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Social Justice And Words, Words, Words

[Content note: hostility toward social justice, discussion of various prejudices]

“Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words! I get words all day through. First from him, now from you. Is that all you blighters can do?” – Eliza Doolittle

I.

I recently learned there is a term for the thing social justice does. But first, a png from racism school dot tumblr dot com.

So, it turns out that privilege gets used perfectly reasonably. All it means is that you’re interjecting yourself into other people’s conversations and demanding their pain be about you. I think I speak for all straight white men when I say that sounds really bad and if I was doing it I’m sorry and will try to avoid ever doing it again. Problem solved, right? Can’t believe that took us however many centuries to sort out.

A sinking feeling tells me it probably isn’t that easy.

In the comments section of the last disaster of a social justice post on my blog, someone started talking about how much they hated the term “mansplaining”, and someone else popped in to – ironically – explain what “mansplaining” was and why it was a valuable concept that couldn’t be dismissed so easily. Their explanation was lucid and reasonable. At this point I jumped in and commented:

I feel like every single term in social justice terminology has a totally unobjectionable and obviously important meaning – and then is actually used a completely different way.

The closest analogy I can think of is those religious people who say “God is just another word for the order and beauty in the Universe” – and then later pray to God to smite their enemies. And if you criticize them for doing the latter, they say “But God just means there is order and beauty in the universe, surely you’re not objecting to that?”

The result is that people can accuse people of “privilege” or “mansplaining” no matter what they do, and then when people criticize the concept of “privilege” they retreat back to “but ‘privilege’ just means you’re interrupting women in a women-only safe space. Surely no one can object to criticizing people who do that?”

…even though I get accused of “privilege” for writing things on my blog, even though there’s no possible way that could be “interrupting” or “in a women only safe space”.

When you bring this up, people just deny they’re doing it and call you paranoid.

When you record examples of yourself and others getting accused of privilege or mansplaining, and show people the list, and point out that exactly zero percent of them are anything remotely related to “interrupting women in a women-only safe space” and one hundred percent are “making a correct argument that somebody wants to shut down”, then your interlocutor can just say “You’re deliberately only engaging with straw-man feminists who don’t represent the strongest part of the movement, you can’t hold me responsible for what they do” and continue to insist that anyone who is upset by the uses of the word “privilege” just doesn’t understand that it’s wrong to interrupt women in safe spaces.

I have yet to find a good way around this tactic.

My suspicion about the gif from racism school dot tumblr dot com is that the statements on the top show the ways the majority of people will encounter “privilege” actually being used, and the statements on the bottom show the uncontroversial truisms that people will defensively claim “privilege” means if anyone calls them on it or challenges them. As such it should be taken as a sort of weird Rosetta Stone of social justicing, and I can only hope that similarly illustrative explanations are made of other equally charged terms.

Does that sound kind of paranoid? I freely admit I am paranoid in this area. But let me flesh it out with one more example.

Everyone is a little bit racist. We know this because there is a song called “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” and it is very cute. Also because most people score poorly on implicit association tests, because a lot of white people will get anxious if they see a black man on a deserted street late at night, and because if you prime people with traditionally white versus traditionally black names they will answer questions differently in psychology experiments. It is no shame to be racist as long as you admit that you are racist and you try your best to resist your racism. Everyone knows this.

Donald Sterling is racist. We know this because he made a racist comment in the privacy of his own home. As a result, he was fined $2.5 million, banned for life from an industry he’s been in for thirty-five years, banned from ever going to basketball games, forced to sell his property against his will, publicly condemned by everyone from the President of the United States on down, denounced in every media outlet from the national news to the Podunk Herald-Tribune, and got people all over the Internet gloating about how pleased they are that he will die soon. We know he deserved this, because people who argue he didn’t deserve this were also fired from their jobs. He deserved it because he was racist. Everyone knows this.

So.

Everybody is racist.

And racist people deserve to lose everything they have and be hated by everyone.

This seems like it might present a problem. Unless of course you plan to be the person who gets to decide which racists lose everything and get hated by everyone, and which racists are okay for now as long as they never cross you in any way.

Sorry, there’s that paranoia again.

Someone will argue I am equivocating between two different uses of “racist”. To which I would respond that this is exactly the point. I don’t know if racism school dot tumblr dot com has a Rosetta Stone with Donald Sterling on the top and somebody taking the Implicit Association Test on the bottom. But I think there is a strain of the social justice movement which is very much about abusing this ability to tar people with extremely dangerous labels that they are not allowed to deny, in order to further their political goals.

II.

I started this post by saying I recently learned there is a term for the thing social justice does. A reader responding to my comment above pointed out that this tactic had been described before in a paper, under the name “motte-and-bailey doctrine”.

The paper was critiquing post-modernism, an area I don’t know enough about to determine whether or not their critique was fair. It complained that post-modernists sometimes say things like “reality is socially constructed”. There’s an uncontroversial meaning here – we don’t experience the world directly, but through the categories and prejudices implicit to our society. For example, I might view a certain shade of bluish-green as blue, and someone raised in a different culture might view it as green. Okay. Then post-modernists go on to say that if someone in a different culture thinks that the sun is light glinting off the horns of the Sky Ox, that’s just as real as our own culture’s theory that the sun is a mass of incandescent gas a great big nuclear furnace. If you challenge them, they’ll say that you’re denying reality is socially constructed, which means you’re clearly very naive and think you have perfect objectivity and the senses perceive reality directly.

The writers of the paper compare this to a form of medieval castle, where there would be a field of desirable and economically productive land called a bailey, and a big ugly tower in the middle called the motte. If you were a medieval lord, you would do most of your economic activity in the bailey and get rich. If an enemy approached, you would retreat to the motte and rain down arrows on the enemy until they gave up and went away. Then you would go back to the bailey, which is the place you wanted to be all along.

By this metaphor, statements like “God is an extremely powerful supernatural being who punishes my enemies” or “The Sky Ox theory and the nuclear furnace theory are equally legitimate” or “Men should not be allowed to participate in discussions about gender” are the bailey – not defensible at all, but if you can manage to hold them you’ve got it made.

Statements like “God is just the order and love in the universe” and “No one perceives reality perfectly directly” and “Men should not interject into safe spaces for women” are the motte – extremely defensible, but useless.

As long as nobody’s challenging you, you spend time in the bailey reaping the rewards of occupying such useful territory. As soon as someone challenges you, you retreat to the impregnable motte and glare at them until they get annoyed and go away. Then you go back to the bailey.

This is a metaphor that only historians of medieval warfare could love, so maybe we can just call the whole thing “strategic equivocation”, which is perfectly clear without the digression into feudal fortifications.

III.

I probably still sound paranoid. So let me point out something I think the standard theory fails to explain, but my theory explains pretty well.

Why can’t social justice terms apply to oppressed groups?

Like, even bringing this up freaks people out. There is no way to get a quicker reaction from someone in social justice than to apply a social justice term like “privilege” or “racist” to a group that isn’t straight/white/male. And this is surprising.

If “privilege” just means “interjecting yourself into other people’s conversations”, this seems like something that women could do as well as men. Like, let’s say that a feminist woman posts a thoughtful comment to this post, and I say “Thanks for your input, but I was actually just trying to explain things to my non-feminist male friends, I’d prefer you not interject here.” Isn’t it possible she might continue to argue, and so be interjecting herself into another person’s conversation?

Or suppose “privilege” instead just means a cute story about a dog and a lizard, in which different people have trouble understanding each other’s experiences and appreciating the amount of pain they can be causing. I know a lot of men who are scared of being Forever Alone but terrified to ask women out, and I feel their pain and most of my male friends feel their pain. Yet a lot of the feminists I talk to have this feeling that this is entirely about how they think they own women’s bodies and are entitled to sex, and from their experience as attractive women it’s easy to get dates and if you can’t it’s probably because you’re a creep or not trying hard enough. This seems to me to be something of a disconnect and an underappreciation of the pain of others, of exactly the dog-lizard variety.

There are as many totally innocuous and unobjectionable definitions of “privilege” as there are people in the social justice movement, but they generally share something in common – take them at face value, and the possibility of women sometimes showing privilege toward men is so obvious as to not be worth mentioning.

Yet if anyone mentions it in real life, they are likely to have earned themselves a link to an Explanatory Article. Maybe 18 Reasons Why The Concept Of Female Privilege Is Insane. Or An Open Letter To The Sexists Who Think Female Privilege Is A Thing. Or The Idea Of Female Privilege – It Isn’t Just Wrong, It’s Dangerous. Or the one on how there is no female privilege, just benevolent sexism. Or That Thing You Call Female Privilege Is Actually Just Whiny Male Syndrome. Or Female Privilege Is Victim Blaming, which helpfully points out that people who talk about female privilege “should die in a fire” and begins “we need to talk, and no, not just about the fact that you wear fedoras and have a neck beard.”

It almost seems like you have touched a nerve. But why should there be a nerve here?

As further confirmation that we are on to something surprising, note also the phenomenon of different social justice groups debating, with desperation in their eyes, which ones do or don’t have privilege over one another.

If you are the sort of person who likes throwing rocks at hornet nests, ask anyone in social justice whether trans men (or trans women) have male privilege. You end up in places like STFU TRANSMISOGYNIST TRANS FOLKS or Cis Privilege Is Just A Tenet Of Male Privilege or On Trans People And The Male Privilege Accusation or the womyn-born-womyn movement or Against The Cisgender Privilege List or How Misogyny Hurts Trans Men: We Do Sometimes Have Male Privilege But There Are More Important Things To Talk About Here.

As far as I can tell, the debate is about whether trans women are more privileged than cis women, because they have residual male privilege from the period when they presented as men, or less privileged than cis women, because they are transsexual – plus a more or less symmetrical debate on the trans man side. The important thing to notice is that every group considers it existentially important to prove that they are less privileged than the others, and they do it with arguments like (from last link) “all examples of cis privilege are really male privileges that are not afforded to women, or are instances of resistance to trans politics. I call it patriarchy privilege when something like an unwillingness to redefine one’s own sexuality to include males is seen is labeled as offensive.”

And the trans male privilege argument is one of about seven hundred different vicious disputes in which everyone is insisting other people have more privilege than they do, fighting as if their lives depended on it.

The question here: since privilege is just a ho-hum thing about how you shouldn’t interject yourself into other people’s conversations, or something nice about dogs and lizards – but definitely not anything you should be ashamed to have or anything which implies any guilt or burden whatsoever – why are all the minority groups who participate in communities that use the term so frantic to prove they don’t have it?

We find the same unexpected pattern with racism. We all know everyone is racist, because racism just means you have unconscious biases and expectations. Everyone is a little bit racist.

People of color seem to be part of “everyone”, and they seem likely to have the same sort of in-group identification as all other humans. But they are not racist. We know this because of articles that say things like “When white people complain about reverse racism, they are complaining about losing their PRIVILEGE” and admit that “the dictionary is wrong” on this matter. Or those saying whites calling people of color racist “comes from a lack of understanding of the term, through ignorance or willful ignorance and hatred”. Or those saying that “when white people complain about experiencing reverse racism, what they’re really complaining about is losing out on or being denied their already existing privileges.” Why Are Comments About White People Not Racist, Can Black People Be Racist Toward White People? (spoiler: no), Why You Can’t Be Racist To White People, et cetera et cetera.

All of these sources make the same argument: racism means structural oppression. If some black person beats up some white person just because she’s white, that might be unfortunate, it might even be “racially motivated”, but because they’re not acting within a social structure of oppression, it’s not racist. As one of the bloggers above puts it:

Inevitably, here comes a white person either claiming that they have a similar experience because they grew up in an all black neighborhood and got chased on the way home from school a few times and OMG THAT IS SO RACIST and it is the exact same thing, or some other such bullshittery, and they expect that ignorance to be suffered in silence and with respect. If you are that kid who got chased after school, that’s horrible, and I feel bad for you…But dudes, that shit is not racism.

I can’t argue with this. No, literally, I can’t argue with this. There’s no disputing the definitions of words. If you say that “racism” is a rare species of nocturnal bird native to New Guinea which feeds upon morning dew and the dreams of young children, then all I can do is point out that the dictionary and common usage both disagree with you. And the sources I cited above have already admitted that “the dictionary is wrong” and “no one uses the word racism correctly”.


Source: Somebody who probably doesn’t realize they’ve just committed themselves to linguistic prescriptivism
Actually, I suppose one could escape a hostile dictionary and public by appealing to the original intent of the person who invented the word, but the man who invented the word “racism” was an activist for the forced assimilation of Indians who was known to say things like “Some say that the only good Indian is a dead one. In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.” My guess is that this guy was not totally on board with dismantling structures of oppression.

So we have a case where original coinage, all major dictionaries, and the overwhelming majority of common usage all define “racism” one way, and social justice bloggers insist with astonishing fervor that way is totally wrong and it must be defined another. One cannot argue definitions, but one can analyze them, so you have to ask – whence the insistence that racism have the structural-oppression definition rather than the original and more commonly used one? Why couldn’t people who want to talk about structural oppression make up their own word, thus solving the confusion? Even if they insisted on the word “racism” for their new concept, why not describe the state of affairs as it is: “The word racism can mean many things to many people, and I suppose a group of black people chasing a white kid down the street waving knives and yelling ‘KILL WHITEY’ qualifies by most people’s definition, but I prefer to idiosyncratically define it my own way, so just remember that when you’re reading stuff I write”? Or why not admit that this entire dispute is pointless and you should try to avoid being mean to people no matter what word you call the meanness by?

And how come this happens with every social justice word? How come the intertubes are clogged with pages arguing that blacks cannot be racist, that women cannot have privilege, that there is no such thing as misandry, that you should be ashamed for even thinking the word cisphobia? Who the heck cares? This would never happen in any other field. No doctor ever feels the need to declare that if we talk about antibacterial drugs we should call bacterial toxins “antihumanial drugs”. And if one did, the other doctors wouldn’t say YOU TAKE THAT BACK YOU PIECE OF GARBAGE ONLY HUMANS CAN HAVE DRUGS THIS IS A FALSE EQUIVALENCE BECAUSE BACTERIA HAVE INFECTED HUMANS FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS BUT HUMANS CANNOT INFECT BACTERIA, they would just be mildly surprised at the nonstandard terminology and continue with their normal lives. The degree to which substantive arguments have been replaced by arguments over what words we are allowed to use against which people is, as far as I know, completely unique to social justice. Why?

IV.

And so we return to my claim from earlier:

I think there is a strain of the social justice movement which is entirely about abusing the ability to tar people with extremely dangerous labels that they are not allowed to deny, in order to further their political goals.

If racism school dot tumblr dot com and the rest of the social justice community are right, “racism” and “privilege” and all the others are innocent and totally non-insulting words that simply point out some things that many people are doing and should try to avoid.

If I am right, “racism” and “privilege” and all the others are exactly what everyone loudly insists they are not – weapons – and weapons all the more powerful for the fact that you are not allowed to describe them as such or try to defend against them. The social justice movement is the mad scientist sitting at the control panel ready to direct them at whomever she chooses. Get hit, and you are marked as a terrible person who has no right to have an opinion and who deserves the same utter ruin and universal scorn as Donald Sterling. Appease the mad scientist by doing everything she wants, and you will be passed over in favor of the poor shmuck to your right and live to see another day. Because the power of the social justice movement derives from their control over these weapons, their highest priority should be to protect them, refine them, and most of all prevent them from falling into enemy hands.

If racism school dot tumblr dot com is right, people’s response to words like “racism” and “privilege” should be accepting them as a useful part of communication that can if needed also be done with other words. No one need worry too much about their definitions except insofar as it is unclear what someone meant to say. No one need worry about whether the words are used to describe them personally, except insofar as their use reveals states of the world which are independent of the words used.

If I am right, then people’s response to these words should be a frantic game of hot potato where they attack like a cornered animal against anyone who tries to use the words on them, desperately try to throw them at somebody else instead, and dispute the definitions like their lives depend on it.

And I know that social justice people like to mock straight white men for behaving in exactly that way, but man, we’re just following your lead here.

Suppose the government puts a certain drug in the water supply, saying it makes people kinder and more aware of other people’s problems and has no detrimental effects whatsoever. A couple of conspiracy nuts say it makes your fingers fall off one by one, but the government says that’s ridiculous, it’s just about being more sensitive to other people’s problems which of course no one can object to. However, government employees are all observed drinking bottled water exclusively, and if anyone suggests that government employees might also want to take the completely innocuous drug and become kinder, they freak out and call you a terrorist and a shitlord and say they hope you die. If by chance you manage to slip a little bit of tap water into a government employee’s drink, and he finds out about it, he runs around shrieking like a banshee and occasionally yelling “AAAAAAH! MY FINGERS! MY PRECIOUS FINGERS!”

At some point you might start to wonder whether the government was being entirely honest with you.

This is the current state of my relationship with social justice.

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973 Responses to Social Justice And Words, Words, Words

  1. Sheikh Yerbooty says:

    If you a white kid who got bullied in school by groups of black kids who singled you out for being white(and made it clear that they picked on you because of your color) then yes that IS racism! Racism is all about group identity. The blacklisting of Donald Sterling is a good example of the new McCarthyism and left-wing character assassination. All these radical bloggers are just self-rightous social climbers. REAL social justice isn’t what they’re seeking…..They simply want to be popular and boost their reptuation.

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  4. Matthew says:

    I doubt I’ll be pointing out something anyone else couldn’t figure out with very little effort, but I now have a perfect example of a debate with horrible motte-and-bailey tactics employed on both sides of it with equal (to a rough approximation) abandon.

    Motte A — goyim: I’m not antisemitic, I’m just opposed to the government of Israel. (Often followed rapidly by a return to criticisms that conflate Israel and Jews.)

    Motte B — liberal-but-mindkilled Jew (and some goyim, in the US): I don’t approve of the Netanyahu government, but I support Israel’s right to exist. (Responds with condemnation whenever liberal-and-not-mindkilled Jews suggest actuallyforreals withholding support from the Israeli government when it does something appalling.)

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  9. CaptainBooshi says:

    Scott, I would like to really thank you for having the ‘content note’ at the beginning of the post here. I was able to see that and put off reading this post until I was in the right kind of mood for it, and it really improved my experience. I know it seems silly, but had I started reading it at the time, I would not have been able to stop, because it would have been a little unfinished task just bothering away at me inside my head.

    I don’t really have anything to contribute to the actual thread here that I haven’t said elsewhere, so I’m not going to bother with that. The only thing I do want to note is that it gave me a warm little feeling when you said:

    I can’t speak for people at large, but that’s the way I view the words, and that’s the viewpoint I usually see espoused about how they should be viewed, so it’s evidence for me that at the very least I’m in the good part of the movement.

  10. Larry says:

    Eric S. Raymond wrote something on this subject a few years ago that you would probably find interesting. He calls it the Kafaktrap: http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=2122

  11. TallDave says:

    I always wonder what the annual net intergender wealth transfer looks like in America, marriage included. My guess is something around a trillion dollars a year in favor of women, or about 5-10% of GDP.

    But that’s one of those subjects like crime statistics where too many progressives are adamantly opposed to reality.

    BTW the last comment to the dog/lizard story is priceless.

  12. Anonymous says:

    First off, this “everyone is racist” bullshit needs to stop. Because not everyone is racist. Nor is everyone sexist.

    Imagine you live in a world where everyone looks the same. Biases can’t form against race/sex/gender because there are no differences. The only things that matter are intellectual differences, like religion (or a lack there of) and philosophy.

    Let us call this world Web 1.0. A world where even if such features were claimed, you could not truly know the truth of the matter, so you disregarded such claims and based all judgments about a person’s character on their individual actions instead of arbitrarily assigning them a preconceived identity based on their gonads or the amount of melanin in their largest organ.

    Now, from this world of anonymity you step out into… this… mess. Suddenly race, gender, and all that nonsense. One of which is based in laughable pseudoscience, the other based in arbitrary societal norms set tens of millennia ago. Seriously whenever I see race/gender discussion I feel like I am stepping into an alien, bizarro-world and I wish everyone would just shut up and get back to things that matter like world hunger or the economy or I don’t know, ANYTHING ELSE.

    Racism is a function of stereotyping. But while a square is also a rectangle, not all rectangles are squares. Everyone STEREOTYPES. Not everyone is RACIST. Stereotypes can be based off of anything, like philosophy/ideology, and for that matter, stereotypes CAN be useful.

    If I encounter a person alone on the street at night, I am suspicious no matter WHAT their skin color is and no matter WHAT they have hanging from their body. I am equally distrustful of EVERYONE. And so should you, because WHITEY is just as likely to turn around and shoot you then rob you blind as BLACKIE. Hell, they might be in cahoots. I don’t care who it is or how many kids you have walking beside you, they might be trained to help you steal. I am keeping my eyes on ALL OF YOU.

    Onto point two.

    “So, it turns out that privilege gets used perfectly reasonably.”

    Sorry no. None of the examples presented of what “people actually mean” are reasonable, either.

    1 Ignores, no, outright DENIES the possibility of insights from an outside, neutral observer. No, I will NOT apologize for seeing something from an unbiased perspective, and offering my unbiased observations, especially when you are fishing for comments by airing out your laundry in the first place.

    2 Is utterly, utterly, utterly ridiculous. Your pain is more often than not completely irrelevant to the discussion at hand. When it’s the focus, I’m not there anyway because you moping about your perceived pain at the hands of your stereotyped vision of another racial/gender group is not worthy of my attention. (In other words, I’ve never been in an SJW discussion to begin with.)

    3 In the grand scheme of things your pain does not matter. Nor does mine. The world spins on even if innocent children are murdered in cold blood. It spins on even while people are dying of starvation. Humans are not particularly important to anyone but themselves, and even that’s not universally true. So no, I will not apologize for being truthful and making you face reality.

    4 Your fears and concerns and troubles wouldn’t trigger annoyance if they were important.

    TBH, I am not entirely convinced that SJWs aren’t a massive army of trolls dedicated to making actually oppressed people look bad. They represent the worst side of everyone who has ever been treated poorly, the side that cries out for attention and seeks to oppress in return, instead of equality. They want to pretend they are being helpful, when they push racism/sexism more than the average person.

    I find it incredibly sad that today, decades later, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech’s meaning is utterly lost… on many of the people who he was fighting, and ultimately, died for.

    The worst part is SJWs are all incredibly hypocritical. Their own issues are of tantamount importance; if they don’t agree with other SJWs (like say a womyn vs a fat acceptance) then they will get just as shitty towards each other. Top it off with the fact that we still have no SJWs for incest couples, animal lovers, or pedophiles – all who are just as helpless as transgendered and gay people to change how their brains or emotions work. In fact, if you try to compare them to any of these groups, they will be outright offended.

    My attitude: So you wanna be gay? Okay, whatever. See if I care. You wanna be transgendered? That’s nice. You a woman? So what. Who cares. You wanna fuck a dog? Just don’t do it where I can see it. You wanna touch kids? Get parents’ permission.

    I literally don’t give a shit. About anything. The Romans were cool with all kinds of shit, and every society’s norms are pointlessly arbitrary to begin with, so why should I? (And before everyone says BUT KIDS NO SEX IS BAD that’s utter horseshit, I was a kid doing sexual stuff and I am just fine. Few people admit to it because doing so will destroy their reputation and credibility, thus leading to the only cases of known child-sexual activity being rapes and thus a hilariously inaccurate statistic which then leads to confirmation bias and taboo and welp, better not say anything to indicate otherwise because it will destroy my reputation and credibility. In fact, I’m only doing it here because I’m posting anonymously.)

    The things I do give a shit about:
    Training children to believe in things that have no evidence or validity to them. There’s a reason the religious industry is so profitable. (Faith healers, mail-order video churches, etc.)
    Ignoring the issue of global warming.
    Allowing money and class to continue to control our lives.

    And unlike whiny SJWs who do nothing but whine on their blogs that only fellow SJWs and people with way more time on their hands than they need, I am actually doing something about it, if in the only way I know how. I am writing a novel where all these issues will be made very clear in the storyline. And instead of being a self-righteous, dogmatic spiel, it will be seen from every side and delivered in a way that allows the reader to make their own decisions on what’s right or wrong and hopefully impact their everyday behavior. Meanwhile there’s a fun story on top of all the gritty grimdark world of the present. And if I’m lucky it might one day pay my bills.

  13. Jason Macdee says:

    Problem solved: [un]conscious [individual/cultural/institutional] prejudice. Throw all the -ist words out and start again.

  14. Anonymous says:

    So… just to be clear:
    “White Privilege” (and I suppose this applies to “female privilege” as well) just refers to the fact that some people have the privilege of not having to go through certain kinds of situations that other people constantly and consistently face due to a certain characteristic. Like white people may never understand the horror/humiliation/feeling ever-so-violated and dehumanized when a stranger LITERALLY RUNS ACROSS THE STORE to put their hands through YOUR hair without even so much as a word to you all because you are black/of black descent and your hair is super interesting to them (and you know this because it seems to only happen to black/mixed women). It’s obvious that many people will not be able to relate to that. It’s a horror that white people don’t typically have to deal with–so you can call it an advantage (hence privilege) because they won’t be distracted by such things, pretty much ever in their life.
    Now, I don’t fully agree with the png apart from the point on taking the focus off their concerns and making it about you (which happens quite a bit). My opinion is, I think that outsiders or those with this kind of perceived privilege should be a part of the conversation. Not really to add their input unless to ask questions to clarify but actually to listen to the concerns said and to keep an eye out for themselves to see if they themselves or anyone else is participating in such actions and also to honestly think about these very real issues. So going back to the hair example, if I described that situation to my white friends (honestly I hate describing people this way but hey) I don’t expect them to tell me they’ve experienced the same thing. And if they do, I would think them liars, especially if they told me their stories without even acknowledging my feelings of horror because if you really experienced this you would know how much my horror needs to be vented instead of just brushed aside like it happens to everyone. (Because it doesn’t).
    Now “female privilege” — yes, there are numerous issues that women face that men will never have to face. And I think a good portion of the complaining is due to what was mentioned as “whiny male privilege”. The issue with this I find is that just like prejudice against minorities is not something just inside their head, the same goes with prejudice against females. It’s a fact that women taking on a similar personality as a man will be seen as bossy, whereas the men will simply be seen as good leaders. More people will vote for a man to be in a leader position over a woman with the same qualities. Why? I don’t know but I think that it is something that we should acknowledge and not just pretend that it doesn’t exist because you feel like it constantly paints white/straight/males to be the bad guys. Prejudice is a real thing. Everyone will experience some type but the ones that are detrimental don’t really target white/straight/males. It’s just how the world is and before we can make things better, we have to acknowledge and be truthful about the state of our society.
    After stating all of this — naturally W/S/Ms will feel a bit threatened. If 5 people will be the top people of a company, and they were all historically W/S/Ms and now a push has been made to diversify, it means less spots will be filled by W/S/Ms. So those vying for the positions of that category will feel the pressure and call it unfair and that “minorities are stealing their spot.” They will say this without acknowledging that it should’ve been diversified from the very beginning — so that is really why I agree with the “whiny male privilege” (read entitled).
    Another thing is there’s no such thing as reverse racism, but racism does require power — even if it is power of a particular situation. So your example of blacks chasing out a white person for being white is racism because the power is in the group. Whites traditionally have the power because in this society, there are certain things that police will do to a black man that won’t happen to a white man and other things like that.

    Those are really my only points to add/address. I agree that the language being thrown around in the name of social justice doesn’t consistently have the same meaning but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t use these terms or even that these terms don’t matter. We can’t invalidate a groups experience all because we have not experienced it ourselves. We actually have to acknowledge, investigate, and react/change. We can’t just ignore it and hope it goes away. Racism and sexism aren’t going to go away by being ignored. It will go away because ALL make an effort to change.
    With these things being social constructs in our society, you can’t blame a particular person/group of people unless they know about it and refuse to change certain things. But all must make an effort for this to work.

    (As a post note: I don’t agree with modern feminism — women shouldn’t have to do all the work to make all of these changes but they also shouldn’t cast aside things like their dignity to be “just like men”. It’s a very unhealthy trend to think that just because you want your daughters to be empowered, you shouldn’t teach them to cook or clean, have multiple partners, etc. That is in no way empowering. Complaining about things aren’t really empowering either. Being educated and knowing when and who to correct when it comes to people’s actions/words is, however.)

    • Anon says:

      So, uh, part of the point is that “just refers to” is, like, patently untrue. That’s maybe what you mean, but by no means is your definition the only one in common use.

  15. Nekko says:

    Motherfuck your genius mind, I loved every inch of that delicious rant. You definitely sound like a smart and thoughtful individual/

    Will you have my man-babies before you’re eaten alive by the Social Justice Tumblr Snowflakes?

  16. Tab Atkins says:

    I’m trying, in a sincere and non-snarky-sounding way, to say “you finally wrote a post about social justice that I agree with”, but I’m not sure how to do so unambiguously, so just take it as a given that I’m being sincere and not snarky in that.

    As a vocal feminist, a strong trans/queer ally, and plenty against racism too, the (many) groups that adopt the “only powerful groups can be *ist” are *pants-shittingly stupid*, and have no idea what they’re talking about.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Regardless of whether you find them “pants-shittingly stupid”, they remain pretty influential, and if I’m not mistaken a lot of us bought into it for a long time. (And once you fall in you’re trapped, because their epistemic standards and norms of discourse are so fucked up.) And the way they gain people is by equivocation — you accept these common sense feminist principles, right? Well, great, you’re a feminist, you’re one of the good people. So, you also accept these more specific positions… right? I mean, you’re a feminist, right? You’re not one of those misogynists, are you? No. Of course you’re not. Not agreeing, or noticing that the objectionable parts don’t actually follow from the common sense parts, isn’t really an option, or so it’s made to seem.

      Point is, while I’m glad to see you’re on what I at least would consider the side of sense on this particular issue, it’s very frustrating to see you continually, apparently inadvertently, encouraging people to jump into the maw of the SJ machine. (I’m surprised you use the term “social justice” to describe the side you’re on, by the way; to my mind that’s prety firmly associated with the position you call “pants-shittingly stupid”. And you’re probably already aware of this, but don’t call yourself an “ally” in front of them unless you’re prepared to agree with everything they say!)

      I mean, I expect you would disagree that you are doing that. But as best I can tell, you seem to generally be direction-pushing, not target-hitting. Which is exactly how it all starts. You can’t rely on people to just use their common sense to notice the problems with the groups you call “pants-shittingly stupid”, because, as Ialdabaoth has pointed out elsewhere in the thread, feminism and etc. are (not necessarily wrongly!) all about using principle rather than common sense! One way or another, they draw in a lot of smart people, so I think it’s worth the time to put up some barriers against that. (This is why I can’t say I’m a feminist without then going “Well, I’m what you might call a ‘small-f feminist’…”) (Yes I am aware there is not a literal Feminist Part; I still think the intent is pretty clear.)

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      “you finally wrote a post about social justice that I agree with”

      FYI https://slatestarcodex.com/2013/04/20/social-justice-for-the-highly-demanding-of-rigor/. Probably old hat as far as you’re concerned, but I thought you should know it exists.

      That post occupies a pedestal in my mind as a shining example of bias overcome.

  17. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    @Rationalist

    I’ve decided I’m committed enough to the idea of a place where one can have a legitimate discussion of contentious issues, to engage with your claims.

    Your main contention seems to be ‘Ialdabaoth should learn Game’.

    There are two main objection against this:
    I.) Game is immoral towards women
    II.) Game is for getting sex, and Ialdabaoth wants emotional companionship

    On I.) my SSC-style steelmanning of your position, which you may disagree with but I do by request, is to build on the ‘badboy alphas are like chocolate’ concept. The thrust of the argument would be to say that Game mostly boils down to ‘making yourself attractive’ in various ways and does not actually harm women. But since the meta-technique is to treat women as black boxes, there are two ways to make this claim: one is to say that A) revealed preferences are always real preferences, and the other is to say that B) the techniques, though generated without regard to women’s internal well-being, fortuitously turn out not to be harmful.

    A) is a broad enough philosophical point that I won’t go into it without being sure if it’s your position. B) would require going into what the specific techniques are. I don’t know them well enough to comment, but people I trust consider them harmful, so my prior is against you.

    As for II.), I’d steelman you as saying that the increased status and confidence from being an accomplished PUA will also be useful in getting more serious relationships. My culturally osmosed beliefs suggest this is true, but I haven’t observed for myself. That said, I think it’d be effective at the narrow task of getting people to enter relationships with you, but if you accomplish this by projecting a facade, things may not go well if you try to let it down… I don’t know.

    • Multiheaded says:

      ^ This is endorsed by my stupid mean Stalinist self.

    • Nornagest says:

      But since the meta-technique is to treat women as black boxes, there are two ways to make this claim: one is to say that A) revealed preferences are always real preferences, and the other is to say that B) the techniques, though generated without regard to women’s internal well-being, fortuitously turn out not to be harmful.

      I hardly know a thing about Game, but it seems to me that there’s a third option. Naive behavior isn’t a NOOP; it has effects on the well-being (short- and long-term alike) of people exposed to it; and more importantly, people’s naive behavior varies quite a bit. It’s conceivable that despite introducing potentially quite serious harms and failure modes in certain personality types, the deltas are overall positive in e.g. the specific case of sexually frustrated nerds that’d otherwise fall into the Nice Guy (^annoying trademark symbol) stereotype.

      That seems pretty plausible to me, really. I see an awful lot of misery following guys that match that stereotype, and not all of it attaches to the guys in question.

      • Multiheaded says:

        Um, but this seems to be contradicted by how many disgusting and rapey advocates of “Game” insist that they were Nice Guys before.

        That’s why I’m making the distinction: Ialdabaoth!NiceGuy will probably stay fundamentally nice and decent to people however he adjusts his attitude. He might try to pull off all the dangerous alpha male airs or whatever and still he’d know right from wrong, and would refrain from following the awful evil intermittent reinforcement “advice”, even though he might not see through the lie that it’s What Gender Is About.

        On the other hand, PUA!NiceGuy never had integrity or real respect for women as actual living breathing individuals; PUA didn’t make him the scumbag he is, it merely gave a very different expression to his worst traits. It appears very dubious whether such expression, socially harmful as it is, does not outweight decent men finding self-confidence through PUA advice.

        (Dear MRAs and reactionaries and such; please don’t fucking motte-and-bailey me here on the intermittent reinforcement part. Oh, I know what you’re going to insinuate: that personally you never used it, and still got laid, but it’s horrible misandry and intrusion upon your turf to allow decent people to denounce it. The motte is that you’ve never actually done shitty things like that – which I’m entirely willing to believe – while the bailey is that feminists shouldn’t have the power to stop PUA from including such mechanisms. Well, fuck your shit. #ValarMorghulis)

        • Nornagest says:

          Um, but this seems to be contradicted by how many disgusting and rapey advocates of “Game” insist that they were Nice Guys before.

          Was it not clear from context that I meant Ialdabaoth’s cluster of frustrated nerds, not nascent Heartistes? I just didn’t want to use names because, y’know, that’s kinda rude.

          In the case of Heartiste et al., I take those claims about as seriously as I take Christian revivalists insisting they were miserable sinners before they found the Lord. Oh, I don’t doubt that they feel that way, and indeed in a few cases I might even agree with them if I was fully informed, but it’s mostly marketing. Well, marketing and the unfortunate fuzziness of the “Nice Guy” label.

          (I kind of want to argue some of the conflations you’re making, too, but that’d explode and I don’t actually care that much beyond a kind of vague moral disapproval. I’ll leave it to the actual pickup students here.)

        • Fadeway says:

          >disgusting and rapey advocates of “Game”

          Does your dislike for the group make it permissible for you to be so rude?

          >will probably stay fundamentally nice and decent to people however he adjusts his attitude.

          Belief osmosis is real. Follow PUA blogs long enough and eventually you’ll start seeing their beliefs as normal. First it looks completely silly because everything you’ve been exposed to goes against it, then it looks okay-ish because you’ve heard it before, and after a year or two it’s the idea you’ve seen most evidence to and probably true. I’ve been doing stuff like this for years for beliefs that would be useful to have.

        • Armstrong For President 2020 says:

          @Fadeaway,

          No, it’s the fact that he’s immune to banning which makes it permissible.

        • ozymandias says:

          What? Multi’s been banned before. And while one may say that “disgusting” is very rude, it seems perfectly reasonable to me to use “rapey” to describe, say, Roosh V, who says that “no”, in some contexts, means “don’t give up now!” I mean, gosh, if he’s not rapey who is?

        • Ragnhild says:

          Multiheaded:

          Your “bailey” is a lot more defensible than your “motte”. If you think that you have never reinforced anything that anyone did, or that you never failed to reinforce anything nice, then you are just delusional.

        • If Roissy believes that no doesn’t mean no, stop means no, he could negotiate it as a safeword. For some reason, he doesn’t. :-/

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          If Roissy believes that no doesn’t mean no, stop means no, he could negotiate it as a safeword. For some reason, he doesn’t. :-/

          Roosh V and Roissy/Heartiste are not the same man. That aside, if you are actually curious about the reason they don’t, have you tried asking them, or their followers?

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          That’s why I’m making the distinction: Ialdabaoth!NiceGuy will probably stay fundamentally nice and decent to people however he adjusts his attitude. He might try to pull off all the dangerous alpha male airs or whatever and still he’d know right from wrong, and would refrain from following the awful evil intermittent reinforcement “advice”, even though he might not see through the lie that it’s What Gender Is About.

          Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself. Yet the way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good. Do not tempt me! I dare not take it, not even to keep it safe, unused. The wish to wield it would be too great for my strength. I shall have such need of it.

    • I suggest that Ialdabaoth is not in desperate need of Game– anyone who has an attractive woman do a two year campaign to be his Manic Pixie Dream Girl is at least well past the 101 level.

      • Multiheaded says:

        This seems orthogonal; in the real world, as it’s easy to forget among the poisonous PUA discourse, it’s not completely unheard of for attractive women to pursue “low-status” men in a very insistent way. The thing is, this doesn’t even match the conventional narrative on sexuality either, and that’s why it’s not cognitively available, but still there’s plenty of anecdotes for this happening.

        (In a darker turn, my gay, incredibly nerdy ex-bf was once raped by an attractive and popular girl in his circle of friends. She had previously pursued him for weeks.)

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          This seems orthogonal; in the real world, as it’s easy to forget among the poisonous PUA discourse, it’s not completely unheard of for attractive women to pursue “low-status” men in a very insistent way. The thing is, this doesn’t even match the conventional narrative on sexuality either, but still there’s plenty of anecdotes for this happening.

          This is an INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT point, and yet another frustration I have with Social Justice as delivered, as opposed to Social Justice as promised.

          I want to be able to own my gender.

          I want to be able to declare “I identify as a dominant heterosexual man who happens to be genderqueer”, and not have to defend to other SJ-types that just because I’m dominant and heterosexual and male, does not mean that I’m not made extremely uncomfortable when pressured or guilted or seduced into a relationship.

          I want to be able to define my identity and preferences with the same level of fidelity that a transexual pansexual asexual trisexual genderfluid genderbent genderqueer would.

          I want the right to be sensitive. I want the right to acknowledge that sometimes I need support. I want the right to assert my autonomy outside the boundaries of the patriarchy.

          The problem is that the things I want are close enough to the patriarchal ideals that everyone assumes they should be easy for me, because Privilege.

          Well, look at it this way. When there’s a giant magnet nearby, it can be hard to not get sucked into it. But it’s even harder not to get sucked into it, the closer to it you already are. Inverse square laws are a bitch.

          With classical patriarchal gender roles so readily available, it’s nearly impossible to stake out a territory anywhere near them and still maintain specific important differences. Not only do the Patriarchal types demand conformity, but the SJW types demand the exact same level of conformity.

          You can’t just say, “I enjoy negotiated D/s relationships with young, attractive, submissive women, but I demand that those relationships are explicitly negotiated and assented to, and I will not enter into those relationships with someone whose emotional and psychological development preclude a healthy outcome”. Because people just look at you and say “dude, that is so not Game.”, and other people look at you and say “nice justification, you exploitative jackass”.

          And then you push on for years and it keeps wearing on you, and one side is saying “we know you’re a douchebag like us, quit pretending and come to our side”, and the other side is saying “we know you’re a douchebag like them, quit pretending and fuck off”, and eventually you start asking “AM I a douchebag?”, and then your confidence is shot and you can’t get anywhere worth getting to and it’s all terrible.

        • Nornagest says:

          this doesn’t even match the conventional narrative on sexuality

          There’s more than one pop narrative on sexuality. I think this one’s an instance of the Lover as Healer pattern, where someone walks into their broken partner’s life and makes them functional; it’s at least as old as Chrétien de Troyes.

          In the wild, you don’t often see it used as a romantic script — probably because it seems so unrewarding for the active partner. But it’s definitely there in media, and not exclusively as a fantasy for the passive partner.

        • Matthew says:

          it’s not completely unheard of for attractive women to pursue “low-status” men in a very insistent way.

          Several people throughout this thread seem to use attractive/high-status and unattractive/low-status interchangably. I think this is a mistake, and it tends to muddy a lot of issues. Attractiveness obviously contributes to status, but it’s not determinative. “Attractive woman pursues low-status man” sounds a lot less implausible to me than “attractive woman pursues unattractive man”. Although I suspect some people might argue the reverse. But everything I’ve ever seen argues for assortive mating based on attractiveness directly, not mediated through status.

        • ozymandias says:

          A lot of people are into bringing home sad-eyed three-legged puppies and birds with broken wings, or their romantic equivalents, and that trait is basically a prereq for wanting to be a MPDG. So I suspect that Ialdabaoth has a set of traits that makes him very, very attractive to lovers of sad-eyed three-legged puppies, and extremely unattractive to others.

        • nydwracu says:

          I think this one’s an instance of the Lover as Healer pattern, where someone walks into their broken partner’s life and makes them functional; it’s at least as old as Chrétien de Troyes.

          In the wild, you don’t often see it used as a romantic script

          I was going to say that I definitely have seen it, but I don’t think the evidence I have is sufficient to distinguish it from the “chicks dig certain types of signals/behavior patterns that are otherwise generally considered negative” romantic script PUAs talk about.

          [I have noticed that my attractiveness is directly correlated to the number of times I’m told that I look like a spree shooter. It is somewhat annoying that [humans are wired|society is set up] in such a way that I want that number to go up.]

          I wonder how much of the existence of that script is due to other people not realizing that distinction has to be made.

    • Rationalist says:

      “A) revealed preferences are always real preferences, and the other is to say that B) the techniques, though generated without regard to women’s internal well-being, fortuitously turn out not to be harmful.”

      – neither of these capture what I see as reality. Women of dating age (18-50 let’s say) are not totally coherent rational agents with totally stable preferences. Just like the rest of us!

      In near mode they have a need for Alpha Badboys. In far mode they have a need to put out the impression that they are good and chaste and just want a “nice guy”.

      Similarly, in near mode I have a need for chocolate. In far mode I have a goal to be slim. Banning all chocolate ever would not be utility maximizing for me; removing all alphas ever would not be utility maximizing for women, and I don’t think we have passed the optimum point yet. Far from it, in fact.

      Also there is the orthogonal issue of just how “bad” a man is. He might do really nasty things like dump a girl when she is most attached to him, deliberately dump her and re-pick her up (?) just for sport, etc. Or he could lay on just enough “edge” to get to sex and then basically revert to the beta-provider strategy and go introduce her to his parents. Think of this as being like diet chocolate bars with a varying proportion of sugar versus saccharine.

      Game is ultimately a tool and some guys abuse it. The majority of “game” men I have ever interacted with do not do so, and feedback I have heard from women confirms that a lot of utility and happiness is brought into the world because of it. In fact I have never heard a woman complain that a specific man was too much of an asshole because of game, the only things I have ever heard (based off actual events) have been that men are too beta or that they have been too weird (i.e. trying to game but messing it up).

      • Multiheaded says:

        In fact I have never heard a woman complain that a specific man was too much of an asshole because of game, the only things I have ever heard (based off actual events) have been that men are too beta or that they have been too weird (i.e. trying to game but messing it up).

        This is like the PUA version of the most common brand of Stalinist apologetics.

        • Rationalist says:

          Multiheaded: “This is like the PUA version of the most common brand of Stalinist apologetics.”

