THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

OT112: Opentagon Thread

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread (there are also hidden open threads twice a week you can reach through the Open Thread tab on the top of the page). Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server – and also check out the SSC Podcast. Also:

1. I am retiring the scott[at]shireroth[dot]org email in favor of scott[at]slatestarcodex[dot]com. Please use the new email if you want to reach me. I prefer not to receive comments on blog posts by email. If you have a comment on a blog post, please put it on the comment section of the blog or the subreddit.

2. Comment of the week is this set of tweets on how the adversarial collaboration contest’s main benefit might not be to readers, but to participants and to democracy itself.

3. I am interested in publishing basically any good adversarial collaboration people do (this isn’t a promise, just an expression of interest). If you have one, let me know. If you’re thinking of doing one and you want to know if I would publish it beforehand, let me know. Also, I am slightly behind on paying some of the people who need payment, but I will take care of it later this week.

4. In some weird reverse of Conquest’s Law, any comment section that isn’t explicitly left-wing tends to get more right-wing over time. I am trying to push against this and keep things balanced, so I want to be explicit that I’m practicing affirmative action for leftist commenters. You may have noticed some leftists saying things that should have gotten them banned. After some thought, I’ve decided to keep them around anyway with warnings instead (this means you, Brad and Freddie). I will still ban leftists for more serious issues. This doesn’t mean other people will be able to get away with this kind of behavior, so consider yourself warned.

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1,301 Responses to OT112: Opentagon Thread

  1. J Mann says:

    Science request. It’s Kavanaugh-Ford related, but if I can make a sub-request, I’m really interested in the general scientific state of play, not in the particular dispute, so I’d rather people avoid the dispute in responses to me except as necessary to contextualize supporting science.

    Question: The Washington Post says it’s “junk science” and “scienitifically baseless” to believe that traumatic memories are susceptible to change over decades. The author quotes Richard Huganir that there’s a “total consensus” that fear and trauma make memories “indelible” at a “molecular level” so that we can say scientifically that if someone like Ford actually has a crystal clear memory of trauma thirty years earlier, we can be confident that it’s an accurate memory.

    Issue: If that’s correct, I need to seriously update and probably owe some people an apology. I was under the impression that the majority opinion among researchers who have studied this issue is that so called “snapshot memories” formed under trauma are at least as susceptible as other memories to editing through the recall process, and for example that Brian Williams’ famous mistake in recalling that his helicopter was hit by two rockets in Iraq easily could have been a sincere but mistaken memory.

    What is the actual state of science on very old trauma memories? Thanks!

    • Humbert McHumbert says:

      I don’t have an answer, but a related issue: http://time.com/3625414/rape-trauma-brain-memory/

      “It is not reasonable to expect a trauma survivor – whether a rape victim, a police officer or a soldier – to recall traumatic events the way they would recall their wedding day. They will remember some aspects of the experience in exquisitely painful detail. Indeed, they may spend decades trying to forget them. They will remember other aspects not at all, or only in jumbled and confused fragments. Such is the nature of terrifying experiences, and it is a nature that we cannot ignore.”

      I’m curious myself how rigorously all of this has been established. And further, what overall reason do we have, in light of all of this, to expect a survivor’s recollection of who their attacker was to be factually reliable?

      • Protagoras says:

        My general impression is that if she already knew Kavanaugh at the time, people are not horrible at recognizing and remembering already familiar people (though 30 years is a long time!) If she didn’t know him at the time, people are quite bad at re-identifying people they don’t know and make lots of mistakes about that. There seem to be conflicting stories as to how well they might have known one another at the time of the incident. My own view is that Kavanaugh is not remotely credible and his assorted lies and evasions should have disqualified him from the court, but while Ford’s story is plausible the amount of time and the unreliability of memory make me less than certain it is accurate.

        • CarlosRamirez says:

          Kavanaugh is not remotely credible

          Bear in mind, assessments of the credibility of Kavanaugh and Ford are wildly split along partisan lines. For example, I had the distinct impression Ford was lying both times I watched her entire opening statement. It’s all playing at mind-reading in the end though.

          • albatross11 says:

            My limited understanding of cognitive biases suggests that it is almost impossible to separate your evaluation of the speakers in a matter like this from your prior beliefs, team membership, etc.

          • gbdub says:

            Yeah, I also feel like Ford’s apparent exaggeration or fabrication of her fear of flying and claustrophobia, and her unwillingness to share her psychologist’s notes are a big knock against her credibility that should get more play.

            While Kavanaugh’s lies seem to be mostly about ancillary stuff meant to attack his character in dubiously relevant ways (do you drink, do you boof, did you call a girl a slut in your yearbook).

            Part of that is partisan, but part of that is I generally think the prosecution needs to be held to a higher standard of truthfulness than the defense.

        • Humbert McHumbert says:

          For the record, Protagoras’s opinion is basically the same as my own tentative take.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          One other possibility I’d think we need to deal with is whether one of the things non-traumatic memories can be edited into is false traumatic memories.

      • albatross11 says:

        This all seems very interesting, if we can separate it out from partisan anger/tribalism.

        a. What’s known about the accuracy of eyewitness identifications? (I know people have been falsely convicted on them, but not how common that is.)

        b. What’s known about the accuracy of traumatic memories?

        c. What’s known about how much memories degrade over time?

        d. What’s known about recovered memories or memories that only surface many years after the event?

        e. What’s known about the accuracy of lie-detector tests?

        • JRM says:

          I am a prosecutor and have spoken to experts in these fields. They are not of one mind.

          But:

          Primary eyewitness ID risks are memory tainted by other information and cross-racial identification. Both of these issues are well-established.

          If a person knows the identified, it’s easier.

          Humans are very, very good at recognizing faces.

          The defense ID experts like to say that confidence in ID is not correlated with accuracy. While Dunning-Krueger is a thing, I view this claim as unsupported by the weight of the evidence.

          Traumatic memories fade less with time than other memories. Misremembering something is nonetheless always a possibility. Memory can be tainted through conversations.

          Memory fade is real. There is a risk of filling detail holes. Side story: I saw the James Hydrick psychic powers demonstration as a child in the 1970’s; skeptic James Randi made him sad and psycho energy-less. I watched it on YouTube a few years ago after 30+ years and having seen it once as a kid.

          I remembered almost every detail correctly – but I thought the show was That’s Incredlible. It wasn’t. So much right, one huge thing wrong.

          “Recovered memories,” are highly unreliable.

          Lie detector tests are somewhat reliable. Sophisticated people can fo them. False positives are absolutely a thing. It’s not phrenology – it is an indicator – but they are rightly not accepted by courts because people think they totally work all the time. They work some of the time.

          • Aapje says:

            Polygraphs can be used in multiple ways. The common Control Question Technique is generally called ‘lie detecting’ and is based on questionable and unproven assumptions. The method also uses intimidation to (attempt to) make people highly stressed when lying. This depends on deception and thus fails on people who do their homework a bit (even aside from the use of counter-measures).

            The main questionable assumptions are that people will:
            – get stressed when telling insignificant lies (insignificant lies are used to establish a baseline)
            – get stressed when telling significant lies
            – not get stressed when answering truthfully

            In practice, when used against a person, they seem to be effective mainly as a way to intimate people into ‘coming clean.’ When used by a lawyer to ‘prove’ that their client is telling the truth, it seems completely useless, because the client can be prepared, a polygrapher can be chosen that tends to find in favor of the client and often the results will only be released if they are as desired.

      • CarlosRamirez says:

        Well, I found this:

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16483115

        Traumatic memories are not necessarily accurate memories.
        Abstract
        Some therapists, as well as other commentators, have suggested that memories of horrific trauma are buried in the subconscious by some special process, such as repression, and are later reliably recovered. We find that the evidence provided to support this claim is flawed. Where, then, might these memory reports come from? We discuss several research paradigms that have shown that various manipulations can be used to implant false memories–including false memories for traumatic events. These false memories can be quite compelling for those who develop them and can include details that make them seem credible to others. The fact that a memory report describes a traumatic event does not ensure that the memory is authentic.

        And this:

        http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20180926-myths-about-sexual-assault-and-rape-debunked

        Many people who have been raped or sexually assaulted often claim to have vivid memories of certain images, sounds and smells associated with the attack – even if happened decades earlier. Yet when asked to recall exactly what time of day it was, or who and what was where at any given time – the kinds of details police and prosecutors often focus on to establish the facts of a crime – they may struggle or contradict themselves, undermining their testimony.

        Hardy has examined the impact of these memory processes on survivors’ experience of reporting sexual assault to the police. She found that those who reported higher levels of dissociation during the assault perceived their memories to be more fragmented when interviewed by police and that those with greater levels of memory fragmentation were more likely to feel that they had given an incoherent account of what happened. And these factors, in turn, left them less likely to proceed with the legal case.

    • liramzil says:

      I went looking in a different direction- that has adjacency:

      https://www.researchgate.net/publication/14193219_Consistency_of_Memory_for_Combat-Related_Traumatic_Events_in_Veterans_of_Operation_Desert_Storm

      “The nature of traumatic memories is currently the subject of intense scientific investigation. While some researchers have described traumatic memory as fixed and indelible, others have found it to be malleable and subject to substantial alteration. The current study is a prospective investigation of memory for serious combat-related traumatic events in veterans of Operation Desert Storm. Fifty-nine National Guard reservists from two separate units completed a 19-item trauma questionnaire about their combat experiences 1 month and 2 years after their return from the Gulf War. Responses were compared for consistency between the two time points and correlated with level of symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There were many instances of inconsistent recall for events that were objective and highly traumatic in nature. Eighty-eight percent of subjects changed their responses on at least one of the 19 items, while 61% changed two or more items. There was a significant positive correlation between score on the Mississippi Scale for Combat-Related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder at 2 years and the number of responses on the trauma questionnaire changed from no at 1 month to yes at 2 years. These findings do not support the position that traumatic memories are fixed or indelible.”

      and:
      Memory Distortion for Traumatic Events: The Role of Mental Imagery
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4337233/

      “Trauma memories – like all memories – are malleable and prone to distortion. Indeed, there is growing evidence – from both field and lab-based studies – to suggest that the memory distortion follows a particular pattern. People tend to remember more trauma than they experienced, and those who do, tend to exhibit more of the “re-experiencing” symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Our own research suggests that the likely mechanism underlying that distortion is a failure in people’s source monitoring. After a traumatic experience, intentional remembering (effortful retrieval) and unintentional remembering (intrusive mental imagery) can introduce new details that, over time, assimilate into a person’s memory for the event.”

      Perhaps drawing similarities between combat-caused trauma and other kinds of trauma aren’t exactly 1:1 but there is an abundance of literature related to combat PTSD and how reliable those memories are.

    • 10240 says:

      (I didn’t follow the story except on SSC threads.) Does Ford say that the incident was traumatic?

    • Psychology is an incredibly contentious science. If someone says that something has “total consensus”, then they’re going to need a strong amount of evidence to back that up.

    • Lillian says:

      The Washington Post says it’s “junk science” and “scienitifically baseless” to believe that traumatic memories are susceptible to change over decades. The author quotes Richard Huganir that there’s a “total consensus” that fear and trauma make memories “indelible” at a “molecular level” so that we can say scientifically that if someone like Ford actually has a crystal clear memory of trauma thirty years earlier, we can be confident that it’s an accurate memory.

      What is the actual state of science on very old trauma memories? Thanks!

      You know what, i think i’m going to let the Washington Post handle this one.

      The Perfect Witness
      Eyewitnesses aren’t as reliable as you might think

      The quick summary of the first one: Jennifer Thompson is assaulted and raped in her own bed by an intruder. She makes an effort to memorize his face, even tricking him into turning on the light. Hours later at the police station she picks out his picture. A week later she picks him out of a line-up. Six months later she takes the stand, gives testifies about her ordeal with complete certainty, and on the strength of that certainty the man she picked out is sentenced to life in prison. His name is Ronald Cotton, and some 11 years later DNA testing showed him to be innocent.

      There more! Just over two years after her ordeal there was a second trial. Police were certain (correctly as it turns out), that the man who raped Jennifer Thompson had also raped another woman that same night. Cotton for his part, was certain that the real culprit was a serial rapist he met in prison by the name of Bobby Poole, who would brag to the other prisoners that Cotton was serving some of his time. At the trial Cotton’s lawyer summoned Poole to the stand, but Thompson was unmoved, she knew who her rapist was. The second woman was less sure, but agreed that Cotton was the guy, and so he went back to prison with a second life sentence. The DNA testing that exonerated Cotton also proved that Poole was the man who raped Thompson.

      But sure, traumatic memories are crystal clear accurate, indelible, and unalterable.

      • J Mann says:

        I think part of the split is that:

        1) It’s pretty well accepted that eyewitness identification of a stranger (or other similar details) under stress is highly subject to massive errors that people wouldn’t normally expect.

        2) But Ford is testifying about a memory that involves two people she personally knew.

        So there are really two questions:

        a) Are the eyewitness studies relevant for this situation. (For example, do war veterans remember their buddy Bob being on patrol during an IED attack when it was really Frank, or are those studies really only relevant for “who robbed the bank/mugged you/etc”?)

        b) Otherwise, what do we know about memories that you store and don’t tell anyone about for 30 years? If you say you have a clear memory that I was the one who beat you in that track meet in 1988, and I say I wasn’t there, are we confident one of us is lying. How about if you are remembering who was in a car crash with you?

        • Garrett says:

          Request for references (I haven’t seen much credible info on this):
          What’s the evidence that the two of them knew each other prior to the alleged incident? And how well did they know each other?

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, I felt like a big part of Kavanaugh’s argument in his own defense was “I don’t know this woman, I didn’t know this woman, none of my friends knew this woman, she cannot produce any witnesses willing to claim I knew her,” etc.

          • Nick says:

            What’s the evidence that the two of them knew each other prior to the alleged incident? And how well did they know each other?

            I was going to make the same objection at first, since there is as yet no evidence that Ford knew Kavanaugh. But it doesn’t actually matter for these purposes: if Ford did know him, that’s how we should evaluate the quality of her memory, and if she didn’t know him, she’s been lying so we don’t care about the quality of her memory.

          • J Mann says:

            Ford has said that she knew Kavanaugh, Judge, and their friend Chris (“Squi”) Garrett.

            When Ed Whelan came up with his theory that Garrett was the real assaulter, Ford’s people said no possible way, she knew Garrett very well and even visited him in the hospital.

            During her testimony, she said that she “went out with” Garrett a number of times but wouldn’t say they “dated,” and that she ran into Judge several weeks later when he was working at Safeway, and that Judge looked uncomfortable.

            Kavenaugh says he could have met her but doesn’t recall, and that his circle didn’t generally hang out with Holton girls.

            Judge, Smyth, Garrett and Keyser were all interviewed by the FBI (and maybe Congressional investigators?) but we’ve never heard what they have to say about whether they remember Ford or whether she socialized with Kavanaugh’s group.

      • Viliam says:

        Gods please have mercy on me.

        After reading that the Washington Post provided two completely opposing opinions on the same topic (reliability of rape witnesses), my first thought was: “I bet the difference between Kavanaugh and Cotton is that … … …”.

        Then I felt ashamed for being so uncharitable.

        Then I clicked on the links, and found I was right.

        This sucks. 🙁

        • dndnrsn says:

          This is very uncharitable. I doubt they sat down and coordinated it, and in the Cotton case, he was conclusively innocent, which changes things a lot. Something that as far as I can tell is remarkably hard to find in a lot of left-wing (mainstream left, at least) takes is the likelihood that any erosion of due process in court will hurt black guys (who are already disproportionately wrongfully convicted of sexual offences compared to white men) most, there’s some evidence that campus investigation norms changing has hit black guys on campus hardest, etc. Nobody seems to be putting much effort into pushing that message, though.

          • Viliam says:

            I believe that Washington Post has zero incentives to publish a story where a guy was falsely accused of rape… unless the guy is some kind of minority. Therefore, I do not expect to find such stories in Washington Post.

            So far, this isn’t even uncharitable. There are millions of possible stories in the world, everyone has to pick among them, and if you have an incentive structure other than doing research, choosing at random is not the best strategy. You have a segment of market you are trying to reach; you choose stories you think this segment wants to read.

            If I wrote a review of Tetris and sent it to Watchtower, they would not publish it. Not necessarily because they would disagree with the factual parts of the review; they are simply not that kind of medium; they exist for a different purpose. Similarly, Washington Post is not the kind of medium that would publish a story of an average guy falsely accused of rape. They have nothing to gain by doing that, and they could lose a few readers.

            So far, it’s normal. The bad part is writing another article that says that what you wrote in the hopefully-long-forgotten article is impossible and disproved by science. (And generally, it is not nice to say “science” when you actually mean “my political opinions”.)

        • cassander says:

          It’s only uncharitable if you’re wrong. When you’re right, you’re giving them as much credit as they deserve.

          • Viliam says:

            Even when right, it could be an accident plus selection bias (I remember and report the cases where I was accidentally right, and silently forget the cases where I was wrong). When you pick a random guy in America, truly randomly without any political incentives, there is a certain chance he would be black.

            I think the probability that this happened here is low, but it certainly is possible.

    • gbdub says:

      I brought this up in a previous thread but it didn’t get much response, so apologies if this is annoying…

      How much does intervention by a psychiatrist matter to the reliability of a memory? Is it relevant that Ford first revealed her memory in the context of couple’s therapy, where presumably there was a strong incentive to dig up past trauma that would explain her current marital woes?

      • J Mann says:

        My non-expert understanding is that it’s very easy for a therapist to suggest or craft memories, even unintentionally, but that therapists try not to.

        • gbdub says:

          A good therapist would try not to, but:
          a) can the therapist really control what the patient does in an effort to “please” the therapist / “solve” their own mental health problem? Just seems like there’s a lot of inherent incentive for a patient to exaggerate their memories / their feelings of trauma whenever an explicit or implicit goal of the therapy is “find old trauma so we can talk about it (and assign it blame for your current problem)”
          b) what percentage of therapists are good therapists that don’t craft or suggest memories, unintentionally or not?

  2. J Mann says:

    PS, I’d love to do an adversarial collaboration on the following

    The allied intervention in the Libyan civil war was based on unjustified assertions of an impending massacre in Benghazi, and was illegal under international law. Whether through negligence or intention, allied leaders misled the public about the imminence of the threat and whether the mission was aimed at toppling Qaddafi and winning the civil war for the rebels.

    Note – by “allied,” I’m intending focus mostly on Britain and the US, because I don’t speak French, but I’m open to expanding the scope.

    • cassander says:

      I assume you’re arguing the position stated? Because if so, I’m not sure where you’re going to find anyone who things that the libya intervention was a good idea, unless you can get in touch with Hillary Clinton or Samantha Power.

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        No there are plenty of neoliberals who would argue both that it was a good idea then and that it was the right thing in hindsight also.

        • cassander says:

          I have absolutely no idea what you mean by neo-liberal in this context, but that’s not what the word means. Lazy insults are bad enough, but lazy non sequitur insults are much worse. Please don’t.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Neo-liberal has a common understanding association with a certain kind of foreign intervention. Sure dictionary wise its about a particular kind of capitalism but descriptivism is on the rise and prescriptivism is on a downhill slope. Basically people who are politically similar to the Clintons, Obama, and their mirrors in the Republican party. Tony Blair in England for instance.

          • cassander says:

            Neo-liberal has a common understanding association with a certain kind of foreign intervention.

            No, it doesn’t, except insofar as neo-liberal is an all purpose slur left wing slur that translates as “someone to my right who I don’t like and can’t get away with calling a fascist.” You might be thinking of neo-conservative.

            Basically people who are politically similar to the Clintons, Obama, and their mirrors in the Republican party. Tony Blair in England for instance.

            Hillary Clinton is at the hawkish end of the american political spectrum, Bill was in the middle and Obama on the dovish side. There’s no label that applies to all of them together any stronger than “vaguely liberal internationalist”, and that’s more description of style than substance.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            not to interrupt but, in addition to its usage as a scream word, there are some people who actually claim the label of neoliberal

            probably to push back against the people using it as a scream word, but anyways: I do think some of them supported the Libyan intervention. I’m basing that off of half-remembered tweets though. So uh, not sure if axioms is right or anything, but don’t rule it out either.

          • pontifex says:

            I am curious if there are any mainstream politicians who currently or recently described themselves as “neoliberal.” I would guess no, but maybe I’m wrong?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I don’t think humanitarian intervention is particularly associated with neo-liberals. Although I guess some notable successful interventions occurred under Bill Clinton, who certainly would be described as neo-liberal by many. I’d say the impulse for humanitarian intervention has typically been more bleeding heart then neo-liberal.

            But I also don’t think neo-conservatives are particularly big on humanitarian intervention, either. Using military force to install a new government more friendly to us would be neo-conservative, but that doesn’t seem to have been our goal in Libya, as we were pretty hands off.

          • Civilis says:

            Hillary Clinton is at the hawkish end of the American political spectrum, Bill was in the middle and Obama on the dovish side. There’s no label that applies to all of them together any stronger than “vaguely liberal internationalist”, and that’s more description of style than substance.

            Well, there is “Wilsonian” for the interventionist-American-left foreign policy school of thought (and “Hamiltonian” for the corresponding interventionist-American-right).

          • rlms says:

            Agree that interventionism isn’t a notable feature of neoliberalism. I think these are the common meanings of neoliberalism (when in it isn’t just a slur).

            1. Near-synonym for libertarian (or the nearest thing that actually gets elected). Not interventionist.
            2. Faux-leftist: articles about how oil is actually feminist, or black lesbian drone operators; Nike’s recent campaign. Not interventionist.
            3. The general centrist political consensus in the West from ~2010-2016: Obama/Clinton Democrats in the US, Blair/Cameron in the UK, Merkel in Germany. Interventionist in comparison to those to the left, but not neoconservatives or the right in general (I would say Blair was the most interventionist of those, and he was slightly less interventionist than Bush).

      • J Mann says:

        I think the contrary case is that the US and British case for intervention* was reasonable based on the information available at the time.

        * I recall the case for intervention being that if we did not intervene, there was good cause to believe Qadaffi’s forces would carry out a Srebernica-style massacre, but I’d be open to my collaborator characterizing the case for intervention differently.

        • cassander says:

          That case was made, but not very plausibly. Such a move would have made little sense, would have been largely out of character both with Gaddafi’s history and especially his recent behavior, and even if it had happened, probably would have killed fewer people than the entirely predictable 7 years and counting of civil war that have followed our destruction of his government.

      • alphago says:

        I assume you’re arguing the position stated? Because if so, I’m not sure where you’re going to find anyone who things that the libya intervention was a good idea, unless you can get in touch with Hillary Clinton or Samantha Power.

        According to this survey of international relations scholars, a majority (60%) approve of the Libya intervention; though they generally are fairly dovish regarding other interventions.

        • cassander says:

          That’s from january of 2012. The intervention was probably still ongoing when that survey was commissioned. I didn’t say no one was in favor THEN, I said almost no one defends it today.

          • alphago says:

            It’s the most recent relevant survey that I’m aware of, and seems a reasonable starting point for forming an outside view of expert opinion on this. It’s possible that almost everyone of the 60% of scholars who were supportive at the time now believes they were wrong, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

            Also, J Mann’s comment, which you were responding to, claimed the intervention was based on “unjustified assertions”; I would think that whether they were “justified” depends on what was known at the time (not hindsight).

        • J Mann says:

          That survey is astonishing to me. Thanks, and I’ll include it.

    • Hypoborean says:

      Oooooooooo interesting. This is a loosely held belief of mine that I’d be interested in examining in greater depth. I’m not a perfect collaborator for this (since I’m an electrical engineer rather than a political scientist, so part of this discussion will involve me interrogating my own beliefs on this in greater depth, as they are mainly formed by a vague synthesis of years of fairly intensive news-reading [Economist, NYT mainly] plus my own theories on America’s hegemonic role in the world), but I’d be interested in starting a conversation on this.

      If you want to get in touch, you can contact me at jcminor [at] mit [dot] edu

  3. johan_larson says:

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to update the set of merit badges that must be earned to become an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America. You can find the current list here.

    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      (Writing as an Eagle Scout):

      Communication should have a stronger written component.
      + something related to American history
      + some sort of applied technology badge, like programming or engineering.
      + a more rigorous outdoor badge, like backpacking or wilderness survival
      -cycling/hiking/swimming could probably be rolled into personal fitness
      – cooking, family life, and personal management could probably be rolled into a “life skills” badge or something like that

      All eagle-required badges should have better infrastructure in place for checking that the requirements are actually completed, like requiring some sort of proof to be kept, or allowing National to question scouts about their work on those badges.

      • Evan Þ says:

        (Also writing as an Eagle Scout.)

        I endorse your suggestion of an engineering merit badge. I wouldn’t make it as specific as “computer programming,” though. Programming is useful, but it takes some work to twist your brain around to the right angle to do it. Maybe let Scouts choose between Electronics / Programming / Carpentry / General Engineering / some other options I’m not thinking of?

        I personally like the idea of an American History badge, but I’m not sure it’s important enough. Maybe we can instead beef up Citizenship in the Nation with some additional history requirements?

        I oppose rolling Cycling/Hiking/Swimming into Personal Fitness. They approach the subject from different angles – Personal Fitness is more all-around and involves doing things over a one-month period; Cycling/Hiking/Swimming involve longer trips that don’t require a specific time length.

        I’ve no opinion on the record-keeping, except that I wouldn’t expect Scouts coming up for their Eagle board to remember anything near every detail of the work they did. For that matter, how are the existing Eagle boards of review made up?

        • Alex Zavoluk says:

          I endorse your suggestion of an engineering merit badge. I wouldn’t make it as specific as “computer programming,” though. Programming is useful, but it takes some work to twist your brain around to the right angle to do it. Maybe let Scouts choose between Electronics / Programming / Carpentry / General Engineering / some other options I’m not thinking of?

          Yeah, that was my intention, which is why I included “Engineering” although even that isn’t broad enough.

          I would be ok with including more history in at least one of the citizenship badges.

          I oppose rolling Cycling/Hiking/Swimming into Personal Fitness. They approach the subject from different angles – Personal Fitness is more all-around and involves doing things over a one-month period; Cycling/Hiking/Swimming involve longer trips that don’t require a specific time length.

          I realize they come from different angles, but I think requiring one of (cycling, hiking, swimming) is overly specific, and I already suggested adding a more rigorous outdoor badge to the list which could absorb some of whatever gets left out of the new personal fitness.

          I’ve no opinion on the record-keeping, except that I wouldn’t expect Scouts coming up for their Eagle board to remember anything near every detail of the work they did. For that matter, how are the existing Eagle boards of review made up?

          I would hope that if documentation were required, more documentation would be kept.

          Eagle Boards of Review are usually just made out of adults active in the existing troop. AFAIK right now National just reviews the paperwork that local councils send in.

          • Bluesilverwave says:

            ILO “engineering,” check out the new Digital Technology badge. Way better than the old Computers badge.

            EDIT: LINK!

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            TIL Computers became a merit badge in 1967.

            What do you mean “ILO”? I know there’s a few computer related badges (I think there’s now a programming one) but given how much young people’s lives are now tied to technology I kind of think requiring something related to technology makes sense.

    • johan_larson says:

      I would nudge the scouts back toward their origins as a para-military organization. Currently there are three required badges for various kinds of citizenship. Fold those into one. This opens up two new slots in the Eagle Scout requirements, without increasing the number of badges required.

      Replace the first with Rifle Shooting or Shotgun Shooting. Consider adding a Pistol Shooting badge, and allow that too for the first new slot.

      To replace the second, introduce two new badges, the first in Military Studies (covering military history, the structure of the modern US military, and US military commitments abroad) and the second in Self Defense (study of a martial art and the law concerning self-protection.) Require either Military Studies or Self Defense for the second new slot.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I would nudge the scouts back toward their origins as a para-military organization.

        As an Eagle Scout, I completely agree the Scouts need some bigger focus, but I don’t think this’s the right one.

        Plus, if you do want them to become more paramilitary, I think “Citizenship in the Nation” is exactly the sort of badge you’d want to keep. Maybe cut Communication or Environmental Science instead?

      • Alex Zavoluk says:

        I would have said that wilderness and outdoor skills were more important to the Scouts than anything I would call “para-military.”

        • keranih says:

          Probably because of the shift in what is defined as “para-military”. I would argue that an interest in history and marksmanship are sufficient to be considered ‘para-military’ these days, and the interest in survival skills (now called SERE in the military) tracking, camping, and hiking were very much “military- adjacent” in decades past.

        • johan_larson says:

          They are part of a movement started by a British general. They have salutes, uniforms and ranks. They are organized into “troops”. Those uniforms include military-style headgear like campaign hats, uniform caps, and berets. They are explicitly nationalistic.

          Seems plenty paramilitary to me.

          If the hippies had started an organization to foster outdoors skills and good citizenship, it would look different.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            That’s all trappings. Lots of organizations have ranks or uniforms or salutes. There is absolutely and explicitly no combat of any kind, be it hand-to-hand, firearms, or other weapons, and as far as I know there never was.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            The hippies (FSVO hippies) did start their own organization as you suggest, because they thought the Scouts were too militaristic. Scout troops are also allowed to have links with local military units.

            In general, I think there is a continuum, with explicitly pacifist organisations at one end, military cadet units (not uncommon in the UK) at the other, and scouts somewhere in the middle. I have also heard from former UK Scouts that they were specifically not allowed to march in step at their parades.

            @Alex Zavoluk- In terms of weapons and combat, in the UK Scout groups are allowed to offer martial arts, fencing, archery, and shooting with both air weapons and firearms (though the use of human- or animal-shaped targets is banned, and in general all of these are offered as sports rather than military/combat training).

          • John Schilling says:

            The Boy Scouts of America has been teaching boys how to shoot rifles from day one. It’s true that they don’t shoot rifles at each other, but that’s true of most military training programs as well.

            It’s also true that they don’t do bayonet drills or field exercises where they practice assaulting a defended position, but that’s what the “para-” in “paramilitary” means in almost every other context. An organization with a uniformed heirarchical structure that mimics the military, practicing drills and field skills similar to those of infantry soldiers, nominally assigned tasks similar to the non-combat support functions of the military, equipped and trained with small arms but nominally only as a just-in-case defensive measure, and if it turns out you need infantry soldiers you just need to backfill some specific bits of training and kit.

            And that was specifically the intended purpose of the Boy Scouts when Baden-Powell invented them. “Scouts” was being used in the military sense of light infantry reconnaissance forces, of which he had observed the United Kingdom was ill-supplied because that isn’t the sort of thing one learns on the playing fields of Eaton, and he created an organization for the purpose of ensuring that the UK’s future recruiting pool would be better prepared for such roles.

            “Paramilitary” has acquired a negative connotation in other contexts that I think many people are reluctant to apply to the Boy Scouts. But, connotation aside, it at least historically fits and I think it still applies to some parts of the Boy Scouts of America.

      • Bluesilverwave says:

        The original Boy Scouts in the USA was an explicitly pacifist organization. (blame most of that on Seton IIRC) The “scout rifle” was a creation of Hearst (yup, that one) and his “American Scouts,” which were a competing organization whose only real appeal was the rifle. (if my memory is right, originally BSA banned all firearms!)

        I think it’s best to keep the Scouts explicitly pacifist. ROTC and J-ROTC can handle the paramilitary-youth.

        It might be nice to have some expanded Firearm Safety component of the Scouts, considering the current firearm kill rate, but I’m a tad skeptical of whether it would have a statistically significant impact.

        • johan_larson says:

          Explicitly pacifist? How so? The Oath, Law, Motto and Slogan have nothing explicitly pacifist in them. Nothing explicitly warlike either, to be sure.

          Also, Marksmanship was among the original set of BSA merit badges back in 1911.

      • pontifex says:

        Nudge the scouts to becoming a suitable paramilitary organization for the upcoming cyberpunk dystopia that we’re building. I’m thinking lockpicking, hacking, drones, stealth, and maybe cybernetics.

        If they have any experience points left over, they can put them into either shotgun skills, or bladed combat. Actually, maybe I just described the next Deus Ex game?

      • Nornagest says:

        A course of study the length of a merit badge in martial arts won’t do anything, at least not six months after you’ve earned it. Oh, sure, you can learn techniques, but for them to be useful in actual self-defense you need to practice them enough that you automatically fall back on them under stress. That takes a lot more than a few months, and it’s an ongoing commitment. Conditioning matters a lot too.

        Shooting’s a lot easier, though — with good instruction, you can go from zero to sorta competent in a few months of weekend trips or a week or so of intensive training. You’re not going to impress anyone that’s been going to the range every weekend for twenty years, but you can absolutely learn the basics.

      • Darick Kowalski says:

        Why though?

  4. Barr says:

    I’m a startup founder interested in real estate development. If anyone knows about real estate from the point of view of finance, development, or architecture, I’d like to talk with you. My company would be willing to offer some free technical work in exchange.

  5. Ilya Shpitser says:

    Scott, it’s not that strange. It’s a combination of the generally (not always) poor argument quality from the right here, and “not wanting to be seen in the same room” as some of the folks who comment here. I am trying to dial back my participation here for these reasons, also.

    (I do worry that, for a variety of reasons, right wing positions “in general”, not just here, tend to be more poorly argued than left wing positions, regardless of merit, which I think is unhealthy.)

    Also, “meta-defecting” by advocating for more right-wing positions than you actually believe in, in order to get folks’ opinions to land where you think they need to land is a bad idea, longer term. Folks will not “meta-cooperate” (assume good faith) forever after.

    • keranih says:

      the generally (not always) poor argument quality from the right here

      …This is not my feel for the situation. Not in general, and not here at SSC.

      I do see a bit more of the whipcrack snark than I would prefer, and less of a presentation of the facts of the matter, and I think I see more of that from the right-leaning posters than from the left. (From the left, I see a blinkered assertion that *of course* their assumptions are accurate facts, instead of socially approved opinions & preferences.)

      Having said that – I’d like to see more people pointing out good (quality, not agreement) arguments from all sides.

      • arlie says:

        *sigh* I don’t know whether or not there are really more right wing people here posting The Truth as if they had some evidence for it, to resounding agreement, than left wing people doing the same. (Where the “truth” in question is something commonly believed by only one side of the US schism.) That’s certainly what it feels like, but I’m not taking the time to keep a score card, and my own political opinions would tend to make me see that, whether or not it were real.

        What I see overall is that most people rarely even try to get at the real truth, and those who do find it’s a lot more difficult than it first appears. If they have a strong emotional investment in a particular answer, or if their funding/social survival/friendships etc. depend on what gets investigated, they are unlikely to get anywhere useful. Ditto if they can’t get effective feedback and critique, for any reason. Simply locating all the actually available evidence (and prior work) can be surprisingly difficult.

        People here occassionally make an effort, which make them somewhat exceptional, outside of those few people who can make research into a full time job, and somehow get supported in doing this without running up against requirements to look at “appropriate” things and come to non-taboo conclusions.

        But most commenters, in most threads, surely aren’t making that effort. I’m certainly not; I don’t have that kind of time available. And when it comes to the big issues of US politics, I have a dog in the fight 🙁

        • Plumber says:

          I do notice more right-wing comments,  but not necessarily more right-wing commenters.

          I enjoy reading some of their comments,  especially since I don’t read the WSJ anymore (’cause the price) but continue to read the center-left New York Times and centrist Washington Post I’m curious about that point of view, but there was one area where the preponderance of right-wing comments was getting annoying, that would be this whole “is Kavaugh guilty?” thing.

          A couple of times I posted that I didn’t care if Kavaugh was innocent or guilty and my opposition to his being on the Court pre-existed and had nothing to do with anything that may or may not have happened between him and Ford and I linked to lists of decisions that he’s made as a Federal judge that I dislike and mostly I got “but what about the lack of proof” responses, a few other short responses from those that I perceive to be centrist or leftists, and only one response from someone on the right that addressed those decisions, and that would be @DavidFriedman who tried to explain to me how someone could make those decisions as a matter of principle, not just plutocracy (I still don’t like those rulings, but I’m less likely to just assume class war motives), so there’s one right-winger that my respect for has grown a lot, and the centrists and the leftists reminded me that I wasn’t alone, for which I’m grateful, and most of the rest of the rightist commenters on this Kavaugh thing just kind of blended in my mind and I started to ignore the whole subject since few seemed to be addressing the issues that I cared about instead of some old alleged sex thing.

          • Nick says:

            I think more folks than just David would be interested in a unions discussion. You should make a top level post about it.

          • Matt M says:

            The WSJ is hardly right wing.

          • quanta413 says:

            The WSJ editorial pages were definitely right wing when I used to read them consistently back in the 00’s. Of the big business/libertarian variety. Unless they’ve really changed in the last decade… which I’m inclined to doubt. I’ve read a few since then but not often. Didn’t notice a change.

          • Matt M says:

            I would say that the WSJ is “generally in favor of capitalism.”

            I would not say that this makes one “right wing”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The WSJ itself is not at this time right wing.

            Their editorial pages are another thing altogether. Seriously.

          • I don’t read the WSJ very often, but my impression from when I did was that the editorial page was moderately libertarian, the news stories were not. I remember being struck by an article about problems with the adoption system, couples who wanted to adopt having difficulty doing so, which described that as a failure of the market system (probably not their words–I’m going on long ago memories). The article didn’t mention that this was a market on which the price was set, by law, at zero.

          • Matt M says:

            Who actually reads newspaper editorials anymore?

            I visit the WSJ on a daily basis as my primary news source and never click on the editorials.

          • Nick says:

            Okay, caveat to what I said earlier: if you make a top level post about unions, folks might prefer to talk about the WSJ instead.

          • Plumber says:

            “Who actually reads newspaper editorials anymore?….”

            @Matt M,

            I do, the columnists I most follow are:

            Ross Douthat, Thomas Edsall, and Paul Krugman. 

            I used to follow David Brooks, and George Will more, but that’s fallen by the wayside. 

            “I think more folks than just David would be interested in a unions discussion. You should make a top level post about it…..”

            @Nick,

            I should, but since that’s pretty damn important to me I’m more nervous about doing a good post than a quick one (and I’m trying to decide if it should be more general information or personal experience).

            “..Okay, caveat to what I said earlier: if you make a top level post about unions, folks might prefer to talk about the WSJ instead”

            Yeah, I’m noticing that my off-the-cuff comments that I didn’t think about much get most of the responses, I imagine that probably do that as well and respond to things that are less than the core of OP’s messages. 

            Anyway, thanks!

      • pdbarnlsey says:

        I’d offer this, from a regular poster earlier in this thread, as exhibit A for why I find digging around in the comment threads somewhat exhausting, even though there’s often a lot of good non-culture war stuff buried here (and, hey, occasionally some good culture war stuff from both sides of the debate too).

        I’m not sure where you’re going to find anyone who things that the libya intervention was a good idea, unless you can get in touch with Hillary Clinton or Samantha Power

        I don’t think that’s the sort of dumb partisan snark someone should feel posting to an educated audience. And it’s pretty standard here.

        • cassander says:

          One, trump apparently made those comments back in 2011. I don’t follow his twitter feed now, I certainly didn’t do so then. Two, I never claimed that people weren’t in favor of doing it in 2011, lots of people were. Few do so today because, three, there’s nothing partisan or snarky about criticizing libya. Barack Obama called it one of the worst mistakes of his presidency, and conventional wisdom has followed suit. Clinton and Power are the only two people who I’ve heard defend the decision to go to war in libya in recent years.

          Those in glass houses….

          • keranih says:

            OK, so…

            …is pdbarnlsey right, and the assumption that Libyan regime change is something specific to a Clinton an unhelpful partisan snark which should be obvious to everyone, or is cassander right, and really everyone except Clinton thought this was a bad idea at the time?

            Or, pdbarnlsey, can you offer a rephrasing that you would have found unannoying in this way, even if not something you would agree with?

          • cassander says:

            @keranih

            or is cassander right, and really everyone except Clinton thought this was a bad idea at the time?

            For the third time, this is not a claim that I made. Lots of people thought it was a good idea at the time. Just about the only people who still claim it was a good decision today are the people who made it, and not even all of them.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            Cassander, I don’t think “how can I be expected to know that the policy I criticised Hillary for was, in fact, a bipartisan position? That was in 2011!” is a great start to a good faith debate on these matters.

            There’s probably a sensible debate to be had about the degree to which the different factions who initially supported Libyan intervention have changed their positions over time, rather than, in Trump’s case, simply lying about them and hoping their supporters don’t notice.

