THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Open Thread 107.75

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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967 Responses to Open Thread 107.75

  1. johan_larson says:

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find the lost tomb of Genghis Khan.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomb_of_Genghis_Khan

    • The Nybbler says:

      After the tomb was completed, the slaves who built it were massacred, and then the soldiers who killed them were also killed.

      So, first thing I do is look for the resulting mass grave in the general area. Should find one of slaves, one of warriors, nearby, if the legend is true.

      Ironically, a lot of the things supposedly done to hide his grave would make it easier to find. Divert a river? Now there’s a diverted river pointing right to it. Same with planting trees. If they just dumped him into an anonymous hole in the ground, and you’d never find it.

      But most likely he’s buried in the Ikh Khorig.

      • lazydragonboy says:

        I’m not sure, I bet those strategies made it harder to find stuff at the time, and a long time elapsing where nobody knows where something is makes that something way harder to find.

    • johan_larson says:

      One real question is how he was buried. If he was just laid in the ground, we’re probably screwed, having no real way of distinguishing him from any number of other bodies. But hopefully he, having been the master of a vast empire, was buried elaborately, with grave goods and a massive sarcophagus. Is ground-penetrating radar good enough these days to resolve a squarish 1 m by 1 m by 2 m sarcophagus?

    • James Miller says:

      Hopefully, to drop the bomb on it that you mentioned in a previous challenge. Finding the tomb is the first step to cloning Khan, and then making him the new ruler of Mongolia and the 1 in 200 men who are his direct descendants. This question (absent the dropping the bomb implicit assumption) is ethically similar to asking “Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to design a biological weapon that could enslave and exterminate much of mankind.”

    • lazydragonboy says:

      Having played Skyrim, I find it amusing that Marco Polo reports he died from an arrow in the knee.

  2. Jeremiah says:

    Is there going to be a general announcement of all the meetups? As someone in charge of hosting one scheduled for this Saturday I think posting a list above the fold (so to speak) would help with attendance.

    (My guess is that a list will be posted approximately 30 seconds after I post this, but on the off chance that isn’t the plan, I thought I’d bring it up.)

  3. toastengineer says:

    Here’s some flamebait for everyone:

    Does the word “literally” remove one layer of metaphor, or all of them at once?

    For example, someone says “this social system is literally broken.” Someone might say “oh, so you’re saying the system was physically separated in to multiple pieces?” But another person might see the author’s formulation as correct – he’s saying the system actually does not work at all, like a “broken” machine, as opposed to when people refer to systems as “broken” meaning they’re just really crappy.

    One reader interpreted “literally” as removing all metaphor, going back to the definition of “broken” as meaning something has been physically broken in to pieces, whereas the author intended it to pop one item off the stack of metaphors, where we use “broken” metaphorically to refer to a machine that isn’t working.

    And, whichever interpretation you support, shouldn’t we have a word that means the other one? Do we?

    • Evan Þ says:

      “Literally” should remove all layers at once. In actual use, it sometimes doesn’t even remove any but just serves as an intensifier – so, in your example, someone would say “the system is literally broken” to mean it’s really messed up as opposed to just a bit messed up.

      I think restoring “literally” to its literal sense, or substituting another word in that literal sense, would simply get it back to the start of the same merry detensification treadmill. But, if we could somehow do that, it would be worth another several decades of being able to communicate true facts like “Albert Speer was the literal architect of the Nazi Party.”

      • silver_swift says:

        So, for both you and WashedOut: Would you consider the sentence: “Since Eru Iluvatar was the one that in the end made Gollum stumble and fall into Mount Doom, the end of Lord of the Rings is literally a Deus Ex Machina.” to be using “literally” incorrectly (since Eru Iluvatar is a literal god, but he didn’t come out of a machine), and if so, how would you rewrite it?

        • WashedOut says:

          What you want is for the reader to enjoy the double-relevance of Deus Ex Machina in it’s literal meaning (the god part only) and it’s common interpretation as a plot device (the whole phrase). When you add ‘literally’ in front of it, you replace this joy with confusion about 1) your broader point and 2) your understanding of Eru Iluvatar.

          I would re-write with simplicity in mind:

          The ending of Lord of the Rings is an example of providential intervention or Deus Ex Machina.

          • beleester says:

            I don’t see how it’s confusing, and I don’t think your version communicates the same thing as silver_swift’s version.

            Most examples of Deus Ex Machina are not a literal god, they’re merely something equally contrived and unpredictable, like the alien invaders suddenly turning out to be weak to the common cold. So when a Deus Ex Machina does involve a literal god, that’s surprising and worth pointing out.

            Your version doesn’t point out the surprise, quite the opposite. Your version implies that Deus Ex Machina is just another name for divine intervention, rather than for any contrived plot device that solves everything.

        • Randy M says:

          I don’t think English has this kind of specificity of clause. Saying “literal Deus Ex Machina” is a close to correct as you can get without making it “(literal Deus) Ex Machina” or something.

          • benjdenny says:

            This is where I’d(were my objectives the same) cover by considering my prose structure – I.E. “Eru was a Deux Ex Machina, with a literal Deux to boot” or similar. It makes it pedantically accurate and amplifies rather than mutes the joke.

            I think in reality only the most joyless kind of joykill would care about the use of literally being only half-right in this case, though. If you know the D.E.M. phrase to begin with, his meaning gets communicated and all is well.

          • Matt M says:

            How would you handle the videogame Deus Ex, in which your character becomes a literal Deus Ex Machina…

        • Another Throw says:

          Well, because Eru Iluvatar did not literally intervene in Mount Doom and because neither Eru Iluvatar nor Mount Doom literally exist, under the “remove all levels” interpretation the answer is clearly no.

          But the phrase Deus Ex Machina is not a literal claim that a literal deity intervened in the literal world. It is the claim about the dramatic persona of a deity intervening as part of a dramatic production, by referencing the historic convention that such deific characters descend to the stage by way of a crane. The question you need to ask is, if the Lord of the Rings was a Greek play, would Eru Iluvatar’s appearance on stage have been contrived using a crane?

          And the answer is unambiguously yes. (Consider, if you will, that in the actual movies, the music and special effects were used as part of the modern convention to signal the same thing.)

          This is in contrast to the (more) figurative use of the phrase where any contrived solution to an apparently insoluble situation is used after an author has written themselves into a corner.

      • lazydragonboy says:

        Albert Speer was the literal architect of the Nazi Party.

        Thank you for that. A friend of mine has to write a paper on a philosophy he disagrees with, and he was thinking of nazi-ism as a good candidate.

        If you don’t mind a couple side questions, did nazi-ism offer a) a view of reality b) a prescription on how to live and c) an ideal state one would reach if one lived that way?

        Damn. I forgot what “literal” or “architect” meant in that context. I guess that’s part of the challenge because with enough use, figurative meanings become standard and thus, intuitively, literal. (Not necessarily literally literal, I am holding out until I read to the end of this thread to decide that one)

    • WashedOut says:

      ‘Literally’ means the word takes on it’s most basic, face-value definition.

      After eating a chilli: My mouth is literally on fire -> Incorrect word use for almost all situations.

      In your example “this social system is literally broken” this is just poor word choice and poor phrasing. The onus for clarity doesn’t rest with the listener’s choice of which layer of metaphor to remove, it’s on the speaker to speak clearly. They could have said “This social system is in need of repair” or any of a dozen viable alternatives but it seems they just really really wanted to use the word ‘broken’, in which case they didn’t even need to say ‘literally’, but for it’s appeal as a word-amplifier.

    • silver_swift says:

      Both interpretations are fine. The word “literally” is (or should be) used to indicate that less metaphor is used than the reader/listener might expect, in cases where this results in unclear communication it can be clarified like any other ambiguous sentence in English. Sure, it would be better if we had separate words for those two meanings, but adding words to a language also comes with a cost (it makes the language harder to learn for non-native speakers, for instance) so you have consider whether the benefit of not having to clarify yourself in the rare cases where this is a problem outweighs those costs.

      The problem with using literally as an intensifier isn’t that it prevents English from being Lojban, it’s that we already have a shitton of words that function as intensifier and very few words that function as escape characters so turning the latter into the former increases the number of cases where clarification is needed for very little benefit.

      • Lillian says:

        You know, i used to be like you. Used to insist that we had to preserve the meaning of the word “literally” as “removing layers of metaphor”, because it’s the only word in modern English that does that. This is a useful feature to have, and compromising on that would be an obvious loss for little gain.

        Then on 4chan it became a thing to call people “literally worse than Hitler” for the most trivial of character defects. The first time i read one such post, i immediately burst out laughing. In that moment, i became enlightened.

    • johan_larson says:

      I’m not convinced multiple levels of metaphor actually exist. In your example, I would say that “broken” in the sense of “malfunctioning” isn’t a metaphor; it’s one of several meanings of the word. If I say something like, “The elevator is broken,” I don’t expect the listener to imagine the elevator in a thousand pieces, I expect them to understand that it just isn’t working.

      Can you supply a clearer example of multiple levels of metaphor?

      • Lambert says:

        The term ‘petrified’, as applied to a person or animal.
        Layer 0: Physically turned to stone
        Layer 1: Immobilised/paralysed, as if turned to stone
        Layer 2: Incredibly scared, to the point where they could reasonably exhibit a freeze response.

      • Aapje says:

        @johan_larson

        I think a major issue with that specific example is that the system often is not completely broken at all, it merely is imperfect to an extent that the person considers unacceptable. So ‘broken’ is then hyperbole. Using ‘literally’ with a hyperbole is irritating because it is a claim that the hyperbole is not actually hyperbole, which is false.

        • Randy M says:

          I think the problem is rather that “the social system” is vague. I can think of examples where a broken system could be perfectly literal*, such as “When our vendor relations manager quit and we had no one to find a new supplier, our companies procurement system was broken.” but I don’t know what the social system referenced is supposed to do, much less whether it does it.

          *If one accepts the argument Johan makes above and I later repeated below.

      • muskwalker says:

        Can you supply a clearer example of multiple levels of metaphor?

        Just this morning I ran into a case (perhaps) while trying to compose a reaction to a series of tweets.

        In the original tweet, someone had posted an image of a sign reading something to the effect of “if hard work pays, show me a rich donkey”.

        Someone’s response was that it was the donkey owners that are in business, not the donkeys, and added “Don’t put the cart before the horse”.

        Separate from that discussion, I wanted to point it out as an example of irony, as that the guy saying “don’t put the cart before the horse” was saying it in the same tweet as literally putting the cart before the horse.

        By ‘literally’ I wanted to build on the literal meaning of ‘putting the cart before the horse’ and not the metaphorical one. However, the objection requires a) adding a layer of metaphor—the cart as a metonym for its driver, as carts are not donkey owners; b) retaining a layer of metaphor, as horses are not donkeys; and c) retaining his use of ‘before’ in its sense ‘higher in importance than’ instead of the more literal meaning ‘in front of’.

        (In the end I decided not to post the sentiment.)

        Would this have been a valid use of the strict meaning of ‘literally’ to frame the objection? Is there a concise way of framing it without ‘literally’ that allows the same emphasis that the adverb bears?

        • lazydragonboy says:

          Writing that comment was most definitely a worthy goal. And hard. I see why you set it aside.

    • Machine Interface says:

      I never understood the argument that “literally” can only possibly mean “non-figuratively” – English (and other European languages) has a long history of taking words meaning something like “in a way that conforms to physical reality, in a non metaphorical way” and turn them into intensifiers.

      Consider:

      “You really did it this time!”
      “This is verily the worst thing I’ve ever seen” (“very”, from Old French “verai”, meaning “true”)
      “he actually exploded from rage this time”
      “he totally played me”
      “she absolutely fancies you”

      A key insight is: how often do you actually use the words “metaphorically” or “figuratively”? My guess is not a lot, because that the meaning of a given sentence implies a level of metaphor is almost always clear for context – there is almost never an actual need to add a word to explicitely tell the listener that you are talking metaphorically.

      Intensifiers, on the other hand, are used extremely often in speech. So often that they’re prime target for semantic meiosis: their meaning tends to lose strength over time, thus the need to regularly come up with new intensifiers – and since the semantic path “non-metaphor” > “intensifier” is well established (like, this isn’t just a quirky trait of the English language, other western European languages also do this), it is neither surprising nor “bad” to see words like “literally” follow that path.

    • J Mann says:

      Mostly off topic, I would sign on to a crusade to start pedantically correct people who use f-cking as an intensifier in cases where it doesn’t apply literally, mostly to encourage creativity.

    • Randy M says:

      I like the question, but I object to the example. “Break” can literally mean to render non-functional; it may once have been a metaphorical meaning but I think it can refer to systems now in literal ways. In the same way, you aren’t being literal if you object to someone saying “The mother is bonding with the child” because bond now can literally mean an emotional connection; you are being a materialist.
      I think. Or is every abstraction a metaphor, even if the words are being used in their standard fashion?
      (I looked up four or five word definitions to double check my intuition while making this post, so I could be barking up the wrong tree, but not for spacing out)

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I think the problem with this question is, to put perhaps too fine a point on it, that it uses a literalist approach to language.

      As others have pointed, literal is now frequently used as an intensifier, along with pointing out that language changes over time.

      But the real issue is that all language is contextual, and attempting to evaluate sentences in isolation of their context is usually a mistake. Thus asking “does the word literal remove one layer or all layers of metaphorical meaning?” is to presume that there is some constant, correct use of this word. This is plainly false. The meaning will depend on the context in which it is used, what meaning the speaker could reasonably presume their intended audience to perceive.

      This isn’t to say that words can’t be used incorrectly. They can; however, the line between correct and incorrect is not bright, solid and thin, but rather, wide, gray and fading to translucent.

    • Iain says:

      There is no objective, timeless definition of “literally”. It’s just a collection of syllables that we use to convey meaning to each other. A use of the word “literally” is correct if it conveys the intended meaning to the listener, and incorrect if the listener is genuinely confused. It is rarely the case that using “literally” in a figurative manner is genuinely confusing. Indeed, while I’m sure that it’s happened, I literally can’t think of a single example off the top of my head where I’ve had difficulty discerning the intended meaning, and I’ve had this argument literally billions of times. (See what I did there?)

      It’s important to distinguish between genuine confusion and simulated confusion. The examples in this thread are all simulated — nobody actually thinks, for example, that “the social system is literally broken” implies that it’s shattered into tiny pieces. People just get pedantic and play dumb because they don’t like the word choice.

      An example of genuine confusion would be if I’d said “literally dozens of times” above. Billions is obvious hyperbole. Dozens is small enough to be plausibly true, but large enough to be plausibly exaggerated.

      In the wild, though, most people deliberately exaggerate their hyperbole to make it clear.

      • J Mann says:

        The evolving meaning makes it difficult to use the original one – if you mean literally literally, you have to add vocal or written stress to the word or there’s a risk your audience will understand it to mean intensely. I’ll grant this pretty much only damages attempts to seem smart through wordplay, but still.

        We’ve lost “beg the question” and “inflammable,” which have now been rendered all but unusable to pedants such as me. I won’t die on that hill myself, but I can’t blame people for attempting to defend literally.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          For what purpose do you wish to retain “inflammable”? Perhaps for comedic purposes?

          More to the point, what language can be made into a solid, fixed in some state and unchanging? Perhaps Latin would suit, but the audience would be limited.

        • Iain says:

          Has “begging the question” actually been lost?

          Granted: people use “begs the question” for “raises the question” all the time. But I’m having a hard time imagining a situation where that’s ambiguous. If you are using the original, petitio principii sense, you will say “this begs the question” or “you are begging the question”, full stop. If you mean it in the sense of raising the question, then you will follow “this begs the question” with an actual question.

          To the extent that there’s a problem, it’s that many people don’t recognize the original definition. But that’s orthogonal to the newer usage. Imagine a world where nobody ever said “begs” instead of “raises”. It’s not like everybody would magically be imbued with a understanding of logical fallacies. They would still stare at you blankly when you said “this begs the question”. The only difference is that in one universe they’re thinking “What question?”, and in the other universe they’re just thinking “What?”

          There are other words that are much more ambiguous. If I say that the American government sanctions an activity, do they support or prohibit it? Nobody ever seems to get angry about the word “sanction”, though. A cynic might conclude that the objection is less about precision, and more about seizing the opportunity to feel smugly superior.

          • J Mann says:

            IMHO, I think “begs the question” should be retired. You can’t reasonably assume your audience will be familiar with the original meaning, and if you use it for the contemporary meaning, you will offend pedants.

            I agree that it’s not a substantial loss, but I can understand why people with attachments to particular meanings advocate for them.

            I tried to connote that smug superiority was a major factor, although I think people have a certain natural preference for particular usages as well.

        • Eric Rall says:

          I don’t mourn “beg the question” (despite my pedantically prescriptivist stance on words like “literally” and “decimate”), since it’s a sloppy and misleading translation from Greek to Latin to English. The original Greek phrase meant “asking for the initial thing”, which got translated into medieval scholarly Latin as a phrase meaning “assuming the principle”. But the word (“petitio”) used for “assuming” was one that had changed between Classical Latin and Medieval Latin, and it got translated into English based on the Classical meaning (“begging” or “requesting”) rather than the intended Medieval meaning (“assuming”).

          It doesn’t help that Aristotle was thinking of the thesis of an argument as coming first (the claimed principle whose truth was to be examined) when he wrote the initial Greek phrase, whereas most modern English-speakers think of it as coming at the end (as a conclusion being reached after an open-ended inquiry into a subject).

          So we wound up with an English phrase that sounds like it means something fundamentally different (but still applicable in similar contexts) from what was intended, and it’s not too surprising that the meaning the words imply took over from the meaning the phrase was originally intended to denote.

          I don’t think the language loses much by retreating from the sloppy translation and using a better one (like “assuming the conclusion”) or using another English phrase that fits the concept (like “circular reasoning”). I still recommend against using “begging the question” in the vernacular sense of the phrase, both because it’s ambiguous and because using it contrary to its original intended meaning is jarring to those who know what it’s supposed to mean and signals either a knowledge gap or a certain degree of carelessness with technical terminology.

  4. Collin says:

    My company Instacart is hiring across nearly every position, especially Engineering (like mad in San Francisco and Toronto but we’ll consider remote people too). We’re working to be the world leader in online groceries and I’d love to have more SSC readers on the team.

    For you Machine Learning folks, we have some really interesting datasets.

    🥕Instacart Careers Page🥕
    🥕Full Sortable List of Openings🥕

    • Matt M says:

      Kudos to you, good sir.

      Instacart is one of the few companies whose product I consider life-changing. Very satisfied customer here, myself!

  5. onyomi says:

    A Lockean Theory of Digital Property.

    If you rented a piece of commercial real estate for several years and put a lot of work and resources into making it a successful business, including improvements to the property, building up a customer base in the neighborhood, etc. and then the landlord repossessed it in the middle of the night without warning and threw all your stuff in the garbage, you would have some kind of legitimate legal complaint (or so it seems to me; I’m no lawyer). Not because renting the property for a long time made it “yours” but that using it for a long time, enhancing its value, mixing your labor with it, essentially, entitled you to a reasonable assumption of either continued ability to rent, or, at least, significant warning of being kicked out+possibly some compensation depending on the terms of the original contract.

    One of the problems with social media is that it’s really hard to compete with free and free usually means the service promises little, if anything to the user, who is really there to bring in advertising dollars. Unfortunately, however, such services have become not only the way much of the world communicates ideas, but also how many people make a living. Given that so much value is now created in this ether space nowadays, it seems like maybe the legal system needs to catch up in terms of, e.g. if I spend a zillion hours creating content for youtube and building up a channel etc. and they delete my channel overnight, possibly even deleting the videos I may not have all backed up, they have harmed me in a tangible way beyond just, “you’re no longer welcome to use our service.”

    • ana53294 says:

      In Spain, landlords (or people who want to buy somebody else’s apartment) sometimes resort to what is called “real estate harassment”).

      People can get really angry when they perceive that something that belongs to them or should belong to them is being used by somebody badly. Plenty of landlords consider that squatters’ rights should be eliminated, because they violate what they perceive as their natural property rights.

      Internet platforms are different from real estate property, in the sense that they don’t something that could be used by somebody else. But a squatter can destroy the reputation of a platform , which is their most valuable allure to users. I don’t think the presence of Alex Jones did anything to destroy YouTube’s reputation (they should get rid of child pornography first; Alex Jones is not the bottom of YouTube).

      My point is, if you want to defend the right to remain on a platform based on squatters ‘ rights, a lot of people would say, “Let’s also get rid of squatters’ rights).

      • Matt M says:

        My point is, if you want to defend the right to remain on a platform based on squatters ‘ rights, a lot of people would say, “Let’s also get rid of squatters’ rights).

        But are these the same people?

        I feel like the “Alex Jones must not be silenced!” people and the “The homeless have every right to occupy unused buildings” people are very different and distinct groups…

        • ana53294 says:

          Well, I belong to the group of people who think that Youtube has the right to kick out Alex Jones*, and squatters should never be allowed either property or tenancy rights. I don’t know where that places me in the political spectrum, but I guess I am not unique. Some other people who also defend property rights probably think the same.

          Although you are mostly right; people who defend Alex Jones are right-wing, and people who defend squatters will be left-wing.

          *EDIT: The fact that I think they should have a right to kick Alex Jones out of their platform does not mean I think they should have done so. But they should have the right to change their views on what is or isn’t acceptable, inform users, give them time to adapt their content, and kick out non-compliant users.

        • onyomi says:

          @Matt M

          I agree that these probably aren’t the same people, though in my case, it sort of is. I won’t claim advocating for the homeless is one of my chief political concerns and I am also a believer in very strong property rights (and free speech norms), yet I also believe property rights have to be about more than just “the guy who owned it signed a piece of paper and now I own it until I sign a piece of paper, even if that means leaving this dilapidated house vacant on a prime piece of real estate for centuries.”

          Yes, the latter sets off my libertarian “slippery slope” alarms, but I think the other bullet is even harder to bite, as it results in basically no one owning anything since, if you go back far enough, someone probably stole or conquered something somewhere along the line.

      • lazydragonboy says:

        Hmm. Do you know anything about landlords harrassing people into signing stuff in general? Is it a common problem? I recently heard of a guy who forced a contract on a 78 year San Franciscan woman in a parking lot and was horrified. I hadn’t known such things were anything other than extremely rare.

    • 10240 says:

      maybe the legal system needs to catch up in terms of, e.g. if I spend a zillion hours creating content for youtube and building up a channel etc. and they delete my channel overnight, possibly even deleting the videos I may not have all backed up, they have harmed me in a tangible way

      Or maybe back up your goddamn videos.

      • Matt M says:

        Getting back to my earlier point about these companies engaging in fraud…

        If they have stated rules, and you are obeying the stated rules, you have no reason to suspect that your content will be instantly deleted. Especially on a “first offense.”

        In terms of standard escalation of force, deleting someone’s 10-year video library on a first offense of “hate speech” seems fairly similar to shooting a jaywalker.

        • onyomi says:

          Yes, also the ToS are often very vaguely defined with a very unilateral appeals process (if any) should someone decide you’re in violation of them. It’s not as simple as “so long as I don’t say cocksucker, cunt, fuck, motherfucker, piss, shit, or tits, I’m within the ToS.”

          “Don’t say anything hateful,” is a lot vaguer, perhaps intentionally so.

          • AnarchyDice says:

            Also, if you have your account disabled, they do not provide any evidence of why they disabled an account except for a vague reference to a sub-category of their Terms and Conditions. It would also help if they actually had the staff to review account appeals or perhaps a phone/email contact number.

        • 10240 says:

          It would be fraud if they had made a legally binding promise that if you obey certain rules, they are not going to delete your videos. Most likely they haven’t made any promise whatsoever, and furthermore probably say in the ToS that they maintain the right to delete accounts at their discretion (or with some vague set of justifications).

          • Lambert says:

            Even if they did make a contract like that, I wouldn’t be surprised if a court found there was not enough mutual consideration for it to be enforceable.

          • Another Throw says:

            Even if they did make a contract like that, I wouldn’t be surprised if a court found there was not enough mutual consideration for it to be enforceable.

            I don’t know about that. “Split the profits that third parties pay us after we engage in the coordinated action herein specified” seems like a pretty standard form of mutual consideration.

        • Iain says:

          As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in the thread, this was not a first offense. Alex Jones had already been warned multiple times. There’s no reasonable case here for fraud.

      • Matt says:

        Also back up your videos because maybe a server fire at their facility destroys them all. (Almost certainly not possible with a company like youtube, but the principal is the same, right?)

        That said, I don’t understand why youtube would delete videos at all, barring stuff that is literally illegal to possess due to revenge or child p0rn laws or perhaps court orders. If they ‘delete’ a channel all they really have to do is stop publishing it to the web, and they could easily archive it for the content owner – even a temporary archive.

        • DeWitt says:

          I don’t understand why youtube would delete videos at all

          They’re one Twitter campaign away from losing a lot of revenue because suddenly people have decided hosting Alex Jones makes you adjacent to Adolf Hitler. Between that and cutting the guy loose, the monetary choice is obvious.

          • Matt says:

            I feel like you didn’t understand me. They can cut him loose (stop making his videos available at their website) without deleting anything. Right?

            Keeping the videos on their servers in case Alex Jones wants them ‘back’ (he should have his own copies, of course, and not need that) answers the original posters objections.

          • DeWitt says:

            Not sure. Maybe? I guess so.

          • CatCube says:

            I suspect that they’re not in danger of losing much revenue at all. Where is everybody boycotting them going to go?

            No, I think it’s more that the owners and managers are simply executing their principles. Which wouldn’t bother me so much if conservative owners executing their principles wasn’t treated differently.

          • DeWitt says:

            In Google’s case, at least, these executives are the same people who have no issue rolling over for the Chinese government and helping them mass censor their internet. Unclear to me principles beyond money are present.

          • Matt M says:

            I could easily be convinced that Google’s executives are far more sympathetic to the political goals of the Chinese Communist Party than those of Alex Jones.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Hell, I’m not convinced that I’M not far more sympathetic to the goals of the Chinese Communist Party than I am to those of Alex Jones.

          • Aapje says:

            Perhaps they are only willing to pay a certain cost for their principles. It’s way less costly to be principled towards Jones than towards China.

        • rlms says:

          Do you think they would be make as much money as they do now if they allowed themselves to be a medium for (regular) porn?

          Regarding your last sentence: server space costs money.

          • toastengineer says:

            No, because porn sites have a lot of trouble securing advertisers. Google Ads, for one, categorically refuses to do business with them.

          • Matt M says:

            Snapchat basically allows themselves to be a medium for porn, if you know where to look.

            Technically it’s against their TOS, but enforcement seems minimal. Although a lot of it is paywall-gated, primarily to ensure that the only people seeing it are enthusiastic customers who aren’t going to report it for breaking the rules.

      • J Mann says:

        A smart way to back up a digital portfolio would be a good idea. When Amazon shut down their product forums, I was either not paying attention or it wasn’t announced. I had some stuff I would have saved if I had known, but I don’t know that Amazon owed me any particular notice.

    • DeWitt says:

      I don’t see this happening, because the difference is one of motive. A landlord repossessing your decade of hard work does so because he can make more money; Youtube loses money if it removes a channel with a certain amount of views, but does so because of public opinion more than anything else. Why laws that go against the court of public opinion would be impopular should be obvious.

      Moreover, is this really such a big deal? Really? Video hosting is hardly the hallmark of digital technology, and setting up a place to dump your own kooky material about Barack Obama being the devil is trivially easy. Being kicked out of your home overnight by a landlord deprives you of a place to live, and living space is a scarce thing; digital space is functionally infinite, and it’s all very easy to set up your own.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        DeWitt I don’t think there were mass calls for deplatforming shortly before the multiple independently owned companies did what they did. (Welcome to be proven wrong here)
        At leas not beyond the level of unpopularity that was standard.
        And the thing for which the deplatforming was said to occur seems to me to be something that could be solved with a libel lawsuit.

        The target in question may have been deserving, but this occurrence sets a precedent that social media companies may effectively purge someone from all of what are effectively public spaces in an informally coordinated fashion at will.

        But as long as one side of this debate worships what they consider to be free enterprise and the other side thinks that the companies are on the right side of history, expect little to be done about it.

        • DeWitt says:

          I’d respond, but your comment seems cut off at the end. Did it come out okay, or do you need a moment?

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            No that last sentence was unnecessary.

          • DeWitt says:

            Okay.

            Agreed that there were no mass calls for deplatforming anyone before it also happened, but said event still happened not because Google thought they might make more money using the real estate otherwise, or because of some development plans, but sheerly because for popularity and PR reasons. Removing any other channel with many views loses rather than gains them money.

            Agreed about the precedent. Agreed that nothing is likely to be done about it anywhere in the near future. I’m not sure what we do disagree on; the one point I made you don’t mention is that it is really, really, really easy for any one person to publish their videos in this day and age. The IT’S ONLY CENSORSHIP WHEN THE GOVERNMENT DOES IT crowd is dumb, but so are the people who want to insist there is no way to get some videos out there beyond falling in line with Google.

          • Matt M says:

            DeWitt,

            The problem isn’t a technical inability to host videos, it’s the ability to reach a potential audience.

            It’s trivially easy for extremists to host content on the web and allow like-minded people to view it. People far, far, far to the right of Alex Jones are still doing that.

            The value of Facebook/Twitter/Youtube is that it helps you reach new viewers. It helps you expand your audience. It is how most people go about finding content, both existing content they know about and specifically want to see, and new content they might like to try and give a chance to.

            Youtube basically is, de facto, a search engine for videos. Would you make the same claim if Google search started de-indexing unpopular web pages? That it’s no big deal, because those pages do still exist and people can still get to them by typing the address into their URL bar?

          • DeWitt says:

            I don’t know how many people find new content on Youtube. Do they? Most of the time I’ve been on there it’s because of outside links, I.E. someone on SSC or Reddit or God knows where else links me something to watch. The amount of people on Youtube who don’t know who Alex Jones is but stumble upon him through elsewhere is likely minimal, though I’m very much interested in statistics on the matter.

            De-indexing is another degree of separation away from the earlier landlord example: Google doesn’t host whatever webpages you search there. Them not wanting to host someone on their own servers isn’t quite the same as spending time and effort to make sure places they’re unaffiliated with don’t show up.

            Which, you know, is exactly what they’re doing in China, so Google being in it for the money is hardly a secret anywhere.

          • Matt says:

            DeWitt: I find new content via Youtube. I watch some comedy videos from comedians I liked, Youtube makes suggestions that amount to “These comedians are watched by people who watch the comedians you have watched” and I learn about a new comedian and I might buy his book or album or pay to watch his show.

            I’m not saying Youtube owes that guy a platform from a first principles point of view, but I think the DMCA does put a burden on Youtube to be content-neutral.

          • DeWitt says:

            I’m no expert at all on US law. I don’t think you should force a baker to give the gays their cake, I also don’t think you should force Youtube to host Alex Jones.

          • beleester says:

            @Matt M:
            A few questions:
            1. Do you have a right to write an editorial in the New York Times? Or are they denying you a potential audience by refusing to host your content?

            2. Suppose that Alex Jones had, instead of getting removed, simply had all his videos moved to the last page of search results. After all, he’s a crazy conspiracy guy and Google can reasonably assume that most users are looking for more reliable sources. Is that okay because he’s still got access, or is it censorship because Google isn’t giving him enough publicity?

            3. Another user, Sammy the Spammer, runs a Youtube channel where he advertises cheap Viagra and herbal supplements. Does YouTube also owe him an audience?

            Demanding equal access to an audience leads you to some weird places. Doubly so when a website’s main value is in how they filter content.

          • Iain says:

            A couple of points:

            a) This didn’t come out of nowhere. Alex Jones has been warned before.

            b) The number of people on YouTube who stumble onto Alex Jones by happenstance is actually shockingly high. It’s a consequence of the YouTube recommendation algorithm: the algorithm wants high traffic and long watch times, which rewards sensationalist trash. Innocuous searches are typically only a few “Up Next” clicks away from conspiracy-mongering. (More on this.)

            (A better solution than banning Alex Jones would have been to improve the recommendation algorithm, but either way Google is clearly within their right to decline to host Infowars.)

          • Matt M says:

            beleester,

            I typed out a long and detailed response but I think I hit a banned word and it got deleted. Sorry 🙁

            TLDR version:

            The main problem I have here is that these companies stated policies, as well as revealed preferences through their observed behavior, would indicate that they desire to be open forums that are politically neutral.

            The recent actions they have taken seem incredibly counter-intuitive to that goal.

            As a hardcore libertarian myself, I would be okay with the legal existence of say, racially segregated restaurants. Would I would NOT be okay with is a restaurant that has a big sign saying “OPEN TO ALL” but then secretly refuses to seat black people.

            I think the social media giants are pulling a bait and switch here. They advertise and promote themselves as open platforms, welcoming to all viewpoints and ideologies. And rather than come out in the open and just say “Actually, we changed our minds, no more evil right-wingers” they maintain that veneer while continuing to silence right-wingers. This is incredibly dishonest, and should be denounced by all sides.

            Further, they advertise that their platforms are customizeable, in the sense that you can control what content you see and what content you don’t. But the “shadowbanning” as you describe has already taken over. Making Infowars difficult to find for random people is one thing, but making Infowars difficult to find for people who specifically elected to receive updates and content from Infowars strikes me as heavy-handed censorship.

            The problem is that they claim to be different from the New York Times in that they provide neutral hosting, and you can decide for yourself what you want to see and hear. But more and more they are proving that no, what they intend to do is provide you with what they think you should see and hear regardless of the choices you make.

            “People want real news and not conspiracy theories” is a matter of opinion. Even if it’s generally true at the population level, it would seem to not apply to any specific individual who chose to follow Infowars and block the NYT. They are telling you exactly what they want. You can refuse to give it to them if you’d like, but then you’re just another heavily curated first-party media source, and not an open platform of any kind.

          • 10240 says:

            I think the social media giants are pulling a bait and switch here. They advertise and promote themselves as open platforms, welcoming to all viewpoints and ideologies.

            Well, I don’t follow news about Youtube et al. closely, but I’ve heard more about Youtube taking down various videos for political reasons than about Youtube claiming to be open and neutral. Then again, I don’t know what the Youtube user interface says (e.g. the options for specifying what you want to watch you talk about) — I’ve never used it for anything other than watching specific videos.

            Btw much of this comes down to when a statement should be considered legally binding. I don’t know what the law says about this, nor what it should say. I prefer to err on the side that it’s only legally binding if it’s somehow explicitly marked as such (except some specific situations such as product labels which should be binding) — I’d rather not be legally liable for the truth of everything I say in conversation or write on the internet. It can be argued that company communications should be binding by default, though allowing lawsuits based on vague phrases like “open content” by company execs would be another addition to an already ultra-litigious culture. In any case, one should always have both the option to state something in a legally binding way and in a non-binding way.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            The claims of neutrality are often made, but I don’t think anyone seriously believes them. I found the tone taken in this Vox piece regarding Twitter to be particularly relevant.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @Matt M:
            A few questions:
            1. Do you have a right to write an editorial in the New York Times? Or are they denying you a potential audience by refusing to host your content?
            2. Suppose that Alex Jones had, instead of getting removed, simply had all his videos moved to the last page of search results. After all, he’s a crazy conspiracy guy and Google can reasonably assume that most users are looking for more reliable sources. Is that okay because he’s still got access, or is it censorship because Google isn’t giving him enough publicity?
            3. Another user, Sammy the Spammer, runs a Youtube channel where he advertises cheap Viagra and herbal supplements. Does YouTube also owe him an audience?

            Not Matt M, but for what it’s worth here are my views on the matter:

            (1) I don’t think that’s a good analogy, for three reasons. Firstly, there was an article here on SSC, which I can’t be bothered to find at the moment, arguing that big internet companies like Facebook, Amazon, etc., are functionally monopolies, and hence being banned by them is going to affect you much more than being banned by your local corner shop or whatever. I think that the same considerations apply to YouTube; sure, it’s possible to host videos without it, but given that YouTube is the go-to site for finding videos, being banned from uploading any is going to seriously affect your ability to attract an audience. The New York Times, on the other hand, is just one of a number of major newspapers, and newspapers are in turn just one of a number of ways in which people can read the news or other people’s opinions on the news, so not being given a column there isn’t going to impact your ability to make your views known to nearly the same degree. If the NYT were as dominant a news outlet as YouTube is as dominant a video-sharing website, then I’d say that it would indeed be obliged (morally, and ideally by regulation) to give a platform to a range of opinions, including ones its editorial board disagreed with.

            Secondly, once YouTube is set up, the people running it don’t (as far as I’m aware) incur any extra expense or effort from people uploading videos to it, whereas a newspaper does incur extra expense and effort from adding new columns and articles. I think it’s more defensible for someone to say “I don’t want to spend my time and money promoting views which I disagree with” than for them to say “This person’s promoting their views doesn’t cost me any time or money, but I’m going to stop it anyway,” and we should have higher standards of justification for the latter than for the former.

            Thirdly, it’s my impression (and I’m open to correction on this if I’m mistaken) that Alex Jones got a significant portion of his income from YouTube videos. If somebody relies on a type of work for his income, hindering him from doing this work harms him in a way that preventing him from entering an entirely new line of work, from which he as yet gets no money and hence doesn’t rely on, would do.

            (2) It is still censorship, though I think that “because Google isn’t giving him enough publicity” misstates the reason why. Presumably, Google’s standard algorithm would give him a certain amount of publicity, and by relegating all his stuff to the last page Google are interfering with their algorithm to deliberately make it harder for people to find his work. So the problem isn’t that Google ought to actively “give him publicity” and are refraining from doing so; the problem is that Google are actively interfering with the process, when they shouldn’t be.

            (3) YouTube doesn’t “owe” anybody an audience; it does, however, owe people not to ban people for politically-motivated reasons.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Tough to be a monopoly, functional or otherwise, when you refuse to do business with a large segment of your market.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Secondly, once YouTube is set up, the people running it don’t (as far as I’m aware) incur any extra expense or effort from people uploading videos to it,

            Their cost is marginal, but is most definitely not zero. They also incur marginal cost every time someone views the video.

