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

OT79: Open Road

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit, the SSC Discord server, or the Cafe Chesscourt forum. Also:

1. A study on mathematical ability is looking for people without a diagnosis of autism with a degree in math, or people with a diagnosis of autism with a degree in math, physics, statistics, etc to register and do some brief online tests for them. They asked me to pass the word along. If you’re interested, go to the Genetics Of Mathematical Ability And Autism research site.

2. I’ve been getting a lot of emails from people here recently, which I guess is good, but I want to admit straight out that I’m not able to reply to all of them. This is especially true for “Hey, what do you think about this thing I wrote?” emails. Usually I think that I don’t have time to read it and write up a response, but I feel guilty not doing that, so instead I just say something like “Thanks, I’ll look into that” and then I don’t. Sorry if this is you. Also, please don’t send me links for the link page. If you have a good link for the links page, post it on the subreddit and I’ll probably see it. I’ll continue to accept useful announcements about studies and job opportunities and EA and so on, like the thing above.

3. Thanks to everyone who came to the Chicago meetup today. Picture here. And if you want to stay in touch with the community, there’s a Chicago Rationality Facebook page with information about meetings and stuff.

4. Ward Street is quickly becoming the center of the rationalist scene in Berkeley. We’re trying to encourage that so that as many people as possible can live near each other and it can feel like more of a community. I’ll be staying there temporarily when I first get to California, and I know a lot of other people on the street and they’re all pretty interesting. Anyway, there’s a house opening up there as the current residents leave, and we’d like to get rationalist-adjacent people to move in. It’s three bedrooms, one bathroom, and it costs $4100/month total. If interested (either in renting the whole house with friends/family, or in just renting one room and hoping two other people want the same), email jsalvatier[at]gmail[dot]com and he can tell you more / help connect interested parties together.

5. Probably some decreased blogging output since I’m moving cross-country the next few weeks. I hope to have a couple of meetups in relevant cities if I know where I’m going to be enough days beforehand.

6. Good luck/congratulations to everyone starting/progressing in/finishing residencies this July.

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1,463 Responses to OT79: Open Road

  1. Scott Alexander says:

    A recent question I got from some people who might be able to affect policy on the matter eg advise various companies – is partisan polarization on social media a problem? If so, what would be the most effective ways that social media companies might be able to help fight it?

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      Polarization of the moderation mechanisms and TOS, polarization of the users, or both?

    • John Nerst says:

      It seems one of the main reasons for polarization is that arguments against an opposing side aren’t actually aimed at them but your own side, supposedly showing how stupid and/or evil the other side is.

      Maybe adding some new “reaction” features could improve this, like up- or downvotes or “likes” but more specific like Facebook’s recent battery of reactions. I’m thinking something like the delta symbol used on r/changemyview, to say that something actually convinced you to change your mind.

      Other reactions could help too, if not to improve quality then perhaps to shine a light on bad arguments’ true purposes, like “haha [the others] sure are bad amirite?” or “this just makes me agree with you even less”. The big challenge would be to craft such things so there are no incentives to use them dishonestly.

    • Bugmaster says:

      My advice is to amplify the polarization as much as possible, in order to increase views/clicks and thereby your bottom line.

      Somewhat less flippantly, if I’m running a social media company, what is my financial incentive to decrease polarization ? Is there any evidence to suggest that doing so will substantially decrease revenues — by an amount larger than the amount of money I’d have to spend on fixing the problem ? This may sound callous, but social media companies aren’t charities; and you won’t get anywhere before you can convince them that implementing your social policy changes is actually in their best interest. At best, you’d get a polite yet noncommittal response to the extent of “thank you for your valuable input”; at worst, you will get no response at all.

      • Reasoner says:

        Civil war is generally bad for the bottom line, unless you are in the arms business.

        Luckily, it seems like social media is currently an industry with big, entrenched players, which means that they can spend time worrying about externalities instead of being in a red queen’s race with their competition.

        • Bugmaster says:

          Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the social media industry precisely in the arms business ? They provide the platform, you supply the outrage. More outrage means more posts, which means more views, which means more views and conversions, and thus more advertising money. Sure, they may be big and entrenched arms dealers, but they’re arms dealers nonetheless.

          • Reasoner says:

            One of the big reasons Twitter doesn’t get more ad revenue is because advertisers don’t want to be associated with the toxic content on its platform.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          Well the whole idea is that any [social] media company gets traffic through angst and controversy — UP to and even past the point that a civil war ensues. The civil war itself is collectively a bad thing but money is made at every step of the way.

          it’s basically like poaching an endangered animal. No one profits from extinction and yet…

      • random832 says:

        @Bugmaster

        Somewhat less flippantly, if I’m running a social media company, what is my financial incentive to decrease polarization?

        Polarization creates pressure for your company to choose a side (or for one of the sides to choose for you, by boycotting your platform and creating an alternative one), which ultimately cuts your market in half.

        I think it’s interesting that in the space of a few months left-wing Twitter users have gone from calls to pull Richard Spencer’s verified status, to calls to ban Donald Trump. These are at the fringe, obviously (Spencer remains verified, and the idea of banning Trump while he is POTUS is absurd), but how long can the center hold?

        And then there’s the risk that e.g. you jump right and it turns out most of your right-wing users were bots.

        • Bugmaster says:

          That’s a good point, but how likely are people to actually leave the platform due to its perceived support of the opposite side ? I know they will loudly proclaim their readiness to leave, but how many actually go through with it ?

          I remember reading an article a while ago about user behavior in some online game forums (sorry, I don’t recall the game or the article right now; if anyone knows what I’m talking about, please post a link). The forum admins collected a bunch of statistics, and determined that a). the people who loudly complain about each balancing change and threaten to leave are a tiny minority of the forum population, and b). their retention rate is actually higher than the retention rate of ordinary users who never post on the forums but simply play the game.

          Speaking purely anecdotally, it seems like people who loudly threaten to leave Twitter/Facebook/YouTube/whatever either never go through with it, or try it and then come back in short order. I could be wrong, though, anecdotes are not data.

          • Aapje says:

            It’s a common belief that for every people who complains, you have many more who have the same issue, but who don’t complain. If those people are more prone to leave, it is useful to listen to the complainers, even if they are more loyal.

            It’s only an issue if the loud people have substantially different desires than the quiet ones.

          • registrationisdumb says:

            This is a misleading idea.

            People who post in forums of a game tend to be those who are most deeply invested in the game and it’s community. This alone means they’ll tend to stay longer than most other players. Try comparing them with people who loudly praise patch notes instead of the silent userbase.

            They’ll leave eventually. It’s just a wager of how much you can bleed them before they do.

    • Svejk says:

      Partisan polarization in social media is unpleasant, but much less troubling than a chilling effect wherein average people feel restrained from expressing their views for fear of disproportionate personal consequences (the two phenomena are not incompatible).

      Polarization appears to be most damaging to journalists and journalism – the Twitter news cycle (outrage in the morning, climbdown or retraction in the evening) is contributing to the spread of low-value news and the decline of public confidence in the media. The right has always been more skeptical of the mainstream media, so I suspect a relatively greater degree of damage is occurring on the left. I think we are seeing greater attention paid to the topic of polarization because disengagement with the media is eroding a traditional advantage of the left and center-left.

      The influence of social media on the culture of reportage suggests that the Feiler Faster Thesis is reaching its natural limit – or at least that our perceived comfort with rapidly processing information is not matched by our competence. It might be healthier for larger media organizations to rein in their reporters on Twitter and lean more on their comparative advantage in investigative reporting and fact-checking, but this would probably require cartel-like coördination.

      For the average person, the accelerated toxoplasma lifecycle manifests as a miasma of snark and nastiness. I don’t know that there is a good fix for this beyond a move to smaller more intentional online communities like the blogrings of the late 90s/early 2000s. There seems to be an inherent tradeoff between associating widely and speaking freely and charitably.

      • Brad says:

        Partisan polarization in social media is unpleasant, but much less troubling than a chilling effect wherein average people feel restrained from expressing their views for fear of disproportionate personal consequences (the two phenomena are not incompatible).

        What’s so troubling about this? Why is it so horrible if we develop (revive?) a norm that people ought not to promiscuously spew their political opinions about regardless of audience or how ill thought out they are?

        A world with some more reticence sounds rather nice.

        • random832 says:

          What’s so troubling about this? Why is it so horrible if we develop (revive?) a norm that people ought not to promiscuously spew their political opinions about regardless of audience or how ill thought out they are?

          How do you propose to get there from here without creating a generation of people who are unemployable because they did so before that norm got established?

          • Brad says:

            I know that there’s disagreement on this point, but as a factual matter I think the number of people that are unemployable today because of something they’ve said on social media or that was captured and posted on social media is quite tiny and there’s little to nothing to suggest that it is going to explode exponentially and get to even single digit percentages.

            There may be a small number of jobs (e.g. President) that will de facto only by open to people with “clean” records, but that’s an entirely different proposition from saying many people will be unemployable.

            To my mind the real driver of the chilling effect is interpersonal strife not unemployability. I don’t see that as so horrible. We are collectively in the midst of alienating friends and relatives with our collective loose talk and some of those relationships will never be repaired. In a few years hopefully we’ll learn not to do that. Those broken relationships are sad on a individual basis, but not a generational catastrophe I wouldn’t think.

          • random832 says:

            I think the number of people that are unemployable today because of something they’ve said on social media

            But that’s today. I think that the changed norms you are proposing will tend to increase that effect, by removing the ability to think “Everyone’s said something they regret online, it’s no big deal.”

          • bintchaos says:

            I think Razib Khan would beg to differ.
            I’m not picking on him…its just that his same day hiring and firing by the NYT is a particularily dramatic example.

        • Matt M says:

          I feel like one of the issues here is that not everyone seems to agree with what social media actually IS.

          If you post a message on your facebook account, do you intend it to be something you’re sharing with close friends and family, or do you intend to be sharing it with the whole world? If you just never bothered to make your posts private, does that change the equation?

          I think a lot of people use social media as a way to communicate with people they know. Social media itself; however, is designed to maximize engagement. I recently found myself the target of a whole ton of abuse because I got a notification that a friend (someone I met once and barely know) made a political comment on a different friend’s post, I wasn’t paying a ton of attention, saw that the post had like 50 comments (so assumed it was a somewhat public discussion), and commented myself. Before I knew it, a ton of people I didn’t know were calling me names (and the original poster – the friend of a friend – was being called out by his other friends for comments *I* had made to the extent of “look at all the fascists that are drawn to your posts!”)

          This is a weird situation. I’m not sure we are socially adapted to it just yet. Not every post you make that technically *is* viewable to the world is meant as a “LOOK AT ME AND MY OPINIONS WORLD” declaration. Doubly so if you’re just a random person. I make weird comments on Twitter all the time, because I figure like, I’m just some random nobody with 50 followers, who cares what I say? Then again, I’m sure Justine Sacco thought that too.

          • Bugmaster says:

            I think this is a good point, and it brings up one action item: someone should work on educating the public vis a vis the fact that everything they post online a). is absolutely public, and b). will persist forever, and will be associated with their name forever. In addition, c). this applies to so-called “private” messages, protected posts, and whatnot. Clicking that “submit post” button is basically tattooing your post on your face.

            I doubt that social media companies would ever take on this task (discouraging people from using their platform is not in their best interest), but perhaps someone should.

          • Matt M says:

            Bugmaster,

            I disagree. I’d favor the opposite solution. I feel like what you propose is almost, in a way, “blaming the victim.” Rather than say “be careful what you post because who knows who may see it and start a witch-hunt against you!” we should say “Don’t start witch hunts against people.”

            The people in the wrong are not those who occasionally make politically charged posts, but rather, those who use said posts to smear and attack and attempt to destroy the lives of such people.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @Matt M:
            I agree, but only partially. Yes, I would like to live in a world where people don’t start witch hunts. However, witch hunts appear to be a basic feature of humanity, as strong as the sex drive (if not stronger). I think that creating a society where witch hunts don’t exist is impossible; at least, not without some immense sacrifices. Just as it is the case with the sex drive, there do exist some people who strongly dislike witch hunts, but they are in the minority.

            I am not making a moral judgement here, merely a practical one. If a person gets burnt at the stake, it is not his fault, and we should not blame him. However, when everyone around you is walking around with torches and pitchforks, shouting “Hail Satan !” at the top of your lungs is not a smart move. Morally neutral, yes; smart, no.

          • Matt M says:

            Right, but I think the question becomes, are we now at a point where we are to assume and to behave as if *every* public space is continually inhabited by pitchfork-wavers?

            Is there NO safe venue to say “HAIL SATAN” other than in the privacy of one’s home with only close friends about?

            If so, I consider that a very sub-optimal state and I think we should push back against it.

          • tscharf says:

            We would be much better off if instead people would just relax and not hold somebody’s irrational post from three years ago against them for the rest of their lives.

            One thing that drives me crazy is that people (tends to be the young) do not understand that what is socially acceptable is a moving target and it changes, sometimes in major ways. Acceptance of gay marriage. Obama and Clinton could be seen to be homophobic only 10 years ago.

            For example, one can imagine a not too distant future in which identity politics was deemed to be bigoted and racist by the new enlightened color blind society. I’m not very interested in whether somebody is strictly adhering to today’s version of right-think, or yesterday’s.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @Matt M:

            Is there NO safe venue to say “HAIL SATAN” other than in the privacy of one’s home with only close friends about?

            I would say “yes”, modulo some rarely used tools like PGP, Tor, etc. I agree that this is a sad state of affairs, but I’m not sure how one would “push back” against it, or whether that’s even possible. Consider that even Scott, who owns this entire blog and is clearly passionate about the issue, now chooses to disable comments on his posts dealing with this very topic. If he can’t “push back”, on his own blog even, then who can ?

          • Brad says:

            This is a weird situation. I’m not sure we are socially adapted to it just yet. Not every post you make that technically *is* viewable to the world is meant as a “LOOK AT ME AND MY OPINIONS WORLD” declaration. Doubly so if you’re just a random person. I make weird comments on Twitter all the time, because I figure like, I’m just some random nobody with 50 followers, who cares what I say? Then again, I’m sure Justine Sacco thought that too.

            It seems like you want the frisson of exhibitionism without the consequences. I guess sometimes, maybe even most of the time, that works out. But sometimes you streak naked through the park, someone captures a picture and you end up on the cover of the Daily News. Keep your pants on and you won’t have to worry.

            And no I don’t think that streaking is some sort of fundamental part of humanity and you are being oppressed because people might shun you if they see a picture of you streaking on the cover of the Daily News.

          • Matt M says:

            But we’re not talking about people who go way over the top (as streaking would be). I have no sympathy for someone who posts multiple “GOD HATES ____” or “KILL ALL _____” sort of messages.

            We’re talking about people who are making attempts at snide humor and missing the mark. Or people who are simply stating their preferred political candidate. Or their own personal religious beliefs. I see the analogy as less streaking and more “women wearing skirts that were showing too much leg in the 1920s”

            I suppose it would have been viable to tell them “Men will always regulate what women can wear. This has always been the case and always will be. You can choose to wear short skirts anyway, but that is a tactically poor decision. If you don’t want to be fined or shamed, just stop dressing like a harlot.”

            OR you can start a PR campaign where you heavily encourage people to shut the hell up and let women wear shorter skirts, without necessarily supporting the idea that they can go fully nude anywhere anytime they want.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think the solution is to promote intolerance for witch hunts. And I say this is possible because “witch hunts” used to be literal and are now merely metaphorical. Clearly a reduction in the motivation of people to burn witches is possible.

            If people are losing their jobs or their friends for political opinions (that aren’t of the “KILL ALL X” variety) then this is a problem, because the only people who will be able to speak freely are those who either have independent means or nothing to lose. Freedom of expression should not be the sole province of the wealthy and the desperate.

          • bintchaos says:

            So what if I say…I’m an Islamist?
            (I’ve been accused of that here…the defense was that I hadnt said anything supporting islamism, not that it was ok for me to be a witch.)
            Is that the same as shouting Hail Satan?
            What If i say I’m a fractalist (this is actually true)?

          • Brad says:

            Conrad Honcho

            If people are losing their jobs or their friends for political opinions (that aren’t of the “KILL ALL X” variety) then this is a problem, because the only people who will be able to speak freely are those who either have independent means or nothing to lose. Freedom of expression should not be the sole province of the wealthy and the desperate.

            This elevates “political opinions” as some sort of sacred and separate category. I disagree it belongs there.

            We all (I think) agree that there’s nothing wrong with a woman leaving her husband for calling her a dumb bitch or someone dropping another person as a friend because he called him a cheap kike, right? What exactly is so different and wrong about a woman leaving her husband because he said a woman’s place is in the home or someone dropping another person as a friend because he said that Jews ought not to be allowed to own media properties in the United States?

            @Matt M

            But we’re not talking about people who go way over the top (as streaking would be)

            The line between okay and way over the top is socially constructed. In Paris maybe you can walk around topless, but not in Omaha.

            If you just want to argue that for our society the line should be in a different spot from where it is now, then I don’t see how you can justify all the heated rhetoric about witch hunts and free speech. Maybe I would agree that the line isn’t in the perfect spot now, but tell me that there shouldn’t be any line and if I disagree than I must be an anti-enlightenment authoritarian that hates free speech, and you aren’t likely to make much headway in convincing me of that.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @Conrad Honcho:

            …“witch hunts” used to be literal and are now merely metaphorical. Clearly a reduction in the motivation of people to burn witches is possible.

            Ok, clearly it is possible, but it took literally centuries for actual witch hunts to go out of favor (in most places, at least). I was under the impression that we were discussing some solution that would take years to bear fruit, not centuries. And I just don’t see a way of accomplishing that, without making some prohibitively expensive sacrifices (e.g. killing everyone a la an evil genie or whatever).

          • Bugmaster says:

            @bintchaos:
            Islamism (assuming I understand the term correctly) belongs to a different category, because it is a philosophy that heavily promotes the killing of infidels — which most of us here are. Saying “I am going to physically murder as many of you as possible” is different from uttering an unpopular political opinion. However, if you were merely a Muslim, then yes, I’d argue that would be similar to being a witch.

            I’m not sure what a “fractalist” is, so I have no opinion on that.

          • bintchaos says:

            Islamism is the idea that muslims should rule muslims, and be in control of the political process in majority muslim nation states.
            Its not about killing people.
            That is terrorism.

          • Anonymous says:

            Islamism is the idea that muslims should rule muslims

            That’s just plain old Islam.

          • rlms says:

            @bintchaos
            By that definition, London is Islamist (ruling non-Muslims doesn’t prevent Sadiq Khan from ruling Muslims as well). More pertinently, so are basically all Muslim-majority countries, which begs the question of what the Islamist militants in those countries are trying to achieve. I think the correct definition replaces the first “muslims” in yours with “Islam”.

          • Nornagest says:

            So what if I say…I’m an Islamist?

            Well, if you said that here then the answer would be that I’d love to pick your brain about it as long as it didn’t degenerate into an unproductive squabble about some dumb shit (which is more likely the further from the mean you are, but I’ve had productive conversations with literal Stalinists), but norms here are pretty different from norms on, say, Facebook.

            If Facebook had our norms, I’d feed it a lot more effortposts and a lot fewer anodyne complaints about trivial inconveniences of modern life. But it doesn’t, which is the point.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Brad

            I agree with you that one should be able to do these things. I think however we should consider it a virtue to choose to resist the temptation to do these things. Which is kind of what I think people on SSC do, which is why it’s a nice place.

            Otherwise, we end up in the situation in which we are in. Ostracization, isolation, dehumanization. The cessation of diplomatic ties is usually a precursor to war. I do not believe that’s a desirable outcome.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I think however we should consider it a virtue to choose to resist the temptation to do these things.

            Money quote right here.

            This is always the view I have when it comes to free speech issues – sure, yes, the 1st amendment only directly affects govt suppression. But that doesn’t mean we can’t promote the higher morality of applying it in daily life as well.

          • Brad says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            You think it is virtuous to remain friends / married to someone whose values you find abhorrent?

            To me that says you aren’t talking words seriously. While your notion might exhibit a surface level reverence for speech by giving it a protected status, at a deeper level you are showing extreme disrespect for it by treating everything that is said as inconsequential.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            You think it is virtuous to remain friends / married to someone whose values you find abhorrent?

            I do (though I think the statement makes more sense with “positions” rather than “values”), with a few caveats around what’s bucketed as “abhorrent” and to what degree they act on those beliefs.

            It is far easier to persuade friends than enemies. Ostracism breeds only sycophants and radicals.

            ETA: FWIW, I usually vote (R) or Other, my wife usually (D). She complains that I’m turning her more toward Other 🙂 Also my grandfather has always said that he hasn’t voted since the day he got married – he just cancels out that of my grandmother. They’ve been going on 50someodd years now.

            at a deeper level you are showing extreme disrespect for it by treating everything that is said as inconsequential.

            On the contrary, I consider it serious enough to apply a Rawlsian Veil. If I am wrong about something, I would rather be accepted in my wrongness and effort made to persuade me, instead of being summarily executed cast aside for wrongthink.

            I think society would be far better off if more folk applied Cromwell’s Rule – an acceptance, even a vehemently disagreeing acceptance, of wrongthink is how to live that principle.

          • Brad says:

            @Gobbobobble
            This kind of thing makes me not want to engage with you:

            instead of being summarily executed cast aside for wrongthink

            It certainly isn’t persuading me of anything.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I’ll cop to “executed” being in poor form. But that was a fucking effortpost and your “oh, he used a term I don’t like, QED it’s all worthless” attitude makes me not want to engage with you.

          • Brad says:

            There’s a difference between disagreeing about the optimal rate of taxation and someone telling me that me and everyone related to me ought not be trusted with media ownership.

            Am I willing to say with 100% confidence that I am right about the morality of Jews being allowed to own media outlets? I suppose if you want to start talking about what 100% confidence means in a mathematical sense I’d have to say no.

            But I don’t see any reason to be so open minded as to strongly consider the possibility that we Jews really are a dangerous fifth column that ought to be suppressed. Saying I ought to seems to be the same kind of denial of service attack radical skeptics try. It comes down to the difference between ad hominem as a logical fallacy and ad hominem as a perfectly valid heuristic.

            Life is short, why spend it befriending anti-semites? Do I somehow owe it to the Jews because maybe I’ll change his mind, instead of him mine and then they’ll be one less anti-semite in the world? Or do I owe it to him? Or to myself? What kind of virtue are talking about here?

            Again, there’s a difference between this and the optimal rate of taxation. But I can’t say that I know where the line ought to be for each individual and if someone sets it in a difference place than I do that they are unvirtuous.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Brad

            No one said virtue was easy. It’s generally very difficult, which is why it’s a virtue.

            You think it is virtuous to remain friends / married to someone whose values you find abhorrent?

            This largely depends on the size of the “abhorrent” bucket. And threatening people with ostracization for “abhorrent” views tends not to decrease the prevalence of abhorrent views but to increase the size of the bucket.

            In your example, yes, I can completely understand not wanting to have contact with people who think Jews shouldn’t be allowed to own media outlets. I don’t know who these people are, though. I’ve never had anyone express that sentiment to me, and I’m deep in the Red Tribe (culturally) and the Republican party. Never seen anyone say that on FaceBook either. I would agree that anyone who does hold that view is abhorrent, but outside the handful of actual neo-nazis or white supremacists out there, I don’t think that view exists.

            What I do see, though, is people banished for wanting immigration laws enforced. Or that marriage is between a man and a woman. Do those views meet your definition of “abhorrent?”

          • albatross11 says:

            It seems to me that part of the phenomenon going on on social media involves attempts to define a lot of disagreements that were formerly in the “we can agree to disagree on this one” into the category of “If you disagree with me on this issue, you can’t be my friend and in fact may become my enemy.” The really ugly version is to apply this, not only to people who disagree with you on some issue, but to anyone who doesn’t go along with you on unfriending and shunning those with the wrong beliefs.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            The guy who wants to forbid Jews from owning media is a misleading example. If a person of integrity reached this position they should not be shunned. But it is almost impossible to imagine someone of integrity doing so, which is messing up our intuitions.

          • Brad says:

            What I do see, though, is people banished for wanting immigration laws enforced. Or that marriage is between a man and a woman. Do those views meet your definition of “abhorrent?”

            I don’t think these are questions with objective answers. I wouldn’t drop friends that decided to post those opinions, but nor would I condemn as unvirtuous someone that thought they did cross a line for them.

            In any event, regardless of views, I encourage and support a no politics on FB norm which was my original point. #BringBackReticence

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            In any event, regardless of views, I encourage and support a no politics on FB norm which was my original point. #BringBackReticence

            I’ll retweet that any day. I think FB is the worst possible way to hold political arguments. “Here, let’s have a political argument in front of everyone you know, everyone I know, your family, your friends, your schoolyard chums, your employer and mine, in a political environment in which being wrong means you’re not just stupid but probably evil as well.” This is a bad idea.

          • albatross11 says:

            Also, FB is pretty much optimally bad (pessimal?) for having an intelligent conversation, as it’s hard to write anything very long.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Brad

            But I don’t see any reason to be so open minded as to strongly consider the possibility that we Jews really are a dangerous fifth column that ought to be suppressed.

            Even if that might be true? I mean, you might not subscribe to believing falsehoods being wrong, but I would seriously consider “is it true?” first, and its abhorrence later.

            It’s not even like the Jews are even special in this regard. You could equally well substitute Chinese in some third world countries. The Jews are market-dominant minority, and substantially more tribal/less trust-based (“don’t be a freier”, “good for the Jews”, etc, etc) than the host population (which I’ve also seen leveled at the Chinese, as being “turbo Jews on steroids“). The situation of having the elites be substantially different in ethnic/ideological composition than the ruled masses is not a good one. (Would you even deny that US Jews have distinct and very different ideologies as a group than Anglo-Americans?) It breeds resentment.

            An interesting question is – are the Jews doing the media brainwashing (mere exposure and sleeper effects) of their own volition (conscious or unconscious), or are they merely the tools of the other 60% of the American elites, such as happened often in pre-modern Europe? That the Jews own the media doesn’t mean that they necessarily do the brainwashing of their own initiative. They might simply be hired to do so, as disposable middlemen.

          • Brad says:

            albatross11:

            Also, FB is pretty much optimally bad (pessimal?) for having an intelligent conversation, as it’s hard to write anything very long.

            I’d say that’s twitter. I hate to sound like an old man, but I just don’t get the appeal.

            (263 chars)

          • JulieK says:

            The situation of having the elites be substantially different in ethnic/ideological composition than the ruled masses is not a good one. (Would you even deny that US Jews have distinct and very different ideologies as a group than Anglo-Americans?)

            Compared to Anglo-Americans at the same level of education and income? I don’t think you would see a big difference between Jews and non-Jews.

            It breeds resentment.

            True. But the problem is the disconnect between the elites and the masses. The ethnic background of some of those elites is not a big factor, I think. For example, Republican voters rejected various mainstream candidates- none of them Jewish AFAIK- for Trump.

          • random832 says:

            I don’t know who these people are, though.

            I don’t know who they are either. As far as I know, the claims made by actual anti-semites are that they are overrepresented by some vaguely defined large degree and that they should not be, not that they should be shut out entirely.

            There’s a big difference between “should not own all of the media outlets” and “should not own media outlets”, and the usual response to the former is that they don’t, not that they should.

          • Aron Wall says:

            @Brad
            Marriage is quite different from friendship because it (traditionally) involves making a solemn vow to stay with that person for the rest of your life, e.g. “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.”

            So no, I do not agree that it is moral to break such a promise merely because the person insulted you (not that they should!) or now has beliefs you find abhorrant. To me, this is a form of (as you say) “taking words seriously”, specifically the words of the wedding oath.

            However, it would perhaps be wise to determine if a prospective spouse is a neo-Nazi before making such a commitment…

          • Even men can’t walk around topless
            in central Paris or Brussels, but public urination is fine sundown . Customs vary.

        • bintchaos says:

          This could certainly be accomplished with social physics algorithms.
          Like the EToro study I referenced below where the researchers improved the performance of “copy traders” by artificially slowing their communications.
          Social algorithms could artificially reward the desired behavior or slow/starve traffic to sub-nets that violated the desired norms– a kind of cyber-gulag.
          Zuckerberg actually tried to incorporate a Machine Learning authentification system for news stories…but ran afoul of the free speech problem.
          This is a great article on the problem from Clive Thompson.

          Facebook has already begun to develop tools along these lines. In December it unveiled a system that makes it easier for anyone to flag a post if it seems like deliberate misinformation. If a link that purports to be a news story gets flagged by lots of users, it’s sent to a human Facebook team. That team posts it to a queue, where a group of external fact-checking organizations, including Snopes and Politifact, can check to see if they think the story is suspect. If they do, Facebook slaps a warning on it (“Disputed by 3rd-Party Fact Checkers”) and offers links to rebuttals by Snopes or the other checking sites. If a user tries to share that story later on, Facebook warns them before they post that it’s disputed. The goal isn’t to catch all falsehoods; the system targets the most blatant and viral posts.


          But these arent new problems, and like random says the cure is worse than the problems if we cede control to large corporations to shape the general public to their goals.

          Ponder that and you begin to realize: There are limits to what technological fixes can achieve in civic life. Though social networks amplify American partisanship and distrust of institutions, those problems have been rising for years. There are plenty of drivers: say, two decades of right-wing messaging about how mainstream institutions—media, universities, scientists—cannot be trusted (a “retreat from empiricism,” as Rosen notes). And as my friend Danah Boyd, head of the Data and Society think tank, points out, we’ve lost many mechanisms that used to bridge cultural gaps between Americans from different walks of life: widespread military service, affordable colleges, mixed neighborhoods.


          Heres another link to the EToro study.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            1) Who watches the watchers? I don’t trust either Snopes nor Politifact to be non-partisan.

            2) When pitching this idea to others, you might want to avoid the term “cyber-gulag.” That does not sound appealing.

          • bintchaos says:

            @Conrad
            If you expect big social media corporations to “fix the Problem”, then they choose the arbiters of truth. Who owns Facebook, who owns Twitter?
            Who controls the liberal media?
            Cthulu makes a supercharged turn to the left.
            Cyber-gulag is certainly a solution they could implement right now, and you wouldn’t even be aware of it unless there was a leaker.
            In the EToro study I cited, the researchers determined that the “copy trader” strategy capped trader performance because it happened too quickly. The researchers changed the behavior by artificially slowing the communications networks between traders…and improved performance.
            I want “cyber-gulag” to be an unappealing term.
            Its really bad.

          • random832 says:

            I’m not sure how your “cyber-gulag” differs meaningfully from the existing practice of shadowbanning, which has a name, is used more or less everywhere, and everyone knows about it.

          • bintchaos says:

            Not the same at all…not blocking traffic to the cyber-gulag– just slowing it– in discreet and subtle ways…giving the advantage of speedy lateral memetic (Cavelli-Sforza and Feldman) cultural transmission to the preferred ideologies.

          • albatross11 says:

            I believe the term of art is “hellban.”

          • random832 says:

            Social algorithms could artificially reward the desired behavior or slow/starve traffic to sub-nets that violated the desired norms– a kind of cyber-gulag.

            Possibly relevant: in the wake of the recent CNN story, there were some (unverified) reports of Twitter’s hashtag auto-complete suggesting a misspelled “#CNNBackmail”. (#CNNBlackmail was trending at the time, so there’s really no excuse along the lines of ‘Twitter doesn’t know what tags are spelled right or not” – not all tags are equal.)

          • bintchaos says:

            @random
            Like I said, trivially easy to redirect or modulate social network traffic into a “slow zone” or gulag influence nodes and basically undetectable unless theres a leaker.
            Or by really sophisticated statistical analysis which most humans are incapable of.

        • John Schilling says:

          What’s so troubling about this? Why is it so horrible if we develop (revive?) a norm that people ought not to promiscuously spew their political opinions about regardless of audience or how ill thought out they are?

          As stated, that would require a norm against “promiscuously spewing” well-formed political opinions to an appreciative audience that shares them. I can see contexts where this would be a good thing, but I don’t think it is a practical one. Is that what you had in mind?

          • bintchaos says:

            Data mining people’s old FB posts to see if they are employable isnt the problem.
            The problem is Facebook/Twitter/large social media corporations can penalize speech/ideology it dislikes or promote approved speech/ideology.
            Mark Zuckerberg is signalling that he’s running for president– should he divest himself of his business interests since Trump hasn’t done so?

            Social networks sit atop piles of data that can help identify bogus memes—and they can rely on their users’ eagerness to help too. Sure enough, Facebook has already begun to develop tools along these lines. In December it unveiled a system that makes it easier for anyone to flag a post if it seems like deliberate misinformation. If a link that purports to be a news story gets flagged by lots of users, it’s sent to a human Facebook team. That team posts it to a queue, where a group of external fact-checking organizations, including Snopes and Politifact, can check to see if they think the story is suspect. If they do, Facebook slaps a warning on it (“Disputed by 3rd-Party Fact Checkers”) and offers links to rebuttals by Snopes or the other checking sites. If a user tries to share that story later on, Facebook warns them before they post that it’s disputed. The goal isn’t to catch all falsehoods; the system targets the most blatant and viral posts.


            To the commenters that are disputing that social media effected the election– are you comfortable with Zuck running for president and also controlling the supermegaphone of Facebook?

          • bintchaos says:

            Data mining people’s old FB posts to see if they are employable isnt the problem.
            The problem is Facebook/Twitter/large social media corporations can penalize speech/ideology it dislikes or promote approved speech/ideology.
            Mark Zuckerberg is hinting about running for president– should he divest himself of his business interests since Trump hasn’t done so?

            Social networks sit atop piles of data that can help identify bogus memes—and they can rely on their users’ eagerness to help too. Sure enough, Facebook has already begun to develop tools along these lines. In December it unveiled a system that makes it easier for anyone to flag a post if it seems like deliberate misinformation. If a link that purports to be a news story gets flagged by lots of users, it’s sent to a human Facebook team. That team posts it to a queue, where a group of external fact-checking organizations, including Snopes and Politifact, can check to see if they think the story is suspect. If they do, Facebook slaps a warning on it (“Disputed by 3rd-Party Fact Checkers”) and offers links to rebuttals by Snopes or the other checking sites. If a user tries to share that story later on, Facebook warns them before they post that it’s disputed. The goal isn’t to catch all falsehoods; the system targets the most blatant and viral posts.


            Are all the commenters disputing social media effects on the election comfortable with Zuck retaining control of Facebook while running for president?
            My point is the tech exists right now, and you will never even see it coming.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Are all the commenters disputing social media effects on elections

            Are they?

            comfortable with Zuck retaining control of Facebook while running for president?

            God, no. This sort of shit is exactly why Trump’s failure to divest is such a problematic break with precedent.

            (Related aside: anyone know a clever mashup of KGB + FB? I don’t know any Russian so dunno if KGFB actually works)

          • Aapje says:

            KGB means the Committee for State Security, so KGFB would be the Committee for State Facebook.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Because such a norm never existed, and will never exist. What you will get instead is a scenario where people pay lip service to keeping one’s political opinions to oneself while continuing to discuss and promote the local dominant political viewpoints and values, then pointing to the supposed norm when someone tries to push back against the mainstream/dominant views. I don’t believe anyone felt particularly constrained to refrain from trash talking communists and their sympathizers over the water cooler in the late 40s to 50s, for example.

          • Matt M says:

            Right. And for all the “keep the politics to yourself or you might get fired” signaling, FB is more than willing to toss out a gay rainbow reaction. Nobody demands you keep THAT one to yourself…

          • engleberg says:

            The late forties to fifties saw liberals running communists out of liberal organizations in revenge for communists running liberals out of liberal organizations in the late thirties and early forties. There were constrained speech aspects both periods.

        • Achilles_de_Remilia says:

          Do you actually want this, Brad, or only for people whose opinions you don’t want voiced?

        • liquidpotato says:

          Who sets the bar for when reticence begins and the rate at which giving opinions becomes promiscuous? You?

          • Brad says:

            Who sets the bar for when temperance beings and the rate at which eating becomes gluttony?

            Me and every one else.

        • Tracy W says:

          Why is it so horrible if we develop (revive?) a norm that people ought not to promiscuously spew their political opinions about regardless of audience or how ill thought out they are?

          Late to the party I know. But the answer is that just because just because people don’t state their political opinions doesn’t stop them voting on them.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      Yes, it’s a problem. Putting aside political issues, the more partisan noise people are able to spread around, the more personal strife is created in their lives. Social media polarization is making real people unhappy and divided.

      As far as a way of fighting it: Maybe if it was, somehow, difficult or impossible to share partisan political articles? Then you’d have a situation where people at least have to make their arguments themselves and in the process put more thought into the question of “do I really want to get into a fight with my friends and family who I know disagree with me,” instead of thoughtlessly starting that fight with at press of a button.

      Granted that for a lot of folks it’s already too late and they’ve shed all those friends and family, but there are people all along that spectrum who could be prevented from sliding into that pit.

    • Reasoner says:

      My answer: yes, it’s a huge problem. One possible way to fight it: employ a deep learning algorithm to penalize anger & reward civility in content rankings, to fight this effect: http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/12/17/the-toxoplasma-of-rage/

      Actually, you might not even need deep learning. Imagine if reddit made the downvote button 2x as powerful as the upvote button, then relaxed their current rules about voting in subreddits you’re not a member of. Would this result in consensus-building content receiving greater exposure?

      So I guess my real suggestion is: build a playground for experimenting with rule changes like this.

      • The Nybbler says:

        One possible way to fight it: employ a deep learning algorithm to penalize anger & reward civility in content rankings

        People are smarter than deep learning algorithms. It won’t take long for people to find a way of putting uncivil responses in a way that fools the algorithms. At best, you’ll teach people to speak like 19th century British parlimentarians.

        Furthermore, there will be corruption; the people making the training sets are likely to slant them to treat one side as “civil” and the other side as “uncivil”.

        Imagine if reddit made the downvote button 2x as powerful as the upvote button, then relaxed their current rules about voting in subreddits you’re not a member of. Would this result in consensus-building content receiving greater exposure?

        No, just more brigading.

        • rlms says:

          “At best, you’ll teach people to speak like 19th century British parliamentarians.”
          That sounds like a success to me! (Although note that the most famous example of the phenomenon you reference, Churchill accusing people of uttering “terminological inexactitudes” rather than lying, occurred in the 20th century).

          • Eric Rall says:

            That kinda reminds me of Armstrong & Miller’s The History of Predictive Text Swearing sketch.

            “Yes, but what will that [“correcting” swear words into obscure words spelled out with the same number keys] actually achieve?”

            “Nothing less than this: an entire generation of youngsters with manners, courtesy, and a weirdly extensive vocabulary.”

        • Bugmaster says:

          I don’t think it would be fair to say that Sentiment Analysis is a solved problem; but, even though it is actively being researched right now, it is already frighteningly accurate. If you combine it with online learning techniques, it’s likely you’d be able to circumvent even the 19th century British Parlimentarian obfuscation technique — assuming, of course, that it is actually possible to sound uncivil while speaking like a 19th century British Parlimentarian.

        • Reasoner says:

          At best, you’ll teach people to speak like 19th century British parlimentarians.

          That sounds like a pretty good outcome.

          Furthermore, there will be corruption; the people making the training sets are likely to slant them to treat one side as “civil” and the other side as “uncivil”.

          If they’re smart, they won’t do that. If people are only exposed to vitriol from one side, that will make them want to join the other side. Many voters have a mentality of trying choose the lesser of two evils.

          No, just more brigading.

          I’m confused by this response. Brigading is a key part of what makes my proposal work. I’m suggesting that brigading is a good thing which needs to happen more. Brigading, if properly harnessed, could counter the internet’s default tendency to make rage viral.

          • beleester says:

            Brigading, if properly harnessed, could counter the internet’s default tendency to make rage viral.