            It would start, I think, with a recent statement from Hillary Clinton saying she stood behind the decision to intervene, acknowledge that Obama called it a good idea even in retrospect in the 2016 article you cite and at least evidencing an awareness of the chequered, and ongoing, history of support for humanitarian(esque) interventions and R2P on the other side of the aisle, and in the white house.

            That drive-by attempt at painting failed intervention as some kind of exclusively democratic folly really didn’t qualify, and is sort of par for the course.

          • cassander says:

            @pdbarnlsey says:

            Well, one, I know full well that the decision was supported by many people. My comment was about who still supports it today, which is not a lot of people.

            Two, my comment about 2011 was a specific response you citing Trump’s support, something I didn’t care about then, wasn’t talking about now, and don’t see as being at all relevant to the discussion. Your attempt to paint it as a broad indication of me not caring what people were saying at the time of the intervention does you no credit.

            Three, I wasn’t trying to launch a debate about who supported the intervention and who didn’t, because there’s not anything there to debate. The record on that subject is quite clear and uncontested.

            Four, at no point did I even hint that failed as intervention was “some kind of exclusively democratic folly”. I talked about two people in the context of one intervention, and you’ve gone on to invent a whole lot of other positions I don’t believe that and I’ve never articulated. I suggest that you might consider that since of the two of us, you’re the only one talking about party, it might be you doing the drive by partisan hackery, not me.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            I don’t see that link I asked for Cassander. Is it stuck in moderation?

            I do see a lot of obfuscation amounting to “I have no strong views on the history of humanitarian intervention in Libya or elsewhere, I just really hate Hillary and wanted to say so!”, which feels like we’re back where I came in.

          • cassander says:

            @pdbarnlsey says:

            I do see a lot of obfuscation amounting to “I have no strong views on the history of humanitarian intervention in Libya or elsewhere, I just really hate Hillary and wanted to say so!”, which feels like we’re back where I came in.

            Sigh. Again, I said the opposite of that, and I don’t see much point in continuing to discuss things with anyone so eager to willfully misrepresent what others say.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            Again, I said the opposite of that

            So you said that you do have strong views on the bipartisan history of humanitarian intervention and that you don’t hate Hillary?

            I’m just… genuinely not sure if you know how “opposites” work. It’s not just a way of telling someone they’re, like, super wrong, you know? It’s a well-defined concept.

            Anyway, as I said going in, it seems like there’s an ecosystem here where a reasonable number of posters enjoy sharing “all Gore invented the internet”-level observations without so much as a link to back them up.

            And they’re sufficiently unused to getting called on them that the resulting interaction produces high dudgeon rather than supporting evidence. It’s exhausting.

          • Lillian says:

            pdbarnlsey, i think you’re ignoring the context in which cassander made his original comment. The matter at hand was not who was for the intervention back in 2011, but who in 2018 will defend it. J Mann wanted to know if there someone here who would, cassander advised him that there are very few people here or elsewhere, except for the likes of Hillary Clinton and Samantha Power.

            As far as i can tell he is correct, and defenders of the Lybian intervention are thin on the ground these days. Trump denies ever supporting it, Obama calls it the worst mistake of his Presidency, and every discussion i’ve seen here and elsewhere has been negative on the subject. Hell you yourself seem to be unwilling to defend it, since instead of putting yourself out as someone who still supports it, you’ve instead chosen to argue matters that are not in question.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It was deployed as a “boo light” would be. The fact that people aren’t willing to acknowledge this is part of the issue.

            If you wanted to make a point that many people who backed it at the time have retracted, you would say that. If you want to participate in “your side’s” solidarity, you employ boo lights.

          • Nick says:

            It was deployed as a “boo light” would be. The fact that people aren’t willing to acknowledge this is part of the issue.

            Aren’t willing to acknowledge this, or just haven’t acknowledged this? You’re the first person to suggest it was a boo light, and when you responded to that discussion yesterday you didn’t say anything about it. So until just a few minutes ago, you can count yourself among the folks “unwilling” to acknowledge it. I think that’s a broader criticism than you intend to make.

            If you wanted to make a point that many people who backed it at the time have retracted, you would say that. If you want to participate in “your side’s” solidarity, you employ boo lights.

            I think that is what cassander said. I don’t know what grounds you have for thinking it’s just a boo light, which is part of why I’m skeptical that people “aren’t willing to acknowledge this.” The best I can come up with, given Hypoborean’s and alphago’s responses, is that cassander overstated the shift in opinion on Libya. Do you think he did? Are there prominent figures besides Clinton and Power who would defend the Libya decision, especially across the aisle? Would you like to make this case, or dispute cassander on whether alphago’s point is apt, instead of declaring that it’s a boo light and implying we’re all hiding our true estimation of it by not saying so sooner?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nick:

            I rephrased “partisan snark” as “boo light”, so it’s not the first time it’s being brought up.

            Compare the following two phrasings of similar points “Only Dick Cheney and John Bolton still think the Iraq War was a good idea” and “I think it may be hard to find a collaborator, as even George W. Bush himself thinks the Iraq War was a mistake”.

          • quanta413 says:

            It’s not odd to view Cassander’s comment as a boo light, but I find the George Bush version of the same remark hilarious, and I think a lot of people here would at least find it amusing.

            I don’t think what Cassander said is actually a good example of left-bashing here. A lot of right-coded people here hate any sort of interventionist foreign policy.

          • Nick says:

            HeelBearCub, fair enough on the first, I interpreted “part of the issue” as you making a criticism distinct from pdbarnlsey’s. But I still don’t see either of those two analogies as boo lights. Boo lights are supposed to be practically empty besides the “booo!” and neither cassander’s nor yours are. And that besides, you’re still assuming that cassander mentally filtered his list down to prominent liberals; that’s why I asked whether there are figures across the aisle he could have been listing instead.

    • Deiseach says:

      I’d like to see more explicitly left-wing commentators, I think we had a few but they seem to have left. I’d also like to know why they got scared off – was it right wing piling on, was it “fed up of trying to convert the unrighteous” and leaving for greener pastures, what?

      I’m biting my tongue pretty hard about the “poor argument quality” remark because if this is a genuine reason (left wing poster thinks engagement is useless because all they’ll get in return is canned talking points) then that’s valuable information, though I can’t resist asking: what counts as worthwhile engagement? Is it when your interlocutor goes “Road to Damascus moment! I now realise all my previous beliefs were nonsense, and I’m leaving the right for the left!” because personally, I don’t think that necessarily follows, but like I said, I’m curious to know what would ameliorate any perceived incivility?

      • benwave says:

        I’m an explicitly left-wing commentator who hasn’t commented here in a while. I have certainly gained something of value from participating in discussion here in the past. On doing some reflection about that, I think some of my more specific reasons include:

        – The comments sections in articles are just so long now. They were already large when I started commenting, but now whenever I load a new article there are routinely 300+ comments already and the amount of effort it would take to give that an honest read through is a bit off-putting to me.

        – I often don’t feel I have a great deal to add. Perhaps this is coincidence that a lot of the more recent posts have been outside my expertise?

        – Related to above, if I see a comment I disagree with, I don’t usually feel like it adds terribly much to post a reply to that effect.

        Do you think I should be pushing myself to contribute more than I currently do?

        • The comments sections in articles are just so long now.

          That’s a problem, but there is at least a partial solution. If you get to a top level comment on a subject you have no interest in, you click the hide button. It’s not quite as convenient as the old Usenet threaded interface, but close. So you can focus your attention on those threads that are of interest to you.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            A key issue, as I remarked elsewhere, is that max thread depth is small enough that this becomes impossible relatively often, especially given how CW discussion has a way of getting into a large fraction of subthreads.

      • Michael Handy says:

        We’re still around, though I’m currently busy with work and hobbies, so my ability to establish the SSC comments section as a vanguard of socialism is limited right now

      • James Picone says:

        I stopped commenting because I got tired of getting dogpiled with low-quality bullshit (in the sense of stuff that’s not just true, but where it doesn’t even *matter* if it’s true) if I stuck a left-of-centre head above the parapets, particularly on the topic climate change. Also my someone’s-wrong-on-the-internet tendencies aren’t very helpful and mostly just lead to me feeling shitty, so reducing my contact with situations that are almost designed to produce that reaction seemed like a good idea.

        There’s a lot of Bulverism and Bulverism-adjacent stuff around here too that I’m not very fond of. See, for example, this sort of comment. It’s not really doing anything particularly wrong, but seeing that attitude continually grates. It feels frankly hypocritical, given how many complaints there are about seeing that sort of discussion from the left.

        what counts as worthwhile engagement?

        I think one of the more frustrating aspects is that I continually feel like I’m starting at square 1. Imagine there’s some widely-presented talking point in a topic I care about, A, which I consider to be deeply, obviously wrong, with rebuttal B establishing that well. I’d consider it a basic courtesy that if I’ve had an argument with you on that topic that’s gone A -> B, and then we have a second argument, you shouldn’t just start with A but should at least start from a position where you acknowledge the existence of argument B.

        tl;dr: this place doesn’t feel like it’s truth-seeking; it just feels like a collection of dumb gotchas. Twitter, but with tens of thousands of characters per tweet.

        • For anyone here who wants to form an opinion about James Picone and why he stopped commenting, I recommend this link to an old post, and a search for “Lomborg.” Read down the thread and see what you think of him.

          My conclusion, that he was making strong statements about a book he had not read on the basis of reading a book attacking it and was unwilling to admit error when people who had read the book demonstrated that the attacks were strikingly dishonest, was strong enough so that my response to his post here was to locate that thread and reread it.

          I don’t know if that is when he stopped commenting but it was when I formed my opinion of him.

          • James Picone says:

            It’s really strange how utterly blind the SSC commentariat is to professional propagandists like Lomborg. If the man says anything true it’s accidental.

            If people want to form an opinion of David, consider his approach to trend estimation. Take a start and end point, take the difference, divide by the number of years in-between, in incredibly noisy data – in the linked case underestimating the trend by ~50%. David has academic qualifications in economics, so he absolutely should have the statistical understanding to know why what he’s doing there is meaningless. But he doesn’t care, because global warming being wrong is an axiom for him, not a conclusion.

            I pointed that one out to him well over a year ago.

            Yes, this is the sort of thing I’m talking about. If you had a significant hobbyist interest in evolutionary biology and there was a blog written by a thoughtful and interesting thinker whose comments section was, for whatever reason, stuffed full of creationists, creationist-adjacent people, and it just wasn’t a topic of discussion, how seriously could you take their viewpoints?

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @James Picone:

            It’s really strange how utterly blind the SSC commentariat is to professional propagandists like Lomborg. If the man says anything true it’s accidental.

            Do we have to do this again?

            In order to be so confident that Lomborg is unreliable one would at a minimum have to be willing to READ WHAT LOMBORG IS SAYING. So far, every time you’ve identified an alleged “mistake” made by Lomborg you’ve been wrong, and the reason you’ve been wrong is that you never read the original text. You have been trusting third-hand accounts by Lomborg’s enemies. Since his enemies appear to be lazy and more interested in point-scoring than accuracy, every time you wheel out one of their claims you make us all a little dumber.

            Pick a choice. You can EITHER:

            (a) be willing to READ Lomborg and think about what the text is trying to say, or

            (b) maintain your own ideological purity by refusing to go to the library and read a book you might not like.

            If you continue to stick with option (b), you need to reduce your certainly level on statements like “If the man says anything true it’s accidental”. Because YOU DON’T KNOW THAT, and so far the evidence doesn’t even seem to suggest it.

            (Our prior discussion on Hudson Bay polar bear population levels starts here. Upshot: Lomborg made a claim, one of the references he gave for it was an academic paper on a related subject, and the people who disagreed with him didn’t realize the reference backed up his claim because they only read the abstract of the reference. When I read the referenced paper in full I found that it did indeed back up Lomborg’s specific quantifiable claim in the sentence at issue. Thus the prime example YOU picked of Lomborg being wrong turned out to be an example of his detractors being careless or lazy.)

          • Plumber says:

            “It’s really strange how utterly blind the SSC commentariat is to professional propagandists like Lomborg….”

            @James Picone,

            Why is that surprising?

            A quick web search of “Lombard” came up with: “Bjørn Lomborg is a Danish author….”, and since I can’t read Danish why in Hell should I know who he is?!

            The burden is on you to tell me, insults about my ignorance don’t work.

          • A quick web search of “Lombard” came up with: “Bjørn Lomborg is a Danish author….”

            I gather your robot servant has been correcting your spelling again.

            Back when the conventional wisdom was that population growth was going to destroy us, or at least make poor countries much poorer, the one prominent holdout against that view was Julian Simon. He wrote a book titled “The Ultimate Resource,” meaning people. He made a famous bet with Ehrlich, one of the prominent people on the other side, over whether the cost of non-government-controlled raw materials would go up over time, as one would expect if population growth was pushing against resource limits, or down. His opponent got to pick the particular resources and the time period.

            Simon won the bet. It’s probably the original source of the pattern you occasionally see here of someone offering to bet on his views being true. The controversy originated in the 1960’s, the bet was made in 1980, and so far Simon’s view has proved correct–calorie consumption in the third world has trended up, not down, extreme poverty in the world has trended sharply down, not up.

            All of which I mention because Lomborg is more or less the current equivalent of Simon in the climate controversy. He argues that the dangers of climate change are greatly exaggerated, that there are other and more serious problems we ought to be worried about. Like Simon, he is the target of a lot of criticism and a fair amount of hatred by supporters of the orthodoxy, some of which you can see reflected in Picone’s comments. I linked earlier to a thread from a few years back which went into Picone’s claims about Lomborg in some detail.

            (The thread is here. Search on “Lomborg” to find the beginning. There is apparently a way of linking directly to a comment in a thread, but I haven’t figured out how to do it.)

            Lomborg, like Simon, publishes in English, so if you are curious you can read him. I was amused a few years ago to read an article, I think in Nature or Science or some similarly respectable publication, where the author said that of course we now all know that Julian Simon was right, but Lomborg … followed by much the same things that I remember people saying about Simon thirty or forty years earlier.

            I’m not an unbiased source, since I’m strongly on Lomborg’s side–I think it’s an open question whether the net effect of climate change will be positive or negative. I was on Simon’s side—I have a chapter in one of his books, although it was on the theoretical issue of how to compare alternative futures, not on the evidence of what was likely to happen. But the old Picone thread on Lomborg will give you at least some feel for the tone of the controversy.

          • Nick says:

            (The thread is here. Search on “Lomborg” to find the beginning. There is apparently a way of linking directly to a comment in a thread, but I haven’t figured out how to do it.)

            Click the timestamp under “DavidFriedman says”.

          • sentientbeings says:

            For anyone here who wants to form an opinion about James Picone and why he stopped commenting, I recommend this link to an old post, and a search for “Lomborg.” Read down the thread and see what you think of him.

            I think this comment starts the exchange.

            As Nick pointed out, the timestamp is a hyperlink and the link address can be copied.

            I wonder if you have heard news of the recent audit work done by John McLean on the HadCRUT4 dataset? It purports to show some pretty serious problems, some of which are very simple to check. A summary I read claimed that this audit is the first of its kind, which seems hard to believe, but is in some ways more troubling than actual errors (if true).

            Edit: Here is a link to the audit, although it is behind a paywall.

          • I’ve seen a story on the audit, but I find it less persuasive than it sounds. HadCRUT is a lot of data, so it isn’t astonishing if some bits are messed up. On the one hand one would like people to have gone through looking for problems. On the other hand, the more cleaning up of the data you do, the greater the opportunity to tweak it to show what you want it to show, and the greater the opportunity for other people to accuse you of doing so.

            I’m waiting to see what responses that report gets.

        • rlms says:

          I appreciated your comments on climate change.

        • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

          For what it’s worth, coming from someone who was initially very skeptical, I found your posts on global warming among the most informative and persuasive that I’ve read. I liked following your debates with David.

          So, just so you know, it wasn’t totally spitting into the wind.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I’ve been the sole right-wing commenter in a lot of places. I do not follow all the left-right drama at SSC, but usually it gets annoying replying to numerous people, particularly people who are snarky and exercise little to no charity. It’s not particularly fun, particularly since you have to respond to at least some of these attacks if you want to keep your standing in the community.

        It sounds like left-wing posters at SSC think they are getting dog-piled and many of the arguments they encounter are not charitable. Perhaps there is some truth to that, but it at least can be kept in mind the next time (general) you hits “reply.”

        • Garrett says:

          FWIW, I’ve started and then abandoned a lot of responses, both here and elsewhere. I generally ask myself “is this post going to make a difference?” I don’t believe a lot of the “attacks” will damage status. It’s like being called the devil by the crazy soap-box guy who yells grrrr – you don’t have to yell back to be seen as more respectable. Put another way, I believe that people over-estimate the extent to which minor issues will impact their status.

          Alternative option: roll your eyes when you read something that low-value and move on.

          • One minor thing I like about discussions here is that, quite often, if I look down the thread before responding I find that someone else has already made the point I would have, so I don’t have to.

          • ManyCookies says:

            @Garrett

            When everyone’s eye-rolling I can too, but when a forum treats a low-value post as an insightful comment or a witty retort that gets to me.

            @DavidFriedman

            Yeah having some consistent showing of ideological allies calms my Someone Is Wrong On The Internet tendencies, where I don’t feel the urge to respond to every post I see because someone will at least adequately pick up the slack.

      • fluorocarbon says:

        I don’t know if I count as being on the left, I think of myself more as a weird technocratic centrist. But I have been really hesitant to comment, especially on political things, for three main reasons:

        1 – Dogpiling and snark. Most leftish posts get piled on by right-wing commenters, and not a small number of the comments are wrapped in snark. I’d find it difficult to participate in a forum where I’d spend a long time time thinking and writing something to then have it be treated that way. I’d honestly prefer outright anger or hostility to snark.

        2 – Assuming the left is ill-intentioned. In the past I’ve seen a lot of posts saying things like “the goal of the European left is to destroy Europeans and European culture.” (Fortunately these types of comments seem to be decreasing.) This is pretty blatantly “my outgroup is evil” and I can’t imagine having a fruitful discussion with someone who actually believes that.

        3 – Asymmetric details lawyering. I don’t know if there’s a name for this, but it drives me crazy. Left-wing things are treated as if they’re one example of a broad meta-thing and right-wing things are stripped of all cultural context and analyzed strictly factually. (The posts discussing Steve Sailer compared with posts about academic Facebook below are a good example). If someone were to post “Muslims immigrating will destroy country X,” a bunch of comments would say, “well, let’s look at the evidence: are Islam and liberal institutions compatible? Does country X have the ability to integrate?” or “I may not agree, but this is a valuable viewpoint.” If someone says “the world would be better if all white men were dead” nobody would leave an equivalent comment: “let’s examine the evidence, do white men commit more crimes on average? How do we define better?” or “I may not agree, but this is a valuable viewpoint.”

        I’m not sure how to fix the third point, but the first two could be fixed by people being nicer, less dogpiling, and maybe more moderation for tone.

        • dndnrsn says:

          3 is a better way of saying something I’ve been trying to say. Some relatively extreme positions get treated as things to be dissected dispassionately, while others (even less extreme, relatively speaking) get treated as Extremely Scary. Now, I got nothing against dispassionate dissection, quite the opposite. It’s the double standard that I think is the issue.

          • onyomi says:

            @dndnrsn

            The problem is we all have our own ideas about what is scary; in fact, I think most political disagreements boil down to this: when Tribe A says x is a Very Serious Problem, standard operating procedure for Tribe B is not to carefully, deeply engage with x to find out why it’s serious, nor to wholly deny the existence of x, but rather to say “okay, but let’s have a little perspective about x; we also need to keep in mind y and z.” And Tribe B, in turn will downplay y and z and try to turn every conversation back to x.

            To get less abstract, Red Tribe has trouble discussing in a measured, nuanced way:
            abortion
            immigration

            And Blue Tribe:
            sexual assault/rape
            racism/prejudice

            It’s not like (mainstream) Blue Tribe says abortions are great or that there should be 0 immigration restrictions, it’s that they don’t understand Red Tribe’s sense of urgency about these issues and want to treat them in a careful, nuanced way that takes into consideration factors like a woman’s control of her body and the need for compassion and fairness in immigration policy. It’s not like (mainstream) Red Tribe thinks sexual assault and abuse of innocent minorities by the police never happen, it’s that they don’t understand Blue Tribe’s sense of urgency about these issues and instead call for treating them in a nuanced way that, e.g. is careful to respect the rights of the accused.

            Probably it would be good if everyone tried to have a little more perspective and nuance about the things that scare them while expending more effort to understand the things that cause opposing tribe to freak out but don’t seem so scary to himself. But I definitely don’t see a lot of asymmetry, either on this board, or in general. So far as I can tell, what differs tends to be the content of the double standards on hysteria/nuance, not their existence or absence.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Look, if the comment section here is going to condemn the outgroup for having double standards, it behooves it not to have double standards itself. It doesn’t change whether what they’re saying is true, but it’s silly to propose something as an ideal to be met by someone else.

          • Matt M says:

            It’s not like (mainstream) Blue Tribe says abortions are great

            Is Michelle Wolf not mainstream?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The most likely answer is out-group shunning. Like Scott’s famous post about not being able to say that Hitler is worse than your fellow countrymen who are in the other major political party.

          • onyomi says:

            @dndnrsn

            I’m not sure what you’re talking about? (Not in the sense of a bigger issue; I mean, I don’t know what you’re referencing). Are you saying that the right-wing commentors are condemning Scott’s leftist affirmative action policy? I don’t see a lot of that? Are you saying the right-wing commentors are commending leftist double-standards on some issues while having double-standards of their own on different issues? If so, then that’s basically what I’m saying?

        • Nick says:

          I’d find it difficult to participate in a forum where I’d spend a long time time thinking and writing something to then have it be treated that way. I’d honestly prefer outright anger or hostility to snark.

          I’m not sure what you mean here, because I feel the exact opposite. Anger or hostility would definitely bother me. What do you have in mind by snark here?

          Like, I directed some at Guy in TN here. Is that the sort of thing that would drive you off? Suppose I’d said, “You’re missing the obvious, you moonbat!” Would you really preferred that?!

          (And to Guy in TN: if my comment did offend you, sorry.)

          3 – Asymmetric details lawyering. I don’t know if there’s a name for this, but it drives me crazy. Left-wing things are treated as if they’re one example of a broad meta-thing and right-wing things are stripped of all cultural context and analyzed strictly factually. (The posts discussing Steve Sailer compared with posts about academic Facebook below are a good example). If someone were to post “Muslims immigrating will destroy country X,” a bunch of comments would say, “well, let’s look at the evidence: are Islam and liberal institutions compatible? Does country X have the ability to integrate?” or “I may not agree, but this is a valuable viewpoint.” If someone says “the world would be better if all white men were dead” nobody would leave an equivalent comment: “let’s examine the evidence, do white men commit more crimes on average? How do we define better?” or “I may not agree, but this is a valuable viewpoint.”

          Okay, I’ve noticed myself doing something similar at times. In fairness, I’m a conservative Catholic, so my job right now is justifying implausible interpretations. But seriously, this is difficult to avoid: on the one hand principle of charity says to interpret something in a better light if plausible, on the other hand experience or context might warrant more suspicion. I hereby license everybody to call me out if they think I’m details lawyering in a partisan way.

          • fluorocarbon says:

            Is that the sort of thing that would drive you off? Suppose I’d said, “You’re missing the obvious, you moonbat!” Would you really preferred that?!

            No, it looks to me like you’re engaged in more-or-less good faith debate but got frustrated and put in some sarcasm. I guess in the world of pure and ideal argumentation that wouldn’t happen, but it’s not a big turn off.

            I’m thinking of a combination of dogpiling and dismissive comments. For example, if someone posts “I’m in support of left-wing thing X for these reasons,” they often get a bunch of replies disagreeing (dogpiling). This isn’t that bad, but then at least one of those comments will be a one liner like, “I too want to be sent to the gulags” that doesn’t add anything. It’s a combination of insulting, point-scoring, and not extending any charity.

            I do think this is less common now than in the past (maybe it was mostly a few bad actors who were banned?). I also admit that it bothers me more than it should because it’s a pet peeve of mine. I don’t want to point out specific posts, but comments in this thread replying with “no wonder leftists need affirmative action, their arguments are terrible!” fit the bill. I also remember Scott’s Trump crying wolf posts being full of that stuff, but unfortunately I don’t have the time to go digging for examples right now.

        • Matt M says:

          I think the third point is sufficiently explained by something that has already been discussed – the fact that there are already an endless supply of places you can go to (i.e. every major American university) if you’re interested in a non-emotional and scientific debate over whether it’s worthwhile for society to kill white men, and virtually nowhere you can go (aside from screeching conspiracy theory call-in radio shows) where you can discuss the the potential negative consequences of large-scale Islamic migration.

          Since Scott is willing to host that discussion, people interested in having it flock here.

          • quanta413 says:

            On top of that, notice the supposed asymmetry here is in the questions as well.

            The question in the hypothetical is not something akin to “Should we prevent white people from emigrating to other countries?” or “Would Catholicism ruin the progress the Chinese Communist Party has made in reducing poverty?” Or “does the U.S.’s constant campaigns to ‘liberate’ other countries make those countries even worse off?” Or “does U.S. interference in Latin America make things worse?”

            I am more than happy to debate those sorts of questions even if they start out phrased in a more broad and negative way. In some cases, my position is closer to left wing than right wing.

            The question in the hypothetical is “Would the world be better if all white men were dead?”

            If someone in the comments asked “Would the world be better if all Muslims were dead?” I’d have a hard time engaging without telling them to fuck off.

          • Viliam says:

            I would probably enjoy reading a non-emotional and scientific debate about possible effects of killing all white men. But my impression was that the way American universities teach this topic is quite emotional and non-scientific.

            Is it too much to hope for an adversarial collaboration on this topic? 😀

            EDIT: To clarify, I am hoping for some other two people to collaborate on the topic, not offering myself as one of them. I have neither personal experience with killing white men, nor education in albusmasculusoccisiology.

          • Matt M says:

            But my impression was that the way American universities teach this topic is quite emotional and non-scientific.

            That’s what the gender studies journals are for.

            Just be careful that you don’t read the hoax articles!

    • albatross11 says:

      The “not wanting to be seen in the same room” concerns seem to me to be linked to the phenomenon of attacking someone via guilt-by-association that’s become fairly common online. Basically attack someone as having been a regular participant in some forum where offensive things were said, and count on context collapse to ensure that almost nobody will actually notice that they were the guy arguing *against* those offensive things.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        No.

        No, no.

        No, no, no, no.

        It’s that the fact that, much like stepping in dog poop, the stink lingers and you feel unclean.

        • quanta413 says:

          So internalized guilt by association?

          I don’t see how reading something you disagree with contaminates you.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Imagine a sex act that would be squick for you. Everyone has them. Fucking a dog. Eating feces. Whatever does not float your boat. Better yet, child molestation, since most people have strong moral inclinations, not just purity reactions, about that. Or, male homosexual sex, if you want something less law provoking and you find it objectionable.

            Now, imagine a website where the many of the commenters actively describe and promote these acts fairly frequently. Does that seem pleasant? Would you like hanging out there? Even if they were otherwise erudite?

            …and another thing, it gets exhausting to have to explain what seems to be obvious. This kind of “oh, so you’re just feeble minded” kind of attack is also tiring.

          • quanta413 says:

            Your examples are physical actions. I may or may not feel sadness or discomfort reading something, but it is not a feeling like the one I feel if I fall in a pile of mud or step in something.

            You probably shouldn’t try guessing what I find objectionable either. My sexual mores are not particularly… puritan?

            One difference between what some posters write here and dog shit, is that there is almost nowhere where feces aren’t considered unclean. There is an instinctive reaction to certain sensations (although acclimation may not be difficult). But the ideas and moral taboos you hold come from other people. That’s why I called it internalized guilt by association.

            …and another thing, it gets exhausting to have to explain what seems to be obvious. This kind of “oh, so you’re just feeble minded” kind of attack is also tiring.

            It really isn’t obvious. Well, it isn’t an obvious match for your behavior.

            Also, I think a lot of morality boils down to internalized guilt for whatever that’s worth. I’m not saying you’re weak-minded.

            EDIT: To be clear, not the basis for moral theories. I mean that a lot of people’s moral behavior probably occurs because they’ve internalized the scolding voice of their mother/father/God/whatever

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You probably shouldn’t try guessing what I find objectionable either

            You will note that I explicitly did not, merely offered examples of squick and pointed out that that overwhelming majority of people have things that they consider squick.

            At which point you stopped engaging with my point, and objected to my examples and explanation and my assumed assumptions.

            As to guilt by association, you may be familiar with the fact that this is one of the things that people here are very, very against, and something they consider wrong. So your argument is easily seen as an attack on my position.

          • brmic says:

            I don’t see how reading something you disagree with contaminates you.

            Seriously?
            ‘Someone is wrong on the internet’ writ large. I regularly encounter posters/posts here on SSC for which (a) I think they’re wrong on factual grounds (b) I think their position is therefore wrong on moral grounds and (c) to the extent I feel part of this community I sense a duty to engage these people, but (d) I don’t have the time, energy, spoons and hence (e) feel guilty for not doing my share/not enough.

          • quanta413 says:

            At which point you stopped engaging with my point, and objected to my examples and explanation and my assumed assumptions.

            As to guilt by association, you may be familiar with the fact that this is one of the things that people here are very, very against, and something they consider wrong. So your argument is easily seen as an attack on my position.

            I’ll just stop. You feel the way you do, and I find it strange but obviously I’m not accomplishing anything productive.

            Seriously?
            ‘Someone is wrong on the internet’ writ large. I regularly encounter posters/posts here on SSC for which (a) I think they’re wrong on factual grounds (b) I think their position is therefore wrong on moral grounds and (c) to the extent I feel part of this community I sense a duty to engage these people, but (d) I don’t have the time, energy, spoons and hence (e) feel guilty for not doing my share/not enough.

            Yes, seriously. What you’re describing sounds different to me from what HeelBearCub is describing.

        • Nornagest says:

          And they say the left doesn’t have a purity foundation.

        • MereComments says:

          Truly, a rationalist riposte.

          You seem extremely upset that the very diverse, very charitable, and very varied community doesn’t kowtow to your particular religion, and you seem inclined to throw mud on your neighbors so you have an excuse to call them unclean.

          Frankly, I understand why your ilk needs affirmative action to stay in the conversation circle.

    • Deiseach says:

      “not wanting to be seen in the same room” as some of the folks who comment here

      I was going to make the usual “wretched hive of scum and villainy” joke but that does seem rather alarming. Would you care to elaborate? I’m not expecting you to name names, just give a general indication of what sort of company you would prefer not to keep.

      • BBA says:

        I’ll name a name: Steve Sailer makes my skin crawl. A subtle, polite white supremacist is still a white supremacist, and I’d rather not share any space with anyone like that.

        • That seems a very odd attitude to me. Almost everybody believes he is a good guy. If someone with views that seem horrible to you still thinks he is a good guy surely that’s an interesting puzzle, and solving it would help you understand the world better, have a clearer idea of what your opponents are like and how to deal with them.

          I can understand not wanting to waste your time with someone who is obviously stupid, and it can be uncomfortable to interact with someone who is very hostile to you, but that doesn’t seem to be your issue here.

          If “racist” to you means “someone who hates other people because of their race,” that isn’t very interesting, although it might still be worth understanding in order to predict the behavior of such people. If it means “someone who has factual beliefs relevant to race that I disagree with,” on the other hand, that would seem no more polluting an interaction than any other disagreement, and a useful one. You might discover your views were mistaken or at least only weakly supported, you might be able to demonstrate, to third parties if not to him, that his views were mistaken or only weakly supported.

          Could you expand on the reasons for your attitude here?

          • Humbert McHumbert says:

            I suspect the notion of “white supremacist” at play here is not exactly either of the two definitions you propose, DF. Instead it’s something like “Someone who gleefully holds factual beliefs that are unflattering to certain races.”

            Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with noting and being persuaded by scientific evidence in favor of the biological inequality of the races. But I can understand the view that there’s something distasteful about a person who doesn’t begin that inquiry with at least the hope that the races are essentially equal in their genetic traits, and perhaps with a high prior that they’re equal as well. Sailer presents himself as someone who was hoping to find that they were unequal, and is pleased to report that the evidence on this question shook out exactly as he expected.

            I’m not saying his bias on this issue is any stronger than my bias on a number of issues that matter to me. He may even be correct about the facts; certainly he knows more of the relevant science than I do. I also don’t really share BBA’s distaste for being on the same site as Sailor, and I’d be glad to engage him in dialogue, although I’d want to hide that fact from some of my progressive friends. But I can definitely understand why one would feel distaste.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            Yeah, I’m with Humbert on this one. Sailer’s clearly smart and often interesting, but appreciating that often requires scraping off a thick layer of “this will discomfort the libs”. There’s absolutely a place for hard truths about racial integration offered more in sorrow than in anger. That’s not what this sort of thing is about though:

            Nonetheless, Merkel’s blunderkrieg was more or less accurately foreseen in 1973 by French novelist Jean Raspail in his book The Camp of the Saints, based on his sense of the direction the zeitgeist was headed. In hindsight, Raspail’s prophecy appears brilliant. Still, you can imagine the technical problems in phrasing questions ahead of time to be both broad enough and specific enough. Raspail focused, for example, on a French-Hindu-impoverished-by-sea immersion rather than a German-Muslim-smartphone-by-land hegira. Is that close enough?

            Moreover, Raspail being right 42 years ahead of time isn’t much use in an annual contest that, by its nature, can’t look more than 12 months ahead.

            Also, Raspail missed key aspects of what happened in 2015. He imagined that the refugees would be starving masses who overcame European resistance by their pitifulness. But instead, the invaders turned out to be strutting military-age youths with smartphones, giving Germany’s surrender a weird sexual vibe that nobody yet has explained satisfactorily even in retrospect.

          • cassander says:

            @pdbarnlsey & Humbert McHumbert

            I fail to see anything gleeful or angry in sailer’s rather straightforward prose. Snarky, sure, but it’s hard not to be on occasion. But I think you’re both assuming an awful lot about how he arrived at his views, making an isolated demand for….not exactly rigor, but contrition, I suppose. I read sailor as someone who doesn’t really care much one way or the other if such and such group is better at something, and is simply annoyed at the constant, breathless insistence that a thing could never be true and even to think it is basically a hate crime. How would you feel if your job was showing people photographs of a blue sky in a world where it was considered downright evil to say the sky was any color but pink?

          • keranih says:

            I think that Steve Sailer’s contempt for people who adhere to the idea that there is no behavioral or IQ difference between genetic groups has the appearance of being gleeful that those differences exist.

            I also think that some people are hiding their discomfort about being proven wrong by declaring that SS wins the debates in an unsportsmanlike manner. Which has the advantage (to them) of being true, so that they are not entirely in the wrong.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            Guys, I don’t think “strutting military aged brown people who have somehow obtained smartphones raping Germany while, according to the book Sailer cites, literally eating sh*t,” has much to do with average-level racial differences in IQ.

            And the fact that “it’s just about racial differences in IQ” is the SSC commentariat’s equivalent of “actually it’s about ethics in game journalism” is itself pretty telling.

            For what it’s worth, Cassander, I think there’s enough history of bad science in the name of neutral inquiry into the inherent inferiority of certain races that it probably does deserve to be approached somewhat apologetically, rather than gleefully, even if there are no gaps in your factual claims. But it’s certainly not something you should be trying to change the subject to when someone points you to an example of Sailer’s racially queasy rhetoric in unrelated contexts.

          • quanta413 says:

            For what it’s worth, Cassander, I think there’s enough history of bad science in the name of neutral inquiry into the inherent inferiority of certain races that it probably does deserve to be approached somewhat apologetically, rather than gleefully, even if there are no gaps in your factual claims.

            I feel like there are two threads that can be picked up here.

            One is how much did stuff like phrenology strengthen racism. I don’t have enough historical knowledge to deal with this question. But maybe you can reach some conclusions with enough knowledge. Maybe someone passed a really terrible law informed by expert knowledge at the time that they wouldn’t have otherwise.

            The second thread which I am more interested in is “Did past scientists being racist cause them to do lots of terrible science?” Talking about scientists we would now group under biology of one kind of another.

            I’m not convinced that racism on the part of past scientists was the primary reason for false or exaggerated conclusions they made. But I do agree that phrenology should make current scientists more careful about their claims.

            I’m sure that some scientists got some conclusions wrong because they were racist. But I doubt that was the primary problem. At a glance a lot of the things they got wrong seem like the sort of details you’d easily get wrong given the information available at the time. The sort of mistakes phrenologists made are not that conceptually different from the sort of mistakes more modern scientists make when studying the same biological systems. Phrenologists thought that you could localize certain behaviors to part of the brain (which you could measure by looking at the skull) and made some overextrapolations (or predictions that you could falsify depending how you want to look at it), and modern biologists had (have?) a distressing habit of thinking you can localize behaviors or traits to a few hormones or genes and making some overextrapolations.

            Neither idea is totally wrong and you can get somewhere useful with each idea, but both ideas are wrong enough that they can mislead you very badly if you extrapolate far. But both ideas are also an advance compared to not knowing that the brain is the center of cognition or that hormones and genes are an important part of causal chains relating to human behavior.

            Some sections of the wikipedia page on phrenology give me reverse deja vu. The popularity of phrenology blending science with mysticism and popular ideas reminds me of certain scientific ideas put forward by modern psychologists.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Almost everybody believes he is a good guy.

            I don’t.

          • Rachael says:

            From context it’s clear David meant “almost everyone believes they themselves are a good guy”, but it’s very easy to misread as “almost everyone believes Steve is a good guy” (because using generic “he” like that is almost obsolete). So now I’m confused which of those statements HeelBearCub is claiming to be a counterexample to.

          • Sebastian_H says:

            I’m a touch on the left, but from a very evangelical family, so I have an affinity with the right (having grown up with it I don’t have the visceral misunderstanding which enables easy demonization that a lot of people on both sides seem to easily fall into).

            However, Sailer really bugs me. I think it is because he will go out of his way to twist vast numbers of unrelated topics back to the IQ/race discussion. The good thing is that it has taught me that overworking your bugaboos can be a huge turn off, so I do it less. But, he definitely overworks the bugaboos in ways that tend to really destroy otherwise good conversations.

          • marxbro says:

            Exactly. I had a couple of Stalinist friends from way back, and not only were they the smartest and most intelligent people I’ve ever met, they also got me to rethink a lot of things politically. Back then, I was blindly anti-USSR, now I know that there’s a lot of good stuff about the Soviet Union.

          • brmic says:

            @DavidFriedman
            Substitute ‘child-rapist’ for ‘racist’. Imagine SSC had someone who openly advocates for the goals of NAMBLA, is very polite, if occassionaly snarky while doing so and is very erudite, a good debater and can defend his position with encyclopedic knowledge.

            Such people exist, you can seek them out, if you want. I for one have spoken to such people, read their materials to satisfy myself I’ve done my due dilligence and would henceforth prefer to avoid them in my spare time. Forever.
            Also, like Scott in his conclusion to the adversarial collaboration contest post, I think there’s a substantial risk here of such people causing updates in the wrong direction, if only because they’re usually more motivated than their opponents.

          • cassander says:

            @brmic

            Willingness to analogize Sailer’s brand of racism with child rape is precisely the thing I’m objecting to. Actual naziism, sure. but “hey I think there might be a biological reason that west africans are the best sprinters”? At worst, sailer’s like a pushy evangelist who won’t stop trying to convert you. And if you don’t like that, fine! I can totally understand that. But I object to the notion that what he’s doing is some innately vile act and should be treated as such.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Rachael:

            You are correct, I misread Friedman’s post. But then his subsequent point makes almost no sense. If everyone thinks they themselves are good guys, why does that make their point more worthy of listening to?

            @Cassander:

            Willingness to analogize Sailer’s brand of racism

            I wonder whether in other contexts you would be so willing to acknowledge that Sailer is a racist pushing a racist agenda? As a more general point, the fact that more people who are (broadly) on the right here aren’t willing to acknowledge these kinds of things (racists exist, they are tolerated and even celebrated, people are perfectly willing to amplify them, etc.) is an issue for honest discourse.