            As to functional monopolies, let’s assume that the government were to either: a) treat them in the manner of a regulated monopoly, guaranteeing them the rights to be the sole provider of a service; or, b) treating them in the manner of an unregulated monopoly, and imposing a requirement for them to somehow break apart (and stay broken apart).

            I have a feeling that the same people claiming they should be treated as monopolies would be objecting strenuously to either.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Their cost is marginal, but is most definitely not zero. They also incur marginal cost every time someone views the video.

            Then that is an argument in favour of their being able to block content they disagree with, though I think it’s still outweighed by the other considerations.

            I have a feeling that the same people claiming they should be treated as monopolies would be objecting strenuously to either.

            Some people might; I, for one, wouldn’t.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Tough to be a monopoly, functional or otherwise, when you refuse to do business with a large segment of your market.

            Indeed, which is why I suspect that, if they go too overboard with blocking content, YouTube et al. will cease to enjoy their monopoly status.

      • Matt M says:

        Youtube loses money if it removes a channel with a certain amount of views, but does so because of public opinion more than anything else.

        I don’t think this is quite right.

        Youtube doesn’t do this thinking they will lose money. They do it because they think that this will gain them money long-term. They worry that being associated with Alex Jones will cost them more money than the ad-revenue he brings in.

        This isn’t some altruistic “for the good of society,” move. This is pure, cold, profit-motive.

      • keranih says:

        I don’t see this happening, because the difference is one of motive. A landlord repossessing your decade of hard work does so because he can make more money;

        A landlord would also be losing your rent if they kick you out. They may or may not recoop that value.

        Moreover, is this really such a big deal? Really?

        I think this answers its own question – whichever group did the platforming ground work obviously thought it was a big deal.

        Being kicked out of your home overnight by a landlord deprives you of a place to live, and living space is a scarce thing

        Are there no hotels? No RVs for sale? No camping areas? No bridges under which to squat?

        This move is clearly against the concept of free expression of thought, and I find morally indefensible.

        • DeWitt says:

          This move is clearly against the concept of free expression of thought, and I find morally indefensible.

          How free should expression of thought be? The government prosecuting someone like Alex Jones, agreed, indefensible. The same banning him from speaking in public, again, indefensible. Keeping him from asking questions of public officials or what have you, not something they should do. If the place he lives in has only the one cable company and they pulled his internet access, I’d even agree that’s a move they shouldn’t make.

          But Youtube? Youtube is part of a corporation and has no monopoly beyond everyone already being there. There are a thousand and then some ways to release your material beyond it. Banning Alex Jones from it strikes me as ‘not in my house’ levels of being against freedom of expression, and while I’d have preferred for him not to be blocked, I don’t think it’s indefensible.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Actually, libel and defamation laws set legitimate limits on what Alex Jones can say about individuals.

          • keranih says:

            How free should expression of thought be?

            On a commons-equivalent platform like YouTube, Facebook, and etc claim to be? This free – so that anti-vax activists, communists, and abortionists – all of whom have advocated actions which led to the deaths of thousands or more should have a place to speak.

            Alex Jones, as personally loathesome as he is, has done nothing above saying hurtful words.

            There is no logic that allows for the banning of the one but not the other. There is only “my side vs the other side”, and while I agree that one can set any sort of rules within ones own house (*) it is unreasonable to argue that Youtube is presenting itself as a private house, vs a public commons.

            There are a thousand and then some ways to release your material beyond it.

            Again, if your landlord evicts you unreasonably, do you not have any bridges to shelter under?

            (*) (edited to add forgotten footnote) For the record, I’d actually allow even more restriction outside the house if we allowed for actual freedom of association, but so long as we’re sticking to establishing protected classes, I’m sticking to freedom of the public square.

          • dick says:

            On a commons-equivalent platform like YouTube, Facebook, and etc claim to be?

            What specifically do you mean by this? Are you just talking about marketing? I’m sure McDonald’s claims to be “open to all” in commercials, but no one would cite that in a discussion about Alex Jones getting kicked out of a franchise for throwing a coke at someone.

            From where I sit, “We allow anything that makes us money and we don’t allow anything that hurts out brand, as determined by a bunch of middle managers accountable to no one” is the de facto content policy of every social media platform on earth, and I’m surprised anyone thinks otherwise.

          • Wrong Species says:

            How do you differentiate between a commons equivalent platform and a regular platform?

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            WrongSpecies has the heart of it, there. I have to disagree with the people here talking about damages and fraud and so on. This is entirely within the scope of a company’s legitimate business decisions.

            On the other hand, I am among those who think that the “it’s only censorship when the government does it” crowd are disingenuous and actively pro-censorship, and I think that while this is absolutely something that was within their right to do, I don’t think it was the right thing to do.

            And on the third hand, I am profoundly wary of any steps that could be used to stop these sorts of decisions. Net Neutrality? I REALLY do not want to set a precedent for the Internet being regulated like Broadcast television and radio, with all the content control and ACCESS control that the comparison implies (“But Trofim, the Internet isn’t finite like the usable bandwidth of the broadcast spectrum” “Yes, and if you think that is going to make a difference you are an incredible optimist”), and I believe that is the ultimate and inescapable long-term outcome if we give Congress broad oversight power over the internet within the scope of the US. A reworking of “public accomodation” laws? This might be a bit more narrowly tailored, but it seems like a legal stretch, and if you’re of a conservative and/or libertarian bent you’re supposed to be the one who DOESN’T go running to the legislators to make it all better when you don’t get your way.

            Fundamentally, I think the solution is to change society such that we don’t have these sorts of issues, but I’m not sure it’s possible.

            In short, while I may not have any particular fondness for Alex Jones in particular (especially not after his 9/11), I consider the larger trend here to be very, very bad.

          • Aapje says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            Technically these platforms are legally responsible for the content, but in practice they are a lot like common carriers, passing on data with very little editorial process. Proper vetting of the content is practically near impossible.

            So a potential solution is to formalize this and treat them as common carriers, which means that the platform is not expected to police their content or users*, but that the people using the platform are themselves fully responsible.

            So then if people have an issue with Alex Jones getting a platform, they have no grounds to complain with YouTube, but have to go to the courts. Furthermore, YouTube would then be restricted in what they can ban from their platform.

            * Aside from following the rulings made by judges.

          • Matt M says:

            Technically these platforms are legally responsible for the content, but in practice they are a lot like common carriers, passing on data with very little editorial process. Proper vetting of the content is practically near impossible.

            Are they?

            I’ve heard talk that there are current laws on the books that protect them from these sort of responsibilities such that they are not held legally responsible for user conduct.

            This talk is mainly coming from the right, whose position is “We gave them this protection so that they could stay neutral – since they are unwilling to stay neutral, we should probably repeal it. If they want to police content, they should take responsibility for doing so.”

          • Lambert says:

            Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act renders internet services largely immune from being liable for what other people publish on that service.

            Americans can commit all kinds of libel on Youtube, and the plaintiff couldn’t successfully sue them.

          • Aapje says:

            OK, I didn’t know that. AFAIK it’s different in Europe.

          • dick says:

            This talk is mainly coming from the right, whose position is “We gave them this protection so that they could stay neutral – since they are unwilling to stay neutral, we should probably repeal it. If they want to police content, they should take responsibility for doing so.”

            CDA 230 (which basically says that if Alice goes on to BobsSite.com and posts “Charlie fucked a donkey,” Charlie can sue Alice but not Bob) is definitely not predicated on some notion that Bob has to remain neutral or not remove content.

          • Matt M says:

            Not legally, no.

            But if that was the legislative intent…

          • rlms says:

            “We gave them this protection so that they could stay neutral – since they are unwilling to stay neutral, we should probably repeal it. If they want to police content, they should take responsibility for doing so.”

            As I understand it, the situation is almost precisely the opposite. CDA 230 was a reaction to Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Services Co., which held that because a forum (among other things) had Content Guidelines, it was a publisher and hence liable for its customers’ posts. The law makes clear its intention of allowing “the development and utilization of blocking and filtering technologies” (it mainly focuses on blocking stuff that parents consider inappropriate for children, but I don’t think that’s particularly relevant).

          • Christophe Biocca says:

            Some parts of the DMCA safe harbour provisions only apply to narrow technical aspects (transport and caching) so any kind of filtering might invalidate that.

            § 512(c) is the most common defense against claims, and it does have a notion that prior knowledge of infringement, and not acting on that knowledge, makes you liable again (see “Red flags”).

            That’d likely apply in a world where Youtube subjects all videos to pre-review to filter out specific viewpoints while failing to use that same system to filter out copyright infringement. But I don’t think we’ll ever see tech companies move to anything except reactive enforcement (of whatever they decide to enforce), so it’s not going to be relevant.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            A bunch of people beat me to the punch because I can read, but not -post-, at work, but….

            @Aapje
            In the US and for the sort of content we are discussing no, services and websites are definitely not liable outside of very specific and narrow circumstances. 47 U.S.C. § 230 was created specifically to immunize websites and social media services from liability for comments and user-uploaded content. The key part is (c ) (1):

            “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

            This is generally called Section 230 immunity. The exceptions are obscenity (which basically means child porn) , copyrighted material (which is sidestepped as long as services are responsive to DMCA notices), and most recently communications involving sex trafficking. So far, that’s pretty much it. This has been tested multiple times, and the closest it’s come to being narrowed Is Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley v Roommates.com LLC, and even then all that happened was the court finding that section 230 immunity no longer applies if a platform or website “encourages illegal content”.

            This is the provision Matt M is thinking of. And while there are more people on the right than on the left who aren’t entirely happy with it, there are plenty of people on the left who are increasingly hostile to its provisions as well. From the right, people point to the often-partisan moves by these social media companies when it comes to policing their content. They feel that stripping them of the protection would allow civil suits to force the providers to be more even-handed. From the left, people point to cases of sexual harassment and cases where Facebook or other social media sites facilitated sexual predators, or cases where the provider refused to delete someone’s account (e.g. Twitter’s decision to break ranks with FB, Google, et al and NOT remove Alex Jones as of yesterday). They argue that if the service providers were directly liable it would make it easier for victims to get relief in civil suits and would encourage the providers to police their content more aggressively,. People on both the right AND the left have complained about social media companies failing to curtail harassment, threats (whether “True Threats” or just internet trash talk), and so on when members of their coalitions have been on the wrong end of online mob dynamics.

            I alluded to the problem I (and others) have with your proposed common carrier solution in my original post, Aapje. I think it could solve the immediate problem in the short term. However, I am currently convinced that the long-run result of giving social media platforms and/or ISPs common carrier status would be to regulate and control these platforms until eventually the only content allowed to be published would be the sort of content that would be allowed during prime time broadcast television and radio here in the US. I think it would also end up entrenching the existing big companies as they develop relationships with legislators, and would eventually make it about as hard to start a new social media platform or online content service as it is to start a new broadcast television station in the US. That strikes me as a cure at least as bad as the disease.

            @Christophe Biocca

            The DMCA safe harbor provisions only apply to copyrighted material, and aren’t really relevant here.

            @RLMS

            I think you missed the underlying rationale. To lay it bare from a related court decision:

            “The specter of tort liability in an area of such prolific speech would have an obviously chilling effect. It would be impossible for service providers to screen each of their millions of postings for possible problems. Faced with potential liability for each message republished by their services, interactive computer service providers might choose to severely restrict the number and type of messages posted. Congress considered the weight of the speech interests implicated and chose to immunize service providers to avoid any such restrictive effect.

          • rlms says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            “Remove service providers’ liability so that they aren’t scared of providing a feature-rich service to many users” was one rationale behind the law, but so was the more straightforward “Remove service providers’ liability for messages they publish so that they can publish them (i.e. perform editing and filtering) without risk”, which is one of several reasons that make it implausible that the first rational obliges services to provide service to anyone who asks for it, rather than just allowing them to do so.

            Also, it’s worth pointing out that Alex Jones has probably benefitted from the law rather than been harmed by it, given that he is currently being sued for defamation; the law prevents the plaintiff there from suing YouTube; and YouTube would have more of a reason to ban him if that were not the case.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Since you don’t seem interested in engaging with the judicial record on the subject of encouraging free speech, I offer the Congressional record of the Cox-Wyman amendment (which created section 230). Ctrl-F to “Cox-Wyman” and start reading where Wyman first begins to speak about it.

            They wanted:

            1) To ensure that parental controls were available to parents.
            2) To preclude a heavy handed government censorship regime.

            From Mr. Cox himself, the guy who co-wrote the amendment:

            “We want to encourage people like Prodigy, like CompuServe, like America Online, like the new Microsoft network, to do everything possible for us, the customer, to help us control, at the portals
            of our computer,
            at the front door of our house, what comes in and what our children see.”

            There is one reference, from Mr. Goodlatte, to “good faith efforts” on the part of services like Prodigy/AOL/etc to remove inappropriate material to keep obscene materials away from children. Every other reference is about allowing the private sector to develop new and better tools to empower parents and end-users, and contrasting that with the the prospect of the Exon Amendment which explicitly aimed at making any platform that hosted content criminally liable for “indecent” and lewd content.

            Given that on your end of the interpretation we have one comment by a non-author of the amendment, and on my end we have multiple repeated comments by not just other non-authors but by both authors themselves, backed by subsequent judicial interpretation, I don’t think your reading is correct.

          • 10240 says:

            From the right, people point to the often-partisan moves by these social media companies when it comes to policing their content. They feel that stripping them of the protection would allow civil suits to force the providers to be more even-handed.

            I don’t follow. What law would make it possible to sue interactive websites to be more even-handed? I’m not aware of a law that makes websites in general (whether distributing user-provided content or their own) be impartial. And the problem with the (alleged) anti-right-wing bias of interactive websites would be censorship of certain content, not the user-provided content itself, so if there was such a law, I presume that Section 230(c) wouldn’t eliminate liability for it.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @10240

            I don’t entirely follow the argument either. I am reporting the arguments I have seen from the right, not what I personally believe, and it’s possible I haven’t fully understood them.

            People are correct that 230 does not require neutrality on the part of a service provider. Where they are in error is in trying to make the claim that it’s entire point is to allow for service providers to control what end-users see.

          • rlms says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            I’m not sure where we disagree. I think your characterisation of the law as “created specifically to immunize websites and social media services from liability for comments and user-uploaded content” is correct. I also agree that it was “about allowing the private sector to develop new and better tools to empower parents and end-users, and contrasting that with the the prospect of the Exon Amendment which explicitly aimed at making any platform that hosted content criminally liable for “indecent” and lewd content”. I don’t see how that contrasts with Goodlatte’s point: he’s elaborating on Cox’s statements rather than contradicting them.

            It’s true that Cox and Wydens’ speech focused on filtering done by end-users rather than services, but I don’t think that means much — for one thing, I can’t see how the bill is relevant to client-side filtering whereas it is obviously relevant to filtering by services. It seems to me that the right way to view the bill is as a reaction against Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Services Co. and the proposed Exon amendment. The latter part gives the intent to avoid government censorship and explains why the speech in Congress focused so much on stopping kids seeing smut (to avoid But Think Of The Children counterarguments); the former gives the intent of promoting innovation etc. in internet services by limiting their liability.

            My point is that nowhere is there any suggestion that services that use their newfound powers to edit/censor content without risk need do so in a neutral or impartial way. Even a weaker version of that claim fails: if that issue had been considered it seems to me that the idea of impartiality would have been rejected on the grounds of imposing a regulatory burden on service providers.

          • Matt M says:

            My guess is that any potential lawsuits from the right would not be of the “sue them for deleting our posts” variety, but more along the “sue them for NOT deleting Sarah Jeong’s posts” variety.

            Once these companies become legally responsible for the content on their sites, they won’t be able to simply ignore and turn a blind eye to left-wing hatred or incitement to violence anymore.

            AFAIK there is very little disagreement coming from the right regarding the appropriateness of various sites to have policies that restrict racism, obscenity, pornography, threats, harassment, etc. The complaint comes in the form of an assertion that these things are *only* punished when coming from a right-wing source, and are completely ignored, if not promoted, when coming from left-wing sources.

          • rlms says:

            But what would be the grounds for such a lawsuit? Sarah Jeong, to my knowledge, has done nothing that makes her a plausible target for e.g. a defamation suit. Therefore the repeal of CDA would not allow anyone to sue Twitter for hosting her content. In comparison, Alex Jones *is* being sued for defamation and so a repeal *would* allow the plaintiff there to sue the relevant platform. By analogy to non-social media: if the NYT publishes my libellous article you may sue them, but you can’t do so just because they post left-wing drivel but not right-wing. That situation might offend/trigger you (especially if you live in a world where the NYT has 70% market share), but freeze peach and suchlike mean you don’t have any legal objection to it.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m not a lawyer and I make no claims about the success of any such lawsuits.

            It’s just my read of right-wing circles that their position is “We’d have all sorts of valid lawsuits against these websites who host crazy left-wing extremists who threaten violence against us, if only Twitter wasn’t immune to such things because of existing law.”

            It also seems likely to me that in the event that legal immunity goes away, Twitter isn’t going to take their chances and say “Oh yeah guys? Try us in court!” But instead, they themselves will crack down harder on the Antifa accounts rather than even risk the chances of a lawsuit.

          • rlms says:

            I’m sure large parts of left-wing speech think that there are possible lawsuits against Trump for hate speech, doesn’t mean there are. The correct conclusion is that people on Twitter often say stupid things and you shouldn’t pay much attention to them.

          • dvr says:

            @Matt M I think you’re misinterpreting the goal of the right-wing agitation here.

            The specific legislative change I’ve seen proposed is to amend Section 230 so that websites that do not act as content-neutral common carriers are liable for all material that they host.

            The idea behind this is not that they could sue specific left-wing people, but rather that large platforms like Twitter or Youtube has so much libelous, copyrighted, or otherwise illegal material posted to them that they could not exist without Section 230 immunity.

            Therefore, in the new legal order they would be forced to act as common carriers to avoid legal liability for the content they host, and right-wingers would be able to speak freely without fear of censorship by the left-wing employees of those platforms.

          • 10240 says:

            It’s just my read of right-wing circles that their position is “We’d have all sorts of valid lawsuits against these websites who host crazy left-wing extremists who threaten violence against us, if only Twitter wasn’t immune to such things because of existing law.”

            If they think they have a case against those people (most likely wrongly), why don’t they sue the posters directly? That doesn’t work if the poster is pseudonymous, but in many of the high-profile controversies they were well-known people.

    • beleester says:

      I definitely can’t agree that deleting the videos which you don’t have backed up is a harm to you. Unlike physical property, digital information can be freely copied – you gave YouTube a copy, you still have your own copy, you can each delete your own copy without harming the other. YouTube never promised to be a backup service (and they’d be a pretty crappy one, since they compress the video).

      I’m also uncertain if “not having your source of income” is something we try to protect anywhere else. When you get fired, your employer doesn’t have to give you 30 days to find another job, even though you certainly mixed your labor with the company, and even though transitioning between jobs can take a lot of time and effort. If your landlord doesn’t renew your lease, he has to give you time to move out, but he doesn’t have to compensate you for anything else. If your restaurant is called “Joe’s on Tenth Street” and now you have to redo all your signs because you moved to Eighth Street, or if you lose money because Eighth Street gets less traffic, the landlord doesn’t owe you money for that.

      It would be interesting to think about a system that does compensate people for those sorts of Lockean losses – it doesn’t strike me as unworkable – but such a system would have much bigger worries than Alex Jones.

      I can maybe agree with a notice period – it takes time and effort to move between web hosts just like it does to move between homes, and it’s a nice thing to not wreck someone’s business if they’re not actually doing something illegal that needs to be gone right this minute – but I’m not sure what harms there would be to remedy beyond that.

      • Jiro says:

        When you get fired, your employer doesn’t have to give you 30 days to find another job, even though you certainly mixed your labor with the company, and even though transitioning between jobs can take a lot of time and effort.

        This is often not true in Europe.

      • onyomi says:

        I don’t think demands for a a guaranteed job or income are really analogous. First of all, people treat social media like a tool, not an employer, and the companies present themselves that way. It’s called YOUtube, after all: it’s about you making your content and sharing it with an audience you build. Or what about Apple’s many “i” products: they’re heavily implying “this is a tool for you to use for what matters to you, individually.” Everyone on Youtube talks about building up “my” audience, not working for Youtube to build Youtube’s audience, because Youtube’s a platform, not a channel. It’s not like saying “I have a right to work at this network,” it’s like all the cable companies deciding unilaterally they will no longer carry your network even though it has a big audience.

        This is a conservative (in the literal sense) backlash by politicians and establishment media who don’t like that they can’t be information gatekeepers anymore. A decentralized Web 3.0 can’t come fast enough (check out dTube and Steemit), since companies like Facebook and Google obviously can’t be trusted with the effective power they’ve achieved not to abuse it for political agendas. I just think it’s so ironic that they’re using the supposed divisiveness of e.g. Jones as a justification for censorship when they are the ones subtly (or not-so-subtly) turning once neutral platforms into spaces where only the right opinions are welcome, which in the long run can only succeed in driving large segments of the population further into their separate cultural bubbles.

    • dodrian says:

      Though I can’t seem to articulate why exactly, this comparison feels wrong.

      The things that holds the built up value is Jones’ brand and content. He is still legally protected by trademark and copyright law, and as others have pointed out, he gave the platforms digital copies of his content – there’s no expectation for them to need to preserve a copy.

      At the moment Facebook et al are being wishy-washy in trying to claim to be a platform and not responsible for any of the content they serve, and also defending their rights to remove content or suspend users they don’t agree with. It would be more interesting to make the argument that they’re monopolists, and should have a common carrier status with the duty to provide the platform for all.

      • Matt M says:

        there’s no expectation for them to need to preserve a copy.

        What? Of course there is. Because they do it for literally everyone else. And they publicly proclaim they do not engage in politically motivated censorship.

        Why shouldn’t he expect them to provide the same service to him as they do to left-leaning pundits?

        • DeWitt says:

          ‘It’ lies. ‘It’ wants to make money. It doesn’t not want to make money. Alex Jones is a liability for a website that wants to make money, because hosting him means you are in danger of getting some hysteric people on twitter call you the new devil.

          You can tell me a better world would see an Alex Jones remain hosted(and hopefully ignored); I’d agree with you. But requiring of companies that they provide service when other alternatives are very clearly available is a worse alternative than telling Alex Jones to spend a day or two setting up a website of his own.

          • Matt M says:

            Okay, I concede your second paragraph.

            But as to the first, isn’t it literally illegal for corporations to blatantly lie to the public? And don’t most people consider that to be a proper and just restriction of corporate activity?

            If we found out that a company that complied with all “equal opportunity” postings and notifications was secretly refusing to hire black people, the public would be outraged. Literally nobody would be standing up to argue “It’s their right to hire whoever they want – and besides, who cares if they lied about being equal opportunity, that’s just what companies do!”

          • DeWitt says:

            But as to the first, isn’t it literally illegal for corporations to blatantly lie to the public? And don’t most people consider that to be a proper and just restriction of corporate activity?

            Yes. And when horse meat is sold as beef, or it turns out your savings plan leaves you with all of 2k in savings after three decades, a lot of people get upset, because clearly they didn’t get what they asked for.

            In this case? Alex Jones is a complete nutcase. Many of the people that get tossed aside are similar, or far enough from the Overton window that people just don’t care. You could, maybe, get some to admit it doesn’t count as being equal in judgment, but people generally care about the vague concept of safety a whole lot more than they do freedom.

            So uh, yeah. I don’t think we disagree. Google does what it does because of the almighty dollar, the public doesn’t really care because these are the least sympathetic victims around, principled proponents of corporate honesty go ignored because very few people who care enough about that are around.

          • Matt M says:

            In this case? Alex Jones is a complete nutcase.

            And yet, he has millions of devoted followers who would disagree with this declarative statement of subjective opinion.

            Lots of people in power think Trump is a complete nutcase too. Should he be banned as well? Sean Hannity? Tucker Carlson? Ron Paul?

            Is there any particular standard here other than “Some powerful people on the left don’t like them?” Should there be?

          • DeWitt says:

            Is there any particular standard here other than “Some powerful people on the left don’t like them?”

            Not really.

            Should there be?

            Yes.

            What are you going to do about it? Google wants its money, Facebook wants its money, inertia keeps both afloat, people not wanting to look for other video providers or social media networks outweighs whatever outrage they might have.

            As-is, there is no major media outlet with no political affiliation. I’m not sure such a thing could exist, because whatever side gets dumb and angry first is going to drive them towards the other in a jiffy. If you have a solution for this problem I’ll be very impressed, but this just seems to be the way things are for now.

          • Matt M says:

            If you have a solution for this problem I’ll be very impressed

            My solution is simple. Go back to what they basically were before. I’m old enough to remember when Twitter and FB (not sure about Youtube) provided content in a very simple manner. A big chronological dump of all posts made by friends and pages you chose to follow. That was it. No fancy algorithms to determine, among those posts, which you supposedly want to see and which you supposedly don’t. You were treated like an adult, capable of making your own decisions in that regard.

            Now clearly, they made this change because they thought it would increase interaction and thus increase ad revenue. Perhaps, in and of itself, it did. But to the extent that it has dealt long-term damage to the brand… I think these companies are doomed to crash and burn. I personally shorted a decent bit of FB stock as soon as I saw the Zuckerberg hearings.

            The one clear advantage they have is network effects. They are popular because… they are popular. The more people they chase away, both literally themselves through banning, and secondarily through people who choose to leave because their favorite pages were deleted or they themselves no longer feel welcome, the more of their competitive edge they lose.

            Increases in per-user engagement will mean nothing when their userbase starts to fall darmatically, as I predict, it will.

          • Matt M says:

            What are you going to do about it?

            And as far as this goes, I’m going to… continue to denounce them and their business practices on any remaining public forum that will allow me to do so.

            And hopefully make some money on their inevitable decline.

          • DeWitt says:

            My solution is simple. Go back to what they basically were before. I’m old enough to remember when Twitter and FB (not sure about Youtube) provided content in a very simple manner. A big chronological dump of all posts made by friends and pages you chose to follow. That was it. No fancy algorithms to determine, among those posts, which you supposedly want to see and which you supposedly don’t. You were treated like an adult, capable of making your own decisions in that regard.

            Okay. Then it turns out some skinheads are using your platform to hang out, or even just your local entirely harmless gun enthusiasts or people who don’t want any Syrians in their neighborhood. People get angry, a lot of people get angry, I can’t believe Facebook would support such people oh my gosh, the works.

            I don’t think a politically colorless social network is really possible. The closest I can think of is 4chan, where everyone is allowed to post anything. Anything else is going to run into the issue Scott has mentioned here before that your movement will be approximately entirely ‘witches’ and a couple principled people who want to be left alone. The potential for outrage or the very simple effect of people from X affiliation not wanting to see Y all day looks to be much stronger than any wish for moderators who are even-handed.

            Agreed that Facebook probably isn’t going to last particularly much longer, though. I’ll be glad to see it gone.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “Agreed that Facebook probably isn’t going to last particularly much longer, though.”

            Sounds like you found free money lying on the street, shorting Facebook. Congratulations!

          • Matt M says:

            Okay. Then it turns out some skinheads are using your platform to hang out, or even just your local entirely harmless gun enthusiasts or people who don’t want any Syrians in their neighborhood. People get angry, a lot of people get angry, I can’t believe Facebook would support such people oh my gosh, the works.

            It won’t be totally free from controversy, to be sure. That said, for any business whose primary value proposition resides in network effects, and therefore has to appeal to a mass-market audience including ideological opposites, I think a platform of principled neutrality would actually be less controversial, on net, than their current platform of active intervention which appears to be partisan in nature, but which many also think “doesn’t go far enough.”

            Right now, nobody is satisfied with what they’re doing. The right thinks it’s a coordinated campaign against them to harm them politically, and the left doesn’t understand why further measures haven’t been taken.

            Anything else is going to run into the issue Scott has mentioned here before that your movement will be approximately entirely ‘witches’ and a couple principled people who want to be left alone.

            I mean, I don’t remember 2007, when Facebook was basically operating in this manner, being a hive of wretched skinheads. Possibly because I didn’t choose to follow any skinheads.

          • Jiro says:

            Sounds like you found free money lying on the street, shorting Facebook. Congratulations!

            This is stupid. It may be that shorting Facebook produces an avergae positive return, but has too much risk anyway.

          • rlms says:

            Appropriate hedges are implicit.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            My solution is simple. Go back to what they basically were before.

            Alas, what Facebook and Twitter were before is completely unworkable today. When they started out, everybody had relatively few friends posting just a little bit. In that environment a simple feed showing every update could work. If you have ten friends who have ten friends and log on ten minutes a day, posting only from a desktop computer, reading the whole feed is manageable. But once the average user has a dozen groups optimized to maximize engagement and hundreds or thousands of “friends” checking in constantly, there’s just too much material – what was a trickle of information has become a mighty river. Reading every update from your “friends” TODAY would be a truly terrible user experience. The services have to somehow whittle it down to show you an appropriate subset, which means making decisions as to what you get to see.

          • Matt M says:

            Or, hear me out on this…

            People could just choose NOT to add 5,000 friends.

            Or to set up lists or whatever.

            There has got to be a way that this can be accomplished without some crazy secret algorithm.

          • Nornagest says:

            Anything that starts with “people could just choose” is already doomed to fail. But on the other hand the content-selection algorithms Facebook’s got set up are so bad that I don’t think a strict linear timeline would be any worse.

            What I really want is an algorithm that lets me filter out clickbait news stories and shitty political memes, but no matter how many times I ask Facebook to show me less of them, it never does.

          • Matt M says:

            But people did just choose. A “you choose for yourself” model is how these companies became big and popular in the first place.

            Now, I don’t think Glen’s overall point is far off. It’s definitely true that people naturally, over time, added more and more friends and liked more and more pages making their own feed more and more unwieldy. And it’s natural that Facebook’s first instinct was to use fancy computer wizardry to try and “help” with that.

            But I think it’s becoming increasingly clear that their “help” has failed. Their “help” is incredibly unpopular and virtually everyone seems to realize that it wasn’t really intended to help us as much as it was intended to help paid advertisers.

          • Nornagest says:

            Okay, yeah, I think I agree with all of that.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Facebook’s “help” is entirely centered around keeping you actively on Facebook for as many minutes as possible. That and extracting as much saleable information about you as possible.

          • Matt M says:

            Indeed.

            But as I said elsewhere, their “engagement per user” stat won’t matter much when their userbase inevitably collapses due to their product offering being hated by just about everyone.

            They take their dominant market position for granted at their own peril.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            What I would like from Facebook is the ability to search and to backtrack.

            It’s crazy-making to see something that looks interesting and then have it snatched away. I suppose Facebook might be doing this strategically as intermittent reinforcement.

          • A1987dM says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz:

            You can save posts for later reading, using the ellipsis on the top right of each post. And you can search for stuff using the box at the top of the page — you can’t always find what you’re looking for but then again most of the times I try to find a comment I read on a Slate Star Codex open thread more than a few weeks earlier I fail too.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Thank you.

        • dodrian says:

          I’m arguing against the specific idea of YouTube deleting the digital copies of a video as comparable to destroying someone’s property.

          But yes, I’d agree that their doing so could be considered politically motivated censorship.

    • Another Throw says:

      My impression is that the purpose of adverse possession (squatters rights), as well as eminent domain, etc., is to ensure that the fixed and limited resource of land is used productively. In the case of adverse possession, if the landowner is so absentee that he fails to take action against open and notorious possession of his property, well, it isn’t very valuable to him. So much so that the new possessor, having taken possession and conducted such improvements as are appropriate for his use, has a claim to the land.

      This does not translate to a infinite virtual world.

      As an aside, if you value certainty of tenancy so little that your rental agreement doesn’t take it into account by, for example, providing just compensation for eviction under good behavior, then it is not entirely clear that you can later claim to be injured by it.

      • Eric Rall says:

        Adverse possession also serves a purpose of handling uncontested honest mistakes about ownership that get discovered only after the mistake has been relied upon for an extended period of time.

        For example, there was an episode of the sitcom “That ’70s Show” where Bob discovered that his lot was about 10 feet wider than he thought it was and the actual property line ran through his neighbor Red’s garage. In the show, Bob asserted ownership of “his” wall of Red’s garage, moved Red’s stuff off that wall, and started storing some his own stuff there. But most viewers’ intuitions would probably be to sympathize with Red’s view that Bob was behaving unreasonably. Especially since it seems that both Bob and Red believed Red’s garage to lie entirely within Red’s lot (and Red in particular relied on that belief, while Bob did not rely on a belief that he owned one wall of Red’s garage) when they bought their respective properties.

        Adverse possession deals with situations like this by providing a mechanism for adjusting legal title to match the common understanding that everyone had been relying on: Red had been “openly and notoriously” using “Bob’s” wall to store his (Red’s) tools as if it were his own property for many years, and Bob had known Red was using the property thus (although not that he (Bob) had legal title to it) and raised no objection, so Red has a claim to the full garage and the land underneath it under adverse possession.

        A few jurisdictions target Adverse Possession narrowly to this type of situation and exclude your “squatters vs. inattentive absentee landlord” scenario by imposing a requirement that the “squatter” be using the property in good faith based on a sincere belief that the “squatter” had title to the land.

        You could extend the idea a bit by also considering “submarine” claims, where the legal title-holder knows he own a piece of land and that somebody else mistakenly themselves to have a claim to it and is taking action relying on that belief, and waits until the trespasser has committed themselves firmly to the mistake before raising objections. For example, if Bob had known where the real property line was and knew that Red was planning on building a garage extension across the property line based on Red’s mistaken belief of where the property line was, it would be poor form for Bob to wait until Red had already built the garage before informing Red of the mistake and demanding compensation. Although I don’t think real Adverse Possession laws are designed with this kind of scenario in mind: most submarine claims scenarios seem like they’d play themselves out long before the Adverse Possession statute of limitations (in the US, anywhere from 5 to 30 years, depending on the state) runs out. I think the attitude here is that it’s mostly on Red to do his due diligence before building, although Bob’s choice to intentionally let the damage compound might reduce Red’s liability if Bob’s damage claim goes to court.

        Back to the point you’re responding to, though, I’m having trouble thinking of a clear analogy in the context of digital forums for my original late-discovered mistake scenario. There are some analogies to the submarine claims scenario, but that’s messy even in the real property domain.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Has YouTube had a history of removing content in the past for apparently what seem externally arbitrary reasons? Does YouTube regularly make decisions to do things like de-monetize videos without apparently clear rhyme or reason?

      The whole idea that YouTube has been, up until now, some bastion of perfectly free expression, that they haven’t set up the expectation that will remove people as they see fit, is false.

      Kevin Drum has what appears to me to be the correct answer, which is that net neutrality is the proper forum for addressing these concerns.

      • dick says:

        Yes, it’s very common for youtubers to complain about videos getting demonetized or delinked without being able to figure out why, and it’s very common for videos that clearly violate the TOS to stay up and rack up millions of views but suddenly get nuked once the mainstream media notices them. Logan Paul was a famous example.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Demonetized is different from being taken down.

        • dick says:

          Yes. Yes they are, they are two different things which are done in different scenarios and no one said otherwise and I have no idea why you’re pointing it out.

    • dick says:

      I’m sympathetic to the idea that some online properties are so important that the company that hosts it should not have an absolute ability to ban users without recourse, but I don’t think youtube would qualify. I could see the argument for Facebook and Twitter and Amazon though. Maybe Paypal as well. Even then, I would think it would only apply to people, not accounts (meaning Alex Jones at best ought to be free to start a new Youtube account with which to upload less-bad videos).

      That said, the idea (from the linked article) that this bears any relation to a prescriptive easement seems batshit crazy to me. SaaS accounts are not analogous to land, and you don’t own Twitter followers or Youtube subscribers any more than a WoW player owns gold coins. That someone might suggest you do just speaks to how effective social media companies are at getting their users to subsume the brand in to their identity.

      • Matt M says:

        Maybe Paypal as well.

        Paypal has de-platformed a ton of notable right-wing personalities, although granted, many of them are, let’s say, further to the right than Alex Jones is, and as such, aren’t going to get a sympathetic ear in the mainstream media anywhere.

        • dick says:

          Are you, as our resident hardcore libertarian, arguing that they ought not be allowed to do that? I’m a lefty who’s already sympathetic to the idea, and I am very leery of regulating this even a little bit.

          • Matt M says:

            I do not favor the state taking any particular action to prevent them from doing that, no.

            But I am very much in favor of private citizens denouncing them for doing so.

          • dick says:

            Fair enough. If I thought that him being right-wing was the reason he was kicked off, I would agree. Actually, I’m really surprised to see anyone on the right claim him as one of their own. In the past I’ve seen that pushed back against, in a “Hey, don’t group him in with us” kind of sense.

    • Brad says:

      I intend no offense by this, but are you sure you are still a libertarian? It doesn’t need to be a lifelong commitment.

      • onyomi says:

        I still self-identify as a libertarian and anarchocapitalism is still my ideal; I’ve also had the view on property rights I describe here for at least as long as I’ve been posting on SSC.

        That said, it’s not as if the specifics haven’t evolved over the 20+ years since I discovered libertarianism. For the first several years I was a “minarchist” (small, limited, constitutional government) libertarian. A desire for logical consistency and a belief that “exit” was much more effective long-term strategy than voting caused me to become an ancap.

        In the past few years I’d say I’ve become a slightly more culturally conservative, “right wing” ancap–a little less Jeffrey Tucker and a little more Hans Herman Hoppe, though I am still quite attracted to the Jeffrey Tucker style of libertarianism.

        Since reading Michael Huemer on Ethical Intuitionism and The Problem of Political Authority my view on the ethical justifications for libertarianism shifted in a more “commonsensical” direction, where, though I still saw no ethically-relevant difference between taxation and theft, I stopped being one of those “it’s technically morally wrong to steal a penny from a rich man to save the world from destruction” libertarians. David Friedman’s writing on property rights as Schelling points that could develop as conflict avoidance strategies/conventions influenced me along the way, as well.

    • rahien.din says:

      If I use a property for a long time, I should be entitled to a reasonable assumption of either continued ability to use that property, or, at least, significant warning of being kicked out and possibly some compensation.

      What entitles you to the use of the property (or, to some recourse if your use of the property is so halted) is the lease.

