changing the cause.

      • Jason says:

        >He explains when questioned that the flag celebrates his Southern cultural heritage, and is in no way meant to glorify the practice of slave-ownership.

        I disagree we have access to all our own motives and desires when it comes to signalling!

        In fact, I totally disagree with Scott on this. In this age when people won’t use obvious slurs to reveal their beliefs, you have to look a bit deeper.

        With politics, much of what comes up will be unexpected and the planned reaction can’t be specified in advance, and politicans values will influence how they react. We therefore have the right to comb through their lives and utterances for evidence of their true values.

        • Geryon says:

          I agree.

          It’s how we know every leftist is a blood-thirsty lunatic deep inside. All the unicorns and rainbows are merely a facade.

          Proof of their duplicitous demeanour is the fact that they assume others have the same inclination for tactical hypocrisy:

          They cloak their daggers, so naturally, they assume that everyone else must too.

          (Whether I am sarcastic or not is irrelevant, if you think about it, since that in itself is revealing of deep seated, censured dark thoughts!

          Psychoanalysis is so awesome.)

          • ChetC3 says:

            It’s how we know every leftist is a blood-thirsty lunatic deep inside.

            This is what the alt-right already believes.

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s how we know every leftist is a blood-thirsty lunatic deep inside.

            This is what the alt-right already believes.

            Yeah, how could you get the impression that the left are a bunch of blood-thirsty lunatics from the history of communism?

            Even Scott, the lowest T most milquetoast of leftists has come out and said that he’ll keep the blood thirst limited to banning commenters on his blog – until the left gains more power, then the limits come off. What do you think the point of “be nice until you can coordinate meanness” was? Why does he always only criticize SJWs for their tactics with posts that can be summed up with – “gee guys, hold off on the terror portion until you consolidate enough power to actually kill all your enemies rather than piecemeal hounding them out of jobs”?

          • Hlynkacg says:

            This is what the alt-right already believes.

            And with good reason as Jason has so helpfully illustrated. 😉

            In all seriousness though, Geryon is correct and that’s why we can’t have nice things.

        • Luke the CIA stooge says:

          Awesome so we can just go off our gut feelings of whatever other people are thinking and project our insecurity onto them. Sweet!!! let the blood war commence!!!

          Fuck argument and charitable interpretation and reason.
          Philosophy is dead,
          Socrates was wrong,
          freedom is a lie,
          western civilization is a failure
          Kill the outgroup

          We know they deserve it, why else would we hate them.

          If however you think argument and reason and engaging with each other are good ideas then the idea that we can see people’s true motivation by interpreting them in the most awful way is a terrible development. And one the supposedly broadminded and tolerant left is all to keen to give in to

      • “values his own personal notional of cultural heritage more highly than he values the opinion of the entire African-American community.”

        You mean, is his own man with his own thoughts and opinions, and doesn’t submit to the demands of others that he pretend their worldview is the only legitimate one?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Has indicated that he represents the white community that likes Confederate flags and does not represent the black community which does not.

          • TPC says:

            I find the chronic attribution to the entire black community the opinions of a handful of pundits to be, well, racist. Most of the black community does not support or like Black Lives Matter, but that fact gets zero airplay in discussions of dogwhistling. Black people aren’t a monolith and often have conflicting subcultures warring it out ideologically, even if they vote a certain way most of the time.

          • DavidS says:

            As a UK onlooker I’d be genuinely interested to know if there were stats on this.

          • Matt M says:

            If black people don’t want to be treated like a monolith by politicians and those whose job is to obsess over politicians, maybe they should stop voting like one.

          • Subbak says:

            @Matt M: If one side of the aisle wasn’t so obsessed on demeaning them, maybe they would stop voting almost exclusively for the other one?

          • Matt M says:

            Hey, I’m not complaining about how they vote.

            Just saying that it doesn’t strike me as credible to say “we are unique individuals with a wide variety of interests and values” when it turns out that 90% of you vote the same way all the time.

            Their reasoning for doing so may be very well founded, but still – if you’re going to act like a single-issue voting bloc, don’t be surprised if people treat you like one.

          • Mary says:

            Circular logic. The “demeaning” is not falling in with the Democratic demands, such as AA and other such prescriptions.

          • TPC says:

            Black voting isn’t quite that monolithic. Black men vote differently than black women, and have lower turnout. Married black women also vote at less than 90% D. Single women vote D a lot, and there was a clear Obama-only increase in turnout and D voting among black women in particular (though not so much among black men).

            40% of blacks don’t vote, and even at 90% D, that means half of all blacks aren’t pulling a lever for Democrats or necessarily support Democrats or even progressive/liberal ideological views. Case in point is Black Lives Matter, not supported by a majority of blacks at all but presented as “how black people really feel about being in fancy white college!” by both sides of the aisle.

          • Subbak says:

            @TPC: By “not supported by a majority of blacks”, you mean only a minority will actually say they support it, and most are apathetic, or that more blacks oppose it that support it? Because the first is hardly surprising (for any protest movement, most people don’t care enough to support), while I have a hard time believing the second. If it is the second, do you have a source for that?

            @Matt M: So people who generally vote the same can’t be unique individuals? A person’s interest are only defined by how they vote? Or am I misunderstanding what you are saying?
            re: being single-issue voter, I don’t know and can’t know what it’s like to constantly experience racial prejudice. It does not seem unbelievable that, for the current political overton window, the most important issue for people who undergo it is reducing that prejudice, which few candidates even address.

          • Matt M says:

            “@Matt M: So people who generally vote the same can’t be unique individuals? A person’s interest are only defined by how they vote?”

            To the extent that politicians care about those individuals – absolutely. You may be a unique and beautiful snowflake at home, but if the political class notices that there’s a 90% chance your vote will be decided based on your race – what particular incentive do they have to discover and speak to your individual issues?

          • Subbak says:

            @Matt M: There may be some miscommunication issue. I was not aware of a recurring complaint by black people that politics think they only care about a single issue (whereas I’ve heard this complaint from women). I assume if politics performed better on the issue of racial equality, then that complaint would start cropping up, and indeed you would see less of a voting block behavior.
            On the other hand, I’ve definitely heard a complaint by black people, and really all marginalized groups, that the dominant groups tend to paint them in just one brushstroke. This is the classic complaint than when a black person (or a woman, or a Muslim, etc…) does something, they’re automatically thought of as representing all black people, whereas if it’s a white Christian or atheist male, then he’s only representing himself. I thought you were talking about that complaint, and saying it’s unjustified because of the voting-block behavior of black people, which struck me as odd.

          • TPC says:

            The most recent survey on the topic (reuters, IIRC) showed a majority of blacks did not support BLM. Anecdotally, I’ve seen a number of blacks consider it a gay movement rather than a black one due to the predominance of Ls and Gs in its leadership. And some others (particularly among black women) have noticed it’s also got a lot of mixed-race and foreign-born leadership too, so they are not supportive of it as a movement representing American-born, fully-black Americans.

          • The complaint I’ve heard is that BLM focuses too much on killing by police and too little on black people killing each other.

            I’ve had trouble getting bloggingheads videos to run in my browser, but the mp3 works reliably.

        • Cypher says:

          Can we do the same twist on various rude behaviors, where disrespecting some group makes you an underdog maverick? I’m not sure you will like the results.

      • voidfraction says:

        The Confederate Flag isn’t really a dogwhistle (in the sense of being a secret signal of support for racism that’s only known to racists). It’s just a whistle (in the sense of being widely understood to be an open signal of support for racism).

        Sure, you might not mean to signal racism (at least primarily) by flying it, but there’s no way that that potential interpretation is _unknown_.

        • Z says:

          Everyone who flies a rebel flag knows that people from outside the South are going to think they’re racists all of a sudden. Other Southerners are likely to see it in a different light however.

          If you’re running for office in the South you might use the flag to signal that you’re an outsider to national politics, and therefor dedicated entirely to the South. That’s how it would read to me anyway.

        • Anonymous says:

          I think the groups doing the interpretation of the Confederate battle flag as “racist, full stop” have some bearing. If that interpretation is primarily done by the media and people outside the South, then a person continuing to fly the flag under the explanation that it represents Southern heritage and defiance is adding the implied statement, “and I don’t give a damn what you Yankees think it means.”

          It may be more likely, post-Charleston, that someone flying the flag will be doing it for not-racist reasons, fully aware that that interpretation exists, because the concerted Blue Tribe opposition acts as an intensifier of the intended symbolism of Southern heritage and defiance.

      • Z says:

        …despite knowing that the entire African-American community is near-unanimously opposed to its display…

        According to CNN’s polling, 72% of African Americans see the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism. http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2015/images/07/01/confederate.flag.pdf This isn’t even close to unanimous.

        And this was a poll where the respondents were primed with questions about the Charleston shooting, likely skewing the results in an anti-flag direction.

        • Hlynkacg says:

          It’d be interesting to see that value broken down by region. Are we talking about 72% of blacks in Chicago, 72% of blacks in Atlanta, or 72% of all blacks everywhere?

          • Z says:

            They make some attempt to break it down by region, but they didn’t poll enough black people to escape the sampling error in any region except the South.

            It was poll conducted by CNN to get a snappy headline in the wake of a national tragedy, so it’s bound to be shoddy work.

            What I’d be more interested in though, is a similar poll which wasn’t taken during a national anti-flag smear campaign.

          • Matt M says:

            Also keep in mind “I see this as a symbol of racism” =/ “it should be banned/removed by force”

            I mean, despite appearances, it is TECHNICALLY still possible to support free speech even for speech you happen to disagree with.

    • Catchling says:

      Discussion of whether the Confederate Flag “is racist” definitely produce more heat than light. It does almost always signal support for the “cause of the Confederacy” at some level, although there have been people who used it, even entirely outside the USA, as a generic symbol of rebellion.

      Following from this, it’s a safe guess that a Confederate flag-waver either doesn’t know why the Southern states seceded, knows the evidence but for some reason interprets it differently, or (much less likely) actually supports slavery.

      • Z says:

        How many Confederate flag-wavers have you actually met? I’ve met several, and know some of them very well, and this doesn’t even slightly describe any of them.

        To a man, they’ve all been too apolitical to care about the Confederacy. They mostly just like to think of themselves as rebels and so utilize the rebel flag to make that point.

        Another example: There was an episode of ‘Married with Children’ (set in Chicago) back in 80’s or 90’s where Kelly wore a rebel flag patch on her jacket. It wasn’t part of the plot, it was just an incidental touch to make her look more rebellious. This apparently used to be a mainstream position, even outside the South.

        • Jill says:

          When I lived in Seattle, I used to read a great column by a black woman journalist there. I remember her describing something that happened to her one day. Her car broke down and she was standing on the side of the road. A friendly white guy with a pickup truck with a gun rack and a Confederate flag on it stopped and picked her up and gave her a ride into town, to the towing place, so she could go get her car towed.

          I don’t think she asked him what the flag meant to him. But apparently it didn’t mean he hated black people.

        • Catchling says:

          To a man, they’ve all been too apolitical to care about the Confederacy.

          I’m willing to treat “apolitical” about the flag as implying “doesn’t know why the Southern states seceded”.

          This apparently used to be a mainstream position, even outside the South.

          Indeed, as I mentioned in my comment, it’s been used by many as a generic symbol of rebellion, perhaps not even having heard of the Confederacy at all. But that doesn’t automatically mean the people who dislike the flag are mixed up or have an incorrect interpretation.

          I guess I wish the flag’s defenders could at least acknowledge the logical basis of opposition, beyond accusations of mere mindless spite against the South. In fact, being apolitical about the Confederacy actually provides great middle ground for meeting halfway — the party who doesn’t care about Confederate history could see how someone who does might not look on it with kindness, while hopefully the anti-Confderate can sympathize with the other’s apathy.

          I don’t think she asked him what the flag meant to him. But apparently it didn’t mean he hated black people.

          A symbol can connote racism without entailing that all who bear it are bound to be entirely racist, or even any more racist than average. Heck, it’s logically possible for that story to happen even if the guy had a flag that literally said “I hate black people”. His actions merely conflict with a message that he presumably doesn’t believe (maybe he can’t read English, or has a private meaning in his head for words like “hate” or “black”) — his actions don’t cancel out the meaning entirely. I don’t think the Confederate Flag is nearly so clear-cut and blatant a message as that, but my point is it’s a mistake to try interpreting the message purely in that way.

          • Jill says:

            I can acknowledge the logical basis of opposition. I would rather people not have Confederate flags around, myself.

          • Z says:

            … it’s been used by many as a generic symbol of rebellion, perhaps not even having heard of the Confederacy at all. But that doesn’t automatically mean the people who dislike the flag are mixed up or have an incorrect interpretation.

            If most people who sport the flag don’t care about the Confederacy at all and your interpretation of their use of that flag is that it “almost always signal[s] support for the cause of the Confederacy at some level”, then you do have an incorrect interpretation of their motives.

            I guess I wish the flag’s defenders could at least acknowledge the logical basis of opposition, beyond accusations of mere mindless spite against the South.

            I don’t think any of them would deny the logical basis of your argument. At least, I’ve never seen that happen. What they seem to be busy denying is that they’re racists, support slavery or are, as John Oliver helpfully puts it, “the worst people in the world.”

            It’s worth bearing in mind here that we’re not talking about state flags and displays of the rebel flag in public areas, but about people choosing to display them at their own cost for their own reasons.

            The fact is that quite a large number of anti-flag people are out to try to shame people into conforming to their tribe’s arbitrary set of acceptable symbols. Whereas the vast majority of pro-flag people aren’t trying to force anyone else to do anything at all.

            I believe the best course of action with respect to the rebel flag, as with so many other things, is to live and let live

          • Cypren says:

            I think this is correct. However, another point of view to consider is that flag-supporters have a valid reason for asking, “why now?”

            In an era when anti-black racism has been significantly on the decline, rather than the rise, the sudden, vehement fury over a flag that has been an ever-present part of southern life for over a century is seen as not a genuine reaction to a societal problem, but a manufactured one. The fact that the people claiming grievance are direct political opponents of the people who have traditionally used the flag only confirms it in their minds: this isn’t about someone genuinely taking offense, but about maneuvering for political power and advantage by demonizing the opposing tribe.

            To many people in the Red Tribe (and even to some people like me who aren’t, but are simply outside the Blue Tribe) this is just the latest in a long line of the Blue Tribe proactively looking for things to take offense over rather than reacting with genuine offense, because their culture is one where oppression is the central and only important narrative of human existence, and victimization is equated with righteousness and deservedness — and hence authority and a claim to power.

            In this context, it should be easier to understand why people would support the rebel flag despite its historically racist connotations — because it’s a literal symbol of rebellion and disgust for the opposing tribe and seen as a defensive reaction more than an offensive one.

            That said, just because I can understand the reaction and even agree that the Blue Tribe attacks on the flag are largely an attempted political power-grab, I still don’t think it should be flown in public. But I think that should be voluntary, as a matter of good manners and consideration for those people who are genuinely and rightly offended by its association with an organization best known for defense of a great evil, regardless of its other cultural merits. Not because it automatically makes you a white supremacist to fly it.

          • Luke Somers says:

            Z – “I don’t think any of them would deny the logical basis of your argument.”

            Z – “arbitrary set of acceptable symbols”

            So, does it have a logical basis, or is it arbitrary?

            Cypren – where I’ve lived, just a shade north of the Mason-Dixon line, opposition to the use of the rebel flag has been constant. I suspect that what changed was that black people and those of a similar attitude got enough power that they could finally demand it be taken down with a reasonable expectation of success. That fits the trend you identified.

      • Xeno says:

        Perhaps unexamined premise: “Slavery is racist”? Certainly not all historical Slaver was race-based, e:. Slavery in the Greco-Roman era.

        Did Late-Renaissance Early-Modern Europeans enslave Africans because they were a different race (and despised/devalued them on that account?), or because of the accident of History that European Colonial powers has had a manpower demand in their Colonies at the same time African Slave societies were selling?

        Arguably the first incidence of chattel slavery in what would become the US was a Black man enslaved by another black man.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Casor

        Similarly, there were free blacks in the Confederate states that were Slave Holders.

        http://www.teachingushistory.org/lessons/BlackSlaveOwnersinCharleston.html

        http://www.nola.com/175years/index.ssf/2011/08/1855_free_people_of_color_flou.html

        Counter point: From memory I believe that the Virginia Ensign was added to the State flags of several Southern States in reaction to the Civil Rights acts of the 1960, however I’m unable to find a cite and may be mistaken.

        Doubtless Jim Crow laws, etc. were unjust, race based and properly described as racist, however it worth considering that much of the Former Confederate States Economies and most of their political power was destroyed in the Civil War, and that Blacks in the South were a stark reminder of that fact. Add in that the Federal Government failed to deliver on assorted promises of “40 acres and a Mule” and left a whole former slave population with few skills, almost no education, and little capital in a disrupted agrarian economy, and with temporarily out sized political power during Reconstruction. Reconstruction policies failure to resolve these conflicts left the South a mess for everyone.

        Is it therefore simply enough to say the Confederate Flags are symbols of racism?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Slavery may not have started out as a racial thing, but by the founding of the US — and certainly by the civil war — the belief that blacks were an inferior race was well-established.

          Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition.

          https://en.m.wikisource.org/wiki/Cornerstone_Speech

          As for the flags, the Stars and Bars represent the Confederacy; the stars each state, and the bars not representing anything in particular but rather there to keep a resemblance to the US flag (a sentiment that would later be regretted). The white field in Stainless Banner was taken to represent the superiority of the white race; that makes it and the “Bloodstained banner” which followed explicitly symbols of racism.

          The Battle Flag also represents the Confederacy itself, a star for each state. And it represents the superiority of General Lee’s flag designers over those in the rest of the confederacy. The Stars and Bars wasn’t too bad except its too-close resemblance to the Stars and Stripes, but the Stainless and Bloodstained banners were awful.

    • Skef says:

      This thread reminds me of how many people in the U.S. support post-invasion “nation-building” efforts but are stilled cheesed about the Civil War.

      • John Schilling says:

        There are lots of people in both of those groups; what’s your estimate on the size of the overlap and why? And how many have you talked with?

        • Skef says:

          Talked with about this subject? Zero, but the list of people I have non-structured conversations with is very limited. Any estimate of the number of people I’ve talked with at all who hold both views would be based on where I was living, etc.

          My guess about the overlap is that it’s pretty substantial but certainly far from universal. There’s a lot of military support and participation in the south and the view that not supporting what the troops are doing is not supporting the troops is pretty common.

          • Xeno says:

            Possibly the same people who think of Japan, Taiwan, and Western Europe post WW2 and S. Korea post Korean War as examples of nation building?

          • John Schilling says:

            There’s a lot of military support and participation in the south and the view that not supporting what the troops are doing is not supporting the troops is pretty common.

            There’s no shortage of Northern coastal elites who will proclaim their support for the troops while not supporting whatever invasion or intervention is taking place this week. They believe that the troops are being endangered and their efforts wasted in stupid pointless foreign wars, but since that’s what the Evil Folks in Washington insist on, they’ll support the good people stuck doing it.

            I think it would be a mistake to conclude that Southerners who support the troops necessarily support whatever nation-building is taking place this week. Many of them, I think, believe that the troops are being endangered and their efforts wasted building stuff for our enemies when they should be killing our enemies, but since that’s what the Stupid Folks in Washington insist on, they’ll support the good people stuck doing it.

            A claim that Southern and/or Red Tribe America support nation-building needs to be based on more than general pro-military sentiment.

          • Lysenko says:

            You might be surprised how many Vietnam vets down in the southern Midwest and the South proper have strong views about non-intervention in the Middle East. I certainly have been in the years since I’ve moved down here and took a job where I do a lot of small talk with a wide slice of people from most of MO, southern IL, Northeastern AR, and large swaths of KY and TN.

            Though the proposed alternative tended to run more along the lines of more drone and airstrikes and less along the lines of ‘moderate US policy so as not to inflame Islamist sentiment so they leave us alone.’

    • Doctor Mist says:

      Yes. But more fundamentally, I’ve never seen the point in objecting to dog whistles.

      Whether the Confederate flag is a dog whistle or not (or, perhaps more likely, if it is to some who like it but is not to others who like it), then trying to stigmatize it will, at best, cause some other symbol of Southern Pride to be adopted — the mint julep, Stephen Foster, palmetto trees — which will over time acquire all the connotations of the original symbol.

      If it’s a dog whistle, all the dogs will hear the new one just as well as the first. You’ve imposed a minor inconvenience on the dogs but have done nothing to address the problem of dogginess.

      If it’s a harmless symbol of cohesion and fellow-feeling, the new symbol will serve just as well — but you’ve annoyed people who wish you no harm. If you then latch onto the new symbol and call that a dog whistle as well, you’ll annoy them even more. In time, you may annoy them so much that they do come to wish you harm.

      (Moreover, what is the freaking harm in a dog whistle to begin with? It’s a way of saying, “I’m a dog and I know there are a lot of dogs out there, but we are all a little ashamed or nervous about it: we know the rest of the farm would disdain us for being dogs.” If you root out all the possible dog whistles, you’re not going to root out the dogs; you’ll just back the dogs into a corner where they’ll have to publicly espouse dogginess. You may not like the results, because you’ll probably find there are a lot of dogs that weren’t hearing the whistle but will hear the barking.)

  6. MawBTS says:

    Yes, time to tread carefully when the media starts bringing out words like “clearly”, “unmistakably”, “openly” and “nakedly”. Almost as bad as “debunked” and “refuted”.

    But I am skeptical when the media claims to have secret insight into what they really think.

    It occurs to me that you can perform this sort of quasi-Kabbalistic “interpretation” even in good faith. If you’ve ever defended the gaffe of an in-group politician with “he was caught off-guard! / he mis-spoke! those aren’t his real views!”…how do you know?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I mean, you can have priors. I think Dan Quayle (or maybe Bush) once said he believed in the important of parent-child bondage. I assume he meant bonding. I don’t have any proof he meant bonding. But everything else I know about the world suggests I should interpret it that way.

  7. WRT the sexism examples, I think you’re missing an important angle: the women holding up those signs DO think that Trump’s statements are sexism proper, and not just dog whistles for sexism. There’s a strand in feminism today that takes any comments on a woman’s appearance to be sexism, so for Trump to be talking about 10’s in the first place is already inexcusable.

    This doesn’t require any special reading into Trump’s words, just an especially narrow concept of acceptable discourse.

    • Vamair says:

      “A person who is flat-chested is very hard to be a 10”
      Is he talking about women? Most flat-chested people are men. It’s good to be a 10 or some other number, like 15, right?

      • Anonymous says:

        This is some excellent shitposting.

      • Seriously, women can diss men for their appearance (“neck beards”, etc.) and that’s acceptable, but a man can’t express his own aesthetic preferences?

        How many women are attracted to hollow-chested men? Should we condemn them for sexism because the guy who looks like a stiff wind could blow him away… just doesn’t inspire any romantic interest?

        • Subbak says:

          If a well-known politician of either gender ever mentioned “neckbeard” or something similar, the shitstorm would reach proportions rarely seen before. Mocking people on their appearance is considered extremely rude in today’s society, and often interpreted as having negative prejudice towards the group you mock.

          There are exceptions, but not linked with gender: For some reason mocking a politician’s small size (or, apparently, small-sized hands) is not considered in the same way. See for example how the media treats fat jokes on Chris Christie vs. tiny hands jokes on Trump or short jokes on former French president Nicolas Sarkozy. However in both those cases (Trump and Sarkozy), we’re talking quick-to-anger individuals with a history of getting overly upset at those insults and trying to overcompensate, so maybe that’s what somehow makes it okay in the eyes of the media.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          While I’m all for pointing out the ridiculous double-standards that women create, do you have evidence it’s the same women, or the same people attacking the first and defending the second?

      • Randy M says:

        Presumably this is referring to a Donald Trump rating of sexual attractiveness, scaled from 1-10. I presume he would rate men low on such a scale for other factors as well.

        Really, are we required to find all people of equal attraction now? Are we required to pretend that every person is equally beautiful to us? Because even if we are, it’s only ever going to be pretense, and it seems more useful if people can at least get a sense of the criteria.
        And didn’t Donald Trump judge beauty contests? Contests that women entered willing knowing full well some would come out on top based on physical features?

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Really, are we required to find all people of equal attraction now? Are we required to pretend that every person is equally beautiful to us?

          In practice, you’re usually allowed to have and express preferences as long as you make it clear that you know that they’re ‘problematic’ and are ‘working on’ them. Self-deprecating humor is a good way to do it.

          But that’s more of a second-order effect rather than the explicit aim: in theory there’s no problem with having preferences, it’s just that since any particular preference can be criticized as reinforcing some form of oppression none of them are safe. Especially in heavily-SJ places where people know what the words ableism or ageism mean it’s very difficult to find traits which are ‘safe’ to prefer or disprefer.

          It seems to affect women a lot more strongly than men though: if you’ve been to college in the last decade, chances are you’ve hooked up with at least two or three allegedly bi- or pansexual girls who express absolutely no interest in dating anyone but straight men. But the inverse is extremely rare.

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s so delightful how many people we have on here willing to explain in detail what “social justice people”, “Leftists”, and “progressives” believe. That saves us all an inordinate amount of effort in seeking out and talking to people that actual identify with these labels.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Having belonged to a group obviously disqualifies you from talking about how they behave. How foolish of me to think otherwise.

          • Aapje says:

            it’s just that since any particular preference can be criticized as reinforcing some form of oppression none of them are safe.

            People can go against the oppression hierarchy and state a preference for overweight people or people of color and then they are safe from that criticism.

            Of course, as male sexuality is ‘problematic’ by definition there is always a fallback, so then people get accused of having a fetish and objectifying people who are overweight/old/handicapped/etc. Any preference can be vilified that way, so no man is safe. Of course, when the SJWs themselves have preferences, it’s ‘who they are and their sexuality should not be policed!!!!11!!’.

            chances are you’ve hooked up with at least two or three allegedly bi- or pansexual girls who express absolutely no interest in dating anyone but straight men. But the inverse is extremely rare.

            There is scientific evidence that female sexuality is different from male sexuality and far more ‘open.’

            That said, a lot of social justice types seem to be into collecting labels like scouting badges. The more you have, the easier it is to win social justice debates based on identity.

          • Tom Womack says:

            I think it’s quite difficult to state a romantic preference for people of colour without it getting rapidly interpreted as fetishism; the major complaint you see from black women talking about their dating-site experiences is that people view them as an opportunity to carve a different-coloured notch on their bedpost.

          • Skivverus says:

            @Anonymous
            Well, that is sort of what happens when you start kicking people out of your group for heresy – by definition, they haven’t been convinced that you’re right, so when asked on the matter, they will say so, and if they’re particularly articulate they will also say why.
            When your heretics happen to have good points, this is a bad sign.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Skivverus
            I don’t see how your reply is the least bit responsive.

            I’m criticizing the rabid strawmanning and weakmanning of the aforementioned groups that goes on here. Why not let people speak for themselves instead of going on impassioned rants about Leftist this and SJW that?

            If you have nothing else to talk about because your whole political philosophy is reactive and is devoid of content in the absence of the hated enemy or a convenient strawman thereof, well it isn’t much of a philosophy then, is it?

          • Nornagest says:

            Why not let people speak for themselves instead of going on impassioned rants about Leftist this and SJW that?

            Why not, indeed? It’s not like we’re driving them off with pitchforks.

          • Aapje says:

            @Anonymous

            Our comments merely state that people exist who do these things and describes what they do.

            It’s only straw manning if we would state something like: ‘all SJWs do this’ We did no such thing.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Aapje
            If the comments were:
            “I know someone, call her Mary, that thinks that thinks it is okay to express sexual preferences as long as you make it clear that you know that they’re ‘problematic’ and are ‘working on’ them …”
            or
            “According to tumblr_user_2343, it is okay to express preferences as long as …”
            or even
            “When I was an undergrad, I knew a group affillated witht the women’s center that had the norm it is okay to express …”

            then your comment would be apropos.

            Instead we get sweeping statements about what huge ill defined groups of people do, say, or worse yet believe.