            I think you need to elaborate on this, because it seems like all it would do is give carte blanche for big subs to ruin small subs.

            I think what you’re saying is that, since both sides will downvote things they disagree with, and downvotes are weighted more than upvotes, only noncontroversial content will be upvoted. But that makes a lot of risky assumptions.

            1. It assumes that brigaders only downvote things they genuinely disagree with, rather than downvoting everything with the intent of making the target sub or thread unusable.

            2. It assumes that the opposing sides are of similar size. If a large subreddit like /r/the_donald or /r/politics decides to brigade a small one like /r/neutralpolitics, the big subreddit has so many more subscribers that you could multiply all downvotes by 10 and they’d still be in the positives.

            3. Even if you think that brigaded threads should be a total loss (if they weren’t controversial, they wouldn’t attract a brigade), it’s a very “swingy” strategy – either your thread doesn’t attract a brigade, and nothing happens, or you do attract a brigade, and the entire thread becomes a graveyard. It’s a very inconsistent enforcement mechanism, which means it’s not good for modifying behavior.

            4. This is the internet. Everything is controversial. If you’re hoping that /r/politics will become unusable but, say, /r/grilledcheese will be fine, clearly you haven’t seen this bit of internet history.

            (One other thing: I’ve observed that most subs which are trying to keep things positive have taken the opposite tack – disabling the downvote button. I don’t think it makes much difference in how posts get sorted, but it does seem to improve the tone. Not sure why.)

          • Reasoner says:

            Good points. Like I said, we need creativity and experimentation–my proposal was just a starting point.

        • The Nybbler says:

          That sounds like a pretty good outcome.

          Vitriol couched in superficially civil language is probably more entertaining to the highbrow observer, but I don’t think it’s much of an improvement.

          If they’re smart, they won’t do that.

          There are at least two groups of people who will skew the training sets to their own side. One is blatant cynical agenda-pushers. The other is the true believers who actually believe that whatever matches their views is civil and anything opposing it is uncivil. Both are quite well-represented among those interested in this kind of ranking.

          Brigading, if properly harnessed, could counter the internet’s default tendency to make rage viral.

          Unrestricted brigading just means that whoever is most interested in silencing the other side wins, at least until people start ignoring the vote totals.

        • registrationisdumb says:

          Less parliamentarian, more newspeak a la calling shit Muggle Realism & dressing up your insults in often childish terms to avoid getting the banhammer. If you’ve ever visited a highly modern forum like SA or the PA forums, they can be highly partisan and vicious towards people they don’t like, but they have bizzare ways that they’ll insult you because otherwise they’d get the banhammer.

        • Murphy says:

          Re: deep learning.

          I’m reminded of an old popehat post about the disaster that was Peeple.

          let’s test their negative-review filter against my creativity and mood. “Julia Cordray is more generous and giving to her household catamites than anyone I know.” “Nicole McCullough’s slow but steady rehabilitation is nothing short of amazing.”

      • tscharf says:

        Of course this algorithm would be programmed by dispassionate benevolent truth-knowers from academia? Color me as not convinced that just because a computer did it that it must be non-partisan and unbiased.

        • Reasoner says:

          Social media is already being shaped by highly biased humans. But these humans tend to be members of the shouting class. A deep learning algorithm that’s tweaked by the owners of the social media platform is not susceptible to the same set of Molochian pressures.

          Color me as not convinced that just because a computer did it that it must be non-partisan and unbiased.

          I didn’t claim it would be non-partisan and unbiased. But I don’t think it would be very difficult to produce an improvement. Let’s not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

          • bintchaos says:

            Facebook is already doing that…and the Red Tribe isnt going to like the results.

            Sure enough, Facebook has already begun to develop tools along these lines. In December it unveiled a system that makes it easier for anyone to flag a post if it seems like deliberate misinformation. If a link that purports to be a news story gets flagged by lots of users, it’s sent to a human Facebook team. That team posts it to a queue, where a group of external fact-checking organizations, including Snopes and Politifact, can check to see if they think the story is suspect. If they do, Facebook slaps a warning on it (“Disputed by 3rd-Party Fact Checkers”) and offers links to rebuttals by Snopes or the other checking sites. If a user tries to share that story later on, Facebook warns them before they post that it’s disputed. The goal isn’t to catch all falsehoods; the system targets the most blatant and viral posts.


            What does Facebook see as the most blatant and viral posts?
            HuffPo or Brietbart?

          • Reasoner says:

            See if Facebook is willing to accept a 3rd party fact checker that operates from a conservative perspective. Until they have refused, I don’t think complaints of this sort are well-founded.

            If the goal is actually to reduce partisanship, as Scott’s correspondent indicates, a good way to do that is to take pains to be as even-handed as possible.

          • bintchaos says:

            FB is already doing it.
            Didn’t you read my comment?
            Reality has a liberal bias.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @bintchaos

            Reality has a liberal bias.

            No, reality has a fascist bias. He who rips his enemy’s babies apart in front of them wins.

          • Reasoner says:

            Reality has a liberal bias.

            …which is why Scott is always unpacking the shoddy epistemics of left-wing news sites like Vox.

            Most fact checkers currently have a left-wing bias, but that can be fixed. Facebook just needs to make it public knowledge that they are looking for fact checking groups from all over the political spectrum, and right wing groups will spring up to meet the demand.

          • Aapje says:

            @bintchaos

            Reality has a liberal bias.

            I thought so though when I was still young and my soul was not yet completely destroyed I was a bit less cynical/more naive.

          • onyomi says:

            Are we sure bintchaos isn’t just trolling us (in general)?

          • It might help if people would say what they mean by “troll” or “trolling.”

            I take it that a troll is someone who says things not because he believes them but in order to provoke other people. Traditionally, another part of it was posting to a Usenet group, which I think is where the term originated, and then leaving without staying to answer responses, giving the analogy to trolling a form of fishing. That part of the definition seems to have dropped out, at least here.

          • Speaking as someone brought up in a fishing town, the fishing method is called trawling.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Trawling and trolling are both fishing techniques, different ones. Trawling uses nets, trolling uses lines.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            The Nybbler schooling us on fishing. Nominative determinism at work.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        The problem with civility is it’s not good for actually changing the minds of the vast majority of people. We’re not thinkers who feel we’re feelers who think.

        This is why humor is such a potent weapon. The left has been very good at this for the past few decades, particularly with the Schrodinger’s Clown Nose tactics of people like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver. “Haha Republicans are stupid and evil!” *Clown nose off* “What I’m just kidding, I’m just a comedian what do I know?” *Clown nose on* “But seriously how stupid and evil are those Republicans, eh folks?”

        As soon as things get political people pretend like they can’t understand jokes anymore.

        • Jiro says:

          “Comedy” like that tends to be treated, by everyone as serious politics and real criticism, right until someone demonstrates that it’s inaccurate or misleading, at which point that’s okay because it’s just a joke.

        • tscharf says:

          We see how much they like it when the roles are reversed, Trump vs CNN video, ha ha. In this case very serious people had very serious things to say about the very serious subject of promoting violence against reporters. Faux outrage is very in.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            And absolutely amazing coming from the network that gave a platform to the guy who tried to rush Trump’s stage during the campaign. There is no self-awareness here.

          • rlms says:

            The relevant thing with the Trump video is that it’s the President doing it. Attempts to stifle journalism (or “joking” references thereto) are important in proportion to how plausible their success is. There are few people in a better position to exert control over anything than the US President.

            Additionally, anything Trump does (especially novel things like this) is newsworthy by virtue of his position. Negative coverage of this incident is only partly condemnation of Trump based on his inciting violence or infringing press freedom; some of it is “this is silly”.

          • tscharf says:

            rlms,
            Feel free to get mad when he actually does things to stifle journalism, instead of convicting him for FutureCrime(tm) and extrapolating the latest Trump outburst to the next Cuban Missile Crisis.

            Trump is going to troll his critics for his own entertainment. The media does themselves no favors when they act like they are some sort of protected class that is above ridicule. The days of respect for the media ended when Jon Stewart became the most trusted name in news.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Trump is going to troll his critics for his own entertainment.

            This is behavior unbecoming of POTUS and he should knock it the fuck off. (And I don’t give a fuck if a Dem did it first, it’s still disrespectful of the office and, if so, the GOP should set a better example)

            The media does themselves no favors when they act like they are some sort of protected class that is above ridicule.

            Completely agreed. They’re just embarrassing themselves with the level of their conniption fits over every bit of Reality TV POTUS they can get their paws on.

            But let’s not act like either party involved is behaving well.

          • Mary says:

            Why should he set a better example when we know the Democrats will merely take advantage of his doing so?

            I would say that a fair number of his voters sent him to the White House to stop setting a better example and start using successful tactics.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Gobbobobble

            This is behavior unbecoming of POTUS and he should knock it the fuck off. (And I don’t give a fuck if a Dem did it first, it’s still disrespectful of the office and, if so, the GOP should set a better example)

            To be honest I think this is just tribalism. “It’s cute when our side makes jokes but outside of all human dignity when the other side does it.” Obama’s “when they bring a knife we bring a gun” or his Red Wedding joke at the Correspondent’s Dinner. Yes, when the president jokes about having his political opposition surprise murdered, it is totally a joke. But if a Republican did that you’d be calling it horrifically undignified.

            I think you have a very rose colored view of our Presidents. Obama was milquetoast, sure, but our Founders were rebels, racists and terrorists, Andrew Jackson dueled people and shot them for insulting his wife, LBJ couldn’t resist literally waving his dick at people, and Bill Clinton used his 22 year old intern as a humidor. If you want to convince me that Trump’s behavior is beneath the dignity of the Office, you’re going to have to convince me first that the Office ever had any dignity.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            The relevant thing with the Trump video is that it’s the President doing it. Attempts to stifle journalism (or “joking” references thereto) are important in proportion to how plausible their success is. There are few people in a better position to exert control over anything than the US President.

            Not based on how this administration has been running so far…

            That aside, the President of the United States is also a citizen and has just as much free speech rights to post a dumb trolly video as anyone else does. I don’t think he should, and I strongly agree with everyone here who is saying this kind of behavior is childish, undignified, unbecoming of the office, and I wish he would knock it the hell off, and no, it doesn’t matter that other people do it too. But you’re going to have to point out how we get from Trump posting a dumb trolly video to journalism actually being stifled in any way at all.

          • bintchaos says:

            @13thletter
            I do not give a rap about Trump’s buffoonery…he’s just Bottom in Midsummer Nights Dream.
            What I do care about is he’s vain enough and stupid enough to let KSA and Russia fool him into thinking they are his friends.
            And he refuses to listen to his advisers.
            Reagan had full-blown Alzheimers for the last year or two of his presidency– but he had good advisors that ran the shop for him.
            Kushner is an ME trainwreck.
            You think Kushner can deal with Prince Reckless and Bibi?
            They are going to eat him alive.

            I see their knavery:
            this is to make an ass of me; to fright me, if they could.
            But I will not stir from this place, do what they can:
            I will walk up and down here, and I will sing, that they shall hear
            I am not afraid.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @rlms

            The relevant thing with the Trump video is that it’s the President doing it.

            And CNN has no responsibility when it comes to giving a sympathetic platform to a person who tried to murder the Republican nominee for President? And the other story mulling about how if someone killed Trump before the inauguration it might result in an Obama holdover. Their coverage is 93% negative, 7% positive on Trump.

            We’ve been told over and over again that everything is political. How members of different groups are portrayed in movies or on TV shows, and we have to have serious discussions of how video games make young men objectify women. And yet we’re just supposed to take as given that one of (the?) largest news networks in the world is apolitical and just tellin’ it like it is?

            There was more shock and outrage on CNN over a triply-fake wrestling tweet than there was over a deranged man seeped in violent leftist political propaganda shooting Republican congressmen on a baseball field. Take that, the BLM riots, the campus riots, the leftists and illegals beating Trump supporters and jumping on cop cars during the campaign…everything the left and CNN is terrified might happen to them has been the political reality on the right for two years now.

          • rlms says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            CNN can be as biased and guttery as they want. Media trashiness is ubiquitous and hence not notable, wherever it occurs, but Presidents making threats (even non-credible ones) towards media companies is interesting (especially in the context of this) and newsworthy.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @rlms

            But the media is basically egging people on to kill Trump and Republicans. And that’s not hypothetical, some are actually taking them up on the offer.

            Remember, the claim here is influence. That Trump is somehow influencing people to commit violence against he media (which no one has) via his position of authority, using veiled suggestion (a fake clothesline at a fake fighting event with a fake logo is hardly a direct exhortation to violence). Does CNN have no ability to influence people in a similar way?

            That’s basically what this comes down to. Trump must act in a certain way because some deranged people might be influenced to do awful acts against the media, but CNN bears no responsibility for anything someone might do under their influence. Not buying it. The Presidency has propaganda power, of course, but so does CNN.

            Largely I see the relationship between the media and the political establishment like that between the Catholic Church and the French monarchy. We give you legitimacy, you give us legitimacy, we keep the peasants subdued and we all get rich. The current monarch is upsetting the arrangement and the Church, arbiters of right and wrong and sinners and saints is very upset about it. But you can’t pretend the Church has no power because they have no soldiers. The same is true of CNN.

          • tscharf says:

            This is behavior unbecoming of POTUS and he should knock it the fuck off.

            There are very few people who actively support the Twitter insanity. It’s sole redeeming characteristic in my view is how it exposes the worst of the left for everyone to see. You have the NYT posting front page editorials on how reporters have a moral duty to oppose Trump. Ummmm….OK.

            The proper response should have been to be professional, instead they gladly joined in on the low character battle and disgraced themselves. Now they are playing the victim card, the media. Zero sympathy.

            But yes, the Twitter stuff is embarrassing for the US. Someone else said “Elect a clown, you get a circus”. Truer words were never spoken, ha ha.

          • bintchaos says:

            Well…like I said…theres a sort of poignant sadness about Trump– he’s like Bottom, one of Shakespeare’s rustics in Dream.
            He so desperately wants to be noticed and admired, and like Bottom, he’s completely shut out from the elite circles of faery and human royalty (read diplomacy and government) that he craves.
            Its not his fault that the fates conspired to affix an asses head on him and caused the besotted GOP base to fall in love with him….its a comedy tinged with sadness.
            The nobility of the office of Lincoln…forever out of Trump’s grasp.
            His tweets are like Bottom’s singing…

            What do you see? you see an asshead of your own, do
            you?
            I see their knavery: this is to make an ass of me;
            to fright me, if they could. But I will not stir
            from this place, do what they can: I will walk up
            and down here, and I will sing, that they shall hear
            I am not afraid.

          • Matt M says:

            There are very few people who actively support the Twitter insanity.

            I do. But mainly from the libertarian perspective of “anything that brings discredit to the Presidency and/or the state is a good thing.”

            See this article by Jeffrey Tucker for more information.

            I’ll also remind everyone that prior to the election, comprehensive polling (I think it was Pew, can’t remember for sure) asked Americans about their like/trust in a large number of individuals and institutions. Trump scored the second lowest. Can you guess who scored last? The media.

            He won the election by framing everything as “me versus the media.” It’s absolutely no surprise that he spends his Twitter time bashing CNN and not bashing Senate Democrats or the Freedom Caucus or the Ninth Circuit Court or any of the other entities standing in his way. This is the one fight he can plausibly win, and his opponents are gleefully still providing it to him.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            He won the election by framing everything as “me versus the media.”

            And he’s not the kind of guy who’s capable of realizing when he’s going to the well too often.

          • rlms says:

            @tscharf
            “There are very few people who actively support the Twitter insanity. ”
            What does “very few” mean? Trump’s base is pretty large, and I imagine the majority of people in it support his tweets.

          • abc says:

            This is behavior unbecoming of POTUS and he should knock it the fuck off. (And I don’t give a fuck if a Dem did it first, it’s still disrespectful of the office and, if so, the GOP should set a better example)

            Why? So that they can “loose nobly” and then we can go back to Dems in power being as undignified as they want to Republicans, which behavior you will somehow fail to find worthy of commenting on?

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            But the media is basically egging people on to kill Trump and Republicans. And that’s not hypothetical, some are actually taking them up on the offer.

            I have to take issue with that characterization of recent events unless there is some aspect of the shootings and rhetoric that I am unaware of. Hell, you yourself later on this comment section:

            It was noted that the shooting was “universally condemned” by the mainstream left. Sure.

            The idea that it was Fox News and “right wing hate” that drove Rep. Giffords’ shooter was false, and reversing the political polarity doesn’t make the model suddenly accurate.

          • CatCube says:

            @abc

            I’m so absolutely fucking tired of this rationalization of Trump. When your objection is that your enemies are burning down the village, it is not a motherfucking victory when a nominal “ally” starts burning down the village even better.

            I went to bed depressed the night before the election because I thought that the Republican Party had nominated the only possible candidate that could lose to Hillary Clinton. It turned out I was wrong; the Democrats had nominated the only possible candidate who could lose to Donald Trump. Based on that, I believe that literally any nominee would have had a good chance of winning.

            Has President Trump done some good things? Absolutely. The nomination of Gorsuch was the biggest of these. However, Gorsuch
            was proposed by the Republican mainstream, so we’d have gotten him or an equivalent no matter who the nominee ended up being. So literally any other nominee would have gotten us a solid Supreme Court appointment, only literally any other nominee wouldn’t be making an ass of himself twice a week on the Internet.

            I will not apologize for holding my side to a higher standard than the Democrats. “Better than Obama” is not a hard standard to meet.

          • Eltargrim says:

            @Catcube:

            First, I haven’t congratulated you on passing your exams, so congratulations!

            Second, honest question: were any of the Republican candidates, in your opinion, better than Obama? If not, do you have someone a little more junior in mind?

          • abc says:

            I’m so absolutely fucking tired of this rationalization of Trump. When your objection is that your enemies are burning down the village, it is not a motherfucking victory when a nominal “ally” starts burning down the village even better.

            More like, the enemy are burning down the houses of our supporters, but we will not stoop to the level of burning down their houses.

            I went to bed depressed the night before the election because I thought that the Republican Party had nominated the only possible candidate that could lose to Hillary Clinton. It turned out I was wrong; the Democrats had nominated the only possible candidate who could lose to Donald Trump. Based on that, I believe that literally any nominee would have had a good chance of winning.

            So you claim to be a “conservative”, what exactly have you managed to conserve over the past ~50 years? Not even women’s bathrooms by the looks of it.

            I will not apologize for holding my side to a higher standard than the Democrats. “Better than Obama” is not a hard standard to meet.

            So you’d rather loose under a high standard then win by fighting? Think about it this way. Would you say these “dishonorable” tactics are effective for the Democrats? If so why shouldn’t Republicans also adopt them? Or would you rather play cooperate-rock?

          • CatCube says:

            @Eltargrim

            Thanks. I finally got the paperwork verifying my licensure last week, so I’m officially registered! Now for my seal to arrive…

            As far as potential Republican nominees, Kasich was who I would have preferred, but any of the other nominees (aside from President Trump) would have been at least acceptable in the “better than Obama” category. It’s hard for me to overstate just how much I disliked most of what President Obama did, with special mention for Obamacare. Like I said, not a high bar to clear.

            @abc

            The destruction of civil norms that govern interaction is very much “our” house, not belonging to one side. The Democrats are foolish enough to tear down the culture that has guaranteed both freedom and prosperity; electing a reality TV star is not going to fix that.

            So you claim to be a “conservative”, what exactly have you managed to conserve over the past ~50 years? Not even women’s bathrooms by the looks of it.

            Is President Trump proposing to fix that? Because I would absolutely get behind him on that issue, or if he was going to work on rolling back the grotesque legal legerdemain of Obergefell. However, since his favorite book of the Bible is apparently “Two Corinthians,” I’m not expecting him to get on that anytime soon. Even if he did, I’ll bet he’d fuck that up like he did his travel ban. We’ll see.

            So you’d rather loose under a high standard then win by fighting? Think about it this way. Would you say these “dishonorable” tactics are effective for the Democrats? If so why shouldn’t Republicans also adopt them? Or would you rather play cooperate-rock?

            The use of these tactics at all, by either side, is a loss. We should be working to make them ineffective, not copying them. What the President is doing is not a “victory,” except possibly in the Pyhrric sense.

          • Mary says:

            no, it doesn’t matter that other people do it too.

            Unfortunately that’s the ideal thing to say if you want people to say that you don’t actually care about his being “childish, undignified, unbecoming of the office,” you are just using it as a stalking horse to silence dissent.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            But the media is basically egging people on to kill Trump and Republicans. And that’s not hypothetical, some are actually taking them up on the offer.

            I have to take issue with that characterization of recent events unless there is some aspect of the shootings and rhetoric that I am unaware of. Hell, you yourself later on this comment section:

            It was noted that the shooting was “universally condemned” by the mainstream left. Sure.

            Yes, the media and left delegitimize the president, call for people to “resist,” talk about “blood in the streets,” make excuses for “punching nazis” or rioters, and then when someone hears all of this and follows it to its logical conclusion and actually starts violently resisting the nazis with the blood in the streets they say “we condemn political violence!” For a day. And then the next day it’s op-eds about how it’s understandable that marginalized people lash out at the evil Republican agenda…

            And I’m not saying this is one-sided. Yes, I condemn the body slamming of the reporter by Greg “Butcher of Bozeman” Gianforte. But yeah, when a propagandist is in your face screaming at you so he can get a nasty quote to smear you with and won’t leave…I can’t say I’m shedding that many tears.

            The media is absolutely feeding people a diet of paranoia, outrage, justifications for violence, celebrities musing for political violence against Trump or Republicans. The condemnation of violence seems hollow. We are way past “will no one rid of me of this meddlesome priest” territory. CNN is just terrified someone might do to them what they’ve been egging people on to do to Trump for a year or more now.

          • Brad says:

            And I’m not saying this is one-sided. Yes, I condemn the body slamming of the reporter by Greg “Butcher of Bozeman” Gianforte. But yeah, when a propagandist is in your face screaming at you so he can get a nasty quote to smear you with and won’t leave…I can’t say I’m shedding that many tears.

            From the link

            Sorry, not sorry.

            With condemnation like that, who needs praise?

            Spare us the crocodile tears, it’s pellucidly clear that it’s all about whose ox is being gored.

          • tscharf says:

            What does “very few” mean? Trump’s base is pretty large, and I imagine the majority of people in it support his tweets.

            I imagine they do not, so we are at a standstill, ha ha. I haven’t seen any actual data, but only many quotes from Trump supporters in interviews wishing he would not be a loudmouth jerk.

            There are several flavors to not supporting this, one is that they don’t like boorish loudmouths in general, one is that they just don’t find it constructive to achieving any goals, but I think the biggest one is that they simply don’t care about the the Twitter sideshow at all relative to HRC vs Trump policies.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Let’s start at the top, then. Can you link me to video clips (preferably) or transcripts for visual media, and prominent op-eds/think pieces for print media, of mainstream media calls for blanket -resistance- to Trump?

            The ones I’m aware of have been along the lines of “People should be extra on guard, looking for possible illegal and unethical orders, record everything, and be ready to blow the whistle or resign in protest at the drop of a hat”, which isn’t the same thing.

          • albatross11 says:

            This article describes a Fox News poll saying that among Republicans:

            a. 21% approve of Trump’s tweets

            b. 59% wish he was more careful with his tweets

            c. 18% disapprove.

            53% of Republicans said they thought his tweets were undermining his agenda.

            This does not look to me like great support for Trump’s use of Twitter even among his supporters.
            i’m assuming his supporters are basically Republicans–that’s not exactly right, but he’d never have won the election without overwhelming support from Republcans and he can’t govern without substiantial support from Republican legislators who in turn care a lot about how Republican voters feel.

            Roughly 1/5 of Republicans approve of his use of Twitter, another 1/5 disapprove, and the rest are uncomfortable with it/wish he would be more careful with it. This is not remotely a majority of Republicans supporting his tweets.

          • albatross11 says:

            Conrad Honcho:

            I’ve seen this kind of incitement a lot on social media, but not in mainstream news sources. (Though I guess that depends on what you count as mainstream–I’m thinking big US TV networks and major newspapers.). However, it’s not like I read every newspaper, and I actively avoid TV news (24 hour news channels make you dumber, not smarter, because they’re bad at imparting actual information and their incentives are toward sensationalizing and distorting news to keep eyeballs glued to screens.). So maybe I’m missing something. A quick Google search netted me a whole bunch of NYT op eds talking about resisting Trump by normal political means (protests, calling your congresscritters, court challenges, elections), and I didn’t see anything advocating violence.

            I’ve seen stuff advocating violence (antifa-aligned stuff, in particular) on social media, but not in anything I’d think of as a mainstream publication. I think most people have the sense to know that rioting doesn’t help their cause, and that talking about assassinations or other political violence is mainly a good way to spend some pleasant and entertaining hours chatting with the nice boys from the secret service, who take that sort of thing pretty seriously.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Brad

            Spare us the crocodile tears, it’s pellucidly clear that it’s all about whose ox is being gored.

            Isn’t that exactly what I said?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Others:

            I’m not saying CNN is directly calling for violence. Of course not. I’m saying they’re delegitimizing the president with phoney Russian collusion stories, Elizabeth Warren is doing the “people will die!” thing on the Senate floor, Bernie is saying “resist!” Madonna is waxing about blowing up the White House, Johnny Depp is musing about assassination, the NYT is funding the “kill Trump” play in the park. If this isn’t a “climate of violence?” what exactly is?

            But the wrestling meme, though, that’s creating a climate of violence against the media right? Not the bloody faux-severed heads and such?

          • Brad says:

            No, you are all over the place in this thread hypocritically claiming that CNN is violating some principles that you hold dear. It’s you clear you have no such principles as your linking to that article so aptly demonstrates.

            If you wanted to be honest instead of this faux outrage about CNN’s conduct you’d just post “Go red team, go! Boo blue team!”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Brad

            No, you are all over the place in this thread hypocritically claiming that CNN is violating some principles that you hold dear.

            No, I’m calling CNN the hypocrites. I said “And absolutely amazing coming from the network that gave a platform to the guy who tried to rush Trump’s stage during the campaign. There is no self-awareness here.”

            CNN has indulged in extreme effort to fuel a culture of violence against Trump and conservatives and then is crying foul about how a fake wrestling meme is going to get journalists killed.

            How am I hypocrite? I know my shit stinks. CNN thinks theirs smells like roses.

          • @ Brad:

            I think you are misreading Conrad. He wrote:

            And I’m not saying this is one-sided. Yes, I condemn the body slamming of the reporter by Greg “Butcher of Bozeman” Gianforte. But yeah, when a propagandist is in your face screaming at you so he can get a nasty quote to smear you with and won’t leave…I can’t say I’m shedding that many tears.

            Read that again. The point of it, starting with the first sentence, was that his side, including him, was more sympathetic to violence when it was done by someone on their side to someone on the other side, just as the other side was.

          • rlms says:

            @tscharf
            By Trump’s base, I mean his core supporters (the people who supported him in the primary, plus a few others who didn’t vote or tentatively supported other candidates). This isn’t a high proportion of the population, or even a particularly high proportion of those who voted him into office, but it’s still a significant number; I wouldn’t describe something as being supported by “very few” people if every single current college student supported it, and the numbers for Trump are comparable (15-20 million). albatross11’s figures sound about right too me (although given that the middle option presented leans towards condemning the tweets, I think they probably underestimate the number of people who are neutral/lean towards supporting); 21% of Republicans is still a lot of people.

          • tscharf says:

            @rlms,
            I think that would be the “No true Scotsman” defense or at least circular reasoning that the definition of a core supporter is effectively one that likes his Tweets.
            .
            There is no doubt a group of people who like this for the entertainment value. If Trump was a normal politician he would have had lobbyists focus group test every potential word ever written on a Twitter feed and bore the populace to tears (as was probably the case for Obama). Trump does it in spite of this because he basically doesn’t give a f***. There are people who “support” this because they know it is just part of the Trump package and one of the reasons they elected him was being a non-traditional politician. This is the bad side of that “feature”.

          • rlms says:

            @tscharf
            Not really. I’m not claiming that you can’t be a True Trumpist if you don’t like his tweets, I’m saying that I predict there is a group of maybe 10-30 million people who saw the tweet and thought strongly positive things like “Ha! I like this! Take that, stupid CNN! This is why Trump’s great!”, rather than “*sigh* What stupid thing will he do next?” or “Um! Trump is threatening journalists with violence?! This is deeply concerning!”. I think it’s accurate to call this group his base, but the name doesn’t really matter. The point is that it exists and has quite a lot of people in it.

        • Mary says:

          Its chief strength is that people feel entitled to be as rude and even dishonest as they like and then say, “Can’t you take a joke?”

          That is, it is a major component of the problem, not part of the solution.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            And on the other side, Party A could ask why the chicken crossed the road and Party B would be shocked and horrified because jaywalking and animal endangerment is no laughing matter. It’s all so tiresome.

          • Mary says:

            I dream of a better world in which chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned.

        • Reasoner says:

          I don’t think this is actually true. Changing someone’s mind on a charged topic is difficult, and rational argument is one of the only methods that sometimes works.

          This is why humor is such a potent weapon. The left has been very good at this for the past few decades…

          This strategy has *not* worked well for the left. They’ve lost the presidency, the house, the senate, most state legislatures…

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Difference between structural power and social power. The left won (for now…?) the culture war.

          • Kevin C. says:

            the presidency, the house, the senate, most state legislatures

            Those and $5 will get you a cup of coffee.

          • beleester says:

            Funny, I’d say the same thing about social power. No matter how much you “control the discourse,” if Trump says we’re leaving the Paris deal, we’re leaving the Paris deal. If Trump says we’re launching Tomahawks at Syria, we’re launching Tomahawks. If Trump tells the DHS to ban Muslims, the DHS will ban Muslims.

            (That last one got overturned, but by the courts, not by Jon Stewart.)

          • cassander says:

            @beleester

            Compare how much policy the left has passed in the last 16 years compared to the right. Who looks like they’re winning? Because other than gun control, I can’t think of anywhere policy is moving right.

          • skef says:

            I can’t think of anywhere policy is moving right.

            Police militarization?

          • cassander says:

            @skef

            “Police militarization” isn’t something anyone is actually for. I’ll give you the tough on crime wave of the 80s and 90s, but that wave broke a long time ago.

          • Nornagest says:

            “Police militarization” isn’t something anyone is actually for.

            Yet I still see police MRAPs, and shiny new AR-15s in squad cars alongside the Mossberg 500s I remember from my childhood in the tough-on-crime 80s and 90s.

          • Matt M says:

            (That last one got overturned, but by the courts, not by Jon Stewart.)

            And the courts answer to Jon Stewart.

            Not directly of course, but generally speaking, they follow popular opinion, which Stewart molds and shapes.

            They’re literally citing Trump’s twitter posts as proof that the motivations for the ban were racist and therefore the ban itself must be. Where the fuck does that come from if not pop culture?

          • Matt M says:

            Police militarization seems red-tribe so long as it’s being used to bust pot dealers, sure.

            But don’t think they won’t use those MRAPs to break down the doors of people who post offensive messages on Twitter as soon as that becomes illegal.

            The left will never object to putting more power in the hands of the state, because they believe that ultimately, they will control the state. Any political defeats are just temporary setbacks. It is their destiny, etc.

          • Brad says:

            But don’t think they won’t use those MRAPs to break down the doors of people who post offensive messages on Twitter as soon as that becomes illegal.

            Is there some collection of these predictions so that those of us playing at home can tell how well calibrated you are?

            The left will never object to putting more power in the hands of the state, because they believe that ultimately, they will control the state. Any political defeats are just temporary setbacks. It is their destiny, etc.

            Not true at all. I’m not sure why you continually post this kind of crap. Do you really think you have some special information about “the left” that the rest of us don’t and are so are helpfully enlightening us with your naked assertions?

            If it’s common knowledge, then the rest of us know it already and you are wasting time. If if it isn’t common knowledge then you need to provide some kind of justification.

          • Matt M says:

            I think I posted this one before, but here you go.

            Here is my thought process:

            1) The police will use whatever equipment they have to enforce whatever laws they are told to enforce. This seems uncontroversial to me. We know they will use SWAT teams to raid houses and shoot dogs (and sometimes people) on anonymous tips of having smelled marijuana. We know they’ll choke a man to death for selling untaxed cigarettes. We know that in Europe, they’ll use the maximum amount of force as is normal for their particular culture, to enforce speech codes.

            2) There is absolutely no shortage of people, here, in these comments, who regularly assert that the left is winning the culture war, and will inevitably win the political war as well. That demographics and cultural trends ensure total victory. Some people dispute this, but many do not.

            3) We have seen no consistent opposition to police militarization organized on tribal grounds. It’s a minor issue in general, and the opposition it does get seems to have just as many red-tribe libertarians as it does blue-tribe police skeptics. The amount of attention police militarization gets from the “organized left” compared to things like budget cuts to planned parenthood is minuscule. They’re clearly not making it a priority. It seems reasonable to ask why. This is my theory as to why. What’s yours?

          • cassander says:

            @Nornagest

            Yet I still see police MRAPs, and shiny new AR-15s in squad cars alongside the Mossberg 500s I remember from my childhood in the tough-on-crime 80s and 90s.

            That is almost entirely the product of a Clinton era law turning over military surplus to local law enforcement.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Increased police militarization is more like a Deep State (Shallow State if we’re talking state and local stuff?) issue, not a right-wing issue. No Republican politician is running on a platform of “more grenade launchers for cops!” It’s the nature of the machinery of state to accumulate more power and it’s doing it, but I don’t think anyone on either side wants cops with tanks. If anything it would be used by the right as an argument against foreigners/muslims/illegals/etc. “We wouldn’t need the police state if it weren’t for all these terr’rstical types.”

            So no, police militarization is not a right-wing win. It’s an everyone loss.

          • Brad says:

            H.R.1556 – Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act
            Sponsor: Rep. Johnson, Henry C. “Hank,” Jr. [D-GA-4]
            Cosponsors:
            Democratic (20)
            Republican (2)

            H.R.426 – Protecting Lives Using Surplus Equipment Act of 2017
            Sponsor: Rep. Ratcliffe, John [R-TX-4]
            Cosponsors:
            Democratic (0)
            Republican (30)

          • tscharf says:

            As a general comment Trump has been a bit wiser in selecting the right enemies. Given the recent poll numbers on trust in institutions where the media is close to the bottom and the police/military are at the top it is politically unwise to attack the top and defend the bottom.

            It’s a bit ironic that trust in police has risen over the past couple years, with increases coming mostly from those on the left (the right is pretty much maxed out in this category).

            Oct 2016: American respect for police reaches highest level in 50 years
            https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/10/25/american-respect-for-police-reaches-highest-level-in-50-years

            It is important to note that respect for police doesn’t necessarily translate to thinking they are properly held accountable for bad shootings.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Republican (2)

            At least some of these clowns have principles. It should also be noted that Republican reps voting records not exactly jiving with the principles they campaigned on is how we got stuck with Trump in the first place.

            I’m with Conrad on this one – it’s more of a Deep State issue than a Left vs Right one. It’s just far easier for LEO & mil-ind groups to lobby the Right for more toys when the two-party filter monster has decreed that curbing law enforcement excesses is a Lefty cause.

          • skef says:

            Police militarization isn’t a right-wing cause under that description. It’s a right wing cause in virtue of 1) police departments wanting the stuff, for a variety of reasons, and 2) it generally being a right-wing cause to support the police, including supporting getting them what they want. Hence the sponsorship pattern.

          • beleester says:

            @Matt M:

            They’re literally citing Trump’s twitter posts as proof that the motivations for the ban were racist and therefore the ban itself must be. Where the fuck does that come from if not pop culture?

            Are you telling me that a court shouldn’t use statements made by a defendant as evidence of the defendant’s motives?

            If there’s a murder, and someone had previously threatened to kill the victim, that would make them a suspect. This isn’t “pop culture.” This isn’t some novel legal theory that was invented just for Trump. The legal system cares about intent, and that shouldn’t surprise anyone.

            @Cassander: Most “national security” legislation, such as the creation of the TSA, or the Patriot Act?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Brad:

            Who do you think asked those Congressmen to draft that surplus equipment act? Do you think it was Republican voters swamping them with phone calls? Or was it maybe the police outfits themselves?

            “We need more tanks for the cops” is not any sort of common discussion on right/Republican internet forums, nor will you find a plethora of thinkpieces on Daily Caller about the need for cops to have grenade launchers.

            Basically you’re telling me I and my kind really want something we don’t actually really want. I’m telling you we’re not. I’m opposed to it, just probably not as opposed to it as you are. That doesn’t make it a victory for my side.

            Since you don’t want it, and my side is either neutral or opposed, I’m guessing who actually wants it is “the apparatus of the state” which is who’s benefiting from it.

          • CatCube says:

            @beleester

            The legal system should care about intent in determining whether or not you’ve violated a law. What we’re talking about here is whether or not a law should be passed.

            Otherwise we can get situations where the courts can arrogate legal power to themselves by divining what they imagine the motivation of the legislative and executive branches. The comment section here is pretty good compared to most fora, and a quick read should convince you that people can be pretty creative in imagining what evil motivates their political opponents.

            Of course, as we’ve seen, the courts actually do this, even though it’s a grotesque abuse of power for them to do so. This also shouldn’t have been a surprise to the President. That’s what’s so infuriating about his handling of the travel ban. He wanted to look like a hero, so on first down he threw a wild 75-yard touchdown attempt against a really strong secondary and got the ball picked off, rather than making a modest 2-3 yard run attempt that would have been a guaranteed gain. If he had kept his yap shut on twitter, and had been a little more modest in the handling of the Executive Order, he could have probably pushed precedent a little bit in the favor of the right; instead, he gave a bunch of left-wing judges political cover to create precedent against the President’s constitutional powers.

            He has got to stop crying about bias. He’s right that it exists, but all of us on the right have been crying about it for decades. It shouldn’t be a surprise to him, and he cannot assume it away. He has to plan his moves accordingly.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Police departments are run variously at the federal, state, and local level, so we should be able to test this. Are Republican municipalities more militarized than Democratic ones, or less? Has militarization at the federal level varied depending on whether D or R is in charge?

          • Nornagest says:

            Are Republican municipalities more militarized than Democratic ones, or less?

            I’d expect density, among other issues, to confound this badly.

          • cassander says:

            @skef

            Hence the sponsorship pattern.

            the law in question was championed by the clinton administration, as part of their anti-crime drive the centerpiece of which was “putting 100k cops on the streets”.

            @beleester

            Most “national security” legislation, such as the creation of the TSA, or the Patriot Act?

            Is a thoroughly bi-partisan vice. The bush administration was actually against the creation of the department of homeland security, until it became clear that congress was going to pass it over his veto.

          • skef says:

            the law in question was championed by the clinton administration, as part of their anti-crime drive the centerpiece of which was “putting 100k cops on the streets”.

            The sponsorship pattern I was referring to was of the laws that Brad linked to, so not attributable to Clinton.

            Bill Clinton’s shtick wound up being “here I am, doing stuff, with whoever will do it with me!” That led to a mixed bag which included welfare reform, super-predators, as well as left-wing stuff.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            @CatCube:

            Otherwise we can get situations where the courts can arrogate legal power to themselves by divining what they imagine the motivation of the legislative and executive branches.

            That would be the Animus Clause, and its associated jurisprudence.

        • albatross11 says:

          It’s worth noting that this is pretty much Rush Limbaugh’s whole schtick.

      • Deep learning isn’t a catch-all solution to every problem. Are you familiar with what ‘google’ and ‘skype’ mean on alt-right blogs?

    • Orpheus says:

      Nope, not a problem. Frankly, I think that whatever happens on social media is of very little consequence.

      • Bugmaster says:

        Why do you say that ? I honestly don’t know whether that’s true or not. At times, it certainly seems like whatever is said on Twitter or Facebook is just random noise. At other times, though, the same social media sites appear to be heavily involved in steering national policy. I’m honestly not sure which case is true… is there a way to quantify this ?

        • Orpheus says:

          the same social media sites appear to be heavily involved in steering national policy.

          “Appear” being the operative word. Can you give me an example of social media effecting policy?

          • Bugmaster says:

            Well, for one thing, our current President uses Twitter almost exclusively in order to communicate with the rest of the populace. Media outlets amplify his posts, and thus much of the political discussion centers solely around the issues mentioned on Twitter.

            Perhaps more importantly, social media platforms are (AFAICT) becoming the core means by which both political parties gather supporters and energize their base at election time (so, about every two years). Additionally, IIRC there’s some evidence that shows that young people form their political opinions primarily (if not exclusively) based on what’s on their Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/whatever feed. Now, granted, young people don’t matter much now (since they rarely vote), but they won’t stay young (and non-voting) forever…

          • Orpheus says:

            Well, for one thing, our current President uses Twitter almost exclusively in order to communicate with the rest of the populace. Media outlets amplify his posts, and thus much of the political discussion centers solely around the issues mentioned on Twitter.

            Meh. From what I see, this is less of a political discourse that effects policy and more of a weekly loop of Trump post something stupid->Media outrage->Trump posts something else stupid->Media now outraged over new thing, the previous one no longer being interesting.

            Perhaps more importantly, social media platforms are (AFAICT) becoming the core means by which both political parties gather supporters and energize their base at election time (so, about every two years).

            Ok, but parties gathered support and energized their base before Facebook & co. existed. Maybe they made this process easier, but again I don’t think it changed anything fundamental.

            Additionally, IIRC there’s some evidence that shows that young people form their political opinions primarily (if not exclusively) based on what’s on their Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/whatever feed.

            Sounds suspicious. I think cause and effect are being confused here (see also the partisan polarization on social media Scott asked about).

          • Mary says:

            FDR used radio to bypass the media of his day.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Social networks are going to get more and more integrated in to our lives until at some point it’s going to be as voluntary as having an email. Then we’ll be getting our own “social network advisors” to help choose the right instragam filter or have a particularly witty comment. And whoever opts out is a pariah.

        • Matt M says:

          I think we’re already at the point where if an employer asks for a link to your Facebook account and your response is “I don’t have Facebook” they will assume that you’re lying and have something to hide. (at least, if you’re under 40)

          • WashedOut says:

            Untrue or gross exaggeration.

            I am well under 40 and have never had Facebook, am a STEM professional and it has never been an issue in job interviews or even spoken about during employment.

            I’m not sure about abroad but I’ve never heard of anyone being asked to provide a link to FB in a job interview, let alone it being a factor in hiring (reference country: Australia). In my circles (inner-city, 25-35 yr old, middle class), the shift away from social media is tangible. Stories of people deleting their accounts or leaving their profiles completely inactive are surfacing en masse, and there is a definite cultural shift toward “genuine interaction”.

            And FWIW, admitting you have a LinkedIn is pretty much social suicide. Might as well tell someone to add you on Myspace.

        • Orpheus says:

          Maybe, but my hope is that people will wise up and realise that not every one needs to be aware of every part of your life (do you realy want your mom seeing your pictures from last weeks badass orgy?)

          • mupetblast says:

            More than maybe. This has been a fear since at least 2012, backed by people in the know: http://bit.ly/2tkba74

            In the twenty-something Netflix drama You Get Me, the villain lacks a Facebook page, something a friend of the protagonist takes notice of…er, to her detriment.

          • Orpheus says:

            Sorry, I am having a hard time taking any article that contains the quote “not having a Facebook account could be the first sign that you are a mass murderer” seriously.

            I am yet to see any evidence that this fear has any basis. I think that particularly in the higher tiers of STEM jobs, finding someone to fill a position is hard enough as it is without concerning yourself with whether your applicant has a Facebook page or not.

    • Zephalinda says:

      Yes, this is a huge problem, but as others have said, probably one that’s mechanistically inextricable from (maybe even mechanistically identical to) to the natural bonding/exclusion, ingroup/outgroup signaling dynamics that make people participate in social media in the first place. I’m frankly pretty suspicious of the ulterior motives of any social-media executives who’d express an interest in limiting polarization on their platforms, given how central it is to their business model.

      For that reason, regardless of the specific measures implemented, I think complete transparency and openness would be a really important element of any policy changes that are genuinely ethically motivated. Too easy otherwise to slide toward promoting diverse views for Them, but purity for Us. Slowed sharing for the kind of polarizing clickbait They read, but fast sharing for Our objective, well-researched totally true news articles. Hidden deep learning algorithms to subtly reduce the circulation of Their angry, extremist rhetoric, but obviously no such filtering of Our dispassionate and moderate pleas for reasonable policy.

      I have no idea what mechanisms might be in place to allow or discourage this type of corporate transparency, but given that most of the major players have pretty terrible records so far… I guess the natural conclusion is that we should despair.

    • As far as I can tell polarization on social media just follows from increasing national polarization. It’s just the people we interact with on social media tend to be more diverse than family, friends, coworkers, or neighbors (according to research cited in Everybody Lies) so more polarized conflicts tend to happen there.

    • tscharf says:

      Maybe it’s a problem, but trying to control it would be an even bigger problem. Those would be judges of what is OK and what is not OK would be become corrupt and their definitions would gradually expand to serve their ideological purpose. See how the definitions of racist, hate speech, or hate crime have evolved.

      I see it similarly to violent video games, they are used more to release frustrations than they are to build them up in my opinion. A net benefit.

      • Matt M says:

        Those would be judges of what is OK and what is not OK would be become corrupt and their definitions would gradually expand to serve their ideological purpose.

        This has already happened. All social media companies already employ entire teams whose sole job is to police offensive speech.

    • tscharf says:

      I will add that it is very alarming to me how many people support this. There is almost zero evidence that this had any effect on the election outcome. Can we also regulate a partisan mainstream media?

      1. Anyone who voted for your side because of partisan social media, raise your hands.
      2. Now anyone who thinks people voted for the other side because of partisan social media raise your hands.

      Do you see the problem? We are able to decode nefarious attempts to twist our minds, they are not and it must be controlled by our benevolent betters. What could possibly go wrong?

      • Bugmaster says:

        We are able to decode nefarious attempts to twist our minds…

        That’s going way beyound what the OP said. The point was “social media greatly amplifies people’s innate tribal tendencies”, not “there’s a secret cabal of masterminds intent on polarizing people”.

        • tscharf says:

          “what would be the most effective ways that social media companies might be able to help fight it?”

          Two part question. Is it a problem, and how would we fix it. The fixing is where the self elected masterminds come in. Of course lots of social media posts are throwing red meat to your own tribe and disparaging the other tribe. The fear from the enlightened is that the unenlightend cannot tell the difference.

      • Jiro says:

        Do you see the problem? We are able to decode nefarious attempts to twist our minds, they are not and it must be controlled by our benevolent betters

        SSC readers are atypical to the point where “we didn’t vote because of social media; they did” can easily be completely correct.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Related to this, I asked a quetsion in an open thread a week or two ago in the aftermath of the shooting of the Republican baseball practice that didn’t go anywhere, but I haven’t been able to get out of my mind. You’re asking if social media sentiment matters, and my observation is that the mainstream doesn’t matter.

      It was noted that the shooting was “universally condemned” by the mainstream left. Sure. But then you look on reddit and twitter and there are myriad examples of people definitely not condemning the shooting. While statements of outright support were rare, many people excused the shooter’s actions with tongue-in-cheek statements like “well given how many people are going to die because of the Republican healthcare bill, could this be considered self-defense?” Or “you reap what you sow.”

      I could just as easily paint a right-wing mirror image of this where mainstream conservatives disavow any kind of racism or antisemitism, but then point you at the comments section on an article on Breitbart.

      Anyone who’s going to get radicalized wants to believe that “the people” (or the “good people” anyway) agree with them. If the mainstream doesn’t it’s either because they’re cowardly, or because they’re “playing the game.” Secretly Rachel Maddow/Sean Hannity want the righties/lefties to get what’s coming to them, but they can’t just say so. So one goes online, to social media, where they’re talking to people in echo chambers and they’ll find plenty of support and rationalizations for their attitudes, regardless of what the mainstream “leaders” say.

      So, I wouldn’t just say that social media polarization matters, I would say that if the answer to “does the mainstream even matter anymore?” is “no,” then social media polarization is the only thing that matters.

      As for what to do about it, I don’t know. Slate Star Codex is about the only place I’ve seen where people across the political spectrum treat each other like humans. But I don’t think this model is exportable, and it certainly wouldn’t last if it had any actually power, influence or authority.

    • Matt C says:

      I’m with Bugmaster. Social media companies want partisan polarization, like they want anything else that increases engagement with their platform. Outrage farming appeals to a wide variety of people, it provokes emotional response, it feels social, it’s viral, it’s cyclical, there’s an unlimited supply of new outrage sources. It’s a practically perfect fit for social media.

      Genuinely reducing partisan polarization on Facebook or Twitter can’t be done without also reducing views and clicks. It’s not happening. Maybe you’ll see some phony PR from them deploring the destructive fires of partisan rage, but once the press release is over they’ll get out the hot dogs and marshmallows again.

      • bintchaos says:

        From the Clive Thompson piece.

        The biggest impediment to all this change, though, is economic. Traditional media organizations publish and broadcast nonsense because it attracts eyeballs for ads. New media have inherited this problem in spades: Facebook and Twitter and YouTube know—in vivid, quantitative detail—just how much their users prefer to see posts they agree with ideologically, seductive falsehoods included. Spam got on people’s nerves, so companies were eager to stamp it out; on some level, any attempts by social platforms to fight [redacted] and confirmation bias will come into conflict with their users’ appetite for them.


        But I really want to know…all the SSC commenters that say Trump’s refusal to divest himself of his business interests is just “trump-booing”…how will you feel in 2020 when President Zuckerberg refuses to divest himself of Facebook?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Well, first “divest” is too strong a term. Trump separated himself from the running of his companies and that’ll have to be good enough, and would have to be good enough for Zuckerberg, too. The Founders did not intend for the US to have career politicians. Our leaders were supposed to come from the people, of all (white, landowning, male, respectable, etc) walks of life, and then go back to them when they were done. Having to sell your plantation in order to serve doesn’t fit with that purpose.

          So, yes, I would have no problem with President Zuckerberg holding on to his shares of FaceBook, so long as he resigns (or takes official hiatus, whatever) as CEO and from the board of directors as long as he serves. I do think people saying Trump should sell his business holdings (his life’s work) in order to serve are just engaged in Trump booing. The demand is unreasonable, unworkable, and not in keeping with the Founders’ intentions or actions. Also just petty. There’s very little Trump can diabolically do as president to benefit the hotel and golf course business. If that were his aim he would have been much better off throwing money towards zoning commissioners and the like in the municipalities where his properties are.

          That said, I full expect that right wing bloviators will use the left’s condemnations of Trump to attack Zuckerberg, ala Alinsky’s Rule #4.

          • There’s very little Trump can diabolically do as president to benefit the hotel and golf course business

            And precedent? What if some future pres. is an arms dealer?

          • Matt M says:

            That’s why you don’t vote for Tony Stark.

            In all seriousness, do we think any of Trump’s voters legitimately expected him to 100% divest himself from all of his business interests as soon as he got elected?

            If you were worried about his owning hotels somehow causing some huge conflict of interest, the time to worry about that was BEFORE the election, not after…

          • I thought we were discussing what i right, not what is likely.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I probably wouldn’t vote for an arms dealer president.

            What’s your solution to this problem then? We only have career politicians or technocrats in government?

          • The wealthy already have disproportionate influence on politicians….why would they need to be politicians as well?

            And that does not disbar anyone from office, because a wealthy person can easily turn themselves into a poor person, if they really want to be a public servant

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            why would they need to be politicians as well?

            Because some of them care about the nation and its future? Washington was (likely) the richest man in the colonies. Among the reasons I like Trump is because I don’t think he’s motivated to the office by a desire to enrich himself. If there were laws he wanted passed or regulations he wanted enacted/torn up for his own benefit he’d never have put himself through the ordeal of the campaign. He’d have just done what all the other rich people do and given a few million to each side and whoever wins call up and say “remember those campaign contributions?”

          • Matt M says:

            It’s worth noting that he basically bragged about having done that in the past to numerous politicians (most noteworthy, his current opponent)

        • albatross11 says:

          All the SSC commenters probably don’t agree on whether the sun rises inthe East. Everyone in this conversation is an individual, with his own values and beliefs and ideas, not one member of a faceless uniform Borg collective with shared beliefs.

          • Anonymous says:

            All the SSC commenters probably don’t agree on whether the sun rises inthe East.

            Two Jews, three opinions? 😉

          • Zodiac says:

            We are SSC.
            Lower your bias and surrender your brain.
            We will add your ideological and intellectual distinctiveness to our own.
            Your thought-processes will adapt to make the world rational.
            Resistance is astronomically improbable to succeed.

            I’m sorry, I had to.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @albatross11

            You were too fast to jump on bintchaos this time. I actually read that statement the same way you did the first time, since my last interaction with her was over just such a mischaracterization.

            However, the phrase was

            All the SSC commenters THAT SAY…

            And not “all the SSC commenters SAY THAT”, which is an important distinction. She’s only referring to the subset of SSC that holds that opinion, and there are some here who do, albeit only a handful if my memory serves correctly, maybe half a dozen unique screen names and 1-2 of our regular conservative commenters.

            So, it’s a fair point and not a snipe at a theoretical “SSC Hivemind”.

          • bintchaos says:

            Truedat…and I do think both tribes are represented evenly in the commentariat– but the Red Tribe is LOUDER and more vehement and higher frequency.
            Which are traits I would expect in soldier phenotype.

          • and I do think both tribes are represented evenly in the commentariat

            Leftists and people generally critical of leftists may be evenly represented–indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if the latter group was larger. But people critical of leftists need not be either conservatives or Republicans. My guess is that the largest group of such here are libertarians, quite a lot of them anarchists, which is pretty far from either Republican or conservative.

            People who fit red tribe culturally are, I would guess, a small minority. People who consider themselves Republicans a slightly larger minority.

            I think the most recent poll had information on political views, but I don’t remember the details.

          • rlms says:

            Looking at the 5% (96) of commenters who are responsible for 65% of comments (or at least who were when I did this), I got figures of 32% left-wing, 36% right-wing, 18% libertarian, 6% other, 8% unknown (some right-wing classified commenters would probably call themselves libertarians). This doesn’t account for variance between commenters in proportion of political comments or comment length, and only looks at a little more than half of the comments (although I expect frequent commenters are more likely to make political statements), but I think it provides a reasonable estimate.

          • Brad says:

            I’ll once again register my objection to the your labeling a poster whose ideologically salient oeuvre consists entirely of anti-SJ posts as being on the left.

          • bean says:

            @rlms
            I missed that at the time, but I want to highlight dndnrsn’s comment:

            Shouldn’t bean be listed under starboard, not right?

            I’m still gasping for breath after laughing at that.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @bean

            Vindicated!

            (But seriously, how are you and I immediately-obvious right and left respectively? I think I’m more obviously left than you’re obviously right, but we both kick up a decent amount of noise – naval war posts on your part, dumb jokes and so forth on mine – maybe the sample was from before the battleship posts?)

          • bean says:

            (But seriously, how are you and I immediately-obvious right and left respectively? I think I’m more obviously left than you’re obviously right, but we both kick up a decent amount of noise – naval war posts on your part, dumb jokes and so forth on mine – maybe the sample was from before the battleship posts?)

            I don’t think it’s necessarily that. I’m sure that all of us have posters we follow more closely than others. A 0 might just mean that rlms pays reasonably close attention to both of our posts, and doesn’t have to go looking for our political alignment. So even if politics makes up 20% of your stuff and 10% of mine, we’re still going to be a 0. High numbers could mean rare political posts, or someone who is really hard to figure out.
            A better metric, probably impossible to automate, would be to look at political percentage. And then number of political posts it takes to classify.

          • rlms says:

            @Brad
            I agree to an extent, and I think it would be reasonably consistent to classify Aapje as “other”. On the other hand, I remember seeing him arguing for a minimum wage recently, and using self-identification when possible seems sensible.

            @bean, @dndnrsn
            The it was the second iteration of my program that produced the list of authors, so the political orientations of some people were fresh in my mind when I ran it. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to classify e.g. Lumifer without looking at any posts. On the other hand, I think you two are frequent enough posters that I might have been able to classify you without any posts anyway (I’ve got a good memory for this kind of thing).

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            Are you ‘othering’ me? 😛

            Anyway, I object to the idea that being anti-SJ means that someone is not a lefty. When the objection is that much of SJ:
            – treats similar people differently, just for their gender, race, etc
            – has strong biases against certain genders, races, etc, ignoring their problems
            – has an anti-science/anti-truth culture
            – often fight for policies/laws that have disparate impact
            – etc

            Then IMO, none of these can be described as advocating an increase in equality, but rather the opposite. It’s like arguing that Bernie Sanders is not a lefty because he opposed Hillary. It matters whether someone opposes Hillary because he thinks she is not socialist enough or too socialist. It also matters if someone opposes SJ because he thinks they are (generally) not egalitarian enough or too egalitarian.

            Also, I disagree with the notion that biases can be determined from what topics people talk about (most), without taking the context into account. Imagine that you have two people who fell in the water and cannot swim, named Bob and Alice. 10 people have thrown a rope to Alice and are pulling her to safety, while no one is bothering to help Bob. Then a person who cares equally about Bob and Alice’s well-being would logically focus his entire effort on helping Bob, as Alice is getting disproportionate help already. However, some people here would apparently call that person a ‘Bobbist’ and/or someone who doesn’t care about Alice.

            PS. I’m pretty sure that if you made me dictator, there would be very little confusion about whether I was a lefty or not.

          • Brad says:

            @rlms

            and using self-identification when possible seems sensible

            I disagree with this. I think ‘leftist’ and ‘rightist’ or at very least ‘left wing poster’ and ‘right wing poster’ are socially constructed facts determined by others about you, not a self identification.

            More like ‘generous’ and less like ‘lesbian’.

          • I probably wouldn’t vote for an arms dealer president

            How much difference will you solitary vote make? You need to envisage a situation where some people are saying “we can’t have that awful person, who is still profiting from arms as the president”, ,and other people are saying ” but we never made anyone else disinvest!”.

          • rlms says:

            @Brad
            I agree that they are social constructions, but for the purpose of classifying people it is easier to seem impartial if you go by self-identification. Anyone who I class in a way that differs from their self-identification is certainly unlikely to support my results, and people who agree with them might do the same.

          • albatross11 says:

            Fair enough.

            Sorry about that, bintchaos, I misread your comment.

    • gbdub says:

      I would say use social media to encourage people to meet in real life. Suggest friends that share one or two interests but otherwise differ. Polarization seems way worse online than in real life – I’ve had plenty of heated political discussions face to face, but the worst face-to-face pales in vitriol to the average online argument. Much of the problem seems to be that we’ve replaced much of our in-person friendships with online interactions – some of that may be hard to fix because it is integral to social media itself.

      Maybe you could implement friends “fading” off your feed if you don’t meet them / direct message them frequently. A lot of real online blowups seem to be drive-bys by friends of friends who take something the wrong way.

      What is the least polarized social network? Maybe Instagram? Where you’re basically encouraged to show off cool shit you’ve done rather than rant about political topics?

      I’m not sure how to articulate this exactly, but polarization feels like a symptom of the ever expanding concept of “identity” – people aren’t just disagreeing with you, they are attacking who you are. How do we dial that back to where it’s okay to compartmentalize your politics, where having friends with different opinions is a sign of maturity and not of weakness?

      • mupetblast says:

        “but the worst face-to-face pales in vitriol to the average online argument…”

        Agreed. I was fairly recently part of an impromptu, at-times-borderline-heated-but-mostly-civil argument at a vegan donut shop in Oakland with an antifa-sympathetic lefty. It takes a lot more nerve to play dirty with someone when they’re RIGHT THERE. It also helped that we were sitting cafeteria style with lots of meatspace onlookers. Too easy to embarrass yourself with the kind of over the top rhetoric people casually deploy online.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      I think it is a problem, at least user-side – it’s gotten me to leave plenty of places in frustration and worsened my experience in others. But I think the ways to reduce it are the opposite of what most companies are doing and therefore probably bad for the bottom line. And I am skeptical of technological solutions, because I’ve seen the same website act dramatically differently at different points in time with no change in the underlying architecture, or different boards on the same website.

      That said, I think getting rid of the share button would help; if people want to echo something, make them make the extra effort to copy and paste the link and maybe even say why they’re linking it. Like/share counts can serve as a show of partisan strength, low-effort partisan mudslinging very often gets high ones counts, and people tend to be much more civil when discussing these things one to one than when echoing the (often inflammatory) opinion of their team. (And conversations often continue in the tone which they start, too.)

      Also, bans inflame tension; the warriors on one team are thrilled with their scalp and look for more, those on the other team feel persecuted and bitter about it, especially if their friend or someone they followed got kicked out. Ideally, you wouldn’t ban anyone (except spambots, but spambots aren’t people) – and the anonymous imageboards where I spend most of my time these days hand out bans rarely. But if you must ban, have clear rules, apply them in an even-handed manner, and give people warnings and temp bans and a way to appeal; permabans should be a last resort for someone completely incapable of not starting fights. The purpose is to create a functioning community, not to purge the enemy.

      • bintchaos says:

        If the big social media company sees you as a trouble maker they will just throttle back your comms.
        Facebook and Twitter can easily analyse all your connections and throttle back the whole trusted network that you depend on to spread memes.
        A cyber-gulag for troublemakers.

    • James Miller says:

      Might there be a market for a near Twitter clone called “Nice” where you must be nice to everyone, and users flag people who are not nice?

      • bintchaos says:

        Not right now…
        But President Zuckerberg could easily adjust FB algos to make us all be nicer to each other.
        For the common good, you know.

    • abc says:

      I don’t think anyone honestly believes this is a problem. Rather in my experience when someone says “social media is becoming too polarized” he means “our attempt to use social media to insult enemy tribe members is being stymied by the enemy tribe members using it to insult us”.

      • Matt M says:

        Also agree with this. Nobody complains about excessive polarization from their own side. It’s hard to even notice it sometimes.

        • albatross11 says:

          I disagree. If you have friends with very different political and social views, it’s pretty frustrating to have even people whose views you basically agree with start a pointless fight on your wall with other of yor friends from the other side.

    • Yug Gnirob says:

      Not that I use social media, but I’d want them to link polarized political topics to a wide range of opinions from experts and politicians: at least 30, and not the same thirty every time. Maybe just have it randomize whose opinion you get. Solution To Pollution Is Dilution, and such.

    • Drew says:

      No. Removing bubbles won’t fix the problems we care about. It might make things worse.

      Consider how ideas get spread. The common pattern is: (1) Event happens that counts as newsy (2) Professional content-creator writes an article (3) article is posted to professional news site (4) fans of the site read the article (5) some of them click share (6) ranking algorithms show article to (some of) that person’s friends (7) friends read and / or comment.

      The biggest complaint I hear is that content is getting increasingly polarized. There are headlines like “10 Ways [Opposition Figure] Will Doom Us All!” that take extreme stances in one direction or another.

      The trouble is that content-creation happens way upstream of social media. And the content creators are mostly professionals (or zealous amateurs) who are doing more research than simply skimming their Facebook feed.

      The next complaint is something like, “Those [outgroup members] are totally ignorant of the arguments for [position]. If only they saw arguments by [ingroup new source] they’d come around.”

      But, I don’t think this is true. There are profoundly few articles that approach issues in a high-level abstract way. (This blog is a notable, and welcome exception). Instead, news articles center around a thing that happened to specific people at a specific time.

      The authors might mention that the event ties into a broader trend. But the story is nominally about an individual thing that happened. This makes these stories un-compelling to people on the opposite side.

      For instance, I’m generally in favor of a less restricted housing market in the Bay Area. I have friends who disagree and like rent-control or anti-gentrification efforts. They’ll post articles about how some sympathetic person was kicked/priced out of their apartment.

      Since I’m not already onboard with their political views, the stories don’t really resonate with me. My reactions might be, “that does sound unfair, and probably illegal. They should sue their landlord in court and I wish them the best,” or “that doesn’t sound illegal. It’s sad that the people are unhappy. But all policies come with downsides.”

      The only events that attract a bunch of comments from both side are ones with enough shades-of-grey to become properly toxoplasmic.

      Finally, I think bubbles produce better content.

      If I’m writing for a reasonably homogeneous audience, then I can assume some common ground. I don’t need to re-derive or re-argue all of the basic ideas in every article. Instead, I can take the basic stuff as given, and then go on to talk about the deeper or more interesting points.

      A side benefit is that the low-hanging fruit gets picked when you’re in a bubble. “Creationism is Wrong!” articles were satisfying so long as there were creationists to respond to them. Posting that argument on [atheist-dominated site] is going to get a much less enthusiastic response.

      On the other hand, if I only have 1000 words, and I need my work to be accessible to everyone on the political spectrum, I’m not going to get past the absolute basics. And every fight devolves into shouting about the same first principle.

      It’s important that content-creators make an effort to read things that the opposition writes. People writing for the Jacobin should know what’s being said on Breitbart.

      But that’s a VERY different proposition than saying that politics would be better if we merged the comment sections from the Jacobin and Breitbart

    • LCL says:

      A reasonable nudge might be to select some professional writers or institutions to provide a balance of views with charitable presentation, and have them show up on users’ feeds by default (subject to opt-out).

      Problems include selecting such writers and institutions in the first place, and moderating reaction threads to their posts. It’s hard to get those decisions well-made without overstepping the boundaries of the “platform” role. I’d suggest user voting for both, after some dedicated study of voting systems that could produce reasonable outcomes.

    • BillG says:

      I wonder about the possibility of an opt-in service aimed at preventing “your best arguments.” It’s probably a programming nightmare, I’m a project manager by trade not a programmer so I’m used to setting unobtainable goals, but here goes:

      1) Add button to twitter/facebook/etc social media allowing you to in some way promote a post as a “strong argument” for your side.
      2) The app aggregates your promotions to identify your leanings on various issues, as well as aggregating the community’s promotions to identify “best arguments”
      3) At regular intervals, the app then presents within your standard social media feed arguments that oppose your identified stance that have been identified as “best arguments”.

      Thoughts?

      • Aapje says:

        As has been argued elsewhere, people very often see nonsense that matches their biases as ‘their side’s best argument.’

        It would make more sense to promote posts that get upvoted by people with different beliefs and demote posts that only get upvoted by people with similar beliefs.

        • BillG says:

          Sure- I wonder if there’s some amount of self-selection that would fix that. In other words, if you were the type that would go out of your way to sign up for an anti-bubble filter, you may be inclined to promote your side’s real best arguments, rather than “red meat”

          • albatross11 says:

            The usual way to address this is to look for smart, thoughtful people to see the best arguments from the other side. Social media now tend to do the opposite–an offensive and stupid argument from the othed side is a lot more fun to forward to all your friends.

    • agahnim says:

      If polarization is caused by an “echo chamber” effect — you see updates from your friends, but your friends all think the same way you do — then the solution is to provide a way out of the echo chamber.

      Social networks like Twitter and Facebook could provide a “Nearby” feed that shows you public posts made by everyone in a one-mile radius around your phone’s GPS. You can still use your usual feed to keep in touch with your family, but there’s also this other thing that exposes you to viewpoints you might not encounter normally.

      A potential drawback to this is that it makes the Idiots Talk To You problem pervasive. Anything you post, no matter how tangential to politics, becomes subject to culture warriors jumping into your comments section quoting canned talking points from their politics blog. My hope would be that it wouldn’t be that bad, because there aren’t actually that many culture warriors per square mile — you might have to block one or two of them, but after that it would be conversation with real people.

      The hope would be that the Nearby feed would be popular enough that people would look at it in parallel with their Friends feed. The non-hope would be that social network engineers would say: “well, people don’t like configuring their settings, so let’s not provide a setting — instead, let’s just mix local and friends content together in one feed and refuse to provide an opt-out!” I don’t know why social network engineers always say this, but this is what they always say.

  2. John Nerst says:

    Ooh I appear to be first… EDIT: Well almost.

    (Wasn’t sure whether to put this here or the SSC subreddit but I’m trying here because there might be some who aren’t on the subreddit but are interested in this.)

    Scott writes about a lot of things here, from science to politics to AI to psychiatry to charity to relationships. But my favorite articles tend to be the ones about how disagreements work – how we construct and tell politically driven stories, how confusion fuels conflict, how words are used as weapons and how different people see the world in different ways.

    I’ve been thinking about disagreement in particular as an object of study for some time, trying to synthesize theories about it, understand the nature and origin of ideological, intellectual and emotional differences etc. With increasing subcultural fragmentation and more material available online than ever before I think more focus on this is both desirable and feasible.

    Now I wonder if people here are interested in taking part in building a repository of writing on this topic (scientific publications, books, articles, blog posts).

    I created the subreddit r/erisology (from Eris, the goddess of discord) a couple of days ago for this. It only has a handful of subscribers and various links from my collection, but I’d love it if others would like to add stuff as well. I’ll be working on adding the most important posts from SSC and LW etc. and help would be great.

    I don’t intend for this to be “culture war” heavy at all, except perhaps as dispassionate analysis. The point is to study social verbal conflict and its roots, not so much to take part.

    Here’s a more concrete list of subtopics:

    *The slippery meanings of words and how it contributes to misunderstandings

    *How conceptual systems and bodies of knowledge work, differ from each other, and change over time

    *How narratives are constructed and propagated

    *Cognitive biases and heuristics – what shortcuts we use to interpret and evaluate information when we form and maintain wordviews

    *How rhetoric and the actual social (rather than the artifical rationalized one often studied in philosophy or debate clubs) process of argumentation works

    *The mechanics of cultural and psychological unity and disunity

    *Basic perceptual, cognitive and emotional processing differences that cause people to form different ideas about the world and other people

    *Construction, perception and cognition of concepts.

    *Ways to improve public discourse

    *Tastes: why do people like different things? (And argue about it).

    *Practicing putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand how they see the world – i.e what being different people thinking in different ways feels like “from the inside”.

    Etc, etc.

    • losethedebate says:

      Yes! This sounds super interesting, this is basically exactly my interest area. And I can confirm that there is at least one person here who is in the union of “isn’t very active on the ssc subreddit” and “would be interested in your post”. Also I love the name of your subreddit. In any case, subbing immediately.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      Since you mention it, I bet Scott could write an amazing (physical) book on the topic. I’d buy a copy.

      • John Nerst says:

        Hm. That article kind of bothers me a bit, for several reasons. First, I don’t think ignorance should be considered the same thing as disinformation or doubt. Ignorance is a ”null” state I my mind.

        Second, focusing on truth vs. falsity like this is counterproductive and makes it virtually certain than any agnotological results will be weaponized and pulled into the vortex it’s studying. Erisology, to me, is meant to be broadly methodologically relativist – a phrase from the sociology of science I often find annoying and overstated but not without its merits. Basically, when studying argumentation and the proliferation of ideas, truth and falsity are to be treated the same (we’re supposed to act as though we don’t know the truth).

        Furthermore, reinforcing the idea of straight truth vs. falsity means reinforcing an unhelpful simplification that makes people think ”if I’m right, then they are wrong, and I have no reason to understand them”. The article brings up some examples, most notably about tobacco, but most controversies are not clear cut like that and it would serve us well to focus less on jumping straight to ”is X right or wrong, good or bad” and more on asking ”what does X mean? how does X work? in what context and against what background does X seem reasonable?”. That’s required before we can address X being good or bad productively but is often skipped entirely.

        Most controversies are ultimately about narratives and worldviews rather than pure facts, and often what’s considered facts are underspecified statements (requiring interpretation) and carrying implications and judgments to such an extent that they’re perhaps better seen as “compressed narratives”.

        Map-and-territory is a thing, and different maps can say different things without contradicting the territory – i.e both can be valid while contradicting each other in some way. This is a highly important practical consequence of accepting that the map is not the territory.

        Maybe agnotology and erisology can be seen as complementary, as grabbing hold of different parts of the elephant. The prescriptive vs. descriptive parts of the story, or (if you want to use Jung-Myers-Briggs terminology) as analogous to judging vs. perceiving cognitive functions.

    • abc says:

      I don’t intend for this to be “culture war” heavy at all, except perhaps as dispassionate analysis. The point is to study social verbal conflict and its roots, not so much to take part.

      What you intend and what’s likely to happen are two very different things. Given that the articles of Scott you seem to admire appear to be rationalizations to avoid having to confront object level problems with his side.

      • John Nerst says:

        It’s true there is a risk, which is why I’m trying to make a certain level of relativism a cornerstone.

        With regards to your second sentence, you have to be more clear. I’m not sure what you’re talking about, but on the surface it doesn’t look like something said in good will.

        • abc says:

          Scot’s most mentioned article on disagreement, “The Toxoplasma of Rage” discusses an elaborate theory of how misinformation spreads based on several examples. All the while he meticulously avoids noticing the most obvious thing all his examples have in common, namely that in all the examples it is the same side spreading all the misinformation.

          • random832 says:

            “It’s obvious you guys started ganging up against us first, don’t try to accuse **US** now”

            More seriously, this could well be an artifact of his chosen examples. For example, looking at the article, it doesn’t appear to include climate change.

          • abc says:

            More seriously, this could well be an artifact of his chosen examples.

            So why didn’t he include any examples?

            For example, looking at the article, it doesn’t appear to include climate change.

            Ah, yes good old “hide the decline”.

          • random832 says:

            Ah, yes good old “hide the decline”.

            I stand corrected. It’s an artifact of your evaluation of which side is spreading misinformation.

          • abc says:

            Write because some people, apparently including yourself, will ignore evidence that contradicts your worldview, no matter how obvious it is.

            In any case, the fact remains that Scott didn’t include any examples that weren’t his side behaving badly. Notice that your example of global warming doesn’t fit the paradigm of a concrete specific event about which a false story spreads despite fairly concrete evidence contradicting it.

          • DeWitt says:

            Hey. Don’t be a dick.

            Scott can notice whatever he wants to. As it happens, he finds himself in a blue environment and was raised in one such environment, which is why he’ll notice both good and bad behavior from that tribe more than that from the other side.

            But then again, why would I even stoop to that level? Who cares? A post here is hardly conclusive evidence. True Caliph or not, some post of Scott’s is far, far, far less than you need to bring up the evidence you do.

            And even if it did, the one person you engage to you accuse of some nonsense because of some silly reasons.

            Be nice. Don’t accuse your opponents of bad faith the moment they disagree with you. This place aims for better than that.

          • reasoned argumentation says:

            Scott can notice whatever he wants to.

            So can we – and what we notice is that Scott observes bad behavior by the blue tribe and makes really florid excuses for that behavior (“I’m safeguarding free speech by preventing anyone on the right from speaking”) while assuming without (bothering to document) there’s just as bad behavior from the tribe that he hates.

            Since his post (1 May 2017) about how Vox and CNN are pure and neutral and are really really trying to be as honest as humanly possible – unlike those monsters on the other side – Vox published intentional lies misrepresenting the state of genetic research with regards to race and intelligence, CNN was caught orchestrating a fake “Muslims for peace” demonstration, fired 3 reporters for fabricating a story about spurious links to Russia by a hedge fund manager who’s linked to Trump, and had an on-air personality get caught on camera admitting that there’s no substance to the Trump / Russia story. This was almost exactly a two month period. Did Vox and CNN decline precipitously since Scott wrote that article?

            Scott is far better and far more honest than his fellow tribe members to whose faults he’s willfully blind. Pointing out his willful blindness is fair game.

          • DeWitt says:

            SSC is the blog where that one guy on the left argues against his own sides very, very often. It’s that one place where the most famous of his posts are those where he argues against his own people. It’s the blog where you and a slew of other rightists go about their day just fine. It’s the place where you can go to defend fascism or white nationalism and not have anyone bat an eye.

            None of what you’re saying about this place checks out. Last time Scott argued against the right, it was on a post directly after one he went off about his own side – and at much greater length, to boot. Go read this blog more. Go think about what you’re saying more. And if you want to tell me you did both, just go. There is no being familiar with this blog and arguing as you do in good faith.

    • cmurdock says:

      Shouldn’t that be “eridology”? eris, eridos, eridi, erida

  3. bean says:

    Naval Gazing:
    Jutland: Aftermath
    (Series Index, Jutland: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)
    Upon returning home, the immediate analysis of Jutland was as a German victory. The Germans had lost one battlecruiser, one pre-dreadnought, four light cruisers, and five destroyers totaling 62,300 tons and approximately 2,500 men killed. The British total was three battlecruisers, three armored cruisers, and eight destroyers, 113,300 tons and about 6,100 men. The Germans also managed to get into port first, and put out a press release while the British were still on their way home, listing British losses accurately, but neglecting to mention the loss of Lutzow. The British government managed to bungle the messaging, and the resulting public perception of a defeat deeply shocked the British. The beginning of the Somme pushed it off the front page just as a more nuanced view began to come out.

    The High Seas Fleet only sortied into the North Sea three more times. The first, in August, was an attempt to repeat the bombardments that had taken place earlier in the war. The British, warned by Room 40, attempted to intercept, but were spotted by a German zeppelin (the weather during Jutland had kept the extensive German zeppelin reconnaissance force grounded) and Scheer managed to avoid action. Another sortie, in October, was cancelled due to poor weather.

    In 1917 and 1918, the High Seas Fleet remained in port, only leaving to aid in the capture of the Gulf of Riga, in the Baltic, and make a raid on a convoy between Britain and Norway in April of 1918. That failed due to faulty intelligence, and the Grand Fleet’s attempt to bring the Germans to action also failed.

    Jellicoe was made First Sea Lord in December of 1916, with Beatty taking over command of the Grand Fleet. The German U-boat campaign was becoming increasingly worrying, and in February of 1917, they began a second round of unrestricted submarine warfare. The U-boat campaign is outside the scope of this article, but it came worryingly close to brining the British to their knees.

    The German fleet quickly began to disintegrate as the men faced horrible conditions, in particular a lack of food. (This was a common problem in Germany due to the British blockade.) In August of 1917, 200 men were arrested, and two executed, and at least one German captain was pushed overboard by his men. In late October 1918, Scheer decided to launch one last do-or-die sortie against the Thames Estuary (which, in practice, would have simply been a suicide mission). The sailors refused to raise anchor, and the sortie was cancelled, but the revolt that began there quickly spread to Kiel and within barely two weeks it had brought down the German Empire.

    As part of the Armistice, the High Seas Fleet was interned at Scapa Flow. Conditions there were, if anything, worse than those that the fleet had faced during the war. The Germans were not allowed off of their ships, and had limited food and mail. The admiral in command, von Reuter, switched flagships due to a group of sailors who would stomp on the deck above his cabin all night. On June 21st, 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was supposed to be signed, although a last-minute delay was added. This was apparently not communicated to von Reuter, who ordered his ships scuttled at 1120, to keep them from falling into allied hands. Of the 16 capital ships in Scapa Flow, only one, the battleship Baden (commissioned after Jutland) was beached before she sank. This was a great relief to the British, who had wanted to avoid the major shift in the balance of naval power that the distribution of the German battleships would represent. Nine German sailors were killed during the scuttling, the last casualties of the war, and most of the wrecks were salvaged over the next few decades. A few ships remain on the bottom of Scapa Flow today.
    (Post continued below due to length limit, which is apparently a thing.)

    • bean says:

      (Post split because I exceeded the length limit, which I didn’t even know was a thing.)
      Jutland: Analysis
      From a century away, Jutland was clearly a British victory. They never lost control of the North Sea, and the blockade was ultimately a key factor in the end of the war. The simple analysis of losses ignores the fact that the German fleet was on the whole much more badly damaged than the Grand Fleet. After the fleets returned home, Jellicoe had 23 battleships and 4 battlecruisers ready for immediate action, while Scheer had only 10 battleships. The German ships spent a total of 40% more days in drydock than did the British in the aftermath of the battle.

      There were many lessons learned on both the technical and operational sides by the British. (I don’t have good sources on the Germans here, and frankly their doctrine worked about as well as it could at Jutland.) The destruction of the battlecruisers was obviously worrying, and Jellicoe and Beatty agreed to blame inadequate ship design instead of the true culprit, suicidal magazine-safety practices. (I go into this in more detail in my column on battlecruisers.) They also discovered that their armor-piercing shells were not good at anything other than a hit at right angles to the plate, to the point where some German 8” plates had survived hits from 15” shells (which should not have happened at the ranges in question). Improved shells were developed, but did not reach the fleet until April of 1918. Charles Dreyer, the captain of Iron Duke at Jutland, estimated that an additional 6 German ships would have been sunk if these ‘Greenboy’ shells had been available there based on the hits actually made.

      Ultimately, the most important lessons came from the night battle. The British needed better tactics, equipment, and doctrine there. Post-Jutland photos of Grand Fleet battleships can often be recognized by the ‘coffee-box’ towers around the mainmast, for the new searchlights. These allowed the lights to be warmed up without being visible, and concentrated them amidships so they didn’t give away the ship’s course.

      Jellicoe was sacked as First Sea Lord in December of 1917, due to political infighting dating back to 1909. After the end of the war, a major fight began between Jellicoe’s and Beatty’s supporters over the responsibility for the lack of an overwhelming victory. Beatty’s interest in self-promotion became particularly problematic when he became First Sea Lord. The British media was soon full of salvoes from supporters of both admirals, with Beatty placing his thumb on the scales of the official records. He continued to claim that the battleships had barely been engaged, ignoring the fact that they had in fact fired as many shells as his battlecruisers. He also denigrated Hugh Evan-Thomas’s contributions, and refused to own up to his own mistakes. Jellicoe tried to stay out of the controversy, and it finally began to die down in the mid-30s. The final blow to it was Jellicoe’s death in late 1935, followed months later by Beatty’s.

      One interesting point I just recently found in a different book concerns the German name for the battle, Skagerrak. This is the strait between Denmark and Norway/Sweden, although the battle took place well to the south of the Skagerrak. The Germans did not know of the British system for keeping track of their ship movements, and thus believed that the battle was a chance encounter during a British attempt to break into the Baltic.

      Jutland: Alternate History
      This brings us to the what-ifs of the battle. What could either side have done better? Could Jellicoe have won a victory on the scale of Trafalgar? If so, what would have happened? Could Scheer have managed to do enough damage to the British fleet to break the blockade?
      The daylight battle looks strangely resistant to what-ifs. The broad strokes of the runs south and north would not have been badly affected if Indefatigable and Queen Mary had not blown up, or if Beatty had handled the 5th BS better. Despite all of Beatty’s mistakes, he did lead Scheer to Jellicoe as planned, and Jellicoe made the right decision when it came to the deployment. This is a massive tribute to Jellicoe, that fixing any problem doesn’t actually make the British position that much better when the deployment starts. Scheer also fought skillfully and well, and to get a significant difference in the outcome of this phase, we have to introduce more mistakes on one of the flag bridges. A change of mind on Jellicoe’s part during the turn-away is likely to have lead to losses among the Grand Fleet. In all probability, these losses would not be enough to change the balance of power in the North Sea, although a particularly bad day might have seen relative parity between the combatants.
      The night action is a different story. Here, the British screwed up by the numbers, and I’d discard the real history as a particularly stupid what-if by German fanboys if I was in an alternate universe. There are lots of factors here. British feelings of inferiority in night-fighting, lack of initiative among the fleet, miscommunications and general lack of communication, and Jellicoe’s distrust of Room 40. If any of these had changed, the results might have been very different.
      A night action between the capital ships would have been very risky for both sides. Even I haven’t been able to figure out exactly who was where and doing what at a given time, so it’s really hard to give concrete predictions as to the results of a given ship choosing to open fire. Night gunnery did not become feasible except at short range until radar arrived, so it’s possible that several small actions between capital ships could have been fought without it turning into a general engagement. The destruction of Black Prince is the prototype for this, and Moltke and Seydlitz probably should have been destroyed by the British.
      But what if Jellicoe had gotten enough information to figure out that Scheer was making for Horns Reef, and had intercepted him there at dawn? This requires somewhat more competence on the part of the chain between Room 40 and Jellicoe, but not enough to strain plausibility. As dawn breaks, the Grand Fleet opens fire at the Germans starting down the channel to the Jade. They have good gunnery conditions (geography and strategy both put them to the west, with the window closing when the sun comes over the horizon), and almost certainly sink at least Seydlitz, who was in real trouble at that point. The obvious wildcard is the weather, but it’s not impossible to imagine the High Seas Fleet pinned against the Danish coast unable to return effective fire and eventually destroyed.
      In that case, there might have been huge repercussions. With a battle fleet now unchallenged, the British might have been able to enter the Baltic. This had been a long-time project of Jackie Fisher’s, although he was out of power, his plan to land troops on the Baltic coast of Germany was always a bit of a long-shot, and was very unlikely after the failure of Gallipoli. However, the real prize in the Baltic would be the ability of the British to reach St. Petersburg. This would have massively improved the ability of the British to support the Russians, and might well have forestalled the Russian revolution, or allowed a more effective allied intervention after the Russians pulled out of the war. The results of that are well outside the scope that I’m looking at, but are potentially massive.
      Another benefit to the British would be in the war against the U-boats. Early in the war, the British planned to attack the island of Borkum in the North Sea off of the Jade, but this plan was abandoned due to potential German interference. With the main mechanism for said interference gone, the British might have been able to turn Borkum into a base for their campaign against the U-boats, which could now be intercepted closer to Germany, where they had less room to maneuver. Also, the High Seas Fleet provided much of the manpower for the U-boat force, and the loss of that manpower would not have helped the Germans.
      But what about a German victory? This is hard to arrange, and involves several strokes of bad luck or even more serious mistakes by the British. Even the loss of half a dozen battleships would have been survivable without a major change to the war, as the British had that many either in the yards or about to be completed. But if we ignore all of that, what is the result of a German victory that breaks the blockade?
      This is where the US enters the picture. The US business community was not happy with the British blockade, and I’ve even seen suggestions that the 1916 fleet was intended to be capable of breaking it. If the Germans were able to resume trade with the US (and that’s a big if, and one that I don’t want to go into here), it’s entirely possible that the US would stay isolationist, particularly because in this situation unrestricted submarine warfare would be unlikely to occur. This greatly strengthens Germany (if nothing else, the food shortages either disappear or are greatly mitigated) and weakens the Allies. I’m not sure where the war (or the world) would go from there.

      Apologies for how long this one ran, but I couldn’t bring myself to split it in half and stretch this series (which has already run a full month) another week. Next week, we’ll have the column I promised on life aboard the Iowa. After that, it looks like we’ll be taking a step away from battleships into the world of net-centric warfare.

      • James Miller says:

        Was the fleet a good investment for Germany? Would Germany had been better off in the war if it had a much smaller fleet and the resources instead invested in the army?

        • bean says:

          No and yes. Basically, the German fleet, so far as it was justified, was built under what was called ‘Risk Theory’, an early version of deterrence. When the British entered the war, that went out the window, and the Germans were stuck trying to find some use for their ships. I’m not sure exactly how useful a bigger army would have been (I seem to recall that the limits on the 1914 campaign were logistical, and a bigger army wouldn’t have helped), but it couldn’t have been worse than what they did have.

          • Eric Rall says:

            With the benefit of full hindsight, Germany’s best alternate investment of the resources would probably have been supply trucks and armored cars.

            Logistics were indeed the bottleneck for the initial German invasion of France and Belgium in 1914, and the big problem was that horse-drawn wagon trains that they relied on for moving supplies from the last intact rail head (a bit behind the pre-war border, I think, since heavy fighting tends to tear up rail lines and there’s only so fast even the best engineering corps can restore them), and those don’t go much faster than marching soldiers, so a rapid advance leaves the supply train struggling to keep up. And in addition, as the round-trip gets longer and longer, the throughput of the system gets worse and worse. And it doesn’t help that you also have to ship in feed for all your horses and rations for your teamsters.

            Trucks (even pre-WW1 models) go quite a bit faster than horses, and they can move more cargo per volume of fuel than horses can per volume of feed. Motorized logistics did exist in WW1, but not on a large enough scale to make a difference. A heavy investment in trucks in the late pre-war years could have pushed the logistical limit of the German advance a bit deeper into France, and it wouldn’t have needed to go much deeper in order to allow Germany to capture Paris or at least come close enough to it to shell rail yards and factories and deny France the benefit of their main transportation hub and industrial center.

            Armored cars were introduced not long before the war (an American model in 1912 and a Belgian model in early 1914), and the Belgian model in particular proved effective enough in early fighting that Germany developed their own in 1915. During the initial offensives, a large force of armored cars would have been quite a bit more useful as scouts, raiders, and flankers than the horse cavalry historically employed in the role, and they could have let the Germans be more combat effective particularly during the latter stages of the initial invasion with a smaller and easier-to-supply force. Better scouting would have made a bit difference at the First Battle of the Marne, perhaps averting it entirely as the French had scuttled their plans to abandon Paris for and instead launched a successful counteroffensive because one of the German armies had turned and exposed its flank to a French army it didn’t know was there.

            Other options would include expanding the engineering corps so rail head could be extended faster, stockpiling nonperishable food in preparation for a blockade, or just adding a few more infantry divisions to reinforce the Eastern front early in the war so Germany could win bigger victories at Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes, allowing them to push deeper into Russian territory and forcing Russia to pull back forces from their offensive against Austria.

          • cassander says:

            The limiting factor of trucks in ww1 was off road performance. Trucks were faster than horses, on roads, but tactical mobility requires off road abilities. ww1 era engines and drive trains really lacked the ability to make trucks that could carry more than a horse, faster than a horse, for lower logistical requirements than a horse.

            Even if you assume that such a truck could be designed and built, though, you have the question of numbers. The model T assembly line opens up at the end of 1910, and the millionth car (which was was much less technically ambitious than one that would be needed for carrying cargo for troops in muddy fields) wouldn’t be produced until 1916. If the entire german army had realized the importance of the assembly line and trucks in 1911, then immediately began a crash program to build them, , they might have been able to build a few hundred thousand of them before the war started, but not enough for the whole army. It’s worth remembering that even in ww2, only the US managed to mechanize its entire army. it’s hard to imagine the possibility of the germans doing that 20 year earlier.

          • bean says:

            @cassander
            He wasn’t proposing a fully mechanized force. The idea was to use trucks to bridge the gap between the railheads and the front-line distribution depots. Roads are easier to build/fix than rail lines, and the technology was definitely there for roadbound trucks to be superior to horses. The Voie Sacree proves that rather convincingly.

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            You’d still need hundreds of thousands of trucks. I don’t have numbers for germany, but in 1914, there were something like 300k motor vehicles in all of france and the UK combined. I grant that, in hindsight, a crash program of that sort might have paid off, but there’s no possible way for people to have known that at the time.

          • Eric Rall says:

            Bean’s correct: I was proposing partially motorized logistics, not WW2-style motorized infantry.

            The armored cars were a separate proposal, as a partial replacement for horse cavalry during mobile operations in the opening weeks of the war. The off-road performance problems Cassander brought up could be a deal-breaker for those, since the success of Belgian armored cars in 1914 might have been a product of operating defensively on intact internal roads rather than offensively and having to cross fought-over terrain.

            Edit, since Cassander replied while I was typing: when you say hundreds of thousands of trucks, would that be for a full motorized logistics train from the rail heads, or is that the minimum you think would be necessary to have a large strategic impact?

          • Eric Rall says:

            On the hindsight question, these are the key pieces of info I can think of that Germany would need in order to conclude that a crash truck-building program would be necessary and beneficial:

            1. Realize the limitations of horse-based logistics to support their war plans. It seems like German logistics corps should have known their own capabilities and limitations at the time, but perhaps they did but weren’t being listened to by the general staff.

            2. Realize that the rail heads would be stuck at the pre-war border for the critical period. German pre-war plans did definitely underestimate the likelihood of Belgium refusing the German demand of unopposed passage, and they underestimated the effectiveness of Belgian defenses (not by anywhere near enough to lose, but enough to delay the advance and capture less Belgian infrastructure intact).

            3. Realize the benefits and effectiveness of motorized logistics. It was new enough and the stakes were high enough that it’s not surprising they didn’t leap to large-scale adoption of supply trucks as soon as they were viable, since it wasn’t immediately clear how viable they were and how valuable the could be in wartime.

            4. Realize how urgent the situation was. Nobody know that a general European war was going to break out in 1914 until the July Crisis was well underway, and without that knowledge, there’s no sense of urgency to justify a crash program.

          • cassander says:

            @Eric Rall

            Edit, since Cassander replied while I was typing: when you say hundreds of thousands of trucks, would that be for a full motorized logistics train from the rail heads, or is that the minimum you think would be necessary to have a large strategic impact?

            Bear in mind, the critical element of a motorized force largely is a motorized logistics train. It wasn’t tanks that determined if your division was mechanized or not in ww2, it was if you had trucks and half-tracks you had for your support elements.

            I’m thinking the minimum necessary to replace horse transport for moving supplies from the railhead to the troops. That was a job for millions of horses in real life, the vast majority of which would be used in logistical roles, and that those can be replaced at a ratio of something on the order of 5 to 1. the german army mobilized something like 700,000 horses for the early stages of the war. so I’m figuring they need to replace an absolute minimum of something like 100k trucks to replace them

            1. Realize the limitations of horse-based logistics to support their war plans. It seems like German logistics corps should have known their own capabilities and limitations at the time, but perhaps they did but weren’t being listened to by the general staff.

            As a rule, the logistics guys were not the most highly regarded in the german army. this was a problem that demonstrated itself repeatedly in both world wars.

            3. Realize the benefits and effectiveness of motorized logistics. It was new enough and the stakes were high enough that it’s not surprising they didn’t leap to large-scale adoption of supply trucks as soon as they were viable, since it wasn’t immediately clear how viable they were and how valuable the could be in wartime.

            It might have been viable by 1920 or so, I have serious doubts it was even possible before then.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Cassander

            Don’t the logistics guys generally suffer a certain respect deficit compared to combat troops in most/all militaries? The Germans were relatively crummy at logistics in WWII – postwar the generals blamed Hitler for this, but then again, they would, wouldn’t they? Were they worse than the other militaries in WWI (as opposed to, especially later in the war, being surrounded and choked off from needed resouces)?

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            Don’t the logistics guys generally suffer a certain respect deficit compared to combat troops in most/all militaries?

            Generally, yeah. Less so the British and American armies though.

            The Germans were relatively crummy at logistics in WWII – postwar the generals blamed Hitler for this, but then again, they would, wouldn’t they? Were they worse than the other militaries in WWI (as opposed to, especially later in the war, being surrounded and choked off from needed resources)?

            This is a hard question to answer because you need to account for the fact that the germans in both wars were laboring under a rather large material deficit vis a vis their enemies. a substantial part of their logistical troubles were simply the result of them not having enough stuff to go around.

            After accounting for that, though, I think it is fair to say that the Germans were worse at logistics. Their great offensives persistently have an issue with running out of steam at the crucial moment, far from the launch point, with exhaustion of men and material always a prominent reason for the failure. Either they’re actually worse at physically physically delivering supplies, or they simply weren’t adding a sufficient factor for the tyranny of distance in their calculations. Where other armies would pause and rest, they would often take one final swing, and lose all.

          • Eric Rall says:

            I’m thinking the minimum necessary to replace horse transport for moving supplies from the railhead to the troops. That was a job for millions of horses in real life, the vast majority of which would be used in logistical roles, and that those can be replaced at a ratio of something on the order of 5 to 1. the german army mobilized something like 700,000 horses for the early stages of the war. so I’m figuring they need to replace an absolute minimum of something like 100k trucks to replace them

            About a hundred thousand of those were cavalry horses (104 four-squadron regular regiments at 709 riding horses per regiment, 6 six-squadron regular regiments at 1057 riding horses per regiment, and 36 three-squadron reserve, landswehr, or ertatz regiments at 532 riding horses per regiment). Still, that leaves 600,000 draft horse to be replaced for full motorization, which at a 5:1 ratio would mean 120,000 trucks, which I agree is utterly implausible by 1914.

            Setting aside for the moment the difficulty of deciding to motorize in 1910 without the benefit of post-WW2 hindsight, I decided to do some back-of-the-envelope calculations to see how many trucks Germany could afford if they’d abandoned naval construction at the start of 1911. A Model T runabout cost $680 in 1911, and when truck models were introduced in 1922 (they appear to have existed pretty early, but they weren’t offered as a factory option until them), they cost about twice as much as the runabouts, so assume a $1500 cost for a truck in 1911 (doubled and rounded up).

            A BB or BC cost between 45 million and 60 million goldmarks at the time, or 11.25 million to 15 million dollars, so it could be traded off (unrealistically assuming a near-instant ramp-up in truck building capacity) for 7.5k to 10k trucks. A quick scan of wikipedia turns up 10 German BBs or BCs laid down between Jan 1911 and July 1914, giving us somewhere between 75k and 100k trucks worth of naval construction budget, or enough to replace between 60% and 80% of Germany’s draft horses, or to increase Germany’s post-railhead logistics capacity by a corresponding percentage.

            Unrealistic things about this analysis:

            1. I don’t know when money was committed for German naval construction. For simplicity, I assumed the date the ship was laid down. It was probably on some kind of milestone plan, so Germany might have been able to save some money by cancelling existing orders in 1910-11, but wouldn’t have had the money saved that was due to be paid after August 1914 for ships that weren’t completed by then. Since construction was accelerating during the period, I probably overestimated the money theoretically available.

            2. It costs money to rapidly ramp up construction capacity, so I probably underestimated the cost of trucks by using something close to a normal production cost rather than a crash program cost.

            3. I didn’t account for money saved on operating costs of cancelled ships, nor for money saved on lighter ships if those were also cancelled. But neither did I account for the maintenance and operating cost of the trucks.

            4. Again, this is a purely theoretical exercise with the benefit of hindsight. I don’t disagree with the arguments for why it was staggeringly unlikely in 1910 for any country to launch a massive crash program for military trucks.

          • James Miller says:

            To get enough trucks for a war Germany could have taxed horses and subsidized trucks to get its farming and industrial system to use trucks that could then be borrowed by the army during a war.

          • cassander says:

            @Eric Rall

            Those numbers seem reasonable to me, though I’d add one further assumption that we’re assuming that germany in 1910 was actually capable of designing and building a truck capable of replacing 5 horses over muddy terrain, and I’m far from certain that’s a given.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Cassander

            Either they’re actually worse at physically physically delivering supplies, or they simply weren’t adding a sufficient factor for the tyranny of distance in their calculations.

            Bit of column A, bit of column B, is at least the answer for WWII: going into Barbarossa, they had one general in charge of supply trains and one in charge of supply trucks (and I think that was only for trucks that were not assigned to lower-level units in particular). They had some ludicrous number of different models of truck. They also when planning for Barbarossa appear to have adopted the “we only have resources to x, therefore, we will be able to win by doing x” mode of thinking.

            WWI, everyone had the same logistic, reinforcement, communication trouble, didn’t they? It’s not like any army was ever able to exploit breakthroughs in the ways the generals wanted, due to a simple technological lack. The 1918 offensive failed due to overall lack of supplies and exhaustion of men – what indication is there that a failure to deliver stuff where it was needed (above and beyond the problems everyone had) was a factor?

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            Bit of column A, bit of column B, is at least the answer for WWII: going into Barbarossa, they had one general in charge of supply trains and one in charge of supply trucks (and I think that was only for trucks that were not assigned to lower-level units in particular). They had some ludicrous number of different models of truck. They also when planning for Barbarossa appear to have adopted the “we only have resources to x, therefore, we will be able to win by doing x” mode of thinking.

            I agree with all of that. Though it’s worth pointing out that the ludicrous number of models came about largely (but not entirely) because of a lack of resources. They had to requisition all the trucks they could get from the civilian sector and defeated armies across a dozen countries to fill out the ranks because german industry couldn’t make enough in the time they had. Again, it’s hard to tease out the difference between skill/attention devoted to logistics and the difficulty of making do with less.

            WWI, everyone had the same logistic, reinforcement, communication trouble, didn’t they? It’s not like any army was ever able to exploit breakthroughs in the ways the generals wanted, due to a simple technological lack.

            Everyone had similar challenges. Every country has a shell crisis in 1915, for example, and they’re remarkably similar. And one must account for the scale of german operational success generating outsized problems.

            That said, I still think it’s fair to speak of the german tendency towards “one last swing”. It’s most notably on display in 1918, but also visible at the Marne and Verdun, and it definitely speaks to a systematic downplaying of the importance of logistical factors. Added to that, you have to look at how the germans managed the war economy as a whole, and there’s general agreement that they did a poor job in both world wars.

          • dndnrsn says:

            That said, I still think it’s fair to speak of the german tendency towards “one last swing”. It’s most notably on display in 1918, but also visible at the Marne and Verdun, and it definitely speaks to a systematic downplaying of the importance of logistical factors.

            Both in victory and defeat, Germany’s way to win was quick decisive operations, so they planned with the assumption that would work. Nobody likes the guy who says “hey, we’re gonna lose.”

            Verdun was a case of something that was supposed to be decisive getting spun later on as having intended to be a campaign of attrition. The British did this too, more than once, in the war.

        • cassander says:

          The High Seas Fleet must go down as one of the greatest wastes of money in all of history, for the reasons bean elucidates.

          • engleberg says:

            bean mentions the possibility that without the high seas fleet, the British might have reached St Petersburg and stiffened Russian resistance to Germany. Preventing that wasn’t a waste of money.

            Even in WWII, the Russians used clouds of horse cavalry with a tank somewhere inside. Something similar could have worked in WWI.

          • John Schilling says:

            Buying one of the world’s largest fleets of battleships to guard a single choke point is, I would submit, a great waste of money. Torpedo boats, submarines, and fast minelayers are cheaper. Also enough of an army to make sure the Danes don’t complain when you lay mines in their waters, but that doesn’t take much.

            Germany didn’t have a High Seas Fleet in WWII, and yet the British never even tried to operate in the Baltic and instead took the very long way around to get to Russia.

          • bean says:

            Germany didn’t have a High Seas Fleet in WWII, and yet the British never even tried to operate in the Baltic and instead took the very long way around to get to Russia.

            Churchill looked at refitting a couple of the Rs or QEs with bigger blisters and thicker decks to use in the Baltic. I suspect that technological changes between WWI and WWII had a lot to do with the British reluctance. Better mines, better torpedoes, and particularly better aircraft are going to make narrow seas bad places to be.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think the crews of the Petropavlovsk, Hatsuse, Yashima, Navarin, Kynaz Suvorov, Sissoi Veliky, Formidable, Irresistable, Goliath, Triumph, Majestic, Pommern, Suffren, Regina Margherita, Gaulois, Cornwallis, Danton, Viribus Unitas, Szent Istvan, and Brittania would take issue with the implied claim that WWI-era mines and torpedoes weren’t more than good enough to sink WWI-era battleships. It would be easier to compile a list of battleships sunk by something that wasn’t a mine or torpedo.

            For either defending or forcing a narrow, shallow strait like the Oresund, dreadnought battleships are absolutely the wrong weapon. The High Seas Fleet makes some sense as a deterrent or a defense against distant blockade, not so much as a defense against Baltic incursions.

          • bean says:

            John, you’re slipping. What about Audacious?
            In seriousness, I do think that it would have been easier to force the Baltic in WWI than in WWII. You’d still need to do it very carefully, but the Oresund doesn’t have shore guns shooting at you, so you can cover your minesweepers better, and there aren’t a bunch of Stukas right off their bases attacking you.
            Edit:
            I suspect lessons learned from WWI may have played a part, too. Quite a few of those were sunk in ways that may not have been clear to the British at the time. Also, some were pre-dreadnoughts deliberately risked in ways that would not have been acceptable for more modern ships. (This was a problem when there weren’t disposable battleships in WW2.)

          • John Schilling says:

            John, you’re slipping. What about Audacious?

            Drat. Anyone else, and I’d have gotten away with that slip.

            but the Oresund doesn’t have shore guns shooting at you,

            Actually, it maybe does. The Danes mined and defended the Danish straits from 1915, in de facto collaboration with Germany, as part of the terms for their neutrality being respected during the war. So either British minesweepers are attacking the coastal defenses of a neutral power in that power’s territorial waters, in which case Danish guns are shooting at them, or Denmark isn’t neutral any more, in which case German guns are shooting at them. Possibly German and Danish guns.

            And from a prewar perspective, the various diplomatic and military strategies to ensure the Oresund closed to the British, have to be cheaper than the High Seas Fleet.

          • bean says:

            Drat. Anyone else, and I’d have gotten away with that slip.

            What’s particularly interesting is that that’s about the only slip you couldn’t have gotten away with. I don’t actually memorize the list of ships lost and causes, but Audacious was traumatic enough to the British to show up a lot.

            Actually, it maybe does.

            I have to admit ignorance on this. Friedman (Fighting the Great War at Sea) didn’t cover this very much. He did mention it as a possibility.

            And from a prewar perspective, the various diplomatic and military strategies to ensure the Oresund closed to the British, have to be cheaper than the High Seas Fleet.

            A good point. On the other hand, Denmark was pretty valuable to the Germans as a neutral transshipment point for running supplies through the blockade, so I don’t know if it would make sense to bring them in as a belligerent. On the gripping hand, they didn’t expect the war to last that long.

          • engleberg says:

            The German fleet in being kept the British navy only half as effective as it would have been otherwise. In the long run, the Germans should have simply skipped the whole war, but naval expenses weren’t a huge blunder compared to the failure to have a fish pond every half mile across the whole country. You’re on the Prussian General Staff, you know outside food might be cut off, you don’t prepare internal food sources? Dumkopf. I’d know the German word, if they had.

            Alistair Horne thought the British should have made an amphibious attack on the Kaisershaven canal in WWI. The German fleet was one big reason they never did. It might have held. I think it would have failed and the Germans would have, at the tactical level, won a battle with high explosives fought in their own cities. And at the strategic level, surrendered a couple years sooner.

            On reflection, I think John Schilling is right about going through the Baltic to St Petersberg.

          • cassander says:

            @engleberg

            As John and Bean point out, there were much more efficient ways of shutting down the baltic.

            The German fleet in being kept the British navy only half as effective as it would have been otherwise.

            The point of the british fleet was to allow the british to blockade any enemy they wanted, the high seas fleet in no way prevented that.

          • engleberg says:

            @…there were much more efficient ways of shutting down the Baltic-

            Yes, on reflection, I agree.

            @The point of the British fleet was to allow the British to blockade any enemy they wanted, the German high seas fleet in no way prevented that-

            There are lots of points to maintaining a fleet in being, and everyone in every navy at the time had read Mahan. The chance of a bunch of battleships showing up over the horizon seriously hampered the British. Look at the fuss in Africa over a couple cruisers. This wasn’t WWII, when battleships were doable targets for every air force. If the Germans had a High Seas fleet in being in WWII we’d never have dared to try D-Day (WWII we’d have sunk it from the air, but not in WWI). Without a German fleet the British raids on Zeebrugge would have been continuous assaults, not raids. British battleships that knew they could retreat and repair unhindered would have sailed into German ports and shelled them. Maybe Copenhagen, like Nelson. The Germans would have usually won those fights, sort of won, fought with high explosives in their home towns.

          • bean says:

            @engleberg
            You’re sort of right on this one. I’d point to Borkum as a much better bet than the Baltic if the Germans had no fleet, and that could have been a very serious problem for the U-boats. Part of the issue, though, was that the British didn’t have that many places to use battleships that were being shorted because they had to keep ships facing the Germans. Between the pre-dreadnoughts and the French, they could cover their other tasks.
            This was very much not true during WWII. The rise of the Italian and German navies badly upset British plans in the Far East during the mid-30s. Tirpitz alone caused all sorts of issues, most notably PQ-17, but also tying down a substantial amount of British naval power until she was finally sunk. I’m still not sure she was worth it, but in fairness, the entire German war effort is basically impossible to analyze on that basis.

      • Aapje says:

        Some googling leads me to believe that the British already knew that their shells were prone to premature explosions and breaking up at steeper angles, but that they thought that the problems could not be easily fixed. They also probably believed that the battles would be fought at closer range where the shells would hit with a more shallow angle, so the problem would be less.

        Then Jutland and some other engagements showed them that the Germans had in fact solved some of those issues and (partly) based on recovered unexploded German shells, the British then redesigned their shells to have stronger shell bodies, a more stable fillers and better fuses*.

        Also, amusing to read that the greenboys were painted green to distinguish them from the old shells, which is where the name comes from.

        * The latter two seem to be linked, because if you make the explosive harder to detonate, then you logically need a very good fuse to get it to explode.

        • bean says:

          I’m trying to get a copy of Riddle of the Shells, but this looks to be mostly correct. Jellicoe did try to get improved shells when he was controller, but that project died with his successor.

          They also probably believed that the battles would be fought at closer range where the shells would hit with a more shallow angle, so the problem would be less.

          This, I don’t think is quite true. The British may have tested their shells in the way you’d expect if this was true, but their ideas on battle range changed quite frequently. Overall, they expected battle at longer ranges than the Germans did, although the ranges at Jutland were, IIRC, somewhat shorter than the ranges the maximum ranges they expected during the decade before the battle. I’d have to go through books to get numbers.

      • Vermillion says:

        This has been a really interesting series, thanks Bean!

    • bean says:

      On a different note, I got some sad news last week. Bob DeSpain, one of our volunteers at Iowa, passed away. Bob was 92, and one of three remaining survivors of the USS Hoel, one of the ships sunk during the action off Samar, for my money the greatest battle in the history of the US Navy. He would usually work a table in Iowa’s wardroom, selling copies of Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors. I have one, with his signature next to his picture in it. It was a tremendous honor to know him.

    • John Schilling says:

      After the fleets returned home, Jellicoe had 23 battleships and 4 battlecruisers ready for immediate action, while Scheer had only 10 battleships. The German ships spent a total of 40% more days in drydock than did the British in the aftermath of the battle.

      But did the Germans know this? I mean, certainly they knew how badly their ships had been damaged, but did they understand how (relatively) lightly the British had gotten off?

      It seems plausible that, with three modern British capital ships spectacularly blown to bits during the battle vs. one pre-dreadnought on the German side, and one German ship scuttled after heavy damage vs. an unknown number of British, the early newspaper accounts might accurately reflect a German belief that the High Seas Fleet had given far better than it got in spite of being outnumbered 3:2. And in a fair fight, on account of the clever planning for submarine ambushes and zeppelin reconnaissance coming to naught. Similarly, if the British failures in magazine safety and night fighting doctrine could be easily corrected, that also isn’t knowable to the Germans.

      The strategic situation that (IMO correctly) lead Germany to decide it needed to risk battle at Jutland hadn’t changed, and after a few months of repairs they still had the fleet that “won” at Jutland. So why wasn’t there a rematch?

      In particular, you note the August 1916 sortie where the High Seas Fleet turned back after a zeppelin spotted the approaching British fleet. That seems like exactly the situation the Germans had tried to set up at Jutland, where superior reconnaissance would compensate for inferior numbers and allow the German fleet to engage the British at a tactical advantage. Maybe, given the dismal performance of the British in the night action at Jutland, deploying ahead of the British fleet but just out of visual range at sunset.

      High risk, high reward, but that’s a much better use for the High Seas Fleet than staying parked in the Jade and slowly starving. More generally, why not sortie every month and actively court a Jutland II, instead of sailing only three more times and turning away from battle when it is offered? The most likely outcome, given what we now know, is that the Germans lose Jutland II and III and don’t have enough ships left for Jutland IV, but that’s still better than what they did. And as noted they probably couldn’t have know how much the odds had shifted, so it is strange that they didn’t try.

      • bean says:

        But did the Germans know this? I mean, certainly they knew how badly their ships had been damaged, but did they understand how (relatively) lightly the British had gotten off?

        I think they probably did. They knew that they’d had to run away from the British battleships twice, and that they hadn’t managed to kill any of them. And they hadn’t been engaging long enough to do a lot of cumulative damage, either. Both sides seemed to have a reasonably good handle on how much damage they’d done to the other. I was actually surprised how closely the claims of the various gunnery departments correlated with the hits from the other side’s records. So they knew they’d gotten pounded when their T was crossed without hitting back very hard.

        The strategic situation that (IMO correctly) lead Germany to decide it needed to risk battle at Jutland hadn’t changed, and after a few months of repairs they still had the fleet that “won” at Jutland. So why wasn’t there a rematch?

        The Kaiser had previously been very reluctant to let the fleet fight. The previous commanders had been very cautious, and Scheer had been appointed specifically to use the fleet more aggressively. After Jutland, the Kaiser clamped down again.

        In particular, you note the August 1916 sortie where the High Seas Fleet turned back after a zeppelin spotted the approaching British fleet. That seems like exactly the situation the Germans had tried to set up at Jutland, where superior reconnaissance would compensate for inferior numbers and allow the German fleet to engage the British at a tactical advantage. Maybe, given the dismal performance of the British in the night action at Jutland, deploying ahead of the British fleet but just out of visual range at sunset.

        I’d have to check sources, but that particular action was, IIRC, rather weird. Nobody is quite sure why the Germans acted as they did.

        More generally, why not sortie every month and actively court a Jutland II, instead of sailing only three more times and turning away from battle when it is offered?

        They weren’t necessarily actively courting Jutland. The idea was to defeat the British in detail, which they weren’t really able to do. They thought the action happening where it was was an accident, not a deliberate engagement on the part of the British. Their strategic thinking was rather muddled, but I believe that they were also worried about the Baltic, and would rather not expose it by throwing away their fleet. German strategy in general is just baffling.

      • bean says:

        Maybe, given the dismal performance of the British in the night action at Jutland, deploying ahead of the British fleet but just out of visual range at sunset.

        Missed this the first time. The Germans didn’t have night-fighting totally sorted out. At Jutland, they had the advantage that their strategy (run for Horns Reef) didn’t require fancy coordination to work, and most units proceeded independently or as part of a small group of ships. The more complicated part, the destroyer attack on the Grand Fleet, was a failure. I really doubt that they’d actively seek a night action, particularly given their lack of plotting capability. The perfection of plotting was what made night actions possible in WW2. The Germans didn’t even have rudimentary plots at that point.

    • Eric Rall says:

      My favorite point of departure for a German victory at Jutland is clearer weather, allowing the Zeppelin scouts to go up. Assuming minimal butterflies from this in the beginning of the engagement, this would make Beatty’s mistakes in the Run to the South much more expensive. If Scheer got advance warning via the Zeppelins that Hipper was leading Beatty towards him and what the course and position were, then Scheer could have deployed to ambush him more effectively rather than the historical meeting engagement with the leading edge of Scheer’s line of battle steaming parallel to him. I’m not sure whether this would mean crossing his T or splitting the battle line to deploy on both sides of Beatty to try to box him in. If the Germans managed to sink Beatty’s entire force including the Queen Elizabeth fast battleships (not sure how plausible this is: Beatty would be facing huge numerical odds in a very disadvantageous position, and his fleet hasn’t practiced the Battle About Turn maneuver that Scheer historically used to escape Jellicoe crossing his T in the main fleet action, but we’ve already discussed how hard BBs and BCs are to kill, and Beatty’s ships had a significant speed advantage that they could use to get away if they survive long enough), that’s a rather nasty blow to Britain. Nowhere near enough to break the blockade or even to even the odds for a future engagement, but it would leave Germany in a much better position for future engagements.

      After destroying Beatty’s force, Scheer could declare victory and return to port, or he could use the combination of Zeppelin reconnaissance and having Hipper’s BCs now operating unopposed by Beatty to try to set up a fleet engagement with Jellicoe under favorable terms.

      • bean says:

        That might work, but it does bear pointing out that the weather on the North Sea is usually horrid, and that might well have protected the British. The Germans did get some Zeppelins up on the morning of the 1st, and they weren’t that effective. If visibility was good, then the British might well have seen the Germans soon enough to be able to avoid the trap. Also, I don’t think we should ignore the fact that the Germans probably would have had similar signal problems to the British in doing something fancy. And that German doctrine was to run for home if the Grand Fleet was sighted, which it would have been in that case.

      • cassander says:

        There’s also the possibility of the german u-boat screening line working as intended, either before the battle or taking out a bunch of ships on the way back from it. It seems to me that the germans never really took proper advantage of their ability to lure the british fleet out at a time and place of their choosing.

        • bean says:

          They never understood that ability. And U-boats were never that good against alert, escorted ships.

        • cassander says:

          U-boats were very limited about what they could vs warships largely because of their low underwater speed and limited endurance, but those advantages can be largely mitigated if you know where the enemy is going to be and when. The idea is to send out the U-boats then sortie the HSF a few days later somewhere where the grand fleet will drive right over the u-boat line to get to. IIRC, the germans had some subs stationed outside of british bases for this purpose, but that positioning was problematic for a few reasons. I’m thinking somewhere closer to the main action, but still separate from the fleet.

          • bean says:

            Yes. I got that. Still wouldn’t work. The Germans didn’t realize how well the British could find them, so they wouldn’t have tried to stay in one place with U-boats waiting in ambush. The exits of the ports would be the best place to put the U-boats unless they could get U-boats that could keep up with the fleet and be positioned tactically. The Germans never built that kind of submarine, but the British did, and it didn’t work all that well…

          • cassander says:

            I don’t mean waiting in one place, I meant doing something highly provocative to lure them out, like shelling portsmouth.

          • bean says:

            To get to Portsmouth, they’d have to run through the channel. They’d find the Grand Fleet behind them, and be hunted down. No chance of that. (Not to mention whatever defenses Portsmouth had.) They tried raids on the east coast of England several times, and it didn’t work. That was what Jutland was supposed to be, before the British ran them down.

    • bean says:

      I was able to get answers to the questions about sea cabins on British ships in WWI from last week. At least the QEs and Rs had them for the captains c1918 (plans in Raven & Roberts). I don’t have deck plans for earlier classes, but I think they existed there, too.

  4. johan_larson says:

    Anyone have a take on “Democracy: The God That Failed”?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy:_The_God_That_Failed

    • Matt M says:

      Huh, I read this book a couple years back when I was in the practice of writing mini-reviews for my blog, but I can’t find the blog post about it anywhere. I must have forgotten to write one.

      I remember finding it good, but not great. Probably depends on your existing views and how familiar you are with HHH and his arguments. You probably already know this, but the main unique POV the book advocates is that not only is democracy generally bad (you can get this from pretty much any libertarian book), but that monarchy is actually superior. The main argument is that in a monarchy, the state is essentially the private property of the monarch, who then has incentives structured to ensure he takes good care of it not just in the short term, but in the long-term as well. In a Democracy, there are few long-term incentives and quite a lot of short-term ones. I found it a pretty compelling argument and I haven’t heard much of a counter to it, other than appeals to fairness.

      • Wrong Species says:

        How much of the book is theoretical vs empirical?

      • Ninety-Three says:

        A monarch has much better incentives to take care of the state and much worse incentives to take care of people. If the monarch can institute forced labour camps, “citizen happiness” doesn’t enter into consideration except in terms of “unhappy citizens might overthrow the state”. If the monarch has overwhelming strength of arms on his side, rebellion isn’t a risk and he will throw people into labour camps where they work sixteen hours a day because he has no incentive not to.

        • Matt M says:

          I believe his was response to this was something to the effect that for monarchs, the real threat was rarely some sort of popular uprising/peasant revolt, but rather, attempts at takeover by opposing factions and dynasties within the same general upper-class sphere.

          If you do a poor job managing your kingdom and are seen as a tyrant, and next door is another king who is far less tyrannical, and your various priests and advisors and lords and everyone else decides it might be better to be ruled by the neighbor king, your days are probably numbered.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            So citizen happiness isn’t an incentive even in the marginal way I described. That seems like an obvious problem with monarchy, given that most of us would prefer a state that increases citizen happiness to one that doesn’t.

          • Anonymous says:

            I believe his was response to this was something to the effect that for monarchs, the real threat was rarely some sort of popular uprising/peasant revolt, but rather, attempts at takeover by opposing factions and dynasties within the same general upper-class sphere.

            This is always the threat for rulers, in any system, because there is only one system – oligarchy. The peasants can’t do anything without leadership. As long as leadership stays loyal, you’ve got nothing to worry about from the masses.

        • Anonymous says:

          Which is curious, because the regimes that tend to do such things have historically strongly tended to be non-monarchical. (Never mind that during the times that monarchy was the status quo, people *had* to work those long hours, or starve, due to low labour efficiency due to primitive technology.)

      • Kevin C. says:

        The main argument is that in a monarchy, the state is essentially the private property of the monarch, who then has incentives structured to ensure he takes good care of it not just in the short term, but in the long-term as well.

        Definitely one of the key insights from the book, from what I remember; it’s been a while since I read it.

        (My own view is to extend this insight beyond just “monarch as owner of state” to lower levels of hierarchy in a more general propertization of authority. Because, as others noted in this thread, Iron Law of Oligarchy — no monarch is truly “absolute”, and power is always shared amongst an elite; the logic that applies to a monarch applies to them as well.)

    • pontifex says:

      For a counterpoint, see The Dictator’s Handbook. It basically argues that the number of people that a leader has to please to stay in power, called the “selectorate,” has a powerful influence on the behavior of the leader. Roughly, if you only have to please a few people to stay in power, you might as well just use the tax money to buy them all Lamborghinis, rather than building new power plants for the teeming masses. In contrast, in a democracy, the selectorate should be very large, so leaders should have to provide public goods.

      I think this is an oversimplification in a lot of ways, but it’s at least an interesting way of thinking of the problem.

    • I haven’t read it yet (it’s on my list), but I’m familiar with the general thesis from my time among the Nerks. I was about to post a comment about democracy actually, and couldn’t find anywhere to fit it in the topic about polarization above, and I’m also interested in whether Hoppe addresses this specifically.

      I wonder how much democracy and political polarization are connected, and to what degree we can correct that without crippling democracy. If you banned political speech altogether, you might bring an end to the grip it has over everyday life and interaction, and then voting would become a highly private act between you and the voting booth. This is sort of the other end of the axis from the “lets just bring kings back” solution. By its very nature, however, this solution cannot be. There would be no way for political parties to communicate their policies to the public, rendering the system unworkable, outside of just labeling one lever left and one lever right and calling it a day, since we all pretty much have two party systems anyway. It’s also difficult to define political speech and police it in a way that is itself not politically biased. It seems then that political polarization is part and parcel of democracy and that all attempts to minimize it will fail, because democracy needs at least two fired up sides in order to function, or it will eventually fall into disuse.

      Theoretically the purpose of democracy is so that the government is checked and corrected by the people, but this is never actually so, and instead people settle into one of two coalitions that remain relatively fixed in terms of policy prescriptions over time periods of generations and arguably beyond into history. I wonder if the real purpose of democracy is just to act as a pressure valve, and not to be a way of improving the government as is typically imagined. The common will is not rule by experimental scientists and engineers, after all. This makes me believe that the best halfway house position would indeed be to call the system’s bluff, and install not a monarchy, but a two party system that automatically rotates every four years – by agreement to renew the truce – between the left house and the right house. This simultaneously frees people from the need to become part of a political army, while avoiding the lingering question that monarchical absolutism raises; “Whose King, exactly?” In this case, both sides have their elites that agree to rotate. So basically, the current system without all the pretense and hassle.

  5. johan_larson says:

    The Atlantic has an interesting article about how to deal with North Korea. To summarize: all options are bad, but some are worse than others.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/07/the-worst-problem-on-earth/528717/

    Some thoughts:
    1. What do our local allies (South Korea and Japan, in particular) want done about North Korea? They’re the ones who have to live with whatever policy is adopted, with far more direct consequences than anything the US faces.
    2. As far as I can tell, the ball is basically in China’s court right now. They could shut down North Korea within a couple of years just by ending their shipments of various supplies. They choose not a do so because a) the failure of North Korea could get them millions of desperate refugees trying to cross border, b) a takeover of NK by SK would put a close US ally right on their border, and c) anything that’s a thorn in the side of a US in South-East Asia is a good thing. But I have to ask, what might China want in return for their assistance in getting rid of NK?
    3. Since NK is continually advancing toward making ICBMs that could reach the US mainland, some sort of small-scale ABM system would be a good thing to have. How difficult would it be to build such a thing?

    • ashlael says:

      There’s also to be considered that slapping crippling sanctions on an aggressive nuclear power could possibly have negative consequences for China.

      I mean, obviously China would win any war vs NK. But they might have to put up with Beijing getting nuked in the process.

    • John Schilling says:

      [China] could shut down North Korea within a couple of years just by ending their shipments of various supplies. They choose not a do so because a) the failure of North Korea could get them millions of desperate refugees trying to cross border, b) a takeover of NK by SK would put a close US ally right on their border, and c) anything that’s a thorn in the side of a US in South-East Asia is a good thing.

      Also d) if China is the cause of any North Korean collapse, about a thousand ballistic missiles get launched in the general direction of Beijing, several dozen of them nuclear. That’s what the House Kim Family Atomics are for, to make it intolerably expensive for anyone to try and bring down the Kim Dynasty.

      We don’t normally think in terms North Korea waging war against China, because we understand that the particular combination of arrogance and stupidity that would be required for that is far out of character for China but somewhat plausible for the United States and/or South Korea.

      But I have to ask, what might China want in return for their assistance in getting rid of NK?

      Something so incredibly valuable that it would be worth a dozen atom bombs falling on Beijing. Good luck with that.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I’ve always been skeptical about the refugee issue. It wouldn’t be that hard for China to put extra security on the border to keep the masses from flooding in. And it’s not like they have any scruples about mass deportations for the ones who do get across.

    • James Miller says:

      >what might China want in return for their assistance in getting rid of NK?

      Taiwan.

      But North Korea probably has a plan to threaten China with atomic weapons if China turns against it.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      From what I hear, the new South Korean government, and perhaps even the populace that elected it, don’t particularly want U.S. protection. When North Korea first invaded, we were rightly or wrongly concerned about containing the spread of Communism as an ideology, but I gather we are less worried about that since the fall of the Soviet Union. Even our worries with regard to China seem to be about China as China, not the promulgation of its ideology.

      What American interest would be compromised by telling South Korea, “OK, you don’t want us, we’re gone?” and letting them deal with the problem of North Korea?

      Presumably that would result in the North invading the South pretty soon. If they did that without fear of American reprisals, might they do it more gently? Might they even achieve a rapprochement and unification without an invasion?

      Is there any chance at all that doing that would make North Korea feel secure enough that, when it decided it was time, it would invade South Korea without also nuking Los Angeles, just to cover all its bases?

      I may be Pollyannish here, but I sort of wonder if the best prospect for solving the problem of North Korea is to give its people high-bandwidth exposure to South Korea.

      • The Nybbler says:

        From what I hear, the new South Korean government, and perhaps even the populace that elected it, don’t particularly want U.S. protection.

        Didn’t they say the same thing a few years ago? And the US started noisily making plans to withdraw, and suddenly the idea was dropped.

        I imagine John Schilling would have good and well-sourced answers to your questions about a “gentle” reunification; my personal guess would be “no way in Hell”.

      • John Schilling says:

        South Korea has no intention of allowing itself to be invaded by North Korea, and to that end the South Korean security state has established an army powerful enough to stand against that of the North AND invited twenty thousand or so American soldiers to take up residence with a promise of more to come if the balloon goes up AND threw a hissy fit when the US pulled all the tactical nuclear weapons out of Korea in 1991 but grudgingly accepts that we could still unleash thermonuclear Hell from more distant bases at need.

        The North Koreans not only understand that they have no chance against those odds, they think those odds only make sense if the US and/or ROK are planning to invade them. And they aren’t entirely off base in that, between the comments and plans about “making” North Korea give up its nuclear arsenal and the similar thoughts re human rights abuses north of the DMZ.

        The current government in Seoul may want to dial down the emphasis on the US contribution to South Korea’s security, but they almost certainly don’t want it to go away. And if they did, they wouldn’t be allowed to – the only question is whether there would be a military coup before they were voted out of office. There is approximately zero sentiment in South Korea for “Hey, an invasion wouldn’t be so bad if the North did it gently and those pesky American cowboys stayed out of it, because Reunification Yay!”.

        The current government in Pyongyang has no intention of invading South Korea, but does have contingency plans to do so if they think that’s the only way to keep South Korea from invading them. Nuking Los Angeles, in addition to being technically infeasible at present, is almost certainly also a last-ditch contingency plan, not a “hey, let’s do this to cover all our bases” thing. Threatening to nuke Los Angeles is a very useful capability for North Korea, actually doing it is rather less so.

        Both nations envision reunification as something that will happen when The Other Side’s horribly corrupt government collapses, leading to a massive humanitarian crisis and their troops being greeted as liberators when they move in to restore order. Both nations also understand that their governments, while not horribly corrupt, may undergo periods of relative instability and want to have a strong enough security posture to not tempt the other guy when that happens. Which includes whatever sort of alliances they can swing in their favor (except not with Japan because reasons).

        • Doctor Mist says:

          Well, that had always been my model until I heard some of the things their new President was saying. I suppose I should remember my own new President and update my priors — or, rather, revert to my priors.

    • baconbacon says:

      simple solution- open up trade with them as much as possible.

      • aeneasrex says:

        NK will never accept that solution. A trade in goods is a trade in ideas, and the ideas of US/SK are the thing NK fears importing the most.

        • baconbacon says:

          In an isolated state you have a zero sum situation where individuals must climb over each other to advance. Once there is an outside offer you will see cracks, even if illegal cracks, as it will provide a new outlet for ambition. The “leadership” won’t allow it, but it will happen anyway.

    • cassander says:

      1. What do our local allies (South Korea and Japan, in particular) want done about North Korea? They’re the ones who have to live with whatever policy is adopted, with far more direct consequences than anything the US faces.

      The south koreans fear re-unification, because it will cost trillions of dollars and they’ll get stuck with the bill.

      2. As far as I can tell, the ball is basically in China’s court right now. They could shut down North Korea within a couple of years just by ending their shipments of various supplies. They choose not a do so because a) the failure of North Korea could get them millions of desperate refugees trying to cross border, b) a takeover of NK by SK would put a close US ally right on their border, and c) anything that’s a thorn in the side of a US in South-East Asia is a good thing. But I have to ask, what might China want in return for their assistance in getting rid of NK?

      It has been this way for a while. the best deal I can see the US offering china is our support, or at least non-resistance, to the replacement of the kim regime with a chinese puppet that will open up economically and not build nukes.

      • John Schilling says:

        The south koreans fear re-unification, because it will cost trillions of dollars and they’ll get stuck with the bill.

        They do have an actual ministry devoted to the issue. Not the most prestigious posting in the ROK government, because they are mostly just playing a waiting game at this point, but I’ve talked to them and they didn’t come off as terribly frightened. As with e.g. German reunification, this is something that’s very important to them for ethno-nationalistic reasons; if it comes to that, South Korea is a rich country and they’ll dig deep into their pockets to make it happen.

      • cassander says:

        @John Schilling

        I didn’t mean to imply it was something they were opposed to on principle, they definitely aren’t. But it’s definitely something they would rather happen…..a few years from now, and it always will be.

    • John Schilling says:

      2. As far as I can tell, the ball is basically in China’s court right now. They could shut down North Korea within a couple of years just by ending their shipments of various supplies.

      Worth noting, the United States could shut down North Korea within an hour, just by pressing a button.

      And with roughly the same consequence. Millions of North Koreans dead by way of the four horsemen, and a massive humanitarian catastrophe for the rest. A world-class geopolitical conflict over who gets what, and a massive insurgency of heavily-armed regime loyalists hiding out in mountain and city alike. And a dozen or so non-DPRK cities in East Asia nuked along the way, for another million-plus dead.

      If you think there’s a moral difference associated with who is the first one to launch a nuclear missile in this game, when the end result is predictably the same in most every respect, fine, but what’s in it for China to take the megadeaths of blood off our hands and onto their own? Why is it in their court rather than ours, when we can both end the “problem” and we are the ones who seem to feel it is a problem?

      • AlphaCeph says:

        It would make sense for the USA and its allies to plan a coordinated first strike on DPRK if they had the means to destroy DPRK nukes on the ground or prevent them from launching.

        It seems reasonable to me that with enough investment in anti-ballistic missile tech and a thorough enough first strike, NK wouldn’t be able to do anything except sit there and die.

        However from a political point of view, it’s always better to kick the can down the road. This is how NK will grow and eventually become a really threatening monster.

        • John Schilling says:

          This is how NK will grow and eventually become a really threatening monster.

          Eventually? Did you check the news this morning?

  6. Levantine says:

    I’m suspecting that the apparent dissolution of the USA society is in considerable measure due to the long working hours, and, generally, the “hard work” by which Americans have started to distinguish themselves from the rest of the West in the past fifty years. Simply, the logic is that by just focusing on consciously defined tasks leaves too little for informal interactions that are arguably essential in keeping a society together. I suspect that the ubiquitously recommended “hard work” can be a road of personal gain for a small minority of people, and that for a society in general, it is a road to ruin.

    I won’t actually ask a question because I took a hobby of following the advice no.3. here:

    mathew laba 10 hours ago Here is some advice my father gave me when I was thirteen…we were on our way to my first day on the job:
    1. Keep your opinion to yourself…which includes your stupid sarcastic remarks.
    2. Never correct another person.
    3. Don’t ask questions…but rather…learn to be an effective observer.
    My father was the most intimidating individual I have ever met. Also, I had more than one person over the course of my lifetime tell me my father was the most intelligent person they had ever met. I never heard him ask a question.
    http://www.wsj.com/articles/people-love-your-sarcasm-really-1440451942?mod=trending_now_2#livefyre-comment

    • S. Aiv says:

      It sounds like that advice is specifically meant for “first day on the job”-situations. Even then, I’d disagree with Nr. 2 and Nr 3.
      I’d recommend (gently) correcting people if it’s relevant to your job, just try not to bruise any egos.
      But most of all, *definitely* ask questions. Ask them early and often. You don’t want to risk being an effective observer of an event that hardly ever happens. And if you’re asking a simple question 4 months in you might get some weird looks (though you should still ask it if you feel you should know the answer!). Even worse if you’ve worked there a while, a new guy comes in, and he asks you the simple question you didn’t want to ask, and you don’t have an answer. “Why can’t patients wear shoelaces?” is a great question to ask if the alternative is not asking and finding out too late this applied to belts as well.
      Mind you, nothing’s stopping you from being an effective observer in addition to all that.

      For signalling purposes, yes, not asking questions makes you seem smarter (as long as you can avoid making the mistakes that come with not knowing the answer). But asking questions makes you seem interested, curious and sincere, so I don’t think you lose much.

      I’ve been in so many classes and presentations where at the end they ask if there’s any questions, and there’s just silence. For a good 20 seconds. Then someone tentatively raises their hands and asks a question. Then all of a sudden it turns out that lots of people had questions, but nobody wanted to be the first to ask anything. And then there are the presentations where “nobody” had questions, and I can’t help but wonder how many people missed an opportunity there.

      TL;DR: being an effective observer and asking questions is not mutually exclusive, and not asking questions is a bad strategy if you aim to improve fast.

    • Bugmaster says:

      FWIW, I’ve specifically told multiple junior-level employees multiple times, “if you don’t understand something, don’t try to figure it out, just ask”. There are two reasons for this:
      a). Your time is valuable, and not just to yourself. If you spend all your time on figuring out some basic idea that everyone else already understands, then you will surely grow and evolve as a person; but meanwhile, your work doesn’t get done.
      b). If you don’t understand how something works, and decide to use it (or worse, change it) anyway, you are very likely to break everything (or, at least, the piece of the system you’re working on). Sure, you can fix it later, but… see above.

      • nhnifong says:

        Perhaps the “always ask first” advice is appropriate for software engineering where almost all the concepts and names are invented by someone at the company, and won’t ever occur outside a very narrow context. Even the lifetime of the ideas is limited to perhaps 2 or 3 years.

        Or perhaps that advice will be our undoing. I’ve seen an amazing number of people blindly follow the guess of the first person to encounter a problem, after finding a record of the event on a forum, only to find out the advice was wrong.

        • Bugmaster says:

          Even the lifetime of the ideas is limited to perhaps 2 or 3 years.

          This may be true about specific ideas, but is staggeringly false in general. Ideas such as memoization, I/O vs CPU bottlenecks, exponential complexity, copy-on-write, layers of abstraction, source control, etc., have been around for decades, and are likely to stick around for at least as long. Most junior programmers I’ve encountered were unfamiliar with at most of these (and many others besides). Also, none of these ideas were invented by anyone at my company, I’m sad to say.

    • Aapje says:

      Many other Western nations seems to be dissolving in much the same way.

      I think that part of it is simply that people simply have many more options to self-segregate, which leads to fairly homogeneous communities that develop strong tribal features.

      As for work, I don’t think that it is the hard work so much (are people actually working longer hours than in the past?), but rather the stagnating wages, uncertainty and forced flexibility that has become far more prevalent. I think that there is a general sense of hopelessness among many people who may never be able to achieve a stable pleasant life. People in the past would often work to own a house, be married, get children and have a steady, well-paid job and then this would generally last them a lifetime. For many people today, buying a house may remain out of reach, relationships frequently don’t last and jobs come and go, where you can easily go backwards in pay during parts of your life.

      The pressure on women to be more like men also tends to results in them spending much of their fertile years having a career and then scrambling to have some kids as the window is closing. In the past, the many housewives ensured that local communities would always be fairly lively and those women would police their community pretty strongly. Today it’s much easier to live close to people and rarely interact with them.

      In any case, I don’t think you can pin it on one single cause.

      • Matt M says:

        Many other Western nations seems to be dissolving in much the same way.

        This.

        My first instinct was to say, “justify your claim that society is dissolving” but it’s quite clear there are plenty of available examples one could use to try and claim so.

        But I think “justify your claim that the US is dissolving significantly more in comparison to other (developed/western if you’d prefer) nations” is sound. There is political polarization occasionally leading to small-scale violence in the UK and France as well.

    • stucchio says:

      As the “dissolution of society” has moved forward, working hours (per worker) have dropped.

      https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/AVHWPEUSA065NRUG

      A somewhat larger number of people started working, however hours worked per capita hasn’t changed drastically (and has declined significantly since the 90’s).

      https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CIVPART

      https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=eh4g

      What do you mean by dissolution of society, and who do you think is working more hours?

    • crh says:

      This seems like a good excuse to link one of my all-time favorite essays: Bertrand Russell — In Praise of Idleness

    • andrewflicker says:

      As both a manager and a coworker, my observation is that employees that don’t ask questions are generally terrible employees- and the best employees ask more questions than many of their coworkers combined!

      • bintchaos says:

        Most people I read say the dissolution is due to rejection of traditional religious values.
        Social Media is the new church.

        The old order was flawed and elitist and locked out too many voices; it produced seeming consensus by preventing many from being heard. We’re still fumbling around for new mechanisms that can replace that order and improve upon it, Pariser tells me. “It reminds me of how the secular world hasn’t found a replacement for some of the uses and tools that religions served. And the new media world hasn’t found a replacement for some of the ways that consensus was manufactured in the old world.” This is the year we need to begin rebuilding those connections—on our platforms and in ourselves.

  7. onyomi says:

    Some questions about democracy v. autocracy and a hypothesis about the alt-right:

    I finally got around to reading The Dictator’s Handbook, the book a few have mentioned and on which that youtube video I’ve linked a couple times is based, and it’s really great. To try to summarize some of the main arguments:

    The important difference between democracy and autocracy is the size of the ruling coalition: all governments (indeed, all human organizations) have rulers/leaders; the key point is how many people they need to keep happy in order to maintain their authority. Though no one can rule alone (need support of the powerful in your society and especially the army), rulers have an incentive to keep the group they need to keep happy as small as possible and the number of potential replacements for those people (“interchangeables”) big so the backers know they’re replaceable.

    How well a government does for its people is a function of the extent to which the leaders have to keep them happy/productive to reward the key supporters/pay the army. This explains why natural resource-rich nations are often terrible places to live for the commoners–because the ruling coalition, in effect, doesn’t need them (enough wealth to keep everyone whose opinion matters may be generated by hiring foreign contractors to extract the resource). In fact, making things better for them may be a big risk: starving people with no infrastructure are less likely to revolt.

    Anyway, ancap has long been my first choice, but I’ve also long been back and forth about my second choice: democracy, benevolent dictatorship (Lee Kuan Yew), rule by “the experts”? Democracy clearly has serious problems: bickering blocs voting themselves concentrated benefits with diffuse costs, regulatory capture, “myth of the rational voter,” etc. etc. King Donald Trump could take 1% of the national GDP and spend it on building crazy casinoes and otherwise leave us alone and I’d be much happier with that state of affairs than with the current government (see the part about gold mining in Planetary-size Nutshell), and some of Hoppe’s “God that Failed” arguments make sense: (small d) democrats have an incentive to think short term, while monarchs think of the state as their private property they can bequeath to their children and try to enrich it to the extent possible over the long term.

    But is there really such a thing as the dictator who gets to just build casinos and otherwise leaves everyone else alone? Or the wise monarch so confident in his position he can focus his wealth on benefiting the people at the expense of powerful backers, even knowing the more educated they get the more likely they are to demand democratization? Probably not. Even if nominally appointed for life, he’ll need backing of the powerful to stay in power or else leave a big vacuum.

    In a democracy, at least the number of people he has to please is relatively large. He may end up doing so by doling out a million favors to a million and one groups, but overall he’s more beholden to being thrown out of office if he really botches e.g. disaster relief (GOP post-Katrina). And the authors also point out that while nominal tax rates in many democracies seem quite high, they are actually low compared to the effective tax rate in dictatorships, where dictators may e.g. force you to sell all your coffee beans to them at a heavily discounted rate and then sell them on the world market at a huge markup. If you’re only allowed to sell your product to the government, and for only 10% what it’s worth, you have an effective 90% tax rate.

    Anyway, I could go on, but what got me thinking about the alt-right: recently some libertarian friends have been complaining that all their libertarian friends are turning alt-right. Even here there seems to be some sense that maybe all us libertarians are really just secret Trump apologists. My thinking is that this may be because, seeing so many problems with democracy, many libertarians are starting to see something like a Putin as somehow preferable to continuing the current course. But as Putin has moved Russia back in the autocratic direction, corruption is up and individual freedoms are down! Of course, I don’t think we can slide so quickly into autocracy in the US because of our longer history with democracy, but we could certainly move in that direction. I always call FDR “our first fascist president.”

    The “bigger ruling coalition=better results and more freedoms for the people” argument leads me to think that this is probably a red herring (strong man nationalism). Though I am totally in support of e.g. a less bellicose foreign policy (actually this is oddly one area dictatorships seem to do better in a certain way: they are apparently less likely to get bogged down in hugely expensive, interminable international conflicts because they don’t actually care as much whether they win so long as the ruler stays in power; waging a war which is dragging on and going badly, on the other hand, usually spells doom for a democrat (LBJ).

    So… uh, libertarians! Don’t embrace identity nationalism as a 2nd-best option for achieving libertopia* because it’s too likely to become more like… well, Putin’s Russia? Or, indeed, the US under FDR, which wasn’t actually so great, though many claim to have remembered a fond sense of common purpose (but then many former Soviet bloc citizens fondly remember a sense of common purpose…)

    Also on the other hand, I think the theory supports ancap quite well, though the authors never bring it up, of course. Having the lawmakers and law enforcers beholden to the widest swath of people to whom their laws apply seems to be the general formula for better government, and private companies, in general, seem to be much more beholden to their customers than the average state judge, policeman, or soldier is to the citizens.

    *Also, I still think that if you do care about identity–racial, cultural, whatever, then secession is still your best way to go. I think the odds of having the “white Christian English speakers only” mini nation among the several nations the US splits into are much higher than God Emperor Trump somehow just making the US one giant nation all based on white, Christian identity.

    A bit of a brain dump; I just had a whole bunch of ideas about this I kind of wanted to think through.

    • hyperboloid says:

      I have always believed that there were never very many true libertarians to begin with. Everybody objects to government power when it is used to implement policies that go against their preferences. To me American libertarians look like a coalition of :

      1) Jeffersonians.
      These are people who idealize the pre-civil war, pre-industrial society of the early republic. They view the United States as first and foremost a nation composed of federated communities of small property holders. Consequently they have little problem with state coercion on a local enough level, in fact they see federal interference in the prerogatives of local government to be a form of tyranny even if it is in defense of individual rights. They are apt to make arguments based on natural rights, the constitution, and the wisdom of the founding fathers. They tend to be non interventionist in foreign affairs. Of all the types of libertarians they are the most likely to be religious.

      2) Laissez Faire Liberals
      Neo-liberal is a near synonym for this group but is sometimes used in a more expansive way. Their primary concern is the defense of free trade and the efficiencies of the free market. They see capitalism and democracy as being fundamentally linked and believe that expanding state power over the economy will lead to political tyranny. They do not really object to state coercion that does not directly threaten the workings of the free market, and tend to except a limited, and often very paternalistic form of the welfare state (if only as a necessary evil). They are apt to cast their arguments in terms of neoclassical economics and the utilitarian benefits of economic efficiency. In foreign affairs they are internationalists and tend to value the US role as guaranteer of the liberal world order.

      3)Reactionaries
      These people are basically frauds who’s libertarianism is a paper thin cover for tyrannical impulses. Their real problem is with democracy, and they only object to state power when in wielded against their interests on behalf of the (supposedly) ignorant masses. They believe that society has a natural class of rulers (a category that almost always includes themselves, or people with identical preferences) and that popular franchise is little more than mob rule. Their deep preference is for some form of powerful authoritarian (sometimes fascist, or quasi fascist) government, but they see modern democratic states as a means for the undeserving rabble to loot their property. They have few illusions about the popularity of their views, and support libertarianism only because they believe the best that they can hope for is to neuter democracy by limiting state power. In foreign policy they are opposed to the liberal world order and wish to destroy it by allying with authoritarian state like Russia.

      It’s the last group that has been leaving libertarianism for the alt-right as Donald Trump seems to have opened new political possibilities for them.

      I always call FDR “our first fascist president.

      And the most charitable thing I can say about that is that you are explaining yourself poorly, if I were being uncharitable I would say you were engaging in sophistry.

      • I’m not sure whether, when you refer to libertarians, you mean the relatively small number who self-identify as such or the much larger number who generally favor individual liberty in both economic and social matters. I’m guessing the former.

        I always call FDR “our first fascist president.

        And the most charitable thing I can say about that is that you are explaining yourself poorly

        The economic definition of “fascism” is a system that combines state control with nominal private ownership. That seems to describe the First New Deal. FDR ended up backing away from it, but it was his initial policy.

        • Brad says:

          I’m not sure whether, when you refer to libertarians, you mean the relatively small number who self-identify as such or the much larger number who generally favor individual liberty in both economic and social matters.

          The latter may be much larger than the former but it is still so small as to be a non-factor in American politics:
          https://www.voterstudygroup.org/reports/2016-elections/political-divisions-in-2016-and-beyond

          See figure 2 and accompanying text.

        • neaanopri says:

          It seems obvious to me that calling FDR “our first fascist president” is just an insult and appeal to tribalism amongst the broad libertarian “Red Team” tribe. Of course, it seeming obvious to one person doesn’t matter too much I suppose :).

          I do think that there’s something to this comparison. FDR was operating within the global great depression, when the “old ways” of doing things (for the US, laissez-faire economics with “panics” every decade or so) was just not working. He definitely moved the US more in the direction of Nazi Germany, simply because the US started out very far from state control of the market, and FDR brought it closer.

          This just goes to show how I (sjw/anticorporate liberal) see Fascism’s main evil differently than the Libertarians. I think that establishing universal (for non-Jews) healthcare was one of the few good things Hitler did, and his racism and totalitarianism was the main problem. I can definitely see the libertarians thinking the same things are bad, but flipping the order and seeing his repressive state as the more important problem.

          So there’s two sides to this issue I suppose. Surprising!

          • Tibor says:

            Most libertarians would regard the “universal healthcare” as a bad policy but I’ve yet to meet one who finds it worse than the holocaust. However, if I exaggerate a bit, one leads to the other. That is, more state control of, well, everything, increases significantly the chances of something this horrible happening. Holocaust would have been be a lot harder to pull off if Hitler hadn’t had a considerable police state to work with. Making private ownership of firearms illegal meant a lot less trouble with the German population (not everyone was a huge fan, especially towards the end of the war). Similarly, Stalin would have never been able to purposely starve millions of Ukrainians to deaths without the complete* state control of the means of production in the Soviet Union. Imagine Hitler or Stalin in 1920s US. Even if they somehow got them elected, they couldn’t do much. They’d have to start like FDR and before they could transform the country anywhere close to being an oppressive police state, they’d be out of office. As for the “business as usual”, well, most libertarians would probably argue that FDR’s policies actually made the depression far worse than it could have been. I remember David Friedman pointing out another recession a few years before it which was treated in a standard way and blew over very quickly. I don’t know enough about this topic to have a firm opinion but it might as well be true. You had the biggest recession in history precisely while trying to treat it with something other than laissez faire policy. It could be because that policy was not longer effective or it could be that departing from it is what made the depression so spectacular.

            If you believe that expanding the state is bad on its own, because it usually doesn’t even serve its stated purpose well (and sometimes actually reinforces the exact opposite of it), then you will see that as doubly troubling. You don’t need to see state owned healthcare as “worse than the holocaust” to do that.

            Now, I would not call FDR a fascist for the same reason I don’t like people calling Trump a fascist. It is just painting things black and white. But Onyomi used scare quotes and made it clear (I think) that he is well aware that this is an exaggeration, so I think that’s fine.

            *save for the illegal black market which managed to save many many lives and was vastly more efficient than the state owned agriculture.

      • Anon. says:

        And the most charitable thing I can say about that is that you are explaining yourself poorly, if I were being uncharitable I would say you were engaging in sophistry.

        Oswald Mosley of the British Union of Fascists wrote a short book to promote Fascism in 1936 called “Fascism: 100 questions asked and answered”.

        In it, he tries to explain how fascism is different from the New Deal. The answer he comes up with is this: the New Deal relies on “Jewish capital”, whereas fascism does not. That’s it.

        It’s also interesting to see where Mosley thought fascism should be limited. For example he considers the nationalization of healthcare would go too far in the fascist direction.

        Basically, today’s ideas about fascism have little connection with the actual beliefs of fascists. That’s how you end up thinking the connection between the New Deal and fascism is “sophistry”. Check out Three New Deals by Schivelbusch.

      • BBA says:

        There’s a subcategory of 3 (with maybe a little of 1) that explains a lot of the “libertarian” movement to the alt-right. These are the people who are very strongly interested in one particular right – the right to exclude nonwhite people from their activities – and would back anyone remotely respectable who would give them anything on their pet issue. These are the sort of people who’d vote for Barry Goldwater in 1964 and George Wallace in 1968, despite their having practically no positions in common besides opposition to the Civil Rights Act.

        But these aren’t the “reactionaries” you describe, as they have no philosophical objections to democracy as it existed before 1955 or thereabouts.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          Hmm. Perhaps, though personally I’ve never run across anyone who characterized themself as a libertarian but who was primarily concerned with that one particular right. Libertarians are famously (though unfairly) stereotyped as conservatives who want to smoke pot, so it’s hard for me to imagine a white separatist deciding to call themself a libertarian.

          I’m feeling an interesting tension here. I want to accuse you of the non-central fallacy, tarring libertarians by association with someone who by hypothesis claims to be libertarian but is not typical of libertarians. But I don’t want to be accused in turn of the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. It’s a puzzle.

          • BBA says:

            I’m referring obliquely to the readers of those Ron Paul newsletters. (And for the record, I believe Paul when he says he didn’t know about the content.)

    • Civilis says:

      Anyway, I could go on, but what got me thinking about the alt-right: recently some libertarian friends have been complaining that all their libertarian friends are turning alt-right. Even here there seems to be some sense that maybe all us libertarians are really just secret Trump apologists. My thinking is that this may be because, seeing so many problems with democracy, many libertarians are starting to see something like a Putin as somehow preferable to continuing the current course. But as Putin has moved Russia back in the autocratic direction, corruption is up and individual freedoms are down! Of course, I don’t think we can slide so quickly into autocracy in the US because of our longer history with democracy, but we could certainly move in that direction. I always call FDR “our first fascist president.”

      I think there’s a connection between FDR and the movement on the right from libertarian to authoritarian, but for a different reason.

      The dictionary definition of fascism is “a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition“. It’s hard to look at the US during world war II and deny that, at least comparatively, the US government during the war was far more autocratic in many of the ways listed, although not truly dictatorial. The questionable part is the nation and race part; while the US propaganda during the war and even the WPA art before the war was somewhat nationalistic by modern standards, it’s looking at it by the American definition of nation and not what, say, Mussolini would consider a ‘nation’. (If any US president could be described as both authoritarian and thinking of nation and race above the individual, I’d think it would be Wilson, for example, his support for ‘The Birth of a Nation’.)

      What does this have to do with the libertarians becoming Alt-Right? We accepted FDR’s authoritarianism during the second world war because national survival was believed to be at stake. “The Constitution is not a suicide pact” is the saying. There’s a political cartoon showing the four quadrant political diagram, with authoritarian at the top; a T-34 flying an anarcho-communist flag is traveling up the left edge racing a helicopter flying an anarcho-capitalist flag heading up the right edge. The caption is “race you to the top!”

      I don’t want to get into a “who started it” war, as there’s no right answer and it doesn’t matter to the debate. What matters is the libertarian right sees an increasingly authoritarian left with a declared intent to use the power of the state to suppress their opposition, and many see the only way to survive in the short term is to risk your principles by embracing whatever it takes to survive (and it’s likely that the same logic applies to the left). Somebody is going to control the power of government, and if the other side is the one in control, loyalty to your principles may mean nothing. [Edited to add:] I don’t think libertarians suddenly believe that government is a force for good; however, controlling it means it can’t be used against you.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        Yeah, it’s pretty much what I’ve noticed as well; the hard right and hard left have become convinced that the other side will win / is winning, and have decided that all-out war is the solution.

        Of course, if you accept either prior, you should also decide on the solution of all-out war. It’s just that both priors are ridiculous.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I think “just bake the fucking cake” is a very strong meme. I spent many years arguing with conservatives/Christians to leave the gays alone, and you don’t get to tell them what to do, it’s none of your damn business. And then as soon as pro-gay forces have cultural control they want to force Christians to bake gay wedding cakes. “Nobody should be telling anybody else what to do” doesn’t seem to work well in the real world. It seems our political nature abhors a power vacuum.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think a lot of that decision fell out of existing antidiscrimination law. If you have laws against discrimination agaings protected classes by businesses, and then you change the laws to include gays as a protected class, you get the wedding cake thing.

          • Mary says:

            That was the point. If you are using laws — any laws — to force people to do what you want them to do, you have lost your moral claim to say to other people that you don’t get to tell them what to do, it’s none of your damn business.

          • albatross11 says:

            To my mind, this is a serious issue with the way our antidiscrimination laws work. To a first approximation, one of the best arguments for a live-and-let-live kind of support for individual liberty is that it’s none of your damned business whom I sleep with, or how we do it, or how many people are involved, and it’s no skin off your nose what I do anyway. Personally, I have always found this a pretty compelling kind of argument–it’s a big world, some people want to do weird things I want nothing to do with, so why not let them get on with it and leave them the hell alone, expecting only that they return the favor?

            To the extent we start using the state to coerce actions–requiring you to bake cakes for gay marriages, requiring you to associate with people you despise, etc., we lose that argument. I’m sure that has an impact on arguments w.r.t. transgender rights, now. If we add transgender people to the list of protected classes against whom employment and business discrimination is forbidden, then you’re not allowed (in principle, anyway) to refuse to hire a transwoman to watch your kids even if you think transpeople are creepy perverts[1], even if you have a deep religious or moral objection to transpeople. That may (or may not) be the right policy, but it absolutely undermines the argument that people who find transpeople morally objectionable should still support transgender rights, since it’s none of your business and no skin off your nose.

            The very short distance between recognition of gay marriage and widely publicized cases where people who morally objected to gay marriage were legally coerced to do things like make wedding cakes for them is something that I expect to come up again and again in the future, as we see arguments for more expansions of rights.

            [1] As far as I can tell, the definition of pervert is just someone who likes kinky things that are sufficiently socially unacceptable to get them shunned.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      But as Putin has moved Russia back in the autocratic direction, corruption is up and individual freedoms are down!

      Where do you get these beliefs?

      Transparency International rates Putin’s Russia no more corrupt than Yeltsin’s, probably cleaner.
      Individual freedom is a more subtle topic.

      Putin may have moved in an autocratic direction, but has Russia? He has personally consolidated power, but at the expense of less transparent autocrats.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Glad you liked the book. I thought it was very interesting.

      I think of the libertarians who have gone alt-right or whatever as “libertarianism in one country” types. A lot of them seem to have adopted an attitude along the lines of “only some people can actually do libertarianism, so a libertarian society needs to keep out those who can’t.” They identify those “some people” generally as either Europeans in general, or Anglo-Saxons etc in specific.

      (For all I know, this is an HHH idea; I haven’t read his stuff and only have a vague idea of it)

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Libertarianism as a walled garden. It works well so long as the people in the garden don’t want to exercise power over each other. Unfortunately that is a rare desire among humans. And an awful lot of people who think they fit the mold absolutely don’t want to be telling anyone else what to do. I mean, unless of course they’re doing something wrong.

        • onyomi says:

          It works well so long as the people in the garden don’t want to exercise power over each other.

          Ironic since the demographic most obviously attracted to libertarianism is white and male.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            To be honest, I’m kind of curious what would be the difference between a libertarian state and a white nationalist state.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The libertarian state would likely have more black people, Jews, Asians, and Hispanics, for one thing.

            A white nationalist state would have either an established religion or a strong civic substitute; in the US, probably the latter as there are far too many variants. A libertarian state would have neither.

            In general I’d expect a white nationalist state to tend towards communitarianism rather than individualism, as a libertarian state would.

          • onyomi says:

            This gets into the question of heritability of political views, on which I don’t have a strong opinion, though I suspect it exists to some degree.

            For example, white people might be more likely to have the “cowing to authority really irks me” genes and white Americans might be a non-representative selection of those Europeans most likely to have those genes. Therefore, it may not only be no coincidence libertarianism mostly got started here, it could be that we’re the only place with even close to the number of people with the right sorts of predispositions (this is somewhat contradicted by much of the initial intellectual firepower coming from Austrian Jews, however; maybe they had a confluence of genetic and historical circumstances driving them to become intellectuals who hate the state).

            It could be that libertarians are more likely to be people with a contrarian streak and that contrarian streaks are more common in white males. Or there could be some purely historical reasons which would not limit libertarianism’s appeal to other groups.

          • albatross11 says:

            Conrad:

            In a libertarian society, nonwhites would be welcome, as long as they were able and willing to carry their own weight and live by the rules of the libertarian society. The purpose of the government would be to maintain and enforce the minimal set of rules on which the society was based, not to further the group interests of the white race. Probably nobody would care if you married outside your race, and certainly the law wouldn’t take any notice.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I suppose. I guess I’m saying that if you started a real libertarian state, it would wind up looking very white. Didn’t John McAfee talk to the Libertarian party and say “you’re 99% white and you should feel ashamed?” So you’d have a state that’s 99% white, with the non-whites agreeing to live by the same rules as the vast majority whites. Non-white are welcome in the Libertarian Party now, and they’re not showing up.

            I’ve only ever read one of Richard Spencer’s speeches so I don’t know exactly what kind of government white nationalists want, but I gathered that they’d be tolerant of a small minority with no political power (e.g., there were black Nazis and even tolerated Jewish collaborators with the Nazis, etc). Given that in a libertarian society, there would be practically no political power anyway, that reduces to the same system: a tolerated minority with no political power that agrees to live by the white man’s rules.

            ETA: “A libertarian state would likely appear to be a white nationalist state, whereas not all white nationalists states would be libertarian.” Agree or disagree?

          • bintchaos says:

            @ConradHoncho
            Well here is a socio-lab experiment for you to examine.
            Its just one city, not a whole state.
            The Short Unhappy Life of a Libertarian Paradise

          • “A libertarian state would likely appear to be a white nationalist state, whereas not all white nationalists states would be libertarian.” Agree or disagree?

            Disagree. A libertarian state would have open immigration. If libertarians are correct in their views it would also be very prosperous hence a magnet for immigrants, many of whom would be non-white.

            I doubt a white nationalist state would be libertarian. It would almost certainly have restrictions on immigration, and it would probably have different legal rules for whites and any non-whites it included.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Conrad Honcho:

            Nazi treatment of Jews who cooperated with them – for example, the councils they set up in ghettos – was largely to kill them last. There were a few cases of important Germans who had, or were rumoured to have, Jewish ancestry, and policy seems to have been to either ignore it, or to officially declare them not to (I think in one case, the official government position on one guy was that his Jewish father had been cuckolded by a gentile?)

          • skef says:

            1) We just had a thread within the past week or two in which one of our main libertarians argued that short of ancap, immigration restrictions are reasonable. A libertarian state falls short of ancap by definition.

            2) The idea that non-white people would be welcome in any libertarian society depends on certain assumptions about cultural and economic reasoning that are mostly coincidental. If the most fundamental aspect of libertarian thinking is non-coercion, a group of white supremacists could form a society completely consistent with libertarian principles by simply freezing out non-whites from all interactions.

          • albatross11 says:

            Disagree for the reasons I said. A librtarian state might be a comfortable place for white nationalists to live (complete freedom of association means no antidiscrimination laws), but I would expect a lot of nonwhites to come live there, especially if things seemed to be working out well. A libertarian state would have no welfare, so the only reason to come would be to work. That would not seem so entirely foreign to the average Salvadoran coming to hang drywall, or the average Indian doctor or Chinese engineer.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Good points. My thought experiment was ill-conceived.

          • there would be practically no political power anyway,

            Which is to say, there would be a ton of power with very few people having a say in it.

          • Mary says:

            “I think in one case, the official government position on one guy was that his Jewish father had been cuckolded by a gentile?”

            There were slews of court cases claiming illegitimacy — either a person’s own, or the parent’s — and so pure German blood. Many of these cases were supported by the mother or grandmother swearing she had committed adultery and in fair number of cases the alleged father swore to it, too. (The Jewish father tended to be dead or divorced at that time, and the alleged German father was often dead, too.)

            With full family support, sometimes. There was one case where a mother said her son was not the son of her Jewish husband but of a Bavarian peddler, and an uncle accompanied his nephew to the court so that when they came out and assumed that the short, dark man was the nephew, he could correct them, say he was the pure Aryan uncle, and this tall blond man was in fact the nephew petitioning on those grounds.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Mary

            Thanks for expansion. I’m trying to recall the guy’s name – I don’t think this one required a court case even, because he was someone important (a general?).

    • John Schilling says:

      Also, I still think that if you do care about identity–racial, cultural, whatever, then secession is still your best way to go. I think the odds of having the “white Christian English speakers only” mini nation among the several nations the US splits into are much higher than God Emperor Trump somehow just making the US one giant nation all based on white, Christian identity.

      Except that Donald Trump actually did get himself elected President of the United States of America, which is as close to God-Emperor as it gets. Meanwhile, secession has been a non-starter since 1861 and will be for as long as there is a United States of America. And the “several nations the US splits into” is, in addition to being highly speculative, highly optimistic as well. If the United States of America goes down, it doesn’t do so by politely spawning mini-nations that are then left to do as their citizens please. A Balkanized America will be about as peaceful as the actual Balkans were before NATO got involved, and should not be taken as anybody’s last, best hope for achieving any positive goal.

      • Anonymous says:

        What odds do you put on the US becoming a stable, brazilified kleptocracy?

        • cassander says:

          Kleptocracy is too strong, think more like greece or italy. the issue isn’t so much outright theft and bribery, but a political system that revolves around massive handouts to the politically organized at the expense of everyone else, wrapped up in moralizing language.

          • engleberg says:

            Outright bribery like the Clintons taking a half-billion dollar bribe from Microsoft’s competitors to sic the Justice Department on Microsoft and oops, break the dot-com boom? Even the Marcos family only did that once every decade or so. Or maybe the Clintons building a billion-dollar slush fund?

            I don’t see stable kleptocracy. Brazilified kleptocracy, sure. Our governors are too incompetent for stability.

    • Anonymous says:

      But is there really such a thing as the dictator who gets to just build casinos and otherwise leaves everyone else alone?

      This is sort of how I imagined Tiberius from I, Claudius. He didn’t quite as much “build casinos”, as “oppress and torture a small company of close associates”, but he ran the Empire well, and the commoners he left well alone.

      In a democracy, at least the number of people he has to please is relatively large. He may end up doing so by doling out a million favors to a million and one groups, but overall he’s more beholden to being thrown out of office if he really botches e.g. disaster relief (GOP post-Katrina). And the authors also point out that while nominal tax rates in many democracies seem quite high, they are actually low compared to the effective tax rate in dictatorships, where dictators may e.g. force you to sell all your coffee beans to them at a heavily discounted rate and then sell them on the world market at a huge markup. If you’re only allowed to sell your product to the government, and for only 10% what it’s worth, you have an effective 90% tax rate.

      OTOH, you can see things like government spending in Britain starting to rocket up directly after the so-called Glorious Revolution.

    • Kevin C. says:

      *Also, I still think that if you do care about identity–racial, cultural, whatever, then secession is still your best way to go.

      Except that, as the late Justice Scalia said, that issue was “settled at Appomattox”. Have you read any of the decision in Texas v. White?

      [The Union] was confirmed and strengthened by the necessities of war, and received definite form and character and sanction from the Articles of Confederation. By these, the Union was solemnly declared to “be perpetual.” And when these Articles were found to be inadequate to the exigencies of the country, the Constitution was ordained “to form a more perfect Union.” It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by these words. What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not?

      When, therefore, Texas became one of the United States, she entered into an indissoluble relation. All the obligations of perpetual union, and all the guaranties of republican government in the Union, attached at once to the State. The act which consummated her admission into the Union was something more than a compact; it was the incorporation of a new member into the political body. And it was final.

      “Indivisible” is in the Pledge of Allegiance for a reason. Secession from the US has been ruled completely and totally illegal and forbidden, no matter the reason, no matter how popular, for all time. The only way you can get the US to break up is for it to collapse first.
      (And if the US collapses, then probably global civilization collapses, and if global civilization collapses, then the fragile and irreplacable framework for maintaining industrial civilization will probably be damaged beyond all hope of repair, and if that happens, given that the original Industrial Revolution cannot be repeated, we’ll be stuck unable to really advance beyond eighteenth century technology, and thus stuck on Earth until some global disaster renders us extinct.)

      • Matt M says:

        What if the left wants to secede?

        They’ll find a way to make it legal then!

        • Kevin C. says:

          What if the left wants to secede?

          First, I find this exceedingly unlikely. Because why would they want to? And because it’s not in their character. (Insert Vidal quote on Puritans, citation to Stuntz “first culture war”, and so on. Yankees have been the more the side of moral crusading and less the side of live-and-let live for at least a couple centuries.)

          Second, I’m not sure how they’d be able to make it legal. (Particularly given the number of people out there who are like my 4th grade teacher.)

          • Mary says:

            Why? to get away from that horrible Red Tribe of course.

            At least, that’s the stated motivation I’ve seen among leftist calls to secede. Often followed by rhapsodies about the way the United States would collapse without them.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Mary

            Why? to get away from that horrible Red Tribe of course.

            Sure, until they realize that the horrible Red Tribe is doing horrible Red Tribe things in their Red Tribe country, violating [fill in blank]’s unalienable human right to [fill in blank], which the “international community” cannot tolerate, and that those Red Tribe people need to be made to stop, so it’s time for them to receive some “regime change”.

            I can’t find it at the moment, but I recall an article over in far-right webspace, arguing against the white nationalist types who are “we just want to be left alone in our small white ethnostate.” The author pointed out, suppose they got that ethnostate they want? What happens then? The answer is not “they get left alone to do as they will”; because such a state is essentially anathema to the post-WWII world order, the “international community” would never stop trying to undo it, and so they’d need, from day one, a vigorous and proactive foreign policy and the means to back it up.

            At least, that’s the stated motivation I’ve seen among leftist calls to secede. Often followed by rhapsodies about the way the United States would collapse without them.

            I mostly put these in the same category as threats to move to Canada if Republican X is elected; not to be taken seriously as a literal proposal, but only as an emotional display of disapproval. They may talk about CalExit, but I think actually leaving like that would be unthinkable, at least partially because it would be admitting defeat. As Richard Fernandez of PJMedia said recently,

            If people go their separate ways such a divorce would be an astonishing defeat for the Left. For the first time since 1917 it would be giving up its claim to guide the entire in order to settle for parts. As late as 2016 it was possible to imagine an America led to a “progressive” future by Hillary Clinton; an EU guiding all of Europe to a similar destiny and the G20 taking the whole world to the same destination. Indeed everyone told they were fated to follow an Arc of History. Yet after Brexit, Trump and G-Zero it is no longer possible to visualize this outcome. A blue-red division would confirm the failure to create a “progressive” world. No conceivable rollback will ever put Humpty Dumpty together again.

          • onyomi says:

            I mostly put these in the same category as threats to move to Canada if Republican X is elected; not to be taken seriously as a literal proposal, but only as an emotional display of disapproval.

            Serious secession talk will likely not happen till things in America get much worse, politically, socially, and/or economically than they are now. But if things do get much worse than they are now, I see no reason why it couldn’t happen.

          • BBA says:

            The question recurs, what will satisfy them? Simply this: We must not only let them alone, but we must somehow, convince them that we do let them alone. This, we know by experience, is no easy task. We have been so trying to convince them from the very beginning of our organization, but with no success. In all our platforms and speeches we have constantly protested our purpose to let them alone; but this has had no tendency to convince them.

            (Yes, I’m aware of the irony.)

      • Nornagest says:

        The Pledge of Allegiance doesn’t have legal force, and secession is not mentioned in the Constitution. There is Supreme Court precedent declaring unilateral secession illegal, but it left open the possibility of secession by mutual consent of the states. (The reasoning also strikes me as kinda shaky, but I’m not a constitutional lawyer.)

        Realistically, though, this falls under the category of law that’s less black-letter legal or illegal and more about your ability to make your opinion stick through persuasion or force. Does China or Taiwan or the Philippines or nobody own some tiny stupid islands in the South China Sea? Well, who’s got the rest of the world on their side? Who has the biggest guns, and are they actually willing to commit them?

        • Kevin C. says:

          First, I note you linked to the same case I did, Texas V. White. And though I don’t recall where, I know I’ve seen legal reasoning as to why secession by mutual consent of the states is not permissible either. (Mainly relating to the idea, again held forth in Texas V. White, that the intention in the Constitution is to create an irreversible compact, that a “more perfect union” is definitionally indissoluble.) In short, once you’re in, you’re in forever.

          Well, who’s got the rest of the world on their side, and who has the biggest guns?

          Indeed, just ask that question with regards to any proposed “national divorce”.

          • Nornagest says:

            Indeed, just ask that question with regards to any proposed “national divorce”.

            I agree that this is the right thing to be doing, but think the answer is less straightforward than you seem to.

        • Mary says:

          And if a state tries to secede, do dissenting counties have West Virginia rights to secede from YOU?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Probably. While you can’t leave the union, there’s no problem redrawing state lines. It just requires the consent of the state legislature and the US Congress. The conservative northern Californians who want to break off and form the state of Jefferson absolutely have a legal path to do so. Just it’ll never happen because they’re outnumbered by the liberals in the south and there’s no reason for them to let the northerners (and their electoral college votes) go.

          • Mary says:

            That’s why I cited West Virginia. Remember how it got ” the consent of the state legislature” — so to speak?

      • Tibor says:

        Nothing is “for all time” and nothing is set in stone.

        If there is enough political will, Texas or California or whichever state will be able to secede. There was no right to secession guaranteed by the Czechoslovak constitution but the country split anyway (and without much problems), simply because there was much more political will to do so than to prevent it (more accurately a lot of desire to split off on the Slovak side and mostly apathy and desire to stop constant arguing about nonsense like whether the federation should be called Czechoslovakia or Czecho-slovakia on the Czech side). I think secession is actually significantly easier in a democracy. Yugoslavia, while not really a dictatorship in the early 90s, was not exactly a democratic regime and despite the overwhelming political will (outside of Serbia at least) to split, they wanted to prevent that resulting in a bloody war. On the other hand, if Texas really decided to leave, I cannot imagine other states willing to start a war to keep it in. What would be the point?

        And it is not just with secession. Islamic (or Jewish) law theoretically prohibits interest rates – the solution is basically to call it a different name. Stoning children to death for disobeying their parents was too hardcore even for ancient people (I wonder how that thing came to be in the first place, I abhor the thought of some tribe somewhere in the middle east actually practicing that in 2000-3000 BC or so), so despite it being The Word of God, they found ways around it. The God gave us the laws, he also gave us the loopholes. The same with a constitution or anything else that’s written on paper. Unless there is a will to enforce laws, they won’t be enforced. Writing it down in a holy scripture like the Bible or the Constitution or having a religious leader declare a fatwa or a verdict of the Highest Court might increase its prestige significantly and reinforce its support but neither can turn the tide.

        One of the reasons I eventually concluded that anarcho-capitalism, assuming it works as expected, is probably a better way to go than minarchy despite its potential weaknesses like national defence (which, as David Friedman nicely defines, is a defence against nations) is that no matter how well you write your constitution, people will find ways around it. So far nobody has found a secure way to prevent the state to grow, or at least a way other than revolution, which tends to be very expensive in both lives and property, plus, unless you are North Korea where there is no way you could possibly have more all-encompassing state, there is no guarantee that the result will be much better than what you started with.

        • Kevin C. says:

          On the other hand, if Texas really decided to leave, I cannot imagine other states willing to start a war to keep it in. What would be the point?

          While I cannot imagine other states not starting a war to keep it in. The point? First, precident. If you let one group who wants to leave go, what about the next one, and the next one? And further, let me post again that Fernandez quote from upthread.

          If people go their separate ways such a divorce would be an astonishing defeat for the Left. For the first time since 1917 it would be giving up its claim to guide the entire in order to settle for parts. As late as 2016 it was possible to imagine an America led to a “progressive” future by Hillary Clinton; an EU guiding all of Europe to a similar destiny and the G20 taking the whole world to the same destination. Indeed everyone told they were fated to follow an Arc of History. Yet after Brexit, Trump and G-Zero it is no longer possible to visualize this outcome. A blue-red division would confirm the failure to create a “progressive” world. No conceivable rollback will ever put Humpty Dumpty together again.

          I just don’t see our leaders being willing to let even one small scrap of territory openly leave their grasp. Have you ever known a bratty kid who, when told to share a toy, then broke it on the principle of “if I can’t have it, no one can”? Because that’s how I expect our leaders to ultimately behave; to, in the end, prefer even “radioactive wasteland Texas” to “independent Texas”.

          Add in people like my 4th grade teacher. Possibly the worst grade I ever got on an essay that year was in social studies, when we had to write about something in local state politics, and I profiled the Alaska Independence Party and argued that they may well have a point. When handing back these papers, my teacher, Mrs. Johnson, took time to specifically lecture me about my paper. That she was unhappy that, because the grading rubric emphasized mostly spelling, grammar, and such, she couldn’t fail me on that paper like she wanted to, that she never wanted to see anything like my essay ever again, because seceeding from America is evil and forbidden, and she wouldn’t have it in her classroom, because it’s the same as arguing in favor of slavery.

          It’s like the one commenter over at Marginal Revolution who, every time genetic engineering comes up, argues that using CRISPR or any other such techniques to repair genetic diseases is morally equivalent to the Holocaust, because they are both eugenics; implicit there that “eugenics” is a single entity morally speaking, which must be praised or condemned as a whole, that to praise anything that can be classed as “eugenics” is to equally praise all things that can be classed as eugenics, including Nazi “eugenics”. The same holds for folks like Mrs. Johnson and seceeding from America. Secession from this country, to them, is a single entity in moral terms. To praise any secession attemp from the US is to praise all secession, including the South’s attempt to leave in defense of slavery, and therefore makes you morally equivalent to the worst Southern slaveholder. To condemn the South in the civil war, you must equally condemn all other secessionist movements in America, because secession is secession is secession.

          • Tibor says:

            Well, your 4th grade teacher was apparently a not particularly smart ideologue, but I’m pretty sure these people are an exception rather than the rule. By the way, I am surprised that 4th grade kids write political essays 🙂 I can’t remember having any political opinions when I was 10 I’m not even entirely sure I knew what political parties are back then.

            But imagine that say 80% of Texans want independent Texas. Is the federation going to prevent that through war? I doubt it. They will try to prevent it diplomatically, especially since Texas is rich and provides tax money to the federal budget (same reasons the Spanish don’t want Catalonia to leave…but I’m pretty sure it will happen eventually). But they are not going to start bombing Texas because of that. The US is not Yugoslavia.

            Also, Texas is a Republican fortress, so for many Democrats this might be something they’d welcome. At the same time some Republicans might sympathize with the motives of Texans to leave so they would also support that. Similarly with an even more hypothetical Republic California, except with the roles reversed.

            But you indeed need an overwhelming support for that, significantly more than 50% of the population of the separatist region. It is not like leaving the EU, which, as of now, is still rather far from becoming an actual state (and hopefully it will stay that way).

            By the way, creating more smaller countries by the decision of their inhabitants seems like something almost always positive. But at the same time, most of the separatist movements have nationalist motivations and those are unfortunately often paired with protectionism, which is less desirable. I wonder if there is a way to stir support for separatism while keeping an “open to the world” ethos. My midterm ideal for Europe, and basically the world, would be a multitude of small (in terms of population, small means more or less under 10 million for me, that means Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Spain and Ukraine would all have to be divided into smaller countries, the rest of Europe is already there now, although I’d like even these countries under 10 million to be at least as federal as Switzerland) which cooperate and have no movement of goods and labour restrictions amongst themselves.

          • John Schilling says:

            But imagine that say 80% of Texans want independent Texas. Is the federation going to prevent that through war? I doubt it. They will try to prevent it diplomatically, especially since Texas is rich and provides tax money to the federal budget (same reasons the Spanish don’t want Catalonia to leave…but I’m pretty sure it will happen eventually). But they are not going to start bombing Texas because of that.

            They did last time. What do you think has changed? Is the federal government of the United States, in your estimation, weaker than it was in 1861?

            As with the last time, they wouldn’t just declare war on the day of succession. They would, as with last time, lay claim to all of the Federal institutions and property in Texas, without which the remnant of “Texas” would not be a politically or economically viable entity, and when the Texas secessionists moved to seize these necessary bits of Texas, then there would be bombing. And skies filled with drones. Maybe even tanks in the streets. But all in morally righteous self-defense, because Texas attacked the Federal Government just like South Carolina did back in the day.

            The US is not Yugoslavia.

            Right. The Yugoslav government in 1991 was an extremely weak one, and made only the most half-hearted efforts to forcibly stop Slovenian secession. As a result, everyone else in Yugoslavia decided to secede as well, except for Serbia because there was nobody left for them to secede from. Now there is no more Yugoslavia.

            The United States is not Yugoslavia. The United States Government is not going to do that.

          • onyomi says:

            They did last time. What do you think has changed? Is the federal government of the United States, in your estimation, weaker than it was in 1861?

            People are wimpier.

          • Tibor says:

            Onyomi said it first.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            They did last time. What do you think has changed?

            Public opinion and political beliefs. Going to war to stop a bit of country going its own way is no longer seen as acceptable behaviour for a state. In a similar vein, I don’t expect the US army to murder Native Americans to make way for white settlers, nor do I expect the UK to go to war to protect the international drug trade, or the Italians or Germans to conquer random bits of Africa as a way of showing off to the international community.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Stoning children to death for disobeying their parents was too hardcore even for ancient people (I wonder how that thing came to be in the first place, I abhor the thought of some tribe somewhere in the middle east actually practicing that in 2000-3000 BC or so), so despite it being The Word of God, they found ways around it.

          If you’re talking Leviticus 20 (or Exodus 21), “curses” father or mother was much more than “said nasty words to.” It was much more like actually working maliciously against your parents. Naturally, you shouldn’t stone your kids even if they sell your family heirlooms to buy crack, but the offenses were more severe than you make them out to be.

          • If you’re talking Leviticus 20 (or Exodus 21), “curses” father or mother was much more than “said nasty words to.” It was much more like actually working maliciously against your parents.

            What’s your basis for that?

            I don’t know the linguistic details. But Maimonides goes to great lengths to interpret the passage as imposing a bunch of requirements on how the disobedient son must act to qualify for stoning with the conclusion that it will never happen, and that isn’t one of them.

          • beleester says:

            That’s Tibor’s point – the law got re-interpreted so that it would never happen. If there’s a law you “can’t change,” but there’s widespread will to change it, then people will find a way to make the law inoperative.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @DavidFriedman

            The comments on the version of the Bible I read.

            But we’re playing chicken and egg here. You guys seem to think the rules came first, and were then interpreted to mean the actual behaviors. I think the behaviors came first, and then the rules were written to describe workable behaviors. So, the behaviors for which a son or daughter is worthy of stoning came first, and were described as “curses.” The “curses” rule didn’t come first, and was then reinterpreted to mean “only really bad things worthy of stoning.”

          • @Conrad:

            You are talking about a different passage than I am:

            Deuteronomy 21: 18

            18. If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them,
            19. then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city, to the gate of his city.
            20. And they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’
            21. Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall put away the evil from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear.

            No cursing mentioned. And the original reference was to stoning, which is in my passage and not in yours.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            “Stone him to death with stones” is my new favorite phrase. I really hope it will displace “kill it with fire”, which has gotten kind of passé.

          • Mary says:

            People nowadays will not really believe that you can kill people with stones. At least, they will feign that if you throw stones at someone, he’s NOT entitled to shoot you to death because they won’t admit you initiated the use of lethal force.

          • rlms says:

            @Mary
            Stoning as punishment involves a large number of stones and a restrained victim. I’m pretty sure deaths from cases where a single person throws stones at someone with the ability to move are infrequent; it’s only a lethal attack in the same way that throwing a punch is.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Yah, I’m going to have to push back on this one. Any thrown rock heavier than a few ounces is likely to do significantly more damage than a simple punch if it connects. It’s easily a lethal attack on par with a bat, or low caliber pistol.

            I suppose that one of the disadvantages of living in a relatively peaceful society is that people rarely have occasion to learn this.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’d much rather get hit with a brick than even a .22 round. A bat sounds comparable, though.

          • Randy M says:

            Definitely depends on who threw/swung it.

          • rlms says:

            I think it does depend heavily on the size of the stone. My mental image of a stoning is a crowd of people throwing relatively small stones, and I think that’s supported by this. If it takes tens of minutes for a crowd to stone someone to death, an individual attacker throwing stones (of the same size) is probably not more threatening than one throwing punches. I definitely agree that a stone on the scale of a brick can easily be a lethal weapon, and I think most people would agree, so I assumed that was not what Mary was talking about.

          • Tibor says:

            @Randy M: Exactly. If he’s called David, then shoot first, ask questions later.

          • Mary says:

            For such judicial stonings, the size of stones to be used is limited, exactly because otherwise the death would too quick and painless.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Yes, and that’s why I explicitly mentioned the stone’s weight in my initial reply. Personally I think Hollywood has led a lot of people to simultaneously overestimate the lethality of things like knives and firearms while underestimating the seriousness of simple blunt force trauma. Characters in movies routinely survive things like a frying pan to the head with no ill effects and James Bond’s little pocket pistol is shown blowing grown men off their feet.

            Meanwhile in reality a fist-sized rock on the order of 12-24 oz thrown by a reasonably athletic adult will easily break bones. And thanks to modern medicine having a 6 inch gash or .22 or even a .38 caliber hole in your side isn’t nearly the crisis it once was.

          • albatross11 says:

            This is an area where I think fiction (particularly TV and movies) imparts negative information–watching them makes you dumber instead of smarter. Unless you’re regularly involved in either violent conflict or cleaning up after it, you probably have intuitions about how dangerous various things are (getting shot, knifed, hit with a bat, hit with a rock, etc.) that come from TV shows, and that have almost no connection to reality. (If I wanted to get good information on this, I’d start by asking people who worked big-city emergency rooms.)

            This is certainly my situation: I have TV images in my head of what happens when someone gets shot or hit in the head with a heavy object, but almost no actual data. My intuitions, based on the thousands of fictional violent incidents I’ve seen, *feel* like knowledge, but of course they’re complete bullshit, enough so that I could easily be entirely wrong about my intuitive ranking of how likely each of these is to kill, permanently disable, or temporarily disable a person.

            My sense is that most of us carry a huge amount of “knowledge” about the world that has this same property–it feels like we know a lot about something from reading/watching fiction (or news coverage made of carefully selected noncentral examples and with lots of relevant but boring details omitted), but our intuitions are crap because they’ve been trained on bad data. I suspect this comes up a lot in politics, particularly where voters are trying to reason about war and policing–both things heavily covered in fiction, but as I understand things, not at all *accurately* covered.

          • Mary says:

            an individual attacker throwing stones (of the same size) is probably not more threatening than one throwing punches.

            That’s because the punch-throwing one is profoundly dangerous and easily lethal. The “knock-out game” has, with a single punch, left people profoundly disabled and other people dead.

            More people are killed annually by hands and feet than with shotguns and rifles combined.

          • rlms says:

            @Mary
            Sure, but the relevant question isn’t how much harm punches do in total, but rather what the likely effects of a given punch are. I think that the chances of a single punch causing severe damage are small enough that shooting your attacker is not typically justified (although part of the difference between shooting an unarmed attacker and one with a knife/gun is that the one with a weapon is more likely to have lethal intentions).

          • Mary says:

            You have grossly underestimated the danger of that punch in a manner that recklessly endangers lives.

          • rlms says:

            Let’s do some stats! According to this, ~10 people per year are killed in the UK by a single punch. According to data here, there are ~100000 cases of unarmed assault in England and Wales each year (in terms of orders of magnitude, the proportion of cases without a weapon, variance from year to year, underreporting, and one-punch death statistics possibly drawing from a wider region than England and Wales don’t change much). If we assume that each case of assault is a single punch, that gives a figure of 0.01% lethality. Even including all homicides only increases it to 0.1%, and that’s without accounting for the fact that most assaults include more than one punch. People generally completely ignore probabilities of death less than 1/10000, so I think that taking the drastic step of shooting someone to prevent it (with a ~10% chance of killing them) is often likely to be unwarranted.

      • John Schilling says:

        and if that happens, given that the original Industrial Revolution cannot be repeated, we’ll be stuck unable to really advance beyond eighteenth century technology, and thus stuck on Earth until some global disaster renders us extinct.

        I don’t normally read Kevin C posts for the absurd pessimistic fatalism, but this one is more ridiculous than most, and someone should call it out.

        So, the original industrial revolution cannot be repeated. The industrial revolution based on biofuels and scrap rather than coal and ore, and with technological innovation augmented by libraries, will likely be much easier to pull off. Somewhat lower in peak intensity, perhaps, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

        • Kevin C. says:

          Have you read any John Michael Greer? Or Gribbin’s Alone in the Universe: Why Our Planet Is Unique? I find a convincing case to be made that “biofuels and scrap” might get us back to maybe “age of steam” mid-1800’s tech, but it definitely won’t get us into space. I’m not the only one who’s convinced that we have only this one shot at becoming a multi-planetary species, and if we screw it up, will never get another.

          • Bugmaster says:

            Why do you say “If” ? My feeling is that we’ve already missed our shot. It would take trillions of dollars to do anything interesting on Mars or even on the Moon; and, barring unforeseen circumstances, no geopolitical institution on Earth has that kind of money to spare, and they likely never will.

    • pontifex says:

      Heh. I mentioned The Dictator’s Handbook elsewhere in this OT. What a coincidence! The thesis of that book is really elegant (full disclosure: I haven’t read the book.)

      I guess the big question is, how big is the size of the “real selectorate” in actual democracies? We make a big deal out of voting, but it seems like there is at least as much power in the deep state these days. The justices of the supreme court, the directors of the FBI, CIA, and NSA, various functionaries in universities and government bureaucracies, have a huge amount of power. In fact, more than half of the federal budget goes to so-called “mandatory spending” on programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Politicians can’t touch these programs without provoking a huge backlash.

      To put it bluntly: Would you rather be Trump, constantly watching your back and worrying about re-election in 4 years? Or a high-level functionary in, say, the SEC, quietly making policy by fiat?

      • dndnrsn says:

        Are Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid safe because of the bureaucrats who run them, or are they safe because of the people who benefit/stand to benefit, or both?

      • John Schilling says:

        The justices of the supreme court, the directors of the FBI, CIA, and NSA, various functionaries in universities and government bureaucracies, have a huge amount of power.

        These would be the people who were almost unanimous in their desire for the President of the United States to be Not Donald Trump?

        There is power there, but you may be overestimating it – particularly if you refer to them as the “selectorate”.

      • pontifex says:

        @dndnrsn: Are Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid safe because of the bureaucrats who run them, or are they safe because of the people who benefit/stand to benefit, or both?

        I would argue that they’re safe because of the people who stand to benefit. For example, look at the huge electoral disappointment Theresa May suffered in Britain, partly because her government proposed capping certain benefits to retirees. (Of course, there is a lot of other stuff going on in Britain which confounds this analysis somewhat, but this specific decision did get discussed a lot by the opposition.)

        This really highlights another flaw in the Dictator’s Handbook analysis: democratic leaders may do something which appears good for everyone in the short term, but which is actually bad in the long term. A lot of culture war arguments hinge on a debate over whether this is in fact what is going on with various government programs and decisions. But this is topic where it’s really hard for people to be rational: if the government gives you $100, you will probably find a way to rationalize yourself as deserving that $100. If the government gives your company a huge tax break, you will probably argue that OF COURSE you need that huge tax break just to stay competitive in the modern world, because of reasons X, Y, and Z. Warren Buffet is the only real counterexample I can think of. But he’s about to retire anyway, and it’s very easy to say that the next generation should be more virtuous than you were.

        @JohnSchilling: These would be the people who were almost unanimous in their desire for the President of the United States to be Not Donald Trump? … There is power there, but you may be overestimating it – particularly if you refer to them as the “selectorate”.

        Well, Nate Silver argues that Trump would probably not even be president if Comey had not announced that he was investigating Clinton. Institutions are powerful, and I expect there to be more battles inside our government as people try to use the power of the institutions for Team Red or Team Blue. Remember Bush and Obama’s battles against “leakers”? Or Reality Winner?

        Also, how much of Trump’s agenda has actually been implemented? Obamacare looks as alive as ever. Immigration has been reduced a bit, but not to the levels that Trump claims to want. We still have boots in the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we’re still involved in Syria. Basically, for all the wailing and gnashing of teeth, almost all of what Trump has done seems like it could be undone by a Democratic president in a few weeks. I predict Trump’s most lasting legacy will be his supreme court nominees.

        • onyomi says:

          This really highlights another flaw in the Dictator’s Handbook analysis: democratic leaders may do something which appears good for everyone in the short term, but which is actually bad in the long term.

          They do actually mention the tendency of democracy to be short-sighted, though seemingly don’t provide any opposing examples where long-sighted autocracy had good results (they talk about e.g. Singapore but claim its experience may be hard to replicate; personally, I think it has at least something to do with geographic size). They clearly come down on the side of democracy as overall superior to autocracy, but I don’t think they want to claim democracy is better in every way.

          One particular problem they point out is democracies’ tendency to use small autocracies as proxies to achieve geopolitical goals to the detriment of the citizens of those countries (see e.g. our support of Saudi Arabia…)

    • hough I am totally in support of e.g. a less bellicose foreign policy (actually this is oddly one area dictatorships seem to do better in a certain way: they are apparently less likely to get bogged down in hugely expensive, interminable international conflicts because they don’t actually care as much whether they win so long as the ruler stays in power;

      On the other hand, they are more likely to engage in calculated, effect wars of aggression. That’s how kings turn into emperors.

  8. nimim.k.m. says:

    Now that I’m reminded of the idea to build a spatio-temporally high-density community of LW-sphere people in physical reality, I’m calling a quick poll: am I the only one who considers those efforts, well, a lil’ bit scary? Far too conductive situation for groupthink that will lead to catastrophic (at least in scope of individual human lives) failure modes?

    Some time ago someone linked in a OT to another (a couple of years earlier) OT discussion considering then-relevantly-active case of surprise babies resulting from an experiments with “the rationalist version” of free love (not all biological adult parties being agreeable about the consequences), and personally I got quite uneasy reading the ensuing discussion as it took granted various assumptions and followed down a path that I’d consider very very far removed from what is considered normal and ethical course of action here in the rest of the Western society. (And if I recall, some of the participants turned up, being very defensive.) And that’s the only case I’ve heard about; I find it unlikely that all Bay area entanglements of regular human lives that turn problematic with a rationalist spin get discussed in public.

    Is there any effort paid to pre-emptively correct for these kind of situations? “Let’s build a ghetto of our own” does not sound like that.

    • Bugmaster says:

      I neither live in (nor around) the Bay Area, nor do I consider myself a “rationalist”, so my opinion is probably worthless. Still, if someone came to me and said, “hey Bugmaster, let’s build a community full of people who think exactly the same way about exactly the same things as we do”, I’d probably run away really fast.

      • Matt M says:

        You sound awfully stressed, Bugmaster. Just have another glass of kool-aid. You’ll feel much better very soon 🙂

      • Anonymous says:

        I neither live in (nor around) the Bay Area, nor do I consider myself a “rationalist”, so my opinion is probably worthless. Still, if someone came to me and said, “hey Bugmaster, let’s build a community full of people who think exactly the same way about exactly the same things as we do”, I’d probably run away really fast.

        Agreed. Next thing you know, you’re the United States of America. Who would want that?

        • Bugmaster says:

          You jest, but the Puritan colonies of the USA a). were, by all accounts, quite dreary places to live, and b). almost went extinct due, in part, to the very same problems we’re discussing.

          • Anonymous says:

            You mean, the Puritan colonies as distinct organizational units went extinct, not the people themselves. AFAIK, the Puritan-descended Americans number in the tens of millions.

          • Bugmaster says:

            Yes, of course, your interpretation is correct.

          • Mary says:

            Which was the death of ” people who think exactly the same way about exactly the same things as we do.” It was a quite sudden and very thorough collapse.

    • Zephalinda says:

      Dominic Cummings’ (excellent) article on Brexit had a couple of offhand references to the need for “cognitive diversity” in our communities and public spaces.

      On reflection, it’s a concept I really like, even though the temptation to cognitive self-segregation and monoculture is obviously especially strong these days.

      **Edit: @nimim.k.m– Any chance you could link to the OT discussions you mention?

      • neaanopri says:

        I don’t think that making a community of rationalists wouldn’t necessarily achieve that, though. The focus could be put on the intellectual diversity within the rationalist community. It’d be a bit of hard work to keep this focused (and not just have it be a circlejerk about being poly), but when your community’s main feature is a commitment to inquiry and thinking about where the hell your values come from, then that might be an interesting recipe for new ideas.

        Of course to avoid the cult problem, and odd social dynamics, it would probably make more sense for this to be a camp/retreat for 1 or 2 weeks, rather than an intentional community. The consequences of social ostricization would be much less, since people could just “wait it out.”

        • Zephalinda says:

          What you’re describing might promote object-level ideological diversity (although I suspect its absolute achievements in that direction would be very limited), but that’s distinct from meta-level “cognitive diversity.”

          By definition, a community that’s based around the presumption that its members have found the One Best Method of Thinking can’t also value diversity in thought-styles– you wouldn’t get a vegan community actively seeking carnivorous members just because it’s nice to have them around.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Why do you think people join these communities? Because they don’t feel like they belong among other people. What is so wrong with trying to find people you at least have something in common with?

      • WashedOut says:

        Why do you think people join these communities? Because they don’t feel like they belong among other people.

        That’s one answer and a pretty extreme one at that. How about:

        1. Because they want to feel like part of a special group or club
        2. Because they put a very high premium on being able to anticipate how their housemate/neighbour is going to think or act
        3. Because they want to be around people they can signal intelligence to, without being thought of as a know-it-all

        What is so wrong with trying to find people you at least have something in common with?

        Loaded question and the wrong one at that. The question is what are the risks and do they outweigh the benefits associated with Answers 1) – 3).

        To my mind the risks are:
        a) Formation of thought-‘silos’ / lack of exposure to views and arguments outside of the group
        b) Fragmentation of the community into smaller sub-communities that simply echo the ‘outside world’ (i.e. the micro starts to look like the macro anyway)
        c) Tendency to have elitist attitudes reinforced, exclusion of potentially suitable housemates/neighbours on the basis of your evaluation of their intellectual character

        The mission seems to be how to prevent such a community from turning into Less Wrong’s tryhard Fight Club minus the philosophical drive and muscle definition.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Why can’t nerds do anything without people assuming the worst of them? You don’t know anything about these people, so stop speculating on their ulterior motives in the most uncharitable way.

          • WashedOut says:

            Funny, I thought the same thing when I read your post.

            In one bite you allege that people who want to form these communities:

            don’t feel like they belong among other people

            and they are

            trying to find people [they] at least have something in common with

            Compare these two claims to my suggested alternatives and see which is more of an unfair jump.

            Also, if you care, the term ‘nerd’ is not one I would apply casually to all LW/SSC.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Yes, sometimes it goes horribly, but isn’t this also how most every human community got started? At some point groups of people said “Screw this, screw this place, and screw all of you!” and that’s how humans left Africa for Europe and Asia, and left Europe for the New World, and the east coast for the west coast, etc. I definitely think one of our problems today is that there’s no where else to screw off to.

      If a portal to a New Earth opened up and you could go off to live with just people of your Tribe (whatever that may be) and just not have to deal with all those backwards Others, would you go? Better question, would everyone else let you go?

      ETA: I do think, though, that the problem a rationalist community would have is that reason is far more useful for telling you what is, and not how you ought to act. I recall reading on an SSC open thread that religious intentional societies have a much higher success rate. i.e., a colony based on some non-millenarian branch of Christianity will probably work better because its founding guidelines are designed around not behaving in ways that make people want to kill each other.

      • Bugmaster says:

        If a portal to a New Earth opened up and you could go off to live with just people of your Tribe (whatever that may be) and just not have to deal with all those backwards Others, would you go?

        I mean, yeah, I’d go just because transdimensional portals are super cool. However, I would find the environment oppressive. I’d much rather got to a place where people disagree with me sometimes; and not just on trivial matters, either.

