Fearful Symmetry

[Content warning: Social justice, anti-social justice, comparisons of social justice to anti-social-justice, comparisons of different groups’ experiences.]

The social justice narrative describes a political-economic elite dominated by white males persecuting anybody who doesn’t fit into their culture, like blacks, women, and gays. The anti-social-justice narrative describes an intellectual-cultural elite dominated by social justice activists persecuting anybody who doesn’t fit into their culture, like men, theists, and conservatives. Both are relatively plausible; Congress and millionaires are 80% – 90% white; journalists and the Ivy League are 80% – 90% leftist.

The narratives share a surprising number of other similarities. Both, for example, identify their enemy with the spirit of a discredited mid-twentieth century genocidal philosophy of government; fascists on the one side, communists on the other. Both believe they’re fighting a war for their very right to exist, despite the lack of any plausible path to reinstituting slavery or transitioning to a Stalinist dictatorship. Both operate through explosions of outrage at salient media examples of their out-group persecuting their in-group.

They have even converged on the same excuse for what their enemies call “politicizing” previously neutral territory – that what their enemies call “politicizing” is actually trying to restore balance to a field the other side has already successfully politicized. For example, on Vox recently a professor accused of replacing education with social justice propaganda in her classroom counterargues that:

All of my students, regardless of the identity categories they embraced, had been taught their entire lives that real literature is written by white people. Naturally, they felt they were being cheated by this strange professor’s “agenda”…It is worth asking, Who can most afford to teach in ways that are least likely to inspire controversy? Those who are not immediately hurt by dominant ideas. And what’s the most dominant idea of them all? That the white, male, heterosexual perspective is neutral, but all other perspectives are biased and must be treated with skepticism […]

Have we actually believed the lie that the only people who engage in “identity politics” are black feminists like me? Could it be that when some white men looked at more powerful white men, they could see them only as reasonable and not politically motivated, so they turned off their critical thinking skills when observing their actions? (Not everyone, of course.) Could it be that we only consider people ideologues when they don’t vow allegiance to capitalism?

Compare to the “Sad Puppies”, a group of conservatives accused of adding a conservative bent to science fiction’s Hugo Awards. They retort that “politicization is what leftists call it when you fight back against leftists politicizing something”. As per the Breitbart article:

The chief complaint from the Sad Puppies campaigners is the atmosphere of political intolerance and cliquishness that prevails in the sci-fi community. According to the libertarian sci-fi author Sarah A. Hoyt, whispering campaigns by insiders have been responsible for the de facto blacklisting of politically nonconformist writers across the sci-fi community. Authors who earn the ire of the dominant clique can expect to have a harder time getting published and be quietly passed over at award ceremonies […]

Brad R. Torgersen, who managed this year’s Sad Puppies campaign, spoke to Breitbart London about its success: “I am glad to be overturning the applecart. Numerous authors, editors, and markets have been routinely snubbed or ignored over the years because they were not popular inside WSFS or because their politics have made them radioactive.”

Torgersen cites a host of authors who have suffered de facto exclusion from the sci-fi community: David Drake, David Weber, L.E Modesitt Jr, Kevn J. Anderson, Eric Flint, and of course Orson Scott Card — the creator of the world-famous Ender’s Game, which was recently adapted into a successful movie. Despite his phenomenal success, Scott Card has been ostracized by sci-fi’s inner circle thanks to his opposition to gay marriage.

I see minimal awareness from the social justice movement and the anti-social-justice movement that their narratives are similar, and certainly no deliberate intent to copy from one another. That makes me think of this as a case of convergent evolution.

The social justice attitude evolved among minority groups living under the domination of a different culture, which at best wanted to ignore them and at worst actively loathed them for who they were and tried to bully them into submission. The closest the average white guy gets to that kind of environment is wandering into a social-justice-dominated space and getting to experience the same casual hatred and denigration for them and everyone like them, followed by the same insistence that they’re imagining things and how dare they make that accusation and actually everything is peachy.

And maybe that very specific situation breeds a very specific kind of malignant hypervigilance, sort of halfway between post-traumatic stress disorder and outright paranoia, which motivates the obvious fear and hatred felt by both groups.

Someone is going to freak out and say I am a disgusting privileged shitlord for daring to compare the experience of people concerned about social justice to the experience of genuinely oppressed people, but they really shouldn’t. That’s the explicit goal of large parts of the social justice movement. For example, on the Hacker News thread about far-rightist Curtis Yarvin being kicked out of a tech conference for his views, one commenter writes:

I’ve been involved in anti-racist/anti-fascist work, either directly or on the periphery, for about ten years at this point. This takes many forms, from street confrontations with fascists, protests at book readings and other events, and also disrupting fascist conferences and similar […]

As far as this issue and other similar issues are concerned, I’m overjoyed that, as you put it, a climate of fear exists for fascists, misogynists, racists, and similar. I hope that this continues and only worsens for these people.

I’m happy for many reasons. The first is that it has, as you’ve said, made privileged people afraid. I think this is only the beginning. Privilege creates safety, and as it is removed, I think the unsafety of the oppressed will in part come to the currently privileged classes. But if I could flip a switch and make every man feel the persistent, gnawing fear that a woman has of men, I would in a heartbeat. I wouldn’t even consider whether the consequences were strategic, I would just do it.

This not the only time I’ve heard this opinion expressed, just the most recent. I feel like if you admit that you’re trying your hardest to make privileged people feel afraid and uncomfortable and under siege in a way much like minorities traditionally do, and privileged people are in fact complaining of feeling afraid and uncomfortable and under siege in a way much like minorities traditionally do, you shouldn’t immediately doubt their experience. Give yourself some more credit than that. You’ve been working hard, and at least in a few isolated cases here and there it’s paid off.

The commenter continues:

I would not say that I set out to defeat a “discourse-stifling” monster. The monsters I set out to defeat were patriarchy, capitalism, and white supremacy. These systems violently oppress, they don’t “stifle discourse.” In fact, they LOVE discourse! When people are discoursing, they aren’t in the streets. I’ve seen so many promising movements hobbled by reformism that I’m glad the possibility no longer exists, though that isn’t at all the fault of SJW-outrage (and is rather a consequence of the fact that the economy is in large part so perilous that nobody can afford the concessions that were previously won by reformists). So if discourse is permanently removed as a tactical and strategic option for future leftists, I’ll consider it a victory.

Needless to say, that is not this blog’s philosophy. But I think there is nevertheless something to be gained from all of the hard work this guy and his colleagues have put in making other people feel unsafe.

The mirror neuron has always been one of liberalism’s strongest weapon. A Christian doesn’t decide to tolerate Islam because she likes Islam, she decides to tolerate Islam because she can put herself in a Muslim’s shoes and realize that banning Islam would make him deeply upset in the same way that banning Christianity would make her deeply upset.

If the fear and hypervigilance that majority groups feel in social-justice-dominated spaces is the same as the fear and hypervigilance that minority groups feel in potentially discriminatory spaces, that gives us a whole lot more mirror neurons to work with and allows us to get a gut-level understanding of the other side of the dynamic. It lets us check my intuitions against their own evil twins on the other side to determine when we are proving too much.


A couple of months ago the owners of a pizzeria mentioned in an interview that they wouldn’t serve pizza at gay weddings because they’re against gay marriage. Instantly the nation united in hatred of them and sent a bunch of death threats and rape threats and eventually they had to close down.

I thought this was ridiculous. I mean, obviously death threats are never acceptable, but there seemed to be something especially frivolous about this case, where there are dozens of other pizzerias gay people can go to and where no one would ever serve pizza at a wedding anyway. A pizzeria hardly holds the World Levers Of Power, so just let them have their weird opinion. All they’re doing is sending potential paying customers to their more tolerant competitors, who are laughing all the way to the bank. It’s a self-punishing offense.

This was very reasonable of me and I should be praised for my reasonableness, except that when a technology conference recently booted a speaker for having far-right views on his own time, I was one of the many people who found this really scary and thought they needed to be publicly condemned for this intolerant act.

In theory, the same considerations ought to apply. There are dozens of other technology conferences in the world. Technology conferences also do not hold the World Levers Of Power. And when they reject qualified rightist speakers, that just means they’re just making life easier for their competitors who will be happy to grab the opportunity and laugh all the way to the bank. It ought to be self-punishing, so what’s the worry.

My brain is totally not on board with this reasoning. When I ask it why, it says something like “No, you don’t understand, these people are relentless, unless they are constantly pushed against they will put pressure on more and more institutions until their enemies are starved out or limited to tiny ghettos. Then they will gradually expand the definition of ‘enemy’ until everybody who doesn’t do whatever they say is blacklisted from everywhere.”

And if you think that’s hyper-paranoid, then, well, you’re probably right, but at least I have a lot of company. Here are some other comments on the same situation from the last links thread:

I spent a semester of college in Massachusetts. That’s where I found out that there are a lot of people who’d kill me and most of my family if they were given the chance. And thought it was totally reasonable and acceptable to say as much. (The things that are associated with Tumblr these days existed long before it. And mostly came from academia.)

About the same time that sort of thing was happening in that online community, the same thing was happening in the real-world meat-space gatherings, also quite literally with shrill screams, mostly by [reacted] [reacted]s, who would overhear someone else’s private conversations, and then start streaming “I BEG YOUR PARDON!” and “HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT!”, and by [reacted] [reacted]’s who were bullying their way onto programming committees, and then making sure that various speakers, panelists, artists, authors, dealers, and GoHs known to be guilty of wrongthink were never invited in the first place. Were it not for the lucky circumstance of the rise of the web, the market takeoff of ebooks, especially a large ebook vendor (named after a river)’s ebook direct program, and the brave anchoring of a well known genre publisher that was specifically not homed in NYC, the purging of the genre and the community would have been complete.

Almost nobody wants to physically murder and maim the enemy, at least at the start. That’s, well, the Final Solution. Plan A is pretty much always for the enemy to admit their wrongness or at least weakness, surrender, and agree to live according to the conqueror’s rules. Maybe the leaders will have to go to prison for a while, but everyone else can just quietly recant and submit, nobody has to be maimed or killed. [The social justice community] almost certainly imagine they can achieve this through organized ostracism, social harassment, and democratic political activism. It’s when they find that this won’t actually make all the racists shut up and go away, that we get to see what their Plan B, and ultimately their final solution, look like.

And if you think my commenters are also hyper-paranoid, then you’re probably still right. But it seems like the same kind of paranoia that makes gay people and their allies scream bloody murder against a single pizzeria, the kind that makes them think of it as a potential existential threat even though they’ve won victory after victory after victory and the only question still in the Overton Window is the terms of their enemies’ surrender.

I mocked the hell out of the people boycotting Indiana businesses because of their right-to-discriminate law:

But if some state were to pass a law specifically saying “It is definitely super legal to discriminate against conservatives for their political beliefs,” this would freak me out, even though I am not conservative and even though this is already totally legal so the law would change nothing. I would not want to rule out any response, up to and including salting their fields to make sure no bad ideas could ever grow there again.

Like many people, I am not very good at consistency.


Author John Green writes books related to social justice. A couple of days ago, some social justice bloggers who disagreed with his perspective decided that a proportional response was to imply he was a creep who might sexually abuse children. Green was somewhat put out by this, and said on his Tumblr that he was “tired of seeing the language of social justice – important language doing important work – misused as a way to dehumanize others and treat them hatefully” and that he thought his harassers “were not treating him like a person”.

Speaking of the language of social justice, “dehumanizing” and “not treating like a person” are some pretty strong terms. They’re terms I’ve criticized before – like when feminists say they feel like women aren’t being treated as people, I’m tempted to say something like “the worst you’ve ever been able to find is a single-digit pay gap which may or may not exist, and you’re going to turn that into people not thinking you’re human?”

Here’s another strong term: “hatred”. The activist who got Mencius Moldbug banned from Strange Loop reassured us that he would never want someone banned merely for having unusual political views, but Moldbug went beyond that into “hatred”, which means his speech is “hate speech”, which is of course intolerable. This is a bit strange to anybody who’s read any of his essays, which seem to have trouble with any emotion beyond smugness. I call him a bloodless and analytical thinker; the idea of his veins suddenly bulging out when he thinks about black people is too silly to even talk about. The same is true of the idea that people should feel “unsafe” around him; his entire shtick is that no one except the state should be able to initiate violence!

Likewise, when people wanted TV star Phil Robertson fired for saying (on his own time) that homosexuality was unnatural and led to bestiality and adultery, they said it wasn’t about policing his religion, it was about how these were “hateful” comments that would make the people working with him feel unsafe. At the time I said that was poppycock and that people who wanted him fired for having a private opinion were the worst kinds of illiberal witch-hunters.

On the other hand, consider Irene Gallo. I know nothing of her except what the Alas blog post says, but apparently in science fiction’s ongoing conflict between the establishment and the anti-SJW “Sad Puppies”/”Rabid Puppies” groups, she referred to the latter as:

Two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, sexist and homophobic.

These are some pretty strong allegations, and range from “false” to “bizarre”; Brad Torgenson, leader of the group she called “extreme right wing neo nazi unrepentant racists”, is happily married to a black woman. And the people she’s talking about are her company’s authors and customers, which hardly seems like good business practice. Some authors have said they feel uncomfortable working for a company whose employees think of them that way, and others have suggested boycotting Tor until they make her apologize or fire her.

Barry says that since she said these on her own private Facebook page, it is a private opinion that it would be pretty censorious to fire her over. Part of me agrees.

On the other hand, if I were a sci-fi author in one of the groups that she was talking about, I’m not sure I’d be able to work with her. Like, really? You want me to sit across a table and smile at the woman who thinks I’m a racist sexist homophobic extremist neo-Nazi just because I disagree with her?

Robertson’s comment is just standard having-theological-opinions. Like, “Christian thinks homosexuality is sinful, more at eleven.” Big deal. But Gallo’s comment feels more like white hot burning hatred. She’s clearly too genteel to personally kill me, but one gets the clear impression that if she could just press a button and have me die screaming, she’d do it with a smile on her face.

But this is just interpretation. Maybe Gallo doesn’t consider “neo-Nazi” a term of abuse. Maybe this was just her dispassionate way of describing a political philosophy with the most appropriate analogy she could think of.

It doesn’t seem likely to me. Then again, even though it seems obvious to me that stating “homosexuality is sinful and similar to bestiality” is a theological position totally compatible with being able to love the sinner and hate the sin, gay people have a lot of trouble believing it. And although I cannot condone firing people for their private opinions, back when people were trying to get rid of Gawker honcho Sam Biddle for saying that “nerds should be constantly shamed and degraded into submission”, God help me it certainly crossed my head that there were even the slightest consequences for this kind of behavior, maybe other social justice writers would stop saying and acting upon statements like that all the frickin’ time?

Once again, I’m not scoring very highly in consistency here.


A little while ago I had a bad couple of days. Some people were suggesting I was a liability to a group I was part of because I’d written some posts critical of feminism, and I got in a big fight about it. Then someone sent my ex-girlfriend a Tumblr message asking if they’d broken up with me “because I was racist”. Then despite my best efforts to prevent this, my Facebook feed decided to show me a bunch of Gawker-style articles about “Are all white people to blame for [latest atrocity]? I was too exhausted to write a real blog post, so I just threw together a links post. Because among two dozen or so links there was one (1) to the Moldbug story previously mentioned above, one commenter wrote that “your links posts are becoming indistinguishable from Chaos Patch” (Chaos Patch is the links post of notable far-right blog Xenosystems).

So I decided to ban that commenter. But since I have a policy in place of waiting an hour before doing anything rash, I took a long walk, thought about it a bit, and settled for just yelling at him instead.

Is banning someone for a kind of meaningless barb excessive? Well, yes. But given everything else that had happened, I didn’t have the energy to deal with it, and since this is my blog and the one corner of the world I have at least a tiny bit of control over I could at least symbolically get rid of a small fraction of my problems.

Plus, to me the barb seemed like an obvious veiled threat. “As long as you post any links about rightist causes, I can accuse you of being far-right. And we all know what happens to far-right people, eh?”

So even though out of context it was about the most minimal hostility possible, barely rising to the level where somebody would say it was even capable of being a problem at all, in context it really bothered me and made me at least somewhat justifiably feel unsafe.

Ever since I learned the word “microaggression” I have been unironically fond of it.

When I’m putting up with too much and I’ve used up my entire mental buffer, then somebody bothering me and hiding under the cover of “oh, this was such a tiny insult that you would seem completely crazy to call me on it” is especially infuriating, even more infuriating than someone insulting me outright and me being able to respond freely. The more you have to deal with people who hate you and want to exclude you, the more likely you are to get into this mode, not to mention people who have developed their own little secret language of insults.

Here’s an example of what I mean by “secret language of insults”: consider the term “dude”, as in “white dude”. There is nothing objectively wrong with “dude” when it is applied to surfers or something. But when a feminist says it, as in the term “white dudes”, you know it is going to be followed by some claim that as a white dude, you are exactly the same as all other white dudes and entirely to blame for something you don’t endorse. The first page of Google results is, Gawker saying Wimpy White Dudes Ruined American Idol, and Mother Jones saying glowingly that You Won’t Find Many White Dudes At This Tech Startup. Being called a “white dude” is always followed by the implication that you’re ruining something or that your very presence is cringeworthy and disgusting.

I had a feminist friend who used to use the term “dudes” for “men” all the time. I asked them to please stop. They said that was silly, because that was just the word the culture they’d grown up in used, and obviously no harm was meant by it, and if I took it as an insult then I was just being oversensitive. This is word for word the explanation I got when I asked one of my elderly patients to stop calling black people their particular ethnic slur.

The counterpart to subliminal insults is superliminal insults; ones that are hard to detect because they’re so over-the-top obvious.

I was recently reading a social justice blog where someone complained about men telling women “Make me a sandwich!” in what was obvious jest.

On the one hand, no one can possibly take this seriously.

On the other hand, there’s a common social justice meme where people post under the hashtag #killallwhitemen.

Certainly this cannot be taken seriously; most social justice activists don’t have the means to kill all white men, and probably there are several of them who wouldn’t do it even if they could. It should not be taken, literally, as a suggestion that all white men should be killed. On the other hand, for some bizarre reason this tends to make white men uncomfortable.

The obvious answer is that the people posting “Wimmen, make me a sandwich!” don’t literally believe that women exist only for making them sandwiches, but they might believe a much weaker claim along the same lines, and by making the absurd sandwich claim, they can rub it in while also claiming to be joking. At least this is how I feel about the “kill all white men” claim.

As long as you’ve got a secret language of insults that your target knows perfectly well are insulting, but which you can credibly claim are not insulting at all – maybe even believing it yourself – then you have the ability to make them feel vaguely uncomfortable and disliked everywhere you go without even trying. If they bring it up, you can just laugh about how silly it is that people believe in “microaggressions” and make some bon mot about “the Planck hostility”.


I’m taking a pretty heavy Outside View line here, so let me allow my lizard brain a few words in its own defense.

“Yes,” my lizard brain says, “social justice activists and the people silenced by social justice activists use some of the same terms and have some of the same worries. But the latter group has reasonable worries, and the former group has totally unreasonable worries, which breaks the symmetry.”

Interesting. Please continue, lizard brain.

“Black people might be very worried about being discriminated against. But the chance that someone would say ‘Let’s ban all black people from our technology conference, because they are gross’, and everyone would say ‘Yes, that is a splendid idea’, and the government and media would say ‘Oh, wonderful, we are so proud of you for banning all black people from your conference’ is zero point zero zero zero. On the other hand, this is something that conservatives worry about every day. The chance that someone would say ‘You know, there’s no reason raping women should be illegal, let’s not even bother recording it in our official statistics’ is even lower than that, but this is exactly what several countries do with male rape victims. If someone says ‘kill all white men’, then all we do is hold an interminable debate about whether that disqualifies them from the position of Diversity Officer; if someone said ‘kill all gays’, we would be much more final in pronouncing them Not Quite Diversity Officer Material.”

But don’t you –

“The reason why we don’t care about a pizzeria that won’t serve gay people is that recent years have shown an overwhelming trend in favor of more and more rights and acceptance of gay people, and the pizzeria is a tiny deviation from the pattern which is obviously going to get crushed under the weight of history even without our help. The reason we worry about a conference banning conservatives is that conservatives are an actually-at-risk group, and their exclusion could grow and grow until it reaches horrific proportions. The idea of a pizzeria banning gays and a conference banning conservatives may seem superficially similar out of context, but when you add this piece of context they’re two completely different beasts.”

Two responses come to mind.

First, this is obviously true and correct.

Second, this is exactly symmetrical to my least favorite argument, the argument from privilege.

The argument from privilege is something like “Yeah, sure, every so often the system is unfair to white people or men or whatever in some way. But this is not a problem and we should not even be talking about it, because privilege. Shows that mock women for stereotypically female failings are sexist, but shows that mock men for stereotypically male failings are hilarious, and you may not call them sexist because you can’t be sexist against privileged groups.”

My argument has always been “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander”.

But either this argument goes, or my lizard brain’s argument goes, or we have to move to the object level, or somebody has to get more subtle.


My point is, there are a lot of social justice arguments I really hate, but which I find myself unintentionally reinventing any time things go really bad for me, or I feel like myself or my friends are being persecuted.

I should stop to clarify something. “Persecuted” is a strong word. “Feel like we are being persecuted” is way weaker.

A couple weeks ago there was a Vox article, America’s Never Been Safer, So Why Do Republicans Believe It Is In Mortal Peril?. It brought up a lot of cute statistics, like that the rate of pedestrians being killed by car accidents is much higher than the rate of civilians being killed in terrorist attacks. It joked that “You’re over 100 times more likely to die by literally walking around than you are to be killed in a terrorist attack.”

On the other hand, vox has practically led the news media in 24-7 coverage of police officers shooting unarmed black people, talking about how it’s a huge threat to our values as a civilization and how white people don’t understand that all black people have to constantly live in fear for their lives.

But a quick calculation demonstrates that unarmed black people are about 10 times more likely to die by literally walking around than by getting shot by a white police officer. One gets the feeling Vox doesn’t find this one nearly as funny.

But here I would perform another quick calculation. Here’s a list of people who have been publicly shamed or fired for having politically incorrect opinions. Even if we assume the list is understating the extent of the problem by an entire order of magnitude, you’re still more likely to die by literally walking around than you are to get purged for your politically incorrect opinion.

Like a lot non-feminists, I was freaked out by the recent story about a man who was raped while unconscious being declared the rapist and expelled from college without getting to tell his side of the story. I have no evidence that this has ever happened more than just the one time mentioned in the article, let alone it being a national epidemic that might one day catch me in its clutches, but because I’ve had to deal with overly feminist colleges in other ways, my brain immediately raised it to Threat Level Red and I had to resist the urge to tell my friends in colleges to get out while they still could. If we non-feminists can get worried about this – and we can – we have less than no right to tell feminists they shouldn’t really be worried about college rape because the real statistics are 1 in X and not 1 in Y like they claim.

Hopefully some readers are lucky enough never to have felt much personal concern about terrorism, police shootings, rape, rape accusations, or political correctness. But if you’ve worried about at least one of these low-probability things, then I hope you can extend that concern to understand why other people might be worried about the others. It seems to have something to do with the chilling effect of knowing that something is intended to send a message to you, and in fact receiving that message.

(as an aside, I find it surprising that so many people, including myself, are able to accept the statistics about terrorism so calmly without feeling personally threatened. My guess is that, as per Part VIII here, we don’t primarily identify as Americans, so a threat deliberately framed as wanting to make Americans feel unsafe just bounces off us.)

In an age where the media faithfully relates and signal-boosts all threats aimed at different groups, and commentators then serve their own political needs by shouting at us that WE ARE NOT FEELING THREATENED ENOUGH and WE NEED TO FEEL MORE THREATENED, it is very easy for a group that faces even a small amount of concerted opposition, even when most of society is their nominal allies and trying hard to protect them, to get pushed into a total paranoia that a vast conspiracy is after them and they will never be safe. This is obviously the state that my commenters who I quoted in Part II are stuck in, obviously the state that those people boycotting the Indiana pizzeria are stuck in, and, I admit, a state I’m stuck in a lot of the time as well.


Getting back to the thesis, my point is there are a lot of social justice arguments I really hate, but which I find myself unintentionally reinventing any time things go really bad for me, or I feel like myself or my friends are being persecuted.

Once events provoke a certain level of hypervigilance in someone – which is very easy and requires only a couple of people being hostile, plus the implication that they there’s much more hostility hidden under the surface – then that person gets in fear for their life and livelihood and starts saying apparently bizarre things: that nobody treats them as a person, that their very right to exist is being challenged. Their increasingly strident rhetoric attracts increasingly strident and personal counter-rhetoric from the other side, making them more and more threatened until they reach the point where Israel is stealing their shoe. And because they feel like every short-term battle is the last step on the slippery slope to their total marginalization, they engage in crisis-mode short-term thinking and are understandably willing to throw longer-term values like free speech, politeness, nonviolence, et cetera, under the bus.

Although it’s very easy enter this state of hypervigilance yourself no matter how safe you are, it’s very hard to understand why anyone else could possibly be pushed into it despite by-the-numbers safety. As a result, we constantly end up with two sides both shouting “You’re making me live in fear, and also you’re making the obviously false claim that you live in fear yourself! Stop it!” and no one getting anywhere. At worst, it degenerates into people saying “These people are falsely accusing me of persecuting them, and falsely claiming to be persecuted themselves, I’ll get back at them by mocking them relentlessly, doxxing them, and trying to make them miserable!” and then you get the kind of atmosphere you find in places like SRS and Gamergate and FreeThoughtBlogs.

But I’m also slightly optimistic for the future. The conservative side seems to have been about ten years behind the progressive side in this, but they’re catching up quickly. Now everybody has to worry about being triggered, everybody has to worry about their comments being taken out of context by Gawker/Breitbart and used to get them fired and discredit their entire identity group, everybody has to worry about getting death threats, et cetera. This is bad, but also sort of good. When one side has nukes, they nuke Hiroshima and win handily. When both sides have nukes, then under the threat of mutually assured destruction they eventually come up with protocols to prevent those nukes from being used.

Now that it’s easier to offend straight white men, hopefully they’ll agree trigger warnings can be a useful concept. And now that some social justice activists are getting fired for voicing their opinions in private, hopefully they’ll agree that you shouldn’t fire people for things they say on their own time. Once everyone agrees with each other, there’s a chance of getting somewhere. Yes, all of this will run up against a wall of “how dare you compare what I’m doing to what you’re doing, I’m defending my right to exist but you’re engaging in hate speech!” but maybe as everyone gets tired of the nukes flying all the time people will become less invested in this point and willing to go to the hypothetical Platonic negotiation table.

My advice for people on the anti-social justice side – I don’t expect giving the SJ people advice would go very well – is that it’s time to stop talking about how social justice activism is necessarily a plot to get more political power, or steal resources, or silence dissenting views. Like everything else in the world it can certainly turn into that, but I think our own experience gives us a lot of reasons to believe they’re exactly as terrified as they say, and that we can’t expect them to accept “you have no provable objective right to be terrified” any more than our lizard brains would accept it of us. I think it’s time to stop believing that they censor and doxx and fire their opponents out of some innate inability to understand liberalism, and admit that they probably censor and doxx and fire their opponents because they’re as scared as we are and feel a need to strike back.

This isn’t a claim that they don’t have it in for us – many of them freely admit they do – and that they don’t need to be stopped. It’s just a claim that we can gain a good understanding of why they have it in for us, and how we might engineer stopping them in a way less confrontational than fighting an endless feud.

Yesterday, a friend on Facebook posted something about a thing men do which makes women feel uncomfortable and which she wanted men to stop. I carefully thought about whether I ever did it, couldn’t think of a time I had, but decided to make sure I didn’t do it in the future.

I realized that if I’d heard the exact same statement from Gawker, I would have interpreted it (correctly) as yet another way to paint men as constant oppressors and women as constant victims in order to discredit men’s opinions on everything, and blocked the person who mentioned it to me so I didn’t have to deal with yet another person shouting that message at me. The difference this time was that it came from an acquaintance who was no friend of feminism, who has some opinions of her own that might get her banned from tech conferences, and who I know would have been equally willing to share something women do that bothers men, if she had thought it important.

If we can get to a point where we don’t feel like requests are part of a giant conspiracy to discredit and silence us, people are sometimes willing to listen. Even me.

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1,505 Responses to Fearful Symmetry

  1. Hedonic theft says:

    On the topic of changing around the subjects, here’s a fun game: whenever Person A says that Person B said hurtful things and decreased Person A’s hedonic index, cross out whatever sounds Person B emitted and assume that Person B is holding a squalling infant.
    (And by ‘fun’ I mean will ruin your life.)

    Person A: These piercing notes assault my ears! This is a tortious offense!

    (Person A’s oddly stilted manner of speech is a totally intentional effort to prevent Person A from resembling any particular person in the real world and is not just because I’m bad at writing dialogue.)

    Person B: Look, I’m not trying to hurt you in the first place! Leave me alone!
    Person A: INTENT IS NOT FUCKING MAGIC! You went out in public with a baby when you *should* have known it would hurt me; you clearly don’t *care* enough about my hedons. If you run over my foot with your car —
    At this point the baby’s volume sharply increases. (Babies do not deal well with angry shouting.)
    Person A: NOW look what you’ve done! Because you made me come over here and yell at you, I’m now subject to even greater assault! Which represents, by the way, the idea that defending against accusations is itself a further crime, rendered literally true in the form of increased anti-hedonic baby-screaming.
    Person B: …who are you talking to?
    Person A: I just thought I should clarify, since the metaphor was getting pretty tortured.

    So far I’ve gotten shouted at by three of four possible groups:
    (1) offended people for saying their feelings are the same as some totally unreasonable complaint about a crying baby,
    (2) people who feel oppressed by baby-screaming for saying their genuine discomfort is the same as totally unreasonable attacks because something something the pitch of a baby’s cry activates neurons something something human universal whereas catering to busybodies breeds more busybodies,
    (3) parents who are outraged that I could compare *their* being made to feel guilty by other people’s nasty glares when they didn’t do anything wrong to Bad Unrighteous People saying nasty things and trying to get away with it.

    I also got (4) one complaint from a gentleman who was upset at me for calling men who have feelings ‘babies’ and saying that only women can have legitimate feelings and feel hurt when someone attacks them. I explained to him that my intent was not to offend him, and that I only used the specific example of a crying baby because it is a something unpleasant that everyone has personally experienced and can call to mind. I confess that I said all this without my brain making any connection between the exchange and the topic under discussion.

    I also got two separate people get angry at me for saying that people who complain about hurtful language are babies. I’m…pretty sure that they just noticed the word ‘baby’ and didn’t actually pay any attention to the rest.

  2. David Kinard says:

    Gallo’s comment didn’t seem particularly more vicious then this.

  3. Colum Paget says:

    # I’m happy for many reasons. The first is that it has, as you’ve said, made
    # privileged people afraid. I think this is only the beginning. Privilege creates
    # safety, and as it is removed, I think the unsafety of the oppressed will in
    # part come to the currently privileged classes. But if I could flip a switch and
    # make every man feel the persistent, gnawing fear that a woman has of
    # men, I would in a heartbeat. I wouldn’t even consider whether the
    # consequences were strategic, I would just do it.

    Does anyone else think that this “Yes! I would do it!” sounds like the scene with Davros from “Genesis of the Daleks”?

    What this person misses of course, is that once men have that same ‘persistent, gnawing fear that women have of men’, (which I’m not sure all women have, but yes, some do) then things are going to get ugly very fast. I think that’s where we’re heading.

  4. I wrote (offline) a long response to a long post by John Picone, and was then unable to find the post in order to put up my response. I don’t know if I am doing something wrong or if he removed the post, but here is my response:

    “People in the 1900s didn’t have many ways of causing significant changes that would persist for centuries.”

    They believed they did—as in all three of my examples. Using up all of England’s coal, for instance, would have been a significant change that would have persisted for much longer than that.

    My point was not about what they could do but about what they believed. If anything, the world is changing faster now than then, making it even harder to predict future problems and solutions.

    “Higher CO2 content increases productivity for plants, as long as they have enough water and a good temperature range.”

    Higher CO2 reduces water requirements, as I already pointed out.

    “Those conditions may obtain in some parts of the world. I doubt it’ll increase production worldwide, and I expect the effects of previous prime agricultural areas no longer being prime agricultural areas, at least for the crops they usually grow, will suck.”

    As I keep pointing out, we are talking about very slow change. Looking at the world at present, do you observe that if two places have average temperatures a few degrees apart, they grow not only different varieties but different species? Wheat is grown in North America over a range of 1500 miles North to South, from Alberta to Texas. Varieties vary with climate, but what do you think the odds are that, even without AGW, agricultural areas will keep growing the same varieties of the same crops a century from now?

    “The IPCC’s SLR estimates are likely low.”

    The simplest test is past performance. Was the SLR projection in the first IPCC report higher or lower than what actually happened? For temperature it was higher—have you checked SLR?
    The second test is bias. It’s easy enough, reading IPCC reports, especially the summary for policy makers, to see what conclusion the authors want readers to reach. That suggests that any bias is likely to be in the direction of exaggerating the arguments for that conclusion, not of minimizing them.

    “I do think that a substantial fraction of large cities are within the range of SLR we should expect.”

    That range, for 2100, being? Something much more than the high end of the IPCC projections?

    “The Dutch have been occupying land below sea level in a world with comparatively small year-on-year sea level rise. I expect it would be much more expensive if the wall had to keep being built every year. And, of course, that depends on local geology – with that much sea level rise, south florida isn’t a place any more, dikes or no dikes, because the local rock is porous.”

    I don’t know what your “that much” is. I pointed at a web page that lets you see the effect of various levels, calculated from topographical maps. Even without diking, one meter still has a tiny effect on Florida.

    And SLR *is* slow year on year sea level rise. Eight inches in the past century.

    “Warming will be faster than the average since 1911. We know that because it’s already faster than the average since 1911. Trendline from 1970s (you know, where there’s actual statistical evidence of change in trend and aerosols aren’t a concern) is ~.17c/decade.”

    Or in other words, you first assume that the previous pause (roughly 1940 to 1970) can be eliminated from the record by special casing it to aerosols, then deduce the average rate by looking at the period thereafter. As I think I already pointed out, the pattern of warming suggests some effect that alternately cancels and reinforces warming. If that interpretation is correct, you are taking a full cycle of reinforcing plus less than half a cycle of cancelling.

    “If CO2 content in the atmosphere continues growing superexponentially (i.e., we do nothing), that will accelerate.”

    You earlier made a claim about the effect of exponential growth in emissions. I questioned it. Are you now conceding that that claim was false, retracting it, and shifting to a claim about “superexponential,” whatever that means?

    Why do you think emissions will continue to rise, exponentially, “superexponentially,” or even linearly, given the issues I already pointed out about resource exhaustion and development of alternative technologies?

    “And yes, that is rapid. We’re seeing heatwaves that would have been once-in-a-thousand-years in the preindustrial (Moscow 2010).”

    Given a large world, do you think it is surprising that there is a once in a thousand years event somewhere in it?

    “I don’t understand why the evidence that if we continue emitting CO2, the Earth will warm up, on average, 1.7 degrees every ten years isn’t terrifying to you.”

    Does the rate you are now claiming decribe the effect of current emissions on the equilibrium that will be reached several thousand years from now, ceteris paribus? It’s an order of magnitude higher than the trend line you just reported.

    “3.2 mm/year is a fair amount of sea level rise, yes. Again, that one is going to accelerate if we continue growing atmospheric CO2 content superexponentially. This should be obvious given that straight-line extrapolation gives 32cm by 2100 and the IPCC projects as high as a metre (and their projections are running below reality here, by a fair amount).”

    One meter, last time I looked over the report, wasn’t what the IPCC projected. It was the high end of the range of projections produced by the high emission scenario. The one that apparently burns twice the current estimate of the world’s supply of coal by 2100.

    “RE: temperature mortality. See this paper, particularly these charts.”

    Thanks. Bookmarked. Looking at the table, the only place for which they give separate figures for the effect of heat related mortality and cold related is England, for which the reduction in cold related mortality is about ten times the increase in heat related mortality. Have you noticed any of the people arguing for the perils of AGW mentioning that fact? If not, does that suggest that you may be basing your views on a biased sample of evidence and arguments?

    Observe that the comments to that page emphasize reasons to minimize estimates of the benefits and maximize estimates of the costs. Given any complicated externality issue, it’s almost always possible to tweak the calculations in the direction you want—a point I have been making in the climate context for a long time.

    “(and broadly speaking that has to be true eventually – at ~7c warming, some parts of Earth reach wet-bulb temperatures high enough that an inactive human in shade will die of heat exhaustion, but that’s probably not going to happen in any reasonable timeframe. We’d have to burn literally all the coal.)”

    And in unreasonable time frames, populations shift. The U.S. alone had a million migrants a year in the period before WWI. The world is much richer now and transport technology substantially improved. If you are talking about changes over a millenium or two, you should expect populations to be highly mobile. Lose equatorial lowlands, gain Antarctica and the northern parts of the northern hemisphere.

  5. Sigh says:

    So, can a handful of you refreshingly reasonable people spend a few minutes over on RationalWiki and smack some sense into them? :/

    Whenever someone complains that you’re “one of them SJWs”, the correct rebuttal is: “Why yes, I am a proud defender of social justice. Aren’t you?”


    • James Picone says:

      That would be a profoundly unpleasant waste of time.

    • DrBeat says:

      Just like when they accuse someone of being a “Nice Guy”, the proper response is “Of course! When is being nice a bad thing?”

      Of course, they’ll deny that is a valid comparison, because of [reason they constructed on the spot and will discard the instant the conversation ends].

    • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

      Unless you really enjoy Rationalwiki (for some reason), I’d recommend you just drop it and ignore it.

  6. jonathan says:

    (This point may have been made already in the 1k+ comments above me.)

    I couldn’t get past the Yarvin/Pizzeria analogy. I intuitively felt that there was an important difference. After thinking about it for a bit, I decided that the critical difference was between a refusal to take part in an objectionable ACTION, and a refusal to deal with an objectionable PERSON, even though the dealings had nothing to do with the objections.

    By analogy, suppose Jimbo walks into a Jewish Deli and asks them to cater lunch at his conference, “Holocaust: myth or fabrication?”, organized by his organization, The Fourth Reich. The owner refuses, saying he can’t in good conscience take part in such activity. I wouldn’t object to the owner’s decision in this case.

    But suppose Jimbo only wanted the deli to cater his 4-year old daughter’s birthday party. The owner is about to agree, when the assistant whispers to the owner, “That man is a neo-nazi and anti-semite!” If the owner then says, “Get out of my store! We don’t serve your kind here!” I would certainly object: this is discrimination based on a person’s political views, which are unrelated to the service requested.

    Now let’s apply this principle to the two cases you considered. Suppose Yarvin’s talk had been entitled, “The natural superiority of the white man”. Then I wouldn’t have objected if the conference organizers had decided not to give him a platform to espouse his views. Likewise, if the pizzeria owners had stated that they would refuse to sell pizza slices to gay men, I would strongly object. That would be discrimination against a person.

    So it seems the principle works: reversing this parameter reverses how I feel about these two cases. And while I can come up with edge cases that don’t allow this principle to properly separate cases, it seems quite accurate overall in capturing my views.

  7. dlr says:

    It seems to me that the really consequential difference in the two cases is that in the pizza joint/customer relationship, the customer has the power: there are many pizza joints and customers have a choice over which ones they choose to give their business to.

    But in the case of the tech conference, the shoe is on the other foot: the tech conference organizer has the power: there are many more persons who would love to present at a tech conference than ever will get the chance; the organizer can choose to award the slot to any one of dozens of people. By making political orthodoxy a pre-requsite for being a presenter at their tech conference, the organizers were wielding a strong weapon with financial and career success implications. A ‘chilling’ effect on freedom of speech seems to be not only the inevitable effect, but the DESIRED effect. Self censor yourself, or pay the consequences in your career. Most people are, rationally, cowards, and bullies depend on that fact.

    So, I for one, say your gut instinct was correct. The two cases aren’t commensurate. The power relationships aren’t the same. A more equivalent situation would have been if the pizza place had refused to HIRE someone as a manager because they were gay.

  8. Agronomous says:

    There’s an ancient Rationalist myth that says if anyone ever manages to read all the way through Mencius Moldbug’s entire site, it will immediately be replaced by something twice as long and five times as hard to understand.

    There is another, more ancient myth that says this has already happened several times.

  9. Triggered says:

    When I saw this post, I thought to myself that I really really REALLY shouldn’t click on it because it will make my gut churn and make me cranky for two or three days. Then I clicked on it, and not only did I not become angry, I felt distinctly enlightened and contemplative. This is not the first time this has happened on SSS, though it’s rare. This never happens on other blogs.

  10. onyomi says:

    Sort of related. Is there any hope of culturally (not legally) punishing people who very casually accuse people of sexism and racism?

    Example, I read an interview about Rand Paul in which he said his favorite band was Rush. Apparently, in response to this, a Rush band member commented that it “is obvious that Rand Paul hates women and brown people.”

    Say what you will about Rand Paul, but I don’t think it’s “obvious” he hates women and brown people. I’m not saying he’s a great champion of women’s rights, he’s just not more racist or sexist than average, or at least gives no indication of being so (actually, he tries very hard to signal the opposite by speaking at historically black colleges, etc. though one could argue he’s just fishing for votes, etc.).

    What’s obvious to me is that the band member hasn’t actually looked into Rand Paul’s personal life and come to this conclusion. What he’s done instead is thought “conservative politician=hates women and minorities.” And in the past I’m sure people have patted him on the back when he made this connection.

    Now considering how harmful accusations of racism and sexism can be to a career, to say nothing of one’s feelings, shouldn’t such accusations be policed a little more carefully, or shouldn’t one at least get more flack for making them groundlessly?

    I hate to bring in this issue too, but it reminds me of the people who are reluctant to ever prosecute or even denounce obviously false rape allegations, even when those allegations have resulted in men spending years in prison. They are afraid it will send the wrong message. I get the sense that the SJW crowd is also afraid that if they ever rebuke someone for making unfair, thoughtless accusations of racism and sexism, that it might somehow discourage people speaking up when real racism or sexism is happening.

    I think 1. at this point, there’s hardly a risk of people being too afraid to level accusations of racism or sexism. 2. This just makes accusations of racism and sexism lose all their sting because they are thrown around so freely as to be almost a joke.

    • Alraune says:

      If that’s true, I would expect the results to be similar to the climate around rape: Most of the dangerous racists are able to skate because they have power and social cachet, most victims of racism are unable to do anything about it, but false accusations of racism become very attractive power plays and non-racists are routinely run through the wringer.

      All of which is certainly consistent with the existence of Rachel Dolezal, the non-improvement of the black economic situation despite the sanctions on bias against them, etc.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      A lawsuit by the named Puppies against Gallo and Tor would be a convenient starting place for a public lesson. All the evidence is public already, her statement is short and simple, and everyone already knows the story; there’s nothing complicated that they’d need to explain to their lawyer.

      Disclaimer: That’s speculation about speculation. Someone elsewhere speculated that Tor’s quick and loud apology was from fear of lawsuit.

    • notes says:

      Well one traditional legal answer to this problem was to impose the penalty for the charge on those who made false accusations. (Granted, you asked for a cultural answer, but the theory stands).

      This implies that all we need now is a twitterstorm centered on that band member.

      Surely this symmetric and just action will make for a better world!

      More practically, I think the only way that comes to pass is if – instead of getting patted on the back – people receive negative reactions for making that accusation. And that seems unlikely to come to pass while either racism exists or is useful as a shibboleth. Remove both of those conditions, and I’m quite optimistic!

      • onyomi says:

        Well I certainly think that there *should* be legal consequences for false accusations of rape, because being found guilty of rape gets you sent to prison.

        Being accused of racism or sexism cannot result in a prison sentence, though I’m sure some people are working on that.

        • notes says:

          Concur that there should be legal consequences for willfully false allegations… but that’s hard to prove, and very few are interested in doing so of late.

          Quite the reverse.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            In US law, I believe the burden of proof is on the accuser. If zie cannot prove zis charge is true, zie is liable for damages.

            I doubt that this case would get much in damages, but it would be a considerable nuisance to Tor, thus a heads-up for others. Which does sound symmetrical, but Gallo is not an obscure, random target; she struck a hard blow, which started the encounter.

          • Held in Escrow says:

            The issue with serious consequences if that you’re chilling people who feel guilty and recant. Which is a greater effect remains to be seen.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            In how many cases has a recant actually stopped the firestorm, or given much help to the victim? It did not in Jonathan Ross’s case, according to notes-the-commenter.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            In the US, the burden of proof is always on the “accuser,” i.e. the plaintiff or the State, in legal situations. (The fact that this is arguably not true in some private investigation systems is one of the major reasons people object to them so strongly.)

            However, except under very limited circumstances (e.g. what are called “anti-SLAPP” statutes) plaintiffs rarely have to pay defendants if they lose the case (fail to meet their burden.) We do not have a “loser pays” system. In the case of criminal law, if the accused cannot afford an attorney, the State will provide one for free, but it’s worth about what most free stuff is. If you pay a defense attorney and the State loses its case, it is not required to compensate you.

        • Matt M says:

          Can’t speak for other countries, but in America it IS in fact illegal to knowingly falsely accuse someone of a crime. Falls under a combination of perjury and obstruction of justice criminally, and could potentially meet defamation or slander in a civil case.

          Of course, given the political climate around “sexual assault” police are VERY reluctant to prosecute false accusers, for obvious reasons. It only actually happens in the most egregious, obvious, and outrageous cases. The punishment for “false accusations” is also significantly less than the punishment for sexual assault is, so if someone is REALLY out to get you, it’s not that huge of a deterrent.

          Then you also have to consider that many of the high profile recent cases of false rape accusations never involved the criminal justice system at all. They all were adjudicated through the bizarre extra-judicial tribunal councils that various universities have set up because some bizarre reading of Title IX makes them think they have to.

          The cynic might suggest that this is the exact answer to the “why didn’t they go to the police?” question that pops up so often in these stories. Because they know that the police have to do a legitimate investigation, and that they get really pissed off if they find out you were making things up and wasting their time. As far as I know, the university justice systems do NOT punish false accusers whatsoever, but I could be wrong on this.

    • E. Harding says:

      As Eliezer of Less Wrong said, “arguments are soldiers”. Friendly fire isn’t a mark of friendship.

