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I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup

[Content warning: Politics, religion, social justice, spoilers for “The Secret of Father Brown”. This isn’t especially original to me and I don’t claim anything more than to be explaining and rewording things I have heard from a bunch of other people. Unapologetically America-centric because I’m not informed enough to make it otherwise. Try to keep this off Reddit and other similar sorts of things.]

I.

In Chesterton’s The Secret of Father Brown, a beloved nobleman who murdered his good-for-nothing brother in a duel thirty years ago returns to his hometown wracked by guilt. All the townspeople want to forgive him immediately, and they mock the titular priest for only being willing to give a measured forgiveness conditional on penance and self-reflection. They lecture the priest on the virtues of charity and compassion.

Later, it comes out that the beloved nobleman did not in fact kill his good-for-nothing brother. The good-for-nothing brother killed the beloved nobleman (and stole his identity). Now the townspeople want to see him lynched or burned alive, and it is only the priest who – consistently – offers a measured forgiveness conditional on penance and self-reflection.

The priest tells them:

It seems to me that you only pardon the sins that you don’t really think sinful. You only forgive criminals when they commit what you don’t regard as crimes, but rather as conventions. You forgive a conventional duel just as you forgive a conventional divorce. You forgive because there isn’t anything to be forgiven.

He further notes that this is why the townspeople can self-righteously consider themselves more compassionate and forgiving than he is. Actual forgiveness, the kind the priest needs to cultivate to forgive evildoers, is really really hard. The fake forgiveness the townspeople use to forgive the people they like is really easy, so they get to boast not only of their forgiving nature, but of how much nicer they are than those mean old priests who find forgiveness difficult and want penance along with it.

After some thought I agree with Chesterton’s point. There are a lot of people who say “I forgive you” when they mean “No harm done”, and a lot of people who say “That was unforgiveable” when they mean “That was genuinely really bad”. Whether or not forgiveness is right is a complicated topic I do not want to get in here. But since forgiveness is generally considered a virtue, and one that many want credit for having, I think it’s fair to say you only earn the right to call yourself ‘forgiving’ if you forgive things that genuinely hurt you.

To borrow Chesterton’s example, if you think divorce is a-ok, then you don’t get to “forgive” people their divorces, you merely ignore them. Someone who thinks divorce is abhorrent can “forgive” divorce. You can forgive theft, or murder, or tax evasion, or something you find abhorrent.

I mean, from a utilitarian point of view, you are still doing the correct action of not giving people grief because they’re a divorcee. You can have all the Utility Points you want. All I’m saying is that if you “forgive” something you don’t care about, you don’t earn any Virtue Points.

(by way of illustration: a billionaire who gives $100 to charity gets as many Utility Points as an impoverished pensioner who donates the same amount, but the latter gets a lot more Virtue Points)

Tolerance is also considered a virtue, but it suffers the same sort of dimished expectations forgiveness does.

The Emperor summons before him Bodhidharma and asks: “Master, I have been tolerant of innumerable gays, lesbians, bisexuals, asexuals, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, transgender people, and Jews. How many Virtue Points have I earned for my meritorious deeds?”

Bodhidharma answers: “None at all”.

The Emperor, somewhat put out, demands to know why.

Bodhidharma asks: “Well, what do you think of gay people?”

The Emperor answers: “What do you think I am, some kind of homophobic bigot? Of course I have nothing against gay people!”

And Bodhidharma answers: “Thus do you gain no merit by tolerating them!”

II.

If I had to define “tolerance” it would be something like “respect and kindness toward members of an outgroup”.

And today we have an almost unprecedented situation.

We have a lot of people – like the Emperor – boasting of being able to tolerate everyone from every outgroup they can imagine, loving the outgroup, writing long paeans to how great the outgroup is, staying up at night fretting that somebody else might not like the outgroup enough.

This is really surprising. It’s a total reversal of everything we know about human psychology up to this point. No one did any genetic engineering. No one passed out weird glowing pills in the public schools. And yet suddenly we get an entire group of people who conspicuously promote and defend their outgroups, the outer the better.

What is going on here?

Let’s start by asking what exactly an outgroup is.

There’s a very boring sense in which, assuming the Emperor’s straight, gays are part of his “outgroup” ie a group that he is not a member of. But if the Emperor has curly hair, are straight-haired people part of his outgroup? If the Emperor’s name starts with the letter ‘A’, are people whose names start with the letter ‘B’ part of his outgroup?

Nah. I would differentiate between multiple different meanings of outgroup, where one is “a group you are not a part of” and the other is…something stronger.

I want to avoid a very easy trap, which is saying that outgroups are about how different you are, or how hostile you are. I don’t think that’s quite right.

Compare the Nazis to the German Jews and to the Japanese. The Nazis were very similar to the German Jews: they looked the same, spoke the same language, came from a similar culture. The Nazis were totally different from the Japanese: different race, different language, vast cultural gap. But the Nazis and Japanese mostly got along pretty well. Heck, the Nazis were actually moderately positively disposed to the Chinese, even when they were technically at war. Meanwhile, the conflict between the Nazis and the German Jews – some of whom didn’t even realize they were anything other than German until they checked their grandparents’ birth certificate – is the stuff of history and nightmares. Any theory of outgroupishness that naively assumes the Nazis’ natural outgroup is Japanese or Chinese people will be totally inadequate.

And this isn’t a weird exception. Freud spoke of the narcissism of small differences, saying that “it is precisely communities with adjoining territories, and related to each other in other ways as well, who are engaged in constant feuds and ridiculing each other”. Nazis and German Jews. Northern Irish Protestants and Northern Irish Catholics. Hutus and Tutsis. South African whites and South African blacks. Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs. Anyone in the former Yugoslavia and anyone else in the former Yugoslavia.

So what makes an outgroup? Proximity plus small differences. If you want to know who someone in former Yugoslavia hates, don’t look at the Indonesians or the Zulus or the Tibetans or anyone else distant and exotic. Find the Yugoslavian ethnicity that lives closely intermingled with them and is most conspicuously similar to them, and chances are you’ll find the one who they have eight hundred years of seething hatred toward.

What makes an unexpected in-group? The answer with Germans and Japanese is obvious – a strategic alliance. In fact, the World Wars forged a lot of unexpected temporary pseudo-friendships. A recent article from War Nerd points out that the British, after spending centuries subjugating and despising the Irish and Sikhs, suddenly needed Irish and Sikh soldiers for World Wars I and II respectively. “Crush them beneath our boots” quickly changed to fawning songs about how “there never was a coward where the shamrock grows” and endless paeans to Sikh military prowess.

Sure, scratch the paeans even a little bit and you find condescension as strong as ever. But eight hundred years of the British committing genocide against the Irish and considering them literally subhuman turned into smiles and songs about shamrocks once the Irish started looking like useful cannon fodder for a larger fight. And the Sikhs, dark-skinned people with turbans and beards who pretty much exemplify the European stereotype of “scary foreigner”, were lauded by everyone from the news media all the way up to Winston Churchill.

In other words, outgroups may be the people who look exactly like you, and scary foreigner types can become the in-group on a moment’s notice when it seems convenient.

III.

There are certain theories of dark matter where it barely interacts with the regular world at all, such that we could have a dark matter planet exactly co-incident with Earth and never know. Maybe dark matter people are walking all around us and through us, maybe my house is in the Times Square of a great dark matter city, maybe a few meters away from me a dark matter blogger is writing on his dark matter computer about how weird it would be if there was a light matter person he couldn’t see right next to him.

This is sort of how I feel about conservatives.

I don’t mean the sort of light-matter conservatives who go around complaining about Big Government and occasionally voting for Romney. I see those guys all the time. What I mean is – well, take creationists. According to Gallup polls, about 46% of Americans are creationists. Not just in the sense of believing God helped guide evolution. I mean they think evolution is a vile atheist lie and God created humans exactly as they exist right now. That’s half the country.

And I don’t have a single one of those people in my social circle. It’s not because I’m deliberately avoiding them; I’m pretty live-and-let-live politically, I wouldn’t ostracize someone just for some weird beliefs. And yet, even though I probably know about a hundred fifty people, I am pretty confident that not one of them is creationist. Odds of this happening by chance? 1/2^150 = 1/10^45 = approximately the chance of picking a particular atom if you are randomly selecting among all the atoms on Earth.

About forty percent of Americans want to ban gay marriage. I think if I really stretch it, maybe ten of my top hundred fifty friends might fall into this group. This is less astronomically unlikely; the odds are a mere one to one hundred quintillion against.

People like to talk about social bubbles, but that doesn’t even begin to cover one hundred quintillion. The only metaphor that seems really appropriate is the bizarre dark matter world.

I live in a Republican congressional district in a state with a Republican governor. The conservatives are definitely out there. They drive on the same roads as I do, live in the same neighborhoods. But they might as well be made of dark matter. I never meet them.

To be fair, I spend a lot of my time inside on my computer. I’m browsing sites like Reddit.

Recently, there was a thread on Reddit asking – Redditors Against Gay Marriage, What Is Your Best Supporting Argument? A Reddit user who didn’t understand how anybody could be against gay marriage honestly wanted to know how other people who were against it justified their position. He figured he might as well ask one of the largest sites on the Internet, with an estimated user base in the tens of millions.

It soon became clear that nobody there was actually against gay marriage.

There were a bunch of posts saying “I of course support gay marriage but here are some reasons some other people might be against it,” a bunch of others saying “my argument against gay marriage is the government shouldn’t be involved in the marriage business at all”, and several more saying “why would you even ask this question, there’s no possible good argument and you’re wasting your time”. About halfway through the thread someone started saying homosexuality was unnatural and I thought they were going to be the first one to actually answer the question, but at the end they added “But it’s not my place to decide what is or isn’t natural, I’m still pro-gay marriage.”

In a thread with 10,401 comments, a thread specifically asking for people against gay marriage, I was eventually able to find two people who came out and opposed it, way near the bottom. Their posts started with “I know I’m going to be downvoted to hell for this…”

But I’m not only on Reddit. I also hang out on LW.

On last year’s survey, I found that of American LWers who identify with one of the two major political parties, 80% are Democrat and 20% Republican, which actually sounds pretty balanced compared to some of these other examples.

But it doesn’t last. Pretty much all of those “Republicans” are libertarians who consider the GOP the lesser of two evils. When allowed to choose “libertarian” as an alternative, only 4% of visitors continued to identify as conservative. But that’s still…some. Right?

When I broke the numbers down further, 3 percentage points of those are neoreactionaries, a bizarre sect that wants to be ruled by a king. Only one percent of LWers were normal everyday God-‘n-guns-but-not-George-III conservatives of the type that seem to make up about half of the United States.

It gets worse. My formative years were spent at a university which, if it was similar to other elite universities, had a faculty and a student body that skewed about 90-10 liberal to conservative – and we can bet that, like LW, even those few token conservatives are Mitt Romney types rather than God-n’-guns types. I get my news from vox.com, an Official Liberal Approved Site. Even when I go out to eat, it turns out my favorite restaurant, California Pizza Kitchen, is the most liberal restaurant in the United States.

I inhabit the same geographical area as scores and scores of conservatives. But without meaning to, I have created an outrageously strong bubble, a 10^45 bubble. Conservatives are all around me, yet I am about as likely to have a serious encounter with one as I am a Tibetan lama.

(Less likely, actually. One time a Tibetan lama came to my college and gave a really nice presentation, but if a conservative tried that, people would protest and it would be canceled.)

IV.

One day I realized that entirely by accident I was fulfilling all the Jewish stereotypes.

I’m nerdy, over-educated, good with words, good with money, weird sense of humor, don’t get outside much, I like deli sandwiches. And I’m a psychiatrist, which is about the most stereotypically Jewish profession short of maybe stand-up comedian or rabbi.

I’m not very religious. And I don’t go to synagogue. But that’s stereotypically Jewish too!

I bring this up because it would be a mistake to think “Well, a Jewish person is by definition someone who is born of a Jewish mother. Or I guess it sort of also means someone who follows the Mosaic Law and goes to synagogue. But I don’t care about Scott’s mother, and I know he doesn’t go to synagogue, so I can’t gain any useful information from knowing Scott is Jewish.”

The defining factors of Judaism – Torah-reading, synagogue-following, mother-having – are the tip of a giant iceberg. Jews sometimes identify as a “tribe”, and even if you don’t attend synagogue, you’re still a member of that tribe and people can still (in a statistical way) infer things about you by knowing your Jewish identity – like how likely they are to be psychiatrists.

The last section raised a question – if people rarely select their friends and associates and customers explicitly for politics, how do we end up with such intense political segregation?

Well, in the same way “going to synagogue” is merely the iceberg-tip of a Jewish tribe with many distinguishing characteristics, so “voting Republican” or “identifying as conservative” or “believing in creationism” is the iceberg-tip of a conservative tribe with many distinguishing characteristics.

A disproportionate number of my friends are Jewish, because I meet them at psychiatry conferences or something – we self-segregate not based on explicit religion but on implicit tribal characteristics. So in the same way, political tribes self-segregate to an impressive extent – a 1/10^45 extent, I will never tire of hammering in – based on their implicit tribal characteristics.

The people who are actually into this sort of thing sketch out a bunch of speculative tribes and subtribes, but to make it easier, let me stick with two and a half.

The Red Tribe is most classically typified by conservative political beliefs, strong evangelical religious beliefs, creationism, opposing gay marriage, owning guns, eating steak, drinking Coca-Cola, driving SUVs, watching lots of TV, enjoying American football, getting conspicuously upset about terrorists and commies, marrying early, divorcing early, shouting “USA IS NUMBER ONE!!!”, and listening to country music.

The Blue Tribe is most classically typified by liberal political beliefs, vague agnosticism, supporting gay rights, thinking guns are barbaric, eating arugula, drinking fancy bottled water, driving Priuses, reading lots of books, being highly educated, mocking American football, feeling vaguely like they should like soccer but never really being able to get into it, getting conspicuously upset about sexists and bigots, marrying later, constantly pointing out how much more civilized European countries are than America, and listening to “everything except country”.

(There is a partly-formed attempt to spin off a Grey Tribe typified by libertarian political beliefs, Dawkins-style atheism, vague annoyance that the question of gay rights even comes up, eating paleo, drinking Soylent, calling in rides on Uber, reading lots of blogs, calling American football “sportsball”, getting conspicuously upset about the War on Drugs and the NSA, and listening to filk – but for our current purposes this is a distraction and they can safely be considered part of the Blue Tribe most of the time)

I think these “tribes” will turn out to be even stronger categories than politics. Harvard might skew 80-20 in terms of Democrats vs. Republicans, 90-10 in terms of liberals vs. conservatives, but maybe 99-1 in terms of Blues vs. Reds.

It’s the many, many differences between these tribes that explain the strength of the filter bubble – which have I mentioned segregates people at a strength of 1/10^45? Even in something as seemingly politically uncharged as going to California Pizza Kitchen or Sushi House for dinner, I’m restricting myself to the set of people who like cute artisanal pizzas or sophsticated foreign foods, which are classically Blue Tribe characteristics.

Are these tribes based on geography? Are they based on race, ethnic origin, religion, IQ, what TV channels you watched as a kid? I don’t know.

Some of it is certainly genetic – estimates of the genetic contribution to political association range from 0.4 to 0.6. Heritability of one’s attitudes toward gay rights range from 0.3 to 0.5, which hilariously is a little more heritable than homosexuality itself.

(for an interesting attempt to break these down into more rigorous concepts like “traditionalism”, “authoritarianism”, and “in-group favoritism” and find the genetic loading for each see here. For an attempt to trace the specific genes involved, which mostly turn out to be NMDA receptors, see here)

But I don’t think it’s just genetics. There’s something else going on too. The word “class” seems like the closest analogue, but only if you use it in the sophisticated Paul Fussell Guide Through the American Status System way instead of the boring “another word for how much money you make” way.

For now we can just accept them as a brute fact – as multiple coexisting societies that might as well be made of dark matter for all of the interaction they have with one another – and move on.

V.

The worst reaction I’ve ever gotten to a blog post was when I wrote about the death of Osama bin Laden. I’ve written all sorts of stuff about race and gender and politics and whatever, but that was the worst.

I didn’t come out and say I was happy he was dead. But some people interpreted it that way, and there followed a bunch of comments and emails and Facebook messages about how could I possibly be happy about the death of another human being, even if he was a bad person? Everyone, even Osama, is a human being, and we should never rejoice in the death of a fellow man. One commenter came out and said:

I’m surprised at your reaction. As far as people I casually stalk on the internet (ie, LJ and Facebook), you are the first out of the “intelligent, reasoned and thoughtful” group to be uncomplicatedly happy about this development and not to be, say, disgusted at the reactions of the other 90% or so.

This commenter was right. Of the “intelligent, reasoned, and thoughtful” people I knew, the overwhelming emotion was conspicuous disgust that other people could be happy about his death. I hastily backtracked and said I wasn’t happy per se, just surprised and relieved that all of this was finally behind us.

And I genuinely believed that day that I had found some unexpected good in people – that everyone I knew was so humane and compassionate that they were unable to rejoice even in the death of someone who hated them and everything they stood for.

Then a few years later, Margaret Thatcher died. And on my Facebook wall – made of these same “intelligent, reasoned, and thoughtful” people – the most common response was to quote some portion of the song “Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead”. Another popular response was to link the videos of British people spontaneously throwing parties in the street, with comments like “I wish I was there so I could join in”. From this exact same group of people, not a single expression of disgust or a “c’mon, guys, we’re all human beings here.”

I gently pointed this out at the time, and mostly got a bunch of “yeah, so what?”, combined with links to an article claiming that “the demand for respectful silence in the wake of a public figure’s death is not just misguided but dangerous”.

And that was when something clicked for me.

You can talk all you want about Islamophobia, but my friend’s “intelligent, reasoned, and thoughtful people” – her name for the Blue Tribe – can’t get together enough energy to really hate Osama, let alone Muslims in general. We understand that what he did was bad, but it didn’t anger us personally. When he died, we were able to very rationally apply our better nature and our Far Mode beliefs about how it’s never right to be happy about anyone else’s death.

On the other hand, that same group absolutely loathed Thatcher. Most of us (though not all) can agree, if the question is posed explicitly, that Osama was a worse person than Thatcher. But in terms of actual gut feeling? Osama provokes a snap judgment of “flawed human being”, Thatcher a snap judgment of “scum”.

I started this essay by pointing out that, despite what geographical and cultural distance would suggest, the Nazis’ outgroup was not the vastly different Japanese, but the almost-identical German Jews.

And my hypothesis, stated plainly, is that if you’re part of the Blue Tribe, then your outgroup isn’t al-Qaeda, or Muslims, or blacks, or gays, or transpeople, or Jews, or atheists – it’s the Red Tribe.

VI.

“But racism and sexism and cissexism and anti-Semitism are these giant all-encompassing social factors that verge upon being human universals! Surely you’re not arguing that mere political differences could ever come close to them!”

One of the ways we know that racism is a giant all-encompassing social factor is the Implicit Association Test. Psychologists ask subjects to quickly identify whether words or photos are members of certain gerrymandered categories, like “either a white person’s face or a positive emotion” or “either a black person’s face and a negative emotion”. Then they compare to a different set of gerrymandered categories, like “either a black person’s face or a positive emotion” or “either a white person’s face or a negative emotion.” If subjects have more trouble (as measured in latency time) connecting white people to negative things than they do white people to positive things, then they probably have subconscious positive associations with white people. You can try it yourself here.

Of course, what the test famously found was that even white people who claimed to have no racist attitudes at all usually had positive associations with white people and negative associations with black people on the test. There are very many claims and counterclaims about the precise meaning of this, but it ended up being a big part of the evidence in favor of the current consensus that all white people are at least a little racist.

Anyway, three months ago, someone finally had the bright idea of doing an Implicit Association Test with political parties, and they found that people’s unconscious partisan biases were half again as strong as their unconscious racial biases (h/t Bloomberg. For example, if you are a white Democrat, your unconscious bias against blacks (as measured by something called a d-score) is 0.16, but your unconscious bias against Republicans will be 0.23. The Cohen’s d for racial bias was 0.61, by the book a “moderate” effect size; for party it was 0.95, a “large” effect size.

Okay, fine, but we know race has real world consequences. Like, there have been several studies where people sent out a bunch of identical resumes except sometimes with a black person’s photo and other times with a white person’s photo, and it was noticed that employers were much more likely to invite the fictional white candidates for interviews. So just some stupid Implicit Association Test results can’t compare to that, right?

Iyengar and Westwood also decided to do the resume test for parties. They asked subjects to decide which of several candidates should get a scholarship (subjects were told this was a genuine decision for the university the researchers were affiliated with). Some resumes had photos of black people, others of white people. And some students listed their experience in Young Democrats of America, others in Young Republicans of America.

Once again, discrimination on the basis of party was much stronger than discrimination on the basis of race. The size of the race effect for white people was only 56-44 (and in the reverse of the expected direction); the size of the party effect was about 80-20 for Democrats and 69-31 for Republicans.

If you want to see their third experiment, which applied yet another classic methodology used to detect racism and once again found partyism to be much stronger, you can read the paper.

I & W did an unusually thorough job, but this sort of thing isn’t new or ground-breaking. People have been studying “belief congruence theory” – the idea that differences in beliefs are more important than demographic factors in forming in-groups and outgroups – for decades. As early as 1967, Smith et al were doing surveys all over the country and finding that people were more likely to accept friendships across racial lines than across beliefs; in the forty years since then, the observation has been replicated scores of times. Insko, Moe, and Nacoste’s 2006 review Belief Congruence And Racial Discrimination concludes that:

. The literature was judged supportive of a weak version of belief congruence theory which states that in those contexts in which social pressure is nonexistent or ineffective, belief is more important than race as a determinant of racial or ethnic discrimination. Evidence for a strong version of belief congruence theory (which states that in those contexts in which social pressure is nonexistent, or ineffective, belief is the only determinant of racial or ethnic discrimination) and was judged much more problematic.

One of the best-known examples of racism is the “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” scenario where parents are scandalized about their child marrying someone of a different race. Pew has done some good work on this and found that only 23% of conservatives and 1% (!) of liberals admit they would be upset in this situation. But Pew also asked how parents would feel about their child marrying someone of a different political party. Now 30% of conservatives and 23% of liberals would get upset. Average them out, and you go from 12% upsetness rate for race to 27% upsetness rate for party – more than double. Yeah, people do lie to pollsters, but a picture is starting to come together here.

(Harvard, by the way, is a tossup. There are more black students – 11.5% – than conservative students – 10% – but there are more conservative faculty than black faculty.)

Since people will delight in misinterpreting me here, let me overemphasize what I am not saying. I’m not saying people of either party have it “worse” than black people, or that partyism is more of a problem than racism, or any of a number of stupid things along those lines which I am sure I will nevertheless be accused of believing. Racism is worse than partyism because the two parties are at least kind of balanced in numbers and in resources, whereas the brunt of an entire country’s racism falls on a few underprivileged people. I am saying that the underlying attitudes that produce partyism are stronger than the underlying attitudes that produce racism, with no necessary implications on their social effects.

But if we want to look at people’s psychology and motivations, partyism and the particular variant of tribalism that it represents are going to be fertile ground.

VII.

Every election cycle like clockwork, conservatives accuse liberals of not being sufficiently pro-America. And every election cycle like clockwork, liberals give extremely unconvincing denials of this.

“It’s not that we’re, like, against America per se. It’s just that…well, did you know Europe has much better health care than we do? And much lower crime rates? I mean, come on, how did they get so awesome? And we’re just sitting here, can’t even get the gay marriage thing sorted out, seriously, what’s wrong with a country that can’t…sorry, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, America. They’re okay. Cesar Chavez was really neat. So were some other people outside the mainstream who became famous precisely by criticizing majority society. That’s sort of like America being great, in that I think the parts of it that point out how bad the rest of it are often make excellent points. Vote for me!”

(sorry, I make fun of you because I love you)

There was a big brouhaha a couple of years ago when, as it first became apparent Obama had a good shot at the Presidency, Michelle Obama said that “for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country.”

Republicans pounced on the comment, asking why she hadn’t felt proud before, and she backtracked saying of course she was proud all the time and she loves America with the burning fury of a million suns and she was just saying that the Obama campaign was particularly inspiring.

As unconvincing denials go, this one was pretty far up there. But no one really held it against her. Probably most Obama voters felt vaguely the same way. I was an Obama voter, and I have proud memories of spending my Fourth of Julys as a kid debunking people’s heartfelt emotions of patriotism. Aaron Sorkin:

[What makes America the greatest country in the world?] It’s not the greatest country in the world! We’re seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, No. 4 in labor force, and No. 4 in exports. So when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the f*** you’re talking about.

(Another good retort is “We’re number one? Sure – number one in incarceration rates, drone strikes, and making new parents go back to work!”)

All of this is true, of course. But it’s weird that it’s such a classic interest of members of the Blue Tribe, and members of the Red Tribe never seem to bring it up.

(“We’re number one? Sure – number one in levels of sexual degeneracy! Well, I guess probably number two, after the Netherlands, but they’re really small and shouldn’t count.”)

My hunch – both the Red Tribe and the Blue Tribe, for whatever reason, identify “America” with the Red Tribe. Ask people for typically “American” things, and you end up with a very Red list of characteristics – guns, religion, barbecues, American football, NASCAR, cowboys, SUVs, unrestrained capitalism.

That means the Red Tribe feels intensely patriotic about “their” country, and the Blue Tribe feels like they’re living in fortified enclaves deep in hostile territory.

Here is a popular piece published on a major media site called America: A Big, Fat, Stupid Nation. Another: America: A Bunch Of Spoiled, Whiny Brats. Americans are ignorant, scientifically illiterate religious fanatics whose “patriotism” is actually just narcissism. You Will Be Shocked At How Ignorant Americans Are, and we should Blame The Childish, Ignorant American People.

Needless to say, every single one of these articles was written by an American and read almost entirely by Americans. Those Americans very likely enjoyed the articles very much and did not feel the least bit insulted.

And look at the sources. HuffPo, Salon, Slate. Might those have anything in common?

On both sides, “American” can be either a normal demonym, or a code word for a member of the Red Tribe.

VIII.

The other day, I logged into OKCupid and found someone who looked cool. I was reading over her profile and found the following sentence:

Don’t message me if you’re a sexist white guy

And my first thought was “Wait, so a sexist black person would be okay? Why?”

(The girl in question was white as snow)

Around the time the Ferguson riots were first starting, there were a host of articles with titles like Why White People Don’t Seem To Understand Ferguson, Why It’s So Hard For Whites To Understand Ferguson, and White Folks Listen Up And Let Me Tell You What Ferguson Is All About, this last of which says:

Social media is full of people on both sides making presumptions, and believing what they want to believe. But it’s the white folks that don’t understand what this is all about. Let me put it as simply as I can for you […]

No matter how wrong you think Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown were, I think we can all agree they didn’t deserve to die over it. I want you white folks to understand that this is where the anger is coming from. You focused on the looting….”

And on a hunch I checked the author photos, and every single one of these articles was written by a white person.

White People Are Ruining America? White. White People Are Still A Disgrace? White. White Guys: We Suck And We’re Sorry? White. Bye Bye, Whiny White Dudes? White. Dear Entitled Straight White Dudes, I’m Evicting You From My Life? White. White Dudes Need To Stop Whitesplaining? White. Reasons Why Americans Suck #1: White People? White.

We’ve all seen articles and comments and articles like this. Some unsavory people try to use them to prove that white people are the real victims or the media is biased against white people or something. Other people who are very nice and optimistic use them to show that some white people have developed some self-awareness and are willing to engage in self-criticism.

But I think the situation with “white” is much the same as the situation with “American” – it can either mean what it says, or be a code word for the Red Tribe.

(except on the blog Stuff White People Like, where it obviously serves as a code word for the Blue tribe. I don’t know, guys. I didn’t do it.)

I realize that’s making a strong claim, but it would hardly be without precedent. When people say things like “gamers are misogynist”, do they mean the 52% of gamers who are women? Do they mean every one of the 59% of Americans from every walk of life who are known to play video or computer games occasionally? No. “Gamer” is a coded reference to the Gray Tribe, the half-branched-off collection of libertarianish tech-savvy nerds, and everyone knows it. As well expect that when people talk about “fedoras”, they mean Indiana Jones. Or when they talk about “urban youth”, they mean freshmen at NYU. Everyone knows exactly who we mean when we say “urban youth”, and them being young people who live in a city has only the most tenuous of relations to the actual concept.

And I’m saying words like “American” and “white” work the same way. Bill Clinton was the “first black President”, but if Herman Cain had won in 2012 he’d have been the 43rd white president. And when an angry white person talks at great length about how much he hates “white dudes”, he is not being humble and self-critical.

IX.

Imagine hearing that a liberal talk show host and comedian was so enraged by the actions of ISIS that he’d recorded and posted a video in which he shouts at them for ten minutes, cursing the “fanatical terrorists” and calling them “utter savages” with “savage values”.

If I heard that, I’d be kind of surprised. It doesn’t fit my model of what liberal talk show hosts do.

But the story I’m actually referring to is liberal talk show host / comedian Russell Brand making that same rant against Fox News for supporting war against the Islamic State, adding at the end that “Fox is worse than ISIS”.

That fits my model perfectly. You wouldn’t celebrate Osama’s death, only Thatcher’s. And you wouldn’t call ISIS savages, only Fox News. Fox is the outgroup, ISIS is just some random people off in a desert. You hate the outgroup, you don’t hate random desert people.

I would go further. Not only does Brand not feel much like hating ISIS, he has a strong incentive not to. That incentive is: the Red Tribe is known to hate ISIS loudly and conspicuously. Hating ISIS would signal Red Tribe membership, would be the equivalent of going into Crips territory with a big Bloods gang sign tattooed on your shoulder.

But this might be unfair. What would Russell Brand answer, if we asked him to justify his decision to be much angrier at Fox than ISIS?

He might say something like “Obviously Fox News is not literally worse than ISIS. But here I am, talking to my audience, who are mostly white British people and Americans. These people already know that ISIS is bad; they don’t need to be told that any further. In fact, at this point being angry about how bad ISIS is, is less likely to genuinely change someone’s mind about ISIS, and more likely to promote Islamophobia. The sort of people in my audience are at zero risk of becoming ISIS supporters, but at a very real risk of Islamophobia. So ranting against ISIS would be counterproductive and dangerous.

On the other hand, my audience of white British people and Americans is very likely to contain many Fox News viewers and supporters. And Fox, while not quite as evil as ISIS, is still pretty bad. So here’s somewhere I have a genuine chance to reach people at risk and change minds. Therefore, I think my decision to rant against Fox News, and maybe hyperbolically say they were ‘worse than ISIS’ is justified under the circumstances.”

I have a lot of sympathy to hypothetical-Brand, especially to the part about Islamophobia. It does seem really possible to denounce ISIS’ atrocities to a population that already hates them in order to weak-man a couple of already-marginalized Muslims. We need to fight terrorism and atrocities – therefore it’s okay to shout at a poor girl ten thousand miles from home for wearing a headscarf in public. Christians are being executed for their faith in Sudan, therefore let’s picket the people trying to build a mosque next door.

But my sympathy with Brand ends when he acts like his audience is likely to be fans of Fox News.

In a world where a negligible number of Redditors oppose gay marriage and 1% of Less Wrongers identify conservative and I know 0/150 creationists, how many of the people who visit the YouTube channel of a well-known liberal activist with a Che-inspired banner, a channel whose episode names are things like “War: What Is It Good For?” and “Sarah Silverman Talks Feminism” – how many of them do you think are big Fox News fans?

In a way, Russell Brand would have been braver taking a stand against ISIS than against Fox. If he attacked ISIS, his viewers would just be a little confused and uncomfortable. Whereas every moment he’s attacking Fox his viewers are like “HA HA! YEAH! GET ‘EM! SHOW THOSE IGNORANT BIGOTS IN THE OUTGROUP WHO’S BOSS!”

Brand acts as if there are just these countries called “Britain” and “America” who are receiving his material. Wrong. There are two parallel universes, and he’s only broadcasting to one of them.

The result is exactly what we predicted would happen in the case of Islam. Bombard people with images of a far-off land they already hate and tell them to hate it more, and the result is ramping up the intolerance on the couple of dazed and marginalized representatives of that culture who have ended up stuck on your half of the divide. Sure enough, if industry or culture or community gets Blue enough, Red Tribe members start getting harassed, fired from their jobs (Brendan Eich being the obvious example) or otherwise shown the door.

Think of Brendan Eich as a member of a tiny religious minority surrounded by people who hate that minority. Suddenly firing him doesn’t seem very noble.

If you mix together Podunk, Texas and Mosul, Iraq, you can prove that Muslims are scary and very powerful people who are executing Christians all the time – and so we have a great excuse for kicking the one remaining Muslim family, random people who never hurt anyone, out of town.

And if you mix together the open-source tech industry and the parallel universe where you can’t wear a FreeBSD t-shirt without risking someone trying to exorcise you, you can prove that Christians are scary and very powerful people who are persecuting everyone else all the time, and you have a great excuse for kicking one of the few people willing to affiliate with the Red Tribe, a guy who never hurt anyone, out of town.

When a friend of mine heard Eich got fired, she didn’t see anything wrong with it. “I can tolerate anything except intolerance,” she said.

“Intolerance” is starting to look like another one of those words like “white” and “American”.

“I can tolerate anything except the outgroup.” Doesn’t sound quite so noble now, does it?

X.

We started by asking: millions of people are conspicuously praising every outgroup they can think of, while conspicuously condemning their own in-group. This seems contrary to what we know about social psychology. What’s up?

We noted that outgroups are rarely literally “the group most different from you”, and in fact far more likely to be groups very similar to you sharing almost all your characteristics and living in the same area.

We then noted that although liberals and conservatives live in the same area, they might as well be two totally different countries or universe as far as level of interaction were concerned.

Contra the usual idea of them being marked only by voting behavior, we described them as very different tribes with totally different cultures. You can speak of “American culture” only in the same way you can speak of “Asian culture” – that is, with a lot of interior boundaries being pushed under the rug.

The outgroup of the Red Tribe is occasionally blacks and gays and Muslims, more often the Blue Tribe.

The Blue Tribe has performed some kind of very impressive act of alchemy, and transmuted all of its outgroup hatred to the Red Tribe.

This is not surprising. Ethnic differences have proven quite tractable in the face of shared strategic aims. Even the Nazis, not known for their ethnic tolerance, were able to get all buddy-buddy with the Japanese when they had a common cause.

Research suggests Blue Tribe / Red Tribe prejudice to be much stronger than better-known types of prejudice like racism. Once the Blue Tribe was able to enlist the blacks and gays and Muslims in their ranks, they became allies of convenience who deserve to be rehabilitated with mildly condescending paeans to their virtue. “There never was a coward where the shamrock grows.”

Spending your entire life insulting the other tribe and talking about how terrible they are makes you look, well, tribalistic. It is definitely not high class. So when members of the Blue Tribe decide to dedicate their entire life to yelling about how terrible the Red Tribe is, they make sure that instead of saying “the Red Tribe”, they say “America”, or “white people”, or “straight white men”. That way it’s humble self-criticism. They are so interested in justice that they are willing to critique their own beloved side, much as it pains them to do so. We know they are not exaggerating, because one might exaggerate the flaws of an enemy, but that anyone would exaggerate their own flaws fails the criterion of embarrassment.

The Blue Tribe always has an excuse at hand to persecute and crush any Red Tribers unfortunate enough to fall into its light-matter-universe by defining them as all-powerful domineering oppressors. They appeal to the fact that this is definitely the way it works in the Red Tribe’s dark-matter-universe, and that’s in the same country so it has to be the same community for all intents and purposes. As a result, every Blue Tribe institution is permanently licensed to take whatever emergency measures are necessary against the Red Tribe, however disturbing they might otherwise seem.

And so how virtuous, how noble the Blue Tribe! Perfectly tolerant of all of the different groups that just so happen to be allied with them, never intolerant unless it happen to be against intolerance itself. Never stooping to engage in petty tribal conflict like that awful Red Tribe, but always nobly criticizing their own culture and striving to make it better!

Sorry. But I hope this is at least a little convincing. The weird dynamic of outgroup-philia and ingroup-phobia isn’t anything of the sort. It’s just good old-fashioned in-group-favoritism and outgroup bashing, a little more sophisticated and a little more sneaky.

XI.

This essay is bad and I should feel bad.

I should feel bad because I made exactly the mistake I am trying to warn everyone else about, and it wasn’t until I was almost done that I noticed.