          • Humbert McHumbert says:

            It’s probably a bit similar to the discomfort you or I might feel at publicly and frequently acknowledging that anti-white racists (like the Facebook friend of mine I discuss in the next sub-thread down) exist within social justice circles.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I wonder whether in other contexts you would be so willing to acknowledge that Sailer is a racist pushing a racist agenda? As a more general point, the fact that more people who are (broadly) on the right here aren’t willing to acknowledge these kinds of things (racists exist, they are tolerated and even celebrated, people are perfectly willing to amplify them, etc.) is an issue for honest discourse.

            Colloquial usage of the word racist translates as “This person is a witch, burn them!” I don’t apologize for being unwilling to use the term in contexts where that definition will prevail. I am willing to use the word here only because our standard of discourse is usually higher.

            If by racist you mean someone who hates people of other races, or considers them of less moral worth, then I would deny that Sailer is a racist. I wouldn’t deny that such racists exist, but I absolutely would deny that they are tolerated, much less celebrated. They’re even more marginal on the right than out and out stalinists are in the modern left.

            If by racist you mean someone who argues that while human beings are all human, there are variations in behavior among human populations that are rooted in biology, then it’s inarguable that sailer is a racist. But even with this definition, I’d deny that such people are celebrated by the right. This group is perhaps as influential on the right as communists are on the modern left. anyone vaguely mainstream might quietly nod along to what they say, but they’d never say it out loud.

            And if by racist you mean someone who has no real complicated understanding of biology, but by experience or learning has come to have a dislike for or low opinion of one group of people or another, then there are lots of those people, but that it’s left, not the right, that most often makes open appeals to such tribalism.

          • Humbert McHumbert says:

            If by racist you mean someone who hates people of other races, or considers them of less moral worth, then I would deny that Sailer is a racist.

            What about the definition I suggested above: someone who wants to believe that other races are biologically inferior, or who is happy to believe this and takes comfort in it? Or someone whose biases cause them to interpret the evidence in favor of racial inequality as stronger than it actually is?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:

            As I suspected, you actually do think Sailer is a racist. But, if I were to say Sailer is, in fact, a racist, in some other context, you would protest that I should not be using such words, etc. I think this is actually the more general case. Generally people here aren’t willing to admit he is a racist, white supremacist in favor of ethnic segregation or apartheid … but he should still be listened to.

            The idea that blacks are inferior has been a dominant force in American politics since inception. This has cut across “left” and “right” for the majority of the history of the country. The fact that we, as a nation and as political coalitions, also have held and still hold contradicting positions does not make this a less influential position.

          • cassander says:

            @Humbert McHumbert says:

            What about the definition I suggested above: someone who wants to believe that other races are biologically inferior, or who is happy to believe this and takes comfort in it? Or someone whose biases cause them to interpret the evidence in favor of racial inequality as stronger than it actually is?

            “Inferior” is a very loaded word. If I believe that west africans have a propensity to be better sprinters than non-west africans, am I calling non-west africans inferior? As for desiring to believe such a thing, or taking comfort in it, I don’t think that’s something that’s knowable or worth talking about. If you think someone is biased, well that’s rarely a false accusation and I’ll certainly listen to your argument, but it will be a better discussion if we avoid needlessly moralizing the discourse right out of the gate.

            @HeelBearCub says:

            s I suspected, you actually do think Sailer is a racist. But, if I were to say Sailer is, in fact, a racist, in some other context, you would protest that I should not be using such words, etc.

            You probably shouldn’t use the word, just like I shouldn’t (and generally try not to) use a term like SJW, because they create more heat than light.

            I think this is actually the more general case. Generally people here aren’t willing to admit he is a racist, white supremacist in favor of ethnic segregation or apartheid … but he should still be listened to.

            People aren’t willing to admit that because he’s manifestly not in favor of those things, at least in his public writing. And frankly, even if he were, the truth of the underlying facts ought to matter more than the couthness of the presenter.

            The idea that blacks are inferior has been a dominant force in American politics since inception. This has cut across “left” and “right” for the majority of the history of the country. The fact that we, as a nation and as political coalitions, also have held and still hold contradicting positions does not make this a less influential position.

            I think making this claim after the 60s is ludicrous. It’s one thing to argue that blacks still get the short end of the stick in american life, but to argue that actively treating/keeping them inferior is a dominant force in american politics? No. I do, however, think that one political coalition has a vested interest in keeping the belief that it is alive, and does so, to great detriment of everyone.

          • Nootropic cormorant says:

            Sailer is pretty much devoid of all epistemic virtue that characterizes this blog. Yet I believe that many of his beliefs are, sadly, true to an underappreciated extent.

            I remember that some of his earlier writings have a more appropriate solemn tone, but I think he became more mocking and spiteful due to constantly arguing with what appear to be intellectually bankrupt ideologues.

            I still read his blog occasionally to see how high the flames of the culture war have grown, but I am increasingly annoyed by his triumphalism and uncharitability.

          • Imagine SSC had someone who openly advocates for the goals of NAMBLA, is very polite, if occassionaly snarky while doing so and is very erudite, a good debater and can defend his position with encyclopedic knowledge.

            I would consider such a person an asset to the group. Just as I consider the poster who is pro-USSR an asset–I would like to see the best arguments that can be made for that position too.

            If reading his arguments upset me I would skip over them.

          • If everyone thinks they themselves are good guys, why does that make their point more worthy of listening to?

            Because if it seems obvious to me that their position is inconsistent with that belief that’s a puzzle that I would like to solve. Both out of curiosity and for practical reasons–if I understand someone else’s view of the world it might help me improve mine and it will probably help me understand and predict his behavior and that of people similar to him in the future.

            What about the definition I suggested above: someone who wants to believe that other races are biologically inferior, or who is happy to believe this and takes comfort in it?

            My impression is that most people on the left want to believe that their tribe is intellectually and morally superior to the other tribe, are happy to believe it, and take comfort in believing it. Probably most people on the right too.

            That results in people on both sides sometimes reaching mistaken conclusions, which is unfortunate. But it doesn’t make them any more evil than the human norm. The racial version happens to be stigmatized at the moment, but I don’t see it as inherently worse than the political (or religious or nationality based) version.

          • Humbert McHumbert says:

            @DavidFriedman and cassander:

            My impression is that most people on the left want to believe that their tribe is intellectually and morally superior to the other tribe, are happy to believe it, and take comfort in believing it. Probably most people on the right too.

            That results in people on both sides sometimes reaching mistaken conclusions, which is unfortunate. But it doesn’t make them any more evil than the human norm. The racial version happens to be stigmatized at the moment, but I don’t see it as inherently worse than the political (or religious or nationality based) version.

            As for desiring to believe such a thing, or taking comfort in it, I don’t think that’s something that’s knowable or worth talking about. If you think someone is biased, well that’s rarely a false accusation and I’ll certainly listen to your argument, but it will be a better discussion if we avoid needlessly moralizing the discourse right out of the gate.

            I do think it’s knowable to some extent, although one should be hesitant to judge, certainly. I would just point to the difference in tone between Sailer and someone like Murray, for example. You can tell Murray regrets the fact (as he sees it) of cognitive inequality. Another relevant piece of evidence is that Sailer brings up genetic racial differences all the time apropos of nothing, in contexts where only someone who’s completely obsessed would draw any connection between that and the topic everyone else is discussing.

            On the issue of whether to moralize this, I suppose I am inclined to moralize it to some extent. I don’t consider morality to be the most important thing in life or the most important factor I judge people by. But as far as it goes, I think it’s morally better if someone is predisposed to think well of other individuals and other kinds of people, and vicious if someone is predisposed to have low opinions of people who are different.

            It’s a bit like the principle of charity: it’s better to expect that other people are at least as honest and good at reasoning as you are yourself, than to expect that everyone else is dumber and more dishonest. For similar reasons, it’s kinder and more generous to start from the assumption that other human groups are as capable as your group cognitively, and to hope for a world where that’s true. That emphatically doesn’t mean it’s good to ignore evidence of inequality, but it does mean it’s morally worse to be initially biased in favor of inequality than it is to be initially biased in favor of equality.

          • albatross11 says:

            There’s something a little weird, to me, about putting a moral value on what you hope will be the answer to factual questions. I mean, shouldn’t we all hope that CO2 emissions really don’t mess up the climate, given how disruptive a lot of measures to address global warming could be economically?

            It sure seems like we should want to believe what’s true, a lot more than we want to believe what would be nice if it were true.

          • Matt M says:

            shouldn’t we all hope that CO2 emissions really don’t mess up the climate, given how disruptive a lot of measures to address global warming could be economically?

            Not if you’re the type of person who values “economic disruption” as a positive end, in and of itself.

            I think if it was conclusively proven tomorrow that CO2 emissions are perfectly harmless, about half the country would either vigorously deny it or would be incredibly disappointed.

          • cassander says:

            @Humbert McHumbert says:

            I think it’s morally better if someone is predisposed to think well of other individuals and other kinds of people, and vicious if someone is predisposed to have low opinions of people who are different.

            Thinking well of other people is not the same thing as thinking that they are genetically identical to you in all ways that matter. And thinking that certain groups of people are more or less genetically prone to certain traits is not necessarily “having a low opinion of them”. I used to be amused that I had to say “different does not mean worse” so often to the crowd that was always talking about the wonders of diversity, but I’ve long grown tired of the activity.

          • Viliam says:

            @marxbro

            I had a couple of Stalinist friends from way back, and not only were they the smartest and most intelligent people I’ve ever met, they also got me to rethink a lot of things politically. Back then, I was blindly anti-USSR, now I know that there’s a lot of good stuff about the Soviet Union.

            I know how you feel. I used to be blindly anti-Nazi, having seen all those movies about Holocaust and stuff. But then I met a few intelligent people who identified as National Socialists, and they made me understand and see beyond the Jewish propaganda.

            …nope, I’m just kidding.

            (Also, the analogy is not very good, because if there are any movies depicting Soviet atrocities realistically, they don’t seem to be well known. Which is a grave mistake that should be fixed.)

          • BBA says:

            I don’t consider myself a “good guy.” I often doubt that there are any.

          • Humbert McHumbert says:

            Thinking well of other people is not the same thing as thinking that they are genetically identical to you in all ways that matter. And thinking that certain groups of people are more or less genetically prone to certain traits is not necessarily “having a low opinion of them”. I used to be amused that I had to say “different does not mean worse” so often to the crowd that was always talking about the wonders of diversity, but I’ve long grown tired of the activity.

            I agree that quite a few people are inconsistent in the way you describe, but you’ll never hear me talk about the wonders of diversity when it comes to cognitive ability. All else equal, I have a higher esteem for someone the more intelligent I believe they are. I’m certainly more interested in listening to the opinion of someone I believe is intelligent. And I don’t get the sense that Steve Sailer is much different from me in this regard.

            I mean, shouldn’t we all hope that CO2 emissions really don’t mess up the climate, given how disruptive a lot of measures to address global warming could be economically?

            In a sense, I suppose we should. But the climate case is very different from the case at hand, because it doesn’t involve assuming good or bad things about other people. If my bias leads me to assume that a red guitar is likely to be a bad guitar, I haven’t taken an unfair attitude, because you can’t really be unfair to a guitar except in a metaphorical sense.

          • Humbert McHumbert says:

            Let me just add: I’m not saying it’s morally better to be biased in favor of the cognitive equality of races than it is to be unbiased on that question. I’m just saying it’s worse to be biased in favor of inequality.

          • quanta413 says:

            The virtues of intelligence in a single person tend to be really overrated by intelligent people. And by those who think of themselves as intelligent.

            Like I love everyone here, but I’d suspect I’d want to strangle more people if everyone I lived or worked with was like people here.

            Having a well organized group of people with enough intelligent people in the group is pretty great, but you really do need the right organization. It’s not spontaneous. Chinese have higher average IQs than Americans but China in the mid twentieth century sucked and America in the mid twentieth century didn’t. Mostly. I know America sucked a lot for some people. But it didn’t get anywhere near Great Leap Forward or cultural revolution levels of bad. And it’s still true that it’s better to live in the U.S. than China.

          • brmic says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I would consider such a person [a NAMBLA activist] an asset to the group. Just as I consider the poster who is pro-USSR an asset–I would like to see the best arguments that can be made for that position too.

            This may be true of you personally, but I assume for many on here not openly disagreeing with you on that, it’s mostly virtue signalling. Either way, 3 points:
            (1) If you want that, it’s not hard to find. I went and had a look. Face to face is harder, but still doable. Revealed preferences suggest if you haven’t and are over 30, you’re not actually that interested/open minded.
            (2) There are any number of topics where repeated debate is pointless. If NAMBLA doesn’t do it for you, take the veracity of the protocols of the elders of zion or whether the holocaust happened. Rehashing them ever so often adds nothing to the debate, it’s just a drag on everyone but the cranks.
            (3) This isn’t about you. It’s about the preferences of other people, some of whom have apparently already voted with their feet. Some of the ones still here tell you, that you can either have a discussion with them or with the NAMBLA-people in this space (provided the proprietor is indifferent). Saying the NAMBLA-people don’t bother you is irrelevant in this context. You can call their bluff, state the conditions under which you would leave, whatever. To use your own words, you are being offered the best arguments (actually, highly personal and individual ones) why liberals think this space sucks for their side. You can, hopefully learn from that, you might act on it. But unless you’re a liberal who shares the sentiment, you saying ‘but it doesn’t suck for me’ is off topic.

        • onyomi says:

          @BBA and HBC

          Imagine 90% of your Facebook friends and colleagues, who are otherwise wonderful, smart, kind people, are constantly broadcasting opinions on social media that make you feel like you do reading Steve Sailer and you’ll have a sense of what it’s like being a right-wing academic in 2018…

          • Matt M says:

            And yeah, this.

            I mean, I get and I understand that left wing people might “feel icky” here because there are a decent amount of fairly hardcore and unapologetic right-wing posters.

            However, I have virtually no sympathy for this, because as a right-winger myself, this is pretty much the only public forum in which I don’t feel icky.

            I feel icky on Facebook and Twitter and Youtube and every supposedly “neutral” space that exists as a mindless signal-boost of mainstream progressive propaganda. And yet, none of those places seem particularly inclined to change in order to make me feel better…

          • Humbert McHumbert says:

            I have great sympathy for this point of view. Indeed, speaking as a blue tribe neo-liberal who agrees with Barack Obama about almost everything, what my academic friends say on Facebook frequently makes me feel icky.

            I have a graduate school acquaintance, now a professor, who frequently says things very close to “I hate white men.” (A recent direct quote is “cis het white men are trash, stay away.”) As gross as I find Sailer, this kind of explicit hatred disgusts me just as much if not more, and seeing it collect like and love reactions from people I know are basically good folks is a double whammy.

            So I’ve concluded that we all (yes, even POC) need to just chill out, stop being so sanctimonious, and swallow down those ick reactions so we can actually try to have some dialogue in this world. Not that I’m going to engage in dialogue with my white-men-are-trash “friend,” who in any case doesn’t really permit white people to post on their wall, but if someone said something similar in content with no anger and a willingness to engage, I would be up for that.

          • cassander says:

            @Humbert McHumbert says:

            I have great sympathy for this point of view. Indeed, speaking as a blue tribe neo-liberal who agrees with Barack Obama about almost everything, what my academic friends say on Facebook frequently makes me feel icky.

            I find this curious. I see neoliberalism as a realization by part of the left that markets were a tool they could use, not an enemy that they needed to destroy, and neoliberal policy as an attempt to fashion policy that tries to accomplish left wing goals by using the power of markets and incentives rather than trying to abolish them. Housing vouchers instead of public housing, encouraging work for those on welfare, etc. My big problem with Obama (foreign policy aside) was that I see none of that in his actual policy making. The forms were occasionally there, the ACA looks superficially like a neo-liberal program, but not the substance. The ACA exchanges aren’t markets. their price and content was dictated by fiat.

          • cassander says:

            @Humbert McHumbert says:

            Ugh, accidentally hit complete and now it won’t let me edit.

            Anyhow, I was going to say that the ACA was the biggest example of this, but I don’t recall anywhere in obama policy that I saw meaningful belief in the efficacy of markets much less successful use of them.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I haven’t said this in a while, but if you @HBC me, I am far less likely to notice. @HeelBearCub if you actually want a decent chance of getting my attention.

            I agree that messages like “cise het white men are scum” definitely make a space uncomfortable and are not productive for dialogue. Facebook is, frankly, weird. It seems to me it’s mostly some sort of “performative life” space, which doesn’t really interest me, so I stopped going there more than every 3 months several years ago. I know people find it some how essential, but I’m not sure that it actually is?

            As to the broader academic circle, as I have said before, this should give people pause when they say they are in favor of unmitigated free speech. If people wanted to actually attack the problems caused, I’d start with the proposition that being dehumanized by a majority is actually damaging.

            Mind you, I do think of free speech as deeply valuable. But as I have said frequently, it’s a value that is in tension with other values.

          • Humbert McHumbert says:

            Seems like a bit of a digression from the topic of this thread; if you’d like to discuss whether Obama qualifies as a neo-liberal, maybe we should start a new thread?

          • Humbert McHumbert says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            As to the broader academic circle, as I have said before, this should give people pause when they say they are in favor of unmitigated free speech. If people wanted to actually attack the problems caused, I’d start with the proposition that being dehumanized by a majority is actually damaging.

            I’m not completely certain I’m getting the point you’re gesturing at here. Any chance of further elaboration? Or if you have a link to what you’ve said before on this issue, that would be equally helpful.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Humbert McHumbert:

            There are two simultaneous assertions I am seeing. Roughly, one is that inter-sectional feminist claims to be damaged by various forms of harassment, biased acts and speech must be opposed in the name of free speech.

            The other is that exposure to certain elements of their speech is oppressive and damaging.

            If you wanted to effectively argue for moderation of the behavior, the most effective tactic would be to first recognize that the second claim contradicts the first. Admit that speech can be harmful. That it can be oppressive. That it can be chilling to others speech, expression, etc. Then you can still argue for a) better treatment (for everyone!), and b) appropriate space for the free-exchange of ideas.

            But you have to abandon the idea that trolling and harassment aren’t damaging and should simply be ignored as irrelevant.

          • Humbert McHumbert says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Ah, I see. I don’t myself belong to the brand of “free speech purist” who would say that it’s nonsense to claim that one is harmed by speech. I’m the sort who says that (legal, quasi-legal or powerful social) restrictions on speech are such a great paternalistic imposition on others that they are almost never justified even to prevent harm. In other words, in general it is not my business what you’re allowed to say (or what you’re allowed to listen to) even if you harm me somewhat by saying it.

            By analogy, the main reason I support same-sex marriage is that it is no one else’s business whom you want to spend your life with. Even if the defenders of CA Prop 8 were correct and gay marriage were harmful to the fabric of society, that wouldn’t matter to me. We don’t have the right to control the details of other people’s lives as if they were small children. (That extends to legal control and also to non-legal control. I also don’t think anyone has the moral right to stage a disruptive protest to prevent your wedding. Same goes for your College Republicans meeting.)

            Although I’m completely on board with the claim that slurs and bigoted speech can harm, I am skeptical that any sort of objectionable harm occurs if you choose to go to an Ann Coulter speech on your campus and Coulter predictably says something racist. Similarly, I wouldn’t say I was harmed in any objectionable way by my Facebook friend denigrating my race and gender. I know she’s prone to saying such things and it would be easy for me to block or unfriend her.

          • albatross11 says:

            HeelBearCub:

            I feel about the same way about free speech. I absolutely recognize that many people are hurt by free speech, and that some take a hell of a beating when they’re constantly hearing nasty stuff about people like themselves. I just think that the value of free speech overall is so high that it’s worth the beating people sometimes take. And I think that the power to suppress speech/ideas is one that is so easy to misuse that it’s dangerous to have around.

          • moscanarius says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Admit that speech can be harmful. That it can be oppressive. That it can be chilling to others speech, expression, etc. Then you can still argue for a) better treatment (for everyone!), and b) appropriate space for the free-exchange of ideas.

            Though I largely agree with this specific point, I feel like this is conversation the public already had in the past and that already collapsed because of ill will. Ill will kills it all.

            The first thing is that whatever standard we have has to apply to both sides independently of the topic in discussion; if trolling and harassment are bad, then they are bad no matter who’s doing it. If punching is wrong, then it’s wrong even if you’re punching a Nazi. If giving bad Yelp evaluations to a restaurant you never dinned in because you disagree with the owner’s politics is wrong, it must be wrong regardless of whether he voted Republican or Democrat.

            But over the years what I saw was the Left trying to explicitly have different standards – demanding civility from the Right while excusing bad behaviour from their own as, basically, rightful reactions of the oppressed against privilege. And they got it, mostly; even here, Scott is willing to tolerate worst behaviour from them just because. Worse, this has happened regardless of how bad the Right behaved. Too many people calling Trump a fascist were already calling everyone the Republicans had to offer such, and likely will not stop ever no matter what. Maybe this strong disgust reaction you report plays a role in it?

            The second thing is that reciprocity matters. The good will shown in trying not to offend and harass must be reciprocated by the good will in trying not to feel offended and harassed every time. But too many people (specially, but not exclusively) on the Left have preferred to defect from this tacit agreement by claiming offense and damages at the slightest provocation.

            In these conditions, the dialogue cannot work. It already has not, and I doubt it ever will if one’s opinions are so dependent on the disgust reaction.

            Sorry if a bit ranty and overlong.

          • onyomi says:

            @Humbert McHumbert

            If it makes you feel any better, there are a lot of right-wing comment spaces where the argument quality and/or attitude makes me cringe. And there are right-wing comment sections that tend to be more nuanced, but which are more mono-culture-ish. What makes SSC special is that you can be right-wing, largely express your true opinions in a space with a non-negligible number of left-wingers, and get mostly polite, nuanced feedback rather than outrage and virtue signalling. This is probably why SSC comment space feels like an oasis in the desert to right-wingers, hence the “witch” effect.

            I don’t know if left-wingers have any similar trouble finding places to get non-stupid push-back from right-wingers; I would guess so; to my mind, the major asymmetry is that it is easier for left-wingers to retreat from any online space that includes a significant number of witches to one of many, very popular spaces, like Facebook, where such opinions are largely not welcome, at least among the more urban, coastal types who tend to be my friends.

            @Heelbearcub

            I basically agree with Moscanarius: the biggest problem is the double standard. I am in favor of pretty strong free speech norms, though I also concede that speech can be harmful, if not necessarily in a way I think should be e.g. legally actionable (that is, all the “cis-white-hetero men should die!” posts on tumblr can’t hold a candle to the harm done by e.g. academic admissions and hiring policies biased against those groups). When I was younger, the equilibrium seemed to be “you can broadly express your opinion about almost anything, but white people can’t express overtly racist opinions and men can’t express overtly sexist opinions without getting called on it.” Having mostly succeeded in that, it feels like the virtue treadmill carried right on to “everyone else is allowed to denigrate white people and men, who shouldn’t say anything in their defense.” I don’t know if the former equilibrium was ever really stable, but the problems with this latter state of affairs should be obvious.

            Related, I can accept the value of a speech norm that says “don’t dehumanize broad groups of people,” but the problem is that leftism seems to have evolved in such a direction as to construe any non left-wing opinions as inherently dehumanizing. The myriad attempts to construe any defense of Kavanaugh or questioning of Ford’s credibility as an indictment of rape survivors, or even all women, more generally, for example.

            I’m not sure where the ideal equilibrium between “everybody’s allowed to insult everybody else” and “nobody’s allowed to generalize” lies; I tend toward the “all opinions are okay if expressed politely and not actually calling for violence” end of the spectrum, but Antifa et al. do seem to make their own strongest case that people can’t be trusted with generalizations.

          • Baeraad says:

            @HeelBearCub I entirely agree, and in theory I would like to pick the “being an asshole is bad no matter what side you’re on” option. I don’t think being forced to be polite is any sort of unacceptable hardship as long as in return other people were forced to be polite to you.

            In practice, as several others have pointed out, someone is going to have to enforce that standard of civility. And the people who would likely end up doing the enforcement are the same people who think that white men are bulletproof and can feel no pain. And as a butt-hurt crybaby white man(-child), I absolutely refuse to support an order whereby others can beat me up as much as they want but I’m not allowed to so much as wail and moan about how badly I’m being treated.

            But hey, give me a credible promise that feminists won’t be allowed to be mean to me anymore, and I’ll happily promise in return to never say a harsh word to anyone ever again.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi @baeraad @moscanarius:

            First off, ill will, inconsistency, and attempts at double-standards are just part of the human package. Any call for elimination of these things before further progress can be made strikes me as naive or disingenuous.

            As to the substance, which is that an effective double standard is in place, some of that is, again, just par for the course. Look at the evangelical right and their support for Trump, which is not actually abnormal. This is not “whataboutism” it’s simply pointing out that these kinds of hypocicies are endemic. But the other thing about the rhetoric that you are missing is that much if it grew as a specific tit-for-tat. Right wing rhetoric has been filled for years with how evil people on the left are. I doubt this struck you as harmful, simply because it wasn’t pointed it you.

            So, yes, I would push back on the rhetoric. But if you treat the rhetoric as more than simply the tail end, I think you are making a mistake. My issue with evangelicals, for instance, isn’t (mostly) their rhetoric, it’s all of the policies they want that I think are wrong.

          • Baeraad says:

            @HeelBearCub

            First off, ill will, inconsistency, and attempts at double-standards are just part of the human package. Any call for elimination of these things before further progress can be made strikes me as naive or disingenuous.

            But as long as those things hold dominance, enforcing civility would not be progress. If you say that feminists will never, ever be prevented from verbally abusing me, then I say fine – then I will never, ever support any effort to prevent others from verbally abusing feminists. If your idea of “progress” is that I get to have it even worse so that you can have it even better, then I’d rather stick with the status quo, for all that I do not like it much.

          • onyomi says:

            @Heelbearcub

            But the other thing about the rhetoric that you are missing is that much if it grew as a specific tit-for-tat. Right wing rhetoric has been filled for years with how evil people on the left are. I doubt this struck you as harmful, simply because it wasn’t pointed it you.

            Can you explain more about how you see a tit-for-tat relationship between calling people on the left “evil” (are we talking about McCarthyism here or what, exactly?) and the SJW attack against cis-white-patriarchy, etc.? I struggle to see a cause-and-effect relationship here, though it’s possible I’m missing some important connection.

          • AG says:

            @onyomi:

            In the past, there was a good mix of right-wing and left-wing commenters interacting with each other in SSC. For example, when Ozy used to defend SJ concepts on the regular.

            To my perception, the reason left wing posters started backing out wasn’t merely because of the presence of witches. On the contrary, having a good-faith discussion with an intelligent opponent is more engaging and interesting to do!
            Rather, a sufficient amount of low-effort responses began cropping up. Less good faith discussions, more pet peeve non-sequiturs, more boo light zingers. Ironically, people on the right doing the Arthur Chu thing and admitting that they promote Dark Arts rhetoric for their side. That’s what made it less worthwhile to keep talking, so most of them seemed to have withdrawn to tumblr, where they continue to…actually critique SJ and define better nuance of its concepts in their own sphere, blocking the uncharitable.
            And this is not just for left-wing posters, as well. There was even an Objectivist who found the rattumb circle more productive talking partners, and stopped posting on SSC for it.

            I’d say the alignment of the SSC commentariat has not necessarily shifted, but the tenor of it definitely has. But, I don’t think Scott’s current chosen strategy is going to help him towards that end.

          • Humbert McHumbert says:

            Perhaps HBC is referring to the escalating rhetoric that led to centrist Democrats like John Kerry and Obama being referred to as ‘socialist,’ and to Glen Beck and a large fraction of the Tea Party movement suggesting that Obama’s presidency was an apocalyptic event. All this appeared to Democrats like an insane mob, especially when Birtherism entered the picture, and since Obama was an ordinary mainstream politician in every way with the sole exception of his race, the cause seemed to be the election of a black man.

            (I’m not saying it was correct for people to identify that as the cause, but I don’t think they were unreasonable to do so. FWIW, my own best guess about the cause of the right wing’s 2008 insanity spiral is that it actually started much earlier than people think, but was invisible for a long time because a Republican was in office, and the real cause was the 9/11 attacks.)

          • arlie says:

            *sigh* Welcome to real life.

            I’m 60. I remember what inclinations and preferences were required to be considered an OK person, back in e.g. the 70s, in academia and elsewhere. It’s nice to be able to drop certain of the pretences, and not to need to deal with (being perceived as) inadequate over traits I couldn’t disguise.

            But humans being what we are, of course there are new shibboleths – even if I don’t tend to notice them, as they suit my own tastes better. And it would seem that people with your tastes and characteristics are now less normative then you probably would have been when I was 20.

            One thing I do note though – even the radical teens and twenty somethings of the 60s and early 70s took those obligatory opinions and traits more or less for granted. We’ll all feel somewhat less bad once things settle down and become less contested, even those who wind up at the bottom of the social or moral heap, for what all right-thinking (at the time) people agree are self-evident reasons.

            So, for example, we all went through the motions of pretending to be Christian, or at least pretending to have a special respect for Christianity not given to other faiths, let alone to the irreligious – except a handful of e.g. radical atheist gadflies – a position not consistent with overall personal “success”.

            Also, we participated in (or at least neglected to challenge) workplace discussions that totally disrespected or ignored our own hidden inclinations and/or those of people we cared about. And we coped regardless. It’s not fun, but it’s part of the human condition. I’d prefer it were otherwise, and try not to over-encourage it.

            Meanwhile the situation is unsettled, and thus more painful. Hence your extreme reaction, rather than accepting that this is the way of the world, and simply keeping under cover and getting on with your life and career.

            It’s hard. I still feel bad about compromises I need to make in order to earn a living, mostly involving (routine, legal) lying to customers and using psychological research to determine how best to induce them to act in the company’s best interests, even against their own. And that’s something that seems to have gotten worse, not better, over the course of my career.

            You win some, and you lose some. People are emphatically not angels.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Humbert McHumbert:

            FWIW, my own best guess about the cause of the right wing’s 2008 insanity spiral is that it actually started much earlier than people think, but was invisible for a long time because a Republican was in office, and the real cause was the 9/11 attacks.

            My southern instinct is to use the phrase “bless your heart”, but know that I mean it with love.

            I’m not sure how old you are, or you familiarity with political history, but this isn’t back nearly far enough. There were conservative, below the radar newsletters about the coming UN takeover in the 90s. The militia movement really blossomed in the 90s as well. The Birchers were in the 50s and 60s. Go back and it’s much the same This kind of stuff never really “starts” and never really goes away. It just waxes and wanes in how much influence it has.

            @onyomi:
            Much like my statement to kerinah about the NYT op-ed, I think that I am unlikely to be able to make you see it. There has been a constant drumbeat from conservatives that if we allow such-and-such a social change it will lead to the weakening and destruction of America. The people who want that change, whether they are a woman, or gay, or Black or Hispanic are demonized. The rhetoric does not bother you. It does not grate at you. It does not make YOU feel demeaned. You don’t even see at it as demeaning. You think the Jim Crow South was harmonious and loving without animosity towards the Black population. You don’t see it at all.

            But that coalition of people, and their allies, do see it. They have seen it and seen it and seen it. At some point, you give back what you are getting. That’s the tit-for-tat.

            Look at how unwilling people are, here, today, to admit that sexual assault is mostly unreported and wrestle with why that is.

          • Matt M says:

            The people who want that change, whether they are a woman, or gay, or Black or Hispanic are demonized.

            Why bring the oppression olympics into this?

            The militia movement doesn’t think very highly of Bill Clinton either. Or Bernie Sanders. Or Chuck Schumer. Or Ted Kennedy.

            The right hates leftists who want to profoundly change American culture and society. The fact that a lot of those are women and minorities is coincidence at best, and an intentional ploy of the left to enable the smearing of all of their opponents as hateful bigots at worst.

          • But the other thing about the rhetoric that you are missing is that much if it grew as a specific tit-for-tat. Right wing rhetoric has been filled for years with how evil people on the left are. I doubt this struck you as harmful, simply because it wasn’t pointed it you.

            Very likely true. I hope it occurred to you that you might be making the identical error.

            I don’t know how old you are, but I am old enough to remember the 1964 campaign, having been a Harvard undergraduate at the time. The attitude of the majority combined scorn and ignorance–anyone supporting Goldwater was obviously stupid, and actually looking at the arguments for his positions wasn’t worth bothering with.

            Part of the difference between our views of the pattern probably comes from which side we identify with, but part may be from growing up in different environments. I have spent essentially my entire life in Academia–most of my K-12 schooling was in a school run by the University of Chicago. I don’t know what environment you grew up in. But the mix of hostility to left and hostility to right may well have been different in our different environments.

          • So, for example, we all went through the motions of pretending to be Christian, or at least pretending to have a special respect for Christianity not given to other faiths, let alone to the irreligious – except a handful of e.g. radical atheist gadflies – a position not consistent with overall personal “success”.

            This links to something I just posted about different views coming from different environments. I grew up (in Hyde Park, Chicago, home of the University of Chicago) assuming that the normal position was not believing in religion in any serious sense, with the main exceptions being a few writers I was fond of such as C.S. Lewis. I have never been a “radical atheist gadfly,” since although the fact that there are intelligent and rational people who deeply believe in religion seems puzzling it’s clearly true. My father had the same views I did, although he described his position as agnostic and I described mine as atheist, and never made any effort to conceal them.

          • Humbert McHumbert says:

            @Heelbearcub

            Sure, I’m familiar with 90s militias and the JBS. I suppose the real issue is what explains the waxing of the crazy right in its media footprint and influence on the US power structure since 2008.

            By the way, in your last comment it sounds like you’re accusing Onyomi of supporting Jim Crow. Is that what you meant to say?

          • moscanarius says:

            @HeelBearCub

            First off, ill will, inconsistency, and attempts at double-standards are just part of the human package. Any call for elimination of these things before further progress can be made strikes me as naive or disingenuous.

            Yeah, I know. And I have not issued any call for the elimination of them. Go read my comment again with a bit less of ill will on your part, if you can manage.

            The thing is, many negative things are part of the human package. Jealousy is. Irrational hatred is. Racism (broadly defined) likely is. But while we cannot hope to eliminate them completely, we don’t just throw the towel. We definitely can modulate their expression in actual human interaction with social rules and personal examples. The level of ill will and double standards is not constant and doesn’t need to be so high everywhere, every time.

            As to the substance, which is that an effective double standard is in place, some of that is, again, just par for the course.

            But the other thing about the rhetoric that you are missing is that much if it grew as a specific tit-for-tat. Right wing rhetoric has been filled for years with how evil people on the left are.

            My English may be failing me, but if by “par for the course” you mean “expected because of bad behaviour on the other side”, then I’m sure you recognize this is kind of a chicken and egg situation. The Evangelical Right can as easily claim be part of an older tit-for-tat where they had been unjustly villified until radicalization. This can make the duble standards be understandable, but not make them right.

            I understand that the standoffs we see are a product of History, and sometimes are unavoidable; what I’m struggling to understand is your take from that. Do you think there’s absolutely nothing you can do, or anything you should do, to diminish the polarization? All you can do is pick a side and fight for the tribe everywhere?

            I doubt this struck you as harmful, simply because it wasn’t pointed it you.

            I hope you’re not betting on it, given how little you know of my life. Can I assume the same about your lack of concern for the previous villification of the Right, or am I going to be banished for insufficient charity?

            So, yes, I would push back on the rhetoric.

            Then please start doing it. Almost everything you write to your opponents is full of gratuitous snark, smugness, and self-righteousness.

          • 10240 says:

            I agree that messages like “cise het white men are scum” definitely make a space uncomfortable and are not productive for dialogue. […]
            As to the broader academic circle, as I have said before, this should give people pause when they say they are in favor of unmitigated free speech.

            Arguably it’s a problem that some people think vile things about white people, black people, or whatever race. IMO if people are not allowed to say what they think, that doesn’t make it any better. If there is a problem, I’d rather know it than bury my head in the sand. (Now I’m assuming that people who say vile things actually think them. If we have a good reason to think they don’t actually think those things, then it should be easy to ignore the vile things they say and to not get offended.)

            One could argue that as long as people think vile things, but don’t actually do really bad things, there is no reason to really worry about what they think, and the only harm they cause may be the offense caused by their vile speech. But, again, if we believe that those vile thoughts are not really a cause for concern, it shouldn’t be that hard to ignore them even when spoken.

            Another way vile speech may arguably cause harm is the possibility that it convinces others of those vile thoughts. But this is a fundamentally different motive to restrict freedom of speech than the above, one which should be admitted, and which could be more dangerous if it lead to policies. It’s not about “I don’t want to hear that”, but “I don’t want someone to speak that, lest others hear it”. Talking about being offended may sometimes be a more innocuous pretense in place of this motive.

            I absolutely recognize that many people are hurt by free speech, […]

            I’d rather say “many people are hurt by offensive/vile/racist/… speech”. Saying that people are hurt by free speech somehow implies that lack of freedom of speech is the default position, and freedom of speech is an option. When freedom is considered to be the natural state of affairs, we don’t say “freedom to do X hurts people”, we just say “X hurts people”. This is a minor phrasing nitpick, not a factual objection.

        • WashedOut says:

          Have you been binge reading Nathan Robinson again?

        • Matt M says:

          Wasn’t Steve Sailer banned months ago?

          But to provide a simple counterpoint, I love Steve, and found him via this comments site. Despite his banning, I continue to follow and engage with him on Twitter which has improved my life by a lot. So kudos to Scott for that one.

          • Lillian says:

            He was banned for two months, three months ago. That he hasn’t posted recently seems to have more to do with lack of inclination rather than lack of ability. If you engage with him on Twitter, perhaps you might encourage him to come back? His viewpoints are different from mine, but they are very well articulated, and exposure to that sort of thing is one of the reasons i like this place.

          • albatross11 says:

            When you can get Sailer to really think something through and write it up, it’s worth reading. But he tends to default to a quick snarky comment way too often for my tastes. And the problem is that snarky comments and sarcasm don’t make it clear what you’re really arguing for. Worse, it’s too easy to play to your fans / partisans. This is something a hell of a lot of opinion writers do when they start to get a following–you can do some hard work and think through some new problem deeply and carefully, or you can toss out some red meat for your base, and both get you the same positive feedback, but one is ten times as much work as the other….

      • ManyCookies says:

        Not here, but for r/slatestarcodex I did eventually switch to my porn/bertstrips/”Things I wouldn’t want an employer or friend skimming my profile to see out of context” reddit account because, well, I wouldn’t want a friend or employer skimming my profile to know I post on r/slatestarcodex without further clarifying context.

        But I really doubt it’s that strong of an effect, I suspect I’m more paranoid than most and I just switched a lower profile account. Plenty of lefties on r/ssc post on their apparent main accounts and rage quit depart for way more pressing reasons. And after all, there’s a fairly big overlap for “people I wouldn’t want to be seen in the same room as” and “people I wouldn’t want to be in the same room as for long”.

    • Guy in TN says:

      Some posters are probably going to be confused on the right-wing assertion, because they are focuses on different political axes. If I recall the last survey correctly, on the “cultural” axis, commenters were generally evenly divided, but on the “economic” axis, libertarians+conservatives outnumbered the left 2:1. So I expect a lot of pushback along the lines of “aha! but what about [cultural issue].”, from those who view the divide primarily on cultural lines.

      My take, with all the biases of being one of the most left-leaning commentators on SSC, is that the comments are somewhat to the left of the median American on cultural-political issues, and decidedly to the right (i.e. libertarian) on economic/role of government issues.

      That means that if you are an economics-focused lefty like Freddie Deboer or myself, you are rather alone. (And if you are economic left/cultural right like Plumber, you are extremely alone, but that may just be a rare combo to begin with)

      At its best:
      SSC is practically the last place on the internet where people who disagree do so with logic and civility. And not only that, they are some of the sharpest people I’ve ever met, with vast knowledge of psychology, economics, political philosophy, and history. If I find myself “losing” a debate, its probably because I am wrong, not because of ad homs, snark, and bad-faith trickery. In the year that I’ve been here, many conversations I’ve had, ideas people have presented to me, have stuck with me for the long term. Props to John Shilling, baconbits9, David Friedman, and others.

      At its worst:
      It’s like going to a model train convention, but you’re not really into model trains. You can’t relate to the convention-goers, and are ambivalent to the debates and discussions they having. There’s no “side” to join in on, because no one is having a conversation you are even interested in talking about. While you might find some amusement by cornering a model train fan, and trying to explain to him why model trains are not all they’re cracked up to be, you mostly find yourself bored and isolated.