            “Yeah, how could you get the impression that the left are a bunch of blood-thirsty lunatics from the history of communism?”

            “Jews aren’t disadvantaged to the left.
            And if you aren’t disadvantaged your never a real victim”

            “It is evident that the Left has an irrational obsession with the Jewish state in particular. ”

            “Russians are pretty white, but Soviet interventions around the world, often on behalf of the most appalling tyrants imaginable, never seemed to get the left’s dander up. ”

            “Yes, I think the left’s love affair with Islam is largely because Islamic groups are currently the most credible opponent of the US.”

            “It’s not really just a European thing; it’s just more common in Europe because they have a larger and more fundamentalist/anti-Semitic Islamic population that the Left has made a Faustian bargain with in order to gain power. ”

            “Where as for the left EVERYTHING is an extension of US is an extension of campus politics.”

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            There is scientific evidence that female sexuality is different from male sexuality and far more ‘open.’

            I have not seen this research, but I am extremely doubtful about it. If I’d conducted the same study 2500 years ago and chose to nudge the Athenians and Spartans about it, I’d have found the completely opposite result. There is a only sort of halfway joke about psychologists being very good at figuring out the mental workings of white male affluent college-aged Americans, and this is one example where I’d say it probably holds up.

          • Aapje says:

            Well, women differ not just in conscious behavior, but also by their response to erotic images:

            http://www.sexscience.org/PDFs/Gender%20Differences%20and%20Similarities%20in%20Sexuality%20Final.pdf

            For example, women generally get physically aroused by mating monkeys, while men generally do not. This indicates that women are more exciting by the act of sex and less by the participants.

          • Agronomous says:

            Especially in heavily-SJ places where people know what the words ableism or ageism mean it’s very difficult to find traits which are ‘safe’ to prefer or disprefer.

            I’ve always been attracted to women who are an odd number of centimeters tall.

          • Alex Z says:

            You can have a preference obviously. But saying: “This person is a 10 and this person is a 1.” implies that their attractiveness is inherent in themselves as opposed to the product of your preferences. That is problematic.

            In addition, certain preferences while not problematic in and of themselves, are the product of social norms which are problematic. Acknowledging this fact is important because when you hold those preferences, it is particularly important that you not act in ways that reinforce those problematic norms.

            The fetish around women’s small body sizes sucks for many reasons. It drives women to unhealthy life choices, makes women who cannot achieve the ideal feel bad about their bodies, causes women who do not match the ideal to be devalued in many ways. (not just in the dating pool, but also when evaluated in general such as for jobs) It’s fine if you prefer thinner women. There is nothing wrong with that. But it’s important that when you speak of it, you not reinforce the idea that women who are not thin are ugly and less valuable. A woman who is not thin isn’t a 1. She’s just someone you’re not attracted to. Don’t reinforce social norms that cause harm to others.

        • Catchling says:

          I have a feeling you would identify with this character.

          • Randy M says:

            Difference between the Howard Stern show and a wedding reception, perhaps.
            Also, differences between being asked for one’s opinion and volunteering it because someone made an obviously hyperbolic compliment.
            Also, differences between describing Trump’s actions and specifying what my own would be.

      • Siah Sargus says:

        THIS POST IS A TEN.

    • erenold says:

      I agree with this analysis, as it accurately describes how and why I consider DT’s reported comments sexist, and I will try to defend the claim being made therein. So, uh, please wish me luck.

      Scott’s definition of sexism:

      ‘When I think of “sexist” or “misogynist”, I think of somebody who thinks women are inferior to men, or hates women, or who thinks women shouldn’t be allowed to have good jobs or full human rights, or who wants to disadvantage women relative to men in some way.’

      Merriam-Webster’s definition, for no reason other than that it is the first google response for “sexism” I get:

      “unfair treatment of people because of their sex; especially : unfair treatment of women.”

      It appears to me that Scott’s definition is the non-central one here. Specifically, as lawyers would put it, the standard he expects is higher. I do not need to think women are inferior to men, or hate them or think they shouldn’t be allowed full human rights or jobs etc., in order to treat them unfairly. I merely need to exhibit a pattern of behaviours in which I systematically treated women unfairly because they were women (as opposed to genuine factual differences, for instance, because they are physically weaker, physically indisposed on a certain schedule, less good at realistically portraying Conan the Barbarian, etc.) That falls far short of what Scott requires. Can we agree on this definition going forward, or are there challenges to it?

      Continuing the legal analogy, Scott has imported from seemingly nowhere a requirement of mens rea – actual intent to harm. That does not appear in either the dictionary definition or, AFAIK, the popular usage, making it a “strict liability” offence.

      If my definition is correct, then not much more need be said. Men are rarely (though occasionally) criticized for their appearance, particularly on the campaign trail and in the workplace. Women frequently are. This is unfair, as it is equally irrelevant to their job performance. This is unfair, because as a matter of fact it makes women feel uncomfortable and excluded from the workplace. In short, I do agree that comments about women’s appearances are inherently sexist, because they have a deleterious effect on women in the workplace and are not made with anything near as much frequency or invective about men. I stop short of saying it is ‘unacceptable’, but certainly it fulfills the lowered threshold test of ‘unfairly treating someone because of their gender’.

      • Anonymous says:

        If my definition is correct, then not much more need be said. Men are rarely (though occasionally) criticized for their appearance, particularly on the campaign trail and in the workplace. Women frequently are. This is unfair, as it is equally irrelevant to their job performance.

        Trump owns the Miss USA beauty pageant. A woman’s beauty is directly relevant to her qualification for the job of Miss USA.

        • DavidS says:

          Is it a UK-US culture clash thing that for me defending someone from charges of sexism by saying they own a beauty pageant seems topsy-turvy?

          • Philosophisticat says:

            Yes, nothing seems “topsy-turvy” to Americans. We call it “ass-backwards”.

          • erenold says:

            It doesn’t seem topsy-turvy to me – I consider beauty pageants a willing buyer-willing seller transaction, and I tend to be impatient with the argument that beauty pageants impose externalities on all other women elsewhere.

            What I don’t understand is its relevance. Unless he was literally acting in his capacity as a pageant owner/judge at that very moment when the comments were made; or unless the comments were made about an actual pageant contestant, or at least in some other way tangibly related to Miss USA. That doesn’t seem to apply in the majority of cases.

            It does appear to me as if it’s being used as a blanket defence for any and all comments made by DT at any time, which I can’t quite unpick, but it’s possible that I misunderstand that argument’s specifics.

      • Michael Watts says:

        Men are rarely (though occasionally) criticized for their appearance, particularly on the campaign trail and in the workplace. Women frequently are. This is unfair, as it is equally irrelevant to their job performance.

        Not in customer-facing roles it’s not.

        • Subbak says:

          Men more rarely get criticized for their appearance in customer-facing roles. For example, they’re not expected to put on make-up (yes they are expected to shave their face, or at least have a groomed beard, but the overall level of grooming expected from men is much lower than for women).

          So even if you argue it’s relevant to their performance they’re still treated unfairly as they are expected to do things their male counterparts aren’t.

        • Flick says:

          How is beauty necessary for a customer-facing role? A pretty waiter isn’t necessarily more likely to get your order correct; a pretty shop assistant isn’t necessarily going to know the stock better.

          • Matt M says:

            Based on tipping patterns – we can conjecture that the appearance of a waiter is more important to a customer’s satisfaction than the likelihood of getting the order correct.

          • Z says:

            Beauty may not be “necessary” for a customer-facing role, but it is a job-relevant factor, for the same reason attractive people are used in advertisements, entertainment, and related industries.

            This is just scratching the surface, but should give you an idea of what would happen if you had two otherwise equal restaurants, but one staffed only ugly servers, while the other only staffed attractive servers –

            Beautiful Faces Have Variable Reward Value: fMRI and Behavioral Evidence
            http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0896627301004913

            BEAUTY AND UGLINESS IN THE BODIES AND FACES OF OTHERS: AN FMRI STUDY OF PERSON ESTHETIC JUDGEMENT
            https://www.ucm.es/data/cont/docs/114-2015-01-16-Martin-Loeches%20et%20al%202014.pdf

            The Neural Response to Facial Attractiveness
            http://www.csuchico.edu/~nschwartz/The%20Neural%20Response%20to%20Facial%20Attractiveness.pdf

            Gender differences in the motivational processing of facial beauty
            http://www-2.rotman.utoronto.ca/facbios/file/Mazar_LearningMotivation_2008.pdf

            The thing is, this experiment has been played out over the history of the relevant industries, and it continues to be even now.

            Successful businesses thrive. The rest die.

          • Flick says:

            @Matt M: That’s an argument against tipping. It’s grossly unfair that tipping is justified as a necessary incentive for the waiter to work hard, but in practise is only an unfair reward for factors unrelated to waitering skills. Seems like the world would be a better and fairer place if everyone were paid a living wage and tips were not a custom.

            @Z I’m not saying that people don’t treat the beautiful better. I’m saying that shouldn’t.
            I also don’t think the waitresses looks are enough of a factor to kill a business. The history of the relevant industries varies from culture to culture. Restuarants still thrive in modest cultures where women don’t do ccustomer facing roles. The are cultures like the French where service is regarded as a skill and pays well, and people still go to restaurants despite the waiters not being chosen on looks. Perhaps I am just typical-minding but I’ve never known anyone to make a choice about where to eat or drink based on the looks of the staff.
            Even if it could be shown that the looks of the waitress is enough to sink a restaurant, it still wouldn’t apply to lots of other customer facing roles like receptionist, store assistant, sales, helpline etc.

          • Xerxes says:

            Among many other factors, physical beauty makes interacting with someone more pleasant.

          • Xerxes says:

            Perhaps I am just typical-minding but I’ve never known anyone to make a choice about where to eat or drink based on the looks of the staff.

            Flick has apparently never heard of Hooters.

      • erenold says:

        These seem like very weak arguments against the obvious point that most of DT’s comments were made describing people who were neither Miss USA contestants nor receptionists. Indeed, most of the comments, including the ‘flat-chested 10’ one and the one described below about ‘men being better than women’, were describing all women generally. I believe I specifically addressed the issue of treating women differently when their gender or appearance was in some way inherently related to their jobs. This is about all the other times.

        • Ruben says:

          I agree with you, erenold. The above arguments are weak and appear to me to be good examples of motivated reasoning.

          However, I also agree, the examples documented for DT don’t meet the dictionary definition of misogyny.

          With the other examples I could better understand the problem and maybe it warrants a separate treatment from usual hyperbole.

          However, my personal experience (in a different country) was like this: in school, a lot of the children openly said racist and sexist and anti-semitic things. Later, these people didn’t say racist things to me (as an immigrant-looking person) anymore, but some of those same people became people who dislike immigration. And some of the people who said sexist things then, still say sexist things to me, but not to women, or not to some women (ho/housewife-thinking).
          So, in my personal experience, there really are a lot of people who know when to hold their tongue and there are correlations of these things spoken in “private” and those spoken in “public”.
          Do others have wildly different experiences?

          Of course, in the presence of strong countervailing actions, maybe these mindsets should count less. I’m not sure DT’s actions, on balance, have made the world a better place for women or not, but I guess that’s not the point here.

          But yeah the other examples were better. But they were fairly Israel-specific. There is, in that case, at least in some places a reason why there might be more coded language there, because e.g. Germany has fairly specific hate crime laws and we do actually find things like Neonazis wearing kufiyas, previously more of a leftist symbol here, and other coded messages. But of course your examples still seem like overreactions.

          So, these don’t seem to be the best examples, neither in the sense of steelmanning nor strawmanning dogwhistle-logic, because
          a) you, Scott, may misjudge codes in other cultures (maybe Britain leftist politics counts here), in the sense that some commenters think he’s obviously misstepped according to local culture, that you may not have known
          b) I’m not sure, but for me it helps to see the point to have been the target of racism, but also to have been presumed “in on the joke”, because I don’t look the part. Maybe similar to the experience some women make once they “qualify as buddies” or lurk in a male-dominated space. I don’t know how that works for Jews in America, is there a lot of genuine anti-semitism that you’re exposed to as a kid, or is this fairly abstract for yourself?
          Like, have you had continuous personal interactions with people who spewed anti-semitism in early life, but became “civilised” later on? Don’t they have “tells”?

          • tcheasdfjkl says:

            However, my personal experience (in a different country) was like this: in school, a lot of the children openly said racist and sexist and anti-semitic things. Later, these people didn’t say racist things to me (as an immigrant-looking person) anymore, but some of those same people became people who dislike immigration. And some of the people who said sexist things then, still say sexist things to me, but not to women, or not to some women (ho/housewife-thinking).

            This is interesting.

            I think the closest thing I’ve experienced is this: My mother has always wanted me to lose weight. In the past, she would make comments about my appearance and say I should lose weight to look better. Over time, she has learned that I react very defiantly to statements like that, and she mostly stopped making them. Now, she tells me I should lose weight for health reasons, which I think is a much stronger argument. However, because of the history of our disagreements, I tend to suspect that a concern for my appearance is still one of her driving forces, which tends to occasionally be confirmed when she still says something about it. And to a lesser degree, I tend to suspect that polite people who are socially farther from me, who wouldn’t tell me I look bad and should lose weight, might also think so – especially if they make any food/health-related comments – because I’ve experienced that opinion so much before.

          • Ruben says:

            Yeah, people minding their words around overweight people is something I see too, including sighs of relief when the fat person acts self-aware/deprecating/makes light of the situation after a slip of the tongue.

      • Jason says:

        I agree with your argument. Sexism can be seen as a set of cultural expectations not just a set of nice clear beliefs (“thinks women should not vote”).

        Perpetuating them is included in the broad definition of being sexist. In the same vein, breaking down traditional gender expectations (support women who do math, men who ballet, whatever) can be defined as fighting against sexism.

        • Matt says:

          On the other hand, this makes any sane person a sexist.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Yeah, most of the definitions I’ve seen here of “sexist” boil down to “think there are any differences at all between men and women.”

            Which may well be the actual meaning; I certainly get that impression from feminists often enough, but I’ve grown ever less sympathetic to their cause since deconverting.

      • erenold says:

        Extrapolating a bit and continuing the analogy of sexism to a criminal offence, it strikes me as potentially part of the problem is that there are two separate “offences” being conflated into one.

        One is the dictionary definition of sexism, systematic treatment of women in a less-preferential manner for no reason other than that they are women. Let’s call this sexism simpliciter. I catch myself doing this from time to time – explaining to, rather than debating with, a female colleague, interrupting female colleagues more often. The penalty for this is and should be “hey man that’s not cool.”

        The other is, e.g., calling a woman a “cunt” in public, deliberately and consciously hiring resume-equal male job applicants on the basis that “men are superior”, etc. The key difference is not only in how it’s expressed but its motivation – hating women, thinking them unfit for employment generally, etc. This is perhaps the definition of sexism that Scott has in mind for this essay. The penalty for this is, but perhaps should not be, nasty stories in the NYT, losing your basketball team, informal disqualification from the office of POTUS, etc. Let’s call this “aggravated sexism”.

        Which category DT’s comments fall into is an exercise left to the reader, but is this a helpful starting point in trying to reconcile terminological distinctions?

        • gbdub says:

          The first two examples in your second paragraph seem totally different. One actually causes objective harm, the other is a vulgar insult. It kind of serves Scott’s point actually – it’s boorish, but not necessarily indicative of actually treating women unfairly relative to men.

          I honestly don’t get the freak out over gender-specific cuss words. Why is “cunt” or “bitch” so much worse than “dickhead”, “cocksucker”, or “asshole”? I mean, if you can say “man” and “woman” at all (which most of us are okay with) why shouldn’t we say “dick” and “twat” as gendered insults (or at least, why would the latter be worse)?

          • erenold says:

            I use them not as proof of “aggravated sexism” in themselves but as proof of the underlying mental state of genuinely disliking women. Hence the mens rea connection.

        • gbdub says:

          But why is calling a woman a “cunt” in public evidence that you’re a misogynist and not a misanthrope? Why is it evidence that you have negative feelings toward “women”, as opposed to just that particular woman – maybe she’s legitimately unpleasant and you’re just vulgar?

          EDIT: whoops, replied to wrong level. Supposed to be a response to erenold’s 12:42AM.

          • erenold says:

            No worries, I got it.

            Yeah, what you describe, an equal-opportunity asshole, is certainly possible. Let’s exclude the ‘cunt’ example for now if it’s controversial, since it’s not key to my argument.

      • Creutzer says:

        This is unfair, as it is equally irrelevant to their job performance. This is unfair, because as a matter of fact it makes women feel uncomfortable and excluded from the workplace. In short, I do agree that comments about women’s appearances are inherently sexist, because they have a deleterious effect on women in the workplace and are not made with anything near as much frequency or invective about men.

        Whence that focus on the workplace? Nobody was talking about not employing flat-chested women.

      • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

        The one thing that for some reason NO ONE seems to bring up:

        Trump insults *everybody*, not just men and women. He made fun of Rand Paul for being short. He said about Jeb Bush: “just got contact lenses and got rid of the glasses. He wants to look cool, but it’s far too late”.

        In fact, the constant insistent that criticising women is somehow worse than criticising men, and therefore Trump is sexist, is in itself sexism (benevolent sexism towards women)

        • tcheasdfjkl says:

          In all of these cases the problem isn’t so much that he’s insulting people, it’s that he’s insulting people for things that have nothing to do with their work or their “self” – specifically for their bodies. I think that insulting people for their bodies is always wrong in a way that approaches ableism (or actually is ableist, depending). The sexist part is that he consistently insults women in a very gendered way that focuses on their appearance even when it’s irrelevant, and insulting women for their appearance is really a quite strong insult in our society. (To me it seems obvious that women’s worth is equated with their appearance much more than men’s is, which I believe to be a sexist state of affairs, and I think Trump’s gendered choice of insults is part of that and contributes to that.)

          • JakeR says:

            To me it seems obvious that women’s worth is equated with their appearance much more than men’s is, which I believe to be a sexist state of affairs…

            I agree. But that isn’t exclusive to women. It seems obvious to me that men’s worth is equated with professional and financial success far more than women’s is. Seems just as sexist.

          • Flick says:

            @JakeR: I dunno; seems to me that teenage mothers who claim benefits and don’t necessarily work are pretty roundly condemned by everyone for being parasites i.e. professional and financial failures.
            Even middle class stay-at-home mums get a fair bit of criticism for ‘wasting’ their degrees or ‘doing nothing’ with their lives.
            Women are also harshly comdemned for financial and professional failure.
            And they’re in the double bind of also being condemned for financial and professional success – what kind of cold-hearted monster leaves her kids in childcare instead of raising them herself?!

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            > The sexist part is that he consistently insults women in a very gendered way

            Trump’s insults towards Jeb Bush were heavily gendered, implying low testosterone and whatnot. His supporters went nuts for that.

            In general, this all seems so pointless. The guy is a thoughtless, boorish asshole towards everyone who gets on his bad side or just wanders through his field of vision; isn’t that enough to criticize him on? Why is it necessary to carefully parse his assholery as if we were analyzing the Kabbalah?

          • Randy M says:

            It may be useful because “Trump is coming after [group you most closely identify with]!” is more motivating than “Trump is a jerk.”

          • Walter says:

            Eh, Trump gets his own appearance criticized constantly. “Orange monster”, “Orange garbage fire”, “small hands”, etc. Look around, you’ll see it everywhere.

            He doesn’t give out near as much as he gets dissed.

          • Subbak says:

            I already commented on how I find the small hands thing weird (in that the media somehow finds it funny), but to be fair the hairstyle is his decision. I think mocking his hairstyle is on the same level as mocking someone’s kaleidoscope tie, i.e. I don’t see any problem with it. Even if he has zero sense of taste he should be able to hire an advisor who can give him pointers on how not to look ridiculous.

          • Nicholas says:

            This is because “men with big hands” is in fact in itself a dog whistle for “men with large penises”. Repeatedly mentioning that Trump’s hands are small is supposed to be a dog whistle for Trump having emasculate genitals, with the non-dogs being children and FCC censors.

          • Theo Jones says:

            Well, Trump did insult “Little Marco” on those grounds also.

          • Subbak says:

            @Nicholas: I’m not even convinced that is the entire explanation for why the insult is used, but even if it was, it doesn’t explain why people consider it more OK to say “Donald Trump has a small penis” than “Chris Christie is super fat”.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Mentioning that Trump has small hands isn’t a dog-whistle, it’s just a euphemism; everyone is supposed to get it, it’s just a bit too crude to claim your opponent has a small penis (though I won’t be TOO surprised if Trump does so about someone on Hillary’s side in so many words before November).

            I think the “small hands” thing was an attempt by Rubio to attack Trump on his own level. It wasn’t entirely unsuccessful; Trump carried on about it way longer than necessary.

            Also Chris Christie’s weight gets brought up a lot in NJ. He had bariatric surgery before his presidential run in order to make it less of an issue (well, that reason is speculation, but it’s common speculation). If his campaign had lasted longer we’d have seen a lot more shots at his weight, probably not just from Trump.

          • anonymous bosch says:

            You idiots, the small hands thing is because Trump was famously enraged when a reporter referred to him as a “short-fingered vulgarian” and sent him pictures of his hands for years afterwards.

        • “Trump insults *everybody*”

          Along similar lines, is calling a woman he wants to insult a cunt evidence of sexism if he also calls men he wants to insult pricks?

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s plausibly Bayesian evidence for it, in that one of those words is vastly stronger than the other and we often consider insults evidence of *ism in proportion to their strength.

            You can’t derive that from their denotative meaning, but that’s language for you.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            It’s plausibly Bayesian evidence for it, in that one of those words is vastly stronger than the other…

            Which one?

            I’ve always thought of them as equivalent, with “Dick” and “Bitch” being the lesser (more socially acceptble) forms.

          • Nornagest says:

            “Cunt”.

            I see “prick” and “bitch” as roughly equivalent, and “dick” as milder than either.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            Huh TIL.

          • tcheasdfjkl says:

            I agree that “cunt” feels much stronger than “prick”.

            For what it’s worth, I’m American, and I’ve heard that in British English “cunt” is much milder than it is for us.

          • The Nybbler says:

            “Cunt” in American English (very unlike Australian English, where even the SJWs call each other “cunts”) is basically still taboo. You don’t call someone a “cunt” unless you want a permanent exit from any sort of polite society. This makes it quite popular among edgelords of course. I’m not sure there’s a similarly strong male-gendered insult.

          • gbdub says:

            I think the male equivalent to “cunt” (in America vs UK) is “cocksucker” which is both vulgar and homophobic.

          • Matt M says:

            “cocksucker” is an anti-gay slur, dontcha know?

          • I am the Tarpitz says:

            I think it’s more that swearing in general is less of a big deal in most (though not all) UK subcultures than in most US ones. “Cunt” is still the strongest swear word in the UK, but that still almost certainly makes it a bigger deal there than here. In my (urban, artsy) social circle it’s a complete non-issue, but still not quite punctuation the way “fuck”, for example, is. In at least some rural northern working or lower-middle class circles, on the other hand, it’s still completely taboo.

      • j r says:

        Men are rarely (though occasionally) criticized for their appearance, particularly on the campaign trail and in the workplace.

        This is an odd claim to make on a comment that’s about Trump. If you ask someone to describe Trump, there’s a good chance that you will hear the words “orange combover.” There’s a thing that happens with feminism and ant-racism and LGBT activism that is usually associated with their opposite where all sorts of bits of conventional wisdom get folded in an treated with very little scrutiny.

        Going through the field of Republican canditates it strikes me that I don’t recall anyone, other than Trump, making remarks about Carly Fiorina, but I revall lots of comments about Cruz’ punchable face. And bot Christie and Huckabee have been targets for weight comments most of their careers. When I think about who does and who does not attract appearance comments, it’s not so much sex as how much you deviate from the standards of conventional attractiveness.

        • erenold says:

          This is a fair objection that has gotten me to rethink that particular point, so thank you.

          Is it possible however that the window of ‘conventional attractiveness’ is significantly wider for men than women? Particularly as it includes sartorial choice, which is virtually a non-factor for Western male politicians.

          I.e. Trump attracts such criticism because his appearance is, objectively, very very much non-standard, let alone by the standards of POTUS candidates. (I’ve seen articles where Chinese netizens express disbelief that his hairstyle in particular is not Photoshopped.) Whereas Hillary attracts appearance-related criticism merely for being an older woman, for instance.

          • tcheasdfjkl says:

            Is it possible however that the window of ‘conventional attractiveness’ is significantly wider for men than women? Particularly as it includes sartorial choice, which is virtually a non-factor for Western male politicians.

            I think this is correct.

            Weight illustrates this well, I think. Fat people in general are targets of prejudice (Chris Christie is indeed a good example). But our beauty standards are such that a man has to deviate somewhat substantially from the ideal weight before he’s considered fat, whereas a woman need only deviate a bit. For example, at least from what I’ve seen, it’s very normal for a man to have his belly protrude noticeably forward above his pants, especially if he’s wearing a tucked-in dress shirt, and this is unremarkable unless he is really very fat. For a woman, the same amount of belly is considered ugly.

            More generally, I think people remark upon men’s attractiveness if they are very attractive or if they are very unattractive – there’s a broad middle ground where men just look pretty normal and people just don’t feel compelled to evaluate their attractiveness, especially in a professional context. I think for women that middle ground is much narrower, if it exists at all, and a woman’s attractiveness is considered a really central thing about her.

          • erenold says:

            That’s my sense of it as well.

            I have myself never seen anyone pointing out literally the first thing I personally notice about Trump – he’s very, very overweight! Maybe not morbidly so, and certainly he was helped by having Chris Christie around as a comparator, but certainly unhealthily so, no?

            I find it difficult – correct me if I’m mistaken – to believe that political women could get away with a comparable BMI without it being a topic of discussion.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Is it possible however that the window of ‘conventional attractiveness’ is significantly wider for men than women?

            At least according to OKCupid statistics, the opposite is true. Most men are considered of below-average attractiveness, unlike most women.

            Anecdotally, it seems to me that most famous male politicians are publicly mocked by any slight physical defect or unusual sartorial choice. To some extent this also applies to female politicians, but when it happens the feminists promptly screech “MYSOGGYKNEE!!!”

          • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

            To kind of combine the conflicting observations of OkCupid and the presidential race:

            Men are usually not evaluated primarily on their attractiveness, unless it stands out (like being very fat). So it’s not that the window of “conventional attractiveness is signifacntly wider”, it’s that the window of acceptable attractiveness before it get’s noticed is wider. However, when men are being judged by their looks (like on dating sites), they fare worse than women.

          • Subbak says:

            re: OKCupid stats, I don’t think they’re very relevant to politicians who are much more groomed than the average person. I would assume male and female politicians put a comparable amount of effort/staff in personal grooming (Bernie Sanders not included), whereas the average man grooms much less than the average woman.

          • Ruben says:

            Even on OKCupid: for men, looks matter less for actual messaging (ie the thing you care about, you don’t care so much about the rating). It’s often summarised as a minimum standard kind of thing. And yes, a lot of men don’t meet the minimum standard.
            For women, looks matter much more for messaging.
            http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/your-looks-and-online-dating/

            This may sound as if women are harsher judges, but from what I know, it’s the target that matters, not the judge. Men are on average uglier than women, period. I don’t know if OKCupid has released such analyses for homosexual and bisexual judges, but from what I hear and read, the same distribution of ratings should emerge.

            So, vV_Vv you’re wrong for substantive outcomes. And it may even be argued, due to the inter-sexual-orientation agreement among judges, that men’s window of conventional attractiveness has an _even_ lower lower-edge, because men are intersubjectively less easy on the eyes than women (be that because of biology or less grooming or culturally ingrained preference or whatever).

          • Jared says:

            For example, at least from what I’ve seen, it’s very normal for a man to have his belly protrude noticeably forward above his pants, especially if he’s wearing a tucked-in dress shirt, and this is unremarkable unless he is really very fat. For a woman, the same amount of belly is considered ugly.