How virtuous, how noble I must be! Never stooping to engage in petty tribal conflict like that silly Red Tribe, but always nobly criticizing my own tribe and striving to make it better.

Yeah. Once I’ve written a ten thousand word essay savagely attacking the Blue Tribe, either I’m a very special person or they’re my outgroup. And I’m not that special.

Just as you can pull a fast one and look humbly self-critical if you make your audience assume there’s just one American culture, so maybe you can trick people by assuming there’s only one Blue Tribe.

I’m pretty sure I’m not Red, but I did talk about the Grey Tribe above, and I show all the risk factors for being one of them. That means that, although my critique of the Blue Tribe may be right or wrong, in terms of motivation it comes from the same place as a Red Tribe member talking about how much they hate al-Qaeda or a Blue Tribe member talking about how much they hate ignorant bigots. And when I boast of being able to tolerate Christians and Southerners whom the Blue Tribe is mean to, I’m not being tolerant at all, just noticing people so far away from me they wouldn’t make a good outgroup anyway.

I had fun writing this article. People do not have fun writing articles savagely criticizing their in-group. People can criticize their in-group, it’s not humanly impossible, but it takes nerves of steel, it makes your blood boil, you should sweat blood. It shouldn’t be fun.

You can bet some white guy on Gawker who week after week churns out “Why White People Are So Terrible” and “Here’s What Dumb White People Don’t Understand” is having fun and not sweating any blood at all. He’s not criticizing his in-group, he’s never even considered criticizing his in-group. I can’t blame him. Criticizing the in-group is a really difficult project I’ve barely begun to build the mental skills necessary to even consider.

I can think of criticisms of my own tribe. Important criticisms, true ones. But the thought of writing them makes my blood boil.

I imagine might I feel like some liberal US Muslim leader, when he goes on the O’Reilly Show, and O’Reilly ambushes him and demands to know why he and other American Muslims haven’t condemned beheadings by ISIS more, demands that he criticize them right there on live TV. And you can see the wheels in the Muslim leader’s head turning, thinking something like “Okay, obviously beheadings are terrible and I hate them as much as anyone. But you don’t care even the slightest bit about the victims of beheadings. You’re just looking for a way to score points against me so you can embarass all Muslims. And I would rather personally behead every single person in the world than give a smug bigot like you a single microgram more stupid self-satisfaction than you’ve already got.”

That is how I feel when asked to criticize my own tribe, even for correct reasons. If you think you’re criticizing your own tribe, and your blood is not at that temperature, consider the possibility that you aren’t.

But if I want Self-Criticism Virtue Points, criticizing the Grey Tribe is the only honest way to get them. And if I want Tolerance Points, my own personal cross to bear right now is tolerating the Blue Tribe. I need to remind myself that when they are bad people, they are merely Osama-level bad people instead of Thatcher-level bad people. And when they are good people, they are powerful and necessary crusaders against the evils of the world.

The worst thing that could happen to this post is to have it be used as convenient feces to fling at the Blue Tribe whenever feces are necessary. Which, given what has happened to my last couple of posts along these lines and the obvious biases of my own subconscious, I already expect it will be.

But the best thing that could happen to this post is that it makes a lot of people, especially myself, figure out how to be more tolerant. Not in the “of course I’m tolerant, why shouldn’t I be?” sense of the Emperor in Part I. But in the sense of “being tolerant makes me see red, makes me sweat blood, but darn it I am going to be tolerant anyway.”

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1,169 Responses to I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup

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  15. Shenpen says:

    >Are these tribes based on geography? Are they based on race, ethnic origin, religion, IQ, what TV channels you watched as a kid? I don’t know.

    What? Scott, you are a smart fellow, you should grok this. These are simply based on group pressure and us-them dynamic.

    You gravitated towards the Blue Tribe because your upbringing is urban and secular, and you are the kind of guy who values brains more than brawns. Others gravitate towards the Red Tribe because they are rural, had a religious upbringing or buy into the idea of traditional masculinity, basically what I call dominance-positive (anti-egalitarian) values.

    The rest of it is simply group pressure. Certainly everybody CAN like fancy pizza, but when a “red” guy tried that and liked that, some of his friends called him jokingly a fag, or asked him if he is going to go vegan now, or just said I don’t need all this sissy food, meat does it. You, on the other hand, I don’t know if you like steak or even are you a carnivore, but there must a certain pressure in your group to at least be a modest carnivore who eats salmon mousse and does not publish Facebook photos with a huge portion of ribs.

    So there are basic sorting characterics, but the rest is just group pressure.

    The basic sorting characteristic is, I think, intellectualism, Blue being pro-intellectual and Red being anti-intellectual, but this should NOT be seen as Blue being smart and Red being dumb and enjoying being dumb, it is way more complicated than this:

    – Kanazawa has this hypothesis that IQ as a general tool tends to suppress other, more specific tools, like common sense or social skills. Reds value those.

    – Intellectualism quite often results in the lack of physical exercise, low testosterone, low courage levels, not having that kind of warrior spirit, and so on. Reds value those, too.

    To use a Medieval parallel, the Ideal Red would make an excellent knight: he values a warrior spirit, courage, strength, common sense that is way more useful in the hectic of battle than complex thinking, social skills, and his morality is generally that kind of in-group camaraderie that makes him mostly fair with his serfs as long as they behave sufficiently respectfully. The Ideal Blue would make an ideal monk – is primary weapon is intellect and learnedness.

    So, Blues are clearly smarter, however, Blues sacrifice a lot of other important things for this smartness that Reds don’t have to. And some of the things sacrificed, like common sense, often leads to a form of educated folly.

  16. Shenpen says:

    One thing that annoys me that even the Blue Tribe on Reddit casually assumes that everybody who can write a comment in acceptable English must be American or at least more or less from the Anglosphere. I don’t think it is consciously marginalizing nationalism, but it is something sort of a privilege-bubble, same way how male is the default gender, if someone asks a question on a website like Reddit like “Do you think it is possible today to live without a car?” and it is not pointed out _where_ exactly, then of course it is assumed the question is about whether it is possible in America.

    Frankly, if this happened in any other language, this would be understandable: the vast majority of people who choose the German language to discuss something on the Internet actually live in the DACH area or are from there, the only big exception is language learners who came to practice. So a default location would be acceptable.

    But English as such is the No. 1 international language. It is the language used by a Danish businessman to talk to Chinese programmers, because what else should they do? You can work in Germany and still speak English all day because your boss is, say, from Iceland.

    From these perspectives, English is NOT a location-dependent language, and as such the default-locationism definitely comes accross as annoying and a bit like privilege-blindness.

    Frankly, sometimes I think it should be renamed Globish – we certainly don’t associate it anymore with actually English people, or with an Anglo-Saxon ethnicity. In fact in Europe it is so that a Dane, a Frenchwoman and a Polish man speak with each other in English easily, then an actual Englishman says something in a Scouse or Brummie accent and nobody understands a word. Frankly, it is not an exaggeration to say many English people don’t speak Globish very well.

  17. Pingback: QotD: “I can tolerate anything except intolerance” « Quotulatiousness

  18. Voi says:

    Thank you for the insightful post. I stumbled on your blog a few months ago and intend to lurk for a while, if I’ll ever comment.

    However, I found a broken link, in the sentence that reads:
    “It does seem really possible to denounce ISIS’ atrocities to a population that already hates them in order to weak-man a couple of already-marginalized Muslims. “

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  21. Aris Katsaris says:

    Brief thought:
    Red Tribe – nationalism
    Blue Tribe – social justice
    Grey Tribe – transhumanism

  22. Lei Gong says:

    Have you ever read Pierre Bourdieu’s work on social capital, taste, distinction, and class? I think that might get you closer to what you’re describing in your piece about how we self segregate based on perceived identities. (Or you could just do what I do and call this sort of stuff “identity issues”) 😛

  23. Jim says:

    A few days after I initially read this post, I was in a group of friends and the subject of Osama bin Laden came up, and my girlfriend decried people who were happy when he was killed. I think she may have actually used the phrase “I’m not going to celebrate another human being’s death.”

    And I said, “What? You wrote a huge long rant on Facebook saying how glad you were when Joan Rivers died.”

    GF: “Yeah, but she’s terrible.”

  24. Jay says:

    I was reading this article, kind of reflexively recoiling at parts of it, but couldn’t quantify the problem. You start off with that whole noble bit about forgiveness. Hard to disagree with you after that. Same with your self effacing wrap-up. Then it hit me: you completely passed up every opportunity to acknowledge that all in-groups and out-groups are not created equal. You start off with World War II, but you never acknowledge that sometimes, one in-group can be *the actual bad guy.*

    So later on you point out, essentially, that the Red tribe depending on their mood hates blacks, foreigners, gays, and the Blue tribe, whereas the Blue tribe, on the other hand, only hates the Red tribe. I just want to ask, could we please entertain the notion that it is right and proper to hate the red tribe, precisely because it is wrong to hate black people, foreign nationals, immigrants, and the lgbtq?

    You equate “I can tolerate anything but intolerance” with “I can tolerate anything but the outgroup.” Again with the presumption that all outgroups are equal. It’s all fine and good to say that either we should be respectful when Thatcher dies or we should let people have their party when Bin Laden goes. It’s another thing entirely to say that we shouldn’t consider ourselves tolerant unless we tolerate hatred.

    • Mark says:

      Your comment reads as extremely tribalistic to me and made me recoil in, I suspect, much the same way Scott’s post did to you. First, it’s extremely disingenuous to say that the Red Tribe “hates black people, immigrants and gay people.” Although some of them doubtless do, there’s a large difference between being opposed to (some of) a group’s interests and hating that group. Second, even if the aggregate harm to those groups that their opposition causes is high, and even if it’s right to hate “the Red Tribe” in abstract as a result, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right to hate all Red individuals and try to hound them out of every shared community. Third, presumably even you would say some forms of intolerance of Red Tribe members would be morally wrong, including some legal ones. Unless you have some very good arguments for the morality of your pet intolerant behaviors, I think it’s generally a good idea to err on the side of tolerance. Fourth, every ingroup is inevitably going to claim that its outgroup objectively deserves hatred, so the general algorithm “figure out which groups objectively deserve to be marginalized, then marginalize them to the utmost extent” is going to lead to tons of wrongful marginalization. That at least suggests it would be nice if there were some principles of non-marginalization we could all collectively benefit from adhering to regardless of whose self-righteousness happens to be justified.

  25. Snakeplissken says:

    You seem to imply there’s some kind of parity between these red and blue teams. If we were to draw up a flow chart, and I think that would be interesting, it would have to depict the blue team as the out group to the red team, the red team as dominant and out group to no-one, and most of the dynamics and the character of the relationships between the dominant (red) and the “other” party (blue) flowing from there — although I also think that as the demographics are changing, a lot of the character of the right wing’s public behavior comes to resemble that of an aging Alpha male seeing himself at greater risk from the younger males. But at any rate, I agree that it’s those values often considered Christian virtues such as humility and forgiveness that most take a beating in this vain struggle for the soul of America, where the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater.

  26. MHD says:

    You should note that some of the links are broken, they redirect to *your domain*/*link* rather than just *link*.

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  28. This is one of the best essays I’ve ever read.
    You nailed the “Team Gray” description of my Libertarian tribe….
    Looking forward to reading more. I wish you could do less psychotherapy and more writing.

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  31. James Kabala says:

    Oh, and paleoconservatives are “highly educated” far beyond Team Blue – the writers for Chronicles are the sort of people who have read Greek and Latin classics in the original and the subscribers are the sort of people who wish they had.

  32. James Kabala says:

    “But it’s weird that it’s such a classic interest of members of the Blue Tribe, and members of the Red Tribe never seem to bring it up.

    (‘We’re number one? Sure – number one in levels of sexual degeneracy! Well, I guess probably number two, after the Netherlands, but they’re really small and shouldn’t count.’)”

    You can find conservatives who talk like that if you where to look – i.e., not Fox News, but paleoconservative publications (David Frum’s article on “unpatriotic conservatives” was a despicable slander, but not one wholly disconnected from reality) and to a lesser extent religious publications (as I said, to a lesser extent – a First Things article is more likely to have an overall friendly or optimistic tone than a Chronicles article).

  33. Pingback: QotD: The political tribes of America « Quotulatiousness

  34. I hope times are a changing and writing like this makes me think so.. I personally look forward to Bayesian Analysis on History… But I digress.

    We are acting out over 2000 years of history and story. Only war can make peace, us vs. them… It sounds cliche but only in acting against our biases can things change.. and we do want them to change right?

    The following quote(?) that comes to mind is (I believe) from Barack Obama… We don’t make peace with our allies, we look to have conversations with our enemies to facilitate communication and peace.

    Only when we have common ground can we communicate enough to fight. It’s the differences we crave and recognize, but if the context and distance to understand is too far then there is no feedback loop of communication. We can’t get angry that they get angry at us for what they do… Before we (U.S.) forced trade with China they could give a ripe on what happened outside of their “Kingdom” but we enforced a common ground, perhaps unwisely and definitely in a fashion that pre-sages “blowback” as we know it today…

    Enjoyed the article… one of the first things I saw on facebook I have thoroughly enjoyed!

  35. Steve Sailer says:

    “So what makes an outgroup? Proximity plus small differences.”

    I would argue that a more fundamental approach is to examine interests in arelativistic fashion, using blood relatives as an easily understandable example. For example, back in the early 1970s, Robert Trivers worked out the math on sibling rivalry. Siblings have very good reasons for helping each other out relative to outside world, but they also have very good reasons for clashing over resources for which they are fiercest natural rivals, such as inheritances and parental time and money.

    Rational rivalries and alliances are by no means arbitrary, but they are highly contingent upon circumstances.

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  37. Johannes says:

    I would have thought that the “mixed feelings” about Osama’s death had more to do with a filmed commando style execution in a foreign country posing as “bringing justice”. If he had died from kidney failure (that’s actually what many people believe happened a long time before the “execution”) feelings of relief would probably have dominated.

    I am not familiar enough with US politics and social groups. But it seems that the internet does not give a proper impression, because eloquent fringe groups are far more present in the webs than elsewhere. The “official” political spectrum of the Red/Blue parties is far narrower than in most other countries and most other times. Even if one includes the neoreactionary and anarcholibertarian fringe spectrum. There is not really any leftist group. What poses as “leftist” is, viewed from Europe, economically centrist social democracy, adorned with “fighting” for tiny minorities and symbolic PC issues.

    Compare this with 1920s Germany (this was not a pleasant time, of course) when you had almost everything imaginable from monarchists, nationalists, catholic social conservatives, classical liberals, social democrats and communists.

    Therefore the differences in fringe issues like gay rights have to be blown all out of proportion to get visible differences at all.

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  39. Massimo says:

    I am glad to see a liberal acknowledge how weird the race issue is and how weird it is to see white liberals tear into white males so aggressively.

    President Obama and his wife Michelle were both very clearly very anti-white and anti-American before the 2008 election, but so were white liberals, so that was ok. What the white liberals don’t realize, is their version of anti-white differs from the Obamas. The white liberals are anti-segregation and anti-right. The Obamas were actually anti-integration and very black-power, black-separatist. President Obama’s mentor, Reverend Wright, who is mostly white, explains their ideology. If you read Obama’s autobiography, and read Michelle’s college essays, this ideology is clear. Also note how the president’s father, Obama Sr, was a big proponent of black power ethnic confiscation of wealth and property in Africa from both whites and Asians as practiced against the Indians in Uganda. Obama Sr pushed for the same thing in Kenya. I suspect the white liberal Obama supporters would be horrified by that and just tune that out.

    New to this blog, love this post, but those caricatures are way off…

    The Whole Foods CEO is super right wing politically, but from a food perspective, he is in the arugula camp, and that’s not uncommon. I drive a hybrid, love arugula, am disinterested in football, religiously agnostic, but I am super right wing. I am a Margaret Thatcher fan. I am horrified by liberal politics.

    • nydwracu says:

      I’m not so convinced that Obama really believes in things. He strikes me as the sort of person who just follows the scent of power. (Then again, he appointed Eric Holder.)

      The Whole Foods CEO is super right wing politically, but from a food perspective, he is in the arugula camp, and that’s not uncommon. I drive a hybrid, love arugula, am disinterested in football, religiously agnostic, but I am super right wing.

      Rod Dreher calls them ‘crunchy cons’.

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  41. ML says:

    30 years ago I was compelled by matters of conscience to move from Blue Tribe to Red. My world is still 80% Blue and I am the outsider. Even people who have loved me all my life do not want to hear about it . I have been told by some not to talk about certain things in their presence, though I have to endure hearing every insulting and belittling thing the dominant culture (and yes, Blue is the dominant culture) puts out there. It has been painful but illuminating, and I am not sorry to be out of that fold. If you’re in a bubble, just try stepping out.

    • Will Best says:

      Never let Blues muzzle you. Agree to mutual ceasefires, but if they make a passing quip, go 10 rounds.

      The Blues have learned to keep their opinions to themselves around me unless they want to open those opinions up to criticism.

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  43. Viliam Búr says:

    By the way, when people celebrated Thatcher’s death, did anyone scream “misogyny”? Or are the women from the other tribe considered less women (or maybe the whole tribe is considered less human), and thus offending them is not really a transgression?

    • suntzuanime says:

      See also the treatment of Ayn Rand by people who complain that philosophy is dominated by white men. Or recently the #GamerGate protests where the SJW journalists decided that any woman who disagreed with them was secretly a man.

      I mean it’s nice that they don’t actually believe “women are always right, you can never offend a woman or it’s misogyny” and they’re just using it as one more piece of ammunition for their side. More reasonable than the alternative! And since they don’t explicitly state the principle, they have deniability against claims of hypocrisy, too.

      • It’s not obvious to me that there’d be less hostility directed at Rand if she were a man, but I’d be interested to hear alternative views. Competent and authoritative women are seen as less likable in psych studies, so the Thatcher/Rand claims are plausible on priors. Microsexism can act as a hostility multiplier even if it isn’t the hostility’s root cause.

        Rand is a bit idiosyncratic to count as Exhibit A here, though. A lot of professional philosophers dismiss her, including philosophers who take seriously scholars like Anscombe, Foot, de Beauvoir, Churchland, Millikan, Korsgaard, Thomson. A lot of people calling for more women in philosophy may be calling for professionals, and categorize Rand more with inspiring pop philosophers like Victor Frankl, Sam Harris, and Robert Pirsig.

        I haven’t been following GamerGate closely, but I thought token woman/minority sockpuppetry was happening quite a bit?

        • suntzuanime says:

          It’s not really easy to tell how much sockpuppetry is going on, because the SJWs will assert it without any evidence beyond the opinions expressed. To the extent that GamerGate has a coherent will (where boycotts are being organized on 8chan etc.), they tell their followers not to pretend to be minorities or women if they aren’t, for fear of being discredited. I’m not sure how much this helps though, because people who don’t follow GamerGate closely only hear the accusations of sockpuppetry and don’t see when they’re rebutted.

          I started paying attention to GamerGate when a minority gamer I know personally was accused of being white for participating in the protests. Leaving aside the fact that the “anti-racists” think being white is something to accuse someone of, it’s hypocritical of them to erase minority identities when they don’t fall into lockstep with their ideology.

        • Cauê says:

          I’ve been following #GamerGate reasonably closely. Every single accusation of “cishet white male sockpuppet” (there’s usually “virgin”/”neckbeard”/”manbaby” in there too) has been disproved with pictures, and in the dozens of livestreams they organize with women and minorities in the #notyourshield tag. I bet I missed some real ones, but this pattern has been dominant in my experience.

          The misrepresentation of #GamerGate has been a fascinating phenomenon in itself, especially because it often doesn’t seem to be intentional.

    • Intrism says:

      Not everything bad that people say about a woman is misogynist. Only bad things that people say because a woman is a woman are misogynist.

      In this case, people are saying bad things because this particular woman was a really awful politician. Why would it even come up?

      • I would be very surprised if none of Thatcher’s critics said misogynistic things about her. I would also be very surprised if none of her supporters called criticism of her misogynistic without adequate justification.

        Maybe things were just really different in the 1980s and by the time she died the lines had already been drawn?

        • Nornagest says:

          Thatcher was a continent away and largely before my time, but I get the impression that she was perceived as unfeminine on the Left. That’s not something that you can accuse her of in public if you’re a leftist, but it is something you can joke about behind closed doors, or in media aimed at your own tribe.

          Condoleeza Rice got similar treatment during the Bush years. Sarah Palin’s a bit different; the jokes about her that I’ve heard cast her (beg pardon) as a dumb redneck bimbo, which you could certainly call sexist — at least on grounds of being a gendered insult — but isn’t a direct attack on gender nonconformity.

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  45. Deansdale says:

    “So what makes an outgroup? Proximity plus small differences.”

    Exactly what Heartiste (and many other people of course) have said: diversity+proximity=war.

    “There are very many claims and counterclaims about the precise meaning of this, but it ended up being a big part of the evidence in favor of the current consensus that all white people are at least a little racist.”

    The LoLest LoL of the month… You didn’t need to put “white” in the last part – having an in-group bias is present in all human beings. If having an in-group bias means you’re a racist then every single sane human being is a racist… which makes the concept utterly meaningless. And singling out whites in this context proves an increased anti-white racism, a deep-seated belief that there is something innately wrong with whites.

    “The size of the race effect for white people was only 56-44 (and in the reverse of the expected direction)”

    Whoa, whoa. Everyone has their own in-group bias, but it’s only whites who consciously go against it – and they are seen as weak for it, and punished. It reminds me of the fact that slavery was a universal practice (PoC had white slaves in many parts of history), and it was whites who decided to do away with it – and they are still punished for it by claiming that they were the worst/only offenders. The longer I think about it the more it seems that we whites are the naivest people on earth abused by all the others who are much more pragmatic (expression chosen with politeness in mind). We gave “minorities” an inch, and another, and then some, but nothing seems to satisfy them. On the contrary, they get more and more angry and demanding.

    “the size of the party effect was about 80-20 for Democrats and 69-31 for Republicans.”

    …which says pretty much everything you need to know about the tolerance (and the integrity) of dem’s and rep’s relative to each other. The fact that it is the dem’s who constantly talk about tolerance make this all the more illuminating. You can call me stupid but it is much harder to shame the data into silence 🙂

    “That means the Red Tribe feels intensely patriotic about “their” country, and the Blue Tribe feels like they’re living in fortified enclaves deep in hostile territory. ”

    The thing I don’t get is why it is sacrilege to even think about letting people form their own… “colonies”, so to speak, so they can live peacefully surrounded by other people and a culture they like. If proximity + political differences create turmoil, and political differences can’t be resolved, why enforce proximity? It’s just plain stupid; a recipe for constant animosity.

    “Some unsavory people try to use them to prove that white people are the real victims or the media is biased against white people or something.”

    Fighting for victim status is silly. But the media? Come on, let’s get honest for a second here… It is biased against whites, as evidenced by all the anti-white bullshit you just linked to. Or am I supposed to believe that all this anti-white sentiment coming from white people is somehow balanced by pro-white sentiment coming from PoC? Right around Ferguson a white guy was shot to death by police elsewhere in the US, and the media didn’t give a damn, because it was not proper fodder for the race wars. Let’s not pretend that the media is impartial or white-friendly, please… They consistently called the hispanic Zimmerman “white” just so they could incite some anti-white hatred.

    “The Blue Tribe has performed some kind of very impressive act of alchemy, and transmuted all of its outgroup hatred to the Red Tribe.”

    This is not entirely true considering the experiments you mentioned, that found out Blues also had racial biases… They just keep saying they aren’t racists – deep down they are, just like everybody else 🙂

    Your article pretty much shows that the blue tribe has no integrity whatsoever. They are an elitist mob held together by pretenses. The red tribe has always denounced them as such, but suddenly it seems that science and logic backs them up on this.

    Thing is, red and blue doesn’t mean what they used to, and nowadays it is an engineered conflict to keep the perpetual infighting going. Divide and conquer, divide and conquer. Our most pressing problem is figuring out how to get out of this polarized, tribalist worldview. As long as we see each other as outgroups we’re descending into conflict, poverty, hatred. We need something to unify us, preferably not an outside outgroup but something more… enlightened.

    • Ballast says:

      Nice comments you get here, Scott. I never saw anything like this a few years ago. I like the new audience you’ve been attracting. Just let go of the dead-weight liberal leftoid tendencies you have, and this place will be great.

      • Wulfrickson says:

        dead-weight liberal leftoid

        Comment reported for the obvious reasons.

        I like the new audience you’ve been attracting.

        Didn’t we talk about this in the aftermath of the last SJ post? Scott, run screaming in the opposite direction.

        • Fazathra says:

          I was just assuming that Ballast’s comment was sarcasm, but now I look at his other posts I’m not so sure…

          Also, Scott, please don’t stop critiquing the SJW’s, you’re the only person I know who can remain unmindkilled around them. If the influx of low quality instapundit (or whatever) posters are giving you trouble, just ban them or preemptively close the comments.

          • Emile says:

            I don’t think it’s sarcasm, but if it is, that guy’s reeeeally bad at communicating.

            I’m also in favor of heavy banning of instapunders or wherever they come from, despite being a borderline HBD/Reactionary myself. Comments like that is why I stopped reading HBD blogs (well, that and the tendency to analyze everything through the same lense).

          • George S. says:

            “despite being a borderline HBD/Reactionary myself.”

            Why? 90% of what HBDers claim is probably going to turn out either wrong or exaggerated. A few HBD blogs I used to follow have barely updated in the last few months. One of the more knowledgeable HBDers I know has recently admitted that he’s found lots of anomalies in migrant data and that he’s not expecting genome studies to find large genetic differences between races. Modest ones at best.

          • Anonymous says:

            George, don’t stoop to Ballast’s level of refusing to name names, give links, and make precise claims.

      • Illuminati Initiate says:

        Obvious troll is obvious.

        And i’m surprised you haven’t noticed that Scott IS a borderline “liberal leftoid”.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Hey, so your broken-record repetition of HBD stuff sounded familiar, and I checked your IP, and YOU’RE THE PERSON WHO’S BEEN IMPERSONATING ME AND TRYING TO FRAME ME FOR STUFF.

        WHY? WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT?

    • Ballast says:

      I am not being insincere in my praise of this post. It is refreshing to see such a perspective on a leftist blog. I commend Scott for letting these otherwise silenced and slighted people to have a voice here. Even despite you problematic beliefs, such as your dismissive view of HBD.

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  48. Doug S. says:

    As a wise guy once said:

    “A heretic is someone who shares ALMOST all of your beliefs. Kill him.”

  49. Robert Liguori says:

    So, as a sister piece to this essay, has everyone here read Paul Graham’s Keep Your Identity Small piece? (I am failing at HTML, so I can’t link it, but it’s Googlable easily.) It seems like the best way to avoid the trap of it being extremely difficult (or contrarianly-signaling effective) to criticize a group is for you to try to keep as much mental distance from groups as you can. Remember, the world is under no obligation to fit itself into the categories you sort bits of it into; when you meet and interact with dozens of people at a time, a category that carves reality at the joints with 95% accuracy will hit a lot of bone.

    Myself, I really like to follow a bunch of different communities, and see the best and the worst of what they have to offer, so I have mental ammunition to shoot back at the “Defend X! Attack Y!” reflexes I have. And it’s important to really look hard; it’s really easy to gloss over bad behavior with “No, although that person identifies as X, and everyone but my subgroup of X thinks they’re X, they’re really not X, so I don’t have to own that X contains people like that!”, or (as Scott pointed out in a previous post) to simply end up in a bubble where no one talks about certain kinds of behavior, so it’s easy to mentally excuse it as just a few bad apples.

    And actually, now that I think of it…is there really an advantage to trying to use group membership to carve reality at the joints? If you know that it’s really hard to get and maintain accurate priors of behavior based on group membership when you’re a member of some groups and that group gives you points for attacking other groups, isn’t there potential gain in saying “I know that this person has given these signs of those tribal values, but I’m going to attempt to ignore them until I’ve interacted with the person directly, because a nice person’s going to look nice whether they fly a red, blue, grey, or irrigo flag.”?, especially when it’s not hard to have those casual interactions?

    • Illuminati Initiate says:

      The problem with the “keep your identity small” piece is that when talking about not identifying with politics it ignores the difference between practical debates and differing goals. For example, I have no especially strong feelings about gun control because that is more a debate over which policy kills the least people, and if someone could convinced me that gun ownership actually reduced death I would support it. However, other issues, like abortion and homosexuality, are more about differences in morality than any debates over facts, and morality is very much part of someone’s identity. Of course the lines can sometimes be blurred, like when people defend gun ownership by saying their right to own guns is more important than others’ right to continue existing, and when neoreactionaries try and claim gay marriage will somehow literally destroy civilization.

      But anyways better advice would be to identify with terminal values and not instrumental courses of action.

      • Princess_Stargirl says:

        Saying gun control is primarily about which policy kills less people seems like a very wrong approach. Millions of people get enjoyment out of gun ownership. So in order for increasing gun control to justified it would have to prevent a signifigant amount of deaths. Its immoral and anti-human to curtail people’s freedoms unless you have a strong reason (not just an old weak reason).

        As far as I can tell the level of gun control does not make a large difference in the murder rate. Guns seem to neither prevent nor cause a large fraction of murders. Based on this we should not increase gun control (and probably we should decrease it a bit).

        • Robert Liguori says:

          Well, I think we’re at the kind of basic problem with sociology as a science, which is that it’s really hard to get everyone to agree to “OK, everyone, we’re going to do 1975-2000 again, only with different gun control laws, and see what happens!”

          But in the absence of the ability to do that, you can say “Well, this country is fairly close to us in that time period with law X and they had positive results!”, for an entire spectrum of countries and different policies. Country A had gun control and an increase in home invasion and knife crime, country B had a rifle in every home and extremely low rates of any kind of crime, country C had strict gun control and low violent crime but a high non-gun suicide rate, country D had high personal armament but also got invaded, and so forth.

          And, to tie it back to my main point, which of those data sets you are often exposed to and which are dismissed as outliers that aren’t part of a demonstrative social trend is often very heavily weighted based on which group you’re in.

          Also, I just realized that there was one other point that Scott made, but didn’t exactly verbalize (although it might have come up in the giant radioactive discussion of doom since): the behavior which Scott identifies as painful and difficult isn’t just criticizing his tribe, it’s doing so in a manner which will give aid and ammunition to the enemy. It seems like the difference between complaining about your family, and going to the police about them.

    • Jim says:

      Link for convenience’s sake: Keep Your Identity Small

  50. Alexander Stanislaw says:

    On the meta level this is excellent. On the object level I found this rather off-putting although I did appreciate the final section. If you applied the same criteria for discourse to other groups, I think you would find blue tribe to be not significantly worse than other groups such as Catholics, atheists and conservatives.

    The most interesting part of this essay to me, was the dark arts tactic of using disguised queries to discretely insult your opponents:

    Its uncool to call Conservatives mean names and insult them. But insulting racist or sexist white guys? How could anyone challenge you unless they are secretly a nasty racist or sexist themselves?

    This tactic is incredibly common. Its no longer cool to make fun of heathens, atheists, or people of other religions; but it is cool to make fun of fedora wearing neck beards (this is also a subtle way of insulting nerds, a group that has also fallen out of favor to make fun of directly).

    This tactic is also very old. Criticizing a woman for having multiple sex partners is unusual. Criticizing her for being a “slut” is very common, though it is being pushed back against.

    Criticizing someone for being a virgin in their twenties is bizarre. But you can criticize them for being a “prude who thinks they are so much better than everyone else”.

    This is in a pretty much the non-central fallacy applied to types of people. You start off by creating a category with negative connotations including some trait that you want to attack (atheism, being overweight, having too much sex, or not enough) then assert that someone is a central member of that category because they have the trait that you are trying to attack.

    • Doug S. says:

      Criticizing someone for being a virgin in their twenties is bizarre.

      Not if that person is male and you’re implying that they’re not a virgin by choice.

      • Illuminati Initiate says:

        Well maybe its not bizarre, but it’s certainly being *Edit: a petty bully*.

        (as in the people who make the “criticism” are *edit: petty bullies*, not the target)

        Edit: Sorry, wasn’t sure about the standards of language here

        Double Edit: Also you probably agree with me anyways.

        • Illuminati Initiate says:

          Just realized you meant bizarre as in rare not as in weird. Ignore my previous comment.

          And in case anyone wants to know the phrase I used in my previous post before editing was asshole, because I just realized my editing made it look like it was something else.

    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      Recent citing:

      Belle Knox is a Duke student who ran of money to pay for college, so she filled in the gap by being a porn actress. Criticizing someone for being a porn actress because it proves they are “morally depraved” is still acceptable in many circles unfortunately; but rather than criticize her on that front many of the critics jumped on her decision to remain at Duke calling her an “elitist self entitled snob who thinks she’s too good for community college – and will do anything to maintain her sense of superiority”. (rough paraphrase)

      • Illuminati Initiate says:

        That’s rather strange when you think about it. Taking on a job to pay for college makes you “entitled”? (oh how I hate that word)

  51. Michael Reed says:

    Dear Mr. Alexander,
    Thank you for one of the best pieces on this subject I’ve ever read! (Can this be more broadly distributed or extended to book form – I hope?) My own thinking has been running the same direction for some time and I’ve struggled with a way to describe what I see and hear (and think) in just the same way.
    Also, just recently, I had an online conversation regarding an in/out-group love/hate-fest news story with a rare, civil and similarly confused blue tribe/grey tribe waffler (my bias?), who seemed similarly troubled by the same observations you make. Upon completion of our sharp, but good-natured jabs at each other’s dissimilarities in rationales and interpretations, we followed by noting points of agreement and expressing admiration for the others sincerity, passion and desire for “the good” that were somewhat disconcerting, I think, for both of us, as such an exchange would normally end – in my experience – with feces hurling at best, and death/harm wishes at worst. It seemed, I guess, to make me feel hopeful? A feeling I’m not accustomed to having in such “discussions”.
    Again, I thank you for sharing your excellent insights in a refreshingly honest and plain-spoken way. And I look forward to hearing more from you.
    Very best regards,
    Michael Reed

  52. I’ve always been skeptical of the BSD t-shirt story, because …

    Native: “And what kind of football team has the devil as a mascot?”

    … when I lived on the prairie, I got the impression that half the rural highschools had either Red Devils or Blue Devils.

  53. Zubon says:

    Stray thought: “shit * say” videos have a big difference in tone if they are made by in-group or out-group folks. When “we” make a video mocking ourselves, it is a friendly parody. When we make a video mocking “them,” it’s as vicious as possible.

  54. HlynkaCG says:

    Token Red tribe lurker here,

    FYI
    This post just got linked by Glen Reynolds’ Instapundit Feed. Professor Reynolds is pretty much the internet godfather of the main-stream Red tribe, Senators read his blog. You might have already noticed from watching incoming links, but if you were looking to get the “others” attention you have it, at least to some degree.

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  56. SynCallio says:

    Maybe it’ll amuse you that I enjoyed reading this.

    I s’pose I’m “Red Tribe” (Conservative, Evangelical, and all that), and I gotta tell you, you can aim every last one of these criticisms straight at the Red Tribe and they would be valid. As a Red Triber who runs around Blue regions of the internet and who has both Red and Blue friends on Facebook, there is a particular type of facepalm that goes with seeing anti-outgroup posts from either side right next to each other on my “Friends” feed. I have to remind myself, often, that the most annoying Red Tribers are human; flawed people I care for and who have positive traits, and who could use some love and grace.

    ‘Cause it has somehow gotten easier to love the Blue Tribe. Go figure.

    We’re perverse little creatures, we humans. But this is not a new thing. I come from Mennonite ancestry, where the highest virtue is humility, and it’s amazing how very proud we are of that. *headdesk*

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  58. Thom says:

    Scott, that was easily the best thing I’ve read in months, and I hope you never regret writing it. This is about as honest an essay as I’ve seen–that, or you just happened to place yourself nicely within my in-group of people who are largely disgusted by both Red and Blue, and sometimes Gray, occasionally myself, but mostly everyone else. 🙂 This essay, while long, was well worth the read, even though it ultimately leaves me feeling somewhat uneasy. And I think that was the intention. Nothing you said was surprising, per se. I’ve been suspecting similar things for some time, though you put it into words extraordinarily well. But your final coup de grace was your moment of “Physician, heal thyself”, which implicated me right along with you. Well done. You’re spot on–tolerance should be painful or it’s not tolerance.