          Is there a version of Godwin’s Law for comparing someone/something with Stalin?

          Anyway, the quality of debate I am seeing here continues to disappoint me. I come up with evidence and arguments, I get compared to Stalin/Stalinism. I ask to be steelmanned, I actually get strawmanned.

          I feel the take-away from this thread is that as much as a particular community claims to be interested in rationality, group affiliation politics will always take precedence. In other words, you can be rational about an argument as long as the other person agrees with your core group affiliation politics. As soon as you get someone with an actually good argument that violates the group politic, all the dirty tricks are fair game, people “can’t be bothered” to obey the well know rules of how to have a productive, rational disagreement. (Which I am pretty sure exclude comparing someone to a Stalinist Apologetic, a form of the worst argument ever)

          Topics on Slate Star Codex tend to center vaguely around this meta-philosophical idea of how people evaluate arguments for their beliefs, and especially whether this process is spectacularly broken in a way that may or may not doom us all.

          +1 for “spectacularly broken”.

          • Steve Johnson says:

            That’s because we’re the actual rationalists.

            They’re the rationalizers.

            Come over to the dark side – we don’t make you live lies that hurt you.

            We take evolution seriously and try to get at the truth. They take tumblr and people who have a preferred pronoun seriously.

        • Multiheaded says:

          @Rationalist:

          All I’m saying is just like how some people on the far left respond to being challenged with some bad aspects of the actually existing socialist states with repeating ad nauseam that they weren’t communist enough, rather than examine their idea of “Communism” and whether it has structural flaws that make problematic implementation inevitable… you’re talking about how women always love some ideal “Alpha” act, and therefore whenever they get disappointed or harmed or squicked out or fucked over by a PUA practicioner, the only problem that’s even conceivable to you is his divergence from this “Alpha” ideal.

        • AJD says:

          I come up with evidence and arguments, I get compared to Stalin/Stalinism. I ask to be steelmanned, I actually get strawmanned.

          …Trying to come up with a good pun about how surely being compared to Stalin is being “steelmanned”, but it’s not quite coming.

        • Oligopsony says:

          It’s generally leftcoms and Trotskyists who pull the no true Scotsman card here, rather than us MLs, who are more willing to dive into substantive, rather than semantic, apologetics. Moreover the leftcom version of the semantic argument is perfectly valid.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Fuck, I knew that someone would add nuance to dispel a nice and concise cheap shot. 🙁 I knew that, I just used doublethink to draw a comparison a liberal could make and understand.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Do I correctly infer you position to be that far-mode and near-mode preferences both deserve weight, and that far mode should have some ability to override near mode but not unlimited ability? I’m curious how you feel about some stores’ decision to remove candy from the ‘impulse’ sections before checkout; is this a service or a disservice to customers? If it helps some people achieve their far-mode goals of minimizing chocolate consumption, is that good, bad, or neutral?

        And do you acknowledge that there can be situations where it’s wrong to ‘help’ someone satisfy their near mode desires (extreme example: a heroin addict who in far mode wants to get clean but will shoot up if you hand them a needle)? And if you think this can only happen in pathological cases like drug addiction and not with things like sex or chocolate… well, I know where the debate should focus next.

        So my point is that if you acknowledge that such a thing is possible, then it would be ‘fortuitous’ if the black-box optimization approach to seduction did not create such a situation. This is possible, but I think most of us would want some evidence of that before trying procedures generated in such a fundamentally unsafe way.

        Also, as I understand it, the objection to game isn’t just about alpha behavior; it’s claimed that some of the tools are inherently harmful. One example I’ve heard cited (by anti-game sources, so if you tell me this is a strawman of game I’ll believe you) is ‘negging’, which sounds like deliberately lowering the target’s self-esteem. This is harmful, whether you segue it into a one-night stand or a relationship.

        (The best steelman I can come up with for negging is that the target’s response is “I know my own value, so if this guy thinks it’s low then he must have really high standards, which reflects well on him”. This requires that women’s self-esteem be stable in the face of men’s comments. The preceding sentence sends my Conventional Wisdom Module into gales of laughter.)

    • Rationalist says:

      “As for II.), I’d steelman you as saying that the increased status and confidence from being an accomplished PUA will also be useful in getting more serious relationships. My culturally osmosed beliefs suggest this is true, but I haven’t observed for myself.”

      – yes, this is in fact true, and kind of the whole point of the exercise. The transition from sexing a girl to being her boyfriend is as easy as falling off a log. “Hey, we’ve just had great sex together. Can I also look after you and buy you presents and stuff?”

      The transition the other way is MUCH more difficult. Compare: “Hey, I take care of you and buy you presents and run errands for you. Can I have sex with you now?”

      • ozymandias says:

        I suspect the boyfriend –> sex and sex –> boyfriend transitions are about equally easy, but the friend –> sex and friend –> boyfriend transitions are both fairly difficult.

        • Sniffnoy says:

          While I would expect you to be right in general (the hard barrier being the mating/non-mating barrier), I know at least one person who would say the hard barrier is the romance/non-romance barrier. Obviously this a pretty useless statement about what happens in general, I’m just making the required “be careful with universal statements” so we can acknowledge there are exceptions and then go back to talking in generalities. 😛

        • Rationalist says:

          The point relevant to the discussion that started this massive thread is that men like Ialdabaoth could improve their lives, and probably those of others, by learning how to make women want to have sex with them.

  18. Pingback: Convoluted reasoning | Ctenophoric!

  19. Alrenous says:

    @Ialdabaoth

    So do you want me to clarify my statement, or do you want me to admit your situation is hopeless?

    • Ialdabaoth says:

      I don’t know! I’m willing to admit to either preference, if pressured.

    • Alrenous says:

      Well, step one: figure out what your goal is. As per our previous discussion, it’s impossible to be rational without a goal.

      You may run into the issue that it is unwise to openly state certain goals on public fora. Uncommon, but possible.

      If not, then make a comment that will, to the best of your knowledge, further that goal. Comments are wonderful low-cost low-risk sandbox. (Yet they’re taken so seriously…)

      Edit: actually first check the comment I forked from, and see if it supports your goals. If not, change it and let us know.

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        Well, step one: figure out what your goal is. As per our previous discussion, it’s impossible to be rational without a goal.

        Here’s my problem with that:

        1. If I expose what my goals are, whatever my goals are, others will always actively and harmfully thwart them.

        2. Those who enjoy thwarting my goals inevitably have more power than I do, and are willing to bring more power to bear than those who do not enjoy seeing my goals thwarted.

        3. My goals are always trivially exposed whenever I act upon them.

        • Matthew says:

          @Ialdabaoth

          Your discussion with Alrenous has become so abstruse I can no longer follow what either of you are talking about.

          I have a more prosaic question. I realize that Idaho isn’t ideal for it, population density-wise, but is there a reason you don’t prefer to try online dating? It seems safer in a number of ways:

          1. You’re physically removed from the people you hit on. They will most likely ignore you if not interested, or possibly send a nasty message, but there won’t be any violence.

          2. You have a written record of any communication, so you can objectively dispute claims of creepy behavior.

          3. If you’re on a dating site, there’s no ambiguity about people’s intentions. (Normally, this is a negative, since it puts far more pressure on a first meeting than organically developing contacts, but it’s good from a safety perspective here.)

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          As far as I know almost none of us on this blog know who you are and thus would have no way to thwart your goals (and frankly why would we?). And if you don’t want to put your goals here then fine, but knowing them is an important first step since you can’t win at life if you don’t know what winning is. So what if some people figure out what your goals are? Most people are self-centered, they care a lot less about your goals than you do.

          Secondly, I propose moving this conversation to another forum, maybe LessWrong or Reddit. Its getting a bit long.

          And finally, what are you looking for? Advice or understanding? I think your problems are quite soluble. But you have to want to solve them. Even if you can’t fix society.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Secondly, I propose moving this conversation to another forum, maybe LessWrong or Reddit. Its getting a bit long.

          Only if our esteemed host requests that I do so. At the moment, I would prefer to continue presenting my personal experience as a case study of exactly the sort of problem Scott Alexander is discussing in the OP (as it relates to gender issues, at least), and would prefer to do so for as long as it remains a useful and relevant one.

      • Alrenous says:

        That looks like dodging the question to me. I have to ask again: do you want me to admit your situation is hopeless, or do you want me to articulate the logical ramifications of your assertions? If you don’t know, go away and figure it out.

        If both, pick which one you want me to do first.

        I have to do the latter for a sec.

        1. This looks like; “I don’t think it’s safe to tell you what I want.”
        Okay. But that would mean this whole conversation is pointless, except for 3, which means I already know what your goals are.

        Put together, we have “I can’t tell you, but I’ve already told you.” You have to drop one of them. Either stop pretending you’re not telling me or actually stop telling.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          What Ialdabaoth Actually Wants:

          I want people who will be there for me when the Darkness takes hold.

          I want people who will listen to my dreams and not laugh.

          I want people who will call me at 3 in the morning to tell me their car broke down, and let me pick them up and get them a tow and give them the keys to my car for three days until theirs is fixed.

          I want people who will take me to the hospital and yell at the doctor until I’m admitted, and look me in the eye and tell me that it’s bullshit that I have to go through this bureaucracy and that of course I’m not faking it.

          I want people who will look at my artwork and tell me that it’s cool, and not tell me that it’s creepy-weird and that I shouldn’t have drawn something like that.

          I want people who will sit down with me after I’ve lost my job, and tell me all the amazing things I’ve done that they’ve personally witnessed, and that of course they don’t think any worse of me because I sometimes can’t handle Real Life.

          I want people who will remember the time I saved their child from drowning, and not begrudge me a few hours of suicidal ideation because it makes them look bad in front of their friends to admit that they know me.

          I want people who will remember who taught them how to program, and will tell their boss “If we’re still looking for a lead programmer, I know this great guy – he’s high maintenance but he’s brilliant and he taught me C++…”

          I want people who will come over when I invite them for dinner.

          I want people who will tell someone who is being mean to me that they can fuck right off, that Ialdabaoth has earned their friendship and that until they’re willing to fly halfway across the country to sit in for a parent that decided to not show up for graduation, they can keep their snide comments to themselves.

          That’s what I want.

        • Elissa says:

          hugging laptop is not working please help 🙁

        • Alrenous says:

          Many don’t know what they want, knowing is a hugely powerful tool.

          Some general comments of possible interest, even if only to know whether we see eye to eye:

          Unfortunately, a lot of those things are extremely difficult. They shouldn’t be, but they are.

          Some of them are actually important. As in, it’s worth giving up science and bowing to Catholicism if it makes them happen and being an atheist prevents them from happening.

          Some of them are the result of people pretty much sucking. I don’t know if that’s new or not.

          Of course I’m going to say focus on one of those. If you’re commenting, either be frivolous, or attempt to use the comment to further that goal. Is that obvious? I have no idea if that’s obvious.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Ialdabaoth, as a small token of… whatever, I’ll now go pray for you for about twenty minutes straight. (It seems more demanding and dignified than just going “>I know TFW sadfrog.jpg”.)

          As a possible emergency intervention, though: go to a Walmart, buy these and swallow all of them. My sources tell me that’s how it’s done in America. 200mg sounds just right for first time. Make sure you’re in a comfortable and relaxing setting.

  20. matt says:

    I guess what bothers me is the way that all this just circles around and around and people let it because it works for them. It’s because a lot of identity politics goes into that territory of “the map is not the territory”, “there’s no objectivity!” etc. But we all know why we have a certain very visceral reaction to people who claim to be activists for men’s rights. What bothers me is that people have this visceral reaction, and then start responding to MRAs in this equivocating identity politics rhetoric, which to me is ironic as hell.
    It’s like this: if you took the stated goal of intersectional identity politics (to fully articulate the ways that different identities interact with each other in the context of different culture values) seriously, then the reality is that there would be nothing too petty to discuss. And so consequently 3rd wave feminists are VERY petty, and spend a great deal of time discussing “microaggression” stuff that is sort of existential in a way, rather than problems that can almost certainly be solved over time, like US women not getting maternity leave, wage gap, and so on. And yet, feminists have this visceral, angry reaction to MRAs… but why? According to intersectional identity politics, it is more or less our duty to fully articulate all of this shit. So nothing is too petty, and according to this, men’s rights dudes making nitpicking comments about feminism should be completely welcome, in fact their comments are really sort of necessary. And yet feminists angrily reject these people, yet the irony is that looking at the existence of MRAs has not made them snap back into reality and see identity politicking for what it really is. And still, they cannot commit to a statement like, “gender is not COMPLETELY a social construct”. But why else do we react in certain ways to the string of words “Men’s Rights Activist”?
    For many people in this field, they were just motivated by self-righteousness to begin with, rather than a search for truth. I’ve found that lots of people in this world can and will rationalize pretty much everything in their favor, and identity politicking is basically a haven for people with these attitudes.

  21. Paul Wright says:

    This post was discussed on Metafilter (trigger warning for Scott: Mefi is an SJ stronghold).

    The commenters on there made the point that the objection of transexual people to “residual male privilege” is not the “privilege” bit but the “male”, that is, the implication is that trans people are not really the gender they’ve transitioned to. The commenters are pretty keen to differentiate this example of disclaiming privilege from the others on that basis, and I take their point in that this use of “privilege” is not “you’re better off and therefore know nothing of my struggles” but rather, it’s TERF code for “you’re a man”. If there are hundreds of examples, it might be worth finding a less equivocal one.

  22. Oligopsony says:

    One motte-and-bailey that I’ve seen a number of times (though, to be sure, I spend a lot more time reading old tomes and far-right bloggers than most): some reactionary intellectual starts out by stipulating something like “by ‘aristocracy,’ I mean those who are best, whether recognized by title or no; there are aristocrats in art, in warfare, perhaps even in love…” and then spend the rest of the essay talking about landed peers.

    To be fair, some, like Pareto, stick pretty well to the motte, but then Pareto’s politics actually were relevantly different there in a way that wouldn’t be served by the bailey.

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  25. Alrenous says:

    @Nornagest

    I used to think that way, but I realized I don’t know if the article understands manorialism. It’s an offhand comment, much like a joke. They’re not going to be able to fit a full nuanced, scholarly understanding of manorialism in such a small space. Sure they might not understand it, but if they do such criticism only embarrasses myself.

    But that’s mostly thanks to the difficulties of getting coinage into a system where almost everything’s produced locally

    This is untrue, you have the causation backwards. http://www.cato.org/pubs/journal/cjv14n2-7.html Everything is produced locally because it became impossible to get coinage into the system. Moreover, this kind of price buggery is associated with forcing citizens to work at a particular job, and we’ll likely see history rhyming on that once social entitlement payments get really painful.

    You may recognize this as almost the opposite of what’s going on in the Greece article.

    I don’t so recognize.

    If this follows Rome, in the next step Greece will declare these in-kind payments to be tax evasion and demand in-kind taxes. This will result in Grecians not working at all, causing the job market to break down entirely. Desperate to pay and staff their social entitlement programs, Greece will force citizens to work, and since the job market is busted, Greece will have to choose their jobs for them. Greece will then have full-blown feudalism. (‘If’ it follows Rome? By now, the only way off this train is for Greece to renounce democracy, which will likely cause it to become a Mediterranean Rhodesia. Either Greece’s democracy will die a slow, painful death, or it will become a white Zimbabwe.)

    Or: slaveholders have to provide food and board for their slaves, or they will die. It is presumably legal for serf lords not to provide such, but if they don’t their serfs will die since they’re obligated to work the land. You can call it rent, but de facto the lord owned the serf’s entire produce and simply allowed them to keep some.

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  27. EWK says:

    I think there is a strain of the social justice movement which is entirely about abusing the ability to tar people with extremely dangerous labels that they are not allowed to deny, in order to further their political goals.

    You were on to something, but stopped yourself short. This isn’t a description of just a strain of the social justice movement, it is a description of the entire movement. These “social justice warriors” are failures of human beings, who choose to have a competition to see who can “out-victim” the other instead of making a productive contribution to society, and thus, deserve none of your time or respect in the real world.

    • Multiheaded says:

      …failures of human beings… …deserve none of your time or respect

      …Came off as more than a little ironic.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I *almost* followed up that “strain” sentence with “in the same sense that Sunni is a ‘strain’ of Islam”, but I restrained myself (no pun intended) because it was entirely for laughs and totally untrue. Given the response I’ve gotten here so far, I am pretty happy with that decision. And I want people to know I really do edit these things.

      Oh, and you’re banned indefinitely for obvious reasons.

    • adsd says:

      The Rule of “People who accuse others of being inhuman but instantly reveal themselves to be just as if not more inhuman” is oh so sweet.

  28. Alrenous says:

    Ialdabaothism: the radical notion that Ialdabaoth is people.

    Ialdabaothism includes the idea that an Ialdabaoth is not fatally insane, and can in fact work out cause and effect. Ialdabaothism involves not blaming the victim; that self-sabotage is not the cause of an Ialdabaoth’s major problems. Even if that means puncturing some cozy illusions about other people with dark truths.

    The spectre of an anti-Ialdabaothist trying to help an Ialdabaoth is moderately repulsive. If an Ialdabaoth is not able to work out cause and effect, then the situation is quite hopeless. If obedience to someone else is the only solution, then the anti-Ialdabaothist takes on the responsibility of watching the Ialdabaoth all day, every day, which they’re clearly unwilling to do, if even able.

    This is especially bad when the anti-Ialdabaothist thinks they can tell how to run an Ialdabaoth’s life third hand, from across the internet, better than the individual with the front-row seat to said life.

    The true epistemologist must admit the possibility that Ialdabaothism is false and anti-Ialdabaothism is true. Especially third hand, from across the internet. However, prima facie anti-Ialdabaothism has an uphill battle to fight.

    The epistemolgist should employ the ironman. Weak anti-Ialdabaothism has some plausibility. Solomonoff Induction is incomputable because it’s impossible to list all the hypotheses. This manifests as humans failing to list all the hypotheses. An Ialdabaoth, we can safely assume, is a human, and may have failed to list all the reasonably possible solutions, in which case merely completing the list could help. But, ultimately, it would seem easier to ask an Ialdabaoth rather than an epistemologist about whether the list is reasonably complete.

    • Ialdabaoth says:

      Ialdabaothism includes the idea that an Ialdabaoth is not fatally insane, and can in fact work out cause and effect. Ialdabaothism involves not blaming the victim; that self-sabotage is not the cause of an Ialdabaoth’s major problems. Even if that means puncturing some cozy illusions about other people with dark truths.

      This paragraph actually gave me a minor panic attack. That’s usually an indication that there’s something really interesting inside.

    • Multiheaded says:

      Governments are oppressive… but anarcho-capitalism still doesn’t real. Some an-cap history is broadly correct but kinda starts from the wrong end (enclosures!), while much is just bugfuck. Similarily, anything to do with mental issues, including the social construction of them, is broadly problematic in itself and kind of invites abuses of biopower (DSM-II!)… but Thomas Szasz still doesn’t real, IMO.

      Fuck it, I’m willing to choose an immediate relief effort now despite the near-certainty of it perpetuating some oppression later. I can sort of justify that in a long-winded way.

      (And either stance on this could be accused of narcissistic holier-than-thou posturing, so let’s not go there at all.)

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        Similarily, anything to do with mental issues, including the social construction of them, is broadly problematic in itself and kind of invites abuses of biopower

        Broaden this. Seriously.

        Anything to do with mental issues is broadly problematic.

        The presence of a person with mental issues is broadly problematic, and instantiates the ‘mental issues is broadly problematic’ sequence.

        This is a Revealed Preference that is prima facia obvious in western society, so let’s please not bother arguing the point.

        Having mental issues is inherently abusive; it turns psychonormative / neurotypical / trendy-word-for-not-fucked-in-the-head people into abusers despite themselves. It removes their agency by forcing them to choose between uncomfortable roles.

        It is intensely unfair and, I daresay, impositional for people with psychological issues to choose to exist, because it forces this discomfort on the rest of you.

        • Oligopsony says:

          It is intensely unfair and, I daresay, impositional for people with psychological issues to choose to exist, because it forces this discomfort on the rest of you.

          Except you didn’t choose to exist, and choosing to not continue existing is more imposing than choosing to continue to exist.

          During my periods of serious suicidality this was perhaps the most imposing-on-me part; that not even suicide was a successful Exit from the burden I was placing on others.

          Of course, while people who are neurotypical along this axis are biased to think of themselves as better than they are, those who are not tend to think of themselves as more of a burden than they actually. Applying the outside view is probably necessary for both.

          • I have a notion that comprehensive self-hatred might be a scramble for the pleasures of status (there’s a part of one’s self which is increasing it’s status by attacking the rest of the self) without getting any of the the actual advantages of status.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Except you didn’t choose to exist

          But I am still assigned blame for existing, precisely as if it was a conscious choice. Since power is the ultimate arbitrator of values, this effectively makes me just as blameworthy as if I had consciously chosen it. (Moreso, in fact, because it is something that I clearly cannot choose to stop doing.)

          Of course, while people who are neurotypical along this axis are biased to think of themselves as better than they are, those who are not tend to think of themselves as more of a burden than they actually. Applying the outside view is probably necessary for both.

          There is no outside view. People who are “neurotypical” not only believe that they are not burdensome, they also believe (as demonstrated by their actions) that people who are not neurotypical are burdensome. When you say that someone like me “believes I am more burdensome than I am”, I strongly disagree: I believe I am EXACTLY as burdensome as society behaves as if I was. And since society DEFINES burden, that’s pretty much a tautology to say that that’s how burdensome I actually am.

          Unless you know of some external source of value judgment?

        • Oligopsony says:

          When you say that someone like me “believes I am more burdensome than I am”, I strongly disagree: I believe I am EXACTLY as burdensome as society behaves as if I was.

          Think about the exact phrasing of this for a bit!

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          I’ve re-parsed it a few times and not noticed anything; what am I missing?

        • Hainish says:

          Society includes people who are telling you that you think you are more burdensome than they think you are.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Right, just like I include some very melanin-rich moles; this does not make me African-American.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          I have a notion that comprehensive self-hatred might be a scramble for the pleasures of status (there’s a part of one’s self which is increasing it’s status by attacking the rest of the self) without getting any of the the actual advantages of status.

          Explicitly so. I’m acutely aware of this process. Monkeys heal from abuse by finding smaller monkeys to abuse. I’ve known this since I was six, but I’ve always been the smallest monkey – so I’ve basically created a ‘Dark’ persona whose job it is to inflict abuse on the ‘weak’ persona.

          • I thought monkeys recovered from abuse by getting groomed by other monkeys, forcibly if necessary.

            What’s your evidence that beating up on smaller monkeys helps with recovery as distinct from being something that abused monkeys do?

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          What’s your evidence that beating up on smaller monkeys helps with recovery as distinct from being something that abused monkeys do?

          From the Stanford Behavioral Genetics lectures. I’ll find the relevant links when I get home.

          • Thanks. When I thought about it, I realized that the thing I heard about grooming was about recovery from isolation rather than from assault, though I think I’ve heard something about apes comforting each other.

            So far as other sorts of recovery are concerned, have you read about somatic experiencing? Peter Levine was thinking about recovery from trauma– if a gazelle is almost caught by a lion, it can’t afford to be fouled up by PTSD.

            Levine found that animals who’d been through something drastic would go off and shake for a while, and then recover. In his opinion, PTSD was caused by not getting recovery time, whether because the traumatic situation lasted too long or the shaking wasn’t permitted.

      • Oligopsony says:

        Fuck it, I’m willing to choose an immediate relief effort now despite the near-certainty of it perpetuating some oppression later. I can sort of justify that in a long-winded way.

        No long winds are needed: neoreactionary theories of oppression as the natural state of Man, of leftism as a rebellion against Nature, are correct, and neoreactionary theories of the Ratchet are incorrect (however empirically correct in the medium term.) The attractor in society-space independent of constant leftward agitation is the peace and safety of a new dark age. All victories are temporary.

        • Multiheaded says:

          I actually drift outside this particular 2edge with some regularity. Tikkun olam, VALIS retconning the world, other such bourgeois gnostic nonsense.

      • Alrenous says:

        but anarcho-capitalism still doesn’t real.

        The Amish are 100% anarcho-capitalist.

        (It’s truths like this that make me hold yer average ancap in contempt.)

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        That sounds plausible.

        Also, in the interest of full disclosure:

        I’ve related a lot of personal experiences in these comments that are… well, let’s just say that when you have arachnophobia, and someone asks you how big the spider on your arm was, your personal narrative might not line up with a ruler.

        Put more succinctly, my particular combination of social anxiety, PTSD, and depression makes it extremely likely that my perceptions of social events are skewed. Not just in the “people aren’t all as awful as I’ve explicitly claimed” sense, but also in the “are you SURE that that happened EXACTLY the way you remember it?” sense.

        I don’t think that invalidates my experiences – in order to have the level of fucked-upedness I have, SOMETHING traumatic clearly happened – but I can’t be 100% certain that the specific events I REMEMBER are the actual events that OCCURRED. I know for a fact, for example, that my memories will often juggle around the faces and voices of people who were attacking me with the faces and voices of people who were trying to protect me.

    • Well said.

      And something I need to remember a parallel version of for myself.

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        I admit I liked it, but my natural instinct was that it was sarcasm.

        • Alrenous says:

          I have a problem where I always sound sarcastic because I’m so inexperienced at being unironic.

          For example: the best equation is 0 = 0. Truly sublime. Sarcasm?

          Also there are layers of irony there. So there’s that. However, I did make sure that the first three layers are all true.

          Zeroth layer: explicit meaning.

          First layer: I’m not a feminist.* So…

          Second layer: I don’t know either. We would have to meet in person. In any case, you can safely assume I’m human too, so I’m also sometimes bad at enumerating all possibilities. [Ialdabaothism & anti-Ialdabaothism] may not span the entire space. Unknown unknowns and all that.

          *(I’m sort of an ironic anti-humanist. Women aren’t people and neither are men. Usually. But I like the essence of the tech-progress message of humanism.)

        • nydwracu says:

          the best equation is euler’s identity, fucking fight me

        • Alrenous says:

          e ^{i \pi} + 1 = 0
          e ^{i \pi} + 1 – 0 = 0 – 0
          0 = 0

          Why this is cool is moderately advanced neon hillistry, though…

        • Sniffnoy says:

          Man, e^{pi*i}+1=0 isn’t even the best equation Euler came up with. I’d say V-E+F=2 at least is better.

    • Nick T says:

      Ialdabaothism involves not blaming the victim; that self-sabotage is not the cause of an Ialdabaoth’s major problems.

      General point, nothing to do with Ialdabaoth in particular: the word “blame” is very equivocal and harmfully so. It’s really really REALLY important to separate attribution of causality from the almost-always-harmful emotion of wanting-someone-to-feel-shame, and from crude implicit reasoning about responsibility and obligation, which is important but should be made explicit and precise (e.g., unlimited feelings of obligation to help others are bad, and self-sabotage means that a person has to do some work themselves to fix their problems, but it doesn’t mean that they have no external problems or shouldn’t be helped and accommodated at all.) Self-sabotage is ubiquitous, and being able to talk about it well, rather than either treating it really unskillfully or flinching away from considering it at all, seems really high-value and really rare and non-automatic.

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        General point, nothing to do with Ialdabaoth in particular: the word “blame” is very equivocal and harmfully so.

        Absolutely. I ALWAYS internally reverse its typical meaning: in my moral world, “blame” is synonymous with “powerlessness”, and the more you directly caused an event to occur, the LESS blame you have for that event.

        This seems consistent with most people’s pragmatic use of “blame”, so I prefer it to most people’s claimed intent.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m going to assume this makes sense to Ialdabaoth within some context I’m missing. If not, Ialdabaoth should tell me the degree to which this is an unprovoked personal attack so I can do something about it.

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        I read it as an intricate weave of signaling and counter-signaling; I honestly couldn’t tell whether it was a scathing personal attack or a profound outpouring of support and solidarity.

        As such, I am inclined to let it pass on sheer artistic merit alone. It is a *beautiful* piece of work.

        The straight reading (made apparent by replacing ‘Ialdabaoth*’ with ‘femin*’, given that the rhetoric is laden with SJW-style feminist language) is that I deserve the same level of sympathy and support and alliance that feminists do/claim they do. Which means that the question of whether it’s a vicious personal attack or an outpouring of solidarity depends on whether you read the speaker as approving of feminist ideology as-such OR disapproving of feminist ideology as applied but pointing out a counter situation where they feel that ideology WOULD be properly applied.

        Layers upon layers upon layers.

        • For what it’s worth, I read it as only borrowing some feminist rhetoric, but really addressing the habit/passion of self-hatred.

          I’m able to give it that single reading because I’m not comprehensively squicked by feminism, and it didn’t even occur to me to think of how it would look to someone who is squicked.

          I believe that one of the side effects of abuse is a belief that being on one’s own side is extremely dangerous– that’s what locks self-destructive habits into place.

          Try imagining a women who’s running a JAD module in her mind all the time, and who’s inclined to think that the module is probably correct. After all, it’s so loud and self-assured. What would be useful to say to her?

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          For what it’s worth, I read it as only borrowing some feminist rhetoric, but really addressing the habit/passion of self-hatred.

          Indeed – and it said things about self-hatred that I’ve really needed to hear for awhile now, that no one else has been able to articulate.

        • Alrenous says:

          Thanks.

          Okay, spoilers:
          It’s an attack on inconsistency. If you believe in feminism and/or similar yet your first response to an Ialdabaoth is to deny his lived experience… What I believe doesn’t have to be relevant at all.

          Notably I didn’t even know I was talking about self-hatred.

          From the other angle, believing humans in general aren’t people in the usual sense has some consequences which don’t mesh well with giving life advice in comment form. If someone is incapable of getting cause and effect right in immediate, first person perspective, then a couple condescending words is not going to make them learn to do that.

        • I’m rather amazed that it wasn’t intended to be about self-hatred, but life is an education.

          I was able to interpret the part about advice over the internet as being about self-hatred by looking at Ialdabaoth’s pattern of taking real or hypothesized hatred from other people as evidence that he should hate himself.

        • Alrenous says:

          Ah, I see the hatred angle now.

          This is why I don’t think literary analysis is inherently bunk; just its usual manifestations. (No, my 10th grade English teacher does not know where Twain’s narrative climax is better than Twain did.)

      • Alrenous says:

        Other commentators literally gaslight Ialdabaoth: fine.

        I point out they’re gaslighting: possible vicious attack.

        Umm…

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Remember that one of the best ways to gaslight someone is to convince the victim that other people are gaslighting them. That way, they don’t know who to turn to for confirmation.

        • Alrenous says:

          Fair point.

          The way to get around gaslighting is to put it to experiment. You say X will happen, they say A will happen, so you test. (And find R happens…) Trust no human, trust reality.

          This doesn’t work if you say X happened and they say, “No it didn’t.” The problem is either their perceptions or yours. If it’s yours, when you do the experiment again, it will just read as X again. If it’s theirs, it will read as X. Quite aside from being condescending and a bit mean, it’s empirically meaningless. It’s Russell’s teapot.

          While it’s possible to help someone with perceptual issues, it is a complicated, delicate, and risky procedure. There will be backsliding.
          I’m trying to find a way to compare (some of) the comments to this standard without comparing them to toxic waste. Just as it’s uncharitable for me to claim I understand your position, it’s uncharitable for me to assume my prima facie impression of the responses is necessarily valid. That said, my prima facie impression is of toxic waste, so that’s the only honest concept I can use.

          It really is denying someone’s lived experience, and it really is a waste of everyone’s time.*

          Dishonourable mention goes to ‘must be lying.’ Okay, so don’t listen? This tactic admits that if it were true, then it disproves some deeply held conviction the tactic-user has. If you have the privilege of knowing you didn’t lie, you know you just disproved an important chunk of their worldview. Correct for any rhetorical hyperbole and see if you can’t extract their principle, in case you also hold it.**

          There’s endless ways communication can go wrong even while everyone is being moderately honest and sane. Maybe, as a courtesy, check for those first? Or you have to admit you’re a jerk, like I have to.

          *(I should start a book of Truths that Offend Everyone.)

          **(I should probably mention the domain of this logic is limited. Personal, concrete experience is very different from saying society should do or does a some abstract thing.)

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          The way to get around gaslighting is to put it to experiment. You say X will happen, they say A will happen, so you test. (And find R happens…) Trust no human, trust reality.

          I attempted this in my youth, and discovered that this is a TERRIBLE idea. (How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?)

          The most profound lesson I ever learned, was when my mom tore my homework up in front of me and made me eat it, to punish me for forgetting my homework and leaving it at school. (Full disclosure: I cannot prove that this actually happened; I ate the evidence.)

          You cannot escape from reality, not even by escaping to reality.

        • Alrenous says:

          O’Brian is a human. His opinion of how many fingers he’s holding up is irrelevant. How many fingers he’s holding up is irrelevant in general because different numbers don’t do different things. Tell him he’s holding up a million fingers, if he doesn’t like the obvious answer. Tell him he’s holding up falling inverted. I can deconstruct this entire scene but I’m guessing I’d be the only one interested.

          Arbitrary, random punishments are known to drive mammals insane.

          Your argument is you can’t test things.
          It seems taking your homework home doesn’t achieve your goals any more than leaving it at school. Its presence or absence must be irrelevant, or only affect the flavour of the failure. Thus it is time to look at other properties of the situation for effective strategies. Holding as much constant as you can, vary all the variables. Flick every switch and twiddle every dial until you find one that does something. Your alternative is to find a lord who will let you swear fealty.

  29. Cecil Harvey says:

    I find “check your privilege” to be an incredibly useful phrase. If someone says it non-ironically, they signal to me that they are too stupid to bother talking to about anything meaningful for the rest of their lives, and I can ignore them perpetually. This stops a lot of pointless arguments, as these types deny both the principal of identity and the principal of non-contradiction, meaning that no rational discourse can happen.

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  31. Dennis Towne says:

    Having read through a decent fraction of racism school, I will merely note that replacing “white” with “american jew”, “black” with “white”, and updating the appropriate quoted statistics keeps pretty much all of the arguments on that site intact.

    (I am of jewish descent.)

  32. No one special says:

    I feel like I just won the internet.

    Given my amazing success at finding stuff I read years ago and linking to it, I’d like to take a step forwards and invent terminology. I propose “Motte cop, Bailey cop” for when different people claiming to represent the same thing each adopt half of a motte and bailey doctrine.

    Let’s see if that catches on.

  33. Okay, in 512 comments I’m sure this view has been expressed at least once, and I don’t want to read 512 comments to make sure, so I’m just going to barge in here under the assumption that I’m repeating what someone else probably said more eloquently.

    I agree that the focus on prescriptive semantics in social justice is an an unusual quality. I like to use a different hypothesis to explain it, though. I think ideas like “you can’t be sexist against men” are being used as shibboleths. They are ideas that are really mostly about semantics (so that if you are immersed in a community that uses words that way, they seem unobjectionable), but immediately strike people who aren’t versed in SJ as being strange, objectionable, even obviously false. The purpose here is to clearly discriminate between people who are versed in SJ concepts and those who aren’t — and to separate those who’ve just sort of bathed in the vague cultural meme bath they’re surrounded with (“racism is bad”) from those who’ve signed onto more specific SJ ideologies.

    This is not necessarily a bad thing to want to do. In a lot of cases I think this desire to find people who are versed in SJ comes directly out of fear inspired by direct personal experience, much like a (usually more extreme) version of the “paranoia” you describe in this post. Someone in [category X] has a very discernibly patterned history of people in [category Y] doing awful things to them and getting away with it; they also think their culture is filled with a bias against them that tends to result in linguistic tricks, double binds and the like being used to shut down what they have to say in arbitrary and unfair ways. (Imagine the feeling that social justice writing tends to give you, except it’s everywhere and you can’t turn it off — in every TV show and every idle conversation. If you try to specifically seek out the exceptions, people act like you are insane.) These people have an incentive to avoid people in [category Y] entirely, but if they do interact with people in [category Y] it’s preferable if those people are, broadly speaking, on their side. This can be a matter of personal safety, in a number of senses of the term.

    “I was talking to this annoying guy who thought that misandry was a thing” is not an assertion that weird semantic points are really important; it’s a way of saying “I like to err on the side of caution because I am very scared, and this guy was giving off signals that he was not part of the ideological subculture to which the men I feel relatively safe around belong.”

    I don’t disagree that “motte-and-bailey doctrine” stuff goes on in SJ culture, but I think to some extent you’re extrapolating from your own paranoia. No one will actually fire you, in 2014, just for being white; people will only fire you if you say explicitly racist things, i.e. things that are racist in the good old “dictionary” sense of the term. I think your intense distaste — due to your personal past — for people who make certain kinds of arguments, and your intense worries that these arguments will go places that they show no signs of having gone yet, actually put you pretty close to the average member of “SJ culture.” Everyone’s scared; everyone gets really mad at the arguments that remind them of the people who hurt them, and concoct paranoid scenarios about these kinds of people forcing them out of society or doing other awful things to them. Everyone would like to surround themselves with people who don’t constantly make these arguments. Only some people have way more of this problem because of, well, um, let’s call them “imbalances in society,” and end up getting way more opposed to certain kinds of arguments to the point that it’s nice to have a reliable indicator of people won’t do this.

    • Multiheaded says:

      Of the responses so far, this is probably the analysis that I most agree with.

    • Matthew says:

      I don’t really think, for this post or any of the related ones that it qualifies as paranoia, or that one has to have been traumatized in the way that SA was to be worried about it.

      I would put the counter position something like this:

      1. Many of us have seen people get hounded out of “safe spaces” for espousing perfectly sane, non-bigoted, but not SJ-doctrinally approved positions. (For example, the last straw for me at which I stopped calling myself feminist, was following the discussion at a mainstream feminist website in which anyone who disagreed with the proposition “rape is a worse crime than murder” more than equivocally was hounded out.)

      2. SJWs want to gradually expand the “safe space,” such that society as a whole gradually adopts their doctrinal conventions. (I don’t think most Social Justice folks would dispute this.)

      3. Therefore, if SJWs are allowed to succeed, people will be threatened with being hounded out of society in general for espousing perfectly sane, non-bigoted, but not doctrinally-approved positions.

      I don’t think this is a paranoid fear at all. SJW convention already appears to be infecting wonkosphere sites like Vox. This is legitimately disturbing.

      • I don’t think I agree with your point 2.

        Here’s an analogy: say you have a life-threatening peanut allergy, which activates even when you are in the vicinity of peanuts. Given this, it’s sensible to demand that certain places in your life — say, your dwelling place, or the dwellings of some close friends — be “safe spaces” into which you can expect peanuts to never intrude. Establishing such a rule and making it credible will increase your quality of life.

        Now, it would be absurd to want to “expand the safe space” — to eliminate peanuts from the whole world, just so that things would be more convenient for you. And AFAIK no one with severe allergies wants to do this.

        But what would be nice and non-absurd, if possible, would be to find a cure for peanut allergies. That would have the same effect — letting you go out in the world without worrying — without restricting other people’s freedom to eat peanuts.

        I think SJ safe spaces are, like the “peanut allergy safe spaces,” supposed to be treating a symptom of the disease which one would ultimately like to cure. Some people respond very badly (“allergically”) to certain arguments or ideas even though they are “sane”; as with peanuts, it isn’t reasonable to expect to go out in the world and never encounter these ideas, so you make a little place with a rule that those ideas never intrude. If someone comes in espousing the idea and saying “well, this is sane,” the response is (or should be) “sure, but the whole point of this space is that that’s no longer the relevant criterion, unlike in the rest of the world.” Get out of my house and eat your peanuts somewhere else; you’ll be fine and I won’t die.

        Now the very fact that people respond so badly to certain ideas is not ideal, and in my model of these things is a consequence of social correlations in which certain ideas, even if sane, are again and again associated with direct personal harm or threat of same. (In the most extreme cases, the “sane” ideas in question trigger actual PTSD, in which case the allergy metaphor becomes pretty direct.) I think what most SJ advocates want is a world in which these correlations are lessened and the need for safe spaces is thus reduced — a cure for the disease.

        I have the feeling we won’t end up agreeing about this, because the model I just presented won’t seem as plausible to you as the one you already believe. I’m just pointing out there’s a different model that you could believe. (I’m not sure how to find a good, simple test that could allow us to figure out which model is more accurate.)

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Get out of my house and eat your peanuts somewhere else; you’ll be fine and I won’t die.

          I think a valid counter-argument is “no, I want you to die from peanut allergy NOW so I can eat my damn peanuts in peace the next time I’m on an airplane. The more we coddle your stupid-ass peanut allergy, the more inconveniences I have to put up with in my day-to-day life. If you’re so unfit and weak that peanuts will kill you, then just DIE already.”

          (Note: this argument is only ‘valid’ insofar as I can kill you with my peanuts, and you cannot stop me from opening my peanuts.)

        • Ok, but at the object level, we aren’t talking about peanuts. We are talking about people who are basically invalided by society. The SJ approach seems to help internalize this objectification and doesn’t offer a clear path toward agency that I can see. Even if the whole world became egalitarian tomorrow and privilege disappeared, would we have a bunch of people who had been conditioned to view themselves as victims? Priming and stereotype threat are getting beaten up, but will probably emerge as being a thing as well as the idea that free will is depleted if you think it’s depleted. I am not talking about tough love, hurt people need time to heal. But what forward path is offered by SJ once the healing occurs? When do the oppressed get to be agents again?

    • Keratin says:

      Yeah, this is pretty much what I think about this post. While I’ve liked your previous posts on this topic and found them pretty incisive, this one definitely felt a lot more idiosyncratic and personal to you.

      I feel like this points out the common symmetries between your situation and the SJ people (in a way you’ve already pointed out), and also how your posts on the subject are borne from the same impulses as the stuff you’re criticizing.

    • Troy says:

      I think you are right that “proper” use of these terms often functions as a kind of social signal in the SJ community, but I’m less sanguine than you are about its dangers. In particular, using any kind of “in-group signalling” to decide who to talk to and listen to is a surefire way to promote groupthink, and to prevent different ideological groups from having productive conversations with each other. I have to stop myself from reacting negatively to people saying politically charged things — even things that I agree with! — simply because they signal to me that these people endorse other positions which I consider odious (e.g., some of the more extreme elements of the SJ movement).

      No one will actually fire you, in 2014, just for being white; people will only fire you if you say explicitly racist things, i.e. things that are racist in the good old “dictionary” sense of the term.

      Matthew’s already commented on this, but let me say, as someone who’s very worried about political correctness, that I have no fear of being fired for being a white male — all my fears are about punished for saying politically incorrect things.

      Indeed, for all of progressives’ talk about how oppressive white males are, I don’t really think they hate white males. I think the only people that (some) progressives really hate are conservatives — i.e., people who disagree with their expressed ideologies. In my experience a progressive straight cis wealthy WASP white male who toes the party line will feel much more comfortable in a SJ crowd than a conservative black man.

      • I agree to some extent with your points in the first and last paragraphs, but I think we are also talking past each other somewhat.

        The more time I spent in SJ circles (and I’ve spent time in a number of them), the less SJ looks to me like an ordinary “political ideology” and the more it looks like a quasi-separatist movement. Most SJ circles are filled with people who think that their society is biased towards people in [category A] and against them, and want to find more people in [category B] to hang out with, because they think people in [category A] are accorded powers by society that scare them.

        Somewhat confusingly, this doesn’t mean these people are especially interested in the topic of “A-B relations” except insofar as it relates to avoiding future harm. They aren’t necessarily theoreticians or activists, just people pragmatically using a theory that appears to explain their own experience well. If you were, say, once in an abusive relationship, you would become interested in how to avoid similar relationships in the future, but it wouldn’t necessarily kindle an academic interest in “abusive relationships” in general; it also wouldn’t make you want to go around talking to lots of people like your abuser in order to ensure your views on this topic closely approach reality. “Groupthink” in the sense of “staying in the group of non-abusers” would be fine except insofar as it might obstruct your goal of avoiding another such relationship.