            While I agree that women are judged more harshly for their appearance than men in professional contexts, this was a terrible example in the specifics. Due to sex hormones, men and women have different fat storage patterns. Men tend to store fat around their abdomen first and women tend to store it around their hips and butt first. On average, I would expect a women with a belly the size of an overweight man’s (proportionally to height) to be a complete blob all over, just as I would expect of a man with an ass the size of an overweight woman’s. And if on the other hand the woman does just have fat mostly around her belly like a man, many people will find that unattractive because it goes against female secondary sexual characteristics.

          • Aapje says:

            Is it possible however that the window of ‘conventional attractiveness’ is significantly wider for men than women?

            I’d say that it is the opposite: men are simply not allowed as much choice and with that limited choice there is much less to criticize.

            For example, no man I know would ever wear shorts to work. Since this rule is so strict and a simple pass/fail, it is easy to follow. In contrast, women have the choice to wear dresses or skirts, but with this comes a grey area of skirt length, shaving the legs, etc that leaves women open for criticism if they go ‘too far’. Men simply never enter this grey area.

            Another example is events like the Oscars. Take a look at the red carpet pictures and compare the men to the women. Most men wear the same thing: a black tux. Women are all over the place. Imagine making a job out of criticizing the men, you’d die of boredom. But with women there is much more to argue about (and plenty people, men and women, love critiquing the fashion choices of famous women, who in turn often cater to that by wearing ‘fashion’).

            Whenever men do step out of line and get ‘fashionable,’ they get criticized just as much as women, IMO.

          • Nornagest says:

            There’s more going on with those suits and tuxes than you might think. Because the rules for men’s formal wear are so strict, the differences are less obvious to people that don’t spend a lot of time wearing (or at least discussing) it, but it is “fashion”, and it’s absolutely possible to make bold choices within that context. And celebrities do, all the time.

            It’s just that the rest of us only notice it when it looks like this.

          • Anonymous says:

            Whenever men do step out of line and get ‘fashionable,’ they get criticized just as much as women, IMO.

            Have you seen Don Cherry?!

          • SUT says:

            Tentative assertion: Our last two presidents (maybe three if you count the makeover) have been the most in-shape people to have held the office. And by in-shape I mean jogging/pilates/yoga body, not something like can hammer iron pylons for 12 hours straight, ride a horse a 1000 miles, etc 😉

            Probably one of the defining characteristics of our time is the increased interest in physical training, especially for over-40 executives. I suspect both Bush’s and Obama’s political handlers consider their physique confidence inspiring and a large asset.

            Which makes the 2016 showdown view from waist to shoulders even more dissonant. But while neither are conventionally attractive, I’d have to give Trump the edge in body language and physical charisma and power-wagging [a la Jack Donaghy]. Agreed?

          • Aapje says:

            @Nornagest

            That really just supports my point. The only people who care about these tiny differences (OMG, the sleeves are invisible!!!11) are hardcore fashion people. Most people only notice the biggest errors (like a suit that is 10 sizes too big) or simply find it immensely boring because the same ‘errors’ are made time and again.

            By contrast, no person will fail to notice the differences between even the most basic dresses.

          • The range of variation in what people notice is huge.

            A man (probably moderately deep into the autism spectrum) told me that he didn’t notice a difference between what I was wearing (t shirt and sweat pants) and what another woman was wearing (long gown, somewhat low cut, with an organdy jacket with some gold ornamentation), and I believe he was telling the truth about what he was not noticing.

            We were at a science fiction convention, of course.

            And I think most people would be amazed at how much I don’t notice about cars.

          • Aapje says:

            Yeah sure and women seem to be (cultured to be) more interested in fashion on average than men. As far as I encounter criticism of how people dress, it seems to be done by women at least as much as by men.

            To me, that makes the accusation of misogyny rather weak, unless one wants to argue that those women are women-haters.

          • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

            I am surprised that people still use that definiton of sexism on a place like SCC, even Scott. Sexism is not necessarily hatred of women, it’s treating any person differently because of their gender. I am quite critical of SJWs but I think they got it right on this one:

            Women criticising other women for their appearence is a good sign of entrenched gender norms, i.e. the relative importance of looks for women compared to men. This may not be necessarily bad, I think it’s not the end of the world, but the double standard exists.

            Now, that SJWs attack men if they judge women based on appearance, but certainly do not when it’s a woman who is judging is another matter.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Sounds like sexism is good?

          • gbdub says:

            If you’re going to define “sexism” as “any differing treatment based on gender”, then I don’t think you can necessarily treat it as negative, or at least not react as negatively as you do to the “actively treat women as inferior” type.

            I kind of see that as the problem with the expanded definition of sexism (and racism, for that matter). The response needs to be proportionate to the offense, but the “dog whistle” approach treats minor gaffes as major crimes.

          • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

            @gbdub:

            I agree. It’s a classic motte-and-bailey: Oh, sexism is not just hatred of women, it’s treating them differently. Thus, as you treat women differently, you are sexist and therefore also misogynistic.

          • erenold says:

            No, I think that’s wrong, though. Again, this is Merriam-Webster:

            unfair treatment of people because of their sex; especially : unfair treatment of women.”

            It has to fulfill a two-part test. One, are you treating women differently? One bee, is there an genuine occupational reason you are treating women differently (e.g. I want to cast Conan the Barbarian and I will not consider casting a woman, period)? Two, is that treatment ‘unfair’ or negative?

            That’s the dictionary definition and it seems both ‘useful’ and ‘true’ in the sense that it reflects popular usage.

          • anonymous bosch says:

            You can unfairly favor somebody.

        • Subbak says:

          Did anyone make fat jokes about Christie without most of the media at least going “hey, not cool!”? Did, in fact, any of the non-Trump republican candidates go there?

          As I said in another post there seems to be an exception for short size, and apparently short hands, that suddenly make it OK to mock a person’s looks.

        • Matt M says:

          Someone (may have been Scott Adams, can’t remember) pointed out early on that Trump has almost certainly been more criticized based on his appearance than any candidate involved in this election cycle, and any candidate at all in recent history (mostly relating to his hair). It goes ignored because “making fun of Donald Trump’s bad hair” has been a cultural meme since the 80s, such that nobody even realizes when it happens anymore.

          • Julia Grey says:

            He can do something about his hair. He can do something about the spray tan and the white raccoon eyes from the goggles.

            I feel perfectly justified in criticizing/ mocking things people have the ability to change, but I hold the line at things which cannot be fixed in, at most, a couple of weeks. Thus, I point and laugh at absurd makeup, but I don’t make fat jokes.

        • DrBeat says:

          Going through the field of Republican canditates it strikes me that I don’t recall anyone, other than Trump, making remarks about Carly Fiorina, but I revall lots of comments about Cruz’ punchable face. And bot Christie and Huckabee have been targets for weight comments most of their careers. When I think about who does and who does not attract appearance comments, it’s not so much sex as how much you deviate from the standards of conventional attractiveness.

          This is the usual pattern. When people say “Women are unfairly targeted by $THING”, what it almost always means is “Women are targeted much, much less by $THING than men are, but since I view women as innately precious and cherishable and men as innately disposable and degrading, I get upset and remember it when it happens to women and do not become upset and do not remember it when it happens to men.”

          It’s exactly the same kind of thinking that leads activists to say that it’s proof of how much society hates and threatens women when 25% of the homeless in a region are women, or 10% of murder victims in El Salvador are women. They are literally and not figuratively incapable of perceiving bad things happening to men, and so always conclude women are disproportionately victims, even though this is never true.

      • notes says:

        @erenold

        There are challenges.

        There are reasons mens rea requirements were once so common in the common law, and the broad change to strict liability has been for the worse. In practice, the charge of sexism falls even on patterns of behavior premised on genuine factual differences — but let that pass, for strict liability would be inappropriate regardless.

        Perhaps the largest effect of shifting this to strict liability, undesirable to some and the point of the exercise to others, is that there is no safe harbor. To treat all the same is to fail to accommodate vital individual needs (“the fabled offer of milk to the stork and the fox”); to treat each differently is to discriminate.

        And if all are guilty, then everything lies in the charging and sentencing. This would be as nothing if, as you assert below, the penalty for sexism simpliciter, was a “hey man, that’s not cool.” Strict liability for parking tickets doesn’t bother most because the penalty is so minor. When the penalties for parking tickets are not minor, you get the sort of revenue-by-fine system seen in Ferguson… and then strict liability is felt to be (and is!) a grave imposition.

        Indeed, you attempt to reimport the mens rea distinction below, to split off sexism with severe penalties from that which should (your word) be punished only by ‘hey man, that’s not cool.’ So why try to strike the mens rea requirement initially?

        • Anonymous says:

          This post is very confusing. Are you claiming there’s a broad movement in American? Anglophone? law to strict liability criminal law?

          • notes says:

            True in every Anglophone country I’ve seen, both in the criminal law itself (though with occasional reverses of direction) and more dramatically in the gradual displacement of law by regulation, which is usually strict liability.

            Consider sentencing enhancements, or the more general shift to civil tools such as forfeitures or the various UK civil orders (most famously, the ASBO, though that’s been superseded).

          • Same Anonymous says:

            I can’t speak the to UK, but in the US there’s no shift to strict liability. Such crimes remain extremely rare (about the only one I can think of is statutory rape, and that’s longstanding).

            I don’t see what sentence enhancements have to do with anything, you can only have a sentence enhanced if you’ve been convicted beyond a reasonable doubt of a crime, which almost certainly will have involved a mens rea element. Also, in the US there’s a line of case starting with Apprendi v. New Jersey that constitutionalizes sentencing enhancements.

            In terms of regulation being strict liability, that looks to me like a category error. There’s only a place to attach a mens rea requirement (or more properly scienter requirement if we are talking about a civil context) where there is punishment. When the government goes to actually try to sue or prosecute someone for breaking regulations they have to rely on statutory law, not regulations for the elements to be proved.

          • notes says:

            Concur that sentence enhancements require predicate crimes, concur that predicate crimes in the US are still primarily mens rea (statutory rape and felony murder being the big exception). When the enhancements are comparable to or greater than the punishment for the underlying crime, it’s debatable whether the mens rea requirement still has teeth.

            Concur that Apprendi and Alleyne pushed back on sentence enhancements and mandatory minimums, but they both did so by increasing jury involvement. (Yes, Apprendi specifically involved a mens rea enhancement; see Dean for a controlling holding that minimums/enhancements do not require mens rea.) There are other pushbacks: consider the ruling in Black and Skilling that honest services fraud is (almost) void for vagueness, lacking a bribe or kickback… but consider that one in the light of the increased use of RICO in prosecutions.

            As for regulations, you’re correct that there must be an authorizing law for an agency and its regulations, but that authorizing law does not need to provide elements. Often it delegates defining the elements to the agency, sometimes setting the severity of punishment to the agency, sometimes even the jurisdiction over a case breaching those regulations to a court established and staffed by the agency.

        • erenold says:

          @notes,

          There’s an is/ought distinction here, I think. I’m not claiming that we should treat sexism allegations as strict liability – I’m pointing out that the dictionary definition already does so. And it already does so because that’s exactly how the term is conventionally used. Hence you hear people using the phrase “unintentionally sexist”, which by definition excludes malice.

          And it’s precisely because I’m troubled by the idea that I could lose my job (for example) for being perceived to have talked over women or mansplained to them that I think it’s important to distinguish sexism simpliciter and sexism with malice aforethought. I agree with you that to treat the former as the same as the latter would be terrible.

      • Mr L says:

        Men are rarely (though occasionally) criticized for their appearance, particularly on the campaign trail and in the workplace.

        Really? Because I’m pretty sure no one in their right mind would dare call a female politician fat or old, while those insults are regularly leveled at male politicians. Trump’s hair is a frequent topic of discussion this election cycle, and his penis size actually came up at the debate!

        As for the workplace, well, the most stereotypically masculine workplace we have – the military – has a host of physical and grooming standards, requiring more effort than any makeup counter.

        • erenold says:

          Please see j r’s comment thread above http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/06/17/against-dog-whistles/#comment-373790 – I think you raise a good objection re: Trump specifically, but the picture is considerably more mixed elsewhere, and part of that is because Trump really is sui generis as regards his appearance.

          I’m also detecting a cheat when you include physical standards as part of the military’s requirements for male appearance. Firstly, they’re required for female soldiers as well mutatis mutandis, secondly the physical standards are there because physical strength is actually integral to a soldier’s occupation.

          Or so my drill sergeant used to claim, anyway. Man, fuck that guy.

        • Flick says:

          I wonder if American’s are politer about female politicians than Brits? In the UK Ann Widdecombe was universally criticised for being incredibly ugly. Jess Phillips MP has recently been the recipient of a barrage of tweets from men reassuring her that she’s too ugly to rape. The Daily Mail runs regular stories about female MPs in parliament having necklines too low.

          Wouldn’t you say that the military is hyper-masculine workplace, because it’s the pinnacle of manliness rather than the example? Stereotypical masculine workplaces would be more like construction sites for the working class, tech and engineering for the middle class?

          • Catchling says:

            I think the level of attractiveness-policing of American female politicians is approximately similar, maybe less than you describe. There are definitely cruel tweets. I can’t think of an equivalent malice in our equivalents of the Daily Mail (I’m thinking of online conservative news sources). Regardless, calling them ugly is usually taboo, hence controversy when Trump did it.

            Actually I can think of one woman in the political sphere who has been the subject of frequent looks-based attacks (with “she’s a man” transphobia often mixed in): Ann Coulter.

          • Jill says:

            There’s a fair amount of stuff on the Internet saying that Michelle Obama is transgender.

          • Catchling says:

            I’d forgotten about that. Yeah, some very nasty stuff has been directed at her. Ugh.

      • Squirrel of Doom says:

        Men are rarely (though occasionally) criticized for their appearance, particularly on the campaign trail and in the workplace. Women frequently are. This is unfair, as it is equally irrelevant to their job performance.

        I think this is mostly just human nature.

        Claim: In our species, across cultures and time, women primarily get sexual and social status from physical appearance, while for men it’s from personality and achievements.

        Whether you like it or not, that’s who we are, and it will influence daily life in societies made up from our primate species. Especially in elections, which are to a large extent popularity/social status competitions.

        • erenold says:

          I think you’re quite right, on reflection. But given that rapine, murder and theft are also within our natural condition, does this preclude us thinking of gender-based appearance scrutiny as A Bad Thing and trying to make it no longer a Thing at all?

          • Anonymous says:

            To bring together two different comments I’ve made in this thread: I think if you take ‘gender-based appearance scrutiny is A Bad Thing’ as a general rule and seriously apply it then you will do tremendous damage to things that both men and women like. If you’re going to try to do this in a more targeted and measured way, though, consider whether ‘gender-based appearance scrutiny’ might be too specific a concept, and whether there might be something analogous that is applied to men, that this metric doesn’t pick up.

            If the idea of preventing women from shaming and excluding men for being creepy or wimpy seems abhorrent, perhaps there’s something to be said for allowing people to hold and act on gender-specific preferences after all? Alternatively, you could take the route of whole-heartedly embracing anti-sexism as being about raising the status of women, rather than literally being about opposition to gender differences, and care less about trying to defend your values as a logical, internally consistent system. (Yes, I’m serious!)

          • Squirrel of Doom says:

            Agreeing with me is no way to start a fight!

            My thought on that is that you *can* fight your nature, but it’s hard, so you need to pick your battles. Mostly the best thing is to accept your urges and biases, be aware of them, and try to compensate when it makes sense.

            The ones in other people I think you just need to accept.

            It’s interesting that we’ve someone managed to reduce “rapine, murder and theft” enormously in a few generations. I don’t think it happened by people fighting against their true nature. I’d say it’s happened through changed incentives and much increased prosperity. People who have something to lose don’t act as recklessly.

          • erenold says:

            Black anonymous, you’re actually kind of an asshole, and I’m also actually a guy. But thank you for your insightful contribution that enlightened me and caused me to radically rethink my worldview in favour of yours. As I am sure was your intent. Please carry on advocating your politics in this manner so as to maximize your number.

          • erenold says:

            Pink anonymous and squirrel:

            I’m making a much more limited claim than I believe is being debated here. Specifically in the context of evaluating female employees and politicians, their looks are completely irrelevant to virtually any aspect of their job. So why include that as part of the metric, and why not try – as charitably as we can – to reduce the amount of emphasis that we collectively place upon it? On reflection, it could well be that we are wired to do so – but isn’t it at the core of rationalist thought to overcome our meatbrains in favour of the more correcter thing to do?

            This isn’t some kind of wider comment on society at all – unless I have misunderstood you.

          • Matt M says:

            “Specifically in the context of evaluating female employees and politicians, their looks are completely irrelevant to virtually any aspect of their job.”

            Politics is a giant popularity contest. How can you possibly claim looks aren’t relevant?

          • Nicholas says:

            Given that rapine, murder and theft are also within our natural condition does this preclude us thinking of subsisting on diet edible food rather than of rocks and jet fuel as A Bad Thing and trying to make it no longer a Thing at all?

            You have just summed up the primary spiritual belief of half of this board and your host in one sentence, as part of a strawman about why someone else is wrong.

            (Hint: Computers run on rocks and jet fuel.)

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            (Hint: Computers run on rocks and jet fuel.)

            Remind me never to ask you for IT help.

          • erenold says:

            Matt:

            It’s irrelevant to the job they’re trying to do, which is govern effectively and well. I see it as a problem of democracy that there are unrelated hoops they need to jump through beforehand.

            Nicholas:

            (sorry ignore this I completely misunderstood you)

          • Matt M says:

            Part of “governing effectively” is “convincing people to go along with your ideas.” Appearance is relevant to this. Whether we’re talking about delivering a policy speech to the public, trying to rally your allies in Congress, or negotiating a trade agreement with Putin – your appearance (and general charisma) will affect your success.

            Seems to me like your problem is less with democracy and more with human nature. Might it be nice to live in a world where people weren’t constant judged according to their physical attractiveness? Sure, I guess. But we don’t.

          • erenold says:

            I’ve considered your argument, but I still have to respectfully disagree. The perspective from which we’re answering this question matters – are we considering the potential leader as voters, or as some kind of Debbie Wassermann Schultz candidate-vetter?

            If it’s the latter then sure. We should give preference to selecting candidates for general consumption given that people will judge them based on their attractiveness. You’re right. But if it’s as voters, and we know that attractiveness is so infinitesimally a part of their job (how often are they negotiating with Putin, and how often would big breasts be effective in getting him to stop/start bombing Syria? I’m highly dubious), then the fact that everyone else is doing it doesn’t matter. We shouldn’t do it. I try to make a point not to in my own country’s elections.

          • Matt M says:

            “The perspective from which we’re answering this question matters – are we considering the potential leader as voters, or as some kind of Debbie Wassermann Schultz candidate-vetter?”

            See, I theoretically agree with you that maybe we *shouldn’t* do this, but I think most voters voluntarily adopt the latter role, as that of a candidate-vetter. Consider how much of the primary process is dedicated to candidates trying to talk about how “electable” they are, or how often you see an argument of “you should support X because he can win.”

            Especially in a highly visible and famous role like President. If you’re a conservative and you want to convince other Americans that conservatism is awesome, who do you want making that case to the public on your behalf – Ronald Reagan or Richard Nixon? To the extent that political leaders are the “public face” of particular values, it makes sense that people with those values want an attractive person to put on their posters and send up to podiums to give speeches and what not.

            Similarly, if you are running a private company and are recruiting an employee for roles in which they will interact with the public on a regular basis, you will prefer someone who is attractive, for obvious reasons. I’d be really interested in a study that examined whether CEOs were disproportionate more attractive than other c-suite level directors. I’d almost certainly bet they are. Because the CEO has to go out there and talk to investors and journalists and sell the public on the idea that your company is really good.

          • erenold says:

            Hummm… these are good points, indeed. Let’s try to reconcile where we disagree.

            1. We both (I believe) share the logical premise that a priori, attractiveness should not matter to a politician, since in an utopian and wholly rationalistic world this would be irrelevant to his actual job, governance.

            2. We both share the empirical premise that this is clearly not so in the actual world.

            3. We both share the empirical premise that this is so because a certain number X of voters require, for reasons that are mostly irrational, attractiveness in their political leaders. You rightly, I think, point out that a certain number Y of voters do not value attractiveness in their political leaders per se, but rationally want to back a winning horse that can get things done for them, and all things being equal an attractive candidate, who has the support of X voters, is superior in that regard to an unattractive candidate. Y voters are actually thus acting rationally. X+Y combined represent a formidable political constituency in their own respect. All good thus far, I believe.

            4. Here’s where I suspect we disagree. Do you believe this is immutable, and that we can never break this cycle? Bearing in mind that we only need to break X in order to get Y to dissipate – is this impossible? I think reasonable people can disagree here.

            For a host of subjective reasons I’ll not bore everyone with listing, for my money, I consider Germany the most rationalist country in the world. It is the country in which dispassionate, pragmatic, efficient technocracy is most revered, and chest-beating jingoism most despised. (I bring this up not to convince anyone of this entirely subjective evaluation, but just for context on my personal views.)

            And look at their leader. I hope I am not being sexist when I point out that she is perhaps not what Donald Trump or any one of us in particular would consider a 10 – yet she has amassed tremendous power and influence across all of Europe, has very high public approval by the standards of western politicians, and in general will probably go down as one of the most noteworthy leaders of the modern age.

            And I ask myself – if the Germans can do it, why can’t we?

          • Matt M says:

            At a very general level, no, I don’t think we can break the cycle. I think that most people rationally understand that bias towards the attractive is irrational in most circumstances, but it still happens, because most of the bias happens at a subconscious level (I would expect attractive waiters to receive higher tips, even at a rationalist meetup dinner).

            I used Nixon as the prototypical example of a fairly unattractive person who was nonetheless able to achieve huge political success. Merkel would be another example.

            At a micro level, on a case-by-case basis, I think the bias can be overcome. One can fashion an argument that Nixon or Merkel or someone is *uniquely qualified* in terms of the other “relevant” attributes such that it doesn’t matter that they are unattractive.

            But in the context of five GOP senators with nearly identical positions running for the nomination, I would generally expect the most attractive one to win, and I don’t have a huge problem with that.

            (It’s worth noting that to me, as an anarchist, virtually all mainstream American politicians are practically indistinguishable when it comes to ideology as far as I’m concerned, such that I’m fine with anyone deciding among them by bizarre/irrational methods. But if the race was between Ron Paul and Elizabeth Warren, I might demand a higher standard)

          • Jiro says:

            I hope I am not being sexist when I point out that she is perhaps not what Donald Trump or any one of us in particular would consider a 10 – yet she has amassed tremendous power and influence across all of Europe, has very high public approval by the standards of western politicians, and in general will probably go down as one of the most noteworthy leaders of the modern age.

            “Atrractiveness” in the context of politics isn’t the same thing as “would someone want to have sex with them”. Someone can have a physical appearance that projects power and is effective politically without being a Miss Universe contender. Furthermore, this is more of a distinction for women than for men, because male attractiveness is more related to power in the first place.

          • erenold says:

            Matt:

            Yeah, that’s fair enough, then. My personal opinion is that it can be done on the macro level – and in any event I believe that trying our best is worth our time. (Where macro is defined not as 100% of the population but sufficient to neuter X and render them no longer worthwhile allies to Y.)

            Jiro:

            True and important. But if you saw Angie on the street and you had no idea who she was, would you really believe her appearance projected power and charisma? It doesn’t work for me personally.

      • Anonymous says:

        Men are rarely (though occasionally) criticized for their appearance, particularly on the campaign trail and in the workplace. Women frequently are.

        When you look at the more broad class of ‘characteristics that determine attractiveness to the opposite sex’, rather than specifically at appearance, the picture seems less clear. For example, men are quite frequently criticized for being insufficiently masculine, and perhaps even more frequently for being creepy.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I merely need to exhibit a pattern of behaviours in which I systematically treated women unfairly because they were women

        OK, I’ll accept that at least for the sake of argument.

        Men are rarely (though occasionally) criticized for their appearance, particularly on the campaign trail and in the workplace. Women frequently are. This is unfair, as it is equally irrelevant to their job performance. This is unfair, because as a matter of fact it makes women feel uncomfortable and excluded from the workplace. In short, I do agree that comments about women’s appearances are inherently sexist, because they have a deleterious effect on women in the workplace and are not made with anything near as much frequency or invective about men.

        The step from “It is unfair that women are more frequently criticized for their appearance” to “any particular instance of criticizing a woman for her appearance is unfair” isn’t sound. Further, while you deny a mens rea requirement, your definition does require that the purported sexist be the one engaging in the behavior, and do it because the person involved is a woman. Trump criticizes the appearance of both men and women, and as far as I can tell does not do it _because_ the person involved is a man or a woman.

        • erenold says:

          Hmmm… before I respond to this, can I get an elaboration on

          The step from “It is unfair that women are more frequently criticized for their appearance” to “any particular instance of criticizing a woman for her appearance is unfair” isn’t sound.

          If the objection is that a single instance is insufficiently probative, I would point out that I carefully mentioned “pattern of behaviours” in my original formulation.

          I’ll accept the second part of your comment tentatively, pending further thought, about DT being an equal-opportunity offender and thereby being excused from charges of sexism – though I do think Nancy Leibowitz has a point here (http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/06/17/against-dog-whistles/#comment-373810) when she points out that implying that a Kelly was being harsh on him because of her period is inherently sexist.

          Also

          OK, I’ll accept that at least for the sake of argument.

          Would it be possible for me to ask you to fight my definition as aggressively as possible, rather than accept it for argument’s sake? I suspect this is at the core of my disagreement with Scott, tbh. Scott’s thinking of the kind of sexism that gets people fired and gets an SJW hatemob going. I’m thinking of mansplaining. My assertion is that the dictionary and the popular definition agree with me. That seems central.

      • Liskantope says:

        I agree with the gist of your criticism; it addresses the one area in the article where I don’t really see things the same way as Scott.

        Basically, Scott’s definition of sexism is a fairly literalistic one in which context plays no role. This is fine for arguing that Trump is not actually *personally* sexist, and I agree with Scott as far as saying that there’s little evidence of actual deeply-held sexist beliefs on Trump’s part. But what many of us care about more is not what his actual deeply-held beliefs are (if he even has any; a lot of politicians apparently don’t), but what kinds of attitudes already present in a significant portion of the populace he is (deliberately) stoking with his rhetoric. To me it’s obvious that he’s going out of his way to fan the flames of several common forms of bigotry, including sexism.

        And by the way, I completely disagree that the remark about “blood coming out of her whatever” was innocent, but that’s more a matter of a purely social sense and not something I can really argue.

    • Garrett says:

      Didn’t he run the Miss Multiverse pageant or something? Where women are actually given official numerical scores and ranked? Why should this somehow make it a worse issue?

      • Catchling says:

        Beauty pageants are widely understood as a situation where explicit judgement on looks is acceptable (although even there it is softened by bringing in other factors, like a talent portion, if only for plausible deniability). Judging on looks can still be considered boorish outside of that. If a politician suddenly started wearing nothing but swim trunks, his having once been a life guard wouldn’t amount to a defense against the culture’s nudity taboo.

        (Meanwhile, the idea of a Miss Multiverse pageant raises all sorts of nifty questions. How is a contestant compared to her own alternate-double? Are the beauty norms and standards of different timelines acknowledged?)

  8. Dan Lucraft says:

    Yeah, Ken. I particularly liked that time 10 years ago when he compared a Jewish journalist to a Nazi concentration camp guard. And was then suspended from being Mayor of London for a while.

    This was about the time I left the Labour Party because I found its anti-semitism disgusting (this was one reason among about three big ones).

    So, I think this was a bad example. Otherwise, great, article.

    (further discussion of anti-semitism in the left in the UK:
    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/commentisfree/2016/apr/30/labour-antisemitism-ken-livingstone-george-galloway)

    • Jiro says:

      It’s not a bad example. It’s a good example of what’s wrong with Scott’s reasoning. He’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater–yes, accusing someone of making a dog whistle can be wrong for the reasons described, but it’s a case by case thing. Some things are more strongly associated with X-ism than other things and you can’t make a blanket rule saying that all dog whistles are real, but you can’t make a blanket rule saying they are all imagined either. Scott tried to make a blanket rule saying they are all imagined, and so he tripped up on a real one.

