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Against Dog Whistle-ism

I.

Back during the primary, Ted Cruz said he was against “New York values”.

A chump might figure that, being a Texan whose base is in the South and Midwest, he was making the usual condemnation of coastal elites and arugula-eating liberals that every other Republican has made before him, maybe with a special nod to the fact that his two most relevant opponents, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, were both from New York.

But sophisticated people immediately detected this as an “anti-Semitic dog whistle”, eg Cruz’s secret way of saying he hated Jews. Because, you see, there are many Jews in New York. By the clever strategem of using words that had nothing to do with Jews or hatred, he was able to effectively communicate his Jew-hatred to other anti-Semites without anyone else picking up on it.

Except of course the entire media, which seized upon it as a single mass. New York values is coded anti-Semitism. New York values is a classic anti-Semitic slur. New York values is an anti-Semitic comment. New York values is an anti-Semitic code word. New York values gets called out as anti-Semitism. My favorite is this article whose headline claims that Ted Cruz “confirmed” that he meant his New York values comment to refer to Jews; the “confirmation” turned out to be that he referred to Donald Trump as having “chutzpah”. It takes a lot of word-I-am-apparently-not-allowed-to-say to frame that as a “confirmation”.

Meanwhile, back in Realityville (population: 6), Ted Cruz was attending synagogue services at his campaign tour, talking about his deep love and respect for Judaism, and getting described as “a hero” in many parts of the Orthodox Jewish community” for his stance that “if you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you.”

But he once said “New York values”, so clearly all of this was just really really deep cover for his anti-Semitism.

II.

Unlike Ted Cruz, former London mayor Ken Livingstone said something definitely Jew-related and definitely worrying.

A month or two ago a British MP named Naz Shah got in trouble for sharing a Facebook post saying Israel should be relocated to the United States. Fellow British politician Ken Livingstone defended her, and one thing led to another, and somewhere in the process he might have kind of said that Hitler supported Zionism.

This isn’t totally out of left field. During the Nazi period in Germany, some Nazis who wanted to get rid of the Jews and some Jews who wanted to get away from the Nazis created the Haavara Agreement, which facilitated German Jewish emigration to Palestine. Hitler was ambivalent on the idea but seems to have at least supported some parts of it at some points. But it seems fair to say that calling Hitler a supporter of Zionism was at the very least a creative interpretation of the historical record.

The media went further, again as a giant mass. Ken Livingstone is anti-Semitic. Ken Livingstone is anti-Semitic. Ken Livingstone is anti-Semitic. Ken Livingstone is anti-Semitic. Ken Livingstone is anti-Semitic. I understand he is now having to defend himself in front of a parliamentary hearing on anti-Semitism.

So. First things first. Ken Livingstone is tasteless, thoughtless, embarrassing, has his foot in his mouth, is inept, clownish and offensive, and clearly made a blunder of cosmic proportions.

But is he anti-Semitic?

When I think “anti-Semitic”, I think of people who don’t like, maybe even hate, Jews. I think of the medieval burghers who accused Jews of baking matzah with the blood of Christian children. I think of the Russians who would hold pogroms and kill Jews and burn their property. I think of the Nazis. I think of people who killed various distant family members of mine without a second thought.

Obviously Livingstone isn’t that anti-Semitic. But my question is, is he anti-Semitic at all? Is there any sense in which his comments reveal that, in his heart of hearts, he really doesn’t like Jews? That he thinks of them as less – even slightly less – than Gentiles? That if he were to end up as Prime Minister of Britain, this would be bad in a non-symbolic, non-stupid-statement-related way for Britain’s Jewish community? Does he just say dumb things, or do the dumb things reflect some underlying attitude of his that colors his relationship with Jews in general?

(speaking of “his relationship with Jews”, he brings up in his own defense that two of his ex-girlfriends are Jewish)

I haven’t seen anyone present any evidence that Livingstone has any different attitudes or policies towards Jews than anyone else in his general vicinity. I don’t think even his worst enemies suggest that during a hypothetical Livingstone administration he would try (or even want) to kick the Jews out of Britain, or make them wear gold stars, or hire fewer Jews for top posts (maybe he’d hire more, if he makes his hiring decisions the same way he makes his dating decisions). It sounds like he might be less sympathetic to Israel than some other British people, but I think he describes his preferred oppositional policies toward Israel pretty explicitly. I don’t think knowing that he made a very ill-advised comment about the Haavara agreement should make us believe he is lying about his Israel policies and would actually implement ones that are even more oppositional than he’s letting on.

Where am I going with this? It’s stupid to care that Ken Livingstone describes 1930s Germany in a weird way qua describing 1930s Germany in a weird way; he’s a politician and not a history textbook writer. It seems important only insofar as his weird description reveals something about him, insofar as it’s a sort of Freudian slip revealing deep-seated attitudes that he had otherwise managed to keep hidden. The British press framed Livingstone’s comments as an explosive revelation, an “aha! now we see what Labour is really like!” They’re really like…people who describe the 1930s in a really awkward and ill-advised way? That’s not a story. It’s a story only if the weird awkward description reveals more important attitudes of Livingstone’s and Labour’s that might actually affect the country in an important way.

But not only is nobody making this argument, but nobody even seems to think it’s an argument that has to be made. It’s just “this is an offensive thing involving Jews, that means it’s anti-Semitic, that means the guy who said it is anti-Semitic”. Maybe he is. I’m just not sure this incident proves much one way or the other.

III.

Nobody reads things online anymore unless they involve senseless violence, Harambe the gorilla, or Donald Trump. I can’t think of a relevant angle for the first two, so Trump it is.

Donald Trump is openly sexist. We know this because every article about him prominently declares that he is “openly sexist” or “openly misogynist” in precisely those words. Trump is openly misogynist. Trump is openly misogynist. Trump is openly misogynist. Trump shows blatant misogyny. Trump is openly sexist. Trump is openly sexist and gross.

But if you try to look for him being openly anything, the first quote anyone mentions is the one where he says Megyn Kelly has blood coming out of her “wherever”. As somebody who personally ends any list of more than three items with “… and whatever”, I may be more inclined than most to believe his claim that no anatomical reference was intended. But even if he was in fact talking about her anatomy – well, we’re back to Livingstone again. The comment is crude, stupid, puerile, offensive, gross, inappropriate, and whatever. But sexist?

When I think of “sexist” or “misogynist”, I think of somebody who thinks women are inferior to men, or hates women, or who thinks women shouldn’t be allowed to have good jobs or full human rights, or who wants to disadvantage women relative to men in some way.

This does not seem to apply very well to Trump. It’s been remarked several times that his policies are more “pro-women” in the political sense than almost any other Republican candidate in recent history – he defends Planned Parenthood, defends government support for child care, he’s flip-flopped to claiming he’s pro-life but is much less convincing about it than the average Republican. And back before his campaign, he seems to have been genuinely proud of his record as a pro-women employer. From his Art of the Deal, written in the late 1980s (ie long before he was campaigning):

The person I hired to be my personal representative overseeing the construction, Barbara Res, was the first woman ever put in charge of a skyscraper in New York…I’d watched her in construction meetings, and what I liked was that she took no guff from anyone. She was half the size of most of these bruising guys, but she wasn’t afraid to tell them off when she had to, and she knew how to get things done.

It’s funny. My own mother was a housewife all her life. And yet it’s turned out that I’ve hired a lot of women for top jobs, and they’ve been among my best people. Often, in fact, they are far more effective than the men around them. Louise Sunshine, who was an executive vice president in my company for ten years, was as relentless a fighter as you’ll ever meet. Blanche Sprague, the executive vice president who handles all sales and oversses the interior design of my buildings, is one of the best salespeople and managers I’ve ever met. Norma Foerderer, my executive assistant, is sweet and charming and very classy, but she’s steel underneath, and people who think she can be pushed around find out very quickly that they’re mistaken.

There have since been a bunch of news reports on how Trump was (according to the Washington Post) “ahead of his time in providing career advancement for women” and how “while some say he could be boorish, his companies nurtured and promoted women in an otherwise male-dominated industry”. According to internal (ie hard-to-confirm) numbers, his organization is among the few that have more female than male executives.

Meanwhile, when I check out sites like Women Hold Up Signs With Donald Trump’s Most Sexist Quotes, the women are holding up signs with quotes like “A person who is flat-chested is very hard to be a 10” (yes, he actually said that). This is undeniably boorish. But are we losing something when we act as if “boorish” and “sexist” are the same thing? Saying “Donald Trump is openly boorish” doesn’t have the same kind of ring to it.