        I’m not saying all SJ is more “separatist” than “ideological,” and your commentary applies well to the latter group. But I think the separatist character of much of the movement needs to be recognized because it explains the constant tension between SJ and people who expect SJ to be more rigorous about standards of truth than it is. We are all unrigorous about some things, because we all have things we are interested in and things we aren’t; the important (and strange) thing here is that many e.g. feminists aren’t actually interested in gender relations per se, except insofar as they have to model them somehow in order to make sense of their personal experience. (I’m not saying that feminists are anti-intellectual; many are intellectuals with intellectual interests in other areas, and treat gender as a “thing I can’t avoid having some pragmatic model of” rather than a genuine intellectual interest.)

        Looking for friendly ideological debate partners here may be a category mistake.

        • Troy says:

          Thanks for the reply. I think we are operating with slightly different mental pictures of the “social justice community” here. When I think of the “social justice community,” I think of people I know who openly advocate particular progressive causes that go under the banner of anti-racism, anti-sexism, equality, etc. These causes are sometimes political in the sense that they’re trying to pass particular state laws, sometimes more narrowly political in trying to change the policies at my university, and sometimes merely social in that they’re trying to change social norms. So I am thinking more of people who are interested in “A-B” relations — although (they would say) primarily for the purpose of improving the lives of B’s.

          I’m perfectly okay with some people not wanting to talk politics or ideology and just wanting to hang out with people around whom they’re comfortable. (Indeed, I think many of my fellow academics overestimate the importance and applicability of teaching “critical thinking” to most people.) My concerns come out of the “social justice” folks I know being involved in political activism that could (from my perspective) potentially affect the world for the worse. I don’t think people have a responsibility to care about politics (or vote, or whatever). But I think they do have a responsibility to do so rationally, if they do.

  34. Optimist Industries says:

    Thank you for this. I tend towards self-doubt, especially when many people I respect and/or care about hold opinions contrary to my own, and I just wanted to comment here to say how comforting I found this post. I get really anxious when I see good friends linking to arguments overloading terms such as “racist” in the manner described here, because I at once strongly disagree with the abuse of language and care enough about these people that I don’t want to alienate them and wonder what they must be feeling that makes them want to share these things. I generally do not try to engage in discussions with these friends, sadly, out of fear more than anything else. Since I’ve started regularly reading your blog, I’ve felt more sane and less perma-guilty for my objections, and have been more open about my opinions. I try to be open and unattached enough to my present perspectives that I can hear others’ arguments, and the more I surround myself with people that think this way, the safer it feels to go out and honestly interact with other people. So thanks! A bunch!

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  36. Multiheaded says:

    Hey, certain anti-SJ people! I found a Fact.

    https://twitter.com/Gavin_McInnes

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gavin_McInnes

    How is he still walking about, if we’re so damn powerful? Checkmate!

    • mister service says:

      Being able to say edgy things on Fox News and Taki isn’t power. He was ousted at Vice years ago.

      Let’s see him try and show up to give a talk at a university.

      • Multiheaded says:

        How is that edgelord still anyone, assuming this broad model where the Cathedral can stomp real good on someone who has been real bad? He’s on panels and such. (This is him exploiting an unreasonable feminist loophole in a reasonable way, yeah. Still, his reputation as a horrible edgelord should precede him in more ways than currently observed.)

        • Alrenous says:

          A panel? That’s really your best argument?

          Can != does. I’ve myself noticed there’s many more Richwines and Sterlings than people who get Richwined or Sterlinged. It’s mainly encourager les outres.

          Show me one CEO fired for being too feminist. For being too pro-gay.

          Show me a company that was boycott or prosecuted for hiring too many women. (Can you even imagine?)

          Show me a professor stripped of tenure for supporting too much immigration.

          Show me campaigns to rip down feminist advertisements or to harass feminist speeches.

          Is your argument really that you’re afraid of Takimag? Shall I keep an eye out for Taki-friendly legislation in the next five years?

        • mister service says:

          I’m sure Mel Gibson could still get an interview out on ABC. It helps if you got famous and made connections in your industry before becoming publicly known as a right-wing “edgelord.” (warning: I’m stealing that)

          The fact remains that the cultural window of acceptability is moving away from Mel Gibson (and McInnes). Brendan Eich will probably never be a software executive again. Their career peak of relevancy is far behind them.

          Edgelords of the left don’t have this problem. Shia LaBeouf reading Debord? Russell Brand’s pop socialism? That keeps them relevant and hip, if anything.

        • Nick T says:

          There are surely people who say that it’s impossible to say the things McInnes did without suffering social death. He falsifies this claim, and that’s important. But if McInnes falsifies the weaker, important claim that some people get punished by [whatever you want to call it] for expressing politically incorrect views, with a chilling effect on others, then the existence of one successful outspokenly feminist woman falsifies the claim that publicly feminist women are often harassed and punished with a chilling effect on others.

        • Multiheaded says:

          @Alrenous:

          Yes, we are the only ones doing this particular kind of violence, and no, in this particular sphere it’s never applied to us (I wish the same were true for Russia!). I’m just saying that the upper limit on this stuff doesn’t seem to be very high at all.

          Edgelords of the left don’t have this problem. Shia LaBeouf reading Debord? Russell Brand’s pop socialism? That keeps them relevant and hip, if anything.

          Debord isn’t edgy because doesn’t call for systemic violence. Advocating direct censorship by referencing Marcuse’s Repressive Tolerance would be just minimally edgy. Talk about a dictatorship of the proletariat (with all the caveats about Marx’s original intent – it’s basically supposed to be a democracy without some characteristics of liberalism, people!), now that is edgy.

          There are surely people who say that it’s impossible to say the things McInnes did without suffering social death. He falsifies this claim, and that’s important.

          That’s all I’m asking for, really.

        • Alrenous says:

          Nice goalpost move, Multiheaded.

          How is he still walking about, if we’re so damn powerful? Checkmate!

          So you conceded this point. Considering you had to concede it, you shouldn’t have made it in the first place.

          Unless you were attempting a sophistry, of course.

          it’s impossible to say the things McInnes did without suffering social death.

          Yes, I do have to agree with this strawman. His social death is not total, that’s true. He’s also weaksauce. I’ve heard the name, that’s it. He was punted from a firm that he himself built, that’s more than enough for everyone who isn’t you.

          Call me when you have someone who opposes democracy and still gets so much as panels. Find me a respectable group that wouldn’t add Aristotle to the hemlock list.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Call me when you have someone who opposes democracy and still gets so much as panels.

          Um… Peter Thiel?

        • Alrenous says:

          Thiel is certainly an interesting case. My gut feeling is he hasn’t really said anything much, but I can’t back that up well.

          He contributes an awful lot of money to political campaigns for someone who thinks democracy and freedom are incompatible. Notably, the statement is from 2009 and he supported both the Pauls and Romney in 2012 with literally millions of dollars. I know that kind of bribe worked for Bill Gates. But like I said; I can’t back it up well. I’m probably right but you shouldn’t believe me.

          I’m amused by how sterile the seasteading thing has turned out to be. For comparison, he quite possibly gave more to Paul and Romney in 2012 alone than his total contributions to seasteading. His total political contributions overwhelm his supposed baby.

          Oh wait, there we go – he’s gay. Duh. It would be very, very difficult for him to get on the shit list. Now you should probably believe me.

        • Multiheaded says:

          This is fascinating and IMO highly… suggestive about Thiel and his general attitude:

          Peter Thiel in the early 90s:

          In 1992, a Stanford law student named Keith Rabois tested the limits of free speech on campus by standing outside the dorm residence of an instructor and shouting, “Faggot! Faggot! Hope you die of AIDS!” The furious reaction to this provocation eventually drove Rabois out of Stanford. Thiel, who was in law school at the time, was also the president of the Stanford Federalist Society and the founder of the Stanford Review, a more highbrow, less bad-boy version of the notoriously incendiary Dartmouth Review. Not long after the incident, he decided to write a book with his friend David Sacks, exposing the dangers of political correctness and multiculturalism on campus. “Peter wanted to write a book pretty early on,” Sacks said. “If you had asked us in college, ‘Where do you think Peter’s going to end up?’ we would have said, ‘He’s going to be the next William F. Buckley or George Will.’ But we also knew he wanted to make money—not small sums, enormous sums. It’s sort of like if Buckley decided to become a billionaire first and then become an intellectual.”

          “The Diversity Myth,” which appeared in 1995 (and remains Thiel’s only book), is more Dinesh D’Souza than “God and Man at Yale.” The authors line up example after example of the excesses of identity politics on campus, warning the country that a reign of intolerance, if not totalitarianism, is at hand. Characterizing the Rabois incident as a case of individual courage in the face of a witch hunt, they write, “His demonstration directly challenged one of the most fundamental taboos: To suggest a correlation between homosexual acts and AIDS implies that one of the multiculturalists’ favorite lifestyles is more prone to contracting the disease and that not all lifestyles are equally desirable.”

          Thiel didn’t discuss with Sacks the personal implications of writing about the incident from a position hostile to homosexuality. “Peter wasn’t out of the closet back then,” Sacks told me. Thiel didn’t come out to his friends until 2003, when he was in his mid-thirties. “Do you know how many people in the financial world are openly gay?” he asked one friend, explaining that he didn’t want his sexual orientation to get in the way of his work.

          Though the subject of homosexuality remains one that he doesn’t much like to discuss, Thiel says that he wishes he’d never written about the Rabois incident. “All of the identity-related things are in my mind much more nuanced,” he said. “I think there is a gay experience, I think there is a black experience, I think there is a woman’s experience that is meaningfully different. I also think there was a tendency to exaggerate it and turn it into an ideological category.” But his reaction against political correctness, he said, was just as narrowly ideological. “The Diversity Myth” now seems to cause Thiel mild embarrassment: political correctness on campus turned out to be the least of the country’s problems.

          (Book summary, appears to be highly influenced by Rene Girard, and attempts to turn “Theory” concepts such as the social construction of binaries and identities in a reactionary direction)

          Peter Thiel now:

          On September 22, 2010, Thiel said at a 2010 fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, “I believe that gay rights and marriage rights for gay people should not be a partisan issue,” and ”Gay marriage can’t be a partisan issue because as long there are partisan issues or cultural issues in this country, you’ll have trench warfare like on the western front in World War I. You’ll have lots of carnage and no progress.”

          This is honestly like a living, breathing piece of agitprop for anti-assimilationist queer activists. Mr. Thiel hoped to get notorious by shitting all over the (dogmatic, ossified, sure) compromise between earlier radicals and the modern Western state; a little later, when said compromise has delivered an unprecedented freedom from fear and humiliation to him, personally, he proceded to pretend that it’s the logical and inevitable outcome of his own brand of technocracy. It’s either reactionary high theory or inoffensive administered equality; anything but Stonewall!

          …Alrenous, this is another one of those fearful symmetries. You remember Moldbug’s outpouring of spite over Paul Romer, right? Well, mirror that and you might end up with roughly how I feel about Thiel.

          Thiel is everything I hate and despise about the way the world is going. I honestly wouldn’t have been so dramatic had he stayed a reactionary! I just don’t want his damn future!

        • Alrenous says:

          Anti-progressivism != [What Multiheaded hates]. Good to know.

          Thing is, your attempts to bully him only legitimize what you see as his attempts to bully you. I would be perfectly please to see both of you lose catastrophically. Moreover, in the long run, I will get my wish.

        • Multiheaded says:

          One nice thing about those old-timey (quasi-Catholic) reactionaries is that to them we are the wicked and resentful witch, the seditious wandering troublemaker, the alchemist blinded by folly and consorting with demons… not a skull in a dusty anthropological exhibition. We’re better than just someone, we’re the Other! With the technocrats, we are a meaningless and forgotten footnote in the march towards The No Alternative.

        • Salem says:

          I really don’t understand the point your making about Thiel. Perhaps you could explain a little more?

          It seems to me this is a guy who, from start to finish, has basically been saying “We should have a tolerant society, but the people yelling loudly about tolerance are the least tolerant of all.” This has been the Ur-position of the centre-right since Strafford at least. He basically wants to take the culture wars out of politics and society generally, and that was his clear position in both quotes.

          And yes, anything but Stonewall. Anything but violence and disorder. Gay marriage wasn’t passed because of rioting homosexuals, but through duly passed laws and initiatives, and constitutional rulings. Thiel, and people like him, have done far more for gay marriage than have the militant few, who only ever served to turn ordinary people against their ideas.

        • Multiheaded says:

          And yes, anything but Stonewall. Anything but violence and disorder. Gay marriage wasn’t passed because of rioting homosexuals, but through duly passed laws and initiatives, and constitutional rulings. Thiel, and people like him, have done far more for gay marriage than have the militant few, who only ever served to turn ordinary people against their ideas.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mattachine_Society

          Fuck no. You goddamn fool. The “ordinary people” need to be both exposed forcibly to the Other and shown the far side of the overton window, and only then the nice inoffensive legislative work can even begin. And the same thing is happening with trans* liberation in America right now; without the impulse set by the rude and violent activists, the polite ones wouldn’t get inspired, wouldn’t make a move, wouldn’t be heard.

          I’m summoning Ozy to this thread; let zie testify against this insanity of pacifism. Zie is an assimilationist, but certainly zie sees that we need to inconvenience the public, disturb its conscience and shame the reactionaries into obscurity. The conservative narrative is laughable.

        • Salem says:

          I politely asked you to elucidate what you found objectionable about Thiel; instead you respond with profanity and insults, which is sadly your typical MO. I will not make the mistake of trying to engage with you again.

    • Misha says:

      How was Cuba allowed to exist for decades, when America has the greatest military strength in the world? Several possible answers present themselves.

      1. Cuba is irrelevant, it would be a waste of time to destroy it.
      2. Cuba has powerful friends, it would be dangerous to upset them.
      3. Cuba is useful the way it is.
      4. What gets destroyed is what you can get peopled riled up about.
      5. Something I’ve forgotten or a combination of factors.

  37. Michael B says:

    How do you think this applies to atheism and free will?

    e.g.

    Joe: “Atheists are no better than fundamentalists because they believe with absolute certainty that there is no God.”
    Jane: “Well, that’s a stupid definition of atheism. I only believe that God doesn’t exist with extremely high, but not absolute, certainty.”
    Joe: “Then you’re agnostic.”
    Jane: “No, I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in God.”
    Joe: “Atheists are fundamentalists. The position you described makes you an agnostic.”

    Or free will:

    Jane: “Determinism is true, all our actions are predetermined, therefore we have no free will.”
    Joe: “Well, that’s a stupid definition of free will. I don’t believe that we have that kind of free will but if we define free will in a more sensible way, then there is a way to have both free will and determinism.”
    Jane: “That’s not what free will means though.”
    Joe: “But this is what free will should mean.”

    • Hainish says:

      In the atheism example, Joe is holding Jane to a level of certainty that neither of them probably hold for nearly anything else. It’s annoying and dishonest.

      In the second example, Joe is defending a definition of free will that is useful and sensible to him, and which Jane disagrees with. On the surface, neither example seems to fit the motte-bailey model.

      • Army1987 says:

        Not to mention that IME people who believe in God with extremely high, but not absolute, certainty don’t consider themselves agnostic (also, they say they wish they could believe in God with absolute certainty, but that’s another story).

    • Anonymous says:

      “believe” != “believe with probability of 1”

      “agnostic” != “believe there is no god, with certainty < 1” (Now that is definitely a dumb definition. Do we say “I’m agnostic about whether I am, at this very moment, holding a beer in my hand”?)

      • Said Achmiz says:

        That Anon is me, whoops.

      • Hainish says:

        But aren’t all beliefs probabilistic, i.e., with values closely approaching, but never reaching, 1?

        • Said Achmiz says:

          That is exactly the point. No one can rationally believe anything* “with absolute certainty” (unless they’ve managed to amass infinite confirmatory evidence, which would be quite a feat). Using the term “agnostic” for a belief one holds with P < 1 is ludicrous, because this is just the normal state of affairs for all beliefs. If believing there’s no God, with P < 1, means you’re “agnostic”, then by extension, you’re agnostic about literally everything else you believe*, and the term loses all meaning.

          *Possibly with the exclusion of mathematical truths?? I don’t know.

        • Carinthium says:

          There is no justification for doing otherwise, but people aren’t rational. Since most people don’t know good philosophy, I dare say most people would have beliefs of which they are completely certain.

  38. naath says:

    I guess the clear problem is that there is not *one* definition of racism – in SJ, or in common-use, or anywhere. Regardless of what the OED says.

    One way of looking at it is “people who look like me are better than people who don’t” – and yes, absolutely, people who look like *anything* can (and do!) think that either consciously or unconsciously.

    An other way is to do with social power structures. Which really boils down to – people who look like *me* (actual me – white, N. European) somehow got into power (in lots of places) and had the opportunity to set up systems of government/justice/etc that favoured *us* and not *them* (everyone else) and then ran it to *our* benefit and satisfaction… in this world in which we live then it is *worse* for a rich, white man to refuse to hire black people than for a rich black man to refuse to hire white people simply because there are many *more* rich white men.

    If it was just about “ugh, people not like me, they suck” then many people of all races would be cool with racially segregated schools; keeping “our” kids in “our” schools with none of “them” would work for everyone (well, for lots of people)! But this is not the case because the people *in charge* are mostly white people – so white schools get more money and other nice things to have whilst black schools get shafted.

    I do think it is unfair that some people can lose everything for saying a racist thing, and some people lose nothing; on the other hand I think that white people in positions of power have a bigger responsibility to not let their racist feelings show, because it is very important to have a world in which people of all races can thrive and be happy, and in the USA and the EU (and other places too) white people (men, mostly) are still very much over-represented in positions of power. The specific case you cite… is not someone I have heard of, which means less than nothing since I’m not in the USA and could probably name only 2 or 3 powerful Americans.

    • Nornagest says:

      in this world in which we live then it is *worse* for a rich, white man to refuse to hire black people than for a rich black man to refuse to hire white people simply because there are many *more* rich white men.

      I’m not sure I follow. More rich white men means more chances for other rich white men to buck the trend: presuming that you don’t care about the race of the guy you work for, it seems symmetrically bad if you are black and one of twelve CEOs refuses to hire you, as if you are white and one of twelve CEOs refuses to hire you.

      On the other hand, we could expect anti-black racism in the broader white culture to affect black workers disproportionately to racism against white workers in the broader black culture… but that’s not what you said.

      • naath says:

        The problem is that because [insert reason here] a much small proportion of black people end up being in a position to be hiring lots of people (6 fortune 500 CEOs are black; compared to 30% of the US population); so if I’m looking for a job I am much more likely to be encountering white people making hiring decisions, so their biases are more important to my chances of actually getting a job. If it were a symmetrical 1/12 the problem would be much smaller.

        Maybe if I moved to Nigeria I’d find that all the people making hiring decisions are black; and maybe then the fact that I’m white would be making it much harder for me to get a job. (I have never tried to get a job anywhere other than in the UK so I have no idea)

        • Nornagest says:

          Sure, but like I alluded to upthread, that problem only appears on the culture level rather than the individual level, and only because of differences in representation. We should expect individual racists to do about as much damage as other racists with the same level of social power regardless of their race — maybe more if they’re favoring a minority, actually, since then by definition they’re excluding more people.

          A racist white hiring manager for a Fortune 500 company would be expected to do more damage than, say, the racist Vietnamese owner of a car wash — but that’s because he’s in a position to affect more people, not because he’s white. Seems reasonable, then, to condemn *ism more in the powerful, but not in “privileged” groups once that’s factored out.

          (Huh. I think I just talked myself into condemning Donald Sterling more than I previously had.)

        • Salem says:

          Actually, 12.6% of the US population is black. Your estimate is off by 140%.

  39. Tartra says:

    This was absolutely, beautifully, eloquently, well written. I really enjoyed your arguments and the other dog/lizard discussion. I’m impressed by how level-headed and easy to read it was, too.

    Great work. I truly feel as though I’ve understood and learned.

  40. Mary says:

    ‘The closest analogy I can think of is those religious people who say “God is just another word for the order and beauty in the Universe” – and then later pray to God to smite their enemies.’

    ‘course, they could say that it is orderly and beautiful for evildoers to be smitten. After all, even babies too small to talk know that those who do good should be rewarded but those who do evil, punished.

  41. Bish says:

    Something I’ve wondered is if whether the social justice language games are due to a lack of good arguments. Perhaps SJWs are insecure about their interpretation of their own experience. Perhaps they don’t believe that they can provide their own experiences, or research, or arguments to change people’s minds, so instead they have to resort to shaming and strong-arming. They may believe that bending their theories or engaging in fair debate means letting themselves or their tribes down:

    – Either social justice is true, people who try to deny parts of social justice are bad people, and the bad things that happened to me or my tribe are unjust

    – Or social justice is flawed, people who try to deny parts of social justice might have good arguments, and the bad things that happened to me or my tribe aren’t a big deal

    Possibilities in between these extremes aren’t considered (e.g. the bad things that happened to me and my tribe are unjust, but other people from other tribes also experience injustices that aren’t predicted by social justice theory). If someone is insecure about their ability to figure out which intermediate possibility might be correct, then it might be better to just stick to the simplistic party line that they identify with most. If they instead stepped out of the party line and thought for themselves (which plenty of less-vocal SJ people do), then they might have to confront doubts about their experiences, which might be painful.

    I would contend that social justice people can probably keep the part of their theory which says that they have experienced injustices, while letting go of the need to proclaim their suffering to be greater than other groups and trying to shame other people into granting that view.

    • From what I’ve read of Honor Code by Appiah, people aren’t moved by arguments based on practicality or kindness, but they are moved to action by status considerations.

    • Alrenous says:

      The tragic truth about SJWs is that they genuinely feel oppressed.

      The simplest explanation for feeling oppressed is that you are oppressed. If you are oppressed, then your activism isn’t going to work. As a fact about human psychology, you will worry that you deserve to be powerless. Hence the tactics of desperation.

      Unfortunately, the tactics of desperation are self-defeating. With few exceptions, it amplifies that sneaking suspicion that you deserve to lose, reifying it. SJWs cause themselves to deserve to lose.

      Moreover, they will lose. I actually think the most likely explanation for SJWs feeling oppressed is they are oppressed.

      Thing is, the reason everyone used to be stoic is it’s good strategy. Saying, “I feel oppressed,” is a serious contention…but only works among members of genuine trust networks. Saying it to elthedes only invites sociopaths to exploit that weakness, which is exactly the what we see circling the SJW movement.

      Of course [feeling oppressed], especially [feeling oppressed by capitalism/patriarchy/the rich] is not equal to [is oppressed.] Some of the time the solution is to realign feelings, not reality. (Compare, ‘muh feels.’) However, the only way it can get solved either way is to honestly state ya feels. And, I repeat, it’s only a good idea to state ya feels in a strong genuine trust network.

      SJWs do not have strong, genuine trust networks.

      If they ever could have, they can’t now. Who would trust these thrashing lunatics?

      Instead, SJWs essentially turn into self-immolating bullies. They find soft targets – groups even more oppressed than they are – who they can kinda-sorta win against, if the sociopaths help them, to soothe that desperate insecurity.

      Zombies do not deserve to have been killed. This doesn’t get you out of putting a bullet in their brainpan. The worst part is that real-life zombies shouldn’t be incurable, but almost all of them are.

      • It’s a bit worse than that– SJ-ism does a good bit of damage to trust networks, though not as much as one might think. Still, it destroys friendships and leaves people very frightened of telling each other what they think.

      • As far as I can tell (by observation and by asking a few times) SJs don’t have a vision of what victory would look like.

        And part of their model is that they will never have enough power to be obligated to use it responsibly.

  42. nydwracu says:

    I developed a conceptual toolset for thinking about this stuff a few years ago. I’ve been meaning to compile it into a proper set of sequences, but for now: here, here, and here’s the one you should read first.

    I’m not sure if I ever wrote up anything on ideographic argumentation — trying to redefine connotationally- or exosemantically-loaded words in order to fit an agenda — but that’s the model that underlies all of that.

    The example I like to use is this Scruton article. Why does he say “the problem of distinguishing liberty from license”, or “erode the distinction between liberty and license”, or “Locke believed that license involves extending liberties beyond the point at which one person’s liberties can be reconciled with the liberties of others”, or “freedom that can be enjoyed by one generation only by condemning the next to dependency surely deserves the name of license”? Because liberty is good and license is bad, so bad things can’t be called liberty and good things can’t be called license. It would be clearer if he talked about good and bad kinds of liberty, but that just wouldn’t compute.

    Another example. (I’m not sure if I actually managed to talk my college thesis advisor out of his Rawlsianism this way, but it seemed to have had an effect.) Rawls goes from “what is justice?” to “what should be done?” — that is, he implicitly assumes that the answer to the former is the answer to the latter, and proceeds to try to answer the latter by applying the analytic method to the former. This is, of course, absurd. But it doesn’t register as absurd.

    Not even philosophers think purely in terms of denotation! Or, if they do, they write like they don’t. Certainly these things can be noticed by people who don’t have the conceptual tools for noticing them — if they didn’t, the tools would never be invented — but it’s a lot easier to think about it when the tools exist. (Moldbug’s methodology has been influential here. I knew the castes existed before I read Moldbug; I just couldn’t think about them, because I didn’t have words for them. I noticed, but didn’t notice; nor did I notice that I noticed.)

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Two of your links are the same; I’m guessing this was unintentional?

    • Hainish says:

      “Rawls goes from “what is justice?” to “what should be done?” — that is, he implicitly assumes that the answer to the former is the answer to the latter, and proceeds to try to answer the latter by applying the analytic method to the former. This is, of course, absurd.”

      You don’t agree with it, and that’s completely fair (and interesting), but it’s far from absurd.

      • lmm says:

        Or at least, its absurdity is nonobvious to me; if it should be obvious then please clarify.

      • Alrenous says:

        It’s Hume’s ought. Can you refute the principle? (I can.) Since Hume died over 200 years ago, it should be obvious by now.

        • Hainish says:

          I don’t have a twitter account, so I’m not sure what argument you linked to, but if you’re referring to the idea that you can’t derive what ought to be from what is, them I don’t think it applies here. A reasonable definition of “justice” is “that which should be done.” The comparison is ought/ought, not is/ought.

          (OK, you may personally not care one way or the other whether justice is carried out, or may actually prefer a world with less justice in it. That doesn’t make the alternative position absurd.)

        • Alrenous says:

          My account is public.

          If justice just is ought-ness, then you need to solve Hume’s ought to figure out what it is in the first place. The problem doesn’t go away, it gets shuffled a bit.

          Notably Hume did not provide a proof for the ought-is distinction. He merely pointed out that nobody else had a proof to the contrary, which they needed.

        • Hainish says:

          I…think your goalpost may have shifted? I’m not arguing that oughtness problems have all been solved. I’m not sure anyone is (Rawls might be, but I’ve not read him, so can only go by second-hand accounts here).

        • Alrenous says:

          It’s possible my goalpost shifted, I’m not a perfect communicator.

          Sure, I’ll agree to that premise.

          Mine is that we can be sure he hasn’t solved the oughtness problem, because otherwise he would be a lot more famous and we would have heard about that specifically.

          Imagine the proof of the Riemann hypothesis required you to resolve P=NP, and someone is famous for solving the Riemann hypothesis, but not P=NP…most likely, it’s fraudulent fame.

      • nydwracu says:

        How?

        Note that it’s not “what is justice?” in the sense of, say, Plato — asking what concept the word ‘justice’ should apply to — but “what is justice” in the analytic sense of asking what the definition of the word intuitively is. Why should the definition of a word whose meaning has changed over the years, as intuited by a small class of people who are downstream from partisan politics, have anything to do with what should be done?

        Besides, if Rawls had come from a different culture or time, he could do the same thing to, say, “God’s will”, with the same results.

        • Hainish says:

          My interpretation of “What is justice” is that it’s asking what sorts of things (laws, principles, outcomes) are just. I really have no idea what you mean by the “analytic sense of asking what the definition of the word intuitively is” or why it would make sense to approach the question of justice in that way.

          “Why should the definition of a word whose meaning has changed over the years . . . have anything to do with what should be done?”

          People generally set out to do what is just, and avoid or reverse the effects of injustice. If I were to ask myself, “What is to be done,” a large part of my answer to that would depend on what I think is just.

          A non-rhetorical question: Has the meaning really changed over the years, or do we simply think that a different set of things satisfies a conserved meaning?

          (BTW, I’m not really familiar with Rawls.)

        • nydwracu says:

          Has the meaning really changed over the years, or do we simply think that a different set of things satisfies a conserved meaning?

          I think the meaning has really changed over the years.

          I don’t have the sources for this anymore; I lost everything I wrote during the time when I did meta-ethics, and finding the papers I cited again would take a few hours.

  43. If the privileged basically aren’t allowed to talk in SJ circles, then it makes sense that “under-represented” groups would fight not to be labelled as privileged since they are really fighting for the right to talk and be heard.

    It’s clear that Sterling got screwed by trusting the wrong person and also that none of his castigators could withstand their most improper private utterances being made public.

    Yet, it’s not clear that this “weapon” Scott refers is really controlled by the SJ movement. The politically correct revulsion of racism is part of the zeitgeist now. It’s not as though some general secretary of the anti-repression committee can put a hit out on Sterling or whomever else they wish.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sterling’s fate doesn’t seem to have had much to do with twitter. But twitter is making important decisions about whom to target. No one has complete control of twitter, but it may be that there are individuals, not with official positions that you mention, but individuals with the right social capital and understanding of how to deploy it, who can choose where to put a twitter hit. Though probably not to stop twitter from targeting other people.

  44. von Kalifornen says:

    I’d say that the motte-bailey thing is part of what’s going on here, most commonly in the lower forms of discourse such as Tumblr and Twitter.

    There’s a second thing going on though, which is usually much less intense, but also a lot more common, and *is often invoked by people who should know better*. It’s the establishment and reification of privileged and oppressed classes as more or less permanent categories and structures, *by the very people trying to dismantle those distinctions*. This isn’t usually explicit (though some radical feminists do it explicitly) but it is rather pervasive. Pretty much any gain is minimized, and the tendancy for these struggles to fragment into factions (such as the much-overused “low status males”) is completely ignored.

  45. Daniel says:

    Imagine if we all owed various debts to each other. “You owe a debt!” would often be true. And yet shouting it out would often just be bullying, a way to try to shut down the other person in conversation.

    And yet despite all that, the debts would still deserve to be repaid.

    So if the debts hadn’t been paid, in the past, there’d be this horrible period where lots of people were finally allowed to call out “You owe a debt!”, and some of them would honestly be trying to get people to wake up and pay what they owed, and others of them would just be glorying in having a socially approved way to bully others for whatever debt they hadn’t fixed yet.

    And if tying up who owed what debt to whom was complicated, the period of yelling, both honest and bullying, could go on for a long time.

    “You’ve got privilege” is like that. It’s often a call to responsibility. It’s often bullying. It’s often both.

    Despite all that, the inequities still deserve to get fixed. Black men shouldn’t be so underrated when they apply for jobs, nor so much more often sent to prison for the same crimes. Women shouldn’t be paid less for the same job at the same seniority, nor so often shunted away from the jobs that have the most pay and power. Men should be taken seriously when they report being assaulted by their spouse. All these inequities deserve fixing.

    And because we’re mostly talking about habits and norms here, not laws, some of the fix has to involve sensitizing people. People have to be moved to condemn certain things they were used to doing. People have to feel obliged to try certain things they aren’t used to doing. And people don’t change their habits without a lot of social pressure. [citation needed]

    Could all the yelling be avoided, and the inequities still get fixed? Martin Luther King talked about this in his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail: it seems to take a fair bit of noise and ruckus to get people to acknowledge that other people face a serious problem, deserving of help and not just sympathy.

    So I’m not sure there is a polite and nonconfrontational way to get people taking the remaining racism/sexism seriously. It’d be great if there were, though!

    Because as long as this issue is with us, some people are going to use the idea of “privilege” for bullying. Any negative group identity will always get used for bullying — especially if you can use it to blame the group for some of your problems.

    The best cure is just to go ahead and work on fixing all the inequities, just get progress happening measurably on all of these fronts.

    Because the smaller the remaining inequities, the less real injustice there is to be turned into cheap excuses for bullying.

    • Decius says:

      >Any negative group identity *always* gets used for verbal bullying.

      That’s the crux of the problem- if “Privileged” is negative, it cannot also be strictly descriptive. Using a term to bully (because it is, in use, negative) while claiming innocence (by reference to a definition different from the use) is the exact pattern being called out.

      • Daniel says:

        I see the strategic equivocation (motte-and-bailey rhetoric) as less about shifting what the concept means, and more about shifting
        (a) which cases are salient,
        (b) what responses are appropriate.

        A “motte” (highly defensible) position is that there are lots of inequities worth correcting in the world, and an appropriate response when you see someone perpetuating one of those inequities is to call on them to apologize and rethink.

        A “bailey” (highly convenient) position is that you are judge of a strict ladder of inequities, to which any attempt to add others is mere insincere distraction, and an appropriate response when you see someone perpetuating one is to annihilate their reputation and make them lose their job and go bankrupt.

        The meaning of “privilege” is not the hard part (“being on the lucky side of a needless social divide” covers a lot of observed usage). What I see is lots of disagreement — some of it insincere/strategic — over which social divides and what degrees of benefit are salient, and what the response to finding someone perpetuating or ignoring such a divide should be.

        But it really isn’t surprising that people want to rig this social discussion in their favor.

        No one wants to be told they owe a debt, and if you have the power to tell people they owe debts, you can bully them.

        No one wants to believe their position is unmerited, and if you have the power to tell people they’re on the lucky side of an unmerited difference, you can bully them.

        But there really are unmerited social divides that we should fix, so “don’t talk about it at all” isn’t a solution.

        The trouble is, as Scott observes, that right now the language is loose enough for people to employ rhetorical double standards.

        It’s nasty when you take a perfectly good moral standard and apply it narrowly and gently against yourself, and broadly and strictly against your opponents.

        It’s nasty whether you call it motte-and-bailey, or strategic equivocation, or a rhetorical double standard.

        Although I will offer one defense for the apparent hypocrites: a lot of the time, when someone proposes privilege running the other way, “but don’t women sometimes have privilege versus men?” or the like, it’s put up insincerely, as an excuse for inaction.

        If someone owed you a million dollars, you’d be a little short with being told that your thousand-dollar debt had to be paid first. You might well say, “I’m fine with paying mine — but first let’s see you sincerely commit to paying yours.”

        So sometimes the apparent double standard is not hypocrisy but a defense against what are perceived themselves to be insincere, strategic claims of “privilege the other way”, claims offered to postpone action rather than to coordinate it.

        But Scott’s remarks about the whole thing being a vale of unclear and epistemically scary rhetoric seem entirely true to me.

        I just don’t know what a more epistemically robust way of talking about these issues would look like.

        • Zorgon says:

          Here’s the problem with the “million dollars” analogy, though. SJWs don’t target the people who actually incurred that debt, they target the broad social classification that matches those people. As a result, the reaction is not an equivocation against “you owe me a million dollars”, it’s a rejection of that idea, because it’s wrong.

          A: “Someone who looked like you stole a million dollars from me!”
          B: “Damn, that sucks hard. I got robbed just last week. Have you been to the police?”
          A: “Victim blamer! Anyway, you’re a man, just like the robber. You owe me a million dollars!”
          B: “What? No, I don’t. I didn’t rob you, and besides, didn’t I just tell you I got robbed last week? I’m struggling to make ends meet as it is.”
          A: “Now TWO men have robbed me of a million dollars!”

          My ancestors did not keep slaves, but if they did, it would be their responsibility, not mine. My father is a sexist asshole who treats women as objects, but I am not him. I am my brother and sisters’ keeper, yes, but only in the sense that they are human and so am I; I bear no specific responsibility for any injustice I have not caused myself.

          Any epistemic system which suggests I do is suspect, to me, because it stinks of original sin and revenge, and neither of those are moral values I can support.

        • Salem says:

          Although I will offer one defense for the apparent hypocrites: a lot of the time, when someone proposes privilege running the other way, “but don’t women sometimes have privilege versus men?” or the like, it’s put up insincerely, as an excuse for inaction.

          Have you considered the alternative, and far more obvious explanation – that these arguments are put up sincerely, as a reason for inaction (at least, inaction along the lines you favour)?

          If someone doesn’t agree that women face structural oppression in society and thinks men have it just as hard (but in different ways), it’s hardly surprising that they don’t want to get with your programme.

        • Decius says:

          >But it really isn’t surprising that people want to rig this social discussion in their favor.

          People who think that the social discussion is zero-sum, or who think that there are winners and losers, are opposed to the concept that I mean when I say social justice. Social justice means….

          [b]META:[/b] and the value of the OP is largely that people who understand it can recognize the pattern [i]in their own work[/i] and not use it./meta

          “Women sometimes have privilege” is not a general case counterargument. “Women have this privilege related to, of similar magnitude to, and inseparable from this specific privilege that men have.” is a valid counterargument to “This dynamic is evidence that women are systemically oppressed more than men are.

        • It’s even more infuriating when it’s an ill-defined and unlimited debt.

        • a lot of the time, when someone proposes privilege running the other way, “but don’t women sometimes have privilege versus men?” or the like, it’s put up insincerely, as an excuse for inaction.

          Those who deny black privilege and female privilege show by their actions that they are the hypocrites.

          People who complain about racist violence by blacks are typically paying fortunes for the ever diminishing supply of housing in areas safe from blacks, while blacks complaining about white racism often pay a quite a lot to be near whites and away from blacks.

          When a man gets angry with his boss, he gets fired. When a woman gets angry with her boss, her boss gets fired. Think about drama you have seen at work. It is usually woman who is one of the parties to the drama or both of the parties to the drama because women are privileged to get away with it. This is (I speak from personal experience) is a huge pain in the ass to bosses.

          Blacks jump queues, and whites don’t stop them when they would stop a white because hate crime racist.

          Affirmative action means that computer science classes are dumbed down for women, boring those men who are actually competent at computer science. Further, the affirmative action shoving women into stem fields harms women, since women affirmative actioned into computer science class wind up changing their major and accumulating a large anti dowry, worsening dysgenesis.

          Unmentionable reality is that few women are smart enough for most stem fields and that women have being pushed into fields beyond their ability since around 1890. It is not working, not matter how many noble prizes are handed out to women for doing routine work while supervised by great male scientists. If it was working, you guys would not be pushing the Lise Meitner story

          Lise Meitner was supposedly the discoverer of fission – because she corresponded with the man who actually discovered fission, the correspondence consisting of him sending her a letter telling her he had discovered fission, to which she replied such a thing was impossible.

          If you are still pushing Lise Meitner and Marie Curie, affirmative action was not working back then and you have not been able to make it work since, because women are no more suited to being scientists, than to being soldiers, fighter pilots, lumberjacks, or firemen.

          Natural selection has specialized women, the important sex, for the important task of having babies and taking care of them and their home, and men, the expendable sex, for all the other, less vital and usually more dangerous tasks. It simply wrong to push women into the male life plan. Schooling should primarily prepare women for early marriage, babies, and the kitchen, while preparing men for the task of creating and maintaining civilization safe for women to raise children, and ennobling for those children to grow up in.

          People are not equal, and treating unequal people as equals has bad consequences. And these bad consequences have become increasingly serious as you push ever harder against a reality that is not going to budge.

        • Daniel says:

          I think Zorgon and Nancy Lebovitz have nailed for me a related problem with social justice rhetoric. That’s the bait-and-switch between “fix inherited potholes” and “punish inherited sins.”

          If social justice is about fixing some potholes we’ve inherited, hey, we can all agree we’d like the streets not to have potholes. It might be surprising just how big the potholes are in some parts of town I never have to visit, and there’s room for arguing over how to split the bill and who to contract with for all this paving work, but we can all agree on the Schelling point of getting the town potholes fixed.

          But if social justice is about punishing people for sins they’ve inherited, I have a problem with that. Social models based on sin and revenge do all kinds of vile things.

          But “punish the sinner” has far more emotional power than “fix the pothole.” Punishing scapegoats is one of our oldest (not to say grimmest) group rituals.

          So I think whenever SJ talk gets emotional, either because someone’s venting or because they want to rally a crowd to action, there’s a strong pull to the language of “punish the sinners.”

          You might almost say that the language of “punish the sinner” is itself the epistemic original sin of social justice, an intellectual swamp that people will be drawn to again and again even despite themselves.

          The potholes should be fixed, really. Even if (since they’re social potholes) we have to measure them with randomized experiments instead of rulers. But I don’t like the punish-the-sinner language, and I wouldn’t trust people who favored such language to be in charge.

        • Multiheaded says:

          The obvious answer is that an inherent predisposition to sin also makes one blessed by the dark god Nurgle, so that sinners not only and not neccessarily enjoy the potholes, but benefit from honest Imperial citizens falling into them.

          And this is why any pothole on any Imperial world is potentially a matter for the Ordo Hereticus, not just something the local Imperial administration hasn’t gotten around to fixing.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          But “punish the sinner” has far more emotional power than “fix the pothole.” Punishing scapegoats is one of our oldest (not to say grimmest) group rituals.

          … the language of “punish the sinner” is itself the epistemic original sin of social justice, an intellectual swamp that people will be drawn to again and again even despite themselves.

          This is essentially my thesis whenever I go Dark, combined with a strong “fuck it, if that’s what you apes want, let’s do this.”

        • The Anonymouse says:

          @Multiheaded:

          I so very rarely agree with what you say, but I have to applaud your choice of allusion. 🙂

        • Daniel says:

          @Nancy Lebovitz: when you alluded to “unlimited and ill-defined debts”, I realized two things.

          One: that assertion — of unlimited, ill-defined obligation — is one I’m allergic to in all politics and encounter a lot in SJ;

          Two: that “an unlimited and ill-defined obligation” is a pretty darn good description of “original sin.”

          So it helped me lock on to what Zorgon was pointing to — how SJ rhetoric has a “punish the sinners” strain, and that’s a large part of what tends to make me uneasy about an agenda I can otherwise find lots of points of agreement with.

          Because I’m all about seeing the potholes fixed, but I have no support for an agenda of punishing sinners. That rarely turns out well.

          In fact, all social progress of the last three hundred years has arguably been about shifting politics from a business of “punish the sinners” to a business of “fix the potholes.”

          So SJ rhetoric, when it’s about “punish those sinners”, is embracing a tactic that historically comes from the forces of reaction, and has generally been employed for ugliness when in power.

          An SJ advocate would probably respond that nonwhites and women are *not* in power, and tactics that are evil for rulers can be legitimate for protesters.

          Scott might respond that there are particular times and places today where the SJ forces *are* in power, and because SJ targets individuals’ behavior, not just public laws, that makes SJ a force for local evil, today, already.

          That is, a protest movement that targets personal habits can become evil and tyrannical a lot faster than a protest movement that targets government laws, because a protest movement can become the *local* majority even while it remains overall a minority.

          This is sort of like how small-town churches can sincerely speak of their flavor of religion as a persecuted minority in the nation, while persecuting fiercely themselves any local folk who don’t toe the church line.

          (Should we start talking about “Social justice fundamentalists”?)

        • nydwracu says:

          I was raised progressive, and still remember what I was raised to think. Different levels of original sin inhering in different races is exactly what it is.

        • Matthew says:

          I was raised progressive, and still remember what I was raised to think. Different levels of original sin inhering in different races is exactly what it is.

          You mean you were raised with particular SJWish perspective. Progressive != SJW, which is why there are plenty of progressive critics of it here, including Scott (and me).

          I was raised progressive also, and I wasn’t taught anything remotely like that. (I was also raised Conservative Jewish, and “original sin” as it’s popularly understood is considered a Christian thing, though it may still percolate through the background secular culture. It’s not a popular frame for Jews, which may make it less likely they’d apply it metaphorically to other contexts.)

      • Qwoop says:

        Exactly. I think oscillating between the normative sense of privilege and the descriptive sense of privilege is the main way SJWs employ the motte-and-bailey tactic.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      I agree that there are legitimate grievances that the concept of privilege is useful for addressing, and that we may need to tolerate some bullying to avoid suppressing all legitimate grievance-airing, but I don’t think it’s wise to forbid all anti-bullying measures. Instead we should do our best to discriminate bullying cases from legitimate cases, discover and promote ways to make bullying harder without disadvantaging legitimate usage, and finally strike a balance between allowing bullying unchecked and stifling progress. In your debt-world there would probably be tons of norms about when it’s okay to call out the debt.