      • MawBTS says:

        Scott tried to make a blanket rule saying they are all imagined, and so he tripped up on a real one.

        Scott’s exact words:

        I won’t say we should always believe that politicians are honest about their beliefs and preferred policies. But I am skeptical when the media claims to have secret insight into what they really think.

        I wish I could force people on this blog to pass a basic reading comprehension test before posting.

        • Jiro says:

          Scoptt made a big post about how dog whistles are miagined with a little disclaimer at the end. You don’t avoid saying what you said because you tacked on a disclaimer.

          • Virbie says:

            A big post that never claims they’re all imagined but does explicitly claim that they’re not all imagined. Honestly, this really shouldn’t be difficult for anyone to parse, let alone (presumably?) anyone out of grade school.

            > You don’t avoid saying what you said because you tacked on a disclaimer

            Right, but you do avoid saying what you _didn’t_ say. The post is highlighting cases of the concept of dog whistles being abused, and clarifying that it doesn’t mean that they never exist in genuine form.

            If someone writes a post about how (e.g.) accusations of the ad hominem fallacy are commonly misused, that doesn’t mean that it’s claiming that the fallacy never occurs. Especially when there’s a clarification for the reading-comprehension-impaired that it’s explicitly not claiming the fallacy never occurs.

          • Tyrrell McAllister says:

            Are you blind? Scott openly dog-whistled that all accusations of dog-whistling are invalid!

            Which is, of course, exactly what a dog-whistler like Scott would want you to think!

    • Simon says:

      Yeah, not letting that slide past. Labour has a section of it’s membership that is fairly negative about Israel. Who knows, there may be some genuine antisemites in there too. However, there’s a skunk stripe of racism straight down the middle of the UK parties of the right but it rarely gets called out by the media.

      I think it’s hard for most people to believe quite who much of the UK media is controlled by right wing billionaires who really like things stitched up just the way they are. Whatever else you can say about Ken he’s certainly of the real left not the pseudo Toryism of Blair and his chums. The amount of character asassination he had from the journalist in question and the paper for which he wrote was consdiderable. Doesn’t excuse what he said but there’s no mouth too small that he couldn’t put his foot in it.

      You can see the same thing happening to Jeremy Corbyn. Constant press about how he doesn’t dress properly, doesn’t bow enough when the Queen’s about, is ineffectual as a leader and on and on and on. Then there’s mysterious “enemies of Corbyn lists “found” in a pub. Zinoviev letter anyone? And now he’s apparently prevailing over a bunch of rabid antisemites and refusing to deal with it. Except it’s pretty much bollocks. Here’s a good analysis https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/jamie-stern-weiner/jeremy-corbyn-hasn-t-got-antisemitism-problem-his-opponents-do

      More evidence of how much the Labour are antisemites is a media driven moral panic has been posted since but I haven’t got the patience to track the links right now.

      • Flick says:

        It would be nice if the left could reach a consensus about how sensitive to be regarding identity politics. I don’t mean to say that article is wrong that the anti-semitism drama is overblown, only that when people make statements of equivalent severity about muslims, women or trans-people the identarian tend to condemn them in the harshest terms.
        It’s weird that statements and actions that are possibly anti-semetic are ok, but anything possibly anti-islam (eg) is a no-platforming offense.

        • Anonymous says:

          “It would be nice my outgroup was more homogeneous, then my outgroup homogeneity bias would be accurate.”

          • Flick says:

            Haha! Yes, you make a fair point!

            Despite that, I am going to stand by my bias and say that anti-semitism gets a far more free pass from the British left than other forms of prejudice.

          • Luke the CIA stooge says:

            It isn’t just the British left that doesn’t take anti-Semitism seriously. Look at any north American discussion of privilege and jews (a group that has experienced genocide in living memory) will be in conspicuously left off their list of disadvantaged people.

            Jews aren’t disadvantaged to the left.
            And if you aren’t disadvantaged your never a real victim

          • suntzuanime says:

            They didn’t experience genocide in North America in living memory. In North America they experienced some discrimination in college apps in the same “we don’t want them taking all the slots” way Asians get it now. And most of the statistics people will trot out as proof of “white privilege” apply even stronger to them. It’s hard to see them as disadvantaged when they’re so, well, advantaged.

            I imagine the German left takes a different view, in accordance with their different history.

          • gbdub says:

            Anti-semitism was a big deal in pre-WWII America. Jews have faced more discrimination than any other European ethnic group.

            That they have succeeded in spite of this oughtn’t make them “privileged” if “privilege” is supposed to be the accumulated benefit of not being historically oppressed.

          • Liskantope says:

            Sunzuanime, I think you’re underestimating the extent to which Jews were discriminated against in the North America during the first half of the 20th century. My grandfather remembered seeing signs at pools in New York saying “No dogs or Jews allowed”. And yes, if he were alive today he’d be a centenarian, but I think prejudice went far beyond college applications.

          • When my family was looking for a new house (suburbs of Wilmington, Delaware in the early 1960s), we moved to one that had only recently started accepting Jews, and noticed one that still didn’t accept Jews.

          • LeeEsq says:

            The Further Left always had a weird inconsistent attitude for Jews decades before Israel/Palestine was a thing. There is a reason why the German socialist August Bebel, one of the founder of the SPD, referred to anti-Semtisim as the socialism of fools. Jews always represented bourgeois values and capitalism to a certain segment of the Left. It continues today.

          • suntzuanime says:

            The point is that while being excluded from elite society kinda sucks, it’s not really comparable to the gas chamber or the master’s whip. And I’m not sure “Jews were excluded from elite society, so the advantages they now enjoy are not a sign of privilege, but rather their just reward for their racial superiority” is an argument the left is really equipped to appreciate.

      • LPSP says:

        I’d prefer if you found evidence of that “skunk stripe” you claim in the right wing. Of course there are racists in UKIP, UKIP themselves admit that’s a problem. It’s a little different when Labour claims to be THE anti-racist party, yet it’s riddled with anti-semitism.

  9. Homo Iracundus says:

    Oh, so that’s what the damn gorilla’s name was. RIP Hamrabe

    Propaganda works through constant repetition. Good propaganda leaves a tiny little loudspeaker in a person’s brain that chants the message for them at the slightest provocation, without any conscious thought or memory recovery.
    The ideally propagandised group can have an entire conversation of soundbites without any actual information being developed or exchanged. If the person responsible was listening, he would smile and think “ah, good old number 27. That should lead right into—yep, 38. Good thing we added that to preempt 3—that always had the potential to derail things.”

    If you criticise a person for fifty different things in fifty different ways, it makes for terrible propaganda. Your poor audience would have to think, to make judgements and connections between different concepts!
    But if you criticise them for the same thing no matter what they do, pretty soon you’ll have your sign-wavers and brick-throwing protestors and suicide bombers all on-message and ready to go when your opponent comes to town.

    • Viliam says:

      But if you criticise them for the same thing no matter what they do, pretty soon you’ll have your sign-wavers and brick-throwing protestors and suicide bombers all on-message and ready to go when your opponent comes to town.

      It becomes even more simple when you criticize all your opponents for the same thing, whether that makes sense or not, because then you don’t even have to explain anything when you decide to target a new person.

      (Example.)

      • Virbie says:

        I’ve seen this in spades with trump. Whenever he comes up in conversation, inevitably someone will say something about him being hyper conservative. The man is the least conservative Republican candidate in our lifetimes by far! They’ve just associated the left-right spectrum with good-bad, and since Trump = very bad (for mostly non-policy reasons), he must be very conservative. If you’re going to hate someone, at least know WHY, sheesh. I wouldn’t find this so notable if it weren’t for how often I’ve seen it pop up among people who consider themselves fairly informed.

        • Nicholas says:

          Answer: Because people use “hyper conservative” to mean “very Red Tribe” and the central example of the Red Tribe in the Blue Mind is the borderer culture, hourly wage employed, primarily white, low status inhabitant of the Rust Belt that DT does more to speak to than any other politician.
          People hate Trump for his tribalism, and for his choice of tribe, and because he’s generally sort of a dick, not for his explicit political platform.

  10. Dan Simon says:

    There is a common misunderstanding that politicians get embroiled in “scandals” when they say or do embarrassing or appalling things, which result in “political damage”, or even their “political demise”. In reality, the cause-and-effect relationship is the opposite: a politician’s opponents are constantly trying to characterize what he or she says or does as embarrassing or appalling, and the politician’s friends and allies are constantly dismissing these accusations as minor and irrelevant. If the politician is politically strong–that is, if his or her friends and allies are more numerous and powerful than his or her opponents–then the friends’ and allies’ dismissals work, and the accusations don’t stick. Conversely, if the opponents are more numerous and more powerful, then their characterizations win out, and the politician is embroiled in a “scandal” with potentially serious consequences.

    Note that the actual nature of the allegedly embarrassing or appalling words or deeds is scarcely relevant–a politician with sufficiently numerous and powerful friends and allies can, say, drive a woman off a bridge to her death and flee the scene without reporting it, without significantly damaging his career, while a sufficiently embattled politician can be utterly destroyed by, say, repeating a sentence too many times in succession during a debate.

    One particular accusation that’s very popular in this game is the accusation of prejudice against an entire class of people, because it stands a chance of winning (or at least to appearing to win) most of that class of people to the opponents’ side against the politician in question. Hence the “dog whistle” formulation, which can be used to turn almost any word or deed into a supposed signal of prejudice against some large constituency. But nobody should be fooled into taking any of these accusations at face value–they’re merely part of the normal cut-and-thrust of modern gladiatorial politics. And they don’t work against a politician who’s not already somewhat weakened by unpopularity (lack of sufficient friends and allies) for one reason or another.

    • AnonymousCoward says:

      So much this. I was saying this when everyone was making fun of Tony Abbot’s gaffes.

      If people liked him, they would have just chuckled about him biting into an onion, and they would have interpreted saying “shit happens” to soldiers who lost a buddy more charitably.

      I don’t like the guy, but couldn’t help but be bemused by the whole thing. People didn’t understand the inside of their own heads. They didn’t like the guy because everyone turned on him after his government’s horribly inequitable budget in 2014, not because of the goddamned onions.

      • Tibor says:

        I observed something similar about 6 years ago in Czech politics. The prime minister of the time was leading a very shaky 102/200 parliament majority (and if I remember correctly the 2 extra were people who left the social democrats, who were then in the opposition to support his center-right government) and it was increasingly hard for him to keep his position. He then had an interview in a virtually unknown magazine for gays where he said some controversial stuff (I forgot what it was exactly, it was probably rather stupid since the guy did like saying provocative things for their own sake…I think it was definitely interpreted as anti-semitist and anti-gay though, I think it was not all that different from his usual antics, however) which was completely unrelated to his politics. But since his government was already very weak by then, his political opponents took the chance to popularize it and make a scandal out of it and he resigned a few weeks later from the post of both the party leader and the prime minister.

    • Geryon says:

      Replying only to increase visibility —

      If you do not acknowledge that politics is an unceasing war, you understand nothing of it nor its appendices (like political journalism), i.e. Dan Simon is essentially right. Scott’s failure point is the confusing of the epistemic with the instrumental: yes, such allegations might be entirely untrue. So what?

    • Joel says:

      I wish we could vote on comments.

    • Jugemu Chousuke says:

      Interesting way of looking at this – thanks.

      edit: Reminds me of how no one (with power) seems to care about the Clinton emails thing – if instead she was on the ouster with the Democrats establishment, it would presumably become an a big scandal and excuse to dump her for their preferred candidate.

      • Civilis says:

        This can be formulated in the opposite direction. Someone on the Clinton side could just as easily believe that the only reason that Republicans are pushing the Clinton email scandal is that Clinton is a big-name player within the Democratic Establishment, and had she been on the outs with the Democratic party, the scandal wouldn’t exist at all.

        • Tibor says:

          Why can’t both be true? The politicians have to face the opposing party as well as competitors within their own party. Both want to get rid of possibly skilled competition and both like to kick when the competition is down.

          • Civilis says:

            It’s possible that both the Republicans play up the scandal because it’s an attack against Clinton and the Democrats play down the scandal because she’s their front runner.

            What seems to be contradictory is ‘this isn’t a scandal because the candidate is popular’ (which is what the original post implies) and ‘this is only a scandal because the candidate is popular’.

          • Dan Simon says:

            My claims are that (1) these accusations are salvos in an ongoing battle between a politician’s friends/allies and opponents; (2) whether one considers a particular accusation is a big deal or an overblown trifle depends overwhelmingly on which camp one belongs to, irrespective of the details of the accusation; and (3) if a particular accusation appears to “damage” a politician, then the damage is a symptom, rather than a cause, of the strength of that politician’s opponents, and/or the weakness of his or her friends/allies–again, largely irrespective of the details of the accusation.

    • Fazathra says:

      Yeah. The most egregious example of this was Romney’s binders full of women “scandal”. Not only was it a completely innocuous statement, but if Obama had said those exact words he would have been feted as a great progressive champion of women’s rights, while when Romney said it it was apparently proof that he secretly hated women and wanted to treat them like objects or whatever.

      That incident pretty much shattered my faith in rational politics (don’t shoot me, I was young and naive!). Not only were the entire ‘respectable’ media running with it but all my friends and peers who were normally smart and rational fully bought into the narrative as well. It was crazy.

      • Furslid says:

        The binders full of women attack has come home to roost. Some democrats made it clear that any republican candidate would be attacked as sexist.

        They didn’t get the least sexist candidate. The got the candidate who is best at resisting the inevitable attack.

    • SJ says:

      a politician with sufficiently numerous and powerful friends and allies can, say, drive a woman off a bridge to her death and flee the scene without reporting it, without significantly damaging his career.

      Another example:

      A political appointee with significant and numerous enemies can be accused of “using degrading talk about sexual subjects in front of female underlings at a previous job”. This accusation becomes the center of the confirmation hearings, and nearly derails the confirmation process. [*]

      A political candidate is accused of bringing female government employees into a hotel room, dropping his pants, and encouraging them to suck on his dick for a promotion…and somehow evades the accusation. [**] He succeeds at transitioning from State-level politics to National-level politics.

      Both of these instances happened during a decade which had feminist lawyers working very hard against “sexual harassment” in the workplace and in politics.

      [*] one female former co-worker of this appointee testified that the atmosphere of degradation existed. Several other female co-workers testified that the atmosphere of degradation and harassment was not present.

      [**] in this case, the politician in question was often defended by leaders of the feminist movement of the time.

      • Flick says:

        I am interested to know who these politicians are.

        • Forlorn Hopes says:

          I’m guessing at least one is Bill Clinton

        • The first mentioned by the grandparent is clearly Clarence Thomas. I don’t know who the second is, but context suggests that it’s Bill Clinton.

        • Subbak says:

          Similarly, who is the politician who did the hit-and-run?

          • Anonymous says:

            Ted Kennedy, dead now but a long time bugbear of right wing radio.

          • Dan Simon says:

            I chose Chappaquiddick because it’s literally the worst misdeed I know of that a politician has survived politically in modern times. If you have an even more extreme example, I’d be very interested to hear of it–I use this example frequently to explain my ideas about political “scandal”, and I’d be happy to switch to an even more striking one.

          • Luke the CIA stooge says:

            So really?!

            The law doesn’t apply in the US if your politically popular enough (and a democrat) and the only reason hillary’s getting so much grief on the email thing is she’s right on the edge of not being popular enough!?

            I’d usually dismiss this stuff as conspiracy theory but I kind of believe it.

            Are there any examples of Republicans getting away with stuff like this? Or have they spent to much political capital on actually having an ideology that acknowledges trade-offs?

          • Subbak says:

            @Dan Simon: Non-US example, but you might want to look at the career of Charles Pasqua in France.
            short, probably biased, summary: at the age of 15, he was a resistance fighter against the nazis. Because of this, he kinda of got a pass on everything. When Charles de Gaulle was president, he made himself indispensable to the right and was basically in government or legislature more or less continuously since 1959. During this, he’s been associated with the darkest side of government (notably repression of political dissent), involved in many financial scandals, and probably ordered the assassination of another member of government (the instruction was re-opened recently, many years after the fact, now that he’s dead and can’t pull strings any more).

          • Dan Simon says:

            @Subbak: Sorry–I was thinking of US politics. My impression is that European politics puts US politics to shame in the area of really nasty skeletons being permitted to reside quietly in powerful politicians’ closets, widely known yet undisturbed.

          • Nicholas says:

            As far as what we’d think of as person-to-person crimes, there was that time Dick Cheney took a man into the woods, shot him in the chest with a shot gun, and a week later the man he shot got on the news and apologized to Cheney for getting shot by him.
            As far as what we’d think of as political crimes, the Iran-Contra scandal, the assassination of several world leaders by CIA, and several coups in foreign countries have either Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld as the executive of the operation in question (during their time in the various Republican administrations of the late Cold War).
            As far as “We’re totally ignoring how historically dumb and shortsighted this specific policy proposal was.” there’s Ronald Reagan’s opening of the North Slope to take-what-you-want oil drilling.

          • Subbak says:

            @Nicholas: The Cheney thing was an accident that did not result in a person’s death and where (unless I’m unaware of something) he did not do anything wrong after the fact like fleeing the scene. That makes it probably less bad than Ted Kennedy, although still pretty bad.
            Of course if you believe Cheney shot the other person intentionally that’s another thing but is there any reason to believe that?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            My impression is that European politics puts US politics to shame in the area of really nasty skeletons being permitted to reside quietly in powerful politicians’ closets, widely known yet undisturbed.

            Fucking Berlusconi.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Dan Simon
            I chose Chappaquiddick because it’s literally the worst misdeed I know of that a politician has survived politically in modern times.

            Ted Kennedy’s career did not survive undamaged; he topped out as an influential Senator, no longer an obvious successor to JFK and Robert Kennedy.

            Chappaquiddick wasn’t a political misdeed, where the facts can be disputed. Nor was there any possible political or financial motive. It was a failure of physical courage and judgement in a sudden crisis . Therefore, “not Presidential material”.

          • Dan Simon says:

            @houseboatonstyxb, that’s the whole point–political “misdeeds” are very much in the eye of the (often partisan) beholder. The facts of Kennedy’s behavior, on the other hand, are both undisputed–with plenty of supporting evidence–and pretty clearly grounds for prosecution. It’s exceedingly rare for a politician, let alone a nationally prominent one, to face such a combination and emerge not only unconvicted but repeatedly re-elected.

            (Alcee Hastings is perhaps the closest equivalent, but personally I think of criminal negligence causing death as far worse than mere corruption. You may disagree, though.)

          • Xeno says:

            vis. Cheney and Shotgunning, consider: If you absent mindedly or recklessly failed to observe the proper signs at a crosswalk and jaywalked into oncoming traffic, you would be at fault, and may reasonably be expected to apologize even if you were injured. At any shooting event, there are similar rules. If you ignore them and walk into the firing line, you are at fault even if you are injured.

          • Comment Reader But Not Usually a Poster says:

            @ Xeno

            With any shooting I have done, this is a shared responsibility. You have a responsibility not to put yourself in harm’s way.
            But the far larger responsibility falls on the one pulling the trigger to make sure they have kept track of where the people they are hunting with are in relation to themselves and to make sure they know exactly what they are pointing their gun at before a shot is fired. The shooting was a negligent but human incident, but Whittington owed no one any apology. Your point would stand if they were skeet shooting.

          • Xeno says:

            @reader,

            Perhaps, but Whittington appears to have chosen to apologize, and continued to support Cheney. As our host implores us to niceness, I think we should accept this apology as honestly motivated sincere. Is there reason to believe otherwise?

          • Alsadius says:

            Nicholas: The oil drilling example isn’t a scandal, it’s a policy disagreement. Also, assassination of foreign leaders is generally considered a valid(if rough) way of conducting foreign policy. That’s the sort of thing enemies do to each other – look at the Iraqi assassination attempt on George Bush the elder. And as others have said, the Cheney thing seems like an honest mistake that was dealt with properly, not particularly scandalous(though certainly late-night comedian fodder).

            Iran-Contra was legitimately bad, but you’re still only 1 for 4, and otherwise confirming Dan Simon’s “scandals are mostly concrete examples of bias” theory.

          • Chrysophylax says:

            @Dan Simon: Ted Kennedy pleaded guilty and was convicted.

          • Comment Reader But Not Usually a Poster says:

            @Xeno
            Yes to doubt the sincerity of the apology you have to make a few assumptions. How reasonable any of these assumptions are I guess is up to the individual. For me the strongest one would be that I assume a high level of public relations coordination. This is based mostly on the fact that all involved were in the same party and knew each other socially. Once I make this assumption, I see Dick Cheney or by extension someone on his staff sign-off on the apology. Then I have to assume me and Dick Cheney have such a different view on morality that his allows him to do things only bad people would do in mine.

            Mostly I was concerned with letting the idea stand, that the person pulling a trigger is not the one ultimately responsible and am limited to how much I care what the ex-Vice President of a country I don’t live did.

    • Anonymous says:

      A surprising number of issues fall into this framework. I’m in the middle of reading Michael Hayden’s book, and he tells a story of a time the NYT got their hands on information about a classified program. They brought the journalist and his editor in, made the case that, yes, there’s a story here, but publicizing it would be dangerous to the nation. They agreed to not publish it with the understanding that if the gov’t guys got a sniff of another news organization finding the story, they’ll let the Times know so that they could publish first.

      Literally years later (so it wasn’t so pressingly necessary to publish that they wouldn’t sit on it for years), the Times revisited publishing. The gov’t brought them back, made almost the exact same case, which hadn’t really lost any strength. Nevertheless, the Times published it. Hayden recalls asking an individual involved why they handled it differently. The response he reported: “The President is weaker now.” Boom. “Scandal.”

      • Catchling says:

        That was about some NSA stuff, yeah? An odd thing about that is that (if I’m not mistaken) a presidential election happened during the years they sat on it. So either his point is that you sell more papers when it’s a scandal about an unpopular president, or it’s that the story wouldn’t have hurt the president in his “popularity mode”. Might it have even helped (e.g. by providing a “The government is doing everything to keep you safe” narrative)? Hmm.

    • Aapje says:

      sufficiently embattled politician can be utterly destroyed by, say, repeating a sentence too many times in succession during a debate.

      American politics has some of the most absurd ‘scandals:’

      – Howard Dean got undone for screaming off key into a microphone along with a crowd of screaming people. His voice was isolated and the crowd cropped out of the video, so his opponents could treat him as if he was on The Voice.

      – John Kerry got attacked mercilessly for being more heroic than his opponent, but not looking like a hero. So they used people’s prejudice of what heroic people look like as ‘evidence’ that he was lying. His opponent actually dodged active service…

      – The “Mission Accomplished” sign on the carrier that George W. Bush held a speech in front of, was actually to celebrate a record set by the aircraft carrier. It became a symbol for Bush’ hubris.

      – Al Gore being attacked for claiming to have invented the Internet (while he actually only claimed to have fought for the funding, which he did do).

    • nickwolven says:

      I’m late to the party (and fairly new to the blog!) but I’ll note that journalists have their own way of describing this give-and-take.

      Here’s Jamelle Bouie:

      “Some politicians, unlucky ones, make mistakes that define their entire careers. For Dan Quayle in the 1988 presidential election, it was a brief comparison with John F. Kennedy. For Howard Dean in the 2004 Democratic primary, it was “the scream.” For Rick Perry in the 2012 Republican primary, it was “oops.” These weren’t the worst mistakes ever made, but they were emblematic of each candidate’s weakness—flubs that reinforced critiques from rivals and the media. Dean screamed just as pundits questioned his temperament for the White House, while Perry stuttered in the face of uncertainty about his intelligence.”

      In other words, the gaffes that stick are those that illustrate popular narratives. This doesn’t contradict Simon’s argument, just tweaks it. For a scandal to break, you need 3 criteria: 1) a caricature of a politician that’s well known in political circles, 2) a memorable event that reinforces the caricature, 3) a political network with enough clout to give the story heft.

      The point is that political teams don’t just compete to invent gaffes. They also compete to spread stereotypes (Republicans: racists; Democrats: wimps) that will be conducive to gaffes. And this is often acknowledged in the press.

      Actually, this preparatory work is probably the more important part of the process. Once you’ve got a good caricature going (Rubio the Upstart Naif, Romney the Heartless Plutocrat) you can twist almost any statement to reinforce it.

      You might say this gives too much credit to pundits, who like to act as if they control these kinds of grand narratives. But the analysis is perfectly compatible with a gladiatorial view of Washington, in which political factions compete to invent caricatures and pundits simply echo and amplify what the Beltway spin doctors are saying.

      • Alsadius says:

        This is almost Attack Ads 101. If you define your opponent in the public’s mind before he can define himself, he’s going to be crippled from the start. The best example of that I know was an attack ad here in Canada against Stephane Dion, the newly elected Liberal Party leader. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEH_hprcs6g is the ad.

        For context the guy talking at the beginning was Michael Ignatieff, Dion’s biggest opponent in the leadership race, and deputy leader of the party at the time the ad ran. The next election happened a year and a half later and Dion led the party to what was then its lowest support level in the history of the party. (Amusingly, Ignatieff was leader the time after, and did even worse)

    • Stuart Armstrong says:

      >In reality, the cause-and-effect relationship is the opposite

      Only partially. The magnitude of the misdeed generally matters – or, at least, what it can be spun into, and not all misdeeds or mispeaking can be spun in the same way. If your strong take was true, politicians wouldn’t bother to dig up dirt on their opponents, they just take some random mispeaking and hammer on that. But some attacks are ineffective, and politicians do look for dirt. Hence the impact of a proto-scandal can’t be explained exclusively by political strength, but a combination of factors.

      And take, eg, Bill Clinton and Lewinsky. Bill survived that well due to political popularity, but it was undoutably a scandal (and generally recognised as such, though sometimes seen as a “minor” scandal). As I recall, Bill’s popularity increased during the investigation. So here we have something that failed to damage the president, actually the reverse, was overcome for political reasons, but yet was seen as a scandal. I don’t think you can define scandals purely by political force alignment.

  11. Barry says:

    I’m mixed on this. Your take fits pretty neatly with the way I view politics and media coverage. However, a specific example you gave makes me want to disagree.

    I actually think Ken Livingstone is an anti-Semite. Or at least he is on some level. The Israel stuff makes it complicated, but I’m pretty comfortable stating that the vast majority of people who are passionate anti-Zionists object to the state of Israel not just because they believe it to be a uniquely awful state, but also because it is a Jewish state, at least on some level. And i’m usually a proponent of taking people’s beliefs at face value, and not trying to ferret out hidden meaning, but I honestly think this case is an exception.

    I don’t know if it qualifies as anti-Semitism, but it’s definitely a problem. I also don’t know if Livingstone’s Hitler quote proves anti-Semitism, but I do know that many anti-Zionists traffic in and rely on some pretty convoluted and tortured historical revisionism to make their case, and that theory would fit right on a Mondoweiss comment section.

    I guess I’m saying that your argument could be formalized into a pretty useful rule of thumb that had only a few exceptions, which I realize then makes it of hardly any use at all.

    • erenold says:

      I don’t know about Ken Livingstone, but my limited personal experience with the British uni left is that absolutely there is a problem with anti-Semitism, particularly as their left has made a tacit alliance with their Asian Muslim minority. And I’m not talking about the kind of dog-whistle anti-Semitism SA describes here, but the full-on version including mocking of noses and body odors.

    • Dan Simon says:

      I doubt Livingstone’s much of an anti-Semite, except insofar as he’d happily spout anti-Semitic slurs (or anything else similarly offensive) if fealty to his radical political allies demanded it. He’s virulently anti-Israel in the same way that he’s virulently anti-US or anti-Conservative–they are his political opponents, and no charge or insult is too ugly or offensive to wield against them. Many of his political friends are anti-Israel, whether in solidarity with Middle Eastern Muslims (many of whom are unabashedly anti-Semitic as well as anti-Israel), or with global NGOs (for whom anti-Israel activism is a lucrative line of business) or with anti-American agitators (for whom Israel, a strong US ally, is a useful proxy for America). So he lobs all sorts of absurd slanders against Israel. But I doubt they’re any more absurd or slanderous than those he lobs against any of his other targeted political opponents.