  59. John P says:

    I’d be a loyal blue triber, except that they betrayed me and plenty of other people. But I want to talk about the blue and red tribes of other countries. Red tribes in other countries can be very different from America’s red tribe. They might be monarchists, they might favor a feudal system or even a caste system, etc. But throughout the world the blue tribes seem to be much the same. They are the women who want to have careers the same way men do. They are the gays who want to live openly. They are the secularists who don’t want the local red tribe’s religion to suffocate them.

    Now after the Shah of Iran was evicted, Iran’s red tribe took over and executed a lot of members of the blue tribe. I had what I thought was a natural, blue tribe reaction: I was horrified and wanted revenge. It wasn’t until after 9/11 that I learned that the other members of the blue tribe here in America identified not with their fellow blue tribers in Iran, but with Iran’s red tribe. Incredible. It was like Jews supporting the Nazis or blacks supporting the KKK.

    Ever since then I’ve been trying to get through to America’s blue tribers. No, these people are not your friends, and no, I’m not going to like Muslims (except the very, very moderate ones). They all seem like red tribers to me. And I take it that the message of Karima Bennoune’s book Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here is basically, “Hey, blue tribers in the Western world, will you stop supporting the red tribe in the Middle East and start supporting your real friends, the blue tribers in the Middle East?”

    Maybe there is a blue triber here who can explain their (to me) mysterious love for people I think of as red tribers and make it seem quite reasonable, but it just looks irrational and even suicidal to me.

    • Daniel Speyer says:

      Blue tribers are very strongly against seeing third worlders (including middle easterners) oppressed by strong western interests. That sometimes bleeds over into support for anyone who tries to stop that, even though some of those anyones are worse.

      There may also be an element of wishful thinking. Last I looked, the middle east had a depressing shortage of genuine good guys.

      • Ballast says:

        That can possibly be biological. HBD proves that middle easterners are more greedy when personal and familial gain is considered, so therefore there will always be unrest in the middle east as we see. Nothing we can do.

        • This is the part where I’d normally ask for a source, but any source you’re likely to provide is unlikely to be one I’d find trustworthy.

          Also, I don’t find this comment to be either true or kind. Per Scott’s advice of erring on this side, I’ve reported it.

          • Ballast says:

            The sources are the many HBD blogs which draw on mainstream science. [H]bdchick is one of them, Jayman is another. Search for middle east related stuff around the rest of the HBD sphere and you’ll learn that my sources are indeed very trustworthy, unless you have an irrational hatred for HBD.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            Unnecessary as well, actually. It wouldn’t really matter to this thread if the conclusion were true.

          • Ballast says:

            There is no “if” there anymore, and it is relevant to this whole topic. Scott pays only little lipservice to the HBD view, and it is clear he doesn’t ascribe to it. That is totally fine, but unscientific. The whole thing with tribalism and clannishness is that it is differs between races and subpopulation, and is largely genetic (he refers to this) and has between population differences due to gene-culture coevolution

          • I looked and didn’t find anything very trustworthy. Anybody can say that their preferred conclusions are backed up by mainstream science; actually demonstrating this is another matter entirely.

            Traditionally, the next step in this debate is that I ask for an actual study published in a peer-reviewed journal that directly supports your claims, and then you assert that of course no such study exists because academia would never allow it to be published (which is true) but of course the HBD people are drawing obvious commonsense conclusions from mainstream science and only someone who had been mindkilled by progressive politics could fail to acknowledge their truth. To which I respond that most smart people I’ve heard from don’t seem to think much of those conclusions and I have no evidence that the HBD people aren’t themselves victims of their own political biases. And pretty soon we run smack into the Hard Problem of Figuring Out Which Purported Experts Should Actually Be Listened To.

            Is this a fair assessment?

          • Ballast says:

            You are right that academics are disallowed due to cultural Marxism and political correctness from publishing anything that rails against the dominant paradigm (even if the paradigm is demonstrably wrong.) The rest of your assessment is incorrect, HBD is just science, and the conclusions that are derived from it. No more, no less. The truth can’t be “racist” or anything, because science, and HBD, is inherently apolitical and value-free. These truths are affirmed by people like Nicholas Wade, Gregory Cochran, Henry Harpending, the many HBDers, etc. So you are wrong in saying that “smart people” are against HBD.

          • Nornagest says:

            So you are wrong in saying that “smart people” are against HBD.

            You seem to have redefined “smart people” as “HDB bloggers”.

          • To be clear, my claim wasn’t that no smart people buy into HBD, only that most of them don’t.

            In any case, do you in fact have any studies to cite?

          • Ballast says:

            The sources are all on the various HBD blogs which you neglect to read. I can only conclude that your opposition to HBD is irrational.

          • I searched to find what HBD Chick had to say on the Middle East, and this post, for example, isn’t science in any meaningful sense.

          • Nornagest says:

            The sources are all on the various HBD blogs which you neglect to read. I can only conclude that your opposition to HBD is irrational.

            Ironically, “I can’t be bothered to cite sources, but I’m totally right; go read my side’s blogs until you’ve indoctrinated yourself” is one of the attitudes that ticks me off about SJ.

            Ladies and gentlemen, horseshoe theory in action!

          • Emile says:

            I used to read HBD blogs somewhat regularly, but reading too much stupid stuff and lazy thinking about the middle east was one of the things that annoyed me and drove me away.

            Yes, okay, it’s pretty likely that some group differences in intellectual abilities have genetic causes, even if it’s not very nice to mention it; that doesn’t mean *any* difference between *any* group has to have genetic causes!

            So you people can just disregard Ballast, reading HBD blogs would probably be a waste of your time.

          • Jake says:

            As far as I understand it, the HBD argument about Middle East instability is:

            1) Virtually all behavioral traits are substantially heritable. (Extremely well established).

            2) This includes the pattern of traits that can be dubbed “clannishness” – favoring kin over non-kin, distrust of outsiders, et cetera. Everyone is clannish to some extent, but the degree to which we are is substantially genetic. (Probable in light of 1), but I don’t remember seeing any direct studies on this).

            3) a) In many Middle Eastern countries, first-cousin marriage is very common. (Well-established).

            4) Kin selection operates strongly on consanguineous families, so the selective pressure in favor of clannishness is much higher than in other societies. (Plausible given 2) and 3), though I haven’t seen any papers directly modeling this and I’m not sure of the mathematics here).

            5. High clannishness leads to nepotism and corruption, distrust in liberal institutions and the rule of law generally (why should outsiders have a say over your family?), and a high propensity for tribal violence. (This is the most speculative part, though it’s hardly implausible).

            This argument isn’t conclusive, and clearly a lot more research is needed. I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss it out of hand, though.

          • Ballast says:

            Yep. Not only middle east, but in all other populations there is selection for such behaviors. Criminality in blacks, Slavs, Hispanics, probably has a genetic origin. I think Scott is an idiot if he doesn’t take HBD seriously, its been thus far the strongest force that answers all questions about humanity. Since every behavior is heritable (not quite genetic causation per set, but whatever) HBD is right in saying everything about human societies has an innate, evolutionary origin. This is the perspective of mainstream science.

    • Illuminati Initiate says:

      Blue vs Red is as much a cultural thing as a political one, so using blue to mean liberals and leftists, gray to mean libertarians and red to mean conservatives is not really accurate.

      But yes I noticed this also. It seems to have something to do with the rise of the “new left” over the “old” one, and the rise of postmodernism. Also, when Westerners try to criticize other societies for illiberal and unleft practices (i.e pretty much everything about Islam) they are accused of being bigots.

      This, the reactionary-masquerading-as-leftwing environmental movement, increasing hostility to rationality and science, the gleeful, willful collateral damage ignorance of much of the popular “social-justice” movement, unwillingness to ever use military intervention (yes i see the irony), and the near-total abandonment of caring about material goods allocation* has caused me to become highly dissilusioned with the new left.

      *indeed, some seem to have adopted a hostility towards the very idea of material goods being important. It should be noted that only the rich can afford to reject materialism.

      (Note: I’m actually more gray than blue culturally and personality-wise, but have left-ish rather than libertarian economic views. I also have weird positions that go off in completely different directions, like thinking cryonics should be part of universal healthcare and that there should be a government agency dedicated to anti-aging research, and being somewhat hostile to democracy)

      Edit: I think the point about “social justice” may have actually been unfair, that’s more just people being typical jerks than anything ideological and similar rhetoric probably shows up in any ideology. though it does seem to be unique in its frequency of trying to make up elaborate justifications for it’s bullying of people who have done nothing wrong (sometimes even by it’s own standards).

      • Illuminati Initiate says:

        Oh wow reading this to myself I sound… I don’t know exactly how to put it, but if someone else wrote like that I would assume either English is not their first language or they had some sort of learning disability. It’s not the actual content of the post but the way it’s written. My other comments sometimes look this way to myself also. I wonder why this is…

        • nydwracu says:

          I think it’s a combination of attempted-high-register-sounding stock phrases (“indeed”, “it should be noted that…”), punctuation, and questionable handling of tense/aspect. Putting on my editor hat, I’d first-pass the first two paragraphs as follows:

          Blue vs. Red is as much a cultural thing as a political one, so using Blue to mean liberals and leftists, Gray to mean libertarians and Red to mean conservatives is not really accurate.

          But yes, I’ve noticed this also. It seems to have something to do with the rise of the “new left” over the “old” one, and also with the rise of postmodernism. When Westerners try to criticize other societies for illiberal and unleftist practices (i.e. pretty much everything about Islam), they are accused of being bigots.

    • Matthew says:

      The Blues you describe are as utterly absent from my (diverse, but skewing blue) experience as Reds are for Scott. Literally, I have never met anyone in my ~80% blue social circle who believes what you just claimed is true of all blues.

      • John P says:

        I take it, Matthew, you were replying to me. So there are blues out there who are angry about the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, angry about the murder of Theo van Gogh, angry about Obama’s support for the Iranian regime against the protesters, angry about his support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the list goes on and on. It feels as though the blue tribers in America are trying to turn us into Saudi Arabia. Certainly, Karima Bennoune, whom I mentioned in my last post, feels as I do. Her book details many atrocities and death threats against blues in the Muslim world, all of whom feel that no blue in the West is on their side.

        Who are these mythical people you speak of?

        • Matthew says:

          So there are blues out there who are angry about the fatwa against Salman Rushdie,

          Yes. Disapproval of this fatwa is universal among anyone I have ever met of any political stripe.

          angry about the murder of Theo van Gogh,

          Again, I don’t know anyone of any political stripe who approves of murdering people for expressing unpopular opinions, regardless of who is doing the murdering.

          angry about Obama’s support for the Iranian regime against the protesters,

          I think this is the example that gives away the game, frankly. At no point did Obama support the Iranian regime. He pointedly did not BOMB them, which many reds clearly think would be a good idea, because blues think this would be stupid and counterproductive, not because they approve of Iran’s theocracy.

          angry about his support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt,

          As opposed to those paragons of blue-ism in the Egyptian military? This example suggests ignorance of both blues and Egypt.

          It feels as though the blue tribers in America are trying to turn us into Saudi Arabia.

          This is a fact about your mindset, not about the blue tribe.

          • John P says:

            I have to disagree with all of this. My wife is a college professor, and I have an email account with that college. Over the last dozen years, there have been many, many mass emails of the Islamophilic type: speakers talking about this or that wonderful aspect of Islam, announcements of courses on Islam showing how much they have given to the world, etc. There has never been a single email that hints that Islam has victims (generally women and gays). Not one. Will we get speakers talking about Rotherham, for example? No way (unless they blame it all on white males).

            If there is so much anger at things Muslims have done, why are they so silent about it? Where are the demonstrations in the street? Are you reviving Nixon’s idea of a silent majority, but blues in this case?

            Incidentally, all I want is for Obama to show some support for blue tribers in the Muslim world, but instead he leans very strongly for supporting the reds. He simply did not have to show support for either the Muslim Brotherhood or the military in Egypt.

          • Intrism says:

            There has never been a single email that hints that Islam has victims (generally women and gays).

            Everyone already knows that. Why harp on it?

            (Especially when Islamic culture in antiquity is so damn interesting. Seriously, look it up.)

            (And are you sure you didn’t manage to miss emails about, say, Malala Yousafzai, a victim of Islamic extremism who is very popular among the left?)

            He simply did not have to show support for either the Muslim Brotherhood or the military in Egypt.

            He… didn’t show support for either?

            The mainstream Blue reaction to the Muslim Brotherhood was “oh, great, it’s a Muslim theocratic party… but maintaining the Schelling fence around banning political parties is important, and Egyptian democracy is fragile enough as it is, so let’s just see how this ends,” and the mainstream Blue reaction to the military booting out the Muslim Brotherhood was “okay, after a long string of Muslim Brotherhood abuses, democracy was just not going to happen in Egypt, and we prefer a stable military dictatorship to an unstable theocratic one.”

            Neither of those is support, nor even close to it, but could be misconstrued as support by an intellectually dishonest opposition.

          • Tab Atkins says:

            The mainstream Blue reaction to the Muslim Brotherhood was “oh, great, it’s a Muslim theocratic party… but maintaining the Schelling fence around banning political parties is important, and Egyptian democracy is fragile enough as it is, so let’s just see how this ends,” and the mainstream Blue reaction to the military booting out the Muslim Brotherhood was “okay, after a long string of Muslim Brotherhood abuses, democracy was just not going to happen in Egypt, and we prefer a stable military dictatorship to an unstable theocratic one.”

            FWIW, that’s a 100% accurate rendition of my feelings on the matter, as a card-carrying blue.

          • Anonymous says:

            “and we prefer a stable military dictatorship to an unstable theocratic one.””

            If this is the case, why did you bother deposing Mubarak or Gaddafi or (attempted to) Assad in the first place?

          • Intrism says:

            Mubarak was overthrown, not deposed. Blues supported the revolution, however, because there was a very real chance that it would result in democracy, as happened successfully in Tunisia and Yemen, and may still happen in Libya.

            Syria has largely become as bad as it is because Red opposition prevented the US from effectively intervening in the conflict. Islamist groups stepped in to fill the power vacuum, resulting in ISIS.

          • John P says:

            No, I didn’t miss any emails about Malala. Nor were there any emails about the murder of Theo van Gogh or the recent disclosures of sexual abuse in Rotherham or a zillion other possible incidents on which there could have been emails.

            I’ve read books by Nick Cohen and Paul Berman, both of them left-of-center and both making the same assumptions I am making about the blue tribe, namely that they are perfectly happy with the leftist alliance with the Muslim right. Bassim Tibi, a (genuinely) moderate Muslim, wrote a book sharing that assumption, also, and condemning them for it.

            The same is true for books by the Norwegian feminist Hege Storhaug and the Algerian feminist Karmia Bennoune. They are both protesting against leftists who seem clueless about how their own policies are harming women.

            Bruce Bawer, a gay writer, and Phyllis Chesler, a feminist, have both moved to the right in frustration at the failure of the left to condemn the sexism and homophobia of Muslim immigrants.

            On the other hand, Martha Nussbaum wrote a book condemning Islamophobia while saying almost nothing about Muslim abuses of women. She even mentioned Salman Rushdie without mentioning the fatwa, which I take was due to her not wanting to offend anyone.

            And now various anonymous people claiming to be of the blue tribe are telling me that all along they have agreed with me but apparently have never said anything about it in public. Yeah, right.

            Maybe you could mention a book or two that (1) expresses your beliefs and (2) condemns the beliefs of those liberals and leftists who are soft on Muslim abuses.

          • Matthew says:

            Over the last dozen years, there have been many, many mass emails of the Islamophilic type: speakers talking about this or that wonderful aspect of Islam, announcements of courses on Islam showing how much they have given to the world, etc. There has never been a single email that hints that Islam has victims (generally women and gays)….. And now various anonymous people claiming to be of the blue tribe are telling me that all along they have agreed with me but apparently have never said anything about it in public.

            First, I don’t think any of the genuine blues here are actually agreeing with you. You’ve been making an isolated demand for rigor where Muslims are involved, doing the “why haven’t you condemned Islam” dance whenever Muslims do something wrong. How many e-mails did you get condemning Christianity or Judaism or Hinduism as a whole when extremist adherents of those religions did something wrong? The actual blue position is that religious extremism is bad, not that there is something uniquely awful about Islam.

            But even if that objection weren’t available, your observations still aren’t evidence for what you think they are. As both the current post and All Debates are Bravery Debates imply, all that is required for your e-mail to skew in favor of Islam is for your university colleagues to perceive Islamophobia to be a bigger problem than excessive tolerance of intolerance (an impression that encountering you is likely to cement).

          • John P says:

            Dear Matthew,
            My original request was for blue tribers to explain why they supported those Muslims who were red-tribers. You and a few others insisted that they hadn’t been doing that, but now you are saying the exact opposite (“First, I don’t think any of the genuine blues here are actually agreeing with you.”)

            So, it seems that we are back to my original request. However, you have managed to misrepresent my position in your last response. I am not “doing the ‘why haven’t you condemned Islam’ dance whenever Muslims do something wrong,” as you describe it. Just for the record, I don’t have anything against blue-tribe Muslims like, say, Bassam Tibi (author of Islamism and Islam), and since there are Muslims I rather like, I’m not interested in a general condemnation of Islam.

            What I want is a condemnation of specific abuses done by Muslims. The situation in Rotherham is exactly the sort of thing I don’t want. The sexual abuses went on for so long partly because people who knew about the problem were afraid of being called racist, and so they remained silent.

            Let’s say one of the victims from Rotherham confronted you and demanded to know what you had done to protect them, what you had done to prevent those abuses. If they were to ask me, I could honestly say that I had many arguments over the last dozen years with liberals and leftists in which I pointed out the dangers to women and others of siding so completely with Muslims, but every time I raised my voice, I was called racist. (You yourself practically said the same thing in your last sentence.) What would you say to her? What did you do during the last dozen years to protect her? Did you issue any warnings that women might become victims of the left’s policies?

            What I want is for the left to be neutral with respect to Islam. I want it to be between Islamophobia and Islamophilia. (The left I grew up with didn’t even like religion.) There are abuses that will emerge if either prevails, so the best policy is one that is neutral and is on the lookout for both types of abuse. I want the left to say, “Yes, we know that Muslims have been victims, but some are also likely to be victimizers, and we can’t have that.”

            If people like you don’t agree with me on that, I’d like to know why.

          • Luke Somers says:

            John P: I think perhaps your particular email-list-head has a peculiar bias that doesn’t generalize well to all blues. I’m blue/gray, and what you ascribe to blues seems to me like yellow.

      • Ballast says:

        They are definitely a majority in the leftist circle.

        • Matthew says:

          Scott, it’s time to close the comments on this thread. The occasional insight that might show up is not worth the amount of bullshit (in the technical sense) that one would have to wade through to find it.

      • Illuminati Initiate says:

        Brandeis’ treatment of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the controversy over segregation in British schools and the use of hate speech laws against criticism of Islam are all examples of the attitude John P describes.

        Interestingly most of these sorts of incidents are in Europe. I have noticed similar attitudes in America, but they are less powerful due to differences in laws and policies.

    • Tarrou says:

      The key bit is that “red” tribers don’t oppose the blue tribe primarily. Conservatives tend to be concentric in their loyalty. The muslims have a proverb that illustrates this perfectly: “Me against my brother, my brother and I against my cousin, my cousin and I against the infidel”. For conservatives, it’s “fight the liberals, fight with liberals against europeans, with europeans against Russia, with Russia against muslim crazies”. Republicans might hate Obama, but they lined right up to help him bomb Iraq again, many of them pushed him to be harder on Putin and Syria.

      The “blue” tribe on the other hand opposes the red tribe primarily, and hence supports anyone, anywhere that the red tribe dislikes. So they are on the side of terrorists, ultra-nationalist dictators, communists, anything they can find to annoy the reds. It is confusing until you realize that the blues really do think that the reds are the worst thing in the whole world.

      • Matthew says:

        The “blue” tribe on the other hand opposes the red tribe primarily, and hence supports anyone, anywhere that the red tribe dislikes. So they are on the side of terrorists, ultra-nationalist dictators, communists, anything they can find to annoy the reds. It is confusing until you realize that the blues really do think that the reds are the worst thing in the whole world.

        This was absurdly divorced from reality when he claimed it, and it’s still absurdly divorced from reality when you claim it. In the rare instances where this isn’t simply caricature, the offending blues get excoriated by other blues.

        • Tarrou says:

          I disagree. One need only look at the vast torrent of left-wing hate for Israel and support for Palestinians. Why? Israel is the most gay-friendly country on earth, is the only country I know of with a completely gender-integrated military, is hugely left-wing politically, was founded by socialists. The Palestinians, and Hamas in particular, are somewhere to the right of Gengis Khan. They stone women, hang gays, and have waged a terror campaign that has lasted half a century. But Reds like the Israelis and hate islamists, so off they go.

          Oh, and the LGM blog is pretty solidly Grey, so holding it up as an avatar of blue-on-blue criticism is pretty far removed from reality.

          • Tab Atkins says:

            Saying “blues are for terrorists” is just unredeemably stupid. Not sure where else to go on that point; it’s not the sort of thing that actually warrants a considered response.

            If you look at data, blues are very mixed on Isreal – Scott recently had a post that talked a bit about this (I think one of the recent links posts). This is definitely significantly different from red support of Israel, but it’s far from a concerted “vast torrent of hate”.

            Now, I do hate Israel’s actions. I think trying to carve out a jewish area in the middle of culturally muslim areas was a bad idea in the first place, and Israel hasn’t done great since then, continually antagonizing and bullying Palestine, which resulted in the sort of response they get now. (Similar to how the US being jerks to Iraqis was significant in the creation of today’s ISIS.)

            Further, the government of Israel over the last decade or two has begun shifting hard-theocratic, with a lot more sympathy for oppression of women and arabs. It’s pretty hard to sympathize with that, personally.

          • Tarrou says:

            Tab, thank you for illustrating the point so well. It’s not that you are “for” terrorism, you are just more against liberal western democracies more than you are against terrorism. You find it quite easy to come up with a host of reasons why Israel (and I notice you couldn’t help tossing the US into the pot) have the moral short end of the stick against people who literally stab babies. You see the issue? “Yes yes, terrorists are bad mmkay, but the REAL PROBLEM is the fact that all terrorism is really the fault of the US!”.

          • Tarrou says:

            And Israel is the group going “hard theocratic”?

            You compare Israel and Hamas, and the issue you see is that Israel is “too theocratic”?

            Hamas literally, in its constitution (when not calling for the eradication of Israel and the genocide of every Jew on earth) demands the return of parts of Spain and the Balkans to muslim rulership, because land that was ever under muslim control is forever theirs. They stone women for “impiety”. Theocratic?

      • Luke Somers says:

        > For conservatives, it’s “fight the liberals, fight with liberals against europeans, with europeans against Russia, with Russia against muslim crazies”

        Your characterization seems a lot more apt if it refers to the politics of 1980-1990. Since then, there has been a total inversion in the relative adaptibility of the two sides.

  60. Tarrou says:

    I’d like to interject into Scott’s first major point, which was the paucity of real “diversity” in most of our lives. I may be a huge exception to this rule, and the key was (the traditionally liberal trait of) seeking out new and interesting experiences. My group of close friends and family encompasses all political areas I am aware of in the US. I am in academia these days, so my work group is much like those described by Scott. I’m a vet, so my closest brothers in the world are mostly the sort of rabid red-meat conservatives that scare the pants off people in blogs like this. Fun note, not a one of those guys has anything but contempt for creationism. My family are mostly deeply religious, faith-healing young earth creationist types. And as I’ve tipped past thirty, my social circle has been decimated of breeders, leaving me with a predominately gay social group.

    I have two members of my groups that I use as avatars to keep me honest when thinking about the politics of the two major groups in our society.

    1: Red – My parent’s pastor. Ex-amish, thirteen kids, creationist and faith healer, has an eighth-grade education and an accent since his first language is Pennsylvania Dutch, not English. It would be easy to mock him based on this overview, but look closely. Despite the lack of formal education, he is intensely smart, started several businesses and would be a many-multi-millionaire except for the fact he gives well over ninety percent of his income to charity. He lives in the same house he grew up in, simply. He is the most unrelentingly charitable, kind and humble person I have ever met. And if there was ever a way to measure the greatness of a man, it’s the quality of his children. Of all of them, I have never heard a one of them, ever, express antipathy toward any other human being. E.W. is one of the finest people I know, and I disagree with everything he believes.

    2: Blue – T.S., middle-aged gay minority female, deeply involved with LBGT activism, feminism, crazy hippie, believes in crystal healing, auras, alternative medicine and a host of conspiracy theories. Once more, the pastiche is easy to mock. She’s a business owner and despite the stereotype of the lasy pothead hippie, is one of the hardest working people I know. The level of warmth and love she spreads to everyone she meets is must be seen to be believed. My parents and grandparents (completely opposite in every significant belief) love her, and she them. She is the hub and the heart of our entire oldtown district.

    I use these to remind me that there are good people on both sides. And living in this space between these groups sharpens one’s political beliefs, one is always being challenged by people one respects. It isn’t always comfortable, but it is interesting. The ingroup-outgroup antipathy seems to be rising in pitch, largely because there is no outside outgroup anymore. We only have each other.

    • rebecca says:

      I think you have really hit the “heart” of this, so to speak.

      In the end, it’s about your own heart. As soon as you start wagging your fingers, blaming others because they do not share your own personal snowflake belief system of how to make the world a perfect place, then you are guilty of the sin of intolerance.

      Advocating others show kindness and goodness and charity is all well and good, but becomes meaningless when your idea of advocating for kindness and goodness and charity is wagging your fingers and tsk-tsking at the out-groups for their lack of it.

      You can find hypocrites and venomous individuals in any group – no matter how large or small you divide it, because you can even find it in yourself. Once you stop asking others to change their behavior to make the world a better place and start asking yourself to do it…the world becomes a better place.

      It’s not about fixing the hearts of others, it’s about fixing your own heart.

  61. Cyan says:

    Sweet jebus, 852 comments!? What the heck am I supposed to do with that?

    …I’ll award Cyan Points to good summaries and links to the most insightful commentary.

    • Lesser Bull says:

      Search for “Sacred Cow”‘s comment.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      Start with the more recent and work backwards? Cf reading philosophy backwards.

    • You’re not missing too much. Sometimes the comment threads around here add insights that make the original post that much better, but here we all seem to be trying to do that and not succeeding very well. (Truth be told, I don’t usually participate in SSC comment threads that are this big and hairy; I’m making an exception for this one because the post itself was on such an important topic.)

      EDIT: Except for these comments by Brendan Eich, which are worth reading if you have any interest in that whole series of events.

      • Matthew says:

        Seconding the impression that the comments to this post are unusually unhelpful.

        EDIT: However, Brendan Eich showing up twice to comment was pretty interesting; you may want to search for that.

        • coffeespoons says:

          Yes, I agree – the comments aren’t great this time (including my own of course). Not sure why.

          • Hypothesis: Although Scott’s post made heavy use of American politics as an example, most of the actual insights he collected aren’t about American politics at all; they’re facts about ingroup–outgroup dynamics which are relatively uncontroversial but still greatly underappreciated, and which can help us understand politics better.

            Meanwhile, most of us in the comments have been busy saying things about American politics, and most nontrivial things that anybody has to say about such a complex and bias-fraught subject are wrong. (This is especially true of anybody saying anything along the lines of “blues tend to approach politics this way, while reds approach it that way”.)

            I think this is the real rationale behind Less Wrong’s ban on politics. Of course, as the main post demonstrates, many topics related to politics can and should be discussed productively from a rationalist perspective.

      • Matt C says:

        Like the last giant thread, it’s falling apart here at the end with typical internet blabbering.

        I don’t think anyone would lose much if these enormous threads were automatically closed after X-hundred comments. 600 or 800, maybe.

      • Cyan says:

        Brendan Eich — that’s certainly a perspective I won’t find anywhere else. I award you and Matthew 5 Cyan Points each.

  62. sheridanqporter says:

    “To be fair, I spend a lot of my time inside on my computer. I’m browsing sites like Reddit.”
    There you go. You simply won’t find social and political conservatives in significant numbers on social media fora that don’t explicitly promote their views. The Daily Mail worked this out years ago and has been unprecedentedly successful in tapping this rich vein of reactionaries.
    However, there is also the argument that conservatives have much better things to do with their time than reading long diatribes by lefty humanities graduates from former polytechnics. Such as making and spending large amounts of cash and finding complicated schemes to avoid paying punitive taxes on aforementioned piles of cash.
    Working as a busy surgeon between the glorious workers’ collective that is the NHS and the red-in-tooth-and-claw private sector gives a fascinating insight into how the two sectors fail to overlap. My private colleagues have neither the time nor inclination to spend their pitiful leisure time reading (self-evidently excellent) blogs such as this, which is a pity. I quite enjoy dipping my toe into in, if only to observe the astonishing levels of bile and bigotry reserved for people with my views and those lower down the social scale.
    Oh, and there are excellent arguments against gay marriage if you can be bothered to reflect for a moment. They may well become clearer with time.
    toodle pip, and keep up the good work.

    • Luke Somers says:

      Having reflected for some time, the best arguments I can see against gay marriage are very speculative and long-term, and even if applicable there are countervailing factors. Asserting that there are excellent ones readily available, without a hint, is obnoxious.

  63. Aaron Brown says:

    And the mome raths outgrupe.

  64. Boris Borcic says:

    The way of involvement of Yugoslavia wartime into the discussion, is what I call the “Stockholm School” of historiography, by derisive allusion to both the Royal Bank of Sweden “Nobel” prize in economics and the famed Stockholm syndrome.

  65. wodun says:

    “The worst thing that could happen to this post is to have it be used as convenient feces to fling at the Blue Tribe whenever feces are necessary.”

    It would be great if some read this when it wasn’t a poo flinging occasion.

  66. Dave says:

    ISIS is another good example of this “outgroup” phenomenon. They talk a great game about killing all us Jews, Christians, Atheists, Americans, etc., but at least 90% of their victims are Arabs who practice a slightly different form of Islam.

    • Salem says:

      Actually, they don’t talk about killing Christians and Jews, they talk about forcing them to pay jiziya. But they do talk a lot about killing apostates, so they look to be quite consistent.

  67. Pam Adger says:

    The most confusing and wordy piece I have read in a very long time. I really wish you had tied it up at the end with a real point. Rambling with a few interesting points but in the end I have no idea what you are trying to say. I have bookmarked to read a third time. Maybe I will gain enlightenment. This was linked as part of a conversation on my post on Google+. I am not sure of the rules for linking but if you want to read it you can see it near the top of my public profile on that social network. It’s about the lesbian who got black sperm by mistake.

  68. a6z says:

    You have made progress. Fabulous progress, considering your point of origin. You still probably have a way to go.

    Every member of the Blue Tribe–I shall use your terms–imagines himself a free-thinker: it is his totem of membership. But a modern Blue Man–since the Sixties–must be the polar opposite: a group-thinker.

    There is always the hazard that the odd Blue Man will believe his propaganda and actually think freely. Unless he can be inhumanly silent, this will gradually offend his friends, lovers, and employers–if he persists. Usually he will not persist.

    And so you have come as far as the Grey Tribe–before the Blues threw you out, I presume. Hearty congratulations!

    But that is not usually a stable resting point. You will have noticed most Greys are young.

    Enjoy the journey. I omit any spoilers.

    • coffeespoons says:

      Argh, of course conservatives are coming here and saying “yes, the blue tribe are evil, they should totally be an outgroup.” I can see why Scott didn’t want this linked from reddit.

  69. Pingback: I Cant Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup « Attack the System

  70. Rebecca says:

    As a blue-tribe apostate, I found your article very interesting and insightful. But here is a test to your own capacity to consider something that requires you to step outside your comfort zone:

    Your article describes the reason that Jesus Christ was crucified.

    Your thoughts are in line with other great thinkers whose ideas have long withstood the test of time:

    Prov 24:17 (NAS) Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.

    Mat 5:44-45 (NEB) “But what I tell you is this: love your enemies and pray for your persecutors; only so can you be like children of your heavenly Father, who makes his sun rise on good and bad alike, and sends the rain on the honest and the dishonest. If you love only those who love you, what reward can you expect? Surely the tax-gatherers do as much as that. And if you greet only your brothers, what is there extraordinary about that? Even the heathen do as much. There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds.”

    And here is another blue/grey head-bender: If you want to see diverse blue/red/GOP/Dem/black/white/rich/poor individuals coming together, not just locally, but globally, go into a Christian church – anywhere in the world. It’s not at all like the imagined stereotypes.

    I really enjoyed this piece. Good writing and good stuff.

    • peterdjones says:

      I’m glad to hear how good the Christians, and only the Christians, are at bringing people together.

      • no one special says:

        You are asserting facts not in evidence. She did not say “only” Christians were bringing people together. Rather, she observed that, in actual fact, Christian churches often contained members of multiple tribes/ethnicities/classes working together. This is in contrast to the meme that being Christian is specifically a red tribe thing.

        My understanding is there are quite a few blue-tribe Christians, who are pretty quiet about it, and are somewhat embarrassed by the media constantly reinforcing the alleged link between the red tribe and the church.

  71. Whew. To sum up:
    I’m frequently introduced as “the Republican friend” like a dog that walks on two legs.
    It never occurs to me to introduce anyone as “my Democrat friend”. “Progressives” are the opposite of tolerant.

    “Conservatives think liberals are stupid, Liberals think Conservatives are evil.” Krauthammer

  72. Pingback: A study in self-delusion | Law of Markets

  73. Douglas Knight says:

    Maybe the tag should not be “things I will regret writing,” but “things I will regret being posted on social media.”

    It is possible to make it hard to link from social media, such as redirecting based on ‘referer.’

  74. Ssectors says:

    Well, bless your heart. Great article. This is what many in the experienced Red Tribe might call a “Lessons Learned Analysis”; wherein you take a hard, hard look in the mirror and understand and admit just what it was you did or did not do that got your men killed, or bankrupted your company, or lost you your family … Not a comfortable chair to sit in. You sound close. And that’s how you grow.
    … A new, Red reader.

  75. Mythx says:

    Excellent article overall. But I think there is one main part that I believe you missed.

    The blue tribe tribe often uses the term “tolerance”. But when you press them what they are actually describing is “acceptance”. And when you discuss “acceptance” with them it generally seems to be defined as “advocacy for”.

    Which seems to go along well with another observation about both sides. The blue side also tends to place a higher value on the “intent” behind language than about what is actually being said. Where as the red side tends to more adhere to literal interpretations of things.

    In many ways it makes any discussions between sides difficult there is very little middle ground to be found between these interpretations of language use.

  76. MattinLA says:

    One of the interesting things touched upon in this post is the mutual belief of both Red and Blue that America is, at its core, Red. This is what underlies the reflexive support of the United States in Red America, and the reflective hostility in Blue. But is this really true? After all, Obama was reelected, in various parts of the country the Blue party is firmly entrenched without hope of dislodgement. And of course, abortion continues without cursease. This may be creating a generation of conservatives who hate America…..

    • cassander says:

      a huge part of team blue’s self identity is the belief that they are an embattled minority bravely standing against a world full of bigots and war mongers. 80 years into the new deal state and they’ll still swear up and down that they’re just barely holding back the dark forces of reaction.

      • Matthew says:

        This a very odd phrasing. The New Deal was only able to secure a Congressional majority by denying blacks access to most of its benefits (at the time of original passage). If you’d said the “Great Society” instead of the “New Deal,” this would make (slightly) more sense. But the New Deal was about protecting old and poor white people, and had nothing to do with fighting bigotry.

        Edit: And the “Great Society” project at home could only be enacted at the blood price of appeasing the war-mongers abroad.

        • cassander says:

          who said anything about bigotry? I said the forces of reaction, the vagueness of the subject is essential to the long life of the meme. Sure since the 60s it’s meant fighting racism, but in the 30s they were using the same narrative, just substitute malefactors of great wealth for racists. As for the idea that the great society was somehow paid for with the war in vietnam, that’s sheer nonsense.

          • Matthew says:

            cassander, now:

            Who said anything about bigotry?

            cassander, 8:47 pm:

            against a world full of bigots and war mongers.

            As for the idea that the great society was somehow paid for with the war in vietnam, that’s sheer nonsense.

            You’re being willfully dense. I didn’t say it was paid for that way. The tacit bargain that kept the loyalty of conservative southern Democrats in Congress for Medicare etc. was pursuing their preferred foreign policy course.