      I think the idea of this post is that motte-and-baileying promotes bullying more than legitimate use, because the truth doesn’t need fallacies to support it, so calling out this fallacy is a good way to reduce bullying without suppressing legitimate discourse.

      Of course, the one-rope theory (EDIT: the linked comment defines it specifically on a different topic, so you’ll have to generalize the theory yourself) says this sort of distinction is impossible and attempting it is just an excuse to hobble progress.

  46. Navin Kumar says:

    You’ve put into words what I’ve been trying to say for a long time. Thank you. If you don’t mind, I must go now. I have a draft post that needs deleting.

  47. Alrenous says:

    But I think there is a strain of the social justice movement which is very much about abusing this ability to tar people with extremely dangerous labels that they are not allowed to deny, in order to further their political goals.

    Kafkatrapping.

    Isn’t it possible she might continue to argue, and so be interjecting herself into another person’s conversation?

    Yes. Inconsistency is the usual method for catching liars.

    Nobody would need a phrase like ‘check your privilege’ if it was actually about stealing someone else’s victim spotlight. “It seems like you’re trying to make this about you, and this is my tumblr.” Perfectly reasonable; from here two adults can have a discussion and resolve the issue.

    But of course that would never fly. If we started shaming people on the internet for lack of empathy…well… Cnut had something to say about this, I recall.

    Who the heck cares?

    The racism definition is another dead giveaway for sophistry.

    If you want to say structural oppression is bad, go right ahead. It shouldn’t be difficult. But they feel the need to steal racism’s bad name. If we assume they’re roughly sane, they think they can’t win without appropriating bad connotations from elsewhere; that they have to lie to win; that they therefore deserve to lose.

    Of course this is rather more inferential steps than most readers can sustain.

    If I am right, then people’s response to these words should be a frantic game

    Privilege actually means power. It’s a compliment. Unfortunately it is also usually flattery.

    The logic of the witch hunter is simple. It has hardly changed since Matthew Hopkins’ day. The first requirement is to invert the reality of power. Power at its most basic level is the power to harm or destroy other human beings. The obvious reality is that witch hunters gang up and destroy witches. Whereas witches are never, ever seen to gang up and destroy witch hunters.

    […]

    Think about it. Obviously, if the witches had any power whatsoever, they wouldn’t waste their time gallivanting around on broomsticks, fellating Satan and cursing cows with sour milk. They’re getting burned right and left, for Christ’s sake! Priorities! No, they’d turn the tables and lay some serious voodoo on the witch-hunters. In a country where anyone who speaks out against the witches is soon found dangling by his heels from an oak at midnight with his head shrunk to the size of a baseball, we won’t see a lot of witch-hunting and we know there’s a serious witch problem. In a country where witch-hunting is a stable and lucrative career, and also an amateur pastime enjoyed by millions of hobbyists on the weekend, we know there are no real witches worth a damn.

    The correct response is basically Game. Agree and amplify. Don’t let them seize the frame. Their accusations are absurd and contradictory; keep that in mind and don’t let them forget it. Ignore the lunatics whenever possible, as per Cnut. It’s one of those times where you can placebo up a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe the SJW witches can’t harm you, they become unable to harm you.

    • kev says:

      “If you want to say structural oppression is bad, go right ahead. It shouldn’t be difficult. But they feel the need to steal racism’s bad name. ”

      Structural oppression=racism. Complaining about people “appropriating bad connotations from elsewhere” is ludicrous, words change and you are calling people who use them in new and innovative ways “liars” which is literally dumb.

      • Decius says:

        Not all people who use words in new and innovative ways are mute or lack intelligence. But the ones who do so for the purpose of confusing others are in a subset of “liars”.

      • Alrenous says:

        If 2+5 = 7, just say 7. If racism just is structural oppression, why can’t you just say structural oppression? Why is this such an issue for you? The alternative practice is suspect. If you’re not practicing sophistry it merely serves to cast suspicion on you.

        I like how your argument is calling my argument ‘ludicrous’ and ‘dumb.’ Throwing a softball here. You’re aware ad hominem is a fallacy, right? You’re aware this is a pure status move, empty of scholarly merit? Is this really your best argument? Is this really the face you want to put on SJWs?

        Also you’re inviting people to say kev = dumb&ludicrous. Hey man, I’m not a liar, I’m literally innovating.

        • nydwracu says:

          “Structural oppression” doesn’t have the visceral punch, the negative connotation, of “racism”, and using “structural oppression” instead of “racism” to mean “structural oppression” can’t serve as a shibboleth.

        • “Structural oppression” would make it clear that most individuals have little if any effect on it, and wouldn’t be a good tool for controlling people.

          “Pervasive oppression” might be a phrase which splits the difference– it doesn’t have the guilt and rage inducing effects, but it could lead people to ask what they might be doing that makes things worse.

  48. This is typical of your work. Thoughtful, well researched, informative, and deeply deluded.

    If a bunch of black men are chasing a white kid down the street shouting “kill the honkey, kill all honkies!” and then they catch him and start whacking him with jackhandles until he dies, they are absolutely not racist – because a hundred years ago, when the word was first coined, the woods were full of Indians who were notoriously apt to do similar things to any white they got hold of, and no one called them “racist”

    Further, if a large black girl beats on a small white girl because the white girl is white, which happens rather often at certain schools, in actual practice no one calls the black girl racist any more than they called the indians in the woods racist.

    And I am pretty sure that back in the day when indians in the woods killing white men on the basis of whiteness was a major problem, the reason no one called those indians racist was not because Native American activists would glare at you and call you privileged. It was because that is really not what the word meant.

    Anyone who uses the word in that way is not speaking naturally, and not likely to be easily understood without explanation, he is trying to make a point, his point being “Please don’t call me racist”

    Similarly, “privilege”, “misandry”, and all the rest.

    “Racist”, as we saw in the zimmerman case, means that blacks are entitled to beat up whites, and whites are not entitled to fight back.

  49. Anonymous5 says:

    “Bacteria have been infecting humans for hundreds of years,” that’s brilliant.

    Since it’s a recent example along the lines of other stories you have recently mentioned, but no one else brought it up here thought some people might want to see the following piece. Another example of an otherwise leftist, liberal type in conflict with the social justice movement for what appears to be the sin of being a male.

    The modern feminist political movement has repeatedly become involved with these witch hunt events. I recognize this as a person with leftist politics too.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/06/what-sort-of-public-discourse-will-reduce-rape-and-sexual-assault/373501/

  50. MugaSofer says:

    Still reading, but…

    That’s what “Privilege” means? I have never seen it used in any of those ways, either the ones on the top snd especially not the ones on the bottom.

    I have seen it used to mean “You are assuming everyone shares the same advantages as you. Stop it.”

    Is that … not what it means? Because that sounds like A Thing We Need A Word For, and none of the things on that list do.

    Confusing.

    • Matthew says:

      The liberal anti-SJW position here is that a good-faith use of “check your privilege” would be interrogatory — “Have you considered that things might be different if you didn’t have the same unearned advantages?” The answer might be, “Yes, and I still think my point is relevant because…”

      The actual, bad-faith way in which “check your privilege” is used is declarative — “Shut up, because someone with your unearned advantages couldn’t possibly have thought about this and have anything relevant to say.”

      • MugaSofer says:

        Yeah, I can see how it might be used as a motte-and-bailey; I’m just … surprised … to learn large swathes of the internet are apparently using the word a different, contradictory definition to the one I learned.

    • von Kalifornen says:

      The rare, the few, the virtuous use it that way.

  51. johnwbh says:

    The way I tend to explain ‘privilege’ to empirically minded people is in terms of selection bias.

    Your different circumstances and personal characteristics (race/class/gender/sexuality/appearance/location/etc) will effect what sort of things you have experienced over the course of your life, so when you make claims or generalisations based on that you may not be getting the full picture.

    E.g. All my experiences with the police have been generally positive, so I naturally tend to look favourably on them and give them benefit of the doubt. But I suspect I would think differently if I’d come from a different background.

    This does also include marginalised groups misunderstanding what its like to be a member of a more powerful group. But I think thats focused on less because the harms are smaller (e.g. a poor person having limited understanding of country club politics is less harmful than a rich person not understanding the justice system, because they have no power to influence it). I think some of the gender cases you describe are a result of people not realising their different experiences and asymmetric power (e.g. men saying they’d love to be hit on all the time). Ideally it should also cover your example of women not understanding what its like to be an awkward single man – but thats less emotive so gets less attention I think. (Also politics and people being imperfect actors as always)

  52. I’m worried this article, or a meme from it, will eliminate most lines of retreat (http://lesswrong.com/lw/o4/leave_a_line_of_retreat) and opportunities for finding common ground in political discussions. Inconsistent terminology usage is bad, but it’s also one of the easiest ways to make a person change their mind — once you can point to an explicit, impossible-to-rationalize-away contradiction between two sentences a person said, you’ve hit the jackpot in terms of getting a person to revise their rhetoric or beliefs. Even most •postmodernists• don’t like being caught looking hypocritical.

    When you observe overt inconsistency, you should in a single fluid motion kindly make the person aware of it, and give them an ‘out’ that will prevent the error’s recurrence while having otherwise beneficial effects on their values and beliefs. Proofs of error are crucial pivot points for changing individual minds, not opportune moments to freak out about the Conspiracy against you. If there is a Conspiracy, talking a lot about it will strengthen it, by polarizing the existing camps, making them more scared and angry.

    Too much paranoia will psych you out of being effective and strategic, by giving you an unrealistically pessimistic view (that then becomes self-fulfilling).

    The ‘strategic equivocation’ framing is likely to be unproductive for two separate reasons:

    (a) You’re perpetuating the idea that the person you’re talking to is an enemy who wants to hurt you. This will probably make you more hostile and uncharitable, leading to self-fulfilling prophecies.

    (b) You’re now opening the door to making it a sin for someone to say •reasonable-sounding• SJ things, because steel-manning or otherwise improving upon an SJ idea will get pattern-matched to ‘you’re retreating to your motte so you can hurt me later’. If saying defensible things and saying indefensible things are •both• part of an organized campaign for your enemies to destroy you, then you really are burning your bridges and ruling out the possibility of future reconciliation.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Your first two paragraphs seem to be a fully general counterargument against ever identifying classes of fallacy (such as “ad hominem” or “fallacy of grey”) – rather than simply taking individual bad arguments as they come. If that is your genuine belief, I would be surprised and consider it a much more interesting debate than the one we are having right now. If that is not your belief, then I think it’s unfair to selectively apply it only to me on this one issue.

      Your third paragraph is correct. Too much paranoia is bad. But too little paranoia is also bad. If lots of people are really using fallacies and rhetorical tricks and this is having a chilling effect on a really important class of conversations, then starting with an unshakeable prior of “I will refuse to believe people are using fallacies and rhetorical tricks” is dangerous. I feel like I started with a pretty fair prior here and let it drift where the evidence took me. Paranoia can be a class of cognitive error (ie being more paranoid than the situation warrants) or it can be a learned and rational defense mechanism (secret agents are probably paranoid about everything, and correct to be so). I feel like I started with a fair prior and let myself drift where the evidence took me.

      Your fourth paragraph, marked a), seems to deny the existence of a middle ground between “correct argument” and “evil enemy trying to deliberately hurt me”. But we know there’s a middle ground. It’s fallacies and motivated reasoning. I’m pointing out a fallacy that I think certain people I disagree with are using, then providing evidence. You can agree they are committing the fallacy, you can disagree and say they’re not committing the fallacy, but I don’t think you can say I’m being hostile and uncharitable by accusing other people of a fallacy (you could say the tone in which I’m doing it is hostile, but as best I can tell you don’t seem to be making that argument)

      Your fifth paragraph, marked b), I interpret as saying that even if I am correct that this is a fallacy, I shouldn’t talk about it, because other people might use it as an excuse to also be against non-fallacious things, and that would be bad. I think the correct response to someone saying motte-style defensible things is “Okay, I agree with you, but are you still saying [bad indefensible thing?]. If they say no, fine. If they say you are, tell them that their motte is irrelevant. But you can’t apply this technique until you understand that motte-and-bailey is going on.

      I don’t want to sound mean, but these all really sound like the sorts of fully general counterarguments you could apply to any opinion about anything, but which in fact only get brought up to apply impossibly high epistemic standards to an opposing argument. Sort of like the Arguments From My Opponent Believes Something.

  53. kek says:

    You’re trying to use logic to dissect something that is logically paraconsistent. It’s better just to ignore these kinds of people and just get on with your life… trust me, SJWs are not worth your mindshare.

  54. Nestor says:

    Y’know recently I was thinking all about this SJW stuff and realized I have never ever encountered it in primary sources as it were, I’m always reading about it from people reacting to them.

    Here’s a funny comic:
    http://s-h-i-r-o-y-a-t-s-u.tumblr.com/post/74359088045

    Aside from the south park/4chan humour of it, I think it makes a valid point. These people who lead from their weakness by talking about how they couldn’t sleep for 3 days after being triggered by a blog post aren’t really interacting with the broader slice of humanity (Never mind males!) who aren’t going to play into their game.

    It’s all a bit like one of those highly codified martial arts that are completely useless if the person you’re fighting doesn’t play along.

  55. Anonymous says:

    Donald Sterling is racist. We know this because he made a racist comment in the privacy of his own home.

    Actually, people have known that Sterling was racist for a long time, but the recent remarks just helped invigorate an already existing reaction against him. The Clippers were trying to oust their racist owner for a long time, this event just gave their cause an opportunity for some free PR. There’s something to be said about evidence laws, but I think it’s fair to say while we all object to Stiviano’s treatment of Sterling, he had this coming to him anyhow.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Sterling#Discrimination_lawsuits

  56. Wes says:

    Scott, I feel like you just spilled a lot of digital ink on a not-too-controversial position. Namely:

    there is a strain of the social justice movement which is very much about abusing this ability to tar people with extremely dangerous labels that they are not allowed to deny, in order to further their political goals.

    That’s about as controversial as saying “there is arsenic on our water.” Sure, some people will deny it, but it’s also not necessarily a problem. The important question is – how much arsenic is there in the water?

    The same question is relevant in the social justice community. Just how prevalent is the labels-as-weapons attitude? I am concerned that this attitude is very prevalent, and possibly even a majority attitude, but I have yet to see an examination of this idea. This post just seems like you’re pointing out that there is some arsenic in the water, without an examination of whether it’s been diluted to safe levels. A more paranoid person might suspect that you’re doing this in order to build a case against the social justice movement as a whole without actually collecting the evidence needed for such a case.

    • Matthew says:

      A number of people have made this observation now. I think it’s problematic, because this isn’t a simple numbers game. Suppose that the obnoxious-tumblr contingent is only 5% of SJW people in general, but that they make 50% of the noise. I think the 50% is the more relevant number for evaluating their influence, or at least some function incorporating both numbers. Squeaky wheels get grease.

      If I was going to be cheeky about this, I’d hoist the inoffensive parts of SJW by their own petard — “If you’re not part of the solution [to the obnoxious elements among your own ranks], you’re part of the problem.” But I don’t actually want to encourage that kind of totalizing thinking.

      • Karmakin says:

        I’d put it a different way. Let’s assume that right now it’s 25% of the SJ-sphere (I think it’s a lot higher, at least passively. Quite frankly I think a lot of people don’t think too hard about the implications of what they’re saying, and that it’s strictly a theoretical game). The point is that 5 years ago I’d say that’s probably 10%. In another 5 years, without some change, it might be 50% or higher.

        At least from my perspective, these ideas are spreading pretty fast, that is, belief in unidirectional and active gender power structures with men over women. And my experience is that even people who don’t actively believe it sometimes use language and ideas that requires that belief…it’s pretty ingrained.

        • Andrew says:

          And let’s say it’s 100% who do not issue any internal criticism.

          I’d say that 100% is the most relevant figure.

        • Wes says:

          That’s actually my biggest worry. I doubt the labels-as-weapons crowd are the majority of the SJ community, but they do seem to be *tolerated* by the majority without criticism.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          That’s actually my biggest worry. I doubt the labels-as-weapons crowd are the majority of the SJ community, but they do seem to be *tolerated* by the majority without criticism.

          Back in the Cold War, the vast majority of Americans and Soviets had no nuclear weapons, and would never dream of firing one if they had access to one.

          Didn’t stop the two superpowers from very nearly blowing up the whole world.

  57. Troy says:

    Inevitably, here comes a white person either claiming that they have a similar experience because they grew up in an all black neighborhood and got chased on the way home from school a few times and OMG THAT IS SO RACIST and it is the exact same thing, or some other such bullshittery, and they expect that ignorance to be suffered in silence and with respect. If you are that kid who got chased after school, that’s horrible, and I feel bad for you…But dudes, that shit is not racism.

    It really bothers me how much many progressives trivialize black-on-white crime and violence. Yes, I understand that this phenomenon is used and abused by people on the opposite side of the political spectrum from you. But portraying concerns about black-on-white violence as “OMG a black kid chased me home from school” is like portraying concerns about rape as “OMG that creeper complimented my shirt.” Murders, assaults, and thefts, all of which are very common in majority black communities, are extremely serious matters. Even having one’s house robbed while away can be very psychologically traumatic.

    Lack of concern for these problems is all the more frustrating because in some cases they may even be fueled by progressive ideology. For example, here’s a quote from an African-American inmate, published in a Human Rights Watch report (not a bastion of neoreaction):

    “Most [blacks] feel that the legal system is fundamentally racist and officers are the most visible symbol of a corrupt institution & with good reason . . . . [B]lacks know whites often associate crime with black people. They see themselves as being used as scapegoats . . . . So is it any wonder that when a white man comes to prison, that blacks see him as a target. Stereotypes are prevalent amongst blacks also that cause bad thinking. The belief that all or most white men are effete or gay is very prevalent, & that whites are cowards who have to have 5 or 6 more to take down one dude . . . . Whites are prey and even a punk will be supported if he beats up a white dude.”

    As that HRW report explains, most prison rape is either intra-racial or black on white, and whites are more likely to be raped by blacks than whites.

  58. Kiboh says:

    >When you record examples of yourself and others getting accused of privilege or mansplaining, and show people the list, and point out that exactly zero percent of them are anything remotely related to “interrupting women in a women-only safe space” and one hundred percent are “making a correct argument that somebody wants to shut down” . . .

    The assertion here is to the tune of “Whenever someone asserts that I or someone I know is mansplaining, they always turn out to be wrong and self-serving. Therefore the concept of ‘mansplaining’ must be broken or consistantly misapplied.”

    I can think of a far simpler explanation: maybe you’re just NOT AWFUL, so out of the sample of incidents where someone accused you of doing awful things, the aforementioned someone will be wrong 100% of the time. And a similar line of logic will go for the people you hang around with.

    That doesn’t mean there aren’t problems: if people who aren’t awful are regularly accused of being awful, that’s an issue right there. But this evidence has one hell of a sampling bias, and I think it needs mentioning. While I don’t actually think this is the case, the phrases “100% of the people who accuse me of mansplaining are wrong” and “99% of ‘mansplaining!’ assertions are actually correct” contain no contradiction, so be especially wary of drawing inferences from your own experiences here.

    • Nornagest says:

      Seems to me that it ought to be possible to design a test which would correct for this bias.

      It further seems to me that someone has probably done this.

    • Sam Rosen says:

      Good point.

    • Zorgon says:

      It is perfectly possible for “mainsplaining” to be

      a) a meaningful concept with a specific group of targets,
      b) a tainting-word used to shut down debate,
      c) a social justice virtue claim,
      and d) an indication, deliberate or otherwise, that the person is not willing to debate with anyone they identify as male.

      These things are not mutually exclusive.

      That said, as a rule, I’ve found the more that someone is prone to use that term, the less likely they are to be interested in discussion at all. But as you say, that is my own experience. I consider it well-founded.

    • tiny nerd says:

      My experience absolutely agrees with Kiboh’s statements here. If you personally never attempt to obnoxiously recenter discussions about women onto men in order to shut feminists up, then anyone who accuses you of doing that will always be wrong. However, if you accuse any random guy who brings up men in a feminist discussion of doing it in bad faith just to shut people up, it’s got a good chance of being right. Absolutely every discussion of feminism on the internet outside of very safe spaces gets covered in vitriol-spewing trolls who either hate women or can do a really good impression.

      • Crimson Wool says:

        I know what is going on inside my head when I (used to) “attempt to obnoxiously recenter discussions about women onto men.” It was not done “in order to shut feminists up.” It got called that, pretty much every time, however, in the past.

        I don’t know what’s going on inside the head of “any random guy who brings up men in a feminist discussion”; indeed, I can’t look at any posts you’re thinking of because you don’t have to provide any to make your claims. So you can say, “ah, I’m sure you, [person], would never do that! But there are real men who do do that, and they hate women, or at least pretend to!” Well, I disagree. I don’t think there are real men who do that (or, to the extent that there are, they are vastly overestimated). I certainly don’t think that you actually know what these men you’re thinking of’s actual motivations were, because I sincerely doubt that they said anything to the effect of “I hate women.”

        What if the reason that men bring up men in feminist spaces, is that they care about some men’s issues in particular (whether due to personal closeness, benign in-group bias, or just some accident of history), and they have been lead to believe that feminism also cares about men’s issues? Doesn’t that also explain the behavior of recentering discussion on these issues? I care about [thing]. I see an opportunity to bring up [thing]. I bring up [thing]. (Then I get called a misogynist and told to leave.)

        Alternatively, what if the reason that men bring up men in feminist spaces, is that they feel like feminist rhetoric has a strong tendency to treat men as perpetual villains and women as perpetual victims, which makes them feel just as understandably distressed as any other group would when they have themselves discussed as if they were the only bad people on the planet, so they try to balance that out by bringing up counterexamples?

        Or perhaps these guys really do just hate women, and they’ve decided the optimal way to express that hatred is to mention male rape on r/Feminism or call out feminists explaining that domestic violence is due to “societal conditions that support men’s use of tactics of power and control over women.” I dunno. Either/or. I know which explanations I find more plausible, from my lived experience on the other side of this particular equation.

        • tiny nerd says:

          I believe we are in disagreement on facts themselves here, and those facts are incredibly difficult if not impossible to measure.
          I just want to point out that while people who are subject to and constantly afraid of attacks by reactionary bigots will be hypersensitized and more likely to see bigotry, people who are “neutral” are immune to attacks by bigots and hence desensitized and less likely to notice. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle but I’m partial enough to say it’s closer to my take than yours 😛

        • Matthew says:

          while people who are subject to and constantly afraid of attacks by reactionary bigots will be hypersensitized and more likely to see bigotry

          People who are constantly encouraged to see nobody as “neutral” and anyone who disagrees with them about anything as a bigot who is attacking them will also be hypersensitized.

          I think there’s a bigger perceptual difference going on here as well. From the pro-SJ perspective, you have a tiny safe space sphere where one can discuss the issues that feminist talk about under feminist rules, and everywhere else is hostile territory. From the anti-SJ perspective, the SJ rules-dominated sphere is ever expanding, and outside of this blog, it’s actually rather hard to find “neutral” places to talk about issues that feminists talk about. (Liberals who disagree with the SJ approach are not going to go to MRA blogs or something to discuss these issues.)

        • tiny nerd says:

          @Matthew
          First, you seem to be attacking my use of the word “neutral” rather than anything I said? I don’t believe that nobody is neutral. That’s a terrible belief unless you’re Marxist. I do believe that neutrality is inherently a (in the 100% literal dictionary sense) privileged position. Someone who’s socially “neutral” has the luxury of ignoring attacks (on the internet I’m mostly referring to verbal harassment) against people in non-“neutral” groups because they aren’t targeted and hence aren’t really exposed. Also, just to make it clear, I don’t think the users on this site are bigots. If I did, I wouldn’t try to join the discussion.

          With regard to your other point, it is true that feminists of various stripes (not intersectional transfeminists, alas) are basically allowed to set the rules of polite discussion on the internet. What I see as the vast Enemy Horde of terrible people is all the unmoderated internet communities. I don’t even attempt to read comments on 4chan or youtube anymore since they’re so universally horrible, the less-moderated sections of reddit are pretty bad, and tumblr itself is pretty much in a state of constant civil war (it’s weird as hell that leftists managed to dominate in an unmoderated cesspool like tumblr but it’s a lot to do with combative rhetoric and userbase demographics self-reinforcing, and maybe something about tumblr’s datastructure). I think the level of moderation required for civility’s sake goes too far, but users chose to impose it because, on sites that feminists and leftists used, the discussion got drowned in flame wars.

        • Matthew says:

          I was not attributing the belief in “no such thing as neutrals” to you personally. I was describing the social dynamics of feminist spaces. There is no acknowledgement there that one could ever disagree in good faith. Either one agrees with the majority or one is branded anti-woman. (This is sort of not true between female participants, but only within very limited grounds between different strands of feminism.)

          As I mentioned elsewhere, the point at which I stopped calling myself a feminist was after watching (not even participating) a discussion on a mainstream feminist blog in which people were branded misogynist and hounded away for disagreeing with the proposition “rape is a worse crime than murder” (where the victim in both cases was a woman). The intolerance of feminist sites goes way beyond objecting to men interjecting “but what about teh menz?”

          Edit: I think we have been using the word “neutral” differently. On reflection, you seem to be using it to mean “occupying the privileged default category,” whereas I was using it to mean “neither on board with the entire SJ agenda, nor on board with racism/sexism.”

  59. Anonymous says:

    From one perspective, you’ve given really excellent references here — I count six separate links to posts about female privilege not being a thing.

    From a different perspective, as somebody who doesn’t read social justice blogs, it’s hard for me to identify if those references are the — er — the “mainstream” of social justice, or if they’re six random internet nutcases. I already believe that “social justice” consists mostly of individuals with blogs with varying degrees of nuttery, so even with your six separate links, I have to wonder how easy it would be to cherrypick posts about female-privilege-not-being-a-thing from the six nuttiest blogs on the interwebs.

    I remember, in your anti-reactionary FAQ, you opened with this: “In general, this FAQ chooses two Reactionary bloggers as its foils – Mencius Moldbug of Unqualified Reservations, and Michael Anissimov of More Right. Mencius is probably the most famous Reactionary, one of the founders of the movement, and an exceptionally far-thinking and knowledgeable writer. Michael is also quite smart, very prolific, and best of all for my purposes unusually willing to state Reactionary theories plainly and explicitly in so many words and detail the evidence that he thinks supports them.” I wonder if there’s something similar you could say about the social-justice movement, that would make me feel like you were rebutting something other than a bunch of random internet nutcases.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The movement is extremely amorphous and fractured and doesn’t have a Moldbug-like focus. The best I can do is provide as many links as I have the energy to get to show that the part I am critiquing is large and at least not totally straw.

      That having been said, I will claim that the whole “racism can only be used in terms of structural oppression” thing is absolutely fundamental and it would be rare to find anyone involved in social justice who doesn’t use it. My impression is that “there can’t be female privilege” is either a majority or plurality opinion (plurality when counting the people who don’t care or don’t talk about it).

      • ozymandias says:

        IME, both “female privilege doesn’t exist” and “racism can only be used in terms of structural oppression” are both majority opinions in the SJsphere. (I’d say roughly 90-95% consensus.)

    • mister service says:

      It may be the case that the random internet nutcase wing of social justice may also be in need of rebutting. This is the crowd that brought us #CancelColbert, #StopClymer, and sparked the Brendan Eich mess.

  60. Sam Rosen says:

    So motte-and-bailey tactics are only one of the shitty practices SJWs use.
    How about this one: Pretend All Discussions About Gender Are Merely About Lived Experience. I really need a catchy name for it and the acronym PADAGAMALE isn’t very good.

    Not every discussion about gender is about “what it’s like to live as a woman.” If we were merely talking about lived experiences of women, then yes, women should have more authority to speak. However, if we are having an ethical discussion about how to organize society, it’s not clear why women’s voices should be heard more. Also, if we are having an empirical discussion about history or economics, it’s not clear why women should be an authority due to their gender. Social Justice people conflate these different kinds of conversations and take the authority they justifiably have from one domain and unfairly transfer it to the other domains.

    • James F says:

      The usual response to “if we are having an ethical discussion about how to organize society, it’s not clear why women’s voices should be heard more” is that men traditionally dominated those discussions, and people’s framing of the discussion is going to reflect that long-standing bias (even if discussant composition is equal or heavily women today), which is why women should now dominate that conversation for a while to make up for it. This same reasoning would probably be used for discussions of history, which has historically been written from a male perspective.

      I don’t unconditionally agree with the typical implementation (it seems to be most often be invoked in the “shut up boy” sense), but in the abstract it’s pretty believable, and if there were an implementation of the idea that didn’t mean silencing men who don’t perfectly conform with the prevailing subcultural norms then I’d be all for it.

      • Sam Rosen says:

        So, a conversational heuristic we might want to use is “try to listen to people from populations historically not heard from.”

        (Though I worry that this might commit us to a quasi-essentialist idea about female versus male “ways of viewing things.”)

        But that isn’t the only conversational heuristic we want to use. We also want to “try to listen to people who’ve read the most on the topic.” We want to “try to listen to smart people.” We want to “try to listen to people who haven’t talked much in this particular chit chat.” We might want to “listen to people who have a passion for what they’re talking about.” Sometimes these conversational heuristics trade-off.

        If the claim was merely, “we should try to listen to women more,” I’d be down. But that’s not the usual claim.

        And to go back to what I was saying—the authority women should be given when talking about ‘the lived experience of women’ is much higher than the authority women should be given when discussing claims about statistics. (Even if we should adopt a heuristic of listening to women more.) A lot people in the SJ community pathologically fail to make this distinction.

  61. The phenomenon you describe generalizes to virtually all politically charged terms. As Chomsky noted,

    Every relevant term of political discourse has essentially two meanings. One is its literal meaning. The other is the meaning that is used for political warfare and the terms are applied quite differently to others than they are for themselves.

    (As someone sympathetic to social justice, Chomsky fails to realize that his analysis extends to that domain, too.)

  62. linguisticdescriptivist says:

    “Somebody who probably doesn’t realize they’ve just committed themselves to linguistic prescriptivism”

    Maybe I’m missing your point. It sounds like you’re saying that someone who uses a dictionary word to mean something other than the dictionary is the prescriptivist. But wouldn’t insisting on the dictionary definition be prescription?

    • Oligopsony says:

      Insisting on a “real” definition over and above common use is prescriptivist.

      (As a positive doctrine perscriptivism is obviously crazy, hence why linguists should reject it. As a, well, prescriptive doctrine, prescriptivism is almost certainly useful at least some times for defending precision (or other purposes that would be served by words) that would otherwise be lost.)

      • Creutzer says:

        As a positive doctrine perscriptivism is obviously crazy, hence why linguists should reject it

        Hence why linguists do reject it.

        • lmm says:

          Is there a genuine consensus? My impression was there was still controversy.

        • Creutzer says:

          Among linguists? No. There isn’t a controversy. Despite their deep differences, all linguists I have ever heard of agree that they are studying language as an observable phenomenon, and that is inherently antithetical to any sort of prescriptivist mindset.

      • kev says:

        There is a difference between insisting on using a “real” definition or a “technically useful” one.

  63. ozymandias says:

    The “it’s not female privilege it’s benevolent sexism” is actually making an important point, which is that benevolent sexism actually hurts women. Level of benevolent sexism is highly correlated with level of hostile sexism. Men high in benevolent sexism are more likely to blame female victims of rape for their attack. Being exposed to benevolent sexism worsens women’s cognitive performance. Those would be very weird results if benevolent sexism were actually female privilege.

    I think a more sensible model than a female privilege model is Julia Serano’s oppositional sexism/misogyny model (which she discusses in her book Whipping Girl), which argues that society punishes people who do not conform to gender roles and that, in addition, it devalues the traditional female gender role. According to her argument, both of those forces screw over gender-non-conforming men, because they face both the punishment for taking on a female gender role and the punishment for not conforming. On the other hand, gender-conforming men generally have it pretty good on the gender front. In addition, low-status and undesirable men are often oppressed on other axes (lookism, fatphobia, ableism, class) and can experience oppression from women on those axes. Ugly, fat, and weird women are also punished for daring to be attracted to people.

    • Oligopsony says:

      Julia Serano’s oppositional sexism/misogyny model (which she discusses in her book Whipping Girl), which argues that society punishes people who do not conform to gender roles and that, in addition, it devalues the traditional female gender role.

      Huh, that’s elegant. Thanks.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      There seems to be a strong and a weak claim here. Weak claim: “A lot of / most accusation of female privilege is wrong.” Strong claim: “There is no such thing as female privilege”.

      The former is plausible enough (and not weak in any absolute sense), but if you’re asserting the latter I must request you to unpack your definition of ‘privilege’ and your criteria for privilege belonging to a particular group. I find it hard to believe that there are zero primarily male problems that most women fail to understand.

      • ozymandias says:

        Unfortunately, my rejection of a female privilege model is a subset of my belief that privilege, in the particular sense discussed by racismschool, is not generally a useful model for understanding oppression. (As a synonym for “advantage” it’s fine but also not particularly interesting.) Whether people understand a problem seems basically uncorrelated with whether the problem is caused by the marginalization of a particular group. I don’t understand why monogamous people fuss about jealousy so much, but I don’t think that that’s a sign that monogamous people are oppressed by polyamorists. That’s simple Typical Mind Fallacy, and the concept of privilege seems to have been created by people who noticed the Typical Mind Fallacy in this one context.

        However, I would be happy to stand by the claim that gender-non-conforming people and women get way more shit than gender-conforming people and men do and that (with the exception of the various problems related to male violence and maaaaybe healthcare) the problems faced by gender-conforming men are fairly marginal/edge-case-y.

        • Crimson Wool says:

          However, I would be happy to stand by the claim that gender-non-conforming people and women get way more shit than gender-conforming people and men do and that (with the exception of the various problems related to male violence and maaaaybe healthcare) the problems faced by gender-conforming men are fairly marginal/edge-case-y.

          Could you define what you mean by “gender-conforming men” here? Because this statement seems like it is probably wrong to me?? Like, sentencing disparities, DV protection, genital mutilation, just off the top of my head.

          Also there’s the point that “gender-conforming” does not necessarily mean just “doing things I was planning on doing anyway,” but also purposefully and intentionally making decisions that are actually unpleasant. For example, it’s “gender conforming” for Dad to go out and earn the paycheck while Mom stays at home with the kids, but that doesn’t mean that Dad actually wants to never see his kids so that he can work his soulless accounting job. I suppose there are some people for whom that is true but I suspect they are very much a minority.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          Okay, now I’m not sure what privilege means. I thought it was basically the special case of the typical mind fallacy where you underestimate problems you don’t have, together with the idea that there are big clusters of problems that certain big clusters of people don’t have and therefore underestimate. This is certainly a phenomenon that can perpetuate oppression, but I don’t know what it means to say that it’s the model for understanding oppression. I essentially meant there was female privilege in the same way I might say there’s poly privilege, which is the same way Alicorn once checked her ‘luminosity privilege’.

          Is special-case-of-typical-mind-fallacy the motte and overarching-theory-of-oppression the bailey, or am I just totally wrong about what the word means?

        • Bish says:

          Ozy:

          (with the exception of the various problems related to male violence and maaaaybe healthcare) the problems faced by gender-conforming men are fairly marginal/edge-case-y

          Wait a sec… Maybe I’m not understanding your intent, but violence and health seem like a really a big deal. I don’t think it makes much sense to call them an “exception.” Men engaging in violent competition and sacrificing their own health (workplace death, sports injury) or getting beaten up or massacred by other men is a big part of how gender works. I don’t understand how we can say that “gender-conforming men generally have it pretty good on the gender front,” except for the gender-conforming men who end up abusing alcohol, killing themselves, brain-damaged from sports, maimed at work, or murdered by the local gang or militia.

          (While I realize that not all of those examples are common, especially in the West, I only intend them as examples. If we did the research and found the conjunctive risk of at least some serious type of violence, or masculinity-related health issue, that risk would be pretty high, especially if we don’t just look at middle-class white men.)

          I think oppositional sexism plus misogyny model theory is interesting, but there are a lots of facts that are very inconvenient for it to explain (like the sports injury issue).

          I also object to injustices to gender-non-conforming men being reduced to misogyny (though its a factor). For example, who is looked down on more, a woman shopping for women’s clothing, a women shopping for man’s clothing, or a man shopping for women’s clothing? I suspect that the latter will be frowned on more, which suggests a misandry component, not just transphobia. The misogyny explanation (“he is frowned because he is a trying to look like a woman, and looking like a woman is low-status”) does not seem very convincing. I would characterize this case as intersectional homophobia+transphobia+misandry; the misandry part is because of men’s sexuality being viewed as especially threatening.

        • Fronken says:

          Unfortunately, my rejection of a female privilege model is a subset of my belief that privilege, in the particular sense discussed by racismschool, is not generally a useful model for understanding oppression. (As a synonym for “advantage” it’s fine but also not particularly interesting.) Whether people understand a problem seems basically uncorrelated with whether the problem is caused by the marginalization of a particular group. I don’t understand why monogamous people fuss about jealousy so much, but I don’t think that that’s a sign that monogamous people are oppressed by polyamorists. That’s simple Typical Mind Fallacy, and the concept of privilege seems to have been created by people who noticed the Typical Mind Fallacy in this one context.

          Isn’t it, well, sexist to state that in terms of “female privilege does not exist” instead of “privilege does not exist”, then?

          And – sorry, I tried-but-can’t find a way to say this with a lower chance of offending you – isn’t this essentially lying by omission in order to gain social status among your Social-Justice-y peers?

    • Ialdabaoth says:

      I think a more sensible model than a female privilege model is Julia Serano’s oppositional sexism/misogyny model (which she discusses in her book Whipping Girl), which argues that society punishes people who do not conform to gender roles and that, in addition, it devalues the traditional female gender role.

      Seconded; that’s REALLY elegant. Thank you for alerting me to it! It fits a lot of my intuitions about what appears to really be going on, and is easy to articulate.

    • Zorgon says:

      I strongly agree with the gender-role-policing model as presented, with the exception that I don’t think that society especially devalues the traditional female gender role so much as women have declared it defunct and been permitted, over the course of half a century, to diverge from it in ways that have not been permitted to men.

      I also think female privileges are distinct from “benevolent sexism”, and that most women are aware of “benevolent sexism” and utterly unaware of their privileges. For example, the vast majority of women in the UK are unaware that they are legally unable to be charged with rape (except in extreme circumstances) and probably think that that is acceptable and reasonable, too. Feminists have spent decades telling men what their privileges are, while it’s not in their or anyone else’s interest to educate women about theirs, since men have no comparable gender-role advocacy.

      • I remember the sixties and seventies, and the female role was definitely devalued then– I don’t think things are as bad on that front now.

        Back then, it went without saying that women were bad drivers and talked too much. It was ridiculous that women spent time on their appearance, but they were obligated to spend time on their appearance.

        It was easy mockery for a man to use a falsetto to repeat what a woman said.

        I’m not sure whether the “throws like a girl” thing is still in play, but back then, “throwing like a girl” (actually, throwing like an untrained/inexperienced person) meant that boys were taught to throw and girls were taught to give up on throwing.

        • Zorgon says:

          Contrary hypothesis (with a bit of tabooing of “male” for delicious LW flavour):

          Throwing/catching and driving are both traditionally notwoman pursuits. Therefore the hassle that was attached to women doing them wasn’t due to devalued womanhood, but due to acting in a notwoman fashion.

          I agree with you about the makeup thing, but I would suggest that the enforcement of the female-role enactment of wearing makeup significantly outweighed the ridicule for spending lots of time doing so (instead of being magically able to do it instantly as a result of being female).

          As I said above, if the woman-box is defunct in the modern context, being kept in the woman-box is going to seem like being devalued, not least since notwoman pursuits are likely to become ubiquitous.

        • Anonymous says:

          What has changed about throwing like a girl?

        • What’s changed is that there’s some understanding that “throwing like a girl” is actually a result of inexperience rather than evidence of female inferiority.

    • Karmakin says:

      There’s a better explanation for it. It’s a matter of it being about individual gender stereotypes, and how they interact with any given scenario.

      Take for example the scenario about women being more empathetic, compassionate and moral. That’s a very real gender stereotype. It makes them seen as better in terms of caring for others, but it makes them seen as worse in terms of the ability to lay thousands of workers off.

      There are pluses and minuses to gender roles and stereotypes, and to accept/endorse the positives is also to accept/endorse the negatives.

      The big problem with the problem that Scott lays out, is that at least in terms of gender, it relies on various stereotypes about being weak/having a lack of agency in a way that’s good for winning debates, but pretty bad for increasing the social view of women. That’s why pushing against this stuff is important, at least to me, as I really do think that it’s hobbling progress for women.

      • Zorgon says:

        I agree quite a bit, but it’s hard to say this stuff without coming across as a guy telling women what’s good for them.

        So I stick to telling people what’s good for men… although that’s difficult, because I’m one guy arguing simultaneously against both traditionalist gender roles and modern feminism, not to mention effectively the entire academic field of gender studies to break down the man-as-universal-aggressor/woman-as-universal-victim model.

        Then I give up and go play Dwarf Fortress for a bit, because honestly, beating my head against a brick wall is more constructive and less painful than trying to argue against that.

    • MugaSofer says:

      The “it’s not female privilege it’s benevolent sexism” is actually making an important point, which is that benevolent sexism actually hurts women. Level of benevolent sexism is highly correlated with level of hostile sexism. Men high in benevolent sexism are more likely to blame female victims of rape for their attack.
      […]
      I think a more sensible model than a female privilege model is Julia Serano’s oppositional sexism/misogyny model (which she discusses in her book Whipping Girl), which argues that society punishes people who do not conform to gender roles and that, in addition, it devalues the traditional female gender role.

      OK. So there is one thing – “sexism” – that proposes separate roles for men and women. This isn’t a lot of different roles; this is one unified phenomenon, and even seemingly harmless parts are correlated with the whole and should be fought.

      (Isn’t that more usefully referred to as “patriarchy”, not “sexism”?)

      So, in some situations the Patriarchy/Sexism creates a difficult situation for women, but not men. (Or it grants men a benefit it does not grant women, same thing.) Men are likely to underestimate the difficulties involved, and may write of women’s experiences entirely. This Is Bad. We call this Bad Thing “privilege”.

      In other, presumably rarer, situations it creates a difficult situation for men, but not women.

      (Or am I misunderstanding you?)

      In what sense is this better referred to as a “benevolent” (benevolent, of course, to women) version of the original phenomenon?

      In what sense is it not best combated and thought about in exactly the same terms?

      In what sense does creating problems for women but not men give men a blind-spot; yet not the other way around?

      (Or … did you not claim any of those things, and I’m an idiot? I’d hate to be straw manning you, I recall really respecting your insight over on your old blog.)

      I think it would be helpful to define our terms more often in a discussion about ways our terms might be defined wrong.

  64. Hima says:

    near perfect commentary. I have one suggestion though, please use : donotlink[dot]com to link to articles on thoughtcatalog or any other click bait website.

  65. Paranoid? I think you’re giving these people too much credit. In my opinion, Her Majesty should have these irreligious and unpatriotic moors drawn and quartered, the lot of them. Let their filth be gone from the Earth.

  66. Alexander Stanislaw says:

    Scott

    Many commenters have accused you of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so let me ask. What percentage of people actively involved in SJ related things do you think either engage in this tactic or are susceptible to it? By actively involved, I mean attending meetings, having a job or a position in an organization etc. not just talking about SJ online.

    I realize this isn’t quite specific – you can choose your specific population (eg. college educated people age 20 – 40 ; whatever specific population you want).

  67. Elizabeth says:

    “Yet if anyone mentions it in real life, they are likely to have earned themselves a link to an Explanatory Article. Maybe 18 Reasons Why The Concept Of Female Privilege Is Insane. Or An Open Letter To The Sexists Who Think Female Privilege Is A Thing. Or The Idea Of Female Privilege – It Isn’t Just Wrong, It’s Dangerous. Or the one on how there is no female privilege, just benevolent sexism. Or That Thing You Call Female Privilege Is Actually Just Whiny Male Syndrome. Or Female Privilege Is Victim Blaming, which helpfully points out that people who talk about female privilege “should die in a fire” and begins “we need to talk, and no, not just about the fact that you wear fedoras and have a neck beard.”