This bothers me in the same way the accusations that Ken Livingstone is anti-Semitic bother me. If Trump thinks women aren’t attractive without big breasts, then His Kink Is Not My Kink But His Kink Is Okay. If Trump is dumb enough to say out loud that he thinks women aren’t attractive without big breasts, that says certain things about his public relations ability and his dignity-or-lack-thereof, but it sounds like it requires a lot more steps to suggest he is a bad person, or would have an anti-woman administration, or anything that we should actually care about.

(if you’re going to bring up “objectification”, then at least you have some sort of theory for how this tenuously connects, but it doesn’t really apply to the Megyn Kelly thing, and anyway, this)

And what bothers me most about this is that word “openly”. Donald Trump says a thousand times how much he wants to fight for women and thinks he will be a pro-women president, then makes some comments that some people interpret as revealing a deeper anti-women attitude, and all of a sudden he’s openly sexist? Maybe that word doesn’t mean what you think it means.

IV.

I don’t want to claim dog whistles don’t exist. The classic example is G. W. Bush giving a speech that includes a Bible verse. His secular listeners think “what a wise saying”, and his Christian listeners think “ah, I recognize that as a Bible verse, he must be very Christian”.

The thing is, we know G. W. Bush was pretty Christian. His desire to appeal to Christian conservatives isn’t really a secret. He might be able to modulate his message a little bit to his audience, but it wouldn’t be revealing a totally new side to his personality. Nor could somebody who understood his “dog whistles” predict his policy more accurately than somebody who just went off his stated platform.

I guess some of the examples above might have gotten kind of far from what people would usually call a “dog whistle”, but I feel like there’s an important dog-whistle-related common thread in all of these cases.

In particular, I worry there’s a certain narrative, which is catnip for the media: Many public figures are secretly virulently racist and sexist. If their secret is not discovered, they will gain power and use their racism and sexism to harm women and minorities. Many of their otherwise boring statements are actually part of a code revealing this secret, and so very interesting. Also, gaffes are royal roads to the unconscious which must be analyzed obsessively. By being very diligent and sophisticated, journalists can heroically ferret out which politicians have this secret racism, and reveal it to a grateful world.

There’s an old joke about a man who walks into a bar. The bar patrons are holding a weird ritual. One of them will say a number, like “twenty-seven”, and the others of them will break into laughter. He asks the bartender what’s going on. The bartender explains that they all come here so often that they’ve memorized all of each other’s jokes, and instead of telling them explicitly, they just give each a number, say the number, and laugh appropriately. The man is intrigued, so he shouts “Two thousand!”. The other patrons laugh uproariously. “Why did they laugh more at mine than any of the others?” he asks the bartender. The bartender answers “They’d never heard that one before!”

In the same way, although dog whistles do exist, the dog whistle narrative has gone so far that it’s become detached from any meaningful referent. It went from people saying racist things, to people saying things that implied they were racist, to people saying the kind of things that sound like things that could imply they are racist even though nobody believes that they are actually implying that. Saying things that sound like dog whistles has itself become the crime worthy of condemnation, with little interest in whether they imply anything about the speaker or not.

Against this narrative, I propose a different one – politicians’ beliefs and plans are best predicted by what they say their beliefs and plans are, or possibly what beliefs and plans they’ve supported in the past, or by anything other than treating their words as a secret code and trying to use them to infer that their real beliefs and plans are diametrically opposite the beliefs and plans they keep insisting that they hold and have practiced for their entire lives.

Let me give a snarky and totally unfair example. This is from the New York Times in 1922 (source):

I won’t say we should always believe that politicians are honest about their beliefs and preferred policies. But I am skeptical when the media claims to have special insight into what they really think.

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1,273 Responses to Against Dog Whistle-ism

  1. Katja Grace says:

    I propose an explanation for why the dog whistle narrative might be detached from any meaningful referents here: https://meteuphoric.wordpress.com/2016/07/14/iterations-of-hurt/

  2. Sigivald says:

    The classic example is G. W. Bush giving a speech that includes a Bible verse.

    Reminds me – in a related but non-mainstream vein – of GWB’s “New World Order” speech.

    Sure, most of us only took it as commentary on how, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and thus the collapse of International Communism, world geopolitics was rearranging, with the end of the Cold War, to a new … order, as in organization.

    But plainly it was a dog-whistle announcement of a giant Illuminati conspiracy to rule the world and probably kill off almost everyone because reasons.

    (I wouldn’t bring this up, except for more than once coming across people who actually believed that at about 90+% confidence.)

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Reminds me – in a related but non-mainstream vein – of GWB’s “New World Order” speech.

      It was George H. W. Bush, not George W. Bush (I assume that is just a typo).

  3. yuvi says:

    Referring to a woman’s anatomy (as part of an attack or judgement) is definitely sexist and not merely “boorish”. He’s not just being crude and childish. Your defense for that quote is very weak (he finishes sentences with whatever so we should ignore the context? Come on). You could say that this doesn’t really reflect anything regarding his policies and that it’s irrelevant to the election, and you might be right, but it’s definitely very sexist.

    • Anonymous says:

      What is the definition of ‘sexist’?

    • Matt M says:

      When Hillary refers to Trump’s “small hands” is she making a sexist attack against him?

      • Heather says:

        I absolutely think all the small hands talk is trying to emasculate him in the eyes of his supporters, who are thought (by those invoking small hands) to be especially likely to find small hands/effeminate qualities on men de-legitimizing.

        It’s very unfortunate, the whole thing.

  4. Heather says:

    This is a definitional point. And it has been written about in context of racism. See Lawrence Blum’s I’m Not A Racist But…

    The point is something like this: there may be good reasons to distinguish between different kinds of activity that is, taking the Trump example, harmful to women. It’s true that prohibiting women from working in the upper echelons of a company because they are women might need to be distinguished from saying a woman without big breasts can’t be a 10. Fine. Similarly, it’s easy to agree that chattel slavery also might need to be distinguished from, for instance, refusing to hire someone who is black, because they are black. (and, in case it isn’t obvious, chattel slavery is worse than not hiring women to work in the upper echelons). The questions worth pondering are (1) why should we distinguish these things and (2) how do we do the distinguishing.

    As for (1), Blum points out that there are pragmatic reasons to distinguish racism (belief in a hierarchy of races) from, for instance, racial hostility or racial insensitivity. We might make more progress on race in this country if we call some things “racially insensitive” than if we go up to everyone and call them a racist. But, moving on to (2), whether or not x is racist is in the end of definitional question. How do you define racism? If racial insensitivity is subsumed under our definition of racism, then (by definition) racial insensitivity is racism. And perhaps someone being racially insensitive is a racist (again, what’s the definition of a racist?).

    Trumps comments are sexist depending on how one wants to define sexism (and being a sexist). I think it quite reasonable to say that boorish comments are sexually insensitive and sexist. But, it might be better to not call them out as sexist in some cases, for pragmatic and other reasons. But in the political sphere, where the vast majority of people are looking at headlines and nothing more, there are other pragmatic reasons why some speakers choose to call him a sexist instead of getting into the nuance between sexism and boorishness.

    • Jiro says:

      It’s not just a question of how you define it, but using it as motte and bailey. People are using strict definitions so they can say that racism is evil, and then using loose definitions to call others racist in order to paint them as evil.

      • Heather says:

        As others have commented, I don’t see this as a motte and bailey.

        If I have a broad definition of racism that includes actions motivated by both (1) belief in some sort of Darwinian racial hierarchy and (2) a (perhaps unconscious) desire to increase my in-group status via the subordination of blacks, I might very well think both are evil. And it certainly doesn’t seem some sleight of hand is going on when I include both under a definition of racism.

        As for boorishness being sexist — same thing. When someone says boorishness is sexist, they aren’t relying on some strict definition at all. And when challenged, I’m sure they are happy to explain their very broad understanding of what counts as sexist.

        The motte and bailey fallacy isn’t happening here, or at least not necessarily.

  5. Vilgot says:

    I think Trump is a pretty bad example to use to make this point. Trump isn’t a bit of a clutz, and his boorishness isn’t some minor problem that people are just too judgemental to overlook. It’s one thing to charitably interpret one or two gaffe’s as not-reflecting-any-underlying-problem, but when it’s constant and neverending like with him, that’s something different. In my view his rhetoric signals an utter disregard for what is and isn’t true, and an absolute incompetence public relations wise. To have that man represent America would be a catastrophe.
    Also, when it comes to policy, the fact that he flip-flops constantly combined with the fact that he’s willing to lie shamelessly, makes it next impossible to know where he actually stands (or where he would stand as a president) on a lot of issues. I actually think his flip-flop ambiguitiy is working in his favor unfortunately, the Trump supporters I’ve talked to appear to use him as some sort of Rorschach test, believeing he stands for whatever they want him to stand for.