      • It’s like going to a model train convention, but you’re not really into model trains.

        Thanks to the “hide” button, you can skip over all that boring model train stuff and just read the threads on AI software for controlling model trains.

      • baconbits9 says:

        I was very pleased by this compliment and told my wife about it last night as well as a little bit of the background. Her response was

        “People think of you as being on the right?” which was an interesting reaction.

      • Plumber says:

        “…if you are economic left/cultural right like Plumber, you are extremely alone, but that may just be a rare combo to begin with…”

        Oh wow, thanks for the shout out @Guy in TN!

        To clarify, where I’m on the “economic left” is I think the “New Deal” and the “Great Society” were good things, which would be mainstream views when I was born, and where I’m on the “cultural right” is that I think the ‘rights’ to have an abortion or legal homosexual marriage should be achieved (or opposed) by democratic means, not judicial fiat.

        Probably my most “right” view is that the cultural acceptance of parents getting divorced was a great evil, but I seem to be very alone in that.

        Overall, I’m probably more to the left though, for example, while I think Roe v. Wade is bad law that set a bad precedent, I support the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and if I was on the Senate and had to choose between two candidates for one of our nine Kings, how they would rule on Voting Rights would sway me more. 

        As to any candidate for elected office who mirrors my views? 

        I know of none in California.

        I liked Jim Webb in 2016 but then he dropped out (among the Republicans I liked Huckabee, but I haven’t been registered as a Republican since at least 2005), and I had a real hard time deciding who to vote for in the California Primary before I voted for Sanders (canceling out my wife’s vote).

        In the general election I think that I voted for Clinton (I may have voted third-party instead, as I remember having a hard time deciding), but that was a very hard vote to cast as her husband kinda represents both the economic “neo-liberalism” and cultural libertinism I dislike, but the consistently anti-union actions of the Republicans is what ultimately decides my vote.

        • Nick says:

          Probably my most “right” view is that the cultural acceptance of parents getting divorced was a great evil, but I seem to be very alone in that.

          You’ll find quite a few religious conservatives agreeing with it. I don’t know where social liberals stand on this—I know they support divorce laws, obviously, but I don’t if it’s in an enthusiastic “a divorce is never a bad thing” way, or an ambivalent “it has more upsides than downsides” way, or whether they think no-fault divorce specifically is great too, or what. It was long enough ago that we don’t really wage that culture war here, I think.

          • albatross11 says:

            FWIW, I suspect this is a pendulum thing. At one point, divorces were so hard to get that even people who genuinely needed one (say, someone married to a lifelong abusive drunk) couldn’t get one. Then we made them much easier to get, and lots more people got them than probably should have. Over time, as people see that those divorces were very hard on the adults and even worse on the kids, people have learned some, and have become more negative about them. Eventually, we’ll get to a common social view of how acceptable divorce should be that’s about right.

    • Nootropic cormorant says:

      Maybe not poor argument quality as such, but the feeling that you’ve already heard all the arguments that the other person will give, that their whole worldview is predictable to you, creates total disinterest.

      Somehow reducing the number of unoriginal thinkers is the only thing that could help I think.

    • How can anyone possibly take your claim that right wing arguments are worse as anything other than your own bias?

    • Nornagest says:

      Also, “meta-defecting” by advocating for more right-wing positions than you actually believe in, in order to get folks’ opinions to land where you think they need to land is a bad idea, longer term.

      Can you point to some examples of people doing this here? I rarely see people engaging in obvious hyperbole, and when I do, it’s usually in the context of a rant or a joke, not some sort of Machiavellian campaign of deception.

      • Nick says:

        Yeah, that seemed entirely out of left field to me. And looking at what Scott wrote above, I don’t see what inspired it either.

        • rlms says:

          It’s not quite the same, but there’s often tangential verbiage and pedantry applied in a right-wing direction, even by people who I doubt actually support the relevant side. For instance, if gay marriage comes up, a lot of libertarian types will complain about pro-gay marriage rhetoric being misleading, or condescending to religious people; or say something about state’s rights and decentralisation; or just claim that the government shouldn’t be involved in marriage at all; or bring up the complete irrelevant and uninteresting pedantic note that actually gay people could marry (people of the opposite sex) before gay marriage was legalised; or point out that actually Clinton and Obama opposed gay marriage in the past, so what do you think about that eh?!

          My impression is that most of the people doing this are not at all homophobic or opposed to gay marriage, but they feel tribally aligned with the people that do, and for some reason feel compelled to argue in their tribe’s direction even on issues they disagree with them.

          • or just claim that the government shouldn’t be involved in marriage at all

            Isn’t that the natural position for a libertarian to take?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Isn’t that the natural position for a libertarian to take?

            Sure, if you are actually advocating for eliminating marriage. But not if you only argue this in response to calls for same sex marriage.

          • quanta413 says:

            Sure, if you are actually advocating for eliminating marriage. But not if you only argue this in response to calls for same sex marriage.

            Libertarians were to the left of almost everyone else for a long time as far as accepting homosexuality.

            As you say, libertarians who are actually Republicans or conservatives may be different of course.

          • Not for eliminating marriage—it’s a useful institution. For eliminating state as opposed to social definition of marriage.

            By social definition I mean that I get to decide whether I regard Jane and Mary as married just as a Catholic gets to decide whether he regards divorced John and his second wife Mary as married. I don’t get to make you treat people as married if in your view they are not, you don’t get to make me treat people as not married if in my view they are.

          • ana53294 says:

            I don’t get to make you treat people as married if in your view they are not, you don’t get to make me treat people as not married if in my view they are.

            That would mean that Catholics, for example, would consider people who had a church wedding married unless they went through annullment. So, would that mean that a Catholic judge would give the inheritance to the divorced widow (who didn’t get a Catholic annullment) if they are Catholic?

            Also, the triple talaq divorce is too easy. There are all kinds of reasons why India made it illegal.

            Unless your libertarian community happens to be very homogeneous, and made of exclusively Catholics (who all see people as non-divorced), or conservative Sunni (who see the couple as divorced after the triple talaq), you have to make some kind of rule for mixed communities.

          • John Schilling says:

            So, would that mean that a Catholic judge would give the inheritance to the divorced widow (who didn’t get a Catholic annullment) if they are Catholic?

            A judge of any religion would presumably give the inheritance to the person named in the will as the heir, or barring that to the biological children of the deceased, or barring that to the state. If marriage is not a legal institution, there is not a legal presumption that a spouse inherits if their partner dies without a will.

          • ana53294 says:

            So the default would be, unless there is a will, a living will, or power of attorney, or contract, the spouse (who married through a religious ceremony), would have no more rights than a stranger? Most people suck at writing wills.

            So, a married couple would, to the eyes of the law, be just two people who cohabitate?

            So what about immigration? What if your spouse is a foreigner? I know people who had difficulties with visas and residence permits, and accelerated their marriage plans so they could live together.

          • liate says:

            @ana53294
            Another way it could be thought of is breaking marriage into a cultural thing that is some sort of permenant/semipermenant pair bonding and a legal thing that’s just a standard group of contracts, generally, but not exclusively, between two natural persons.

            A Catholic judge would rule according to whatever contract the two had agreed upon, and triple taliq divorce could just not normally be in a normal marriage contract, if it’s ease is seen as problematic.

            ETA: Not having preferential immigration status for spouses of citizens seems like it would come with lack of marriage as a thing the state does

          • ana53294 says:

            A Catholic judge would rule according to whatever contract the two had agreed upon

            I imagine the standard Catholic marriage contract in this country with no government enforcement of marriage would be unbreakable. My understanding is that most contracts should be fair to both parties, and you should be able to break it.

            If the libertarian country does not have very permissive immigration laws, I am against this. Marriage is too important an institution for me to allow bullshit immigration laws to break it.

          • John Schilling says:

            Most people suck at writing wills.

            Most people also suck at writing marriage licenses, yet the institution survives. I am fairly confident that the Catholic Church has lawyers that can write up perfectly good wills; they already require fairly extensive counseling and paperwork before anyone gets married in one of their churches and this can easily add this to the list.

            Immigration of couples with prior state-sanctioned marriages would be trickier, but if this ever becomes other than a hypothetical discussion there are going to be a lot of tricky edge cases for lawyers to deal with. So long as it is hypothetical, most of the value in discussing it will be from the more central examples like “what happens when two Catholics go to their priest and ask to get married?”

          • 10240 says:

            bring up the complete irrelevant and uninteresting pedantic note that actually gay people could marry (people of the opposite sex) before gay marriage was legalised;

            I don’t concede that’s completely irrelevant. If the claim is that not allowing gay marriage discriminates against gay people, it’s important to distinguish between treating everyone equally, and treating everyone the way they want to be treated. I’d say the latter is less of an obligation (if at all) than the former.

      • Matt M says:

        I admit to occasionally doing this sort of thing. I also admit that it’s bad form, but often a useful rhetorical tactic. I should probably do less of it here because this audience is usually too smart to fall for cheap tricks like that.

      • Dan L says:

        @ Nornagest:

        Can you point to some examples of people doing this here? I rarely see people engaging in obvious hyperbole, and when I do, it’s usually in the context of a rant or a joke, not some sort of Machiavellian campaign of deception.

        A few years ago, a switch flipped in my head and I started parsing hyperbole as either blustering ignorance or malicious rhetoric. So sensitized, it became immediately obvious that it happens extremely frequently, in every community I’ve seen – if you can’t see it, it’s probably because it isn’t aimed at you. SSC is better than most in that regard, but far from perfect.

        (Also, I’ll give you a ton of pushback on any “just a joke” excuse – when people are talking about things like board culture, what is and is not acceptable to make fun of is extremely relevant. I think we’d lose quite a few of the better commentators here if it became normal to joke about e.g. Catholics all being pedophiles.)

        • Nornagest says:

          You can parse hyperbole as whatever you please, but I still don’t see any examples here.

          And I was talking about jokes about your own beliefs, not about others’. Take Multiheaded’s habit of making gulag jokes for example. At least, I hope those were jokes.

          • Dan L says:

            You can parse hyperbole as whatever you please, but I still don’t see any examples here.

            I mean, Matt M admitted to using it as a rhetorical tactic one post above mine. But ok.

            Probably about a third of my posts on SSC are in response to what I see as value-negative hyperbole, feel free to do the site:slatestarcodex.com google if you want some specific examples. There’s enough of a Pareto principle at play though that I fear any collection of direct links would either be a false equivalence or divert attention away from the argumentative form and towards people, neither of which I care to engage in.

            And I was talking about jokes about your own beliefs, not about others’.

            Ah, fair enough then. Still not my favorite, but definitely better than deliberately blowing an Ideological Turing Test.

    • fion says:

      I disagree that the right-wing positions here are more poorly-argued than left-wing positions, but I think it might be true in general. I think there are many very intelligent, very knowledgeable, and moderately respectful right-wing commenters here.

      As a very left-wing commenter, I mostly steer clear of left/right stuff on here. Partly because a lot of the issues are specific US ones that I have little interest in. But also partly because there are many very intelligent, very knowledgeable right-wing people who will put a very strong case against me. Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate having my views challenged and I learn a lot from reading the comments on here, but I already waste far too much time on this website, and getting into complicated politics/economics discussions with people who are smarter than me and more knowledgeable than me is a recipe for spending even more time and possibly even getting upset and frustrated.

      • cassander says:

        I, for one, would be delighted if you brought up non-US political debates/conflicts, particularly if the pro/con factions line up differently than the US.

        • Speaking of which, do we have anyone here from Brazil? The candidate who seems likely to win the presidential election is routinely described as “far right” and I’m curious what that means in the Brazilian context and whether it is any more than “a conservative the media don’t like.”

          Brazil is a country not that much smaller than the U.S. and it has a presidential election where it looks like the two final candidates are much farther apart than U.S. presidential candidates usually are–with the most recent U.S. election an exception.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Not an expert by any means, but I think the strongest support for the claim that he is far-right are his professed views on military dictatorship: you can look it up to find any number of admiring quotes, as well as the opinion that “”the error of the dictatorship was that it tortured, but did not kill”; he expressed a similar sentiment regarding the Pinochet regime: that it “should have killed more people.”
            In the 1990s he said if he ever became president ” I would begin the coup on the very first day! […] start the coup at once, and let’s make this a dictatorship.”
            He also dedicated his vote to impeach Dilma Rousseff to the memory of the army colonel who headed the unit that tortured Rousseff, has said he would prefer a hypothetical gay son to die in an accident, that if he saw two men kissing he would beat them, and that gay children should be whipped.

            Some of this stuff is from a while ago, but I don’t know that there’s any reason to believe his opinions have moderated; it’s also all rhetorical, and I can’t find very much about how he has actually behaved in politics.

            However, I think by North American standards, even the rhetorical stuff puts him further to the right than any remotely plausible political candidate, especially the support for a military dictatorship.

          • moscanarius says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Bolsonaro is… hard to explain. Since this election has become even more polarized than Trump’s in the US, you’re gonna hear all sorts of narratives surrounding him from Brazilians online (ranging from “he’s saving us from the Communists!!1!” to “he’s literally reopening Auchwitz to kill all the gays!1!!”).

            I’m not sure I can say much of substance in a single post (the whole electoral imbroglio requires a lot of context), but I can say for sure that he’s not just a random conservative hated by the media (the opposition candidates from the last three elections fit this profile, though they were not super conservative).

            It’s fair to call him a man of the Right by the usual association criterium: he calls himself a Right-winger, and is broadly recognized as such by most of his enemies and virtually all of his supporters. Whether he deserves to be called “extreme” (a label that can be interpreted as pejorative) depends on your own views and what you consider “the Right” to be. The Brazilian Left and Media definitely call him an ultra-extreme-Righter-than-Right-winger, while his supporters see him as the only Right left on the table – but certainly more to the Right than any other viable option. So I guess this makes him kinda far-Right in practical terms.

            As with all politicians, it’s hard to know what exactly he and his close circle actually believe, a opposed to what they say for the media attention, but here are a couple of points where he is to the right of the traditional Right*

            – He is a retired Captain of the Army, and openly speaks favourably of the Military Dictatorship period (1964-1984) – a huge taboo for the Left and the compliant Right (though not for the common people) – including defending the episodes of imprisionment and torture (not deflecting, defending), even when giving interviews to journalists who were themselves imprisioned at the time. He speaks whatever goes in his mind regardless of who’s listening.

            – He is more anti-gay. Well, this is difficult to precise: he’s not talking about imprisioning or lynching gays Uganda-style, it’s more that he seems to hold very old-fashioned opinions on the matter (he doesn’t like gays, he once said he would beat his son to cure him if he turned out gay, he’s against legalizing gay marriage, and against the so-called Gay Agenda – basically, gay prominence in the media and society). He rose to national popularity in ~2013 by leading the opposition to a project of teaching public school children about homosexuality and gay sex (I’ll leave the details out, this is just a broad characterization). As he’s gotten more popular, he has been softening on the issue, though.

            – He is (nowadays, in the past he wasn’t) very anti-abortion, and promises to keep abortion illegal in the current terms of the current law (there is a strong pressure to make abortion legal nowadays).

            – He is more openly patriotic and Christian (his registered campaign motto: “Brazil above everything, God above all”).

            – He broadly opposes Identity Politics – Affirmative action for Blacks and Indians, demarcation of Indian lands, etc.

            – He leans pro-Israel (context: in the Israel-Palestine question, the political establishment here leans towards Palestine. This debate is just for signaling, as we have almost zero involvement with the real thing. Siding with Palestine carries the connotation of siding with the oppressed).

            – He leans against accepting refugees, especially Muslim ones (again, this is mostly for signalling, we barely get refugees. On the real case of Venezuelan refugees, he proposed a screening to avoid letting criminals in, but did not propose to send them all back).

            – He is openly favourable to toughening the laws to deal with criminals, including some quixotic (IMO) proposals to chemically castrate convicted rapists.

            – He is openly favourable to relaxing the very tight gun laws of Brazil.

            – He is explicitly anti-Communist – that is, anti-Castro and anti-Maduro. Yes, red scare is a thing here, but then consider our neighbours. Bolsonaro’s anti-Communism doesn’t sound like much for a Right-winger, until you know that many so-called Right-wing politicians lamented the death of Fidel Castro and wrote texts praising him, accompanied by pictures they took on visits to Cuba.

            – He has been for years explicitly against the Workers’ Party (which ruled from 2002 to the impeachment of 2016, after which a former ally of them took charge). The traditional opposition to the ruling part has been very meek in popular perception, which is why Bolsonaro got a boost when the Workers’ Party fell in disgrace in 2016 (due to economical crisis and corruption scandals).

            – He employs more forceful and violent rhetorics (“We’re gonna gun down the Workers’ Party”) – Leftwingers think (or pretend to think) he’s serious, even though the record of political violence tells more against them than against him.

            – Speaking of which, Bolsonaro got the dubious honor of being the first presidential candidate to be stabbed by a nutcase (unsurprisingly, a Leftwinger) in some 50 years. This happened one month ago.

            – Economically, he’s been talking libertarian (shrink the State! lower the taxes!), but from his speeches and schooling he’s more into the same State-driven Developmentism that has set the tone in Brazilian economics for the last 70 years at least. Not much of difference between the viable Right and the viable Left on this topic.

            So basically, in my view: he is too much to the Right for the press, the artists, the Universities, and the intellectuals, but actually fills the demand for a Rightwing politician that espouses causes the people feel strongly about – relaxing the gun control, keeping abortion illegal, being openly Christian, and not seeing gays kissing on the street.

            Sorry for the long text; I hope I brought more light than mist.

            *The “traditional Right” being mostly composed of people who were on the Left during the Millitary Rule (1964-1984), but started drifting to the center (away from defending Communism and from the recent identity politics). They are mostly what people call “Neoliberal”.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @moscanarius, what’s “demarcation of Indian lands” look like in Brazilian politics? I’ve heard about it a little in the context of minimally-contacted tribes in the depths of the Amazon jungle, but I’m guessing that isn’t the prototypical example?

          • moscanarius says:

            @Evan Þ

            I’m not an expert, and I don’t even live near Indian land, so my knowledge of this specific topic is not the best. Indian reservations are areas for the exclusive use of Indigenous tribes; usually, this refers to contacted, legally registered tribes with varying degrees of integration to mainstream society. Most don’t live like in the stone age anymore; most are Christians, and speak mostly Portuguese. The uncontacted tribes probably number a few hundred individuals, and there is the expectation that the biggest reservations already cover much of the area where they’re supposed to live. Among the two modalities of reservation, there are already some 1.77 millions of square kilometers (~20% of the territory) demarcated for the Indians; most are located in barely-populated areas in the Amazon, the region with more legally-recognized Indians.

            Demarcation of more Indian land is viewed as positive by the political Left (on the surface, at least; not when it conflicts with other projects), but is unpopular with the common citizens. Most people think the Indians (which are less than 0.5% of the population) already got too much, and that most are “not even Indians anymore” (that is, they no longer live a primitive, isolated life). The fact that one of the biggest land demarcations of the last decade included the expulsion of the “white” (actually mestizo) rice planters from land they bought decades ago certainly didn’t help.

          • Aminoacid says:

            One thing to keep in mind is that Brazil hasn’t really had conservatives as a big exponent (at least on presidential elections) since the end of the dictatorship.
            The
            main split was along liberal/”socialist” since 1988. The Congress and Senate had some conservative presence in the Congress, representing large rural landowners, televangelists and the military police (I believe those are the proper terms), but it was mostly made of conservative people defending their own economic interests, without commiting to conservative worldviews (ruralists didn’t necessarily care about religious topics, priests didn’t have a consensus on public safety).
            During the last decade, conservatism as a political alignment has grown, mostly due to the efforts of Olavo de Carvalho, a Brazilian philosopher who lives in the USA, who grew to prominence due to his harsh criticism of the left-wing parties of Brazil (how much of his ideas are true and how much are conspiracy theories is left as an exercise to the reader).
            While an argument could be made that any conservative candidate would be considered far-right in Brazil’s overton window, Bolsonaro has made outrageous claims in favor of a return to dictatorship, civil war and mass sterilization in the past, and over the past week has said that, if elected, will and any and all forms of “activism” and that he didn’t win the first majority vote due to fraudulent voting machines.

    • Rm says:

      Btw, on an unrelated note (but something I posted on the old LW site a while ago, which you commented on) – here’s the end of the story https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DWKmRPr2G0 : the court ruled today that Yehorchenko’s words in Verkhovna Rada were misleading, but that she doesn’t have to pay Teslya 50 000 hrn. Yehorchenko will apellate… all in all, pseudoscience won big.

    • MrApophenia says:

      This thread is basically a perfect microcosm of why people like myself have become uncomfortable posting around here. A thread about “Why do liberals not want to hang around these parts” has already been diverted into an earnest discussion of why it’s not racist at all to think black people are genetically dumber than white people, and actually even calling that racist is the real oppression, man. Why do you leftists always need to moralize a topic like this?

      This shit is why I find myself avoiding the comments section even though I like the blog posts. It’s not that I am afraid to be seen here, it’s that I actually don’t feel like hanging out with people who think this way as a form of social recreation, even online.

      I’ll debate right wingers on tax policy or health care or gun rights all day long, but the race stuff around here is different and increasingly queasy-making.

      The subreddit is this times a thousand. I ran screaming for the hills when someone said, in something like these exact words (I’m not going to go look it up) that non-whites are genetically inferior and we shouldn’t let them into the country because they would spread their less intelligent genes, and that got generally accepted and upvoted. The 14 words have also received general applause from that crowd. I had a sudden realization of, “Oh shit, I’m basically on Nerd Stormfront” and skedaddled.

      Not moderating liberals isn’t going to solve the problem, Scott. You can have a forum community where openly racist ideas are enthusiastically supported (and calling those ideas racist is seen as shocking bad form), or you can have liberals who want to spend time here. You get to pick one.

      • albatross11 says:

        Just as an aside, the data from IQ distributions don’t say whites are superior, they say Asians have a higher average IQ than whites. And Jews of Eastern European descent seem to have a still higher average IQ. Whites do better than Hispanics[1], who do better than blacks. (Note that all of these results are also more-or-less reflected in how those groups do in the US, and to some extent even in how countries made up of those groups do in the world. That gives at least some added plausibility to the claim.)

        It may be wicked or racist to believe this. It may also be factually wrong (but it’s what the current data says, as I understand it.) It may be that it implies the wrong stuff because IQ isn’t quite the same thing as intelligence. But it’s very hard to say that this chunk of knowledge/belief is white supremacist.

        [1] Who aren’t really a racial group, but Asians aren’t really a cohesive group, either–all these racial categories are incredibly broad, and work as well as they do only because the US has a relatively restricted subset of people from each group.

        • Plumber says:

          “…Just as an aside, the data from IQ distributions….”

          @albatross11,

          I remember reading that IQ tests were done of First World War inductee’s and it was found that northern blacks had higher average IQ’s than southern whites, and while it could be argued “Well yeah, their ancestors were smart enough to get out of the south”, but I also remember that early 20th century Jewish immigrants had lower than average IQ’s, but by the 1940’s American Jews had higher than average IQ’s.
          I’m dubiois of there being a dramatic genetic change in just one or two generations.

          • I’m dubiois of there being a dramatic genetic change in just one or two generations.

            So is everyone else. But nobody serious claims that IQ is entirely genetic.

            I tried to Google for the northern blacks/southern whites story and found a modern article on the subject (in JSTOR).

            Table 1 shows, among other things, median black scores and median white scores by state. The highest median black score is in Ohio (48.3–not an IQ but a score on this particular test). That’s higher than the median white score in some but not all southern states. The median black score in New Jersey (lowest of the northern states) is lower than the median white score in any southern state.

            The article doesn’t give a median for all blacks in the north or all whites in the south to compare, so I compared the median of medians for whites in the south (Louisiana: 45.2) to the median of medians for blacks in the north (Indiana: 41.5) it doesn’t support the claim as you reported it. My guess is that the real claim is that there were some northern states where the median score of blacks was higher than the median score of whites in some southern states.

            Reading farther, that is the claim. The original source is an article by Montagu. What it found was that “median black Alpha scores in the five highest northern states were higher than median white scores in nine southern states.” That’s a good deal weaker than your “northern blacks had higher average IQ’s than southern whites.” It obviously implies that race is not the only determinant of IQ, but I don’t think anyone claimed it was.

            The point of the article I found, incidentally (“Race, Region, and Education: An Analysis of Black and White Scores on the 1917 Army Alpha Intelligence Test” by John L. Rury), is to try to tease out what the environmental factors were that affected black test results, white test results, and the black/white difference.

            One complication seems to be that there were two tests, an alpha test intended for literate subjects, a beta test intended for illiterate subjects, and the article I am looking at is only using the alpha test. That might bias the results, most obviously if literate individuals are on average smarter than illiterate, which seems plausible, and a larger fraction of blacks than of whites were illiterate. I haven’t yet found anything looking at that.

            On the subject of Ashkenazi intelligence, I found this:

            The Hughes study is important because it contradicts a widely cited misrepresentation by Kamin (Kamin, 1974) of a paper by Henry Goddard (Goddard, 1917). Goddard gave IQ tests to people suspected of being retarded, and he found that the tests identified retarded Jews as well as retarded people of other groups . Kamin reported, instead, that Jews had low IQs, and this erroneous report was picked up by many authors including Stephen Jay Gould, who used it as evidence of the unreliability of the tests (Seligman, 1992 ).

            I suspect that’s the source of the factoid you remembered.

          • albatross11 says:

            I don’t know the details off the top of my head, but I believe there was a big effort by the Rockefeller foundation, sometime relatively early in the century, to do away with hookworm infections. Those were endemic in the south basically forever until they were more-or-less wiped out. It strikes me as very likely that people who grew up with long-term parasitic infections paid a price in terms of IQ, as well as stuff like height and general health.

            We know IQ is substantially genetic, from adoption studies. We also know it’s substantially environmental, from the Flynn effect, wherein the raw IQ scores went up a little every year in most developed countries. That effect has apparently stopped in most first world countries by now. Probably, the Flynn effect is explained by the same thing as the continued increases in average height over time–we got healthier as we mostly got rid of malnutrition and parasites, did a better job with sanitation, got everyone their shots, and made sure everyone got some schooling.

          • Plumber says:

            “…….I suspect that’s the source of the factoid you remembered”

            @DavidFriedman,

            Good lord that’s impressive research!

            I will change my future “did you know”s’ accordingly.

            Thanks,

      • The Nybbler says:

        Allowing your stomach to be a limit on acceptable discourse seems like a very poor solution. There’s probably quite a few things that would turn stomachs on the opposite side — anything related to homosexuality goes right to the front of the line, for instance.

        • Brad says:

          Allowing your stomach to be a limit on acceptable discourse seems like a very poor solution.

          Poor solution to what problem?

          • Nick says:

            I think he’s saying poor solution to the question of what discourse should or shouldn’t be acceptable. “Solution” was probably the wrong word to use, though; he should have maybe said “criterion.”

        • brmic says:

          Less of this please.
          If you seriously can’t tell the difference between what MrApophenia described and ‘stomach’ (equals ‘gut feeling’ to me, but I wouldn’t want to put that into your mouth, hence the quote) try to paraphrase as best you can, ask for clarification etc.
          Regardless of whether your paraphrase is charitable or not (I think it clearly isn’t) you waste everyone’s time by opening an unnecessary side debate about ‘stomach’. If you want to know whether negative sentiments about homosexuality would fall under MrApophenia’s concept ask? If you want to know whether they’d be similarly respected, ask. (The uncharitable part in me say you know it wouldn’t, because there’s a substantial difference and that you had to move the goalposts to ‘stomach’ to even get the argument in. The part after that say’s you’re straight up sea-lioning, but I’m trying hard to be as chariable as possible.)

          • Nick says:

            If you seriously can’t tell the difference between what MrApophenia described and ‘stomach’ (equals ‘gut feeling’ to me, but I wouldn’t want to put that into your mouth, hence the quote)

            What? The Nybbler’s use of “stomach” here likely refers to disgust reactions. Where are you getting “gut feeling” from?

          • The Nybbler says:

            If you seriously can’t tell the difference between what MrApophenia described and ‘stomach’

            How else am I to interpret “queasy-making”?

          • MrApophenia says:

            Actually, yeah, I think disgust/stomach/whatever is a fairly reasonable characterization.

            And I think it’s the actual answer to the problem Scott is trying to solve. Socializing with a bunch of “race realists” is just an intensely unappealing idea for me, and probably for other folks who feel similar to me. Since Scott apparently wants to know how to keep liberals from abandoning the site, the answer probably does come down to picking which of those two communities he prefers to have stick around.

            There are some contexts where society requires you to tolerate the views of people you find detestable – but recreational posting online just ain’t one of them. So any site that is welcoming to Group A, who Group B finds detestable, will fairly rapidly drive away Group B.

          • brmic says:

            How else am I to interpret “queasy-making”?

            You don’t. You ask. Moot now since MrApophenia agrees with you, but the basic point that parapharases-not-for-clarification are an obstacle best avoided shouldn’t be controversial. (Do you disagree?)

            @MrApophenia
            Thing is, you can get to the same point from a purely utilitarian POV in that it’s a waste of precious spare time.

          • Eponymous says:

            @MrApophenia

            And I think it’s the actual answer to the problem Scott is trying to solve. Socializing with a bunch of “race realists” is just an intensely unappealing idea for me, and probably for other folks who feel similar to me. Since Scott apparently wants to know how to keep liberals from abandoning the site, the answer probably does come down to picking which of those two communities he prefers to have stick around.

            I assume that Scott wants to set a rule for participation in the community that doesn’t reference object-level positions. He probably wants things like thoughtful genuine engagement with opposing views, people backing up their claims with facts, politeness, charitable interpretations of others’ statements, etc.

            So I guess the question is whether there is such a rule that you think would work to make the site attractive to you. Or do you disagree that we should limit ourselves to such rules?

            My model of Scott may also be wrong — maybe I’m just expressing my own preference. To be perfectly frank, the idea of not wanting to participate in a community because smart people thoughtfully advocate position X that I dislike is so alien to me that I can’t really empathize with it. Then again, I know that I’m not cognitively normal, and I’m interested to hear you out on this.

            (Incidentally, I suspect that your comment is substantially correct — that tolerance of “race realists” and some folks with related views strongly repels many potential commenters. I just don’t know what a solution might be that is consistent with what’s good about this place.)

          • Nick says:

            You don’t. You ask. Moot now since MrApophenia agrees with you, but the basic point that parapharases-not-for-clarification are an obstacle best avoided shouldn’t be controversial. (Do you disagree?)

            The Nybbler’s paraphrase was very clarifying. The idea was indeed there in MrApophenia’s post, and he brought it to the fore. And it advanced the discussion, since MrApophenia followed up substantively.

            I don’t think your standard here makes any sense. We have in the original post the words “uncomfortable” and “queasy-making” and calling the racism discussion “[t]his shit.” I not only took this as an expression of disgust, I don’t see how anyone else would arrive at any other interpretations. If this is the sort of thing that requires clarification, then we can never have any conversations because none of us will know what the other means—we couldn’t even intelligently ask any clarifying questions. Your original post, spinning an unusual interpretation of “stomach” as “gut feeling” into claims of uncharitableness, sealioning, and perhaps even bad faith is an interesting example of interpretation going wrong, but given it has no resemblance to the case at hand, I think you should just apologize to The Nybbler for overreacting.

          • MrApophenia says:

            @Eponymous

            To be perfectly frank, the idea of not wanting to participate in a community because smart people thoughtfully advocate position X that I dislike is so alien to me that I can’t really empathize with it. Then again, I know that I’m not cognitively normal, and I’m interested to hear you out on this.

            I think most people (and certainly myself) have some topics they can calmly and rationally engage with even when they disagree, and some that are basically beyond their moral pale and and they are either unwilling to engage with entirely or, more relevant here, certainly don’t find enjoyable to engage with.

            I love arguing on the internet. I have spent probably more-than-healthy amounts of time arguing about topics, from those I just have kind of an abstract interest in to those I feel very strongly about.

            And then there are topics where the automatic reaction is, “Oh, if you actually think that, I’m done associating with you anymore than I am actually required to by circumstances outside my control.”

            Someone compared it to NAMBLA upthread, and I think that nails it pretty well. Imagine lots of people here were not only pro-NAMBLA advocates, but that they brought the topic up any time they could, and were polite and well spoken about it. Constantly.

            The objection in response was that it is unfair to view this topic that way – but that’s pretty much how this topic comes across to me, and I suspect to others who are rethinking their participation. So the question becomes, who do you want to stick around more? The NAMBLA guys, or the folks who don’t want to associate with them?

            If the answer is “We’re open to all topics and those NAMBLA people are following all the rules” then groovy, choice made. But the people who don’t want to spend their time socializing with a bunch of NAMBLA advocates are probably going to leave. I really don’t think it’s possible to create a just-for-fun social environment where you keep both participating.

          • BBA says:

            To speak hypothetically for a minute: Nobody would expect me to tolerate someone waving a tiki torch in my face shouting “JEWS WILL NOT REPLACE US!” Yet I’m told I should tolerate someone who constantly brings up cherry-picked facts about fertility and migration among ethnic groups and smugly insinuates that my Jewish heritage might have something to do with why I’m in favor of greater immigration, because they’re not being shouty or hostile. Well, from where I sit those two hypothetical people are equally offensive and their tone doesn’t factor into it one bit. I have no interest in interacting with either of them or in participating in any space where I’m expected to.

            (Let me reiterate that this is a hypothetical example and I’m not accusing anyone here, now or in the past, of holding such views.)

          • The Nybbler says:

            @BBA

            And I’m supposed to put up with people telling me that because I’m a white male it’s OK to discriminate against me in various ways. Yeah, sometimes people with wrong views are kinda disgusting. But there’s a big difference between e.g. writing a bunch of words about “privilege” and literally yelling “male, pale, and stale” in my face. Same goes for the tiki-torch-in-your-face versus the Jewishness-predicts-immigration-support character. Tone and manner actually DOES often matter.

          • Matt M says:

            And the college shouters outnumber the tiki torch crowd about 100:1

          • arlie says:

            A big YES! to several people above me in this thread (Not the person I’m responding to, but responses to them.)

            e.g. MrApophenia:

            And then there are topics where the automatic reaction is, “Oh, if you actually think that, I’m done associating with you anymore than I am actually required to by circumstances outside my control.”

            So the question becomes, who do you want to stick around more? The NAMBLA guys, or the folks who don’t want to associate with them?

            Yep. This applies to me too. And I hadn’t realized that till I read this thread.

            And for those who don’t get it, this has nothing to do with not wanting to be
            seen as associating with my particular bugaboos.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I guess I’m too late to the party, blame my increasingly-good impulse control, but the argument from disgust you’re making is missing an important piece:

        This place had a lot of commonplace disgusting opinions way before the Death Eaters and other far-right posters showed up, and nobody really cared.

        Disgust can be subjective, obviously, but does anyone remember that time Scott condoned adultery because marriage vows are just “boilerplate” that nobody takes seriously? Advocacy for polyamory was uniquitous, smug, and full of snark for anyone unsophisticated enough not to feel “compersion” when your wife is getting plowed by other men. This is something that disgusts the common man so much that our society literally carved out an exception in murder laws specifically to prevent juries from feeling the need to acquit men who murdered their wives and their wives’ lovers over it.

        There are plenty of topics where Scott and a subset of commenters agree on something that another subset of commenters and the general public find absolutely repugnant and beyond the pale. And there have been right from the start. Yet the blog has grown year after year and, according to the latest survey, none of the disgusted groups have been driven off by repeated discussion of these topics.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I’m not sure the last time the topic of polyamory was even brought up, let alone in that way. You’ll note your link is from almost 3 years ago. This strikes me as a measure of how the blog population has changed. The poly friendly, sex positive, folk have mostly been driven off.

        • Jaskologist says:

          I’ll post some further speculation: the perceived rightward shift has come about in large part because the DeathEaters and their ilk were banned.

          If see some guy arguing about gun control, I know immediately if he’s on my side or the other side, and can extend that out to a number of other issues with high confidence. I probably also know what arguments he will make and how I can respond to them, because I’ve seen the discussion many times elsewhere.

          If I see some guy arguing that we need a hereditary monarch, I have no idea if he’s on my side or the other side. If I want to respond, I’m going to have to think about it a little, because I don’t have anything pre-canned and ready to serve up on that topic.

          Once we got rid of the weirdos, we effectively reduced discussion topics to the ones common in Culture War Discourse, and we would inevitably be pulled to the Left and Right attractors that cover all of these well-trod topics.

          Plus, you have to do some background reading and have an interest in weird ideas to have something to say on the divine right of kings. You just need to be vaguely politically aware to do so on Gun Control. So we changed the filter away from “people interested in discussing unusual ideas” at the same time that we lowered the barrier of entry.

          tldr; bring back the death eaters. Proclaim a jubilee for all those who have been banned.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I am skeptical of this: I don’t recall prominent death-eaters here arguing about the Divine Right of Kings much; I think we still argued the exact same things as now just with one side being even edgier and more willing to say things in as blunt and uncompromising a way possible.

            Perhaps we have a different definition of who the death-eaters were: I’m thinking Jim Donald (can’t remember his name now, something like that…) and Steve Johnson primarily, but maybe you mean someone else.

          • Randy M says:

            I’d like to see a return of thoughtful, mostly civil death eaters like nydwracau (sp, obviously) or Handle. But they weren’t banned, afaik, despite the heralding of the reign of terror.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Did handle ever actually post here? I remember reading some posts on his site, but don’t recall more than a few off-hand posts on SSC.

          • Nornagest says:

            nydwracu still posts here occasionally, under another handle. I’d like to see him post more, though; he’s one of the smartest and most thoughtful guys on that side.

            I get the impression the old-school Death Eaters no longer really exist as such, though.

          • Randy M says:

            @ Eugene
            Yes

      • Humbert McHumbert says:

        Although this sort of negative reaction is understandable to me, as I mentioned above in a different context, I ultimately don’t agree with your reaction. At least, I’m concerned that the reaction rests on a misconception about the state of public culture today and which views are mainstream enough that we must engage with them even if on the merits they’re distasteful.

        Suppose you were a progressive living in South Africa in the 70s and 80s. Then it would be incumbent on you to engage and argue with hardcore racists, not (hopefully) because their views didn’t rightly make you queasy, but because they were so widespread in the public life of that country that avoiding them was tantamount to putting your head in the sand.

        It seems to me that “race realism” has become like that in the US. Hell, even arch-Never-Trumper Bill Kristol is buddies with Charles Murray (you can see his flattering interviews with Murray on Youtube, including Kristol saying that Murray was right about everything in the Bell Curve). Race realism is a large segment of mainstream conservative thought in the US today, and if you don’t engage with it, you’re missing out on where a big part of the public debate needs to be. Not on the merits (I don’t have a good sense of the merits, because I think it’s too hard for a non-specialist to grasp the state of the evidence in such a politicized field), but purely on the basis of the prevalence of the views and their attendant ideology. You’re sticking your head in the sand if you ignore it.

        • It seems to me that “race realism” has become like that in the US. Hell, even arch-Never-Trumper Bill Kristol is buddies with Charles Murray

          Suppose I casually remarked that I didn’t realize X was a Stalinist until I discovered that he was buddies with Bernie Sanders. What conclusion would you reach about how much I knew about those who disagreed with me?

          That’s the reaction I have to what you wrote. As anyone who read Murray’s books or talked seriously with people who did would know, the ideas he writes about have nothing in particular to do with race. The Bell Curve could have said all the important things it did say in an America where there were no blacks—that just isn’t what it was about. Losing Ground, his first book, as best I recall never mentioned race– it would have been irrelevant to its subject.

        • Humbert McHumbert says:

          Fair point; I mainly brought up Murray here because I suspect Mr Apophenia would consider him beyond the pale, although I don’t myself. My point was pitched at its audience, progressives uncomfortable with discussion of genetic racial differences.

      • toastengineer says:

        I’ve been waffling on writing up an effortpost (maybe on the new LW? Is that still going?) about the Pro-Edgy Bias, and the… uh, this place, I guess, community’s edginess problem in general. It’s fun to think you have secret or even forbidden knowledge. But dangit, just because something is true and you have proof doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to sound so damn excited about it.

        To be honest, I think there’s been a noticeable decline in quality around here even in the short time I’ve been around. I’m less concerned about the left v. right stackup, especially considering I’m not sure the left and the right really exist anymore, than the general quality of the conversations; people don’t seem to be carefully reading each-other’s posts or really responding to each-other. It’s pretty clear that no-one here has Read the Damn Sequences in quite a while.