    It almost seems like you have touched a nerve. But why should there be a nerve here?”

    The standard reply is “because it’s actually the case that privilege most usefully means systematic oppression of a demographic in the most important spheres of life, and people argue in favor of definitions that allow reverse racism / sexism against men *constantly* because it’s the rhetorical equivalent of ‘I’m rubber you’re glue!’ This gets old.”

    I’m not sure how sympathetic I am to the standard reply. Given the above commenters’ remarks on universal prejudice against American blacks – all races show bias against black faces, kids of all races prefer to play with white dolls – it does seem at least like there’s an important fact about racism against blacks that’s not present in racism against whites.

    On the other hand, “I’m tired of having this argument, it’s not my job to educate you, I am having feelings about having this argument many times” is associated with some of the worst behavior I’ve seen in social justice circles. I’d love to see you write a post just about that.

    • Ialdabaoth says:

      On the other hand, “I’m tired of having this argument, it’s not my job to educate you, I am having feelings about having this argument many times” is associated with some of the worst behavior I’ve seen in social justice circles. I’d love to see you write a post just about that.

      Is a demoralized and war-weary enemy allowed to start using superweapons, rather than fighting conventionally against an ever more desperate and battle-hardened opponent?

      It occurs to me that, when not taken metaphorically, the US and Japan have very different answers to that question.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        If I’m coming onto your (rhetorical ‘you’) tumblr or whatever, then you shouldn’t have to have any argument you don’t feel like having. But if you come to SSC and make an objection that relies on a premise that isn’t generally accepted here, you should be prepared to defend that premise.

        In general, you should always be able to avoid having an argument you don’t want to have and you should never be able to win by default.

        • Nornagest says:

          Tumblr’s more-or-less specifically set up to make it hard to draw boundaries around “your” stuff or to limit the scope of conversations. With very few limits, you can like or reblog whatever you damn well please, add your own tags (indeed, you have to, or it’ll strip the original tags for you), append hateful incendiary comments, or whatever, and there’s not a thing the author can do about it short of submitting a takedown request.

          This is good for spreading visibility/”signal boosting”/propagating short-form original content (it helps if you don’t care too much about attribution, though the interface does leave breadcrumbs), and bad for following the thread of a conversation or limiting distribution to your friends or avoiding horrible drawn-out public arguments. Its private messaging capabilities are also, deliberately, quite weak.

          You may have some kind of theoretical right to keep arguments you don’t want out of your Tumblr experience, but that definitely wasn’t a design goal.

  68. The biggest problem with sjw is they give ammunition to other strong ‘in/out group’ groups for violent, destructive resistance. These are likely symptoms of overall societal dissipation where ‘the center cannot hold’ and sjw’s are very verbally intelligent but not otherwise very powerful people attempting to carve out a piece of the failing whole for themselves (in whatever fashion.)

    This is typical of liberal systems where in attempting to make things more fair by removing traditions, hierarchies and systems of favor, they also remove protections certain groups had for themselves. Smith recounts how when the monasteries were abolished, the destitute poor now fell into the hands of the municipalities to care for, and what follows is a history of quasi-serfdom, social welfare programs, homeless spikes, etc. Homosexuals were in an interesting position vis the Catholic church for a long time; they were more or less protected so long as they didn’t cause trouble. They didn’t attempt to make them straight, but did encourage them to be celibate. (It’s arguable that a lot of people should be celibate, including many ‘straights’.)

    Motte-and-Bailey seems to be practiced in differing degrees and in different ways, and there is a specific meaning to its practice. The SJW are clearly dividing up the intellectual space into different fiefdoms, something that other groups, even if they do use Motte-and-Bailey, don’t do. I think Motte-and-Bailey is just one part of a set of strategies being used, including the ‘The Conversation is not just a local conversation, but whatever is said wherever, on that topic’.

    There is also the issue that religious texts have a particular character of being interpreted by those whose they are. We forget this with Christian texts (the Bible) because there were so many different ‘Christian’ groups and because of Lockean hermeneutics being asserted by some of them. But ultimately the group’s religious texts have meaning for them and towards their ideals (whether factual or not, mythical or not, etc.) In a civ that considered itself Christian (or thought of itself in Christian terms) it’s no surprise the Bible became a kind of universal text. The sjw seem to be treating ‘the conversation on x’ (race, gender, etc) as a religious text, though I think maybe there is also the case that technical texts (for a particular profession) can be treated this way as well. Blueprints are not intended to make sense for everyone, just for those who need to know how to read them. The degree of general readability varies, and indeed there may be efforts to make the documents more or less generally comprehensible for various reasons. (The Aztec religious was notoriously opaque, meaning only the priests could interpret it at all. Tarot cards try to be like this.)

    I consider sjw as a form of warfare, which is bad overall because war is the lowest state of society. (Moldbug’s states are: war -> peace -> security -> law -> freedom) Even if sjw have a noble cause, they are going to throw society into chaos doing it. It may just be that they should be in a different society than people such as myself. I would accept that.

    • caryatis says:

      “It’s arguable that a lot of people should be celibate, including many ‘straights’.”

      I realize this is off topic, but could you say more about that?

      • Sarah says:

        There is natural variation in human sexuality. Some people are not very interested in sex (asexuals and related types). Some people are going to be unable to find sex partners (the unlucky and atypical.) It might be better if there were a valued and accepted social role for people who don’t have sex, instead of telling them YOU ARE FAILURES WHY DON’T YOU HAVE A GIRLFRIEND YET.

        In a lot of cultures, the spiritual/intellectual functions (priests, monks, and for a long time university professors) were paired with celibacy. Sometimes I wonder if there wasn’t a genuine insight there. People who are good at “unworldly” things might really be worse at finding mates; or sex and parenthood may make you worse at spiritual/intellectual pursuits.

        • Nornagest says:

          Conversely, though, the celibacy rules for those roles were often honored much less consistently than they are now. Sure, we hear about the occasional child abuse scandal, but four hundred years ago half the College of Cardinals would have more-or-less openly maintained mistresses.

          That might support your point, though; if the evolutionary niche of the celibacy rule is less about actually keeping people from having sex and more about providing socially acceptable roles for people that don’t want to, then it doesn’t matter too much if some people break the rule as long as they’re not too loud about it.

        • Matthew says:

          Having now seen a similar argument in several different contexts, I think there may be a typical mind fallacy going on here that I want to address.

          On the on hand you have people who are asexual and/or romantic.

          On the second hand, you have people making the argument you’re making. Here I have two hypotheses. The less charitable hypothesis is that these people are fairly successful in love and sex, and are doing the same obnoxious thing as when rich people say money isn’t important. The more charitable hypothesis is that there are people who are not asexual and/or aromantic, but for whom romance and sex aren’t that important. This is a hard position for me to grasp, because…

          On the third hand, you have people like me, with really strong libidos and really strong pair-bonding instincts. It would make absolutely no difference to me whatsoever if society did not shame people for failing to find romance/sex. I’m not unhappy because society tells I’m a loser; I’m unhappy because I regard romance and sex as fundamental human needs only one step less urgent than food/water/sleep, and I’m slowing dying for the lack of them. This is biologically, not socially mediated.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          When I was involuntarily single and celibate (which was until a much higher age than is generally accepted), the fear of social judgment was the worst part of it. So in fact both kinds of people exist. AFAICT removing the social stigma from celibacy shouldn’t hurt either kind unless it strengthens the stigma against unsuccessful romantic efforts or something.

        • TGGP says:

          I don’t actually identify as an aesexual, but I suppose I’m damn-near close enough. I do sometimes think (mainly due to Robin Hanson’s dreamtime argument) modern society is crazy, but it’s not bad either. I waste all my time reading things on a computer now, centuries ago I presumably might have been copying scrolls in a monastery. I definitely wouldn’t choose the latter given the option of the former. I’m considered weird, but in an atomized individualist society I can just be weird and continue doing whatever I feel like. It’s entirely possible that the older I get the weirder I’ll seem and the more consequences there will be, but I don’t really think about that.

          I suppose it’s an example of male privilege that there’s so little judgement at not having a partner. Take the Baumeister-esque point about the difference in variance between genders, and the median female is generally assured a spot in the “effective population”, so it’s a more noteworthy signal for one to be without a partner, and then there’s also our retaining social values which still places more importance on that for women. Whereas for men it’s well known a subset will be outside of that effective population, and at least nowadays there’s nothing unpleasant like being killed or starving to death!

          Part of it is that I’m atypical in not noticing certain things I don’t care about. And not giving a shit really is a great privilege. Other people have expressed shock at how blase I’ve been about, say, getting fired, but I just don’t care that much and since I’m a white middle class college grad with plenty of opportunities and no responsibilities, it all works out for me. People like Matthew sound kind of sad and pathetic to me (although like the dog in the lizard parable, I’m so unable to relate to their complaints I can’t entirely take them seriously), too bad there’s not a pill that can make them like me. I suppose the only downside is that I’ve been so ruined by chronic happiness and always having what I want I might not be prepared to deal with actual setbacks I could conceivably give a shit about.

        • Matthew says:

          Other people have expressed shock at how blase I’ve been about, say, getting fired, but I just don’t care that much and since I’m a white middle class college grad with plenty of opportunities and no responsibilities, it all works out for me.

          Well of course you don’t care. From this side of the divide, the whole point of gaining material and social status is access to better mates.

          People like Matthew sound kind of sad and pathetic to me (although like the dog in the lizard parable, I’m so unable to relate to their complaints I can’t entirely take them seriously), too bad there’s not a pill that can make them like me.

          I would not take such a pill, to be clear.

          ETA: It’s sort of hilarious that this post appeared within an hour of you suggesting a pill to cure sexuality.

        • Sarah says:

          To be clear, I don’t think it’s at *all* obvious that we should go back to promoting celibacy. Just that institutional celibacy probably had *some* positive effects.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          I’m not on board to start promoting celibacy, but some efforts to at least try to reduce overt shaming of it seem like a good idea. We’re probably not going to sever the romantic success/status link any time soon, but we might at least be able to keep it out of celibates’ faces.

        • Nornagest says:

          I suppose it’s an example of male privilege that there’s so little judgement at not having a partner.

          There’s definitely judgment for not having a partner, but outside of fratboy social circles or spaces functionally indistinguishable from them, most of it is tacit. If you are a techie, this might be invisible to you because status in that field is unusually unbound from mainstream social norms, but it’s definitely present in other fields: you’re not going to make it into senior officer ranks in the military, for example, if you’re not married.

          I don’t know how gendered it is.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          That might support your point, though; if the evolutionary niche of the celibacy rule is less about actually keeping people from having sex and more about providing socially acceptable roles for people that don’t want to, then it doesn’t matter too much if some people break the rule as long as they’re not too loud about it.

          Although I think in a lot of cases, we’re talking about (modern) people who VERY MUCH want to participate in non-celibacy, but no one else wants them to.

          I.e., I’d LOVE to be in a relationship right now, but I think the general consensus is “eww. Eww eww, eww, eww… EWW.”

        • caryatis says:

          Is it really possible to be celibate involuntarily, though? You can always see a prostitute. If you don’t have a lot of money and are in a remote area, that might be only once a year, but that’s still not celibate. If you have the option of seeing a prostitute and don’t want to for whatever reason, then you’re voluntarily choosing not to have sex.

          Admittedly it might be harder to satisfy romantic urges.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Technically correct: the best KIND of correct.

        • btw, masturbation is a violation of celibacy. When the monastics spoke of ‘the spirit of fornication’ they were precisely referring to this desire, which is a breach of celibacy, but in this case, with one’s self.

      • Sure. Human sexuality is often disordered; it isn’t enough to say that because you’re attracted to the opposite sex that by definition your sexuality is properly ordered. There are two aspects to this: 1. the general consensus is that not all acts between two members of the opposite sex are well-ordered (this exact list varies, but the fact that some are excluded does not.) 2. even barring not committing a forbidden act (as in 1) there are even disordered ways of going about any act.

        It is often considered that those who have sex merely for pleasure are by definition disordered, though there is disagreement between, say, the Eastern Orthodox (of which I am a layman) and the Roman Catholics as to what the proper order is.

        According to our (EO) teaching, the purpose of human sexuality is union, all intersex activity is a manifestation of this: children, copulation, romance, etc.

        To the Roman Catholic the purpose of marriage and thus sex, is children. Sex for any other reason (in their view) is disordered.

        We both agree that sex merely for recreation or pleasure is incorrect, regardless of whether all of the rule checkboxes are checked. That is to say (put another way) disorder is by degrees.

        Therefore while the PUA doesn’t dabble in ‘strange flesh’ he yet does corrupt himself. The libido is a feedback loop, where if left unfed long enough it will fizzle out, but if fed will grow stronger up to a point. For those who cannot control their urges, they are like alcoholics regarding sexuality and it may be better for them, whoever they are, to abstain. Further, since members of the same sex cannot form the proper union ontologically, their coupling is inherently disordered regardless of whether they are sex-addicts and they should also be celibate from one another.

        An oddness exists within Protestant Christianity, a disorder, let us say: Protestants do not have monastics. Therefore it is given without thought that all people should marry (though the scriptures themselves do not affirm this) – in our tradition there were even some times when a man and woman married but swore to remain celibate for the purposes of prayer. This was a form of parochial monasticism. It is arguable that a society which does not consider virginity – and its lesser form, mere celibacy – a higher way is itself disordered and cannot be trusted to understand the proper ordering of sexuality.

        Put another way, it does not understand the proper ordering of love (agape over eros, in the Greek terms) so it must needs confuse all things that attend love – marriage, copulation, childbearing, romance, etc.

        I hope that clarifies a little.

    • Oligopsony says:

      This is typical of liberal systems where in attempting to make things more fair by removing traditions, hierarchies and systems of favor, they also remove protections certain groups had for themselves.

      This is an important point for a lot of things. Karl Polanyi wrote the classic account, of course.

      I consider sjw as a form of warfare, which is bad overall because war is the lowest state of society. (Moldbug’s states are: war -> peace -> security -> law -> freedom)

      SJW is force, and force is not just the measure of but the impetus for change along such a scale – almost trivially so, since it’s a political scale, and politics is force.

      From a Hobbesian or neocameral perspective, the SJW application of force is good iff it reinforces the dominant power structure – that is, accepting that metapolitical framework, people who aver a SJW-y positive political analysis should oppose SJWishness and those who aver a neoreactionary analysis should support it.* (Alexander’s suggestion about reversing any advice you hear may be apposite here.) Of course no one does this because they prefer to have bravery debates instead.

      *Moldbug himself was a bit more consistent than many of his followers in analyzing these things as chaos rather than structure, but then such oppositions are dialectical – I don’t mean this as a cheap shot at our friends here on the right.

      • Sarah says:

        To clarify:

        You’re saying that SJW tactics are self-defeating, so liberals should oppose SJW tactics (because they make the project of promoting liberal values less successful), and conservatives should support SJW tactics for the same reason?

        • Oligopsony says:

          No. I’m saying from the Hobbesian meta-perspective that Rivers Cuomo is using, SJW is “war” and thus bad iff it’s a brave fight against institutional kyriarchy, and “peace” or above and thus good iff it’s a horrid tyrannical witchunt conducted by the sinister brahmanical Grand Inquisitors of Cathedral puritanism.

        • Tom Hunt says:

          Hmm.

          My reading of Moldbug (notably the bit about how tyranny a la Hitler/Stalin is a form of chaos, and freedom is a form of order) suggests that it’s not quite that simple. In particular, “authority” is not always “order”; it is chaotic to the degree that it fosters chaotic conditions, and the condition in which anyone can be disappeared (sent to the gulag, get the three-AM knock, whatever) for any reason or no reason at all, simply to keep the rest of the population in fear, is undeniably chaotic. This strikes me as a good analogy to the reactionary analysis of the modern SJW machine, in which anyone who violates the orthodoxy is unpersonned, and what constitutes a violation is growing all the time. (The chaotic associations of the SJWs are heightened by the fact that they’re also a hive of really bizarre infights; they don’t even aspire to the already-lamentable internal loyalty of the Nazi government.)

          Thus, in the reactionary analysis, the SJWs are certainly in the service of power; however, that and order are not always the same thing. I see the reactionary prescription for government, which has always been less coherent than the description, as being essentially that good government is that which promotes order. The SJWs certainly don’t qualify, even with the lesser power (than the force of government) that they now hold.

        • TGGP says:

          I was impressed when Moldbug’s argument seemed like it led to a pro-Cathedral conclusion (and not just “seemed”, he even got explicit at times), but he later backed away from that with crazy schemes of a reactionary wikipedia leading to a military coup or Palin presidency or something.

        • nydwracu says:

          In particular, “authority” is not always “order”; it is chaotic to the degree that it fosters chaotic conditions, and the condition in which anyone can be disappeared (sent to the gulag, get the three-AM knock, whatever) for any reason or no reason at all, simply to keep the rest of the population in fear, is undeniably chaotic.

          The word you’re looking for is ‘phobarchy’. To Moldbug, phobarchy is bad, psycharchy is “creepy and weird” (direct quote), and legarchy is good.

        • Nornagest says:

          What is psycharchy?

        • nydwracu says:

          There are two basic classes of internal control. A sovereign can control its residents by managing their minds, or managing their bodies. We can call the former mode psycharchy, the latter physarchy. A psycharchy persuades its residents to refrain from organizing, seizing and capturing it. A physarchy physically restrains its residents from organizing, seizing and capturing it.

          • In re psycharchy: I believe that our culture can only encourage what looks like unlimited ambition (go for it!, follow your bliss, what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?) because it just doesn’t occur to people to try to stage a coup.

      • nydwracu says:

        From a neocameral perspective, not all power structures are equal: some are legitimist and some are demotist. Legitimism is preferable to demotism, because demotism is war; and demotism isn’t binary, as can be trivially observed by the fact that the States are not currently in a state of civil war.

        (The two words do have sensible meanings. The ARFAQ misunderstood them. In a sentence, legitimism is succession by law and demotism is succession by power.)

  69. ozymandias says:

    Scott, POC being racist doesn’t actually prove that they are racist against white people. POC are perfectly capable of being racist against other POC. The IAT website mentions that Asians are about as bigoted against black people as black people are, and black people themselves show a preference for white people about 50% of the time. While of course I acknowledge that teens being bullied for being white exist, it is hardly a problem on the same scale as antiblack racism is. A black teen who’s bullied for being black grows up into a world where most people subconsciously hate her. That is not true for white people. That difference is important.

    I think the condition the word “racism” is in is similar to, say, the scientific use of the word “theory.” Sociologically, racism is used to refer to society-wide patterns rather than individual prejudice. A lot of SJ people are using the sociological framework. Similarly, one might discuss the “theory of gravity” without implying that Newtonian mechanics is incredibly uncertain, even though that is the colloquial meaning of the word “theory.” I’ve certainly seen enough graphics helpfully explaining what theory ‘really’ means. Ideally, of course, people would say “in a sociological/scientific context it means Y, and in a colloquial context it means X, but here we’re going to be using it in the Y sense so please don’t be confused,” but I don’t think it is any more inherently absurd to say that the sociological meaning is what the word racism ‘really’ means any more than it is inherently absurd to say that the scientific meaning is what the word theory ‘really’ means.

    • Anon says:

      Eh… I mostly see those explanations of “What ‘Theory’ Means” in the context of explicitly rebutting “Evolution is just a theory”, which in turn is only an argument because scientists describe it as “the theory of evolution”.

      That is, group A uses the word one way, group B assumes they are using it the other way, and then group A explains that B is wrong about how A was using it.

      Whereas the case with racism I most commonly see is group B [the one with claims like “black man who beats up white man for being white is being racist”] using the word one way and group A [social justice folks] telling them that they (group B) are using it wrong.

      Certainly there are instances more similar to the former case – eg, if group B enters a conversation which had been between As, and needs to have it explained that “black man beats up white man” is not a relevant example of systematic oppression, which was what the As had meant. But this case shows up a lot less in my experience.

      • Nornagest says:

        Certainly there are instances more similar to the former case – eg, if group B enters a conversation which had been between As, and needs to have it explained that “black man beats up white man” is not a relevant example of systematic oppression, which was what the As had meant. But this case shows up a lot less in my experience.

        This seems to be adequately explained by the theory, pointed out elsewhere in these comments, that SJ discourse commonly interprets the set of discussions surrounding race/gender/etc. as a unitary Conversation rather than as individual conversations. There’s space for members of designated oppressor classes to productively contribute within the latter, while the former is forever barred to them lest they provoke accusations of derailing, mansplaining, What About The Menz?, etc.

    • Troy says:

      While of course I acknowledge that teens being bullied for being white exist, it is hardly a problem on the same scale as antiblack racism is. A black teen who’s bullied for being black grows up into a world where most people subconsciously hate her. That is not true for white people. That difference is important.

      There are certainly cases in which white people being bullied grow up in an environment that is overall hostile towards them — e.g., if they’re a middle class white in a school predominated by lower class African-Americans. I also don’t think that the majority of people subconsciously hate black people (or anyone else, for that matter). This is not a plausible interpretation of the IAT tests.

      • ozymandias says:

        I think you are missing the distinction I am making. Presumably lower-class African Americans in schools that are predominantly middle-class white also grow up in an environment that is hostile to them. My point is that once they graduate, the world will continue to be hostile to the lower-class African American, but not to the middle-class white.

        • Nornagest says:

          Not that this makes the situations exactly equivalent, but escaping from a hostile environment doesn’t undo the damage that growing up in a hostile environment does, not by a long shot. One need only look at geek culture for an endless stream of examples.

        • ozymandias says:

          Indeed, but in general it is worse to continue to be in a hostile environment than it is to escape it, while of course it is best not to be in hostile environments at all.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Often escape doesn’t come so easy.

          Most “middle class white people” who would wind up in a school predominantly filled with lower-class black people are just *barely* middle-class. The sorts of experiences that they have in a predominately lower-class black school mark them to their more securely middle-class white “peers” as inferiors, and they spend a good deal of the rest of their lives treated as proxy black people. Since it is subtly emphasized to them that the reason they are singled out and abused is that they had to go to school with black people, many of them start taking out their frustrations on black people rather than on the one-rung-up-the-ladder white people that are actually the source of their current misery, and the system sustains itself.

        • Troy says:

          Presumably lower-class African Americans in schools that are predominantly middle-class white also grow up in an environment that is hostile to them.

          No, I don’t agree. I realize this is an empirical question and we’re just arguing anecdotally here, but there were maybe 10 black kids in my several hundred person high school and all the ones I knew were quite popular. (The ones I knew best were more middle-class; but the lower-class ones seemed to be popular among the lower-class crowd they hung out with.)

          I’m not saying that there aren’t challenges to being one of the only black kids (or one of the only anything else) in your school, I’m saying that other children being hostile to you is not one of the main ones.

          My point is that once they graduate, the world will continue to be hostile to the lower-class African American, but not to the middle-class white.

          Well, I do agree that the middle-class white American will have more resources to isolate himself from lower-class African-Americans than conversely. But I don’t think that the world in general is hostile to either person (at least in the United States).

        • Jack Crassus says:

          Who has the better life prospects?

          1) the only black kid in an otherwise all-white school
          2) a black kid in an all-black school
          3) the only white kid in an otherwise all-black school
          4) a white kid in an all-white school

          If you ranked these examples like me, then you understand why making white people feel less edgy around black people isn’t in my top 100 list of things to do to make the world a better place. Social Justice seems to have a problem with excess empathy and a misplaced locus of control.

        • Troy says:

          I would rank them in this order:

          1) white kid in white school
          2) black kid in white school
          3) white kid in black school
          4) black kid in black school

          (2) comes before (3) because the black kid is likely to be middle-class, and the white kid is likely to be lower-class.

          But I don’t think I understood what point you were making. (I’m confused partly because your penultimate sentence seems to be responding to me but your final sentence seems to be anti-SJ.) If your suggestion was that the white kid in the black school will be fine, so let’s not worry about it, my response is that bullying is bad in and of itself, and we should be opposed to it even if the white kid will turn out fine. (And in my view, the reasons the black kids will likely not turn out fine (if this is the case) have little or nothing to do with white bullying or institutionalized racism.)

          Incidentally, lower-class whites will tend to have an easier time in majority black schools than middle-class whites. The latter are the ones who really don’t fit in to the culture and are consequently perceived as extremely uncool.

        • Jack Crassus says:

          Troy,

          The point of Social Justice seems to be that oppressor groups feeling vaguely good about themselves and vaguely bad about oppressed groups is an important problem with presumably large effects.

          It seems remarkable then that placing black people among larger quantities of white people improves their lives, when they are also exposed to more of this hypothesized negative miasma.

        • Troy says:

          Okay, I think we basically agree.

        • Mark James says:

          Your ranking is completely wrong, Troy. The actual answer is

          1) black kid in white school
          2) white kid in white school
          3) black kid in black school
          4) white kid in black school

          A black kid in a white school has an advantage over his white counterpart because of affirmative action, (aka institutionalized racism) which causes universities to choose “under-represented minorities” (basically, all the minorities except Asians) over more qualified whites and Asians.

          Meanwhile, a black kid in a black school has an advantage over his white counterpart because he doesn’t get the shit beaten out of him for his skin color.

        • Troy says:

          Mark: You are wrongly assuming, with progressives, that AA actually helps underrepresented minorities. If the black kid in white school goes to an ivy school he’s unqualified for rather than a state school he could do well in, and drops out after two years with a lot of debt, he’s a lot worse off than the white kid who went to a slightly worse school than he could have gotten into in a complete meritocracy.

          Similarly, I agree with you that the white kid will likely get beaten up more, but the white kid is less likely to have criminal close friends or relatives who he will seek to emulate. And I think becoming a criminal is a worse life outcome than taking a menial labor minimum-wage job, say.

          If we held a bunch of other things constant (IQ, neighborhood lived in, number of parents living with kid, social group, etc.), and assume no pernicious affects of AA, I might agree with your rankings. But as it is I don’t agree with the reactionary meme that blacks have it better than whites — I just disagree with progressives as to why blacks have it worse off than whites.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Troy: Not all progressives in America believe that AA works. Personally, I do think that discrimination/white supremacy harms NAMs a lot and, crucially, devalues the advantages of African-American or Hispanic cultures, so AA might be a good component for meritocracy… but I don’t believe in meritocracy either, because, as the linked article touches upon, it leads to “evaporative cooling”/brain drain in minority communities. It’s better and more just to have direct race-based redistribution, IMO – HR40 reparations, etc – as well as equalize the rewards for different kinds of work. Fighting open discrimination is the right thing to do, yes, but broad equality – of wealth and cultural capital and support networks and law enforcement – would be better for minorities than privileges along one axis.

          (In particular, as I discussed with some reactionaries, why not let minority communities police themselves somehow? 84% of black crime is black-on-black, and the vast majority of black people aren’t criminals, so the incentives are there. Certainly resentment and hatred towards The Man must be part of what drives the reproduction of “ghetto” survival values, as Ta-Nehisi Coates says.)

      • Tom Hunt says:

        I personally tend to doubt the wide applicability of the IAT results at all. I took the test once; it came back as “slight instinctive preference” for black people, which I’m pretty sure doesn’t describe my actual stance, either now or then. (I also had a “strong instinctive preference” for Newt Gingrich over Mitt Romney, which, well, whatever.) As regards my actual experience with the test, I further doubt it had anything useful to say about me, because I needed a second look and a conscious decision to successfully tell black people and white people apart, in the greyscale, brightness-normalized photographs they used. Error due to this seems to me quite likely to overwhelmingly swamp error due to subconscious racial bias.

        More generally, I don’t see a strong reason to assume there’s any link at all between the patterns in millisecond-level concept association (even where these patterns are successfully teased out by the test, which also seems less likely than is being assumed) and 1. what people consciously think, 2. what people actually do, or 3. what any of these cause society, as a whole, to be like. Where there are interesting results to be found regarding 1, 2 or 3, it seems much more likely that they will be found by studying 1, 2 or 3 directly.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m not sure we’re arguing about the same thing here.

      We both agree that minority individuals sometimes display behavior which is identical to the behavior that would be called “racist” in white individuals. So we don’t have an empirical dispute.

      That leaves the dispute of whether or not we are allowed to call it racist. I’m not even taking a side in that dispute. Just saying that the fact that people treat this dispute as it it’s very very important is kind of revealing.

      The debate over whether evolution is “only a theory” takes place because creationists are making the claim “See! Even scientists admit that they don’t really know if this is true” and scientists have to tell them they’re wrong and they are not actually admitting this.

      What is the similar non-sinister reason why the debate over whether POC can be racist takes place?

      • ozymandias says:

        Technically, the debate isn’t over whether POC can be racist. Horizontal oppression is a fairly uncontroversial concept. The debate is over whether white people can be victims of racism.

        The similar non-stupid debate is that some people like going “racism is bad! Therefore you should be against racism against white people! Therefore you should spend as much time criticizing affirmative action and the Black Panthers as you do criticizing the prison system and racist hiring practices.” There are basically two strategies to deal with this. One, you can be like “okay, affirmative action and the Black Panthers are racist, but they are totally justified to deal with the worse racism against people of color, also white people as a whole face very few negative consequences from those two things, in part because of the other racism that is pervading all of society”, at which point they respond “see! You don’t care about white people’s problems. And you just said racism is GOOD. Racist!” and you lose the argument. Two, you can be like “white people cannot be victims of racism,” in which case you have a lot of sociological literature you can cite to back up this argument and it is in general much more likely to succeed.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I can think of three dozen better arguments off the top of my head. For example, “Yes, there is racism against both black and white people, but there is much more against black people.”

          I continue to refuse to believe the deny-whites-as-racism-victims strategy could possibly come about naturally. It’s like – I dunno – suppose we were worried about Iran’s nuclear program because hawks might use it as an excuse for war. In order to halt the push towards war, you might argue “Iran’s nuclear program isn’t really that bad” or “We have more important things to spend money on than invading Iran” or even “I don’t want to talk about Iran right now”. But if you say “You may say Iran has fission-based missiles, but you may not, absolutely MAY NOT, call them nukes”, and then say you’re saying that because it’s the strongest argument most likely to convince people, I’m going to get very weirded out.

        • drethelin says:

          Empirically that second tactic doesn’t seem like it succeeds at anything but getting people to stop talking to you.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          Anti-white racism is noncentral racism. People constantly make dumb non-membership claims rather than questing to slay the dreaded WAITW.

        • Matthew says:

          I think I’ve just spotted an inferential gap here, though whether it’s a gap between you and me or between me and the typical person arguing for “whites can victims of racism,” I’m not sure…

          To me “whites can be victims of racism” isn’t about attempts to correct structural asymmetries like affirmative action; that’s obviously noncentral, and Scott in fact used it as an example in The Worst Argument In The World.

          To me, the extended form would be “whites can be victims of interpersonal racism.” Imagine a hypothetical black-owned restaurant that invariably serves its white customers last, after taking care of all of its black customers, rather than taking/serving orders in the order in which people arrived. The fact that society structurally disfavors blacks overall doesn’t make this behavior okay on a micro level. The lesson on an interpersonal level should be “don’t treat people differently based on the color of their skin,” not “don’t treat disadvantaged minorities differently based on the color of their skin.”

        • Sniffnoy says:

          This seems to have a lot to do with being unwilling to acknowledge tradeoffs. Like, to my mind, the first response is clearly the better one; it is honest, avoids semantic disputes, and acknowledges tradeoffs. And the expected response to it is terrible and does not acknowledge tradeoffs. But is it really the case that that is the reason that they will go with the second over the first? Seems more likely to me that they’re simply unwilling to acknowledge tradeoffs themselves — not that they understand them but are resorting to dirty tricks to deal with someone who doesn’t.

      • Dave says:

        So I was going to say what ozymandias said, but they said it first. It doesn’t seem ridiculous to me. Or, rather, it’s ridiculous, but it’s a very common human form of ridiculous.

        I know a lot of people who, when they want to talk about X using the label L, and are faced with a community of people whom (a) they believe simply don’t want to talk about X, and who (b) keep using L to refer to things other than X, eventually end up jumping up and down and screaming “L means X dammit!” until they are red in the face and spittle forms on their lips.

        I’ve seen this happen with (L,X) = (“racism”, structural oppression of a given race), (“sexism”, structural oppression of a given sex), (“male”, possessing heterogamatic sex chromosomes), (“male”, possessing certain bodily structures), (“male”, possessing certain bodily structures and lacking others), (“male”, feeling a certain way about themselves), (“atheism”, justified skepticism about any given theology), (“atheism”, structural oppression of theists), (“Christianity”, attesting to a particular set of factual claims about the divinity of Jesus Christ), (“Christianity”, attesting to a particular set of moral/ethical claims about right action), (“rational”, not allowing emotional considerations to significantly influence our decisions), (“rational”, making decisions that optimize for achieving our goals), (“freedom”, not having force applied on me by other people), (“freedom,” being able to do stuff I want to do), (“inflammable”, capable of being set on fire), (“momentarily”, for a moment), (“momentarily”, in a moment), and on and on and on.

        And sometimes they form websites or other communities where they have the power to tell people who won’t agree that L means X to shut the fuck up.

        Of course, intensity varies. But that people often behave a certain way around labels they feel strongly about is important, independent of why ome people feel so intensely about certain labels while other people don’t.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      In my experience people really do tend to correct people on “what ‘theory’ means when scientists use it’ rather than on “what ‘theory’ really means”. From discussion here it sounds like SJ people almost uniformly correct people on “what ‘racism’ really means” rather than “what ‘racism’ means in a sociological context.”

      It’s also pretty easy to say “Evolution isn’t a theory at all the way you mean it” and pretty hard to say “Racism the way you mean it isn’t always bad”.

    • MugaSofer says:

      That’s an excellent point, Ozy. That bugged me as well, I think it kind of undermines his examples. At the same time, I feel like this isn’t the underlying logic behind many of these statements …

      Actually, you’re active in Tumblr’s SJ-sphere, right? And I’ve seen you post in favor of “there’s no such thing as female privilege”.

      Could you perhaps explain your definition of privilege, that presumably you don’t feel is subject to these motte-and-bailey issues? I mean, if it’s not too much trouble. Seems like it would be helpful.

  70. Dave Rolsky says:

    I think it’s a little unfair to tar all of “social justice” with this particular brush. I’ve been involved in social justice activism for a good chunk of my life and I’ve observed something that seems to be true across all social justice movements.

    There are two main groups of people involved in social justice. There are the people who want to spend their time talking and the people who want to get shit done.

    This blog post addresses the group that spends their time talking. In my view, these people mostly like to talk to each other and affirm each other’s world view. They’re also very excited to tell other people in their particular social justice movement how they’re doing it all wrong. They definitely *don’t* want to turn their critique into an actual campaign, of course.

    The people who want to get shit done learn pretty quickly that arguing with these other people makes it really hard to get shit done. If you can even get these other people to join up with you on some practical task, they’ll want to take over and spend all their time arguing about trivialities, and then shit gets done. So if you’re passionate about a particular cause and want to get shit done, you very quickly learn that engaging with the talkers is a good way to derail yourself and your work.

    So I’m quite there are people in the anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophic, etc. movements doing a lot of fantastic work. You probably won’t find these people arguing on blogs, however. They’re out in the real world getting shit done. These people deserve our praise and support. They shouldn’t be lumped in with the folks that this blog post is about.

    And yes, I realize this comment is quite dismissive of intellectuals, academics, and other people who spend most of their time talking about this stuff. In my opinion, if you’re not spending a good chunk of your time on getting shit done, then you’re probably wasting your time. There is definitely a place for strategy, debate, and philosophy, but it should be in support of solving problems, not an end in itself.

    • Anonymous says:

      I would be interested to hear some examples of positive shit that has gotten done. 🙂

      (As an Internet denizen, most of my social justice exposure is to angry people with blogs. I’m curious about what the non-bloggers do.)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      There is definitely a place for talking about how to achieve actual social justice goals.

      There’s also a place for getting really upset about random people who yell at you all the time and make you sad.

      This post is the second place.

      And one of the reasons I dip into the first subject so rarely is that it exposes me to the second type of people, who may consider it an invitation to come in and tell me why I am wrong and horrible. It is much easier for me to engage them on the meta-level than on the object level, so I do that. I do think I’d talk more about the first type of thing if I felt comfortable doing so, and I do think decreasing the power of the second type of people is a form of noise-reduction that serves the first goal.

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        There is definitely a place for talking about how to achieve actual social justice goals.

        There’s also a place for getting really upset about random people who yell at you all the time and make you sad.

        This post is the second place.

        Translation into SJWese:

        “I respect your Safe Spaces, please respect mine.”

    • I’m glad to hear there are social justice people doing useful work– how do they manage to avoid the noisy people who don’t want to do anything useful?

      Also (if it won’t make them into targets), could you name some of the organizations?

  71. Damien says:

    I’m just amused at how wide the meaning of “social justice” can be: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_justice
    8 hour workday, living wage, universal health care, income/wealth inequality…

  72. Eli says:

    Scott, who the hell cares? I mean, honestly, do you really encounter tumblr-grade SJWs on such a regular basis that you feel compelled to sincerely and elaborately deconstruct their argumentative toolbox instead of just calling them trolls and fucking off to do something more fun than talking to them?

    • Mark says:

      I think a lot of people care a lot. I do, at least. As a liberal, I’m extremely scared that burgeoning forms of leftist political insanity will take over and end up leaving us vulnerable to the right. These posts feel like a huge breath of fresh air to me, as well as a potentially important resource to help rein that camp in.

      Also, I work in an industry where I do encounter SJW’s and they do wield increasing power.

      • Zorgon says:

        This. This right here. It does not escape me that the word “class” has virtually disappeared from the discourse of the Left in the past couple of decades, to be replaced by endless Oppression Matrices that have nothing to do with class at all and vague intimations about “the 1%”.

        I’m not given to conspiratorial thinking, but if I was, I would consider the sudden rise of SJW thinking to be the most extraordinarily convenient diversion, considering the sudden surge to prominence in the immediate aftermath of one of the biggest failures of capitalism in a century. But again, best to beware of post hoc ergo propter hoc.

        • Damien says:

          Hmm, that’s particularly interesting given the shift or split in ‘social justice’ meanings between “8 hour workday and income equality” and “fighting sexism/racism/ableism”.

          I hang out at Bleeding Heart Libertarians sometime, and they periodically debate “social justice” in the first sense (with of course many libertarians saying that if you have to qualify it it’s not justice, and redistribution isn’t justice, etc.)

        • Viliam Búr says:

          When the guy you want to attack is too strong and immune to your attacks, it is more fun to attack a random weak guy instead. Human nature. Internet warriors need instant victories.

        • nydwracu says:

          When the guy you want to attack is too strong and immune to your attacks, it is more fun to attack a random weak guy instead. Human nature. Internet warriors need instant victories.

          Relevant.

      • Eli says:

        Also, I work in an industry where I do encounter SJW’s and they do wield increasing power.

        I’m surprised such a thing exists, even among professional activists. Could you explain?

        As a liberal, I’m extremely scared that burgeoning forms of leftist political insanity will take over and end up leaving us vulnerable to the right.

        As a Marxist, I notice that the USA started going to the hard right in the 1970s with the demonization of the student movements (as being, effectively, exactly the kind of decadent, overprivileged, whiny emotional idiots SJWs are normally caricatured as), the “free market” response to stagflation, and the ensuing four fucking decades of neoliberalism in which Capital has routinely and viciously assaulted the hell out of Labor — during which time “liberals” collectively failed to stop it.

        (Ok, I’d better explain how I’m calling SJWs and student movements over-privileged. Simple: they spend their time on cultural, emotional, and rhetorical issues because they can all afford their food, housing, and health-care. They aren’t fighting for survival, nor for happiness, nor for any other terminal value about which they care more deeply than they care about maintaining their epistemic fog. When you can spend more effort on winning arguments with other people, fought in epistemic fog, than on fighting the eldritch and uncaring universe we actually live in, you are privileged.

        Or maybe noticing the difference between those two battles is a rationality skill. Shit.)

        ANYWAY, POINT BEING, what with the Right having maintained near-total control for the past 40 years, and things just now starting to swing back towards the most utterly milquetoast forms of social democracy (like Elizabeth Warren, whom I’m proud to call my Senator… but anyway…), I am not currently aware of some way in which SJWs pose an actual danger to the accomplishment of genuine moral and political goals. I actually kinda view them as self-defeating.

        Now explain what I’m missing.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          Err… I think Mark expressed fear that SJ would be a distraction to liberals and a fleshman for conservatives to knock down. You seem to be in violent agreement with this concern.

        • Troy says:

          I’m surprised such a thing exists, even among professional activists. Could you explain?

          I don’t know what industry Mark’s in, but as an academic, political correctness is a serious concern of mine when thinking about what to publish and what I can say publicly. I understand it’s even worse for primary and secondary school educators.

        • mister service says:

          I would love to see a long empirical investigation (Anti-Reactionary FAQ style) into the various claims of the left about neoliberalism conquering the world, and the claims of the right about the dominance of the liberal media, universities, and Cathedral.

        • Troy says:

          Jonathan Haidt has done some good empirical work on this question in social psychology: http://people.stern.nyu.edu/jhaidt/postpartisan.html.

        • Anonymous5 says:

          Have you ever been to the United States?

          Several of the most outspoken commenters on the leftist/feminist side of various arguments here seemingly have not, by their own words, which I’d say has rather skewed their views, though I’m not questioning people’s experiences etc. for whatever they’ve had

          The technology industry gets a large amount of actual, contended lawsuits explicitly over “SJW type issues” all the time. That’s on type of general effects on the environment and media. Even reading any sort of mainstream media actually produced in the United States you would see SJW stuff all the time, and recently. (for instance, all the recent “diversity statistics” published for businesses like Google, the assertion that Asians are “the same as whites” by media and so on)

        • Mark says:

          So the main thing is that they seem to be an amazingly effective propaganda tool to recruit centrists to the right, at least for specific causes relevant to the SJW platform. I confess I don’t really have statistical evidence for this claim; it’s just my general impression from having followed them. I would argue that the situation is roughly analogous to the influence of the Westboro Baptist Church on acceptance of homosexuality. WBC would spontaneously airdrop in to random public gatherings, spout dogmatic, hateful nonsense, hurt people’s feelings pointlessly and then leave without having accomplished anything discernibly helpful to their cause (except, perhaps, a few lawsuits to help the church keep rinsing and repeating). Given the incredibly media coverage they were able to garner for themselves, they were enormously embarrassing to cultural conservatives and served as a convenient reductio ad absurdum the left could point to for anyone still on the fence about the basic dignity of gay people.

          SJW’s aren’t as dogmatic or hateful as WBC is, but they’re a lot more numerous. They probably don’t have the same media traction yet, but they’re becoming more visible in the wild (see #CancelColbert and the Suey Park interview). And they absolutely, positively love to antagonize/alienate the most powerful majority groups whenever they can. Explicitly so. Because the left mostly closes ranks around them when they choose to pay attention at all, it’s mainly just rightists who are there to call SJW’s out on their insanity and reassure centrists that they aren’t, in fact, particularly oppressive individuals with no right to their own opinions.

          This might be forgivable if SJW’s were good at accomplishing anything worthwhile. But, as you note by calling them “self-defeating,” they mostly aren’t. Sometimes they can raise money for the odd grassroots cause, which is good, but they more frequently just viciously attack whomever’s most convenient, polarize anything they come into contact with and strangle cross-partisan coalitions (e.g., Brendan Eich at Mozilla). So they’re a huge liability and I want to see them contained.

          I’m surprised such a thing exists, even among professional activists. Could you explain?

          Sure. Tech feminists (where by “tech,” I mean “programming”) are starting tons of women’s organizations and have won over a lot of prominent community leaders. I have absolutely no problem with that, of course, but a very large number of them follow the worst kind of SJW tactics to the letter. This includes frequent calls to boycott companies for minimal offenses (e.g., Bitbucket initially refusing to ban a harmless piece of satire), organized lobbying of employers to fire individuals perceived to say very borderline sexist things in private or otherwise on their own time (Donglegate, @zivcjs), ostracizing highly-regarded programmers for less than perfect conformity (like not changing masculine pronouns to gender-neutral ones in library documentation), hurling waves upon waves of public abuse at any visible target (endless examples can be supplied) and building in no-disagreement-allowed clauses into any space they have control over (Double Union, a feminist hackerspace, literally bans “playing devil’s advocate”).