      • Jiro says:

        “He says particularly absurd things about Israel, but that’s for political purposes, not because he’s anti-Semitic” is a distinction without a difference and could be applied to blatant anti-Semitism as well as to the dog whistle kind: “he doesn’t really believe Jews deliberately spread AIDS, he’s just saying that to make his followers happy”.

        • Dan Simon says:

          Well, I’m not sure what the link between opposition to Israel and anti-Semitism would be, if not related to underlying mental state. Personally, I believe that the connection between anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Semitism is more tenuous than most of Israel’s supporters believe–and I say that as someone who supports and defends Israel frequently. I see little distinction, for instance, between leftists’ irrational obsession with Israel and its earlier irrational obsessions with, say, Nicaragua, Chile, or for that matter South Africa. (Ugly though Apartheid was, it was positively benign by comparison with what was going on elsewhere on that continent at the time.) The common thread, I believe, is hostility to the US and its allies, which is a longstanding leftist tendency, and which appears to be more than sufficient to generate irrational hatreds of random pro-US countries around the world, including Israel.

          • Jiro says:

            Past a certain point it really doesn’t matter if someone hates Jews first and expresses it through hate of things associated with Jews, or if someone just happens to hate the things associated with Jews first.

            Besides, people often can’t compartmentalize well enough to prevent disproportionate hatred of Israel from leading to standard non-dogwhistle anti-Semitism.

          • Novemberrain says:

            I think there might be a distinction here in that earlier leftists were obsessed with whatever Kremlin wanted them obsessed with. Now they presumably are on their own and so this might be genuine somehow.

          • Dan Simon says:

            Back in the days of the Soviet Union, there were plenty of leftists who would very loudly and frequently denounce the Soviets as “Stalinists” or “state capitalists” or whatever, yet still enthusiastically support every single Soviet puppet going up against a US client or ally. It’s possible that these leftists’ anti-Soviet rhetoric was merely deliberate cover for secret abject fealty to the Kremlin, but I’m more inclined to believe that their guiding principle in international affairs was knee-jerk anti-Americanism, which led them to support anti-American forces, however unsavory and Soviet-tainted, at every opportunity.

          • Current sentimentality about communism:

            Terry Gross interviews Nicholas Casey, a reporter who’s currently covering Venezuala and who previously spent some time embedded in the FARC, a revolutionary/criminal organization in Colombia.

            Venezuala has become a nightmare– Chavez and his successor Madoras wrecked the economy and the result has been dire poverty as a direct result of extreme unthinking redistribution. It’s not just that the price of oil fell, it’s that the government gave away the money which was needed for the maintenance of the oil industry.

            What’s shocking to me is that, in the second half of the interview about the FARC (kidnappers, rapists, slavers, murderers), Gross and Casey seem to be kind of nostalgic and tolerant about the communistness of the FARC subculture. They’re also horrified, but still, I’d say they think the Communist trappings are kind of cool.

            At this point, I expect that any right-winger reading this is cracking up. Why didn’t I know this already? I sort of did, but this broadcast makes the matter so very clear.

            The link is to a transcript. I don’t think there’s any strong reason to listen to the podcast unless you like podcasts, want to judge what I’m saying about the emotional tone more carefully, or want to hear Chavez’ singing.

          • Matt M says:

            Dan,

            I think you’re being too charitable – virtually EVERY Communist front group took its marching orders directly from Moscow. To the extent that they claimed to be anti-Soviet it was a giant smokescreen appealing to the notion that communism, by itself, was a perfectly legitimate ideology and that it was unfair to bother people for merely having the wrong beliefs. This was an entirely deliberate tactic.

          • birdboy2000 says:

            Many people who were opposed to gulags still considered the Soviet Union the lesser evil. And only the “official” communist parties were Soviet front groups – a lot of other groups sprang up during the Cold War (Trots, Maoists, etc.) which weren’t.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Matt M

            That’s a pretty big claim, especially considering the “circular firing squad” nature of most communist fronts.

            You might think you hate Lenin, but you don’t hate Lenin 1/10th as much as a Trotskyite hates Lenin. 😉

          • Matt M says:

            While I can’t guarantee that EVERY communist front group was taking orders from COMINTERN, Verona has revealed that a whole hell of a lot of them were.

            Reading about the amount of front groups that say, immediately changed from “keep the US out of the war” to “we must defend Europe NOW” when Hitler broke the nonaggression pact with the USSR is truly hilarious. The American Peace Mobilization, for example, was a Soviet-controlled front ostensibly created for the purpose of promoting peace and brotherhood around the world. When Hitler declared war on Stalin, they literally changed their name to the American Peoples Mobilization and their purpose to encouraging a quick wartime mobilization effort. You know, to help our poor brothers and sisters in England and France.

    • Yakimi says:

      The Israel stuff makes it complicated, but I’m pretty comfortable stating that the vast majority of people who are passionate anti-Zionists object to the state of Israel not just because they believe it to be a uniquely awful state, but also because it is a Jewish state, at least on some level.

      It is evident that the Left has an irrational obsession with the Jewish state in particular. But is this true because leftists have an irrational hatred of Jews in particular, or because they have an irrational hatred of any vaguely European population existing in a vaguely colonial context?

      Look at the hysterical vituperation leveled at Rhodesia and South Africa, for instance. In its heyday, it was just as obsessive and disproportionate as their opposition to Israel. There were worse places to be black than Rhodesia. The reason why these states inspired such revulsion in leftists is not because of what they were doing, but because of who was doing it to whom. Notice that their unctuous concern for the human rights of the Zimbabweans evaporated the instant Mugabe came to power. Leftists were attracted to these causes because it was a continuation of their domestic politics: it was about reprimanding the bad white man for being mean to the noble savage, and provided a way for them to totally smash a society that reminded them of their own. Another wonderful decolonial conflict was the Falklands War, which demonstrated that leftists, like Tony Benn, would even let the same junta which they had been condemning as a murderous fascist regime “liberate” their fellow citizens to deprive their domestic enemies of a military victory and the attendant prestige. The Israel–Palestine conflict today is the main target of such passions because it is the last remaining holy site of the Third Worldist crusade.

      Nonetheless, I would not describe the Left as being anti-white. Leftism is, after all, a white-people thing: it condemns white people for failing to conform with a higher standard of civilized conduct than they could expect from their swarthy puppets.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        Another wonderful decolonial conflict was the Falklands War, which demonstrated that leftists, like Tony Benn, would even let the same junta which they had been condemning as a murderous fascist regime “liberate” their fellow citizens to deprive their domestic enemies of a military victory and the attendant prestige

        That’s not quite true- Benn wanted to evacuate the islanders to Britain.

      • Wency says:

        While I’m not familiar with the British internal politics surrounding the Falklands, I think this is pretty accurate.

        I will add though that there is a long post-WW2 history of disproportionate responses to atrocities committed by white people, and above all, atrocities committed by right-wing white governments, even in contexts where colonialism is not an element. E.g., Franco’s government vs. the Warsaw Pact governments.

        I think all of this ties into Scott’s ideas about the outgroup. Once upon a time, Franco and South Africa were the outgroup. Now Israel is the outgroup — it’s the stand-in for the Republicans. This issue is complicated a bit in the U.S. though by the fact that many Jews who are otherwise die-hard Democrats are also strong supporters of Israel. I suspect it’s largely for this reason that the movement lacks the strength of late-80s anti-Apartheid at present. Of course, the most fervent anti-Zionists I’ve known have been young Jews, so I’m not sure about the longevity of this situation.

        Europe has a much smaller Jewish population (attributable to true anti-Semitism). It also has a large explicitly anti-Semitic Muslim population, which perhaps gives cover to the native populations by shifting the Overton Window — arguments calling for the “right of return” and peaceful dismantling of Israel perhaps don’t seem so anti-Semitic by comparison when your neighbor is more or less calling for a Second Holocaust and, by virtue of being an underprivileged and misunderstood person, is unpunished and uncriticized for it.

      • Dan Simon says:

        As I mention above, I think the common thread isn’t white vs. non-white but rather pro-US vs. anti-US. Russians are pretty white, but Soviet interventions around the world, often on behalf of the most appalling tyrants imaginable, never seemed to get the left’s dander up. If you line up countries and international groups that the Western left supported enthusiastically over last half-century on one side, and those the Western left vehemently opposed on the other, the pro-US vs. anti-US correlation would be pretty glaring.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Yes, I think the left’s love affair with Islam is largely because Islamic groups are currently the most credible opponent of the US.

      • Daniel says:

        While your thesis obviously plays some role, I think it’s incomplete.
        The evidence indicating the phenomenom is something broader is:
        – half the Jews in Israel aren’t white or European
        – so many of the anti-zionists canards used are the exact same as historical anti-Semitic canards
        – Israel is not just some foreign land, but really is the homeland of the Jewish people

        • NN says:

          — Israel is not some foreign land, but really is the homeland of the Jewish people.

          And also part of the homeland of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians…

          • John Schilling says:

            It was never the homeland of any of those people, any more than the Phillipines were the homeland of the American people.

        • Subbak says:

          — Israel is not some foreign land, but really is the homeland of the Jewish people.

          So do you support moving most of European people back to Scandinavia on the basis that the tribes that gave their names to regions such as Normandy, Burgundy, Lombardy and so on originally came from there?

          More seriously:
          Generally, reasonable people recognize the fact that, even if its creation was ill-thought, now Israel is a state that exists and that it is populated in large part by people who were born there. Even then, you can be opposed to the aggressive colonization practices, and the colonies ARE foreign land occupied by Israel.

          • Xeno says:

            I long for the day when Aelia Capitolina will be returned to the Senate and People of Rome, SPQR!

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            But the Romans themselves were immigrants, of the tribe of Aeneas, by their own admission!

            Rome for the Etruscans!

          • Anonymous says:

            So do you support moving most of European people back to Scandinavia on the basis that the tribes that gave their names to regions such as Normandy, Burgundy, Lombardy and so on originally came from there?

            Not him, but right of conquest is distinct from permitted immigration and settlement. The former provides a permanent justification for your presence. The latter does not – the permission may be rescinded by the authority that granted it; in the case that the original authority does not exist, the successor state will do; if not even a direct successor state exists, then the loss should lie where it fell.

      • Wrong Species says:

        This must be a European thing because the idea of leftists hating Jews is such a weird concept to me. When I think of those on the left, I think of Bernie Sanders and Jon Stewart. I know that there is some anti-Semitic people in America but the possibility that one party in this day and age will have an “antisemitism” problem seems bizarre.

        • Daniel says:

          America is an extremely tolerant place; Europe, not so much (atleast, regarding Jews).

          The situation for Jews in Europe is quite dire.

        • ChetC3 says:

          I know that there is some anti-Semitic people in America but the possibility that one party in this day and age will have an “antisemitism” problem seems bizarre.

          The accusation does come up in the context of Israel/Palestine debates.

        • Matt M says:

          It probably wouldn’t be difficult to find red tribe members willing to swear to you that Sanders and Stewart are both “self-hating Jews” fully capable of antisemitism

        • Richard says:

          I’m not even sure it’s antisemitism as such. Large factions of the European left have a strange hatred towards the USA and tend to choose the opposing side when possible (i.e: Islamic state is too beyond the pale, Putin not so much.)

          The USA supports Israel, so they will support Palestine and they’ll even be the underdog.

        • Sandy says:

          It’s not really just a European thing; it’s just more common in Europe because they have a larger and more fundamentalist/anti-Semitic Islamic population that the Left has made a Faustian bargain with in order to gain power. This is especially true in Britain, where I did my undergrad studies. I’m now in America for my postgrad work, in New York, and there are leftist social-justice groups like Students for Justice in Palestine who do much the same thing that their counterparts in Britain do.

          Speaking of dog-whistle politics, that’s what comes to my mind now whenever someone talks about dog-whistles: the whole “We’re not anti-Jewish, we’re anti-Zionist” fig leaf isn’t very convincing when the people on campus who use such logic are also the ones I’ve seen screaming “Zionist pig!” at any random guy in a kippah, which is quite a few guys in NYC.

          • erenold says:

            This seems to be exactly correct.

            My personal and limited experience is that the white Labour supporters will not say anything Jew-related. If you did, they would probably socially punish you for doing so. But if a Asian Muslim takes the stage and rabbits on about world conspiracies, why then “you have to understand his perspective, Erenold. You have to see it from his point of view.”

            It’s hateful and stupid.

        • TrivialGravitas says:

          The left and right are both inconsistent (in different ways) on Jews in the US, but there are certainly antisemitic leftists, and I mean full on Jews did 9/11 type stuff not just vaguely unsettling double standards about Israel. This shouldn’t be surprising, the racism=prejudice+power thing is incredibly suited to anti-semetism, which is based on fantasies of Jews being super powerful.

      • Tracy W says:

        @Yakini: against that “white people” hypothesis, there’s little condemnation of Australia despite Australia’s historical treatment of Aboriginals and current racism, and there’s no boycott Australia movement.

        • NN says:

          While Australia does have a shameful history in regards to its treatment of Aboriginals, at present Australian Aboriginals have full de jure legal equality with white Australians. Equating their current situation with that of Palestinians in the West Bank is absurd.

          • Tracy W says:

            @NN: I was responding to Yakini’s claim that:

            But is this true because leftists have an irrational hatred of Jews in particular, or because they have an irrational hatred of any vaguely European population existing in a vaguely colonial context?

            Australia is clearly a vaguely European population, existing in a vaguely colonial context. I saw nothing in Yakini’s original claim limiting it to situations that could be equated to Palestine, let alone equated to Palestine right now.

          • Sandy says:

            @Tracy: The original claim could probably do with a qualification that leftists may have an irrational hatred of a vaguely European population existing in a vaguely colonial context if such a thing were brought to their attention or had a clear relevance to their own contexts. The Arabs have oil money, there are several hundred millions of them, they have religious and cultural influence, and so the Palestine issue is going to get a lot of attention focused on it and thus a lot of play in leftist circles. The Rhodesia/South Africa thing is a no-brainer; the trans-Atlantic slave trade is the Original Sin of Western societies per the left and thus issues of white colonialism in African nations are of deep relevance to them. The Aborigines on the other hand, nobody knows much about them, they’re not really a prominent or visible cultural group, and it’s considered basically an Australian issue, while the Scramble for Africa involved many different European powers.

            It seems clear to me that black and Hispanic issues get more play in American racial discourse than Native American issues because the Natives have neither cultural/social/economic power nor numbers, and probably not even much visibility either considering a good chunk of them live on reservations that non-Natives rarely step foot on while another good chunk of them are the product of generations of intermarriage into white and black bloodlines and mostly indistinguishable from those populations.

          • The BBC brings up Aboringinal problems (past and present) now and then, and the Australian government apologized to the Aborigines.

    • Emile says:

      I’m pretty comfortable stating that the vast majority of people who are passionate anti-Zionists object to the state of Israel not just because they believe it to be a uniquely awful state, but also because it is a Jewish state, at least on some level.

      Imagine that in Earth-Q, after WW2 the Chinese somehow managed to invade a big part of Palestine, scared the Arabs out, established big Chinese-only settlements, treated local Arabs worse than the Chinese, and won wars against neighbors who objected to this. Now a lot of local Arabs would have objections to this Chinese state, because it’s Chinese. Would the Arabic anti-Chinesism from earth-Q be that different from anti-Zionism in our world?

      I’m trying to distinguish hostility to Israel because someone doesn’t like Jews, from hostility to Israel because someone doesn’t like the fact that this state was established by “non-local people”

      • Forlorn Hopes says:

        I’m glad you chose China as your example, because we do in fact have a situation where China invaded and occupied foreign land: Tibet.

        There is a free Tibet movement among European/American liberals, but it nowhere near as loud or extreme as the free Palestine movement. There are coffee shop here in the UK and they’ll proudly state they boycott Israel, there is a big boycott Israel movement in universities. You don’t see anything movements of similar size and energy trying to boycott China.

        How much of that difference is because Israel is full of white skinned culturally European people, and how much of that difference is because Israel is full of Jewish people?

        I don’t know. But there is known antisemitism in far left groups, and known antisemitism in Islamic groups, who’re typically aligned with the left in Europe/American. So the answer is going to be at least some.

        • Emile says:

          How much of that difference is because Israel is full of white skinned culturally European people, and how much of that difference is because Israel is full of Jewish people?

          Those can be contributing factors, but so are the ties between Arabs and western countries: there are Arabic immigrants, exchange programs with Arabic universities, trade, oil, the legacy of colonialism, etc. – all opportunities for Arabs to bring up their dissatisfaction with Israel. Tibetans don’t have nearly as many opportunities.

          • John Schilling says:

            Tibetans have the Dalai Lama, and Trendy Western Buddhism as practiced by Blue Tribe at least claims to be the spiritual equivalent of the Original-Recipe Asian Buddhism that the Dalai Lama speaks for. Not sure if that dynamic holds in Europe, but in the US it does serve as a channel for a fair bit of discussion of Tibetan politics.

            Well, to the extent that “Tibet is a place that I have heard is Not Free and I think it ought to be Free”, constitutes political discussion.

          • Nornagest says:

            Trendy Western Buddhism as practiced by Blue Tribe at least claims to be the spiritual equivalent of the Original-Recipe Asian Buddhism that the Dalai Lama speaks for.

            Ehhhh… the Dalai Lama doesn’t emphasize this, but Tibetan Buddhism is really weird. It’s the branch of the religion with the most Tantric influence, to the point where you could almost describe it as a syncretic religion like Jainism; it’s very insular; and it also incorporates a ton of esoterica that you won’t find in the religion’s other branches.

            Trendy Western Buddhism, on the other hand, is abstracted and sanitized to the point where it’s barely a religion at all.

          • John Schilling says:

            Note that the claim I was referring to was specifically asymmetric. Trendy Western Buddhists claim the Dalai Lama as one of their own, not vice versa. This still gives Tibet a channel into American political opinion that, while perhaps theologically unjustified, is nonetheless real.

        • Simon says:

          I wonder if it’s a feeling that we expect China to behave badly in respect of basic human rights but we hope Israel can do better. Instead we get to hear about this guy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rehavam_Ze%27evi referring to Palestinians as “lice”.

          It’s horribly messy and trying to say you oppose some of the ways Israel behaves is inevitably labeled as antisemitism. Perhaps knowing that will happen even if the criticisms can be justified tends to produce a may as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb mentality?

          • Barry says:

            Having a negative opinion of Israeli government policy or society is no evidence, to my mind, of anti-Semitism. Being an activist against that government and society? For many, many of those activists the only way you can reconcile them devoting their lives to this particular cause and not any of the other, objectively more pressing human rights concerns around the world is to conclude that they may have a little bit of a complicated relationship with the Jewish people.

          • NN says:

            Do you have similar skepticism about the motivation of activists against, say, American police brutality, since they aren’t protesting the far worse brutality of North Korean police?

          • Barry says:

            @NN

            Of course not. BLM activists are fighting about issues that affect them, their families, and their communities. I don’t agree with them a lot of the time, but I don’t question their motives.

          • Subbak says:

            @Barry: So protesting against things that do not affect you or your community directly is suspicious unless you choose to protest the most evil thing you can think of?

            Don’t you think the fact that the Israeli policies get a disproportionate amount of good press in the US kind of justifies the disproportionate amount of bad press they get compared to, say, North Korea, which is much more evil, but who everyone agree is super-evil so there is no point in repeating it?

          • NN says:

            Yes, I think that the Toxoplasma of Rage Effect plays a significant role in this.

        • vV_Vv says:

          How much of that difference is because Israel is full of white skinned culturally European people, and how much of that difference is because Israel is full of Jewish people?

          And how much of that is because China gave Chinese citizenship to the people of Tibet, and improved their standard of living from their previous anachronistic theocratic feudal system, while Israel treats Palestinians as subjects with no rights, has worsened their standard of living (in relation to neighboring Arab people and quite possibly even in absolute), and has facilitated the establishment of a theocratic regime in Gaza?

          • Barry says:

            while Israel treats Palestinians as subjects with no rights, has worsened their standard of living (in relation to neighboring Arab people and quite possibly even in absolute)

            That’s factually incorrect according to all objective sources, and even according to Palestinian self-reporting.

            and has facilitated the establishment of a theocratic regime in Gaza?

            Man, they just can’t do anything right. Unilaterally give up a valuable territory for the sake of peace, then get blamed when the people of that territory democratically elect a death cult to govern them. Its almost as if you’re saying that the Palestinian people have no moral agency.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            When you find yourself defending China’s conquest and occupation of Tibet, maybe it’s time to stop and reflect.

            A lot of the irrational but fashionable beliefs about Israel that people hold these days are the equivalent of slipping A != A into a system of formal logic. All the other statements of fact in your system have to distort and warp to accommodate the contradiction. At the end of it, you’re defending suicide bombing, or massive military conquests, because that’s what’s necessary in order to keep A not equal to A.

          • Luke the CIA stooge says:

            This is a prime example of what we’re talking about if the regime is composed of people who would be a minority in the US/would rather vote Democrat than republican, then the left will bend over backwards and squint as hard as possible to say that they’re the best regime possible in a fallen world, whereas if the regime is composes of white people (or just right-wing people) then clearly they are the worst regime on the planet and stopping them is the most important thing happening in foreign affairs.

            The sheer colloquialism of left wing foreign policy is mind boggling, like sure the Republicans don’t like Venezuela’s government but there aren’t movements trying to stop it from existing. Where as for the left EVERYTHING is an extension of US is an extension of campus politics.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Luke

            I agree with what you’re saying but I find myself moderately annoyed that you chose Luke in place of Steve.

          • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

            I don’t get it
            is there another CIA stooge running around?
            Is it a reference to former Canadian prime Minister Steven Harper?

            The reason i use “CIA stooge” in my name is a reference to the CIA funding abstract expressionism as a way to fight communism, the joke being if you assume, in adition to modernism, post modernism was also a CIA weapon to confuse and disorganize the left, then all of a sudden the state of the far left makes way more sense.

          • vV_Vv says:

            When you find yourself defending China’s conquest and occupation of Tibet, maybe it’s time to stop and reflect.

            Care to elaborate? I maintain that the living standard of the average Tibetan improved because of the Chinese conquest. Can you refute it?

            A lot of the irrational but fashionable beliefs about Israel that people hold these days are the equivalent of slipping A != A into a system of formal logic.

            Funny how I feel the same for lots of Israel supporters.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Take up the Yellow Man’s Burden…

          • NN says:

            Care to elaborate? I maintain that the living standard of the average Tibetan improved because of the Chinese conquest. Can you refute it?

            I think David Chapman put it best:

            Most Tibetans were slaves according to any reasonable definition. Chinese government propaganda uses that to try to legitimize their invasion of Tibet as a “liberation.” 10

            10. This is codswallop. The Chinese invasion of Tibet was not motivated by concern for the plight of the peasants. The subsequent Chinese administration of Tibet has not been primarily for the benefit of Tibetans. The average Tibetan is better off now than in 1959, but that’s not the correct standard of comparison. Is the average Tibetan be better off now than if a sovereign Tibet had modernized with benevolent assistance from China and other countries? This is an unknowable hypthetical, but in my opinion, probably not. Meanwhile the so-called “Tibetan Government in Exile” produces its own deceitful propaganda, whitewashing pre-1959 feudal Tibetan society, which many Western Buddhists accept uncritically. A plague on both their houses!

          • birdboy2000 says:

            Why should we assume the Tibetan regime would modernize? The Dalai Lama in exile has condemned the old system – but a Dalai Lama secluded in his palace and dependent on the old religious elite may very well not. Tibet without Chinese intervention might very well be a theocracy where the majority of people still lived in serfdom.

          • NN says:

            @birdboy2000: Well, even Saudi Arabia abolished slavery in 1962. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia’s economy is dependent on exporting oil to the rest of the world, so you could argue that it was more susceptible to outside pressure than an independent Tibet would be. Also, Belarus apparently reintroduced serfdom 2 years ago with little international outcry.

            So you may have a point.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Luke
            It’s a inside joke / shibboleth, don’t sweat it.

            @ NN
            That’s moderately disturbing. What’s more disturbing is that I hadn’t heard anything about it till now. Surely it can’t be as bad as it initially looks.

            *Gives self that “oh you sweet summer child” look*

          • vV_Vv says:

            10. This is codswallop. The Chinese invasion of Tibet was not motivated by concern for the plight of the peasants. The subsequent Chinese administration of Tibet has not been primarily for the benefit of Tibetans.

            Whatever the motivation of the Chinese government, the conquest benefited Tibetan peasants.

            Is the average Tibetan be better off now than if a sovereign Tibet had modernized with benevolent assistance from China and other countries?

            You mean like North Korea?

            This is an unknowable hypthetical, but in my opinion, probably not.

            An autonomous Tibet in 2016 would still have been a fedual theocratic country with more technological gizmos. Something like Yemen or Taliban-era Afghanistan.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I don’t know much about Livingstone. Perhaps he is anti-Semitic. I’m just not sure his one comment gives us any evidence that he is.

      • Barry says:

        Agreed, however taken together with all the other stuff we have to go on may qualify as evidence.

  12. Gildor Inglorion says:

    Not sure if this is the best place to ask this, but I was reading rationalwiki’s entry on Scott and this caught my eye:

    “Alexander finds the logic of effective altruism difficult to accept intellectually, having come up with a very counterintuitive thought-experiment about it, but is inclined to offer effective altruism his moral support anyway.[citation needed]”

    Is this true? If so, can anyone point me to Scott’s discussion if it?

  13. Lycotic says:

    Well sure. Those are *terrible* examples.

    So maybe we can try to find some good ones. Consider this, with Lee Atwater describing the Southern Strategy:

     You start out in 1954 by saying, “N[redacted].” By 1968 you can’t say “n[redacted]”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N[redacted].”

    It’s this that people are guarding against. Do people overdo it and see this in cases where it doesn’t exist? Probably. But saying that it doesn’t exist is… unlikely.

    We *know* that people don’t always say what they really believe. We know that at least some of the people who passed them believe that voting restrictions are set to favor Republicans. But the language is about “preventing fraud”.

    Are there cases of this doublespeak on the left? Assuredly, and I’m probably going to hear all about them, in detail.

    Given that people like to present their best arguments, and the stakes are winning lots of power and prestige, is it any wonder that words gain new meanings?

    • E. Harding says:

      But tax cuts really do have hardly anything to do with Black people.

      And before there was a GOP southern strategy worth any salt (1968, when winning the Carolinas and TN from Wallace was crucial to Nixon’s victory), there was the Democratic abandonment of the segregationists in 1948. I honestly don’t think Eisenhower 1952 and Goldwater 1964 actually had any conscious “segregationist strategy” in mind, but they did get segregationists’ votes.

      • Nicholas says:

        In context the thing about tax cuts is: “You say ‘we’re going to cut [program that my constituents think is a political sop to black people] because it costs too much and we want to cut taxes and the savings have to come from somewhere. In a perfect world it’d be cake for everyone but we all need to make sacrifices.’ My political opponents will freak out, attack me, call me racist if they want, but they can’t prove anything, because of my speech about taxes. So I don’t lose all, or necessarily even most, of the blacks or equalists who were intending to vote for me. But when [the demographic of my constituents that I have pre-judged to be racist] hears about this, they’ll think ‘Oh hell yeah, he’s racist just like me.’ and vote for me.”

    • j r says:

      Except those are still terrible examples of a “dog whistle.” Those are examples of politicians trying to use language with the intention of hiding whatever structural racism might be implicit in their policies, thereby letting their voters off the hook for voting for policies that others see as racism.

      That’s the exact opposite of how a dog whistle works. That is still a phenomenon worth mentioning, but it’s probably best to actually get an accurate description of it.

      • MugaSofer says:

        How is using terminology designed to disguise the racism inherent in your goals without preventing people who are racist from recognizing and supporting it “the exact opposite of a dogwhistle”?

        I think this is Scott’s fault – most of this post deals not with dogwhistles, but instead uses gaffes as examples, a distinct but related concept.

        • Aapje says:

          A dog whistle is a term that doesn’t mean what it literally means, but rather is code for something else.

          ‘Tax cuts’ are not code for something else. When right wing people ask for tax cuts, they do ask for tax cuts.

          When they ask for tax cuts on things that ‘inner city people’ abuse, then the quoted part is a dog whistle for black people. But then that part is the dog whistle, not the part about tax cuts.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You can’t evaluate the desire for tax cuts in the broad populace unless you understand what the broad populace thinks revenues are being spent on.

            Now, I think if you had run that poll in 1980, you would have seen welfare in the spot that foreign aid occupies now. (Citation needed). And furthermore, if you had asked what people thought the racial breakdown was, it would be even more out of whack. (Further citation needed).

            In other words, I posit that the desire for tax cuts is associated with a perception about who is getting the money. When people want a balanced budget and tax cuts, but no cuts to social security, medicare, or existing debt service, and want increases in military spending, it’s very hard to think that the desire for tax cuts aren’t motivated by thinking that ‘others’ are ‘abusing’ the system and getting something for free.

          • Aapje says:

            I think that there is a more simple explanation: people have been told time and again that the government is wasteful, so they believe in ‘free money’ by getting rid of inefficiencies. Some people see these inefficiencies as ‘free loaders’ cheating the system (which to be fair, is an actual issue that happens in welfare states) and some people go further and believe that this is done by certain races and thus are racist. But it’s not necessary to be a hateful/racist person to have a belief in major inefficiencies in government.

            It’s similar to how most Americans believe that large amounts of healthcare money goes to claims and tort reform can drastically cut costs.

            Another explanation is that most people have no holistic view and act like small children in a candy shop: I want that..and that…and that….and that… As most people don’t calculate the actual consequences of their wishes, they never get a reality check.

            PS. In general, it’s my belief that people’s opinions strongly match the biases in the media. The tendency by the media to focus on sensational stories, problems and such, result in a very distorted view on the world.

    • Jiro says:

      We know that at least some of the people who passed them believe that voting restrictions are set to favor Republicans.

      That quote proclaims a belief that voting restrictions do favor Republicans, not that they are set to favor Republicans. It’s perfectly consistent to think that voter fraud is generally pro-Democrat and that legitimately preventing voter fraud benefits Republicans.

    • cassander says:

      You should read the whole interview, not just the bit that gets endlessly quoted, because Atwater doesn’t way what you think. It’s quite clear that what atwater is saying is that shouting n**ger used to work, then it stopped worked so you had to find issues BESIDES race to motivate them. He goes on, explicitly, that Reagan had never done racebaiting, that reagan had been campaigning on the same issues for decades, and that it was southerners who came around to him, not him dog whistling southerners. When he talks about a “southern strategy” he’s talking about the racial strategy that democrats used to use to win elections, but which doesn’t work any more.

      To quote him “But Reagan did not have to do a southern strategy for two reasons. Number one, race was was not a dominant issue. And number two, the mainstream issues in this campaign had been, quote, southern issues since way back in the sixties. So Reagan goes out and campaigns on the issues of economics and of national defense. The whole campaign was devoid of any kind of racism, any kind of reference. And I’ll tell you another thing you all need to think about, that even surprised me, is the lack of interest, really, the lack of knowledge right now in the South among white voters about the Voting Rights Act.”

  14. R Flaum says:

    I do think, especially in the Livingstone case, there’s a deterrent effect that has to be considered, in addition to the question of his policies. I read something Ross Douthat wrote a long time ago when he was at the Atlantic, making the case that adultery really should be semi-disqualifying for a politician. It wasn’t that he thought infidelity makes you a worse statesman, but that, by making an example of these prominent figures, we reinforce a societal norm against infidelity, for people who aren’t public figures. Livingstone’s a similar deal — making an example of him reinforces a societal norm against anti-Semitism. (I’m not sure whether I believe this myself, actually, but an argument could be made to that effect.)

    • Faradn says:

      Also, if you’re unfaithful to someone you supposedly love, why should anyone think you’ll be faithful to the interests of thousands or millions of people you don’t even know?

  15. Lemminkainen says:

    Re: the specific object-level issue of Trump and sexism:

    I don’t think that Trump’s comments show that he has some kind of generalized contempt for women, but they do suggest that he doesn’t compartmentalize his sexuality very much when he’s interacting with them, and often lets his thoughts about their whether or not he would fuck them or they would fuck him dominate his evaluation of them. (This is especially prominent in some of his comments about female contestants on “The Apprentice,” or the way that he mixes appearance-based insults into his attacks on enemies like Rosie O’Donnell.) In that way, he’s sort of like tumblr feminists who go to great lengths to attack fat aspie neckbeards– they might not have some kind of generalized contempt for men, but the way they frame their comments suggests that a man’s attractiveness shapes how they feel about him in important ways. I think that this pattern of behavior is bad, but that it’s probably not “sexism” as it’s traditionally been defined. Unfortunately, the universe of clickbait political journalism doesn’t reward nuance or carefulness with definitions.

    • tcheasdfjkl says:

      I think this pattern of behavior generally is sexist because

      (a) in society as a whole, it’s much more common for this to apply to women – in general women are evaluated for their attractiveness much more than men are
      (b) given existing gender imbalances of power, most people with significant control over people’s livelihoods are male, so even if men and women did this to each other equally, it would still have a disparate impact on women
      (c) in the context of the Tumblr feminists you refer to, I think in many cases there’s significant prejudice against men, so it’s still sexist (or if one prefers the other definition of “sexist”, then it’s gender-prejudiced, whatever)
      (d) specifically in the context of someone who’s trying to be President (or the CEO of a company, or even a manager, really), this is really good evidence that the impact of this person in that role would be sexist. Like, if a female manager makes employment decisions about men based on their attractiveness, but she hires women irrespective of their attractiveness, the impact of her being in that role is biased against men because she’s forcing men, but not women, to do the additional labor of becoming attractive. Similarly, if Trump becomes President and makes employment decisions in this non-sexuality-compartmentalizing way, the impact would be biased against women. Plus of course if he actually talks to his subordinates in this way, that also introduces a sexist impact because in general people tend to dislike being assessed sexually at work, so he’d be creating a hostile workplace for women but not men.

      • MugaSofer says:

        Also, Trump isn’t bisexual, so judging people based on whether he wants to fuck them will only apply to one sex.

        • Hadlowe says:

          You can’t generalize that rule, though, unless you want to argue that all non-bisexual people are inherently sexist.

          • tcheasdfjkl says:

            All non-bisexual people who significantly judge people of their preferred gender by their appearance in contexts where their appearance shouldn’t matter.

            (I should have said in part (d) above that this part doesn’t fully apply to bisexual people. Though as a bisexual person, I think my standards for men and women are different enough that if I hired people based on their appearance the impact would probably be kind of unequal anyway.)

    • Theo Jones says:

      This is my thought on the issue too. I think there is a large extent to which Trump does act on a lot of stereotypes regarding gender. And the attacking people on looks thing is a part of this.

  16. David Wallace says:

    Naz Shah is a woman.

  17. Carl Shulman says:

    “When I think of “sexist” or “misogynist”, I think of somebody who thinks women are inferior to men”

    Barbara Res said:

    “He said: “I know you’re a woman in a man’s world. And while men tend to be better than women, a good woman is better than 10 good men.” … He thought he was really complimenting me.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/15/us/politics/donald-trump-women.html

    • Montfort says:

      I know this is missing the point, but implying someone is better than 10 other good candidates put together really is complimenting them, it’s just that the quote upset Res for obvious reasons.

    • Civilis says:

      Further up the page, erenold says as to what constitutes sexist behavior:
      I merely need to exhibit a pattern of behaviours in which I systematically treated women unfairly because they were women (as opposed to genuine factual differences, for instance, because they are physically weaker, physically indisposed on a certain schedule, less good at realistically portraying Conan the Barbarian, etc.)

      One could charitably say that Trump’s use of “in a man’s world” implies Trump considers the frame of discussion to be one in which the factual differences between the sexes play a role. One of the biggest points of contention in the debate over sexism is the size of the area where we are permitted to acknowledge that the sexes are different. It’s still possible to consider Trump’s definition of this area to be overly broad and thus subconsciously sexist, but it would rule out overt misogyny.

      • Flick says:

        One of the biggest points of contention in the debate over sexism is the size of the area where we are permitted to acknowledge that the sexes are different.

        This seems a little uncharitable. You make it sound like one side of the debate are aware of sex differences that they are censoriously forbidding you from acknowledging. But I think they are arguing in good faith and genuinely believe that innate sex differences are small to non-existant in many areas, and other areas where sex difference is real it is often irrelevant.

        • Civilis says:

          ‘Permitted to acknowledge’ was perhaps a strong phrase, and is likely a result of my bias on the issue, but I think the point in general stands. Differences that are ‘small’ or ‘real but irrelevant’ are still there, and we can disagree over what counts as relevant.

          I can certainly argue that the reaction to, to pick a well known example, Larry Summers arguments about cognitive differences between men and women suggested that the experimental results he brought up were not to be discussed. How do you determine if the differences are relevant if it is assumed for political reasons that they are irrelevant until proven otherwise and, as in the corporate world, suggesting that you even think about ‘irrelevant’ differences can be taken as evidence of bias and thus render you legally vulnerable?

          • Flick says:

            Yes, I think it’s a super interesting and difficult question, because we don’t want to censor ideas, but at the same time, we don’t want to create a hostile environment for some people by having our leaders say that their group is just inherently no good at [activity X].
            Personally, I’m open to scientists in the context of debate about sex differences discuss the possible causes of sex difference in various activities, so I don’t think he should have been fired on the basis of that talk*.
            On the other hand, I have a lot of sympathy for female mathematicians who have been hearing that they’re naturally not as good as men all their lives. It must be very dispiriting to hear it again from someone in a position to hire and fire them. Especially when we can never know how much someone’s belief that a specific group is less capable is going to bias them against hiring and academically supporting members of that group.

            *And there is some suggestion that he wasn’t.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            ” because we don’t want to censor ideas, but at the same time, we don’t want to create a hostile environment for some people …”

            Of course people want to censor ideas, especially empirically accurate ideas about mean differences and variances. Larry Summers, James D. Watson, Jason Richwine, they all lost their jobs for being empirically right … to encourage the others.

          • Civilis says:

            On the other hand, I have a lot of sympathy for female mathematicians who have been hearing that they’re naturally not as good as men all their lives.

            And this is part of the problem in that female mathematicians, or those that claim to speak for them, are hearing discussions about mean differences and variances as slurs against individuals.

            One of the problems seems to be that we have a fairly easy to understand model of the difference between males and females in athletic performance based on physiology. The men’s world record for the 100m dash is 9.58s, and for the women it’s 10.49s. Looking across most records, the top men’s record is about 5-10% faster than the top women’s record. It’s a simple, objective comparison. The problem, I suspect, is the tendency to mentally apply this paradigm to more subjective comparisons. When we hypothesize that there are more males than females in the 99.99% bracket for mathematical ability, it does not mean we believe that the top women are 5-10% worse at math than the top men.

            Likewise, a woman that can run the 100m in 15s is just as fast as a man that can run the 100m in 15s, even though more men can run the 100m in 15s. It makes no sense to say ‘there’s a man that ran the 100m in 10s, therefore a woman that ran the 100m in 15s is not as fast as a man that ran the 100m in 15s’. When dealing with a broad group such as ‘female mathematicians’, we’re dealing limited to having to use vague criteria to compare people, like ‘does this person have a PhD in math’ which maps to ‘can this person run the 100m in less than 15s’.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            And the woman who ran the 10.49 second 100m dash 28 years ago was pumped to the max on artificial male hormones after calling Ben Johnson for training advice. She immediately retired after tougher drug testing was instituted in 1989.

      • MugaSofer says:

        >One could charitably say that Trump’s use of “in a man’s world” implies Trump considers the frame of discussion to be one in which the factual differences between the sexes play a role. One of the biggest points of contention in the debate over sexism is the size of the area where we are permitted to acknowledge that the sexes are different.

        Of course it is. Trump is saying that this is a “man’s world” because “men tend to be better than women”. This is widely considered to be both false and rooted in sexism where it does appear.

        Even if this is untrue, you haven’t proven that, merely asserted it.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I think “in a man’s world” was used as “in a setting that is male dominated”; that’s the usual meaning of the idiom, anyway. The statement that “men tend to be better than women” is separate; you might reasonable consider that one sexist. However, if that statement was not prejudice but based on his experience with men and women in that setting, you risk labeling “recognizing an actual pattern” as “sexist”.

        • Civilis says:

          I know I’ve proven nothing. I said that this was a charitable interpretation of Trump’s statement.

          The person I hired to be my personal representative overseeing the construction, Barbara Res, was the first woman ever put in charge of a skyscraper in New York…I’d watched her in construction meetings, and what I liked was that she took no guff from anyone. She was half the size of most of these bruising guys, but she wasn’t afraid to tell them off when she had to, and she knew how to get things done.

          I’d consider it reasonable to assume that if someone is the first woman to do something, then the setting is one that is male dominated. Reading the description further bears out this supposition.

  18. konshtok says:

    Why Why Why Godwin yourself?
    are you really this bored with your site that you just want to see it burn?

    and about Ken Livingstone
    when someone expresses the zionism=nazism meme that means that they would tolerate violence against jews as long as it is justified as antizionism

  19. DavidS says:

    I don’t think ‘ road to the unconscious’ is central to dog whistle accusations. Quite often you can thing someone is dog whistling insincerely. It’s about saying things which seem undramatic to most people bit to some particular group suggest you’re a partisan for them. It’s a summary of exploring the fact that different people will hear the same words differently. E.g on immigration, some people think ‘ control of our borders’ means we know and can control what’s going on, some that immigration will be cut sharply and maybe some that we’ll kick out foreign-looking or sounding people. It’s a blurry category, partially because it overlaps with euphemism. So I’d someone says they’ll make sure housing in a city only goes to people with ‘SimCity values’ this could be empty, could mean something about values or could be code about keeping out a group not ethnically sim.

    On pointing out all the press highlighting dog whistles – that seems to me to be a pretty generalizable argument that subterfuge doesn’t exist because all the examples on the press weren’t successful.

    On an unrelated note, this post reminds me of the pilot of West Wing. And if I wax lyrical about how great I think West wing is some might read that as a dog whistle of Democrat sympathies!

    • keranih says:

      On an unrelated note, this post reminds me of the pilot of West Wing. And if I wax lyrical about how great I think West wing is some might read that as a dog whistle of Democrat sympathies!

      But if I say I also get that WW vibe from the post (which I didn’t until you mentioned it, and now can’t get it out of my head) and go on to say that Toby Ziegler is awesome and that I loved a great deal of TWW, esp in the early years…

      …and It Is Known that I don’t have Democrat sympathies…

      …does that make it a neutral reference?

      No, seriously, is that how dog whistles work? Because I have never been able to figure this out.

      • DavidS says:

        In all seriousness: yes, what your intent/position is or seems to be will affect what seems to be dog whistling. Which also leads to the situation where people can say punchier things if it’s in an area where they’re associated with the other side. So if someone from a historically very pro-immigrant type group says we need to do something to ensure better integration or ability to speak the host country’s language, neither the hard-right nor the media are likely to see this as a coded ‘I’m going to deport people or cut them off from services because they seem too foreign’. Whereas if someone fairly anti-immigrant already does it, both will.

  20. Lightman says:

    I have several problems with this post; I think it’s based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what the modern accusation of racism, sexism, or any of the other unpleasant -isms means.

    Naively, we might think of “racism” as referring to some distinct mental state. To be a racist is to think a certain way, to believe in a certain ideology that, at its core, explicitly states that one race is inferior. Under this reading, if we call a statement racist, what we are really doing is drawing an inference between the statement and some hypothesized mental state belonging to the speaker.

    The view espoused – perhaps in articulately, but still, I think, espoused – by SJ types and even more mainstream liberal thinkers is that statements and actions can be facially racist. That is, they are racist without reference to some core mental state/ideology on the part of their utterer. These statements and actions act almost autonomously. For example, an older white man who calls a black woman “articulate” and “refined” likely has no hatred in his heart for black people. But his comments – positive on the surface – unearths a history of racism (particularly, the idea that intelligent black people are exceptions to the rule, “a credit to the race”). This is the ide of the micro aggression. A racist, in this reading of racism, isn’t someone with a particular mental state indicating hatred of another race; rather, it’s someone who makes racist statements and acts in racist ways without attempting to address and correct their behavior.

    When Donald Trump says that, for example, a federal judge cannot preside over his case because of his ethnic background, that is a facially racist statement. Trump can go on about how much he loves Hispanics all he wants (and ultimately, no, I don’t think Trump has some Hitlerist belief about Hispanics being literally Ubermenschen), but that doesn’t change the fact that his statement is facially racist.

    I think you make a further mistake in assuming that dog-whistles indicate something about the mental state or the utterer. The whole idea of dog-whistling is to signal to *voters* that you belong to a certain tribe. I don’t know if Cruz meant “New York Values” as a dog whistle, but even if he did, that doesn’t mean he deep down dislikes Jews or anything like that.

    If dog whistling wasn’t a real thing, Trump wouldn’t have the support he does among the ideologically racialist alt-right. The alt-right sees Trump as one of their own (or close enough) despite his protestations that he isn’t racist. Now, the alt-right may or may not be right – that’s for history to decide – but Trump has definitely said the sort of things that make them *think* he’s with them.

    • j r says:

      “The whole idea of dog-whistling is to signal to *voters* that you belong to a certain tribe.”

      That’s not a dog whistle. That’s just politics. You don’t buy a dog whistle to communicate to your dog that you’re really a dog, as well. You buy a dog whistle to communicate to your dog in a frequency that human beings can’t hear.

      Why would Trump need a dog whistle to communicate with alt-right? His statements about Mexicans and Muslims are pretty clear indications of where he stands on immigration. Personally, I think his positions and the positions of the alt-right are clearly racist, but I don’t see what the dog whistle claim adds to this analysis other than as a way of flattering the reader for being clever enough to see through what wasn’t particularly difficult to see in the first place.

    • Vaniver says:

      The view espoused – perhaps in articulately, but still, I think, espoused – by SJ types and even more mainstream liberal thinkers is that statements and actions can be facially racist.

      I don’t think this is very predictive. Let me propose an alternative hypothesis that I think better explains what’s going on.

      The SJ view is that whites, men, and conversatives are bad. If the same statement is made by a conservative white man and a liberal latina woman, the former will be condemned for it and the latter will be lauded for it.

      For example:

      When Donald Trump says that, for example, a federal judge cannot preside over his case because of his ethnic background, that is a facially racist statement.

      You may recall Sonia Sotomayor saying, in 2001, the following:

      “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life,”

      Did the anti-racists and anti-sexists say “well, Sotomayor thinks that ethnicity and sex can influence decisionmaking, therefore she’s a bad choice for the Supreme Court because of her racism and sexism”? Or did they say “yes, this is exactly why we need her on the court”?

      • erenold says:

        I agree with Ken White of Popehat when he criticized her for saying that, pointing out that it gave cover for genuinely nasty things like Trump’s Judge Curiel stuff.

        Having said that, I think this is slightly uncharitable. Sotomayor wasn’t suggesting that a white man wasn’t Qualified to be a judge. It was that she was Qualified Plus, since she had all the resume and greater life experience. There’s a distinction there.

        I’m going to reiterate that it was a stupid thing to have said nonetheless, because I suspect it will be necessary.

        • Also, she said “a wise Latina woman”– that is, not just any Latina woman.

          • Matt M says:

            The question is – was she implying that among Latina women, she was uniquely wise, or that Latina women generally are wiser than their non-Latina counterparts?

          • erenold says:

            I believe that she meant both, disjunctively. Viz., that in order to achieve the Qualified Plus status that she possessed, she had to fulfill the two separate and unconnected conditions of being “learned and intelligent” and “Latina”.

            But I can understand why it was taken as straightforwardly implying Latina=necessarily wiser than any others. Hell, for all I know, that really was what she meant.

        • John Schilling says:

          It was that she was Qualified Plus, since she had all the resume and greater life experience.

          So if I say that a white man would be Qualified Plus to be president, on account of all the cultural heritage running successful polities, would that be OK? And if I then indicate that we obviously want the Most Qualified president?

          • erenold says:

            It’s not OK, and I believe I explicitly indicated as such.

            But it is different from claiming that a white man inherently and by definition cannot be POTUS. Which is the comparator here.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          If everyone accused of blowing a dog whistle were to be extended this level of interpretive charity, that would be a good thing.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Justice Sotomayor’s career has benefited from affirmative action, which she has promoted going back to college years, and her wise Latina quip was intended to promote more affirmative action for wise Latinas like, to pick a nonrandom example, herself.

        • gbdub says:

          erenold – I think you’re being a bit uncharitable to Trump. He didn’t say Curiel was unqualified to be a judge, but that he was unqualified to judge HIS case. He was basically accusing him of a conflict of interest.

          And I thin Sotomayor’s comment is worth beinging up here, because basically she’s saying that a judge’s race is an interest, and affects their judging. Well, if being Latino can affect your judging positively in some cases, can’t it affect it negatively in others?

          • erenold says:

            I don’t tend to think that’s a significant distinction – if someone really is racially unfit to serve as a judge in particular cases, then he’s unfit to serve as a judge, period. Ken White made a very important point here – a key pillar of confidence in a judicial system is that judges must not just be impartial, they must be assigned impartially. A justice system doesn’t work and can’t inspire confidence if you are drawing from a fundamentally different pool of jurists from me every time we go to court.

            As for this:

            And I thin Sotomayor’s comment is worth beinging up here, because basically she’s saying that a judge’s race is an interest, and affects their judging. Well, if being Latino can affect your judging positively in some cases, can’t it affect it negatively in others?

            I unreservedly agree with you.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Trump’s argument seems to be that he (Trump) has said bad things about Mexico, therefore a judge with Mexican heritage is likely to be prejudiced against him because of those statements. I don’t think this is a particularly sound argument, but even if it were true it doesn’t imply that judges of Mexican heritage are unfit in general.

            One might consider whether a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan might have a reasonable complaint about a black judge presiding over a dispute involving him but completely unrelated to race. Ken White says you’re not allowed to make that complaint, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true; it seems quite reasonable on its face to suggest that a judge of race or ethnicity X might be biased against a notorious (truly or not) hater of ethnicity X, even if as a matter of public policy the courts don’t accept that argument.

          • erenold says:

            “a judge with Mexican heritage is likely to be prejudiced against [Trump] because of those statements… if it were true it doesn’t imply that judges of Mexican heritage are unfit in general.

            Wait, sorry, I don’t follow this. Why not? As I’ve said, I think – and I believe that the legal practitioners’ consensus certainly is – a judge can only be meaningfully described as ‘fit’ for office if we can trust him to adjudicate impartially in every matter brought before him regardless of its subject matter. He’s either fit to judge everything or nothing at all.

            To me, it follows that if you say a ‘Mexican’ judge cannot hear your case impartially, then he is not fit for office period; if the only reason you believe that judge cannot hear your case impartially is because he is Mexican then necessarily you are implicitly saying all ‘Mexican’ judges are necessarily unfit for office.

            I consider the sexist stuff goofy in the main, I consider his response to the Orlando shooting incomprehensible. But this is the first time he has said something I genuinely consider dangerous to your Republic. It seems to me to be a fundamental assault on one of the most basic tenets of liberal democracy.

          • Matt M says:

            I mean it seems overwhelmingly obvious that the only reason Trump is saying this is to pre-emptively call into question the decision if/when the judge decides against him.

            It seems likely that Trump (or some advisor he actually listened to) believes that the potential damage for a finding against him in the case (without qualification) is greater than the potential damage for calling into question the judge’s objectivity.

            Trump has already planted the seed such that, if/when the judge rules against him, he can brush it off and say “this is no big deal at all, everyone knew this biased judge was going to find this way, don’t worry, i’ll be appealing my unfair treatment (which won’t be decided until after the election)”

          • erenold says:

            Quare – does that make it worse, or better?

          • Matt M says:

            In my opinion, better. Shows that it’s not just Trump spewing hate for no reason, but rather a somewhat intelligently calculated political and legal strategy.

          • Jiro says:

            Wait, sorry, I don’t follow this. Why not? As I’ve said, I think a judge can only be meaningfully described as ‘fit’ for office if we can trust him to adjudicate impartially in every matter brought before him regardless of its subject matter. He’s either fit to judge everything or nothing at all.

            By that reasoning there’s no such thing as a judge with a conflict of interest and any judge who recuses himself for a conflict of interest should be immediately fired because admitting that might be unfair in even one case makes him generally unfit as a judge.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I think a judge can only be meaningfully described as ‘fit’ for office if we can trust him to adjudicate impartially in every matter brought before him regardless of its subject matter.

            That’s simply not true, or we wouldn’t have recusals at all.

          • Gbdub says:

            Judges aren’t expected to be able to judge everything impartially, that’s why judges somewhat frequently recuse themselves. Justice Kagan recused herself from at least one case recently, can’t remember exactly which one, but she had argued it in her role as solicitor at a lower court. This doesn’t make her generally unfit.

            Wasn’t there some connection between judge Curel and La Raza? That would seem to be a more direct connection to “likely opponent of Trump” as opposed to “merely has Mexican heritage”.

            Beyond that though there is certainly a strain of thought, evident in reaction to Clarence Thomas as well as Sotomayor, that judges are expected to rule in a certain way as “representatives” of their race and face a backlash if they don’t.

            I’d heavily wager that if Trump wins the case, the judge will get at least some degree of “Uncle Tom” type slurs thrown at him. Maybe he’s above all that and can still rule impartially, but it’d hardly be shocking if it has some effect on him.

          • erenold says:

            You’re all right, but let me rephrase that – a judge must be able to adjudicate all conflicts impartially less the rare, minor and not presently triggered exception of a ‘personal’ conflict of interest, within the boundaries of what that term of art specifically means. I.e., matters in which he has a personal interest (personal meaning personal, not racial, not political, not anything else). It does violence to the concept of a conflict of interest – which, again, is a specific term of art with a specific meaning – to suggest that ethnic heritage should be included.

            Gbdub – I’m not certain, but I believe that’s an entirely different Hispanic lawyer’s association also called ‘La Raza’, not the National Council. Nor, I’m given to understand, is there much overlap between the activities of the two. I may need to be corrected on this though.

    • Tibor says:

      I believe you meant Untermenschen 😉

  21. Anonymous says:

    Here’s the thing about the Trump and misogyny / Trump and sexism / Trump and women thing. He does the opposite of dog whistling on the subject.

    There are a million and one ways to look at someone’s physical appearance and guess with a pretty high degree of accuracy which candidate they support – especially earlier in the campaign season when there were more candidates and people could choose someone closer to their heart. Walking down the street on primary day in my town I could guess from 20 paces away who was for Bernie or Hillary or Trump – Kasich supports were totally undercover though (these only candidates with any support in my town).

    To put it mildly – women who support Bernie or Hillary tend to be pretty ugly. Women, for very good reasons, are sensitive about that sort of thing and so build bubbles around themselves where the very idea of pointing out that woman is unattractive is taboo. Trump lived his life in a way that’s a rebuke to their existence and when he talks about what makes women attractive and what doesn’t it sets certain women off for understandable reasons.

    • God Damn John Jay says:

      My pretty-girl allies stick out like a sore thumb amongst the corn-fed, no make-up, natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie-chick pie wagons they call ‘women’ at the Democratic National Convention.

      — Ann Coulter

      Admittedly, statistically married women are 20 percentage points more likely to be Republicans than single women. So, maybe there is some truth to it.

      • Anonymous says:

        Something similar applies to Scott’s first point too.

        There are lots and lots of Jews in the media and it’s a known, consciously used strategy. Here’s a quote from Spencer Ackerman (Jewish) from journolist (Ezra Klein’s old listserv (also Jewish)).

        I do not endorse a Popular Front, nor do I think you need to. It’s not necessary to jump to Wright-qua-Wright’s defense. What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this rhetorically.
        And I think this threads the needle. If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they’ve put upon us. Instead, take one of them–Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares–and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems? This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.

        When you’re part of a tiny minority and you actually are involved in a conspiracy to push a policy (mass immigration) on a body politic that hates that policy then preemptively accusing others of bias towards your group can be effective if you control the megaphone.

      • tkmh says:

        *”Married women are more likely to be Republicans, so Republicans are prettier.”*
        Gee, I wonder if there are any other correlates for being Republican that could explain why so many of them are married?

    • Anonymous says:

      Okay im fascinated by this , I have to ask what do supporters of each candidate look like. What physical traits do you use to guess these sort of preferences?

    • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

      This is so, so ludicrous, that it’s probably just an attempt at trolling, but whatever:

      Trump has very little support from college-aged women, thereby you are implying that the vast majority of girls in college are pretty ugly. I leave it to the reader to decide if that’s true.

      • Anonymous says:

        Ehhhh i mean if you want to play devils advocate
        http://jezebel.com/5950013/hot-or-not-why-conservative-women-are-prettier-than-liberal-ladies

        And thats from jezebel which isnt exactly an outpost for the Heritage foundation.

      • Jiro says:

        He’s suggesting a general trend, which can be true on the average without being true about the college subgroup.

        Furthermore, even in college, it is plausible that the majority are less attractive than the Trump-liking minority, even if they are still attractive on an absolute scale. For instance, suppose that liking Trump is correlated with belief in traditional gender roles, and that in turn is correlated with paying attention to one’s appearance.

        • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

          It’s not implausible to say that supporter’s of Trump are on average more attractive than of Sanders. It’s implausible to say

          To put it mildly – women who support Bernie or Hillary tend to be pretty ugly.

          Honestly, I think this statement is different from merely suggesting a general trend.

          And he did not merely assert they were less attractive, but ugly. So every single non-ugly female supporter of Sanders and Clinton counts as evidence (though not proff) against that statement.

          Supporters of Trump have a lower socio-economic status than supporters of Clinton and Sanders, which in turn is obviously correlated with looks.

          • Jiro says:

            Supporters of Trump have a lower socio-economic status than supporters of Clinton and Sanders, which in turn is obviously correlated with looks.

            By the same reasoning used in your college example (which is not valid reasoning), I could ask why you think that black people tend to support Trump.

          • TrivialGravitas says:

            Supporters of Trump have a lower socio-economic status than supporters of Clinton and Sanders, which in turn is obviously correlated with looks.

            This is AAA grade bullshit served to you by an upper class press that assumes bigotry comes from people not of their class. Median household of Trump supporters (in states with exit polling) is 72k, median of Clinton and Bernie is 61k.

            Source: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-mythology-of-trumps-working-class-support/

          • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

            Hm, that’s interesting, and makes my argument fly out of the window completely. Thanks.

          • Matt M says:

            Don’t worry, I’m sure if they’re ever forced to acknowledge that, the media will slide right back into its “Democrats are the party of the people while Republicans only represent the interest of the rich elite!” rhetoric that has served them so well every other time!

      • Anonymous says:

        You do know something can be both offensive to your sensibilities and true right?

        Your reaction is pretty much a concrete example of what people who rail against political correctness are yelling about.

        Stereotypes exist for a reason. They weren’t pulled from thin air by evil x-ists trying to pollute the minds of the pure with oppressive memes.

        • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

          So in conclusion, somebody makes a statement that is controversial, provides nothing but an anecdote, not a shred of plausibility, you come along and claim without evidence that statement to be a stereotype, and from there it follows that it must be true. Interesting.

        • MugaSofer says:

          >Stereotypes exist for a reason. They weren’t pulled from thin air by evil x-ists trying to pollute the minds of the pure with oppressive memes.

          “All stereotypes are true”. On SSC.

          …maybe the people who said the comments section is going downhill have a point.

          • suntzuanime says:

            “Stereotypes exist for a reason” is not the same thing as “all stereotypes are true”. Your post, for example, exists for a reason. A more sensible/charitable interpretation would be “it shouldn’t be the default, unquestionable assumption that all stereotypes are false”.

          • Anonymous says:

            Elsewhere in the thread you argued that someone who made a generalising comment about women would probably be more likely to hold sexist attitudes than would a randomly picked individual.

            What is that, if not stereotyping?

          • lvlln says:

            @Anonymous

            That just sounds like simple statistics, with the premise that “holding sexist attitudes” is positively correlated with “making a generalising comment about women.”

          • Luke the CIA stooge says:

            Technically all stereotypes are true, in that they provide predictive power better than chance (except in the rare and short lived scenario where they have only recently ceased to match up with reality and are on the way out).

            “Black men are violent” matches up with the massive prevalence of the black population in prison

            “Asians are hard working” fits with the data which says Asians are more socially mobile than the general population

            “Men are rapists” (left wing stereotype) fits with the data which says the vast majority of sexual assailants just so happen to have 2 chromosomes

            The argument against stereotypes isn’t that they aren’t true, they provide valuable knowledge that is incredibly useful when lacking other knowledge (your walking alone down a dark street, do you walk towards the young black men or the young white women), it’s that they’re damaging when taken to far by a critical Mass of the population.

            The idea that all stereotypes are wrong is a weird byproduct of the culture wars where people with sacred beliefs will twist themselves into the most absurd positions to avoid signaling anything other than “Fuck the outgroup”

          • Anonymous says:

            >“All stereotypes are true”. On SSC.

            No, all stereotypes contain truth or a meme would never have become widespread enough to become one.

            Something that is blatantly untrue either never becomes a stereotype or quickly fades out of the collective consciousness.

            Leftists being homely misfits has been around for a long time.

          • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

            So if every stereotype contains a grain of truth, should I search my matza for the toenail of a Christian infant?

          • Jaskologist says:

            Even the most pernicious lie (Jews eat Gentile babies) contains a grain of truth (Jews eat).

          • Jiro says:

            Even the most pernicious lie (Jews eat Gentile babies) contains a grain of truth (Jews eat).

            The anon said that the truth in a stereotype is necessary for the meme to spread. So you are claiming that the idea that Jews eat babies spread because people understood that Jews eat.

            I remain skeptical.

          • I don’t think that “Jews eat Christian babies” is what we mean by “stereotype”. It’s not a general characteristic of Jews, it’s a specific (false) accusation.

            “Jews are greedy and stingy” is a stereotype, which (like the others) has some kernel of truth while being not true of every Jew.

          • Jiro says:

            I don’t see how you’re distinguishing between “accusation” and “stereotype” here. In both cases a claim is made about Jews; the only difference is that in one case the claim is true of no Jews and in another case the claim is true of some Jews.

            (And that can’t be your distinction between “accusation” and “stereotype” because it would be circular reasoning: if you define a stereotype as a claim which can sometimes be true, then of course every streotype will have a kernel of truth by definition.)

          • The true part is that Jews eat matzoh and non-Jews don’t.

            This was truer back when there was more religious differentiation. These days, there are more non-observant Jews and more Christians doing some sort of Seder and/or attending Jewish Sedars and/or eating matzoh because they like it.

          • Jiro says:

            The true part is that Jews eat matzoh and non-Jews don’t.

            And if the accusation was that Jews are poisoning the wells? What’s the kernel of truth, that Jews with access to wells exist? What’s the kernel of truth in “Jews have horns on their head”, is it that Jews have heads?

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            I think people are falling for the nerd trap of taking aphorisms extremely literally.

            “Stereotypes exist for a reason” does not imply (in the “A → B” sense) that absolutely every stereotype is factually true. A counterexample of an obviously untrue stereotype is useful, because it demonstrates that stereotypes are necessarily crude and only provide weak evidence. But it doesn’t mean one should disregard stereotypes out of hand either.

            Also, falling into a different nerd trap myself, I’m not sure that the Blood Libel really counts as a stereotype exactly. A better example of a stereotype utterly unmoored from reality would be one of the goofier stereotypes I’ve heard, that Asian women have sideways genitalia. No idea where that came from or how common it is but it cracked me up when I first heard it.

          • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

            You notice that blood libel and eating christian babies is conspicuously absent from modern antisemitism, its almost as if false stereotypes have a half life.

            Although agreed these really don’t neatly fit into the realm of stereotype, mostly because i don’t think anyone actually believed them in a “bet you 50 buck we find the blood of a christian baby if we search X jewish houses” (indeed even the most virulent anti-semite would admit, if pressed, that destressed christian babies would be more common in christian households) rather these memes are the result of group hate fests and needing something to justify themselves (just like i doubt any SJWs actually think they’ve found a virulent racist when they catch someone in a gaff, they just want to justify their tormenting someone for fun).

            Compare that with “chinese men run small businesses” and “black men are criminals”,
            if we surveyed 100 chinese men and 100 of the general population i would put down money, as would most people, that there is a higher prevalence of small business ownership in the chinese male population.

            Likewise i would put down money that more black men had been to prison than the average rate of the adult population.

            The hatred of stereotyping seems to be an isolated demand for rigor.

            We yell at little old ladies for saying “black men are violent”, then go back to discussing “the prevalence of violent crime in the black male population”, its basically discrimination against people who speak at an 8th grade reading level

          • suntzuanime says:

            You’re not really supposed to talk about “the prevalence of violent crime in the black male population” either. I don’t think it’s a matter of register, it’s a matter of sending the right signals and using enough indirection to indicate that you don’t really want to talk about the prevalence of violent crime in the black male population but you have to as part of your academic work or whatever. People who talk about race scientifically without proper hygiene just get labeled as “scientific racists”.

          • birdboy2000 says:

            It was my understanding that the truth behind “Jews are poisoning the wells” is that Jews weren’t dropping dead of the plague as often (largely because their ritual practices gave them better hygiene than medieval Christians in Europe) although I haven’t verified this and might be repeating an urban myth.

          • Brian says:

            Really, the true part of a lot of these Jewish blood libel type accusations is “Jews are an insular community that put their own people’s interests above ours and have weird rituals we don’t understand.” And in many of the specific cases it was “And little Ivan went missing and is presumed dead.”

            The old versions of the blood libel have died off since now everyone even remotely aware of Jewish practice knows what matzah is.

            But one older anti-semitic lie is still going strong–the Protocols of the Elders of Zion conspiracy theory still has followers because it remains a fact that Jews are disproportionately influential and successful in business.

            And blood libel still exists too, just in a more modernized form–accusations that Israelis harvest Palestinian organs to use in Jewish patients.

        • neonwattagelimit says:

          I refer you back to SolipsisticUtilitarian’s comment. The contention at issue here is not “Trump supporters are more attractive, on average, than Hillary or Bernie supporters.” It is “Hillary and Bernie supporters tend to be ugly,” based on purely anecdotal evidence. I could *literally* make the opposite claim, as I know many supporters of Bernie and Hillary who are non-ugly, and, in many cases, quite attractive. But I am not going to make that claim, because I recognize that my sample is highly biased, and my evidence, therefore, thin.

          That said, I do think it would be a fun parlor game to guess at which primary candidate had the most conventionally attractive supporters, on average. I’d say probably either Kasich (because they tended to be upscale traditionalists) or Bernie (because they tended to be young).

        • Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition— a history of non-Jews inventing their ideas about Judaism.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Yes, I’d expect the order of pulchritude of female supporters to be Bernie>Trump>Hillary, based mostly on age.

        I’m sure even bringing it up makes us all sexists though.

    • Lightman says:

      Wow, what a great anecdote! You looked at women you thought were unattractive and just *knew* they were Democrats!

      Anecdotally, I know plenty of attractive Clinton and Sanders supporters of all genders. Clearly, my hunch that Clinton and Sanders supporters are hotter than average outweighs your hunch.

      I really expect more from a supposedly rationalist forum.

      • erenold says:

        Let me be as charitable as possible to the original claim here by purple anon. It could well be that being unattractive correlates (maybe even causes) a lowered quality of life, which in turn correlates (definitely causes) a desire to be politically contrarian, since, well, whatever we’re doing clearly isn’t working given how bad I’m having it, right?

        Hence, if OP purple anon lives in a conservative area, dissenters would be liberal and unattractive to him. And vice versa.

        This accords with my own anecdata, anyway.

        • anonymous bosch says:

          Even if anon’s claim is true, they explicitly provide their “evidence” – they could just tell which strangers supported who while walking down the street.

          • erenold says:

            No but that’s my point though – maybe he really does have a good heuristic which works for his immediate vicinity after all. My personal experience is almost perfectly inverse because attractive people where I come from, those fuckin’ normies, tend to just not care at all about politics and just go with the flow with a kind of smug, self-satisfied mild liberalism in a slightly unconsidered, unreflective way. Maybe he’s witnessing the same thing in his area, but in reverse…

            …ah, fuck it, I’m working way too hard to salvage the shitposting of an idiot. Never mind.

        • Anonymous says:

          Hmmm I actually think that contrarianness and attractiveness have a u-shaped curve. The least and the most attractive tend to be contrarians. I used to be a fat kid a while back and was a contrarian who cared about politics cause fuck it no need to hide my interests it cant lower my popularity ( I was a liberal). Then as I lost weight and puberty started kicking in ( but not yet had its max effect), I then became apolitical, then later as I got quite buff and classically handsome by the standards of my social group ( am a minority so I take a hit for that in general population attractiveness rankings), I had the power to say what I wanted and openly quote my newfound libertarian views. A strong jawline and broad shoulders gave me greater latitude to express my opinions because people are willing to forgive slightly contrarian opinions from attractive people.

    • tkmh says:

      Walking down the street on primary day in my town I could guess from 20 paces away who was for Bernie or Hillary or Trump

      How do you know that you were right? Did you ask them to confirm your predictions? I’m having a hard time believing this. It sounds like you’re just assuming you predicted right.

      To put it mildly – women who support Bernie or Hillary tend to be pretty ugly.

      Again, I don’t really think you have any real evidence for this.

      Women, for very good reasons, are sensitive about that sort of thing and so build bubbles around themselves where the very idea of pointing out that woman is unattractive is taboo.

      I think the taboo around pointing out that a woman is (/would be agreed by a majority in our society to be) unattractive is good and helpful. It exists not to spare those women’s feelings, but to combat the idea that women’s primary value is in their attractiveness.

      This, I think, is the root of the claims that Trump is sexist. I don’t think Trump is a misogynist, but it’s hard to argue that the owner of the Miss World franchise (and source of the “not a 10” quote) is not actively promoting the idea that women’s primary value is in their looks. Trump may not be a sexist as defined in the post, but his worldview is sexist.

      • Anonymous says:

        How do you know that you were right? Did you ask them to confirm your predictions? I’m having a hard time believing this. It sounds like you’re just assuming you predicted right.

        Only counted button wearers or pro canvasers. In NY there’s a high density of both and Sanders supporters look exactly like you would expect – the guys are skinny weak looking losers and the women are fuglies. Hillary gets the uptight scolds over 40.

        Yes, this is a sample bias based on who’s passionate enough about a candidate to wear a button or canvas for them.

    • Theo Jones says:

      To put it mildly – women who support Bernie or Hillary tend to be pretty ugly.

      This is just a trollish shitpost. DAE think democrats r ugly?

  22. I think that last quote about Hitler cuts both ways with respect to your thesis. Yes, it’s an example of people trying to read into a political figure’s words rather than taking them at face value, and being disastrously wrong. But people are also saying that Trump’s more extreme views are just an act to appeal to his base. It’s the same kind of “mind-reading,” but in a different ideological direction, so it seems incongruous with your earlier Trump examples.

    Incidentally, do you ever listen to Sam Harris’ podcast? This is something he complains about frequently. Almost to the point of tedium, in fact, but I understand why he complains about it so much, because he has a group of fairly popular antagonists who seem to be gleefully and probably knowingly fabricating insidious alternate meanings to his every statement. (These people include Glenn Greenwald and Reza Aslan. In some circles, “Greenwalding” has become a new term for this sort of behavior.)

  23. Salem says:

    If you can hear the dog whistle, you are the dog.

    If Ted Cruz’s reference was a dog whistle – coded language that only racists could hear while normal people would regard it as benign – then it seems it’s the liberal media who are the racists. A conclusion that will be more appealing to some than others, admittedly.

    • Jiro says:

      That seems to ignore the possibility of failed attempts at doing things.

    • U. Ranus says:

      That’s because the actual dog whistle is directed at journalists and it says, “See that man, you dogs of the press? Attack! Attack!”

      And then they attack, each incident plastered all over their various output organs. Seem to be a well trained breed.

    • Subbak says:

      Actually, the metaphor is not that bad. A dog whistle is meant to get the dog to react, not to communicate more profoundly.
      So in this model, you say “welfare queen” to get them to react on their hatred of those lazy black people, and you say “New York values” to get them to react on their hatred of Jews. But then someone who is observant enough could see how people react to that, and deduce that this is actually a coded message. In short, get a detector for the ultrasound that lets them notice the use of a dog whistle without actually hearing it.

      I’m not saying the thing with NY values has any truth to it. It seems much more likely that Cruz was just attacking Trump, Clinton and Sanders in one soundbite, using the anti-elitism that resonates well with a portion of the Republican base. But that’s more because of the specifics than because dog whistles can’t exist.

      • Salem says:

        You misunderstand me. I don’t think it’s a bad metaphor, or that dog whistles can’t exist.

        I was quite serious in my conclusion that the liberal media are the “dogs” – the ones who bark crazily at secret messages only they can hear.

        • gbdub says:

          I agree. It often appears that the ones shouting about “dog whistles” are the only ones reacting, and the supposed targets of the whistle are like “huh?”

    • Steve Sailer says:

      The typical Cruz supporter in the Great Plains is unaware that a very large fraction of the New York media people they don’t much cotton to — e.g., Geraldo Rivera — are Jewish. It’s just not something that comes up in the mental sphere of Hank Hill types. Geraldo Rivera, Donald Trump, George Steinbrenner … they all just seem like obnoxious New Yorkers to Cruz voters.

      In contrast, the New York media people who don’t much like Cruz’s supporters are well aware of the immense disparate impact by white ethnicity in the media, the Forbes 400, and so forth. But the people currently on top don’t see much value in a well-informed discussion of what kinds of people get on top. Really, what’s in it for them? So, they’ve done a very good job of encouraging crimestop in the mental processes of the great majority of Americans on these subjects by berating anybody getting even close to such questions, and thus making clear that it’s Not Respectable to think about these things. So most people adopt what Orwell called “protective stupidity.”

  24. j r says:

    I really really hate the dog whistle analogy for the simple reason that actual dog whistles don’t work like the metaphorical “dog whistle.” A real dog whistle is something that the dog, for which it is intended, can hear but no human, for whom it wasn’t intended, can. The metaphorical dog whistles almost always trigger the party that is not the dog. The again, as the Last Psychiatrist says, if you’re reading it, then it’s for you.

    And therein lies the secret of today’s media narratives. According to whatever journo is penning the story, you’re not supposed to hear the dog whistle but you totally do. You know, because you’re just that smart to see through the sophisticated coding being employed. So the reader gets to pat themselves on the back for being both not anti-semitic or racist and savvy enough to pick up Ted Cruz’ anti-semitism or Donald Trump’s racism.

    • Anonymous says:

      The amusing thing is that Ted Cruz actually did use a dog whistle at one point and it worked exactly as intended. After one of the early primaries he said something about the body of Christ rising up and carrying him to victory. The journalist reported this as if Ted Cruz implied that Jesus would return to ensure his victory in the primaries. To a practicing Christian the phrase “the body of Christ” in that context means the group of followers.

      Dog whistle success.

      • DavidS says:

        Dog whistles are meant to sound normal to everyone else and particularly appealing to those you’re whistling at. If this meant those not being whistled at thought he was actually saying he’d be backed by the second coming it sounds like a serious dog whistle fail to me.

        For a dog whistle to work others need to be able to process the key bit in a different way. E.g. if someone says ‘support marriage’ I might think they mean ‘tax breaks’ which I don’t feel that strongly about but it might be code for ‘oppose gay marriage’ for those who care most. My US history is patchy but I think people saying they supported ‘States’ rights’ was at various points code for ‘specifically slavery/discrimination’ (so for instance someone who was a passionate supporter of State’s rights would be less likely to support the rights of a state to refuse to send a runaway slave back to their owner than someone who didn’t talk about State’s rights so much)

        • Randy M says:

          The “support marriage” example is a good one. Almost, anyway, since I don’t think too many people were fooled at the time gay marriage was being debated, so it is more of an example of trying to accentuate the positives than hide anything.

          “Promote women’s health” is probably another example where liberal women hear it as primarily about abortion and the general public hears it as about a wider range of topics all equally.

      • But… that’s not a dog whistle either. There’s nothing “secret” about it. It’s a widely-known and openly acknowledged bit of metonymy that’s, like, 2000 years old. The fact that the media somehow didn’t understand it proves mostly that they’re willfully clueless about their own cultural heritage, not that Cruz successfully pulled off some ninja dog whistle.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        @ pale red Anonymous
        The amusing thing is that Ted Cruz actually did use a dog whistle at one point and it worked exactly as intended.

        Exactly as intended? Rather, I’d guess by good luck.

        1. To co-believers, Cruz says things like “the body of Christ” — a familiar metaphor to them.

        2. The Shallow Media took it literally* and published: “Zombie Jesus! Nya nya silly Cruz!”

        3. To better educated people this mistake functioned as a dog-whistle (though unintended by anyone) and they barked: “Nya nya silly Shallow Media!”:

        4. Result: Shallow Media has egg on its face, and Cruz gets credit for a cunning billiards shot.**

        * or pretended to

        ** Personally, I doubt if Cruz intended anything at all.

  25. James James says:

    “Fellow British politician Ken Livingstone defended him”

    Defended her.

  26. rjk says:

    Livingstone does seem to have a bit of habit of putting his foot in it; http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/65425/ken-livingstone-jews-wont-vote-labour-because-they-are-rich in addition to the examples mentioned above. So I can see why people would be suspicious of him and tend to treat the most recent incident as supporting their suspicions.

    Did you have another compact phrase in mind that captures the sense “low-grade disrespect for Jews as a class that nevertheless doesn’t meet some minimum bar for anti-semitism”?

    • Rob Miles says:

      This right here is, in my opinion, the nature of Labour’s antisemitism problem, such as it is, and it’s the same thing that’s behind most antisemitism in the left. It goes like this:

      1. Buy into part of a stereotype – ‘Jews are rich/powerful’
      2. That doesn’t feel like racism or antisemitism, cause it’s a good thing! It’s not like you think they’re bad – who doesn’t want to be rich/powerful?
      3. It is just and righteous to fight inequality and ‘speak truth to power’ and ‘punch up’ and so on. Rich and powerful people are legitimate targets.
      4. Sloppy thinking blurs the distinctions and reasoning
      5. You’ve now got an ethnic group on your list of legitimate targets

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Jews in the UK have tended to be rich and on the right — e.g., Tory Benjamin Disraeli was Queen Victoria’s favorite prime minister. Jews, especially those in the gold and diamond business in South Africa, played a sizable role in financing the right over the years, e.g., a Jewish South African mining baron financially bailed out Winston Churchill with a huge gift of money in 1938 at a historically crucial moment when Churchill’s giant debts threatened to drive him from Parliament so he could earn more money as a writer.

      So it’s not surprising for a Labour leader to argue that Jewish support is hard to win because Jews tend to be affluent. In Britain that’s somewhat true.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Didn’t you already write about something similar? Seems quite strange to deny the reality of it now.

  28. Emile says:

    I agree with the general point on dog whistles (there’s already plenty of things to discuss in people’s explicit statements, let’s not try to extrapolate even more), but to nitpick a bit:

    If Trump is dumb enough to say out loud that he thinks women aren’t attractive without big breasts, that says certain things about his public relations ability and his dignity-or-lack-thereof, but it sounds like it requires a lot more steps to suggest he is a bad person, or unqualified for anything, or would have an administration which is bad for women, or anything that we should actually care about.

    Well, lack of public relations ability, or of a filter between the brain and the mouth *does* seem like it could make someone unqualified for being chief spokesman of the Nation.

    • Anonymous says:

      Well, lack of public relations ability, or of a filter between the brain and the mouth *does* seem like it could make someone unqualified for being chief spokesman of the Nation.

      Unsuited, not unqualified. He is qualified.

      • tcheasdfjkl says:

        Why, what’s the difference? The ability to speak gracefully the way a president should is a qualification he does not have.

        • Anonymous says:

          From Wikipedia:

          Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the Constitution sets the following qualifications for holding the presidency:

          be a natural-born citizen of the United States;[note 1]
          be at least thirty-five years old;
          be a resident in the United States for at least fourteen years.

          Think of it like this – the asshole programmer from MIT who worked for NASA for ten years prior to receiving the programming position interview at your company, and who pisses off everyone at your company, is eminently qualified for the job. He is also extremely unsuited for it.

          • Randy M says:

            “Qualified” could mean “meeting the legal qualifications.”
            But it is more likely a speaker will use it to mean “possessing qualities needed to succeed.”
            Whether you correct them depends on whether you want to be charitable or pedantic.

  29. benwave says:

    So I was going to write a comment on how I didn’t expect a president Trump to legislate in ways that disadvantage women and minorities (or at least not more so than another counterfactual republican president), but I Did expect more acts of racially motivated violence to happen if he wins. But then I realised that this impression I have is based almost entirely on how he treats race in his speeches, and I was conflating that with sexism. So, actually I don’t know enough about his position on women to make any useful comment!

    Agree that press poring over speeches for ‘mistakes’ probably is unhelpful, but in the end the news reading populace in aggregate are probably largely responsible for that – I really get the impression that news organisations are ridiculously constrained in what it is possible to write and still make a living from. (That’s actually a big issue for me. News organisations in the 21st century are clearly a gigantic market failure, I would very much like to see some kind of solution)

    • Tibor says:

      I find that the solution is to ignore the opinion sections of most newspapers (usually, after a while, you can tell what the columnist is going to write just by his or her name anyway and it is rarely very insightful) and delegate that to blogs like this – where you meet a variety of people of very different opinions (including ones I had no idea existed before, such as the one whose name is spam-filtered here) and where despite this, the discussion does not usually degenerate into a fight (sometimes I feel like some people are going close to that even here, but given how widely diverse the opinions here are, it is still an acomplishment that it only happens to that degree and relatively rarely).

      If you are looking for a “societal” solution and not just a personal one, I don’t know. State-run media are definitely not a better choice in my opinion. I do think that the BBC is actually better than many US new sources (although I basically only know the ones cited here and it is often as “look how terrible this journalist is”) although I do find some things annoying about them as well. More importantly, it does not prevent people to read The Sun (which I don’t know very well but I gather that it is a tabloid) instead. I think that subscription-based media ameliorate the problem a little, but still, at the end of the day, the media produce only that what they think their readers will read (not necessarily what they will like, or rather it is sometimes useful to write something they will be outraged about because it will make them share it all over the social media). In this sense it is hardly a market failure. It is just that most people don’t want to consume news to get a more accurate picture of the world or find out about what is happening but rather to feel better about themselves and their pre-existing views. The news outlets match that demand perfectly. Some of them are a bit better, because not everyone is like the people I described, but you cannot expect the journalists to be that much more insightful and thoughtful than the average person.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        > I find that the solution is to ignore the opinion sections of most newspapers

        Unfortunately, that’s been pages 1 through 78 for a while now.

        • Tibor says:

          Obviously, even reporters do not report in a completely unbiased way. A solution is to pick ideologically opposed (but not too ideological) new sources, compare how they report about the important events. If you can, you should choose some that don’t have a reputation of being dishonest (i.e. knowingly saying things which they know are not true). You can usually ignore anything that does not get a bigger coverage.

          In fact, I have some doubts about there being a point in reading the newspapers at all (I still do it, although I try to limit the time I spend doing that…I have an excuse for reading German media which is to practice my German but I am trying to limit even the BBC to skimming through the main events of the week on Saturday or something like that). It is maybe 10% useful information and 90% noise. One particular example of almost pure noise are the weekly polls about politics here in Germany (I don’t know if they are done with such a frequency elsewhere). So you can read stuff like “party x gained 1% since last week because of [an ad hoc explanation by the journalist] and party y lost 0.5% because of [a different ad hoc explanation]”. Given that those differences are well within the error bounds, this is just complete junk. But people like to read stuff like that because it makes politics look more dynamic (“our team is winning”) and therefore entertaining.