        It’s turning in to facebook arguments except with longer words. Even the empty signalling of “I’m a rationalist who respects his debate opponents” (that is, talking the talk of someone who is trying to have a real debate but not walking the walk of actually doing impromptu adversarially collaborative truth-seeking) is fading away. We’re all turning in to Sidles.

        I think Scott needs, or agents appointed by Scott need, to crack the fuck down on everyone, not to even more thoroughly refuse to punish shitting up the commons.

  6. Squirrel of Doom says:

    Honest question: What is patriarchy?

    I mean, what kind of thing is it, in the mind of people who talk about it?

    For example, I doubt anyone thinks it’s an organization, with a Head Patriarch at the top making decisions.

    When people say they want to destroy capitalism, I have a decent understanding of what they mean: Abolishing private property and a free market economy. Which amounts to a different legal system.

    I don’t think that’s what most of “Patriarchy” is though. It seems, from usage, to be something more metaphysical, similar to “evil” or “the devil”. Things that I don’t think can ever be defeated or “smashed”.

    I understand that different people can mean very different things with the word. I’m not terribly interested in what people who hate it think others mean. But what do those who actually use the word mean by it?

    • benwave says:

      When I use the word patriarchy, it’s generally as a short hand for something like ‘the ensemble of power relations that, after controlling for various other factors, deliver power to men at the expense of women in aggregate’ – which is a bit of a mouthful. It’s also not, as you rightly identify, a very concrete and touchable thing.

      A couple of specific examples of individual power relations that may be included in the above: Cultural norms allowing female workers to be saddled with more work than male workers without complaint. Existing disparities in current wealth between men and women. Bias in hiring women to board and executive positions.

      • albertborrow says:

        I feel like it is really easy to turn this into a motte and bailey, even unintentionally. When I hear the full explanation of the term, it seems perfectly reasonable, but when people blame their problems on patriarchy the actual resentment is funneled towards men rather than some kind of vague cultural stew.

        • benwave says:

          It probably is. For better or for worse, it seems to be a feature of human beings that it is more effective to get them to identify with a tribe and fight against other tribes than it is to get them to cooperate with people of other viewpoints and identify and solve systemic problems.

          • toastengineer says:

            Every time I look at feminist ideas, I get the impression of something a lot of very smart, good people built carefully for a good cause, paying careful attention to the reality around them, a very very long time ago, and then a million self-centered idiots took over and shat all over it with hatred and bigotry and advertising and self-serving lies. When I listen to the broad strokes it always sounds like “oh, that’s an interesting perspective, I want to understand this,” and then I focus in on the details and it turns out the entire edifice is made of crap.

            I know a woman who was raised in the USSR, who emigrated to escape an abusive husband, who seems to have grown up in what I presume the word “patriarchy” originally meant. She is pretty much completely dependent on her husband; he husband asked her “what’d you do with the phone bill I gave you” and she said “I threw it out, why did you expect me to know what to do with that?” She doesn’t understand and doesn’t seem to understand anything or have any interest in understanding anything outside of cooking and cleaning and sewing.

            So if something like that existed in the U.S. at some point, and a bunch of people got together to organize to get rid of it, well, I’m damn glad they did.

    • bullseye says:

      I’m not an expert on this, but I’m a liberal and I have a lot of leftist friends.

      The gist of it is that patriarchy is part of how we treat each other. So “smash the patriarchy” amounts to “let’s fix some problems with our culture”.

      Patriarchy includes explicit sexism (e.g., the idea that women shouldn’t be in charge). It also includes more subtle things. Men tend to interrupt and talk over women, with the result that the men talk more, even as they perceive the women as talking more. Men tend to take women less seriously than they would take another man in the same position.

      Patriarchy is also the idea that we have to fit our gender roles. I mostly see this presented as something that’s harmful to men (“patriarchy harms men too”), because we’re required to bottle up our emotions in an unhealthy way in order to show toughness.

      • The gist of it is that patriarchy is part of how we treat each other. So “smash the patriarchy” amounts to “let’s fix some problems with our culture”.

        You’ve got to admit that things would go so much better for them if they actually said that. Smash the patriarchy probably started as a pretty good rallying cry and they ideologically had a definition of patriarchy that made sense, but eventually a word becomes too tarnished with the implications it has built up and needs to be retired.

      • ec429 says:

        Men tend to interrupt and talk over women

        In my experience, men (or at least, me) tend to interrupt and talk over other men as well. Anecdatally I’ve not noticed any tendency for men to be more interrupt-y towards women, and if anything there are a few rules in (at least English) culture pushing the other way, quite possibly as a cultural adaptation to the comparative unwillingness of women to interrupt.

        In short, the gender differences are mainly in the interrupter, not the interruptee.

        I’d be interested to see studies examining this, if they exist.

        • Ketil says:

          Gender caricature: men gain status from dominance, women gain status from networking. Boys who are bullies will beat you up, girls who are bullies will sabotage your reputation. Men interrupt in part to show off or to gain social status.

          Yeah, it’s obviously not as simple as that.

          • Matt M says:

            Men interrupt in part to show off or to gain social status.

            Agree. I find it entirely plausible that men interrupt women more often than other men. Not in the “they are intentionally being sexist” sense but in the sense of “Men interrupt people lower status than them, and more often than not in professional environments, the higher status people happen to be men” sense. Whether the fact that higher status people are usually men is attributable to sexism is open to debate, of course, but I don’t think the interrupting part is. I would imagine that men interrupt female CEOs no more frequently than they interrupt male CEOs.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ Matt M

            That position doesn’t square with the anecdotes that I have heard, the ones I hear are typically from women who ought to be status equals or superiors by rank in their company getting interrupted by guys. Specifically I have heard complaints that (some) men do it more often and are more dismissive as they get promoted especially if they are promoted above the men.

          • John Schilling says:

            the [anecdotes] I hear are typically from women who ought to be status equals or superiors by rank in their company getting interrupted by guys.

            “Ought to be status equals or superiors” according to whom? Just themselves?

            If you’re saying that they objectively are equals and superiors by rank and tell anecdotes about how they don’t have the status that corresponds to that rank, then, first, “equals and superiors” suggests mostly not actual superiors and we’re talking abut relative status within the same nominal rank. Second, there’s an implied assertion that status is supposed to exactly track rank, which is rarely the case. And third, yes, getting away with interrupting people is a status move or at least a status metric, and that’s not likely to change. And letting yourself be interrupted, costs status.

            If the choice is between teaching the interrupters to not do the thing that actually is giving them status, and teaching the interruptees to not do the thing that is costing them status, then one of these things is a lot more likely to work than the other, and that’s going to remain true no matter how stridently you point out the unfair gender balance of the two populations.

          • baconbits9 says:

            “Ought to be status equals or superiors” according to whom? Just themselves?

            According to their title with the company and or seniority/experience.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If you’re saying that they objectively are equals and superiors by rank and tell anecdotes about how they don’t have the status that corresponds to that rank, then, first, “equals and superiors” suggests mostly not actual superiors and we’re talking abut relative status within the same nominal rank. Second, there’s an implied assertion that status is supposed to exactly track rank, which is rarely the case. And third, yes, getting away with interrupting people is a status move or at least a status metric, and that’s not likely to change. And letting yourself be interrupted, costs status.

            This is an unfair characterization as you are functionally assuming that interrupting means higher status. This might be the case for some situations (I would guess the military) but is clearly not the case for others (my kids interrupt me more than I interrupt them) and is at least not the case for my wife (the complaints of whom I am the most familiar) who does not complain that the highest stats men interrupt her (the CTO and CEO specifically.

            Further the complaint isn’t that men interrupt her its that men interrupt her and the other women more than they interrupt other men*. Preventing a lower status person from interrupting you would prevent a low status man from interrupting a higher status man, but not the reverse. If men are interrupting here but not interrupting other men then the only conclusion is that those interrupting her are higher status than she is but lower status than the other men, and that women are therefore at the bottom of the status heap in terms of interruptions. This would be odd because the women I know don’t claim to be on the bottom of every status heap in the office, but this one in particular.

            *Taking for the sake of argument that their observations are generally true and not biased which is clearly an option.

          • John Schilling says:

            This is an unfair characterization as you are functionally assuming that interrupting means higher status.

            I am assuming that interrupting means higher status in roughly the same way that giving orders and having them obeyed means higher status. Because it does, and not just in military hierarchies. And that’s what interrupting is; a special case of giving an order and having it obeyed. “I order you to cease talking about what you want to talk about, and listen to me talk about what I want to talk about”.

            If you do that and get away with it, then you have more status than you otherwise would have. Even if you are a child talking to a parent. If you let someone interrupt you, then you have less status than you otherwise would have. Even if you are a parent talking to a child. Each successful interruption, transfers a quantum of status from the interruptee to the interrupter.

            Men are more likely than women to take advantage of this if they think they can get away with it. Women are more likely than men to let people get away with it. You can deal with this, or deny it. Your choice.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:

            I agree that is how it works with men, at least to some extent.

            But, when I observed all female study groups when my wife was in nursing school, I was struck by how utterly different that conversation flow was to any other communication process I had ever witnessed. It was completely collaborative. I really do think that, generally speaking, we see different preferred communication styles from men and women, whatever the reason.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            @Heelbearcub

            If we are going with anecdotes, I find that female-dominated groups, at least study groups which is where I have the most exp are not really collaborative so much as anti-argumentative. The classic trope of a bunch of women not decided whether to get pizza or chinese is basically backed up by this, and while they won’t really argue about it, it will just be a bunch of, “I don’t cares” until someone gets tired of the passive game and just orders 5 pizzas.

            When it came to study groups this meant that, in the female dominated ones, I was often the only one who objected when someone offered an idea that was incorrect (or disputable) whereas the male dominated groups are more argumentative, but also less likely to allow falsity to go unchallenged.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ John Schilling

            assuming that interrupting means higher status.

            I am assuming that interrupting means higher status in roughly the same way that giving orders and having them obeyed means higher status. Because it does, and not just in military hierarchies. And that’s what interrupting is; a special case of giving an order and having it obeyed. “I order you to cease talking about what you want to talk about, and listen to me talk about what I want to talk about”.

            This only holds if the purpose of talking is getting heard now, and as soon as possible. Then you can argue that interrupting is a sign of status, but if goals are beyond this then they can be achieved in multiple ways which include interruptions and concessions, they might be achieved by striking out on your own or by forming coalitions.

            There are few places where there are single metrics of status, and there are multiple ways with dealing with status breaches.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @idontknow131647093:

            I’m taking it that you are male as it seems from your comment? Your participation specifically invalidates the “all female” part of what I said. Yes, it’s anecdote, but I really meant “all female” and not even “19 females and one male”.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            But how can you observe such an environment? Did they put you behind glass?

          • Nick says:

            Did they put you behind glass?

            Don’t be ridiculous. It was a one-way mirror.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @idontknow131647093:

            My wife, in nursing school, held study groups at our house.

            I was in no way a participant, but observed their interactions casually.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            By that measure I would evaluate my girlfreind’s interactions with her friends when they come over and I do something else. The pattern is more or less the same with the only consensus ever being that once they do choose pizza or whatever, that I should be the one who goes to get it.

          • John Schilling says:

            This only holds if the purpose of talking is getting heard now, and as soon as possible.

            Giving an order and having it obeyed, wins status points no matter what the purpose of the order is. Even, perhaps especially, if there is no purpose beyond claiming status.

            In the latter case, it is likely to be a negative-sum game because even if status is conserved, other harm is being done. In the case of irrelevant interruptions, communication is being degraded. So if you can have a norm of not interrupting without good cause, that’s worth having. But it’s going to take some sort of enforcement mechanism to do that, because “please don’t take all the status points we’ve left unguarded on the table” isn’t going to cut it.

            Not even if you phrase it as striking a blow against the evils of the Patriarchy.

          • It was completely collaborative.

            At a considerable tangent to something I was thinking about recently.

            Collaborative games seem to be a reasonably new development. Were there any fifty years ago? If not, was it just someone coming up with a neat idea or has something changed that makes them work now when they wouldn’t have worked in the past?

            And, to get closer to the thread topic, might part of the change being more women playing games? Are collaborative games more popular with women than with men?

          • Gazeboist says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            I assume you mean boardgames and tabletop roleplaying. As someone who started with D&D 3.5 a year or two before Eberron, I do find it jarring how explicitly oppositional the relationship between the GM and the players is often framed by TSR-era books and (some of) the gamers who grew up with them.

            I think the generally accepted modern progenitor of all of these games was Tactics, created in the early 1950s. Tactics is explicitly a war game, as were most of the early boardgames, and their more distant ancestors included “games” that were developed to train military officers (and provide organization for young boys playing with toy soldiers…). D&D was an outgrowth of a miniatures wargame from the same family tree as the modern Warhammer; many of its near-contemporaries had similar origins. My guess is it just took a while for the design space to grow past its wargame origins. It might alternately be rooted in the internet unifying and expanding the audience, similar to the diversification that’s been seen in serial video media since the days of MASH, Dallas, and a dozen family sitcoms.

            In any case, I think the increasing proportion of women in the audience hasn’t caused more collaborative gaming styles to get popular (among designers or players); at best they’re two effects with a shared cause.

            (Note: unfortunately, the text I own on the subject is in storage and I can’t refer to it.)

          • engleberg says:

            Re: Collaborative games seem to be a reasonably new developement-

            Fifty years ago, we had drawing room theatricals and religious plays. Sacred games.

          • @Gazeboist:

            I wasn’t talking about D&D and similar games but about board games in which the players are working together against a fictional opponent whose moves are generated by game mechanics–card draws and the like. Sentinels of the Multiverse would be an example.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Sorry, my comment wasn’t very clear. I think the shift away from adversarial GMing in RPGs is fundamentally the same trend (or, perhaps, a very similar phenomena happening in a closely related ecosystem) as the rise of collaborative boardgames; both to me seem to be rooted in designers being more willing to stake out their own space, rather than sticking to the turn-based warfare simulator. This is a bit of an oversimplification, since obviously there are other ways to vary from that baseline besides going to a fully collaborative model, but I think the more collaborative games are mostly just examples of how broad the design space has become, not a trend in themselves.

          • Nick says:

            It was my impression that in boardgames the more collaborative style was a European thing. Same with games being designed so players aren’t eliminated during play. (Settlers of Catan comes to mind in both cases, though by collaborative I’m just referring to the trading mechanics.)

        • INH5 says:

          Anecdotally, I’m a man on the Autism Spectrum with social anxiety issues, and I get interrupted and talked over by other men all the time, especially in group conversations.

          • Baeraad says:

            Same here.

            Which does put me in the odd position of generally agreeing with feminists that loud-mouthed men should sit down and shut up more, and being constantly frustrated at them lumping me in with said loud-mouthed men.

          • albatross11 says:

            Despite the fact that I find a lot of feminist writing I see online pretty unhelpful, I’ve found the public discussion about men talking over women very useful. The reality isn’t always men talking over women, but the set of people who get talked over skews heavily female.

            That has definitely affected how I behave in meetings, and how I interact with (especially younger) female coworkers. And it’s fairly common for me to be basically steering a meeting, and I’ll make an effort to see to it that the people who often get talked over manage to get heard.

        • fion says:

          Interruption is a two-way street. It’s much easier to interrupt somebody successfully if they’re not much of an interrupter themselves. An interrupter who gets interrupted will sometimes continue talking, perhaps even louder or faster. A non-interrupter who gets interrupted will fall quiet.

          Tangent: I am a man who never interrupts anybody and I think it’s one of the rudest things a person can do. I’d be interested to know: do you interrupt because you disagree that it’s rude? Or do you think it’s rude but you think there are benefits that outweigh the costs? Do you see it as a bad habit that you have but can’t help? Do you think the world (or at least, your conversations) would be better if other people interrupted more? Do you do it to gain comparative advantage? Sorry for all the questions, but this is the first time I’ve ever encountered somebody who admits to being an interrupter and I’d like to understand better.

          • Matt M says:

            I interrupt sometimes. Honestly, it’s not really intentional and usually I don’t think about the context or what or why I’m doing it. It’s usually a simple and quick instinct of “I just had this thought I think is important and needs to be addressed right now.”

            The steelman of this behavior is something like “Someone just made a point that is incorrect, and the rest of what they have to say is likely based on that point, therefore it is important we settle the facts on this point right now before going on to the rest of the topic.”

            At the risk of “blaming the victim” I would add that if you find yourself being interrupted frequently, there are probably things you can do to change your style of communication to have it happen less. Get to your conclusions/suggestions quickly. Avoid discussing controversial items early in your statement. If it can’t be avoided, anticipate potential objections/disagreements and address them yourself, early. Avoid the “surprise you at the end” style of storytelling – because some people won’t be able to wait until the end.

          • Gazeboist says:

            I interrupt in two ways (that I’m aware of), and in both cases it’s a brief interruption made with the assumption/intention that the person will continue afterward essentially as they were, not that they will take my interruption as an argument or a claim that it’s “my turn” in the conversation, and certainly not as a status grab – it’s a stupid way to claim status to a third party, and I don’t really see the point of asserting status over the other person in a one-on-one conversation.

            First, I sometimes interrupt to express an opinion on a smaller part of a larger point, usually surprise. Again, I don’t argue against the point, at least not while the person’s in the middle of a larger argument; all I want to do is highlight it as something that catches my attention, and I clarify that if I need to.

            Second, I often finish the other person’s sentence/argument based on my understanding of what they’re saying. Depending on tone and suchlike, this can be a request for clarification/confirmation, an expression of agreement, or just a signal that I get this part of whatever they’re saying and they don’t need to explain it in any great detail. I don’t use interruption for disagreement, and I agree that it’s kind of rude to do so (though not maximally so – maximal rudeness is probably interrupting/bothering people you aren’t already talking to, absent context that invites participation).

            I also tend to speak with a lot of long pauses, especially when I’m trying to make an argument or state a position, since I try very hard to be precise and avoid getting my position confused with more extreme (or just similar-seeming) views. That tends to lead to me getting interrupted a lot; I’ve generally found that “let me finish” is sufficient to get people to back off if I need them to, and I frequently don’t.

          • disciplinaryarbitrage says:

            I guess I fall under this category.

            Is it rude? Often but not always. I have good friends/colleagues where our conversational flow includes a lot of interruption because we can see where the other person is going with something and steer it in another direction (“no, not that, I mean more like this”) or acknowledge shared understanding (“yeah, you got it, and so…”). But that’s not typical; with people with whom I don’t have such good rapport I acknowledge it’s rude, or a necessary evil at best.

            I don’t think I used to interrupt so much, and don’t think I do it in a boorish way, but it’s a bad habit that I think I’ve developed in response to social contexts (mostly at work) where if you’re not willing to interrupt you can’t get a word in edgewise. Honestly I think I just have the conversation equivalent of bad rhythm–it’s hard for me to find the right gap to jump in with, especially in larger groups with fast talkers.

          • fion says:

            Interesting to read; thanks.

            I admit I forgot about parenthetical interruptions, where the interrupter just wants to add something before expecting the interruptee to continue. I agree that these are definitely a lot less bad than “it’s my turn now” interruptions. I think the biggest downside of parenthetical interruption is that it often makes the other person lose their train of thought or become less confident in what they’re saying.

          • Matt M says:

            Of course, occasionally there are times when someone needs to be less confident in what they are saying.

            If someone is saying something that I know to be incorrect, is it wrong for me to stop and correct them? Does it become more or less wrong if the speaker happens to be female?

        • The Nybbler says:

          My experience at Google with the interrupting thing was that it is often used in bad faith. The “interrupting” style of conversation is very common among male software engineers (even if no women are present) — it’s an interrupt culture; thus, claiming that this style is hostile to women can just be used as a bludgeon against male software engineers. Also, the opposite of an interruption is a filibuster, and there are definitely people who will use a norm against interruption to go on and on (I personally wouldn’t be surprised if interrupt culture among software engineers developed as a reaction to that). So the proposed “remedies” — usually almong the lines “don’t interrupt women” — would simply make male software engineers second class citizens in a culture now foreign to them.

          But the biggest reason I think it was used in bad faith is because it was brought up in the context of men dominating mailing lists. Mailing lists, of course, do not allow interruption by nature (and filibusters can be handled by skimming or skipping). So… the conclusion is “not your true objection”.

          • J Mann says:

            I made a conscious effort to stop interrupting a few years ago, and observe:

            1) A lot of people filibuster, which is to say they don’t end their sentences or pause for at least several sentences in a row.

            2) Last week I was in a conversation with two people who were both filibustering and interrupting each other, and literally spent a ten minute conversation with two questions I wanted to ask and no opportunity to ask them. The conversation ended when one of the other people left the room, and I literally didn’t have the chance to interject one syllable.

            3) I often try to jump in when someone pauses at a place that logically could be considered the end of a sentence, at which point they then start a new sentence talking over me. At that point I stop talking, but I’ve been in conversations where the same person does this to me several times.

          • fion says:

            @J Mann

            I can relate to all three of those very strongly. :/

            It’s not quite so bad for me, because in most of my circles people tend to be interested in what I have to say and don’t talk over me very often, but I notice it happening to other people all the time and it drives me nuts.

          • Nick says:

            Last week I was in a conversation with two people who were both filibustering and interrupting each other, and literally spent a ten minute conversation with two questions I wanted to ask and no opportunity to ask them.

            In my experience, some folks are good at noticing when another person has something to add, and others aren’t. I try to keep an eye on it, as well as if I’m losing my audience (say, telling too long a story over lunch). I do wonder to what extent it’s a cultural clash versus lacking a skill vs just not caring if someone else has something to say. If you have someone from an interrupt culture, can they tell when someone else wants to interject? Will someone from an interrupt culture be inclined to filibuster if no one’s interrupting them, or is filibustering independent of culture?

        • AG says:

          I’d be interested to see studies examining this, if they exist.

          http://time.com/4837536/do-women-really-talk-more/
          Less about the article itself than the studies they link, but also makes the point that interruption occurs because the interruptee yields the floor. An incident may not count as an interruption if the the original speaker persists, and the interrupter desists.

          https://pure.mpg.de/rest/items/item_68785_7/component/file_506904/content
          https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/5544/d3807421fcae3888157a4381221a84bcd75d.pdf
          https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1525/si.1984.7.1.87
          http://gap.hks.harvard.edu/who-takes-floor-and-why-gender-power-and-volubility-organizations

          And the key answer to your question: https://newrepublic.com/article/117757/gender-language-differences-women-get-interrupted-more
          It seems that the gender differences are mainly in the interruptee.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          @David Friedman- Collaborative board games may have grown out of both D&D and a parallel tradition of board games where one player plays against several others who have to cooperate to win. The rules in these are asymmetric, but (unlike RPGs) they still constrain the single player’s actions so that the game is balanced, rather than relying on a GM to only make the players face challenges they can defeat.

          The earliest one of these I know about is Escape from Colditz, first published in 1973, in which one player controls the German guards and others control groups of Allied PoWs trying to escape- the game’s designer actually had escaped from Colditz! It was followed by Scotland Yard (1983) and Fury of Dracula (1987). Arkham Horror (also from 1987) is AFAIK the first game in which the “opponent” is part of the game so all the players are working together.

          The more recent trend of collaborative games probably started with Reiner Knizia’s Lord of the Rings (2000), Shadows over Camelot (2005) and Pandemic (2008).

          • littskad says:

            @AlphaGamma:

            Avalon Hill first published Outdoor Survival in 1972, and it had both cooperative scenarios (such as a group of players is trying to rescue someone who is injured and low on supplies before he dies) and group vs single player scenarios (an escaped prisoner is trying to make it across the wilderness while a group of pursuers is trying to recapture him).

        • Gazeboist says:

          One other thing I think I should add, that only occurred to me because of the sidebar on boardgames:

          I have a fairly strong habit that I refer to as “the instinct to respond”. This can trip me up in 3+ player games, because I sometimes lose track of or forget the turn order and start trying to take my turn as soon as somebody else’s ends. It’s only now occurred to me that it works pretty well to explain how some people come to dominate meetings. I’ve actually noticed myself sort of sliding into a central position in group discussions in the past, but I never really understood it because discussions of that sort of thing tend to focus on interrupting and talking over other people, which are things that I don’t do and view as rather rude (except the parenthetical interruptions mentioned in a different subthread).

          I think this “instinct to respond” is a pretty powerful explanation of the feeling that people are describing, especially if it’s combined with pro-interruption one on one conversation norms. It amounts to (subconsciously) treating a group interaction as a pair interaction – I wind up taking turns with “everyone else” as a single unit, instead of following a more egalitarian structure. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if that resulted in at least some people feeling talked over, even if I never literally did that.

          I don’t see an obvious way to stop myself from doing it, unfortunately. In games I can rely on other players catching me and just apologize when I screw up, but obviously that doesn’t work if we’re just having a conversation. Anyone have any ideas (more concrete than “check in with people who haven’t said a lot”, ideally)?

          • Matt M says:

            I think I have a bit of this – one way I noticed it manifest is in educational settings. You know those awkward classes where the professor asks a lot of questions to the group, and everyone just sits there silently. Generally speaking when that happens, I feel so bad for the professor that I raise my hand and offer an answer. Apparently at one point this got me known as “the guy who answers every question” and some even suggested I was trying to be a know-it-all or was “dominating the discussion” to which my reply was “I’d happily stop raising my hand if anyone else actually was willing to raise theirs

    • axiomsofdominion says:

      Patriarchy is an environment where men have an amount of power disproportionate to their share of the population. This power then allows them to engage in activities that create significant harm to women. Its generally stipulated that men gained this power through physical force beginning at some point in the BC era and have used their power to maintain their higher status all the way forward until the current time even if it has arguably eroded somewhat in the modern period.

      Depending on the individual there may be some sort of intersectionality involved, where skin color and gender issues and so forth are also involved even though that doesn’t fall under the strict dictionary definition of patriarchy. Like all umbrella political concepts, being pro-capitalism is a good example, there’s no single agreed upon definition or standard which can cause issues when discussing patriarchy.

      • Patriarchy is an environment where men have an amount of power disproportionate to their share of the population.

        Defining a metric for power is hard. It makes sense to say that men work more or fewer hours than women. It makes sense to say that single men have a higher (or lower) level of consumption than single women. It makes sense to say that women have a higher life expectancy than men.

        But how do you define power in some way that lets you, at least conceptually, quantify it, average it, compare?

        • flame7926 says:

          I think that at least some leftists are opposed to quantification and a need to quantify and measure things. You explicitly don’t and can’t quantify power.

          • fion says:

            As a strongly pro-quantification leftist, I want to say that I get the impression that almost everybody in the world seems to be opposed to quantification and it drives me mad. I don’t think it’s a particular problem of the left.

          • Squirrel of Doom says:

            Let’s start by finding out exactly how many people oppose quantification!

          • quanta413 says:

            What fion says is riiiiiiiiight.

            Even a shockingly large number of scientists verge on being opposed to quantification. Not a majority obviously, but more than I would have expected.

            Although it sometimes is hard to tell when someone is anti-quantification more broadly and when they’re trying to say you’re quantifying something the wrong way.

          • AG says:

            To offer a motte, in that power is inherently context-dependent, it can’t really be measured directly. Instead, the disparate impacts are measured and that serves as the evidence of power. What does it mean, power-wise, for a king to be weak vs. an opposition leader? You have to measure it through whose policies are being executed, and the wealth of their followers.

            Power itself has to be made into sub-categories to be measured in any way. Military power, political power, social power, etc. Just as generalized capital cannot be measured as a whole, but perhaps political capital, physical capital, investment capital, etc. can.

          • quanta413 says:

            That’s a pretty good motte. Well, except the disparate impact part. I wouldn’t make that part of the motte. Too many obvious cases where it’s not true that a difference has anything to do with power.

            Since one type of power cannot always easily turn into another type of power, we’d expect the impact of power to vary with the type of power.

          • AG says:

            @quanta413:

            The disparate impacts thing would be the means of attempting to measure overall power (does group A have more meaningful power across the various sectors of it than group B).

            You can measure the different subcategories, but to account for their interactions (the power to speak softly because of the big stick, for example) there comes a point at which measuring directly-correlating impacts does not suffice.

            That’s why I’m way more swayed by claims that group X is oppressed because they have average economic situation Y and health outcomes Z, no matter how much supposed cultural soft power they appear to have.

          • That’s why I’m way more swayed by claims that group X is oppressed because they have average economic situation Y and health outcomes Z, no matter how much supposed cultural soft power they appear to have.

            But that gets you into the question of whether the different outcomes might have a cause other than oppression.

            To take the most obvious example, women have a substantially higher life expectancy than men. If you were looking for a single clear outcome measure, that’s probably the best candidate, since unlike things such as income or consumption it doesn’t run into the problem of allocating within families.

            One could conclude that men are oppressed. Or you could conclude that there are biological reasons why women, under the same circumstances, live longer than men. Doing that is much more popular than concluding that male/female or black/white wage differences are due to reasons other than oppression, but the logic is the same.

          • albatross11 says:

            Another one along those lines is that I believe hispanics in the US have lower infant mortality than whites. It’s not really plausible that hispanics are oppressing whites in some way that makes us more likely to have our babies die. Probably some mix of genes and culture explains the difference, but if the numbers happened to be the other way (as with blacks, who have higher infant mortality than whites), then the oppression explanation would sound pretty plausible.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @albatross11:
            The non-Hispanic white infant mortality rate is 4.9, U.S Mexican is 4.8. U.S Hispanic rate is 5.0.

            The Black infant mortality rate is 10.9.

            All US infant mortality dropped between 2000 and 2014 from 6.9 to 5.8, but Black infant mortality dropped from 13.8(!) to 10.9

            Access to healthcare in the US is far more dependent on socioeconomic status than it is in other developed countries. The argument around healthcare from the left has concentrated on socioeconomic status overall, where ethnicity is simply one piece of that puzzle.

          • AG says:

            @David Friedman:

            Using a disparate impact means of determining if a group is oppressed does not necessary finger an oppresser, as it looks at correlations and not causations.

            The situation you state says to me that, yes, men are more oppressed than women to a certain extent, but not necessarily by women. The mechanism of oppression is likely the “men are cannon fodder” mindset.

          • quanta413 says:

            @AG

            I really doubt that’s what’s causing higher male mortality at least in the older age brackets. I’d have to check, but I think men have higher mortality even if you remove mortality due to the military, job accidents, etc.

            Ignoring periods of mass warfare, I think men have high mortality when young because their brains are more likely to decide to do stupid things.

            And when old, maybe some combination of poor decisions they made when young catching up with them and biological factors.

            This sort of thing is why I don’t like having disparate impact in the motte.

            Not saying men can’t be oppressed, but I don’t think oppression is the cause of many problems for most European-ish looking males in the U.S.

          • My own view is that “men and women are the same in characteristic X” shouldn’t be the default assumption, at least for anyone who believes in Darwinian evolution. We are as if designed for reproductive success and the central difference between males and females is their role in reproduction, so there is no reason to expect the optimal design to be the same for both.

            Hence the default assumption should be “men and women may well be different in characteristic X, although we probably don’t know what the difference will be.”

            So while the difference in life expectancy might be due to the sorts of things mentioned in the thread it might also be built into the biology, with men for some reason aging a little faster than women. And the same is true for outcome differences that appear to favor men.

          • AG says:

            Yeah, I guess it starts getting into the weeds of “is this actually oppression, or just an unfortunate state of events?”

            In which case, then it’s still back to “what do you quantify?” Life expectancy may not correlate to oppression or power, but certain other outcomes do.
            But also, gender is a particularly noisy category to try and quantify power for, because of the fairly even distribution of cis men and women. However, there certainly have been disparate impacts on other demographic categories.

          • toastengineer says:

            @David Friedman

            And I’d add, probably unnecessarily, that those differences are almost always swamped by the variations between individuals, and by filtering effects. I.e. it’s pretty obvious just by looking at a crowd that women are in general shorter than men, but I’ve met plenty of women who are taller than me, and the average height of woman basketball players is greater than the average height of men in general.

          • And I’d add, probably unnecessarily, that those differences are almost always swamped by the variations between individuals

            Yes. As I occasionally point out, men are supposed, on average, to be better than women at map reading and similar tasks. I used to have a WOW character who would warn other members of his party that he could get lost on a tabletop.

            My wife, when we got married, was a geologist making her living doing three dimensional mapping for Shell.

          • quanta413 says:

            Yeah, I guess it starts getting into the weeds of “is this actually oppression, or just an unfortunate state of events?”

            Yeah, that’s why I’m saying we can’t have disparate impact in the motte.

            The motte should stick to the causal paths. Like in the strongest cases, you just read the laws of the South before the civil war or during segregation, check that historically they were enforced, and be like “well, that’s definitely the usage of legal and political power to oppress others.” Even if that power doesn’t translate into the power to like… not be poorer than the North and thus there isn’t just one number for power, it’s pretty easy to to trace plenty of causal paths of oppression from that particular type of power.

            And it’s not some sort of weird isolated example. Legalized discrimination is more the norm than the exception. But that power is obviously contextual.

            Not saying it has to be legal mind you. Someone could also have more guns, more money, whatever. Then you just show that someone uses the guns or money to obtain something they want at someone else’s expense.

            Disparate impact helps you get some idea of where to look but its existence doesn’t imply oppression nor does the lack of disparate impact imply a lack of oppression.

          • albatross11 says:

            The overlapping bell curves idea really helps make sense of this.

          • John Schilling says:

            I.e. it’s pretty obvious just by looking at a crowd that women are in general shorter than men, but I’ve met plenty of women who are taller than me, and the average height of woman basketball players is greater than the average height of men in general.

            Right, but if someone were to note that undernourishment is a known cause of shortness and therefore men are probably hogging all the food, society should go about transferring food from boys to girls until adult men and women have the same average height, you can see how that might lead to a really bad outcome. You might want to push back on that.

            Saying “of course some women are quite tall right now”, while useful in some contexts, is worse than useless in this one – by affirming that women can be tall, it reinforces any misconception that women are generally supposed to be tall and that something must be artificially keeping them short. The right message, in that context, is “women are genetically predisposed to be shorter than men no matter how much food they eat”.

            You need to be able to say both, depending on what’s being discussed. That statistical differences are almost always swamped by individual variation, is irrelevant when people aren’t talking about individuals.

          • AG says:

            No, I disagree strongly. The whole reason disparate impact became a thing in real life was because the causal paths were not clear. As I said before, to confirm that a group is oppressed does not automatically finger the oppressors.
            For the textbook case of disparate impact, Moloch ensured that the local logical maximum for home loans created a disparate impact against a racial group, due to their correlation with crime and poor socioeconomic situation. You could not have mapped out an oppression causal path in this situation, because the individual steps were indeed done in a race-blind way. You can only find that the group is oppressed when you look at the consequences.

            This is also key to answering John Schilling’s concerns. If we decouple the identification of harms from using reversal-logic to choose an oppressor, then the solutions to address the oppression will be useless. “Penalize white moneylenders” is not going to fix the above issue.

            I guess my opposition to quanta413’s stance is that I perceive it to be starting from a cause and looking for the effect. “Do these laws cause oppression?” But my proposed motte is to look at the outcomes to determine if there is a group lacking power, and not assuming who has the power instead (a power zero-sum assumption). That group A has more power than group B does not mean that that’s because A is using said power against B. B’s lesser power might be due to factor D. D might be less effective against A, but that doesn’t mean D is a part of A’s power.

            I do, however, support some kind of standard where, if there is sufficient overlap, you can’t claim oppression because the portion “coming out ahead” is within the noise region. like we do now with other datasets and confidence intervals. Hence, again, why gender is a particularly bad category for it.

          • AG says:

            Oops, some clarifications:
            My last comment’s “No, I disagree strongly” refers to @quanta413’s assertion that disparate impact shouldn’t be part of the motte of “we can’t directly quantify power, we can only quantify its effects.”

            Sentence correction: “If we don’t decouple the identification of harms from using reversal-logic to choose an oppressor, then the solutions to address the oppression will be useless.”

          • quanta413 says:

            We have significant disagreements as to the variety of reasons why disparate impact became a thing, but I’d rather not get into those weeds.

            But I think differences in outcomes without differences in power are so ubiquitous that if we use disparate impact as the motte then our motte is going to generate endless false positives.

            Disparate impact is a useful heuristic for looking for power differences, but I don’t think it’s a good way of understanding or quantifying power or effects of power.

        • imoimo says:

          The definitions-by-example I’ve heard for ‘power’ in this context are almost all job related. People also bring up stuff like ‘most politicians are male’, but that seems indistinguishable from the job category to me. There’s also little social things like ‘men can do X in social settings, women can’t’, but as you say that’s hard to quantify. (And given that there’s just as many ‘women can do X in social settings, men can’t’ that are equally half-true, I don’t find these types of arguments very convincing.)

        • goedlmax says:

          Conceptually, this should be straightforward.

          Borrowing from standard social choice terminology, under any social welfare function, which maps from the set of all preference profiles (list of policy preferences of every member of the society) to a unique social preference, if my preferences correlate more with the social preferences than yours (where correlation is defined in an appropriate way), I am more powerful.

          In a dictatorship, the correlation is 1 if I’m the dictator.

          In a democracy, the correlation is high if I’m the median voter, low if I’m a member of the political fringe.

          Patriarchy is then a system in which men’s policy preferences are more highly correlated with the social preferences than women’s.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @goedlmax:
            I really like your definition, but, in practice, I think it just kicks the can down the road. How do you measure “social preferences” ?

            I could sort of see measuring “policy preferences”, in some specific cases; for example, we can collect statistically valuable answers to the question “should abortion be banned ?” — although even this seemingly simple question has lots of caveats.

            But how do you measure “social preferences” ? For example, you could attempt to quantify things like “traditionalism” or “modesty” into something like “the length of women’s dresses should be at least X% of the wearer’s height”, but that sounds woefully inadequate to me.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            I think that’s a good start, but suspect that there’s probably also a procedural element you need to satisfy as well. If women’s preferences around outcomes are being satisfied only because of the acquiescence of men (or visa versa) they might reasonably identify a power imbalance even in the absence of a difference in quality of outcomes. Sort of a Sarte’s coffee situation.

            You could probably operationalise that within your social choice framework by talking about how outcomes change as a function of change in preferences…

          • BlindKungFuMaster says:

            I’m pretty sure that women are on average closer to the median voter than men. I also think that women are much more in the business of setting and enforcing social norms.

            If I can show that empirically, would I have proved the Matriarchy?

          • if my preferences correlate more with the social preferences than yours (where correlation is defined in an appropriate way), I am more powerful.

            That’s an elegant answer, but I think there is a problem. Suppose one percent of the population prefer outcome A to outcome B, ninety-nine percent the other way around. The social preference function, in situations where it has to choose between the two, chooses A two percent of the time.

            The group of people who prefer B have more power than the group who prefer A, but does it make sense to say that an individual member of the group has more power? Might it make more sense to use a definition in which the question is not whether the social choice function correlates with my preferences but whether a change in my preferences produces a change in the social choice function in the same direction?

          • goedlmax says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Thanks. Yes, that is indeed an issue and I think your solution is an improvement on my definition.

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        This is the very basis of the conflict between socialists and the socialist adjacent vs wealthy liberals. Essentially “white feminists” in the parlance of the modern environment. It doesn’t matter whether women and minorities and LGBT people are holding power positions equivalent to their representation among the population because 95% of people will have shitty lives regardless of the demographics of the 1%.

        So we now have an example of 2 of the many, many different definitions of patriarchy, the same way not all pro capitalists support robber barons or w/e. Patriarchy means something vaguely similar to capitalist hierarchy to one section of reformers/revolutionaries. But “white feminist tm” like Hillary Clinton or Lena Dunham or Jennifer Lawrence or Gloria Steinem or Amanda Marcotte do not mean it that way. They only focus on the demographics of the 1%.

      • AG says:

        https://bostonreview.net/books-ideas/tali-mendelberg-christopher-f-karpowitz-are-women-silent-sex

        These authors promote the idea that there is a “critical mass” (more than 50%) at which women in power become more likely to advocate for higher redistribution policies. Before that point, the incentives are to still compete on traditional (masculine) leadership frameworks.

        • Statismagician says:

          I’m pretty sure this doesn’t work, or at the very least doesn’t work in the long term, unless there really are biological differences in mental traits (problem-solving styles specifically) along gender lines; otherwise somebody in the group will defect, or some group will trim the all-views-solicitation process because it’s time for lunch, and you’re right back where you started. Somehow I suspect the authors disagree; am I right about this?