          I don’t ultimately think any of these things are that horrible or that my industry is ruined or anything. And most feminists in the industry aren’t like this at all. It’s just that everything is suddenly very charged, and it’s increasingly difficult to avoid that charge. No doubt feminists would say it only feels this way because they’re bringing misogyny that we want to sweep under the rug into sharp relief – and to a large extent that’s true, but it simply fails to tell the whole story.

    • von Kalifornen says:

      The problem is that, while the tumblr form is certainly salient, there are many more nice, moderate people who just disengage or fail to notice arguments about this sort of thing.

    • Madeleine Ball says:

      (Yeah, I guess Eli’s version is another way to put it.)

    • Armstrong For President 2020 says:

      “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you”

      It is increasingly easy to pick a ‘high-status’ but not particularly well-liked target, like say a crotchety old millionaire or a young nebbish-y doctor, and casually ruin his life with accusations of racism or misogyny. Tenure, organizational bylaws, even the actual law will not necessarily protect from losing your livelihood and being made a toxic outcast. And the list of offenses continues to expand and become more subjective.

      Since SJ and intersectional feminism are at the cutting edge of inventing these new accusations, it makes sense to fight back if for no other reason than to make a less appealing target.

    • Nick T says:

      This is (or feels) hard when your friends and your community include many (generally reasonable and nice) people who think that SJ is basically a good thing, think good people pay attention to it, don’t understand why good people would have negative affect about it, etc., and who at least sometimes see people who use motte-and-bailey arguments as good and part of the same tribe as them and reblog their stuff etc. It’s like how someone who’s been hurt by fundamentalist Christianity might feel if their friends and community are full of Christians who, while largely harmless themselves, see “Christianity” as essentially good and Christians as by default their allies.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yes.

    • Kaminiwa says:

      Scott’s complaints actually pretty well address the Sexism 101 class I took in college. It was 5 credit hours of learning about how men are evil, women can’t be rapists, etc.. The professor took pride in making one man leave in tears because, the student argued, he had been rather severely abused and it was ridiculous to suggest that the average, non-abused woman had it worse off than him. The professor took *pride* in belittling and dismissing the experiences of an abuse victim, because it supported his misandrist agenda.

      Let me emphasize: College Professor.

      I realize that the professor is just one bad apple, but then there’s the culture that prevented any of us from really calling him out on it. If my history teacher had asked us to join his after-school KKK rally to “hear the other side”, he’d be fired on the spot. This man suffered no consequences from actively preaching hate.

      So that tells me that somewhere in my culture, this professor’s viewpoint is actually supported.

      In other words: it’s not just trolls and tumblr-warriors.

  73. Madeleine Ball says:

    Scott, when you write stuff up like this – as interesting and plausible as it may be – I think you should ask what you hope people are walking away with. And then try your best to realistically assess what you think they’re actually going to walk away with. (i.e. I’m worried you’re not doing this meta-analysis.)

    I mean, I suspect you’d like to see the social justice movements improve their logic/language in their attempts to better humanity. However, it’s also possible that you’re inadvertently undermining them and cultivating an personal audience highly unsympathetic to social justice. (i.e. I’m not sure I want to continue following your posts. Beware your echo chamber.) It’s not that I think you’re wrong — but I fear you’re picking nearby targets (in metaphorical intellectual/social space) because you’re more familiar with them, not because they deserve it.

    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      Engaging with people because you are familiar with seems like a good policy to me. If you’re familiar with them then you are more qualified to discuss the topic in question; and if you familiar with them they probably have a greater ability to affect your life (and indeed this is the case with Scott).

      I mean, I suspect you’d like to see the social justice movements improve their logic/language in their attempts to better humanity. However, it’s also possible that you’re inadvertently undermining them and cultivating an personal audience highly unsympathetic to social justice.

      Getting SJW’s to improve their logic/language (ie. put down their weapons) is not a plausible goal. Getting socially liberal people who might otherwise be tempted by SJW rhetoric to be more wary of it is a much more plausible goal. I think Scott has succeeded at that.

    • Gareth Rees says:

      I agree with Madeleine. The point about language is good, but the rhetoric is not. Instead of “hostility toward the abuse of language in these social justice forums” it’s “hostility toward social justice,” and instead of “the thing that these social justice people do” it’s “the thing social justice does”. This conflation of the tactics of some members of the movement with the movement itself is something that we might overlook once or twice, because we know that Scott is sympathetic to the movement’s aims. But if he keeps on doing it, Madeleine’s right that his audience will change.

      You’ll recall the Sokal affair, I’m sure, where Sokal had a similar point about the use of motte-and-bailey tactics by postmodernists like Bruno Latour. (Latour appeared to claim that nature had no influence on the resolution of scientific controversies—that is, scientific outcomes were purely the result of social processes within the scientific community—but when challenged, he was able to retreat to the safe position that this was just a methodological simplification, not an epistemological claim, his language being of course ambiguous between these two positions.) Sokal was well aware that in mostly criticizing other people on the left, he ran the risk of his arguments being understood as coming from a right-wing position, so he was always careful to make it clear that his criticisms were coming from the left.

      Scott might consider doing something similar, however repetitive this may seem.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Hostility toward social justice seems justified until such time as the movement fixes its shit. Are you going to deny the oppressed the right to hate the entire oppressor class?

      • tiny nerd says:

        I’d go so far as to say that this post (and frankly the majority of anti-SJ) are abusing motte-and-bailey pretty constantly themselves. The “motte” is the perfectly reasonable idea, that everyone will accept, that people within the sj movement often abuse their rhetoric to shut down debates. They really shouldn’t, but I try to be sympathetic because 99.95% of debates between rival internet factions are just stupid flame wars with no attempt at reasoned discussion and quite frankly people deserve a right to stop that from happening and construct safer discussion spaces. The defensive culture of shutting down bad lines of conversation is certainly harmful, though, and the only people who don’t agree with that are the ones who just want to abuse it and don’t give a damn about social justice.

        Where I have a big problem is when (for example in this post) people try to use that obvious fact to make some bigger point about how the aims of the social justice movement are all bad and anti-intellectual and the only point of the movement is to destroy people’s lives for no reason. I know Scott didn’t actually say that, but how else am I supposed to interpret:

        Everybody is racist.
        And racist people deserve to lose everything they have and be hated by everyone.
        This seems like it might present a problem. Unless of course you plan to be the person who gets to decide which racists lose everything and get hated by everyone, and which racists are okay for now as long as they never cross you in any way.

        I feel that the whole point of this argument and everything like it is to implicitly extrapolate from “people who claim to represent the social justice movement often act in hostile ways or intentionally shut down discussions” to “social justice is a vast conspiracy to poison and bring down civilization and holds all the power and whoever’s against it are noble heroes and definitely not racist or sexist at all.” It’s that constant implication that makes this post seem so hostile. I’ve seen tons of SJ people say much harsher things against the use of hostile or anti-intellectual tactics, but I would never object to that because they don’t then imply that the correct stance is to be against social justice itself. At a certain point one has to recognize that the principles or goals of a movement are more important than how jerks abuse its rhetoric, because jerks can abuse any rhetoric.

        • Matthew says:

          In the US (and various other places), we equipped local police forces with all sorts of military-grade weaponry. And now our militarized police forces conduct no-knock raids for nonviolent narcotics offenses (now expanding to include other, even less serious crimes), often hurting innocent people in the process. This isn’t because police officers are bad people. It’s because when you give people weapons, they will end up using them.

          Scott and the other non-neoreactionary critics of Social Justice Warriors on this blog don’t think that social justice activists are bad people. We think they’re building rhetorical heavy weaponry for themselves, and this is dangerous regardless of those activists’ character.

        • suntzuanime says:

          I would say that how jerks abuse a movement’s rhetoric is much more important than the movement’s principles and goals, because jerks abusing rhetoric is something that actually affects the world, while principles and goals are empty rhetoric that have no effect on anything.

          Maybe you meant something like, we should look at the ratio of decent, principled people in the movement to rhetoric-abusing jerks?

        • Nornagest says:

          To be entirely fair, no-knock raids aren’t a weapons issue, they’re a tactics issue. You could spin a plausible just-so story linking that with the militarization of police departments, but giving them a lot of guns won’t get you there on its own.

        • MugaSofer says:

          Where I have a big problem is when (for example in this post) people try to use that obvious fact to make some bigger point about how the aims of the social justice movement are all bad and anti-intellectual and the only point of the movement is to destroy people’s lives for no reason. I know Scott didn’t actually say that, but how else am I supposed to interpret:

          It’s pretty simple, actually.

          Scott is very much in favour of equality. He is *also* in favor of free speech.

          (If anything, free speech is more important; because it’s a meta-level principle that’s needed in discussions to determine whether we should care about equality.)

          So if someone uses rhetoric *about* equality to *attack* free speech, he’s going to object. Not to their stateded goal of equality, but their actual result of censorship.

    • Said Achmiz says:

      But wait; why is it bad for people to become highly unsympathetic to social justice? Isn’t the point here that social justice, as a movement/social phenomenon, is hopelessly diseased and actively evil? Sounds like a good thing to be unsympathetic to!

      • mister service says:

        I don’t think that’s the point at all. I don’t want to speak too much for SA, but it seems like the point is more like “to the extent social justice embodies the principles used to defend the motte, it is necessary and good.” And I agree.

        • “to the extent social justice embodies the principles used to defend the motte, it is necessary and good.”

          And that is where Scott goes wrong.

          If the motte meaning of the word ”racist” was useful, we would have had the word and related words a thousand years ago. The word, and like words, were created to control the bailey, and if all they controlled was the motte, would wither away.

          Natural inequality between groups requires systematically different treatments of groups.

          For example, most women behave disruptively within male hierarchies. Of course “Not all women are like that”, but it is not really practical to separate the wheat from the chaff. Further, a fertile age female within a male hierarchy will disrupt it through no fault of her own and cannot help doing so, no matter how well she behaves, short of having her chaperoned at all times. The obvious solution is to have sexually segregated hierarchies, where women can only be in charge of women doing women’s work and cannot be in charge of men, except for their sons of course.

      • Multiheaded says:

        “Social Justice” might be quite evil on an absolute scale, and still superior in important ways to business-as-usual/bourgeois liberalism/power vacuum/whatever. Therefore, those who would dismantle it might be better people, with better motives, than the typical loud activist, but it might be really bad if the former succeeded.

        (I realize that this is how a generic unintelligent conservative talks about things, yeah.)

        • Said Achmiz says:

          One response (not necessarily one I endorse; I’d have to give it more thought) might be:

          “Dismantling social justice would not return us to the former status quo. The former status quo is irrevocably gone; social justice — or rather, the good and just movements out of which modern “social justice” arose — have seen to that. These have now served their purpose. Now they are only doing evil, and must be dismantled.”

        • My bet is that if/when SJ goes away, it will be dismantled from the inside– it’s a horrible social environment.

          The people doing the work will not be the people who’ve done most of the damage.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I try to make one social justice post per month or fewer.

      If your theory about how dangerous it is to write one social justice post a month is right, that probably indicates a state of the world where I need to write more than one social justice post a month 🙁

    • mister service says:

      Are you equally concerned that social justice bloggers that employ the equivocation tactics discussed here (or the errors in rape statistics Scott discussed previously) are harming their readership by giving them rhetorical tools based on falsehood? If not, why not?

      For what it’s worth, I get the sense that Scott isn’t trying to help or harm the social justice movement so much as he is trying to think critically about what they’re trying to accomplish and sharing his work. It’s my impression that he has still expended much more effort in refuting the neoreactionaries, and yet many of them happily still come here to debate.

      Seeing the comments section here turn into an anti-social justice echo chamber would be a huge disappointment. I hope that you will stick around (and perhaps, at the very most extreme, ignore posts that that deal with social justice topics by taking a quick look at the content warning).

      • Madeleine Ball says:

        I’m not equally concerned because I think this crowd self-labels as “thoughtful” and so I expect better!

        I read TNC and I think he is very careful and thoughtful about his points. He is humble enough to admit he may sometimes be “sonned”. When thoughtful folks want to discuss social justice, I think they should make an effort to seek out high quality material in that domain – not excoriate the low quality end. I fear this merely leads some readers to see the constellation of issues we might consider “social justice” as incoherent or poisonous concepts.

        I won’t always be able to weigh in, so I’m hoping some people get out there and expand their horizons to look for high quality material.

        • nydwracu says:

          You’re assuming that the only point is intellectual engagement with the best claims of social justice.

          If another point is to develop a typology of common failure modes, social justice is a useful target: its worst is very, very bad, and it’s much nearer than most other potential targets.

          If another point is to attack things that are powerful and very, very bad, social justice is visibly gaining power, and the parts that are gaining power aren’t always the best parts.

          If another point is intellectual engagement with a movement as it actually exists and is observed, there’s no reason to suspect that every single piece of social justice Scott comes across is drawn from its best parts.

          I suspect that Scott is aiming for the first and third, and not the second.

        • MugaSofer says:

          I think Scott’s posts on Reaction are his engagement with the motte of social justice.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      An additional point worth adding – every time I write one of these things, I get a bunch of messages from people who say things like “Thank you so much, I always wanted to say something like this but I couldn’t put it into words and was too scared to try”.

      On Facebook right now, I have a female friend who has shared this saying she’s sharing it for the sake of all the men who are probably afraid to do so, and a bunch of men thanking her and saying that, in fact, they wanted to share this and were afraid to do so.

      This makes me think that, despite the whole “things i will regret writing” tag, I am in fact doing some people a service.

      • Madeleine Ball says:

        Yes, I’m sure with a bit of tweaking you can have it both ways – make these important points while also keeping the bigger picture of a more just world. 🙂

      • Scott F says:

        Here’s one more message, of “Thank you so much for putting this into words, you have crystallised something for me that always felt off but whenever I started to discuss it I was attacked”.

      • Madeleine Ball says:

        Scott, I wasn’t entirely honest about my feelings here because I wanted to be nice – and clearly you’ve been burned by some not nice people. But I think I’m going to have to be a little more honest because I do think you’re building an echo chamber that amplifies reinforcing viewpoints. Your post, it got me down, I think I’ve got to stop reading your stuff. I will explain.

        One paragraph that really got me down was the compare/contrast of an low status male with an attractive feminist. As someone who has been living as a straight woman, I was not attractive. Am not attractive. In the past I broke social norms to ask men out and suffered rejections and embarrassment. This paragraph left me feeling like the opinion of high status women, and the pain of low status men, were what mattered to you (and the demographic you represent). Perhaps these are all that are visible to you. And as I enter middle age I feel all the more sympathy for women like me who haven’t been so lucky, who are alone, and increasingly unattractive (for youth is so unfairly important in a woman’s attractiveness).

        You’ve built some interesting logic around some selected situations, but what I took away from it was someone fighting for the plight of the low status people you know and love – with such narrow vision that you would seem to disregard the pain of other large segments of the population. Segments that may very well feel a lot more pain.

        So, like, I gotta let you know: this got me a bit down. Okay maybe a lot down. I can’t let stuff like this drag me down, so I shouldn’t be reading what you write. I tell you this not as a plea for personal sympathy, but because you deserve some honest feedback before I disappear, because you need to know when you’re losing people like me. Sorry for not being tougher.

        • Armstrong For President 2020 says:

          Guilt tripping people is a genuinely shitty thing to do, and you should feel shitty for doing it. /irony

        • Thanks for posting that. As a woman who was ordinary looking mundanely and moderately attractive in sf fandom, I didn’t feel that the ground of what it’s like to be a woman had been adequately covered.

          The social punishment women get for making the first move is a large part of the situation between men and women, and doesn’t get discussed nearly enough.

        • Multiheaded says:

          You’ve built some interesting logic around some selected situations, but what I took away from it was someone fighting for the plight of the low status people you know and love – with such narrow vision that you would seem to disregard the pain of other large segments of the population. Segments that may very well feel a lot more pain.

          Perhaps the same could be said of all identity politics!

          🙁

          Thank you for being outspoken, Madeleine! I sympathize with what you describe (although obviously I can’t really understand, being AMAB and conventionally attractive) and agree that this is A Marginalized Narrative.

        • @Armstrong: She’s not guilt tripping, she’s explaining how the post made her feel.

          @Madeleine: It saddens me to see voices like yours leave this blog.

          I don’t mean to diminish your experiences at all. I fully acknowledge finding a mate for women, especially unconventionally attractive ones (or as they age) can be extremely demoralizing and unfair. I’m sure Scott cares. It is, however, already an acceptable thing to discuss within the social justice sphere.

          Meanwhile, it is also totally acceptable to blatantly mock low status men (for example). All this post tried to do is explore why the culture of social justice allows that.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          The social punishment women get for making the first move is a large part of the situation between men and women, and doesn’t get discussed nearly enough.

          This is something I’ve actually spent a lot of time ranting about, and I agree – it doesn’t get discussed nearly enough.

          One of my frequent rants in the kink scene goes something like “Guys, if a girl approaches you and you aren’t interested in her, tell her no gently and ENCOURAGE HER TO KEEP TRYING. Otherwise, the next time you complain that asking girls out is hard, or that you always have to make the first move, I get to kick you in the nuts. Girls, if another girl approaches a guy and you feel like you want to give her shit for it, STOP THAT. It is not ‘slutty’ to make the first move. Things would go a LOT EASIER for ALL women if guys didn’t ‘have’ to make the first move. If you want gender equality, fucking act like it.”

        • coffeespoons says:

          Thanks for writing that. I don’t often see people writing about what it’s like to be a less attractive woman. I was considered unattractive as a teenager, and I think my experiences were very different to those of my good looking female peers. My life changed a lot when I developed some social skills and learned to dress well, at the age of 22 or so.

          Not sure that Scott’s to blame for not taking the experiences of unattractive women into account. I think feminists often don’t, and he’s responding to them!

        • Multiheaded says:

          Meanwhile, it is also totally acceptable to blatantly mock low status men (for example).

          As a pro-misandry person: this shit is way, way out of line and perfectly illustrated by Von Kalifornen’s observation. Seriously, there are some good reasons for feminists to deprioritize helping out low-status men, there’s a whole rather sinister Nash equilibrium in which the class interests of #yesallwomen and low-status men might clash in a scary way… but this is just le cringe. Related fact: “neckbeard” has been officially verboten on /r/ShitRedditSays for a while now, for this very reason.

        • Nornagest says:

          @Multiheaded: Can you elaborate on von Kalifornien’s observation? I can hardly imagine actually finding someone that stereotypical short of growing him homunculus-style in a vat full of horse urine, but it doesn’t seem to be impossible in principle — I don’t see much in the way of actual contradictions.

        • Multiheaded says:

          I mean how he says that the SJWs broke their own bingo card. That’s a stunning example of how being undeservedly mean demeans oneself. The whole circlejerk looks incredibly stupid and cringey when taken so far.

        • Nornagest says:

          Yeah, I get that. How is it broken?

        • Zorgon says:

          I’ve talked quite a bit about the problems of low-status men in this comment section so I wanted to respond to this.

          As I mentioned upstream, I live in something that’s pretty clearly a low-status intersection; I’m into a LOT of low-status things and I tend to be surrounded by weirdos and subculturalists of the less acceptable variety. As a result, over the years I’ve seen a LOT of unpleasantness aimed at the people I know and love simply because of who they are.

          So I’m sympathetic to the problem. That said, I don’t think low-status women face quite the same Gauntlet Of Horror that low-status men do, and I think a certain amount of the time low-status women have a habit of restricting their attempts to approach only to higher-status men. Over time I’ve seen waaaaaay more expressions of annoyance at being approached by low-status men than I have expressions of annoyance at being unable to approach men. Indeed, often that annoyance at being approached is even framed in the context of it making it harder to attract the attention of higher-status men. “How am I supposed to find a hot guy with all these geeks swarming me?” is a close paraphrase of something someone once said to me.

          To be abundantly clear, I am NOT AT ALL suggesting that this is directly relevant to your own problems or that it is indicative of all low-status women; I do know plenty who went through long periods of frustration with not being able to find anyone they wanted, not least since many women in these groups lack the social confidence to push convincingly against the expectation that they will not approach. I’m adding this as a personal observation of a difference between low-status groups overall. It may indeed be something specific to my own peer group, I don’t know, but I felt it did bear mentioning.

          • Giovanna says:

            Thank you for posting this, Madeleine. I am a straight white forever single (sigh) 65-year-old female who has been physically unattractive all my life. Although I’ve always had many friends, both male and female, I haven’t been seen as a romantic partner. Didn’t matter how well I dressed, how much makeup I slathered on, what perfume I wore. Guess you could call me an “omega” female. I finally came to the conclusion that something was off with my pheromones as well as with my conventionally unattractive features.

            I’ve had too many experiences of being attracted to perfectly nice men, never being asked out by them, gathering up every bit of my courage to ask them out, and being rejected with some version of, “Oh, I’m flattered, but I just see you as a friend.” It hurts more every time.

            I long more and more for companionship, love, and, yes, physical closeness but it is denied me, while all my female friends are dating, kissing, having sex, getting married. I go out with a mixed-sex group of friends and they’re all paired up, cuddling, holding hands, except for me, and, oh, the frustration and loneliness and lack of physical contact is almost impossible to bear. Although I am successful in my work life, and my friends love me, my self-esteem plunges lower and lower until I am deeply into clinical depression.

            The few men who have asked me out are – how can I put this delicately – well, something or a lot of things are seriously wrong with them – like horrible hygiene, drug/alcohol addiction heavy-duty psychosis…

            Actually, in my 40s, I finally was asked out by a man who I found very attractive, who seemed to be kind, clean, highly intelligent, gainfully employed, and pretty darn emotionally and physically healthy. I was THRILLED. Had never happened before. After six months of dating, he asked me to marry him. Wow! My years of loneliness were over!

            Turned out he had been hiding a severe substance abuse problem, had been fired from every job he ever had, was living in his parents’ house (which he had told me was his house, but I found out his parents did live there but were on a long vacation), and after that ring was on my finger he was never again sober, became dangerously paranoid, finally violent, and after hanging on for a while (stupidly, but I was so afraid of being completely alone again) I left for my own safety.

            After that experience, it was back to never being asked out, and to men telling me, “Sorry, but I just see you as a friend.”

            I have often wondered where the other women like me are. Where is our forum?

        • Multiheaded says:

          @Zorgon:

          How do you know which women in particular are “low-status”? If you mean nerd women, then well, they’d have to get along with male nerds to even be there, no?

        • Zorgon says:

          That’s the same question as “how do you know who low-status men are”. Our culture does not exactly lack signifiers for status.

          Low income (especially but not uniquely “educated poor”), non-mainstream-friendly subcultures, no particular career focus, strong interest in non-mainstream subjects, disabilities (mental or physical), and either poor social skills or excellent-but-hypercontextual social skills are the most common kinds I encounter, mainly because they overlap with my own status traits.

          “Getting on with the nerds” doesn’t really factor into it, tbh. It doesn’t change the dynamic much. I’ve still never once heard a low-status woman complain about not being able to approach men; the complaint is always either that men don’t approach her, or that she’s approached by too many low-status men.

          Again, purely my experience and it is quite likely a large number of women in my social circles have had severe issues with being rebuffed in humiliating or embarrassing ways without ever mentioning it. But the voiced complaints are strongly different.

        • nydwracu says:

          So it’s a twist on the Soviet spy problem: the norms are unclear about who’s supposed to initiate. This is why challenging conention is a bad thing — when the scripts break down, people are stuck having to figure everything out for themselves! But the script has already broken down, so now female would-be approachers have to figure out whether the relevant male holds the old norm or not.

          I suspect there might be a solution to this (follow the usual ambiguous signals of interest -> as-unambiguous-as-possible-while-still-leaving-an-out signals of interest sequence with a waiting period and approach if he signals interest back but doesn’t approach first) but obviously I’m not in a position to say empirically whether that works.

        • MugaSofer says:

          @Madeline:

          This comment seems openly manipulative. Knock it off, would you?

          I think the point about comparing attractive women to unattractive men is an important one, and I’m kicking myself now for not noticing. Well done!

          I’ve noticed myself and other do it in various situations, and it seems to be a major unconscious stereotype/erasure thingy.

        • MugaSofer says:

          Uh, sorry, pretend I said that in a less condescending manner. I really did mean it, not sure why it came out so awful.

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        Very much so.

        That does, of course, make you a target.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        (I didn’t actually see this until someone linked me to it today)

        This depresses me. You were one of the commenters here I most respected.

        Everything can only be a limited view. When feminists talk about the plight of [woman in x situation], one could say they’re neglecting (and by extension marginalizing) all the other pain in the world. When I talk about the plight of certain people (of any gender) who have been burned by certain social justice memes, one can accuse me of the same. It’s not my intention and it seems to be something fundamental to the process of writing an essay at all – ignoring everything not covered by the essay – but I can understand why it would bother you.

        I am disappointed to see you go, but I can’t promise there won’t be more like this in the future so I probably don’t have any good arguments to stop you from doing so. All I can say is I continue to try (with good success) to stick to a rule of one or fewer angry post about identity politics a month, and I will always content warn the one per month that is.

    • drethelin says:

      Scott wants to be able to hang out with the cool young people (who are into social justice) without them terrorizing and alienating his uncool young/old people (who are not into social justice).

    • Ashley Yakeley says:

      Your fears may be well-founded: I’m becoming less sympathetic to social justice in favour of what might be called social improvement.

      What’s the difference? Social justice is about making things fairer and more equal. Social improvement is about making things better for everyone, for anyone, for at least someone, even if it means making things less fair and less equal. I think I’m in favour of any Pareto improvement, even those that make the world more unfair.

      In practice, I recognise that there is by-and-large more scope for improvement of those who are worse off than those who are better off. So I’m a “good liberal” on plenty of issues.

      In theory and in rhetoric, however, I am for instance very much in favour of privilege. Privilege is a good thing; lack of privilege is a bad thing. I believe we should encourage, nurture, support and spread privilege to everyone.

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        I believe we should encourage, nurture, support and spread privilege to everyone.

        Unfortunately, privilege is pretty inherently non-positive-sum. Once you start granting the advantages of privilege to everyone, it stops being privilege and becomes simple freedom and support.

        • That’s one of the problems with the SJ definition of privilege– it conflates what everyone should have (like not being at arbitrary risk from the police) with what no one should have (like being able to get away with serious crimes).

        • Luke Somers says:

          It would still be ‘privilege’ in the most relevant sense, though – no one would have to think about a lot of these problems, so everyone in that future would have ‘privilege’ compared to the people today who have these problems.

        • Hainish says:

          “That’s one of the problems with the SJ definition of privilege– it conflates what everyone should have (like not being at arbitrary risk from the police) with what no one should have (like being able to get away with serious crimes).”

          So very true.

        • Andy says:

          That’s one of the problems with the SJ definition of privilege– it conflates what everyone should have (like not being at arbitrary risk from the police) with what no one should have (like being able to get away with serious crimes).

          But sometimes one leads to the other – before the Civil Rights era, how many white men actually got in trouble for killing black men or abusing black people in general? How many crimes against black people were just never investigated, because the society cared more that social order was maintained than punishing privileged people who committed crimes?
          Or look at Ethan Couch, who got probation rather than prison for reckless driving that killed four people and inflicted massive property damage, then had lawyers who argued that he was so rich that he couldn’t be held responsible for his actions.

        • It’s complicated. From one angle– people talking about what their lives are like– the two kinds of privilege are just both present, and as Andy says, sometimes entangled.

          However, if you’re talking about making the world better, then it’s important to distinguish between what everyone should have and what no one should have. If you don’t, then privilege just looks like a huge intractable lump.

          Also, it’s worth distinguishing between getting equality by making unprivileged people’s lives better vs. making privileged people’s lives worse.

  74. Richard N says:

    Warning: I struggled to find a way to clearly convey my point in this comment, but hopefully it comes through. Apart from this criticism I thought this was a great post.

    So there are certainly a lot of people who self-identify as part of the “social justice” movement who are guilty of the things you have described. But I’m perplexed why you keep doing this thing where you talk like the “social justice movement” consists entirely or almost entirely of people who do that, as if they’re a cohesive, organised group who have decided they should all use this particular shitty argument tactic. You seem to do the same thing with feminism and your “I’m not a feminist” posts. It’s obvious you share more or less the same terminal values as the people who identify as social justice people or feminists or whatever, and yet you attach your criticisms of some of the bad tactics used by some of its members to the label itself, even though it doesn’t seem like it would hinder the message in any way to say “so I’ve seen some people in the social justice movement doing this” rather than just “so here is what social justice does”

    Is it just a bait tactic to get people to read your posts?

    • Lesser Bull says:

      #NotAllSocialJusticeWarriors

      • Kaminiwa says:

        Okay, that made me laugh and deserves recognition (and if I get a spammer-ban for this, it was worth it :))

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I wrote:

      “I think there is a strain of the social justice movement which is very much about abusing this ability…”

      I’m not sure how much more clearly I can emphasize that it is a strain rather than just the whole movement. At this point, I feel like no matter what I say I am going to receive this criticism as a sort of Argument From My Opponent Believes Something.

      • Richard N says:

        You also wrote, “I recently learned there is a term for the thing social justice does.” This was the first sentence.

        I think you conflate the concept ‘social justice’, which clearly isn’t an entity capable of taking actions, with people who self-identify as members of the ‘social justice movement’, who clearly are. You use the term interchangeably for both, and it comes away as an implication that the people who self-identify as members of the social justice movement are sufficiently homogeneous in their behaviour that such a conflation is reasonable. I don’t think you actually believe this, but it’s still an impression that I got from reading the post.

        When you’ve said previously that you’re not a feminist, I was momentarily struck by confusion. “What do you mean, you’re *not* a feminist?” The meaning of the word ‘feminist’ is controversial and that controversy often derails discussions of actual issues of gender politics, so I personally don’t self-identify as a feminist either. But if someone asks me “are you a feminist” I wouldn’t say “no”, because I wouldn’t have any confidence in what ‘feminist’ means to other people. Instead I’d say, “I don’t describe myself as one because I find the word problematic, but I share the goals of dismantling systematic disadvantages, eliminating prejudice, etc etc”.

        Whether you actually believe they do or not your writing style about ‘feminism’ and ‘social justice’ always seems to imply the assumption of a lot more cohesion and homogeneity of the movements than I think is warranted.

        • Andrew says:

          I don’t get the complaint. Is “the thing social justice does” not a perfectly unambiguous denoting phrase?

        • Hainish says:

          Andrew, it is, and it seems to be denoting the wrong thing.

      • “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”

        When it is pretty obvious that individuals, groups, races, and categories of people are not equal, and in their everyday lives, the people who wrote that acted as if people were not, in fact, created equal.

        So equality definitely is a theocratic religion – a belief held without regard for evidence, and imposed with fire and sword. Heretics are punished.

        Profiling is in practice inequality before the law. A bunch of drunk black young men is dangerous. A bunch of drunk middle class middle aged whites is not. So you make it illegal to be young and drunk, and selectively enforce the law so that it is mostly applied to black males. Why not confess and have different laws on drug and alcohol use by blacks and whites?

    • Ialdabaoth says:

      So there are certainly a lot of people who self-identify as part of the “social justice” movement who are guilty of the things you have described. But I’m perplexed why you keep doing this thing where you talk like the “social justice movement” consists entirely or almost entirely of people who do that, as if they’re a cohesive, organised group who have decided they should all use this particular shitty argument tactic.

      That isn’t my reading at all. My reading (perhaps because it’s my own sentiment, and I’m projecting) is that the bare ideas of the Social Justice movement are something that Scott would very much like to participate in, but the execution of those ideas are often so toxic and tainted that it spoils the whole thing.

      “What are you talking about? That’s almost 95% grade-AAA filet mignon right there! There’s only a little bit of shit and pus on it.”

      Or, perhaps even more accurately:

      “Allergy? But the sauce is only like, 5% peanuts, and it’s only sitting on *top* of the meat. Can’t you just scrape it off and eat around it?”

      • Hainish says:

        I was able to get to some of the non-toxic core of SJ, but I did have to wade through a lot of the toxic stuff to get there. I’d love to find participants in non-toxic discussions of social justice issues. (However, I don’t think I’ll necessarily find them here, for very different reasons.)

        • Kaminiwa says:

          Could you elaborate on those reasons? I keep wanting more safe space to discuss SJ, but the crowd here is kind of one-sided. And a one-sided discussion isn’t a lot of fun, even if it is nice being on the popular side for a change.

        • Alrenous says:

          The problem seems to be there’s two kinds of people, which I will metonymize here.

          Those who think men and women the same, and care about social justice.

          Those who think men and women are different, but don’t care about social justice.

          Obviously no dialogue is possible between these groups. They can separate territorially or they can fight to the death.

          As far as I can tell, the set of people who think men and women are different, and therefore certain social status inequalities are inevitable, but we should do the best we can anyway, is just me.

          As a more incendiary example:

          Female physicists are rare because they’re oppressed.

          Or:

          Female physicists are rare because they’re dumb.

          Me: female physicists are rare because they’re dumb, so we should do our best to stop affording social status to intelligence.

          We could at least acknowledge that this venal status is in fact venal.

          Though, come to think, I honestly prefer, “Being high status doesn’t demonstrate you’re a good person. It’s evidence for the opposite, in fact.”

        • Randy M says:

          People can get status for a great many things, although, partly thanks to feminism, feminine things gain a good deal less status than masculine things, even as masculine things are opened up to females, although (if you buy certain differences between the men and women) women are on average disadvantaged on these things.

          We no longer say “behind every great man is a great woman” because that implies that women doing those great things is non-normative; however, now the status gains from being a superlative enabler is eliminated.

        • Andy says:

          People can get status for a great many things, although, partly thanks to feminism, feminine things gain a good deal less status than masculine things, even as masculine things are opened up to females, although (if you buy certain differences between the men and women) women are on average disadvantaged on these things.
          We no longer say “behind every great man is a great woman” because that implies that women doing those great things is non-normative; however, now the status gains from being a superlative enabler is eliminated.

          One can argue that a goal of liberal feminism is to ensure that “achiever” and “supportive enabler” are not necessarily gendered, and that in fact a couple can fall into those roles without being of different genders, like Dan Savage and his husband Terry. As a male, I feel like I’d be happy with either an “achiever” or “supportive enabler” role, though I can’t be sure about that.

        • Matthew says:

          This doesn’t seem like it solves society’s problem at a macro level. Let’s suppose that society actually agreed that a)the healthiest relationships consist of one achiever and one enabler, b)these were both valuable roles, and c)they weren’t connected to sex/gender.

          What if it turns out that (making a number up) 70% of both men and women can get more life satisfaction as achievers, and 30% as enablers. There’s no way to make this work so that everyone is happy (well, assuming that people generally want to find a mate).

    • It looks like a fair description of the social justice movement to me, but it’s plausible that I’m still traumatized from racefail.

      Who would you recommend as social justice people who don’t use weaponized equivocation?

  75. Armstrong For President 2020 says:

    Excellent post, one point I want to emphasize a bit more is how unbelievably ‘sticky’ privilege gets compared to it’s supposed definition. One particularly cogent example was an argument that I was involved in a few years back over whether a white is still privileged as a foreigner in a homogenous first world asian country; the consensus was that even if they were to experience prejudice for being a gaijin, they still are the one with more ‘institutional power’ in the situation somehow. Even casual examination of the way privilege attaches shows that it is a tool designed to target white guilt rather than any kind of useful descriptor of the world as it exists.

    By the way, it doesn’t seem like anyone else has mentioned it but I had trouble not laughing out loud on the bus when I read the bit about “my precious fingers”. That was a really inspired bit of humor.

  76. Rob says:

    I think the motte-and-bailey metaphor is a great one, and a very useful way of expressing something that I’ve often thought about but had trouble expressing.

    That said, it seems clear to me that this is a tactic used by individuals, rather than an attribute of movements. Members of different movements may engage in it to a greater or lesser extent, but any idea/concept/term that has both weak defensible versions and stronger harder to defend versions is open to this, and that includes almost anything. A couple of examples that come to mind from more in-group-y sources:

    Motte: “Technological Singularity” just means that there’s likely to come a point in the future where technology advances so rapidly that predicting beyond that point is impossible
    Bailey: This will happen at 12:01 on January 1st 2045, and then we’re all going to be uploaded into computers and/or robots and it will be awesome

    Motte: “Rationality” just means making better decisions and gaining more accurate beliefs about the world
    Bailey: This is done by blocking off all emotion, considering only quantifiable things, and solving all your personal problems with mathematics and the rigorous application of the scientific method.

    I’m not drawing a direct equivalence between the groups or movements, or the extent to which they lean on this tactic, but there are people out there with those bailey positions, and when they’re attacked they retreat into our motte whether we want them or not.

    My point is that most ideas can have this tactic applied to them, and many do. And this means that this pattern is likely to highlight a lot of false positives, of the “Fallacy Fallacy” type. It’s not enough to observe that an idea has a strong and a weak version, you have to observe the tactic itself being executed. I don’t think Scott is wrong in this case, but I urge caution in applying this shiny new rhetorical tool.

    • Eli says:

      Fortunately for the rationalists, there are explicit warnings and instructions for “good rationalists” on why you’re not supposed to “go Spock”. Also, our “motte” is Cox’s Theorem, which is actually quite a strong argument: “By these maths, we can guarantee you will lose at life if you don’t use evidence to reason.”

      • Rob says:

        To be clear I’m not trying to make an object-level point, just apply the pattern broadly enough that people get to feel it from both sides, and to try to get a head-start in countering the widespread misapplication that I predict will occur if this motte-and-bailey idea goes mainstream.

      • anon says:

        What do you make of evidence showing that those with time-inconsistent preferences or preferences that violate expected utility tend to make more money? Or evidence that Bayesians are less accurate at making predictions?

        http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1692437

        http://ideas.repec.org/p/otg/wpaper/1308.html

        I like epistemic rationality, but I like instrumental rationality a lot more. And I wish someone had told me about these studies before I got into studying cognitive biases.

        But hopefully these studies are wrong. I just found them a couple days ago, and have yet to research these issues in any greater detail. Anyone who can comment on this should please do so.

        • Alrenous says:

          Evolutions is smarter than you. Generally, when researchers think a human is failing a game, they’re winning at a more important game. What game? I would have to outsmart the researchers & evolution, and I’m not seeing enough incentive to do that much work.

          Generally speaking conscious rationality is really hard because consciousness’ bandwidth is very low. The subconscious commands something like ten thousand times the neurons. While it is possible to outsmart the subconscious – consciousness still exists, it must be adaptive – it is painstaking.

          Consistent subjects earn lower than average payoffs because most of them are consistently impatient or consistently risk averse

          So, for example, humans have moods. It’s easier to let the moods give you, on average, the right payoff rather than trying to fight the moods and hit the right balance every time. But I’d have to dissect the paper to find out exactly what they’re missing.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Actually, your first critique (re: singularity) is an extremely good one, one I have probably been unintentionally doing, and one I’m glad you made (the second one seems kinda made-up).

      On the one hand I agree it is a characteristic of individuals. On the second hand, some movements can predispose to it or have many more of these individuals than otherwise. On the third hand, there is a pattern where one person plays the motte, another person plays the bailey, and although the two people may disagree with each other and not be working together, the overall effect on the outsider is the same.

      For example, if Fred Phelps keeps saying horrible things and attributing them to God, and every time an atheist complains about it Thomas Aquinas pops in and says “But God is just the form of the good, you need to debate my nine thousand pages of scholastic philosophy before you can launch a complaint” this is going to get old really quick even if Phelps and Aquinas aren’t actually working together. From the theists’ perspective it’s not their fault, but from the atheist’s perspective she might reasonably feel as if an unfair burden is put upon her.

      • Nornagest says:

        Funny, I thought all the instances of a Jan 1, 2045 Singularity that I’ve ever seen in the wild were explicit about being a best guess and therefore pretty defensible. You could apply motte-and-bailey thinking productively to e.g. Kurzweil’s highly specific predictions of progress in various fields, though.

        The rationalist one doesn’t quite hit the mark, but that’s more because what the average rationalist sees as blocking off emotions etc. is quite different from what Joe or Jane Sixpack sees as blocking off emotions. Misunderstanding what your movement’s being criticized for is a likely cause of a lot of motte-and-bailey behavior, though, so it still counts.

        • Creutzer says:

          Still not convinced by the rationalist one, even if “attempting not to act impulsively and on a whim, not feel sad without good reason, etc.” should count as “blocking off emotions” for other people. The reason is the particular relationship between the suggested motte and bailey: the latter is supposed to be derived from the first by logical and practical inference.

          This conversation does not show motte-and-bailey tactics:

          A: Being rational, we should do X, Y, and Z.
          B: No, you shouldn’t. That’s a crazy notion of rationality.
          A: But rationality is just about winning. X, Y, and Z are conducive to that goal, as far as I can see.
          [B: Okay, you’re probably right./No, here’s why they actually aren’t.]

        • Nornagest says:

          “Blocking off emotions” is usually a tone complaint, not a content complaint. Most rationalists faced with the charge do not understand this and fall back to defending content.

      • Rob says:

        Yeah, I had a much harder time writing the second one because I agree with the general rationalist position more. Nonetheless those positions are real. “Rationality” is much bigger and older than the current internet rationalist community, and in fact in raw numbers there are probably fewer people out there who’ve heard of confirmation bias than there are people who are just straight-up trying to copy Mr Spock.

        But like I say, I don’t think the object level is very interesting here. I guess what I’m trying to do is reframe this as a general problem of discourse rather than a dastardly trick that our hated rival (and only our hated rival) is trying to pull. The most productive question to ask, I think, is “What do you do if you are Thomas Aquinas?” (or if you’re the good kind of singularitarian or social justicar etc.)? How do you avoid unwittingly becoming half of a motte-and-bailey tag-team?

      • Jack says:

        I think this metaphor works really well, that motte-and-bailey is often something different people do, it’s not always a deliberate tactic, but it can be equally harmful to sensible discourse.

        I think all movements have _some_ motte (a bunch of stuff that makes sense), and some bailey (a bunch of stuff that’s emotionally appealing and rhetorically effective, forming a loose penumbra around the motte). Sometimes the bailey grows out from the motte. Sometimes the motte is constructed later to provide a justification for the bailey. Sometimes there’s no motte at all, just a bunch of rhetorically successful ideas with no underlying meaning at all.

        And people in that movement are likely to think “oh, ok, the arguments in the bailey aren’t perfect, but everyone knows they really mean motte-arguments, right?” even if that’s false. And people outside that movement are likely to look at the bailey and say “this is self-serving bullshit”.

        So the questions are (a) are the ideas composing the SJW motte accurate and worth fighting for (I think so, and I think you do too?) And (b) is the SJW bailey penumbra especially toxic (I’m not sure)?

  77. James James says:

    “weapons”

    Yes, rhetorical tricks. Conceptual superweapons, where even pointing out that they are rhetorical tricks is evidence of guilt.

    You can tell that they are weapons because they are often brought up (1) in place of counterargument, and (2) vaguely — why exactly is my privilege relevant? The response “OK, I’ve checked my privilege and I think my argument still stands” doesn’t go down well.

    • James James says:

      (A: “Check your privilege!”
      B: “Yep, the pool’s still there!”)

    • Alrenous says:

      B: “KNEEL BEFORE ZOD.”

      A: [Doesn’t kneel.]

      B: “Ah, it’s not working. Thanks for letting me know! I’ll have to get that fixed.”

  78. Anonymous53 says:

    That linked story about the lizard and the dog is infuriating. If we want this parable to represent what is actually going on, the lizard has already have turned the thermostat to 80 degrees, and the dog is trying to have a conversation with the lizard about what the “fair” level is. The dog is trying to be precise about what he means by “fair”, to quantify the degree of harm that is done to each agent, and to find a principled way to agree on a temperature that maximizes the average utility. However, the lizard is trying to block the dog from taking part in the conversation, by tainting him with the unforgivable sin of having “privilege”.