    • Tsnom Eroc says:

      Oh, its a horrible Rorschach test. What I find amazing is how the Dilbert blog guy who previously on his blog thought that climate change would kill us all* if we did nothing, somehow finds support for Trumps constant statements on it being a scam. Hes wont even mention Trumps support for Autism being caused by vaccines, simply seems to conveniently forget about those statements.

      Is he starting to really believe his schtick about the guy now? r/the_donald loves linking him

      *ok, not quite that, but this was his previous viewpoint after researching it for a good deal of time

      http://dilbertblog.typepad.com/the_dilbert_blog/2007/05/global_warming__3.html

  6. Tsnom Eroc says:

    Semi on topic. I find it…interesting that one of the first acts of the new London mayor Sadiq Khan banned “unrealistic” marketing images of women. Does this just ban the gay-fashion-designer super-slim and boyish type of models, or the really busty porn-star big tits and ass style of unrealistic women?

    Was Richard Dawkins right?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecJUqhm2g08

    I’m a fat and average guy at best, I demand no more pictures of youthful peak- Fabio.

    • suntzuanime says:

      He banned them on public transportation. And honestly it’s a disgrace that public transportation has advertising on it at all.

      • Tsnom Eroc says:

        If its a shame that public transportation has ads at all, ban it all. Hell, the same product can be sold, just as long as the lady selling it(not the 8-pack dude btw) is no better then an 8 out of 10. Or isn’t deemed to thin at the waist or something. C cups maximum?

        Are there going to be new beer advertisment restrictions in an effort for public safety?

        • suntzuanime says:

          I’m not saying he’s got the right idea exactly, it’s just that with all the ways Britain is a censorious shithole with no interest in privacy or free expression or protecting its people from the depredations of savages, it’s hard to get worked up about them asking the merchants of mind control to cover up their tits on public transit.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It does play right into the “Islamization/Muslims imposing Sharia law” narrative.

    • keranih says:

      Yah know, I remember when it was the fuddy-duddy conservative types who wanted to censor sexy pictures of people.

      (Having said that, the Overton Window for “selling stuff with sex” in Europe is set at a way different place than it is in the USA. Emotionally, the ban feels right, but I think it’s still Not A Good Idea.)

      • Tsnom Eroc says:

        Oh. Muslims *are* fuddy-duddy conservative christian types, with a few changes. It is an abrahamic religion.

        • onyomi says:

          This is a major reason I respect Bill Maher, despite disagreeing with him on a lot: he takes seriously the idea that his liberal values are objectively better.

          Edit to add: if there is any silver line to Wahhabism (never thought I’d say that), could it be that it forces Western “cultural” conservatives to face what it looks like when someone takes “cultural conservatism” seriously? And could it force Western “liberals” to face up to the fact that there’s nothing “liberal” about defending illiberal cultures just because they’re different/poor/non-white?

          • Anonymous says:

            Edit to add: if there is any silver line to Wahhabism (never thought I’d say that), could it be that it forces Western “cultural” conservatives to face what it looks like when someone takes “cultural conservatism” seriously? And could it force Western “liberals” to face up to the fact that there’s nothing “liberal” about defending illiberal cultures just because they’re different/poor/non-white?

            Islam/Wahhabism is not the only serious attempt at cultural conservatism.

          • onyomi says:

            True enough. And I am not against all forms/aspects of cultural conservatism. Still, the similarities between conservative Muslims and conservative Christians, I might hope would give the latter some pause. Which is not to say all cultural conservatism should be abandoned, but rather that seeing how extreme versions of some aspects of it look when practiced by the outgroup might help.

            (I actually think this has already happened to some extent: it feels like there is much less of the “ban violent video games” and “censor TV and movies” type stuff coming from the American right nowadays; I thought this was just because they gave up, but maybe it’s because the left has surprisingly become rather anti-free expression lately, perhaps causing the right to embrace a more classical liberal stance on this point).

          • Anonymous says:

            And I am not against all forms/aspects of cultural conservatism. Still, the similarities between conservative Muslims and conservative Christians, I might hope would give the latter some pause.

            Yes, that’s true. But at the same time, you’re not going to confuse, say, an Amish and a Wahhabi if you get more than a glance at their behaviour and beliefs. Both are serious cultural conservatisms, but the effects are highly divergent.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            And could it force Western “liberals” to face up to the fact that there’s nothing “liberal” about defending illiberal cultures just because they’re different/poor/non-white?

            If it hasn’t happened in the last fifteen years, I’m not sure when it’s going to happen.

          • Matt M says:

            If a guy slaughtering 50 gays while live tweeting his allegiance to Islam won’t do it, what possibly could?

          • onyomi says:

            “If a guy slaughtering 50 gays while live tweeting his allegiance to Islam won’t do it, what possibly could?”

            It’s too early to know the long-term cultural fallout of this case.

          • I thought he swore allegiance to ISIS, not Islam, and there’s some evidence that swearing allegiance to ISIS is more like a fashion statement for terrorists.

            It isn’t about cultural conservatism, or not much about it. Arguable, ISIS is a thing which sort of looks like cultural conservatism, but it’s an effort to radically overwrite existing cultures.

          • NN says:

            He swore allegiance to ISIS, praised a guy who had gone to Syria and become a suicide bomber for the Al-Nusra front, and some 3 years before had bragged to his coworkers about being a member of Hezbollah. The fact that these 3 groups are all at war with each other didn’t seem to bother him in the slightest. So yes, at this point the evidence seems to point to him pledging allegiance to ISIS more for the boost in notoriety rather than a deep understanding of their ideology.

          • onyomi says:

            “swearing allegiance to ISIS is more like a fashion statement for terrorists.”

            I was thinking of bringing this up in the next OT: namely the issue that 1: it was the son of the religious radical from Afghanistan who grew up in America who committed the attack, not the religious radical himself, and 2: I don’t think he was suffering any serious material deprivation.

            This, along with related facts (such as Osama bin Laden’s wealth, and the 9/11 hijackers reasonably comfortable background) seems to throw a big wrench in many of the most popular explanatory narratives and assumptions.

            One assumption is that when Muslim immigrants get to the West or, ideally, grow up in the West, they’ll absorb Western liberal values. The other is that terrorism is a desperate reaction to extreme poverty and lack of opportunity, presumably caused by colonialism or something.

            But the terrorists seem to come from a stratum of relatively well-off Muslims who are relatively familiar with the West. People who are actually worrying about where their next meal is coming from probably don’t have time to stew in bitter resentment about how the shameless imperial powers are occupying their homeland (I am pretty convinced of the research showing suicide terrorism as a reaction to foreign occupation or perception of foreign occupation more than anything else).

            So, personally, I do tend to think most of our interventions and general involvement in the area tend to make it worse, but I am much more skeptical that the problem is economic, or that if Muslims are simply allowed to emigrate to rich, Western, liberal countries, they will themselves, in time, become liberal and tolerant.

          • We’ll see how the Canadian approach of being extremely welcoming to immigrants works out.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            I would submit its more effective to break down terrorism into multiple different profiles before trying to analyze it.

            1 – The IRA and the PLO might be in one bucket.

            2 – Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph and Al Qaeda might go in another. Maybe AQ crosses over into bucket 1, but I’m not sure that makes sense.

            3 – Robert Dear, the Orlando shooter, Columbine, the guy who ran his plane into an IRS building.

            I think it’s a mistake to analyze terrorist events without acknowledging that, although there is a continuum, 1 and 3 look really different from each other.

            Note: I don’t really want get bound in what exact bucket people belong in. That’s note my point.

          • Tsnom Eroc says:

            >If a guy slaughtering 50 gays while live tweeting his allegiance to Islam won’t do it, what possibly could?

            The Quran very explicitly calls for the death of those who engage in homosexual acts.

            The Old Testament also has passages supporting the execution of gays (“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” ), and I wonder far in the history books it takes one to find a christian/jewish theocracy where the acts were frequently punished by death.

            ISIL/ISIS is just following the book literally, turned up a notch with a more explicit reward in paradise for martyrs.

            People should be very very glad a good deal of christians value the new testament much more over the old.

          • Tsnom Eroc says:

            >And could it force Western “liberals” to face up to the fact that there’s nothing “liberal” about defending illiberal cultures just because they’re different/poor/non-white?