          • AG says:

            If you see the interrupting thread above, people offer anecdotal evidence of how all-women groups speak in a drastically different fashion. The link I posted notes that the effects of women-majority groups (in groups of 5) didn’t kick in until 80%, either.

            https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/31/women-men-talk-more_n_5591454.html

            I agree that as we further progress along gender equality, then these trends will disappear, because both more women will feel free to act in other ways, and more men will act in what is currently feminine-coded ways.
            The goal is to remove the coding entirely, and move both methods to neutral ground. In that this doesn’t play well with human nature, at the least we can at least just add more modes of masculinity and femininity to the same effect. That is, to promote a collaborator as masculine, and a dominator as feminine, as valid as the other models.

            As per the above, you ironically get this from greater segregation. All-men groups and all-women groups end up with a greater internal diversity of behaviors. It’s not hard to think of all-men situations where they act more collaboratively. So the challenge is to let them still think more diversely in mixed groups, not default to assigning genders roles again when the other gender is present.

    • arlie says:

      I rarely use the word, and when I hear it used, I get out an extra grain or ten of salt, even though I’m theoretically allied with those for whom it’s a thing.

      If I were to use it, it would mean a combination of the following culturally agreed on truths:

      – Males matter more than females. Most important decisions should be made by males. If there’s a tradeoff to be made, between benefits to males/harm to females, and benefits to females/harm to males, the male-favoring choice should be made.
      – Hierarchical organizations are the only kind that work, and the best kind have a single clear leader, not merely a council or a class of decision makers.

      This is a very stripped down version of the usual connotations; I don’t use the term because I’m not interested in being taken to have some rather specific beliefs about prehistory and/or particular close political allies.

      [Edit: you don’t have to explicitly believe “males matter more than females” to routinely act in ways consistent with such a belief. And those actions can reasonably be considered to be part of patriarchy.]

      • janrandom says:

        > – Males matter more than females.
        I disagree with half of this.

        > Most important decisions should be made by males.

        Yes (though whether they “matter” more see below)

        > If there’s a tradeoff to be made, between benefits to males/harm to females, and benefits to females/harm to males, the male-favoring choice should be made.

        Clearly not. The classical patriarchy sees males as expendable (see e.g. the military) while women are to be protected (“women and children first”).

        I would agree that the power is to be wielded by men, but they are still subject to social rules which purposes are acceptable.

        • melolontha says:

          “The classical patriarchy sees males as expendable (see e.g. the military) while women are to be protected”

          ‘Protected’ so they can continue to fulfil their social role, though. Which might not have much overlap with living a happy or fulfilling life.

          • keranih says:

            Which might not have much overlap with living a happy or fulfilling life.

            …for a certain fraction of the female population who felt that they were unable to contribute to their community or be satisfied in their lives, and felt that their unhappiness would change if they had the options of both men and women.

            For most of humanity, I think that *most* women were able to be pretty happy in traditionally gendered occupations, and *most* men were able to b pretty happy in traditionally gendered occupations, and that in most cases, a family life where women were focused on the mirade details of the economics, labor, and social effort of home, villiage, and young children, and men were engaged in striving with/against other men in labor, hunting, or farming…was more satisfying and healthier for nearly everyone.

            Some people were not happy under the old paradigms. I think more people are not happy under the current structure. The problem is that its not the same people who are miserable – and we have decided that the same rules have to apply to everyone.

            There are trade offs involved in everything.

          • Mary says:

            Better than being dead — at least in their opinion.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            My problem with the smashing of the patriarchy is that it seems to be more concerned with the ways in which people were unhappy/unfulfilled in gendered roles rather than the ways in which they are happy and fulfilled (or unhappy and unfulfilled) without them.

            Yes, we unchained women from their stoves where they were laboring on behalf of their husbands and children, and have instead chained them to the cubicle where they labor on behalf of their boss. This seems less fulfilling, overall, to me. A woman’s husband and children might love her. If her boss loves her, well, we need to get HR in on this ASAP.

            Similar to smashing capitalism. I agree that capitalism is awful. Worst economic system in the world. Except for all the others.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Yes, we unchained women from their stoves where they were laboring on behalf of their husbands and children, and have instead chained them to the cubicle where they labor on behalf of their boss. This seems less fulfilling, overall, to me. A woman’s husband and children might love her. If her boss loves her, well, we need to get HR in on this ASAP.

            Exactly this. Before the Industrial Revolution and modern sanitation, women were chained to their cottage by children, which we naturally model as loving their mothers. “Women’s work” was what their tribe thought could be done while pregnant, with a baby in a chest sling, etc.
            Assuming you weren’t, like, a chattel slave being separated from her children, being a domestic drudge was a lifestyle ordered toward love, while cubicle work is something meaningless you do to get electronic deposits symbolic of green paper you need to keep a roof over your head, food in your belly, and an entertainment budget.

          • Nick says:

            Correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t plenty of household work historically not quite fallen under “ordered toward love”? Tim O’Neill’s review of Hild comes to mind immediately, where according to him about two thirds of an Anglo-Saxon woman’s time would be devoted to making textiles.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nick: My prior is that making textiles was considered “women’s work” because it was practical to do around small children. So we’re talking about two-thirds of an Anglo-Saxon woman’s time being textile + childcare multitasking.
            Things got messed up in the Industrial Revolution when factory owners hired women en masse for stereotypical “women’s work” by themselves, paid them less than men, and treated them like dirt. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was one famous example.
            Men were also getting killed or maimed at their jobs, but A) that’s as old as the Bronze Age and B) unionization wrangled high wages as compensation for that crap. Note how the Papacy threw itself behind the non-Marxist labor movement, articulating the moral position that wages for the awful but amazingly productive industries unleashed by capitalism and new technology ought to be high enough that only husbands and not their wives had to participate in the horror.

          • Nick says:

            My prior is that making textiles was considered “women’s work” because it was practical to do around small children. So we’re talking about two-thirds of an Anglo-Saxon woman’s time being textile + childcare multitasking.

            Yeah, that may be right—a lot of tasks around the house today are like that—but I’m wary of assuming. I’d be interested in hearing a historian weigh in.

          • albatross11 says:

            Traditional gender roles weren’t really great for men, either. Getting drafted into the Army or being expected to work all day in a coal mine and then moonlight driving a cab to provide for your family aren’t great deals for most men, either.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @albatross11: Yeah, I don’t know why anyone would disagree with that. Traditional gender roles did not come from the land of ponies and rainbows. It’s just that even looking at them with a hard eye it’s hard to say we’ve done better.

          • arlie says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            We have, to an extent, re-optimized in favour of choice, and thus somewhat at the expense of contentment and/or resignation.

            I’m quasi-libertarian enough to regard this as a good thing. Or perhaps my libertarian tendencies come from a strong belief that I would have been a miserable misfit, if the gender roles my parents were subjected to had been enforced upon me.

            I don’t know whether there’s any set of assigned roles – traditional or otherwise – that would really produce greater average happiness than allowing individuals to pick their own role, or combination of role parts, all else being equal. It “feels” like having to choose causes anxiety of its own, so that such a culture might hypothetically be created or evolve. But evidence is in short supply.

            We can’t compare e.g. the (prosperous) 1950s (in the US) with the (precarious, debt ridden) 2010s – and then claim all the distress is the result of changes to the strength and nature of gender roles.

            And we also need to look at the whole society. The above thread mostly focusses on the lives of women of what we’d now call middle and upper class – those whose families can afford to pay for greater restrictions on their activity, but also for greater safety and comfort. I don’t see desperately poor women as being (successfully) protected, regardless of the system, and regardless of any ideals of women’s natural role. But shit still flows down hill – and they are below even desperately poor men.

            All I really know is that when I was a child in the late 1950s, some of the “happy housewives” I observed were drunks, and quite likely some of the others were on Prozac – and this doesn’t look much like happiness to me.

          • We can’t compare e.g. the (prosperous) 1950s (in the US) with the (precarious, debt ridden) 2010s – and then claim all the distress is the result of changes to the strength and nature of gender roles.

            “Prosperous” makes it sound as though this is a difference in material circumstances. But in material terms, the average household is much better off now than in 1950.

          • arlie says:

            “Prosperous” makes it sound as though this is a difference in material circumstances. But in material terms, the average household is much better off now than in 1950.

            I think we’re heading for duelling statistics here, or duelling definitions.

            What I see is that my working class father could buy a house, retire with financial security, afford a wife that generally didn’t work outside the home, and send three children to college. And those kids got out of college without crippling debt – and immediately found work.

            Now all the news is about precarious employment, crippling college debt, college graduates working as barristas, and people who think they’ll never be able to afford to retire. And I hear much the same story from people I know. I’m not personally living that story – but I’m extremely well paid, as well as fairly frugal – and it’s the generations after me that really seem to have gotten screwed, not mine.

            Of course my father *was* in Canada, which has had a better social safety net than the US throughout this period, and I’m in the US. That may colour my impression somewhat.

            It may be that the average occassionally-employed and college-debt-ridden barrista has all kinds of things that their grandparents never had, or that the things they have (e.g. a computer) are simply valued more than lower tech means of accomplishing the same function (e.g. a typewriter), and that makes statistics look different than the above summary impression.

            I suspect more of the contradiction between our impressions is based on rising inequality, combined with looking at arithmetic means, not medians, or specific percentiles.

            What % of children aren’t adequately nourished in the US today? How does that compare with the percent in the 1950s? What % of adults are homeless?

            The 50s are before the “war on poverty” and similar measures, so those numbers may in fact be as bad as they are today. But I’m thinking about economic security (near permanent jobs with the same employer – what luxury), availability of employment, and such – not how many toys the top 10% or 1% own.

          • You are going on your impression of your father’s life and what you read about current problems. I prefer to look at national statistics. I couldn’t find a webbed series that went far enough, but fortunately I have an old copy of Historical Statistics of the United States to bridge the gap.

            Average Annual Earnings of Employees. Full-time employees, nominal: 1950 $2,992, 1970 $7,564.

            Median household income 1970: 8,733.97
            2016: 59,039.00

            These are not exactly comparable, since I am working from two different sources, but they should be about right. Combining them, the ratio of nominal income in 2016 to nominal income in 1950 is 7,564/2,992 x 59,039.00/8,733.97 = 17.09

            To get the change in real (inflation adjusted)income, we divide that by the increase in the CPI. 1950: 23.500, 2016: 236.916

            So the ratio of real income in 2016 to that in 1950 is about 17.09 x 23.5/236.916 = 1.7.

            There are lots of complications I’m ignoring, since I don’t have a single series that covers the whole period. But that gives at least a rough picture of the increase in real income over the period–about 70%. That’s real income, so is allowing for a roughly ten fold price increase over the period.

          • ana53294 says:

            Yes, but college costs, and IIRC, medical costs have gone up by much more than the CPI.

            And housing in some California seems to follow the same pattern.

          • Plumber says:

            Anecdotally my experience is that immigrants to the Bay Area in California (whether from Mississippi or Moldova) are largly doing better than their parents and grandparents (with some exception like Iranians who’s families were doing well before the ’79 revolution) but almost all of my peers who grew up with me in Berkeley and Oakland are less prosperous than their parents and grandparents were at the same age, most had to move out to cheaper places with worse weather, and I’ve seen one guy from the class of ’86 making a living pushing a shopping cart full of cans.

            My gut is that this has to do with the change in productivity gains since 1973 (my favorite year) and the move away from the “Blue model“, but it may just be that we grew up in an area that’s become absurdly expensive and unwelcoming to those of us not in “the cognitive elite”.

        • benwave says:

          Why do you believe that power is to be wielded by men?

          • Ketil says:

            It’s a bit confusing if we are a) discussing how things ought to be, or b) what it would mean for society to be patriarchal, or c) what are the patriarchal elements of society as it exists today.

            I think it is b), but you interpret it as a).

      • Gazeboist says:

        – Males matter more than females. Most important decisions should be made by males. If there’s a tradeoff to be made, between benefits to males/harm to females, and benefits to females/harm to males, the male-favoring choice should be made.

        I think it’s closer to “all women are children / only men can be adults”, though that still doesn’t feel like an exact statement. And as you say, “patriarchy” generally means the culturally accepted idea; individuals who hold this belief are called “patriarchal” and may or may not connect to a broader patriarchy.

        The term is also subject to an immense amount of abuse; it gets conflated with sexism, misogyny, particular claimed forms of entryism, and (most absurdly, in my view) rentier capitalism.

        • arlie says:

          Yes, it’s possible to have a kind of benevolent patriarchy. Any authoritiarian, absolute ruler can treat his possessions kindly, within his understanding of kindness.

          I think though that I prefer the metaphor of “domestic animals” rather than “children” – children grow up, and even halfway clueful benevolence includes preparing them for independence. Neither pets nor livestock ever graduate to independence.

          • Gazeboist says:

            I think there are enough patriarchal people out there who think children never cease to be children in relation to their parents that “child” can work. Probably worth noting in the definition though.

    • ana53294 says:

      My definition is very subjective, as I basically hold the view that patriarchy has mostly been removed from most Western countries. So, with that in mind:

      Patriarchy is the system of laws and customs that excludes women and young men from economic activities. Not allowing ownership of land, capital, and their own labour. Reducing inheritance rights for women/younger sons. Precluding women from entering the labor force or entering a certain profession* or achieving a certain position. Excluding women from owning money and from decision making about family money. Having parents be able to make every decision about a child**, and excluding children from owning the fruits of their labor. Excluding illegitimate children from the material benefits provided to legitimate children (inheritance and child support). The whole concept of illegitimate kids.

      * I believe that even well-intentioned regulations that preclude women from working in dangerous industries such as mining or in industries that require great physical strength are bad. There are women who are unusually strong, and if they choose to, why not allow them to work there, if there is an employer willing to hire them? And if the job is so dangerous, why is it allowed for men?

      ** Parents making decisions about their kids is natural and necessary, because kids are stupid and make decisions that cause them great injury (drinking gasoline, jumping from great heights, refusing icky medicine, not eating vegetables). However, in Western countries the degree of decision-making parents have is severely limited: they cannot be denied education or food, they have certain rights of body autonomy, they own the fruits of their labor.

      For me, patriarchy is an economic system, and sexism is a separate concept. I mostly base this view on the latin roots of patriarchy, with comes from the word father. So, I understand patriarchy as the system where the father has the power over everybody in the household, including slaves and servants, young children, older children, sons and unmarried daughters.

      But this is just my understanding.

      I also hold the view that once you solve those issues, quite a few of the other ones will be solved on their own, without laws. If a daughter can choose to go and have a job at a factory, why would she obey her father and get married, unless the marriage is a better option?

      I was told a story about a family from Tajikistan who moved to Germany and were very surprised when the woman was required to open a separate bank account so she could get her salary. She did come to understand the wisdom of that law when her husband became abusive, though.

      Having money means you can tell those who want to tell you what to do with your body to go f** themselves. One of the reasons why women stay in places where they are abused is that they don’t have the money to leave.

      • spkaca says:

        “I understand patriarchy as the system where the father has the power over everybody in the household”
        This is the definition I prefer. It has the advantage of fitting the etymology of the word. Once one extends the concept, it becomes hopelessly vague, and arguments turn into poorly-understood wrangles over terminology. (The same could be said about certain other belief-systems or value-systems.)

    • fion says:

      It’s an emergent phenomenon, like temperature or consciousness. Culture is another emergent phenomenon. You have a society of thousands/millions of individuals all doing their thing, interacting with each other according to their psychology and their incentives. The collective behaviour of such a system is not necessarily intuitive based on the psychology of the incentives of the individuals.

      Patriarchy is a collective phenomenon that emerges from a society for reasons only partly understood, which results in the oppression of women. It could be explicit things like laws banning women from holding certain positions, but it could also be very subtle things, like a general feeling that catcalling a woman is acceptable, or that women who accuse a man of rape are likely to be lying, or that women aren’t well-suited to certain positions.

      I think the word is problematic for two reasons:
      1) It is too broad. It could refer to a society in which women are banned by law from holding certain jobs, owning property and voting. Or it could refer to a society in which women are more likely to be sexually assaulted than men. The strategies for improving one of these societies are different to those of the other.
      2) I don’t think it is helpful, strategically, to consider all the injustices and biases against women that exist in society as one homogeneous entity and give it a name. Nobody is “for patriarchy”, and the way we make our society more just to women doesn’t involve any “smashing” or “defeating”.

      I think its main use is as a rallying flag. You don’t shout “smash the patriarchy” because you think doing so will reduce incidence of sexual harassment in the workplace; you do it to signal that you’re a member of the feminist tribe.

    • moscanarius says:

      Charitably, the people I’ve heard using the term seem to mean “the social norms (and institutions derived from them) that create different acceptable roles for the behaviour of men and women, at the expense of women’s wellbeing”.

      “Smash the Patriarchy” usually means “abolish the norms that allow men to behave badly towards women”.

      Uncharitably, people pulling this concept on the street often just mean “the Devil”.

    • onyomi says:

      To my mind, “patriarchy” and “matriarchy” are anthropological descriptors for different sorts of family arrangement that occur at different times and places, but patriarchy doesn’t imply men hold all the power or have it better in all ways than under matriarchy, and matriarchy that women hold all the power, or have it better in all ways than under patriarchy.

      Basically, matriarchy is associated with “forager” societies on Robin Hanson’s definition, and patriarchy with “farmer.”

      In patriarchy, men are leaders of household units and their children become part of their extended family. For this reason, certainty about parentage of the children is more important, leading to stricter mores surrounding e.g. female chastity, and all the rest. Patriarchy is also harsher on men in all the ways farming civilization tends to be: they are tied to their families and expected to take care of them. They may also be tied to the land and some noble whom they’re expected to fight for. They cannot afford to be “layabouts” who leave the gathering and protection of resources necessary for child rearing to the mothers of those children who may or may not be their genetic inheritance.

      The first world today is more patriarchal than matriarchal, but less patriarchal than most farming societies.

      So, I think it’s fair to say “this slut shaming is a relic of the patriarchy!” because it probably literally is. What often gets left out in such discussion seems to be the fact that patriarchy has some advantages for men and women, and wholesale, unreflective return to “forager” mores would probably have a lot of bad consequences, though some pendulum swinging in that direction may be good now that many of the pressures related to “farmer” life have weakened.

  7. Nicholas Weininger says:

    Content note: potentially CW loaded issue.

    What is the redeeming social value of jock culture? What are the gains to human flourishing from rewarding those who excel at competitive team sports? Of those gains, which would be the hardest to replicate with competition and/or teamwork in other areas?

    I’m familiar with the idea that you get better soldiers by rewarding jockish accomplishments– “the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton” and all that. I think this has probably gotten less important given the current state of military tech and will likely continue to get less important, but I can see its historical force. Is there anything else?

    This is an honest question and I apologize if it comes across as trolling. I am attempting to do a Chesterton’s Fence analysis on my strong and likely nerdiness-biased prior, strengthened further by recent news events, that jock culture is basically worthless and evil and that, for example, high schools and colleges should not field competitive sports teams.

    • Squirrel of Doom says:

      Participating in sports is one of the best things young people, maybe especially boys, can do.

      You get physically fit and healthy, you learn to cooperate an work as a team with others, you learn to work hard to achieve goals, and you typically make a lot of friends.

      • Nicholas Weininger says:

        Physical fitness can be achieved without the team aspect, though, and without the competing-against-other-teams aspect, and without lionizing quarterbacks and the like. Cooperation and hard work can be taught in plenty of non-athletic contexts. What’s so special about sports teams relative to these alternatives?

        • albertborrow says:

          Humans are stupid apes and we don’t often visualize non-athletic competition in the same way that we visualize competition that is a struggle of strength. This seems like the most obvious explanation to me, anyway. “Mental fortitude” remains strictly a metaphor in our heads, even if it represents a very real aspect of mental effort.

          • nweining says:

            Well, this makes me even happier with the way that shows like the Great British Baking Show are making such visualizations possible, then.

        • Squirrel of Doom says:

          Well, we’re primates and have strong urges to compete in hierarchical structures. Especially for boys/men, since girls/women really prefer to mate with those on top of those hierarchies.

          So those structures might as well be established in a way that makes people physically healthy.

          You have a theory that all these good things could be done in non-athletic ways. I can’t really think of any practical examples?

        • idontknow131647093 says:

          Sports teams combine all the things into one while also providing happiness incentives to do things most people otherwise find boring and tedious.

          Physical fitness. Yes you can workout without a team goal, but having teammates pressures you into being better and provides an accountability mechanism (you don’t want to be so slow that your team loses a game because you at ice cream instead of running windsprints).

          Your assertion that cooperation and hard work can be taught in non-athletic contexts, to me, seem like an assertion with very thin evidence. The sort of compelled group projects in school don’t teach cooperation so much as they engender resentment. When it comes to group work in the work environment you also notice that this is more of a resentment-generating environment, and groups without enough ex-athletes IMO tend to not work well together (probably a reason that impedes female advancement in the workplace).

          In addition sports, due to the coach-captain structure teach both leadership and respect for authority at the same time.

          One last thing is that the objectivity of sports having winners and losers is particularly important. A lot of the world only has nebulous feedback, and feedback that can be easily thought to be biased. When you lose a game or even make an error on a single play, you get the feedback and can discover where to improve. Other group projects usually don’t have this kind of individual + team accountability.

          I feel like your comment essentially is similar to a person asking, “why do full body lifts like snatch when you can do iso machines for each individual muscle worked in the snatch.” To whit I would respond, not only is that going to take 10x as long and be way more boring, it won’t have the same effects.

        • quanta413 says:

          I’m going to say some things below in a negative way, because if all the standard justifications didn’t click for you and you’re an unusually nerdy guy you may need to hear the justification more bluntly.

          To be blunt and uncharitable, many men (especially when they are young) are somewhat inclined to violence and have poor self control. They’re probably much more violent than you are (just guessing from how you sound very mystified by all this). I’m probably much more violent than you are, and I think I’m probably a little below the median for a male.

          Sports provides a socially approved outlet for young boys and men to direct their energy that trains them to work together towards a purpose, keeps them in good shape, and keeps them off the streets. It helps them develop self control and channel competitiveness, violence, etc. into something productive. If you think jocks are a negative culture, you probably aren’t realizing how negative a culture can get with young men who don’t have adults supervising them for vigorous exercise 10-20 hours a week. Lord of the Flies isn’t too far off.

          What is your proposed alternate activities that these kids will do instead of team sports? Individual athletes aren’t known for sterling behavior.

          I was one of the nerdiest people at my high school, and I wrestled. It was one thing keeping me sane, because school was nowhere near challenging enough. In retrospect, wrestling was probably the healthiest thing I did during high school.

          I think you’re assuming that football causes bad behavior, but I haven’t seen any real evidence that kids who play high schools sports behave worse than the similar type of kids who don’t. At my school, it was the opposite. Sports at least forced a kid to have a C-average and got them to show up somewhere every day at a fixed time of their own free will. Unlike school which is more like prison in that you have no choice. I know some kids needed the motivation of a sport to not just fuck off.

          EDIT: For clarity, I think my reasoning only really applies strongly to high school and earlier sports. I don’t think college sports are as easy to justify. Anyone who makes it to college is already a bit older, and probably somewhat together already. And college sports interfere more with academics.

        • Matt M says:

          The fact that sports pits young people in zero-sum competitions against each other is a feature, not a bug.

          Suffering failure and defeat is a huge part of life and youth sports is a great way to experience and get accustomed to it in a low-risk environment early on. I think a whole lot of the mental health problems experienced by a whole lot of young people these days are attributable to an inability to handle explicit failure – largely due to the fact people are now sheltered from it until very late in life.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            My son is too young for team sports yet (although we’re planning to find him a baseball team next year) but I have noticed his attitude has improved markedly since he started playing video games and chess. He used to get very upset when things did not go his way. But once he started losing games over and over again, and working to eventually overcome the challenges, he has a healthier attitude towards failure or disappointment in other aspects of life. (usual disclaimers, N=1, etc)

          • Nick says:

            Tangent, but Conrad, how’s the chess going?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Good! He’s still very much into it and has not been losing too horribly at the school chess club (keep in mind, though, he’s the only kindergartner). It seems like it’s sticking. He understands the rules and knows what all the pieces do. He didn’t really get into lichess, though. I set up an account for him, but I think he prefers the physical board. If he’s using electronics to play a game, he wants to play a real video game.

            Thanks again for your extremely informative post a few weeks back.

          • Nick says:

            Good to hear!

      • INH5 says:

        You get physically fit and healthy, you learn to cooperate an work as a team with others, you learn to work hard to achieve goals, and you typically make a lot of friends.

        On the other hand, it can also give you brain damage.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          If we’re talking about the physical and emotional well-being of young people here, does this matter? Does anyone get hit hard enough to get brain damage outside of the NFL?

          • Brad says:

            I’m not an expert but my understanding is that repeated concussions are a serious concern. I haven’t been involved in high school sports in *redacted* decades but back then people were definitely getting concussions despite decidedly not being at the professional level.

        • Squirrel of Doom says:

          As a European immigrant to the US, I have learned to enjoy watching American Football, but I find it insanely violent and would never have considered playing it even before the concussion data came out.

          So we can agree on that particular sport.

    • Rack says:

      Sure, there are negatives (there are almost some downsides to everything), but the positives I’ve experienced over the years of both participating in and watching competitive sports have been massive. Sometimes – like now – when it seems as if the world of “important” things is just too relentless and loud to deal with, focusing on competitive sports can be one of my few psychic escapes. In fact, some of my most potent memories are of the extreme joys of victory and agonies of defeat. I feel I would be diminished without those emotional experiences.
      “Of all the unimportant things, football is the most important.”

    • albatross11 says:

      There are a lot of people for whom team sports are a huge source of joy and meaning and success. For a fair number of people, their best years center around being the captain of the football team in high school, before they (say) try to walk onto the football team at State and work their asses off for a couple years before flunking out, and end up working in their dad’s construction company. Some people derive great joy from being on a sports team with their buddies, and make lifelong friends there. All that seems like a pretty good argument for why it’s worthwhile.

      • Nicholas Weininger says:

        The joy people derive from playing sports is a fine argument for pickup games. It’s not a good argument for the Friday Night Lights type experience, with cheering sections and ingroup-outgroup dynamics and all that.

        • CarlosRamirez says:

          There aren’t any stakes to pickup games, it doesn’t provide the same adventure and thrills of formally competing in front of hundreds. I’m not sure there are other things that do, and I say this as someone who isn’t a jock at all, and who in fact, is quite prejudiced against them.

          • Sebastian_H says:

            You may not be playing in high quality pick up games. Also, long standing pick up games in a neighborhood have almost all of the same characteristics of league games with the added value of binding you to the neighborhood.

          • Tarpitz says:

            It seems to me worth noting that America is very unusual in the extent to which high school and college sports are spectator activities. School sports matches in the UK are typically attended by perhaps 10-20 parents of the players and no-one else. The only televised university sporting event I can think of is the Oxford vs. Cambridge boat race. I don’t think this makes the matches less competitive, or reduces the team-building or fitness benefits. I do think it substantially reduces (though certainly doesn’t eliminate) the link between sporting ability and social status.

            I assume this is largely a product of America’s size. There are very few places in England that are not within an hour and a half’s drive of a Premier League football team, and even fewer that don’t have at least a lower level professional outfit nearby. There’s no need for amateur sport to meet the demand for live viewing. For many Americans, on the other hand, there’s no professional sport within a reasonable travel distance.

        • Orpheus says:

          I believe that in many ways this sort of thing is a replacement for the kind of militant religion that went out of style in the modern age. Once you can’t get up on a pulpit and say “Those godless (Catholics/Lutherans/Sunnis/____) are corrupting our youth and poisoning our cattle, let’s kill them all!” you need to direct those energies somewhere.

    • Robert L says:

      You need to clarify your hierarchy of values. What is “human flourishing” (and why does proficiency in killing people on battlefields contribute to it, as you seem to imply)? There is a strong tradition in Western culture (Homer, Pindar, the ancient and modern Olympics) for regarding the pursuit of sporting excellence as an end in itself, not a means; if you think it isn’t you have to explain why not.

      High schools and colleges tend to have symphony orchestras as well as sports teams. Can we re write your post to ask what the gains are to human flourishing from rewarding those who excel as first violins and if not, why not?

      • albatross11 says:

        There are certainly times when the continued flourishing of *your* society depends on the efficient killing of enemies on battlefields. Maybe not *human* flourishing, but the humans who end up owning your stuff / running your country will be the ones who had people working for them who were good at killing enemies on battlefields.

      • Nicholas Weininger says:

        Excellent first violinists tend to be less violently aggressive toward their fellow human beings, and musical excellence is arguably cognitively and culturally superior to athletic excellence.

        • Uribe says:

          Perhaps first violinists are less violent than quarterbacks. That is yet to be proven. Even if violinists are less violent than football players, there remains the question of whether these football players would be less violent if they didn’t play football.

    • Hummingbird says:

      While the question of ‘what is the positive value of jock culture?’ is not synonymous with the question ‘what is the positive value of masculinity?’, they are similar enough to inform each other.
      Enumerating the many negative aspects of masculinity would be tedious, so I’ll not mention them here. Positive aspects of masculinity, applied in appropriate situations, could include independence, self-reliance, hard work, and confidence. These aspects are not exclusive to masculinity. Furthermore, while comradery is not exclusive to men, the comradery of male friendship that expresses these values can be quite valuable. Those who grow up with similar kinds of cultural pressures (parental expectations, gender roles, media consumption) may find solace and companionship with each other.
      I consider ‘jock culture’ to be an unreflective breed of masculine bonding that fails to purpose positive human and masculine aspects toward positive ends, and a breed which often becomes self-glorifying.

    • Uribe says:

      1) Learning to work with a team.
      2) Learning to lead a team.
      3) Becoming goal oriented.
      4) Learning to postpone rewards until after hard work has been done.

      As for why these benefits may be hard to replicate in other areas, I think the main issue is motivation. For those who enjoy playing sports, they will voluntary and happily participate. Many youth find sports more fun than much else on offer.

      • nweining says:

        If that’s the case, then team sports should need less of a social status reward than other fields of team-oriented endeavor in order to induce participation (since you get intrinsic fun instead of status). Instead, they almost always get more status reward, which is part of what I’m trying to figure out how people justify.

        • CatCube says:

          You’re saying this like you think that there’s a Council of Status somewhere that is deciding to award social status to sports stars for some inscrutable reason, even though they don’t need to award social status to get people to play sports. This is exactly backwards.

          That people like to join sports voluntarily is the reason that people care about sports and that caring is why there’s high social status attached to those who are good at it. (That people like to watch TV and movies as a primary form of entertainment is the reason that people care about actors.) If nobody cared much about sports, nobody would care much about those who were good at them.

        • idontknow131647093 says:

          You have the causation backwards. Being good at sports conveys social status because everybody else knows that sports has all these good qualities and are extremely physically demanding in ways that most people know they are not able to do.

          Even outside of team sports this is obvious. If your friend runs a marathon you are impressed because (most likely) you find the idea of training for a marathon both boring and painful.

        • Sebastian_H says:

          Doesn’t it potentially work the other way? Society has learned to reward a play activity with high positive externalities by giving it high status? I say this as definite non jock. And I’m not at sure it’s right.

    • sentientbeings says:

      I think that to get a worthwhile response to your question, you would need to define what “jock culture” is.

      As a general note in relation to cultural/behavioral subsets, I think that you have a methodological problem in asking:

      What are the gains to human flourishing from rewarding those who excel at competitive team sports?

      I can think of a few off the top of my head that are pretty easily substantiated. It might not really matter though, because you might have erred in suggesting that this question needs to be “decided,” or by anthropomorphizing society into an agent. Competitive team sports are an example of people doing and being rewarded for a thing that people like.

      Based on the way you phrased your comment (e.g. “redeeming”) I think that it is possible that you have attached the term jock culture to some already-decided problem space, rather than define the culture space and then evaluate it. That would make it basically a straw man and susceptible to a lot of argumentative flaws, like goalpost-shifting, appeals to purity, and motte and bailey arguments, etc.

      • nweining says:

        Fair enough, I’ll make the implicit definition explicit: jock culture is the culture in which those who excel at competitive team sports get exceptionally high social status, status which is not just about people liking sports but is reinforced by a whole institutional structure. In particular, I’m asking what upsides of this grant of social status could possibly outweigh the downsides, notably

        (a) that social status given to sports-excellers isn’t given instead to those who excel at arguably more prosocial, culturally enriching, and productive activities
        (b) that sports-excellers, even more than other high-status figures, seem to be very commonly able to use their status to get away with violating rules of decent social conduct that others couldn’t get away with.

        Because the high social status flows largely from the institutional support given to competitive team sports, and is not simply an emergent cultural phenomenon, it could be changed by changing those institutions; so it’s worth asking why we shouldn’t urge agents who could change those institutions, e.g. school administrators who could deemphasize their athletic programs, to do so.

        • Matt M says:

          (a) that social status given to sports-excellers isn’t given instead to those who excel at arguably more prosocial, culturally enriching, and productive activities

          I want to pick on this a little bit.

          Would you consider acting in a play to be a prosocial, culturally enriching, productive activity?

          Sports is entertainment. The same as theater, painting, or playing the piano. Based on its obvious popularity, it’s a very important and valuable form of entertainment in our society.

          It’s also more organized and hierarchical and easier to objectively quantify skill than other forms of entertainment. In other words, the best football players in high school are clearly the best players, so it’s easy to grant them status, whereas “who is the best actor in the theater troupe” is often harder to quantify. Whether any of your classmates has the potential to become a world class violinist is more difficult for the layman to assess. Other forms of entertainment seem to be a bit more “random” and hard to predict – especially when “high status athlete” in the NFL looks a lot like “high status athlete” in high school, whereas “high status musician” doesn’t look like a great violinist, but looks more like Lady Gaga or Kanye West or whoever – both of which I’m assuming weren’t obvious prodigies (thereby commanding status) in their teenage years.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Your basic point here is right, but your comparison of sports to football is wrong: whether a classmate could be a world-class violinist may be difficult to evaluate, but it’s not the correct comparison to “who is the best football player in high school”–you should compare “who is the best violinist in school” to “who is the best QB in school”, both of which seem like easy things to determine; or you should compare “which classmates could go pro at violin” to “which classmates could go pro at football”, both of which I’d guess are difficult for laypeople to judge.

          • Matt M says:

            both of which I’d guess are difficult for laypeople to judge

            I don’t think this is quite right, but I admit to being completely ignorant as to how high-level musical talent is identified and selected.

            But in football, I think people generally know who has great potential and who doesn’t. Detailed statistics are kept, even at the high school level. College scouts/coaches start showing up at games. And most importantly, you can watch them dominate the competition with your own eyes. Even the casual sports fan can observe a dominant performance.

            I don’t think the casual listener can determine which violinist is the best. Not even close.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Again, there’s conflation here: of course coaches and scouts have the ability to identify pro-level talent, but those aren’t average laypeople. I’m sure a music scout (is there an actual name for such a person?) could identify top violin talent as well.

            A high school QB is dominant against other high school teams; the relevant comparison for violinists is, could you tell which 8-year-old violinist is on a path to the pros by comparing them against the other musicians at their school; I would bet that laypeople would reliably recognize that difference in talent.

            More generally, this list of musical child prodigies suggests that there is plenty of information available to determine which children will be professional-level musicians at an early age.

        • Civilis says:

          Coming from a very decidedly non-jock, I think there’s a false assertion that high social status for athletes is an artificial construct. Especially at the adolescent level, social status comes from your peers; it’s not something that society (in its form as the school administration) can provide via institutional support, and often clumsy attempts to build status by the administration backfire. The high school I attended made an effort to give social status to non-athletes in the form of recognition and awards, and in general it did not last (and when it did, it was for the same reason sports were popular). That institutional support exists for sports is because sports are popular, not the other way around.

          Athletics is a natural magnet for social status. To start with, it’s something that is generally enjoyable for most people to watch, and the social status of a particular sport correlates with the amount of public enjoyment from spectating. Spectating in most major sports is an active activity; you’re cheering and waving and working with your fellow fans to show support for your team. Athletics is also something that most people can recognize skill at both the individual and team levels via objective criteria. Athletes are physically fit, and physical fitness is definitely a factor in physical attractiveness, and in high school physical attractiveness definitely corresponds with social status. And the team forms a natural nexus for a social network to build around, and the size of the social network is almost certainly a strong factor in the value of the network.

          I attended one high school football game, and although I was bored, I could understand why so many of my classmates were there; it’s an experience you can’t replicate otherwise. What are the other options for social status? The mental competitions are not as entertaining for outsiders and certainly don’t permit much active spectating. I did attend a number of school theater productions, and the more talented student actors did have some social status, but since there is no real active participation, there’s nothing to the experience that can’t be easily replicated by watching a movie. I would suspect the same applies to band concerts, with even less opportunity for an individual to stand out.

          • March says:

            This is such a weird post for someone like me who comes from a country where high-school sports are just not a thing.

            Sure, students jockey for social status. But athletics is done outside of school. If you’re a great soccer player, sure you may be getting high social status at your soccer club. You may spend hours upon hours training and need to get exemptions from school to be able to work around training and tournament schedules. You may be scouted by a big-league club and get ridiculously rich at an age where you’re still too stupid to do anything useful with that money.

            But it doesn’t really give your rock-star status like it does in the US. More the other way around – that new rising star in the junior leagues? Oh yeah, he sits three rows behind me in history class. Didn’t even know he was doing so well at his sport; good for him.

            The only people who go to people’s matches are their friends, their parents and people who are somehow fond of watching 14-to-18-year-olds play sports, which is a total niche hobby even for the so-called ‘national sports’.

            Same at the college level, really.

            So the fact that this is treated like some inevitable feature of human nature and not a result of a very particular culture is very strange to me.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @March:

            This is such a weird post for someone like me who comes from a country where high-school sports are just not a thing.

            To be fair, it’s not universally a thing in the US either. For instance, my US high school had a football team and some people probably cared about it but I never attended a game, had no interest in doing so and had no idea who the players were – their lives never intersected with mine. I cared about the chess club (which I competed in) or the theater crowd; others cared about glee or the student paper. Different groups had different status hierarchies, most of which didn’t much overlap with athletics.

            Sports movies are necessarily told from the point of view of people who care about sports so they overemphasize sports importance in the culture at large. Maybe at a tiny school in a tiny town there’d be nothing to do but watch the game and the players would be in your classes and their winning or losing would matter, but at a bigger school they can get lost in the shuffle…and schools have gotten bigger over time.

          • Civilis says:

            I think to some degree that the popularity of sports in the US at the high school level is to some degree self-perpetuating. When you enter high school, the students in the higher grades who dominate the school’s culture are obsessed with sports, and so in order to get in at the bottom of the social ladder you need to be ‘in’ with them as well. By the time you are in your senior year, you are dominating a social hierarchy founded on sports (assuming you’re a member of the ‘in’ crowd).

            To some degree, the idea of school spirit might be akin to a junior version of nationalism/patriotism; both of which seem very differently between the US and Europe. Perhaps European schools don’t need to emphasize school unity like American schools, or in the absence of student athletics it takes a different form. It could also be that athletic fandom has a much more lower-class feel to it in Europe; it’s something the class of people that run the European education system don’t do.

            Different groups had different status hierarchies, most of which didn’t much overlap with athletics.

            My experience in this regard might be abnormal; our high school quarterback at a large high school was a gifted classmate of mine in elementary school (and was taking at least one AP class at our arch rival school his senior year)… and also the class president. The football coach also taught AP Calculus.

          • March says:

            @Glen Raphael

            We don’t really have chess clubs or theater clubs or glee clubs in school either. The student paper is usually kinda anemic. We have PE, but that’s just all kinds of random sporty stuff a couple of hours a week – even if you’re the star soccer player scouted by a real club, that’s not going to give you that much of a lead in, say, baseball, except in general conditioning and probably physical talent. But if you’d go full-out in a PE soccer match, people would just think you a show-off. Kids do all these things in their spare time, with kids who aren’t necessarily in their school. I guess US high schools have a bit of the mall-like quality of US shopping areas – the tendency to gather functions that we spread around the city into a large building?

            @Civilis

            Interesting phrasing: “Perhaps European schools don’t need to emphasize school unity like American schools, or in the absence of student athletics it takes a different form.”

