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Open Thread 87.75

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

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844 Responses to Open Thread 87.75

  1. Anonymous says:

    Have fun visiting your dead kin, everyone!

        • Well... says:

          Now I get the reference but, since I’ve only heard of All Saints Day (a lot) but never understood the first thing of what it’s about, I still don’t get the joke. But I’m OK with that.

          • Anonymous says:

            In Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Chile, France, Hungary, Italy, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malta, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Spain, and the state of Louisiana, people take flowers to the graves of dead relatives. In some parts of Portugal, people also light candles in the graves.

            In Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Catholic parts of Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia and Sweden, the tradition is to light candles and visit the graves of deceased relatives.

          • Well... says:

            Oh. So, it wasn’t a joke at all?

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s not mandatory to make jokes all the time! 😉

          • Well... says:

            Combining “fun” with “visiting your dead kin” has a certain non-sequitur component, making me think it was some kind of joke.

          • Anonymous says:

            Well, it’s not a day of penance or anything. It’s a celebration. But I guess you have a point.

      • Deiseach says:

        November 2nd is All Souls’ Day and it is the tradition in some places to visit the graves of your dead family members, tidy them up, bring flowers, light candles and pray at the graveside, etc. November is the Month of the Dead and in Catholicism you especially pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory during this month and Masses are offered for the repose of the souls of the faithful departed, for anniversaries of deaths, and in general remembrance. Syncretised with native traditions in some places, that is why you have the Mexican Dia de Muertos.

  2. Jeremiah says:

    So there’s been some talk lately about the possibility of another Constitutional Convention. (Economist, Esquire).

    Questions:

    1- Have you heard about this possibility?
    2- What do you think the odds are of it happening?
    3- What do you think it’s “black swan” potential is?

    For myself, obviously the answer to the first is yes. As to the answer to the second, I figured it was pretty low, but the Economist (linked above) quoted both supporters and opponents as giving it even odds before 2020.

    As to the answer to the third. I’m reminded of the calling of the Estates General as a means of figuring out how to keep France from going bankrupt, but which ended up being the first step towards the eventual revolution. There are some interesting parallels (for example the convention is all about proposing the Balanced Budget Amendment). I neither want to make too much of these parallels, but things are headed in an interesting direction even without the possible complication of a convention. (If you’re interested in a deeper dive, I wrote about it in my blog.)

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      1. No.
      2. 5%
      3. Negligible.

      • Charles F says:

        Isn’t it kind of a contradiction to say the black swan potential is negligible? The point is that it’s a major event and we wouldn’t see it coming, right?

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          That sounds like a bad line of reasoning. You think that there are non-negligible chance of major events coming from literally everything because definitionally a black swan is one we don’t see coming?

          What are the odds of a black swan event coming from you brushing your teeth this evening? How about tomorrow morning?

          • Charles F says:

            I think they weren’t asking about the chances of a black swan event, those are always negligible. I thought they were asking for casual unsupported speculation about the sorts of big important things that could happen. So I interpreted your “negligible” as “if this happens, its unexpected effects will be minor.” Or something like that. Discounting the possibility that if we had a convention, something big and important could happen there.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Ah, I was reporting the odds that I was predicting for a black swan happening. If they meant “what are the effects of a black swan,” then I misanswered the question.

    • Brad says:

      1) Yes

      2) I think it is highly unlikely. You need 34 states to call the convention. There are currently 25 states where the Republicans control all of the legislature plus have the Governor, and another 2 states where the Republicans have veto proof majorities in the legislature and a Democratic Governor. So there would have to be some sort of bipartisan interest in the idea and I can’t see that happening in today’s partisan atmosphere.

      3) Even if a con-con managed to happen, I don’t think it would lead anywhere. For ratification of any amendments that came out of it there’d have to be 38 states (by either state law or by plebiscite). That seems even more far-fetched.

      And I don’t think a repeat of the original constitutional convention where they threw out the then existing ratification formula is likely either. There aren’t any George Washington figures with the army behind him to make it stick.

      • Jeremiah says:

        re: 2-The Economist is saying that there are 27 states who’ve passed the resolution, and there are seven Republican controlled states which haven’t, but who are going to consider the resolution in the next couple of years. Thus the estimate (by some) that there’s a 50-50 chance of having the convention by 2020.

        • Brad says:

          Hmm. The implication of that article seems to be that when Article V says ” on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states” it means the governor has no role regardless of state law. I seem to vaguely recall that the Bush v Gore court held otherwise with respect to article II, section 1, clause 2: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors …”

          Of course if it is a political question then the ball is in Congress’ court how to interpret that line.

      • skef says:

        Bah. All you need is a simple majority in congress and one state legislature of the same party willing to temporarily carve itself up into tiny pieces. President doesn’t even get a say. And then they get whatever they want in the convention, too! Easy-peasy.

        The founders were lousy security analysts.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

          The relevant clause is: “but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State”. It is separated by a semicolon from the next clause, which means that “without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress” does not apply.

          The US Constitution forbids dividing a state up without a Constitutional Amendment.

          The “or Parts of states” sub-clause may be a loophole allowing a minimum of two states to spawn an unlimited number of new states across their borders (with consent of Congress). I do not know.

          According to heritage.org I am wrong and you are right:

          Finally, despite the ambiguous second semicolon in the clause, new states may be formed out of an existing state provided all parties consent: the new state, the existing state, and the Congress. In that way, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maine, West Virginia, and arguably Vermont came into the Union. http://www.heritage.org/constitution/#!/articles/4/essays/125/new-states-clause

        • Brad says:

          As above, despite the language in the Constitution that says “Consent of the Legislatures” the precedent has been to follow the state constitutions regarding the procedure for passing a law. See for example, Massachusetts consent for separating Maine: http://archives.lib.state.ma.us/bitstream/handle/2452/110233/1819acts0162.txt?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

          Note that it was “Approved by the Governor, February 25th, 1820.”

          • skef says:

            OK, so in practice, Congress, plus one state legislature and its governor (assuming there isn’t something pertinent in the constitution itself).

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I guess the only counter-argument that could happen is if an opposition-party state decided to also split itself in sub-states, and then sued Congress for not allowing the split.

            Or, even a single citizen of the original state that is politically aligned with Congress could sue under the 14th amendment (“nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”) for any disparity between persons within the state that would result from the breakup.

            The first option may tie things up long enough for a change in government. The second option may very well kibosh the whole thing.

          • Nornagest says:

            It is a lot easier to change many state constitutions than it is to change the US Constitution. In California, all it takes is a simple majority at referendum, so several constitutional amendments are proposed every year and at least a couple usually make it through.

          • Brad says:

            That’s true. But every state but one has two legislative bodies, and they all have a governor that has to sign bills to make them law unless they are overridden by a supermajority.

            I guess that’s really the problem with this whole idea. Any kind of really hardball would run into the populous’ deep seated conservationism about how American government is “supposed” to work.

    • Anonymous says:

      1. No.
      2. Eventually? Pretty decent, I think. Soon? Pretty low.
      3. Please explain the quoted term. People will definitely say it was inevitable if it happens. They always do. Whether it’s a major event or not, it really depends what changes they make. I mean, if they merely updated it to the de facto state of matters, they would be cutting their own throat, but conservatives always do.

      • Jeremiah says:

        The term “black swan” comes from the book of the same name by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Basically it’s an event which is judged to have a low probability before it happens, it happens despite that and consequently has a major impact. In retrospect lots of explanations are provided for why it was actually inevitable. The French Revolution was definitely a black swan. I think it remains to be seen whether the election of Trump qualifies…

    • Izaak says:

      1) Yes, but not with these specifics
      2) 2%
      3) If it happens, I think that a large group of people will be predicting it with high probability at least a year in advance. I think we’ll see the idea mentioned and debated on every news network > a year in advance.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      1. Yes.
      2. I have no reliable information so I’m using the 1/N heuristic to say that it has a 50% chance of happening.
      3. If it happens that would in itself constitute a sort of Black Swan. It’s always been theoretically possible but two centuries have gone by without it happening a second time.

      • quaelegit says:

        Why does N=2?

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          It can either happen or not happen.

          The 1/N heuristic looks crazy but it usually beats more complex models when uncertainty is high. E.g. in the 2016 election it beat everyone including Nate Silver. I don’t bet on politics but if I was forced to bet I would give it 1:1 odds.

          • Iain says:

            This is circular. “When uncertainty is high” is basically just another way of saying “when the odds are close to 50/50”. Without somebody like Nate Silver crunching the numbers to determine whether it’s actually a close race, how do you distinguish between 2016 — which was, as 538 kept pointing out, a highly uncertain race — and 2008 or 2012, where Obama was a heavy favourite?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I’m using uncertainty in the Knightian sense.

            Uncertain situations are where the risk is immeasurable for practical purposes.

            Who wins in a chess match when we don’t know the records of either one? Is a the object I’m looking at right now (not the phone) bigger or smaller than a breadbox? Is this random stock going up or down in the next quarter?

            Some situations aren’t amenable to modeling, either because the data isn’t there or because they’re anti-inductive.

          • Eric Rall says:

            If you’re really applying the 1/N heuristic to the 2016 election, wouldn’t Trump’s odds of winning have been 25%? Johnson and Stein were also on the ballot in more than enough state to win outright. You could even make a case for N=6, since McMullin and Castle were registered write-in candidates in a bunch of states where the weren’t on the ballot.

      • andrewflicker says:

        If you use binomial with n=230 and p=1/230, since we’ve had one- and n=230 because we’re assuming our time is “unprivileged” and thus roughly halfway between the start and end of the USA, you’d get a chance of 0 conventions in next 230 years at 36.7%.

        But I think that’s a silly way to make an estimate.

    • meh says:

      2- I say pretty low. as soon as it started to gain momentum and seemed possible, there is a good chance congress would step in and remedy whatever grievances. The threat of having one should be enough, therefore I think the odds of it actually happening are low.

      The bipartisan issue would have to be something that is taking away power from the federal government and giving it to the states, otherwise the typical route to amendments would be easier. I.e. it needs to be something federal senators and congressmen would not propose.

    • John Schilling says:

      1. I have heard about this possibility continuously for as long as I have been paying attention to politics. There’s always someone saying “ConCon going to happen Real Soon Now”. It’s a different someone every few years. I probably haven’t heard of the specific someone that you just heard make the claim, but (see #2) I don’t pay much attention to specific claims of this sort.

      2. 200+ years and it hasn’t happened yet. More to the point, 33 questions that reached the point of requiring changes to the Constitution, and they never went the ConCon approach. That approach would require strong bipartisan support to do something of unprecedented risk and uncertainty, where simply proposing an amendment to fix whatever it is you think ails the republic only requires strong bipartisan support to do a specific known thing. So, I’m going to go with <2% chance of a ConCon to deal with the Trumpocalypse.

      3. I do not see any meaningful distinction between this and question #2. Perhaps you could elaborate.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        This country might benefit from a Constitutional Convention, but there’s no way we trust each other enough to hold one.

        I don’t see Trump doing anything that’s likely to provoke a CC– if there’s that much sentiment against him, it should be possible to impeach him.

        Also, I have no idea how to restructure the constitution in a way which would protect the country against a highly persuasive charlatan.

        • Also, I have no idea how to restructure the constitution in a way which would protect the country against a highly persuasive charlatan.

          I don’t know about restructuring the text of the Constitution, but you might do it by changing the interpretations that had been made. If, for example, the requirement for a declaration of war was taken seriously, a president could not do it without congressional approval. Various other provisions, if taken seriously, could restrict the president’s power in other ways.

          You will note that, however persuasive Trump might be, he has so far failed to get large parts of his immigration policy past the courts.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            For this specific case, just having a popular vote rather than the Electoral College would have been enough. I don’t know whether this would improve the odds in general.

            Having a moderately weak presidency also limits the damage a bad president can do.

        • Eric Rall says:

          Also, I have no idea how to restructure the constitution in a way which would protect the country against a highly persuasive charlatan.

          Add a separate head-of-state, with a large degree of insulation from the ordinary political process. This head of state would have a mostly ceremonial and advisory role in ordinary day-to-day governance, but would have strong reserve powers to check the President and Congress if they get badly out of line.

          Britain and the other Commonwealth Realms seem to have done pretty well with a hereditary monarch or an appointed Governor-General in this role, despite having much weaker constitutional protections on other fronts than the US. There have also been a number of countries which have or have had an elected ceremonial head-of-state with reserve powers instead of a monarch, with varying degrees of success.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Having such an extra safeguard would help, but what if he’s suborned? Or what if he acts when he’s not really needed, blocking a good policy that has the people’s favor?

          • Eric Rall says:

            “Suborned” is a real problem, and I’m not sure that there’s a good way to guard against it completely. The best we can do is probably to make the Head of State’s mode of selection different enough from the rest of the government that they’re unlikely to be corrupted by the same incentives.

            “Acts when not really needed” can be guarded against effectively by keeping the power of the purse and lawmaking authority firmly dependent on the consent of the ordinary political branches of the government. That way, the worst the Head of State can do is stalemate the government, not do positive harm on his own account. This has been enough to get British monarchs to pretty much keep their hands to themselves since 1708 (the last time a monarch blocked a bill from becoming law) apart from behind-the-scenes negotiations. In other countries, the usual pattern has been for protracted standoffs to be resolved by calling a snap election, after which the head of state is expected to either acquiesce to the policy or step down from office if the election goes against him.

          • I think one way of looking at the ceremonial head of state is as a sort of living Schelling point.

            Suppose the person who is supposed to be in charge is acting very badly. Many people are opposed, but each of them knows that if he acts against the ruler alone he is likely to be punished. The head of state is the one who says “It is now time for everyone opposed to the ruler to rise up and deal with him.”

            That need not involve literal rebellion. It might mean judges who think his acts are illegal ruling accordingly instead of giving in to pressure, government officials failing to carry out his orders, and similar forms of opposition.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            The Human Schelling Point is my favorite superhero.

      • Jeremiah says:

        Elaboration: One scenario is ConCon happens, but for the very narrow purpose of formally proposing the Balanced Budget Amendment, that’s all that happens and the BBA never comes close to the 38 it needs for ratification. That’s question 2.

        Question 3, imagines a possibility where the two sides use the opportunity of the convention to blow the whole structure of government wide open, and it becomes some flash point for an airing of all the grievances, and from there metastasizes in an unexpected fashion.

  3. bean says:

    History of the Iowa, Part 2 is up at Naval Gazing. I believe comment mirroring is still broken.

    • Said Achmiz says:

      Actually… bizarrely… further testing reveals that it seems to work for some SSC posts but not others. (Try it with this one, for example.)

      I’m continuing to look into the cause!

      • bean says:

        Right. Comment mirroring is now working, at least on that post.

      • Said Achmiz says:

        Comment mirroring is now working.

        What was the problem? Two evils conspired to produce this glitch: lack of foresight and website bloat.

        The library I use to parse a retrieved web page had a constant in it, MAX_FILE_SIZE (meant, no doubt, to prevent undue load on one’s web server, or hanging server processes, that might be caused by attempting to retrieve and parse a giant remote web page that some malicious person placed there as an attack). If a retrieved page is found to be larger than MAX_FILE_SIZE, parsing is not attempted.

        This library was last updated in 2014. MAX_FILE_SIZE was set to a very generous 600 kilobytes. After all (thought the fellow who wrote this parsing library), what madman would create a webpage where the HTML—just the HTML—would exceed 600K in size?!

        Clearly, our man has never read SlateStarCodex. This page, for example, is over 800K. (That’s just the page, now; we’re not counting the 9 stylesheet files, the 12 Javascript files, or the 120 image files that make up the webpage as a whole.)

        These are the sad times in which we live.

        P.S. I increased MAX_FILE_SIZE tenfold, and now all is well. After all—what madman would create a webpage where the HTML, by itself, would exceed 6 MB in size?!

        • Deiseach says:

          After all (thought the fellow who wrote this parsing library), what madman would create a webpage where the HTML—just the HTML—would exceed 600K in size?!

          Clearly, our man has never read SlateStarCodex.

          I like the identification with Mad Science this gives the whole site, and by extension its readers.

  4. Nathanael Greene says:

    Hello all, I’m looking to purchase a not crazy expensive desktop PC that will comfortably run games like the Witcher 3 and Fallout 4. (In addition to performing simple tasks like web browsing, of course.) Can anyone offer some guidance in terms of good choices here? Many thanks in advance.

    (Also, I personally don’t need to have really spectacular maxed-out graphics to enjoy a game, so as long as games like the ones mentioned above can run smoothly on relatively low graphics settings I’m quite content. So I’d rather not pay a big premium for top of the line graphics if possible.)

    • dodrian says:

      If you are looking to build your own, Logical Increments is a great site that recommends parts for any budget. They even have pages with specific recommendations for Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3.

      If you’d rather purchase an already built PC, you can at least take their recommendations and look for that Processor/Graphics Card on another site.

      • dodrian says:

        According to their guide to The Witcher (which seems to be the more demanding game), the Very Good tier is Smooth on a lower resolution and Playable on a higher one. So, for graphics card you’d want a RX570 or above, or a GTX 1060 or above. For a processor you’d want a R51400 or above, or an i5 or better.

        The ‘Powersearch’ option on Newegg can help you find a pre-built PC that matches those criteria. Here is a quick search, possibly those PCs are even more than you’d need (though that does help future proof them a bit).

      • Incurian says:

        Wow, that’s a great site.

    • WashedOut says:

      I would avoid Radeon GPUs and go with a GTX 1060 or preferably 1070 (6 or 8BG vram), manufactured by a Gigabyte or MSI. You should be able to afford a good GPU since the cost of memory and storage are so cheap now.

      If you go down the route of ordering parts from a parts-selector website and giving them to a builder (or building it yourself), make sure the parts are compatible with the motherboard. If there is nothing built into the website that checks it at states compatibility explicitly, check it yourself.

    • MrApophenia says:

      I was able to get one by looking for good deals on refurbished computers from NewEgg. Have had very good luck with a well-performing PC and no technical issues with it so far.

  5. AnonYEmous says:

    Well, I’m busy as fuck, but I wanted to re-post my post from the last thread. Unfortunately it got deleted. Understandable, mind. So hopefully people from the last thread, like Iain and Shakeddown, will remember well enough to carry on the conversation, and maybe I’ll be less busy in a few hours.

    The gist of it being: I think right now “””the left””” has a big problem where people I like on it are unable to address certain arguments because they might end up being wrong, and if so they would be screwed, so to speak. Well, they could lie about it, but they’re honest people. Example given was Current Affairs.

    (If mods read this post and have access to my previous post, maybe you could do me a solid and throw it my way?)

    • skef says:

      One of the examples you used, if I remember correctly, was “Obama is the real racist”, implying that Obama is at least more racist than [insert suspect group here]. I don’t see that as fitting in to the “unable” (or really afraid) “to address” category.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        Well, the crux of that claim is probably either some type of “soft bigotry of low expectations” or “racism against white people = racism”. Both of those arguments (though not particularly applicable to Obama himself, I’d argue) are tough to address for “”the left””; very often I see those arguments laughed off, or even used as “example of bad argument” or just automatically ridiculous, but the fact that a lot of people feel those arguments to be valid suggests that they can’t be on-their-face wrong and the implication that they are seems to suggest a fear of addressing the argument.

        • skef says:

          very often I see those arguments laughed off, or even used as “example of bad argument” or just automatically ridiculous, but the fact that a lot of people feel those arguments to be valid suggests that they can’t be on-their-face wrong and the implication that they are seems to suggest a fear of addressing the argument.

          I certainly don’t think your last step here holds up in most individual cases. Grant, for the sake of argument, that a person would be persuaded in the process of arguing. Even then, their dismissal could just be due to their bubble/groupthink.

          Maybe you don’t feel that there are arguments of any quality at the far end of current social justice advocates. I think there are*, and “the fact that a lot of people feel those arguments to be valid” probably means next to nothing to most social conservatives.

          I think a stronger case for something like your point could be made at the group level.

          * I want to set aside the quality question here, also for the sake of argument, or in this case in the hope of avoiding tangential argument.

          • albatross11 says:

            An example I’ve seen in real discussions with smart people involves crime rates by race.

            Blacks have a *much* higher crime rate (both committing crimes and being victims of crimes) than whites. For murders, which is the crime for which we probably have the best data, blacks commit murder[1] at about eight times the rate of whites.

            This is a bare fact, not a moral claim. And I don’t think there’s any doubt at all about the basic correctness that blacks commit a lot more crimes than whites per capita. (The exact numbers from the official statistics might be off from various forms of bias, but that won’t change the big picture.) But I’ve seen smart, well-intentioned people push back *really hard* on a statement of this fact. It seems to me that for many people, bringing this fact up in public is morally offensive, and for some, believing it or taking it seriously is morally offensive.

            This strikes me as a pretty effective way to sabotage your internal discussions. How can you have a meaningful discussion about race, crime, law enforcement, police abuse, etc., when you can’t state the most basic facts without giving offense and maybe getting piled on? It looks to me, as an outsider, like a *lot* of SJW-type internal debate and discussion is crippled by this kind of thing. Knowing basic facts about the topic you’re discussing, and stating them openly, is a minimal first step toward thinking clearly about the topic and maybe making some progress toward it.

            You can see areas where something like this happens on the right, particularly w.r.t. respecting the troops, but it looks to me like a much less powerful and important phenomenon. (But I’m a lot more likely to talk with people on the SJW side of the world, so maybe I’m getting a biased sample.)

            [1] You can find a ton of official data on homicide here. These statistics are based on people being arrested/charged, not on convictions, and there’s obviously no way to know for certain that everyone charged (or convicted) is guilty. Also, about 1/3 of murders go unsolved. So this is the best data available, but it’s still imperfect.

          • skef says:

            @albatross11

            Is this a response to my post?

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s a response to anonYEmous’s post, above. It looks to me like a major failure in SJW sort of discussions is that some facts are toxic. (That is, bringing those facts up in a neutral way is likely to get you attacked/denounced.) I think this is true of many political movements, but SJWs seem to me to have a bigger problem of this kind than most other movements.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            How can you have a meaningful discussion about race, crime, law enforcement, police abuse, etc., when you can’t state the most basic facts without giving offense and maybe getting piled on?

            IMO, the trouble is that race has no business being entangled with the rest in a factual discussion. The only connection race has to them is narrative-driven. So when you bring in “bare facts” about race, it just causes everyone to circle the wagons around their favored narrative.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            IMO, the trouble is that race has no business being entangled with the rest in a factual discussion.

            It depends on what the rest of the discussion is about. If the discussion is about the extent to which the police or the criminal justice system is racist against black people, the rates at which black people commit crime are relevant.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I certainly don’t think your last step here holds up in most individual cases. Grant, for the sake of argument, that a person would be persuaded in the process of arguing. Even then, their dismissal could just be due to their bubble/groupthink.

            Well, I brought in Current Affairs and that article because that article’s trying to escape the groupthink. Doesn’t mean they’re not still trapped, but I would hope not. That implies fear, to me, or some third motive we haven’t discovered. But whether or not the fear exists, it would be a valid fear if it did.

            Maybe you don’t feel that there are arguments of any quality at the far end of current social justice advocates. I think there are*, and “the fact that a lot of people feel those arguments to be valid” probably means next to nothing to most social conservatives.

            I do see a good amount of reflexive rejection of these arguments, but also more engagement than you might expect. I guess it also depends which specific arguments you mean here. I do promise to avoid the discussion of their quality.

            I think a stronger case for something like your point could be made at the group level.

            Sorry, but I don’t get what you mean by this and I’d like to. When you’ve got time, could you explain further?

            As to Gobble:

            IMO, the trouble is that race has no business being entangled with the rest in a factual discussion.

            Usually not; the trouble comes when one side entangles race (blacks are shot by police too much) and then refuses further entanglement as racist (blacks are, according to FBi statistics, committing X percent of murders).

          • skef says:

            I do see a good amount of reflexive rejection of these arguments, but also more engagement than you might expect. I guess it also depends which specific arguments you mean here.

            Remember that the standards are “the fact that a lot of people feel those arguments to be valid suggests that they can’t be on-their-face wrong” and “very often I see those arguments laughed off, or even used as ‘example of bad argument’ or just automatically ridiculous”. So the question we’re asking here is “Do a large portion of SJWs make some arguments that many/most conservatives treat as beneath contempt?”

            The problem with discussing particular arguments that might be in this class is differentiating between “they got nuthin’!” and “well, of course they could argue against something so stupid, it just isn’t worth bothering.” It’s tempting to put one’s ideological enemies in the first camp and one’s allies in the second. So, on what basis would we make the distinction here?

          • skef says:

            I think a stronger case for something like your point could be made at the group level.

            Sorry, but I don’t get what you mean by this and I’d like to. When you’ve got time, could you explain further?

            I’m not sure I have a trenchant articulation of this idea. I’m basically thinking that most members of a group can think that proposal P is beneath contempt, not worth arguing about. etc. and have no doubts about that, while the group’s “intellectuals” (for lack of a better term) also toe that line, but at the cost of some cognitive dissonance.

            Another way of approaching the same point: Don’t most people not think things through very carefully, except when it could help their individual interests? Almost no one is in a position to something non-trivial about their politics.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            “Do a large portion of SJWs make some arguments that many/most conservatives treat as beneath contempt?”

            I mostly asked this question so I could figure out how those arguments are treated by conservatives. But also, because not all of those arguments are believed by a large portion of people. And that’s sort of the key; if you take “conservatives” to be a large swathe of Republican voters, you could say that’s 10% of the U.S. voting population, or maybe even higher. If that many people believe something, it seems silly to just go “well they’re idiots”. But SJWs are at least hopefully not that numerous, and they’re also a lot more ideologically conformist, so a lot of SJWs believing something doesn’t carry the same weight.

            I’m basically thinking that most members of a group can think that proposal P is beneath contempt, not worth arguing about. etc. and have no doubts about that, while the group’s “intellectuals” (for lack of a better term) also toe that line, but at the cost of some cognitive dissonance.

            I think you’ve touched on something that happens, but I’m not sure if it applies to this situation.

            …or maybe it does, actually. But in that case, I think it’s a really bad case of that problem.

          • skef says:

            If we’re talking about significant portions of the population believing some position, I’m not sure that either of the original examples would apply. Lots of people are grumpy about BLM, or think it is unpatriotic, fewer consider it a terrorist organization.

            It seems to me that for those numbers, the arguments in question are mostly going to be variations on “the system is rigged”. So on the conservative side you’ll have various vague theories about how (more?) lavish government benefits are funneled to minorities, and on the liberal side you’ll have various vague theories about SPECTRE-like corporate collusion.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Sorry; I’m referring to “soft bigotry of low expectations” and “anti-white racism is still racism”. I think those are the arguments SJWs / progressives often don’t engage with and often will even laugh off. The most they engage with the latter is just to cite some definition in a sociology textbook which no one else uses for good reason.

          • skef says:

            That sociology textbook definition is tied to a conception of “systemic” that is difficult to make substantive arguments about. Many people would say it is deliberately so. Pressing hard on some of these points will sometimes make people say things like “these demands for evidence are just part of the system of oppression”. That pretty much eliminates the ground for any response away, which, however bad that is, is not the same thing as having a background fear of being convinced otherwise.

            [Side note: there is an argument that goes “supporters of category X attribute property Y to X. But does Y make sense given the evidence? I would say not, and therefore X is ultimately incoherent.” The (or a) problem with this strategy is that supporters of X might simply be wrong about the tie between Y and X. That’s often the strategy with these definition-based arguments. The tactic is quite general, though. Dennett’s popular early article “Quining Qualia” takes this form, as far as I can tell.]

            But as you point out, only a tiny portion of the people who have these views have even that degree of support for them. Most people rely on testimony in one way or another.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            That pretty much eliminates the ground for any response away, which, however bad that is, is not the same thing as having a background fear of being convinced otherwise.

            While this is true, I see a lot of responses towards “anti-white racism – racism” that are just laughably dismissive. This is sort of what I’m talking about – the supposedly bad arguments aren’t even interacted with, they’re just turned into examples of bad ideas even though the disproving hasn’t really happened. I don’t think those are people who really believe in the systemic model of racism, and I’d also note that, at best, it’s playing with word definitions, which is not a solid enough counter-argument to laugh off the original argument. Not unless you’re scared, anyways.

          • qwints says:

            Don’t have much time, but this discussion reminded of the fact that I can count the number of people who are consistent in their evaluation of homicide statistics and campus sexual assault statistics on one hand. Politics is still a mind killer.

          • cassander says:

            @qwints says:

            Don’t have much time, but this discussion reminded of the fact that I can count the number of people who are consistent in their evaluation of homicide statistics and campus sexual assault statistics on one hand. Politics is still a mind killer.

            Homicide is pretty universally agreed to be the most reliable of all crime stats, because bodies are surprisingly hard to hide, and even if you manage, eventually someone is going to come knocking on the deceased’s door to collect the cable bill. Rape is pretty universally agreed to be one of the lease reliable, with vastly disparate rates depending on who’s doing the measuring. frankly, the two shouldn’t be treated consistently.

          • Aapje says:

            Rape is also difficult to pin down definitionally (and sexual assault even more so), while this is not true for murder.

          • Brad says:

            @AnonYEmous

            I think you are overestimating by a fair amount the number of people that want to rigorously debate from first principles anything at all. It makes a lot of people uncomfortable and they just won’t do it. It might seem like they are open to this because they’ll be perfectly happy to tell you all about thier political opinions, have small debates with people that mostly agree with them, or even have big screaming matches with people that don’t agree with them. But all of those are different from a free range debate that goes down to the level of definitional questions.

            My point is that you have to be careful to distinguish between “people don’t want to debate this with me because they are scared where it will lead them” and “people don’t want to debate this with me because they don’t want to debate with me”.

            You say below “no one on this board is to be taken as representative” and I think that cuts both ways. It isn’t most on the left has this property but SSC leftists don’t. It’s most people have this property but many SSC posters don’t.

          • qwints says:

            [joking]QED[/joking]

            Access to emergency trauma care is a major confounders in homicide statistics, but my point is people tend to approach the data differently not that the data is equivalent.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I can count the number of people who are consistent in their evaluation of homicide statistics and campus sexual assault statistics on one hand. Politics is still a mind killer.

            Mind elaborating on you mean by consistent here? I wanted to evaluate myself but not really sure what you’re getting at. Treating the official statistics as legitimate? What degree of response is warranted?

          • qwints says:

            Roughly this. I just mean having the same standards and approach. It’s really easy to enter the political mindset where one set of data is to be attacked or defended rather than evaluated. I definitely consider myself guilty of it as well. It’s all too easy to take a position about the data based on the implications.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            My point is that you have to be careful to distinguish between “people don’t want to debate this with me because they are scared where it will lead them” and “people don’t want to debate this with me because they don’t want to debate with me”.

            I guess in regards to this argument, I’ll play another part of my argument that I haven’t given enough shine to: namely, that the original quote was also basically signalling to make up for the fact that the article somewhat breaks with orthodoxy already. Which says to me that they can’t afford to further break with orthodoxy by taking those claims seriously, even if they wouldn’t be inclined to do so anyways, and also that even the smaller breakage is dangerous to them.

          • Brad says:

            @AnonYEmous
            I’m sorry, I seem to have lost the thread. What quote and what article?

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Some on the right have the same problem according to this article that I read the same day you originally posted this topic: http://www.nationalreview.com/g-file/453210/trump-republican-snowflake-caucus-loyalty-not-agenda-important-trump

      I wonder how much of this is that the people could address the arguments to their own satisfaction, but feel that they would lose or outrage their audience in the process. An alternative is that their issue is that the talking point offends their morality, and they don’t see the need to defend this morality (since it is held a priori), just assert it.

      • cassander says:

        Is the author of that piece living in the smae universe as the rest of us?

        What I find so shocking is not so much the capitulation but the terms of the surrender. Or, rather, I should say the term — singular — of surrender, because there seems to be only one requirement expected of Republicans: Lavish praise on Donald Trump no matter what he does or says. Or at the very least, never, ever criticize him.

        Donald Trump never criticized by republicans? What is he smoking and why isn’t he sharing?

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Did you read the entire article?

          It’s about current criticism, not what happened after many critics started making good after the election.

          • cassander says:

            I did. Donald Trump still gets plenty of criticism from republicans, and everyone else.

          • CatCube says:

            @cassander

            Goldberg isn’t saying that there aren’t Republicans criticizing the President, he’s saying that when they do it’s treated as betrayal. For example, Mitch McConnell got ripped up one side and down the other near-daily for nearly a year when he held up Garland’s nomination, which ended up enabling Trump to nominate a Justice after his (surprise) win, but McConnell is derided as a swamp-dwelling RINO for not being 100% on board with Trump.

            To explain where Goldberg is coming from, take this piece that he wrote in 2015:

            It’s perfectly fine to want a woman to be president of the United States. All things being equal, I guess I might prefer it, too. But the question before the country isn’t, “Should we elect a category?” It’s, “Should we elect Hillary Clinton?” And these are wildly different questions. She’d “accomplish” being the first female president in the first second of her presidency. She’d then be Hillary Clinton for the next 126 million seconds of her presidency (Someone will check my math, I’m sure).

            When someone asks, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a female president?” the correct answer, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, to be sure, is “Yes.”

            When asked, “Wouldn’t it be great to have Hillary Clinton as president?” The correct answer, again with varying degrees of enthusiasm, is “Oh, dear God, no. No, no, no. No.”

            However, whenever Goldberg criticizes the President, legions of people crawl out of the sewer to accuse him of “secretly wanting Hillary to win.” There are a lot of people who are emotionally invested in Trump, and will lose their minds if he’s criticized.

          • cassander says:

            @CatCube

            Goldberg isn’t saying that there aren’t Republicans criticizing the President, he’s saying that when they do it’s treated as betrayal.

            And this is new? Has there ever been a president that people weren’t emotionally invested in?

      • AnonYEmous says:

        Some on the right have the same problem according to this article that I read the same day you originally posted this topic:

        My response would be that, proportionally, in the case of the Left the inmates are now running the asylum. The right has started to undergo this shift but hasn’t made it all the way yet. As in, influential media people are free to speak out against Trump, though they do get hate for it, but influential left-media people aren’t free in the ways I describe. Additionally, it’s more like a specific cult following rather than an entire set of issues and philosophy. But it is a problem and a related one.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          “The left” is nowhere near as epistemically closed as the right. The right is devoted to the idea of faith and purity in its ranks in a way that the left is not. Bernie Sanders lost the nomination, and was much more representative of the “our way can’t fail it can only be failed” style of thinking you are talking about.

          You may not see it, but it’s likely because you discount essentially everything you consume from the “mainstream” media.

          Hell, the (editorial page of the) WSJ called for Mueller to be fired in the last week. That’s how far up the rot is on the Republican tree.

          • cassander says:

            there is vastly more disagreement on goals, policy, and method on the right than the left. there is almost nothing that bernie sanders is for that hillary isn’t, in principle. At most, she disagrees on methods and practicality. the same is NOT true of the right, where you have everyone from trump to ted cruz to mitch mcconnell. you’re letting outgroup homogeneity get the better of you.

          • qwints says:

            @cassander, it seems likely that one is much more aware of dissension in one’s own ranks. As a leftist, I perceive intense internal divides on the left, and don’t see much difference between Trump, Cruz and McConnell. That’s probably because the differences between the ACA and single-payer or universal free college and “debt-free” college seem important to me while I tend to perceive the Republican disagreements as all various flavors of cut taxes and spending. I imagine you probably perceive the Bernie-Hillary divide as various flavors of increasing taxes and spending.

          • cassander says:

            @qwints

            it seems likely that one is much more aware of dissension in one’s own ranks.

            That’s what I meant by outgroup homogeneity bias.

            That said, the cases are not equivalent. The difference between bernie sanders and clinton isn’t that clinton doesn’t like the idea of single payer, but that she thinks it’s impractical. Given the deciding vote between a single payer system and some expanded version of the ACA, clinton would not vote against single payer. the same is absolutely not true of the policy differences between say, ted cruz and donald trump, where they have goals that work in dramatically different directions, not settling on slightly different points of a continuum. The differences in the democratic party are, objectively, dwarfed by those between Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee, and trump is orthogonal to both of them. You say it’s just different flavors of cut taxes, but some of them don’t even want to cut taxes and spending, just to spend them on conservative programs.

          • The right is devoted to the idea of faith and purity in its ranks in a way that the left is not.

            I don’t know what you count as “the right.” I openly support open borders, drug legalization and free trade, identify as an anarchist and atheist. I still get invited by the Federalist Society, Young Americans for Liberty, et. al. to give talks. Quite a while back I was invited to take one side of a debate on free trade at a fairly elite right wing event where I got to meet and chat with Phyllis Schlafly.

            Either those aren’t what you define as the right–my guess is that the Federalist Society is an important input for Trump’s judicial nomination process–or my positions are not inconsistent with right wing faith and purity.

            Or you are mistaken.

          • Matt M says:

            As a cynical right-winger, I’d say it’s less “the right is devoted to purity and the left is not” and more “the left is smart enough to put aside purity conflicts until their primary enemy is defeated and the right is not.”

            I have little doubt that the radical SJWs would turn around and purge all the blue-collar non-PC democrats immediately after all the conservatives were safely locked away in re-education camps. But not one second before.

          • cassander says:

            @Matt M

            I have little doubt that the radical SJWs would turn around and purge all the blue-collar non-PC democrats immediately after all the conservatives were safely locked away in re-education camps. But not one second before.

            Many would say that the reason the left just lost a presidential election is precisely because they couldn’t wait for the purging.

          • Nornagest says:

            @Matt M — Are you kidding? The Left gets bogged down in infighting over purity so much that they were making jokes about it in the Seventies. Where do you think the bit in Life of Brian comes from?

          • JayT says:

            Yeah, I would say that the only way the Republicans ever have a chance is that they are better at setting aside differences when it comes time for an election than the Democrats are.

            My theory has always been that since the Republicans are made up of such strange bedfellows (the Religious Right and big business have very few things in common, for example) they are able to rally around a few single issues that they either agree on, or at least don’t strongly disagree on.

            The Democrats on the other hand, have a much more homogenous set of beliefs, but because of that, small differences get blown up. It’s the whole outgroup vs fargroup. To a businessman, abortion doesn’t make or cost him any money, so he’s willing to ally with someone that is willing to cut taxes in exchange for abortion restrictions; they are his fargroup. On the Democrat side though, you get a lot of people wanting things to go the same way, but they argue over the specifics.

          • Matt M says:

            Perhaps I should rephrase.

            The left has gotten really good at never punching left. Hardcore lefties do occasionally get mad at moderate lefties for insufficient leftism. But that’s it. It never goes in the other direction.

            Meanwhile, a good 50% of the right spends its time punching right exclusively in the hopes that if only they denounce a little bit louder, the left will stop calling them racists.

            Hillary may have criticized Bernie from the “he won’t get elected” sense, but she never called him a dangerous extremist. Democratic congresspersons aren’t lining up to denounce Antifa.

          • albatross11 says:

            MattM: I recommend you google the term “Bernie Bros” before continuing to assert that the left only punches left.

          • albatross11 says:

            What evidence could we look for that would help us decide whether the left or right (Democrats or Republicans?) were more/less unified or more/less screwy in their ideas?

            It’s *easy* to find crazies on the other side. The incentives of all media to find entertainingly awful or crazy people means that we can all think of examples. But that doesn’t tell us much.

            How would we decide which party’s leadership, say, has a more realistic view of the world? Or which party’s supporters do?

            It seems to me that a *lot* of people feel like it’s so *obvious* that the other side is the crazy side that it’s silly to even ask for evidence. And I suspect the information bubbles and outrage-amplifying features of social media are making that seem plausible to a lot of people. But it’s not so obvious where we’d go to find out whether we’re right, stepping out of an outrage-amplifying bubble.

          • albatross11 says:

            This Pew Center poll shows that Democrats and Republicans are know about the same amount about politics and current affairs.

            I seem to recall reading a Pew Center report that showed Republicans with a minor advantage in science knowledge, but the most recent report I could find didn’t report partisan differences. (However, whites did better than nonwhites, wealthier people did better than poor people, and men did better than women, so probably Republicans still came out ahead.)

            Both of these support the idea that the rank-and-file Democrats and Republicans are probably not all that different in knowledge about the world. Neither of these polls were probing for deep knowledge, just sort of basic stuff like how Zika is transmitted or who the secretary of state is.

          • JayT says:

            To find out which is more or less unified I would say take the party platform, and then look at polls split by party preference for each issue. That would probably give you a pretty good idea which party is more homogenous.

            As for which is more crazy, I doubt you could ever really come up with a satisfactory measure of that, and if you could, I wouldn’t trust the data. There’s just too much incentive to make the other guy look bad. I suspect they are fairly equal.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @albatross11

            MattM: I recommend you google the term “Bernie Bros” before continuing to assert that the left only punches left.

            Hillary Clinton would defect even if the payoffs support cooperation in all cases; she’s definitely an exception.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            I think that you are incorrect. Articles in the NYT appear in the op-ed section whenever something like Murray getting attacked happen; the NYT defended Murray. Or, look at the Atlantic, with articles like this one, clearly more sympathetic to the students objecting to classes being disrupted by left-wing activists than to those activists.

            This is the reason why leftists don’t like the centre-left: because they think they are harder on leftists than they are on the right, are milquetoasts who don’t have what it takes to fight the bad guys, etc. Haven’t you seen the communist memes that usually go like this:

            COMMUNIST: I want everyone to be equal
            NAZI: I want to kill everyone
            LIBERAL: They’re the same!

            ?

            Sure, when things like Charlottesville happen, when it’s fights between antifa and the far right, the NYT etc will take the side of antifa. But remember what Churchill said: “If Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.” You can hardly accuse Churchill of being, say, pro-Soviet, can you?

          • How would we decide which party’s leadership, say, has a more realistic view of the world? Or which party’s supporters do?

            One way is by looking at their past predictions and seeing which turned out to be correct.

          • Matt M says:

            I think that you are incorrect. Articles in the NYT appear in the op-ed section whenever something like Murray getting attacked happen; the NYT defended Murray. Or, look at the Atlantic, with articles like this one, clearly more sympathetic to the students objecting to classes being disrupted by left-wing activists than to those activists.

            I don’t generally dispute this, but I think these articles have an entirely different tone than right-wing infighting does.

            The Atlantic is not saying that protesting students are bad people. Nor are they disagreeing with their terminal goals. The complaint of mainstream liberals towards SJWs is usually “you are engaging in bad tactics that will not help you achieve your goal, which I also share as a goal”

            In the rare instances in which they will admit a misalignment of goals (something like “these students reject free speech, but they are wrong because free speech is good”) it’s usually cast as an intermediate goal problem. Something like “What these students really want is equality – which I also want, but they think that free speech promotes inequality and they are simply misguided or underinformed because in reality free speech helps make us all equal” or something like that.

            Right wing infighting is the most base level of namecalling and vitriol. It is saying the other person is bad, that their goals are bad, that they are lying and evil. Berniebros is pejorative, but I’m hard pressed to name any prominent Democrats who are willing to state, on the record, that they disagree with Bernie’s terminal goals. That his positions aren’t just bad tactics, but that his preferred policies are immoral and wrong. That SJW students aren’t just misguided souls whose hearts are in the right place, but that they are irredeemably wicked and need to be brought to heel rather than empathized with.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            From the Atlantic article, I got a decent degree of, not outright condemnation, but disapproval of the protester’s aims – maybe not their overall aims, but certainly their particular aims. For example:

            The texts that make up the Hum 110 syllabus—from the ancient Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, Persia, and Egypt regions—are “Eurocentric,” “Caucasoid,” and thus “oppressive,” RAR leaders have stated.

            Maybe I’m reading it in, but to me, this oozes with sarcasm. The author isn’t saying “well they’re right to want to get rid of the HUM course but they’re going around it the wrong way,” the author is saying “these clueless kids think Mesopotamia, Persia, and Egypt are Europe.”

            And, the “BernieBros” thing wasn’t just about means. BernieBros were condemned as clueless white men trying to distract from the real (racial, gendered, etc) issues by saying class was the main issue.

            I think you are falling victim to outgroup homogeneity bias. There’s a clear split right now in the Democratic party – so, within the mainstream left, very few real leftists here – between the people saying “to win the next election, we gotta appeal to those working-class whites who defected to Trump; we gotta work on an economic policy that benefits everyone” and the people saying “we gotta boost African-American and Hispanic turnout; we need triage here and working-class white people are not the worst off.”

          • Matt M says:

            Maybe.

            Then again, here’s something that popped up on my FB feed today. GHWB admitting he voted for Hillary, and openly criticizing the sitting President of his own party during his term.

            Is there a left-wing version of this? Which Democrats openly criticized Obama during his Presidency?

            And yes, you’re right that the criticism of Berniebros was that they were “distracting from the most important issues” but it WASN’T that class wasn’t a real issue. Hillary supporters never said “free college is a terrible idea because private markets generally work well.” They never said “raising taxes on the rich is a bad idea because it lowers their incentive to invest in growing their businesses.” It was a disagreement over tactics and priorities, NOT over terminal goals.

          • Matt M says:

            Maybe I’m reading it in, but to me, this oozes with sarcasm. The author isn’t saying “well they’re right to want to get rid of the HUM course but they’re going around it the wrong way,” the author is saying “these clueless kids think Mesopotamia, Persia, and Egypt are Europe.”

            I think this proves my point though, doesn’t it?

            The Atlantic is not taking the position of “What’s wrong with Eurocentrism? European civilization was great, a lot of our foundational texts come from there, reading them teaches us a lot of very important things!”

            But rather, they are taking the position that “Actually, this course isn’t Eurocentric at all, it DOES focus heavily on texts written by people of non-European descent.”

            The point isn’t that the SJ goals are wrong, just that they have a few basic facts of the specific situation wrong. In other words, if the syllabus DID include a disproportionate amount of things written by white people, it would totally be okay to boycott and try and get this class shut down.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            Even if the course WAS Eurocentric, though, I get the sense that the author wouldn’t support the disruption of the classes. The author, as far as I can tell, objects on both tactics and intermediate goals.

            Most people on the left would agree with the statement that the course shouldn’t be Eurocentric. I would agree with that statement, and what jumped out at me is the absence of Indian and Chinese writings being mentioned; they have a literature going back just as far as most of the societies mentioned (really, all except Mesopotamia, as I understand it).

            If you had what happened in the Republican party – an outsider, certainly not the choice of the party elite, taking over due to an uprising from the base – happen in the Democratic party, I’m sure you’d have established, mainstream Democrats criticizing whoever it was.

            I think you’re also underestimating how important priorities are. Plus, a big reason the “Berniebro” smear came about was that emotional jabs are plain and simple more effective than arguing the issues.

            That you might have more disagreement on the right, and I’m not sure whether you do or don’t, could be less something about “the left” or “the right” and more a function of the fact that things start to break down when you have people who get coded right-wing because they’re xenophobes, nationalists, etc but who have no particular interest in right-wing economics, etc. There’s also the fact that the left-wing counterpart, people who actually want to tear down the capitalist system, are perceived as pathetic/amusing instead of threatening, as Nazi or Nazi-adjacent types are perceived, for various reasons.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            The course is called: Introduction to Humanities: Greece and the Ancient Mediterranean.

            So it would be pretty weird to include Indian and Chinese texts. In general, I disagree that good courses have to be destroyed changed to incorporate every perspective. If you try teaching everything at once, you end up teaching nothing at all.

            The primary goal of the course doesn’t even seem to be teaching about Greece and the Ancient Mediterranean, but this is used as an interesting topic that most people are not too familiar with to teach important skills:

            – Framing questions that elicit deeper analysis;
            – Cultivating intellectual curiosity;
            – Crafting, analyzing, critiquing, and defending arguments using evidence;
            – Expressing ideas in writing and speech clearly, persuasively, and honestly;
            – Participating productively and respectfully in a Reed conference discussion;
            – Interpreting primary sources in a range of media and genres;
            – Practicing the basic methods of various disciplines in the humanities and social sciences.

            So the demands by the students to change the course seem based on ignorance of what the goal of the course is.

            If the protesting students want a broad education on the tests produced by many different cultures, the proper way seems to demand additional courses on those topics, not to hijack this course.

    • Iain says:

      The two examples I remember were “Obama is the real racist” and “BLM is a terrorist group”. In any context other than this one, you are correct, in that I would probably not engage with those arguments.

      But it’s not because they’re intellectually challenging. It’s because — from a left-wing viewpoint — they’re transparently ridiculous. (You yourself admit, in your reply to Skef, that the case for Obama being the real racist is “not particularly applicable to Obama himself, I’d argue”.) In both cases, it looks like a right-wing person read a surface-level description of what left-wing people don’t like, found a left-wing thing that looks (if you squint) vaguely similar to that surface-level description, and proudly announced “Checkmate, leftists!” If I were not convinced of your good faith in this conversation, I would be inclined to think the arguments were disingenuous.

      Attempting a vague parallel: it’s as if an anti-death-penalty activist found “thou shalt not kill” in the Ten Commandments and concluded that pro-death-penalty Christians must be avoiding engagement with his new powerful argument. Sadly for our activist friend, he’s not telling the Christians anything they don’t already know. If you are Christian, pro-death-penalty, and remotely thoughtful, then you’ve probably thought this stuff through before, and you have come up with answers that are more sophisticated than the activist’s challenge. That doesn’t, of course, mean your answers are right — there are certainly Christians who see the question differently. But instead of assuming that your ideological enemies are intellectual cowards who are afraid of being proven wrong, you’ll get a lot farther by assuming that your argument just isn’t compelling from where they’re standing.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        I’m happy you gave this response. I think I’m closer to understanding what I was trying to say, so here it is.

        In the example you give, the Christian activists understand the statement of the Bible and, in a clear-eyed manner, still hold to their positions. I feel that, if the argument for, say, BLM being terrorists, or Obama being racist, was to be further fleshed out by the arguer, there would be certain situations or arguments that Nathan or Brianna or “””The Left””” wouldn’t even want to accept, despite them probably being true. That’s not to say that you can’t hold these positions despite knowing all the facts, but rather that they don’t want to.

        The point I’m trying to get at is that, whether or not these arguments are good, to accept them would land someone on “The Left” into hot water. I don’t know if that’s true for Christian activists or not; maybe it is. And I have a feeling you’ll attack the vague phrase “into hot water”, but I hope you know what I mean.

        I’ll finish by saying: I may have chosen a bad example. But I think this trend exists. Feel free to discount that if you want, but I’m confident enough in myself to not mind.

        • Iain says:

          I have a hard time imagining an argument for Obama being a real racist that I would find uncomfortable. Certainly, I am curious which situations/facts about Obama’s racism you think the Left is afraid of.

          To continue the Christian comparison: in many evangelical communities, you will get in trouble for questioning whether abortion is really that bad. (This is not true in all Christian communities, of course, in the same way that there are groups on the left where calling BLM terrorists would be within the Overton window: unions, for example.) To the extent that you have identified a real phenomenon, it is not unique to any particular group. It’s just easier to accuse your ideological rivals of double-think than it is to identify your own.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          I have a hard time imagining an argument for Obama being a real racist that I would find uncomfortable.

          no one on this board is to be taken as representative

          To continue the Christian comparison: in many evangelical communities, you will get in trouble for questioning whether abortion is really that bad.

          Yeah, evangelicals are known to have problems. But when this afflicts an entire political wing, as opposed to an extreme part of a religion, I think it’s a bigger deal, and that it represents at the very least a large outgrowth of what is admittedly a very human problem. And btw:

          It’s just easier to accuse your ideological rivals of double-think than it is to identify your own.

          More like crimestop than doublethink. I.e. they stop before considering the idea, not that they secretly think it’s true.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Self identifying evangelical Christians are the backbone of the current Republican coalition. Opposition to abortion might be the number one most shared goal of the voters. Top end tax cuts might be the most shared goal of the representatives, but that isn’t representative of the feelings of the base of the party.

            The fact that you call them “an extreme part of a religion” is … weird, especially when you are trying to make an argument about uncomfortable facts that people are unwilling to face.

          • qwints says:

            @HeelBearCub, you may be overstating the importance. Pew had abortion as a lower priority issue, with it being more important for Clinton voters than Trump voters. Even if one treats “supreme court appointments” as equivalent to abortion, it’s still lower than the economy, terror and immigration.

            Gallup and Hart Research (Q 10) had similar numbers.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Even if one treats “supreme court appointments” as equivalent to abortion

            Which one shouldn’t, because there’s a substantial bloc of the right which treats it as equivalent to guns.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @qwints:

            “Importance” and “shared goal” aren’t the same thing. At all.

            The Republican Party is firmly committed to a pro-life policy stance and has consistently been so. There is a large rump of the Republican base for which this is a very important issue. Republican office holders around the country consistently sponsor and pass legislation which attempts to challenge the existing SCOTUS right to abortion rulings.

            Trying to claim that it is merely some “extreme fringe of Religion” within the party/right wing (implying that it is a tiny minority with no larger support) is not a supportable claim.

          • Deiseach says:

            Self identifying evangelical Christians are the backbone of the current Republican coalition.

            Really? I think the phrase doing all the work there is “self-identifying”, because there certainly wasn’t a unified response to Trump’s candidacy, and the evangelical support he tended to pick up as enthusiastic was the “Cultural Evangelical” types (i.e. raised in a nominally at least Christian household, may or may not have been baptised, may or may not have “walked the aisle”, not too big on church-going, not too concerned with theological details, easy on alcohol and tobacco and dancing, likely to be divorced, likely to be cohabiting, probably not opposed to contraception, may or may not have strong opinion on abortion and gay rights but only in the ‘that’s not how I was raised’ way not in any kind of ‘the reasons for this opinion are…’ way, and so on).

            Red Tribe values trumping (pardon the pun) any specific church values in this case, and generally it’s the economy, immigration, and those concerns not abortion and gay marriage that are the big questions for those supporters. Some Evangelical leaders did indeed hold their noses and support Trump once he had gotten the nomination, a few were behind him from the very start, but it is Pence who is out of that background and Trump convincing him to be Vice President was the big win there.

          • Iain says:

            To add to what HBC has said: evangelical Christians make up about 25% of America. They are the single largest religious group in the country. Dismissing them as some fringe movement is silly.

            Moreover, it’s missing the point. Evangelical Christians and abortion were just a useful example of a broader theme: the flaw that you think you have identified in the Left exists everywhere. If you are actually seeking truth, instead of trying to score points against the other team, you should stop assuming that doublethink and crimestop only exist among people you disagree with.

            Edit: Deiseach, 81% of white evangelical Christians voted for Trump. Evangelicals who attend church regularly are more likely to support Trump than their less dedicated compatriots. If you think that this is an odd fit with their professed beliefs, I would not disagree with you, but the numbers don’t lie.

          • johansenindustries says:

            Iain: Would you mind explaining how the fact that evangelicals voted in large numbers for Trump is proof that the parts of evangelically where ‘you will get in trouble for questioning whether abortion is really that bad’ are not an extreme part of a religion as AnonYEmous said?

            To my mind it seems that you’ve introduced a hard limit of how common punishing pro-choice dabblers to 19% even within the community you raised as your example. (And obviously it is very unlikely that it would be anything close to that 19% as all being motivated by anti-moral-uncertainty on abortion sentiments.)

          • Deiseach says:

            Iain, I accept the correction. But I do think that it is less specifically religious reasons that account for Trump’s strong support and more that he is seen as representing them and their values, such as they are – that he means it when he talks about jobs and making America great and patriotism, that he’s not looking down his nose at them as rednecks and ‘bitter clingers’, that he’s not trying to take their guns away from them, that in a choice between him and Hillary Clinton he was closer to them and would represent them in a way she would not.

            I don’t think abortion as a religious doctrine is getting a lot of traction there, and I think the broader attitude in American society as a whole towards abortion is muddled: majority yes it should be legal but also majority yes there should be restrictions.

            Looking at the Pew Report, Black Protestants and Hispanic Catholics have very low approval ratings for Trump and high for Hillary, and I don’t think Black churches and Hispanic Catholics as a whole are very liberal on abortion and gay rights so there is a secular political angle there as much as any doctrinal one.

          • Iain says:

            @johansenindustries:

            Did you miss the second paragraph of my post, where I argued that the exact size of the group was beside the point?

            If you would like to read more about the centrality of abortion to the identity of white evangelicals, I invite you to read the Fred Clark post I linked previously, along with the rest of his blog archive. He talks about it a lot.

          • johansenindustries says:

            I don’t think its reasonable to try to have the last word and then say ‘its beside the point’ to stop any further discussion.

            As well as that shouldn’t a useful example be a good example? If the issue exists everywhere shouldn’t you be capable of coming up with an example that doesn’t deal with a fringe part of a religion? An example that would apply to the broad majority of evangelicals that were willing to vote Trump?

          • Iain says:

            @johansenindustries:

            You appear to be more interested in angry accusations than actual discourse. If you look closely, I have hidden answers to your questions in my previous posts on the issue. Further engagement with you does not appear to be a good use of my time.

            Have a nice day.

          • johansenindustries says:

            I don’t believe I made any accusations – unless you consider me as accusing you of desiring to have the last word and then wanting to stop discussion, but I don’t think you would be able to deny the truth of such a statement. Certainly I’m not angry.

            However, I do not believe that you have hidden answers to these questions in your posts as I don’t think they are questions that you have considered. Answering them may perhaps make you feel uncomfortable, whereas you would rather simply digest blog posts that degenerate the writer’s out-group; in this case, anti-abortion evangelicals.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman (and others):
            “The Federalist Society” isn’t an example, at all, of what I am talking about. It is an elite organization, not the hoi polloi.

            There is a reason that RINO is a strong epithet, and DINO only vaguely tries to be one, unsuccessfully, in pale imitation.

            Matt M correctly identifies that Republicans have been busy “punching” each other, but he has the direction backwards. The Republican politicians have been looking to appear stronger, tougher, more conservative and less willing to compromise even within their own ranks, let alone with “the left”.

            Bernie represents what this looks like as it begins to now become ascendant on the left. It is a stance that says you must agree with a position, or you are hopelessly corrupted by evil forces. Even if you do agree with the position, you must be more dedicated, more vociferous, or you are hopelessly corrupted. It’s the language of demagogues.

            Right now, the “establishment” scalps taken by the left are relatively few. Whereas they are numerous on the right.

            Make no mistake, I’m not arguing that there is a dedication to a particularly coherent ideology on the part of those executing and pursuing this purging. Rather, there are simply a set of issues that are used to mark in-group status. Scott has, I believe, some relatively popular writings on this idea.

            But “abortion” and “taxes” have been two of the stalwarts of the category on the right.

          • onyomi says:

            @HBC

            But “abortion” and “taxes” have been two of the stalwarts of the category on the right.

            It probably depends a lot on the particular issue you’re considering whether or not a given party seems obsessed with signalling purity or willingness to compromise.

            I’d say abortion and guns are two easy Schelling points around which a large enough group of GOP voters have rallied to make it politically much more advantageous to play the “more radical than thou” game. This is because there is still fundamental, basic, easily comprehended differences between the two parties on these issues: “guns? or no guns” “abortions? or no abortions?” It’s not a case of “we’ve all already accepted abortion is okay and now we’re just arguing whether it stops being okay after 4 months or 5 months.”

            On the other hand, I’d disagree with you about taxes and most other economic issues. Sure, Republicans can’t easily come out in favor of raising taxes, but you can definitely win a GOP primary without signalling a strong commitment to cut them… and you can certainly get re-elected after campaigning on cutting taxes and failing to do so.

            I think this is because the GOP has already largely accepted the premise “a progressive income tax is okay.” They are just arguing about the particulars. And the details of tax brackets and rates is not a good Schelling Point for your average voter.

            But to the GOP voter who actually pays a little attention to e.g. how much the government is spending, it feels like they’re constantly being betrayed by politicians who promise lower taxes and spending but always cave and compromise and try to appear “reasonable.” The few who get really intransigent about actually lowering spending even a tiny bit (Ted Cruz) get vilified by their own party elite.

            I’d imagine it’s similar for Democrats (that there are some issues on which the incentive is to signal purity and never “punch left” and that there are others where it pays to signal moderation and to “punch left.”)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            As I see it, the original question was whether there existed topics on which the typical voter was essentially unable to muster anything like an open-mind to deal with intellectually challenging arguments.

            The subject of “taxes and spending” seems it qualifies, to me. The average Republican voter holds completely incoherent views on that broad topic, and is generally unwilling to consider it in any nuanced way. That’s one reason that the average Republican politician can never run on “raise taxes” or even “keep taxes the same”.

            I agree that complexity can play into the phenomenon, and that people generally like simple questions and answers. Certainly taxes and spending falls victim to that.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub says:

            The subject of “taxes and spending” seems it qualifies, to me. The average Republican voter holds completely incoherent views on that broad topic, and is generally unwilling to consider it in any nuanced way. That’s one reason that the average Republican politician can never run on “raise taxes” or even “keep taxes the same”.

            The same is true of democrats when it comes to taxes and spending, with no democrat anywhere able to run on cutting spending or taxes on “the rich”.

      • quanta413 says:

        But it’s not because they’re intellectually challenging. It’s because — from a left-wing viewpoint — they’re transparently ridiculous.

        Just want to ping in to basically agree with Iain on this, but I’m not sure it has anything to do with left-wing viewpoint. I think I’d be considered more right than left. It just requires setting a really, really low bar for either of those accusations to seem plausible to me.

  6. Anatoly says:

    A Jane Austen Kind of Guy claims that Austen is primarily read by women and it’s considered weird for a man to like her books, then criticizes this state of affairs. But is the claim accurate?

    “But the strangeness, the effrontery, of a heterosexual man who reads Jane Austen is so obvious, so much a commonplace, that the dean could take it for granted as the unstated premise of her question.”

    Huh? Is that really a thing? Asking for a friend.

    • johan_larson says:

      Jane Austen wrote novels about women in domestic environments, and as such tends to be thought of as a women’s author. A man who enjoys Austen is, I would say, odder than a man who cooks but less odd than a man who knits.

    • John Schilling says:

      Jane Austen seems to be unusually popular among fans of written science fiction, male and female, which I take to reflect the fact that she writes with unusual wit and clarity an exploration of a culture and a species roughly as alien to us as most of those in SF. So reading Jane Austen should, for a heterosexual male, be considered no weirder than reading science fiction. For what little that is worth.

    • quaelegit says:

      Similarly on “weird claims about Austen novels”, I was just talking to a friend from elementary school and she classifies P&P as a teen romance novel, in the same bin as “Twilight”…

      So people have all sorts of weird ideas.

      (Mind you, I think the “Austen is for women” is probably a more common sentiment, but that doesn’t mean you should pay attention to either suggestion. If you’re a guy who likes Austen, read Austen and ignore the haters :P)

    • It’s news to me. I’m a man, and when I was reading Emma and talking about it to people (my family, friends at university) nobody seemed to think it odd.

    • Brad says:

      I read P&P in high school and was quite surprised to have enjoyed it very much. I can’t say I bring it up all the time, but I think I have mentioned likely it over the years and can’t remember any kind of extreme pushback.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Women probably do get more out of Austen than I do. It doesn’t follow that I don’t get anything out of Austen.

    • andrewflicker says:

      In the US, at least, reading itself is primarily done by women. Last stat I saw was 65 vs 45, and that was for all ages- I believe it’s even more dramatic for young women vs young men.

      Anecdotally, the fact that I read regularly at all makes me an outlier for my gender in most of my peer group- nearly all of the women I know read regularly, and few of the men do (and those that do, read almost entirely scifi or fantasy).

      • Aapje says:

        The disparity for fiction is much bigger, since men read non-fiction more often than women. It seems that the disparity for fiction is closer to 80/20.

        • quaelegit says:

          Actually, the quote from the article is “Women read more than men in all categories except for history and biography.”

          Which is slightly different than all non-fiction (I would be surprised if men read more self-help books for example). Not a big difference, but I’m commenting because it “all-non fiction” surprised me.

          • Aapje says:

            I meant it the other way around: the books that men read, are more often non-fiction than fiction & vice versa for women.

            Not that most non-fiction is read by men.

    • rlms says:

      I think there is only a slight imbalance in the gender of Austen fans when you control for the fact that reading Austen (or any book written before 1900) is correlated with studying English (or at least another humanity), which has its own gender imbalance. There is probably more of a difference in hardcore Austen fans. Tangentially related article: Austenistan.

      • quaelegit says:

        Do that many people read Austen in college rather than high school? (b/c high school assigned reading will be 50/50 unless its more often assigned in honors/AP classes, in which case I’m not sure.)

        (also note I’m talking about the American education system b/c I have no idea when people are reading Austen in the rest of the world.)

        (and I’m sure that people reading Austen outside school assignments are majority women based on the points people made above.)

        • rlms says:

          In the UK, I think most high school students study Austen in A-level English (roughly equivalent to AP, as far as I know), which is ~75% female. But my point isn’t just that most people who read Austen do so because their school/university English course tells them too, and most school/university English students are women; I’m not even sure that the first claim their is correct. Instead, I’m saying that people who read *any* of the books here (including the ones that are by and about men) tend to have studied humanities, and therefore be female (this is more or less the point andrewflicker made above).

    • Deiseach says:

      Well, it was my understanding that her brothers enthusiastically promoted her novels amongst their fellow naval officers and that a lot of men, often in the armed forces, were Janeites back in the day.

      I think the “Austen only read by women” comes more from the latter-day romantic costume drama TV and movie adaptations with various actors as sexy Mr Darcy as eyecandy for the ladies 🙂

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      In my experience, this is a thing. Though I’m male, I read P&P in high school and quite liked it–to me, the central takeaway theme was “rational people should and will win”.

    • rlms says:

      I read Pride and Prejudice a few weeks ago, and propose that rationalists replace the litany of Tarski with the litany of Mr Bennet: “if my children are silly I must hope to be always sensible of it”.

  7. johan_larson says:

    The movie “Sideways” has an interesting moral problem.

    Jack and Miles are friends on a trip to the California wine country before Jack’s upcoming wedding. During the trip Jack wants to play the field a little, and encourages Miles to do the same. Jack promptly begins a sexual relationship with Stephanie, and Miles rather more reluctantly does the same with Maya, her friend. Jack has never before met these women; Miles knows Maya slightly from earlier trips.

    Some time later (a day? a couple of days?), Miles lets it slip to Maya that Jack is soon to be married. Maya get very angry at Miles, insisting that he should have told Stephanie that Jack was in no position to enter a long-term relationship with her.

    The question is whether Maya is right about that. Jack is Miles’s friend, and as such Miles should be willing to keep small confidences for Jack. Since Jack is not married, his desire for a quick hookup is a fairly minor matter, so Miles has a duty to Jack to keep his secret. Miles is not really friends with Stephanie, so he does not have a duty to warn her that is nearly strong enough to overcome the duty to Jack. Stephanie is, to be sure, Maya’s friend, but your lover’s friend is a fairly distant relationship, so I think the same applies. Accordingly, I think Maya’s was wrong to get angry at Miles in the film.

    • Loquat says:

      I haven’t seen the movie, but I think much depends here on exactly what Jack has led Stephanie to believe. If Jack has in fact created the impression that he could be available for more than just a quick hookup, then he’s in the wrong and at least in my subculture there exists no duty to help your friend obtain pleasure through deceiving strangers in a way that will cause them grief.

      If, on the other hand, Jack has been honest and forthcoming about only wanting a short-term hookup, then it’s unreasonable of Stephanie to expect anything more from him. (I can envision any number of women who might still be upset because they feel it’s immoral for a man to sleep around right before his marriage, but you don’t mention that issue so perhaps the women in the film don’t consider it a problem.)

      • johan_larson says:

        I don’t have the movie in front of me, but I’m pretty sure Jack was not up-front with Stephanie about his intentions. She believed he would be her boyfriend when he just wanted a short fling before married life.

        • Loquat says:

          Then I will repeat my statement that in my own subculture, if my friend wants to have fun in a way that I can reasonably expect will cause grief to a stranger, I have no duty to help my friend accomplish this. Indeed, many would say I have some duty to help the stranger avoid him!

    • The Nybbler says:

      Jack’s a dirtbag by starting a relationship under false pretenses, and by playing along Miles is taking on some of his dirtbaggery. While there’s some conflict of morals – not playing along with dirtbaggery versus keeping a confidence – there’s no reason for Maya (who is Stephanie’s friend, not Jack’s) to care about it, and she has every reason to be angry. Jack has abused his friendship by placing Miles in a no-win situation.

    • johan_larson says:

      We can probe the issue by tweaking the parameters a bit.

      Miles didn’t lie to Stephanie about Jack’s intentions. He just didn’t tell her. It’s pretty standard moral reasoning to consider acts of commission worse than acts of omission, so the case against Miles would be stronger if he had actually lied. I would condemn Miles if he had actually lied.

      Similarly, the case against Miles would be stronger if the stakes for Stephanie were higher. In the film, Jack’s deception means she is headed for heartbreak. But if Jack had lied about his HIV status rather than his marriage plans, then she would be in actual physical danger. This would make Miles’s duty to her stronger. If HIV had been the issue, I would believe Miles definitely should have told Stephanie.

      Also, suppose we removed the friendship between Jack and Miles. In that case both Jack and Stephanie would be strangers to Miles. But suppose Miles had heard Jack talking about his upcoming marriage and then overheard him chatting up Stephanie. Would it then be right to tell Stephanie? Morally speaking I think telling her would be the better thing to do. I myself probably wouldn’t, because Jack and Stephanie’s sex lives are not my problem, and deception in romantic matters is simply the sad way of the world.

    • Creutzer says:

      Since Jack is not married, his desire for a quick hookup is a fairly minor matter, so Miles has a duty to Jack to keep his secret.

      What? Jack’s not being married yet is entirely inconsequential. Either he is in a monogamous relationship with his fiancée, in which case what he’s doing is just as grave a matter as it would be if they were married, and the question arises whether Miles doesn’t have a duty to Jack’s fiancée (or even to Jack himself) to prevent him from pursuing his immoral intentions. Or Jack is in an open relationship with his financée, in which case the fact that it’s an open engagement and not an open marriage is irrelevant.

      • johan_larson says:

        We don’t know what the sexual arrangement is between Jack and his fiancee. But generally speaking, marriage include an expectation of sexual exclusivity but engagement does not. Some couples do it differently, but those are the defaults in our culture as I understand the matter.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          That really hasn’t been the case, at least for as long as I’ve been alive.

          The normal relationship progression is something like casual dating -> boyfriend & girlfriend -> fiancees -> married couple -> divorcees. By the time you’re past casual dating you’re explicitly monogamous.

          • albatross11 says:

            An easy way to check that: Imagine it’s a month before your wedding (assuming a traditional sort of exclusive relationship), and you find out your fiancee has been sleeping around with other guys. My guess is, this is going to be a huge issue for you, almost certainly enough so that you’ll no longer want to go through with the wedding. If she’s willing to betray and deceive you a month before the wedding, you should probably be worried she’ll do the same despite any marriage vows she takes.

        • John Schilling says:

          but those are the defaults in our culture as I understand the matter

          “Our Culture”, in the sense of SSC and the Rationalist Diaspora, is not entirely clear on whether marriage includes an expectation of sexual exclusivity or whether that’s just a bit of archaic language in the ceremony that nobody in Blue Tribe takes seriously unless they add a special “and we really mean it no kidding” to their wedding vows. So it’s possible that there is some miscommunication going on here.

          • albatross11 says:

            What fraction of Blue-Tribe people do you think would be okay with finding out their fiance was sleeping with someone else a month before the wedding. I’m guessing it’s a small enough fraction to be lost in the lizardman constant. Open relationships/polyamory exist, but they’re extremely rare outside some specific small cultural circles.

          • John Schilling says:

            but they’re extremely rare outside some specific small cultural circles.

            Ours is one of those specific cultural circles, and it often doesn’t realize how small it is.

          • Brad says:

            “Our Culture”, in the sense of SSC and the Rationalist Diaspora, is not entirely clear on whether marriage includes an expectation of sexual exclusivity or whether that’s just a bit of archaic language in the ceremony that nobody in Blue Tribe takes seriously unless they add a special “and we really mean it no kidding” to their wedding vows.

            I think those types, and poly in general, are more gray than blue. I suppose that’s a fuzzy boundary, but my heuristic is that if it is far more common in SF than NYC than it is a gray rather than blue thing.

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s true that poly communities often overestimate their size and acceptance, but I’ve never talked to anyone that would inflate them as far as “coterminous with Blue Tribe”. The most extravagant claims I’ve ever heard are along the lines of “only about a third of people are naturally unhappy outside monogamous relationships, the rest are naturally poly or could go either way”, and — while I think that’s a serious overestimate — it’s an estimate of the culture’s potential acceptance, not its current, which everyone knows is a lot narrower. And it still admits that 1/3.

            I’ve also been to a couple of poly marriages, and neither one used the traditional vows. For what I imagine to be obvious reasons.

          • rlms says:

            I don’t think the rationalist diaspora (if it’s defined to include all regular SSC readers) generally approves of polyamory. This year’s SSC survey gives 68% of people saying they prefer monogamy, 10% saying the prefer polyamory, and 21% saying no preference (1% said other). I would bet that most of the 21% who expressed no preference are in practice monogamous, which makes polyamorists a small minority.

          • John Schilling says:

            It’s true that poly communities often overestimate their size and acceptance, but I’ve never talked to anyone that would inflate them as far as “coterminous with Blue Tribe”.

            When Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote this, he was’t just talking about Bay Area Rationalists. I think I’m safe in saying he wasn’t going so far as to include what SSC might call “Red Tribe”, but he’s definitely saying that in the broad segment of society he is talking about, we can’t assume that actual expectations of marital fidelity are the default and open marriages will be explicitly negotiated as such.

            I’ve heard other statements of the same general type around here; not going to track them down because I think EY alone should be sufficient to establish doubt on the “Rationalists treat marital fidelity as the default” front.

            And, to clarify, I’m not saying that Blue Tribe has generally written off default marital fidelity, just that pockets of Grey Tribe sometimes overestimate the spread of their own niche views.

          • toastengineer says:

            Open relationships/polyamory exist, but they’re extremely rare outside some specific small cultural circles.

            Er, isn’t polyarmory even in circles were it’s not considered bizzare still not the default? Do polyamorists go out and commit to relationships, engage in polyamory without informing the relationship partner, and then get confused when the partner objects?

            Am I the back-water weirdo here for thinking exclusive relationships were the norm and default in the U.S.? I mean, I guess I wouldn’t know…

          • johan_larson says:

            The first source I could pull up on the incidence of polyamory had this to say:

            It appears that sexually non-monogamous couples in the United States number in the millions. Estimates based on actually trying sexual non-monogamy are around 1.2 to 2.4 million. An estimate based solely on the agreement to allow satellite lovers is around 9.8 million. These millions include poly couples, swinging couples, gay male couples, and other sexually non-monogamous couples.

            Single-digit millions in a nation of 300-some million is tiny. Polyamory is rare.

          • Nornagest says:

            When Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote this, he was’t just talking about Bay Area Rationalists.

            EY signals weirdness promiscuously and without regard for consequences, like a gold-plated Ferrari parked in the ghetto signals wealth. Half the time I think he’s doing it just to freak out the normies, or whatever the kids are calling that these days; either way, I don’t think he’s representative of even big-R Rationalists, let alone the diaspora (which at this point is made up mostly of rationalist-adjacent people like you and me). And even despite that, by my reading he’s not saying anything as strong as your phrasing there.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I’m betting Schilling is in particular remembering a post by our esteemed host himself. Which, to be fair, got a lot of pushback.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            rlms, there’s a difference between practicing polyamory and not disapproving of it.

            My guess is that a very high proportion of rationalists think polyamory isn’t an intrinsically bad idea.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Let me throw my hat in for the minority of rationalists who think it’s an intrinsically bad idea, then.

          • rlms says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz
            Sure, I should have said “practises” instead of “approves of”. I do think that the proportion of SSC readers (/survey answerers) who think polyamory is generally a bad idea is pretty substantial (and quite possibly above 50%), but that’s not relevant to the argument about what typical rationalist relationship norms are.

          • Aapje says:

            High IQ, high g people can makes things work that end up being catastrophic for groups with lower IQ and lower g.

            Let’s just say that I’m very cynical about whether it would scale to entire society (of course, I’m very cynical in general, so…).

        • Randy M says:

          But generally speaking, marriage include an expectation of sexual exclusivity but engagement does not.

          I have never heard this sentiment before.
          Well, not so baldly stated, at least. There is a trope that a man’s bachelor party is his last time being free, anything goes before the vows, etc., but I’ve never heard this implied in person, and the man taking advantage of this prerogative in fiction is generally portrayed as a bit of a sleezeball.

          As Nabil says, “going steady” is usually a precursor to engagement and has always implied fidelity, at least B.T. (before tender)

          Might be different if the marriage itself is open, but in that case I don’t know how to salvage your messes and don’t care to try.

          • johan_larson says:

            Yeah, I think I got that one wrong. Cheating on a girlfriend or a fiance is less bad than cheating on a wife, but it’s still a bad thing, unless the relationship is explicitly open.

          • Randy M says:

            I mean, you’re probably not be breaking an explicit promise made before legal and clerical witnesses, but you are breaking widely known societal conventions and expectations fairly held by the other party. I guess one could go with the autism defense of being blind to such things, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

          • JayT says:

            I would guess in most cases you are also breaking an explicit promise made to your fiance. My impression is that most couples have a “are we exclusive now?” talk at some point in the relationship.

      • CatCube says:

        Yeah. I wasn’t logged in to comment last night, but after going through the rigamarole I came back here to express my bafflement that the fact that Jack is cheating on his fiancé was just being waved away. Jack is a shitbag for that fact alone, and I’d probably start extracting myself from a friendship where somebody expected me to cover for him doing that.

        • johan_larson says:

          Well, my thinking that Miles is in the clear rests on four points:
          1. Small Wrong. Jack is cheating on his fiance, not his wife.
          2. No Active Participation. Miles does not lie for Jack. He just doesn’t tell anyone.
          3. No Real Harm. Stephanie will be unhappy when she finds out what Jack has done, but she has suffered no concrete loss.
          4. Duty of Friendship. Friends should be able to count on each other to some extent. Miles and Jack are friends. Miles and Stephanie are not.

          Change any of those factors, and things start looking very different for Miles.

          • Rosemary7391 says:

            I’d like to dispute point 3. No real harm done to Stephanie – you have no idea whether or not that’s the case. Getting someone to trust you and breaking that trust is painful. I can easily envisage situations for Stephanie where it could do real harm to her. For instance, having recently decided to get back into dating after a relationship gone bad. This sort of trust-breaking could damage her self confidence, her ability to trust her own judgement etc for some time to come, and may have repercussions in other parts of her life too. It might not, but please don’t discount the possibility. Also, is there no harm done to the fiance? I’m not sure that wanting to get married is all that commonly found together with being okay with your partner sleeping around…

            4 – I think one should be able to count on friends to tell you when you’re being an idiot. I guess given 1 (which has been covered above) you don’t think he is doing much wrong but plenty of others disagree. I think Miles ought to have taken Jack to task. It’s kind of a weird conversation to have with Stephanie though, and she might well not have believed him if he did.

          • johan_larson says:

            @Rosemary7391

            I think Miles did try to persuade Jack not to sleep around. Miles wanted to spend the trip touring vineyards and playing golf.

          • keranih says:

            No Real Harm. Stephanie will be unhappy when she finds out what Jack has done, but she has suffered no concrete loss.

            Ehhhh. Put me down as a social conservative who thinks that “the bad old days” have this more right than the current times. A man who deceives a woman into sexual relations with him when he has no intent of making the pairing permanent has, at the least, wasted her time (of which women have a lesser amount) and emotional energy *and* put her at risk of far more significant losses: death, career crippling disease, infertility, and the trauma of aborting an unwanted baby and/or the stress & financial burden of bearing & adopting out (or bearing and raising) that baby.

            I am not saying that any of these outcomes is inevitable, and certainly I am not saying that women don’t chose “of their own free will” to risk these outcomes when they bed down with men who are openly just looking for a fling. But these are the risks, which is why deceit (in terms of intentions) is so often (ie, is not rare/unheard of) used to get consent.

        • The Nybbler says:

          It wasn’t the question on the table. But yeah, Jack’s probably a shitbag for that, though we might imagine a case where both agreed they’d have “one last fling” (pretty sure I’ve seen that as a movie plot setup). IIRC it wasn’t the case in _Sideways_.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        This. Miles has no obligations to Stephanie, but does have an obligation to Jack to knock his head between his ears until he sees how much of a shitbag he’d have to be to go through with it. (Barring open relationship shenanigans, but one can infer this is not the case due to the whole “this is my last chance to play the field” thing – if it was an open relationship it would presumably continue into marriage).

    • Deiseach says:

      Not seen the movie either, but if Maya thinks Stephanie thinks there is a chance of a long-term relationship with Jack, just what exactly has Jack led her to believe? Is Maya wrong about Stephanie? Does Stephanie really think this is more than just a fling? Has Jack been honest about “this is a very short-term thing” or has he simply taken advantage of being able to leave once the trip is over, and leave Stephanie holding the bag as it were?

      I mean, if Jack and Stephanie are both clear this is a fling, then Miles isn’t obligated to say anything. If Miles knows Jack is leading Stephanie on, he should at least tell Jack to make things clear. And if Miles knows Stephanie thinks this is a real relationship then definitely someone needs to say something. But does Miles know this? He only has Maya’s word and she may be mistaken in her interpretation.

      And maybe Maya is expecting that there is more going on with Miles than there is, if she knows him from other trips before, so Miles needs to clear that up before he goes sticking his oar in anywhere else!

      • johan_larson says:

        In the movie, Jack definitely wants one last fling before settling down to married life. Miles and Jack talk about it, and Miles is clearly against Jack doing so.

        Does Miles know the details of what Jack has told Stephanie? No. But Jack and Miles they’re been friends since college, so I expect Miles has a pretty good idea. And what Jack told Stephanie were clearly lies. Judging by what Stephanie tells Jack after she finds out about his deception (and beats him with a motorcycle helmet), Jack has been telling some whoppers, leading Stephanie to expect this to be the start of a long-term relationship.

        How much of this does Maya know? Judging by her reaction when Miles let the issue of Jack’s marriage slip, quite a bit. Stephanie has told her a lot about what Jack has been saying. Did Miles know how much Maya knew about what Jack had been telling Stephanie? Probably not. At least, there is no hint of such knowledge in the film.

  8. Rolaran says:

    I’ve been trying to find a fictional story I read about (I think it was used as an example in a post here, which is why I’m asking here, but I’ve struck out trying to find it again).

    In the story, a man is accused of some heinous crime, and his peers and loved ones abandon him. He is eventually able to provide ironclad proof of his innocence and is acquitted, but he finds himself unable to enjoy his freedom knowing that everyone close to him found it entirely plausible that he would do the crime.

    Does this ring a bell for anyone?

  9. Atlas says:

    In Partial Defense of Hardcore Isolationism (comment 1/2):

    Possibly controversial proposition: From the perspective of maximizing the welfare of US citizens, a foreign policy very, very close to isolationism is correct. Furthermore, almost all the wars the US has fought, even ones commonly thought of as “good wars”, have done almost nothing to benefit US citizens. Additionally, current US security commitments/alliances in Europe, the Middle East and East Asia do not make US citizens more secure and in virtually no way benefit the material interests of US citizens.

    In case the bolded text above didn’t make it clear, note that I’m not making a claim about whether US wars have been net moral positives when considering the lives and interests of non-Americans. A more ambitious claim along those lines actually doesn’t sound totally implausible to me, but it would take more effort to defend and I think this is probably surprising enough for many people anyway.

    Consider the following wars: the American Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War 1, World War 2, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and the Iraq War. Can any of these wars be said to be defensive wars where the enemy government/military the US defeated wanted to and plausibly could conquer and occupy the US’ North American continental homeland?

    American Civil War: It is not at all evident to me that the secession of the CSA posed any threat to the material security of the US population of the remaining northern/western states. (And if it did pose a threat, a defensive war would have been much, much more cost-effective than “pre-emptively” invading the CSA.) Politicians of the time like Abraham Lincoln and later historians like James McPherson cite the US’s primary war aim of “saving the union” as if it was self-evidently a huge moral positive. I have almost never seen any even half-way decent argument to substantiate this assertion. It seems completely false to say that “America” can only exist as long as it refuses to abandon its sovereignty over any territory, no matter what the cost; for instance, “France” did not cease to exist once it stopped ruling Algeria.

    Spanish-American War: The idea that Spain posed a threat to America circa 1898 seems to me about the equivalent of saying that an octogenarian in a nursing home poses a threat to a 17 year old body-builder who beats her up and steals her wallet. Possession of the Philippines and Puerto Rico and semi-possession of Cuba did not make US citizens any safer. The Philippines in particular clearly turned out to be much more trouble than it was worth in terms of the cost of “pacifying” it.

    World War 1: If Imperial Germany had won the war and dominated/semi-dominated continental Europe afterwards, it would have posed no threat to the safety of American citizens. Germany had serious territorial/sphere of influence designs in Europe and in various colonial areas in Eurasia, not on the US’ North American homeland. The Zimmerman Telegram was only produced in response to the US’ obvious consideration of entering the war on the Entente side, to which it had already given massive material aid. In any case, the Mexican government had no interest in the proposal and would have posed a laughable threat if it. Even if Germany had wanted to invade the US for some reason (apparently there were some obscure war plans made for this purpose) it seems like this would be an Augean logistical challenge that would easily become prohibitively expensive in the face of even moderate US naval forces. I mean, just look at how difficult it was for Germany to fight a land war against an effectively contiguous neighbor, France; imagine if Germany had had to safely transport all the necessary men and equipment across the Atlantic to fight the war first. (And of course Germany would also be extremely vulnerable to an opportunistic attack by much closer British, French or Russian forces if it tried to do this.)

    World War 2: I expect that this will be the most controversial case—I think either Christopher Hitchens or Victor Davis Hanson said something like “if you needed to pick one principle around which to organize American political society, it would be that World War 2 was worth fighting.” Remember again that at the moment I’m only making a claim about the security of US citizens, not the overall moral value of the war(s). (Also, I will be using some euphemisms to avoid accidentally triggering any filters, not for any substantive reasons.) While the goals of the Axis Powers were contingent and varied, I think I’m on pretty safe ground in saying that neither Imperial Japan nor totalitarian Germany sought to achieve the Man in the High Castle scenario of conquest and occupation of the North American continent as a proximate geopolitical goal. At the very least, it’s not like US policy makers in the FDR administration did everything possible to avoid conflict with Germany and Japan and then at the very last minute were reluctantly forced to go to war to defend the American homeland as enemy forces prepared to invade California and Virginia.

    First, consider Imperial Japan. I think it would be fair to summarize Japan’s goals as acquiring colonial territories and resources in East Asia to become a regional hegemon, and driving out European colonialists/subjugating Asian natives as necessary. I think Japan thus only sought conflict with the US to the degree that the US sought to interfere with Japanese aggression in East Asia. The attack on Pearl Harbor was largely a response to the provocation of the oil embargo and the fact that the Japanese high command believed (wrongly though plausibly AFAIK) that the US would enter the war anyway if/when Japan attacked British colonies. If the US government had not imposed an embargo on crucial war materials, and had withdrawn from the Phillipines and made an unequivocal public declaration that it would not go to war with Japan to protect European colonies in East Asia, I find it extremely unlikely that Japan would have attacked the US.

    • Atlas says:

      (Part 2/2)

      And even if Japan had actually wanted to invade the US homeland for some bizarre reason, it seems again like it would be a massively difficult, expensive and uncertain undertaking. The US war/industrial machine OTL pretty quickly overwhelmed the Japanese one while playing offense; it seems like under any remotely plausible scenario, it would be near impossible for Japan to attain consistent naval and air superiority sufficient enough to ensure safe transport for an invasion force to cross from Hawaii to California. And then that invasion force would have to be able to overwhelm American forces playing defense, which seems unlikely given how well American forces did on offense against Japanese ones OTL and how poorly Japanese land forces did vis a vis Soviet ones in ~1939.

      And of course Britain and the USSR would have to be totally neutralized, and Japanese possessions, most notably China, would have to be not too costly to pacify/occupy…and it seems like this would be such a huge gamble for such uncertain reward that even say a 20% estimate of failure seems like it’d be enough to scuttle it.

      This all leaves me just the tiniest bit skeptical about the conventional wisdom that Imperial Japan was one of the absolute greatest threats to America’s security in history and that there was just no option except for war.

      Turning to Europe, I think Germany’s main geopolitical aims from 1933 onward can be reasonably inferred from the German dictator’s published biography and unpublished second book as invading and conquering contiguous land territories in Eastern Europe to acquire land and resources and destroying the USSR. Maybe, if that was successful, after that Germany would fight France/Britain, and, if that was successful, maybe go on to make further global conquests. It’s important to remember that WW2 didn’t begin with a German invasion of France or Britain; it began with a German invasion of Poland, which was met by a declaration of war from Britain and France. If Britain and France had not declared war on Germany in 1939, would Germany have eventually declared war on them, if it was victorious against the USSR? It’s a fair possibility, but I don’t see it as being as completely obvious as smug neoconservatives who say “appeasement failed!” believe. (I guess this is something I should research more, and if people really challenge this perhaps I will, but I have larger points that I want to make. If nothing else, Pat Buchanan wrote an ok book called “[you-know-who], Churchill and the Unnecessary War” where he cited more evidence to make the claim that the German leadership didn’t want to fight a war with the British Empire.)

      So overall, I don’t see it as obvious that the German dictator wanted to fight a war with Britain and France, except as an instrumental goal to secure Germany’s western flank in preparation for an invasion of the USSR. Thus, I see it as definitely not obvious that Germany would have tried to invade the western hemisphere at some point. If nothing else, it’s not like German policymakers were spending every day since 1933 arguing about the best way to invade America once the time was right, or always making big speeches about how America is the most hated traditional enemy of Germany, and so it was just completely obvious that Germany was going to try to conquer North America at the soonest possible opportunity. The alleged threat to America from Germany was pretty long-term, contingent on total German victory against the UK and USSR first and at least non-trivially conjectural.

      And again, even if Germany had wanted to invade America, for reasons like the ones outlined above it seems like it would have been really, really difficult. Germany didn’t even manage to pull off a successful seaborne invasion of Britain in 1940-1941 or landborne invasion of the USSR in ~1941-1943; invading the US would be like doing both of those things at once. Perhaps you could protest that Germany would have more time and resources to prepare relative to 1940 and 1941 OTL, but so would the US relative to the UK and USSR. All in all, an invasion of the US homeland again seems like it would be a gigantic gamble on Germany’s part that it would need to have really strong motivations for not obviously evidenced in the historical record.

      And if the US developed atomic weapons first, as it did historically, or even just not super far behind, this seems like it’d pretty much be the proverbial last nail in the coffin of any plans to breach “fortress America.”

      One final point I want to add here is that World War 2 is frequently cited as the best and most obvious historical case of a war that was necessary to protect America’s security.

      The Korean War/the Vietnam War/the Cold War: None of the wars America fought against Communism actually made American citizens safer, as far as I can tell. If the US hadn’t fought in the Korean War, perhaps Communists would have overrun South Korea and then Japan. That would have been bad, or really bad, for people who live there; I think it would have made virtually no difference in the safety of American citizens. Likewise with the Vietnam War. Particularly given a nuclear deterrent, it’s very difficult to imagine a Red Dawn style Communist invasion of the American homeland having any chance of success.

      The Gulf Wars: Saddam Hussein’s regime posed no threat to America’s security. Even if it had had WMD, it would not have posed a threat to America, which is very far away from Iraq and also has some WMD. I feel like this is obvious enough that the burden of proof should be on anyone who claims that it did pose a threat to America.

      The “War on Terror”: The US, rather than other random countries like Brazil, Japan or Vietnam, is targeted by Islamic terrorists because it uses its power, particularly its military power, to shape Middle Eastern politics. For instance, the 1998 Al-Qaeda fatwa preceding the 9/11 attacks did not list America’s freedom or MTV or whatever as the reason for jihad; it instead listed America’s leading role in the first Gulf War, support for Israel and military deployments in the Arabian Peninsula. And no matter what the cause of jihadist terrorism, if it’s really so incredibly important to prevent, it’s easily (compared to a war at least) counteracted by a stringent ban on Muslim immigration. (See Western vs. Eastern Europe right now.) I’m not saying that’s the kind of thing I support; I’m saying if you justify American wars in ME/NA only on the basis “we need to fight terrorism so it doesn’t threaten America” this would be a much simpler and more effective solution.

      And similar logic applies to American foreign policy today. If Russia invaded ALL the Baltic states and Ukraine and Poland, it would not pose any threat to American security. If China became a regional hegemon in East Asia, it would not pose any threat to American security. And so and so forth.

      In closing, my point isn’t that these wars or policies were necessarily immoral; just that they didn’t materially protect Americans from harm. I think this is a very important point that is shockingly infrequently mentioned in discourse around American history and foreign policy. Favoring American wars isn’t hard-headed pursuit of national self-interest, it’s altruism.

      • Civilis says:

        And similar logic applies to American foreign policy today. If Russia invaded ALL the Baltic states and Ukraine and Poland, it would not pose any threat to American security. If China became a regional hegemon in East Asia, it would not pose any threat to American security. And so and so forth.

        [I’m putting aside the Jacksonian side of my foreign-policy logic and going full Hamiltonian for this discussion, and so the following arguments aren’t my true thinking on this.]

        Right now, American citizens (and just about everyone in the world) benefit from a relatively stable, relatively peaceful (admittedly imperfect) international order that doesn’t allow states to benefit from invading their neighbors. Without the US, that falls apart. Europe isn’t willing to pay for it, and Russia and China have territorial ambitions, so if we don’t do it, no one will. Yes, they’re free-riding, but there’s no quick fix, and we’re still better off.

        As soon as it becomes obvious (because China grabs Taiwan or Russia grabs some former part of the Soviet Union) that superior military power means you can do whatever you want, it becomes an arms race. Everyone has to military buildup and form alliances, less they get crushed under someone else’s heel, and you’re once again one stray archduke away from another chain reaction of military escalations, only with nuclear weapons added to the mix. Even if the US should somehow come out of that without taking a direct hit, we’re in for a world of radioactive particles and glow-in-the-dark starving refugees (and we better hope there are no biological weapons being tossed around). And given the way human jealousy works, we’d end up getting a couple of city-busters tossed our way because we’re too smug, or too prosperous, or whatever.

        Right now, the international norm of ‘you can’t just annex that territory just because it was one claimed by someone of your ethnicity or religion’ has led to a draw down in military force around the world, which has meant resources can be devoted to improving people’s lives. The dirty secret of trade is that having other people that are well off enough to produce surplus stuff to trade with us makes our lives better. We’re not better off if everyone else is poor, we’re better off if everyone else is rich.

        Right now, we’re having all kinds of issues because Mexico is a poor state on the verge of serious problems. Yes, they can’t invade and conquer Texas, much less the US as a whole. That’s not to say that Mexico’s problems aren’t a threat to Americans along the border. And you can’t talk about threats to America without including threats to any Americans; as soon as you’re willing to write off Americans, it’s just a matter of time before you’re facing a war with no allies. I mean, Alaska was once Russian territory, and those “Alaskan separatists” are heavily armed, and it’s not worth a nuclear war…

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          This kind of thing is the best argument I’ve seen for Desert Storm. When I say it, people look at me as though I’m crazy.

          • Civilis says:

            Desert Storm occurred when I was growing up, so it formed my first impressions on how wars should work. My grandfather looked at all wars through the lens of World War II, even though he ended up never facing combat. I think a lot of people have their perceptions shaped by what happened to them, or at the very least what they saw (especially in the case of televised wars like Desert Storm).

            Yes, it sucks that humans are willing to kill each other over resources like oil. but it doesn’t change this basic fact that that’s what happens. It should be logical that the higher the price of oil, the greater the chance of war between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands. If oil is cheap, China can be assured of getting it from somewhere and has less need to push its claims of territorial sovereignty.

            We’ve almost managed to escape the paradigm where states need to worry about devoting massive amounts of their economy towards defending themselves because they need to be able to out-military an aggressive neighbor. In fact, that’s one of the causes of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait: the Kuwaitis bought luxuries for themselves, while Saddam bought a bigger army. Kuwait’s probably small enough that it couldn’t afford an army big enough to hold off Iraq by itself in any case (at least, without nukes, which raises its own obvious problems). The Iraqis would have been better off if Saddam had realized he couldn’t get away with invading Kuwait; yeah, Saddam Hussein was a repressive dictator, but he would have been able to use the money he wasted to at least buy the loyalty of more of his populace.

            The problem is almost that the West has been too successful at reducing the risk of war. You don’t need an army to inflict massive damage on the West anymore. If your goal isn’t to conquer another country, just harm them, you can get away with a couple of dozen people with box cutters. Taking down the WTC didn’t reduce the American military power in any way, but what people want does not always seem rational.

          • John Schilling says:

            Desert Storm was the first test of the principle, “Nation Shall Not Conquer Nation” of the post-Cold-War era. We passed, and the world is vastly better for it. Add up all the unsettled grudges from 1945-1991, and marvel at how many of them weren’t settled by territorial conquest, how much it would have cost if they had been.

          • cassander says:

            @John Schilling

            I think that the Gulf War created a huge opportunity to establish that principle, and did inadvertently for a while, but the US has failed to etch it in stone and the moment for doing so is either rapidly passing or already past.

          • Civilis says:

            I think that the Gulf War created a huge opportunity to establish that principle, and did inadvertently for a while, but the US has failed to etch it in stone and the moment for doing so is either rapidly passing or already past.

            I think that the principle may have been inadvertently established by the Cold War. The Cold War didn’t totally eliminate wars of conquest, but the stability provided by the Superpower blocs facing off allowed countries not imminently threatened by an opposing bloc to worry less about being able to take their neighbors in a war, especially as the Cold War wound down. Desert Storm was a test of whether this demilitarization would hold now that the Cold War was over.

            I believe that (with the ability to look back in hindsight) one of the failures of Desert Storm was that Saddam Hussein didn’t suffer any major personal downside from his attempted conquest. He remained in power in Iraq. So we set a rule with no punishment for breaking it.

            Likewise, we kind-of established an international norm about ‘no mass-murdering civilians’ and then half-assed whether or not the rule was actually enforced or not. We should have either set and enforced the rule, or not bothered at all. It’s this maybe-there maybe-not rule which was one of the things keeping us tied to the middle east, which stirred up resentment. If we’d let him kill the Kurds and Marsh Arabs, it would have been a tragedy, but it’s a lot harder to enforce laws about internal issues than it is about external issues like conquering your neighbors.

          • cassander says:

            I believe that (with the ability to look back in hindsight) one of the failures of Desert Storm was that Saddam Hussein didn’t suffer any major personal downside from his attempted conquest. He remained in power in Iraq. So we set a rule with no punishment for breaking it.

            Eh, I think I have to disagree there. I mean, on one level, you’re correct that Saddam didn’t suffer any direct consequences because of the war. Even hsi international pariah status after the war was more a result of his pretending to still have WMD that the war. But I think the principle of “if you straight up annex somewhere, Stormin’ Norman will come for you” still got firmly enough established that no one tried it for about 2 decades. And, as you say later, it’s a relatively easy rule to enforce, which is probably why it stuck around as long as it did without any explicit commitment to it. Whether it can survive crimea remains to be seen.

        • Deiseach says:

          Right now, we’re having all kinds of issues because Mexico is a poor state on the verge of serious problems.

          Is it, though? Looking stuff up about it, Mexico appears to be much more urban than rural and getting heavily industrialised, so the notion that it’s all peasant farmers leaving desert towns for the land of opportunity across the border doesn’t seem correct. If Mexico is doing all the free market capitalism boom correctly, why are so many of its citizens wanting to cross the border? Though I do get the impression Mexico is to the USA as Ireland is to Great Britain; largest trading partner literally next door and very dominant, and what affects them affects us for good or bad.

          I also get the impression that Mexico acts as a way-station for other Central and South American migrants and that it cynically allows them to pass through on their way to the USA because it doesn’t want the bother of dealing with illegal immigrants in its own state, and all the DREAMER rhetoric about no-one is illegal be damned, the norteamericanos can peddle that guff to their own lot but it doesn’t fly down here.

          • John Schilling says:

            If Mexico is doing all the free market capitalism boom correctly, why are so many of its citizens wanting to cross the border?

            It’s because Mexico is doing capitalism tolerably well, that so many of its citizens want to cross the border. Southbound.

            But its per capita murder rate is now more than double that of the United States, and every significant armed force in the country save the Navy and the Air Force are thoroughly corrupted by the drug cartels. The Navy won’t last much longer, and I’m not sure I want to think about what happens when a country has only an Air Force to combat a massive organized crime problem.

            That, not poverty or economics, is I think what Civilis means by major problems. And these are the sort of problems that have, in the past, resulted in American military intervention.

    • Atlas says:

      (Also, in terms of sources that have informed my thinking here, see George Kennan’s lectures on American foreign policy from 1900-1950 (and writings more broadly) and Pat Buchanan’s book “A Republic not an Empire.” And specifically on WW2 decision making, Ian Kershaw’s “Fateful Choices.”)

    • bean says:

      I can confirm that there is basically no way that either Germany or Japan could have mounted a direct invasion of the US from across the ocean. However, I think you’re missing a couple of things:
      1. Direct invasion isn’t necessarily the only way of projecting power. The Germans operated U-boats off of our coast quite successfully. I can’t say exactly how many people they killed doing so without more research than I want now, but it would have been a lot easier if they’d occupied Britain. The Japanese built submarine aircraft carriers to attack us, and even shelled California once.
      2. You seem to be ignoring the bit where we cut ourselves entirely out of international trade. That generates a lot of value. (If you doubt this, I’ll point you to David Friedman to defend.) How much poorer would we be in a world where we had to deal with the Germans and Japanese c WW2 instead of the governments we replaced them with? How does that compare to the lost lives? I’m totally serious on this one.
      3. What about Canada or Mexico? What happens when the Germans are done conquering Europe, and decide that they want to come after us? Do we let them have bases right next to us? Before WWI, dealing with a German incursion into the Caribbean was a major concern of US naval planning. And if we’re willing to do anything other than fight in direct defense in case of invasion, why not stop them well overseas? At best, you can make a case for the Monroe Doctrine, and not going to the other side of the world.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        What happens when the Germans are done conquering Europe, and decide that they want to come after us? Do we let them have bases right next to us?

        Very good point. If they conquered England and France they would have inherited the legal right to various colonies in the Caribbean. Would we have denied them that right under the Monroe doctrine?, because the colonies would have been in no position to defend themselves.

      • Atlas says:

        I can confirm that there is basically no way that either Germany or Japan could have mounted a direct invasion of the US from across the ocean.

        Very much appreciated; if I could still edit the comments, I would be tempted to cut out the paragraphs where I explained why I thought Germany and/or Japan couldn’t invade the US and just edit in: “Bean confirms that there is basically no way a direct invasion across the ocean could have happened.”

        1. Direct invasion isn’t necessarily the only way of projecting power.

        A fair point, but I think my core argument still stands. First, in actual history, the German and Japanese uses of such power against America you cite were only in response to the US projecting power in various ways meant to combat the German and Japanese states.

        So I think it would be…putting the cart before the horse or whatever to interpret the causality as “German U-Boats attacked American shipping/the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, which is why we needed to go to war with Germany/Japan.”

        Second, the reciprocal would seem to be true—other powers can/could use their naval and air capabilities to impose costs on America, but America could in retaliation use its capabilities to impose costs on them. An attack short of an invasion still runs the risk of escalating into a larger conflict with America’s industrial might, which as OTL shows is not very fun for whoever is on the other side. I defer to your expertise here, but it seems to me that defense would be easier than offense— it’d be significantly easier for, say, the US to deploy, resupply, equip, etc. naval and air forces off the coast of California than it would be for Japan to do the same for its own forces, because it would be much closer to US industrial and transportation hubs than Japanese ones.

        Thus, it seems to me that, e.g. unless America was planning to attack Japan already, Japan would need a really strong motive—one much stronger than any I see in actual history— to attack the American homeland, whether through an invasion or some other means, because the risks would be so high.

        2. You seem to be ignoring the bit where we cut ourselves entirely out of international trade. That generates a lot of value. (If you doubt this, I’ll point you to David Friedman to defend.)

        (First and foremost, I nervously await a possible judgement by David Friedman of my arguments.)

        Yeah, I’ve thought about this argument before (I actually used to make it myself against libertarian isolationists), but I don’t think it ultimately holds up. I may do more research and try to put some plausible numbers on this, but for now here are my thoughts about why this doesn’t seem to hold up.

        1. Even if points 2 and 3 were false: I don’t disagree that international trade produces a lot of extra well-being; but I think that most of the gains in well-being are captured by poor people in developing countries like China that are not America. I think even a relatively autarkic America would still be a pretty rich country.

        I also feel like in real life the US has been trading a lot more with other countries since the 1950s. (I did a quick search on FRED and found an increase in gross imports as a share of GDP from ~2.5% in the 1950s to ~12.5% from 2000-present, and an increase in gross exports from ~3-5% in the 50s to ~10-13% from 2000-present, so that seems to confirm my intuitions.) I think the widely distributed effects of better consumer goods and rich people having more money to (at least potentially) pay in taxes for redistributive programs probably outweigh the costs detailed by e.g. Autor et. al. in terms of job dislocation for low-skilled (my God, I hate that term) workers. (This is just in terms of America, as per OP, obviously when you include effects on other countries it’s vastly more positive.)

        However, I feel like this is a really close call for a minor overall benefit, not a SLAM DUNK TOTAL VICTORY FOR SHARED AMERICAN PROSPERITY THAT WE MUST STOP AT NOTHING TO DEFEND. (Not that I think that you were saying it was, to be clear.)

        2. Even if point 3 is false: I think that it’s not at all obvious that US non-intervention would lead to much less international trade. The northern and southern states “traded” a lot before the Civil War, I think the US had pretty typical trade relations with both Germany and Japan before WW2 (enough so with the latter that an embargo was a real threat), etc. I don’t see what non-US countries that acquired regional hegemonies would gain from not trading with the US.

        And there’s also an obvious immediate sense in which US foreign policy impedes trade, e.g. US sanctions on Russia, Iran, Cuba and Iraq that prevent(ed) people in the US from trading with people in those countries.

        3. Even if trade does provide a great fiscal boon, and (some) war is necessary to maintain trade, fighting wars and maintaining a high quality standing army are also really expensive, in addition to the cost in lives. Some people might say that the cost in lives has infinite fiscal value; I would admit that we tend to place prices on QALYs all the time, and this is actually a totally fair thing to do. However, even when doing that I think war still has a pretty steep hill to climb.

        I probably should follow in the virtuous example of Scott Alexander (e.g. “Military Strikes…Foreigners” post) and actually try to research and evaluate the trade-off quantitatively here. However, I am a tired and hateful (i.e. worthy of hate, not full of hate) sinner against Epistemic Virtue, and I will just kinda pull some intuitions out of my ass.

        America spends a lot of money on medical care that probably does not generate a ton of QALYs. America is also a pretty rich country that would need to be a lot poorer before people started frequently dying/dying much younger from things like communicable diseases, hunger and exposure that are prevalent in very poor countries. Thus, I feel like the war—>trade—>prosperity—>better lives syllogism would have to be unbelievably strong for this to hold up.

        • Atlas says:

          (To TL;DR the trade thing:

          Even if trade produces value, war creates costs that take a bite out of that.

          After you take the direct costs bite out, you need to take a bite out when considering that there would be at least some trade without war that would also produce value.

          And then after that, you need to take a bite out of what little remains to account for the fact that a lot of trade’s value goes to non-Americans.)

        • Atlas says:

          I will try to respond in more detail to point 3 tomorrow, because I have a lot of thoughts on it. Suffice it to say for now that:

          1) If the US gets a nuclear arsenal, it obliviates ($#@ you spell check, that is totally a word) these concerns, even if Axis forces are stationed on US borders.

          2) I don’t think that actual history suggests that either Germany or Japan really wanted to do this kind of thing.

          3) I don’t think that even if Axis powers had bases really near America and wanted to invade America, they would be able to waltz in—even to arduously trek in— and invade and conquer America. (German forces were also really close to the totally unprepared USSR and to Britain and Japanese forces were really close to China.)

          4) If there was an actual clear and present danger to American citizens, I agree that defensive military actions in cooperation with America’s neighbors would have made American citizens safer. I think that the way WW2—again, held up as the shining example of a great danger to American security— played out in actual history, the US was like 17 steps away from that moment at the most dangerous moment.

          4b) On the grounds of American material interests and security, I think the “why not stop them overseas?” argument fails to hold up because unless you have perfect certainty that they will pose a threat (and how often do you have perfect certainty about anything that big in geopolitics?) you risk fighting an unnecessary war. (I have more to say about this but I need to pry myself away from a screen so my brain can shut down and sleep.)

          • I think you were after obviates.

          • Randy M says:

            1) If the US gets a nuclear arsenal…

            What is the path to the US having an nuclear arsenal without having entered WWII?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            It seems reasonable to me that if the Nazis, the Soviets, and/or the Japanese developed atomic bombs, the US would do so as well.

            If the US stayed out, do you think the Japanese and the Nazis would have ended up fighting each other?

          • bean says:

            It seems reasonable to me that if the Nazis, the Soviets, and/or the Japanese developed atomic bombs, the US would do so as well.

            The Japanese, then. The Soviets are presumably in no position to build one (with the Germans everywhere and all) and the German nuclear program made their tank engineering look sensible.

            If the US stayed out, do you think the Japanese and the Nazis would have ended up fighting each other?

            Probably not. They’re too far from each other’s heartlands. Neither can do much for or to the other, and they’re both likely to be busy closer to home.

          • John Schilling says:

            What is the path to the US having an nuclear arsenal without having entered WWII?

            A: The Manhattan Project, though it did not acquire that name until 1942, was formally initiated on either 9 October 1941 or 6 December 1941, depending on your definition of “initiated”. This was, admittedly, done by a President who was simultaneously working towards getting the US fully involved in the war, but

            B: Isolationism != Pacifism. American Isolationists have always been OK with national defense, and often with e.g. a powerful Navy to keep potential enemies on their side of the ocean. With World War II raging in the Old World, you almost certainly get funding for the newfangled gadget the boffins say will let a single B-17 vaporize an entire Nazi invasion force. Unfortunately,

            C: None of this stops the Germans and probably Japanese from getting their own nuclear weapons. And they probably get them after the big wars of Old World conquest but before they are in a position to go up against the USA, so we get substantial nuclear arsenals in the hands of competing superpowers that don’t have the experience of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as cautionary tales.

          • Randy M says:

            @John
            Okay, thanks! I just knew basically that the weapon was developed during the war partially with the intent of having one before the Axis did, and while there’s reason to be armed otherwise, without a seeming existential threat (that we were directly involved with) didn’t know if the project would be on the table in anything like the same time-frame.

        • bean says:

          I’m going to slightly change my arguments here. 1 and 3 were me groping towards something John got a lot closer to. (2 was me frantically trying to justify my intuition that this was a really bad idea.)
          Basically, my biggest reservation on this boils down to time course. If you went back in time and won the 1936 or 1940 election on a platform of strict isolationism, the US would be OK for a while. But this does not end in a good place. The military and the economy will suffer, while the other side gets stronger. It’s possible to be isolationist and maintain a strong military (Switzerland), but I don’t think this applies to the US. We have a rather disturbing tendency to assume that the oceans will protect us, and cuts would follow. We’d still be OK in 1939, but I’m not nearly as certain in 1949. The US would be a very rich prize, and we’d have chosen a course that would look like utter weakness to our enemies. Eventually, they’d come for us. We’d probably be able to drive them off the first time, but by isolating ourselves and handing them most of humanity, we’d eventually lose. Better to win the war by actually defeating them, hopefully early.

          Re trade, being able to take action if your nationals are too badly abused is an important part of doing international investment and trade. When you’re small, you’re either riding the coattails of the big boys who set the standards or you just don’t have enough chips to be worth much. The US is very rich, and needs that leverage to avoid getting beaten up. Neither the Nazis or the Japanese are likely to respect weakness.

          If the US gets a nuclear arsenal, it obliviates ($#@ you spell check, that is totally a word) these concerns, even if Axis forces are stationed on US borders.

          Nukes are not magic, particularly not in the 1940s and early 50s. First, you need delivery systems, and you cancelled the B-29 as unnecessary to defending the US. Also, we have no bases to deploy it from. Second, they’re expensive, and not as destructive as you expect. The peace held in that era IRL because the Soviets couldn’t afford another war yet, and we didn’t want one. That only changed in 1950 or so. And if we can only bomb Canada and the Germans can go after New York, this does not end well for us.

          I don’t think that even if Axis powers had bases really near America and wanted to invade America, they would be able to waltz in—even to arduously trek in— and invade and conquer America. (German forces were also really close to the totally unprepared USSR and to Britain and Japanese forces were really close to China.)

          Leaving aside how much of that failure had to do with being distracted with other people (such as the US, and no, I don’t want to re-hash the ‘who won WWII, the US or the USSR’ thing), those invasions had a pretty strong impact on the welfare of the inhabitants of those countries.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think it might be useful to separate out foreign policy and trade policy, and deal with them separately. There’s a little overlap, but I think arguments about whether or not we should have an interventionist foreign policy with a lot of bombs and invasions and assisted coups and such can stand on their own, in almost any trade regime.

        • quaelegit says:

          Except wasn’t/isn’t a lot of U.S. intervention due to trade? For an egregious example, US interventions in Guatemala to protect the interests of the United Fruit Company. (There’s a particular story that the US backed a coup in the 1950s at the request of the UFCO whose CEO was was brother of the head of the CIA.)

          • albatross11 says:

            Many countries have substantial free trade with the world without invading anyone, staging any coups, bombing any embassies, etc. It’s plainly possible for us to do the same.

            You can make an argument that an aggressive, interventionist foreign policy is benefitting us economically, but I think you’ll have a hell of a time making that argument from the individual places we’ve gone to war, bombed, supported coups, etc. These days we’re not generally going in to topple a government just to keep them from nationalizing a US company’s assets, and we didn’t arrange for Iraq’s set-up-by-the-US government to sign a 99-year exclusive contract to have only US oil companies extracting their oil or something. In fact, we plainly have lost a ton of money on our recent adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

            A more plausible (to me, anyway) argument is that stable trade relationships in the world rely on someone (us) playing world policeman to some extent, and that we benefit from that stable world order. In this formulation, countries like Japan and Germany and Switzerland and Bangladesh and Brazil are free-riding on our policing of the world. I’m not sure how to decide if this argument is correct, but the visible failure or lousy outcomes of so many of our foreign policy interventions (Vietnam, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya) makes me skeptical of the claim. Now, maybe those are just the places where things went wrong, and there’s a vast number of places where things went better that make up for them, but I’d like to see the evidence.

          • John Schilling says:

            Many countries have substantial free trade with the world without invading anyone, staging any coups, bombing any embassies, etc. It’s plainly possible for us to do the same.

            If free trade is possible only because all the opponents of free trade get sidelined by invasions, coups, and the like before they coalesce into anything more than scattered local nuisances, then non-interventionist free trade is possible for anyone and everyone except whoever got stuck with the job of doing all the invasions/coups/etc.

            That hypothetical may be true in the real world, or it may be false, but it isn’t plainly true or false.

          • If free trade is possible only because all the opponents of free trade get sidelined by invasions, coups, and the like before they coalesce into anything more than scattered local nuisances, …

            That hypothetical may be true in the real world, or it may be false, but it isn’t plainly true or false.

            It’s plainly false, since most governments are run by opponents of free trade and have been for the past century or so. What current government follows the free trade policy of abolishing all of its trade restrictions?

            Do you anticipate coups against Donald Trump, who is a vocal opponent of free trade? Was there a coup against Barack Obama when he informed the British that if they left the EU and wanted a trade deal with the U.S. they would be at the back of the line? Were there coups against the government of India when, for decades, they had exchange controls?

            The attitude in most countries is that lowering their tariffs hurts them, so they are only willing to do it in exchange for another country lowering its tariffs which they think helps them. That’s been bad economics for two hundred years now but it’s still conventional politics.

          • John Schilling says:

            Do you anticipate coups against Donald Trump,

            Don’t tempt me…

            who is a vocal opponent of free trade?

            But “vocal opponent” usually just means “ineffectual whiner”, and free trade can stand up to ineffectual whining.

            Active opposition is another matter. If, e.g., Donald Trump were to send the U.S. Navy to blockade China or even domestic thugs to burn warehouses full of Chinese goods, I’d expect him to be removed from office. If he were to announce a 200% punitive tariff on Chinese imports, I’d expect Congress to dissent and for Trump to be removed from office if he went ahead and illegally raised taxes without congressional approval.

            Lesser actions he could probably get away with, as his counterparts in other nations have in the past. But the tolerable, lesser actions are a nuisance rather than a mortal threat to free trade (unless you take the absolutist position that any nuisance renders trade not truly “free”, but that’s not a useful discussion). Somehow, at least in the post-cold-war era, the vocal opponents of free trade don’t seem to be taking the actions that would unambiguously end free trade.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            It’s probably less about ‘free trade’ and more about discouraging anti-US trading blocs. The US’s interventions and hostility towards communist countries follow this pattern. Trade is conducive to good relations, as it creates interdependencies and fosters a culture of reciprocity (or a perception of such) so that nations which engage in trade with the US are less likely to be seen as enemies by US politicians.

            Exclusionary policies, on the other hand, lend themselves to a team vs. team mentality. They lack all of the pacifying advantages of open trade and to some extent push the other way, as a nation’s deliberate decision not to trade with the US could be interpreted as signaling their hostility towards, or at least their disdain for, the US. US politicians, interpreting things this way, are encouraged to respond in a likewise hostile fashion.

            So it is a matter of psychologies and strategic exigencies, where US politicians are psychologically prone to seeing trading partners as friends and vocal trade-deniers as enemies; and also less likely to attack their partners due to the economic fallout it would create, but lacking such qualms in regards to nations without such ties.

          • @John:

            You appear to be interpreting “free trade” as just “trade.” Most or all countries are in favor of trade. No country I can think of is in favor of free trade–trade without tariffs, export subsidies, and other interventions along similar lines.

          • John Schilling says:

            If “free trade” means only the platonic ideal of free trade with absolutely no interference or obstacle, then it means something that has no relevance to the real world and I am thus less interested in discussing it. Rather like I don’t care to discuss “communism” when that means not the political/economic system implemented by Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, etc but only to some platonic ideal that totally would have lead to paradise on Earth if not for all the compromises.

            If “free trade” means anything relevant, then it has to allow for some level of fees, tariffs, subsidies, and the like, and if it doesn’t encompass economic system favored by e.g. Hillary Clinton and most of the European Union (tariffs and all) then I think you’re back into platonic-ideal territory

          • If “free trade” means anything relevant, then it has to allow for some level of fees, tariffs, subsidies, and the like, and if it doesn’t encompass economic system favored by e.g. Hillary Clinton and most of the European Union (tariffs and all) then I think you’re back into platonic-ideal territory

            So 19th century England and 20th century Hong Kong didn’t exist?

            What does “free” add to “trade” in your usage of the words? No government I know of is in favor of strict autarchy–no trade. Does that mean they are all in favor of free trade?

          • albatross11 says:

            John Schilling:

            Fair enough. It’s clearly possible to run a first-world industrial democracy with substantial world trade, without being an interventionist power, because we have a lot of worked examples like Japan and Switzerland. It’s conceivable that those countries can only do so because someone is playing world policeman, so if we stopped, nobody could do that. I don’t think this is true, but I can’t prove it’s not.

            I don’t think the world we observe right now is one where the main force keeping countries from imposing high trade barriers is the threat of US military intervention. Instead, it seems like the main force is the huge gains available from trade.

            Our military interventions in the last decade or two haven’t had much to do with free trade–in some cases (Iraq before the second Iraq war) our interventions were partly to prevent some kinds of free trade (Saddam selling oil to keep his dictatorship afloat). Our most important trading partners are countries we don’t seem to have any inclination toward bombing or invading, both because we’re on good terms with them, and because a few years after we started that sort of thing, they’d all have their own nukes and ballistic missiles. (Our *most* important trading partner is probably China, and they already have nukes and ballistic missiles.)

    • John Schilling says:

      I think I’m on pretty safe ground in saying that neither Imperial Japan nor totalitarian Germany sought to achieve the Man in the High Castle scenario of conquest and occupation of the North American continent as a proximate geopolitical goal.

      You’re answering the wrong question. The question isn’t whether, in 1939, that was their goal. The question is whether that was their likely outcome. Their goal in 1939 was open-ended. There was no specific plan for what to do after having conquered all of their immediate neighbors and enemies, on how to live in peace and prosperity within their borders. And given the ridiculously optimistic nature of their economic planning, as compared to actual outcomes, any such plan would have been a ridiculous fantasy. So, given the lack of any realistic plan for 1949 or 1959, what would they have likely done in 1949 or 1959?

      It is the nature of conquerors to conquer. It is the nature of conquerors who are finding peace to be less prosperous than they had imagined, to imagine that conquering a rich neighbor might make things better. And it is the nature of conquerors to look upon nations which do not fight, as weak and easily conquered.

      And by 1949 or 1959, an Axis that had assimilated essentially the rest of the world, would have had such vastly greater human, material, and industrial resources that a United States without allies could not have defeated them. Not even with nuclear weapons, which in any event would not have been a US monopoly nor a demonstrably terrifying deterrent.

      Also, “Remember again that at the moment I’m only making a claim about the security of US citizens”. No; you were explicitly making a claim about the welfare of US citizens. Welfare is about more than security, and it is not in the interest of US citizens to go to bed every night knowing themselves to be selfish cowards who never lifted a finger to stop Nazi tyranny from engulfing the whole of the (rest of the) world. Not even if they are such effectively selfish cowards that the beds they have trouble sleeping in are entirely secure, which they won’t be.

      A good general rule is that if your political philosophy leads you to believe, with the full knowledge of hindsight, that you shouldn’t be fighting to the utmost against literal murderous Nazis, your political philosophy needs reworking.

      • Atlas says:

        I genuinely appreciate that you took the time to read my comment and write a considered reply; I have a lot of thoughts about the points you raised, but I need to sleep and then do stuff, so please be aware that I am leaving this comment as a placeholder until I can respond later, not shamefully running away from defending my arguments from critique. (To make a topical reference: “I shall return!”)

        • Aapje says:

          I shall return

          You should have gone for: ‘I’ll be back’

          It’s what one Austrian famously said and what another Austrian famously did.

          • bean says:

            It was a reference Douglas MacArthur’s statement at a press conference shortly after he was evacuated from the Philippines in 1942, and very topical.
            (Interesting factoid: it was an offhand remark, not intended as the grand statement it was taken to be. Only thing I remember from reading his autobiography in 4th or 5th grade.)

          • quaelegit says:

            Once I corrected someone’s Terminator quote to the MacArthur quote because I’d read Cryptonomicon but not watched Terminator. It’s comforting to see someone make the reverse mistake 😛

          • Aapje says:

            @quaelegit

            Not so much mistake, but rather a joke that gets taken very seriously.

          • quaelegit says:

            @Aajpe — oh well. That explains the wooshing noise over my head 😛

            Who is the second Austrian then? (besides Schwarznegger, I mean)

          • bean says:

            Who is the second Austrian then? (besides Schwarznegger, I mean)

            I’d tend to assume it was Hitler.

          • Aapje says:

            Bean is correct. Hitler fought in France & Belgium in WW I, shaved off part of his mustache and then came back for more in WW II.

    • cassander says:

      There is no moral universe where the WW2 is worth fighting and the Cold War wasn’t. The communists were even more monstrously murderous than the Nazis, had a more ambitious agenda, controlled more people and resources, and they had nuclear weapons.

      • balrog says:

        There is no moral universe where the WW2 is worth fighting and the Cold War wasn’t. The democrats were even more monstrously murderous than the Nazis, had a more ambitious agenda, controlled more people and resources, and they had nuclear weapons

        • Aapje says:

          The democrats were even more monstrously murderous than the Nazis

          Did you mean to type: communists?

          • rlms says:

            Did you mean: democrats? Zing!

          • I think his point was that the same statement could represent the situation as seen from the other side of the cold war, mutatis mutandis.

            But I’m not sure how the switched version would be justified. The allies killed a lot of people by bombing civilian targets, but I think all sides did that. They didn’t kill large numbers of people who were under their control–both the Nazis and the Communists did.

          • rlms says:

            I originally thought balrog was being an edgy anti-communist who was equating the Democrats and communists, but rereading it does seem more likely he was being an edgy communist. As David Friedman says, the analogy implied in that case is false. Equally, so is cassander’s original one: a hypothetical hot war against the USSR given full knowledge of their atrocities could be justified in the same way as the WWII, the actual Cold War that was fought can’t be.

          • cassander says:

            @rlms

            so is cassander’s original one: a hypothetical hot war against the USSR given full knowledge of their atrocities could be justified in the same way as the WWII, the actual Cold War that was fought can’t be.

            I don’t see how that makes any sense at all, given how many people would have died if the cold war had gone hot. I mean, you can build a scenario where rollback goes really well, but it’s also very plausible that it doesn’t and ends up killing a lot more people than the cold war did.

          • rlms says:

            @cassander
            A hot war with the USSR could have been justified in the same way as WWII, but might have been a bad idea for other reasons. Suppose that the Nazis had won on the Eastern front and become a nuclear power. Starting a war with them would have been morally justified in the sense you were using originally, but nevertheless quite possibly inadvisable, since it would have led to nuclear war. To continue the analogy, trying to weaken the Nazi empire indirectly in general would have been justifiable on the basis of “the Nazis are powerful and doing really bad things”, but specific things like funding rebellions against a Nazi-sympathising government in Honduras wouldn’t have been.

          • balrog says:

            I meant democrats or actually capitalists. Since, according to communists, it is capitalist bourgeoisie that is evil and keeps proletariat in chains.

            But main point was that when you look at USA from other side of pond you see a country which has started following wars or coups: 1941 Panama, South Korea 1945–1950, 1950–1953 Korean War, March 1949 Syria, 1953 Iran, 1954 Guatemala, 1958 Lebanon, 1961 Cuba, 1964 Brazil, 1965 Dominican Republic, 1973 Chile, 1979–1989 Afghanistan, 1982–1989 Nicaragua,, 1983 Grenada, 1989 Panama, 1991 Kuwait, 1991 Haiti, 1991–2003 Iraq, 1994–2003 Iraq, 2005 Iran, 2011 Libya, 2005–present Syria, Somali Civil War, Bosnian War, Kosovo War War in North-West Pakistan, Libyan Civil War

            @rlms I have no big love for communists, but I ultimately fail to see how US foreign policy ever helped anyone except US. Including managing to reintroduce polio into Syria.

            @cassander 100+ million murders?

          • The Nybbler says:

            But main point was that when you look at USA from other side of pond you see a country which has started following wars or coups: 1941 Panama, South Korea 1945–1950, 1950–1953 Korean War,

            Say what? Was the US supposed to leave South Korea in the hands of the defeated Japanese? And the North invaded in 1950.

            March 1949 Syria, 1953 Iran, 1954 Guatemala, 1958 Lebanon, 1961 Cuba, 1964 Brazil, 1965 Dominican Republic, 1973 Chile, 1979–1989 Afghanistan,

            You’re blaming the US for starting the Soviet-Afghan war?

            1982–1989 Nicaragua,

            Try not placing the start point in the middle; this one was on the USSR-backed Sandinistas.

            1983 Grenada, 1989 Panama, 1991 Kuwait,

            Last I checked, that one started when Iraq invaded Kuwait.

            1991 Haiti, 1991–2003 Iraq, 1994–2003 Iraq,

            First Iraq war is on Saddam, invasion of Kuwait.

            2005 Iran,

            Wat?

            2011 Libya, 2005–present Syria,

            No, these are on the Europeans. The US was Johnny-come-lately

            Somali Civil War, Bosnian War, Kosovo War War in North-West Pakistan, Libyan Civil War

            You forgot the 30 years war, the Hundred Years War, and the War of the Roses.

          • cassander says:

            @balrog says:

            But main point was that when you look at USA from other side of pond you see a country which has started following wars or coups: South Korea 1945–1950, 1950–1953 Korean War,

            Um, North Korea, backed by the chinese and russians, Invaded south Korea, how on earth is that the US starting a war?

            March 1949 Syria

            Was a domestic event that an american fabulist took credit for.

            , 1953 Iran

            was mostly the british

            , 1961 Cuba,

            the coup in 1961 was launched by communists, who went on to murder tens of thousands of cubans in what was, by most measurements, the best possible case for a communist takeover.

            1965 Dominican Republic,

            the US invervened to stop an ongoing civil war.

            1973 Chile

            ,

            The US wasn’t involved.

            1979–1989 Afghanistan,

            Once again, an intervention against a communist government slaughtering people by the tens of thousands.

            1983 Grenada,

            removed a communist take over and set up what remains to this day a relatively successful democracy.

            1991 Kuwait

            You must be joking. Kuwait was invaded and annexed by a man guilty of multiple genocides, and you think that was war the US started?

            I was going to go on, but I just can’t. Your method of historical analysis appears to be, list every military action the US has undertaken and assume it was terrible and evil.

            I have no big love for communists,

            Really? because you seem to think that every conflict they were ever in was started by the US for the sheer fun of it.

            but I ultimately fail to see how US foreign policy ever helped anyone except US. Including managing to reintroduce polio into Syria.

            That might be because you don’t actually know anything about the history of US foreign policy. You;ve managed to demonstrate a truly staggering level of ignorance here, and I don’t say that lightly.

          • balrog says:

            I stand corrected that US was just late to the party and not started all of them. Still doesn’t paint them in any better light.

            As a reference, list of wars and coups was taken from wiki.

            The alternative is always not fighting a war. Saddam is not ruling Iraq, no need to install it. Saddam is ruling Iraq, no need to remove him. Leave him be. Overlord of Iran is being dictator, don’t stage a coup to install Shah. There is civilian war X, let people sort their own internal struggles. Soviet union is projecting power to countries all around, still option to do nothing. After all most of countries are not starting wars every year and claim they do it for benefit of poor Arabs or whoever.

            Also as a nice fit of irony, if USA didn’t remove Japanese from Korea, there would be no need to go back in and split Korea into north and south. And now there wouldn’t be all the crap with One True Korea having Ultimate Nuclear Weapons and threatening to Destroy Whole World Just For Shit And Giggles.

          • albatross11 says:

            cassander:

            Are you sure the US wasn’t involved in the Chilean coup in ’73? We didn’t send Marines, but I thought it was well-established we were involved in supporting the military in staging the coup, as part of our general cold-war strategy.

          • cassander says:

            @balrog says:

            I stand corrected that US was just late to the party and not started all of them. Still doesn’t paint them in any better light.

            How does defending other countries from attack not paint the US in a better light than it starting wars for fun?

            As a reference, list of wars and coups was taken from wiki.

            That was clear. It was also the problem.

            The alternative is always not fighting a war. Saddam is not ruling Iraq, no need to install it.

            the US didn’t install saddam. you can watch on video how saddam took power.

            Saddam is ruling Iraq, no need to remove him. Leave him be.

            And the genocide, we should have just let that continue?

            Soviet union is projecting power to countries all around, still option to do nothing.

            If you do nothing, the soviets take over the world and their 100million victimes become several hundred million.

            @albatross11 says:

            Are you sure the US wasn’t involved in the Chilean coup in ’73? We didn’t send Marines, but I thought it was well-established we were involved in supporting the military in staging the coup, as part of our general cold-war strategy.

            Commonly believed, but not accurate. The US did back a coup attempt in chile in 1970, but it failed, rather miserably. Pinochet’s coup came years later, after the Chilean supreme court unanimously ruled that Allende was acting unconstitutionally, and the chamber of deputies voted 2:1 for a resolution calling on the military to oust him.

            There is no evidence that the US was involved with Pinochet before the coup. The most you get is that there were CIA operatives in chile (there are CIA operatives in many countries) and they weren’t actively trying to prevent a coup. While Allende was in office, the US helped chile get, or outright gave, hundreds of millions of dollars in fresh loans and debt forgiveness, which puts the lie to any notion of a serious economic blockade. The US certainly wasn’t opposed to what happened, and certainly helped out pinochet’s regime after it took over, but it had no hand in creating it.

        • cassander says:

          You’ll have to show me the 100 million+ bodies the democrats have racked up since ~1920.

    • Jiro says:

      There are cases where US citizens want non-US-citizens to benefit. Helping those non-citizens will, then, provide utility to citizens and you have to count it when counting the benefit to citizens.

      This does not, of course, mean that you should count the non-citizens as much as the citizens, or count all non-citizens equally, but it can still affect your answer.

      In other words, if Jews in the United States don’t want Jews in Germany killed by Hitler, that has to be considered in your calculation.

    • kingofmen says:

      What of citizens in the southern states that had no desire to secede? Were they not entitled to some defense? Sure, USG cannot defend all its territory at all costs, it has to make a cost-benefit calculation. But it seems to me quite reasonable to try to drive back an invader that has overnight, using cheat codes no doubt, taken over one-third of your territory and is proposing to strip the population of its American citizenship. To put it differently, if a foreign nation had invaded the same bit of territory and used brainwashing to make its rule as popular as the Confederacy was – so not 100% support, but something over 70% – would you still argue that USG was wrong to try a counterattack? Noting that nobody had any idea how long and bloody that war was going to be.

      In addition come obligations to the slaves, who are not technically citizens, but who as residents of US territory have a claim to its defense similar to the claim citizens have.

  10. ajohn says:

    I wanted to post this on the SOME PRELIMINARY RESPONSES TO RESPONSES TO THE ANTI-REACTIONARY FAQ page but the comments section is closed so I thought I’d post it here instead.

    “Let me ask a stronger version of that question: between about the sixties and the eighties, crime, divorce, suicide, abortion, promiscuity, drug use, STDs, and unhappiness were all trending upwards. Between the eighties and the present, all of those things have been trending downwards. Why?”

    low trust low crime
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/mimicry-link-between-crime-and.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/cocoonings-web-of-mental-dysfunction.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/early-90s-thrillers-as-sign-of.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2008/12/cell-phones-didnt-cause-decline-in.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/is-our-culture-going-through-decline-in.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/earlier-times-when-helicopter-parents.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/during-falling-crime-times-people-are.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/techno-fears-in-cocooning-vs-outgoing.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/sir-or-mister.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/mid-century-unwholesomeness-gossip.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/reluctance-to-read-new-authors-80s-vs.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/irony-and-irony-squared-or-transparent.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/despair-in-cocooning-times-resilience.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/chatting-with-servers-but-not-your.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/higher-support-for-suicide-in-falling.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/conspiracy-theories-for-cocooners.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/is-this-second-era-of-spin-off-movies.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/more-book-burning-in-falling-crime-eras.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/anti-social-mid-century-and-present-day.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/black-friday-from-community-carnival-to.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/spectacle-tv-has-long-term-cycles-of.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/imax-in-broader-revival-of-midcentury.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/cocooning-on-public-transportation.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/mid-century-materialism-didnt-hold.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/honestly-literally-seriously-further.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/culture-experience-getting-absorbed-vs.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/interior-decorating-more-popular-in.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/girl-fight-voyeurism-then-and-now.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/sequels-and-adaptations-in-popular.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/romantic-comedies-self-indulgent-vs.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/vampires-and-sorcerers-in-culture.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/the-over-use-of-gory-filthy-sets-in.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/waning-interest-in-extreme-types-height.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/the-hobbits-high-frame-rate-as-mid.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/not-earth-to-echo-characters-who-looked.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/girls-voices-are-getting-creakier-less.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2008/12/no-more-serial-killers.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/decline-of-christmas-special-tv.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2009/05/no-more-innovation-in-toys.html

    high trust high crime
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/crime-and-chiaroscuro-introduction.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/thanksgiving-parades-jazz-age-invention.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/art-deco-revival-during-second-jazz-age.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/trick-or-treating-as-measure-of.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/movie-posters-cycles-between.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/wholesome-and-lurid-themes-in-pop.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/human-scale-vs-earth-shattering-stakes.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/irreverence-in-advertising-from-1980s.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2009/06/pool-day-well-not-so-much-anymore.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2009/05/decline-of-outdoor-fun-and-graying-of.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/video-game-culture-during-wilder-vs.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/greater-verbal-creativity-during-rising.html
    http://akinokure.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/transparency-vs-mystery.html

    The only factor that makes Millennials a truly distinct generation although not as distinct or as real in a sense a generational category as Baby Boomers is their historically low level of trust https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2014/03/17/the-real-reason-why-millennials-dont-trust-others/?utm_term=.f5b771425ab1

  11. tomconerly says:

    There’s this idea/pledge I’ve heard a few times. Someone says that they encourage all feedback. They don’t care whether it’s constructive or destructive. They make it clear that they will accept any feedback without getting angry or shooting the messenger. Basically it’s their responsibility that the feedback is handled well. Not the responsibility of the person giving the feedback. I think this thing has a name, but I can’t seem to find it (if anyone knows that would be great).

    I’m curious if anyone here has tried this and what their experiences are. Did you run into cases where you ended up not being able to handle feedback well?

    Personally I thought I’d be able to handle any feedback, but I recently ran into a case where I had a difficult time. Now I feel like it would be very difficult for most people to guarantee that they handle any criticism well.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Psychologically pretty much everyone has areas of sensitivity (various enneagram authors try to generalize some of these sensitivities to types as “childhood wounds”). You aren’t always aware of these sensitive areas until they’re triggered. But once they’re triggered your initial reponse is a childish response. It takes time, effort, and practice to develop childish responses into adult responses.

      I’m curious whether you think your inability to handle feedback is because the feedback was related to such a childish “wound” or sensitive area?

      I haven’t made such a pledge and never will. But I did become very angry at feedback when the person providing said feedback didn’t open themselves to reciprocal feedback (and a whole bunch of other people piled on – seeing my initial opening to feedback as indicating that I needed it and that the other person was correct).

      • tomconerly says:

        It was related to a sensitive area (social skills) but I think it’s because I’ve improved a bit in that area. Normally for sensitive areas my thoughts are worse than any feedback I’ve gotten (so the feedback isn’t too hard to swallow). In this case I built up some confidence then got some tough feedback from someone I cared about.

    • WashedOut says:

      I take it by “destructive” you mean a frank assessment of someone’s flaws and weaknesses? Outside of some possibly apocryphal stories from the military, I’ve never heard of anyone been given destructive criticism in the context of professional life.

      I regularly ask for feedback from my supervisors, the repeated problem I get is that it isn’t frank or ‘cutting’ enough, they tend to focus on superficialities that don’t invoke individual character.

      I’m curious about your logic btw. You’ve gone from “I think I can handle it” —> “I can’t handle it” —-> “Well I guess most people wouldn’t be able to handle it.” I agree with your conclusion, just curious what made you think your were ‘stronger’ initially?

      • albatross11 says:

        There are times when you end up taking some feedback that seems (and maybe is) incredibly nasty and unfair. And you nod, accept the feedback calmy, and go scream/cry/get drunk/curse at the world in private, later, out of sight of the people giving you the feedback. If you’re in a position where you face the public, and your organization does any controversial things, makes unpopular tradeoffs, or just flat screws up, you will experience exactly this, and you just have to take the feedback, and try as hard as you can to distill the useful parts out and filter out most of the the nastiness.

      • tomconerly says:

        I’m thinking of personal life rather than professional life. I’ve had the same experience as you in professional life. It’s really hard to get people to give good feedback in that setting.

        My original logic was that I couldn’t remember a time where I’d had a strong emotional reaction to tough feedback thus I could probably handle it. I never really thought too hard about it. Once I had the experience it seems obvious that it’s really hard to know what your reaction will be. Especially when you have an emotional reaction to something.

  12. Baeraad says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent posts on the (supposed?) failure of New Atheism, which inevitably ties into the question of how New Atheism went from being a core part of the progressive movement to being, essentially, booted out of it. I have two ideas I want to share, first about just what went wrong, and second about why that happened and how it’s still relevant today.

    Let’s start back when we all got along so well. The idea we all had back then was simple. Women and men were equal and functionally identical; the only reason to believe otherwise was lingering religious indoctrination. We would get rid of religion, and equality would inevitably follow. Atheism and feminism were two sides of the same cause. It made sense.

    The problem was, as it turned out, that it was in many ways wrong. There was, I still maintain, no reasonable way of foreseeing that. The inherent differences between men and women were hidden beneath the artificial differences laid down by tradition, many of which in fact ran directly contrary to actual biology. Before peeling away the artificial, there was no way of knowing what the organic even looked like.

    But yes, it became (or should have become) increasingly obvious that our assumption was wrong. The sort of environment that men found most natural was an environment that women found actively unpleasant. Sexuality is the obvious example – it appears that women do not in fact enjoy having men sniffing around them 24/7, implicitly begging and cajoling and blustering for a chance to inseminate them with their genetic material; it’s not that they don’t ever want sex, but the sheer mindless relentlessness of the male libido tends to end up annoying them – but it’s far from the only one. Women tend to want to be given their turn to speak in an orderly and respectful fashion, not to have to shout the current speaker down before they can have their say. They have a higher tendency for depression and anxiety and just generally cause to feel like shit a lot of the time, so they’re not going to be entirely on board with yet another Carl Sagan-esque reverie about how the universe is beautiful and wonderful and perfect.

    You get the idea. Just treating women the same as men did not lead to them being as happy as men. It turned out that they wanted not something as simple as equal treatment, but the more complicated equal consideration. This would have been an excellent time, then, for both atheists and feminists to show some of all that scientific rigour they claimed to have, to say, “it was a bold new experiment, but it didn’t entirely succeed; let’s take what we learned from it and device a new one.” This… did not happen. Instead, both sides remained confident that their initial assumptions had been 100% correct, and that the reason why a post-sexism utopia had not manifested was that the other side had fiendishly sabotaged their efforts. Cue the schism that makes them bitter enemies to this day.

    I do blame the feminists first and foremost, here. They were the ones who was in the best position to note that they weren’t happy, and to examine why. Instead, they decided to demonise their male peers for acting in exactly the way they had always told them they ought to act. The sheer stubborn wrongheadedness it takes to convince yourself that men coddle and protect and nurture each other, or that men would absolutely hate it if women were constantly shoving their sexuality in their faces, is mindboggling. Just for starters, you have to dismiss every single man who comes forward with his Lived Experience to tell you that, er… no. Just… no.

    But at the same time, the atheists were riding on a wave of hubris that is hard to excuse. They built the moral justification for their crusade very much on how non-sexist they were, on how the women would be so much better off in the world they were building, on how they stood against nasty, chauvinistic religion in protection of the ladies fair. You’d think it would have occurred to them to check, every so often, how much those women they claimed to champion were actually enjoying the world they were building. Okay, not “them.” “Us.” I was part of that too – I spent the aughts yelling a lot at social conservatives for their supposed misogyny, and it didn’t occur to me, either, to actually ask some women what they wanted rather than just assuming that I knew what they ought to want. One of the most frustrating parts of the current state of affairs, for me, is that in some ways I’m getting exactly what I earned when I was younger and dumber! Regardless, while I wish they’d had more self-awareness about it, I can’t entirely fault the feminists for eventually getting fed up with the atheists constantly talking themselves up as being the benefactors of women, while at the same time those women were conspicuously failing to benefit.

    As for why New Atheism has lost its approval rating? That one’s easy. The feminists walked away with our moral justification. If you’re a bookish guy and a bunch of women are hanging out with you in preference to the traditionally masculine guys, you’re a gentleman and a scholar and probably the future of the nation. If you’re a bookish guy who women shun like the plague, you’re just a dweeb and no one will take your seriously – and if you insist on still proclaiming that you’re the future of the nation, you’re a dweeb with ideas above your station, and people will actively despise you. We never admitted to ourselves just how completely we owed our success to the approval of women. When we lost that, rightly or wrongly, we lost everything.

    The second thing I want to propose is that the reason why both sides were so adamant about not admitting that they had been mistaken is that this was part of their shared DNA right from the start – which is an important point, because that’s what keeps tripping our whole society up to this day. New Atheism and Third Wave Feminism were both born out of the nineties and aughts, when the world was floating in a daze of happy relativism, where everything and nothing was true all at once and nothing could be or needed to be done. If you think progressives today are fanatical about finding fault with everything, try to remember that they got their start in a time when the very idea of progress seemed to be dead, where we were told that everything was as good as it was ever going to get… and never mind that this sense of apathy was allowing things to actively keep getting worse, with all the progress achieved over the course of the twentieth century getting gradually eroded because no one was bothering to maintain it.

    What I’m saying is that there was great utility, back then, in stating the obvious – or, more accurately, in stating things that were held to be obvious in theory but which were going neglected in practice. New Atheists pointed out that we considered ourselves modern and rational, but that religion was steadily creeping into our governments and our schools. Feminists pointed out that we considered ourselves gender-equal, but that women somehow had ended up getting less than half of the pie. Everyone pointed out that we were supposed to be heading for something different than what we seemed to be heading for, and that we ought to wake up and do something about that.

    Really, so many things make sense when you realise that New Atheism and its brother-and-sister movements on the left wasn’t a revolution, but a reformation – a call to return to the values we still more or less held but had gotten increasingly lax about.

    The problem with a movement that is all about reaffirming what is obviously true in the face of muddled thinking, though, is that it gets caught wrong-footed when it runs into the possibility that the things it is reaffirming might not be entirely true after all. When you’re used to fighting sophistry, it’s very easy to confuse valid criticism for just another smokescreen that you need to shout at until it goes away, and to see indications of practical obstacles as enemy propaganda that is trying to make you veer from your righteous course.

    Case in point – it couldn’t be that women and men were actually different. We all knew that men and women were the same, because that was what we’d known back before religion deceitfully crept back in and confused everything, and we couldn’t possibly have been wrong about that. So someone had to have betrayed the cause, and it certainly wasn’t us. No, it was those damn atheist men lying about how they were in fact treating women exactly as they themselves would like women to treat them! Or it was those damn feminist women who had gotten back into bed with religion on the sly! The only alternative was that our starting assumptions had been wrong, and to suggest that was HERESY!

    … so that, basically, is why I think we’re in the mess we’re in.

    I feel like I should end this on some sort of hopeful note, but I’m afraid I can’t think of one. The feminists are continuing to double down on their assumption of absolute certainty, and while atheists (being the side that lost the most in the schism and has therefore had the more reason to reflect on what went wrong) have done a somewhat better job at re-examining themselves, they’re still proving (from my perspective) frustratingly unwilling to take their new theories to their logical conclusion. They tend to agree, now, that biological differences between the genders exist, but only rarely do I hear one flirt with the idea that maybe female preferences should be given greater consideration. “Men and women are different… and it just so happens that men are better at making decisions and running the world, so step aside and let us do that” tends to be the refrain. I don’t see that sentiment bringing any women – with their all-important ability to provide moral sanction – back into the fold anytime soon.

    To be honest, I think that our generation has simply done what it could. Our uncompromising determination to get things moving again got things out of the rut they were in when we came of age, stopped everything from decaying back into the Dark Ages… and now we need a new generation that’s willing to sit down and negotiate, to offer the other side half of what they want, to consider that perhaps questioning your own assumptions isn’t treason. We may be incapable of doing that, because our entire upbringing taught us to fear compromise as a certain route to stagnation. We need younger people to rebel against us in turn and in doing so build on our accomplishments.

    Whether the next generation is up to the challenge is another question. To be honest, I can’t say that anything I’ve seen of it fills me with confidence.

    • There was, I still maintain, no reasonable way of foreseeing that. The inherent differences between men and women were hidden beneath the artificial differences laid down by tradition, many of which in fact ran directly contrary to actual biology.

      There may have been no reliable way of forseeing what the differences were but there was never any good reason to believe that there were none, at least for anyone who believed in Darwinian evolution. It implies that we are as if optimized for extended reproductive success. Men and women differ precisely in their role in reproduction. Hence it is a priori unlikely, although not impossible, that the same distribution of characteristics was optimal for both.

      • Baeraad says:

        Yes, but it seemed reasonable to believe, at the time, that what differences existed were negligable and vastly less important than both individual variety and social conformity. After all, survival and reproduction work in very different ways now than they did back during the bulk of our evolution, and yet we seem to have adapted to it. That in itself seemed to suggest that we weren’t ruled by our primal instincts anymore. And yes, like I said, I do think that it’s become more clear that the truth is more complicated and less blank-slate-y, but I maintain that the theory made sense at the time.

        Let’s remember, also, that we had a vested interest in believing that biology could be overruled by intellect, since the superiority of intellect over more fuzzy and uncivilised influences was one of our main ideals. Once you start thinking that maybe people should do what feels natural to them even if it is not logically optimal, you’re only one step away from considering that perhaps religious/supernatural/superstitious beliefs are a natural part of how the human brain works and that trying to stomp them out is futile – and that was definitely not a notion we were in any mood to entertain.

        For the record, one of the reasons why I’m considerably less anti-religious these days (even though I am more atheistic than ever) is that I’ve come to think that that’s exactly the case – that being perfectly rational is unnatural and therefore unsustainable, so the best we can hope for is curbing the worst excesses of irrationality.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          You seem to be making an appeal to nature here. “Natural” is not necessarily good. “Natural” is murdering each other for resources and shitting in the woods. Civilization is largely about the suppression or redirection of “natural” things.

          • Baeraad says:

            True, and exactly the sentiment that fueled much about New Atheism. The problem is, I think we vastly overestimated how much most people could (or wanted to) go against their nature.

        • Once you start thinking that maybe people should do what feels natural to them even if it is not logically optimal, you’re only one step away from …

          The argument I was sketching says nothing about what people should do. It’s about what people are.

          It was entirely obvious that men were, on average, taller than women. That’s an easily observable physical fact, presumably due to evolution. So the obvious guess was that the distribution of not easily observable characteristics was also different for men than for women. How big the difference is is then an open question. But there was no argument, ideology aside, for expecting zero difference.

          • Baeraad says:

            True. Also irrelevant. Rightly or not, a related “is” is going to inform any “ought,” and that gives people a powerful incentive to be disproportionately skeptical to any claimed “is” that will damage their prefered “ought.”

          • Aapje says:

            @Baeraad

            What you are arguing is that ‘ought’ informs people’s perception of ‘is.’

            In other words, people deny reality when they don’t like the conclusions some people may draw from the facts.

      • secondcityscientist says:

        [Darwinian Evolution] implies that we are as if optimized for extended reproductive success.

        It does no such thing. Evolution is a greedy, contingent and iterated process with substantial random elements. It might arrive at a local maximum, but it will not optimize for much of anything.

    • Thegnskald says:

      I think part of the issue with feminism is that women’s interests are already getting disproportionately favorable consideration in spite of less representation.

      • Baeraad says:

        I find that very difficult to believe. It’s an acknowledged fact that women have vastly less than half of the money – there’s an intense debate about why that is, yes, but no one’s questioning their lower average income. They still get raped like it’s going out of style – even conservative estimate has it as something like one women in every ten will get assaulted in her lifetime, and even those few rapists who get convicted get off with laughably short sentences. Women’s health issues still get less research put into them. Public discussions are dominated by the shoutiest and most odious people, who are almost always men, because men are better at being shouty and odious.

        I have no tolerance for feminism’s claim of “… and all of that is because of MISOGYNY, and needs to be solved by yelling at men some more!”, but looking out the window I do not see a world where women come first.

        • cassander says:

          >They still get raped like it’s going out of style – even conservative estimate has it as something like one women in every ten will get assaulted in her lifetime, and even those few rapists who get convicted get off with laughably short sentences.

          Rape, like all crime, has been on a decline for decades, not thanks to feminism, and notice how you’ve shifted goal posts from rape to “sexual assault”, which is an incredibly vague term that has been watered down to sometimes include getting catcalled.

          • Checking the BJS victimization figures, rape/sexual assault for 2015 is 1.6 per thousand persons age 12 or older. Assume all the victims are female and multiply by sixty years and that gives a lifetime chance of about 20%. Of those, 28% are completed rapes (Table 12), so about 6%.

            That’s a high estimate of the percentage of women who get raped at some point in their lifetime, since I am ignoring both male victims and women who are victims more than once.

          • albatross11 says:

            Note that the BJS numbers David is quoting:

            a. Draw from a big survey of crime victims, so we’re seeing what the victims report, not an arrest or conviction. (Since a lot of rapes and sexual assaults never get reported to the police, this is likely a much more accurate number than we’d get from looking a crime stats. On the other hand, there’s no way to know whether any of the surveyed victims are telling the truth.)

            b. The people being surveyed are asked for details of whatever happened, and then the BJS people decide how to categorize it based on their fixed rules. So this isn’t just “did you get raped?”

            c. The rules for what’s categorized as rape or sexual assault are pretty clearly stated and their methodology tends to get lower numbers than many other surveys.

            d. The rape definintion is just about what you’d expect.

            e. Sexual assault is much wider, and generally amounts to some kind of unwanted sexual contact. If you grope some woman on the subway, that’s sexual assault; if you catcall her or hit on her during the whole subway ride, that’s not sexual assault.

          • cassander says:

            It looks like the rape figures use a different methodology than the other crimes.

            To quote from the what I think is methodology section they cite,

            “For example, the National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS), sponsored by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and conducted in 1995–96, estimated an incidence rate for rape (counting multiple rapes) of 8.7 per 1,000 women aged 18 or older, compared with an incidence rate for rape (including attempted rape) and sexual assault in the previous 12 months of 2.3 per 1,000 women aged 12 or older from the 1996 NCVS

            The differences that arise from using different methodologies and surveying different populations have resulted in debate over the ideal method for collecting self-report data on rape and sexual assault.2 In addition, these differences have resulted in confusion among stakeholders as to which estimates are more accurate. This debate has had the negative consequence of raising doubts about the self-report methodology itself.

            Note, those figures are from 96, when the overall crime rate was much higher than today.

            https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/bjs_amrsa_poster.pdf

          • qwints says:

            The NCVS is very well documented –

            see here: https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=dcdetail&iid=245#Questionnaires

            and

            here: https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=914

            To clarify what albatross11 said – the screening question is “has anyone attacked or threatened you in any of these ways – … Any rape, attempted rape or other type of sexual attack -?” (41a) If the person answers yes, the questioner then goes through a detailed crime incident report, which is then coded. Notably, the language used to code for rape is “You mentioned rape. Do you mean forced or
            coerced sexual intercourse?” (question 29c). Other surveys which get higher numbers generally use more graphic language, e.g. the Campus Climate Survey asked about unwanted oral sex, anal sex and sexual intercourse and defined all the terms. It then asked about how it was unwanted, and coded accordingly.

            The NCVS routinely finds lower rates of rape and sexual assault than other surveys. The discussion on pages 2-3 of this report give good explanations of the current proposed explanations.

          • if you catcall her or hit on her during the whole subway ride, that’s not sexual assault.

            On the other hand, “Verbal threats of rape and sexual assault” are counted as sexual assault (Table 12).

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          Women’s health issues still get less research put into them.

          They do?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Women’s health issues still get less research put into them.

          More than men’s health issues.

          even those few rapists who get convicted get off with laughably short sentences.

          Maybe you could laugh at 14 years. I couldn’t.

          but looking out the window I do not see a world where women come first.

          Look in the mirror; you mentioned rape but never mentioned the higher rate for men of all other violent crime.

          • JayT says:

            Look in the mirror; you mentioned rape but never mentioned the higher rate for men of all other violent crime.

            Not just that, but if you count prison rape, more men are raped than women in the US.

        • Aapje says:

          @Baeraad

          Women earn less money, but don’t necessarily have access to less money, because men transfer large amounts of wealth to women. It’s the logical consequence of the provider role, yet one that somehow keeps getting overlooked, despite logically following from feminist theories. I don’t really understand how it’s necessarily unfair to women when society pushes men to sacrifice more for work and then hand over part of that additional income to women. Women can choose to make those same sacrifices if they want.

          The major reason why rape statistics are so disparate is because female rape of men is not classified as rape (which gets defined as penetration and women who rape men usually don’t penetrate them due to a lack of a penis). The gender-swapped equivalent of the (sexist) definition of rape is ‘made to penetrate.’ CDC’s victim surveys find almost identical number of yearly adult male victims of ‘made to penetrate’ as adult female victims of rape.

          Most health research is actually gender neutral, because men and women are actually both human and are similar in many ways. The narrative that some huge injustice is done to women by not doing more research on women seems mostly made up. We do know for a fact that women consume more healthcare than men, so in terms of actually getting healthcare, women do better than men.

          PS. In general our society transfers wealth from men to women, both privately as publicly (as women pay less in taxes than what the government spends on them, while the opposite is true for men).

        • It’s an acknowledged fact that women have vastly less than half of the money

          Women earn, on average, less than men. To the extent that the reason is different choices made by women, that doesn’t mean their interests are getting less consideration–they may be less interested in earning money, more interested in doing other things. An interesting description of the evidence.

          And how much women earn isn’t an adequate measure of how much money they have, since about half of all adults are married, hence sharing incomes.

        • keranih says:

          They still get raped like it’s going out of style – even conservative estimate has it as something like one women in every ten will get assaulted in her lifetime, and even those few rapists who get convicted get off with laughably short sentences. Women’s health issues still get less research put into them. Public discussions are dominated by the shoutiest and most odious people, who are almost always men, because men are better at being shouty and odious.

          As one of those “they” – your statements here do not reflect my perception of the world around me, and are excessively taken out of context when they are not flat out inaccurate.

          You don’t have to believe me, but please do believe that there are women who disagree entirely with you.

    • John Schilling says:

      There was, I still maintain, no reasonable way of foreseeing that.

      In the sense that there is no reasonable way of foreseeing that the old fence you encounter across your path might be keeping you away from the dangerously short-tempered bull or the abandoned minefield, perhaps.

      When the majority of humanity did in fact foresee a thing, it strikes me as exceedingly arrogant to assert that it could not have been “reasonably” foreseen. As David Friedman notes, it could have been foreseen on the grounds of evolutionary biology. It could have been foreseen from social or psychiatric study, or from history, or from simply observing human behavior in the real world, or by reading the warnings of all the people who were saying “I foresee bad things if you do this and here’s why!”

      Most of whom were in some sense religious, but only because about 90% of Western Civilization was at least softly religious – and it was definitely not the case that all of their arguments were based in religion. Against all of this foresight, there was only the hypothesis that the obvious differences were 100% due to archaic religious traditions, and the arrogance to assume that this hypothesis was itself so obvious that it needed no proof and anyone holding it up to critical examination must be the Enemy.

      Feminism, or more precisely the subset of feminism you are referring to, very nearly defined itself by ridiculing a broad class of useful foresight. And then went on to ally itself with similar movements with similar tastes. Is it any wonder that they all blundered into a minefield of fallacies they were ill-prepared to deal with?

      • Baeraad says:

        When the majority of humanity did in fact foresee a thing, it strikes me as exceedingly arrogant to assert that it could not have been “reasonably” foreseen.

        True, but you may have noticed that there’s one trait New Atheists have never been accused of lacking…

        As David Friedman notes, it could have been foreseen on the grounds of evolutionary biology.

        Which is, or at least seemed to be, a bunch of crock that consistently claims that we absolutely evolved for exactly the kind of behaviour we exhibit right now. When a field of science says things like “women like pink because they evolved to look for berries with strong colours,” and someone notices that pink was a masculine colour until the twentieth century, then that field of science doesn’t come across looking too credible.

        It could have been foreseen from social or psychiatric study,

        Those always say different things. We picked the ones whose conclusions we liked. Like people usually do.

        or from history,

        History contained a LOT of things that we hoped to be able to avoid from now on! Also, it always had religion in it. Always.

        or from simply observing human behavior in the real world,

        Most of whom, as you point out yourself, were religious.

        or by reading the warnings of all the people who were saying “I foresee bad things if you do this and here’s why!”

        Every time something changes, tons of people foresee bad things. In fact, at the time we’re talking about, conventional wisdom was that nothing could ever be allowed to change ever again because it was already perfect.

        In summery, you can accuse us of arrogance and of not being as rational as we thought we were, and in fact I have already admitted to both – but I still say that our starting theory was sound, pending experiments, and that our mistake was not paying attention when the experiments started turning out differently than we thought.

        • Deiseach says:

          History contained a LOT of things that we hoped to be able to avoid from now on! Also, it always had religion in it. Always.

          Gosh, it’s almost like there might possibly be something to this religion thing after all – nah, can’t be! We could never be that wrong! Now, where’s that minefield I want to tap-dance across in my lead diving boots? See you on the other side!

        • As David Friedman notes, it could have been foreseen on the grounds of evolutionary biology.

          Which is, or at least seemed to be, a bunch of crock that consistently claims that we absolutely evolved for exactly the kind of behaviour we exhibit right now.

          That claim, if anyone serious in the field made it, might be relevant to the question of what the differences are produced by evolution. What I was offering was a much simpler argument, the reason why anyone who believes in Darwinian evolution should expect differences to exist.

          Assuming without evidence that there are no differences in not easily observed characteristics when there are striking differences in easily observed characteristics and a theoretical argument to expect both is an act of faith, not of reason.

      • John Schilling says:

        “[negative outcomes of feminism could have been foreseen] or from simply observing human behavior in the real world”

        Most of whom, as you point out yourself, were religious.

        And that’s where the quote ends because that was the end of your response on that point. It is hard for me to understand that as anything but an assertion that feminist atheism’s position is basically, “all these people have a different religion than us, therefore we should ignore what they have to say on any subject for any reason”

        The prosecution rests.

    • Standing in the Shadows says:

      I would say you (plural) are getting exactly what you (plural) asked for and what you (plural) deserve, good and hard.

      My only complaint is that my nieces and my kids are going to have to live with the increasing amounts of increasingly toxic fallout of this idiocy. (And I’m using idiot in the ancient and archaic sense: a political and civic sense formed excessively from the own-self’s immediate desires.)

      • Baeraad says:

        Probably true. But if you’re waiting for an apology, you can wait a long time. I don’t like the world we’ve made, but we made it in an attempt to get away from the world we had, which I’ll assume from the tone of your comment worked really well for you but was screwing a lot of the rest of us over. At least in this one, we’re all screwed – fairness, of a sort!

    • Randy M says:

      women – with their all-important ability to provide moral sanction

      This is an odd assumption.

      I’m also not sure what your metric for success is going to be now that you aren’t all seated together at tabula rasa. (Boy, that was a stretch…) Is a society with only 40% of $[influential position] being held by women still unforgivably sexist when women might have some legitimate differences in interest, let alone ability?

    • Nornagest says:

      I don’t think New Atheism was ever really a core part of the progressive movement. It certainly enjoyed more acceptance a decade or so ago, but it was never very big: remember, most progressives are Christian, and most of those that aren’t fall into the vague spiritual-but-not-religious category.

      But it did fit better into the narrative. American progressivism in the early oughts saw itself as the underdog, fighting against an overwhelmingly powerful Religious Right edifice as embodied in George W. Bush. (Who was never really a Religious Rightist, but he did suck up to them more than average for a Republican president, so whatever.) There was still an *ism angle to it, but it wasn’t embedded in the elaborate social theories that’ve since become popular; rather, it was just sort of generally assumed that American racism and sexism and homophobia were all rooted in religious traditionalism. Fundies were the enemy. And the New Atheists hated, hated, hated fundies.

      Your average rank-and-file Democrats — probably Episcopalian or cultural Catholic or something like that — saw themselves as hewing to an enlightened Christianity, not like the dark millennialist superstitions they saw across the aisle. They wouldn’t exactly like the Dawkinses of the world, but they could ally with them under the banners of e.g. the “reality-based community”, and they were perfectly happy to sit back and watch them go.

      When Barack Obama got elected and the Religious Right started losing ground, though, cracks started appearing in that narrative, and it became necessary to craft a new one.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        remember, most progressives are Christian, and most of those that aren’t fall into the vague spiritual-but-not-religious category.

        Aren’t you a Bay Arean? I’m super surprised if this is your lived experience. I can count the Christians I know who are conforming Blues on the fingers of one hand.
        If you’re saying this based on demographic data that includes the Northeast rather than experience, then eh, maybe. There are definitely a lot of Episcopalians, Quakers and other fuzzy-headed heretics, but here they’re vastly outnumbered by atheists and spiritual-not-religious.

        American progressivism in the early oughts saw itself as the underdog, fighting against an overwhelmingly powerful Religious Right edifice as embodied in George W. Bush. (Who was never really a Religious Rightist, but he did suck up to them more than average for a Republican president, so whatever.)

        George W. Bush was a sincere evangelical, in a William James sort of way. He claimed, at the cost of political embarrassment, to maintain a personal relationship with Christ because he was saved from alcoholism, but he wasn’t theologically conservative enough to permit criticism of Islam.

        • Nornagest says:

          I’ve lived in the Bay, but I’m not talking about the Bay, I’m talking about Blue Tribe country-wide. The DC-NY corridor and the Los Angeles area are probably the most important parts when it comes to agenda- and narrative-setting — that’s where the media, and most of the nationally important politicians, live. DC in particular’s got a Blue Tribe culture that’s very different from the Bay.

          Even if I’m wrong about Judeo-Christian vs. spiritual-but-not-religious, I wouldn’t discount the latter. Those types are as potentially hostile to Dawkins et al. as the Christians are.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            OK, that all makes sense.

            Random fact: Lutherans in America are split between conservative and liberal, and for historical reasons the liberals ended up with the name Evangelical Lutheran Church in America while Evangelical is otherwise treated as a synonym for “Republican” or even “fundie.”

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            And Conservative Jews are sort of middle of the road. This is because Language Is Not Fair to Human Understanding.

    • Deiseach says:

      We all knew that men and women were the same, because that was what we’d known back before religion deceitfully crept back in and confused everything

      Annnnd that was – when, exactly? When humans knew all humans were the same, before some humans started believing in spirits and deities and invisible entities? Kinda like to get a year on that and please don’t say anything like “1960s” or “1820s”. Because if we didn’t know it until 1782 and we knew it until 1963 and we then forgot it in 1980 until we knew it again in 1995 – that’s not totally convincing to me.

      There was, I still maintain, no reasonable way of foreseeing that.

      And this is the liberal/progressive attitude that has me, as a conservative, hanging my head in my hands. Well, no, if you’re operating on the assumption that nobody before you ever knew anything, they were all wrong about everything, and nothing that traditional society has said is ever correct or factual, then yes this is precisely the mistake you will make.

      It’s like someone coming up to the edge of a cliff, seeing a signpost about “Danger – stay back at least 5 metres, cliff face is crumbling” and saying “Pah, this sign is at least thirty years old, why should I believe it is in any way accurate?” and then they go right to the edge and it falls out from under them because coastal erosion is a real factual thing that happens and warnings about it are right and just because you didn’t put that sign up five minutes ago does not mean old things are wrong.

      And if by some miracle they survive the fall, as they are being winched up by the rescue crew they go “But how could I reasonably have known that would happen? Oh sure, all those old signs and the local people said it was dangerous, but come on – that’s the old confused tradition at work!”

      YOU COULD REASONABLY HAVE KNOWN BECAUSE OF THE BIG WARNING SIGN, CLANCY!

  13. Le Maistre Chat says:

    So the House intelligence committee is publicizing that Russians bought a bunch of political ads on Facebook and Instagram. Some of them were anti-Clinton (including one of Satan arm wrestling Jesus, with the claim that Clinton will only win if Satan wins at arm wrestling) or generically conservative (pro-cops, pro-gun) while others were anti-Trump or pro-BLM.

    I’m still trying to figure out why it matters if Russian citizens pay to comment on US politics or release information that the DNC or RNC want kept hidden. The latter is a public service if transparency is of value, and while I can see the authors of the Federalist worrying about the latter, trying to make a crime out of it seems a wild overreaction. So much of politics is culture war, and can you imagine the spectacle of USG telling Facebook and Instagram that they have to ban ads touching on cultural issues from everyone but US citizens?
    Or am I foolish to even bring up the possibility of USG applying a general principle, and all they care about is punishing Russia, hereditary enemy of the English-speaking Empire?

    • dodrian says:

      Foreign nationals are prohibited from contributing financially to any US political campaign, including making “independent expenditures” which advocate for election or defeat of an identifiable candidate. Also from that page, court rulings clarified that

      “[this] does not restrain foreign nationals from speaking out about issues or spending money to advocate their views about issues. It restrains them only from a certain form of expressive activity closely tied to the voting process—providing money for a candidate or political party or spending money in order to expressly advocate for or against the election of a candidate.”

      So it appears that a genuinely anti-Clinton or anti-Trump ad would be illegal, but generic pro-cops or pro-BLM ads wouldn’t be.

      • John Schilling says:

        Foreign nationals are prohibited from contributing financially to any US political campaign, including making “independent expenditures”

        And cats may be prohibited from going about unbelled, but so what?

        The only law that matters to the Russian government, or its agents in Russia, is Russian law, and I’m pretty sure that Russian law is OK with Russian government agents meddling in foreign elections. US law (which is OK with US government agents meddling in e.g. Russian elections) matters only to the extent that it means Russia will have to pay extra if it needs agents to be standing on US soil when they do their meddling.

        Saying that it is against the law for foreign nationals to meddle in US elections, is akin to saying that it is against the law for Germany to invade Poland. I mean, there’s a Pact and everything, which the Germans even signed. Aside from whining about it and saying “that’s illegal”, is there a credible plan to either A: stop it or B: live with it?

        • MrApophenia says:

          It does, of course, matter if you can prove that American citizens assisted the foreign power in their interference with the election. The American law may not apply to the foreign agents in Russia, but it would apply to, say, members of an American political campaign who coordinated with those foreign agents.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What if one of the campaigns hired a group of lawyers, who cut checks to a political research firm, who paid a British spy, who paid Russian assets including current members of the Russian intelligence apparatus who then fed them political damaging (although factually dubious at best) information about the opposing campaign? And then the chairmen of that campaign, while testifying to the Senate Intelligence Committee about the source of the information claimed to not know who paid for the information, while sitting next to the lawyer who cut the check for the information? Would that be “frowned upon?”

          • MrApophenia says:

            There’s two different questions there. The part where the campaign claimed no knowledge of the dossier, hey, if you can nail them on perjury, throw the book at them. I’m sick to death of the Clinton campaign telling unnecessary, stupid lies that then blow up in their face. I thought that was over with, but since we get one more, go to town.

            But there is a substantive difference between paying people to conduct research (even if some of them are Russian) and paying for illegally obtained information.

            If any of the stuff in the Steele dossier was based on hacking, it might actually be more similar – in which case, again, have at ‘em, although as far as I know that hasn’t been alleged.

            I think there is also a difference between “I bribed a Russian spy to get some information” and “Vladimir Putin and several Russian oligarchs would like to help us become President and all we need to do is change the Republican Party platform on Crimea,” but I’m not a lawyer, so maybe I’m off base there?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            There’s no reason to believe the Russian information is anything other than disinfo. “Boris, the Democrats want dirt on Trump, what do I say?!” “Eh, tell imperialist swine Trump is Russian puppet…and likes pee from Russian hookers har har har!” And then they ran with that when it’s almost certain none of that is true.

            I said a year ago when all this “Russia hacked the election” stuff started that our media and the Dems were doing Putin’s propaganda work for him. They’re spreading the word far and wide that Putin is the leet h4xx0r who controls the whole world.

            Now we’ve got congressional hearing where they’re showing blow-ups of 4chan memes and pretending a few thousand dollars worth of FaceBook ads determined the outcome of the election, rather than the billions of dollars from campaigns and PACs, and the campaigns themselves, and the entire US media establishment.

            This is all lunacy.

            As an American who would kind of like some sort of social cohesion to return to the nation, this makes me very sad. But as a Republican, well, I guess I’m glad the Democrats are neck deep in this garbage instead of figuring out why they actually lost and trying to appeal to people who just want jobs and food and stuff.

          • John Schilling says:

            It does, of course, matter if you can prove that American citizens assisted the foreign power in their interference with the election.

            Only in the sense that it matters that we could prove the Rosenbergs gave atomic secrets to the commies. The commies still got the bomb, but it sure made us feel real good to execute those damn traitors, didn’t it?

            Oh, sorry, wrong tribe. But I expect you’ll get the same feeling when Paul Manafort gets sent off to prison. It won’t actually matter, except at the margins where it makes it more expensive for the Russians (Chinese, Israelis, et al ad infinitum) to hire their next on-site election-meddler. They’ll still be able to find people willing to take the job, and Donald Trump will still be president, but if it makes you feel better…

            If you can prove that a US political officeholder or candidate themselves actively colluded with a foreign government, that might matter.

          • MrApophenia says:

            Since the FBI have already submitted a court filing containing testimony from Papadopoulos that Trump was in the room when the Russia deal was discussed, yeah, I kind of think that’s where we’re headed.

            And, oh, hey, a second person in the meeting has just confirmed it!

            https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/02/us/politics/trump-jeff-sessions-russia.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

            “He went into the pitch right away,” said J. D. Gordon, a campaign adviser who attended the meeting. “He said he had a friend in London, the Russian ambassador, who could help set up a meeting with Putin.”

            Mr. Trump listened with interest. Mr. Sessions vehemently opposed the idea, Mr. Gordon recalled. “And he said that no one should talk about it because it might leak,” he said.

            That’s throwing in perjury for Sessions, as well.

          • John Schilling says:

            Since the FBI have already submitted a court filing containing testimony from Papadopoulos that Trump was in the room when the Russia deal was discussed, yeah, I kind of think that’s where we’re headed.

            Let me know when we get there. Because being in the room when one of your subordinates says something like “we should collude with the Russians” and another replies with “Hell no we’re not going to do that (because we’d get caught)”, is not actually collusion with the Russians.

            In the meantime, you might want to get past seeing any spatial or temporal connection of “Trump” and “Russians” as compelling evidence that Trump was actively colluding with the Russians, and take a more critical look at what is actually being said and what can reasonably be inferred from that. I think my anti-Trump credentials should be pretty solid here, but if Team #NeverTrump is going to pin all its hopes on Donald Trump being impeached when it is finally proven that he was colluding with Russia to steal the election, then we’re probably going to be stuck with President Donald Trump until 2025.

          • MrApophenia says:

            If it was just that meeting, sure.

            But what it actually is, is that meeting, followed by Paul Manafort sending an email saying they should send a low-level campaign staffer to Russia to meet with them instead of Trump himself (also already submitted to the court by the FBI), followed by Carter Page going to Russia, followed by the Trump campaign forcing the Republican Party to actually change their official position on Russia, followed by the Russians, in fact, actually then doing a bunch of stuff to help get Trump elected.

            And since the FBI have now also shown us that these clowns were so inept they were literally sending emails within the campaign with subject lines like “Re: Messages from Russia” where people up to and including the campaign managers (both Lewandowski and Manafort) openly discussed the ongoing effort to work with the Russian government, at this point I think the FBI should be able to produce some pretty damning results.

            We’ve passed the point where this is some kind of tinfoil hat conspiracy. We have on the record quotes submitted in plea bargain documents, from emails in which people up to and including two out of three Trump campaign managers just outright talk about this stuff.

          • ManyCookies says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            and pretending a few thousand dollars worth of FaceBook ads determined the outcome of the election

            My political coverage is far from perfect, but I haven’t actually seen “Russia Facebook Ads were a major factor in Clinton’s downfall” argued outside of your posts, whether as a r/politics level argument or as a weak/strawman. I’ve seen the ads come up as an example of Russia cyber-meddling, but that’s not remotely the same as it being anyone’s keystone evidence/argument.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @ManyCookies

            There have been actual congressional hearings this past week, where real live politicians have been grilling Facebook, Twitter, etc for allowing Russian(-linked) content on their site.

            Here’s CNBC on those hearings how important they are.

            Bonus: in the hearing, Twitter admitted/bragged that they had suppressed the #DNCLeak tag.

          • Montfort says:

            @Jaskologist:
            I invite you to quote a relevant section of your link that seems to argue “Russia[n] Facebook Ads were a major factor in Clinton’s downfall.”

            The closest I could find is “social media advertisements that attempted to influence the 2016 election… targeting both sides of each debate in an effort to foment unrest.” The rest of the piece seems to be about the author’s desired reforms in online social media advertising practice in general, not specific to this situation.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @Montfort

            Are you conceding that Russian meddling was not a significant factor in Clinton’s downfall/Trump’s Victory?

          • Montfort says:

            @hlynkacg
            Are you conceding Jaskologist’s link doesn’t say anything relevant to ManyCookies’ contention?

            Will you concede “russian meddling” is not synonymous with “Russia[n] Facebook ads”?

            I don’t see what my opinion on this matter has to do with anything. I’ll indulge you with a response below, but in return I’d like to know why you think it’s relevant – will my opinion on this question affect the contents of the link?

            In any event, I haven’t seen much evidence of significant Russian influence on the election in any particular direction, not that I’ve been following it very closely. And even if they had influenced it, somehow, I’m willing to bet it wasn’t the facebook ads that did it.

          • Jaskologist says:

            The Economist’s cover this week: Social Media’s threat to Democracy. Think they would have run that if the correct candidate had won?

        • albatross11 says:

          The election was extremely close, so you can probably find hundreds of factors that plausibly might have determined the election.

    • AKL says:

      Though it may technically be against the law, I don’t see a foreign government as inherently different than any other interest group. To the extent that there is such a thing as “the interest of the United States,” the objectives of any political actor (Heritage Action, Russia, Exxon-Mobile, Joe the Plumber, Planned Parenthood, etc. etc.) will align with it in some ways and not align in others. So Russia buying political ads just doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. To a large degree I think the hand wringing about Russia / social media is a red herring.

      However, I DO think that many of Russia’s actions are hugely problematic independent of their status as an “adversary.” Suppose Planned Parenthood had a cyber operations division that illegally accessed the internal campaign infrastructure of a pro-life politician, discovering that they paid for their mistress to have an abortion. Further, suppose that PP took that information to that politician’s opponent to coordinate the maximally effective rollout while simultaneously probing technical election infrastructure for vulnerabilities.

      The issue would not be that Planned Parenthood had an interest in the election. The issue would be espionage / other criminality on the part of PP and conspiracy on the part of the benefiting campaign.

      And absent coordination, we would STILL view the fact that PP’s criminality swung the election as hugely problematic, even if the politician who benefited wasn’t to blame.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think most politicians and campaigns would totally go along with that disclosure, as long as they could keep some kind of plausible deniability about the source (“it was a leak from a concerned citizen”). I definitely don’t think the Trump campaign was some kind of outlier here.

        • AKL says:

          Is there any conceivable body of evidence that would change your view?

          I’m guessing that you find at least one counter-example basically irrelevant?

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m definitely open to evidence changing my mind about this–I’m not starting out with deep knowledge of political campaigns.

            In the linked article, it looked like the Gore campaign explicitly refused to look at some material that was mailed to them and that was illegally acquired, and that the Reagan campaign in 1980 did look at similar material that they got. So maybe we should start with a base rate of 50% for similar material? Are there other incidents of this kind that are known? Nixon in 72 is an extreme example the other direction. Clinton was alleged to have gotten access to FBI files on several prominent Republicans in news stories, but I don’t know how serious that really was. (The right-wing press was almost as inclined to make everything into the Worst Scandal Ever against Clinton as the left-wing and mainstream press is against Trump.) What other examples can we draw from?

      • Standing in the Shadows says:

        And absent coordination, we would STILL view the fact that PP’s criminality swung the election as hugely problematic

        Wha’d’you mean “we”, white man?

        I would have absolutely no heartburn about PP doing exactly that, and I’m on the opposite side of the culture war divide from them!

      • Jiro says:

        To the extent that there is such a thing as “the interest of the United States,” the objectives of any political actor (Heritage Action, Russia, Exxon-Mobile, Joe the Plumber, Planned Parenthood, etc. etc.) will align with it in some ways and not align in others. So Russia buying political ads just doesn’t seem like a big deal to me.

        That’s only a good comparison if the government of Russia is supported by donations.

        Governments have access to funds collected at gunpoint, which makes them different.

      • Deiseach says:

        PP don’t have to go to the opposition; they give out 100% or 0% ratings to their favoured/disfavoured politicians and get to have the candidate running for President giving gushing speeches about how great they are and how she stands with them and will show up at their gala even after the unfortunate loss and in return will get awarded Champion of the Century.

        Why would they need to run intelligence operations when they already have one of the two parties in their pocket? Though yeah, they did gather intel without revealing who they were to some of their focus groups, so the “Trump voters [could speak] unguardedly without fear of being stigmatized as racist or sexist”:

        Besides the four focus groups of Trump voters, Planned Parenthood also held additional focus groups in Phoenix and Milwaukee with a mix of Trump and Clinton voters. The Trump-only focus groups are more interesting, however, because they show Trump voters speaking unguardedly without fear of being stigmatized as racist or sexist. The moderator stayed neutral throughout and never revealed that Planned Parenthood had commissioned the focus groups.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Or am I foolish to even bring up the possibility of USG applying a general principle, and all they care about is punishing Russia, hereditary enemy of the English-speaking Empire?

      They don’t care about general principles or Russia at all, it’s Trump they want to punish.

    • MrApophenia says:

      In the case of “releas[ing] information that the DNC or RNC want kept hidden,” my understanding is that the crime is less the release of the information than the illegal means used to acquire it. If an entirely domestic organization hacks their political opponents and releases the information, that’s still a crime.

      The fact that it was a crime committed as part of a broader effort by a foreign power to influence the election adds another layer to it, of course.

    • cassander says:

      I do love the idea that the Russians bought an election with 150 grand in facebook adds. I should hire them to run my campaign for president. I’d pay 300 grand if they throw in a money-back guarantee!

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      I’m still trying to figure out why it matters if Russian citizens pay to comment on US politics or release information that the DNC or RNC want kept hidden. The latter is a public service if transparency is of value

      Absolute truth is indeed a public service. The biased release of not-fully-contextualized information is less so the more biased or uncontextualized the release. And the release of genuine disinformation is not a service at all.

      I have no idea where the Russian releases all fall, but it’s unlikely they are all absolute, truly contextualized truth.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Absolute truth is indeed a public service. The biased release of not-fully-contextualized information is less so the more biased or uncontextualized the release. And the release of genuine disinformation is not a service at all.

        Agreed. But as I recall, the DNC doesn’t claim the embarrassing emails were genuine disinformation, but that it’s a crime and a threat to the electoral process to release information they want hidden from the voters.
        No doubt the hacker was very biased, and ideally the RNC should have been hacked too, but what if the facts on the ground were that Debbie What-Shername had much worse cybersecurity than her GOP equivalent?

    • entobat says:

      The latter is a public service if transparency is of value

      Not necessarily. If everyone has skeletons in the closet (and they’re politicians—of course they do), having the power to selectively show you skeletons is quite dangerous.

      A non-representative sample of the truth can be more epistemically damaging than no information. Given the motives of the Russians on this one (which seem to be “damage American discourse”), it’s hard for me to imagine that’s not the case.

    • Iain says:

      There is lots of legroom between finding something concerning and wanting to ban that thing.

      A clear pattern is emerging: Russia spent a non-trivial amount of time and money during the recent election deliberately amping up hyper-partisan rhetoric, on both sides of the aisle. The fact that these ads were on both sides is important. Russia didn’t put out those ads because they actually believe that Trump/Clinton/Sanders are all simultaneously the Antichrist/Messiah. They didn’t release the DNC’s emails because they care deeply about informing the American voter. The most plausible explanation is that they were trying to throw a wrench in the machinery of American discourse: it’s in Russia’s best interests if America is a house divided, and they pursued those interests savvily.

      Being cynically whipped up into a partisan hatefest by a geopolitical rival is not in America’s interest. (If anybody’s going to whip Americans up into a partisan hatefest, it should be Real Americans!) Set aside the question of solutions; the first step is to acknowledge that it is happening, and figure out the scope of the attack. That appears to be what the House Intelligence Committee is doing.

      • Randy M says:

        Russia spent a non-trivial amount of time and money

        Actually this is convincingly disputed, unless I’ missing a couple orders of magnitude.
        But the rest of your post is well taken, and although the House committee may be trying to get to the bare facts, its darkly amusing that the fact of the influence may be more influential in the real goal (ie, stirring up partisanship) than the actual influence itself. See “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street

        • Iain says:

          The money spent on Facebook ads is only one part of it. The hacking infrastructure used to acquire the leaked material isn’t cheap either.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            That the Russians hacked the DNC/Podesta emails is by no means proven.

            I’m not saying they didn’t do it. But I would be shocked if they did, not because it’s not something Putin would like to do, but because it would be the first time WikiLeaks has told a lie.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Yes, this. I believe the hacker was biased, but not a Russian at a computer terminal saying “We’re in” as a satisfied Putin pets his cat in the middle of the room.

          • Iain says:

            We actually do know, with a pretty high degree of confidence. (Here’s the report much of that twitter thread is based on.)

            The phishing email that was used to hack Podesta’s account was included in the dump. It included a “Change Password” link that went to a fake gmail login, via a bit.ly link. The bit.ly account associated with that link was also used to create equivalent links for ~1800 other targets in 2015 alone. Who were these targets?

            Many of the accounts in the 2015 campaign belonged to individuals in Russia and the former Soviet Union, but some belonged to former military and government personnel in the US and Europe, individuals working in the defense and government supply chain, and authors and journalists, particularly those with an interest in Russia. The range of targes demonstrates that the threat group poses a broad threat to individuals and groups associated with US politics, to organizations and individuals in the government and defense verticals, and to those whose business involves commenting on Russia.

            Quoting Matt Tait’s summary:

            When hackers hack at scale, they reuse infrastructure. They make mistakes. This isn’t unusual. You can piece the bits together. And this isn’t even the DNC hack. It’s just the Podesta one. And it’s only one of many different strands in just the public attribution case.

            There is lots of publicly available evidence pointing at Russia. The US intelligence community has concluded that it was Russia. There really isn’t much doubt that Russia was behind this.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s most likely that _several_ groups hacked the Podesta emails, so it can be true that Wikileaks did not get the emails from a Russian source but the emails were hacked by the Russians also.

            I know of a company which was a military contractor (and thus something of a high-value target). At one point they had security experts in and found out that no less than five groups (three believed to be Russian and two Chinese, I think) had pwn3d them. If you’re a high value and vulnerable target you will be hacked multiple times.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Iain: do we also know why
            Wikileaks started lying?

            N/m, belief updated by Nybbler.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            That the “intelligence community” says Russia did it is not a point in favor of Russia having done it. How much trust do you put in the intelligence community?

          • Iain says:

            That the “intelligence community” says Russia did it is not a point in favor of Russia having done it. How much trust do you put in the intelligence community?

            On a matter where I can go out and evaluate a bunch of evidence pointing in the same direction with my own eyes? US intelligence agencies are fallible, but not so fallible that their agreement should count against a claim.

            C’mon. You are engaging in blatantly motivated reasoning. Would you treat a statement from the intelligence community as disproof in any context where you liked their conclusion?

            @ Le Maistre Chat

            do we also know why Wikileaks started lying?

            You’d have to ask Assange why, but it is pretty clear that the Wikileaks agenda has shifted over the years. Here’s an old thread about it. See also here, here, and this deliciously ironic tweet.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            C’mon. You are engaging in blatantly motivated reasoning. Would you treat a statement from the intelligence community as disproof in any context where you liked their conclusion?

            Yes. After Gulf of Tonkin, WMDs in Iraq, “least untrue statement I could make” Clapper, I have so little faith in the honesty of the intelligence community that if the CIA said it was raining I would assume the sun was shining.

            If the CIA says something I agree with, I would doubt my prior.

            I’m also dissuaded by their epistemic certitude. The “17 intelligence agencies” say they “know” Russia did it. No error bars. And without ever examining the DNC’s servers.

            I am not an expert, but I’m not a stranger to computer security. I have a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering. I was the system administrator of a computing research laboratory at a major university responsible for hundreds of nodes in a cluster about 17 years ago when that was a lot of computers. Linux, Solaris, HP-UX all mixed in. I’ve been haxx0rin the boxens for a long time. Given the IC’s reputation for habitual lying, and their certitude based on very little evidence, I have much doubt.

            On the other hand I have WikiLeaks with its perfect track record of honesty saying it wasn’t the Russians.

            Why do you think my reasoning is motivated? I don’t care if it was the Russians who did it or not. They’re outgroup to you, but they’re fargroup to me. I don’t really care what the Russians do, and mainly think the left is silly in their “everything is the Russians” hysteria.

            Also, you said the infrastructure for the hacking was “not cheap.” I thought Podesta was nabbed by a freely available “babby’s first phishing script.” This does not seem expensive.

          • Iain says:

            I’m also dissuaded by their epistemic certitude. The “17 intelligence agencies” say they “know” Russia did it. No error bars.

            This is flatly untrue. The actual report is full of stuff like this:

            We also assess Putin and the Russian
            Government aspired to help President-elect
            Trump’s election chances when possible by
            discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly
            contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three
            agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and
            FBI have high confidence in this judgment;
            NSA has moderate confidence.

            And the document starts with a discussion of what each of the various levels of confidence means.

            Why do you think my reasoning is motivated? I don’t care if it was the Russians who did it or not. They’re outgroup to you, but they’re fargroup to me. I don’t really care what the Russians do, and mainly think the left is silly in their “everything is the Russians” hysteria.

            Your outgroup is the left. It is obviously nice for you to be able to dismiss their claims that Russia interfered in an attempt to help your team win as “silly hysteria”. Of course, that trick only works if they’re wrong. I guess it’s lucky that the intelligence community’s amazing powers of anti-truth cancel out the publicly available evidence pointing in the same direction.

            (As for any track record of honesty from Wikileaks, I invite you to peruse the links in my previous post. Wikileaks was hilariously unsubtle about being in the bag for Trump.)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I stand corrected with regards to the certitude of the IC. In that case, the IC supports my original statement to which you objected, that Russian responsibility is not proven.

            They still say it was probably the Russians, which given my “CIA always lies” heuristic means the Russians probably didn’t do it.

            And I didn’t say Assange wasn’t biased. Assange is biased in favor of Assange. I just said WikiLeaks has no record of having been caught in a lie.

          • Iain says:

            For the record, “high confidence” is the strongest level of confidence available, requiring multiple independent sources of corroboration. If you want to rest your case on the difference between “we are very confident” and “we have proven”, be my guest. Technical correctness is, of course, the best kind of correctness.

            (On the other hand, if the CIA tells you that they have not proven that the Russians did it, surely the correct response is to conclude that they have secretly proven it, but are lying? Constant vigilance!)

            As for your assessment that Wikileaks has never lied: I’m sure you won’t accept this, but for anybody following along at home, “the GRU handed the DNC leaks over to Wikileaks” is one of the things that the intelligence report concluded with high confidence. Even if you don’t trust that, though: Wikileaks is very explicit about the hoops they jump through to ensure that their sources are anonymous, even to them. If they are telling the truth about that, then how precisely does Julian Assange know that the DNC information wasn’t from Russia? Magic?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            First, it was 4 intelligence agencies, not 17.

            https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/25/us/politics/trumps-deflections-and-denials-on-russia-frustrate-even-his-allies.html

            Correction: June 29, 2017
            A White House Memo article on Monday about President Trump’s deflections and denials about Russia referred incorrectly to the source of an intelligence assessment that said Russia orchestrated hacking attacks during last year’s presidential election. The assessment was made by four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. The assessment was not approved by all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community.

            Second, their high confidence was not in the fact that the Russians hacked the email, but in the fact that the Russians were seeking to undermine the election.

            This is the same game Bush did in the lead-up to the Iraq War. He never said Iraq was the cause of 9/11, but he would say one sentence about the terrorists who did 9/11, and then another sentence about Iraq, and then back to the terrorists, and left it up to people to naturally join the two in their heads. Bush had technical deniability, but was happy to let his supporters say they were obviously connected and was in no rush to correct them.

            Third, the SecureWorks report relies upon two competing narratives: 1. that the hackers were so super professional and so well-funded that it had to be an APT, 2. yet they were also sloppy and so poorly-funded that they didn’t know how to recreate infrastructure that would take literally 10 seconds to spin up in a professional environment and they had such poor OPSEC and made such silly mistakes that let a third-party figure out who else they had targeted. Which is it?

            (As an aside, I’ve participated in professional red team engagements, and we always build a new infrastructure for each client and burn it completely to the ground when we are done.)

            Fourth, I do think it was likely the Russian government. It was definitely someone whose interests aligned, but that could also include an independent operator who knows that if he finds something the Russians are buying.

            Fifth, I do not trust Wikileaks at all for any analysis, ever. They can present source documents if they wish, which is their actual value.

          • Incurian says:

            On the subject of evaluating the public claims of intelligence agencies…

            I think it’s reasonable to take the fact that they have come to conclusions as weak evidence in favor of their conclusions. However, if you can consider the same evidence they used to draw their conclusion, and you are an expert on the subject, I think you should feel comfortable disregarding their conclusion. I have some experience in/with the IC (but you should take it with a grain of salt), and I did not come away with a great deal of confidence in them.

            They will fudge conclusions for political purposes. Not necessarily national politics, but organizational politics are huge. At some level I suppose organizational politics are closely tied to national politics.

            Confidence levels are often BS. It’s nice to have a little chart that links confidence language to probabilities, but it’s subject to the GIGO law. If you didn’t use rigorous probability theory to draw your conclusion in the first place, slapping a rigorous-sounding label on it at the final stage is worse than useless. They will sometimes use the language of rationalists, but it’s usually a facade, do not mistake analysts for rationalists.

            Together these traits lead to a situation where leaders will happily state a tentative conclusion confidently (especially if it is one their boss wants to hear) rather than admit they’re not sure. It is possible that at the highest levels things are better than my experience would indicate, but from what I saw competence only increases logarithmically with rank.

          • Iain says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            Second, their high confidence was not in the fact that the Russians hacked the email, but in the fact that the Russians were seeking to undermine the election.

            This is false. From page 13:

            We assess with high confidence that the GRU relayed material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks.

            I mentioned this in my previous post.

            Third, the SecureWorks report relies upon two competing narratives: 1. that the hackers were so super professional and so well-funded that it had to be an APT, 2. yet they were also sloppy and so poorly-funded that they didn’t know how to recreate infrastructure that would take literally 10 seconds to spin up in a professional environment and they had such poor OPSEC and made such silly mistakes that let a third-party figure out who else they had targeted. Which is it?

            This is a blatant misrepresentation of the report.

            You should not believe that the attacks were from Russia because they were “super professional”. You should believe that they were from Russia because there is a robust chain of evidence tying them back to an attacker with an extensive history of hacking exactly the people Russia is interested in hacking: “individuals in Russia and the former Soviet states, […] current and former military and government personnel in the U.S. and Europe, individuals working in the defense and government supply chain, and authors and journalists, particularly those with an interest in Russia.”

            You can tell that’s what the report is arguing, because it includes a bunch of graphs describing the targets of the attack, and doesn’t mention the words “professional” or “well-funded” once.

            @Incurian:

            I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said, but it’s worth considering that in this case the conclusion (Russia interfered) is precisely what the boss does not want to hear, which is a minor point in favour of the report.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            This is a blatant misrepresentation of the report.

            You’re right, I got confused and was thinking the summary that “the infrastructure used to acquire the leaked material isn’t cheap either.” It is actually very cheap. The problem is that most of it is illegal to operate and would result in career destruction for any American doing it. Russia is a den of lawlessness as far as this is concerned, and if the argument were that Russia tacitly approved of hacking by being so unconcerned about hacking coming from within itself, I would be 100% on board. I’ve had smaller clients ask about simply blocking all traffic from Asia (because they don’t do business there) and helped them do that.

            You should believe that they were from Russia because there is a robust chain of evidence tying them back to an attacker with an extensive history of hacking exactly the people Russia is interested in hacking

            That is why I said:

            I do think it was likely the Russian government. It was definitely someone whose interests aligned, but that could also include an independent operator who knows that if he finds something the Russians are buying.

            I do have “moderate” confidence that it’s Russia but other people overstate the case. They are attempting to Euler other people by presenting technical evidence that only provides part of the picture.

          • Incurian says:

            @Ian: I have no special insight into this particular case and I don’t have any idea who is right, I was just concerned by some of the deference to the IC. Your point about it being what the boss didn’t want to hear is a good one, although it’s possible that the “boss” is not always who it appears to be (I don’t mean to say I have some conspiracy theory in mind, just a general thought).

          • Iain says:

            I don’t think the concept of Eulering is really applicable here.

            Part of the case for Russian involvement is based on publicly available information like the SecureWorks report. You yourself acknowledge that the publicly available knowledge is sufficient for medium confidence. I may be biased by my own CS background, but I think the explanation in the report is clear enough that a layman can follow it without having to worry about being snookered.

            Another part of the case is based on a series of intelligence reports claiming private knowledge. Whatever your opinions about the trustworthiness of such reports, they are clearly not trying to baffle you with fake technical details. (Proof: they leave the technical details out completely.)

            A third part of the case would involve corroborating details from parallel investigations, like the Papadopoulos statement:

            The Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS that on that trip he (the Professor) learned that the Russians had obtained “dirt” on then-candidate Clinton. The Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS, as defendant PAPADOPOULOS later described to the FBI, that “They [the Russians] have dirt on her”; “the Russians had emails of Clinton”; “they have thousands of emails.”

            Again: not Eulering.

            I think it is reasonable to doubt that the Trump campaign actively collaborated with the Russians. I have little sympathy for the willful blindness of people who refuse to acknowledge that the Russians were involved at all.

          • ManyCookies says:

            And if you’d dispute the extent of Russia’s involvement, could we at least agree that “a) Email hack massively changed election b) Russia did email hack -> Russia massively changed election” is a sane line of thought, if not necessarily correct? Because Conrad (in another post on this now incredibly messy thread) implied the main concern is over the Facebook ads, and now I’m wondering if others think the Trump opposition is that insane.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            ManyCookies,

            Not “main” no, just that the entire thing is a gish gallop. The “Trump won because Russian interference” argument is many very weak arguments thrown together, and jumps between:

            “Hacks!” even though not proven, could be a non-state actor, what about UMBRAGE, the CIA hacking tool that lets them finger other people for their attacks and that was leaked years before. And again, while I’m not a security expert, I am an engineer and am smart enough to realize that rule zero of being behind seven proxies is “don’t make your last proxy anywhere near where you actually are.” Also, that maybe if the Dems weren’t doing lots of shady stuff it wouldn’t matter if their emails were leaked.

            “Russian bots!” Except lots of PR/political campaigns pay for fake followers.

            “Troll farms!” That outweighed Correct the Record?

            “FaceBook ads!” That out-influenced the $10 billion dollars spent across the campaign season, and the unimaginable influence of the entire US media apparatus (CNN, Fox, MSNBC, Breitbart, CBS, ABC, NBC, NYTimes, WaPo, HuffPo, blah blah blah)?

            “Collusion!” But all the meetings or attempted meetings show they didn’t have communications. Papadapolous tried to set up a meeting and was rejected. Why would he have needed to try to pitch a meeting if Trump and Putin were already BFFs? Don Jr. gets an email pitch to set up a meeting with some lawyer he’s never met. If the Russians wanted to pass “the dirt” to Trump, why didn’t they leave it at the dead drop in Central Park at 2AM on the second wednesday of the month and leave a chalk mark on the mailbox like usual? Why did Kushner have to set up “back channels” in December after the election if they’d been colluding the whole time?

            It’s a gish gallop. A fire hose of weak arguments, none of which stand up to scrutiny, and are entirely unpersuasive to anyone who isn’t already desperately searching for an excuse to justify losing the election to Donald Trump.

            ETA: Also, we’re ignoring all the rest of the foreign influence efforts from China, from Israel, from Mexico and Univision and Carlos Slim-owned NY Times. Everyone wants to influence American elections because we’re the largest economy on the planet with the piles of nukes and the aircraft carriers and everything. It’s kind of important. The focus on Russia alone is silly.

            Also, from what we’ve seen, Russian activity was not in support of Trump. It was in support of any cause that creates division in the US. Pro BLM, anti BLM, pro abortion, anti abortion. And the single most massive success of the Russian disruption operation was…Russian agents telling Steele/Fusion/Hillary that “yeah we totally hacked your elections with pee pee tapes” and that’s sent our entire media and political class into a tailspin. Like the devil’s greatest trick is making you think he doesn’t exist, Putin’s greatest trick has been making Americans think “Russian collusion” does.

            But hey, keep at it. I’m sure that what’s going to win 2018 midterms for the Democrats is “Russia Russia Russia!” Not at all jobs, or the economy, or taxes or healthcare of anything. “Puhlease Brer Fox, whut evah yew dew, don’t throw me in that briar patch keep harping on Russian collusion!”

          • Nornagest says:

            The funny thing is, before I started seeing numbers I was perfectly willing to believe that a Russian influence campaign had meaningfully influenced the election. Russian intelligence has always been good at HUMINT, a lot better than our own government is; the Russians have been making a real push towards exploiting social media (we’ve probably all seen the pro-Putin trolls that pop up whenever Ukraine gets mentioned on a major site); and the Clinton campaign’s own influence operations during the election struck me as particularly clunky and inefficient, hence easy prey.

            But now we’re getting concrete estimates of the resources that went into the Russian side of this all, and they’re hilariously stingy. Six figures? I don’t think I could swing a state senate campaign with that kind of money. It does seem true in an abstract sense that the Russians were trying to exert influence, but they simply can’t have exerted much of it with those resources, at this scale, with this much competition running around. No one’s that good.

          • could we at least agree that “a) Email hack massively changed election … is a sane line of thought

            I don’t know about sane, but “massively” seems unlikely if it refers to number of votes changed. What is plausible is that, in a close election, it cost Clinton enough votes to change the outcome.

          • ManyCookies says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Weren’t the emails a huge focus of the campaign’s anti-Hillary stuff, the backbone of Lying Hillary/You’d Be in Jail? If so, I’d call that a pretty massive (large? strong? significant?) effect! Heck the Comey letter alone had a measurable, possibly election swinging effect.

            Oh I’m a silly goose. As per JayT below, I was mixing up the private server scandal with the Podesta+DNC leaks. Those were still important, but “massive” is definitely the wrong term for their impact alone.

          • JayT says:

            Hillary’s emails were a completely different thing from Russian hacking. I think you are confusing two stories. The issue with her emails was that she was using a personal email server for official emails. It had nothing to do with Russians.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillary_Clinton_email_controversy

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I think it is reasonable to doubt that the Trump campaign actively collaborated with the Russians. I have little sympathy for the willful blindness of people who refuse to acknowledge that the Russians were involved at all.

            Full agreement here.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Yeah, that is pretty much my take on this.

          The way this is being turned into a partisan wedge is far worse than the initial acts, which, in the political framework of the US, were just more noise in an already noisy process.

      • Deiseach says:

        Being cynically whipped up into a partisan hatefest by a geopolitical rival is not in America’s interest. (If anybody’s going to whip Americans up into a partisan hatefest, it should be Real Americans!) Set aside the question of solutions; the first step is to acknowledge that it is happening, and figure out the scope of the attack. That appears to be what the House Intelligence Committee is doing.

        That would really be a good thing, but when you’ve got the Latino Victory Fund running an ad (which I see has now been yanked due to the outcry in response) about Racist Trucks hunting down Our Brown Children (I swear, this thing reminded me of nothing so much as the Supernatural early season episode about, yup, a Racist Truck) I think the polarisation has gone so far, it needs somebody with a hose to spray cold water all over the yapping dogs to divide them and who has a hose that big?

      • Deiseach says:

        What I think is the most likely revelation to come out of this whole investigation? Trump was very interested in doing business in/with Russia (which means doing business with Putin/his trusted crew because that’s how Vlad rolls and he’s busted down the oligarchs who used to operate independently of him) and had some dodgy deals set up. That’s as a businessman outside of politics. That people associated with Trump/his campaign/hangers-on had dodgy deals on the side as well, going back years before they threw in with Trump and that’s where the connections came in? Sure, I’ll believe that. That Trump was politically colluding and tied in to the Russian government? No, I don’t think so. Trump and his campaign would very much like to hear about this dirt you claim to have on the Clinton campaign and Hillary and are open to setting up a meeting to talk about it? Well, duh, that’s every politician in every election about their rival!

        • 1soru1 says:

          > That Trump was politically colluding and tied in to the Russian government?

          If he did illegal deals with the Russian government, then it would be strange if the Russian government were unaware of those deals. What scenario are you imagining where Putin had blackmail material that would put a non-President in jail, but had no reason to mention it to a candidate?

    • Deiseach says:

      I’ve been led to believe that some of them at least were dumb memes propagated by trolls putting in fake Russian names to mock the “Russians are hacking everything!” hysteria going around.

      As to whether I believe Facebook’s algorithms identified only naughty real Russians and only those alone, I am not that sure. Do I trust a guy who is shorter than our Taoiseach? 🙂

    • What’s interesting about that story, if accurate, is that what the Russians were trying to do was not change the outcome of the election but make political culture worse, increase the degree to which people on opposite sides hate each other. It hardly seems necessary, given what is happening even without Russian intervention, but it’s interesting.

      • Iain says:

        Yeah. This is the part that I would hope people across the political spectrum can recognize as potentially concerning.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Yeah, that is dastardly. Though you could say we deserve it because it’s entirely in our power to respond with “Hmm, we should build a culture where love has wider play.”

      • Matt M says:

        And the ultimate irony is that running stories about this saying “HERE’S HOW RUSSIA HELPED ELECT HITLER” is playing directly into their hands by advancing the goal of political polarization.

        If you really want to stick it to Putin, ignore his antics and go make friends with someone with the opposite political beliefs as you. Anyone doing that?

      • John Schilling says:

        What’s interesting about that story, if accurate, is that what the Russians were trying to do was not change the outcome of the election but make political culture worse

        The other interesting thing about that story is that it’s the only version that doesn’t require the Russians to be trans-Silverian superduperforecasters.

        At the time the Russians were doing, and even more so planning, their meddling, every reasonable prediction was that either Hillary was going to win by a substantial margin, or that Trump would win by way of a polling error or black swan event of sufficient magnitude to void any careful plan to swing the election by facebook ads and wikileaked emails. The idea that Russia could ever have planned or even believed it could plan to actually swing the outcome of the US presidential election by such perturbations is not plausible. As our Larry Kestenbaum points out, US political parties with greater local knowledge and more focused resources can’t pull that off. If it might be possible for the Russians to actually swing a US election and so earn the gratitude of Donald Trump or whatever, it’s going to take something of a different order than cheap facebook ads, trolls on the internet, and wikileak email dumps.

        Planning to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt, to nudge people towards thinking Hillary is the crookedest president ever and Trump is the equal and opposite crook who might as well have been paid to take a dive and take his party down with him (or vice versa in the unlikely event that Trump wins), that doesn’t require accurately predicting razor-thin electoral margins months in advance. And there’s no threshold effect where all your effort is wasted unless it results in an actual election win. Whatever the outcome, every bit of FUD is a win for Russia, because no matter who wins the election the leadership of their chief geopolitical rival has less political bandwidth for effective action.

        • publiusvarinius says:

          As our Larry Kestenbaum points out, US political parties with greater local knowledge and more focused resources can’t pull that off

          While I agree with most of your points, I don’t think that this is strong evidence that Russia cannot do it either. Information and resources matter, but models matter too (ArchiCAD is way better at analyzing the statics of a given building than the actual construction workers, even though the construction workers have better local information, not to say their lives on the line if the building does collapse).

          If a certain set of beliefs was to mindkill mainstream U.S. analysts, and they would no longer be able to predict anything about certain demographics, it would be plausible that Russia could do much better using a more accurate and less mindkilled model of how society works.

        • ManyCookies says:

          Wait I thought something like your version was already the version! Are people saying Russia was a super-predictor bent on swinging the election? Note that saying Russia ended up swaying the election (with the benefit of hindsight) is not the same as saying Russia’s main goal was to sway the election.

          Also I don’t think the story has to be quite as dramatic as a devious poisoning of the political culture. Russia might have just disliked Clinton and wanted to kick her down; they’d weaken her political strength, as you said, and they might luck out and swing a close election towards a better nominee (for them). A pretty simple and opportunistic win:win.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think Russian meddling (if any) was not so much “We’re gonna get Trump elected” (I imagine they held to the conventional wisdom at the time that Hillary had it in the bag) as “We’re gonna make it tough for Hillary and who knows, maybe we can even put a dent in her chances”. Stirring up the electorate so that the First Female President has a lot of resentment and dislike (even more than she naturally engendered) to overcome and take some of the gloss off her triumphant entry into the White House, and raise a cloud of scandal, gossip, criticism and plain stirring the pot around her in the early days of her administration.

          That she managed to lose and Trump won is probably just gravy for them but I really can’t see them pulling off such a master-stroke of manipulation, otherwise they’d be doing it in every election in every country.

  14. Kevin C. says:

    Note:My first attempt at posting this apparently hit the spam/banned word filter, so I’m trying it again without my footnotes, as they’re the most likely area to have a problem.

    (I mentioned in the comments on the links post that I’d put this in this open thread. I’ve put my more parenthetical and digressive asides in numbered footnotes.)

    Kevin Drum at Mother Jones had another recent piece on the predicted wave of automation-driven unemployment, and Rod Dreher engages with it in a recent post of his own. In his final paragraph, he asks:

    Thought experiment: what would an effective conservative response to the coming AI revolution and its likely socio-economic effects look like? I think it would have to start by asking not “what seems best according to free market principles?” but “what is likely to keep social stability throughout the coming economic turmoil?”

    (Emphasis in original)
    Not too many other mainstream[1] conservative writers seem to have engaged with this issue, though I must note that Andrew Stuttaford at National Review has written a fair bit, like this, and engaged with the same Drum piece here.

    There was quite a bit of comment and discussion at Dreher’s. Yes, many of the commenters dismissed the issue, but not in the ways one might think. I didn’t see any “AI is nonsense because robots can’t have souls” religious-based objections (though there was one “God will always provide for His people”). And pretty much the only ‘Luddite Fallacy, Lump of Labor, machines always create more human jobs as an absolute law of nature’-type argument I saw was by a left-leaning commentor (somewhat unfairly, IMO) snarking that we all know that the “conservative response” to technological unemployment will be to deny the very possibility, insist that the unemployed are just lazy and make bad decisions and that they all need to just pull themselves up and get jobs.[2] In fact, the primary objections mostly are about predictions of the future in general; that predictions of powerful new technologies coming soon and of impending major misfortunes are both overblown, with comparisons to flying cars and the Y2K bug. That, at least by implication, the great majority of jobs human beings do today will still be performed by human beings fifty or a hundred years from now.

    But a number did engage, and there were some interesting ideas tossed about. Most seemed willing to engage with the idea of a UBI. One person coined a useful additional acronym, UBIHC: universal basic income and health care. The only case I saw of someone condemning UBI as “socialism” was actually someone reporting what other people they talked to said about it. Though, plenty of people had the usual “idle hands”/”dignity of work” concerns about it.

    A few highlights I found notable:

    •The “Kiryas Joel Option”: A number of people pointed to Hasidic communities which already see significant “welfare” usage, and where the men generally don’t work; they spend their time studying the Torah instead. The idea is that a UBI would let Christians follow suit, that people will fill their time and find purpose and dignity, in the absense of work, in religion and religious activity. That one of the biggest obstacles to forming “Benedict Option” communities is the concern about employment and supporting a family: needing to live where the jobs are, rather than with like-minded Christians, concerns that one can’t be “consciously counter-cultural” without risking getting fired for being a “hater”, and so on, and that UBI would eliminate that. Another asked “Should a deeply Catholic family, neither of whom work, and have nothing better to do be allowed to have 18 kids? How would you propose preventing that?”

    The main objection mostly seemed to be concerns about the U in UBI(HC): “when the government provides those things at will, they can also put the squeeze at will on people who need them (i.e., most everybody.) Say, recalcitrant social malefactors like orthodox Christians?” That it might not be truly “universal”, but instead things like “oppose gay marriage? No Basic income for you!” While I’m not totally confident about that, I do suspect that if “getting bigots fired” no longer suffices as a way to hurt said “bigots”, the sort of people who do that presently will go looking for new ways to strike at the “deplorables”.

    •Redistributing Jobs: People did mention the establishment of the 40-hour week, and thus some proposed another such change, such as to a 30-hour or 20-hour work week. And lowering retirement ages, or making them mandatory. But there was another one someone raised, which I thought was intriguing, particularly given the possible effects on the “two-income trap”. That was to “redistribute” on a household basis, by heavily taxing “second incomes”. It was noted that one could expect this to push women in particular out of the workforce[3], which at least some conservatives and traditionalists would consider a benefit, but would make it unpopular and politically difficult[4]. And another pointed out that this same incentive system would also significantly discourage working women from marrying or cohabitating, and that this negative effect on marriage might well predominate instead.

    •Reject the Molochian Exchange: There were a number who mentioned Solzhenitsyn’s calls for “simple, local, de-centralized, agrarian, zero-growth economies” and the writings of E.F. Schumacher. “The economy was made to serve humans, not humans to serve the economy” and such. A lot about buying land and growing one’s own food and such. In short, taking a page from the Amish and choosing as a community or a nation not to use these technologies, even if it makes us poorer in the aggregate. Though, none of them engaged with the basic Moloch problem, the whole “if we don’t use these technologies, we’ll be outcompeted by and at the mercy of those (perhaps the Chinese) who do” issue. Nor did anyone drop the phrase “Butlerian Jihad,” but I did detect a certain understandable opposition to “a machine-attitude as much as the machines.”

    •Deindustrialization and Right-Wing Primitivism: Related to the above were a few that fit with something of a trend in the right-wing circles I frequent[5]. Besides the one commenting about how one “North Korean EMP” would put everyone back to work, a few individuals argued that because of energy, resource, and environmental limitiations we will not only not have a lasting wave of mass automation, but will, not as a choice like above but by necessity undergo “deindustrialization” and technological reversion:

    I think our future looks a lot more medieval and demechanized that people would like to accept. We have already reached beyond both the carrying capacity for the planet and where we shluld[sic] have stopped in terms of economic growth and development. There are no innovations in suburbia, just another fried chicken place or car wash.

    As a Christian, I don’t have a problem with deindustrialization by mandate of reality. Yes, we live longer and in more comfort, but we have not learned anywhere how to be more Christian. Likewise, if we believe that this world will come to an end and be replaced by a perfect heaven and earth, this is what we really care about and should focus on.

    So, what is the conservative/traditionalist/right-wing response to mass technological unemployment? Religious communities funded by UBI spending their time in prayer and having huge families, like some Hasidic communities of the present? Incentives to “redistribute” work and push women out of the workforce? Reject these technologies in the name of human flourishing? Count on warfare, disaster, or some other collapse to knock us back centuries? Just tell folks to “get a job, you lazy bum”? Or something else?

    • Kevin C. says:

      Let’s see if this works for the footnotes:

      [1]Outside the mainstream, there’s Moldbug’s “The Dire Problem and the Virtual Option,” and, of course, Nick Land.

      [2]Another left-leaning commenter similarly held that the “right” response for conservatives in this scenario is simply to surrender and admit the left is correct.

      [3]Because, being agnostic on the causes (how much is deep cultural programming, how much is biology), the statistics show that “househusbands” are rare, and that wives making more than their husbands tends to be bad for the stability and reported happiness of marriages.

      [4]Though there was mention of women being “thrown out of the workplace to make room for men” in the Great Depression.

      [5]For example, in Rod’s “The Reformation At 500“, he quotes Carl Trueman, who says, as part of one passage, “Given the choice, I would rather live today, with analgesics, antibiotics, and easy access to education, than in the thirteenth—or indeed any earlier—century.” And the fifth comment responds to this with:

      This seems an odd position for an orthodox Christian to take. In 13th century Europe, compared to now, a far higher proportion of the population were orthodox Christians who feared Hell, attended Church and, when they committed sins like having sex outside wedlock, quickly confessed and repented.

      Modern day America has technology and education, but most people are Moralistic Therapeutic Deists if not completely irreligious – including many people brought up in orthodox Christian households. How could an orthodox Christian disagree that a much higher percentage of people are “lost” today than before, and that the odds of their own children becoming “lost” are higher in today’s society?

      Which is more important to Carl Trueman – that his son avoid a bit of pain with an anaesthetic when he gets a tooth pulled, or the probability that he avoids an infinite amount of pain in Hell?

      In short, I’m seeing more folks on the Right who consider antibiotics and medicine that works, the ability to put objects into space, radio, electricity, and the whole past two centuries of technological progress being lost for all time as a price worth paying to stop the Left. (And if one takes Scott’s “technological determinism” arguments seriously, is that not the only viable path for the Right?)

      Edit: it did. Looks like it was another example I gave of “right-wing primitivism”, possibly the online handle of the fellow whose blog it is on. The page in question is here, and mainly those in the comments who responded to the bit about non-repeatability of the Industrial revolution.

    • Incurian says:

      I like Arnold Kling’s take.

      We should not worry about “mass poverty” in a world of almost unimaginable abundance.

      • Randy M says:

        I suppose I should read the link before raising questions, but:
        1) At what point does unprecedented shade into unimaginable? I don’t think the concern is employment post-singularity, but post automating many more things. We find numerous ways to spend money now without uplifting every person to completely lack all want; I’m not sure that will change.
        2) When that does change, what will that abundance do to people? We have people in generational poverty that are cared for through various welfare and charity programs. Does that idleness lead to human flourishing? Is the lack one that would be ameliorated with more goods, or more social/spiritual/intellectual? I’m not saying something must be done, but it probably deserves thinking about.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Create a wage subsidy. As AI displaces more and more jobs, keep increasing the subsidy. People’s working environments will continue to improve. Eventually the wage subsidy becomes so large it’s effectively a UBI.

          One nice feature is that if, as I suspect, we really aren’t looking at a future of mass unemployment due to AI, we just stop increasing the wage subsidy. And we don’t have a bunch of people trying to support families who have gotten used to never working.

          • Evan Þ says:

            On the other hand, a wage subsidy doesn’t help when you can’t find a job due to robots digging all the ditches and shipping all the packages and doing everything else you’re remotely able to do. Nor does it help if you’re unemployable due to purity spirals.

            To avoid those problems, a UBI needs to either be truly unconditional or be coupled to a job guarantee: literally anyone can get a job in the Neo-CCC if they just show up (and, maybe, show their citizenship.)

            Alternatively, I suppose a wage subsidy could help subsidize community businesses: if I want to start a theater troupe with my fellow unemployables, great, the government will pay 90% (or whatever) of my actors’ salaries. There’d still be problems with people feeling the work isn’t worthwhile, but definitely no more than under a true UBI.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            For simplicity, imagine there are no taxes on employment or wages or income, no minimum wage. Also no fraud. Also that no jobs are actively harmful to others. (There are big discussion to have about those issues, but I’m just trying to address your point about employability.) The government is willing to pay you $5 an hour if you can find someone willing to pay you $6 an hour.

            A whole lot of jobs become feasible that weren’t feasible before. You don’t have to wander the store for 5 minutes looking for someone to help you because the store can afford more employees. The shipping company can afford more people moving boxes around. The home delivery can be done in teams of two for safety. You can sort through more recycling and hire more people for grounds clean-up.

            I believe this will be a huge environmental boon. Cheaper wages make repairing old things more competitive against throwing them out and replacing them with new things. You can afford to have people sort through recyclables or even trash. You can make handling hazardous waste properly more likely to happen. (By hazardous waste I mean things like old rechargeable batteries, not biohazards.) Remember how Obama said we could save millions of gallons of gas by keeping our tires inflated (for which conservatives unfairly attacked him)? A local environmental group could decide to run a road-side “free tire check and inflation while you wait, less than 3 minutes and you don’t even need to get out of your car” service, maybe with sponsorship by a local garage, in order to keep thousands of pounds of CO2 and particulates out of their local air. Really, a huge number of ways of cleaning up the local environment become possible with cheap wages.

        • Incurian says:

          I don’t understand what you’re asking with #1.

          I don’t know the answer to #2, but it doesn’t seem likely to me that having more abundance would be negative. Maybe not having to work would make people lazy, but if they can afford to be lazy why not let them? When the world changes, so must our conception of virtue, I think.

          • Randy M says:

            Basically, I’m not by any means sure that having more cheap stuff will be bad on net, but it might be worth worrying, or rather, thinking about as it will present different problems.

          • lvlln says:

            One possible issue that I heard pointed out by Jordan Peterson, specifically on the issue of universal basic income, was that it might be a death sentence for some drug addicts who no longer have financial limitations to over-using and eventually dying from drugs they’re addicted to. Overabundance doesn’t necessarily imply UBI, and it’s also questionable just how great a proportion of drug addicts fit this profile, but it struck me as a concern worth considering when it comes to exploring any overabundant future.

            There’s also the question of to what extent virtue is malleable. If we could engineer people a la Brave New World this wouldn’t be an issue, and maybe there’s hope that overabundance will come with it such bio technology. But if it doesn’t, and we’re still mostly limited to the brains that evolution gave us, will it be truly possible to make mass portions of the population feel content while being lazy? I really really hope the answer is Yes, but it’s not obvious to me that it is, and what research I’m aware of regarding happiness tell me that there’s good reason to at least explore the possibility that the answer might be No.

          • skef says:

            One possible issue that I heard pointed out by Jordan Peterson, specifically on the issue of universal basic income, was that it might be a death sentence for some drug addicts who no longer have financial limitations to over-using and eventually dying from drugs they’re addicted to.

            This would mostly be a speed issue (if it turned out to be an issue at all).

            Cocaine is expensive and, heart attacks and such aside, most of the health damage comes from long-term use that many people manage while holding down a job.

            The biggest risk with opiates is irregular (in time or type) supply. With a UBI you might even see a (small) reduction in overdose deaths.

            Other downers like benzos generally have fewer health effects than booze, which would probably remain the main downer of choice even after a UBI.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Religious communities funded by UBI spending their time in prayer and having huge families, like some Hasidic communities of the present?

      Yes. My degrees are in electrical and computer engineering, and in college I worked at a robotics laboratory. My daydream was that my robots would help achieve a post-scarcity society, and the first thing I would do is have my robots build a zero-work self-sustaining community for my parish. Then I would direct my robots to build a cathedral of my own design, the world’s first robot-assembled cathedral. I would then invite the pope to come give the first mass at the Cathedral of the Miracle of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Part of the breakdown of the family has been technologically determined. Agricultural labor was replaced partially by unskilled industrial labor and partially by skilled office work. Farmers could recruit their children into the family business, while they’re an economic burden to white-collar workers. If adults without certain skills become an economic burden, a humanitarian solution (UBI, wage subsidy, an inalienable share in the self-replicating robot corporation) that covers them will also, ceteris paribas, cover women having a bunch of children.

  15. Kevin C. says:

    Anyone else read the Desmet, Ortuño-Ortín and Wacziarg paper “Culture, Ethnicity, and Diversity“? [PDF] (h/t to Garett Jones for highlighting it). They look at both cultural (via the WVS) and ethnic diversity, examining a chi-square index for the correlation between the two, and find that the problems arise when that index is high:

    Does cultural diversity between ethnic groups, though small in magnitude, matter for our understanding of political economy outcomes? To analyze whether the overlap between culture and ethnicity is relevant, we explore how ethnic heterogeneity, cultural heterogeneity, and the overlap between culture and ethnicity affect civil con ict and public goods. We find empirically that both cultural and ethnic diversity have weak effects on civil conflict and public goods. If anything, higher cultural diversity reduces the probability of civil conflict and increases public goods. However, in countries where ethnicity is more strongly predictive of culture, as captured by a high χ2, violent conflict is more likely, and public goods provision tends to be lower. Our interpretation of this empirical result is that in societies where individuals differ from each other in both ethnicity and culture, social antagonism is greater, and political economy outcomes are worse.

    Also, this bit in the conclusion:

    Our results parallel a famous debate in population genetics on within-group versus between-group genetic differentiation, going back to Lewontin (1972). Lewontin pointed out that between-race genetic variation was a very small part of overall variation, and that within-group diversity accounted for a much larger share of overall genetic variation. This led him to question the validity of the very concept of race. In a series of rejoinders, Edwards (2003), Dawkins (2005), and others argued that while between-group variation was small, it could still be a relevant part of the variation: humans share up to 99 percent of their DNA with some animals, yet the 1 percent that differs matters a lot to set the two groups apart. Lewontin’s point on genetics mirrors our finding that between-ethnic group cultural variation is a small part of overall cultural variation, and that most of this variation occurs within-groups. Edwards’ (2003) and Dawkins’ (2005) argument also finds an echo in our work, since we argue that between-group variation, while a small share of the overall variation, matters for civil conflict and public goods.

    I found it well worth a read.

  16. Kevin C. says:

    So, any thoughts about the controversy around the recent tweets by sociology professor Jessie Daniels of CUNY’s Hunter College (“an internationally recognized expert on Internet manifestations of racism”), as discussed here and here, amongst other places? Note the bit where she blamed the “marriage equality fight” for undemining the “marxist-feminist critique of The Family as an inherently conservative force in society”.

    • Well... says:

      “marriage equality fight” […] undermining the “marxist-feminist critique of The Family as an inherently conservative force in society”.

      If only it were true, I’d be out there waving a rainbow flag.

      • hyperboloid says:

        I’ll go one further. I think It is true, and in fact it is one of the reasons I support gay marriage.

        Stripped of it’s radical rhetoric, the basic argument is that the focus on advancing the right of gay people to participate in marriages that are very much patterned on the heterosexual norm has shifted the gay rights movement in a conservative direction, away from radically libertine sexual expression, and towards something much more in keeping with the straight status quo. This strikes me as both obviously true, and overwhelmingly a good thing.

        • Well... says:

          I think I’ve been exposed to a small subset of the gay population that seems to want to assimilate into the hetero norm (of having kids, a house in the burbs, mow the lawn and go to church on Sundays, etc.) and sees marriage as an important part of that. But it doesn’t seem like that describes most gay people’s ambitions as it relates to marriage, nor does it seem like this is something that is changing much. Instead, marriage seems to have been weaponized as a cudgel with which to beat opponents over the head with in the culture war.

          Of course, I’m not really plugged into gay culture so my epistemic certainty on this is middling at best. Happy to be shown evidence to the contrary.

          • skef says:

            I think I’ve been exposed to a small subset of the gay population that seems to want to assimilate into the hetero norm (of having kids, a house in the burbs, mow the lawn and go to church on Sundays, etc.) and sees marriage as an important part of that. But it doesn’t seem like that describes most gay people’s ambitions as it relates to marriage,

            Well, the more qualifiers added to “the hetero norm”, the fewer the number of any kind of person who has those ambitions “as it relates to marriage”.

            Lots of younger gay guys want to raise kids. Without a good deal of money, the remaining options to do so don’t appeal to everyone.

            Instead, marriage seems to have been weaponized as a cudgel with which to beat opponents over the head with in the culture war.

            Lack of marriage was weaponized when many families shut partners out of hospitals in the AIDS (as opposed to HIV) era. You might be surprised how much of the later politics is tied to such simple issues.

          • Well... says:

            “Mow the lawn/go to church on Sundays” etc. was used to suggest a picture of the hetero norm, not to strictly name those things as qualifiers of it. I guess an even looser way to put it is “settle down and start a family.”

            Is the stereotypical association between “the gay lifestyle” and the R-rated fast-paced/urban/night-owl/partying/promiscuous/etc. one totally wrong?

            If lots of younger gay guys want to settle down and raise kids, are they bothered by this incorrect portrayal? And if so, can you show me some examples of their effort to correct it?

            Without a good deal of money, the remaining options to [raise kids] don’t appeal to everyone.

            Which remaining options? And of course any given set of options will not appeal to everyone–that’s always true–but it seems like not having a lot of money (not to mention being unmarried) does not necessarily stop people from having kids.

            Lack of marriage was weaponized when many families shut partners out of hospitals in the AIDS (as opposed to HIV) era. You might be surprised how much of the later politics is tied to such simple issues.

            Is this supposed to be “two wrongs make a right” reasoning?

          • skef says:

            Is the stereotypical association between “the gay lifestyle” and the R-rated fast-paced/urban/night-owl/partying/promiscuous/etc. one totally wrong?

            Not “totally”. It’s a fairly small contingent who takes it into their thirties, let alone beyond. And its a fairly substantial contingent of straight guys in their twenties who do something along the same lines.

            If lots of younger gay guys want to settle down and raise kids, are they bothered by this incorrect portrayal? And if so, can you show me some examples of their effort to correct it?

            When you’re basic identity is one of the main negative symbols in your culture, no. You don’t particularly give a shit about this sort of thing.

            Which remaining options?

            Adopting older kids.

            Is this supposed to be “two wrongs make a right” reasoning?

            Sorry, what’s the other wrong, again?

          • Brad says:

            To elaborate, the lives of gay men living and working as professionals in cities looks a like the lives of straight men living and working as professionals in cities. Not identical, but similar.

            If you want to see gay couples doing the whole, marry young, live in the exurbs of Midwestern cities, have kids young, go to church and occasionally hunt — then at a minimum those places are going to have to make the kids that grow up gay in the those places feel like staying there, finding love, and settling down there is an option. Just being able to legally marry isn’t going to be enough to do that. I’m not familiar with that sort of place so I don’t know if it is or isn’t happening.

          • Well... says:

            @skef:

            It’s a fairly small contingent who takes it into their thirties, let alone beyond.

            I buy that, but I’m also puzzled by why gay people wouldn’t try to publicize that more if they see (er, saw?) legal marriage as a path to settling down and having kids.

            And its a fairly substantial contingent of straight guys in their twenties who do something along the same lines.

            Indeed, although that lifestyle doesn’t seem quite as synonymous with being straight. And if it was, I am confident many straight people would become very vocal about opposing that association.

            When you’re basic identity is one of the main negative symbols in your culture, no. You don’t particularly give a shit about this sort of thing [the popular association between being gay and the R-rated urban lifestyle].

            Maybe giving a shit about it would be productive.

            Sorry, what’s the other wrong, again?

            Wrong 1: denying e.g. hospital visitation to gay S/Os.
            Wrong 2: tying the politics of marriage to a bunch of engineered benefits rather than to its meaning as the foundation of the start of a nuclear family, thereby weaponizing it in the culture war.

            @Brad:

            the lives of gay men living and working as professionals in cities looks a like the lives of straight men living and working as professionals in cities. Not identical, but similar.

            I understand. See above.

            If you want to see gay couples doing the whole, marry young, live in the exurbs of Midwestern cities, have kids young, go to church and occasionally hunt — then at a minimum those places are going to have to make the kids that grow up gay in the those places feel like staying there, finding love, and settling down there is an option. Just being able to legally marry isn’t going to be enough to do that.

            That makes sense. But doesn’t that basically support what I said earlier, about gay marriage NOT “undermining the ‘marxist-feminist critique of The Family as an inherently conservative force in society’”?

            I agree that exurban people who hunt and go to church and mow their lawns should not hate gay people for being gay, and should not push them out of their societies toward cities unless there’s a legitimate reason. That requires a change in that group’s thinking and communication too. Which group’s change is more possible?

          • skef says:

            Maybe giving a shit about it would be productive.

            Can I assume, based on your preoccupation in this thread, that you worry quite a bit what other people think of you? Not everyone thinks that doing so is a virtue.

            More generally, minorities are usually rigidly stereotyped by majorities in a way that majorities don’t get stereotyped. You seem to assume that there is some magic trigger gay people can pull to stop that. The people who (endlessly) point to the pride parades don’t understand, or admit, that any sign of a gay relationship, including holding hands, used to be “flaunting”, as in “I don’t mind that there are gay people, I just wish they wouldn’t flaunt it.”

            Wrong 2: tying the politics of marriage to a bunch of engineered benefits rather than to its meaning as the foundation of the start of a nuclear family, thereby weaponizing it in the culture war.

            That happened about 20 years before gay marriage legalization.

          • Well... says:

            I wouldn’t say I “worry quite a bit what other people think of me.” I would say I spend some effort (not a lot, but not zero) trying to understand how others stereotype people like me, and if I can visibly violate the parts of that stereotype I don’t like or don’t feel are true, then I do it, with pleasure.

            More generally, minorities are usually rigidly stereotyped by majorities in a way that majorities don’t get stereotyped.

            I’m not sure I understand. Can you explain?

            You seem to assume that there is some magic trigger gay people can pull to stop that.

            Not sure where you get that idea. I’d love to have seen prominent gay people (or gay people with access to a powerful platform) who don’t like certain aspects of the gay stereotype vocally speak out against the perpetuation of that stereotype by other gay people in a way that got the attention of non-gay people. That’s not magic, it happens often for other minorities. See, e.g. Thomas Sowell.

            [tying the politics of marriage to a bunch of engineered benefits rather than to the start of a nuclear family] happened about 20 years before gay marriage legalization

            So? Are you saying in the intervening 20 years, no gay person was allowed to criticize this move?

          • quaelegit says:

            There are prominent gay people who are doing the “house in the suburbs with two kids and dog” thing*. One example that comes to mind is Neil Patrick Harris and his family. (Well, it’s possible there’s wild scandals relating to him that I’m unaware of — I only know about his family because of their AWESOME group Halloween costumes.)

            Incidentally, my central experience with gay people are friends of my parents who have been effectively married and living in the burbs together since the 90s. They have ONE kid and THREE dogs though, so totally bucking the trend there 😛

          • Brad says:

            If you want to see gay couples doing the whole, marry young, live in the exurbs of Midwestern cities, have kids young, go to church and occasionally hunt — then at a minimum those places are going to have to make the kids that grow up gay in the those places feel like staying there, finding love, and settling down there is an option. Just being able to legally marry isn’t going to be enough to do that.

            That makes sense. But doesn’t that basically support what I said earlier, about gay marriage NOT “undermining the ‘marxist-feminist critique of The Family as an inherently conservative force in society’”?

            I don’t think it does. I think the pivot to gay marriage (from AIDS advocacy) did undermine the marxist-feminist critique of The Family. Prior to that there was a significant strain of “queer” thought that scorned marriage as hetronormative. But with the pivot people pushing those critiques were marginalized as traitors to the cause.

            However few or many couples there were settling down, having kids, and mowing lawns — they were pushed forward as the pride and voice of the community. Theirs were the stories that made the lawsuits that the entire community was obsessed with.

            That severely undermined the power of the prior critique of marriage. Although I’m not myself gay, my perception is that it also fairly strongly changed dating norms. While the urban hook up culture still exists, gays that are interested in relationships and settling down were increasingly not looked upon as strange or square. Somewhere in this OT in a discussion of polygamy someone linked Scott’s essay on the importance of defaults (http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/12/01/setting-the-default/)– and in my observation the default did shift.

            If you were expecting to see a thunderclap all at once change, well that didn’t happen. But I don’t think that is a reasonable exception.

            I agree that exurban people who hunt and go to church and mow their lawns should not hate gay people for being gay, and should not push them out of their societies toward cities unless there’s a legitimate reason. That requires a change in that group’s thinking and communication too. Which group’s change is more possible?

            I think the power is really in the hands of the communities now. There are plenty of messages from mass media that say that it is normative for gay people to fall in love and settle down, just like straights. Sure there are other messages too, but there are for straights as well. If red tribe gay kids’ parents and neighbors provide the space for them to stay, at least some of them are going to grab it.

          • skef says:

            I wouldn’t say I “worry quite a bit what other people think of me.” I would say I spend some effort (not a lot, but not zero) trying to understand how others stereotype people like me, and if I can visibly violate the parts of that stereotype I don’t like or don’t feel are true, then I do it, with pleasure.

            So you … also worry about what people think about you in a different way.

            [tying the politics of marriage to a bunch of engineered benefits rather than to the start of a nuclear family] happened about 20 years before gay marriage legalization

            So? Are you saying in the intervening 20 years, no gay person was allowed to criticize this move?

            Well it wasn’t really our problem, was it? Especially at that time?

          • skef says:

            Look, Well, there have always been a substantial subset of gay men who think pretty much like you do about marriage. They marry women, fuck on the side, and don’t talk about the latter. Which is, of course, how a large proportion of straight men conduct their marriages, including what they do and don’t talk about.

          • Well... says:

            So you … also worry about what people think about you in a different way.

            I guess? How little can you care what people think about you before you’re a sociopath? How much should you care what others think about you before you’re obsessed or paranoid? I’d say I’m well between either of those two extremes, and I’m not sure why you’d consider that useful information.

            Well it wasn’t really our problem, was it?

            I don’t believe gay people are a monolithic group, or ever were. If this kind of “but it’s not our problem” reasoning is so pervasive that the only gay guys with my view on marriage are the ones who sham-marry their beards, then it would suggest my belief is incorrect and gay people are actually much more monolithic than I thought.

          • skef says:

            @Well

            The point is that, not being a monolithic group, gay people tend to think that marriage-with-kids-in-the-suburbs is one way to live, among others. Gay guys who do choose to live that way have no particular reason to ritually cleanse themselves of other people who live different ways. And even if they did, lots of people would be grumpy about them anyway.

            They don’t need your approval. They could win you over personally and it would mean nothing to some similar guy three streets away. Much easier to put the whole thing out of one’s mind as best as one can.

          • skef says:

            How little can you care what people think about you before you’re a sociopath?

            In theory, at least, not at all. Someone who doesn’t rape and murder only because they’re worried about what the neighbors would think is a sociopath.

          • Well... says:

            @skef:

            Do white run-of-the-mill social conservatives have any reason to ritually cleanse themselves of white supremacists? I think so: the white supremacists hog media attention and give everyone to the right of center a bad name.

            True, conservatives don’t need the approval of liberals, but if they want to persuade the other side that some policy is a good idea or at least not an evil one, it helps to distance themselves from the people who do Nazi salutes.

            Yes, on some level this means they have to care about how the other side sees them. Caring about that isn’t some kind of pathology; rather, it’s an important requisite for persuasion.

          • skef says:

            Do white run-of-the-mill social conservatives have any reason to ritually cleanse themselves of white supremacists? I think so: the white supremacists hog media attention and give everyone to the right of center a bad name.

            Suppose that a young gay suburban couple knows some single gay guys who live in a nearby city. If the point of comparison is to white supremacy, it would seem that, to be acceptable in your eyes, the couple would need to end any socializing or association with such people?

            Why not just avoid the straight busybody prig instead?

            Never mind. I think you’re confusing “kids-and-dogs-in-the-suburbs” with “social conservative”. Not the same thing. Gay socially conservative men generally marry women.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Do white run-of-the-mill social conservatives have any reason to ritually cleanse themselves of white supremacists? I think so: the white supremacists hog media attention and give everyone to the right of center a bad name.

            This is only true if the media cares whether the run-of-the-mill social conservatives ritually cleanse themselves. They do not. They will even blame those who have explicitly separated themselves. Gavin McInnes got heat for Charlottesville despite denouncing the rally ahead of time (and threatening to expel any members of his organization who attended). Not just conservatives; the gaming ants get blamed for everything from Trump to Charlottesville to Harvey Weinstein (yes, really). At that point, there’s no media advantage to disavowing or disassociating, and there’s a big disadvantage in spending a lot of energy doing so.

            Somehow I doubt anti-gay conservatives are going to care if “boring” gays diassociate themselves with the flamboyant ones; they’ll use the flamboyant ones as a reason to object to homosexuality in general, because the flamboyance isn’t their true objection. Those for whom flamboyance IS their true objection won’t need the disassociation; they need merely be shown the “boring” gays exist.

          • Brad says:

            Do white run-of-the-mill social conservatives have any reason to ritually cleanse themselves of white supremacists?

            Denouncing rarely does any good, and demands for denunciation are generally bad faith (though I don’t take yours to be).

            In addition to The Nybbler’s example, consider the endless denunciations of terrorists and terrorism by American Muslim organizations and how little it’s gotten them.

            On the other hand, moderates of all stripes need need not bend over backwards to defend those in their groups they don’t actually agree with — either openly or in the fashion of ‘I’m totally against X but [ten more paragraphs of what amount to apologetics]’.

          • Well... says:

            @skef:

            No, the point of comparison is of a young suburban “settled down” gay couple to the flaming R-rated antics seen in gay pride parades (and perpetuated in Out! magazine, lots of movies and TV shows with gay characters, etc.). I don’t think I’m confusing anything. If “socially conservative gay men generally marry women” (really??) then does that mean the rest of the gay population has experienced boil-off and is now very monolithic?

            @Nybbler & brad:

            At that point, there’s no media advantage to disavowing or disassociating, and there’s a big disadvantage in spending a lot of energy doing so.

            I don’t presume to talk about media advantages. How are those measured and how quickly do they ebb and flow? No, I’m talking about what it would take to persuade me, with the assumption there must be many others like me. (Maybe that assumption is wrong?) For me it depends a lot on the sincerity and plausibility of the disavowal. Some Muslim disavowals of violent Islamism, for example, are believable and make me inclined to be more sympathetic to the disavowers.

            Somehow I doubt anti-gay conservatives are going to care if “boring” gays diassociate themselves with the flamboyant ones

            I have no reason to think of myself as “anti-gay” but I do (did?) oppose gay marriage, in part because I didn’t see any “boring” gays (who I thought would tend to contribute positively to the institution of marriage) disassociating themselves from the flamboyant ones (who I thought would tend to make a mockery of it, and/or possibly turn it into something even more straight people would avoid).

          • The Nybbler says:

            I don’t presume to talk about media advantages.

            Yes, you did.

            I think so: the white supremacists hog media attention and give everyone to the right of center a bad name.

            See, right there^^.

            How are those measured and how quickly do they ebb and flow? No, I’m talking about what it would take to persuade me, with the assumption there must be many others like me. (Maybe that assumption is wrong?)

            I don’t think any sort of “ritual cleansing” helps anything. If you’re going to believe that a gay couple in the suburbs with a dog and a couple of adopted kids are somehow tainted by existence of a bunch of flamboyant gays dressed in leather and simulating sex acts on top of a float in a parade, and you disbelieve the couple’s sincerity when they roll their eyes at the flamboyant ones, you’re probably not willing to be convinced. It’s not like the former can do anything about the latter.

          • 1soru1 says:

            No, I’m talking about what it would take to persuade me, with the assumption there must be many others like me. (Maybe that assumption is wrong?)

            The problem here is you are using an objective metric grounded in personal experience.

            For any narrative, you can always find facts to support it. There will be a Jane in Austin impressed by a disclaimer, and a Bill in Atlanta less so. So, whether or not such measures are counted as successful by consumers of media primarily depends on whether or not the media chooses to tell them they were successful. Which works fine as long as the producers of such media are entirely upstanding and incorruptible citizens, and probably tolerably so long as they have some comprehensible agenda that can be compensated for.

            When the producers of the media in question may (or may not), have an agenda out of a Tom Clancy novel, the required compensation will not converge om a deterministic result.

          • Protagoras says:

            Of my close gay friends, one is married and one has been living with his partner for 15 years or so. I am not myself married and while aging has slowly but steadily increased the number of my friends who are married across the board, I do not particularly seek out the suburban normal type to associate with. I have no idea what this is evidence of, if anything, but since lots of people in this thread have been throwing around anecdotal evidence, this is some more of the same.

          • It’s not like the former can do anything about the latter.

            If the former are numerous, there are things they can do, ranging from not contributing money to organizations that participate in such displays to making negative comments about them to other gays, trying to shift the community attitude from “these people are bravely standing up for us” to “these people are getting their jollies by making life harder for us.”

            I have no idea to what extent those things actually happen.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If the former are numerous, there are things they can do, ranging from not contributing money to organizations that participate in such displays to making negative comments about them to other gays,

            OK, suppose this works. Suppose it works so well that the “boring” gays and the “flamboyant” gays are now entirely separate communities. But do the straights notice this? Probably not.

          • Suppose it works so well that the “boring” gays and the “flamboyant” gays are now entirely separate communities.

            That’s not working. Working is there being fewer flamboyant gays or the flamboyant gays being less flamboyant.

          • Well... says:

            Or the flamboyant gays no longer owning the gay stereotype.

          • skef says:

            If “socially conservative gay men generally marry women” (really??) then does that mean the rest of the gay population has experienced boil-off and is now very monolithic?

            No.

            Every openly gay man has done something explicitly non-typical that is central to his life. That experience tends to ingrain the perspective that different people want different things.

            You don’t just want gay men who wish to couple, live in the suburbs, and raise kids to do so, you want them to disapprove of other gay men who make different choices, qua those different choices. This amounts to a demand for a self-imposed monolith, tsk-tsking everyone who stands outside of it. Maybe you see that as an inherent aspect of suburban kid-raising. It’s hard to see why it would be.

            Plenty of gay guys, including many that I know, are grumpy about the assumptions that are made about their sexual habits, taste, and so forth. In my experience, that grumpiness extends to the extreme parts of the culture, and the people like you who project that culture on to them, in roughly equal measure. Which seems about right.

          • Brad says:

            Well…

            I don’t mean this to be nasty, but I think at this point not much effort is warranted to convince you and however many others there are like you. Gay marriage is settled legally speaking, and unlike abortion, it’s not going to remain controversial politically for the next 50 years. It’s going to be the next mixed-race marriage, the kind of thing kids won’t even believe was ever illegal. Republican support is at 40% up from 25% five years ago. Independents and Democrats are in the 70s.

            You want to cling to the bitter end because you have some sort of thing about gay pride events, that’s certainly your right. There isn’t going to be any ritual casting out of “flamboyant” gays.

          • Well... says:

            @skef:

            I don’t really buy that being gay makes you more likely to accept a “live and let live” ethos. But anyway, I’m more talking about gay burb-dwellers living the Hank Hill lifestyle more vocally rejecting the stereotype of gays as hip urbanites living an x-rated lifestyle. But yes rejecting a stereotype about yourself often does mean in some way trying to change the behavior of others who fuel it.

            @Brad:

            “The pro-Xs won the legal battle over X against the anti-Xs. Therefore as a pro-X I no longer need to listen to your bitter anti-X arguments.” (And later…) “You’re anti-X? That basically certifies you as insane.”

            ^ This is what people predict will happen any time something they don’t think should become legal becomes legal. Someday you will be one of those people and you will know.

          • skef says:

            But yes rejecting a stereotype about yourself often does mean in some way trying to change the behavior of others who fuel it.

            “often does” … interesting.

            How would you characterize the factors that determine when it does and when it does not?

      • Deiseach says:

        Wasn’t that Andrew Sullivan’s argument as to why conservatives should support gay marriage? It would give gay men a foothold and stake in society, reduce promiscuity by diverting them away from ‘gay culture’, if gay men could realistically aspire to the “spouses with 2 kids and a dog in the suburbs” life like straight men then they could and would be assimilated into mainstream society and all the rebelliousness of politicised sexual practices would be quashed?

        • Well... says:

          So is that what happened?

          • quaelegit says:

            I think an increasing number of gay people are doing this, but you hear about the ones that aren’t (toxoplasma of rage an all that). I’m not sure though b/c my peers (and thus almost all the gay people I know) are early to mid 20s, so almost none of us are getting married or buying houses yet.

          • ManyCookies says:

            My anecdotal view is we’re moving in that direction, though lord knows how representative my particular gay sphere is. It’s probably going to be a while though; you can’t stigmatize gay relationships and force them underground for 40+ years, deny the significant benefits of marriage/civil partnerships for another 20, and then be like “We’ve been fine with you for a few years, why aren’t you at background platonic marriage levels? Chop chop dudes!”.

            Hmm. Massachusetts has had gay marriage since 2005, so gays hitting puberty at that time might have comparable “normal relationship” experience with the straights. It might be interesting to compare the marriage stats between 25-30 year old gay residents and 25-30 year old straight residents.

          • Well... says:

            @quaelegit:

            In my experience some significant fraction of straight people settle down by age 25; even more by 27. I’ve never met a gay person who settled down that early. In a quiet Midwestern suburb I lived next door to a lesbian couple who were like two female Hank Hills, but like Hank Hill they were middle-aged. Anyway, I sincerely hope you’re right about the number increasing.

            @ManyCookies:

            you can’t stigmatize gay relationships and force them underground for 40+ years, deny the significant benefits of marriage/civil partnerships for another 20, and then be like “We’ve been fine with you for a few years, why aren’t you at background platonic marriage levels? Chop chop dudes!”

            Fair nuff.

            My anecdotal view is we’re moving in that direction

            I hope that’s true. This is one issue I’d definitely like to be wrong about.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Well I believe Richard Spencer called homosexuality the “last stand of white identity” so, there ya go. If you’re gay you’re a racist.

    • Kevin C. says:

      No comment on Prof. Daniels’s bit about how having mixed-race children is potentially “problematic”? Or the part about home ownership?

    • Protagoras says:

      I’d never heard of her; the “internationally recognized” is probably a result of her having written the blurb on her web page herself. I was aware of the existence of loons, and that some of them are in the academy. Why is it particularly important that anybody say something about her?

    • The Nybbler says:

      This isn’t even news any more. Just archive it for the next time someone tries to tell you the garden-variety academic SJW is a strawman.

    • Urstoff says:

      Ignore idiots. Spend your time more productively, like napping or playing video games.

  17. Kevin C. says:

    Since there’s plenty of libertarians here, thoughts on Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s recent speech at the 12th annual Property and Freedom Society conference in September, released online a few weeks ago? The video of which was apparently taken down from YouTube. The Ludwig von Mises Centre has a transcript of it here.

    • skef says:

      If you want to live in peace with other people and avoid all physical clashes and, if such clashes do occur, seek to resolve them peacefully, then you must be an anarchist or more precisely a private property anarchist, an anarcho-capitalist or a proponent of a private law society.

      Given that the lower part of the talk makes it extremely clear that these commitments will not be remotely sufficient, one wonders why they, as opposed to the sort of social unity he advocates on other grounds, are necessary.

      • What makes Hoppe controversial in libertarian circles isn’t that he is an anarchist. It’s some combination of his claim to be able to prove that the libertarian anarchist position is correct via a screwy argument and his sympathy for views that are at least alt-right adjacent.

        There was recently a thread on a FB A-C group responding to a speech of his, probably the same one. I don’t remember anyone defending him, although I did argue that some parts of it were not as bad as others in the discussion thought.

        • Matt M says:

          It’s some combination of his claim to be able to prove that the libertarian anarchist position is correct via a screwy argument and his sympathy for views that are at least alt-right adjacent.

          With the latter being about 10x more controversial than the former. A lot of people disagree with argumentation ethics, but nobody calls you a Nazi for it…

    • I am at least libertarian adjacent, so I looked at the link. But it is pretty long and didn’t look too interesting, so I only got down this far:

      Someone, anyone, is not a libertarian or merely a fake libertarian who affirms and advocates one or more of the following: the necessity of a State, any State, of ‘public’ (State) property and of taxes in order to live in peace; or the existence and justifiability of any so-called “human rights” or “civil rights” other than private property rights, such as “women rights,” “gay rights,” “minority rights,” the “right” not to be discriminated against, the “right” to free and unrestricted immigration, the “right” to a guaranteed minimum income or to free health care, or the “right” to be free of unpleasant speech and thought.

      Well. I guess he isn’t very interested in sharing the word libertarian with too many folks. And maybe I’m not even adjacent. He’s defined a libertarian as an anarcho-capitalist. But most people consider those in favor of a limited state to be libertarians, whereas Hoppe doesn’t consider anyone who accepts a state at all to be pure enough to be allowed that word. It’s this sort of speech that will ensure that libertarianism never will share power in any advanced society.

      • Matt M says:

        I know a lot of people who call themselves catholic, but don’t believe that the bread they eat on Sunday (when they choose to show up) is the literal body of Christ.

        So is it a foolish notion for the pope to continue to insist that it is?

        The “I’d like legal weed but come on, who would build the roads?” strain of libertarian is to me, roughly the same as the “I’ll go to church once in awhile, but come on, when I get knocked up I need to have that abortion” catholic.

        If you want to call yourself one fine, I won’t lead purges to discredit and march you out – we need all the allies we can get. But if someone bothers to ask me if such a person is in fact a libertarian, the answer is clearly no.

        • John Schilling says:

          So is it a foolish notion for the pope to continue to insist that it is?

          Who is the Libertarian Pope in this analogy?

          Because we’ve got, at least in the United States, an actual Libertarian party with a chairman and a committee and everything. Founded, IIRC, by the first generation to use the word “libertarian” in English as a political term. Founded for the purpose of using the United States Government as a tool to advance the cause of human liberty, which purpose it remains to this day and with no expressed intention of ever dismantling or deposing that government.

          So it would seem that the anarcho-capitalists are the heretics of this analogy, and the advocates of limited government have the backing of the Libertarian Pope.

          Who, being libertarian, is fairly tolerant of heretics but probably shouldn’t let them monopolize the brand identity. And it’s not like we don’t already have a perfectly good brand identity for people who want there to be no government at all.

          • Matt M says:

            https://www.lp.org/platform/

            This isn’t explicitly AnCap, but seems to pretty heavily imply it to me.

            We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized.

            Government is inherently forceful. The existence of the state is incompatible with this goal.

          • The Nybbler says:

            So it would seem that the anarcho-capitalists are the heretics of this analogy, and the advocates of limited government have the backing of the Libertarian Pope.

            Does this make David Friedman the Libertarian Antipope?

          • Founded for the purpose of using the United States Government as a tool to advance the cause of human liberty, which purpose it remains to this day and with no expressed intention of ever dismantling or deposing that government.

            (About the LP)

            To quote Wikipedia:

            In 1974, anarchists and minarchists within the Party agreed to officially take no position on whether or not government should exist at all, and to not advocate either particular view.

            Checking the 2016 platform, I observe:

            We, on the contrary, deny the right of any government to do these things, and hold that where governments exist, they must not violate the rights of any individual:

            Note the “where governments exist,” which avoids saying whether or not they should.

  18. Kevin C. says:

    A recurring dynamic I see (I recall one example in the midst of the Rotherham revelations, and saw another one more recently).

    Consider a situation where there are serious charges, of say, serious sexual offenses having been committed against some women or girls. A figure — with, say, far-right political associations — steps forward and makes some comment naming, or in some way alluding to the identities of those accused of committing these offenses; let us call him Odious Outgroup Figure (OOF). So a bunch of people (the BoPs), at least some of whom would normally be pursuing justice for those victims and punishment for the perpetrators, see this, and decline to act. Because however guilty they may be, punishing the named perpetrators would be potentially giving some measure of boost to OOF’s status. And they find that so unacceptable they’re willing to let bad men go free, and deny justice for those they claim to care for, out of hostility to OOF.

    I see people frequently wonder about the occurrence and persistence of “untouchability”. Dalits, Burakumin, Cagots, and all that. Isn’t that whole concept strange and kind of ridiculous. Well, I think it becomes a bit more comprehensible when you consider the next part of the above scenario. That is where another person comes along and sees the above situation. And their reaction to the situation is anger — but not at the BoPs, who are willing to see a grand injustice be done. No, it’s at OOF, because it’s entirely his fault for “contaminating” the situation with his presence, thereby “forcing” the BoPs to go hands-off.

    • Well... says:

      I see the similarities, but I am very reluctant to say understanding one means you can understand the other. For example, the caste system in India did not necessarily come about for the same reasons, or operate in the same way, as our Cold Civil War. India’s culture has its own rather distinct and very long history; I wouldn’t presume to summarize it so conveniently neatly.

      A better analogy would be to the actual Cold War here in the US, where if in the 1960s a Communist sympathizer came forward and reported a crime committed against masses of young girls, everyone else might refuse to prosecute, for fear they’d be raising the status of the Communist sympathizer.

      • Kevin C. says:

        I see the similarities, but I am very reluctant to say understanding one means you can understand the other.

        Indeed not, but there’s some definite overlap of mechanisms. I agree that “the caste system in India did not necessarily come about for the same reasons, or operate in the same way, as our Cold Civil War”. What I’m saying is that where most people seem, IME, to have trouble with untouchability is the element of contamination, the idea that certain people “taint” everything they touch. And yet, this dynamic, that if a thing becomes somehow associated or connected to an “untouchable”, it is expected and justifiable for others to dissacociate to avoid the now “tainted” thing can be readily seen. Like this from our dear host.

        • Well... says:

          I don’t really understand the example closely because I live too much under a rock to know who Mike Cernovich or the “shitty men in media” are. But I think I understand how it could be an example of the pattern you’re talking about.

  19. Kevin C. says:

    Pareidolia in action? Justified outrage, or hypersensitivity?

    • Well... says:

      It’s one of those cases where “outrage” might be unjustified for the most rational of us, but is understandable for most. I think the outrage is based not so much on “OMG this reminds me of the Holocaust now I’m traumatized by seeing this dress” but on “How ignorant do you think we are, Clothing Designer? And why would you choose such a tasteless path of inspiration? Don’t you have any appreciation for sensitive topics?” And in that sense, I would agree. It almost comes across as an exercise in “Let’s see how dumb people really are.” I mean, people are dumb, but it’s obnoxious and cynical to sell clothing whose sole purpose seems to be to make a demonstration out of it.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Reminds me of something I saw in an art supply store once. A bunch of cheap Chinese easels being sold under the names of lesser-known and lesser-liked Presidents, e.g. the “Gerald Ford”.

      I suspect the same thing going on here. Patches in that position are common. Snowflakes are common. OK, put a snowflake in that position and sell it. The clothing designer knows little of the Holocaust (not being European and probably being quite young) and doesn’t see any problem. No one else does either, because the connection isn’t that obvious, except to someone who has been absolutely soaked in Nazi imagery.

      • rahien.din says:

        No one else sees any problem either, because the connection isn’t that obvious, except to someone who has been absolutely soaked in Nazi imagery.

        This.

        I’m baffled by the assertion that a red snowflake is equatable to a yellow hexagram in the manner suggested. “If you squint real hard you can perceive the unintentional and highly-oblique allusion to the Holocaust!” That’s what we care about? How hard are we supposed to be squinting?

        I am wearing a plaid shirt. If I squint really hard it looks like evenly-spaced rectangular grids, which evokes High Modernist city planning, which verges on Lysenkoism, which makes me a famine-apologist. Should I be squinting that hard?

        • Let me take a much closer case. The standard peace symbol, which huge numbers of people wear, is based on the semaphore signs for ND, standing for nuclear disarmament. I am not positive, but I believe it originally represented the movement for unilateral nuclear disarmament by the U.S. and its allies.

          Some of the supporters of that movement may have been honest pacifists who believed that conquest by the Russians was better than the risk of nuclear war, some may have really believed that the Russians, with a monopoly of nuclear weaponry, would not have attacked anyone. But surely many were people who wanted the communists to win, and the results would have been very very bad.

          So should anyone who makes a pendant of the peace symbol or uses it on a shirt be shunned as insensitive to communist atrocities?

          • hyperboloid says:

            But surely many were people who wanted the communists to win, and the results would have been very very bad.

            Bullsh*t .

            The CND is a British movement , and it’s position is that the United Kingdom should adopt a policy similar to Japan’s, by renouncing nuclear weapons, and pushing for global disarmament. So far as I know, no member of the CND ever advocated a Soviet nuclear monopoly. In fact one of it’s founders, Bertrand Russel, was a noted (left wing) anti-Communist, who had actually argued that a first strike on the USSR might have been preferable to allowing Stalin to develop nuclear arms .

            It should be noted that the nuclear freeze movement, the CND’s equivalent the United States, a country that could not free ride on the security apparatus of an allied superpower, only advocated for a moratorium on further nuclear weapons development.

            At the hight of the CND’s influence in the mid nineteen eighties it had around between a hundred fifty, and three hundred thousand members. The larger figure is from the CND itself, the smaller (and likely more accurate) figure is from the BBC. In the 1983 general election the Communist party of great Britain received a total of 11,606 votes. If any great percentage of CND members had been Communists they had a funny way of showing it.

            You may disagree with the CND’s position, and there are many good arguments against it, but believing that Britain would be safer without a nuclear arsenal makes one neither insane, nor a Communist.

          • rahien.din says:

            Here’s one that is near-and-dear to me :

            God willing and the creek don’t rise.

            There are two potential denotations of “creek rising”
            [A] a small body of running water rises in level, such that it can no longer be forded. See also : come Hell or high water.
            [B] the Creek nation stage a violent insurrection

            [A] is what I (and almost everyone I know) ascribe to. Every now and then I run across someone who insists that [B] is correct, and therefore, the expression is explicitly racist. This always strikes me as lunacy.

            Suppose we take the [B] claim seriously*. The fact remains that [A] makes perfect logical and syntactic sense on its own, even in the era during which [B] could have held meaning. IE not everyone, even in the late 1800’s, would have heard “creek” and thought “injun.” Moreover, [A] is currently the prevailing denotation. The very need to point out [B] would be evidence that usage had drifted from a racist denotation to a denotation that is not even race-adjacent. This is what we would want!

            So, even arguendo [B], if people usually mean [A] then to remind them of our more-racist past and insist that they should/must/ought to mean [B] is to correct them towards racism. Ostensibly, in order that we all be less racist.

            * Ultimately, we needn’t even take [B] seriously. As best as I can tell, [B] is pure folk etymology.

          • @hyperboloid:

            Thank you for the information. Apparently I was correct that the CND supported unilaterial nuclear disarmament, but only for the U.K., hence not producing a Soviet monopoly.

          • ec429 says:

            The CND’s membership might not have been mainly communist; but it’s my understanding that its organisational armature (i.e. the not-in-the-public-eye part of its leadership) was. There may even have been a connection to the KGB’s Active Measures department — after all, it’s exactly the sort of thing it would make sense for them to encourage.

          • There is a wiki discussion of communists in CND. John Cox, chairman from 1971 to 1977, was a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and there were some other connections. Also, “In 1990, it was discovered in the archive of the Stasi (the state security service of the former German Democratic Republic) that a member of CND’s governing council, Vic Allen, had passed information to them about CND.”

            But nobody seems to have provided evidence that the organization as a whole was controlled by the Soviet Union or subsidized by it.

          • rlms says:

            “a member of CND’s governing council, Vic Allen, had passed information to them about CND” is evidence against the idea that the CND were controlled by the USSR. You don’t need moles in an organisation you run.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You don’t need moles in an organisation you run.

            I’m pretty sure Stalin would disagree. When you’re paranoid, having backchannels into your own organization is just a necessary precaution.

          • bean says:

            But nobody seems to have provided evidence that the organization as a whole was controlled by the Soviet Union or subsidized by it.

            There was a tremendous amount of back-channel support to organizations like the CND by the KGB. I can’t say for certain that the KGB was one of them, but I would be at least mildly surprised if the Soviets hadn’t subsidized them at some point. Whether that information is publicly available, I don’t know.

            Also, the Stasi was not the KGB. And all of the Stasi’s papers that survived have been declassified, AFAIK. The same isn’t necessarily true of the KGB. Every few years, stuff comes out of the Russian archives that overturns everything we thought we knew about (insert topic). I’ve seen at least a couple cases with the Soviet navy.

    • entobat says:

      I’m obviously poisoned by knowing what I’m supposed to be seeing, but I don’t think it’s pareidolic to see the Nazi symbolism there.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’d call it superduperhypersensitivity.

  20. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’ve been wondering about the history of anti-Semitism and the outside view. For a very long time (at least in Europe) there was a strong consensus that Jews are a problem, and shouldn’t be permitted to integrate into the larger society. My feeling is, so much the worse for the outside view, but I wonder if there’s a good system for identifying when there’s something wrong with the outside view.

    Chesterton’s Fence would suggest being very careful about taking anti-Semitism down. On the other hand, and if it matters, Chesterton was an anti-Semite. (Page down to “Given that longing” to get to the discussion of anti-Semitism.)

    He wasn’t an extreme anti-Semite– Nazism was starting to form before he died, and he hated Nazi anti-Semitism– but he also felt for a long time that Jews just didn’t fit in England.

    • albatross11 says:

      So he was anti-Semetic in the same sense that a largish fraction of Americans are anti-Muslim?

      • Well... says:

        Haven’t read it, but my hunch is that’s only true if part of Chesterton’s reasoning was “…and a relatively large portion of Jews seem to partake in an ideology that paints killing all of us, or at least making us submit to their laws instead of our own, as a heroic act.”

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Did you read the article?

        Personally, I let it slide when Chesterton said Jews were too conformist to want to eat breakfast on the roof. It hurt my feelings because I would be delighted to eat breakfast on the roof– I like heights as long as I’m sure of my footing.

        When Chesterton had a character described as a Jew of almost n—– vitality (redacted because of forbidden word but spelled out in the original), I simply admired the efficiency of the insult.

        Here was the breaking point for me:
        For if the advantage of the ideal to the Jews is to gain the promised land, the advantage to the Gentiles is to get rid of the Jewish problem, and I do not see why we should obtain all their advantage and none of our own. Therefore I would leave as few Jews as possible in other established nations, and to these I would give a special position best described as privilege; some sort of self-governing enclave with special laws and exemptions; for instance, I would certainly excuse them from conscription, which I think a gross injustice in their case. [Footnote: Of course the privileged exile would also lose the rights of a native.] A Jew might be treated as respectfully as a foreign ambassador, but a foreign ambassador is a foreigner. Finally, I would give the same privileged position to all Jews everywhere, as an alternative policy to Zionism, if Zionism failed by the test I have named; the only true and the only tolerable test; if the Jews had not so much failed as peasants as succeeded as capitalists.

        I’d been a Chesterton fan for some time, and after I read that, I didn’t read anything of his for a decade or more. What got to me was the utter presumption of relocating people.

        I do think it’s a little much to be attacked for being too conformist to eat breakfast on the roof, and also for being so unconformist as to wear unduly bright colors.

        I don’t take “man of his time” arguments too seriously. He was trying to be better than his time, and he had a considerable blind spot about Jews.

        • Deiseach says:

          he had a considerable blind spot about Jews

          He did, to the point where it was almost a mania. I love the man, but this is a big, dark blotch on his character. He lost all sense of proportion when discussing Jews and Jewishness; how much this was to do with that libel case his brother was involved in, I have no idea. I think he started off with the ordinary prejudices of his time – it’s quite breath-taking to see how common and unremarkable references to “n-” (the slur that will get this eaten by the spam filter if I type it) are in even otherwise reasonable and civilised authors (I got a real shock in one of the Lord Peter Wimsey novels when Inspector Charles Parker who is a character presented as a good man and indeed is a good man in all other instances we see him casually refers to “plural n-words”, and it’s not at all remarked upon by the other characters because that’s the usage of the time).

          But it turned sour and twisted for some reason and he just went all the way wrong on it. This is the sin my dear GKC is expiating in Purgatory.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            It’s interesting that Chesterton was alright with being an urban person doing intellectual work, and he had Jewish friends, and he didn’t seem to mind (or perhaps even notice) that he thought they should be exiled to do manual labor in order to satisfy his (Chesterton’s) idea of how the world should work.

            I’ve learned a true thing or two from Social Justice, and one of those things is that you can have a pleasant time thinking about rearranging the world, but oddly enough, there are people who will take your intellectual game personally if it suggests making their lives worse.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’ve learned a true thing or two from Social Justice, and one of those things is that you can have a pleasant time thinking about rearranging the world, but oddly enough, there are people who will take your intellectual game personally if it suggests making their lives worse.

            I would respect Social Justice a lot more if it took that line of thought seriously w.r.t. its own ideas about rearranging the world.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Nornagest, the world would be a better place if SJWs applied “impact, not intent” to themselves instead of assuming that their good intentions are magic.

            I’m bringing back some history here. “Intention isn’t magic” came before “Impact, not intent”, but there was an earlier less elegant version during Racefail, and I can’t remember what it was.

            The mass culture version is “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

          • Nornagest says:

            “Intention isn’t magic” came before “Impact, not intent”, but there was an earlier less elegant version during Racefail, and I can’t remember what it was.

            I think I first heard “intent isn’t magic” somewhere around the Racefail timeline, but it might have had predecessors that didn’t reach my ears.

          • It’s interesting that Chesterton was alright with being an urban person doing intellectual work, and he had Jewish friends, and he didn’t seem to mind (or perhaps even notice) that he thought they should be exiled to do manual labor in order to satisfy his (Chesterton’s) idea of how the world should work.

            I don’t think that’s a fair description of his position, at least in “The Problem of Zionism,” the one relevant essay of his I have read–you might be referring to something else. His position was that Jewish Englishmen and Frenchmen and … were Jews, not Englishmen and Frenchmen. One of his half serious suggestions is that they should be free of all legal restrictions save for the requirement that they dress like Arabs, to remind both themselves and their hosts that they are a different people.

            This seems very odd to an American Jew. But many years ago, traveling in Europe, I had an experience that supported Chesterton’s view–from the Jewish side.

            I was in a youth hostel or something similar, sitting with a bunch of strangers of about my age–early twenties. One of them asked me where I was from and I said America and asked where they were from. They gave a sequence of implausible answers–I no longer remember the details. One of them then asked to see my passport. I showed it to him. He then said (by memory, not verbatim quote) “I’m French the same way you are American and he is Italian and he is … .”

            They were all Jews, and looked at the matter as Chesterton did.

            The point about Jews becoming laborers was his description of what Zionism would have to do to succeed–and, incidentally, a view that seems to have been shared by at least some of the zionists. Where did he suggest that Jews should be exiled to do manual labor?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Chesterton: “Therefore I would leave as few Jews as possible in other established nations,”

            As far as I can tell, he meant a great many fewer Jews than were living in other established nations. And he also talked about it being important that Jews to more manual, worse-paid work, so as to be more like typical people of other ethnicities.

            Now, I don’t know how seriously he meant his suggestion any more than I know how seriously he meant for Jews to be required to dress as Arabs in England.

            I do believe that implementing it would have made a lot of Jews worse off, and I don’t think he noticed that.

          • Deiseach says:

            he thought they should be exiled to do manual labor

            I only half-read that particular piece but that’s not the impression I got from it; I thought he was saying that Jews in their own country (be that Israel or the Zionist proposal or whatever) would be (a) Jews immigrating from other nations (b) in that case, they couldn’t come in as land-owners and occupiers using native (Palestinian? Arab? non-Jewish anyway) labour to do the messy manual work while they were at the top of society (c) for it to be a real country and run on the same lines as every other nation on the earth, then a Jewish state needs Jewish carpenters and plumbers and farmers and road-sweepers as well as businessmen and bankers and doctors and the other professions that Jews are (over) represented in, otherwise it would never work and it would be seen as artificial and oppressive.

            I have some small sympathy there as applying the logic to Anglo-Irish landowners who for a long time vacillated between being British or being Irish, were regarded by Britain as “Irish for all intents and purposes like the natives”, were regarded by the natives as Other and did take the top role in society while leaning on a structure of manual and lower-class labour from those inhabitants of the country established there before they (or their families) arrived in Ireland.

            Chesterton believed very strongly in ties to the land. His point was that if a Jewish state is set up, it will only work if the kind of Jewish middle-class and working-class urban populations in Europe and America who run small businesses like shops and pawnshops and the like then set up as tradesmen and farmers and small businesses in Israel/Zion as well, because then they will have put down roots and feel that they have a place they have invested their labour and time in, that it belongs to them and more importantly that they belong to it. It will never work as a real country if it’s the equivalent of the Rothschilds setting up country estates worked by native tenants, because that’s unsustainable: a landlord class like that has no real emotional tie to the place and it’s simply the same as their French or German or English country house.

            America is different because everyone’s an immigrant. A Jewish immigrant family has just as much opportunity to become a “real American” family as the Germans, Poles, Italians and Irish who arrived over on the same boat at the same time as they did.

    • Jiro says:

      Chesterton’s Fence tends to fail for things that are done for no meaningful reason–it forces you to keep the fence up until you can find a reason that isn’t there.

    • and if it matters, Chesterton was an anti-Semite.

      The argument for that position is about as strong as for the claim that he was a Zionist. I discussed the question at some length in the second edition of my first book, which is webbed as a pdf. It’s the last chapter.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Chesterton said, “Therefore I would leave as few Jews as possible in other established nations,” which I think is a very casual way of talking about disrupting a lot of people’s lives.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Funny, I was thinking about that piece, but more from the angle that if civilization needs anti-Semitism, so much the worse for civilization.

        • Where is the quote from? Have you read the source?

          • skef says:

            Where is the quote from? Have you read the source?

            Easy enough to Google.

          • skef says:

            And here is a summary I turned up on the evolution in his written thinking about the subject. It sounds like the explicitly antisemitic stuff is from later in his career.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            The quote is from the middle of the paragraph I quoted above– from Chesterton’s long piece about Jews and Zionism.

          • I have now seen the quote in context–I hadn’t remembered it. It’s part of a suggestion for establishing a network of self-ruling Jewish enclaves both in and out of Palestine, with most Jews in them, those not in them to be treated as privileged resident aliens–he analogizes it to the status of an ambassador. Chesterton goes on to say that if Zionism doesn’t work, all Jews everywhere should have that same status, treated as foreigners legally resident.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’m intrigued that the sentence struck me very hard, while David Friedman, who is Jewish and an anarchist didn’t even notice it.

            I think there’s a logical fallacy or perhaps a tactic of laying out an incomplete premise so authoritatively that people don’t notice there’s something wrong with it.

            In this case, Chesterton isn’t terribly clear about whether it’s that dangerous to have people in a society who don’t completely buy into it. I don’t know whether he ever addresses the possibility of Catholics having dual loyalties. (Not that Chesterton could know, but it’s probably not a coincidence that Solidarity was Catholic.)

          • In this case, Chesterton isn’t terribly clear about whether it’s that dangerous to have people in a society who don’t completely buy into it.

            I don’t think he is arguing that it is dangerous to have them physically in the society–several of his proposals involve Jews being entirely free to live in other countries, although he thinks it would be better if they had their own country and most of them lived there. He is arguing that it is dangerous to regard them as fellow members of your society because they aren’t. It would be equally dangerous for the English to regard French or Italians or Germans as fellow members of their society.

            I myself am more convinced than ever that the World War occurred because nations were too big, and not because they were too small. It occurred especially because big nations wanted to be the World State. But it occurred, above all, because about things so vast there comes to be something cold and hollow and impersonal. It was NOT merely a war of nations; it was a war of warring internationalists.

            Again, consider The Napoleon of Notting Hill.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Let’s look at the practical side of Chesterton’s proposals if they were to be enacted.

          The proposals are that Jews are to live in predominantly Jewish areas, with Jews entirely or substantially in charge. If there is a Jewish state, almost all Jews should live there. Otherwise, there should be Jewish enclaves in the established nations.

          However, at present there are many Jews living among Gentiles.

          Who pays for the Jews to move? And who covers the costs of disrupting households and businesses?

          How are the rules about residence to be enforced?

          If there is no Israel, Jews living among Gentiles might well lose political power. Is this a risk for them?

          What about the non-Jews living in places designated to be Jewish enclaves?

          I think Chesterton was doing his best to be benevolent, but in this case, his bast wasn’t very good.

          • I think he is proposing an outcome, not a way of getting there. One way of getting there has already in part happened. Zionists establish a Jewish state in Palestine and many Jews from elsewhere move.

            There are two remaining pieces. Various countries cede territory to the Jewish state, which is now a network of Jewish enclaves. Those countries also tell their Jewish citizens that they are now citizens of the Jewish state with legal residence where they presently are, without the right to vote in the country they are resident in (but with the right to vote in the Jewish state) but also no longer subject to conscription and various other rules applying to citizens.

            Under those circumstances, many but not all of the Jews choose to move to some part of Israel. It is, after all, what Jews have been saying they want to do for most of the past two thousand years.

            “Next year in Jerusalem.”

            That version seems to me to be consistent with what Chesterton wrote–his preferred outcome.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I think Chesterton was proposing an outcome, and not thinking about how it could happen– which leaves me thinking very much the worse of him.

            We probably need a much more sophisticated vocabulary for talking about prejudice.

            It’s normal to call Hitler an anti-Semite, and to also call people who won’t let Jews into a country club anti-Semites, but they aren’t really in the same class.

      • Brad says:

        The argument for that position is about as strong as for the claim that he was a Zionist. I discussed the question at some length in the second edition of my first book, which is webbed as a pdf. It’s the last chapter.

        I read your last chapter as well as the 10k+ essay by Chesterton linked by Nancy above, and I don’t think this is a fair characterization.

        It is true that he considered himself a Zionist and not an Anti-Semite but he had a peculiar definition for both.

        At least vis-a-vis the modern conception. I don’t have the background to know whether or not he was anti-Semitic as compared to his contemporaries.

        The essay no matter how heartfelt is clearly anti-Semitic as a subset of being nationalist to the point of racist. I don’t mean nationalist in the sense of overwhelming pride in one’s country or racist in terms of hating other races, but rather believing in some kind of mystical essence that all Englishman or all Frenchman or all Jews share. Similar to how people believe in Zodiac signs. Not genetic, I don’t see any kind of trace of Darwinism in the essay. But not cultural either, as he rejects even the possibility of assimilation.

        Meanwhile his Zionism was of the sort that thought that once the state of Israel was established all Jews would or should move there. Or if not at least should be considered citizens of it living abroad. I will admit that there are some Israelis that hold to this type of Zionism, but it isn’t the majority even in Israel, is broadly rejected in NYC, and is–to me–offensive from anyone, but extremely offensive from a gentile in my own country as it implies what Chesterton says outright — that I am not a real American.

        Without intending to compare the two in a moral sense, which are more related to actions than ideas, I will note that there was significant “Zionism” of this type among the Nazis. Like Chesterton they thought there was a Jewish Question and one of the solutions they considered was exiling them all to Palestine.

        In sum I don’t think it is fair to say the argument that Chesterton was an anti-Semite is about as strong as for the claim that he was a Zionist. For the former in order to refute it you need a very strained definition and for the latter in order to support it you need at least a somewhat special definition.

        • I don’t mean nationalist in the sense of overwhelming pride in one’s country or racist in terms of hating other races, but rather believing in some kind of mystical essence that all Englishman or all Frenchman or all Jews share.

          I don’t think mystical essence is quite right. It was rather that he thought that identifying with small groups you were a part of was better than identifying with large groups. The extreme (fictional) example is The Napoleon of Notting Hill. Given that there were cultural differences, identifying your nationality by them was a way of doing it.

          As I commented in the thread, his view seems odd to an American Jew but less odd in the European context. It’s worth noting that until sometime in the 18th century, most Jews in Europe and the Middle East were living under Jewish law, their Christian and Muslim rulers having subcontracted the job of ruling them to the Jewish communal authorities.

          • Brad says:

            But thinking it was better to identify with small groups rather than large groups, doesn’t get you nearly to the conclusions he draws about the impossibility of assimilation or the indelibility across centuries of a “oriental” character on a people.

            His essay is filled to the brim with (highly dubious) positive claims which cannot be downstream of his normative preference for small group identification over large.

            As far as being less odd in the European context, it is relevant that anti-semitism is also far less unusual in the European context and especially so in 1920.

            Finally, with respect to the separate legal status, it is worth noting that like the expulsions and exclusions they had long ended by the time Chesterton was writing. It would be one thing to point to that if it was contemporary and say he was only a man of his time. We might forgive a southerner for defending slavery in 1800, we are far less likely to excuse one writing in 1900.

          • Finally, with respect to the separate legal status, it is worth noting that like the expulsions and exclusions they had long ended by the time Chesterton was writing.

            That situation had existed for most of two thousand years. It had ended about a century before Chesterton was born, exact timing different in different countries. Seeing Jews as foreigners seems odd to an American, but I don’t think it was an odd attitude for a European–including many, although not all, European Jews. I already reported my encountering it as a grad student traveling in Europe.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      If Chesterton had lived until 1950 or so, he would have known about the holocaust and had some time to think. I can hope that he would have figured out that there was a connection between his “Jews just aren’t like us” and more virulent forms of anti-Semitism.

      Chesterton did think that is was in people’s imaginations matters for what they do. I find myself wondering what Chesterton would have made of Social Justice.

  21. Thegnskald says:

    Ok, today, a criticism of the anti-SJ crowd.

    First, the insistence that everything SJ fights for is a lie gets just a little bit old. There are actually problems; racism is very real, and black people experience more of it on average than anyone else. And history matters; highways tended (and still tend) to get constructed through black neighborhoods, and lead poisoning today is a very real artifact of overt racism yesterday.

    Second, the correct response to an overstatement is a corrected statement, not an equal but opposite overstatement. The correct response to “Women experience sexism constantly” isn’t “They are imagining the existence of sexism against them” using more complex words. By and large, most of the anti-SJ crowd has no problem acknowledging that sexism against men exists, but agreeing with the enemy that sexism against women is still a thing is apparently beyond the pale. Quit reversing stupidity.

    Third, I don’t know when the hell it became cool to be an asshole, but seriously, you lot are familiar with Billy Beck, right? (If not, you should be. He makes fascinating arguments which fail only because they assume everybody shares his political values.). He is an unhappy man who you shouldn’t be emulating. Pissing off your opposition to “prove” they are irrational works on just about everybody and produces no truth value. And at this point, I think the relatively small number of anti-SJ people have probably equaled the raw amount of hate expressed in SJ.

    And yes, the SJ movement is full of sociopaths. I personally know three, with maybe a fourth I am currently uncertain of. So is the anti-SJ movement. I think the best criticism of SJ is that it is full of toxic ideas that lend power to sociopathic assholes; the same is true of anti-SJ, for approximately the same reasons. If your argument comes down to “Their movement is full of assholes”, well, so is every movement. Scott has done a pretty good job picking out specific toxic ideas in SJ – the superweapons post being a great example. This is what you should be doing.

    Ultimately, I tend towards an egalitarian form of highly specific misanthropy, which is this: Any position which depends on an inequal distribution of assholes is almost certainly false. This is why I tend to take the idea of false rape accusations seriously; in order to assume they aren’t and can’t be an issue, you have to begin by assuming women are less assholish than men, which I don’t think is true. I do think there is a tendency to treat self-identity-oriented harms as more serious, because they are more salient. And, keeping in mind what I just said, I do think men are currently getting a worse societal deal than women, because I think the gender roles historically did a good job of balancing gendered interests, where modern society has systematically reduced or eliminated the negative tradeoffs women made in the previous arrangement while not adjusting either the positive tradeoffs, or the negative tradeoffs men made – or, to put it another way, society has been quashing male privilege without paying much attention to female privilege. (For recursive reasons, in that part of female privilege is having harm against you taken seriously). I also think this situation is reversing, albeit slowly.

    So I am with you to a point – that point being where you become the thing you are fighting against. Let’s not have the next century be a pendulum of terribleness, in which Republicans become the masculine-perspective party, and the Democrats become the feminine-perspective party. Maybe, given competing perspectives, the correct solution isn’t whatever extreme we happen to believe in.

    I hear a lot of criticism of call-out culture. Maybe the issue isn’t with call-out culture – calling out assholes in our midst seems like a good idea – but rather the broader cultural issue in which “our” assholes are acceptable and “theirs” aren’t.

    • Baeraad says:

      Hear, hear. Listening to anti-SJWs is very cathartic for the first couple of weeks. After that, you start noticing that it’s just the same biases and prejudices and self-serving rationalisatins only in reverse.

      Any position which depends on an inequal distribution of assholes is almost certainly false.

      I think that is a good rule of thumb, also.

      Maybe the issue isn’t with call-out culture – calling out assholes in our midst seems like a good idea – but rather the broader cultural issue in which “our” assholes are acceptable and “theirs” aren’t.

      I think there is a problem with calling out assholes, which is that when you get right down to it, just about everyone is an asshole some of the time – and the people who talk the loudest and therefore become prominent members of any group are almost invariably extreme assholes a lot of the time. (Scott is actually one of the few examples I’ve seen of a talkative non-asshole… and I still wouldn’t be surprised to find out that he had some sort of Deep Dark Secret just waiting to come out) So at a certain point, it all starts looking like anyone is a potential target and the ones who get picked out are just the ones that it’s currently safest to attack.

      I don’t have any solutions to the asshole problem, except to just pre-emptively distrust everyone and especially the people who take charge.

      • Thegnskald says:

        That gets into a recursive problem – calling out assholes, as a function, has been coopted by assholes who use it to punish enemies.

        The fix is calling out all assholes, not just those on the enemy team – because then we can remove the people abusing the power.

        • Baeraad says:

          I already told you what I think the problem with that is. Once you start looking for assholes, everyone will start looking like an asshole.

          You want to call out “all assholes”? Okay. *points to the entire human race* Those people are ASSHOLES!

          See how that didn’t really help?

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      Second, the correct response to an overstatement is a corrected statement, not an equal but opposite overstatement.

      Is it, though? If you want A, and your opponent wants A+5 and you argue for A, then you might get compromised into “A+1”, “A+2”, “A+3”, and so on. If you refuse to compromise your position at A, you run the risk of being painted as unreasonably fundamentalist. I’m not saying this is how it works, but it doesn’t seem obvious to me that what you said is the best strategy.

      I hear a lot of criticism of call-out culture. Maybe the issue isn’t with call-out culture – calling out assholes in our midst seems like a good idea – but rather the broader cultural issue in which “our” assholes are acceptable and “theirs” aren’t.

      I don’t know how representative my position is, but my issue is with proportionality: It’s OK to call out assholes, but does being an asshole (or even worse, acting like an asshole) really justify trying to get someone isolated/fired/ousted from their party/etc.? At the same time we’re reducing the state’s punishment (thankfully), we’re revving up the public’s. And the latter is (mostly) unregulated and unbounded.

      • Thegnskald says:

        We aren’t arguing over policy, we are arguing over facts.

        Also, I think that approach to negotiation is a major solvent for (as in, it melts) social trust.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          We aren’t arguing over policy, we are arguing over facts.

          I’m not sure how separated these are. If you just mean that we acknowledge that racism against non-white people is a thing that still happens and is bad, then sure, but there is something to be said to not accepting to argue within your opponents’ framework, at least unless it’s very explicitly defined.

          That being said, I’d guess the kind of Anti-SJ people you’re talking about are not super represented here, except for maybe the South Park guy.

          Also, I think that approach to negotiation is a major solvent for (as in, it melts) social trust.

          I’m also not sure how much of that is left.

      • Well... says:

        We aren’t arguing over something on a linear scale like a price, we’re arguing over facts.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I suppose I’m anti-SJ, but not part of the anti-SJ crowd you’re describing. I hate SJ, but I see it as trying to deal with mostly real problems by emotionally abusive means.

      If you’re not willing to list SJ sociopaths publicly, would you be willing to email me? I’m nancyl (the usual) panix (another usual character) com. The only SJ sociopath I’m sure of is Requires Hate.

      Call-out culture is a problem– it isn’t just identifying assholes, it’s a concerted attack on people’s reputations and motives, sometimes on very little evidence.

      • Thegnskald says:

        The SJ sociopaths are in real life. I have alluded to them before; one is an emotionally abusive man who alternates between yelling at women who he knows won’t fight back and trying to establish safe spaces, the other two are manipulative women (whose behavior is just as bad in subtle ways, and who rely more on guilt as a means of emotional abuse than anything else – again, only targeting the people in the social group who will always choose “Cooperate”, no matter how many times the other person has defected).

        (I really don’t understand the people who insist SJ is an internet only phenomenon. What kind of bubble are they in?)

        My arguments for call-out culture rely on the idea that we call out assholes on our own side; right now the toxicity arises because assholes are abusing the function, and nobody is willing to call them out on it.

        • albatross11 says:

          There’s a tradeoff here.

          On one extreme, you have a policy of never calling out your allies on anything–the result is that you accept some pretty nauseating and destructive allies, and one day you find yourself marching alongside guys in Klan robes carrying torches and chanting anti-Semetic slogans when you just didn’t want that statue of General Lee removed from the park.

          On the other extreme, you have a policy of calling out your allies on anything problematic they say or do, and one day, you realize that your whole movement has devolved into an endless series of internal witchhunts and denunciations and tearful apologies, and isn’t actually accomplishing anything because it’s spending all its energy eating itself.

          You need some middle point to have any kind of cohesive group that functions. You need to be willing to call out (and kick out) the Nazis, violent people, crazies, rapists, etc., so your movement doesn’t become toxic, but you need to be willing to *stop* at some point, so your movement doesn’t become a a race to see who can purge each other first.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Agreed.

            Objective norms are a good start. There is a reason Hammurabi is a big deal. When the rules are subjective, assholes win.

        • Anatoly says:

          A bit of a tangent here, but I don’t think sociopaths are the major problem, both in SJ and in anti-SJ. It’s more like, the epistemic culture that makes them horrible, makes them also attractive to sociopaths, but sociopaths aren’t the ones causing most of the harm; and when they do, it’s through being enabled by well-meaning people who adopted the terrible epistemic culture.

          At work, a well-meaning, thoughtful person endorsed this link in a discussion about assuming good intent: https://thebias.com/2017/09/26/how-good-intent-undermines-diversity-and-inclusion/

          This article, right there, embodies much of what’s wrong with SJ. But was it written by a sociopath? I doubt it. Was it shared by a sociopath? Definitely not. The culture this article argues for is one in which a particular kind of a particularly visible sociopath will thrive, but that’s a secondary harm of this culture – it would’ve still been extremely bad without any sociopaths in it.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Arguing for stupid ideas isn’t unusual to any particular ideology, however.

            The problem is in how those stupid ideas enable malevolent actors to act.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      First, the insistence that everything SJ fights for is a lie gets just a little bit old. […]

      Second, the correct response to an overstatement is a corrected statement, not an equal but opposite overstatement.

      “You can argue with me but only if you concede all questions of fact in advance.”

      Third, I don’t know when the hell it became cool to be an asshole

      “Also you are obliged to treat me with respect even especially when I’m treating you with open contempt.”

      No. I’m touched by your concern but I got sick of playing that game a decade ago. Being the bigger man doesn’t work, it just paints a target on your chest. Ask Mr. Damore how politely disagreeing with SJ excesses works out.

      SJ routinely makes claims which are laughably untrue and then uses them to justify heaping abuse on the majority of the country’s populace. Then scolds like you “call out” any “assholes” among the majority who have the temerity to notice.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I am endlessly amused by the fact that everyone assumes I am on the enemy’s side because I insist on sanity.

        In case you don’t remember who I am, I have consistently argued against SJ here.

        I am just being consistent, and refusing to buy into the tribalist narrative. Kind of like how I argue with leftists even though I am one.

        And a target painted on my chest is just a soapbox from which to speak.

        • John Schilling says:

          I am endlessly amused by the fact that everyone assumes I am on the enemy’s side because I insist on sanity.

          If you define “sanity” as not opposing the enemy using the tactics most people see as appropriate for the task, and/or offering the enemy more respect than most people think the enemy deserves, how is it anything but mind-numbingly obvious that most people are going to see this as evidence that you are on the enemy’s side?

          Also, if you “insist” that the thing you are asserting is “sanity”, you are accusing everyone who doesn’t agree with you of being insane, which is A: highly insulting and B: likely to be seen as evidence that they aren’t on your side.

          I don’t agree with you, and I’ll be explaining why when I’ve had a chance to codify my thoughts. In the meantime, maybe you should rethink how you go about amusing yourself (and whether this sort of amusement is something you want to exhibit in public).

          • albatross11 says:

            I have seen almost exactly this argument used on the SJW side, in response to people pushing back on some of its excesses.

          • Thegnskald says:

            “Most people” meaning “Everybody who hasn’t already been chased away from our movement because of the tactics we use”? Because most people aren’t exactly on board with those tactics used by either side. It is only the SJW and antiwarriors who think the fight is one to be fought with these tactics.

            Which is to say – the thing by which everyone can agree that racism is bad, but the tactics used by SJW are bad?

            The same thing applies to your side. They can agree that SJWs are bad, but the tactics used by the anti-SJW warriors are bad.

          • John Schilling says:

            I have also seen SJWs breathing. Possibly I am supposed to feel bad about doing that because they are doing that?

          • Thegnskald says:

            If you are going to complain about them breathing, yes.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It turns out that even when two groups have symmetric complaints against each other, the situation isn’t necessarily symmetric.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Nybbler –

            I don’t care if the situation is symmetric. Just plain doesn’t matter.

            If As are going around beating the shit out of anybody who looks like a B, and Bs are going around beating up people who look like an A, I don’t care if A outnumbers B in a way that makes me want to change the distribution of power there – the situation doesn’t get better if Bs convert a bunch of people to their side and suddenly outnumber As.

            Which is to say – saying their behavior is worse because they have more power doesn’t actually make me want to give YOU power, if you are just going to be exactly as shitty as they are.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If As are going around beating the shit out of anybody who looks like a B, and Bs are going around beating up people who look like an A,

            That situation is symmetric. But if it turns out that the A’s are doing violence against anyone who they think is a B, and the B’s are speaking out against the A’s and the A’s are calling their speech “violence” (sound familiar?), then the situation is not symmetric, despite the fact that both sides are complaining the other is doing violence against them. Truth matters.

          • Thegnskald says:

            The Nybbler –

            Spoken like a true ingroup member.

            See, to them, those violent people are no more part of their movement than you think the guy who drives a truck into an antifa protest crowd is part of yours.

          • The Nybbler says:

            See, to them, those violent people are no more part of their movement than you think the guy who drives a truck into an antifa protest crowd is part of yours.

            Yes, they are. They promote the idea that “racist” speech is violence, they openly support “no platforming”, and they openly support punching “Nazis”. If they didn’t, one would have to make a determination about whether they were sincere or dissembling, but there’s no need to go that far.

            You want to see both sides as the same and the whole thing as a pure tribal conflict, but it’s not. This is the fallacy of balance.

          • Thegnskald says:

            So they are uniquely terrible for saying that certain forms of speech are uniquely terrible?

          • The Nybbler says:

            And acting on that belief by forcibly and violently stopping and retaliating against that speech, as if it were indeed violence.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Again – like driving a truck into protesters?

            You are treating anti-fascists as part of SJW – by the same token, it is legitimate for them to treat fascists as part of anti-SJW.

            Anti-fascists are probably SJW. It would surprise me if fascists weren’t anti-SJW.

            Doesn’t matter in either case, because a subset is not the set.

          • lvlln says:

            To me, there’s an asymmetry in that, while the typical SJW seems to be loudly and proudly encouraging antifa and encouraging escalation of their violence, the typical anti-SJW seems to have immediately and loudly condemned the Charlottesville murderer and disavowed him to whatever extent he’s connected to them (the typical anti-SJW seems to have basically no ideological connections to that murderer that would necessitate such a disavowal, other than the anti-SJW part, which isn’t a connection beyond outgroup-homogeneity).

            That’s not to say that SJWs are responsible for antifa violence (or any violence they don’t directly engage in or incite), or that I agree with The Nybbler in the best way to deal with SJWs and the literal physical violence they encourage – I think Thegnskald is right on when it comes to how to de-escalate the situation, and I agree that whether or not it’s symmetric shouldn’t guide us too much on the best course of action going forward. But I do think it’s true and helpful to recognize that there’s an asymmetry, even if the only thing we get out of it is that the frustrations that The Nybbler expresses is based on something real and significant.

            All that said, my perception of SJW and anti-SJW may not be accurate and are definitely heavily biased. As such, I may be wrong that it’s asymmetric. I just don’t think I am at the moment, given what I’ve observed.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You are treating anti-fascists as part of SJW – by the same token, it is legitimate for them to treat fascists as part of anti-SJW.

            No. You are again claiming a symmetry of form means a symmetry of substance.

          • Thegnskald says:

            A symmetry of form is a symmetry of form.

            You don’t need anything else.

            In terms of kings, imagine, for a moment, a king who executes people whenever they displease him, and goes looking for reasons to be displeased. Everyone is terrified of and hates him.

            An upstart appears, and starts killing cronies of the king, and talking about how much the current state displeases him, and how he wants to execute all the people making things terrible, if only he’d be made king.

            There is a different in substance, but not form. Which means nobody wants to oust the old king to put a new, equally terrible to different people, king in his place.

            That is the issue. Antiwarriors aren’t offering an improvement, just a different variant on terrible.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            At the risk of Godwinning this thread, say you go back to 1930s Germany and ask a Nazi what he thinks of the Jews. “They’re powerful, organised, and have it in for us,” he tells you. Now say you go to a Jew and ask him what he thinks of the Nazis. “They’re powerful, organised, and have it in for us,” comes the reply. Both people are expressing the same attitude towards members of the other group; does it follow that they’re both equally wrong, or equally bad?

          • Aapje says:

            @Thegnskald

            It’s wrong to treat anti-SJ(W) as the opposite of SJ(W). They are not, in the same way that anti-Christians are against, but not the polar opposite of Christianity. Christianity involves specific claims about God, Jesus, etc. Anti-Christians can be atheists who disbelieve in a supernatural being or Muslims who have a different faith. These two groups disagree with Christians for completely different reasons.

            Christians almost always have shared foundational beliefs and generally feel kinship with each other, but atheists and Muslims don’t have either with each other. In fact, Christians and Muslims generally prefer each other over atheists. Similarly, SJ people almost always have shared foundational beliefs and generally feel kinship, but various group of anti-SJ people don’t have the same disagreements with SJ and often oppose each other. For example, toxic pick up artists like Roosh V are anti-feminist, but think that MRAs are sad whiners who beg for favors instead of employing dark arts to just take what they want like proper men should. Traditionalists and progressive MRAs oppose feminism, but the former disagree with the goals and the latter with the methods (and facts).

          • albatross11 says:

            John Schilling:

            If you define “sanity” as not opposing the enemy using the tactics most people see as appropriate for the task

            So, I’ve argued with people about tactics like no-platforming or staging riots to shut down offensive speakers, because I think those tactics are both destructive of society and unlikely to end well even for the SJW movement. And this is exactly the response I’ve gotten. These are the tactics that work, why do you want us to stop doing what works, do you like the fash?

            , and/or offering the enemy more respect than most people think the enemy deserves

            This is a particular failure mode I’ve seen in a lot of the SJW movement. To even allow Charles Murray or Heather MacDonald to speak and treat them decently is offensive–they’re the enemy, and deserve whatever they get. To even link to or quote some offensive speaker is wrong.

            , how is it anything but mind-numbingly obvious that most people are going to see this as evidence that you are on the enemy’s side?

            Can you think of any situations where people on opposite sides of a contentious issue can agree to treat each other with respect and refrain from effective-but-unfair rhetorical tricks? Because those are the conversations I’m interested in being part of, or reading, or hearing.

            It seems to me that the alternative to this is to turn every serious difference of opinion on an important issue into a no-holds-barred war. If I think abortion is morally equivalent to murdering children and you think it’s morally equivalent to clipping your toenails, how should we deal with that?

            Agreeing to disagree can work, but not if treating each other like humans or refraining from the nastiest attacks possible if they’re effective is forbidden by the rule we both follow.

            Having an actual discussion and maybe trying to see each others points of view is also possible in principle, but again, that can’t happen unless we’re able to treat each other with a minimum level of respect and have a conversations.

            If neither of those are acceptable, then what’s left? And if we establish the rule that anyone who argues for respecting people on the other side as humans, refraining from super nasty attacks, etc., is a secret supporter of the other side, then where does that lead?

          • Jiro says:

            Can you think of any situations where people on opposite sides of a contentious issue can agree to treat each other with respect and refrain from effective-but-unfair rhetorical tricks?

            So far, “don’t include your enemies’ children in your political attack on your enemies” seems to be mostly still not used.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Sanity:
          1. Believing lies which are flatly contradicted by both casual observation and statistics;
          2. Arguing using only rhetoric which has been proven to be ineffective;

          Yup, clearly an unobjectionable request made with the best of intentions. I withdraw my statement.

          And a target painted on my chest is just a soapbox from which to speak breadline I can stand in after I’m fired for wrongthink.

          FTFY.

          I know men whose professional reputations have been seriously marred by spurious accusations of sexism and racism. These guys weren’t exactly heretics either: one who I’ve worked with before is an ardent feminist and anti-racist with the misfortune of looking like a “bro” and having a lower class accent.

          It’s hardly an idle threat either: you’re probably sick of hearing it by now but biology has proven that it’s not squeamish about throwing its Nobel laureates and Ivy League deans under the bus.

          Standing on a soapbox doesn’t work unless you’re independently wealthy. Otherwise you’re just a ranting hobo wearing a sandwich board.

          • Thegnskald says:

            So your complaint is that the movement is eating itself, therefore you should be free to use the same tactics that are causing it to eat itself, because by eating itself it is proving how dangerous it is?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            My complaint is that it’s eating everyone.

            If you publicly oppose SJ, yo