            Its not just that. Part of it is talking down a bunch of rednecks more then willing to fight every muslim looking guy they see and chase them out of town and who support getting into yet another middle eastern war.

          • onyomi says:

            @HBC

            It is a good point. What is kind of interesting and scary is that in this case it feels rather like a cross-pollination of types 2 and 3, which perhaps is unsurprising when you have the unstable American son of a Middle Eastern radical. The psychological profile and the method feel a lot more like Columbine and Elliot Rodger, whereas the ideology and stated sympathies are more like 1 or 2.

            And this raises the question: to what extent do the sorts of Middle Easterners who blow up a bus as a supposed political statement share a psychological profile with the Americans who shoot up their school for reasons we have difficulty fathoming, but which seem more apolitical?

            I associate these sorts of “rampage” killings for reasons of personal instability/unhappiness with Western countries (US, Norway…), though that could only be my ignorance of Middle Eastern local news. Or could it be that there is just a certain percentage of people prone to go on a rampage, and if they can’t latch on to an obvious political outrage they’ll just invent one (Unabomber) or do it for more inscrutable reasons?

            Which is not to say every terrorist is mentally unstable, but it seems more likely to be the case with suicide terrorism (though, as noted, perception of foreign occupation seems also to be strongly associated with willingness to do that).

          • NN says:

            The Quran very explicitly calls for the death of those who engage in homosexual acts.

            No it doesn’t. The Quran has a version of the Soddom and Gomorrah story where God kills a whole bunch of people for (according to traditional interpretations) being gay, but at no point does it order human beings to kill gay people.

            There are, however, Hadiths that call for the execution of gays, though they have been inconsistently followed at best throughout Islamic history, as demonstrated by the enormous amount of gay erotic poetry from the Islamic Golden Age, the second Caliph of Cordoba, etc.

            I wonder far in the history books it takes one to find a christian/jewish theocracy where the acts were frequently punished by death.

            Just over 150 years in England.

            —-

            @onyomi: You’re assuming that terrorists don’t have “Western liberal values.” But I can think of some significant counterexamples. The 9/11 hijackers visited strip clubs. Salah Abdeslam, a coordinator of the Paris and Brussels attacks, co-owned a bar and was a regular at a gay bar in Brussels. Dzokhar Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon Bombers, was described by his friends as pretty much a perfectly normal pothead New England hipster.

            And, of course, there is Omar Mateen, who idolized the NYPD, sent dick pics to other guys on Grindr, and visited a gay bar twice a month for 3 years where he would get drunk and complain about how strict his father is.

            There is also the high number of converts among Western Islamic terrorists. Something like 2/3 of American Muslim terrorists have been converts compared to just 20% of the general American Muslim population, and about 1/3 of British Muslim terrorists compared to 2-3% of the general British Muslim population. These people presumably had the same Western, liberal, and tolerant upbringing as the rest of us, yet they still ended up as terrorists.

            Of course, you have to be careful with anecdotal evidence, but the literature seems to back up this impression, as multiple studies have failed to find a positive correlation between support for terrorism and either religiosity or support for conversative/Islamist political parties and policies. One study compared political Islamists with Jihadists and found that “what distinguished the violent from the nonviolent radicals was their longing for adventure, excitement, and a cool existence.”

            The more I look into this subject, the more I think that:

            1) Islamism, especially its more violent strains, is more a product of modernity than a product of traditionalism, much like Communism was.
            2) Ideologically motivated acts of terrorism and supposedly non-ideologically motivated mass killings like Columbine and Sandy Hook frequently have more in common with each other than many people think. If Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had been born 15 years later, I think it is quite possible that they might have dedicated their massacre to ISIS.
            3) Fight Club may be the single most prescient film made in the last 20 years.

            Of course, like HBC says, it’s clear that there is a spectrum. Some mass killers clearly have more personal issues than others, while others seem to be more ideologically motivated and have few personal problems. But isn’t it striking how easily Eric Harris was able to recruit his friend into a suicide + mass murder pact without any coherent political or religious ideology?

          • Tsnom Eroc says:

            >but at no point does it order human beings to kill gay people

            At the very least, it suggests its a heinous crime worthy of the punishment of death. And plenty of majority Islam countries interpret it in the most obvious way and institute the death penalty for homosexuality, with the orlando shooter also giving a “rain of stones”, though these stones were a bit more pointed.

            >Islamism, especially its more violent strains, is more a product of modernity than a product of traditionalism

            I don’t believe the societies are *less* brutal than those in the 1600’s. Its the same philosophy, now with easy access guns and bombs, and barring certain types of discouragement, nukes. Drones built with the aid of renewable energy are probably going to be the new nukes.
            I suppose then its how you define traditionalism. Type of weaponry? Philosophy?

          • onyomi says:

            “If Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had been born 15 years later, I think it is quite possible that they might have dedicated their massacre to ISIS.”

            Yes, that is sort of what I’m getting at. And pointing out the libertine habits of the supposedly fundamentalist terrorists (so far as I know the Boston bombers claimed a political, non-religious motivation?) also seems a good point in support of this.

            Put another way, it seems like nearly all the stereotypes about Islamic terrorists are wrong: the stereotype, I think, is a poor, desperate, true believer hoping to get into Heaven by dying for his faith. The reality seems to be rich, disaffected weirdo looking to attach a bigger purpose to his angst.

            But I think I’ll post something about this in the new OT.

          • My one nitpick is that a lot of volunteer terrorists (there are poor terrorists from ISIS territory) are middle class rather than rich. Terrorists look a lot like normal people– jobs, marriages, not especially religious, not especially depressed. Don’t trust normal people, it’s too easy to talk them into things.

          • Sandy says:

            “so far as I know the Boston bombers claimed a political, non-religious motivation”

            Not really. They claimed inspiration from Anwar al-Awlaki’s pro-al-Qaeda preaching. They were also Chechen refugees believed to have been radicalized during visits to Dagestan; that part of the world has been a hotbed of Salafist insurgency for decades now.

            That said, the violence may have preceded the Islamism or they might have reinforced each other; before the Boston bombing, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was the chief suspect in an unsolved triple murder that didn’t appear to be related to Islam (the victims were all Jewish, but it’s not clear what the motive was, and since Tsarnaev is dead now it’s unlikely we’ll ever know).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Tsom Eroc:
            Meh. The Old Testament calls for brutal execution of people for so many things. Disobeying your parents, for example, is to be punished by being stoned to death by all the men of the town.

            Their are lots of homophobic cultures in the world. It’s not exclusively Islamic, in any way. Essentially all of the religions have really barbaric things written down somewhere in their holy texts, which probably reflects human nature more than it does any particular religion.

            There are plent pay of Christians, Jews, Hindhus, and even Buddhists who use their religion as justification and even motivation for doing horrible things. Hard for me to blame in individual religion for what looks a fairly common mode for all religions.

          • Tsnom Eroc says:

            >The reality seems to be rich, disaffected weirdo looking to attach a bigger purpose to his angst.

            You don’t get ISIS to be the size of ISIS with terrorist attacks around the world with people pledging to ISIS if its as simple as some dudes looking to attach a bigger purpose to angst.

            Or heck, a religion of a billion and a half people where century after century people died for the cause.

            Religion has caused people to undergo amazing hardships that otherwise would not have been done. Just look at the ritual in some latin american countries of men nailing themselves to crosses. Or for a more positive example a man refusing a life a pleasure and sex and entering a monestary to serve plague victims.

            Yes, plenty of the same violent testosterone circuits in men who commit shooting in america light up as those who pledge themselves to ISIL. Offending god(the greatest member of the family/tribe,and even a part of oneself) hits the same centers as those who feel vengence for personal insults.

            But I am pretty sure there is a good deal ISIS propaganda, that’s actually true, of some wealthy man in the middle east with a good steady job, hot subservient(is any other descriptor allowed?)wife or two(or like 5 like Osama) bravely risking himself for the Islamic state.

            Osama was a rich man with several wives who could have easily led a different life that was “easy” and even partaked in constant forbidden activities, but risked his life and ultimately died “for” his religion. If a guy like that was on “your” side and risked that much, it would inspire people. But what inspired *him*?

            There’s poor people, middle class people, people all around the spectrum of wealth pledging their lives this way. People who simply read the book of their god and took it for what it said.

            The analysis is very very different.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            There are plent pay of Christians, Jews, Hindhus, and even Buddhists who use their religion as justification and even motivation for doing horrible things. Hard for me to blame in individual religion for what looks a fairly common mode for all religions.

            And if Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists were carrying out all these flashy massacres in the name of their religion, that would mean something.

          • Anonymous says:

            And if Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists were carrying out all these flashy massacres in the name of their religion, that would mean something.

            Those things happen, but they’re very rare compared to the incidence of these in Islam.

      • Matt M says:

        The first article I read on this (from an obvious red-tribe source) was insistent that it was nothing more than appeasement to radical Muslims. They claimed (have not verified personally) that in many Muslim majority neighborhoods, it was common practice for any images of scantily-clad women to be painted over.

        • Tsnom Eroc says:

          Oh yeah. But there is this really strange silence coming from corners that used to be associated with sexual liberty and the abdurdity of banning scantily clad images of sexy people, unrealistic or not. Certain brands of leftism and Old testament-style religious conservatism make really strange bedfellows.

          • Nornagest says:

            The Left’s attitude toward smut has been complicated since at least the rise of second-wave feminism. As popular as it is in some corners to blame all censorship on old white right-wing men that hate fun, it’s in many cases ended up coming out of bootleggers-and-Baptists type coalitions.

            Consider for example the Nineties push against video-game violence, which attracted support from people as ideologically divided as Joe Lieberman and Pat Buchanan.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            Yes, Joe Lieberman was the relevant example there.

          • Tsnom Eroc says:

            Yeah, I guess it always has been a bit weird. 1970’s protests of shaving and glossing vs a women shaping her body how she pleases to gain social power.

            For the games, to be fair, it wasen’t a scientific fact like it is today that violent video games like COD mostly turn young men into lazy dudes that don’t even leave their rooms, let alone commit crime

  7. Earthly Knight says:

    I think this post is badly confused. It assumes, first, that only people can be properly described as racist or sexist, and second, that an individual is racist or sexist only if they consider another group inferior, believe that group to be undeserving of political and social equality, or bear some kind of animus towards the group. Neither of these assumptions is true.

    “Racist” and “sexist”, like “evil” or “stupid,” are predicates that can apply to different categories of things. First, a sentence might be racist or sexist solely in virtue of its content, regardless of the intentions of the person who says it. For concreteness, suppose that “broggos” is a racial slur for people with Maltese ancestry. Then a child who says “you filthy broggos” says something racist, whether or not the child understands the meaning of the words involved. Even if “you filthy broggos” were carved into a cliff formation by erosion, we would still have no trouble saying that nature had inscribed a racist message into the rocks. A sentence, moreover, might be racist or sexist in any of three ways: it might contain terms which are liable to give offense, as in the examples above, it might invoke pernicious stereotypes about a group, as, for instance, with “the Maltese are all thieves,” or it might assert that a group is inferior in some desirable aspect, as with “people hailing from Malta have subnormal IQs.”

    Second, utterances or other types of expression can also be racist or sexist, culpably or non-culpably. An utterance is culpably racist or sexist if (a) its linguistic content contains offensive terms, invokes pernicious stereotypes, or asserts the inferiority of the specified group and (b) the speaker knows or ought to know that it does. An utterance will be non-culpably racist if (a) holds but (b) does not. Crucially, an adult who calls a Maltese person a broggo is acting in a way that is culpably racist, even if she does not bear any hostile attitudes towards Maltese people and merely intends to annoy or offend, or is indifferent to the negative consequences her speech will have on its audience. Similarly for an adult who insults a Maltese acquaintance by reminding him of his countrymen’s thieving ways or alleged deficits in intelligence.

    A person can also be racist or sexist, of course, in either a thin sense or a thick sense. In the thin sense, a person is racist or sexist if they are disposed to act or speak in ways that are racist or sexist. Someone who frequently makes culpably racist comments, as defined above, is a racist no matter their underlying attitudes towards race. I could have the most egalitarian convictions in the world, but if I go around using racial slurs or invoking racial stereotypes to demean people, I qualify as a racist in the thin sense. Deep-seated racial animus need not exist for a charge of racism against a person to stick: the combination of a pattern of offensiveness with negligence or indifference is sufficient. Racism in the thick sense is the classic form of racism, that is, believing another group to be inferior in some respect, wanting to restrict their rights, or hating or fearing them. Note that neither thick racism/sexism nor thin racism/sexism implies the other– I could hold negative attitudes towards a group but never let those attitudes show, or I could be a vicious misanthrope who enjoys cruelty and uses whatever tools are readiest to hand to offend people, without actually harboring any hostile views towards other races.

    All this I take to be relatively uncontroversial, a straightforward description of how the terms “racist” and “sexist” are understood in natural language.

    With this taxonomy in place, we can now classify some of the examples mentioned above. Let’s assume that Trump, in his comments about McArdle, was referring to menstruation (I agree that it is not totally clear that this is true). This seems to be a prime example of a culpably sexist utterance, deliberately invoking the negative stereotype that women are hormone-driven and irrational around that time of the month to demean the judgment of a political adversary. How about Trump’s remarks concerning the judge overseeing the lawsuit against Trump University? Here Trump deliberately attributed a negative feature to a political opponent, a lack of impartiality, in virtue of his ethnic heritage – again, a textbook example of a culpably racist remark. Several commenters above mentioned the Confederate flag. The Confederate flag is grossly offensive to black folk and every adult in the country is in a position to know that it is. So flying the Confederate flag is culpably racist, even if the offense is not intended, because some lesser degree of mens rea like recklessness or negligence will be present.

    • Jiro says:

      For concreteness, suppose that “broggos” is a racial slur for people with Maltese ancestry. Then a child who says “you filthy broggos” says something racist, whether or not the child understands the meaning of the words involved.

      If the word “broggos” is a racist slur and nothing else, you may have a point. But words often have more than one use. Suppose the word isn’t “broggos”, but instead it’s “the”, If the word “the” is a racist slur, but 99.44% of the time someone uses the word they just want to use it because it is necessary for English grammar, you don’t get to say that everyone who says “the” is saying something racist. You especially don’t get to say that if you’re doing a motte and bailey where the motte is “just saying a word is racist and you can be racist innocently and unintentionally” and the bailey is “racism is evil”.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        Polysemy does complicate matters, particular when the inoffensive alternative meanings are deeply ingrained in ordinary speech. Certain terms which double as as slurs for disabled people, like “vegetable” and “retarded,” are obvious examples. Whether a polysemous term qualifies as offensive in a given use is going to depend on a host of contextual factors, like the topic of conversation, the meaning of the surrounding words in the sentence, the speaker’s intent, and the availability of alternate phrasings.

        It is true both that (1) you can say something racist innocently and unintentionally, and that (2) racism is evil. I suspect what you really object to here is the inference from “Bob said something innocently racist” to “Bob is a racist person.” This inference also strikes me as faulty– this is why I said above that a person can only be judged racist (in the thin sense) after a pattern of culpably racist utterances.

      • eh says:

        An interesting example of this is the word “boy”. I come from an area that was settled primarily by the Irish and has some little linguistic bits and pieces left over from them, and have gotten into quite a lot of trouble for saying “how’s it going, me boy?” to a man from an island where boy was apparently a slur. The thing is, I’m not sure that it’s reasonable to claim that the sentence in question is racist, since in my dialect it has no slurs and was said with no ill intent.

        Consider also the case of a child who used the word broggo in a made-up language to refer to a pair of boots, a decade before it became a slur. Was the sentence racist before the slur existed? Does it become racist once the slur exists? Or when it’s heard by someone who knows the slur? Or does it become racist only when it’s heard by someone who it would offend? I don’t think this is at all clear.

        Under the grandparent’s interpretation it seems impossible to avoid being racist even when you’re highly literate and deliberately avoiding all slurs. Furthermore, by that definition, if a holocaust museum has a photograph of a concentration camp and a swastika is shown in that photograph, the holocaust museum magically becomes racist by association. This seems ridiculously, ludicrously broad, and that is bad for two reasons: first, the story of the boy who cried wolf comes to mind, and second, a definition of racism that applies to nearly everyone allows the malicious to selectively enforce taboos against people they don’t like.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          Under the grandparent’s interpretation it seems impossible to avoid being racist even when you’re highly literate and deliberately avoiding all slurs.

          Note the important distinction between saying things that are racist and being racist. It is certainly possible to inadvertently say things that are racist even if you’re an able and careful speaker of the language, simply because some slurs, like “hunky” or “dink,” are seldom-heard or archaic.

          Furthermore, by that definition, if a holocaust museum has a photograph of a concentration camp and a swastika is shown in that photograph, the holocaust museum magically becomes racist by association.

          Why think that? The swastika itself is racist, of course, but I don’t see why that should make the photo or the museum racist, as if by contagion.

          • eh says:

            Accusations of racism are contagious – it’s weaponised. If the sentence “have you seen the Australian TV show spicks and specks?” is racist, or if reading Mark Twain out loud is racist, then the person whose mouth those words come from is tainted by association. Racism implies intent, from my observation.

            I’m more interested in your opinion of the first two paragraphs, though. Should I change my dialect, or should the man who took offence develop a thicker skin? When does the child say something racist?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Racism implies intent, from my observation.

            Evidently not, else we could make no sense of claims like “that three-year-old says a lot of racist garbage” or “this scrabble AI plays racist words constantly.” The latter sentence is one I have in fact had occasion to use.

            I don’t know your circumstances in detail, but where I come from calling a black man a boy is a notorious slur, and should be avoided if at all possible. The first few times you do it by accident it will be non-culpably racist, if you persist by choice after someone kindly asks you not to and explains why… that’s pretty bad, yeah.

            Presumably, terms come to be racist in concert with their coming to be seen as racist by the linguistic community and the targeted group. If you like, we can define the racism quotient of a putative slur as its mean perceived offensiveness, attaching special weights to the opinions of members of the group to which it applies, and classify it as categorically racist if the racism quotient falls above some arbitrary threshold. I’m not sure how informative this would be, though.

    • Civilis says:

      There is a lot in this that should be contentious.

      A sentence, moreover, might be racist or sexist in any of three ways: it might contain terms which are liable to give offense, as in the examples above, it might invoke pernicious stereotypes about a group, as, for instance, with “the Maltese are all thieves,” or it might assert that a group is inferior in some desirable aspect, as with “people hailing from Malta have subnormal IQs.”

      Does the sports team name “Fighting Irish” contain a pernicious stereotype about a group? Per my comment above, is saying that women are slower than men ‘asserting a group is inferior in some desirable aspect’?

      There is also a lot in there that is incredibly subjective. How do I determine what is “grossly offensive”? How do I know if a term is “liable to give offense” or if a stereotype is “pernicious”? Per your later comment, when you say whether or not something is racist or sexist “depend[s] on a host of contextual factors, like the topic of conversation, the meaning of the surrounding words in the sentence, the speaker’s intent, and the availability of alternate phrasings”, who is qualified to judge?

      There’s a lot of potential double standards in play. We don’t blindly accuse African American politicians of racism when they allege that white prosecutors or cops are potentially biased when dealing with African American suspects. Most people that throw around terms like ‘toxic masculinity’ or ‘mansplaining’ don’t consider them to be pernicious stereotypes or liable to give offense.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        The point is not to formulate an algorithm that will certify for any sentence of English whether it is racist or not in a way that will command the assent of all competent speakers of the language. No such algorithm exists. The point is to show that (1) sentences can be sexist or racist, independently of the speaker’s intentions, (2) speech acts can be sexist or racist, and culpably so, and (3) people can be racists or sexists by engaging in patterns of culpably racist or sexist speech and behavior. We all know damn well that (1), (2), or (3) are true, too, so Scott’s absurdly stringent restrictions on the use of words like “racist” and “sexist” come across as careless or disingenuous.

        • Civilis says:

          If you can’t come up with a way to determine whether or not a sentence or word is racist or sexist, then the words racist and sexist are meaningless.

          It’s also completely possible to miss that it’s very easy to use the completely subjective nature of what constitutes racism and sexism to just bash your opponents.

          As an example, the sentence “The swastika itself is racist, of course” is racist, and you ought to know why.

          Edited: as originally posted, this was kind of harsher than I had intended.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            You used the words “determine,” “possible,” and “subjective” in your comment. Can you give me an algorithm which specifies for each sentence of English containing any of these terms whether it is true or false? No, right? Doesn’t that make your comment meaningless, by your own standards?

            All we ever have to go on when it comes to word meanings is intuitive judgments of particular cases and dictionary definitions which partially systematize those judgments. I don’t see why we should hold the terms “racist” and “sexist” to a different standard than any other word in English.

          • Jiro says:

            I don’t see why we should hold the terms “racist” and “sexist” to a different standard than any other word in English.

            Words used to call people and actions evil require higher standards than words which do not.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            That may be. But English is rich with pejoratives, insults, and imprecations, and I have never seen any of them held to such unrealistic standards, either.

          • hlynkacg says:

            It sounds to me like you are tacitly admitting that “racist” and “sexist” are nothing more than generic insults / pejoratives in the same vein as “Jerk” or “Asshole” and have nothing to do with actual prejudice or bigotry.

            If so, why should we take accusations of racism or sexism any more seriously than accusations of being “a Doo-Doo Head”?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            It sounds to me like you are tacitly admitting that “racist” and “sexist” are nothing more than generic insults / pejoratives in the same vein as “Jerk” or “Asshole” and have nothing to do with actual prejudice or bigotry.

            That means you should probably see an audiologist, because I said nothing of the sort.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Earthly Knight
            You said…

            English is rich with pejoratives, insults, and imprecations, and I have never seen any of them held to such unrealistic standards,

            and this is obviously false.’

            Which begs the question, when you hear someone being described as being as a shit head do you take time to determine weather or not the individual’s cranial cavity is actually comprised of fecal matter, or do you dismiss it as a generic pejorative.

            “racist” and “sexist” are words that have specific meanings if you dismiss those meanings the words become meaningless.

          • keranih says:

            @ Earthly Knight –

            Since we have made racist and sexist speech and behavior subject to legal sanction, in a manner which we have declined to do for speech which is boorish, rude, or unpleasant to hear, then I fully support specific, objective, and defendable standards for tagging “racist and sexist” words and actions.

            I completely agree that insults depend on context. But context – along with charity and rationality – are generally not a part of the discussion concerning these labels.

          • Civilis says:

            You used the words “determine,” “possible,” and “subjective” in your comment. Can you give me an algorithm which specifies for each sentence of English containing any of these terms whether it is true or false? No, right? Doesn’t that make your comment meaningless, by your own standards?

            I can provide a rule at least for possible and subjective, which, like racist and sexist, are adjectives.

            For something to be possible, I can either do it or prove it has been done. “It is possible to run the 100m in less than 10s” or “It is possible for me to provide a way to prove that something is possible.”

            For something to be subjective, I merely need to prove that it is not objective. To prove whether something is objective, all I need to do is come up with a rule, like the one for possible, that is valid regardless of the person making the observation.

            For both of these arguments, the answer isn’t a binary yes or no, there are things we can’t prove to be possible or impossible and there are observations we can’t prove to be objective or subjective.

            Your initial arguments, and the argument I quoted above, are all dependent on a binary yes or no value. I admit that there are things we can’t prove to be racist or not racist, or, for that matter, to be able to prove what words are grossly offensive or what stereotypes are pernicious. in fact that’s the crux of my argument. None of us in this thread besides you claim that power, yet you can’t recognize when your own sentences are racist, so ‘you ought to know why’ we challenge your ability to know what’s racist.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ keranih

            I don’t know what backwards country you live in, but in the United States sexist and racist speech is protected by the first amendment. If your situation is different, the problem is with the laws of your country, not our definitions of sexism and racism.

            @ Civilis

            For something to be possible, I can either do it or prove it has been done.

            It’s a nice try, but you’re not even close. We license many claims to possible truth which are no wise in your power to make true, e.g.:

            1. It is possible that an Ethiopian will win the next Boston Marathon.
            2. It is possible that Los Angeles will be leveled by an earthquake in the next century.
            3. It was possible for Napoleon to win at Leipzig.

            I don’t know if you realize quite how far over your head you’re in.

            None of us in this thread besides you claim that power,

            I certainly did not claim that I could prove for any given sentence whether or not it is racist or sexist. In fact, this subthread started with a comment in which I said exactly the opposite. You seem to be pretty confused about the dialectical situation here.

            @hlykacg

            and this is obviously false.’

            I have no idea why you would say that.

          • Civilis says:

            I don’t know if you realize quite how far over your head you’re in.

            On the contrary, I at least read your arguments. “There are things we can’t prove to be possible or impossible” was one of my arguments, and that applies very well to all three of your statements.

            I certainly did not claim that I could prove for any given sentence whether or not it is racist or sexist.

            You’ve identified multiple sentences as racist in this thread, yet you can identify no logic by which you made that identification that is subject to anything more than your own opinion. You just know certain sentences are racist, certain words are grossly offensive, and certain stereotypes are pernicious. In fact, this latest claim just makes me more confused. If you can’t tell whether any sentence is racist or sexist, how are you able to make a definitive claim in the cases above?

            All I want is a logic to test the claims you’ve made, either for whether a given sentence is racist or sexist, or (now) whether we can determine whether a given sentence is racist or sexist. I’ve provided multiple examples, a sentence (“The swastika itself is racist, of course”) and two stereotypes (“Fighting Irish” and “women are slower than men”) that I want to test. If the rule is merely ‘it’s racist if Earthly Knight thinks it’s racist’, then that’s fine, but you wouldn’t accept ‘it’s racist if Civilis thinks it’s racist’ or ‘it’s racist if hlynkacg thinks it’s racist’ as valid rules.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            “There are things we can’t prove to be possible or impossible” was one of my arguments, and that applies very well to all three of your statements.

            Is it true that it’s possible an Ethiopian will win the next Boston Marathon?

          • hlynkacg says:

            I have no idea why you would say that.

            Because I do not believe you when you say…

            I have never seen any of them held to such unrealistic standards,

            In order for that to be true, you would have to be a deaf illiterate mute. And I do not believe that you are a deaf illiterate mute.

            Most words in the English language are actually held to mush stricter standards of truth/meaning than those that you are currently calling unrealistic. To illustrate, if you want to label someone a “thief”, and have that label taken seriously by others, you need to support it. IE. What did they steal? Likewise if you say that someone is “married” you are saying that they have a spouse.

            Civilis is not suggesting that we should hold the terms “racist” and “sexist” to a different standard than any other word in English. Civilis is saying that we should hold them to the exact same standard we hold words like “thief”, “spouse”, “child” etc…

          • Civilis says:

            Is it true that it’s possible an Ethiopian will win the next Boston Marathon?

            When I check the results for the Boston Marathon, I see that an Ethiopian won the last time the race was run, so obviously it’s possible for an Ethiopian to win the Boston Marathon. I see nothing in the rules has changed which would prohibit Ethiopians from running. I generally don’t follow sports to know the current state of the running world, so there may be issues I am unaware of. I would state that given my limited imperfect information, now that I have researched the issue it is possible for an Ethiopian to win the next Boston Marathon.

            You state that the swastika is racist. Explain how you know.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @hlynkacg

            Most words in the English language are actually held to mush stricter standards of truth/meaning than those that you are currently calling unrealistic.

            Uh, the standard I was calling unrealistic was that to make an assertion containing a word one must produce an algorithm which will certify for every sentence in English containing that word whether it is true or false in a way that commands the assent of all competent speakers of the language. I have never seen any word held to that standard, I can assure you.

            @ Civilis

            I would state that given my limited imperfect information, now that I have researched the issue it is possible for an Ethiopian to win the next Boston Marathon.

            But you have not even pretended to answer my question! I asked you whether it was true that it is possible that an Ethiopian runner will win the next Boston Marathon, not whether given your limited background knowledge it is true! You are answering a different question altogether here.

            Here’s the problem: you are agitating for a norm of assertion whereby it is acceptable to assert a sentence, F, only if one is in a position to prove that F is true. I am not sure what you mean by prove (hopefully you are not thinking of a mathematical proof!), but under almost any disambiguation the overwhelming majority of ordinary speech will violate this stricture. Pretty much anyone will be happy to affirm that an Ethiopian could win the next Boston Marathon, for instance, even in the absence of anything resembling a proof that this is so.

            You really have two choices here. You could take the extremely revisionary view that almost all of ordinary speech is defective (or meaningless!), that your norm is a genuine norm but people flout it at every turn, or you could accept that sentences can be warrantedly asserted in the absence of proof.

            In truth, all that is really needed to judge that a sentence is racist or sexist is linguistic competence with the words “sexism” and “racism,” the same linguistic competence which allows us to make attributions of possibility and necessity unproblematically.

          • Jiro says:

            Earthly Knight: There are some words for which uses should be held to stricter standards than others. “Racism” and “sexism” are two such words.

          • Civilis says:

            I answered your question. I can’t give an unqualified answer because it involves information beyond my knowledge. Had you asked, “is it true that it is possible that an Ethiopian could win the next Boston Marathon”, which is how most people parse similar questions, an unproblematic answer would have been possible.

            Above, you say:
            Whether a polysemous term qualifies as offensive in a given use is going to depend on a host of contextual factors, like the topic of conversation, the meaning of the surrounding words in the sentence, the speaker’s intent, and the availability of alternate phrasings.
            yet, you are willing to define words produced by a Scrabble AI, which are by necessity absent conversational context, surrounding words (except, perhaps, in a strictly literal sense), intent, or the availability of alternate phrasings, as racist. (Falling back on your use of polysemous isn’t going to work as a dodge, as in this case any word with an emotional context is going to have different meanings to different people, which, by default, would include any word that someone could interpret as racist or sexist.)

            In truth, all that is really needed to judge that a sentence is racist or sexist is linguistic competence with the words “sexism” and “racism,” the same sort of linguistic competence which allows us to make unproblematic judgments of possibility and necessity.

            You keep falling back on naked assertions, and when called on it, you repeat the process with a different unsupportable assertion. Can you offer a method by which I can tell who has linguistic competence with the words sexist and racist? I’m not even asking for objective proof, just an independent heuristic besides ‘Earthly Knight says so’, which seems to be the only heuristic you have. I don’t want to have to go to you to check whether every sentence is racist.

            Despite all your claims of linguistic competency, you won’t answer my questions, and despite the claims that judgements of whether a sentence is racist are unproblematic, it looks like you recognize that answering the questions I posed would open you up to being accused of racism.

            Judgements of racism are particularly problematic because the ‘linguistic competence with the words sexist and racist’ you claim is a dodge used to hide the fact that any honest attempt to define racism will, by necessity, either indicate bias on the part of the definer or be so broad or narrow as to include almost everyone or no one.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I have never seen any word held to that standard, I can assure you.

            Yes you have. The algorithm for “married” is if (number of spouses > 0) married = true. Else married = false. The algorithm for “murder” is killer + unlawful I would expect a competent speaker of the language understand this.

            In order for a label to have meaning or value you must define it, and it must be defined in a manner that allows other speakers to distinguish “X” from “Not X”. That’s what distinguishes “real words” from nonsense sylables.

            If you don’t have a reliable method of telling distinguishing between sexist and not sexist, or racist and not racist, how can you expect anyone else to? Much less demand that they modifiy their behavior to be less so?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Civilis

            Had you asked, “is it true that it is possible that an Ethiopian could win the next Boston Marathon”, which is how most people parse similar questions, an unproblematic answer would have been possible.

            In fact “it is possible an Ethiopian will win the next Boston marathon” and “it is possible an Ethiopian could win the next Boston marathon” mean the same thing; the “possible” makes the “could” redundant.

            But it doesn’t matter, normal speakers of English, including you, routinely affirm sentences like those above without having anything that could be called proof in hand. The requirements you place on assertions are not reasonable, and there’s no chance that you abide by them yourself.

            If you like, I would be happy to inquire with several associates whether they judge it to be true that it’s possible an Ethiopian will win the next Boston marathon. I can pretty much guarantee that all will, and that they will have nothing in the way of proof to offer other than vague recollections of Ethiopians being good distance runners. You are free to perform the same test yourself.

            @hlynkadcg

            Yes you have. The algorithm for “married” is if (number of spouses > 0) married = true. Else married = false. The algorithm for “murder” is killer + unlawful I would expect a competent speaker of the language understand this.

            If all that is required is a substitution of synonym for synonym, “has a spouse” for “married” and so on, you are free to look the words “racist” and “sexist” up in a thesaurus. But note that simple exchanges of synonyms will not guarantee that you end up assigning every sentence in English containing the term a determinate truth value, because any vagueness in the synonym will infect the analysis as well. Consider, e.g. whether aliens who pair-bond in elaborate rituals qualify as spouses, or whether a couple whose marriage licensed was issued by the CSA remained spouses after the Union was restored.

          • Civilis says:

            So, my take away from all this is that there is no way to demonstrate linguistic competence in determining what is racist or sexist and therefore all claims of racism and sexism are equally valid.

            I therefore claim all Earthly Knights sentences are racist, and having noticed this pattern of culpably racist speech, Earthy Knight is, therefore, a racist.

          • hlynkacg says:

            If all that is required is a substitution of synonym for synonym…

            It’s not. The second example does not swap “synonym for synonym”, it combines two separate concepts to form a third.

            At this point you’ve basically admitted that you have know way of knowing whether something is racist so civilis’ proposal strikes me as being at least as reasonable as yours.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Civilis

            I therefore claim all Earthly Knights sentences are racist, and having noticed this pattern of culpably racist speech, Earthy Knight is, therefore, a racist.