  11. TheNybbler says:

    Current events, oh so relevant at showing the fearful ASYMMETRY

    Context is one developer an an OSS project tweeted about transgender people denying reality. Twitter hate mob arrives on project demanding his dismissal. Response is “no”. Money quote: “We’re doing what must done for this to happen: making it socially unacceptable to have an opinion that discriminates people.”

    • Adam says:

      311 comments in 3 hours. Jesus.

      • Nornagest says:

        Holy shit, I know some of those people.

        And now I kind of wish I didn’t.

        • Adam says:

          Look at this twitter thread, where the dude’s trying to say he’s sorry and asking what he can do to help. Do they even realize or is everything just insta-boycott?

          • Unique Identifier says:

            These outrage carnivals have (at least) two effects; directly disincentivizing badspeak and establishing that -they- are watching.

            When you assume that the first is the primary goal and the second a side-effect, things don’t quite add up. Targets seem too haphazard, punishment seems too disproportional.

            If you switch things around and consider ‘bite your tongue’ to be the primary message, and the exact targets mostly inconsequential, it all makes perfect sense.

            In fact, the more trivial the offense, the less just the process and the more disproportionate the reaction – the stronger the message.

  12. Unshorn Fetlocks says:

    Like a lot non-feminists, I was freaked out by the recent story about a man who was raped while unconscious being declared the rapist and expelled from college without getting to tell his side of the story.

    I freaked out about this for a somewhat different reason, it gave me strong echoes of high school in the early 80’s, where I was being repeatedly sexually assaulted by a group of girls. Eventually during one incident I had a full blown panic attack. (I have had a severe anxiety/panic disorder since I was 11, though it wasn’t diagnosed until much later.) As I fled, I knocked one girl over, which got me dragged in for attacking a girl, threatened with being reported to the police as a sex criminal, and finally forced to make an apology in front of the class. That I had been pinned against the wall and yanked on as though I was a broken lawnmower was irrelevant, men can’t be raped, therefore I was the attacker and had to be punished.

    Yes, I grew up in a place that was probably rather backwards in sexual and racial politics even for it’s time, I’ve spent my whole life trying to get further away from that environment. The Fearful Symmetry I see is that suddenly it’s in front of me again. Social Justice pattern matches all too well to the things I’ve been running from for 40 years. Men are always the sexual aggressors, well, I’ve just covered that one. Women need safe spaces, yes, they were called ‘kitchens’, and the fact that women needed them was proof that they shouldn’t be allowed out of them. White men are responsible for everything, well, that’s why white men need to be in charge, so they can discharge that responsibility properly.

    What I have finally been convinced of is that there is no place for my kind in this Brave New World of social justice, just as I didn’t fit in the conservative trying-to-be-50’s environment I grew up in. Somehow I need to keep going for a few more years, until my daughters can fend for themselves, then I can rest. Until then, I will follow blogs like this one, and watch for some reason.

    • Ever An Anon says:

      I’m really sorry to hear about what you went through, and I wish there was a way to properly express my sympathies through text. In lieu of that, I hope your life since then has been a happier one and wish you greater happiness in the future.

      Anyway, I know how appealing it can be to want to “rest” and it would be a lie to say that I never feel that way myself. But even in our highly politicized society it is still possible to find sources of meaning and good places for oneself relatively insulated from political concerns. Please reconsider whether rest is really what you want, because it’s not a choice that can be unmade.

      • Unshorn Fetlocks says:

        Thank you for your concern, I should apologise for having posted. My post here seems to have been an early stage of something of a breakdown I had over the weekend.

        Unfortunately, escaping political concerns is not an available option in the foreseeable future, my wife, eldest daughter, and numerous friends are all hellbent on forcing me to conform to their current social justice agenda.

        I did manage almost 20 years of a relatively happy life, with only scattered outbreaks of my mental issues taking over, so I will accept what I had.

  13. Rachael says:

    I was thinking about the symmetry between Irene Gallo and Tim Hunt. Everyone I’ve seen (including my own lizard brain) supports precisely one of them and condemns the other.

    But trying to think about it objectively, the situations are pretty similar. They made an inaccurate sweeping generalisation about a group, in a way that’s not directly relevant to their job, but which slandered a lot of people they work with/for. They should probably either both be fired, or both be let alone to express their private opinions.

    • Peter says:

      I think one difference between cases is the difference in outcome: as far as I know, Gallo wasn’t fired or forced to resign, and the public statement from Tor didn’t so much complain about about what Gallo said, but that she said it in a way that implicated Tor.

      • Peter says:

        Oh, it seems that the RPs are (now?) trying to get Gallo fired. That, I think goes far beyond a fair and proportionate response. The internet hate machine should not take scalps like that, not for one side, not for the other.

    • Cauê says:

      but which slandered a lot of people they work with/for.

      “Slander” only applies to what one of them did, though.

      And this symmetry only holds if intention doesn’t count for anything.

  14. JBeshir says:

    Late, but while I think the symmetry of the fear and lashing out is similar, I think that there are important differences between some of the cases talked about here.

    I think of myself as part of the political mainstream relative to a lot of people around these parts of the Internet, the quiet majority whose approval picks the winner, aren’t hugely concerned about society going anywhere worse than where it is now, don’t tend to politically campaign, and there is one norm I take fairly seriously: If you’re throwing slurs at, denigrating, trying to lower the status of people who aren’t involved in the political conflict, members of a minority or similar, then you’re a bad person; you’re a culture soldier attacking innocent civilians.

    If other people start doing those things to you in response, those other people are merely soldiers attacking soldiers who attacked civilians, which can potentially end messily but is generally a good thing to exist for incentive reasons.

    Thus, I think the pizza parlour is in the wrong; they threatened a political status move against innocent people and got retaliation as a result. Whereas I think the people calling for the conference to boycott Moldbug were only executing a strike against another culture warrior who strikes against them, both sides picking their means mostly based on what they deem most effective, which is pretty neutral all around.

    I think whether the targets are participants in the culture war or not is pretty critical when evaluating whether people are violating norms or merely engaging in tit for tat.

    • Cauê says:

      Thus, I think the pizza parlour is in the wrong; they threatened a political status move against innocent people and got retaliation as a result.

      Does it matter to you that they intended nothing of the sort? This is your framing, completely different from theirs.

      • JBeshir says:

        I buy that they didn’t consciously intend it as such, but I’m fairly sure the reason it feels intuitively sensible in their position to say “we won’t cater gay weddings because they’re immoral” as opposed to “we won’t cater weddings for members of other denominations because they’re immoral” is because the former’s thought of as a politically acceptable status move against a cultural enemy and the latter isn’t politically acceptable and would be a move against a present cultural ally.

        I think you need to consider people who are just acting on what feels intuitive as “intending” what those intuitions are based upon.

        I think it would be good if these kind of not particularly thought through things didn’t draw as unrestrained a response, though.

        I can see *reasons* why the responses are so unconstrained, given how they’re responded to in turn, but the side in question has enough leeway that they could get away with a more gradual response and should.

        • Cauê says:

          Did anyone ask them if they’d cater weddings from other denominations? We live in a world where parents do sometimes refuse to go to their own children’s weddings for exactly this reason (also worth noting that this doesn’t mean they stopped loving their children…). But that’s not a hot political topic.

          • Matt M says:

            Haven’t checked the source recently, but if I recall correctly, they asked if they would serve a divorced person or a second marriage or something like that and they said yes, they would.

            Or maybe I’m confusing them with another case, but I remember a bunch of my lefty friends spreading a “look at this evil small business, they hate homosexuality but they’ll serve divorced people just fine!” meme…

    • Adam says:

      That’s kind of an interesting perspective I hadn’t thought of. Voluntary culture warriors are fair game.

      That’s very unfair to the pizza place, though. Go watch the interview. It’s their teenage-looking daughter working the cash register that some reporter trolled into stuttering her way through saying sure, if someone wanted us to cater a gay wedding, we wouldn’t. I’m almost completely certain the chances of a gay couple ever going to Memories Pizza to ask to have their wedding catered were indistinguishable from zero. Hours later they’re getting Yelp-mobbed and receiving death threats and every liberal activist type I knew on Facebook was just overjoyed. That was a seriously low point, man. It’s damn close to finding the absolute weakest target possible to pick on just to score points.

      • JBeshir says:

        I guess “fair game” is accurate and the connotations reasonable. I tend to view it as a bunch of warriors fighting other warriors- it’s sad that’s it’s going on and it’d be good for whoever is going to win to win as soon as possible and the conflict to end, but none involved are morally blameworthy for merely fighting, only for the causes they choose to fight for.

        I think the entrapment aspect to this case was bad. I get the idea of going after people who are inclined to kind of opportunistically wage a culture war and bide quietly in the absence of an opportunity, since it’s seeming like the cultural conflict in general is going that way in the absence of any kind of surrender. But I think they still shouldn’t do it.

        I think they still shouldn’t go around asking people unprompted, and would have no problems with a negative reaction to the TV place on the grounds that they shouldn’t be going around trying to get people (especially teenagers) to admit to bad things, but that doesn’t make the pizza place in the right for having that intent either.

        • Ever An Anon says:

          To continue the war metaphor, if a bunch of soldiers come into town and demand to be fed and quartered at my expense then does resisting them make me an enemy soldier and thus fair game?

          If someone is minding their own business (literally in this case) and someone else comes in demanding their support or else, only one of them is plausibly a culture warrior. “Bring me Earth and Water” is not an innocent request but a demand for submission, and retaliating against polite refusal is naked aggression.

          • JBeshir says:

            Refusing to trade with one person in the same manner you trade with someone else is both allowed (where not disallowed by law) and a pretty straightforward and obvious move against that person, and it’s unreasonable to say that they don’t get to respond by refusing to trade when you want to.

            Denigrating a person is also both allowed and a pretty obvious move against that person, and it’s unreasonable to say that you get to do it to them without them doing it to you.

            And because you don’t get to set the bounds of every conflict to be those which most benefit you, people get to respond to one of those legal acts with the other. And if there’s more of those people than there are of you, that will probably suck for you.

            Doing any of that *can* be moral enough if people are doing it to you first and you’re not going to complain they’re breaking the rules when they respond in kind.

            But it’s not moral to do it against innocent people, and treating gay people as collectively responsible for the existence of your enemies is no more moral than treating white men as collectively responsible for the existence of your enemies. You can’t treat them all as soldiers just because they’re the base soldiers are recruited from.

          • Cauê says:

            Refusing to trade with one person in the same manner you trade with someone else

            Not “person”, “ceremony”.

            The mirror image wouldn’t be, say, having a “no Christians” sign on the door. It would be saying “no, I wouldn’t cater at a pro-life fundraiser event”.

          • Matt M says:

            Given that the purchaser of a product has full rights to refuse to trade with any seller for any reason whatsoever, why should it ever be “disallowed by law” for a seller to do likewise?

            In plainer words – why is it that I have the right to refuse to buy a pizza from someone because I don’t like their religious choices, but the pizza parlor does NOT have the right to refuse to sell me a pizza if they don’t like mine.

          • JBeshir says:

            @Caue: A closer equivalent would be refusing to provide food to a wedding between divorced people, or refusing to provide food to a wedding between two immigrants you don’t think should have been allowed into the country, or an atheist refusing to provide food for a religious wedding. And none of those things would be okay either. I can’t agree with the premise that a wedding constitutes a political campaigning event merely because of the people involved in it.

            @MattM: I don’t think refusing to buy from someone because they’re a member of a group is any more moral than refusing to sell to someone, and I think refusing to buy or to sell are just as reasonable reactions to someone who has engaged in culture warring against you, yours, or people you sympathise with.

            My core objection is to considering people who are getting gay married to have done that simply because they are doing so.

          • onyomi says:

            All our laws are biased against employers and sellers in favor of employees and customers. This is because there are more employees than employers, and everyone is a buyer, but not everyone is a seller.

            And we wonder why there are so few good jobs.

          • Cauê says:

            I was going less for “political” and more for “against your morality”.

            As an atheist, it wouldn’t be emotionally bad or morally worrisome for me to serve a wedding, gay or otherwise, so that doesn’t work. Any analogy must take into consideration that this would be forcing someone into doing something they think is morally wrong (and maybe icky as well).

          • Ever An Anon says:


            So according to that logic, if I ask a Hindu restaurateur to cater my bullfight and he naturally refuses to do so, then he is a culture warrior and it would be proportionate and reasonable for me to organize a ruinous boycott on that basis?

            Or better yet, what about a skinhead who goes to a black barbershop every time he needs a fresh pre-rally shave. Not a very smart move but then again skinheads aren’t notoriously smart guys. Can he retaliate against the barber in good conscience if he says no?

            The problem that I’m underlining is that coercing people into participating in events that they find objectionable is in-and-of-itself an act of aggression.

            If you think your cause is righteous enough to justify random acts of aggression, well that’s on you. But saying that your targets are the ones who started the fight is insane.

          • JBeshir says:

            @Ever An Anon: Yes, I think it would be unreasonable to tell skinheads or neo-nazis or whatever that they weren’t allowed to respond to being boycotted with a boycott of their own. They’re doing a bunch of morally wrong things but simply “fighting back” isn’t in and of itself one of them.

            I certainly wouldn’t accept anyone telling me “this person has refused to serve a friend of yours but you still have to do business with them” so I can’t reasonably expect them to accept it either.

            On the Hindi case, they definitely are trying to influence the world in the direction of their cultural values, and they definitely are refusing to serve you in the process of doing so. I’m not sure if “a guy who happens to be organising a bullfight” is as clearly invalid a class to refuse as “a guy who happens to be getting married to another guy rather than a girl”, and possibly norms against using gender as a determining factor in the morality of actions come into that.

            But I am pretty sure that you and anyone who agrees with you are permitted to decide not to do business with anyone who decides to not do business with you.

            A trickier question is whether I’d have a problem with them being called horrible people for it. I think perhaps people are entitled to set out the case for why they think it was immoral but perhaps it would be good if there was a norm against harsh personal attacks against people who at least semi-credibly wouldn’t be engaging in personal attacks if the tables were turned, including the non-hypothetical pizza place.

            I don’t think that’s as critical or easy to enforce a norm as “political people, no screwing over random people to make a point”, though.

          • Matt M says:

            “Or better yet, what about a skinhead who goes to a black barbershop every time he needs a fresh pre-rally shave. ”

            How is this any different than a gay couple going to a small christian bakery and demanding a wedding cake?

            I mean, other than the fact that most Christians are totally harmless and non-violent. My guess is you don’t see a lot of gay couples going to bakeries owned by fundamentalist muslims and demanding such things, but I’m just speculating here…

          • JBeshir says:

            Because the skinhead is culture warring against you, calling for you to be at the least inconvenienced, so you’re allowed to defect against them as a tit for tat, but gay people getting married aren’t in the general case, so you aren’t allowed to defect against them in the general case.

          • Matt M says:

            Except we aren’t talking about merely “gay people getting married.” The pizza parlor is not off on some giant crusade to prevent gay weddings from ever happening.

            We are talking about the subset of “gay people getting married and demanding Christians cater their ceremony, when multiple non-Christian options who would happily cater the ceremony are readily available” which I would suggest absolutely is an act of culture warring.

          • JBeshir says:

            No, that’s not true. They did not say “We will refuse to cater a gay marriage iff the couple in question has spoken against religious freedom” or similar, they said they would refuse to cater a gay marriage, which means the relevant category is “anyone getting gay married”. Any other category would have to be implied by that.

            Setting aside that the people that they’d refuse would thus also include anyone who would simply sadly go somewhere else instead, to engage the stronger question of whether it would be okay to refuse someone if it *was* known that refusing them would result in them starting a boycott…

            People don’t get to have their legal use of refusal of service and speech against a party be justified self-defence, and the legal use of refusal of service and speech by said party and their supporters back afterwards be an offensive act, just because they had a fairly good guess that the otherwise innocent party would respond with tit for tat.

            It’s not okay to deem people as having been aggressive towards you just because they’re the sort of people who would defend themselves if attacked.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            You know, there’s a very simple solution to all this that nobody seems to have discovered.

            If you don’t want to serve $GROUP, simply make it embarrassing for them to hire you.

            For our hypothetical atheist caterer who doesn’t want to cater to religious activities, simply have all your catering equipment, worker aprons, etc, tastefully labeled with things like “THERE IS NO GOD, STUPID.”

            Then say to anyone who asks that you will cheerfully serve all comers, so long as they are not so unspeakably rude as to demand that your freedom of speech be restricted.

      • JBeshir says:

        Also, should go without saying, but for clarity, I also think death threats and similar things are just not okay from anyone for any reason. That’s a law, which includes things going on between the culture warriors, that we can reasonably expect everyone to stick to.

    • Jaskologist says:

      That pizza place was only a culture war combatant in the same way that every military-age male that gets exploded by a drone is a combatant. We may have defined it that way to soothe our consciences, but in reality, the decision to lob a missile in a given direction doesn’t mean the people on the receiving end weren’t actually civilians.

      • JBeshir says:

        I feel I’m getting a bit far into the metaphor here and need to emphasise that a culture war is a thing on an entirely different level to actual violent conflict, but I think it’s more analogous to asking someone if they’d kill an American (not essentially a soldier) if they saw them, and responding to a “Yes” by deeming them a combatant.

        They haven’t actually *done* anything yet, but they’ve said that they would if given the chance.

        There’s significant issues with going out *looking* for people and asking them questions like that as a practice, but I think in the individual case it’s a fair judgement.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Expanding the category of “soldier” to cover the pizza place effectively obliterates the category of civilian. Once you have inquisitors going out and asking everybody where they stand on the issue, and are designating anybody who answers wrong as a “soldier,” then “soldier” becomes equivalent to “thinks the wrong thing.” This is what happened to the pizza place.

          In that case, the only work “civilian” is doing is protecting your own people, as long as nobody on the other side is similarly canvassing.

          • JBeshir says:

            No, just because thinking one wrong thing (“I should engage in war if I get the chance”) makes you a combatant doesn’t mean thinking *any* wrong thing does.

            It *is* possible to think “I don’t agree with you, but I’m going to accept that we disagree and participate in civil society and follow norms of providing services to people I disagree with in that regard.”, and that’s what should be expected of a person in a modern society.

            Not for them to go “I don’t agree with you, and I’ve lost the public debate over cultural norms, but if I get the chance I’m still going to try to enforce my cultural norms on people just to make a political point to them, their feelings be damned.”

            No one should go after people for what they think, but if you’re waging a guerilla culture war, other culture warriors are not morally bad for fighting you, and iff you’re harming random people in the process of doing so you’re bad for doing it.

    • Deiseach says:

      Thus, I think the pizza parlour is in the wrong; they threatened a political status move against innocent people and got retaliation as a result.

      Can we at least get this correct, before commenting one way or the other?

      Sequence of events:

      (1) Indiana considers conscience protection/religious exemption/encoding discrimination and homophobia into law law (choose as you see fit and suits your narrative)
      (2) Local TV station sends reporter out to small towns for reaction
      (3) Reporter, doing her trawl of small businesses and locals for reaction, walks into pizza parlour, asks her question “Do you agree with the law?”
      (4) Young adult daughter of owner, who is behind the till, thinks law is okay, agrees with right of people to refuse custom based on conscience, cites as hypothetical example “If we were asked to cater a wedding…”
      (5) What daughter does NOT say: “We don’t or won’t serve gays here. If a gay or lesbian walked in here to buy a pizza, we’d kick them right out”.
      (6) For whatever reason, possibly because most of the small town reaction is against the law but we don’t know, the local station led report with the pizza parlour. Anchor introduces it with “I’m here in welcoming South Bend, but it’s different elsewhere” (presumably, but again we don’t know, meaning that South Bend is LGBT friendly and inclusive but the small towns are hotbeds of homophobia – which, given that they went with the pizza parlour as the only one expressing support for the law, probably ain’t the case, but again we don’t know)
      (7) Instant storm of reaction, with everyone and their granny taking it the way you did: Homophobic pizza parlour declares they refuse to serve gays! (Again, NOT what they said; anybody can walk in off the street and buy a pizza no bother, rather they were supporting the law on conscience protection grounds for certain exceptions).

      Now, you can say if they sell pizza, they have to sell to anyone for any event they want catered. Or you can say that every business has the right to refuse service.

      But at least can we get it clear they did NOT say “We refuse to serve all LGBT people because we don’t want them eating our pizza beside good, normal, ordinary citizens”?

      • JBeshir says:


        I’m glad that we’ve moved on from “I’m not doing any harm to anyone, I just don’t want to serve gay people, and anyone forcing me to do so is the real norm violator” to “I’m not doing any harm to anyone, I just don’t want to serve gay people who are getting married, and anyone forcing me to do so is the real norm violator”, but fundamentally “gay people getting married” are not people who are hurting you and you shouldn’t be making their lives worse to make political moves.

        • DrBeat says:

          If “not serving pizza at their hypothetical wedding” counts as “making their lives worse” to a degree it justifies a public feeding frenzy against them, you’ve just created an insane amount of obligations that can be exploited at-will by anyone who just wants to hurt another person and get away with it.

          • JBeshir says:

            The huge feeding frenzy was over the top, but that doesn’t put them in the right to say they’d refuse service.

            I don’t think the obligations I describe are different from those which have existed for a long time. It isn’t like refusing to serve an interracial marriage would have been thought okay by a majority any time recently, the recent change is that people have noticed that refusing to serve a gay people is equivalently inconveniencing random people to make a point.

          • DrBeat says:

            Is there something you would be willing to do for a person?

            Great! I demand you do it for me, and if you don’t, I will have your livelihood and your interpersonal relationships annihilated. If you do it, I will just demand it again, and again, and again, and again, until eventually you do not meet my demand satisfactorily and I get to turn the dogs on you. Because this entire thing is just an excuse to allow me to hurt people.

          • Cauê says:

            inconveniencing random people to make a point.

            You insist on this “to make a point”, but it looks like an Ideological Turing Test failure. Some religious people take religion seriously, believe it or not.

          • JBeshir says:

            @Caue: I believe they are taking their religion seriously, and believe that they believe that their religion requires them to make a political move affecting people who’ve done nothing other than be gay people getting married.

            I just think that this doesn’t make that morally correct to do. There are times people need to choose between violating their religion and doing something morally wrong, and this is one of them. Like a lot of other people doing morally wrong things they probably don’t think they are, though.

        • Eternal Apparatchik says:

          “fundamentally “gay people getting married” are not people who are hurting you ”

          I know it is an obviously insane thing to do, but please entertain this thought for a while: not everyone shares your moral views. Not everyone thinks that their ethical sorting algorithm should be based solely on whether such and such action is directly harmful to their moral subject.

          Are we arrived on the same page?

          Regardless, even holding harm as the input of every moral function, society is a pretty complex system, and some would argue still (I know, these people are nuts, but they can’t help it) that fiddling with certain social norms will destabilise society in ways that will prove harmful to some of its members down the line.

          So, they could make the argument that (and please, suspend your disbelief on this, it’s just a silly thought experiment) although the lovely Mr. John and Mr. Robert’s marriage would not be harming them, the event would be part of a process that would end up hurting, say, their grandchildren. I know – outlandish, right?

          Not at all.

          I really do think that I will have to spell it out to you: you don’t seem to be properly discerning the source and terms of the conflict. Not even starting to, in fact. Every single one of your posts is an example of communication failure.

    • Unique Identifier says:

      Moldbug’s participation in a ‘culture war’ is discussing and pontificating on a blog. I’m not sure if it’s merely voicing political opinions that qualifies someone as a combatant in your view, or if these ideas also have to outside of the mainstream, but it doesn’t seem like much of a standard for promoting the free exchange of ideas.

      • JBeshir says:

        I think not being politically active or involved in the situation calls for a pretty solid norm that people shouldn’t be targeted in a culture war, and that Moldbug doesn’t really qualify for that but random gay people getting married along with white men in general, rich people, poor people, etc, do.

        I could see some kind of norm like that for the minimally politically active, especially those discussing ideas dryly and without campaigning, and I would definitely like norms about proportionality and decency within the politically active, too, but anything even remotely resembling a norm amongst the politically active people has someone start jumping out from behind it, cause trouble, then retreat behind it and go “you can’t touch me”, which naturally ends with the norm getting smashed to little pieces with lots of shouting, so in all honesty I don’t have much hope for norms that’d protect exchange of politically sensitive ideas until things quieten down and that stops happening.

        In the meantime I think this certainly shouldn’t be spilling over to other people.

        • Alraune says:

          JBeshir, you have literally just attempted to define public ceremonies as not being speech. That’s not just wrong, it’s beyond parody.

          Any definition of culture warrior as a “deprotected” category that picks up Moldbug also includes every gay person to ever post photos of their wedding to Facebook.

          • JBeshir says:

            I haven’t defined it as not being speech, I’ve defined it as not being a political move. Not all speech is motivated by desire to create a political effect or message, not everyone is a culture warrior, and I don’t think posting wedding photos qualifies in the absence of a particular context that gave it a meaning as a “coded” message or similar.

            I’m not nominating it as a “deprotected” category; they get the same legal protections as anyone else.

            I’m saying that beyond legal protections, legal actions harming people who definitely are not even part of the conflict are clearly, straightforwardly, and categorically bad, as compared to legal, non-deceptive moves against people who make political moves themselves, which probably require dropping to the object level to judge and where it is far more reasonable for people to differ in the absence of any clearly agreed on norms.

          • Cauê says:

            If your definition of political move is insensitive enough to intent that it applies to people who passively avoid being part of something they consider morally wrong, then I don’t see how you get to say that posting these wedding photos isn’t a political move if somebody else happens to read it that way.

          • JBeshir says:

            I do not have a non-intuitive way to say what is and isn’t a political move, one of those “I know it when I see it” things, but refusal of service based on group membership seems like it’d almost always be an example and posting pictures in the course of going about life without thinking about what other people should and shouldn’t be doing seems like it’d almost always not be.

            It is surprising to me that it’s a point of difference, and I wonder what I can learn from that.

          • Alraune says:

            What you can learn from it is that you picked your winners and worked backwards, as nearly everyone does.

          • JBeshir says:

            I don’t think it’s entirely that; my position is fairly nuanced in a way that doesn’t fit with it being simply about being convenient for one side.

            I’m pretty consistent on these principles; I agree with the posts here that a lot of the coded attacks like “white dudes”, going after people because of jokes made in personal conversations, the whole thing about deliberately making people feel threatened, are clearly wrong and not at all murky, because the means by which they’re being targeted means that they clearly aren’t being based on anything the target did politically.

            And I think most people would regard those acts as “a different sort of thing” than, say, speech and refusal of services aimed at a blogger who wrote posts about how there should be anti-discrimination-laws, even if they disagreed strongly with both. The former is attacking the innocent, the latter is “attacking one of ours” or “attacking one of theirs”.

            I like the increased noise about those acts. I think there might be an awareness problem involved; I don’t know how typical I am, but I mostly hear about them through SSC, and when I’ve mentioned, say, Scott Aaronson’s problems to a friend involved in a university LGBT support/advocacy organisation in the US they hadn’t heard of them before either.

            I’d *like* there to be more norms to how political people treat other political people. I’ll agree that there’s not absolutely none, bringing up Aaronson reminded me of one- people who are describing their own suffering as a result of problems should be treated sympathetically even if you disagree with their proposed solutions and them doing said description has a negative impact on your game of ethnic tension. The response he got was awful, and calling out the people who did it as having violated standards of behaviour was entirely correct.

            But mostly when norms are discussed I see a lot of people proposing norms that are clearly primarily intended to improve their chances of winning, then being told off for acting in bad faith, and everyone walking away more pissed off at each other. I’m pessimistic about that changing until people think norms are more important than winning.

            I’d *like* a government intervention in the form of a law against firing people for their political views, affecting both sides, because even with crappy enforcement it’d lower the upper bound on escalation. I don’t see that as likely to happen either, though.

            I think probably my main bias is that I view the people who are engaged in this “fearful symmetry” behaviour as a separate group from the regular population, kind of suspect they have a bubble thing going where their friends on the same side are equally terrified and the people on the other side they deal with are also the most terrified of that side, and so am more bothered when things going on inside that group spill out of it than about things going on internal to it.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      The objection to catering for gay weddings wasn’t “This supports our enemies in the culture war, must crush!” but “It is literally impossible for two men to get married, and if I act like it isn’t — say, by facilitating an event where two men intend to ‘marry’ each other — I’ll be helping to propagate a falsehood. Therefore, I’m not going to facilitate such events.” Surely you can see the difference between these two positions?

      • JBeshir says:

        The difference isn’t material when the reason they’re so concerned about propagating a falsehood on this and exactly this, as opposed to propagating a falsehood about divorcees, or as opposed to propagating a falsehood that gluttony isn’t a sin, or whatever, is because it’s a political move right now.

        I do not think this is something they are consciously aware of. Most people who do political actions go “social intuitions determine good political moves for them and theirs” -> “social intuitions highlight these things as *really important* to the conscious mind” -> “complex conscious rationalisation process occurs” ->”people do them” rather than consciously engaging in politics.

        This kind of indirection doesn’t exempt you from norms the way “I completely coincidentally and for reasons entirely unrelated to politics said something that was a political move” might, though.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Well nobody asked them whether they’d serve a wedding of divorced people, or whether they’d serve somebody who was (for example) eating so much that he was clearly making himself sick, or whatever. Presuming that they’re only concerned about one particular issue when that’s all they were asked about is unsound.

          Incidentally, if a fundamentalist government were somehow elected, and decided to make every businessperson sign a declaration saying that homosexuality is an abomination against the laws of God, would anybody who baulked at doing so suddenly become a “culture warrior”? Would the government be justified in forcing said people to quit their business?

          • JBeshir says:

            That’s a new question to me and I’ve only thought about it a little, so I might be missing something important, but I’d say the answer is yes; they’re trying to change society so that either that specific symbolic declaration or symbolic declarations in general aren’t demanded. The only reason it’s distinct in the mind from just being an another arbitrary form to sign is the cultural or political effects.

            There’s nothing wrong with campaigning for a better culture, it’s just that there’s a distinction between said people fighting with others who are trying to pull things in a different direction, and said people applying legal but atypical and unpleasant actions to innocent people as part of their fighting, and the former is an ugly mess that’s hard to judge and full of mostly tactical accusations and the latter is definitely not okay.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            In one episode of the WW2 crime drama series Foyle’s War, there’s a scene where a conscientious objector is up before the local magistrate asking to be excused from military service.

            “If,” says the magistrate, “you were in the middle of an air raid, and you found an abandoned baby lying in the middle of the street, would you pick it up and take it to safety?”

            “Of course,” replies the objector.

            “Aha!” says the magistrate. “But such an action could be construed as helping the war effort! You’re no real conscientious objector at all, you’re just a coward!”

            The above is a slightly long-winded way of saying that your attitude in this thread seems to be like that of the magistrate in the TV show. Like him, you’ve broadened the definition of fighting in the war so wide that it’s practically impossible for somebody to count as a civilian, short of retiring from civilisation and living as a hermit in the mountains. It’s clearly ridiculous to claim that someone rescuing an abandoned baby is supporting the war, but I don’t see how it’s any less ridiculous to claim that somebody passively declining to take part in a particular ceremony is some kind of guerrilla waiting for a chance to ambush innocent people.

  15. particular says:

    The Left has deteriorated into a pseudo-religion, with its own versions of many religious trappings. Tithing (taxation), seminaries (academia), parables (the various tropes of the Progressive Narrative) and guiltmongering (arguments from privilege) are just a few of the most prominent. I blame Separation of Church and State, because in Darwinian terms, ditching God is the natural adaptation of do-gooders and moralists barred from government by that doctrine. SJWs are merely the crusaders and inquisitors of that pseudo-religion.

    Which is not to say that racism, sexism, et cetera don’t exist. It’s to say that Christianity had a lot of good in its ideas, too, and its adherents did a lot of good. But the good of neither is any relevance or comfort to the witches being hunted.

    I voted Democratic in 2000, 2004 and 2008, but I wouldn’t have if I’d known this SJW drek would be the situation now, and I sure don’t plan to again until it’s fixed or its adherents made much less relevant by serious losses.

    • Nornagest says:

      Indeed, when you use a sufficiently loose definition of “religion”, you can call just about anything a religion.

    • Shenpen says:

      Non-merican here, but I have the impression the Dems are far to the right of SJWs. Also, what SJWs do seems to be largely unrelated to that kind of politics Dems/Reps do, like laws and stuff.

      However, one advantage of a Bush-type Rep president would be that liberals would again focus on hating him instead of each other. I mean this is what basically happened IMHO. Liberals felt empty after their favorite hate target left office, so they started to pick on each other hence SJWs were born.

      • Adam says:

        The extreme SJW-wing is a body unto itself. It’s definitely not the Democratic party. Go read one of their manifestos, if you can stand it. It’s barely coherent and the primary target they seem concern about is white feminists.

        There’s certainly a much larger group of people with vaguely PC sentiments willing to mindlessly signal boost social media outrage when all it costs them is a click, but those are not SJWs.

        • Deiseach says:

          That link only reinforces me in the decision that not joining up to Twitter was a good idea.

          What I can make out from it is that she and some other Tweeters (is that correct?) went on strike from producing the materials they produce (artwork? opinion pieces?), and to their bemusement, alarm and anger, instead of the world ceasing to turn, the Professional Grievance Industry went merrily on without them.

          That may sound dismissive of really oppressed people, but when the author is complaining that they (the Toxic Twitterers who withdrew their labour) missed out on lecture fees, flights, and opportunities for junkets, then I for one garner the impression it’s more about what goodies they can scoop up and less about education and representation of the masses.

          • Adam says:

            Best I can tell, she thinks that she and her friends came up with ideas that got ignored because they’re black, trans, poor, whatever, and as soon as some Wellesley white chick with a blog said exactly the same thing, she got invited on national speaking tours.

            Which may very well be true. It sounds plausible enough. Wherever you go in life, there are going to be power dynamics and the ugly, poor, socially awkward, whatever it is, get the shaft. The problematic part of it (and I hate that they ruined the term “problematic”) is their answer is to create a seething culture of rage that largely ends up directing bullying at other weak people. Like Crystal O’Connor is really some malevolent power broker.

          • Zorgon says:

            I can’t help but feel you’re right on the mark, Deiseach.

            Every other word seemed to be about some piece of financial or status-oriented recompense being denied the group the writer believes they represent. It’s a howled demand for what I believe the neoreactionaries call “spoils programs”.

            (… Oh, and also it definitely looked like a group of people who don’t understand how class works, because their bullshit theory framework doesn’t account for it, being overwhelmingly created by upper-middle-class academics. Want to understand why those super-accessible Wellesley chicks get the national speaking tours and you get to sit and scream on Twitter? It’s because you just aren’t the right kind of people – and race, disability and gender are very minor factors in that compared to class.)

          • Nornagest says:

            Tweeters (is that correct?)

            I’m tempted to suggest “twits”.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Democrat and Republican are both very large groups, containing multitudes. It is as much a mistake to equate Democrats with SJWs as it is to equate Republicans with libertarians, or even conservatives.

        However, each of those groups are important players within the larger parties, so it’s not wise to just ignore them either, and it is true that a victory for their respective party serves to empower them as well. The fear for the each side is always that their counterpart in the other party is running the show. How true this is is hard to gauge.

        • Adam says:

          As an example, I just saw a post from one of my Facebook friends about the decision to put a woman on the ten dollar. She’s preemptively angry that it will probably be a white woman. I can’t help but think if it was a black, she’d be mad if it was a straight black woman, then mad if cis, then mad if not wheelchair bound or not deaf. It’s hard for me to believe people like this even have a real agenda aside from find things to be mad about. “Agenda” seems to imply some end state you’d be satisfied with. Even Valerie Solanas had an end state. This is more like as long as there exists more than one person in the world, I’m going to work to reduce the power of the most powerful one left.

  16. Kevin says:

    I believe Yoda said something about this:
    “Fear is a path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate… leads to suffering.”

    Apparently that’s true in real life.

    (I hereby apologize for referencing the prequels.)

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  18. Houshalter says:

    Another example of your examples being bad, the jokes. If a friend joked that they wanted to kill all white men, I would know it was obviously over the top kind of humor. Depending on the context and the person of course. Same if someone made a joke about women in the kitchen, or a racist joke, or any kind of offensive humor.

    But in a different context, said by a different person, these become totally different. I have heard racist jokes from people who actually believed the stereotype behind them, and they just make me uncomfortable. The same about the extreme feminist who jokes about wanting to kill all white people.

    • SpicyCatholic says:

      Depending on the source, these jokes are good examples of motte-and-bailey.

      Safe in the keep on the motte, everything’s just a joke. Down in the bailey, “sandwich” ever so slightly reinforces a gender role, and “kill men” ever so slightly reinforces the idea that men are the enemies of women and need to be fought.

      I recall a minor scuffle last year (?) over shirts, mugs, and assorted tchotchkes bearing the phrase “I Drink Male Tears.” Jessica Valenti proudly sported one. Safe in the keep on the motte, feminists argued that this was an obvious joke that attempted to neutralize the stereotype of the man-hating feminist. Down in the bailey, men deserve some emotional discomfort because that means that the Patriarchy is being dismantled.

      • Nornagest says:

        “I Drink Male Tears.” […] an obvious joke that attempted to neutralize the stereotype of the man-hating feminist.

        A curious form of dismantlement.

    • Peter says:

      “It was just a joke” is classic bully behaviour. Indeed various people other than the butt of the “joke” may well find the “joke” hilarious under such conditions – getting those others to join in with you rather than supporting the butt of the “joke” is all part of the cruelty.

    • particular says:

      I don’t believe for a second that they’re joking. The fact that I used to go along with this sort of thinking is part of how we got to this point in the first place.

      Of course, I don’t think they quite realize the consequences of coming out quite so openly with their hatred.

  19. Seumas MacUisdean says:

    I think that there is not a symmetry though, or at best a shallow symmetry. Take GamerGate for example, this isn’t “Righties vs. Lefties,” This is a somewhat coalition of left leaning liberals and conservatives opposed specifically to the sort of SJW mentality.

    I’ll grant there is an equivalent right wing version of SJW’s but for the most part many in the Anti-SJ brigade are not exactly conservative.

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  21. brian h. says:

    Are there any examples of liberals getting the Brendan Eich treatment? I don’t doubt that it has happened, but I don’t know of any examples.

    • Dain says:

      The closest liberals come to this phenomenon is when they’re being chastised for strongly anti-Israel views. See Norman Finkelstein’s sitch with DePaul Univ.

    • BBA says:

      There was Steven Salaita getting “un-hired” for his anti-Israel tweets. Going a little further back, Ward Churchill is an ambiguous case – he was investigated after disparaging the 9/11 victims and eventually fired for actual misconduct, but it’s unlikely he would’ve been caught had he not said what he said.

      Note that all the examples we’re finding are from academia, and are radical leftists getting purged by mainstream liberals. Leftists tend not to get involved with right-wing institutions to begin with.

      • Eugene Dawn says:

        Aside from Salaita, there was also Helen Thomas, and Jim Clancy, who were media figures; Bill Maher had his ABC show cancelled after he claimed that the 9/11 terrorists were not cowards; there was the whole Dixie Chicks fiasco back in 2003 or whatever; Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan were pressured into leaving the John Edwards campaign by The Catholic League; at around the same time as the Eich episode, Christians unsponsored 10,000 children through WorldVision after WV adopted a policy of hiring married gays; one that might be a little bit more controversial here, but I think arguably still fits is Anita Sarkeesian.

        Not all of these are direct parallels with the pizza place or Eich, or Moldbug, but I think between them there’s enough similarities that they all deserve to be listed as sort-of-equivalent examples of boycotts and politically motivated firings, unhirings, and so on from the right/anti-SJW.

        It seems to me that most of these are over Israel, blasphemy (my impression is mainly against Catholicism, but not sure about that), or anti-war sentiment/patriotism issues.

        • Harald K says:


          That’s silly. It’s abortion that is the divisive issue, which is why you see Catholics involved in it so much.

          • Deiseach says:

            There are Catholics on both sides of the abortion issue; see Nancy Pelosi giving a theology lecture about Church teaching permitting abortion in times past.

            I don’t think The Catholic League is influential enough to get people fired so easily; I think Amanda managed to make herself a big enough liability that ditching her made sense (if she’d been worth it, do you really think John Edwards’ team wouldn’t have told Bill Donoghue to take a running jump?)

            That being said, I was delighted to hear Amanda got the push, because I don’t like her. So, consider me uncharitable when it comes to her!

      • Held In Escrow says:

        While I was originally on Salaita’s side of the mess (I thought the purpose of the tweets was not to be antisemetic but rather just hate for Israel as a nation), his recent tweets (the most telling of which has been deleted) pretty much put that to rest; the guy’s a full on “Jewish lizard people control the world” nutbag would have have Mel Gibson backing away in discomfort.

    • Hardworlder says:

      It seems to happen to Peter Singer all the time. Just happened recently in Germany.

      Invited to speak on Veganism, dis-invited for the usual reasons.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes, liberals get purged for being too right-wing all the time, but that’s not what Brian was asking for.

        And Singer is so weird, he’s not a good example of anything. Infanticide is not “the usual reasons.” Also, he was supposed to talk on a left-wing topic, so political purity is more relevant, though philosophers’ whole job is keep an open mind.

        • Hardworlder says:

          I meant the “usual reasons” for Singer.

          I don’t think he maps as too right-wing, as I’m sure any number of Catholics on this thread would be happy to confirm. But I do agree he’s harder to place.

          It is a perfectly analogous situation to Moldbug though, and I didn’t see 1/1000th of the reaction – pro or con.

  22. SpicyCatholic says:

    I was freaked out by the recent story about a man who was raped while unconscious being declared the rapist and expelled from college without getting to tell his side of the story. I have no evidence that this has ever happened more than just the one time mentioned in the article… but because I’ve had to deal with overly feminist colleges in other ways, my brain immediately raised it to Threat Level Red….

    The chance that I will be in this exact situation is zero; the chance that anyone I care about will be in a situation like this is vanishingly small. But I’m concerned about this and other low-probability events because I see my ideological opponents are advancing the ball down the field in my direction in a game that’s bigger than a miscarriage of justice at a college rape tribunal.

    The position you take on the Amherst rape case says important things about your understanding of the nature of sex, rape, due process, and gender equality. If elite colleges throw due process out the window in rape cases, that has no effect on me. But when I see people accepting or endorsing this, that concerns me. Those people can vote and sway others, and someone holding a belief that due process can be suspended in campus rape cases is not likely to stop there. Those views are bad on campus, but perhaps none of my concern if they stay there. If I see them metastasize into the broader culture, that’s something that I want to stop.

    So when something like this happens, I think it’s important to take a roll call vote: “Show of hands, who thinks suspending our normal due process conventions is okay when rape is alleged?” And those people need to be engaged to prevent them from spreading this poison further. That’s why it rings true when you write:

    And because they feel like every short-term battle is the last step on the slippery slope to their total marginalization, they engage in crisis-mode short-term thinking and are understandably willing to throw longer-term values like free speech, politeness, nonviolence, et cetera, under the bus.

    Except that for anyone with perspective, it’s not the last step. There are more to follow. I don’t begrudge the SJW’s their desire to fight me at every step, but I would like them to be aware that there are many, many steps to go, and this is not the end of the world.

    Of course, not being a consequentialist, I’m not tempted to “throw longer-term values” away in service of good ends.

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  24. J. Quinton says:

    Maybe true equality is when everyone feels oppressed.

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  26. Leo says:

    The song ‘Tearing Everyone Down’ by Anti-Flag is about this very topic, though it doesn’t have quite as much insight.

  27. Fred says:

    Have you considered spending less time on the internet and more time at church?

  28. P. George Stewart says:

    I think it’s a little bit simpler in some ways than you’re making out. The problem is when either the Left or Right lose sight of individualism and either analytically assume or rhetorically proclaim that individual behaviour is determined by (e.g.) class/gender (for the Left) or national/religious/cultural (for the Right) membership or affiliation. It works that way both positively and negatively (the membership leads to bad/good things).

    The Right’s been guilty of this in the past, certainly, but at the moment it’s the Left’s turn on the naughty step. The Left needs to engage in some serious self-examination at the moment, because ideologically it’s running on fumes. There’s too much automatism, too much prior assumption of the correctness of “our” socio-cultural-political analysis, which seems currently to be doing nothing more than giving some kind of imagined licence for the venting of hatred.

    When an important working scientist like Tom Hunt gets persecuted by a baying mob for some mildly off-colour remarks, it’s really time to call a halt and take stock.

    One would think.

    • Fairhaven says:

      Yes. The humiliation of Dr. Matt Taylor for wearing an objectional shirt while reporting on a historic scientific accomplishment is another example of what happens when the bullies are allowed to run wild.

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  30. Shenpen says:

    I’d like to ask a question to people who are supporting the SJW side of sci-fi battles.

    Let’s make a moderate left-wing model.

    If a resource is finite and fixed-sum, then all it matters is its distribution. And its distribution pattern will follow the distribution of power – in other words, fighting to redistribute it can be called just and fair, even if it takes authoritarian means, because fixed-sum resource means fixed-sum authoritarianism: either it goes to those who already have power or to goes to those who fight to get more power. If it is distributed as power is, then the sum of power invested into in distributing or redistributing is also constant. Left-wingers who think wealth is fixed-sum, can justify their support for the governmental redistribution of wealth this way.

    If a resource is the opposite, if its non-finite and not-zero-sum, if its available quantity depends purely on how much work and ingenuity humans input into it, then there are no good arguments for authoritarianism at all. Then we can really afford to be libertarians about it. Then it is alike to an endless frontier, with good quality farmland unused, waiting for homesteaders – all that it takes is labor and brains and there is no potential injustice at all.

    I think writing (and also software) is this second type. Therefore, people can really afford to be libertarian about them. Therefore, authoritarian methods are really unjustifiable.

    The point is, if you want, for example, sci-fi with non-binary gender, you don’t somehow need to take a fixed resource and wrench it from the hands of one group of people and give it to another. It is not like it being the farmland of England and then either the Saxons rule it or the Normans, so they must fight over it because they cannot just wave a magic wand so that another island pops up from the Atlantic, full with golden wheat fields and fattened cattle. But in literature is is such a magic wand! It is called writing. The space of potential writing is not fixed-sum. It is endless. All you need to do is to write it. Writing is like a form of agriculture with infinite amount of farmland so there is never a need to fight. All you need to do is to homestead that part of an endless frontier, ripe for taking. Nobody is holding it hostage. Nobody is occupying it. It is yours to take. Start early, and if there is a market for it, you can dominate that kind of market. You can be to non-binary gendered sci-fi or whatever else you want what Asimov was to robots or Gibson to cyberlimbs. If there isn’t much of a market for it, well, as a consolation prize, a small market niche can still be all yours. Sometimes it is not the worst outcome if you become a big fish in a small pond.