      If the lease includes the clause “The landlord may repossess the property at any time for any reason,” then that’s the risk you accepted upon signing the lease. If the landlord repossesses the property in the middle of the night, they are doing the thing for which you explicitly and bindingly granted your permission.. You told them they could do that… and then… they did the thing you told them they could do. It is truly that simple.

      As regards John Locke, it is common for apartment leases to include some clause to the effect of “All improvements to the apartment belong to the property owner.” If you paint the place, or put in a fancy light fixture, or replace the sink, it’s part of the property. You can not take them with you to your next apartment, nor are you owed any money once you leave. I can only imagine that commercial real estate leases contain similar clauses. I would expect the same reasoning to apply to digital real estate.

      If you want a lease that doesn’t include that kind of clause, you will have to pay more rent or buy your own building. If you want leases of that kind to not exist, or if you want to force the landlord to let you back into the property despite the agreement you made with them, you will need to employ some means external to and more powerful than leases (and the landlord).

  6. johan_larson says:

    An appealing mystery: the flying boat Hawaii Clipper left Guam on July 28, 1938 bound for Manila. It never arrived, and no wreckage was ever found.

    • Fitzroy says:

      I’m not really seeing the mystery – it almost certainly crashed at sea, probably due to adverse weather, mechanical failure, pilot error or a combination of the above.

      It took over a year, with modern search techniques and equipment, to locate the first piece of wreckage from MH-370, and we’ve still only found 20 pieces altogether; I’m not at all surprised that, in 1938, no wreckage was recovered from something half the length and a tenth the tonnage of a Boeing 777.

      Also worth noting that flying boats are generally designed to operate from minimal sea-states and a Martin M-130 would be unlikely to cope well with the open Pacific, even if it did manage to ditch.

      • johan_larson says:

        …it almost certainly crashed at sea.

        Yes, that’s the likely explanation. But it’s weird and compelling that a huge aircraft can just without a trace.

        • bean says:

          Keep in mind that this was before modern search technology. No radar, limited ability to use airplanes to look for debris, and no real-time flight tracking. And there’s never been any reason to use modern methodology because it wasn’t Amelia Earhart.

          • Fitzroy says:

            To be fair, we didn’t need modern technology to find Amelia Earhart’s crash site – a British party found that on Nikumaroro in 1940. We just needed modern forensic anthropology to satisfy ourselves that the bones and artifacts were, in fact, Earhart’s.

          • bean says:

            Last I checked, there still wasn’t a consensus that the remains in question actually were hers. In fact, based on the wiki article, it looks very much like someone reading various junk and native habitation into something they want to find. If the Electra is there, they shouldn’t have had this much trouble producing pieces that are unambiguously from it, and not from one of the seven zillion airplanes lost in the South Pacific during WWII.

          • Fitzroy says:

            On further reflection, you are right, there is no consensus. I suspect I am unfairly privileging the Jantz paper out of novelty.

        • Aapje says:

          @johan_larson

          Yes, that’s the likely explanation. But it’s weird and compelling that a huge aircraft can just without a trace.

          Not really, the ocean is big, many parts are very lightly traveled and crashed planes are very hard to spot because parts of it sink to the bottom and parts float away in a very spread out way.

          Also, was it intentional that you left out disappear from that sentence?

          • johan_larson says:

            Also, was it intentional that you left out disappear from that sentence?

            Yes, it was.

      • Randy M says:

        How long until it is the case (if it isn’t already) that every aircraft that takes flight is tracked by satellite from take off to landing in real time? Or narrow it to those leaving from or en route to a western nation.

        • The Nybbler says:

          They probably already are, but the Three Letter Agencies (of Russia, the US, and China at the least) aren’t forthcoming with details.

          It appears the open answer for airliners (not necessarily all aircraft) is “very soon”. Assuming the airliners don’t shut off their ADS-B transponders, which apparently MH-370 did.

        • bean says:

          It heavily depends. Most large commercial aircraft are in constant contact with communications satellites while over the ocean. This is how they get wi-fi, which is pretty much mandatory now. Over land, they may use terrestrial towers instead of satellites, although I think satellite all the time is winning. If you’re flying a Cessna, not so much. But this requires a cooperative aircraft, which MH370 wasn’t. The pilot shut down the system.

        • Randy M says:

          That makes sense, though I’ll admit it implies a broader meaning to satellite than I was envisioning. Is there a move to track them visually? I expect the answer is no until we get more of the MH370 type of situation; in general we can rely on pilots wanting to stay alive and thus choosing to remain in contact.

          • bean says:

            There is not, and I doubt there will be. While there’s some possibility of using IR to track high-altitude jets (the US did it during the Cold War, but I don’t know the parameters they were looking at), visual is not a good choice for large-area search like this. It’s much easier to fit a transponder the pilot can’t turn off.

        • John Schilling says:

          In at least ten and not more than fifty years (p>0.90) someone will put up an orbital MTI radar satellite constellation that can track every non-stealthy manned aircraft on the globe. Until then, tracking non-cooperative targets in remote areas is hard, and you’re not getting full coverage.

          Tracking cooperative targets, e.g. via ADS-B, is much easier. The FAA’s goal is for almost all US civil aircraft to be so equipped by 2020, and for the exceptions to be disallowed from operating within thirty miles of the thirty largest commercial airports (plus some other restrictions). The rest of the world will take a bit longer. That still leaves:

          Vintage aircraft with no electrical systems, which can still operate in remote areas and make special arrangements for e.g. air shows in populated areas,

          Bush pilots, rural weekend pilots, and the like, who can live with the no-ADS flight restrictions and don’t want to pay ~$5000 for more fancy electronics,

          People flying transoceanic flights where there is no ground station in LOS, who don’t want to be paying ~$20,000 for a minimal satellite datalink, and are satisfied with checking in every half-hour or so via old-fashioned HF radio, and

          People who deliberately turn off the fancy electronics, or the entire electrical system.

          And since someone is going to ask, that last option will remain on the table even for first-world commercial airline flights, because MH-370 is a once-in-a-lifetime rarity while commercial airline flights diverting due to on-board electrical fires happens roughly once a day. Electrical fire was one of the leading, and credible, theories in the early MH-370 investigation. Turning off electronics until the smoke stops getting worse and then landing at the nearest airport almost always works, but if you start adding electronics that can’t be turned off…

          TL,DR: You can’t stop suicidal airline pilots(*) from killing all their passengers. Trying to make it so they can’t even disappear before killing everyone, saves no lives and requires taking away one of the tools non-suicidal pilots have used to save many lives. Or you can spend a hundred billion dollars on fancy satellites.

          * Including in this context the remote sysops for hypothetical “unpiloted” airliners

          • Randy M says:

            commercial airline flights diverting due to on-board electrical fires happens roughly once a day.

            Whoa, really? I know there are a lot of instruments in a lot of planes, but but I was under the impression that electronics had a bit more reliability, at least on the high end. Is this due to cost cutting in poorer countries, environmental flukes (ie, lightning strikes) or technology not being as advanced as I though?

            Or you can spend a hundred billion dollars on fancy satellites.

            Part of the question in an assumption that satellite coverage is trending upwards and those that are in orbit are basically always on. Eventually it seems likely that most of the globe will be monitored by someone. But maybe that’s just google earth making it seem like a smaller world than it is.

          • John Schilling says:

            I know there are a lot of instruments in a lot of planes, but but I was under the impression that electronics had a bit more reliability, at least on the high end. Is this due to cost cutting in poorer countries, environmental flukes (ie, lightning strikes) or technology not being as advanced as I though?

            It’s usually not the electronics themselves, but the wiring connecting everything together. It’s hard to avoid the problem that, as a contact corrodes and/or works its way loose (note the vibration environment), an increasing fraction of the total power dissipation occurs at that point resistance. And because the resistivity of most materials increases with temperature, it’s an exponential progression that ends when something melts or catches fire.

            We’re pretty good at making insulation, etc, out of materials that won’t burn without an ongoing external heat input, so turning off the power usually means turning off the fire and keeping the whole thing from being a headline-grabbing catastrophe. And we dodged a bullet on lithium batteries, which burn just fine even when you turn off the switch and require special precautions. But I checked what numbers I could find at the time of MH-370, and it was still about once per day for commercial airlines suffering the boring sort of electrical fire.

    • bean says:

      I read a book on the early days of Pan Am, and it was fairly incredible what they did with incredibly primitive aircraft. It’s not really surprising that they lost a few. As Fitzroy points out, the flying boats were designed to operate from calm waters, and even a ditching probably wouldn’t have been survivable. Six months earlier, Samoan Clipper went down when gas fumes caused it to explode in mid-air, taking with it Ed Musick, who had flown the first trans-Pacific route for Pan Am.

      • johan_larson says:

        Yes, it’s a wonder any pilots from the early days of aviation survived. All three Martin M-130 flying boats were lost: one vanished over the Pacific, one crashed into a mountain, and one broke up on landing.

  7. Andrew Hunter says:

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to detonate a thermonuclear device on a uninhabited island in the Pacific of my choosing.

    You are allowed whatever political or financial resources you like, but are graded on how little you use–very few points if you begin the game in the nuclear forces of a current power, many if you start as a random nobody with a bit of seed capital.

    • Michael Handy says:

      Question. Does it have to be

      a)Thermonuclear (ie. A Tellar Ulam device or other multi stage equivalent. Throwing together a Tall Boy won’t cut it, nor will alternate fusion bomb mechanisms)

      b)Are we graded on bomb Yield?

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        Some partial credit for fission, but part of the difficulty here is working out the details of Teller Ulam (or stealing a working one, of course.) If you have an alternate design for a working pure fusion bomb and this comment thread is really what you want to burn that on, sure, go nuts; enjoy being black bagged by some security service.

        Yield is irrelevant, but you’re being judged by God [1], not me: zero points for staging a fake or fizzle and talking it up

        [1] in more ways than one, I suppose.

      • beleester says:

        Tallboy was a very big conventional bomb, not a nuclear one. You’re thinking of Little Boy.

        • Michael Handy says:

          You are quite right, and I blame the thread talking about hitting times square with one.

    • kieranpjobrien says:

      *Assuming the Russians use keys for their ballistic missile submarines*

      Start out with US$10m.

      Bribe a Russian submarine captain & senior officers to nuke the island.

      • ana53294 says:

        I heard that, during the 90s*, a soviet submarine was sold for spare parts, and it left port on its own towards some place in Africa. Why not just buy an entire submarine?

        *It may be harder now, though.

      • bean says:

        That won’t work. Unless the Russians have dramatically overhauled their guidance systems in the last few decades (unlikely), the crew can’t arbitrarily target a chosen point. And stealing a warhead won’t work well, either. They’re designed to not go off unless they see the full flight profile. The US standard is that even one of the national labs shouldn’t be able to set one of ours off without the code. The Russians probably aren’t that good, but there are some safety mechanisms. Also, the bit where the crew is declared enemies of all mankind might give them pause.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        You will also need an intelligence service that can put you in touch with a sub crew without the KGB noticing, let you negotiate with them without the KGB noticing (or the KGB just sending you a fake sub crew), and who is powerful and ruthless enough that the crew is more afraid of double crossing you than Putin. I’m not sure that service exists.

        (Or a much more detailed plan for how you do the bribing.)

    • johan_larson says:

      The government of Canada could do this. Canada does not have nuclear weapons, but it does have a well-established nuclear program for power generation, domestic uranium mines for the fissionables, incidental tritium production in the CANDU reactors for the fusion reaction, and the general engineering know-how that comes with being a first-world state. It’s also so firmly a US ally that going nuclear is unlikely to trigger more than a formal protest, since it wouldn’t change the strategic balance at all. That means Canada could do this openly, saving all sorts of money.

    • bean says:

      Take some money, and launch a new search near Tybee Island. Not sure what that will cost, but it gets me a bomb to study and a bunch of nuclear material. I’ll need to source some tritium, but that’s probably just a matter of money.

      • johan_larson says:

        I think you’re about to get a visit from some nice men from the US Navy.

        • bean says:

          1. Why the USN? It wasn’t their bomb. USAF, maybe. NNSA is more likely.
          2. I’m nowhere near the first person to think of this, and this isn’t my first time mentioning “going hunting” for it. I actually suspect that any salvage effort in the area would draw some attention, which is the weak spot in my plan.

          • johan_larson says:

            I meant someone from the Navy would take an interest once you started your search. That sounds like the sort of thing that can’t be done completely quietly. You need people with the right gear and the right expertise. It can’t be that big a world, and word with spread. And once someone puts two and two together and gets nuclear weapons, I would expect them to make a call, either to the Navy, Coast Guard, or maybe the FBI.

          • Nornagest says:

            Say you’re mining for manganese nodules.

          • bean says:

            @Johan

            You’re probably not wrong. There might be ways around that problem (is the water deep enough to operate off of a submarine?), but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had thought of them and was watching for them.

            @Nornagest

            Say you’re mining for manganese nodules.

            They’ll never figure that out.

            Seriously, I haven’t laughed so hard at anything in quite a while. Weirdly appropriate that I just finished re-reading Blind Man’s Bluff.

          • Tarpitz says:

            This has prompted me to wonder whether the 1968 submarine disappearances inspired the plot of The Spy Who Loved Me. I can’t find anything to confirm the idea, the only reference I have managed to find to real sub loss incidents being that the USS Wayne in the film has Thresher’s hull number.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I start as a real estate developer with approximately $2M. Through my obnoxious behavior I keep myself in the public eye for decades, and eventually run for and attain the Presidency of the United States. I clearly demonstrate my disdain towards the other governments of the world, and eventually get into a spat with Russia which provides me with an excuse to withdraw from the relevant Test Ban Treaties. Then I set off a nuke just to prove I mean business.

      Your island, please?

    • Thegnskald says:

      …Christ. Everyone offering answers to this question should never be put in charge of anything secure. If you gave them an AI in a box, it’d ask for the ROT13 decoding of Bcra obk, and we’d all be fucked.

    • Michael Handy says:

      Ok, I am Melon Eusk, Billionaire Adventurer.

      I have decided that I am going to blow up a not yet identified Pacific island currently people-less but soon to be occupied by my arch rival, Britchard Ranson. And only an H-Bomb will do.

      A quick study shows that the whole thing is pretty trivial and that the cost and technical difficulty of alternate designs like Layer Cake or a boosted “classical super” vs Tellar-Ulam is negligible compared to getting sufficient fissile material and non fissile fuel. And I have plenty of engineers and experience with precision fabrication. I can probably spread the manufacture around enough that only a dozen or so people will need to know.

      The problem there of course is that if I start the easiest methods, I’ll be introduced to some nice men driving black vans with interesting conversation topics.

      So I need to

      a) Acquire Enough Uranium for the initial stage, I’m miserly, so I’ll save time and effort by making a “clean bomb” and using a lead tamper in exchange for yield.

      b)Enrich fuel

      a) Is easy enough, I go to certain areas of Arizona and Washington and declare that my new experimental tunneling business, The Mining Company (motto: Mine, it’s all MINE!”) will be making Ultraloop test tunnels there. I’ll even take away the excess dirt for free.

      Refining might be harder, I’ll probably have to hide the refinery it in one of my Faraday Car Factories, and move the car assembly line outside. The share price is gonna take a tumble, but it’s worth it to see that bearded bastard fry.

      b) Is more difficult. Centrifuges are out. I probably have the supply chains and ability to procure the materials from my aerospace projects, but the USA and other actors are already wary of my “hit anything in the world with several tonnes of rocket” capability, so it’s best not to tempt fate.

      There are two other ways, A giant mass spectrometer, which is easy and barely works and is a bit obvious. Thermal Diffusion, which is hard and inefficient. And Gaseous Diffusion, which is easy and inefficient. I’m trying the latter.

      Gaseous diffusion requires some rare materials, but less exotic ones than centrifuges and all ones that are used in some for for aerospace and high tech engineering. The reason that Islamic State didn’t have 30 of these plants up and running is that you need several kilometers of open, covered space to allow the diffusion to work, and even the USA can see things if all it takes is a mk1 eyeball on the ISS to notice it.

      If only I had several kilometers of tunnel dug under auspices of a high tech project…

      So, after a year or so I’ve got the several kilos of Enriched uranium, safely underground in an area with high natural radioactivity, and a good deal more unenriched to serve as casing and possibly tamper.

      Some issues remain. Fusion fuel. I’m probably going to have to go with pure Deuterium. All the other choices scream Ï AM MAKING A NUCLEAR BOMB PLEASE ARREST ME. Deuterium is also that, but is probably explainable as some kind of experimental rocket fuel. A tritrium sparkplug would be nice but not essential

      Priming explosives will be hard to come by, but perhaps could be disguised as some mining material or explosive bolts for spacecraft.

      I’m going to have to give some staff involved in assembly really big bonuses, and probably a holiday after they and their families were my guests in my underground lair.

      Finally, I need to deliver the assembled bomb. Luckily, my Hawk X-treme rocket is undergoing its third test flight soon.

      • bean says:

        While I like the framing story, there are issues. First, I don’t think you fully understand the issues with gaseous diffusion. Particularly if you’re mining reasonably high-grade uranium, someone will be watching.

        Some issues remain. Fusion fuel. I’m probably going to have to go with pure Deuterium. All the other choices scream Ï AM MAKING A NUCLEAR BOMB PLEASE ARREST ME. Deuterium is also that, but is probably explainable as some kind of experimental rocket fuel. A tritrium sparkplug would be nice but not essential

        This isn’t true. You can breed tritium by bombarding lithium, and you don’t need that much. Thermonuclear weapons produce most of their tritium from lithium in the detonation. D-D fusion is really inefficient, so that’s not the way to go for fusion.

        • Michael Handy says:

          True about lithium bombardment. I hadn’t thought of that.

          As for Gaseous Diffusion, I can mine Pitchblende if I absolutely have to. And I’m not mining it, I’m simply digging a tunnel though some abandoned wasteland. That said, the issues with handling Uranium Hexaflouride are non-trivial.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            I’m honestly confused why more people don’t go for breeding plutonium over isotope separation. Chemical separation is comparatively easy and honestly standing up a power reactor for breeding might be easier than gas diffusion?

    • Nornagest says:

      Find an Aleutian biker with a fetish for glass knives.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      I had no idea there was more than one Pacific to choose from.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Revive the Project PACER concept. Build a just-add-warheads test facility on the target island, then mount an aggressive PR campaign about how we can solve energy forever and anyone who opposes this plan must be a global warming denier, etc. etc., until the US caves and conducts some tests in the facility.

    • Christophe Biocca says:

      All the current solutions involve owning/controlling the nuke and aiming it at the island.

      An alternative approach is to create a nukeable target on the island and get one of the current owners of nukes to target it. The biggest problem it runs into is that few things need a specifically nuclear response, instead of a couple of tomahawk missiles. The last case I’ve seen was the serious discussion of using nuclear bunker-busters to take out hardened Iranian uranium enrichment facilities.

      So run a nuclear program on the island itself, with enough concrete shielding on top to make a conventional bombing ineffective. Internally pretend (to any potential whistle-blower) that you already have a delivery system and some nukes/other WMDs and you can target Hawaii if you’re attacked.

      That way the US getting wind of your operation still results in getting a nuclear detonation at the agreed location, instead of your program being dismantled more gracefully.

      • Nornagest says:

        I’ve always kind of wanted an excuse to build a volcano lair on a remote Pacific island.

      • Eric Rall says:

        I was thinking somewhat along the same lines: find R’lyeh, awaken Cthulhu, and lead him to the target island. The tricky part (apart from finding and awakening a fictional character) is keeping Cthulhu at the target long enough for a nuclear power to notice him and decided to target him with a nuke.

    • pointenlos says:

      Bean, I’m sure somebody else already told you, but I like to reiterate: Your articles is nice, but the website hosting is extremely frustrating for a reader.

      Loading the site takes ca. 10 seconds to the first render, 20 or thirty to somewhat completion. Not included in that are the images in your articles, these sometime load, sometimes load only halfway and often fail to load. The common experience is Reload, Wait, Reload, Wait, Reload, Wait, etc.

      And that’s for one article. I have the feed for Naval Gazing in my feed reader to catch up on all articles. But opening multiple articles at once in tabs multiplies and worsens the loading problem. Also: the feed contains duplicates and triplicates of the individual articles. My current theory is, that you edit them after publishing and the usual countermeasure (GUIDs) for that problem is missing in the feed.

      • bean says:

        This is an issue that I run into, too, and I’ve raised with Said Achmiz. He’s looking into it. That said, your experience sounds worse than mine. I only have to refresh occasionally, although it often does take a very long time to load.

        Also: the feed contains duplicates and triplicates of the individual articles. My current theory is, that you edit them after publishing and the usual countermeasure (GUIDs) for that problem is missing in the feed.

        That’s quite probable. I do a fair bit of editing post-hoc, mostly to catch errors I didn’t see until publication. I’ll also occasionally go back and overhaul older articles, adding in links to stuff published later and maybe fixing anything that bothers me on re-read. But I don’t have the ability to fix the GUID issue.

  8. TracingWoodgrains says:

    I’ve tossed this scenario around in a few circles recently and have been startled at how rare a combination it seems to be:

    Name a work of entertainment that takes place more than ten years in the future, is not dystopian, and does not involve interplanetary space travel.

    My inspiration for the question is Scott Westerfeld’s YA sci-fi novel Extras, which comes in the aftermath of a dystopian trilogy and features a city centered around a “reputation economy” and sometimes-extreme body modification. It’s a unique society without enough going wrong to be truly dystopian. I’m looking for similarly neutral or optimistic takes on the future that don’t rely on leaving the planet as a cure-all.

    • DeWitt says:

      Back to the Future seems like the most famous example here; the future is a perfectly fine place. Where the second movie is dystopian, it is more in the present than the future.

    • beleester says:

      Accelerando, by Charles Stross – ranges from the present day to a few thousand years into the future, and while it takes us through some really weird societies, they’re not really dystopian.

      The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson – a few hundred (?) years in the future, and is mostly about a little girl with the best education modern nanotech can provide. Also notable for an early fake-out – it starts off by following around a stereotypical cyberpunk protagonist (augged-up street punk living a life of crime), but then he gets executed and the narrative moves elsewhere.

      Dennou Coil – anime best described as “Cyberpunk meets Studio Ghibli.” Set in a world that’s much like our own but with ubiquitous AR technology, features a group of children solving mysteries in cyberspace.

      Sword Art Online – love it or hate it, it’s definitely a near-future setting that’s not a dystopia.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        Accelerando involves interplanetary travel.

        Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Doctorow more or less qualifies, I think.

        Misspent Youth by Hamilton edges near dystopia but doesn’t get there, I think. I also don’t think it’s very good.

        Infomocracy qualifies, but I also don’t think is very good.

        • Tarpitz says:

          I agree that Misspent Youth falls short of dystopia and is very bad. It’s also hilarious – the most flagrant piece of authorial wish-fulfilment ever committed to print.

      • Nornagest says:

        Accelerando doesn’t qualify because space travel, but I think Halting State and Rule 34 both would.

    • Civilis says:

      It depends on what you’d define as a dystopia. I think there’s certainly an interesting and important place in storytelling for societies which come uncomfortably close to the line between merely imperfect societies and actual obvious dystopias.

      One work that skirts close to the line but otherwise meets your criteria is Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. When compared to the original manga and film, which is much closer to the typical 80s-envisioned cyberpunk dystopia, the world (or at least the future Japan) of Stand Alone Complex seems much more pleasant to live in, and further seems a natural outgrowth of human society (good and bad) extrapolated from current conditions based on the technological development postulated by the worldbuilding. The question is whether the flaws in a society built around the cybernetic technology depicted in that and similar works are inherently dystopian in nature. An important piece of evidence to consider is the protagonists: while Public Security Section 9 is sometimes called on to enforce policies that can be seen as dystopian, more often they are the tool used by the government to crack down on dystopian uses of technology, sometimes by other branches of the government. My view is that an inherently dystopian society wouldn’t have a check on that use as part of society; stories with dystopias have the resistance against dystopia be external to society or rogue elements of society.

      • secondcityscientist says:

        Yeah, “what counts as dystopia” was my big question too. Cyberpunk especially seems to fall on this, especially if the story follows poor people. Baltimore in The Wire might be plausibly described as “dystopian” but I don’t think it would rate for typical SF. So are the poor in your cyberpunk future worse off than Bubbles and his friends? Is that enough to make it a dystopia?

        I was thinking of Neuromancer. Case’s life at the beginning is pretty shitty, but he’s a broke drug addict. How bad do things have to be – especially for broke drug addicts – before you start calling it a dystopia?

        • TracingWoodgrains says:

          I love cyberpunk, but for the purposes of this question I would consider most of it dystopian. Part of it is a question of focus: If a sci-fi story is focusing on the darker parts of a setting, it feels dystopian even if there are comparable situations in the present-day world. The aim of setting the scenario up this way is largely to look at the more optimistic Earth-bound portrayals of the future.

          I haven’t seen Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, but from the description given it fits the criteria.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m with Civilis. Stand Alone Complex has its nasty bits, but it’s not grimdark as a whole. The tone’s actually remarkably bright for a series that focuses on what’s basically a unit of secret police.

    • SamChevre says:

      The Wheel of Time

    • qwints says:

      The one I read most recently is John Scalzi’s Head On, the sequel to Lock In, both of which take place at least 25 years in the future. There’s been a global pandemic, but the society depicted is far from dystopian.

    • Erusian says:

      There’s a ton. Like a literal ton. A very incomplete list. I’m leaving out anything with explicit supernatural elements in addition to technological ones. I’m also leaving out things that don’t explicitly make mention of being in the future when it was written.
      Big Hero Six
      Patlabor
      Astro Boy
      Chobits
      2001: A Space Odyssey
      A Scanner Darkly
      The A-Team (2010)
      Inception
      Click
      Summer Wars
      Snowcrash and Diamond Age
      Blade Runner
      Minority Report
      Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels
      Stranger in a Strange Land
      … in Death series
      Contact
      The Martian
      The Dead Past
      Franchise
      The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
      The early Robot series by Asimov
      Alien Nation
      V
      Most Black Mirror episodes
      Century City
      The State
      Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
      War of the Worlds
      Assassin’s Creed
      Nearly everything by Tom Clancy
      Call of Duty games
      Perfect Dark
      Uplink
      The Old Grey Hare
      Sealab 2020

      I’m sure I’m leaving a lot out.

      • Iain says:

        It looks like you missed “and does not involve interplanetary space travel”.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Aren’t some of those dystopian?

        • Erusian says:

          Which ones?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Blade Runner for sure. A Scanner Darkly I would say is dystopian. Alien Nation has a fairly dystopian outlook. Assassin’s Creed, to the extent that it has a take on the future, would seem to as well. War of the Worlds is essentially a tale of a descent into a dystopia (regardless of being eventually triumphant). Black Mirror … well if it’s not dystopian I’m not sure how to describe it.

            Those are just the ones that leap out at me.

          • Erusian says:

            Is Blade Runner dystopian? I suppose I didn’t get that because I thought it to be Cyberpunk’s trope of choosing protagonists who aren’t in the ‘good’ parts of society rather than implying society as a whole was wrong. Likewise with Black Mirror. As for War of the Worlds and Assassin’s Creed, the world has great threats but that doesn’t change society’s nature as basically functional.

            I think we have a disagreement about what qualifies as dystopia. For me it needs to engage with the idea that the society portrayed is fundamentally flawed to the point of being negative. It’s not simply that the story itself is negative or focuses on a negative social aspect.

          • Tarpitz says:

            At this point, isn’t Assassin’s Creed simulationist/mysticist in a way that kinda negates all consideration of “when” the “present day” elements are set?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            If Blade Runner isn’t dystopian in this conversation, then I think we will need to taboo the word and talk more explicitly about what the OP wants to exclude. It’s generally described and categorized as dystopian.

            Other works feature extensive privatization and corporatism; both byproducts of capitalism, where privately owned and unaccountable large corporations have effectively replaced the government in setting policy and making decisions. They manipulate, infiltrate, control, bribe, are contracted by, or otherwise function as government. This is seen in the novels Jennifer Government and Oryx and Crake and the movies Alien, Avatar, RoboCop, Visioneers, Idiocracy, Soylent Green, THX 1138, WALL-E and Rollerball. Corporate republics common in the cyberpunk genre, as in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash and Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (as well as the film Blade Runner, loosely based on Dick’s novel).

    • J Mann says:

      How about Earth and Kiln People by David Brin? Things aren’t super great, but they’re not IMHO dystopias.

      Does Batman Beyond count? I suppose there’s at least as much interplanetary space travel as in the present day DCAU, but I can’t recall any space travel actually affecting the characters.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        I’ve not read Kiln People, but Earth is about the aftermath of a bunch of ecological disasters; close enough to dystopian.

        Oh and it involves fcnpr geniry va gur sbez bs nyvra-frag oynpx ubyrf.

        • J Mann says:

          Kiln People is interesting but I’m not sure if I would recommend it. I give Brin credit for trying science fiction mystery, which is hard, but I thought Sundiver was a better mystery.

          Walter Jon Williams’ Days of Atonement was set ten years in the future from when it was written (1991), and I don’t recall a space travel, but don’t remember the details – it’s a noirish police procedural, so a lot of stuff sucks, but I wouldn’t say dystopia.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I think Kiln People is crazy fun. A wonderful look at, “What if some utterly fanciful technology is widespread.”

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I gave up on Kiln People because I was too annoyed at not seeing how the memories got integrated. This may have been unfair to the book.

    • AG says:

      The majority of the post-apocalypse genre. The point of dystopia is that a strict societal hierarchy is in place, such that there are some supporters who see it as utopia. So a destroyed future doesn’t apply.

      So HG Wells’ The Time Machine may well apply, as well.

      • TracingWoodgrains says:

        I’m using ‘dystopia’ here in the broader sense of ‘grim future.’ Totalitarian regimes, post-apocalyptic or impending-apocalyptic settings, or collapsing/collapsed societies would all fit under the umbrella. Stories fitting this category would ideally take place in an Earth not clearly worse off than it is right now, and focus on people who are not among the worst off in that world.

        • AG says:

          Huh. Didn’t realize the term had broadened so much.

          There’s a current trend in SF YA of the protagonist getting swept up in the equivalent of a VG tournament, and many of them apply to this challenge. The Mirador series by Dan Wells, Warcross by Marie Lu, Omnitopia Dawn by Diane Duane, etc. Most of them involve the prevention of society falling into a dystopia as the main plot.

    • A1987dM says:

      How I Met Your Mother, if you count the frame story. 😉

    • rlms says:

      Too Like The Lightning, probably. Like the Culture novels, its topianness is debatable.

    • David Speyer says:

      Posting without looking to see which of these have already been done:

      Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota series — there is a minor sideplot about terraforming Mars, but it isn’t the point.

      Neil Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. I’m also tempted to list Seveneves on the grounds that they never leave Earth’s gravity well, but perhaps that is nitpicking.

      Walter Miller Jr’s A Canticle for Leibowitz. Takes place after a nuclear apocalypse, but I wouldn’t call the society dystopian.

      Kim Stanley Robinson New York 2140. Again, post-disaster, but I wouldn’t call it dystopian.

      Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel. Space travel is in the background of the setting, but all the plot is on Earth.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Nitpicks: Elon Musk-Expy does leave Earth’s gravity well a little way through Seveneves, and there’s a spacecraft at the very end of Leibowitz.

      • TracingWoodgrains says:

        I just heard this one mentioned positively elsewhere as well, so I went ahead and watched it. Fascinating movie, and it definitely fits here. Thanks for mentioning it.

        • Well... says:

          Yeah, I enjoyed it. I don’t read Steve Sailer anymore but his review was good (and I read it before I watched the movie, so I kind of took it in through that filter).

    • John Schilling says:

      Other people are arguing about the definition of “dystopia”; I’m going to also note that almost any mid-term future that isn’t a dystopia is almost certainly going to say that the space cadets got their wishes and there are e.g. colonies on Mars. Because it’s a question that will be asked by SF readers, and the plausible answers are “yes”, “no because dystopia”, and “no because it’s a stupid fantasy even in an optimistic universe”, and who wants to piss off a significant fraction of the potential audience with #3?

      So at best we are going to be looking for non-dystopic futures that have Mars colonies etc in the background but don’t fold them into the plot.

    • helloo says:

      Is it that rare? I can think of plenty of examples. Maybe not many that try to involve a lot of “world-building” but not all scifi has that.

      It could just be bad/conflict-filled for some people but not bad for everyone in society.
      Bicentennial Man is one. The movie AI features at least 2 apocalypses but isn’t all that dystopic.

      It might focus on a certain part that isn’t affected by transport or expansion – such as robotics, virtual space, biogenetics, or some types of time travel. Dimensional travel might also work. I don’t know if you’d count the Age of Em which was reviewed here a while ago.

      Actually a disaster/invasion attack could also count if it shows them fighting it rather than the aftereffects of losing. Most of them aren’t 10+ years in the future or involve aliens or such. Maybe those that have humans fight killer robots or involve mecha fights.
      Ok, those aren’t all that “scifi” and often include space travel but plenty of them don’t like Pacific Rim and Astro Boy.

      …Geez this is mostly robot stuff isn’t it.

    • muskwalker says:

      Air by Geoff Ryman comes to mind – basically a woman in “the last village in the world to go online” in a rural part of a fictional Turkic country sets up an e-business (in a world where a future version of the Internet is coming, which minds connect to directly, and encountering various problems associated therewith).

    • MrApophenia says:

      Lots and lots of Asimov short stories. I guess the interplanetary qualifier is debatable here because his larger fictional setting has space stuff, but that’s because it spans a huge stretch of time and history. There’s lots of Asimov stories set on Earth before space travel that aren’t dystopian. My recollection is they aren’t really utopian either, just advanced and with robots and supercomputers and stuff.

  9. Jo says:

    Scott, some of the links in your blogroll do not work as they should.

  10. beleester says:

    Scott, are you going to answer the question you posed about your site traffic in the last open thread? I’m curious what the real answer is.

  11. keranih says:

    Was in discussion with another epi geek type and got to talking about ’emerging diseases’ as a moving target – the disease either emerges into being widespread and common place, or it dies back. There have been multiple diseases in the last few decades which appeared to be on the edge of causing wide spread devastation, but never lived up to the promise. (Nipah, nearly all avian influenzas) On the other hand, there are also multiple diseases that have expanded their impact far beyond the suppositions of earlier times. Type II diabetes, for example, is far more common than I think anyone in the 1920s imagined it would be. HIV’s global impact was likewise shocking. And due to the experience with scrapie, no one expected BSE to have the impact it did (although nvCJD has, it appears, been broadly oversold.)

    Speculation time – propose a disease either now known (such as diabetes) or related to one now known (BSE) or with a transmission mechanism similar to a disease now known (HIV) that is currently quite rare but will, in forty or fifty years time, be a major medical concern such that lay people have a relatively accurate working knowledge of it.

    (extra points if it’s not a human disease, double the bonus if it’s not a mammal disease, triple for a non *animal* disease.)

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m going to go with good old plague, Y. pestis. We’ve seen an increase in incidence of insect issues (particularly bedbugs, but also termites) due to more international travel and the banning of all the good persistent insecticides. Add in a few mutations to make Y. pestis more virulent, antibiotic resistant, and bypass immunization, and the Black Death could be back at it.

    • Jaskologist says:

      I don’t have a specific disease in mind, but something tick-borne. I fear we’ve lost the capability to do proper eradication campaigns.

      • keranih says:

        I think most anti-tick campaigns are more host exclusion, but Hanta demonstrates the limits of that, and ticks are tougher than fleas and skeeters. And Lyme disease shows how impactful it could be.

    • Nick says:

      Any chance staph gets worse? Or something nastier develop resistance the way MRSA has?

      • keranih says:

        Life finds a way! All possible. I discount a general pathology rise in staph, though, because so many competing strains are human consensual. Might could, though.

    • dark orchid says:

      Let’s go for the triple.

      Here in the UK, we’ve had a sequence of tree diseases make national headlines and get themselves into folks’ memories – Dutch Elm Disease, Ash Dieback and so on. So I’ll propose a disease that attacks and wipes out Norway Spruce plantations, which would have quite significant effects in Europe (I’m not sure what kind of conifers you have in the US).

      • keranih says:

        Western Pine Beetles are currently doing a number on USA western pine forests (ponderosa and lodgepole, mostly – ponderosa is mostly a cabinet wood but is also used for construction framing.)

        Southern yellow pines (mostly slash pines and loblolly pine) are the main plantation trees n the southeast, and they are the source of most construction wood. (No pests yet.)

    • arlie says:

      Any tropical or subtropical disease commonly spread by insect vectors that can’t survive temperate conditions 😉 E.g. the specific mosquitos that transmit malaria, though malaria itself isn’t rare or unknown enough to qualify.

      I’m cheating a bit here – I’m taking “lay people” to really mean “American or other Northern/developed nation’s lay people.” I’m also presuming some amount of climate change.

      But I’m also drawing on reports of various pests steadily moving north, and extrapolating.

      For an alternative, we have invasive insect species in North America which are commonly hosts to nasty diseases in their native areas (Asia, in one case I read about recently). In this particular case, the disease didn’t travel with them – but it could still arrive, via a second batch, or via a sick human traveller. And of course North Americans don’t have any resistance their usual neighbours may have.

  12. ana53294 says:

    Article on FT: “Isolationism is the wrong charge to level at Donald Trump”.

    The president still participates in the world — just not in the way his critics want
    […]
    This is an odd kind of isolation. Nor would his party have worn the real thing. Mr Trump owes his grip on eminent Republicans to cravenness on their part and ruthlessness on his. […] And for security hawks, such as secretary of state Mike Pompeo: a US that is active in the world. Even on trade, where a true isolationist would aspire to autarky, Mr Trump never entertains the idea. He sticks to bilateral strong-arming, which throws up the spectacle — so grim to a free trader — of countries “pledging” to buy billions of dollars in American manufactures as if in some geo-economic telethon.

    The point is not that these are good foreign policies. The point is that these are foreign policies. When critics press international engagement on Mr Trump, they mean engagement of the kind that they — and I — favour. But it can take other forms. The US still participates in the world: less so than before in some respects (see the bean-counting pettiness about Nato), but more so in others (such as Afghanistan). The aggregate picture is too mixed to bear the name “isolation”.