            In my experience, European schools (or rather the schools in my particular European country) just DON’T emphasize school spirit and that’s just fine. School is just something you go to. If you’re lucky, it’s a decentish experience with enjoyable enough things to learn and nice enough classmates. There’s a little school spirit in the fact that kids are naturally going to think their school is ‘better’ than that ugly school a couple of neighborhoods over or that weird school at the other side of town, but that’s basically meaningless.

            In fact, I wouldn’t know why American schools would ‘need’ to emphasize school unity at all. Seems to me they just choose to.

            Athletics fandom is kinda class-segregated here, that’s true. Soccer is the ‘national’ sport but elites tend to favor tennis or hockey. But all these sports have their own clubs not linked to any school.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            I agree civilis. The idea of the “dumb jock” is more a myth than a reality. Coaches at my school were more likely than average to be in the top 25% of teachers and also more likely to teach AP classes. My AP STEM classes were about 50% male, but of those males it was easily over 75% jocks.

            TBH, I feel like this is an attempt to defend a straw man that doesn’t really exist. An ethereal “jock culture” that mostly shows up in movies and the nightmares of people who over-dramatize high school (remember if you ask any actress she will tell you she was awkward and unpopular in HS, even if that is not possible).

          • The Nybbler says:

            Plenty of dumb jocks in my high school. Wouldn’t call the gym teachers the brightest bulbs either. And the jocks would indeed have raucous drunken parties, resulting in us losing a few football players each year to drunk driving accidents. Much like Kavanaugh, only dumber and with more sex (I went to a public school) — much boasted to, but at least some actually happened based on the girls who got pregnant.

    • axiomsofdominion says:

      The vast majority of commenting posters are not sincerely interested in answering your question. They support “jock culture” purely for irrational reasons and their sole purpose will be to engage in apologia.

      Jock culture is like the pick up artist movement. The only real benefit to being involved in that culture is the act of asking out many girls. Basically faking confidence till you make it. There are a whole bunch of associated parts of the culture that are either neutral, or more likely negative and which could be removed with minimal loss of function.

      Similarly with jock culture the hazing and hierarchical aspects, the worship of athletes and the focus on physical achievement are all negative aspects of the culture. The positive aspects generally consist of enjoying physical activity, which could easily be achieved through casual jogging or friendly pick up games where who wins is not a central focus, social interaction and learning to organize with others, whose viable substitute goods are too numerous to list, and some measure of learning to deal with hardship and engaging in dreary activity in the pursuit of a long term goal, the practicing part basically.

      None of those 3 major benefits are exclusive to activities with excessive competitiveness, douchy behavior, nasty social dynamics, an excessive focus on physical ability, etc. The overall environment has some positives but it also has a lot of not strictly necessary downsides that you could remove without harming the goals.

      Notice that most of the right wing commentators who post here actually ignored your actual question, about the benefit of jock culture, by discussing the merits of sports, particularly team sport.

      • John Schilling says:

        The vast majority of commenting posters are not sincerely interested in answering your question. They support “jock culture” purely for irrational reasons and their sole purpose will be to engage in apologia.

        This is in no way helpful.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          Well perhaps the implication of insincerity was unkind. Its true though. as evidence by them answering a question that wasn’t asked. I guess the sticking point is whether it was necessary and thus passed the 2/3 test?

          • Robert L says:

            Patronising and wrong. You seem to have only noticed one of the three questions posed in the second paragraph of the original post.

          • Nicholas Weininger says:

            For what it’s worth I actually think most of the respondents have in good faith addressed at least some important aspect of the question I was asking, so I’d rather encourage them to keep doing so, thanks.

      • Nornagest says:

        Sure is a lot of bare assertion here.

      • Glen Raphael says:

        Jock culture is like the pick up artist movement. The only real benefit to being involved in that culture is the act of asking out many girls.

        FWIW, briefly studying and engaging with PUA made it easier for me to hug my own parents and made me more comfortable speaking in public. Physical confidence is a trainable skill; being more physically demonstrative in a way that makes people comfortable around you is also a trainable skill. These kind of skills – learning how to present yourself more attractively – can enrich your life even if you never use them for “asking out many girls”.

        • Sebastian_H says:

          Pick up artist culture has a lot of horrible things about it, but one of the reasons why it works at all is it encourages you to try something lots of times—and you stop being afraid of it as much.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I’m not afraid of writing and I used to do a lot of it when I was younger. However, I sucked at it really badly, didn’t improve, and so gave up on it.

            Doing something a lot of times doesn’t build mastery if you do it wrong every time. Repeated failure without success can also drain your confidence, or you could end up pouring a lot of time into a project that will ultimately fail.

            Possibly Related, one of my friends was great at getting dates because he was decently attractive and had a good job, but bad at interacting with women: he went on something like 50 or 60 first dates in a year, and one second date, and he immediately fell for that girl, who immediately milked him for cash for her college charity. That was about 2 or 3 months.

            I had another friend who had a different problem, which was that he liked to text girls too much in the first couple dates. So the girl would always lose interest. This problem was immediately solved when he started dating two girls at the same time and could not respond to all of their texts: he ended up dating the girl he texted less for about 4 years until it blew up. Now his personality is “IDGAF” and he runs what is effectively a soft harem.

            But them doing the same thing a bunch of times yielded approximately zero results until the stars aligned, even though both were confident, even though neither one was afraid.

            PUA is about making the stars align, so your relationship choices are no longer built of desperation, as both of theirs were. My first friend is married to the only girl who would have him, my second friend can make his own choice (but now in his early 30s the choices are rapidly becoming worse).

    • Eric Boesch says:

      Pro athletes are incredibly good at their jobs. (It helps to have coaches and a skill that can be measured fairly accurately.) They are usually much better at what they do than other people would otherwise believe possible. There aren’t many other fields where the best are so obviously so good at what they do. Watching athletics gave me a higher opinion of what people are capable of than I would otherwise have.

      A few scandals are imaginary — remember the scandal that there was exactly one murder by a college lacrosse player in recent memory, which just meant college lacrosse players have a very low murder rate? Other college athletic scandals are just the consequence of athletics reflecting a wider cross section of humanity than colleges in general. Except for sexual assault, which is almost impossible to compare in a fair way because standards in and outside college differ, violent crime is much less common on college campuses then among people of the same age who don’t go to college. Before accusing college athletes of being more criminal, try comparing them to their old high school classmates instead of just their new peer group in college.

      In high school I felt football and basketball helped people. The players could show how tough they were without picking fights. You hear occasional notorious examples of people being let off from criminal behavior because they were athletes, but I believe the much more common case is of people trying to keep clean so they can stay on the team. Granted, football in particular is looking a lot more questionable now, given the rate of traumatic brain injury.

      • Matt M says:

        a skill that can be measured fairly accurately

        IMO this is a huge part of it. Not only is it easier to just eyeball who is a good quarterback vs a poor one (as compared to assessing who is a better actor, musician, or even CEO), but the whole point of the enterprise of sport is repeated experimentation to confirm this fact.

        This is interesting, appealing, and exciting even to nerdy types who are not at all athletic themselves (like me). IMO, sports is the entertainment branch of science. It’s incredibly well suited to geeking out over.

    • arlie says:

      I share your priors. In particular, I would like to know why, in high school, people who had talent for sports got public recognition for doing their thing, as well as school support in doing it – whereas people with any other talent sometimes got school support (they did attempt to teach those of us academically inclined, after all), but got almost no recognition.

      I understand it better with regard to professional athletes – there’s money to be made, and you need star players to make it. With most of your population already socialized to enjoy watching a bunch of fit people kick a ball around, and care about the outcome, someone’s going to provide them with games to watch, and lionizing the athletes will be part of the process of extracting money from the fans.

      All this is separate from jock culture. I distinctly recall reading claims of an entirely different, gentlemanly athletic standard, which I find much more palatable than a culture of hazing, blackout drinking, sexual braggadocio, and rape. (I honestly can’t see any redeeming value in that second version of “jock culture”. Much of it seems to me like good reason for jailing the perpetrators.)

      I don’t think the boys being publically recognized in my highschool conformed to significant parts of the hazing, drinking, and rape variant of jock culture – but I was in the library, not in the locker rooms with them, so how can I be sure?

      But theoretically at least there seem to be 3 questions
      – recognizing amateur athletes, particularly in schools – especially if not recognizing anything else
      – professional athletics
      – “jock culture” in its (to me) disgusting expressions, many of them occassionally resulting in actual criminal charges.

      It seems to me that you were asking about the third of these, and most of the answers so far are about the first – unless they are quietly assuming that the third is required to enable the first.

      • Gazeboist says:

        When and where did you go to highschool?

        In my experience in suburban NJ a bit less than a decade ago, nobody got school-wide recognition for anything. Band kids knew who the good musicians were, art kids knew who the artists were, academic kids knew who the smart kids were, and $sport players knew was best at $sport. There was overlap (my general-nerd-and-academic social circle was packed with fencers, for example), and not every possible interest was popular enough to sustain a dedicated social group, but there was never a single “status” hierarchy that you could use to rank individual students, much less social circles. Some people had trouble making friends, but that was usually because they had trouble making friends as an object-level problem, not because they had failed to accrue a sufficient number of status points on an invisible scoreboard in the hallway.

    • What is the redeeming social value of jock culture? What are the gains to human flourishing from rewarding those who excel at competitive team sports?

      One possible answer is that it’s a competitive activity in which there is an objective definition of success–you either did or didn’t win the game, jump higher than your rival, or whatever. To the extent that a significant part of the inputs to success in sports are also inputs to success in other activity, it then generates a useful signal.

      I’m thinking about an argument I saw somewhere wrt college recruiting of athletes. The claim was that successful athletes, very few of whom end up as professional athletes, have higher incomes than other people because the same characteristics that gave them success in sports led to success in their later careers. Colleges like to have successful alumni since with luck they will give money to the college.

      Failing to engage in sports is a very weak negative signal, since success in sports also depends on irrelevant characteristics, such as how tall you are or how fast your reactions are. But success may still be a pretty strong positive signal.

    • ana53294 says:

      I don’t know how teen team sports work in other countries, but in my hometown, team sports were a good way of motivating young men who did not care about grades to study harder. Essentially, most of the teams had a requirement to pass all the courses, and they would kick out or exclude players from games until they got their grades in order.

      The team spirit and the motivation of being there for the team would make these kids work harder in their studies, and get their high school diploma. After which they can go on to get their apprenticeship, which is less academically oriented.

    • SamChevre says:

      I’m very much a non-jock, so this is to some extent an argument for a culture I don’t share.

      Competitive team sports are valuable in the following ways:
      1) They have objective standards for success which everyone understands. This is important, because it enables several of the items below.
      2) They require working as a group, including doing things with no personal payoff to benefit the group. Objective standards mean this benefit is non-arbitrary.
      3) They teach people to be part of a hierarchy that’s not designed to be good for the guy at the top, but for the group as a whole. Again, the objectivity helps here.
      4) They require a lot of things with indirect, long-term payoffs (lifting weights for football players for example). This helps people develop ta long-term, indirect-payoff structure of thinking and habit.

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      Jock culture, as you define it, is a result of sports being the closest thing we have to a pure meritocracy, outside of other bullshit, and people naturally gravitate more towards things that are meritocratic. On top of that, it is the most entertaining meritocracy to see in action. People also give great chess players great praise, its just that chess is boring to watch (generally). In modern times people who are good at video games are gaining social status (and money) from people watching them play and paying for merchandise. But you know what no one watches? The old farts division of Fortnight. Because no one cares about 50 year olds who would get smoked in the real games.

      • Gazeboist says:

        Commentary and analysis often help with entertainment value, and chess and other intellectual games are often much better analyzed after the fact, where you can easily do things like run through alternative lines of play and what-if scenarios, while physical sports and competitive video games are usually at least somewhat, and often very, amenable to live commentary.

    • pdbarnlsey says:

      the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton

      I read recently, in the Economist I think, that Eton lacked playing fields at the relevant point in time.

      Slightly more relevantly, I think there’s a deep-seated need among humans, especially human males to compete and to engage with the physical competition of our chosen champions. There’s too much parallel evolution of relatively similar physical competition to believe otherwise.

      You could probably shape the form this takes somewhat (less concussions! less nil-all draws!) but it’s hard to see Chomsky’s “why can’t people be as interested in the rules of politics as they are in the rules of baseball” generalising outside some pretty specific audiences, some of whom do treat politics more-or-less exactly like a sporting league.

      This bothered me a lot in high school (college sports aren’t a big thing in Australia) and rather less as a grow more distant from the whole thing. We/I probably spend too much time thinking about the historical significance of Lebron James, but I like doing it, and it’s not obvious that i’d otherwise be devoting my mental energy to James Baldwin or whoever.

      Competition, exercise and teamwork are good skills to develop, and we probably don’t get to choose the activities which most effectively motivate them. But we should remain aware of our collective tendency to overly venerate sports and sports people and encourage other avenues where practical.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        I read recently, in the Economist I think, that Eton lacked playing fields at the relevant point in time.

        The first documented ruleset for what is now called the Eton Field Game is from 1815. The better-known (largely due to its weirdness) but much more rarely played Eton Wall Game is significantly older (and has always been played on exactly the same site). The regular cricket match between Eton and Harrow was first played in 1805.

        So while Wellington almost certainly didn’t say that, and Eton may well not have had official playing fields,* team sports were an important part of life at Eton and other English public schools in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Though I don’t think they really became part of the curriculum, as opposed to a recreation organised by the pupils, until later in the 19th century- probably as part of the tendency of reforms begun by Thomas Arnold at Rugby from 1828, though Arnold himself didn’t make sport part of the curriculum.

        *Westminster School’s playing fields, at Vincent Square, were claimed for the school by William Vincent who was headmaster between 1788 and 1802. The area had previously been waste ground used by Westminster pupils as a sports field.

      • moscanarius says:

        To make it even funnier, here’s Wiki:

        He went to the diocesan school in Trim when at Dangan, Mr Whyte’s Academy when in Dublin, and Brown’s School in Chelsea when in London. He then enrolled at Eton College, where he studied from 1781 to 1784.[12] His loneliness there caused him to hate it, and makes it highly unlikely that he actually said “The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton”, a quotation which is often attributed to him. Moreover, Eton had no playing fields at the time. In 1785, a lack of success at Eton, combined with a shortage of family funds due to his father’s death, forced the young Wellesley and his mother to move to Brussels.[13] Until his early twenties, Arthur showed little sign of distinction and his mother grew increasingly concerned at his idleness, stating, “I don’t know what I shall do with my awkward son Arthur.”[13]

        A year later, Arthur enrolled in the French Royal Academy of Equitation in Angers, where he progressed significantly, becoming a good horseman and learning French, which later proved very useful.[14] Upon returning to England in late 1786, he astonished his mother with his improvement.[15]

        So actually, the Battle of Waterloo was won on the riding fields of France 🙂

    • Plumber says:

      “….What is the redeeming social value of jock culture? What are the gains to human flourishing from rewarding those who excel at competitive team sports?….”

      @Nicholas Weininge,

      My co-workers often talk about “the game” ( baseball, basketball, football, and sometimes the Olympics and the Worldcup) which usually bores me, but the last couple of weeks they talked about something else: Kavaugh.

      The sports talk was far less divisive, and I see the value in it now.

      I was dubious that the “culture war” much existed for anyone besides professional pundits and internet commenters, but I was wrong.

      Sports keeps the peace.

    • J Mann says:

      I was never a jock, and spent most of my time orthagonal to or oppressed by jocks (usually the former), but here’s my steelman.

      1) Most jocks seem to enjoy it relative to the alternatives. For some of them, that’s what they have – we nerds go on to good colleges, make six figure salaries, and then we look back and say “Hey, that one thing you’re good at that we’re not? Let’s stop valorizing that.”

      2) The people who enjoy watching sports get enjoyment out of it.

      3) Many of the values encouraged, like fitness, teamwork, hard work, and the ability to lose without having a breakdown, are admirable. Especially the ability to lose. One of the best things anybody ever learns in my kids’ martial arts classes is when they don’t get a belt. The kids cry, the instructor encourages them, they practically ooze out of the class like they’re a human puddle, and they come back stronger the next time.

      4) I wonder if you’re blaming the wrong thing. One thing we’ve learned from MeToo is that successful politicians abuse women, successful media figures abuse women, successful agents abuse women, and successful comedians abuse women. From what I read, Judge, Kavanaugh, Squi and the rest were smart, good looking hard working strivers with chips on their shoulders because they didn’t go to St. Albans with Al Gore. Judge’s memoir makes a good case that their youth was a wasteland of alcohol abuse from which some emerged and some didn’t. Is the problem really that they played basketball, or was it that they were good looking, had enough money to afford cars and kegs, and were smart enough to think they knew everything? If you took basketball away, do they get more respectful?

      It’s a little bit like astrology – if you can look at Louis CK’s, Matt Lauer’s, Alex Kozinksi’s, Jian Ghomeshi’s behavior and tell me which ones played sports and which ones didn’t, then you might be more right that sports is a substantial part of the problem.

      5) Now if it turns out the problem is masculinity, not athletics, then maybe they’re covariant, but you would still need to look at whether reducing sports would reduce masculinity.

    • AG says:

      Sorry to get into definition debate territory, but I think there are benefits to separating “sports culture” from “jock culture.” The former is what most people here have enumerated as the benefit of promoting sports.

      But “jock culture” has a “jocks vs. non-jocks” exclusionist bent to it that is not so foundational to sports culture. In addition, to be a jock is to take a particular attitude towards sports that is not strictly necessary for athletes. Think of how sports anime aren’t really a thing in the US, and how few of said sports anime feature jock characters, just those enthusiastic for their chosen sport. For that matter, consider how there are swaths of Olympic athletes and sports that do not fall to jock culture.

      So I’m all for sports culture, and have participated in it myself a few times. But to extoll the athletes in a specific way within the limited context of a single school, as superior vs. some other groups of their fellow students, rather than characterizing the various extracurriculars as apples and oranges, that’s dangerous.

      (Hah, so we can look at High School Musical as the solution.)

    • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

      I’ve seen people argue that having many subcultures in a society is a positive because it allows more people to be/have higher status. So one benefit might be to allow less academically gifted people to be lauded and excel at something noteworthy. The smart kids might have a worse time at school, but they’re likely to earn all the money and do higher status jobs as adults.

      This isn’t an argument in favour of jock culture (as you’ve defined it here) getting quite so much prestige. But it’s an argument against abolishing it I think.

    • Statismagician says:

      This is a definitions problem, and one which I think I might actually be pretty well positioned to address.

      ‘Jock culture’ as portrayed in teen movies really is complete unjustifiable garbage. Similarly, there is absolutely no excuse for the amount of money spent on high school and college sports in America… except as a specific reaction to the specifically-dysfunctional state of American education, where the local school board will only fund a new football field and college alumni donations spike after a major win. Blank-slate, yes, obviously this is crazy, but [coordination problems].

      Athleticism, the real thing Hollywood started out exaggerating for [melo]dramatic effect and has now somewhat poisoned, has nothing to do with either of those. I was fortunate enough to spend my childhood and adolescence very involved in fencing, which is a direct personally-competitive sport centered around deliberate physical violence, with a great deal of ambiguity on certain rules questions, and with a small enough population base that you see the same faces over and over at all competitive events. This ought to lead to the most toxic possible atmosphere, if all athletic competition looked like Hollywood thinks it does, but actually what happens is that pretty much everybody is broadly on good terms with everybody else, referee incompetence mistakes are treated as a natural obstacle, and nobody holds much of a grudge except in really egregious cases.

      I kept myself fit, made quite a few good friends, acquired a reasonable degree of physical confidence, and if sabre duels ever come up, I’m all set. I’m also the sort of person who posts on this board and has a statistics pun as a user name; I was and am very much a gigantic nerd. Nerdiness and athleticism have basically nothing to do with each other before probably the 1950s, and are only presently opposed to each other because of accidental Hollywood meddling.

      If you want to substitute ‘the set of all things weird about America and American education since WWII’ for ‘Hollywood meddling,’ I won’t object. Basically, fitness is tautologically good; persistence is obviously but not quite tautologically good; confidence is good when present at a vaguely realistic strength and direct competition is useful for building tuning mechanisms for this; and there’s no particular reason why competition has to lead to combat social or otherwise. All of these things come from athleticism. Jock culture is largely an artificial perversion of athleticism.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      I don’t know it this in support or against to your claim, but it appears that the particular institution / subculture / collective memetic phenomenon in American high-school / college level educational institutions that is commonly referred as “jock culture” is to a large extent an uniquely American creation, and consequently it is fairly unnecessary to remove team sports altogether. Some elements and characteristics are common throughout because cultural osmosis and human biology, but there are several degrees of freedom how the biological predispositions manifest.

      Thus, removal serious organized sport at the colleges and high school level would bring the level of jock-ishness of American jock culture down towards the baseline of “culture of young human [males] who like team sports”. The ambitious ones who would be captains of school football team could still be captains of $local_football_clubs_age_appropriate_youth_division.

    • rlms says:

      As has been said, “jock culture” is an American thing. In the UK (at least in my experience) it’s pretty rare for people to spectate high school/university sports games unless they are e.g. related to the players. Being good at sports doesn’t really convey status.

    • Gazeboist says:

      What is “jock culture”, here? What are the traits that are a fundamental part of the culture, and thus not subject to change except by destruction of “jock culture” generally, which lead you to believe that people, generally, will be better off if “jock culture” is cut out of the existing cultural ecosystem and prevented from perpetuating itself and/or evolving?

    • nweining says:

      (apologies for account variance; stupid WordPress assumptions about what account I am appear to be different across different machines)

      Thanks to all respondents for a very interesting and stimulating discussion with many thought-provoking common themes. This is one of the reasons I love SSC. I am persuaded by the totality of the responses that reducing institutional support for team sports to European levels, removing what really does seem to be a US-specific level of school sponsorship in particular, would address my objections, and that there are more significant upsides to having competitive team sports than I thought, though I think still outweighed by downsides. To be fair, though, some of the downsides may also diminish over time; it may well be, for example, that school sports team members enjoy less impunity in the US today than they did 35 or even 20 years ago.

      I should have clarified that I was referring *only* to team sports: I have *zero* objection to people being socially rewarded for running faster, or swimming faster, or fencing better, or playing better tennis than anyone else. These kinds of athletic endeavors provide many of the upsides noted insightfully by respondents (incentive to build physical fitness, objectively measurable excellence standards, winners and losers, ability of spectators to gawk admiringly at extraordinary achievements, requirement to delay gratification and control oneself in order to achieve excellence) for those people who are less inclined to programming contests or chess games or science fairs or the like, and they do not have the downsides I see.

      The team part is specifically what I object to because the team part is what gives rise to ingroup-outgroup dynamics. I like competition as much as any free-market type, I just want people discouraged rather than encouraged to participate in contests of Our Guys against Those Other Bums. It corrupts the spectators at least as much as the players– and this is true in Europe too at the professional level, cf. football hooliganism. It is indeed extremely popular entertainment, but I think it’s bad entertainment that civilized society should discourage, as we now discourage e.g. cockfights.

      • Matt M says:

        I should have clarified that I was referring *only* to team sports: I have *zero* objection to people being socially rewarded for running faster, or swimming faster, or fencing better, or playing better tennis than anyone else.

        I don’t really understand this at all. The only reason “jock culture” doesn’t permeate individual sports quite as much is because individual sports are less popular. But there are definitely certain schools and environment in which the swimmers or tennis players or golfers or whoever are just as much entitled jerks as football or basketball players are at others.

        Team sports have the obvious benefit of teaching teamwork in a way that individual sports cannot. This is quite a valuable skill and probably especially valuable for people who may be enjoying more status than we might think is reasonable. The star running back still has to drop back into pass protection when the coach tells him to, in order to help the team win. Individual sport athletes will never be faced with a demand like this.

        The only real point I see in your favor is that you seem to be concerned that some team sport athletes may be “free riding” off the success of the team – that is to say that they aren’t particularly athletic themselves, but derive status solely from being on the team where other great athletes are present. I think this is a minor concern. On any school sports team that actually derives status, a minimum level of performance is required. Truly poor performers are cut. And among those who do make the team, not everyone is given equal status. People generally understand and appreciate that the star players are mainly responsible for the success, and give them higher status accordingly.

      • AG says:

        Problem: even sports that don’t have a team kind of have a team, in that tournaments have limited slots per school. Jock culture for non-team sports still emerges via who is varsity, who can letter, etc. And then you still have sport-vs.-sport as much as sports-vs.-non-sports outgrouping.

        I’d even argue that jock culture emerges in non-sports, in the extracurricular is large enough. You can certainly have a jock culture within marching band, or drumline.

  8. Aging Loser says:

    My impression is that the comments here are overwhelmingly Progressive.

    I don’t recall anyone here ever conveying any disturbance whatsoever at the thought of the century-old massive and accelerating female invasion of male space. I don’t recall anyone here ever suggesting that homosexual marriage is merely the final step in the Feminist destruction of marriage.

    Not that women are to be blamed for this or anything else. Men got rid of all intra-male distinctions (priesthood, aristocracy, gentry, industrialist) reflective of natural differences among males, and so it was only to be expected that the male-female distinction would become the final object of contempt.

    Now, as for Adversarial Collaborations — they assume a Utilitarian statistics-gathering commitment from both “adversaries” and are therefore inherently Progressive. No one should imagine that any Conversation Across the Right-Left Divide occurs within them.

    • The Pachyderminator says:

      What do you mean by the “female invasion of male space”? Women in the military? Women in traditionally male sports or on traditionally male teams? Male-identifying people with XX chromosomes in men’s locker rooms? I don’t think there’s any shortage here of people opposed to any of those things.

      • Aging Loser says:

        Law, Medicine, Politics, Accounting, Engineering, Academia, Corporate offices, Security Personnel, Road Crews, Banks — anywhere where the presence of women would have seemed ridiculous in 1913. (World War I was the end of the West; we’re all specters wandering the Undead Lands now.) Female cops and soldiers is just the final snort of contempt.

        It’s kind of funny that the phrase “the Good, the True, and the Beautiful” — indicating everything that Progressives want to destroy — comes from Plato, with his amusing vision of female Guardians and Warriors. But then people ignore Socrates’ accompanying claim (which I don’t accept) that women are simply worse than men at everything, while fitting into the same natural categories.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Yes, by 1900’s standards we’re all Progressives, just like by 1850’s standards we’re all radical abolitionists, and by 1200’s standards we’re all radical pacifists and secularists (even us professing Christians). So? If you want to change our standards in any of those directions, please offer an argument or point us in the direction of an existing argument.

        • Deiseach says:

          Law, Medicine, Politics, Accounting, Engineering, Academia, Corporate offices, Security Personnel, Road Crews, Banks — anywhere where the presence of women would have seemed ridiculous in 1913

          Oh sir, I’m afraid you leave it much too late by 1913! Women were firmly established in medicine by then; I would quote you a story from 1894 about the disgraceful influx of female persons into the healing arts (advance warning for chunk of text to follow):

          It was, then, with a feeling of some surprise and considerable curiosity that on driving through Lower Hoyland one morning he perceived that the new house at the end of the village was occupied, and that a virgin brass plate glistened upon the swinging gate which faced the high road. He pulled up his fifty guinea chestnut mare and took a good look at it. “Verrinder Smith, M. D.,” was printed across it in very neat, small lettering. The last man had had letters half a foot long, with a lamp like a fire-station. Dr. James Ripley noted the difference, and deduced from it that the new-comer might possibly prove a more formidable opponent. He was convinced of it that evening when he came to consult the current medical directory. By it he learned that Dr. Verrinder Smith was the holder of superb degrees, that he had studied with distinction at Edinburgh, Paris, Berlin, and Vienna, and finally that he had been awarded a gold medal and the Lee Hopkins scholarship for original research, in recognition of an exhaustive inquiry into the functions of the anterior spinal nerve roots. Dr. Ripley passed his fingers through his thin hair in bewilderment as he read his rival’s record. What on earth could so brilliant a man mean by putting up his plate in a little Hampshire hamlet?

          But Dr. Ripley furnished himself with an explanation to the riddle. No doubt Dr. Verrinder Smith had simply come down there in order to pursue some scientific research in peace and quiet. The plate was up as an address rather than as an invitation to patients. Of course, that must be the true explanation. In that case the presence of this brilliant neighbour would be a splendid thing for his own studies. He had often longed for some kindred mind, some steel on which he might strike his flint. Chance had brought it to him, and he rejoiced exceedingly.

          And this joy it was which led him to take a step which was quite at variance with his usual habits. It is the custom for a new-comer among medical men to call first upon the older, and the etiquette upon the subject is strict. Dr. Ripley was pedantically exact on such points, and yet he deliberately drove over next day and called upon Dr. Verrinder Smith. Such a waiving of ceremony was, he felt, a gracious act upon his part, and a fit prelude to the intimate relations which he hoped to establish with his neighbour.

          The house was neat and well appointed, and Dr. Ripley was shown by a smart maid into a dapper little consulting room. As he passed in he noticed two or three parasols and a lady’s sun bonnet hanging in the hall. It was a pity that his colleague should be a married man. It would put them upon a different footing, and interfere with those long evenings of high scientific talk which he had pictured to himself. On the other hand, there was much in the consulting room to please him. Elaborate instruments, seen more often in hospitals than in the houses of private practitioners, were scattered about. A sphygmograph stood upon the table and a gasometer-like engine, which was new to Dr. Ripley, in the corner. A book-case full of ponderous volumes in French and German, paper-covered for the most part, and varying in tint from the shell to the yoke of a duck’s egg, caught his wandering eyes, and he was deeply absorbed in their titles when the door opened suddenly behind him. Turning round, he found himself facing a little woman, whose plain, palish face was remarkable only for a pair of shrewd, humorous eyes of a blue which had two shades too much green in it. She held a pince-nez in her left hand, and the doctor’s card in her right.

          “How do you do, Dr. Ripley?” said she.

          “How do you do, madam?” returned the visitor. “Your husband is perhaps out?”

          “I am not married,” said she simply.

          “Oh, I beg your pardon! I meant the doctor — Dr. Verrinder Smith.”

          “I am Dr. Verrinder Smith.”

          Dr. Ripley was so surprised that he dropped his hat and forgot to pick it up again.

          “What!” he gasped, “the Lee Hopkins prizeman! You!”

          He had never seen a woman doctor before, and his whole conservative soul rose up in revolt at the idea. He could not recall any Biblical injunction that the man should remain ever the doctor and the woman the nurse, and yet he felt as if a blasphemy had been committed. His face betrayed his feelings only too clearly.

        • Law, Medicine, Politics, Accounting, Engineering, Academia, Corporate offices, Security Personnel, Road Crews, Banks — anywhere where the presence of women would have seemed ridiculous in 1913.

          Surely an exaggeration. Arguably the most important political figure of the 19th century was Queen Victoria. Women were rare in academia in 1913 but not nonexistent. A Supreme Court case in 1873 held that it was not unconstitutional for Illinois to deny law licenses to women, but there were already a few female lawyers in the U.S. by then, and in 1879 a law was enacted allowing female lawyers to practice in federal court anywhere in the U.S. In 1879 a woman argued a case before the Supreme Court.

          So “unusual in 1913” yes, ridiculous no.

    • Plumber says:

      <b

      “….I don’t recall anyone here ever suggesting that homosexual marriage is merely the final step in the Feminist destruction of marriage…..”

      @Aging Loser,

      Fine I’ll say something about “homosexual marriage”, I don’t like the anti-democratic way it was made legal in California, as I think judicial fiat is dangerous.

      As for the ‘destruction of marriage’?

      That was done in the 1970’s by divorce.

      The cultural shift towards the common acceptance of parents getting divorced was a great evil that the homosexuals had little to do with, and what’s worse is how fast the divorce wave was.

      I well remember how within just a few years almost all of the parents of my classmates in elementary school got divorced.

      I haven’t forgotten and I haven’t forgiven.

      That was the un-fought “traditional family values” fight that should have been, but instead the silence was deafening.

      Everything else “family values” is far too little, and way far too damn late.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I think judicial fiat is dangerous.

        I think in other contexts, your complaint would be that the courts are too deferential to the powerful (where powerful has various meanings).

    • David Shaffer says:

      @Aging Loser

      What harm is caused by the “female invasion”? If a woman wants to do a job, and is qualified to do so, the benefit to letter her is obvious. What’s the harm? Or if you’re going to claim that it’s not harmful but should be considered bad anyway (because of purity, authority or some other supposed moral foundation?), why should we care about a rule if breaking it hurts no one? And if she’s not qualified, then let her lack of qualifications keep her out, not her sex.

      Why should we value marriage? There are actually answers to this one-some people consider it worthwhile for religious reasons, or they want to publicly celebrate their love, or they want a committed partnership to raise their children in. But none of these reasons sanction the law getting involved with a marriage (unless you want the law trying to “protect marriage” by forbidding divorce, which results in horrifying levels of abuse and very little benefit to either parents or children), and none of them are eroded by gay marriage, polyamorous marriage, or any other kind of unconventional marriage being added to the legal roster! The one “harm” done is that by expanding the definition of marriage, we weaken the old idea that there is a sanctified tradition of marriage. But you’ll have to explain why that tradition is worth more than the happiness of millions if you want to use that as an argument.

      Certainly the erosion of male-female distinctions is a continuation of the trend of eroding distinctions in general; you got that one right. But you seem to view it as a mistake. Certainly it can turn into a mistake, by assuming everyone has to do the same things, rather than simply being given the option, or by becoming so “pro-woman” that it metastasizes into misandry, as has happened among SJs and their ilk. But the basic principle of giving people opportunities, and valuing people regardless of class/sex/whatever other distinctions is sound; indeed, the very evil of social justice is that it disregards this, and becomes a leftist counterpart to genocidal fascism.

      And if statistics are “inherently Progressive”, you’re not making a case for the Right buddy.

  9. jhertzlinger says:

    “In some weird reverse of Conquest’s Law, any comment section that isn’t explicitly left-wing tends to get more right-wing over time.”

    Is there a statistical analysis of this?

    Another statistical analysis that’s needed: Is there any difference between the judicial decisions of judges who belonged to fraternities vs. judges who didn’t?

    • albatross11 says:

      It seems to me that it’s not clear how to measure this.

      Suppose on one forum, you have many people arguing for a moderate Republican position, like (say) requiring e-verify for all employers. On another, you have fewer people arguing for that moderate Republican position, but a few arguing for some extreme position (build a wall and shoot anyone who tries to climb it, say). It’s not clear to me which of those is properly considered more right-wing.

      I have a vague model that says that we each have an Overton window of reasonable positions. When we see a people advocating positions outside of our window to the right, we’re likely to feel like the forum is becoming more right wing, even if most of the people on the forum are arguing against those positions. (I’m specifically thinking of Matt M’s arguments w.r.t. immigration, but probably mine on human b-odiversity work the same way.)

  10. CarlosRamirez says:

    I want to do an adversarial collaboration on the conflict between #believewomen and presumption of innocence. I would hold up the presumption of innocence side.

    • axiomsofdominion says:

      An AC is not particularly necessary. The dispute can be settled in a few sentences in plain language. One side presents what is essentially a deontological where the goal is to have as few innocent people convicted as possible. Another side argues a utilitarian argument where you compare the net harm suffered by women who are sexually assaulted vs the harm caused by a certain likely number of false convictions and asserts that the current standard has a net loss in total utility. Essentially, 100 correct convictions and 10 false convictions is a better outcome than 10 correct convictions but no false convictions. The actual numbers may very from the example but those are the terms of the debate. As a rule men tend to support the side of the argument that results in them benefiting while women support the side that benefits them.

      Typically people who oppose #believewomenover men support #believecopsoverblackpeople. You don’t see nearly the furor from people on the right end of the spectrum about cops lying or framing black people as you do women lying or framing men even though one of them is definitely more common, specific numbers aside.

      An adversarial collaboration would seem to be pretty ineffective considering that both sides start from very different foundations.

      • CarlosRamirez says:

        utilitarian argument where you compare the net harm suffered by women who are sexually assaulted vs the harm caused by a certain likely number of false convictions and asserts that the current standard has a net loss in total utility

        That utilitarian argument is suspect, as there is no rigorous way to calculate whether the harm of being raped is worse than the harm of being falsely convicted. Also, it’s easy to argue that almost all the harm of rape is socially constructed, as Germaine Greer does, such that it’s probably better in an utilitarian sense to downgrade the badness of rape, by which she means not just how bad society regards it, but also how bad women who have been raped feel about it, such that rape is about as harmful as a mugging. It would be a win for women to be less vulnerable to sexual crimes.

        There’s also the issue that false accusations are rare in general, not just for sexual crimes, so if that utilitarian notion were to be followed, it would result in throwing away presumption of innocence entirely.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          Rape involves bodily penetration though, not just physical assault. The difference between stabbing or hitting or maybe a gun to your chest vs one to your mouth. Or rubbing grime on your body vs in your mouth. Even if you follow the social construction aspect. Also it often involves transmission of potentially disease transmitting fluids or potentially pregnancy, things which are not the result of mugging or assault and its generally an add on. You don’t get raped or assaulted, its both.

          That aside, its true that its hard to argue the consequences of rape vs false conviction, but only in the sense that everything is hard to evaluate against something else. So that’s more like a rejection of utilitarianism in general.

          Since this is in the context of the value of an adversarial collaboration, it seems that what you wrote is only supporting my point that such a thing would be pointless.

          Compared to something like whether gifted programs or tracking are beneficial.

          • CarlosRamirez says:

            Hmm, yes, rape carries additional risks that non-sexual assaults typically don’t have. If in a particular case the risks do manifest, these could be punished in addition to whatever punishment in is meted out for the rape, same way we have gradations of violent assault and even murder. Wouldn’t surprise to find that things like, ‘victim contracted AIDS as a result of this rape’ are already being priced into the punishment.

            As to the utilitarian deal, yes, it’s true that I pointed out a sticking point of that ethical framework, but that could be the entire basis of our adversarial collaboration: try to hash out which is greater, the harm of being convicted versus the harm of being raped.

            There is no rigorous way to do this, but that’s basically true of all moral precepts, and regardless society has to make important moral decisions, so it’s better to make an attempt to reason these things out,

      • brmic says:

        Speaking for myself, I’d add that I came to doubt the presumption of innocence in the particular cases where it’s one person’s word against another’s. Take for instance marital rape, it’s pretty hard to convict someone of that, because there’s usually no one else around and traces are ambiguous. If we want to enforce the laws against it, and I want to, then we might need to adjust elsewhere. Presumption of innocence should only be lowered as a last resort, but I’m all for trying various other thing people and legislatures have been trying. E.g.: Lower standards for consequences that are not criminal conviction and incarceration. E.g. attempts to add consent culture to the laws etc.. No one has a silver bullet yet, but ‘do nothing’ and let the predictable consequences of the presumption of innocence in this particular area of life run its course is not a satisfactory option for me.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          Its weird. As I noted in a comment, we are often willing to take a cop’s word about what a minority male did and convict on that basis, but not a woman’s word on a man in a sexual matter. Yet the number of frames committed by police is much higher than the number of false rape accusations and the consequences to police are far less than the consequences for a woman, on average.

          • cassander says:

            Yet the number of frames committed by police is much higher than the number of false rape accusations and the consequences to police are far less than the consequences for a woman, on average.

            I’d love to see a citation backing up that claim, because if it were even vaguely close to true, I would be positively astounded. And before you go and say “well, how am I supposed to get accurate stats about cops who lie?” I ask you to consider carefully how you plan to get accurate stats about women who lie.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            And here we run into the problem; the information is impossible to get, and any priors are nearly impossible to effectively update because sharing evidence that violates those priors requires the violation of social norms.

            If you suspect that most of the people who #metoo’d did so for political reasons and that most of them haven’t been personally raped, you’re unlikely to be persuaded that rape is/has been relatively common, despite the number of people telling you they’ve been raped. Try seeing yourself in a world where rape is as common as is claimed. Can you tell the difference? How long would it take to persuade you that this change has occurred?

            If I were to tell you to believe women, I’d do it to tell you that your updating is broken. Consider carefully the *actual* incentives that people have to lie about these things, and ask yourself what your response would be given those incentives and your endorsed values. This is probably a decent proxy for what the people actually doing this do.

          • brmic says:

            I’d love to see a citation backing up that claim, because if it were even vaguely close to true, I would be positively astounded.

            I’d argue from base rates. Most women never accuse anyone of rape and I’d guess after more than a handful of such accusations any women is going to receive extra scrutiny to determine whether she’s just really, really unlucky or a false accuser. Conversely, cops probably ‘accuse’ someone at least once per week and even if they’re super scrupulous and dillgent, it’s almost certain they’ll screw up at some point in their career. In the real world, most aren’t that dedicated, plus there’s the incentives and then there’s the cops that don’t even try, that are fine with framing people (who deserve it).

            To approach it from the other end: I assume, like me, you know almost no women whom you consider capable of false rape accusations. Now imagine a world where for some reason all those women you know end up constantly having to make true accusations and receiving a high level of deference and presumption of truthfulness when doing so. Do you think the number of false accusations would go up or down under those circumstances?

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Its estimated that only 10% of sexual assaults/rapes are reported. There are ~90k reports a year of forcible rape from 1990 to 2017. ~5% is the standard figure for false claims. Approximately 4500 false claims a year vs 90000 reports and 900000 total forcible rapes. Sexual assault is even more common than forcible rape.

          • cassander says:

            @brmic

            I’d argue from base rates. Most women never accuse anyone of rape and I’d guess after more than a handful of such accusations any women is going to receive extra scrutiny to determine whether she’s just really, really unlucky or a false accuser.

            that the number of women who accuse someone of rape is relatively low is totally irrelevant to the question what percentage of accusations are false.

            Conversely, cops probably ‘accuse’ someone at least once per week and even if they’re super scrupulous and dillgent, it’s almost certain they’ll screw up at some point in their career.

            Hence the existence of a massive justice system designed, in part, to protect people from false accusations. A system the #believeallwomen crowd seem determined to tear down.

            To approach it from the other end: I assume, like me, you know almost no women whom you consider capable of false rape accusations.

            I also know few cops who I consider capable of false accusations. Anecdotes are irrelevant.

            Now imagine a world where for some reason all those women you know end up constantly having to make true accusations and receiving a high level of deference and presumption of truthfulness when doing so. Do you think the number of false accusations would go up or down under those circumstances?

            Of course they would. hell, it’s not even me making that argument. #believeallwomen explicitly makes they claim, arguing precisely that doubting women leads fewer to come forward. They, of course, leave out that lowering the burden of proof will also lower the burden for false accusations, but you can’t have one without the other.

            @axiomsofdominion

            ts estimated that only 10% of sexual assaults/rapes are reported. There are ~90k reports a year of forcible rape from 1990 to 2017. ~5% is the standard figure for false claims.

            Estimated by advocacy groups with a decided interest in maximizing the number. And that much quoted 5% figure, IIRC, was only reports made to the police, which they thought were worth investigating, and which they definitively ruled as false. There is a whole hell of a lot of ground left uncovered there. For example, if false, none of the accusations made against Kavanaugh would qualify.

          • Eltargrim says:

            @cassander: You should take a look at Statistics Canada data. Statscan generally produces high-quality statistical data on Canada and Canadians. Based upon this source for the self-reported sexual assault rate (22 per 1000) and this source for the police-reported assault rate (order of 60 per 100 000), it would appear that the reporting rate is on the order of 3%.

            You may also be interested in this report, which pegs the unfounded reporting rate of sexual assault at 14%, 7%, and 9%, for level 1, 2 and 3. Definitions are contained within the article. As always, this is a hard subject to get truly accurate statistics, but Statscan does put in some effort.

          • Matt M says:

            Has anyone ever attempted a survey asking men whether or not they’ve ever been falsely accused of something sexual?

            Because it seems perfectly plausible to me that we’d see similar results, inasmuch as “voluntary response” would indicate 10x more false accusations than actually go “formally reported”

            There are plenty of reasons people don’t bother reporting plenty of various crimes. Every barfight doesn’t result in a police investigation, either. And that’s not because of sexism or patriarchy or whatever. I imagine this is particularly true in cases where there’s no clear financial gain to be had by reporting, and the animus for doing so would almost entirely be one of justice and/or retribution. Meaning, I’d bet thefts (even small ones) get reported a lot, because the victim hopes to recover their stolen property – but minor assaults resulting in no medical bills probably do not.

          • albatross11 says:

            axis:

            To lower the temperature on this discussion, I propose a friendly amendment: In general, I think we’re willing to take a policeman’s word on what *anyone* does–it’s not just minority males.

          • brmic says:

            @cassander
            May I remind you, we are talking about:

            Yet the number of frames committed by police is much higher than the number of false rape accusations and the consequences to police are far less than the consequences for a woman, on average

            So your response

            that the number of women who accuse someone of rape is relatively low is totally irrelevant to the question what percentage of accusations are false.

            moves the goalposts. Substantially.
            I don’t care to convince you, I wanted to provide reasons why someone would consider the first statement ‘vaguely close to true’. To reiterate, the reasons is that police make many more accusations.

            I mean, you second line response

            Hence the existence of a massive justice system designed, in part, to protect people from false accusations. A system the #believeallwomen crowd seem determined to tear down.

            again moves the goalpost, we were talking about police, not the criminal justice system and the slur against #believeallwomen is both irrelevant and uncalled for.

            The next bit

            I also know few cops who I consider capable of false accusations. Anecdotes are irrelevant.

            makes me wonder whether you really did not get that this wasn’t an anecdote. (To add an actual anecdote: I know several cops who admit to having witnessed and not reported either police brutality or framing. I know no women who have admitted to false rape accusations.)

            Finally, with

            Of course they would. hell, it’s not even me making that argument. #believeallwomen explicitly makes they claim, arguing precisely that doubting women leads fewer to come forward. They, of course, leave out that lowering the burden of proof will also lower the burden for false accusations, but you can’t have one without the other.

            you apprently failed to notice, that this exactly concedes the point. The burden of proof is lowered for police, who are believed more than ordinary citizens, even by the criminal justice system, and it has predictable consequences.
            That is, before we even get to the problem of the sheer number of accusations.

          • cassander says:

            I don’t care to convince you, I wanted to provide reasons why someone would consider the first statement ‘vaguely close to true’. To reiterate, the reasons is that police make many more accusations.

            Your original definition was “framings”, which I take to mean deliberate attempts to convict the innocent. You’ve since broadened to include possibly erroneous reports. We’ve both moved the goal posts, let’s shift them back.

            makes me wonder whether you really did not get that this wasn’t an anecdote.

            IF you don’t have actual data, it’s an annecdote.

            you apprently failed to notice, that this exactly concedes the point. The burden of proof is lowered for police, who are believed more than ordinary citizens, even by the criminal justice system, and it has predictable consequences.
            That is, before we even get to the problem of the sheer number of accusations.

            You’re overstating the case. Policemen cannot go around accusing random people, there is a process that they must go through, a rather extensive and explicitly adversarial process. It takes seriously the things police say, but it is far more than just their say so.

        • CarlosRamirez says:

          Germaine Greer is of that opinion, namely, that sexual crimes, and even rape should have much lighter punishments. I can get behind a lower standard of evidence then: if society decides sexual crimes are not deserving of severe punishment, then the standard of evidence can be relaxed for them.

          Greer’s reasoning about the rape thing is that there is no reason women should believe having an unwanted penis in their vagina is cause for extremely severe distress. If you think about it, the belief that rape does critical harm has sexist roots, and is itself sexist in the sense that it is a belief that makes women more vulnerable.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      It’s a mistake to think that the charitable interpretation of “believe women” and the charitable interpretation of “presumption of innocence” are in conflict so you’re not off to a good start.

      • Statismagician says:

        Could you spell the charitable interpretations out a bit more concretely? As I’ve generally seen the two portrayed, ‘believe women’ means something like: ‘this is an unpleasant experience for accusers, by all available information the false-accusation rate is quite low, it’s therefore reasonable to weight specific cases towards the positive as a consequence.’

        Similarly, I usually see ‘presumption of innocence’ meaning something like ‘it’s almost literally the founding principle of our legal system that none of that matters; we have historically been explicitly committed to not convicting people for things they didn’t do even if that means we miss some -many, even! – people who are in truth guilty,’ which seems fairly contradictory. Have I got my definitions wrong?

        I think a lot of the frustration from the presumption-of-innocence side is that nobody seems willing to admit there’s a conflict between the two positions [if there is; again I may have my definitions wrong], or that when it comes down to any specific case you still have to judge it on its own specifics if you don’t want to fall into an ecological fallacy, which sort of limits the practical significance. What, specifically, are we supposed to do here? How are the legal and social realms of this question to be handled differently? Are they at all? These are really important questions that don’t seem to be adequately addressed, and I for one am a little leery of massively reforming the judicial system until I see some evidence that somebody’s thought about them for at least five minutes. [NB, totally possible somebody has and I missed it, in which case I would very much appreciate reading material.]

        • ordogaud says:

          I was confused by Philosophicats statement as well, what you said was basically how I see the two sides of the debate.

          The only thing I can think is that the Charitable interpretation of #BelieveWomen is that we should still presume innocence, but if the only evidence is the testimony of the victim and there’s no reason to believe the victim is lying (no overwhelming and documented motive for revenge, no history of false accusations, etc.) then that should be enough for a conviction.

          i.e. If it’s a “he said she said” situation and there isn’t much hard evidence either way then we should side with she said, and that should be enough to convict.

          Personally I’m uncomfortable with that becoming an absolute norm of the justice system, especially because I don’t think we could set a precedent where this norm would only apply to sexual assault cases, and I think that would really open up our justice system to a lot more abuse from bad actors. Though I will admit the statistics have convinced me it would be the better way of finding justice for sexual assault.

          Still something tells me if our default was to always convict without extra evidence, the false accusations rate would go way up. There would need to be a change in our attitude towards sentencing and stigmatization for cases that aren’t violent rape and/or don’t have explicit proof, so that those who are falsely accused don’t have their lives mostly ruined while those who are guilty still face some consequences.

          • albatross11 says:

            The basic utilitarian argument (offerred by axisofdominion above) seems stronger for the tribunals on campus that can only expel an accused rapist, not put him in prison.

            However, people are people. If you make it possible for any woman who’s been on a date with a man to get him expelled, you’re going to have a fair number of women who decide to get even with a guy they feel has done them wrong. Our current situation is that women who make the accusation get beaten up so much by the system that it’s a terrible ordeal for them, and so they rarely want to make the accusation. Make that lower cost, and you’ll get more of both true and false accusations.

          • rlms says:

            i.e. If it’s a “he said she said” situation and there isn’t much hard evidence either way then we should side with she said, and that should be enough to convict.

            This is not the charitable version. It’s likely not a strawman, but it’s certainly a very weakman.

            The charitable version is that you shouldn’t dismiss someone who accuses your friend of rape because you know he’s a good guy. In a he-said-she-said situation, it should be the rapist who loses friends; that certainly doesn’t mean they should go to prison without further evidence.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Why should I ditch a friend because someone I don’t even know accuses him of rape? To me this is more than he said/she said; presumably I have some measure of the character of my friend and believe he wouldn’t do such a thing.

          • rlms says:

            @The Nybbler
            There should be separation between my sentences. You don’t have to instantly ostracise your best friend of 20 years when she’s accused of rape by a stranger, but you should take the allegation seriously. And if it’s two people you know or don’t know equally well, you should tend towards the supporting the accuser not the accused.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @rlms, sure, but what should “taking the allegation seriously” look like? I can see a spectrum of examples there, some of which I’d agree with and others of which I wouldn’t.

          • Statismagician says:

            It kind of doesn’t, sorry. I have no reason to believe a lot of people are lying about having experienced a sexual assault, but clearly at least some people somewhere are and I have some very strong reasons to think that changing the standards of evidence and basic underlying philosophy of the whole American legal system might have some unfortunate effects on incentives.

            If you want us to go to a ‘he said / she said’ standard, or more generally an ‘accusation is sufficient evidence to convict’ standard, then that’s explicitly saying ‘I am okay with [n] people being imprisoned unjustly, where we can be pretty confident [n] in five years will be at least a bit bigger than [n] today.’

            Decreasing stigma, excellent. Improving resource allocation and forensic methods, also excellent. Replacing a foundational legal-philosophical principle with literally the ecological fallacy, less so – or rather, we can have that discussion, but let’s be explicit about it instead of papering over the issue.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            The issue isn’t legal as I see it, but one of belief. Maintain the legal standard as it is, but do better at making decisions based on things that aren’t the legal standard. The problem is not that consequences are dealt out with an eye towards skepticism – this is fine, as far as I’m concerned – but that people who claim to be victimized are often asked to meet a standard of conviction in order to be believed. I believe many things that do not meet a standard of no reasonable doubt (by estimating a probability that they are true, and defending them in a way that is fitting, given my degree of belief). In many cases, women have been asked to meet a standard of conviction in order to be believed when they say that they have been raped. I think that this is a bad thing, and that barring specific factors which make the claim substantially unlikely to be true, the person claiming to have been assaulted should be met with an amount of skepticism proportional to the realistic probability that they are lying. I also think that if your prior that they are lying is above ~25% (again, for a random person. Also, this threshold is really the maximum I think anyone could reasonably have and not representative of my belief), you have probably not been updating properly at this point.

            So yeah, decreasing stigma, increasing support, examining your priors, and actually acting in accord with your estimated probability of victimization. All important, all connected directly with “belief,” none requiring the judicial system to be reformed, and all under-enacted currently.

          • Statismagician says:

            It is concerning to me that I said ‘hey, let’s maybe not increase the Type I error rate by more than absolutely necessary,’ and you said ‘it’s fine, it’ll just be for unimportant stuff like losing your job or your entire social circle.’ If you accuse me of stealing your car, you’d better believe I’m going to insist you actually prove that before accepting punishment for it, or doling out punishment to somebody else if they’re the one accused. Why is this different?

            It’s a formal logical fallacy to draw individual conclusions from group data, and serious accusations with serious consequences require serious evidence. So, assuming any kind of logical rigor at all, either a) rape isn’t a serious accusation, b) rape shouldn’t have serious punishments [formal or informal; being fired under suspicion of rape is less-bad than prison for twenty years, but still not ideal], c) we can adjust the threshold for taking action as you suggest, knowing that a nonzero-and-increasing number of people are going to have their lives ruined for no reason, d) none of this has any practical significance at all, or e) something doesn’t quite add up. It’s all well and good to say ‘believe women,’ but what does that actually mean as a normative value?

          • cassander says:

            @Hoopyfreud says:

            In many cases, women have been asked to meet a standard of conviction in order to be believed when they say that they have been raped.

            If you tell me that person X made lewd comments toward you, I’m inclined to believe you on just your say so, but if you’re accusing someone of a serious crime, it’s not unreasonable to ask that you meet a criminal burden of proof. If you tell me that person X killed someone, or stole a significant amount of money from you, I would make exactly the same demand. I fail to see why rape should be treated differently.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            ‘hey, let’s maybe not increase the Type I error rate by more than absolutely necessary,’ and you said ‘it’s fine, it’ll just be for unimportant stuff like losing your job or your entire social circle.’

            This seems like a deeply uncharitable interpretation of what I wrote, but on the chance that I’m just bad at saying things…

            The bit about individual conclusions from group data makes sense if you ignore the fact that I’m talking about the balance of probability. I’m not saying that you should treat an accused rapist as though they were a rapist. I’m saying that you should treat them as though you believed they were a rapist with [your estimate]% confidence. If X is 50%, maybe don’t accept a drink from them. If X is 80%, maybe don’t invite them to the sort of social event where people who don’t know each other well go home together in the dark and intoxicated. If X is anywhere north of 10%, maybe refrain from putting that person and the person who accused them in a room together.

            Additionally, a “conclusion” is a very conclusive thing. If this person is in your social circle and you have strong opinions as to their character, apply your reasoning and estimate downwards if appropriate. If you interact with this person regularly and they show no evidence of rapey behavior, revise your estimate downwards if appropriate. Be careful about the kind of evidence you consider, and remember that exhibiting charisma is not the same thing as being not-rapey.

            This isn’t about punishment, judicial or not. Don’t throw someone who you think is 75% likely to have raped someone in chains. Don’t kick them out of their job, unless you know that if you don’t, one of the people involved will definitely leave. In that case, do what you think is just (this is hard, and very personal). If they’re your friend, don’t block their number. There’s a 25% chance they’re completely innocent, and doing so would be needlessly cruel. That’s not what this is about. This is about making a careful assessment of the likely state of the world and making a conscious decision about the appropriate magnitude of personal response. I am not telling you to unconditionally believe women; I am making the normative statement that when women tell you they have been raped, that should move the dial pretty dramatically on how likely you think it is that they have been raped. How you act at that point is up to you and your conception of justice, but even if you refuse to take any action against the accused rapist without conclusive proof, I don’t think that implies that you should assume that the accuser is lying.

            Here is some practical advice, if you want to know how I think “believing women” should work in practice. If you think there’s a 75% chance that a woman you know has been raped and there is no corroborating evidence, I would suggest that the appropriate response is to exercise empathy. Offer your sympathy for what you believe has happened to her, offer her as much support as you’re willing, give her advice on how likely it is that she will obtain justice, and try to keep the woman and the person she accuses of raping her apart as much as possible if it is in your power to do so. Expect that if you associate with the person she accuses of raping her and don’t stop, she will distance herself from you. Remember that she is (probably) nearly 100% certain that the person she has accused has raped her and encourage her to act in accordance with the strength of her belief, even if that means hurting you in some tangential way (hurting you directly is pretty unacceptable, of course). Do not expect her to structure her life around the assumption that the person she has accused is innocent; it is unreasonable for her to do so, just as much as it is unreasonable for you to stay friends with someone who you caught (but can’t prove you caught) poisoning your dog. Try your best to put yourself in the victim’s shoes and do not disparage her for doing things that you think would make sense to you if you were in their place. Try to understand what it might be like to be a victim of a traumatic event, and do your best to treat people who credibly claim to be suffering from trauma in a way that you would want to be treated if you were suffering from trauma.

            This all goes for men too, of course. But we aren’t included in #believewomen by default, and we’ll probably have to do this again some time in the future. Still, that doesn’t mean that the charitable interpretation isn’t a worthwhile project.

            E: also, @cassander
            Someone stole my wallet a few weeks ago. It had a couple hundred dollars in it and some personal treasures that I deeply miss.

            How likely do you think it is that I’m telling you the truth? I will tell you that nobody who I’ve told this to has demanded to see a photo of my wallet or search my room and person for it.

          • Jiro says:

            Someone stole my wallet a few weeks ago. It had a couple hundred dollars in it and some personal treasures that I deeply miss.

            How likely do you think it is that I’m telling you the truth? I will tell you that nobody who I’ve told this to has demanded to see a photo of my wallet or search my room and person for it.

            You didn’t name any potential thief. I’m pretty sure that if you named a thief, and there was no evidence that he ever had your wallet or that you even lost your wallet, the consequences to him would be light or nonexistent.

            Even if you had named a potential thief, most of the reasons for false accusations of rape don’t apply to wallets.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Jiro

            I don’t know his name, but I could probably recognize him. If I ran into him, I’d be very willing to make a fuss about it, but I haven’t seen him around since. I certainly wouldn’t have any compunction about telling his family he stole my wallet.

            Nonetheless, I’m (again) talking about belief. Not prosecutability. My point is that, for people to believe that my wallet has been stolen, I have not been asked to meet a standard for criminal burden of proof despite the fact that I’m claiming to be the victim of a crime! Moreover, I can’t think of anyone whose first response to someone claiming to have been mugged is a demand for proof; same goes for burglary, assault, or most crimes in general. The accused isn’t always (or even usually) immediately fired/jailed/convicted, but there’s a hell of a lot more immediate and undoubting sympathy for the victim, even from people who never see a police report.

            Finally, I freely admit that there are incentives for falsely reporting rape that don’t necessarily exist for other crimes. That said, what is your prior for a female coworker who you don’t know particularly well telling you she’s been raped and telling the truth? Mine is probably around 85%. That’s lower than it would be if she claimed someone had stolen her purse, but much, much higher than it would be for alien abduction. It’s also much higher than the threshold for “I need you to overcome a criminal burden of proof for me to act in any way as though I believe you.”

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Hoopyfreud,

            Your wallet stealing example just isn’t very good here.

            When someone I know tells me that they were mugged or raped I generally believe them unless I have a good reason not to trust their account. And even when I have good reason to doubt them I don’t call them out on it.

            When someone I know tells me that someone else I know mugged or raped them, then I need to be a lot more discerning. Is it more plausible that the accused is a violent criminal or that the accuser is mistaken or lying? Sometimes I lean one way, sometimes the other, depending on the details as presented to me.

            That’s not a consequence of ideology. I don’t agree with the reasoning of letting ten guilty men go free to spare one innocent; sometimes it’s more important to punish ten innocents in order to ensure that one guilty man is brought to justice. It’s a consequence of having to make important decisions with imperfect information.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Nabil

            Additionally, a “conclusion” is a very conclusive thing. If this person is in your social circle and you have strong opinions as to their character, apply your reasoning and estimate downwards if appropriate. If you interact with this person regularly and they show no evidence of rapey behavior, revise your estimate downwards if appropriate.

            I don’t think we disagree at all, then. My point is that the charitable interpretation of #believewomen isn’t “blindly believe women in all cases and disregard any knowledge you may have that should tell you otherwise.” Instead, it’s “do not default to reacting to a claim of rape you have no special reason to doubt the veracity of with skepticism, and make your probability estimates carefully.” I think that if you look you’ll find that there are a lot of people whose prior on a rape claim about which they have no information being true is terribly low, and these people are the ones targeted by the slogan.

            Note that here skepticism doesn’t refer to a refusal to come to a conclusion with insufficient evidence, but to the refusal to believe someone unless they present overwhelming evidence. This latter attitude is, by many accounts, distressingly common for women to run into.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s not just about priors. My prior on the Jackie story as I first heard it summarized — that a girl had been raped by multiple guys at a frat party at UVa — was that it was most likely true. Mostly because I was rather prejudiced against frat guys. But when I read the story, I changed my belief to “almost certainly false” based on the unlikely horror-movie elements. “BelieveWomen” would have had me discard the internal evidence of the story and still believe Jackie.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Hoopyfreud,

            If that’s the actual ask, the #believewomen crowd has done absolutely everything in their power to give the wrong impression.

            It seems like a classic Motte and Bailey here.

            If #believewomen means that men should rely on our own judgement to decide how likely an accusation is to be true, then it’s so obvious and banal that it’s not worth saying. It doesn’t even address your own complaints because all of the men who didn’t believe victims of rape already did exactly that.

            If #believewomen means what it’s generally understood to mean, that men need to shut up and nod whenever a woman says that she was assualted or raped (even if he himself is the target of the accusation*), then it actually has some teeth. It’s utterly insane but it addresses the complaints that you brought up and is internally consistent.

            *I’m searching for links now but I’ve seen several different people make the argument that if a woman accuses you of something you should apologize for it regardless of whether or not you actually did it. Most recently, that Kavanaugh defending himself was wrong even if he had never assaulted Ford.

          • Matt M says:

            “do not default to reacting to a claim of rape you have no special reason to doubt the veracity of with skepticism, and make your probability estimates carefully.”

            Who actually does this, though?

            Generally speaking, most people believe the claims of others they know and trust. As many people have already said, if a close female acquaintance of mine claims to have been assaulted, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and believe them*.

            The people who are skeptical are generally people who have a unique requirement to be skeptical. Namely: Police, and other authority figures that have an ability to punish the alleged perpetrator. For people in those roles, skepticism is appropriate and necessary. I would also add that asking for elaboration on the story is not necessarily skepticism. When the police ask a victim where they were, who they were with, what time the attack took place, could anyone verify these things, etc. it may come across as “skeptical” but ultimately these basic facts are necessary to proceed along the path to justice.

            But I’m not aware of some mass phenomena of men generally reacting to claims of assault from women they know and trust with “Whatever, you’re probably just making it up.”

            *Note that I think this is what explains the completely partisan divide on whether one believed Ford or Kavanaugh. Rs saw Kavanaugh as the equivalent of “their friend” and so were inclined to trust him. Ds saw Ford the same way.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            You’re in a social setting like a college or something, something fairly tightly-knit. The gossip is that a guy you know vaguely sexually assaulted a girl you know vaguely. Do you still invite him to parties? Do you still invite her to parties? Adjust this for you knowing one better than the other, liking one better than the other, one being prominent on campus, etc.

          • Matt M says:

            Adjust this for you knowing one better than the other, liking one better than the other, one being prominent on campus, etc.

            So, controlling for five variables that are never, in real life, actually equal?

            It’s too absurd of a hypothetical to answer. I would side with whichever one I trusted more, which almost certainly would map to whichever one I knew/liked better.

            Just like I did with Kavanaugh and Ford. Just like everybody did with Kavanaugh and Ford.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Say that you like both equally, just as a hypothetical. I mean, this isn’t the comment section to complain about silly hypotheticals, eh? If it’s 50-50, do you pick one over the other? Do you flip a coin?

            If the accused is somebody you like, do you consider that maybe liking someone isn’t a great proxy for trusting them? Or that they might be trustworthy in some circumstances, but not in others?

          • Matt M says:

            I mean, this isn’t the comment section to complain about silly hypotheticals, eh?

            Yeah, I know.

            But what I’m saying here is that I would find a way to decide who I trust more, and that this method would be determined based on criteria such as “how long have I known them?” “how much do I like them?” “what is their credibility in various situations?” and NOT criteria such as “Are they male or female?” or “Are they the accuser or the accused?”

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @The Nybbler, @Nabil

            If anything, I feel that I’m the one being motte-and-baileyed. I don’t really think I have, since these comments have mostly come from different people, but still. I have consistently maintained that this is what I believe to be the charitable interpretation of #believewomen, and I have been defending against claims that I read as saying, “I should act as though I have high confidence that someone accused of rape is innocent if conclusive evidence to the contrary is not available.” I have myself argued against the egregious “strong” versions you’re talking about. This is the charitable interpretation that was requested.

            It’s also therefore true that this is not necessarily a representative interpretation, especially if you’re going to be looking at op-eds and twitter, but it’s the sentiment expressed by most women I’ve talked to. See parallels in #blacklivesmatter and Campaign Zero. Just because the people who want something reasonable aren’t the loudest doesn’t mean you get to ignore them and still claim good faith.

            @Matt M

            I’m not aware of some mass phenomena of men generally reacting to claims of assault from women they know and trust with “Whatever, you’re probably just making it up.”

            Then you’re not listening to the people who are telling you about it. And if you add the people who react with variants on, “well, I’m sure you [deseved it] for [leading him on]” it’s an even bigger one that women are and have been trying to tell you about for literal years.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            I suppose my steel man of the whole thing is that maybe it should be nudged a little in the direction of believing the person who said the thing happened, if there’s no good reason to disbelieve them. The alternative to this – the status quo in social spaces like a college or whatever – isn’t to cast hate on the victim, necessarily, but to sort of shrug and say “we will never know the truth.” We need to fight our natural preference for “keeping the peace” – I’ve heard both second-hand and first-hand accounts of women being sexually assaulted and doubting themselves in some way.

            To consider that predators aren’t all easily spotted, etc, is a good thing. That I like someone doesn’t mean that they’re incapable of ignoring someone else’s non consent, etc.

          • Matt M says:

            I’ve heard both second-hand and first-hand accounts of women being sexually assaulted and doubting themselves in some way.

            To the extent that “sexual assault” now includes things like “we were both drinking and maybe I wasn’t in a position to consent” and “well I didn’t say no or make any effort to stop the escalation in any way but I still would rather have not it happened,” man, I know this is going to sound cruel or whatever, but maybe in those scenarios, the women should be doubting themselves in some way.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Matt M

            Let’s restrict our discussion to cases in which one party claims to have not under any circumstances done anything that could be interpreted as giving consent, then. The fuzzy edges of the definition of rape can be very easily ignored for this sort of discussion.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The stuff I’ve had recounted to me second-hand, or had female friends tell me first-hand happened to them, didn’t fall into that category. My point is that the primary assumption should not be “oh well but women’s studies has decided anything is sexual assault so maybe they should doubt themselves” or whatever.

            Like, I’ve also had female friends recount tales of bad sexual encounters in which the guy was an asshole or whatever, in which they acknowledged they wouldn’t have done xyz if totally sober – without claiming that it was nonconsensual.

            Are there people who interpret the former as the latter? Sure. But the women I am friends with know the difference between those things.

          • lvlln says:

            Then you’re not listening to the people who are telling you about it. And if you add the people who react with variants on, “well, I’m sure you [deseved it] for [leading him on]” it’s an even bigger one that women are and have been trying to tell you about for literal years.

            I’ve listened to such people and continue listening to them, but I haven’t seen them present any actual empirical evidence on this. Mere personal testimony are roughly worthless when it comes to determining the existence of “mass phenomena of men generally reacting to claims of assault from women they know and trust with ‘Whatever, you’re probably just making it up.'” At best, it can determine if there are any men who react in such a way. This is still valuable to know, and it’s not unreasonable to argue that such men shouldn’t react like that, but without actual data gathering, it’s impossible to say whether or not this constitutes a “mass phenomenon.”

            Without actual evidence that this is a real “mass phenomenon,” the charitable interpretation of “believe women” seems rather vacuous.

          • albatross11 says:

            The steelman here seems reasonable. If you come to realize that:

            a. Women often don’t move forward with formal charges after a rape or sexual assault, because the process is brutal even if the bastard ends up in jail.

            b. What limited evidence we have doesn’t support the idea that there are a lot of false formal accusations.

            c. In most social contexts, claiming to have been raped or sexually assaulted is a huge lose for the victim. (Probably worse for men than women, but women pay a large social cost in most contexts.)

            Those things should cause us to assign a somewhat higher probability to the “she’s telling the truth” possibility than we’d normally do. It basically says that any accusation of sexual assault/rape, and especially a formal accusation of sexual assault/rape, is fairly strong evidence (though not 100%) that it really happened.

            Further, most of the known false accusations seem to come down to either mistaken identity (I think common in violent rapes where the victim doesn’t know the attacker), crazy people, or people who are in some really nasty situation and think they may be able to get out of it by making the accusation. If you know the person making the accusation, probably you have a pretty good idea whether they’re crazy or in some desperate situation (pregnant at 16, say) that a rape accusation might save them from. If a woman confides to you that “that bastard over there tried to rape me when we went on a date last year,” and you know she’s neither crazy nor likely to benefit from that accusation, it’s a really good bet she’s telling the truth. Not 100%, not enough to lock anyone up, but enough that you ought to take it seriously.

            All IMO.

          • Matt M says:

            Right. For the sake of argument, let’s travel back in time to the 1970s. An era wherein women were no longer considered to be male property, but sufficiently pre-dating MeToo such that drunken sex wouldn’t be considered rape, etc.

            As far as I can tell, throughout the decade of the 1970s, over 500,000 rapes were prosecuted in the US.

            This means that at least 500,000 victims were believed (by the police, whom I’ve already pointed out should justly have a higher standard of credibility than a general friend/family). Presumably many more were believed enough to start an investigation, but sufficient evidence to convict was not forthcoming.

            So it strikes me as a little bit implausible to say that we had a widespread cultural attitude of “just ignore rape victims and assume they are making it up.” Like, if that were true, how did half a million rapists end up in jail?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @albatross11

            Your point a. does not argue for the proposition. If the process is exactly as brutal for true accusations as false, it reduces accusations but does not change the proportion of true to false. If the process is more brutal for false than true, it increases the proportion of true to false. But if the process is less brutal for false than true, it reduces the proportion of true to false.

            At least one of the mechanisms usually given for the process being brutal — causing the accuser to re-live her trauma — applies only to true accusations.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            This data is from 1989, which is about as old as I can find; hopefully Matt will find this acceptable.

            Link

            Golding et al find that ~2/3 of rape victims who tell a friends or family members about their experience (which is also 2/3) find them helpful.

            That’s a majority, but a shockingly small one. Thanks to Matt, assuming these numbers held in the 70s and assuming that all victims who found the police “helpful” had their cases prosecuted successfully (let’s assume that this generous estimate will envelop all the false accusers), we can calculate that we’re talking about approximately 12,500,000 victims of rape, of whom 7,500,000 told friends/family. Of those, approximately 2,475,000 did not find their friends or family helpful. Feel free to take 50% off of this figure for the sake of argument; it still leaves us with over 1 million.

            To wit.

            It strikes me as a little bit implausible to say that we didn’t have a widespread cultural attitude of “just ignore rape victims and assume they are making it up.” Like, if that were true, how did two and a half million victims receive no support from their families and friends?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            I can’t speak for the people who hold the harder-core versions of the whole thing, but what I remember from university (left-wing school, majority women, yet somehow still guys who were straight-up rapists running free) was that the generic reflex was to not make waves. “No drama” was kind of the rule, or, drama only happened over small stupid stuff. The charming guy who made a habit of going after women who were really, really drunk? Nobody really said much, aside from gossip.

          • Matt M says:

            At this point I feel like we’re kind of talking past each other.

            If your overall message is that the point of “Believe Women” is something like “If a woman you know well and know to be generally trustworthy claims to have been raped, and you don’t know the accused any better or know them to be more trustworthy, you should believe her,” then well, Mission Accomplished (insert smiling photo with banner and thumbs up here). That’s already something I would have done. Every male I know (and I run in some far right circles mind you) would do the same. The notion that anyone would do otherwise is so foreign to me that I find it incomprehensible.

            So the steelman here is irrelevant – everyone already agrees with it.

            But let’s make this more tricky and go back to Ford. I don’t know Ford. I have no particular reason to trust her. The one thing I do know about her is that she is a Democrat and that her closest public ally is Diane Feinstein and that the stated goal of her coming forward is to do damage to a political ally of myself. This is so far away from the hypothetical discussed above, that why should I believe her? It’s a completely and entirely different scenario.

            That said, I totally empathize with and understand Democrats who do believe her. Because the limited information they have on her is that she’s a distinguished professor with no criminal record and no history of mental illness. The accused, meanwhile, is a privileged frat boy with a history of alcohol abuse and a judicial record that clearly establishes he is anti-woman, who was appointed by the single biggest force for evil in the world, Donald Trump. Of course someone with that perspective would reflexively believe her.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            No, Matt, let’s not talk about Ford, and let’s definitely not take the bait in your last paragraph. I’m not interested.

            I’m sorry for being rude, but I can’t help but feel that there’s no other way to address the fact that for you,

            The notion that anyone would do otherwise is so foreign to me that I find it incomprehensible

            Whereas for millions of women, the reality is very different. Model, if you can, the second-order effects of this lack of support, and take those second-order effects into account when judging the likelihood of rape. Given that you’re as willing as you claim to believe women when they tell you they’ve been raped despite not being friends with any people you suspect would rape women, I don’t see why it would be so hard for you to believe them when they tell you that nobody around them cares when they claim to have been raped, despite not being friends with anyone who you think wouldn’t care if a woman they knew were raped.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Hoopyfreud

            The problem, IMO, is you are losing people because separating punishment for the action (whether it is prison, losing a job, kicked from school, ostracized from a group) is not really possible.

            If you have a 6 person friend group and Jill accuses Bob of drugging her and raping her, this is now a 5 person friend group. Either Bob is cast out as a rapist or Jill is as a liar. You cannot believe and support Jill without shitting on Bob, and shitting on him heavily. If its a 10 person workplace they both can’t keep working there. Even if its Wal Mart, someone is getting transferred, at the least.

            So, your idea of separating support and belief from punishment is just unworkable.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            Your response to my saying I had firsthand accounts from women and secondhand accounts also, in which women had shit that was at a minimum profoundly ungentlemanly behaviour – and honestly I could call sexual assault, legally speaking, in each case – happen and to some extent doubted themselves was to say “well maybe they should.” Perhaps you have a bit of a blind spot here? Like, if a female friend told you a guy semi-forcibly made out with her without asking and she didn’t know if she’d somehow signalled interest by accident and kinda blamed herself, would your response be that? Would your internal dialogue be that? Or if a female friend told you about something worse happening to a mutual acquaintance. Or, hey, a male friend, it’s 2018.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m sorry but I won’t just let Kavanaugh go. Kavanaugh is very important and instructive here as the extreme test case of what’s going on. And it’s relevant to this discussion specifically because people are invoking “Believe women” as a mantra suggesting that one should trust Ford’s version of events over Kavanaugh’s.

            I think this is an obvious motte and bailey situation. The motte being “If your sister says she was raped by a random stranger, you should believe her” (which is completely and totally uncontroversial – everyone either already does this or believes everyone should), with the bailey being “If your brother says he was falsely accused by a random stranger, you should believe the stranger” which goes so strongly against human instinct that demanding it is, quite frankly, absurd.

            dndnrsn’s anecdotes of “I know women who said they were assaulted and nobody believed them” seem to be self-disproving. Because you seem to believe them. Are you the only non-sexist person these women know?

            I’d be really interested in hearing some detailed accounts of women who claimed to be assaulted and were disbelieved by their close friends, family members, etc. Especially if the person they accused was unknown to or disliked by the friends and family. And especially in hearing the logic or explanation for why they didn’t believe (e.g. I am close to a couple people that I wouldn’t believe over a random stranger – mainly because they have a long and established history of mental illness and intentional lying)

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            dndnrsn’s anecdotes of “I know women who said they were assaulted and nobody believed them” seem to be self-disproving. Because you seem to believe them. Are you the only non-sexist person these women know?

            That’s not what I said. I said:

            We need to fight our natural preference for “keeping the peace” – I’ve heard both second-hand and first-hand accounts of women being sexually assaulted and doubting themselves in some way.

            Stuff like women who drink too much and get wasted and end up getting fucked by guys who are known slimes (whether or not this falls into the legal category of rape, which differs by jurisdiction, to me it is morally wrong and is why I think of these guys as slimes), and they’re too embarrassed by the whole thing, they don’t want to cause a scene or open some can of worms or whatever, so they find themselves thinking, well, what if they did contribute to the thing in some way.

            With regard to Kavanaugh: sure, that’s a special case. Kavanaugh is weird; reading the Atlantic or the NYT or whatever, you see a lot of articles where the reasoning is basically “this stuff happens to women a lot, this guy is accused of this stuff, therefore you betray women if you don’t defenestrate this guy.” This is weird reasoning, but it makes emotional sense; there’s a lot of women out there who have had bad experiences ranging from “ungentlemanly conduct” to “straight-up rape” and a smaller (since cads are outnumbered by those they take advantage of, and rapists are outnumbered by victims) number of guys who do shit ranging from “shitty dude” to “serial rapist” who never see any consequences. Hey, there’s plenty of male victims out there, plenty of female perps, the former aren’t going to see justice, the latter aren’t going to see consequences. The whole thing stinks. What’s popped up is basically the left-wing version of the 70s-era tough-on-crime “I can’t walk downtown in what used to be a nice city without maybe getting mugged; we should throw the book at these thugs” attitude. It’s a terrible impetus for policy, but the victimhood is by and large real.

            If your brother were accused by a random stranger, you shouldn’t automatically believe the stranger, but you shouldn’t base your thinking on “well, he’s my brother, and this is just some random stranger” because that isn’t especially relevant to whether or not your brother did the thing.

            False allegations of the “definitely-false-got-spotted” variety seem to follow a pattern, and mental illness is definitely overrepresented in such accusers. I imagine there are similar patterns in the “something maybe ungentlemanly gets turned into something Real Bad” (eg, l’affaire Ansari, a decent chunk of campus stuff that ends up on FIRE or wherever), because my experiences tell me that most women do not want to “cause drama” by accusing the guy who actually raped them of doing it, let alone go after the unsatisfying jerk they hooked up with for rape.

            “Believe women” and “believe survivors” are loaded and there’s some stuff getting smuggled in there, but I absolutely support remembering that our instinct is often to keep the peace, that so-and-so being a great guy who’s a blast to be around can still be a rapist or just a shitty dude where sex is concerned, etc.

          • lvlln says:

            I’m sorry for being rude, but I can’t help but feel that there’s no other way to address the fact that for you,

            The notion that anyone would do otherwise is so foreign to me that I find it incomprehensible

            Whereas for millions of women, the reality is very different. Model, if you can, the second-order effects of this lack of support, and take those second-order effects into account when judging the likelihood of rape. Given that you’re as willing as you claim to believe women when they tell you they’ve been raped despite not being friends with any people you suspect would rape women, I don’t see why it would be so hard for you to believe them when they tell you that nobody around them cares when they claim to have been raped, despite not being friends with anyone who you think wouldn’t care if a woman they knew were raped.

            (bolding mine)

            Is this actually true? Obviously polling millions of women would be rather difficult, but I imagine some polls of