      • Bugmaster says:

        In response to your edit:

        I think there’s a difference between “rationalists”, and upper-case-R “Rationalists”. Lower-case rationalists are just people who try to avoid mental biases as much as possible; as such, they probably don’t exist as a coherent group (or, arguably, at all). Upper-case Rationalists have a very specific set of beliefs regarding e.g. cryonics, polyamory, AI, and EA; they also share a common jargon and a shared cultural heritage (e.g. HPMoR, the Sequences, etc.). As such, they absolutely do constitute a distinct tribe.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I want to know Descartes and Leibniz’s beliefs regarding cryonics, polyamory, and AI.

        • neaanopri says:

          I’ve definitely seen this and I think that SSC has a lot more rationalists than Rationalists. I’ve never met a real life Rationalist, do they exist?

          • Bugmaster says:

            Apparently, they are all living together in some polyamorous house in the Bay Area somewhere 🙂

      • pontifex says:

        If a portal to a New Earth opened up and you could go off to live with just people of your Tribe (whatever that may be) and just not have to deal with all those backwards Others, would you go?

        Yes. I already made that decision once, when I chose to move away from my home town. I would make it again… under the right conditions.

    • neaanopri says:

      Any possible link to this thread?

    • pontifex says:

      Now that I’m reminded of the idea to build a spatio-temporally high-density community of LW-sphere people in physical reality, I’m calling a quick poll: am I the only one who considers those efforts, well, a lil’ bit scary? Far too conductive situation for groupthink that will lead to catastrophic (at least in scope of individual human lives) failure modes?

      Groups of like-minded people come together all the time without causing “catastrophic… failure modes.” I mean that’s basically every church, every club, every political advocacy group. I don’t see why rationalists (big R or small R) coming together would be any worse. Unless you seriously believe that they are going to create skynet or the next world religion. Which is absurd, since that’s obviously scheduled to happen at Google and Facebook, respectively.

      Some time ago someone linked in a OT to another (a couple of years earlier) OT discussion considering then-relevantly-active case of surprise babies resulting from an experiments with “the rationalist version” of free love…

      I think this is a case where you really ought to just have the object-level debate about polyamory rather than try to have some meta-level debate about rationalists meeting IRL. The meta-level argument seems extremely weak. Personally, I think stable monogamous relationships are “better” than polyamory. But I also don’t think it’s any of my business if people want to choose one over the other…

    • andhishorse says:

      It seems like a lot of the variance in discomfort here arises from varied opinions on the degree to which “let’s build a Rationalist+ community” implies “where the members will have reduced ease of access to non-Rationalist+ individuals”.

      The truth lies somewhere between “let’s build a community to which we can teleport at any time, requiring no changes or location or other permanent commitments which might detract from our individual memberships in other communities” and “let’s build a one-way portal to out own private dimension”. I think the most productive thing would be to determine where specific proposals fall on this spectrum, which ranges of the spectrum are desirable, and which subsets of proposal-space are likely or easy.

  9. fahertym says:

    “Privilege” is arguably the fundamental concept of the American Left today. I attempted to explain “Privilege Theory” and describe some broad criticisms of it in practice:

    https://randomreadingtopics.wordpress.com/2017/06/26/a-critique-of-privilege-theory/

    “The worst part of this Privilege Theory moral paradigm is the psychological incentives it creates in its followers. It makes privilege a vice, and lack of privilege a virtue. By extension, characteristics which are ostensibly good in reality are bad in morality, and vice versa. Having money, not being arrested, being treated with respect, and not being sexually abused are all objectively good things in our lives, but basically make you a bad person whose opinions are tainted and irrelevant. Meanwhile, being poor, being arrested, not being respected, and being sexually abused are all objectively bad things in life, but make you a good person whose opinions are accurate and relevant.”

    • Bugmaster says:

      FWIW, I think the first part of your article — the steelmanning portion — is probably accurate (although I’m not a social justice person, so I could be wrong). However, it could definitely benefit from some editing. At the very minimum, you should add some subject headings, e.g. “Privilege Basics”, “Epistemology”, “Ethics”, and “Solutions”. I would also try to think of a way to shorten your paragraphs (though, admittedly, I don’t know how).

      One piece of content I would change is the paragraph that starts with this:

      If the white individual was lazy in school, didn’t study for the SATs, got caught smoking pot…

      In your example, the white oppressor and the black oppress-ee are engaging in diametrically opposed behaviors. But I don’t think that the majority of SJWs have such a scenario as their core example of privilege (though some do, surely). Rather, they would say that, because or privilege, the exact same behaviors produce radically different outcomes for the black kid vs. the white kid. If both students were caught smoking pot at the same time, the black kid would go to juvie and have his career prospects ruined; whereas the white kid would get a slap on the wrist and go on to Yale. Similarly, if both kids applied to Yale, and had the exact same grades, then the white kid would get in just because he’s white — which, by the way, is why we need Affirmative Action.

      • fahertym says:

        Paragraph length is something I’ve always struggled with while writing. I tend to swing back and forth between too long and short.

        I take your point on the standard SJW scenario, but in my subjective experience with SJWs, the “outcome-based” scenario is just as, if not more common. I’m considering adding in the other side.

        • Aapje says:

          The two scenario’s can coexist. I believe that a person can both be treated worse in the same situation than a person with a different trait and also that they can be pushed to self-destructive behavior. The former can plausibly cause the latter.

          For example, men who are victims of domestic violence are more likely to be denied appropriate help, like counseling that doesn’t presume that they are the perpetrator, which may cause them to engage in alternative forms of treatment, like doing drugs or drinking. The latter can in turn cause new problems.

          Of course, one could give a similar example for women.

          My main point of disagreement is the oppressor/oppressed dichotomy. Most of the bad things in SJ results from having to rationalize away all kinds of inconvenient facts that clash with the tribal notion that some traits make people exclusively oppressors or the oppressed.

      • metacelsus says:

        Similarly, if both kids applied to Yale, and had the exact same grades, then the white kid would get in just because he’s white — which, by the way, is why we need Affirmative Action.

        These days, affirmative action means that the black kid with the same grades would get in, whereas the white one wouldn’t. Still, I agree with the example about smoking pot.

        • MoebiusStreet says:

          And also at the opposite end of the spectrum, an asian kid pretty much needs to walk on water to get into a top school.

    • onyomi says:

      My biggest problem with the concept, related to your “makes good things into bad things” argument is that it suffers from something maybe analogous to “Copenhagen ethics.”

      For example, imagine a small country with only East Asians. It is a wealthy, peaceful nation and the residents enjoy a very high average standard of living. Do the people living in this country enjoy “Asian privilege”? It seems strange to say so when there is no one of any other race living there. But then suppose this country experiences a big influx of white immigration and the whites are, on average, much poorer, less well educated, and more prone to criminality than the native Asian population. They enjoy significantly worse life outcomes, are discriminated against as employees, are more likely to be targets of police suspicion, often unfairly, etc. Now are the Asians in this country enjoying “Asian privilege”?

      It seems to me that they are not enjoying Asian privilege. Rather the whites are suffering from the effects of bias against them, in addition to many problems they brought with them at higher rates than the native population. The idea that in the homogeneous case the Asians are not enjoying “privilege,” but in the case where the poor whites come they are seems strange. If anything, we probably assume most of the rich Asians wish the poor whites had not come. They don’t feel “privileged” by their presence, even if it means they are relatively wealthier by the standards of their new, poorer society.

      That is, it is almost as if being in contact with poor people makes you a worse person for not being as poor as them. But if you just happen to live somewhere with no poor people then you’re fine. Like if the influx of whites was due to a liberalization of immigration laws on humanitarian grounds, the “privilege” framework would seem to impute more need for guilt and self-examination on the part of the Asians who did enact such a law relative to before or the hypothetical case in which they remained closed.

      It reminds me a bit of another pet peeve, which is people from very racially homogeneous parts of the USA or the world lecturing e.g. white Southerners about how horribly racist they are.

      • J Mann says:

        Well, to challenge that a little, it’s certainly true that the existing citizens in your hypothetical might have advantages that they don’t realize. Let’s say that there’s a benefit to having family members or family friends in hiring and mentoring positions.

        The new immigrants won’t have those established networks, and it might take decades for the networks to even out, if they ever do. In those circumstances, if we imagine a native born citizen lecturing an immigrant, it would be good for the native to appreciate her existing advantages.

        That doesn’t answer the question of what duty it creates, if any, but in that hypo, at least, it’s there.

      • Tedd says:

        The idea that in the homogeneous case the Asians are not enjoying “privilege,” but in the case where the poor whites come they are seems strange.

        … Why? It’s fundamentally a relative concept; it talks about the differences in experiences between two groups.

        That is, it is almost as if being in contact with poor people makes you a worse person for not being as poor as them.

        It is impossible to read anything by anyone writing about privilege and not see them mention that being privileged is not a moral condemnation.

        • Progressive Reformation says:

          It is impossible to read anything by anyone writing about privilege and not see them mention that being privileged is not a moral condemnation.

          And yet it’s also impossible to spend any time around these people (like, say, at my university) and not get the sense that a significant and influential subset of these people actually do consider it a moral condemnation – and they can get their way. When we consider the increasingly stringent and unreasonable standards applied to, say, “harassment” or “bigotry”, and the punishments which can come with these, it becomes even clearer. Classic example: https://500hats.com/im-a-creep-i-m-sorry-d2c13e996ea0

          The poor sap is so indoctrinated he appears to believe it himself. He dared to show romantic interest in a woman? In a semi-work, semi-social setting? Quel horreur!

          As far as I can tell, it’s classic motte-and-bailey.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            SocJus privilege talk was the impetus for Scott’s classic motte-and-baily essay.

            So, Tedd, I completely understand that when speaking to the enemy, social justice advocates make strict assurances that they are not being morally condemned for their privilege. But as soon as the evil oppressors are out of earshot…

            Also it doesn’t even have to be intentional. We must remember that most everyone is stupid. For every C.S. Lewis writing beautiful apologetics for the Christian way of life we’ve got 100 bible bangers who just want to scream hellfire at sinners. For every calm and reasonable discussion about the ways in which social and political structures have differential (and unfair) impact on different groups of people you’ve got 100 bitter minorities who want an excuse to scream “kill whitey.”

            I think this is something that will happen to any movement or system of social control. You will have at the base the thoughtful, true believers who understand the system and why it’s good and will live by it anyway, and then a free-floating contingent of people looking for anything to give them social power. 30 years ago, that contingent was attracted to religion. Today that contingent is attracted to social justice, because screaming “SINNER!” at someone is more likely to backfire on you than hurt them, whereas there’s still power is screaming “RACIST!” This too will eventually change.

        • onyomi says:

          It is impossible to read anything by anyone writing about privilege and not see them mention that being privileged is not a moral condemnation.

          Why then, not just use the word “lucky”?

          “Recognize how lucky you are to be a white, middle-to-upper class American.”

          • Matt M says:

            I feel like if you are “lucky” to be something, it implies that thing is better than the alternative. The whole point of “privilege” is that it’s a bad thing. The idea is that the privilege should either wrack you with guilt throughout your life, or at the very least, the fact that you were handed so much unjust benefits should make you weak compared to others. The unprivileged are supposed to feel superior to the privileged, a dynamic that doesn’t really exist with “lucky”

          • The point of privilege is that it is instrumentally good but morally bad.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            “Lucky”, unfortunately, does not lend itself to the sort of motte-and-bailey you can pull off with the aid of the older meaning of “privilege”: you can no longer insinuate that your outgroup are a select few who aren’t subject to the same rules as the rest of us, and if called on it plead that you’re accusing them of nothing worse than ordinary good fortune.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          It is impossible to read anything by anyone writing about privilege and not see them mention that being privileged is not a moral condemnation.

          1) It is entirely possible to read quite a few things by people writing about privilege in which there is no mention that being privileged is not a moral condemnation. Links available on request, but we can start with Freddie DeBoer and John Scalzi and go from there.

          2) It is also made quite clear that disputing or refusing to acknowledge and repent of one’s white privilege IS a moral failing, making one complicit in an ongoing systematic oppression and abuse of various minorities.

          • John Scalzi [as an example of someone who thinks privilege is a moral condemnation]

            That is NOT AT ALL what I get from Scalzi. Indeed, he has written in grateful terms (no “repentance”) about the privileges and advantages he received, getting a scholarship to a topnotch private school, etc.

          • onyomi says:

            @Larry Kestenbaum

            Ironically, I think privilege proponents could achieve* a lot more if they simply emphasized gratitude rather than guilt.

            *Of their stated goals, at least. Though I think part of the problem is that at least some privilege proponents seem to use “privilege” as a more of rhetorical stick to silence people saying things they don’t like.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Indeed, he has written in grateful terms (no “repentance”) about the privileges and advantages he received, getting a scholarship to a topnotch private school, etc.

            Yet he wants the rest of us to don the sackcloth and ashes for being straight white males playing life on “The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is”.

          • John Schilling says:

            Privilege itself may not be seen as needing moral condemnation, but being insufficiently apologetic about one’s privilege sure seems to be condemned a lot. And the easy way to demonstrate that one is sufficiently apologetic, particularly for those not inclined to humility, is to call out and condemn other people who aren’t apologizing for their privilege.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Larry Kestenbaum

            Perhaps I should’ve structured the comment differently, but to be clear 1 and 2 were so numbered because they are independent and separate points, not related to one another. My only point re: Scalzi and DeBoer was that they have written articles about privilege that do not contain the statement or explanation or clarification that being privileged is not something to be condemned, and that therefore the statement “It is impossible to read anything by anyone writing about privilege and not see them mention that being privileged is not a moral condemnation.” is not actually true.

            Point 2, OTOH, was general and not aimed at any specific writers, though if you’d like me to be specific I can provide examples. Scalzi AFAIK has not said that denying privilege was immoral, simply stupid and dishonest (he compares it to being a ‘gravity-denier’), but I stopped reading his non-fiction output some years back so I may have missed something.

        • gbdub says:

          It is impossible to read anything by anyone writing about privilege and not see them mention that being privileged is not a moral condemnation.

          This usually seems a little insincere, at best. Sort of how “No offense but…” or “I’m not racist but” is almost invariably followed by something at least a little offensive / racist.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            The idea of racism as a moral evil is a relatively modern notion. And what it is that constitutes racism is under continuous revision.

            When someone says “I’m not racist but” — I interpret it to mean the following: “I accept the idea that racism is a moral evil and yet have to qualify this statement because of the ambiguity surrounding what it actually encompasses and am at least subconsciously aware that someone is going to consider what I have to say falling into the category of racism”

            Typically it’s because they have to say something directly or indirectly unflattering about a non-European racial or ethnic group
            but causing physical or psychological harm isn’t their intent.

            People that reject the idea that there’s anything wrong with Racism as such don’t make such prefaces.

          • Zodiac says:

            A: I think black face for halloween costumes shouldn’t be considered racism.

            B: I’m not a racist but I think black face for halloween costumes shouldn’t be considered racism.

            Does A appear the same amount of racist as B?

      • John Schilling says:

        … Why? It’s fundamentally a relative concept; it talks about the differences in experiences between two groups.

        It also strongly implies something about the cause of those differences. If Group X has the same experience before and after the arrival of Group Y, then the causal implication of “privilege” does not apply to group X’s experience and you probably ought to chose a different word.

      • Civilis says:

        For example, imagine a small country with only East Asians. It is a wealthy, peaceful nation and the residents enjoy a very high average standard of living. Do the people living in this country enjoy “Asian privilege”? It seems strange to say so when there is no one of any other race living there. But then suppose this country experiences a big influx of white immigration and the whites are, on average, much poorer, less well educated, and more prone to criminality than the native Asian population. They enjoy significantly worse life outcomes, are discriminated against as employees, are more likely to be targets of police suspicion, often unfairly, etc. Now are the Asians in this country enjoying “Asian privilege”?

        No, they’re experiencing a combination of “native privilege”, “class privilege”, “education privilege”, etc., for which “Asian” is a useful but inexact proxy, and it’s only the hypothetical scenario which makes the Asian proxy useful.

        The original term, meaning “private law”, had predictive value. You could speak of feudal nobles having privileges and mean something. You can speak of whites under Jim Crow as having privileges and mean something, because what qualified as a white and what legal benefit they gained was codified. The problem with the privilege language as used today is that it is almost inevitably applied not directly but across a succession of proxies, and the predictive value of those is hidden by the sheer number of variables involved.

        I’m willing to grant that “wealth privilege” and “education privilege” have some predictive value, even if there’s no legal distinction. If we take “white privilege” as a proxy for a combination of “wealth privilege”, “education privilege” and other advantages more typically found in white Americans, I can see the temptation to generalize, but to talk of a specific poor, uneducated white American using “white privilege” makes little sense. For that matter, as per the original post, talking about “wealth privilege” and “education privilege” makes little sense when you can talk about “intelligence privilege” or “attractive privilege”.

        Any society will condition people to choose the path of highest reward / lowest risk. If being “not privileged” is rewarded, then people will choose to present themselves as “not privileged” or define “privilege” to their benefit. In that case, being able to define oneself as “not privileged” becomes a privilege, and we’ve entered the territory where general claims of privilege (or lack thereof) cease to have usefulness.

        From my experience, those arguing privilege seem to have a level of education, social skills, intelligence, and access to communications that puts them well into the privileged half of the public.

        • fahertym says:

          “From my experience, those arguing privilege seem to have a level of education, social skills, intelligence, and access to communications that puts them well into the privileged half of the public.”

          I tried to write a section on this, but I couldn’t quite figure out how without it sounding like an Ad Homninem. Privilege Theory advocates aren’t just in the privileged “half” of the public, they tend to be in the very highest strata of privilege by the most typical outcomes. Some of the biggest SJW controversies happened in places like Berkeley and Yale, where even the most mediocre students are among the most privileged people on earth. Even being in America at all makes one ultra-privileged by global standards.

          So we have a weird situation where people are are more privileged than 99% of people on earth are yelling at the people who are more privileged than 99.9% of people on earth for not properly checking their privilege.

          But I’m not sure what to make of this.

          • Aapje says:

            @fahertym

            Isn’t that just the same phenomenon as many wealthy people complaining that they can’t make ends meet, claiming that they are middle class, etc?

            It seems to me that this is (similar to) the outgroup homogeneity effect, where people are less able to see the great gaps between people who are both far away to one side, while very aware of the gaps of those very similar to them.

            So people then tend to rate the experience of the really badly off as very similar to those who are just a bit worse of than them, while similarly rating the experience of the really well off as very similar to those who are just a bit better off than them.

          • Zephalinda says:

            So we have a weird situation where people are are more privileged than 99% of people on earth are yelling at the people who are more privileged than 99.9% of people on earth for not properly checking their privilege.
            But I’m not sure what to make of this.

            SJ ideology surrounding “privilege” generally carries with it a clear set of corollary attitudes and policy objectives that are supposed to follow naturally from society getting “woke” to privilege– I think the answer is to look at these corollaries.

            Bob from Berkeley, a standard highly-educated member of the American upper gentry, posts angrily about how folks should check their privilege. What are the implications?

            –First, that we should accord additional regard to Bob himself. He may be privileged, but he’s a wise and compassionate fellow who sees the injustice inherent in the system.

            –Second, that we should help the underprivileged– but, importantly, only in ways that direct resources and power to Bob’s class. It’s never “Bob in Berkeley should cut a check to Jamal in downtown Detroit,” but “We should agree to raise taxes across the board, in order to hire lots more (educated, gentry) social workers, case managers, nonprofit directors, community organizers, etc., to minister to Jamal. Also perhaps some (educated, gentry) Area Studies professors to study from afar how Jamal has been kept down. Also, more grants for (gentry, educated) poet/artists to aesthetically depict Jamal’s plight!”

            (“AND if Jamal should happen to be bright and functional, well, we’ll pluck him from his current debased state to elevate him to Berkeley, where he can adorn our ranks and become himself an upper-middle-class person who talks about privilege!”)

            From here, at least, it looks like straight-up bourgeois self-aggrandizement, with some proxy/client-class dynamics thrown in. Otherwise, why would there be the heavy insistence that Jamal actually has no control of his own fate, that he and his class are helpless, miserable, and will never rise without the help of an army of comfortably-paid upper-middle-class Bobs?

          • Brad says:

            The flaw in the economic analysis is that jobs listed (social worker, caseworker) have pay that over time has fallen and fallen to the point where they aren’t competitive with jobs that don’t require any bachelor degree, much less a fancy one from Berkeley. Likewise journalism is more precarious and low paid then ever. Artists never made any money. Public interest lawyers can’t make their loan payments. Even humanities and social science professors don’t make an especially good salary, at least outside of a few specialties that mostly aren’t germane to the discussion.

            If it’s all about aggrandizing their class interests, then they are doing a remarkably poor job of it.

          • Zephalinda says:

            @Brad– but (a) ime most woke folks also denounce the low pay of social workers/ nonprofit workers, etc., and support raising these wages; (b) in any case, increased demand for social workers, etc., should raise wages, and (c) if you buy this taxonomy of American social class (which I like because it certainly rings 100% true to my own G2 experience) then the gentry as a class strongly values the social capital attached to being an “influencer” who works with ideas, even if that means e.g. working as a starving artist or college professor.

            Plus, class-warfare-style, if hiring more social workers and college professors means we direct money away from laboring-class occupations like police or soldiers, then it has at least a comparative benefit for the middle class regardless of the absolute value.

          • Brad says:

            @Zephalinda
            I think your argument can’t be compatible with this group being really powerful in our society.

            If it were then some minor advantage relative to the absent-the-ideology-world wouldn’t cut it. If the group were really powerful, all those calls to raise salaries would have worked, not maybe kind of, sort of slowed the decline.

            If this is class warfare then the class in question is losing badly.

            Also, the calls for more money contradict your claim that it isn’t about money but rather social capital. If money didn’t matter then why the calls to raise those salaries?

            To sum up: either the marxist analysis doesn’t explain what’s going on or the group in question is quite weak. Or both.

          • fahertym says:

            @Aapje

            “Isn’t that just the same phenomenon as many wealthy people complaining that they can’t make ends meet, claiming that they are middle class, etc?”

            Probably yes. To use Scott’s Outgroup/Ingroup analogy, it’s kind of like the German Nazis hating the German Jews and liking the Japanese even though the Nazis are far more similar to the former than the latter.

            Another factor to consider is that pretty much all intellectual movements originate from wealthy, educated privileged people. They have revolutionary ideas about how “the world” operates, but they live within their own social groups and don’t know much outside of it, so they work to achieve their goals within their limited purview. At least the Marxists should get credit for trying to spread their ideas to poor people.

          • Zephalinda says:

            @Brad– I totally agree that a straightforwardly Marxist approach doesn’t work here, and I don’t think I was trying to take that approach (for one thing, his class taxonomy doesn’t map at all straightforwardly onto the one I was using). But it’s beastly difficult to do any sort of class-based analysis without the terms getting muddled up with his.

            I’ll check in tonight, when I have more time, and take another stab at clarifying.

          • Civilis says:

            If it were then some minor advantage relative to the absent-the-ideology-world wouldn’t cut it. If the group were really powerful, all those calls to raise salaries would have worked, not maybe kind of, sort of slowed the decline.

            What has happened is that the supply of graduates in the social justice adjacent fields is higher than the demand. Left-leaning professors in the academy encourage funding for their programs, hoping to turn out more socially-conscious graduates able to enact social change, only to find out the marginal utility of each additional diversity studies graduate is minimal and that these graduates now demand jobs. Having created a supply of specialized labor, they then had to create a source of jobs (such as community organizer positions) or funding (such as art grants).

            Ultimately, though, not all influence is equal. The ability to change the curricula at a major university is very different than the ability to get money from the government. Governments are pressed for money, and the return on specialized social labor is low, and university professors are finding that they’re not as privileged as a group as, say, public school teachers, when it comes to prioritizing spending.

      • Mary says:

        Yes. Consider the essay’s Mary versus, say, a Zoya, also black and female, born an albino in Africa, whose family kept her out of school to keep her from being murdered by witchdoctors for body parts.

        Why is Mary entitled to full credit when she is starting with American privilege?

    • J Mann says:

      Privilege is a squishy enough term that it’s hard to have a clear conversation with someone who doesn’t agree with you – you usually need to unpack it before you can discuss it.

      – I think you’ve got the baseline definition down. There are a couple nuances I see often, however.

      — One is that privilege is often used as a shorthand for lack of knowledge. SJ twitter is full of people talking about how exhausting it is to take to white guys, because white guys think they know everything and you have to “spoon feed” them into understanding you. I tend to think this kind of etymologically arrogant stereotyping is dangerous, because the woke member of the conversation assumes that he or she doesn’t really have to challenge his or her own ideas or try to apply charity to the white guy because he’s a white guy and what do they know, but of course, I guess I would think that, because I’m a white guy.

      — Another is that privilege often reduces to confidence – that a privileged individual walks into a room or an interview or a problem without much fear of discrimination, and this confidence is a virtuous circle, whereas the anti-privileged live an a environment of self-doubt and rage, constantly shaking with anger over some microaggression or other. (Ray Gillette to Sterling Archer: “Why do you always act like everything is just going to work out for you?” Archer: “Because it almost always does!!!”)

      Last random comment on privilege: Moldbug has a funny but not helpful bit someplace about how in an environment where one group is allowed to use language reserved for them alone, and another group is required to atone for offenses to the first group, those are literally “privileges.”

    • Brad says:

      Really excellent essay. The steelman at the top was particularly well done, but I thought several of the critique sections were good as well.

      I take exception to this though:

      “Privilege” is arguably the fundamental concept of the American Left today.

      Depending on where exactly you want to draw the line, the American left is 30-90 million people. As you point out in your blog post most people have a realist view of the world. I’d say overwhelmingly so. It can’t be the case that a non-realist theory is the fundamental concept of the American Left when the overwhelming majority of the people that make up the American Left accept realism.

      While vaguely positive references are more common, the strong form of privilege theory is a fringe position. That said it is certainly still worth discussing and your blog post does an admirable job of that.

      • Mary says:

        Only if you assume intellectual consistency.

      • fahertym says:

        Thanks for the comment.

        I take your point on the American Left, so I’ll modify my statement:

        I think Privilege Theory is largely derived from the Rawlsian Veil of Ignorance, the latter of which IS a fundamental concept in the American Left. The difference between the two is that Privilege Theory is built on a non-realist view which extends into epistemology whereas the Veil of Ignorance is only concerned with ethics. Privilege Theory is foundation to the American academic Left, but you’re right it hasn’t penetrated too strongly into the standard progressive mindset. In my experience standard progressives still have enough of a Bullshit Sensor to reject Privilege Theory.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      You should read Nietzsche, specifically his Genealogy of Morals, because it looks like you’ve partially re-invented his concepts of ressentiment and slave morality / Slavenmoral.

      The idea that the weak, whether weak as a matter of fact or just within their own minds, invert the ‘good’ of the strong to create their conception of ‘evil’ is at the heart of his critique of Jewish and Christian morality. Any marker of health, wealth and beauty which the strong naturally value is feared and hated by the weak as a symbol of oppression. That fear and hatred cannot be directly expressed towards the strong but is redirected back onto themselves as self-hatred and anxiety. The weak tear themselves and one another down while calling it virtue.

      Privilege is the most explicit I’ve ever heard of anyone else being about this process. It is a precise inversion of values, with anything you might call good fortune being labelled as a social evil.

      • fahertym says:

        I have read the Genealogy of Morals and definitely see the similarities. It’s interesting that both Nietzsche and SJWs are both anti-rationalists on opposite sides of the Master-Slave Morality dichotomy. We could probably build a paradigm wherein the Alt-Right sees itself as the Nietzshean response to SJW slave morality.

        I’m also a big fan of Ayn Rand, and although her comparison with Nietzsche is typically overblown, this is one area where they overlap considerably.

        • Wrong Species says:

          The alt-right is the Nietzshean response to SJW slave morality. People talk about Nietzsche like his political views are this esoteric thing but that’s because they don’t want to face the truth. He most strongly resembles the right when you take away religion. If he was alive today, he would probably be a techno-commercialist.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I think you’re making a common mistake regarding Nietzsche.

            The Alt Right is, first and foremost, about trying to protect our people. An economic policy of protectionism, a foreign policy of non-entanglement and defense, and a domestic policy of conserving what’s left of our communities and traditions. It’s a last-ditch attempt to stop the decline of western civilization.

            Those are exactly the sort of instincts Nietzsche would deride. He would respond that the things we take meaning from and want to defend are already beyond saving. That the only way forward is to create new values, values which a more beautiful and more wicked humanity can follow.

          • Mary says:

            Leaving aside that if you throw away the values you have no standards to say that humanity is more or less beautiful or wicked, why does he assume we have to share his value of deserting things that other people call past saving?

          • Wrong Species says:

            The term alt-right has certainly narrowed in the last couple years. I meant it in the more expansive use that includes people like Nick Land.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      I thought the first part of your post was doing alright until this:

      “Privilege is the foundation of knowledge and identity, and by extension, is the foundation of the philosophical domains of epistemology and ethics. First we must recognize that both knowledge and morality are subjectively determined by the individual. This is because our ability to understand the world is fundamentally informed (or altered) by our privilege. Our understandings of our minds, bodies, selves, and relationships to all other people and entities is determined by the circumstances in which our minds develop. Individuals brought up in different environments (ie. with different forms of privilege) will have radically different understandings of the world.

      It is important to note that there is no way to determine what is “true” (ie. what is the nature of reality independent of human consciousness) either because our privilege will always distort our attempts to ascertain truth, or because the very concept of truth does not apply to epistemology or ethics. Instead, we must accept that all information exists in a state of flux as determined by ever-shifting group power balances.”

      This is no part of privilege theory as I understand it. If you want to build it in to your target, fine, but then you’re leaving out a massive swathe of people who talk about privilege, especially those outside of the few academic departments where these radical postmodern views are popular.

      Then, of course, your first criticism was of the postmodern thing. I stopped reading at that point because I thought the piece was going to be addressing me and the people I know who like to talk about privilege but none of them hold those stupid views. They think that facts about privilege are things you can find evidence for and know in the perfectly ordinary, non-postmodern sense.

      Ask yourself: how many in the American left do you think hold the view that “there is no way to determine what is ‘true'”?(Hint: very few) Then ask yourself if this is really fair to include in a discussion of something you want to identify as “arguably the fundamental concept of the American Left today”.

  10. Zephalinda says:

    Folks who’ve done scholarly/academic writing in the natural or social sciences (papers, dissertations, grant proposals)– what resources or advice have helped improve your writing in those contexts?

    • Eltargrim says:

      Reading more. Lots and lots more, particularly (though not exclusively) papers in your field.

      Editing the work of others. You can’t change everything, so you have to figure out what changes are actually important. This is easily transferred to your own writing.

      Practice brevity. Purple prose in scientific writing is harmful to the reader and to your chances of publication. Be clear and concise, and very slightly repetitive.

      This is chemistry-specific, but adhering to the IUPAC writing standards has helped me keep my typographical style consistent and understandable. Inconsistent use of symbols is confusing for the reader.

      If you’re writing for a particular purpose (e.g. grant, specific journal), keep their requirements in mind before you touch the keyboard. For documents with particularly stringent restrictions (my last grant application was one page!) make an outline of your intentions before you start writing.

      Finally, get feedback. Either from coauthors (who are going to be reading it anyway, so it’s convenient) or from peers. Try to ask people who you know are good writers, either by direct evidence (their papers) or indirect evidence (lots of grants!). If you’re uncomfortable sharing parts of your work with your close peers, your university may have a writing support centre. The centre at my university is used by everyone from freshmen writing their first essay to PhD candidates writing their dissertation. That said, the longer your document, the more specific your questions should be. Don’t inflict the full body of your dissertation on anyone but your committee.

    • Vermillion says:

      I’ll second everything that Eltargrim has said and add for the love of all that is holy scientific, use a citation manager. They are a huge huge time saver and also make finding that one reference you only sort of remember downloading a lot easier, although nowadays that feature is only marginally more useful than Google Scholar. I’m fond of Mendeley, EndNote is also popular but it was too buggy for me.

      Other resources: InCites can help you find a journal to submit to, I suggest starting as high as you can reasonably expect to and work your way down. Your PI probably has ideas, and also look at the journals that you’re citing a lot, they’re probably going to be relevant for your work too.

      Make your figures look good! Invest the time in learning how to use Illustrator or some free equivalent, it’s worth the effort. Remember, every time you make a figure in Powerpoint Charles Darwin kills a finch.

      Dedicate several hours every single day to working, and actually work doing that time. I combined Beeminder (see sidebar) with the Pomodoro technique and it looks like I’m going to finish my dissertation ahead of schedule and without paying a dime. A friend of mine on the other hand signed up after I told him about it and he’s down about 130 dollars over the last 6 months. But he also finished a publication that he’d been sitting on for awhile so I’d call that a pretty fair value.

      Keep at it, and good luck!

      • Eltargrim says:

        I’ll second Mendeley. My writing workflow is research via Google Scholar, Scifinder, and Sci-Hub, organization via Mendeley, and writing via TeXMaker. Rather than use Mendeley’s BibTeX options, I export the citations from Google Scholar into the appropriate BibTeX file. I find that Mendeley has a hard time handling some of the titles in my field, and has an annoying bug with the initial A. The name Aaronson, A., becomes Aaronson, a.. Very frustrating.

        Pomodoro has been helpful when I have a dedicated block of time to write, but often I need to toss down paragraphs in between other responsibilities. My melts are a fickle mistress, and students need guidance. I use Toggl to keep track of how I’m splitting my time between projects, and if I’m not spending enough time on writing I can block off a protected chunk.

        I heartily endorse working in something better than Powerpoint/Excel. I spend far more time than I like wrangling with Office products. With how my lab is made up, though, it’s one of the only options that allows us to share. My datasets are mercifully small, so it’s not the worst thing in the world (sorry finches!).

        Oh, and one other writing tip for papers: have all of your figures substantially finished before you start writing at all. You don’t have to have them journal-formatted yet, but you don’t want any surprises from that last experiment ruining a couple weeks worth of writing. Having the figures finished and organized helps you communicate the story your data are telling.

    • John Schilling says:

      (papers, dissertations, grant proposals)

      One piece of advice would be, don’t reduce the difference between those three to a parenthetical aside.

      Papers are easy, relatively speaking. They flow organically from the research you are writing the paper about, and they are generally targeted at a forgiving audience. You can write a decent paper in a day or two, so any motivational issues are amenable to e.g. caffeine-based solutions, and you should be doing all the writing while the research is still fresh in your memory.

      You can’t really do that with a dissertation, which means you need a more structured and organized approach. One which really has to begin when you start doing the research, long before you start writing the dissertation proper. It helps if you consider writing your lab notes and interim papers as if they will turn into chapters of the dissertation – that probably won’t be literally true because they will be too disjoint to just stitch together like that, but they should at least contain all the information you’ll need and convey all the insight you would otherwise forgotten.

      Then, as you close on the deadline, you’ll need to set aside specific blocks of time to do the writing. If you just do it in your “spare time”, and particularly if you don’t actually have a deadline, it won’t get done.

      Grant proposals can be as easy as papers, with the advantage that you are writing about research you haven’t done yet and can thus imagine up a trouble-free process with clean and convincing results. But you need to understand your audience, because different funding agencies have different ideas about what they want to see. It is really helpful if you can read through a sampling of some other successful grant proposals for that agency.

      • seb says:

        From my personal experience (mostly experimental physics), I found writing my Master’s thesis and dissertation easier than writing papers, especially for the more prestigious journals. I disliked the short length limit and the required ‘marketing’ in the introduction.

    • Well... says:

      Proofreading by, and long arduous conversations with, older, more experienced colleagues.

  11. bintchaos says:

    1. A study on mathematical ability is looking for people with degrees in math, physics, statistics, etc to register and do some brief online tests for them. They asked me to pass the word along.


    Okfine, I’ll bite on this– the biggest, baddest basilisk there is.
    The premise that mathability is separable from g.
    An old survey of MI (Multiple Intelligences) Theory.

    • Bugmaster says:

      Apparently, my IQ is not high enough to parse this comment. What is “g”, how is it different from IQ, how are they both different from “mathematical ability” (what is that, anyway ?) and why is the whole thing a basilisk ?

      If I interpret the term “mathematical ability” in the most naive fashion, as “ability to solve math problems quickly and correctly”, then I’d argue that “mathematical ability” depends on both innate IQ and training; as such, it is not synonymous with either. But this interpretation sounds rather trivial, so it must be wrong, given that you’re talking about basilisks…

      • bintchaos says:

        Out of my depth here– I thought the whole ceaseless blog discussion of Murray Racial IQ Theory presupposed a basic understanding of psychometrics and the inclusion of g (general intelligence factor) as part of the shared vocabulary of the SSC commentariat?

        • Bugmaster says:

          I’m not smart enough to be an official member of the “SSC commentariat”. So, can you explain your terms (or link to some explanation thereof) ? You don’t have to, of course; saying “my comment is not relevant to lay people” is a perfectly reasonable position (no sarcasm, I genuinely mean that).

          • bintchaos says:

            Pardon for being snippy.
            I always recommend Dr. Haier “The Neuroscience of Intelligence” for history, current standing, and future research in IQ and g.
            If you just want a definition of g, wiki is fine.
            The idea that there are different kinds of intelligence has a long contentious history and the survey I linked above is an evaluation of current and past research.
            If there is genetic linkage between autism spectrum disorder and an ability to be better at math, that would possibly validate one kind of MI theory– that mathematical ability is somehow different than the other modalities of g.

          • Bugmaster says:

            Ok, that makes sense, but why is it a “basilisk” ? Either the MI theory is right, or it’s wrong; either option sounds interesting to me. But again, I’m not familiar with the field, so I’m surely missing something…

          • bintchaos says:

            I think the biggest basilisk there is the biological basis of behavior and especially the biological basis of intelligence. Witness fury over Murray Racial IQ Theory and the He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named concept of aich-bee-dee…what if there are basic measurable statistically significant differences in red brain/ blue brain biochemistry?
            Or in male/female brain biochemistry?

          • Bugmaster says:

            what if there are basic measurable statistically significant differences in red brain/ blue brain biochemistry? Or in male/female brain biochemistry?

            Given that we do our thinking with our brains; our brains are made of biochemistry; and red people think differently about some things than blue people; why wouldn’t we expect their brains to be different ?

            I think the less trivial position would be not merely, “red brains are different from blue brains”, but rather something like, “red brains are different from blue brains right from birth, these differences are innate and cannot be changed, and they predetermine whether the child will grow up to be red or blue”. I think this is the position which would get me banned from this blog if I were to defend it, but:

            a). This position is almost certainly a caricature; most people (well, most non-SJWs, I guess) would probably say that biology is a factor that affects our thoughts with some weight between 0 and 1, but few people would be so bold as to claim either exactly 0 or exactly 1. Also,

            b). Being banned from this blog is not a “basilisk”, it’s just an arbitrary rule made up by one guy (who happens to run the blog, so it’s his right to do so).

          • Brad says:

            As a refresher here are the tribal definitions:

            The Red Tribe is most classically typified by conservative political beliefs, strong evangelical religious beliefs, creationism, opposing gay marriage, owning guns, eating steak, drinking Coca-Cola, driving SUVs, watching lots of TV, enjoying American football, getting conspicuously upset about terrorists and commies, marrying early, divorcing early, shouting “USA IS NUMBER ONE!!!”, and listening to country music.

            The Blue Tribe is most classically typified by liberal political beliefs, vague agnosticism, supporting gay rights, thinking guns are barbaric, eating arugula, drinking fancy bottled water, driving Priuses, reading lots of books, being highly educated, mocking American football, feeling vaguely like they should like soccer but never really being able to get into it, getting conspicuously upset about sexists and bigots, marrying later, constantly pointing out how much more civilized European countries are than America, and listening to “everything except country”.