    I also think that isolationism is the wrong word for Trump’s foreign policies. I see it as the US being as meddlesome as it always has been, just with different priorities. So, the White House doesn’t value climate change prevention anymore, nor do they value European allies that much. But Trump is not isolationist.

    When I imagine an isolationist US, I think of something like this:

    1. Stop meddling into other countries’ affairs. Take all soldiers in hot zones back home. Let other countries solve their own problems. Also stop with extra-territorial sanctions. Foreign companies’ trade partners are nobody’s business. Don’t accept refugees or inmigrants either. People should stay in their own country.

    2. Get out of all trade agreements (NAFTA, WTO). Get out of all mutual defence agreements (NATO, Japan, South Korea).

    3. Close jails in foreign territories (drop all Guantanamo prisoners somewhere in the EU, and let them deal with it, instead of complaining about the US). Also close all foreign bases (if you are not going to fight wars in other countries, why do you need foreign bases).

    4. Make sure the dollar stops being the money used as reserve currencies by foreign governments; all USD should stay in the US.

    Of course, this will never happen. But this is what isolationism involves. Trump is not isolationist; he does like to bully allies, and has a tendency to prefer bilateral trade deals to multi-partner deals.

    This strategy makes a lot of sense if you want to bully your partners instead of getting a deal you consider less beneficial; EU nominal GDP is 17.3 trillion USD vs the US’ 19.3 USD. The only individual country that can deal with the US in more or less equal terms is China, with its 14 trillion $ nominal GDP. The US could probably get better deals with the EU’s countries via bilateral deals (this isn’t possible, of course, because the EU knows this so the block negotiates deals together). TPP signatories (excluding the US) have a nominal GDP of 11,3 trillion $. It is much harder to deal with them as a group, than it is to deal with them separately.

    So, whatever he is, Trump is not isolationist. He does want deals – just on what he considers better terms. He does want America to be respected as a global power and he does want to influence world politics – just on his terms.

    • Matt M says:

      FYI – I got paywall’d by the link

    • DeWitt says:

      Does the exact wording really matter? Really? Or is this the same sorts of debate where people very vigorously decide on whether or not X is really a socialist, Y is really a racist, and Z is really sexist? Getting hung up on words seems much more likely to cause confusion than debating specific policy might.

      • ana53294 says:

        I think that words matter.

        In sexual violence cases, for example, a lot of victims who feel uncomfortable but can’t really put a finger on it, get a platform once they realize that there is a term for what happened to them, that there are others who have suffered from it, and they are not alone, and what happened to them was wrong.

        For example, there is stealthing (the practice of removing a condom when the agreement was to use a condom; this puts the women at risk to get STD and pregnancy); date rape; spousal rape; reproductive coercion (making a hole in a condom; pretending to consume the pill). All of these things happened before there was a term for them, but victims did not feel empowered to talk about them, because they couldn’t explain what was wrong with what happened with them.

        Words have power; they can give platforms to people. Yes, it is important to use the right term. I don’t agree with The Donald’s foreign policies – but for me they are an example of America as usual. The Donald at least does not go around toppling democraticallly elected governments (Mossadegh’s Iran, Allende’s Chile). Obama did not close Guantanamo either, nor did he take troups out of Afghanistan. What difference does it make who is in the White House to an afghani person?

        Imperialism or neo-colonialism are better terms, although they don’t exactly fit either. But isolationism is a worse term.

        Mercantilism is also a good term.

        • DeWitt says:

          Fair. It’s the fighting over is this one thing X so a person can be beat over the head with that cudgel I’m tired of; your explanation seems a lot more sensible, for those who care about describing reality more than hurting the other side. Okay.

        • Iain says:

          There’s also a question of relative vs absolute isolationism.

          Donald Trump is not a hardline isolationist. Granted. But I think it’s fair to say that he’s more isolationist than other presidents. Just looking at your own examples, Donald Trump is less open to refugees and immigrants, more prone to leaving international agreements, and more concerned about current accounts deficits than other presidents.

          It’s like asking whether Obama was a realist. (In the IR sense, not the generic sense.) He was more of a realist than George W. Bush; he was less of a realist than, say, Stephen Walt.

          Is Obama a realist? Is Trump an isolationist? In the real world, people don’t often fit perfectly into nice categories. Moreover, the question is a dead-end unless it’s connected to some sort of consequence: once we decide whether Trump is an isolationist, what next? What conclusion are we going to draw? Depending on the context, either answer might be appropriate; without context, I frankly don’t think it matters.

          • Matt M says:

            Okay… but unless you specifically declare a relative comparison, it’s still pretty dishonest to use the word as if it were an absolute.

            Bernie Sanders is a libertarian as compared to Lenin, I suppose. And yet, if I wrote a bunch of articles about Bernie’s “shocking and brazen libertarianism” a lot of people would probably think I was delusional. And rightly so.

          • Iain says:

            Okay… but unless you specifically declare a relative comparison, it’s still pretty dishonest to use the word as if it were an absolute.

            First, I don’t even think we have evidence that this is actually happening. The FT article just quotes a bunch of headlines without linking to the articles in question. Even if you think that readers are complete idiots, it’s not obvious to me that there’s any basis for this complaint.

            Bernie Sanders is a libertarian as compared to Lenin, I suppose. And yet, if I wrote a bunch of articles about Bernie’s “shocking and brazen libertarianism” a lot of people would probably think I was delusional. And rightly so.

            That’s because Bernie Sanders is a US senator. In the absence of any context, statements about his ideology are going to be taken in comparison to other senators. As president, the natural point of comparison for Trump is other presidents.

          • ana53294 says:

            Trump is not isolationist. He is very willing to impose extraterritorial sanctions*, create a “space force”, talk to North Korea, go on a tariff war with the EU and China.

            These are not isolationist policies. These are mercantilist policies, that come from the idea that you need to have a trade surplus in order to function as a country. Mercantilist views are what brought us colonialism; they have failed, and they are wrong, but still popular.

            Trump’s military views are not isolationist. If anything, they are expansionist. Space force? His views on Middle East affairs are not isolationist either. He is not pro not-interfering. He is pro Saudi (he supported them against Qatar, although his stance seems to have changed) and pro Israel (moving the embassy to Jerusalem).

            *He is very willing to meddle into other countries’ affairs, even when they do it outside the US, without directly affecting the US.

            EDIT: I think that Tokugawa shogunate Japan was isolationist. Franco’s Spain was also isolationist, although less so. Ming dinasty China was also isolationist. One thing all these countries have in common is that they don’t go around moving embassies, going to summits, doing air strikes, making extraterritorial sanctions or otherwise meddling in other countries affairs.

            Trump is no more or less isolationist than other US Presidents. He just doesn’t care about US allies that much, and he imagines that the US can still go around imposing sanctions and going on trade wars or real wars without allies. His White House seems to be very willing to go to war with Iran. That is not isolationist.

            In fact, I think that the US being militarily more isolationist would be a good thing. The US stopping all those sanctions and just letting other countries trade with each other is a good thing.

          • Iain says:

            @ana53924:

            I … did you read my post? Your response is completely non-responsive to my point. “Donald Trump is not a hardline isolationist” was literally my second sentence; I don’t need a list of examples of ways that he could be more isolationist.

            My point is that Trump is meaningfully closer to isolationism than previous presidents, and that should be obvious to you just by reading your own criteria for isolationism: “Don’t accept refugees or immigrants either. Get out of all trade agreements (NAFTA, WTO). Get out of all mutual defence agreements (NATO, Japan, South Korea).”

            It’s a spectrum, not a binary.

          • ana53294 says:

            My point is that Trump is meaningfully closer to isolationism than previous presidents, and that should be obvious to you just by reading your own criteria for isolationism: “Don’t accept refugees or immigrants either. Get out of all trade agreements (NAFTA, WTO). Get out of all mutual defence agreements (NATO, Japan, South Korea).”

            I think he counter-balances his isolationism in trade and military deals by being more aggressive in his trade wars and other types of meddling.

            Imperial Britain was not isolationist. They were aggressively mercantilist and imperialist. That is the reason they forced isolationist China to trade.

            Imperial Britain did try to make trade deals that were made to create a trade surplus.

            I think that Trump is quite close in ideology to Imperial Britain in his foreign policies.

          • Iain says:

            Imperial Britain’s “trade wars” were actual wars, fought to expand trade.

            Trump’s “trade wars” are increased tariffs on foreign goods. They are a retreat from commitments imposed by membership in NATO and the WTO — that is to say, exactly the kind of thing you listed as a sign of isolationism.

            Equivocating between the two kinds of trade war is not useful.

          • ana53294 says:

            Trump’s desire to retreat from NATO or NAFTA does not come from a desire not to intervene militarily or not to trade, though. It comes from the desire to have America First.

            His reasons are not isolationist, but mercantilist. His reasons to dislike NATO are not that he doesn’t want to intervene, but that he doesn’t want to intervene unless he chooses to.

            I don’t think everything is comparative. You could say an average woman is ugly because she is not as pretty as Jennifer Lawrence (or whoever you think is the prettiest). But she is not ugly; just normal, and average.

            You can’t call somebody isolationist because they are less globalist than you would like. There are reasons we use words, and we give those words definitions.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            I agree with ana. Trump is not isolationist in any real way without rendering that word useless. It would be like calling Obama an isolationist. Both are actively engaged abroad, they just have differing views.

            Obama thought, for instance, Europe had good policies on climate and social welfare and military, and (initially) wanted them to normalize relations with Russia/Turkey/MidEast.

            Trump, OTOH, thinks all those EU policies are freeloading, wants to use Russia as a buffer against what he thinks is the greater threats of Islam and China, and likely will seek to expel Turkey from NATO if he gets a 2nd term.

    • Another Throw says:

      Yes, reforging the World Order in your own image is the exact opposite of isolationism.

      People that are too invested in the current world order just see Trump backing away from their institutions. Because they can’t imagine engaging with the world any other way, they fail to see the concomitant stepping forward elsewhere.

    • TDB says:

      Isolationism is (almost?) always a straw man. I don’t think anyone has ever applied it to themselves; people use it to tar others who they consider to be not sufficiently or appropriately interventionist in foreign policy. There are plenty of ways to engage in foreign policy without using military intervention, but for a surprisingly common mindset, this doesn’t count. Switzerland is neutral, not isolationist.

      • DavidS says:

        This surprises me: I thought America for a long time prided itself on being isolationist and used the term to mean avoiding getting entangled in others’ wars (meaning in practice European ones).

    • pontifex says:

      According to wikipedia, isolationism has been defined as:

      A policy or doctrine of trying to isolate one’s country from the affairs of other nations by declining to enter into alliances, foreign economic commitments, international agreements, and generally attempting to make one’s economy entirely self-reliant; seeking to devote the entire efforts of one’s country to its own advancement, both diplomatically and economically, while remaining in a state of peace by avoiding foreign entanglements and responsibilities.

      Declining to enter into foreign economic commitments, such as the TPP: check.

      Declining to enter into international agreements, like the Paris Accords: check.

      Generally attempting to make the US economy entirely self-reliant, by keeping around domestic steel and other raw materials industries: check.

      Seeking to devote the entire efforts of one’s country to its own advancement, both diplomatically and economically. Well, the guy’s campaign slogan was “make America great again.” Do I even need to say more?

      Remaining in a state of peace by avoiding foreign entanglements and responsibilities, like the Syrian civil war: check. (With an asterisk because Trump ordering a bombing run or two as a PR stunt).

      Of course Trump isn’t going to cancel every trade or mutual defense agreement instantly. No US president would. Claiming that he needs to in order to be called a “real isolationist” is like saying that a True Scotsman wears his kilt 366 days a year. Of course then the word “Scotsman” can’t be used for anyone who could exist in reality.

      Also, isolationism doesn’t imply that you never interact with other countries in any way, or that you never have military engagements. It just means that you view any engagements, military or otherwise, through the lens of self-interest rather than caring about alliances or international cooperation.

      • ana53294 says:

        But Trump is not unwilling to enter alliances. He just wants to enter them on his own terms. He has made overtures towards a lot of authoritarian governments.

        A lot of the definition also applies to mercantilist views.

        • pontifex says:

          Trump is interested in “deals,” not in alliances. There is a big difference.

          Deals are transactional. Maybe this year, I sell you some military hardware. Next year, it’s not a good deal for me any more, so I don’t. This year I support your UN initiative. Next year, I reconsider my support. This is very different than something like NATO, where we basically promised to destroy Russia (and indirectly, ourselves) if the Russians crossed the Fuldan Gap.

          This is what people think is dangerous about Trump — that he might make people think NATO is no longer in force. So far, I haven’t seen any evidence of that happening. (And I can see plenty of evidence that China and Russia were willing to push boundaries during the Obama years!) But I can see why people are scared of this aspect of Trump.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            I think a lot of the disagreement on Trump’s foreign policy is a result of the rhetoric/action dichotomy. Rhetorically, Trump employs many isolationist-lite phrases. But, if our EU and East Asian allies followed his advise/wishes, those alliances would be greatly strengthened and the strategic goals more easily achieved.

            Obama and BushII were very open to the world and used such language, but their actions actually, in many ways, served to isolate us. The Iraq war fractured the illusion of NATO being a real alliance more than 200 years of Trumpian rhetoric ever could. Letting Gaddafi be overthrown after giving up his chemical weapons while also letting Assad remain while he used them demonstrated the US and international community are not trustworthy, and that all dictators need to do is keep their WMDs and they are safe.

          • pontifex says:

            As per Machiavelli, the ideal president would be someone who talked the inspiring talk, like Obama, but acted selfishly and shrewdly like Trump is trying to do.

  13. helloo says:

    Regarding lab-grown meat –

    From what I am aware, the technology and processes to produce it commercially are now pretty far in and though still futuristic it is not fantastiful anymore.
    Though it is interesting to think about how humans/society will deal with animal-produced meat following the introduction of commercially viable lab-grown meat, my question isn’t with that but what comes “after”.

    Should we start thinking about the next foodstuff that is to become “synthetic”? Is there a limit to what should be lab-grown?
    Assuming FUTURE tech, not present. I’m not forbidding economic or technological limiting arguments, but should be prefaced with an prediction/assumption that technology/economics won’t reach there rather than a default of that it hasn’t.

    Although there is still quite a bit of disagreement regarding plant suffering and consciousness, isn’t simply not eating anything alive a better moral standing?
    It might be a slippery slope argument that these will come into place, but shouldn’t humans start sliding down that slope?

    • Matt M says:

      Is the moral argument even necessary?

      If lab grown meat (or plant matter) can progress technologically to the point of being indistinguishable to the human palette as well as cheaper to produce, it would presumably dominate the market, regardless of moral considerations.

      • helloo says:

        And the explanation for the markets of organic food and lab-grown gems?

        Plus the moral argument may be needed to push science to get to that point.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Gen 1 SMeat: Tastes and smells a little like despair, and is expensive to boot. Not terribly popular with anyone except vegans.

        Gen 2 SMeat, now with patented FlavorKarma: About as good as most meats, and slightly cheaper. Popular with the upper classes briefly before becoming a more middle class thing; the lower classes avoid it as suspicious.

        Gen 3 SMeat, now with Flavafusions: A flavor bukakke in your mouth. Optimized to taste ridiculously good, with wide varieties of unusual flavors, such as Dorito Cool Ranch. Meat is pretty much replaced, except by the sort of wealthy idiot who drinks 300 year old wine that matured 275 years ago.

        • Randy M says:

          Gen4 SMeat, basically rebranded Gen 2 SMeat as Flavafusions have been linked to spontaneous human combustion in 4% of the population.

    • dick says:

      My guess is that, within a generation of lab-grown meat being plentiful and cheap, the “killing animals for food is immoral” position will get much, much more popular. (This is equivalent to saying that there are a lot of people right now who only consider eating animals to be morally acceptable because giving it up involves sacrifice, as opposed to just expressing preference.) However, I don’t think “killing plants for food is immoral” will be more than a fringe opinion on the same timescale, or anytime in the future near enough for me to imagine easily.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Yeah, given that plants have evolved specifically to spread by being eaten, the “how dare you use cells for calories” position seems nearly as unlikely.

      • helloo says:

        I did mention that I rather NOT go into the question of what happens to meat besides possibly as a proxy.

        So do you think that creating synthetic plant matter will ever be approached then? And if so and not morally, where and in what way?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          When it is, on net, cheaper to do so, if ever. Cheaper may include things like “causes fewer externalities”.

  14. disposablecat says:

    Point of mild interest: This correction notice might be the most Vox thing ever.

  15. The Nybbler says:

    Anyone looked at the study behind this one yet: Women More Likely To Survive Heart Attack If Treated By Female Doctors?

    My strong prior is “garden of forking paths”, with a touch of publication bias.

    • Aapje says:

      The easy explanation is that younger doctors are taught the relatively more recent realization that heart attacks manifest differently in women and that female doctors are younger on average.

      This also explains why male doctors with female colleagues tend to do better, as these female doctors tend to be younger and teach the old dogs new tricks.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        That’s a very testable theory, though it’s possible that older female doctors would be more likely to keep up with the research on a common women’s issue.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Are there enough older female doctors not to get drowned out in the averages?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I believe that can be solved by doing another survey which includes asking the doctors for their ages.

  16. Atlas says:

    Would someone more knowledgeable about Jewish history and theology than me care to comment on Ron Unz’s recent article “Oddities of the Jewish Religion“?

    • beleester says:

      Conservative American Jew here. Some of this is false. Some of it isn’t technically false, but is taking weird one-liners in the Talmud and saying “This is what Jews really believe!” Some of it appears to come from back in the middle ages when the Christians really were out to get the Jews, and trying to argue that we should still do them today would get you laughed out of the room. Some of it is so bizarre that I have no idea where he’s sourcing it from. And the part where he implies that most “traditional religious Jews” practice this stuff is definitely false.

      And when he admits that most Jews have never heard even heard of these oddities, let alone ever considered practicing them, but goes on to say, roughly, “Yeah, but what if the Jews really are secretly evil?”, I start to think he’s just grinding his axe.

      After that, he starts veering into traditional “The Jews control the media and the banks” claims, and I stopped reading because it’s pretty clear what direction he’s heading.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        After that, he starts veering into traditional “The Jews control the media and the banks” claims,

        Classic anti-Semitic argument.
        “There is some odd, offensive stuff in the Talmud.”
        “Therefore all Orthodox Jews live by it.”
        “Secular Ashkenazim are heavily over-represented in media and finance capital.”
        “Therefore Jews, who have to believe this offensive stuff, completely control the economy and propaganda of capitalist countries with no input from gentile bankers and artists.”
        Uhhh…

    • Eugene Dawn says:

      Agree with the others this is mostly trash. I’ll expound on a few points just to give a sense of what is wrong with it.

      As beleester notes, the main argument seems to rest upon extrapolating the most offensive parts of the Talmud into a total theory of all Jewish belief and action. While there is certainly much that is terrible in the Talmud, the idea that this material is particularly forceful in shaping Jewish culture is unwarranted. Also, it’s not clear that these offensive bits are “oddities”: if the early Rabbis sound awful when talking about Christians (and they can!), consider the early Christians talking about Jews: St John Chysostom wrote in his Against the Jews that “demons dwell in the synagogue” and “also in the souls of the Jews”, and that the Jews are “fit for slaughter”; St Ambrose of Milan would regularly intervene to prevent the emperor Theodosius from compensating Jewish communities who had their synagogues burnt by Christian mobs on the basis that a synagogue is a “a home of unbelief, a house of impiety, a receptacle of folly, which God Himself has condemned.”. Other examples from St. Jerome and more abound. Some of Jerome’s homilies may have become a traditional Good Friday prayer which refers to the Jews as “faithless”, “blind”, and “in darkness”.

      Jews were not allowed to serve as witnesses against Christians going back to the Emperor Justinian, and throughout the middle ages, in order to testify, Jews would have to endure humiliating rituals.

      And, what’s more, there are Christians, even today who treat Jews poorly! But it is obvious, I hope, that a claim that the “true doctrines of traditional Christianity” include the belief that demons dwell in the souls of Jews is completely spurious.

      Similarly, describing the “totalitarian nature” of Jewish society as an oddity is…odd. Yes, it’s true that Spinoza was excommunicated, and sometimes heretics were killed. But this is very, very much not unique to Judaism.
      It seems to me that what Unz is doing is picking all the most discreditable parts of Judaism (of which there are many!), and hyping them up without bothering to compare or contrast with other religions. This gives the impression that Judaism has bad things (true), that these bad things characterize the religion (debatable but mostly false), and that these bad things are unique to Judaism (completely false).

      The whole article is filled with contorted claims like this. For example Unz says

      But Shahak notes that the numerous American rabbis who so eagerly worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and other black Civil Rights leaders during the 1950s and 1960s strictly concealed their religious beliefs while denouncing American society for its cruel racism, presumably seeking to achieve a political quid pro quo beneficial to Jewish interests from America’s substantial black population.

      Religious leaders from any number of denominations joined the march; this even though Christianity as well as Judaism has warrant for racism. Should we suppose that the nuns and priests and seminarians who marched were “concealing their religious beliefs”, seeking to achieve a “quid pro quo” beneficial to Catholic/Unitarian/Orthodox interests? Or should we assume that these faith leaders rejected the doctrines of black inferiority, an insignificantly minor part of their theology, and marched based on their truly-held commitments?

      The piece is long and a lot of what he says doesn’t have an explicit citation so it’s hard to track down, but just as a final example: Unz argues that ritual murder of Christian children makes sense, as “the world-view of traditional Judaism did involve a very widespread emphasis on magical rituals, spells, charms, and similar things, providing a context in which ritualistic murder and human sacrifice would hardly be totally unexpected.”

      If you can find me a traditional religion that did not involve a “widespread emphasis on magical rituals, spells, charms, and similar things”, I will be very surprised. Imagine arguing that because, say, Tibetan Buddhism has plenty of rituals, spells, and charms, that it provides a context in which “ritualistic murder and human sacrifice would hardly be unexpected”.
      On this sort of basis, you can make ritual murder by any religion sound “hardly unexpected”.

      Most of the article seems to me to make the same sort of argument: presenting the minor, unpleasant features common to all religions as if they are the defining features of Judaism and unique to Judaism, and then letting the association of Judaism with these unpleasant aspects colour your perception of the whole religion to present Judaism as some sort of strange oddity among religions.

      If you have specific claims you’re interested in, you should ask, but my first impression is this is cherry-picked garbage.

    • bean says:

      This is the same Ron Unz who once claimed that Stalin’s amphibious tanks would allow him to successfully cross the English Channel, is it not?
      I rest my case.

      • Reasoner says:

        Ron Unz is a (Jewish) self-made millionaire Harvard graduate who is one of the most fairminded-seeming, well-read-seeming political thinkers I know of.

    • quanta413 says:

      Many years ago, I thought Unz’s American Pravda series was a sort of interesting example of how severe paranoia could look not completely timecube crazy but a more cohesive crazy like “maybe if something really terrible happened to me” I’d snap like that.

      I regret my terrible mistake since Unz has gone full Hibernian conspiracy… yet I’m still kind of interested in a horrified way to see what crazy he goes with next.

  17. dark orchid says:

    In the last culture-war free thread, I posted:

    Today I learnt: the PUA community has a term “fool’s mate” for – it seems to me – exactly one of the examples of what the other side calls rape culture. “Drunk, alone and will be mad or embarrassed about it later … [guaranteed] not to last for more than one night” sounds like rape to me.

    By request of keranih, I repost it here.

    • Randy M says:

      Who is the fool in that formulation?

      • The Nybbler says:

        I think it’s best understood as “fools’ mate” — that is, they’re both fools.

        • dark orchid says:

          I don’t read it that way. Fool’s mate in chess occurs when one person is a fool and the other plays exactly the right counter-moves in that situation.

          The way I read it is that the PUA is “scoring a win” (the article goes on to say “a lay is a lay”), but they’re scoring an easy win against the “lowest difficulty opponent possible”. To continue with the metaphor, being able to complete the game on super-easy mode doesn’t make you a good player, and doesn’t even count as proper levelling up. (I dislike this terminology a lot personally, but it reflects my biases on how I think a PUA would view the situation.)

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            That seems to be the usage. Per quick google, this is the in-context use:
            “I didn’t even have to run any game to fclose that blonde last night. It was fool’s mate.”

          • A1987dM says:

            As a C programmer, “fclose” gives me pretty much the opposite connotation than intended.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Terming as “rape” what the PUAs are calling “fool’s mate” denies the women involved their agency. They’re out looking to have sex same as the men are; that’s what makes it so easy. It’s probably not a good thing to have sex you reasonably believe your partner will regret, but it’s not rape. Further, the term implies that while the wiser PUA (who does not engage in “fool’s mate”) knows she will regret it, the fool himself does not.

      • Well... says:

        Further, the term implies that while the wiser PUA (who does not engage in “fool’s mate”) knows she will regret it, the fool himself does not.

        The chess metaphor doesn’t map that way. The “fool” in chess is the person who moves 1.f3 and then 2.g4. In sex with strangers you meet at bars pick-up “artistry”, the “fool” is the drunk solo woman, not the PUA who takes advantage of her.

        Which is confusing because the whole PUA thing is foolish to begin with.

    • veeloxtrox says:

      Similar to The Nybbler I would say fool’s mate say probably falls into doing something immoral but is not rape. This is working on the assumption that drunk isn’t black out drunk but make dumb decisions drunk. I would put it in the same realm of wrong as talking a drunk person into a sucker bet for $50. Is it wrong? Yea. Is the “victim” blameless? No. Should we make it illegal? No. Should we discourage people from doing it? Yes.

      • Tarpitz says:

        I assume that the “Fool’s mate” formulation implies relative sobriety on the part of the, uh, mater. If so, I agree that this is contemptible behaviour but should not be criminalised.

        I would contend, though, that the majority of cases of drunken sex involving females who will subsequently regret it involve uncalculating drunken males, who often also regret it, and who are equally unlikely to anticipate any possible regret on their own part or their partner’s. Such incidents, it seems to me, are an unfortunate side effect of heavy drinking much like hangovers, and should attract roughly whatever degree of blame you assign to heavy drinking tout court.

        • dark orchid says:

          Why shouldn’t it be criminalised? (The situation in your first paragraph, not that in the second.)

          The steelperson version of the social justice argument is that the harm done to the woman in this kind of situation is large enough to justify making it an offence. As far as I can tell, people who have been on the receiving end of such behaviour tend to want a law against it.

          • Randy M says:

            Why shouldn’t it be criminalised?

            Taking this seriously, what would the law look like?
            “You may not have intercourse with a woman who you suspect has impaired judgment due to intoxication?” Too subjective. “You may not have intercourse with a woman who has a blood alcohol level about .08%”? How is this going to be checked if she doesn’t regret it until sober? “You may not have intercourse with a woman who is drunk, as determined by her feelings the next day.” Sounds mighty prone to abuse.
            “You may not have intercourse without express written consent given in the presence of a witness and a BAC breathalizer test.” Will never be followed, and so only exists for abuse.

            As far as I can tell, people who have been on the receiving end of such behaviour tend to want a law against it.

            That’s the standard? Someone once said “there ought to be a law”?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Short version:

            Because alcohol is frequently used as an excuse to engage in lower-inhibition behavior. (See studies on behavior when people are provided non-alcoholic beverages that they believe are alcoholic.)

            It will be effectively impossible to disentangle the two sets of behaviors. How do you tell the difference between a woman who wants to have sex, but owing to her socially-inculcated attitudes towards sex uses alcohol in order to justify it to herself, and a woman who… what, doesn’t understand what alcohol does?

            And who, exactly, are we trying to protect? Women who don’t know there are men who will offer them alcohol in order to get them into a state in which they are more willing to have sex? I suspect this is a sufficiently empty set that it makes no sense to enact society-wide restrictions on behavior to solve the problem.

          • John Schilling says:

            And who, exactly, are we trying to protect? […] A woman who… what, doesn’t understand what alcohol does?

            From some of what I have read, this is a disturbingly large set for women in their late teens and early twenties. I don’t think that a law is the appropriate way to protect such women, unless maybe it’s one that opens a legal path for learning what alcohol does in a safer and more controlled environment than a frat party.

          • dark orchid says:

            To the commenters who have replied:

            I am being serious, yes.

            I find it interesting that in many ways I feel close to the rationalist community – like preferring truth over “a member of my ingroup said it”, the kind of “nerdy” things I like – but on the issue of culture war, I’m much closer to the moderate side of social justice (yes we exist) than the average person here (as it seems to me). Possibly different filter bubbles as much as different worldviews?

            That doesn’t mean I endorse extremists who claim to be fighting for the same social justice goals as I have, which as far as I can tell are just the usual percentage of people for whom it’s simply about power and getting satisfaction out of hurting others, and social justice is what they’re currently latched on to (despite the sarcasm of hurting people in the name of making the world a better place).

            If I’m being a net drain on the community here, please tell me to stop. It won’t make me any worse off to not talk about my views on the culture war here.

            The thing is, I feel that there’s something deeply wrong with the current unwritten rules for – let’s say “college dating”. I agree that the model of “don’t have sex with someone until in a publicly affirmed long-term relationship” is no longer appropriate for everyone. But I think society should be putting more thought into working out a better model, and laws can be both an effective behaviour-changer for the better and an incredilby blunt instrument for the worse. Examples of the former might be seatbelt laws and banning smoking in restaurants; examples of the latter include Prohibition and pretty much every blasphemy law ever. Yet my gut feeling – definitely biased by seeing the harm some of my close friends have suffered – is that I’d be willing to try more legal regulation despite the risks, and can imagine such laws doing more good than harm.

            Replying to Randy M:

            I honestly don’t know what such a law would look like, and I’d expect it to end up similarly blunt as the one defining age of consent. In principle, I think coming up with a good law is possible for people with more experience than me on this matter. (And yes, “a group of people demanded a law on something, so we made one” is one of the ways that laws get made.)

            Replying to Thegnskald: I think of it not so much as trying to protect a particular group as changing the current social convention – ideally to one better for all parties. The men who go for one “fool’s mate” after another are criticised even by the PUA community, and the article linked in the last open thread which contained the quote recommends “co-dependent men” against going down the PUA route, claiming that it might give them more sex but will leave them worse off overall.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @dark orchid

            The problem isn’t the laws or rules, it’s the culture. The sexual revolution stalled halfway, and there is a mixture of promiscuity and prudishness (eg, people will hook up, but they’ll drink enough to not feel weird about it first; they won’t negotiate consent beforehand, and I’ve been told by a woman who would regularly meet up for sex with random guys off the internet that a guy seeking affirmative consent would be “weird”) that simultaneously both results in a lot of people hurt without anyone meaning it, and gives a smokescreen to actual predators.

            If this is the case on campuses – where usually the non-legal methods for addressing this are far less friendly to the accused than the criminal system out in the real world is, and still do not prevent there from being a fair bit of sexual predation – how will changing criminal law fix the problem? The rules on campuses haven’t changed the sexual culture; I can’t imagine legal changes will either. Seatbelt and smoking bans aren’t a good comparison: it’s easy to tell whether someone is wearing a seatbelt or smoking; no non-seatbelt-wearing smoker can plausibly say that it’s all a big misunderstanding.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Several issues that I haven’t seen mentioned.

            1. Women do this as well. Has no woman ever made a pass a guy she liked while he was in a rough patch with his girlfriend? What makes this materially different? Women manipulate situations much like men do to get favorable outcomes, and there is no clear line to draw here.

            2. None of the actions individually are illegal. If you drop a date rape drug in someone’s drink that is illegal on its own, even if you don’t use it to have sex with them. Refusing to let a woman go can be illegal even if you don’t have sex with them while holding them down. Trying to hold a woman down can get you attempted rape, as can spiking a drink, are we going to write a law that implies going up to a woman in a bar and talking to them can be attempted rape?

            3. Regret isn’t just about an encounter, a person might regret something because of how their friends reacted after the fact. Is it rape if one friend goes “you went home with him? Yuck” and not rape if they say “Well I guess he was kinda cute….”?

          • Aapje says:

            @baconbits9

            And a woman can also take advantage of a drunken man. A female American comedian told a story during a speech about having sex with a guy who was so “wasted” that his eyes couldn’t focus and who fell asleep during sex.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ Aapje-

            That is already generally considered rape when a man does that to a women, and is probably considered rape in the other direction by a majority if it was put to them.

            The description in “fool’s mate” is one where the woman is being presented as having the faculties to make her own decision.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      In Christian morality, violating the chastity of someone who wouldn’t consent if sober is a big deal sin, but there’s still a clear difference between that and forcible rape.
      Pick-Up Art is what would traditionally be called being a rake or a cad. It’s explicitly designed around teaching men who can’t get laid how to pick up bar belles (maybe they should just hit the gym?). The men who need this sort of help are sympathetic human beings, but we shouldn’t jump from that sympathy to supporting being a cad.
      Oddly enough, apparently a few big names in the “manosphere” like Roissy are aware of all this and have made public statements like “traditional morality was better, but no individual can recreate it so my penis shall watch the world burn.”

      • Nornagest says:

        There have always been links between the more ideological side of PUA and the more traditionalist side of the Dark Enlightenment, probably because they both cater to nerdy urban men who’re frustrated with the dominant cultural narrative but who aren’t willing to just join the Mormons or something.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          That does seem simpler!
          I mean, practicing any religion seriously is work, but I definitely think there’s a sense of the word simple in which this is true.

        • Well... says:

          but who aren’t willing to just join the Mormons or something.

          I’ve pointed out something similar — that they aren’t willing to join the Amish or convert to conservative Islam — but my conclusion was it’s because they don’t really have the courage of their convictions — they don’t really want the things they say they want, or wouldn’t want them if they could have them — and instead have merely discovered something unpopular they can pick up and feel brave carrying around.

          • johan_larson says:

            Well, there is more to it than that. Living as a faithful Mormon or Muslim if you don’t believe in the fundamentals of the faith is living a huge and burdensome lie. It is a terrible trade if all you’re getting out of it is steady sex.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Since when have men found it terribly burdensome to tell lies for sex?

          • Randy M says:

            There’s more to it than mouthing a lie. Think of all the persecution Muslim men face in the west.

            And they can’t drink.

          • Matt M says:

            if you don’t believe in the fundamentals of the faith is living a huge and burdensome lie

            And yet, male feminists still continue to exist…

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Islam would be a bad choice for these guys anyway, because high-status men can have More than one wife. The LDS church is actually a very good choice, funnily only because it changed its doctrine on polygamy. The Fundamentalist LDS are night-and-day different.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            And yet, male feminists still continue to exist…

            Defection.

          • Nornagest says:

            Defection.

            Is this going to be your thing now?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Is this going to be your thing now?

            Let me guess that you don’t like it. You find it annoying and dreary.

            My point exactly.

          • Nornagest says:

            Well, as long as you’re aware that it comes off as annoying and dreary…

            …actually, no, let’s stop there. Calling out bad arguments is one thing, but if you’re going to do it, do it with better arguments. No one asked you to be the Fun Police.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nornagest:

            Is there an argument in Matt’s post that I missed? I can’t offer a counter argument. He’s just putting up the boo lights. I thought that was supposed to frowned upon. It doesn’t satisfy any of the tripartite “suggestions”.

            What if I offer these kind of pointless jabs skewering right wing oxen, will this be met without comment? If I start offering comments about “male tears” or how racist rednecks are or something … yeah that’ll go over well.

            The other possibility is that I should comport myself as if I am a guest in a right-wing space. This seems anathema to the place, but rationalizations abound.

          • Nornagest says:

            Look, I dislike one-liners as much as you and I’ve called them out on both sides of the aisle, but I don’t meet them with more one-liners. That doesn’t make these comments better for anyone.

            I’m willing to tolerate a certain amount of low-level snark aimed at social justice shibboleths (this isn’t a right-wing space, but it is a space that’s generally unfriendly to SJ). I’d advise you to tolerate it too. If you’re not willing to, you can report it, or you can try to make an actual case against it. But please don’t sink to its level.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nornagest:
            In order to make the case that it shouldn’t be that way, I’d need to establish that it’s occurring. At some frequency. That is deleterious to conversation.

          • Nornagest says:

            So store them in a file offline or something, if you care that much. What you’re doing right now is also deleterious to conversation, and it doesn’t actually help you build a case — others will remember “HBC keeps accusing people of defection”, but they won’t correlate the times you do.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I have a feeling that if I kept them in a file and posted a laundry list, you would give me even more crap.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            It’s the snit-for-tat strategy!

          • Iain says:

            There’s a certain irony in Nornagest responding to HBC’s one-line attempt to police posting behaviour with … a one-line attempt to police posting behaviour.

            Nobody asked HBC to be the Fun Police. Nobody asked Nornagest to be the Fun Police Police. Nobody asked me to be the Fun Police Police Police. Nobody asked Matt M to be inane. Nevertheless, we persist.

          • Nornagest says:

            I have a feeling that if I kept them in a file and posted a laundry list, you would give me even more crap.

            I might give you crap for cultivating bizarre resentments over parts of forum culture that’ve been here for years, but that beats spamming your resentment over whatever number of threads.

          • rlms says:

            I call dibs on Fun Police^n for n = 4..7.

          • Creutzer says:

            Think of all the persecution Muslim men face in the west.

            Persecution is hardly an appropriate word.

            But as for what there is, I’d predict that as an ethnically and linguistically western convert, you would be exempt from many of the prejudices against people with middle eastern complexions and names.

          • Nornagest says:

            Muslim converts often adopt Muslim names, don’t they? Or is that just a Nation of Islam thing?

          • dick says:

            Nobody asked HBC to be the Fun Police.

            Well, let me be the first. The stuff HBC is complaining about is precisely the stuff that makes me hesitant to contribute. Not in a “my tender sensibilities have been harmed” way but in a “I came here for an argument” way.

          • Matt M says:

            I have a feeling that if I kept them in a file and posted a laundry list, you would give me even more crap.

            I had a guy on a different forum do this to me once. It was hilarious. Over a multi-year span he put together a “greatest hits” of my allegedly most horrible and offensive comments and opinions (mostly taken entirely out of context) and would occasionally respond to me by simply dumping the list.

            He thought this behavior made me look bad, lol.