    • Ialdabaoth says:

      That linked story about the lizard and the dog is infuriating. If we want this parable to represent what is actually going on, the lizard has already have turned the thermostat to 80 degrees, and the dog is trying to have a conversation with the lizard about what the “fair” level is. The dog is trying to be precise about what he means by “fair”, to quantify the degree of harm that is done to each agent, and to find a principled way to agree on a temperature that maximizes the average utility. However, the lizard is trying to block the dog from taking part in the conversation, by tainting him with the unforgivable sin of having “privilege”.

      Moreso, we’re sitting here dwelling on the fact that a cold-blooded lizard is incredibly uncomfortable if the thermostat is below 80, ignoring the fact that a warm-blooded dog with fur adapted for an arctic environment might be uncomfortable if the thermostat is above 75. If, in our analogy, we’re noting that the dog has no concept of ‘too cold’ with which to respect the lizard’s needs, might we also acknowledge that the lizard isn’t exactly respecting the concept of ‘too hot’ that the dog’s needs revolve around?

      • Sam Rosen says:

        Often when liberals and conservatives talk one side notices that too much of a thing is bad and the other side notices that too little of a thing is bad but they don’t seem to appreciate that both have legitimate worries. (And although the sweet-spot doesn’t have to be somewhere in the middle, it tends to be.) And because it’s good to illustrate abstract ideas with concrete examples: We don’t want no cops and we don’t want a cop on every single block all the time.

        Sometimes SJWs make me notice harms that I wouldn’t have noticed because of my lived experience. This is good! Learning to be a better person! But when SJWs deny, in principle, that they could be committing harms unwittingly it’s really, really terrifying. Especially given that they should be the first ones to realize that people are often blind to the lived experiences of others.

        • One of the things I find terrifying about a fair number of SJs is their insistence that when they cause emotional pain, it doesn’t really count.

  79. Zorgon says:

    As someone mentioned above, there’s another dimension to “privilege” that is missing from the GIF and resultingly* from the discussion. Most definitions I’ve seen include an element of inherent ignorance, born of lack of experience of the context and assumptions and received wisdom covering that lack.

    This is why it comes across as “talking where you’re not wanted”, “belittling my experiences” and so on – the underlying idea is that the privileged person not only has a distorted view of the situation due to the gap in their understanding caused by their privilege, but is also unable to see that fact due to the assumptions and received wisdom (along with a couple of oddities of assumed status, which leads to things like “mansplaining”).

    This does make the core premise of privilege less fundamentally aggressive, although to the average educated middle class person it’s probably going to come across as being at least passive-aggressive (“I would engage you, but you don’t really know enough to be worth engaging”). But the key part is the ignorance, and a BIG part of this, repeated over and over again in pretty much every single definition of the term I’ve ever seen, is that the privileged person does not know they’re privileged, or else is actively defending their privilege and thus being a shitlord. In this way of thinking, it’s an article of faith that the behaviour of the SJW conception of a decent person would not continue to intrude on oppressed people’s discussions of the situation if they were aware of their privilege, as doing so is in itself an act of oppression; you’re “talking over” the oppressed, “negating their experiences”, and so on, by continuing to express your privilege-distorted views.

    So since virtually every definition includes ignorance of privilege as a core element of having it, you’d think that it’d be the case that in complex multidimensional oppression structures like gender relations (in which it’s trivially easy to demonstrate statutory and/or institutional prejudice against either gender in pretty much every Western nation) it’d be taken as read that “female privilege” had to exist by definition. Women get lower sentences for the same crimes, more cancer funding, and at least in my country, cannot legally be found guilty of rape except in extremely unusual circumstances. Most of these privileges are things most women will never think about and usually think don’t happen, because of received wisdom and assumptions. Seems an open-and-shut case for their definition of “privilege”.

    But… well, we saw above where that goes. Wanting a rapist to be legally considered a rapist if they have a vagina is “whiny man syndrome”. What joy.

    Yet here’s a question. Certainly we could consider this the careful pruning of the superweapon stock, guarded and kept only for the in-group and used to control and limit discussion only to their terms and their framing. But the thing about it is, there isn’t any part of this that isn’t explained by their own conception of “privilege”. They’re simply every bit as unable to see it as any of the men they so furiously condemn.

    Maybe they’re just more right than they think they are?

    (*Really, Chrome spellcheck? You’re going to pretend the 150 year old word “resultingly” isn’t in the dictionary?)

    • Zorgon says:

      Also, I’ve just realised that I post more about SJW stuff here than anything else by a factor of about 3:1. I’m not sure exactly why, other than that SA’s viewpoint on this pretty much mirrors my own.

      Maybe I’m being tribal about it? For a lot of the posts Scott is talking about far-off stuff like statistics and psychology/psychiatric health, which are outgroup for me as a coder. So I just smile and nod and assume he’s right (within the Internet boundaries of assumed expertise) rather than commenting.

      • Kaminiwa says:

        I tend not to post anywhere else because no place else seems inclined to listen, think over a novel point, and give an apt, on-target rebuttal.

        I’m also idly of the belief that people here are more likely to actually be convinced by reasoning, and more open to changing their minds, but that’s mostly because everyplace else seems to run a 0% chance of that >.>

      • lmm says:

        I do the same, but is it really tribal if you’re just more interested in topic X than topic Y?

    • xachariah says:

      I’ve certainly encountered social justice people who would agree that those are instances of privilege, though they’d generally say that these instance are caused by the same sexism that limits women and are hence perfectly compatible and at times even addressed by feminism. I would agree that feminism could address those claims, but am skeptical that it effectively does so. The problem is that feminism isn’t really set up to advocate for men’s rights or concerns, and that the current “men’s rights movement” mostly seems to consist of people who just really, really hate women.

      That fact that the (online) presence of men’s rights advocates is thoroughly anti-woman (and not just anti-feminist, genuinely woman-hating), means that feminists who have encountered a discussion of the men’s issues you mention tend to see any attempt to talk about those issues as an outcropping of the woman-hating portion of the men’s rights movement. Which is part of the reason for the hostile reaction when you bring up those issues.

      • Crimson Wool says:

        the current “men’s rights movement” mostly seems to consist of people who just really, really hate women.

        As someone who fairly regularly goes to a variety of “men’s rights” websites (judgybitch, genderratic, r/MensRights, etc), and has done some substantial trawling of others and sites that get talked up in the “men’s rights community,” this is wrong, really wrong, and I wonder if it is actually based on any actual experience whatsoever because I have no idea how you could possibly come to this conclusion by legitimate investigation.

        E: To be clear here, I’m asking for some kind of citation so that I can actually respond to this idea because it sounds outrageously wrong to me, like saying “”rationalists” just hate people with IQs below 110.”

        • Nornagest says:

          I get the impression that Genderratic/girlwriteswhat-style men’s rights, PUA theory, and pseudo-reactionary or outright neoreactionary stuff in the vein of r/TheRedPill or Heartiste all get lumped under “men’s rights” as far as SJ is concerned. Never mind that these groups are concerned with very different things and a lot of them hate each other.

          A secondary issue is that even places like Genderratic tend to attract a lot of men that’re really bitter about their treatment at the hands of e.g. the custody system or an abusive ex. That might easily be misinterpreted as “hates women”.

        • xachariah says:

          I apologize, this was a little too hastily written and I should have been more careful in my statements. I was specifically referring to groups like A Voice For Men and the Men’s Rights Conference, which received a lot of coverage and featured genuine woman-hating. I’ve seen similar anti-woman comments in most men’s rights fora I’ve seen, but I should not be tarring the entire movement with the actions of some its members. My apologies.

          I will note that a lot of the conversation I’ve seen from both judgybitch and r/MensRights (not familiar with genderratic) will be parsed by social justice as actively hostile to them. It should not be a surprise that arguments associated with those groups would then elicit dismissive responses. Nor should it be surprising that men’s rights groups tend to be dismissive of feminism, then. I am not sure where this interaction started in this way, and to what extent the dismissal of each group is a result of that interaction or a result of internal developments.

          A lot of this is very disappointing because I think many (perhaps even all) men’s rights issues are perfectly compatible with the feminist movement, and there’s no real reason for the adversarial relationship that exists now.

          EDIT: I think both of Nornagest’s points are correct, too.

        • Crimson Wool says:

          I apologize, this was a little too hastily written and I should have been more careful in my statements. I was specifically referring to groups like A Voice For Men and the Men’s Rights Conference, which received a lot of coverage and featured genuine woman-hating. I’ve seen similar anti-woman comments in most men’s rights fora I’ve seen, but I should not be tarring the entire movement with the actions of some its members. My apologies.

          I do think that many MRAs do use some language and discussion terms that feminists (and probably many people in general) don’t feel comfortable with, but I don’t think that this represents woman-hating. Pretty much all the examples of “woman-hating” in those links are things that, for whatever value I agree or disagree with them, are just not woman-hating.

          There are some ideas in the MRA-sphere that are very antithetical to feminist theory, and so get brought up as “look at how misogynistic MRAs are,” but I think are actually fairly reasonable positions. For example, there is a degree to which reasonable fear leads people to enter and remain in abusive relationships; and there is also a very substantial (and, IMO, probably larger) degree to which things like love, self-delusion, and just plain old stupidity lead people to enter and remain in abusive relationships. The latter is something that MRAs are a lot more willing to talk about than feminists, since (a lot of) feminists view the latter as just “victim blaming” whereas a common MRA interpretation is more like, “being in an abusive relationship is bad and your abuser isn’t going to change so you’re the one that has to (by getting out).” To a (lot of) feminist(s), saying “you can avoid abuse by not dating abusive men” is just saying “it’s your fault, P.S. I hate women,” but I don’t think that is at all the intended content. (There’s a lot of object-level arguments in the above statements you can unpack but please just steelman it for the moment because it’s not really the point.)

          There is also an extent to which MRA discussions employ irony, humor, satire, hyperbole, etc, and then get intentionally misinterpreted as literal, or get sucked out of any kind of context. The article about “Bash a Violent B—-” mentioned in one of your links was, for example, an article about men applying violence… to their abusers. i.e. defending themselves. Is that woman hating? In feminist circles, it’s pretty common to promote retaliation for male abuse; is that man hating? I suppose it could be argued; but that is not what is being argued.

        • xachariah says:

          Let me rephrase my earlier point: I think the strain of the men’s rights movement represented at the Men’s Rights Conference largely blames women for its problems, and this reads to outsiders as being anti-woman. See, for instance, Stefan Molyneux:

          “If we could just get people to be nice to their babies for five years straight, that would be it for war, drug abuse, addiction, promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases,” he said. “Almost all would be completely eliminated, because they all arise from dysfunctional early childhood experiences, which are all run by women.”

          (As far as I can tell, the content is nonsense anyway, but that’s a little beside the point). Conflate this with a recurring theme of blaming women’s issues on women (rape is blamed on how women act or dress), or trivializing women’s problems (like the gender wage gap, frequency/seriousness/sincerity of sexual assault), and you have at least a portion of the movement that comes across as very unfriendly to women. And when that portion of the movement then actively attacks feminism, I think you have a combination of factors that at least plausibly read as being just anti-woman, if not in intent and specificity, then at least in result and as a whole.

          As for the larger movement, I honestly don’t think the problem is that the issues the men’s rights movement wants to address are antithetical to feminist theory. Many of the structural issues both movements want to address are caused by a gendered view of society. The conflict seems to occur when (a portion of) one group blames the other group, rather than the structure of society, or when one group tries to minimize the other group’s issues.

          The eternal problem of the internet is that both sides will be flooded by comments from the worst part of the other side, which then leads to dismissal of the other side as a whole etc.

          But I also find it interesting that those pieces I linked to all seemed to agree that the men’s rights movement had genuine grievances, and people genuinely in need of help they were not getting. At least two of those authors agree with social justice aims, which makes me think that the communication gap isn’t really as large as it appears to be.

        • Crimson Wool says:

          As for the larger movement, I honestly don’t think the problem is that the issues the men’s rights movement wants to address are antithetical to feminist theory. Many of the structural issues both movements want to address are caused by a gendered view of society. The conflict seems to occur when (a portion of) one group blames the other group, rather than the structure of society, or when one group tries to minimize the other group’s issues.

          I think this has basically three causes:

          1. Some MRAs are “feminists-turned-MRAs” who had a pet issue that they expected feminists to be amenable to but found that they were not, generally speaking (e.g. me). Other MRAs had similar experiences, where they, while not feminists, experienced hostility from feminists due to their position or something particular that happened to them (e.g. trying to get support for DV but instead getting accused of being an abuser yourself). Members of this group have experienced enough hostility from feminists to push them away from the movement.

          2. The theoretical framework of feminism is frequently absolutely atrocious at analyzing and solving men’s issues. “Patriarchy did it” is not helpful and doesn’t really solve anything, and saying that men’s issues will naturally be solved when we solve Patriarchy (which many feminists say) is roughly equivalent to saying “we’ll get around to it eventually, when all our problems are solved,” which is roughly equivalent to saying “no we won’t.”

          3. There are several points of practical difference, where there are two “sides” and MRAs are definitely on one side and feminists are definitely on the other (at least as a group). These would include: false rape accusations (they happen enough vs. they don’t), education (we need to encourage girls more vs. we need to encourage boys more), domestic violence (men need protection more vs. women need protection more), and custody (women need more bias/to keep as much bias vs. women have too much bias)

          There are two major results of this:

          1. MRA culture develops largely independently from feminist culture because it has to. I was going to say “theory” but that’s not quite true; certainly there’s a degree to which theoretical concepts control these subcultures but ultimately it’s in large part down to things nobody ever says.

          2. MRA culture develops to contrast feminist culture because many people inside of it know the “teams” and they know feminists aren’t on theirs and never have been.

          These, in turn, mean that when MRAs talk, a lot of them are tacitly (or openly) arguing against feminism. Thus you get the examples in your article of things like a guy joking about “add that I told you to make me a sandwich” or a slide about “stop objectifying me, that’s rapey!” The latter is obviously an attack on feminism in particular, but the feminist hears it and takes it as an attack on women.

          Going back to the beginning, why does the “feminism turned me into an MRA” group exist? It’s a question I’ve definitely asked myself, since it was pretty FUCKING annoying to be called a misogynist for giving a shit about [pet issue here] and using cited, publicly available, high-quality sources to back up my positions. My best guess is this:

          A lot of feminists think that if you disagree with them, it is because you are actively malicious to them (and women in general), regardless of what you actually believe. Any disagreement is sublimated misogyny. I can say that, on a couple occasions when I got “told to leave the room” one way or another on an internet forum (kicked, banned, warned, etc), I saw people explicitly state afterwards something to the effect of, “I don’t think he realizes it, but he is only bringing these things up because he’s a derailing misogynistic shitlord.” How do I hate women without even realizing it? How do I engage in a sophisticated rhetorical attack, apparently on accident? It’s so fucking absurd. One moderator said he didn’t think I’d even read studies, and was just deceived by some cherry-pickers on the subject (this is completely false and he was an idiot who had no idea what the fuck he was talking about), but I was still definitely a misogynist.

          I don’t understand how this even makes sense (if I was legitimately deceived, wouldn’t that just make me… legitimately deceived? Not a misogynist?), but that was a common view of my behavior: that somehow, without even knowing it, everything I did was because of my secret misogyny that was so secret even I wasn’t aware of it, but FORTUNATELY all these random idiots on the internet did, because otherwise they might have had to actually meaningfully engage with my points rather than roll their eyes and say “not this again.”

          It should be obvious that this is a pretty fucking toxic viewpoint which encourages anyone interested in these issues to go elsewhere. I don’t think its existence caused the modern MRM, I think the modern MRM is the consequence of it.

          As to why it exists… well. I guess it’s a pretty good ideological superweapon, as things go: everyone who disagrees with you is actually just a bigoted woman hater.

          EDIT: Sorry if I come off as angry here, it’s an old, sore point, for me.

        • Zorgon says:

          I think you could boil down a LOT of the problem into this conflation:

          – Feminism stands for women’s rights and against their oppression
          – Feminism is therefore good for women by default, since anything outside it must be against women’s rights and for their oppression
          – Therefore anyone who disagrees with feminism is anti-woman.

          It’s kind of endemic in virtually all discussions about gender pretty much anywhere. Anti-feminist == anti-woman. Therefore it doesn’t matter if you’re GWW or r/mensrights or the utterly wonderful feministcritics.org (whom I highly recommend) or Heartiste or RedPill or some PUA hive; if you’re against feminist dogma, you’re anti-woman by default. You must be, or you’d be a feminist, right?

          All that said, the biggest part of the problem is that there really are a whole lot of vile assholes out there calling themselves MRAs. You could make an argument that the main authors somewhere like AVfM are for the most part only misogynistic if you engage in careful cherry-picking, but you don’t have to cherry-pick their comment threads. They really are filled with vile assholes, clusters of them clapping themselves on the back for being so “un-PC”.

          Of course, Jezebel’s comment community is just as bad on the other side, it just practices better editorial control (except when it accidentally admits it finds domestic violence or genital mutilation funny when they’re committed against men). But it would be a flat-out untruth to pretend that many major MRA sites are not swarming with misogynists.

          (And I will reiterate – Manboobz/WHTM etc are not reasonable places from which to garner a viewpoint of MRAs by any stretch of the imagination. Not only is David Futrelle a vile man who should probably slink back into his cave with the other male rape erasers, but reading his site to get a viewpoint on MRAs is effectively the same thing as reading Stormfront to get a viewpoint on Jews.)

      • xachariah says:

        [removed due to threading mistake]

        • You missed the bit about war being women’s fault. I don’t know if there’s an MRA consensus on the subject, but the fellow I had the misfortune to talk with claimed it was because women are attracted to men in uniform.

  80. James James says:

    “motte and bailey tactics”, “strategic equivocation”

    Stephen Law (a British philosopher) gives an example of priests who tell stories about miracles. When challenged, they might admit that actually miracles do not happen. But, “when the atheist has left the room”, they go back to telling children stories about miracles as if they are literally true.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I am also suspicious of “family values”.

      Opponent is in the room: “That just means that we want strong families who love and care for one another!”

      Opponent leaves room: “Yeah, we really don’t like gay people”.

    • Mary says:

      “When challenged, they might admit that actually miracles do not happen. ”

      Or again they might not.

      Or again they might perform a miracle on the spot.

      Hypotheticals are so much fun.

    • MugaSofer says:

      I have never knowingly met a priest who would admit “miracles do not happen”.

      They will all admit some specific miracles did not happen, historically – but that’s not the same thing at all.

  81. Mark says:

    SJW-types are confronted with the dictionary definition of “racism” a lot. I’ve always seen them react the same way: the dictionary was written by white men. It’s a pretty cryptic response and they just leave it at that, but the only interpretation on which it makes any dialectical sense is “lexicographers are publishing word meanings they manufactured out of whole cloth in order to advance their anti-minority political agenda.” This still doesn’t make a huge amount of sense, because even an entirely manufactured meaning is a valid entry if it sees enough colloquial adoption. And of course it’s just absurdly conspiratorial/obviously factually incorrect.

    Maybe they have a slightly better defense available: your concept of the non-central fallacy. The prototypal examples of racism we all think of have certain features that make them feel extraordinarily horrific, whereas prejudicial harms against white people, while perhaps technically “racism,” lack these characteristics. Therefore, calling them “racist” is just a way of unfairly sneaking in hidden connotations that don’t really apply. But it’s too much work to explain at length how this works to the masses, so let’s just go with the useful approximation “racism against white people doesn’t exist.” In much the same way that we’ll go around public discussions saying that taxation isn’t really theft, even though it technically is (just *good* theft).

    I still don’t find this steelman convincing, nor do I expect anyone commenting here to do so, either, but it seems like it’s nevertheless a way to move discussion forward if you’re otherwise truly at a loss for things to say.

    • falenas108 says:

      This is not what SJW people would agree with. It would be more, the old white dude who wrote the dictionary doesn’t have an understanding of systematic oppression against groups of people, so of course the dictionary definition wouldn’t include that.

      • Mark says:

        That would be an appropriate explanation for why the “racism = institutional power + racial prejudice” definition doesn’t occur as another entry in the dictionary, not for why the “racism = racial prejudice” definition does occur in the dictionary.

        • falenas108 says:

          Because racism=racial prejudice is used by basically everyone who doesn’t understand the institutional power part.

        • Mark says:

          They’re not just saying that the “power + prejudice” definition is valid, they’re saying the plain “prejudice” definition is invalid. The only way for a dictionary definition to be invalid, rather than valid but omitted, is if the lexicographers are just making things up or are seriously misled about the word’s actual common usages.

        • Zorgon says:

          There is an irony in this – the ability to prescribe the meanings of words and expect those meanings to be believed and accepted is a clear and obvious expression of power.

        • tiny nerd says:

          (note: first time commenter, dangerous tumblr sj and trans here)
          I think 99% of the people earnestly discussing SJ really agree with your “steelman”. When you ignore people Getting Mad and look at discussions rather than flame wars the consensus is, yeah, the dictionary definition of racism is misleading because it specifies only the most visible forms of racism, whereas a lot of other forms of race-based exertion of social power do exist that inconvenience or harm people, and it would be wrong to give that a pass. (The same applies to any other -ism you care to name).
          Where I think you’ve missed the point is that nobody using the “the dictionary was written by white people” argument /wants/ to have an honest discussion. They’re looking to silence tiresome pedants on purpose (and honestly, I pride myself on valuing debate and whatnot but when someone decides to resort to the dictionary to attack the given definitions of words rather than an argument it’s often a sign that they’re a disingenuous jerk and it’s time to go home) and pull out that argument as a defense mechanism. SJ is really… tiresome to deal with because so many “arguments” are this type of pithy meme that’s actually meaningless, and just meant as an “I-don’t-want-to-engage-with-this” signal. Being really defensive makes a certain amount of sense when you always feel threatened, but this leads to the SJ “attitude” covering up all their ideas in sarcasm/in-crowd stuff, venting, and defensive reactions to any threat against safe spaces in a very self-sabotaging way.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Being really defensive makes a certain amount of sense when you always feel threatened, but this leads to the SJ “attitude” covering up all their ideas in sarcasm/in-crowd stuff, venting, and defensive reactions to any threat against safe spaces in a very self-sabotaging way.

          Incidentally, this is not unlike how some conservatives on Less Wrong have previously described their view of their own little club. Probably minus the (obvious) self-sabotaging, but with a whole lot of obscurantism and thick ink clouds whenever pursued.

    • I’m pretty sure I’ve seen claims that prejudice by lighter-skinned people of color against darker-skinned people of color isn’t racism because it’s really white people’s fault.

      • Nornagest says:

        Funny. I actually think that’s one of the cases where a systemic/sociological approach to racism is better justified, since that sort of prejudice clearly has a racial character, at least if you’re talking about African-Americans rather than, say, Chinese people, and yet racial background per se is presumably not being attacked.

        (I suppose you could argue that presumed degree of European admixture is the basis for comparison, but there’s too much chaos in human skin-color genetics for that to work very well. Not, I suppose, that rigor is called for here.)

        • I’ve seen it called colorism, and that might be a sociological analysis, but I assume it can’t be called racism because that’s a special sort of badness which is unique to white people.

        • Mary says:

          Probably class-based.

          It can be seriously tiresome to point out, when discussing European fairy tales, that the “fair”=”pale” and “dark”=”ugly” has nothing to do with race, that the people telling these tales had never seen anyone black, and that pale was beautiful because it was rich.

          Of course, in the pale-skinned black, the racial dilution did indeed help with the class status.

        • Nornagest says:

          Yeah, when that’s historically come up it’s almost always been a class thing — hence the aside about the Chinese, although it would have been just as true in 1700s France or modern India. I don’t think that line of thinking makes as much sense in the modern US, though — a tan might not be as much of a class marker as it was twenty years ago, but the lack of one isn’t plausible as a class marker either. Too many of us work indoors.

          (There does still seem to be some stigma against having a farmer tan, though. Or maybe that’s just a rural thing? I don’t remember it ever having come up since I moved to the city.)

      • AJD says:

        The reason it’s not called racism is because it’s about discrimination based on a feature other than race.

    • Andrew says:

      Tangent:

      Taxation isn’t theft. Or is debt collection also theft? No, of course not. Theft is not merely the moving of property between parties by force. It is a violation of property norms, and taxation isn’t a violation of property norms.

      • Andrew says:

        My comment above was correct but failed to address the core matter (of the tangent!), so I will add:

        To call taxation theft you must assume that there is some “one true” property norm against which theft is a violation, rather than the realist position that property norms are simply whatever a society normalizes. But “one true property” is untenable. The fact that property norms factually differ between societies shows this. In most societies, “stealing wives” is an informal kind of property violation, but only in a few is it an actual legal violation. In modern societies, illicit copying is practically a property violation, but that was not always so. To cure yourself of this disease, research trespass law, right of way, water extraction rights, and the SCOTUS case putting the airspace into the commons. You can’t come out of all that thinking that there is one true property.

      • Alrenous says:

        To call taxation theft you must assume that there is some “one true” property norm against which theft is a violation, rather than the realist position that property norms are simply whatever a society normalizes.

        Quite.

        It’s not difficult. It’s this: if I buy a loan, I agree to collection. I never agreed to be taxed. Is the moral difference not obvious?

        Imagine a state said at your 18th birthday, “Congratulations on your majority! Now please sign this contract stating you’ll pay taxes in perpetuity, at whatever rate we see fit!

        In return, we’ll give you a pension and pay for your medicine. Or not! Whatever we feel like! If we abrogate our half, you still have to uphold your half, or we’ll shoot you!”

        Nobody would sign this contract. Nobody would sign this contract because they can impose it on you without your agreement; there is no incentive to remain virtuous, so they become corrupt. (The [goodness-of-our-hearts] principle clearly doesn’t work.)

        How about this one:

        “Hey there store-opening entrepreneur. We’ll protect your store against vandalism and shoplifting, in exchange for 7% of your sales revenue.” Honestly that’s a expensive deal, but it might be worth it.

        It’s not worth it, because it’s not an agreement. States, in fact, don’t protect stores against shoplifting and vandalism. Stores have to that themselves anyway.

        If taxation was not theft, states could offer voluntary taxation schemes, and citizens would actually sign on. That the taxation is not voluntary is by itself sufficient proof that it cannot be for the benefit of citizens.

        Or: imagine a civil right was a real right – a property right. Imagine when the police fail to protect you from crime or fail to recover your stuff, you could sue the state for damages. Imagine that Britons under the NIH could sue if a relative died while on a waiting list. It’s all smoke and mirrors. They claim they’re claiming responsibility, but they’re only claiming your money. Fraud is another fitting term.

        • Andrew says:

          You seem to be under the mistaken impression that debts cannot be imposed except by contract.

          E.g., if I sue you and I win a judgment court, you owe me money, and I get to collect on it by force. You never agreed to that, but it’s still not theft.

          Taxation is necessary for the legitimacy of the property rights that underpin contracts. It’s a social quid pro quo. Without the taxation, nobody would put up with your property rights (which, recall, they never agreed to, in exactly the same sense that you never agreed to taxation).

          You want to throw out the half of the social contract that benefits the people who own the least, while keeping the half that benefits the people who own the most. Well, I’ll avoid getting into that political conflict here. But it’s a bit of sophistry to pretend that one half is more voluntary than the other, or to condemn the liabilities created by one half on the basis of the assets created by the other half. It’s a bundle deal. You don’t get to create a social concept of “theft” until you agree that your property rights are absolute. That is, if you want to renegotiate the entire social contract, you have to throw out the whole thing first, not use half of it to condemn the other. Those two halves are in contradiction for a reason: they balance each other out.

        • Andrew says:

          Of course, that sentence should read:

          You don’t get to create a social concept of “theft” until you agree that your property rights are not absolute.

        • Mary says:

          Except, Andrew, you seem to think that the state has automatically won a judgment against people and does not even have to take them to court — and for what tort? Existing?

          Bad analogy.

          You need to say that taxes are not theft because they are taxes and defend it accordingly.

        • Alrenous says:

          You seem to be under the mistaken impression that debts can be imposed by coercion.

          I notice you don’t address my point that if states provided an actual good that was more than their cost, citizens would sign up voluntarily. I must therefore conclude you concede that states in general cost more than they serve.

          In a healthy society, one signs up with a court for protection, meaning I agree to be sued if I perform certain torts. Or, we can say I choose to coerce, which inherently makes me liable for torts.
          Either way, I’m never liable for standing around minding my own business.

          Short history of English courts: they were not only private but delegated enforcement to the victim. This still worked because violence is that expensive; the defendant preferred to keep the neutral third party as an option by accepting the ruling, even if they clearly would have won the fight.

          Taxation undermines property rights. Indeed property rights do not exist to the extent taxation does.

          There is only one coherent definition of property, which is reasonable expectation of control.

          At 100%, it means nobody can expect to control any of their property. They will therefore not try to obtain any wealth, which means total tax receipts will be zero.

          At 50%, it mean nobody can expect to control some property, which means they won’t try to obtain it, which means the taxman doesn’t either.

          If we extrapolate down to 0%, then we get huge wealth for everybody, except the taxman.

          This is exactly the same relationship as with thieves. If thieves can steal everything, nobody acquires anything to steal. If it’s just pickpockets, nobody gets wallets and they still can’t steal anything. If it’s dollars, or say, drachma, then trade breaks down and you get feudalism.

          Which segues nicely into the next topic. Property rights are real because the negation of property is self-refuting. If property rights were not real, there would be no property to argue about.

          Property exists without agreement. Specifically, security provides reasonable expectation of control. If I lock and chain my wallet to a boulder, it’s going to be there when I go back for it, regardless of how many pickpockets are around.

          As it happens, agreements with courts are a better kind of security, but unnecessary and orthogonal to anyone taxing me.

          You want to throw out the half of the social contract that benefits the people who own the least, while keeping the half that benefits the people who own the most.

          Libel.

          But it’s a bit of sophistry

          I take extreme exception to such slander.

          It seems to me, sir, that you are a victim of sophistry. Your predictable, formulaic rebuttals are indefensible, indeed in all cases the exact opposite of true. Why would you believe I wouldn’t have counters to all of them? Do you suppose I think as little about my convictions as you do?

          If this is really the best defence of the State, then the State condemns itself unequivocally.

          Those two halves are in contradiction for a reason: they balance each other out.

          Raw insanity. “I believe a contradiction. It’s true, though.”

          I will not tolerate such rudeness a second time.

        • Nornagest says:

          If it’s dollars, or say, drachma, then trade breaks down and you get feudalism.

          This is a bit of an aside, but whoever wrote that article doesn’t understand how feudalism (or, more precisely, manorialism) worked.

          Yes, goods were the usual medium of exchange. But that’s mostly thanks to the difficulties of getting coinage into a system where almost everything’s produced locally (also shortages and various forms of chaos in the coinage), and agricultural produce was more fungible in practice than you might expect. In some places (feudal Japan, for example) the coinage was backed in grain, making the lines between barter and hard currency very blurry indeed.

          Instead, the essential feature of the manorial system is patronage: if you’re a serf, you support yourself by working the land owned by your lord, and in exchange you’re supposed to provide him with some proportion of its produce (essentially rent) and also with the labor necessary to work the land the lord holds directly (which doesn’t have any modern equivalent). You may recognize this as almost the opposite of what’s going on in the Greece article.

          Free peasants (i.e. not serfs) might instead hold land in a way that’s more familar to us, paying rent (again, usually in goods) to their lord but not being obligated to work his land. Lords themselves would have held their fiefs in somebody else’s name, and would have owed tribute and other duties (usually military service) up the chain.

        • Alrenous says:

          @Nornagest

          Off topic means new thread.

        • Desertopa says:

          “I notice you don’t address my point that if states provided an actual good that was more than their cost, citizens would sign up voluntarily.”

          Participants in fisheries exhausted by tragedies of the commons would be better off if they voluntarily signed up for group restraint agreements. They don’t.

          The government provides countless services where it’s *more* in individuals’ interests to be free riders supported by everyone else’s contributions while not paying themselves. You’re better off using roads that someone else paid for than paying for the construction of roads.

          Lots of situations dealing with communities of rational self interested actors devolve into disaster due to coordination problems unless you actually have a central authority ensuring that individuals cooperate when it benefits society in general even when they’re better off if they (and nobody else) defect.

          The government we’ve got might do far from the best possible job with people’s resources, but unenforced prosocial structure does not have a good track record.

        • Alrenous says:

          @ Desertopa

          Participants in fisheries exhausted by tragedies of the commons would be better off if they voluntarily signed up for group restraint agreements. They don’t.

          This is true.
          I think this is because it would be illegal to enforce. Iceland privatized their fisheries. (Or the Netherlands? Both?) That worked out great. But you have to be willing and able to shoot people off your seabed, which e.g. Canada would object to. It would be considered seizure of crown aquitory or something.

          The government provides countless services where it’s *more* in individuals’ interests to be free riders supported by everyone else’s contributions while not paying themselves.

          The free rider problem has been vastly overstated. [ http://www.twitch.tv ] Free-to-play anything. It’s not even difficult to route around.
          Further, with the advent of transponders, toll roads are super easy.*

          Lots of situations dealing with communities of rational self interested actors devolve into disaster due to coordination problems unless you actually have a central authority ensuring that individuals cooperate when it benefits society in general even when they’re better off if they (and nobody else) defect.

          Game theory and property: if defection is a serious problem, nobody attempts to secure that resource in the first place. Eventually someone invents a method to incentivize not-defecting, and thus a voluntary collective is formed.

          For example, if toll roads were really that bad, (they work fine in Somalia, tolls were a 3% tax or so) nobody would build roads and they wouldn’t exist. Given that dire apes want roads, someone would come up with a road guild, which heavily patrols all the roads (the guild builds them) and boots off trespassers, funding themselves by selling road licenses.

          Any potential commons problem can be solved by, essentially, a private, voluntary mini-government.

          Except possibly national defence. If you want to ruin an ancap’s day, argue about national defence. The free rider problem probably isn’t really a problem? But there’s also coordination issues between city-states? There’s no good, satisfying argument, at least not yet. Unless nukes really do work as perfect deterrence because they can kill Generals, not just soldiers.*

          Also difficult is dealing with the age of majority. Emancipation is easy. But discipline obtains to the extent Exit obtains, which means the kid needs a decent alternative to signing on with their local city. (Wow! An actual use for BATNAs and euvoluntarism.) Like, being an outlaw is a solution, but it’s pretty bad.

          *(Transponders and nukes suggest ancap might be a strictly high-tech kind of society, useless for low-tech regions.)

      • Andrew says:

        Mary,

        I did not say that taxation was analogous to a tort. I gave a tort as an example of the fact that theft is not merely acquisition by force; it has the element of being socially unsanctioned acquisition. That is the argument which I already presented, explaining why taxation is not theft. The social sanction attached to taxation is not attached to the action of a highway robber. That is the element that distinguishes them.

        But actually, it would be pretty easy to conceive of taxation as a tort, if a tort is conceived of as compensation. Taxation can be conceived as the compensation that one pays for the damage caused to others by owning property. I would not make this argument myself, but I would point out (as I have already) that this element of taxation as compensation for property is a crucial part of what makes the social contract a “good deal” — or at least, good enough to keep the heads of the rich attached to their bodies.

        Also, Alrenous, you’ve proved yourself not worth talking to. No doubt, no matter what I say, you will find some way to distort its meaning, much as you did with my use of the word “contradiction.” Your brain is closed to communication, and even this little bit of meta I’m sure will fall on deaf ears.

        • Alrenous says:

          No doubt, no matter what I say, you will find some way to distort its meaning, much as you did with my use of the word “contradiction.”

          Yes, more libel is an excellent way to demonstrate that you don’t use libel. I like how you’re basing this attack on 1% of the words I’ve ever said to you. Apparently they outweigh the other 99%?

          (For non-Andrews: my specialty is uncomfortable truths. Comparing to-me comments to not-to-me comments, it’s becoming clear that certain people cannot handle the discomfort and become deranged around me specifically.)

          If I had actually misinterpreted you, you could show how and I would be forced acknowledge and retreat, as I demonstrably have done before. Falsehood is strategic weakness. Instead we see this pure-assertion status move. Scholastically speaking you just forfeit.

          Hopefully you’re capable of considering the possibility other people misunderstood, even if you can’t consider I might have misunderstood.

          Alrenous, you’ve proved yourself not worth talking to.

          E-Prime.

          I say, “I won’t tolerate X,” you say, “You are X.”

          Good pre-emptive strike, though. Since you can’t support your assertions and don’t want to give up projecting your fallacies, I’m obviously going to cut you off. “You can’t fire me, I quit!” It probably would have worked if I hadn’t called you on it. (Well, more precisely for this case, “You can’t fire me, I’m the boss and I’m firing you.”)

          Also you’re handing me a strategic fork on a plate. If I want to troll you, I can deconstruct your future comments unopposed…or you can oppose me, and thus I will have forced you to try to communicate. This will happen if I accidentally scan one of your comments and it makes me feel like trolling you.

          Your brain is closed to communication

          Sigh, more libel.

          Again, “I won’t tolerate” vs. “You are.” Again, a status move: looks like you hope that your bald assertions will be taken as fact by third parties and they won’t talk to me either. Gross, dude. Don’t write like a sophist if you don’t want to look like a sophist.

          Usually this kind of attack is covering for fear. It tries to misdirect from my arguments and accusations, because the sophist is afraid a direct comparison won’t go well for them.

          Think about this: if cannot hear, what’s the point of saying so to me? It’s like explaining to an idiot that they’re an idiot; they won’t be able to understand, nor fix it. Ergo, it must not be for the benefit of the so-insulted.

          But, as I said, I won’t tolerate it again. I will endeavor not to read your future comments, nor respond to them if I do.

          • Andrew says:

            Yes, I could have showed how you misinterpreted me. I didn’t, though. I left you free to draw the unwarranted self-validating conclusion from this, that I knew you would.

            Ironically, you say you won’t reply to my future comments, not realizing that by your own (stupid) standards, that proves you can’t refute them.

        • Mary says:

          But you didn’t say the difference was that it was socially unsanctioned.

          Furthermore, theft has often been socially sanctioned. Mob violence often blesses robbing the victims as well as physical assault.

        • Alrenous says:

          @Andrew

          Status move; bald assertion. Projection. Reading comprehension fail. Logic fail. Or are you just a sophist?

          Responding to a comment with off-topic bald assertions strongly suggests you don’t have anything more convincing. Failing to provide backup after being called on it is a confession of guilt. Pre-emptively declining to address a comment is not the same. Apparently you surmise others will be fooled into thinking they are the same, which you’re likely right about, which means I now have to explain this.

          1. I have pre-emptively judged, based on your past & escalating rudeness and your disrespect for epistemology, that future comments will be rude and light on content. I have been disappointingly correct. It is therefore a waste of my valuable time to find out if there’s anything to rebut at all.

          2. This is not like seeing something to rebut, responding to it thus acknowledging it needs rebuttal, yet rebutting it with libel and bare assertions.

          Are you really unable to tell the difference between 1 and 2, or are you just playing politics? Either way, I guess that explains your juvenile political philosophy.

          Look, you’re a scientist who, when being told that their theory needed an experiment, called the critic a poopyhead.

          You threw the first punch. If you don’t like being punched in return, back off.

          you’ve proved yourself not worth talking to.

          So…stop? Are you lying about what you believe? Are you not aware of what you yourself believe?

          And yes, I read this by accident. I do regret having read it, but I’m not yet sure how to prevent it happening again. Though, upon reflection, not sure ‘regret’ is the right word, I managed to salvage something.

          • Andrew says:

            ROFL, I thought you said you weren’t going to reply anymore.

            Yeah, so anyway, like I told you, based on your choice to misinterpret what I said, I concluded you’re not worth it. Really, do you carefully explain yourself to every internet blowhard who chooses an uncharitable interpretation of what you say?

            I fear that in fact you do. But, alas, I do not.

            PS. I didn’t read your comment.

        • Alrenous says:

          @Andrew

          Childish nonsense.

          “I’m not listening to you!”
          “Nuh uh! I’m not listening to you first!”

          Calling mommy when flinging poo didn’t work. “They’re being mean to me!”

          Subtext: “Why won’t they SHUT UP AAAAAAAAARGH” So you won’t spend a few minutes on explaining yourself, but you’ll spend endless time flinging insults? Gotta have the last word, right? I like how your social insult theory is deep and nuanced and your political philosophy is a board with a nail in it.

          At least it explains why you seem to lack reading comprehension. You haven’t been reading at all, probably not even the first comment. Actually, that’s helpful, I can probably use that elsewhere.

          I like the projection. You engage in libel, but I’m uncharitable. I’m kind of tempted to try that myself, see what it’s like from the other side. Expand my psychology research. Of course I’d have to retract it later. Pity, it would interfere with the study.

          If this is your normal behaviour, I bet you seem to find ‘internet blowhards’ everywhere.

      • Mark says:

        This is a neat distinction that probably doesn’t track how native English speakers actually use the word. Most people, for example, would be happy to describe Nazi confiscation of Jewish wealth as “theft” and not just “heavy Jewish taxation,” even if German society as a whole supported it. Perhaps you’d say there’s a hidden indexicality here: theft is is taking by force in a way that violates *our* community’s property norms. But in addition to the extreme fuzziness now involved (evidently libertarians with strong norms against taxation don’t count enough), it still misses cases where most people would admit theft but still be O.K. with the act, like an orphan stealing a loaf of bread to save a dying sibling, or taking off on a bike you don’t own to escape a crazy murderer chasing you.

        • Andrew says:

          It does track how the word is used. Confiscation is distinct from theft. People might be willing to acknowledge that coordinated confiscation is theft — if you pressed them to do so. But they wouldn’t go ahead and call it by that name, simply because it would be confusing. They’d call it confiscation (just as you yourself did!), because that makes the meaning clear.

          Just think about what would happen to your paragraph above if you had avoided the use of the word “confiscation.” The very denotation would be lost. The theft vs. confiscation distinction was necessary for you to even communicate your meaning.

          As far as libertarians with strong norms not “counting” — the reason they don’t count is because they’re not the ones setting the rules. Their norms aren’t the ones relative to which we currently define theft. If they were, then they would be. The point is that “theft” doesn’t have an objective universal meaning outside of a set of social norms. So theft means different things given different social norms.

          It is analogous to the use of “murder.” Murder isn’t the same thing as “homicide” — it carries an element of social condemnation along with the element of ending life. To say that the death penalty is murder is to condemn the death penalty. Similarly, to say that taxation is theft is to condemn taxation. It’s not a morally neutral descriptive term. To say “taxation is forcible reappropration” or “taxation is confiscation” is _not_ to communicate the same meaning as “taxation is theft.” And you will find, indeed, that real world usage reflects this. Nobody calls taxation theft unless they are taking a specific moral position against taxation. (As far as I personally have seen in my whole life, the confused soul to whom I responded above serves as a solitary exception.)

          As far as theft that is justified, this is just the expression that the social property norm exists, and yet violating it is justified in this instance. It doesn’t become not-theft, because it’s still illegal: society’s property norms still do not sanction orphans just taking loaves of bread from stores because they’re hungry. They still have to do it in secret, the store owners can still use force to prevent them and not go to jail, etc..

        • Mary says:

          ” Confiscation is distinct from theft. ”

          Not in my experience of the English language.

          • Andrew says:

            I don’t suppose a dictionary would convince you?

            Theft \Theft\ (th[e^]ft), n. [OE. thefte, AS.
            [thorn]i[‘e]f[eth]e, [thorn][=y]f[eth]e, [thorn]e[‘o]f[eth]e.
            See {Thief}.]

            1. (Law) The act of stealing; specifically, the felonious
            taking and removing of personal property, with an intent
            to deprive the rightful owner of the same; larceny.
            [1913 Webster]

            Note: To constitute theft there must be a taking without the
            owner’s consent, and it must be unlawful or felonious;
            every part of the property stolen must be removed,
            however slightly, from its former position; and it must
            be, at least momentarily, in the complete possession of
            the thief. See {Larceny}, and the Note under {Robbery}.
            [1913 Webster]

        • Mark says:

          It does track how the word is used. Confiscation is distinct from theft. People might be willing to acknowledge that coordinated confiscation is theft — if you pressed them to do so. But they wouldn’t go ahead and call it by that name, simply because it would be confusing. They’d call it confiscation (just as you yourself did!), because that makes the meaning clear.