          • cassander says:

            sorry, my bad. At one point that first comment mentioned forces of reaction not bigots and warmongers.

            On the broader point, though, I don’t see how the point matters. with the sole exception of 64, every presidential election from 48-72 was won by the candidate who was most vociferous about being tougher on the commies, regardless of party. this has nothing to do with the broader progressive insistence that they are a marginal minority. hell, it’s even older than progressivism. take the abolitionists. They actually were an embattled minority before the civil war, but this wasn’t enough for them. they insisted on concocting vast conspiracies about “slave power” trying to conquer the north and impose slavery there. Sure, the targets and causes of the puritan crusades change over time. they have to, because by and large the puritan crusades have achieved their goals. but the method and psychological ticks around them change surprisingly little.

          • suntzuanime says:

            with the sole exception of 64, every presidential election from 48-72 was won by the candidate who was most vociferous about being tougher on the commies, regardless of party.

            You have seven data points. That’s not enough to be so casual about throwing one of them out. Generally presidential elections are too few and far between to do much rigorous analysis of them based on the outside view.

          • cassander says:

            not 7 data points, 14. every candidate for both parties for nearly a quarter century promised to stick it to the commies. it doesn’t take rigorous analysis for that to be strong evidence that anti communism was extremely popular.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Seven data points. The relevant observation to your initial claim is the choice between candidate A and candidate B, which happens 7 times, not the characteristics of each individual candidate. If you do not even understand this, your analysis is surely not to be trusted in this matter.

            (Further a little lol at the idea that both parties supporting a particular policy proves the policy is popular with the people. What do you think this is, some sort of democracy?)

    • Anonymous says:

      I think it has to do with how Reds generally make more noise. E.g. American-Football, “Merica, Fuck Yeah”, the Tea Party Coalition, etc. I think this is because they’re ideologically more cohesive than Blues (think farmers vs foragers). This makes them proud and more likely to boast about how great their culture/nation is. Not that Blues are exempt from stoking their ego, but I feel like Blues tend to be more subtle about it.

      As a result, I think the face of the U.S. that foreigners tend to see is primarily the Red face. After foreigners label all of the U.S. as Red, the Blues naturally begin to distance themselves from the “Murica!” meme (a la Robber Cave).

      • Matthew says:

        I’m not sure they’re actually louder. The media gave far more attention to Tea Party protests than much larger protests for immigration reform in 2010 or climate change action this year. This would tend to give foreigners a misleading impression, but it’s a fact about the media, not about the underlying volume.

  77. Dungeonmaster Jim says:

    I just want to applaud this essay. While I may disagree with parts of it, much of it was utterly spot on, especially the Blue Tribe on OBL, vs Thatch. Thank you for penning this very perceptive essay.

  78. jjv says:

    Easily the best thing on a liberal blog I have read in a long, long time. There is one thing you do not note and I’d love to see it. What about conservatives who work in the professions and come from the East Coast, particularly NY, Philly and Boston. Unlike you or the “Redstaters” they have to spend almost all their time with the other side. We then are the most tolerant of all! (my quotes on “redstaters” is that the color of the Right, is and always has been Blue. The Left is Red. Never heard of Grey before will look to see if it becomes a meme.

    Also, no one I know wants to “ban” same sex marriage they merely believe that any rational person does not think same sex unions whether recognized by the state or not should change the definition of what marriage is. We believe that the state recognizing such things as marriages so changes the mearning of the institution so as to ban real marriage for everybody else.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Also, no one I know wants to “ban” same sex marriage they merely believe that any rational person does not think same sex unions whether recognized by the state or not should change the definition of what marriage is.

      Such is the nature of “progress”. Several decades ago, the very concept of same sex “marriage” would have been incomprehensible. Several years ago, the question was whether or not it should be legalized. Today, the debate is framed in terms of conservative bigots who want to “ban” it. Imagine where things will be tomorrow.

      Mind you, I very much doubt Scott used that phrasing as part of an intentional memetic assault on his readership. More likely, he was just caught up in the zeitgeist.

      • Bugmaster says:

        Realistically, I imagine that sometime in the future, gay marriage will be treated the same way as interracial marriage is today, and will be thought of simply as “marriage”. There’s a somewhat lower probability that, instead, it will re-acquire its stigma as a horrific perversion and will thus be banned. But the current situation is unstable, so it’s got to tip one way or the other.

  79. Nancy Reyes says:

    You left out Catholics, ethnics, ordinary Hispanics, the middle class blacks, and African and Asian immigrants. We don’t fit into either group, and to liberals, we are Chesterton’s invisible man…

  80. Knoxfox says:

    I am against homosexual marriage and I am anti macro-evolution, which I would describe more precisely as anti-abiogenesis. I have good reasons for both of these positions. I like guns, but I do eat and like arugula. I basically only watch TV for sports like baseball, american, football, and UFC, although I do have the TV on when I exercise, but I listen to podcasts at the same time. I listen to blues mostly, except for my church music. I must be a very rare person. So dark matter does exist.

  81. datechguy says:

    Ah quoting Chesterton a great way to start figuring it all out.

    I’m reminded of the line from Peanuts “I love humanity it’s people I can’t stand.”

    It’s easy to love a “group” because loving a “group” is something in the abstract, loving an individual involves risk and wanting good for them even if you don’t agree or care for their beliefs. That’s what love your neighbor as yourself means

    It’s like keying a car, if you see people as an individual even if they have a bumper sticker that you hate you you might rail against that point when you see it but you won’t key their car because you know it costs an individual money time and expense.

    But if you see people not as individuals but as a group then the person of the outgroup being evil deserves to have their car keyed because they are advancing that evil cause. The idea that a person is going to have to make an insurance claim, pay a deductible, lose time money and effort, things they might not have in abundance is not important, you demonstrated moral superiority.

    • cassander says:

      I don’t know who said it, but whoever first said “the liberal loves humanity but hates humans, while conservatives hate humanity and love humans.” was a clever man.

  82. Doug says:

    I don’t usually comment on blog posts. But I had to. This was thought provoking, interesting, challenging, and long without being padded. Thank you.

  83. Anon256 says:

    I notice that I am confused by this post, because previously Scott mentioned having many pro-life Christian friends, which is a position I would expect to be pretty rare and unacceptable in a Blue/Grey bubble.

  84. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    How do I find my outgroup? I can’t not have one, right?

    It’s not the reds; people who oppose gay marriage are in my Osama category, and I actually get a bit annoyed when people deprecate morally-neutral red behaviors.

    It’s definitely not the greys; that’s the closest thing I have to an in-group among the major tribes.

    It sort of used to be the blues, but there wasn’t ever really any hatred, just a hipsterish sense of superiority at being a bit different. I’ve also gotten steadily bluer (from grey) politically over the last several years, which takes away the main thing I used to object to.

    It’s not SJ either. I’ve never felt hurt by SJ, and though I do often find the criticisms around here persuasive, I don’t find it emotionally hard to side with SJ on any of them.

    It could be that I’m unusually devoid of hate as a consequence of having never really been threatened by anything, as a result of being straight, cis, white, male, wealthy, naturally happy, and ridiculously lucky.

    • I’m in a similar position. I suspect that how a person reacts to the ingroup vs. the outgroup depends on a bunch of other factors, particularly how much you see them as an actual threat to you.

    • Lesser Bull says:

      My guess is that affecting not to have an outgroup you hate/actually not having an outgroup you hate is a Grey signifier.

  85. Agellius says:

    ‘The Emperor answers: “What do you think I am, some kind of homophobic bigot? Of course I have nothing against gay people!” And Bodhidharma answers: “Thus do you gain no merit by tolerating them!”’

    Exactly so! Thus, the Catholic Church, while considering homosexual acts gravely sinful (Catechism 2357), since it nevertheless teaches that homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” and that “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (Catechism 2358), is being truly tolerant.

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  87. victoria says:

    Something this reminded me of and a story you might find interesting: “Sans Farine,” by Jim Sheperd, from his collection Like You’d Understand, Anyway.

    The story is told from the perspective of an executioner during the French Revolution. Perhaps unsurprisingly, being an executioner was not the most respectable job one could have; the narrator was quite limited in terms of who he could marry and whom him and his kids could freely socialize with.

    But then consider the social position of soldiers, who didn’t (and still don’t) face nearly the same sort of social opprobrium.

    As the narrator muses, executioners are killing people who have been deemed guilty by the judicial system of some sort of capital crime; soldiers are (generally) killing other young people who are guilty of no crime whatsoever, especially during the time in which this story was set. And yet we view executioners as pariahs and soldiers as heroes. Why?

    • cassander says:

      > And yet we view executioners as pariahs and soldiers as heroes. Why?

      because tribes of humans who saw warriors as murderers got murdered by tribes who saw them as heros.

      • von Kalifornen says:

        I’d also add that soldiers kill foreigners, and that the very careful, deliberate killing feels much worse to people – compare the stigma against snipers in the fading days of martial splendor.

        I think that is also behind some of the hatred for drone warfare in a world that romanticizes fighter pilots who still presumably run ground attack.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          The comparison between drones and executioners is a good one. I’ve had the same thoughts about them, but never explicitly connected them.

          But shouldn’t the analogy be between executioners and drone operators? Executioners were pariahs, but no one thinks about drone operators. Condemning drone warfare is logically parallel to condemning the death penalty or the judicial system. People condemn nuking Hiroshima or the firebombing of Dresden, but people don’t shun the bomber pilots.

          • von Kalifornen says:

            I’ve heard some condemnation of drone operators but I think they aren’t very visible. I think bomber pilots are offered more “just following orders” leeway, partly due to history.

        • Cauê says:

          Killing foreigners is important – less likely to be people you knew, more likely to be people outside your empathy sphere.

          But I think the thing with snipers and drones (which also apply to executioners) is killing from a position of safety, while other warriors put their lives at risk. Bravery looks like the most important factor in hero worship.

    • The Anonymouse says:

      And yet we view executioners as pariahs and soldiers as heroes. Why?

      Because soldiers incur tremendous physical risk to themselves in pursuit of their task. Executioners don’t. Executioners get opprobrium; soldiers get killed

    • rebecca says:

      Victoria – you will understand if trucks full of ISIS soldiers drive into your town and start killing the men and collecting the women and children as sex-slaves.

      I think ancient and recent history has answered your bumper-sticker musing of “what would happen if we have a war and no one showed up”. The answer is genocide.

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  89. Jackart says:

    The British fought the Napoleonic wars with a disproportionately Irish army too. I don’t think there’s ever been HATE from England to Ireland though there has been understandable amount the other way. Condescension certainly. But little hate, for that you must go North, to the Ulster Scots (which sort of makes your point…).

  90. William Leslie says:

    This must be one of the most insightful blogs I have ever read.

    • Randy M says:

      It is good, stick around.

      (These are the kind of comments I type, realize add nothing and delete. Occasionally I figure Scott might like to hear it. I am more Red than not, though, so maybe I should have saved it for elsewhere, give comments above. Please consider the above recommendation to be general and not specific to this post.

  91. NRK says:

    I’m not american enough to make any qualified judement regarding the existence of tribes in America, but there seem to be some tribal characteristics that are more connected to class than to any sort of belief, and also appear to be class stereotypes rather than actual class traits. For instance, I can’t imagine gay rights advocates being uniformly disgusted at the idea of consuming large quantities of steak, coke and tv, unless they have, besides their lgbt advocacy, also reached that peculiar step of the social ladder where you’re far enough above lots of others to notice the difference in height, but not far enough to feel the confidence to indulge in lower-class activities anyway.

    Also, you seem to suggest that even the most liberal muslims consider ISIS part of their ingroup, which is probably the most islamophobic thing anyone could say, as it would negate even the possibility of a genuinely liberal muslim.

    • I think Scott was saying that outsiders group ISIS and liberal Muslims together, not that liberal Muslims do so. That’s all you need to make a weak-man argument work. A German doesn’t need to have any affection for Nazis in order to find it troubling if most media depictions of Germans are depictions of Nazis.

      • Anonymous says:

        Also, I do think people naturally feel tribal affiliation with people of their religion/sect if they are under attack by outsiders. See the British Christian above in the comments feeling embarrassed and defensive towards leftist attacks on the Bible Belt Christians. Same principle.

      • NRK says:

        Compare it to a white blue-triber being confronted with the typical blue-tribe criticism of ‚white people‘, aka reds. Even if it is directed at him personaly, (you white people, white guys like you etc) he’ll hardly feel attacked, because he wholeheartedly agrees that all that stuff is what is wrong with white people. So he won’t get defensive, but instead try to prove that he doesn’t actually fall into that category of white people by joining into the condemnation of that kind. If liberal muslims and ISIS are different groups, which I sincerely hope and believe they are, you’d expect the same sort of behaviour from the former, (from the latter, too, when confronted with criticism of liberal islam btw).

        And as a german, your comparison puzzles me a bit, because by now, it has become an integral part of german identity to secretly consider ourselves Vergangenheitsbewältigungsweltmeister (world champions of coming to terms with the past) to the point where we’ll derive an air of moral superiority (over backwards chauvinist places like the US or Israel) from distancing ourselves from the third reich.

        • Anonymous says:

          Look at their behaviour: do they rush to vociferously criticize ISIS’s actions and beliefs, or do they do so half-heartedly and try to reframe the discussion in terms of “islamophobia”?

          • NRK says:

            Well, obviously and sadly, it’s the latter. I wouldn’t put this down to liberal muslims considering ISIS part of teir ingroup though, but rather to all of Islam suffering from a massive tendency towards supremacism, especially towards the western world, no matter how “liberal” anyone proclaiming to represent the religion says they are.

          • Peter says:

            http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-29362370 – there’s some of both. If the article is correct, there’s a bunch busy shouting “Not In My Name!” to distance themselves from IS(I[SL])? and a second bunch busy misrepresenting the first.

    • MugaSofer says:

      >Also, you seem to suggest that even the most liberal muslims consider ISIS part of their ingroup, which is probably the most islamophobic thing anyone could say, as it would negate even the possibility of a genuinely liberal muslim.

      I suspect Scott may be using the heuristics he formed for Osama, who AFAICT got a much less affronted reaction from liberal Muslims.

  92. Princess_Stargirl says:

    I really don’t think I have problems criticizing my “in groups.” The five people I am closest to are myself, my sister and three friends of mine. Of the 5 people I find it very easy to criticize myself and one friend. We both have alot of obvious flaws (though our flaws are almost disjoint sets as it turns out). My sister and the other 2 of my best friends aren’t as easy to criticize but I could easily give a long descriptions of their problems (as I see them) too. I don’t see anything wrong with this. I love these people (and myself) despite the fact we have issues.

    I am pretty sure I enjoy, depending on the circumstances, explaining my best counterarguments to any political philosophy/position that comes up. If I don;t say anything its usually because I don’t know enough or I want to hear out someone’s position without arguing at them. Usually I pick sides in debates when someone makes an unfair, ignorant and inuslting argument. Then I jump in on the other side. At one point I was a libertarian and now I have no problems attacking libertarianism.

  93. I wrote a Tumblr post relating to this, with respect to the same-sex marriage question, a few days ago. People are less likely to tolerate opposition to same-sex marriage if they’re in a social environment where nobody opposes it.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Really? I would have predicted the opposite.

      If I were in a space where almost everyone agrees about same sex marriage, but one person is speaking out against it, my natural contrarian pro-underdog instincts make me side with that one guy (see: Eich).

      If I were in a space where it was actually a big issue, then I would get really mad that there were people actually trying to prevent gays from getting married which is a very harmful thing to do, and I’d probably be more motivated to fight for the pro-gay side.

      Every so often when people attack transgender people, I get a short burst of motivation to work on a half-finished essay defending them, but then it becomes clear that my community is like 90% pro-trans and I get bored and do something else.

      • I think not everyone is as principled as you. If only one person in your social environment is against same-sex marriage then you can win easy Ingroup Points by attacking them. If your social environment is divided then the easiest position to hold is tolerance towards all views.

      • Jaskologist says:

        See Eich, indeed. He got fired. Your natural instincts are not typical.

        • You’re assuming liberals see people-who-fund-initiatives-to-limit-gay-rights (or generally people-who-oppose-gay-rights) as rare, powerless, hounded, and isolated. If liberals instead see Eich’s reference class as reasonably powerful, widespread, and influential — powerful enough on expectation to block some people’s ability to get married, or to intimidate some of his employees into concealing their sexuality — then their behavior is consistent with accepting Scott’s instincts.

          • And of course all sides are guilty of committing the fallacy wherein you see a social phenomenon that’s widespread in a particular highly visible context and assume that it’s widespread in all contexts. Remember, Proposition 8 did end up passing.

  94. If anyone on Team Gray thinks they have more in common with Team Red than Team Blue, try going to a Team Red event. You will be treated like a Blue. Unless the event is both Gray and Red friendly, but that never seems to happen without mad bitching.

    Both Red and Blue think Gray is playing for the other team, and dislike us waving either of their banners. Meanwhile, it seems like most of the tech industry is Gray. So what is the problem?

    Big players in the tech industry choosing Red or Blue.

    If Elon Musk did some Libertarian campaign ad for Tesla, I actually think “we” could take “power” overnight. Those tech journalists pretending to be Blue would quit the act. Yet of course “we” hate each other too. Gray is full of more factions than any other color.

    • blacktrance says:

      I’m curious about what a Gray-Red event would look like.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      True in general, but if certain spaces are something like 40% Grey, 45% Blue, 15% Red, then there’s obvious strategic potential between the Grey and Red tribes, especially since the Blue Tribe and Red Tribe are total natural enemies and have a hard time allying even when it’s to their own advantage.

      We both probably are secretly dripping with contempt for each other, but the British and Irish fighting together in WWI probably felt the same way.

      One example might be protecting home schooling, which the Red Tribe wants to do for religious indoctrination reasons and the Grey Tribe wants to do because school is horrible.

      • Lesser Bull says:

        So we need to start shallow mythologizing of each other?

        “Oh, there never was a coward where the Gray Flag flies!”

        Kinda like it, actually.

      • Randy M says:

        Red tribe also thinks school is horrible. Also, is there any evidence that red tribe homeschooling is anymore indoctrination than public schooling, however such a thing would be measured (ideological turing test, perhaps)?

        • Hainish says:

          There’s some evidence from survivors of homeschooling, in which the purpose of homeschooling seems to explicitly have been indoctrination. Indoctrination can happen in any type of school (e.g., the Pledge), but it’s often not so deliberate.

          • Anonymous says:

            The designers of modern school were very explicit that their goal was indoctrination. The difference is that they have had a hundred years to polish it. And a hundred years to be forgotten.

          • Fazathra says:

            Anonymous, do you have any sources about this? Because if so I would very much like to read them.

          • Anonymous says:

            For example, John Dewey. Some googling suggests “Education and social change,” here or here

            Perhaps he is actually saying: there will be indoctrination, so I might as well control it.

          • Fazathra says:

            Thanks a lot Anon, I’ll get stuck in.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            no high school level math or science, inaccurate history, etc

            Survivors of this kind of home-schooling may have more time to write about their home-school experiences, than those who received better in-home education, so have more things to write about, and less time.

            ETA: Woops, this should have appeared below
            Hainish October 3, 2014 at 2:28 pm

          • Hainish says:

            @Houseboatonastyx, yes, I agree, and I didn’t mean to imply that homeschooling is categorically bad (I plan to homeschool, so I certainly don’t oppose it). In the context of my response to Randy, I was pointing out that some parents do homeschool with the explicit purpose of indoctrination. (I support school choice generally.)

        • Lesser Bull says:

          Most homeschoolers are Reds, and most homeschooled kids do very well.

          Blue Tribe disdain for homeschooling or just non-Blue homeschooling is one of its more indefensible prejudices.

          • Anonymous says:

            The numbers I’ve seen is that homeschooling is evenly split between Red and Blue.

          • Hainish says:

            Blue Tribe disdain for homeschooling is specific to those who keep their children ignorant for the sake of religion (as in, no high school level math or science, inaccurate history, etc.).

          • Nornagest says:

            This paper cites several surveys from the late Eighties to late Nineties, generally finding religious motivations in between 40% and 65% of homeschooling households. Older surveys and surveys in redder states tend to find more religious motivation, as one might expect.

            A distaste for the peer groups available at public schools is also commonly cited; that could mean a lot of things, but some of them do run counter to the Blue worldview.

            By the numbers, though, homeschooled students seem to do well. The Blue meme that it leads to academic weakness seems wrong, at least by comparison with the generally poor US public school system; on the other hand I do have some sympathy with the Blue distaste for backdoor “creation science”, but high-school biology is such a joke that it probably doesn’t much matter.

          • Hainish says:

            Blue Tribe disdain for homeschooling or just non-Blue homeschooling is one of its more indefensible prejudices.

            What bothers me is when they argue that middle class parents should send children to public schools in order to _improve_ the public schools. Um…children aren’t pawns?

          • suntzuanime says:

            Asking someone to cooperate in a Prisoner’s Dilemma is not the same as making them a pawn.

          • Anonymous says:

            Think of it like a tax, a child tax.

          • Hainish says:

            What would be an appropriate example of making someone a pawn, and why is this [sending a child to a school to improve the school] a non-example?

            [Maybe agent-principle problem works better?]

            Anon – a child tax? Can you explain?

  95. memeticengineer says:

    I know this is absolutely the *wrong* reaction, but this post really made me want to wave the Gray Tribe flag.

  96. von Kalifornen says:

    I’m surprised nobody has included the Neoreactionary terms for the Blue and Red groups here.

    (From Moldbug, it’s Brahmin for the mainstream Blue and Vaisya for lower + middle class Red plus their left-wing counterparts who nonetheless don’t think the way Blues think. There are also terms for the Red upper class, underclasses that have a much more direct connection to leftism, and to a few groups that don’t fit in like the Grays.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Shhhhhhh!

      • Matthew says:

        This response is really not going to help quell the crypto-reactionary hypothesizing.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          A lot of this is inspired by things Nydwracu says, which are themselves inspired by Moldbug.

          Moldbug’s Brahmins are sort of the Blue Tribe, and his other castes are sort of the Red Tribe, but there’s not a perfect correspondence.

          I did use this as one of several inspirations, but I deliberately played it down both because I am trying to do something subtly different from Moldbug, and because mentioning him never helps.

    • This was one of my first thoughts as well. Blue = Brahmin and Red = Vaisya; the other castes are much less relevant to most NRx discussion, with the possible exception of the Dalits, which Scott doesn’t talk about at all in his analysis. (Dalits are the actual underclass, which form part of the Democratic political coalition but are not in any sense culturally Blue/Brahmin.)

      It’s worth pointing out here that NRx itself is very much Blue/Brahmin in its sensibility and culture, and very much not Red/Vaisya, even though it’s object-level assertions are horrifying to the mainstream Blues.

      • blacktrance says:

        There’s a good match between Blue and Brahmin but not so much of one between Red and Vaisya. Many Vaisyas aren’t creationists, don’t own guns, don’t care about same-sex marriage, and aren’t particularly patriotic. They’re not Blue Tribe, but they’re not Red Tribe either. Red Tribe seems to be a subtype of Vaisya (sometimes intersecting with white Dalits) – one could call it “Low Vaisya”, where “Middle Vaisya” is the kind of people talked about here, and “High Vaisya” is the Mitt Romney types.

    • Ryan says:

      I’m familiar with Voldemort’s American castes and I’d really have to say SA’s tribes are going to serve one better for understanding and predicting how people will behave and react to stimuli. So for example the Red/Blue divide cuts right through the Vaishya caste. It’s debatable whether the Optimate caste even exists. There are a minority of Red Brahmins and a larger minority of Red Helots. About the only 1:1 relationship is that all Dalits are Blues.

      For a more specific example relating to the Vaishya caste, is it so hard to imagine a successful cardiologist who thinks welfare makes people lazy?

      So my takeaway on Voldemort’s castes is that the categories of Brahmni, Helot and Dalit are useful, they describe real and important groups who will think and behave similarly to each other. But the Vaishya and Optimate castes don’t map well. As above I suspect Optimates don’t exist and as Voldy himself admitted, Vaishya really isn’t more than “everyone else.”

      Red, Blue and Gray, though, they all seem to map very well. Everyone knows or could spot a Blue or a Red in a crowd. And Gray, while a bit vague, corresponds very well to the alt-right corner of the internet. I mean this in the sense of “when SA introduced the concept, didn’t you know exactly what he was talking about?”

      For anyone curious about the context, a google search for the following will likely direct you to Voldemort’s lair:

      2007/05/castes-of-united-states.html

      Have your wand ready.

      • Nick T says:

        Assuming for the sake of argument that all of Scott’s and Moldbug’s categories are coherent: Scott is defining his tribes according to cultural signifiers, not political coalitions; Dalits are not remotely Blue in this sense, even though Moldbug would say Dalits and Blues are part of the same coalition. (Blue is something like B, definitely not BDH.) Most Grays are not alt-rightists, and many if not most alt-rightists are not Grays. (Central-tendency Grays are liberal in the non-American sense, socially liberal even if anti-SJ, anti-religious, and anti-nationalistic.)

        • Ryan says:

          OK I think you are definitely right here. So I’m having trouble with the following:

          Dalits definitely exist in serious numbers and they don’t map onto tribes Red, Blue or Gray. It’s going to be difficult to give them a color code without violating the “don’t be an ass hole” rule. And it’s also going to be difficult to describe them in terms of cultural signifiers without breaking the no ass hole rule.

          I’m of the theory that Grays and alt-rightists are for the most part disaffected Blues who kind of stopped buying into it at some point (if you’re not a socialist at 20 you have no heart, if you’re still a socialist at 30 you have no brain – I don’t really mean it Blues, I just love Bismarck quotes).

          So some split Liberal (euro sense) and others Torie, but I can’t fathom any reason why.

      • Nornagest says:

        I didn’t understand Moldbug’s caste analysis until I read somewhere that he’s San Franciscan. Then it all came together.

        Did you wonder why he spends half his essay discussing Brahmin, Helots, and Dalit, then glosses over Vaishya — a highly polyphyletic grouping as he describes it, who make up at least half the population of the US and form the core demographic of both major parties — and can only manage a half-assed handwavey stereotyped impression of American old money? It’s because SF is a Brahmin town with a Helot service sector and a highly visible Dalit underclass, but all the Vaishya have been priced out, and NorCal upper-class sensibilities preclude being identifiable from the outside as upper class. (Tech is conspicuous by its absence, though; I’m not sure what’s up with that.)

        Of course, SF’s social dynamics are way out on the bell curve, grossly distorted and totally unsustainable. (I wouldn’t say this for anywhere else I’ve lived, but I might nominate Elon Musk as Evil Overlord of San Francisco and Protector of the Peninsula. It’s that bad.) Drive three hours east — or even just cross the Bay Bridge — and you’ll get a very different idea of how these things work.

        (Scott’s taxonomy looks a lot more generally applicable to me, if a bit stereotyped and Internet-centric.)

        • Ryan says:

          I think you found the head of the nail. It reminds me of something I read a few years back, “The big problem with psychology is that what we think we know about the psychology of human beings is actually what we know about the psychology of American college students.”

        • Sniffnoy says:

          That does help! It perhaps also explains why his characterization of the Brahmin is so extreme/particular. Like half the time he’s describing the Brahmin I’m like “Yes you are describing my caste” and half the time I’m like “No you are describing a very specific subset of my caste that does not include me”.

          (Wondering how all this interacts with this sort of thing, or, without necessarily accepting that, geographic things more generally — is West Coast Brahmin vs. East Coast Brahmin a meaningful distinction to draw, e.g.?)

          This seems like a good time to bring up this old blog post. (Warning: Michael O. Church 😛 ; also the whole “the future” section should be ignored, probably also “analysis of current conflict”.) The system it presents seems roughly similar to Moldbug’s castes (Dalit ~ underclass; Vaisya ~ L; Brahmin ~ G; Optimate (or “post-Optimate”) ~ E — and Helot ~ L as well, I guess, maybe? I don’t have a good sense of what the Helot class is supposed to represent. Also Optimate ~ E is maybe not a great match, but as you’ve said, his description of the Optimacy is pretty weak, and E, or at least E3, seems closer to what’s actually out there). But it “rings truer” to me… OK, maybe that’s just because it sort of repeats standard liberal ideas! Obviously all sorts of ways common sense can be wrong here. But, hey, it’s not like Moldbug has any more to go on. 😛

          (Tangent: I went to Wikipedia to look up what academics think of social class, and, ugh, these people all need to learn to name their classes descriptively. They’ve got all these different models but many of the names in there are just like “lower class”, “upper middle class”, etc. — these are not very helpful names! They’re too hard to distinguish. The same is true of the names in Paul Fussell’s system. (Tangentially, his book “Class” was retitled “Caste Marks” in the UK.) 🙂 )

          • Nornagest says:

            This seems like a good time to bring up this old blog post…

            I liked that until it got to the E1 bit. Actually the whole E line is pretty speculative, but how on earth could the author know that (a) the world has 60,000 secret masters, (b) they constitute a social class, and (c) they’re all evil, if the rest of what he says about them is true?

            Hitler, Stalin, and Henry Kissinger, incidentally, all came from decidedly non-elite backgrounds. Erik Prince’s family was new money, if Wikipedia’s not lying to me. Osama bin Laden was elite, but old-school aristocratic elite, not the kind you get here.

            There are other holes, too; I feel like immigrant laborers (Moldbug’s helot class, modulo a bit) are different from low-wage American-born labor in ways that this hierarchy doesn’t capture. Though that grades very fine, really; an itinerant agricultural laborer is very different from a janitor on a green card is very different from a maid who immigrated illegally and is getting paid under the table.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Yeah, the whole E1 bit also seemed a pretty, uh, bold claim. I honestly had not thought to check the claim about the particular people, though I probably should have noticed when he mentioned Stalin.

            Largely I liked the fact that he was willing to say openly that us G’s think of ourselves as the deserving elite. 🙂

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Do you have links to extended versions of this? I’ve seen the basics, but nothing including “a few groups that don’t fit in like the Grays”.

  97. FeepingCreature says:

    And Bodhidharma answers: “Thus do you gain no merit by tolerating them!”

    The Emperor pauses for a minute, deep in thought. Then he frowns and asks the Bodhidarma “But wait, doesn’t that incentivize bigotry?”

    The Bodhidarma is silent.

  98. i guess i'll be alone in my utopia says:

    God deliberately and without necessity creates and sustains the universe.

    I’m a creationist. Debate me.

    • Matthew says:

      Deism is not the view connotationally referenced by “creationist.” The connotation is “created life in its current form without evolution.”

      • von Kalifornen says:

        Specifically, creationists are nearly always reactionary, Abrahamic Protestants.

      • OP’s original statement cannot be considered deism in the usual sense, as deism asserts that Gods involvement ceases after the moment of creation, beyond which the world continues according to natural (but God-created) laws.

        What utopia has given is in fact the classical theist position, in which creation is sustained and continues in existence only by the moment-to-moment will of God, and natural laws do not exist except as contingent manifestations of God’s will.

        You note correctly that this is not incompatible with evolution. (I too am a creationist in this sense.)

    • Matt says:

      Well, why do you think that’s true? (Or no less reasonable than the alternatives, or whatever.)

      • i guess i'll be alone in my utopia says:

        Basically, I feel that a Spinoza-like argument can be made for my particular brand of theism, but that his pantheism is a bridge too far.

        God is the “one substance”, to use the unfortunately Aristotelian language that was prevalent in Spinoza’s day. I don’t actually exclude the existence of other substances like he does, but if they exist they have to be unreachable and are therefore irrelevant. The universe that we see is a timeless action caused by God.

        Unfortunately, I have aesthetic reasons for believing in a theistic God rather than a pantheistic ultimate substance, which probably won’t satisfy anyone here.

  99. anon says:

    I sometimes read your blog. I’m opposed to gay marriage. But my political views are odd. They might be neoreactionary–if I didn’t happen to think that neoreaction was crazy.

    This is the closest thing I’ve ever found to articulating why I don’t favor it:

    http://www2.econ.iastate.edu/classes/econ362/hallam/NewspaperArticles/GayMarriage.pdf

  100. mjgeddes says:

    Yes, but we all need someone to ridicule….its human nature to look for a scapegoat to take out our frustrations on and delineate in/out groups. Personally, I think as far as this rationalist community is concerned, ‘neo-reactionaries’ in general are great targets for ridicule 😀 Lets face it, the idea of being ruled by kings (Anissimov) or CEO-dictators (Moldburg) sucks monkey eggs – worst ideas of all time. If neo-reactionaries are going to advocate for authoritarianism and want a ‘strong-man’ to rule the world, at least pick one of us for the job- rule by technocrat for example…. hackers or “programmers-at-arms”. Nominating Kings or CEO-dictators is just beyond stupid and has moved into the realms of parody.

    Incidentally, yesterday I read an article in the Guardian that had me laughing out loud and still has me laughing a day later….the writer advocates fixing all the problems in the middle east by bombing everyone in the region…..so the whole middle east is defined as the ‘out-group’:

    “Why stop at Isis when we could bomb the whole Muslim world?
    Humanitarian arguments, if consistently applied, could be used to flatten the entire Middle East”

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/30/isis-bomb-muslim-world-air-strikes-saudi-arabia

    “Pakistan is crying out for friendly bombs….Is there not an urgent duty to blow up Saudi Arabia?…..”

    I realize the writer was being ironic, but some readers seriously thought it was a marvellous idea.

    • von Kalifornen says:

      I know someone who has something akin to this attitude about the Middle East. I think that part of the idea is that having rules of engagement, etc means that anyone who doesn’t can stomp all over you. But if you actually were to try to out-Vietcong the Vietcong, then your greater resources mean you just win, enemy doesn’t try to fight.

  101. Jordan D. says:

    I’m more than a little surprised about the *power* of that bubble; but when I think about it, I don’t really better Scott’s ratio. Still, I can’t quite accept that I’m co-existing with an outgroup of equal size to my ingroup and simply never actually noticed. That’s…

    Well, I suppose that’s not truly that unlikely. The two sides posited above share pretty much nothing in common. If ingroups are analogous to class, then there would naturally be powerful social dividers keeping you from being in the same activities very often.

    I wonder how this works for politicians? Many people in politics are directly elected (and there’s an obvious split between Blue and Red team), but I know a lot of Democrats and Republican politicians who have pretty strong friendships. Is that because they don’t have the same conceptions of the outgroup? Is it because one can make exceptions?* If two groups are forced to work with each other, does that change anything? Or is it just because politicians often share a lot of class-features across party lines and are likely to have more in common with another party representative than a randomly-chosen supporter?

    *Hitler famously directed that his commanding officer, who was Jewish, be spared.

    • von Kalifornen says:

      I think that many politicians are a socially different group, as you said. It’s sort of like how, say, the Eastern European nobility might know each other from school while they try to keep their nationalist followers from massacring each other.

    • Sean Walker says:

      One proposed explanation for the increasing polarization between the parties is that the politicians in Congress are spending less time with each other outside of work. Politicians now spend more time in their home districts, where they interact with mostly people of their own group, and less in DC, where they form these friendships.

      It might be interesting to check if this matches up with a possible shift from a singular politician group into having just Red and Blue politicians.

  102. Zubon says:

    Hypothesis: social bubbles will be more prominent for blues than reds. I don’t have a demographic citation handy, but my recollection is that blue areas tend to be very blue while red areas tend to be moderately red. For example, big cities skew heavily blue, leaving relatively few blues to spread across all the red rural areas. Scott is in metro Detroit, the blue part of Michigan. If Detroit is ~95% blue but there is no similar concentration of red, you have one area that is 95:5 blue:red and most of the state closer to 25:75. It gets worse when the blue spread is even “lumpier” because of concentrations in other cities. Most blues will be exposed to almost entirely blue ideas, while most reds will be familiar with a blue minority. (Also, if you accept that the media skews blue, everyone has blue exposure, while you need to go to Fox to get red-skewed news.)

    If you have ever wondered why legislatures skew red, this is a major factor. Gerrymandering, sure, but you don’t need to gerry many manders to get a lot of safe 60-40 districts if you have a few 5-95 districts.

    This should also contribute to blue in-fighting. Humans fight, and it is hard to find anyone non-blue to argue with once the red 5% has learned to be quiet about it (see Cassander up-thread). Maybe that explains a bit of the red cohesion we briefly discussed in a recent thread: reds almost always have visible blues to see as an outgroup, while within a blue bubble you need to keep defining people as the wrong shade of blue.