            There’s no gene that determines whether one likes or mocks American football.

          • bintchaos says:

            @bugmaster

            “red brains are different from blue brains right from birth, these differences are innate and cannot be changed,


            But that is observably false.
            Educational attainment changes red brains to blue brains, or at least red phenotype to blue phenotype in the young.
            I have linked multiple studies on this.
            @brad
            I understood those positions to be caricatures from Dr. Alexander’s outgroup post.

            There’s no gene that determines whether one likes or mocks American football.


            And you dont know that– there may be a VLS (Very Large Sample) convergent gene network in the future of cognitive genomics that describes an inherited preference for american football over “futbol”.
            Interesting that Dr. Alexander’s outgroup post doesnt include educational attainment in its description of the Blue Tribe. Is that because EA is furiously contested as being a Blue Tribe attribute by the Red Tribe?

          • Brad says:

            @brad
            I understood those positions to be caricatures from Dr. Alexander’s outgroup post.

            Sketches, not caricatures. I don’t know exactly how you are using the terms “red” and “blue” and as far as I’ve seen you haven’t explained.

            For example:

            Educational attainment changes red brains to blue brains, or at least red phenotype to blue phenotype in the young.
            I have linked multiple studies on this.

            Did these studies use the terms “red brain” and “blue brain”?

            And you dont know that– there may be a VLS convergent gene network in the future of cognitive genomics that describes an inherited preference for american football over “futbol”.

            Also aliens may invade the planet.

            Interesting that Dr. Alexander’s outgroup post doesnt include educational attainment

            The Blue Tribe is most classically typified … drinking fancy bottled water, driving Priuses, reading lots of books, being highly educated, mocking American football, …

          • ChetC3 says:

            @Brad

            Since one of the distinguishing features of the grey tribe is their use of the mocking term “sportsball,” which like all facets of human behavior can be best explained by a single variant gene, there clearly is a football mocking gene, but the wild type allele is near fixation in both the red and blue tribes.

          • bintchaos says:

            Voting record is used as a proxy for conservative and liberal tendency.
            So no, red and blue are just shorthand descriptives.
            “highly educated ” is not the same as educational attainment. Educational attainment is commonly used as a proxy for IQ.

            Also aliens may invade the planet.


            Successfully unpicking the fabric of our genome is far more probable than Alien Invasion.
            Like Dr. Alexander I suspect destruction of our species is coming from within the house.
            Like from our very own Kaiju Eiga.
            (Monster movie)

          • Brad says:

            Voting record is used as a proxy for conservative and liberal tendency.

            That’s not what’s meant by red and blue tribe. If you mean that just say liberal and conservative or democrat and republican.

            “highly educated ” is not the same as educational attainment.

            “Educational attainment is a term commonly used by statisticians to refer to the highest degree of education an individual has completed as defined by the US Census Bureau Glossary.”

            Certainly looks the same to me.

            Educational attainment is commonly used as a proxy for IQ.

            If you mean IQ, say IQ.

            Successfully unpicking the fabric of our genome is far more probable than Alien Invasion.

            Yes, but not that when it is unpacked that it will result in every historically contingent aspect of culture being associated with a particular gene. It’s absurd to believe that there is a football versus soccer gene.

            Like Dr. Alexander I suspect destruction of our species is coming from within the house.
            Like from our very own Kaiju Eiga.
            (Monster movie)

            Cool story.

          • Mark says:

            How can I tell if I’m red brain or blue brain if I’m not American?

          • JulieK says:

            I think this is the position which would get me banned from this blog if I were to defend it

            Can you actually be banned for defending a position? I tend to think not, since nothing happens when people say it might be true that “Jews really are a dangerous fifth column.”

          • James Miller says:

            @Mark

            Arnold Kling has a good model: “Liberals [Blue] see the world as a battle between victims and oppressors. Conservatives [Red] see the world as a battle between civilization and barbarism. Libertarians see the world as a battle between freedom and coercion.”

          • How can I tell if I’m red brain or blue brain if I’m not American?

            Just wait a couple of months until Bintchaos has her red/blue braintesting machine in working order.

          • bintchaos says:

            sigh.
            I keep telling you, soldiers/explorers…soldiers/explorers!

          • The Nybbler says:

            I think you’d find in any rational taxonomy, both soldier and explorer would code as “red”.

          • bintchaos says:

            @Nybbler

            I think you’d find in any rational taxonomy, both soldier and explorer would code as “red”.


            That is a useless definition, because then the two phenotypes could not function as a CCP.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Which leads to the conclusion, given that the observable data fits Nybbler’s point, that your CCP model may not be the best fit.

          • bintchaos says:

            It certainly may not, but the beauty of my soldier/explorer model is that it absolutely does not depend on between group differences in g.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Why is that feature particularly desirable?

          • bintchaos says:

            Because complexity is difference in scale, and requires cooperation at one scale and competition at another.
            If both phenotypes have exactly the same traits, it doesnt work. Sure theres some overlap.
            And g? lol, means less fighting and resistance.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            That’s an idiosyncratic and non-standard definition of complexity, which is generally understood in terms of interdependency of variables or rules in a system, but we’ll set that aside for a moment.

            In your theoretical model, what specifically are the two scales, and why is cooperation required at one scale and competition in the other?

    • watsonbladd says:

      What about the willingness to do mathematics, and the aptitude that some people display for it? A lot of people have the intelligence for math but do not like it and aren’t good at it as a result. Maybe the high percentage of graduate students with autism in mathematics as compared to other fields is just an accident of cultural history that has made math tolerant of eccentricities. (Something notable even at the high school level) I don’t see people like Paul Erdos in say history though.

      • bintchaos says:

        Something about aspies that I have noticed in myself and others in the cohort, is the tendency to obsess on single issues until they are …satisfactorily resolved? Like the protagonist of The Accountant the driving need to finish the puzzle, the task, the math problem at hand.
        People that like hard problems are drawn to mathematics and physics.
        Heres an Atlantic article on US newfound ability to win the Math Oympics.
        Notice the students have all come out of extra curricular programs and inner city talent searches…a new pedagogical ecosystem that gets around the horrors of NCLB.

        The No Child Left Behind Act, which shaped education for nearly 15 years, further contributed to the neglect of these programs. Ignoring kids who may have had aptitude or interest in accelerated learning, it demanded that states turn their attention to getting struggling learners to perform adequately—a noble goal. But as a result, for years many educators in schools in poor neighborhoods, laser-focused on the low-achieving kids, dismissed suggestions that the minds of their brightest kids were lying fallow. Some denied that their schools had any gifted children at all.


        Anyways, read the whole article– I think for me, the satisfaction/completion/joy in solving a hard math problem is critical.

        A fourth, more ineffable quality is crucial: “I look for kids who take pleasure in resolving complicated problems,” Zaharopol says. “Actually doing math should bring them joy.”

        • Interesting article. Notice that it’s mostly happening online and in extracurricular activities such as math camps, mostly private. It almost looks as though there are better ways of kids learning things than in the current public school system, some of them enabled by new technology.

          Going back to one of our earlier exchanges.

          • rlms says:

            It would be very surprising indeed if the public school system (or any school system that didn’t heavily subdivide students based on ability) was good at educating the top percentiles. Optimistically, the system optimises for educating the majority of students who are mostly close to the average; there’s no reason that the methods chosen for that should work for outlying students (in either direction). Pessimistically, the system optimises for keeping students relatively ruly, and there’s no reason it should educate anyone except by accident (but my education inclined me towards the optimistic view).

          • Zodiac says:

            Hmm, what would heavy subdivision look like exactly?
            I live in a part of Germany where until recently after four years of elementary school students would be sorted in three different kind of schools.
            That system is pretty much in shambles and is being slowly dissolved right now, however it is impossible to judge whether that is necessary due to the changed times or due the reforms themselve.

          • rlms says:

            To teach Olympiad-level students properly, I think you’d need to give them at least some classes with only the top 1% or so of students, or put them in classes for the top 5-10% of older students.

          • bintchaos says:

            @David
            Yes, NCLB has forced the evolution of private extracurricular $$-and-volunteer-infused math camps, after school groups, etc– a whole pedagogical ecosystem.
            And it works!
            US was shut out of the Math Olympics for 21 years, but has won the last 2 years.
            Capitalisma si!
            Its the American way.
            But somehow I don’t think deVos’ idea of “choice” includes anything on a par with Mathnysium, Bright Circles, or the Russian School.
            I think she is talking about private catholic or christian schools.
            @rlms

            To teach Olympiad-level students properly, I think you’d need to give them at least some classes with only the top 1% or so of students, or put them in classes for the top 5-10% of older students.


            But that isnt what is happening– its the good old secret sauce of upper SES parental involvement.

          • johan_larson says:

            @rlms

            Optimistically, the system optimises for educating the majority of students who are mostly close to the average; there’s no reason that the methods chosen for that should work for outlying students (in either direction).

            I’m pretty sure the slow and repetitive common curriculum I received in Ontario elementary schools aimed lower than that. There was so much repetition. They must have taught us long division four times over the years. I’m guessing it was aimed at the middle of the lower half of students, so the 25th percentile.

            (Things improved markedly in high school, once we separated into advanced, general, and basic streams.)

          • Zodiac says:

            @john_larson
            I don’t think that the amount of repetition in elementary school should be looked at like that. The things you learn in elementary school are suppossed to be so firmly lodged into your head that you can never get them out of there. Compare that to middle and high school were everyone already expects 80% to be forgotten a few years after graduation.

          • Yes, NCLB has forced the evolution of private extracurricular $$-and-volunteer-infused math camps, after school groups, etc– a whole pedagogical ecosystem.

            About fifty years ago I spent three summers as a councilor in a camp for gifted children. It isn’t a new ecosystem due to NCLB, although it may have grown in later decades.

            But somehow I don’t think deVos’ idea of “choice” includes anything on a par with Mathnysium, Bright Circles, or the Russian School.
            I think she is talking about private catholic or christian schools.

            You know this how? She is a supporter of school vouchers. They can be used at religious or non-religious schools.

            So far, your comments on DeVos are unsupported by data. All they show is that you accept for gospel the factoids generated by critics of the voucher movement and/or the Trump administration. They could be true, but you have shown no reason to believe they are true.

            If vouchers were available in an area with a large enough population to support a school specialized to gifted students, can you think of any reason why it would not come into existence?

          • bintchaos says:

            @DavidFriedman
            well, we certainly know nothing about her actual motivations, because she is uncredentialled and her family money comes from the souless rapacious pyramid scheme known as AMWAY.
            She is another “business” person thrown at a complex non-linear problem.
            Also her relationship to military-industrial complex mercenary Erik Prince creeps me out.
            But thats on me.

        • Viliam says:

          Not an American, so I can’t talk about NCLB specifically, but it seems to me that it is futile in general (in any country) to expect a school to do a good job at preparing students for the Math Olympiad.

          There is nothing “joyful” about how math is typically done at school. And even if you could fix this, school is a mass-production factory, and it cannot care about the six best math students in the country, simply because the classroom contains more than six students, and they all have to be taught.

          Extra-curricular activities have much better opportunity to focus on the elite (and ignore everyone else) and to optimize for doing math the “joyful” way (and ignore all the bureaucrats from the department of education).

          So I suspect that any country that does well at the Math Olympiad internationally, will have a good extra-curricular program. In other words, that this is how it is done everywhere, not a specifically American thing. (Perhaps the specifically American thing was not having those extra-curricular programs in the past?)

          • bintchaos says:

            In other countries it is done within their school systems.
            There is no commercial private pedagogical ecology developed around mathematics.
            The Netherlands actually built a math curriculum to ward off a NCLB style program.

          • rlms says:

            @bintchaos
            Preparation for the IMO might be done within the school system as in physically located in schools, I don’t think it is done within the school system as in in regular maths classes unless there are countries with very powerful magnet schools that take the best few thousand students around. Preparation for national olympiads is done by many private schools that can afford it, I imagine that also occurs in the US (although perhaps to a lesser extent).

          • bintchaos says:

            But the US didn’t win for 21 years– and now has won 2 in a row.
            I’m not blaming NCLB for US not winning for 21 years– it wasn’t even around for part of that.
            But whatever we were doing wasn’t working…
            It is true that NCLB has damaged US OECD standing in math and science.
            And I do think the rise of the “pedagogical ecology” described in the Atlantic article directly contributes to US 2 wins in a row.

  12. Odovacer says:

    A question for those who know US history. Have other presidents been as petty as Trump? Nixon maybe?

    Maybe it’s biased reporting, but looking at his twitter feedaside from generic political messages, his shows a lot of tweets disparaging his enemies and bragging in silly ways.

    • Bugmaster says:

      How do you quantify “pettiness” ? Trivially speaking, Trump posts on Twitter way more than Nixon did, but that’s just because Nixon didn’t have a Twitter account.

    • Progressive Reformation says:

      LBJ was known to have quite a way with words, including calling Gerald Ford “so dumb he can’t fart and chew gum at the same time” (and suggested Ford “played too much football without his helmet on”, also said “Ford’s economics are the worst thing that’s happened to this country since pantyhose ruined finger-fucking”). To the Greek ambassador, about Cyprus: “Fuck your parliament and your constitution. America is an elephant. Cyprus is a flea. Greece is a flea. If these two fleas continue itching the elephant, they may just get whacked good …We pay a lot of good American dollars to the Greeks, Mr. Ambassador. If your Prime Minister gives me talk about democracy, parliament and constitution, he, his parliament and his constitution may not last long…”

      He also bragged that his, um, fishing tackle (which he nicknamed ‘jumbo’) was so large he needed his pants cut specially. There is a recording of him ordering pants by telephone, which includes lines like: But, uh when I gain a little weight they cut me under there [in the nuts region]. So, leave me, you never do have much of margin there. See if you can’t leave me an inch from where the zipper (burps) ends, round, under my, back to my bunghole, so I can let it out there if I need to.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3GT9UN7nDo

      Also this: https://www.reddit.com/r/todayilearned/comments/ybmv3/til_lyndon_b_johnson_once_urinated_on_a_secret/

      I kind of wish I could have seen an LBJ twitter account.

      • psmith says:

        From Robert Caro’s excellent biography:

        He early became fabled for a Rabelaisian earthiness, urinating in the parking lot of the House Office Building as the urge took him; if a colleague came into a Capitol bathroom as he was finishing at the urinal there, he would sometimes swing around still holding his member, which he liked to call “Jumbo,” hooting once, “Have you ever seen anything as big as this?,” and shaking it in almost a brandishing manner as he began discoursing about some pending legislation. At the same time, he would oblige aides to take dictation standing in the door of his office bathroom while he went about emptying his bowels, as if in some alpha-male ritual assertion of his primacy. Even on the floors of the House and Senate, he would extravagantly rummage away at his groin, sometimes reaching his hand through a pocket and leaning with half-lifted leg for more thorough access.

        In fairness, that was when he was Senate Majority Leader–he may have toned it down by the time he became president.

        I don’t know if this story about Kennedy fits what OP is asking for, exactly, but maybe it does, who knows.

        • neaanopri says:

          Plus one for Caro, I started on Passage of Power and I’m 80% of the way through and it’s excellent.

          The big difference is that LBJ really tried to cultivate a public persona that was, you know, NOT SOMEONE WHO SWINGS THEIR DICK AT PEOPLE, and the media at the time let him. He had a Texas ranch, and right after he became president, he brought the press along to a 13 day vacation with the Chancellor of West Germany. He tried hard to project an “affable texan patriarch” persona and it worked.

          Either Trump knows what he’s doing or he doesn’t. Either he just acts, attacking whenever he feels like it, or he makes calculated attacks at times and places of his choosing, mindful that it’s very on-brand for him to be attacking his opponents. I can’t really pick between these two.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        I’m suspicious of the Ford economics quote. Why would anyone talk about his economics? During his presidency, sure, but that didn’t “happen” to this country until after LBJ was dead. Maybe he was important during Nixon’s first term, but why attribute the economics to Ford rather than Nixon? And before that he was the leader of a tiny minority.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Indeed, that one is quite possibly apocryphal; it has become popular since the 2005 documentary _Fuck_, but you can also find it in the 2002 _Power Beyond Reason: The Mental Collapse of Lyndon Johnson_ and the 1999 _Inside the Oval Office: The White House Tapes from FDR to Clinton_. But that last one notes the remark was untaped.

          The oldest reference I found was 1986, _All the Presidents’ Wits: The Power of Presidential Humor_ which quotes it as “They’re the worst thing that’s happened to this country since pantyhose ruined finger-fucking.”, referring to Nixon’s policies, not Ford’s.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Calvin Coolidge came up with a lot of zingers but characteristically kept them to himself.

      Seriously, Trump has compared himself to Andrew Jackson, and I think it fits. A typical description of Jackson is “combative, quick-tempered, and thin-skinned”.

      • psmith says:

        kept them to himself

        Not all of them, if this story is to be believed!

        • The Nybbler says:

          Ha, I was expecting the OTHER well-known (and also apocryphal) Coolidge zinger:

          Hostess: “Mr. President I’ve made a large bet that I would be able to make you say more than two words.”

          Coolidge: “You lose.”

    • phil says:

      https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=veep+realistic&spf=1499108907109

      brings back a lot of interesting results

      and not because the characters are inspired by Trump

      its worth considering the hypothesis that the biggest thing separating Trump from everyone else in Washington is that Trump doesn’t bother with the thin pretense of not being petty

      (whether there might actually be some value in maintaining that pretense, I’ll leave as an open question)

  13. Wow, people actually showed up for the Chicago meetup… the message section of the post about it seemed to be all “I’m constantly in Chicago all the time… except when that meetup is happening! Sorry!”

  14. Vermillion says:

    Continuing the tradition of a series of informative posts I’d like to gauge the interest in the vein of a discussion on autism/autism spectrum disorder (ASD). I’m finishing up a PhD in neuroscience, and I was thinking this would be a helpful way to practice talking with an audience that’s smart but (mostly) without domain specific knowledge, very handy before my defense in August. Here’s a not exhaustive list of what I was thinking of covering:

    Why do we see more autism now?
    Why is there a sex bias in diagnoses?
    What are the genetics of ASD?
    How does ASD compare with other neuropsychiatric disorders (e.g. ID, schizophrenia, Williams)?
    What are some common co-morbidities, and what do they signify? N.B this would focus on anxiety disorders because that’s what my dissertation is on, might spin off a separate post on others like epilepsy that also crop up a lot.
    Do animals get ASD?
    What does the spectrum part of autism spectrum disorder signify?
    Depictions of ASD in popular culture, anyone who got it right?
    What’s the deal with vaccines/Andrew Wakefield?

    I also want to say upfront, I am not a clinician; I’ve never treated someone with ASD professionally (although I work with a lot of people who do), nothing that I say should be thought of as in any way representing therapy or medical advice. I do not personally have ASD (although I know many individuals who do); I score within a standard deviation of average on the autism spectrum quotient test. So, I’ll be approaching these issues from a researcher’s perspective, but I would welcome any input from the clinical side, or from individuals with autism who’d like to share their experience.

    If there are any comments, or concerns or specific topics you’d like me to cover (from above or otherwise) please let me know!

    • Zephalinda says:

      This sounds super helpful– will be looking forward to it!

      Requests:
      –If you’ve got a good sense of the current state of the literature re: involvement of immune dysfunction in autism (including possible maternal effects in utero), I’d be very interested in seeing an expert review on that. There’s been quite a lot published recently on the subject, but are there any proposed mechanisms that seem particularly plausible to you?

      –Are there any helpful insights available from comparing autism incidences across populations? I’m particularly interested in how the autism “epidemic” has played out in non-Western cultures and in the developing world.

      –Finally, autism research is obviously a large field, but do you have any insider’s insights (that you’re comfortable sharing) as to the political landscape within the research community? Are there feuds, factions, rifts, purity tests, die-hard traditionalists, young upstarts, entrenched patronage networks, fads of the moment, etc.? Basically, any important hidden structures of influence or incentive that we laypeople should use to update our priors about emerging research?

      • Vermillion says:

        Those are some interesting questions I could rattle on for awhile about, added them to my list!

    • DeWitt says:

      I was diagnosed with Asperger’s two years ago now, and I’ll be looking forward to this. I don’t have any input in particular to offer, though if you’re going to ask specific questions, I might have good answers.

    • James Miller says:

      I’m extremely interested in autism! I would love to know more about life outcomes for high IQ autistics (including co-morbidities), and why people with exceptional math ability seem to have a high rates of autism,

    • Aapje says:

      This would interest me.

    • pdbarnlsey says:

      Mark me down as interested. Where will you be posting? (I vote for here, or hereabouts, since I don’t read the subreddit.

      • Vermillion says:

        I’ll be posting here, since I also don’t read the subreddit. I’m aiming for every OT, or at least every other OT.

  15. Stone Soup Scientist says:

    In reference to Scott’s letter to himself, I wanted to ask the community on their opinion of the Bay Area, and on moving in general. I finished my phd in neuroscience recently, and I’m looking for what to do next in life now that I’ve decided against academia. I currently live in Houston, which I actually like, but have never lived in a “global city” (e.g., New York, LA, Paris, London, Boston, etc.). I’m not inclined to move, but after reading Scott’s post (and a few other incidents) I’m wondering if maybe I’ve grown complacent. Are these places the new Athens? Should I consider moving there solely because of the sheer opportunity? Is there anyway to get a feeling of living in these cities without committing to moving there?

    (I should perhaps note that this wouldn’t be a move of desperation. I get along with pretty much everyone, enjoy my life here, and run a growing science outreach organization. I’m just trying to get a feel for the opportunity cost of staying in a “lower tier” city)

    • Matt M says:

      I don’t have much to add to this other than to say that I recently moved to Houston and have enjoyed it quite a bit!

      If you’ve lived here a while you might not fully appreciate the cost of living differences (including the lack of a state income tax) in comparison to here and someplace like NY or Bay Area. But it’s big. The choice isn’t just “live like I do now but with smarter people around” but rather “live in a smaller apartment with less take-home pay but with smarter people around.”

      If I can keep finding employment in Texas, I’ll probably never leave!

    • johan_larson says:

      …New York, LA, Paris, London, Boston, etc. … Are these places the new Athens?

      I moved the the SF Bay area for seven years, and found the experience disappointing. For me it was just a place, no better or worse than any number of mid-size to large communities. That’s odd, since the Bay area is the heart of my industry, but it’s the truth. The jobs were just jobs, the shops were just shops, the people were just people.

      I think you need to ask yourself what you are hoping to get out of being in one of these places. Is it a job you can’t get elsewhere? That would be a good reason to move. Or are you into some sort of odd edgy cultural events (like live opera, say) you can’t get in smaller places? That would also be a good reason to move. But if not, don’t bother. It’s expensive, and not worth it, given your tastes.

    • The Bay Area has nice weather, lots of good ethnic restaurants and grocery stores, and very high housing costs. I don’t find myself having an unusually large number of productive realspace interactions here, but others may.

      I think that if there is a new Athens, it’s the internet.

    • Ozy Frantz says:

      There is a huge benefit to living someplace where all your friends live, but I don’t think there’s any particular benefit to living in the Bay over other places unless your friends happen to live in the Bay. (It is an equally good argument for living in a small town in Iowa if all your friends live there.)

      Also, don’t move to the Bay if you don’t love having roommates.

    • pdbarnlsey says:

      I currently live in Sydney (a less-ugly, much more expensive Houston, more or less) following six years in London (which qualifies as a world city, IMO). I would consider a move to Houston if I could find appropriate work there.

      I preferred my lifestyle in London, but that probably has something to do with not having to cover the full cost of living comfortably there on my own.

      I think the key argument for moving up the world city scale (I think Houston is a lot closer to the top than to the bottom, based on a couple of weeks spent there and the experiences of my relatives) is career opportunities (and probably also pay, if not net standard of living) in many (most?) elite professions. You’ll do better work with better people (though probably also more of it) and with better prospects for advancement. If that’s not true in your profession, you should probably skip it.

      The other key benefit is a deeper bench of interesting people and stuff, particularly if you value cosmopolitanism for its own sake. I like being able to get Azeri takeout and Nigerian groceries, but I can’t defend it as a terminal value. You can make up some of this difference with time and effort, particularly somewhere like Houston, which is not exactly Indianapolis (sorry, Indianapolis).

      I suppose you can make an argument that the globalists who flock to London etc are more similar to each other than [insert something here about salt of the earth], and if you buy that you should probably skip it.

      • Matt M says:

        I actually lived in Indianapolis before Houston. It’s better than you think! And even cheaper!

        (general point taken though)

    • pontifex says:

      I’ve lived in the Bay Area for about a decade, and I love it.

      It’s the first place I’ve lived where I didn’t feel like I was an outsider. There are a lot of software engineers here, which makes it feel like home. I could point out a laundry list of stuff which is good here: stuff you can do outdoors or at the beach, skiing, the good weather, good food, and so on, but that’s not really what makes the place unique.

      If you are in software, you can move from company to company whenever things get boring or you find something better. I think one thing people miss about smaller cities is that even if they have “good jobs” they’re often only with one or two employers. Which leaves you no real choice if the work is boring or you hate your boss, or whatever. That’s how people get stuck in Dilbert-like situations, because they live in Hillsboro, Oregon, and Intel is the only game in town (just to give a random example).

      I don’t know what you’re planning on doing– whether it’s neuroscience related or not. Or what the job market is like for you. I think the biggest thing to think about is where you want your friends to live. You can interact with people anywhere, but it’s hard to really be someone’s friend if they live halfway around the world.

  16. ilkarnal says:

    It seems to me that people talking about issues in ‘rationalist’ and adjacent communities don’t pay enough attention to status as a powerful non-arbitrary force.

    From http://lesswrong.com/lw/p1f/notes_from_the_hufflepuff_unconference_part_1/:

    The theme of the Bay Solstice turned out to be “Hey guys, so people keep coming to the Bay, running on a dream and a promise of community, but that community is not actually there, there’s a tiny number of well-connected people who everyone is trying to get time with, and everyone seems lonely and sad. And we don’t even know what to do about this.”

    In 2015, that theme in the Berkeley Solstice was revisited.

    If there are only a few high status people in a group, then 1) naturally everyone will cluster around those people and 2) the group is a low status group.

    What raises status? Beauty, fashion, achievement, wealth, being ‘cool’, social ability, sexual and reproductive success, conformation to certain ideals. A very good indication of the status a group has is how many young and beautiful women accrete to it.

    The complaint can be raised that these criteria are unfair. This is an illegitimate complaint. Social animals will have dominance hierarchies, and however who is on top or who is on the bottom is decided, it will not be ‘fair’ to those on the bottom.

    Rationalists seem to want to get away from this sort of thing. But they also want to avoid being sexless outcasts who are held in contempt. Regardless of how they might protest that the former ideal trumps the latter, they are human. When human beings are sexless outcasts who are held in contempt, they become sad and avoidant. That’s not a rewarding or worthwhile social situation.

    One approach is to try to beat the normies at their own game, or at least be competitive, despite handicaps. In a way this path is self-defeating from the ‘rationalist’ perspective, because taking it means implicitly rejecting some core ‘rationalist’ properties and values.

    We should remember that the position of ‘rationalists’ is nothing new. They fit into a paradigm ubiquitous in human history, a bunch of males driven away from the wellspring of reproductive success and power. These men could do nothing, in the hopes that disruptions not of their own making will open a place for them near the wellspring before they get old or die. This is essentially what peripheral males do in the modern era, despite the modern era being uniquely unsuited to this strategy. The only serious way of opening holes in a dominance hierarchy is removing a goodly fraction of its members. As events like the black death and big wars become less common, the viability of waiting for space to open up plummets.

    Instead of doing nothing peripheral males often band together to become the disruption they need. What makes this interesting is that the skills and proclivities needed for this are very different from those needed to scramble semi-peacefully within the hierarchy. The type that excels at organized violence is very different from the type that excels at disorganized violence and bluff.

    Practical steps on this path would include founding a militia or PMC. ‘Dragon Army’ but this time with real guns! The goal doesn’t need to be anything as dramatic as revolution at home. It could simply mean fighting in the sort of little brushfire conflicts that dot parts of the world, perhaps carving out a space abroad. That sort of activity and capability in and of itself might raise the status of the group appreciably. I would describe it as like a bunch of healthy sharp teethed wolves edging their way towards another pack surrounding a fresh kill. There doesn’t necessarily need to be violence for our heroes to get some scraps. And those times when that other pack is significantly weaker, as will be the case in some places around the world – well, a wolf’s gotta eat.

    • psmith says:

      Practical steps on this path would include founding a militia or PMC.

      I reckon they would also include getting very rich in tech, which is not nearly as exciting (at least, not to me) but probably more practical. But it ain’t my circus.

    • James says:

      In general, this comment seems to conflate descriptive evo psych with the normative, deriving an ‘ought’ from an evolutionary ‘is’. Our genes care about reproductive success, hence about status, but there’s no reason why we (or ‘rationalists’) should, at least if it’s incompatible with things we prefer. (You hint at this incompatibility yourself where you say that that path “means implicitly rejecting some core ‘rationalist’ properties and values”.

      I mean, in some sense I personally tend to agree that it’s nice to have young and beautiful women around, and to that end appealling to them is a good thing, which probably means chasing something like status. But if the ‘rationalist community’ is more interested in things like interminably discussing libertarianism or writing long posts about battleships* than playing status games, then I don’t see why they shouldn’t.

      * A friendly dig, I swear!

      Practical steps on this path would include founding a militia or PMC. ‘Dragon Army’ but this time with real guns! The goal doesn’t need to be anything as dramatic as revolution at home. It could simply mean fighting in the sort of little brushfire conflicts that dot parts of the world, perhaps carving out a space abroad. That sort of activity and capability in and of itself might raise the status of the group appreciably.

      I don’t really know how to parse this and can only guess at what you really mean, but under the only interpretation I can give it, the last sentence – “might raise the status of the group appreciably” – seems wrong. “A weird cult of bay area intellectuals carve out a niche in Somalia with guns” might have some things to recommend it, as a scenario, but good optics are not one of them.

      • rlms says:

        I for one commit to joining the Dragon Army if they pivot to Somali piracy.

      • ilkarnal says:

        In general, this comment seems to conflate descriptive evo psych with the normative, deriving an ‘ought’ from an evolutionary ‘is’.

        I care whether people like me – people who think like me, people with personalities similar to mine – thrive, or are wiped from the face of the earth.

        Our genes care about reproductive success, hence about status, but there’s no reason why we (or ‘rationalists’) should, at least if it’s incompatible with things we prefer.

        People automatically care about whether they are treated like losers or treated like winners, even when the former isn’t overtly cruel. People automatically care whether they enjoy the other sex’s companionship. This, I claim, is at the root of the misery that envelops ‘rationalist communities’ – the reality of low status existence.

        But if the ‘rationalist community’ is more interested in things like interminably discussing libertarianism or writing long posts about battleships* than playing status games, then I don’t see why they shouldn’t.

        I point out that there are two routes to status. One is playing these ‘games’ I briefly describe. The other involves crewing warships, rather than writing long posts about them – but retains the fundamental interest and character.

        “A weird cult of bay area intellectuals carve out a niche in Somalia with guns” might have some things to recommend it, as a scenario, but good optics are not one of them.

        ‘Good optics’ are not status, and are not power which can be used to seize high status positions.

        • Zodiac says:

          You still need to provide citation that being a soldier correlates with reproduction.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Crewing warships doesn’t get you much status; some, sure, being a sailor beats being a fry cook in the status department any day of the week. But being an officer or better yet, captaining the warship, is a whole lot more status … and for that, you need to play the games. There’s one overwhelming element in all status hierarchies, the one which the military makes explicit: leadership. Doesn’t matter how good you are at doing anything, your status is limited if you’re not leading others.

    • Ozy Frantz says:

      A very good indication of the status a group has is how many young and beautiful women accrete to it.

      Some of the highest status groups in American society include sororities, yoga, and that thing where you buy jade eggs to put in your vagina. These are far lower-status than groups like the US Congress, which is notoriously full of ugly old men.

      Anyway, I don’t think my brain was designed to keep track of status hierarchies in groups of 300 million people. It was basically designed to keep track of status hierarchies in groups of a few hundred people, like the rationalist community. Our local high status people (hi Scott!) are probably not particularly high-status to the rest of the world, but that’s fine, we evolved in an environment where there was no rest of the world.

      I find it kind of strange to talk about “high status” as if this is a single universally agreed upon thing. Is Trump equally high-status at a state dinner, a #MAGA rally, and an Indivisible protest?

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        These are far lower-status than groups like the US Congress, which is notoriously full of ugly old men.

        Who use their status to bang young and beautiful women.

        • Ozy Frantz says:

          But Congress itself is definitely an identifiable group of people and definitely has very few young and beautiful women in it. Even Congress-and-environs: congressional staffers are mostly male, as are lobbyists, and one imagines that most policy wonks are not exactly lookers.

          If you’re saying the status of a community is measured by the capacity of those in it who are attracted to young beautiful women to bang young beautiful women, then you should have said that.

          • John Schilling says:

            But Congress itself is definitely an identifiable group of people and definitely has very few young and beautiful women in it.

            Ikarnal did say that the measure of status was attractive young woman accreting to a group, which is not the same as becoming members of the group. If congress gets e.g. more attractive female interns than other groups, then by that standard congress has more status than other groups even if it were still purely a boy’s club.

            A crude metric to be sure, but not without merit.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          If you’re saying the status of a community is measured by the capacity of those in it who are attracted to young beautiful women to bang young beautiful women, then you should have said that.

          Well I didn’t make the original statement, but yes that’s basically what I think. To the extreme, “girls don’t like boys girls like cars and money.”

      • albatross11 says:

        Also, unless the high status people actually have some power over you personally, it doesn’t really cost you anything to laugh at their pretensions, while they laugh at yours. A free society can support thousands of different status hierarchies, and nobody has to salute or kowtow to anyone they don’t want to.

        • ilkarnal says:

          Young, fertile, beautiful women aren’t doled out evenly to all micro-hierarchies. They concentrate at the top of the ‘real’ hierarchy of status. There are plenty of micro-hierarchies made up of low status males. ‘It doesn’t cost you anything’ – no, it costs you a great deal. These males don’t being romantically/sexually unsuccessful, and they don’t like that they don’t command any respect in the wider world. They don’t like their situation for the same reason they don’t like being burned: it’s something that damages their chances of reproducing, of bringing more people like them into the world.

          • CatCube says:

            @ilkarnal

            I remain unconvinced that there’s a “real” status hierarchy, as if all of humanity was in some Medieval Great Chain of Being.

            Success with women will depend on the women in the micro-hierarchy. Gang leaders and Wall Street bankers both are successful with women, but not the same women.

          • albatross11 says:

            Just as an aside, there must be some of the world that looks like you’re describing, but it’s not much like the world I live in. I work in a place full of scientists and engineers and mathematicians. Most of the guys I know are married or have long-term girlfriends. Many have kids. (I’m married and have three kids, FWIW.). Other people I know in my field are mostly married or long-term paired off.

          • Matt M says:

            And yet, I’d be willing to bet that there are more involuntarily-single engineers than there are athletes, military officers, politicians, possibly even mid-high ranking gang members.

            I am curious though. What profession would people guess/expect to have the highest proportion of involuntarily single men in it?

          • The Nybbler says:

            What profession would people guess/expect to have the highest proportion of involuntarily single men in it?

            There’s a bunch of fields where men would have little opportunity for relationships; certain military jobs, roughneck in a remote area, sailors (aside from the by-the-hour sort when they hit port). All these are expected to be temporary by the men, though.

            The generally low-status jobs (e.g. retail) don’t seem to result in lack of relationships. I would expect that night shift work would be likely to however. So I’d say night shift work. Then nerdish professions.

          • BBA says:

            I suppose “NEET” doesn’t count as a profession.

          • albatross11 says:

            This seems like the kind of question on which there is probably good data somewhere. My intuition would be that marriage tends to track with having a steady job that pays the bills, but I don’t really know that.

      • ilkarnal says:

        As mentioned downthread, ‘how many young and beautiful women accrete to it’ implies some separation between the young and beautiful women and the group I am talking about. If I said ‘a good indication of how shiny a thing in the water is how many fishies swarm around it,’ the response that a swarm of these fishies swimming around together must be the shiniest thing in the whole world is not particularly insightful. The response that food thrown into the water must be super duper shiny is equally uninsightful. Yes, young and beautiful women do not EXCLUSIVELY pattern their behavior on finding high status mates. The fishies don’t exist SOLELY to swarm around shiny things. My point is utterly unharmed.

        Anyway, I don’t think my brain was designed to keep track of status hierarchies in groups of 300 million people. It was basically designed to keep track of status hierarchies in groups of a few hundred people, like the rationalist community.

        Your brain is also designed to keep track of markers of status, including an individual’s beauty and the attitudes they receive while out and about. If ‘the rationalist community’ was completely segregated you would have more of a point. But in that case the lack of young beautiful women – a consequence and marker of low status – would be felt even more keenly.

        I find it kind of strange to talk about “high status” as if this is a single universally agreed upon thing. Is Trump equally high-status at a state dinner, a #MAGA rally, and an Indivisible protest?

        Trump is ‘high status’ wherever he goes. Status isn’t a question of whether you are liked. When a general is captured he goes from being someone who gives commands to someone who must obey them. He is still a general to those who captured him, and treated very differently from the common soldier. This different treatment could be putting him on trial and executing him, while the common soldier quietly survives internment. It could be having a formal dinner with the officers of the other side while the common soldier starves.

        The point is that there are people who are important, and people who are unimportant. People who are high, people who are low. Big people, small people. Get it?

        Why should we care about this? Because even if we don’t care about being scorned and mistreated generally, women very clearly care about this – a lot. And women, specifically young fertile women who tend to be beautiful, are important not only for a man’s happiness and equanimity, but for the continued existence of his line, of his people.

        • rlms says:

          I think you are using “status” to mean “power/notoriety”. There are a lot of contexts where Trump would be neither liked nor respected, and I would say that makes him low-status in those contexts. That he would still be notable and in some ways influential is a different thing. The problem with your definition is that it means status isn’t necessarily desirable: your general who is executed where a private wouldn’t be would prefer not to have such a high status.

          • ilkarnal says:

            The problem with your definition is that it means status isn’t necessarily desirable: your general who is executed where a private wouldn’t be would prefer not to have such a high status.

            That isn’t a ‘problem.’ It neither makes the definition contradictory, nor interferes with the notion that we should want more status. Something can be good in general, yet sometimes backfire.

          • Matt M says:

            Eh, I’m with ilkarnal on this one. Status = importance, not necessarily popularity. They will often go together, but not always.

            If Trump walks in to an Antifa rally, he instantly becomes the most important person in the room. They may tie him to a pole and poke him with sharp objects and throw things at him, but everyone will stop and pay attention to him. He will command everyone’s interest, over any other person. That is status.

          • rlms says:

            Definitions are subjective, but I still think mine is more useful/common. By the importance/power definition, wanted criminals and people at the centre of media frenzies are high-status because a lot of people are interested in them, even though those roles are undesirable. Also, a general status ladder that covers society at large is of limited in use in my opinion. What is the ordering of status between (assume the dead ones are still alive): Pablo Escobar, Tony Blair, Taylor Swift, Bin Laden, and Stephen Hawking? What about someone on death row, a severely mentally disabled person, a homeless person, someone ostracised from their community for being gay, and a drug addict?

          • Matt M says:

            By the importance/power definition, wanted criminals and people at the centre of media frenzies are high-status because a lot of people are interested in them, even though those roles are undesirable.

            Don’t a lot of media-obsessed serial killers end up with a ton of female groupies offering to marry them while they’re in prison?

            Jeffrey Dahlmer certainly has more status than some random thug who shot a clerk during a liquor store robbery, does he not?