    Therefore, what the eff are you actually fighting over? Just take the parts of the endless frontier you like and homestead it!

    Hat tip to ESR for the inspiration for frontier homesteading metaphor (“homesteading the noosphere”).

    • Ever An Anon says:

      I agree with you, and like the metaphor you employ, but I think you’re missing a big chunk of the mindset here.

      The first is that the things being fought over are typically seen as zero sum, like who gets the Hugo or what percentage of market share goes to which authors. Now taking the long view obviously investing in growing the SF market and making new awards to recognize excellence are both more productive uses of time than trying to push others out. But it’s often human nature to be shortsighted and envious so the failure to do so shouldn’t be surprising.

      The second is that this is largely an ideological battle. If someone writes fiction with reactionary themes, then (given progressive assumptions) they are substantively working to halt human progress. If the genre was 90% SJ and 10% non-SJ then that is a problem for them the same way an apartment building where one in ten residents are career criminals would be.

      Finally there’s a sense that the current distribution is itself unjust, and that any future growth would compound that by going mainly to the “privileged” authors. From that point of view trying to increase the size of the pie is suspicious, since it draws attention away from correcting past injustices.

      Again, I agree with your argument. Just pointing out that it relies on assumptions that aren’t shared by the people it’s addressed to.

      • Deiseach says:

        If someone writes fiction with reactionary themes

        But what is “fiction with reactionary themes”? Some of the frothing makes it sound like the only alternative to what is on offer currently is “beat your wife and chain her up in the kitchen”, only IN SPACE!!!!

        Now, I don’t like Military SF, but just because I’m not interested in Big Pulsing Guns. Same reason I don’t read Tom Clancy-style thrillers. Neither have I read any Lois McMaster Bujold, though I understand that she is very popular. I have no idea of her politics or would she be considered right-wing, left-wing, or what. Does she write “reactionary fiction” because she writes MilSF?

        You see, my problem is this (and I’m not picking on you, Ever An Anon, you have summed up the question in a clear and useful manner): take That Bloody Dinosaur Story.


        For all that we are told, it’s set in our-time, not even near-future. The fact that the fiancé(e) is a palaeontologist? That does not, of itself, make it SF. The fact that xir fiancé(e) is standing or sitting there indulging in a sad little revenge fantasy, including a momentary wish that xe was a dinosaur like the ones xe studies does not make it fantasy either. Is the palaeontologist even involved in cloning dinosaurs, time-travelling back to the past to study dinosaurs, falling afoul of a dinosaur-worshipping cult, or got on the wrong side of post First Contact dinosaur aliens who thought xir work digging up fossils was the equivalent of grave-robbing and desecration? No? THEN WHAT MAKES IT SF/FANTASY?

        My objections to this story – apart from the fact that I think it’s a weak piece of work and not the literary masterpiece as some reviewers find it – are not based on “If this was only about a white cishet Christian Republican-voting couple being attacked by a black gang, and was written in the same way, I’d love it!” I don’t care about the gender identities, ethnic origins, sexual orientations, politics, religion, or what colour they paint their bathroom of the narrator and xir fiancé(e).

        I do care that a medium piece of mainstream litfic (with a drizzle of, at most, watered-down magic realism) was put up as one of the best examples in the field of modern SF/Fantasy. (As for Marisol and her genie, in that story recommended as the kind of really good modern SF/Fantasy writing on offer instead of the Sad/Rabid dreck, well. Bradbury did magic wish-granting bottles a heck of a lot better in much fewer words in “The Blue Bottle”).

        Imagine you go to a restaurant and order, say, sushi. The waiter brings out a plate of fried chicken and chips. When you say that’s not what you ordered, you’re lambasted as wanting to destroy the very art of cookery and of being some horrible anti-Japanese bigot who doesn’t recognise good sushi when it’s presented to them.

        I don’t know if Vox Day is all that is claimed of him. If he is indeed a neo-Nazi, I don’t particularly want to give Castalia Books my money. But if the only place in town where I can order a plate of lasagne and get a plate of lasagne is that dodgy joint where the whispers are the owner mistreats his staff, what do I do?

        Yes, it would be more virtuous of me not to eat there. But I am not going to take a bowl of water and declare that it is the best bowl of Irish stew I’ve ever eaten which is what the Hugo slates of recent years have given me.

        If the only people out there willing to write and publish the kinds of things some of us like are the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies, where else do we go? The current regime is driving a lot of people into the arms of Castalia House or other places that may be dodgy joints, but you get what it says on the menu.

        • Urstoff says:

          In addition, it seems like the sci-fi “establishment” is either quite incestuous or just very artistically conservative. In Dozois’s and Strahan’s best of anthologies, you see the same authors over and over again. Maybe it’s true that there are only 15 high-quality writers in the genre at any one time, but that seems doubtful to me. Perhaps the assurance that these 15 authors are going to get published no matter what leads them to writing non-genre work, which gets praised merely because they wrote it.

        • John Schilling says:

          Neither have I read any Lois McMaster Bujold, though I understand that she is very popular. I have no idea of her politics or would she be considered right-wing, left-wing, or what. Does she write “reactionary fiction” because she writes MilSF?

          No, because she doesn’t write MilSF. Well, maybe about three books’ worth, spread over half a dozen or so actual books, out of twenty-plus written. Most of her works are, shall we say, military-adjacent, but actual armed conflict is a means to an end and usually described from a distance. Her flagship series is the story of an intensely talented, charismatic, and motivated young man who really wants to be a war hero but due to some severe medical issues simply has no place on the field of battle and (mostly) knows it.

          But reactionary? That’s a more interesting question. I do not know Bujold’s personal politics; I suspect liberal-ish but skeptical of the extreme left. As a writer, I suspect she upholds the NRx position better than Mencious Moldbug ever has – in part because mortal human beings can actually finish reading Lois’s books. The aforementioned flagship series, is also the story of an enlightened, liberal woman who stumbles into the opportunity to reform a militaristic hereditary monarchy – and choses to make it into a better monarchy, which is then convincingly portrayed as a place where ordinary people can live decent lives in peace and (relative) prosperity without fear of oppression or injustice. The democracies we see, are enlightened liberal utopias with the sort of petty bureaucratic corruption and busybody-ness real democracies always have.

          Part of this is seeing things through the particular rose-colored glasses of the characters; Bujold is always faithful to her characters and I don’t think uses them as mouthpieces for her own political views. But the effect might well be described as “reactionary”.

          • notes says:

            Seconding the implied recommendation of Bujold.

            Weber’s signature move is a half-dozen pages on the technical specs of a new weapon; Bujold’s is people thinking about how they can (or should) deal with other people. The stories center on persuasion and outwitting (with action scenes when plans meet reality), and that’s how major conflicts get resolved.

            Her Vorkosigan series is very strong; her Chalion series (fantasy) likewise.

        • Ever An Anon says:

          Well I think the answer to both of your questions (what is fiction with reactionary themes? / what makes it SFF?) are roughly the same: whatever they say they are.

          I’m not trying to invoke Orwell (well maybe a little ) and say they’re trying to eliminate the idea of objective truth per se, but the whole postmodern idea of “socially constructed truth” that we occasionally have to deal with in biology originated in literary and activist circles. The ideas that categorization is inherently oppressive or that truth and logic are cishet white male concepts aren’t exactly foreign.

          A more charitable and less conspiratorial view though might be that reactionary themes are a spectrum from “flat female / minority supporting characters” to “was literally written by HP Lovecraft” and that SFF has been moving away from high-concept hard sf / space opera / epic fantasy towards character focused stories with token paranormal elements for a long time now. I’m not sure this is actually more correct than my first guess but it’s definitely more flattering.

          • Nornagest says:

            SFF has been moving away from high-concept hard sf / space opera / epic fantasy towards character focused stories with token paranormal elements for a long time now.

            I’m not sure I really buy that, at least as novel-length SF goes. Ancillary Justice was high-concept as fuck, and it’s probably the highest-profile recent SF novel with SJ themes that I can think of. (Decent book, too, if a little heavy-handed.) I haven’t read any of the Puppy nominees, so I can’t comment there.

            Maybe things are different in shorter fiction, I don’t know. What little I’ve seen of the nominees the Puppies got upset over looks less like an evolution of SF and more like straight-up magic realism, which has been a fixture of mainstream literary fiction with Important Social Themes for about forty years.

          • Deiseach says:

            I don’t mind purple prose, good style, and well worked-out characterisation. But if I get a trite little piece that is tripping over its own hipster irony, what makes it a SFF work rather than something from the “New Yorker” slushpile?

            I mean, even in these days, an Edgar award winner will have somebody bashed over the head or gutted like a herring, even if the next 358 pages are all about the moody maverick ex-cop and his troubled private life and grappling with the systemic corruption of the entrenched privilege of the rich who literally get away with murder.

            A crime story with no crime would be a startling novelty that might perhaps not catch on. But a SFF story with no SFF seems to be what we have all been panting to read, as the hart yearns for flowing waters? I wish someone would argue this for me and not on the grounds of SJ representation. Believe me, if I was cheering for RAT Korga and Marq to get together when I read Delany’s novel fifteen or more years ago, I am not going to get my knickers in a twist about “ZOMG! A Hugo-nominated story about a gay Chinese guy coming out to his traditionalist parents, but filigreed with the frame-story McGuffin of Magic Lie-Detector Water which gets feck-all explanation! Thank the Cosmic Spirit of Sagan I have lived to see this day come at long last!”

          • Deiseach says:

            Damn it, I don’t like David Lindsay’s version of Gnosticism, but C.S. Lewis, John C. Wright and myself all agree the man could write – and he had no problem going “beyond the gender binary” in 1920. Huge chunk of quotation from “A Voyage To Arcturus” coming up:

            Maskull pulled himself out of his trancelike meditations and, viewing the newcomer in greater detail, tried with his understanding to account for the marvellous things told him by his intuitions. Ae possessed broad shoulders and big bones, and was without female breasts, and so far ae resembled a man. But the bones were so flat and angular that aer flesh presented something of the character of a crystal, having plane surfaces in place of curves. The body looked as if it had not been ground down by the sea of ages into smooth and rounded regularity but had sprung together in angles and facets as the result of a single, sudden idea. The face too was broken and irregular. With his racial prejudices, Maskull found little beauty in it, yet beauty there was, though neither of a masculine nor of a feminine type, for it had the three essentials of beauty: character, intelligence, and repose. The skin was copper-coloured and strangely luminous, as if lighted from within. The face was beardless, but the hair of the head was as long as a woman’s, and, dressed in a single plait, fell down behind as far as the ankles. Ae possessed only two eyes. That part of the turban which went across the forehead protruded so far in front that it evidently concealed some organ.
            Maskull found it impossible to compute aer age. The frame appeared active, vigorous, and healthy, the skin was clear and glowing; the eyes were powerful and alert—ae might well be in early youth. Nevertheless, the longer Maskull gazed, the more an impression of unbelievable ancientness came upon him—aer real youth seemed as far away as the view observed through a reversed telescope.
            At last he addressed the stranger, though it was just as if he were conversing with a dream. “To what sex do you belong?” he asked.
            The voice in which the reply came was neither manly nor womanly, but was oddly suggestive of a mystical forest horn, heard from a great distance.
            “Nowadays there are men and women, but in the olden times the world was peopled by ‘phaens.’ I think I am the only survivor of all those beings who were then passing through Faceny’s mind.”
            “Who is now miscalled Shaping or Crystalman. The superficial names invented by a race of superficial creatures.”
            “What’s your own name?”

    • Peter says:

      I identify as anti-Puppy and… I don’t often use the term “SJW” (Ozy had a good post on that) but I don’t think of myself on an “SJ” side either – as far as I’m concerned the best arguments in favour of the Puppies are the antics of Gallo et al.. On the Hugos I’m closest to George RR Martin. Anyway:

      SF is indeed a big broad frontier and there’s plenty of room for exploration. SF Awards, in a sense, are another big broad frontier, although I expect it takes more social capital to launch a successful award than to launch a new book. Pre-existing SF awards with pre-existing prestige are not a big broad frontier, there’s a limited supply of these, and pretty much everyone involved recognises this – that’s why they’re involved and not going off touting some other award. The anti-Puppy side says that the Puppies are trying to steal the Hugos, the Puppies are saying that the Hugos were already stolen and they’re just taking it back, the anti-Puppies vigorously deny this, IMO successfully.

      Sure, yes, there are SJ-inspired people who think that all or almost all SF should be a certain way. But they aren’t the whole of the anti-Puppy crowd.

      Having a frontier you can homestead is no good if someone can just turf you out of your homestead as soon as you’ve built something good there.

      In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if a few people haven’t already used something like the homesteading metaphor to tell the Puppies go away and get their own award.

      • notes says:

        “[G]o away and get their own award?”

        To whom does the right to award a Hugo belong, if not to the voting members of each Worldcon?

        Whether the Hugos had been stolen at any point in the past, or are being stolen now… the procedure for getting on the ballot and getting the award was fairly clear. Who had the right to nominate, who had the right to vote – all very clear, and open. Welcoming, even.

        And quite explicit about how each year’s Hugo could be legitimately awarded.

        As far as I’ve read, there’s no accusation of Puppies acting against the rules; considerable accusations of acting against the spirit of the rules, with complaints about campaigning for votes being most of them.

        There’s not really a historical argument against campaigning – there seems to have been campaigning from the very beginning right up to the present day – though not on this scale, and not with a focus on mobilizing those who wouldn’t normally vote.

        It would be a different and less tribal world in which the Anti-Puppy reaction to the unexpected success of the Puppy slate were ‘Welcome! Looks like we’ll need to be more organized ourselves next year.’

        Instead, there are explicit plans to change how votes are counted, lest the electorate return another offensive result.

        That’s one of the fascinating things about the mess – I don’t think anyone on either side expected the degree of success that the Puppy slate had in the nominating process. This is the third Puppy attempt to put more of the works they like on the ballot, and I don’t recall the previous attempts causing one ten-thousandth the chaos… largely, I think, because they didn’t manage much.

        • Peter says:

          The electorate – I think there’s two issues here, the first is nominations vs the final vote and the second is the unknown composition of this year’s electorate. Also, tribalism.

          Last year, the Puppies did pretty well at getting their favoured works on the ballot but very badly in the final vote, no Puppy work ranked above a non-Puppy work, and one ranked below No Award. The final vote uses IRV and thus is relatively resistant towards slate voting and things like that (that is, providing the nominations process doesn’t do something completely odd); the nominations process uses something similar to FPTP and thus is vulnerable to slate voting. The fact that the two procedures can give such contrasting results is a sign that at least one of these isn’t giving a reflection of the true will of the electorate (whatever that means) – it’s pretty clear I think it’s the nominations that are at fault, and possibly a rule change is in order. There’s an electorate for that too[1], and the Hugo organizers describe the procedure for this on the site.

          The other issue – there appear to be lots of supporting memberships this year and no-one is quite sure who they are. On the one hand, these may be people very similar to this year’s Worldcon attending members – for example people who attended last year. On the other hand, they may be… uncharitable people might describe them as “entryists”, more charitable people might describe them “people likely to change the character of the electorate”. It remains to be seen who these people are and what they’ll make of the Puppies. If I recall right, supporting memberships didn’t carry voting rights until comparatively recently, and I’d be perfectly happy with Worldcon deciding to return to that system in future.

          Tribalism: correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be suggesting a “fight slates with slates” attitude. This doesn’t seem to be particularly non-tribal, rather it entails pushing things more and more in the direction of tribalism. And, y’know, I really don’t want people to have to have a pre-Hugo Hugo (well, a pre-Hugo nominations Hugo nominations) where the real action happens, I want the actual Hugo nominations process to do its job properly.

          [1] There’s a meeting at Worldcon, which attending Worldcon members can turn up to and vote at.

          • notes says:

            Slates vs. slates, with everyone included in the larger tribe of ‘fan’, wouldn’t have been such a bad outcome. It would, I think, be as good an outcome as one could hope for, and better than one can reasonably expect as of today.

            ‘Entryism’ as a charge presumes those entering were by right outside the community before; in this context, it degenerates into ‘no true fan.’ That doesn’t seem like a productive line of argument, though it is true that one way of avoiding the change in electorate is closing off entry, or requiring loyalty oaths, or other proofs of (in this case) fannishness to ensure that only the right sort enter.

            Changing the rules so that supporting memberships can’t nominate raises the barrier from anyone willing to put up $40 for a supporting membership to anyone willing to put up $210 for an attending membership. Does that alter the rate of change in composition?

            The major problem with disenfranchising the supporting members in order to slow the change in the electorate is that this fresh tide of supporting members purchased the supporting membership almost solely for the franchise. Locate the franchise elsewhere, and will they not pursue it elsewhere?

            Perhaps, at that price, many wouldn’t; more than the number of the existing electorate that would also drop out over the increased expense? I have no idea what the compositional effects of that change would be, though it would tend to shrink the electorate.

            I’m aware that the there’s a legitimate way to change the voting rules and that this is what’s being proposed. Putting the rules of the system themselves in play is still an interesting response, and one that betokens a loss of faith in the system to provide results generally accepted as legitimate.

            There isn’t a perfect voting system – we know this. Different systems are subject to different ways of gaming them, and can be expected to produce different results. There are thus far intractable difficulties with aggregating preferences across people to any tolerance closer than ‘good enough.’ As you wrote, the ‘true will of the electorate’ is a phantom; as you wrote, different voting procedures (using the same electorate) can (and often do) produce different results; still, elections serve as useful Schelling points at which to consider a question settled for until the next vote.

            The problem is that the nomination election hasn’t been taken to settle the issue of ‘who’s on the ballot this year’ – but that’s no fault of the process.

            To put it another way, procedurally speaking, the Hugo nominations process did its job properly this time too: the nominations were made by those with a right to make them, counted fairly (at least, I’ve heard no accusations about ballot stuffing), and the ballots were duly drawn up.

            If you want a different procedure, then arguments can made for alterations and improvements. Still, I would not expect changing the method of voting to accomplish anything significant; the essential problem of a material number of people with strongly differing preferences remains.

            Make a different procedure, and everyone motivated to nominate or win will adjust their strategy in turn.

          • Urstoff says:

            As a SF reader, this all seems kind of ridiculous. It’s 100% fighting over prestige and is pretty meaningless to almost every reader. Any veteran reader knows that the Hugo (or nebula) is no guide to quality. Do books get a significant “Hugo bump” in sales when nominated or after winning?

          • Deiseach says:

            See, a lot of what you call “entryists” are people who purchased the supporting memberships in order to support and vote for the Puppies. But that does NOT mean that they’re not long-term fans or uninvolved or a rent-a-mob.

            I had no idea how the actual sausage was made. Being an idiot, I thought “The Nebula is the professional writers’ award but the Hugo is the fans’ award” meant exactly that – that the fandom voted for each category (maybe in a postal vote or write-in poll).

            I had no idea the Hugos were OWNED by Worldcon, or that only Worldcon attendees and/or those who purchased memberships were entitled to vote. And I’ve been reading skiffy since I was seven, so I will greatly resent any attempt to brand me as some ignorant Johnny-come-lately who’s not a real fan.

            How many more fans were there out there, like me? Ignorant of how the machine worked? And who purchased those supporting memberships this year in order to vote not because they’re racist sexist homophobic religious bigots but because they don’t like being called that, want to see the stories they like get nominated (even if they don’t win) and were simply and plainly pissed off enough to get involved?

            I didn’t purchase such a membership, but only through a mixture of laziness and sadness and not wanting the last shred of fannish idealism to puff into dust. But I do very much resent Irene Gallo tarring me and others like me as GamerGaters and political drones voting as directed by our far-right overlords.

          • Peter says:

            Slate-vs-slate – who draws up the slates? Who gets to get involved in which slate-drawing process? How do you avoid the slate-drawing processes falling victim to the same problems we have here. Suppose the Puppies have an open primary for SP4, and a bunch of anti-Puppies join the primary with their own slate-within-a-slate. If you don’t have open primaries, then who gets to decide which slate? The only case I can see for slate-vs-slate is multiple tribes, one slate per tribe – and people condensing into 2 or 3 tribes to maximise the power of the slates – just like elections under FPTP systems.

            “Entryism”, “no true fan”. GRRM has a point about the Hugos being Worldcon’s award. As the Hugo site says, “The awards are run by and voted on by fans”, but not “the fans” – it’s very open about Worldcon members being the electorate. GRRM’s point is that the Worldcon members are what make the Hugos the prestigious award they are.

            So if we re-restrict the Hugos to attending members anyway; it’s a steep price for someone who only wants to vote. For someone who actually wants to go to Worldcon anyway – I contemplated it last year but narrowly decided against it, and the Hugos were not a factor in my decision – it’s not a steep price, it’s effectively free. If you want to go to Worldcon for it’s own sake, not just for a vote, that’s a good enough proof of fannishness for me. At any rate, it should have an effect on the composition.

            Legitimate ways to change the rules; you keep saying that the Puppies followed the procedures OK, and that’s all that matters. But if so, then it’s likewise fine for the voters to No Award the Puppy-only categories and to change the rules to prevent slate voting ever again.

            Sure, this year’s nominations have happened, and this year’s Hugos should proceed according to the rules in force this year – that is, the formal rules in force.

            Working out how to prevent slate voting is trickier for nominations than for the final vote, I’ll admit that. The problem is that there are lots of eligible works for nomination and having a big preferential ballot for all of them would be clumsy and difficult to administer. Still, as mentioned earlier, preferential systems are much less vulnerable to being gamed, and to the vote-splitting problem, than FPTP-like systems. People who are bigger voting nerds than I could probably supply more details; it’s certainly the case that some systems are more vulnerable to strategies and tactics than others.

            I’m hoping, though, that Plan A will work – that the new voters will be appropriately Worldconish – as in, they’re actually using their Supporting Membership to support Worldcon – and that enough of them will involve themselves in the nominations as well as the voting itself to drown out any slates that might be in force. I hear that the turnout for nominations has historically been lower than for the vote itself. People shouldn’t need to busy themselves with the early stage to keep slates out, but if that’s what it takes, hey, it might also improve the nominations in other ways.

          • Alraune says:

            it’s likewise fine for the voters to No Award the Puppy-only categories and to change the rules to prevent slate voting ever again.

            You’re absolutely right on that point, though you may be ignoring the next couple iterations of likely events:

            The Hugos give no awards in about half its categories. This is largely seen as spite voting and tarnishes the entire ceremony. The Hugos brand is noticeably though not drastically damaged, and a constituency interested in an alternative prize has proven its existence and ability to make noise. So another award steps in, either via another convention giving them out or some existing award branching into SF.

            This is all just fine with me (and I assume with most people), it’s the market working as intended, but it lays out a good motive for the Hugo leadership to try and keep things from schisming that badly.

          • notes says:

            Slate vs. slate? This not a new problem. This is a very old problem, with lots of functional solutions and at least as many dysfunctional ones – see also politics. My own guess is that the Hugo nominations will remain an open primary, with various people trying different ways to coordinate voting on scales ranging from ‘asking a friend’ to ‘broadcasting it all over the internet.’

            As for who draws up the slates – why, the same as it is now and has ever been: anyone who cares to try to persuade another to vote similarly.

            Restrict the franchise to attending members only, and I would not be surprised to see if a some number of Puppies decide to attend. The logic runs the other way too: if you’re spending that much, you might as well attend. What result? Could be anything from discovering that the differences aren’t too great, to having a separate party going on down the street, to starting fresh feuds.

            It is indeed possible to No Award the Puppy nominations, or to change the voting rules, all within the existing rules. That’s not out of bounds. It is, however, a definite step away from that optimistic view of ‘fan’ being the primary relevant tribal identity.

            Minimizing slate voting would be an interesting challenge… but two points there. First, it wouldn’t be a return to the past – there’s quite clear evidence that slates aren’t new; just as there’s equally clear evidence that they haven’t been as large, nor as interested in getting more people in. Second, it will involve trading off something usually thought desirable in a voting system – the trade may be worthwhile, of course, but it will come with problems of its own.

            I can heartily endorse the hope that the new voters will be considered appropriately Worldconish by all concerned… but drowning out slates? Why is that even desirable?

            Voting slates, in an open write-in primary, represent nothing more than people agreeing ahead of time how they intend to vote in a secret ballot. They’re not binding. They’re literally not even enforceable, without breaching the secrecy of the ballot.

            In what universe would it be possible – or desirable! – to prevent Worldcon members from discussing ahead of time what eligible science fiction they liked?

            I concur absolutely when you write ‘ hey, it might also improve the nominations in other ways.’ If you don’t like the nomination results, get involved! It is (so far) still the privilege of any supporting member to do so, so it’s not very expensive either.

          • Peter says:


            I must admit to being somewhat surprised by GRRM’s description of the Hugos – I too had heard the thing about Nebulas and Hugos but I suppose that’s a case of things you hear turning out to be not precisely right. On reflection I suppose there’s a strong case for the Hugos to try more to be what they’re commonly held to be, which means keeping the supporting memberships as is. However, if you’re aiming for “the fans’ award” I think “Worldcon” is closer to that than “whichever bunch of slate voters gamed the system best”; YMMV of course. Hopefully the outcome will be that lots of people get keen on slate-free nominating and drown out the slates, then we can avoid such messy and contentious things.

            The new voters bit – yeah, in retrospect I think I messed that one up, I think the charitable/uncharitable thing does make wrong and bad implications about people who aren’t typical Worldcon attendees but who aren’t exactly rent-a-mob either (there’s a very wide range of people who fit that description) – apologies for that.

            As for Gallo… as I say, if anyone could bring me round to the Puppy side, then the likes of Gallo could. There’s no cloud without a silver lining, and one silver lining has been getting to see who on “my side” has been conducting themselves in an honourable manner (IMO, GRRM and Eric Flint for example) and who, erm, hasn’t (Gallo for a start).

            Urstoff: hear the Puppies and anti-Puppies say in unison: “they started it!”

          • Peter says:

            notes: Hugo nominations aren’t like any sort of primary. The point of a primary is for a party – or at any rate, some group smaller than the whole electorate – to decide who their candidates are. That’s what I was talking about.

            I’m not hoping the newcomers will be considered sufficiently Worldconnish, I’m hoping they’ll be sufficiently Worldconnish.

            People discussing work in advance; fine. People talking at length about the merits of specific pieces of work, or even just saying “I’m voting for X” – great. People getting people to read works they might be interested in nominating – superb. Authors writing blog posts pointing out their Hugo-eligible works – not slates, whatever people might say.

            Drowning out slates; the problem with slates is that they give slate voters an advantage over non-slate voters, at least in systems that are vulnerable to it. The lack of enforceability is a red herring – if you want the advantage of a voting slate, you vote for the slate. I, and I expect many people, don’t want to be forced to choose between being a sucker who nominates independently (thus losing out to the slaters) or nominating according to a slate. I want to be able to nominate and vote according to my true preferences without losing out. In the context of the Hugos, that means no slates – or slates getting drowned out by independent nominators and voters.

          • notes says:

            Hugo nominations, like primaries, delimit those eligible for votes in the general. There are certainly ways in which they differ from primaries also – as you note, primaries are often for specific groups smaller than the whole electorate (though there are open primaries also).

            For clarity on the Worldconish question, and my choice to rephrase it from ‘being’ to ‘being considered’: I’m less interested in whether the new flood of supporting members are like some ideal member of Worldcon, and more in whether both they and those who have historically attended Worldcon regularly can find common ground enough to consider each other legitimate members – hence the choice of words. I’d intended to convey that I endorsed a subset of your own hope, not to misquote you.

            As far as nominating independently vs. slate advantages, and being a sucker, and losing out… this seems incoherent, a sorites definitional problem.

            You say it is ‘superb’ for someone to get others to read works that they might be interested in nominating after. What if they do that for several works? For ten? What else do you think a slate is? A list of works, collected for the use of others, in considering what those others might nominate. Where in the process of heaping superb action upon superb action does the accumulation suddenly transform into a detestable slate?

            Or run the analysis from another end: you nominate your preferences, without discussing it with anyone. Someone else spends considerable time and effort getting people to read the works she hopes will be nominated, and indeed persuades many people to follow her lead. Were you a sucker in this instance? Did your vote count for less than hers, because she persuaded others to vote with her as well?

            If you ‘want to be able to nominate and vote according to [your] true preferences without losing out’ in an election, the usual way of doing that is to arrange to have more votes for your preferred candidates than for the alternatives (in a FPP system; in a IRV system the same, but less simply described). Most ethically, you could do this by persuading other voters to share your views (functionally starting your own slate)… but there are other options ranging from restricting the franchise to outright corruption.

          • Peter says:

            notes: Despite the Sorites paradox, people seem perfectly competent to use the word “heap” in everyday practice. Even if you can’t define a bright line, being able to define upper and lower bounds for where the line might be is useful – especially if some alleged “heap” is considerably larger than the upper bound or considerably smaller than the lower.

            Furthermore, if people aren’t trying to game the system, such sharp definitions aren’t necessary.

            However, let me make my own draft attempt at line-drawing. Things that carry the message, explicitly or implicitly, “even if you prefer work X over work Y, please consider voting for/nominating work Y ahead of work X” I think are on the bad[1] side of the line (even if “X” isn’t specified – “Y” must be specified); “please devote time and effort to contemplating the merits of work X, we hope you’ll find it a good choice” is on the good side.

            The Puppy slates are clearly on the bad side of the line, and beyond. A particularly pernicious feature is putting enough candidates on the slate to “pack out” some categories and shut out non-Puppy candidates. This has been particularly disruptive.

            Aaaaaaaaaaaanyway, this is all getting far beyond my original point, which was to say that the “wide open frontier” thing is irrelevant. I’ll give the Puppies one thing – when they say they think the Hugos have been stolen, I’m prepared to believe they’re sincere about that. Likewise when friends who went to Worldcon last year and greatly enjoyed the Hugo process say that this year they’re very annoyed about the Puppies having unfairly grabbed most of this years nomination space, I’m prepared to believe they’re sincere about that too.

            Anyway anyway, this comment box is narrow, I’m late for work already, we’ve got far off the original point and these matters have been debated ad nauseam et ultra by better informed people elsewhere.

            [1] There are situations, like UK general elections, which are irretrievably party-political, and the only thing to do is to join in with the rampant tactical voting and pre-vote organizing. But when a situation isn’t like that, it’s worth trying to stop it from getting like that, and if it has got like that, it’s worth making a few attempts to retrieve it.

          • notes says:

            That makes more sense – being irritated at tactical voting fits better with your earlier statement that you want to ‘nominate and vote [your] true preferences without losing out’ than being irritated at slates as such.

            In the vote to award the Hugo, they’ve got IRV in place – and that’s literally designed to let you vote your true preferences AND vote tactically at the same time. Not perfectly, and it isn’t beyond gaming either, but that’s the design.

            Still, I’m not sure that there’s a stable way to sort out your good ‘consider recommending X because X is excellent’ from ‘consider recommending X over a still more excellent Y.’ Brief check of the Sad Puppy 3 and Rabid Puppy 2015 slate announcements yields nothing useful; both talk about how good the Xes recommended below are, not about ‘don’t vote for Y.’

            The explicit campaign for them, as far as I can tell, was on the basis of ‘vote for what you like; we like X, and think you will too.’ There’s absolutely an element of ‘don’t vote for Y,’ along the lines of Deiseach’s complaint above about TBDS – ‘how did this even win a Hugo? It’s medium quality litfic, and not SF!’ – but from what I’ve seen it’s directed at past Hugo nominees/winners (usually explicitly focused on TBDS, but there are others) rather than other present-day eligible works… that is, it’s directed at things that couldn’t be nominated anyway, and used as an example of what could happen if you don’t nominate/vote.

            Ultimately, any vote for X is not a vote for Y. Preferential voting systems make for longer lists, but a vote for [A, B, C, D, E] is still not a vote for Y.

            The only place I’ve seen ‘don’t vote for Y, regardless of excellence’ as an active idea is the argument for No Awarding Puppy nominees for slate-packing (as distinct from the also common ‘No Award Puppy nominees because they’re bad quality’ argument).

            Adjusting your objection from ‘slates’ to ‘packing out’ a ballot during the nomination stage makes more sense as well.

            The current proposal to amend the Hugo nomination process over at Making Light is to put SDV-LPE in place, instead of ‘top n by votes’; I think it likely you’d be happy with it should it pass, in the sense that you wouldn’t have to think about nominating tactically much.

            I think that there’s no way to avoid politics in any human institution: at most it can be disguised or displaced. That said, it’s possible to have the politics of fandom line up on a different set of axes than the politics of elected office, and that would be desirable.

            Thus, I share (my understanding of) your hope that the Hugos might not become irretrievably party-political.

            Still, the trend over the last several decades has been for the personal to become the (party-)political, so I’m not optimistic.

      • Cauê says:


        In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if a few people haven’t already used something like the homesteading metaphor to tell the Puppies go away and get their own award.

        Basically all I know about Sad Puppies I learned from the dialogue between George Martin and Larry Correia, and one or two other posts by them (I don’t have opinions about the Hugos, and I’m mostly interested because I recognized the ludicrous misinformation campaign from… elsewhere). Anyway, Correia’s answer to your question (well, Martin’s) is here, among other places. I think it sounds plausible:

        When I started this the Hugo Awards were not portrayed as the awards that belonged to WorldCon. They were portrayed as the awards that represented the best of all of fandom. After my first experience seeing how the sausage was made, I publically said the same thing you said there, that the Hugo Awards don’t represent all of fandom, they represent one tiny part of fandom.

        I was called a liar.


        So I said I would prove it, and I did.

        Here we are, a few years later, and oh how the narrative has changed. Now we are being told that the idea that the Hugos represented all of fandom and not just the tastes of one small convention were misconceptions. Now the most successful author in the world and editors for the biggest scifi publishing house are telling us that it belonged to just WorldCon all along.

        Too late. When people like me kept getting told that it represented all of fandom, we believed you. When you told us that if we wanted the stuff we liked represented better we should get more people involved in the process, we believed you.

        And we did. Now we’re the bad guys.


        I am glad we are on the same page now.

        If important people like you had said this to the people feeling disenfranchised before, then you wouldn’t be seeing this backlash now.

        But instead of telling us the truth, that we were right and the Hugos belong to just WorldCon and didn’t represent all of fandom, my people were insulted, and told we were stupid, and that we liked stupid unworthy things. When an outsider dared to complain in public about how they would never get considered, they were told it wasn’t because WorldCon was biased, it was because they just weren’t good enough.


        • Anatoly says:

          Don’t see anything plausible about it; seems like straightforward demagoguery to me.

          Correia claims a bait-and-switch that never existed. Behind the blistering rhetoric, what do we know about the Hugos on the object level? There’s a con, it has an award, the award is tied to that con’s specific policies and culture. Over the years, this award grew in importance and became the most popular/prestigious one in SF, and did so in the normal marketplace-of-ideas fight with other awards. It was never “official” in any way, it wasn’t sponsored or touted by any state, it wasn’t even the official award of any SF writer’s organisation (that’s the Nebula).

          There was never a claim that the award “represented all of fandom”, what would that even mean? The award strives to reflect the best works in the field of SF (not “fandom”), as selected by a particular group of fans grouped around one large and well-known con. Because the award has apparently pleased writers and readers of SF better than other awards, it acquired its cachet.

          Suppose someone would say: “Didn’t you say before that the Nobel prizes represent all of humanity in their choice of the most illustrious achievements in physics, literature, medicine, etc. every year? I’m pretty sure you said that! And now that you’re called out on this, you’re claiming that actually the Nobel prizes are merely a choice of a tiny insular group of a few Swedish academies! So before you pretended that it represented all of humanity and now you admit that it’s a just a bunch of Swedes that are a tiny part of humanity? What hypocrisy!”

          Correia’s claims are approximately as stupid as that.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            Anthony, you say:

            “There was never a claim that the award “represented all of fandom””

            GRRM says:

            “You know, looking back, I am probably partly to blame for some of the misconceptions that seem to exist on this point. For years now I have been urging people to nominate for the Hugo Awards, and saying things like “this is your award” and “this award belongs to the fans, the readers.” I felt, and still feel, that wider participation would be a good thing. Thousands of fans vote for the Hugos most years, but until recently only hundreds ever bothered to nominate.

            Still my “it is your award” urgings were not entirely accurate.

            Truth is, the Hugo Awards belong to worldcon. The World Science Fiction Convention.”


            I’m going to take GRRM’s word over yours on this one.

          • Deiseach says:

            Anatoly, I spent years as a non-American SF fan reading about (and reading the) Hugo winners, and I was convinced it was the fans’ award as distinct from the pros’ awards.

            That there were publishers’ awards, and awards given out by certain groups of whomever, and the Nebulas which were the writers’ choice – but from what I understood, the Hugos were the fans’ choice, the voice of the majority, picking their favourites, sure, but also what they thought was the best.

            And then, when all this blew up, I suddenly found out “Er, no. This award belongs to WorldCon and when we say ‘it’s the fans’ choices’, what we mean is that the fans who pay to attend get to vote. Or the fans who purchase memberships. You thought it was a free vote by everyone? What kind of stupid dummy are you?”

            Yes, I’m a stupid dummy. But Correia (whom I know not, so not carrying water for him) is not so far off the mark about a ‘bait and switch’ when what had been touted as ‘the people’s choice’ suddenly turned out to be “We OWN this and you get no say unless you BUY a say”.

          • Jos says:

            Anatoly, it seems like a lot of that is dependent on Correia’s factual claim as follows:

            “After my first experience seeing how the sausage was made, I publically said the same thing you said there, that the Hugo Awards don’t represent all of fandom, they represent one tiny part of fandom.

            I was called a liar.”

            It may be that Correia is misrepresenting a true event, or building a mountain out of a molehill, but to the extent that he’s accurately representing his experiences, I’d want to know more about that before I called him stupid on this front.

          • Anatoly says:

            Thank you, Forlorn Hopes, Deiseach and Jos for thoughtful responses.

            There’s a proud tradition in America of having more “democratic” awards than is typical in other countries (compare, e.g. how Oscars vs Cannes winners are selected). Hugo self-consciously belongs in that category, which distinguishes it from most other SF awards. I think its fans are often proud of the fact that it is this democratic award, determined by fans, that ended up the most illustrious and prestigious in the field; and they often say things like “it’s the fans’ award” or “it belongs to the fans” to emphasize that this is what distinguishes it from most other awards, including the Nebula.

            This may lead to a misunderstanding like you describe, Deiseach, especially for someone who’s not a writer, not an active US fandom participant, not a con goer, etc. I’m not American either, and for a long time I didn’t know how Hugo was judged. At some point I got curious, went onto Wikipedia and read about it. I may have been mildly surprised that it’s tied to a particular con, I don’t remember, but I definitely didn’t feel cheated or anything. It isn’t like someone described to me a specific all-fan voting procedure that turned out to be false or something! And more importantly, I would stress: unlike you and I, Larry Correia, you may be sure, was not under this illusion for any time during which he was a published SF author. Of course he knew exactly how the Hugo works. Everybody who’s published in American SF knows (also, every physicist knows how Nobels are determined).

            Forlorn Hopes, GRRM admits to using phrases like “it’s the fans’ award”. But again, please think carefully, *what is the possible confusion on the object level*? When you strip down the rhetoric, what do you imagine Larry Correia have been confused by? Do you think he didn’t know how Hugos are voted? Do you think that people who said “it’s the fans’ award” counted on him not to know how Hugos are voted? No. Inside fandom, everyone knows how the damn Hugos are voted (in general terms, not in details).

            Correia uses the phrase “represented all of the fandom” – which I’ve never heard anyone say or seen anyone write about the Hugos – as a way to sneak the supposed bait-and-switch in. There’s a difference between “the fans’ award”, which can clearly be understood as a rhetorical flourish (and even if it can be misunderstood by an outsider as in Deiseach’s case, it can’t be misunderstood by someone in fandom), and “represents all of fandom”, which makes it seem as though the award pretends to *speak* for all of fandom’s opinions. And then you find out that only a few thousands vote according to some particular con’s rules, and you explode in faux outrage. If you think about it, “represent” is a funny word to use in this context. When speaking about an award, “represent” is normally used to connect people to the honor: “this award represents all the hard work of my coworkers, the support of my family etc.” You don’t normally say that the *institution* of the award, rather than the particular choices made, “represents” somebody or other. I tried to find somebody saying that e.g. the Academy Award “represents” all of American film industry, and couldn’t. It sounds funny, as though the award speaks for all of them. Which is exactly the nuance you want to carry if you want to create a false impression that the award somehow speaks for all the fans everywhere, and those that paid the $50 and voted are stealing it from everyone else.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            There was never a claim that the award “represented all of fandom”, what would that even mean

            “all of fandom” would mean exactly what it says. Imagine a book that’s loved with fans everywhere except Worldcon.

            If the Hugo’s represented all of fans that book would get an award and a book that’s only loved by worldcon atendees would not.

            And when GRRM says “the fans” he is implicitly refering to all of fandom. That’s why he appologiesed, because he knew Correia was right

            When you strip down the rhetoric, what do you imagine Larry Correia have been confused by?

            I imagine Larry Correia believed that his books would be judged on the quality of the writing, the plot, the charachters, etc. Instead they were judged on his politics.

            That’s what confused and upset him (assuming it is true – and given how extreme the overreaction to the puppies is, I’m thinking he might be right.)

          • notes says:

            Anatoly – I don’t think it’s false outrage. Nor do I think Correia’s complaint is about the object level process by which Hugo’s are awarded. That’s not what he says in that link at all.

            Instead, looks like Correia got rejected from the Worldcon in-group (his perception is that it was over political reasons), and decided he’d show them. Show them all!

            Reading Correia’s account, he had a best-selling first novel, got nominated for a Campbell, and got insulted as being a bad person. Also, finished dead last for that Campbell.

            At which point he tried to laugh it off, talked about the Hugos as an insular Worldcon popularity contest, and pointed to all those voting with their hard-earned cash.

            At which point others with understandable and substantial investments in the Hugos being meaningful, important, and legitimate argued that no, those awards are the right and true rankings for the year, and Correia’s sales figures were irrelevant; he lost because he was a bad writer, that this was sour grapes, and that politics weren’t the issue.

            At which point Correia looked at the small number of voters and the even smaller number of fans, and decided to… show them all.

            To his credit, he attempted to take positive action to address the perceived insularity of Worldcon by urging more people to get involved.

            To his credit, he turned down his Hugo nomination in this year to emphasize that he considered “making the award represent more of fandom to be a far more important prize than another rocket ship lapel pin (I actually never even got the one from last year).”

            It seems to me that he’s also demonstrated that politics was and is involved in Hugo nominations/voting; whether that’s to his credit depends on whether sunlight disinfects or struggle makes more partisan – or rather, depends on which of those effects dominate.

          • Anatoly says:

            notes, what do *you* think – do you think Correia wasn’t given the Campbell for political/cliqueish reasons?

            I think you’re offering a plausible analysis of what motivated Correia. I don’t know that it happened this way exactly, but it definitely could have. There’re two problems with Correa’s motives though:

            1) I don’t buy the underlying object-level claim that the Hugos have been politicized and SJWized to exclude conservative/right-leaning/military/whatever – depends who you ask – works. I find GRRM’s analysis of this claim very convincing. It’s a laughable claim. Certainly there’re interest groups, internal politics, bickering and individual voting on ideological grounds, but there’s nothing nearly resembling the paranoid picture presented by Puppy leaders; it is all pure invention.

            2) What he says about the supposed bait-and-switch with “represented all of fandom” vs “represents one tiny group of fans” is still demagogic bullshit, for the reasons I tried to list above. It’s a justification for the puppies made up after the fact, and has nothing to do with his true motivation (which was probably along the lines you sugested).

          • Anatoly says:

            Forlorn Hopes,

            “all of fandom” would mean exactly what it says. Imagine a book that’s loved with fans everywhere except Worldcon.

            If the Hugo’s represented all of fans that book would get an award and a book that’s only loved by worldcon atendees would not.

            OK, but what I’m saying is that such a situation makes no sense to anyone in fandom and no one would take a rhetorical flourish like “the fans’ award” to refer to such a situation. The basic structure of “Worldcon attendees vote for books they think best” (excluding details such as nomination, supporting memberships etc. etc.) doesn’t allow for anything like that. GRRM knows the basic structure, Correia knows the basic structure, and everyone in fandom whom GRRM may have been encouraging to participate more in Hugos using phrases like “the fans’ award” also knows the basic structure. GRRM apologized because he’s a nice person and because he recognized his rhetorical flourish blurred the boundary between fans-who-register-and-can-vote and just-fans; but it doesn’t mean he seriously thought that he made people think… what? that Worldcon attendees would magically channel the hivemind of all fandom and collectively vote that instead of their opinions? There’s no non-ludicrous scenario here!

            I imagine Larry Correia believed that his books would be judged on the quality of the writing, the plot, the charachters, etc. Instead they were judged on his politics.

            OK, sure, I agree he believed that (though I ‘m inclined to thinking he was mostly wrong). But what does *that* have to do with the “represents all fandom” crap? According to this, if Worldcon attendees judged Correia’s books on the writing, plot, characters etc. *as they genuinely understand those*, w/o invoking their disgusting lefty politics, and gave him an award, he would’ve been just fine with the fact that only “a tiny insular group” voted and all the “represents all the fandom” crap would never come into play, correct? Well, that’s what I’m saying: the “represents” thing is a bullshit motivated reasoning.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Deiseach
            I spent years as a non-American SF fan reading about (and reading the) Hugo winners, and I was convinced it was the fans’ award as distinct from the pros’ awards.

            This USian liberal says “Me, too.” Of course there would have to be a mechanism and a fee of some sort to run the election, and of course the former high fee and requirement to attend Worldcon in person would slant the pool of voters to the more wealthy and leisured. Who, as in most groups full of old white men, would probably have conservative political attitudes, so any political slant in the results would probably favor the Right. So when the nominated works did not favor the Right, or the MilSF etc stuff, I assumed any political slant must be neglible, so the Hugo probably was “the [all-] fans’ award” (and not too far off the eventual sales figures).

            I had been annoyed that the buzz I saw mostly praised books because of the race etc of the author! It was quite a while before I saw anyone mentioning what The Three Body Problem was actually about. I dismissed this as me reading mostly left-leaning blogs; but when the Puppies said this attitude was actually influencing which books got nominated — that did fit the local buzz I’d already noticed.

            I don’t see this as deliberate bait-and-switch*; but a Hugo sticker on a book cover, or “Hugo winning author” in a publisher’s list, didn’t have room for “Winner of an award belonging only to Worldcon, who do not claim to really represent all fans”. So, after many years of letting the “all fans award” reputation ride — these sudden loud disclaimers are definitely a switch.

            * more like a motte and bailey

          • notes says:

            There wasn’t much analysis to do – that’s pretty much what Correia says at the link, rather than the portions of the link excerpted above.

            As to 1) – agreed. No conspiracy doling out rockets. An echo chamber, yes; a secret society, no.

            As to 2) – I don’t think so. I agree it is clearly demagoguery, but I don’t think it was made up after the fact, nor made up by the Puppies, nor used by only one side. I do think that it’s been use for decades, generally by those trying to make the Hugos more impressive, more legitimate… more meaningful. The fans’ award! The People’s Choice!

            I’d bet that the reason Correia harps on it is that he was told his loss was deserved because all of fandom had weighed him in the balance and found him wanting (likely in reaction to him arguing that the Hugo was a Worldcon popularity prize)… and so he got fixated on ‘no, that’s not all fandom.’

            Do I think he was robbed of a Campbell for political/cliqueish reasons?

            No. (1)

            Is it conceivable that politics played some part in the Campbell process? Sure. The decisive one? Maybe, but the result was overdetermined – so that’s not supported by what I know.

            More relevantly, I don’t think he would have won in a straight contest of quality.

            Haven’t read Beukes, so can’t be certain… but that caveat aside, I would have voted for Saladin Ahmed that year. And for Wells before Correia. Lev Grossman was a predictable if disappointing result, though.

            His radicalization, so far as I can tell, traces less to losing the Campbell than his reception at the con and online, where he was (or certainly felt that he was) subjected to a running two-minute hate for being ‘conservative/right-leaning/military/whatever’. While that process did not involve all, or most, Worldcon members, it did leave him with the impression of a hostile con environment… and a determination to make that space safe for others like him.

            Fearful symmetry indeed.

            1 to his credit, neither does he. His account is “I had read Wells and Beukes and knew the quality of their work was excellent. In any fair wordsmithing contest either could kick my ass, and I hadn’t even read Ahmed or Grossman yet, but if they were as good as the other two, then there would be a lot of quality works to choose from.”

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ notes
            No conspiracy doling out rockets. An echo chamber, yes [….]

            For the category of Accurate and Fair-Minded, that is the best term I’ve heard yet, though better would be ‘an echo chamber phenomenon’, since many different fora are involved.

          • Deiseach says:

            Anatoly, what you say about Worldcon is true.

            But I’ve seen “Hugo award winner!” slapped on the cover of many’s the book, and the award does have a cachet that translates – or used to – into sales. So it involves both the perception of being a judgement “Yes, this is quality work” and of being useful as a sales booster. And book publishing and sales have been in a parlous state for the past twenty years or so; witness all the rí-rá over self-publishing, e-books, etc.

            So the Hugos are a prize worth fighting for, whether you sincerely consider you are broadening the parameters of SF/Fantasy past the same old same old tired plots and characters, or you are The Evil Legion of Evil who want to write modern-day versions of E.E. “Doc” Smith’s politics in his “Lensman” stories.

            As an aside: I was horrified by the justification for a military coup in one of the Lensman books (e.g. if the people, cozened and led astray by trade unions and other tools of Commie influence, had voted in the ‘wrong’ President, the head of the Corps would have had no qualms about mounting an armed insurrection, overthrowing the civil government, and setting up a military rule).

            I still love and adore Worsel of Velantia despite that shock to my innocent little Irish centrist-right political convictions. The moral of this digression: you can love sapient and sentient space dragons without falling into lockstep with their creator’s views of what Real American Democracy should be like.

            Anyway! Back to the point! I think that, being on the inside, is precisely why Correia saw how it was sewn up. Maybe his only reason for getting stuck in was “I’ve sold a shedful of books, why am I being blocked for an award? You hoity-toity literary types think being commercially successful is a sin, or something?” but it also seems that he, or the types of books he writes (I have no clear idea what they are) were being blocked on ideological grounds.

            Now, I can well sympathise with not wanting to read a story about Space Marines Blowing Stuff Up IN SPACE!!!! because pages of description of guns and ammo are not my thing. But at least if the story is about space marines IN SPACE!!!!, it will involve space in some way, shape or form, which is kind of maybe a bit necessary for a SCIENCE FICTION award? Rather than a story about a do-gooder failed playwright who, oh yeah, finds a genie in a bottle after a world-ending event and makes it all better with her three wishes after she and the ex-theatre critic genie indulge in interminable watching TV shows, films, and discussions of the plays what she wrote.

            I’d prefer “Sgt. Bigmuscles pulled out his BLAMMO3000 with the three-klick long belt of high calibre KILL’EM DEADER THAN DEAD super space ammo and in a six-page exceedingly detailed description of exactly how the gun goes “bang”, blew away the hordes of the Slimy Alien Lizard Invasion Force that had appeared in their brick-shaped space invasion fleet off Saturn” over yet another “No, listen, this story really is the bestest example of modern work in the field and it’s about a tri-racial genderfluid barista who befriends a homeless trans shaman from Taos who may possibly be an alien but probably not as that’s only an allegorical trope for how the White CisHet Establishment needs to be challenged for its treatment of the differently abled”.

          • John Schilling says:

            There was never a claim that the award “represented all of fandom”, what would that even mean?

            As others have pointed out, the claim was explicitly and authoritatively made, by at least one of the people now trying to refute it. And as a long-time SF fan, please don’t ask me to go quote-mining, but trust me that the Hugos were almost universally understood to represent and “belong to” fandom in general, from the start to about 2014.

            What that means is, approximately, this:

            We want to have a set of awards to give to the creators and creative works that fandom, en masse, believes most worthy. Given the resources of a bunch of self-financed amateurs in the age of snail mail, the best that could be done was to invite all the fans to come to a convention, poll everyone who shows up, and have a snazzy party to hand out the awards.

            And everyone who made last year’s convention, everyone who wanted to come to this year’s convention but couldn’t make it, to the extent that we can identify them in a way that doesn’t blatantly encourage stuffing the ballot box, and we’ll move the convention to a new city every year. If that doesn’t get everyone, and it won’t, what it does get ought to be at least a representative sample, slightly skewed for wealth but with N>1000.

            Only in the most pedantically legalistic sense were the Hugos the property of Worldcon, and nobody ever took that to mean anything beyond “well, if some publisher decides to give all their books a ‘Huego’ award or something, these are the guys who will file the trademark-infringement claim”. A Hugo was an indication of fannish acclaim, not of worldcon acclaim.

            Until the events of 2014, which seem to have led the Blue/SJW echo chamber (thanks to “notes” for just the right word) to believe that, by making the SFFWA and Worldcon sufficiently unpleasant for SF’s Red/Grey contingent, they could turn both the Nebula and the Hugo awards into the Best SJ Fiction of the Year awards. Only to learn that, per the long-established rules of Worldcon and the Hugo, their adversaries don’t have to actually show up in person to take back the Hugo.

            Agreed that this will probably break the Hugo, and that it will be nigh-impossible to create anything of similar stature to replace it. The alternative being to diminish the Hugo, I’m kind of OK with that. We’ve got fifty-plus years of Hugos that really do represent fandom as a whole, and future generations shouldn’t need a footnote to recognize the future’s lesser awards.

          • Sylocat says:

            But at least if the story is about space marines IN SPACE!!!!, it will involve space in some way, shape or form, which is kind of maybe a bit necessary for a SCIENCE FICTION award?

            I’ve wondered this too, but I think the criteria should be a simple, “Could this story have been told without the science fiction and/or fantasy elements?”

            Because I read that playwright-and-her-genie story too, and I thought it was quite clever in how it mingled the fantasy elements with the cultural homages. It could just as easily have been about movies or TV or books rather than theatre, but it did have to have an artistic focus, and the theatre is sorely underutilized as a motif these days.

          • Protagoras says:

            On “Hugos represent the fans,” the two biggest awards in SF are the Hugos and the Nebulas. The Nebulas are voted on by authors. For about as long as I’ve known that either award existed, I’ve known that the Hugos are voted on by the Worldcon fans. Do the Worldcon fans represent all fans? Presumably not, and as Martin actually discusses in his long series of posts about the puppies, probably even less so today than they did up to the 80s, as fandom has continued to grow, and Worldcons haven’t (a trend I consider unfortunate, but I don’t run Worldcons, and the people who do don’t get rich doing it, so I don’t feel it’s my right to complain if they feel running comicon sized events would be too much work for them). But contrast classes are important; the Hugos are more representative of fans than the Nebulas, by a large margin. And I think that’s often what people mean in calling it the fan award, that between the Hugos and the Nebulas, the Hugos are the fan award of the two. And so I find Correia’s quote mining quite unconvincing.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ John Schilling

            “a representative sample, slightly skewed for wealth but with N>1000”

            Bingo. That’s what I took many more words to approach above, without reaching the key: representative. Sure there would be minor skewings in various directions. And some highly promoted best-sellers would get disproportionately high uninformed votes, and books in a popular series riding on its coat tails might sweep several years’ awards; so the rules should weigh against such out-liers. But if the convention voters’ verdict (and even the Short Lists) are too far out of line with the sales of mid-list books, then these voters are for some reason not a representative sample of “the fans” or “all fandom”, or whatever.

            ETA fact: shows several of Correia’s books in various reputable Best Sellers lists, starting with his first, self-published SF novel ~2008.

          • notes says:

            I don’t think there was a decision by (most 1) Hugo voters in 2014 to purge anyone; in most echo chambers, only a fraction are shouting, and it’s mostly variations on a theme. As long as everyone’s in harmony, it’s not too bad (unless, of course, they’re shouting at/about you).

            Presently, fandom echoes cacophonously to multiple themes.

            1 One exception, largely self-invited. And even that decision looks less like conspiracy and more like shunning.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think there was a decision by (most) Hugo voters in 2014 to purge anyone […] One exception, largely self-invited. And even that decision looks less like conspiracy and more like shunning.

            What happened to Jonathan Ross looks an awful lot like purge by twitterstorm, definitely far more than “shunning”, and if you’re going to describe it as “self-invited”, I’m going to ask what you mean by that.

            That action had a substantial effect on how the con and the 2014 Hugos were perceived, especially in anticipation.

          • notes says:

            I wasn’t talking about Jonathan Ross – he wasn’t on the ballot, he wasn’t associated with Sad Puppies, and that’s what I was writing about in the referenced post.

            I agree that that was a twitterstorm blowup at Ross while he was scheduled to present, and he did withdraw rather than go through his designated 15 minutes of being hated for no good reason. I’d say that here, too, most Hugo voters weren’t involved – but those that were, were loud, and were in position to arrange for an online mobbing. In another era, Gaiman’s endorsement might have ended things before it hit critical mass; not this one.

            One of the tragic aspects of it was that it looks highly contingent: that twitterstorm doesn’t seem to have been based on his character or his actions, but to have blown up from a single throwaway tweet whose author may have intended only to express her own anxiety over her perception of his humor. (To her credit, she apologized afterward – not that the damage could be undone).

            You are entirely correct that this event colored the perception of the rest of the con.

            VD, by contrast, really does seem to have invited the shunning and to revel in being the outcast bogeyman.

          • Anatoly says:

            Deiseach, sure, the Hugo is valuable. Sure, there’s a cultural fight for it. Sure, there are SJW-y types who want social justicy fiction to get Hugos, because they honestly think the best SF is leftist SF, and being leftist is what makes it the best. I wish they’d gone away, but they probably won’t. I’m genuinely afraid of them and their ilk, and I think they bode ill for SF.

            But you know what? They *didn’t* take over the Hugos, and they didn’t trash the Hugos. The Puppies did. The Puppy leaders’ cries of total ideological exclusion from the Hugos are either inventions or lies of paranoid fools, as GRRM very ably demonstrated (and the best response Correia was able to give against that calm demonstration of real ideological diversity in the Hugos was a repeated display of hurt feelings).

            There was intense ideological fighting within American SF before, notably during the Vietnam war. People took sides, didn’t speak to each other, and often voted cliqueshly, as people would. The echo chambers and little cliques have *always* been there. But nobody trashed the Hugos until now. If you could look at any year’s result closely enough, you’d never see a vote done merely according to the works’ literary qualities (as it would be in my ideal world). There’s always been some partisanship and some in-fighting and yes, some whispering behind people’s backs probably. And still the award prospered and grew in prestige, because those things did some harm, but not too much, and fans’ actual preferences have been more important. And. There’s. No. Evidence. That. This. Changed. In. The. Last. Few. Years. No real evidence. Larry Correia getting nominated for the Campbell but not getting it is not real evidence. Larry Correia being hurt by someone giving him cold shoulder on the conference floor is not real evidence. There is danger to SF from the SJ camp, I’ll be the first to say. But the Hugos were holding up. They were relatively OK, somewhat politicized, *as always*, but on the whole they weren’t damaged. And then those fuckers came and trashed them.

            So yeah, now that they’re trashed, I hope you can see why it makes me angry to see Puppy supporters engage in such naked motivated-reasoning bullshit to make the act of trashing look virtuous. Oh, the Hugos were such a lie, they told us they represented all of fandom, but actually were just a Worldcon vote! What specious bullshit. Or take another brilliant piece of narrative, spun by John Schilling here in this thread: apparently the events of 2014 “seem to”, in his mind, convinced the SJWs that they can (note the tight cohesion of the out-group, a telltale mark of a conspiracy theory) make the Red/Greys feel unwelcome at the Worldcon and so exclude them forever; and that must inevitably lead to Hugos being diminished *in the future*, so therefore he’s OK with them being destroyed *now*. How brilliant is that! How convenient! How about you wait for a few years to see if that supposed diminishing actually takes place, and maybe then think about destroying them? (this rhetorical ‘you’ stands for Puppy leaders now, not John Schilling).

            You know, the funny thing is, I guess one small part of why I’m angry is that I don’t want to rethink my attitude towards SJWs and SF, but I feel like the reality is forcing me to. I’ve been aghast at the attempts to enforce leftist and SJ-type politics in SF ever since Racefail’09, which was a truly horrible scandal that was the first to showcase SJ-type groupthink broadly (SF suffered from SJ before it was cool). I share your distaste for trendy kinda-sorta-SF-but-really-oppression-olympics stories. But I have to face the facts, and the facts tell me that with all these scandals, and all these dangers, and all the twitterstorms and whatever, the SJ side did not achieve *anything* as bad as trashing an institution as valuable as the Hugos. And the Puppies just did. So I’m thinking now that the Puppies are MUCH more dangerous to SF than the SJWs, on the evidence we have. I don’t like it that I’m thinking that, because I’m very capable with emphasizing with much of the Puppy-style resentment, because they believe SF shouldn’t be politicized and I vehemently agree, because because because. But I can’t wish the facts away.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            I’m going to be blunt. You’re victim blaming.

            The sad puppies organised a voting slate. Is that against the spirit of the convention? Sure. Did it break the Hugos? Maybe.

            The response to the sad puppies was to brand them racist and more on both major media publications and on the personal pages of people in the industry who should know better. (Vox Day, sure, but Brad Torgenson, you’ve got to be kidding).

            So either you can convince me that slandering the sad puppies was acceptable. (Hint, don’t bother trying); convince me that the worldcon community was not involved in that slander; or you should blame whatever clique is behind the slander for destroying the Hugos.

            Right now I have no trouble believing that a community that’s responsible for such outrageous slander after sad puppies won the primaries would be guilty of everything they’re accused of doing before sad puppies. This is a community where Requires Hate was high status for gods sake.

            If Brad Torgenson wanted to defend himself, or defend his tribe, from what’s now evidently a quite real threat. And his method is less than 1/10th as bad as the threat (he organised a voting slate, that’s not exactly evil. They slandered him on major media publications) you don’t get to blame them for the consequences of their self defense.

            You want to blame someone for the Hugos demise; blame people who encouraged cliquishness.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Anatoly, Forlorn Hopes

            Jumping to my own bottom line, I think the Hugos need more categories of Best Novel. MilSF would be a clear one, Action SF another, Hard SF another. Cultural SF would suggest Hellspark or The Left Hand of Darkness.

            Offhand, I can’t think of a good objective name for ‘SJ SF’ or ‘Token Author SF’. Some people are calling these ‘Message Novels’, but we’d better make that ‘Leftwing Message Novels’ and ‘Rightwing Message Novels’, for easily imaginable reasons.

            This would give a lot of scope for disagreement as to which category a book belongs in — The Three Body Problem seems to be Hard SF though buzzed as ‘Token Author’ — but there would be less occasion for slates such as the Puppies’.

            As for what Forlorn Hopes called ‘victim blaming’, I think the more important point is ‘See what you made me do’. If No Award takes many categories — that would greatly damage the reputation of the Hugos in the outside world.

          • notes says:

            I don’t think it’s quite so bad, for either side.

            I don’t think most Hugo voters particularly cared about shunning or no awarding; I think a vocal minority did and do. There’s a larger group that’s wondering what the hell happened, and they might radicalize in either direction… or they might not. Too early to tell.

            The Hugos aren’t ruined or trashed – not yet, and maybe never. This year, I don’t think anyone, on either side, really expected the kind of domination of the nominations that occurred. Next year, I’d expect things to start settling toward a new equilibrium quite rapidly – optimistically, a stable new equilibrium with a broader chunk of the fanbase involved.

            I don’t think that outcome is inevitable, but I do think it’s still possible.

            Even voting ‘no award’ in many categories isn’t necessarily trashing the Hugos – so much depends on intention, perceived and actual. There’s a parallel universe where some obsessive elementary school-kid exploits a coupon-clipping loophole to get loads of supporting memberships and has his entire school write in his slate, starting with, say, the Tripod trilogy (handwave the eligibility years for a moment). With over 200 people voting en bloc, the nominations are swept. Recriminations? Some. Demands for a better nominations system? Yes. Calls for
            fixing the coupon-clipping loophole? Yesterday. But would that trash the Hugos, or would it be celebrated as the ‘littlest fen’ taking the field?

            The difference between that world and this one is that the SP campaign tends to feel that Worldcon is… not enemy territory, but enemy occupied territory. And there are more than enough on the SJW side of things who think of the SP as enemies to make a fight of it.

            What actually has a chance – and no more than a chance – of trashing the Hugos is an escalating cycle of hatred between the opposed camps. Even then, things may settle into a new normal.

            As for new categories… I think, given shifting reading patterns (primarily, the increasing length of novels and series, and the decline of readership for shorter forms), there’s an argument for breaking the ‘best novel’ award up and adding a ‘best long novel’ and a ‘best saga’ (possibly also, ‘best really long novel’)… and I’d try that before setting up subgenre awards.

            (I do remember Racefail. That’s a whole ‘nother mess).

          • Held In Escrow says:

            I feel like the whole thing could have been avoided if someone at Worldcon talked to SP and just said “hey, we may or may not agree with you, but as part of the Sci-fi community we think you have a right to an opinion, but if you are going to slate could you try and leave some slots open as to not black out the ballot?”

            SP then feels acknowledged and knows they can get some of their books in, your Worldcon voters don’t feel shut out, and all the drama is avoided. Communication people, it’s what makes the world go round.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            As for what Forlorn Hopes called ‘victim blaming’, I think the more important point is ‘See what you made me do’.

            I’m not sure what you mean here. That I was wrong to call it victim blaming, or that a string of no awards is the real risk to the Hugos?

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Forlorn Hopes

            The latter. I agree there’s some victim blaming, but a string of No Awards plus all the noise the anti-Puppies are making is where real damage (if any) to reputation will come from.

            Imagine a news item like this:
            ‘No Awards (the Hugo equivalent of None of the Above) has swept X of the Y categories of the Hugo this year, in what its promoters describe as an attempt to [insert actual quotes like “burn down the Hugos”]’

            To the Secret Masters of Distribution (ie chain store buyers, mainstream reviewers, library purchasers, etc) a Hugo announcement of winners with many categories marked No Award would hurt Worldcon’s credibility.

            Though as notes wisely said, soon it will probably shake down without permanent damage. Especially, I think, after the SMOFs change the rules.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Held In Escrow says:
            I feel like the whole thing could have been avoided if someone at Worldcon talked to SP and just said “hey, we may or may not agree with you, but as part of the Sci-fi community we think you have a right to an opinion, but if you are going to slate could you try and leave some slots open as to not black out the ballot?”

            Oddly, that’s what Torgensen intended, but he rolled Too Much Effect. He later blogged that if he does it again, he will either have fewer names in each category, or so many names as to split the SP vote.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Forlorn Hopes

            @ Forlorn Hopes

            The latter. A string of No Ards plus all the noise the anti-Puppies are making is where real damage (if any) to Hugo reputation will come from.

            Imagine a news item like this:
            ‘No Awards (the Hugo equivalent of None of the Above) has swept X of the Y categories of the Hugo this year, in what its promoters describe as an attempt to [insert actual quotes like “burn down the Hugos”]’

            To the Secret Masters of Distribution (ie chain store buyers, mainstream reviewers, library purchasers, etc) a Hugo announcement of winners with many categories marked No Award would hurt Worldcon’s credibility.

            Though as notes wisely said, soon it will probably shake down without permanent damage. Especially, I think, after the SMOFs change the rules.

            Forlorn, on the larger, longer emotional view, I agree that the Sad Puppy side has been the victim, and is being wrongly blamed — for more than one thing. Currently it seems to be, ‘Your running a slate has forced us to back Noah Ward to burn it all down.’

            Still I don’t quite like the assumption that the Puppy side has been acting from hurt feelings, justified or not. If it’s correct that the nominations have been non-representationally light on MillSF books and heavy on ‘Message’ books, then putting up a slate is a rational way to invite a silent majority-or-whatever to stand and be counted.

        • stargirl says:

          This seems pretty plausible to me (its the bit you cut). Larry seems to have been mistreated by worldcon and decided to strike back. And maybe make the hugos into something he considers a force for good.

          I think LArry more or less ruined the Hugos. Which is pretty unfortunate. But I find it hard to get mad at Larry. If a community treats people like shit some of those people will get very pissed off. I feel bad for the deserving authors. It would have been better for Larry not to wreck the Hugos, but it feels to me he was “within his rights” to strike back if he feels like it.

          The dude declared war on the Hugos imo. But imo he is not conducting the warfare in an “ungentlemanly” way.

          “You know what I found? WorldCon voters angry that a right-wing Republican (actually I’m a libertarian) who owned a gun store (gasp) was nominated for the prestigious Campbell. This is terrible. Did you know he did lobbying for gun rights! It’s right there on his hateful blog of hatey hate hate! He’s awful. He’s a bad person. He’s a Mormon! What! Another damned Mormon! Oh no, there are two Mormons up for the Campbell? I bet Larry Correia hates women and gays. He’s probably a racist too. Did you know he’s part of the evil military industrial complex? What a jerk.

          Meanwhile, I’m like, but did they like my books?

          No. Hardly any of them had actually read my books yet. Many were proud to brag about how they wouldn’t read my books, because badthink, and you shouldn’t have to read books that you know are going to make you angry. A handful of people claimed to have my read my books, but they assured the others that they were safe to put me last, because as expected for a shit person, my words were shit, and so they were good people to treat me like shit.

          At first I was shocked, then I got angry. What the hell? This is supposed to be the most prestigious awards in scifi and fantasy?

          Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not lumping all of the WorldCon voters in with that perpetually outraged, politically motivated clique. I know plenty of voters read my books and just didn’t think they were as good as the people I was up against. Awesome. I salute you for you being an honest person with an honest opinion, and let’s face it, people have different tastes.

          But don’t tell me now that the Hugos don’t have whisper campaigns…

          Though I knew I still had fans voting, and I figured there were a lot of honest people who would give my works a fair shake regardless of my politics, I also spent most of my adult life as an auditor who did statistical analysis for a living. I understood how Australian Rules voting worked, and the rankings are not most popular to least popular, but rather least disliked to most disliked, and 72 hours after the nominations came out it was pretty obvious I was going to be most disliked.

          Then I went to my very first WorldCon.

          Mr. Martin, you talked about your positive, joyous experiences at WorldCon. How you were welcomed as a peer, about how you had all these great, wonderful, memorable experiences.

          But I’m betting before your first WorldCon a whole bunch of malignant lying bastards didn’t spread the word to thousands of complete strangers that you were a racist, sexist, homophobic warmonger who deserved to be shunned.

          Side note, I’m not racist, sexist, or homophobic, but if that crowd (I’ll talk about the derogatory label my side uses that you don’t like in a minute) decides you are the enemy, they will smear you with those labels, regardless of the evidence. If you don’t believe me, read the many, many news articles about Sad Puppies that came out a few days ago working off that same script.

          I met many wonderful people at that WorldCon. I also had many people treat me like garbage. I was berated by other panelists. I had people get up and leave the room when I entered. I had belligerent drunks challenging me at room parties because “Oh, it’s that fucker”. “

    • Fairhaven says:

      you write:”If a resource is finite and fixed-sum, then all it matters is its distribution. And its distribution pattern will follow the distribution of power – in other words, fighting to redistribute it can be called just and fair, even if it takes authoritarian means, because fixed-sum resource means fixed-sum authoritarianism: either it goes to those who already have power or to goes to those who fight to get more power.

      I don’t think it is true that fixed sum, finite resources are distributed by power, which justifies an authoritarian taking and redistribution. In a rule of law, limited government, free enterprise society – which America used to aspire to and approach to a remarkable extent – many resources are distributed by the application of hard work, talent, luck, good character, impulse control, good values (the Ten Commandments). It is leftist ideology that assumes resources are distributed primarily by power.

      • Shenpen says:

        >the application of hard work, talent, luck, good character, impulse control, good values

        I think you are not thinking about really fixed sum, finite resources here. These are _productive_ virtues, which suggests that people who have them make more of certain resources. And this is important.

        If something is truly finite, you cannot make more of it no matter how much you work on it. Hence, you mostly just fight over it.

        The central point of leftism is the idea that money/wealth is a fixed sum resource, hence distributed by power. So this is really what the political argument really rages about – whether it is fixed or not fixed: grow-the-cake vs. cut-up-the-cake.

        But IMHO it is very clear that if some resource WAS fixed, then it would be really so. The political debate is more about what resources are fixed and what not.

        • Fairhaven says:

          I was thinking of finite resources like getting into an Ivy League school. Being elected to Congress (one of Scotts examples of leftists targeted power elite).

          Of course, you are right, financial success is not finite. That is the great downfall of the power is needed to distribute wealth self-serving ideology.

          You say that the debate is centered on what resources are fixed. I thought the point was insightful that the debate is centered on process: if goods are distributed by naked power/privilege, then it is justifiable to redistribute them by government power/authoritarianism. For example, a Kennedy uses his privileged wealth to become more weathly ,hence expanding his wealth – it is not finite, but it is distributed by inheritance, which leftists consider “power,” not “good fortune.”

      • The idea of finite resources controlled by arbitrary power is a good approximation to some of the microeconomic situations leftists typically care about. For instance, if you are worker, your likelihood of getting a raise depends a lot more on the whim of your employer than objective measures of productivity.

    • Colum Paget says:

      I have to say that I tried to make a variant of this argument to the sad puppies. I think they should go off and start their own fandom, with it’s own cons and awards. They’re totally right that the existing fandom is elitist and discredited: the fan-base is drawn from an overwhelmingly white, aging, middle-class, college-educated demographic that does not represent the public, and the awards represent nothing but “what a small bunch of middle-class old lefties like”. As the ‘social justice’ atmosphere of SF gets steadily worse and nastier (and yes, even with RequiresHate gone, it’s going to continue to degrade) so more and more people are going to jump ship. By attempting to fight for the territory of Science Fiction, the Puppies are fighting for control of a sinking ship. They would do better to jump in the lifeboats and land on an island somewhere, and build a new community that’ll still be standing when the old one finally hits bottom.

      But they won’t do that, because there’s some kind of deep-seated human need to fight for existing territory.

      As for the ‘lizard mind’, all the lizards I’ve met were perfectly harmless and never caused any trouble. It’s always the primates you’ve got to watch out for.

      • They’re totally right that the existing fandom is elitist and discredited: the fan-base is drawn from an overwhelmingly white, aging, middle-class, college-educated demographic that does not represent the public, and the awards represent nothing but “what a small bunch of middle-class old lefties like”. As the ‘social justice’ atmosphere of SF gets steadily worse and nastier (and yes, even with RequiresHate gone, it’s going to continue to degrade) so more and more people are going to jump ship. By attempting to fight for the territory of Science Fiction, the Puppies are fighting for control of a sinking ship.

        I’ve been involved in sf fandom at least marginally for more than 25 years, attended dozens of conventions including Worldcon, and I have trouble recognizing it from your description.

        Of course it’s not representative of “the public”! Most of “the public” has zero interest in sf. Of course people who read and write for fun are more likely to be college educated than the norm. That being said, almost one-third of U.S. adults have a college degree, so it’s not like that’s extraordinarily distinctive any more.

        There are quite a few progressives in fandom, certainly, though I think few of them match the SJW stereotype. When it comes to politics, the libertarian perspective is substantial and at times dominant.

        You don’t have to be left-wing to be appalled at Vox Day.

  31. Lesser Bull says:

    The dark secret of trying to be more rational is that you can’t escape the object level. the lizard brain always wins in the end, because it has to win in the end, because you can’t escape the object level.

    • Mark says:

      Hello, may I ask, what does “object level” mean? Does it mean “relating to specific cases”?

  32. Yasmine says:

    I think there are some flaws in the anti-gay-pizza/far-right-speaker analysis. In the former case, it’s the customers who directly receive the product who are doing the boycotting. In the latter, it’s the interface between speaker and listener (i.e. the conference organisers).
    For a more accurate comparison, suppose the pizza shop had been booted out by their landlord for holding anti gay marriage views after a few members of the public complained. Now on a level playing field, each of those scenarios is equally upsetting to me, because it’s not the business of the intermediaries to decide what views are aired.

    If the postal service decided to stop sending mail from people thought to be bigoted in some way, I’d be angry. If a teacher was sacked for being vegan, I’d be angry. If a public figure was sacked due to their ethnicity, I’d be just as angry. In each case it’s because the ‘objectionable’ attribute in question has nothing directly to do with the actions effected. Bigoted people can write letters about non-bigoted subjects. Vegans can accurately teach history. Black mayors can cut ribbons at opening ceremonies without referencing their race. Good pizza can be cooked by homophobes, and useful technology can be invented by racists. Preventing people from fulfilling their useful functions in life because of something irrelevant which they may or may not be able to help is wrong and upsetting, but deciding personally to forgo their pizza/lecture/etc. because you dislike them is perfectly reasonable.

  33. Fairhaven says:

    You write, “The social justice narrative describes a political-economic elite dominated by white males persecuting anybody who doesn’t fit into their culture, like blacks, women, and gays. …(this narrative is )relatively plausible; Congress and millionaires are 80% – 90% white….”

    Isn’t this the kind of hand-waving misuse of numbers that you normally deplore?
    You think it is plausible that earning more money or being in Congress is causality related to persecuting people?

    What makes such a theory plausible? Prejudice is negatively correlated with education among whites (the reverse among blacks), which is positively correlated with success.

    Here are some other numbers: 45% of millionaires are women. Gay households are among America’s wealthiest earners. Eight percent of millionaires are black (from – not so bad for 13% of the population.

    Millionaires isn’t even a static group: half of millionaires between 1999 and 2007 were so for only one year; 15% were millionaires for two years. Only 6% were millionaires nine years in a row.

    Two thirds of American millionaires are self-employed, and three-quarters of them are small scale entrepreneurs. They are lawyers, doctors, accountants, welding contractors, auctioneers, rice farmers, owners of mobile-home parks, pest controllers, coin and stamp dealers, and paving contractors. Few inherited any money. The idea that they persecute any class of people is not proven by the color of their skin or how much money they earn, is it? (from, “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of American’s Wealthy”)

    You do know that half the rich people in America are Democrats and half are Republican?

    In 2012, NPR asked the non-partisan Pew research the party affiliation of the richest 20% of Americans, (incomes over $100,000). How many are Democrat or Republican? Answer: the same percent.

    In 2008 Obama carried the majority of the richer rich, those making $200,000 or more per year. These Democrat super-rich live on the two coasts. Does that make them more plausible as persecutors? They are the power elite. They dominate not only the economy, but also the media, Hollywood and academia, all the levers of persuasion.

    A 2009 Quinnipiac poll notes that socially liberal values rise with income – “support for same-sex marriage also rises with income, as those making less than $50,000 per year oppose it 54 to 39 percent, while voters making more than $100,000 per year support it 58 to 36 percent.” The very rich are disproportionately strong social liberals….

    “…A review of the 20 richest Americans… found that 60 percent affiliate with the Democratic Party…Among the richest families, the Democratic advantage rises even higher, to 75 percent.”

    Does that mean that being Democrat donors is correlated with elitist persecution of minorities?

    In 2002, those who gave a million dollars or more gave $36 million to the Democrats and only $3 million to Republicans, a 12:1 ratio. Of the top 10 individual contributors to candidates that year, only one gave to Republicans.

    Would anybody claim doctors and lawyers persecute blacks, women and gays more than people who aren’t in the elite? And this is plausible because of their income?

    I don’t think your plausibility test holds up.

    • Alraune says:

      I think he meant “plausible” as in “colourable”, which is a very low bar to clear.

      • Fairhaven says:

        But then Scott is comparing the SJ argument (politically or financially successful white males are by definition sexist, homophobic and racist), which is not actually plausible (or true), with the conservative argument (we are excluded from jobs in academia, Hollywood and mainstream journalism) which is both plausible and true, to make a symmetry that does not actually exist. The SJ claims of being abused are assumed by their ideology and used as tactics even when known to be untrue, and the conservative claims of being abused are based on actual causation.

  34. Fairhaven says:

    Scott, one of your main argument seems to be: being bullied unfairly and cruelly by a social justice group, feminists for example, is good for you because it actives your mirroring ability and thus makes you more sensitive to how that group feels bullied. Did I get that right?

    A few points:
    -It is true that being bullied often makes people more sensitive to the bully’s feelings. They may even come to agree that the bully is the real victim, thus justified in their cruel attacks. This is not a healthy response. It is called identification with the aggressor, as you know, and leads to self-destructive, masochistic behavior. If you are a battered wife, or a “battered” white male who wants sincerely to be sensitive to women, it seems sensitive to concede the batterer is right and grovel. This just leads to more abuse.

    For outsiders especially, it is so much easier to justify the bully, whether it be a battering husband, an Islamic terrorist, an anti-Zionist, a militant feminist – that way you don’t get attacked. The victim always can be found to have brought it on himself or herself, or deserves it for past sins or alleged sins. It is easier to turn it into a tit for tat, two sides the same, story, as you do in your post.

    There was a fantastic column on the subject of liberal bullying today, “Dr Matt Taylor’s shirt made me cry, too – with rage at his abusers. An astrophysicist who deserves our applause has been pilloried in his moment of triumph.”

    Forgive me for quoting a lengthy clip:

    “he wasn’t crying with relief. … He was overcome with guilt and shame for wearing what some people decided was an “inappropriate” shirt on television. “I have made a big mistake,” he said brokenly. “I have offended people and I am sorry about this.”
    I watched that clip of Dr Taylor’s apology – at the moment of his supreme professional triumph – and I felt the red mist come down. It was like something from the show trials of Stalin, or from the sobbing testimony of the enemies of Kim Il-sung, before they were taken away and shot. It was like a scene from Mao’s cultural revolution when weeping intellectuals were forced to confess their crimes against the people.
    Why was he forced into this humiliation? Because he was subjected to an unrelenting tweetstorm of abuse. He was bombarded across the internet with a hurtling dustcloud of hate, orchestrated by lobby groups and politically correct media organisations.”

    Scott – do you really think that spectacles like this excite a sensitive “mirror neuron” that is “liberalism’s strongest weapon” by sensitizing witnesses to how much all those women suffered at the sight of Dr. Taylor’s shirt?

    On the contrary, it undercuts feminisms valid problems and valid claims on our sensitivity, and makes them into fascist jerks.

    I don’t like exposed bosoms on shirts or on the street, but frankly, it’s none of my business what the man wears. Your generation has to learn to live and let live.

    • Colum Paget says:

      I have to agree with fairhaven’s point that being attacked in this fashion doesn’t trigger one’s “mirror neurons”. I’ve been attacked all my life in one context or another, most notably at school, I don’t need any education about what that’s like. Furthermore there is an asymmetry to social-justice attacks: they discredit the causes that they claim to support. People (like me) who once supported those causes now can’t, because extremists have taken over the debate around those causes, and the stated end-goals are not going to be delivered anyway.

      And most people being attacked by someone are only going to hate back. It’s a sticky question this, because if you’re being attacked on an ideological basis, then I would say there’s clearly something wrong with the ideology, but many people conflate the ideology with the people delivering it, or worse, with the people it claims to defend. I think it’s likely that ‘social justice’ will make the situation more dangerous for minorities, because a lot of people will feel it’s the minorities that are attacking them, rather than a subset of predominantly white, middle-class, university graduate types.

  35. Houshalter says:

    I don’t think your examples support your argument. E.g. the pizzeria. I wouldn’t care even if the pizzeria refused to serve conservatives. Likewise I would still care about the tech conference if they banned gays from speaking.

    For some reason the tech conference censoring people feels a lot stronger than having to eat pizza somewhere else.

    I am also upset about communists being treated badly during the red scare, and I don’t support communists at all. Or now reddit censoring groups of people that I despise. Not because I support those people in any way, it just feels very wrong to violate free speech.

  36. Fairhaven says:

    Scott, your thinking appears to me to be confused about the pizza parlor and the tech conference. You label yourself inconsistent for feeling uncomfortable when a conservative techie is blacklisted by a conference, and also feeling it was wrong to issue death threats against a religious family who (actually the teenage daughter, cornered by an activist reporter) said they would hypothetically not make pizza for a gay wedding. You imply both the religious family and the liberal techies are just following their conscience by discriminating against those they disagree with, so to be consistent you should not criticize either one, whereas the technie conference blacklisting someone for their private poltical beliefs bothered you, and the pizza family didn’t.

    I don’t see you as being inconsistent. The liberals who attacked the pizza parlor were the same as the liberals who blacklisted the conservative techie – trying to hurt and destroy people they disagree with. This is wrong. You are naturally uncomfortable with both cases. Your gut knows more than your head in recognizing both as repugnant, scary attacks on privacy and conscience.

    The pizza parlor did not actually discriminate against gays. They didn’t hurt a single gay person. Their sin was hypothetical, and even the voicing of an opinion was instigated not by themselves, but by entrapment. In contrast, the conference did harm the techie they excluded (tried to exclude? I’m not familiar with the incident.) It is entirely consistent to feel uncomfortable with the thought police.

    Anti-discrimination laws were originally meant to protect individuals from being discriminated against because of a group they belonged to. The pizza parlor would be wrong to refuse serving gays who came in and ordered a pizza or to blacklist gays for employment; they have the right refuse to participate in an activity (a gay wedding) that goes against their religious beliefs. The tech conference organizers would be wrong to exclude conservatives from presenting or coming to the conference; they have the right to not participate in conservative conferences.

    You mock conservative fears of liberal Stalinism by saying a Stalinist dictatorship is not coming to America. Academia, Hollywood and the media – the three greatest levers of power in molding public opinion in our country insist on an almost Stalinist level of group think conformity and have succeeded in blacklisting conservatives to an alarming extent. (I have not rigorously checked these statistics: Washington correspondents , only 7 percent Republicans allowed; Hollywood 14% contribute to the Republican party, in academia only 11% Republicans allowed – percentages of actual conservatives would be miniscule.)

    “What is the most important amendment to the Constitution? “Brennan said the First Amendment, because all the other ones come from that. If you don’t have free speech you have to be afraid, you lack a vital part of what it is to be a human being who is free to be who you want to be.” Your own growth as a person will in time be constricted, because we come to know ourselves by our thoughts.” (from Wall st J column by peggy noonan 8-16-13)

    • Your three great levers aren’t having much affect in practices….they didn’t prevent the Iraq war, or the execution of Bush.

      And when did the churches get pushed off the list?

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Don’t forget that even most of the left supported the Iraq War back in the day, so I don’t think its not being prevented can be used as evidence against the left’s cultural power. Note also that the “mainstream” view, as far as I can tell, is now that going into Iraq was a mistake; I’d attribute the shift largely to the way the war has been portrayed in the media and Hollywood/TV industries.

        • NN says:

          I think it’s far more likely that the shift was due to what actually happened. That is, the war dragged on far longer and killed far more people than the Bush Administration had promised, most of the reasons for starting the war turned out to be completely false, and it ended up paving the way for the rise of a new regime that is in every respect much worse than the one the war overthrew. I find it very difficult to imagine any sort of media coverage that could have possibly convinced people that the war, or at least the way it was carried out, was not a mistake.

          Besides, the only War on Terror movies that have been successful have been relatively pro-war or at least pro-soldier like Act of Valor, Lone Survivor, and American Sniper. All the thoughtful dramas about The Heavy Costs of War ended up preaching to the very small portion of the choir that bothered to watch them. This includes even The Hurt Locker, which has the ‘honor’ of being the lowest grossing Best Picture winner ever.

          Ditto for TV. Contrast the massively successful 8 season run of 24 with the short lived and now totally forgotten Over There.

        • Adam says:

          As an illustration of the value of double-checking before you open your mouth, I was going to say those movies aren’t all about Iraq (Act of Valor takes place in Costa Rica and Lone Survivor in Afghanistan), and maybe Afghanistan still had wider support, but nope, apparently Gallup says it’s one of the least popular wars ever.

  37. Emblem14 says:

    This post, as good and insightful as it is, is simply going to bounce around in the echo chamber of this and other *like minded* blogs.

    There’s another element of symmetry I’ve noticed. For a while now, the most frustrating aspect of ideological battle on the internet is the cowardliness of most participants. Everyone is content preaching to their own choir, spewing sermons of snark and vitriol about the bad guys to a friendly audience, always when the subject of ire “isn’t in the room” to defend themselves. Vicious screeds, insults, ad hominem and more are lobbed out into the digital either like gas grenades where they’re picked up by the opposition, huffed heavily and responded to in kind. This isn’t engagement, it’s a cheap hacking of conflict by conflict averse ninnies.

    Isn’t it exceedingly rare for someone to actually confront their target directly, and leave themselves open for a direct rebuttal? Most people talk past each other, with the bulk of responses coming in the form of unsolicited trolling and abuse by anonymous proxies. It’s pathetic.

    For all the talk about the need for “debate” or “conversation” over controversial subjects, there is virtually none to be had. More was illuminated when Jim Norton and Lindy West actually had to acknowledge the others’ presence on the now defunct Kamau Bell show, then if each of them had written 1000 blog posts for their home team. Sadly, those who are best equipped to be flag bearers are content avoiding the messiness of human conflict and remaining safely ensconced in echo chambers or otherwise behind the walls of their ideological fortress. This includes Scott.

    The SJ perspective has far more representation in pop-culture online media (buzzfeed, gawker, huffpo, slate, atlantic, salon, etc) than any alternative view, almost to the point of ideological uniformity. Goes without saying that Academia is completely in thrall. There are some examples of left-liberals resisting the militant SJ narrative inhabiting these spaces, (Freddie Deboer, Laura Kipness, Emily Yoffee etc.) but they are supremely overpowered and routinely mocked or even attacked when accused of giving ammunition to ASJ.

    The only way to stand up to such a broad cultural force is to bravely and vigorously challenge and confront it, in public, with *quality* argument. The “debate” and “conversation” of disingenuous appeal must be forced to take place so that representatives of each side can be held accountable for what they say. Accountability – quaint, right?

    I want to see champions of any cause (SJ, reactionary, neolib, neocon, red, blue, grey, whatever) have the guts to hash it out with their human opponents, not an endless series of boogeymen, straw men and self-serving caricatures.

    • TheNybbler says:

      Lots of us have tried to argue with the SJ crowd in contested space. I certainly have (not under this pseudonym; sometimes under my real name). The result for me has been blocking, attempted intimidation to silence, calls for my exclusion from the various fora involved, and at least one attempt on my continued employment. On Twitter (a forum where I do not bother), it’s cliche to see someone on the SJ side post something outrageous to opponents, an opponent to respond, and *blocked*. Social Justice does not allow for opposition; if you respond impolitely you’re a harasser or a troll, if you respond politely you’re a devil’s advocate or a “sea lion”. The idea of someone who honestly disagrees but is not some sort of monster simply does not exist within the framework of Social Justice; one who disagrees is either ignorant and in need of education (which the SJW may refuse to provide under the tenet that it is not their job to educate you), a devil’s advocate who actually agrees and just needs to shut up, or evil and in need of suppression.

      • Urstoff says:

        Sea lion? I don’t get it.

      • Emblem14 says:

        The “contested space” you’re describing probably isn’t truly contested – you’re “behind enemy lines” and at the mercy of consequence-free unfair treatment. If your honest engagement is mocked and dismissed with a Sea Lion meme without any push-back, you may just be invading someone else’s echo chamber and can’t expect anything productive. Because of that context, honest inquiry or attempts at debate will be prejudiced with distrust:

        “Sea-Lioning is an Internet slang term referring to intrusive attempts at engaging an unwilling debate opponent by feigning civility and incessantly requesting evidence to back up their claims.”

        I’m talking about finding a genuine neutral playing field and challenging *willing* opponents to meet you there on mutually agreed upon terms. There was something called “bloggingheads” a while back that wasn’t a bad model. There must be at least a handful of people on the SJ side who feel an obligation to explain and defend their ideological premises in front of a mixed audience. right? hopefully?

        I’m focusing on this because #1 it’s genuinely missing from online discourse, #2 I believe it’s a crucial aspect of keeping self-appointed experts intellectually honest, rigorous and accountable, and #3 it’s a frontal challenge to the anti-intellectual tendencies of the SJ Left, which might even help them sort that BS out and nurture a more coherent/less emotive SJ framework.

        • Held In Escrow says:

          Sealioning is literally just civil call outs. It’s a a third order strategy; you first have people signaling shibboleths in public, often decrying the outgroup for a perceived crime. The out group notices this flames them for it. The original group uses this as more evidence that the outgroup is bad.

          So a second order strategy is needed for the outgroup if they wish to call out the first group. They instead respond civilly. Sometimes this is done in good faith, sometimes in bad faith. It matters not; the ingroup is threatened by the outgroup taking the moral high ground. So they come up with a third order strategy, a term to make this civil calling out an unacceptable practice.

          Much like “it’s not my job to educate you,” this may have come out of an actual issue (people trolling behind polite words), but thanks to memetic drift it’s become nothing more than another way to justify tribalism.

          • Urstoff says:

            So now it’s considered bad form to disagree in a civil manner and bad form to disagree in an uncivil manner?

          • Held In Escrow says:

            It’s a nice kafkatrap, isn’t it.

            That said, the early sealioning generally came from when a horde of people descended upon someone on Twitter; even if they were all civil, it was quite unsettling. Toss in the evolution of the “it’s not my job to educate you” defense and what started as a request not to be mobbed turned into a catch all for brushing off disagreement.

          • Nornagest says:

            Now you’re getting it.

          • Emblem14 says:

            Which is why the uninvited initiation of a debate without mutual agreement on the terms of engagement will rarely result in productive discourse.

            Everything you say can be double-plus smart and reasonable, but if it’s intrusive, unsolicited and on someone else’s “turf” it will be ignored or perceived as something mischievous. And of course, trolls have used civil-sounding badgering as a tactic to fluster their targets. it’s a no-win scenario, but sadly reflect on how many millions of online hours have been wasted engaging in this practice.

            People who want real debate need to think about creating venues in which real debate can occur. Right now, there’s a a shitton of asynchronous argument that is thoroughly non-conducive to vetting the durability of ideas.

          • Cauê says:

            Adding a few points: at the beginning of the term’s use the phenomenon happened as much or more with casual observers (people who had no idea what was happening other than what they read in one news article) as it happened with actual members of the other faction. Also, at the beginning it didn’t look much like an insult, and you’d see people going “heh, yeah, I guess I’m like that sometimes”. The connotation of dishonesty built over time.

            Nowadays, the most harmful part of this meme is that asking someone to “back up their accusations with evidence” apparently pattern-matches to “sea-lioning”, and is thus not only dismissed but taken as evidence itself. This, I submit, is both crazy and crazy unproductive.

        • Cauê says:

          “Sea-Lioning is an Internet slang term referring to intrusive attempts at engaging an unwilling debate opponent by feigning civility and incessantly requesting evidence to back up their claims.”

          How does one feign civility, I wonder… How is “feigned” civility different than civility?

          Not asking you, Emblem, just musing.

          • Matt M says:

            I think, in this context (largely judging by the comic), feigned civility would refer to someone who attempts to mimic civil behavior (speaking politely, etc.) while engaging in an inherently UNcivil action (following someone around and constantly badgering them to defend their position)

          • Adam says:

            Walder Frey offering the bread and salt when he knows damn well he’s gonna slaughter your whole party later that evening?

          • Cauê says:

            I see. I guess I see the word “civility” as something strictly formal rather than material (e.g. I’m least polite with the people I like and respect the most). Might be a language thing (not a native speaker).

            But I must confess, what actually bothers me about it is the implicit or explicit accusation of dishonesty.

        • TheNybbler says:

          The contested spaces were truly contested, though the SJWs didn’t want to accept that (note I said they attempted to expel me; they were not successful, the best they could do is block). The SJWs want all public and semi-public fora to be echo chambers for their own views. They would not recognize a “neutral” field because to them any field which allows their opponents a voice is doing wrong. Remember that to them, “no platforming” is not only good policy but a moral imperative.

          In their view you don’t allow racist misogynist scum to speak; they might cause distress in an less-privileged person or worse, they might actually influence someone else into heresy. If you get the chance to observe them in their echo chambers they’ll say these things in almost so many words.

          I know it’s tempting to assume these are reasonable people amenable to debate and to, if not changing their views, at least an agreement to disagree. They’re not. If you don’t believe me, try it yourself (I’d recommend doing it under a throwaway pseudonym).

          • Emblem14 says:

            Believe me I’ve tried. I don’t doubt that the bulk of the True Believers lack the prerequisite appreciation for/understand the importance of defending their own positions against interrogation. Their authoritarianism is blinding and their logic is self-justifying and circular.

            But there must be a few sophisticated, well respected leadership figures on at least a few subjects that can be tempted out of the echo chambers to face a challenge. For chrissakes, even fundies had the self-confidence to hold their own against Hitchens/Harris/Dawkins!

            The unwillingness for ANYONE of note on the SJ side to submit to contentious dialogue from good-faith opponents of ANY kind, if such is the case, is beyond embarrassing.

            It’s more embarrassing for the non-SJ thinking community as a whole if a singular incoherent ideology can win the day by sheer assertion and steamrolling.

  38. Ben says:

    This is a very good post and (like many of your posts) directly on point for me. Just this past Saturday I was having dinner with a friend and we were talking about this. Neither of us are particularly conservative, I’m in the odd leftish libertarian (not in the anarchist sense) camp without a good name that Scott tried to write a manifesto for a while back and my friend is a pretty standard liberal technocrat. Both of us align much more closely to the modern Democratic party than the Republican party but we were talking about the Strangeloop incident (among others) and feeling deeply uneasy.

    I haven’t read the other 850+ comments, I read about 200 so I don’t know if anyone else has pointed this out but if not, my theory on why this has been so effecting. The people I generally see getting most worried about this come from a vaguely left of center group, some more libertarian inclined but if you were to draw an classifier based on modern political cultures they’d be closer to the blues than the red. To be sure there are a lot of red tribe folks worried as well but they often seem less apocalyptic and more resigned about the direction.

    My theory is that most of these grey-blues as I’ll call them started out as blue tribe members, in their blue bubble and political discussions were very much “safe spaces.” Yes there would be disagreements but everyone basically agreed that people within those bubbles were basically good, honest folks trying to make the world a better place. Overtime as we moved outside the area of acceptable blue tribe belief on some issues, whether due to personal belief shift, blue tribe belief shift or some combination of the two, we lost a safe space and we never really found another. Too many disagreements with hard libertarian spaces like Reason and some of the more technocratic spaces seem to have shifted as well, Vox being the prime example.

    Communities like LW allowed grey-blues to carve out a space which is why social justice discussions get more heated than most others. We’ve found our new safe space, we don’t want to let it get taken over as well. Social justice is irrationally terrifying because it robbed us of a safe space and we’ve never really been able to find another. Compounding that we still exist in a blue bubble, we still see those posts shared around on facebook and without a political safe space to retreat to we feel very alone.

    While I obviously identify with the story I just told, evidenced by my constant switching from 1st to 3rd person, I’m not defending the viewpoint. I’ve adopted the same safe space rhetoric as the very people I’m so worried about. I’m not sure how to solve it right now but hopefully looking at what causes this reaction can help us figure out how to handle it more logically.

  39. SFG says:

    And this is why I never say anything political using my real name on the Internet and my Facebook account is set so only friends can find it.

  40. BBA says:

    In addition to the lizard brain telling me not to trust social justice because I’m one of the “white dudes” they rail against, I have another mental narrative, let me call it my “inner Shammai”, telling me to shut up and take it. “You’re comfortable and privileged, and these anti-SJ narratives tell you that’s fine and not to worry. Too easy! Clearly you aren’t feeling miserable enough! Whenever you have a choice between the easy way and the hard way, always pick the hard way. Sure it hurts but that makes it morally superior.”

    Now I remember from Hebrew school that Shammai is practically a strawman set up to be foiled by the obviously correct Hillel but for a while I thought there might be a point to it. My feelings are nothing compared to societal oppression, after all. And then I saw Aaronson get run through the wringer for voicing concerns I myself have once had (though not to the extent that he did) and I found myself being driven to the Hillel position – “If I am not for myself, who will be?”

    Of course Hillel’s follow-up line is also valid – “If I am only for myself, what am I?” – so I’m not going to become reflexively anti-SJ quite yet.

  41. Anonymous says:

    In 2002, the popular Dutch politician and professor in sociology Pim Fortuyn was assassinated. Prior to this event, most of the left on TV and in the newspapers had demonized him and called him a neo-nazi (dubious because he was openly homosexual) and even “an extremely unworthy human-being” in a debate on TV. The killer has Asperger’s syndrome, so he probably took it all literally or something.

    • Tarrou says:

      I know this is nit-picking, but the original nazis had a large homosexual contingent. That’s what the “Night of the Long Knives” was, Hitler purged his movement of all internal challenges to his power, which incidentally included most of the gays in his Brownshirts.

  42. simplicio says:

    Consider a few possible states of the world:
    (a) Red Team is the overdog, brutally suppressing Blue Team
    (b) Blue Team is the overdog, brutally suppressing Red Team
    (c) Both are brutally suppressing each other *in areas where they can*, like Crips versus Bloods

    (I think c is closer to correct, but that’s not my point here.)

    The epistemic problem is that the rhetoric both sides employ looks much the same in all three cases. It seems like people just flip between overdog and underdog rhetoric whenever they sense that one is more effective. So there is not much to be learned from the Fearful Symmetry you noticed through your admirably even-handed reflection. One expects rhetorical symmetry in all 3 cases (or is that just hindsight?), so it doesn’t distinguish between possible worlds.

    Regarding comparison of terrorism (and then politically motivated purges) with things like pedestrian-car collisions and falling off of ladders: I think this is a bad comparison for a few reasons, mainly this one:

    Deaths of pedestrians have well-understood causes and a fairly bounded distribution, holding tech constant at least. I predict fairly confidently that ped deaths in Idaho will be close to the same in 2015 as in 2014.

    But consider for a second that it’s not the end of history yet, and then look at the *tails* of the terrorism/political purge distribution!

    Also, the cost of purges, even small ones, is not measured only in the lives of people actually purged, but in the buildup of a rather large preference falsification equilibrium. I.e., discourse suffers, with all the unknowable harms that entails.

  43. Doctor Mist says:

    I came in late to the whole Sad Puppies thing, surprising because I used to follow the Hugos with interest. While I found Gallo’s explanation nasty description pretty obnoxious, I was actually more interested in her original comment. Regarding TOR publishing a book called The Geek Feminist Revolution, she said

    Making Sad Puppies sadder…Proud to have a tiny part in this.

    As far as I’ve seen, nobody in Sad Puppies has ever even hinted that a publisher should not publish whatever it damn well pleases. The issue was whether the Hugos were getting turned into one faction’s personal fiefdom.

    As with the pizza parlor, there are lots of publishers out there (and to be honest I don’t tend to notice who publishes the books I read). There is only one Hugo.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      There is only one Hugo.

      And having written that I am reminded of the reason why faculty infighting is so vicious: there is so little at stake.

      Also, I really did vow not to comment without first re-reading the title of the original post, which I sometimes forget after reading the nine hundredth comment. My apologies.

  44. aesthete says:


    You’re a thoughtful, reflective, and charitable person — like most of those who comment on this site, I appreciate those attributes and believe they improve both your writing and the site itself. Thanks for writing this.

    There are two salient points which come to mind in response.

    First, mutually assured destruction only works if both sides have access to weapons of mass destruction. Conservatives quite simply don’t have anywhere near the same level of influence in media and the arts as the left. Therefore, those on the left who subscribe to SJW and to the tactics mentioned in this post have no reason to fear retaliation from the right. The only challenge that they have is from others on the left who fight against SJW. Frankly, this challenge has been slow in coming and certainly cannot be brought about by conservatives doing much of anything.

    Second, it strikes me that the typical model of social protest (where the oppressed class protests until its needs are met, only for protest movements to atrophy once that condition is met) is subverted by social justice types in a way that it is not for conservatives: whereas conservatives are by and large protesting for themselves (and can plausibly lose interest once their conditions are met), social justice warriors are by and large not part of the class on whose behalf they are protesting — meaning that even if their conditions are met, it is plausible that they will not recognize an improvement in conditions such that the movement dies down. Indeed, discussion regarding microaggressions appears to counter precisely such atrophying by ennobling social protest against minimal harms, such that these protests may continue indefinitely.

    There is an asymmetry, and it is such that it doesn’t appear resolvable without an intra-leftist fight where the anti-SJW left is triumphant. As a non-leftist, I have no means by which to encourage this result (as far as I can tell), but until this occurs it appears to me that the best thing non-leftists can do is to support the victims of SJW zeal as best they can, and to continue to point out these events when they occur.

    • Bugmaster says:

      Conservatives quite simply don’t have anywhere near the same level of influence in media and the arts as the left

      How do you measure the amount of influence that a particular side has ? I would argue that the conservatives are not exactly powerless, seeing as they have Fox News and talk radio and, I don’t know, Mel Gibson and stuff.

      • Anonymous says:

        The right has Mel Gibson, which is why he can’t distribute films in America.

        • Sylocat says:

          Uh, I think there might be a little more to that story there…

          • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

            There is. Mel Gibson seems to have anger issues. He might also be somewhat antisemitic, which combined with the previous point makes it hard for him and Hollywood to coexist.

            Just having conservative views is probably not enough, since RDJ (who’s a personal friend of Gibson) seems to be killing it at the box office, and the “he’s actually a bad person who deserves to be exiled” doesn’t seem to cut it either because people in Hollywood seem perfectly content to work with people who are actual criminals.

          • Anonymous says:

            Regardless of why, it doesn’t do the right any good to have a “filmmaker” who can’t distribute films.

          • Adam says:

            He was wildly popular until the Jew rant. That’s probably the closest there is short of literal treason thing that no one can get away with and hope to succeed in mainstream America, regardless of your other political leanings.

            I’m not sure controlling Hollywood really goes a huge way toward shaping political discourse anyway. I’ve largely stopped watching films, but I’m looking at a top 10 grossing list for this year and it’s got Avengers 2, Furious 7, Jurassic Park 4 (5?), Cinderella (how many times has this been made now?), Home, Pitch Perfect 2, Fifty Shades of Grey, The SpongeBob Movie, Mad Max 4. If there’s a message at all, it’s we hate risk and we’re gonna sell you Furious 38 if the remaining actors can stay alive long enough.

          • Anonymous says:

            Mainstream America doesn’t care about antisemitism, only the gatekeepers in Hollywood. You know what else doesn’t care about antisemitism? Israel, one of the only countries where his last movie opened.

          • NN says:

            The fact that Hollywood is overwhelmingly Blue might have something to do with the fact that it took them 11 years to start making War on Terror movies targeted towards the Red Tribe. Before Act of Valor, all major movies set during the War on Terror were thoughtful dramas targeted at Blue Tribe sensibilities like Green Zone and other movies that no one remembers because they all bombed. Making movies to appeal to the Red Tribe on this issue was an incredibly obvious money making opportunity, and the potential was demonstrated by things like the 24 TV series. But for some reason Hollywood kept setting all of its crowd pleasing action movies as far away from the WoT as possible, and Blue Tribe dominance seems to be the most logical explanation to me.

            Of course, eventually Hollywood did make one of those movies, though it happened almost by accident (Act of Valor was made as a Navy Seal recruitment video but got a feature release after Bin Laden was killed by Navy Seals). And to absolutely no one’s surprise it was wildly successful. At that point, studio executives couldn’t ignore this market anymore so we got Lone Survivor, American Sniper, and surely a whole bunch more in production right now.

            That’s the reason why domination of Hollywood doesn’t influence political discourse much: Hollywood’s ultimate loyalty is always to the people who buy movie tickets.

            There’s also the fact that the SJ crowd is really hard to please, and I’ve long suspected that their activities may actually serve to disincentivise female and minority representation by creating the risk of a social media backlash if a female or minority character doesn’t exactly meet their standards. If Joss Whedon can’t reliably avoid the ire of SJWs, why should studio executives trust anyone else with the job of appealing to them?

          • Sylocat says:


            Well, they weren’t making movies explicitly about the war on terror for a while after 9/11, but the action-blockbusters of that era got a whole new slate of villains who mapped pretty nicely as thinly veiled allegories for Al Qaeda and similar groups. They didn’t need to make the movie about specific terrorists when they could show Jack Bauer and Bruce Willis punching more generic ones.

          • NN says:


            Do you have any specific examples to back up those claims? Because as far as I can tell, it seems more like the opposite happened. Hollywood had been using Middle Eastern terrorists as stock villains for decades (prominent examples include the “Libyan nationalists” in Back to the Future and Crimson Jihad in True Lies) but after 9/11 they seemed really reluctant to go there. Even when terrorist bad guys did show up, they would be anything but Arab or Muslim. Since you brought up Bruce Willis, the fourth Die Hard movie, released in 2007, has him fighting terrorists who are all English speaking Americans. The only exception I can think of is the first Iron Man movie, and even there the terrorists are a pretty minor part of the plot.

            I treat 24 as separate from the above discussion because TV and movies are different industries. But it is worth noting that 24 also sort of happened by accident. The entire first season was filmed before 9/11, and the first episode aired November 6, 2001 after being delayed a month and given some last minute edits. When the story of an all-American hero fighting terrorists turned out to be a big hit, the producers ran with it, and the rest is history.

          • Alraune says:

            The only exception I can think of is the first Iron Man movie…

            The audience resonance earned by pitching Tony Stark as SCIENCE MAN: TERROR PUNCHER is precisely why such a relative unknown was able to succeed. Pre-release, everyone was pretty much expecting Iron Man to be a bit of filler between Batman and James Bond films, instead it was relevant.

  45. Jacob Schmidt says:

    On the other hand, if I were a sci-fi author in one of the groups that she was talking about, I’m not sure I’d be able to work with her. Like, really? You want me to sit across a table and smile at the woman who thinks I’m a racist sexist homophobic extremist neo-Nazi just because I disagree with her?

    I detest rhetoric like this. I especially detest it here, as it is a clear example of what’s referred to here as the worst argument in the world.

    • Cauê says:

      I’d say the example isn’t that clear, as I’m not seeing it even after you pointed it out.

  46. grendelkhan says:

    This read like a David Brooks both-sides false equivalence thing, and I got my hackles up expecting this to be a hit piece on the left. (Which I enjoy!) Then it wound up being way, way more even-handed, and the central point–maybe now that we all know how much it sucks to be dehumanized, we can all be more decent to each other–was a very kind and interesting one. I conclude that I am really poorly calibrated about this sort of thing, and very much needed to read this post.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I’m struck by this response, as it seems like one of the few on the “red-tribe” (or maybe just anti-SJ) side that draws this conclusion. It seems like most people on the blue-tribe side who are commenting on the general tone like it, and those who are more on the other side don’t like the conclusion or the tone.

      Frankly, I’m a little bit surprised and more saddened that this is the reaction. Although maybe I am mis-reading it.

      I still think Rodney King’s one sentence “can’t we all just get along” is one of the most humane and humanizing statements ever made. Scott’s post seem like an exhaustive inquiry to why this is a good advice in general.

      • grendelkhan says:

        I think I was vague enough that you might not be able to tell where my sympathies usually lie, and likewise, I can’t quite tell which tribe you’re usually in. Either this is a good sign, or a sign that we’ve gone a bit too meta.

      • Dinaroozie says:

        If I’m reading you right, you’re saying that you’re sad that comments like grendelkhan’s, coming from an ASJ viewpoint and agreeing with Scott’s post, are rarer than the ones coming from a SJ viewpoint and agreeing with Scott’s post.

        In that case, I think (maybe optimistically) that this comes from the fact that while Scott’s article is about symmetry, it isn’t itself symmetrical, because Scott identifies himself as being on a side from the start. I would predict that an explicitly pro-social-justice blogger posting a big long thing saying, “Hey maybe my fears and the things anti-social-justice people fear aren’t so different after all, let’s hug it out”* would get lots of positive responses from the anti-social-justice readership, and perhaps fewer from the pro-social-justice readership.

        In other words, I suspect that Fearful Symmetry reads to ASJ folks as a request from introspection, and to SJ folks as an olive branch, and the latter is generally more warmly received than the former.

        *It pains me a little to reduce Scott’s essay to that but you know what I mean.

      • Lesser Bull says:

        I saw that trend too, from which I concluded that the blue tribe probably is winning. It’s the lizard brains of the ascendant that approve the message that while they may be responsible for bad things, the other side is just as bad.

  47. Brian says:

    Hi Scott: long time reader, first – er, maybe third – time poster. Love the blog.

    I was re-reading your anti-Reactionary FAQ today instead of working, and I came across this bit on SJWs:

    5.4.3: Even if the establishment has not managed to completely ban all discussion of race that contradicts their own ideas, isn’t it only a matter of time before political correctness takes over completely?

    It’s hard to measure the power of the more intellectually bankrupt wing of the social justice movement, but as best I can tell it does not seem to be getting more powerful.

    According to Rasmussen, support for “political correctness” is declining in America. As we saw above, fewer and fewer people are willing to attribute black-white disparities to “racism” over time. Gallup finds that in the past decade, the percent of blacks satisfied with the way blacks are treated has gone up nearly 10% (I can’t find similar numbers for white people, but I bet they’re similar). Both white and black people are about 25% less likely to consider the justice system racially biased than 20 years ago. The percent of whites who think government should play “a major role” in helping minorities has dropped by 10 percent since 2004; for blacks, there is a similar drop of 14 percent.

    The percent of people who think women have equal job opportunities to men has gone up 15% in the past nine years. Women are less likely to identify as feminists than twenty years ago, and support for affirmative action is at historic lows.
    Here we see really the most encouraging combination of trends possible: actual racism, perceptions of racism, and concern about racism are all decreasing at the same time. So how come social justice people have been making so much more noise lately?

    My guess is changes in the media. The Internet allows small groups to form isolated bubbles and then fester away from the rest of society, becoming more and more extremist and paranoid and certain of themselves as their members feed upon each other in a vicious cycle.

    (Sorry for the lengthy quote)

    You wrote this back in October 2013. I THINK I’ve noticed your concern about the Social Justice movement ratcheting up since that time (mine has too). This article I’m posting to, for example, seems much more concerned about the issue than this FAQ. Does that sound right? Do you think you underestimated the public’s interest in pc-ness when you wrote this FAQ?

    • Adam says:

      I think he underestimated the extent to which his bubble and their bubble overlaps.

    • Anonymous says:

      He says here that he is less concerned than 5 years ago.

    • Faradn says:

      He admitted that a lot of his fears regarding this topic are less than rational; he has previously said that SJ topics can be triggering for him. Presumably when he wrote that FAQ he as in a more detached headspace because of the format. I expect his treatment of the topic to vary in its tenor based on how much it is emotionally affecting him at the time. That’s not meant to be insulting–everyone has things they struggle to be objective about. At least Scott is self-aware enough that he can self-correct some of the time.

      • Adam says:

        I think I get reverse PTSD and end up with whatever the opposite of triggering is. I remember a few years ago I was in a group OkCupid chat and a girl who wouldn’t give her name to anyone so I used information from her photos to find who she was and told her (but didn’t tell anyone else or publicly out her or anything). I went to sleep and then woke up the next morning to find a long-ass ranting thread outing me and I had people from all over the place piling on as if I was some paragon of white male privilege female bullying hell-bent on tracking her down and raping her and I deserved to be shunned from the community. It was a few days of hell, but then I turned off the computer, looked around, realized I still had a pretty nice house, good job, quiet safe neighborhood, and here we are years later and most of those people are still my friends, admit they were stupid, and she disappeared into obscurity.

        I mean, I guess Internet lynching gets worse than that, but has anyone asked Scott Aaronson how he’s doing? I follow his blog and he seems fine. Sure, we have a list of like 40 people from the last 15 years in a world of 7 billion who were fired for being insufficiently PC and the list still includes guys like Sterling whose consequence was he had to sell the Clippers and earn a $2 billion profit. Clarence Thomas and Bill Clinton seem to have done all right. Kobe Bryant is fine these days. Jameis Winston was still drafted #1 overall.

        If this is witch hunts and lynching, I don’t know, it somehow lacks the same punch it used to have when that meant getting burned alive or strung up to a tree while your scrotum was sliced off with a razor blade.

        • Tarrou says:

          From my view, you are absolutely correct, but you fail to look ahead. The lynchings come once they’ve been successful long enough without pushback. It’s all fun and games until they find someone less incompetent than Floyd Corkins.

          • Adam says:

            What I see is a society that used to have real witch hunts and lynchings, that now mostly has panelists and Internet commenters yelling at each other, and I see a progression away from physical violence toward increasingly symbolic violence, not a slippery slope back to literal death camps. I’m definitely not failing to look ahead. I just don’t see what you do.

          • Tarrou says:

            And I look back and see that no society, ever, has progressed past violence. In fact, these things tend to be cyclical. The rich, prosperous societies lose their abilities for violence until more violent others can overpower them and set civilization back several thousand years. Or some internal division finally sparks the civil war, and everyone degenerates into anarchy and madness. I know it’s a cliche, I call it Argumentum Ad Attilla, but I haven’t seen the exception to the rule yet. Maybe we’ll be lucky!

        • NN says:

          I’m not so sure about this. Facebook’s facial recognition software has a huge built-in advantage in that it usually only has to look within the social network of the person who uploaded the picture to find anyone in the photograph. I seriously doubt that you could expand the searchable pool to “everyone in the world” or even just “everyone in a mid-size city” without ending up with a huge amount of false positives no matter how good the algorithms got.

          Especially given that even humans, who have the best human facial recognition software in the world as a product of millions of years of evolution, regularly mistake strangers for acquaintances or vice verse, and tend to rely on the same sort of social context cues to help identify people. There’s a story about a reporter who met with Marilyn Monroe for an interview at a cocktail lounge, and noticed that no one else in the room was reacting to her presence. When he pointed this out to Marilyn, she asked “do you want to see her?” subtly changed the way she moved and talked, and suddenly everyone started to recognize her.

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  50. Monoseks says:

    So people can’t live in peace together. What else is new?

    Godspeed Clippy.

  51. Alex Trouble says:

    I can’t help but think that at least some of the symmetry is broken by drawing a parallel to the Lucas Critique:

    Specifically, there’s a difference between the policy we had in the past (or have now) and proposing a policy for the future. Yes, the one guy who was considered the rapist after being raped while blacked out might be the only example, under current policy. And there might be very few false accusations of rape made by women against men, under current policy. But it is as absurd to dismiss any change in policy based on data under another policy as it is to say we can stop guarding Fort Knox because it has never been robbed. We oppose proposed policies in which rape is judged at a “preponderance of evidence” standard in part because we expect the number of false accusations to go up under such a policy. We oppose ousting anyone from academia because of “hatred” or charges of racism because the terms are nebulous and vague, because they make it easier to exclude certain political views, because difference of opinion is good and necessary, etc. and so we expect it to increase if not stopped now. First they came etc.

    This point seems similar to a point you made here:

    You sort of touched on this when you mentioned that we are moving in the direction of the pizzeria being left behind by history but conservatives being thrown out of conferences, but didn’t seem to quite get there.

    Also, I think there’s an object level difference between Academia or other areas which are almost wholly focused on ideas, and areas that are not. It is exceedingly important that schools, technology or professional conferences, writing organizations, etc. support free speech internally. A conservative being thrown out of a technology conference is scarier than a pizzeria not wanting to cater a gay wedding because academic-related fields rely completely on the free flow of ideas while a pizzeria does not. I think private organizations should be allowed to do what they want, legally, and I also think they should be inclusive and tolerant, but the latter is more important for some organizations than for others.

    edited–for clarity

  52. CPaca says:

    So, tell us Scott – did you not check your sources or did you deliberately lie about what Gallo said?

    Here’s your “quote”

    Two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, sexist and homophobic.

    Here’s what Gallo ACTUALLY said (emphasis added):

    There are two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies RESPECTIVELY, that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, misogynist, and homophobic. A noisy few but they’ve been able to gather some Gamergate folks around them and elect a slate of bad-to-reprehensible works on this year’s Hugo ballot.

    Strange how you seem to have dropped out the middle clause, which separates out the SPs from the RPs, and refers only to the latter – toadies of a certain anti-semitic preaching fascism – as “neo-nazis”.

    Would you care to explain?

    • Nornagest says:

      So in context the Sads are extreme right-wing, and the Rabids are neo-nazis, and they’re both racist, misogynistic, and homophobic? I’m not seeing how this differs from Scott’s take enough to justify a callout.

      • Jacob Schmidt says:

        It’s worth noting that Scott specifically addressed the claim as it pertained to Torgerson, saying that Torgerson is not a neo-nazi because he’s married to a black woman.

        Torgerson is a sad puppy. Torgerson was not called a neo-nazi. If Scott wants to make the parallel argument wrt to the rabid puppies, he needs to make the argument about Theodore Beale/Vox Day.

        In fact, conflating the different criticism levelled at the two groups is terrible form. The sad puppies are more moderate, and were described as such (as right wing rather than neo-nazis). Conflating the two allows Scott to paint the criticism as indiscriminate, when in fact it was fairly precise.

        • Nornagest says:

          I’m not really convinced. It’s true that Torgerson wasn’t explicitly called a neo-Nazi by my reading, but on the other hand if I went out and said that Alice and Bob hate Jews and Commies and love little toothbrush moustaches and want to invade Poland, and also that Bob is literally Hitler, it’s not too much of a stretch to conclude that some of the eau de Hitler is meant to rub off on Alice too.

          • Jacob Schmidt says:

            Nothing in the quote provided is about anything specific to neo-nazis, other than the one explicit reference to neo-nazis. The right wing encompasses more than Nazism, neo or otherwise.

        • Randy M says:

          Brad was included in the “unrepentant racist [etc.]” bit, though .

          Also, you are eliding relevant bits of the quote there. Sad puppies are “extreme right wing.” What is extreme right wing, if no nazi (at least in progressive categorization)? And in what ways are Torgerson et al right wing, let alone extreme?

          And as mentioned elsewhere, the “to” in between “right-wing” and “neo-nazi” adds enough ambiguity to assume they are smeared as “at least extreme right wing, if not worse.”

          • Jacob Schmidt says:

            Sad puppies are “extreme right wing.” What is extreme right wing, if no nazi (at least in progressive categorization)?

            I don’t think this is remotely reasonable. You don’t get to presume that they really meant [horribly mean insult] when they said [moderate insult]* after they’ve gone out of their way to almost explicitly separate the two.

            *I am presuming “extremely right wing” is meant to be an insult.

        • Deiseach says:

          The Sad Puppies were not described as “right-wing” (hell, I’m right-wing) but as “extreme right-wing” and included in the characterisation as “unrepentantly racist, misogynist, and homophobic”, accused of scrounging up GamerGate support (and I’ve deliberately avoided learning anything about that mess, so I literally know nothing more than the name, not even who’s involved, what it’s about or anything at all) and picking “bad to reprehensible” works for the Hugos.

          Suppose I were to describe the previous Hugo nominees, awards committee, voters, etc. as ranging from “extreme left-wing to Pol-Pot apologists”*, would anyone be so careful to parse out “Oh, she didn’t call all of them genocide-dreamers, you shouldn’t be so prickly and looking for insult where none was intended!”

          *PLEASE NOTE – NOT MY REAL OPINION. I may think the sample of recent Hugo winners/nominees I read was god-awful crap writing, but I do not attribute any political views good, bad or indifferent to the authors. I may think the writing is bad, but I wouldn’t call it reprehensible (unless we’re going to talk about crimes against language and/or writing, a different kettle of fish: for instance, I think Charlie Jane Anders’ story, the one so admired by Mr Sandifer, would have greatly benefitted by being edited with a chainsaw).

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          Jacob, do you really, sincerely believe this sort of logic-chopping is meaningful? Do you think Gallo was doing anything other than just heaping random abuse on people she hates without putting too much thought into it — that she was instead calibrating her adjectives and dependent clauses with micrometer precision as she dashed off a three-sentence Facebook reply? And if she was, why does that entitle her to more consideration from the people she was abusing, as opposed to less? Being insulted carelessly by someone who’s angry, snarky, and uninterested in the facts feels far less serious than being insulted with great forethought and planning, after all.

    • Deiseach says:

      Would you care to explain?

      Oh, that’s easy. “Scott Alexander” (not his real name, obviously) is a stooge in the pay of the Koch Brothers (that’s the correct reference for Scary Right-Wing Billionaires Funding Secret Causes, yes?) who is deliberately twisting the narrative so that the martyred heroine Irene Gallo, who did naught but speak truth to power, will be tarred with the brush of calling two sets of people neo-nazis instead of only calling one set of people neo-nazis and the others merely extreme right wingers (fascists? not quite fascists? not quite up to the big leagues of neo-Nazism yet? old fashioned Nazis, not the neo ones? who knows?)

      Oh, the horror!

      Sacred Heart of Jesus, can we please at least on here skip the conspiracy “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” crap? I went on Tumblr for my usual fandom fix and got hit with a scare story about anti-Semitism in Brazilian schools which – given that the very blurry image of a letter produced as evidence of this was in untranslated Portuguese – I have no fucking clue as to what it’s about or if it is so.

      Do I really need to wade through the same “Have you stopped beating your wife?” questions on here, as well?

      EDIT: It may or may not amuse you to know that my lower-case “Nazi” was auto-corrected to “initial capital Nazi”. Obviously yet more nefarious interference by right-wing forces to push their point of view and hypnotise us all into thinking there’s no difference between small ‘n’ nazis and capital ‘N’ Nazis, so that we’ll think Ms Gallo was calling people neo-Nazis when she was only calling them neo-nazis.

    • Forlorn Hopes says:

      The phrasing “right-wing to neo-nazi” is a singular adjective, it is saying that the noun stretches from the category right-wing into the category neo-nazi.

      The word “respectively” later on implies the opposite.

      I have no idea what was intended; I doubt that rant was written with care to grammatical precision. Maybe she intended to call the Sad Puppies neo-nazi’s. Maybe she didn’t. There is literally no way to know.

      However she did unambiguously call both groups of puppies “They are unrepentantly racist, misogynist, and homophobic”.

      I think that’s more than enough to qualify for Scott’s point; or to justify the Sad Puppies being uncomfortable.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      “Strange how you seem to have dropped out the middle clause, which separates out the SPs from the RPs, and refers only to the latter – toadies of a certain anti-semitic preaching fascism – as “neo-nazis”.”

      And refers to the former as “extreme right-wing” as well as “unrepentantly racist, sexist and homophobic.” Do you really, seriously think that sort of logic-chopping makes any difference?

      “Would you care to explain?”

      I’m sorry, but who appointed you commissar again? You don’t have any authority to demand anything from anyone.

  53. CJB says:

    Simple test:

    Am I ok with the Hollywood blacklist?

    I am not. I think it should be LEGAL, just as I think marching down the street in swastikas and peaked white caps should be legal. I’m very much Not Ok with it.

    Am I ok with bake sales where they sell things at different prices to men and women?

    Well, again- I think it’s silly, but sure, whatev’s. Do your dirt, paco.

    Am I opposed to what the tech conference did? Yes. I think it should be legal, but it’s wrong.

    Do I care about the bakery? I think it’s silly, but sure, whatev’s. Do your dirt, paco.

    My emotional response, without reference to actual impacts, is identical.

    • Faradn says:

      If I’m not mistaken the Hollywood blacklist was meant to head off harassment and intrusion from the McCarthyist government. Far from being illegal, it was practically required.

  54. blacktrance says:

    The pizzeria is being punished for expressing their views, and so is Moldbug – if a bunch of conservatives got together and shut down a pizzeria that only wanted to serve gay people, that’d be objectionable too, regardless of who currently holds social power or is likely to gain it. It’s scary that people are being punished for their views regardless of whether it’s done by rightists or leftists, because if either group attains hegemonic dominance, the rest will have to keep quiet, and even people whose views are currently considered acceptable by the group that would become dominant would have to be careful.

    Also relevant is the fact that free speech/open discourse is, except among a few cultural libertarians who like it for its own sake, popular primarily among the faction that sees itself as losing power or being out of power altogether. If they manage to secure free speech, then someday they may be able to come back, and for now at least they’ll be able to perpetuate themselves. A dominant or soon-to-be dominant group dislikes freedom of expression for the same reasons. So when you see someone being anti-discourse, they probably see themselves as close to power and so it’s more reasonable to be afraid of them.

  55. Ben says:

    Big difference between the chance of being shot by police while black and the chance of being 9-11ed (apart from former being 10x bigger): US society agrees that 9/11 was bad and spends vast amounts of money to stop it, whereas it seems like a lot of US society tends to blame victims of wrongful police killings even in blatant cases.

    Also, while police killings may be relatively rare, the racist attitudes which cause them also result in a very common experience of police harassment, fines for dubious charges etc. all of which is probably a bit more upsetting than someone criticising you on the Internet.

    • gbdub says:

      There was an awful lot of post-9/11 victim blaming as well. And “why do they hate us?” navel gazing. And protests against spending money on the response (war). And just as outspoken patriots wrote off / memory-holed inconvenient facts about 9/11 (e.g. a lot of the Taliban used to be US supplied mujahadeen), a lot of outspoken anti-racists try write off / memory-hole evidence that the victims might actually be blameworthy (e.g. video of Michael Brown robbing a store, forensic evidence that favors the cops story, etc.)

      It’s all toxoplasma.

    • stillnotking says:

      I doubt there are enough Americans willing to defend unjustified police killings to fill a Legion hall. That’s kind of what “unjustified” means. Only those at the farthest extremes of right-authoritarianism would even attempt to make a case for the death of innocents. (In fact — and I’m not making any claims about the nature of mainstream liberalism or conservatism — it’s easier to find such people on the far left.)

      Most of the recent high-profile killings of young black men have had actually controversial elements: discrepancies in witness accounts, etc. That was one of Scott’s points re: toxoplasma of rage.

      • TheNybbler says:

        They don’t put it that way. They merely believe that all police killings are justified no matter how much rationalization they have to do to provide a “justification” in any particular case. (e.g. “if he didn’t want to get dogpiled by cops, he shouldn’t have been illegally selling single cigarettes)

        • stillnotking says:

          That’s exactly my point: they attempt to justify the killing, rather than shrugging their shoulders and writing it off as an inevitable cost of police authority or whatever. Of course, people disagree as to what constitutes a justification. There are cases even more clearly unjust than Garner’s, but they don’t make the news — precisely because no one is willing to justify them!

        • Adam says:

          There is one and only one person in my Facebook feed that never fails to defend the cop every single time a cop kills someone, and tries her damndest to signal boost every single story of a cop getting hurt or killed or worrying about getting hurt or killed, and I couldn’t tell you if she’s left, right, or doesn’t give a fuck. It’s the only politically charged thing she ever posts about. I doubt she’s a racist. She was originally an illegal South American immigrant who only recently became a citizen. She just reflexively defends cops because she’s a police dispatcher and they’re part of her tribe. Not all tribes are defined by common ideology.

    • Cauê says:

      the racist attitudes which cause them

      As is too common, some things that everybody “knows” don’t rest on especially solid evidence (I worry that questioning them is on the borders of the Overton Window).

      Scott made a heroic effort trying to get a better picture of this:

  56. birdboy2000 says:

    I strongly object to the comparison of Gamergate to groups like ShitRedditSays and FreeThoughtBlogs.

    In part because I’m biased towards the former, but also because I’ve seen a good faith effort from many of Gamergate’s leading figures (and the rank and file) to stem any actions of harassment done in its name or towards its enemies, such as forming an anti-harassment patrol on twitter, banning people who leak personal information, and flooding the /gamergate/ board to push said information off the front page when the moderators of said board were asleep.

    This sentiment isn’t universal – I know there are people supportive of Gamergate contributing to Encyclopedia Dramatica articles, I know Ethan Ralph and Milo Yiannopoulos have published some nasty hit pieces and still receive support within the GG community, although even they get fewer links than they used to because of that. And I know it doesn’t take many people to cause damage.

    But I’ve seen a lot more sincere efforts from within our ranks to condemn and stop death threats, doxxing, and harassment in the name of Gamergate, and if I saw similar efforts from SJWs to stem their dangerous fringe I wouldn’t have a fraction of the antipathy towards them I do now.

    • InferentialDistance says:

      As a person at ground-zero during the precipitating events of GamerGate, the threads I was in all seemed to have very anti-harassment sentiments. Usually in all-caps, in the first post. With anyone suggesting harassment getting shouted down as an idiot and/or a saboteur.

      • Adam says:

        As a person who doesn’t play video games and paid absolutely no attention whatsoever to any of this, it still seems like an issue practically begging to get hijacked by trolls, and disingenuous at best for any opposing faction to draw conclusions about a broad group of people based on it.

    • grendelkhan says:

      if I saw similar efforts from SJWs to stem their dangerous fringe I wouldn’t have a fraction of the antipathy towards them I do now.

      I’m not particularly central to the Fempire, and I don’t comment there very often (when I do, it ranges from distant to outright critical), but I remember people (mainly CotRA) being pretty decent about it in SRSGaming; I remember being upvoted for what I thought was a pretty decent summary of what was going on in ShitRedditSays itself.

      Of course, you can also see one of the protagonists getting hugboxed on GamerGhazi, which sets my teeth on edge. theunitofcaring has written up her position on all this, and it’s pretty much mine.) Telling someone who’s done something awful that they’re SJ Jesus and don’t need to change a damned thing isn’t just wrong, it’s dangerous.

      In conclusion, avoiding a David Brooksian “well, Both Sides mnurr mnurr” may be impossible here.

      • birdboy2000 says:

        It may, but I still think it’s important to highlight the efforts groups and leaders do to stem (or not stem) harassment. Then again I’m not sure how to turn arguments over harassment into both sides actually increasing their efforts to stem harassment in the hopes of winning them.

      • Cauê says:

        I remember being upvoted for what I thought was a pretty decent summary of what was going on in ShitRedditSays itself.

        That is pretty decent, yes (I guess it was also written before the party lines solidified, as it’s now sitting at -4).

        If you allow me to try to improve it… Second paragraph: 1) “for some reason” is actually a few reasons, but in this case mostly from her previous interaction with chan culture 2) spacetime still linear, don’t worry: what happened was a little game of telephone, starting here, and ending not as far as the other side made it look like.

      • multiheaded says:

        /u/CoTRA was exiled forever for that exact thing, though, and then a mod made a cute little speech about how empathy and tolerance are better than judgment. (And therefore, everyone should hugbox poor little Quinn.)

      • DrBeat says:

        I think you’re omitting something really, really, really, really important to why people latched onto the Zoe Quinn thing.

        It’s not about cheating, and it’s not about hating women. (Almost nobody hates women. 4chan believes making any human being upset is a worthwhile goal into itself, feminists have made it crystal clear how to make them very upset, so 4chan keeps doing that thing to make them upset. 4chan is too nihilistic to have an opinion on women or on men. They treat everyone exactly the same, as potential lulz-dispensers.)

        People started posting about it because haha drama, the standard internet mess. It blew up when people on multiple discussion sites were actively censored from talking about it, and game journalists started posting very similar articles about how terrible and awful gamers were and how much they hate women. This smelled of conspiracy. And it was. It was a conspiracy. These game journalists were all on the GameJournoPros mailing list, talking to each other, and when the story about Zoe’s abuse broke, they actively came togetehr and said “This is bad, how shoulde we protect Zoe?” and then they did that. When a story about Zoe Quinn being a horrible abuser came out, because Zoe was their friend or generally in their tribe, they immediately said “We have to stop this and attack the people who bring it up. How can we most effectively suppress this story?”

        That’s kind of an enormous fucking deal.

        • BBA says:

          The most widespread version of the story being censored was not “ZQ is abusive”, it was “sex for reviews” which was both more lurid and false. I would imagine most of the GJP folks were unaware of the underlying story, just that nasty false rumors were being spread about a cherished member of the indie game community. It’s much easier to justify those kinds of actions if you think you have the truth on your side.

          • Protagoras says:

            Yes, exactly. I read a lot of discussion of the story, and only at Ozy’s place was ZQ’s abuse getting serious discussion. Otherwise, sex for reviews is what both sides were talking about early on (which made me sympathetic with ZQ’s side, since those stories pretty obviously were false, until I did finally hear the abuse stories), and then later on all either side would talk about is how awful the other side was being.

          • Cauê says:

            The abuse angle was first picked up for real by a few people on the SJ world, I believe. The thing with that is most people would look at it and be against Gjoni for “washing dirty laundry in public” (it’s not hard to find people inside GG who used to dislike Gjoni for that reason, and a lot of the opposition refuses to read his post). “Call-out culture” is not something people are familiar with.

            [ETA after FacelessCraven’s post below: I mean “abuse” here in the richer, “technical” SJ usage of the word. People were generally mad at how she treated Gjoni from the start, yes]

            The “sex for reviews” thing began very early, when people noticed that one of the guys was a journalist who had promoted her game and featured her prominently in a story before. After a few steps of a game of telephone and a few careless assumptions this became “sex for reviews”. Still, there was enough meat in there that I don’t think “false” is a good description.

            (as I briefly mentioned to grendelkhan above, what most people don’t know is that at first 4chan was like “why should I care about th- waitaminute is this the person from that wizardchan thing?”, which is what initially caught their interest)

            BBA and Protagoras are right about the perception that drove people to initially censor discussion, but DrBeat is right about what turned garden-variety internet drama into a big deal.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @BBA – “The most widespread version of the story being censored was not “ZQ is abusive”, it was “sex for reviews”…”

            I heard about the story within two or three days of the start, and the abuse angle is what I heard first and loudest. Attention shifted toward the nepotism angle as people started digging into the story looking for more dirt. The response seemed to be to treat the “sex for coverage” allegations as outrageous, and then use that outrage to reject the abuse allegations outright as the machinations of a jilted ex. That set the narrative, and from that point on it didn’t actually matter what GG did or said; misogynistic campaign to drive women out of video games, etc, etc. It seemed very neatly done.

            The Nepotism story didn’t seem obviously false to me, at least to the degree that Quinn thanked Grayson in a personal message in the game’s acknowledgements, he made her game the centerpiece of an article about 50-some Indy games, and their relationship was cozy enough that they were romantically involved within a day or two of that article being posted. Also, the widespread instances of similar special-coverage-for-friends-without-disclosure that have come out since, and of course the GameJournoPros plans to protect Quinn in an organized fashion. It doesn’t have to be a quid-pro-quo to be objectionable.