    • von Kalifornen says:

      My impression is that the media is Red on policy but Blue on how they talk about policy.

      • cassander says:

        I’d say the media is, more than anything, pro-establishment, pro-conventional wisdom. It sort of has to be, for a number of reasons. The CW being largely, though far from entirely, blue, and the vast majority members of team blue themselves, the result is that things look very blue, though rarely radically so.

        • Matthew says:

          I feel like foreign policy is an area where the typology starts falling apart. US elites have always been more interventionist than the public at large, and the media reflect this strongly. On the other hand, the most ardent anti-(military) interventionism has been coming from liberals as much as Red tribe libertarians for some time now.

          • cassander says:

            the media is pretty much pro-intervention on all topics, sounding the cry to “do something!” The cynical explanation for this is that intervention always generates more headlines and sells more papers than non-intervention. I think there is some truth to that, but it isn’t the whole story.

  103. Ryan says:

    Don’t beat yourself up man. If the grey tribe looks at the red tribe and the blue tribe, and they see the blue tribe is really powerful and doing awful shit to the red tribe, then you should be upset with them. Or, if that’s not enough, note the blue tribe is slowly waking up to the existence of the grey tribe, starting to understand it’s an off shoot of the red tribe, and you are going to be in trouble eventually.

    And there’s also a matter of pragmatic knowledge which comes with proper understanding of reality. So, for example, if a student puts on their college application that they are in the JROTC, 4H club, or highly active in their church, it about completely tanks any chance they’ll be accepted into an Ivy Leage or other elite school. It would be good for Red children to know they need to conceal facts like that to get by in the Blue world. Or for a different example, a friend of mine grew up in one of what he called “three openly Jewish families in Beaumont.” There were several others, they just had the good sense to say they were Christians in a town full of Reds.

    Understand that you are a Grey, make unapologetic judgments of the Reds and the Blues, and then act pragmatically when among them. God or evolution blessed you with a brain capable of it, don’t squander the gift.

    • Matthew says:

      So, for example, if a student puts on their college application that they are in the JROTC, 4H club, or highly active in their church, it about completely tanks any chance they’ll be accepted into an Ivy Leage or other elite school.

      Frequently repeated as a general claim, but lacking in specific examples, and highly unlikely.

      ROTC at MIT
      ROTC at Harvard
      ROTC at Yale

      Etc. I suppose you could attempt to claim that these consist entirely of people who concealed their interest beforehand, but that’s an extraordinary claim in the absence of any actual evidence.

      • The Anonymouse says:

        Except that Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Brown, Stanford, and others only recently invited ROTC programs back on campus.

      • Anonymous says:

        Most people who do ROTC didn’t do JROTC. It is probably not true that mentioning JROTC hurts an application to MIT. Harvard doesn’t really have ROTC, but just an arrangement that Harvard students can do it at MIT. It did recently establish a campus presence.

        Ryan is referring to the book “No longer separate, not yet equal: Race and class in elite college admission and campus life,” by Espenshade and Radford, page 126.

      • Ken Arromdee says:

        I never heard of MIT being blue. If I were to guess, I would guess that it’s gray, though I have no evidence for that other than it has tech-types and those are more likely to be grey.

        • Matthew says:

          Original claim was “Ivy League or other elite school,” not “Blue campus.”

        • JP says:

          The MIT undergrad student body is typified by socially liberal political beliefs right up until the liberal says something against nuclear power (at which point it turns into “You’ll take my reactor away over my– wait, no, over YOUR dead body!”), a vague awareness when pressed that economic political issues exist, seriously analyzed religious beliefs or lack thereof, supporting gay rights as a special case of supporting everyone’s rights, yearning to own guns (and swords, and crossbows, and claymores (both kinds), and glaive-guisarmes, etc.) but settling for Leatherman multi-tools instead, eating Chinese food and pizza when they can’t find free leftovers from campus catering, drinking caffeine or alcohol as appropriate to induce the desired mental state for intended activities, not driving because *Boston*, reading lots of internets, being highly educated, ignoring the existence of sports other than Ultimate Frisbee, and earnestly exploring alternatives to traditional marriage. Musical tastes are all over the map, but everyone listens to That Guy Who Practices Bagpipes Early Saturday Morning whether they want to or not.

          Which tribe do you think that maps most closely on to?

  104. Loki says:

    http://loki-zen.tumblr.com/post/98918816335/i-can-tolerate-anything-except-the-outgroup

    My comment was too long so I made it into a Tumblr post.

    Mostly it is about how to apply this to the UK.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m not sure I know enough Britain to understand your post. Americans traditionally map Democrats = Labor and Republicans = Tories, with the LibDems just being a darker shade of blue. Do you think that’s wrong or incomplete?

      • Matthew says:

        The Liberal Democrats are a fusion of the Liberals and the Social Democrats. The Liberals started off as classical liberals (thus to the right of Labor), but the Social Democrats were a left-splinter off of Labor when Labor moved toward the center, so the LibDems ended up sometimes to the left of Labor. That was (relatively) recent history, but it looks like the LibDems have probably hemorrhaged those leftist voters since the coalition with the Tories basically got them nothing.

        (I’m not British, but possibly have followed this a bit more closely than you have.)

        • Peter says:

          _Left_ splinter? I thought the SDP were a bunch of moderates who abandoned Labour (note the “u”, they’re a British party) because at the time Labour were getting too far to the left. Shortly after the SDP-Labour split, Labour produced an election manifesto known as “The longest suicide note in history”, famous for being far too left wing for much of the electorate to stomach.

          Later on, Labour made their own move rightwards while the LibDems stayed in place, and in many eyes this left the LibDems as the Most Leftwing Mainstream Party… if you didn’t count the Greens as mainstream, and were in England. This move to the right caused people to derive great amusement from anagramming “Tony Blair MP” as “I’m Tory Plan B” and mixing cherry brandy and blue curacao to make a “New Labour” (maybe that last one was just me).

      • Peter says:

        Well, British opinions tend to be to the left of American ones. I don’t think the Democrats ever claimed to be socialists, for a start – even these days, Labour maintains links with international organizations with “socialist” in the name. It’s often said that the Democrats are to the right of the Tories. LibDems… there’s the “Orange Book” faction that’s economically like the Tories but more socially liberal, and there’s the other lot which are more to the left.

        There’s a fair bunch of people who will either vote Labour or LibDem, depending on which one looks most leftmost (and likely to get in in their constituency), but who would never vote Tory, certainly not after Thatcher. A lot of those were very shocked by how the coalition turned out.

        The left-right mapping doesn’t _quite_ work – I think one classic counterexample is that affirmative action seems to be much more an American thing, although this is so far just my observation.

        • Anonymous says:

          I think a large part of why there is no affirmative action and racial identity politics in Britain is that until the end of the war, and only really ramping up during Labour’s rule in the last decade, we have had relatively little immigration, and a lot of what we have had is of reasonably successful groups who could assimilate into mainstream British society.

          Britain is still about 80% white, more if we count the Irish and eastern European immigrants like Poles. Until recently, most of our immigrants, even those from the commonwealth have been selected for intelligence, conscientiousness and so on which has enabled them to assimilate relatively well into society. Large urban ghettoes of under-performing minorities of the sort that fan racial-grievance politics and require affirmative action are quite a recent invention, only going back a few decades at most, and only then in the largest cities such as Birmingham and London.

          With increasing immigration, however, especially of less-favourable groups, we are slowly moving towards the American model. Labour is trying very hard to recreate the democratic coalition of champagne socialists and a minority ghetto class and to do this they are throwing working class whites under the bus. In more diverse areas the working class whites are slowly switching to either Tory or UKIP, while in the less diverse areas such as the North and Scotland Labour still gets the working class white vote, mostly due to tribal loyalties and an enduring hatred of Thatcher.

          Leftwing newspapers like the Guardian occasionally import a bunch of American-style racial rhetoric so there is clearly a ready supply of support for affirmative action from the chattering classes, their only problem is that there is not yet enough demand for it. This will slowly change as we import more underperforming immigrants so in about 30-50 years I predict that we will be in the same state as America is in today with regards to racial politics. Economically and socially however, we are still far to the left of America.

          • Nita says:

            Britain is still about 80% white, more if we count the Irish and eastern European immigrants like Poles.

            My good sir, I strongly urge you to abandon this perilous conceit! Indeed, if we allow these prognathous brutes to be counted among whites like honest Anglo-Saxon men, soon enough they will aspire (if such a lofty verb can be applied to these low creatures) to marry our fair daughters and pollute illustrious family lines with their abominable Cromagnon genes.

          • dublin says:

            Har har. Was that necessary, come on.

          • Nita says:

            I guess I became overexcited upon meeting a real time-traveler from 19th century Britain. I promise not to mock any other remarks in this thread, no matter how startling.

          • nydwracu says:

            Leftwing newspapers like the Guardian occasionally import a bunch of American-style racial rhetoric

            It took me years to realize that the Guardian is not an American paper.

      • Salem says:

        The Lib Dems are the policy and tribal equivalent of the Democratic party in the US. They have their DNC wing (Orange book) and their SJW wing. What they don’t have is union, working-class or ethnic minority support (hence why they are not a contending political party), but that’s not really what you’re talking about with your “blue” tribe. Peter, below, is correct that they were a merger of modern (“high”) liberals with the slightly more market-oriented wing of the Labour party. I wouldn’t say they are deep blue; they are just standard blue, but with very little power which means they don’t have to tack their policies to the prevailing winds quite as much.

        The red tribe doesn’t exist in the UK, and the parallel between the Republicans and the Conservatives is shaky at best. The Conservative heartland voter is the “Mitt Romney Republican” you describe as not really a red-triber. The UK is a lot smaller, and a lot more urban, than the US. Similarly, there is no US parallel to the Labour party.

        • peterdjones says:

          I think you’ll find that for appropriate values of football , we do indeed have patriotic, beer swillimg, football loving knuckle draggers and plenty of them.

          • Salem says:

            The Red Tribe is most classically typified by conservative political beliefs, strong evangelical religious beliefs, creationism, opposing gay marriage, owning guns, eating steak, drinking Coca-Cola, driving SUVs, watching lots of TV, enjoying American football, getting conspicuously upset about terrorists and commies, marrying early, divorcing early, shouting “USA IS NUMBER ONE!!!”, and listening to country music.

            The group you’re talking about match Scott’s description on 5 of 15 criteria, and that’s being very generous. They are apolitical (or vaguely left-wing), areligious, not creationist, no particular position on gay marriage, no guns, may eat steak but not particularly so, drink Coke, don’t drive SUVs, do watch TV, do watch football, don’t get upset about terrorists or communists, don’t get married much at all, don’t get divorced early, are patriotic, don’t listen to country music. To be clear: the archetypal Red Tribe member is Hank Hill (13/15). That show could not be set in this country, because people like that don’t exist here, let alone whole communities of them.

            But your description of those people as knuckle-draggers makes it clear that they are similar in the way that matters most to you; they are handy targets for you to condemn and define yourself against.

          • peterdjones says:

            There’s a bunch of differences that don’t make a difference

            Essex Man , for it is he of whom we speak, is apolitical or vaguely right wing, or very right wing,

            He is pretty irreligious along with everyone else …he is not less religious than some other group.

            He has no specific position on gay marriage, but happily uses “poof” as an insult.

            He is unlikely to own guns, along with everyone else,

            He drives a white van instead of a pickup.up
            He gets very upset about terrorists.

            Not getting divorced because you never got married isn’t exactly going for long term relationships.

            In short, nearly all the differences you mention are differences between the US and UK as countries: more urban, fewer guns.

      • peterdjones says:

        UK blue or US blue? Actually, they are orange.

  105. Liskantope says:

    I’ve been mulling over the definition of “tolerance” and apparently intolerant actions of many self-proclaimed “tolerant” people for some time now. As usual, this post sums up and helps to resolve a lot of vague ideas I had on the matter, which I had never gotten around to organizing in a deliberate fashion. And as usual, kudos for doing such a great job of that. Some points, especially from the last section, I need to continue to mull over before I can come to a good conclusion about them.

    My relatively minor criticism is that some observations are presented as more surprising/appalling than I think they actually should be. For example, it seems to me that the fact that prejudice is more pronounced across party lines than race is not only unsurprising but exactly as it should be. Political and religious affiliations are, at least on some level, reflections of one’s personal values, whereas race is not. (To exactly what extent they should be treated as reflections of one’s personal values is a question on which I’ve been debating with myself a lot and hope someday to be able to be able to present in writing.)

    Racism is worse than partyism because the two parties are at least kind of balanced in numbers and in resources, whereas the brunt of an entire country’s racism falls on a few underprivileged people.

    I see that as only one reason racism is worse; the other main reason is that, at the end of the day, it’s always worse to discriminate based on characteristics that are not choices and in no way reflect on one’s personal values. (I noticed a variant of this oversight in A Response To Apophemi On Triggers, in the comparisons between using racial slurs to insult out-group members vs. branding them “racists”.)

    Then there is the issue of why so many white males seem willing to write articles which are scathing about white/male ignorance of racism/sexism. I think I mostly agree with the hypothesis that they are attacking an out-group rather than an in-group. But that explanation feels unnecessary to me here, because other hypotheses seem to be easily at hand (some of which have already been mentioned in comments above).

    For example, consider the fact that many white cis males who have at least some moderate level of interaction with the SJ blogosphere probably feel constantly under threat from it, which may motivate them to loudly proclaim the SJ platform on no uncertain terms. At the same time, consider the fact that, while SJ ideology is pervasive in most internet forums on social issues, it is not so powerful that many SJ advocates feel safe to critique the behavior white cis males with completely unchecked vitriol. It still seems safest for actual white cis males to write the strongest-worded articles criticizing white cis males. These articles, due to being particularly strongly worded, are more likely to gain attention, which might help explain why the articles one runs across which harshly criticize white cis males are so often written by them.

  106. Ballast says:

    Great article, but one quibble. You conflate heritabiliy figures as “genetic,” and conclude that heritability necessarily leads to the conclusion of part genetic causation. According to molecular genetics findings and study of behavior genetics, proving genetic causation requires genetic evidence. For elaboration, I recommend you to read some HBD blogs that elaborate on distinctions between genetic causation from heritability.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Could you point to such blog posts?

      • Ballast says:

        Jayman’s and hbdchick’s blogs are two such sources. Just search for heritability on the blogs. You can also read papers by Plomin et all. which cogently explain what heritability is and isn’t.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          I don’t see any posts on hbdchick about heritability at all. Jayman has some, but they don’t suggest Scott has made any mistakes or clarify what you meant.

          • Ballast says:

            Click on the sources jayman cites, or if not, read Plomin’s papers on heritability. Just search google scholar for “heritability” and you’ll find some papers that will explain the distinctions for laymen. None of the scientific sources and most rigorous HBDers will conflate heritability for genetic causation outright, so that’s just a minor issue with Scott’s post.

      • Ballast says:

        He writes genetic in he first sentence on genetics. Should be changed to heritable since genetic in the scientific literature is shorthand for causation usually.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I feel like I’m pretty up to date on genetics, and I’m not sure what you’re talking about.

      JayMan comes by here every so often. If he agrees with you, I’ll investigate further.

      • Ballast says:

        The studies you cite don’t do something like GCTA or GWAS, thus concluding that it shows genetic causation is incorrect. That’s just the problem, Jayman will be able to tell you that heritability figures by themselves don’t prove genetic causation but gives clues towards it. So instead of saying that particular traits are “genetic,” it would serve you better to call it “heritable.” And indeed, that’s what your particularly cited studiy show, like all traits, that it is partly heritable. To prove genetic causative outright would require GWAS and further evidence of biogenetic pathways that would prove how the genes work on a molecular level and affect behavioral traits.

        A source on what I am talking about:
        http://www.larspenke.eu/pdfs/Johnson_Penke_Spinath_2011_-_Heritability_rejoinder.pdf

        • Douglas Knight says:

          The papers Scott cited call it genetic causation. Scott is citing them exactly as they want to be cited. You may not like the standards of evidence that are universal in the scientific community, but don’t blame Scott.

          • Ballast says:

            Scott linked to PDFs that don’t work for me. But I gave a link above that shows what I am talking about. Scott himself conflated heritability figures with genetic causation in the first part, which according to the paper I cited is not directly the case. His use of “genetic contribution” is more accurate as heritability is an estimate of that. I don’t think you know about standards of evidence. Please cite me any paper which conflates heritability figures with genetic causation. Genetic conclusions require genetic evidence, not something we have yet, but I’m certain is there. Like how we know the genetic causation of IQ and how it differs by group (race, sex, SES etc.)

          • Douglas Knight says:

            A Slate article? What are you talking about? He links to Slate in VIII (totally unrelated), but heritability is in IV, with links to four papers. Since those links are broken, I’ll correct them: estimates of see here see here.

            If you want to make a subtle distinction between “genetic causation” and “genetic contribution,” you’ll have to say what you mean by those, rather than pretending that other people use those phrases. That paper you link sure doesn’t.

          • Ballast says:

            By Slate I meant this blog initially, but edited for obv. reasons. None of the papers conflate heritability and genetic causation. Only the GWAS link associates genes with traits, they don’t use the term genetic causation either.

            Genetic causation implies knowledge of how genes work to cause behavior traits on a molecular level. Genetic contribution is what heritability is an estimate of when it comes to variation in traits between cohorts. I also think that the GWAS is inconclusive because n is pretty small. Not like IQ, which is conclusively 80% genetic. My link was only to explain that heritability by itself isn’t genetic causation.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            And Scott doesn’t use the phrase “genetic causation” either, so what’s your problem?

  107. Luke Edwards says:

    *comment deleted*

  108. Ronak M Soni says:

    Can anyone explain the tribe politics of Steven Pinker opinions? Lefty types really hate him, and LW types really love him, and neither makes that much sense to me.

    • Cauê says:

      Gray?

      While clearly not red, he pokes around underexamined sacred values of the left, and does it rationally, reasonably, and interestingly, which should explain the effects on both groups you mention.

      (I have him as “libertarianish” in my mental file, but I’m not sure how much evidence I’m basing that on)

    • Jake says:

      SJW types hate him, and some academics in the humanities aren’t huge fans either, but the Democratic establishment doesn’t have a problem with him. He’s been published a lot in mainstream-left organs like The New Republic, Slate and the NYT.

  109. Mike Blume says:

    > (except on the blog Stuff White People Like, where it obviously serves as a code word for the Blue tribe. I don’t know, guys. I didn’t do it.)

    You shouldn’t be surprised by this, the name is a *pretty deliberate* attack on the anti-racist bona-fides of the blue tribe. The intended implication is that even though “inclusiveness towards PoC” is a blue tribal aspiration, many, perhaps most actual PoC do not display blue tribal markers and probably wouldn’t feel comfortable in blue tribal spaces.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am not sure if this is deliberate, but I suspect it is:

      GP: Is Eris true?
      M2: Everything is true.
      GP: Even false things?
      M2: Even false things are true.
      GP: How can that be?
      M2: I don’t know man, I didn’t do it.

    • von Kalifornen says:

      That, and also that for the correct subset of Blues, being described racially, or at all, is insulting when not done as recognizable mockery.

  110. orthonormal says:

    As a member of the Blue Tribe, I find this uncomfortable and a bit embarrassing and obviously correct. Thank you.

    Bonus points for the final section.

  111. Pingback: I Can Tolerate Anything Except People I Hate | Junior Ganymede

  112. Irenist says:

    This might already be mentioned upthread, but I think there might be at least one other small group akin to Gray, and I think I’m part of it, along with Leah Libresco, Ross Douthat, and the people at The American Conservative magazine. Basically, culturally Blue people who intellectually identify as conservative and religious and may have a few other Red affinities. We seem to spend most of our online time a) criticizing our fellow conservatives for being blockheads (i.e., not subtle [i.e., not culturally Blue enough]), and getting into discussions with atheists in which we try to defend our religions (often Catholicism or Orthodoxy) from accusations of being blockheaded (i.e., I’m just as culturally Blue (or in Leah’s case, Gray) as you are, please stop dismissing me as a yokel who believes in a Sky Fairy! Why won’t Richard Dawkins give us credit for driving Priuses to church and stop being so mean?! Well, he doesn’t understand sophisticated theology anyway, so there. He’s the yokel.) [Not pretty stuff, I admit.]

    It’s an awkward terrain to inhabit. Analogizing in/outgroups to races, it’s kind of like being multiracial or multiethnic in a Yugoslav-type situation. (Loosely analogizing. Please don’t yell at me! [See, there’s that cringe.]) It certainly makes for more of a mix of Red and Blue friends than Scott described.

    I’ll call this group “Violet.” I do wonder if the Violet tendency to harp on the failures of the mainstream GOP is kind of like the Gray tendency Scott diagnosed to train fire on the Blue. I’m not sure, though, because a lot of us Violets spend a lot of time kvetching about how oppressed we are (we’re not, comparatively–I know!) because we have Red beliefs but work, live, shop, and eat in SWPL Blue enclaves for the most part. I think we’re purple enough that both Red and Blue are close enough to attract our intemperate ire. So we can’t really criticize either big tribe without the near occasion of the sin of self-righteous choir-preaching b.s.

    I’m from New England, grew up Blue, and that “real America” stuff used to drive me NUTS. (How can Lexington and Concord not be part of the real America, cowboy? How American were you in 1776? Weren’t you people part of New Spain or something? We were American first, Palin! It’s our word!) Now I live in Texas and have more Red beliefs than I did growing up, and that kind of rhetoric doesn’t bug me nearly as much anymore, even though I think it still should, objectively.

    I think the ire I had at Palin’s “real America” then, and the admittedly intemperate ire I occasionally have at New Atheists now, is that both felt/feel like they’re trying to erase me and mine from the accepted world picture–to say that patriotic New Englanders don’t exist (or that dissent isn’t patriotic) in Palin’s case, or to say that religious traditionalists (e.g., orthodox Biblical Christians, not Unitarians or something) who are also culturally Blue people with cosmopolitan sympathies can’t have a coherent identity and are really just yokel terrorists who don’t know it. Maybe it’s that sense of “erasure” that drives Scott’s Gray horror of Blue social justice attempts to deploy conceptual superweapons against his white male self. It is kinda scary.

    [EDIT 2: Brown swapped with White throughout per Multiheaded’s great suggestion. Then I realized that the phrase “us Whites” sounded racial. But I like Multiheaded’s idea of using shades like Crimson for some groups, instead of just primaries. I’ll say Violet for us, since it’s the version of purple that’s a liturgical color.]

    [EDIT 3: It occurs to me that maybe New Atheists are also sometimes Violets’ near-neighboring hated outgroup: fellow nerds who are interested in abstract questions like religion, but who are Wrong on the Internet and Must Be Destroyed. It also occurs to me that criticizing my own Violet group is also presumably some kind of ridiculous level of meta-hipster status signalling as mentioned upthread. Seems unavoidable.]

    • Multiheaded says:

      White.

      (Also add Crimson for people like Matthias-senpai, and Black for the politically aware among the underclasses and the really actually highly oppressed.)

    • Matthew says:

      I’m from New England, grew up Blue, and that “real America” stuff used to drive me NUTS. (How can Lexington and Concord not be part of the real America, cowboy?

      I’m from Massachusetts, and pleased to get independent confirmation that I wasn’t imagining this.

    • Nick says:

      I actually wish Scott had started with a good thorough taxonomy this time so he could mention groups like yours (well, ours, really, although I’m more Grey than I am Blue). I like the practice of starting with a few good recognizable things and drawing some grand theory out of them and all, it makes for great posts and discussion, but I feel that we’re a little past thinking in terms of just two or maybe three major groups. But maybe it’s the absurdly high bubble value that Scott got that had him thinking there had to be very few and very large, comprehensive groups.

    • noahluck says:

      Incidentally, which part of Texas? You’re one of my favorite Internet commenters, so on the chance you’re near the Austin metro, I’ll totally buy you a beer in exchange for conversation.

  113. Ronak M Soni says:

    And, after reading this post, I saw this in a friend’s facebook feed, in response to that rhino being declared extinct:
    “I […] wish for a speedy extinction of the human species.”

    I think you’re right that ‘America’ as used by blue tribe is code for ‘red tribe’ and so on. But, also that there’s more to it – I think the blue tribe actually accords high status to self-criticism, or things that look like it anyway.
    Or maybe to making more and more far-out things your in-group while making more and more close to home things your out-group, going of course till yourself. Which, now that I’ve written it, just looks to me like self-criticism by another name.

    And, for the pro-blue bit, I’ll just note that – like that ‘pretending to really try’ argument about EA – self-criticising for status often gets to actual self-criticism.*
    Recently, for example, I ran into a defunct feminist tumblr that just had an apology for having acted horribly to various people. I later read that she honestly believed that men should all become trans or something like that. It’s non-trivial that someone at the far-out edges of crazy was able to pull back and see it. Of course, this may just be a property of her, but same way your brain is probably going ‘this wouldn’t have happened if she was in the LW community’ my brain is going ‘this happened faster in the blue side than it would have in the red.’

    * To be honest, status games nearly always seem to take the form of adaptation-execution rather than status-maximisation. But my understanding for status games is vague.

    • von Kalifornen says:

      I’m not sure if it’s just status about self-critcism.

      Let’s split the Blue thede into Blue and ur-Blue. Neither shall include those who have genuinely hoisted the red flag of revolution, but lets say that the ur-Blue is typically found in a university campus and a Blue in a job requiring university education, that a Blue tries not to see race and that an ur-Blue is consumed by race in the most un-volkish way possible.

      Blues definitely do the criticism thing, but I don’t think they would generally write something like that. If they did, it would be in frustrated, fatalistic terms about paying the price for our misdeeds. ur-Blues take it seriously, for very low levels of seriously.

      • Ronak M Soni says:

        Maybe phrasing it as status was a mistake. I understand it rather poorly.

        I think the main thing I was saying, that look self-criticism is a thing blues do and they’re actually not just using America as a code-word for reds (even if they are mostly doing that), holds.

        For example, the stuff white people like blog is beloved of many blue writers (can I just say liberal now?), even though it’s clearly aimed at liberals – that’s how I first came across it.

        • von Kalifornen says:

          The SWPL blog is aimed, I think, at liberals who are perceived as trying too hard or not doing it well enough.

          • That’s the same thing as “hipsters”, right? SWPL basically uses “white people” to mean “hipsters”.

          • Ronak M Soni says:

            I disagree with your assumption that the trying-too-hard liberals and good liberals are cleanly delineated. This sort of making fun of straw/weak man is very much an epistemic immune response.

            Actual liberals are scared that they’ll try too hard and become like the target of swpl. And they honestly believe that being that way is bad. This is a constant reminder of a failure mode.

  114. RobF says:

    An absolutely fantastic post! I would add one small thing with respect to the “narcissism of small differences”. I think that’s a real dynamic, but I don’t believe narcissism explains the scale of tension between your example pairs: Jews/Nazis, Red/Blue, Protestant/Catholic, etc. I think the intense power of those tensions is due to utterly pragmatic causes. Specifically, each of those pairs are/were locked in real competition for power and resources. Those competitions create frequent opportunities to experience frustration or failure at the hands of the “other”.
    For instance, I suspect some Blue tribe folks hated Thatcher more than Bin Laden because they personally experienced more frustration and defeat at the hands of Thatcher (and her idealogical allies) than they did from Bin Laden. Likewise, Nazis were in direct competition with German Jews and benefited directly (in a ruthless sense) from their displacement. Red tribe folks and Blue tribe folks don’t despise one another due to bits of narcissism such as Priuses vs SUVs. Those are just the identifiers. The real animosity springs from the daily zero-sum competitions on issues such as income distribution, abortion, gun rights, environmental regulation, etc.

    • von Kalifornen says:

      This matters a lot, and I’d say it accounts for the difference between “similar groups living it peace, while diversity makes a huge mess” and “similar groups hating each other”.

  115. Meta Status Seeker says:

    Meta-level status seeking (among individuals that I shall call Red+, Blue+, Grey+):

    “I am fully aware of the hypocrisies of my own tribe. I recognize that these are effects of within-group status-seeking. I recognize that status-seeking out-group persecution can cause real harm, and I condemn such persecution. I recognize my own complicity in this and my own within-group status seeking, and I condemn myself. I find the people it hurts to criticize and criticize them, relishing the purifying pain. I simultaneously recognise that — when wedded to true tolerance and approached with sufficient willingness to dissent when it hurts — the refined and buttressed versions of [Red/Blue/Grey] beliefs represent our best hope of achieving a flourishing human world.”

    Scott, you and I* both move in circles in which this ascetic activity of painful self-criticism is proof of enlightenment and therefore very high-status. That doesn’t make such pious self-criticism wrong or useless, of course.**

    *Example: I nearly posted the fact that I attend a highly-ranked, generally very left-wing university and know several creationists.

    **(A “[Red+/Blue+/Gray+]+” claim)

    EDIT: Joseph Hertzlinger appears to be thinking along similar lines.

  116. Shmi Nux says:

    So your meta virtue is “being virtuous is only as virtuous as it is hard”? Seems a little extreme.

    • von Kalifornen says:

      I’d say it’s closer to “Uncommon virtue isn’t doing what you were trained to do from birth, its still Uncommon.”

      • Anonymous says:

        For all intents and purposes virtue is a positional good. Competition for virtue is zero sum among the competitors, but has large positive externalities, which is why we want to encourage it.

  117. You can think of the Red tribe as people signalling they’re Americans. The Blue tribe is counter-signalling. The Grey tribe is counter-counter-signalling. The Royal Purple tribe is counter-counter-counter-signalling…

    Someone who is above all the levels of n-counter-signaling would be ω-counter-signaling… and someone who is better than that is ω+1-counter-signaling…

    Can we get to ε0?

  118. Randall Randall says:

    “I mean, from a utilitarian point of view, you are still doing the correct action of not giving people grief because they’re a divorcee.”

    Not really on-topic: are we certain of this? One argument I hear from those on the right is that shaming divorce will result in more people being happier with their marriages, resulting in 1) more happiness in general, 2) more children growing up in relatively happy two-parent households. Given that some people really need to get out of terrible situations, this isn’t an argument for banning divorce, but it could easily be an argument for shaming people for getting a divorce.

    • Nita says:

      shaming divorce will result in more people being happier with their marriages

      How exactly would that work? Weekly mean gossip sessions to feed the ego? Public divorcee shaming as a bonding activity for still-married couples?

      • Anonymous says:

        Humans have a weird psychological quirk where often, if you remove some of their options, they are happier with the remainder.

      • Randall Randall says:

        Oh, no, sorry. I meant things like people trying harder, compromising with their SOs more, and things like that. Just consequences of divorce being more personally expensive.

        There’s also the possibility, as Anonymous mentions in a sibling, of increasing relationship happiness as untaken options are reduced.

        • von Kalifornen says:

          One thing I heard an anti-divorce person claim is that when divorce is acceptable but still bad, people don’t have the motive to make things work regardless so they prepare for divorce, making it even more possible.

        • Nita says:

          Unfortunately, Scott is right: It’s really hard to target advice at exactly the people who need it.

          In this case, the people who have already internalized the idea that divorce is horrible sin will be easier to shame, while flighty celebrities on their sixth marriage will feel free to roll their eyes at you.

          End result: (ex-)Christians in abusive or mutually destructive relationships are even more reluctant to get out, others expand their outgroup to include divorce-shamers.

          • Ken Arromdee says:

            Yet back in the past when divorce was shamed by society, it did indeed prevent there from being lots of flighty celebrities on their sixth marriage.

          • Nita says:

            Well, to be honest, I don’t care how often celebrities get married. And even if I did, making other people stay in horrible relationships certainly doesn’t seem worth it.

          • Multiheaded says:

            Ken: yeah, so they had six mistresses instead?

          • von Kalifornen says:

            Probably. Although it’s noted that the problem might be the imbalance due to sexism (penalty for women cheating being much worse, even when paternity security is not harmed) than the hypocrisy.

          • Randy M says:

            “Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.”

            Tangent: For some reason I thought that was an Oscar Wilde quote. It’s a Frenchman whose name I don’t remotely recognize.
            I now hypothesize that I have a general historical figure for each time period, guess about when a quote was said, and ascribe it to the figure from that period.

            If I think something rustic and early American? Franklin, Lincoln, or Twain.
            Something witty, vaguely early modern? Probably Oscar Wilde. etc.

          • Anonymous says:

            Everyone attributes everything to Twain, Wilde, and Churchill. Some stuff to Franklin. Lincoln, not so much.

          • Nornagest says:

            Doesn’t sound homespun or cynical enough to be Twain. I would have bought Franklin, though.

  119. Vollkeule says:

    This is a awesome post where you can discover so much about yourself. Thank you very much for that! I hope you will never regret writing it.

  120. Quixote says:

    A lot of this post rings very true to me. But there is a point I just can’t let slide:
    When you compare believing in creationism vs evolution, one of those is actually correct.
    When you look at sexism and racism, those are actually morally wrong.
    When you look at whether there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, there is an actual fact of the matter.
    When you look at driving gay people to suicide, it is actually morally wrong. (Nice strawman there self!)
    When you look at climate change there is an actual fact of the matter.
    And Miller Lite is actually a shitty beer
    ____
    Its easy to look at any disagreement between groups of people as tribalism. And certainly those who are losing any particular disagreement on the object level would want to look at tribalism as a meta level to move focus away from the object level. But THE OBJECT LEVEL IS REAL.
    Real people get arrested for minor offenses and rot in jail. Real people die when bombs get dropped on their heads. Feeding antibiotics to animals may create a real risk of disease. People in low lying countries may become really actually homeless refugees.

    • pwyll says:

      Can you imagine a world in which there are thoughtful, intelligent people who disagree with your assertion that sexism and racism (or at least, forms that differ from your caricatures of them) are wrong?

    • Irenist says:

      People who disagree with Blue positions often have object level concerns they’re worried about, too. (I could make a list, but it’s an easy exercise, and might start a debate about the object level stuff that I for one am in no mood for here.)

      I think the pragmatic takeaway from the OP is that trying to root out one’s own tribalism and be more civil is worthwhile, if it’s at all possible without betraying one’s admittedly quite consequential object-level goals.

    • Tracy W says:

      Doesn’t this go back to the priest in Chesterton’s story Scott refers to? The priest thought the supposed nobleman had done wrong and penance was needed for forgiveness, but was also willing to extend forgiveness under similar conditions when the truth came out.

    • Drew Hardies says:

      When you look at sexism and racism, those are actually morally wrong.

      Racism and sexism are intrinsically pejorative. They describe ‘bad’ or ‘unjust’ differences in treatment. And I think you’re pulling a bit of a bait-and-switch with exactly whose standard we’re using.

      The infinitely defensible Motte is, “X-ism: support for policies that the listener thinks are unjust”.

      Everyone will agree that [things they see as] unjust are unjust. Use that definition and your objection becomes trivial. There just aren’t any Motte-Racists.

      The impossible-to-hold Bailey is: “Xism = support for policies that the speaker think are unjust.”

      Use that definition and you can find some Bailey-Racists to condemn. The objection could matter.

      The problem is that the speaker’s position devolves to the nearly-tautological: “People who disagree with me about Justice are supporting [what I see as] Injustice.” That’s true for everyone.

      If we round ‘disagreement about morality’ up to ‘immorality’ then it applies to so many people that it really loses any sting.

      • Anonymous says:

        Well….yeah? But then I’d expect the speaker to put forth a case for a particular policy being unjust (even if I might not agree that it is initially). It’s not impossible to hold the bailey, it just requires work.

  121. Daniel Speyer says:

    > Try to keep this off Reddit and other similar sorts of things.

    Already posted to /r/KotakuInAction, /r/TumblrAtRest and /r/AgainstFeminism. Should we all go downvote?

  122. Luis says:

    I really appreciated the insight of ingroups and outgroups, but I have to say that you fell into a logical self-recursion trap as the text went on, especially in the last part. “Being intolerant of intolerance” is cliched and horribly misused since, as you pointed out, the meaning of “intolerant” is twisted in order to fit the speaker’s prejudices. However, taken at face value, it’s a(n objectively correct?) fine statement. Tolerating one’s opinions is not necessarily the same as tolerating one’s actions.

  123. Ghatanathoah says:

    I used to wonder why people called for the Justice League to have more diversity. Its original lineup included three white people, two space aliens, a member of a race of aquatic humanoids, and a woman from an isolated tribe who is made from enchanted clay. That seems awfully diverse.

    But when people say diverse they mean “diverse groups near me,” not any possible diverse group.