          The meaning of words is governed by their use, and if you grant that most people would be willing to describe confiscation as theft (even if that’s not quite the first word that comes to mind), that’s extremely good evidence that government confiscation can fall under the general category of theft. People also call churches “churches” rather than “sanctuaries” because it’s more clear to do so, but that doesn’t mean “sanctuary” can’t pick out churches.

          Your response, as I understand it, is to point out that “theft,” unlike “sanctuary,” has a normative component. But this isn’t always true. O.K., maybe it is in the case of Nazis confiscation, since everyone actively hates the Nazis and describes them unflatteringly whenever possible. But there are plenty of contexts where it isn’t, even with regard to governments. To name the first example off the top of my head, I think I can talk about the Qarmatians stealing the Black Stone from the Ka’aba without actually implicitly condemning them. (I really don’t care about the Black Stone.) On a much smaller scale, there’s the orphan case I already mentioned: I needn’t be condemning the orphan when describing him or her as stealing bread. I may even be actively opposed to the some of the norms being violated, e.g., Abbie Hoffman’s “Steal This Book.”

          There’s also somewhat more metaphorical cases: a basketball player “stealing” a ball, or a lion “stealing” a carcass from a hyena. You might argue that these shouldn’t count, since we don’t actually think any real property norms are in play here. But I would suggest it’s further evidence that “theft” simply has no tidy definition, and that the word refers merely to an extremely vague gestalt (which often but not always inspires negative emotions) rather than an absolutely binary logical predicate. And while I agree it’s rhetorically very misleading to appeal to appeal to this gestalt vis-a-vis taxation and therefore shouldn’t be done, that doesn’t make it factually wrong.

          • Andrew says:

            Well, I don’t think that most people would be willing to “describe” confiscation as theft. When the government confiscates something according to law, people won’t _describe_ it as theft unless they are opposed to that particular confiscation or form of confiscation. But they might still grant that you could call it theft if you want, like if they don’t particularly care about that particular issue.

            There are some pretty significant functional differences between confiscation under color of law and theft, by the way. For example, only one of them can be appealed in a court of law.

        • Andy says:

          Andrew, I think you’re missing the best argument against the “taxation is theft” claim – “Of course it is.”
          And I say this as someone who loathes the libertarian dislike of taxation as a general class, and thinks it’s hopelessly naive to expect a modern government to run on voluntary donations.
          This is, of course, from Scott’s excellent Non-Libertarian FAQ, where he skewers this line of argument with the idea that taxation is theft, it is a small amount of legitimized theft in order to maintain the structures of society and ensure some social order. However, and I’m assuming you’re an American here because most of SSC’s commentariat tends to be, you can leave the United States, disavow your citizenship, stop paying taxes, and set up a society somewhere run on voluntary donations. I don’t think you’d get off the ground, but I would enjoy being proven wrong. You may also take the civil-disobedience route and stop paying taxes, report yourself to the IRS and the media, and document whatever actions follow in hopes of sparking a tax revolt, though there, I don’t think you’ll inspire the kind of support necessary to eliminate the tax system.
          In short, yes, taxes are legitimized theft, but if you think you can deliver an effective and even-handed government without compulsory taxation, go ahead. The door is right there. Though I consider that position as naive as the left-anarchists who think that all conflict could be solved by removing capitalism, I would enjoy being provlen wrong. (Not by Somalia, which was mentioned upthread – it is not a place very many people want to move to or start a business in, whereas my tax-happy hometown of Los Angeles has many many businesses and entrepeneurs.)

          • Andrew says:

            Andy, that may well be the best way to refute the claims of libertarians, but that is not my concern here. My concern is the general use of dishonest distortions of language as a rhetorical tactic. I actually believe that this is a bigger issue than any political issue; the entire possibility of discourse is at stake.

            Or at any rate, it’s a different issue, and I’m not willing to grant a general right to abuse the language like this, whether for political reasons or not, even if it doesn’t actually buy the libertarians anything in this particular instance.

            For example, if my daughter comes home from school and says “my teacher stole my phone,” I want to know whether I need to be calling the police to get it back. If the teacher actually confiscated the phone, then the girl is lying — or, at best, engaging in hyperbole — but if the teacher stole the phone, she was the victim of a crime (and of an extreme violation of trust, at that). If I refute libertarianism in the way that you suggest, how do I teach my daughter not to abuse language in this way?

        • blacktrance says:

          However, conceding that taxation is theft admits a prima facie presumption against taxation – perhaps not one strong enough to categorically forbid it, but one that does require a significant justification for tax-funded activity. The mainstream progressive left’s position is that taxation isn’t theft, because people implicitly agree to a social contract by living in a country. According to that view, you having to pay taxes is similar to you having to do your part in any other contract – if you didn’t like it, you shouldn’t have agreed to it. This generates no presumption against taxation, as it’s merely part of a contract you agreed to. But if the progressive left is mistaken and there’s no implicit agreement, then it’s as much against your will as a burglar breaking into your house and stealing your stuff. It’s possible to come up with justifications for tax-funded activity, but then it’s necessary to justify why it’s different from the burglar – the progressive answer of “Because you consented to it” is no longer available.

        • Mark says:

          Well, I don’t think that most people would be willing to “describe” confiscation as theft. When the government confiscates something according to law, people won’t _describe_ it as theft unless they are opposed to that particular confiscation or form of confiscation. But they might still grant that you could call it theft if you want, like if they don’t particularly care about that particular issue.

          Of course people wouldn’t describe all instances of confiscation as theft. And yes, “theft” is typically pejorative and hence applied to things people dislike. (But not always: there are simultaneous exceptions to both. I gave some examples already. And it’s hardly impossible to imagine a neo-Nazi gleefully remarking that he’s glad the Germans stole the Jews’ wealth because they’re evil or something. Indeed, I bet I could do this if I really wanted to force myself to search for it.)

          “Theft” nevertheless has a cognitive, non-normative component of its meaning, and as with most words, that meaning cannot be perfectly captured by clean definitions like “violation of our property norms/the relevant society’s property norms.” It’s instead just a hazy web of associations, some closer to the center of the web than others, and there’s very little to make an invocation of the gestalt objectively right or wrong in any given instance. That doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t object to such invocations when they serve to sneak in unfair, sinister connotations. It just means that there are better responses than quibbling semantics.

  82. falenas108 says:

    The racism school gif misses an important point. Being told to check your privilege means “Due to your _____, you don’t have this experience that these other people do.”

    I think this would cover a lot of the other cases, though obviously not all.

    At the same time, this provides more evidence in support of your theory Scott, because that’s also a perfectly reasonable term that should be applied to minorities/oppressed folks when it fits.

    • Kaminiwa says:

      Men can get raped. Quite a few women go through life without being raped. I don’t see non-raped-women being excluded from discussions on rape, or being told that not-being-raped is a privilege they need to be aware of.

      I doooo see men who have been raped dismissed as one-offs and otherwise irrelevant or “derailing” the conversation, though.

      So… Motte and Bailey again: some people might actually use it that way, but that doesn’t mean there’s not also a weaponized strain out there. And I see the weaponized strain a lot more often out in the wild.

      • falenas108 says:

        Yeah, that’s what I meant when I said “At the same time, this provides more evidence in support of your theory Scott, because that’s also a perfectly reasonable term that should be applied to minorities/oppressed folks when it fits.”

    • I think it’s plausible that men and women have different social problems around getting raped– women are defined as the sort of people who are naturally subject to rape, while men (if not prisoners) are defined as the sort of people who are supposed to be rape-proof.

      This is not a reason for the possibility and reality of men being raped to be erased from the discussion.

      • women are defined as the sort of people who are naturally subject to rape, while men (if not prisoners) are defined as the sort of people who are supposed to be rape-proof.

        Men, if not prisoners, are pretty difficult to rape, hence ridiculing males who get raped is reasonable. He probably was asking for it. Ridiculing male prisoners who get raped is unreasonable. He probably did not fight back hard enough because he feared for his life.

        Ridiculing drunken sluts who get raped while cruising for a dicking is also reasonable, but forbidden.

        Trouble is that if forbidden to laugh at drunken sluts getting “raped’, men will be charged with ”rape” because they had a one night stand and in the morning she looked at him without beer goggles.

        If it is forbidden to make unkind remarks that some “rapes” are likely to be considerably less traumatic than other rapes, if such remarks are offensive, if such remarks are trolling, then grave injustices will be done to some men.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Men, if not prisoners, are pretty difficult to rape, hence ridiculing males who get raped is reasonable. He probably was asking for it.

          Fuck you, you fucking fuck.

          Fuck you.

        • Multiheaded says:

          SCOOOOOOOTTTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!! Misander this fucking animal and keep it far away from us for half a year or so, will you?

        • Andy says:

          Fuck you, you fucking fuck.

          Fuck you.

          The “Report” button is probably better than swearing at him. Swearing at him lowers you – not quite to his level, but below the level of discourse that you’re worthy of.
          Going off and watching a bunch of funny cat videos helped the urge to tell James exactly what I thought he should do with his convictions.

          SCOOOOOOOTTTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!! Misander this fucking animal and keep it far away from us for half a year or so, will you?

          While I don’t agree with Multi’s language, I agree with his sentiment – James might not belong here. He says interesting things, but no less than other NRx commenters, and his contributions can become flat-out toxic. I think it’s clear his two previous bans haven’t changed his toxic behavior, and it’s time to show him the door.
          However, if you disagree, such is life.

        • Matthew says:

          [I believe the following passes both the TRUE and NECESSARY gates]

          To Scott:

          James A. Donald is a far more pernicious influence on the comments section of this blog than any of the other neoreactionaries, including the ones you’ve already banned permanently, by an order of magnitude. You would be doing your blog and everyone else who participates here a service by banning him permanently. Please.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Going off and watching a bunch of funny cat videos helped the urge to tell James exactly what I thought he should do with his convictions.

          Sorry, I know that was uncalled for. But as one of the people he’s explicitly talking about, who’s heard exactly the claim he’s making far, far more times than I can handle, my initial reaction was not fully mediated by my prefrontal cortex.

        • Andy says:

          But as one of the people he’s explicitly talking about, who’s heard exactly the claim he’s making far, far more times than I can handle, my initial reaction was not fully mediated by my prefrontal cortex.

          Oh, I did not realize. Yeah, I’ve been there, not in your specific situation, but the “initial reaction was not fully mediated” place, I have been.
          Whatever it is worth, you have my sympathy.

        • Elissa says:

          Guys I think we need to recruit a SJW to say something bannable so Scott can feel ok about symmetrically banning this feller

          (Edit: I really didn’t expect anyone to take that as a serious suggestion rather than a wiseass reference to Scott’s history of politically symmetric bans, but if Andy’s is a representative reaction then I have committed a bannable offense and will take my lumps, please note for the purposes of this blog I am sympathetic to SJ)

        • Zorgon says:

          So. Since I already completely lost my damn rag in this thread, I’m going to attempt to keep it this time in the face of extreme provocation.

          Men, if not prisoners, are pretty difficult to rape, hence ridiculing males who get raped is reasonable. He probably was asking for it.

          You’re factually incorrect, James. Erections are not consent, men are not universally stronger than all women, and alcohol, drugs and coercion are all things that exist.

        • Andy says:

          Guys I think we need to recruit a SJW to say something bannable so Scott can feel ok about symmetrically banning this feller

          As a card-carrying SJW, get away from me. Give Scott time to respond, the man’s a medical doctor for Pete’s sake.
          If James is worthy of banning, and I believe he is, Scott will either say so and do so, or will strongly caution him. It is, however, possible that what James has said is controversial but within the bounds of civility, in which case, we hit James’ arguments.
          Recruiting a SJW to tactically get someone we disagree with banned is burning down the walled garden to get a cockroach. Not worth the damage it will do to the environment of respect and civility we have.
          get thee behind me, heretic.

          edit:

          I really didn’t expect anyone to take that as a serious suggestion rather than a wiseass reference to Scott’s history of politically symmetric bans, but if Andy’s is a representative reaction then I have committed a bannable offense and will take my lumps

          Apologies, I am bad at detecting wiseassery over the Internet.

          You’re factually incorrect, James. Erections are not consent, men are not universally stronger than all women, and alcohol, drugs and coercion are all things that exist.

          Drugs, alcohol, and coercion exist between men, and I know men who have been sexually assaulted and raped by other men in a non-prison environment where consent was unclear or ambiguous. I would not be surprised if there are women who were sexually assaulted or coerced by other women in a non-prison setting, as well.

        • Nick T says:

          +1 on banning James, I’ve thought this for a while.

          It seems obvious to me that Elissa was joking.

        • Multiheaded says:

          @Elissa

          I’m an SJW, and Scott once banned me symmetrically with him, but that was for personal attacks on individual racists and misogynists here, not for some kind of broad morally significant pronouncement. I’m not sure what I’d have to come up with; I’ve already supported political violence both generally and in particular cases, insulted the tech culture, said that my views on society involve “killing other people and taking their stuff”… I don’t actually want to defend Pol Pot or something like it (although I might, say, link to a not-so-edgy Maoist view of him).

        • Zathille says:

          Backseat modding is not a very good practice, I’d say, for the same reason that upvoting and downvoting systems may calcify status and engender rigidity in the ‘walled garden’. The report button should be used exactly so these kinds of comments become unnecessary and the thread is not derailed and emptied of substance as seems to be happening now.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Yeah, okay, banned indefinitely.

        • Armstrong For President 2020 says:

          It’s kind of interesting that Jim’s flame about rape has gotten this immediate intense response, and yet at most we get tut-tutting when one of our resident communists recommends democide along class/racial lines and even directly threaten other posters with death or torture for ideological nonconformity.

          Is rape really so much worse than murder that we should have this reaction?

        • Zorgon says:

          As far as I’m aware, none of the commenters in this thread have ever been tortured or murdered, while as far as I can tell at least two of us are men who have been raped.

        • suntzuanime says:

          I report any call for or defense of mass murder that seems reasonably serious; if there is a difference in treatment I suspect it arises because the fans of mass murder tend to be more polite about it.

        • Multiheaded says:

          AFP: there is the important distinction that most people (thankfully!) share the idea of rape being apriori unjustifiable with no need to consider the circumstances, while there’s a million good justifications for murder, and everyone has a dozen of, to them, particularly compelling ones.

        • Andy says:

          It’s kind of interesting that Jim’s flame about rape has gotten this immediate intense response, and yet at most we get tut-tutting when one of our resident communists recommends democide along class/racial lines and even directly threaten other posters with death or torture for ideological nonconformity.

          If recommending democide bothers you that much, I will recommend that said communist be banned each time I see them advocating for extermination, death, or torture, and aggressively report their comments that contain such, and since I am more-or-less on their side (which you can’t say about me and James.)
          However, since the communist I think you are referring to has been banned once, while this is James’ third banning, advocating for a three-week ban would be more in line with stated policy.

        • Mary says:

          “Men, if not prisoners, are pretty difficult to rape, hence ridiculing males who get raped is reasonable.”

          So, how do you stop a woman with a gun from raping you — so easily that anyone who doesn’t is ridiculous?

        • Steve Johnson says:

          Mary says:
          July 8, 2014 at 11:29 pm

          “Men, if not prisoners, are pretty difficult to rape, hence ridiculing males who get raped is reasonable.”

          So, how do you stop a woman with a gun from raping you — so easily that anyone who doesn’t is ridiculous?

          Has this ever happened or are we just playing more progressive / SJW “all groups are the same and I refuse to notice the differences and will get angry if you do and point them out” games?

          Men are stronger than women. Men who are weaker than women will get mocked for this*. Women are also really rarely attracted to men who are so unmasculine that they can be physically overpowered her (shockingly, men are attracted to femininity and women are attracted to masculinity). Men don’t take unwanted sexual attention from women as a serious threat while women do – both because of the SJW approved reason that men are dangerous to women (being physically stronger and more aggressive) and for the invisible, never to be spoken reason that, since women generally select from men who approach them rather than approaching (normal range of testosterone from nih.gov * Male: 300 -1,000 ng/dL, Female: 15 – 70 ng/dL), they only know their true level of attractiveness based on the quality of men who approach them and that a low quality man approaching her is dangerous to her self image and her social image far more than he is dangerous to her physically. Since men do the approaching they are keenly aware of their own rank – they get polite “nos” and “maybes” and occasional “yeses” from women in their league and hostile “nos” from women out of their league.

          Women’s brains are shaped by the fact that mating often leads to pregnancy and that a large portion of her life and resources are tied up in every one of her children. Men do not have that expectation (to the same degree).

          The upshot of all of this is that the idea of a woman forcibly coercing a man into intercourse is rare and comic. It means the guy is insanely high status to get a woman to act that way (the highest status men you see in real life normally lead to women aggressively advertising their availability – women screaming and fainting at the sight of the Beatles – not trying to rush the stage and ravish the band – in contrast when attractive women perform for men physical security of the women is of the highest priority). It means he’s also quite weak. The combination of an extremely physically weak high status man experiencing something he sees as a misfortune (but most men would be quite happy to experience(aggressive physical pursuit by a woman)) is comedic.

          “Ridiculing drunken sluts who get raped while cruising for a dicking is also reasonable, but forbidden.”

          Going to defend this one too. Ridicule serves a valuable social purpose – it lets people learn from other people’s mistakes. It sucks for the object of ridicule though – but that’s part of the cost. If ridicule didn’t hurt then no one would fear it. People generally believe they’re invincible (young women in our culture even more so**). Yeah, the guy who raped the woman is guilty of a crime but at the same time the woman is the one who got raped. Learn from that and don’t do the same things because rape isn’t going away.

          Of course, the fact that rape fantasies are the single most common fantasy reported in women, that women frequently orgasm when being raped and are actually more likely to conceive when being raped point to another reason why emotions get so heated when discussing rape. Biologically speaking, rape is a mating market strategy for men but it’s also one for women. Women act as if they value the genes of successful rapists. Of course, part of that value comes from the fact that they have to make it difficult for him to succeed – otherwise he could just be a mediocre rapist and hence have bad genes that will produce sons who will get killed by the men of the tribe. The woman’s regular mate wouldn’t be happy about that, of course, so she has to get very angry and upset to show that it wasn’t her idea. It’s easier to convince others you’re angry and upset if sincerely do get angry and upset at the thought. That explains the anger quite well while being in line with what we know about human biology (also it means that the ridicule is there to increase the cost of faking anger and upset after inviting rape).

          People are far more rational than rationalists imagine.

          * On my high school golf team if you shanked a drive and failed to out hit the women’s tees there was always some form of hazing punishment – and this was the golf team – not exactly the football team.

          **Quick example – young women walk around the streets in NY paying zero attention to their surroundings just staring at their phones – I’m a larger than average, stronger than average guy whose hobbies are lifting weights and brazilian jiu jitsu and I don’t do this and looking around I never see men doing this

        • Bish says:

          Steve, I agree with you that sex differences in desire and psychology, but that doesn’t mean that men being raped by women is a strange scenario.

          You are correct that the average woman is probably very unlikely to rape the average man, given what we know about sexual psychology. But female rapists are not the average woman!

          If you take women who are more aggressive and less scrupulous than average, and pair them with men who are less aggressive (or passed out), then it really shouldn’t be hard to imagine female-on-male sexual violence occurring. Some people use violence or threats to get what they want, and this includes women.

          You point out that women generally go for high-status men. Yes, they do. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t reasonably common situations where a woman views a man as attractive, but he doesn’t reciprocate, or he is in a relationship with someone else (or he is passed out). Yes, initiating at all is unusual for the average woman, but we are not talking about the average woman here. I think you underestimate what women with sufficiently nasty personal traits are capable of.

          You are skeptical that a woman could rape a man unless he is physically weak. But I think you should consider scenarios other than a woman physically overpowering a man:

          – Weapons (probably rare)
          – Alcohol incapacitation (probably very common)
          – Threats
          – Social power (because it’s socially dangerous for men to fight back)

          In modern societies, force is not always the deciding factor in conflict. In Western societies, men are trained to refrain from violence towards women (e.g. don’t hit a girl), but women aren’t given the same training about violence towards men.

          Let’s say a woman wants to have sex with a man who doesn’t want. He says “no” but she gets on top of him (let’s say he is already lying down because of being intoxicated, or just watching a movie). What is he supposed to do if she doesn’t respond to “no”? Push her off?

          Well, that implies some of a struggle. What if he doesn’t want to use violence to stop her? What if he pushes her off, and she gets a bruise, then tells the police and/or their entire community that he tried to rape her? Who are people most likely to believe? Not him. (This scenario isn’t hypothetical; it comes from James Landrith’s story.)

          The social situation can be quite complicated even if he is physically stronger and more aggressive. This doesn’t mean that he is “weak.”

        • Crimson Wool says:

          Women are also really rarely attracted to men who are so unmasculine that they can be physically overpowered her (shockingly, men are attracted to femininity and women are attracted to masculinity).

          Counterpoint: Many female sex offenders are pedophiles who target children below the age of six. It is difficult to argue that this is in any way an evolutionary adaptation or based on normal female sexuality. I hardly think a toddler is exactly an optimal mating partner for a woman, yet that’s a fairly common demographic for female childfuckers to target. If you can have women with sexualities so distorted they think banging three-year-olds is a good idea, why shouldn’t there be ones who choose instead to prey on unmasculine men?

          There’s also a similar case for inmate-on-inmate sexual violence in women’s prisons, which is actually higher than inmate-on-inmate sexual violence in men’s prisons. Again, difficult to find any plausible reproductive explanation there, and again it flies in the face of the “women would never rape somebody who’s unmasculine.”

          Here are a couple studies which use the CTS2 which includes separate physically forced sex numbers (they both only take men and women who were in heterosexual relationships in the past 12 months, and ask specifically about those relationships):

          Childhood and Adolescent Victimization and Sexual Coercion and Assault by Male and Female University Students

          Physically forcing sex was reported by 2.4% of the male students and 1.8% of the female students [χ2 (1) = 4.83; p<.05]. Rates for the specific items were: 1.3% of males and 1.0% of females reported using force on the partner to have sex [χ2 (1) = 1.67; p=.19], and 1.6% of the males and 1.0% of the females reported using force to have oral or anal sex [χ2 (1) = 7.35; p<.01]. Thus, as in other studies which compared sexual coercion by men and women in the same study, both men and women engaged in sexually coercive behavior, but men predominate.

          Predictors of Sexual Coercion Against Women and Men

          Table 1 presents descriptive information concerning the percentage of men who sustained force sex, verbal sexual coercion, and a history of CSA. Almost 3% of men [note: table states 2.8%] reported forced sex and 22% reported verbal coercion. For the forced sex items (analyses not shown), 2.4% reported forced oral or anal sex, and 2.1% reported forced vaginal sex.

          […] [female results follow for comparison]

          Descriptive information concerning the victimization from forced sex, verbal sexual coercion, and CSA for women is presented in Table 2. As shown, 2.3% of the sample overall reported sustaining forced sex from their current or most recent romantic partner, and close to 25% of the female sample sustained verbal sexual coercion. For the forced sex items (analyses not shown), 1.6% reported that their partners forced them into oral or anal sex, and 1.6% reported that their partners forced them into vaginal sex

          Getting late here, so I’m gonna cut off at this point. I hope that I have at least offered some plausible evidence to the effect that, yeah, that kind of thing does happen. I couldn’t quickly find a study which looked at, specifically, the subset of the adult male population that was physically forced to have heterosexual sex of one kind or another during their adult life, but that’s because a large portion of studies don’t bother even glancing sideways at male victims (especially not male victims of women, and especially not adult male victims of women), much less breaking it down in such detail.

          [Women] are actually more likely to conceive when being raped[.]

          I think this is wrong, actually, and would like a cite. IIRC this is based on one half-assed study.

        • I was wondering if I should come up with a somewhat neutral replay to this– James’ empathy for imprisoned men was so much less malicious than his usual that I was wondering if I should encourage it. However, he’s been banned, so I’m off the hook.

          I find it fascinating that no one seems to have commented that he seems to have admitted to committing rape here.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          I find it fascinating that no one seems to have commented that he seems to have admitted to committing rape here.

          Honestly, I read that as more of the in-your-face posturing that he enjoys.

          Also, “consent is non-verbal and pre-rational” is… *sigh*

          A lot of people DO want precisely that. And a lot of people know how to give it to them. The trick is to be high-status enough, relative to the person you’re dominating, to get away with it.

          So yeah – talking about that little snippet opens up a whole can of worms that might best be served elsewhere.

        • Mary says:

          “Men are stronger than women. ”

          Women have ways of counterbalancing this, even without guns. For instance, a girl with a fake id can commit rape by deception to get a guy to sleep with her, and then forcible rape by threatening to report him to the police — that is, by threatening him with third party violence. Or an underage girl getting into the apartment of her dream guy and threatening to claim he tried to seduce her — which is also rape.

          “Men who are weaker than women will get mocked for this*. ”

          Notice that this offers “is” as evidence for “ought” which ought to be mocked by all right-thinking souls as it is a non-sequitur and bad logic.

          • Oddly enough, the socially normal marriage– man older than woman– has a high probability of him being less physically capable than she is for some years at the end. I’m not saying her raping him is the major risk, but other sorts of abuse are feasible.

            Also, as someone pointed out in this discussion, differences in aggressiveness can swamp out differences in strength.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Sigh.

          Play it again, Scott.

          I can’t even make le funny misandry jokes in the face of, y’know, actual misandry. Not zombie Valerie Solanas, just something a dude would casually tell other dudes. Steve says that the sky is green, the grass is pink, men who get raped are subhuman, and I’m not even going to talk about the woman bit (other than say that men can get aroused during rape by any gender, men often have submissive fantasies, men can somehow orgasm from anal sex, and, crucially, men are vulnerable to abuse/capture-bonding through intermittent reinforcement, which appears to be the main psychological mechanism at play with battered women.) His narrative is anti-knowledge in the service of brutality and oppression.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          So, how do you stop a woman with a gun from raping you — so easily that anyone who doesn’t is ridiculous?

          The same way you stop a female mass murderer from shooting you — by realizing that the proposed scenario has such a tiny prior that you might as well treat it as non-existent and get on with your life. Hell, at least there has been one famous case of a female mass murderer… does this mythical gun-wielding female rapist exist anywhere outside the ream of hypotheticals?

        • Andy says:

          The upshot of all of this is that the idea of a woman forcibly coercing a man into intercourse is rare and comic.

          Steve, I’mma say a thing, and if it sounds condescending and rude, that’s because it’s meant in exactly that way. However, if it is unkind, I believe it is both completely, uncontroversially true, and totally necessary.
          OUTLIERS EXIST. Not everyone is typical, and especially not everyone is your evolutionary-psychology “normal” which seems more like a cover for the patriarchal ideal than the way actual people are.
          There are women and men who are completely round-the-bend nuts, and sometimes these people want sex from a given male, and are prepared to do extremely unethical things to get it. I have seen this happen to a friend of mine, who was pursued aggressively by a woman who had some kind of mental illness – at the very least, she would lie, constantly and pathologically, attempt to threaten and harrass him into giving her attention, to the point where he categorically refused to be alone with her under any circumstances.
          And your evolutionary-psychology handwaving does nothing about that very real set of circumstances.

          It means the guy is insanely high status to get a woman to act that way (the highest status men you see in real life normally lead to women aggressively advertising their availability – women screaming and fainting at the sight of the Beatles – not trying to rush the stage and ravish the band – in contrast when attractive women perform for men physical security of the women is of the highest priority).

          Go to a Justin Bieber concert, and you will not see light security, you will see big heavy guys physically restraining the mostly-female crowd from breaking onto the stage. Men are stalked and killed by their female admirers, not on the same frequency as happens to women, but it does happen, and you completely deny its existence.

          It means he’s also quite weak. The combination of an extremely physically weak high status man experiencing something he sees as a misfortune (but most men would be quite happy to experience(aggressive physical pursuit by a woman)) is comedic.

          It’s traumatic to him, but because it’s something “most men would be quite happy to experience,” he should just lay back and enjoy his body being used as a plaything, lest he become an object of ridicule?
          No no no no no no, and this is a totally immoral thing to say. A men should “Enjoy” a traumatic experience so that you don’t have to reconsider your cobbled-together “Scientific” disguise for the same old fucking patriarchy that oppresses any man who doesn’t measure up to the old masculine ideal, or has the misfortune to attract someone who operates outside the normal bounds of behavior.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          It’s traumatic to him, but because it’s something “most men would be quite happy to experience,” he should just lay back and enjoy his body being used as a plaything, lest he become an object of ridicule?

          I don’t think the point is that he “should” enjoy it, but that since most men would enjoy it, that makes cases like this even more rare; you have to multiply the probability that a woman would be willing and able to do something recognizable as rape with the probability that a man would even be all that unwilling to give the woman a damn quickie. And if you optimize social norms based on ridiculously unlikely scenarios like these, rather than the scenarios that actually happen the vast majority of the time… well, we have all read LessWrong, right? I am sure you can see how that would be a problem.

          A men should “Enjoy” a traumatic experience so that you don’t have to reconsider your cobbled-together “Scientific” disguise for the same old fucking patriarchy that oppresses any man who doesn’t measure up to the old masculine ideal, or has the misfortune to attract someone who operates outside the normal bounds of behavior.

          Do you think men who advocate patriarchal social norms are evil mutants who want to harm extremely rare outliers? It’s more charitable to view them as men who accept extremely rare outilers as the necessary casualties of maintaining a functioning society.

        • Anonymous says:

          Edit: Andy here, I cleared cookies and forgot to fill in the forms.

          I don’t think the point is that he “should” enjoy it, but that since most men would enjoy it, that makes cases like this even more rare; you have to multiply the probability that a woman would be willing and able to do something recognizable as rape with the probability that a man would even be all that unwilling to give the woman a damn quickie.

          I do not think the pain of a victim is reduced by the low likelihood of their scenario. Do those struck by lightning not get medical attention because being struck by lightning is statistically rare?
          There are conditions that make any part of this chain not just possible but likely. Like:
          a woman being dangerous-crazy,
          the man being in a monogamous relationship, having taken some oath of celibacy, fearful of disease, being asexual, or otherwise not interested in sex with women-as-a-generalized-class.
          I am also offended by the notion that a man should just “throw the woman a damn quickie.” I believe that men and women are both better served by being able to choose who to share their sexuality with. IE, if I have promised my lover that I will only have sexual relations with her, it does real harm to my happiness if I am coerced into “just throwing a quickie” to someone I am not attracted to or afraid of.

          And if you optimize social norms based on ridiculously unlikely scenarios like these, rather than the scenarios that actually happen the vast majority of the time… well, we have all read LessWrong, right? I am sure you can see how that would be a problem.

          I’m not talking about optimizing the entire social normset, I’m talking about making a small change to the social norm of “do not acknowledge male rape victims except as objects of ridicule.” But while were at it, maybe we CAN acknowledge that men aren’t always and don’t have to be stronger than the average woman to have worth, that men can rape other men, that people can be raped by romantic partners… I am arguing that the “ignore or ridicule men who are victims of rape” is actively harmful as a norm and should be changed.
          I think this is actually a way where a social norm turns people into moral mutants who laugh at the traumatic pain of someone who was victimized and likely couldn’t do anything to prevent it.

          tldr: fuck the patriarchy.

        • Nornagest says:

          does this mythical gun-wielding female rapist exist anywhere outside the ream of hypotheticals?

          I’m at work and don’t want to leave anything arguably sketchy on my machine or I’d just search court records, but I’m very close to 100% sure that the answer is “yes”. I’ve had a woman pull a knife on me, and I’ve had women that I wasn’t interested in aggressively try to get into my pants. I haven’t had both happen at once, but it stands to reason that it happens occasionally.

          (Other forms of coercion are probably a lot more common, though. Indeed, I’d expect them to be more common with the genders swapped, too, but to risk overgeneralization, women are socialized into exerting social over physical power more than men are.)

        • Mary says:

          “does this mythical gun-wielding female rapist exist anywhere outside the ream of hypotheticals?”

          Would you know it if she did? Would anyone except her victims, who know what you and many others would do if they went to the cops?

        • nydwracu says:

          You don’t need guns in order to manipulate people: there’s blackmail, and there’s situations where, if the sexes were reversed, it would be held that the woman was in no position to meaningfully consent. Or she could steal something, demand sex in exchange for the stolen property, and set things up with the relevant higher powers (campus safety, for example, is trivial to manipulate if you know what you’re doing) to guarantee that they’d side with her over him. Then there’s emotional manipulation; I’m not sure if that’s technically considered rape, but it’s a definite possibility.

          There are plenty of methods that don’t require direct physical force, and there are plenty of people in the world who would use them if they could figure them out and who can figure them out.

        • Well-Manicured-Bug says:

          Donald’s banned? Showing the oppressive side of progressivism, aren’t we?

          I’m opposed to giving neoreactionaries free publicity by writing articles about them, but to ban them from this blog for simply stating their opinion in a fairly respectful manner, WTF?

        • Oligopsony says:

          Unmolting bug, mourn not the banned
          Whom Scott hath scoured from our land
          For voicing thoughts from his diverging
          (Rightly said, or hatred-earning)
          This is his garden; Jim hath his own
          His exit rights are not unthroned
          As he elsewhere has rightly spied
          “Progressivism’s oppressive side”
          Away from his garden (or festering moor)
          Out in the misgoverned great outdoors
          Of nattering wives their throats unchoked
          Of natural slaves their necks unyoked
          Of owéd labors unrightly shirked
          Of Donald’s rights, by beasts usurped
          And driving him to call the Father:
          “Am I not a god, and your brother?”
          Only silence comes; the patriarchs
          Are gone from heaven as from hearths
          And none do bow to good masterly will:
          Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill.

        • AJD says:

          If you think “drunken sluts who get raped while cruising for a dicking” is “respectful”, I don’t know what to tell you.

        • Well-Manicured-Bug says:

          @AJD

          That’s ridiculous. As long as that comment was not directed at others who are commenting here, he was indeed being respectful.

          Do you also want to ban people who say stuff like “Pol Pot was a fucking asshole. I hope he sucks dick in hell”?

        • Anonymous says:

          >That’s ridiculous. As long as that comment was not directed at others who are commenting here, he was indeed being respectful.
          Many of Donald’s insults have been directed at such broad groups of people that it is likely that some commenters have been among them

          >Do you also want to ban people who say stuff like “Pol Pot was a fucking asshole. I hope he sucks dick in hell”?

          I’d certainly much rather ban both those and Donald’s statements than neither.

        • Multiheaded says:

          @Oligopsony:

          Dude! That’s Stalin Prize material right there! Was it perchance inspired by Von Kalifornen on the Ozy drama?

        • a person says:

          @Well Manicured Bug

          If you actually read the comments policy, it’s obvious why he was banned. Almost every single one of James’ top-level comments violated all three rules (controversial, phrased in the nastiest possible way, and tangentially related to the subject at hand).

          Not only that, but Scott is constantly complaining about his comment section devolving into fruitless debates on race and gender, and James makes that happen every time he shows up.

          And not only that, but while it isn’t stated anywhere, it seems to me that on a rationalist website people only people who are willing to debate rationally belong here – i.e., people who can look at the debate from both their side and their opponent’s side and try to reach some sort of consensus. James is pretty much the opposite of this ideal, he consistently refuses to concede even the tiniest point.

          If you ask me, his ban was a long time coming, and he only survived until now because Scott favored him for some reason.

        • Steve Johnson says:

          a person –

          And not only that, but while it isn’t stated anywhere, it seems to me that on a rationalist website people only people who are willing to debate rationally belong here – i.e., people who can look at the debate from both their side and their opponent’s side and try to reach some sort of consensus.

          Rationalism has nothing to do with consensus. Rationalism is using the means you have available to reach the most correct conclusions possible.

          James is the rationalist here.

          Of course you actually mean something different by using the word “rationalist” – which is actually “agrees with my group of self-identified rationalists”.

          This is pretty much what you can expect from a “rationalist” movement that lives in group homes.

        • Steve Johnson says:

          a person –

          Not only that, but Scott is constantly complaining about his comment section devolving into fruitless debates on race and gender, and James makes that happen every time he shows up.

          Actually Scott makes that happen by writing posts that are perfectly “rational” as long as you assume all the premises of progressivism are true. James comes along and punctures that assumption quite effectively – and the progressive side knows it’s effective because they (predictably) call for his ban.

        • Andy says:

          Do you also want to ban people who say stuff like “Pol Pot was a fucking asshole. I hope he sucks dick in hell”?

          Yes, I would support a 3-day ban for such a comment by a commenter with no previous records of banning, while agreeing completely with the sentiment, because a less crass way of making the point exists.

          Actually Scott makes that happen by writing posts that are perfectly “rational” as long as you assume all the premises of progressivism are true. James comes along and punctures that assumption quite effectively – and the progressive side knows it’s effective because they (predictably) call for his ban.

          Notice that nydwracu, Mai le Dreapta (sp?) and other commenters are able to make comments arguing Reactionary positions without the levels of bile that James threw. Looking at the register of bans over time, I’d argue that progressive viewpoints have gotten banned roughly equally with conservative viewpoints.

        • a person says:

          Rationalism has nothing to do with consensus. Rationalism is using the means you have available to reach the most correct conclusions possible.

          James is the rationalist here.

          Of course the technical definition of rationality is something else, but in practice rational debate usually looks like “okay, I see where you’re coming from, but have you considered this?” and irrational debate usually looks like “I am right, you are wrong, stupid, and evil”. If you read Eliezer’s sequences probably the thing he emphasizes the most is realizing when you’re wrong and changing your mind, which James never ever does.

          But okay, whatever, throw out that point of my original post, it’s the weakest anyway. The first two still stand. James undeniably broke the explicit rules of this site, many people saw him as a nuisance, and there are plenty of people voicing similar beliefs as him who remain. I really don’t see how Scott’s choice here could ever be seen as unreasonable.

          Of course you actually mean something different by using the word “rationalist” – which is actually “agrees with my group of self-identified rationalists”.

          How are you not doing precisely what you accuse me of when you say “James is the rationalist here”?

        • a person says:

          Do you also want to ban people who say stuff like “Pol Pot was a fucking asshole. I hope he sucks dick in hell”?

          I would say no, the comments policy (which is imo a good one) says that you have to be polite if you’re saying something controversial, and Pol Pot being a reprehensible person is not really controversial, as far as I know.

        • Steve Johnson says:

          If you read Eliezer’s sequences probably the thing he emphasizes the most is realizing when you’re wrong and changing your mind, which James never ever does.

          Yeah, the first thing the cult leader does is try to make sure that the followers will all change their minds [to the beliefs that benefit him]. The next thing, of course, is an instruction to ignore history – specifically around sexual matters – that way the cult leader can continue to run his “offer your girlfriends to me to fuck” scam. The next thing after that is to convince the chumps that this is a signal that the chump is enlightened:

          (Before anyone asks, yes, we’re polyamorous – I am in long-term relationships with three women, all of whom are involved with more than one guy. Apologies in advance to any 19th-century old fogies who are offended by our more advanced culture.

          [ http://hpmor.com/author/yudkowsky/page/7/ ]

          Right on schedule!

          Someone who’s rational (as opposed to a “rationalist”) doesn’t let a guy running a cult with the purpose of fucking lots of other guy’s girlfriends re-order his thinking – there just might be a hidden trap in there (might, ha!).

          There are loads of things where the rational thing is to never change your mind and in fact to realize that if your reasoning leads you to changing your mind about them then rethinking your reasoning is the more rational thing to do. Jim points out a bunch of them and people here get hysterical.

          But okay, whatever, throw out that point of my original post, it’s the weakest anyway. The first two still stand. James undeniably broke the explicit rules of this site, many people saw him as a nuisance, and there are plenty of people voicing similar beliefs as him who remain.

          Inoculation effect that you frequently see from progressives (because progressivism professes to be a non-contradictory rational belief system) – they’ll ban the most effective non-progressives and let the less effective ones continue to post.

          What I read upthread wasn’t people outraged over tone or offensiveness.

          It was a hysterical reaction to a few statements that are plainly true and clearly enough stated so that people can’t go back into their cognitive bubbles and think “well, we need a few more studies”. All of human history gives lie to progressive assumptions about sex and male female relations. All of human history gives lie to progressive assumptions about racial equality / sameness. Jim states this extremely clearly and that’s what the progressives here recoil from.

        • Oligopsony says:

          Being impolite and uncontroversial is licit iff apposite, as I understand it. Like if Scott posts about political correctness gone mad or something and I make response that’s like “hello fine fellows! Allow me to present the statistical case for Ankharism…” that would be cool because I’m being polite and backing my shit up with evidence, and then you could say “fuck you apologist, I hope you boil in satan’s gangrenous cumfarts for aeons,” because I had brought up the topic, but otherwise you’d have to say “that Pol Pot chap, not the best person, was he? At least that’s my personal opinion.”

          I think.

        • a person says:

          @Steve Johnson.

          Oh my god, now I understand. Either you are Jim under a sockpuppet, or you have the exact same argument style as him. You refuse to concede a single point or question whether or not my arguments may have a tiny bit of merit even when you have been proven wrong (JAMES BROKE THE RULES OF THIS WEBSITE, THEREFORE IT IS NOT UNREASONABLE FOR SCOTT TO BAN HIM), and instead latch onto tiny details of what I write and go on a whole other tangentially related nasty, vicious polemic. I hope you can understand that Jim being banned means that the presence of people like you on the blog is not desired, and take the courtesy of excusing yourself.

          Don’t bother replying, I will not respond, because I know the argument will never end and I have other things to do.

          @Oligospony

          I don’t really understand what you’re saying here. The way I see it is that you’re allowed to say something mean if it’s non-controversial (true) and on topic (necessary).

        • Steve Johnson says:

          Oh my god, now I understand. Either you are Jim under a sockpuppet, or you have the exact same argument style as him. You refuse to concede a single point or question whether or not my arguments may have a tiny bit of merit even when you have been proven wrong

          Without (of course) actually bothering to bother with the whole “proven wrong” thing.

          This is the comment policy:

          If you make a comment here, it had better be either true and necessary, true and kind, or kind and necessary.

          Obviously what Jim is saying here is true – no one actually argues the substance (or if they do it’s so that people can get into “angels on the head of a pin” disputes about what it means for “men to be stronger than women” – where some moron says “outliers exist!” as if that alters the truth of the matter in any way).

          What Jim says here is necessary. The “rationalist” community needs to hear certain truths that they’ve insulated themselves from very effectively.

          As far as being a sock puppet of Jim, nope – try again. Guess what – there are people out there smarter than you who disagree with your worldview. It’s not just one lone guy.

        • Crimson Wool says:

          Obviously what Jim is saying here is true – no one actually argues the substance (or if they do it’s so that people can get into “angels on the head of a pin” disputes about what it means for “men to be stronger than women” – where some moron says “outliers exist!” as if that alters the truth of the matter in any way).

          James isn’t correct.

          James backed up his “Men, if not prisoners, are pretty difficult to rape” with… nothing. Just empty bluster. Because that’s all it is: empty bluster. Without content. A belief which is held solely on its aesthetics, not its truth value.

          I went in detail on the exact points of how frequently men are raped by force (because reactionaries do not consider rape by intoxication to be a crime of similar quality) by women, in as much detail as I could obtain, earlier in this thread. The answer is: quite a bit. Curiously, despite the fact that I was responding to you, I never received a reply.

          There is also the point that Jim’s post does not even say that the perpetrator must be a woman for the guy to deserve mockery. Plenty of men are raped by force outside of prison by other men. According to the NISVS, an estimated 970,000 men have been forcibly raped (by penetration; no exact numbers for forcible rape by envelopment) in their lives. Were they “asking for it” too? Was this fellow?

          does this mythical gun-wielding female rapist exist anywhere outside the ream of hypotheticals?

          Here’s one. Well, technically, she raped her victim at knife point rather than gun point, but I think you’ll agree that that’s a pretty pedantic distinction.

        • Crimson Wool says:

          Fuckup with cookie-setting/NISVS link, here it is again:

          http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/nisvs/2010_report.html

        • Well-Manicured-Bug says: