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 overratedwhitedudes.tumblr.com, 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. SolveIt says:

    You’re remarkably self-aware in your writings. I don’t think I’ve seen this level of self-awareness in many other places.

    • buckwheatloaf says:

      the reason you dont see it is that it’s boring. i dont really want to read everybody displaying their self awareness before their audience by questioning their own mind out loud. this is a performance, but sometimes the trick is better seen than the actual evidence that should speak for itself. besides this is what you do before you write something, it’s thinking before you speak, not while you’re speaking. you can show your self awareness by just showing it instead of telling it. i think scott just did it this way to bring us into his own mind so we can see where he is uncertain or perplexed and to avoid hostile comments that misunderstood him. not everybody could see how self aware someone was unless it was spelled out. scott is probably one of the last people that needs to prove this to anyone, but sometimes you can never be too safe.

  2. Randy M says:

    [I’m cutting part because I posted something before reading where you had it already. Sorry for doing that. Really!]

    Regarding Irene Gallo,
    When you tell your children not to hit one another, but only punish one of them for doing so, you raise a bully, and your children will hate each other to boot.

    Therefore, I think the right is correct to start demanding scalps.

    When I was hired at my previous job, it was made clear I wasn’t to talk about competition in overly inflammatory language like “smite” (I remembered that because I didn’t think anyone who didn’t write DnD manuals would use the words smite). Irene used much harsher language about clients and customers.

    (I realize I’m going to be called out for pulling the “he started it!” card that and I’m ignorant of much worse behavior X. So be it.)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree that, given that the other side is doing it, it is correct to retaliate.

      On the other hand, when there’s something complex, such that both sides are likely to perceive the other side as committing a violation whether or not they actually do, this can be very dangerous.

      Consider an iterated prisoner’s dilemma. The best option is tit-for-tat. But if there’s a 5% chance each turn that you interpret one of your opponent’s acts as a defection even if they thought they were still playing within the rules, then after ~20 turns you think they defected, you play defect to retaliate against them, they play defect to retaliate against you, and you’re defect-defect for the whole rest of the game.

      This is even worse when there aren’t actual “sides”, and you start defecting if you just heard of an unrelated guy who defected in a prisoner’s dilemma one time.

      I’m not saying the solution is to always cooperate, but it’s a hard problem.

      • Randy M says:

        Made more complex by people believing that the bad things there own side is accused of doing were “false flags” or deceptively down by the other side. Made yet more complex by the fact that, actually, some threats and hate crimes are indeed hoaxes.
        I don’t know how deep the rabbit hole goes. Possibly the solution is to not judge correctness of cause by tactics used… but I really do hate Communists (the particular ones who have had a chance to gain power and their defenders) for what they actually *did* is pursuit of their goals rather than goals. So, yes, I care about tactics, so I don’t know how to win Vizzeni’s game.

        • Cauê says:

          False flags are very common on the internet. The main misperception I see about them is that people too often attribute them to the other side, rather than to trolls, who seem to be the most common perpetrators

          To someone who’s not emotionally invested in either side, and whose goal is trolling in the classical sense of “sowing discord by causing arguments and upsetting people”, false flags have a fantastic ROI – especially considering that anonymity greatly lowers the cost (which is also true of “self-inflicted” false flags, of course).

      • Daniel Keys says:

        Speaking of which, people call VD a neo-nazi because he literally called a neo-nazi party preferable to the status quo in Europe – that, and he talked about Jewish tribal nepotism in a way that sounds exactly like an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

        People – apparently – call Torgerson racist because he claimed non-white authors only made it onto the ballot through (insert some term meant to denigrate leftists). So, what is your claim about his wife? That Thomas Jefferson could not have been racist, and a married man can’t be sexist? (Incidentally, if we believe certain feminists, women in traditional conservative marriages are the harshest misandrists when men aren’t listening.) Or do you mean you have knowledge of his marriage in particular that rules out racism, and perhaps is so obvious that Gallo could not reasonably believe him to be racist? I know you didn’t mean to say she called him a Nazi, since that would be slander if you read your link.

        If you think the word “groups” tars someone or other unfairly, I would technically agree. No doubt someone on the Internet endorsed those two men’s endeavors without saying or believing anything comparable.

        How does any of this lead to you thinking Gallo wants to kill you, who have never endorsed a neo-nazi party? What am I not seeing that makes your reaction even possible?

        • Cauê says:

          People – apparently – call Torgerson racist because he claimed non-white authors only made it onto the ballot through (insert some term meant to denigrate leftists).

          I notice you didn’t provide a quote or link. I’m not following Sad Puppies at all closely, but the pattern is sadly familiar.

          On Gallo’s statement, I think Eric Flint (anti-Puppies, by his word) put it well.

        • Randy M says:

          Oh, lets see here:
          What is the neo-nazi party you refer to? UKIP? I notice your literally only modifies the called, but not the neo-nazi, so that probably isn’t necessarily what they self-label, am I right? (If so, then your accusation is misleading). Further, one can prefer voting for a political party and not identify with every position they hold–see every voter in any democracy, for instance.

          One can believe that *Specific* authors were only given awards for affirmative action (de facto if not du jure) without believing that that is the only way that women/minorities/whatever can earn the award. His slate contained females and minorities, so I believe this is proven.
          Your question confuses me, as I don’t think anyone here made any claims about Torgerson’s wife, but I am unafraid to do so. Here’s one: Rational people find the race of someone’s spouse stronger evidence against racism toward that spouse’s racial group than the race of their book award nominees is evidence either way.

          A reasonable person could quite certainly conclude that “there are two extreme right wing to neo-nazi groups” is intended to imply (with perhaps some deniability, but please) some relationship between all the parties she was discussing and national socialism.

          Gallo’s comments label both groups with terms that are basically the worst a progressive person can possibly use. “Die Racist” on google has 40,600,000 hits. “kill sexists” has 18,000,000. Google autocompletes “Kill hom” to homophobes; kill homosexuals isn’t on the list.

          • Daniel Keys says:

            Why no, I mean the Golden Dawn. Feel free to follow those links and see who you’re defending. Literally the best thing one could say about VD is that he’s a troll (or a human being – but he would dispute that term).

            Oh, and I know a dog-owner who saw Google correctly complete “is it legal” with “to have a dog in a motorcycle sidecar”. I also had a grandfather who told me we should put gays in concentration camps. But hey, maybe he was a troll too.

          • suntzuanime says:

            So, “endorsed a neo-Nazi party” was a lie. As true as saying Winston Churchill endorsed Stalinism.

          • notes says:

            On dogs and sidecars:

            Yes. Yes it is.

            VD is certainly trolling, and perhaps also serious.

            Still, why not attack him for views he actually holds? To go further and label him as a neo-nazi… to whom, exactly, is this helpful? Those who see the (inaccurate) label and turn aside without further inquiry? Those who follow the links and then doubt your other assertions?

            Why erode your credibility at the invitation of a troll?

            This is what it looks like when someone trolls successfully: overreaction does more damage to the target than the troll’s provoking argument.

            Reference: the link chain given above terminates there, where VD writes “This doesn’t mean Golden Dawn or the other nationalist parties are full of well-meaning angels. Make no mistake about it, they are simply the lesser evil of the two options on offer.”

            suntzuanime has the right of this one.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Are we seriously doing the Google autocomplete thing here?

          • Dale Carville says:

            “Die Racist” on google has 40,600,000 hits. “kill sexists” has 18,000,000.
            Google autocompletes “Kill hom”
            to homophobes;
            kill homosexuals isn’t on the list.”


            “die racist” : 5,370 hits
            “kill sexists” : 85 hits
            “kill homophobes” : 1,260 hits
            “kill homosexuals” : 97,000 hits

            Clearly the large majority of these hits are not two word injunctions to act, and so Google can’t tell us much.
            But what this does tell us is that a mercenary like Randy can’t stop with the myopic psyops. If youre gonna hold a ceasefire, put Randy in the brig, cause he;s just in it for kicks. Nothing of this essay sunk in. Why be here if you’re gonna pull that shit?
            You went right into action, cooking numbers like a chef in the Pravda commissary, until you had me seeing pictures of mean girls standing beside mountains of dead boybuilders. You knew it was unlikely that anyone was going to check your work.

            If I’m on the fence on whether men have anything to be scared about I’m already ready to dismount. If you had good numbers you would have used them. Ergo you don’t. The list of fired and shamed men is a parking ticket compared to the list of lives robbed and ruined by, for instance, the unarrestable supercriminals
            of wall street who suffered nary a prank phone call.
            I’d like to see some scale in this conversation.
            I come here to because I trust Scott’s skill at rooting out manipulated stats. You shit on Scott’s brand and reactivated my skepticism about whether men have anything to fear. You’re not scared of women. No way. Your having too much fun.
            Let’s keep in mind, lots of men do get a kick out of teasing, trolling and fucking with people for kicks. If we could discount those Macchiavellians and opportunists who are playing along in bad faith, I wonder if there’d even be enough authentically scared men to make a movement.

          • Randy M says:


            Thank you. I did not include quotes. I retract that paragraph as indicative of anything and humbly as forgiveness. The remainder stands.

            Well, thanks for the fact check, anyway. As for the mercenary accusation, I wish, I could use the money. 😉

            To explain myself, since I apparently made a big impact on you with one brief point, I there attempted to defend a point made by Scott with a metric I vaguely remembered seeing here out of some misguided attempt to rebut more than I should have. I didn’t think I proved anything, but thought it was interesting–forgetting the quotes shows it to be less so.

            Anyhow, you are right that I am not afraid of women, mostly because I am a nobody, and as pointed out below, nobodies are not the prime targets.

          • Nestor says:

            Did you control for results showing “The racists” in German 🙂

            Nature imitates art…

          • Julie K says:

            Google has a list of offensive terms that won’t appear in auto-complete (though you can still type them in yourself, of course).

          • Zorgon says:

            You know what gives “men” reason to be fearful?

            People using “men” as a corporate identity that should either fear or not fear as a singular group.

            That’s a good reason for any group to be fearful, because we both know what the long-term purpose of doing that is.

          • Randy M says:

            “Did you control for results showing “The racists” in German?”

            Well, I forgot to control for the “” marks, as pointed out, so its moot, but at least I realized searching for Die Nazis might be confounded 😛

          • Deiseach says:

            When I see Golden Dawn, I think of Aleister Crowley and W.B. Yeats and fin-de-siècle occultism, not modern hyper-nationalist far-right political parties.

            I think I prefer the inside of my head to the real world, these days 🙁

          • Dale Carville says:

            “People using “men” as a corporate identity that should either fear or not fear as a singular group. That’s a good reason for any group to be fearful, because we both know what the long-term purpose of doing that is.”

            So it’s finally come to this? “Men” is a trigger word for men?

          • J. Goard says:

            “Did you control for results showing “The racists” in German :)”

            That would be “die Rassisten”, pretty unlikely for a search to confuse. :^)

          • Nornagest says:

            When I see Golden Dawn, I think of Aleister Crowley and W.B. Yeats and fin-de-siècle occultism, not modern hyper-nationalist far-right political parties.

            I have the same problem.

          • Zorgon says:

            Yes, Dale Carville, that’s clearly exactly what I meant.

            *rolls eyes*

            You know what you mean when you talk about “men” as a corporate entity. I know it too. I understand that while you proclaim to focus upon the privileged members of that group, you actually genuinely mean me, in all my sexual-minority, disabled, gender-non-conforming, non-neurotypical, lower class glory. Because of an unselected trait, specifically that of my birth gender and sex.

            And I don’t have the necessary privilege to cope with you and the people you represent deciding whether I, as a representative of “men”, am allowed to have anything to worry about.

            So do excuse me if I tell you to fuck right off.

        • Deiseach says:

          No, you’re right, she didn’t call him a Nazi, just a neo-Nazi.

          Phew! Well, that’s all right then!

        • Zvi Mowshowitz says:

          If someone makes the claim that “I want to kill those who are members of set X” and also says “Y is in set X”, where Y is not in set X, then if you are Z also not in set X, but who this person also dislikes, it is very reasonable for you to wonder whether this person will believe and/or claim that Z is also in X, and therefore want or try to kill you.

          In general, if someone or some group shows a tendency to label things they dislike as having labels that are associated with “let’s do bad things to this thing” and to expand the aggressiveness of those labels and of those bad things over time, then it is logical to believe that anyone and everyone is, eventually, at risk.

        • Xopher Halftongue says:

          Speaking of which, people call VD a neo-nazi because he literally called a neo-nazi party preferable to the status quo in Europe

          VD called the Syriza Party preferable to the status quo in Europe, therefore he must be a commie…

      • anon85 says:

        Scott, I assume you already know this, but for other readers who might be interested:

        A great strategy for the game you described (iterated prisoners’ dilemma with a chance of seeing a defect even when the opponent cooperated) is “tit-for-tat with forgiveness”. That is, play tit-for-tat, but at any point in time, have some chance of saying “even though my opponent defected last round, I’ll forgive them and cooperate”. Playing this strategy allows the players to break these defection cycles (there will still be occasional defection exchanges, but they will eventually stop instead of continuing forever).

        [Note how similar this strategy is to the “divine grace” you observed in https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/02/23/in-favor-of-niceness-community-and-civilization/ ]

        • Motorbike says:

          This might work if there was a single player on each side. Unfortunately, the SJWs and the anti-SJWs are so numerous that it’s very difficult for either side to coordinate a period of cooperation (especially given trolls).

      • (Some people have studied the IPD under noise, in case anyone else was curious. Generous Tit For Tat appears to solve the problem, where you choose not to defect a certain fraction of the time you otherwise would http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/66566/10.1177_0022002795039001008.pdf;j)

        • Harald K says:

          Do you know if anyone have studied a version of the game where actors randomly meet, can choose to defect or cooperate, but can also exchange information (and possibly lie) about who they’ve met in the past and what happened then? And can also announce their strategy ahead of time?

      • Dale Carville says:

        1. Of the two anecdotes Scott selected from the last comment thread, I was wondering if nydwracu or mark atwood would be willing to share police reports or campus news items covering the incidents? If there’s a strong argument in place, hearsay need be absent.

        2. Is it just a coincidence that most of the men who live in fear of politically-powerless (IRL: no congressional, military or police power) non-violent (as in armed and capable of physical harm) women are heavy consumers of fantasy and science fiction entertainment and video games ?

        from Gwern:
        “Fiction can be unfairly persuasive, bypassing our rational faculties44; it may be that we default to believing what we’re told and disbelief is only a latecomer. Information from fiction can substitute for nonfiction (time consumption is zero-sum between fiction & nonfiction) and in sufficient volume, discredit it, which can lead to direct harm – TvTropes’s “Reality is Unrealistic”, which is about self-reinforcing unrealistic fictional depictions of reality, claims that “…Nonetheless, the public is largely convinced that cars present a serious danger of explosion after a crash, which has resulted in many, many cases of well-meaning members of the public pulling injured victims out of cars, causing further injury to them, to get them away from the car before it explodes.” (SF, in particular, is often good inversely proportional to how much scientific truth it contains.)”

        My impression is that the most likely place to find savage, violent, vengeful. sword-wielding women is in fantasy, myth and video games.

        Does all the talk of genocide and execution bear any relationship to spending days on end engaging in virtual genocide?

        The Pac Man generation’s great fear seems to be weight gain.

        3. If state coercion has been replaced by panoptical self-discipline where everyone is both a prisoner and a guard could this hysteria be a reaction formation to this loss of control, preserving a (socially unacceptable) frustration with our plight as agents forced to self-commodify to survive, in an infantile form that comes out as intra-nursery battle of the sexes?

        Young men and shame. Disempowered young men living in a state of economic precarity made universal by the neo-liberal transformation of IRL. Young men cut off from community and tradition, replaced by weak, internet-mediated, bonds.

        This all seems relevant.

        A question rarely asked is, with millions of internet communities, why do anti-SJWs subject themselves to twitter and facebook politics? And if facebook is unavoidable in 2015 can you not control your feeds?
        (and don’t you resent facebook’s power over your life?
        Isn’t facebook a worthy enemy?)

        I’m thinking of the libertarian stock response to workplace exploitation and wage theft, “no one is forcing them to work there.”

        Why are libertarian anti-SJW’s feeling so hemmed in? It’s 100X more difficult to quit a job in this economy than to delete a couple of bookmarks.

        To the degree that fear is spreading among Generation Y men who see no way out of social media, could we be seeing the onset of a bigger more looming problem…the onset of virtual reality, and atomized worlds that feel inescapable to people raised on the internet? It would explain why people born before 1975 aren’t feeling the terror much. Has micro-aggression spawned niche terrors sealed in by social atomization, creating an existential generation gap, stranding young men in a hell that their elders cannot recognize and doubt the reality of?

        What role is obsessive-compulsion playing in this? Could there be an unhealthy payoff to participating in the clash? Jungian shadowplay, even as a metaphor for denial, relevant here? Is everyone “owning their shit”?

        [My suspicion that tacit pleasure-taking is happening here seems validated by the great disinterest in finding and sharing therapeutic solutions to anti-SJW distress.]

        Anyone feel like talking about how the drama may be enriching their workaday existence? How economic powerlessness in a free-enterprise worshipping society that forbids class politics might be sublimated into a safer battle between equals? This seems to correlate with the house fear at SSC, the fear of being fired. Isis used decapitation to intimidate. Is our great fear that we may be decapitalized?

        Since both sides share so many qualities (fearfulness, team thinking, mental rigidity, slash and burn rhetoric) couldn’t it be theorized that a more savvy third party with something to gain from the deadlock (i.e. status quo) is in play and getting away with it?

        Cui bono?

        • Nornagest says:

          Is it just a coincidence that most of the men who live in fear of politically powerless non-violent women are readers and writers of fantasy and science fiction?

          It’s not a coincidence that most of the people who’re upset about an influential social justice tendency within SF fandom are also in SF fandom.

          Conversely, it’s not a coincidence that most of the people who’re upset about an influential right-wing voting bloc at the Hugos are the kind of people to whom the Hugos are important.

          “Cui bono” needn’t point to a conspiracy.

        • Ever An Anon says:

          As far as “someone call whine-one-one and get a whambulance” comments go, this one is at least fairly well written. Calling the guys you disagree with fat wimps through implication rather than saying it outright was a nice touch.

          Obviously, worrying that yankee liberal arts students are going to organize a redneck holocaust is pretty firmly on the hysterical side. But the fact is that nonviolent social media campaigns can and do cost people their jobs, and leave a permanent black mark that future employers will take note of. It’s hardly unreasonable to fear being left out in the cold, and that should be obvious to an Old Left guy like yourself.

          • Dale Carville says:

            The only reference to obesity (pacman generation) was self-deprecating. I am a very very fat man, my lad.

            Why P.F. Strawson used to use my lucent corpus as a prop to hold open the classroom door whenever he wanted to publicly resuscitate metaphysics from the graveyard of logical positivism.

            And though I like to joke around I am a reliable defender of the underdog and for anyone who doubts that wealthy people are coordinated id like to share the words of a leftist older than me:

            “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices”

            “The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.”

            Two crucial examples of coordinated power:
            The Memos that Fucked You:



        • John Schilling says:

          People who can call upon Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to have their victims expelled from essentially any college or university, are not “politically powerless”. Not even close. That is an act of Congress, upheld by the Judiciary, and of late explicitly implemented by the Executive in service of the demands of SJ.

          If that’s not political power, what is? And in the 21st century, where post-secondary education is essentially mandatory for full participation in civic and economic life, that’s a pretty massive dose of power. We can argue about whether it is power that SJ has secured for itself or power that has been cynically delegated by the Patriarchy to distract SJ by letting the latter go after hated but non-Patriarchal victims, but it is presently SJ’s power to wield and it makes little difference to the victims.

          • Dale Carville says:

            “Calling the guys you disagree with fat wimps through implication rather than saying it outright was a nice touch.”

            Actually your straw (old) man gets you part way there. Outside of the scapegoater you know (xx), is there another flying under your radar (xy)? Is there another entity on the internet that insults young men, intimidates young men, and verbally abuses young men programmatically?
            Perhaps an older, wiser frenemy whom many would like to pass muster with, if it means access to their soi-disant “secrets” to excess sexcess?
            Anyone read Chateau Heartiste? Any guys exposed themselves to that poison?
            “Betas”, “omegas”, “manginas”, are the terms of abuse that batter away at the souls of kind-hearted young men. Nice guys are the kindling (or “faggots” as Heartiste would undoubtedly insist) that boils the oil, that PUA’s spew from the parapets of their mottes, onto the faces of bailey-occupying “amazons” below.
            Now If you’d cool off and listen you might learn something non-NEGligible.

            Let me start over: Is there a highly machiavellian demographic of aging predators who have something to gain from making sure young males, at the bottom of the hierarchy, are oedipally neutralized, disarmed and devitalized and thus unable to use their superior health and strength to fell the elders-who-balance-gray-birdnests-in-their-laps?

          • Ever An Anon says:


            I think you missed there, since you’re quoting my comment above.

            As to whether PUAs (I’m assuming, you were a bit oblique) are trying to sabotage younger male competition by destroying their self confidence, I’m fairly sure that isn’t the case. For one thing, PUA culture has only been around since the late 1990s and most of the bigshots are in their late twenties to mid thirties at the oldest. For another, this kind of “you’re a loser, now go out and prove me wrong” motivational style is textbook stuff: it’s almost word for word the Always Be Closing speech from Glengarry Glen Ross.

            If you meant another group, like established Establishment types pulling the ladder up behind them by promoting a nation of pajama-boys, that’s at least more reasonable although still in the neighborhood of water fluoridation being a Red plot. Not that I don’t think corporate culture turns us into children, that’s too obvious to deny, but I don’t credit them with the foresight or the coordination to do so deliberately.

          • nydwracu says:

            Let me start over: Is there a highly machiavellian demographic of aging predators who have something to gain from making sure young males, at the bottom of the hierarchy, are oedipally neutralized, disarmed and devitalized and thus unable to use their superior health and strength to fell the elders-who-balance-gray-birdnests-in-their-laps?

            You might be interested in Lasch and Benoist. And possibly in Medaille — I wonder if something like his platform would make employers more willing to resist mobs. And Benedict Anderson.

            I’ve been saying for years now that SJ is basically isomorphic to Reaganism — neoliberalism has pwned the Left just as well as it’s pwned the Right. (Now that I think about that SJ/Reaganism comparison… Awkward attempt at creating an artificial Gemeinschaft (I’ve got to read Hobsbawm one of these days), check. Artificial Gemeinschaft immediately becomes a marketing demographic, check. Witch hunts, check. Bizarre fixation on actors, check. Alright, that last one is a stretch, but…)

            Marxism-Nixonism will win. Marxism-Nixonism will win. (^:

          • Dale Carville says:

            I like Christopher Lasch. I’ll look into the others.

            You know The True Believer by Eric Hoffer?
            Let me also recommend Propaganda by Jacques Ellul.

            They’re equal opportunity critics of totalitarianism, left and right.

            Also Erich Fromm’s Escape From Freedom.

            All written in the wake of WWII. Two and a half of the three could have been written yesterday.

        • nydwracu says:

          A police report covering teenage drug addicts shouting about “everyone like you should be killed”? You’re kidding, right?

          If you want a campus news item, there might be one about this: freshmen had to attend some number of ‘health seminars’. There were more seminars than required slots, so you didn’t have to go to all of them. But one of the ones that I went to was… ‘one-man avant-garde theater’ or something along those lines: a one-man play about a guy who beats up some gays fucking in a park or something like that, and then gets sent to prison for it, and in prison, as the audience learns from recitals of the letters he writes to his brother (which describe this in graphic detail), he is repeatedly anally raped.

          The general sense I got from it is that the audience was supposed to go “haha, serves him right, poetic justice!”

          By the way, this was an early college program. Freshmen were mostly in the age range of 14 to 17.

          • nydwracu says:

            Also, I haven’t read any science fiction or fantasy in years (except Seveneves, which I didn’t like) and I lost interest in video games around the time the Wii came out. I haven’t played any of the ‘murder simulators’ that people like Jack Thompson and Anita Sarkeesian rail against, except Doom, and I think I played Quake for five minutes once before getting bored of it.

            (There are a few video games that have managed to hold my interest: Lemmings/Lix, Kid Chameleon, Seiklus, the Klonoa series, and VVVVVV, none of which are terribly violent. (Yes, you can kill things in Kid Chameleon, but it’s usually a bad idea to try.) And Doom, since some of the WADs for it are optimizing for ‘provide a challenge’ in the same way old arcade games do, but I’ve always found it kind of unpleasant to play.)

          • Dale Carville says:

            Thanks for answering. I don’t doubt you would have advised Scott not to use those two ugly but fleeting moments in an essay
            about persecution.

            Fuck me and my self-pity. Fuck me and my fear of failure. Fuck its hot outside.

            I have two stepbrothers that were teen bootcamped after running away and living in a Fort Worth warehouse and training for race war for a year. Street soldiers. Confederate Hammerskins.

            The younger of the two died last spring after a decade of steroids and coke crumpled his heart.

            You know those Christian Hell Houses that go up around Halloween?

            The ones that depict girls dying during the abortion or committing suicide afterwards, gay couples dying of AIDS, and teenagers suffering in terribly bloody and gruesome automobile accidents caused by drunk driving. Make sure you bring your kids young cause if they get in there after they discover their gay, after the sister commits suicide, it’s really gonna destroy them. Especially the suffering for eternity part.

            Imagine growing up in a fundamentalist family and believing you’re doomed to be tortured for eternity for jerking off. Winding up on the street with the only kids who’ll take you in, as long as youre willing to dehumanize yourself and crack open homeless skulls, hippie skulls. Reformatory. Release. Boot camp. Assault after assault. And when you finally get out of town and move up north to work in a Chili’s in Tyson Corner it’s already too late. You are fucked. And you tell everyone, I made these choices. They taught me right from wrong. I did this to myself.

            I just can’t let the idea that, maybe one day one in a thousand of you might lose a job for shittalking on the internet and let that take up so much space, give off some much noise that the real suffering of others, going on, right now, this minute, all around you gets buried under all….this. PROPORTION won’t let me. I’m not trying to shut anyone up. Im trying to suggest we all try to be a little less cynical, and self-serving. Also dont read so much shitty genre fiction.

            Thomas Bernhard?
            Robert Walser?
            Knut Hamsum?

            I’ll keep it white and european till i win your trust. :]

          • John Schilling says:

            Shouldn’t you be busy earning more money to send mosquito nets to Africa, instead of wasting your time here?

          • Dale Carville says:

            I had the wi-fi turned off at home for the last year hoping i would waste less time but found I was wasting even driving into town twice a day to check my email. Since turning it back on last week, I think I’ve discovered that free time on the internet makes me a little too manic and leaves me feeling drained.
            Sometimes when I order a large plate of food I find myself unable to stop eating long after my satiation point in order to “get my money’s worth.”
            If I can grab hold of my drink and dump it on my plate, the spell is broken and I am released from the obligation the miser inside of me is under.
            Likewise, If I can get someone on a site I’m compelled to bicker on angry enough to ask me to leave, the spell is broken and I am released from a similar toxic obligation.

            If I’m honest with myself, I have to own that I despise young conservatives and dread time spent with elderly liberals. I need to find a better way.

        • Lesser Bull says:

          By “politically powerless” you mean, “can get your fired from your job with little hope of getting a new one, oh, and you lose most of your friends”?

          Brandon Eich is still unemployed.

          • Brian M says:

            Why would someone with that much money need to “be employed”?

            Maybe because I am old and career-burnt-out, I can’t imagine why “a job” is that important if one does not need the money. And no, working in tech is not a missionary calling, self delusion of the techies aside.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            This has come up before, but Eich isn’t some millionaire, or whatever “that much money” means, from Netscape stock. He needs a job like the rest of us schlubs.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            I can’t imagine why “a job” is that important if one does not need the money.

            So they really did him a favor by getting him fired? Noted.

    • Randy M says:

      “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.”

      Here’s my issue with that–why does progressivism seem to be getting more spiteful and strident the more it is winning? I’ll grant we don’t have perfect equality if they’ll grant that women and blacks were worse (by the metrics they tend to use) 20, 50, 100 years ago. And yet, social justice is not easing off the acceleration, but putting the pedal to the metal.

      Whereas, if you look at that list at Handle’s site, there seems to be an exponential increase in the personalization of politics.

      I suspect this is due to the added inertia of more people siding with the apparent strong horse.
      Or am I simply missing greater perspective and falling victim to outrage culture?

      • Dude Man says:

        I’ll grant we don’t have perfect equality if they’ll grant that women and blacks were worse (by the metrics they tend to use) 20, 50, 100 years ago.

        Weirdly enough, Fredrik deBoer seems to argue that black people are worse off today than they were 30 years ago. However, I imagine that at least some of this is a Simpson’s paradox issue, where the gap between rich and poor has grown more than the gap between poor black and poor white (or rich black and rich white) has shrunk.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Looking at his graphs, it certainly looks like things haven’t gotten much better for blacks, although I think it would be kind of cherry-picking and magnifying small differences to say they’d gotten worse.

          If I’m misinterpreting this and things are getting worse, I’d guess the explanation is growing income inequality. If the gap between the rich and the poor is growing, and most rich people are white and most poor people are black, then the gap between blacks and whites is necessarily also growing in a way that says nothing about race relations.

          • walpolo says:

            >> If the gap between the rich and the poor is growing, and most rich people are white and most poor people are black, then the gap between blacks and whites is necessarily also growing in a way that says nothing about race relations.

            Well, two points. First, one might hypothesize that the presence of so many blacks among the poor is part of the explanation for the growing gap between rich and poor. That is, because the well-off look at the poor and see The Other, they are less inclined to help the poor than they would be if the archetypal poor person were white rather than black.

            Second, one might conclude that if we really want to improve racial justice issues in a country like the US, we need to get more serious about a social safety net, and not doing so shows a reckless disregard for racial justice issues even if it’s not motivated by explicit racism.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Things haven’t gotten particularly better for African-Americans in, say, 30 or 40 years. Discrimination was largely gone by 1975 and certainly by 1985. So, not much has happened since then.

            In general, young people have a hard time these days understanding the past. They’re taught that … until very recently … the past was a nightmare of discrimination. But in reality it’s been a long time since the fairly easy triumphs of the 1960s.

          • Cauê says:

            If the gap between the rich and the poor is growing, and most rich people are white and most poor people are black, then the gap between blacks and whites is necessarily also growing in a way that says nothing about race relations.

            I read that and went “wait, are most poor people black in the US”?

            According to half a minute with Wikipedia, no, they’re not:

            Poverty and race/ethnicity[edit]

            The US Census declared that in 2010 15.1% of the general population lived in poverty:[43]
            9.9% of all white persons
            12.1% of all Asian persons
            26.6% of all Hispanic persons (of any race)
            28.4% of all black persons.

            About half of those living in poverty are non-Hispanic white (19.6 million in 2010),[43] but poverty rates are much higher for blacks and Hispanics. Non-Hispanic white children comprised 57% of all poor rural children.[44]

            In FY 2009, black families comprised 33.3% of TANF families, non-Hispanic white families comprised 31.2%, and 28.8% were Hispanic.[45]

            …which doesn’t affect Scott’s point, of course.

          • haishan says:

            Right, it’s more accurate to say that “rich people” (i.e. the folks at the very top to whom wealth has accrued over the past couple decades) are disproportionately white, and “poor people” — for whatever reasonable definition of the term — are disproportionately black. Which would still be enough to generate these patterns.

          • Is it plausible that things haven’t gotten better for black people because that’s about when the war on drugs and mass incarceration (and it becoming much more difficult for people who’d been imprisoned to get work) ramped up?

          • Jimmy Oldman says:

            It depends on what you mean by “worse for blacks”.

            If you mean “Laws passed saying “no no, blackie no, bad blackie”, things are aces as tits.

            If you mean “actual measures of quality of life”: No.

            I like to use murder stats because even in 1950’s Mississippi, it’s hard to brush murders under the run (although it undoubtedly happened, it’s harder)

            The black male murder rate is higher today than under Jim Crow. Marriage, poverty, home ownership, business ownership, capital, employment…..all getting worse.

            The interesting part, for me, about the ditsoons is that they were doing so well- all these things were getting BETTER…..

            Until the late 1960’s. Also add in that a lot of 1950’s murders are people that would survive today, with ambulances and surgical techniques and whatnot which I think outweighs the “racist coroners call it an accidental shooting 12 times in the face” factor.

            In an honest, genuine assessment of whether or not a black male age 21 is better off in 1955 or 2015, there is a strong argument to be made for “1955”.

          • Anonymous says:

            In general, young people have a hard time these days understanding the past. They’re taught that … until very recently … the past was a nightmare of discrimination

            The Afrocentrism movement probably did more to damage black understanding of the past than any Orwellian shit whites ever pulled. Portland public schools still host the African American Baseline Essays, which were distributed to teachers to ostensibly improve their ability to educate African Americans in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Of interest to Scott might be that one of the areas it was distributed is Detroit.

            A lot of the content is… wrong? And I don’t mean wrong like Feynman’s experience with the textbook process wrong. I’m talking fucking whalers on the moon wrong. A person could probably make a career out of deconstructing how much damage these tracts did to race relations and participation of blacks in science, but no one ever addresses this monumental fuckup. I’ll see how many people I can horrify to death in three excerpts from “African and African American Contributions to Science,” written by Hunter Adam, who billed himself as a “research scientist” but was actually just a technician.

            From the section “Human Beginnings”:

            Around 3.8 – 2.8 million years ago, in the virgin rain forests of East Africa’s valley of the Mountains of the Moons, where the Great Lakes gave birth to the River Nile, humans, first as Australopithecus Afarensis, began their odyssey on earth. During this early phase of human existence, nature innately provided humans with all the knowledge necessary for living in perfect harmony with the world.

            From the section “Moral, Ethical, and Spiritual Values the Prerequisite for Science Education”:

            From this cursory examination of the fundamental science paradigms of the ancient Egyptians, we can see that they are antithetical to contemporary Western ones. This is not to say that individual Western scientists do not share some or all of the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, but that many Western scientists conduct their process of science from a totally different ideological basis, one which has, as its “main concern,” non-ethical considerations such as cost effectiveness.

            From the section “Psychoenergetics”:

            Psychoenergetics (also known in the scientific community as parapsychology and psychotronics) is the multidisciplinary study of the interface and interaction of human consciousness with energy and matter. Magic is the conscious attempt of an individual to `imitate’ through ordinary sensorimotor means the operation of psychoenergetic (psi) phenomena. Thus, genuine psi phenomena such as precog- nition, psychokinesis, and remote viewing, in the distant past as well as the present, has always been closely associated with “magic,” and the attempt to separate the two has only been a fairly recent activity. Psi, as a true scientific discipline, is being seriously investigated at prestigious universities all over the world (e.g., Princeton and Duke). We are concerned here only with psi in Egypt, not “magic.”

            Again, this is a guide to teaching African American children about science, and this shit is rampant in hip hop culture. They justify this curriculum (to this very day!) by asserting it will improve minority students’ self-esteem. Every time I try to unpack that line of reasoning I feel like I’m about to stroke out. The essays in general basically describe a world where the white man, intrinsically inferior to dark-skinned peoples due to reduced melanin, have always actively attacked all darker people, and is responsible for the suppression of black’s magical abilities. That’s the origin of the term “people of color”, it serves as a dog whistle for melanin theorists.

            This is where the symmetry breaks down. Moldbug might be a motherfucker, but he’s not actively trying to miseducate people in service of his goals. In a sane world, this Afrocentrist experiment would be considered borderline criminal, and it’s content the punchline of a joke. But now we’re in 2015 and the same consequentialist philosophy has become mainstream! Blacks complain about discrimination based upon their non
            -anglicized names, but that entire paradigm stemmed from Afrocentrism, and I’d bet the house you can correlate these names with anti-white racism and scientific illiteracy.

            This is a tragic travesty, but no one is learning from it; as near as I can tell, none of the perpetrators suffered any negative consequences, and the beliefs are still widespread. Hunter Adam’s essay isn’t even a secular text, the primary difference listed between black and white science is “1. Acknowledgement of a Supreme Conciousness or Creative Force”. They created a motherfucking religion and spread it through public schools.

            And this is the reason social justice is so terrifying, and I don’t think the symmetry works as well as Scott Alexander thinks. By rejecting objectivity, they can assert myths as historical facts and religion as science. So when a crazy cult actively spreads propaganda about a demographic’s (meta?)biological inferiority and calls for its destruction, that seems a little concerning. When it tirelessly toils to stifle the demographic’s members from participating in (even private!) discourse, especially discussions regarding their own inferiority, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to be disconcerted. When the cult’s beliefs go so mainstream that violating one of their rules can cost out-members their employment, well, at what point do you press the panic button?

          • walpolo says:

            This is a new one to me. I don’t recall any of my SJW friends or black friends ever telling me that magic or psi powers or real, or that they were taught in schools that there’s such a thing as melanin-fueled psi power.

          • Bugmaster says:

            FWIW I went to a liberal college, and I have heard this melanin psi power stuff, but it was far from mainstream, and treated somewhat as a joke.

          • notes says:

            That link does indeed lead to the Portland k-12 Public School system. The Baseline studies are listed in the Archive – perhaps they’re no longer in use? One hopes so.

            Still, they were apparently commissioning expansions as recently as 2001, when the Asian-American series of essays was released (the Asian-American essay on Science is not available, ‘pending response by the authors to Asian Reviewers’. 14 years is a rather long hold: one wonders what was in that that it shouldn’t see the light of day when the others do).

            None of the other series are as obviously crazy as this; nothing further can be determined from a cursory scan.

            It’s interesting to note that this continued to be taught into the 21st century (if it is in not continuing today); interesting also would be the story of how it stopped (if it has).

          • nydwracu says:

            I’m surprised the psi stuff stuck around that long. It was respectable for a while — Turing wrote about it in that one AI paper, and the spooks were very interested.

            …Wait, the Stargate Project wasn’t terminated until 1995? Huh. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.

      • LTP says:

        Are they actually putting the petal to the metal? Or, rather, does it merely *seem* that they are because there are more of them, and they have become more moderate?

        Consider, in the 1960s and 1970s, there were large portions civil rights movement for African Americans that were engaging in riots, intimidation, and theorizing about black separatism (see the Black Panthers, Malcom X, etc.).

        In the 1970s and 1980s, feminists were encouraging women to “choose” to be lesbians and form separatist communes (and some actually did) and advocating anarchism or communism. There were feminist writers saying things like “all heterosexual sex is rape” or that the population of men should be culled significantly and women given all the political power. There was a feminist protest of a military base in Britain where Nukes were being held where the women camped around the base and disrupted military operations, including literally breaking into the base multiple times. There was a feminist in Europe literally saying that E=MC^2 is a sexist equation.

        Keep in mind that these were very much mainstream subsets of the civil rights and feminist movements, respectively, and the people advocating these views were well-respected even by their more moderate cohort. Now, proportionately, such extremism is a much smaller proportion of these movements even if their absolute numbers are larger, and their voice are magnified by the internet, and they have more political power because of their size to, for example, get CEOs fired.

        • Randy M says:

          Good pints, thanks.

        • Mary says:

          Such positions are not dead.

          Like this.

          • Mary says:

            I must point out that when she talks about “serial rapists”, she means “men who have had sexual intercourse more than once.”

            article on the topic.

            Of course, nowadays, she’s not rewarded with tenure.

          • LTP says:

            I don’t deny such ideas still exist and are held by some. However, I have a strong impression that they were very much in the mainstream of academic and movement feminism/SJ a generation or two ago, and even those who disagreed had to show respect to those ideas, while now such views are mostly consigned to a small band of random (and mostly young and naive) internet bloggers with small followings in the grand scheme of things, and older academics and activists who are stuck in the 60s/70s/80s.

            This isn’t to say that contemporary mainstream feminism or SJ is now all-around moderate and non-problematic. In fact, as their numbers and influence have grown, their flaws could be more dangerous in practice even as those flaws have moderated some.

          • Rowan says:

            Wow, that sure is… that certainly exists.

            Listen to while reading: https://youtu.be/IUzhISwCC-I

            Then afterwards, this: https://youtu.be/wJCbjohuwUI?t=50s

          • Richard Gadsden says:

            No, but the TERF wars have rather firmly excluded them from the mainstream of feminism.

          • Jiro says:

            I have a strong impression that they were very much in the mainstream of academic and movement feminism/SJ a generation or two ago

            But a generation or two ago, the movement had more actual causes to focus their energy on. If you believe that all heterosexual sex is rape, but you’re also facing blatant discrimination, you’re going to work on the discrimination and hold off on changing the evidentary rules for rape cases until you’ve dealt with the discrimination.

            Also, back then there was no Internet. Which doesn’t just mean you heard of them less, it also means they could do less.

        • Dale Carville says:

          We know that young leftists were once represented by hippie terrorists like Charles Manson, Baader Meinhof and Weather Underground, MOVE, SLA, etc. and law and order prevailed.

          Who should be be keeping an eye on today? If danger is out there it’s got to be named. If “SJW is a cancer” [1,630 google hits] then its discovery is an achievement. But if the science stops there, if we just talk about cancer amorphously, as tumors, then we doom those who contract leukemia, eosinophilia or thrombocytosis to preventable deaths.

        • Lesser Bull says:

          Not to detract from your main point, but the ‘all heterosexual sex is rape’ stuff is alive and well, in the guise of ‘PIV sex is rape’

      • Dan Simon says:

        “why does progressivism seem to be getting more spiteful and strident the more it is winning?”

        That’s easy–because they can get away with it. 60 years ago, conservatives (or at least what we would now call conservatives) had virtually complete political and social dominance, and they weren’t the least bit hesitant to use it to persecute various groups they hated. Now the tables have turned, and the politically and socially dominant coalition is once again taking it to its enemies with a vengeance.

        Power, as they say, corrupts. If we don’t agree on a common set of restraining rules for everyone, to allow space for disagreement, we will forever be oscillating between positions on either end of the whip.

      • Deiseach says:

        That list has to be tongue-in-cheek. Any claim that Enoch “Rivers of Blood” Powell was baselessly persecuted by PC types is not quite being completely serious. From his 1968 speech which brought all the trouble down on his head:

        For these dangerous and divisive elements the legislation proposed in the Race Relations Bill is the very pabulum they need to flourish. Here is the means of showing that the immigrant communities can organise to consolidate their members, to agitate and campaign against their fellow citizens, and to overawe and dominate the rest with the legal weapons which the ignorant and the ill-informed have provided. As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see “the River Tiber foaming with much blood.”

        • Jimmy Oldman says:

          Was he wrong?

          Stats seem to show that mixed communities are much more violent, and muslim immigrants in particular are immensely more violent and rape-y than the indigenous population of the UK.

          • Deiseach says:

            Given that the people he was complaining about were fellow-subjects of the British Empire (still clinging on to a few remnants at the time), and that the whole thing had started with Britain going overseas to other nations, annexing them, and telling the natives “You’re part of us now”, I think that it was less than helpful.

            I think there was a leaning over backwards the other way to avoid helping people integrate, but the attitude that the peoples of the Empire were perfectly welcome – as long as they stayed over there and didn’t imitate us by leaving their native lands for better opportunities – did not help anyone. It encouraged divisiveness, it gave fodder for both extremists on the ‘nativist’ side and the immigrant side to point and say “Look, see, there’s no common ground”.

          • Lesser Bull says:

            that seems like a complicated way of avoiding answering the question. Basically, it seems weird to blame Powell for Rotherham, which is what it sounds like you are saying–probably I’m just misreading you, but I honestly don’t see much logic to your comment otherwise.

        • powell says:

          I won’t say a person from my home town was the youngest suicide bomber Britain has ever produced, but he was from very nearby. I suppose there are a lot more to come.

          Rotherham and Rochdale are not far away.

          I think Powell exaggerated. But – just how convinced should I be that Powell was so utterly wrong that he should be denounced for all time?

          • ryan says:

            Let’s do some Rumsfeldian analysis. Ideas can fall into 4 categories, obviously true or false, or not clearly true or false.

            Obviously false ideas are of little concern because most people will notice and not believe it. False ideas that seem true are dangerous because without correction they can get out of hand. True ideas which kind of seem false are less dangerous because many will mistake them for obviously false. Obviously true ideas are the worst, though, because it takes the kind of response to Powell’s speech to stop folks from believing them.

      • ryan says:

        I imagine this is what it’s like when any society slowly converts to a new religion. The more and more prevalent it becomes, the more over-the-top the rules and enforcement of them becomes. If the Muslims think you’re a Kafir (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kafir) it’s not a big deal if there aren’t many Muslims. Once they become the dominant social group it’s going to be a problem, and you’ll notice notice that the consequences of being a Kafir get worse the more Muslims there are around.

        This is one of Yarvin’s post on the Hacker News thread about him being uninvited:

        “The word “racist” and its conjugations does not appear in the English language until the 1920s – see Peter Frost’s cultural history [0]. If you asked Shakespeare if he was a “racist,” he would not know what you meant.

        “Racist” is essentially a term of abuse which no group or party has ever applied to itself. Like most such epithets, it has two meanings – a clear objective one, describing a person who fails to believe in the anthropological theories of human equality which became first popular, then universal in the mid-20th century; and a caricature of the vices, personal or political, typically engaged in by such a foul unbeliever.”


        Another interesting issue to me is the following:

        Kafir is to Racist as Muslim is to __________?

        Really impressive that “they” have managed to not have a name. Perhaps the Neverending Story was the deep and philosophically insightful film my 5 year old self thought it to be.

        • Bugmaster says:

          [The Neverending Story] is one of the secret treasures of 20thC literature, and I like to hope that it will last down through future historical time, and become part of the Canon.

          I sure hope not. I enjoyed the book a great deal (and, like you, I re-read it from time to time), so I’d hate to see all the life sucked out of it by endless deconstruction and standardized testing…

      • multiheaded says:

        Here’s my issue with that–why does progressivism seem to be getting more spiteful and strident the more it is winning?

        One part: frustration and despair from basically losing all influence on socioeconomic policy. I.e. activists would desire to have a say in public policy at a more fundamental level, so they thrash about fitfully and act like irrational control freaks at a more shallow level, to compensate for their sensations of humiliation and powerlessness in the neoliberal world.

        • Nornagest says:

          I get the impression that most (not all, but most) of SJ is basically on board with neoliberalism as a socioeconomic policy, though. Stronger affirmative action laws, tax-the-rich, different presumption of guilt, reparations of various kinds, more safety nets, and socialized medicine, sure, but aside from the rare anarchists or old-school commies, the strongest challenge to the foundations of liberal economics that I’ve heard from those quarters is the ritual invocation of “late capitalism”.

          • multiheaded says:

            These people needn’t understand the problem to feel like they are unfree to demand and talk about something big, though. Stuff beyond post-war social democracy is, to most activists, cognitively unavailable – in ways that it didn’t use to be, I think.

        • nydwracu says:

          Given that y’all are doing your best to lose what ought to be your core constituency and guarantee the victory of what ought to be your enemy…

          (Benedict Anderson: every revolution after WW2 was nationalist. Also the correlation between the ‘Nordic model’ and phyletic homogeneity. Also Putnam. A diverse population is an atomized population, and an atomized population is a population that can’t stand and fight.)

    • Deiseach says:

      First, I wish people would stop flinging “Fascist” about so easily. It has become diluted down to nothing more than “person to the right of my views with whom I do not agree”.

      And as for Mr Social Justice Warrior and his “street confrontations with fascists, protests at book readings and other events, and also disrupting fascist conferences and similar”, good luck with that, but his expectation of imminent victory makes me think of the Occupy movement. Yeah! Gonna smash capitalism at the source! Da People is with us! And we all saw how that fizzled out, even where their quondam supporters “on the inside” were involved.

      As for “I think the unsafety of the oppressed will in part come to the currently privileged classes”, does he not understand that if the people who have power feel threatened and unsafe, they will react with demands to limit freedom? And that they have the status and influence to have those demands met? That controls on freedom of assembly (because that’s a mob!) and increase in police powers (even here in Ireland, the police are constantly calling for more and more permission to use wiretapping, surveillance, and use of force) are the likely reaction?

      And if he wants that because he’s hoping for an uprising of the masses and revolution and the driving out of the redcoats once again, then he’s deluded because there will be blood but no overthrowing the establishment, and that blood will be on his hands for working for that very end.

      Secondly, I don’t think Irene Gallo should be claimed as a scalp. I think her remarks were ignorant, and if she really felt so tainted by designing covers and sourcing artwork for writers who were neo-Nazis etc. then nobody would force her to do so and nobody was stopping her from handing in her resignation. But I think that although it’s appropriate for her employer to reprimand her, it should be done in private. I don’t think this is a sackable offence (if she wants to quit because she no longer wants to design covers for certain authors, that’s her own business).

      I don’t like the demand by either side that the heretic recantation should be carried out publicly. And of course, I’ve already seen the narrative where she’s being hailed as a martyr to the cause because of TOR letting her go.

      And I think that a lot of useful and important work is being damaged because a bunch of twenty-somethings with little to no knowledge or experience of the real world demand ever finer and finer distinctions about oppression in order to prove their credentials as right-thinking people (for instance, I’m asexual but I’m not one straw concerned about being included under the umbrella “queer”. People who work themselves up into paroxysms about “asexuals are not het, don’t misappropriate their orientation!” – thank you for your concern, but really, it’s not necessary).

      • Dale Carville says:

        Asexual by choice or neglect?

        Tolerance testing.

        Let’s all become unoffendable.

        • Deiseach says:

          If, by “neglect”, you mean “can’t get anyone to even look at me”, I’ll answer you in the words of the song:

          “If I can’t get a man/I will surely get a parrot!”

          No. By nature and by choice; even if anyone was interested, I wouldn’t have them. Aromantic as well, or even more, you see; the idea of sharing my space, time and resources (both psychic and material) in an intimate relationship with another person brings me out in a rash 🙂

          • Jimmy Oldman says:

            If there was an way to upvote, I would. Plus MANY for “Maid in the Garret” reference.

      • Julie K says:

        > “Fascist” has become diluted down

        Very true- in fact Orwell said as much 70 years ago in his essay “Politics and the English Language.” Sadly, he didn’t get people to stop using the term.

      • Zorgon says:

        I may be channelling The Last Psychiatrist here , but I got the feeling that when he said “the unsafety of the oppressed will in part come to the currently privileged classes” he didn’t actually mean the genuinely privileged members of those classes.

        He means the poor person with the haircut who sneered at him on the bus this morning. He means the large angry man with the facial hair who threatened him in the bar that one time. He means the nerd he looks down on and all the poor people that so inconveniently refuse to agree with his ideology.

        And they are the only people who will be threatened. The truly privileged will remain privileged, regardless of their gender, race or sexuality. That status is defined by its ability to ignore the likes of that SJW commentor.

        And that is why I consider myself a genuine Leftist and consider the likes of that commentor to be avatars of the Problem.

        • nydwracu says:


          This all-new Valleywag was conceived during the Occupy protests, when Gawker’s editors discovered that stories about a class war were just catnip for pageviews. And most of the Wall Streeters were mere millionaires — just imagine how much Gawker’s hipster readers would hate billionaires. Or billionaire nerds!

          By the end of 2012, Occupy stories had all but fizzled out. So, in January of 2013, Denton announced — via Wall Street trade blog, Business Insider — the imminent return of Valleywag. The relaunched site came out swinging, with posts taking aim at the genuinely rich and powerful in Silicon Valley — skewering Marissa Mayer for buying her child an expensive playhouse and Sean Parker whose wedding was responsible for killing wildlife and protected trees in a Big Sur forest (never mind that it was later revealed that Mayer bought the house at an auction, for a $33,000 donation to a local charity which restores old homes for families in need, and that Parker didn’t, er, actually kill any wildlife or protected trees).

          But something was off. Valleywag’s editor Sam Biddle was following his boss’ orders to the letter — but the stories weren’t sticking. No one was taking to the streets to demand Mayer’s or Parker’s head. It was as if Gawker readers didn’t care that Sheryl Sandberg once had a meeting with Jennifer Lawrence.

          In fact, the usually infallible Denton had misjudged his audience. Specifically, he had forgotten the rule that we humans aren’t easily angered by those infinitely richer or more successful than us — the super wealthy have lives so remote from our own that we can’t muster genuine jealousy for something we could never have. No, what really drives us viscerally nuts are those who are just a bit wealthier, a fraction more successful. Those fuckers who are living the lives that we could be living, were we willing to lie just a little, or cheat just a little.

          And so, Biddle was given new marching orders: go after the tech workers, not their bosses.

          Today a Valleywag search for, let’s say, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, garners precisely one result: a post which says almost nothing about the eBay founder’s wealth or what he’s spending it on. Contrast that with the eight results for the word “cafeteria,” reflecting Valleywag’s current obsession with the subsidized lunches supplied to “coddled” tech workers, or the 25 results for “asshole” an epithet that Biddle has applied to a programmer who offered to teach a homeless man to code, and a seven year old child who washes cars for pocket money.

        • anon says:

          Well channeled.

        • multiheaded says:

          Hear hear!!! Same with ~women’s anger~ and similar ostensibly feminist/queer/etc shibboleths.

          I have great respect (some kinds of) anger. I have only contempt for today’s wretched *politics* of anger.

      • wysinwyg says:

        Yeah! Gonna smash capitalism at the source! Da People is with us! And we all saw how that fizzled out, even where their quondam supporters “on the inside” were involved.

        This doesn’t seem like a reasonable characterization of the motivation of most people who were at OWS, or of the “fizzling out” process.

        It seemed to me the prevailing attitude was: “Something is wrong with the way you guys are doing capitalism. We don’t have a lot of details about what you’re doing or the economic knowledge to make strong judgments about it, but something smells really off and we’d like it to stop.” Which, as far as I can tell, is a pretty reasonable attitude to have towards the US banking machinery. Unless you can find some reliable polling data to the contrary, I have to conclude you’re mischaracterizing the beliefs of the majority of OWS attendees and supporters.

        As far as how it fizzled out, it seems like the banks worked out something with the major media outlets so that the banks could evict the protesters off their privately owned land without causing a PR disaster. But that’s an admittedly speculative interpretation. It’s not clear to me who the supporters “on the inside” are supposed to be, but it is clear that the banks and the city of NY were legally empowered to end the protests and did so over the course of a few days.

        “Fizzling out” seems to me like a strange characterization for a mass eviction of hundreds of people over the course of a few days, but whether the phrase is apt is subjective so I’m not sure it’s worth arguing.

        • Nornagest says:

          I don’t know if the same is true for the East Coast OWS protests, but on the West Coast the major protests occupied public land, not private, and were dismantled by the police on the pretext of public health concerns. That didn’t kill Occupy immediately, but it did remove its most visible symbols, and a protest movement like that runs on visible symbols.

          • wysinwyg says:

            Zucotti Park was privately owned, I believe, though some of the east coast protests were on public land. Occupy Boston was in a public park, and I think public health concerns were the motivation there as well.

            There’s probably a lot of different essentially arbitrary points in time we could finger as the end of OWS; in the sense that there was no one obvious event that ended it, “fizzling” might be a fair descriptor after all.

        • DrBeat says:

          It fizzled out because people stopped caring. There was no conspiracy with the media and the banks, there didn’t need to be. Malicious outside forces did not disempower OWS and use their control of the media to shape public opinion; the public’s opinion shifted to “I don’t give a shit about OWS” after OWS turned from “identifiable expression of populist anger and discontent with the financial system” to “the same fucking people who show up to every vaguely leftist protest blathering on and on and on about their pet issue horseshit”. The populace doesn’t really care about that same old group of full-time protestors jacking off in each other’s mouths about how progressive and enlightened they are.

          The progressive left is so spectacularly bad at being able to relate to anyone outside their clique, you don’t ever need to introduce any external agent to explain “why did people stop liking this progressive leftist movement?”

          • wysinwyg says:

            Malicious outside forces did not disempower OWS and use their control of the media to shape public opinion;

            I never claimed anything about “malicious outside forces”.

            I’m hesitant to engage you at all because you seem almost a little unhinged on the topic and haven’t given any reason why I should adopt your perspective on OWS rather than my own. But I’ll at least explain what I meant by the statement that so obviously confused you.

            Zucotti Park was privately owned. Any time they wanted, the banks could have asked the police to evict the protestors. So I ask myself: why didn’t they? The only answer that makes sense to me is that it would be bad PR.

            So they took a couple weeks, made sure they had the risk of bad PR handled, and then proceeded to evict the protestors as per their legal rights.

            None of this is really at odds with your interpretation of events, but I’m guessing you only replied to vent your spleen about those horrible leftists in the first place. I’m really not interested in arguing with you at that level.

          • DrBeat says:

            As far as how it fizzled out, it seems like the banks worked out something with the major media outlets so that the banks could evict the protesters off their privately owned land without causing a PR disaster.

            This sounds to me like blaming malicious outside forces. This was not a natural thing that happened, not a consequence of people’s views; it was the media and the banks, working in concert, to manipulate it such that they could do their dirty deeds without getting seen as bad. Even reading your explanation, it’s hard to get away from the conclusion that you are blaming malicious outside action. If you weren’t, “the media” wouldn’t need to be mentioned at all.

            And yes, I am mad about OWS. I don’t hate leftists, but I sure fucking hate THESE leftists. We had a surge of genuine populist anger, will and incentive to change the financial system, and what happened? These stumblefucks pissed it all away by turning it into another pro-feminism anti-globalization anti-GMO white-guilt free-Mumia protestor day camp.

            Fuck those guys.

          • Cauê says:


            He made good points, though, despite the way he chose to put it.

            On a smaller scale, I’ve seen a number of causes that initially managed to mobilize a large number of the people concerned, but then got derailed by a small group of people trying to put it “in the context” of the greater fight against capitalism, etc., and the people who were only interested in the original issue just stop bothering.

            A different but somewhat similar dynamic happens when different groups drawn together by a specific issue try to push the mobilization towards their respective larger causes, only to realize that they want incompatible things.

          • wysinwyg says:

            This sounds to me like blaming malicious outside forces.

            I consider both the media and banks to be participants in the events in question, not “outside forces” at all. I also never said anything to imply they were “malicious” in any way.

            You’re characterizing my argument in a pejorative way to more easily dismiss it.

            it was the media and the banks, working in concert, to manipulate it such that they could do their dirty deeds without getting seen as bad.

            Your characterizations, not mine. If you need a leftist strawman to beat on, please find it elsewhere.

            If you take the pejoratives out, then you get something more like: “Banks used their existing business relationships with major media outlets to help manage the PR backlash against the OWS evictions.” Which is not only not an objectionable characterization of the banks’ actions (assuming they happened), but also obviously the best move for the banks to make given the circumstances. I’ve argued nothing but that the principle actors in the affair acted according to their incentives.

            We had a surge of genuine populist anger, will and incentive to change the financial system, and what happened? These stumblefucks pissed it all away by turning it into another pro-feminism anti-globalization anti-GMO white-guilt free-Mumia protestor day camp.

            It is somewhat astounding to me that you give the OWS protestors credit for more ability to influence public opinion than the muti-trillion dollar media-and-advertising apparatus. I remember the events of those few years pretty well, and I think it’s a bit of a stretch to argue that OWS was the main or even a significant obstacle to the financial reforms in question.

            Even if you wanted to take the OWS protests as the ultimate cause (which for a great many reasons I think is absurd), you’re still left with the proximate cause of: people who would have been interested in reforming the financial system giving up on that idea just to stick it to those awful OWS protesters. In other words, giving up on something important just to spite another group.

            Now, I don’t think that’s a reasonable or realistic description of how the will for financial reform dissipated, but even if it was…fuck those guys even more than the OWS protesters they’re spiting. The cause is just even if its cheerleaders are bunch of ninnies. OWS couldn’t “piss away” enthusiasm that didn’t belong to them in the first place — only your anonymous, silent anti-OWS folks could do that.

            I’m only interested in carrying on the discussion further if you stop the creative interpretation of my arguments.

          • Nornagest says:

            It is somewhat astounding to me that you give the OWS protesters credit for more ability to influence public opinion than the muti-trillion dollar media-and-advertising apparatus.

            OWS got a lot of bad press for lacking focus, but it was definitely aimed at the financial industry, and its core was populated by people (i.e the professional protesters DrBeat doesn’t like) that had a lot of experience stirring shit up on the cheap. These are not trivial advantages.

            Meanwhile, the financial industry probably has more money to play with than any other entity of comparable size in the world, but I doubt it felt seriously threatened until well into the protests, if then, and it doesn’t have any particular PR expertise. There was no multi-trillion-dollar media-and-advertising apparatus set against Occupy; the advertising industry couldn’t care less about some hippies camped across town when they had potato chips to sell, and media outlets at the time mostly cared about justifying the existing opinions of their traditional audiences, most of which were broadly ambivalent toward Occupy. (Note that this has changed; by now, those traditional audiences have shrunk to the point where they can’t support the old business model, and the media center of gravity has moved toward clickbait.)

          • Cauê says:

            As far as how it fizzled out, it seems like the banks worked out something with the major media outlets so that the banks could evict the protesters off their privately owned land without causing a PR disaster.


            If you take the pejoratives out, then you get something more like: “Banks used their existing business relationships with major media outlets to help manage the PR backlash against the OWS evictions.”

            Yeah, this looks a bit on the conspiracy theory side for me too…

            A better way to compatibilize both points would be that banks sought the evictions when they saw that public opinion of OWS wasn’t so hot (perhaps because “oh, it’s those people again”). Though I wonder how long it takes to get an eviction, and if the delay wasn’t just that.

          • DrBeat says:

            Even if you wanted to take the OWS protests as the ultimate cause (which for a great many reasons I think is absurd), you’re still left with the proximate cause of: people who would have been interested in reforming the financial system giving up on that idea just to stick it to those awful OWS protesters. In other words, giving up on something important just to spite another group.

            No you aren’t. You aren’t left with anything close. If this is how the professional-protestor left sees people, it’s no wonder they can’t convince anyone of anything.

            You would think, since these people are professional activists and claim that their jobs and their expertise are in convincing people to change things, they would know that the biggest obstacle to change is apathy. Apathy is the default state of the public on anything. You need to push people past apathy, and when they have gone past it, capitalize on their non-apathetic state before apathy returns.

            The financial system imploded, and people stopped being apathetic. They thought they needed change. A bunch of people came together saying “We are the 99%, we want change, and we won’t stop until we get it!” The public believed both taht change was necessary and possible. A break in public apathy like this is an enormous fucking deal.

            And OWS pissed it ALL away, circlejerking about the same fucking things that they always do, not noticing how intensely apathetic this always makes everyone listening to them. The time passed. People resigned themselves to the new normal, rationalized it was always this bad, figured that obviously we couldn’t really get anything done. OWS was handed the resource every activist needs to get things done, and threw it all into a bottom less pit of drum circles and “consensus building” and progressive stacks. With the once in a lifetime opportunity to do something, they elected to do the thing that has never worked and will never work, and doomed anyone who was trying to use OWS to do what it actually had a chance to do.

            So, again, fuck those people.

            And stop blaming the media for things. The media do not have the power you place in them, because the media are panicky, fearful, and gobsmackingly incompetent. A “successful media narrative” is not one where the media controls what people believe, it’s one where the media successfully repeated exactly the thing its listeners already wanted to believe. And even then, half the country gets outraged at it anyway.

          • I’m not sure how this fits in to either narrative, but personally I was rather disappointed that OWS didn’t turn into a credible left-wing political party. I can’t help feeling that the US needs one.

          • John Schilling says:

            @DrBeat: That, and worse. OWS was, briefly, the focus of media attention, of public attention, and even of political attention, all of it asking the critical two questions: “What do these people actually want us to do, and should we maybe go ahead and do that? Because what we’ve been doing all along clearly isn’t working, and none of us have any better ideas”. People were listening, and not the way you listen to a crackpot.

            And during that entire period, whenever anyone managed to pin down an OWSer and ask them what, specifically, they wanted us to do, the answer was always, “I dunno. But the bad stuff is all the banksters’ fault.”

            Look; Rick Perry’s last presidential campaign imploded when he briefly forgot one of the three government agencies he planned to shut down. And that still left him with about twice infinity more of an agenda than OWS could articulate at a time and place of their own choosing.

          • Matt M says:

            “Zucotti Park was privately owned. Any time they wanted, the banks could have asked the police to evict the protestors.”

            Are we absolutely certain of this?

            I’m MORE than willing to entertain a scenario where the banks immediately demanded the eviction of the protesters, and the local police refused.

            Keep in mind that local police take their marching orders from local politicians, who are EXTREMELY sensitive to popular opinion. I can absolutely imagine the local NYC political class giving the cops clearly specific orders to hang back and let things play out for a few days while they stick their finger in the air to see which way the wind is going to blow…

        • Mary says:

          “Something smells really off, and we’d like it to stop” is an unreasonable attitude toward anything on God’s occasionally green earth and excusable only among children. If you do not know what the “problem” is, or what the consequences are of changing it, you have nothing to say and should not say it.

          • wysinwyg says:

            I disagree.

            Suppose you notice your neighbor’s attic window is venting a tremendous amount of black soot for several hours every day. Your neighbor is very tight-lipped about the cause. You have no idea what’s causing it, but it smells noxious and is staining the siding of your house.

            I think most reasonable people would worry about the possible consequences for themselves in such a situation. I think it would be very reasonable for anyone in this situation to voice their concern to the neighbor, and even to the local authorities if the neighbor is not willing to accommodate the person’s reasonable concerns.

            Sometimes the outward signs of a problem are very clear, even while the causes remain mysterious. The idea that we should only worry about problems if we understand their causes strikes me as…

            …look, I’m trying to be measured, but this is completely bugfuck insane. To the extent that this:

            If you do not know what the “problem” is, or what the consequences are of changing it, you have nothing to say and should not say it.

            constitutes an argument at all, it proves way too much. Like proves that we should all lay down in ditches and die proves too much.

          • Mary says:

            False analogy. You know what the problem is there: your neighbor is polluting the air.

        • Adam says:

          Maybe just my completely wrong impression, but that seemed like a whole bunch of recent college grads who couldn’t find jobs. It’s been four years since the movement started. They probably found jobs. When an economic protest takes place near the low point of a recession, and then stops when the economy improves, that doesn’t seem like it cries out for explanation. We still see a lot of grumbling about debt loads, but a $400 a month bill really sucks when you’re unemployed. It’s not such a big deal when you’re making $50K, don’t have any kids yet, and it’s your only debt.

          • wysinwyg says:

            I look at the evictions from the encampments as the end of OWS. My point is argued from that perspective.

            If you want to say that, instead, we should say OWS ended when a bunch of its participants found jobs, then that is certainly your prerogative. I think it’s a pretty reasonable perspective, and I don’t think it really contradicts mine so I don’t have much more to say about it.

            I do think it’s a bit of an oversimplification to say OWS consisted of a bunch of jobless recent graduates.

          • Adam says:

            That’s fair. It’s definitely an oversimplification. The evictions were just in the one place, weren’t they? I’d have sworn I still saw protesters in Austin just last year, but there were like 16 of them and I don’t think anyone was paying attention any more.

          • wysinwyg says:


            Occupy protesters were evicted in a lot of places, but it wouldn’t suprise me if Austin wasn’t one of them.

  3. Kyle Strand says:

    Have you read any of Philip Sandifer’s blog? He’s deeply invested in both social justice and science fiction, and he genuinely believes the Sad/Rabid Puppies movements to be fascist in nature. He’s intelligent and well-spoken, so I read him fairly often even though I’m so misaligned with him (politically speaking) that he’d probably think I’m fascist (or at least evil in some way) as well. There have been several recent posts about the issue that have been pretty interesting, including an interview with the leader of the Rabid Puppies campaign.

    • Deiseach says:

      Okay. One of the writers involved with the Sad/Rabid Puppies is John C. Wright. I very much like his fiction, even where I disagree with his politics and opinions (to a lesser or greater extent, depending).

      Now, I don’t know what Mr Sandifer means by “Fascist”. If there’s significance in small “f” “fascism/fascist” being the term used, and if it signifies – as I have said – nothing more than “person to the right of me with whose views I disagree”, then I think it’s useless.

      I don’t think Mr Wright is a Fascist. If Mr Sandifer thinks that he and his fellows in this grouping are Fascists, or Neo-Nazis, or want to institute a right-wing theocratic white supremacist dictatorship, I think he’s mistaken.

      If Mr Sandifer means “socially conservative, free market capitalists, variant views on what counts as racism, sexism, homophobia from those I hold”, then he’s correct – but “fascist” is not a helpful term here. It is just signalling “These people are Evil, and so evil that I don’t even have to explain how they’re evil, the mere descriptor used for them tells you all you need to know”.

      • Dale Carville says:

        By “not helpful” im guessing your mean “inappropriate”?

        Come on, Deiseach. Show us that gaelic character armor.Teach us.
        Model unoffendability for the rest of us.

        • Deiseach says:

          I mean it’s not helpful. Does it tell us anything about the real opinions, politics or inclinations of the man’s opponents, or is it only a shibboleth?

          Were I to call you a Blueshirt, Dale, would it have any meaning for you or others not familiar with the minutiae of Irish politics?

          • Jimmy Oldman says:

            More precisely-

            “Fascist” doesn’t really have any more INHERENT moral weight than “Democracy” or “communism” or “oilgarchy.”

            The thing is, the only really famous fascist is Hitler, so everyone goes “Hitler, Fascist”. but since you aren’t LITERALLY calling someone a nazi, they can’t go “No, I’m not in favor of the expansion of the German Reich, you clot”

            Fascism just means, essentially, businesses running government with a strong, typically right wing populace supporting them.

            ROME was technically a fascist republic.

          • Mary says:


            Fascism just means, essentially, government running businesses with a strong, typically left wing populace supporting them.

            The meme that fascism is right-wing is Stalin’s, who smeared all his opponents with it. He’s dead now. We can admit that it’s left-wing.

          • Urstoff says:

            I wonder how many people using “fascism” as such a term of art also have been annoyed by people calling Obama a “socialist”. My evidence-free bias says greater than 10%.

          • To fill in a little on the history of fascism:

            The term was invented by Mussolini, who was a prominent Italian socialist until he broke with his party over his support for Italian involvement in WWI.

            As best I can tell, he concluded that socialist ends could not be achieved by a bottom up revolution, so should be imposed from the top down. But I’m not an expert on his writing, so may be misinterpreting the position.

          • nydwracu says:

            As best I can tell, he concluded that socialist ends could not be achieved by a bottom up revolution, so should be imposed from the top down. But I’m not an expert on his writing, so may be misinterpreting the position.

            I thought he broke with socialism and started looking for ways to bring about collaboration of the classes, ending up with Charter of Carnaro-style corporatism (a candidate for ‘most unintuitive technical term in the world’) and lots of war.

          • wysinwyg says:

            Fascism just means, essentially, government running businesses with a strong, typically left wing populace supporting them.

            There’s obviously a lot of different definitions of fascism, but some of the commonalities between different instances of fascism include near-religious reverence for the military, disdain for intellectualism and the arts, extreme nationalism, and a preference for traditional family structures and gender roles. I’m not sure how things are in Ireland, but in the US these are not typically considered left-wing ideals.

            I guess you could argue that it’s left wing because the government controls business, but I think that’s actually not a great characterization either. Fascism is populism with the support of blue collar workers. If you can appease the blue collar workers by nationalizing their factory and giving them raises, then a fascist demagogue might do that. But I doubt it would be motivated by any allegiance to some leftist ideology; it’s more likely purely opportunistic.

          • Jos says:

            @wsinwyg (like the name, btw), I have literally never heard anyone argue that facscism is associated with a preference for traditional family structures and gender roles.

            Wikipedia’s page is pretty good; I especially like the Orwell quote at the end. (I would pretty much always defer to Orwell on the idea of fascism).


          • wysinwyg says:


            Many sections of that wikipedia article argue explicitly that fascism is anti-feminist, anti-intellectual, and pro-tradition. If you’ve never heard that fascism has those qualities, then you’ve never read the wikipedia article you recommended as “pretty good.” I started to go through and get examples but there were too many.

            This was my starting point for understanding fascism:

            It relies heavily on Umberto Eco’s definition, which is included in the wikipedia article. In particular, Eco’s notions of a “Cult of Tradition” and “Appeal to a Frustrated Middle Class” apply to this. (The appeal to a frustrated middle class includes an appeal to their values, which will usually include values regarding traditional family structure.)

          • Nornagest says:

            I like Payne’s and Griffin’s approaches (quoted in section 3 of that essay) better than Eco’s, with all due respect to Eco. The emphasis on national rebirth or self-recreation, in particular, seems like an important piece of the puzzle to me, and one that’s often elided.

          • Jos says:

            @wsinwyg: Ouch, you go for blood quickly. I’m just interested in the idea, if that helps you place me.

            I had read the article – my takeaway was that the Marxist section did include this quality as a minority tage of “fascism”, and my operating assumption was that in that case, fascist is more like “gusano” – it mostly has come to mean counterrevolutionary or obstructionist.

            Taking Eco’s definition to is a stretch, IMHO, but it would be a long stretch father to say that “preference for traditional family structures and gender roles” is a commonality of fascists. I’d me more inclined to establish that by showing several fascist organizations and establishing that they preferred traditional family structures and gender roles more than their non-fascist contemporaries.

      • veronica d says:

        I think it’s a pretty great essay, but in fact I wish he had not put so much stake into the word “neofascist.” Which, if someone wants to use that work for far-to-the-right folks, I guess I’m okay with it. Ours is a living language. Meaning changes. Tons of people now days use fascist that way and I think we understand its boundaries.

        (I’ll admit to ironically calling things “fascist,” but in a way I’m sure no one will believe I mean to literally compare to Italian fascism. But anyway.)

        But it is a controversial label these days — and with good reason given its history — and I think Sandifer’s critique was quite powerful regardless of what word he used, and thus his essay might have been more effective without “neofascist” — insofar as it will prove to be a distraction.

        • Tracy W says:

          I don’t know about anyone else, but as far as I can tell, “fascist” means anyone to the right of Mao Zedong. So I don’t find it particularly informative.
          And I suspect I’d miss any intended irony.

        • Adam says:

          I think the ideas that grew into fascism originally came from France, though they weren’t called fascism at the time. The central tenets are nationalism, individual subservience to the state, social darwinism, non-democratic but also non-aristocratic totalitarian rule. These things don’t really map well to a contemporary left-right spectrum and are largely agnostic to how industry profits are distributed between labor and ownership, though tend to at least involve state control so that business operations are directed toward national goals rather than the equilibrium of private markets.

          • nydwracu says:

            Georges Sorel comes up a lot.

            I tried to read that one book of his, but most of it was about his massive hateboner for Jaures, and I ran up against the library’s due date right when I got to the part about myth.

      • Deiseach says:

        Oh, sweet holy divine.

        I read the essay about the Hugo nominees and THAT BLOODY DINOSAUR STORY (or TBDS, as I will heretofore refer to it).

        Out of the stories he’s turning his nose up at, the only one I’ve read is “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds”. I agree, there’s a heap of religion in it. But the Uplift stories of David Brin run on the same principle: animals becoming equally sentient and sapient to humans, and I don’t see him making any sniffy references to those.

        This part also caused my eyelid to twitch, about another tale rapped over the knuckles for being theological:

        The idea of electromagnetic immortality is clearly in the vicinity of transhumanism, and is also firmly rejected by the story. The ghosts feel that they are wrong, and desire dissipation, some of them believing in a more legitimate afterlife, the main character included.

        Mmmmm – lemmee see, where did I encounter the idea before of ghosts wanting to end in dissolution? And one of the main characters having her own view of an afterlife?

        “I will love you forever; whatever happens. Till I die and after I die, and when I find my way out of the land of the dead, I’ll drift about forever, all my atoms, till I find you again…”

        “I’ll be looking for you, Will, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you…We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pin trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams…And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me, we’ll be joined so tight…”

        But fair enough, if you don’t want theology of any stripe, whether thick or thin, in your fiction that’s a legitimate preference. What makes me stomp my foot and tear my hair is that continued insistence that TBDS is “poetic” and all the rest of it:

        For one thing, it’s actually well-written. There’s a poetic lilt to the language, which is soothingly iambic, like a story for a young child, which makes the emotional punch of it all the more acute.

        Well, what he finds well-written, I find mawkish and NOT BLOODY SF/FANTASY AT ALL. I really can’t understand the praise this story is getting, because it’s a not particularly stand-out mainstream literary fiction piece of work, I grant that it is written in a workmanlike professional manner, but has nothing to make the heart soar (the “turning into a flower” language is pedestrian, not poetic).

        If that is considered poetry, they need to read some proper poetry. Also, this is an extract from a story he considers real proper SF:

        Marisol was an award-winning playwright, but that hadn’t saved her from the end of the world. She was taking pre-med classes and trying to get a scholarship to med school so she could give cancer screenings to poor women in her native Taos, but that didn’t save her either. Nor did the fact that she believed in God every other day.

        To which my reaction is OH, CHRIST ALMIGHTY. Now maybe the hit-you-over-the-head good intentions of Marisol are meant to be all part of the ironic, tongue-in-cheek tone; how this is more of Marisol being over-dramatic and taking herself way too seriously. Or maybe Charlie Jane really does want to establish that Marisol is The Right Kind Of Person by this kind of signalling (Marisol isn’t becoming a doctor to tend to rich white professional people, but poor women of colour). And of course Marisol comes from Taos. Of course.

        (Can you see why the accusations of “more interested in box-ticking points on the Inclusivity List fiction” could be made about these recent Hugo nominees and winners?) The description of Marisol’s god-awful plays are just a touch too on the nose (did Charlie Jane Anders dig out from the bottom of a drawer some old plays she wrote once upon a time?)

        Look, lads, I get it: genre envy. You still wish you were writing and reviewing proper literature, like your college professors drilled into you. But you can’t make a living from today’s little magazines, so this is the next best gig.

        But please, I’m begging you: consider a better career option. Like hitperson for the Mob, or Putin’s personal PR adviser (“Mr President, perhaps you should wrestle moose for next photoshoot!”).

        If this is the future of SF, count me out as a reader. (And they wonder why we read fanfiction instead).

        • notes says:

          Perhaps we can look forward to Hugo awards for fanfiction?

          Surely there’s no way that can go wrong.

          • Nornagest says:

            I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in the future, but probably not the near future. The old-school SF fandom that the Hugos represent doesn’t have much representation in the fanfic scene, and vice versa.

            I’ve speculated about why this is before. I’m still not really happy with any of the answers I’ve come up with, but I think it’s partly because status in literary SF circles comes largely from creating interesting settings and ideas, which tend to be more or less fully mined out in their originating works; the rich characters and worldbuilding that fanfic thrives on are somewhat secondary. It’s also a somewhat older scene, and enjoyment of fanfic (with respect to Deiseach above as an exception) tends to break along generational lines.

            (Fantasy, meanwhile, has a long tradition of Tolkien fanfic. It is called “fantasy”.)

          • notes says:

            Oh, there’s definitely overlap.

            Return with me to the days of yore, when it was possible for an editor at Tor (and wife to the seniormost) to recommend some Tolkien fanfic she liked on fanfiction.net.

            Still, as you say… that is fantasy.

          • nydwracu says:

            I think it’s partly because status in literary SF circles comes largely from creating interesting settings and ideas

            Oh god. Fucking Seveneves. I came away from that with the impression that Stephenson scribbled out a list of things he thought sounded cool on a bar napkin one night and then tried to shoehorn a plot to fit it all in, with no regard to the blemmye-fucking implausibility or lack of literary value of it.

          • Mary says:

            “The old-school SF fandom that the Hugos represent doesn’t have much representation in the fanfic scene, and vice versa.”

            The fandom that the Hugos represent is that which consists of people who care enough to pony up a supporting membership. And know they can do so — half the Sad Puppies outrage is that they publicized this, and so grew the group.

            They already have Best Fan Writer.

          • Deiseach says:

            Perhaps we can look forward to Hugo awards for fanfiction?

            Cassandra Claire (or rather, “Clare” as her current nom-de-plume is) turned her Harry Potter fanfiction into “serial numbers filed off” professionally published even got a movie and everything fiction (City of Bones).

            I only tangentially knew of her during LOTR fandom for “The Really Secret Diaries Of…” series (which was genuinely funny and spawned a lot of imitators), and was very surprised to learn about the war that blew up around her later fandom activities.

            That makes the Hugos spat look like a vicarage tea party 🙂

          • Deiseach says:

            I’ve never been able to read Neal Stephenson. I’ve tried, but just…. no.

            There’s an awful lot of CLASSICS OF THE GENRE I haven’t read, even in Real Proper Literature.

          • Nornagest says:

            Neal Stephenson was better before he became famous and earned his license to self-edit. Snow Crash and The Diamond Age are classics, and Cryptonomicon may be the single book with the most influence on my writing style. But Anathem has too much concept for its own good, REAMDE is basically a Tom Clancy novel (albeit a good one), and The Baroque Cycle needs a psychotic editor with an axe.

            I haven’t read Seveneyes yet, though I probably will at some point.

          • C.S. says:


            If you want fiction with cast-iron plot that’s been thought out to the smallest details in regards to plausibility.. hmm.. there’s very few offerings for you.

            Most sf is just fantasy BS or WWII retreads. Try R. Scott Bakker or Peter Watts. Watts is a better writer, pithy, and likes dark, depressing ideas. Also is his own psychotic editor, as of late. Polishes his work till it’s bleeding and the bones are showing.


            Stephenson admitted that the creation process was basically that, except no napkin was involved.

            I liked the book, despite the obvious flaws, plot omissions and implausibilities. Still better than the vast majority of stuff published, and somewhat original too.

        • Shenpen says:

          I think you came to a similar conclusion as ESR:



          “Literary status envy is the condition of people who think that all genre fiction would be improved by adopting the devices and priorities of late 19th- and then 20th-century literary fiction. Such people prize the “novel of character” and stylistic sophistication above all else. They have almost no interest in ideas outside of esthetic theory and a very narrow range of socio-political criticism. They think competent characters and happy endings are jejune, unsophisticated, artistically uninteresting. They love them some angst.

          People like this are toxic to SF, because the lit-fic agenda clashes badly with the deep norms of SF.”

        • Lesser Bull says:

          Tracking down what Vox Day or Irene Gallo said or didn’t say or meant or didn’t mean isn’t worth my time, but I can read stories. I did, and discovered that Wright’s fiction is beautiful and moving and deep (not so much his essays in my opinion) and the stuff his detractors hold up as good writing is boring. Advantage, team puppy.

  4. Tom Hunt says:


    Regarding your lizard brain’s argument vs. the Argument from Privilege, I think there are two different standards in play here.

    Reading about the Argument from Privilege, it seems to be talking about what is morally correct. That is, sexism against women is wrong because women are disprivileged, but sexism against men is meaningless and in fact definitionally impossible, because men are privileged. I agree that this is bunk, and I would also agree that it was bunk if things were switched around. If someone who had deplored Yarvin being disinvited from Strangeloop went on to say that it would be perfectly fine and admirable to campaign to exclude SJWs from some similar non-political venue on only that basis, I would be rolling my eyes quite sincerely.

    On the other hand, it strikes me the lizard brain argument here is not talking about what’s morally right, but about what we should be worried about right now. That’s a problem of threat analysis, and unavoidably subordinated to the actual conditions in the actual world. And for a person who doesn’t want either gay people or conservatives to be endlessly harassed and excluded from polite society due simply to that category, it takes a fair bit of doing not to notice that the prospects of this happening to gay people right now are minuscule and microscopic compared to the prospects of it happening to conservatives.

    If I take cases which are actually symmetrical, I find that I am more or less consistent across those cases. For instance, I would be quite annoyed to hear of someone being disinvited from a technical conference because they were gay. Meanwhile, if a restaurant somewhere said that they would refuse to cater a National Policy Institute conference, or similar, my reaction would be a resounding shrug. I think there’s something to the idea that the SJWs and the anti-SJWs have a certain psychological symmetry to them. However, discerning which faction is actually right is an object-level question, and pointing out psychological symmetry is unlikely to be helpful in this case.

    • Jaskologist says:

      I think this is pretty insightful. If you’re being chased by a jaguar, it does no good to ponder whether, in general, you’re more likely to be killed by a bear, lion, or staph infection. The jaguar problem is the pressing one, which is why that’s what the lizard brain cares about.

      • Tarrou says:

        This is true, but as Kahneman has spent his career demonstrating, our lizard brains tend to think “jaguar” more often than there is an actual jaguar. Our threat sensors are hypersensitive, so anything that looks like a threat is assessed as one. This gets worse when you add in tribalism.

        • kernly says:

          This is true, but as Kahneman has spent his career demonstrating, our lizard brains tend to think “jaguar” more often than there is an actual jaguar.

          Probably a good thing, because the consequences of being wrong are wildly asymmetric. Thinking there’s a jaguar when there’s no jaguar costs little. Thinking there isn’t a jaguar when there is can cost everything. Same goes for a potential attempt to turn your tribe against you.

          • haishan says:

            It’s an adaptive thing, especially when we’re talking about literal jaguars. Whether or not it’s “good” depends on the context, plus of course a lot of moral background. It’s not at all clear that it’s good in the context of tribal politics.

      • The media doesn’t help here, and I do wonder if that’s the major cause. Jezebel.com runs an article with a headline like “SEE THIS RACIST SHITLORD CALL FOR LEGALIZING RAPE” about once a day, and if that’s a major source of news for you, then you’re likely to live in continual fear of racists coming along and raping you, even if the actual frequency of the thing they’re talking about is very low. Conversely, if you reading mostly anti-SJW media, you’re going to have an exaggerated view of how common and how powerful the SJW shaming tactics are. Journalism is terrible and makes everything worse.

        • Jimmy Oldman says:

          That was the thing I started to notice after the initial surge of “Reading conservative blogs and seeing whole new side of the world” wore off.

          Yes, sure, there was a big flap over the American flag at “Some Hippy fucking college in Oregon”

          But when I see the story pop on on my FB news feed reposted by Breitbart, and by Glenn Beck*, and by Allen west and “Being Conservative” and so on, it takes on a bigger import.

          Very, very few people are raped on college campuses. Very very few people have problems with flags on campus. Very, very few people die in airplane crashes.

          In general, i think RATE, more than occurance, should be considered. One false rape accusation is an event. Virtually every high-profile media rape case being effortlessly discredited by basic journalism? That’s a change in rate.

          Some guy’s flag gets a complaint? That’s a bit of a hassle.

          Flags all over the place suddenly start getting lots of complaints? An issue.

          • Randy M says:

            Highest rate is where we should focus our efforts, but the change in rate deserves attention too. (I was going to try to look smart by using the calculus term, but I don’t remember if that is derivative or integral. )

          • Luke Somers says:

            Derivative in rate, a.k.a. the second derivate in the total occurrences.

    • ShardPhoenix says:

      I agree with this – while there is some similarity between the two sides, there isn’t true symmetry.

    • lilred says:

      There’s still a meta-level argument that both sides are actually reinforcing each other; that, at the meta-level, they are somehow on the same side, because they agree on the rules of the game. See this (surprisingly) insightful on Cracked: 6 Ways to Keep Terrorists From Ruining the World.

      • Patri Friedman says:

        The YouTube video on memes “This Video Will Make You Angry” makes the same argument – that “opposing” memes are actually in a symbiotic relationship promoting some mutual culture war or threat. “This issues is important, the other side is doing horrible things” helps both memes to gain mindshare.

        The difference between “ideas beneficial to humanity / ideas that are correct”, and “ideas selected by memetic evolution in human brains in the current environment” is unfortunately quite wide; and many of these “culture wars” seem to be just specific cases of that general issue. (As many health problems are simply specific manifestations of our different diet & lifestyle now vs. pre-industrial revolution).

        Seems like we need a way to address the entire issue, not just one little corner. But I have no idea how, except a totalitarian state that regulates all ideas for memetic hygiene. And that seems unlikely to go well.

        Modernity is a serious, growing problem, and we don’t have a solution.

        • Kevin C. says:

          “Modernity is a serious, growing problem, and we don’t have a solution.”

          What if there is no solution? That some level of “memetic hygiene” is absolutely necessary for survival, and that such hygiene becomes incredibly difficult, if not impossible, once global telecommunications is invented, is one of the three legs of my proposed solution to the Fermi Paradox. (The other two are the unrepeatable, once-per-planetary history nature of an industrial revolution, and that the risk of hazardous memetic contaigion does not decrease, and likely increases, with increasing intelligence.)

    • Paul Torek says:

      Reading about the Argument from Privilege, it seems to be talking about what is morally correct.

      No, that’s not the way I heard it.

      On the other hand, it strikes me the lizard brain argument here is not talking about what’s morally right, but about what we should be worried about right now.

      Yes, but that’s not the “other hand”. It’s the same hand.

      • 27chaos says:

        I agree with your interpretation of the argument from privilege. Nonetheless, something about Tom’s reversed examples resonates with me, I find myself indifferent to his pizza scenario as well as to the above pizza scenario. Similarly, I am angered by both the examples of excluding a speaker.

        I think perhaps the difference is simply that I think finding a different tasty restaurant is easy and unimportant but finding a new competent speaker is hard and relatively more important. If I learned that the tech conference had somebody essentially as good as Moldbug waiting in the wings, who was less controversial, I would basically stop caring about the tech conference. In this case though, the SJ activists don’t seem to have been advocating anyone else in particular replace Moldbug, they only seem to have wanted him gone. Using politics as a tiebreaker is acceptable to me, it’s using them as an overriding concern that bothers me.

        Then again, maybe not. Because when I imagine using someone’s gayness as a similar “tiebreaker” for whether or not they should speak at a conference, I feel anger again.

        Ultimately, my carefully and tentatively considered reaction to that anger is that it is not justified, it is more important to have a good conference than to make a political point about the acceptability of gay people, just as it’s more important to have a good conference than to make a political point about the acceptability of reactionaries. This does resolve consistency, but it also stretches my moral intuitions further than I’d like. I think that means it’s the right choice.

  5. Cedar Sanderson says:

    I blogged about it when it first came to my attention, and used screenshots to make sure I captured accurately the Irene Gallo comments. I haven’t been calling for her firing or a boycott, but Tor is, at the moment, a sterling example of a company in need of a social media policy. You’ll note that the date/time stamp on her comments make it clear that although this was a personal page, it was done on a Monday afternoon, when most people are working. http://cedarwrites.com/fear-and-loathing-at-tor/

    I was referred to your site by a friend, and while this is an interesting essay and a well-balanced one, I’m interested in your work on feminism and will be looking at those. It’s a topic I touch on frequently, myself.

    • Tully says:

      Ms. Gallo’s remarks were uttered in a post in which she was promoting her company’s product while also tagging how it would make Puppies sadder, which makes the “personal page” argument somewhat weak. All else aside, it was entirely unprofessional.

      • Mary says:

        Tor should, among other things, have a stricter division between promotion and its employees’ personal social media.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Man, it must be tough working in a job where your customers choose whether or not to associate with you voluntarily based on whether they like you or not, rather than being brought by the police and locked in with you.

      • Cauê says:

        I read this like five times before going “oh, right! psychiatrist”.

      • Deiseach says:

        Well, she didn’t help her case by “These are all horrible evil people! Some of whom… are authors published by my employer and for whose books I have provided cover art.”

        I mean, if I call Dale Carville a far-right neo-Nazi, it would not be unreasonable for people to ask me “The fuck you know that, bitch?”

        For Ms Gallo, it’s too easy for people to go “Some of these guys are TOR authors. She works for TOR. She’s done work for them, so she probably met them in real life. Aha! Real inside scoop on what these guys really are like, not the public image they put out!” Putting two and two together and getting forty-eight.

      • Deiseach says:

        Scott, at least the crazy people have to be dragged to you by the cops.

        We get ’em turning up of their own accord demanding to see us 🙂

        Actually, the crazy people are not the worst, not by a long chalk. There are some right operators out there whom – well. Confidentiality. And Principle of Charity.

        Let’s just say soap operas (including quasi-incest love triangle plots) are more like documentaries than you’d think.

    • William O. B'Livion says:

      Why was Brendon Eich forced out?

      • Gbdub says:

        Because he donated to an anti-gay marriage political fund, and someone found out.

        So the cases don’t seem quite the same – Gallo made a public (at least to Facebook) highly provocative statement that mixed her personal opinion with a business announcement, so the line between “this is what I think” and “this is what Tor promotes” was fuzzy.

        Eich made a private donation and as far as I’ve heard was otherwise pretty quiet on the subject. I don’t know how you allow the Eich firing consistently without literally banning any political activity by employees. He was only “outed” by a deliberate effort.

        It’s the difference between a flasher in the park and someone you see naked because you took a shortcut through their backyard at night. Both might be gross, but I’m less sympathetic if you complain about the latter.

        • John Schilling says:

          People who donated a thousand times as much as Eich were found out, and as far as I know nobody even tried to get them fired.

          So your simple causality here, needs work.

          • Matt M says:

            Eich worked in tech, which (despite the constant howling of how nerds are the worst oppressors of all), was converted to SJW-ism as the dominant religion many years ago.

            It’s the difference between living in New York and knowing that somewhere in the backwoods of Alabama there are racists getting together and hatching evil plots and living in New York and suddenly discovering that a racist is standing in the corner at your own dinner party.

            You have no power to get rid of the guy in Alabama, but you can make a huge scene and throw the guy at your party out of your house and make sure your neighbors understand that they will be treated the same way if they cross you ideologically.

          • gbdub says:

            What else did he do to get fired then? Are you saying that unless everyone who donated got fired, then nobody who donated got fired for it?

          • Adam says:

            The person listed as the top individual donor at that site was the Chairwoman of a Biotech firm at the time and now owns a real estate firm that builds commercial properties for tech clients.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Eich donated money while not powerful. Claire Reiss is very powerful and can fight back at anyone that tries to make trouble for her, while Eich can’t and/or won’t.

          • Adam says:

            Maybe. The most relevant factor to me seems that OkCupid could detect when a user was browsing from Firefox and thought it’d be cute to interject the little message there, social media found out, and signal boosted it. They didn’t choose to single out Eich because they feared Claire Reiss.

        • Deiseach says:

          It wasn’t just that he donated to a fund; he donated to a perfectly legal campaign (just like the perfectly legal donations to the opposite side campaign) supporting the passing of Proposition 8.

          Now, the matter has been thrashed out again and again about was this a fair law or not; I have no opinion and I’m not going to stick my oar into an American internal matter.

          But I do think there was more going on than the surface casus belli; I think OKCupid didn’t suddenly realise that Brendan Eich was an evil bigot who should be publicly shamed into doing the decent thing. I think they were trying to get publicity for themselves and even, possibly, get some positive opinion back after their own – or rather, the group that owns them, InterActiveCorp- little moment of badness: the Justine Sacco incident, where IAC’s Head of Corporate Communications tweeted a very unfunny ‘joke’ and it all blew up.

          • Matt M says:

            Point of minor clarification – Prop 8 wasn’t really a “law,” rather it was a constitutional amendment. Which is significant from the point of view of arguments about federalism, but is out of scope for this particular discussion.

          • Nornagest says:

            A state constitutional amendment, which in California can be passed by a simple majority at referendum. It might also be worth mentioning that California’s constitution is huge, more than eight times longer than the federal constitution, and defines a substantial body of law; California doesn’t really have a functioning hierarchy of laws like the federal government does.

            Getting amendments to referendum is supposed to be the hard part — the original legislative process for it is extremely difficult. But you can also do it by gathering enough signatures, and that’s what everyone who wants to amend it does nowadays, because getting a 75% supermajority of both houses on any substantial issue is about as likely as waking up to find that a freak tornado has picked up a pond full of live frogs and assembled them into a perfect scale model of the Capitol Building in your living room.

          • gbdub says:

            “But I do think there was more going on than the surface casus belli”

            You’re probably right, just as there’s more to the Gallo incident. But Eich’s donation was definitely the precipitating event held up as his “crime” – just as Gallo’s Facebook post. So if we’re going to debate whether the reactions were justified, it’s worth comparing those events rather than the motivations of the people who reacted to it.

        • “I don’t know how you allow the Eich firing consistently without literally banning any political activity by employees. ”

          Does “allow” mean “not have a law against it” or “approve of?” I don’t think there should be a law against the Eich firing, but I disapprove of it.

          • Gbdub says:

            I was mostly referring at a company policy level. If you accept that you will fire an employee for their personal political donation on the grounds that it offended someone, you probably need to explicitly ban all political activity. Or be inconsistent and discriminate based on political beliefs.

            I don’t think any of this should be illegal, but I would prefer a societal standard that allows a corporate employee to hold whatever beliefs they choose on their own time. Barring that, I’d at least like any social norm that considers private political speech a corporate issue to be applied consistently to all beliefs (keep in mind that Eich’s belief wasn’t even fringe – Prop 8 passed, after all).

          • Adam says:

            I think that’s framing it the wrong way, though. The problem is a social problem, not a corporate governance problem. The company policy is just fire the guy if enough of an external stink is raised to impact our market share. They don’t care about the politics or the larger impact their actions have on discourse, and they shouldn’t. You can’t expect businesses to take these heroic free speech stances when all that’ll happen is they’ll go out of business. The problem lies at the level of a society that think it’s okay as a matter of normative social behavior to boycott companies because of their leaders’ private politics (when as you say, it wasn’t exactly a fringe position).

            The funny thing is it wasn’t even activists that started it. It was another Internet company!

    • Deiseach says:

      Though I am not generally in favour of holding people accountable for opinions on their own personal blogs, and think everyone has the right to grouse about work, their bosses, colleagues, etc., the Irene Gallo case is complicated because she works for TOR, has done work for some of the authors in the Sad/Rabid Puppies groups, and therefore there is a real possibility people will think “Yes, here’s proof that so-and-so is a racist Fascist; she interacts with these people professionally, she must have seen and heard what they’re really like, so if she says they’re far-right neo-Nazis then they must be saying and doing far-right neo-Nazi things!”

      • NFG says:

        She wasn’t using her personal blog. If she was, she’d already posted about work matters on it immediately before making the unprofessional slurs. That permeability is something most corporations increasingly try to shut down so that they can avoid this very situation of someone posting about work stuff on their personal blog (if it is, it may not be, which would just further dig her into the professional misbehavior pit) in their work capacity, for good or ill.

  6. Paul Crowley says:

    I don’t see the asymmetry. You think the restaurant should not be homophobic; you think the conference shouldn’t bar Yarvin. You don’t want to close the restaurant down for homophobia, and you don’t want to close the conference down for barring Yarvin.

    • The Sprat says:

      I too was going a little nuts trying to see the inconsistency on Scott’s part there. He clearly disagrees with both acts of social justice pressure, and rightfully so in my opinion.

      I suppose the conflict is only in the *scale* of his reactions: he shrugged at one for being silly & unnecessary, but he was genuinely alarmed at the other.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think it’s silly to worry about the pizzeria, but correct to worry about Yarvin. In fact, I mocked the pizzeria people, but I very deliberately signal-boosted the thing about the conference.

      • kernly says:

        What’s more threatening – someone saying they don’t like you, and they won’t follow your blog anymore, or someone saying they don’t like you, and they’re gonna get their buddies and make sure your employer knows how horrible you are? There is a fundamental difference between deciding that someone is a shit, and deciding that everyone else needs to think that someone is a shit.

        On a related note, you should put up a freakin’ Patreon. You’re exposed to significant risk as a public political commentator with an interest in the most controversial of subjects. The responsible thing is to accept income to offset that risk. Of the people I have followed on the internet, two so far have felt forced to destroy their public internet presence/body of work when the wrong person found their doxx. Neither made their internet presence into a significant source of income, though with their not inconsiderable audiences they could have. If your internet presence does nothing to support you, it becomes a house of cards that can be pushed over with the slightest effort. I think more resilience would serve everyone well.

        • Nathan says:

          On the other hand, Scott works for a Catholic hospital. “He said bad things about feminism” is unlikely to faze them.

          • Deiseach says:

            Nathan, you have little knowledge of the state of modern Catholicism, modern “in the Catholic tradition” universities and hospitals and charities, and exactly how much trouble saying naughty things about feminism might get him into.

            It’s like you think we’re all one big monolithic religion marching in lockstep in perfect obedience to the Pope or something 🙂

            Speaking of which, I am anticipating the forthcoming encyclical from Pope Francis on the environment and climate change (Laudato Si) in about two days or so; the yelling and shouting should be very entertaining. Already the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy for Sciences (Archbishop Marcel Sanchez Sorondo, “S.S.” below) has had the gloves off in an interview:

            Q. Several Catholic intellectuals and media sources criticized your decision to collaborate with Ban Ki-moon and Jeffrey Sachs on climate change, because of their positions on abortion and population control. Do you have any reply to these concerns?

            S.S. The Tea Party and all those whose income derives from oil have criticized us, but not my superiors, who instead authorized me, and several of them participated.

          • Nathan says:

            Hi Deiseach,

            I freely admit to not knowing everything, and if anti feminist viewpoints are genuinely a problem for an institution that bars women from the priesthood, I stand corrected.

            (note: I am related to many Very Serious Catholics and have a lot of respect for the church despite being Protestant myself).

          • Deiseach says:

            Here we go. “Women can’t be priests” = “Catholics hate women.”

            Yep. Completely right, Nathan. Got us there. I should probably quote my handy list of What Catholics Hate that I stuck in a comment on another post, but you probably know it all anyway.

            If the priesthood was a job, then yes, it would be inequality. The attitude you allude to is also called clericalism, i.e. the only real power and importance is the clerical state and therefore lay people are nothing. By that logic, everyone should be ordained, else they are not ‘real’ members of whatever denomination. Never mind Luther’s “Every man has a pope in his belly”, every man woman and child must have a mitre on their head or else they’re second-class citizens!

            Ordination of women does not do anything to overcome clericalism; indeed, it only exacerbates it. If a woman is a second-class citizen if she’s not a priest, then she’s a second-class citizen if she’s a priest but not a bishop (as the Church of England recently found out, and as a lot of people forecast when they first permitted women’s ordination).

            That ends up with the attitude of WATCH where if you only refer to God by masculine pronouns, then you are claiming only men are made in his image, or something.

            This has very little to do with the orthodox teaching that God is spirit and therefore neither male or female; if we really do need to refer to “Goddess” in order to fully incorporate women as equal members of any religion, then the Jews (for one) are horrible bigoted sexists, right?

          • Nathan says:

            You’re completely misinterpreting me. Like, really really badly. I don’t regard the Catholic Church as a woman-hating institution and I don’t view anti-feminism as a woman hating worldview.

        • The Patreon thing has been suggested before, and Scott is not comfortable with the ethical implications of it. He would prefer that you donate any money you would have given to him for his posts to a charity instead.

          • Jiro says:

            He doesn’t give 100% of the money he makes beyond the bare necessities for survival to charity. Why should he have ethical problems if other people don’t either? Yeah, they could have given the money to charity instead of to him, but every time he watches a movie he could have given the money to charity.

      • Dale Carville says:

        Remember when Donahue lost his job? He had the highest rated show on MSNBC:

        Soon after the show’s cancellation, an internal MSNBC memo was leaked to the press stating that Donahue should be fired because he opposed the imminent U.S. invasion of Iraq and that he would be a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war.”[19] Donahue commented in 2007 that the management of MSNBC, owned by General Electric and Microsoft, required that “we have two conservative (guests) for every liberal. I was counted as two liberals.”

        Lets scale this against Eich’s firing.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Do you have a source for this? All I could find was Wikipedia, whose sources appear to have succumbed to link rot.

        • birdboy2000 says:

          It’s two sides of the same problem.

          The US needs far stronger protection from political intimidation by employers; instead you can legally fire anyone for any reason except supporting a labor union (and labor organizers get fired anyway).

          Under capitalism, the first amendment only protects the well-off and those with nothing to lose.

          • Paul Torek says:

            Well, there is this:

            Discriminate Based On Political Affiliation: Not all states have laws prohibiting this, but many do. States that don’t have such laws may have county or city ordinances that specifically prohibit political affiliation discrimination.

        • Ptoliporthos says:

          Phil Donahue was still on tv during the Iraq war? Isn’t he like 80 years old?

          Also, MSNBC is conservative? Really?

          Something here does not compute.

          • Adam says:

            Well, he did claim that, but this was in 2003 and he wasn’t 80 then. I don’t think he’s still on television now.

          • birdboy2000 says:

            MSNBC didn’t become a liberal channel until 2008.

      • vV_Vv says:

        If a pizzeria banned Yarvin would it be correct to worry about it? If a conference disinvited a speaker because he was gay, would it be correct not to worry?

        It seems to me that there is an asymmetry because there are many more pizzerias than tech conferences, therefore being banned from a specific pizzeria is a minor annoyance, while being banned from a major tech conference is a significant professional setback.

        • Gbdub says:

          And let’s try to be precise – the pizzeria didn’t ban anybody, just said they wouldn’t participate (cater) in a gay wedding.

          That seems an important distinction, whether you go out of your way to NOT accommodate someone, vs choosing not to go out of your way to serve them. I’m not really sure where “disinviting from a conference” falls on that spectrum.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Therefore the proper analogy would be a pizzeria refusing to cater a neoreaction meetup vs. a tech conference disinviting a speaker who happens to be a LGBT activist after pressures from fundamentalist Christians.

          • vV_Vv says:

            If they manage to provide a swimming pool with an inflatable Cthulhu 😀

          • Setsize says:

            Not quite a symmetric comparison, though — a left wing bookstore sells left wing literature, but a pizzeria run by conservatives does not sell right wing pizzas.

          • Matt M says:

            So… you’re saying I should sue the left-wing bookstore and force them to carry right-wing books?

          • Gbdub says:

            The simplest role reversal would be boycotting a bakery that refused to cater weddings for churches that prohibit gay weddings. Or a pizza shop that refused to deliver pizzas to a Tea Party rally.

          • Matt M says:

            Wasn’t there a recent case where some Christian advocacy group attempted to sue a gay baker for refusing to bake them a “Down with gay marriage” cake?

            IIRC their case got thrown out because they couldn’t prove they were discriminated against because of who they were, rather that it was about the specific message (which apparently you’re allowed to refuse)

      • Brad says:

        Don’t the different responses go back to how deeply embedded you are in the blue world (even if you are more gray than blue)? Outright anti-gay bigotry seems like a trivial concern because to you it looks like a rare, idiosyncratic outlier. That’s true at a tech conference or food co-op, but not at a rodeo or a civil war reenactment. If you were a slightly left of median denizen of the red world, you’d probably roll your eyes at people at church ranting about the one hippie coffee shop in town that had a sign up about homophobes not being welcome there.

        I think your essay acknowledges this in several places but also pulls back from it in several places. It’s a bit like how blues when pressed acknowledge that it is terrible how Iran treats women but somehow it doesn’t seem as real to them as Southern Baptists being much milder sexists.

        • Luke Somers says:

          It seems to me that Blues (in the US, at least) consider the sexism in the middle-east much worse, but something they have very little leverage to affect, while they have a better chance to actually change something here at home.

          • Jiro says:

            It seems to *me* that Blues have conflicted views on whether Middle Easterners should count as oppressors or oppressed. They are obviously doing a lot of bad things to other people, but they’re also anti-West, anti-Israel, former subjects of colonialism, and targets of Islamophobia, and that leads to the Blues going easy on Middle-Easterners.

          • Luke Somers says:

            Being wronged in some completely unrelated way doesn’t make the bad things you do to someone else any better. Especially if that bad thing you are doing was in place long before the bad things that happened to you.

            Source: I’m kinda blue, and know a bunch of bluey-blues.

          • brad says:

            I think it’s true that they (we) acknowledge it is worse, but they don’t really feel it in their bones the same way.

            That’s what I was getting at with excluding gays versus excluding neoreactionaries. While certainly many would acknowledge that gays ought not to be excluded, it doesn’t feel as real since it is happening off in parallel red land, whereas the tech conference scenario feels much more tangible, since it’s closer to your own people.

            As mentioned I think the blog post acknowledges this and starts to come to grips with it, but reading through the comments it is clear that many don’t. There are lots of posts that boil down to “You are completely wrong, SJW are the worst thing ever. How can you even compare anyone to them?!?”

          • Jiro says:

            brad: As others have pointed out, there’s another difference: the pizza parlor doesn’t want to exclude gays, it wants to exclude gay weddings–that is, events which explicitly celebrate homosexuality. They are perfectly willing to serve gays otherwise. The tech conference wants to exclude neoreactionaries regardless of whether the neoreactionary’s political beliefs even come up.

          • Luke Somers says:

            Brad, the folks I know are really seriously feeling-it-in-their-bones kind of bent out of shape about it: thinking about it makes some feel PHYSICALLY ILL, while thinking about the milder problems closer to home doesn’t.

    • Kyle Strand says:

      The asymmetry is that his gut feeling is that the uproar against the pizza place is “silly,” while the conference deciding to bar Yarvin is “scary.” There are, however, two further asymmetries: first, there was no uproar (to my knowledge) about the tech conference’s decision, or a concerted effort to get the conference closed down. Second, tech conferences may not hold the “World Levers Of Power”, but they are intended as speaking platforms, so barring speakers is a pretty strong use of message-regulating authority.

      • Peter Scott says:

        Let’s try flipping the sides while keeping the setting the same. Here’s a thought experiment, and I’m going to post this even if it turns out unconvincing, because negative results are people too.

        Hypothetical scenario 1: a tech conference revokes an invitation to one of their speakers once they find out that she’s active in the social justice community and wants to replace democracy with some sort of matriarchy thing that she explains in very long, meandering blog posts. Their explanation is that they wanted to avoid politicizing the conference.

        Hypothetical scenario 2: a gay pizzeria — such a thing must exist somewhere, right? — refuses to cater to any church that opposes gay marriage. The large fraction of America’s population that is conservative Christian gets offended by this and it turns into a loud shitstorm.

        How would you react to these situations? The political sides are flipped, and if I mucked up the relative severity a bit then mea culpa, controlling for confounding variables is hard.

        • This is an interesting experiment, Peter, and a very good one, for what I found it revealed; it allowed me to separate more clearly my moral feelings from ones of being personally threatened.

          Like Scott, I found Yarvin’s exclusion both wrong and threatening and worthy of worry, but reacted to the pizzeria hullabaloo with a shrug.

          In your example, I feel that it’s as wrong to rescind the invitation to the SJ activist as it was to rescind Yarvin’s, but I don’t feel threatened by it; I don’t think that it’s the first step in a slippery slope which will eventually result in dire consequences for me. And I’d react to the hypothetical gay pizzeria hullabaloo with the same shrug with which I reacted to the first one. (In both cases, the death threats and forced closure of the pizzeria are of course completely wrong, presuming that in your hypothetical, conservative Christians send the pizzeria death threats, and force it to close.) In both cases, I find what the pizzeria is doing slightly discomfiting, but no more than that, whereas I find an ideological conference far more ‘wrong’.

          So my morality is consistent (rescinding invitations to the conference for political beliefs is wrong no matter who does it, and to whom), it’s just that in once case, I expect to be the target, and in the other, I don’t; so the feeling of ‘wrongness’ remains the same, but the feelings of being threatened differ. Whereas with pizzerias, I don’t care; if I can’t get a pizza from one, I can get it from another. (This may not be the case in small towns with only one or two good pizza places, which is a potential factor.)

          • rescinding invitations to the conference for political beliefs is wrong no matter who does it, and to whom

            You left out part of the conference invitation condition: the person was invited to speak about a topic unrelated to their peculiar politics. I strongly agree with you that it’s clearly wrong.

            But let’s say a conference invited a neo-Nazi to discuss (advocate for) the neo-Nazi point of view [or substitute any other unpopular perspective], and then later, under pressure, reconsiders and withdraws the invitation. Of course the invitee will say he/she was disinvited for political reasons, silenced by powerful forces, etc., and that will all be true.

            Would the conference management be in the wrong or not?

          • @ Larry:

            In that case, it’d depend on the purpose of the conference. If the conference was about fringe/outside-the-Overton-window political views, and its purpose was to give people a chance to see/hear those, then it’d be wrong. If it was a conference about the modern descendants and adherents of 20th-century ideologies which are no longer in vogue, it’d be wrong.

            If it was a libertarian conference, or a SJ conference, or a leftist conference, or something else, then it’d be based on why the speaker was invited in the first place. For instance, if it was an SJ conference, and in addition to the normal speakers, it had also invited a number of people from the ‘other’ camps – libertarians, leftists, centrists, rightists, neoreactionaries, and this guy – specifically because they wanted to be able to interact with such people, then un-inviting him wouldn’t be wrong morally, but practically. If he was invited because he was famous for his analysis of how intersectionality works from “the other side” (the ways in which black Neo-Nazis are excluded from normal society, for instance), then the case becomes more complicated; here, I think it was foolish to invite him, given the inherent ideological clash, and recsinding the invitation was merely correcting the error.

            If, OTOH, this person was invited to a libertarian conference to speak about an ideological topic, and the invitation rescinded because his views were later found to be utterly anti-libertarian, then it’s fine, as it would be in the case of an SJ conference where something like this happened.

            In sum: how wrong it is depends on how on-topic the speaker’s controversial opinions are.

            Pragmatically, giving in to people who demand that someone be excluded is a phenomenally ill-advised idea, because it opens you up to the same sort of pressure from everyone if they can credibly threaten to cause controversy.

          • David Moss says:

            I had the same result: I found the conference disinvitations to both be equivalently wrong and the choosing-not-to-sell-pizza cases to be equivalently insignificant.

            This was an interesting result for me, because before I had thought that one of the main reasons why the conference disinvitation was wrong and the pizza non-selling was unimportant was because of the fact that it could plausibly be the case that Curtis Yarvin (or whatever similar right winger) would find widely barred from such professional conferences, whereas there is essentially no chance at all that gay people will find themselves widely excluded from accessing pizza services.

            But it seems that’s not the most important distinction, since I’d also oppose with roughly equal strength a feminist being excluded from a mainstream tech conference (which is exceedingly unlikely).

        • Richard Gadsden says:

          Excluding Requires Hate might be a good example of excluding an OTT SJW – in that people actually are excluding her.

          • Tim Hall says:

            Though in Requires Hate’s case it’s as much to do with a long and very well-documented history of harassing behaviour rather than extremist ideology on its own.

            Closer parellels in some ways to James Frenkel rather than with Curtis Yarvin.

        • nydwracu says:

          Your first scenario doesn’t work. There are two differences: Moldbug explicitly argues against all forms of political activity, whereas “active in the social justice community” implies “politically active” and probably “pushing for ideological purges”; and insofar as Moldbug is continuing any political tradition, it’s the tradition of Kuehnelt-Leddihn and Hoppe, a tiny and obscure back-room of libertarianism, whereas social justice is so powerful that it’s frequently (and effectively!) used by large corporations as a marketing tactic.

          My first reaction is that the pizzeria doesn’t matter and the SJ speaker shouldn’t be purged, but I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to tolerate people who support movements that are actively seeking the power to destroy their enemies by any means necessary.

          • wysinwyg says:

            Moldbug explicitly argues against all forms of political activity

            Moldbug advocates for a particular political viewpoint. That viewpoint argues against the participation of ordinary citizens in political activities (as far as I can tell), but advocating for such a view is itself a form of “political activity” by any reasonable definition of “political activity.”

            From my perspective, if I try to remain neutral to the premises underlying both philosophies, both Moldbug and our hypothetical SJ activist are both saying: “These people shouldn’t be allowed to participate in the political process because they’re evil.” Evil for the SJ activist is “has the wrong politics” and evil for Moldbug is “will keep demanding concessions for themselves to the detriment of the rest of society”.

            The comparison is actually pretty good, IMO.

          • Ever An Anon says:


            I don’t think it’s “these people shouldn’t be allowed to participate in the political process because they [will keep demanding concessions for themselves to the detriment of the rest of society]” so much as “nobody should be involved in the political process except the owner of that particular polity and his employees.”

            In the Formalist framing, a citizen saying ‘I’m involved in the political process’ makes as much sense as a shopper saying ‘I’m involved in the garment business.’ In that framework governance is a good supplied by governors, and like other goods it’s quality (and often supply) suffers when it doesn’t respond to market forces. Not metaphorical “democracy is a marketplace of ideas” forces, he means a literal share price.

            You can certainly argue those points, even most NRx folks don’t like the idea of state-as-firm, but in the context of his philosophy it is absolutely the case that he is opposed to all political activity on the part of non-shareholders.

          • wysinwyg says:

            @Ever An Anon:

            I appreciate the clarification, though I’m not sure it impacts my conclusion appreciably. My purpose was not to argue for or against Moldbug’s views, but simply note that they are every bit as much a political viewpoint as any other political viewpoint. The fact that the content of that political view includes the premise “most people should not hold or act on political viewpoints” is immaterial to the status of that political viewpoint as a political viewpoint.

            in the context of his philosophy it is absolutely the case that he is opposed to all political activity on the part of non-shareholders.

            I think if you re-read my comment you’ll have trouble finding anything that argues otherwise. In fact, one of the premises of my argument is that Moldbug is opposed to all political activity on the part of group X, which as you clarify simply denotes the set of “non-stockholders”. He has reasons for wanting to exclude these people from the political process. They may or may not be good ones. Similar with hypthetical SJ guy.

          • Unique Identifier says:

            Moldbug wants ‘political activity’ to work by the business model; people flock to well-governed countries and thus incentivize good governance.

            Moldbug doesn’t want everybody to be trapped in an authoritarian hell-hole. In his vision, there are a vast number of countries or city states competing to attract productive citizens, and in his mind this produces better results than what we have today.

            This might of course be naive, but there’s hardly anything evil about it.

          • wysinwyg says:

            @Unique Identifier:

            Moldbug doesn’t want everybody to be trapped in an authoritarian hell-hole.

            That’s great. I didn’t say otherwise. As I mentioned at least once, my point was not to argue for or against Moldbug’s views, but to simply point out that regardless of their contents, they do constitute political views.

            If you think I was calling them “evil” then you need to go back and read my comment a lot more slowly.

          • Adam says:

            Moldbug wants ‘political activity’ to work by the business model; people flock to well-governed countries and thus incentivize good governance.

            Kind of reinventing the wheel a bit there. That’s the basic model of Tiebout equilibrium first proposed in the 1950s. Once we had a formalism proving general equilibria were possible for functions mapping convex sets to themselves, this was effectively proven it could work theoretically in extremely small cities with virtually no barriers to movement between them, which roughly aligns with empirical observations, say places like South Orange County or North Dallas where a lot of development pops up real quickly and there are a lot of niche places and gated communities where people tend to be pretty happy with the local government. Get as big as even Denton or Anaheim and it doesn’t work quite as well.

            Greg Mankiw has been all over this idea recently.

          • Unique Identifier says:

            I was trying to add some nuance, pertaining to your claim that Moldbug “argues against the participation of ordinary citizens in political activities”.

            Rather than insist that voting with your feet counts as political activity, I chose to give a brief description of his model such that people can make up their own minds.

          • wysinwyg says:

            @Unique Identifier:

            Oops! Sorry about that. I took this:

            This might of course be naive, but there’s hardly anything evil about it.

            as chiding me for accusing Moldbug or his views of being “evil”.

          • At a considerable tangent having to do with the Tibout model … .

            Ronald Coase’s final book, coauthored with Ning Wang, is a discussion of how China made the transition from communism to capitalism. He argues that in the later stages, what was happening was a sort of Tiebout model, although I don’t think he uses the term. Government was largely decentralized, political positions were allocated from the top, and the people at the top were in favor of economic development. So the local authorities were competing with each other to do things, such as attracting businesses and jobs, that would lead to economic development in their area. Lots of different approaches, what worked got copied, what didn’t work abandoned.

            There’s another book by Sun Yan on corruption in China which points out some of the imperfections in the system, ways in which a local authority could benefit his polity at the expense of others, or himself at the expense of his polity.

            On the other hand, the net effect of the reforms was to increase real GNP per capita about twenty fold from Mao’s death to 2010. I’m in Shanghai at the moment, and it doesn’t feel strikingly poorer than the U.S. or western Europe, although the statistics show China as a whole still well behind the richer countries.

    • Eugine_Nier says:

      There’s an even bigger difference, the restaurant didn’t say they wouldn’t serve gay patrons, they said they wouldn’t cater gay weddings.

      Whereas with the conference, Yarvin wasn’t there to talk about his political views but to give a technical talk.

  7. Dirdle says:

    “23. At least one SSC post in the second half of 2015 will get > 100,000 hits: 70%”
    Immediately following this with a return of Social Justice blogging (historically a very popular thing on SSC) seems like a good play to get the prediction right, if nothing else. This post is (to a single read-through) even-handed and thoughtful, though, so maybe not.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’ll use this to raise a question – how come, within an hour of posting about social justice, my blog traffic shoots up?

      Wouldn’t people have to be reading my blog to know I’d posted about social justice? It doesn’t seem to be a link effect – aside from one or two posts on Facebook no one has linked to this yet. And the title of the post doesn’t reveal it’s about social justice either. It’s like you people have a sixth sense or something.

      • Kyle Strand says:

        How many extra hits do you see, and are you counting pure hits or only hits lasting for more than a couple seconds? And is the effect only observed for SJ posts in particular?

      • Randy M says:

        I don’t know about RSS feeds, but I suspect it is something along those lines. People see a new post title that isn’t a link thread or open thread (more interesting to regulars, probably) and then click it. After reading through, they can pass it on to either incite outrage or bolster support among non-readers that care about the issue, rather than about your writings specifically.

        • Eggo says:

          RSS crew represent. There are literally doze–… several of us.

          On the broader internet anyway. Feed users are probably over-represented here.

          • Siahsargus says:

            Over-represented in more than one way, I’d wager.

            One; the crowd in here skews towards “techie”, the sort of person more likely to use RSS.

            Two; People who comment, and comment early are more likely to be invested. More invested people slowly become power users. Power users are more likely to use RSS.

            Three; The people who comment the earliest are more likely to use RSS, because people coming through from sharing on facebook, even immediately after the article is posted are going in behind the people who got the link instantly.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Any way I can find out how many people RSS my blog?

          • Eggo says:

            Uhh, wordpress used to give the number of visits you got from the feed, I’m pretty sure that only counts the ones that click through rather than view the post in the feed reader.
            Feedburner used to be one option, but I’m not sure google even supports it any more.

          • William O. B'Livion says:

            I use an RSS reader, but I almost always come look at the comments.

          • Jai says:

            Feedly displays (approximate) subscriber counts. SSC is here:

            Currently “3k”.

          • Emile says:

            I use RSS (feedly) to read your blog, but often come over to read the comments, especially if it seems they’ll have interesting discussions (for example, if the post is about Social Justice).

          • Herve Villechaize says:

            Scott, you have 287 RSS subscribers on NewsBlur.

          • Tangent says:

            208 subscribers on Inoreader.

      • CaptainBooshi says:

        I would imagine some of it is the effect of RSS feeds. I always click through from my RSS feed to read what you say in the comments, but most people won’t click through unless they want to comment about it or read what people are saying, so that will have a big effect on actual on-site traffic.

      • Benito says:

        My RSS didn’t alert me to this one actually. I saw one of those two people on Facebook share it.

      • Joe from London says:

        I’m on an RSS feed. I don’t always read the comments, but social justice seems likely to incur the wrath of some mutual friends, so I check out the blog proper.

      • Liskantope says:

        Maybe immediate reactions on Tumblr are a contributing factor. I can’t really judge how much of a factor it can be, because I follow relatively few people on Tumblr, but I did see one post on my dash referencing this latest SSC post. Needless to say, I’m pretty sure your SJ-related essays tend to generate a lot of immediate Tumblr reaction amongst members of the rationalist crowd. (Although I initially found this post through my habit of checking SSC every evening, rather than noticing anything on Tumblr.)

      • I use Feedly, which shows me the title and first paragraph of each post. It also has a thing where people (presumably only Feedly users) can “like” something. “Beware Summary Statistics” has ~50 likes in the past 2 months, this piece has 78 in the past 5 hours (most of your others get up to the hundreds after a day or two).

        I don’t know how many other people use Feedly (or similar) but if enough do this will have the same effect as a post being shared a lot on social media, except you may not be tracking it.

      • Desertopa says:

        While there are probably other factors involved, I think you might be underestimating the extent to which your social-justice-related posts are recognizable by title. On my end, guessing the subject of this one seemed like a simple act of pattern recognition.

      • Eli says:

        You’re on reddit now.

      • birdboy2000 says:

        I’ve seen occasional links to your blog on reddit’s kotakuinaction (and in other gamergate communities) Rarely the most upvoted post – the most recent had 15, and was on the third page despite being recently posted. Was actually how I found this blog, but I stayed for the other stuff and am by now a regular reader.

        But with a community that has 42k subscribers that’s a lot of people who might see it.

      • Izaak Weiss says:

        What if it’s merely that everyone loads the page multiple times to be kept up with the comments?

  8. Thursday says:

    I’m a traddy conservative, and the lesson I’ve taken from all this is very different: I’m perfectly fine with people enforcing social norms this way. I am certainly annoyed at SJW petty harrassment “to encourage the others”, but if this is what women, minorities, gay people have had to face, well, meh. If you really believe in what you believe in, you simply adjust to the new reality. Procedural liberalism born out of some balance of power holds little interest: it lives and dies by particular circumstances.

    • Thursday says:

      It is also important to note that SJWs have quite a bit of power in certain segments of society, but are utterly powerless in other areas. The lower down the SES spectrum you go, the less political correctness counts for. Lower class males, for example, are often still quite hostile to gays.

      • Randy M says:

        Not sure how accurate that is; for as you go down you interact with the more dangerous arms of the state more often. A lower class household where there are domestic disturbances with each party 50% to blame will feel the effects of the policies of the social services, police, courts, etc., even if they don’t chafe at the diversity initiative of the employer they don’t have.

        • Thursday says:

          The tools of the state are extremely crude. A lower class male who is being chased for child support, for example, can just drop off the grid way more easily than a middle or upper middle class person.

          Also, when the problems are often actual macroaggressions, you tend not to worry that much about microaggressions.

          • Anthony says:

            I saw someone (on the right) say that “microagression” was actually a pretty accurate term, as they’re about one-millionth as bad as a punch in the face.

            This unfortunately invites discussion of 3^^^^3 specks of dust.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        “The lower down the SES spectrum you go, the less political correctness counts for.”

        So the further up the SES spectrum you go, the more scientists and scholars are silenced by political correctness.

      • Shenpen says:

        This is the reason why I don’t understand it at all. Political leftism used to be about people on the bottom against people on the top. Sans-culottes vs. aristocrats, proletarians vs. capitalists.

        Since the arrival of feminism, LGBT rights etc. it is really difficult to make sense of, it sounds like one part of people on top against other people on the top but actually more like people on the bottom yet they are the oppressed ones or something.

        Leftism today is sometimes literally about higher class people getting oppressed by lower class people. And this when I don’t understand it. Did class just become not too important while I was not looking?

        • Matt M says:

          I would suggest most of the SJ people and groups reject SES as the way to truly measure power. Their belief is that being gay, female, etc. automatically by default makes you less powerful than a “white dude” even if you’re a Harvard professor and he’s a currently unemployed construction worker.

          • Richard Gadsden says:

            The way that they would express it is that power has multiple orthogonal dimensions and that you can be advantaged in some and disadvantaged in others simultaneously.

            I’d add that the big internal disputes in SJW are when two groups are arguing over which dimension is relevant in a particular case.

            Intersectionality (which says that these aren’t completely orthogonal, because the oppression that a black woman faces is not just the oppression that all black people face plus the oppression that all women face) makes this even more complicated. Add the usual American blindness to class (as distinct from wealth/income) and they miss a lot even in their own terms.

          • antialiasis says:

            That’s a silly strawman. I have never seen an actual social justice advocate say or imply that; on the contrary, all the social justice people I’ve read talk about how people who are advantaged in some ways (by e.g. being white and male) can also be disadvantaged in other ways (by e.g. being poor, low-class, uneducated, etc.) all the time. It’s one of the most common social justice 101 topics.

          • onyomi says:

            But in practice they never spend any time championing the cause of poor, white, heterosexual men.

          • Matt M says:

            Richard is correct and I should have clarified that.

            I suppose what I mean to say is that, from what I’ve noticed, the dimension of power is an afterthought used to justify scorched-earth tactics against whoever the target may be.

            If you’re going after Herman Cain, his race is irrelevant – he has power (and therefore deserves the worst you can do to him) because he is rich and politically well connected.

            If you’re going after that woman who made the AIDS joke on the flight to South Africa, her gender and relatively low SES is irrelevant – she has power (and therefore deserves the worst you can do to her) because she’s white.

            And so on and so forth. As long as you can be identified as having ANY sort of attribute that might suggest some power, whatever they want to do to you will be justified based on that solitary attribute, and all others will be ignored.

          • onyomi says:

            Re. Hermain Cain: by the same principle, it’s also interesting how feminists never have a good word to say about Ayn Rand or Margaret Thatcher. Makes me think that all that really matters is the “tribe,” the real makeup of which is always ideological.

          • Zorgon says:

            The woman on that flight does not have power.

            This is the problem with this kind of bullshit theory.

            She is poor and completely lacking in any kind of ability to construct or affect her situation. Everything in her life is defined for her. She doesn’t even get the right of reply when slandered across the entire damn planet.

            Her being white does not give her power. It doesn’t even function to explain her comments – they are cultural, not artefacts of her skin colour. It serves solely to make her a target.

            Every single media source which mentioned her name has more power than she does on every axis of power which actually affects people’s lives.

            This is why SJ identity politics is bullshit in a nutshell: It constructs the means by which the rich can pretend to be oppressed by the poor when the mechanics of real life make that as close to impossible as to be absurd to contemplate.

      • Cassander says:

        This is true only if you don’t look across time. the bleeding edge of SWJs don’t have power today, but they do have the power to define what will be conventional wisdom in 20-30 years. Positions that were radical in 1960 were mainstream by 1980, 1970 by 90, and so on.

    • Thursday says:

      I guess to clarify my objections to PC from a traddy conservative position:

      1. PC is exclusive and intolerant in practice, but gets a lot of its cache from its claims to be inclusive and intolerant. There is something particularly intolerable about being forced to eat shit and being told how it’s cake. Social conservatives, on the other hand, tend to be fairly up front about the fact that they are excluding people from certain things.
      2. PC has substantive views that are wrong.

      • PC is more than one thing. It is not the case that everyone to the left of traditional conservatism is SJW. A lot of people are moderates without knowing it, particularly in places that don’t have parties if the centre.

      • Matt M says:

        I agree with this 100%. Even for a non-believer, there’s an elegant simplicity to an argument that begins and ends with “homosexuality is wrong because the bible says so” that the PC side of things just can’t possibly reproduce.

        Don’t give me an hour long speech ostensibly about tolerance and brotherhood that inevitably ends with “and that’s why we should kill all the fascists.” That’s just a waste of my time.

  9. “I’m not expecting people on the social justice side to have read this far, so I’ll reserve my advice for the other side ”

    Suggest rephrasing this or removing it completely since it basically makes anyone on that end who gets that far as being essentially turned off from your post. (Also note that you have at least one somewhat counterexample here because while I don’t identify as on the “social justice side” I have much more sympathy with them than the other “side”.)

    • weareastrangemonkey says:


    • Scott Alexander says:


    • Eggo says:

      It made a good test to see if any did, though, didn’t it?

    • Richard Gadsden says:

      I do identify more on the social justice side, but I don’t have this sort of hypervigilance either way, so I suspect that I’m not typically representative.

      I suppose the point is that I have very few triggers, so I don’t get stuck in an emotional fear reaction. I suspect that a lot of SJWs would get stuck in a fear reaction after pattern-matching you to a sexist or a homophobe or whatever.

    • antialiasis says:

      For what it’s worth, I would identify as on the social justice side, and I read the entire post. I also generally enjoy this blog including the posts on social justice, and think Scott is a thoughtful, intelligent and interesting person whose thoughts are illuminating even when I disagree with them. His tendency to drop the principle of charity suddenly when discussing social justice advocates is indeed rather offputting, but I assume it comes from a place of personal frustration rather than malice, so I just sort of ignore it.

      I freely admit a lot of people in the social justice movement are extremely hostile to opposing views, so it’s probably true a lot of them wouldn’t read that far. But it seems a smidge ironic to me to make comments like “I don’t expect anyone on the social justice side will read this far”, when I don’t doubt Scott would be pretty irritated by an otherwise level-headed and reasonable pro-SJ blog peppering its posts with comments like “I don’t expect white dudes to read this far”.

  10. Ever An Anon says:

    As a psychiatrist, do you have any suggestions on what individual people can do to manage this sort of semi-irrational paranoia?

    Having had a GAD-induced breakdown with suicidal depression before this kind of free-floating anxiety sounds very familiar, even though it’s probably not as crippling for most. And obviously prescribing SJ and libertarian folks large amounts of bupropion and CBT isn’t terribly practical, if nothing else because invoking imagery of forced institutionalization is unlikely to calm anyone’s fears of persecution.

    So how about it, is there anything normal people can do to deal with subclinical anxiety?

    • Sarah says:

      I manage politics-related anxiety by:
      *reading less of the stuff I hate
      *reading more stuff I like, including material that encourages me to “stick to my guns”, “stand by my principles,” “pursue happiness”, etc
      *conventional mental health stuff (meds, meditation, correcting negative thoughts)

      • “Read less stuff you hate” is actually an important skill. We nerds/rationalists consider that it is epistemically virtuous to read things that we disagree with, and sometimes it is. But very often you’re just tormenting yourself to no good effect.

        • Jimmy Oldman says:

          Reading less stuff I agree with, too.

          I may nod in grim appreciation as RadishMag goes on about how feminists are ripping our nation apart, and how society is slowing creeping towards a grim and joyless future run by Big Red.

          And then, I, you know.

          Go outside. And I say hi to a Muslim woman walking down the street, or a black dude that lives in the apartment across from me, and it puts things in perspective very sharply.

          Stuff you like can be as bad for you as too many potato chips.

        • creative username #1138 says:

          When it comes to reading things I disagree with there is on occasion some self-deception going on. When you consciously or unconsciously pick the most extreme and shrill representation of some view you oppose (instead of something more moderate) you can both laud yourself for your open mindedness and get new reasons to hate the outgroup.

    • Lavender Bubble Tea says:

      Honestly, reading SSC has helped me manage my own political anxiety as well as shortening time on facebook. I may even be relasping as of late because of facebook. (Due to my friends who are ON MY POLITICAL SIDE) I have one friend on there who kept posting things about “It’s dangerous to have a uterus in America!” or friends who tell me about transphobic violence. These concerns are real, but at the same time I’m a gender non conforming person with a uterus who needs to be able to walk down the damn street without having a damn panic attack.

      I also used to belong to marginalized communities and they did everything they damn could to convince people they couldn’t leave. Being told or heavily implied at “You are broken in this way and you can never fit in/change” (in regards to disability) was common once one got past all of the empowerment rtherotic. Or constant hyping of how scary and terrifying other communities are, which has the lovely side effect of making people essentially oppress themselves. Reading things from my supposed “in-group” almost always seems to upset me or make me feel more oppressed than I am. Reading far right stuff is also upsetting but in a different way.

      For managing/not totally hijacking your thread. I would say, make friends in social groups you’d likely not go to if you followed the fears of your in-group to help humanize people. (Like, a knitting, derby or drum circle group to meet more left leaning people, and country music, housewife type groups, older knitting circles for more right leaning people) Limit social media. Burn your tumblr and facebook in a firey bonfire blaze (I don’t care if it’s a webpage, print out some of your posts, delete it, and then get a fire going of your former posts) Think about all the times one has been vulnerable and it turned out well. (I’ve gone to spas as an openly gender non conforming person and received very professional service. I’ve gone out in public many times as someone who appeared non passing and had good experiences. I’ve expressed that I lean libertarian and wasn’t shunned totally.) If a person has a history of trauma related to this topic, then this might not be so helpful… Depoliticalize your identity if you are leftist. The sooner a person gets out of the “My existence itself is a radical act” mindset, the better. (Sometimes this mindset is what people honestly do need to function, but other times it can easily get out of hand) Reading about solutions helps. Standard mindfulness recommendation.

      • Peter says:

        Oh yes, this. One thing that’s been very noticeable from spending 5 or so years involved in various trans* things, on and offline, is that there’s often a difference between activist and support groups, in that activist groups often tend to talk up the problems one is likely to encounter, and support groups are often likely to talk the problems down. Of course none of this is absolute (and there isn’t a 100% clean separation between activist, support and social groups/spaces etc.) but the difference in atmosphere is quite striking.

  11. Nathan says:

    I get that you’re looking for some consistent theory of meta ethics where people can disagree while talking reasonably because talking reasonably with people you disagree with is a thing you value.

    But suppose at the end of everything, the conclusion is that shaming, and microagressions, and exaggerated outrage are all legitimate and morally permissible, and the group that does it harder wins the culture they want.

    I feel like that’s a place a lot of people have reached already.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I find it hard to believe that everyone shaming and microaggressing each other is the situation that satisfies the most people’s preferences.

      If nothing else, there’s a solution where everyone retreats into their little safe spaces and never talks to each other. In that case, the engineering solution is to figure out how to maintain those barriers and allow economically productive trade.

      But a better example here is freedom of religion. Religion was the idea that held the same place three hundred years ago as these social justice ideas do now, but we were eventually able to defuse them and have religiously plural societies with most people being pretty okay. I expect we will find a way to do that here as well.

      • ejlflop says:

        I’m particularly interested in which debates were this important throughout history. Currently, it’s Social Justice; back ‘then’ it was, as you say, religion. What else was there that made everyone go absolutely loopy with outrage? Is there some overlap with the idea of mass hysteria, a la MacKay’s ‘Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds’?

        I have this sneaking suspicion that, despite my left-leaning sympathies, politics in e.g. the former USSR was basically like current SJ debates, but x1000, and the losers all got executed. But perhaps all historical regimes were like that to some extent.

        • anonymous says:

          I don’t think that social justice versus anti-sj rises seriously anywhere close to the level of social division that religious sectarianism has caused. Hell, the moldbug dustup barely registers next to extant religious strife like the conflict in Iraq, much less the apocalyptic catastrophe of the Thirty Years War.

          I’m very much in the anti-news media faction on this blog. Most of the the panic is a amplification of the current media environment and the peculiarities of academic politics. If you get rid of twitter and get a little distance away from the academy you actually have space to really think about issues above a sophomore’s level or in more depth 140 characters, or at most blog post.

          With a little perspective, you can see that the arc is bending unimaginably away from persecution. Compare moldbug to Alan Turing. Society used to be so riven with the punishing of deviation that we essentially murdered the closest thing to a modern Prometheus. And I’m supposed to get worked up about a, arguably, even more extreme deviant getting a speaking engagement canceled? If that example is too sjw for you, replace moldbug with Deirdre McCloskey. A transgender economist is a relished voice among conservative/pro-market partisans these days.

          The culture war is a massive marketing ploy perpetrated by the publishing and TV news industries.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Dr. McCloskey organized a sizable campaign to silence a professor of psychology at Northwestern U.:


          • Alraune says:

            And what if constantly throwing anyone who deviates from the correct “arc” under the bus is how you keep the arc on track?

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ anonymous

            If you get rid of twitter and get a little distance away from the academy you actually have space to really think about issues above a sophomore’s level or in more depth 140 characters, or at most blog post.

            I expect that the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook. Youtube, etc, watch very carefully whether the SJWs or any such movement is likely to grow to threaten their own incomes, and they tweak their services accordingly.

      • Nathan says:

        You’re probably right that it’s not optimal, but it most likely *is* a Nash equilibrium.

        In general I think these subcultures *are* pretty walled off from each other. These flare ups are essentially border disputes. To use gamergate as an example, there’s one culture among the mainstream media and another culture among gamers. But whose culture prevails in the *gaming media*?

        I imagine that the once you reach a point where you keep pushing on the borders and they don’t move anymore people kind of stop having those fights and everyone recognises that we can have pork chops in the butcher shop but not the synagogue and anyone picking a fight with either of those equilibriums is going to lose.

        So what I guess I’m saying is the stable-ish future scenario isn’t one where we all decide to get along despite differences, it’s one the places where certain cultures prevail become relatively unchanging.

        • Nathan says:

          To add to this, an example of what I mean. I’m a conservative Christian (I.e. anti gay marriage, anti abortion). SSC has a culture that allows me to come and say that and people won’t yell at me (unlike some places). On the other hand I also can’t come in and start acting like I own the place. I’m an immigrant- and since I understand that and that I have to respect the local customs during my stay everything is fine.

          I think the advance of SJ causes (especially gay marriage) in recent times has led to some confusion over where the new boundaries are. Feminism isn’t a new thing but perhaps they feel they can make gains where they couldn’t ten years ago, so they pick fights they wouldn’t have before.

          Maybe ten years in the future, it will actually be accepted that tech conferences belong to White men and that there is no point trying to civilise the barbarian wasteland of Christian pizzerias.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Lots of things are Nash equilibria until you’re smart enough to negotiate a change to them. Both sides nuking each other is a Nash equilibrium, but you can still decide to not do that.

          • Nathan says:

            The difference there is that we never had a situation where two groups were literally throwing nukes at each other. If we *were* in that situation I’d be equally sceptical about the prognosis for a “hey, how about we stop throwing nukes” movement.

            Of course you could counter that nuclear war is just regular war writ large and wars do end, and you would be right. But the way they end doesn’t give much cause for optimism. If you don’t get total victory for one side you get Iraq or Israel/Palestine or North/South Korea.

            You don’t need intelligence to break out of a Nash equilibrium, you need trust. If you can find a way to build that between hostile groups, you’re a far better man than me.

          • Sylocat says:

            Methinks you’re taking the “nuke” analogy to the point where it loses its usefulness as a reflector of actual events in the current conflicts.

          • Tracy W says:

            On the other hand, you get Canada/USA, or France/Britain or Ireland/Britain or USA/Japan or Germany/everyone. Those strike me as reasonably optimistic endings.

          • Nornagest says:

            …I’ve got to stop reading Tumblr. My first impulse was to interpret that as a shipping chart.

          • Nornagest says:

            I haven’t seen it, but I am aware of it.

            There’s apparently some sort of fandom phenomenon floating around now that’s about cute anime girls personifying ships (har) of the IJN during WWII, too.

      • Tom Hunt says:

        The neoreactionary argument would probably be that SJW-ism is just the modern evolution of religion, in the old, provokes-bloody-civil-wars sense, and what we today call “religion” is a toothless remnant. Or: the reason we now don’t have religious conflict on the same level as historically (in sheltered, first-world areas, in the Christian world; the same divisions are still very much active elsewhere) is that that vitriol, and those power struggles, have now been invested in social justice/culture war disputes, which are essentially the same conflict under a different name. If the SJWs ever calmed down, you’d just see the same energy inhabit some other issue and start causing strife.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I have 100% come around to the position that SJW is a modern incarnation of religion, not in the sense that it draws on any religious memes in particular, but in the sense that religion is what you call it when people build their identity/ingroup around an idea rather than ethnicity or something, and social justice does that more than anything else I know and ends up with all the same pathologies religion did for the exact same reason.

          I’m not specifically picking on social justice here – the most organized anti-social-justice (RedPill and Gamergate) do something similar. So does LW rationality.

          Expect a post on this eventually, though it may be obvious to most people.

          • Cauê says:

            To me the most important parallel is the “moral weight to factual beliefs” thing.

            Curious what you’re going to do with gamergate in this future post. I’m not quite seeing the idea their identity is built around.

          • JB says:

            Didn’t you already write a post on this? I don’t have the link at hand but I definitely recall reading an exposition by you that almost any group can be characterised as a religion in detail.

          • NN says:

            I went to an art college and was required to take several art history classes, which for obvious reasons mostly consisted of religious, especially Christian, and most especially Catholic artwork. So I think I’m qualified to say that there are uncanny resemblances between the various pieces of Vivian James artwork produced by GamerGaters and the uncountable Virgin Mary paintings commissioned by the Catholic Church. Mary was (and still frequently is) basically a mascot for “Mother Church,” so the parallels are obvious.

            As to the question of what, specifically, GamerGate’s identity is built around, I think this speech written by a GGer and spoken by professional meseman Tyrone does a good job of summing it up. Especially the part at the end, “We are not divided by the identities we did not choose. Instead we are united by the one identity that we did choose.”

          • Daniel says:

            I didn’t know enough about religion to have this occur to me, so I’d enjoy this hypothetical post.

        • That actually is the neoreactionary argument; Moldbug claims that modern progressivism is the descendant of radical Protestantism.

          • I think there are two versions of this claim floating about. One holds that identity-based-on-ideology is something that keeps getting reinvented in varying forms, the other, the NRx claim, is that .SJ is a descendant of Protestantism, and wouldn’t exist if Protestantism hadn’t.

      • Schmendrick says:

        “If nothing else, there’s a solution where everyone retreats into their little safe spaces and never talks to each other. In that case, the engineering solution is to figure out how to maintain those barriers and allow economically productive trade.”

        Scott, I love your blog unironically, and many of your posts have touched me deeply on both personal and intellectual levels. But you just made the happiest-possible case for segregation, and the problem with segregation is that “economically productive trade” just doesn’t happen. When you have two warring tribes that each view each other as not-quite-human (“sperglords” “darkies” “crackers” “Christ-killers” “omega cucks”) trade becomes the equivalent of treason. You’re just locking in place whatever status quo happens to obtain at the moment.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          There’s a difference between segregation (which is legally enforced) and voluntary self-sorting – for example, in the latter, different kinds of who want to live with one another can, and no doubt will.

          I would prefer the analogy of different US states – Massachussetts implements different policies from Alabama, and this is probably a good thing – citizens of either state would be upset with the other state’s policies.

          Or the example of Slate Star Codex versus 4Chan. Both groups have different discussion norms, and both would be upset if they had to follow those of the other group.

          • Schmendrick says:

            First: OMG SENPAI NOTICED ME!!!!11!! *swoon*

            Second: The thing is that law is almost always a trailing indicator of social demands. Legal segregation wouldn’t have had a snowball’s chance in hell if there wasn’t quite a lot of self-sorting going on in at least one of the camps. Yes, legal segregation does lend quite a lot of backup to norms that otherwise only bear social costs, but we’re witnessing right now how much coercive force “social costs” can bring to bear, and it’s not inconsequential.

        • Brandon Berg says:

          We trade with China, and there’s not a lot of love there.

        • haishan says:

          The United States is deeply racially and economically segregated, even today. (Largely for the very good reason that most people want to be around people like them.) And yet there’s productive trade between races and classes.

        • Tracy W says:

          But trade brings money, which is a big incentive to trade. White families in South Africa and the Southern USA hired black maids. Jews, Protestants and Catholics dealt on the Royal Exchange. French smugglers breached the Napoleonic blockade.

      • Psmith says:

        “If nothing else, there’s a solution where everyone retreats into their little safe spaces and never talks to each other. ”
        Bryan Caplan’s “bubble” seems relevant here: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/03/my_beautiful_bu.html

      • Bugmaster says:

        I find it hard to believe that everyone shaming and microaggressing each other is the situation that satisfies the most people’s preferences.

        I used to believe that a better world was possible, but your writing has come very close to convincing me that it is not. Sure, I would like to live in a society where people saw each other as human beings, and not as tokens in a cosmic chess game, or as monsters to be vanquished. I would also like to live in a world where doxxing, public shaming, and censorship were seen as barbaric, regardless of who is wielding such tools and for what purpose.

        But, at this point, I don’t see any way of implementing such a world (at least, not until the Singularity hits). I think you’re right, and the best we can hope for is a sort of cold war, where the specter of mutually assured destruction looms large, and people from different socio-political groups only interact with each other via a few heavily scripted official state visits every year.

        • nydwracu says:

          There’s a known way of implementing it: http://arxiv.org/abs/1110.1409

          The problem is that America is a large, centralized empire containing multiple different phyles that have never liked each other very much. Welcome to post-Tito Yugoslavia. Welcome to the Middle East.

      • vV_Vv says:

        But a better example here is freedom of religion. Religion was the idea that held the same place three hundred years ago as these social justice ideas do now, but we were eventually able to defuse them and have religiously plural societies with most people being pretty okay.

        Up until some religious person says they don’t support gay marriage. Then they may lose their job.

      • Surlie says:

        The difference is that religious schisms are more arbitrary than political schisms. For example, religious groups at odds with each other often share remarkably similar views of morality and only differ on issues that are of little consequence to the way societies are run (i.e., “Is our place in Heaven predetermined, or must we work for it?”).

        Not so with political schisms. When the battle is over something as concrete as the rules governing society, coexistence is impossible. Communism and fascism and pro-slavery haven’t learned to coexist with their rivals—the only way for societies to hold together has been their utter eradication.

      • Tibor says:

        I am not so sure. There is a neat solution for religion – “I do my thing, you do yours”. As long as the core part of your religion does not involve persecuting or killing non-believers, you are going to be fine (and this is also one reason why the religion issues have not been settled with radical islam). Now, mostly the religions did involve that bit, but it gradually shifted from being the central point, to something less important, to mostly drifting away.

        But what is left of “social justice” if you go with the “live and let live” line? Nothing really. It seems to me that the SJWs don’t want to practice their “philosophical freedom” of how to live their lives, they want to make the society adjust to their norms.

        I think you can get this resolved only if people abandon the SJW ideas (and the anti-SJW ideas of the sort “the state should persecute gays”…but those are nearly extinct today anyway) ideas entirely for the libertarian “live and let live” ideal. I do not like radical atheists who would like to get rid of religion entirely, because first I see some positives aspects of religion even if (as I believe) it turns out to be mostly-to-entirely bogus and second I believe that it can in some form (although not all forms) peacefully coexist with a free secular society. However I cannot see SJW to be compatible and hopefully it will eventually reach the same obscurity as the ideas like “homosexuality has to be cured”.

      • Kevin C. says:

        “But a better example here is freedom of religion. Religion was the idea that held the same place three hundred years ago as these social justice ideas do now, but we were eventually able to defuse them and have religiously plural societies with most people being pretty okay. I expect we will find a way to do that here as well.”

        This only really works if you accept the broad American view (derived from Protestantism) that religion is primarily defined by theological beliefs. However, if you accept the broader view of religious scholars like Stephen Prothero that allows for the recognition of nontheistic religions as religions, then the view changes. As you note, the SJ ideology holds the same place as (theistic) religion did three hundred years ago; that’s because it’s a nontheistic religion, and the conflicts weren’t “defused”, merely shifted out of the domain of theology and into our modern conflicts. We have theologically plural societies (as nontheistic religions allow of their members), but that we have truly religiously plural societies, rather than societies where the Official Religion tolerates Dissenters while barring them from any position of power or influence, I dispute. Accession to major powerful institutions of our society require at least some degree of assent to core dogmas of the religion, and that blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy against these sacred values are still punishable (albeit with more mild punishments than those of past eras, but in what area have punishments not become less severe compared to several centuries ago?); see also this Quora answer on why Alex Miller did the right thing disinviting Moldbug.

        Recall, as Jaskologist notes below, that in the early days of the United States, the first amendment religious clauses only applied to the Federal governments; the states had their own established churches (the Quakers had Pennsylvania, and so on) in a democratic version of cuius regio eius religio. Only later did in spread to the lower levels. And what happened then, was that via the “religion=theological orthodoxy” view, a nontheistic religion was thus able to pass itself off as therefore not a religion, and thus sieze the institutions. Ultimately, every society has an “official religion” to whose doctrine one must assent to belong to the elite and be allowed near the levers of power; the only difference is that some official religions openly admit that they’re official, and others do not. “Freedom of religion” is thus a phantasm, that does not exist, and cannot exist; it has “succeeded” only by causing the official religion to: (a) deny that it is official, and (b) by being nontheistic, deny that it is a religion. Ultimately, the religious conflicts of past centuries didn’t go away, they just changed into a different form so as to pretend that they went away. In the end, cuius regio eius religio, with a frontier for dissenters to emigrate to, is the best humanity has ever done, and almost certainly the best it can ever do.

        In addition, as someone in the links thread noted about Baltimore, when official law enforcement fails to sufficiently punish fundamental crimes like murder and theft, the people form gangs and mafias to do it themselves. And, of course, mob “justice” is notoriously imprecise, excessive in punishment, and insufficiently protective of the rights of the accused. I would argue that the crime of speaking against the sacred values of the official religion is also such a crime; if the state will not punish Moldbug for his apostasy “hate speech”, the SJW Twitter mob will do it instead.

  12. Cauê says:

    Scott, my position is very similar to yours, and I’ve also been living a similar fight between Outside View and Lizard Brain. I think everything here is basically right.

    Once similar perceptions are in place, sure, the social dynamics develop similarly. But that’s only part of it.

    It doesn’t touch what I find most important (and I think you do as well), which is disagreements on factual matters and different attitudes toward epistemology and truth. I get that the post is large enough already without being about everything, but this shows up in the examples in what I see as a break of the symmetry: one side is saying “no, you’re wrong about our attitudes and intentions, we’re not actually out to get you”, which is disputing facts, and the other is saying “yes, we are out to get you, but that’s entirely justified”, which, facts assumed, disputes morals.

    (what gets under my skin is when beliefs about facts are assigned moral value, which is what I think is driving the whole discussion down the drain).

  13. Dude Man says:

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

    Is this a tacit admission that what you said about feminists in Untitled mirrors what Gallo said about the Sad Puppies crowd?

    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”.

    Does the same point apply if you aren’t using a secret language, but are still hurling insults. For example, does the below sentence meet the threshold for “Planck hostility”?

    I’m not expecting people on the social justice side to have read this far, so I’ll reserve my advice for the other side

    • Sylocat says:

      In the comments of a post where Scott openly says he’s attempting to work on his own double standards, it seems a little redundant to point them out.

    • David Moss says:

      What precisely in Untitled did you think was simply inaccurate as a description of particular individuals based on making stuff up, in the same way that Gallo’s comments were?

      I’m deeply interested in hearing an answer to this, because I commonly see people refer to the “vitriol” or “extremism” of Scott’s writings about feminism and yet *never* see any reference to actual substantive points of disagreement, let alone reasons for disagreement with Scott’s substantive points.

      • Dude Man says:

        At the risk of making myself look like an ass:

        Generally, Scott is very charitable to people he disagrees with and is even-handed in most of his writings. This is especially notable because bloggers tend to be less charitable and even-handed than most people. Having said that, my comment was saying that it is hypocritical to criticize Gallo for calling the Sad Puppy crowd neo-nazis when he compared feminist internet memes with neo-nazi propaganda in Untitled. I feel that the neo-nazi comparison in Untitled was bad because it made an unfair comparison between neo-nazis and the tumblr feminist crowd and drawing a comparison between internet memes and neo-nazi propaganda implies that the author isn’t that fond of the people he’s criticizing. Now, there are problems with what I said, beyond what Sylocat pointed out. First, being a hypocrite doesn’t mean you are wrong. What Gallo said was out of line. Second, no one is perfect and expecting people to never say anything rude or mean is a ridiculous standard that can never be met. This is especially important since Scott has admitted that he wrote that piece because he was so angry at the reaction to Scott Aaronson’s original post. Sometimes people just say things they don’t mean.

        FWIW, I don’t think Scott is an extremist. Hell, I’m not even sure he’s anti-feminist. I just think he is a moderate who strongly dislikes the tactics that tumblr feminism uses. It’s just that, in one post that distaste got the better of him.

        • David Moss says:

          OK thanks for offering an explanation.

          “my comment was saying that it is hypocritical to criticize Gallo for calling the Sad Puppy crowd neo-nazis when he compared feminist internet memes with neo-nazi propaganda in Untitled.”

          These two cases seem very disanalogous.

          Gallo unambiguously said:
          “There are two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies respectively” [claim: the two groups *are* extreme right-wingers and neo-nazis respectively]

          I don’t know what cognitive content/truth-claim should be atttributed to Scott’s juxtaposition of the ‘fat, ugly, beardy, disgusting jews/nerd’ cartoons, (if any, I would guess: the anti-nerd cartoons are also centrally based on simply depicting an outgroup as fat, ugly, disgusting- and that this is potentially problematic) but it clearly isn’t saying “Feminists are neo-nazis.”

  14. Jeb Kinnison says:

    Great essay, and I’ve passed it along for the edification of everyone involved.

    One additional aspect is the targeting of one or two symbolic outliers who are most easily demonized, followed by demands that the “reasonable people” of the other side condemn them and cut off all ties. Irene Gallo was defended by many because they believe a single person — Vox Day, leader of one Puppy faction — is a neo-nazi, or just as awful. This is based on what others have told them, bolstered by cherry-picked quotes. So “she’s absolutely right, how could anyone disagree?” was a standard response from those inside the bubble.

    • TheNybbler says:

      Calling Vox Day a neo-Nazi is excusable; he likes to make himself out as more horrible than he is (he calls it laying rhetorical traps, which in this case is just a fancy name for trolling), and he’s horrible enough. If you try to get people to believe you’re a neo-Nazi, don’t be so surprised it sticks. But it wasn’t just Day; witness that above we have Daniel Keys supporting the claims of Brad Torgersen’s racism. Plenty of those opposed to the Puppies (including Moshe Fedor) have registered their support for Gallo’s statement in all its overbroad (at best) glory.

      Further, I saw on one comment section someone suggesting part of the reason for the Sad Puppies was the Portuguese temperament of some of the leaders. A remark that I am sure would not be accepted coming from the Sad Puppy side; can you imagine the outcry if the Sad Puppies made an issue of the Neilsen-Hayden’s ethnicities?

      I don’t think there’s as much similarity between the Social Justice side and the anti-Social Justice side as this post tries to make out. Yes, both claim there’s oppression going on. But the Social Justice side claims it’s oppression by essentially all white males taking routine actions in their everyday lives (they call them microaggressions; I like a term I’ve seen: homeopathic oppression), while the other claims it’s targeted action against dissenters which are rather easy to point to and which the Social Justice side is typically proud of.

      While the term “cultural Marxist” is popular among one group among the anti-Social Justice crowd, a “cultural Marxist” is not a communist. Further, a lot of anti-Social Justice groups compare their opponent to fascists and neo-Nazis (e.g. see reddit’s “StormfrontOrSJW”). Or even to radical religious conservatives. So that’s another symmetry breaker.

      One parallel which does hold is that some of the tactics are the same. But that’s just a common source, Saul Alinsky. The anti-SJ group from the left is already familiar with them, and the right borrows them because they work.

    • Faradn says:

      You’re right about Vox just being one person. However he really is that awful. I used to subject myself to his blog on a regular basis–and I’ve seen these recent “cherry-picked” quotes in context. The context doesn’t help.

  15. ddreytes says:

    I’m not expecting people on the social justice side to have read this far, so I’ll reserve my advice for the other side – I think 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.

    As someone on the social justice side who did read this far, I think it’s a very reasonable suggestion, and I think it would be for the best if everyone tried to adopt it. My side, and your side, and all the other sides.

    I mean, just as a general rule, I believe one should try to act as though those who disagree with you are sincere in their opinions, as long as it’s even theoretically possible that some person could sincerely hold those opinions. Because I think most people really are sincere, on some level or other. It’s also important – and I think your piece does a good job of pointing this out – to keep in mind how deeply entwined personal attributes and social upbringing and things like that are with political outlook. It often gives me pause to consider that, although of course I would like to think that I have very good reasons for my beliefs, those beliefs are also broadly shared by most of my friends, acquaintances, relations, etc. And given that, I think it can be legitimately difficult for people to escape this kind of fear and these kinds of conclusions – it’s something that I actively try to do and it’s still difficult, and requires living with a lot more uncertainty than just trying to treat people as enemies.

    And I know that reading this blog and comments (among other things) has made me a lot less likely to ascribe malice to right-wing policies, and gotten me into a lot of arguments in left spaces about whether or not it’s right to preemptively assume malice, or to ban conservative speakers, or what have you.

    So, I guess what I’m saying is, good stuff.

    (apologies for any weird phrasing or incomprehensible arguments; running on very little sleep)

  16. Nesh Selg says:

    The problem is that people keep trying to have a civilized debate and ideological warfare at the same time. People want to equate their causes and values with those generally shared by the rest of society rather then form useful categories. I’m in favor of getting rid of more words/definitions that try to sneak in assumptions of moral value. One set in particular I think is over laden is “oppressed”, marginalized, ect. To is illustrate think of the question “Are pedophiles an oppressed group?” As I like to say most of “morality” is just tricks with words and categorization to make people do what you want.

  17. onyomi says:

    I do find it very instructive to think about what people (myself included) would do, if they could do so anonymously, safely, and without getting their hands dirty, as mentioned in a recent thread about Death Note (Ring of Gyges for weeaboos). It gets pretty scary, pretty fast, which is why I like the Libertarian slogan: “libertarianism: plotting to take over the world and leave you alone” (though that could be very threatening to some, I admit).

    Also, I love the point near the end about being willing to listen to an individual friend’s request when the same opinion coming from Gawker would just piss you off. This is exactly how I react to almost all of SJ. Reading one honest story from a transgender person telling what it’s like to be transgender in a way which does not imply #diecisscum is better than a million articles aimed at shaming me into having the orthodox position (it’s even better to actually know the person irl, of course). Having one good friend of another race who tells you about some of the struggles he/she has dealt with does more to eliminate racism than all the tracts about “historical, structural oppression” in the world.

    This is why I really liked an article I read a while back to the effect of “want to help eliminate poverty? Make friends with a poor person.”

    • Murphy says:

      “libertarianism: plotting to take over the world and leave you alone”

      If you’ve ever read anything by Vernor Vinge, his “The Ungoverned” is popular with libertarians but he also wrote a rather good story “Conquest by Default” which takes the opposite view and plays with the idea of what might happen if a rigorously anarchist/libertarian society encountered a less powerful, less technologically capable society and was able to impose it’s own beliefs about monopolies.

      After all, not running a monopoly yourself doesn’t work very well if your neighbours are allowed to form a monolithic organisation capable of becoming the de-facto government and potentially taking away your libertarian lifestyle in the future.

      Maintaining or creating a situation where nobody else can have too large a power base that they might use against you itself requires forcing others to live like you want to: without those monolithic organisations.

    • Tarrou says:

      One of the greatest things CS Lewis ever said was to the effect that the goal of satan (or Cthulu, if you wish) was to keep people’s altruism focused on the far target and their hatred, rudeness and meanness focused on the near target. Allow people to think highly of people they will never meet, so long as they are assholes to the people they do. The internet encourages this, but I like to think real life is better.

      I once met someone I had previously had a raging Facebook debate with that ended with her calling me a Nazi and blocking me. She was perfectly nice at a party however! And quite discomfited to find out who I was, and apologetic. A lot of this fight is people with no skin in the game piling on. Real face to face consequences help.

      • onyomi says:

        A student at my university who I am pretty sure had no idea I was a professor at said university, recently called me a “fucking idiot” in a thread on a libertarian facebook group I was a part of. And he was also a libertarian! I left the group.

      • Lewis may have been inspired by GKC:

        …where we learned with little labor
        The way to love your fellow man and hate your next door neighbor

  18. Besserwisser says:

    I think about irrational fears quite a lot, whether I consider them irrational when I think about them or not. It’s generally a good idea to consider threats to yourself as small or you go crazy, a conclusion you yourself seemed to have come to. Personally, I often don’t think of issues I’m arguing about affecting me at all, even though being male should be risk factor concerning one of my biggest talking points online.

    One should consider that we’re kind of in an equilibrium between different states and we should be careful to not fall into extremes which can result in unexpected and unwelcome changes. For instance, I often lament the lack of real political support for men’s issues but one worry I have aren’t the leftists or moderates basically all agreeing to some extent, it’s the extreme right-wingers gathering support by proposing an alternative.

  19. Benito says:

    And this is what it feels like to begin to criticise your in-group.

  20. Stella says:

    “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.”

    I realized a few years back that I don’t primarily identify as a woman–not in a gender identity sense, but in an identity-politics sense. So for example, when I hear that scientist saying he doesn’t like women in his lab because they cry (to paraphrase) I can perfectly and totally understand why someone might be offended by that, but I am not offended *at all* even though I’m a woman getting a PhD in a scientific field. Indeed, I feel he should keep running his lab, which thing he has proven good at.

    I used to feel differently about this. I remember when I was a girl I *loved* reading novels where the protagonist is persecuted for being a girl–not allowed to be a knight or a mage or a writer or what-have-you–because it gave me a little thrill of righteous outrage. As I got older, though, something flipped and now girl-not-allowed-to-be-whatever storylines are more likely to annoy me than anything.

    I honestly wonder what changed there. Is it that I grew to identify with libertarian-conservative types, nerds, etc. and those groups have pushed out the “woman” group in my self-identification? Or is it that I grew to disagree with much of modern feminism (that started earlier as well, when I found a book titled something like “A Teen Girl’s Introduction to Feminism” in my high school library and found I disagreed with most of it) and so ended up rejecting “woman” as my political identity in reaction?

    • Randy M says:

      ” As I got older, though, something flipped and now girl-not-allowed-to-be-whatever storylines are more likely to annoy me than anything.”

      Was this marriage or children, by any chance?

      • Cauê says:

        I think it’s likely to be a more general phenomenon. I know I’ve developed a dislike for narrative devices that try to get emotional reactions by pushing the easiest, obvious buttons.

      • Stella says:

        No, I’m still single. But I can imagine that might be it for a lot of people given that married women with children tend to have politics more like men.

    • Murphy says:

      It might also be the preaching to the choir thing.

      I’m an atheist, I don’t feel strongly about it but I’m familiar with the philosophical arguments. When I was a young teen I liked books that made fun of creationists etc but at some point it flipped. I got tired of the same old arguments, especially the ones I knew to be especially weak and take more joy from seeing a really novel and interesting theist argument than another atheist one.

      I find the people being dicks to creationists more annoying than creationists being dicks to atheists by a wide margin.

      I’m still just as atheist as before but the things I liked before are just another pep rally now.

      The only Pratchett book I was never able to finish was The Science of Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch because it just kept beating a dead horse and preaching to not just the choir but also the other priests and the bishops.

      I think mainly I’ve got sick of people doing the long winded equivalents of posts saying “I know I’m going to get down-voted to hell for this but [insert really common and popular opinion]”

      • Linch says:

        Zach Weiner reference at the end?

      • fubarobfusco says:

        The thing that ultimately turned me off of spending time and energy on anti-creationism was that I realized that it was making me unhappy to no good end. If I wanted to effectively advocate against creationism, I’d send some money to the AAAS, and maybe have some copies of Mark Isaak’s Counter-Creationism Handbook delivered to some needy schools. But it’s of no use to anyone for me to personally get agitated about the issue.

        That said, the existence of the antivax movement outrages me; and I am often tempted to print out some puke-green stickers saying “THIS IS NOT MEDICINE” and go through a drugstore tagging every box of oscillococcinum and so on. So I do not see much point in pretending to be better than anyone who is outraged by creationism.

      • Lesser Bull says:

        I think people like us have a strong insight-porn module, so we get easily turned off cliched arguments that we’ve been exposed to before.

    • Protagoras says:

      People have different aspects of their identity that are important to them. I identify as an intellectual more strongly than I identify as pretty much anything else, and so predictably I am much more easily offended by slights at intellectuals than at slights at whites, or men, or any other group I’m part of (though since I like to think of myself as thick-skinned, I try to appear equally unoffended in all cases, with varying success). Which includes liberals, I suppose, which may be why I’m less bothered by Scott’s anti-SJ posts than some people who are otherwise similar to me in the leftishness of their views.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think being libertarian-minded makes you care less about this kind of thing. On an abstract level, I understand why people freak out over these issues but I can’t even pretend to care. All I hear is “Oh no, not everyone has the same opinions as me” which isn’t fair but that’s how I feel.

    • Sarah says:

      Definitely share that experience.

      I’m comfortable identifying as female (as opposed to trans); but if “femininity” is framed as “the opposite of masculinity” I don’t like it much. I’ve been in majority-male environments all my life, so when someone says “guys are awful, they *play video games* and *have arguments*” I do not empathize.

    • Hyzenthlay says:

      @ Stella:

      This post describes me pretty well too. And I am childfree and unmarried, it’s just kind of something that happened to me as I got older. I no longer get a high out of that particular brand of righteous outrage the way I used to. In fact, it really annoys me when I feel like someone is trying to push those buttons.

    • Eggo says:

      To me, it just sounds like you developed into a mature person whose self-esteem isn’t based on obsessing a single deeply-felt identity, because you’ve got much more important things in your life.

      There’s probably a reason most of the worst warriors in the Identity Wars are young, rootless, socially atomized, and obsessed with being “special” simply because of what they are, not what they accomplish.

    • A question that I’d love to hear an answer to, if you don’t mind: are you happier now than you were then? By this I actually mean two questions: are you happier in general now? are you happier specifically with respect to the parts of your identity you mentioned?

    • Harald K says:

      I realized a few years back that I don’t primarily identify as a woman–not in a gender identity sense, but in an identity-politics sense. So for example, when I hear that scientist saying he doesn’t like women in his lab because they cry (to paraphrase) I can perfectly and totally understand why someone might be offended by that, but I am not offended *at all* even though I’m a woman getting a PhD in a scientific field.

      That’s the attitude most men have to their gender, too: Most men aren’t particularly bothered by “men are scum”, “teach men not to rape”, “kill all men” etc. because they do not identify with men as a group. This has both positive and negative sides, I think.

    • Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous says:

      I used to feel differently about this. I remember when I was a girl I *loved* reading novels where the protagonist is persecuted for being a girl–not allowed to be a knight or a mage or a writer or what-have-you–because it gave me a little thrill of righteous outrage. As I got older, though, something flipped and now girl-not-allowed-to-be-whatever storylines are more likely to annoy me than anything.

      I would suggest that it is because when you grew up you realized that the narrative isn’t meaningful. You can do whatever you want and nobody cares that your a woman.

      … I was going to expound on the matter, but I really need to go to bed.

    • Deiseach says:

      That’s interesting to me, because that particular scientist was somebody with a lot of clout so if he decided he preferred men-only labs, or preferentially helped his male students over his female students, there would have been a lot of inertia about making waves (what university wants to get rid of its Nobel Prize winner unless it’s absolutely forced to do so?)

      I don’t think he should necessarily have had to resign, but Stella, what I’m curious about here is that here is someone in a position of authority who – if he were in a supervisory position over you – has both got the power to retard or adversely affect your career, and has voiced an opinion demonstrating that at the least, he thinks women in the lab are more trouble than they’re worth.

      Do you not feel some level of concern about “Who else is a respected person in authority who shares these views about my abilities?” or do you feel that your work is good enough on its own?

      I’m not asking “Do you feel personally threatened?” but rather “Do you not think such an attitude is capable of producing real harm where the person holding it can act in ways to help or hinder?”

      Ordinarily I tend to roll my eyes at the “This makes me feel uncomfortable” level of protest, but I can imagine women students and those working in his labs feeling uncomfortable, feeling unfairly treated and not feeling they had much power against him if he demonstrated such attitudes.

      Then again, I suppose it depends if it can be shown he did or didn’t discriminate against his female students/lab staff. Actually, it’s something along the lines of Brendan Eich, now I come to think of it: does holding such beliefs, if you do nothing to act unfairly, on its own warrant dismissal or forced resignation?

      • AlphaGamma says:

        The significant piece of information which is often not mentioned in discussions of Tim Hunt is that he is married to one of the UK’s most eminent immunologists- and it looks like they did meet in a lab.

    • Tracy W says:

      Did you possibly just get bored?

  21. CaptainBooshi says:

    As someone who is definitely on the side of social justice, and has not had a problem arguing with you about it before, I do want to say that I personally feel you are treating social justice in these posts much more fairly in the past half-year. I actually saw that comment on the links post the other day and thought that it was really unfair. I didn’t say anything because I figured you’d have enough defenders and I don’t really like taking part in your comment threads, but I agreed with you that the other person was being ridiculous. I don’t think they meant anything threatening, but they were definitely wrong.

    Before this, your posts on this subject almost always made me really angry, because I felt like they started from the assumption that social justice activists just wanted to hurt people, and because it seemed like you had no problem using the exact same tactics you were denigrating the other side for using, often in the exact same post. At one point, even though I found a lot of enjoyment in your other posts, I was thinking about leaving just for my own mental health, because your posts made me angry and I would dwell on them for days afterwards. This has changed, and I wanted to let you know that this social justice person (I’m not comfortable calling myself an activist because I don’t do more than argue in comment threads about it once every couple of months) has noticed it, and felt quite grateful.

    You’re still not perfect, though 🙂 Why doubt that social justice advocates would make it through the whole article? It’s not any less likely than a conservative would make it through some article disagreeing with them. Both sides will have people willing to read stuff they might not agree with.

    EDIT: I just noticed that the post on the website doesn’t have the comment about social justice people not reading to the end. That must be only in the original post in my RSS feed. I don’t feel comfortable about using the edit button to get rid of something people might have already read, so I’ll just add this note in case anyone is wondering what I was talking about. A great example of what I was talking about with Scott being fairer to social justice folks, though, noticing that and getting rid of it early on!

    • Randy M says:

      It’s kind of funny, in that the person who made the comment comparing SSC and Xenosystems has been commenting from the start, I think.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thank you.

      “You’re still not perfect, though 🙂 Why doubt that social justice advocates would make it through the whole article? It’s not any less likely than a conservative would make it through some article disagreeing with them. Both sides will have people willing to read stuff they might not agree with.”

      I imagine them getting a quarter of the way through before summing it up as “White guy thinks he is the REAL oppressed group, compares black people getting murdered to him being called on his bigotry” and leaving in disgust. But as Josh mentioned above, not productive to mention this, so I took it out.

      I think it is less that I have become a better person, and more that a whole lot of other people seem to have caught up with where I was five years ago so I no longer feel like a desperate voice crying in the wilderness who needs to warn everybody. I am a big fan of Mencken’s quote that “it’s not worth an intelligent person’s time to be in the majority because by definition there are already enough people doing that”, and although intelligent anti-SJ is not quite the majority it is definitely less of a minority these days. I am hoping it will one day settle down to the point where everyone else is so on top of it that I can ignore it completely like other things I have strong opinions on (eg pro-gay marriage).

      • Alejandro says:

        Is it really that “a whole lot of other people seem to have caught up with where I was five years ago so I no longer feel like a desperate voice crying in the wilderness”? Conservatives have been ranting about the excesses of political correctness since 20 or 30 years ago.

        A more plausible explanation is that the shift you describe happened among the people that you read, are read by, comment on your posts, and generally represent what you see as your community. Partly because your posts have persuaded some, no doubt, but also, perhaps to a larger degree, because of a demographic shift in which people read you and comment. You used to be immersed in a Blue culture and wrote Grayish attacks on it; now the culture you are immersed in has become more Gray/Redish, so your natural metacontrarianism (as described in your old LW article on it, and on “Right is the New Left” here) starts swinging the other way.

    • onyomi says:

      “Why doubt that social justice advocates would make it through the whole article?”

      It is really hard to carefully and thoroughly read a long-ish argument the conclusions of which you expect to disagree with. At least, for me it is.

      • AJD says:

        Expect to disagree with? I expected his conclusion would be that he should be more charitable to social justice activists, which I agree with; and in fact it was.

    • Gbdub says:

      Could I ask, why did you feel Scott was “perfectly ok using the same tactics”? I mean, yes, he is admitting here to a certain inconsistency, he never resorted to doxxing, name-calling, etc. He did some pointed fisking, and probably some overbroad generalizing, and I can see why that might sting. But he never asserted “you’re a terrible horrible human just for believing in Social Justice!” Whereas in SJ circles I definitely feel my white maleness is itself consider sufficient evidence of horribleness.

      Maybe you didn’t participate in those types of SJ forums. But honestly despite usually agreeing with Scott I wouldn’t be here if he engaged in that sort of behavior. Despite being fairly rightist, I’m no Limbaugh or O’Reilly fan, for example.

      Anyway I don’t want to defend Scott overly much here, I just am honestly curious why Scott came off as so hostile to you, when to me he seemed pretty honest and measured, and when he was raw he pointed to specific examples of what was making him raw.

      • antialiasis says:

        I’m curious: where have you actually seen social justice advocates stating that being a white man makes you a horrible person? I see a lot of social justice advocates making off-hand generalizing comments like “What white dudes don’t get is that…” or “White dudes think that…”, to be sure, but that is always said with the tacit understanding that there are lots of white dudes who do pretty much get it and don’t think that, but they’re not talking about them. Scott makes lots of off-hand generalizations about social justice advocates that I assume are intended the same way: it’s not a literal “ALL OF THEM”, and everybody reading these sorts of comments with a modest degree of charity should be able to understand that. You can certainly argue it’s hostile and insulting and offputting, but you seem to be explicitly insisting they think you personally are horrible simply because you are white and male, and I’ve spent a lot of time in SJ spaces and have never, ever actually seen that happen. (The closest I’ve seen is people mocking somebody’s white male status after concluding he’s horrible, but it’s always pretty clear, at least to me, that they think he’s horrible because he said something they think is racist or sexist or whatever, and from there start reproachfully talking about what a white man he is.)

        • onyomi says:

          In my experience, it’s uncommon for people to explicitly say “all white men suck” (though “white men are responsible for all the evil in history” is significantly more common).

          What I do experience, as a white man, is a vague sense on the part of SJers that I should feel constantly apologetic and doubtful of the validity of my experience because, by virtue of being a white man, I grew up in some sort of privilege bubble which has warped my thinking.

          It’s not “the only good white man is a dead white man,” it’s “the only good white man is a white man whose self esteem has been crushed, and who therefore defers to women and minorities in any marginal case.”

          • Matt M says:

            I’ve never been told by an SJW that I should be killed because I’m white, but I HAVE been told, multiple times, as a matter of course, that my being white means I am not entitled to speak or have an opinion on matters relating to race.

            It’s not a *short* jump from “you aren’t allowed to have an opinion on race” to “you aren’t allowed to have an opinion on whether or not we execute you,” but it’s shorter now than it was back when we believed that everyone is entitled to have an opinion on everything.

        • TheNybbler says:

          I’ve had a social justice advocate tell me I’m harmful because I’m a white male.

        • gbdub says:

          It’s partially the “white dudes” stuff, the #YesAllMen stuff (“ALL men are responsible for rape culture”), general “you’re speaking from privilege” if I disagree at all, as if my point isn’t even worth engaging because of what I am.

          A lot of it is “safe spaces”. The idea that you need a space to be safe from me, because of my gender and skin color – how else am I supposed to take that? If there’s a more explicit way to say “who you are is more important than what you say, and you can never be anything but the out-group” I’m not sure what it is.

          [EDIT] I don’t think you really responded my core point – CaptainBooshi seemed to be reacting to Scott’s previous posts exactly how you think I SHOULDN’T react to SJ spaces assuming I approach them with a “modest degree of charity”. So I’m still genuinely curious why CaptainBooshi felt that way, specifically because Scott DIDN’T resort to the type of behavior (doxxing and name calling – see any of the things Scott Aaronson was called in pretty major forums) that Scott was lamenting in those posts. And yet CaptainBooshi was turned off and thought Scott was resorting to exactly the tactics he criticized.

          • onyomi says:

            I think this is a good point about “safe spaces”: the implication is that white men’s very existence is somehow threatening.

        • Adam says:

          I sort of come at this a little differently, because I actually do know people like this, specifically through one friend I met as part of a Facebook group and I didn’t really know she or her other friends had opinions this extreme until she friend-requested me and I started seeing her wall. Before, I’m not sure I’d have believed people like her actually existed, but even now that I know one, and through her, get exposed to many others, I’m still not convinced of her general dangerousness. I mean, she does all the male tears, kill all men, yes all men hashtag shit and every other post is the terribleness of white men, but I don’t comment on people’s wall posts in general and mostly ignore her except when she messages me and we just talk, but then we just talk, and it’s about normal shit two people would talk about, without ever going into politics or telling me I’m terrible. It’s a strange dichotomy between public displays and private behavior.

          In fairness, I’m mostly Mexican, but still pretty damn white and definitely qualify by the standards of the kind of Internet company she keeps.

        • Andy says:

          I have seen them ridicule people and ignore their arguments completely solely for being while male.

          You complain about something while being male? You are man baby. Not in general sense you talk about, but that concrete men is man baby cause he voiced some emotional or practical issue he had.

      • CaptainBooshi says:

        Gbdub, I’ll do my best to explain. Sorry I didn’t respond earlier, but I only just checked back in now to see what responses I got.

        First, I’d like to emphasize that he has been much fairer and consistent this year, but I would straight-up disagree with your assertions in the past. He did resort to name-calling in his posts. I remember one post specifically where he called social justice people two different kinds of soulless evil monsters at different points in the post. It certainly felt like he was saying like I was a horrible human just for believing in social justice. I remember several occasions where he would point out someone and say they were one of the few exceptions from how awful SJ people were, which of course meant that he considered the rest of us to be awful human beings, especially since he would emphasize how few exceptions there actually were. I’m guessing that the constant mentions of how terrible the other group is might just be something you don’t notice if you’re not part of that group? I’d like to point out that I was definitely not the only person who felt this way. If you looked at the comments to any of the social justice posts, it was a very common refrain that pro-social justice readers thought Scott was calling them horrible people.

        I would completely agree that he never did anything like doxxing, but that’s not the type of tactics I was talking about. I mean the more rhetorical type of tactics you might use in an argument, where he would complain about SJ activists doing something completely unfair to win arguments online, but then turn around and do the exact same thing against them in that very post. Stuff like overgeneralizing, or holding different groups to completely different standards. Scott himself mentions in this post that “…there are a lot of social justice arguments I really hate, but which I find myself unintentionally reinventing…” This is the sort of thing I was talking about. Sometimes he would complain about an argument, but then use the exact same argument in that very post. It would frustrate me so much that he wouldn’t even notice it, and make me angry that he was being so unfair.

        To close out this comment, I want to reiterate that I don’t think this is true any longer. Scott clearly still has huge problems with social justice, but his posts seem much more even-handed, and don’t provoke the kind of helpless anger I used to feel at them. I just wanted to clarify for Gbdub what I meant in my previous comment.

        • Gbdub says:

          If it’s not too unlpleasant, would it be possible for you to dig up a specific example post from the archives? I’m relatively new here so while I think I’ve made it through at least a year of the archives it’s possible I’ve missed something. Really I’m just trying to calibrate my personal meter, so it would really help to have a specific example post rather than a paraphrase to compare my reaction to yours.

          One thing that I have noticed from Scott is that, when he does go off the rational rails, he tends to acknowledge it if not outright apologize for it, sort of “I’m ranting here and I know it” which would hopefully be a signal to acknowledge the emotion but not take the content TOO seriously. Even the tag “things I will regret writing” suggests a guy who just needs to let stuff out sometimes.

          One thing I think it would behoove Scott and the rest of us to remember is that the sort of SJ advocate who would hang out at this blog is probably more scrupulous and vulnerable to feeling horrible than your average SJer who hangs out in SJ echo chambers and produces the sort of stuff Scott complains about – the latter type probably just writes off Scott as the enemy and ignores him. (To be clear, echo chambers that produce horrible stuff are not unique to any “side”). So we should be nice to each other – after all, people who visit here are more likely to be persuaded by decent arguments, and yelling at a potential ally is hardly sound strategy.

          • Urstoff says:

            Be excellent to each other.

          • CaptainBooshi says:

            Gbdub, I would honestly prefer not to go back and read through the old posts trying to find a good example. Sorry about that, but I do remember them putting me in just an awful mental state, and would prefer to just avoid that as much as possible. I admit that it’s entirely possible I’m remembering them as worse than they really were, but I know for sure that my emotional response to his current posts is night and day different than to his older posts.

          • Gbdub says:

            Captainbooshi, I went back and re-read “Untitled” and your comments to it, and to be honest I’m struggling to find your reaction reasonable/charitable.

            Context – Untitled was a post in which Scott was reacting to Scott Aaronson being openly mocked and shamed by mainstream feminist blogs for admitting he was driven to suicidal thoughts and sought chemical castration because his study of feminism led him to believe that the very existence of his sexuality was traumatic to women. Amanda Marcotte determined that he felt entitled to fuck any woman he wanted, and that was the only cause of his distress.

            In the post, Scott:
            1) opened with a trigger warning that included “not meant as a criticism of feminism so much as a way of operationalizing feminism”
            2) engaged in a bit of mild name calling: labelled Amanda Marcotte a “Vogon in a skin suit” for having the exact opposite of a compassionite response to Aaronson’s described pain. Also referred to people who mock and deny the suffering of others as “horrible people”. In both cases the reference to a specific person or set of actions (rather than a broad class of people) was pretty explicit. Did imply that Marcotte was a “representative sample” of the response (but later linked to multiple “entitled nerd” articles supporting this implication)
            3) criticized Laurie Penny’s response, but also called her an “extremely decent person”. Was critical but never nasty to Penny throughout.
            4)links to examples of nasty anti-male-nerd cartoons self-described feminists have made. Notes (obvious) similarities to some anti-Semitic caricatures. Notes that anti-nerdism has some similarities with anti-Semitism in the specific sense that both are often excused because the targets are “successful”. Specifically disavows comparison of feminists to Nazis.
            5) provides several links to examples of feminists being nasty to trangenders, lesbians, sex workers, kinks, and male domestic violence victims. Specifically noted that feminists exist on both sides of these issues.

            From this , you conclude in the comments:
            1) Scott is directly accusing anyone identifying as feminist of being more focused on nerd baiting than feminism
            2) Scott thinks anyone identifying as feminist is “directly comparable” to an anti-Semite
            3) Scott is calling feminists and other assorted social justice people (as a group, and every member of the group) “evil” and “soulless monsters”.
            4) Because Scott doesn’t explicitly call out totally unrelated people who harassed Penny, he “only gets mad when it happens to his side” and even “frankly thinks they got their just desserts”.
            5) these tactics of Scott’s are exactly equivalent to things he criticizes (targeted shaming campaigns, online admonishments to troll particular targets, rape threats, ideological life-ruining boycotts/firing campaigns)
            (This was all in response to another commenter very angrily and possibly trollingly attacking Scott for calling him evil just because he was a feminist, a comment you apparently agreed with in spirit of not tone).

            I mean, I just don’t see how even a mildly charitable reading of Scott gets you there.
            He has NEVER condoned or participated in anything even fractionally as nasty as the anti-nerd cartoons he criticized, or harassment, or anything like that. He has never approached Marcotte’s level of vitriol. Has he been illogical, unfair, and flat out wrong at times? Sure, and I bet he’d be first to admit it. But we’re talking BB guns to nukes here. If you disallow what Scott said in Untitled , you’re basically disallowing any but the most mild and unemotional criticism, lest someone equate “here are some things people in your group do that I find very awful, here are some examples of why I feel that way” with “YOU are a horrible person, and I hope you are offended!”

            What concerns me is that you seem to be dangerously close to saying “back when Scott only criticized people on my side, I was angry with him and got offended. Now that he’s criticizing himself and people not on my side more often, I like him much more”. Which, while understandable, is not precisely good for the quality of debate going forward.

            Apologies if I’m getting a bit worked up, but I really, really dislike the argument “you cannot criticize my side unless you spend equal time criticizing yourself/your side/other issue I care about and expect you to care about equally”. Are people not allowed to advocate for themselves or their chosen causes? I highly doubt you apply this standard of rigor to other social justice advocates.

            I really am not trying to offend or make you feel too bad here. I am doing my best to “be excellent”. But I do think you should be a bit more charitable to Scott’s older work, and not just the newer stuff that is more self-critical. And if you really do think that Scott’s older stuff is too unreasonable for you to engage with, I hope you will stick around to help develop more appropriate rules of engagement – but if you do that you do need to be willing to accept the same rules of engagement. (Not that you have to spend half your time being critical of social justice, just that you should look for the same sort of unreason and avoid signal boosting it – which I think Scott certainly does now and did before to a greater degree than you give him credit for. Even on his worst day, Scott was never even on the same rhetorical continent as the RedPills and Jezebels of the world).

          • Montfort says:

            Gbdub, leaving aside the question of the merits of Untitled for a minute, I don’t think the best place to bring it up is in response to CaptainBooshi’s claim that posts like that put them in an “awful mental state”. I don’t mean to speak for CB, just against that kind of thing as a general policy.

          • Urstoff says:

            If you can’t support a factual claim without putting yourself in a bad mental state and don’t wish to put yourself in that bad mental state, you shouldn’t make such a factual claim.

          • Gbdub says:

            What about my mental state? I find Scott’s writing enlightening, and it bothers me when people attack it for reasons I can’t comprehend. It nags at me – it probably shouldn’t, but it does, because I identify with a lot of what Scott says. And while I appreciate the self questioning he does here I also appreciated the stronger stance he took in Untitled. So when someone comes in and says “this is good but that other stuff is bad and hurt my feelings”, well, that bothers me. I don’t want to hurt people, so I want to know why that hurt!

            Captainbooshi said “I was offended”. I asked them to elaborate/be more specific. They responded “no, I will not do that, it was awful and you’ll have to take my word for it”. Which is fine, totally valid feelings.

            But when I go back and find the same poster having made what I think are unreasonable and unfair conclusions regarding Scott in the past, I feel cheated. Here’s someone who I wanted to learn from! But now I don’t know if they were genuine and rational, genuine and unreasonable, or disingenuous. So that hurts and nags.

            Maybe this is a bad, unreasonable mental state on my part – but why is my mental state less valid than Captainbooshi’s? Is it really fair to let someone come in, throw a barb (well intentioned, but still sharp) then leave, using a claim of offense to guarantee themselves the last word?

            I honestly and truthfully was approaching this conversation wanting to learn a bit from someone I disagree with. If Captainbooshi’s mental state does not allow it, then so be it. I feel like I missed an opportunity, but so it goes. i apologize if my critique of Captainbooshi’s response to Untitled offended them, please know it came from a place of “help me understand why you see this this way”.

          • Cauê says:

            FWIW, I read Urstoff as arguing against Montfort, saying that if someone in CaptainBooshi’s position is not emotionally able to back their claims, then they shouldn’t make the claims in the first place.

          • Urstoff says:

            Indeed, but I think Gbdub was replying to Montfort’s post too.

          • Cauê says:

            Horrible threading attacks again.

          • Montfort says:

            Gdub, I don’t believe you were anything less than earnest and genuine in your curiosity and intentions. I hope my earlier post didn’t sound like I was casting aspersions on your motives or calling you a bad person, and I am sorry if it did.

            In this particular instance I read CaptainBooshi’s post as a sort-of white flag: “I might be wrong, and I would rather leave it at that than review the evidence”. In that light, it is very understandable that you’d feel unsatisfied, but your post also seemed like it was bringing up the stuff they didn’t want to see. The end effect of the post looked like it would (1) possibly distress CaptainBooshi more and (2) not get a reasonable response from them, leaving you just as unsatisfied.

            I very well might be wrong in this particular case or in general, but in my experience this analysis extends fairly well to the case of “the person I am talking to has cited the possibility of emotional distress and attempted to leave the conversation.”

            Urstoff: I personally find it very frustrating, and generally agree.

          • Nita says:

            @ Gbdub

            A few things jumped out at me even in this post, but I ignored them because Scott was genuinely trying to be reconciliatory. However, since you asked, here’s an example:

            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

            …implying that most SJ activists would commit mass murder if only they had the means — um, not very charitable?

            Sure, Scott probably wasn’t being 100% serious (I hope), but as far as jokes go, this one isn’t much better than “I bathe in male tears”.

  22. golwengaud says:

    The AIDS epidemic of the ’80s is a further piece of the puzzle that one must bear in mind. I have a number of friends who lived through that, and the stories they tell are horrific; there’s nothing—I must imagine—like watching friend after friend die and hearing mainstream voices in the larger culture say they deserve it to put you on a hair-trigger towards such voices. This is without mentioning people spending a night in jail—if you’re lucky—for being at the wrong party. (“Watching the Defectives”, on Pride parades, is not irrelevant here, and it’s apropos now in Pride month.)

    Now this is not a careful consequentialist argument; also, the younger folks don’t seem to have lived through quite that level of horror. Nonetheless, this seems to be a substantial narrative in the culture, and people generally speaking operate not at the level of argument or experience but of narrative. (I wasn’t bullied myself but I was and am a nerd, so I’ve ended up quite by accident taking the “bullied nerd” narrative as my own in cases like the Scott Aaronson deal. It’s the story of my people.)

    When you realize that the stories with which someone came of age more or less run “thirty years ago these people were rejoicing at our deaths”—and this story has a substantial grain of truth—you may not agree with them, but it’s hard not to sympathize with them.

    ETA: honestly, I’m surprised SJWs aren’t in general more warlike.

    • maxikov says:

      I, on the other hand, was yelled at by a landlord, who claimed that my feminine appearance (he also assumed that I’m gay because of that) wards off potential roommates, and therefore he’s losing money. I was eventually forced to “voluntary” move out ASAP.

  23. Seth says:

    Regarding: “I see minimal awareness from the social justice movement and the anti-social-justice movement that their narratives are similar, …”, I think both are quite aware of structural similarity, it’s even a cliche, “The REAL [Racists|Sexists]”. That’s used both ironically and seriously. Rather, the movement participants generally aren’t geeks who are fascinated by that parallelism _per se_. Instead, they’re focused on why their side is *right* and the other is *wrong*.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Isn’t that “the real racists…” thing used as a joke/mockery by people who don’t think it’s true at all?

      • Seth says:

        It’s used by the “SJW” side as mockery, but it’s mocking a view held quite sincerely by the “anti-SJW” side. Both sides are well aware of what the other thinks, and the cliche is passed back and forth these days in a kind of cultural signal (i.e. using the phrase ironically or seriously) of which side the speaker is on, in full knowledge of the perspective of the other side. Here’s an example where that’s discussed quite clearly:


        Key sentence:

        “I basically just agreed with Ellen DeGeneres!” Limbaugh exclaimed. “The real racists are in Hollywood. …”

        Limbaugh built his audience in part by very openly copying the “SJW” narrative and applying it to “anti-SJW” listeners, and he wasn’t shy at all that he was doing it. It was arguably a talking-point of his (not phrased in those words, of course, but the general idea was evident).

      • Nathan says:

        Andrew Bolt (think Australian Bill O’Reilly) does it a LOT and means it in a very literal sense.

      • NN says:

        The only part of the “anti-SJW” side I’m at all familiar with is GamerGate, and in those circles “those guys are the real sexists/racists” is an extremely common talking point, and while it’s often presented in a mocking tone of voice people really do seem to believe it.

        • notes says:

          It is in fact used to mock those who think the real racists are the ones arguing for intersectionality and solidarity, and is often at least half-serious from this angle – can those who will not even grapple with their own unconscious racism be anything other than real racists?

          On the other side, it’s a fairly standard rhetorical move to juxtapose MLK’s ‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character’ quote with basically any affirmative action program anywhere, and then go to the ‘real racists’ as a punchline.

          The implication there is both mocking and literal: playing the old idea of color-blindness against the newer of racially targeted compensatory action.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Arguing over who is the real racist in this situation is just a failure to drill down to the actual question being asked. Both sides would agree that affirmative action policies favor one race over another, and both sides would agree that affirmative action policies do not favor whites over blacks, so arguing about whether or not they’re “racist” is empty of content.

          • notes says:

            I don’t argue that these invocations are productive; I do cite them in answer to our host’s question as to whether anyone actually means it outside mockery.

            I do concur that the question of ‘what is racism’ is a hotly debated topic, and will almost certainly remain one while its potency as a shibboleth remains.

          • vV_Vv says:


            It could be argued that affirmative action actually favors rich white people by working as a “peacock tail” handicap. It may incidentally also favor rich black people, but certainly it doesn’t favor working class black people.

            Why do you think there is more support for affirmative action than education subsides for poor people?

          • HeelBearCub says:


            Arguing over who is the real racist in this situation is just a failure to drill down to the actual question being asked.

            As we say in the programming world “that’s a feature, not a bug.”

        • DrBeat says:

          I say it and I believe it.

          I don’t say it because I want to just take the form “You said X about me? X is really true about you!” but because the positions of feminists, anti-GGers, and prominent SJ advocates only make sense if you think women and minorities are weak and contemptible. When my side says women can do whatever they want, and your side says women are so weak and so fragile that every man around them has the responsibility to craft the environment to be suited to women specifically and to take away any negative emotion they might feel because they cannot do it themselves, I am going to say that you are the sexists, even though you claim your position is motivated by anti-sexism.

          • CaptainBooshi says:

            You do realize your argument only works if the environment both men and women are in are completely equal, right? Otherwise, it’s like forcing an extra hundred pounds onto someone competing in a race and then saying that since both people can run however they want, it’s totally a completely fair race.

            You can argue that there isn’t any difference in the environment, or that there’s a difference but there’s nothing we can do about it, or there’s a difference but we shouldn’t do anything about it, but that’s what the whole argument is about. You can’t just pretend it isn’t there and declare victory, which is pretty much what you’re doing in this post.

          • DrBeat says:

            There is no environment that exists or could possibly exist that would justify “It’s men’s responsibility to take away women’s negative emotions”, “Women are threatened by men’s knees being spread too wide”, “We cannot use the word ‘bossy’ because if a girl hears it she won’t grow up to be a leader”, or similar shovelfuls of horseshit as anything other than sexist and founded in women’s complete lack of agency.

            If you believe that women are being barred from pursuing degrees in STEM because they are afraid they will see a man wearing a shirt with sexually attractive women on it, you believe women are so astonishingly weak that they cannot be adults. Your beliefs are sexist. There are no two ways about it.

          • Robert Liguori says:

            CaptainBooshi, what’s your opinion on women doctors? Doctors have a very important job; they need to do a whole bunch of things right, or people will die.

            If women are handicapped by their environment comparably to someone running a race with 100 pounds of deadweight, then women, as a category, should not be allowed in any situation where incompetence can kill and there is an unburdened man available to take her position. Indeed, it’s probably better this way from a position of reducing sexism; allowing women doctors to practice medicine so handicapped would surely create huge numbers of fatalities, that could be directly attributed to women practicing medicine while handicapped, further worsening the environment against them.

            Is that really what you believe? Because blind auditions in a lot of things don’t show that 100-lb weight you mention.


            Plus, I’m Jewish, so the argument of historical discrimination and pogroms being directly responsible for diminished educational and economic outcomes as a class is not particularly sympathetic to me.

  24. Stella says:

    Mutually assured destruction is probably better than one-sided destruction. I even see some conservatives mutually assuring destruction on purpose–for example, when Bernie Sanders’ old rape fantasy essay came to light I don’t recall reading any conservatives who seemed actually offended, just a lot making a stink explicitly to make a point.

    That being said, I hopelessly long for mutual disarmament in many areas, especially when it comes to humor and entertainment. I find some examples of both ironic misandry and ironic misogyny funny–“Boys are stupid. We should throw rocks at them” and make-me-a-sandwich jokes. I don’t see the humor in #killallmen, but that may be be because I’ve only seen it used by explicitly political people and so I’m primed to see it as an attack.

  25. Positron42 says:

    Compromising with social justice activists doesn’t seem to be optimal for those that disagree with them— there’s no evidence that they currently have power to the point where compromise is necessary to coexist with them. If anything, compromising could backfire: it provides them an appearance of legitimacy, which is incredibly dangerous when applied to a movement that relies on cultural influence more than economic influence. From the perspective of those that social justice activists are targeting, Rand’s “sanction of the victim” might apply: social justice activists only have power if their targets accept their legitimacy and accept being punished for “privilege” instead of building an intellectual and moral case for why their opposition is illegitimate.

    • Fibs says:

      How would the sanction of the victim apply? And if the victim, as Rand might argue, stop sanctioning their own slavery, would it look anything like a highly privileged group stubbornly denying they have any reason to consider their privilege, power and position a result of arbitrary benign social forces and declaring that, no, you are the evil ones for even daring to bring it up because you are merely a jealous parasite lacking their genius creator talent, you unwashed grey mass-person lacking in vision, you?

      ( I realize that’s at least partially glib, so perhaps to make my point clearer I should point out that while Rand might have many philosophical tools that serve many uses, a discussion wherein the central thesis of one entire side is that “privilege” is a moral and intellectual problem that causes issues is maybe the single last place in the world where someone wants to talk about the sanction of the victim)

      • Mary says:

        Perhaps they could be less wild in their demands, and so distinguish themselves.

        Remember that people have publicly declared that Holocaust survivors have white privilege.

      • Positron42 says:

        The sanction of the victim applies in the sense that, for instance, social justice activists critique techno-libertarians (or “Grey Tribers”; not necessarily political libertarians) using the tools created by that cluster of people. If the techno-libertarians (or whatever name assigned to that cluster is best) decided to say “don’t use things we made if you call us evil; build your own company/platform”, that would be rescinding the sanction. LGBT people who don’t shop at businesses they perceive as bigoted (without issuing death threats to the owners) are operating on a similar (albeit probably distinct in terms of terminology) principle. (Edit: worth noting that SSC itself operates along these lines; Scott’s under no obligation to allow a comment on his blog that insults him even if the author claims they’re exercising their freedom of speech.)

    • Zvi Mowshowitz says:

      Compromise with such activists is not actually possible. If anything, attempting to compromise makes things worse, because whatever you actually do attracts attention, and makes it clear you respond to pressure, at which point they just attack you more, often for the very thing you did that you thought was helping. If someone is looking for Outrage Of The Day, the wisest plan by far is to do nothing at all, because that’s likely to get someone else chosen as today’s outrage. Try to address something in a (to the other side) half-ass way is the worst thing you can do.

      In addition, instead of calling on you to do the thing you just did (whatever it is), they now use all their you-related energies to call on you to do other things. If every time you want to do the thing (or the thing is cheap to do), you do it, eventually the things they want will be more and more toxic to you.

      You can, of course, do something that such people like because it happens to be the right thing to do! But unless you want everything they want, there is no deal to be struck, and appeasement simply will not work, even if you do not believe a large part of the goal is to make you suffer for the crime of not yet suffering enough.

  26. Motorbike says:

    Good start but I think this is far from enough to put the fires out. We need to think much harder about what features of the memetic landscape give rise to these ideologies and where to focus our efforts on fixing this.

    For example, one fundamental issue is that the internet gives everyone a voice and modern social movements don’t have leaders; they’re very decentralized. So you can’t exactly broker a peace agreement where one leader agrees to tell their people to reign it in and the other leader tells their people to reign it in. Well maybe you sorta could if the “leaders” you chose were people with lots of Twitter followers. But modern social movements largely select their leaders for maximal outrage so I think you’d be fighting an uphill battle.

    Keep in mind that a lot of these people are just *trolls* who like watching the world burn, and clickbait journalists looking for views, so whatever new equilibrium we get to needs to be robust against that. There are always going to be sociopaths.

    The birth of “outragism” and “clickbait” as widely-used terms are a good start to progress, but I think we will probably need at least 100x as much memetic force as that before the problem has a good chance of being solved.

    A sneak attack might be to try to promote movements like stoicism, mindfulness, etc. which grow at a much slower rate than outragist memes but render some immunity to them, and also don’t encounter much resistance (there’s no anti-stoic or anti-mindfulness crowd).

    Another idea would be to try to create a movement of sane compassionate people that go around trying to defuse conflicts and also convince more people to join them. But this would require mustering quite a bit of force. Currently sane compassionate people don’t seem to think shitty internet discourse is that much of a problem and most of them just avoid it and try to get on with their lives. Also they are kind of rare.

    Another idea is to try to spread the idea that extreme talk mostly has the effect of discrediting your side, not bringing people around to it. (That’s why false flag attacks are a thing.) Extreme talk hurts you more than it helps you because it gets trumpeted by the other side as proof of how insane you are. For example, Scott Alexander has converted many more SJ people to the anti-SJ side than, say, Roissy has. (If anything Roissy has probably *created* SJ people.) So if you actually want to expand the size of your movement, being thoughtful and reasonable is the way to go. The goal is to paint your side as the thoughtful reasonable ones and then hold up the worst of the other side.

    The anti-SJ side is actually going to benefit from Twitter/reddit banning of anti-SJers, I think, for example. Because the anti-SJers that are actually getting censored are the very worst of the anti-SJers, the people that were just discrediting the anti-SJers. And meanwhile the anti-SJers get to complain about censorship in a pretty reasonable-sounding way.

    The anti-SJ side should consider themselves very lucky to have Scott. Normally reasonable voices have a harder time gaining much of a substantial audience, but Scott is such a talented writer that he gets a big audience even though he’s not nearly as polemical as Roissy.

    • Mary says:

      Also it would require a lot of restraint on part of the sane, compassionate people. As in, they would have to deliberately stay out of the fray.

      I was online in a discussion once where a certain woman would try to pose as an elder statesman to bring peace. The problem was that she would single out the side that disagreed with her as rude, and we had no trouble working that out.

      • Motorbike says:

        Yep, you have to make a deliberate effort to be balanced in your distribution of negative/positive affect statements (or just not make any). (I’m attempting to phrase my comments in this thread so that it’s difficult to tell which side I’m on… tell me if I’m succeeding.)

        I had a similar experience when I went to the /r/Egalitarianism subreddit. I was nodding along with everything until I went to the top-voted stories of all time and many had to do with male victimization, with zero stories about female victimization. A priori, I’d expect men and women to be victimized at approximately similar rates, so this does seem like some kind of evidence of bias. Maybe people are just more motivated to upvote stories that have to do with victimization of people like them and that subreddit, like reddit on the whole, is majority male.

        • Mary says:

          The problem with being even-handed is often the blame is not justly distributed. I have seen people, attempting to be even-handed or something, fudging up something to blame the innocent for.

        • Desertopa says:

          Egalitarianism as a social movement pretty much demands of its adherents that they do not think feminism is the needed social movement for addressing gender issues. Since there’s already a much larger and more visible social movement which preferentially addresses women’s issues, there’s a strong selection effect for people who predominantly identify with women’s issues to end up in the feminist movement rather than moving on the to the less-visible egalitarian movement.

    • Randy M says:

      “For example, Scott Alexander has converted many more SJ people to the anti-SJ side than, say, Roissy has.”

      How many more?

      • Zvi Mowshowitz says:

        I would not be surprised if the net conversions of Roissy are negative. He is not (obviously) the Actual Worst Person In The World but when the label can be suggested with a straight face, it tends to drive people to consider the possibility that you are on the wrong side. “You agree with Roissy” is likely to be an argument against, not for.

        I’m highly uncertain whether Scott is convincing that many people one way or another, but I am confident in the sign of the effect.

    • Schmendrick says:

      The problem with promoting stoicism and mindfulness as the answer (even though I personally am completely on board with both) is that there *are* anti-stoic and anti-mindfulness movements; they just don’t bear those labels. The anti-stoic movement is romanticism (in the “Sorrows of Young Werther” sense, not the Valentine’s Day sense), and the anti-mindfulness movement is Punk, or less politely, Trolling. Nihilism would be a good catchall, but no-one wants to admit being a nihilist so it’s of limited utility.

      • Motorbike says:

        Writing an anti-social-justice screed has the effect of inspiring social justice people to even greater fervor, and writing a pro-social-justice screed has the same effect on anti-sj folks. But I don’t think romantics/trolls get actively fired up by thoughtful advocacy of stoicism/mindfulness.

        • Schmendrick says:

          Probably not at the moment, but I strongly suspect that has more to do with the marginalization of the romantic/stoic and punk/mindful spectra as things central to people’s identities or political stances and thus worth fighting over than it does with the strength of the disagreement between the positions. If stoic or mindful movements were to become large and/or influential in the U.S., I suspect we’d see a reaction.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Don’t forget, Seneca gave us Nero.

        • Soumynona says:

          Is that fair? It’s not like Seneca took a perfectly serviceable virtuous young Nero and turned him into a loon, right?

          • The_Dancing_Judge says:

            And Marcus Arelius gave us Commodus. Seems to be a pattern.

          • notes says:

            And Socrates produced Alcibiades, while Aristotle produced Alexander.

            The pattern grows more complex!

          • Jaskologist says:

            I love Seneca, honest, but I actually do think he deserves a lot of blame here. He was Nero’s major tutor and influence growing up, and he was also one of his main advisers during his reign. Importantly, he pretty much went along with Nero’s actions, and he was heavily involved in court intrigue, pursuit of power and wealth, and all those things which he wrote against.

            He’s not directly responsible for Nero, but his hands aren’t clean either, and he stands as a clear example of Stoicism failing to help against crazy politics.

          • The_Dancing_Judge says:

            so is the pattern: stoics beget terrible hedonists, while socrates’s students create excellent strategic leaders?

            @Jaskologist I suspect attempting to wield political power at all in ancient rome necessitated one to engage in court intrigue and chase power and money just to keep one’s head. Molochian pressures and all.

            Though Marcus Arelius did seem to do a fine job while in power. It was his son that he screwed up.

        • Salem says:

          Nero is a very underrated ruler. He gets associated with Caligula as some mad emperor, but that’s grossly unfair. He was hated by the senatorial class, and it’s their histories we read, but it’s worthwhile pointing out that Otho took the name “Nero” as an honorific and set up statues to Nero in order to gain popular legitimacy, Vitellius gave Nero huge funerary honours for the same reason, several rebellions were led by people claiming to be Nero, and there was a popular legend that one day the great Nero will return, much like Arthur or Barbarossa.

          None of this is the legacy of a ruler that Seneca has anything to apologise for.

    • Motorbike says:

      A couple additional notes:

      Another side effect of e.g. Twitter censorship of right-wing trolls is that it has the effect of assuaging the fears of SJ people that the right-wing trolls will actually gain significant mindshare. Clearly if they have no voice they aren’t in a good position to form a serious movement right?

      I can’t help but think that free speech is looking like less and less of a good doctrine on the internet where the pageviews go to the extremists. Obviously censorship is a tricky slippery slope, but it feels ideological to say that total freedom of speech is always the thing to do for all cultures and circumstances. Censorship seems like much more of a slippery slope when governments do it; I guess I’m not super worried about private companies like reddit or twitter. (BTW, it’s weird that I feel this twinge of doubt when speaking out against free speech… it’s within my free speech rights to say that free speech is a bad idea isn’t it? :P)

      Also, I said: “The goal is to paint your side as the thoughtful reasonable ones and then hold up the worst of the other side.” I didn’t mean to endorse this as a prosocial strategy, it just seems to be the winning strategy according to the way the game is currently configured. Please don’t reward the extremists on the side you oppose with the attention they crave without thinking carefully.

      The asymmetric warfare between the pro-SJ/anti-SJ people would be interesting if it weren’t so dystopian. Maybe someday people will make video games about it the same way we make video games about World War II. (If someone wants to make a game in the near term, I registered socialjusticewars.com recently… put your email in this thread if you have a project in mind for the domain.)

      • Cauê says:

        There’s already a game called “Social Justice Warriors” on Steam, about “fighting internet trolls” or something. It came out some months ago. It doesn’t look especially interesting or smart, but I only looked into it very superficially.

        Free speech is always a good idea in the sense that it allows ideas to compete on their own merits rather than being carried by power/popularity contests. In this sense the difference between the censorship coming from the state or the private companies controlling the medium of discourse is one of scale, not kind. But sure, there are costs.

    • Motorbike says:

      Another example of someone shooting themselves in the foot: As far as I can tell, the move to ban Moldbug from Strange Loop buys leftists almost nothing and hurts them a lot. By banning him they directed a ton of attention on him, which means more people will discover his writings (don’t underestimate the lure of the forbidden). And they also make themselves seem like censorious thought police. Sure, Moldbug won’t be allowed to present his software… but that wouldn’t have hurt the SJ cause anyway. At best they’ve intimidated people from writing anti-SJ stuff under their real names, but that’s not much of a gain on the margin; people are already terrified of writing anti-SJ stuff under their real names & that’s why all the anti-SJ people use pseudonyms. Heck, even reasonable anti-SJ people like Scott Alexander and that professor in Vox do.

    • Cassander says:

      They aren’t trolls, or at least most of them aren’t. They’re committed, 100% sincere religious fanatics, just like the people who burned witches across protestant Europe.

    • nydwracu says:

      Serious question, because I’ve seen this mistake more often than not: do spellcheckers not have the word ‘rein’ these days?

  27. Jaskologist says:

    This may be motivated reasoning, but I think a principled distinction can be made between the pizza shop and Strange Loop.

    First, it must be stressed that the pizzeria took pains to insist that they would not refuse service to gay people. It was only catering a (hypothetical) gay wedding where they drew the line. I see this difference often elided, even in your own post (“a pizzeria that won’t serve gay people”), but it’s an important one.

    The line is between making people tolerate those who do offensive things/hold offensive views/are offensive, and making people participate themselves in the offensive thing. The equivalent Strange Loop case would be them either refusing to have Moldbug give a speech on NRX, or refusing to sponsor some NRX group, and I’d bet neither of those would get your dander up. Instead, Strange Loop dumped Moldbug’s wholly technical talk for other, unrelated views of his. This is morally equivalent to a pizzeria putting up a “NO HOMOS” sign, which is notably not what the real pizzeria did.

    • onyomi says:

      Yes, and you didn’t have to tell the hypothetical pizzeria it was catering a gay wedding. You could just say “a wedding” and leave it at that. Hell, you could just say “I need 20 pizzas for an event.”

      Similarly, Moldbug wouldn’t need to ever mention his NRX views in his presentation, and presumably wasn’t planning to.

      The other big distinction is using the coercive arm of the law versus a snarky e-mail campaign. I don’t think anyone is arguing that it should have been *illegal* for the conference to exclude Moldbug for his political views, just that it was the wrong thing to do.

      • Harald K says:

        Wedding catering usually isn’t just delivering the food. It’s usually also serving it, and at the very least making a presentation out of it.

        I bet the journalist who asked the pizza place people knew that, and chose it for maximum confusion/controversy (sorry if I’m being cynical about clickbait these days).

        Same with the floral decorator who would happily sell flower arrangement, but not make a custom one. Flower arrangers may be silly people, but they see what they do as art, and making art especially for an event you disapprove of is different from letting an event you disapprove of use art that you made for generic purposes.

        • BrowncoatJeff says:

          I don’t think they picked the pizza place that way. My understanding is that they went from place to place asking the hypothetical until they got someone to give the “wrong answer” which would generate the outrage bait headline they wanted.

    • Tarrou says:

      Worth noting as well that it wasn’t as if the pizzeria went out of their way to broadcast their stance. A reporter trolled through forty or fifty small, rural businesses asking ever-more elaborate questions until finally, at long last, she got a “no”. Then she went back and wrote what she always intended to: the “Backwoods hicks hate gays” story. There is a significant difference, IMO, between what you will say if grilled long enough and what you with no outside prompting post to your own social media. Not legally, of course, but in terms of judging moral intent.

      • Sylocat says:

        A reporter trolled through forty or fifty small, rural businesses asking ever-more elaborate questions until finally, at long last, she got a “no”. Then she went back and wrote what she always intended to: the “Backwoods hicks hate gays” story.

        I’ve been seeing this claim made a lot around here. Is there a source for it? How do we know what her motives or MO were?

    • Zvi Mowshowitz says:

      One group is saying, if you are engaging in one type of activity associating in a way we disapprove of, we choose not to provide you service in the particular activity we do not approve of. But go ahead and have your activity. One does not simply serve our pizza at such a wedding.

      The other group is saying, if you are engaging in a type of activity associating in a way we disapprove of, we will politicize this and pressure you until you exclude the people we dislike from the activity. Then you can go ahead and have your activity. One does not simply serve pizza at a wedding, so you’d better have a proper cake instead, or else.

      Lizard brain does not see these two things as similar, as well it should not.

      Also, lizard brain in one case sees someone make hypothetical statements about something that will never ever happen, and then get harassed out of business for them, and in the other, someone making hypothetical statements about political philosophies that will never be implemented, and being harassed out of doing business (at a particular conference) for that.

      Parallel might actually work better when flipped.

  28. E. Harding says:

    Holy crap. The black feminist professor sounds exactly like a Young-Earth Creationist.

    • Sylocat says:

      From that snippet out of context, yes.

      Here’s the snippet right before it:

      My students’ discomfort with me is especially clear when I teach “general” courses — courses that are not explicitly about people of color. It is not uncommon for students to accuse me of diminishing the quality of their education when I teach classes like this. For example, when I taught an honors writing class, I included two — just two! — reading assignments by nonwhite authors. At the end of the term, a significant percentage of student evaluations complained that the class was skewed because it unjustifiably prioritized African-American authors.

      • Schmendrick says:

        Well, the assigned reading isn’t the sum total of the class. What was the professor’s in-class demeanor like? If she kept bashing Shakespeare as a racist and extolling Chinua Achebe as superior while the class was supposed to be covering Othello, then perhaps there was a basis for the complaints.

        On the other hand, people certainly have their perceptions colored by pre-existing reputations and outward presentation, so I’m also more than willing to believe that many of the professor’s students were biased against her based on her other academic work or prior activism.

        • Souris-Anonymique says:

          I don’t know about her, but I can say with total honesty that that is pretty much precisely what mine do.
          Well, admittedly, they alternate between calling the Bard racist and praising his work (not even Othello, but Midsummer Night, Tempest &c.) for being full of hidden subtext about racist microaggression and oppression. Even stating that “it is no accident that Prospero and Caliban can be rearranged to give Canibal and Opresor” (which, even with Shakespeare’s variable spelling quality, is rather a stretch.)

          • Sylocat says:

            Uh, saying that “Caliban” is meant to sound like “Canibal” isn’t exactly a stretch; people have been pointing out the similarities in both name and archetype for a couple hundred years now.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            I am fairly sure that Caliban is supposed to be Canibal (and it was sometimes spelled with one n by other authors at the time). Of course, at the time “Cannibal” meant a native of the Caribbean (who were said to eat human flesh).

          • Deiseach says:

            I’ll give ’em the “Caliban/Canibal” bit because I think Shakespeare wouldn’t object either, but “Prospero/Op(p)res(s)or” is stretching it.

        • Deiseach says:

          Dear Schmendrick, please don’t raise the spectre of someone wanting to bash Dead White Western Male Culture and “Othello” in the same sentence.

          I certainly am not insinuating, implying, suggesting or in any way claiming this professor did so. But just imagine what a really motivated anti-privilege activist could do there; they’d probably end up ‘proving’ Shakespeare was pro-slavery 🙂

      • Nornagest says:

        I wasn’t too happy with the non-white authors that my contemporary literature unit in high school assigned, or the classes I took for my diversity requirements in college. This wasn’t because they were non-white. It was because they were all writing the same story, and it wasn’t to my taste: magical-realism persecution narratives set at the height of one *ism or another, substituting pity and a certain flavor of dreamlike imagery for any meaningful depth. Much later, I read One Hundred Years of Solitude on my own initiative and discovered what they were all ripping off.

        There are good books by non-Western authors; it’s just that Western education systems don’t like assigning them. (Solitude does get assigned a lot, though; I just got unlucky there.)

        • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

          I’m probably misunderstanding, but are you saying García Márquez isn’t white, or just the guys who ape him?

          • Nornagest says:

            Sorry, I knew my point was getting a little messy there but I didn’t bother to put in the work to fix it.

            I meant the guys who ape him. I do think García Márquez would pass muster as non-Western in those circles, though, despite being a white guy living in a former European colony. Hence his inclusion in the second paragraph: non-Western is not the same thing as non-white, but it has similar effects on curricula.

        • nydwracu says:

          Yeah, I saw something similar. All through the upper half or so of K-12, we had ‘diverse’ literature crammed down our throats — mostly Maya Angelou and Hispanic race opera. Utter garbage by any sane metric, but hey, it’s about The Experience Of A Diversity In Amerikkka, so in the curriculum it goes.

          Then I went to college and had to take a class on “Philosophy Around the World”, which was mostly about Aztec mythology and various forms of shamanism. (I spent my spare time reading the Analects and the Daodejing. The entirety of China had a week or two of coverage. I don’t think India was mentioned, but for all I know, there could’ve been a few minutes on Buddhism or Krishna or something.)

          They could’ve had Borges and Mishima instead of Maya Angelou and whichever use-as-many-italicized-Spanish-words-as-possible YA garbage author, and they could’ve had the Confucians and Taoists instead of “memorize the Nahuatl name of the Aztec spiral god” or whatever it was… but they didn’t.

          It’s like they’re trying to give people the impression that no one but white Westerners has ever done anything interesting.

          • Nornagest says:

            Borges is amazing and everyone should read more of him. But he tends to write about abstruse introspective stuff and gauchos getting into knife fights, and neither one sells well in curricula, sadly.

            I did read the Analects, some Hesiod, and some selections from the Koran as part of one of the college courses I mentioned, which I suppose is to its credit. Also the Bhagavad Gita, but sadly they picked the most boring translation imaginable.

          • Matt M says:

            I think this is mainly about “matching the demographics,” and may be specific to the location of my friend (and your) schools.

            In our area, there were a ton of hispanic students but very few indians or chinese. So people went out of their way to teach aztec philosophy so that the hispanic students would “feel included” or “have role models” or whatever.

            I can also theorize that at the college level, Asians are already regarded as having huge advantages and are over-represented, so nobody feels particularly compelled to cater to them or encourage them or anything, which is why a course with “global” in its name typically means “latin america, middle east, africa”

          • Adam says:

            It sounds like it was just a stupid local failure. I’m Hispanic and grew up in a very largely Hispanic place and we never learned anything at all about the Aztecs. Non-western philosophy almost always meant India or China just because that’s where the dominant ideas that still proliferate came from. I took the AP Lit class in high school, though, so I think the curriculum was largely dictated by the test and not a local decision.

          • nydwracu says:

            This college was one of the whitest places I’ve ever been. The problem was that the professor was really into shamanism — and I would guess that she would not like Confucianism or Legalism very much.

            But still, there’s Laozi and Zhuangzi and so on, right? And a survey course should at least try to be something other than the rest of the courses from that professor, right?

            As for Borges, I don’t like the idea of designing curricula under the assumption that the students are all drooling morons who will never be able to understand anything more complex than two hundred pages of the word abuelita. My English classes in high school were honors, so they were mostly white. (Not that ‘honors’ goes very far. In tenth grade, one of the two or so Hispanics in the class could barely read. But still, they were at least half white.)

            And if there’s resistance to taking out race opera, just swap out A Separate Peace for some Mishima. The parents’ organizations would never let that happen, but, good lord, why are they even teaching that book? Do they want people to hate reading?

          • Deiseach says:

            I actually wouldn’t mind a bit of “memorise the Nahuatl name”, but confining everything to the Aztecs is just as ridiculous as never mentioning any of the native inhabitants.

            What are the Olmecs and the Toltecs, chopped liver? 🙂

        • Ivy says:

          My AP English teacher went off the rails in the second semester when she assigned way too many diversity authors (and the odd guest speaker or two). She earned a reputation for having quite an agenda to shape and mold young minds, and to shout down views that were unfashionable to her. She was in the vanguard of a proto-SJW movement, some 40+ years ago.

          The kids in the class found that there were weeks wasted on her pet topics, and that those diverted the focus from understanding and appreciating the Western Canon. We survived and continued to think for ourselves, and she changed schools.

          • Adam says:

            I guess the curriculum isn’t standardized, then. I mostly hated that class because it was annoying as hell diagramming poetry meters for half an hour every morning, but the books we read were pretty good. I believe they were not only all white authors, but all English authors, which kind of seems to be there in the name of the class: English Literature.

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s not, no. My high school had a Contemporary Literature unit at the junior level (mostly diversity literature, Steinbeck, and Catcher in the Rye; I was lucky enough to get a good teacher or I would have hated every moment of it) and an English Literature unit at the senior level (concentrating on the British classics from Shakespeare to the Romantics; lots of poetry). I forget what the freshman and sophomore levels did but they weren’t very memorable.

          • Adam says:

            I remember reading American transcendalists my junior year. Sophomore year we watched videos while the teacher worked on grants to get the school more computers. Freshman year, I went to a Catholic school, and all I really remember is the health class where we were bombarded with propaganda pictures of the horribly mutilated genitals of people with STDs and a whole bunch of statistics to convince us that condoms don’t work.

          • Nornagest says:

            If it makes you feel any better, the same statistics and pictures came up in my public-high-school health class, along with some spectacularly wrong “education” about drugs and alcohol. We did learn to put condoms on bananas, though, which I suppose is something. (I’m just slightly too old to have been gotten abstinence-only education in my region.)

            I suspect the gross-out pictures, at least, backfired somewhat. Health was folded in with drivers’ education for us, and I remember a lot of excited student chatter about the scare video they showed us with pictures of car crash victims.

          • Adam says:

            You know, they actually did the same thing to us, and I have to say, it worked in a sense. I’ll probably never drive a motorcycle. The images of half-severed testicles will never leave my mind. But sex with women I have no intention to create babies with? Sorry, Catholic church, the ratio of fun to danger there is much greater than fast cars.

        • Deiseach says:

          It was because they were all writing the same story, and it wasn’t to my taste: magical-realism persecution narratives set at the height of one *ism or another, substituting pity and a certain flavor of dreamlike imagery for any meaningful depth.

          It’s a bit like the Irish Novel; even the modern
          ones, produced by people who were born in the 80s, still revolve around the same old tropes (even if there are new vices involved).

  29. suntzuanime says:

    I realize that reference-class gerrymandering can make the outside view useless, but I really don’t see the case of the pizzeria as analogous to the tech conference. In the case of the pizzeria, there was no actual customer denied service; as you point out, who caters pizza to a wedding, gay or otherwise? Instead, there was a shitstirring leftist reporter asking a hypothetical, trying to get exactly the reaction they got, leading to a boycott and a symbolic victory over bigotry. In the case of the tech conference, the conference organizer wasn’t going to exclude Yarvin, until a shitstirring leftist sent an email making an implicit threat to boycott the conference unless the invitation was rescinded.

    So now that I write it out, I see the two situations are pretty analogous, though not in the way you describe. They don’t shed light on a similarity between the left and the right, but rather on a difference; the right minds its own business, while the left stirs shit.

    • Hyzenthlay says:

      I suspect the left stirs more shit now because the balance of power is shifting in their favor and they can afford to do it and be lauded as brave for it. The right has done its share of shitstirring in the past (the classic example being Communist witch-hunts).

      Not disagreeing with anything you’ve said, just saying that it has more to do with who currently has the cultural microphone, as opposed to the left being inherently more prone to shitstirring.

      • suntzuanime says:

        I agree that who stirs the shit is mostly a result of who expects to ideologically profit by stirring the shit, and that there have been times in history when you could have found people on the right engaging in this sort of bullying. I’m not at all convinced that the left isn’t more prone to it, though. There have been times when the right has seized the “cultural microphone”, but I feel like on average since the invention of the printing press it’s spent a lot more time on the left.

        • Tarrou says:

          Problem is that the “right” of today is the left of yesterday and the extreme left of fifty years ago. Ideology is a moving target.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            I think the problem, also, is that it’s really hard to define the concepts of right and left (or conservative and liberal) in concrete terms.

            There’s a perception (kind of embedded in the word itself) that conservative means “whatever most people in the past believed,” and liberal/progressive means “the way things are probably headed.”

            And if you look at it that way, then of course it’s going to look like Cthulu is always swimming to the left and that today’s conservative is yesterday’s liberal, and that leftism therefore is an inescapable oncoming engine that consumes everything in its path.

            This same relativist view can also lead to the perception that conservative thought has ruled throughout much of history and that therefore the right has always been, and continues to be, more powerful.

            The right says, “Cthulu swims to the left, and he’ll keep doing it. Just look at history!” The left says, “Cthulu has always been in charge and still is. Just look at history!”

            I probably shouldn’t have used the words left and right in the first place. I’m trying to get away from framing my thoughts in those terms.

      • R. Jones. says:

        The idea of “communist witchhunting” seems to me like a projection of the very real capitalist witchhunting that preceded it.

      • NFG says:

        The right suffered huge blowback at the time for those witch-hunts. It’s not really comparable. The right has always been a minority party/belief group in America during the 20th and 21st centuries. They’ve never really held the cultural microphone.

        • NN says:

          What about the Satanic panic? Minority or not, that resulted in multiple innocent people being wrongly sent to prison.

        • suntzuanime says:

          I disagree; the blowback the right suffered was akin to things like GamerGate – a reaction to the side with the strong hand overplaying it. I feel like there were definitely periods in the 50s and 80s where Cold War nationalism/anticommunism pushed the right into cultural supremacy.

          • NFG says:

            You can feel that way, but the historical record is not necessarily favorable to that feeling. The press, for example, was heavily leftist and liberal even during the 1950s, and perhaps 1/3 to 1/4 “conservative” as we might define such things in the present day.

          • suntzuanime says:

            The press is an important part of the culture, but certainly not the be-all and end-all. I will admit that I was not alive in the 50s, and not very politically aware in the 80s, but studying the historical record this is how it seems to me. Eisenhower and Reagan were not hiding what they were up to.

          • Jiro says:

            I’m not sure which side you think had a strong hand and overplayed it in Gamergate, but it looks to me like that anti-GG forces had pretty much a complete victory. Every place it’s reported, even in Wikipedia, the reporting is always on the side of “gaming is full of misogyny and harassment”.

          • Randy M says:

            I thnk he’s saying that the press had a strong hand and over-played it, resulting in blowback (possibly inconsequential blowback)

          • NFG says:

            This is a reply to suntzuanime about Reagan and Eisenhower. At the time, those guys were considered liberals among Republicans themselves and they also didn’t hide that fact either. Eisenhower was an OG fiscally conservative socially liberal Republican. See, this is why it’s impossible to rebut the presumption that the right-wing ever had dominance. America is very much essentially liberal in its underpinnings and conservative-ness has always, always been a rump group that never had much influence. But because we couldn’t live quite so atomizedly in the past, modern people keep believing that there was some past-time where conservative-Republicans ran stuff, when that just isn’t reflected in the historical record to any meaningful degree.

          • Dude Man says:


            I’ll agree with you about Eisenhower, but how do you figure that Reagan was considered a moderate in the 80’s? When he ran for the primary in 1976 he was running to the right of Ford and I don’t think there was a group on the right complaining that Reagan wasn’t conservative enough for them.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            I’m not sure which side you think had a strong hand and overplayed it in Gamergate, but it looks to me like that anti-GG forces had pretty much a complete victory. Every place it’s reported, even in Wikipedia, the reporting is always on the side of “gaming is full of misogyny and harassment”.

            I think it’s more complex than that. Just yesterday there was a controversy when the developers of the upcoming Dues Ex game described the treatment of augmented humans as an “apartheid”.

            One of the leads, who chose to use that word, had a rant about it, and he posted it directly to gamergate’s subreddit. (He’s black BTW.)

            So how it’s reported is only part of the story. GG is clearly being noticed inside the industry and doing better there.

          • Cauê says:

            People apparently like Auerbach here, so here’s his take on the current state of support for GG in the industry: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1smmqdt

      • With the thoughts you'd be thinkin says:

        Except it was likely Hoover was feeding McCarthy information, which also explains why a lot of the allegations had some truth to them.

  30. Alex Richard says:

    >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.

    MAD works in real life for three reasons not present in the social justice wars:
    -we can guarantee second-strike capability for nukes, and everybody knows it
    -control over launching nukes is centralized in the hands of around 9 people worldwide, most of whom are at least somewhat selected for responsibility and intelligence, and all of whom are able to contact each other personally at any time
    – there is a very strong taboo against the use of nukes

    • John Schilling says:

      This, exactly.

      Except that, for a while, it wasn’t “about nine”, but at least nine hundred and maybe as many as nine thousand. One of the in-hindsight Really Really Dumb decisions during the cold war was to forward-deploy tactical weapons where they couldn’t really be controlled in the chaos of war, with ships and submarines and army brigades that couldn’t realistically hope to survive a major conflict without going nuclear at the outset.

      Bush the Elder and Gorbachev the Only walked us back from that one in the early 1990s, and the tacnukes are only found in vaults. Though Pakistan is apparently trying to bring them back…

      So, existence proof that MAD can work with hundreds of agents. For a while, in peacetime, with all but a handful of the agents being carefully selected and highly trained for the job.

      But there’s rather more than a few hundred people who can start a twitterstorm of the like, and approximately none of them meet the standards expected of military officers, and the shooting has already started…

    • Sylocat says:

      What corresponds to “second-strike capability” in the social justice wars, and how does one side have the power to preclude it?

      • Schmendrick says:

        A direct analogue would be the ability for a shamed party to generate a counter-mob and organize an equally-destructive boycott of the original shamer: ie. if Brendan Eich had managed to rally a bunch of people to boycott and troll OKCupid into serious trouble even while he was in the process of resigning from Mozilla. The problem is that, as John Schilling said, more often than not the current twitstorms are decentralized with no high-profile target to hit which would, if eliminated, take the wind out of the movement’s sails and cause real damage. The only approximately-analogous tactic I can think of is mass doxxing of twitstorm participants and hoping that those individuals would suffer retribution at the hands of employers, friends, family, community organizations, etc. I don’t think this is a good idea, though.

        • NN says:

          A direct analogue would be the ability for a shamed party to generate a counter-mob and organize an equally-destructive boycott of the original shamer

          This is pretty much GamerGate’s MO. One of the most vivid memories I have of the Great Social Media War of 2014 was Adobe pulling ads from Gawker* in response to a GG email campaign after Sam Biddle’s “bring back bullying” statement, resulting in Adobe’s Twitter mentions being flooded for the next several hours by both denunciations of them for supporting terrorists and expressions of gratitude for standing up to bullies, in roughly equal measure. Multiple people on both sides claim to have called Adobe’s office to personally deliver condemnation/thanks.

          I can’t imagine how horrifying the experience must have been for Adobe’s social media manager. It’s one thing to be yelled at by a bunch of angry people on the internet, and quite another to be yelled at by two groups of angry people making opposite demands.

          Of course, GG does have high-profile targets in the form of Kotaku, Polygon, Gawker, and so on, so its applicability to other twitstorms may be limited.

          * Technically, Adobe didn’t pull ads. Their ad campaign on Gawker had ended a while ago and they just asked Gawker take their logo off of the sponsors page. But this quickly ceased to matter, as details usually do in twitstorms.

      • Watercressed says:

        The most obvious analogy is getting participants in the mobbing fired/excluded in turn

        • John Schilling says:

          Right, but if it takes a mob to get one person fired, that’s mathematically unsustainable. If any one person can get any other person fired, that’s going to get really ugly.

          • Anthony says:

            if it takes a mob to get one person fired, that’s mathematically unsustainable.

            No, because you can keep using the same mob over and over. Especially if you can get them worked up over the other side’s retaliation.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            In this case, “Getting really ugly” is exactly what we want. That’s the point of MAD.

          • fubarobfusco says:

            If any one person can get any other person fired, that’s going to be very bad for labor and pretty crappy for capital too. It would generally suck as a matter of economics, increasing unemployment massively and causing huge retraining costs for business.

      • no one special says:

        For “second-strike” capability in social justice wars, I’d point to the classic DongleGate. Richards outed a joker and got him fired using her mob, and a counter-mob formed and got her fired.

  31. PsychoRecycled says:

    “On the other hand, vox has practically led the news media in 24-7 coverage of police officers…”

    Vox should be capitalized.

    Pointing out spelling/style errors is an acceptable thing to do here, right?

    • John Schilling says:

      Also, if the whole Hugo/Sad Puppies thing is part of the debate, we need a way to distinguish Vox the website from Vox Day the troublemaker. It’s more than a little jarring when my brain picks the wrong definition and tries to interpret the text around it.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        Vox Day has a fairly public birth name which you could use to disambiguate him.

        In his case, I’m probably above-averagely resistant to going by his chosen name because, regardless of his politics, picking a nom-de-plume that implies that you speak with the voice of God is the kind of chutzpah that rubs me the wrong way…

        • Deiseach says:

          I thought he might be punning on “vox populi, vox Dei”?

          Though I tend mostly to roll my eyes at puns and ignore them afterwards.

          • NFG says:

            He’s punning on his own given name.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            He’s punning on his own given name.

            I thought Theodore meant ‘gift of God’ rather than ‘voice of God’, but my Greek is even rustier than my Latin.

  32. Saul Degraw says:

    Sometime reader, first time commentator.

    1. I think that you are not making enough of a distinction between liberals and leftists. Most journalists and professors are on the left in some way but most are garden-variety liberals and not raging revolutionaries. Plus people have inconsistent politics. A lot of my friends who are academics are further to my left in many ways but they are deeply concerned with the whole trigger warning and campus stuff.

    2. I find it interesting that being liberal gets me seen as an extremist revolutionary by some and a milquetoast traitor by others.

    3. There are obviously times when this does spill into the real world but if we are being honest people like Vox Day, Yarvin, and their left-wing equivalents will never have much of a say or influence on actual policy and politics because they are really way out of the mainstream. All of these stories seem like a lot of anecdotes coming in at once but I have yet to see it really become a thing. There are stories of high-profile shammings and punishments because of ill-advised tweets but there is a constant onslaught of stuff on-line. How much stuff is just going unnoticed? How many people (even in fandom) could tell you who Vox Day is? What percentage of computer industry people know who Yarvin is and how extreme his politics are? I feel like there is a strange amplification effect going on and I can’t place my finger on what it is exactly beyond “Maybe some people (myself included) spend way too much time on the Internet….”

    • Eggo says:

      Watch what happens to Jonathan Chait over the next few years. If he doesn’t end up purged for trying to defend mainstream liberalism against the left, I owe you a beer.

      The worry is that the people on the fringe are just target practice, and obscure tech conferences are just superweapon test ranges.
      Similarly, the police don’t have a drone looking through your window right now, but people see a danger in efforts to normalize their use for surveillance.

      • Saul Degraw says:

        I think Chait writes for a very different market than the Twitter-Tumblr sphere.

        Online activism strikes me as a hyper-version of university politics. Things are so nasty because the stakes are so small.

        The far left has never been a serious contender in American politics. This is a not too inaccurate description of the far-left in the United States:


        “At its worst, however, Left Forum is Comic Con for Marxists—Commie Con, if you will—and an absolute shitshow of nerds and social rejects. There are bitter old codgers that will harangue you about a thirty-some-years-old internecine grudge, and there are politically unsophisticated kids with Che Guevara t-shirts and Adbusters subscriptions. There are sanctimonious Trotskyists, ridiculous Maoist Third-Worldists, condescending horizontalist anarchists, smug social democrats and a glut of ardent adherents to similarly esoteric ideological traditions, all competing for the title of Most Insufferable Anti-Capitalist. Left Forum is notorious for grueling Q&A sessions, often with nary a “Q” to be found. People like to demonstrate how many books they’ve read (or worse, have written and self-published) in embarrassing displays of pretension and/or machismo, and cynicism is frequently substituted for insight.”

        The Weather Underground and Symbonise Liberation Army were probably really scary in the 1960s but they were ultimately ineffectual and are now just small pieces of history. I suspect the current twitter activists will be the same.

      • HeelBearCub says:


        Well, I suppose we would need to agree on a definition of purged. When it comes to the commentariat, I think the best you can arrive at is self purging. So, folks like David Frum and Andrew Sullivan really did self purge from the right-wing in America (while maintaining their self-defined stances as conservatives).

        Chait has definitely not self-purged from the left, and I would bet a 6-pack or even case of beer that he will not (the good stuff that you can’t actually buy in cases). But I am sure you could look out there right now and find someone on Twitter who has declared Chait to be persona non grata.

        • Saul Degraw says:


          You can find someone on twitter who believes or has done almost anything. Are there people who declared Chait persona non grata? Yes.

          There are plenty of people on the left who disagreed with Chait’s essay but also still include him as a member of the left because he is very good at taunting and criticizing Republicans. Chait did not end his essay with an announcement that he is switching sides. He still believes in the tenants of social welfare.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Saul Degraw:

            I’m not sure what you mean, as you appear to be in vehement agreement with me.

    • Adam says:

      There is definitely an amplification effect going on. It’s not even too much time spent on the Internet. It’s an extremely specific part of the Internet. I’m on the Internet all the damn time and have been for 15 years, am at least somewhat of a sci-fi fan (though largely stopped reading fiction altogether about seven years ago), work in computing, and I’d never heard of any of these people until I started coming to this specific website. I’d never even heard the term “social justice warrior” until a few months ago and only used Tumblr to find porn, blissfully unaware it had this whole other side to it.

  33. kernly says:

    Difference between pizza nonsense and conference expulsion is obvious and profound. It’s the difference between exercising free association, and putting pressure – in a cooperative, premeditated manner – on people to only associate with those who are “approved.” If a group was going around telling people not to sell to gay people, and implying that if they didn’t comply they would kick up a stink about it, that would be an analogous situation. And whether it’s a fundamentalist church doing it to gays or a bunch of SJWs doing it to conservatives, this sort of shit needs to be punished. As harshly and swiftly as fucking possible.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I wouldn’t find the Strange Loop situation especially different if the conference organizer had just personally hated right-wingers and decided to ban them without anyone pressuring him to do so.

      • I think there’s a large difference between the two cases.

        If only people who personally disagreed with Yarvin (or hated right-wingers) recsinded invitations to a conference they organised, or didn’t invite people they disagreed with, then Yarvin could conceivably have been invited to another conference.

        If, on the other hand, the reason he decided not to invite Yarvin was because of outside pressure – or even worse, the fear of it – then that outside pressure and the fear of it can force even those who do not hate right-wingers to not invite them, thus making it impossible for Yarvin to speak at any conferences at all.

        An analogous situation – if only fundamentalist Christians refused to cater to gay weddings, that’s probably be fine. If fundamentalist Christians put pressure on everyone who catered gay weddings so that it became difficult to impossible for a gay couple to find a wedding caterer, that’s a very different (and much bigger) problem.

        • Randy M says:

          The difference between “I insist on my living my life as my conscience dictates” and “I insist on your living your life as my conscience dictates.”

          • Mary says:

            Except that argument invariably turns into, “What you want against the law is your conscience; what I want against the law is just common sense.”

            I insist on your living your life as my conscience dictates in some arenas — for instance, murder, robbery, and arson.

        • Adam says:

          Frankly, after looking at their site, I think Alex Miller is lying if he’s saying it’s only because of external pressure. They adapted their damn policy from Geek Feminism Wiki and give diversity scholarships to LGBT attendees. This is obviously not a politically neutral place. They just had no idea who they were inviting and probably shat their pants at the idea when they found out.

    • haishan says:

      You might be right that this is a major and salient difference. It’s certainly true that the present-day Anglosphere left uses mob pressure in a way that the right doesn’t. But… this feels way too much like motivated reasoning to me. (At least in my case, I’m not saying you’re doing it.) Better to assume the least convenient possible world and see what falls out of that.

      • Nornagest says:

        This might be a manifestation of the implicit power vs. explicit power distinction that Scott talked about in the Meditations, way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. tl;dr is that SJ causes tend to be upset about what they see as tacit bias inherent in society, most of which is too subtle to really call out (“microaggressions”) but which adds up to an oppressive atmosphere. Hence why when someone says something overtly stupid, they tear into him like a velociraptor lunging head-first into a trough full of goat legs: if most people are *ist but express that in vague and ambiguous ways, then someone who isn’t vague or ambiguous must be the second coming of Hitler or something.

        Meanwhile, anti-SJ causes tend to be upset about overt pressure tactics and double standards, most of which were originally created to counter that tacit bias.

  34. Nornagest says:

    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.

    Social justice activism is necessarily a plot to get more political power because activism is necessarily a plot to get more political power — or, at least, to point more political power in the direction you want it pointed, which seems equivalent to me. That’s, like, the definition of activism.

    I wouldn’t call it a plot to steal resources, but that’s because we as a society have agreed that the resources in question are to be allocated to the people that scream the loudest, which occasionally has unpleasant consequences but which we can’t really change without burning the whole system down. As to silencing dissenting views, that’s a tactical choice rather than a strategic objective.

    • Richard Gadsden says:

      “A plot to gain more political power” implies to me that obtaining the political power was the objective.

      As for: “a plot to get more political power — or, at least, to point more political power in the direction you want it pointed, which seems equivalent to me.”

      Those are moral opposites. Using a cause to obtain political power for oneself is the ultimate corruption of politics; obtaining political power by proclaiming a cause, and then using that power to achieve that cause is the way politics is supposed to work.

      One cares mostly about who wields the power, the other about the cause in which the power is wielded.

      • Nornagest says:

        That moral distinction is so inconsequential in practice that I sometimes forget it exists. But, of course, both sides of it are tightly correlated; most activists dream of having the power to change the course of history (and of escaping whatever frustrations led them to activism, of being feted for their goodness, &c), and most activists do sincerely want history to flow in a certain direction. I expect the strength of all these desires to be far more strongly predicted by how generally serious a given activist is about activism, than by their ethics.

        I actually think the rare ones that care purely about the cause are the more dangerous; you can expect the others, at least, to care about what other people think.

  35. oligopsony says:

    I don’t think it would be even slightly excessive to have banned me. You should ban whoever you find unpleasant to deal with; this is your hobby that you’re doing because it’s (presumably) fun.

  36. E. Harding says:

    “When one side has nukes, they nuke Hiroshima and win handily.”
    -Nukes were totally inconsequential to Japanese surrender. The Japanese leadership had zero regard for civilian casualties, and cared much more about Stalin’s brain (and armies). This was an inevitable result of Japan’s leadership being too stupid to attack Kamchatka instead of Hawaii while it still could. If they had done this, they might have won the war handily.

    “then under the threat of mutually assured destruction they eventually come up with protocols to prevent those nukes from being used.”
    -Or, in this scenario, the Nash equilibrium may well be to use the nukes any time they could be used. Counter perpetual Social Leftist (Media) War with perpetual Social-Economic Rightist (Media) War. Expect the rifts to deepen to the Earth’s core. And Vietnam, Afghanistan, Chile, Nicaragua, Indonesia, Cuba, Zaire and Korea were pretty bloody, as well.

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      -Nukes were totally inconsequential to Japanese surrender. The Japanese leadership had zero regard for civilian casualties, and cared much more about Stalin’s brain (and armies). This was an inevitable result of Japan’s leadership being too stupid to attack Kamchatka instead of Hawaii while it still could. If they had done this, they might have won the war handily.”

      Nukes were important. The Japanese were banking on a grand battle to bleed the US. The ability to simply annihilate them at will made the Emperor realize that was unworkable.

      As for Stalin… attacking the Russians at any point in WW2 would be crazy. The Japanese lost against the Soviets in the 1930s in their battles and fighting a four front war (Siberia, China, Malaysia/Burma/India, Indonesia/Australia) would be beyond their capabilities. Not to mention if they win they get Vladistock and then have to travel a thousands miles to get anywhere important.

      • Schmendrick says:

        It’s scary how close the Japanese came to not attacking in the South- and Mid-Pacific at all…if the Kwangtung Army hadn’t disobeyed direct orders from Tokyo and attacked the Soviets at Khalkin Gol or if they hadn’t massively bungled the subsequent battle (though to be fair the future Marshal Zhukov was the commander of the Russian forces – a bit of an advantage for the Reds) then the Imperial Navy would probably never have marshaled significant support for a resource-gathering offensive into SE Asia, especially considering Kamchatka and Siberia were, like, right there. A Japanese push in 1941, if timed in concert with Operation Barbarossa may well have broken the Soviet’s back.

        • Protagoras says:

          As I understand it, the Soviets were better prepared for a Japanese attack than one might think, and the Japanese were not well set up for that sort of war. So the amount their efforts would have helped may not be all that great. Still, it is true that the Soviets came very close to falling in actual history when they were facing just the Germans, and the Soviets presumably also would have gotten less U.S. aid if the U.S. wasn’t in the war. So it does admittedly seem like even a small Japanese contribution could have been the difference.

          • Schmendrick says:

            IIRC the reason the Soviets were well-set to resist a Japanese push into Siberia in 1941 is because the Japanese already tried it in 1939, resulting in the disastrous battle of Khalkin Gol where they got schooled in combined arms tactics by Georgy Zhukov. That said, the troops that ultimately were used to push the Nazis back from the gates of Moscow were pulled from the Siberian front, so if the Japanese had foregone war with the British and Americans in favor of attacking Siberia again in 1941, the Soviets would have been presented with a Sophie’s Choice of allowing the Nazis to dig in for the winter within 25 miles of Moscow, or losing non-trivial amounts of Siberia to the Japanese (along with all the resources that entailed.

          • Oliver Cromwell says:

            The Japanese should have declared war on Germany in 1940 and the USSR in 1941. Both times they should have declared their undying friendship to Britain and America and the liberal world order.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Breaking in here for a second:
            It’s unlikely that Moscow would have been lost even without additional forces from Siberia. Even if Moscow does fall, the Soviets aren’t really out of the game, though, logistically, moving armies becomes more difficult without the Moscow rail hub.
            Japan survives maybe 2 months against the USSR if they are lucky, and the Germans take Moscow if they are REALLY lucky, and that still doesn’t win them the war.

        • Cassander says:

          Zhukov was in command, but he was in command of units that were, at best, second rate. A second rate Russian unit in 1939 was not an impressive thing, but they still managed to beat the shit out of the absolute cream of the IJA. The IJA of 1939 would have had trouble with the allied armies of 1918. In 1939, with basically no tanks, no AT weapons, not nearly enough artillery, and horrendous logistics, they had no chance of making the slightest dent against Russia. Admittedly, they didn’t have any hope against the US and UK either, but that weakness wasn’t staring them quite as boldly in the face.

      • E. Harding says:

        “As for Stalin… attacking the Russians at any point in WW2 would be crazy.”
        -Not in December 1941, when Nazi forces were right next to Moscow and the siege of Leningrad had already begun. Population of Japan+Germany c. 1940>Population of modern Russia and 80% of the population of the Soviet Union c. 1940. Add a few Italian forces, subtract some Muslims, and the potential army sizes between the Axis and USSR are roughly equivalent.
        “Not to mention if they win they get Vladistock and then have to travel a thousands miles to get anywhere important.”
        -And…? Even if it isn’t important, it’s still territory, and it would still be bleeding the Soviet Union dry.
        “Nukes were important.”
        -No, they weren’t.
        “The ability to simply annihilate them at will made the Emperor realize that was unworkable.”
        -American ability to inflict mass civilian casualties was well-known to the Japanese leadership. The conventional Bombing of Tokyo had casualties higher than the unconventional bombing of Hiroshima. The Japanese leadership just didn’t care about civilian casualties. And the Japanese (correctly) understood America couldn’t possibly have more than a few nuclear weapons up its sleeve.

        • Schmendrick says:

          “Even if it isn’t important, it’s still territory, and it would still be bleeding the Soviet Union dry.”

          And more importantly, it would be largely empty territory with massive stocks of natural resources. The Japanese were concerned about the carrying capacity of their home islands, and were short on resources. Seems like a match made in heaven, no?

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            The resource they need is oil. I don’t believe there are any oil wells or pipes constructed in the area they’d be conquering.

          • Protagoras says:

            The Japanese thought Manchuria would solve some of their resource problems, but they didn’t manage to get much productivity out of the region. And in their fighting against Germany, one of the things the Soviets were good about was evacuating or destroying machinery and infrastructure. It thus seems likely that the Japanese would have had some trouble setting up any serious effort to exploit the resources of the region in any realistic time frame.

          • Schmendrick says:

            In point of fact, there’s a ton of oil in Siberia. I don’t know if this was known at the time, however. There is a lot of coal in Manchuria, Mongolia, and southern Siberia, which at the time was a dying but still feasible replacement for oil, especially in civilian applications. The Navy wanted oil for its boilers, but if the Army had remained ascendant that goal would have been secondary.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          -Not in December 1941, when Nazi forces were right next to Moscow and the siege of Leningrad had already begun. Population of Japan+Germany c. 1940>Population of modern Russia and 80% of the population of the Soviet Union c. 1940. Add a few Italian forces, subtract some Muslims, and the potential army sizes between the Axis and USSR are roughly equivalent.”

          The Japanese couldn’t conquer China after 4 years of trying. Adding the Japanese isn’t going to change the situation for the Russians.

          “-And…? Even if it isn’t important, it’s still territory, and it would still be bleeding the Soviet Union dry.”

          That isn’t how war works. Owning the trackless wastes of Siberia doesn’t contribute anything to victory. It is also “bleeding the USSR dry” if the troops you are killing would have been kept there anyways.

          “-American ability to inflict mass civilian casualties was well-known to the Japanese leadership. The conventional Bombing of Tokyo had casualties higher than the unconventional bombing of Hiroshima. The Japanese leadership just didn’t care about civilian casualties.”

          Firebombing was incredibly inefficient at causing mass civilian casualties. Despite the massive amounts of effort, the most brutal firebombing attack in the war (Tokyo, 1945) killed only 1 in 28- 1 in 67. Meanwhile a single nuke killed 1 in 3 people in the target city.

          For the first time we could kill everyone in Japan and do so with impunity.

          Their battle plan was “grand battle against the US to bleed them and make peace”. Having the US able to kill everyone at will makes that plan impossible.

          “And the Japanese (correctly) understood America couldn’t possibly have more than a few nuclear weapons up its sleeve.””

          They be wrong. The US had 6 bombs by the end of the year

    • Mary says:

      “When one side has nukes, they nuke Hiroshima and win handily.”
      -Nukes were totally inconsequential to Japanese surrender. The Japanese leadership had zero regard for civilian casualties, and cared much more about Stalin’s brain (and armies).

      I am aware that this view is popular in certain circles. What evidence is there that this is true?

  37. kernly 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?

    That’s totally beside the point, though. Refusing to associate with someone because you disagree with them, or for any other reason, is totally kosher. What isn’t, is trying to force other people to follow your lead. It’s fine that the SJWs hate Moldbug, and wouldn’t want to go to one of his talks. It’s fine if the person organizing the talks happens to be an SJW and refuses Moldbug on ideological grounds. What isn’t fine is the SJWs going around to everyone and trying to enforce their standards everywhere. Let’s be clear: this is an attempt to inflict a lifetime of torture on their opponents. If you bully anyone who decides to employ the object of your ire, you are attempting to destroy their life.

    If you hold an opinion that most of society thinks is stupid, you are fine. Eventually you’ll come across a group of friends and an employer who don’t care. If you’re being followed around by a bunch of people who call you scum and warn anyone who associates with you that they’ll be fair game if they continue, you’re only as fine as those people are weak or unenduring. If they’re strong, numerous, and determined, and you don’t have substantial personal wealth or popularity to draw on, you are FUCKED. I hope it is clear that someone hating everyone of a certain race or class or ideology or football fanclub is in a totally different threat class from someone who pals up with other people to make examples of the wrong sort of people. The appropriate response to the first kind of person is to try to educate them, and the consequences for not doing so are mild. The appropriate response to the second is to crush them with overwhelming force, and the consequences for not doing so is the onset of tyranny.

    • walpolo says:

      Where do you draw the line between forcing someone to follow you in a boycott, and convincing them to do so through reasoned argument? The distinction seems a bit blurry in the Moldbug case.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Not blurry at all; if you read the conference organizer’s statement on disinviting Yarvin, it’s clear that reasoned argument is not what has persuaded him. His concern is that “[Yarvin’s] mere inclusion and/or presence would overshadow the content of his talk and become the focus”; he specifically states that he has not read any of the writings that the SJWs find offensive. This is not him being persuaded, this is him giving in to threats.

        • DavidS says:

          Maybe part of the problem is that people want to appear objective and not engage personally, so it’s easier to say you’re problem is that inviting someone would overshadow the event than to express a personal opinion on their writings? You see this sort of rationale a lot on all sides, not sure it’s always fear or intimidation.

    • Emile says:

      Refusing to associate with someone because you disagree with them, or for any other reason, is totally kosher. What isn’t, is trying to force other people to follow your lead.

      I find this insightful. I find it parallels an argument I had been making (in an unrelated discussion) that not being attracted to someone on account of them being transsexual was okay, but however, mocking others for being in a relationship with a transsexual was not (or other ways of discouraging it).

      To put this down more formally, we should have increasing levels of tolerance for various flavors of “censhorship” :

      * the government banning things

      * what major organisations (the press, companies’ internal policies) condemn

      * people telling each other that something is bad

      * what people like or don’t like

      (the lowest on the list, the more it’s okay to “dislike/condemn” things)

      • Deiseach says:

        not being attracted to someone on account of them being transsexual was okay

        Do you not know this is wrong thinking? That taking account of someone being a transsexual and then using that as your basis for not finding them attractive is transphobic? That you should examine your social conditioning as to why you would not be attracted to a transsexual woman but would be attracted to a cissexist woman (whether you’re straight or lesbian) and then work to overcome such irrational prejudices before you can then decide if you really are or are not attracted to them?

        That’s the kind of arguments I’ve seen, anyway 🙂

      • kernly says:

        people telling each other that something is bad

        Is almost always fine. What isn’t fine is, “If you like this, you are bad.” What’s even less fine is “If you associate with this person or hire this person, you are bad.”

        I think it’s a problem that easily ties with the government banning things in significance. The government can be crushingly powerful and focused, but it usually isn’t. Especially when it comes to things that aren’t people usurping the monopoly on violence or refusing to pay tribute. For instance, the war on drugs is pretty fucked up but you can still easily get drugs, and that isn’t because crushing the drug trade is impossible.

  38. Barry says:

    I don’t know if my perspective is widely shared or not, but here’s how I see the Social Justice Wars. I reside pretty squarely in the Conservative/Libertarian quadrant and I do not care at all about the SJW Agenda. It is not relevant to the day-to-day life of the vast majority of people in this country who aren’t currently in college. It doesn’t offend me and it doesn’t bother me and whenever I happen to encounter it I know it can safely be ignored. It’s only actual function is to remind us of our badly screwed up family and education systems that allow it to exist. Even though it has recently gained the potential to start doing some real long-term damage, I’m convinced that this moment will not last. The grand Progressive alliance is already starting to show cracks and I don’t think it will be much longer until it all falls apart.

    Despite this, as was inevitable, the Conservative side has decided to stop being an easy target and to stop giving up so much cultural ground for free. Hence the backlash, which mostly consists of pointing out the glaringly obvious contradictions that exist in the foundation of the SJ movement and highlighting the hypocrisies of it’s practitioners. It’s also happens to be a lot of fun, however, I don’t get the feeling the Conservative side is as invested in this battle as the SJ side. I think it’s because conservatives understand, on a maybe subconscious level, that the country as a whole is a lot more “conservative” than the daily grind of SJ back-and-forth makes it seem. Most of us just don’t have the time or the patience to deal with it, and real life just doesn’t have the space for it. This is a battleground reserved for those who have the time to think about it.

    And so no, I don’t care about Microaggressions, on either side. I don’t care if conservative viewpoints continue to get marginalized in mainstream media and on college campuses. Both of them are dying anyway. I will not refer to Caitlin Jenner as a “She”, and I will not get offended if you call me transphobic. I will not “own my privilege” and I won’t demand you stop calling me “an enabler of of the patriarchy”. In short, I am convinced that you are ridiculous, and that in the end you won’t matter.

    • Brian says:

      Your perspective is shared by at least one. I feel sympathy for the people who are sensitive enough to get worked up over this kind of stuff. The lack of resilience (or to use the term du decade, “grit”) in grown-up men and women is baffling. As you say, their family and education failed to prepare them for the world.

      I don’t respect many SJWs, but it’s not because they are [insert latest marginalized group here]; it’s because they allow their feelings to be hurt by words. There is literally no combination of sounds that can come from a stranger’s mouth that would ever cause me psychological harm. Maybe that’s my privilege talking, or maybe that’s because I’m okay with who I am.

    • Swami Cat says:

      Thanks for writing this, Barry.

      I have no affection for either side of the controversy. That said, I simply can’t believe Conservatives and the non-SJ majority are putting up with such nonsense.

      I would characterize the issue as one between liberalism and anti liberalism. Racism and religious discrimination and homophobia are all fundamentally illiberal. But the SJ initiative is every bit as illiberal. We need to clearly point out the dangers and risks of illiberal thinking on both sides of the political spectrum and no longer encourage or support either.

      I think the whole SJ issue reflects something ugly in human nature. There is a fundamental tribalistic us vs them mentality. The “thems” are getting power and abusing it the same way the “us” did yesterday. I guess they failed to grok the memo that the whole point was to proceed to a “we”.

  39. Liskantope says:

    Thank you for this post! I have a particular liking for the ones that come across primarily as self-reflection (Right Is The New Left for instance).

    The issue of where exactly to draw the line between espousing one’s own political/philosophical views and saying something that makes an environment unacceptably unsafe for another party is something I’ve been pondering for a while. I mean, it seems clear enough that holding some political conservative position such as, say, “the government should cut welfare”, shouldn’t result in someone losing their job on the basis of their views allegedly creating an unsafe work environment for those of low socioeconomic background. On the other hand, there are political-issue-related views such as “such-and-such coworker only got here because of affirmative action” which I can’t help but feel should result in discipline of some sort. It would be good if we could all agree on lines that should not be crossed and appropriate reactions to crossing them, where the definitions for these lines are independent of any particular political issue or marginalized group involved. But that is a topic for another time.

    • Cauê says:

      saying something that makes an environment unacceptably unsafe

      creating an unsafe work environment

      “feeling unsafe” != being unsafe

      • Matt M says:

        The “safety” rhetoric is the worst.

        But it IS kind of funny how ideologically disparate groups figured out how effective it was entirely independently.

        The two most common times you’ll hear “they made me feel unsafe” are at a college activist group meeting (who says it to try and get speakers they don’t like disinvited from campus) and at a debriefing for a police officer who just shot someone (who uses it as justification for lethal force).

    • William O. B'Livion says:

      which I can’t help but feel should result in discipline of some sort.

      I certainly would fear for my job working around you. No telling *what* common, normal statement would come out of my mouth that would have you feeling I should be disciplined.

      • Liskantope says:

        I admit the kind of policy I’m suggesting lends itself to a slippery slope and is therefore tricky. You, however, seem to have slid all the way down the slope to a place that is somewhat of a hyperbolic distortion of my suggestion.

        First of all, there wouldn’t be a question of “fear[ing] for your job” except maybe in some very extreme case of relentlessly harassing someone so much they really can’t function in the workplace, or I’m not even sure what. I’m thinking more in terms of having certain direct-bullying comment reported to an ombudsman who then tells off the offender and makes them feel inhibited from continuing that kind of behavior, or, in an extreme enough case, makes the offender move offices or something.

        Secondly, I’m not talking about drawing the line to rope off statements that would be considered “common” or “normal” by many people (at least I certainly hope they wouldn’t!) For instance, telling someone to her face that she’s clearly only here because of affirmative action for women is hardly innocuous — it’s a direct attack on, well, her existence in that workplace related to an aspect of her identity, and a very literally unwelcoming comment. (And yes, this actually happened in my math department.) I don’t know you, William, but I would assume this is not the kind of remark you carelessly make to someone in passing. On the other hand, say, posting an article on Facebook rebutting the notion that women are underrepresented in math due to misogynistic attitudes in academic culture, is not a direct attack on a coworker’s right to be there, and I wouldn’t consider posting the article as an action that should be disciplined in any way even while many might argue that it contributes to an unwelcoming environment. I’m not sure yet how exactly to define where the line should be, but I’m cautiously proposing that it be placed to rope off the former behavior while allowing the latter.

        My main point was that this boundary between merely espousing controversial views and making statements derived from them which are sufficiently directly threatening to coworkers should be generally agreed upon all across the board, and that the rule of which kinds of speech should and shouldn’t be subject to discipline should be clearly laid out. That way, you wouldn’t have to worry about not knowing what you might say in passing that gets you disciplined.

        • alright says:

          What if that female co-worker does not produce the same quality of work as other colleges and the workplace has affirmative action policy? Or maybe she does not show same level of knowledge?

          In that case, the statement is equivalent of saying “she is not doing good enough work” and it seem to me that it is what the person is trying to express. I have seen people complain about white male being lazy, producing shoddy work, getting job on soft skills and charisma instead of skill or whatever.

          Is there substantial reason to discipline one of these statements? The only gendered thing there is “hired due to affirmative action” assumption which replaces “was charismatic during interview” assumption you would have for men.

          • Cauê says:

            I think “they were only hired because they’re related to the boss” would carry an effectively identical accusation.

            But would probably be treated very differently.

          • Liskantope says:

            Hmm. I guess that if someone were to tell their equally-ranked coworker, “You don’t do good enough work to merit even being here”, then that is still a pretty direct attack and maybe the person on the receiving end should report it to a mutual superior so they can step in. I would probably still want to consider it as crossing the line. But my strong instinct is that connecting it to a part of their identity, such as being a member of a group which is a beneficiary of affirmative action, makes the insult worse in a significant way. It’s hard for me right now to put my finger on a rational reason to feel this way, except that a “You only got here because you’re a woman!” remark suggests that the speaker might have been primed in the first place to suspect that her abilities might be inferior because of affirmative action. I have similar emotions regarding comments about a white male not doing good enough work if it’s tied in some way to his whiteness or maleness — for instance, “You only got here because of your white male privilege!” In either case, a part of the person’s identity, which they did not choose, is being used to attack them and explicitly say they are not welcome.

            That is also the case in Caue’s “they were only hired because they’re related to the boss” example. I’m not sure how they would be treated differently, and don’t think they should be treated differently. (Of course, if someone feels they have good evidence that their coworker was hired solely due to nepotism, then it might make sense to go over the head of the boss and make this case — assuming that such nepotism, unlike affirmative action, is illegal.)

    • Alraune says:

      On the other hand, there are political-issue-related views such as “such-and-such coworker only got here because of affirmative action” which I can’t help but feel should result in discipline of some sort.

      Why hello there, unsafe-environment-making person. Your hostility to honest expression is incompatible with the values of any successful company and you should be fired from whatever it is you do.

      • Anonymous says:

        There are much nicer ways of making this point.

        • Alraune says:

          I disagree. Chilling effects are felt, not reasoned, if the counter-argument doesn’t inflict a strong impulse that he run for the nearest universally lauded ideological flag to wave it probably didn’t work.

          Likewise, the correct counter-argument to any argument in favor of doxxing is an anonymous envelope containing a photo of the speaker’s children.

          • Liskantope says:

            Wow. Trying to parse that second sentence of your comment, I understand that you think the best “counter-argument” to a dangerous proposal is to give the opponent a taste of that danger themself. Uncomfortably close to a “two wrongs make a right” mentality.

            But it’s not having that much of an effect on me, because you’re attacking a very distorted version of my suggestion where I supposedly want to punish honest expression that someone else doesn’t like (which — oops! — would include my own honest suggestion that some honest expressions be punished!) I grant that my initial post may have been worded ambiguously in places — which of course doesn’t mean that the kneejerk reaction to my words should be to interpret them in the worst possible light — but I thought I clarified some points pretty well in my reply to William O. above, which I made before your comments (maybe you hadn’t refreshed in time to see it before posting your first one).

            You’re missing the point that I’m suggesting agreeing on a line between expressions of political belief that may have uncomfortable consequences, and direct attacks on coworkers which merit maybe some action (which by the way could just be a verbal warning saying “don’t do this”). The line serves not only to protect people from such attacks but also to protect those who want to make controversial political statements that aren’t direct attacks from being disciplined for doing so.

            Or maybe you don’t believe any verbal expression in the workplace should be disciplined at all. So before going any further, let me ask you this.

            Do you think there should be consequences for sexual harassment at work? I don’t mean sexual assault or any direct threat of it, but persistent and purely verbal sexual advances that continue despite the other party’s declared lack of interest. Which are honest expressions of a feeling someone wants to convey to their coworker.

  40. 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.

    The risk of being shamed for one’s opinion scales up with career & personal success, while the risk of being killed walking around is linear.

    A scalp’s value in the culture war is proportional to the former owner’s notability, so the risk of purging rises with success. With sufficient importance and fame, and with sufficiently incorrect opinions, the risk of being purged approaches 100%.

    If you’re nobody, no one cares to police your opinion. The choice is to avoid voicing any controversial opinions or avoid high levels of success and fame. That’s what makes it so scary.

    • Randy M says:

      “If you’re nobody, no one cares to police your opinion.”

      Perhaps better stated as “If you’re nobody, only other nobodies care to police your opinion.”
      I’m reminded of the Donglegate thing, and the Socorro (sp?) thing.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Those are still upper-middle-class jobs they’re holding, and even then there are a lot of upper-middle-class workers to divide those cases up among, whereas there are relatively few C-level executives to make up the reference class for Pax Dickinson and Brendan Eich.

        The only case I can think of where this sort of ideological purging was applied to a working-class person was Ben Kuchera trying to get somebody fired from Dick’s Sporting Goods for arguing with him about GamerGate, and he was roundly mocked for that. Just like in 1984, if you’re a prole you can get away with thinking whatever you want, because it doesn’t matter what you think.

        • Randy M says:

          Programmers are upper-middle class? Or were they management? And what about small business (pizza shop) owners?

          (I don’t ask to be pedantic, but because it is interesting)

          • suntzuanime says:

            Programmers are definitely upper-middle-class in America, at least if they’re good at their jobs. I would agree that the owner of a pizza shop seems like an excessively petty target, and I don’t expect that sort of thing to happen often, but as a small business owner they are technically a member of the loathsome bourgeoisie.

          • John Schilling says:

            This seems dangerously close to asserting that all members of the class “programmer” are either rich enough to be privileged, and thus do not need to be respected by the rest of us, or are incompetent, and thus ought not be respected.

          • suntzuanime says:

            If you think being a member of the upper middle class disqualifies you from respect, that’s your problem, and I’m not going to refuse to call members of the upper middle class what they are to work around your bizarre prejudices.

            Perhaps the sarcasm in my use of the phrase “loathsome bourgeoisie” did not quite make it all the way across the internet?

          • John Schilling says:

            OK, I’ll take your word for it that you respect upper-middle-class programmers.

            I’m now going to insist that you define what “upper-middle-class” means to you. And then investigate the actual salary distribution of programmers (as opposed to IT professionals generally), compared to the cost of living in the places where programmers work.

            Then repeat, with a straight face, your claim that all programmers who don’t meet your upper-middle-class standard, aren’t any good at their job. Seriously, what’s the level of incompetence you are ascribing to the programming community? 80% or so?

          • suntzuanime says:

            This is a stupid argument, but median pay for a software developer is upper five figures, and a software developer that’s good at their job should beat the median, because there are a lot of bad programmers out there. That’s leaving aside the issue of class as distinct from income (a good programmer might take a lower-paying job in order to work on open-source software or whatever, the key thing is the status that comes with the job).

            The weather here has been awful enough that I’m not really interested in hearing people whine about how expensive it is to live in California.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @John Schilling

            The upper-middle class is generally defined as people in the top 15% income bracket, which in the US starts at about $62,500 according to Wikipedia. Most programmers belong to this group.

          • Creutzer says:

            Percentiles in the nation-wide income distribution are pretty meaningless as a measure of social class… And even if you relativise to local costs of living, income isn’t all there is to it. I really don’t see programmers being upper-middle class in terms of social status.

          • Dude Man says:

            Unless you’re using a definition that more or less only counts doctors and lawyers, why wouldn’t programmers be considered upper-middle class?

          • John Schilling says:

            Because the median programmer doesn’t make a six-figure salary, doesn’t have a parent with a six-figure salary, doesn’t manage any subordinates, doesn’t have an advanced degree, isn’t a member of a traditionally high-status profession, doesn’t wear a suit and tie, doesn’t have an upper-middle-class[*] wife, and is a geek who doesn’t get invited to join the local country club.

            It isn’t necessary to have all of these things to be “upper middle class”. A programmer who can tick even half the other boxes would probably be accepted as “upper middle class” with even a $50K salary. But the median programmer, even if they marginally meet the income requirement, doesn’t have any of the other qualifications. Class, even in the United States, is about more than just money.

            Doctors and lawyers, have traditionally had all of these things by the time they are in private practice, which makes them good benchmarks for what upper middle class looks like, but they don’t monopolize it.

            [*] or very attractive middle-middle-class

        • NFG says:

          Upper middle class is not tied strictly to dollars earned, otherwise many plumbers and other blue collar workers would be upper middle class. Programmers are in fact not upper middle class in status, even if some of them have high income earnings. It creates all kinds of terrible class warfare issues, as they are quite underpaid, but they are successfully coerced into believing that they are not because they make more than the median household income to write code all day.

        • kernly says:

          Ideological purging is applied to low level workers all the time. Someone says something that the wrong person disgrees with, and they get papered out the door. It’s just part of the larger class of [employers/managers getting rid of employees they don’t like.] Of course the reason is not made explicit and does not have to be – see “papered out the door.” It’s not organized ideological policing, but it can’t be at that level. It’s still there.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      President of Harvard
      Chancellor of Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory

    • “If you’re nobody, no one cares to police your opinion”

      I bet lots of low paid workers have been fired for saying things in the workplace that could be interpreted as racist, sexist, or homophobic. Employers almost have to fire them or risk a lawsuit. Indeed, I wonder if part of the reason for the high unemployment rate among underclass American men is that many of them regularly use language that could get an employer in trouble if said in the workplace.

      • Anthony says:

        I wonder if part of the reason for the high unemployment rate among underclass American men is that many of them regularly use language that could get an employer in trouble if said in the workplace.

        There may be a correlation, but the causal element for both is probably low intelligence and/or low impulse control.

        Also, in the sorts of jobs that “underclass” men have, an employee making *ist statements means that the employee has either created the potential for fights among the employees in general, or has seriously offended a customer or vendor in a way which will likely bring swifter retaliation than a lawsuit.

    • Squirrel of Doom says:

      > If you’re nobody, no one cares to police your opinion

      The Pizza people and the bakery lady are both low level blue collar workers.

      In Social Justice terms, those were definitely cases of “kicking downward”.

      • Adam says:

        The thing is, at this point, I don’t think being a person of importance has anything at all to do with your social or economic or class status. It mostly has to do with whether you end up in the public eye, and which local story happens to go viral and catch the Internet’s attention on any particular day is more about timing and luck than any characteristic of the people involved.

        Edit: Actually, at all is way too strong. Obviously, if you’re already a celebrity or someone with 200,000 Twitter followers, whatever you say is going to get noticed and matter.

  41. zz says:

    Musings partially inspired by this post. Low confidence, posting them publicly to be criticized.


    Previously on Slate Star Codex, it is lamented that not thinking critically about rape accusations empowers abusers, but that presumption of innocence makes it very hard to punish rapists. (Recall that most rapists do so multiple times.) Building on this, it seems the worst situation is one where the Clymer camp is maximally successful and gets to the point where all rape accusations are assumed to be true becomes a norm, but people have also figured out that abusers exploit this, so making a rape accusation causes people to strongly update in the direction of “you’re an abuser.” Since abusers are, in Ozy’s words, “really charming and manipulative people”, this manages to screw over victims of abuse (since their abusers have a powerful tool to keep them subjugated, which won’t be questioned, on account of their charm and manipulation) and victims of rape (since they, not being abusers, and therefore not tending to be unusually charming and manipulative, get labelled as “potential abuser” if they take action against their rapist.)

    The solution is, of course, to believe true things. There’s a fully generalizable mechanism by which believing not-true things causes Bad Stuff to happen: people want to be seen doing good things (their actual virtue is irrelevant here), so they take a Bad Stuff-minimizing action given their beliefs; given untrue beliefs, instead of picking a Bad Stuff-minimizing action, they pick essentially pick an action at random, causing, on average, Bad Stuff to occur.

    The solution is, of course, to believe true things; in this case, believe an accused rapist is a rapist if and only if they’re a rapist; notice how the above microdystopia dissolves as soon as people believe someone is a rapist iff they’re a rapist. This is, as has been discussed, difficult, since there’s not so much witnesses, so it comes down to ze-said/ze-said. Putting it like this, obvious solution is obvious: threesomes.


    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”.

    Back when I was in high school, I was part of the following conversation:
    Me: Felicity’s* taking precalculus in as a freshman, right?
    Friend: Yeppers
    Me: That’s cool. But why? Don’t need no math to make sandwiches.

    This was funny because the chance either of us seriously believing anything other than “it’s wrong that women not become engineers or whatever, given aptitude and interest, on account of gender.” In claiming that Felicity needn’t study precalculus, I was countersignalling my feminist values.

    Social justice circles aren’t at a point where saying #killallmen can successfully countersignal how much they value men, much like how most instances of “wimmen, make me a sandwich” fail to successfully countersignal valuing women taking any job the free market will pay her to take. Part of this is Poe’s law: now matter how much I disagree with a statement I make, outside of a specific context/a specific circle of people who know me (i.e. basically anything posted on the internet), it’s going to be taken at face value. A good rule of thumb for everyone involved, it seems, is to assume anything that goes on the internet will be taken at face value in absence of clear indications of authorial intent, bearing in mind that Illusion of Transparency is a thing, so your clear indication of intent isn’t necessarily a clear indication of intent.

    *Felicity’s currently at MIT. And also not named Felicity; that’s a standard pseudonym, so Felicity might actually be named Felicity, you can’t update based on the name choice.

    • Julie K says:

      How long has “make me a sandwich” been a meme? I only heard in the past few months. (And why a sandwich? That doesn’t actually require cooking or anything?)

      • Nornagest says:

        I remember hearing it as early as the Nineties.

        Don’t know why a sandwich is canonical here.

        • Deiseach says:

          I have no idea why a sandwich, either, unless the point is that a sandwich is so quick and easy to make, the person asking for it could make it themselves, so the “Woman, go into the kitchen and make me a sandwich” has a level of laziness and entitlement and treating the other person as a servant that is extra insulting?

          • Randy M says:

            I think that’s reaching; after all, wouldn’t you be more offended by “Woman, go make me a Turkey Dinner!”?
            Sandwhiches are simply commonly enjoyed foods that require some assembly.

        • TheNybbler says:

          According to the fount of internet wisdom — no, not that one, I mean Know Your Meme — it’s from Saturday Night Live, with “sammich” coming from The Onion.


    • Error says:

      Putting it like this, obvious solution is obvious: threesomes.

      This was not where I expected this to go…but I like the solution.

  42. Decius says:

    One of the things I have been thinking of lately, that is directly relevant:

    Suppose that a community exists that has very low barrier to entry, to membership, and to exit. (Anyone can join, anybody can stay, anybody can leave).

    Initially, that community will probably have mostly a cross-section of people (not true, but the true case exacerbates the conclusion)

    Consider that the population as a whole has both toxicity (the willingness of a person to insult, dox, issue death threats, and mock their ideological opponent) and toxicity tolerance (the willingness to be associated with toxicity) Assume that nobody’s toxicity exceeds their own toxicity tolerance.

    This is sufficient for the community to develop maximum toxicity.

    The average toxicity of the population is toxic enough that some people will choose to leave; these people will almost certainly be of below-average toxicity. After one iteration, the average toxicity of this community will be higher than the average of the population as a whole, and another marginal segment with the lowest toxicity tolerance will leave.

    I think the easiest way to break that cycle is to break the ‘low barrier to membership’, and actively remove members from the community who are too extreme.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The weird thing is that the best communities I know of (including this one) have almost no moderation, and select almost entirely based on some characteristic which surprisingly seems to correlate with nontoxicity (in this case, liking my blog posts). The same is true of, I don’t know, let’s say meditation groups.

      You may also be interested in this.

      • Harald K says:

        It’s not surprising that liking your blog posts seems to correlate with nontoxicity as you see it. But there are probably quite a lot of people driven away through Decius’ mechanism.

        For instance, in a SCC comment thread, you can suggest that bad language, low intelligence and low impulse control is the main casual reason why people are unemployed in the US. That doesn’t warrant a deletion here, they might not even get a reply (whether out of agreement or exasperation). But many people just won’t want to engage in a place where such things are comfortably within the Overton window.

        I don’t think censorship is a good solution, but I don’t think you can necessarily have it all, either.

        • haishan says:

          I wonder if people who comment on, say, Yahoo News stories think the Yahoo News commentariat is as nontoxic as we think the SSC commentariat is.