    • Anonymous says:

      In politics-speak “diverse” means approved victim class so that a group composed solely of black women is 100% “diverse”. Space aliens and the like are not an approved victim class, so they are not “diverse.”

      • Zorgon says:

        While in general I’m in favour of blowing up victim-status-mongering behaviour, I’m afraid this isn’t really what “diversity” in this context means.

        The argument made regarding the problem of diversity in media is that non-majority individuals have nothing to associate with in majority media. Black people aren’t going to find it any easier to get along with a “diverse” group containing white people, aliens and robots than they are a group containing only white people; it still contains only people that are Not Like Them.

        For all that it’s presented as a Moral Imperative, I don’t think that this is particularly bad reasoning; it’s not exactly difficult to see how an all-white team would alienate non-white people. My argument against it is more straightforward: comics have had black and female characters for quite a long time and while gay and trans characters are not generally presented as such, sexuality and gender-conformity are not generally central to character portrayal in comics at all, at least until SJ-driven demands made it so very recently; in that any given character not portrayed as being in a straight relationship could be gay and even the ones portrayed as being in a straight romantic relationship could easily be bisexual, and there were numerous discussions in fandom regarding this. Once sexuality becomes an issue, though, everyone becomes straight-unless-distinguished-otherwise. A rather ironic form of heteronormativity-reinforcement.

        So the core premise of the “diversity in comics” argument is rather faulty in that it’s not actually reflective of the media in question. Same thing applies to race and gender in games, for that matter. But it’s not as though the people making this argument don’t have a history of making up absolutes where they don’t exist.

  124. Deiseach says:

    (B)y way of illustration: a billionaire who gives $100 to charity gets as many Utility Points as an impoverished pensioner who donates the same amount, but the latter gets a lot more Virtue Points

    I think that Catholic hospital may be having some strange effect on you, because did you just use the example of the Widow’s Mite? 🙂

    • coffeespoons says:

      I was sure that I recognised Scott’s example from somewhere – Catholic primary school was where I heard it first I think!

    • BenSix says:

      Anecdote related to this and the “pits of suffering” post: I heard of a philosophy student who realised that as a utilitarian he should forsake his dreams of becoming a philosopher, go into finance and donate his earnings to charity. Then it struck him that more Utility Points would be won if he became a philosopher and told all of his students to go into finance and donate their earnings.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Utilitarians had it first, Jesus just plagiarized us!

  125. Eli says:

    My hunch – both the Red Tribe and the Blue Tribe, for whatever reason, identify “America” with the Red Tribe. Ask people for typically “American” things, and you end up with a very Red list of characteristics – guns, religion, barbecues, American football, NASCAR, cowboys, SUVs, unrestrained capitalism.

    That means the Red Tribe feels intensely patriotic about “their” country, and the Blue Tribe feels like they’re living in fortified enclaves deep in hostile territory.

    So you’ve never actually heard the Urban Archipelago hypothesis of American politics? There’s actually another conflict layered in here: most actual citizens of America life in the Urban Archipelago, but most of the government and media are controlled by and catered toward the rural minority who hold most of the land area. Some of this problem is systemic to the American Constitution: it was designed for a republic of farmers. Some is also, indeed, a matter of hegemonic cultural bias in which the Red Tribe from the rural areas holds that rural Red Tribe things are more “American” than urban Blue Tribe things.

    On the other hand, considering rural culture more “volkish” than urban culture is a fairly common cultural feature throughout the planet, to my dismay.

    • Randy M says:

      Can you give an example of media orientated towards rural land owners?

    • suntzuanime says:

      That strikes me as very implausible. There is an effect where rural areas are overrepresented in the US Senate, and you can plausibly blame that for a few pro-rural distortions (like the hated corn ethanol quota). But as a practical matter, most centers of government and most centers of media and culture are located in urban areas. This means that most bureaucrats and most media workers are urban folks rather than rural folks, and so on a low level they will be more sympathetic to urban culture than to rural culture.

      On a high level, it seems difficult to argue that urban environments are underrepresented in fictional media, or that urban news is being neglected in favor of reporting on the problems of farmers.

  126. Jaskologist says:

    So what makes an outgroup? Proximity plus small differences. If you want to know who someone in former Yugoslavia hates, don’t look at the Indonesians or the Zulus or the Tibetans or anyone else distant and exotic. Find the Yugoslavian ethnicity that lives closely intermingled with them and is most conspicuously similar to them, and chances are you’ll find the one who they have eight hundred years of seething hatred toward.

    I find myself obligated to point out that this is just a restatement of heartiste’s formula “diversity + proximity = war.”

    • ozymandias says:

      No, it isn’t. Heartiste’s theory predicts that if you put together a bunch of 99% similar people, there will be no war. Scott’s theory predicts that if you put a lot of 99% similar people together, they will feud viciously over on the 1%. Once again, Heartiste perpetuates pretty lies about human nature.

      • cassander says:

        those 99% people will most definitely feud viciously over the 1%, but beer vs. wine probably won’t rise to the level of actual shooting war. degree of conflict matters.

        • gattsuru says:

          This seems a bit overly optimistic, or at least does not model behavior within MMORPGs and online FPSes, which have seen SWAT called in despite overwhelmingly similar people on most sides. There might conceivably be differences so trivial that people won’t get into knock-down dragout fights over them, but I’m hard-pressed to imagine them.

      • a person says:

        I’m not familiar with this theory of Heartiste but if it’s meant to prove something negative about multiculturalism them it seems like Scott’s post affirms it. Scott seems to be supporting the idea that if you have two very distinct groups of people who rarely intermingle and hold distinct values but occupy the same space and are fighting over the same resources, they will grow to hate each other. The parallel to multiculturalism is obvious.

      • Jaskologist says:

        There’s got to be more to it than that, or the prediction would be that families would get along worst of all. And while family members certainly do fight, this is very different from the blue-red hate.

      • Jaskologist says:

        This also put me in mind of the following passage from Dune:

        “All of our birds, of course, are carrion-eaters, and many exist without water, having become blood-drinkers.”

        “Do you mean, sir, that these birds are cannibals?”

        “That’s an odd question, young Master,” the banker said. “I merely said that the birds drink blood. It doesn’t have to be the blood of their own kind, does it?”

        “It was not an odd question,” Paul said. “Most educated people know that the worst potential competition for any young organism can come from its own kind.” He deliberately forked a bite of food from his companion’s plate, at it. “They are eating from the same bowl. They have the same basic requirements.”

      • Randy M says:

        I think they are both right; the key point isn’t the degree of difference, the key point is the proximity; there will always be conflict and factions that squabble over shared resources (even if the resources in question are just the mindspace of the people). Doesn’t matter if it is 1% difference or 99%.

        However, if you have 1% difference, there is less likely to be sharp and discernable distinction between the groups and more likely to be overlapping factions–one supposes, although that may not be enough to make conflict evitable.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I dunno, I feel like Heartiste is predicting that eg black people and white people can’t live together without war, which is the opposite of what I’m predicting.

      • Anonymous says:

        empirically he is more correct than you are

        • Nornagest says:

          People sure are happy to throw around words like “empirical” in this thread without pointing to any empirical findings. Wonder why that is?

      • Ballast says:

        That seems like a correct hypothesis to me insofar as all data is considered.

      • Tarrou says:

        Basic tribalism theory would posit that black and white people can live together just fine, as long as they belong to the same ingroup and have a common outgroup to hate together. See: Cold War. It’s no accident the civil rights movement got traction when it did, and that the preceding Jim Crow regimes got traction when they did.

        Absent an outside threat however, I think there is an inherent conflict, but not an irrepressible one.

        • Anonymous says:

          “See: Cold War. It’s no accident the civil rights movement got traction when it did”

          I’m not sure I understand here. The civil rights movement was in the middle of the cold war.

          • Tarrou’s saying that black and white people were able to make common cause because they had a highly salient outgroup to jointly hate, the Commies.

            This seems like a claim that could and should be substantiated with historical data. My uninformed impression is that this isn’t accurate in any obvious way. Martin Luther King, for example, had a lot of sympathy for socialism / anti-capitalism, and might have had sympathy for communism if political realities hadn’t forced him to strongly distance himself from communists. My impression is that civil rights people were unusually likely to be skeptical of anti-communist propaganda (the Right and the FBI certainly perceived them that way, to the point of hysteric paranoia), whereas the ‘common enemy’ model seems to predict that civil rights people will be unusually strident anti-communists. Or is it only white support for civil rights that was stoked by anti-communism?

          • Anonymous says:

            @Rob

            Ah, I see. I never thought of the civil rights movement as blacks and whites coming together against a common enemy, but rather as factional warfare between blues (allied with blacks) and reds.

            Also, I have to say I’m not convinced about the thesis that an outside threat necessarily forces people together. There have been far more examples in history of one faction enlisting a powerful outside enemy to intervene against their opposing faction than of factions coordinating against a common enemy. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, after all.

          • another says:

            The civil rights era goes back to the very beginning of the cold war. For example, Truman integrated the military in 1948. That triggered Strom Thurman to threaten to leave the Democrat Party. He ran a third party campaign that year, but returned to the fold and only left in 1964, the year of another third party campaign.

            Many people claim that Blues were shamed into supporting civil right by Soviet taunting. It was a battle for the moral high ground. I think this is compatible with but rather different from what Rob says. I have no idea what Tarrou means, but at first glance, this appears opposite.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            I never thought of the civil rights movement as blacks and whites coming together against a common enemy, but rather as factional warfare between blues (allied with blacks) and reds.

            Yes. The Cold War immediately followed the hot WWII, which had seen some coming together (partly forced, as by Truman integrating the troops) against the Nazis. The Cold War was a cooling from that, and the Blues did not fear the Communists (many Blues were sympathetic to them). So the Blues had energy to go after their usual enemies (the Conservatives), by rhetoric, and by encouraging situations conducive to warm conflict (riot guns vs rocks) between White Conservatives and Blacks. And some Whites, now out of the integrated military and with no Nazis to unite against, resumed hostility toward Blacks.

          • Nornagest says:

            @houseboatonstyx — I might be misreading this, but the military wasn’t integrated until 1948. Americans in WWII still fought in segregated units, with most black soldiers working as drivers or laborers away from the front lines.

        • Blue eyes / brown eyes and the Robbers Cave experiment suggests that it’s extraordinarily easy to spark tribal conflict. On the other hand, it’s also extraordinarily easy to spark tribal alliance and trust, and working together on common goals can achieve that end even if there’s no literal human Common Enemy.

          Most kinds of human variation don’t produce large amounts of violence and conflict; e.g., 5’9″ people aren’t at constant war with 5’8″ people, and people with thick eyebrows aren’t constantly bad-mouthing people with thin eyebrows, or bombing the residences of thin-eyebrowed folks. Establishing a common project for the relevant groups is useful; not having cultural tropes that draw attention to the differences is useful; and making it obvious that the groups blend together in a continuum (e.g., having more mixed-race people than black or white people) probably also helps, though it’s not completely decisive.

  127. Grant Babcock says:

    There’s an HTML error in the paragraph beginning “And if you mix together the open-source tech industry and the parallel universe…” that is causing most of the paragraph to be hidden. My browser thinks everything starting with “where you can’t wear a FreeBSD t-shirt” to the end of the paragraph is part of the link.

  128. Cauê says:

    Scott, you’re making *so much* more sense than anyone else in the culture wars that it feels like a serious loss to the world to “keep this off Reddit and other similar sorts of things”… I do understand the worry, though.

    Also, you should probably prepare a little better against quote mining. Things like “I need to remind myself that when they are bad people, they are merely Osama-level bad people instead of Thatcher-level bad people” is just gold for people looking for it.

    • DrBeat says:

      Yeah, it’s too bad he doesn’t want this reposted on Reddit, a lot of people there would be interested in seeing it.

    • For the record, I think Scott’s classification of this post in “Things I Will Regret Writing” will turn out to be empirically wrong. It reads much more like evenhanded analysis and much less like attacking the outgroup than any of the other posts in that category.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Ah, don’t worry, I’m looking at my incoming links and they already posted it on two subreddits.

  129. Anonymous says:

    A related concept in sports:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_derby

    Often the rivalry between two groups is born not of differences, but out of habit, out of frequecy of fights between the groups. When you read e.g. a history of crusades, you notice that (at first) local muslim leaders paid more attention to their old wars and tried to make this new group of people (crusaders) their allies against their old (muslim) enemies, rather than trying to unite all muslim groups against them.

    • Lesser Bull says:

      This was a major dynamic in the conquest of the Americas. Tribe A lives on the seashore and fights with inland Tribe B. Europeans come, Tribe A is exposed to their diseases and gets hurt bad. So Tribe A allies with the Europeans, because Tribe A now feels very vulnerable to those evil Tribe Bs. Eventually the Europeans take over Tribe A territory and Tribe A isn’t significant any more, and its Tribe B that is getting hit with disease, alcohol, social disruption, and feels very vulnerable to even more inland Tribe C. Wash, rinse, repeat. There are obviously nuances and complications, but the basic model is pretty robust.

    • Anonymous says:

      The reasons why some groups (with small differences) are considered ingroup and some – outgoup, usually are endogenous (and not exogenous) to the history of conflict itself. At first, all new groups are divided into potential allies and potential enemies within the context of already existing conflict.

  130. Mary says:

    If you look at 19th/early 20th century Teutonists, the British ones are heavy on their superiority to the dreamy, impractical Celts.

    Now, the German ones, including significant ones in the first half of the 20th century, there’s nothing wrong with the Celts, who are of one of the superior breeds if not quite German. It’s those horrible Slavs that one contrasts with.

    Geography is influential.

  131. Joe says:

    This is a great video if your friends want to know why some ppl are against gay marriage. Poke around at the link for a good Q/A. Also more disscussion of tolerance.
    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=YWIhZ5xJJaQ

  132. Dan says:

    Gay “marriage”?

    If marriage has any meaning at all, then gay ‘marriage’ is an oxymoron. Gay ‘marriage’ has not ever occurred in the history of mankind. It is biologically absurd.

    The union of the opposite halves of humanity with the possibility of procreation is at the center of the only meaning of marriage that makes sense.

    Gay ‘sex’ is not even sex, biologically speaking. Sex is not the correct word for what happens. Even cases where gay couples use artificial means, there is in 100% of cases a third party that is biological mother or father. No exceptions.

    Procreation is not some antiquated value either. In the long run it is almost the only thing that matters.

    In any case, the groups that are actually reproducing at above replacement (see Afghanistan, Africa, India, orthodox Jews) all view gay ‘marriage’ as utterly absurd. If evolution has any truth at all, then procreation is the central thing, above every other thing.

    Nature will gladly toss aside whole civilizations if they believe absurd things.

    If you really want to brutalistically biological, you must view gay marriage as the absurdity that it is.

    Otherwise you are no better than the young Earth creationists you scorn.

    ‘Progressives’ proudly imagine that they are so clever because they ‘get’ evolution but they completely miss the main message. The main message of evolution is that procreators are the winners. The end.

    I deliver this message with no pleasure. My own tribe is being wiped out, evolutionarily speaking, because it views sex as something other than procreation. My tribe has an awesome history. Lots of accomplishments. This sucks. The end.

    • Illuminati Initiate says:

      http://www.nickbostrom.com/fut/evolution.html

      Submitting to natural selection will not save you. It will destroy you and everything you care about, unless all you care about IS short term reproductive success.

      Evolution sacrifices individuals for their genes. The only way to stop this is to coordinate against it, and eliminate harmful selective pressure.

      There are no more “winners” in evolution than there are “winners” in a global nuclear war.

      • Dan says:

        “Submitting to natural selection will not save you. It will destroy you and everything you care about, unless all you care about IS short term reproductive success. ”

        That is like saying I should not care about my country’s future because no country lasts forever. Indeed, in the long term the sun will swallow the Earth, but there quite a lot between here and there.

        While it may be true, this kind of perspective is totally nihilistic and pointless. If that is your view, why argue about anything? Why even be sober?

        • Illuminati Initiate says:

          I’m not sure you understood my point. The tyranny of nature can, to some extent, be defeated, via technology and civilization.

          I may have gone a little grandiose in the language there and been rather unclear in what I was saying. I tend to do that.

          I was sort of echoing Scott’s Moloch post, but I’m not as good at it as he is.

    • Abolition says:

      So marriage between infertile or elderly couples isn’t marriage?

      • Anonymous says:

        Quick: tell me how you can actually tell whether a given heterosexual couple can produce children?

        Bear in mind that passionate refusal to bear a child and medically certifying the sterility of both is not enough, because couples for whom that was true — have produced children.

        • coffeespoons says:

          If the woman has had a full hysterectomy.

          • Anonymous says:

            So the government ought to confiscate your medical records, eh?

          • coffeespoons says:

            So the government ought to confiscate your medical records, eh?

            Huh? No. Where did that come from? I am pro gay marriage & basically pro any consenting adult marrying any other consenting adult regardless of fertility/intent to have children. I was just pointing out that it is possible for an individual couple to show that they are not able to poroduce children.

          • Anonymous says:

            Sure, but the question is generally concerning government action w.r.t. a request for a marriage license. I imagine “looking at the ‘sex’ field of your already-submitted official documentation” and “confiscating your medical records” are two different types of things.

      • Infertility is regarded as an acceptable reason to divorce in some religious traditions.

      • Dan says:

        Infertility is to gay marriage, as a malfunctioning car is to an imaginary car.

    • Luke Edwards says:

      There’s two essays against gay marriage that I have appreciated. I still have a hard time organizing my thoughts on the topic. A good exercise would be for someone to make the ideas in these essays more explicit and steel-manned.

      One is Meg McArdle’s post, linked elsewhere on this thread, which argues against it using a Chesterton’s fence argument:

      http://www.rightwingnews.com/uncategorized/a-really-really-really-long-post-about-gay-marriage-that-does-not-in-the-end-support-one-side-or-the-other-by-jane-galt/

      The other is this post in The Weekly Standard about the kinship system. Along the way, it explains a lot of our social mores around sex and marriage.

      http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/016/533narty.asp?page=1

      • Jadagul says:

        Want to thank you for that second link. It was deeply uncomfortable and moderately repulsive reading, and for that reason quite enlightening.

      • Ken Arromdee says:

        One of the few factual references from that Weekly Standard post:

        My impression is borne out by the one available statistic, from the province of British Columbia, showing that the participants in first-time same-sex weddings are 13 years older, on average, then first-time brides-and-grooms. This feels about right. After all, declaring gay marriage legal will not produce the habit of saving oneself for marriage or create a culture which places a value on virginity or chastity

        Which should be obvious to everyone as a piece of muddled thinking. There’s an obvious reason for participants in same-sex weddings to be much older that is not that they’re not interested in monogamy and a lifetime bond: same-sex weddings haven’t been allowed until recently, so there will be people who would have had them at a younger age if they could, but weren’t permitted to until they got older.

        • Nornagest says:

          Reminds me of of the factoid about Colorado car-crash victims showing more detectable THC metabolites following the legalization of marijuana in that state.

          (Inactive THC metabolites remain detectable for weeks after smoking. The study wasn’t picking up near-term intoxication, it was picking up long-term use.)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Hello, token Red Triber!

    • Bugmaster says:

      I actually agree, kind of: I don’t think that “marriage” in its present form is a useful idea at all. Some sort of a long-term contract involving mutual ownership rights and responsibilities, with hefty penalties for early termination, might be a good idea… but that’s not what “marriage” currently is.

      • Nita says:

        with hefty penalties for early termination

        Wait, why? Isn’t late termination way more harmful, what with both people having wasted the proverbial best years of their life, and being in a much worse position to find a better partner?

        • Anonymous says:

          Their problem. After all, they walked in with open eyes.

          The termination penalties are to recompense the children, who didn’t ask to get into it, and if the divorce is not by mutual consent, the spouse who’s getting dumped. (Welcome to the wonderful world of contracts, where the person who wants out has to recompense the person who doesn’t.)

          • Nita says:

            Oh, so “early” means “before the youngest child gets married” or something along those lines? I took it to mean “within the first couple of years, before kids”, so that explains my surprise.

          • Bugmaster says:

            Yes, I meant something close to what Anonymous said.

            I also tend think of it this way: when you sign up for a cellphone plan, you can usually get a new cellphone along with it for free (or, at least, at a hefty discount). The reason for this is that your promise to stick to the contract for the next two years is worth the price of a new cellphone to the cell company. Naturally, if you break the promise, you should compensate them at the very least.

            Marriage works (or, rather, could probably work) kind of in the same way; except that it’s a four-way contract between you, your spouse, the government, and your (future) children.

  133. Vivificient says:

    The identification of the “grey tribe” is interesting. It is very convenient to postulate oneself into a small select group when criticizing the group one would otherwise seem to belong to.

    Hypothesis: one perceives the grey tribe as a meaningful third group because one belongs to it, and needs a place to stand while criticizing the blues. A person in a different area of the blues who wrote this article might perceive the third group as being their own extra little group that allows them to feel smarter/distinct. A person you would see as red might perceive all the blues and greys as the same, but be happy to criticize the reds because they view themselves as part of a special Good splinter.

    Thoughts?

  134. dhill says:

    I think the instance of implicit association test you linked is broken. I have done this kind of test before, but this one looked like it was wrongly ordered. The expected implicit association was displayed at the very end after 3-4 runs trying to establish different association. It didn’t look like scientific method of trying to disprove you bias, but rather confirm it.

    • Nonce says:

      It is common for participants in IAT to feel that the order in which the blocks are presented affects the outcome. It may, a little, and there’s no single ordering of blocks that can be called without bias, so individual IAT-for-fun results should be taken with a grain of salt.

      Of course, experimenters collecting data in a study are well aware that order may affect performance, so they always show half their participants the blocks in one order, and the other half of their participants the other order, and also randomize the response keys and so on. And IAT findings at the study level are robust to this randomization across subjects.

      (I have a contrarian notion that IAT doesn’t measure associations really, but rather markedness, but the IAT methodology is sound and definitely measures something interesting.)

      • Peter says:

        Yeah, I’ve been known to say “definitely measuring something” about the IAT before. As a bit of pure cognitive psychology, it’s really fascinating. As a piece of applied cognitive psychology, IMO the results need to be taken with a large scoop of salt, at least until people have spent a lot more effort disentangling what exactly it is that the IAT is measuring.

  135. Vaniver says:

    I want to applaud your self-awareness in the last section, and encourage you to actually write that criticism. You don’t have to post it, but it may change you for the better to have organized those thoughts.

    • Amanda L. says:

      Seconding this! I’d love to see Scott write a criticism of the Gray Tribe. My motivation is way less altruistic than “it may help him to organize his thoughts” though — I want to steal his insights to fortify myself against unnoticed failure modes. I’m a bit shaken up because I’ve had my faith in utilitarianism as the best way to model human morality seriously eroded by a series of conversations with a non-LW friend recently, and I’m curious what other LW-consensuses (and less concretely, LW-life-attitudes) I’ve taken for granted without properly examining.

      So please do write this criticism, whether of the Gray Tribe or LW specifically or both, and do post it!

      • Luke Edwards says:

        I agree with Scott or at least appreciate his thought process on about 95% of topics. However, he swallows Less Wrong’s utilitarian universalism and rationalism pretty hard in a way that I don’t like or respect.

        In my opinion, we are more likely to be lead to pleasant futures by more conservative values that sound ad hoc and sound more like aesthetics, which haven’t been formalized/rationalized yet – if they are capable of being rationalized at all. If you want to preserve a large majority of things that humans actually value then you probably can’t reduce morality down to a math formula. You probably need old-fashioned fuzzy virtues like wisdom.

        I have high hopes for Nyan Sandwiches’s and Konkvistador’s project of “post-rationalism”. Unfortunately, nobody in the tiny group of post-rationalists has displayed the intellectual wattage of people like Scott yet.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          First of all, I think I’ve been criticizing utilitarianism, or at least thinking about alternatives to it , quite a lot lately.

          But second, I think “let’s come up with conservative, ad hoc values that will lead to a nicer world” is solving a VERY different problem than the one utilitarianism is trying to solve. I see utilitarianism as especially useful for two BIG problems that can’t be avoided:

          1. If someone needs to program Friendly AI, how should it think about ethics? If you’re familiar with the field at all, you know why “ad hoc” would be a disaster – otherwise, I recommend the “Superintelligence” book on the sidebar of this blog.

          2. Assume we have a modern liberal pluralistic democratic state in which everybody hates each other or at least has very different values, but we still want to get things done on the government level in a way more principled than “whoever can grab 51% of the vote shoves stuff down everyone else’s throat”. We would need to have something math-y so that we could have either objectivity or at least the illusion of objectivity so that it is as hard as possible for special interests to hijack the decision-making process.

          Everyone means different things by “rationalism”, but I bet whatever you mean by it is covered by those kinds of issues too.

          I also think utilitarianism deserves extraordinary credit for starting the effective altruism movement, but that’s another story.

          • Jack Crassus says:

            Effective Altruism is dangerous to the survival of the human species and what we care about because of its short-term focus on increasing the number of human lives (lives saved per dollar being the objective function). A world with 4 billion Africans (UN projection for 2100) is likely to be a lot worse than a world with 1 billion. At least the African megafauna will be gone and there will be big externalities on ocean and atmospheric health, as well as human suffering in war bread by the greater density.

            To the extent that the more populated Africa doesn’t collapse into the most hellacious warzone + famine that the world has ever seen, it will depend on western arms and aid to maintain political stability, public health, and food stocks.

            The technology to deal with a greater world population will not come from the areas with increasing population. In the past it has mostly come from the slowly dwindling West. Even the rich countries of Asia produce little in the way of frontier science. So it is unreasonable to expect Africa to contribute to the technology necessary for its own survival.

            But I suppose that the utility also matters that arises from smart geeks feeling superior over their fellows by maximizing the population of Africa per dollar spent.

            Rationalists need to join neoreactionaries in considering the fate of the human project as a whole before we sink billions of dollars into causes that make us feel good.

          • The notion that effective altruists don’t think about larger-scale issues, or consider the possibility that interventions might have negative consequences, is just plain wrong. Of course, we can disagree about what the larger consequences of saving a bunch of lives in Africa are likely to be. As I’ve mentioned more than once before on this blog, I believe that they are likely to be positive, due to flow-through effects, the demographic transition, etc.

          • Jack Crassus says:

            So far it looks like African fertility is falling slower than expected. Let’s hope for demographic transition to save us all, but let’s not count on it.

          • Obviously this is something that all parties should pay close attention to as time goes on. But the prospect of a Malthusian collapse is speculative and always has been; in the absence of a more definite threat, it’s worth being concerned about, but not worth letting real people die over.

          • Jack Crassus says:

            The problem with real people is that they can produce infinite amounts of other real people. Once you allow a universal moral claim on yourself there are no limits to the size of that claim in absence of controlled reproduction.

            The difference between you and me is that I judge Malthusian collapse to be much more likely/possible. Absent Norman Borlaug, we would have already hit one. Panglossianism is no way to secure the survival of a species.

            Supporting as many Africans as possible living in miserable conditions in Africa also strikes me as an odd end goal for Western Civilization. I’d rather see us raise our capabilities as a species than use our present capabilities to feed as many mouths as possible. I’d rather those effective altruists spent their money on curing death, on making us an interplanetary species, on eliminating existential risks, on new methods of computing and travel, and etc.

      • Bugmaster says:

        As a member of the Gray Tribe (at least, I think I am one, maybe), I heartily concur. That said, I don’t think that utilitarianism is all that great, so I’d prefer Scott to focus on some other aspects of Grayism.

    • Eric Rall says:

      When I read the bit about self-criticizing the Grey Tribe, I immediately thought of the Non-Libertarian FAQ and the Anti-Reactionary FAQ.

  136. cpopell says:

    Honestly, I think I’m even more politically alienated than you are. I find the grey tribe to be nearly as reprehensible as the blue tribe and the red tribe, and that’s entirely because I have different values.

    Nearly every member of the grey tribe that I’ve spoken to has had stronger political beliefs than either of the other two, because they actually DO hold political beliefs. With the rare exception of those who hold a ‘liberal archipelago’ view, this leads to conflict even more often.

    You’ve also got a problem where people are fighting for signalling and counter signalling and counter counter signalling status point, which has always irritated me. From early on in my internet days I always branded myself as a bad person (and somewhat in real life as well)-I extol the virtues of some great sin (generally greed, conquest, and lust) and let that drive away the people it will drive away. I don’t do this in my professional life, of course. When people think you’re a bad person they stop trying to judge you.

    I find the grey tribe far too trusting of people for having rational arguments, before they make predictions that are born true, uniquely. I find them all too unwilling to use violence to defend civilization, and generally willing to dismiss everyone else–and this is coming from someone who believes in at least one view each of the tribes would want me executed for.

    But I also sympathize to your filter, though mine has been much more by design. My social group is filled with transhumanist consequentialists–and that’s a much smaller group than ‘gray tribe’. Maybe I’m just wool gathering here.

  137. chaosmage says:

    If this Gray Tribe idea is to become a thing, it needs a different color. I’d suggest white (for clarity, neutrality and for being the third color on the flag), but of course the racial politics of your weird country prohibit that.

    So maybe Green?

  138. Peter says:

    Tolerance as a virtue; if I understand correctly, I think matters whether you apply a Kantian or Aristotelian notion of virtue; in the story of Bodhidharma and the Emperor, I see the Kantian one. Doing the right thing through self-control, an exercise of will, that has moral worth, according to Kant, doing the right thing through inclination… no.

    The Emperor could riposte: “Sure, I don’t have anything about gay people, but I had to work hard to get there”, or even “sure… but _we_ had to work hard to get there”. AFAICT this is the Aristotelian idea of virtue. Aristotle sees what Kant calls virtue, and says, “that’s not virtue, it’s just continence; sure, it’s better than incontinence, but if you’re having to apply it all the time that’s hardly the good life now is it?”

    (Off to one side there’s a utilitarian looking bemused and saying, “whatever works, man, whatever works”.)

  139. Nestor says:

    I read a book that discussed this sort of thing a few years ago, I think it was by Jacob Bronowsky, but I can’t find it right now.

    He came up with the term “noyau” to describe these sub groupings, talked about animal psychology, how groups of monkeys define themselves in opposition to other identical bands of monkeys whose territory borders theirs. I also recall some amusingly british musing about Italy not being a real nation, rather a collection of noyaus mushed together.

    Also I think your link for the criterion of embarrassment swallowed part of the post text

  140. Qiaochu Yuan says:

    I think the 10^45 number you keep quoting is a deeply misleading description of the strength of the filter bubble. You only get that if you assume that each of your friends are completely independent, when of course your friends are going to be pretty correlated both with you and with each other. Even postulating a small amount of correlation makes this number get drastically smaller; most of what makes that number large is the ludicrously strong independence assumption.

    For example, let’s suppose that, despite the fact that 50% of Americans are creationists, whenever you make a friend there’s a 10% chance of them being a creationist. That’s only a factor of 5 difference in how selective you’re being, but it raises the probability of none of your 150 friends being creationists up to one in 7 x 10^6. Replacing 10% by 5% raises it even further to one in 2200. And of course I’m still assuming that your friends are independent of each other, but I don’t know an easy way of dropping this assumption while still getting a model where it’s easy to compute things by hand.

    In particular, I think “[i]t’s the many, many differences between these tribes that explain the strength of the filter bubble” is too strong a claim.

    Relevant (I think you’ll particularly like this): Schelling introduced a simple model of segregation in which almost complete segregation can occur between two groups provided only that people have a slight preference to be around members of the same group (link).

    • Qiaochu Yuan says:

      Okay, here’s a relatively straightforward model that introduces a pretty small amount of correlation between your friends. Flip 152 coins. Your friends correspond to the 150 possible sequences of 3 consecutive coin flips, and each one is a creationist if the majority of the corresponding coins flip heads. The probability that each friend has the same status as the previous friend is 75%.

      (More evocatively, there are 3 memes, which can each be set to one of two possible alleles, that determine whether you’re a creationist. Each of your friends passes on two of his memes to the next friend, but not randomly.)

      In any case, the probability that none of your friends are creationists is now the probability that in a sequence of 152 coin flips you never flip heads twice in a row. This probability turns out to be exactly F_154 / 2^152, where F_n is the nth Fibonacci number, for cool reasons. This is about one in 8.3 x 10^13.

      I’d like to further adjust the underlying probability that a particular one of your friends is creationist a bit but I should be getting some sleep. I still don’t know a simple way to introduce “long-range correlations” (e.g. in this model there’s no correlation between your first 50 and last 50 friends) which should also drive up the final probability even further without having to be particularly strong.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I could be wrong, but I think that’s exactly the point I’m trying to make.

      • Qiaochu Yuan says:

        I interpreted your point to be something like “10^45 is a really big number, so the filter bubble must be outrageously strong, and here are some thoughts on why it’s so outrageously strong,” but my point is that the 10^45 number is a very misleading indicator of the strength of the filter bubble. You don’t need a lot of correlation among your friend group to make that number go much lower.

        • g says:

          “Outrageously strong” can mean (1) “the result of outrageously strong selection” or (2) “outrageously effective in shielding Scott from views atypical of his circle”.

          I think Scott is saying his bubble is strong in sense 2, not necessarily in sense 1.

      • Peter says:

        The 10^45 number tells you that you’re very certain there is some effect making you less likely to encounter creationist, it’s sort-of correlated with the strength of the effect, but it’s not the best measure of it. Statistical significance is not effect size; the 10^45 could mean a strong effect in a small sample or a weaker effect in a larger sample.

        For real “fun”, come up with prior probabilities for “1% of the sorts of people I meet are creationists”, “2%… etc.”, work out posterior probabilities given you see no creationists, then calculate the expectation (as in weighted average) of the percentage of creationists amongst your “encounter pool”.

        • Qiaochu Yuan says:

          > The 10^45 number tells you that you’re very certain there is some effect making you less likely to encounter creationist

          This isn’t doing justice to the space of possible hypotheses. As a dumb example, you can assume perfect correlation between your friends (but none between you and your friends): whether or not your first friend is a creationist, all of your subsequent friends have the same status as your first friend. Then the probability that none of your friends are creationists is just 1/2.

          The 10^45 number tells you that complete independence is a very bad hypothesis, and that’s nearly the only thing it tells you.

  141. BenSix says:

    Very interesting. Thanks.

    So what makes an outgroup? Proximity plus small differences.

    This is also evident in the tendency to define one’s in-group down. Christianity/Islam/Marxism/feminism/NRx starts by meaning X and then adopts qualities of Y and Z. This is necessary as a means of adapting to experiences but it can also be evidence that membership of the tribe is a positional good. Also:

    Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

    He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

    He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”

    Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

  142. Konkvistador says:

    A reminder to Blue tribe members that are quick to renounce the virtue of tolerance, should the Red tribe see you doing this they might get crazy ideas in their head. Ideas like maybe they don’t want to lose the value war for the future and that the reasons they tolerate the Blue tribe are all a con.

    You shouldn’t be worried more people of the Red Tribe will start voting for Republicans, Republicans are your best friends, they pacify the Red Tribe. You should be worried when they stop voting Republican and your civil society fractures.

    The 16th and 17th century wars of religion and the 20th century wars of ideology have taught us nothing. Even though it nearly resulted in human extinction. This escalation, the polarization you gleefully participate in is a road to vast deconstruction and suffering.

    Don’t pop bubbles that you inhabit. I know in your bloodthirst, you think of glorious victories in the past and think yourself the likely winners of any conflict.

    That isn’t how it works. It looks like the good guys have won every war recently, because the people who disagreed the good guys won are dead.

    • Fazathra says:

      I thought reactionaries were meant to be above making populist (demotist) threats like this and instead be trying to convert the elites. Although I do admit I am pretty shocked at the ease at which self-described liberals here and elsewhere are willing to renounce their tolerance when it suits them. Especially as one of the bases of their pretensions to moral superiority over their opponents comes from their “tolerance” and, just from a tactical perspective, you would expect general norms of tolerance to be disproportionately more beneficial to the oppressed classes that they support than their enemies.

      I suppose that if jim et al are right about the left singularity, I will soon become a far-right extremist for thinking that even people who disagree with the liberal line should have a right to free speech and not be summarily harassed out of polite society. But at least I will have the satisfaction of knowing that it is the world that has gone crazy, not me.

      • nydwracu says:

        I thought reactionaries were meant to be above making populist (demotist) threats like this and instead be trying to convert the elites.

        It’s not a threat. Do you really think all the Reds are unprepared for the collapse of the shams between here and war?