            But hey, at least an abuser got to publicly destroy her victim for daring to call her out, got lauded as a hero for it by her entire community and a good chunk of the real-world media, and now enjoys four figures a month in donations as reward for her actions.

          • DrBeat says:

            “Sex for reviews” was more lurid and false, though similar statements were not false and were being conflated together with “sex for reviews” and dismissed on those grounds.

            But no matter what the story or its interpretation, it was being censored, by an actual, literal and not figurative conspiracy to censor things that made Zoe Quinn look bad. When someone says “Holy fuck, Zoe Quinn slept with a guy to get positive reviews” and the response of the actual literal conspiracy is to censor that person and accuse them of being a horrible person who hates women and should never be listened to, what conclusion do you expect people to draw? That behavior is utterly identical to the behavior of a conspiracy that is trying to cover up an actual sex-for-reviews scandal.

            And considering all of this started with “The Zoe Post”, a long and exhaustive account of Zoe’s abuse… no, no they were not unaware of the underlying story. They ignored it. This is why SJ spaces are fucking paradise for abusers.

  57. Anonymous says:

    This is a bit tangential, but I think it’s relevant enough to ask it here. For people think anti-gay discrimination by businesses should be legal: should anti-black discrimination also be legal? If not, what’s the difference?

    • Matt M says:

      Yes it should. Freedom of association is absolute and everyone should be free to do business (or not do business) with whoever they like for any reason whatsoever.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        So anti-reactionary discrimination should be legal, correct?

        Is anti-gay and anti-black discrimination scary and/or objectionable?

        • Matt M says:

          Scary and objectionable yes.

          Should be illegal? No.

          This is where it gets tricky for me as a libertarian. As much as I strongly disagree with everything the SJW brigade says, does, and stands for… on the other hand, they ARE championing a social ostracism-based model which is the exact sort of thing anarchists have argued could be used in lieu of a government police force to ensure “law and order” in a stateless society.

          It’s also why I get less upset at the SJWs themselves who try to rally the shaming as opposed to say, employers and conference organizers who so readily and effortlessly cave towards any even *slight* threat that comes from the left.

          The way to ensure that shaming works against murderers but not against those with slightly bizarre political beliefs isn’t to make it illegal to shame those with bizarre political beliefs, but rather for the public at large to simply *refuse to go along with shaming people for bizarre political beliefs*

          The SJW shaming brigade has no power aside from what polite society voluntarily cedes to it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            What is a “slightly bizarre” political belief?

            Do you mean ANY belief, at all? Or does something happen when it becomes less mainstream?

            Is there a difference between an out-and-out racist today, and one in 1890s or 1950s Alabama?

          • Matt M says:

            Doesn’t really matter to my point.

            The problem that (most) people want some form of system that will ensure things that (most) people agree on are terrible (like murder) will be prevented/investigated/punished, while things that may be socially unpopular but that (most) people think should be protected (like praying to the sun god) won’t be.

            I feel like when I argue for a social shaming/refusing to trade-based model of justice in a libertarian society, I get an equal amount of “so you’re saying murderers would walk free!” and “you’re saying gay people would be routinely starved to death by homophobic merchants!” objections.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:

            But, what if most people agree that racism and homophobia are terrible and shouldn’t be protected?

            Conversely, what if most people don’t think slavery and/or murder of black people is terrible and shouldn’t be protected?

            Absent some means of discriminating between actually terrible and merely unpopular, your argument sort of becomes “whatever Matt M thinks”.

          • Adam says:

            All I would say to that is that if most people think black people should be slaves, then they probably will be, but that’s already what happens in a system of government dependent upon constitutional rights protections and legislation against foul deeds. The moral quality of your society is dependent upon cultural factors impacting its relative level of social permissiveness, tolerance, and good sense for the boundaries of acceptable behavior, not on the exact process by which those are normalized and enforced.

          • Matt M says:

            How is that different from a representative democracy, where 51% selects policies to be enforced on the other 49%.

            If “most people” decided that something was terrible, the worst they could do is refuse to transact with them.

            Of course, refusing to transact with 49% of the population is probably bad for business and you’d be routinely out-competed by the more tolerant.

            I’m not saying “instant anarchy” is a flawless solution to be immediately implemented everywhere, but I do feel that in many developed/enlightened societies, it would probably be a pretty big improvement, once you got people to really consider the potential advantages and how things would work in practice.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:

            You appear to have gone from “this is very concerning and scary” to “this is mostly good and should be increased”. That is confusing to me and I’m not sure what your point really is in the context of “is it bad that people can signal their dislike of a persons private position to an organization that is not the government”

            Directly addressing what you said, representative democracy is not direct democracy and ameliorates some of the worst failure modes of direct democracy. Checks and balances are a real thing that do work in a representative system. In addition, the enshrining of individual rights in the establishing documents of the democracy also helps.

          • Matt M says:

            Well that’s why I said the issue was “tricky for me.”

            I don’t like how the SJWs are using the method of social shunning to alienate and destroy those with differing viewpoints, because I don’t believe having differing viewpoints merits destruction.

            However, I do like the method of using social shunning to settle disputes generally, and consider it vastly superior to using a bunch of goons with handguns to enforce social norms onto those who may not agree with them.

            Basically, I’m in favor of using social shunning to punish thieves and murderers, but I’m not in favor of using it to punish those whose religious beliefs differ from mine. But that being said, if we ARE going to punish heretics, better to do it with shunning than with the force of government.

          • Matt M says:

            Regarding checks and balances, I think they’re mostly smoke and mirrors, and that the difference between a representative democracy and a direct democracy is just that the representative part makes things take a little bit longer than they otherwise would have (which is a net positive, but not by much)

            Having guarantees in the constitution means nothing if it can be changed at will, either by direct democracy or by the court just deciding that something that used to mean X now means Y (gay marriage being the perfect example of this).

            Not to mention that the constitution itself was ratified by the state legislatures (in an unlawful manner not prescribed by the AOC) who themselves were elected, as far as I know, via direct democracy. And that many of the pro-ratification arguments and assurances of how things would be interpreted were immediately abandoned.

            And don’t even get me started on the civil war and the 14th amendment and the “incorporation doctrine”

            I think if you examine the historical record, you’d be hard pressed to find any particular time when a very large majority of the American public wanted something and didn’t get it due to “checks and balances”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:

            Well that’s why I said the issue was “tricky for me.”

            I guess that is fair enough. I think I understand why you are saying it’s tricky. You like speech to be free, but you don’t want it to impede the free speech of others.

            But I think you would also say that a person should be treated as an individual, not as a member of a group or class. They should be judged on their own merits. Feel free to challenge this, as I am putting words on your keyboard, so to speak.

            If person A can advocate for discriminating against [some category of] people, it just strikes me as really odd that when person B through Z advocate for discrimination against only that individual, it’s more scary to a libertarian.

            A is being judged by his own conduct, not simply as a member of a class, whereas A is advocating for violating this principle.

            Is it the fact A is in the minority that makes it scary? Is it the a right to privacy that says speech on my own time should not be considered by my employer? Is it that the speech of B-Z is specifically targeted against A?

            Or is the speech of A and the speech of B-Z equally scary, but the speech of B-Z is scarier because there is more of it?

            Or is it really just that the B-Z speech advocates violating the principle that allows the speech in the first place?

          • Matt M says:

            I think you’re overanalyzing this. It’s not even about speech specifically, it’s more general than that. It’s more like “I want social shunning/ostracism/boycotting to replace a gang of thugs locking you in a cage as the primary enforcement mechanism of law/order/social mores/”commonsense morality/etc.”

            It’s just that, in this particular case, I don’t think the thing they are shunning/ostracizing/boycotting is deserving of such a punishment.

            Basically, the SJWs are providing a compelling use case for how justice could function in a libertarian system… except that they’re wielding it in a way that I find inherently unjust.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:

            So you DON’T think they are wrong in principle, just that their choice of thing they think should be shunned doesn’t match the choice you would make?

            How is that INHERENTLY unjust? There doesn’t seem to be anything inherent about it (as it is currently framed). You don’t have any principles from which it could be inherent.

            Basically, in your system, that is inherently JUST, not injust.

            Sorry, we are probably just spinning wheels at this point. I’ll let you reply and have the last word unless you really want to go forward.

          • Matt M says:

            You’re technically right that, in the end, my issue here boils down to “some people believe things that I don’t believe and that makes me angry.”

            Of course there’s the added dimension of me feeling a little bit like Dr. Frankenstein, given that I’ve spent years of my life trying to convince people of the moral superiority of social-ostracism based systems, and yet, the one that ended up being created is an abomination that is not even remotely representative of the type of thing I envisioned.

            In other words: IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A THING OF BEAUTY!!!

        • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

          Isn’t it already legal?

        • John Schilling says:

          IMO, private anti-black, anti-gay, and anti-reactionary discrimination are all scary and objectionable and ought nonetheless be legal. Coercing other people to engage in any brand of discrimination is more scary, more objectionable, and depending on the degree of coercion, ought to be illegal.

          And the standard needs to be the same across the board. If you’re going to make private discrimination illegal, make it illegal for everyone.

      • JBeshir says:

        I’m curious what you mean by the statement “freedom of association is absolute”. It’s a norm, so the two relevant things I can see are a, well, normative statement that it should be a norm, and an empirical statement that it currently is a norm.

        The latter is clearly false and the former would require an argument as to why.

        • Matt M says:

          I suppose I could have said “in my opinion, the freedom of association is absolute” but I generally consider the IMO statement to be a useless waste of space because on the Internet, everything should be assumed to be an opinion unless they cite sources.

          To clarify: Under the non-aggression principle (which I wholly support and which I suspect most people support at least in part), freedom of association MUST be absolute, because the only alternative involves the initiation of force against otherwise peaceful parties.

          • Mark says:

            The homophobic pizza parlor owner is initiating force against me as a homosexual by preventing me from entering his premises.

          • onyomi says:

            That is not *initiating* force.

            Am I initiating force against you by preventing you from coming into my home uninvited?

          • Richard Gadsden says:


            Yes, this comes down to the governmental grant of private property over land, which is messy and waaaaaaaaaaay off topic. If @Matt M wants to continue the discussion elseweb then point me at an appropriate forum. If not, then I’ll let him have the last word in response to this.

            I think that most libertarian thinking about land is very intellectually shallow, but land law and the underlying morality and history is scarily complicated and I can see how you get to a place where you think that land works like ordinary property – after all, for most people in modern society, you earn money and then buy stuff; you earn money and buy land, so why is it different?

            Answer: let’s go somewhere else, but the usual libertarian argument for the initial creation of property rights in stuff is that people made it; that clearly ain’t true for land. You can therefore argue that land isn’t capable of being owned, or that land-property is different in nature from stuff-property. There are good libertarian arguments for it being similar, but there are good libertarian arguments that it isn’t; geolibertarians (Georgists) are very different on this one question and seem quite leftist to most libertarians because they hold that land-property is a government-granted monopoly privilege, not a property right, comparable to a taxi medallion.

          • Ever An Anon says:


            Well firstly the actual pizza owner didn’t ever prevent gay people from buying his pizzas much less entering his shop (how would he even know that you’re gay?): the objection was to catering a gay wedding.

            Secondly and more importantly, there is no reasonable definition of force where being compelled to serve someone isn’t force or where not being able to compel others to serve you is force. You don’t have a right to anyone else’s property or labor, that’s why we have to trade for it. The whole point of the NAP is supposed to be upholding that idea.

          • Mark says:

            You would be the one initiating *physical contact* – if you want to define force as “doing something contrary to the legal regulations of my society”, then surely the “non-aggression” principle = nothing more than “obey the law”.
            As such, I don’t see why we couldn’t have a law preventing discrimination and define any who break it as initiating force.

          • Richard Gadsden says:

            @onyomi yes.

            If you take away the magical idea of the NAP that says that the initiation of force is always wrong, then the answer is obvious. Force against a person is legitimately initiated by a property-owner who prevents them from entering their property uninvited.

            The problem is that a bunch of people (a particular variety of libertarian) have defined initiation-of-force as always bad, and therefore have to redefine cases where force is legitimately initiated as retaliatory.

            It’s not. How is it initiation of force to walk in through an open door? It clearly isn’t. How is it initiation of force not to leave when asked? It clearly isn’t. It’s the bouncer who throws you out who initiates the force.

            So what? It’s a perfectly legitimate initiation of force.

            You don’t have to assert the NAP to be a libertarian.

          • Mark says:

            “there is no reasonable definition of force where being compelled to serve someone isn’t force or where not being able to compel others to serve you is force.”

            I personally don’t think that the definition of force that allows picking up a piece of paper to be “force” but shooting someone in the head not to be, is particularly reasonable – but there we have it.
            The more interesting question is whether there is a good reason to compel people to do certain types of work. The answer is of course, yes.

          • Matt M says:

            That’s not what “force” is. If he owns the premises he has the right to exclude anyone. Are you “initiating force” against the local homeless population by preventing them from sleeping in your bed?

          • Richard Gadsden says:

            Having said I’d give other people the last word, I then kept replying. My intention was not to respond on libertarian-land-ownership, not on NAP.

            Still, I’ve said my piece on NAP also now, and will not respond on this subthread unless an entirely new topic arises.

          • Mark says:

            Thank you, I found your comments to be most pertinent.

            @Matt M
            Does initiation of force mean “breaking the law”?
            Presumably if we live in a society in which the right to own land for the purpose of business (determined by law/government) is dependent on the businesses following equality of service regulations, the business owner would be “initiating force” (breaking the law) by refusing service to me.
            Or is the definition of “force” just the old “doing stuff I don’t like”.

          • onyomi says:

            @Richard and Mark

            What Matt said.

            I’m not wedded to the NAP, so if you want to call kicking a homeless person out of your house when he has entered without your permission “the initiation of force” because, technically, you are the first person to use physical force (assuming he won’t go when asked verbally), then fine.

            But I’m pretty sure most who do cite the NAP don’t mean it that way. The ability to use the minimum amount of force necessary to enforce one’s own property rights is not generally considered “initiation” of force, because first someone had to violate your property rights.

            To cite an extreme example: everyone has property rights in their own body. If someone puts their hand on your thigh and you ask them to remove it and they don’t, if you then grab their hand and forcibly remove it, would you consider that “initiation of force”?

            And if so, I obviously have no problem with that sort of initiation of force–that is, the minimum level of force necessary to enforce a property right.

          • Adam says:

            Are you “initiating force” against the local homeless population by preventing them from sleeping in your bed?

            Not in general, but if you happen to leave your door open accidentally, come home to find a homeless person in your bed, and kick them out, you’re initiating force. But it’s a perfectly well-justified initiation of force.

            Or if that’s too easy, what about you keep a bed in your backyard, have no fence, maybe a sign saying it’s yours, but you come home and find a blind homeless man sleeping in it. Surely, you’re still justified in kicking him out, no? Justification for all of these things rests upon the right to control the use of your property, not on the non-aggression principle.

          • Matt M says:

            I also don’t think this is an appropriate place to hash out all libertarian political theory.

            But I’ll simply state that for me, “the law” is entirely irrelevant to moral and ethical discussions (and therefore this debate).

          • Mark says:

            If “force” isn’t about physical contact, and isn’t about the law – then couldn’t we just simplify this:

            “freedom of association MUST be absolute, because the only alternative involves the initiation of force against otherwise peaceful parties.”

            “I like freedom of association.”

          • Matt M says:

            It IS about physical contact, but it includes physical contact against one’s property as well as one’s person.

            So the homeless guy who wanders into your house and sleeps in your bed IS in fact initiating force against you by unjustly depriving you of your property. If you pick him up and throw him out of your house, you have not *initiated* force against him, you are merely defending your property against an aggressor.

          • Mark says:

            I think that when picking up a piece of paper is force, but shooting someone in the head isn’t, the term has ceased to be useful.
            If you ask me, there is something a little bit dishonest about the non-aggression principle.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think that when picking up a piece of paper is force, but shooting someone in the head isn’t, the term has ceased to be useful.

            The word doing most of the work there is “initiation”, not “force”.

            Now, it’s true that you need to do some gynmastics to get the non-aggression principle to cover property rights as traditionally understood, which is part of the reason I’m not totally on board with it, but “dishonest” is pushing it.

          • Matt M says:

            Not a lot of gymnastics.

            You own your body. Therefore, you own what you produce with your body. Therefore, your property is protected to the same extent your body is.

            If one does NOT have the right to protect their property, then they do not have a right to the fruits of their labor, which is the same thing as slavery (ie, not owning your own self at all).

          • John Schilling says:

            I think that when picking up a piece of paper is force, but shooting someone in the head isn’t, the term has ceased to be useful.

            Oh, it gets worse than that. Consider reckless driving, which isn’t intended to and hasn’t yet injured anyone, with the police cruiser whose flashing lights explicitly signal “stop what you’re doing or we’ll stop you by force”. If this drama proceeds the way it usually does, or if it proceeds the way it might if the driver simply ignores the cop, who is “initiating force”?

            So, yeah, useless. Either it’s obvious who is initiating force, in which case it is also obvious who is the bad guy, or you need to immediately follow “initiation of force” with an explanation of what those three words mean and who did the initiating in this context, in which case what did those three words accomplished.

            I’m a literal card-carrying Libertarian, but this is sophistry. A way of dividing all political action into three categories: Robbery, rape, and murder; all the stuff I want to stop you from doing which I will now show is morally equivalent to robbery/rape/murder; and all the stuff I want to do over your opposition, which I will now show is morally equivalent to defending myself against robbery or worse at your hands. But by the Three Magic Words, I make it a coherent moral principle that just coincidentally always rules in favor of what I want.

          • Matt M says:

            I guess they give those cards out to anyone these days! 🙂

            Say what you will about the communists, but presumably they wouldn’t have issued a membership to someone who was like “yeah yeah, im with you on everything else, but im a HUGE fan of private property!”

          • Matt M says:

            And just so people don’t get all excited here – the reckless driving question is easily answered.

            The policies of the road can and should be enforced by the owner of the road – with the exception that they cannot jail you or kill you for violating their policies, only deny you use of the road (but they may use force if you refuse to leave their property after being told you are not welcome).

            And no, the government is not a legitimate owner of the current roads. The government is not the legitimate owner of anything, because everything it has was purchased with stolen money.

          • John Schilling says:

            If the government, state, people collectively, cannot own or administer the roads, then you run into the patchwork-quilt problem where anyone who offends four of their neighbors (or one big land-management company) can be isolated, imprisoned, left to starve, and be shot if they try to escape.

            I’m a libertarian, not an anarcho-capitalist.

          • Matt M says:

            That’s true, that could possibly happen.

            Of course, under the state, all you have to do is offend any one of the legion of bureaucrats with enough power to mess things up for you.

            Or to attempt to do something (like say, smoke marijuana) that 51% of the population has determined you shouldn’t be allowed to do.

            The problems of too many jurisdictions are FAR preferable to the problems of too few.

        • Mark says:

          Matt M,
          What proportion of production is due to the individual’s work, and what proportion is due to the social structure?

          • Matt M says:

            Impossible to know and will vary wildly on a case by case basis.

            Ergo, we should error on the side of caution and not murder, assault, and steal from people because they MIGHT have gotten more than their own fair share.

          • Mark says:

            I just find it so… I don’t know… infuriating? that libertarians can literally advocate killing people who touch their things, and yet accuse their opponents of advocating “murder” when they favor (generally peaceable) taxation.

            This position just makes no sense to me.

          • Matt M says:

            Because under the state, everyone who shoots an intruder in their home is always prosecuted for murder?

            Or because all libertarians are heartless psychos who have no sense of proportionality and would continue to trade with someone who was known to have killed someone for a very minor property crime?

            Libertarianism is nothing more than crowd-sourcing most of the same political features you have now, only instead of “winner takes all” you now have six billion competing jurisdictions.

          • Mark says:

            If you have a *true* non-aggression principle – nobody initiating physical force (of any kind) – it is actually impossible to enforce property law.
            If, by “non-aggression principle” you mean “don’t touch my justly owned property or I can shoot you, and even if it isn’t justly owned, well, don’t touch it anyway, because it is better to shoot someone who touches my stuff that may not be justly owned than for someone to touch something that is justly owned”, I think we have strayed quite a long way from anything any normal person could recognize as an ethical principle.

          • Mark says:

            “…Libertarianism is nothing more than crowd-sourcing most of the same political features you have now, only instead of “winner takes all” you now have six billion competing jurisdictions.”

            But what you have given there isn’t an ethical argument, Matt. It is an argument about how effective the competing political systems are.

          • John Schilling says:

            I just find it so… I don’t know… infuriating? that libertarians can literally advocate killing people who touch their things, and yet accuse their opponents of advocating “murder” when they favor (generally peaceable) taxation.

            Libertarians “advocate” shooting petty thieves in roughly the same way that their opponents do in fact advocate shooting people for tax evasion – as Plan D or Plan E after a series of escalatory steps so far beyond the pale that in polite society we like to think nobody would ever ever push it that far over such a minor issue.

            When someone is shot for tax evasion (or petty theft or whatnot), the whole story will be something like “…was shot by police when he endangered bystanders while resisting arrest with a shotgun, when he wouldn’t go peacefully when the Sheriff tried to evict him from his house, which was foreclosed when he couldn’t pay the mortgage, because his wages were garnished when he refused to meet with the IRS after repeated entreaties to discuss his unpaid taxes”. And usually only the first clause will make it into the headline.

            Most libertarians, who are not anarchists, believe that anyone who skips straight to Plan E over petty theft should be arrested by the police and sent to jail for murder. The minority of libertarians who are anarcho-capitalists and don’t think there should be police at all, believe in a web of private security companies that will ensure about the same outcome unless both parties are hard-core ultra-individualist lone wolfs.

            And the insistence of some libertarians on framing everything in no-initiation-of-force terms, among its many other problems, tend to steer the debate towards the exceedingly rare extreme cases and not the dispute resolution mechanisms that will be employed in 99.99+% of actual cases.

          • Mark says:

            Yeah. I think all I’m looking for is the recognition that in extreme cases all societies require some degree of force to compel people to do (or not do) certain things.
            Libertarians like the societies they advocate and therefore feel that using force to defend the principles of that society is justified. (Though given how iniquitous our society is from an anarcho-capitalist perspective , I’m a bit puzzled as to how they think we have a right to defend property as it exists.)

            But they can’t then argue that their society is *justified* because it only requires acceptable use of force – that’s completely circular argumentation.

          • RCF says:

            @John Schilling
            “Most libertarians, who are not anarchists”

            That should be “Most libertarians who are not anarchists”

          • John Schilling says:

            My phrasing was deliberate, specifically including the location of the commas. Anarchists are a vocal minority of libertarians. The majority of libertarians, who are not anarchists, are annoyed by the persistent misunderstanding on this point. I mean, we have an actual political party, and its platform is not “disband the government”.

          • Cauê says:

            I think it was actually here that I saw serious defense of anarchy for the first time.

            I now get somewhat less exasperated when I see people going “oh yeah? then why don’t you move to Somalia?”, because it now feels a little bit less like a strawman.

            Still not quite used to it, though.

        • Mark says:

          There is a justification for libertarianism entirely unrelated to the non-aggression principle: that libertarianism makes people happy and is good for society.

          • onyomi says:

            That is a good utilitarian argument for libertarianism if one agrees with the empirical premises, which many, strangely, do not.

            In my opinion, the best ethical justification for libertarianism, better than just asserting the NAP (though I am broadly in agreement with what we might call “the spirit of the NAP”) is described in Michael Huemer’s The Problem of Political Authority.

            The basic idea is that, right now, we have something called political authority which is an idea that certain people (agents of the state) can do things which would be wrong if a private citizen did them. Moreover, private citizens have a duty to obey government agents, even when doing so requires acting against their own consciences.

            This authority requires some sort of justification; otherwise it’s just special pleading. And all of the justifications fall flat.

            Thus, a better standard than NAP is simply: act according to commonsense morality (don’t lie, cheat, steal, or murder–but basic self defense is okay) and expect others (government agents included) to do the same. If you think government (which in a democracy we tend to call our “representatives”) can do things you would be wrong to do, ask “how did I delegate to a representative rights I myself didn’t have?”

            Want to know if it’s okay for the government to do it? Just ask: “would it be okay for me to do it?” Most people think it’s okay to use a reasonable level of force to get a trespasser off one’s property, for example, but most people think it’s not okay to shoot someone whose dog pooped on your lawn.

          • Mark says:

            “Thus, a better standard than NAP is simply: act according to commonsense morality (don’t lie, cheat, steal, or murder–but basic self defense is okay) and expect others (government agents included) to do the same.”
            I agree with that. Am I a libertarian now?

          • Matt M says:

            You cannot expect government agents not to steal. They are literally required to steal as part of their job. Without theft they don’t get paid.

          • @onyomi: “This authority requires some sort of justification; otherwise it’s just special pleading. And all of the justifications fall flat.”

            I think that’s a key point – to me, there are justifications for most of the powers that liberal democracies grant to government (including many that libertarians traditionally oppose) that *don’t* fall flat. Indeed, libertarian arguments tend to fall flat to my ears – though I should admit that I’m thoroughly out of date on the subject.

            I suspect in many cases the disagreement could be tracked down to beliefs about ownership [as witness Matt M’s comment] and especially ownership of rights to natural resources such as land. Libertarian axioms have always seemed awfully naive and overly simplistic to me.

            [Not wanting to argue or attempting to persuade, just making an observation.]

          • onyomi says:


            “…justifications for most of the powers that liberal democracies grant to government (including many that libertarians traditionally oppose) that *don’t* fall flat.”

            Such as?

          • onyomi says:


            “…I agree with that. Am I a libertarian now?”

            I would say so, yes.

            To me, this is *the* key component of libertarianism, more than any particular economic or social view.

          • Matt M says:

            Also “commonsense morality” is completely and entirely subjective and is practically indistinguishable from mob rule.

            After all, it’s becoming “commonsense morality” that people who privately donate to groups who oppose gay marriage should be fired from their jobs.

          • onyomi says:

            You’re thinking of commonsense politics.

            There is extremely widespread agreement on basic ethical principles like “don’t lie, cheat, steal, rape, or murder” and “happiness and life are better than suffering and death.” There are a few high profile, marginal cases like abortion, but they tend to amount to factual disagreements, like when life begins.

            Commonsense morality works extremely well for the vast majority of everyday interactions and personal decisions. It’s when you start trying to make decisions for millions of others (i. e. politics) that it gets very controversial and confusing.

          • @onyomi: the simplest and most obvious case would be taxation, which can be considered to be a form of rent.

            @Matt M: an interesting example; while I’m not at all keen on religious supremacists, that particular issue has always struck me as a demonstration of the problem with “employment at will”.

            (Here in New Zealand, by way of comparison, it would be illegal for an employer to fire someone because activists objected to their politics.)

          • onyomi says:


            Taxation is in need of justification. It isn’t a justification. Taxation would be called stealing or extortion if you did it to your neighbor, not rent.

            Unless you think that the state actually owns all land in the country and we just rent from it. But that itself would require a justification, since, what makes agents of the state so special that they get to claim “true” ownership of all the land, whereas regular people can only buy and sell the right to lease?

          • Matt M says:

            And let’s not forget – once you concede that the state owns all the land and we merely rent from it – you are openly admitting that we live under a socialist form of government. Not even mixed, given that land is a primary and necessary means of any and all types of production.

          • Mark says:

            Even within a libertarian system, there must be some means by which we decide who land belongs to. If there is the possibility for legitimate disagreement on an issue, there must be some form of decision-making institution that exists on a higher plane of decision-making power than other actors in society.

            The only way around this is to claim you have devised an objectively true ethical system that brooks no disagreement.

          • Mark says:

            Justification for taxation:
            Increased social coordination.

          • onyomi says:

            “…there must be some form of decision-making institution that exists on a higher plane of decision-making power than other actors in society…”

            I don’t see why.

            Negotiation, third-party arbitration, etc. are all means by which parties on the same level come to agreement over disputes. David Friedman, who often comments here, has written a lot about this in history and in theory. I think his view of property is that it is a commitment strategy whereby there is a certain level of protecting your person and that which you claim as your property by being willing to defend it to a degree greater than is worth most peoples’ while to deprive you of it–a schelling point idea.

            I’m not sure I 100% agree based on what I’ve read before, but maybe he’ll chime in and flesh it out, or you can find him talking about it on Youtube.

            Suffice it to say, there’s a lot of history and theory about resolving disputes about property, contract, etc. without appeal to some “higher” authority (private courts and the like may be “higher” in the sense that they control more resources than you and can make your life difficult, but not higher in some ethical sense, where different rules apply). In such a society one could imagine that, instead of being forced by a “higher authority” to pay a debt owed, compensate a victim, or make good on a contract, failure to do so might instead merely ruin the equivalent of some sort of “credit rating” or “contract reliability rating,” thereby strongly incentivizing you to go along with the decision of an agreed-upon arbitrator, etc.

          • onyomi says:

            “Justification for taxation:
            Increased social coordination.”

            Does the goal of “increased social coordination” justify stealing/extortion?

            If you said to your neighbors, “yes, I’m forcing you to donate to my community safety and neighborhood beautification program, but think how much better our neighborhood will function as a unit! It will really bring us together as a community!” would that make it okay? I’m not talking about soliciting voluntary donations, but demanding money of your neighbors to increase the social coordination of the neighborhood.

          • Mark says:


          • onyomi says:


            (For those who don’t speak Japanese, though I enjoy the practice, the question was about the Bakunin-type view that “property is theft.” I just said that property is a natural conflict avoidance mechanism which exists in pretty much every society ever, and which approaches the level of a “natural right,” or at least seems more than subjective in the way that “genocide is bad” is not just subjective. Attempting to do away with private property never succeeds and always causes a disaster, etc., so if for no other reason, it would be wrong on purely utilitarian grounds).

            I would also again point people to David Friedman’s writing on the origins of private property as commitment strategy, etc. Though I’m not sure I agree 100%, it seems to have more explanatory power than “mixing one’s labor,” “first user,” etc. Yes, private property is a kind of social convention, but it’s basically an essential one which even animals have to some extent. To reductio the alternative: if you can’t have private control over a house, say, why do you get to exercise control over your own body, even? Shouldn’t other people have equal right to use it?

          • For people curious about my views on property, they come in two different contexts. One is what I think of as a positive theory of rights, an explanation of why people behave in certain ways, based on commitment strategies and Schelling points. You can find it in “A Positive Account of Property Rights,” linked to my blog and my web page. The other is my not very successful attempt at solving the problem of how to justify property in land, which is a special case because it is not something created by human action. That’s a chapter in the new material in the third edition of Machinery, which also contains chapters on the positive account. Drafts of the chapters are webbed but no longer linked to my page, and I’m currently in Shanghai with somewhat limited internet access so can’t easily find the URL.

          • Mark says:

            I don’t know. The problem with libertarians is you just have a load of people saying “I don’t want any social coordination”, or “taxation is theft” etc. etc. but when it comes down to it, they don’t actually object to physical violence, they don’t object to killing people to establish a social order (as long as it is the social order they are in favor of), they don’t have any knock-out ethical arguments for the particular brand of property rights they favor (but they are certain you are evil if you don’t share them) – and you just come away with this sense of… “what the hell is it that they are actually saying?” Best guess: “I don’t like the *word* government.”

            I mean… here is the thing… we *don’t* have control over our bodies in the sense of having an absolute moral right to do whatever we like with them. Of course we don’t. Has there ever been a society where *that* rule has existed? Could it exist?
            To the extent that interactions with inanimate objects are rivalrous and important (they are very important), even the “no touch” rule tells us absolutely nothing important about how we should behave.

            So libertarianism tells us nothing, ethically, about how society should work. Nothing. It is literally saying nothing, except that taxation is evil. Government is evil.

            Taxation is theft. You have the right to your property because you worked to make it. Well, I disagree with you. As Obama said, “You didn’t build that”. You *DIDN’T* build that – a Stone Age man doesn’t produce at 1% of the level of a modern factory worker because he lacks Joe Six-Pack’s personal qualities – it is because he doesn’t have access to capital and existing knowledge, and because of the social structure he lives in. We owe everything we have to the society we live in, to the social structure. Society owns *everything* you make.
            And here is the key point – the very fact that I can legitimately disagree with you means that you are wrong and I am right. Why? Because we aren’t going to solve this discussion by debate. It is going to be solved by force, threat of force, and compromise. And when humans get into force, it isn’t done on an individual level – it is done on a social level. You get all your friends together to protect your apple tree, I get all my friends together to protect the same apple tree that I *think* is mine, and pretty soon we either have a war or we make a compromise and something like a government/ legal system is born. Guess what the compromise is. You get to use the tree, but you have to pay tax.

          • onyomi says:

            “…you just have a load of people saying “I don’t want any social coordination””

            I don’t know any libertarians who say that. In fact, we tend to say the opposite: we want more *voluntary* social coordination of the sort which arises out of billions of people making mutually agreeable deals with billions of other individuals. As Hayek so eloquently put it in his rap battle with Keynes:

            “I don’t want to do nothing, there’s plenty to do. / The question I ponder is who plans for whom? / Do I plan for myself or leave it to you? / I want plans by the many, not by the few.”

            I think my ethical arguments are good: everyone, be they utilitarian, virtue ethicist, natural rights theorist, or just guy on the street agrees it would be wrong if you tried to “tax” your neighbor. Therefore, the proponents of taxation must justify the special rule applying to government. So far, the only justification you’ve offered is “social coordination,” which, even if true, does not seem to justify stealing by *any* ethical standard, as per my neighborhood organization example.

            So far as I can tell, the only ethical standard you’ve offered so far which justifies government is “my ethics say government is okay,” which is begging the question. Political authority needs a justification, otherwise it’s special pleading.

            Also, you mistake me if you think I’m saying everyone needs to be a pacifist. A few people think ethics demands pacifism, but almost everyone else thinks proportional force/violence is justified in extreme circumstances (though notably, no one takes the opposite of the pacifist view, which is “violence is always okay”).

            So everyone agrees violence is either never justified, or only justified if proportional and needed to prevent dire consequences. I am simply saying that government agents should only be able to use violence/force under the same circumstances it would be permissible for anyone else to do so. Thus, if taxation is truly necessary to prevent a great disaster, then it is justifiable, but only to the extent necessary to prevent that disaster. Therefore, ethics can, at most, justify only a minimal state–and that’s assuming the empirical claim that having no state would be disastrous, which I don’t think is true.

            I’m not a pacifist, I’m just holding everyone to the same standards.

            As for the idea that, in the end, everything is decided by superior force, I don’t think that’s actually true. If the idea were to become very widespread that the US government were illegitimate, for example, the US government, even with the biggest military in the world, could not stop the people from overthrowing them, or, more likely, ignoring their rules. This is true even in the most oppressive regimes, such as North Korea.

            The government always relies on political authority–the idea that different standards apply to government agents than to everybody else. Thus, the ideological battle *is* the real battle. What matters is not who has more guns, but whose ideas are generally accepted. Tribalism strongly predisposes people to believing in political authority, but careful consideration reveals that it is not ethically justifiable.

            As for the idea that: “well, you want no government and I want government, so it’s a wash.” This is incorrect because my wanting no government imposes no demands on you. It merely asks that you not force me to participate in a venture I don’t support. If you and your friends still wish to be governed in an anarcho-capitalist world, however, there is no one stopping you from voting for some guys to boss you around.

          • @onyomi: “Unless you think that the state actually owns all land in the country” … put simplistically, yes. I see sovereignty as the most fundamental form of ownership. What we commonly call land ownership is really just the ownership of certain rights, most notably the right to use the land.

            (As it happens, my wife and I bought our first house a fortnight ago, and in our case the fact that we don’t own the land is explicit – the title deed grants us ownership of a 999-year lease, not of the land itself. Even when it isn’t explicit, though, the legal precedents make it clear that landowners don’t really “own” the land, not in the sense of holding sovereignty over it.)

            In particular, when a government sells land, it does not usually sell the taxation rights – and if it did, it would charge more.

            “what makes agents of the state so special that they get to claim “true” ownership” …
            in a liberal democracy, surely it’s the state itself that owns the sovereignty, not agents of the state? My own position is that the state is only really entitled to sovereignty insofar as it represents the true owners, i.e., everybody.

            … so, going back to your earlier statement: “Want to know if it’s okay for the government to do it? Just ask: “would it be okay for me to do it?”

            In this case (“owning the sovereignty”) I say that the answer is yes – because you’re one of the people who *is* doing it – via your elected representatives, and their employees, of course.

            (You can also compare collective sovereignty to other forms of collective ownership, e.g., corporations. The management have ownership-like rights because they represent the people who, collectively, own the business.)

            @Matt M: “you are openly admitting that we live under a socialist form of government” … that’s just playing with words, though; socialism has never been defined that way in practice.

            In particular, the difference between capitalism and communism has never been whether the government asserts sovereignty, and in particular, taxation rights, over its territory; it has always been whether people are allowed to own businesses (in particular, factories) or not.

            The way I see it, sovereignty has been owned collectively, rather than by individual landowners, for as long as the US has existed. Under these circumstances, I can’t agree to the claim (as the result of what amounts to a linguistic confusion) that the people of the US are not entitled to collective sovereignty and should hand it over (free of charge!) to landowners.

            Now, *that* sounds like theft. 🙂

          • Cauê says:

            “owned collectively by the people” is not nearly as impressive a concept when you start to consider what this actually means, how it works in a system with moving parts, rather than as a mental abstraction.

          • onyomi says:

            “…the state is only really entitled to sovereignty insofar as it represents the true owners, i.e., everybody.”

            If the state is just “everybody,” then why do different ethical standards apply to it than apply to each individual or group of individuals? How can you delegate a power you don’t have?

            The reality is that the state isn’t “everybody”; it’s a ruling class. It wields the same powers kings and despots of old wielded; it’s only the method of selecting the kings and lords which has changed. That’s why it’s still called “sovereignty.”

            Also, I don’t know of a single state in the world which is willing to sell “taxation rights” (i. e. national sovereignty) to anyone at any price. Can you imagine how much the Bill Gateses of the world would be willing to pay if they could *truly* own land–that is, if, by residing there, they would not be subject to taxation?

            “Everybody” is the cruelest master: no matter how much you pay him, he will never free you. In this world, the best you can hope for is to switch from being ruled by one “everybody” to being ruled by another “everybody.”

          • @Caue: that sounds like a different objection altogether; certainly collective sovereignty is a mental abstraction, but so is “taxation is theft”.

            My view is that modern liberal democracy can work reasonably well in practice; better than libertarianism is likely to work, at any rate.

          • @onyomi: “If the state is just “everybody,” then why do different ethical standards apply to it than apply to each individual or group of individuals? How can you delegate a power you don’t have?”

            For the same reason that a CEO can fire an employee, but a shareholder can’t; the fact that I own one share of the sovereignty of my country does not entitle me to act unilaterally in ways that affect everybody else’s sovereign rights. Collective sovereignty, like collective ownership, means collective decision-making – in one form or another.

            Re your other points:

            * I really can’t see Parliament as a “ruling class”. That probably boils down to a difference in our emotional makeups, though of course the fact that we live in different nations may also be a factor. Nor can I view my fellow citizens as “the cruellest master”.

            * There is precedent for the sale and purchase of sovereignty; Alaska, for example. I’m not sure whether I think the sale of sovereignty to wealthy individuals should be permissible; in principle, certainly, but my instincts tell me it would set a precedent that would inevitably be misused.

          • onyomi says:

            While CEOs may have more practical authority and responsibility, the same *ethical* standards apply to CEOs as to entry-level employees.

            As for emotional differences in the origins of our views, you live in NZ, right? The smaller the population and territory, the easier it is for people to identify with the state. And though I don’t think it’s correct or good for people to identify with the state, I do think smaller states are better than bigger states, and city states are even better than small states. Look at Singapore or Ancient Greece or Renaissance Italy. I just take that all the way to its logical conclusion–individual sovereignty.

            I doubt you’d expect the quality of governance or your sense of participation in it to go up were NZ to become part of Australia, for example?

          • Cauê says:

            that sounds like a different objection altogether; certainly collective sovereignty is a mental abstraction, but so is “taxation is theft”.

            Yeah, I don’t like “taxation is theft” either. It’s the same kind of intuitive-button-pushing that’s so annoying in politics (and I get that these are required to play the game, but this one doesn’t even seem to work).

          • onyomi says:

            I like “taxation is theft.” Because taxation is theft. Is orderly theft not theft? Sometimes intuitive buttons need pushing to make people see past double standards.

            This is one area I disagree strongly with Scott. Yes, *intellectually dishonest* scare words and emotional button pushing is bad, but there’s nothing intellectually dishonest about calling taxation “theft” in my book because the distinctions between them are immaterial.

            Yes, conflation is bad, but it cuts both ways: making unjustified distinctions with the effect of blinding people to immorality is also bad.

            What if it were common in our society to call “sending political dissidents to a gulag to die” “reeducation”? If I were then to say “reeducation is murder!” would you say, “stop all that emotional button pushing. Yes, in a very technical sense we are causing the deaths of people who have dangerous political views, but it’s misleading and sensationalist to put it that way”?

          • Cauê says:

            I find rhetoric interesting as something to analyze and think about, but I don’t really like to practice it (well, knowingly, anyway).

            Yes, it is theft, and it’s not theft, depending on one’s understanding of “taxation” and “theft”. It’s a matter of framing. But what you mean isn’t intuitive for most people.

            It’s too blunt an opening. If you’re going to pump somebody’s intuition you have to build it from the ground up, so that when you say “taxation is theft” they already understand what you’re talking about. If you don’t, people’s brains will check their own central examples of “taxation” and “theft”, and decide that “nah, no match, this is weird”.

            I don’t think this is any worse than what other political groups do, but some of them do seem to be more effective at it.

          • onyomi says:

            Yeah, I don’t actually lead with that generally, because, like you say, people will balk.

            Quite the opposite, in fact–I tend to instead just state my ethical reasoning, and let people draw their own conclusions about what that implies. Anarchy, like theft, is a scary word.

            But if many people are not okay with taxation so long as I don’t call it “taxation,” and are okay with anarchy so long as I don’t call it “anarchy,” what does that say about taxation and anarchy… ?Wouldn’t it be interesting if we could reshuffle all the words and their referents every decade or so, thereby shaking out all the accrued positive and negative vibes?

          • houseboatonstyx says:


            I like “taxation is theft.” Because taxation is theft. Is orderly theft not theft?

            Excellently clear, as is “Property is theft.” I hope those two speakers got together for some cage matches.

          • @onyomi: “While CEOs may have more practical authority and responsibility, the same *ethical* standards apply to CEOs as to entry-level employees.”

            Yes, and in a democracy the same ethical standards apply to politicians as to everyone else. I’m not sure what your point is here.

          • Mark says:

            OK so is it unethical for me to tax my neighbors? As you have agreed, it isn’t the fact that such an act may on some level involve violence that makes it unethical (though I would say the degree of violence involved probably is an ethical as well as practical question) – it is the purpose of the taxation.
            OK some good reasons to “tax” my neighbors –
            We live next to a river and need to build flood defenses. One person doesn’t want to pay.
            A blight destroys all of my crops and my neighbors don’t want to share.
            Several people claim the most fertile land in the area which enables you to produce more food for less work. There is no way to determine who has the better claim.
            (these problems become more likely to occur, the greater the scale of the society)

            Now the next question is why *I* should have the authority to decide.
            The word authority itself doesn’t imply to me that the people in authority are on some higher ethical dimension. It implies to me that they have more power. Saddam Hussein had a position of authority – that doesn’t imply that he was ethically superior to the people he had tortured.
            My authority may derive from the fact that I am considered to be the wisest person in the village, or it may derive from the fact that I am the nastiest.
            There are three separate facts – the existence of authority, how authority is determined, and the ethical use of that authority.
            In the libertarian society you described, there was a ratings agency with a degree of power to make your life miserable – this is authority. What you are describing is simply (from your perspective) a *better way to determine who should have authority* perhaps a *way to prevent unethical use of authority* not an absence of authority, or a society which has a fundamental ethical bedrock of voluntarism.
            (It doesn’t have a fundamental ethical bedrock of voluntarism because I don’t agree with your view of property.)
            So, we can have a discussion about who should have authority, how this can be determined, the degree to which the person in authority should have authority – but to start the conversation from the position that authority=unethical, is akin to viewing parental authority as unethical because of the existence of child abusers. Any alternative means you develop to bring up children is also going to require something very similar to parental authority, just located somewhere else and called something different.

          • Mark says:

            Actually, I take that back – it isn’t akin to thinking parental authority is unethical because some parents are child abusers – it is akin to thinking parental authority is unethical because parental authority is unethical – then using the example of child abusers to try and give some shadow of substance to the claim.

          • Adam says:

            Taxation is theft, sure, but the thing that bothers me quite a bit more is that imprisonment is kidnapping and capital punishment and war are murder. And, sure, private organizations can certainly wage war, but it seems like they’d have much less ability if they can’t just print money and claim sovereignty over all the mineral resources in a place to set up shop everywhere in the world, create a global communications interception dragnet, and place drone bases from which they can assassinate dissenters. That actual governments do that is a lot more terrifying to me than the fact that I have to open my paycheck every couple weeks and 40% of it is gone, after which I go buy a bunch of shit I don’t need just because I can and take a few tropical vacations a year. I can at least live with it, which isn’t a thing said by all the dead people the FBI just admitted they invented a fake science to be able to fabricate evidence against.

          • onyomi says:


            “Yes, and in a democracy the same ethical standards apply to politicians as to everyone else.”

            No, they do not. Agents of the IRS can tax me. I can’t tax agents of the IRS. The police can detain and fine me for unsafe driving. I cannot detain and fine the police for unsafe driving. Congressmen can pass laws saying whom I’m allowed to work for, and under what terms. I can’t tell my neighbors whom they are allowed to work for, or under what terms. Nor could any large group of me and my neighbors do any of these things which government agents are allowed to do.

            Different ethical standards are applied to government agents than to private citizens. You could say that they’ve earned the right to be above common morality by being democratically selected, but I don’t see how that works, ethically. If all my neighbors vote to rob me that doesn’t make it okay.

            @Mark, I’m not against all forms of authority, just *political* authority. Political authority is a type of authority with specific characteristics.

            See pp. 13-14 (17-18 of pdf) of for a description of political authority.

          • onyomi says:


            Though it is harder to keep it in mind when there is no draft and it happens overseas, I would agree that war is by far the worst thing most states do.

            This is why I sometimes feel obligated to support someone who is antiwar but otherwise terrible on domestic issues against the reverse. Obama>McCain, for example, and Sanders>Clinton>Santorum.

          • Mark says:

            “The police can detain and fine me for unsafe driving. I cannot detain and fine the police for unsafe driving.”

            What would you think of a police force that operated under the Peelian principle that,
            “the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

            Question: in a sufficiently small community, could an individual be a government?

          • Adam says:

            Yeah, and theoretically I would support those people if I believed they were actually anti-war. Give Obama a peace prize, but as far as I can tell, the main distinction is Bush liked to send Delta Force around to arrest people and send them to Cuba. Obama likes to send either Seal Team Six or a sleek flying robot to just shoot them or blow up their kid’s birthday parties instead. Better press, I guess. We get the same enforcement of global power balance without having to see dead U.S. soldiers on the news and no one can complain you mistreat prisoners when you just stop taking prisoners.

          • James Picone says:

            @Adam: I thought Obama got the peace prize for work on nuclear disarmament?

          • @Onyomi

            Dismantling the government has consequences, namely non reppression of te enerprise violence. IoW , kt ksit it is for Lbertarians to show that people would voluntarily follow the NoIF principles.

            Government and taxation can be and are justified consequentially. Your claims that political authority isnt justified by everyday moral reasoning only amount to it not being justified deontologically.

            But the deontologist has there choices…to accept rules and rule makers, as a given; to justify rules consequentially; or mysticism.

          • onyomi says:


            The “Peelian Principle” of policing sounds good to me.

          • onyomi says:


            As mentioned, a *minimal* state (a state with the minimum level of coercive power necessary to avert horrific consequences) may be justified on consequentialist grounds, assuming one thinks having no state would lead to disastrous consequences.

            We can debate whether or not privatizing the police, courts, and army would lead to disastrous consequences, but I’m pretty sure we would all survive if the government stopped mandating licensing for hairbraiders, or which particular healthcare benefits must be offered as terms of employment.

          • Adam says:

            As far as I can tell, it was awarded mostly for what he promised to do while campaigning, which included nuclear disarmament.

            I like what Chomsky said about it: “In defense of the committee, we might say that the achievement of doing nothing to advance peace places Obama on a considerably higher moral plane than some of the earlier recipients.”

          • @onyomi: ” Agents of the IRS can tax me. I can’t tax agents of the IRS.”

            You do realize that the people working at the IRS don’t actually get to keep the money themselves, right? 🙂

            But seriously, to draw the same distinction you made earlier, that’s about authority, not ethics. You might as well complain that the CEO can fire you but you can’t fire the CEO.

            “If all my neighbors vote to rob me that doesn’t make it okay.” … in New Zealand, if you own a unit title apartment, management of the apartment building will be handled by a body corporate, whose membership consists of you and your neighbours; the body corporate has the right to “rob” you, e.g., for repairs to the apartment building. I believe the US has a similar concept, though used much more broadly, called a “homeowner association”.

            It’s my understanding that this would probably still be permitted under a libertarian government. Am I mistaken?

          • Cauê says:

            The IRS point is equivalent to “the thug didn’t keep your money, he gave it to his boss”.

            The other situations arise from voluntary contracts. This difference is not small.

          • @Caue: if you’re buying a house, and the only houses available belong to homeowners associations, then belonging to a homeowners association isn’t really voluntary in any practical sense. (I have actually seen people make this exact complaint.)

            Government is no different in principle. They’re just *really big* homeowner associations, already set up almost everywhere you might want to live. You may not like it, but that doesn’t make it inherently unethical.

            PS – it’s more like “the salesperson didn’t keep the money, he gave it to his boss” – in reply to “why can the salesperson charge me for my purchase when I can’t charge him?”

          • Mark says:

            I’m interested to hear how the libertarian society can be fundamentally voluntary if two people can have completely different (and contradictory) conceptions of property rights.

          • onyomi says:

            Haha, yes. Governments are just like massive homeowner associations set up generations before you were born and which exist everywhere and which you have no choice but to participate in and participants in which view selling pieces of the neighborhood outright as an attack on national and/or ethnic dignity. Oh, by the way, the rules, established before you were born, say the homeowner’s council can change the rules whenever they want! And they do–pretty much constantly! No problems there!

            A difference in degree can make a difference in what is or is not ethical. It need not always be a difference in kind. A very private rich guy buys a piece of land and surrounds it with tall fences and armed guards to prevent anyone crossing his land. No problem. Billionaire buys all the land around a town and erects tall fences to prevent anyone entering or leaving: ethical problem.

          • @onyomi: an interesting example, because the last time I debated with a libertarian I introduced a similar scenario. The response was (paraphrased) that the townsfolk were too stupid to live and it serves them right. 🙂

          • Adam says:

            Someone more powerful than you than erects a wall around your city to starve you out is a legitimate failure mode of a stateless society, but it’s not really an argument against it because it’s a failure mode of every other kind of society we’ve ever tried, too.

            I can’t help but wonder if we’d get further pitching libertarianism as “sure, it isn’t utopia, but we’re coming out of a century in which entities with the power to claim sovereignty over all the land in a region, extract taxes, and print money murdered a couple hundred million people and maybe we can do better.” Businesses can definitely do shady things, too, but I’m not sure banana plantations could effectively colonize South American countries if they didn’t have the backing of the CIA and Delta Force.

            I think some of us get spoiled a bit by the relative stability we enjoy because we’re lucky enough to live in states that function pretty well for us and we’re left with the chief complaint being they take money from rich people and give it to welfare queens, and then we just attract the racists and wealth hoarders that aren’t really libertarians in any broader sense and don’t give a shit about broad well-being, but we forgot how much of that stability is predicated upon our ability to brutalize a whole bunch of other people we’re never going to meet or know about.

          • Anonymous says:

            Adam, not to claim that it does or does not undermine your argument, but your history is off. The banana republics predate the Spanish-American War, let alone CIA and Delta Force. The first coup mentioned on wikipedia precedes WWI. Of course, they were supported by the Monroe Doctrine. See also filibusters before the Civil War.

          • Cauê says:

            Harry, whatever side you’re on, I guarantee I’ve also had a discussion with someone on your side that would embarrass you.

            Anyway. I’m not sure I’ve identified your point. Yes, if you squint, the bad things we’re complaining about are kinda similar to other bad things we’re not currently complaining about, but surely that doesn’t turn any of them into good things.

            Sorry if I’m being uncharitable, it’s late.

            (also, my initial reaction to your example was “all available housing? how does that even happen without some law or other intervention?”)

          • Adam says:

            Yeah, I know. I didn’t feel like looking up who actually owned resources in Latin America during the red scare era, so I fell back to bananas.

          • Anonymous says:

            It was still bananas during the red scare. But so what? You were not making a claim about what was done, but what was possible. The fact that the banana companies did it before the CIA shows that you were wrong about their capabilities. And did their capabilities change during the depression? No, I think it was USG that wanted more direct oversight.

          • Mark says:

            This is the problem isn’t it – since you aren’t providing a particularly precise definition of “government” you can’t really make strong moral claims about it.
            onyomi seems to be saying that there isn’t some categorical, cut-and-dried definition of what constitutes an unethical form of social organisation (this equals “government” in libertarian speak). It isn’t a matter of whether that organization is backed by force.
            You *can* have an ethical police force if that police force is established with the principles that… well served as the original basis for the police forces of the commonwealth countries.
            With government too, for libertarians, there is obviously a point at which a social organisation is sufficiently limited, or there is sufficient plurality of power, or a sufficient degree of choice that the organization is no longer “a government”. Presumably, any money that people are obliged to pay this organization isn’t “a tax”.
            Tax is evil. I don’t think this is very useful language. It would be better to say something like – the degree to which people are obliged to do things by social organisations is an ethical question – almost everyone’s conception of taxation already contains the idea that this is a payment made for some purpose (good reasons to oblige people to make payments are given above, they are obvious) and that only where the imposition of the taxation is unnecessary or immoral would it become theft.
            The same thing holds for government – most people recognize the need for a separation of powers (a plurality of power), for there to be principles that are set *above* government, perhaps even for people to have a degree of choice in the area they live in and the policies they are affected by.
            So what exactly are libertarians saying except, “I don’t like the word government”?

          • Adam says:

            Honestly, any world is going to have collective decision-making bodies, and they’re going to have to be funded somehow, and I don’t care if they get called government, and taxation is extremely low on my list of priorities. I think you gave some decent examples a ways back, but if four guys all hunt in the same forest, decide they don’t want to deplete the deer population so they can continue doing so, three guys chip in, and the fourth doesn’t, I don’t imagine very many realistic scenarios where they don’t forcibly exclude the fourth guy or force him to pay, and that isn’t evil. It’s unfortunate, but resource-wanters in the face of scarcity are going to have conflict. Given our great-ape ancestry, testosterone, whatever it is, we’re probably going to have conflict even without scarcity.

            Maybe on a more immediately-relevant level, take something like disaster insurance. I doubt that it’s realistically possible for a profit-making entity to survive something like a Hurricane Katrina, and sure, a voluntary-in-name-only fund you have to pay into if you want to live below sea level in a place that experiences hurricanes is not functionally much different from what we already have (for some things, anyway – I’m pretty sure the U.S. flood insurance program is national, not restricted to the specific people affected).

            To me anyway, the overwhelmingly most important thing is scale.

          • onyomi says:

            It’s pretty simple for me: just eliminate ethical double standards. If it would be okay for you or a group of your friends to do x for purpose y, then it’s okay for someone calling himself a “policeman” to do x for purpose y, on his own, or in your stead.

            To some extent, it’s impossible to predict exactly what would be the consequences of widespread adoption of such a principle, but I think certain things would look similar in practice, and others very different. There would still be people whose job it was to protect people from violence, using proportional violence if necessary. There would be people whose job it was to track down criminals and detain them. There would be people whose job it was to render decisions about who was right and who was wrong in a disagreement, and there would be mechanisms of making sure those decisions were, largely, respected. Maybe there would be agencies like credit rating agencies which would give you a terrible rating if you agreed to arbitration and then refused to abide by the decision, thereby making it difficult for you to make future deals.

            If all of that still sounds like government to you–even without putting these arbiters and enforcers on a different ethical plane from you and me–then call it a government. To me it sounds less like “governing” and more like “personal protection,” “conflict and contract arbitration,” “criminal conduct investigation,” etc. etc. You wouldn’t say that mall security guards were part of the “government” of the mall?

            But again, I’m not attached to abolishing the word “government” just to abolishing the double standard.

          • @Caue: no side, no point. Just an observation that seemed amusing at the time.

            Re your last question: so far as I can see, in the absence of an organized effort to prevent it, all that homeowner’s assocations need in order to become universal (in the US) is time. But I don’t know that I want to push the analogy that far anyway.

            But consider: in England the royal family once explicitly owned all the land (perhaps still do, technically?) so comparing their creation of a democratic government to a property developer’s creation of a homeowner’s association really doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch.

            From that perspective, I suppose Thomas Jefferson and company stole the US from King George III, and you could perhaps argue that the homeowners association they set up should be replaced with one set up by Queen Elizabeth II. But given that the differences would be relatively minor – and certainly wouldn’t result in a libertarian system – I don’t think that’s relevant.

            @onyomi: As I see it, the problem is that deciding what constitutes a double standard isn’t as simple or obvious as you are making it out to be.

            If you and a group of your friends collect money from someone living on a property you own, I assume you would think that’s OK. But then why isn’t it OK for the government to collect money on our behalf from someone living on the land we all own? Yes, I’m using the word “own” in two different ways – but *in my opinion* the difference isn’t relevant to the ethical question.

            I think the whole thing boils down to how you define and assign ownership. The libertarian definitions I’ve seen don’t make sense to me. My definitions do.

          • Anonymous says:

            Harry, feudal land tenure ended in England in 1660. And in Scotland in 2000. I do not think that the Crown claims any kind of “ownership” over modern fee simple land, just sovereignty, whatever that means.

          • Nornagest says:

            Yes, I’m using the word “own” in two different ways – but *in my opinion* the difference isn’t relevant to the ethical question.

            It’s extremely relevant to the ethical question; it very nearly is the ethical question. The reasons why, however, are complicated and want some background.

            Models of land ownership (“tenure”) have historically differed substantially from models of personal property, and were usually more restrictive; many social classes, for example, have been barred from owning real property at various points. Western systems of tenure ultimately descend from feudal models; nation-states now hold ultimate title in place of feudal monarchs, and subinfeudation is greatly limited, but grants of tenure rights function similarly aside from some refinements and minor formal differences.

            This, particularly since the transition from feudalism, brings up issues of legitimacy of land claims that are closely tied to those of sovereignty, and different ways of resolving them have different implications on tenure. Social contract theory is probably the most influential; under it, the government and therefore its land claims derive their authority from a sort of implicit corporate body made up of the people.

            Libertarians and their relatives tend to be skeptical of social contract theory, but concepts of individual sovereignty do not lead straightforwardly to models of ownership in real property. There’s a great deal of variation in their proposed replacements, but a common thread is the Lockean concept that ownership rights to land derive ultimately from improvements to it.

          • @Nornagest, whether the difference is relevant depends on your beliefs about property, though you are of course right in classifying that as an ethical question in its own right. (Just not the one I was directly addressing.)

            I’m not up with the theory, so thanks for filling in the blanks. Social contract theory sounds very much like what I’ve been struggling to explain. The Lockean thing matches up with my understanding of libertarian belief, and I think it’s silly. I can’t accept “bagsies” as an ethically sound philosophy of ownership.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think it’s silly. I can’t accept “bagsies” as an ethically sound philosophy of ownership.

            It’s not quite “bagsies” (which, by the way, isn’t in my dialect; Urban Dictionary informs me it’s roughly equivalent to “yoink”?). Locke put a number of caveats around the basic concept, the most important being that you’re entitled to land only in proportion to your effective use of its resources; you could not for example build a little lodge on Clouds Rest and declare yourself sovereign over Yosemite Valley on the grounds that you’re making use of the view. Later thinkers have approached the concept in different ways, but they generally share some sophistication.

            It’s definitely a thorny problem — but IMO it doesn’t get much less thorny if you cede sovereignty to the Ghost of Christmas Past.

          • According to Wikipedia, the US equivalent is “dibs”. 🙂

            I can’t see it as a particularly thorny problem, at least not in principle. To me, it is obvious that the Earth properly belongs to humanity as a whole, so the question of how we divide the rights up isn’t so much a problem in ethics as a problem in consensus building.

            There are tricky issues around national borders, which I personally skirt around by asserting necessity and by hoping that eventually we can get rid of the damn things.

          • Nornagest says:

            The trouble with declaring intuitive ethical axioms obvious and going from there is that they usually turn out to have horrifying non-obvious consequences. But I’ll leave it to the real libertarians to give their opinions of what those are in this case.

            (It might also be worth mentioning that the “common heritage of humanity” thing is reconcilable with Locke’s “mixing of labor” thing; Georgism and its relatives accept both.)

          • Cauê says:

            To me, it is obvious that the Earth properly belongs to humanity as a whole,

            What does this even mean, though? How’s this framing useful? You can grant this and still have exactly all of the practical problems of people wanting different uses for the same resources. We’ll still need rules to say who gets to decide what to do with each resource, backed by voluntary agreements and/or naked strength. Maybe we’ll call this “schmownership” and argue about the ethics of various ways of allocating it. I don’t see how the “belongs to humanity” idea buys us anything.

            so the question of how we divide the rights up isn’t so much a problem in ethics as a problem in consensus building.

            I also don’t see what’s special about these rights in this sense. It looks like this sentence could be the start of a long discussion about any ethical question.

          • @Caue: I’m not sure in what way the meaning is unclear. Sorry to harp on with the same old analogy, but if you understand collective ownership of a business I don’t see what the conceptual problem with collective ownership of the Earth is.

            One thing it buys us – or buys me, at any rate – is the right to form a democratic government, and to implement taxation. In other words, it distinguishes taxation from theft, and for my part that’s all I needed to justify the mental effort involved in thinking about it.

            (We could alternatively justify democracy and taxation on purely utilitarian grounds, if I’m using the word rightly: that is, they are necessary, so we’re going to do them whether they are ethical or not. But I find it helpful to be able to acknowledge that they *are* in fact ethical.)

          • Nornagest says:

            purely utilitarian grounds, if I’m using the word rightly: that is, they are necessary, so we’re going to do them whether they are ethical or not.

            What you’re describing doesn’t have a standard name that I’m aware of, although you could describe it in terms of pragmatism or amoralism. Utilitarianism is rather different: it states, first, that for everyone it’s possible to quantify their quality of life (usually in some simple way, like maximizing happiness and minimizing suffering); and second, that actions are preferable to the extent to which they improve everyone’s quality of life. In different versions of utilitarianism this can be either in sum, or on average, or in some other way, but a common thread is that everyone counts equally.

            In line with what I alluded to above, this train of thought turns out to have surprisingly horrifying consequences when you start looking at edge cases. Though for any such case you find, you can usually find someone that disputes its validity.

          • Cauê says:

            The most important part of collective ownership of a building is saying who owns the building and who doesn’t, who are the people who get to decide what to do with the building, and who’s the rest of humanity, who don’t.

            My impression is that you’re arguing for some kind of epiphenomenal ownership, distinct from the “bundle of rights” that constitute it. Ok, let’s say all of humanity “owns” this apple, but only I can choose to eat it, discard it, gift it, sell it, burn it, lend it, or do whatever I feel like with it. Sure, you can dispute my exclusive right to these things, but how is this not disputing my ownership? How is a world “owned by humanity” different from one that isn’t?

          • @Caue: I suppose I’m talking about the “right to determine how to assign the other rights, and subject to what conditions”.

            If a particular plot of land is to be used (in a capitalist system) the usage rights first need to be assigned. Someone needs to decide how to make that assignment, and what conditions to place on it: should usage rights be auctioned off? If so, what happens to the money? Should mineral rights be reserved? Airspace? A cut of the profits?

            By asserting that the Earth “belongs to everyone” I’m simply saying that those decisions can only ethically be made by consensus.

            Moving on to after the initial sale:

            A capitalist non-libertarian government that has sold off the bare usage rights for a plot of land would usually only have done so subject to conditions that ensure they retain what I’ve been calling sovereignty: the purchaser still has to pay taxes, follow zoning, environmental, and other regulations meant to protect your neighbours (such regulations subject to change) and so on and so forth. Usually you can even be required to sell the land back to the government if they want it, at a price set by the courts.

            Under those conditions, it seems to me that the government “owns” the land in a more fundamental way than the landowner does. The landowner does not have nearly the freedom of action in regards to his property that is typical of someone who owns, to use your example, an apple.

          • Mark says:

            Property can only ever be a means to an ethical end – the fundamental ethical principle is that we should treat others with kindness (or some variation of this) – the ethical way for people to interact with inanimate objects is determined by how people *feel* about those objects – not some fundamental property of the object itself.
            Property and government are simply a means of getting the best possible compromise between these different feelings.

          • Matt M says:

            ” I do not think that the Crown claims any kind of “ownership” over modern fee simple land, just sovereignty, whatever that means.”

            It means the same thing as it means in America. The government gets to exclusively control the land and can unilaterally overrule the wishes of the “owner,” but has zero responsibility for the upkeep and consequences of how the land is used (i.e., the government can declare that land you own is a protected wetland, and that means that YOU have to take costly and expensive steps x, y, z to preserve it, because after all, you’re the owner, not them!)

      • Anonymous says:


  58. Peter says:

    Talking to the lizard brain: one wonders if there are ways of taking the psychological or even psychiatric aspects further. How to calm and sooth the lizard brain? It’s response looks a lot like the catastrophizing thing that various therapists etc. have explained to me, could the techniques for counteracting that be applied here?

    Some of the threads leave me… well, my first response is to want to shout “too many houses, not enough pox” immediately followed by a feeling that that sort of thing is Unkind and Unproductive and Not On. So how to promote calm and moderation?

  59. Michael vassar says:

    I’m pretty sure that social justice warriors are explicitly copying the tactics that they feel oppressed by, resolving to turn them upon oppressors, then chickening out and turning them on people who they can pretend to mistake for their oppressors but who they don’t feel afraid of instead. Anti-social-justice makes complaints identical with SJ because they are intentionally being persecuted in the same manner.

    Convergence with their actual oppressors is due to ‘fight monsters, become monsters’ dynamic.

    The key fiction is that there are two groups, not three involved in the dynamic. Actually, counting bureaucrats and the non-radicalised, majority white oppressed class, there are five.

    Your lizard brain is right regarding the extreme asymmetry between the pizzeria and the tech conference. The argument from privilege is not isomorphic to what you’re doing. It seems like an almost disingenuously distant stretch. I hate to criticise a person for hypocritically pretending to engage in hypocrisy, and I’m pretty sure that there are further tangles of meta in there so I’d be mischaracterising it if I were to do so, but if I was smart enough, I’d be doing something along those lines.

  60. TomA says:

    Foundation and context is important in this topic.

    We have been an affluent nation for more than half a century now and the epidemic of inane controversies is an artifact of the excess of leisure and a deficit of real hardship. Cultural evolution may actually be leading us toward survival ineptitude and robustness decline. Both groups mentioned in this thread share a common pathology. They reward parasitic behavior. For SJWs, its collective welfare entitlement mentality. For anti-SJWs, its spoiled offspring with inherited wealth elitism entitlement mentality. In our current dysfunctional society, whining loudly is a success strategy.

  61. Edward Scizorhands says:

    This is a bit strange to anybody who’s read any of his essays, which seem to have trouble with any emotion beyond smugness

    FYI, I read “his essays” as “the activist’s essays,” which I was wondering if I should have been perusing. Took a few reads to realize that we were talking about Moldbug.

  62. CJB says:

    Ok, I’ve been replying but here’s my two cents:

    One, SJW reactions are, in part, literally reactions. It’s not great times to be SJWs. The numbers I’ve seen indicate that less than 20% of everyone, and less than 25% of women, will willingly identify as feminists, even when prompted with the dictionary definition.

    In the 70’s, it was almost HALF of women. I found somewhere, and will find again if there’s interest, a website breaking down feminism year by year- big laws, conferences, stats and the like, and the ATTITUDES expressed by women were fundamentally different- particularly those who wanted “Career” as an end goal and those who wanted “family” as an end goal.

    Feminism is losing quite badly atm. Simply put, in 1970, you had the “ALL PENISES ARE RAPE” feminists. But like Andrea Dworkin, they tended to look like the ugly side of a hammer, be not super sharp in the brain, and in general be suffering social ostracism for a variety of reasons, leading to their radicalism. Dworkin was always a fringe figure.

    The problem is as “woman working” became less of a deal,a nd eventually no deal at all, as strong female role models became common, as the idea of raising your daughter like your son became commonplace, the mainstream started to drop away. Increasingly, the issues that mattered to….well, call them “useful” or “middle class” or “privileged” people were functionally fixed.

    There’s no “tony white collar job scheduling meetings to discuss company issues” gap. There’s relatively little interesting in even attempting gender equity at the obviously un-gender-equitable jobs (“Hold this jackhammer in this spot for the next eight hours.”)

    The blacks that were going to succeed largely got pulled into the black success movement.

    Essentially, all the people that were actually GOOD at running things, had leadership skills, organizational capacity, drive…..

    They’re all climbing the corporate ladder, or traveling, or doing other things where their skills can make them money. Men realize this, and find the complainers increasingly silly. So do other women, who are notably not being raped or oppressed.

    So increasingly, you’re left with a core that is less “all the women” and more “all the other women that couldn’t hack it but if they admit they couldn’t hack it it’d be THEIR OWN FAULT.”

    Academia has always tended to attract a certain amount of….”couldn’t cut it”-er’s. This was true even before society produced enough food to feed the world a bajillion times over.

    So feminism now consists of- about 40% of the middle aged population, who is still feminst from the 70’s. And a smaller fraction of the millennial generation, who mostly doesn’t give a crap about feminism.

    And so you have a bunch of “FINOs” who say “I’m a feminist” in the same way they’re “pro equality”- Inside their head only, never does anything about it. And an increasingly desperate and marginalized group of people who, either because they’re damaged people or because they drank the kool aid or whatever, get drawn into an increasingly insular world. The internet allows them a certain amount of power- but that’s only because it takes very, very few complaints to affect companies. It used to be the FCC would make huge rulings based on less than 10 complaints. A very little bit of organizing can have huge results. I suspect as people get perspective on the actual size + ease of social media (“@virginmedia” is much easier than “Track down contact info, write letter, send letter”) this will be mitigated somewhat and the response theshold will be raised.

    Witness the degree to which massive feminist victories are being challenged. Like it or not, abortion is being restricted in a way unthinkable during the 90’s, and it’s provoked very, very little response. Women are the fastest growing group of gun owners (contra feminist arguments that women only got guns used on them).

    And as women get more and more economic power, they like taxation less and less. As women own more small businesses, they like minimum wage hikes less and less. As women face real challenges, college microagressions seem sillier.

    In other words, as actually oppression ceases, the people who can leave, do leave. The rest can’t. And because the only script their aware of for “woman utterly fails at everything” is sexism, they blame sexism.

    • grendelkhan says:

      Feminism is losing quite badly atm.

      Are you sure this isn’t feminism succeeding? People don’t identify as abolitionists because slavery is over. People don’t identify as civil rights activists because Jim Crow is (at least, officially) over. What were the things that the second wave of feminism fought for? Being able to own property, work outside the home, and ending official discrimination, right? Plus, later on, being able to live openly as lesbians and abortion on demand.

      These are all fights that have been won. Why would people continue to fight for them? The only reason abortion access is falling is because it’s falling for poor people, and they’re largely invisible in politics anyway. Middle-class women can still access abortion if they really want to, and feminism has been a middle-class movement, historically.

      • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

        >Are you sure this isn’t feminism succeeding?

        Feminism as in “the radical notion that women are people”, sure.

        I think CJB is talking about academic/media feminism.

  63. Nathanael says:

    There are a few important asymmetries you don’t address.

    First, the male rape victim being prosecuted for rape isn’t the only case that happened. It’s the only case we know about. How many “rapists” have been expelled from school, who were in fact victims?

    Further, it is entirely reasonable to get up in arms about black people being shot by police and not about traffic fatalities if there’s something you can do about police shootings. Just about everything that can reasonably be done about traffic fatalities is being done.

    Likewise being a woman who is raped in college versus being a man who is falsely accused of rape in college. In the former case, there’s a small army’s worth of support for you. In the latter, that same army will be trying to make your life worse every chance it gets.

    And while I’m at it, another common asymmetry between things SJWs complain about, and things the right complains about. If ten people are hit with wiffleball bats each year, and in every case they received medical attention where applicable, and the assailant is prosecuted, and one person is hit with a plastic lightsaber each year, and when that person complains, they are told that they should ashamed for taking attention away from wiffleball bat victims, and prosecutions for plastic lightsaber victims are so rare that no one can seem to recall a case when it happened, you’d start to wonder if maybe the lightsaber beating victims don’t have a point when they claim the system is treating them unfairly.

    When was the last time you heard someone say to a woman “make me a sandwich” even ironically, in person? Was that person in a position of authority? Were they punished?

    Because Bahar Mustafa wasn’t punished at all. She wasn’t even forced to resign as diversity officer.

    The reason the argument from privilege doesn’t hold the same weight is because white/cis/straight/male/whatever privilege isn’t preventing men from being prosecuted for their own rape, but the political privilege feminists hold is preventing them from being punished for the hateful things they actually and remorselessly do.

    • Richard Gadsden says:

      Just about everything that can reasonably be done about traffic fatalities is being done.

      Given the enormous difference between traffic fatality rates between the US and Western European countries (notably the UK), I don’t think that’s true. Unless you hold that the UK is doing unreasonable things about traffic fatalities.

      Reducing car weight is one thing that could be done (which could mean something as simple as bringing SUVs and pick-ups into normal car safety/emissions regulations, which would push their prices way up), another is that the US doesn’t have pedestrian-impact as part of safety testing.

      Others include lots of road-design changes, like abolishing four-way stops (turn them into roundabouts: roundabouts reduce fatalities dramatically at the expense of increased side-swipes, which are almost never fatal). Pedestrian road-crossings can be greatly improved too, and the provision of sidewalks could be greatly extended.

      Increasing the difficulty of driving tests – US driving tests are so notoriously low-quality that DVLA (our DMV-equivalent) keeps talking about simply banning tourists from certain states from driving in the UK without taking a more comprehensive tests. They won’t actually do it because the political will isn’t there to piss the US off.

      Comprehensive safety testing of vehicles on a regular basis (e.g. annual) to ensure mechanical safety.

      • JDG1980 says:

        Increasing the difficulty of driving tests – US driving tests are so notoriously low-quality that DVLA (our DMV-equivalent) keeps talking about simply banning tourists from certain states from driving in the UK without taking a more comprehensive tests. They won’t actually do it because the political will isn’t there to piss the US off.

        Remember, many parts of the US have little or no public transportation, and the distances often aren’t amenable to walking or cycling. In many parts of the country, taking away someone’s driving license is tantamount to putting them under house arrest. This is why driving standards in the US remain lower than in most of Europe.

        Comprehensive safety testing of vehicles on a regular basis (e.g. annual) to ensure mechanical safety.

        What percentage of car crashes in the US are caused by mechanical failure rather than human error? I’m betting it’s quite low.

      • Nathanael says:

        You’re looking at it the wrong way. In terms of deaths per mile driven, the US is smack in the middle, better than Japan, worse than Britain.

        But I don’t think that’s the result of good policy on the part of the Brits. I think that’s result of good public transit being feasible. The contiguous US is literally 30 times the size of the UK. Connecting even just the top ten biggest cities by high speed rail would be a multi-billion, maybe trillion dollar endeavor. And it would get at most a few million drivers off the road.

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  65. alexp says:

    Reminds me of

    The author calls “Angry Facebook Veterans” the equivalent of Social justic Warriors.

  66. Oliver Cromwell says:

    “The social justice narrative describes a political-economic elite dominated by white males persecuting anybody who doesn’t fit into their culture, like blacks, women, and gays. The anti-social-justice narrative describes an intellectual-cultural elite dominated by social justice activists persecuting anybody who doesn’t fit into their culture, like men, theists, and conservatives. Both are relatively plausible; Congress and millionaires are 80% – 90% white; journalists and the Ivy League are 80% – 90% leftist. ”

    I forgot about this by the time I got to the end of the article, but that is rather grasping. Congress and millionaires certainly aren’t only 10-20% leftist. There are a lot of leftist whites in both Congress and the Forbes 500, as there are in journalism and the Ivy League. The fact someone is white doesn’t mean they’re a racist, or even not a SJW. Probably most SJW, numerically, are white. The fact someone is leftist pretty much does mean they’re anti-rightist.

    • multiheaded says:

      American liberals are NOT “leftist”. (European liberals aren’t accused of “leftism” in the first place.) 20th century liberalism – let’s say, in the vicinity of Rawls, Rorty and Galbright – has, as an intellectual and political movement, emerged to preserve and fix the existing socioeconomic structure, not build one that functions in an entirely different way, as leftists want to.

      (An illustration for Americans: no actualy leftist would ever, say, characterize Malcolm X as a “dangerous” “extremist”, even when disagreeing with his politics. That’s just not part of our frame of reference at all. “Extremism” is not a meaningful charge to us; leftists disagreeing with something because it’s “too leftist” in some way… works differently and in more specific detail.)

      P.S.: Just for fun, look up what Lord Keynes had to say about the ideals of socialism, and working-class people generally.

      • Tibor says:

        Um, what is called “liberalism” in the US usually translates to “social democracy” in Europe and what is called “liberalism” in Europe usually means “classical liberalism” or in some cases “libertarianism” in the US. That said, some European liberals also call themselves libertarian or classical liberals because some European left-wing parties (Greens most notably) call themselves liberal as well (even though except for this one green/libertarian party in Switzerland, most Green parties are closer to Social Democrats than anything else).

        I think the terms “right” and “left” are pretty arbitrary and they change in time as well (libertarians, resp. classical liberals used to be considered as a part of the left, now are mostly considered as a part of the right, Nazis are mostly considered “extreme right” while they were actually very communitarian and very revolutionary, quite unlike conservatives). It is sometimes useful to use the simple categories of left and right as a shorthand for describing some views precisely, but it can also lead to a lot of confusion and obfuscate the differences within those categories.

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  68. Scott.

    You’ll be fine.

    But seriously, if it all starts to get a bit much, there are other activities apart from going for a walk, and that might take more than only an hour, which might be helpful sometimes to take your mind from obsessing over some of these pretty darn difficult conundrums. It won’t necessarily hurt to take a break from thinking – the conundrums will still be there when you get back. There is no rush. (But learning the ability to switch off mentally every now and then might take a bit of practice.)

    If you do ever crack the solution to the problem “What is the fair and ethical way to fight political enemies under the constraints of structural power imbalances and the very real fallibility of real humans?” you can not only write a Nobel Peace prize winning thesis on it, but you’ve probably just invented the purple leadership/politician pill missing from your June 2 repost from Tumblr, (of which the pink pill was probably the closest.) Funny it was missing. Perhaps social co-ordination and consensus development skills are not recognised as “genuine” technologies by science fiction writers.

    I imagined that Ghandi might have had a few ideas on overcoming enemies by voluntary conversion rather than resentful submission. I can even throw a nice little bit of jargon into the mix: “satyagraha” which is apparently linked to the notion of non-violent resistance. It seems that it might be relevant to your quest, I write, giving the misleading impression that I might know more about what I’m talking about than I actually do. “Under what circumstances is satyagraha a persistently self-maintenant meme?” I hear you ask. I have no idea. I’d have to know a lot more about the details. It’s probably left as a exercise for the interested reader.

    You don’t have to fix everything that’s wrong on the internet, of course. It’s plenty fine that you are developing and maintaining a nice little contribution to human intellectual culture in a tiny corner of it. In fact, after hours and days of reading outrage and counter-outrage in newspaper comments, I’m very grateful that there exists at least your part of the world, which is so dedicated to thoughtfulness, critical examination, and intellectual consistency that it provides a welcome respite for me personally, as well as making progress that goes well beyond the “You should check your privilege”, “No, privilege is a meaningless concept, and anyway if it isn’t then you should be checking YOUR privilege” rallies that go nowhere.

    Why worry so much about the social justice and the anti-social justice movements picking their own ridiculous spats, metaphorically belting each other over the head with pebbles and small sticks in the valley, when you’re here building an intellectual cathedral? You know the secret that the prize at the end of an argument isn’t “winning” it, but learning something new so that you can see further.

    Enough rambling.

    I’m also vaguely aware of possibly sounding patronising, so apologies in advance if so. I’m a bit too lazy to re-edit, and besides aren’t comments on blogs “allowed” to be a bit raw?

    You’ll be fine.

    • Matt M says:

      “You’ll be fine.”

      Will he though?

      I don’t think the worry is about him feeling a compelling need to bring about world peace. I think it’s much more direct and personal. As someone who blogs using his real name on a site that explicitly sometimes deals with sensitive and controversial topics, he is at very real risk of running afoul of these people and having his livelihood destroyed.

      People who have said less have had worse happen to them. Say something that rubs the wrong person (basic requirements: overly sensitive and has a ton of like-minded twitter followers including at least one buzzfeed writer) the wrong way and bam – your life is altered forever.

      The fact that all of us here in the comments section can vouch for him being a smart and reasonable and morally decent person is irrelevant. Our opinions won’t matter in the face of crushing public opposition and organized boycott tactics that his employer would be threatened with. If anything, we’d all just be painted with the same brush, and all of a sudden you’d be “Thomas, frequent commentator on shitlord libertarian hate-site.”

      • grendelkhan says:

        As someone who blogs using his real name

        Scott Alexander isn’t his real name. He’s not that anonymous, but he’s also not that public.

        If anything, we’d all just be painted with the same brush, and all of a sudden you’d be “Thomas, frequent commentator on shitlord libertarian hate-site.”

        This has happened to me three times ever, which doesn’t seem much given how long I’ve been commenting on the internet. Most recently I was reported to /r/gulag for saying something nice about centrism. It was kind of funny.

  69. Nestor says:

    Two points, my exposure to the gamergate thing is mainly through kazerad’s blog who repeatedly makes the point that the sjw don’t acually protect or represent who they claim to protect, kind of like your point about various tribes within technically politically homogeneous groups are good at othering each other.

    And, that the whole codify and systematize approach works extremely poorly with human relationships, a good example is the red pill contingent, outraged to find that sometimes acting like a caveman does indeed get you laid and feeling betrayed that they’ve been lied to, unfortunately there’s no way to teach that kind of innate behaviour (The good kind of body language mix that we define as charismatic)

  70. Alex says:

    The closest the average white guy gets to that kind of environment is wandering into a social-justice-dominated space and getting to experience the same casual hatred and denigration
    I’d argue this is not totally true. I believe, most of anxiety and insecurity nowadays is not due to explicit hatred or exclusion or, on the contrary, activism, but is inherent to our lives. For example, I don’t think it is disturbing by itself that some people are promoting gender quotas for employment. What is disturbing is lack of workplaces. For example, in that part of academia where I’m from, people do struggle to find a short-term post-PhD position, often having to move to another country for that and then struggle even more to find long-term employment that would allow them to settle down, get a mortgage, have normal family, and etc. Or, for another example, I do not think that, say, immigrants in Europe (I’m the one myself) suffer that much from explicit hatred. But it sucks to be an immigrant: they are not free people (e.g., often, one cannot just quit a job), visas and bureaucracy is annoying, besides not knowing the language and culture well does not help with social interactions.

    • Emile says:

      What is disturbing is lack of workplaces. For example, in that part of academia where I’m from, people do struggle to find a short-term post-PhD position, often having to move to another country for that and then struggle even more to find long-term employment that would allow them to settle down, get a mortgage, have normal family, and etc.

      I see that not as a general problem, but as specifically a problem with Academia: there’s an oversupply of PhD candidates (and PhDs, etc.) compared to the demand, especially in domains where there isn’t a big demand for PhDs outside academia.

      • Alex says:

        Obviously, I cannot know how exactly things are in other fields and countries, but at least in Europe, it seems that economic situation is not brilliant, and there’s high unemployment rate among young adults. And it is not just in academia, where people aren’t happy with their careers. Some people would also argue that in academia, there is oversupply of 1-2 year fixed term positions which do not provide enough job security.

  71. JBeshir says:

    It seems to me like a lot of the ideas here provide a grounding to what “offensive” means, and a solid defence of “political correctness”.

    Going with the religious metaphor, we didn’t get peace by saying “everyone from every religion gets to exclude people from other religions from their businesses and social circles, everyone gets to say whatever they like about members of other religions, make whatever attempts to deride the other religions they like, and try to enforce whatever norms they want, and if it doesn’t work out then everyone can retreat into their separate side by side societies with no mutual comprehension”.

    I’m fairly sure that people following incentives and basic human nature towards the different and alien would make that sort of approach end horribly and bloodily. And of course, societies changing over time would necessitate doing it again next time there’s disagreement on direction, and based on how countries have gone, convergent evolution will probably destroy diversity quickly enough that people are unsatisfied by it.

    The way I see it, what we did was that we agreed to not say certain things which were considered to be status moves against/offensive towards other groups, and to adhere to certain standards of service towards people we don’t agree with, to not try to enforce norms which aren’t actually consensus, to not push for things which imposed large costs on other people for tiny gains to my people, and to make a case for why there’s no better way to achieve those policies objectives when you do need to impose burdens on people who obviously aren’t “your people”. An allegation of being “offensive” is an allegation of defection against this agreement. This relates to ideas of reconciliation, etc.

    My impression is that this has all pretty much gone to hell in the US as of late, because of drastic power shifts changing where the agreed lines need to be to be in any kind of approximation of equilibria, the whole “liberty or death” thing working out in practice to “I will act like the rules are like I want them be and I’ll die before I follow rules I don’t like”, and the political setup that enables a single holdout at any level of government to fight things creating incentives for making sure that none of your enemies persist anywhere. There’s a little of it here in the UK, but good god nothing like what this post describes that I’ve encountered.

    I think it’s still what we want to get back to once everything has shaken itself out, people have stopped insisting that their principles are always and tautologically more important than any effect on anyone else, no matter how small the breach of principle or how large the effect, and actually come to the negotiating table, and the bulk of the “my rules or death” people eventually accept the direction the majority has chosen. It is just looking like it’ll take a while.

    • Matt M says:

      I think economic advancement and increased living standards might have something to do with it too.

      The economic incentive vastly discourages discrimination. Consider that European princes didn’t trade with Jewish merchants in order to promote religious tolerance and equality – they did it because that’s who had the money and if they didn’t trade with them, they couldn’t pay their soldiers and a bunch of angry dudes would chop off their head.

      Today, more and more of the global population is becoming sufficiently well off that starvation is virtually zero threat. As the economic incentive becomes less and less relevant, that gives room for the political/ideological incentive to grow. Now, the King has a ton of money in the treasury, so he doesn’t have to borrow money from the filthy heathens. Discrimination is a cost that more and more of us can now easily afford.

    • Jaskologist says:

      I don’t think this is historically accurate. We got peace with “whose realm, his religion,” ie: the prince picked the religion and anyone who didn’t like it got the boot. It took a long time for this evolve into what you describe, and even the initial US solution was very much along those lines, with each individual state establishing the church it wanted it.

      • Richard Gadsden says:

        I was going to come in and say something similar to this but a lot longer, but I’m with Jaskologist:

        “everyone from every religion gets to exclude people from other religions from their businesses and social circles, everyone gets to say whatever they like about members of other religions, make whatever attempts to deride the other religions they like, and try to enforce whatever norms they want, and if it doesn’t work out then everyone can retreat into their separate side by side societies with no mutual comprehension”.

        Seems like a perfect description of “cuius regio, eius religio”. Religious separation is a fifteenth-century solution; religious toleration is an eighteenth-century development. And it took a long time for it to break down: the Netherlands was religiously separated until depillarisation in the 1960s.

      • JBeshir says:

        I think I agree but was thinking of a different definition of “peace” in my post; by “when we got peace” I was thinking of the time when the attacks on whichever of the Christian denominations wasn’t the current monarch’s stopped.

        I find it entirely plausible that before the rulers had effective control it was even worse, though.

  72. dhill says:

    Isn’t another asymmetry the weak Galt hypothesis? Moloch let’s us forget how much we owe and how much we make necessary for people to plunder for us:

  73. Shenpen says:

    >And what’s the most dominant idea of them all? That the white, male, heterosexual perspective is neutral, but all other perspectives are biased and must be treated with skepticism

    If you look at the history of it all, not all literature written by cis white men was considered classics worthy, just those that was considered character building.

    A lot of post-1900 cis white male literature is not really character building. Usually it is about social critique, so basically complaining. Example: The Catcher In The Rye.

    Now of course when it is just about complaining then there is no reason to have all the complaining done by cis white men. Complaining is really universal.

    But perhaps literature should not be about complaining. Meaning: not social critique. Maybe it would worth having heroic literature again.

    • Matt M says:

      There’s also just the simple fact that literature was a bigger deal in European culture than in other ones. One of my best friends growing up was a huge huge social justice guy. Ended up becoming a middle school teacher. He was so excited to correct all the evil, terrible things that our school system did to us. Swore he would make it different for all the disadvantaged minority kids out there. He would find authors of all races and colors and assign readings on an equal basis.

      Only problem? It turns out that our school system (which was a university town in an overwhelmingly blue state) wasn’t “holding back” all of the classical literature of black, asian, and latin authors as part of some sort of racist conspiracy. There just isn’t that much of it, as those cultures valued other means of artwork and communication and so on. As hard as the guy has tried, he has struggled to find quality works of classical literature that truly capture the perspective of the Mayan civilization…

      • Shenpen says:

        I can easily find some cultures with good literature, from the the top of my mind are China, Japan and India. Musashi’s The Book Of Five Rings is probably on par with the best heroic / character-building type of literature the West can offer.

        The problem is that your teacher friend tried to mimic the racial setup of American society AND the usual kind of who-is-oppressed instead of just simply picking quality stuff from non-European cultures. Probably he figured there are not a lot of Japanese kids in the US and if they are then they are not very disadvantaged.

        The funny thing is, if you just go for quality stuff, you will end up picking from the very same cultures that are reasonably succesful in the US: Chinese, Japanese, Indian, White Hispanic (writers like Borges), Jewish, Russian and so on. I think this is not exactly a coincidence.

        • John Schilling says:

          In the contemporary United States, (East) Asians and Jews are now considered “white” for most discrimination / social justice purposes. Indians and White Hispanics are a borderline case. “Race” is increasingly becoming a binary classification; White Dudes vs. People Of Color.

          I do not believe that actual skin pigmentation is particularly relevant for this purpose, save that the classification coincidentally matching the pigmentation greatly eases the cognitive dissonance that would otherwise ensue.

          • Deiseach says:

            RE: Are Jews white?

            What do we mean by white? Racial/ethnic classification or access to the power in society?

            If racial, of course Jews are white. They’re a Semitic people who are part of the Caucasian branch. I’ve seen someone on Tumblr of Jewish descent who is as white in complexion and colouring as I am (they post selfies frequently) arguing that they are not, because Jewish, white (even though their branch of the diaspora is all Eastern European).

            If, by white, you mean White as in WASP, that’s different. Jews being the traditionally persecuted minority are not White in that sense.

            But American racial classifications don’t map well onto the rest of the world and how other societies code ethnicities. From an interview with a Chilean-British actor:

            ‘In America, I am brown, I’m “of colour”, so I would be offered Latin roles and I’ve fought against that,’ he says. ‘I don’t want to be put in a category, to be just offered the same sort of thing. For me, it’s all about different roles, telling the stories of the great writers.’

        • Matt M says:

          Right. And I should clarify, it’s not that he couldn’t find any non-white literature, it’s that his attempt to pick literature that mirrored the demographics of the local population (which was still overwhelmingly majority white, but let’s put that aside for the moment) resulted in very little selection.

          If you’re looking to assign a “white” novel you have hundreds of selections to pick from and can pick based on other criteria (such as your ability to teach the theme of the work, etc.) If you’re looking for an Indian novel, it isn’t that there aren’t any, it’s just that there are a lot fewer. And they’re all translations so the themes don’t necessarily cross, and they have cultural references that will be irrelevant to MOST of the student body, etc.

          Basically, it’s a complicated thing to do, and it turns out after experiencing it first-hand, my friend concluded that the reason you mostly get assigned “white” novels isn’t because the teachers are all a bunch of racists (either direct or implicit), but because assigning diverse novels is really hard work for some rather questionable benefits.

          • RCF says:

            If he were truly SJW, would he not have concluded that the entire concept of a novel is culturally biased?

          • Matt M says:

            Oh I’m sure he did, but I think the school required him to assign X amount of novels per semester as part of the class or something.

    • nydwracu says:

      Now that it’s been mentioned: can someone explain to me why the hell The Catcher in the Rye is such a big thing? I don’t get it.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        Liberals at twenty read a banned book, then at forty they put it on Required Reading lists?

      • Urstoff says:

        Maybe Holden’s being from the upper class appealed to upper class tastemakers more than similar but superior books like The Adventures of Augie March.

      • John Schilling says:

        Catcher is the socially acceptable, non-threatening Disaffected Teenager(tm) novel. Everybody knows that DTs are a Thing, and that we need to understand them, and really isn’t it fun to imagine for a moment that we’re the iconoclastic loner standing against society? I mean, just for a while, before we go have lunch with all the cool kids.

        But you can’t exactly have high school librarians recommending a biography of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, or any such thing. Holden Caulfield, as far as I recall, doesn’t engage in any plausibly imitatable misbehavior, and is a fairly witty social critic. The fact that he is in no way representative of any actual Disaffected Teenager(tm) is hardly relevant to people who never were or will be DTs, but a big turnoff to people who actually were and are subsequently told, “Hey, there’s this book about a guy just like you, so I totally get it!”

        • Adam says:

          They should assign Portnoy’s Complaint. It’s got just as much critical clout, but way funnier.

      • notes says:

        It captures the self-centeredness of adolescence remarkably well. Fans are mostly those who encountered it at a time when they too felt similarly, and the attachment remains through nostalgia.

        • Held In Escrow says:

          I feel like everyone should read Catcher in the Rye three times. Once as a teenager for the “he gets me!” feeling. Once slightly after puberty so you can go “man, I was a right tosser.” And then once a few years after that, so you can bring together what it felt like to be a teen with what it looked like from the outside.

          I think it’s a damn fine novel for those attributes.

  74. Shenpen says:

    Let a dumb foreigner ask a question: how is it possible that in America activists can actually win things through simply complaining and/or cussing? I mean how can you _fight_ succesfully for a goal with so weak weapons?

    Imagine being a playground bully fight at 11 years old. And when they try to kick your ass scream about being oppressed. What would happen? They would laugh, enjoy your screams, derive a sadistic pleasure, and kick you harder. This is not supposed to work as a weapon, right? You must kick them in the nuts or run away.

    Yet, how comes in American politics or social life it actually works? How can you turn your weakness or hurtness or the injustice committed against you into a weapon, how comes people actually listen?

    If you are really oppressed, it is very easy to ignore your complaints, and be amused by your cussing.

    Doesn’t the fact that complaining and cussing works, suggests that Americans already have a huge compassion with these oppressed groups?

    I mean in Hungary or Romania or Slovakia, if a gypsy would cuss like SJWs do, white folks would concur he is being aggressive so let’s just kick his ass, easy. If he would complain, that would sound like the whining of the weak, and who cares about the weak? Or, alternatively, they would think well, we all have our problems.

    Complaining as a weapon is designed specifically for a society where really a lot of people feel comfortable about having so much surplus themselves that they can afford to listen to people who look or sound weak?

    • dhill says:

      I already posted below… but exactly, this is what I meant by weak Galt hypothesis asymmetry.

    • Oliver Cromwell says:

      Because in reality these people are backed by the government. The claim of oppression is the political equivalent of shouting “He’s comin’ right for us!” a moment before you pull the trigger.

      • Shenpen says:

        One weirdest thing about America for me that somehow the government sounds like almost a separate, alien body on society… over here we tend to identify the government strongly with the people and the nation: it is seen as our self-organization for defense from invasions. But Americans sometimes talk about government as it was basically just tackled on the society, not an integral part of it.

        For example Reagan’s famous joke “I am from the government and I am here to help” (being dangerous words) evokes the idea of a man who came from FAR AWAY. FROM the government. Some far away place with different rules, not the local society. Am I getting it right? For me government is pretty much down the street, my neighbor or my drinking buddy could as well be working in a ministry or something.

        • onyomi says:

          You are correct. This is especially true in the rural US, where government tends to be both literally and figuratively far away, and I think is a big part of why rural areas are “redder.”

          Ironically, however, I’ve found that actual interactions with the government are much more pleasant in the country than in the city. I recently moved from urban parts of New England to rural Tennessee, and interactions with the DMV, police, post office, etc. are a positive delight here in comparison to CT and RI, where I lived.

          As a libertarian, I find it creepy to think of the government as “us,” so I am glad of the existence of this strain in US political thought.

          Bryan Caplan also notes that more diverse populations are less likely to think of the government as “us” and, correspondingly, less likely to support social welfare programs. That may be a big factor at work as well.

          • Protagoras says:

            Rhode Island is just nightmarish for bureaucracy, and I’m not sure why. It’s not an urban/rural thing; I’ve always lived in urban areas, but I’ve had much less bad experiences with bureaucracy in Minnesota and California than in Rhode Island (I’ve never lived in Tennessee).

        • Matt M says:

          This is actually a highly contentious political debate.

          Those on the the left regularly use phrases such as “we are the government” and work very hard to try and associate it with the average citizen.

          Those on the right usually mock such phrases and attempt to frame the government as an alien body that shows up and gets in the way of things.

          Given that Europe is generally considered to be left of America, the fact that the association is stronger there should be of little surprise.

          • Shenpen says:

            >Given that Europe is generally considered to be left of America

            This is highly untrue. A true version of it is that Europe tends to be more collective-minded than America, but that is not necessarily left. There are lots of collectivisms that are considered right-wing: nationalism, racism, war-mongery, throne and altar type of theocracy, and so on.

            In fact the European definition of right-wing largely means a closed and hierarchical type of collectivism while the definition of the left means an open/international and egalitarian type of collectivism.

            The fact that in the US the concept of right-wing was associated with individualism is something sort of a historical exception.

            I think the kind of individualist right-wing of the US should be redefined as moderatism or centrism, for libertarians are clearly in between in the left-wing type of collectivism and the right-wing type of collectivism. For example, left wing collectivists usually want to stamp out religion, right-wing collectivists usually want to enforce it, individualists or libertarians usually just want to have a live and let live approach.

            If you control for th rare historical exception of American individualism, the general story of the whole history of humankind is that various, left and right wing kinds of collectivisms fight each other.

          • Matt M says:

            Shenpen – I’ve encountered this objection plenty of times while arguing the issue.

            I would suggest that this might be the one case where the American system is better and the rest of the world should adopt it 🙂

            After all, if the historical/european/whatever definition of left/right wing only distinguishes between different types of collectivists, how useful is it as a definition really?

            The most relevant spectrum is probably one that measures a continuum with absolute individualism on one end and absolute collectivism on the other – and this is, in large part, how Americans view left vs right.

          • Adam says:

            Or just acknowledge multiple spectra. It seems equally useless if you can’t distinguish between the Aryan nation and a hippie commune. I mean, even if you find them equally repellent, there’s still a distinction.

          • Matt M says:

            For the purposes of talking about political structure, the distinction seems to be nearly irrelevant.

          • Shenpen says:

            @Matt M the reasons are twofold. If left is anti-oppression, then of course a right-collectivism can oppress people far harder than individualism. The other reason is that if the right largely implements masculine values like aggressivity, competition, tribalism and hierarchy, then some kind of militant nationalism gives a far more T laden trip at that than individualism.

          • Matt M says:

            Shenpen – Help me out here. Under your understanding of left/right, would we say that Nazi Germany was right and Soviet Russia was left? Under my proposal, both would be considered left, because they were both collectivist.

            If that is how you would proceed, then are you alleging that Stalin was “anti oppression”? Or that even hippy communes were? I would easily dispute both of those things.

            I think that your distinction is nice in theory, but in reality, we don’t actually observe any highly collectivist societies that stay true to stated values of peace and tolerance and brotherhood. Some are more violent about it (nazis) than others (the amish), but there’s always a certain sense of “conform or you have no place here.”

            And we don’t need to use left/right to distinguish between Nazis and the Amish, we already have terms like “militant” and “pacifist” for that.

          • Adam says:

            Matt, that just seems like an extremely narrow view of what matters politically. You can answer the question of whether we should set up collective law-making bodies that control land and set boundaries and still be left with a whole lot of interesting and hotly-contested questions that most people care deeply about.

            Heck, even libertarians still have meaningful political differences, or at least priorities. I, for instance, got into it mostly from following Radley Balko and Glenn Greenwald and my overriding concerns have been the War on Drugs, Global War on Terror, police militarization, and the exploding prison population. My greatest fear of the government is the fact that it has the ability to set up shop all over the world and kidnap and murder whoever the hell it wants to further political goals, business goals, whatever the hell reason, left or right, doesn’t matter, they all do it. And this certainly feels to me like a meaningful difference when I try to inhabit spaces where people also identify as libertarians, but then I get there, and find people defending police who murder people, saying it’s okay for a local department in a city of 50,000 to have tanks and wear camouflage, the worst thing about the TSA is they’re not allowed to racially profile and not that they exist at all, and apparently the greatest injustice in the world is the Civil Rights Act. I don’t know, we’re all anti-state, but it seems to me like those people are anti-state with much different motivation.

            Edit: Just gonna add before it’s too late that I’m not at all trying to say this is you, or even anyone here. I actually have a few very specific people in mind who don’t comment here that I’m very disenchanted with, so I’m sorry if I’m ranting.

        • CJB says:

          As a guess-

          you don’t come from a very large nation, do you?

          Within living memory, the government WAS the thing from far away that had no impact on your life. There’s still some places like that. If you’re a poor Montana farmer, “The government” is very much “those people I don’t know and never liked.”

          More precisely, our historical narrative is one of people getting the hell away from the rest of society. Largely, there’s a lot of support for the idea that “national defense” is “Someone attacks us, everyone joins the army, kicks their ass, goes home and buys a Buick.”

          It’s very unlikely you’ll know anyone even in state government- heck, in a good sized town, add “local government.”

          And subtract from those numbers people who get paychecks from the government but aren’t really involved with the governing/implementation/regulatory part of things. The Administrative assistant at the local parks and rec is going to, and should be, considered in a very different way from even a parks and rec coordinator, let alone a state senator, let alone an actual senator.

          Ultimately, Americans have a long tradition of doing peachy keen without any sort of federal help and being highly effective at local, community organization out of necessity and inclination.

          • LTP says:

            Also, the US is a very diverse society compared to many foreign countries. If you live in a small homogeneous country like Sweden, for instance, where a large majority of the population shares your values and lifestyle, broadly speaking–and thus there is no culture war–it’s a lot easier to see the government as “yours” than in the US.

          • Anonymous says:

            But, in fact, the culture war is more vicious in Sweden.

          • LTP says:

            Well, my impression is that in Sweden the extremes are further apart, but the (relative to the country) middle is much much larger than in the US. While the extremes are extremist, if you are a mainstream Swede there’s no real danger of people with radically different values than you will have significant power in the government. Not so in the US.

            I am not Swedish, though, so maybe my impression is incorrect.

          • Adam says:

            I’m really not sure that’s even true of the U.S. Most people don’t even vote and are probably more concerned with paying the rent and getting their kids into decent schools than with forming and defending overtly partisan policy stances. I honestly couldn’t even tell you the politics of a single person in my entire extended family, because if they have opinions, they’ve never expressed them to me. I don’t vote, I don’t think my sisters vote. My dad votes for who the unions says to vote for. My mom votes for who the church says to vote for. These are often different people, but neither seems to care much or fight about it or anything.

          • Anonymous says:

            There’s a lot more political street violence in Sweden.

        • Oliver Cromwell says:

          I’m not American, so I don’t know.

          I don’t know where you’re from, but I strongly suspect that people there have far less historical reason to trust, much less identify with their government than Americans do.

        • Alraune says:

          For sheer geographical context, the Federal Government “lives” several times further from me than Hadrian’s Wall was from Rome. And culturally, DC is a nation unto itself. If the US government was ever the people, that time is centuries past.

        • nydwracu says:

          Keep in mind that, in a good bit of the US, the federal government is… not exactly an occupying foreign power, but, ah…

    • Tarrou says:

      No, it’s about power inversion. In the case of SJWs, it is derived by calling the less-powerful “privileged” which justifies using the overt discrimination of the powerful group against the less powerful.

      It wouldn’t work against a truly powerful opponent, for the reasons you note. Brendan Eich was a relatively powerful and rich man. But he was far less powerful and rich than all the people calling for his head. The owner of a pizza parlor may be a member in good standing of the petit bourgeoisie, but when the CEO of Apple and the President of the US are calling for your head, you see which way the power actually lies.

      Consider the standard left explanation for why it is ok for blacks to call each other by a well known racial slur, but not for whites to use it, that there is a power imbalance between white and black that creates disproportionate damage. But the most powerful man in the world is black right now. In what way would a crude racial slur be an “oppression” of him? He can have anyone in the world killed on his word alone. Is a buck-toothed git from Appalachia really oppressing the most powerful man on earth from the lofty throne of the back porch of his trailer?

      SJW leftism is the mechanism by which the powerful in society co-opt the victimization of distant others to defeat their slightly less-powerful opponents. The debates over “rape on campus” are not about rape, really. They are about using the victimization of rape survivors to ideologically cleanse academia. It only works because it isn’t rape survivors against evil rapists, it is presidents of universities and the US Dept. of Education against a few remaining professors who might not toe the party line on sexual politics.

      You can tell who is more powerful by who won. This seems a truism, but we are all in seeming denial about it.

      • Viliam says:

        SJW leftism is the mechanism by which the powerful in society co-opt the victimization of distant others to defeat their slightly less-powerful opponents.

        Exactly this. It’s like some magical thinking:

        “Someone else on this planet, completely unrelated to me except for one trait we share (e.g. gender) is suffering. Now let’s magically atone for their suffering by letting me crush my opponents!”

        The other people’s suffering is only used as a pretext for my “justice by proxy”. (Or should I say: “social justice”?)

        But wait! There is more… If you are a true master of this game, you can even use suffering of someone with a trait you don’t have to crush someone who does. It doesn’t make sense at all, but if you do it properly, people won’t notice what you did.

        For example, you could start by saying that women are oppressed by men, so now justice demands a powerful blow in the opposite direction. And you will deliver it! Except that you actually are a man… but that is okay, because you fight on the side of women. And your target is actually a woman… but that is also okay, because she had internalized misogyny. (Analogically for race, etc.) If you do it like a pro, most people will be confused into thinking that it actually made some sense.

        You can be a rich white cis het able whatever guy (i.e. the Devil incarnate); as long as you are a SJW and play your cards well, you will be allowed to punch “up” anyone you dislike, in the name of… uhm… justice. Actually, I suspect that many SJWs are like this. (And the second place probably goes to rich white cis het whatever women.)

        • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

          >Actually, I suspect that many SJWs are like this.

          From my limited interaction with the SJ community, I’ve seen that there seems to be a repeated problem where a “leader” of sorts (usually a guy, usually white) end up revealing themselves as an abuser. An actual abuser, by non SJ standards.

          I don’t know how common it is, and I don’t know how right am I getting it (multiheaded, pls help), but it seems like something that happens.

          • multiheaded says:

            It’s more the middle ranks that are the problem tbqh. Their oppression point totals vary, but they are usually American and middle-class. The high-profile cases like RequiresHate are just the logical culmination of being *too* good at some SJ things. Like silencing. SJ culture is, ironically, great at silencing people being hurt by it.

            (Observe #NotYourShield, the one point where I’m unreservedly on the side of gamergators even when I think their object-level opinions are very silly or misguided. Many SJ people have smugly pointed out how omg, all these coloreds and queers ARE serving as a “shield” from dismissing GG as just an outpouring of specifically white male lower class resentment. The horror! But in doing so, SJ reveals that it doesn’t subscribe to its own proclamations about consent. It’s like an over-the-top misogynist insisting that “sluts” are hypocritical whenever they don’t consent to sex. It misses the entire idea that conventionally ~oppressed~ people deserve free will and basic political freedom.

            And yes, Villain has a point, cis-het men specifically have been eagerly pulling this bullshit on #NotYourShield participants.)

    • ArseneLupin says:

      No one wants to be the bad guy in their own life’s story.

      In Catholic European mythology, the good guy isn’t strong: he’s vulnerable, abnegating, looking out for the weak and the helpless. These are the qualities we associate with virtue. The outwardly strong is typically shown as a bully, as foolish, insecure, cowardly.

      Nietzsche explored this in On the Genealogy of Morality, opposing noble morality and slave morality.

      • Shenpen says:

        And you think Protestantism changed that?

        Hold on… this COULD explain some things if it was true. But is it?

        Was there a certain worshipping of strength introduced by e.g. Calvin?

        • ArseneLupin says:

          No, I don’t really. Protestantism for the most part shares the same mythology.

          I singled out Catholicism because it’s the one that spread this mentality in Western Europe, and because I don’t know enough about Orthodox Christianity to tell if it has a different concept of morality.

        • Deiseach says:

          Not so much Calvin, but old-fashioned Calvinism (modern Calvinism, except for some hold-out Truly Reformed Five-Point types, is a lot softer on double predestination and who is elect and who is reprobrate) did attach a lot of value to worldly success as a visible sign of God’s blessing.

          If nobody can know with any certainty who is saved and who is damned (because even some who think they’re saved are really damned), and if you cannot ‘earn’ salvation by any virtue or good deeds of your own (works salvation: they said Catholics believed that you could ‘buy’ your way into Heaven and we said no we didn’t, big dust-up for decades and even centuries ensues), then how can you be sure you are saved? Really saved? Are you really sure? Are you sure you’re sure?

          So looking for signs of God’s approval meant that the virtues of thrift and hard work, which resulted in worldly success, were approved and put forward as a model. There is a reason, after all, it’s called the Protestant work ethic 🙂

          And moralising/improving 19th century writers and opinion-formers liked to contrast the lazy, backwards, poor Southern European nations which were mostly Catholic with the hard-working, scientifically forward-looking, rich and prosperous Northern European nations, mostly Protestant of various varieties, and say that Catholicism’s other-worldliness and emphasis on the life to come and the vanity of worldly success and riches meant that people had no incentive to make something of themselves or pull themselves up by their bootstraps; instead, they preferred to pray to saints to provide them with miracles.

          • ArseneLupin says:

            While they emphasised the parts of “slave morality” that led to better outcomes, as you mention thrift and hard work, these are still opposed to the ostentatious demonstrations of wealth and leisure that were common in the “noble morality” cultures of antiquity. Noble morality emphasise natural ability rather than hard work. Hard work is how the “winners” in slave morality cultures explain their success to avoid having a mob kill them for daring to believe that they are better than them. In noble morality cultures, people with better outcomes were so because they were better, usually by birth, not because they worked harder or sacrificed more.

            The Southern European nations were criticised under the same moral framework as they would have under catholicism; they were seen as decadent and lazy due to the windfall of their exploitation of the southern american colonies. They were the strong back then. Their fall from grace fits perfectly within the historical framework that slave morality cultures would use: the big and powerful was full of hubris eventually got what was coming to him. A noble morality explantion would rather sound like: the big and powerful met someone bigger, more powerful and even better than him; all hail the new king!

  75. Richard says:

    Lots of comments, didn’t have time for them all, so sorry if I’m repeating stuff.

    First of all, this comic seems to say a lot IMO.

    The problem seems to occur when the draft dodgers get power to effect changes beyond the blogosphere.

    I also have a problem with the seemingly strange american use of the word ‘justice’. It seems to me that in America, the word ‘Justice’ can more or less always be replaced with the word ‘Revenge’, as in:

    Justice System == System for enacting revenge on criminals
    ‘bringing the terrorists to justice’ == enacting revenge on the terrorists
    Social Justice == getting revenge for past wrongs, primarily by harming current innocents.

    The last bit mostly applies to draft dodgers I think, but is still puzzling from my perspective.

  76. Standback says:

    Hi! I’m a recent follower and fan, and today this post was linked from File770 for the reference to Irene Gallo and the Hugo/Puppy mess.

    Could I ask that you correct the quote from Gallo for accuracy? You struck out a clause in the middle that did offer some differentiation between the Sad and Rabid Puppies:

    There are two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies respectively, that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, sexist and homophobic.

    That “respectively” has become very important to some, and while I don’t feel it does much to soften Gallo’s comment, I think it’s very problematic to present her quote with an edit that readers aren’t aware of (and, of course, anybody else who might copy this version of the quote).


    • Richard Gadsden says:

      I think it very specifically means that she didn’t call the Sad Puppies neo-nazis. She just called them “unrepentantly racist, sexist and homophobic” – which is still an overstatement.

      There is a colourable case for Vox Day being a neo-nazi; I don’t think it holds up, but I can see that reasonable people disagree with me. I do think that he adopts a fascistic æsthetic (but then so does e.g. Alan Moore so that proves nothing about his politics) and that has led people into seeing his politics as more fascistic than they really are.

      Personally, I incline to seeing him as a much more old-fashioned sort of reactionary, rather more in sympathy with Metternich than Hitler, but angrier than the old reactionaries because his ilk are no longer in power. That, IMO, makes him more æsthetically fascistic than his political programme.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      Oh, she didn’t call her company’s employees and customers neo-nazis, she just called them extreme right-wing unrepentant racist, sexist, homophobes. Well! That makes it all better.

      • RCF says:

        There is a rhetorical strategy of making an extreme misrepresentation, and then, when that misrepresentation is denied, to mock the correction. For instance, “What do you know what about relationships? You’ve been divorced five times.” “I’ve been divorced three times.” “Ohhhh, you’ve only been divorced three times.”

        I don’t know if this has a name, but I think it should, as it’s a rather dishonest tactic.

        • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

          I agree that this is something that happens, but is there really a meaningful distinction such that a point being invalidated by someone being divorced 5 times wouldn’t be similarly invalidated by being divorced thrice?

          Similarly, if someone is called most of the things that make up our commonly held perception of what he consitutes a Nazi (I know it’s bad form to asume she didn’t literally mean Neo-Nazi, but is seems pretty obvious to me that that’d be a silly claim to make), does it make a meaningful difference that they didn’t use the N-Word to refer to them specifically? I mean, there are plenty of situations where it would, for one, if one were concerned about antisemitism, but I’m not sure this is such a case.

          • suntzuanime says:

            The problem is that it’s argumentative rope-a-dope; you tell lies about someone that make them look bad, and then they’re left either correcting the lies and letting you twist that to make you look like they’re damning themselves with faint praise, or they let you exaggerate how bad they are and they look exaggeratedly bad. It’s not a matter of how much it obscures relevant truths. We shouldn’t stand for it because it’s a really scummy status play.

    • I agree that the quote should be given correctly but, contrary to some commenters, I don’t think the “respectively” implies that sad puppies are extreme right and rabid puppies neo-nazi. She puts it as “right wing to neo-nazi,” which describes a range, not a pair of alternatives.

      As I read it, she saying that some members of one or both groups are extreme right wing, some are neo-nazi, and most or all of the members are in a range between and including those positions.

      • RCF says:

        Given Evidence A that supports Claim X, and Evidence B that opposes Claim X, it doesn’t make sense to say “Evidence A doesn’t support Claim X, because Evidence B also exists”.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        I don’t think the “respectively” implies that sad puppies are extreme right and rabid puppies neo-nazi. She puts it as “right wing to neo-nazi,” which describes a range, not a pair of alternatives.

        What would you make of ‘respectively’, then?

  77. Like a lot non-feminists, I was freaked out by the recent story about a man who was raped while unconscious being declared the rapist and expelled from college without getting to tell his side of the story. I have no evidence that this has ever happened more than just the one time…

    There’s no evidence it happened even the one time.

    What Doe (or, rather, Doe’s lawyers) actually claim is that Doe “experienced a total blackout and had no memory of his interactions with Sandra Jones at all. His defense was that, despite his lack of memory, he would never force a woman to have sex.”

    “Blackout,” in this context, was referring to not being able to recall what happened. Doe isn’t claiming that he was unconscious while the sex happened. But it’s okay to falsely accuse someone of rape, as long as the person being accused is a woman, apparently.

    Sandra Jones claims that Doe was conscious. Specifically, she claims that he held her head and forced her to give him head while she was saying things like “no” and “please don’t” and was trying to push him away. That sure the fuck sounds like rape to me. The panel found Jones’ account credible.

    I don’t know if Jones was telling the truth or not. But as far as I can tell – and I’ve read both Doe’s complaint and the panel’s findings – there’s no basis for your claim that Jones raped an unconscious Doe.

    • But it’s okay to falsely accuse someone of rape, as long as the person being accused is a woman, apparently.

      Sorry about that. Please consider this once sentence withdrawn. Thanks.

    • Jos says:

      I think it would be fairer to say that Doe was allegedly raped while incompetent – I believe that Amherst considers having sex with someone too drunk to meaninfully consent to be rape. (I guess you could conclude that Doe was blackout drunk but appeared sober to the accuser).

    • Anatoly says:

      Barry, your account is contradicted by item 74 of the complaint: “In particular, it was undisputed − even on Sandra Jones’s own account − and the hearing board found, that at the outset Sandra Jones willingly engaged in sex with John Doe while he was “blacked out,” that is, while he was incapacitated and thus incapable of giving consent. Under the College’s Student Handbook, on these facts Sandra Jones—and not John Doe—was guilty of sexual misconduct.” Item 83 further goes into what the complaint means by “blacked out”, and it claims that the college’s own policies support that interpretation.

      • Jos says:

        “Incapacitated” is an even better word than my suggestion of “incompetent.”

        I think Barry’s right that “unconscious” isn’t fair, unless there’s some technical meaning that I don’t know.

        • Anatoly says:

          Item 83 of the complaint cites an Amherst policy document that defines “a blackout state” using words like “do[es] not actually have conscious awareness.”

          The board originally found John Doe’s claim of having been blacked out “credible”. It follows, according to the logic of the complaint, that the board agreed it was credible that John Doe had actually been unconscious, but since it had been due to his own drunkenness and that’s “never an excuse”, they condemned him anyway.

          So no, I disagree that “unconscious” is unfair; the complaint DOES allege that John Doe had been in the blackout state in the sense of “not having conscious awareness”. It is not a stretch or a distortion to portray the complaint as claiming so. It may well be that this claim isn’t as substantiated and agreed-to by the board’s decision as the complaint likes to state, but the claim is there.

          • Alexander Stanislaw says:

            Anatoly, do you think that a person capable of speaking (not necessarily coherently) and walking is “unconscious”? Do you think that is a typical usage of the term and the usage that people expected Scott to be using?

          • Careless says:

            Difference between “blackout” [will not remember what happened] and “blacked out” [unconscious] that is confusing a lot of people

    • RCF says:

      It seems to me that there is widespread confusion as to how blackouts work. My understanding is that the sequence is:

      1. Subject has a lot of alcohol.
      2. Subject does stuff.
      3. Subject forgets doing stuff.

      However, the popular conception seems to be:

      1. Subject has a lot of alcohol.
      2. Subject enters into some mental state of unclear nature, in which they are capable of doing stuff, but it’s not really them doing them doing it, or something, I’m not really clear on this.

      The thing about blackouts is no one is aware of them happening at the time, and even if they were, they wouldn’t remember that experience. And as a result, they perceive the blackout as happening before the other stuff happens. So, for instance, Doe perceives the order of events as:

      1. I drank a lot of alcohol.
      2. I blacked out.
      3. I then received oral sex.

      But that is not in fact the correct order; the blackout, that is, the erasure of memories, took place after the oral sex. There was no point at which the student was “blacked out” or “in a blackout”. It’s like if you record the events in a room from 1:00 to 2:00, but then you erase the recording from 1:15 to 1:45. It would be misleading to say “At 1:15, the video blacked out”, or to talk of the events from 1:15 to 1:45 as taking place during a blackout, and even more misleading to suggest that the people in the room from 1:15 to 1:45 were in some state intrinsically different from the state they were in from 1:00 to 1:15, or to suggest that they should have known that they should act differently because they were “in a blackout”.

      Now, certainly, later having a blackout is correlated with being mentally incapacitated at the time, but they are different concepts, and there is no way, as far as I know (which, admittedly, isn’t all that far) to tell at the time that someone is in a period of time that they will later black out, and even if there were, it would be irrelevant to whether there is consent. Consider the movie “50 First Dates”. When Adam Sandler’s character has sex with Drew Barrymore’s character, that’s not rape, even though she won’t remember it the next day.

      • Montfort says:

        According to wikipedia:

        …blackout-specific studies have indicated that alcohol specifically impairs the brain’s ability to take short-term memories and experiences and transfer them to long-term memory


        Rather than a later event erasing memories, the drinker achieves “blackout conditions” and simply fails to form memories, sometimes retaining some fragments. Apparently they can recall about the last two minutes at any given time (as well as other scattered events, depending on how complete the blackout is).

        This is connected to other forms of alcohol impairment, so the location of the gap in their memory is meaningful and helps to determine their mental state. I can’t speak to how meaningful it is in terms of capacity to give consent, but it is definitely different from a sober brain-state and different from other drinking brain-states.

        • NN says:

          Apparently they can recall about the last two minutes at any given time (as well as other scattered events, depending on how complete the blackout is).

          The movie Memento depicts a character who has this condition, medically known as Anterograde Amnesia, permanently due to brain damage and serves as a pretty good illustration of how this works. Though obviously with alcohol you add drunkenness on top of that, coupled with the fact that a person who is black out drunk is unlikely to realize that their memory is impaired until after they recover.

          • Protagoras says:

            People who aren’t drunk who have the condition are also generally not likely to realize that their memory is impaired, at least if Oliver Sacks’ description of such patients is to be believed.

      • Alexander Stanislaw says:

        Yeah its very confusing terminology. I wouldn’t usually fault someone for not understanding “blackout”, but a psychiatrist should know the difference! The fact that Scott is misunderstanding this while signal boosting the plight of false rape accusations is quite frustrating (I don’t think I’ve ever seen him mention the reverse scenario – a rape victim whose case was dismissed).

        • RCF says:

          Well, he is asserting that this is such a case: according to his presentation, the man was raped, and that rape was dismissed.

          • John Schilling says:

            And he is correct. The standard for raping an unresisting drunk person is not literal unconsciousness. Initiating sex with a person one knows to be “blackout drunk” is rape, legally and morally, and the woman in the Amherst case specifically indicated in one of her texts that she knew the man was too drunk to remember what had happened.

            Yes, there’s a grey area. This was in the region with the albedo of a lump of coal.

          • Alexander Stanislaw says:

            I meant a female rape victim.

  78. My sense is that the mirrored neurons/ reciprocation approach doesn’t work if fear is active in the brain. And trying to establish whose fault it is or who is worse than who doesn’t establish anything useful much either. I’d also briefly note the US seems to be similar to Australia but there’s no question you’re quite a bit more polarized than here.

    This sort of excalation makes it fairly tempting to think we really need a Hobbesian but minimalist leader to stomp on people trying to spread fear in either direction. Unfortunately for any sort of strong but netural/minimal authority you’re going to need some prinicples to work on. The old liberalism is still sort of functional but I think there’s a need for a more sophisticated set of ideas to prevent the polarization getting worse. I think the Archipeligo is a good example of that sort of sophisticated new idea. I’ll take the chance to plug my own ideas of comprehensive morality and investigative politics as a contribution. Anyone else got good theoretical ideas around this?

    If we don’t manage to slow this poison soon, its hard to see anything but a dark future for western politics.

  79. anomalia says:

    And all it took was to make a white guy feel the existential threat women and minorities feel to receive a rational understanding of what is actually going on. SJ-tactics worked, although in a rather unexpected way. Now what´s left is to help people with existential fear. And to understand thinking from a threatened position for what it is.

    • Bugmaster says:

      I don’t think it’s possible to “help people with existential fear” by deliberately creating more existential fear, unless you expand the term “people” to mean, “only a specific subgroup of people”.

      • anomalia says:

        Are you really sure about that? For me it seems like what actually happened. There were groups that felt oppressed and scared. From their perspective the world seemed to be ruled by a privileged group. They thought that the situation they found themselves in was a deliberate creation by the privileged people. So they reacted by using the means they thought were used against them, such as ostracism, ridiculing, etc. Of course their methods eventually got implemented against a group that is both rational and empathetic. This group though didn´t react with typical SJ-tactics, but with reasoning and empathy. And thus in the light of reason the whole problem shows itself as a matter of fear.

        • Bugmaster says:

          I’m not sure who this “group that is both rational and empathetic” is. Other than that, just going by your summary of events, it seems like at the end of the day the total amount of fear in the world had increased, but the amount of feat that one specific group is experiencing had decreased by a small amount.

          As I said above, this outcome is suboptimal, unless you only care about one specific group — in which case, the outcome is great, and may even be optimal.

    • Andy says:

      The thing is, I am adult women and did not felt existential threat for being a women before. The biggest existential threat to me being treated as equality capable person I see right now is radical feminism or alternatively radical backslash. I see both as similarly dangerous, can not decide which one is more dangerous.

      I do not fear walking around city. I do not fear when I sit and man stands above me while talking. Nobody cared about what I wear on the job until radical feminists articles mocked the way I wear while pretending to “fight for women in programming”. See, I am not stylish enough and according to them, it must be because I am oppressed and scared. I am women, feminism think I have to be as fashion obsessed as them. It just can not be that some women, maybe not strong majority but we still exist, do not care about fashion all that much.

      I do not need female only safe space, I am fine talking with my male colleagues. I never needed special “women talk first” rule in class or on the job. I do not faint when bad guy in video-game says “bitch” nor feel unwelcome just because that bad guy said that.

      Does that mean there is no sexism anymore ever? Nope it does not. But, radical feminists running around talking how women need special rules because we are literally incapable to function without being helped constantly is not helping.

      The whole “existential threat women universally feel” is radical feminist concept – but they do not talk for women in general. They talk only for small subset of women. Feminism as a whole had 20% approval rates last time I checked and that includes whole range of people who consider SJWs style feminism radical fringe – approving only moderate non-hateful subset.

      In my opinion, SJW radical feminism and old school sexists hold the same ideas about what women are capable of. SJWs think that us, weak incapable women, need constant help and nudging towards making right decisions. Meanwhile, old school sexists think that we are weak and incapable too, so he will take it upon him to help me make correct choices.

      And anyway, what is exact difference between safe space and gender segregated lab? They are literally the same thing.

      • LTP says:

        True, but you must admit there are women with different experiences of the world than you. A woman how has been raped, by a man she trusted or who lives in a community where cat-calling is normal, or who had her intelligence and competence denigrated by male colleagues just for being a woman, will have a different perspective on the relative threat of feminist excesses vs. sexism.

        Beware the typical-mind fallacy or, for that matter, assuming your experiences or those of your friends are the norm for most.

        • Andy says:

          Yes, but none of those women is helped by all women being painted as if we were in her situation. In particular, raped women is not helped at all by definition of rape changing to cover being seduced or all kinds of messy drunken sex. Those experiences are not nearly the same.

          I did met openly sexist men and women (women did “wow I would be unable to” comment on me being in tech). And I can tell you that men telling inappropriate joke and sexist men are two different animals. They are not helping equality when they treat them the same. Sexist men learn watch their language faster then jokes telling men. Only former are dangerous, latter are not funny at worst. Worst of all, once you prevented sexist from talking, you can not oppose their points anymore.

          And anyway, women say as many inappropriate jokes as men – there is only difference in style.

          Overwhelming majority of men did treated me equally. By huge large margin. I have seen men coming to my side in some encounters with sexist in a way I was happy about (e.g. not in white knight style).

          You are not helping equality when you ignore positive experiences. You are not helping equality when you prevent men defending themselves. You are not helping equality when you accuse men of sexism when they merely told joke or had wrong shirt.

          Remember comet guy? Not sexist. No puritan either probably, but women are not puritans in nature. Only some of us, just as some of men.

          Oh another thing about comet scandal – he had a boss – a women. She did scientific work, she did organizational work, she was his senior. She could have been great example of women in science, if only all those outraged about shirt would cared more about science and tech then about shirts.

          Oh another thing about comet scandal – the lady who did shirt once said in interview she seeked to protect him, because she seen herself strong and able to handle it. She seen him as gentle and sensitive.

          She is someone to be respected. Hey, did you noted? She is no damsel in distress. Such women exist, lets talk about them too. Want girls grow capable and strong? Celebrate such real life role models more then shirt oppressed ones.

          I have no experience with cat calling. However, it is not at all clear who is privileged when homeless or low paid construction worker cat calls upper middle class women. Some women living in that environment just say “fuck off dude” and do not feel oppressed at all. Others do, and I believe it is important to hear both kinds of women.

          Overall, I think that males do not deserve to be smacked just for being males all the time. There is nothing wrong with being man.

        • SomeName says:

          While it is true that there are women that have different experiences than Andy here, that does not diminish her statement’s impact as an argument against internet feminism’s rhetoric. The rhetoric you see from feminist sources online (and those who agree with them) is not merely “there exist women who experience this”, it is “all women experience this”. Sometimes that is implicit, but quite often it’s explicit (for example, that asinine #YesAllWomen nonsense a while back). Because the rhetoric overreaches so far as to claim “all women”, even one counterexample is good enough to disprove the claims.

          It is obvious (or so one would hope) to any reasonable person that not all women, even in western societies, are fortunate enough to live lives free of discrimination or mistreatment. But neither is it true (despite the claims of internet feminism) that all women are oppressed. What we need, and I have yet to see, is a good handle on exactly how many women are actually out there living in fear of men, being mistreated, etc. That’s the useful thing to know (after all, the middle ground between 0% and 100% oppression is vast and knowing where the truth falls is significant), but nobody seems to be interested in figuring that out.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            Yeah, this exactly. My problem with a lot of feminists is not that they say that sexism exists (it does) and that some women feel threatened (also true). The problem is that they speak in sweeping generalities about the female experience as if they have the unique authority to decide what it means to be female.

            The YesAllWomen thing is a perfect example. Another one is the Margaret Atwood quote: “Men are afraid women will laugh at them; woman are afraid men will kill them.” Maybe that is true for some women. I really don’t think it’s true for the majority.

            And women who object and say, “that may be your experience, but it’s not mine, please stop claiming to speak for me” tend to be shamed and silenced in the feminist community, told that they’re invalidating others’ experiences (and, ironically, having their own experiences invalidated). As a result, you get an echo chamber which magnifies grievances and creates a distorted picture of reality.

            And because I’m using some generalities of my own, I should add that #NotAllFeminists are like this, of course. But there are enough of them to make feminist spaces feel hostile to women who don’t support the narrative.

          • suntzuanime says:

            That “men are afraid women will laugh at them, woman are afraid men will kill them” quote has always struck me as essentially saying “men are much more in touch with reality than women are”. That the SJW crew uses it to mean “men are really dangerous” says a lot about their ability to distinguish feelings from facts.

        • NN says:

          There is evidence that at least some of the women who live in communities where cat-calling is normal do not consider it oppressive. For example, I’ve read plenty of stories of female immigrants from Latin American countries complaining that they don’t get as many compliments from men as they did in their home country.

          I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the complaints about cat-calling come from women outside cultures where the practice is typical who have the misfortune to wander into spaces dominated by those cultures, IE the archetypical example of an upper-middle class businesswoman walking past a construction site.

          • orangecat says:

            It was amazing how quickly last year’s catcalling video disappeared down the memory hole once people noticed the inconvenient demographics of the catcallers.

    • vV_Vv says:

      If somebody feels existential fear for themselves, they will be less likely to empathize with the fear of others, especially those who are attacking them, and in fact they are more likely to consider their attackers as enemies to be subjugated or destroyed.

      Just look at how terrorists seem to achieve exactly the opposite of their stated political goals: when Hamas fires a rocket at Israel, do the Israeli become more empathic to the plight of Palestinians? Nope, they actually become more bloodthirsty.

  80. Svejk says:

    I suspect I’m a bit to the right of most readers of this blog, so I used this post as an occasion to see how my instincts line up with the rest of the commentariat:
    The three cases of suppressed speech that are most often brought up in this conversation are 1. the Brandon Eich firing 2. the pizzeria closure and 3. the Moldbug disinvitation.
    Case #1 is most disturbing to me by a significant margin because a man was deprived of his position on the basis of his lawful and rightful participation in the democratic process of his country. This, too me, was unforgivable and will have a much greater effect on the suppression of speech in the future because it effectively disenfranchises persons with unpopular views. This is actually frightening.
    Case#2. Had the pizzeria merely been affected by a local boycott, I would have to shrug, but the fact that the entire Arsenal of Fake Internet Democracy was emptied in their direction is very troubling. Disproportionate responses against unprepared small targets is a great way to incrementally apply prior restraint against entire categories of speech. Additionally, from what I understand, the pizzeria owner was baited into discussing a ridiculous hypothetical scenario of catering a gay wedding by one of the outrage-seeking missiles in the media. This highlights how cultural elites are leveraging the organs in which they are entrenched to advance their position.
    I have a more ambiguous response to Case#3. I have a passing familiarity with Moldbug. Perhaps unfortunately for him, he’s become a bit like the Palaeo diet, except that his lesser imitators are fixated on subjugating ‘inferior’/’unproductive’ people rather than bacon. If I understand correctly, he is not uncomfortable describing his writings as ‘seditious’. I am not certain how to treat speech that aims to change the meta-level terms of the debate. If Moldbug wishes to replace democracy/free speech with a system that removes these rights from the peons (or replaces them with the right of exit), this makes me wonder if I should apply a weighting factor to his current claim to free speech [affecting only these views]. This is probably inconsistent, but it is an inconsistency that has troubled designers of democratic systems for some time. If the organizers of the conference had disinvited him on free association grounds, I would not object. But he was disinvited on the basis of complaints by Communists! Who have a symmetrical meta-level problem with speech!
    I think that there should be no restriction on speech that does not advocate the (violent!) overthrow of a democratic government. So this makes me sympathetic to Moldbug. But I do not think that all segments of society are similarly situated with respect to the consequences of many kinds of speech – particularly historically disenfranchised minorities – and if they wish to respond to speech they fear will rob them of their freedoms or individuality with torrents of opposing speech, even including certain shaming tactics, I do not object on moral grounds.

    • Alraune says:

      The only part of your description of Moldbug we can agree on is that subjugating bacon would be a horrible atrocity.

    • Eternal Apparatchik says:

      Some observations, if I may. (a) provided that “speech” in non-politicised, “democracy” and “free speech” are orthogonal to each other, so you conflating the two seems odd* in my eyes; an “unregulated marketplace” for ideas had existed before “democracy,” and it still exists now in spite of it because (b) to the extent that “speech” is indeed currently politicised (and once virtually anything is up to a vote, the “personal is political” is a lot more than a slogan or tactical principle), it follows that “free speech” may very well be nothing but a political weapon, which of course makes me a petty “orateur” who merely argues semantics and (* -) a “liar,” although I’d prefer the term “lawyer.”

      Now, if I may continue with my sophistry—if we were to allow that “free” is indeed synonymous with “unregulated,” then one could (purely as a theoretic exercise, mind you) make the case that insofar as it does not pertain to non-political “speech,” the reinstating of the principle of laesa maiestas is a scaling back in the “regulation of the marketplace” of ideas however abusive it may prove as a curbing of “free speech.”

      But this line of thought is obviously wrong, because taken to its full conclusion, one immediately realises that the argument assumes a situation where, what one would be defending and what one would be receiving could vary, in a way, independent of each other, stemming from the same kind of language failure (leading into object level disasters) as that caused by trickster genies trapped in bottles, which perfectly illustrates why the argument is abject nonsense: genies don’t exist!

      Therefore, free speech does.

  81. Souris-Anonymique says:

    While I appreciate the desire to be consistent in one’s views, I think that sometimes, one has to accept that the lizard brain may have a bit of a point.
    Over my course (English literature) I have watched teachers mould a great deal of the students into people who do things like apply “author-is-dead” criticism to real-world history specifically to support the view that all problems in the world are the fault of the white man. They have repeatedly and barefacedly lied to us about authors and the historical context of their work, again, in order to push everyone into agreeing with an SJ narrative of history and literature.
    Given that this is regarded as one of the best colleges in my country, and this seems to be the pattern across the arts subjects, (and is trying more and more to push its way into the sciences) I can fully understand why the right is concerned. The largely left-leaning world of academia is raising a generation of academics (at least in my country) who are deliberately primed to unquestioningly accept the SJ narrative, even when it is shown to lie.
    I appreciate this sounds like a conspiracy theory, but I am sad to say that I have watched as, day by day, even the people I respected, people who were critical of all ideas which were presented to them, who researched and made up their own minds, have been worn down until they no longer have the will to resist when the same demonstrable lie is trotted out in front of them for the fourth or fifth time, and it is only then, when all resistance has been squashed, that they stop repeating it, satisfied that the wrong-think had been beaten out.

    • Andy says:

      “They have repeatedly and barefacedly lied to us about authors and the historical context of their work, again, in order to push everyone into agreeing with an SJ narrative of history and literature.”

      Do you have concrete examples? I have heard similar complain before, but since no one ever gave concrete example of a lie being told, I am not sure what should I imagine that happened.

      • Tarrou says:

        I once had a professor claim that all the main characters of Shakespeare’s work were “white men”, so I raised my hand and said “Othello”. I guess I really didn’t need that class after all.

        • Deiseach says:

          Portia in “The Merchant of Venice” and Lady MacBeth aren’t men. Cleopatra in “Antony and Cleopatra”? Depending on how great a proportion of her ancestry you consider Egyptian, and whether or not you consider North Africans ‘white’, I don’t think she was a white man either 🙂

          • Adam says:

            She was almost certainly overwhelmingly Greek. The Ptolemaic dynasty was pretty damn heavily in-bred. Definitely not a man, though.

  82. Rachael says:

    Profoundly insightful. (I went online this morning hoping for an interesting new SSC post, and was delighted by this.)

    I was recently struck by this quote:
    “It is common for people who feel entitled to look for unjust reasons for exclusion from something they feel they are owed. Afraid to look within, they will search for any confirmations they can find that someone, somewhere has unjust views of them, and then work long and hard to build a case that these views somehow formed the basis of discrimination. The logical leaps and sifting for scant evidence that make up this process are the roots of paranoid beliefs and are p