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OT65: The Early Thread Gets The Worm

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2. Comments of the week: this thread where people explain and evaluate the conflicting claims that global warming is worse than vs. not as bad as IPCC predictions; TheContinentalOp on the Electoral College, Alex Zavoluk on the role of selection in the altitude/obesity link.

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1,310 Responses to OT65: The Early Thread Gets The Worm

  1. asmallpostaboutgrouprepresentations says:

    Yea or nay to donating to the White Helmets?

    • Nay. Go over to the syriancivilwar reddit. There you will find plenty of evidence that the “white helmets” are not impartial humanitarian workers. They have been secretly supporting the Islamist rebels, who, by the way, are the bad guys (or at least, the “worse guys”) in this conflict, even though the Western media seems to want to skirt around that issue and place all the blame for the fighting in Aleppo on the SAA and Russia. It takes two to be willing to tango in a dense urban environment with civilians all around. And the SAA has been offering EXTREMELY lenient terms to the rebels to stop the fighting. Some have taken up the offer to turn in their weapons and be transported to other rebel-controlled territory in Idlib province (where they will probably take up new weapons and fight some more). And this is the courtesy being extended to people affiliated with those who were beheading Western journalists just the other day! Never have I heard of a conquering army offering such generous terms of surrender in my life! And yet, the merciful (yes, merciful in this case!) SAA and Assad get painted as monsters by the Western media, even NPR lately. Ridiculous!

      (By the way, there IS NO significant, politically-relevant number of moderate rebels anymore. Almost all got brainwashed/sidelined/incorporated by the Islamists back in 2015, unfortunately).

      • Cobraredfox says:

        Eh. SAA and Assad are arguably monsters, but no more so than any other authoritarian regime in history, dating all the way back to Sargon the Great.

        The Western media does not “lie” about what Assad’s government does, in the sense of reporting false information. The cool part about a sectarian civil war is you can paint anybody you want as being the bad guys of the narrative and have hard evidence to back it up. Western media lies by omission, by failing to report atrocities committed by rebels as much as atrocities committed by the SAA.

        I mean. Take WW2. Imagine if I met somebody who, somehow, had never even heard of the conflict, never heard of the countries involved. And imagine I sat that guy down and explained the bare facts of the conflict- about how Russia had invaded Poland in 1939, how America invaded Italy and North Africa, how our island hopping campaign brought our bombers in range of Japanese civilians.

        How we burned Dresden out of spite. How we invented nuclear bombs to crush enemy resistance. How our Marines mailed Jap ears and heads home by post. How Chairman Mao, the bloodiest dictator the world has ever seen, joined up with the Allies to seize Japanese territory. How the British resorted to terrorism to destabilize governments allied to Germany and Italy. How Native American snipers and scouts would scalp dead Germans. What the Russians did to POWs.

        That guy who didn’t know what WW2 was is gonna get the wrong impression, yeah? He’s hearing nothing but hard, documented facts, but he’s not hearing them in context. And he’s DEFINITELY not hearing ALL the facts.

        Western media and governments report hard facts about what the SAA and Russians do to civilians and obscure what rebels and jihadis do civilians. This gives a skewed idea of what is happening. But you can’t pretend like every report of barrel bombs and chemical strikes and artillery bombardment is just made up out of whole cloth. Shockingly, most authoritarian regimes are willing to use force to keep their population in line.

        End of the day, Syria is getting torn apart by five different factions of varying strength, all of whom want to rewrite the political structure of Syria in blood. SDF wants a free and socialist autonomous north. The SAA wants to return to 2009 before the riots came. The FSA wants to overthrow Assad and install a Sunni government, whatever that may look like. Daesh wants a global Islamic state. Jabhat al Nusra/Ahrar as Shams/ al Qaeda want an Islamic State too, but they’re locals instead of foreigners like Daesh is.

        And every major power around- Iran, US, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Hezbollah- sees an opportunity to stick their oar in to help their faction win, which of course means that NO ONE will win; the war will just drag on until either every outside power gets sick of playing the game, or until the local population drops so low that the fighting becomes logistically impossible to continue.

        Trying to make out like the SAA are the good guys in this story isn’t a statement of fact, it’s a statement of preference. You’re saying a secular Baathist regime is better than an Islamic terrorist state. Well, I agree with you. But let’s not pretend that secular Baathist state is going to guarantee human rights for its citizens, or address economic crises, or deal with any internal dissent with anything other than a bullet and a torture chamber.

        • NIP says:

          >This gives a skewed idea of what is happening. But you can’t pretend like every report of barrel bombs and chemical strikes and artillery bombardment is just made up out of whole cloth

          I’m unilaterally declaring a moratorium on the use of the buzzword “barrel bombs” until the cessation of conflict in Syria. Civilians aren’t killed any deader by a bomb that is makeshift and dropped slowly out of a helicopter as compared with a JDAM. Ditto for chemical agents and artillery strikes, now that I think of it. If you’d like to call a faction out on atrocities, fine, but please refrain from repeating propaganda terms invented to smear one faction in particular on the basis that their atrocities being carried out more creatively somehow makes them worse. We’re not journalists – we have some sense of self-respect here at SSC.

          • Cobraredfox says:

            I will admit that “barrel bomb” has become a buzzword meaning, “Syrian government evil tactic”. But, it is also a word. It describes an actual tactic with a specific intent. As such, it is a buzzword that ALSO describes a piece of reality.

            Barrel bombing means you target a neighborhood in general- not a position, not an enemy strong point or facility, but a neighborhood. This is distinguished from drone striking because such precise strikes are aimed at an actual target that is, broadly speaking, considered legitimate.

            A barrel bomb hits a segment of population at a random point, basically just tossing a really big grenade out the window as you fly by. You do it because you want to batter the neighborhood in question into submission.

            A precise airstrike, using technology so exact you can choose which end of a car to impact on, hits a specific target- a guntruck, a militia checkpoint, a mortar team. You do it so the other team no longer has a guntruck to use anymore, or a checkpoint, or a mortar team.

            There IS a difference. I say the difference is at least worth noticing.

            I admit that at the impact zone it doesn’t matter none whether it was a barrel bomb or a drone strike. But if someone gave you the option- live in a neighborhood under threat of barrel bombs, or live in a neighborhood with drones overhead looking for armed men on patrol, which would you prefef?

            I mean, sure, it’s more than possible you’ll be zapped by accident by a hellfire missiles. But crunch the odds. Purely random destruction, or intentional, targeted application of firepower?

            I don’t blame the SAA for using airborne IEDs. It’s war, normal standards of behavior go out the window. If the use of barrel bombs shortens the fight by so much as a week they’re a valid tactic as far as I’m concerned. But is it really reasonable to totally ignore the decisions made by the factions involved? To act like there’s absolutely no difference in intention and result between one tactic and another?

          • NIP says:

            >is it really reasonable to totally ignore the decisions made by the factions involved? To act like there’s absolutely no difference in intention and result between one tactic and another?

            Of course not. As I said, calling out any faction in a war on their atrocities, intentional or accidental, is fair game; as long as you provide context. My point was merely that the usage of the term “barrel bombs” in the press of late is pretty much a rhetorical bludgeon with which to hit the Assad regime, used without any context and with the implication that the usage of the weapon itself is somehow a violation of the rules of war. I’d much prefer if everyone would try to stick to pointing out specific instances of noncombatants being killed or maimed, rather than criticizing the manner in which one side or another wages war. Of course that’s not going to happen in the press; they’ve got their story and they’re sticking to it. But in a free and open comment section among intelligent people, I try whenever possible to encourage higher standards.

            As to whether I’d prefer to be under the threat of helicopters imprecisely lobbing high explosives, or drones raining targeted hellfires, of course I’d take the drones…if I were a civilian. I imagine that JDAM kits are somewhat thin on the ground in the SAA’s stockpiles at the moment, which is why they resort to such tactics. If they had targeted munitions, I imagine they’d use them.

          • Incurian says:

            That assumes they have timely and accurate intelligence with which to target their precision munitions, and also that their goal is not to intentionally target civilians and infrastructure. I don’t think those are good assumptions.

          • J. Mensch says:

            My point was merely that the usage of the term “barrel bombs” in the press of late is pretty much a rhetorical bludgeon with which to hit the Assad regime, used without any context and with the implication that the usage of the weapon itself is somehow a violation of the rules of war.

            It does seem like a pretty, uh, unethical weapon, going by this:

            A barrel bomb hits a segment of population at a random point, basically just tossing a really big grenade out the window as you fly by. You do it because you want to batter the neighborhood in question into submission.

            It seems particularly relevant in a conflict where hospitals seem to be getting bombed quite frequently.

          • Cobraredfox says:

            J. Mensch:

            I suppose it all depends on context. I mean, every weapon kills people, that’s what they’re there for. And I guess it’s fine to say that using automatic grenade launchers, 500 lb bombs, and .50 cal machine guns is fine, but using barrel bombs and chlorine gas is not.

            But it seems like one hell of a coincidence that the armed forces that depends on grenade launchers, machine guns, and bombs is the one that came to that conclusion. And all three of those tried and tested Western weapons caused its fair share of collateral damage over the years.

            Take a regime that is fighting not only for its own continuance as a state, but also for the survival of their coastal communities against the bigoted heretics out in the desert, and I’m not surprised that they came to the conclusion that gas attacks and barrel bombs in rebel neighborhoods is acceptable.

            Calling one set of armaments “unethical” because of their use to kill civilians does seem a little arbitrary, since every weapon can and has been used to kill civilians. It seems like how “unethical” a weapon is depends on how badly they vex the side that’s judging it: armored knights getting pissed at the crossbow for letting peasants murder Dukes in battle, or German infantrymen in the trenches getting pissed that the British unfairly use tanks, or American soldiers getting pissed at IEDs in Iraq or Afghanistan.

            To me, the only ethical question in war is: “Will this tactic/weapon/strategy end the war speedily in my favor?” That’s not prescriptive, that’s descriptive. Think of how it would be if every Syrian would be if the civil war was just two weeks of blood and fire and horrific war crimes where 2,000 rebels and 50,000 civilians were slain with chemicals, firing squads, bombings, and snipers. Would they be better off as they are now, 500,000 dead and millions left destitute and fleeing the country, with no end in sight?

            War ethics that only ask about how accurate a weapon is, or how it is employed, do not address how to bring the war to some kind of conclusion. Sherman is remembered as a monster in Georgia to this day for cutting a ten mile swathe of fire and sword through Georgia, but in doing so he brought the war to an end by destroying the enemy’s ability to continue. He saved untold tens of thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers by torching Georgia. Was his willingness to target civilian homesteads immoral?

          • J. Mensch says:

            Calling one set of armaments “unethical” because of their use to kill civilians does seem a little arbitrary, since every weapon can and has been used to kill civilians.

            But some are worse than others…

            It seems like how “unethical” a weapon is depends on how badly they vex the side that’s judging it: armored knights getting pissed at the crossbow for letting peasants murder Dukes in battle, or German infantrymen in the trenches getting pissed that the British unfairly use tanks, or American soldiers getting pissed at IEDs in Iraq or Afghanistan.

            I’m not sure how you reached this conclusion. The international community’s condemnation of, say, chemical weapons did not arise in this way, and I don’t think IEDs have ever been treated as ‘unethical’ in the same way chemical weapons have.

            To me, the only ethical question in war is: “Will this tactic/weapon/strategy end the war speedily in my favor?”

            Really? So you’d happily use, say, a nuclear weapon if you were certainly they wouldn’t respond in kind?

            That’s not prescriptive, that’s descriptive. Think of how it would be if every Syrian would be if the civil war was just two weeks of blood and fire and horrific war crimes where 2,000 rebels and 50,000 civilians were slain with chemicals, firing squads, bombings, and snipers. Would they be better off as they are now, 500,000 dead and millions left destitute and fleeing the country, with no end in sight?

            I don’t think that’s a fair comparison.

          • gbdub says:

            I think the issue with “barrel bombs” in particular is that they are basically useless as anything but an anti-civilian terror weapon. They are improvised big-ass-bombs that you roll out of a slow-moving low-altitude helicopter. You can’t aim them particularly effectively and the delivery method is pretty vulnerable, so they aren’t that useful in an area where effective opposition is suspected.

            If you’re dropping IBABs on enemy positions because you’re out of more precise weapons, that’s one thing, but I don’t get the impression that that is what’s happening. For the really-needs-to-get-blown-up targets, the Syrians call in a Russian airstrike.

            Honestly I don’t think IEDs or even suicide bombers are inherently “unethical” weapons, if used against military targets. A suicide bomber on a bus full of schoolkids is definitely unethical, but then so is whacking the bus with a Hellfire.

            A lot of this gets tangled up when the enemy is a paramilitary, non-uniform force entrenched among a civilian population, and in that case there will certainly be more civilian casualties (I think the blame should be at least in part on the paramilitary force). But a barrel bomb isn’t even trying. It’s “this city block was insufficiently loyal, so I’m going to level it and everyone in it”.

          • Jiro says:

            Honestly I don’t think IEDs or even suicide bombers are inherently “unethical” weapons, if used against military targets.

            Modern suicide bombers have to disguise themselves as civilians in order to get to a place that they can blow up. Even if their targets are military, by disguising themselves as civilians, they can be considered unethical.

            There would, of course, still be suicide bombers that are ethical by these criteria (Japanese kamikazes certainly didn’t pretend to be civilian airplanes), but Middle Eastern suicide bombers wouldn’t qualify.

          • rlms says:

            @Jiro
            I think it is possible to disagree that pretending to be a civilian is inherently unethical (I’m not sure). In any case, I would definitely consider disguising as a civilian to be considerably less unethical than deliberately targeting civilians.

          • LHN says:

            Though if the enemy has a policy of trying to avoid civilian casualties, a combatant disguising himself as a civilian has the foreseeable effect of making actual civilians into targets. (Much as it’s unethical to transport soldiers or materiel in vehicles marked with a red cross.)

          • rlms says:

            @LHN
            Indeed, but that only means your actions are increasing the risk of civilians being targeted, rather than tautologically guaranteeing it if you target civilians yourself.

          • Aapje says:

            @Jiro

            The problem is that when one is confronted with a technologically superior enemy, following the rules completely can be suicide.

            A strong argument can be made that historically, people break whatever rules are necessary to reach their objective anyway. So most criticisms of Geneva convention breaches by other nations/groups are deeply hypocritical, as they merely reflect that the critiquing side has no need to use those specific tactics.

            Quite frequently, one side breaches the rules in one way and simultaneously criticizes the other sides for other breaches of the rules.

            The history of US warfare alone provides plenty of examples of this.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @RLMS

            Consider such questions in a more realistic context. In an urban environment, the guerrillas are using VBIEDs to target military convoys, bases, other personnel. They make every effort to conceal their VBIEDs as normal, civilian commuter and commercial traffic in order to close with their military targets.

            An obvious counter, one used IRL, is for the military force to establish traffic control points, and to announce loudly and clearly that any vehicle that appears to be trying to close quickly with the military’s forces at checkpoints, bases, or on patrol, or that gets closer than a certain distance without permission will be fired on.

            This can be interpreted as “Deliberately targeting the civilian population”. Certainly if a vehicle guns its engine and speeds towards a TCP and the officer or NCO in charge orders it engaged, those troops are “deliberately targeting the civilian population” if it later turns out to be someone rushing to get a pregnant woman to a hospital and not a VBIED.

            Is it your position that the military engaging in these practices is MORE unethical than the paramilitary force engaging in the use of VBIEDs in urban environments?

            What steps can that military take in force protection and to fight and destroy the enemy that is deliberately hiding amongst the civilian population that you would consider ethical?

            Officers and NCOs swear oaths to protect the men and women of their unit, and it is generally held that they have a moral duty to protect their lives and to spend them as sparingly as possible, and for as much effect as possible.

            Do you accept this moral duty? How does this balance with their obligation not to target civilians?

          • rlms says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko
            I’m saying that detonating a bomb on a bus of civilians is more unethical than pretending to be a civilian when you attack a military target (because the latter only leads to a probability of opposing forces accidentally targeting civilians). I’m not making any claims about the ethics of the opposing force doing things that might lead to the deaths of civilians (but where that is not the primary purpose). I think that varies from case to case (based on the usefulness and the likelihood of harming civilians). The checkpoints in your example are probably justifiable. Shooting anyone who looks at you shiftily because lots of rebels do that before attacking is probably not.

          • baconbacon says:

            Officers and NCOs swear oaths to protect the men and women of their unit, and it is generally held that they have a moral duty to protect their lives and to spend them as sparingly as possible, and for as much effect as possible.

            What do you get if you apply this morality to the other side? When faced with a massively superior force meeting them on their terms would be suicide.

            1: Everyone in uniform is getting slaughtered! Moral imperative: get all of your troops out of uniform.

            2. All coordinated attacks end in high casualty numbers for us, limited damage on their side. Moral imperative: Find methods of attack that cost as few of our lives as possible for their lives.

          • beleester says:

            Guerillas are allowed to disguise themselves as civilians, so long as they distinguish themselves while they’re in combat or on a military operation. If you can’t do that, carrying your arms openly will suffice.

            The rules don’t stop you from using disguise, camouflage, ambush, or guerilla tactics. They don’t require a “fair” fight by any stretch of the imagination. They just require you to give the enemy an option that’s better than “kill ’em all and sort out the corpses later.”

          • baconbacon says:

            Guerillas are allowed to disguise themselves as civilians, so long as they distinguish themselves while they’re in combat or on a military operation. If you can’t do that, carrying your arms openly will suffice.

            The rules don’t stop you from using disguise, camouflage, ambush, or guerilla tactics. They don’t require a “fair” fight by any stretch of the imagination. They just require you to give the enemy an option that’s better than “kill ’em all and sort out the corpses later.”

            All this boils down to is organized armies bargaining with disorganized ones. “You stop using the tactics that are the most difficult to deal with and we will cut back on civilian casualties”.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Baconbacon

            Well, yeah? What did you THINK the various conventions and “laws of war” were?

            With the obvious (to me) corrolary that if one side starts breaking those norms, the other side should feel free to start taking the gloves off.

            Just how FAR off the gloves come is up for debate, of course, but I think it follows pretty logically that the more one side hides among and uses the civilian population for cover, the more civilian casualties become the price of doing business without being judged as purely the fault of the more organized side.

            Honestly, I think that most guerrilla and insurgent groups believe and accept that too, and count on it to help with recruitment and motivation. I would in their shoes, even if I wouldn’t go so far as to deliberately court increased civilian casualties.

          • baconbacon says:

            With the obvious (to me) corrolary that if one side starts breaking those norms, the other side should feel free to start taking the gloves off.

            This highlights how awful people are in justifying their sides actions in war. “Taking the gloves off” here means killing more civilians, at the expense mostly of civilians not the enemy combatants.

            but I think it follows pretty logically that the more one side hides among and uses the civilian population for cover, the more civilian casualties become the price of doing business without being judged as purely the fault of the more organized side.

            Judged by who? The surviving relatives aren’t particularly likely to say “I know that it was a US drone strike that killed my three brothers, but really it was the Taliban’s fault for doing X”.

            It is also a bullshit moral perspective. If you shoot 3 people you are responsible for their deaths. Your actions were either justified against those 3 individuals or they weren’t, “hey a psychopath told me that they were murderers” isn’t justification (why are you letting a psycho dictate your decisions?), and neither is “I was trying to kill them because they reminded me of someone that deserves killing”.

            Just how FAR off the gloves come is up for debate, of course,

            Taking the gloves part way off is usually a sucker’s move in war. If your goal is total subjugation then you take them all the way off, if your goal is peaceful occupation then you have to restrain yourself to get to that end. Taking the gloves off a little at a time is likely to lead to perpetual fighting.

      • Montfort says:

        Some have taken up the offer to turn in their weapons and be transported to other rebel-controlled territory in Idlib province (where they will probably take up new weapons and fight some more). And this is the courtesy being extended to people affiliated with those who were beheading Western journalists just the other day! Never have I heard of a conquering army offering such generous terms of surrender in my life!

        It’s perfectly conceivable that you’ve never heard of such an offer before, but it gets trotted out reasonably frequently in sieges – a relevant term is “free retreat”, though it’s devilishly unsearchable on the general web. In a less formal version, armies will sometimes allow their opponents to retreat from a strong position relatively easily rather than risk provoking them to attack or stay for a long battle (for instance, the siege of Boston, or the alleged original plan for the battle of Mosul).

        Armies usually offer free retreat on the principle that they’d rather fight 5,000 men on the open field of battle than try to fight the same 5,000 invested in heavily fortified positions. (And, knowing this, defenders will often refuse such terms until their position is hopeless).

        • stevenj says:

          Here’s a Google search that will turn up examples of free retreats as you’ve described them:
          “free retreat” war -family

      • Deiseach says:

        Syria is a choice between “bad guys” and “worse guys”. Who are the bad and who are the worse is something that changes with viewpoint, sympathies, and events of the hour.

    • Cobraredfox says:

      The White Helmets only work in rebel neighborhoods under bombardment. They aren’t some Red Cross/ Red Crescent who treats the wounded of every faction equally. They are partisan; they only help populations that aid and support the various rebel movements.

      Sending them money- even if they only spend it on medical supplies and not, say, ammunition- is a political statement whether you like it or not. You’re saying those rebels are right to oppose Assad’s government. And as citizencokane mentions, you may well find out you disagree with 99% of most rebel groups’ platform.

    • Incurian says:

      There are no good guys in Syria.

    • Sandy says:

      Based on everything I’ve read about the Syrian civil war, I’ve felt for a long time now that it is a battle between evil and evil-er, and you wouldn’t want to donate to either side.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        I have sometimes entertained the idea of suggested by one of the Icelandic poems David Friedman mentions in The Machinery of Freedom, and donating to whichever side is weakest, until it isn’t, and then donating to the other side. And keeping that up until they either stop fighting or wear each other down to rubble.

        The main reason I have for not doing that (other than the difficulty of making sure donations actually reach them) is that they seem to be hurting a lot of innocents along the way.

        • Interesting idea, but I can’t think of anything I’ve mentioned that fits your description. Could you give any more details?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I dug it up. I extrapolated it from your mention* of Njal’s Saga (not a poem, then, as I’d thought):

            Conflict between two groups has become so intense that open fighting threatens to break out in the middle of the court. A leader of one faction asks a benevolent neutral what he will do for them in case of a fight. He replies that if they start losing he will help them, and if they are winning he will break up the fight before they kill more men than they can afford.

            The incentives in that scene are somewhat different, as there’s a strong culture of paying for one’s kills. In the case of Syria, there does not appear to be such a culture, but there are obvious incentives I think can be exploited.

            *Second Edition of TMoF, in case it matters.

          • gricky says:

            Paul,

            I think you’ve misinterpreted the story, though. It’s probably because you missed that “kill more men than they can afford” refers to the amount of weregeld the winner would have to pay. In either course of action, the “neutral” man is contemplating actions that help the same party. He doesn’t sound completely neutral to me; he sounds like a non-combatant who’s aligned with the faction asking him the question.

            Friedman offers this story to illustrate the point that even in the midst of a serious breakdown in order – open fighting in court – the man answering the question still expects the usual laws (paying of wergeld) to apply to any violence that might occur.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Did you overlook the part of where I said “The incentives in that scene are somewhat different, as there’s a strong culture of paying for one’s kills”?

          • gricky says:

            Well, in this case, the “cultural norms” are also written laws in actual law books. And the setting is a court of law. The “neutral” responder is calculating part of his answers based on his expectation that if violence breaks out, it will result in lawsuits.

            But ultimately what I was getting at is that he wasn’t planning to support both sides. His plan to stay out of the fight if he’s not needed has him trying to limit its costliness – to the winner! Do you see how that might be different from what you were picturing?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Sorry; didn’t notice your reply until just now…

            I think I might take a somewhat different view of law than a lot of other people (that might even be worth its own subthread). To me, that something is written in law only means that enough people felt strongly enough about something to authorize the use of force to enforce it. (I see logical consequences of this, but again, subthread.) So if it’s law, that’s not nearly as interesting to me as the fact that it was enough of a cultural norm to become a law in the first place.

            I certainly see how the Icelander’s situation is different from Syria. In multiple ways. They’re not important to the thrust of my point, which is that in both cases, someone is acting to incentivize someone to stop fighting, and none of those incentives require some shared morality to implement, beyond the very bare, arguably natural imperatives of wanting to survive and wanting to keep one’s property.

            I suppose it’s somewhat interesting to explore just what the neutral Icelander’s options are in the event that the leader speaking to him begins winning. He says he’ll break up the fight; what form will that take, which does not amount to “help the other side”? If that’s in fact what he does, how is that different (again, aside from the scale and collateral damage) from donating aid to the losing side in Syria?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          This reminded me of Lord Gro in The Worm Ouroboros. As I recall, he was sympathetic to losing sides. The problem was that he was so competent that if he helped a side it would start winning, so he’d go over to their opponents. He was eventually killed for being a traitor.

          I see you were thinking of someone who publicly offered to help the losing side as a way of defusing a conflict, which is a very different thing.

        • geekethics says:

          Wow. That sounds … utterly horrible. If you’ve got enough money that’s literally just a proposal to keep wars going forever without altering which side is most likely to eventually win.

          • The Nybbler says:

            That sort of thing kept Iran and Iraq from making trouble for the West for quite some time.

          • Iain says:

            And we all know how well Iran and Iraq have turned out in the long run.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I think it’s actually very benign (provided that everyone involved in the conflict actually wanted to be involved – innocents being bombed tosses this all completely out the window for me). I’m not saying we’d donate secretively; rather, we’d publicly say this is how we’ll donate. They can’t help but know they can’t win this way – so the only winning move is not to fight.

            This entire strategy is based on an intense dispreference for physical violence, dominated only by individual will. If you really wanna fight, this strategy says, well, here’s your stick, and have at ye. I’ll make sure you regret it.

          • baconbacon says:

            I think it’s actually very benign (provided that everyone involved in the conflict actually wanted to be involved – innocents being bombed tosses this all completely out the window for me). I’m not saying we’d donate secretively; rather, we’d publicly say this is how we’ll donate. They can’t help but know they can’t win this way – so the only winning move is not to fight.

            Only in a world of perfect or at least open information. In our world the winning move would often be to lose in all the areas that will increase donations the most, pool up a large amount of resources and then attempt to crush the opposition in a massive counterattack.

            For any side that had an advantage there is now much less risk in overextending. A massive but failed push to win the war is mitigated by a sudden surge in backing which prevents a complete collapse.

            This type of war would be amazingly horrific. Outside observers are likely to donate after large casualties are reported, and large geographic areas are lost. A strategy of lightly arming drafted civilians and forcing them into positions where they are massacred would be great for gaining outside support with little risk to the likelihood of winning. Benefits for your regulars/devotees, tragedy for everyone else.

          • Tarpitz says:

            In the real world, where innocents are inevitably caught up in wars in huge numbers, my suspicion is that the best outcome is usually for one side to win a victory so comprehensive that they feel completely unthreatened by what’s left of the losers and over time feel able to treat them relatively generously, leading to integration. A clear outcome isn’t enough; it has to be so crushing that there is no serious possibility of a rematch.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I would add “quick” to that.

          • baconbacon says:

            In the real world, where innocents are inevitably caught up in wars in huge numbers, my suspicion is that the best outcome is usually for one side to win a victory so comprehensive that they feel completely unthreatened by what’s left of the losers and over time feel able to treat them relatively generously, leading to integration. A clear outcome isn’t enough; it has to be so crushing that there is no serious possibility of a rematch.

            You know what usually works out well? Power hungry dictators with no opposition. Those guys always settle down and start respecting human life right after a crushing and ego boosting victory.

            The types of people who engage in these types of wars don’t tend to be guys you want in charge of civilian populations after the war.

          • John Schilling says:

            You know what usually works out well? Power hungry dictators with no opposition. Those guys always settle down and start respecting human life right after a crushing and ego boosting victory.

            How do you get a “crushing victory” if there is “no opposition”?

            We are, at least implicitly, assuming that the opposition isn’t going to win. We know that the opposition in Syria (or whatever comes next) doesn’t have the means for that, and after the Libya fiasco we know that the United States Cavalry is not going to ride in to save the day.

            And, OK, “no opposition” was probably meant as hyperbole. But the choices are between the ruthless dictator who easily crushed some minimal opposition, and the ruthless dictator who just won a bloody victory over a painfully annoying but ultimately unsuccessful opposition. A dictator who knows that his foes are wholly ineffectual, or one who knows that if his foes are allowed to gather they can cause him real harm. How certain are you that it is the former tyrant who will impose the most oppressive tyranny?

          • baconbacon says:

            How do you get a “crushing victory” if there is “no opposition”?

            The no opposition is after the crushing victory.

            We are, at least implicitly, assuming that the opposition isn’t going to win.

            Even if they don’t “win”, the losers (generically, not specific to this conflict) can sometimes force terms, or control small regions that can act as havens and as points for potential uprisings to start. Longer conflicts are also more likely to require the winner to make alliances and concessions.

            .How certain are you that it is the former tyrant who will impose the most oppressive tyranny?

            How confident/certain would I be? Not very, but that should be true of most predictions with complex out comes.

            A dictator who knows that his foes are wholly ineffectual, or one who knows that if his foes are allowed to gather they can cause him real harm.

            Which is Stalin? No individual state in the bloc was likely to effectively leave the USSR, so his atrocities there can be seen as straightforward bullying on an extreme level. On the other hand perhaps disruption in one causes a chain he he doubted the ability to hold all down together and so it was a strategic approach. Or perhaps he was just the type of asshole who would extend his power as far as it would go and that was his only real limit, and it had nothing to do with how dangerous his enemies really were to him. I lean to the 3rd explanation.

        • John Schilling says:

          …donating to whichever side is weakest, until it isn’t, and then donating to the other side.

          Doesn’t work, because war is rarely a matter of pure attrition. World War I, the classic example of such, saw the German army with twice as many men under arms, more than twice as many guns, tanks, planes, boats, whatever, in 1918 compared to 1914. What they lacked was morale – the endgame of almost any war is a mass psychological collapse on the losing side, and seeing that from the winning side tends to restore some of of the morale that had been eroded away on their own side. Don’t ever expect that you can calibrate “let’s you and him fight” so closely as to prevent the winning side from emerging stronger than it was at the start.

          Plus, as you note, it’s hell on the civilians. If you care about that sort of thing, again note that the war will predictably end with a general collapse in morale, and the sooner that happens the less total suffering there will be along the way. It does nobody any good to offer false hope to the losing side, if you’re not actually going to follow up with the sort of assistance that is going to turn them into the winning side. Aleppo, for example, should have surrendered months ago, and it’s partly on vocal Western do-gooders that it didn’t.

          Fortunately for us, the strength of a victorious Assad regime will be mainly in its alliance with Russia, and living with a powerful, dangerous Russian Empire is a problem we already have to solve. So we aren’t multiplying our difficulties, and Russia probably isn’t greatly increasing its own strength, when this ends with Syria as a de facto Russian protectorate.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Don’t ever expect that you can calibrate “let’s you and him fight” so closely as to prevent the winning side from emerging stronger than it was at the start.

            Definitely agreed; it’s another reason in addition to innocent casualties that makes this ultimately a non-option IMO.

            So we aren’t multiplying our difficulties, and Russia probably isn’t greatly increasing its own strength, when this ends with Syria as a de facto Russian protectorate.

            Given that, why is Russia bothering with the expense?

          • Nicholas Carter says:

            For the same reason the US got involved: Syria was already a Russian ally. The point of supporting the rebels was to remove a Russian piece from the board. Russia gains nothing by keeping the piece, except not having lost the piece. But if Russia lost the piece, that would be a pretty large setback.

      • NatashaRostova says:

        It’s like trying to pick out the good guys from the bad guys between the Nazis and Soviets. Sure the Soviets were defending themselves (natural sympathy to that view). But Stalin was also horrible, and for all we know might have attacked Germany in the future.

        Donating is injecting entropy. It’s a complex system of horrible people who keep getting money based on which is judged to be a ‘lesser evil,’ that they then use to buy more guns.

        Obviously humanitarian aid in terms of food/medicine is different. Even then… there are some… darker views on conflict that suggest it is most optimal to provide no help such that the war ends as fast and decisively as possible. I can’t advocate those because I imagine if I was a dying/starving civilian I’d desperately want food and medicine.

        • John Schilling says:

          Obviously humanitarian aid in terms of food/medicine is different. Even then… there are some… darker views on conflict that suggest it is most optimal to provide no help such that the war ends as fast and decisively as possible. I can’t advocate those because I imagine if I was a dying/starving civilian I’d desperately want food and medicine.

          If you’re going to go the food-and-medicine route, you really want it to be through someone like the Red Cross / Red Crescent, where the well-established reputation is such that nobody is going to confuse this as an implied promise of military assistance to come, we just sent the food first because priorities. If the Red Cross isn’t delivering food and medicine, it’s probably because nobody can deliver food and medicine without an army to break through the siege lines (that’s sort of the point of a siege), which brings you back to whether or not you’re up for an honest military intervention.

          W/re Aleppo, I get the strong impression that the rebels were convinced Western armies would break the siege if they posted enough photos of sad telegenic children on social media. Whoever convinced them of that, did real harm.

  2. James Miller says:

    Computer security experts: If the Russians were responsible for breaking into the files of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chairman and the Russians were not trying to make it obvious that they did it, is it likely that U.S. intelligence has evidence that could let them reasonably conclude that the Russians almost certainly did this hacking?

    • asmallpostaboutgrouprepresentations says:

      Why does this need to be limited to the purview of computer security experts? I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that the US has people embedded in Russian intelligence circles.

    • thetarquin says:

      It’s very possible. There are several well-known threat actors with well-established ties to Russian State Intelligence (the two best known are referred to by the cryptonyms “Cozy Bear” and “Fancy Bear”). Fingerprinting of persistent threat actors can take a number of forms, but it includes things like code reuse in malware, operational patterns, re-use of toolchains or staging/attack servers, etc. This information can be combined with public statements (e.g. Guccifer 2.0 was identified as Russian, in part, because they released a statement in Romanian, but repeatedly made mistakes and used idioms common amongst Russians learning Romanian) or data forensics performed on the machines themselves.

      The US intelligence community (hereafter IC) is in a good place to analyze the attack and fingerprint the attackers. The IC (especially the NSA) have several privileged positions on the network that could allow for reliable analysis of attack traffic and would probably have had access to the effected machines. If they could, e.g., get malware samples from the phishing emails that were sent to DNC staff, they may very well be able to draw meaningful connections between those payloads and previous attacks.

      That’s in addition to any other information they may have via espionage or other means.

      • tscharf says:

        The question is if you were a very skilled hacker Ex-KGB or Ex-NSA how hard would it be to fool someone into connecting a bunch of manufactured circumstantial dots and falsely blaming Russia?

        In my opinion if Putin and company want to cause chaos in the US all they need to do is manufacture evidence that Trump / Russia were coordinating efforts during the election. If you read NYT comment threads there are an enormous number of people primed and ready to believe that.

      • Jake says:

        Couldn’t it be a Chinese/Israeli/Belgian hacker doing a good job of pretending to be a Russian hacker doing a bad job of pretending to be a Romanian hacker?

        • VivaLaPanda says:

          While not exactly the conjunction fallacy, I think adding more complexity like that probably lowers the likelihood of that being the case.

      • nydwracu says:

        This information can be combined with public statements (e.g. Guccifer 2.0 was identified as Russian, in part, because they released a statement in Romanian, but repeatedly made mistakes and used idioms common amongst Russians learning Romanian) or data forensics performed on the machines themselves.

        The story I heard was that the Romanian looked machine-translated and his English looked Russian. He certainly has some mistakes in the articles, but different languages have different patterns of use of articles — I’d be interested in if there are any languages where one would say e.g. “fight for the world without Illuminati” instead of “…a world…”. If not, his native language probably has no articles; if so, his native language is probably that.

        Most Balto-Slavic languages don’t have articles; the only exception I know of is Bulgarian. The Romance and Germanic languages all have articles. Hungarian has them, but Finnish and Estonian don’t. Greek and Albanian also have them. Further out in the Russian orbit, Georgian doesn’t, but Armenian does.

        The thing that stands out most from both the VICE interview and the blog is that the guy is bad with the English tense/aspect system. If I felt like devoting more time to this, what I’d do is find papers on Russian-native-speaker acquisition of English that focus on articles and the tense system, see what falls out of that, and compare it to similar papers for other languages. Unfortunately, L2 acquisition is not something I know very much about.

        I’d expect the Russian intelligence services to be able to find a fluent speaker of Romanian.

    • chaosmage says:

      I’m unaware of any reason to rule out many less serious attackers and thereby suspect the FSB or another Russian government agency was involved. I consider that a rumor. Lots of people had an interest in embarassing Clinton and due to crappy security on the DNCs part also the means to do so.

      Wikileaks forced them to admit a hack took place, which forced them to present a guilty party. But locating the true source of a hack (if somewhat competently performed) is notoriously difficult. The Russia explanation has two purely political advantages. First, it doesn’t embarass the Democrats and the FBI too badly. “A nation state! Ooooh! Well in that case you never had a chance to stop them of course!” Second, it doesn’t worsen relations with anybody because relations with Russia are already terrible.

      I’m not saying they don’t have a trustworthy mole in the FSB that told them it was the Russians for sure. What I am saying is that if they simply didn’t know, or of it was Wikileaks or some other embarassingly puny enemy, or if it was someone they can’t publicly blame (like the Israelis), “it was Russia” is exactly the kind of thing they would say.

      • Callum G says:

        I would of chosen North Korea as a scapegoat. Relations are terrible, there is a lot less need for cooperation between the states when compared to Russia, it’s not prodding a global superpower and people already know them for hacking since the Sony thing.

        Those are my thoughts though, and I don’t know what level I’m playing at.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yeah, but North Korea is not really a good scapegoat for public consumption, since most people think of it as “oh that crazy guy with the cult of personality” and don’t consider it a serious threat, even though they may be. Saying “North Korea hacked the election!” would just make most people laugh and go “Well, sure Kim Jong-un wants Trump in office, they’re the same kind of ridiculously vain, puffed-up guys!”

          Is there any realistic assessment of what exactly North Korea’s capabilities for causing mayhem are?

          • AnonEEmous says:

            as explained by this blog, they are the fargroup (And I buy that whole set of theories whole-heartedly). So yeah, regardless of the reality of the situation that would probably be the reaction.

            Oh, also, Callum; North Korea just isn’t…that powerful. The idea that they could puppeteer an election isn’t entirely out of the question, but it’d be very weird, and they’re just not a threat to us apart from that one nuke they had. Russia could legitimately use their power to take advantage of a president who made “bad decisions” that just happened to benefit Russia. North Korea might benefit from this situation, but not to a ridiculous degree, being too weak, and honestly not having their fingers in a lot of pies.

      • tscharf says:

        When it came out that a DNC IT staffer took calls from the FBI for seven months telling him that a foreign adversary was breaking into their system and chose to do nothing because he didn’t believe it was the “real FBI” I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe.

        Then Podesta blames the FBI for not visiting them in person. Podesta himself doesn’t know enough not to click on email links that are phishing attempts. Nobody ever told Podesta about these things? They might as well have faxed all their documents directly to the Russian Embassy. The incompetence here is inexcusable.

        • Deiseach says:

          This whole election and the campaign and just about everything to do with it all has definitely moved into the farce part of “History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce”.

          Being sceptical of a guy calling saying he’s from the FBI and he wants to warn you about hackers may be justified (because the first thing you’re warned about is not to fall for people claiming to be with big organisations wanting you to mess around with your IT details) but for seven months? Nobody thought to ring up the FBI and ask if they had a guy trying to contact them?

          And then from too much scepticism to not enough re: the phishing. I can’t even, as the young people say.

          As to faxing the Russians, that’s a little less careless than what happened with the British government (or at least Julia Dockerill, Chief of Staff to the Tory party Vice-Chair Mark Field) after a meeting about Brexit in the end of November.

          She walked into Downing Street with her notepad under her arm with the handwritten notes facing outwards, so naturally a free-lance photographer snapped a photo and there was much interpretation of what could be made out from it. This has become known as the “have cake and eat it” Brexit notes affair (after a phrase on the page):

          A handwritten note, carried by an aide to the Tory vice-chair Mark Field after a meeting at the Department for Exiting the European Union, could be seen to say: “What’s the model? Have cake and eat it.”

          And in a further embarrassment, it added “French likely to be most difficult.”

          Give this woman a job working for Mr Podesta now! 🙂

        • Furslid says:

          If that’s true it shows startling incompetence. Not just by the staffer, but by the managers of her organization.

          Hillary Clinton’s staff should have procedures for verifying that someone is with the FBI/CIA/DNC/Any other important organization. These might be as simple as “Give me your agent number, department, and supervising agent. We’ll contact you back through FBI channels within the next half hour.” Either these procedures weren’t in place or whoever took the call didn’t spend 5 minutes following them.

          Also, there should have been a designated point of contact for the FBI to call. The FBI should not have had to resort to contacting IT directly.

          • tscharf says:

            Here are the gory details from the NYT (long)
            http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/13/us/politics/russia-hack-election-dnc.html

            I will stipulate that the Russians still shouldn’t be messing with our elections anyway. I would call it standard operating procedure spy stuff that they broke in to the DNC and could really care less about that. They crossed a line when releasing it to WikiLeaks, although Wikileaks still says they got it from someone else. Given the inept security it wouldn’t be surprising that multiple people got these documents.

    • Partisan says:

      I work in infosec, and I think it’s very possible to muddy the waters by planting false information to make attribution very difficult. That is, by leaving a few traces that point to villain_of_the_week, you can very effectively hide your involvement.

    • Deiseach says:

      I’m going to assume the US assumes the Russians, the Chinese, the Israelis and various others are hacking them, as they are hacking the Russians, the Chinese, the Israelis and others.

      Didn’t we already have an intelligence person on here saying yes, of course we spy (including using cyber methods) on our allies and friendly governments, we need to know what they’re really thinking as distinct from what their ambassadors say their government is thinking?

    • Acedia says:

      Wasn’t Podesta’s email taken due to him clicking on a simple phishing link, rather than a hack?

      • Spookykou says:

        The story I heard was confusing.

        Apparently the FBI was trying to warn the DNC that they were being hacked for several months, and the IT guy for the DNC just didn’t trust the FBI agent.

        Then after several months of that, Podesta clicked the phishing link.

        The only explanation I can think of that there was a clear indication of Hackers trying to get into the DNC, probably through multiple different means, and Podesta’s phishing email was just one of them/the one that actually worked.

        But as I said, the whole thing sounded confusing.

        • AnonEEmous says:

          given that podesta was hillary’s campaign chief, I had assumed that what you’re discussing was two different issues entirely. But maybe I’m wrong . ?

          • Spookykou says:

            It was not clear to me specifically what information was gotten just from Podesta I am probably just combining two separate instances.

      • Deiseach says:

        Apparently the FBI was trying to warn the DNC that they were being hacked for several months, and the IT guy for the DNC just didn’t trust the FBI agent.

        Ironic, in view of the frothing at the mouth that the FBI and Comey were out to get Hillary and were working for the Republicans to bring her down re: the email revelations. It would explain a lot, though, if there were bad blood/mistrust between the FBI and Hillary’s people with a while before ever the whole investigation of the emails started. No wonder they were so quick off the mark to claim it was all a conspiracy to ruin her chances in the election!

        Then after several months of that, Podesta clicked the phishing link.

        If that’s so, I’m kind of hanging my head in my hands here; the people who were operating on the idea that they were the best and brightest working for the future first female president who was going to bring in all the best progressive policies to help uplift everyone fell for the kind of thing you are told to be aware about when you’re thirteen and being allowed on the Internet on your own.

        Though on the other hand, it is very human and does turn them into flesh-and-blood ‘real people’ rather than the stock characters in a morality play.

        On the gripping hand, it makes the whole private email server thing even more hair-tearing-out because plainly the people sending each other emails on it hadn’t a clue about basic security.

    • mr_capybara says:

      Software developer here with an interest in security, but not a professional.

      I think a pretty good contrarian take on this hacking mess is this one by Harper’s. Specifically, in answer to your question, it gives a good example of a hack where attribution was intentionally muddied:

      In reality, Carr continued, “It’s almost impossible to confirm attribution in cyberspace.” For example, a tool developed by the Chinese to attack Google in 2009 was later reused by the so-called Equation Group against officials of the Afghan government. So the Afghans, had they investigated, might have assumed they were being hacked by the Chinese. Thanks to a leak by Edward Snowden, however, it now appears that the Equation Group was in fact the NSA. “It doesn’t take much to leave a trail of bread crumbs to whichever government you want to blame for an attack,” Carr pointed out.

      In contrast, for a real taste of a what a nation state is capable of, read this excellent story on the discovery and analysis of Stuxnet. To this day, I don’t think anything about the code has been linked to anyone, although circumstantial non-technological evidence implies it was the U.S. and Israel behind it.

      But the available evidence that I’ve seen so far is fairly obvious stuff (IP addresses and “command and control” servers associated with Fancy Bear / Cozy Bear, which are assumed to be associated with Russian intelligence groups). Like, if they were trying hard *not* to be caught, then these are the sorts of obvious mistakes they wouldn’t make. It’s trivial to know that the servers you’re using will show up in the DNC logs, and so it’s obvious that people would make that connection. As best I can tell, the available public evidence is that some of the malware used

      Now as for whether someone else could make it look like them, I believe so. Since these hacking groups operate covertly, they’re almost defined by the tools and techniques they use, and those are available for others to use as well. For example, one bit of evidence in the case today is that an IP address was used that was also used to hack the German parliament (another attack by Cozy or Fancy, I forget). However, that server was not an official Russian government server, it was just one running outdated code and hence was exploited by them. It’s not hard to imagine another group similarly exploiting it.

      Here’s a good blog post from the summer with some skepticism about the DNC hack. I’m not aware of any new public information since then, although the US Intelligence community has since made its various statements.

      • Jules says:

        It could be sloppiness or a flase flag operation, but it could also very well be that the Russians fully intended to be identified.
        Helping a more pro-Russian candidate win is clearly in their interest, but so is undermining public trust in democracy.

        • Jordan D. says:

          This is a little-discussed aspect of the issue I find especially interesting:

          Assuming that Trump is, in the words of HRC, a puppet of Putin (Putpet? Puptin?) and intends to do bad things like favor Russia in all kinds of world deals or sacrifice the safety of allies*- is it more damaging to let that slide and ignore it or to continue to raise the issue and risk injecting more cynicism and distrust into a political process which is already reaching critical levels of distrust?

          I feel intuitively that the answer would be graduated. For example, if Trump gives a Russian ambassador a better seat at a state dinner, it’s probably not worth challenging the legitimacy of the Union to call him out for that. On the other hand, if he announces that every nuke in America is going to be shipped to Russia for safe-keeping, it seems obvious that “let’s keep quiet about that one” is the wrong answer.

          But then, what overt act tips the scales?

          *And I think there is indeed evidence for this, although to what threshold it rises, I couldn’t say.

          • rlms says:

            How important is the difference between a puppet of Putin, and someone who favours Russia in good faith?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            You’d expect someone who favors Russia to still act in America’s interest when the two conflict. Unless you consider that this is always the case.

  3. lemur says:

    Related to the 80.000 hours thing… I’d like some help from you 🙂
    I’m from Colombia, I studied mathematics in university and I’ve been working as a Software Engineer for Google in Sweden for about 4 months.
    My job is OK, but not especially fulfilling or meaningful (I feel like an asshole saying this, but well…) I could use some ideas on what to do with my life to have a bit more of impact. 🙂

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I would suggest getting their free book. Also, I think they offer free consultations for people like you and you might want to take advantage of that.

    • dmcdougall says:

      Having a larger impact doesn’t need to start with redirecting your life. You can do small things at the margin, and experiment until you find something that becomes a new vocation or a way to scale up your impact, or that stays a powerful and meaning-giving hobby or side-project.

      E.g., I volunteer with Techfugees which is trying to find ways for the technology industry to help solve problems for refugees. We are still learning how best to have a substantial impact, and being a part of that conversation is one way I am trying to scale up my impact.
      (We’d be happy to have you involved if this is interesting 🙂 )

      • arunkhanna00 says:

        I’d love to hear more about what you do with Techfugees (and would also enjoy volunteering for it if possible)

        • Matthias says:

          Apropos margin: do make use of your 20% time at Google!

          And look for some mailing list on g/ discussing these issues. You are not the only one.

          • lemur says:

            Will try 🙂
            Do you have an specific mailing list in mind?

          • Matthias says:

            Not quite sure about specific mailing lists. Do some searching. 🙂

            There’s quite a few people at Google interested in volunteering / altruism, and they have a charity arm, too.

      • lemur says:

        It looks interesting. Will definitely take a look, thanks!

  4. Error says:

    What other significant Grey Tribe hubs are there, aside from SSC and LW?

    Of those, are there any that share LW’s no-politics norm?

    (I am tired of the Two Years Hate and want to get away from it)

  5. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Picking up an old comment thread– I like the way the right wing doesn’t teach self-hatred.

    Excuse me if this has already been posted to ssc. I think both the story of a journal article which was plagiarized by a reviewer and the paper itself (comparion of several popular diets) are of interes.

    http://retractionwatch.com/2016/12/12/dear-peer-reviewer-stole-paper-authors-worst-nightmare/

    http://annals.org/aim/article/2592773/dear-plagiarist-letter-peer-reviewer-who-stole-published-our-manuscript

    http://annals.org/aim/article/2592773/dear-plagiarist-letter-peer-reviewer-who-stole-published-our-manuscript

    • Forlorn Hopes says:

      Picking up an old comment thread– I like the way the right wing doesn’t teach self-hatred.

      It’s sad that this is a non-universal position. I feel like teaching self-hatred in order to further political cause is like funding terrorists to further your nation’s interests.

      It’s often effective, but it’s going to have consequences.

      • Cadie says:

        I don’t think teaching self-hatred for a cause is even effective beyond the margins. Because the people who will buy into it and still have enough stability to do anything positive for a cause were allies or future allies in the first place, and could have been reached and energized with less toxic messaging. One also flips some neutrals into opponents and strengthens the resolve of other opponents. Seems like a terrible strategy overall. I’m not talking about a much more delicate “Hey, the Blue Group has done a lot of bad stuff to the Green Group and even those who don’t actively hurt others often support it without realizing it, so especially if you’re Blue be careful about x, y, and z” which gets the same benefits with a lot less harm.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I’ve seen a theory that the self-hatred on the left is a Stalinist covert attack that keeps on running on its own. The theory doesn’t seem completely crazy to me– American embarrassment at being American is historically really weird– countries typically aren’t like that.

          Other theories which don’t conflict with that– self-hatred fits with ideas about original sin. It’s also (thanks Scott) not exactly *self* hatred, it’s actually a way of expressing hatred of the outgroup (nearby competing groups).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Eh.

            “Real”(tm) America hates the godless, liberal, hippies that live in the corrupt and decadent cities. What is “Make America Great Again” other than professing a belief that America is not great?

            Honestly, I think the idea that liberals “hate” America in some sort of unique way is convenient for people to push as narrative, but I don’t think there is any “there” there.

          • stillnotking says:

            American embarrassment at being American is historically really weird– countries typically aren’t like that.

            It is pretty typical in the Anglosphere. I’d argue that Canada, Australia, and England itself all are equally, if not more extreme cases, which suggests a common descent or influence from England. It does seem to be associated with left-wing politics in all of them, although this may not always have been true. It has been at least since Disraeli, though.

          • nydwracu says:

            The theory doesn’t seem completely crazy to me– American embarrassment at being American is historically really weird– countries typically aren’t like that.

            I like Tom Wolfe’s explanation — colonized countries are embarrassed at not being as cultured as the colonial powers.

            Notably, if you squint at it hard enough, it predicted the current wave of liberal BBC-mania.

            And Mencken, who was undoubtedly influential (for one thing, he introduced Nietzsche to America), definitely had a similar complex; the difference is that he was embarrassed that his country wasn’t as cultured as Central Europe. He was Real Mad™ that there weren’t many opera houses in Kansas.

    • Furslid says:

      You mean aside from the Christian portions, right? I’m pretty sure that Christianity does. It gives you self hatred for free and then sells you the cure at the price of your eternal soul.

      Christianity also provides resistance to the lesser teachers of self hatred. Once someone believes they deserve hell and are completely redeemed by a mystic process, there’s not much else to be gained by teaching them different self hatred.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Given that strong religiosity, including of the Christian variety, is positively correlated with mental health, the idea that Christianity promotes self-hatred seems a little dubious.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          There are plenty of self-flagellating Christians. “I am an irredeemable sinner unworthy of God’s love” is definitely a thing.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Furslid wasn’t talking about a subset of Christians, he was talking about Christianity, without qualification.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            But “original sinner, only redeemed by God’s love” is bog standard Christian messaging.

            The fact that people don’t always take that message to its end state doesn’t mean that it isn’t there in the message. Furslid was specifically referring to the teachings via Nancy’s OP.

            Heck, the most popular Bible story for kids is the one where God drowns the entire world because of how awful people are.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            But “original sinner, only redeemed by God’s love” is bog standard Christian messaging.

            Yeah, and being redeemed means that we’re changed so that we’re no longer damnable sinners.

            Perhaps you might want to, y’know, brush up on Christian theology a bit before you accuse others of ignoring the implications of their beliefs.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The original Mr. X:
            What exactly do you think my background is?

            I assume you are familiar with Jack Chick? His comics floated around my hometown with a fair amount of regularity. They aren’t exactly shining beacons of positive messaging about self worth.

            I grew up Catholic. In a very liberal college town, I attended the Newman Center, the liberal college outreach arm of the Catholic Church. Even there I was well aware of the duality of the Christian message that we are not worthy of God’s love, and yet God loves us anyway.

            You, personally, may not feel that Christianity has a message of self-hate, but I would suggest that you simply never took it that way.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            What exactly do you think my background is?

            Frankly, I’m far more interested in your theological knowledge, as shown by your posts here. It doesn’t matter how many times you went to church, if you don’t understand what Christianity teaches about redemption, you don’t understand what Christianity teaches about redemption.

            ETA: Also, I am familiar with Jack Chick, because some of my friends used to pass around a few of his tracts with comments like “Hey, isn’t this hilarious? What wacky things those fundamentalists come out with!” So you’ll excuse me if I don’t treat his writings as a particularly serious guide to Christian theology.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Original Mr. X:
            I wonder whether I know more or less about Christian theology than the average Christian in the U.S.?

            The relevant comparison isn’t to a pastor or even the most knowledgeable follower, but the broad mass of Christians.

          • Jiro says:

            if you don’t understand what Christianity teaches about redemption, you don’t understand what Christianity teaches about redemption.

            I understand what Christians teach about redemption.

            Don’t pull the “they aren’t true Christians fallacy on us.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ HBC:

            You started by saying that we should look at what Christianity teaches, not what Christians believe (“The fact that people don’t always take that message to its end state doesn’t mean that it isn’t there in the message. Furslid was specifically referring to the teachings via Nancy’s OP”); now you’re suggesting precisely the opposite, that we should ignore what Christian teachers says, and instead look at “the broad mass of Christians”. Why are you trying to change the subject?

            @ Jiro:

            I understand what Christians teach about redemption.

            Which Christians are you talking about, Christian teachers or “the broad mass”?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Original Mr. X:
            It’s a valid point, but a) I’d appreciate if you took your enmity down two notches, and b) what I was saying is not every Christian will receive the entirety of the message.

            Let’s take as an example the words I heard, which the congregation speaks, every single Sunday I have attended Catholic Church, as part of the presentation of the Eucharist.

            “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

            Thus, a central message is that you are currently unworthy. God needs to do something to you in order for you to be worthy. You are not OK as you are, but are a hopeless sinner in need of God.

            This isn’t ” being redeemed means that we’re changed so that we’re no longer damnable sinners” but rather a constant affirmation of continually being in a state of sin, needing God’s love to constantly heal us. We always need the training wheels. I don’t believe this is a non-standard belief among theologians.

            There is a fairly consistent tradition in many faiths of repeating “I am not worthy”. The message can be taken as one of humility before God.

            The standard lay person may receive this as “I’m cool so long as I keep going to church” but I found the idea deeply disturbing. Certainly the amount of self-hate (and general anger and hate aimed at society as a whole) professed by my devout Catholic grand-father were of a piece with this.

          • J. Mensch says:

            “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

            Not particularly relevant, but I always used to think that this is a classic ‘sneaky villain’ line, like when Scar crowns himself in the Lion King.

            More relevant: catholic scrupulosity is certainly a thing that the church recognises as an issue, where the church succeeds too much in making its followers feel like unworthy sinners.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ HBC:

            It’s a valid point, but a) I’d appreciate if you took your enmity down two notches, and b) what I was saying is not every Christian will receive the entirety of the message.

            It’s not “enmity”, it’s keeping on-topic.

            “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

            If you think that “I’m not worthy to receive the holiest thing in the world” counts as self-hatred, then anybody who’s not a total megalomaniac would be considered as self-hating.

            You are not OK as you are, but are a hopeless sinner in need of God.

            Another teaching, of course, is that God loves you enough to die for you — hardly something to encourage self-hatred.

            Again, though, you seem to be defining “self-hatred” far too broadly. Only a megalomaniac would disagree with the statement “I can’t make myself perfect through my own efforts”.

            ETA: And, once again, higher levels of religiosity are correlated with higher levels of mental health and reported well-being. Presumably, more religious people would be more likely to agree with their religion’s tenets, including “We’re all sinners”. And yet, this clearly doesn’t result in them hating themselves.

          • bean says:

            @HBC:

            Thus, a central message is that you are currently unworthy. God needs to do something to you in order for you to be worthy. You are not OK as you are, but are a hopeless sinner in need of God.

            And? To me, that looks pretty obvious. I can’t do it on my own. I sin daily, despite my best efforts. Fortunately, he’s covered me, but reminding myself that he’s done so and it’s not by any merit of my own seems like a good cure for one of the many ways it’s possible to screw up Christianity.

            This isn’t ” being redeemed means that we’re changed so that we’re no longer damnable sinners” but rather a constant affirmation of continually being in a state of sin, needing God’s love to constantly heal us. We always need the training wheels. I don’t believe this is a non-standard belief among theologians.

            All of my theology references are at home, so I’m working from memory here. This is an area where Catholics and Protestants disagree. Being redeemed means that you’re no longer under the dominion of sin, but under grace. God sees you as being pure, and you should both strive to be pure (even knowing that you won’t be able to reach it) and avoid seeing yourself as merely a sinner who happens to be saved. That I will agree is wrong, if a common problem in certain areas of Christianity.

          • Thursday says:

            It always seemed to me that humans always have a substantial amount of things to feel ashamed and guilty of. Christianity offers a way for them to deal with that fact and move on, so I see it as a net positive.

          • Enkidum says:

            “being redeemed means that we’re changed so that we’re no longer damnable sinners.”

            Is directly contradictory to every Christian sect I’ve ever heard of. “We are all of us sinners” is a VERY common refrain.

          • Furslid says:

            I can only speak to my interpretation of Christianity, but I view it as promoting self hatred. This may not be a universal experience.

            1. God does not punish people with hell because he is a sadist who wants them to suffer or a megalomaniac who will do anything to make people submit to him. God is merciful, and if it would be just to do anything less horrible to someone He would. There is something so wrong with me that it would be an affront against justice for me not to be punished with an eternity of torture. That seems to promote self hatred.

            2. God wants to offer redemption. To do this, he sent His Son to die. God didn’t chose to have Jesus sacrificed because he wanted to make Jesus suffer. He chose to have Jesus sacrificed because there was no way to save humanity without something this horrific. I am so broken, that redeeming me required the torture, degradation, and death of the most perfect being ever. This seems to promote self hatred.

            3. Sins are horrible and disgusting. They are also unavoidable. It is possible to sin just by thinking the wrong things (like lust). No human being can avoid sinning, and all sins are terrible. I will inevitably do disgusting and horrible things regularly. This seems to promote self hatred.

            4. Humans’ personal virtue is completely insufficient. No person can save themselves. A person could cure cancer, invent a free limitless energy source, build a society without injustice, feed the hungry, and write the greatest works of literature. Without Jesus’s grace they would be just as damned as the worst monsters of history. I must recognize that I am helpless and can achieve nothing worthwhile. I must throw myself on the mercy of God. This seems to promote self hatred.

            You can say what you want about Christianity not promoting self hatred. But all of these are mainstream Christian beliefs, even if the phrasing is a little different than normal.

          • bean says:

            @Furslid
            All of your doctrinal points are true. But despite all of that, despite your (and my) unworthiness, God chose to pay the cost to redeem us anyway. I can’t think of a better antidote to self-hatred than that. Despite how bad I am, God loved me enough to sacrifice his Son to torture to redeem me. I’m saddened when I fail him, but ultimately, he still loves me and he’s a lot smarter than I am.

          • sweetcandyskulls says:

            Sunk cost fallacy

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ HBC and others

            Typical average Christian? ~1940, C.S. Lewis wrote Mere Christianity to lay out what some might call the ‘motte’ — the bare bones that Christian denominations agree on, in contrast to the things they disagree on (a wide ‘bailey’).

            Has anyone done anything like this recently? If so, we could compare sales figures to get a rough, vague, fuzzy estimate of how many people are familiar with the sort of Christianity that Lewis was describing.

          • SamChevre says:

            Probably the best recent “motte” book on Christianity is N T Wright, Simply Christian.

            I would second the point that “I have [harmed others] in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do, through my own faults” is not to me an easy statement to contradict. (With [harmed others] replaced with sinned, that’s the Confiteor–the acknowledgement of sin at the beginning of Catholic Mass.) What Christianity offers is the ability to acknowledge that, and then to consider it forgiven–neither considering ones’ own failings trivial, nor considering them unforgiveable.

          • Bugmaster says:

            I’ve never been religious, but from my external point of view, it’s all a matter of perspective.

            I think both Christians and non-Christians can agree that, as humans, we have all done some hurtful things, and that none of us are perfect. Assuming that we agree on this fact, what conclusion do we draw ? Here’s where the differences come in.

            Non-Christians would say that you should make amends to anyone whom you’ve hurt, if at all possible. Perhaps more importantly, you should take not of the pattern of thought and behavior that led you to such actions, and correct it in the future. The word “should” does not imply some sort of an external authority who is giving you orders; rather, it denotes a conclusion based on evidence, similar to saying “you should avoid hitting your finger with a hammer”.

            Christianity (at least, some of its denominations) teaches that none of that stuff matters, and that you are a horribly corrupt sinful creature; your only option is to submit fully to Christ, surrendering your will to the Divine. You’ll still be a worthless sinner, but at least you’ll be redeemed. In addition to that, Christianity (or, again, some specific sects) teaches that the category of “sin” is much wider than merely the set of actions that hurt other people; it also includes many thoughts (i.e. lust), as well as actions that hurt no other humans (i.e. worshiping the wrong god).

            Based on this, I’d say that Christianity (or, again, a few specific sects) promotes self-hatred, and impedes positive change, more so than secular modes of thought tend to do.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Christianity (or, again, a few specific sects)

            And what percentage of Christians belong to these sects?

          • Bugmaster says:

            @The original Mr. X:
            According to this article, about 50.1% of Christians are Catholic; Catholics definitely fit the description, although I hear they’ve been easing up on homosexuality lately. Evangelicals make up another 13%. I’m sure there are other Protestant denominations that fit the description, but there are so many of them, it’s hard to keep track…

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Bugmaster:

            Instead of getting into a debate about Catholic theology, I’ll just ask you to provide some actual evidence for your claims. Do you know of a study showing that Catholics, on average, have poorer mental health than atheists, on average? If Catholicism really promotes self-hatred like you say, there should be plenty of studies you can point to.

          • Thursday says:

            Sins are horrible and disgusting. They are also unavoidable. It is possible to sin just by thinking the wrong things (like lust). No human being can avoid sinning, and all sins are terrible. I will inevitably do disgusting and horrible things regularly.

            This looks like bare realism to me. Extraordinarily vile things are happening all the time in all human societies. Is nobody responsible for them?

          • Aapje says:

            People generally oppose the really vile things and very good things happen a lot as well.

            I would argue that humans sacrifice their selfish desires substantially, for the benefit of other humans, although not completely.

            If not being a sinner requires complete sacrifice of one’s personal happiness, the term has become meaningless IMHO, because then not being a sinner requires personal unhappiness, which is a vile thing to demand.

            Is nobody responsible for them?

            Truly vile things are usually done by a small minority of people. When this is not the case, they are usually side effects and/or caused by humans not being rational entities (like global warming or unconscious racism).

            If humans have limited abilities and try to cope with that as well as they can, I consider it unfair to attack them for their inability. It’s attacking someone for something that he cannot do, which in itself is vile.

            IMO, this is different from a message that people are imperfect, but should strive to do as well as they (reasonably) can.

          • bean says:

            If not being a sinner requires complete sacrifice of one’s personal happiness, the term has become meaningless IMHO, because then not being a sinner requires personal unhappiness, which is a vile thing to demand.

            Last I checked, no major Christian denomination today demands misery as a condition of being saved. In fact, some claim the exact opposite, and AIUI, surveys seem to back them up.

          • Jiro says:

            Last I checked, no major Christian denomination today demands misery as a condition of being saved.

            I think that’s only true on a technicality: Whatever their requirements are, they always assert that those requirements don’t lead to misery. That’s a cheat because it can make any requirement whatsoever consistent with not demanding misery.

            There are Christian denominations which demand things which lead to misery if you ignore the denominations’ claim that they don’t.

          • bean says:

            @Jiro:

            I think that’s only true on a technicality: Whatever their requirements are, they always assert that those requirements don’t lead to misery. That’s a cheat because it can make any requirement whatsoever consistent with not demanding misery.

            I see where you’re coming from, but I don’t really agree. From a Christian perspective, God doesn’t want us to be miserable, so the requirements he puts on us shouldn’t make us miserable. “Take my yoke upon you, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Christian hedonism is … interestingly named, but I endorse it as good theology.)
            I don’t argue from a non-Christian perspective on these things, because it’s impossible for me to win on those terms.

            There are Christian denominations which demand things which lead to misery if you ignore the denominations’ claim that they don’t.

            Such as?

            And again, I point to the surveys which show that religious people are happier. Real experiment beats thought experiment.

          • Thursday says:

            People generally oppose the really vile things

            In theory, yes.

          • Thursday says:

            Truly vile things are usually done by a small minority of people.

            The word “usually” is doing an awful lot of work in this sentence.

          • Thursday says:

            being a sinner requires personal unhappiness

            Trying to escape suffering is a fool’s errand. All you can hope for is meaning.

          • Deiseach says:

            “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

            Which is from the story of the Centurion and his servant, and in the new translation (which goes back to the old translation), the resemblance is much clearer: the original first English translation I knew it as “Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof, say but the word and my soul shall be healed”. Version above, new translation from late 70s onwards. New (current) translation, in use since 2010 or so: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”.

            Referring back to Matthew 8: 5-13

            5 When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, 6 “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” 7 And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8 But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.

          • Aapje says:

            @Thursday

            Truly vile things are usually done by a small minority of people.

            The word “usually” is doing an awful lot of work in this sentence.

            You were defending these words as being realistic:

            Sins are horrible and disgusting. They are also unavoidable. It is possible to sin just by thinking the wrong things (like lust). No human being can avoid sinning, and all sins are terrible. I will inevitably do disgusting and horrible things regularly.

            These words specifically state that every human being commits terrible sins.

            If you concede that not all people commit terrible sins, then you are now making a lesser claim. If you don’t, I’d like to know what kind of vile sins you think that everyone commits. Is lust a vile sin in your view? Because I would not count that as such, at all.

          • Aapje says:

            @Thursday

            Trying to escape suffering is a fool’s errand. All you can hope for is meaning.

            I guess that this conversation is hopeless when you have such a black/white view that doesn’t distinguish greater and lesser suffering.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Jiro:

            There are Christian denominations which demand things which lead to misery if you ignore the denominations’ claim that they don’t.

            And yet, when we look at the statistics, there is a strong positive correlation between religiosity and wellbeing. So, whilst there are no doubt some fringe groups who demand things that inevitably lead to misery, they’re apparently too tiny to have any measurable effect.

            @ Aapje:

            People generally oppose the really vile things

            Do they? How many Germans, as a percentage, opposed the things the Nazis did? How many Russians tried to stop Stalin engineering the Ukrainian famine, or sending thousands of dissidents to the gulags? How many English Protestants opposed the Penal Laws, how many Americans opposed killing or expelling the natives from their land?

            Cf. the banality of evil.

          • Aapje says:

            @The original Mr. X

            How many Germans, as a percentage, opposed the things the Nazis did?

            Your question is based on the false premise that the Germans knew exactly what the Nazis did.

            The Nazis were known for their propaganda and took extensive measures to hide the holocaust from the public.

            How many Russians tried to stop Stalin engineering the Ukrainian famine

            Again, most Russians did not know about the Ukrainian famine. Even after de-Stalinization, people were only allowed to talk about ‘food difficulties,’ not famine.

            As for your claim that Stalin engineered the famine, there is no hard evidence of this (in the form of this intent being written down somewhere). Modern scholars disagree on whether the policies of the time were intended to create this famine or whether they were merely stupidity.

            or sending thousands of dissidents to the gulags?

            The dissidents who opposed this were…sent to the gulags. The reason why the opposition is (un)succesful in stopping an oppressive government is very complex and involves much more than whether ‘the people’ support or do not support the policies.

            I suggest you replace your black/white model of evil vs good with a more nuanced model that includes the complexity that shapes people’s decision, which can include choosing a less risky path that is more likely to save some lives; over high risk choices that almost certainly fail.

            Cf. the banality of evil.

            Arendt was taken in by the role that Eichmann played during the trial. Eichmann was far from the banal bureaucrat that just followed orders. I suggest you watch ‘The Last of the Unjust’ which is an interview with a rabbi who worked with Eichmann for a very long time and who knew him well.

          • Jiro says:

            Such as?

            Injunctions against homosexuality, or contraception. Depending on the sect, claims as to the proper role of women.

            For rationalists, requiring adherents to believe things that appear, to nonbelievers, to be unscientific (creationism) or philosophically unsound (communion wafers changing their essence into flesh without changing their substance).

          • Jiro says:

            And yet, when we look at the statistics, there is a strong positive correlation between religiosity and wellbeing.

            If you go to Nazi Germany, you’ll find there’s a strong positive correlation between being a Nazi and wellbeing, and a negative correlation between being a Jew and wellbeing. It’s not because Naziism is good, it’s because dominant social movements give their members advantages and nonmembers disadvantages merely by being dominant social movements.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Aapje:

            Your question is based on the false premise that the Germans knew exactly what the Nazis did.

            The Nazis were known for their propaganda and took extensive measures to hide the holocaust from the public.

            The Nazis did more than just the Holocaust, you know. When they took power, one of the first things they did was to round up opposition party members and throw them in prison. This wasn’t exactly kept secret. Nor were the Nuremberg Laws, state-enforced eugenics, Kristallnacht, and lots of other nasty things.

            The reason why the opposition is (un)succesful in stopping an oppressive government is very complex and involves much more than whether ‘the people’ support or do not support the policies.

            Your original claim wasn’t simply that the people don’t support bad things, but that they “generally oppose” them. In the case of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, this statement is demonstrably false: the vast majority of the population did precisely nothing to oppose their governments.

            Plus, how exactly are you defining “support” in the first place? Does somebody have to actively help with something, or do you subscribe to the “silence gives consent” school of thought?

            Also, I note that you’ve said precisely nothing about my third and fourth examples. Do you think that most English Protestants didn’t know that Catholicism was persecuted, or that most Americans had no idea that the new land they were expanding into was already occupied?

            @ Jiro:

            or philosophically unsound (communion wafers changing their essence into flesh without changing their substance).

            It’s the accidents that remain the same, not the substance, you philosophically unsound person.

            If you go to Nazi Germany, you’ll find there’s a strong positive correlation between being a Nazi and wellbeing, and a negative correlation between being a Jew and wellbeing. It’s not because Naziism is good, it’s because dominant social movements give their members advantages and nonmembers disadvantages merely by being dominant social movements.

            First of all, the correlation between religiosity and wellbeing applies, AFAIK, in secular countries where organised religion can hardly be described as a “dominant social movement”.

            Secondly, the correlation holds within religions as well — so, for example, somebody who goes to church every day will have higher wellbeing than somebody who only goes on Sunday because he has to to be thought respectable. But going once a week would be enough to make you a member in good standing of the religion. So if the wellbeing advantages religion gives were only due to being part of the dominant social movement, going to church every day would bring no more benefit than going once a week. But this doesn’t seem to be the case.

            Thirdly, if you truly hate yourself, this would represent such a big hit to your wellbeing that it’s hard to see how being part of an important social group could compensate. So even if you think the positive effects of religion are confined to making you more important socially, it’s still implausible that religion tends to engender self-hatred in its believers.

          • bean says:

            @Jiro

            Injunctions against homosexuality, or contraception. Depending on the sect, claims as to the proper role of women.

            I’ve already attacked how the church handles homosexuality at great length. I’m not Catholic, so I’m with you on birth-control. And suggesting that traditional views on women promote self-hatred seems at odds with the happiness data. (Just to be clear, I’m more or less Complementarian.)

            For rationalists, requiring adherents to believe things that appear, to nonbelievers, to be unscientific (creationism) or philosophically unsound (communion wafers changing their essence into flesh without changing their substance).

            Creationism is a mess, but from inside it’s not nearly as irrational as it looks. And still not a Catholic, so I feel no need to defend transubstantiation.

        • EarthSeaSky says:

          >vague comment implying certain negative values are ubiquitous to the blue tribe

          >response pointing out that plenty of people in the red tribe engage in belief/behaviour/thought pattern

          >uncritical quantification that generalizes a positive behaviour to the whole red tribe with no attempt at quantification

          Can we please stop having this conversation every thread? I’m really starting to get sick of it.

          • Aapje says:

            The funny thing is that in the very next comment you uncritically generalize the whole red tribe.

          • EarthSeaSky says:

            @Aapje Did I? Show me the line where I did that, please.

          • Aapje says:

            Never mind, I misread.

          • VivaLaPanda says:

            Agreeing here. Isn’t the part of the point of this community to avoid these types of circular discussions where noone actually convince people, but instead just attack the other team?

            “Man those red/blue tribers suck” is what a lot of political comments here boil down to..

      • John Schilling says:

        It gives you self hatred for free and then sells you the cure at the price of your eternal soul

        No, it gives you your eternal soul at the price of saying, sincerely, “please give me an eternal soul” and “thank you for the eternal soul”.

        It also teaches that you cannot by sheer willpower alone be as good a person as you know you ought to be, which I suppose could be characterized as “self-hatred” by the extremely uncharitable.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @John Schilling:

          It also teaches that you cannot by sheer willpower alone be as good a person as you know you ought to be

          It teaches that you can’t be good enough not to deserve eternal torture.

          That’s a wee bit farther down the line than simply not quite good enough.

          • John Schilling says:

            It teaches that you can’t be good enough not to deserve eternal torture.

            If by “torture” you mean not being able to hang out with the loving God that non-Christians don’t even believe exists in the first place, sure. Otherwise, you’re cherry-picking.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Wait, are you claiming that “burning in the fires of hell” is either not torture, or not a central claim of most US Christians?

          • onyomi says:

            I believe the standard Christian explanation of Hell nowadays is that it is a state of having rejected God’s love. That is, yes, Hell is miserable, but only because people tend to be miserable without God’s love, which, since He gave them free will, they are free not to accept.*

            Dante and Hieronymus Bosch, however, make me think this wasn’t always the case.

            So it’s sort of a strawman today to say that Christians scare you with visions of eternal torment, since I don’t think many Christians any longer believe in that idea of Hell, or tell kids that version of Hell in Sunday school. But our popular conception of Hell still comes more from Dante than recent developments in Christian theology, so it is also not implausible that someone, especially children, even today, would come away thinking Hell=place were you are tortured by demons forever.

            *Edit: I am not sure exactly how this squares with Heaven and Hell being permanent states, which, at least when I went to high school, was standard Catholicism, since presumably one doesn’t lose one’s free will in Heaven or Hell, meaning anyone in Heaven should, theoretically, be free to reject God’s love, and anyone in Hell to accept it. The way it was explained to me was that that’s what purgatory is for (actually, the whole “burning torment” thing might correspond better to purgatory than Hell in Catholic theology, because arguably being purified, like gold being melted to remove impurities, is a more painful process than just being in a static state of suck).

          • Acedia says:

            My impression is that large numbers of lay-Christians still believe in Hell as a literal place of active, deliberate torture by demons or God, and that it’s mostly just the clergy and educated theologians that follow the “absence of God” interpretation. Could be a regional thing though.

          • C.S. Lewis seems to be pretty popular with American Christians, and his picture of Hell in The Great Divorce contains no demons or torture.

          • rlms says:

            @DavidFriedman
            Quantify “popular”. I expect that far more American Christians watch televangelists than read CS Lewis’ books on Christianity.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            Hell houses are haunted attractions typically run by Christian churches or parachurch organizations. These depict real-life situations, sin, the torments of the damned in Hell, and usually conclude with a depiction of Heaven. They are most typically operated in the days preceding Halloween.”

            Sure, the cognoscenti talk about separation from God. But the billboards on I95 that say you are going to burn in hell if you do not repent aren’t talking about metaphorical flames.

          • onyomi says:

            I had never heard of “Hell Houses,” but I agree that the popular idea of Hell among workaday Christians is still probably a lot closer to “place you get punished after death if you were bad in life” than the more philosophical “state of rejecting God’s love.”

            Besides the fact that Christianity has tried to make itself more palatable to modern sensibilities, there’s also the issue of “inner” and “public” teachings, which most religions have had for a very long time. So even if the “real” teaching is that you will suffer if you chose to reject God’s love, if the easy-to-understand teaching used to scare the hoi polloi into being good is more legalistic, I think it’s fair to criticize that.

          • @rlms:

            Americans are more likely to watch television than to read books. Do you think that, of the books American Christians read, there are ones giving the traditional picture of Hell that are much more popular than Lewis’ books?

          • Chalid says:

            I just want to throw in that of the three seriously conservative (young earth creationist) Christians I’ve actually discussed this with, all believed in a literal hell with literal torture for even virtuous nonbelievers, and I think they each claimed it was the normal belief in their communities. All were extremely educated too, FWIW.

            So I’m really skeptical of anyone claiming this is some kind of fringe belief.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            The Left Behind series sold extremely well and depicts a literal rapture, with planes falling from the sky as their pilots are raptured, and a literal apocalypse with a rise to power of the anti-Christ, etc.

            I seriously think some of you are so wrapped up in criticizing the left that you aren’t paying any attention at all to anything on the right. Hyper literal fundamentalist Christianity in the U.S. is not a straw man at all. Dominion theology is a real thing. The Creation Museum is an actual place with large attendance. Young earth creationists are plentiful in the ranks of Republican elected officials.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            I believe the standard Christian explanation of Hell nowadays is that it is a state of having rejected God’s love. That is, yes, Hell is miserable, but only because people tend to be miserable without God’s love, which, since He gave them free will, they are free not to accept.*

            Since the people in question have already rejected God’s love while still alive, it’s hard to see how Hell is any more miserable than Earth.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Dominion theology is a real thing

            Yes it exists, but so does literal Che’ admiring, “Stalin did nothing wrong”, leftism. The question is are they representative of the American left?

            According to this article the Creation Museum’s average yearly attendance since it opened is 300,000 and has been declining. I don’t know how we’re defining “large attendance” but we’re talking about a country where a second tier college football team can draw upwards of 400,000 fans a year, and popular attractions typically measure their attendance in millions.

          • Tekhno says:

            @hlynkacg
            Biblical literalist Evangelicals are much more representative of the American right than ardent tankies are representative of the American left, considering that Christian Fundamentalists are a voting block that have to appeased by Republicans, whereas actual “seize the means of production” socialists can be safely ignored, or even mocked and laughed at by the mainstream of the party.

            EDIT: before edit with link.

            I wasn’t aware that they had declined that much, because literalist Christians were a huge force back in the mid-2000s on the internet. Even with this this election, Trump had to signal to them a bit, so I’m inclined to believe that fundamentalists have an outsized impact compared to their numbers.

          • John Schilling says:

            The Left Behind series sold extremely well

            The “Left Behind” series sold an average of 3.8 million copies per novel.

            I expect that far more American Christians watch televangelists than read CS Lewis’ books on Christianity.

            The highest-rated current televangelist is Joel Osteen at seven million weekly viewers. That’s worldwide, and by reputation he’s one of the ones with the generally positive message, not fire-and-brimstone.

            “Hell houses are haunted attractions typically run by Christian churches or parachurch organizations.

            And from the sparse evidence available, there might be as many as five hundred of them in the nation.

            There are well over two hundred million Christians in the United States. Do any of you all have any data at all on what typical Christians believe, or is it just going to be dredging up the most obnoxious examples you can remember and saying “yep, they’re all like that”?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Christian Fundamentalists are a voting block that have to appeased by Republicans

            I think the question has to be asked…

            Where do you draw the line between “the devout” and “a fundamentalist”? Do you draw a line?

            Because if you’re saying that devout Christians are a big enough voting block that they have to be appeased, I agree. But from my own experience a good chunk of that same block would also tell you that the Creation Museum (and attractions like it) are stupid, tacky, and borderline sacrilegious.

            Near as I can tell, the genuine literalists are to the American right what Tankies and full on “property is theft” Marxists are to the left. They exist, and they are valuable when it comes to mobilizing the rabble but most of the time they’re something of an embarrassment.

          • Acedia says:

            I just want to throw in that of the three seriously conservative (young earth creationist) Christians I’ve actually discussed this with, all believed in a literal hell with literal torture for even virtuous nonbelievers, and I think they each claimed it was the normal belief in their communities. All were extremely educated too, FWIW.

            I’ve met these too. I genuinely can’t understand how people who believe something like “most humans will be tortured for eternity” can go about their lives normally, instead of being constantly paralyzed with horror.

          • Looking for information on how many young Earth creationists there are, I found a blog post with a fairly detailed account of the differing results of different polls. Its conclusion is about 10% of the American population. But depending on what questions you ask, results can go as high as 44%.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Since the people in question have already rejected God’s love while still alive, it’s hard to see how Hell is any more miserable than Earth.

            People in this life might reject God’s love, but aren’t separated from it. People in Hell rejected God’s love, and as a consequence are separated from it.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            People in this life might reject God’s love, but aren’t separated from it. People in Hell rejected God’s love, and as a consequence are separated from it.

            This feels like one of those things that makes it difficult for people on either side to have an honest conversation – it seems to impute an unwarranted degree of epistemic bad faith onto non-Christians.

            This universe simply does not feel like one in which there is a god offering me love, but whom I don’t fancy taking up on his offer. It feels like a universe in which there is no particular compelling evidence in favour of the existence of any gods at all, and certainly no good evidence to favour any one religion as more likely to be true than any other, where I am a human surrounded by humans who tend on average to adopt the religion of their family and then become absurdly overconfident about how likely that religion is to be true relative to all the others.

            To say that I am not-separated from God’s love, when there is nothing about my conscious experience that suggests that a god is trying to love me, kind of necessitates that someone making that argument presupposes that I am lying about my conscious experience. And yet, if you believe in God and Hell, then unless you are willing to bite the bullet and agree that the god of Christianity is a douchebag troll deity who deliberately sets out to trick some of us, you kind of *have* to make that argument, because that’s the only way you can reconcile a loving omnimax god, the concept of Hell as a punishment for non-belief, and the fact that there are lots of people who, having considered the God hypothesis, do not believe it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            That conclusion is over confident, based as it it on one survey (about continental drift).

            In 2005, when the Harris Poll asked people “Do you think human beings developed from earlier species or not,” 38% agreed that humans did develop from early species, but in the same survey, 49% agreed with evolution when asked: “Do you believe all plants and animals have evolved from other species or not?” So explicitly mentioning human evolution led to 11% of people switching from pro-evolution to anti-evolution.

            Note that, even in the milder form of the question, only 51% of people are willing to express a belief in evolution.

            What you see consistently in that article is that around 40% of people know that the “right” answer to the question they are being asked is to agree with YEC. Regardless of whether they know enough to then answer other questions consistent with that expressed belief, it shows that the YEC answer is one that marks the boundaries of their in-group.

          • Brad says:

            It’s amusing to see so many demands for quantification and evidence when the shoe is on the other foot.

            Have you considered that maybe it isn’t the numbers that matter so much as control of the narrative? (I think that’s the next step in the dance.)

          • Chalid says:

            Attacking the public opinion question from a different angle, according to this poll from March 2000, 16% of Americans thought evolution should not be taught in public schools – only creationism. Another 13% believe that they should be treated equally. The remainder believes in various degrees of tilt toward evolution.

            Recall that this was a nationally controversial issue in the 2000 election. Even the generally liberal and pro-science Al Gore waffled and made noises about local control. I suspect it would have remained controversial if not for various court cases which made the issue less viable.

          • John Schilling says:

            But depending on what questions you ask, results can go as high as 44%.

            If the question you ask can possibly be interpreted as “Are you really a Christian?”, the answer you get is likely to be the one that cannot possibly be misinterpreted as anything but “Yes, I really am a Christian”. And with ‘Creation’ and ‘Evolution’ often treated as codewords for ‘Christian’ and ‘Atheist’, you’re not going to get good results if those terms are front and center in your question.

          • Jiro says:

            I genuinely can’t understand how people who believe something like “most humans will be tortured for eternity” can go about their lives normally, instead of being constantly paralyzed with horror.

            Believing that God torments sinners is no worse than believing that God creates cancer, hurricanes, and Zika virus, and even proper theologically educated people believe that.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Winter Shaker:

            This feels like one of those things that makes it difficult for people on either side to have an honest conversation – it seems to impute an unwarranted degree of epistemic bad faith onto non-Christians.

            I’m not going to start lecturing you on what your personal motivations “really” are, but on the general point, motivated reasoning is a well-known and well-established phenomenon, and I see no reason to suppose that it would magically not apply to atheists. Or, as Thomas Nagel put it:

            In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.

          • bean says:

            The highest-rated current televangelist is Joel Osteen at seven million weekly viewers. That’s worldwide, and by reputation he’s one of the ones with the generally positive message, not fire-and-brimstone.

            He’s very much not fire and brimstone. I once saw a clip where someone tried to pin him down on the existence of a literal hell, and he was basically a politician with an uncomfortable question.

            Re YECs, I actually come from that culture, to the point where I’ve been to the creation museum twice (it was surprisingly well-executed), and sat through a bunch of different church presentations on the subject. Personally, I think the way the church has handled the issue is terrible in the extreme, and that I genuinely am not sure how God created life and brought it to its current state. But this puts me well out of the norm among my peers, and I generally avoid talking about this among Christians who aren’t my friends because it’s really, really uncomfortable. John is right about it being a strong signalling question.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling/@bean:
            If it is a signalling question, and people are answering it as a signalling question, (which I mostly agree with), then we know what the churches and community are teaching is the right answer, yes?

          • bean says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            If it is a signalling question, and people are answering it as a signalling question, (which I mostly agree with), then we know what the churches and community are teaching is the right answer, yes?

            Obviously. Would you care to explain where you’re going with this?
            Actually, I have something to reassure you that teaching creation in schools is unlikely to bring about the apocalypse. Unfortunately, I lost the paper, and don’t have a cite, but I saw a paper where they ran a trial of attitudes and change during a freshman biology class after three methods of teaching. One was evolution-heavy, one was standard, and one actually tried to engage with intelligent design. Guess which one showed the greatest change in attitudes? That’s right, the one where they actually treated ID with some degree of respect. The one that was evolution-heavy had by far the highest number of people decline to respond. In retrospect, this was entirely predictable. If the other people are signalling that all of your friends are idiots and anti-science, then you tend to disagree with what those people are telling you. (I wonder if this is part of the explanation for the right’s position on AGW.) The really ironic part was that this paper was given to me by the guy teaching my church’s class on evolution (and doing a terrible job) and he didn’t see the obvious result, which was that both sides have their positions on teaching evolution entirely the wrong way around. I suppose it’s possible that the creationists actually are trying to manipulate your side, but I don’t think they’re nearly that smart.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @bean:
            All I am trying to “prove” is that the there is a faith tradition of the US which teaches Biblical literalism as the right answer, and it is not confined to some very small minority of the public, but consists of the a substantial plurality, which constitutes a majority of the conservative coalition.

            I frankly agree that, for anyone who currently believes in creationism, engaging with the arguments for creationism is a good idea. However, if you are teaching that the arguments for creationism are just as good, scientifically, as those for evolution, then you aren’t going to move people.

            If you just say, some people claim X, some claim Y, you decide, it’s a poor substitute for walking through the critical arguments to show why scientists accepts evolution as essentially a settled question (with arguments being centered around HOW evolution has worked, not whether it occurred/is occurring).

          • bean says:

            All I am trying to “prove” is that the there is a faith tradition of the US which teaches Biblical literalism as the right answer, and it is not confined to some very small minority of the public, but consists of the a substantial plurality, which constitutes a majority of the conservative coalition.

            The right answer to what, though?

            I frankly agree that, for anyone who currently believes in creationism, engaging with the arguments for creationism is a good idea. However, if you are teaching that the arguments for creationism are just as good, scientifically, as those for evolution, then you aren’t going to move people.

            I’m not sure you’re getting it. “Engaging with the arguments” tends to come off as “explaining why they’re wrong and stupid”. (This is not limited to evolutionists, to be fair.) The class I mentioned actually read ID literature and took it seriously.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            People in this life might reject God’s love, but aren’t separated from it. People in Hell rejected God’s love, and as a consequence are separated from it.

            I find it difficult to have a conversation about stuff like this for a different reason from Winter Shaker: some of the words don’t seem to have their usual meanings. It’s particularly disorienting how separation becomes a consequence of rejection in the second sentence after having been a non-consequence in the first, though it would be difficult in any case to see just how the distinction manages to turn the middling-happy atheists we see on earth into the miserable atheists in Hell.

          • Thursday says:

            Edward Feser has a new series of posts explaining the traditional Thomist view of hell:
            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.ca/2016/10/how-to-go-to-hell_29.html
            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.ca/2016/11/does-god-damn-you.html
            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.ca/2016/12/why-not-annihilation.html

            It sounds pretty horrifying, though the emphasis is not on physical torment.

          • bean says:

            It’s particularly disorienting how separation becomes a consequence of rejection in the second sentence after having been a non-consequence in the first,

            Why? God is using different rules in different worlds. In ours, he gives people the chance of salvation. In the next, he’s withdrawn that chance (I think this may be a necessary feature of eternity, actually.)

            though it would be difficult in any case to see just how the distinction manages to turn the middling-happy atheists we see on earth into the miserable atheists in Hell.

            When you’re stuck as a flawed human for all eternity, without God and without hope, it’s not really hard to see how you could be miserable. I didn’t get through the whole of The Great Divorce, but the first few pages cover this pretty well.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Mr X:

            I’m not going to start lecturing you on what your personal motivations “really” are, but on the general point, motivated reasoning is a well-known and well-established phenomenon

            Okay, but I’m not really talking about reasoning at all, but subjective experience. It doesn’t feel to me like there is a god out there trying to offer me love, which I am rejecting. I will admit that I am probably quite difficult to win round to the god hypothesis now, having read what I’ve read about Christianity and other religions, but I would have been perfectly receptive to any god that wanted to talk to me while I was a child, learning about religious topics at school from teachers who, as far as I could tell at the time, were sincere in their beliefs and who I had no reason to presuppose weren’t telling me the truth. Yet no gods came calling, as far as I can make out.

            How would you go about telling the difference between someone whose subjective experiences genuinely lead them to not sense the presence of any gods, as opposed to someone whose motivated reasoning leads them to unfairly reject a god, the subjective experience of whose love is actually being felt by that person, but consciously or subconsciously suppressed?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I find it difficult to have a conversation about stuff like this for a different reason from Winter Shaker: some of the words don’t seem to have their usual meanings. It’s particularly disorienting how separation becomes a consequence of rejection in the second sentence after having been a non-consequence in the first, though it would be difficult in any case to see just how the distinction manages to turn the middling-happy atheists we see on earth into the miserable atheists in Hell.

            Ed Feser, “How to go to Hell”:

            This brings us to Aquinas’s treatment of the changeability or lack thereof of the human will.  (See especially Summa Contra Gentiles Book 4, Chapter 95.)  Prior to death, it is always possible for the human will to correct course, for the reasons described above.  A passion inclining one to evil can be overcome; a bad habit can be counteracted by a contrary appetite; new knowledge might be acquired by which an erroneous judgment can be revised.  Hence, at any time before death, there is at least some hope that damnation can be avoided.

            But after death, Aquinas argues, things are different.  At death the soul is separated from the body, a separation which involves the intellect and will – which were never corporeal faculties in the first place – carrying on without the corporeal faculties that influenced their operation during life.  In effect, the soul now operates, in all relevant respects, the way an angelic intellect does.  Just as an angel, immediately after its creation, either takes God as its ultimate end or something less than God as its ultimate end, so too does the disembodied human soul make the same choice immediately upon death.  And just as the angel’s choice is irreversible given that the corporeal preconditions of a change are absent, so too is the newly disembodied soul’s choice irreversible, and for the same reason.  The corporeal preconditions of a change of orientation toward an ultimate good, which were present in life, are now gone.  Hence the soul which opts for God as its ultimate end is “locked on” to that end forever, and the soul which opts instead for something less than God is “locked on” to that forever.  The former soul therefore enjoys eternal beatitude, the latter eternal separation from God or damnation.

            The only way a change could be made is if the soul could come to judge something else instead as a higher end or good than what it has opted for.  But it cannot do so.  Being disembodied, it lacks any passions that could sway it away from this choice.  It also, like an angel, now lacks any competing appetite which might pull its will away from the end it has chosen.  Thus it is immediately habituated to aiming toward whatever, following death, it opted for as its highest end or good – whether God or something less than God.  Nor is there any new knowledge which might change its course, since, now lacking sensation and imagination and everything that goes with them, it does not know discursively but rather in an all-at-once way, as an angel does.  There is no longer any cognitive process whose direction might be corrected. 

            ETA: Ninja’d, twice over.

          • Protagoras says:

            The issue is hardly unique to Feser’s account, but he’s the one to be mentioned here; I find it hard to see how his heaven is a desirable afterlife, or even an afterlife at all. A being incapable of change doesn’t seem to be me continuing to exist, it seems to be some other kind of thing. And of course his hell seems a matter of indifference to me for the same reason.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            How would you go about telling the difference between someone whose subjective experiences genuinely lead them to not sense the presence of any gods, as opposed to someone whose motivated reasoning leads them to unfairly reject a god, the subjective experience of whose love is actually being felt by that person, but consciously or subconsciously suppressed?

            Well, if somebody’s arguments about how there’s no evidence for God always seem to descend into a rant about how it’s so unfair that the Church won’t let them sin like they want to (I’ve talked with a few people like this), that would be a warning sign. In general, though, I prefer to leave such matters to them and God.

          • Thursday says:

            Hyper literal fundamentalist Christianity in the U.S. is not a straw man at all.

            It exists, and widely enough to allow for a certain amount of book sales etc. But that’s not enough in itself to show that that is what most politically conservative, orthodox Protestants in the U.S. believe.

          • Murphy says:

            @onyomi

            I think I grew up with the catholic nun version of hell which was very clear that they definitely did mean literal fire, literal endless pain and suffering. A pretty accurate portrayal from a story I read growing up:

            “I had to make my first confession and communion. It was an old woman called Ryan who prepared us for these. She was about the one age with Gran; she was well-to-do, lived in a big house on Montenotte, wore a black cloak and bonnet, and came every day to school at three o’clock when we should have been going home, and talked to us of hell. She may have mentioned the other place as well, but that could only have been by accident, for hell had the first place in her heart.

            She lit a candle, took out a new half-crown, and offered it to the first boy who would hold one finger, only one finger! – in the flame for five minutes by the school clock. Being always very ambitious I was tempted to volunteer, but I thought it might look greedy. Then she asked were we afraid of holding one finger-only one finger! – in a little candle flame for five minutes and not afraid of burning all over in roasting hot furnaces for all eternity. “All eternity! Just think of that! A whole lifetime goes by and it’s nothing, not even a drop in the ocean of your sufferings.””

            A traditional irish catholic would typically be extremely clear that their version of hell is very very similar to the unsong version of hell, differing mainly in how the worst of the worst are treated because that’s just a chilling little flair that scot added.

          • John Schilling says:

            All I am trying to “prove” is that the there is a faith tradition of the US which teaches Biblical literalism as the right answer, and it is not confined to some very small minority of the public, but consists of the a substantial plurality, which constitutes a majority of the conservative coalition.

            And you are doing a poor job of it, because you are wrong about the “substantial plurality” and “majority of the conservative coalition” parts.

            Biblical literalism is the doctrine of the Southern Baptists, the Pentecoltalists, the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod), and AFIK no other major Christian denomination in the United States. All of those together come to 32 million people, or 10% of the population. Even if we double that to allow for minor literalist denominations and literalist members of generally non-literalist denominations, it is still less than the 21% who are (decidedly non-literalist) Catholics or the 25% divided among the various non-literalist Protestant denominations.

            Not a plurality. Nor does 10-20% of the population make up a “majority of the conservative coalition”.

            And 10-20% is what the polling consistently shows, for every issue other than the explicitly politicized Christian-vs-Atheist one of evolution. So if all you’ve got for your “proof” is the polling on that one contentious issue, and fringe stuff like “Hell houses”, you’re a long way from proving anything.

            Hellfire and damnation of the eternal torture variety, as a dominant concern of Christianity? That’s another 10-20% belief. The vast majority of Christian churches at least implicitly teach, and the vast majority of Christians believe, that Hell is generally unimportant. Heaven, is important. Getting into heaven is the most important thing there is. Fortunately, it’s ridiculously easy, if you are there in the audience for a sermon you’re 95% of the way there – and it is taken for granted that you and everyone around you is going to do the other 5%, because duh, heaven, so the nature of the alternative simply doesn’t matter. Any actual tortures in Hell are for Adolf Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, and the 9/11 terrorists, and it is considered unseemly to gloat.

          • bean says:

            Jeffrey Dahmer

            Interestingly, no. The people who ministered to him in prison said (reports via my parents, who were Church of Christ at the time) that he was genuinely sincere in his repentance, and I thus have to conclude that he made it to Heaven.
            Re John’s larger point, even in my history in pretty literalist churches, Hell is largely minimized. It does get brought up occasionally, but it’s uncomfortable when it does. As for the idea that we’d be happy about people going to Hell, that’s a WBC-level rarity. People going to Hell is bad, and I’m genuinely saddened by the thought of my friends going there.

          • Jiro says:

            People going to Hell is bad, and I’m genuinely saddened by the thought of my friends going there.

            I assume you still believe that sending them to Hell is justice, and not sending them to Hell would be injustice. How can you be saddened by the fact that justice is dispensed instead of injustice?

          • bean says:

            I assume you still believe that sending them to Hell is justice, and not sending them to Hell would be injustice. How can you be saddened by the fact that justice is dispensed instead of injustice?

            I’m saddened that they didn’t take advantage of the monstrous injustice of salvation. I’m sad that they’re going to hell when they could have chosen to go to heaven. I’m not sad that they’re in hell after having chosen to go there. You can be sad that someone committed a crime and is going to jail for it without denying that they should go to jail for the crime.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          It also teaches that you cannot by sheer willpower alone be as good a person as you know you ought to be, which I suppose could be characterized as “self-hatred” by the extremely uncharitable.

          I’ve always thought that the opposite belief would be more likely to result in self-hatred — if people can will themselves to perfection, and you can’t be perfect no matter how hard you try, well then, clearly you’re not just trying hard enough, you little weakling…

        • EarthSeaSky says:

          I’m pretty amazed at all the second hand accusations of strawman. I’d be shocked if any random Christian off the street gave any of the answers that you all seem to be giving about the nature of hell.

          I think part of the issue here is that most of the SSC community doesn’t live in red tribe territory. I grew up an hour outside of Cincinnati, and I was definitely taught that hell was eternal torture by my parents, Sunday school, pastors, and the lovely “lefty” private Catholic school that I went to for middle/high school. Some of the things that you guys are saying (separation from god, etc.) was brought up every now and then, but it was always followed by hasty assurances that this was the most painful thing that a human soul could ever bear.

          Since I can’t reply to comments below directly, I’m just going to do that here.

          So it’s sort of a strawman today to say that Christians scare you with visions of eternal torment, since I don’t think many Christians any longer believe in that idea of Hell, or tell kids that version of Hell in Sunday school. But our popular conception of Hell still comes more from Dante than recent developments in Christian theology, so it is also not implausible that someone, especially children, even today, would come away thinking Hell=place were you are tortured by demons forever.

          When did we start taking theology seriously as an academic discipline? I must have missed that memo.

          C.S. Lewis seems to be pretty popular with American Christians, and his picture of Hell in The Great Divorce contains no demons or torture.

          Counterpoint: the Screwtape Letters.

          I think it’s really disengenuous to argue that fire and brimstone has no place in Christian theology, when the Bible itself explicitly uses language to that effect in multiple places.

          Finally, you lot are painting this with a happy face, so let’s swing by what Pope Francis has to say about the matter:

          “Eternal damnation is not a torture chamber. That’s a description of this second death: it is a death. […] Eternal damnation is continually distancing oneself from God. It is the worst pain, an unsatisfied heart, a heart that was created to find God but which, out of arrogance and self-confidence, distances itself from God.”

          Oh, is that all? I’ll just forever long to fulfill the purpose that I was created for, reliving my dying gasps for all eternity? Well, why didn’t you say so! That’s so warm and fuzzy, it almost makes me glad to be damned for the rest of my existence.

          So, to wrap up:
          1) hell is a place of torture for most Christians
          2) this is a mainstream Christian belief
          3) there is no 3, I literally can’t understand how anyone would seriously think this isn’t the majority belief.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think part of the issue here is that most of the SSC community doesn’t live in red tribe territory. I grew up an hour outside of Cincinnati, and I was definitely taught that hell was eternal torture by my parents, Sunday school, pastors, and the lovely “lefty” private Catholic school that I went to for middle/high school.

            So, Christianity can be adequately described or defined by your personal experience in one small corner of Ohio, and if anyone doesn’t understand this Ugly Truth it is because they are defining Christianity only by their limited personal experience in the wrong sort of community? That’s a mighty selective brand of anecdata you are invoking there.

            For the record, I have attended more Christian churches than I can count in more Christian denominations than I can count, in rural New York, urban Texas, Southern California, West Virginia, Regular Virginia, and Garrison Keillor Minnesota. I have actual young-earth Creationists in my family and among my close friends.

            Hellfire and damnation as a central concern for actual American Christians, is in my rather broad and cross-tribal experience, a 10-20% thing. Maybe you grew up in one of those bubbles, and maybe you still have scars from it. That’s not the only story that matters, and it doesn’t define the reality of a quarter of a billion people.

          • EarthSeaSky says:

            @John Schilling Where did I say that was the only form of Christianity was Biblical ‘extremism’, as you call it? Those are your words.

            You and a boatload of other people in this thread are acting like this group of people doesn’t exist.

            some numbers you pulled straight out of your ass

            Oh please. Get off your high horse you pretentious fuck.

            This is exactly like when people bring up concerns about Islamic terrorism, and then all the concern trolls go on about “painting a quarter of a billion Muslims with the same brush”. No, you are by trying to deny that this group exists.

            Maybe a better phrasing of my 3rd point would have been “I can’t understand how anyone would think this isn’t a widely held belief”, but I stand by everything else I said.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            EarthSeaSky, thank you.

            I was under the impression that being cut off from God’s love was supposed to be very painful (at a minimum, you don’t have earthly comforts and distractions), but you’ve got evidence it’s seen that way.

      • Chalid says:

        I suppose it’s stating the obvious, but it’s worth noting that people in certain conservative religious communities can end up with a lot of self-hatred based around their sexuality, even around very common behaviors like masturbation.

        • Thursday says:

          If things go wrong in such communities, that’s the way they tend to go wrong. But it’s quite another thing to show that that’s how they generally turn out.

        • bean says:

          I’ll agree that the way the church deals with such things is often very poor. Sexual sins are easier to target (there’s a lot less ambiguity about what is and isn’t OK than there is in a lot of sins), which leads to stronger shaming. The general attitude towards such things is probably too strong, as it hampers people getting help, while a lot of other sins (gossip is the classic case) get off really lightly. But that’s an implementation problem, not a fundamental one.
          A question for you. Let’s say that we have a church which stigmatizes gossip as much as current churches stigmatize sexual sin, and doesn’t stigmatize sexual sin. Is this as much of a problem as the current situation? If not, why?

          • Murphy says:

            In terms of the utilitarian view: very little difference. In terms of something like virtue ethics… it seems worse to choose a policy which sentences a minority like gay kids to lifelong guilt and stigma for how they’re born vs targeting something random that affects everyone but isn’t really specific to any group and becomes just yet another random prohibition.

            The former creates an automatic outgroup while most groups are good at ignoring many cases of the latter.

          • bean says:

            @Murphy

            In terms of the utilitarian view: very little difference. In terms of something like virtue ethics… it seems worse to choose a policy which sentences a minority like gay kids to lifelong guilt and stigma for how they’re born vs targeting something random that affects everyone but isn’t really specific to any group and becomes just yet another random prohibition.

            Note that the post I was replying to used masturbation as the example, not homosexuality. I’ll agree that the conservative church’s treatment of gays has been shameful. It’s viewed as a much bigger sin than gossip (or even masturbation) and gays as a group are seriously stigmatized. I’m not saying that it’s not a sin, but it’s a sin just like whatever it was that you (hypothetical conservative Christian you) did today. We should treat it the same.
            I’ve called people out on this a couple of times, and they generally reacted much better than you’d expect. There was sort of a subdued “oops” when they realized that even if they were speaking the truth, it definitely wasn’t in love.
            And I’d contest the idea that gossip is evenly distributed, any more than homosexuality is. Different people have different temptations.

          • Jiro says:

            I’m not saying that it’s not a sin, but it’s a sin just like whatever it was that you (hypothetical conservative Christian you) did today.

            You can say “I think homosexuality is a sin, but no more of a sin than these other sins that are not stigmatized”, but there’s one big difference: Homosexuals aren’t repentant and in fact insist that they are acting perfectly Christian. You don’t see adulterers holding pride parades, nor do you see shoplifters who are otherwise Christian but insist that shoplifting is perfectly compatible with Christianity.

            Wouldn’t that mean that, in practice, you would consider homosexuals within Christianity worse than other sinners within Christianity?

          • Bugmaster says:

            I think that the Church does have a fundamental problem with the way it treats sexuality — in that it condemns certain behaviours (by labeling them as “sinful”), and even certain thoughts, for reasons that look rather arbitrary to a non-Christian.

            For example, many Christian denominations treat masturbation as a sin, on par with theft or bearing false witness; but unlike theft or bearing false witness, masturbation has few of any negative consequences on this Material Plane (one can argue that it can turn into an addiction, but then, so can any other behaviour). On top of that, Christianity states that merely thinking of another person as sexy may be sinful, regardless or not of whether you ever act on those feelings. This creates a self-perpetuating cycle of guilt that can, IMO, be quite damaging.

            Of course, the same can be said of homosexuality, or perhaps BDSM; but masturbation and lust are IMO much more clear-cut examples, since only ~8% of the population are gay, whereas about 99.9% of people have sexy thoughts now and then.

          • Murphy says:

            @bean

            Fair enough.

            I do think that people tend to view it as a hierarchy of sins and tend to class the ones other people do as worse while classing their own as tending to barely count.

            of course not always. Some people do wrap themselves up in trivial guilts. I remember finding it heartbreaking when my dementia-addled grandmother was dying. She was a woman who seemed to have spent her whole life devoted to caring for others and being generally kind and well-meaning but she died clutching rosary beads crying believing she was going to hell to “burn”. She wasn’t very coherent for months before her death but being sure she was going to hell but not sure why was a common theme.

            It’s why I mention the utilitarian view, it’s still not morally great to load people down with ll those little guilts for trivial things.

          • bean says:

            @Jiro:

            You can say “I think homosexuality is a sin, but no more of a sin than these other sins that are not stigmatized”, but there’s one big difference: Homosexuals aren’t repentant and in fact insist that they are acting perfectly Christian. You don’t see adulterers holding pride parades, nor do you see shoplifters who are otherwise Christian but insist that shoplifting is perfectly compatible with Christianity.

            The Church has made two different responses to homosexuality:
            1. Treating it as the worst sin, and stigmatizing it to the point where even in an otherwise very good church, where other sins are discussed fairly openly, at least one family of my acquaintance has decided not to disclose that one of their kids is gay, because of the potential for drama. (Said kid has selected option 2.)
            2. Treat it as not being a sin.
            Both of these are bad responses, but frankly churches which pick Option 2 are way off the rails in other ways, too. Female clergy, premartial sex, abortion, and other heretical positions.

            Wouldn’t that mean that, in practice, you would consider homosexuals within Christianity worse than other sinners within Christianity?

            Even if they are (debatable), what the conservative church needs right now is to go out of our way to treat them well, without minimizing the sinfulness of what they’re doing.

            @Bugmaster:

            I think that the Church does have a fundamental problem with the way it treats sexuality — in that it condemns certain behaviours (by labeling them as “sinful”), and even certain thoughts, for reasons that look rather arbitrary to a non-Christian.

            I’ll agree that they look arbitrary to a non-Christian, but I would point out that if God exists and is omnipotent and we are not, it’s almost tautological that he would put restrictions in place which don’t make sense to us. Saying that because it doesn’t make sense, it must be wrong seems to be the height of arrogance, a sort of supercharged version of ignoring Chesterton’s Fence. Not only do we not know why the fence is there, we know that the person who put it up is smarter than us.

            @Murphy:

            I do think that people tend to view it as a hierarchy of sins and tend to class the ones other people do as worse while classing their own as tending to barely count.

            I’ll agree that this happens, and that it’s not correct.

            of course not always. Some people do wrap themselves up in trivial guilts.

            This is one of the many reasons I’m not Catholic.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @bean:
            Your point is entirely correct, but IMO somewhat tangential. You appear to agree that the Christian religion promotes lifetime guilt and increases mental suffering (at least, as compared to the secular alternative); however, you argue that this is not an arbitrary act, but rather, a necessary cost that must be paid in order to gain increased benefits in the afterlife (or possibly spiritual benefits in this life). However, our discussion so far was solely about the mental suffering in this world, on the Material Plane / mortal coil / however you want to name it.

            The problem with spiritual benefits is that they are invisible to anyone who is not a Christian. From a non-Christian perspective, it doesn’t look like a Chesterton’s fence. It looks like there’s a fork in the road, where the left path leads to a beautiful meadow full of fruit trees, and the right path leads to a ravine full of jagged rocks and poison ivy. Lots of secular people take the left fork, and enjoy the fruits in the meadow. The Christian stands at the crossroads, and tries to steer people toward the right fork, because, according to him, there’s an invisible dragon in the meadow who is going to eat everyone there any day now — despite being completely undetectable, and in fact totally absent for thousands of years. Sometimes, additional Christians join the first Christian, and instead of shouting at passersby they begin arguing with each other regarding the exact shape of the invisible dragon’s teeth.

          • bean says:

            @bugmaster:

            You appear to agree that the Christian religion promotes lifetime guilt and increases mental suffering (at least, as compared to the secular alternative);

            No, I don’t agree. I’m forgiven for the things I did. A little bit of guilt, the bit that reminds you that you failed, is important, so long as you also remember that you’re forgiven, and don’t allow the guilt to rule. Excessive feelings of guilt and self-hatred are of the Devil.

            however, you argue that this is not an arbitrary act, but rather, a necessary cost that must be paid in order to gain increased benefits in the afterlife (or possibly spiritual benefits in this life).

            It’s tautologically obvious that if you don’t think you’re doing the wrong thing, you’re not going to mentally suffer over it. But if all we care about it minimizing mental suffering, we’d simply remove any chance of guilt by allowing everything. Or maybe not, because things like adultery, theft and murder cause mental suffering to others, too. Some mental suffering over things you’ve done is good, in the sense that the consequences of removing it are worse.
            With that said, the problem seems to come to ‘Christianity is imposing additional and arbitrary guilt on people for things which aren’t actually bad’. This is where my point about Chesterton’s Fence comes in. I can’t see how I can take my religion seriously without also defending the parts which don’t make sense to me.

            However, our discussion so far was solely about the mental suffering in this world, on the Material Plane / mortal coil / however you want to name it.

            Obviously, I can’t win that debate on a theological/philosophical level, so I’m not even going to try. 1 Cor 15:19.
            On an empirical level, I’d point out that religious people are mentally healthier, which is exactly the opposite of what you’d expect if all we’re doing is getting guilt.

          • ” Not only do we not know why the fence is there, we know that the person who put it up is smarter than us.”

            Provided one believes both that that person exists and that we have a reliable account of what he wants. Many people disagree with the first, many others agree with the first but disagree on the account.

          • Jiro says:

            Even if they are (debatable), what the conservative church needs right now is to go out of our way to treat them well, without minimizing the sinfulness of what they’re doing.

            The point is that since homosexuals are unrepentant, and Christians who masturbate or shoplift or whatever are repentant, it seems like Christianity mandates thinking of homosexuality (in practice) as worse than other sins (in practice).

          • bean says:

            The point is that since homosexuals are unrepentant, and Christians who masturbate or shoplift or whatever are repentant, it seems like Christianity mandates thinking of homosexuality (in practice) as worse than other sins (in practice).

            I get your point, but unrepentant is not a necessary feature of homosexuality. It’s downplayed by most of those who are repentant, and those who aren’t find churches which don’t condemn it.
            My point is that even if it is a greater sin (and I suspect that there are lots of other unrepentant sinners in churches, it’s just harder to see them elsewhere, even leaving aside if degrees of sinfulness are meaningful), tactical concerns mean that we need to be as loving as we possibly can be. No, giving up the fundamental sinfulness of the act isn’t loving, but including statements from 1960s-era reports on how violent homosexuals are in Sunday School presentations definitely isn’t either. (Yes, I actually saw that.)

          • Randy M says:

            The unrepentant homosexual, (or fornicator, or etc.), may say “this isn’t a sin,” but the unrepentant thief or liar (etc.) may say “what I did isn’t stealing or lying because x”. Not sure if there is a difference there, other than maybe the ease of persuading others.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        You mean aside from the Christian portions, right?

        I mean, it depends on the branch, no?

        The Catholics seems like the most self-hating among Christians, and they’re also the leftier ones.

        • bean says:

          The Catholics seems like the most self-hating among Christians, and they’re also the leftier ones.

          You’re projecting the political spectrum into places it doesn’t belong. There’s a definite left-right divide among the Protestant churches, but the Catholics are separate on an axis orthogonal to the normal political one. So far as they can be reduced to a position on the left-right spectrum, they’re definitely on the right.

        • Thursday says:

          A lot of Catholic reputation for self-hating seems to come out of Irish Catholicism and its extended dominance over Catholicism in the U.S. I don’t get the same impression from Italian or Latin American Catholicism.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            That’s a very good point, and I wish I’d thought of it. (ETA: And I don’t think that Catholics in the UK have the reputation of hating themselves either, or if they do, it’s due to cultural osmosis from the US.)

            Of course, now that you mention it, the Irish (and hence US) Catholic Church was strongly influenced by Jansenism, a kind of Catholic Calvinism which emphasised very strongly doctrines like original sin and total depravity, so much so that they got slapped down by the Pope a couple of times for having heterodox tendencies. Now it makes sense that Calvinism and beliefs similar to Calvinism might send people a bit crazy (the idea that God might have predestined you to Hell and there’s literally nothing you can do or could ever have done to avoid it it pretty scary, after all), but these have never been mainstream beliefs in the Catholic Church as a whole.

      • Cold Black Mirror says:

        Quick chime-in from a catholic christian who does not hate himself. A more sanguine presentation of the dilemma might follow an arc like this:

        “I have diabetes (or whatever). I don’t hate it, am not even bitter about it, but it’ll eventually take me down anyway. The world’s best Doctor has invented a cure that costs zero $$$ and will give me a life-time supply.”

        Self-hatred is indeed dysfunctional and soul-destroying, but I haven’t caught the habit yet. I prefer something like the above, with all due respect to the unconvinced.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Being from a more orthodox background I object to the notion that salvation costs nothing. But agree with the framing of sin as a disease/affliction.

    • tgb says:

      What I don’t understand is how anyone thought they could get away with plagiarizing the article they were reviewing? It’s a crime that you must, inherently, include your name on after wards, and for which the journal has evidence that it happened (the original copy to be peer reviewed and knowledge of who the peer reviewers were). As far as I can tell from the letter, the only things changed were authors and institutions: fifth graders put more effort into their plagiarism than this. (They apparently also added a new, fabricated cohort of subjects, which is equally egregious.)

      It also brings to question whether there should be some effort to find plagiarism on the part of the journals. There are standard software packages to detect highschoolers’ plagiarism. Though this might just up the ante and make people disguise their plagiarism.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        One account mentioned that the article was plagiarized into an obscure journal, presumably to have a cite to add to the resume.

        It’s stupid to think that the original author wouldn’t keep up with research related to their topic, but people have been known to be stupid.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Wow– I’ve never started such a long thread and I wasn’t expecting it to happen this time.

      That being said, my angle on this is more about the time when I told someone that I’m impressed with America for being so much less anti-Semitic than Europe, and getting answered with racism.

      To my mind, there’s a vortex on the left that pulls people away from any praise of America.

      Yes I know there’s still anti-Semitism in the US, some of it deadly, but there’s still a remarkable improvement. I’m curious about whether this improvement is purely historically contingent, or if there’s something about it which can be duplicated to cut way back on other prejudices.

      • Brad says:

        Going back to the original post: the two parts of it have nothing to do with each other, right? I’ve been trying to figure out what the plagiarism thing has to do with self hatred and coming up empty.

      • BBA says:

        I’ve sometimes thought that racism explains the relative lack of antisemitism in America. In Europe Jews were the despised minority and those feelings are hard to displace from a culture, while in America there was already a the despised minority when we arrived and after a few decades we became “white enough.”

        Following this line of thought, the only way to escape oppression is to become an oppressor. Pretty damn bleak but I haven’t got a counterexample.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          It’s certainly possible to hold more than one prejudice at the same time.

          Here’s a somewhat more cheerful explanation.

          Protestants want to distinguish themselves from Catholics. One way of doing this is by being more anti-Semitic, and the other is by being less anti-Semitic.

          Another possibility is that America was founded at a time when religious tolerance was seen as a cool thing (the Thirty Years War was a vivid example of what you could get if you weren’t religiously tolerant), so it was possible to have a reset button on the subject.

    • Iain says:

      I do find it moderately amusing that the original post’s implication that the left wing teaches self-hatred has received literally zero pushback, while the suggestion that the same claim might apply to some versions of Christianity has people up in arms.

      It is undeniable that Christianity leads some people into deep personal self-loathing. You can argue that they are interpreting it wrong. I probably even agree. But aside from a few over-scrupulous men who get tied up in anxious knots by (I would argue similarly inaccurate) interpretations of feminism, who are the equivalent self-haters on the left?

      The case for self-hating Christians certainly doesn’t seem any weaker than the case for self-hating leftists. But only one of those claims gets any pushback here.

      • Randy M says:

        Is this the case where you aren’t using literally literally, or should I link HBC’s skeptical comment above?

        • Iain says:

          Oh, you’re right. I forgot about that one. I skimmed through the thread before making the claim, but must have missed it.

          I think my point is still clear, though.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Eh.

          It was pushback, but of the most anodyne sort. And I was the only one.

          Not sure whether that mean people are unanimous in rejecting the proposal, or accepting it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I think it’s pretty clear that certain reasonably common versions of Christianity encourage self-hatred — everyone’s a sinner, everyone’s not worthy, and everyone should feel bad about it. But as to exact percentages, I have no idea.

          • Anonymous says:

            “Feeling bad” is not the same as “self-hatred”.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I think it kinda does, but maybe you have a different sense than what I’m thinking of.

            I was raised Roman Catholic, and one of the common beliefs was that we were all born with original sin, inherited from Adam and Eve. Because of that, we were all going to hell by default – except we were all saved by Christ. In addition, we were all virtually certain to be sinners in various ways.

            Is this self-hatred? Arguably so. Looked at from another angle, we were all taught humility about ourselves, and humility is considered a virtue. So we were all taught to view ourselves unfavorably, but could then claim a little positivity by way of our being humble (assuming it was genuine).

            Having left the RC faith around college, I still thought many of their virtues were worth keeping. More on topic, I know a lot of them, and they’re generally pretty happy people AFAICT, modulo those who suffer typical human hardship.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You guys are missing my point (and Randy M.’s)

            I pushed back against the idea that the left teaches self-hatred (at least in any way that is meaningfully different from what the right teaches).

            Eh.

            “Real”(tm) America hates the godless, liberal, hippies that live in the corrupt and decadent cities. What is “Make America Great Again” other than professing a belief that America is not great?

            Honestly, I think the idea that liberals “hate” America in some sort of unique way is convenient for people to push as narrative, but I don’t think there is any “there” there.

          • Aapje says:

            @HBC

            I think that there may be some confusion here, where some people talk about self-hatred in the context of society (‘is our culture harmful’) and others in a more personal context (‘am I a sinner’).

            I would argue that most orthodox religious believers and SJ believers consider people sinners by default and believe that it is much harder for people to do the right thing than the wrong thing. I think that this can be considered ‘encouraging self-hatred.’

            I also think that SJ believers tend to have a a very negative view of society as a whole, but here there is also a strong similarity with orthodox religious believers who think that we have turned away from faith, etc.

            However, my (subjective) view is that the red tribe has more diversity in these matters: there are more red tribers who reject the orthodox religious views than blue tribers who reject the SJ beliefs about ‘sin.’

            On the other hand, mainstream SJ tends to teach large groups that they are pure victims and cannot be sinners, while orthodox religious views tends to not make exceptions.

            So…

          • HeelBearCub says:

            On the other hand, mainstream SJ tends to teach large groups that they are pure victims and cannot be sinners

            This is the exact kind of uncharitable, blanket, reductive, distorted and accusatory statement that I find to be common here.

            I know what you are referring to, or at least I assume I do. Your are missing both the meaning of implicit bias (a concept that rationalist adjacent folks should be quite sympathetic to) and structural racism.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I’m confused why you think that implicit bias and structural racism are counterpoints to my statements, so you probably misunderstand me.

            The mainstream SJ point of view seems to be that:
            – There is structural/systematic oppression which is one-directional. White people do things that structurally hurt black people, but not vice versa. Men do things that structurally hurt women, but not vice versa. Let’s call this type 1.
            – There is incidental abuse which is multi-directional. A woman can hit a man and this hurts that specific man, but this is not contributing to structural oppression of men. Let’s call this type 2.

            The existence of type 1, means that all people in an oppressor group get unearned privilege, which they ought to be ashamed to have. As there is implicit bias, which no one can escape, they cannot avoid being sexist/racist/etc. Also, because people tend to be blind to their privilege, they often cannot see their privilege, so any accusation by an oppressed group person that goes against their own judgement, is probably right. When interacting with an oppressed group person, there is a high chance that they ‘sin.’

            In contract, people in an oppressed group cannot be guilty of type 1 oppression against a person who is in the oppressor group, merely of type 2 abuse. However, this is not on the group level and doesn’t contribute to kind of collective self-hatred that is being discussed here.

            So…my argument is that mainstream SJ teaches people that a certain identity/group are collectively sinners, while other groups are not.

            In contrast, Christianity, Islam, etc teaches that all people are sinners. There is no inherent hierarchy where certain groups are more prone to sinning than others.

            In practice this means that in certain contexts, like a black person talking to a white person, mainstream SJ pushes self-hatred on the white person, but not on the black person. More specifically, the white person is pushed to feel that in this interaction, he can unwittingly do something to perpetuate the oppression of black people as a group and the black person is pushed to believe that he cannot do anything in that interaction which harms white people as a group.

            So, HBC, do you agree that the feelings of the white person in this scenario can be classified as ‘self-hatred?’ Do you agree with me that mainstream SJ teachings foster these feelings in people with an oppressor identity?

          • Randy M says:

            I think it was because nobody had good evidence or personal experience being a self-hating liberal (although Faceless Craven comes to mind?) and couldn’t push the point, while lots of people know religious people or former and have considerable opinion on the temporal merits of it, none of them too close to objective.

            In other words, I think your measured objection was effective. That thread didn’t really continue past it, did it? (Or rather, it seems to be now, between you and aapje, but rather productively.)

            FWIW, I’d say the ctrl-left (or should I stick to sjw? or far left?) does encourage hatred, but not so much self-hatred. There’s plenty of ways for the devout to separate themselves from the cis-het-white-gentile-male-uneducated oppressors.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        I do find it moderately amusing that the original post’s implication that the left wing teaches self-hatred has received literally zero pushback

        Well, it’s like with christianity, it depends on the brand of leftism too. I certainly wouldn’t disagree with the claim that some branches of Christianity promote self-hatred, it’s part of the reason SJ is so often compared to a religion.

      • Tekhno says:

        Gets pushback from some people here. I find agreement with both claims. Left wing identity politics and Fundamentalist Christianity are both chock full of self-haters.

      • liskantope says:

        I once met a white woman who seemed torn up with guilt over the fact that she almost never hung out with black people (she was a graduate student and we were at a big grad student party — IME there tends to be a dearth of African-Americans at those). She hated herself for not having dated any black men and even claimed that it is racist for a white person to be in a relationship with another white person. Upon being pressed, she tied herself up in knots by claiming for consistency that gay men are sexist for sleeping only with other men as well. I believe these viewpoints would definitely clarify as “self-hatred on the left”, but hopefully this woman was very exceptional. I’m actually not sure whether she’s more exceptional than the “few overly-scrupulous men” referred to above, though.

        • dndnrsn says:

          How much had she had to drink? If this happened at a grad student party (where grad students drink to console themselves)… People can come up with some ideas they do not believe in the sober light of day. Given that I don’t know how much this could be used as an example.

          • liskantope says:

            I don’t know for sure how much she’d had to drink, but she came across as sober. Alcohol was in generous supply, but my impression is that most people at this party weren’t drunk.

          • Protagoras says:

            Grad students are often experienced drinkers, and experienced drinkers are sometimes better at hiding how impaired they are.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Some people are really hard to spot. There are people I know really well where it’s scary – they seem basically fine, no motor skills issues or slurring their words or anything, and then they turn on a dime and become argumentative, make horrible decisions, etc, and you realize “wow, they are wasted”.

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          In haste….

          Steve Sailer once posted on his blog about a story in one of Obama’s autobiographies about his grandparents in Hawaii. His grandmother was afraid to take the bus to work because of a rough-looking man who was often at the bus stop. Obama’s grandfather refused to drive her to work because he thought she was being racist because the man was Black. The grandfather got very upset and would not cooperate on any plan till Obama offered to drive her “till she gets over her fear of Blacks”.

          Apparently this sort of conflict was common in thier famiy. I’ve seen this sort of people called ‘white guilt liberals’; there might be some overlap here with ‘self-loathing’.

      • Brad says:

        I do find it moderately amusing that the original post’s implication that the left wing teaches self-hatred has received literally zero pushback, while the suggestion that the same claim might apply to some versions of Christianity has people up in arms.

        Likewise. All this outrage that people are painting Christians with a broad brush and demand for evidence that the claimed subset is a large portion of the total. Where are all these posters when broad unsubstantiated claims are made about “the left”, academia, feminists or one of the other favored punching bags of the SSC commentariat?

        • John Schilling says:

          In a secret tribal hideout equal and opposite to the one you hang out in when people are offering broad and unsubstantiated defamation of e.g. Christianity. Duh.

          Ours is a cave underneath a stately manor in one of New York’s finer suburbs, with an assortment of impractically specific gadgetry left by the previous owner. Your is I believe a solitary crystalline fortress somewhere in the arctic north? The commute must be a bitch.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Given New York area traffic, the commute to the crystalline fortress is actually easier. Provided you have the advantages the original owner had, anyway.

          • Brad says:

            Scott said doesn’t want this place to continue transforming into a right wing echo chamber. When you have a huge dog-pile against anyone that dares say anything slightly negative about Christians and one or two solitary voices calling out the rampant, evidence free, ranting and raving about so-called social justice warriors, then you are going to get evaporative cooling.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Scott said doesn’t want this place to continue transforming into a right wing echo chamber. When you have a huge dog-pile against anyone that dares say anything slightly negative about Christians and one or two solitary voices calling out the rampant, evidence free, ranting and raving about so-called social justice warriors, then you are going to get evaporative cooling.

            So what exactly do you propose we do, forbid people from defending x if not enough people defended y in another, previous, discussion?

          • Tekhno says:

            All this outrage

            How much “outrage” exactly is there? Other people are discussing the issue and you are getting annoyed at it.

            Scott said doesn’t want this place to continue transforming into a right wing echo chamber.

            Then:
            Moon
            HeelBearCub
            Spookykou
            BBA
            rlms
            Mark
            dndnrsn
            hyperboloid
            John Nerst
            Stefan Drinic
            tmk
            superordinance
            Iain
            stillnotking
            erenold
            ChetC3
            nimim.k.m
            Earthly Knight
            Immanentizing Eschatons
            Glen Raphael

            …Are all invited to provide pushback. If the same five extreme right wingers start dogpiling, then the posters who identify as left wing can add more dogs to the pile.

            Scott could introduce a “no dogpiling” rule but I imagine it would result in most threads containing only two posters.

          • Protagoras says:

            I didn’t make the list of left-wingers? I’m hurt! I suppose I don’t post enough.

          • Spookykou says:

            This seems to come up all the time on here.

            It is very hard for me to get emotionally upset when people insult or snark on the left.

            IMO the right already lost, they lost a long time ago, liberals/left already control every place I would ever want to be.

            Just look at the map by districts which voted Dem vs Rep, I can’t imagine why I would ever want to visit a single red district on that whole list(natural landmarks aside), much less live there.

            If I went to my dream college(s), got my dream job(s), and actually managed to do something worthwhile with my life, I would be surrounded by liberals at every turn.

            I am often confused honestly when some of the other liberal on here seem to take it so personally, the whole reason I am here is to read this kind of stuff, If I did not actively seek it out, I don’t think I would ever see an intellectually held position to the right of myself. If every now and then I have to read some random ‘the left eats babies’ comment, well I just can’t muster the energy to be outraged about it.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @Protagoras

            Seeing as I generally enjoy your posts; No, you don’t post enough.

          • rlms says:

            @Spookykou
            Are you aware who the next President will be?

          • Spookykou says:

            @rlms

            I am not sure why I am supposed to be nervous about Trump, with regard to what I said.

            Sure I think he is a boob and I doubt he will be a good president, but I don’t see what that has to do with liberal control of all the places I would ever actually want to be?

            What implication am I supposed to be getting from a Trump presidency that I am missing here?

          • Aapje says:

            @Spookykou (a response to your earlier post)

            I think that the lack of interaction with others is exactly why. In the bubble, everything is obvious and people broadly agree which way to go for utopia. The dissenters are obviously old white men who cling to their guns until they die and then Utopia will come in the form of multicultural paradise.

            And then an election happens and the bubble is pierced.

            You see the exact same thing on the right, at sites like Breitbart. The comment section there is also full of ‘it’s all so obvious, why don’t they get it?!?!!’

            The saddest/amusing part is that both sides see the grey tribe as the enemy/part of other side. I would argue that there are way more grey tribers than red tribers here.

          • Randy M says:

            That the right is in control of the entire country, obviously.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ rlms

            Spooky did specify “intellectually held” positions. 😛

            Personally I would like to see more “intellectually held” left wing positions as challenges IMO keep one honest. In fact I would assert that perceived weakness of left wing principals and much of resultant wailing and gnashing of teeth is a result of an apparent failure to remember that the opposition is allowed to be clever too.

          • Brad says:

            @Tekhno
            The solution is not equalized dogpiling or a ban on dogpiling. It’s a ban on evidence-free ranting and raving about, not to mention constant strawmaning and weakmanning of, so-called social justice warriors, progressives, the left, feminists, etc.

            Scott has to pick whether he is more interested in: providing a safe space for those with real or perceived grudges against the “blue tribe” to unload their rage, or one that includes non-trivial numbers of participants from that tribe. Trying to do both isn’t going to work. Maybe it all rolls off Spookykou, but that’s pretty unusual.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Brad

            It’s not that it doesn’t bother me at all, I even complained about a particularly low effort left bashing comment a few threads ago, I don’t think they add anything to the conversation and ideally I come to SSC for the conversation. It is mostly my, possibly totally unwarranted, confidence that the left already won, that at the end of the day their words and protests are the hollow cries of a dying thing.

            Cthulhu will swim on, and I am happy to be pulled along in its wake.

          • Randy M says:

            I assume, Brad, that this is a complaint you are bringing in from beyond just this thread, as I can’t seem to find any instances of rage in this thread. Or are you seeing some here? Can you give an example of “outrage” or “rage”? Perhaps this is just different communications styles; I see some polite conversation and probably a bit of defensiveness. Occasionally a questioning of experience which doesn’t approach a personal attack, and a lack of ranting or raving.

            Nancy’s bit that started it about self-hating liberals was a generalization without backing of examples or data (unless it’s in the links, but argument via links without discussion of the conclusions therein doesn’t make for great discussion fora etiquette, imo), which is not terribly convincing. Here’s how you can respond: “Say, that generalization isn’t being supported by evidence. Can you either back it up or retract it?”

          • Spookykou says:

            Well… linked this down thread, and the interviews in it perfectly comport with my view of Trump voters.

            It reinforces all of the beliefs I stated earlier, as to the culture war and what a Trump presidency means, in terms of the culture war.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Spookykou

            As an aside, I enjoyed reading that. Thanks for the link.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Scott has to pick whether he is more interested in: providing a safe space for those with real or perceived grudges against the “blue tribe” to unload their rage, or one that includes non-trivial numbers of participants from that tribe. Trying to do both isn’t going to work. Maybe it all rolls off Spookykou, but that’s pretty unusual.

            I believe the expectation around here is that we’re all supposed to police ourselves. If we’re relying on Scott to warn and ban us, we’re Doing It Wrong.

            After all, we supposedly came here for rational discussion, and we furthermore believe that rationality isn’t monopolized by any one side of the American political mob. We’re supposed to want less lazy ranting and bellyaching, etc.

            So for my part, given that I believe the above, the question I ponder is how to get that rational side of political viewpoints that I don’t agree with, while offering the same. In a large sense, I think this question is asked and answered.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Randy M

            There’s a great deal of weakmanning around here of various positions on the left except perhaps a certain strand of left-wing libertarianism. There’s also a great deal of equivocation/ignorance about terms. “Liberal” and “leftist” get used synonymously, people who are liberals get described as leftists and vice versa, “radical” gets misused, etc. The presence (perhaps not the volume, but certainly the numbers) of some parts of the left in the left as a whole is exaggerated.

            Overall, the standards for sloppiness are lower for talking about stuff on the political left than the standards usually are here. This primarily affects people being talked about in the third person – I haven’t, say, been accused of holding a position I don’t, which happens for, say, some person in the papers, but that’s just my experience.

          • ““Liberal” and “leftist” get used synonymously, people who are liberals get described as leftists and vice versa, “radical” gets misused”

            I cannot tell from this what you think the words mean.

            I would have said that, in the modern American context, “liberal” and “leftist” don’t have definitions that clearly distinguish them, although it’s clear that some people consider themselves leftists and not liberals. In the 19th century, “liberal” meant about what “libertarian” now means and it still has some of that meaning in Europe.

            A radical, to me, is someone who proposes fundamental changes. One can be a radical libertarian, a radical egalitarian, a radical socialist.

          • Randy M says:

            @dndnrsn (are you a D&D nurse?)
            And none of that rises to rage, does it? Certainly not this thread. I agree precision in language is important, especially for complex discussions that occur here. While we try to disentangle liberal from leftist from sjw, let’s not conflate “rant and rage” with “calm if sometimes fallacious disagreement.” *

            *There are some posters I’ve begun to skim over more, but I read over this thread more carefully before posting here; maybe there’s valid complaints elsewhere, but again, precision. If you want to be effective, anyway.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            The American meaning of a lot of political terms and symbols is all wacky. How many countries does red mean right and blue mean left? And yes, that is what I mean by radical. People who do not propose radical change get called radicals all the time – I would prefer that this not happen, because it’s sloppy and prevents clear communication. It’s very weird to see a middle-of-the-road liberal feminist get called a “radical feminist”.

            @Randy M

            Brad mentioned strawmanning and weakmanning as well. I think that in general there is a surprising degree of sloppiness. I wouldn’t say it rises to rage much – my high-water mark for rage against the left is mainstream Republican forums in the mid-2000s, personally.

          • Randy M says:

            It’s very weird to see a middle-of-the-road liberal feminist get called a “radical feminist”.

            Once the radical change has taken place, are these people now conservatives, or does that take a generation where they are merely moderate feminists?
            Like, if we did reparations, would the people who supported it still be radical anti-racists (grant for a moment that conjunction) if they now felt all was right?
            Is every term merely relative to the eternal now?
            (Not advocating for anything here)

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Randy M

            A radical feminist is someone who really wants to tear down society and rebuild it along feminist lines. You’ve got mid-20th century radical feminists who were in all seriousness discussing straight-up utopian stuff: abolishing families, raising all children in common, that sort of thing. The feminists who have won/are winning are the liberal feminists, who were focused on changing the system.

            A radical anti-racist would be calling for changing society in big and really disruptive ways, and might well consider reparations to just be shifting money around.

            There are, of course, people who call themselves radicals who are not actually radicals – but they like to think of themselves as such.

          • Brad says:

            I assume, Brad, that this is a complaint you are bringing in from beyond just this thread, as I can’t seem to find any instances of rage in this thread.

            If you, correctly, assume this then why go on to write more paragraphs and another post that refute something you’ve assumed wasn’t intended?

          • Randy M says:

            Because, given that you brought it up here, and I wasn’t sure we’d share criteria for raging forum posts, hench the request for confirmation in the sentence after the one you quoted.
            “Or are you seeing some here?”
            That is why. I don’t see much rage on this forum, so I don’t quite get your complaint. But, I can go back to ignoring it if trying to understand it comes off so poorly.

          • Brad says:

            That all depends on whose ox is being gored. The SJWs demand I keep all my beliefs about the issues they care about to myself or face permanent excommunication from the workforce and society. To put that more concretely, they would have me die in the street because I openly disagreed with them. If what it takes to stop them is a narcissistic clown as President, then a clown it is.

            Even this is probably too charitable, imo.

            If SJWs could build a mind-reading device and broadcast it large-scale over the entire population for the express purpose of “outing” racists – they would. They absolutely do not think people should “believe what they want.” Certain beliefs are correct and other beliefs are evil and the only thing holding them back from hurting everyone with the evil beliefs is their inability to detect who is who – but lord knows they’re trying, and coming up with increasingly broad categories in order to classify (hence, all the articles suggesting how it’s impossible to vote for Trump without being a racist)

            Almost every single person I have ever met, or seen, or seen evidence of, that believes it is “harmless snark” when aimed at men also believes it is horrifying, perilous, bigoted, and harmful when aimed at women. Those people are sexist, and are why sexism will never get better, ever, and life will never be worth tolerating, ever.

          • Randy M says:

            Thanks for providing examples.

            The first two don’t seem like rage. Strawmen, then? The quotes are imputing motives based on behavior, and extrapolating end goals. I guess it is better to assume the ones they talk about don’t realize that firing people for taboo words will lead them to either starve or recant?

            I can see them bothering you if you think they lump you (as, I assume, some intellectually serious leftist) in with those activists who use social media to pressure corporations to though police their employees.
            (The third guy seems rather depressed about it, but hopefully that’s hyperbole.)

            There needs to be a term for leftist activists that use social & economic pressure to attempt to enforce very specific speech and though taboos, because this is a phenomenon that exists, and that way we can keep from painting the entire left with that behavior while still discussing it when it occurs or is relevant (and I’ll grant that some posters will bemoan it more than it is). SJW works for this unless you have something better.

          • Brad says:

            Just as a follow up, I wasn’t trying to be mocking with my reference to a safe space. There are people who genuinely feel oppressed by the “blue tribe”. I might disagree with the reasonableness of their perceptions, but not with the genuineness of their feelings. And people that feel oppressed do sometimes want to scream to the world and get affirmation in return rather than demands for evidence and calls to be charitable. There is a legit need for a place where that can happen, I just would hope this isn’t it.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m certainly not going to argue for it to be. Push back with all your impassioned rhetoric, piercing logic, and abounding evidence, please.

          • stillnotking says:

            @ Tekhno:

            I don’t push back much about criticism of the (broadly construed) left because I think a lot of that criticism is both warranted and urgently necessary. I provide some of it myself.

            The Republicans have a lock on all levels of government right now. It’s insane that more liberals aren’t asking ourselves what we might be doing wrong, rather than reflexively defending the positions and attitudes that brought us to this sorry pass. One reason I like SSC is that this isn’t likely to be dismissed as “concern trolling”, and I can read right-wing perspectives that seem mostly honest, too.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Randy M.
            imputing motives based on behavior, and extrapolating end goals

            That’s a pretty neat description, useful on many subjects and occasions — but it needs to be snappier. Any ideas?

        • lurking class nero says:

          It is simply preposterous for liberals or minorities to feel anxiety or fear regarding the incoming presidential administration.

          it is eminently reasonable to spend two years pushing panic on pigeon-hearted peers because a single CEO in California was pressured to resign.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It is simply preposterous for liberals or minorities to feel anxiety or fear regarding the incoming presidential administration.

            Depends on the minority. Illegal immigrants of any sort should certainly feel anxiety or fear; increasing deportation seems like the part of Trump’s plan he’s most likely to make an effort to deliver on. Muslims here on a temporary visa have good reason to worry as well. Muslims who are permanent residents or citizens have less reason to worry but it’s still not unreasonable.

            People here on an H-1B might have reason to worry, though I consider Trump doing anything about it to be unlikely (his talk has gone both ways and at the end of they day, disgruntled American tech workers aren’t his constituency. The other big category is nurses which might be more important to him). Those on a visa (e.g. a B-1) used to work around H-1B quotas should probably plan to go home.

            Black people, gay people, transgender people, Latinos (citizens and legal residents), etc…. the amount of fear about issues related specifically to them is far out of proportion to anything one might expect Trump to do. He’s not even going to roll back gay marriage, let alone re-institute segregation. Same with women; while he’s personally lewd, nothing about his past suggests he’s going to be putting women back in the kitchen.

            it is eminently reasonable to spend two years pushing panic on pigeon-hearted peers because a single CEO in California was pressured to resign.

            I’ve gone and listed other public cases before (including Nobel laureate Tim Hunt). And those of us once on the front lines know there are others not so famous.

      • Jaskologist says:

        The case was alluded to at the very beginning. There have been many studies looking at the relationship between religion and mental health, and they overwhelmingly come out in favor of religion. For example:

        Studies among adults reveal fairly consistent relationships between levels of religiosity and depressive disorders that are significant and inverse. Religious factors become more potent as life stress increases. Koenig and colleagues highlight the fact that before 2000, more than 100 quantitative studies examined the relationships between religion and depression. Of 93 observational studies, two-thirds found lower rates of depressive disorder with fewer depressive symptoms in persons who were more religious. In 34 studies that did not find a similar relationship, only 4 found that being religious was associated with more depression. Of 22 longitudinal studies, 15 found that greater religiousness predicted mild symptoms and faster remission at follow-up.

        It’s just that lots of people wanted to talk instead about how belief in Hell proves Christianity is worse for mental health if you assume perfectly spherical cows.

        (PS: Belief in Hell is good for the economy. Paging Trump’s stimulus team. Maybe we can even use this to balance out decreased immigration!)

  6. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I tried using the notify me of follow-up comments checkbox, but it gave me all the new comments for the post rather than for one thread. Is there any way to get notified of just the comments in a thread or just the comments to me?

  7. tscharf says:

    I have no idea what a white nationalist really is, if I am one, or whether I should be insulted if I am called one. I think nationalism is kind of being used in place of patriotism now because it sounds less virtuous.

    Nationalist: a person who advocates political independence for a country. or a person with strong patriotic feelings, especially one who believes in the superiority of their country over others.

    I believe its use in the media is usually as a racial epithet. What I think we have here is an example of the motte and bailey doctrine? As our host pointed out in an earlier post the number of people who are promoting for a “superiority of a white only nation” is tiny. The media is flooding the zone here and they are less than careful about connecting this term with Trump supporters in general.

    It seems to be a very recent and very sharp spike of interest.
    https://www.google.com/trends/explore?q=white%20nationalist

    The NYT says: “White nationalism, he said, is the belief that national identity should be built around white ethnicity, and that white people should therefore maintain both a demographic majority and dominance of the nation’s culture and public life.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/22/world/americas/white-nationalism-explained.html?_r=0

    Very few people are going to self identify as this, but then…they expand it to effectively mean red tribe culture.

    NYT: “Many of those *** voters *** would not think of themselves as white nationalists, and the cultural values and traditions they seek to protect are not necessarily explicitly racial. However, those traditions formed when national identity and culture were essentially synonymous with whiteness.”

    WV is 98% white. If someone values Appalachian culture (or southern, Ozark, Mormon, etc.) they are white nationalists by this expanded definition. Simply the act of voting for white people is an act of white nationalism. That sure simplifies social science.

    So here we are again with by definition: white culture = bad, non-white culture = good, and one is absolved by voting blue. Sigh. The thing is this isn’t clever, it isn’t effective (Trump’s margin was >40% in WV), it is repelling. Given the stigma in the social sciences associated with pushing back against this dogma, nobody will ever stick their neck out to do it. The closest thing I have seen is Kevin Drum here:

    Let’s Be Careful With the “White Supremacy” Label
    http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/11/lets-please-kill-white-supremacy-fad

    The feedback from the usual suspects wasn’t very supportive.

    • shakeddown says:

      A good heuristic would be that someone who was willing to do something that harmed their country overall, but screwed up their outgroup within the country more than themselves, may well be a nationalist but would not be a patriot. (This is a sufficient but not necessary condition).

    • Matthias says:

      It’s a difficult question, because historically these words have changed meaning.

      In 19th century German speaking central Europe to take one example, nationalists were the ones who wanted to unite and overcome small statelets. These days nationalisms often means drawing boundaries smaller, instead of bigger.

      • JulieK says:

        But a 19th c. nationalist in the Russian or Austro-Hungarian empires wanted to draw boundaries smaller.

        I would say that originally, nationalism was the idea that political boundaries should be re-drawn to match (as closely as possible) ethnic and linguistic divisions.

        Nowadays nationalism might mean taking existing boundaries as a given, and wanting a state to act for own benefit, not for the benefit of other states, and for the benefit of its citizens, and not for foreigners.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Right. Today “nationalism” on its own is usually contrasted with “globalism”, whereas “ethnic nationalism” is closer to the older meaning of the term.

          • I think nationalism isn’t just about how one wants a state to act. It’s also about identifying one’s status with the status of your state–wanting your state to appear better and/or more powerful than other states.

    • The Nybbler says:

      There’s an enormous difference between “nationalism” and “white nationalism”. I don’t even think they’re the same category, really.

      White nationalism is the idea that a nation should be built around white ethnicity.

      There’s a long Wikipedia article about “nationalism”, but today, politically, it mostly seems to mean supporting policies that openly favor one’s own nation and citizens of one’s own nation over outsiders.

    • Tekhno says:

      Nationalism = nation-statism, which is the idea that states should serve the interests of a particular nation, or people.

      There are a variety of different ideas of what the nation in question should be. You could be a political nationalist (such as in liberal nationalism/civic nationalism, which is what I’d self-define as when asked) by defining the nation based on political values. You could be some sort of cultural nationalist, but that’s largely just a more extreme version of political nationalism. Or you could go as far to define the nation based on a common phenotype or set of genetic characteristics, (which would fit into ethno-nationalism), and race based nationalism would be the most common subset (though hypothetical never before done variants like IQ based nations would count). White nationalism is of that third type.

      The problem is that by this point, outgroup homogenity has meant that all forms of nationalism have got vaguely squashed into the most extreme form, which is similar to what happened to socialism in America.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Civic nationalism tends to get overwhelmed by ethnic nationalism, doesn’t it? Consider France, where officially civic nationalism is the game in town, but realistically the nationalist force is the FN, which is ethnic nationalist at its core.

        • Nyx says:

          That’s because “civic nationalism” is flaccid and unappealing. Just look at Sajid Javid’s laughable attempt to pin down “British values” to make people swear allegiance to.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Is attempting to construct some sort of set of common values “nationalism” though?

          • hlynkacg says:

            I would amend that to say that the sort of “civic nationalism” that is considered acceptable in polite company is flaccid and unappealing.

            Consider…

            Space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war.

            I do not say that we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.

            There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?
            We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do those other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.

            or…

            You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin — just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard ’round the world? The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn’t die in vain. Where, then, is the road to peace? Well it’s a simple answer after all.

            You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, “There is a price we will not pay.” “There is a point beyond which they must not advance.” And this — this is the meaning in the phrase of Barry Goldwater’s “peace through strength.” Winston Churchill said, “The destiny of man is not measured by material computations. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we’re spirits — not animals.” And he said, “There’s something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.”

            You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.

      • Tekhno says:

        My impression was that it was the reverse under most conditions. Most people want the nation to be about something to do with their cultural or political values, but aren’t willing to engage in total exclusion based on race. At least outside of drastically dire times, ethno-nationalism doesn’t have much political capital anymore. As far as I’m aware, that’s reflected in the Front National, which only gained popularity after an extensive period of “de-diabolization” (their term, not mine!), in which antisemitism and race oriented policy was removed from the party. Yes, the core of white nationalist types still exist in the party, but it sounds like they’ve been overwhelmed by civic nationalism, not the other way around.

        The white nationalists wouldn’t be involved at all, if left-liberal parties were the ones to adopt civic nationalism and cut them off at the pass. There are really only three options, and the migrant crisis is showing de facto not-nationalism to be unsustainable. If you want a welfare state (you have to have one btw), you end up incentivizing migration waves from incompatible cultures, and so you need to slow the inflows to give integration (overwriting their culture with Western culture) time to work and avoid dumping them all into ghettos. This means you need some border/visa control, and an idea of what your state stands for, what its identity and attendant values are that people should be integrating to, in other words, what the nation part of the term nation-state will be.

        If you don’t want the far right wing parties to turn those ideals into racial ones, then you have to have some civic values in place instead. You can still possess values that allow for muliculturalism, but not in the open ended sense of today. Multiculturalism has to exist within a box, defined by some values. Complete openness is the same as nothingness, and politics abhors a vacuum, which is what the center-right to left parties in Europe seem to be finding out all too late.

        If the worry is that civic nationalism can morph into ethno-nationalism, the answer isn’t no-nationalism/internationalism (not sustainable for political and incentive reasons), the answer is that the non-far right parties impose civic nationalism first, and then counter-signal strongly against ethno-nationalism from a position that has some responsiveness to the ground conditions in Europe. But they didn’t do that, and they just doubled down, until the last moment where, now in Germany, Merkel is desperately throwing in detrimental policies like banning the burqa that she imagines nationalists might like, in order to try and save herself. She might as well be throwing pepperoni slices at a lion.

        Whoops!

        • dndnrsn says:

          The attempt at civic nationalism has been very poor. Let’s look at France. The FN has gotten anti-semitism out of their basic brand, but their appeal is still anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim and is still targeted almost entirely at ethnic French, insofar as that is a thing (there are local divisions). France, technically, considers all French citizens French, but has done a really piss-poor job of avoiding ghettoization, immigrants living in poverty, all that.

          France could do civic nationalism, really fire it up, they’ve already got precedent, but it would require an external enemy. Get all Frenchmen/Frenchwomen/Frenchpersons – everyone who speaks the language and is loyal to “France”, whatever that is – together to unite against some dastardly foe. It’s hard to unite everybody against nothing. If France’s problems are “internal” problems – not enough jobs, budget issues, whatever – those problems will get blamed on internal foes. That’s their big issue.

          Merkel is a different kind of fucked: neither ethnic nor civic nationalism seems that politically feasible in Germany, they’re one of the few adults in the room, and their economy is dependent on international trade at a time that’s looking pretty threatened. If Germany could peel off and integrate the best of the asylum seekers and migrants showing up, they could do very well, but I think that would require a level of civic nationalism maybe not possible in German politics.

          • Sandy says:

            Religious nationalism can cut across ethnicities and work pretty well, it has worked pretty well in Israel and India, but religious identity is pretty weak in Europe and America. There is, in France right now, Francois Fillon pushing a brand of Catholic nationalism, but we’ll have to wait and see how that works out. I don’t think anyone else, be it PVV in the Netherlands or AFD in Germany or the Sweden Democrats, is really pushing any kind of religious nationalism; they’re not trying to restore the primacy of the Christian faith in Europe, they just want to diminish the spread of Islam in their countries. Fillon actually is a devout Catholic with a lot of traditionalist Catholic supporters.

          • “Get all Frenchmen/Frenchwomen/Frenchpersons – everyone who speaks the language and is loyal to “France”, whatever that is – together to unite against some dastardly foe. ”

            There is an obvious target sitting right across the channel. Perhaps Brexit could be interpreted as a dastardly stab in the back?

          • hlynkacg says:

            I know you’re being facetious but there is an obvious foe and it aint the brits.

          • The French dealt with that enemy back in 732. The English have been a problem more recently.

        • Jiro says:

          The FN has gotten anti-semitism out of their basic brand, but their appeal is still anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim

          That’s all right, since the immigrants and Muslims are the source for the anti-semitism.

    • Wander says:

      It’s really not useful at all as a term, considering that by it’s definition, almost every single nation in history was {race}-nationalist. The idea that a nation is built to benefit the people who built the nation shouldn’t be controversial, and this as a competing, evil stance has only been made possible by cosmopolitanism (which is still very similar to nationalism, but with a distributed nation).

      • Iain says:

        It’s really not useful at all as a term, considering that by it’s definition, almost every single nation in history was {race}-nationalist. The idea that a nation is built to benefit the people who built the nation shouldn’t be controversial

        This only makes sense if you think that only white people built America.

        • Wander says:

          Depends on what you’re defining as “built”.

          • Iain says:

            You’re the one who used the word. You tell me.

          • Wander says:

            Established the institutions that define, run, and support the state.

          • Iain says:

            America was established by rich white men. What makes “white” the important part? Should America be ruled by the rich, for the rich? Should women be excluded from government?

            Your problem appears to be that you are trying to work out your definition by reasoning backwards from the exclusion of non-white people. Perhaps you should take some time to consider why you are doing this.

          • Wander says:

            Both of those things did actually happen, though. And the “white” part is important because they were born and raised surrounded by a culture made up of entirely white people, which influenced their view on the world considerably.

            You still seem to be arguing against the idea that the US was founded by white people, for white people, which is why even though it is no longer the prevailing ideology of the era, some people believe that.

          • Iain says:

            Okay, now I am confused.

            You claim that it should not be controversial that a nation continue to be organized to benefit the people who established it. But it is absolutely controversial to say that women and non-elites should be second-class citizens. You are correct that women were previously denied the vote — but that’s generally considered to be a mistake. Do you disagree? If not, what is your justification for saying that race is different from gender or class?

        • Sandy says:

          People who build a nation-state do so with the intention of pushing their group’s ideal political structure, society and culture over alternatives that another group might produce. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say America was built based on the preferred political structure, society and culture of Anglo-Saxon Protestants, by Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Much of the reason China today is an ethnonationalist Han state is that the Chinese nationalists who created the Republic of China did so with the explicit goal of dismantling the society and culture of the Manchu rulers and “expelling the Tatar barbarians”. It’s also the same reason millions of Muslims packed up and left India in 1947 — the state that was being built might have included a lot of Muslims, it might even have had a few Muslim leaders, but it would not in any way be a Muslim society or culture.

          • Iain says:

            If you would not justify the exclusion of Catholics from America based on this principle, it is unclear how it would justify the exclusion of non-white Americans.

          • Sandy says:

            The principle in its purest form would indeed justify the exclusion of Catholics from America, and you can in fact find immigration debates in Congressional records from the late 1800’s describing Catholics from Ireland, Poland and Italy as “locusts” descending on America, but we live in an age where religion plays an increasingly smaller role in public life, so people mostly focus on the “Anglo-Saxon” part. And not even that, given that Slavs, Celts and Magyars aren’t considered subhuman anymore, so it’s just about European descent.

      • “The idea that a nation is built to benefit the people who built the nation shouldn’t be controversial”

        Perhaps not for other nations. The U.S. has been largely a nation of immigrants from early on. Your principle looks as though it implies whatever policies with regard to immigrants are best for those who were here when the country was founded, and perhaps their descendants.

        Is that your position? It would exclude from consideration the interests of a large fraction, possibly a majority, of the present population.

        • nyccine says:

          C’mon David, that exact sentiment is right in the Preamble – “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”

          This bizarre idea that America was nothing more than a propositional nation, that there is a magical property to American soil that makes any who step foot on it “American”* merely by being present, is preposterous, and is purely a modern fiction besides; you will find this notion nowhere in any of the comments made by the founding citizens.

          *It is worth noting that, in the main, those granted this title don’t seem to feel much loyalty themselves to their fellow Americans, and sure seem perfectly comfortable clinging to their tribal loyalties. It out to be clear that while governments might grant citizenship, they cannot grant kinship.

          • Spookykou says:

            What was immigration policy, as set by the founders like?

            How hard did they make it to become an American citizen?

            If they allowed for immigration, and granted immigrants citizenship, is it then made otherwise clear that they still did not intend for said immigrants to be considered “People of the United States”.

            It just seems to me that there are plenty of other countries that have done a much better job of maintaining the kind of homogeneous cultural structures that you seem to imply the founding fathers wanted. So I am forced to wonder, if that is what they wanted, why were they so bad at it?

          • nyccine says:

            What was immigration policy, as set by the founders like?

            Practically non-existent; until around 1830, immigrants made up less than 1% of the populace, and stays at around 1% until around 1850, when it starts to pick up; for much of the next century, immigration tends to go in a pattern of “large wave – panic – restrictions – easing of restriction – lather, rinse, repeat”

            The Founders emphatically were not begging for the tired, huddled masses of the world to come to our shores, something even a cursory glance at writings of the era can attest.

            So I am forced to wonder, if that is what they wanted, why were they so bad at it?

            You mean, why were they bad at reaching from the grave and stopping people from undoing the restrictions that they placed? You might as well ask why, if they didn’t want the Congress to regulate every private transaction, they were so bad at stopping a Congress from using the Interstate Commerce Clause to do so almost 150 years later. Laws aren’t magic, and no legal system can be crafted that is self-executing.

            It just seems to me you’re making rather drastic leaps in logic to justify the assertion that we’ve always been a nation of immigrants.

          • Spookykou says:

            It was not my intention to say that we have always been a nation of immigrants, rather that if their intention was that immigrants were non-american in a meaningful way or should be considered as such, then they should have been able to put that into the language of the documents in pretty straight forward terms.

            It seems to me, unlike say gay rights, that the issue of immigration and its influence should have been fairly well understood by the founders? Maybe this is not the case?

            If this was a highly valued terminal goal of the founders, like say, the right to bare arms, then it seems that they did a surprisingly poor job of protecting it, right?

            I read you as saying that this was clearly their intention and yet they failed to include any strong language in any founding documents to insure this intention.

            My knowledge of history is very poor so I could be confused on some fundamental element of this issue though.

          • Sandy says:

            It was not my intention to say that we have always been a nation of immigrants, rather that if their intention was that immigrants were non-american in a meaningful way or should be considered as such, then they should have been able to put that into the language of the documents in pretty straight forward terms.

            I think they actually were fairly clear on this; the Naturalization Act of 1790, the first rules on American citizenship, limited citizenship to “free white persons of good character”, and that wasn’t changed until after the Civil War, at which point the Founding Fathers were all dead and a new set of leaders were making changes to the Constitution (like the 14th Amendment).

          • Spookykou says:

            Again, my understanding of history is not great, but free white people is going to be basically anyone who would try to immigrate to America during that time period right?

            I am not trying to say the founding fathers thought that black people would be citizens, simply that immigrants would be citizens.

            Your principle looks as though it implies whatever policies with regard to immigrants are best for those who were here when the country was founded, and perhaps their descendants.

            C’mon David, that exact sentiment is right in the Preamble

            For clarity.

          • John Schilling says:

            but free white people is going to be basically anyone who would try to immigrate to America during that time period right?

            Native Americans with a taste for civilization would have been plausible, at least in the imaginations of civilized people. Likewise free Afro-Caribbeans or Mestizos, especially if only temporarily free and looking for someplace to escape retaliation for a slave revolt.

            Or, for that matter, black-, brown- and redskins looking on citizenship only as a loophole in democracy and seeking to form a plurality for the “paleface go home” party; not actually plausible at the time but could have been seen as a threat given the prejudices of the time.

          • Sandy says:

            I am not trying to say the founding fathers thought that black people would be citizens, simply that immigrants would be citizens.

            Most of them felt immigrants would be citizens, but they meant European immigrants exclusively. There were some like Hamilton who expressed misgivings about even that, because immigrants would “corrupt the national spirit” and “confound and confuse public opinion”, but most took the view that Europeans could immigrate so long as they were Protestants, learned English and abandoned European loyalties for American ones.

            I think our confusion here is about what “people who built the nation” means. I think for you it means those Americans who were in the country at the time of the revolution, and thus their descendants, to the exclusion of immigrants who came later (even European ones). There is, however, some evidence that the Founders saw the United States as separate from European polities but nonetheless part of a larger white race.

            I’m not aware of many ethnonationalists, on any position on that spectrum, who exclude people of their identified in-group who live in foreign states from entering or being part of their state. This is why the Chinese government’s refugee policy almost exclusively caters to the Han diaspora, why Israel has the Law of Return, why Nazi expansionism started out with the annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia, why Nasser unified Egypt and Syria.

          • deconstructionapplied says:

            Practically non-existent; until around 1830, immigrants made up less than 1% of the populace, and stays at around 1% until around 1850, when it starts to pick up; for much of the next century, immigration tends to go in a pattern of “large wave – panic – restrictions – easing of restriction – lather, rinse, repeat”

            The Census didn’t ask for place of birth until 1850. The first piece of actual data on the subject places the foreign-born population at 9.7%. It’s more likely that the data pre-1850 is bad than that the immigrant population is less than 1%. Not only that, but the data you’re “citing” doesn’t agree with you. You’re also putting your thumb on the scales. So, the US immigrant population probably reached a low-point of 1.5% in 1815, but you claim that it was less than 1%. It didn’t stay “at around 1%,” it bottomed out at 1.5% because of the Napoleonic Wars and then increased until it was 9.7% the first time it was officially measured, in 1850.

            The whole post is ignorant at best, and intentionally misleading at worst.

            It was quite easy to immigrate to the United States throughout the 20th century if you were white. The Know Nothing party also did jack shit to stop immigration. You’re making up a fictional history for the United States.

        • “until around 1830, immigrants made up less than 1% of the populace, and stays at around 1% until around 1850, when it starts to pick up;”

          Not quite right, at least going by the Wiki article. It shows foreign born in 1840 at 4.7% of the population. By 1850 it was about ten percent.

          “for much of the next century, immigration tends to go in a pattern of “large wave – panic – restrictions – easing of restriction – lather, rinse, repeat””

          Again I don’t think quite correct. The Know Nothing party in the 1850’s was anti-immigrant, but it didn’t actually get restrictions passed. There are some limits on oriental immigration passed in the late 19th century, but other than that immigration restrictions only come in in the 1920’s.

        • nacht says:

          Just to pile on (not), this whole thing reminded me of a Politico article

          the Immigration Act of 1924, which limited the annual number of immigrants from any given country to just 2 percent of the total number of persons born in that country who resided in the United States in 1890. By using 1890 as a benchmark, the law favored older immigrant groups from Northern and Central Europe. For Jews, Italians, Greeks, Slavs, Poles, Croatians and Russians, the door effectively swung shut. (For the Chinese, that door had been closed since 1882, when Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act.)

          LBJ changed that and the doors opened to all countries in the 60’s. My family was in the middle 1800’s, poor and crossed the country and ran out of oxen in Illinois. Not exactly rich. But considered American. I am sure they would have voted for Trump, though I did not.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Also, nations weren’t built on race in the modern sense, though the older British sense which was something more like ethnicity might fit.

        Germany, Italy, and France weren’t about race. So far as I know they were about one sub-group in a region dominating other sub-groups.

      • JulieK says:

        The idea that a nation is built to benefit the people who built the nation shouldn’t be controversial

        The people who built the nation have been dead for two centuries.

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          Yes. A nation’s purpose is up to its citizens, not the people who happened to found it X amount of years ago.

          • nyccine says:

            By this reasoning, constitutions have no justification – why shouldn’t 50% +1 of the population be free to enact draconian speech restrictions today, to be undone tomorrow if 50% + 1 of the population so wishes?

            For that matter, why leave it at people x amount of years ago? Why even try to hold a person at their word for promises given yesterday? Surely, their purpose is whatever they feel it to be in the moment, and shame on the man who expects his family, friends, and neighbors to keep their word.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            I’m sorry, do you have a strawman quotum to reach? If so, don’t let me stop you, carry on, you can certainly go ahead and do so with other posts of mine, I won’t mind much.

        • Machina ex Deus says:

          The people who built the nation have been dead for two centuries.

          Yet another indictment of the sorry state of our health-care system.

      • nyccine says:

        It’s “staying on message”; that’s the narrative, the author’s got his marching orders, so that’s the phrase he’s going to use.

        It wouldn’t really be avant la lettre since Nazism wasn’t about “white” nationalism in any meaningful sense.

        • hyperboloid says:

          Calling Hitler a white nationalist is definitely a mistake (the author should have just gone with “racist”), as distinctively white nationalism is basically a phenomenon of the states of the former British empire.

          But it’s a mistake that has it’s origins with US style white nationalists, many of whom worship the Nazi’s in an almost cartoonish kind of a way.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Not really avant la lettre; that Hitler has been made into a symbol of white nationalism by some white nationalists doesn’t change that the Nazis intended very bad things for large groups of people who nobody would describe as not being “white”. They could very well be described as Germanic nationalists or Nordic nationalists. White nationalism, however, seems to be something that only exists in the US and other places where the context means that smaller divisions matter less.

        Weirdly, you also see pro-Nazi people make a similar error/claim – the existence of Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, etc neo-Nazis baffles me, considering the plans the Nazis had for the Slavs.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I wouldn’t call the Nazis German Nationalists, considering that they were also willing to kill a good many German citizens. They killed German Jews, and I don’t know whether the Roma they killed were citizens. I think those were the only Germans who were targeted on ethnic grounds.

          I’d call them “Aryan” nationalists, and keep the scare quotes.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Clearly, the German Jews weren’t German enough, or else they’d just be proper Germans.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz: I specified Germanic nationalists, not German – to take into account volksdeutsche, some groups the Nazis considered to basically be German, and some other stuff from their racial theorizing, etc, and to take into account that there were German citizens they considered not to be German. I should have explained this, so that’s an error on my part.

            The Roma they killed were almost entirely from outside of Germany, but the same is true of the Jews they killed. Mostly in the East, too.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I thought the Nazis killed a high proportion of German Jews, but they killed a great many more Polish Jews because there were more Jews in Poland.

          • dndnrsn says:

            There were many more Jews in Poland than in Germany. The percentage killed was the same for both countries.

    • geekethics says:

      So “nation” means something very different from “race”. Consider a couple of examples:

      The Irish nation is all those people who are generally considered Irish, regardless of where they were born, what their skin colour is etc.

      The Jewish nation is all those who are generally seen as Jewish, regardless of their religion, their place of birth, or in fact how related they are genetically to other people who also call themselves jewish.

      Nationhood is a matter of collective self-identification, of a group recognising a shared kinship that goes beyond simply race, religion, or location, (though of course it’s closely connected with those things). It’s a cultural thing more than anything else. See the English nation, which has existed basically unchanged since 900 despite the enormous demographic and ethnic changes that have happened since.

      “White” nationalism is the claim that all white people everywhere form a nation as tight-knit and worthy of the protections of a nation state as the Jews or the Irish. Which is … kind of absurd on its face. Large parts of the urban white Democratic vote think of their black fellow Democrats as more “thier kind” than the Trump voting rural whites. If there is a white nation then lots of white democrats aren’t part of it.

      • Spookykou says:

        I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think white nationalism is normally about all white people. In America the White Nationalist movement (the real one, not just republican voters) as I understand it, is mostly about the white people of America banding together to create a white nation for white Americans, to protect their future and their cultural heritage. They waver from being fuzzy on the details of how this will be achieved, to making direct homage to Adolf Hitler, depending on the kind of White nationalist you are talking to.

        White democrats in big cities are mostly going to be seen as race traitors and tend to be the loudest voices against the very culture that white nationalism is trying to protect.

        • The Nybbler says:

          In America the White Nationalist movement (the real one, not just republican voters) as I understand it, is mostly about the white people of America banding together to create a white nation for white Americans, to protect their future and their cultural heritage.

          I believe they way they put it is “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”.

          That’s pretty much about white people. They no doubt see their white opponents as “race traitors”, but they’d accept the children of these white opponents as being part of the “white nation”.

          • Spookykou says:

            I assumed Geekethics main point was that ‘White nationalism’ was silly because white coastal democrats disagree with the goals of white nationalism as strongly as people of other races.

            So I explained that white nationalists do not intend to include these people, and that the word ‘white’ as they are using it, includes some cultural conitations.

            As far as I can tell you agree with me, adding in that they would be willing to steal/keep the children of these race traitors. I don’t think you are totally wrong, but that many orphans would require a lot of welfare and I don’t know how much they would like that.

        • tscharf says:

          It’s the white Democrats that want to celebrate and protect the cultural heritage of all their in groups, but the impression of Trump supporters is that they do not value and do not want to protect the cultural heritage of out group whites. I think this is explicitly plain by their actions (e.g. banning Merry Xmas) but we should defer that argument for another day.

          This is an emotional issue for Trump supporters, what they see is an attempt to protect their culture being vilified as “white nationalism” and racism. Most Trump supporters are fine with the city slickers making up the rules for their cities, but are offended when the cities start encroaching on Trump territory values (the 2016 vote was basically rural vs city).

          And here is an important distinction, Trump supporters see these culture issue fights as proxy fights for who gets to make the rules for their territory. Imagine a world where the people of rural NC told NYC exactly what their bathroom rules should be or that their power must be coal sourced. Would there be a fight? Yes. Many liberals have never even considered what this shoe looks like on the other foot. Trump supporters see big city liberals as having an entitlement problem that needs corrected.

          Much of the heat of the culture wars would be diminished if the rural areas were allowed to move at their own pace toward the promised land of the liberal world order. Fences make good neighbors, stay in your yard, otherwise you get Trump, ha ha.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            e.g. banning Merry Xmas

            This might capture the entire spirit of Trumpism, in just a few short words.

          • Spookykou says:

            Is this a reply to me?

            I was talking about actual white nationalist, they are a tiny minority and I doubt they had any significant impact on who got elected.

          • tscharf says:

            Only a very indirect reply to your point about cultural heritage. I go off on tangents easily, ha ha.

            The standard definition white nationalists do look to be almost non-existent, which is why I’m wondering why so much virtual ink is being spilled on them. If they announce a national meeting my guess is the media will outnumber the participants.

            A transparent attempt by some to enlarge the white nationalist bag to stuff more people in dilutes the evilness of the group characteristics. I just have no idea who they are talking about any more.

          • Brad says:

            This is an emotional issue for Trump supporters, what they see is an attempt to protect their culture being vilified as “white nationalism” and racism. Most Trump supporters are fine with the city slickers making up the rules for their cities, but are offended when the cities start encroaching on Trump territory values (the 2016 vote was basically rural vs city).

            This isn’t accurate. There simply aren’t enough people in rural areas. In Ohio, for example, the metro areas of: Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati (only the Ohio part), and Dayton make up more than half the state’s population. In Texas, Dallas-Ft Worth and the metro areas of Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin are about 2/3rds. Similar statements can be made about Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and so on.

            It is in the suburbs that the Presidential elections was won and lost.

          • Spookykou says:

            You missed Houston

          • tscharf says:

            Brad,
            Looking at the county map it is very clearly rural vs city, but that has been the case for a while now. In this election the rural areas were very decisively for Trump and the cities were not as decisively for Clinton and of course there is in between as you say, which I wouldn’t disagree with.

            See the change in vote from 2012 here:

            US election 2016: Trump victory in maps
            http://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-37889032

          • Brad says:

            @Spookykou
            Looks like I put Dallas in twice instead.

            @tscharf
            As you say the rural area and urban area split has been true for a while now. Rural areas went for DJT and dense urban areas went for HRC. If you want to tell a story that attempts to explain what this election was about you can’t start with a fact that isn’t unique to this election.

            Although any single aboutness story in an election this large and this close is going to inevitably be too simplistic, the least bad one is probably the Saboteur / Luddite one vis-a-vis the rust belt.

            The only non-rust belt flip versus 2012 was Florida and that state has been very close for a long time now.

    • bassicallyboss says:

      As I understand it, white nationalism is the idea that the United States should promote, or be run in accordance with, traditional white American customs and social/cultural institutions. I.e., it wants the US to explicitly be a white ethno-state, the way it implicitly has been for most of its existence. This makes it stand in opposition to the pluralist position that no culture should be favored in national policy. Broadly speaking, white nationalist positions probably include things like being Christian or holding Christian-compatible values; communicating in Standard American English or something close to it; and keeping close ties with Europe and limiting immigration from non-white countries.

      It’s not exactly an Anglo-Saxon Protestant thing, as another commenter said, because the white ethnic identity in America is a lot wider than Anglo-Saxon, and because Christian sectarianism is at a historic low. But thinking of it as a Anglo-Saxon Protestant thing is an okay first approximation.

      Many white nationalists are racist, which can make positions hard to pull apart, but as closely as I can tell, white nationalism seems to be about culture, not race. I.e., white nationalists want a white ethnostate, but this doesn’t mean getting rid* of all non-racially white Americans; it would probably be sufficient for them to just adopt white cultural practices, speech patterns, mannerisms, etc. On that note, it’s not clear that they need to be gotten rid* of at all; so long as minority numbers are kept reasonably low, it should still be possible to reap the benefits of cooperation and trust that most single-ethnicity states enjoy.

      *”getting rid of” is a terrible phrasing that conjures images of mass murder or forced relocation a la the Trail of Tears. These things are obviously horrible, and people who advocate them deserve our disapproval. Fortunately, there is already a name for those people that’s loaded with negative affect: “White supremacist.” I do think white supremacy can be seen as a subset of white nationalist beliefs; however, since it’s useful to preserve the distinction between the two terms**, it seems better to reserve “white nationalist” for the less horrible suggestions.

      So, what less horrible suggestions are there? I’ve seen it suggested that the country could be split up and some part of it could become a black ethno-state, or that the government could pay non-whites to emigrate. However, goals like this are pretty far-fetched. More realistic white nationalist policies are things like tightly controlling immigration, and opposing pluralism in favor of encouraging (white) “American” values and traditions.

      **I favor preserving the distinction for two reasons: First, because I’m a bit of a pedant and I like precision. Secondly, because I think we risk radicalizing people if we group [White people who prefer their own cultural norms] together with actual neo-Nazis.

      • tscharf says:

        This is a pretty good take I think, and avoids all the hot button words that inflame which is about impossible for most people, including myself.

        If the term “traditionalists” was used instead of “white nationalists” people might be able to have a civil discussion on the subject.

        It may be fair to say many people like the status quo of their local/regional culture and see no benefit to cosmopolitanism….and need to be convinced. I think the effort to promote and convince others of the benefits of cosmopolitanism is almost nonexistent. For a random example, why should people from WV welcome Muslims (…if they represent a terror risk…)? Many are repelled that this question is even asked which probably says more about the problem than people realize. It should be asked and answered anyway. There are strong arguments that can be made that just aren’t (e.g. they aren’t really a terror risk statistically, sharia law isn’t going to happen, we screen for radicals, etc.). Many are fine with simply it’s the morally right thing to do, but others are not.

        I read somewhere else that the viewpoint of this question is different depending on tribe. One tribe would consider WV as a business, and all people have equal rights to shop at the business and denying someone a right to shop is bad and shouldn’t be allowed. The other tribe considers WV a home and before they invite someone into their home they have the right to evaluate whether the person will fit in and is an asset to the community.

        • Aapje says:

          @tscharf

          It may be fair to say many people like the status quo of their local/regional culture and see no benefit to cosmopolitanism….and need to be convinced.

          This assumes that the benefit is there. A lot of what people are objecting is not the kebab takeaway, but terrorism, anti-semitism, oppression of women, etc; as well as parallel sub-societies where people have their own institutions and in some cases, cannot even speak the national language.

          The idea that people ‘need to be convinced’ is exactly the kind of statement that infuriates the people who believe that they have solid objections, yet don’t see their concerns addressed seriously.

          As far as I see, globalists tend to believe that the upsides outweigh the downsides, where the problems will eventually disappear. The problem with this is that it:
          – involves a lot of optimism which cannot be proven to be accurate (and there is solid evidence to be skeptical of it)
          – is based on the subjective belief that benefits A, B and C outweigh the downsides X, Y and Z. Other people can value these differently.
          – assumes that the upsides and downsides are distributed evenly. However, globalists tend to disproportionately be people that benefit more from A, B and C than the anti-globalists; and are hurt less from X, Y and Z. As such, there are strong class warfare elements to the migration debate, where people argue for things that benefit themselves, by portraying their position as morally superior.
          – ignores that large number of migrants from a culture tend to integrate much more poorly than small quantities.
          – has a strong ‘Utopian’ element. A lot of proponents of globalism seem to hold an ideal (like multiculturalism) and are willing to make substantial sacrifices to get to that utopia. The problem is that Utopian ideals tend to be strongly faith-based.

          There are strong arguments that can be made that just aren’t (e.g. they aren’t really a terror risk statistically, sharia law isn’t going to happen, we screen for radicals, etc.).

          There are also strong arguments that can be made the other way:
          – Most statistical analyses of whether Muslim attacks commit a large percentage of terrorism seem to use very questionable methods, which likely bias the outcomes (like focusing on the number of attacks, rather than the number of victims; counting violence as terrorism if the person is deemed to have extremist views, even if the actual violence didn’t seem intended to target people indiscriminately, exclude 9/11, etc). The most accurate statement seems to be that there are various groups which disproportionately use political violence/terrorism, where Muslims are not the worst of these.
          – Sharia mediation/non-official courts do exist in EU and the US. Muslim women can feel obligated to submit to this, as a civil divorce is often not recognized by Muslims, so they will still be considered married if they do not get a religious divorce and then travel to certain nations (or if their ex-husband takes the kids and travels to such a nation). Also, they can get into trouble with their family.
          – It seems that a lot of terrorists are 2nd or 3rd generation immigrants; or converts who became Muslim after contact with these. None of those can be screened for. Also, it is a fact that Syrian refugees were not screened properly in Europe and that terrorists mingled with them to enter Europe.

          The other tribe considers WV a home and before they invite someone into their home they have the right to evaluate whether the person will fit in and is an asset to the community.

          And if I invite you into my home, you don’t get to redecorate my living room…

          • tscharf says:

            My point is this discussion needs to happen. I am personally wavering on globalism after supporting it for decades.

            If cosmopolitanism is a great good, it shouldn’t be very difficult to layout that argument. I haven’t seen both sides of it during the election cycle and I’ve been looking for it.

            The logic of “if we don’t let any Muslims/Mexicans in, then we won’t be letting in any Muslim terrorists/Mexican rapists” is sound. This should be acknowledged. Now the opposing side gets to argue that the net effect of this immigration is positive because of moral arguments (helping people in need) or they bring other benefits that overcome the risk of terrorism.

            The economic benefits have been uneven. I find the “manufacturing is never coming back” to be a weak dismissal that is self serving in almost every case. Many who believe allowing immigration is a moral duty seem to have little morals left for the economic losers of globalism.

            I am unmoved by human interest stories on undocumented people when the other side of the story remains untold. This selection bias is where the media fails.

          • Brad says:

            The economic benefits have been uneven. I find the “manufacturing is never coming back” to be a weak dismissal that is self serving in almost every case. Many who believe allowing immigration is a moral duty seem to have little morals left for the economic losers of globalism.

            Do you think it is weak because you think it is a post hoc justification? Or do you think it is weak because it is not true? Or something else?

          • tscharf says:

            It weak because it is categorical in nature and something can be done. $400 tax on iPhones and Apple starts manufacturing in the US. Is this good long term economics? Maybe not. Government intervention can change the economic equations for offshoring.

            I’m no fan of interventionism, Venezuela isn’t my role model, ha ha. If everything is manufactured offshore to the uneven benefits of the knowledge class, this might result in social upheaval which needs to be avoided. Trump is a warning shot.

            It’s weak in that the optimization of GDP is not the only thing that should be considered at this time period. Protectionism may be bad fundamentals in the pure economic sense but it may be worth taking one for the team to try to even the distribution of benefits.

          • Brad says:

            If a $400 tax were put on the iphone unless it were wholly manufactured in the US:
            1) What do you think the new price of the iphone would be?
            2) How many fewer iphones do you think would be sold at the new price?
            3) How many new jobs do you think would be created in the US? Where do you think they would be located? What do you think would the median compensation be for the new hires?
            4) How many now existing jobs do you think would be eliminated in the US? What is there median compensation?
            5) What do you think would happen to the stock prices of AAPL? Given that AAPL is around 3.1% of the S&P 500 and 2.4% of total US equity funds, what effect if any do you think that change would have on people’s retirement savings?

            There are many on the left that are quite willing to consider redistribution policies to soften the landing of those with few or obsolete skills. But that is rejected out of hand. Instead we have people that stamp their feet and insist that the clock must be turned back. That’s simply not possible. I cannot take these suggestions seriously as I have yet to see any that engages with the real world in any serious fashion.

            It’s kind of like rent control. You can’t find an economist that will say anything nice about it. Many of them come from cultures where they would want to be for it — and economist that came out in defense of rent control would definitely be written up glowing in the likes of Salon — but they just can’t because it is so obviously a terrible idea. Not in some abstract maximizing gdp sense that you are strawmanning but in the very real sense that it makes almost everyone worse off.

          • Anonymous says:

            It seems that a lot of terrorists are 2nd or 3rd generation immigrants; or converts who became Muslim after contact with these. None of those can be screened for.

            What do you mean, they can’t be screened for? Simply don’t let in the 1st generation.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            What do you mean, they can’t be screened for? Simply don’t let in the 1st generation.

            Holding people responsible for the misdeeds of their ancestors is silly enough already, holding them responsible for their eventual successors seems quite about the same.

          • Randy M says:

            “Holding them responsible” implies the response is execution or Gitmo. Or some kind of active punishment beyond the status quo. “We think three generations out the country will be worse off if we allowed in group x, so we won’t” is perfectly fair since group x has no claim on the country.

          • Aapje says:

            @Anonymous

            What do you mean, they can’t be screened for? Simply don’t let in the 1st generation.

            That’s not screening.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            “Holding them responsible” implies the response is execution or Gitmo. Or some kind of active punishment beyond the status quo.

            Not being allowed to do something you want to do, that is not infringing upon anyone’s rights is totally a punishment.

          • Randy M says:

            But, as not every person in the world, or even just the ones seeking it, are allowed even temporary entry into the nation, it is not active punishment beyond the status quo.
            Also, it is still not holding them responsible for the acts of their descendants.

          • Anonymous says:

            Not being allowed to do something you want to do, that is not infringing upon anyone’s rights is totally a punishment.

            No.

            1. The foreseen consequences of that action have an effect on others. (Few actions haven’t, really.) As a potential victim of these consequences, I’d feel pretty infringed upon.

            2. Countries have the right to not let anyone they don’t like in, for any reason, including no reason.

            (I’m sorry if this is sarcasm and I took it at face value. I cannot be too careful about that these days.)

            That’s not screening.

            How is it not? You’re not letting in people based on criteria. Seems like screening to me.

            Also, it is still not holding them responsible for the acts of their descendants.

            I’d like to point out that it’s pretty common practice in the west that parents are responsible for their children’s actions while the children are young. Was certainly the case in my time. If I got into a fight and gave someone a black eye, my parents got in trouble for it. Just saying – it’s not completely unthinkable.

          • John Schilling says:

            Not being allowed to do something you want to do, that is not infringing upon anyone’s rights is totally a punishment.

            My ownership of a securely-stored hydrogen bomb does not, itself, infringe on anyone’s rights; am I being punished unjustly? Because I thought we had a pretty solid consensus on that a couple of open threads ago.

            Or are we talking about someone’s right to not live in fear of what nuclear terrorists / radicalized second-generation immigrants might do, in which case maybe it isn’t an unjust punishment to say you need to have a permit before you come into someone else’s country and start breeding second-generation immigrants. Which brings us to discussing a rational cost-benefit trade, not making blanket assertions of absolute moral principle. At least, not this principle.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            1. The foreseen consequences of that action have an effect on others. (Few actions haven’t, really.) As a potential victim of these consequences, I’d feel pretty infringed upon.

            How foreseen are these consequences? If there was another hypothetical group whose children were disproportionately criminal and murderous, much more so than muslims, but were already inside the country, would you agree to have punitive action applied to them?

            I’d like to point out that it’s pretty common practice in the west that parents are responsible for their children’s actions while the children are young. Was certainly the case in my time. If I got into a fight and gave someone a black eye, my parents got in trouble for it. Just saying – it’s not completely unthinkable.

            Most terrorists are of age, these hypothetical terrorists haven’t even been born.

            My ownership of a securely-stored hydrogen bomb does not, itself, infringe on anyone’s rights; am I being punished unjustly? Because I thought we had a pretty solid consensus on that a couple of open threads ago.

            You are being punished (unjustly or not is a matter of discussion, though I’d say no),

            in which case maybe it isn’t an unjust punishment to say you need to have a permit before you come into someone else’s country and start breeding second-generation immigrants

            I mean, sure, it’s reasonable, but how are you even supposed to have a permit if the possibility that your descendants might get radicalized is motive enough to not let you in?

          • tscharf says:

            There are lots of things you can do. They should be debated and held up to a bright light of scrutiny.

            Things like examining social media posts of potential immigrants for extremist leanings seems obvious, but yet many people are against this.

            Finding potential terrorists is a needle in a haystack effort similar to trying to find the next crazy white guy who is going to go on a shooting rampage. They will invariably over select, the system will be fairly easy to trick, and some terror events will happen anyway. There is no way to measure their actual effectiveness.

            However, this should be more of an exercise in calming the irrational fear of terrorism in the public, not finding a magic solution. They put people with machine guns in airports after terror events to calm the public, not because they expect firefights to break out. Security theater at the airport check-in is another example.

            Terror screening as security theater is still probably a good idea.

          • Anonymous says:

            How foreseen are these consequences? If there was another hypothetical group whose children were disproportionately criminal and murderous, much more so than muslims, but were already inside the country, would you agree to have punitive action applied to them?

            Of course. Why wouldn’t I?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Well, you’re consistent, I’ll give you that.

          • rlms says:

            @Anonymous
            What about a group that themselves are disproportionately murderous (in fact they commit 90% of homicides)? If you would suggest punitive measures against them (and I don’t see why you wouldn’t) then I eagerly await your plans of how to deal with the terrible problem of the existence of men.

          • Anonymous says:

            What about a group that themselves are disproportionately murderous (in fact they commit 90% of homicides)? If you would suggest punitive measures against them (and I don’t see why you wouldn’t) then I eagerly await your plans of how to deal with the terrible problem of the existence of men.

            In a hypothetical society of advanced peaceful aliens (forming the establishment) and current-day-model humans (a minority or disenfranchised majority), it would be entirely rational and reasonable of the aliens to put into place measures to stop the humans from preying on their fellow aliens. Measures such as creating, in effect, separate societies so that humans couldn’t predate on the aliens by dint of not being anywhere near aliens to predate on them.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @rlms

            The obvious historical solution, seeing as how parthenogenesis in humans is extraordinarily rare, is to impose a strictly enforced system of interlocking responsibilities and privileges that reward social behavior while punishing anti-social behavior.

            Unfortunately “Responsibility” and “Privilege” seem to have become dirty words these days. So it goes.

          • Anonymous says:

            @hlynkacg

            Also, the tried-and-true way to reduce the problem, and the way in which Europeans became less prone to violence over time, is to declare the new rules (“No murdering!”) and kill everyone who has the temerity to differ.

          • hlynkacg says:

            …and kill everyone who has the temerity to differ.

            That would be the “strictly enforced” part.

          • Anonymous says:

            I see. Very good!

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            The problem with your suggestion is that society molds men into hyperagents and reaps the benefits of this & suffers from the downsides. It seems rather abusive to then increase the punishment for the downsides (which is already greater for men), without actually allowing men to behave differently.

            For example, one way that men are molded are by giving them less support for their problems and shaming them if they seek support, to make them fix their own problems. Punishing them for fixing their own problems through vigilantism, without giving them an alternative, leads to ‘A Clockwork Orange’ style outcome.

          • rlms says:

            @Aapje
            That’s close to being a fully general “it’s society’s fault” argument. I could equally say “Muslims are moulded into society into being disposed towards terrorism. It seems rather abusive to punish them for this, when it isn’t their fault”. If you argue that the vast majority of Muslims aren’t terrorists, and therefore they clearly have a choice, the same is true of men and murder.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            It seems pretty clear to me that the justification for Muslim terrorism doesn’t come from Western society, but a regressive movement within Islam, commonly called Salafism (more accurately, an extremist form of that).

            I would also argue that pretty much all immigrant groups suffer from ‘integration friction,’ where a portion of the (1st, 2nd, 3rd) generation of immigrants get severely upset with problems related to various aspects of migration to a country with different culture, language, etc.

            I don’t see how either of these are automatically the fault of the host society.

            PS. I agree that men have a choice, but men generally have fewer alternatives. IMHO, a just legal system gives lower sentences to people who have fewer alternatives to crime, rather than higher sentences, as was proposed here.

          • rlms says:

            But we aren’t talking about justification, we’re talking about cause (at least I am). The patriarchal structures that lead to disproportionate violence from men can’t be blamed on anyone, they just are things that exist. Likewise with Islamist ideology and the other factors that lead to terrorism. But if you are removing blame for violence from men because of the patriarchal structures, you also have to remove blame from Muslims for because of Islamist ideology (and Western Foreign Policy (TM), and the other factors).

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            But we aren’t talking about justification, we’re talking about cause (at least I am).

            One of the causes for male behavior is that men feel justified in acting like that, because they feel that this is the best (or least bad) of the options that they realistically have, where these options are heavily influenced by gender norms (the same is true for female behavior, but with different norms). So the two are related (because people reason about their actions, resulting in…justifications).

            The patriarchal structures that lead to disproportionate violence from men can’t be blamed on anyone, they just are things that exist.

            Total nonsense. It’s not ‘structures’ that punish men and women socially for not behaving according to their gender norms, it’s people doing that. It’s not robots that allocate much more funds to help women who are homeless, experience domestic violence, it’s people; etc; etc.

            But if you are removing blame for violence from men because of the patriarchal structures, you also have to remove blame from Muslims for because of Islamist ideology (and Western Foreign Policy (TM), and the other factors).

            I argued against simply punishing men who do not see another option to solve their problems, rather than simply giving them the same options that the less violent people have (which might actually be a major reason why they are less violent!).

            Let’s get concrete. We have two jobless people, A and B. A gets welfare and doesn’t commit crimes. B doesn’t get welfare and steals food.

            What do you think is the likely reason that B steals food:
            1. A lack of harsh punishment
            2. The lack of welfare, which means that B has to choose between starving & stealing and B decides that the latter option is the lesser evil

            If you agree with me that 2 makes more sense, then isn’t the rational response to grant equality to B by giving him welfare as well? If he keeps stealing, then it is fair to argue that B could reasonably make the same choices as A and ought to be (harshy) punished. At that point, A and B have similar choices, so are equally to blame if they choose to be criminals.

            As for Muslim extremists, I think that terrorism is different from the crimes that men tend to commit more than women and is far less excusable.

        • Randy M says:

          Many are fine with simply it’s the morally right thing to do, but others are not.

          This is odd phrasing that assumes they agree it is the right thing to do but object anyway. Asserting it is the morally right thing to do is highly unconvincing.

          • tscharf says:

            This means that some people have values that will accept cosmopolitanism for strictly moral reasons and don’t need to be convinced further. Everyone else sees it as a trade off that needs to be evaluated. This second group has been summarily dismissed as xenophobes, racists, etc. and this was a huge tactical mistake.

            This discussion has exited the Overton Window in liberal circles, but they fail to recognize that is not the case elsewhere. They lose because they refuse to engage.

      • hyperboloid says:

        White nationalism is the idea that a nation should be created by and exclusively for people of biologically European descent. I want to be very clear about something, there is no such thing as “white culture”; thanks largely to centuries of imperialism there is no distinctive cultural trait or habit of any form, held exclusively by people of European stock.

        One can speak meaningfully of western culture, or Christian culture, or European culture, but not of white culture. There is nothing an Englishmen holds in common with a Russian that he does not also hold in common with a Mexican, or a Chilean. One of the things that sets the United Sates apart from the nations of Latin America, is that the Spanish and Portuguese empires adopted a purely cultural conception of European identity, and consequently went out of their way to culturally assimilate as many non Europeans as possible.

        The United States on the other hand set strict racial boundaries; banning miscegenation, and enforcing a “one drop” blood quantum concept of ethnic identity. The legacy of this policy continued continued in some form or another until the nineteen sixties, when racial integration and changes in immigration laws fatally undermined any biological conception of American identity.

        Broadly speaking, white nationalist positions probably include things like being Christian or holding Christian-compatible values; communicating in Standard American English or something close to it; and keeping close ties with Europe and limiting immigration from non-white countries.

        One of these things is very much not like the others. If one one wanted to preserve traditional Christian values, encouraging immigration from the various majority Christian nations of the third would be a very effective policy, maintaining strong ties with highly secular Europe would not.
        If one wanted to have a common homogeneous national culture, then racial integration, and civil rights would be one’s highest priority, as divides is this area do great damage to national unity.

        White nationalism has always been about preserving racial purity, and modern white nationalists are very explicit about this. Do you think they are are idiots; that when they say they want a nation for white people, they mean something else entirely?

        • bassicallyboss says:

          There is nothing an Englishmen holds in common with a Russian that he does not also hold in common with a Mexican, or a Chilean.

          This, I agree with. There is no single culture held in common by white people worldwide. The thing to remember, though, is that we aren’t talking about all Caucasian-descended people worldwide. We’re talking about them specifically in the United States, where “white” actually does denote a cultural identity. A fourth-generation immigrant from any of those countries would probably be considered “white.” For a first-generation immigrant from any but England, it would probably depend on how well they adopted American norms. (The color of their skin would probably come into play too, though mostly because I think it’s harder for people to accept as one of their own someone who looks different in such an obvious way.)

          The main reason I think this isn’t mainly about race is from reading what actual white nationalists have to say on the matter. However, I think the issue of immigrants from Mexico is a good example. Hispanic and mestizo people from Mexico have traditionally been considered “white” in U.S. law going back quite a long ways. Yet white nationalists worry quite a bit about the large numbers of immigrants from Mexico in recent decades. Nobody worried about immigrants from Mexico when the volume was small, because sparse immigrants have little choice but to adopt the ways of their new homes.

          Now, I would agree that most people I’ve seen who are white nationalists do care race. I think that the two issues are closely intertwined, if one cares about them both. But I have, in fact, talked to self-identified white nationalists who don’t care about biological race. And it seems like it’s worthwhile to disentangle the two ideas philosophically, while remembering that they often coincide in practice. Again, we want to have different names for “ner-nazis” vs. “People who want America’s European heritage preserved but don’t think less of non-Europeans as a group.”

          It seems little different than French not wanting their land to be German, or Indians not wanting their land to be English, or Brazilians preferring their countrymen speak Portuguese and not Spanish. It’s possible to prefer to be governed by one’s own culture without disdaining others, just as it’s possible to prefer to live in one’s hometown without believing all other towns to be inferior.

          Anyway, since race is a queer thing, partly biological and partly cultural, I propose the following dictum:
          Insofar as race is culture, white nationalism necessarily cares about race.
          Insofar as race is biology, white nationalism doesn’t care about race, though individual white nationalists often do.

          • Aapje says:

            I think that a major issue is that we often lack the vocabulary to accurately describe the concerns that people have.

            I would argue that the majority of the opposition to migration is monoculturalism, where people favor their own culture (or the culture as it was), not racism. However, because the people with other cultures tend to have a certain ethnicity, the two become conflated.

        • RicardoCruz says:

          the Spanish and Portuguese […] went out of their way to culturally assimilate as many non Europeans as possible. The United States on the other hand set strict racial boundaries; banning miscegenation, and enforcing a “one drop” blood quantum concept of ethnic identity.

          Yes, this is exactly what happened. Jews were not prosecuted and burned alive in Portugal and Spain as recently as the 19th century. No, they were well integrated. The reason why slavery was abolished in mainland of Portugal and Spain was not because the kings wanted them expelled and working in the colonies. No, we very much loved and integrated them. This is why there are today so many muslims, blacks and jews in Portugal and Spain. It’s a much more accepting and diverse country than America.

          Thank you for rewriting the history of my country. 🙂

          • Aapje says:

            AFAIK, Spanish and Portuguese Jews were prosecuted for their faith, not for their race. If they converted and practiced Catholicism properly*, they were not prosecuted. This can be classified as forced integration, in this case, to a Catholic culture.

            A much stronger case against hyperboloid’s assertion is ‘limpieza de sangre,’ where people with ‘impure’ blood were kept out of certain professions.

            * Although there seems to have been strong suspicion that Jews faked their conversion, which resulted in the inquisition fiercely trying to root out people who secretly practiced their old faith.

          • hyperboloid says:

            Mi amigo peninsular, hablé de los Imperios Americanos de España y Portugal, y Sus estados sucesores, los países de America latina. En muchas de estas nacionas, las clases políticas, por necesidad o Inclinación natural, alentaron la creación de un identidad mestizo, y permitieron la inclusión de muchas personas del patrimonio indígena en posiciones de privilegio .

            Now to be clear the process of integrating the indigenous population into new Iberian dominated social systems
            was neither peaceable, nor particularly humane, in fact in many places it was extremely brutal. Nevertheless the political elite did recognize the necessity of fully accepting as subjects and citizens at the very least the so called Gente de razón; those mestizo and indigenous people who had most throughly adopted European culture. In many, though not all, parts of the Americas such people could acquire land and wealth, and become members of a new local elite.

            Thank you for rewriting the history of my country

            You seem to be misunderstanding me for two reasons. The first is probably a language issue; the English
            word assimilate doesn’t necessarily have any particularly begin connotations. In the sentence, “The spanish empire […] went out of their way to culturally assimilate as many non Europeans as possible. “, most native English speakers would understand the word assimilate in a distinctly “Es inútil resistirse” sort of way. The second, less forgivable problem, is you didn’t read what I said; I never spoke about your country’s domestic history, only about the history of the Iberian empires in the western hemisphere.

            At any rate the history of Moriscos and, Jewish Conversos is a complicated one, with treatment varying greatly across different regions and different times. Some Christians of Arab, Berber, or Jewish descent, including ironically Tomás de Torquemada, attained considerable rank within Spanish society. On the other hand any account that argues that all that happed was process of forced conversion has to reckon with the fact that Philip II essentially ordered the ethnic cleansing of Valencia in 1609. Nevertheless there was never any thorough expulsion of those of non European descent, and today genetic studies have shown that as much 20 percent of the Spanish population has north African or middle eastern ancestry.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            How much of this assimilation was promoted by the Crown, and how much was it the Catholic Church just butting in?

          • ChetC3 says:

            How much of this assimilation was promoted by the Crown, and how much was it the Catholic Church just butting in?

            At what point did the Spanish Crown see the interests of the Catholic Church as diverging from its own?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            At what point did the Spanish Crown see the interests of the Catholic Church as diverging from its own?

            Maybe not divergent, but parallel. What I mean is that this assimilation might not have entirely been policy, rather than just something that was tolerated in a way that wasn’t in the anglosphere.

          • ChetC3 says:

            Spreading the true faith was what ostensibly justified the whole enterprise, so as far as that entailed assimilation, that was the policy of both the crown and the church. The friction was mostly between them and the settlers, whose power the crown did its best to limit.

  8. Anon. says:

    What are the best books you read in 2016?

    • Rusty says:

      I am not completely sure if any of the best books I read in 2016 were first published in 2016 but I am completely sure that nobody will agree with all the books on my list:

      Sapiens
      https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sapiens-Humankind-Yuval-Noah-Harari-ebook/dp/B00K7ED54M/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482008113&sr=1-1&keywords=sapiens

      A Fraction of the Whole
      https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fraction-Whole-Steve-Toltz-ebook/dp/B002RI993M/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482008185&sr=1-1&keywords=fraction+of+the+whole

      Warlord Trilogy
      https://www.amazon.co.uk/Winter-King-Arthur-Warlord-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B002ZJSU6A/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482008265&sr=1-1&keywords=warlord+trilogy

      Prize of all the Oceans
      https://www.amazon.co.uk/Prize-All-Oceans-Glyn-Williams/dp/0007292724/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482008304&sr=1-1&keywords=prize+of+all+the+oceans

      Lazarus is Dead
      https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lazarus-Dead-Richard-Beard-ebook/dp/B005E87CJK/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482008355&sr=1-1&keywords=lazarus+is+dead

      Other Peoples Money
      https://www.amazon.co.uk/Other-Peoples-Money-Universe-Servants-ebook/dp/B00UJD8AS2/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482008417&sr=1-1&keywords=other+peoples+money+john+kay

      Rubicon
      https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rubicon-Triumph-Tragedy-Roman-Republic-ebook/dp/B004YD1RYM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482008553&sr=1-1&keywords=rubicon

      Now that I look at the list it seems that apart from Sapiens none of these really have anything to do with this blog. I did read The House of God on Scott’s recommendation and I enjoyed it but the magical realism element irritated me.

      Will be interested to see what others come up with!

    • Anatoly says:

      1. _The Northern Caves_, a novelette by tumblr-user nostalgebraist. Very well written, with a genuinely bone-chilling idea at its core (though the genre isn’t horror), this stands far above the usual level of quality of fanfic or original fic I’ve encountered in rationalist circles. In my opinion it’s also far superior to the author’s other novelette, _Floornight_. I wish the author would try to publish it; I think he’s convinced that since much of the story is told through the medium of an early-2000s web forum posts, lovingly preserved in style and form, it isn’t publishable. I don’t know if that’s really so; in my ideal world, it’d get the Hugo.

      2. W.G.Sebald, _The Emigrants_. Four tales about four different people who ended up leaving their native countries for different reasons, though that isn’t necessarily the most important fact in their lives. Purports to be semi-autobiographical in that the people are claimed to be acquaintances or relatives of the author. Sebald’s prose (in translation) is beautiful, and somehow manages to be both wistful and precise. A quirk of the book is that Nabokov, the author, makes a cameo appearance or mention in each one of the otherwise unconnected tales.

      3. Penelope Fitzgerald, _Human Voices_. A short (all of Fitzgerald’s novels are short) novel about the inner goings-on at the BBC during the Blitz. Wonderfully funny and moving.

      [The large concert-hall inside the BBC headquarters has been turned into a dormitory for the workers, who found it difficult to get home when the attacks came]

      Quantities of metal bunks were dragged into Broadcasting House. […] The bunks were fitted on top of each other in unstable tiers, and the platform, including the half-sacred spot where the grand piano had once stood, was converted into cubicles. […] At length a cord was stretched across the great hall, dividing it in half, and grey hospital blankets were draped over it in place of a curtain. Barnett and his staff thought this part of the job by no means up to standard.

      ‘It’ll provide privacy for the ladies, which is the main point. But I don’t like to see a job left like that.’

      And might not the makeshift nature of the blankets lead to moral confusion? There were a lot of very young people among the temporary staff. Barnett was asked whether he thought there’d be goings on?

      ‘Surely not while England’s in danger.’ he replied.

      4. Julian Barnes, _Cross Channel_. My favorite, and I think underappreciated, book by this author, a collection of short stories each of which deals with the English-French connection in some way. _Evermore_, the story about an old maid making an annual pilgrimage to all the WWI mass graves of British soldiers in France, in honor and memory of her brother lying in one of them, is heartbreaking.

      • Rusty says:

        ‘Surely not while England’s in danger.’ he replied.

        Superb!

        That dry humour reminds me of the Booker of Bookers, The Siege of Krishnapur. A really outstanding novel.

    • Forlorn Hopes says:

      I’m not sure if it’s the best, but certainly the one that affected me the most is: The Library at Mount Char.

      Unfortunately I can’t explain why it affected me without massive spoilers; and I don’t think there’s spoiler tags here. I can say it’s very very dark.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        If you want to post spoilers, you can use rot13.

        I don’t know whether you’ve got a blog, but you could also write up your spoilerish explanation and include a link to where you put it.

        • Forlorn Hopes says:

          Good idea. Massive spoilers to follow:

          Fb gur znva punenpgref ner ncceragvprf bs, qrcraqvat ba ubj lbh ybbx ng vg: N jvmneq, Tbq, n jvmneq fb cbjreshy ur znl nf jryy or tbq.

          Guvf jnvmneq’f onpxfgbel vf gung ur bireguerj na rira zber rivy rzcrebe guna uvzfrys. Ubjrire gung jne jnf fb oehgny gung ur’f orra yrsg pbzcyrgryl nzbeny, fb juvyr uvf tbnyf ner zbfgyl oraribyrag uvf zrgubqf znxr uvz bar bs gur zbfg rivy punenpgref V unir rire ernq.

          Ur riraghnyyl ernyvmrf gung ur’f orra yrsg creznaragyl nzbeny, naq trgf obneq bs ehyvat guvf havirefr, naq qrpvqrf gb genva n fhpprffbe jub’yy or nzbeny rabhtu gb ehyr ohg abg dhvgr nf onq nf uvzfrys.

          Nyy va nyy, vg’f n irel vagrerfgvat zbgvir naq vg’f n jryy jevggra obbx. Ohg V svaq vg uneq gb trg bire gur snpg gung qrfcvgr orvat evqvphybhfyl rivy, gur jvmneq arire snprf nal xnezn sbe uvf npgvbaf. Sebz na va fgbel havirefr vg znxrf frafr gung ur’yy trg njnl jvgu vg, ur’f onfvpnyyl tbq, bs pbhefr vg jbhyq nyy tb nppbeqvat gb cyna. Ohg fgvyy…

    • tscharf says:

      These are of course my opinion. I read mostly Sci-Fi and the rest random. All audio books.

      Favorite Sci-Fi:
      1. We Are Legion (We Are Bob): Bobiverse (Don’t judge a book by its title)
      2. Three Body Series (Chinese Sci-Fi which was surprisingly good)
      3. Dark Matter

      Random:
      A Man Called Ove (One of the few I ever read twice, hilarious)
      Hillbilly Elegy (This struck me as more accurate than most stereotypes)
      The Gene: An Intimate History (same author as The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer)

    • Deiseach says:

      I’ve been reading a lot of old stuff, mainly pulpish crime and detective. Though I was vastly amused by this attitude in a series of stories by Melville Davisson Post; I don’t know if you’d call it “reverse racism” or what, but condensing it down to the essentials – a mysterious Oriental has turned up as a messenger to a young English woman regarding the fate of her father, a doctor and explorer, who died in the Gobi Desert. The mysterious Oriental is not of the Sinister but is of the Inscrutable kind and is not there as comic relief, servant, or other stereotype.

      Paraphrasing mightily, an exchange in the story goes something like this:

      Mongolian: We generally like the English, but there was something a bit off about Lord Eckhart

      Young woman: Well, he has a German grandmother

      Mongolian: Ah! That would explain it

      Can we tell this was written post-First World War when The Hun were the bad, bad boys? 🙂

    • Wander says:

      The Violet Hour. It’s about the last few weeks of several famous figures lives. It’s a really interesting exploration of how people confront death.

    • Urstoff says:

      Lattimore’s Iliad. Much better than Fagles and Fitzgerald. As good as Lombardo, although its stylistic opposite.

      David Hackett Fischer’s “Historians’ Fallacies”. You’d think the kind of stuff discussed in his book would be standard practice, but it’s not.

      Francis Bacon’s Essays. Written for the 17th Century, but still applicable and entertaining.

      • Anon. says:

        I read Lombardo’s Iliad this summer, it was fantastic. Went with Lattimore for the Odyssey, which I didn’t find as impressive. I don’t think it was the translation’s fault though. The next time I read the Iliad I’m gonna go for one of the old-fashioned translations, either Chapman or Pope.

    • rubberduck says:

      Most books I read this year I gave 3 or 3.5 out of 5 stars, idk if that’s good enough to say “best”. A few that stood out were:

      “Notes on Democracy”- Mencken
      “Shooting Up: A Short History of Drugs and War”- Kamienski
      “The Badass Librarians of Timbuktu”- Hammer
      “Never Let Me Go”- Ishiguro

      My favorite book I read this year was “The Righteous Mind” but I assume most people on SSC are already familiar with it.

      Somebody above also mentioned “Sapiens”- I read it but I didn’t like it.

    • Brad says:

      I only very rarely read books the year they come out. I don’t quite understand why so many people do. Is it a matter of wanting to discuss books with others?

      • badgerbadgerbadger says:

        Generally I find an author I like, read all their past books, and then all their future books I read the year week they come out.

    • I don’t know about the best books, but both Seeing Like a State and The Art of Not Being Governed were certainly good books I read that year.

    • geekethics says:

      The Diamond Age yet again because damn.

      Men at Arms yet again because damn.

      Crystal Society.

      Reflections on the Revolution in France.

      Fun Home.

      In the Shadow of the Sword.

      The Great Debate.

    • Mark says:

      That’s kind of weird – ‘In the Shadow of the Sword’ and ‘Rubicon’, both of which I read and enjoyed this year, have already been recommended. Must be the amazon algorithms at work.

      Um… I quite enjoyed the First Law Trilogy – fun fantasy series – I particularly liked the ending.

      (And Elric: The Ruby Throne – but I was only really looking at the pictures)

      • Rusty says:

        I recently attended a talk given by Tom Holland (the author of both Rubicon and In the Shadow of the Sword). His thesis was that there is a clear line between the teachings of St Paul and the legalisation of gay marriage. I thought he made his case very persuasively. The talk was one of a day of talks organised by the Adam Smith Institute and his was the stand out for me and you could sense that the whole room was really paying attention to what (for me at least) was a completely new line of thinking.

        I had a quick chat with him afterwards (“I am such a fan Mr Holland . . .”). HIs next book will be on Chritianity hence the talk he gave. He said he thought it would be quite controversial and he seemed to do one ‘straight’ book and one controversial book turn and turn about. I remarked that In the Shadow of the Sword was quite dense and that I’d found it hard to follow the argument. He summed it up for me in a couple of sentences and I had to admit that, yes, it was extremely controversial.

        Anyway really am such a fan . . .

        • The original Mr. X says:

          His thesis was that there is a clear line between the teachings of St Paul and the legalisation of gay marriage.

          A “clear line” which takes the best part of two thousand years to manifest itself?

          • Rusty says:

            The talk was fascinating and I won’t do it justice but his argument was not that Paul preached in favour of gay marriage but rather that the message he preached made room for a philosophy that was open to this. He didn’t mention other faiths in this context (as best as I can remember) but they came to mind. Anyway I have the memory of a goldfish so I’ll leave you to make what you like of it when the book comes out.

    • Moving Mars by Greg Bear. SF that worked very well on a political level.

      The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War by Robert J. Gordon did a very good job of giving a sense of what life used to be like and what, exactly, has improved since 1850.

      Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia’s Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane by Frederick Starr on a piece of history I didn’t know much about and how a fairly enlightened society can fall into superstition.

      Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution by Nick Lane on lots of cool things that life does.

      Too Like the Lightening by Ada Palmer. An actual historian imagines a fictional future which is as far removed from the present socially as the present is from the past. Also good fiction.

    • psmith says:

      A Rifleman Went To War, Herbert W. McBride–a straightforward, matter-of-fact recollection of the author’s time as a sniper in the Canadian Army in WWI. He rather enjoyed it.
      The Wake, Paul Kingsnorth–post-apocalyptic science fiction, in which the apocalypse is the Norman Conquest of Britain. (cf. Thanksgiving is an SF story.) Written in a ginned-up pre-Norman English. Very good.
      Rivethead, Ben Hamper–a memoir of life on the GM assembly line. Discussed here.
      Snow Crash and The Diamond Age (I also liked Seveneves, but I gather that not everyone did).
      Trustee from the Toolroom–I think I saw this recommended in SSC comments. Mild-mannered machinist goes on a tropical Pacific adventure. I also liked On the Beach, but I read that quite a few years back.
      Submission, The Elementary Particles, Platform–#blackpill.

    • badgerbadgerbadger says:

      Novels I enjoyed:
      Please Don’t Tell My Parents [I’m A Supervillain] series by Richard Roberts.
      Reckoners series by Brandon Sanderson.
      Wearing The Cape series by Marion Harmon.
      Light novel with the overly long name by Eliezer Yudkowsky.
      Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews.
      Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka.
      The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein.
      Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs.
      The Forbidden Library series by Django Wexler.
      The Laundry Files series by Charles Stross.

      Web serials I enjoyed:
      Mother of Learning by Domagoj Kurmaic.
      Unsong by Scott Alexander.
      How To Avoid Death on a Daily Basis by Mooderino.
      Dungeon Keeper Ami by Pusakuronu.
      (HPMOR finished last year)

      Story webcomics I enjoyed: Strong Female Protagonist, Order of the Stick, Paranatural, Skin Horse, Girl Genius, Freefall, Wilde Life, Grrl Power, Schlock Mercenary, Sluggy Freelance, El Goonish Shive, Dumbing of Age, Erfworld, Gunnerkrigg Court.

      Non-story webcomics I enjoyed: xkcd, Penny Arcade, Dinosaur Comics, Wondermark.

      • TheWorst says:

        Speaking as someone with very similar preferences, that cluster suggests you would enjoy Worm by Wildbow, once you get past the first part.

        For that same reason, I’m going to check out Richard Roberts’ series. Thanks!

        • badgerbadgerbadger says:

          I read Worm by Wildbow but it wasn’t this year. 🙂

          I liked most of it but some of it was darker than I wanted it to be.

          I’ve tried Pact and Twig but they feel even darker than Worm, so I haven’t gotten super far in either.

        • rlms says:

          Have you read Pact and Twig? If so, what did you think? I quite liked Pact (not as much as Worm) but couldn’t get into Twig.

        • Machina ex Deus says:

          This year (in fact, in the second half of this year) I read both Worm and Pact (by Wildbow).

          WARNING: Worm is a gigantic nerd-sniping infohazard for anyone who’s ever read a comic book and thought at the same time. I am not joking when I say I missed a day of work to keep reading it. And it’s the length of five Robert Jordan-sized novels, with no obvious place to take a month-long break.

          Either Pact isn’t quite as addictive, or I’d built up some sort of Wildbow tolerance, but I still read the sucker all the way through, with maybe a day or two off here and there. Also, Pact doesn’t slaughter anywhere near as many innocent civilians as Worm.

          Spoiler: Abguvat va Jbez gryyf lbh jul vg’f pnyyrq gung.

      • For story webcomics, I like those by John Allison (e.g., Bad Machinery). You can find his stuff at scarygoround.com.

    • onyomi says:

      Seems many people revisiting Stephenson. I have only read Snow Crash and The Diamond Age. Which of his others should be next, assuming I just want to read his best books and don’t care about e. g. chronology?

      • Anatoly says:

        _Anathem_, then _Cryptonomicon_.

      • Iain says:

        Mostly Stephenson’s novels stand alone. The exception is the Baroque Cycle, which is a trilogy. I liked Anathem and Cryptonomicon best.

        • John Schilling says:

          The Baroque Cycle is a (distant) prequel to Cryptonomicon, and the latter work probably ought to be read first.

      • Spookykou says:

        I found Anathem and Cryptonomicon both to be worse than what you have already read. Personally Snow Crash > Baroque Cycle > Diamond Age > Cyrpt I honestly wouldn’t even recommend Anathem I had a hard time finishing it.

        • rlms says:

          Conversely, I preferred Cryptonomicon to Snow Crash! I haven’t read any of the others.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          I had a hard time finishing Anathem as well, but only because it was taxing a part of my knowledge that I really wanted to expand, so I ended up pressing forward with it for the reason someone might keep eating their vegetables. It generally very heavy on math, philosophy, logic… you know, rationalist porn. The only thing it was missing was Yudkowsky in casual wear talking about trolley problems.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            Huh? There was a trolley problem at the end; they solved it by superposing quantum states to make the trolley go both ways, thus motivating the solitary guy to get the hell off the track.

            And you can’t put a Yudkowsky character in a novel, because the character’s existence* would be wildly unrealistic.

            I read Anathem twice, once last year and once a couple years before that (I got the hardcover). I also read Cryptonomicon twice; I bought the trade paperback after randomly opening it in a bookstore and reading the “heirloom furniture” digression. By then I’d already read Snow Crash two or three times. I’ve read the Baroque Trilogy, but only once so far.

            I like all of Stephenson’s work, including the “Flag’s Enemies are Legion” Wired article long ago. I haven’t gotten around to Seveneves yet, or his first (uncharacteristically short) novel Zodiac. I did think Anathem stood out stylistically; it’s got a somewhat simpler writing style, which is carrying somewhat more-sophisticated but less-complex scientific/mathematical/philosophical ideas than in the Baroque Trilogy (I really liked the Watered Steel digression, and the tuned-mercury trick).

            (* Or possibly, continued existence.)

          • Deiseach says:

            thus motivating the solitary guy to get the hell off the track

            Isn’t that cheating, at least as regards the classical problem? Isn’t the set-up supposed to be “No, you can’t yell at the single man on the track to get him to move so the track will be empty, no you can’t get the five (or however many) people to move, everyone is stuck where they are and can’t be warned or shifted, you have to choose: one or five?”

            I’m all for cheating on the trolley problem, but if the “single guy on track B” is free to get off track B, why the need for quantum superimposition? Just get a loudhailer and yell at him “Hey, shift your arse, trolley coming!”

          • Vermillion says:

            Just because I can’t allow someone to be wrong on the internet, [url=https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0011GA0AM]Stephenson’s first book The Big U[/url]. It’s not a very good book mind, in fact I’d heard he for a time went around used bookstores buying up copies to destroy, but it has a lot of interesting scenes and it’s fun seeing a writer stumbling about all shaky baby deer legs etc.

        • andrewflicker says:

          On the other hand, I preferred Anathem to Baroque by miles, and to Cryptonomicon by a hair.

        • Randy M says:

          I’ve been reading quicksilver this year, and finding it slow going. PArts of it are quite interesting, but overall I find there isn’t a very coherent narrative or plot thread to drive it forward (as well as some excessive descriptions at times). This probably makes it more true to life, but less gripping.

          • Incurian says:

            The series gets better.

          • Randy M says:

            Oh it does, even in this book once other protagonists are introduced. But still, 5/6th of the way in, Daniel finally looks like he has a plot or agenda of some kind to pursue beyond “Go check in with a famous scientist or politician for a bit.”

            edit to John below: This is the first of his I’ve read.

          • John Schilling says:

            If you’ve read “Cryptonomicon”, you know that it does come together and approximately what the end state is. If not, trust us that there is a plot. The clanking, rumbling noise you hear in the distance is the locomotive taking up the slack at the head of the train. In the meantime, enjoy the baroque assortment of rolling stock that has been set out before you.

            As is usual with Stephenson, there isn’t as much of an ending as you might like, though that’s another part where the existence of “Cryptonomicon” helps.

          • Incurian says:

            You might judge it more charitably if you read Cryptonomicon first, as the Baroque Cycle is something of a prequel to it. There are probably lots of winks and nods you’re missing.

          • gbdub says:

            Plot in general (particularly ending a plot) does not seem to be a strong suit of Stephenson’s. REAMDE is probably the closest to a riveting page-turner, and even that is fairly convoluted. And it’s also polarizing among fans since it’s basically a geekier Tom Clancy novel (but fun if you’re both a geek and a Tom Clancy fan!)

            That’s the best (or worst) thing about Stephenson – he doesn’t write the same novel twice. He doesn’t stick to a category. You’ve got cyberpunk, historical novels, a spy book, techno thrillers, speculative fiction, satire, and environmental terrorism. I’d wager most people into sci-fi would like at least one of Stephenson’s books, but also that most fans will definitely have favorites and least favorites among his work.

      • tscharf says:

        I liked Anathem which was pretty different, but I liked Snow Crash much more than the rest of his stuff.

        If you liked Snow Crash then you may also like Ready Player One which is my favorite SF of all time, mostly because I grew up in the time period referenced and was intimately familiar with the video game culture.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        There are three separate questions: what should you read, what is his best book, and what book would you like most. In your case, the answer to all three is Anathem.

      • beleester says:

        From the ones I’ve read that you haven’t:

        Cryptonomicon is my favorite, it’s got some very clever spy trickery that I thought was really cool, and skillfully blends the use of cryptography and secret information into its story.

        Anathem has some very interesting worldbuilding with the maths and the society around them. It talks a lot about Platonic epistemology, and gets sorta weird near the end. IIRC you’re into weird designs for society, so you might like it.

        REAMDE is a bog-standard techno-thriller, the MMORPG and digital currency concepts are just a device to kick things off. I wasn’t a fan.

      • Bugmaster says:

        Anathem for sure, it’s my favorite Stephenson book, right next to Snow Crash. Cryptonomicon is ok, I guess. I personally loved The Big U, but I understand that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea; if you don’t like surrealism, don’t read it.

        Avoid the Baroque Cycle at all costs, unless perhaps you have insomnia and are looking for a fast-acting remedy.

    • cassander says:

      Deluge by Adam Tooze.

      https://www.amazon.com/Deluge-America-Remaking-Global-1916-1931/dp/0143127977

      Tooze wrote what I regard as the single best book on WW2 a few years ago (this is the only competition), and while Deluge is not quite as good, it’s an amazing look at the the economics of WW1.

      Also excellent is fire in the sky that really gets into the how and why of history, not just the what.

      Geoffrey Parker’s The army of Flanders. Fascinating look into the world of early modern modern states, logistics, armies, etc.

      And while I’ve read it before, I did reread Jonathan Isreal’s magnum opus, and it was at least as good thesecond time around.

      Lastly, I have not read any of them this year, but any list of history books should mention Robert Massie. His books flow like novels. I have read all of them, each is more excellent than the last. They cannot be recommended highly enough if you have even a vague interest in the subjects.

    • TheContinentalOp says:

      Not published in 2016, but I read it this year:

      Stealing The General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor by Russell S.Bonds.

      https://www.amazon.com/Stealing-General-Great-Locomotive-Chase/dp/1594160783

      On April 12, 1862, twenty Union soldiers in disguise boarded a train in Georgia to execute a scheme that was meant to bring a quick end to the Civil War. The plan, devised by a quinine-smuggling Union scout and an astronomer turned general, was to steal a locomotive and drive it to Chattanooga, capturing a key railroad connection whose loss would cut the Confederacy in half. The raid might have succeeded if not for the train’s conductor, who pursued the hijackers on foot (“this seemed to be funny to some of the crowd,” he said later, “but it wasn’t so to me”) and then by handcar and a series of three engines. The Union men were captured, and eight were hung as spies; some of the survivors were later the first-ever recipients of the Medal of Honor. The chase became a contemporary legend – it’s now best known as the basis of a Buster Keaton film – and Bonds’s account, the first major study in decades, is thoroughly worthy of an expedition that, a Union officer wrote, “had the wildness of a romance.”

    • Montfort says:

      I can barely remember what I’ve read in the last four months, but I would definitely recommend:

      The Robbers” by Friedrich Schiller (also available free from Project Gutenberg with an older translation). A play about a young aristocrat who goes astray and leads the titular band of robbers. A bit melodramatic and idealistic in places (especially where Amalia appears), but that’s part of it’s charm.

      Eifelheim by Michael Flynn. Historical fiction / sci-fi that hit the notes I wanted to see for a first contact story in medieval Germany. I don’t think it’s obvious from the publisher’s description, so I’ll note that I found it to be a rather sad story in the end.

      From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. Graphic novel about Jack the Ripper, clearly thoroughly researched, but history is subordinated to literary needs. As violent and twisted as you might expect, but also surreal and as much about society of the time and human nature as the actual events depicted.

      • Bugmaster says:

        As long as we’re talking about Michael Flynn, Firestar is also great; I liked it better than Eifelheim.

    • US says:

      An awesome question, mostly because of the many good answers which it is likely to motivate.

      I added three books to my list of favorites on goodreads (includes all my favourite books, also those I did not read this year…):
      The Second World War, by Winston Churchill.
      Pre-Industrial Societies: Anatomy of the Pre-Modern World, by Patricia Crone.
      The Biology of Moral Systems, by Richard Alexander.

      Other books that probably deserve to be mentioned are:
      Human Drug Metabolism: An Introduction, by Michael Coleman. Thinking back, I’m not sure why I didn’t add that one to the list as well. I might still do it, it’s a great book.
      A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution, by Bowles and Gintis.
      On a lighter note, there’s Blackadder: The Whole Damn Dynasty, 1485-1917. In the same vein, The Complete Yes Prime Minister. Also, Wilt, by Tom Sharpe. I liked all the Wilt novels, but the first one was the best, in my opinion.

      A complete list of the books I read this year which includes goodreads ratings and links to reviews and blog posts about the books (~150) is available here. If you prefer the goodreads format with cover views, this link should work.

      Incidentally people who contributed to the ‘which books do you recommend to me’-thread a while back might like to know that I’ll probably today be finishing my last Dick Francis novel (they were good/great, or I wouldn’t have read them…), and so I’ll have another look at the thread again tomorrow to see where to go next. As I noted back then, all those recommendations will likely to me be a gift that keeps on giving for a long time to come…

      • keranih says:

        Thank you.

        Between Berlin and the Russian ambassador and some local things and the American election drama (is it over now please God let it be over) and…just 2016. Freaking 201.

        Anyway, I was feeling very down and gloomy.

        Thank you. I’m glad you liked the Dick Francis books. Which ones were your favorites? I like many of them, but Come to Grief and Whip Hand andBanker and Proof and Rat Race are all deeply loved.

        And to think I got into the books for the ponies.

        • US says:

          “Between Berlin and the Russian ambassador and some local things and the American election drama (is it over now please God let it be over) and…just 2016. Freaking 201.

          Anyway, I was feeling very down and gloomy.”

          (I have no idea what ‘Berlin and the Russian ambassador’ means, but I can definitely empathise with the ‘down and gloomy’ part. Anyway…).

          I gave The Edge five stars on goodreads, the only Francis novel that got that rating; I’m not sure I’d say it’s the best one although going by rating that should be so – I mostly gave it five stars because I’ll usually be able to find something to grumble about when I’m reading books I like, some detail or other that I did not like, but in that book’s case I couldn’t really find anything significant to even grumble about, so I figured I ought to let my rating reflect that. Like you, I also like the Syd Halley novels. The Danger, especially the interactions between Douglas and Alessia, was very good. Rat Race and High Stakes also springs to mind.

          It was always the characters and the interesting settings and life circumstances explored, not the ponies, that kept me reading.

          • Aapje says:

            I have no idea what ‘Berlin and the Russian ambassador’

            Berlin refers to the recent terrorist attack in Berlin.

            The Russian ambassador to Turkey was killed the other day.

          • US says:

            I realized earlier today. I generally don’t follow the news much, but when something is on wikipedia’s front page I’ll usually notice, and by now both events have been added there. But thanks for the explanation anyway. I must admit that when I read his comment I was very puzzled. What noteworthy event had happened in Berlin this year? Russian ambassador?? It makes sense now, but it didn’t back then.

          • Hot Money was one of my favorites, in part because of the narrator’s very interesting father, in part because of the tension between the father’s perfectly reasonable policy ex ante for his kids and the persuasive arguments for why he should violate it ex post.

            I also liked High Stakes, in part for the picture of the prejudice against rich people, not a theme I often see explored.

            But lots of the others are good as well.

    • Bugmaster says:

      I really liked Constellation Games; I agree with one of the Amazon reviewers who said something like, “this book makes me want to be a better person”.

      I also liked the Half a King trilogy. It’s a technically YA book, so it doesn’t have the same mind-shattering punch as his more well-known First Law trilogy, but it’s still pretty good. The trilogy uses an interesting trick to demonstrate that how we see ourselves is very different from how other people may see us; and that history is a lot more difficult to steer than most people imagine.

    • aNeopuritan says:

      Albion’s Seed*, American Nations, A History of China and A History of India (by Blackwell), A History of Iran – Empire of the Mind, Empires of the Silk Road, Empires of Medieval West Africa, The Lost History of Christianity, Vanished Kingdoms, Firearms – A Global History to 1700*, The Myth of Continents, Essential Sufism, Meditations on Violence*, Digger*, and Schlock Mercenary*. Strongest recommendations asterisked; Firearms (…) to 1700 not strictly as military history, but because it covers a lot of regional histories, geography, and development theory, and Schlock Mercenary starting from Book 10 (also, it’s still bbeing made, and Book 17 just started).

  9. Callum G says:

    As there are people talking about career advice here:

    I’ve just about completed a year long dipGrad in computer science and am looking to work in the field. Problem is the field is seems so complex I’m finding it hard to develop good career strategy. Does anyone have experience/resources on this? Also it seems a portfolio really helps to get a job, any tips on how to get a good looking portfolio? I have a three week break and I want to use it to get myself on the right path. Any help would be much appreciated.

    • Matthias says:

      I assume you want to work as a programmer? If you can string a few lines of code together and paid attention in the intro classes on algorithms and datastructures, you don’t need any portfolio. Especially if you are willing to move internationally.

      Do befriend some people working at Google and Facebook et al. Online is fine. That way you can get referrals, which basically guarantee you a phone screen interview—so you resume doesn’t end up in a black hole.

      The field has been a real sellers market for some time. Programmers can afford to be picky.

      What’s your current situation like? Where in the world are you based? What’s your passport? Can you solve something like https://www.hackerrank.com/challenges/even-tree in less than an hour?

      • Callum G says:

        Yeah, a programmer is what I’m looking to be. I’m a New Zealander (with passport) and also have Irish citizenship. I’m very happy to travel elsewhere; I want to see some more of the world outside my little island. However the way student loans work here is that they’re interest free until you travel overseas. So I’ll only really travel if I have a good job on the other end.

        I’ll try that challenge and a couple like it when I get a free spot today. At a glance, challenges like these would probably take me an hour and a half; more or less depending on mistakes etc. I’m still relatively new to this.

    • badgerbadgerbadger says:

      Creating a LinkedIn account may lead to recruiters emailing you with offers, which solves the calling-companies-cold problem pretty well.

  10. rubberduck says:

    How strong is the experimental basis for the complaints about media representation in terms of race, gender, sexuality, etc.? Most studies on the topic are either in communications or “____ Studies” and focus on picking apart the medium in question (ex: looking at %female in TV shows) but there seem to be much fewer papers in econ/psych/etc. – something that could, for example, experimentally determine how representation (or lack thereof) of one’s group affects mindset/goals/etc, and that goes beyond stereotype threat? The closest to what I was looking for that I could find was “Racial and Gender Differences in the Relationship Between Children’s Television Use and Self-Esteem: A Longitudinal Panel Study” by Martins and Harrison. This honors thesis (for a B.A. in psych, written this year) attempts a literature review and actually says that there’s very few experiments in which actual variables were manipulated. Am I not looking hard enough? I realize that this is very difficult to study since there’s a thousand potential confounders at work.

    Alternately, are people complaining about media representation trying to get at something more than “it has bad effects on these groups’ self-esteem”?

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I think there’s also a belief that if you seldom or never see anyone from a group in a fairly particular positive role, you’re less likely to choose someone for that group to fill that role.

      Also, a lot of people do seem to have trouble imagining themselves doing something that they haven’t seen someone like them do. This is not to deny that there are also plenty of people who are immune to this limitation.

      My handiest example is that I’ve seen a bunch of people say (sorry no cite) that it was a shocking realization that they could become a writer. This may be a special case because books don’t have an obvious human source. Being a writer isn’t like being a doctor.

      Speaking vaguely of, any recommendations for positive-to-neutral portrayals of people from the white working class in popular media?

      • andrewflicker says:

        I’d consider police to usually be working class (even if very well-paid working class), and there are quite a few procedurals out there that cast the police in favorable lights.

      • Forlorn Hopes says:

        Speaking vaguely of, any recommendations for positive-to-neutral portrayals of people from the white working class in popular media?

        I’m going to limit this to recognisably Earth cultures.

        Johnathan Strange and Mr Norrell’s Childermass is a good example if you don’t mind going back to the regency era.

        The Bartimaeus trilogy has some heroic working class muggles rebelling against the magocracy set in a fairly modern fantasy London.

        Jack Murdock from the Daredevil tv series definitely counts even though he has limited screen time.

        The Mario Brothers probably don’t count, but canonically they are plumbers.

        Left for Dead 2 has all or almost all working class characters. Left for Dead 1 has one or two.

        The protagonist of an obscure (and very good) webcomic Shades is a tailor. Another charachter is a cabbie and his niece/nephews. It’s complete and free so check it out.

        The protagonist of angelmaker is a watch repair man. The other protagonist is harder to place (she’s basically a female James Bond, so her background mostly begins in spy training).

        • DrBeat says:

          The only white working class character in Left 4 Dead 2 is Ellis, and only Coach and Ellis are working class regardless of race. Nick is a criminal and con man, and if that doesn’t disqualify him from being working class, his casual wear of an expensive (even if probably not really $3000) white suit sure does. Rochelle is a TV news producer, making her part of a high-class credentialed service economy and also a member of The News Media.

      • keranih says:

        Speaking vaguely of, any recommendations for positive-to-neutral portrayals of people from the white working class in popular media?

        I’ve heard people talk about Deepwater Horizon in this way. Mike Rowe’s non-fiction Dirty Jobs series might count.

        The suggestion for police procedurals is a good one – try Bluebloods. Longmire and Justified are also good for this, I think. You might also look for old works – John Wayne westerns, etc.

        My handiest example is that I’ve seen a bunch of people say (sorry no cite) that it was a shocking realization that they could become a writer.

        Look up the story of the Florida Highwayman painters, some time.

        I’ve heard this thought expressed, too, and it never made sense to me – that there was a profession which it was not possible that people like me could do. In charity, though, it does seem to have happened to a lot of people.

        Flipping it around, I wonder how many people never thought that they are the sort of people who would steal, or whore themselves out, or do drugs, or kill someone, or taunt someone into suicide. I mean, like ‘retire at middle management’, it’s generally not something seven year olds put on their “life accomplishment wish list”.

        Yet people all around the world from various walks of life do that thing every day.

      • Alejandro says:

        In Eric Flint’s 1632 and its sequels, the protagonists are the inhabitants of a modern West Virginia mining town that gets suddenly transplanted to Central Europe during the 30 Years’ War.

      • Iain says:

        William Gibson’s The Peripheral might count? Near-ish future sci-fi with half the action taking place in small town rural America. Gibson is not optimistic about the prospects of the working class, but the most sympathetic character is white working class and the book takes their problems seriously.

      • tgb says:

        Great point/question about the (white) working class in media. Other than police serials, the next most common portrayals are probably soldiers (you tell me what this says about our society). Forest Gump falls into that category, with some twists. You can probably also find a lot of positive minor roles by looking at the protagonists parents: successful child of struggling parents is a common trope. But that’s sidelining them to be overshadowed by their upper middle class offspring.

        Would you count October Skies? It’s fairly negative about the situation of being working class but is positive about the individuals as far as I recall. Same for John Steinbeck.

        And since we were all thinking it but didn’t want to bring it up: Ayn Rand is probably the place to look for this.

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          @ tgb

          In the movie Rand’s main characters look and behave like very comfortable working class. (Especially in Part II — I haven’t seen Part III.) I was impressed with the choice to get rid of what glamour there was left in Part I. I’d have enjoyed more glamour all through, but ordinary people showed her message better.

        • John Schilling says:

          Great point/question about the (white) working class in media. Other than police serials, the next most common portrayals are probably soldiers (you tell me what this says about our society).

          I would assume that television still counts as media, and for as long as television has existed there has been a pretty steady supply of sitcoms centered on an affectionate portrayal of a white working-class family. Or, I suppose, yellow working class.

    • Spookykou says:

      I think one complaint that is not related to what you are talking about, is that by casting white people to play non-white people you are taking jobs away from non-white actors.

      I don’t actually understand this belief very well but I have heard it expressed.

  11. Mark Lu says:

    Paul Bloom reads SSC! He mentioned one of Scott’s posts (about Trump) in the latest Very Bad Wizards podcast.

    • GCBill says:

      He does, and has for at least a year AFAIK. He’s also Tweeted at least several of Scott’s articles.

  12. Parmenides says:

    Unsong question: So if I remember correctly, Appollo 11 crashed into the crystal sphere. What about the previous missions that circled the moon, like Appollo 8?

    • CatCube says:

      It was Apollo 8 that crashed into the crystal sphere. Apollo 11 was then repurposed to *land* on the crystal sphere.

      The story sort of neglects that Apollo 8 wasn’t the first circumlunar flight, only the first *manned* circumlunar flight.

      • geekethics says:

        So I think “crashed into” the sphere is the wrong way of looking at it. This is a metaphorical process not a mechanical one. More accurate would be to say it “crashed” the sphere.

        The thing that caused the destruction was reading the old testament beyond the sphere. Uriel says “YOU INJECTED THE CODE FOR THE ORIGINAL SYSTEM VIA A BUFFER OVERFLOW ATTACK.” Not doing that would have kept the lunar sphere just metaphorical enough to pass a spaceship through it.

  13. OrneryOstrich says:

    Hypothesis: mental illness is contagious, and can spread via social media.

    We already know emotions can spread via social media – angry statuses make people angry and make more angry statuses (for more, see That Research Paper Facebook wrote). I’m not sure where anxiety and depression fall on a spectrum between emotions and illnesses, but I think they blur the distinction. Also unsure if stress can cause mental illness, but I think the answer is yes.

    Ultimately, I’d like my friends (who qualitatively seem to have mental health problems in direct proportion to how much time they spend on SJ Tumblr) to see their mental health not as something they’re born with (because my friends weren’t like this when we were in college, and had less time to spend on social media), but as something that’s being done to them.

    Sorry for not providing citations or evidence – I’m mostly hoping to start a conversation and see if others are qualitatively noticing the same thing.

    • Well... says:

      Social media is a mental illness, just an externalized one. (Similar to how a shopping list is an externalized form of memory.)

      BTW there’s a lot of literature on the effects of social media on mental health.

      If you haven’t already, you should delete all your social media accounts.

      • OrneryOstrich says:

        Hmm, presumably SSC comment threads don’t qualify as social media under your definition of the term. I think SSC comments, as well as all message boards, are social media. What’s your definition?

        • Well... says:

          I haven’t thought about a formal definition for social media, but off the top of my head two typical features of social media illustrate important differences between it and SSC comment threads:

          – social media is engineered so you put more and more of your life into it, starting with the first carefully-designed prompt to share whatever’s on your mind
          – social media encourages you to make “connections” and grow your “network”
          – social media is outwardly positioned as a “platform” or public resource rather than as a private website

          • OrneryOstrich says:

            Okay. I’m comfortable saying that I believe my hypothesis applies equally well to message boards or SSC comments – it’s not a product of the technology, it’s a product of the company you keep.

    • Cerby says:

      The idea of ideas as memetic parasites/symbiotes that spread through hosts across communication vectors is a creature I’m willing to house in my headmeat.
      (I do faintly recall a Youtube video on the subject of ideas being susceptible to evolutionary pressures, with the more successful ones mutating to spread farther and across more minds, but I’m on mobile. Will come back if I find it once home.)
      EDIT: Here it is.

      • OrneryOstrich says:

        I saw that! It borrows pretty heavily from Scott’s “Toxoplasmosis of Rage” article, I think.

        Speaking of Toxoplasma… stage 2 of my hypothesis is that social media “deliberately” cultivates depressive behaviors. If you think jobs are bullshit, you’re less likely to keep your job. If you think you live in an oppressive culture that harasses / assaults / arrests / shoots you just for going outside, you’re more likely to stay inside.

        And if you stay inside and become unemployed, you’re the perfect host. You’re more likely to upvoterebloglikesharecomment these kinds of memes, and followfriend your allies who share these kinds of memes. The memes become super successful because they’ve cultivated a strong core of people, with lots of free time, promoting them.

    • onyomi says:

      I don’t think mental illness can spread like a memetic virus through social media because I don’t think thinking you have depression, or might develop depression, increases your likelihood of actually having it or developing it, though it might increase the number of people claiming to have it.

      I do think excessive or harmful social media use may be a symptom and/or enabler of mental illness in the way that say, easy availability of alcohol enables alcoholism but doesn’t cause it, per se. Having a cheap liquor store right around the corner doesn’t cause you to become an alcoholic; you may never set foot in the place. But it may increase the probability of it.

      Speaking as someone with OCD tendencies, I can say that there is an extent to which if it isn’t one thing, it’s another. That is, given that social media is available, I may become obsessed with it in an unhealthy way; but social media didn’t cause my inherent tendency to become unhealthfully obsessed with things, and if social media didn’t exist I might just become obsessed with something else, possibly more harmful (or possibly more constructive). That is, in the alcohol example, if you are the type of person who becomes an alcoholic “because” of the corner liquor store, there is a decent chance that, absent the corner liquor store, you’d still become one, or, if you had a corner blow dealer instead, addicted to something worse.

      I do think there is an extent to which social media and other digital technology including TV, cell phone games, etc. may be:mental health::McDonald’s:healthy weight. It is possible to eat McDonald’s, even to eat McDonald’s regularly, and maintain a healthy weight. Some people may be able to eat McDonald’s all the time and never get fat. But having easy access to McDonald’s may make it harder to maintain a healthy weight. Probably does, because it’s carefully engineered to pack maximum fat+carbs+sodium into the cheapest, tastiest, fastest available package. Similarly, media today is designed to be addictive; therefore, having a healthy relationship to it may be a greater challenge today in the same way as having a healthy relationship to food may be.

      • OrneryOstrich says:

        I’m building off Scott’s “Mental Disorders as Networks” model, where “depression” is just a cluster of symptoms related by a complex chain of causes. I think some people are Born This Way, unable to synthesize or receive dopamine properly. For example, I definitely think Hyperbole and a Half’s illustration of depression is very different from any of my friends’. But I think depression is generally broader than the Born This Way crowd, and that it may still be a useful term.

        I can imagine social media patterns fitting the causal model very well. Maybe Trump Anxiety disturbs your sleep, causing fatigue. And fatigue causes you to snap at your boss. Maybe that thinkpiece on Bullshit Jobs feeds your feelings of worthlessness and causes you to slack at work. Maybe your irritability and dislike of work causes you to lose your job, and then to stop seeking work. (Again, this is all quite theoretical.)

        • sweetcandyskulls says:

          Oh shit, I think you just gave me depression.

          Why is tumblr worse than just my day to day life sucking?

          • OrneryOstrich says:

            If you lose your job, your day-to-day life will absolutely suck. Tumblr isn’t “worse” here, it’s just a vector to transmit depression into an otherwise-happy life.

            (This hyposthesis does cause me a lot of distress, and I do personally agree with the statement “Tumblr is worse than my day-to-day life.”)

          • onyomi says:

            I could see this potentially working in this sense, and have probably observed such a pattern in people I know: because it is now possible to cultivate a media bubble for oneself–to be exposed 24/7 to whatever type of messaging you want, it is conceivable that one can become “addicted” to news or opinions that feel like they scratch an itch in the short run–reports about how the world is going to hell in a handbasket, “outrage porn,” and so on, but which make you less happy or more vulnerable to mental illness in the long run.

            Like, in the past, if you were prone to get obsessively outraged about perceived injustice, your ability to surround yourself with stories about that particular kind of outrage was limited. Now, it isn’t. As a libertarian, I can spend all day, every day, reading about government atrocities if I want to, as an SJW could spend all day, every day, reading about violence against minorities and women, and so on.

          • sweetcandyskulls says:

            Onyomi

            Taking that idea to a conclusion

            Positive inspirational tumblr bubble as free therapy?

          • onyomi says:

            Yes, I do think there is a sense in which “you are what you eat (for your media diet),” for good and for ill. I have a friend who looks at pictures of fat people to help him keep off the weight (and anorexics, of course, look at pictures of skeletal models for motivation–not healthy, but it probably helps them achieve that goal). These are probably… not ideal, but there is probably a… nicer, more constructive way to do something like this. /fit/ for example posts only slightly homoerotic pictures of muscular men to inspire one another to get ripped, etc.

            Are there any cute motivational memes to keep me from losing faith in the peer review process, maybe?

    • knownastron says:

      Not sure where I heard this but for years now I’ve always believed in the saying: “The first sign of clinical depression is a Tumblr account.”

      I think there’s a kernel of truth there. Like you, I don’t have any evidence to back up the claim but in my experience there certainly is a link between the Tumblr user friends/ex-gfs and depression. It might not be causal, maybe Tumblr for some reason attracts the depressed, but I suspect something is going on here also…

      My hypothesis is that the Tumblr community, being an SJW enclave (is this accurate? That’s my impression of Tumblr), rewards people that claim to have depression with attention and social validation. This is the Oppression Olympics in action. The more oppressed/victimized you are, the more online street cred you get. So you’re incentivized in the Tumblr community to be oppressed or victimized in some way. Depression is one form that is easy to adopt.

      • rubberduck says:

        Obligatory “there is a Tumblr outside the SJ-sphere” comment.

        I can see the connection, and it fits with my personal experience as well, but I don’t think it’s SJ-related. Tumblr’s seemingly endless ocean of content and infinite scrolling make it very low-effort entertainment that doesn’t require you to leave your bed, so it could be attractive to the depressed. The SJ stuff and glorification of mental illness don’t hurt but I don’t think they alone can explain the connection. (Disclaimer: have a Tumblr, don’t frequent the SJ side, not depressed or otherwise mentally ill.)

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        I mean, Tumblr is basically Facebook for lonely nerdy(ish) people, SJ-aligned or not.

      • Adam says:

        I don’t think that’s at all an accurate representation of Tumblr. Consider porn is still the biggest constituent of all Internet traffic, and Tumblr is the only of the major social media providers that doesn’t censor what you’re allowed to post. It’s a massive dissemination point for free content, both third-party reposts and fledgling individual performers trying to make names for themselves. Free porn is the only reason I have a Tumblr account. Your feed is completely customizable, and if all you ever see is SJW posts, that’s because that is what you chose to see.

    • Reasoner says:

      I don’t have anything relevant to say, but I thought this comment was interesting and I encourage you to post more if you have other interesting ideas.

    • Brad says:

      I don’t like the term social media. Facebook, instagram, linkedin, snapchat and twitter are all really quite different from each other in how they work and how people use them. I don’t think the category as whole is very useful for much of anything — other perhaps than as an investment sector.

    • Viliam says:

      I think what you describe is more like an effect of joining a cult, than social media per se. People who join cults have their personalities changed, and become pessimistic about everything that is not related to the cult.

      Social media is just a tool to keep the cult members connected all the time, because the more time one spends with fellow cultists, the less time one can spend with unbelievers or doing some independent thinking. Attention is a scarce resource, and the cult extracts as much as it can.

      But in some ways, the social media are more insidious than e.g. using a phone for the same purpose would be. With phone, it’s 1:1; with social media, you are connected to the whole group. With phone, you know when you are talking to other cult members, and when you are talking to unbelievers. With social media it feels like you are communicating with the whole world freely, but you are actually self-censoring all the time (or get “called out” by someone from your group). It’s like having your phone calls monitored by your fellow cultists, but of course you are nominally free to talk to anyone, as long as there is zero wrongthink on your side (so technically all you can do with most people is just preaching to them or screaming at them).

      The similarities between the “social justice” and the standard cult criteria are too big to be coincidental (black and white thinking, requiring perfect purity, believing your side is predestined to win, denying individual experience that contradicts the group teachings, controlling the way you speak, redefining the language, disconnecting from nonbelievers, being publicly judged by the group, having a “science” you are not allowed to be skeptical about, etc.).

  14. Tekhno says:

    Defining types of economies based on how you access goods:

    Type 1 Economy: You hunt, gather, and make your own goods with help from kin. The variety of goods is dependent on what you and your kin make out of the natural environment. The primary and secondary sector is mostly tribal. Examples: hunter gatherer communities, subsistence agriculture.

    Intermediate types (1a,etc): Barter based economies, mercantile feudal economies.

    Type 2 Economy: You use a common means of exchange to trade for goods you cannot make yourself. The variety of goods is dependent on what goods private business or government make from processed materials. The primary, secondary, and tertiary sector is mostly societal. Examples: pre-capitalist market economies, “capitalism”, “socialism” (state capitalism).

    Intermediate types: ?

    Type 3 Economy: You use automated machinery to create any custom good you desire out of raw materials provided by business or government. The variety of goods is dependent on what advanced additive manufacturing machines can make out of various processed materials. The primary sector is societal, but much of the secondary, and tertiary sectors is individual. Examples: Not yet available. (Star Trek?)

    • keranih says:

      In your structure, at what point does Type 1 become Type 2? I mean, what fraction of your subsistance needs or material horde needs to be “storeboughten” before Type 1 becomes Type 2?

      Also, for Type 3 – how are you defining “advanced additive manufacturing machines” and how is running a plant of these different than herding goats to produce milk, cheese, and roast goat?

      • Deiseach says:

        Presumably Type 1 transitions into Type 2 at the point where we get dodgy Babylonian merchants like Ea-Nasir 🙂

        • Loquat says:

          My favorite part is that he was apparently keeping all these clay tablets with angry letters calling him a crook. Like, was he proud of the amount of hate mail he got?

          • Deiseach says:

            I imagine he was keeping track of exactly what scam he pulled where on who – so that (for instance) “Okay, I can’t try the ol’ low quality copper thing in that town for a bit, but I haven’t done the house flipping scam there yet”.

            It was probably necessary to know who he’d pissed off for what reason so that if he did get hauled into court (or they sent the leg-breakers round), he could keep his story straight and avoid visiting that part of the country until things cooled down 🙂

    • Tekhno says:

      In your structure, at what point does Type 1 become Type 2? I mean, what fraction of your subsistance needs or material horde needs to be “storeboughten” before Type 1 becomes Type 2?

      The two blend smoothly into each other through intermediate types of economy. It’s a general description, not a precise one. More primitive economies are dominated by type 1 economic activity, and more advanced economies are dominated by type 2 activity.

      Also, for Type 3 – how are you defining “advanced additive manufacturing machines” and how is running a plant of these different than herding goats to produce milk, cheese, and roast goat?

      Because with goats, you (and your “tribe”) have to do work, and the goods you can get are limited by the nature of goats, which are not designed to produce any conceivable good for human consumption.

      It’s very different to having something more like a Star Trek replicator, where you can get any kind of good you want with no labor.

      Let’s rephrase.

      Type 1: You have to work hard with your nearest group to produce a limited range of goods for subsistence. Good selection is limited by your local ability to manipulate nature.
      Type 2: You work hard to gain means of exchange to purchase things others have produced that you couldn’t produce for yourself. Good selection is limited by how market actors (or government in a socialist state) respond to demand, and a less limited ability to manipulate raw materials due to scale economies and modern technology.
      Type 3: You ask a machine for the precise good you want and it gives it to you. Good selection is no longer limited directly by market factors, since you have control over secondary stage production, and due to the advanced stage of manufacturing, any conceivable good can be replicated within size and ration constraints.

    • onyomi says:

      Type 3 reminds me of Stephenson’s “The Diamond Age.” The idea being that once it was no more expensive to build out of diamond than concrete (due to the invention of “matter compilers,” i. e. Star Trek’s replicators), people started building everything out of diamond. In the same book he proposed some alternative to this kind of economy, which the Chinese were developing in the future and he called “the seed.” I’m not sure I really understood what he was proposing with that, though. I think the basic idea was that the matter compiler “feed” was more planned, while the “seed” was more “open source,” non-linear, decentralized, or something. Maybe more ancapish, but I’m not sure how it was supposed to interface with the different technologies.

      • Spookykou says:

        Diamond age was what I thought of as well. I thought the idea of the feed was that it created a sort of anti-UBI? You could have anything you wanted whenever you wanted, but you had to keep up payments to the feed or it would stop. And the idea behind the Seed was that it would be self contained or self sustaining, they would somehow incorporate the means to produce the raw material and the replicator in the same system so you no longer needed a third party provider.

        Its been a long time since I read the books though so I might have just made all that up.

        In any case the appeal to culturalism and the enclaves in that book were the most interesting part for me, at the time of reading at least.

        • onyomi says:

          That sounds right based on my recollection. And I agree the cultural enclaves were interesting. Feels like Stephenson predicted neo-ethnonationalism a long time ago.

          I guess the key with the feed is that, once you only need power to produce any configuration of matter, then power becomes in some sense, the only resource. Or was it more like the feed controlled the blueprints for building stuff, so you could have anything in the world cheaply, but the ability to provide it like that was, in some sense, copyright?

          Either way, I guess it points to at least the possibility of, in the future, some kind of mega-powerful cartels developing to control e. g. robot production. Like, in a world where robots make everything, the robot maker is king (or Mom)?

    • Error says:

      3D printers might be the first step on the road to Type 3, if I’m understanding you correctly.

    • cassander says:

      I’d say there are 2 types.

      1) You spend your days producing food largely for your own consumption. What you don’t consume is mostly taxed away. A small share is used for the purchase of the few goods in enough demand that a small number of people can survive making them, typically salt, metal tools, glass, liquor, and luxuries.

      2) You spend your days making money, then buy your food at some sort of market. If you do produce food, you do so not for your own consumption, but to sell on the market.

      That’s the important distinction, the biggest disjoint in human history. Prior to 1700, pretty much everyone spent all day producing food for their own consumption. Automation, industrialization, gathering vs. farming, all small potatoes compared to that shift.

  15. Tekhno says:

    What’s the best place to upload pictures if I want to link a graph I’ve made here?

  16. sflicht says:

    Crossposting this from the subreddit, since the DOD Office of Net Assessment source I point out there seemed to spark genuine interest among some commenters, and I expect some non-redditors on SSC would also find it as fascinating as I did.

  17. sty_silver says:

    I know a person reasonably well whose wealth is in the low 8 digits.

    I don’t think they are very charitable (could be wrong) or care/know about singularity (might be wrong). They’re intelligent and very practical and even rational when it comes to managing their own wealth. My moral views dictate that I have an obligation to attempt to get them to help with X-risk prevention, since even a 1% chance of success would be quite significant, and I feel guilty and pretty frustrated with myself for not having taken any steps in that direction.

    If I wanted to change that, does trying to improve persuasive skills work, and if so what are the best resources for it?

    • Well... says:

      It depends what exactly is the nature of your relationship with this person.

      Edited to add: As far as whether improving your persuasive skills “works”, taking steps to improve ANY skill will improve that skill, if you’re using the right methods of improvement and sticking with it.

      Also, building on what I first said, persuasion looks very different depending on the context. If I’m trying to talk my wife into not changing the color of a room in our house, my persuasion technique will be very different than if I’m giving a talk at a conference and want to persuade my audience to start practicing Agile the way my company does.

      • Machina ex Deus says:

        @Well…

        practicing Agile the way my company does

        I’d be interested to hear about this (in a new thread if you don’t want to hijack this one.)

        • Well... says:

          Disclaimer: That was just an example. I haven’t actually ever given a talk on Agile, and I’m not nearly as qualified to do so as some other people in my company. (I’ve given talks on other topics.)

          Without giving away what might potentially be too much IP and too much of my own anonymity, I’ll just say my company practices Agile very faithfully while delivering complex system products to large clients that often aren’t used to Agile.

          Agile manifesto.

          • Robert Liguori says:

            Do any other software developers read ‘practice Agile faithfully’ and twitch?

            In my own experience, there is agile as described in the document, in which a developer can poke their head above their desk and say to their business contact “Hey, this process we’re about to follow to create this deliverable which will be archived, it doesn’t seem like it’s adding any value. Do you need it? No? Great. I’ll send an email to the team saying we’re skipping this step.”, and Agile as delivered by consultants and evangelists, where people freak the hell out when you bring up that the story-point estimations and burn-down charts are utter fictions and should be disregarded.

            I think part of my confusion is that as it says in the manifesto, doing agile means doing what works for your team at this moment in time, including ignoring the manifesto, so talking about practicing it faithfully gets into weird recursion paradox issues.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Do any other software developers read ‘practice Agile faithfully’ and twitch?

            Yes, but that’s true with any methodology in place of Agile. Software isn’t at the point where it can be reduced to following procedures out of a three-ring binder or even a book with an animal on its cover. I find software people who desire that it become that baffling.

          • Well... says:

            I’ve heard of companies that say “We practice Agile” and then after probing turns out they have stand-up meetings…and that’s it. (And their stand-up meetings are 30+ minutes long.) I meant to indicate we were not like those companies.

      • sty_silver says:

        We were playing in the same clan of a game for a while, talked and chatted through skype.

        Okay, but what are the right methods?

        • Well... says:

          OK, so it’s an internet friend. Someone who you might potentially grab a beer with if he’s in town for some reason.

          Maybe you should propose such an occasion, and then get to talking about charity after you’ve had a few beers together. I can easily envision a smooth way to have that conversation.

          Swap out details as needed to suit your particular situation. You could even learn some fascinating stuff about what it’s really like to have the kind of spending options this guy does. I’m personally curious to know.

    • Reasoner says:

      Are you giving money to charity this year? (It’s very common to give right before the end of the fiscal year, aka “giving season”.) If so, you might ask them whether/where they are giving and share where you are giving.

      I would highly recommend against using any sort of high-pressure sales tactics. Persuasion seems like the wrong approach. Your “in” with this person is that you know them reasonably well. If I was rich, I’d always be worried about my friends being phoney. Don’t ruin your “in” by trying to be a person that you’re not. I think it’d be much better to be straight up and explain the drowning child argument and why you feel like you have a moral obligation to try to convince them to give to charity. At least it’s not phoney. It probably won’t work, but you might stay friends afterwards.

      • sty_silver says:

        Yeah, I dropped a donation to Miri just a couple of days ago.

        I’m not convinced that starting by asking about what they gave to charity is a good idea, though. But I definitely see the argument of your second paragraph.

    • Loquat says:

      I’ll second Reasoner – avoid anything that’s likely to give the impression that you care more about getting this person’s money to your pet cause than you do about them as a person. If you’ve ever been evangelized to by a religious person who claimed to be very concerned about your fate in the afterlife, but seemed to you to be more concerned with adding a notch to their conversion belt, that’s exactly the kind of thing you want to not do.

  18. Tekhno says:

    At what point do military coups become okay? Obviously they are brutal and disappear thousands of people, but when the existing democratically elected state is collapsing due to incompetence, does it at some point balance out?

    Venezuela certainly looks like it’s collapsing, and it looks like they are going to keep doubling down on the policies that have been ruining their economy, or perhaps coming with whole new interesting ways to destroy it.

    Does Venezuela need a Pinochet?

    US meddling has long been used to make regime changes favorable to the United States, and has hence become an excuse for terrible populist economics in Latin America, but when you get to the stage where the government is running out of money to pay for money and people are being busted for toilet paper smuggling, wouldn’t a CIA backed junta be an improvement on policies that are supposedly conducted to combat the USA? If the USA is going to get blamed anyway, isn’t it better for them to get blamed for overthrowing shit governments, than to get blamed while being used as an excuse by those same shit governments?

    I’m generally against changing foreign governments for ideological reasons, usually think that foreign intervention just creates resentment, and wouldn’t want boots on the ground, but if the CIA funded some domestic coup against Maduro, there’s a good chance that more deaths would be prevented than caused. Maybe it’s too early, but since they seem to be doubling down, Venezuela is a good test case. At what point would assisting the overthrow of Maduro be a net-positive idea? Maybe it needs to get a lot worse first. I just feel that a civil war that kills lots of people would be unlikely in this case, and unlike some cases in the Middle East where Islamists fill the vacuum left by the fall of secular dictators, there’s no worse group present than the existing bonkers regime.

    I’m almost always against such things, so please explain to me why I’m wrong, so I can get back on track.

    • sflicht says:

      I think the ethical version of the policy you’re calling for does not involve the CIA or any covert action. Rather the US could unequivocally state — and using its political influence to convince military leaders — that the Maduro regime’s policies have cost it its democratic legitimacy, there should be a new round of elections to determine new political leadership, and that the Venezuelan armed forces have a patriotic duty to disobey any orders from Maduro to disrupt or influence the transition of political power.

      This approach shows respect for Venezuelan national sovereignty and would probably go over better with military hard-liners than a more aggressive form of military support for an opposition movement. Plus of which, most people’s goal really is a *peaceful* transition of power, so it seems like a better idea to orient policy around making this as likely as possible, rather than around making sure “the good guys” win after the situation devolves into violence. I realize that may seem hopelessly naive, but I wonder if it isn’t the CIA types who argue for arming “the good opposition” (e.g. in places like Syria) who are the true naifs.

      • cassander says:

        This is a terrible idea.

        First, it’s very likely to fail. It lets Maduro go from “inept chavez successor” to “brave defier of yankee imperialism”. Meanwhile, if the military decides to act, they are no longer “patriotic officers doing something unpleasant but necessary”, but “tools of yankee oppression”. It makes the political optics for a coup terrible. You don’t put US prestige on the line like that unless you are very certain you will succeed.

        Second, even if it works, it still looks like the US is shitting all over Venezuelan sovereignty by effectively ordering their army to oust their democratic leadership. We’d literally be endorsing military dictatorship over democracy in a way that could hardly be calculated to irritate the political left. Just look at the response the left had to the honduras “coup” a few years ago. The US was not involved at all, the actions taken were arguably (at least quasi) legal, and despite Obama condemning the coup, the US was still accused of supporting dictatorship by not doing more.

    • Deiseach says:

      If the USA is going to get blamed anyway, isn’t it better for them to get blamed for overthrowing shit governments, than to get blamed while being used as an excuse by those same shit governments?

      No. Your shit government is blaming the USA for its own faults, you can still think the USA is pretty decent and it’s not its fault your country has crappy dishonest embezzling politicians. The USA installs a shit government that still screws you over but they make nice with the USA so that’s the main thing, you are likely to start thinking those guys in the jungle with the AK-47s have a point about burning down the whole thing and starting over, and hello there twenty years of civil war.

    • rlms says:

      One thing worth considering is whether deaths from death squads are equal to deaths from mis-government-caused starvation. I don’t think they are, which means that even if resurrecting Pinochet would result in fewer deaths (which I think is doubtful, a brief search suggest that deaths from starvation are in the tens, deaths from Pinochet were in the thousands) it wouldn’t necessarily be sensible.

      I also think that an attempted coup at this point would likely lead to a civil war, since there is no reason to assume the existing government would go quietly. I can see the case for a coup if we get to the point where there is a powerful opposition, but not before then.

      • cassander says:

        >One thing worth considering is whether deaths from death squads are equal to deaths from mis-government-caused starvation

        I’m curious why you think this. If the government makes it illegal for you to buy food, they’re killing you just as surely as if they put a bullet in your head.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I’m curious why you think this. If the government makes it illegal for you to buy food, they’re killing you just as surely as if they put a bullet in your head.

          And in a much more drawn-out and unpleasant way, to boot.

        • rlms says:

          Would you prefer to live in a country where many people starve because it is illegal to buy food (I don’t think that country is Venezuela, but we can suppose it is for the purposes of this question), or one where you are likely to be tortured and executed by a government death squad? I would much prefer to face the possibility of starving (presuming the probabilities are equal).

        • Loquat says:

          Starvation can be alleviated by a black market, particularly if conditions have annoyed the border control officers to the point that they’re willing as a group to turn a blind eye to large-scale illegal food importation. There’s nothing similar ordinary citizens can do to reduce the problem of death squads.

          • John Schilling says:

            There’s nothing similar ordinary citizens can do to reduce the problem of death squads.

            If we are positing willful blindness on the part of the border guards, they can leave.

            And really, that’s the preferred option to starvation as well.

          • Montfort says:

            John: smugglers pay more and better bribes than refugees.

          • John Schilling says:

            John: smugglers pay more and better bribes than refugees.

            Obviously implausible if what they are smuggling is staple foodstuffs. Cite?

          • Loquat says:

            Apparently North Korea has a thriving black market that really took off in reaction to a famine in the late 90’s. I had the impression that they imported a lot of food, though googling around for sources I mainly only see references to technically-illegal small farms within NK itself providing significant amounts of the country’s “unofficial” food supply.

          • Montfort says:

            Total cost of brokering an escape from NK is purportedly $12,000. ~1300 defectors in 2015 = $15.6 million market. Do you think smugglers import more or less than $15.6M worth of food? Keep in mind, the average price of rice in NK is something like $0.60/kg – to have the same size market on rice alone would require 9000 tons of rice imported, and NK often has an import shortfall of hundreds of thousands of tons (graph page 3, only goes to 2008). Or do you have data that suggests guards get substantially different percentages from the different goods smuggled?

          • John Schilling says:

            Your data is incomplete and inconsistent. North Korea has been largely self-sufficient in food production in recent years; the people who are still literally starving are mostly the political prisoners for whom that is deliberate policy (and who are behind an extra layer of effectively unbribeable guards). And as Loquat notes, the black market is now mostly local – also more grey than black, as Jong Un has legitimized the private plots and gardens.

            And your 1300 “defectors” are only the ones who showed up in South Korea, in 2015. Back in 2008, for something closer to apples/apples, the number was twice as high. But more importantly, most refugees from North Korea don’t show up in South Korea and formally defect. They wind up living off the books in China or Southeast Asia, and I don’t think anyone has solid numbers on how many there are or how much they pay on average, either now or back in 2008.

          • cassander says:

            >Starvation can be alleviated by a black market, particularly if conditions have annoyed the border control officers to the point that they’re willing as a group to turn a blind eye to large-scale illegal food importation. There’s nothing similar ordinary citizens can do to reduce the problem of death squads.

            If you’re positing bribery, then you can bribe death squads as easily as border guards. RLMS argument is predicated on the equal likelihood of death vs. starvation or death vs. death squad.

            @monfort

            >smugglers pay more and better bribes than refugees.

            I don’t have any empirical evidence to back this, but I’d bet it’s almost certainly NOT true. Smugglers will only pay bribes up to the limit of profitability. Refugees will give you literally everything they have. And if you stipulate that they’re poor and don’t have much, then they also don’t have much to pay the smugglers.

          • Montfort says:

            Okay, great, so now they’re not starving they don’t need to bribe the guards to let in food. That doesn’t tell us much about how easy it would be to import food when you do need it.

            Back in 2008, the cost of defection to South Korea was also much lower, though all I have is the Washington Post figure of something like $8,000 for some time between 2006 and 2015. The refugees leaving to China or South Asia I didn’t mention because I have little direct data. Considering the smugglers make something like $33.30 (in 2016) for each migrant worker they smuggle across, I’m guessing the arrangement with the guards is not that expensive? Prices would go up if there was more scrutiny at the border, though, which I imagine there would be if people weren’t coming back.

            And also in 2008, rice was significantly more expensive – up to 4,500 NK won/kg just before China approved more exports to around 2,500 after. The black market rate for USD in NK won nearest 2008 that I can find is something like 2-3,000 won to the dollar from sometime in 2009 (buried way down in a quote from a WSJ article I can’t access, ctrl-f “generally traded”), which would give us something like $1.00-1.50/kg.

            If you use the $8,000 per refugee to SK, 2,600 of them and $1/kg of rice, we’re looking for something like 20,800 tons imported + (1 ton / ?? refugees to China, Vietnam, etc. times ?? refugees).

            I do agree with you that data on NK and smuggling economics in general is woefully incomplete.

            But actually, the best argument against me (IMO) is not the poor quality of the statistics, but rather that my initial post doesn’t really mean anything in context. What does “more and better bribes” mean when comparing significantly different smuggling tasks – more and better in total? Per some unit? How does that relate to whether it would be easier to get enough food to live through a famine on the black market or escape government deathsquads by illegal emigration?

            To make it meaningful, I suppose I’d say that my subjective impression is that as a private citizen you need more money and connections to successfully smuggle yourself out of a country with deathsquads than to acquire enough food to live through a famine on the black market. And one of the reasons for that impression is my subjective impression that guards are more sympathetic during times of shared hardship as well as more likely to be under economic pressure that might force them to neglect their duties. (Though of course a smart government tries to keep the guards reasonably well fed).

          • Montfort says:

            I don’t have any empirical evidence to back this, but I’d bet it’s almost certainly NOT true. Smugglers will only pay bribes up to the limit of profitability. Refugees will give you literally everything they have. And if you stipulate that they’re poor and don’t have much, then they also don’t have much to pay the smugglers.

            See above, that post was dumb and doesn’t directly engage with the point JS was making. But I don’t know what you’re doing with the last sentence I quote – are you saying that smugglers don’t sell to multiple people too poor to leave the country? Or that a proper basis of comparison wouldn’t include the proceeds from those (and why)?

        • Tekhno says:

          That depends on how bloodless the coup would be, doesn’t it?

          • Furslid says:

            If you can find a way to predict how bloody a coup will end up being before launching, that could be a useful question to ask.

            (I know you’re snarking, but I couldn’t resist.)

          • Tekhno says:

            No, I’m not snarking (I probably only do that once a year). If a communist famine had killed 100,000 people and was expected to kill thousands more, and you compared that to a Chile like coup where 30,000 or so are estimated (high) to have been killed, it might be worth it.

            I suggested Venezuela’s collapse would need more time to stew in the OP, but having the red line be a death toll of 100,000 might give appropriate room.

            You can’t predict in advance how coups will go, but you can get some idea from looking at the ground conditions and institutional factors before relatively bloodless coups in history, and try to structure your take over in the same way. I’d also imagine that in the case of economic collapse and starvation, less people would be interested in being loyal to the regime that’s starving them, but I could be drastically, drastically wrong.

          • rlms says:

            @Tekhno
            How many people have starved in Venezuela so far?

    • onyomi says:

      I mean, I think the USA gets blamed because it has a real history of doing this sort of thing. If we really stopped doing it, eventually dictators’ ability to use us as a scapegoat for their country’s own problems would weaken. I think sanctions function similarly: imposed from the outside, they just give the bad rulers an external thing to blame for their country’s poverty. Best case scenario we enjoy a couple decades of US-friendly dictatorship under a Batista or a Shah, followed by something much worse than we started with.

      • Jiro says:

        I mean, I think the USA gets blamed because it has a real history of doing this sort of thing.

        Jews got blamed for thousands of years, and didn’t have a history of doing this sort of thing.

        • Aapje says:

          Jews used to integrate rather badly and generally opposed interfaith marriage. Many societies are or were tribal to a lesser or greater extent, based on family relations. For example, a lot of peace treaties were established by marriage between the families of the factions. The lack of these connections between goyim and Jews & the cultural differences, made Jews into an obvious outgroup and thus a fairly easy scapegoat.

          However…none of these reasons are reasonable explanations for the dislike of the US. For example, many Iranian families have American relatives. Iranian culture also seems very materialistic and hedonistic (although with a heavy dose of ‘purity’ virtue signalling). I think that the Iranian people like US culture a lot more than many other cultures.

          IMO, the opposition to the US seems to revolve primarily around an impression that the US provides crucial support to certain factions, which the opponents of those factions dislike.

          • Jiro says:

            You’re being very selective about mentioning which traits of the Jews made Jews into scapegoats. Jews are poorly assimilated people who make money. Making money makes you a target, and America is clearly richer than Venezuela. You caught the fact that Jews “integrate very badly”, but you missed that when someone hates a country instead of a group of natives, the country is inherently separate, so while it may be that Iranians never go to mosque with Jews, they certainly never go to mosque with Americans because America isn’t located inside Iran. Also, Jews and Americans are too moral and/or too weak–it’s safe to hate Jews and Americans without risking the chance that they’ll kill you for blaming your problems on them.

            America is a market-dominant minority on a global level. That’s all it takes for America to be hated.

          • Aapje says:

            @Jiro

            I think that Jewish wealth is a far smaller factor than people believe. The conspiracy theories about Jews are generally about how ‘Jews control everything,’ not how they hoard all the wealth.

            they certainly never go to mosque with Americans because America isn’t located inside Iran.

            Nor do they go to mosque with Swedes. Or Chileans.

            Also, Jews and Americans are too moral and/or too weak–it’s safe to hate Jews and Americans without risking the chance that they’ll kill you for blaming your problems on them.

            Seriously? Americans are known for dropping bombs on people’s heads and if anything, America gets blamed for much more covert meddling than they are realistically capable of doing (and they still do more meddling than anyone else).

            The Iranian government really doesn’t hate the US because they think that the US is weak, but rather, because they think that the US is a major threat to their interests.

            America is a market-dominant minority on a global level. That’s all it takes for America to be hated.

            “They hate us because we are awesome and have the best economy”

            Sure. The sanctions against Iran might upset people a lot more, I would say, but what do I know.

          • ChetC3 says:

            Gypsies aren’t known for making money, and they’re even more hated than the Jews.

          • Jiro says:

            Americans are known for dropping bombs on people’s heads

            Yes, but not dropping bombs on people’s heads for shouting “Death to America”. If ISIS is around, shouting ‘Death to ISIS” is likely to be very dangerous to your health. Americans are safe to rail against.

          • Aapje says:

            @Jiro

            I think that you are severely over- and/or underestimating* people’s ability to connect their objections to American policies to a belief that America will go after them.

            * Depending on whether you look at a simplistic 1-on-1 dynamic, where the person who shouts something will get bombed; or whether you look at a belief that society-wide resistance to American supremacy will end in consequences for that nation.

          • Jiro says:

            I think that you are severely over- and/or underestimating* people’s ability to connect their objections to American policies to a belief that America will go after them.

            It’s not always something that they consciously do. It falls out of the way social movements develop. Movements which insult safe targets are likely to win at the memetic competition and movements which insult dangerous targets are likely to lose. I’m sure potential mobs connected their troubles to ISIS just as much to America–it’s just that the ones who connect their troubles to America are still around to keep doing it.

            Also, there’s the role of governments and mob leaders in fomenting hate. They are probably doing it more consciously, and know that if they want to get a mob, they want a safe target for the mob.

          • Aapje says:

            @Jiro

            I think that first and foremost, there needs to be a level of credibility to the accusations. Accusations that America is involved with plots against X are more credible because America has historically been involved with plots. Accusations that Jews control banking/the world government/whatever are more credible because Jews disproportionately are/were in positions of power.

            American plots often make use of local operatives and Jews look Caucasian, which means that in both cases, it is easy to get the following thought process:

            1. Person A gets told about a plot/that many powerful people are Jews.
            2. Person A realizes that this is true and that they never noticed it before because it was not overt
            3. Person A starts wondering how much more there is that they don’t see

            Conspiracy theories work optimally when there is solid proof that something happens (a bit), yet it is very likely that there are also cases that are not public and no clear limit on such cases. At that point, it is easy for people to assign the blame for all that goes wrong to this semi-hidden force.

            Also, there’s the role of governments and mob leaders in fomenting hate. They are probably doing it more consciously, and know that if they want to get a mob, they want a safe target for the mob.

            That is an important factor, IMO, but I don’t see how it is particularly safe when Iran blames Israel & the US for everything or when Russia blames the US. I have a hard time coming up with more dangerous opponents that they could have picked.

            I think that you focus way more on the ‘safe’ aspect than is reasonable.

          • Jiro says:

            When Iran blames Israel or Russia blames the US, it’s very safe. We all know what the US or Israel is going to do in response to such things: Nothing.

          • Aapje says:

            Israel has bombed Iran in the past and the Israeli right pretty clearly considers Iran a major threat due to their rhetoric. This doesn’t seem very safe.

    • cassander says:

      >At what point do military coups become okay? Obviously they are brutal and disappear thousands of people, but when the existing democratically elected state is collapsing due to incompetence, does it at some point balance out?

      They don’t have to do those things. Just look at the history of the turkish coups prior to the last one. They usually are though.

      That said, to answer the question, I’d say there two times. One, the number of people actually dying because of government policy dramatically exceeds those likely to be killed in a coup. Two, the existing government is doing more damage to valued norms of government (e.g. anti-corruption, rule of law, democratic governance) than the coup will do.

      Of course, all of these things are highly contingent. A coup in Turkey was to be feared a lot less than one almost anywhere else because the Turkish military had a long history of coups that were effective, largely bloodless, and most importantly, short. The military would kick out the troublemakers then then go back to the barracks. A coup in Venezuela would be a hell of a lot messier.

      >Does Venezuela need a Pinochet?

      Yes. Sadly, I doubt they’ll get one.

      >US meddling has long been used to make regime changes favorable to the United States, and has hence become an excuse for terrible populist economics in Latin America,

      It’s worth pointing out that the US did NOT back the coup that put pinochet in power. They did back a coup in chile a few months before Pinochet’s, but it failed badly. Decades of investigation have failed to produce any hard evidence that the US was involved. this should not be surprising. If I were planning a coup, and I knew that the CIA had just fucked one up, I wouldn’t want them involved either. The US certainly wasn’t against pinochet’s coup, but they didn’t have much to do with it.

      >if the CIA funded some domestic coup against Maduro, there’s a good chance that more deaths would be prevented than caused. Maybe it’s too early, but since they seem to be doubling down, Venezuela is a good test case. At what point would assisting the overthrow of Maduro be a net-positive idea?

      You’re implicitly assuming that the CIA is competent to do such a thing. Frankly, I wouldn’t trust it. Even if you go back to the “glory days” of CIA covert ops in the 50s, the history of every CIA coup I’ve ever read comes off as downright farcical. The CIA is an analysts’ organization, through and through. They have never been particularly good at this covert action stuff.

      • hyperboloid says:

        It’s worth pointing out that the US did NOT back the coup that put pinochet in power

        If you mean to say that on the morning of September 11th 1973, the CIA had no direct relationship with general Pinochet, we have only their, very unreliable, word for that. But even if we except their version of events
        your point is at best a technicality. The CIA went out of it’s way to undermine Allende’s government, through both violent and non violent means. they organized strikes, and protests, they funded terrorist organizations, and plotted the assassination of the commander-in-chief of the Chilean army, general René Schneider. The CIA was by the late early nineteen seventies the largest source of funds for the Chilean extreme right, including explicitly fascist groups like El Frente Nacionalista Patria y Libertad, which had a close relation general Roberto Viaux, the leader of the coup attempt you mentioned. .

        It should be clear that, through it’s choice of allies, the United States let it be known that it wanted regime change in Chile and that violence was not only acceptable, but welcome in that cause.

        Pinochet always said that he acted in large part because the US had made it obvious that it wanted Allende gone, and that he feared what the superpower might do if the president was not removed. After he sized power, members of Patria y Libertad, and other individuals with close ties to the CIA helped to form the core of his secret police.

        Pinochet staged a coup from a position that he held due to the fact that the CIA had assassinated one of his predecessors, in collusion with people known to be in the employ of the CIA, and by his own account in response to American actions in Chile. We will probably never know exactly what transpired in the days leading up to September 11th, but given the context of the times the perception that Washington was behind the coup is well founded.

        • cassander says:

          >If you mean to say that on the morning of September 11th 1973, the CIA had no direct relationship with general Pinochet, we have only their, very unreliable, word for that. But even if we except their version of events

          We have their extremely well documented word on it.

          >your point is at best a technicality. The CIA went out of it’s way to undermine Allende’s government, through both violent and non violent means. they organized strikes, and protests, they funded terrorist organizations, and plotted the assassination of the commander-in-chief of the Chilean army, general René Schneider.

          The CIA meddled. that their meddling was in any way decisive is doubtful at best, and certainly impossible to prove.

          >Pinochet always said that he acted in large part because the US had made it obvious that it wanted Allende gone, and that he feared what the superpower might do if the president was not removed.

          Funny how he only came to that conclusion after the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Allende was acting unconstitutionally and called for the military to intervene, and Chamber of Deputies’ voted almost 2:1 saying the same thing

          >that he held due to the fact that the CIA had assassinated one of his predecessors,

          who are you talking about?

          >We will probably never know exactly what transpired in the days leading up to September 11th,

          We know what happened, Pinochet launched a coup and didn’t tell the US about it.

          >but given the context of the times the perception that Washington was behind the coup is well founded.

          Well founded at the time, yes. But still wrong.

          • hyperboloid says:

            Funny how he only came to that conclusion after the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Allende was acting unconstitutionally and called for the military to intervene, and Chamber of Deputies’ voted almost 2:1 saying the same thing

            First, you’ve got your facts wrong, Pinochet was appointed as commander-in-chief of the Chilean army on august 23rd, the day after the chamber of deputies vote, so he obviously could not have acted before that date. Furthermore the Chilean supreme court never called for a military intervention against the president, and it would have been scandalous to do so, as legally the supreme court held no such power.

            Second, I often see this claim made by American apologists for Pinochet’s regime, though almost never by Chilean rightists themselves, for reasons that will become clear if you take the time to learn a little history.

            In 1970 in the aftermath of the presidential election in which Allende’s popular unity coalition had won a plurality of the vote; the CIA conspired with members of the extreme right to assassinate gen René Schneider Chereau, the commander-in-chief of the Chilean army, a strict constitutionalist, and opponent of Military intervention in politics. This act had almost the exact opposite effect intended by the assassins and rallied the congress of the republic, in particular the moderate Christian democratic party, to support Allende’s election to the presidency.

            Allende replaced Schneider with another constitutionalist, general Carlos Prats. Unlike Schneider, Gen. Prats was known for holding leftist views and was as one of Allende’s strongest supporters in the military. Prats would go on to hold two different posts in Allende’s government, Minister of Minister of the Interior, and Minister of National Defense. Importantly he held these posts, while still holding the rank of general in the Chilean army, a fact that led many to accuse Allende of violating article 22 of the constitution.

            The popular unity government was an awkward alliance, including moderates like Allende’s Socialists, and the liberal Partido Radical, and more, well.. radical, groups like the the Movimiento de Acción Popular Unitario (MAPU), and the Communists, who’s policies frightened more centrist parties. This unwieldy coalition was never able to effectively govern the country and it began loosing support not long after taking office, with the Christian democrats increasingly shifting to outright opposition, where they were joined by a breakaway faction of the Radicalistas (the confusingly named Partido de Izquierda Radical) in forming the Confederación de la Democracia (CODE), with Jorge Alessandri Rodríguez’s right wing national party. The CODE did relatively well in the 1973 parliamentary elections, but fell short of the majority in senate needed to impeach Allende.

            It was the parties of the CODE that drafted the resolution passed by the chamber of deputies on august 22nd. The resolution presented a long, and my opinion exaggerated, list of grievances against the popular unity government, and called upon the armed forces to disobey unconstitutional orders; but, and I say this in defense of the honor of mainstream Chilean conservatives and Christian democrats, it never called for a military coup.

            The relevant section is produced bellow in Spanish:

            LA CAMARA DE DIPUTADOS ACUERDA:

            PRIMERO: Representar a S.E. el Presidente de la República y a los señores Ministros de Estado y miembros de las Fuerzas Armadas y del Cuerpo de Carabineros, el grave quebrantamiento del orden constitucional y legal de la República que entrañan los hechos y circunstancias referidos en los considerandos Nºs 5 a 12 precedentes;

            SEGUNDO: Representarles, asimismo, que, en razón de sus funciones, del juramento de fidelidad a la Constitución y a las leyes que han prestado y, en el caso de dichos señores Ministros, de la naturaleza de las instituciones de las cuales son altos miembros y cuyo nombre se ha invocado para incorporarlos al Ministerio, les corresponde poner inmediato término a todas las situaciones de hecho referidas, que infringen la Constitución y las leyes, con el fin de encauzar la acción gubernativa por las vías del Derecho y asegurar el orden constitucional de nuestra patria y las bases esenciales de convivencia democrática entre los chilenos;

            TERCERO: Declarar que, si así se hiciere, la presencia de dichos señores Ministros en el Gobierno importaría un valioso servicio a la República. En caso contrario, comprometerían gravemente el carácter nacional y profesional de las Fuerzas Armadas y del Cuerpo de Carabineros, con abierta infracción a lo dispuesto en el artículo 22 de la Constitución Política y con grave deterioro de su prestigio institucional, y

            CUARTO: Transmitir este acuerdo a S.E. el Presidente de la República y a los señores Ministros de Hacienda, Defensa Nacional, Obras Públicas y Transportes y Tierras y Colonización.

            Luis Pareto González (Presidente), Raúl Guerrero (Secretario).

            And in English:

            The Chamber of Deputies resolves to:

            First: Present the President of the Republic, Ministers of State, and members of the Armed and Police Forces with the grave breakdown of the legal and constitutional order of the Republic, the facts and circumstances of which are detailed in sections 5 to 12 above;

            Second: To likewise point out that by virtue of their responsibilities, their pledge of allegiance to the Constitution and to the laws they have served, and in the case of the ministers, by virtue of the nature of the institutions of which they are high-ranking officials and of Him whose name they invoked upon taking office, it is their duty to put an immediate end to all situations herein referred to that breach the Constitution and the laws of the land with the goal of redirecting government activity toward the path of Law and ensuring the constitutional order of our Nation and the essential underpinnings of democratic coexistence among Chileans;

            Third: To declare that if so done, the presence of those ministers in the government would render a valuable service to the Republic. If they were to act in a contrary manner, they would gravely compromise the national and professional character of the Armed Forces and the National Police, openly infringing article 22 of the Constitution and seriously damaging the prestige of their institutions; and

            Fourth: To communicate this agreement to His Excellency the President of the Republic, and to the Ministers of Economy, National Defense, Public Works and Transportation, and Land and Colonization.

            Article 22 of the Chilean constitution of 1925
            reads thus:

            La fuerza pública es esencialmente obediente.
            Ningún cuerpo armado puede deliberar.

            A literal rendering of that in English gives:

            The public force is essentially obedient. No armed body may deliberate.

            “fuerza pública” is a political term of art used in Spanish speaking countries that means, roughly, the forces of the state, that is to to say in this case the armed forces and the Carabineros (the Chilean national police) taken together.

            The Spanish verb deliberar, is a cognate of the English word deliberate, but it has a specific significance in legalese, so you get more of the meaning if you translate it as “deliberate politically” or “make political decisions”.

            It would make little to sense to invoke the constitutional principle of civilian control of the armed forces in an appeal to launch a military action against an elected president. Indeed, Allende, and the majority, though not all, of the left, and most of the leaders of the opposition remained committed to a peaceful solution up until the last days of civilian rule. The Christian democrats, tried to work out a deal for the resignation of congress and the president and the calling of new elections. Allende for his part proposed a plebiscite (that he expected to lose) on the continuation of his administration; a kind of self recall that would provide a face saving way for him to step down while preserving the institutions of Chilean democracy.

            The notion that the coup was launched to preserve constitutional order is ridiculous. The Chilean far right had long resented the 1925 constitution as being overly liberal, and the junta did away with it’s protections the minute they took power, launching a brutal purge that took the lives of thousands of Chilean citizens.

            As to the CIA’s role; our friends in northern Virginia had played an important role in Chilean politics
            since the early nineteen sixties, providing important support to the Christian democrats and Eduardo Frei Montalva’s presidential campaign. Under Kennedy, and Johnson’s alliance for progress policies, the progressive Frei administration was considered an exemplar of the kind of social reform that would help head off communist insurgency in Latin America.

            During the early nineteen seventies this policy changed, in great part because the Nixon administration had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions from American businesses with interests in Chile, in particular ITT. Fearing that Christian democratic candidate Radomiro Tomic Romero would support nationalizing the property of US business interests, the Nixon administration shifted US support from the PDC, to the National party and more extreme right groups like Patria y Libertad. It should be noted that change was ordered over the objections of career CIA officers, who saw no national security reason for intervening to protect the property of Republican campaign donors.

            We know the company played a decisive role in the killing of Gen. Schneider, we know they helped organizer the strikes and lockouts that so destabilized the popular unity government, we know they were the principle financiers of right wing terrorism in Chile, and we know that after the coup that members of organizations that had been funded by the CIA formed the backbone of the DINA, general Pinochet’s secret police. Based on declassified records we know that Gen. Manuel Contreras, the head of DINA, remained on the payroll of the CIA, even as he plotted to order Michael Townley, an American citizen and former member of Patria y Libertad, to travel to the United States, where he murdered former defense minister Orlando Letelier and his aid, a young American women named Ronni Moffitt. We know that the CIA was aware of this plot in advance and did nothing to stop it.

            We have clear evidence that the minute they it happed the CIA backed the coup, subsequent repression, to the hilt. but we do not know with certainty what happed on September 11th, it may be the case that Pinochet acted without informing Washington of his plans in advance; but
            things like this tend not get written down, and the only witnesses have a history of being less than reliable with the truth .

            The fact that you are repeating mistakes made only in English language secondary sources leads me to believe that you can’t speak Spanish, and that your knowledge of Chilean history is based primarily on Wikipedia.

            In short, you just plain don’t know what your talking about.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            We know the company played a decisive role in the killing of Gen. Schneider

            What do you mean by “decisive”? What evidence do you have that the role was decisive?

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      My libertarian side says a coup is okay iff everyone thinks it’s okay, and the more who don’t, the less okay it is, roughly speaking. My epistemic side says that this means the coup has to look okay, and that this is where you’ll get into logistical problems.

      First, who are the players? Maduro’s one. Most of us don’t care what he thinks. But he has supporters. Gotta cater to them. Why are they in for Maduro’s politics? Some of them are involved in the brutality, but some are just passive supporters who think collectivism is a good idea. We can appeal to their conscience (overwhelmingly Christian; probably agree killing is wrong), provided they’re convinced that that’s primarily why the coup is there to prevent. In fact, that’s probably the dominant appeal.

      Trouble is, coups kill too, so you need a way to rein that in, and also a way to convince everyone that that way will work – hence, all the logistical problems. Anyone motivated enough to stage a coup is probably also motivated enough to break a lot more people. And people know that, so they’ll need a lot of convincing. The main way I can see for coups to work and also appear so, is if the alternative is clearly worse, and it very often isn’t.

    • Anonymous says:

      At what point do military coups become okay?

      Upon victory.

    • Reasoner says:

      Leave Venezuela as it is… it’s a reminder to the rest of the world about how terrible socialism is. Never forget to mention that Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves when the topic comes up, either.

      • Spookykou says:

        Is oil like cars, in that I am constantly hearing about how every other country has the biggest oil reserve in the world?

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          The most common way of counting is “proven” oil reserves, which only counts oil which is economically viable to recover at >90% certainty. This means that on top of the discovery of new formations, the known formations dip in and out of “proven” status based on the price of oil and advance of technology. I believe Venezuela claims to be the top country there, but there’s some question as to the veracity of their estimate.

          Then you have “probable” and “possible” reserves on either side of 50% certainty, plus the question of whether to estimate undiscovered formations based on geologic similarity. With so many ways of counting every country can cherry-pick.

          • moridinamael says:

            Additionally, sometimes you’ll see “resource” numbers rather than “reserves”, where “resources” refer to the total amount of oil&gas, regardless of whether those fluids could ever conceivably be recovered.

            Sometimes people will throw around resources numbers in the case of shale deposits. 4.8 trillion barrels of shale oil resources! Okay – at what recovery factor?

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      It depends on the nature of the oath sworn by the military personnel, in my mind. That said, my general case would be something like:

      “When the foundational principles upon which the country was founded are threatened, and the legal and procedural safeguards in place to allow the threat or threats to be dealth with have been fatally compromised.”

      For example:

      A hypothetical future President starts issuing executive orders nullifying one or more of the bill of rights or otherwise altering the constitution. Due to previous court-packing, the Supreme Court upholds this as a valid exercise of executive authority. Congress votes for impeachment but the president refuses to comply with the trial process. Congress delivers a conviction which the president declares is unlawful and treasonous since he didn’t participate in the trial. Law enforcement is unwilling (due to cooption by the president) or unable (due to secret service interference) to take the President into custody…

      …at THAT point, I would -hope- the military or at least elements would intervene, although I could see it rapidly threatening to spin into a civil war.

      Hmmm, typing that out has led me to a more concise phrasing:

      -A Military Coup is proper when it is planned with the intent of preserving the core legal and cultural principles of the society, and when it is executed only in response to the reasonable belief that a civil war is imminent or the total breakdown of law and order due to misrule has already begun.

  19. Deiseach says:

    Does anyone else think this is a scam? Because reading the story it keeps screaming to me that this is not genuine.

    Alleged Leonardo da Vinci sketch discovered. You read it, and it sounds (to me) highly dodgy. If I were a no-goodnik, this is exactly what I would do if I were trying to pass off a forgery or sell a genuine but stolen piece: mix it in with a collection of genuine but low-value minor stuff, claim that I knew nuzzing about ze art but my father/uncle/grandfather collected this stuff and is it worth anything? Then I’d stand back and pretend ignorance and nonchalance as the pigeon auction house valuer’s eyes bugged out on stalks and they were wetting themselves with excitement.

    Maybe I’m sceptical because of the spate of “genuine lost Gospel fragments found – Jesus was married/gay/a woman/dead and here’s the family tomb” stories that crop up every Christmas and Easter – like the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife that ended up burning the professor who swore up, down and sideways it was genuine – but this sounds awfully like the kind of fakery in antiquities that has been going on forever:

    The owner’s name and residence somewhere in “central France” remain a closely guarded secret, at his request.

    I’ll just bet he wants to remain anonymous.

    “The attribution is quite incontestable,” Dr. Bambach said, even though the drawing has no pre-20th-century ownership history.

    Dodgy provenance? Now where have we come across that before? Stolen/looted items (often in the aftermath of the Second World War) and/or fakery. There’s a very good reason for looking for chain of ownership or a history behind a “lost masterpiece” that suddenly pops up.

    But this is what takes the biscuit, the entire cake, my breath away, and the prize with brass knobs on (bolding mine):

    “My eyes jumped out of their sockets,” Dr. Bambach said in a telephone interview, remembering her first sight of the drawing in Paris with Mr. de Bayser on the last day of March. “It exactly complemented the Hamburg St. Sebastian,” she added, referring to how that pen-and-ink study of the saint tied to a tree also included inscribed optical studies on the reverse side, and to how the handwriting of the inscription was consistent in both double-sided drawings.

    And this is not ringing any alarm bells with anyone? A genuine sketch has this study of optics plus inscription on the back, and an alleged sketch also has a study of optics with an inscription on the back, and nobody is going “Possibly this could be a faker copying the genuine item”?

    And on a quite amateur and personal opinion only note, if you look at the sketch, there is something not quite right with that left arm in that position – it’s not a Leonardo position (like Botticelli, sometimes his figures are posed a little too graciously, rhythmically and prettily). I’d be willing to go “school of” or a copy of a lost genuine sketch, but Leo hisself? Not convinced. More convinced a professional forger/con artist lucked into a genuine fragment of Leo’s notes and decided to gild the lily and bump up the value by forging a sketch on the other side, precisely because of the Hamburg item and how it could be used to convey similarity and authenticity.

    I know visions of millions of euro/reputation-making discovery are dancing in everyone’s heads, but boy will they have egg all over their faces if this turns out to be a fake or genuine but stolen, and they took the word of a guy who quite literally walked in off the street that he was the owner and it came into his possession the way he said it did.

    I will be very interested to hear, in a couple of months’ time, what the story on this is. If it is genuine and the guy is honest, I will eat my words. But I don’t anticipate having to!

    • Cadie says:

      I’d think they could use some scientific tools to help determine whether or not it was real. Radioactive nuclides in the paper and ink would reveal all but the most sophisticated modern forgeries. Maybe microscopic analysis of the fibers and such too… I’m not too familiar with the methods but I’m sure they could at least figure out whether or not it was drawn in the 15th/16th century. That wouldn’t rule out contemporary copies or inspired-by works made by someone else if it turns out to be old enough, of course. They would know the chance of it being a modern fake is very low – or verify that it is indeed a modern fake.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        Having read a bit about forgery, I’m pretty sure this is not the case. There’s an active market in antique paper, testing the ink tends to mean destroying part of the image, and aging generally is a chemical process that can be faked via other chemical processes.

    • bassicallyboss says:

      This reminds me of a book I just finished, called The Relic Master. It’s about a guy who tries to track down relics for Frederick of Saxony and Albrecht of Brandenburg in 1517. He talks about how the trade used to be respectable, but now that there’s so much money in relics (because of the sale of indulgences), items of dubious provenance are now everywhere. Frederick really cares about having something genuine, but Albrecht wants something impressive and only needs the provenance to be somewhat plausible.

      Anyway, it’s not terribly related, but this post reminded me of it a lot and you seem like someone who would appreciate that book.

  20. cassander says:

    So at work, I’m the Excel guy. It’s a good role for me to have. I enjoy it, I’m pretty good at it, and it makes me seem like a wizard even to fairly technically minded people. I’ve mastered “basic advanced” stuff like conditional formatting, index/matching, and indirect references. I’m learning to work with pivot tables (does it annoy anyone else how godawful the formatting tools for these are?).

    I want to learn more. Array formulas and Vbasic are at the top of the list. I also would like to learn more about access, and particularly using powerpivot to get excel to interact with access. Does anyone have a book/series of article/youtube series, whatever that they would recommend?

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      I’m sorry that I don’t have any resources for you, on the contrary, I’d also like any resources on Excel for people-who’d-like-to-learn-serious-Excel-and-have-serious-technical-background. I spent once an evening trying to google for this stuff, and most of the stuff I found was amazingly terrible or looked like a scam or at best, targeted at non-technical people (“here is this deeply amazing advanced Excel-wizard skill to calculate means and sums!”) [addendum. or final category, targeted at people who already are on the level where they can ask the right questions, telling about “how to do this specific thing” ]. Contrast with my previous experience with other sutff … for example, when you search for a tutorial to some programming language or web dev or framework thing, you often find something that is useful. Tutorials, MOOCs, Mozilla and Microsoft Developer Networks, and so on.

      Actually the best reference I have found is just, well, the official Office documentation, it at least tells how the functions work even if it isn’t the advanced material that teaches advanced magicks together with practice problems and exercises I’d really want.

      • cassander says:

        reddit.com/r/excel is pretty good if you have a particlar problem you need solved, but bad on bigger picture education.

    • andrewflicker says:

      I don’t have any good resources, but as one of the three “Excel guys” at my work- I’d agree that array formulas should be near the top of your list. Skip vbasic if you can do any programming outside of excel, because you can just have your scripts work on the csv files or whatnot. Similarly, skip access if you can get a real SQL database instead.

      If you use excel to make a lot of charts, check out stuff like Google Visualizations and other easy-to-learn data visualization code snippets so that you can do chart wizardry on the web as well.

    • phisheep says:

      The one thing I did that helped a lot was to make use of the “record macro” feature. Do something by hand that’s sort of like what you want to achieve, use “record macro” to grab it in VB code, the dig in and unpick the code to work out how it does it. It’s a very quick way into the VB side.

  21. Luke the CIA Stooge says:

    So I’m listening to “the United states of Anxiety” a podcast by wnyc that sells itself as an attempt to understand Trumps America and the Great Divide in America,

    And it’s so goddamn weird!
    Like the the people making it are in newYork and they’re trying to understand the other side so where do they go to find the other side? Long Island!!!
    They dedicate the entire second episode to going over desegregation and relitigating red lining and white flight (yet again) but they aren’t trying score points! Like they’re trying crazy hard to be empathetic and just can’t comprehend that middle America have bigger concerns than the left and the academy’s perpetual identity crisis about race.

    Like this is the first time I’ve listened to someone and had that weird “I am encountering a spacealien who is desperately trying to understand the Hu-Man and failing” since the radical religious right was a political force in the early 2000s.

    And it’s especially weird since I’ve been listening to WNYC and NPR stuff for the past 8 years! Like I found out about the podcast on the Atantics website (this podcast was ranked the #2 podcast of the year there) so it’s not like I’ve stepped into someone else’s bubble and been confused THIS IS THE BUBBLE I’VE LIVED IN FOR 8-16 YEARS.

    I think Trump just pushed a certain neurotic east coast segment of the left too far and now we’re seeing all the layers of crazy that’s been hidden behind establishment pragmatism come forth (like every side has crazy woven into it but it’s really special when it’s just exposed like this)

    Like I was raised in this stuff and am still waste deep in it (4th year philosophy and English student at a top 30 university in a major metropolis ) and I don’t recognize it anymore, like their model has slipped just to far out of reality and now it’s hard to model them.

    In conclusion: I highly recommend “the United States of Anxiety”, it’s just an amazing subject for political anthropology, and really shows how divided the major “elite”enclaves are from the discussions of everyone else, like they’re trying so damn hard to understand and yet will not entertain the slightest idea or argument which is not already part of their model of America even when people have been shouting the what there concerned about for the past 8 years

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Do you know anything about Long Island?

      • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

        its a 100 mile long island in New York whose only bridges to the rest of America go through NYC, and is mostly consumed with the suburbs and vacation haunts of people who live and work in NYC.
        I understand its rural and the middleclass/lowermiddle class live there but I could not think of a less representative place of the Rest of America a WNYC podcast could go.
        It would be like if a Toronto podcast wanted to get out and relate to rural Canadians so they interviewed people in Muskoka region (the premiere cottage and vacation destination for Toronto).
        If you want to relate to Trumps America its probably best to go to a state you would expect trump to win and which isn’t deeply interwoven with “the elite” to the point that the Hamptons are a large segment of the region.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Are they interviewing people who live/vacation in the Hamptons?

          If not, why bring it up?

          It seems to me if you want to find people who feel aggrieved, caught between upscale elites and urban masses, and you are in NYC (with a presumably limited budget) Long Island is not a bad place to go. The fact that these guys vote red reliably is another point in its favor.

          I mean Trump is from New York. He didn’t grow a long beard and go “Duck Dynasty” and start quoting the Bible.

          • albertborrow says:

            If New Yorkers didn’t vote Trump, I wouldn’t expect “Trump is from New York” to actually mean anything.

            Granted, as someone from the Rochester suburbs, there’s something a little hypocritical about denying class differences over a trivial distance like that. You can move one neighborhood to the left of mine and get a completely different opinion.

        • Brad says:

          Trump won Suffolk County 51.82% / 43.70%. That’s very similar to the results in Ohio.

          • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

            Yes but the very fact that it is in NY state would seem to suggest a different dynamic than states that are not huddled round the elite.

            I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of Long island politics, my broader point doesn’t depend on it and the insistence th at racial anxiety must be at the heart of it seems the real smoking gun of just not getting it, it just seemed really iffy to a non American.

    • tscharf says:

      I have read a lot of the liberal diagnoses of Trump supporters and many (not all) are so far off base that it’s kind of funny. What I don’t understand is when they go to the social science department at Columbia or Harvard and ask for answers like it is an anthropological dig site of extinct Egyptians where bizarre Trump hieroglyphs need decoded. Certainly high end scholars could be a good source and usually are, but in this case it seems not to be the case. Best to leave the bubble for this one. I should note here that KY, WV, OH, MI, AK, et. al. all have universities with people who can spell and form sentences that probably have a much better pulse on Trump voters than NYC or Cambridge. That is a good step in the right direction.

      • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

        The thing is these people writing post modems and opinion pieces are supposed to be experts. If they don’t understand the other side, and cannot understand the other side no matter how hard they try, then they’ve never understood the issues “a person who does not understand the agents against his own position understands little of his own”, to paraphrase John Stuart Mill, and have never had the skills to be experts.
        Skills that university was supposed to teach and was supposed to be the bare minimum for being a pundit.

        A few years from now someone will write a book on this utter failure of the educated class and it’s institutions.

        • Aapje says:

          Skills that university was supposed to teach and was supposed to be the bare minimum for being a pundit.

          Since when were universities supposed to teach people to interpret the statements by less educated people and divine their base concerns from their often badly phrased or inappropriately attributed complaints?

          IMHO, this is a skill that universities anti-teach, if anything (as the focus is to find weaknesses in stated positions, rather than steelman the arguments by others).

          • Spookykou says:

            teach people to interpret the statements by less educated people and divine their base concerns from their often badly phrased or inappropriately attributed complaints

            This is almost the whole point of qualitative anthropology (although they would shudder to use the phrase less educated )

          • Aapje says:

            I was talking more about the general education that people receive in college. My argument was not that there is no (niche) field that would teach this, but rather, that the average university-educated person is not taught this.

            I think that very few of the media people who try to understand Trump voters have studied qualitative anthropology (probably closer to 0% than 1% of them).

            although they would shudder to use the phrase less educated

            Yes, they would presumably be more specific and use terms like ‘without a college education’. They might also be unwilling to state outright that people with a higher IQ, with more knowledge & a larger vocabulary can express their concerns better than than people who ‘score’ less on those.

            However, I think that it is a truth that is worth stating, as too often, people who express their concerns badly are assumed not to have valid concerns or it is assumed that their concerns are what well-educated people think is important (which I think is not always the case).

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Aapje
            people who express their concerns badly are assumed not to have valid concerns

            To find higher educated people to interview about Trump supporters, you might look through a list of Trump supporters who have already been outed, and note which ones have letters after their name.

          • registrationisdumb says:

            >Since when were universities supposed to teach people to interpret the statements by less educated people and divine their base concerns from their often badly phrased or inappropriately attributed complaints?

            This was honestly a large part of my Engineering Curriculum.

            In all of our projects, we were taught that customers have no idea what they actually want or need, and to do our best to figure it out so they won’t fuck us over by changing their minds 30 times mid project.

          • Aapje says:

            Hypothesis: left-wing people with this kind of engineering background are better at an ideological Turing test than other left-wing people.

            Seems like an interesting thing to research.

      • Well... says:

        I empathize with Luke the CIA Stooge and, reading about the podcast, share his frustrations/bewilderment/amusement.

        However, there is still the problem that Trump Country doesn’t necessarily have a convenient representative to talk to. If you want high-level theory and observation and discussion of Trump Country, social scientists are a reasonable place to turn. I don’t know to what extent a social science professor at Ohio State has a better finger on the pulse of Regular America than one at Harvard. Maybe a better one, but if that professor commutes home by going down High Street to a swanky loft in the Short North or downtown, he’s probably in just as thick a bubble.

        That said, it sounds like in the podcast they went for more of a man-on-the-street research method, in which case I agree they should have gone to the Midwest or the South. Like this guy did.

        • tscharf s