      • Konkvistador says:

        I wasn’t threatening, I was warning. I don’t approve of what happened during the wars of religion and ideology. And I see people trampling the few things holding back escalation.

    • Anonymous says:

      The South will not rise again. And if it does, that will be a great victory indeed for team Blue… You talk about the 16th and 17th century wars of religion. A far more relevant example can be found less than two centuries back in our own country’s history. The Reds lost. And the strengths of team Red back then were the same as their strengths now – far greater practical knowledge, far greater competence with weapons of war – and they amounted to naught back then, when they mattered far more than now.

      Brains (and money) beat brawn. When the Blues decide to turn their attention to war, run fast and far.

      • Lesser Bull says:

        Next time it won’t be 2g warfare. It will be 4G, Somalia style. Worse for everybody.

      • Tom Hunt says:

        The sides have since splintered and polarized far more.

        For instance, as has been noted, most every police officer and military officer or serviceman, below the level where both tend to be political appointees rather than the native elite of the relevant institution, are culturally Red. There is, of course, a strong norm of loyalty to the higher authority among such groups, which has the chance of binding them to a Blue faction if said faction has some formal legitimacy. But are you confident that this will happen everywhere? Or even in the majority of cases? When the most militant Blues, the ones who are most avidly salivating for further escalation, are also the ones with the greatest tendency to deride and mock all servicemen or policemen? What happens when the military itself splits over this? And, in the greater area, in a major breakdown of civil order, which of civilian Blues or civilian Reds are going to come out better?

        This is not necessarily an argument that Reds would win an open conflict. I don’t know what would happen there, and I pray I never learn from experience. But the devastation from any such conflict, to all sides, would be enormous. The greatest danger of igniting such a conflict are those on either side who are so confident in their side’s victory that they think the damage to their own side would be small, and so caught up in outgroup-hatred that they are willing to take such small damage in order to do greater damage to the enemy. And that’s an attitude I see far more among Blues than Reds. (The equivalent Red attitude seems to be plain secessionism, which, whether approved of or not, can’t really be conceived of as “I hate the Blues and want to hurt them”.)

        If there’s any attitude that’s dangerous here, it’s that.

        • Nornagest says:

          For instance, as has been noted, most every police officer and military officer or serviceman, below the level where both tend to be political appointees rather than the native elite of the relevant institution, are culturally Red.

          Don’t know about cops, but I come from a (grayish) Blue family that’s produced a lot of military officers. They own more guns than the rest of the family, and seem likely to be less far out on the spectrum of lapsed Catholic to outright atheist, but they still vote Democratic and drink a lot of wine.

      • Since the brains are now in Grey corner…

        Wait a moment…. Maybe I have a sore rotator cuff from patting myself on the back too hard.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        If the South rose again, there’s no way the North would start a second Civil War to invade.

        We can’t even get the energy together to invade tiny little countries where invasion costs the average American nothing except slightly higher taxes and unpleasant images on the nightly news. Let alone something that would inevitably mean a draft and bombs falling on NYC.

        And most liberals would be pretty happy that the most conservative region of the country was gone and now Democrats will win Presidential elections forever.

        • Matthew says:

          And most liberals would be pretty happy that the most conservative region of the country was gone and now Democrats will win Presidential elections forever.

          While I think the first half of this is correct, the actual current reaction of liberals to one-party rule suggests the second half is a caricature.

        • Intrism says:

          And most liberals would be pretty happy that the most conservative region of the country was gone and now Democrats will win Presidential elections forever.

          Problem is, it would never work out with a nice clean separation. Red Tribe-dominated regions tend to be net consumers of taxes, and Blue Tribe regions tend to be net contributors. Since presumably at least some of the Red Tribe leaders would recognize this, they’d naturally attempt to glom onto all the Blue areas they could in order to mooch off of them.

          That this would undoubtedly come with a “death to moochers” ideology on top just makes it funny.

          (Also, your contention regarding the likelihood of war is kind of absurd. The American Left still reliably backs wars even when their sole effect is to be a nuisance to people thousands of miles away.)

          (Unrelated: Scott, your server’s clock appears to be desperately off. See if you can get someone to run ntpdate on the thing?)

          • Ken Arromdee says:

            The idea that the reds are net consumers is yet another of those deceptive statistics that the blues like to quote. Counting tax money that goes to a state counts transfers made to anything the government runs within a state. For obvious reasons, there are more of those in red states. It’s not really fair to claim that your region is a net consumer of taxes just because you have an army base there; the government is basically paying the tax money to itself. (Of course, they do hire people as well, but the amount of money that is spent on salaries is a small portion of all the money spent on the base.)

          • Intrism says:

            Regardless of whose benefit they serve, military bases still need to be paid for. And the states that would comprise Redtopia currently do not and cannot pay for them.

            … Or do you think Redtopia will spend less money on their military bases than the regular old United States of America did? Novel argument, if that’s what you’re thinking of.

          • cassander says:

            >Red Tribe-dominated regions tend to be net consumers of taxes, and Blue Tribe regions tend to be net contributors.

            the money being sucked up by red states tends to go to the blue members of those states, not the red members. admittedly the geography of untangling those connections would be impossible convoluted, but it goes a long way to explaining red attitudes. tribe red bears an oversized share of the burden for a welfare that that usually doesn’t help it much and is sometimes actively harmful to their interests.

          • Intrism says:

            You appear to be asserting the near-opposite of the well-known piece of data I’m referring to. Do you have a citation for this?

          • Eric Rall says:

            Red Tribe-dominated regions tend to be net consumers of taxes, and Blue Tribe regions tend to be net contributors.

            About half of federal spending is Social Security, Medicare, and Defense, and these are not well-accounted for in the studies you’re referring to.

            Social Security and Medicare are life-stage transfers from workers to retirees, justified based on the theory that over the course of a lifetime, the transfers net out to the equivalent of forced savings. It’s very common for people to spend their working lives in commerce/industry hubs (often in the Northeast, Great Lakes region, or West Coast), then retire to warmer regions with low cost-of-living (the South and Southwest, especially Florida and Arizona). During their working lives, they’re counted as paying taxes in NY or Illinois, but upon retirement, they’re counted as consuming benefits in Florida or Arizona.

            Defense is awkward to apportion because it’s a Public Good in the technical economic sense (i.e. we can’t turn off national defense to just your house if you don’t pay your army bill on time; in the broader sense, the same national defense establishment that stops the Canadian Hordes from sacking Minneapolis also keeps Commie Paratroopers out of Nebraska and deters the Bermudan Corsairs from raiding the coast of the Carolinas). For purposes of analyzing taxes vs benefits, it’s unclear whether it’s fairest to apportion the benefit of it by population, by economic activity, etc. Naively tracing where they dollars go leads to defense contractors and members of the military, who disproportionately come from and are stationed in the South.

          • Hainish says:

            But why are so many of these poor, assistance-requiring blue-tribers located in red states?

          • Ken Arromdee says:

            Or do you think Redtopia will spend less money on their military bases than the regular old United States of America did?

            Less money than what? I expect them to spend proportionately to their share of the population. I also expect them to receive benefits proportionately to their share in the population, since the military base helps the country as a whole, not the individual state in which it is located.

            Counting the military base as red spending instead of country spending just because it is physically located in a red area is an accounting trick designed to make the reds look bad.

            (And of course, that’s not the *only* accounting trick involved.)

          • Intrism says:

            … Oh, wow, you really do think Redtopia, unhindered by Blues, would cut back on military spending in its territory. I’m not sure how to argue with that, except to note that you clearly haven’t been paying attention.

            Do you honestly think that military apportionment is devoid of pork? That it just happens to go to Red territories as a complete accident, entirely divorced from their political alignment?

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            It’s not really fair to claim that your region is a net consumer of taxes just because you have an army base there; the government is basically paying the tax money to itself. (Of course, they do hire people as well, but the amount of money that is spent on salaries is a small portion of all the money spent on the base.)

            I suppose you mean the salaries of local civilians who work on the base. But the salaries paid to the military personnel also go into the local economy where the personnel spend their salaries. Also, the base buys food and supplies, utilities, etc from local sources. Having a military base is an important financial resource for a town: a pool of customers who get paid on time and do not get laid off.

          • Ken Arromdee says:

            Having a military base is an important financial resource for a town: a pool of customers who get paid on time and do not get laid off.

            Of course. But it is a financial resource at a local value which is smaller than the total dollars spent on the base.

            It’s still not correct to count 100% of the spending of the base as spending on reds just because it’s located in a red state. You’d need to figure out some factor, which takes into account both the local benefit and the non-local benefit and counts part of it as blue spending depending on the magnitude of the non-local effect.

            Furthermore, this applies to government institutions other than military bases.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            You’d need to figure out some factor, which takes into account both the local benefit and the non-local benefit and counts part of it as blue spending depending on the magnitude of the non-local effect.

            Furthermore, this applies to government institutions other than military bases.

            Nor can the base spending be considered 100% non-red. A reasonable figure should be suggested before writing off the government spending with “the government is basically paying the tax money to itself.” And that figure would be different for other government institutions.

            Of course part of the salaries, military and non-military, go to businesses incorporated in the state of Delaware, which I’ll lazily assume is blue.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            It’s very common for people to spend their working lives in commerce/industry hubs (often in the Northeast, Great Lakes region, or West Coast), then retire to warmer regions with low cost-of-living (the South and Southwest, especially Florida and Arizona). During their working lives, they’re counted as paying taxes in NY or Illinois, but upon retirement, they’re counted as consuming benefits in Florida or Arizona.

            In any case, the money was earned by their work in the blue hubs.

        • Anonymous says:

          “We can’t even get the energy together to invade tiny little countries where invasion costs the average American nothing except slightly higher taxes and unpleasant images on the nightly news. Let alone something that would inevitably mean a draft and bombs falling on NYC.”

          You’re reading this very, very badly. We can get the energy to invade countries *even* on absurd pretexts, this is an incredibly *strong* metric when we’re trying to measure a country’s willingness to fight. We’re the most willing to fight country in the world, by far. This is absolutely clear from our recent actions. We invaded countries halfway across the world, failed utterly to meet our objectives, and are still willing and even eager to spend millions in missiles attacking targets in that same area of operation. This is not an indication that we would be willing to tolerate treason in our own backyard.

          “And most liberals would be pretty happy that the most conservative region of the country was gone”

          Take a look at detailed geographic maps of the last few elections. Almost everywhere in this country, the most densely populated areas are blue and the less densely populated areas are red. There’s hardly a big city red center *anywhere* in this country. The only way an insurrection could even start is through the suppression of those who are against insurrection in the relevant areas – indeed, this happened when the South rose last time. This time there would be a far, far larger population to suppress.

          And if you think the blue US high command would tolerate the mass killing/incarceration of blues in a treasonous red uprising, when they won’t even tolerate one executed American in a far off land without responding with millions of dollars in cruise missiles, I marvel at how warped the lens through which you’re viewing this country is.

      • James Miller says:

        The officer class of the U.S. military is overwhelmingly Red and know that elite Harvard-like Blues have contempt for them. A U.S. Red/Blue civil war would be horrible and I think is unlikely but the Reds would easily win if the military entered the fight.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          The officer class of the U.S. military is overwhelmingly Red and know that elite Harvard-like Blues have contempt for them.

          Wasn’t this also approximately true in 1860?

          The main difference I see between then and now is that with the speed of modern technology, there’d be no time to raise another army, so what would actually matter would be who most of the soldiers obeyed.

        • cassander says:

          The enlisted military is overwhelmingly red. the officer ranks much less so, and they get bluer the higher you rise.

    • Multiheaded says:

      I agree that Red-bashing is very stupid and pointless even for tactical reasons, and that they should be allowed a peaceful and comfortable extinction, as long as all the groups that we do actually care about can make themselves safe from them. I also think that a much subtler, less reactive and more proactive approach is needed against the Grey threat.

      • Anonymous says:

        as long as?

        What happens when that fails?

        (Given the standards of “safe” applied nowadays, it will fail.)

        • Multiheaded says:

          The most straightforward way is, continue the beatings until morale improves, and empower (preferrably non-state) organizations to intervene on a case-by-case basis. It’s not some horrible all-or-nothing thing, it’s business as usual, after all. I simply tried to outline a conditional surrender, so that we wouldn’t have to carry on/double down.

    • Bugmaster says:

      I think this advice applies even if we end up fighting the value war with words and laws instead of cannons and bayonets.

      If you are the kind of person who believes that silencing one’s political opponents is a-ok, and you encourage everyone to do that (for the Greater Good, naturally), and you are not a member of one of those privileged oppressive groups — then eventually you’re going to end up getting silenced for sure. They’ve got all that privilege and power on their side, after all, and you don’t.

  143. Konkvistador says:

    Excellent article.

    However the effect of this post is to encourage submission of the Grey tribe into the Blue tribe don’t expect any Blue tribe members to actually extend it to the Red Tribe.

    They naturally will spend their energy proving how objectively evil the Red tribe. Which tells me it likely isn’t.

    The fact that it seems to be very hard to argue for belief tolerance, without it de facto being used as a means of tribal warfare is concerning. People who’s first response is to ask why tolerance is good if it means tolerance for the *real* outgroup are obvious examples of this.

    John Stuart Mill:

    We have now recognised the necessity to the mental well-being of mankind (on which all their other well-being depends) of freedom of opinion, and freedom of the expression of opinion, on four distinct grounds; which we will now briefly recapitulate.

    First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility. (See ”John Stuart Mill on the Adversary System,” ”John Stuart Mill on the Protection of ‘Noble Lies’ from Criticism” and “Should Troubling Arguments Be Kept Away from Those Who Might Be Unduly Swayed by Them?”)

    Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied. (See “A Remedy for the One-Sidedness of the Human Mind” and “Why Progressives and Conservatives Need Each Other.”)

    Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. (See “Let the Wrong Come to Me, For They Will Make Me More Right” and “In Praise of Trolls.”)
    And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience. (See “How Freedom of Thought for Falsehood Keeps the Truth Alive.”)

    Freedom of speech isn’t just the law, it is a good idea too! And tolerating people of radically different beliefs and values, and abstaining from murdering or assimilating them in favor of good conversation and exploration of the universe (even with Babyeaters or Superhappies) doesn’t make me feel particularly holy. But it feels like apricity. A bittersweet warm smile of reason. I have that when I manage to get conversations going with outgroup members. It is precious in itself.

    I wish we divided each other over unimportant things like say hair color or nationality rather than belief, it would be epistemically healthier.

    The climate of toleration of genuine different religious/ideological belief in restoration England was what made science possible. Its death portends bad things for the West.

    • Tracy W says:

      Someone else who quotes J.S. Mills!

    • Anonymous says:

      I wish we divided each other over unimportant things like say hair color or nationality rather than belief, it would be epistemically healthier.

      These days I am starting to apreciate this argument more and more.

  144. Amanda L. says:

    I’m impressed with this post, because I didn’t realize that you noticed your recent-ish skew towards being (imo) disproportionately uncharitable to liberals in general, social justice liberals in particular. That’s cool.

    I’m trying to think of a group that it makes my blood boil to criticize, and it’s surprisingly situation specific. When hanging out with LW – style Gray Tribe members, that group is feminists. When hanging out with the typical classmate at my college (Harvard), that group is the Gray Tribe. Unless it’s my one friend here who’s reliably more conservative than me, who hates feminists and rather scorns LW – types, in which case it’s… classical liberals as a group, which to me is defined by a small-l libertarian aesthetic that includes flexibility of gender roles, but isn’t identified with any specific people I know except myself. So basically my ingroup is defined reactively in a way that maximizes my time spent sweating blood. But I actually sweat blood way less than when I hung out with only one tribe (feminists) and identified them as my ingroup, so this must actually have an inoculating effect.

    • Scott’s been thinking about this for a while. He frequently notes that he has a hard time writing about social justice in an even-handed way — though it’s consistent to believe you’re better at thinking about social justice than other people are, while believing you’re worse at thinking about social justice than at thinking about other topics. He’s also written blog posts like ‘Right is the New Left‘ trying to figure out why he’s so viscerally squicked by bad Leftism.

      That said, I’m also surprised by the reflective conclusion. I’m usually surprised in the opposite direction, by the lack of LessWronger self-awareness — e.g., not noticing that the ‘motte-and-bailey’ concept is itself a motte-and-bailey (or a schema for such).

      • coffeespoons says:

        I sort of feel as though SJ types are becoming the outgroup in the rationality community. I am relatively new to the community, and TBH I really want rationalists to approve of me. I find saying pro-SJ things or criticising anti-SJ stuff quite stressful, whereas I find it really easy to criticise SJ.

        [It’s not nearly as bad as in my pro-SJ friendship group, where I seem to get jumped on for even the mildest criticism of SJ].

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I also feel this. I’m trying to figure out how to avoid outgrouping them, without having to resort to “never criticizing them at all”.

          My impression is that I am making reasonable criticisms and everyone else is like “Ha ha, you have never been more right, this times a million, take that you stupid out-group”.

          But impressions where I am in the right and everyone else is wrong are naturally suspect.

          This is an important thing to investigate and talk about, but investigating it and talking about it is sort of a form of participating in it.

          Right now I feel like I am successfully venting some anger in a way that will make each successive post on the issue less angry and more productive, but again, naturally suspect.

          • Bugmaster says:

            FWIW, feminists and SJ types in general are definitely my out-group, and I agree with what you’re saying about them most of the time. Assuming that one of your goals is to avoid out-grouping them, this is probably not a good thing 🙁

            Perhaps the problem here is that you have a very clear yet evocative writing style; so when you point out some failure mode of the SJ movement, you end up skewering them. All you want to do is to shine some light on the subject, but you don’t have a flashlight — instead, what you’ve got is an X-ray laser.

            I’m not sure if there’s a good solution for this problem though… “Write more poorly” doesn’t seem like it fits.

          • Meanwhile, feminists and SJ types are my in-group (even though we have our differences), and I have found most of Scott’s writing on those subjects (basically everything in “Things I Will Regret Writing” except for this post, which is awesome) to be substantially less charitable and more attacking-the-outgroup than his writing in general. There’s a marked stylistic difference in how he approaches it.

            And I think I understand why this is so, thanks to his writings on game-theoretic interpretations of niceness and charity. The way he sees it, to be nice and charitable is to cooperate in the Prisoner’s Dilemma, and the social justice movement has put up a giant sign out front saying “We will never cooperate with you because you are evil and it’s wrong to cooperate with evil”. The game-theoretically correct thing to do in that situation is to defect.

            Hopefully his future writing on these subjects will be more like this post. In my experience, social justice people are more willing to cooperate than it might initially seem.

          • Bugmaster says:

            …and the social justice movement has put up a giant sign out front saying “We will never cooperate with you because you are evil and it’s wrong to cooperate with evil”.

            You know, this is actually one of my top problems with the SJ movement. The thing is, I’m not sure what else I can do in such a situation, other than to either defect or walk away; and walking away is not always an option (though, admittedly, it often is). Matthew (below) suggests asking the SJ people to be more charitable, but that can’t possibly work, because extending charity to evil is tantamount to condoning the evil itself. It would in fact be irrational for the SJ people to acquiesce to such a request.

          • Lizardbreath says:

            I’m a gen X feminist who was targeted by millennial SJWs; you’re helping me. (So does the work of Will Shetterly, the baby boomer antiracist who…was targeted by millennial SJWs.)

            So thanks.

          • MugaSofer says:

            >when you point out some failure mode of the SJ movement, you end up skewering them.

            >I’m not sure if there’s a good solution for this problem though… “Write more poorly” doesn’t seem like it fits.

            Skewer the “in-group” more often?

          • Fazathra says:

            “>I’m not sure if there’s a good solution for this problem though… “Write more poorly” doesn’t seem like it fits.

            Skewer the “in-group” more often?”

            Or you could skewer another outgroup more who are also opposed by the SJW’s, like the neoreactionaries. The anti-reactionary FAQ could do with updating as as I think it misses some of neoreaction’s strongest points (even on the object level) and although your meditations on Moloch were a good start on critiquing their meta (in part), it was hardly a definitive takedown.

            Alternately, you could always just keep doing what you are doing as it seems to be working out pretty well for you and, although I’m sympathetic to the SJW’s aims, I increasingly think that their outgroup status here is well-deserved as they seem to be one of the few groups that interact with the lw-sphere which have institutionalised antirational norms.

          • coffeespoons says:

            @Scott Alexander FWIW this post did seem less angry than previous posts on SJ.

          • Tab Atkins says:

            It appears to me that you are indeed getting less angry and more productive as you go along.

            At least, I’m pretty sure my beliefs haven’t been significantly changing, but your posts have provoked less and less sputtering from me while reading. All your ones lately get maybe a sad head-shake at times, which is a great improvement.

            ——–

            There’s an old post of yours [[thanks for the link, Sniffnoy!]] about the Jew dealing with a bunch of negative characterizations in media/etc that were *technically correct* in the narrowest sense, but were indicative of a greater trend in the culture to discriminate against him, until he was outright out-grouped, describes precisely the reasons I comment here. Even when you’re precisely right, or at least are making well-reasoned and defendable points, many of the points made generalize into larger and more drastically wrong positions. The supporters you get on some of these kinds of posts often illustrate this problem, as they take your points further into the crazy side.

            As you’re getting less angry, and spending time banning the ruder of the commenters, this is getting much, much better, and drastically reducing my feeling of needing to comment defensively just to resist a trend. Thanks!

          • Sniffnoy says:

            I believe this is the post you’re thinking of: http://squid314.livejournal.com/329171.html

        • Drew Hardies says:

          I sort of feel as though SJ types are becoming the outgroup in the rationality community

          Is this unreasonable? The two activities seem fundamentally incompatible.

          Rationalist discussion tries to explore all sides of an idea. There’s a heavy focus on finding ‘good’ arguments for ‘bad’ ideas. A Blue-Triber who writes a clever defense of a Red position is doing rationalism really well.

          SJ discussion wants to promote a particular position. The focus is on advocacy. A Blue-Triber who writes a clever defense of a Red position is doing SJ very poorly.

          An individual could enjoy both sorts of discussion. But any sort of activity overlap seems to go really badly.

          • Matthew says:

            I don’t think the issue is advocacy per se. Rationalists might be advocates for a lot of things. The issue is that the “safe space” mentality is terrible for epistemic hygiene. The SJWs destroyed their own epistemic hygiene in this way, and now they seem to be on a mission to destroy everyone else’s by making the entire world “safe space.”

            It’s not consciously malicious, but the effects are pernicious anyway. I’m not sure what to do about this. As per Taymon A. Beal’s 1:04am prisoner’s dilemma comment, I suppose the SJ could signal a desire to cooperate by retreating to a position of keeping their own “safe” spaces but not trying to conquer others. Unfortunately, there’s every reason to expect the process to repeat itself.

            (Unlike TAB,I think it’s SJ who need to make the gesture of good faith, not Scott et al.)

          • Drew Hardies says:

            @Matthew: I agree that toxicity and sloppy thinking drive a lot of the current conflict.

            SJW attempts to get people fired for being wrong on the internet make discussions worse. I hope things improve.

            But even if we fixed the current problems, we’d still have one group trying to promote an idea, and the other trying to pick it apart.

            Even if everyone had the best intentions, SJ and Rationalism will mesh about as well as a drum line and a book club.

      • Tom Hunt says:

        e.g., not noticing that the ‘motte-and-bailey’ concept is itself a motte-and-bailey (or a schema for such).

        I thought about this for several minutes and was unable to get at how it was supposed to work. How does a meta-analysis of object-level arguments itself fall into that category of object-level argument? I’d be quite sincerely interested in more elaboration.

        • Iskra says:

          I saw this on Scott’s Tumblr:

          The motte of “motte and bailey doctrine” is that some people engage in a form of dishonest bait and switch tactics.
          The bailey is that if there are a diverse range of opinions within a group then all opinions associated with that group are invalid

          • Zorgon says:

            Ironically, that works both ways.

            The motte of that response is that a diverse range of opinions can be invalidated by a motte-and-bailey reaction.

            The bailey of that response is that the use of bait-and-switch tactics can be excused by appealing to the invalidation of said opinions.

            I suspect this entire argument chain is meaningless.

          • Anonymous says:

            Isn’t the whole point of the motte and bailey to invalidate those opinions of the group that are indefensible by pointing out that fact that they are retreating away from their bailey to their backup motte?

          • Iskra says:

            Zorgon, it’s mottes and baileys all the way down.

            Anonymous, It’s been common in my experience for people claiming to have identified a motte and bailey tactic to point at one person for the motte and another for the bailey. fnordism isn’t invalidated when you notice that two different fnordists have differing opinions about something.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            Properly, pointing out the existence of a motte and a bailey neither disproves the motte nor disproves the bailey. It’s a tool to help you talk about either the motte or the bailey and not both.

            Of course, proper usage is the minority.

  145. I’m realizing that I can form a 2×2 matrix for how I react when people say political things.

    * Ingroup says something that feels right: Yay! Cheer! Warm fuzzies!
    * Ingroup says something that feels wrong: Cringe, and think about maybe trying to object in a way that makes clear I’m still on their side, but more often than not just silently curse coalition politics. (I’m rather conflict-averse.)
    * Outgroup says something that feels right: Try to put it in terms that make it sound like an ingroup thing. This often works. If it doesn’t (i.e., because the thing directly opposes ingroup ideals), feel guilty.
    * Outgroup says something that feels wrong: Roll my eyes and ignore them. Don’t argue because all the ingroup members who aren’t as conflict-averse as I am are going to do that, so why bother?

    My political ingroups: Progressives. Social justice advocates. Grays whose relationship with traditional politics consists of evenhandedly analyzing all sides and saying objective-sounding smart things about them.

    My political outgroups: Conservatives. Radical leftists. Dogmatic libertarians. Grays whose relationship with traditional politics consists of denouncing the whole thing as a sham. (The latter two groups have heavy overlap.)

    If a group keeps saying things that sound right, then I’ll start to associate with them more and eventually start to consider them an ingroup. (This has happened over the past year with the kind of grayism Scott advocates on this blog.) But that’s not the only factor that can make something an ingroup. Social justice people routinely say things that sound wrong to me, but because of the background I come from and the makeup of my social circles, they’re still an ingroup.

  146. Thecommexokid says:

    The Red Tribe is most classically typified by conservative political beliefs, strong evangelical religious beliefs, creationism, opposing gay marriage, owning guns, eating steak, drinking Coca-Cola, driving SUVs, watching lots of TV, enjoying American football, getting conspicuously upset about terrorists and commies, marrying early, divorcing early, shouting “USA IS NUMBER ONE!!!”, and listening to country music.

    The Blue Tribe is most classically typified by liberal political beliefs, vague agnosticism, supporting gay rights, thinking guns are barbaric, eating arugula, drinking fancy bottled water, driving Priuses, reading lots of books, being highly educated, mocking American football, feeling vaguely like they should like soccer but never really being able to get into it, getting conspicuously upset about sexists and bigots, marrying later, constantly pointing out how much more civilized European countries are than America, and listening to “everything except country”.

    Premise granted.

    And so how virtuous, how noble the Blue Tribe! Perfectly tolerant of all of the different groups that just so happen to be allied with them, never intolerant unless it happen to be against intolerance itself. Never stooping to engage in petty tribal conflict like that awful Red Tribe, but always nobly criticizing their own culture and striving to make it better!

    But what’s to be done about the fact that this really often does describe the way it feels from the inside? I recognize that the situation shows all the trappings of intolerance due to typical in-group/out-group dynamics, but that doesn’t make me stop feeling, honestly and deeply, that gay marriage and gun control are clearly right and evangelism and terrorist fear-mongering clearly wrong; from the inside, intolerance feels like the correct response.

    So untainted by in/out-group dynamics, what are you suggesting is the correct attitude a Blue Tribe member ought to adopt toward the Red Tribe?

    • blacktrance says:

      There are different kinds of intolerance. There’s intolerance of incorrect views – if someone is wrong, you engage them and try to change their mind. There’s intolerance of disagreement – if someone voices an incorrect view, they should be stopped to punish them and/or to prevent them from spreading it, even if it’s done in an underhanded manner. There’s intolerance about beliefs – even if someone doesn’t actively voice a view you disagree with, as long as you’re aware that they hold that view, you punish them for it. It’s important to distinguish between different points on this spectrum. The first kind of intolerance is completely fine, the latter two are injurious to truth-seeking discourse.

      • Randy M says:

        It’s unclear how you differentiate “intolerance of views” and “intolerance of beliefs” which seem synonyms to me, but I gather they could be restated as “intolerance of views themselves” and “intolerance of a person’s holding a belief”?

        Although honestly even the first kind can be counter-productive and obnoxious if one is not judicious in exercising it.

        • blacktrance says:

          Yes, that is more accurate terminology, thanks. It’s the difference between “X is a terrible and wrong belief and I’ll fight against it” and “You’re a bad person for believing X, and I’m going to punish you for it”.

    • This advice may not generalize to less sophisticated Blues, but for a Slate Star Codex reader, the right approach might be to spend time meditating on the possibility that you’re wrong on those topics. Consider times you’ve been similarly convinced and turned out to be wrong; visualize a world where you’re wrong on these issues; and try to imagine (or better yet discover) people you respect arguing for the opposite of your position.

      This is relatively difficult to do for evangelism and gay marriage — it would require a rather lengthy excursion down some theological or reactionary rabbit-holes — but writers like Sam Harris could plausibly help you make headway on gun control (‘The Riddle of the Gun‘) and counterterrorism (‘The End of Liberalism‘). Or you can try to imagine Scott making arguments along those lines (cf. ‘Military Strikes are an Extremely Cheap Way to Help Foreigners‘).

      It may also help to meditate on the possibility that politics is the mind-killer on a much deeper level than you’ve considered, and that the effort spent diminishing the power of the Reds may cause more harm than good if it proportionally increases the prominence of Politics Itself.

      Shifting object-level and trying to expose yourself to specific data that goes against (or rather, tests) your assumptions tends to be more useful than trying to abstractly or indirectly trick yourself into becoming less partisan. If you get enough good object-level examples of topics where you were wrong or overconfident in favor of the Blues, or at least get a better sense of how an intelligent person could disagree with you, that should make it easier to spot errors like confirmation bias in your future reasoning.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Reading the parts about marriage and support for single motherhood from Eastern Europe specifically has always annoyed me so much…

          Like, here we all got two of these unquestionable and rational improvements to society after the war. And those crazy foreign barbarians who look down on us all the time… would turn around and torment their own citizens after superstitiously ascribing something bad to things that we never even doubt being right about?

      • Anonymous says:

        The concept of marriage being applied to gay marriage makes a traditionalist feel very similarly to how a person of an ethnic group might be made feel by so called cultural appropriation.

        If you think that marriage is sacred and has a meaning beyond being simply a contract to make things easier, then observing legalization of gay marriage might feel like they are doing it without understanding of cultural significance of marriage and without interest to try to understand it. Just like wearing a religious symbol without actually having a belief. Or like hipster trying to feel authenticity without actually being authentic.

        • Nita says:

          Firstly, I would find that argument more persuasive if they applied the same logic to heterosexual non-traditionalists. As it is, even if we assume that traditionalists used to own “marriage” like a trademark, they have already lost it due to non-enforcement.

          And secondly, many gay people also consider marriage sacred and meaningful, some for very “traditional” reasons.

          So, the no-marriage-for-gays sentiment doesn’t seem to cut society along the proposed spiritual line.

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t know which exact heterosexual non-traditionalists you mean, but a great many traditionalists would agree with you about the broader conservative movement shutting the door after most of the cows are gone.

        • Andrew says:

          I assume you’re playing devil’s advocate here… I think your argument is extremely poor.

          The logic of “cultural appropriation” wouldn’t work if 10% of the children of parents within a given culture randomly (or at least, owing to unknown biological causes) turned out to be members of a different culture. Like if 10% of children of (culturally) Japanese parents were, because of some mysterious biological quirk, actually cultural Jews.

          It’s also a bit silly to suggest that a gay child does not grow up understanding the traditional significance of marriage in exactly the same way as a straight child. They understand it the same way, and still want it for themselves.

    • Tracy W says:

      ” that gay marriage and gun control are clearly right and evangelism and terrorist fear-mongering clearly wrong; from the inside, intolerance feels like the correct response.”

      Read J.S. Mills’ Chapter 2 of On Liberty and convince yourself of the merits of engaging with ideas, even ideas that are wrong?

      To quote:

      However unwillingly a person who has a strong opinion may admit the possibility that his opinion may be false, he ought to be moved by the consideration that however true it may be, if it is not fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed, it will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth.

      ….
      The fact, however, is, that not only the grounds of the opinion are forgotten in the absence of discussion, but too often the meaning of the opinion itself. The words which convey it, cease to suggest ideas, or suggest only a small portion of those they were originally employed to communicate. Instead of a vivid conception and a living belief, there remain only a few phrases retained by rote; or, if any part, the shell and husk only of the meaning is retained, the finer essence being lost. The great chapter in human history which this fact occupies and fills, cannot be too earnestly studied and meditated on.

      II.27
      It is illustrated in the experience of almost all ethical doctrines and religious creeds. They are all full of meaning and vitality to those who originate them, and to the direct disciples of the originators. Their meaning continues to be felt in undiminished strength, and is perhaps brought out into even fuller consciousness, so long as the struggle lasts to give the doctrine or creed an ascendancy over other creeds. At last it either prevails, and becomes the general opinion, or its progress stops; it keeps possession of the ground it has gained, but ceases to spread further. When either of these results has become apparent, controversy on the subject flags, and gradually dies away.

      To what an extent doctrines intrinsically fitted to make the deepest impression upon the mind may remain in it as dead beliefs, without being ever realized in the imagination, the feelings, or the understanding, is exemplified by the manner in which the majority of believers hold the doctrines of Christianity. By Christianity I here mean what is accounted such by all churches and sects—the maxims and precepts contained in the New Testament. These are considered sacred, and accepted as laws, by all professing Christians. Yet it is scarcely too much to say that not one Christian in a thousand guides or tests his individual conduct by reference to those laws. The standard to which he does refer it, is the custom of his nation, his class, or his religious profession. He has thus, on the one hand, a collection of ethical maxims, which he believes to have been vouchsafed to him by infallible wisdom as rules for his government; and on the other, a set of every-day judgments and practices, which go a certain length with some of those maxims, not so great a length with others, stand in direct opposition to some, and are, on the whole, a compromise between the Christian creed and the interests and suggestions of worldly life. To the first of these standards he gives his homage; to the other his real allegiance. All Christians believe that the blessed are the poor and humble, and those who are ill-used by the world; that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven; that they should judge not, lest they be judged; that they should swear not at all; that they should love their neighbour as themselves; that if one take their cloak, they should give him their coat also; that they should take no thought for the morrow; that if they would be perfect, they should sell all that they have and give it to the poor. They are not insincere when they say that they believe these things. They do believe them, as people believe what they have always heard lauded and never discussed. But in the sense of that living belief which regulates conduct, they believe these doctrines just up to the point to which it is usual to act upon them. The doctrines in their integrity are serviceable to pelt adversaries with; and it is understood that they are to be put forward (when possible) as the reasons for whatever people do that they think laudable. But any one who reminded them that the maxims require an infinity of things which they never even think of doing, would gain nothing but to be classed among those very unpopular characters who affect to be better than other people. The doctrines have no hold on ordinary believers—are not a power in their minds. They have an habitual respect for the sound of them, but no feeling which spreads from the words to the things signified, and forces the mind to take them in, and make them conform to the formula.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      If they’re wrong, the same attitude the people I described adopted toward Osama and ISIS – bad people who need to be stopped, but who you don’t feel some driving emotional desire to kick again and again and party at their deaths.

      This is my cached thought, but I’m not actually sure it’s right. The same emotional energy that drives real hatred might also drive being able to fight bad things. I’m not sure. But I’d like people to be more conscious of the question.

  147. nemryn says:

    Something odd happened to Section XI, somewhere around ‘criterion of embarrassment’.