          • rlms says:

            @Matt M
            Have you ever encountered that happening to anyone else? If not, why do you think that is?

          • Daniel says:

            Nobody asked HBC to be the Fun Police.

            Well, let me be the first.

            Let me be the second. HeelBearCub, I really appreciate it.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            It’s weird that the guy who I associate the most with the comments “less of this” and “go away John” has a problem with someone else marking other peoples’ inane, snarky comments.

          • johan_larson says:

            Let me explain what I am getting at. Some guys really want sex or more charitably a wife, and Well… is calling them hypocrites or cowards for not being willing to join conservative religious sects to get sex or a wife.

            I’ve pointed out something similar — that they aren’t willing to join the Amish or convert to conservative Islam — but my conclusion was it’s because they don’t really have the courage of their convictions — they don’t really want the things they say they want, or wouldn’t want them if they could have them…

            I think this is unreasonable. Living as a conservative Muslim while an unbeliever isn’t like moving house or losing weight or quitting drinking — bothersome but tractable things — it is something much more than that. It means praying five times a day. It means changing your diet and sometimes fasting. It means hanging out with people who believe things that you think are at best a waste of time and probably pernicious. It means patiently listening to holy men exhort you to do these wasteful or pernicious things. It means people will hit you up for money to do them. And it means raising your children to believe all these things. This, in aggregate, for life, is the vast and burdensome lie I was speaking of.

            I see no conflict in someone on the one hand wanting sex or marriage so badly it hurts, and on the other not wanting it so badly they are willing to take on the vast burden of life in a conservative religious community as an unbeliever. Accordingly we should not be calling those who turn down this deal hypocrites.

          • Brad says:

            this isn’t a right-wing space,

            It is, actually. And this comment along with the similar ones you made elsewhere in this open thread are effectively efforts to keep it that way.

          • Matt M says:

            It has a weirdly high amount of self-professed communists for a right-wing space. A lot more than any other right-wing space I’ve ever seen!

          • Brad says:

            And at least one incredibly prolific shitposter!

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Eh. I don’t think Matt M is a shit poster. He just likes to shit post. There is a fairly big difference.

            Going off recollection, recent interactions with him have been mostly productive, with a fair amount charity.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Is any place that’s not pro-SJ a right-wing space? Because that’s the only part of the left that people hate on here. We engage politely with Marxists, are unusually likely to discuss huge redistribution schemes like UBI that are outside the Overton window of most Western countries, etc.

          • Brad says:

            “Not pro-SJ“ is quite an understatement.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Brad: What are you implying? That criticizing SJWs, or even low effort mockery, is sufficient by itself to make people right-wing? Even if they’re socially liberal atheists who support Planned Parenthood and rainstorm different socialist schemes?

          • rlms says:

            Come on, there’s a guy upthread describing Ron Unz as fairminded. That’s doesn’t happen in left-wing or neutral spaces. Conversely, those spaces typically have at least occasional statements that sexism against women is bad.

          • Brad says:

            It’s possible to be anti-union and a centrist or left-winger (in the US). However if you stand huge chunks of your time bitterly denouncing unions, unionism, and union members to anyone that will listen and many who wish not to, congrats you’re a right winger.

          • 10240 says:

            Come on, there’s a guy upthread describing Ron Unz as fairminded. That’s doesn’t happen in left-wing or neutral spaces.

            If a space has little ideological restriction on what people may post, I don’t think we can infer that it’s not neutral from the existence of a certain sort of posts.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            The more neutral an online space is, the more likely someone is to troll it with extreme links like “Hey, what do you think of this anti-Semitic essay/video?”
            I would shed no tears over Scott dropping the banhammer on that specific behavior, but his scrupulosity would probably make him rationalize a “consistent standard” rather than a narrow “Hey, I’m Jewish and you were a guest in my space.”

          • rlms says:

            @10240
            It might be neutral in terms of Scott’s moderation (indeed I think it is) but if there people who think Unz is cool (a rather fringe right-wing belief) yet few who think the gender wage gap is not (a rather mainstream left-wing belief) then it would appear not to be neutral in terms content.

          • a reader says:

            @Brad

            This is not a right-wing space. It seems actually quite balanced. For example I looked in the last comments (after my last visit) for people whose political affiliations / position in SJ issues I know:

            Left: 6

            dndnrsn
            Eugene Dawn
            LadyJane (*)
            Brad
            HeelBearCub
            BBA

            Right: 6

            onyomi
            Aapje
            Deiseach
            Matt M
            The Nybbler
            Le Maistre Chat

            And if we judge by SSC survey 2017 results – see the graphs for Political Spectrum and Political Affiliation – it seems that SSC readers lean left:

            http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/03/17/ssc-survey-2017-results/

            If you perceive this as a right-wing space, maybe you spend most of your online time in almost exclusively left-wing spaces.

            ———————
            * I know LadyJane is a libertarian, but in the SJ issues discussed here, she leans left.

          • bean says:

            Come on, there’s a guy upthread describing Ron Unz as fairminded. That’s doesn’t happen in left-wing or neutral spaces.

            Why not? Should anyone who advocates for Unz being fairminded be banned in a neutral space? (I say this as someone who believes that he’s either a useful idiot or in the pay of the FSB.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            @a reader

            The politics of this place swing significantly anti-SJ, and anti-SJ is coded as right-wing. There’s also a tolerance for fringe views that here sees probably more fringe right-wingers than fringe left-wingers. It’s not an across-the-board right-wing slant; rather, it’s a place where if a half-dozen Stalinists and Maoists showed up, they’d be treated better than a half-dozen lefty SJ activist types showing up. Which I think is really weird – campus activists with many-hued hair are annoying, but do they even have single-digit body counts, let alone eight-digit?

          • uau says:

            @dndnrsn

            if a half-dozen Stalinists and Maoists showed up, they’d be treated better than a half-dozen lefty SJ activist types showing up. Which I think is really weird – campus activists with many-hued hair are annoying, but do they even have single-digit body counts, let alone eight-digit?

            Not that weird I think. Body count is a function of both “badness” of the ideology and the followers’ competence in getting power; if SJ activists are less competent or less successful than Stalin, that doesn’t necessarily make their views any less objectionable. “Merely single-digit body counts” also ignores the other kinds of harm they successfully have caused.

            It’s also a pretty broad consensus now that communist and nazist ideology have been debunked; there doesn’t appear to be much risk that either true communist or true Nazi movements would gain much power. Social Justice is much newer than those movements and no such consensus exists about it yet. In the 1920s/1930s you could have asked “Why care about Nazis? We have these past movements that led to wars with huge casualties!”.

          • rlms says:

            @a reader
            Lurk moar. Also, see my upcoming latest edition of the comments scraping/political analysis.

            @bean
            Neutral as in content, not moderation style; people who say that just don’t turn up in neutral spaces (at least, I think, I would welcome a counterexample).

          • DeWitt says:

            there doesn’t appear to be much risk that either true communist or true Nazi movements would gain much power.

            There’s that one place called Eastern Europe where they had to deal with both these issues more than anyone else, and yet…

          • Matt M says:

            IMO, the SJ movement is scary precisely because it more resembles the Stanlinists in rhetoric and action than the “economic Marxists” currently do.

            It’s the SJWs who show up at libraries and scream at people for being privileged. Who attack white people with dreadlocks and assault teenagers for wearing MAGA hats. Who drive food trucks out of business in Portland.

            And these types of people do have power. Significant cultural power, and some pretty solid political power in certain cities (SF, Portland, etc.)

          • 10240 says:

            It might be neutral in terms of Scott’s moderation (indeed I think it is) but if there people who think Unz is cool (a rather fringe right-wing belief) yet few who think the gender wage gap is not (a rather mainstream left-wing belief) then it would appear not to be neutral in terms content.

            Complemented with the second claim it makes more sense.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @uau

            Not that weird I think. Body count is a function of both “badness” of the ideology and the followers’ competence in getting power; if SJ activists are less competent or less successful than Stalin, that doesn’t necessarily make their views any less objectionable. “Merely single-digit body counts” also ignores the other kinds of harm they successfully have caused.

            Case in point; I mean, I just can’t imagine how SJ activists are as bad as Stalin. That doesn’t make any sense to me. And here I have at least a couple people telling me, no, be as worried about stuff that is, thus far, at its worst not even as bad as the Hollywood Blacklist, as about Stalinism. That’s wild. I think a lot of people have a really exaggerated startle reflex when it comes to the campus-activist-left types. What is the worst single thing that SJ activists have done? What is the grand total of the bad they have done? The number of groups I can think of that are worse is very, very long.

            It’s also a pretty broad consensus now that communist and nazist ideology have been debunked; there doesn’t appear to be much risk that either true communist or true Nazi movements would gain much power. Social Justice is much newer than those movements and no such consensus exists about it yet. In the 1920s/1930s you could have asked “Why care about Nazis? We have these past movements that led to wars with huge casualties!”.

            First, what does “debunked” mean? People don’t adopt ideologies because they’re intellectually convincing. People might have “antibodies” against them, but as DeWitt notes, there are Polish Nazis. So clearly antibodies aren’t that great. There’s plenty of movements that have looked discredited and beaten that have come back.

            Second, the Nazis described a lot of the stuff they were going to do (for example, expanding eastwards at the expense of the people living there) before they did it; before they took power, even. There were reasons to be worried. A lot of people figured that stuff was just rhetoric – this is the opposite of looking at rhetoric that is obnoxious, and behaviour that’s at worst shitty, and finding possible serious future threats there.

          • bean says:

            Neutral as in content, not moderation style; people who say that just don’t turn up in neutral spaces (at least, I think, I would welcome a counterexample).

            This seems circular. What counterexample could I give that you couldn’t dismiss as being not neutral? For that matter, why doesn’t the presence of open Marxists prove that this is a left-wing space? For that matter, how does neutrality have anything to do with Unz fandom? If we find a far leftist wingnut to pair with him, wouldn’t that be neutral? Or do we ban everything a certain distance from the center? For that matter, I’m far from certain that we wouldn’t see something like the hostile media effect at work even if Scott was actively attempting to maintain some platonic ideological balance in the comments section.

          • uau says:

            @dndnrsn
            Case in point; I mean, I just can’t imagine how SJ activists are as bad as Stalin.

            I don’t think Stalin or Hitler were that exceptional at badness. What they were exceptional at was success. I believe there are lots of SJ activists who would be at least as bad as Stalin if they managed to gain a similar level of power. It’s just that most people will only be looked at weirdly if they try to order others to start building concentration camps.

            Overall, I think the most dangerous thing about Social Justice is an ideology that has rejecting truth and ways to determine truth as a central feature. Anything has an excuse. It’s much closer to communism than nazism.

            First, what does “debunked” mean? People don’t adopt ideologies because they’re intellectually convincing. People might have “antibodies” against them, but as DeWitt notes, there are Polish Nazis.

            There may be some (rare) Nazis, but overall Nazis are still standard movie villains.

            Second, the Nazis described a lot of the stuff they were going to do

            I agree that a comparison between Social Justice and Nazis isn’t that close. Communism is a closer match though.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            It might be neutral in terms of Scott’s moderation (indeed I think it is) but if there people who think Unz is cool (a rather fringe right-wing belief) yet few who think the gender wage gap is not (a rather mainstream left-wing belief) then it would appear not to be neutral in terms content.

            1. There seems to be only one person who openly says that Unz is cool. Judging something by the existence of a single person seems methodologically rather unsound.
            2. Many left-wing sources, like HuffPo, have written stories debunking the common narrative about the gender wage gap. If there is a relative dearth of people arguing a weak-mannish/dumb left-wing claim, does that show that the space is right-wing or does it show that certain dumb beliefs are less present?
            3. Cherry picking a single mainstream left-wing belief and judging a community to be right wing by it being rarely argued, is a method that can be used to declare that certain left-wing spaces are right-wing. For example, certain radical feminist spaces may have very few people who believe that transwomen should be regarded as women, which is a rather mainstream left-wing belief.

          • engleberg says:

            Re: there’s a guy saying Ron Unz is fairminded-

            I’d hate to try to prove that Ron Unz is conventionally fairminded. But I’d hate to try to prove he’s not randomly batty enough to average out as sort of fair.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @uau

            I don’t think Stalin or Hitler were that exceptional at badness. What they were exceptional at was success. I believe there are lots of SJ activists who would be at least as bad as Stalin if they managed to gain a similar level of power. It’s just that most people will only be looked at weirdly if they try to order others to start building concentration camps.

            Hitler and Stalin were clearly exceptional at badness – the other inarguably fascist government by and large stuck to crimes that were fairly ordinary for a European colonial power; likewise there were many totalitarian communist dictators who didn’t reach Stalin’s heights. Why do you think there are lots of SJ activists who would be that bad? I don’t think that; I don’t think they have anywhere near the badness, nor the motivation, nor the wherewithal.

            Overall, I think the most dangerous thing about Social Justice is an ideology that has rejecting truth and ways to determine truth as a central feature. Anything has an excuse. It’s much closer to communism than nazism.

            I think that the most dangerous element of it is that due to how it operates in its ecosystem (it thrives in places like campuses where it is, effectively, playing on easy mode; learning to play a game on easy mode isn’t a great way to get good at the game – “game” is a metaphor for securing power in society at large), it produces a massive and disproportionate backlash. See: this discussion of whether it is more like Stalin or Hitler. There’s a lot of young men (mostly white, but with a lot of East Asians everyone seems to ignore) who are drifting towards some pretty dicey right-wing stuff, on account of what they ran into on campus.

            There may be some (rare) Nazis, but overall Nazis are still standard movie villains.

            First, there are some parts of the world where they’re more common, or where stuff that in the US, Western Europe, etc is considered “Nazi stuff” is more common. Second, national socialism’s crimes are still within living memory. Give it 20 or 50 years, see what happens.

            EDIT: I don’t think we’re going to see the next murderous totalitarianism, left wing or right wing, coming, not in a real way.

          • uau says:

            @dndnrsn

            Hitler and Stalin were clearly exceptional at badness – the other inarguably fascist government by and large stuck to crimes that were fairly ordinary for a European colonial power

            Your examples mainly show that they were worse than average. Sure, I’ll agree they were in the top 10% of badness, but that’s quite different from “exceptional”. Was Stalin particularly worse than Pol Pot? The organizers of the Armenian genocide? The rulers of North Korea? There aren’t that many people with the chance to do this kind of stuff. So I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to assume that if you have a few dozen SJ activists, at least one has the capacity to be worse than Stalin.

            Why do you think there are lots of SJ activists who would be that bad? I don’t think that; I don’t think they have anywhere near the badness, nor the motivation, nor the wherewithal.

            I agree that few have the motivation or competence, and so they are less of a practical threat. I don’t think they’re particularly less evil though.

            I think that the most dangerous element of it is that due to how it operates in its ecosystem (…), it produces a massive and disproportionate backlash.

            I don’t think the chance of them succeeding on the scale of Stalin is a significant risk either. But this discussion started from you wondering why SJ activists wouldn’t be treated better than Stalinists. As above, I don’t think they’re particularly less evil personally. Their official ideology isn’t less objectionable than Stalin’s was. And despite Stalin’s past success, in most of the (western) world the chance of Stalinists successfully causing significant future harm is almost certainly lower than that of SJ activists achieving it.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Your examples mainly show that they were worse than average. Sure, I’ll agree they were in the top 10% of badness, but that’s quite different from “exceptional”. Was Stalin particularly worse than Pol Pot? The organizers of the Armenian genocide? The rulers of North Korea? There aren’t that many people with the chance to do this kind of stuff. So I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to assume that if you have a few dozen SJ activists, at least one has the capacity to be worse than Stalin.

            Stalin was not as bad as Pol Pot to the point that he did not immolate his own country to anywhere near the same degree Pol Pot did; he was worse in that he didn’t do that, and was thus able to extend his power far more – had he immolated his country in the 30s to the extent Pol Pot did, the USSR would have collapsed as soon as the Germans “kicked the door in” (and then in turn Nazi Germany would have been worse than it was in actual history, as it would have been able to implement Generalplan Ost fully, etc – that’s how evil national socialism was; it didn’t even get to do everything it wanted!).

            I agree that few have the motivation or competence, and so they are less of a practical threat. I don’t think they’re particularly less evil though.

            Which ones do you think are evil? Which ones would be worse than Stalin if given comparable power?

            I don’t think the chance of them succeeding on the scale of Stalin is a significant risk either. But this discussion started from you wondering why SJ activists wouldn’t be treated better than Stalinists. As above, I don’t think they’re particularly less evil personally. Their official ideology isn’t less objectionable than Stalin’s was. And despite Stalin’s past success, in most of the (western) world the chance of Stalinists successfully causing significant future harm is almost certainly lower than that of SJ activists achieving it.

            What is their “official ideology” and why do you think it is not less objectionable than Stalin’s? What significant future harm do you think it will cause?

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            I think that it is weird for you to argue that Stalin was worse because he was less bad. Based on your line of reasoning you can disqualify everyone for either being less bad than Stalin to qualify for comparison or too bad too qualify.

          • uau says:

            @dndnrsn

            Which ones do you think are evil? Which ones would be worse than Stalin if given comparable power?

            I’m not going to predict exactly which ones would end up being worse. My main point has been that “more evil than Stalin” is not a terribly high bar. If you have a sufficiently counter-rational ideology and/or suitable personal ambition, you can do a lot of damage. Stalin killed many not because he would have been one-out-of-a-million evil or anything like that, but because he was more evil than most and one-out-of-hundred-million powerful. And thus “they’re less evil than Stalin” isn’t much of a defense in my view – most people haven’t had the chance to similarly express their evilness.

            What is their “official ideology” and why do you think it is not less objectionable than Stalin’s? What significant future harm do you think it will cause?

            Social Justice ideology also provides “justification” for condemning about anything in existing society you want to oppose, and provides tools to reject any criticism. (To avoid possible confusion, note that I wrote “official” mainly to mean ideology publicly used to justify actions, and distinguish it from “personal ideology” like “gain power by whatever means possible”.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje

            Let’s put it another way: if Stalin was like Pol Pot, he would have killed a lot more Soviets, but he wouldn’t have ended up with a big chunk of Europe. Had Stalin been like Pol Pot, Hitler probably would have killed more Soviets too.

            @uau

            There were plenty who had the same ideology as Stalin, or similar enough; Stalin’s death toll seems to have had as much to do with significant large-scale paranoia as anything else – any failure was due to a vast enemy conspiracy that needed to be rooted out.

            I’m interested in your proposed narrative for how the whole thing shakes out, to be honest. When I look at SJ activists, like I said, I’m worried far more about the backlash they’re creating. I don’t think they’re optimizing to either seize power or to get masses of people onside.

          • Viliam says:

            The politics of this place swing significantly anti-SJ, and anti-SJ is coded as right-wing.

            I would say this is primarily an anti-stupidity website, and… how to say it politely… I guess I can’t. Whatever, y’all know what I mean: even incoherent screeching may be considered a valid SJ argument, depending on who said it; and the most rational and fact-supported analysis may be considered invalid, if said by a white male or a conservative or a similar monster.

            But if that is enough to make someone right-wing, then by the same logic Bernie Sanders is right-wing, simply by being a white male and still having the audacity to compete with a woman. By the same criteria, more than 90% of Americans are right-wing. If that is your threshold, then yes, by the same criteria SSC is also right-wing; also, you live in a tiny bubble.

            A Stalinist or Maoist would be more likely to produce an internally coherent argument for their faith, compared with a SJW. Killing millions of people is bad in real life, but listening to “your argument is not valid because you are a white male” is fucking annoying in a debate.

    • keranih says:

      Thanks for following up on this. The actual quote in the linked article is:

      Quick definition: An easy [sexual conquest] that happens without really gaming the [woman]…it is possible to obtain a fool’s mate via drunk targets who are alone, horny and desperate girls, etc. However the community does not consider this real game. A lay is a lay, but sleeping with a girl because of fool’s mate will not improve a PUA’s skill level. Also, the girl will likely be mad, or embarrassed at her own bad decision making.

      (emphasis mine)

      None of that is rape. In fact, due to the lack of manipulative behavior on the part of the PUA, I’d even put any of the above as *less* objectionable than standard ‘game.’ And that includes picking up a sex partner who is ‘willing drunk’ but who is going to wake up the next morning sober enough to go ‘wtf was I thinking!?!?’

      Saying otherwise removes agency and self determination from the woman, and treats her as a child who needs a constant minder.

      Most likely, I would consider a successful ‘fool’s mate’ to be the actions of a cad, and no gentleman, but only under strict circumstances (such as – buying the woman stronger drinks than she realizes with the intent of getting her drunk enough to agree to agree to sex) would I consider it as even bordering on rape. The woman in question might be a fool, but that’s not a crime, either.

      • Matt M says:

        Even if you don’t think it’s rape, that seems to be the type of encounter that is very high-risk for a false-accusation type of scenario. I would imagine the PUA type of person would avoid this sort of thing if only for that reason.

        • keranih says:

          Oh, yeah, definitely – but innocent until proven guilty, which makes the woman a definite fool, and the guy twice one, assuming that he got into the situation sober.

        • dark orchid says:

          I’m not sure of the exact legal status in the US of such behaviour; my guess would be “depends on how sympathetic a judge you get, and the individual circumstances”. (For example, sorting out the difference between “buying her a drink” and “plying her with drink”.)

          This is the exact kind of behaviour that activists want to be included under the definition of rape, if it’s not so already. And any activist who’s read their communication 101 will know not to put “drunk sex should be rape” but “drunk sex IS rape” on their placard – I’m pretty sure if you did an A/B test on those two slogans, the second would do better.

          (There’s the obvious argument that marital rape only became a crime after parts of society pushed for it, and perhaps one day the same will go for drunk sex.)

          My point here is that if the woman involved regrets it, and then repeatedly hears that what happened to her is called rape, then if she makes an accusation, while it may not meet the current legal definition, this sounds like a non-central example of a false accusation to me; the central example would be something like accusing someone of raping you when he wasn’t even in town that night, and you know it.

          Personally, while acknowledging that this is a complex issue, I don’t consider “agency” a terminal value. I’ve grabbed a drunk friend before now because they were about to step into traffic, and I’ve had depressive episodes before now that friends helped me out of precisely by ignoring my “leave me alone” requests at the time.

          I also think that “enthusiastic consent” is a pretty good attempt to define a Schelling point, and not necessarily a worse law than the one we currently have.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            From what I’ve seen, the typical “drunk sex was rape” story isn’t about regret, it’s a claim that the person (usually but not always a woman) became significantly more stressed and less happy in general and concludes that they’d suffered an emotionally important boundary violation.

          • Aapje says:

            @dark orchid

            Note that ‘false accusation’ refers to any accusation that is not true. It doesn’t have to involve lying, in the same way that accusing someone of telling a falsehood doesn’t mean that you claim that they were lying.

            However, it is an issue that many people believe that making claims about false accusations means that one is accusing women of being intentionally deceptive.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I also think that “enthusiastic consent” is a pretty good attempt to define a Schelling point, and not necessarily a worse law than the one we currently have.

            It’s extremely poorly defined and more subjective than “consent”, and furthermore fails to cover the case we’re discussing where she may have been enthusiastic that night but regrets it in the cold light of morning. So I think it’s quite a terrible Schelling point.

          • Randy M says:

            Yeah, drunks are known for enthusiasm. Presumably we’re supposed to consider that included under consent, but I think that’s ignoring the fact that a lot of people drink in order to make themselves more enthusiastic–to lower their inhibitions.

            Don’t get me wrong, those people are probably dumb and people taking advantage of them are wrong–but it isn’t an area where the law can draw bright clear lines.

          • dark orchid says:

            Replying to The Nybbler:

            The original quote (the way I read it) suggests that the PUA is fully aware that the woman will regret it later. In such a situation, I think the correct thing to do is leave her alone, and if I had to define a principle on which I’d base this conclusion I’d say that enthusiastic consent is a good principle to start with.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Enthusiastic consent isn’t on the table as a reasonable standard for society as a whole: Those of us who are in long-term commitments (most of the population) have a simple and brutal truth to impart:

            Sometimes people have sex for the benefit of the other person, and this is a good thing. Sometimes we initiate sex when we aren’t particularly enthusiastic so that the pattern isn’t consistently “Person with higher sex drive experiences sex as something that only happens when the person with the lower sex drive agrees to it, turning what should be a reciprocal relationship into one in which only one party is making all the decisions”.

            You can argue for affirmative consent, but the argument for enthusaistic consent is more or less dead. If you want to push that, I think it is flawed for different reasons relating to the fact that most people have a strong emotional attachment to the concept of “romance”, which includes a feeling of mental connection derived from responding to unspoken desires. Most of the people arguing for affirmative consent do not appear to experience or appreciate the value represented there, so it is important to begin with the fact that there is something valuable we are talking about destroying.

            (And I don’t think affirmative consent will even function the way it is intended to, since predators aren’t stupid and respond to society. Indeed, I suspect it will do more to empower predators than it will accomplish in getting clueless people to avoid unintentionally hurting each other.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think enthusiastic consent works pretty well as a standard for governing your own behavior in a scenario where you have no long term prior relationship with the other party. You simply should be quite sure that they, in fact, want to.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub says:

            You seem to actually be advocating consent, not enthusiastic consent.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            The “enthusiastic” part is what allows for the “quite sure you actually want to” part.

          • The Nybbler says:

            That doesn’t help if they’re quite sure they want to do it in the moment, yet have regrets in the cold light of morning.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I disagree. You can have very clear unenthusiastic consent.

            “I’ll have sex with you now to make you happy, expecting you to do something you are less enthusiastic about for me later, in return” is clearly consent, but not enthusiastically, when it comes to the sex part of that deal.

            Also, some people are naturally very unenthusiastic in their expression. Are we going to teach/force these people to writhe about during sex, scream, engage in dirty talk during it or such?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            You seem to be ignoring –

            in a scenario where you have no long term prior relationship with the other party

            Unless we are talking about prostitution, which has a separate, mercantile, system for establishing the parties wishes.

            If someone is unenthusiastic in their expressions, and you don’t have some long term history with that person so that you are already familiar with their general expressions of wants and desires, taking time to make sure they actually are enthusiastic seems like a good standard to hold yourself to.

          • 10240 says:

            And any activist who’s read their communication 101 will know not to put “drunk sex should be rape” but “drunk sex IS rape” on their placard – I’m pretty sure if you did an A/B test on those two slogans, the second would do better.

            Which makes them as manipulative as any of the guys you want to call out…

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I misread.

            However, I feel the need to point out that there is amateur prostitution. A student who sleeps with a teacher for better grades is engaging in prostitution. The quid-pro-quo may then not be explicitly hashed out in advance, but instead assumed.

          • ana53294 says:

            A student who sleeps with a teacher for better grades is engaging in prostitution.

            This relationship would be problematic even if there was enthusiastic consent and the student didn’t regret it. The same way a cop receiving a bribe is problematic even if both parts are happy with the deal.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            That still wouldn’t be good reason not to want to have enthusiastic consent. If for no other reason than to not hate yourself later. And the teacher example is bad, bad, bad. Use “writing their paper” or something.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I’m fine with it as a personal morality, but don’t see how it can work well as a legal principle.

            Why is the teacher example bad? I’m not talking about a situation where the teacher threatens to flunk the student for not sleeping with him/her, but a situation where the student approaches the teacher because he or she wants a better grade than would otherwise be given.

            Are you doing that thing where you attribute full agency to one side and no agency to the other? Because I reject that.

      • Well... says:

        What I had said before, and then deleted, was something along the lines of:

        “drunk targets who are alone” – Isn’t the whole point of “picking up” girls to get them alone? And how often is this done without first plying them with drinks?

        Anyway, I’m normally troubled by rape accusations because the accusation itself can, and sometimes is, used as a weapon, yet the act of rape is also often hard to prove when it does happen. No easy answers there as far as I can see. But I find I have far less sympathy for so-called PUAs when they are accused of rape or perpetuating rape culture or whatever. Their whole vocabulary is based around conflict and conquest. (E.g. terms borrowed from chess; calling women “targets” and “lays”; etc.) I’m not saying it’s impossible for a non-rapey person to see those oppositional metaphors readily in male-female relationships, but I would expect a non-rapey person to recognize the hazard of those metaphors and avoid operationalizing them. Don’t PUAs have any self-awareness?

        • Matt M says:

          “drunk targets who are alone” – Isn’t the whole point of “picking up” girls to get them alone?

          I’m pretty sure they mean girls who are already alone before you approach, as opposed to those who are present at the bar/whatever with friends.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            … as in girls who are separated from their more sober friends who will look at for their actual wishes, just like your buddies will prevent you from doing something stupid when you are drunk.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m really speculating here, but just to clarify, I think it means that there is a categorical difference in terms of mood, desires, expectations, etc. between a girl who goes out alone, and a girl who goes out with her friends (and then gets separated from her friends, possibly through your own intervention).

            It’s like recommending that a hunter not target the sickly animal of the herd – not out of some sense of morality or something, but because the sickly animal will probably make you sick or not taste good or whatever.

          • Tarpitz says:

            your buddies will prevent you from doing something stupid when you are drunk

            They will? First time for everything, I guess…

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Tarpitz:
            There are degrees of stupid. A little stupid, sure. A lot stupid? Well, you need better buddies.

          • Well... says:

            It’s like recommending that a hunter not target the sickly animal of the herd – not out of some sense of morality or something, but because the sickly animal will probably make you sick or not taste good or whatever.

            As opposed to the healthy social animal that will thank you for separating it from the herd and plying it with drugs in order to be more easily hunted?

    • dndnrsn says:

      The legal bar for rape-by-intoxication is usually very high – in Canada, I think the standard is that a person has to be so wasted they’re not really aware of what’s going on (not a lawyer). The “social bar” is lower: there are people I know who I would call rapists for doing stuff they wouldn’t get convicted for. My opinions of a person, whether I would invite them to parties, whether I would tell other people they’re a shitty person, isn’t a court of law.

  18. dndnrsn says:

    Roleplaying games thread: Culture Edition War Edition!

    Which D&D edition is the best? Retroclones count as what they are replicating or imitating (eg, if you love Labyrinth Lord, that’s B/X). Which is the worst? Which is the most “crowd-pleasing” (eg, if you’re recommending D&D to someone without knowing what their tastes are, which do you recommend?)

    Your choices:

    Original (aka 0th edition, 1974)

    Holmes Basic (1977)

    1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (1977-79)

    Moldvay Basic/Expert (aka B/X, 1981)

    Menzter Basic/Expert/Companion/Master/Immortal (aka BECMI, 1983-85; the 1991 Rules Cyclopediawas similar enough to be considered as one thing)

    2nd Edition AD&D (1989)

    3rd Edition (2000)

    3.5th Edition (2003; different enough from 3rd to be considered a separate thing, I suppose; Pathfinder is more or less a clone of this)

    4th Edition (2008)

    5th Edition (2014)

    I think that B/X probably captures the sweet spot of D&D. It is fairly light on options compared to some of the other versions, it doesn’t have the unified systems of 3rd and later editions, and it’s arbitrary and weird in places. However, the level of simplicity makes it very easy to tinker with, it isn’t as wild and wooly as earlier editions, and it’s fast: character creation is fast and play is fast. This makes it very good for sandbox adventuring, which I think is a very rewarding style of play, and really revelatory if you’re used to the more story-based and often railroad-y style which starts to take root in the mid-80s.

    4th Edition is the worst. It plays wildly differently from other versions, it is just as complex as 3rd and 3.5th were (hey, don’t you love it when a session with 4 combats takes 6 hours and leaves little time for anything else? Me neither), and the problem it was supposed to solve (magic-using classes being OP) was a problem caused by that complexity (when generating an encounter takes a long time, it’s part of the incentive to stop using random encounters; when there’s less threat of running into unexpected enemies, magic-using classes can blow all their spells in an encounter then take a nap) which created more problems (giving everyone per-encounter and per-day powers, so everyone is using the same sort of powers as a magic-using class, creates weird questions like “why can I only do my special attack once per day?”). It sacrificed a lot of non-combat options in order to deliver a product based around prepared encounters.

    5th Edition does what 4th probably should have. It takes the basic mechanics of 3rd and simplifies it, both for player choice (no longer do you have to learn which feats are good and plan your character in advance; choices are generally one-time and are roughly equivalent) and for speed of play (a lot less number-crunching). My major beef with it is that monsters are still fairly complex in their stat block, so harder to tinker with than B/X or whatever.

    • Randy M says:

      I’ve only played 4th edition. 3rd edition looked way to complicated to run. Prior editions were before my time, 5th I haven’t needed yet.

      I’m not really interested in debating the relative merits beyond that. I’ll give my evaluation of 4th for the likely minority positive perspective.

      4th was tactically interesting and very easy to run after I ignored the advice on skill challenges, treasure parcels, and … basically I ran the game with the character builder and the monster manual. The balance was such that it was easy to know if an encounter would be easy or hard and there was some breathing room.
      Due to logistic or personal issues I haven’t played into the teens yet, and I understand it gets complicated quickly after advancing.
      The bloat was real, for sure, too. Later on I would take out options, not for balance reasons, but just because expecting someone not in love with spreadsheets to pick an option from a menu of 100’s items is silly.
      I have an extensive homebrew version that will probably never be finished let alone played.

      • Protagoras says:

        The D&D game I enjoyed most was 4th ed. Certainly a matter of GM and setting more than the rules, but the rules mostly didn’t seem to get in the way. So count me as another tentative pro-4th ed vote. I do agree that the later additions to 4th ed were generally making things worse rather than better, so probably good that they gave up and moved on.

        And of course no version of D&D can hold a candle to GURPS.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I had the opposite experience with 4th and rules getting in the way – I found myself making decisions based on what the rules were, rather than what my character was trying to do. The mechanics were really dissociated – it felt kind of like playing a board game.

      • Perico says:

        Yeah, that thing with the huge, incomplete homebrew version of 4E happened to me, too. I started out shortly before the game died, and then lost my weekly gaming session to parenting and moving abroad. If I ever manage to finish it, it will probably look like a 4E retroclone.

    • Machine Interface says:

      I’ve played 2e and 3.5e. While 3.5e certainly was streamlined compared to 2e, I didn’t think it made a huge difference on my impression overall – which that the core of D&D has always been somewhat bloated and many of its concepts (alignment, levels, characters classes) are simplistic, constricting, and increasingly behind their time, and I’m kinda sad that D&D hasn’t been burried by more modern and flexible systems – something like Chaosium’s Basic Role-Playing system would have been perfectly fine and adaptable to all kinds of fantasy universes (seeing as it could be made to work just as well for games as different as RuneQuest and Stormbringer).

      • dndnrsn says:

        Is it that 3rd and 3.5th were streamlined, or that they were standardized? I would say that 3rd ed was about as complicated as 2nd ed out of the box (with the core books, let’s say) but that it was regular and it made sense. There was a core system that if you knew it you could learn other bits as needed. Whereas, with 2nd, there were different rules for different tasks: stat checks and proficiencies were roll-under, attacks used THAC0 to calculate your to-hit and rolling high was good, saving throws got lower and rolling high was good, etc.

        It was also arbitrary and weird. Instead of saying “you will take a penalty for xyz” it would be “you can’t do that”, and I defy anyone to explain what was up with multi-classing vs dual-classing.

        I think that the class-level system has its advantages over the BRP system and other such systems. It gives players something to work towards, and it makes it easy to quantify how powerful someone is.

        • Nornagest says:

          I defy anyone to explain what was up with multi-classing vs dual-classing.

          My take is that they were solving different problems. Multi-classing was originally AD&D’s way of letting old-school players play an old-school style Elf, and dual-classing was originally its answer for when a player says “I don’t want to be a fighter anymore”. Then they picked up some cruft and a bunch of bizarre racial and stat restrictions, because AD&D had a terrible habit of accumulating cruft and “balancing” things with bizarre racial and stat restrictions.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I don’t have any reference materials here with me to check, but Googling suggests that 1st Ed had multi classing – and it predated B/X, which seems to be where elf/dwarf/halfling as class came in. At least, Googling suggests that Holmes had race and class.

          • Nornagest says:

            You’re right — looks like classic D&D restricted nonhuman races to certain roles but didn’t do the racial class thing. Okay, that’s not it.

    • DeWitt says:

      I only ever played 3.5 and 5th, so I can’t really comment on anything else.

      5th is definitely a better game than 3.5, though. 3.5 has some terrible power creep in a game where martials are terribly gimped from the get-go. I dislike the feat tax, too, because it is very difficult to do any one thing well without dedicating half your progression to it, and doing something ‘wrong’ is a lot easier in 3.5 than it is in 5th edition.

      Also 2nd edition’s worldbuilding will always have a special place in my heart because Planescape and Dark Sun are absolutely excellent, but I’ve never played the actual setting so I couldn’t really comment on that.

      • dndnrsn says:

        2nd ed had some really, really good world building. While by the 90s the rules were really creaking, they were turning out some brilliant setting work.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          The Monstrous Manual was my favorite “mythic monsters” book as a kid because of how much ecology/worldbuilding they put on each one-page entry, and the fun of figuring out which ones were real folklore and which came from what TSR-created worlds.
          Kind of like a deeper version of Borges’s Book of Imaginary Beings with that damn Peryton.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Yeah, the 2nd ed AD&D MM was great. Really favourably compares to what came after it.

          • Nornagest says:

            Agreed. From a design perspective I can see a case for not doing that — it implies a lot about the setting, and D&D’s lately been trying not to do that in its core books — but lately I’ve been starting to think of that perspective as more of a bug than a feature. Anyway, if it really concerned the designers, they could have added some disclaimers and some language like “In most worlds…”

            I always get the most out of sourcebooks when they’re dense with adventure and setting hooks, and the 2E MM had several on every page.

          • bean says:

            I experienced the same thing when I found the WEG D6 Star Wars books. Most of the D20 books were fairly heavy into mechanics and vague setting details, while the Imperial Sourcebook had whole sections laying out the organization of the Imperial Army. It was so much better than the fairly generic Wizards stuff I was used to, and I adapted a lot of it to the D20 system games I ran at the time.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The reason Pagan Publishing is so good is, at least in part, that they produce sourcebooks that don’t introduce any new crunch, or introduce very little, but that introduce tons of ideas and hooks. There’s a reason that the two best-reviewed RPG supplements are both for the original 90s Delta Green.

    • John Schilling says:

      I will always have a soft spot for 1st edition AD&D, because that’s what most of my formative role-playing was done with. But I’d have to give the win to 3.5e/Pathfinder. It breaks badly if anyone tries to min/max, munchkin, or rules-lawyer it, but I think if you are down to worrying about that you’re pretty much out of luck for a happy role-playing experience generally. Otherwise, it is a reasonably well-integrated system for providing all the rules you’ll ever need without forcing you to use the ones you don’t want.

      It may not be the best for inexperienced players due to a somewhat higher climb to the first plateau on the learning curve, but that’s not an issue for anyone in the target audience for your question.

      • dndnrsn says:

        While I personally care a lot about rules, but my experience is that in any group at least one of the players won’t care that much about rules. A system that’s too complicated means that either the GM has to hand-hold, or another of the players has to hand-hold.

        • John Schilling says:

          Compared to what alternative? If you have a rule for [X], and a player doesn’t want to learn the rule, then the GM has to translate that one player’s what-I-want-to-do into rules-defined actions, determine the relevant die roll, and say “roll Y to succeed”. If you don’t have a rule for [X], then the GM has to invent a one-off rule for the action and then proceed as above, for every player.

          3.5e/Pathfinder has rules for a very broad range of [X], in a consistent format.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The hand-holding mostly comes in for character creation and advancement – compare making a fighter in different editions:

            -by OD&D or any of the Basic versions, a fighter is a fighter is a fighter. There’s not really any choices to be made. You roll up your stats and put down the listed abilities and so on. Helping someone who doesn’t care much about rules make a character involves tossing them the book and saying “small children did this in the 80s so don’t whine.”

            -by AD&D, depending on whether it’s first or second edition and what optional rules you’re using and so on, it could get more complicated. I remember 2nd ed – you had to figure out your proficiencies, etc. Unless you’re using kits from the splatbooks and such, you have to make weird decisions to louse things up – like, make your guy an expert in the guisarme-voulge or whatever. Helping someone make a character involves telling them not to do that.

            -by 3rd, etc, you have to pick feats and you have to pick them right, thinking of what you will be taking down the road, etc. Helping someone make a character involves explaining what’s good and what’s bad and helping them plan out where they’re going to be in however many levels. This might get pretty involved if the party is charop-heavy.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            3E was the first edition published after TSR was bought out by the company that created Magic: The Gathering, and it really shows. It’s the first D&D to intentionally reward system mastery rather than having accidental charop exploits like the AD&D Fighter who becomes an unbalanced DPS machine by throwing darts.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          … and one player will care too much, meaning system’s that break when you try to min/max basically means the DM spends a lot of time saying “I don’t care if that’s in the rules … no.” (or just being really selective about who gets in the campaign if they can).

    • J Mann says:

      I’ve played 2, 3.5, and 5. I like 5 – it’s faster than the others and you can tell any story you want to.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Learned on AD&D, and have DMed for it, 3, 3.5, PF, 4th, and 5th (as well as a smattering of other RPGS).

      Prefer 5th by a good margin- it preserves a lot of the “flavor” of 3/PF but is streamlined in many wonderful ways. The class archetypes (that mostly unlock at 3rd level) do a really good job giving players interesting and fun choices that capture and redirect a lot of the usual drive to multiclass or prestige-class. Players really enjoy the Adv/DisAdv system as well, instead of even more fiddly bits of arithmetic.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      AD&D cruft makes it objectively inferior to B/X or BECMI. I’m vaguely aware of differences between those two but unfortunately haven’t had enough play time to care.
      The d20 System (3.0/.5/.PF) has some theoretical advantages over the OSR and 5E as a simulationist engine, but in real-life play you’d be a high-powered fantasy adventuring party with the worst balance this side of Rifts, so screw it.
      4E is a bad combat board game that doesn’t have the decency to sell you all the components in a box. Interestingly enough, the company actually produced D&D board games during the 4E and into the 5E era.
      5E is just better than 3rd or 4th.

    • pontifex says:

      Culture war edition, you say? Wasn’t D&D 1st edition speciesist? There was a level cap on halflings, or something? I can’t remember.

      Roll for initiative against the Social Justice Troll.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Look, just because now we have all these newfangled ways of making humans playable, like “giving humans some kind of special ability”, doesn’t mean you can’t go back to the days of yore, where humans were better at being rangers than elves were, or something.

    • Nornagest says:

      Stuff I’ve played only:

      B/X and its clones, in terms of bang for buck, are probably better than any other edition I’ve played for supporting fast-playing dungeon crawls. Ideal for pickup games or one-shots. But they really struggle with more sandboxy stuff, and Tiamat help you if you want to play a rogue. Settings, at this point, also tended to be uninspired.

      2E is… baroque. There are things I really like about it but it’s a mechanical mess and retains most of the bad design decisions from earlier editions. Still, it’s much harder to deliberately break than 3.x, and it’s got a certain charm despite the warts. With a good group and judicious houseruling, it can be as playable as anything. And I think D&D worldbuilding peaked here: this is where the best settings were introduced, even if for some reason everyone wanted to play Forgotten Realms, and their updates for later editions generally haven’t improved them.

      3.x is mechanically elegant and very flexible, but it’s the slowest of any edition I’ve played even when played well at low levels, and it gets even slower if new players, high-level characters, or optimization fiends are involved. Prep is a nightmare, and that turns out to lead to all sorts of downstream problems that I don’t think the designers anticipated. Feats were a good idea but implementation is poor. Goes best when restricted to core rulebooks. Pathfinder is an incremental improvement, but over time it’s developed most of the same problems that made 3.5 impractical.

      4.0 is a decent skirmish miniatures wargame.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        B/X and its clones, in terms of bang for buck, are probably better than any other edition I’ve played for supporting fast-playing, flexible dungeon crawls. … But they really struggle with more sandboxy stuff, and Tiamat help you if you want to play a rogue. Settings, at this point, also tended to be uninspired.

        Man, you need to get PDFs of the Gazetteers. The Known World/Mystara was the most inspired setting this side of Spelljammer. Glantri had a Wizard School and a principality ruled by a literally Scottish Lich back in the ’80s – and the school was built atop a cave system containing the nuclear reactor of a crashed spaceship that an Immortal had tried to helpfully save mortals from by changing the nasty radiation to magical radiation!

        • Nornagest says:

          I’ll check that out, but it might be a little too silly for me. Spelljammer’s hugely imaginative but I have a hard time keeping a straight face while I’m fireballing flintlock-wielding hippopotamus-people; as far as I’m concerned, D&D settings peaked with Planescape.

          But I love love love New Weird stuff, and Planescape is basically that before it was cool.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Fair enough, in D&D “imaginative” always equals “silly.”
            When I’ve DMed, I’ve always just used an Earth country in a time when folklore says the supernatural was common.

      • dndnrsn says:

        How do you mean B/X struggles with sandbox stuff?

        • Nornagest says:

          It’s not good at adjudicating any kind of challenge that you can’t handle with swords or spells; most of the stuff in that space isn’t modeled at all, and the resolution mechanics for the stuff it does model (thief skills, mainly) are so crude that they’re worse than useless.

          In some contexts that’s actually a feature. It means there’s no complaining when the GM needs to issue an ad-hoc ruling, and it leaves a lot of leeway for common sense. That’s probably better than the way e.g. 3.x does it, as long as all you need to do is run from the tribe of cannibals or win a drinking contest against the biggest thug in the tavern. But the first time you need to do something open-ended that’s too extended or complex for ad-hoc rulings or “roll Intelligence” to handle, it chokes. It has no sensible way of telling what happens when you want to forge a suit of armor or climb a mountain or investigate a crime scene. That isn’t strictly a problem with sandboxes, but I’ve found it comes up most often with them.

          • dndnrsn says:

            So, we might be using “sandbox” to describe different things. What do you mean when you call something a sandbox?

            When I say something is a sandbox, I just mean that there’s a bunch of toys in the sandbox, and players can decide what they want their PCs to interact with, go do, etc. They’ll run into random stuff. If they come up with something they want to do that isn’t one of those toys, I improvise something. At the end of the session, I ask them what they want to do next time, and get something ready for that. If they decide they don’t want to do some cool thing I put together, it probably didn’t take me that much time to put it together, so no big loss.

            I find that simple rules for building enemies really facilitates this – it’s easier to say “the merchant they are trying to rob is a sub-1 HD guy with INT, WIS, CHA 13 he can roll for anything a merchant could reasonably do; his guards are all 1HD with such-and-such weapons, one has 3HD and is the sergeant” than to make a competent merchant and his guards by 3rd rules or whatever.

            I ran an investigative scenario – I found that WIS checks to look for stuff, CHA checks to get info from people, etc, worked just fine – and it honestly wasn’t that different from the Spot Hidden and Persuade checks you’d be using playing CoC. For an investigative scenario, the job you do building the scenario is vastly more important than the rules used to interact with it.

            For climbing a mountain, a CON check or two, maybe a STR check, will probably suffice. Making armour is the tricky part – figuring out how much it costs and how much time it takes can be a hassle – but then again, rules for adjudicating this are often weak points in system design.

          • Nornagest says:

            I meant something analogous to a sandbox game in the computer world, viz. a scenario with a goal and a bunch of stuff in it but no plotted-out path from A to B. IME this is the sort of situation where players are most likely to come up with elaborate long-term plans that you need to roll with on the fly.

            Let’s say you’ve got a scenario where a bunch of bandits have fortified the abandoned keep on the edge of the lake outside town and are preying on passing merchants. You have notes for three ways in, but instead of taking any of them, your players have decided to build a catapult with trees from the forest nearby and batter down the walls. Now you’re stuck. You have no rules for deciding whether and how they can do it, or how long it’ll take, or what resources they’ll need. Even using it will be a little tricky — B/X D&D has mass combat rules with entries for siege engines, but they’re really designed more for battlefield use.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Would you call Masks of Nyarlathotep a sandbox? I wouldn’t. The overall frame of the story has still been determined. It’s definitely not a railroad – it would be hard to railroad it! If someone does railroad it, they probably should be banned from owning dice.

            A railroad is some variant on “the GM has decided the story, and how the story will go, and the players can’t really change that” and a sandbox tends to be the opposite – the story is constructed by events and is only really visible in retrospect.

            What you’re describing probably falls closer to the latter than the former, but the story still starts with the PCs finding out there’s a bandit problem, and ends with them either winning or losing. In a sandbox, kick it up a scale level: if the PCs wander into the part of the world where the bandit problem happens, then it’s that scenario – but they might decide to go in the other direction, or maybe they decide that they want to team up with the bandits, or any number of other things.

          • Nornagest says:

            I gotta admit I’ve never played or even read Masks of Nyarlathotep. Heard lots of good stuff about it, though.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It’s a masterpiece. The selling point is that it both has a structured story without the “one damn thing after another” type deal you get with sandboxes, while still not needing any railroading, and providing a lot of player freedom, and a lot of surprises for both players and GM.

    • Unsaintly says:

      To answer the question in short, 4th edition is by far the best. However, this question deserves to be broken down further as it could easily be asking two things.

      First, it could be asking “Of the editions of D&D, which is the best game”. This is the form I took it in for my answer. The reason I say 4th edition for this is because it works the best as a game. You can roleplay equally well in every edition of D&D, but 4th edition has the mechanics that work the best. While it is far from perfect – skill challenges have bad math, and initial monster HP was overinflated just to name the most well-known issues – it all works together on a mechanical level that the others fail on. B/X and 2nd edition are runners up here, as they are basic enough that the mechanical flaws are more easily ignored. I noticed that you listed 4th edition as the worst, and many people take issue with the mechanics of 4e. If you want, I can go into more detail on why I think its mechanics hold together the best.

      On the other hand, it could be asking “What version of D&D or its various spinoffs and clones is best for playing D&D”. This touches on the issue of what D&D actually is. For all its Tolkien-esque trappings or references to mythology and high fantasy, D&D is really a genre unto itself. In this view, I would place B/X or 2nd edition as the best. In these games, the focus was still on D&D’s identity as a dungeon delving game where you kill the monsters and loot the treasure and maybe have a story in the background. Later editions tried to accommodate more playstyles, but the fact remains that D&D is only good at being D&D and if you want to play something else, you should play something else.

      • dndnrsn says:

        @Unsaintly

        I would argue that you can’t roleplay equally well in 4th Ed – the dissociated nature of many of the mechanics is the cause. If roleplaying is defined as making decisions based on your character’s, well, character, 4th Ed has a problem. Unless your PC is able to break the 4th wall and know that they can only use a special attack once per combat or once per day because of game balance – what decision is your PC making that leads to them only using that special attack once per combat? The end result is that the decisions as to what your character does in a combat situation are made, not by you (the player) declaring that the character doing what makes sense and the rules providing a way to adjudicate that, but by you deciding what makes sense based on the rules of the game, and the character’s actions following that.

        The mechanics don’t work badly – although the game slows down as badly as 3rd and 3.5th did – and there’s some cool stuff 4th lets you do – it’s fun to shift enemies to make them fall off stuff or whatever. And the dissociated mechanics don’t make it a bad game – there ear great games where the mechanics are completely dissociated (there’s nothing in Pandemic‘s rules that specifically model fighting epidemics – you could easily reskin it as an international anti-terrorist unit fighting against terrorists without changing any of the rules). I think they make it a bad roleplaying game, though.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I would argue that you can’t roleplay equally well in 4th Ed – the dissociated nature of many of the mechanics is the cause. If roleplaying is defined as making decisions based on your character’s, well, character, 4th Ed has a problem. Unless your PC is able to break the 4th wall and know that they can only use a special attack once per combat or once per day because of game balance – what decision is your PC making that leads to them only using that special attack once per combat?

          This is the exact question I faced when trying to play 4E. My Paladin ended up being a parody of shounen heroes (or rather, Samus Is a Girl presenting as one), because it was too hard to role-play anything more realistic in the decision space those rules created.
          “RADIANT DELIRIUM!”

          • Nornagest says:

            4E class abilities constrain roleplaying at the table a lot more than you’d think they do from reading the rules. The last time I played that edition, I rolled a ranger whom I wanted to play as an aging, world-weary war veteran type but who ended up being a guerrilla death machine; the other players started cracking Vietnam-movie jokes before the end of the first session.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I DM’d 4e and had a player who just had no imagination and couldn’t role-play. As a 4e player, I felt too constrained by the fact that death was incredibly likely that my role-playing was punished. (As a dragonborn paladin, I’d bravely put myself between the party and enormous threats, and end up sitting out for half the sessions because my character was killed to death so much.)

            5e looks to be getting back to what I liked about 1e (and I don’t really know or care the various kinds of 1e), which just let you play and combat was fun, not tedious.

          • Randy M says:

            As a 4e player, I felt too constrained by the fact that death was incredibly likely

            Wut
            One of the most frequent complaints about 4e is how hard it is to kill PCs. Compare PCs at similar level in other editions. It’s not called “carebear” for nothing.

    • Montfort says:

      3/3.5 would be the best in my opinion. I realize a lot of people don’t care as much about rules as I do, but 3 and 3.5 sourcebooks did the best job of giving players an idea of what their characters could and couldn’t do without having to guess at arbitrary decisions the DM would later make. Additionally, I like having mechanical representation of differences between characters of the same class/race, even at the cost of balance, which 3.x’s feat-splosion and skills work well with.
      Obviously the problem there is that it’s a lot of work to prep, and hard to get new players rolling along, but that’s a tradeoff I’m personally fine with.

      AD&D was the set of (my dad’s) books I read first, and I do like it, but I really liked reading it more than playing it. Honorable mention, I guess.

      nitpick:
      Disagree that lack of random encounters was the cause of (though it does contribute a bit to) inequality between magic haves and have-nots – at the end of the day, if your level 20 ambition is “I am exceedingly good at hitting things with this sword/stick/fist without dying” and you’re playing in the same game as someone who can cart in extraplanar beings to do his will, or teleport, or turn into a monster/mist/whatever and back, or conjure up lifelike illusions, at some point you’re going to be a bit outclassed. There’s only so many problems that can be solved with BRUTE STRENGTH a foot of steel through the midsection.

      • dndnrsn says:

        @Montfort

        Most adventurers never make it to level 20 honestly (starting at level 1). Most attempts to do a “we’re gonna play this forever!” campaign fizzle at some point. The question becomes, when do wizards overpower everyone else? Level 5, 10, 15?

        There’s usually two different claims. One is that wizards can render other classes surplus to requirements for utility abilities: if a wizard can use a spell to open a door, then rogues are pointless. The other is just that wizards blow everyone out of the water in combat. (Clerics have the latter to a lesser extent, and not really the former.)

        The former, however, usually requires a wizard to give up a spell slot. If a wizard knows ahead of time they’re going to have to open a locked door, sure, take knock. But that requires it to be predictable what’s going to happen, and it’s a spell slot that can’t be used for anything else. If your wizard can plan ahead, and know nothing unforeseen will come up, sure, they can load up with the utility spells needed.

        The latter is true if the party can control the tempo of encounters. If the wizard never runs into the problem of running out of spells and there’s still enemies to fight, then the wizard overpowers everyone else very early on (again, clerics to a lesser extent get some nifty combat abilities). If the combat is going to be over in 5 rounds, and the wizard has 5 spell slots full of combat abilities, of course they’re going to overpower the fighter swinging a sword – if they can keep it at one combat per day. If they can control the tempo of encounters, get a nap somewhere safe, etc, wizards are very powerful.

        Random encounters provide the unforeseen stuff that keeps a wizard from being able to perfectly plan their spells out ahead, and prevent the party from being able to control the tempo of encounters. In the game I’m running, the players know full well that they might run into something as they move through the dungeon to the area they’re exploring, as they’re exploring, as they’re on their way out, as they’re going back to town, in the night if they camp.

        Magic-using classes, especially wizards, thrive on predictability and control; classes with unlimited abilities (a fighter never runs out of melee attacks and arrows are easy to come by, a thief never hits a limit of locks picked per day or uses of sneaking abilities) possess far greater insurance against the unpredictable. When people say wizards are better than the other classes, they’re saying it’s not fun to play the other classes, because you’re going to be eating the wizard’s dust. If this is true at very high levels, well, OK, but if you start at 1st level, chances are you are going to make it to 5 or 10; if you choose to start at a higher level, you knew what you were getting into. It’s only a problem for most people most of the time if it’s true at lower levels, and random encounters play a big role in keeping it from being true at lower levels.

        • Montfort says:

          20 is a little hyperbolic, yes. If your level 5 ambition is “I am exceptionally good at hitting people without dying,” though, you are still going to be shown up by the guy who can cast sleep and walk away, or conjure lifelike illusions, or turn into mist and back… but not as badly because of the number of spellslots, I agree.

          You can get around a caster owning combat by giving him a couple fights to wreck and then giving a few more where he has to sit back because he’s spent. I regard that as natural in the first few levels and doable to around level 5-6, depending on player skill and how well the party can survive without caster help. But even then, there’s a fine line to walk sometimes between feeling better because you’re more consistent and feeling like the casters’ escorts whose major contribution is protecting them until their spells come back .

          Batman caster (“I can do anything better than you”), to my mind, isn’t really solved the same way, because the problem isn’t that the caster is consistently better, it’s that he’s better occasionally, and seemingly for free. For example, the DM puts down a tough door for the thief to figure out (or the fighter to batter down) – so the wizard uses knock* when they fail, or the cleric stoneshapes a shortcut through the wall. Everyone knows the thief is, in many ways, better at this kind of task. And there may be many examples of the mundane class doing it while the casters didn’t have the slots or spells to contribute. But being shown that the caster’s peak in one of your areas of expertise is higher than yours leaves a bad taste.
          Adding more encounters can sort of reduce this, but only indirectly. Divine casters don’t normally have to alter the ratio of combat:utility too much – they just roll with it and use more or fewer casts for combat tricks depending on the day. Wizards use the trick outlined in the footnote, or divine beforehand, or use a dual-purpose spell (invisibility for stealth, summon monster for traps, etc). Sorcerers… probably aren’t your batman problem. To be fair, though, this does get more common at higher levels (>5), when utility spell slots become comparatively cheaper.

          To sum up, I think the more damaging thing isn’t that casters are better on average (though they are, after several levels). It’s that from level one, they almost always have the chance of being the combat guy, or the thief guy, or the scouting guy, etc. better than the mundane character whose entire job is that role for at least one encounter/task/puzzle. And when that happens, it’s extremely visible compared to the quiet competence of a fighter who deals his weapon damage each round. On top of that they have their own roles no one else can really do (buffing, debuffing, battlefield control, mindrape very effective social engineering).

          *and in 3e, at least, he could leave slots open for preparation later in the day, which is how batman wizard decides among knock and gaseous form and clairvoyance and suggestion, etc (though he wouldn’t have all of those in his spellbook necessarily). This is a slightly risky trick, as it requires brief access to reasonably quiet shelter, but that’s why it’s just a utility spell or two.

          • dndnrsn says:

            So, other elements in 3rd did play a role; I haven’t played 3rd or 3.5th in a long time, so thanks for pointing those out.

            In the retroclone I’m running, the wizard is going to hit 5th soon, and if anything he’s getting less powerful – due largely to the broken-ass way sleep worked back in the day/the way I have ruled on the incredibly vague spell description. Absolutely devastating against a bunch of 1HD enemies, but less useful the more HD they have, and useless on enemies past a certain point. He’s about to get fireball so we’ll see how that changes things. If I didn’t have random encounters, though, he would be completely overpowering, rather than being the artillery of the party (very hard to win without artillery, but you can’t win with artillery alone).

            Plus, fighters have always been the bodyguards for the rest of the party. To a lesser extent clerics (as they can wear heavy armour). It’s not hard to get a first level fighter to ~20 AC or equivalent in descending AC in any edition of the game; with that plus a d8 or d10 HD, being the tank/meat shield is part of the point of playing a fighter.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            When there are only 4 classes (Paladin and Ranger basically being prestige classes for Lawful/LG Fighters), you can really see the wargaming origin of D&D. Fighters are infantry, Wizards are artillery (a strange thing if you’re thinking in literary terms), Clerics are super-medics, and Thieves are underpowered infantry scouts (they should really have a D8 and just lack armor…)

          • dndnrsn says:

            Thieves weren’t even in the game originally, which explains why their thief skills run using a bolted-on, incompatible system.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @dndnrsn: Right. Thieves & Paladins were introduced simultaneously in OD&D Supplement 1.

          • engleberg says:

            Re: you can really see the wargaming origins of D&D-

            Right, point man in front, couple riflemen, radioman, medic. Thief, fighters, wizard, cleric.

    • Education Hero says:

      5e’s mechanics are comically broken due to the math not working at all.

      A more in-depth breakdown of 5e’s failures can be found here.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        OK, so 5E forces a player to play “mother may I” with the DM to get henchmen and Corporate Buzzword makes henchmen and hirelings possibly more powerful than Old School D&D.
        … unless they’re a Necromancer, who gets to break the system by spending 3rd level spell slots on an army.

        That’s still leaps and bounds less broken than the class system and feats in 3.5 … where most options you could write on your character sheet would be unfun to play if another player writes “Druid.”

        • Education Hero says:

          To clarify, by “broken”, I’m referring to the system not producing sensible/usable results, rather than overpowered.

          Individual options in 3.5 were overpowered, but the core system math at least makes sense in most cases.

          By contrast, in 5e:
          – bounded accuracy prevents scaling beyond level 1
          – bounded accuracy breaks combat between numerically mismatched opponents
          – encounter design doesn’t work; xp budgets produce absurdly varying challenges and CR’s are seemingly random
          – hit point bloat is worse than ever
          – exception-based monster design kills consistency between players and monsters
          – large chunks of rules are just completely missing, so you either use 3.5 rules or the DM just makes it up

          I get that 5e’s “rules-light” approach is appealing to casual players, but while a group that wishes to play Magic Tea Party can do so with an inadequate rule set, a group that wants workable rules has no recourse. If game designers can’t provide you with math that works, then what are you paying them for when you buy the game?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Great question, but I don’t think 3.5 is the answer. I say from experience running it from Level 1 to early Epic that it treats the DM as a CPU for processing the Rules As Written even though the wildly unbalanced range of outputs different RAW options produce can easily make individual players ragequit. So instead of using the rules as tools to tell a story, you become a feelings-management specialist who also has to do an ungodly amount of session prep in the role of a CPU powerless to change anything for the sake of your setting.

          • Education Hero says:

            I don’t think 3.5 isn’t the answer, either, but I do think it’s closer to the answer than 5e.

            To put it another way, were I to work on 6e, I would backtrack from 5e to 3.5 and try to develop from there, just as 5e backtracked to 3.5 rather than working from 4e.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            Wait, there are game systems where handling a group isn’t about feelings management? What are these game systems, and where do you get them? (I get what you’re trying to say, but frankly, problems with the rules are far down on the list of problems with my gaming group).

            @Education Hero

            Is consistency between players and monsters a good thing? It can create a lot of work for the GM. One of the things I like about retro clones is that it is generally very easy and quick to make monsters and NPCs without player classes (I pretty much ignore player classes for NPCs, honestly).

          • Education Hero says:

            Is consistency between players and monsters a good thing? It can create a lot of work for the GM. One of the things I like about retro clones is that it is generally very easy and quick to make monsters and NPCs without player classes (I pretty much ignore player classes for NPCs, honestly).

            Consistency doesn’t require for monsters to use player classes, but you lose quite a lot of storytelling verisimilitude when NPC human wizards don’t follow any of the same rules as PC human wizards.

            Dispensing with rules to make something up on the fly is always an option for DMs, but again, if I’m paying game designers to provide me with TTRPG monsters, then I expect the statblocks and descriptions to provide some storytelling value rather than look like something out of an MMO. This is especially true if a previous edition figured out how to do this 18 years ago, and a newer edition breaks this for no discernable gain.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Let me put it a different way. 2nd Ed and previous had monsters running under different rules than PCs. They didn’t have stats, for example. Having everyone using the same rules had some advantages – it let you use monsters as PCs pretty easily, and it let you give monsters class levels. But it introduced a fair bit of complication in adventure design, etc.

            With regard to NPCs, they follow the same rules as monsters – but rather than building a level whatever wizard from the ground up (simpler in most retro clones than 3rd ed onwards) I just say that the NPC is however many hit dice and say that they cast spells as a wizard of however many levels.

            In 3rd onwards there isn’t really an option to just throw some numbers on the page. I thought of running something in d20 Modern (which was a bad idea for other ideas, such as d20M being terribly balanced, but bear with me) and gave up when I realized the amount of time it would make to create NPCs was just not worth the benefits of using the system.

            Using the same system to create and advance PCs as to create and advance everything else runs into a problem – each player usually only has one PC, and can afford to devote a great deal of time to them; the PCs are always present in the adventure, so taking a bit more time to give them more interesting abilities or more variation or whatever is often worth the time (I tend towards the low end of how complicated I think this should get, but I wouldn’t just say “OK you’re 3HD your attack bonuses and saves are calculated thusly”) but following the same level of complexity and so on for every NPC that must be created makes a lot of trouble for the GM.

            Some systems can use the same rules without a problem, but these are generally systems without classes and levels, and additionally within that category don’t make an attempt to put a points value on everything (like, say, GURPS does). Making an NPC in Call of Cthulhu or Delta Green is very easy, and even then sometimes I cheat by just saying “the cop has all 12s in his stats and 60% in everything he’d realistically be good at, 40% at everything he’d be OK at, 20% for everything else” or similar.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @dndnrsn:

            Wait, there are game systems where handling a group isn’t about feelings management? What are these game systems, and where do you get them? (I get what you’re trying to say, but frankly, problems with the rules are far down on the list of problems with my gaming group).

            Handling a social group from a position of authority is definitely about feelings management, but 3.X D&D is in a special space for me because the DM trying to either change the Rules As Written or execute them logically offends players, IME.

            Exhibit A: I initially ignored the Wealth By Level table and tried to give a mix of mundane treasure and minor magic items that didn’t tonally clash with Greek mythology. Then a player pointed out to me that this was unfun because loot that was realistic for the world was leaving them gold-starved, which prevented him from crafting the party the Magic Christmas Tree ornaments the CR system assumed they’d have (he was crafting for everyone because he was a Cleric* – caster supremacy!)

            Exhibit B: Once I started generating monster’s loot BtB, I had a player threaten to quit if I didn’t remove the Monk’s Belt from a devil with a high Wisdom score mid-combat, because it made them too hard to hit and the party already had all the Monk’s Belts they wanted, and the other two players said he was in the right.

            After running ~85 sessions of that campaign, I loathe 3.X from the DM side. I would play it for the lulz when it’s what someone I know wanted to run, but I’d be conscious of the extra burden it placed on me to help other players optimize so I wasn’t the only one having fun.

            *Another player had a Bard and took a Wizard cohort at Level 6. She had the decency NOT to have the cohort craft, which is RAW-legal as far as I can see but breaks the game because cohorts never lose or gain XP; they automatically gain or lose levels based on the higher-level PC’s leadership score.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’ve had people get pissy over rules, but it’s mostly larger-scale stuff than that. By and large the biggest problems tend either to be the other guy who GMs instinctively railroading (to the point where he will say “ok, you guys are complaining I railroad, so this scenario is more freeform” and then it’s another railroad, just by a different method) or more basic interpersonal issues (the sort that happen gaming or no).

          • Education Hero says:

            Using the same system to create and advance PCs as to create and advance everything else runs into a problem – each player usually only has one PC, and can afford to devote a great deal of time to them; the PCs are always present in the adventure, so taking a bit more time to give them more interesting abilities or more variation or whatever is often worth the time (I tend towards the low end of how complicated I think this should get, but I wouldn’t just say “OK you’re 3HD your attack bonuses and saves are calculated thusly”) but following the same level of complexity and so on for every NPC that must be created makes a lot of trouble for the GM.

            I agree that this is one downside.

            At the same time, I think it’s reasonably surmountable by providing plenty of premade monster and NPC statblocks for less experienced DMs, while experienced DMs can either quickly create complex NPCs or “quick create” simplified versions in the manner that you described.

            By contrast, I don’t want to pay WotC for simplified stat blocks when they should be providing me with complete ones.

            And yes, I do agree that the overall complexity and fiddliness of 3.X is too high, and would benefit from streamlining that would help both with the NPC design issue, as well as other issues like overly wide windows for optimization.

          • Montfort says:

            @LMC:

            to respond to your footnote, it’s legal to have your cohorts craft, but by the book cohorts do gain and lose experience. XP gain follows a somewhat arcane procedure detailed here, which ensures that the cohort doesn’t “catch up” unless the leader loses XP. So if the wizard cohort crafts 1000XP worth of gear, it stays (at least) that extra 1000XP behind the PC in addition to whatever the level difference was before crafting.

            Followers, on the other hand, don’t gain experience. They probably can lose experience, but AFAIK are not guaranteed to be PC classes at all, let alone crafting-capable. There’s a fair bit of latitude here for the DM, though, since the rules aren’t super clear.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Education Hero

            Even as an experienced GM, I found the number crunching involved in creating a high-level NPC a drag (I was going to make a couple of 10th level d20M NPCs to serve as patrons/quest-givers for a Cthulhu campaign; very quickly said screw it and just went back to BRP). The problem with using a cheating method is there’s no guidelines on how to do it, and generally, D&D has been really bad at explaining why the rules are the way they are – it’s a paint-by-numbers approach instead of explaining the reason to have a higher or lower attack bonus, etc.

            Nobody really had a problem with paying TSR for the 1st or 2nd Ed MM’s, which had relatively simple stat blocks. A radically simplified D&D would likely be one book, anyway, so the sting of having to drop $150 on three books would go away.

            It would actually be really nice to see something like the way that B/X and BECMI were multiple books going by level instead of topic; if you could get the first 3 or 5 levels for $20, get the next book when you hit that level, etc. I think that could conceivably be a better business approach than the three-book set, which is a holdover from AD&D, where at least originally the Holmes book was meant to funnel players to 1st Ed. B/X and BECMI both made gestures towards AD&D, although they were both more complete and more their own thing than Holmes’ was.

          • Education Hero says:

            3.X did a better job explaining its approach to monster design than other editions, but I agree that too much of it had to be inferred through pattern-recognition skills or hunted down in web articles.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think a good example of doing a good job of explaining why things work the way they work, and how the GM should use the system, is the various GUMSHOE games. The Esoterrorists especially does a good job of this. While I don’t like a lot of the choices that GUMSHOE makes (I find that the points-spend aspect breaks immersion in the same way 4th Ed’s powers do, and the way investigative powers work is unclear and leads to weird player decision-making) I do like that it explains “this is why we did things this way, this is what the game is supposed to do, and this is how the GM should handle all this” in a very direct, no-BS way. Even if you never run a GUMSHOE game (I haven’t), the GM advice is generally pretty good.

            D&D, in comparison, never really seems to sit down and tell you “these are the tradeoffs we made, this is what the game is supposed to do, and this is how you should handle it” – instead, there’s always the pretence that what they’ve put together is the perfect game, no drawbacks, no need to keep in mind what it can and can’t do. 4th Ed was really bad for this – they turned it into a skirmish game, and never really came out and told you that; instead they just sorta pretended that it was the same thing as last time, but better balanced.

            EDIT: In general, the standard of this in the RPG industry is bad. There’s a lot of free stuff online that’s better at telling you what you should and shouldn’t do in running a game, than the “how to run a game” section in the back of the book.

          • Education Hero says:

            In general, the standard of this in the RPG industry is bad. There’s a lot of free stuff online that’s better at telling you what you should and shouldn’t do in running a game, than the “how to run a game” section in the back of the book.

            Definitely. It’s pretty telling about the state of the industry when amateurs frequently do a better job than the professionals.

      • dndnrsn says:

        5th Ed has a bunch of problems, but it’s my “crowd-pleaser” option. Were you to hand me a bunch of people who had never gamed before, I would probably go with 5th Ed. I’d be tempted by B/X or some similar retroclone, but explaining when you roll high and when you roll low, that some things get better as they go up and some things get lower as they go up, etc, is a hassle with people who have later RPG experience (one thing I will say about 2nd Ed – learning to play with it as a kid made me good at figuring out rules). So, I wouldn’t want to do that with a bunch of random non-gamers. Nor would I want to hand-hold them through picking fighter feats in a way they won’t be crappy later, or whatever.

        Once we’d gamed enough that the problems with 5th became apparent, that’s when I open up my coat and take out my wretched house-ruled retroclone mess and say “pssst… ya wanna play a REAL game?” Or I just bust out Delta Green.

        Most people want to play Magic Tea Party, or more charitably, Cops and Robbers but with a way to handle it when one kid says he shot the other and the other says nuh-uh. Ain’t nothing wrong with casual gamers; the design teams have mortgages to pay. Any RPG is going to have some level of GM fiat, “mother may I”, at one point or another – systems with less have their merits, but you can’t have none. The only way you can escape that is by having a game that is entirely “self-contained” like a board game or a wargame.

        • Education Hero says:

          I agree that the “rules-light” aspect of 5e would make it easier for novice gamers.

          As an experienced DM, however, I would run those players through a rules-light 3.5 campaign instead, and I believe that this is the direction 5e should have gone down instead of allowing innumerate designers to rework the math.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The biggest problem with 5th Ed is the compression of AC, attack bonus, etc. Is that innumeracy, or just a design choice (in my view, a bad one)?

          • Education Hero says:

            That would be the “bounded accuracy” concept that they introduced.

            It’s indeed a bad design choice, but one rooted in innumeracy (plus a failure to playtest properly, despite all the hype around D&D Next playtesting). Some applied mathematical thinking should have revealed that unbounded accuracy interacts poorly with larger numbers of combatants and breaks the skill system even with bog-standard tasks (I suspect that their realization that the numbers don’t work is partly why they left out a lot of rules in favor of “the DM may or may not allow you to make a roll, at a DC they pull from their behind”).

            The innumeracy shows up in other things, like ridiculously unbalanced monsters (banshees, mind flayers, devourers, hobgoblins, satyrs, etc) and encounter design that really wants to dogpile onto a single creature with CR equal to the party’s level (and wobbling at equal numbers). For an egregious example, take a look at the following analysis of some CR 4 monsters (note that the failure to balance, say, DPS is essentially a failure of algebra):

            The Gnoll Fang of Yeenoghu has 65 hit points and an AC of 14. He also has three attacks at +5 to-hit for reasons, two for d8+3 and one for d6+3 damage. He is almost literally the same as having three standard Gnolls, who each have 22 hit points and an AC of 15, having one attack each at +4 for d6+2 damage with a bonus attack that does d4+2 damage. The bulge this guy has over a group of 3 standard gnolls is very small, and he’s clearly and obviously less threatening than 4. But because he is CR 4, he takes the place of eleven standard Gnolls.

            The Lamia is a spellcaster who has charm person, geas, suggestion, and scrying with a few charges per day. The DC is only 13, but that’s pretty hard core. Also it has major image with an unlimited number of charges per day, which basically means you probably can’t fight it at all until she runs through her entire complement of seven mind affecting enchantments and could very plausibly also use its intoxicating touch that gives disadvantage on Will saves before doing that. I mean, very clearly the authors have no idea how ridiculously powerful at will major image is, but whatevers. After it runs through its spells and has a significant chance of straight up charming the entire party, it then personally has 97 hit points and an AC of 13 and gets two attacks at +5 for 2d10+3 and d4+3 (yes, one of it’s attacks is three times the size of the other, fucking deal with it). Despite being basically better than the Fang of Yeenoghu even in a straight fight and also having a very powerful set of spells that has a good chance of straight up enslaving the whole party, this is also a simple CR 4 with the same XP budget as the Fang.

            The Lizard King is a proper bruiser. 78 hit points, AC 15. Gets two attacks at +5 to-hit for d8+3 damage and if either or both of them hit it does an extra 3d6 life drain where the target takes 3d6 damage and the Lizard King gets 3d6 temp hit points.

            I’m not getting into the nitty gritty bullshit of alternate forms, but the 78 hit point Wereboar and the 120 hit point Weretiger are both CR 4.

            The Bone Naga is either a 5th level Cleric or a 5th level Wizard as a caster, and either way it has 58 hit points and an AC of 15. Also it has a poison bite that is +5 to-hit and does 5d6+3 damage (3d6 of which is poison damage if you care – which generally speaking you will not). Obviously it’s way more threatening for a damage dealing monster to cast lightning bolt than bestow curse, and you’ll note that for the same casters on the PC side one is a cloth wearer and the other is not. But there’s no change in threat level depending on whether it has evocations or not.

            The Black Pudding has 85 hit points and AC 7, which isn’t all that impressive, but it’s essentially immune to non-magical melee weapons and lots of spell types, which severely limits what you can do about it. Also it attacks at +5 for d6+3+4d8 damage.

            So what’s the take home? The Monster Manual is incredibly disciplined about making sure all the monsters have exactly +5 to-hit. But damage per round is still all over the fucking place because those attackers are sometimes doing 3 dice of total damage if everything hits and sometimes doing 5, and some of those dice are d4s and some are d10s. And the defenses are simply all over the place as well. And of course, as far as I can tell monsters are paying absolutely nothing for special abilities like “is a 5th level caster” which is not remotely defensible.

            The fact that there’s a distint number for a creature’s challenge rating and for their XP value means that at some point someone had the idea of setting Challenge ratings based on where creatures fit on the bounded accuracy treadmill and setting XP value based on how much of the encounter they were supposed to be – essentially like how 4th edition had Level 4 Minions and Level Elites. But then that was too much work and they ended up just assigning identical XP values to everything at each CR. Which makes the XP budget spending thing a completely pointless set of extra math and also gives us situations like where the Lizard King is just massively massively more threatening than the Fang of fucking Yeenoghu and they both have the same CR because they both have +5 to-hit with their grossly differently threatening attacks.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The play testing for 3rd was really good. I wonder what went wrong after then? I don’t know if 3.5th got a lot of play testing, but it wasn’t that different from 3rd. I gather that play testing for 4th Ed was based around giving specific scenarios to play testers, or something like that.

            (I haven’t been through the MM fully, and one thing that strikes me is how damn high the HP totals are)

          • Education Hero says:

            As best as I can tell, what went wrong is that they broke up the team composed of Monte Cook, Skip Williams, and Jonathan Tweet. Numerate, rationalist TTRPG designers that care about mechanics are hard to come by since the video gaming industry draws in most such talent, and it’s even tougher to build a talented team that works well together.

            Mike Mearls, who has been at the helm for 4th and 5e, actually gathered significant playtesting for both, but wasted it by either constraining the playtesting to limited scenarios(as you noted), making excuses for bad mechanics to preserve his sacred cows, and outright ignoring playtesting by implementing untested and unasked for changes at the end.

          • DeWitt says:

            Monte Cook

            I dunno that I’d call the one guy who loves his quadratic wizards more than anyone rationalist. He’s done it in D&D, he did it in Numenera, if anything I think 5th ed would be much worse off if he’d have been involved.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            It’s a common sentiment that Monte Cook thinks you deserve to be heavily rewarded for writing “Wizard” or “Cleric” on your character sheet because casters are nerds and Fighters are jocks.

          • DeWitt says:

            That, pretty much.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Education Hero

            What are people’s beefs with Mearls? I kinda stopped paying attention to D&D for several years and played other stuff.

            @DeWitt

            Is that really a factor in Numenera? I played a bit of it, and the wizard-equivalents didn’t seem wildly OP. Then again, I’ve mostly played a bit. My complaints about that game are mostly setting-related: it makes a big deal about how weird and strange the setting is and how the artifacts are bizarre, then gives the PCs powers and artifacts from the start, kind of spoiling the effect.

          • Education Hero says:

            I don’t believe that the Cook/Williams/Tweet team was perfect by any means. However, the team did better a job at designing mechanics than subsequent attempts.

            I agree that Cook loves casters a bit too much, but that’s a common failing due to the typical personality profile of a game designer (c.f. the historical design of blue in MtG, or Mages in WoD), and Williams and Tweet did appear to keep that somewhat in check. Pathfinder and 5e are even more caster-y editions than 3.X.

          • Education Hero says:

            @dndnrsn

            What are people’s beefs with Mearls? I kinda stopped paying attention to D&D for several years and played other stuff.

            – He spent an incredibly long time not making any progress on 5e. He was promoted to head of R&D and stopped writing articles on August/September 2011, made dozens of unrelated playtest documents from 2012-2014 that built from nothing and led to nothing, before finally releasing 5e in August/September 2014. This was in spite of the fact that 5e draws heavily from previous editions, and most of its new (and poorly designed/tested) features were added late in the development cycle. So what was Mearls doing for almost 3 years?

            – He ignores feedback. When confronted with detailed and mathematically supported criticisms of 4e’s skill challenges, he refused to address arguments and instead threw out ad hominems. He essentially ragequit out of of the D&D Next public playtesting when he could no longer parse the feedback through his confirmation bias.

            – He communicates publicly in a deceptive manner. During 4e, he had stuff like making extra tiny print runs so that he could truthfully claim they had gone through X many print runs, giving people half-off when purchasing through Amazon and then using Amazon sales to extrapolate total sales. With 5e, he’s made deceptive claims like “5e lifetime PHB sales > 3, 3.5, 4 lifetime” and only later clarifying that he meant each edition individually (and without disclosing that, as later investigation revealed, he was double-counting 5e’s PHB by including the free pdf included with each hardcover).

            – He enshrines Magic Tea Party into the rules, from 4e’s “you can’t attack walls if the DM says you can’t” to his defense of 5e’s bounded accuracy with skill challenges leading to DM’s randomly deciding whether you succeed or fail.

            – He demonstrates Cha 3 in his social media appearances. He comes off as a disruptive player: during the 4e preview podcasts, he shows up with a fourth-wall breaking joke character which he roleplays with an irritating in-character voice.

            – He’s deliberately memory-holed a lot of his embarrassing moments by taking his articles, etc down from the WotC website.

          • DeWitt says:

            Is that really a factor in Numenera? I played a bit of it, and the wizard-equivalents didn’t seem wildly OP.

            Yeah. It’s not so bad when you play a bit, just as playing 3.5 from lvl 1-4 makes wizard seem fine, but at later stages of play you become a machine god or Thor or what have you while your fighting buddy gets to swing his weapon about a little better.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Is “magic-users better” because game designers are nerds, and wizards are nerds, or is it because adding new powers is harder to balance than increasing a power?

          • DeWitt says:

            In the case of Monte Cook, at least, it is very much deliberate wizardly adoration from the man himself. It’s not a secret, it’s almost endearing when you look at the way he writes, but it does not for good game design make.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Apropos of nothing, but: it would be cool to run 3rd or 3.5th with the “NPC only” classes in the DMG, sans the magic-user one (so, warrior and expert?) and let them get their hands on spells from Call of Cthulhu d20. Low-magic, low-power fantasy world, where all the gods are Lovecraftian monstrosities, and all the magic is mind- and body-damaging sorcery you’re best off without.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’ve only ever run into, like, five people that’ve played it, but I was pretty impressed with Call of Cthulhu d20. It’s got some of the d20 weirdness going on, but it’s a solid adaptation overall, and the sample adventures in the back are very good.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It’s a solid adaptation and features much-better-than-usual advice on putting an investigative scenario together. The section that talks about the Mythos is also really good.

    • Tarpitz says:

      AD&D2e, and just throw out the bits you don’t like (level caps, for example).

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      People who prefer 3.X D&D:

      I want to play a Druid. Race is Anthropomorphic Bat (-4 Str +6 Wis -2 Cha, small, 5 ft/fly 20 ft average, blindsense EX) if the DM allows Savage Species, otherwise Gnome for +2 CON & small (to ride my Riding Dog until Level 5). I use my Wealth By Level to buy a Wand of Cure Light Wounds ASAP so I can heal other PCs.
      At Level 3, I bring up the issue that Druids are entitled to swap out their Animal Companion for a more powerful model at Level 4, 7, etc. and how abandoning my doggo is not very nice in-character, so may I take the feat Wild Cohort from WotC’s website?
      At Level 4, I can take a Black Bear, Crocodile, or my first big cat as AC. I xerox my character sheet.
      At Level 5, I can Wildshape into the same species as my AC and Share Spells.
      At Level 6, I take Leadership as my feat and present my Level 4 character sheet with a different name in the Name field as my cohort (I come from a big family and all my siblings are Druids).

      How do you keep the campaign fun for my fellow players besides the Wizard?

      • Education Hero says:

        – We will be using modified 3.5 rules, so we will disregard Savage Species because it is both 3.0 and terribly designed.

        – For the sake of both TTRPG logistics and equalizing playtime, we will only permit you to use one cohort/companion/mount/hireling/etc in combat. Additional allies can be swapped in and out and used for story-based advantages (e.g. using mounts for travel or a leadership army to run a base of operations).

        – As an experienced optimizer myself, I will assist the other players to ensure their characters have comparable combat capabilities as your druid, if not the same out-of-combat utility. This will entail recommending optimized builds (e.g. Gatling Chain Gun Tripper fighter instead of sword-and-board), more optimal choices with similar flavor (e.g. warblade instead of fighter), and DM-approved modifications (e.g. the Tome fighter instead of the PHB fighter).

        – I will adapt the lethality and optimization level of your opposition, as well as the noncombat challenges, to match the capabilities of your highly tuned party.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          – We will be using modified 3.5 rules, so we will disregard Savage Species because it is both 3.0 and terribly designed.

          Totally fair. Savage Species, the website feat Wild Cohort, or world-specific exploits (being from Breland in an Eberron campaign, etc.) are just nuts on the sundae of being a 3.5 Druid.

          – For the sake of both TTRPG logistics and equalizing playtime, we will only permit you to use one cohort/companion/mount/hireling/etc for combat purposes. Additional allies can be swapped in and out and used for story-based advantages (e.g. using mounts for travel or a leadership army to run a base of operations).

          ??? I don’t get this part. Players who write “Leadership” on their character sheet at Level 6 get a cohort to take into combat, unless they’re a Druid or Paladin?

          • Education Hero says:

            You can take a cohort or your animal companion/special mount into combat, but not both at the same time.

            This will prevent the logistical and equal play time challenges of giving a player more than two character sheets (before even factoring in mid-combat summons, etc).

            The Leadership feat will still more than pay for itself, but you are also welcome to opt for a different feat.

      • Education Hero says:

        That said, I agree with your underlying point that 3.X has overly wide windows for optimization.

        We do want to narrow this to a certain degree, e.g. exploits should be patched, overpowered character options should be nerfed, and underpowered character options should be strengthened. A lot of this will necessitate rebalancing the classes entirely.

        At the same time, we don’t want to go too far and eliminate the possibility for players to benefit from making good choices, because that’s inherently very limiting. I think Magic: The Gathering has the right approach: curbing excessive disparities while expecting players to find their own way to similar levels of optimization.

      • Montfort says:

        Just as a note, per RAW, and unlike other powerful feats like Natural Spell, Leadership comes with an explicit admonition to ask your DM first. Players who write “Leadership” down as their feat then enter into negotiations with the DM and there aren’t really rules about what you come out with other than “You’re free to disallow this feat” and “The DM determines the details of the cohort” (DMG p.106). Even if the DM decides to allow you a cohort, she is under no obligation to allow you your specific 2-levels-lower-clone cohort.

        This doesn’t bring the build down to fighter levels, by any means, and I acknowledge that keeping power levels relatively even across a party is a struggle.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          The character can attract a cohort of up to this level. Regardless of a character’s Leadership score, he can only recruit a cohort who is two or more levels lower than himself. The cohort should be equipped with gear appropriate for its level. A character can try to attract a cohort of a particular race, class, and alignment. The cohort’s alignment may not be opposed to the leader’s alignment on either the law-vs-chaos or good-vs-evil axis, and the leader takes a Leadership penalty if he recruits a cohort of an alignment different from his own.

          “Hey DM, I go to my large family of nature priest types and try to attract one of them – all my own race and class and various Neutral alignments – to adventure with me. Here’s a Level 4 Druid character sheet of my own race with a blank name field if you want to use it. The names of my sisters are Bambi, Celeste, Deirdre, and Esme. The names of my brothers are…”

          • Montfort says:

            Please read the quotes I helpfully provided for you from the 3.5 DMG.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            … I did. The character can try to attract a cohort of a particular race, class, and alignment, with a penalty for any alignment other than your own, and the DM can disallow the feat entirely or “determines the details of the cohort.” It’s not clear whether “details” include race, class, and alignment or only details less important than those three.
            If the DM allows Leadership but really wants me to have a Level 4 cohort weaker than a Druid, I suppose it collapses to a Rule 0 situation where I keep trying to attract a cohort of my own class and Neutral alignment until they tell me to stop.

          • Montfort says:

            Sorry, let me be a little more substantive. One can make a good case the “can try to attract” means the player can choose the race, class, and alignment of a cohort. The “details”, though, are presumably the actual ability scores, level, skills, feats, name, history, etc of the cohort. Hence, though you may be interested in a particular NPC, the DM is still entitled to say “ah, well, they don’t want to follow you, here, have Artur the first-level pacifist druid with a 4 CON, 6 STR, 9 WIS, and his friendly owl.”

            I mean, if the DM were going to do something that blatant and dickish, she might as well just deny you the feat, but technically it’s within RAW.

      • John Schilling says:

        How do you keep the campaign fun for my fellow players besides the Wizard?

        Set increasing amounts of the campaign in cities, which costs you 1D6 SAN/day until the rest of the party gets to have fun taking down a mad bear.

        More to the point, almost nobody really wants to play a druid. Some people want to break the game and know that playing an optimized druid is the way to do that. My first choice is to not play RPGs with these people. But, within the stock rules, Druids aren’t so badly broken below ~10th level that they can’t be sufficiently nerfed without too much trouble, and basically every version of D&D is broken above ~10th level due to the linear fighter / quadratic wizard problem.

        But we can turn the question around: How are you going to keep the campaign fun for your fellow players, and if you don’t feel like that’s a fair question, why should anyone want to play with you?

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          There’s no SAN in D&D! And there’s no crying in baseball!

          And I’m pretty sure every version of D&D is broken if you allow unrestricted choice in splatbooks and other supplemental materials, so no, no Anthropomorphic Bat or Wild Cohort for you.

          I already addressed this part. It doesn’t change much to be a Gnome and send my doggo to live with my parents in the woods when the rules offer me a more powerful animal. It’s not like the power level difference between Spirit Lion Barbarian (charge and full attack every round) and every other Barbarian.

          Also? I LIKE role playing a Druid. I find Druids and Barbs fun: as nomads or country bumpkins I can come up with their entire social history if the DM has put little effort into world-building their cities or without reading a lot of crap from a crappy published setting, because small kin-based social groups.

          • John Schilling says:

            There’s no SAN in D&D! And there’s no crying in baseball!

            There is if the DM says there is. But even if not, there’s role-playing, otherwise go play chainmail.

            And in role-playing, the moment you said “it’s not in character to abandon my dog, so can I…”, the answer was that you were stuck with a straight dog familiar for the remainder of the campaign. Among other things I can think of, some of which will approximate a daily SAN loss in urban environments.

        • John Schilling says:

          To give a less snarky and more detailed answer, and presuming I didn’t simply send you packing as an obvious munchkin:

          1. No splatbooks or special content, just a stock gnomish bard and animal companion. And no mid-campaign ursine upgrade without a compelling in-character reason, though if we somehow start at 4th level you can have the bear.

          2. Who is an NPC, not an extra PC avatar, and whom I will play as a generally loyal but snarky foil for the amusement of the other players.

          3. And who will insist on parking itself outside the tavern door loyally waiting for your return, earning a reaction penalty from the innkeeper which I will also try to manifest in amusing ways.

          4. I’ll probably let you have a druid cohort at 6th level, if we play at that level, but I’ll roll her up with a hawk familiar and no natural spell feat. And she’ll be the sort of person to constantly remind you that using nature’s bounty as tactically advantageous meat shields to further your murder-hoboism is the sort of thing that will lose you your Druid status, because it’s more fun if an NPC does that in-character than if the DM has to do it.

          5. “Communing with nature” requires a concentration check when done indoors or in any population center bigger than a hamlet, so your spell allotment may have to last more than a day.

          6. Before any of this makes you a net liability to the party, I’ll use it as a nudge to split the party so that you are investigating a secondary lead in the surrounding hills while the rest of the team investigates villainy in town.

          7. They and you will discover in parallel, across the same table, that the “secondary lead” is the primary antagonist and his minions, challenge-appropriate for the entire party and quite outclassing you and your mini-party.

          8. From there, the rest of the party gets an entertaining romp through town and country to see if they can rescue you in time, and you get the interesting challenge of trying to delay the efforts of a superior foe to e.g. burn down the tree in which you have taken temporary refuge.

          9. By the time of the climactic battle, your best buffs will have expired and everyone should be able to contribute relatively equally.

          10. Unless you were too foolish to climb the tree and wait, or your friends didn’t care to rescue you, in which case the next adventure will be based on avenging your first character’s death.

          That should I think be adequately entertaining for everyone.

    • Perico says:

      Here is a bit of background:
      – Played a bit of AD&D in the 90s, but never managed to get a long term campaign
      – Played a hell of a lot of 3/3.5 in my university days. Very little DM’ing, though
      – Got very involved with 4E, alternating as player and DM in a campaign that lasted until mid-Paragon, and a bunch of shorter games. Spent a lot of time in DM-related forums and blogs at this point.
      – Tried a couple sessions of the 5E beta, but never got hooked.

      4E is the edition for me. I am well aware that it has a bunch of flaws that are dealbreakers for many people, and I don’t think there’s a way around that: either you can ignore these, or they make you see the game as Literally the Worst, Probably not a Real RPG and Definitely Not D&D, etc. The game is not big on immersion, daily powers for fighters are too silly, there’s too much emphasis on combat, and a grid map with minis is just not what a lot of players want from their roleplaying session.

      I cannot refute any of these issues (not to a point that would convince someone who feels strongly about them, anyway), so I’ll just say that they never bothered me very much, and that my gaming group managed to enjoy the game despite them. In all, 4E is a niche game, only suitable for some players. I’m fine with that.

      On to the good stuff: I’m utterly in love with 4E combat. I find knocking monsters off ledges and lining up good fireballs to be extremely satisfying mechanics. Minion monsters, while not a wholly original idea, are a great fit. The resource management, enemy variety and overall balance are in pretty good shape, too (though more on that below). And I really liked how little preparation work was required from the DM.

      Balance-wise, I really like that the game had well defined and reasonable rules for what monster stats should look like. Granted, they missed the mark the first time and it took them a few years and a bunch of patches to get it right, but the revised guidelines meet most of the requirements I’d like to see in a monster/encounter generation system. Likewise, PC power level was kept within fairly narrow boundaries. Inevitably, things could get out of hand with enough optimization, but the worst cases looked more like ‘My PC deals 4 times more damage than I should’ rather than ‘My PC is an unholy aberration that can destroy galaxies single-handed’.

      That said, what one player sees as virtues can be drawbacks for others. For me, the systematic approach to building characters and monsters is balanced, elegant, and extremely cool. For others, it’s too bland, homogeneous and lazy. At the end of the day, it’s down to aesthetic preferences.

      Then there are the parts that are not that great, even for a convinced fan. The skill system is mediocre – not particularly worse than 3E’s, but I never cared for that one either. Skill challenges are an exciting idea that never lived up to its potential, though I still haven’t given up on the hope that some will eventually get a workable implementation. The economy isn’t anything to write home about – the framework for handing out rewards is fine, but most magic items are unexciting, and the generous crafting rules mean that you’re usually better off dusting whatever you get to craft the really good stuff. And as usual, the whole resource system hinges on the good will of PCs, since the optimal strategy is going to rest after the first encounter of the day, and nothing in the rules prevents that. That is one of the few D&D traditions that 4E preserved.

      And then you have D&D Insider (rest in peace). Building a character was easy enough with the digital tools, but quite the pain without. I wouldn’t recommend running this game unless you can get a copy of the software.

      So 4E is my favourite D&D edition. Is it the best? Who knows, I’m a terrible Culture Edition Warrior. 3.5 Is a pretty good game, which I enjoyed it for a good 7 years before getting tired of it – and it developed such a faithful fanbase that it remains commercially viable (as a spinoff) a decade after WoTC killed it. 5E didn’t do it for me, but as far as I can tell it’s been quite successful. And as much as I hate the rules for AD&D, that period brought us a lot of cool settings, and the best video game adaptations by far.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I’ll agree that one thing 4th Ed does well is movement within combat. It’s the only system that’s had a way to back your opponent off a cliff in a sword fight that isn’t horrendously clunky (SIFRP tried, but it was a mess, just like most everything else in SIFRP).

        I’d disagree that there’s nothing to prevent “one combat then rest” – wandering monsters prevent that, or at least make it a suboptimal strategy.

    • Plumber says:

      The 48 pages of the 1977 Holmes “bluebook” Basic rules D&D was my first “role-playing game” (how I hate that label, I much “Adventure game”), and I still regard it as the best.

      Besides the “bluebook” I’ve played Original + supplements (Greyhawk, et cetera), 1e AD&D, a tiny bit of ’81 Molvay B/X and “5th edition” (ir isn’t the 5th, that would be the ’91 “black box” WotC mangled the editions when they labelled their first version of their D&D “3rd edition”), and I’ve only glanced at 2e and 4e, but I’ve read a lot of 3 e, 3.5 (and Pathfinder).

      The strength of WotC “5e” is attracting new players, the weakness is in attracting new DM’s, because of it’s complexity.

      You can easily play 5e WD&D (just play a “Champion” Fighter), but DM’ing it is chore (unless you red line many options).

      The 1977 Holmes bluebook invited you to DM, and you need DM’s to play!

      The other versions of TSR BD&D are pretty good as well (original edition was the most fun for me to play, but it needed to be translated into clearer english before I could DM it!).

      As much as I loved it, AD&D was unnecessary, it should have been kept one game.

      I’ve barely glanced at 2e and 4e so I’ll ignore them, and address 3e and 3.5:

      I hate them.

      First off Wizards of the Coast owes me a refund for coming out with 3.5 and 4e so soon after I bought 3e!

      Next, the Fighter class should be simple, instead I have to choose a “Feat”!

      I hate that requirement of choosing Feats (5e made them optional).

      Next, Wizards are way to powerful, way too fast, D&D should be Aragorn, Conan, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser not Doctor Strange!

      And “Prestige Classes”?!

      If I’m invited to play any version of TSR D&D that is my first choice long term (from my glances at it 2e looks close to the D&D that I knew), so few play 4e that there’s no reason for me to bother to learn the rules, 5e is fun to play at low levels, but you level up too quickly for my tastes, and it’s too complex to DM.

      3.5?

      Too complex to play and as for DM’ing it?

      Never!

      • Randy M says:

        Next, the Fighter class should be simple, instead I have to choose a “Feat”!

        so few play 4e that there’s no reason for me to bother to learn the rules

        Yeah, that’s a good call for you.

  19. Le Maistre Chat says:

    So this is a real thing. I had to make sure Gavin McInnes didn’t fake it as a funny hoax, but it’s real.
    Short of successful entryism by the other tribe, comedy is dead in our culture.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      To me, this post is an example of defection.

      I contend this board would not react well if I started posting examples of the “daily outrage” from a left wing perspective.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      “Comedy is dead” seems like a bit of a leap?

      Not sure if you object to a specific part of this, or just to the sheer quantity of policing happening… but I feel like with a bigger perspective, this isn’t any more restrictive on comedy as a whole than deciding that blackface is Not OK Ever, and comedy obviously survived that?

      • The Nybbler says:

        I feel like with a bigger perspective, this isn’t any more restrictive on comedy as a whole than deciding that blackface is Not OK Ever

        “We made this one restriction, therefore this next restriction is justified”… this is why the slippery slope isn’t a fallacy.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          I’m a bad progressive who agrees the slippery slope isn’t a fallacy. But to me this looks like a slope with pretty good traction and not too scary a bottom.

        • Machine Interface says:

          Well, in a different perspective: movie making survived the Hays Code just fine, and a large part of what is today regarded as the best American movies ever made were made within those often drastic restrictions.

          Eventually the restrictions lessened and crumbled upon themselves, as directors from the 60s started to quietly ignore them, with little reactions from people in charge of enforcing them.

          If really “don’t make fun of transfolks” is all that it takes to kill american comedy, the latter must have been of quite feeble health to begin with.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Not sure if you object to a specific part of this, or just to the sheer quantity of policing happening…

        Both. The specific parts are anti-grammar and endorse double standards that you can’t logically analyze without getting called a bigot. If you tried to change the specific wording of this demand to anti-racist rather than transgender, this is how bad it would sound:

        By Chloe Koser (ble/bler/blers), Bloom David (bley/blem/bleir) & Zach Stephens (ble/blim/blis).
        Can a white woman play a white man and vice versa?
        Yes! So long as it isn’t a joke i.e. ‘white woman in policeman’s uniform looks non-threatening for an cop.’

        Can white people play black roles?
        NO. It is that simple.

        Can black people play white roles?
        Yes! Black people can play any race role they feel comfortable playing.

        Etc…

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Are you saying you’ve independently verified that this is both real and sincerely meant? Because that line “So long as it isn’t a joke” still makes me strongly suspect a piss-extraction attempt.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I have verified it to the extent of uncovering that Chloe Koser is in a Twitter argument that looks straight-faced with Gavin McInnes, and her Twitter account looks like a real transgender virtue-signalling account with 701 followers.

        • dick says:

          Is she supposed to be someone important? Why are we supposed to be worried for the survival of comedy over something she said? Meanwhile, Joe Rogan has a routine about Bruce Jenner being hypnotized in to transitioning by literal demons in his Netflix special, and he seems to be doing okay…

          I’m with HBC, this seems like an outrage-du-jour that will affect nothing and no one.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          That does look sincere enough. On the other hand, comedy will never be dead as long as people keep coming up with material like that.

    • WashedOut says:

      All of these PC rules seem completely unnecessary since the proportion of entertainers that are trans is negligible. You can argue that this kind of policing kills comedy, but the social justice sphere is not known for it’s sense of humour anyway. If anything it’s a separate, tiny scene that oscillates between self-satirisation and self-destruction.

      Meanwhile, thousands of quality entertainers and comics continue to write and perform fantastic theater and comedy as they always have done, the world keeps spinning.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        So what you’re saying is that demands like this are irrelevant because entertainers and comics can disagree without getting kicked out of the Blue tribe and/or can get a platform even if they’re Red?

        • WashedOut says:

          They don’t strike me as demands per se. They seem like made-up rules for a game that is in its infancy and is only played by 0.05% of the population. The game is called “superimpose sketch-comedy onto a social justice framework” and will never be as funny as other forms of comedy that happen to disregard such rules.
          Therefore I argue the ‘problem’ solves itself.

          I’m open to being convinced that the swirling maelstrom of politically-charged ‘demands’ on entertainers will have a chilling effect on the whole industry, which is the point I think you are angling for. However this seems to assume a massive reduction in market demand for un-PC comedy, which I doubt.

          • The Nybbler says:

            However this seems to assume a massive reduction in market demand for un-PC comedy, which I doubt.

            Not “demand” but “platform”. If all the producers, comedy clubs, and other venues refuse to countenance humor which does not follow those rules, it will not be much made or enjoyed. Particularly if anyone who breaks the rules gets not only thrown out but blacklisted.

          • Nornagest says:

            There’s a lot of “all” in the world. You know I’m no fan of social justice, but I can’t see it managing to stamp out un-PC humor in the near future; there’s too much of it and not enough SJ ideologues.

            It could conceivably take over the New York comedy scene, which would be a shame, but there are other cities.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It could conceivably take over the New York comedy scene

            I find that highly unlikely? The Berkeley comedy scene perhaps.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Well, Twitter solved that problem; they permabanned McInnes, no reason given.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        … of course they did. Anyone want to still argue
        “Is she supposed to be someone important? Why are we supposed to be worried for the survival of comedy over something she said?”

        • Matt M says:

          From what I’ve read, they banned Gavin (as well as the official Proud Boys account) for violating their “violent extremist group” policies.

          Which strikes me as absurd as the official PB account has always gone well out of its way to denounce and condemn violence on Twitter.

  20. rlms says:

    Thoughts on the parallels between Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn?
    The two current ones are protectionism and accusations of racism (that seem to me to be about equally accurate).

    • axiomsofdominion says:

      Corbyn and Trump are wildly different on this issue. There are left Labour members who are anti-Semites but Corbyn isn’t one of them.

      • kieranpjobrien says:

        I have to disagree here.

        Corbyn doesn’t actively want to kill Jews. Sure. But he makes friends with everyone he finds who does.

        He silences Jewish voices wherever he can, denies them agency. He loathes Israel and engages in conspiracism to attack it.

        My attempt at some volume on this:

        Someone else’s effort on the detail of his racism:

        He surrounds himself with those who engage in anti-semitism within the party, ignores their racism and defends them until it’s politically impossible to continue. He attacks Jewish journalists and anyone who questions him. He gaslights Jews by saying they’re just getting very excitable and exaggerating things rather than listening to them.

        He’s at best passively racist and lies when he says he always opposes racism in all forms. At worst an active anti-semite. Corbyn isn’t Trump. But he is a racist.

        • Aapje says:

          My attempt at some volume on this

          You seem to conflate anti-semitism with anti-Zionism and/or anti-‘what the current Israeli government is doing.’ Remove those and your list shrivels to a fraction of what it is now.

          Your point 15 is especially silly, you are not doing yourself any favors with absurd accusations of gaslighting.

          • kieranpjobrien says:

            A comparison of the state of Israel to the Nazis as Corbyn has done multiple times (video released earlier today) and allowed to be done in-front of him multiple times without challenge is anti-semitic according to the IHRA definition, which is the definition.

            Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

            let alone an “existential threat”, to Jewish life in Britain, as three Jewish newspapers recently claimed. That is the kind of overheated rhetoric that can surface during emotional political debates.

            This is gaslighting. The three main Jewish newspapers all said he was a threat to Jews, one would think that Jewish voices are the ones that should be listened to on this matter, and instead of reassuring, he denied it was a problem.

            And then two days later said no one should dismiss their concerns.

            Some of them are anti-semitic in themselves, they all point to a pattern of behaviour of a man who loathes Israel and at best disdains Jews.

          • ana53294 says:

            Dislike or indeed hatred of Israel does not mean a person is anti-semitic. Comparing them to Nazis is also not a sign of anti-semitism.

            Israelis are actively trying to commit genocide by expropriating Arabs’ lands and killing those who disagree. They are not using gas chambers, alright. But they discriminate against Arab citizens, they don’t allow Palestinians to develop their economy or agriculture (they bomb wells dug by Palestinians, for example). They have blocked international aid to Palestine several times. They have assaulted and imprisoned aid workers trying to help Palestinians. They intimidate journalists who visit the Gaza strip.

            There are a lot of reasons to dislike Israel that have nothing to do with being anti-semitic.

          • kieranpjobrien says:

            I’m not getting into a debate about Israel and Palestine. Your arguments aren’t honest at first look but I’m simply not getting into it.

            Sticking to Jeremy Corbyn and his conduct:
            Comparing Israel to the Nazis is anti-semitic. According to the definition of anti-semitism it is anti-semitic.

            It’s not quite that simple, context and intent matters. But Corbyn’s intent is to compare Israel to the Nazis, he doesn’t mean it jokingly.

            It is certainly possible to dislike Israel without being anti-semitic. And we shouldn’t conflate anti-zionism with anti-semitism. But once you cross into direct comparisons between Israeli and Nazi policies, you’re being anti-semitic.

            Comparing Israel to the greatest crime in history is anti-semitic. According to the definition.

          • ana53294 says:

            Comparing Israel to the Nazis is anti-semitic.

            The thing is, everybody is compared to Nazis nowadays. People regularly call Trump a Nazi. “Nazi” has become an insult that is used to refer to racist/anti-inmigrant politicians. If we compare everybody whose policies we find contemptible to Nazis, why should we make an exception for Israel?

            You can say that we shouldn’t compare everything and everybody to Nazis, and I agree. Whatever his faults are, Trump is not a Nazi. But a lot of people do, and you won’t be able to change it, so saying people who insult Israel are anti-semitic is incorrect. They are just prone to exaggerate and use emotionally charged insults against people they dislike. And there are a lot of reasons to dislike Israel that have nothing to do with anti-semitism.

          • kieranpjobrien says:

            We shouldn’t make an exception for Israel, and I’m not suggesting we should. Doing it at all is ridiculous. Doing it for Israel, is by the IHRA definition, anti-semitic. That’s not an exception for Israel, it’s ridiculous for all, and it’s additionally racist to do so with Israel.
            And Corbyn knew this. He’s not in a fit of pique or particularly excitable when he does this. He’s cold and calm.

            Corbyn is, by the definition, racist. It’s why he can’t let the IHRA definition stand for Labour – because the first thing people will do is hold him up to the standard and find him to be the racist that he clearly is.

          • ana53294 says:

            If you use the IHRA definition, then yes, comparing the acts of the state of Israel to Nazis is anti-semitic.

            The IHRA definition clumps so many things together, from the most contemptible of acts to the lesser ones that the anti-semitic term looses its bite.

            I view discrimination of Jews, or Holocaust denial, as different degrees of evil. A person may think that the Holocaust never happened, and still hire Jewish workers, have Jewish friends and even marry a Jew. They would be anti-semitic according to the IHRA definition, but they wouldn’t be anti-semitic in the sense commonly understood by most people (evil people who would deprive Jews of all opportunities).

            I think that in this case, anti-semitism is the same as racism. There is a discussion in this thread over whether it is useful to mash “structural racism” with racism, as they are perceived differently by people.

          • kieranpjobrien says:

            If you use the IHRA definition, then yes, comparing the acts of the state of Israel to Nazis is anti-semitic.

            And to go back to the point of this discussion, Corbyn is a racist. Donald Trump is a racist. Both are protectionists. The similarities are strong. Even in the people they have around them being varying degrees of racist/conspiracist.

            Yes, obviously there are degrees of anti-semitism. But I’d say casual dismissal of Jews is less bad than Holocaust denial. So we have the scale backwards to one another here.

            The IHRA definition doesn’t lose its bite. It says X, Y, Z are anti-semitic. Examining the context is important, as is intent. And it was arrived at after years of negotiation and discussion. It is measured.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The IHRA can bite me. If Israel starts marching Palestinians into death camps, or even so much as making them wear symbols denoting their status as Palestinians, they’ll be rightfully compared to Nazis. A definition which claims Nazi comparisons are “anti-semitism” without first considering if they are justified is worse than useless.

          • kieranpjobrien says:

            If Israel starts marching Palestinians into death camps, or even so much as making them wear symbols denoting their status as Palestinians, they’ll be rightfully compared to Nazis.

            “If” is doing a huge amount of heavy lifting in that.

            And in that case, the IHRA definition wouldn’t stop you – because context matters when it comes to the IHRA definition. It’s not an automatic “Comparing Netanyahu to Hitler” means social ostracism. It takes the context and intent into account. So your example fails.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The IHRA examples of anti-semitism include

            Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

            It seems unlikely this was intended to mean a snapshot of the policies at the time the document was written. And it includes no qualifications. So I conclude that they do, indeed, wish to make it out of bounds to compare Israeli policies with Nazi ones, full stop. And I reject that.

          • kieranpjobrien says:

            You’re simply ignoring that context and intent are taken into account. It says so on the website.

            Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include

            You’re doing so deliberately at this point. I’m officially bored.

            And until Israel does start gassing Palestinians, if you can’t criticise Israel without being anti-semitic – you’re being rather unimaginative. To be generous.

            PS – reject it all you like, if you live in a country that uses the IHRA definition and you fall foul of it – it’s on you. Especially in the UK where MacPherson also comes into play.

          • ana53294 says:

            Nazis did not start by sending Jews to death camps to be gassed. Nazis started by forcing Jews to wear yellow badges.

            Somebody can compare the color-coded IDs for Palestinians with the Nazi yellow badges.

            I don’t think that makes the critics bad people. If that makes them anti-semitic, then I don’t think anti-semitism is a bad thing.

            And it includes no qualifications. So I conclude that they do, indeed, wish to make it out of bounds to compare Israeli policies with Nazi ones, full stop. And I reject that.

            Precisely.

            For example, one of the definitions of anti-semitism:

            Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

            What if the Jew in question does spend a huge amount of his money to further Israel’s interest? They do not qualify this by saying unless that concrete citizen is working to further Israel’s interest.

          • John Schilling says:

            Israelis are actively trying to commit genocide by expropriating Arabs’ lands and killing those who disagree.

            Not for any definition of genocide that matters, and you should feel bad for using one of the definitions that don’t matter, You might as well call the Israelis “Nazis” and be done with it.

          • J Mann says:

            @ana53294 – one correction on the ID cards – prior to Israel turning ID cards over to the PA, the sleeves the cards were in were based on geographic origin and citizenship status, not ethnicity. As far as I can tell, ethnic Palestinians who were citizens of Israel had the same color sleeve as ethnic Jews, while residents of the West Bank, Gaza, and card holders who were legally barred from entering Israel had green sleeves.

            It’s true that colors were involved (compare the US “green card” system), but I think there were some important differences from using an ID system to mark ethnicity.

          • rlms says:

            Everyone calls their political opponents Nazis, so doing so with Israel in particular isn’t a strong signal of anything other than a strong dislike of Israel. Since we want “anti-semitic” to be useful we therefore shouldn’t use definitions of it that include calling Israel anti-semitic (unless you consider a strong dislike of Israel to be anti-semitic, which is not completely unreasonable).

          • Well Armed Sheep says:

            To state what I’m sure plenty of others are thinking: arguments from a specific organization’s definition of a contested term are unpersuasive.

            And no, the IHRA’s definition is not “the definition.”

          • Aapje says:

            @kieranpjobrien

            The problem with calling it racist when a Nazi comparison is made to a specific government policy, administration or leader, is that you then need to conclude that:
            A Turkish Newspaper is racist against Germans
            A Greek newspaper too
            A Mexican magazine is racist against Americans
            A German paper too

            So if we apply your reasoning that these comparisons create a threat to the entire citizenship of nations who are criticized like this, we then ought to conclude that Germans & Americans have to fear for their lives. Right?

            When you (and IHRA) demand that Israel is not criticized like this, but ignore that it happens to many others & do not speak out against that as well, I see a demand for special treatment (and thus bias on your & their end).

            Note that fights over definitions are pretty common political struggles, because it is very useful to get biased definitions accepted by seemingly impartial institutions, so you can win debates by appealing to authority (as you are trying to do here). Not that I think that you are knowingly doing this, because biased people tend to believe that biased definitions are neutral/correct.

            Anyway, just like Ana, I think that your hyperbole merely trivializes the insult of antisemitism. There is plenty of clear antisemitism around to object to. By doing what you are doing, you may succeed at making fairly mild behavior less acceptable and easier to shame people for, but you make the more extreme behavior more acceptable and harder to shame people for. This seems counterproductive.

        • rlms says:

          He certainly has a lot of dubious friends, but I think it’s very unlikely that he’s anti-semitic himself in the sense of believing bad things about or having bad intentions for Jews in general.

          • kieranpjobrien says:

            The leading charity on the matter says he is. This thread is just things from the last fortnight of his own racism.

            He doesn’t have bad intentions, as in want to kill Jews, but he believes in Jewish conspiracies and attacks Jewish journalists and others who criticise him in the slightest.

            And with that many “dubious” friends who he’s never considered challenging when they’re racist in front of him, his record of “always challenging racism” looks like the opposite.

      • rlms says:

        I agree and disagree. Corbyn isn’t anti-semitic, but I don’t think Trump’s racist (see You Are Still Crying Wolf)! On the other hand, they both have a lot of dubious friends and dance round the edges of racism, although in different ways; Trump has a lot of outrageous racist rhetoric that I don’t think he really believes, whereas Corbyn never says anything bad himself but privately probably wouldn’t be too sad if Israel suffered an unfortunate accident.

        • kieranpjobrien says:

          Agree largely on Trump. Though story today from stone Apprentice contestant suggests hardening of racist qualifications necessary in his case.

          With Corbyn – he says plenty of things that are at the least racist adjacent. It’s just that he comes across as a cuddly magic grandpa so what he says is so often dismissed.

  21. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    Can anyone actually follow the following Robin Hanson signalling explanation of healthcare paternalism? (source)

    It turns out that this selective concern can directly produce paternalistic attitudes regarding health. Here is how this works: You care about your allies, but you care about them conditionally on their remaining your allies. They care about themselves unconditionally, however. If you are uncertain about whether your allies will remain your allies, you want them to make choices as if they were sure to remain allies with you. Furthermore,
    if they would be more likely to remain allies with you if they had numerous other allies, you would want your allies to act as if they were confident they would have many allies. And if we think of having high status as being equivalent to having many good allies, then you want your allies to act as if they are confident of being of high status. Those allies, however, will make their choices with reference to the actual status they
    estimate that they have, not the status that you want them to have.

    What choices make more sense for someone with many allies than for someone with few allies? For most primates, being of high status tends to protect one from crisis events that discourage investments in health. This
    is because mammals have a common “stress response” that suddenly heightens awareness and turns off the body’s systems of growth, digestion, and immunity. This response can help a mammal escape from a predator, though at the expense of the mammal’s long-term health. Social primates also invoke the stress response when their social status is low or threatened, since having a low social status is typically correlated with suffering crisis events such as beatings or worse. High-status primates, in contrast, invoke the stress response less, and therefore invest more resources in improving their health. Hence, if you want your allies to act as if they are of high status, you want them to invest a lot in improving their health. In fact, you want them to invest more in their health than they would choose to do themselves, given their own best estimates of their individual future social statuses.

    I think my biggest issue is the assumption that all forms of investment in health are similar to not-being-stressed. IIUC chronic stress trades off long-term health against crisis preparedness. It’s correlated with low status (mostly?) not because status affects the value of long-term health but because it affects the likelihood of crisis. Other investments in health should have similar relationships to status only if their costs are also primarily in crisis preparedness, which Robin doesn’t seem to even bother to argue.

    • Christophe Biocca says:

      I think the argument is that the kinds of health-care investments that were relevant while we evolved our intuitions did present that trade-off (of being disproportionately beneficial to higher-status apes). Current investments may not have that trade-off at all anymore, but that doesn’t change the internal logic we’re using.

      Of course without a clear notion of what those investments would have been there’s no way to judge the validity of the claim, but this is pretty common in my experience with Hanson’s writing: lack of data will not stop him from building a hypothesis and privileging the shit out of it, until definitive contrary evidence is brought up.

      In this particular case it’d be good to look at other costly signals (Zahavi handicapping) and how we paternalistically push people into spending all their money on expensive cars, massive weddings celebrations, and Everest climbs, instead of forcing them to save for their retirement, because this is how we’d expect our allies to behave if they actually were high-status.

  22. johan_larson says:

    It’s time to nominate candidates for the SSC Literary Awards in the category of Sounds Sexy But Isn’t. Nominees may have been written anywhere and anywhen, but must be available in English.

    Let me begin by nominating Scouting for Boys by Robert Baden-Powell.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham
      Ragged Dick is actually just the original Horatio Alger story.

    • Eric Rall says:

      Scoring off Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse
      The Brown Hand by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
      Insert Knob A in Hole B by Isaac Asimov. Also Silly Asses and Time Pussy.

    • The Nybbler says:

      _Time Pussy_, Isaac Asimov. They’re cats.

      _Insert Knob A into Hole B_, Asimov again. Get your mind out of the gutter and think Ikea.

      _The Adventure of the Two Women_, A.C. Doyle. (weak, but I wanted a Holmes story)

      • Deiseach says:

        _The Adventure of the Two Women_, A.C. Doyle. (weak, but I wanted a Holmes story)

        Ah no, Nybbler! I thought “I don’t recognise that title”, looked it up, and it’s by Adrian Conan Doyle. Doesn’t count, I’m afraid!

        Let’s drop back into the gutter and see if we can’t insert some double entendres or prurient meanings into the real ACD stories!

        The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb
        The Crooked Man
        The Adventure of the Dancing Men
        The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist
        The Adventure of the Second Stain
        The Adventure of the Creeping Man (does have a sexual sub-plot or sub-text in canon)

        • The Nybbler says:

          Harumph. Well, I don’t suppose you’d buy a mash-up of _The Pursuit of the House Boat_ (not even by a Doyle at all) and that one. _The Adventure of the Two Women and the Single Vessel_, it would be called.

        • Lambert says:

          “Doesn’t count, I’m afraid!” ejaculated Deiseach.

    • Aapje says:

      Games you can play with your pussy (and lots of other stuff cat owners should know)
      Still Stripping After 25 Years (Quilt in a day)
      The Missionary Position (Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice)
      Invisible Dick, Frank Topham
      Scouts in Bondage

    • Nornagest says:

      The Sex Lives of Cannibals. Actually a culture-clash book about Kiribati. No cannibals, very little sex.

  23. HeelBearCub says:

    I contend that if we can’t describe the George Wallace of the civil rights era as racist, then the term has essentially no meaning.

    And this is my basic problem with how people here (Scott as a prime example) deal with the idea of racism.

    If we look at George Wallace’s 1963 inaugural speech, the famous “segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” speech ( text, video ), we will find only scant evidence of explicitly named racial animus, yet we can’t doubt that this speech was intended as a full throated endorsement of a system that was certainly motivated by racial animus.

    Yet when see him dealing explicitly with this subject, Wallace essentialy denies it, saying:

    And so it was meant in our racial lives . . . each race, within its own framework has the freedom to teach . . to instruct . . to develop . . to ask for and receive deserved help from others of separate racial stations. This is the great freedom of our American founding fathers . . . but if we amalgamate into the one unit as advocated by the communist philosophers . . . then the enrichment of our lives . . . the freedom for our development . . . is gone forever. We become, therefore, a mongrel unit of one under a single all powerful government . . . and we stand for everything . . . and for nothing.

    The true brotherhood of America, of respecting the separateness of others . . . and uniting in effort . . . has been so twisted and distorted from its original concept that there is a small wonder that communism is winning the world.

    We invite the negro citizens of Alabama to work with us from his separate racial station . . . as we will work with him . . . to develop, to grow in individual freedom and enrichment. We want jobs and a good future for BOTH races . . . the tubercular and the infirm. This is the basic heritage of my religion, if which I make full practice . . . . for we are all the handiwork of God.

    And indeed, later in his life, when he explicitly apologized for his actions at the time he said “‘I never hated anybody; I never hated any black people.” We can easily theorize that he would have said the same at the time he made this speech.

    In many other contexts we understand that this is how bias works, we are blind to our own biases, and claim to be serving virtue even as we impose those biases. Al Capone (according to Dale Carnegie anyway) said, “I have spent the best years of my life giving people the lighter pleasures, helping them have a good time, and all I get is abuse, the existence of a hunted man.”

    Almost everyone thinks they are one of the good guys. Expecting someone who is motivated in part by racial animus to self-confess is too tall an order, let alone expecting them to state it plainly to the world. Instead they will profess to be serving the best interests of all, even those whom they actually regard with animus.

    • Brad says:

      I contend that if we can’t describe the George Wallace of the civil rights era as racist, then the term has essentially no meaning.

      My understanding of “Against Murderism” is that it intentionally defined ‘racism’ such that it had no meaning with the purpose of driving its use down and the ultimate goal of preventing civil war.

      I don’t like that essay, don’t think that it is a good idea to stop using the word racism, or that doing so will prevent any kind of civil war; but I don’t think it is a valid critique to say that the definition advanced therein gives the term essentially no meaning. That was the point.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Fine, then taboo the word each time someone else uses it and deal with the substance of what is being charged.

        Scott, and many others, seem to think that you can just say “racism has no meaning” and ignore the xenophobic, nativist, nationalism that is being pursued. That if you just plug your ears when you hear the word racist, that the bigots will, like some mythical Bugblatter Beast of Traal, shamble off and cease to exist.

        ETA:
        As a further point, regardless of what exactly you call it, I think that the “otherism” required to separate parents from children, with no thought or plan or care as to how or whether they will ever be reunited, needs to be acknowledged. Perhaps I missed it, but Scott still seems to be maintaining his stance in “You Are Still Crying Wolf” of denying this.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I don’t think you can read people’s minds and know that everyone who condones border enforcement is an “otherist” motivated by racial animus. I mean, something like 40% of Latino citizens voted for Trump… American Latinos would have to be 40-79% white and a majority of white Latinos racist for that to be possible (and race is enough of an artificial construct that we’d need a long-ass sociological discussion rather than reducing it to simple math).
          If President Trump takes pleasure in separating adults who try to violate immigration law from their children, that would make him an eccentric outlier. In the main, people willing to vote for him are just against open borders and it’s a confused issue with no easy answer.
          Charge adults with attempting to immigrate illegally and you have to choose between holding children with their arrested parents when they’re innocent or holding them separately. If you’re told that both options make you literally Hitler, then your cheater detector goes off and you think about how this is a rule set that lets any foreigner break our laws without possibility of arrest by toting a minor around.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You are conflating several different things.

            1) At no point did I say (or even intimate) that everyone who voted for Trump was motivated by racial animus. (I’d also challenge your Latino vote percentages, but that is a different conversation having to do with exit polls actually attempt to do).

            2) Trump taking pleasure is immaterial. Trump is presenting overwhelming evidence that he is engaged in “othering” these people. Objecting to calling Trump racist on this is to miss the point completely. His actions are reprehensible.

            3) It is not merely Trump, but everyone who is defending Trump’s actions. Yes, immigration is complex and difficult. Yes, I can understand arguments that asylum law is gameable, although I think that argument is too facile. None of that makes the Trump administrations actions in this particular matter, which are definitely not Trump alone, defensible. Yet plenty of defenses have been raised, both by his administration, but also by many outside the administration.

          • hyperboloid says:

            something like 40% of Latino citizens voted for Trump

            No he didn’t. Early exit polls indicated that he won something like 29 percent of the Latino vote. Exist polls are subject to strong participation bias, and subsequent analysis indicates that Trump’s true share was likely less than twenty.

        • idontknow131647093 says:

          I think this is a general misunderstanding to the anti-anti-racist (in the Scott Alexander kind of way) way of thought. Rather, the argument is that “Racist” has a very particular definition and proving that someone is a racist has a very particular set of steps, otherwise the definition of racist is no longer the same, or even similar, and thus it shouldn’t be a derogatory term. I’ll try my hand, although probably not with great skill.

          Racist: a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another and discriminates against or is prejudiced against people of said race.

          How to prove someone is a racist: A) They admit they are a racist; B) They act consistently in ways that can only be explained by racism; or C) They act sometimes in ways that could only be explained by racism + consistently make statements that are more likely than not to be derived from racism.

          The argument then emerges when you have someone like Charles Murray who cannot be fit into cats A, B, or C, thus it is unknowable if he is a racist under the “powerful” definition of the term. If we are to change the ways we prove someone is racist, adding D, E, & F (so we can call murray a racist), we too need to change the definition. That definition would be something like:

          Racist(b): a person who is from a race having majority or plurality political power, and who engages in conduct that may result in disparate impacts against another race.

          Racist(b) is not a word that should be used as an insult (in fact doing so is racist under the initial definition posed), thus using racist(b) in your rhetoric is a combination of lying and devaluing the word.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Again, proving the internal mental state of someone else is too much to ask. It can’t be done for basically anyone (and not for Wallace).

            Trump and his supporters are “otherist”. We can see this by many examples, with the crowning example being their callous disregard when separating children from parents of those crossing the boarder. I don’t need to prove the specific mental state that lead to this disregard. The disregard itself is enough.

            It is not enough to say “I think this term was misapplied to Charles Murray”. You can’t then simply forever ignore the actions of others who aren’t Charles Murray. Nor can ignore the kinds of rhetoric that long presaged those actions.

            Much of Scott’s critique of Trump’s rhetoric would have applied to Wallace.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Just because a critique can be applied to subsets of two people doesn’t mean that it categorically excludes others.

            It seems to me your argument is simply a “there is no slippery slope” argument, but including an inability to identify where the slope begins, thus actually not refuting the slope. Its akin to people who say they want “common sense gun control” but won’t say what the end of that is. Indeed, there is evidence with both the “racist sayers” and “common sense gun controllers” that “racist” means “Charles Murray” (and probably people even more moderate than him) and “common sense gun control” means a ban of all guns. So people say, “we see the slope it ends at Berkley and Chicago” and then the response is???

            With regard to the separation of children, I think that is simply always going to be a fact of life if there is a border and children are presumed innocent while adults are not. This is why many times drug dealers use children as mules.

            So back to Wallace vs. Trump, we have to understand that there will always be overlap between politicians if you look for them, and they will often be quite compelling. The FDR-Hitler overlap is perhaps the strongest in American history, but few people cite that currently. And sometimes the lack of overlap itself is an indictment (such as the Clinton-Clinton lack of overlap).

          • Brad says:

            idontknow131647093 wrote:

            I think this is a general misunderstanding to the anti-anti-racist (in the Scott Alexander kind of way) way of thought. Rather, the argument is that “Racist” has a very particular definition and proving that someone is a racist has a very particular set of steps, otherwise the definition of racist is no longer the same, or even similar, and thus it shouldn’t be a derogatory term. I’ll try my hand, although probably not with great skill.

            From Against Murderism:

            Am I saying everyone like this is schizophrenic? Not diagnosably, no. But I notice that there are a lot of not-diagnosably-schizophrenic people who believe in the Illuminati, the New World Order, the Freemasons, and – yes – lizardmen. Is it really so outlandish to say that the same faulty reasoning that concludes that Freemasons run the world could conclude that Jews run the world, and for the same reasons? Does it really make sense to just blow one off as paranoid conspiracy-mongering, and the other as originating from a completely different process called “anti-Semitism” or “racism”? Remember, “healthy” people with paranoid and conspiratorial beliefs have the same kind of fronto-striatal prediction error signal that schizophrenics do, only less so, suggesting that their odd ideas probably come from the same kind of disturbed reasoning process.

            Fine. Schizotypal conspiracy-mongerers are a noncentral example anyway. What about, I don’t know, rural Republicans in South Carolina who wave the Confederate flag all the time and think blacks and immigrants are ruining the country.

            Here I would point out that this is pretty much the demographic that elected Nikki Haley … Maybe this is more like the daycare situation than it looks – people using race as a proxy for something they care about, until they get direct information.

            And I’m not saying that there will never be a case that’s impossible to break down into non-racist motives. Heck, I’m not even saying there aren’t some honest-to-goodness murderists out there. But I am saying we should at least try. Not because it’s necessarily costless. Not because there isn’t a risk of false negatives.

            We should try because it’s the only alternative to having another civil war.

            It’s a definition deliberately designed to be as narrow as possible so as to virtually eliminate usage, not just some arbitrary ” very particular” definition by someone that happens to think narrow, precise definitions are great in general.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            @Brad

            While that is one possible way of defining it, I think you can broaden the definition as I did without the side effects Scott warns against. However, I think there still needs to be delineations that ensure the “racist” label has an incredibly low false positive rate, otherwise you do get the issues I talked about.

            Its just like common sense gun control. If it means anything more than universal background checks, its not really all that common sense.

          • Brad says:

            However, I think there still needs to be delineations that ensure the “racist” label has an incredibly low false positive rate, otherwise you do get the issues I talked about

            As I understand it there are two sets of “issues”.

            The first, is Scott’s argument that continuing to use the current colloquial definition of ‘racist’ will lead to a civil war. Given the evidence and bringing my own judgment to bear, I consider that possibility outlandish. I could be wrong, but that’s the conclusion I’ve drawn.

            The second, is that a bunch of people don’t think it is fair that they themselves, or public figures they are fans of (e.g. Charles Murray), are called racists for doing or saying things that are within the current colloquial definition of racist. To that I say: too bad.

          • Matt M says:

            What about the issue of potentially watering down the term?

            The wider the net you cast with it, the less impact it will have. If you use the same term to describe David Duke and Charles Murray, one possibility is that this becomes very harmful to Murray, to which your response may be “Who cares? He should get better beliefs then. Not my problem.” But of course, another possibility is that this rehabilitates David Duke, such that when you try and de-platform him, the public shrugs and says “Why should we be afraid of someone who has the same views as a respectable college professor?”

            Realistically, both things will happen, but to different groups. This also comes up in the argument that part of Trump’s victory was attributable to the left abusing such terms, such that when they called him a racist, a lot of people rolled their eyes and said “Yeah, yeah, you call everyone a racist,” at which point you end up in a “But this time we really mean it” style of argument, which leads us to You’re Still Calling Wolf

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            @Brad I don’t think its 2 set of issues.

            The first, is Scott’s argument that continuing to use the current colloquial definition of ‘racist’ will lead to a civil war. Given the evidence and bringing my own judgment to bear, I consider that possibility outlandish. I could be wrong, but that’s the conclusion I’ve drawn.

            No. The argument is that there are two colloquial definitions of racist and if they are preserved it will result in a civil war.

            While running the risk of engaging too many SSCisms this is Scott (and me) saying that this particular Motte and Bailey is very dangerous because the Motte is very strong, whereas the Bailey is very weak.

            So going back to my recent post:

            Motte = Racist: a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another and discriminates against or is prejudiced against people of said race.

            Bailey = Racist(b): a person who is from a race having majority or plurality political power, and who engages in conduct that may result in disparate impacts against another race.

            The contention is that there are many people who want to continue to employ punishments appropriate for the motte when applying them to the bailey, and that application will lead to civil war. I think that at the extreme this is correct.

            The second, is that a bunch of people don’t think it is fair that they themselves, or public figures they are fans of (e.g. Charles Murray), are called racists for doing or saying things that are within the current colloquial definition of racist. To that I say: too bad.

            This is related and not separate. People like Murray and those that agree with him on Race/IQ think that the original stigma of the old definition is being applied to them, whereas what you call the “colloquial” definition of “racist” is actually a compliment.

          • Brad says:

            The contention is that there are many people who want to continue to employ punishments appropriate for the motte when applying them to the bailey, and that application will lead to civil war. I think that at the extreme this is correct.

            I don’t know what “at the extreme” is supposed to mean exactly. If the status quo with respect to the word ‘racism’ continues then I think the probability of a civil war arising from it is extremely low. If people that are considered racists are put reeducation camps, that obviously changes the probability of civil war, but I’d consider the probability of *that* to be extremely low. Summing up all the possibilities wherein something about the ‘word’ racism leads to civil war, I consider the total probability very low.

            I acknowledge I could be miscalibrated, but simply saying you disagree doesn’t move the needle much.

            This is related and not separate. People like Murray and those that agree with him on Race/IQ think that the original stigma of the old definition is being applied to them, whereas what you call the “colloquial” definition of “racist” is actually a compliment

            I certainly don’t consider it a compliment. Based on the caterwauling, it doesn’t seem like the recipients consider it a compliment. If you think it is a compliment, you should be happy it is being thrown around.

            @Matt M
            I find in general that tactical suggestions from people on the opposite side of a desired outcome are not fruitful or interesting. I don’t tell pro-life people how to most effectively go about their protests and if I did they should probably disregard me.

          • Matt M says:

            I find in general that tactical suggestions from people on the opposite side

            Eh, I think this might actually be a rare opportunity for a meaningful bipartisan compromise.

            The left gets to keep the ability to use “racism” as a term that provides an instant credibility kill-shot against its opponents.

            The right gets to sleep soundly knowing that the term will only be applied to legitimate racists and not to everyone to the right of Hillary Clinton.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            There aren’t really rhetorical killshots. Not when the interlocutors are reasonably sophisticated.

            Arguments of the form “Checkmate, Nazi!” aren’t really good ones.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The left gets to keep the ability to use “racism” as a term that provides an instant credibility kill-shot against its opponents.

            The right gets to sleep soundly knowing that the term will only be applied to legitimate racists and not to everyone to the right of Hillary Clinton.

            That’s not a stable compromise. It will immediately be broken by either someone the left using it as a kill shot against someone who is not a “legitimate racist”, or someone on the right objecting to someone on the left using it as a kill shot against someone who is a “legitimate racist”.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          “Fine, then taboo the word each time someone else uses it and deal with the substance of what is being charged.”

          This is what I ask for in the murderism post, and if people did this there would be no (semantic) problem.

          “As a further point, regardless of what exactly you call it, I think that the “otherism” required to separate parents from children, with no thought or plan or care as to how or whether they will ever be reunited, needs to be acknowledged. Perhaps I missed it, but Scott still seems to be maintaining his stance in “You Are Still Crying Wolf” of denying this.”

          I’ve been trying to wade through the conflict about whether Obama also separated families. As best I can tell, the answer is “occasionally, but less often than Trump”. If this turns out to be true, and some of the immigrants were white (as many Mexicans are), would you conclude that Obama must be an anti-white racist? If not, I feel like “if you separate families, surely you are a racist” is one of those ad hoc principles that disappear once you use proving-too-much on them.

          Here is an uncontroversial, confirmed example of Obama-era immigration policy:

          “Videos and photos at the time showed children in tears, many of them still wearing dirty clothes, in detention facilities where they were kept with their families. The conditions — which ranged from six adults and children sleeping crammed on two mattresses laid out on concrete floors, to sick minors not receiving medical care — were documented in many news accounts and reports by human rights groups.”

          Again, if you’re saying this kind of thing can be due to any number of causes and wouldn’t make you suspect Obama was racist, but the family thing proves Trump is racist, it seems kind of like making up rules of evidence as you go along. I think this general pattern of starting with something bad, then assuming nothing but racism can be the cause, is part of what I was arguing against and pretty quickly shot down by all the horrible things that happen in situations where nobody suspects racism.

          My feeling is that the 34% of whites who describe themselves as unsympathetic to illegal immigrants feel that way for the same reason as the 19% of blacks who do, but that for some reason this factor affects whites slightly more. I don’t think it makes sense to say the blacks feel this way for completely understandable economic reasons, but the whites feel this way because they’re infected by a nonsensical and uncaused ideology of murder and hatred.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You seem to me to either not be fully engaged with my argument, or not fully engaged with the subject matter. Of course I could be mistaken, but this doesn’t feel like you are on the right foot here.

            When does the article you pointed to mention separating children from parents? Under specific conditions wherein the parent was not merely crossing the border, but crossing the border smuggling drugs or other contraband and the father had to be detained, rather than monitored.

            “ICE could not devise a safe way where men and children could be in detention together in one facility,” Fresco said. “It was deemed too much of a security risk.”

            This is not a blanket policy. This is not separating families intentionally for the specific purpose of discouraging immigration. And it’s definitely not doing so without planning for reunifying them.

            As I have acknowledged elsewhere, these issues are complex. There are bad incentives in the system. Certainly we can expect that some (many) of those seeking entry will attempt to game the system. The overall system is broken. Bringing the overall system to some better state is badly needed, and requires legislation.

            But that doesn’t change the callous way in which the administration is treating immigrants, from the first implementation of the travel ban right through to this abomination of a policy.

    • The Nybbler says:

      We can describe George Wallace as racist. But we can’t describe George Wallace as racist, and every white American as racist, and expect to apply conclusions drawn from the former “racism” to the latter, or vice-versa.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        The point I’m making is that even George Wallace claimed he was a friend to the negro. Saying you have no racial animus doesn’t make it so. Even being internally convinced you have no racial animus doesn’t make it so.

        Yes, there is a difference between the quite overt and explicit nature of the racism of Wallace and the broad structural racism that can impact nearly everyone. These are different things that require different remedies. But even still, there are blatantly “otherist” actions being promoted right now.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Saying you have no racial animus doesn’t make it so.

          Yes, politicians lie. But if you want to claim George Wallace (or anyone else) is lying about racial animus, you can’t switch to “structural racism” or “symbolic racism” when he denies it. And that’s what happens often enough.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m claiming that Wallace, like most people, doesn’t have particularly consistent internal views. When he says he doesn’t hate black people, he is telling some version of truth. But that still doesn’t mean we can’t easily detect the racial animus in his rhetoric and actions.

            Can you agree that the actions of Wallace and his government were racist?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Exactly. We can have a philosophical conversation about what collective nouns mean, just like medieval Schoolmen, and reach a consensus that George Wallace was a racist. But there can’t be TWO definitions of the word, with one including every white person and a plan by activists to weaponize the fallacy of equivocation.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Nonetheless we can say that affirmations that one isn’t racist, that one wants good things for X race, or other pleasantries, aren’t really evidence that one isn’t actually racist.

          Regardless of whether you want to call it “racism”, there is a profound “othering” that is happening right now. The evidence has built and built, but certainly separating parents from children without any plan or even thought to reuniting them is “otherist”. Defending the actions because “Well, these aren’t our kids. They aren’t the kids of Americans.” should be profoundly disturbing.

          But, just like Wallace, they will claim they truly care and have no animus in them.

          • Matt M says:

            You don’t seem to actually believe that Wallace truly cared though.

            Let’s suppose he did. Let’s suppose that, in his heart of hearts, he really did believe that both blacks and whites would be happier, and would live more useful and fulfilling lives, in a segregated society.

            Would it still be correct to call him racist?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Regardless of whether you want to call it “racism”, there is a profound “othering” that is happening right now. The evidence has built and built, but certainly separating parents from children without any plan or even thought to reuniting them is “otherist”.

            The question is the identity of the “other”. Trump and his supporters claim outright it’s because they’re unlawful alien entrants to the United States. His detractors tend to claim it’s because they’re Hispanic.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Nybbler:

            … and when Trump and his supporters start coming after legal immigrants? What do you say then? When they complain that legal immigrants are causing demographic change such that the “US we love” is ceasing to exist?

            Even if we were to grant that they only care about illegal immigrants (which I absolutely will not), even if we took that the Trump administration had magical powers to separate legal immigrants from illegal ones, what do we make of them separating children from parents with no thought or plan to reunite them? What do we make of those who defend this by saying “It’s not like they are doing it to U.S. kids”?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:

            You don’t seem to actually believe that Wallace truly cared though.

            From my original post:

            Almost everyone thinks they are one of the good guys. Expecting someone who is motivated in part by racial animus to self-confess is too tall an order

            In other words, I think it is entirely possible that Wallace at various times felt like he was doing the best that could be done for black people. But he also suppressed the other feelings that would have told him what he was doing was wrong.

            We rationalize our actions. All of the time. The question you are asking is the wrong one. It wants to plumb the depths of his soul to know if he was “really” a racist before he we can say “Hey, that stuff that is being done is racist.”

            Many Hutus thought they were in dire peril from Tutsis. Their belief of such didn’t mean that the genocide can’t be said to be racist. That is part of the package, the manipulation of your sense of what is good and warranted to allow you to do what you otherwise wouldn’t.

          • The Nybbler says:

            … and when Trump and his supporters start coming after legal immigrants? What do you say then?

            That would be be evidence that the animus was not based on being illegal.

            what do we make of them separating children from parents with no thought or plan to reunite them?

            Irrelevant to the question of whether the policy is racist.

          • Matt M says:

            But he also suppressed the other feelings that would have told him what he was doing was wrong.

            How do you know that?

            The way I see it, there are four possible scenarios:

            If we have segregation:

            1. Racial segregation results in whites oppressing blacks, net gain for whites, net loss for blacks (clearly racist, favored by only blatant and open white supremacists)

            2. Racial segregation results in races living separately, to the benefit of both races, net gain for both whites and blacks (Wallace’s claimed position)

            If we have integration:
            3. Racial integration results in significant benefits for both races as they intermix, net gain for both whites and blacks (current standard mainstream belief)

            4. Racial integration results in strife and conflict as the races continually struggle against each other despite being unable to fully integrate, net losses for both whites and blacks

            Now, we can dispute whether 1 or 2 is accurate, or whether 3 or 4 is accurate. Someone who believes in 1 is clearly racist. But someone who believes in 2, it occurs to me, is not necessarily racist. They just believe that if we have integration, Scenario 4 is more likely to occur than Scenario 3.

            If someone simultaneously believes that 2 is more likely than 1, AND 4 is more likely than 3, then pushing for segregation makes sense, because it is the utility-maximizing position for blacks, entirely independent of its effect on whites.

            The present-day demand for “POC-only” spaces and events strikes me as evidence that this is a reasonable claim, NOT restricted solely to racist white supremacists. The entire justification for such spaces is premised on 2 > 1 and 4 > 3 type of thinking.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            How racist (or doctrinaire integrationist) a person is would also have something to do with how willing they are to accept evidence that they’re wrong about who’s benefiting from what.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Nybbler:

            Irrelevant to the question of whether the policy is racist.

            The treating of certain classes of people in an inhuman way is a textbook example of othering behavior. I don’t understand how you can maintain this position.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Matt M: Heh, exactly.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            How do you know that?

            Because we can see by his later behavior, in asking forgiveness for his actions, as well as his statements that he specifically engaged in the behavior because otherwise he was would not be elected.

            More to the point, believing that one class of people, and their children, and their children’s children, must be forever relegated to second class status “for their own good” is to de facto regard them as inferior. We don’t need to examine his “true” motivations.

            Your claim basically amounts to “but what if he thought blacks actually are inferior, what about that?”

          • The Nybbler says:

            The treating of certain classes of people in an inhuman way is a textbook example of othering behavior. I don’t understand how you can maintain this position.

            Because “othering” and “racist” aren’t the same thing, and further the whole thing is an attempt to put a rational veneer on an emotional argument. Any time you detain parents, you’re either separating the from their children or detaining children, and either one sounds bad.

          • John Schilling says:

            Any time you detain parents, you’re either separating the from their children or detaining children, and either one sounds bad.

            If I place a parent under house arrest, in the same house as their children, which of these sounds-bad things am I doing?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @John Schilling

            OK, you found a loophole. Doesn’t apply, however, to the detainees who didn’t have homes in the US.

          • Matt M says:

            OK, you found a loophole. Doesn’t apply, however, to the detainees who didn’t have homes in the US.

            CLEARLY the only humane thing to do is provide free housing to any immigrant caught crossing the border illegally with a child.

            I, for one, can’t think of any possible negative consequence of such a policy. Surely the only thing preventing it is Trump’s racism.

          • dick says:

            The fun police ask you to do less of this.

          • Nornagest says:

            @dick — Didn’t you get the picture from the last thread? Matt M likes tweaking you; that’s why he’s doing it. Whining about it doesn’t incentivize him not to. It does annoy the rest of us, though.

          • Matt M says:

            And from a mere marketing perspective, literally calling yourself the fun police probably isn’t the best way to rally people to your side.

          • dick says:

            To value “tweaking the other side” over constructive debate is what HBC meant by defection, yes. I think pointing it out is the equivalent of asking people not to litter in a park. If this is the sort of park where littering is more acceptable than asking people not to litter, then you are correct that I should just fuck off to another park. My hope was that that was not the case.

          • John Schilling says:

            OK, you found a loophole. Doesn’t apply, however, to the detainees who didn’t have homes in the US.

            I’m guessing a bordertown Motel 6 and a GPS anklet would be cheaper than our current detention schemes.

          • Brad says:

            @Nornagest
            Somehow people don’t complain about “Go away John”. Hmm.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think pointing it out is the equivalent of asking people not to litter in a park.

            A neutral third party asking to tone the snark down can get results. (The traditional phrasing is “less of this, please”.) But that’s trading on neutrality, or at least respect. If you’re fighting on the other side of the culture war, complaints about coarsening discourse work a lot less well: partly because they come off as self-serving, and partly because people want to avoid pissing off bystanders and don’t want to avoid pissing off their ideological foes. Plus, it means bias is more likely.

            Somehow people don’t complain about “Go away John”. Hmm.

            John’s pretty unusual. He’s not going to go away, but we need a succinct way to communicate what’s going on with him, before people who don’t know better start responding and the thread balloons out of control. And it needs to be something that he can’t take as a prompt. Even then, we can only get away with that phrasing because John’s so clearly persona non grata: it would come off as incredibly rude with almost anyone else.

          • rlms says:

            Plus, it means bias is more likely.

            Maybe left-wingers are just (genetically?) less likely to make low quality snarky comments.

          • Matt M says:

            Somehow people don’t complain about “Go away John”. Hmm.

            Now hang on, I *do* take offense to this one. I’ve never even gotten so much as a warning from Scott, much less repeated total bans.

            If Scott asks me to knock it off, I’ll knock it off. In the meantime, I don’t think a few harmless jokes here and there are that big of a deal. And I don’t think I’m the only one who occasionally makes them.

          • dick says:

            A neutral third party asking to tone the snark down can get results.

            I don’t think this is a left vs right issue, it’s a “constructive debate” vs “trolling the libtards/republicunts” issue. If you think that arguing has value beyond the opportunity to be perceived as having won something, that it’s the best way to understand and refine your own positions, and that it only works when you can find someone smart and informed who honestly disagrees with you and is willing to discuss it while upholding certain basic norms like the principle of charity, then you’re already on my side. Meanwhile, let me remind me what you’re defending:

            CLEARLY the only humane thing to do is provide free housing to any immigrant caught crossing the border illegally with a child. I, for one, can’t think of any possible negative consequence of such a policy. Surely the only thing preventing it is Trump’s racism.

            If that’s the kind of content you came here for, great, enjoy it. It’s not for me, and not because of which side of the aisle it comes from.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @The Nybbler:
          Taking this to a different sub-thread.

          Because “othering” and “racist” aren’t the same thing,

          I would argue that racism is simply one form of the more general practice of othering.

          From Wikipedia:

          The term Othering describes the reductive action of labelling a person as someone who belongs to a subordinate social category defined as the Other. The practice of Othering is the exclusion of persons who do not fit the norm of the social group, which is a version of the Self. Likewise, in the field of human geography, the action term to Other identifies and excludes a person from the social group, placing him or her at the margins of society, where the social norms do not apply to and for the person labelled as the Other.

          McMillan defines it more succinctly:

          Treating people from another group as essentially different from and generally inferior to the group you belong to

          I’m not sure why you think racism is somehow different from this?

          • The Nybbler says:

            I would argue that racism is simply one form of the more general practice of othering.

            Assuming this arguendo, this doesn’t allow you to move from “othering” to “racism”. If “illegal entrants to the United States” can be defined as an “Other”, then any enforcement of immigration policy is an instance of “othering”, but not necessarily “racism”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I specifically used the word othering to preclude that argument. The point I was making in this sub-thread was that reducing “racism” to meaninglessness doesn’t let you ignore the behavior.

          • uau says:

            @HeelBearCub

            But you still seem to be implying some kind of link to “racism” under some definition of that word, without really justifying that.

            Even now you say ‘reducing “racism” to meaninglessness doesn’t let you ignore the behavior’, as if 1) it was behavior that was both somehow obviously bad, and 2) calling it “racism” would be the “obvious” way to recognize its badness. You haven’t really justified 1 (what’s the alternative if the adults are arrested?), and particularly have not justified 2 in any way at all. Compare with ‘reducing “racism” to meaninglessness doesn’t let you ignore the way the mafia runs waste-disposal business by dumping hazardous chemicals directly into the sea’. You agree that the silliness is obvious in this case, yes? You haven’t really justified any more link to “racism” in your case.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @uau:
            From a response to me in another sub-thread:

            My understanding of “Against Murderism” is that it intentionally defined ‘racism’ such that it had no meaning with the purpose of driving its use down and the ultimate goal of preventing civil war.

            From a different sub-thread:

            HealBearCub says “Fine, then taboo the word each time someone else uses it and deal with the substance of what is being charged.”

            Scott Alexander says: “This is what I ask for in the murderism post, and if people did this there would be no (semantic) problem.”

            So, I am saying that the actions in question are treating people arriving without a visa on our souther border (who are overwhelmingly non-“white”) as generally different and inferior.

          • uau says:

            @HeelBearCub

            So, I am saying that the actions in question are treating people arriving without a visa on our souther border (who are overwhelmingly non-“white”) as generally different and inferior.

            This alone does little to justify talking about “racism”. In the USA, people who strongly identify as either Democrat or Republican widely consider people in the other party as generally different and inferior. This is widespread behavior.

            The treatment of people attempting to illegally enter the country can be explained without needing to assume any hatred towards the group(s) of people they belong to. And identifiable groups of people can hate each other without any race differences. Why do you have to insist on an explanation based on race in particular?

            And you seem to both consider the treatment of the people trying to illegally enter the country to be “obviously wrong”, AND think that the only kind of wrongness that could be recognized is the word “racism