          • Tom Womack says:

            Bad financial journalism is even worse for that.

            The Financial Times is still reasonably competent, in that it has a body of journalists who together have a reasonable idea what the companies in the FTSE350 are doing and who have a clear sense of what’s signal and what is noise, but the BBC’s “market commentary” is just paragraphs of content-free reaction to each morning and each afternoon’s wiggle in the FTSE100 graph. The BBC has reasonable macroeconomic expertise, but the correct reaction to wiggles in the graph is silence.

  30. Thursday says:

    If Trump is dumb enough to say out loud that he thinks women aren’t attractive without big breasts

    This is inelegant and (doubtless unintentionally) misleading. I think the most we can say from that quote is that Trump thinks women aren’t as attractive without at least average size breasts. I think most men would agree with him on that.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      Izumi Konata says otherwise.

      • suntzuanime says:

        I think you’ve seriously misread her. What she was trying to say is that there’s a substantial minority of men interested in women with smaller breasts and so she, with her substantially flat chest, is well placed to take advantage of this niche. It was framed as being supplemental to the understood default of “most men want at least average size breasts”, rather than replacing it.

        • Thursday says:

          Right, a non-trivial number of men have a preference for flatter chested women. That doesn’t negate anything I (or Trump) have said.

  31. Jiro says:

    Making comments about a woman’s appearance is Bayseian evidence that that person is sexist. People who are sexist are more likely to pay attention to a woman’s appearance than people who aren’t, even if paying attention to a woman’s appearance is something that non-sexist people can do.

    Of course it is also true that being a member of a minority group with a high proportion of criminals is Bayseian evidence that you are a criminal. We generally consider acting on that basis to be a form of prejudice that should be avoided. Acting as though a person is more likely to be sexist based on non-sexist Bayseian evidence is similarly a form of prejudice.

    But we need to recognize that the use of Bayseian evidence this way is logically valid, and that if it is unfair to attack someone based on a dog whistle it is unfair despite the evidence, not unfair because of the lack of evidence. People who say that Israel should be moved to America are anti-Semitic with higher probability; people who make remarks about female anatomy are sexist with higher probability.

    And at some point the probability may be high enough that it isn’t even a lot like prejudice any more. There aren’t minority groups whose members have a 50% probability of being criminals, but it’s entirely plausible that saying certain non-anti-Semitic things implies a 50% probability of being anti-Semitic.

    • j r says:

      “People who are sexist are more likely to pay attention to a woman’s appearance than people who aren’t…”

      That only works if you adopt a pretty circular version of the word sexist.

      • Anonymous says:

        There is no non-stupid definition for “sexist” because men and women are so tremendously different.

      • Jiro says:

        Noi, it works all the time. Remember how Bayseian evidence works: just because there are plenty of non-sexists doing it, it can still mean sexism is more likely.

        • j r says:

          So, where is the evidence that non-sexist people are less likely to pay attention to appearance? What’s the connection between superficiality and sexism other than they are both things we want to call bad?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            (Some) sexist men judge women’s worth based on their appearance.

            Ipso facto, they pay more attention to appearance.

            It’s not a “number of times I noticed what a woman looked like” calculation. It’s the amount of weight being given.

          • Randy M says:

            No, rather it is the context it which the judgement is being made.

          • eh says:

            HBC:

            It’s possible to find evidence in the vast majority of cases that a heterosexual man has preferences for which women he is interested in, because most humans have such preferences. If you refuse to consider such evidence as a general case for humans, and instead consider it on a case by case basis or only consider the case for men and not women, then you are making an isolated demand of the group in question.

            Trump will die, because Trump is a mortal, and mortals die. However, claiming that there is Bayesian evidence that Trump is more likely to die is misleading, because it hijacks the Bayesian evidence for general mortal deaths without setting good priors for non-Trumps.

      • gbdub says:

        I’m pretty sure a massive majority of non-blind heterosexual men, sexist or not, pay a great deal of attention to women’s appearance.

        Unless you’re being tautological and assuming “caring about appearance” is inherently sexist.

        • Tom Womack says:

          Caring is permitted. But there are acceptable contexts in which to mention it, and any kind of event at which journalists might be present is sufficiently a public event that you shouldn’t mention it.

          There are many contexts in which it would be entirely reasonable for me to say that I find Natalie Dormer more attractive than Gwendoline Christie; if I said that even to a journalist while running a booth at a trade show then I would be deservedly pilloried for unprofessionalism.

          • Matt M says:

            “Caring is permitted. But there are acceptable contexts in which to mention it, and any kind of event at which journalists might be present is sufficiently a public event that you shouldn’t mention it.”

            I think if you go back and look at all of the “sexist” Trump quotes, the vast majority of them occurred in contexts in which such talk was entirely appropriate (many of the worst offenders are from appearances on Howard Stern)

    • Flick says:

      Most people pay attention to other people’s appearances, both men and women. That’s not necessarily sexist because appearances can tell us a lot about a person. Judging a woman by her appearance, especially her sexual attractiveness, more than you would judge a man is sexism. Especially in a context where sexual attractiveness is irrelevant.
      I think the best example is politicians. We can all agree that politicians are mostly quite ugly compared to the general population. However, the Daily Mail doesn’t repeatedly run articles about the sexiness of male politicians on any given day, it does print loads of articles about female politicians necklines, breasts and so on.

      • Creutzer says:

        If, as anecdote would have it, appearance is a much larger factor in then sexual attractiveness of women than that of men, then your argument doesn’t quite work: The fact that male politicians are not critisised for their appearance does not show that they are not evaluated with respect to sexual attractiveness.

        On that sort of view, you might expect the media to pick up on inherent attractiveness characteristics of men other than appearance, whatever they are. However, the situation could still be worse: If sexual attractiveness of men is less tied to inherent characteristics than that of women, such as success in itself being attractive (and not only characteristics that correlate with success), then the sexual evaluation of male politicians is likely to be invisible insofar as it would, ipso facto, be reporting of their political standing.

        I’m not sure how plausible to find that story because I don’t really understand the importance of appearance in male attractiveness. Research suggests that it is smaller than in women, but it’s unclear to me whether the difference is sufficiently large to give rise to the picture I’ve sketched above.

      • neonwattagelimit says:

        We can all agree that politicians are mostly quite ugly compared to the general population.

        I can disagree with this. I’d argue that politicians are, on average, slightly more attractive than the general population, when adjusted for age.

        That last part is crucial because the most physically attractive group in society – the young – is pretty severely under-represented among politicians. But if you compare your average member of Congress to your average 50-or-60-year-old, I’d bet that the Congress member would look pretty good.

  32. Joshua Fox says:

    There must be some name to the rhetorical trick that Livingstone used — purposely rephrasing something in the nastiest way possible, adding a bit of falsehood but leaving a tinge of truth so that the statement can be defended. What was his motivation?

    • Sweeneyrod says:

      I think it is the real-life, polarity-reversed version of being an Internet edgelord.

    • JBeshir says:

      My best guess is that it’s some kind of (probably intuitive) attempt to influence the bounds of what’s sayable; if you say it, you’re using your standing to assert you can say it, and setting out that everything less bad than it is within bounds for subsequent conversation.

      I’m not at all confident in it, because I can’t empathise with it properly and it mostly leaves me going “eurgh, stupid stupid stupid”. But it would go some of the way to explain why they don’t just *stop* doing it, or apologise much better than they do.

    • arbitrary_greay says:

      Using the terminology from these parts, it’s combination of maximum uncharitable interpretation with motte-and-bailey.

  33. Jack V says:

    Wait, do you mean, that dog whistles DON’T happen? Because I only heard the term a few years ago, but it seems inevitable — surely any politician with support from a base, especially a potentially controversial base, has lots of pressure to appeal to them, but also lots of pressure not to say anything that would be controversial to everyone else.

    Or that they’re massively over-diagnosed? Because I hadn’t thought about that until you said so, but it seems likely — news and political opponents have every reason to seek them out whether they exist or not.

    • Fazathra says:

      Dog whistles do happen, but most of the time the media don’t recognize them because the whole point of the dog-whistle is that people not in the know don’t hear them and most journalists have appalling mental models of their political opponents. Instead they mostly just take random things and try to interpret them such that they are a dogwhistle and then use it as ‘proof’ of their latent racism/sexism/whatever.

      • Emile says:

        There’s a graduation on how “well hidden” a dog whistle can be – the stereotypical case, an actual whistle that only dogs can hear, is 100% undetected by non-dogs, but there is still use for intermediate cases, where the goal isn’t to go undetected but to offer plausible deniability. In which case it’s normal that the media reports on those.

  34. Loki says:

    I mean dog whistles are a thing. But the phrase has become, imho, a victim of a failure mode that happens a lot, mostly in ‘soft’ sciences and political discussion but often in other fields as well.

    It goes like this:

    1: A bunch of people who know quite a bit about a thing, possibly because they’re some kind of Expert but maybe just because they read about and discuss it a lot, come up with a word or phrase that describes a particular phenomenon. Within the context of the group, where people know the context and have a working knowledge of the subject area, the word or phrase is useful.

    2: The media and/or People Who Are Wrong on the Internet pick up the phrase and, probably in good faith originally but with an eye to what gets the most attention, start overapplying and misusing it until it basically doesn’t mean anything of any use anymore.

    3: (optional) People notice that the word or phrase is totally useless and meaningless now, and start wondering why the group from #1 would come up with such a meaningless and divisive concept, and update their models of the usefulness of listening to that group accordingly.

    See also: ‘OCD’, ‘psychotic’, ‘hacking’, ‘safe space’, ‘sex-positive’, etc

    If anyone is not aware, dog whistles were supposed to refer to things that totally are covert references and are intended to be understood that way by a specific subset of the audience. They are absolutely not something anyone says by mistake. The nature of dog whistles is that once one is universally acknowledged enough to serve as an example, people are no longer really using it, because it won’t work any more as a dog whistle. People may still use it as a kind of euphemism. Examples in this category would include ‘Urban’ (African-American), ‘family values’ (Christian social conservatism), ‘States’ Rights’ (historically, pro-segregation policies), ‘concern for our youth’ or ‘moral concern’ (UK Thatcher era, means ‘supports Section 28‘).

    The idea is that in the heyday of their use – that is, before everybody associated these phrases with the policies in question – you could allude to your support for them in a way that would be picked up by a significant percentage of the intended demographic without scaring off more mainstream voters by referring to it directly, plus reporters won’t ask you questions about it because you never directly mentioned it.

  35. Antígrafo says:

    The problem I see with your argument that you are wrongly defining “dog whistle”. It’s not a way or effort to decipher the real beliefs of a politician by reading vague signs. It refers to a strategy in which a person tries to engage certain segment of the population by signaling fringe beliefs in a way that’s only recognizable to them. It doesn’t matter if the politician holds the belief or not, only that he is trying to exploit it for political gain.

    Id Est: It’s not about if Trump is a misogynist, but about his efforts to engage a misogynistic part of the electorate with veiled misogynistic comments. (I’m using the case of Trump because in my view the one from Ken Livingstone is, as you say, due more to idiocy than antisemitism )

    You are not talking about dog whistles but about something akin to the old sovietology.

    • MawBTS says:

      The problem I see with your argument that you are wrongly defining “dog whistle”.

      Why does it matter? The point the article makes has nothing to do with the exact definition of dog whistle. Who is this a problem for?

    • Emile says:

      There are two things under discussion:

      a) Veiled comments, meant to only be understood as part of the audience while offering plausible deniability to the speaker

      b) Slips of the tongue, where someone carelessly phrases something that could be interpreted the wrong way taken out of context.

      You’re saying Scott is using “dog whistle” to mean b) whereas it actually means a). I think his point is more that the media tend to hunt for instances of b) and accuse them of being a). It seems both you and Scott aggree b) are not dog whistles.

  36. I think trying to identify dog whistles and SJWishness are efforts to address a genuinely hard problem– figuring out who you can trust.

    Scott has a point that it’s possible and common to get so caught up in trying to read people’s subsconsciouses that their overt behavior gets ignored.

    On the other hand, we live in a world where our reputations matter, and I think his piece about neckbeards shows he has a clue that insults add up. Also, insults wear on people, or at least a substantial proportion of people.

    Trying to lower the sexual opportunities of people who already don’t have great opportunities is an attack, and Trump does that to non-beautiful women. And saying that an angry woman is having her period rather than addressing her actual point is a way of not taking women seriously.

    This being said, Trump is overtly hostile to Mexicans (or Latinos in general?) and Muslims in ways that he isn’t to women.

    • MawBTS says:

      I think trying to identify dog whistles and SJWishness are efforts to address a genuinely hard problem– figuring out who you can trust.

      Maybe that’s some of it.

      But honestly, I doubt the journalists running hit pieces on Cruz and Trump are trying to figure out if they’re trustworthy. I think they made up their minds on topic a long time ago, and are looking for ammunition.

      In the 1980s, it was alleged that heavy metal bands were including hidden messages in their records, telling their fans to kill themselves and suchlike. That doesn’t sound like a well intentioned effort to find the truth. It seems like more like motivated reasoning by people who hated heavy metal.

      (I think it was Judas Priest that wondered why, if such things worked, they didn’t include hidden messages telling their fans to buy more records)

    • tcheasdfjkl says:

      And saying that an angry woman is having her period rather than addressing her actual point is a way of not taking women seriously.

      This. If Trump was in fact saying that Megyn Kelly was on her period, the point of saying so is to “explain” her anger at him and avoid engaging with her arguments – it’s not that I, Donald Trump, said something that could make a reasonable person angry, it’s that Megyn Kelly is on her period so of course she’s angry, nothing we should be paying attention to. This is a way of dismissing and delegitimizing a woman’s opinions and emotions – whenever a woman is upset with you, claim she’s on her period and you don’t have to listen to what she’s saying.

      (Maybe similar to an experience I had where when I was a teenager my feelings were sometimes dismissed with “of course you’re upset, you’re a teenager and your hormones are being crazy so of course everything upsets you, it doesn’t mean I need to change my behavior”. Part of the problem here is that feelings should be taken into account even if their root is irrational, but also it’s just not true that teenagers, or women on their periods, can’t make rational arguments that should be evaluated on their merits!)

      [Note that Trump says he was referring to her nose rather than her vagina, which is certainly possible. I’m just disputing the assertion that saying she’s on her period wouldn’t be sexist anyway.]

      • Flick says:

        I missed this news story and now I’ve tried to catch up and totally don’t understand it.
        Was she actually bleeding? Or is it a normal metaphor in the US to say that someone was so angry they were bleeding out their eyes or nose? I’ve never heard the saying before.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          “Blood coming out of their eyes” is a fairly well-known phrase to indicate anger.

          “Blood coming out of their [anything else]” is not a common phrase to indicate anger.

          • SUT says:

            If you can widen the context a little from just anger…

            “blood coming out of his ear”
            – has sustained a head injury and is too shocked to notice it.

            “blood coming from his nose”
            – either frail, tendency to get unexplained nosebleeds, or weak and has just been punched

            “blood on your hands”
            -you know this one…

            But I’d agree that what he meant was none of these. The larger point is that Trump is skilled in counter punching in today’s media environment, he shifts the attention from whatever point was being made, and now the egg’s on the journalist face, with plausible deniability.

      • Dank says:

        My thoughts exactly. I agree with Scott’s larger point point ascribing hidden motivations to people you dislike, and I agree about the Ted Cruz example (don’t know the background of the other one). But When Trump insinuates that a debate monitor was being hostile towards him because she was on her period, that’s not a dog whistle – it’s just blatant sexism.

  37. Florin says:

    A lot of this is driven by the fact that just reporting what a candidate says and taking it at face value does not give a journalist enough opportunity to distinguish themselves and demonstrate their intellect and value. It is the ability to interpret which gives them the opportunity to distinguish themselves. And the more unique you make your take on what is “really going on” the more distinguished you become.

    You see this a lot also in academia. You won’t get anywhere in the English faculty if you say the author meant what it seems obvious they were saying. The curtains can never just be blue. Advancement comes from skill at interpreting creatively, which triggers a spiral of ever more creative interpretations.

    • Luke the CIA stooge says:

      Exactly!

      Combine this with the fact that the average journalist has little to nothing worth actually contributing and won’t bother researching to generate real expertise, and you get the modern media landscape.

      It’s actually genuinely terrifying that older journalist are defered to for they’re knowledge of history (Larry King being a prime example of someone other journalist would turn to for context) as this means the actual journalist can’t be depended on to actually learn the history and generate their own expertise without wheeling out the old guys.

  38. This is what Scott Adams repeatedly points us wrt Trump: once a narrative is established there is a huge confirmation bias and it acquires a life of its own.

    Trump is a Republican, from a fringe side of the Republican Party. Republicans are generally anti-feminist and their fringe is often misogynist. So everything that Trump says that can even hint at being misogynist will be interpreted that way. Same with Cruz and “New York values”.

    Similarly with Livingstone: Labour has had its share of fringe anti-Semitic members in the last few years (the European hard-left has a tolerance for anti-Semitism, which centre-Left parties have to be careful to keep at bay). So anything that a politician seen on the left side of Labour says that hints at anti-Semitism will be interpreted that way.

  39. James says:

    I only want to say that “gaffes are the royal road to the unconscious” is hilarious.

  40. TheAncientGeek says:

    1. The existence of false callouts for dogwhistle doesn’t imply the nonexistence of dogwhistle.

    2. Are any of these accusations regarded as accusations of dogwhistle by the accusers, in so many words?

    3. I thought dogwhistle was supposed to be coded. These comments aren’t so much encrypted (to be comprehensible only to a specific audience) as watered down.

    4. In fact, progressives should not be able to detect competent rightwing dogwhistle.

    5. So maybe it is something else…perhaps the microagression thing,thy idea that if you do a tiny bit of something bad, that is as unacceptable as doing a lot of it.

    • JBeshir says:

      On 4, I don’t think a reasonably competent dogwhistle requires literally zero detectability, just low enough that you can’t distinguish it from noise reliably. I think ramping up your sensitivity would let you react to them if you tolerate a ton of false positives, by e.g. reacting to anything sufficiently odd-sounding or unnatural sounding by assuming it means something sneaky is going on.

      I think this is probably part of what has been going on.

    • xq says:

      4. In fact, progressives should not be able to detect competent rightwing dogwhistle.

      The point of dogwhistles is to keep coalitions together. The goal is to signal your affinity with one part of the base without driving away another part that would respond negatively if the message were communicated explicitly. It is irrelevant if progressives can detect rightwing dogwhistles since they aren’t going to vote for the politician making them no matter what.

      • I am the Tarpitz says:

        Quite. Livingstone’s comments, for example, are part of a longstanding strategy to elicit support from anti-Semitic Muslim voters without alienating liberals/progressives. He’s the most prominent exponent of this strategy in Britain, but far from the only one.

  41. Sebastian says:

    “Fellow British politician Ken Livingstone defended him”
    Minor nitpick, but, Naz Shah is a woman.

  42. Patjab says:

    I agree that the media are often far too hungry and eager to “catch out” politicians and as such often read too much into their statements, but that doesn’t mean some politicians don’t also harbour deeply unsavoury views that they try to keep hidden from the general public. Ken Livingstone for example, I would hesitate to condemn as necessarily anti-Semitic just on the basis of the quote you have mentioned. However, as someone else mentioned above, quotes like this can be Bayseian evidence of anti-Semitism, particularly in the case of the kind of weird historical revisionist comments Livingstone made, because those weird historical views are especially common among genuine anti-Semites and pretty rare among the rest of the population. As someone who knew Livingstone’s history of making other not-very-nice-about-Jews comments I already had pretty high priors of him being moderately anti-Semitic and so this further evidence seems to make me pretty confident that he in fact is. Not to say he’s anti-Semitic in the “kick the Jews out of Britain, or make them wear gold stars” way you describe, but still in the “This person is Jewish and therefore I am immediately suspicious of them, associate them with my out-group and assume they are supporters of the evil Zionist regime of Israel, therefore I am likely to ignore their opinions and potentially ostracize them within the Labour Party, plus maybe use racial slurs or other rude stereotyping comments occasionally when caught off-guard” kind of way that characterizes quite a few people on the fringes of the British left at the moment. See the resignation of Alex Chalmers from Oxford University Labour Club for one example and the comments of the new NUS President for another example.

    The difficulty with discussing this anti-Semitism / anti-Zionism conflation is that opponents of Israel sometimes accuse its supporters of using “anti-Semitism” accusations as a way to silence criticism of Israel, whilst Jews sometimes accuse self-described “anti-Zionists” of using that phrase as cover for their actually anti-Semitic views. In reality, I think both of these are real phenomena – some people are unfairly accused of anti-Semitism when in fact they are making careful and specific criticisms of Israeli government policies, whilst other people really do have anti-Semitic views and instead talk about being anti-Zionist as a more acceptable way of signalling this to their in-group.

    I’m surprised given that you used Ken Livingston as an example that you didn’t also mention the campaign for the new Mayor of London that has just finished, where there was a much clearer and more widely used example of “dog whistle” politics, with the Conservative campaign being accused (with some justification in my view having followed the campaign closely) of trying to scare voters away from Sadiq Khan by using phrases such as “dangerous”, “radical” and “shared a platform with Islamic extremists” as not particularly subtle code for “he’s a dangerous radical Muslim extremist”. Again, the fact that this example was picked up on very quickly by most media just shows that its attempt to target its message only at receptive voters failed spectacularly. The campaign even tried writing some of its strongest messages to people with ethnically targeted surnames – e.g. a letter to anyone with the surname Patel (assuming they were Hindu and thus might dislike Muslims) saying Sadiq Khan threatened their family jewelry which the Conservatives rather naively assumed they must have hoards of. This approach might have worked well 30 years ago when direct mail had a greater monopoly of communication, but in the modern media age keeping the message targeted is much more difficult – all it takes is a few mis-targeted Patels to snap a photo of the patronizing letter and share it on social media and suddenly the dog-whistle is heard by pretty much the whole population.

    Also as has been noted above Naz Shah is a woman.

  43. Fazathra says:

    I think this misunderstands how insults like ‘racist’, ‘sexist’ etc work. We associate words like racism with very bad things such as slavery, Jim Crow, the KKK etc or, as Scott says:

    When I think of “sexist” or “misogynist”, I think of somebody who thinks women are inferior to men, or hates women, or who thinks women shouldn’t be allowed to have good jobs or full human rights, or who wants to disadvantage women relative to men in some way.

    These words therefore have very bad connotations. The idea then is to associate them with progressively less bad actions but maintain the connotations. So when Trump says something boorish about flat-chested women, it may or may not be sexist according to the definition, but that isn’t the point. The point is to associate Trump with a word associated with people who hate women and deny their human rights and get people to treat Trump as if he had said such things himself.

    Usually you need some kind of argument to claim that some innocuous statement is actually sexist/racist etc (but sometimes pure assertion will do the trick). Accusations of dog whistling skip this requirement by simply asserting that even if the statement does not seem sexist/racist, it secretly is.

    The genius bit is that it is almost impossible to defend against. With standard accusations of racism or whatever it’s possible to defend with things like the ‘my best friend is black!’ defense (though many have now bingo-carded this into a confirmation of the target’s racism). With a dog whistle you can’t do that, because of course they would deny it. The need for plausible deniability is why they were dog whistling in the first place!

  44. Vaniver says:

    It seems like the cleanest explanation for this is projection. Feminists are hideously sexist, anti-racists abhorrently racist, and so on–and so when they come across someone without those defects, they don’t know how to act except by saying “well, if I behaved that way, it would be because I buried my sexism / racism super deep and it was just poking through.”

    • Civilis says:

      There is another clean explanation, that most of the causes the left had endorsed have been so successful they’ve largely run out of problems to keep them going (and the donations coming in). The Progressive / Social Justice left are a combination of the Baptists in a Baptists and Bootleggers coalition and the March of Dimes against Polio. They’ve almost achieved their original objective, but unlike the March of Dimes, there’s no obvious next goal, so rather than admit success, they’ve doubled down on cracking down on Bootleggers and anyone that looks like they may be a Bootlegger.

      I think there is definitely an element of projection from some elements of the Black Lives Matter coalition and from the extreme La Raza Hispanic movement, but I think it’s too simplistic to see it all as just a case of projection.

      • Cypren says:

        While it’s almost become a cliche in Internet arguments at this point, this quote is evergreen:

        There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.

        — Booker T. Washington

        Identity politics and grievance-mongering usually start out with legitimate grievances, but the successful movements generate power, privilege and money for their leaders. The leaders then have considerable incentives to make sure the problem is never actually solved — by stirring outrage over ever-more-trivial things if necessary.

        Scott’s “Toxoplasma of Outrage” post is strongly correlated to this as well.

        • Anonymous says:

          “Spinoza knew that all things long to persist in their being — the stone wishes to be a stone, the tiger a tiger, forever.”

  45. HeelBearCub says:

    This is very poor analysis for two reasons.

    1) Political dog-whistles are not supposed to be undetectable. They are substitutes. “Everyone” knows what they mean, but no one is allowed to say the thing it means. Because they are substitutes, this leads to eventual confusion, and so it looks like people might be trying to secretly signal, but that isn’t what is going on.

    “Death Eater” is a good example of how dog-whistles work. Except if, instead of tabooing the word, you tabooed the belief. “I’m against forced busing” meant that you were against white kids and black kids being in the same school together because you thought segregation was right, and, at the beginning, no one was unclear what this meant.

    2) The headline “Em drive will allow faster than light travel” does not mean that the Em drive will actually allow faster than light travel. Breathless headlines and breathless reporting are as old as reporting. Saying something doesn’t exist because you can find examples of a journalist hyperbolizing when reporting is extremely contra-indicated.

    • Vaniver says:

      Political dog-whistles are not supposed to be undetectable. They are substitutes. “Everyone” knows what they mean, but no one is allowed to say the thing it means.

      No, you’re thinking of euphemisms. See wiki:

      Dog-whistle politics is political messaging employing coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup. The phrase is often used as a pejorative because of the inherently deceptive nature of the practice and because the dog-whistle messages are frequently distasteful to the general populace. The analogy is to a dog whistle, whose high-frequency whistle is heard by dogs but inaudible to humans.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Yes, it’s analogous to a real dog-whistle. But the anology is not exact.

        But do you really think that in Atwater’s time, in 1968 or 1976, say, most people weren’t clear about what being opposed to forced busing actually meant?

        You can’t say “I don’t want my kids going to school with any n*ggers”, but you can say “No forced busing on my watch!” No one is unclear about what you are objecting to, it’s just a more palatable way of expressing it.

        Think about it, how are you going to transmit a secret code to only the true believers anyway? It’s nonsense.

        Dog whistles are “coded” language. The code IS a euphemism.

        • j r says:

          Dog whistles are “coded” language. The code IS a euphemism.

          Except what you’re describing isn’t what Atwater described in his quote. What Atwater is saying that by talking about bussing you are letting voters off the hook for supporting racist policies. That’s not secret code for “hey, I’m a racist too!” It’s telling voters, “Don’t worry. You’re not a racist. You just want the best for your kids.” And that is not how secret codes work at all.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @j r:
            I don’t think that is really correct. It may turn into something like that (which would make it a dog-whistle that even the target didn’t consciously hear).

            But when the original politician say “no forced busing”, it’s because, as Atwater says, it hurts you to say “N*****, N*****, N*****”, but that doesn’t mean that the core objection to segregated schools has been made secret. Everyone is clear that what is being objected to is forcing your white kids to go to school with black kids.

            Sure, 30 years on people want a return to neighborhood schools because they want Johny to be able to walk to school and they don’t remember why busing came in. But that isn’t where it starts.

        • cassander says:

          You should read the whole interview, not just the bit that gets endlessly quoted, because Atwater doesn’t way what you think. It’s quite clear that what atwater is saying is that shout