    • Paul Crowley says:

      Yes, a huge chunk of text is missing because of a broken smart quote. Here it is:

      And if you mix together the open-source tech industry and the parallel universe where you can’t wear a FreeBSD t-shirt without risking someone trying to exorcise you, you can prove that Christians are scary and very powerful people who are persecuting everyone else all the time, and you have a great excuse for kicking one of the few people willing to affiliate with the Red Tribe, a guy who never hurt anyone, out of town.
      When a friend of mine heard Eich got fired, she didn’t see anything wrong with it. “I can tolerate anything except intolerance,” she said.
      “Intolerance” is starting to look like another one of those words like “white” and “American”.
      “I can tolerate anything except the outgroup.” Doesn’t sound quite so noble now, does it?
      XI.
      We started by asking: millions of people are conspicuously praising every outgroup they can think of, while conspicuously condemning their own in-group. This seems contrary to what we know about social psychology. What’s up?
      We noted that outgroups are rarely literally “the group most different from you”, and in fact far more likely to be groups very similar to you sharing almost all your characteristics and living in the same area.
      We then noted that although liberals and conservatives live in the same area, they might as well be two totally different countries or universe as far as level of interaction were concerned.
      Contra the usual idea of them being marked only by voting behavior, we described them as very different tribes with totally different cultures. You can speak of “American culture” only in the same way you can speak of “Asian culture” – that is, with a lot of interior boundaries being pushed under the rug.
      The outgroup of the Red Tribe is occasionally blacks and gays and Muslims, more often the Blue Tribe.
      The Blue Tribe has performed some kind of very impressive act of alchemy, and transmuted all of its outgroup hatred to the Red Tribe.
      This is not surprising. Ethnic differences have proven quite tractable in the face of shared strategic aims. Even the Nazis, not known for their ethnic tolerance, were able to get all buddy-buddy with the Japanese when they had a common cause.
      Research suggests Blue Tribe / Red Tribe prejudice to be much stronger than better-known types of prejudice like racism. Once the Blue Tribe was able to enlist the blacks and gays and Muslims in their ranks, they became allies of convenience who deserve to be rehabilitated with mildly condescending paeans to their virtue. “There never was a coward where the shamrock grows.”
      Spending your entire life insulting the other tribe and talking about how terrible they are makes you look, well, tribalistic. It is definitely not high class. So when members of the Blue Tribe decide to dedicate their entire life to yelling about how terrible the Red Tribe is, they make sure that instead of saying “the Red Tribe”, they say “America”, or “white people”, or “straight white men”. That way it’s humble self-criticism. They are so interested in justice that they are willing to critique their own beloved side, much as it pains them to do so. We know they are not exaggerating, because one might exaggerate the flaws of an enemy, but that anyone would exaggerate their own flaws fails the criterion of embarrassment.

  148. Pingback: Outside in - Involvements with reality » Blog Archive » Quote note (#114)

  149. lmm says:

    HTML error in the past about the FreeBSD daemon t-shirt.

    I thought the idea was that it was ok to discriminate on political views because they’re a choice, I mean, that’s right up there with discriminating on moral judgement or job ability. But I guess maybe when you’re part of a tribe your party affiliation isn’t actually such a free choice.

  150. Thecommexokid says:

    Since so many people in the comments seem to suggest that your bubble is atypical and you are generalizing from one example, I wanted to be a data-point of positive reinforcement. Your dark-matter conservatives analogy perfectly captures a feeling I have had many times without nearly so eloquent a way of expressing it. (To the point where I read only the first sentence of section IV before rejoicing that you were about to put it into words.) I hear about various poll numbers or election results and I think, who are these people and how can there possibly be 150 million of them in the country?

    So at least if this does turn out to be a bizarre and idiosyncratic viewpoint, you’re now generalizing from two examples.

    • blacktrance says:

      I’d like to add a third similar data point. While I used to know conservatives back when I lived in the South (difficult not to know them then), at college and later I never encountered any except one Mitt Romney-type. No Young Earth Creationists, certainly. But I’ve seen where these other people live – they’re in their own enclaves, equally unaware of the other side. And indeed, there is a significant amount of similarity in being a Blue among Reds and a Grey among Blues.

      • Ken Arromdee says:

        If you’re at a college, the number of young earth creationists will be reduced, because the argument “if they’re educated, they’re less likely to be X” is actually true for young earth creationism. As an example of a red belief, young earth creationism is an outlier in that it directly addresses a purely factual matter; it’s not a question of values or speculation about consequences, at least not the way it’s normally presented. (though of course those other considerations can affect one’s bias in evaluating the facts)

        Try picking almost any red belief other than creationism.

    • Leonard says:

      Also: “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.”

    • MugaSofer says:

      I’d also like to add my personal data point to this.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      And my axe. My social circle includes people who bristle at the first sign of red, and they very rarely bristle.

  151. Sacred Cow says:

    Human social psychology is torn between inter- and intra-group competition. Members of the Red Tribe are specialists at inter-group competition, with an emphasis on order, loyalty, and authority. Members of the Blue Tribe are specialists at intra-group competition, with an emphasis on anarchy, rebellion, and revolution. The Red Tribe builds social capital, but it has a tendency to fossilise norms and institutions. The Blue Tribe dismantles norms and institutions, but it has a tendency to destroy social capital. A healthy civilisation preserves a balance between inter- and intra-group competition, but this requires that members of the Red and Blue tribe actually tolerate and compromise with each other.

    Members of the Blue Tribe are mostly concerned with intra-group competition, so they celebrate Thatcher’s death. The Red Tribe is mostly concerned with inter-group competition, so they celebrate Bin Laden’s death. Indeed, the Blues used Bin Laden’s death to score virtue points against the Red Tribe, while the Red Tribe used Thatcher’s death to affirm loyalty and authority (note the emphasis on the Falklands War).

    The reason you are turning against the Blue Tribe is precisely because you’re so far removed from the Red Tribe. They are no longer the competition. You can no longer gain status by demeaning the Red Tribe, because they seem so marginal, uninfluential, and distant to you. To gain status, you have to pull down high status people, and the Blue Tribe has proven itself so good at intra-group competition that it now occupies most positions of influence, power, and status. Therefore, you have to attack your own Tribe.

  152. noahluck says:

    I want to form a new tribe. Hm, how about having a Yellow tribe typified by libertarian-communist political beliefs, strong Alain de Botton-style atheist religious beliefs, pushing polyamory norms, owning kirpan-like non-lethal guns, eating nutritionally complete GMO veggies and vat-meat steaks, drinking tea made with flouridated and lithiated tap water, driving motorcycles, listening to lots of podcasts, enjoying a cross between rugby and the board game Go, getting conspicuously upset about coordination failures and uncalibrated predictions, marrying early and often, constantly pointing out how much more civilized fictional countries are than America, and listening to playlists of all the world’s recorded music filtered for emotional valence and otherwise randomized.

    I don’t currently fit into any of those categories, but if the tribe actually coalesced I’d happily gravitate into it.

    • Viliam Búr says:

      You could start practicing the “upset about coordination failures” part. Create a blog promoting all these vales, and the potential tribe members can coordinate around it.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Everything there except “marrying early and often” there sounds pretty Gray to me. (Well, not each individual thing — rather, the whole thing seems Gray, and everything there except “marrying early and often” sounds pretty Gray-compatible.)

  153. Coscott says:

    Before reading this I thought I would get especially upset with SJs because it bothered me more to see the in group (blue tribe) do stupid annoying stuff, because I expected better from them.

    After reading this, I think that maybe the red tribe are the people so far away from me to not even be considered out group, and that SJs in the blue tribe are my actual out group.

    I think it is accurate to consider the grey tribe as part of the blue tribe, and I think that what is happening here is that for some blue tribe people, the red tribe starts to feel so distant that they are no longer really the out group, and so the new out group becomes whichever side of the grey/non-grey split they do not fall on.

    I think that happens in both directions. There are also many non-grey blues who get more upset with the grey tribe than the red tribe. I also would not be surprised if there is a similar split in the red tribe, but I do not know nearly enough about them to know.

    I wonder if maybe there are some Blues who interact with Reds enough to consider them the out group, and the people who do not interact with Reds very much are the people who start to fight within the Blue tribe. Scott and I seem like two examples of people who feel like we have never met a Red, and we both seem to get especially upset other Blues. Any thoughts/anecdotal evidence on this theory?

    • Scott classifies libertarians as greys and blues, but in the U.S. libertarian politicians are mostly Republicans. So you see greys attacking the blue coalition and trying to form a coalition of their own with the ‘traditionalist’ reds. LW libertarians and LW liberals may work differently, but I’m less confident saying very much about them, because they’re small, quickly-changing groups that haven’t been studied much.

      • Coscott says:

        I think that it is important to remember that your tribe is not just your political beliefs.

        I think libertarian and Grey tribe are far from synonymous. For example I think that LW is primarily grey tribe (even though many of them avoid labels like that), in spite of the fact that LW is only about 1/3 libertarian. I think that I am closest to this grey tribe, and I am not a libertarian. I also think that there is a large difference between libertarian republican politicians and libertarian LW people.

        This is not to say that I think that Grey tribe only refers to LW. I think most but not all of the “skeptics” and angry atheists fall in the Grey tribe, as well as some groups that have nothing to do with rationality, like the men’s rights movement. I might even say that Reddit looks more like the Grey tribe than the non-grey Blue tribe. Basically, all those people who are obviously way closer to the liberals in the Blue tribe than the religious right int the red tribe, but still somehow manage to get into fights all the time with the SJs and other mainstream Blues.

        I might be identifying a different Grey cluster than the one Scott had in mind, but I do not think so.

        It might be that the split in the Red tribe that I do not know about is also between the libertarians and the non-libertarians, but I think that is coincidence, and the Red libertarians are very far from the Greys, even though they might vote the same way sometimes.

      • Ken Arromdee says:

        Along those lines, it’s important to remember that parties *in general* are coalitions.

        When Scott points out that LW doesn’t have many conservatives who are non-libertarian types, he could equally point out that it doesn’t have many liberals who are X, where X is any of a number of groups that are part of the coalition, but distinct. (I don’t think there are many outright Marxists on LW). If you’re going to divide the reds into subgroups, you really ought to be dividing the groups into subgroups too; they’re coalitions just like the reds.

        Of course, if Scott divides up both the blues and the reds, he no longer gets to say that the reds are excluded but the blues aren’t. Rather, subgroups of both are excluded. It just seems like only reds are excluded because he’s splitting up the reds but not the blues.

        • I think the size of the subgroup is what matters, Ken. There are a lot more creationists and (non-monarchist) social conservatives in the U.S. than Marxists. We’re not talking about tiny gerrymandered slivers of U.S. political coalitions.

  154. Tarn Somervell says:

    //And if you mix together the open-source tech industry and the parallel universe where you can’t wear a FreeBSD t-shirt without risking someone trying to exorcise you, //

    This link is malformed – it goes to https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/30/i-can-tolerate-anything-except-the-outgroup/%E2%80%9Dhttp:/rmitz.org/freebsd.daemon.html%E2%80%9D , not http:/rmitz.org/freebsd.daemon.html%E2%80%9D

  155. JRM says:

    Great post.

    I’m one of the few Republicans around these parts. I’m not a Libertarian. I’m irreligious, and probably identify with Orin Kerr of the Volokh Conspiracy best of public Republicans.

    I am in a different situation: I am a member of several groups of friends in which I am the only Republican. (I was a newspaper reporter 25 years ago; I was the only non-Libertarian Republican there, too.) Some of my friends work for the government, and they still have only me to ask about What Republicans Think. (I am sure this would make the party regretful if I were the actual spokescritter.)

    I find the people I want to talk to are willing to talk about the flaws of both sides. If you’re just arguing your point, you’re not interesting.

    And you have to care about the actual truth. The people defending Neil Tyson on his made-a-bunch-of-quotes-up problem are not interesting to me. (And the Tyson thing makes me sad.) The people who defended Alberto Gonzales on my side made me sad, too.

    I get into discussions with Libertarians who do not care about the truth *at all* too often. But I also, long ago, had a friend who gave me Harry Browne’s position papers. It included obviously false statements about crime. I pointed these out to my friend. He asked the Browne campaign for comment. They gave some mealy-mouthed statement, and he publicly quit supporting Browne.

    I still have good feelings for that dude.

    Your post helped me recognize why it’s easy for me to grump at Republicans, because there is a group of Republicans that is not my in-group, as I am not religious. I’ll take care to recognize that. I think it’s important.

    Finally, a story from a San Francisco Jonathan Coulton concert. Paul and Storm were opening.

    At some point they asked:

    “Are there any Republican nerds?” or somesuch. The crown groaned. I cheered. My wife cringed. We were not hanged in the public square. (The lesbian couple nearby glared at us slightly.) So it went better than she thought it would.

    • Nornagest says:

      Sure, there are Red nerds. Back when I spent more time administering MUDs than just writing them, I had to deal with one kid who divided his time more or less evenly between denouncing evolution on public chat and submitting player content plagiarized from Star Trek monsters-of-the-week — a tricky thing for me to to catch since I am not and have never been a Trekkie, though I think I ended up rejecting a lot of it on quality grounds. As to the evolution stuff, the best thing I can say about it is that it indirectly taught me a lot about stratigraphy.

      Probably aren’t as many of them as Blues or Grays, though, and I get a vague sense that this is truer now than it was twenty, thirty years ago. (I think most of the people that would have been Red then are now Gray.)

      • Salem says:

        There are vast numbers of red nerds, but they’re nerdy in different ways.

        The quiet, devout, bookish kid who loves Sunday school, volunteers (reluctantly) in the Scouts and can quote any Bible passage to you is most definitely a nerd, even if he doesn’t go to a Jonathon Coulton concert in San Francisco.

        • nydwracu says:

          Smart Reds are probably less likely to become nerds than smart Blues are.

          I suspect this is because Reds don’t pull the Jante-law horseshit Blues do — and in my experience, the belief that intelligent people are completely different with anyone else and the two groups can never interact is very specifically Blue. The one Blue in my family is convinced that literally all smart people are autistic.

          The fallacious belief that the world must be fair is trivially easy to see in Blues — how many think that the intelligence gap doesn’t exist? (No, I don’t mean “think there’s no genetic difference in intelligence between the races”; I mean “think that, as a matter of actually-existing empirical fact, there is no difference in the average intelligence of the races”.) And who’s the target market for Howard Gardner’s not-even-pseudoscience?

          That fair-world fallacy probably does great harm, Harrison Bergeron-style, to anyone genuinely good at anything, especially the innately intelligent: common beliefs create social expectations, and social expectations create roles. (I am very conscious of the fact that, whenever the one Blue in my family is around, I have to act in accordance with a certain role, there is nothing I can do about it, and there is no way I can escape it. Then again, this is true of most people; the difference is in whether the roles are useful or harmful. The only Blues I can stand are the ones who can see through the vast, steaming mounds of bullshit that are inseparable from orthodox Blueism.)

          • Nornagest says:

            in my experience, the belief that intelligent people are completely different with anyone else and the two groups can never interact is very specifically Blue. The one Blue in my family is convinced that literally all smart people are autistic.

            I think you might be suffering from a little outgroup homogeneity here.

            Sure, I’ve run into that attitude; a Howard Gardner disciple in my family once tried to convince me that I was an Asperger case, for example, fortunately after I was old enough to identify it as bullshit. And it does seem to correlate with a particular strain of Blue: true believers in equality, the sort for whom there’s no such thing as a natural advantage, only various forms of fraud, malice, and unearned cultural favoritism.

            But there’s a lot more shades of Blue than that, and you’re describing a very deep one. I wouldn’t call that sort of thing a consensus at your average Blue university, let alone among the rank and file out in the real world.

          • Lizardbreath says:

            I mostly agree, though your link doesn’t address the issue of high-V people born into red families. (My guess: They often do well in school and grow into “blues who don’t realize how hostile blues are to undeniably-intellectually-different children,” since when they were kids, their red families insulated them from this.)

            (Yes, even you to an extent. I’d written a reply on this to your comment about your educational history, but I sat on it and then Scott locked the old posts, and it’s really too long to repost here where it’s OT. BTW…I’d *much* rather put this under your original comment referencing your experiences at Can’t Tell You and asking other attendees to speak up, but since Scott did lock the old posts…I went too, and since your other posts suggest you’re a SET member too, so am I.)

            How familiar are you with the educationists (researchers, teachers, school psychologists and administrators) on this issue? There’s *a lot* of social pressure to “just give in and admit they’re just all autistic”–in defiance of the common sense articulated by, for example, Linda Silverman, that you’d *expect* someone who is (for example) mentally 9 not to fit in with 6-year-olds.

            (LessWrongers for some reason also often seem to resist this commonsense attitude. I think it may be IQ worship, in both cases. Both groups often seem to project the attitude that, “If you’re not autistic then a high IQ should make you *perfect*! A high IQ can never cause any problems or ever have any downside whatsoever!”)

            But the other reason for the pressure was just that an “Asperger’s” label *got help* (an IEP can easily include “advanced work” as well as “tolerance for apparent poor social skills”), while a “gifted” label…often doesn’t (in the US, for example, IDEA doesn’t apply) and on top of that is politically incorrect.

            Gayle Dallaston has been writing on this topic since the ’90s. For example, this post (and her blog in general).

          • Nornagest says:

            LessWrongers for some reason also often seem to resist this commonsense attitude. I think it may be IQ worship…

            That’s exactly what it is. For all its (commendable) devotion to the growth mindset and focus on building practical thinking skills, LW is still a product of the American geek culture; and if I had to pick a single defining trait of that culture, it’d be a single-minded focus on intelligence (and signaling thereof) to the exclusion and even to the detriment of everything else.

            Which is not to say that IQ isn’t important; a look over the psychometry literature shows that it is, very much so. But its importance doesn’t come out in the ways you’d think it would if all you had to go by was, say, Methods of Rationality. Or, unfortunately, the way gifted pupils’ programs in the US are structured.

          • veronica d says:

            @Nornagest — For me the realization happened maybe eight or ten years ago. I do not now remember just what the catalyst was — lots of stuff going on in my life at the time — but I recall thinking, you know, being smart is maybe overrated and there is other stuff that matters a lot.

            Such as being kind.

            It probably had to do with reading Impro. A sample:

            I tried to resist my schooling, but I accepted the idea that my intelligence was the most important part of me. I tried to be *clever* in everything I did. The damage was greatest in areas where my interests and the school’s seemed to coincide: in writing, for example (I wrote and rewrote, and lost all my fluency). I forgot that inspiration isn’t intellectual, that you don’t have to be perfect. In the end I was reluctant to attempt anything for fear of failure, and my first thoughts never seemed good enough. Everything had to be corrected and brought in line.

            The spell broke when I was in my early twenties. I saw a performance of Dovzhenko’s Earth, a film which is a closed book for many people, but which threw me into a state of exaltation and confusion. There is a sequence in which the hero, Vassily, walks alone in the twilight. We know he’s in danger, and we have just seen him comforting his wife, who rolled her eyes like a frightened animal. There are shots of mist moving eerily on water, and silent horses stretching their necks, and corn-stocks against the dusky sky. Then, amazingly, peasants lying side by side, the men with their hands inside the women’s blouses and motionless, with idiotic smiles on their faces as they stare at the twilight. Vassily, dressed in black, walks through the Chagall village, and the dust curls up in little clouds around his feet and he is dark against the moonlit road, and he is filled with the same ecstasy as the peasants. He walks and walks and the film cuts and cuts until he walks out of frame. Then the camera moves back, and we see him stop. The fact that he walks for so long, and that the image is so beautiful, linked up with my own experience of being alone in the twilight—the gap between the worlds. Then Vassily walks again, but after a short time he begins to dance, and the dance is skilled, and like an act of thanksgiving. The dust swirls around his feet, so that he’s like an Indian god, like Siva—and with the man dancing alone in the clouds of dust something unlocked in me. In one moment I knew that the valuing of men by their intelligence is crazy, and that peasants watching the night sky might feel more than I feel, and that the man who dances might be superior to myself—word-bound and unable to dance. From then on I noticed how warped people of great intelligence are, and I began to value people for their actions, rather than their thoughts.

            I still think intelligence is enormously valuable. I’m a math geek after all. But it can become a trap.

          • Viliam Búr says:

            For all its (commendable) devotion to the growth mindset and focus on building practical thinking skills, LW is still a product of the American geek culture; and if I had to pick a single defining trait of that culture, it’d be a single-minded focus on intelligence (and signaling thereof) to the exclusion and even to the detriment of everything else.

            You made me think. I started writing a disagreeing comment, but then I realized I probably still see LW as… the Sequences… while the reality is probably more like what you describe. Gradually, LW is becoming just another Mensa.

            🙁

            I still hope such fate can be avoided, but I am not sure how. (I am sure there are at least two tribes who believe the solution is to give their tribe more power, and then everything will magically become great. I am specifically not interested in this kind of advice. Because if it worked, then the other places where your tribe has more power, would already be awesome.)

          • nydwracu says:

            Lizardbreath: I’m not familiar with the research at all. I’m just basing it on my own experiences and what my parents have told me. This is probably relevant to the diagnosis thing. (If you want to email me, throw a comment on my blog — ‘asdf’ on the about page, whatever.)

            ——

            veronica d: Is there a publicly-traded company that sells heaters in hell? Because I (almost) completely agree.

            ——

            I am sure there are at least two tribes who believe the solution is to give their tribe more power, and then everything will magically become great. I am specifically not interested in this kind of advice. Because if it worked, then the other places where your tribe has more power, would already be awesome.

            Not necessarily. If your tribe perceives itself to be threatened everywhere, it’s going to respond to that in predictable ways, including all sorts of overreactions deemed necessary by the perceived state of emergency — and this uneasiness will likely persist for long after a truce, in the unlikely event that one ever comes.

  156. Douglas Knight says:

    Nitpicking…

    A recent article from War Nerd points out that the British, after spending centuries subjugating and despising the Irish and Sikhs, suddenly needed Irish and Sikh soldiers for World Wars I and II respectively.

    That’s awfully specific and doesn’t seem to match the cited article. The article is mainly about the Irish and I guess it says WWI. But the Sikhs were never despised and were recruited as soldiers immediately after being conquered, not with a century delay. That’s pretty typical – the Empire didn’t last long enough to have an about face on many peoples.

    • Slow Learner says:

      Also the Irish – even pre-Famine, around 25% of the British Army’s personnel were Irish, and that is *outside* the Irish Regiments. Recruiting the Irish to the British Army was hardly a new thing, it has been going on for almost as long as there has been a British Army – (nor was the British Army the only one to recruit Irishmen, view the “Wild Geese” of the late C17th for an example).

  157. social justice warlock says:

    One neat thing that you see at the fringes – at least, this is true for neoreaction and Marxism – is that there are only a few people around, so they have to interact with each other, but they’re also divided into camps that despise each other. And this is excellent for intellectual development! (Also if you’re on the fringes you spend most of your time interacting with liberals of one sort or another, so there’s that.)

  158. Baby Beluga says:

    Scott, the last part of this essay was one of the most brilliant things you’ve ever written. And the rest of the essay was brilliant too, for having hid the “a-ha” moment from me (and, I suppose, from you) until the very end.

  159. Null Hypothesis says:

    Bill Whittle Covered this fairly well in one of his videos. Calling it Oikophobia, and covering it in the context of the Red vs Blue culture war. Obviously, this comes from a Blue-turned-Red tribe member, and the othering you expect.

    But he covers the self-segregation, and one of the potential sources historical sources of this other-love, self-hatred is cultural marxism, which seeks to undermine the west by launching seemingly unconnected attacks at the root morality of the country via critical theory (culminating in SJW), waging a culture war since they lost the economic one. Though, also, while he claims it the source this time, he sees it as a basic flaw in humans, and regardless of whatever catalyzes it, it’s the same feeling that brings down every empire in history, driven mad with guilt by their opulence, and their need to other themselves from their own culture.
    Oikophobia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqNVpACRLaI
    (only relavent watching until ~5:00 after which it becomes a “politics is downstream of culture” plug)
    Critical Theory & the Narrative: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6c_dinY3fM

    Evan Sayet also covers a potential mental source, in a much longer video. The first 20min seem fairly insubstantial – he’s just rattling off ideas and generalizations, othering the heck out of the blue group (mentality of 5 year olds). But the second half comes around and the examples he provides are very general, and seem to hit spot on the nose.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaE98w1KZ-c

    His theory is that many people take it as a moral imperative to be anti-discriminatory. Multiculturally-pure in thought. These people then, looking at huge discrepancies in wealth, success, and happiness between different cultures – having ruled out that any culture can be more valid or effective than the other – comes to the only conclusion left, which is that the successful cultures must’ve gotten lucky. Then they look and see that those cultures have been more successful for over a century, and conclude that it can’t be luck – it must be deliberate evil cheating. The larger the success, the more evil they must have been. So they tear down everything good, and elevate everything that’s evil. The greater the good and success, the worse it must be. Teenage abstinence, capitalism, Jews, etc. Anyway, another potential source of this oikophobia.

    And I say they describe ‘sources’, because I personally, (as a blue-behaving but politically red) I think it is interesting the way that the two groups other each-other. I largely notice my blue-group friends other the red group by calling them “evil, racist, bigoted” etc. They other the Reds by claiming that they are evil – that they know everything they do hurts others and they do it anyway. It’s an attack on their character and humanity.

    The Red group calls people “Socialist/communist/marxist, eco-weenies, scare-mongers, stupid, childish etc.”. They don’t seem to think the other group is evil. They think they’re misguided or stupid – or in the cases where they obviously DO consider them evil, they use labels that don’t claim the person is evil, but their plans for how to run a country are evil. Notwithstanding claims of whatever demo-gouge of the week being the “anti-Christ”, of course.

    But in short, I notice this self-othering a LOT more in the blue group than the red. The older red-group members are often converts from the Blue group, so that might have something to do with it. But it seems like the red group others institutions and politics and their leaders, while wanting to convert blue group members, and the blue group just others red-group members and consider them all lost-causes that just need to be suppressed. It seems to me at least, that the Blue group considers the Red Group others much more than the red group does. Or at least, considering the relative degree of self-censorship, the Blues have been much more effective at it. So it’s worth looking at potential things which have catalyzed this shift to attacking the other group so directly, as members, rather than their policies as a group.

    Feel free to provide counter-examples. Happy to hear them. Same goes for the videos, but there’s a bit too much content there for me to discuss details – I don’t agree with everything said, just that the messages are interesting and seem to contain some fraction of the truth.

  160. Emile says:

    I get the impression that back in the days of the wars of religion, this was “solved” by the idea of religious tolerance, because at that time “religion” was the best way to refer to this kind of group difference. Unfortunately the group boundaries shifted a bit, and while everybody agrees that religious tolerance and “separation of church and state” are good things, that doesn’t help them get along with the outgroup any better.

    Which is why I often find militant atheism a bit misguided – sure, some forms of group identification include incorrect beliefs among their banners, but focusing on those incorrect beliefs makes you miss the useful attributes of groups (in terms of getting organized to Get Shit Done), as well as the bad aspects of your own group.

    Sometimes atheism feels a bit like analysing 20th century European History by looking at which flag designs had harmonious colour combinations.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Modern Americans have absorbed the language of religious tolerance and “separation of church and state” without the substance. The trouble is that Blues think their beliefs are not, in every way that matters, religious, while Reds’ are. Therefore, it’s ok to push Blue beliefs through the state, and Red beliefs must be a priori excluded. So we’re back where we started.

      • Mary says:

        There is no surer way to produce incoherence from a lefty than to cite Martin Luther King Jr.’s criterion for choosing legislators.

        • Nick T says:

          Which was?

          • Anonymous says:

            “Let us march on ballot boxes until we send to our city councils, state legislatures, and the United States Congress, men who will not fear to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God.”

            That’s a Biblical allusion, too, which, as we all know, means that the political cause to which it is affiliated is irrevocably tainted with religiosity.

        • cassander says:

          I ask them why they think there are few conservatives at the top of academia, and when they say something like “oh, they prefer to go and murder poor people make money” I respond “oh, then I assume that’s why you think there aren’t many women/blacks/whatever there as well.” Yours is shorter, however, which makes it better. Today you will often hear king referred to as Dr. King, very rarely as Dr. Reverend or Reverend Dr. King. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him referred to Reverend King in the modern age (except by other religious figures), though it was quite common when he was alive.

        • Luke Somers says:

          So, umm, he was religious, and thought that was important? I’m not sure what the problem was. Carter is Born-Again.

          Hmm. Maybe you’re objecting to people choosing to base their policies on religion? Reverend King’s quote seems to me rather more to be a judgement of character than a list of positions. In that, I would disagree with him.

          If you fail to find this incoherent, I guess I’m no true lefty.

    • Multiheaded says:

      Good observation!

  161. Anonymous says:

    Sometimes I think you’re a crypto-NRx with the mission of taking NRx insights and concepts and spreading them to the larger rationalist/atheist/skeptic community with your excellent writing skills and relatively high status in said community.

    • Harald K says:

      The only NRx influence I recognize in SSC is some infatuation with simplistic biological explanations. I see a hell of a lot of Christian influence, though, and obviously I like it.

    • Blogospheroid says:

      A Neo-reactionary prefers formalism in a lot of matters. He would actually have very little to object if Blue America formally adopted progress as a state religion and became an official theocracy. NRx would prefer that Blue America gave some time for the others to leave of course, nobody likes violence.

      If NRx stands for anything, it stands for exit over empire. Scott believes that a singleton has a non-negligible chance of taking over the world, hence clarification of values is extremely important(my interpretation). A singleton is the ultimate example of empire. Scott is not NRx. He’s attempting to articulate human values in a clear manner so that one day, if an AI were to scan the net seeking to understand human values, it would understand them better and try to fulfill them better. If you had to slot him, you might slot him in with the theocrats, but of a different god, Elua, not Yahweh.

      • Quite a lot of this commentary seems rather speculative.

        • Actually, I’ll go further and say that nearly every statement in this comment is either outright wrong or misleading.

          • Blogospheroid says:

            I admit that a lot of that was speculative. But I don’t think I intended to mislead, in any way.

            NRx prefers formalism. NRx prefers exit. Scott believes in the possibility of a singleton, and hence it is more important for him to clarify values compared to a hardcore NRx who would’ve just said “you go your way and I go mine”. The problem when anyone believes in the possibility of an intelligence explosion and the “hostile takeover” of the universe, is that you simply cannot let anyone “go their own way”

            Is any of this outright wrong? If so, point out the flaws please..

    • B says:

      I think the “Nerdalf the Grey” job’s been taken. Patri Friedman was going for a kinder, gentler NRx, wasn’t he?

      Friedman strikes me as the quintessential hyper-smart person with a mix of actually strong convictions, and trying to achieve his goals by fashionable opportunism[1], so he’s a much better salesman than OGH here anyway.

      But yeah, this post was mirror universe Moldbug to the extreme. I wonder who of them has the goatee. How else will we know who’s the evil Spock?

      [1] Grey tribe alert: Much like Rothbard.

      [2] Full disclosure: I’d classify myself as adherent of post-libertarian “dark enlightenment” ideas, but I don’t really have an ingroup, unless booze counts. Gentle, but pretty much total, despair is about as fun as it sounds BTW.

  162. Lemminkainen says:

    I’ll admit to being a fairly comfortable and sort-of-stereotypical member of the blue tribe. (I’m even an academic-in-training, and thus a member of their priesthood.) My experiences confirm what you say– that Blue Tribe members hate Red Tribers more than members of any other outgroup.

    But I also want to point out that we have some pretty strong reasons to hate members of the red tribe. Only a small fraction of us are straight Christian white men, since and those of us who are tend to have plenty of respected close friends who aren’t. People with red tribe politics usually favor policies which directly harm or limit the well-being of people who are gay, non-Christian, non-white, or non-male. I think it’s totally reasonable that I not tolerate people who would favor banning me from running for public office (I’m an atheist), would prevent me from marrying some significant chunk of my possible romantic partners (I’m bisexual), deny my girlfriend the ability to get the birth control that she needs to enjoy her sex life, or encourage police to subject my black friends to special harassment because of their race. So basically, I know that people with red-tribe political beliefs want to directly harm me and my friends. I see no virtue in tolerating them.

    (My reasoning here probably relates to the reason why my views on ISIS diverge a lot from those of my peers– because of my academic specialization, I spend a lot of my time reading and thinking about Middle Eastern people. I don’t actually know any Yazidis or Kurds or Assyrian Christians, but I think about and identify with them enough to consider committing genocide against them pretty heinous, and something that anybody who can stop has a moral duty to stop.)

    Of course, I should note, a lot of people in my tribe will tend to hate or discriminate people because they have non-directly-political red tribe traits. I definitely don’t think that it’s okay to hate people because they like NASCAR or drink Budweiser or listen to country music or speak in a Southern accent.

    • Anonymous says:

      > Only a small fraction of us are straight Christian white men

      this statement is made true only by the inclusion of the term “Christian”

      • Matthew says:

        Depends on what he considers a small fraction. Straight white men are probably around 20-25% of team blue, despite being more like 36% or so of the general US population.

        • Jake says:

          That’s only true if you’re using “Team Blue” to mean “Democratic Party.” Scott’s using the term to refer to liberal elites (by education and status, if not necessarily by wealth). Elites skew heavily white, and while Team Blue is perhaps 55-60% female, that still leaves it ~40% white male (of which ~90% are straight)

      • Lemminkainen says:

        You’re wrong about this. Only half of the overall US population is male– and given the way that voting dynamics skew by gender, less than half of the Blue Tribe is male. Only about 65% or so of the US population is non-Hispanic white (which you have to be to be considered white by most other Americans). In practice, people support the Democratic party are disproportionately non-white. If the Blue Tribe had the same sex and race demographics as the US, white men would only be 32% of the group– a respectable minority fraction, but still way outnumbered by other groups. In practice, the number is smaller than that.

        • Anonymous says:

          Voting democrat does not make you a member of the blue tribe, reread part V

          Do you sincerely believe that these people: http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/ are the same tribe as these people: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpAOwJvTOio (oops wrong link -edited)

          My best guess considering that I don’t have any real statistics on the fuzzy concept of tribe, is that the blue tribe is about 90+% white, 95+% straight and 50% male. That’s not a small fraction, its a minority but most likely a plurality.

          • Jake says:

            Why do you think it’s half male? And straights are 95% of the entire population, so they’re almost certainly a lower percentage of this one.

          • a person says:

            I wonder if maybe the most central examples of the “tribes” exclude people who are voting for obvious self-interest reasons, i.e. poor people voting blue and rich CEOs voting red. In this way, the tribal designations capture the ideological spirit of the tribe by looking at where it is most intense, in people who really care despite not having a reason to.

    • Matthew says:

      I know that people with red-tribe political beliefs want to directly harm me and my friends. I see no virtue in tolerating them.

      I don’t think tolerating people implies condoning their views. “I think you are wrong about [x,y,z] and I’m going to reiterate that when it seems germane, but I still enjoy your company” is distinct from both “everybody’s entitled to their opinion” and “get thee from my sight, heretic!”

      • Lemminkainen says:

        Oh, I totally get that. What I’m saying is that I consider it reasonable to treat people who want to actively harm me or my friends as enemies.

        • Lesser Bull says:

          And likewise from the other side. Saying that you only hate the other tribe because they threaten you and they started it doesn’t make your tribalism different. It’s bog standard tribalism.

        • Tracy W says:

          But even enemies can be treated differently. Consider the differences of treatments of POWs in WWII – the Germans and Western countries mostly kept to the Geneva convention between them while the Germans and Soviets both ignored it in treating their respective POWs.
          Or Nelson Mandela’s efforts to promote harmony with whites once he was Presideny of South Africa.

          There’s a difference between “you’re my enemy and I’m going to win then destroy you utterly” and “you’re my enemy now but I can see how we could work together once I’ve won.”

    • cassander says:

      > People with red tribe politics usually favor policies which directly harm or limit the well-being of people who are gay, non-Christian, non-white, or non-male.

      You think that is what their policies will do. It is also what they think your policies will do. Very few people consciously want to harm others, but we disagree a lot on what will or won’t cause harm.

      • Lemminkainen says:

        I don’t think that I should have to be kind to somebody who tells me that they want to deny me a number of rights and privileges which they comfortably afford to themselves just because they say they believe it’s for my own good.

        EDIT: Also, members of the Red Tribe generally tend to justify their measures harming all of those groups except for women in terms of their effects on what Red Tribe people consider their in-groups: They oppose gay marriage because they believe it will somehow destroy traditional marriage between heterosexuals, harrass atheists and Muslims in the name of defending the US as a Christian polity, and favor using racial profiling to impose a significant cost to minority groups in the name of small marginal benefits to the population as a whole (which is mostly white).

        • Anonymous says:

          > favor using racial profiling to impose a significant cost to minority groups in the name of small marginal benefits to the population as a whole (which is mostly white).

          Most victims of black criminals are black. Blacks are thus the largest beneficiaries of policies that reduce black crime.