            Unfortunately, we are interested only in your sincere intuitions about word usage, and your assertions here are clearly insincere. Sorry!

            @hlynkacg

            It’s not. The second example does not swap “synonym for synonym”, it combines two separate concepts to form a third.

            Your first example, that “married” =df “has one or more spouse,” just substitutes one synonym for another. I agree that the analysis of murder as unlawful killing is somewhat more informative, although it has the drawback of being false– it makes killing an endangered caterpillar an act of murder, for instance. More importantly, it is still less than perfectly determinate, as it inherits all of the vagueness of both “killing” and “unlawful.”

    • JDG1980 says:

      A sentence, moreover, might be racist or sexist in any of three ways: it might contain terms which are liable to give offense, as in the examples above, it might invoke pernicious stereotypes about a group, as, for instance, with “the Maltese are all thieves,” or it might assert that a group is inferior in some desirable aspect, as with “people hailing from Malta have subnormal IQs.”

      By that standard, objectively truthful statements could be considered “racist” or “sexist”. It’s a true fact that, on average, African-Americans have an IQ about one standard deviation lower than white Americans (note I did not say anything about the possible cause of this difference, which is a subject for legitimate debate). It’s a true fact that women, on average, have less upper-body strength than men.

      If people are to be considered “racist” and “sexist” for mentioning and attempting to discuss facts like these, then those terms are mind-killers and should be actively avoided.

  8. Jill says:

    Re: the encouragement of rage in politics

    http://www.vox.com/2016/6/17/11962618/right-wing-violence-politicians

    “Alex Massie, a columnist for the Spectator (a conservative British magazine), wrote a beautiful column in the wake of Cox’s murder. Massie explains, better than any commentator I’ve read, the relationship between apocalyptic rhetoric and panic-induced violence:

    “When you encourage rage you cannot then feign surprise when people become enraged. You cannot turn around and say, ‘Mate, you weren’t supposed to take it so seriously. It’s just a game, just a ploy, a strategy for winning votes.’

    “When you shout BREAKING POINT over and over again, you don’t get to be surprised when someone breaks. When you present politics as a matter of life and death, as a question of national survival, don’t be surprised if someone takes you at your word. You didn’t make them do it, no, but you didn’t do much to stop it either.

    “Sometimes rhetoric has consequences. If you spend days, weeks, months, years telling people they are under threat, that their country has been stolen from them, that they have been betrayed and sold down the river, that their birthright has been pilfered, that their problem is they’re too slow to realise any of this is happening, that their problem is they’re not sufficiently mad as hell, then at some point, in some place, something or someone is going to snap. And then something terrible is going to happen.

    “We can’t control the weather but, in politics, we can control the climate in which the weather happens.”

    • Sandy says:

      A month ago I would have treated this seriously. After the riots and assaults on Trump supporters in California, I really don’t give a damn anymore because it’s too much hypocrisy for me to swallow.

      The argument could just as easily be made that the liberal media calling Trump Hitler 2.0 over and over again and insisting solemnly that his campaign was basically the Fourth Reich coming to life and that his presidency would result in death camps for the Mexicans and global genocide for the Muslims and yada yada yada was irresponsible rhetoric that was bound to lead to inflamed passions and political violence. But not only did this argument not work for the progressive left, many of them enthusiastically embraced the violence and said “There’s no revolution without violence! No gay rights without Stonewall!”.

      So I just can’t find it in me to care that inflammatory rhetoric from the right may have led to a political assassination.

      • Luke the CIA stooge says:

        If your side does it: it’s inflammatory and will lead to disaster, if my side does it: it’s because of our GENUINE CONCERN.

        I remember after the 2015 Canadian election conservatives were bummed out and shit talking new prime minister Justin Truedeau in Internet comments.
        Well someone comes along and says “suck it up losers you lost, have some respect for the new PM”,
        to which a conservative replied “when Harper (conservative pm) was elected we never heard the end of the whining from the left: Harper’s a secret evangelical, Harper’s going to sell Canada out to the US, Harper’s a dictator. It’s a bit rich to hear calls of respect from the left.”
        To which the left winger replied, “That was different! People were genuinely concerned for their country!”

        • Nornagest says:

          I’m principled, you’re a partisan, he’s a fanatic.

        • Civilis says:

          You could pretty much replace Truedeau with Obama and Harper with George W. Bush. You could pretty much replace Obama with Clinton and George W. Bush with George H. W. Bush or Ronald Reagan. You could pretty much replace Clinton with Carter or LBJ and Reagan with Ford or Barry Goldwater.

          As conservatives like to joke, “Dissent is only patriotic when there’s a Republican in the White House.”

          There has been a change, though, as time has progressed. The internet has made it easier for anyone, including the 5% that are sure the whole thing is a space lizard conspiracy, to have their say. I think that’s made the fringe more visible for the more recent presidents.

      • Kevin C. says:

        But not only did this argument not work for the progressive left, many of them enthusiastically embraced the violence and said “There’s no revolution without violence! No gay rights without Stonewall!”.

        Sounds like you’ve read Jesse Benn’s “Sorry Liberals, A Violent Response To Trump Is As Logical As Any“.

        And, relatedly, what do you call people who openly argue that “violence is ALWAYS justified against” their opponents, who must be stopped “by any means necessary”, that preventing the spread of their opponents’ ideas “justifies the use of violence, and in most cases killing”, and that their enemies are “nothing more then[sic] scum of the Earth that have no business even living in the first place”?

        • Sandy says:

          That and a bunch of other stuff. There was a pinned thread on a prominent SocJus subreddit that will remain unnamed but is fairly infamous in such circles where some progressives were discussing the attacks in California and the majority opinion seemed to be that they were clearly justified; quite a few of them brought up the now classic argument that “Without violence against our oppressors, America would still be a British colony”.

          Also all the stuff from HuffPo and Vox about “riot shaming” post-Ferguson because some people didn’t like the idea that black people can ransack stores, burn buildings, assault random people and generally cost property damage running into the tens of millions, all in the memory of a crook who was shot dead after trying to steal a cop’s gun, and still credibly pass off such actions as a human rights movement. I don’t know who it was, it may have been Steve Sailer or it may have been Moldbug, but someone from that end of the spectrum contrasted that with white people marching non-violently in anti-government Tea Party rallies and getting called “dangerous extremists” for it.

          Increasingly the moral standard of the progressive left seems to be “Civility for thee, but not for me”.

          • Anonymous says:

            “Without violence against our oppressors, America would still be a British colony”.

            Just like Canada and Australia!

          • Matt M says:

            Non-zero possibility that Canada and Australia were allowed to leave peaceably only because England had already been taught, the hard way, that occupying a hostile populace was an untenable position.

        • hlynkacg says:

          @ Sandy
          The cynic in me is tempted to take this idea and run with it.

          @ Kevin
          Off Topic but, do you know what the smallest minority is?

    • Jiro says:

      When you encourage rage you cannot then feign surprise when people become enraged. You cannot turn around and say, ‘Mate, you weren’t supposed to take it so seriously. It’s just a game, just a ploy, a strategy for winning votes.

      The same reasoning applies to comparing Trump to Hitler, or otherwise raging at Trump.

      Edit: Ninjaed by Sandy.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      Sorry, but I can’t hear you over all the people standing next to you calling every Republican politician Hitler.

    • onyomi says:

      What if right wingers are right to be angry since nothing else has worked?

      • hlynkacg says:

        A rather prominent Democrat once suggested that the key to effecting positive change was to get mad, get in peoples’ faces, and punch back twice as hard.

        I wonder if he has since reconsidered that advice. 😛

  9. Char Aznable says:

    Wasn’t Trump implying that Megyn Kelly was irrationally/overly aggressively attacking him because there was blood coming out of her “wherever”? It still doesn’t make him “openly sexist” to say that but implying that a newscaster/journalist would lose her professionalism because she’s “on the rag” is definitely sexist.

  10. Jill says:

    Someone asked me about the records for truth vs. lies of these Right and Left leaning folks. Here are some stats from politifact, about statements they checked, that these people said. Jon Stewart had more mostly false or worse statements than I expected. The others were near to what I expected. Apparently John Olivier is the most factually accurate of all these people.

    http://www.politifact.com/personalities/ann-coulter/

    http://www.politifact.com/personalities/sean-hannity/

    http://www.politifact.com/personalities/bill-oreilly/

    http://www.politifact.com/personalities/rush-limbaugh/

    http://www.politifact.com/personalities/jon-stewart/

    http://www.politifact.com/personalities/john-oliver/

      • Scott Alexander says:

        It looks like those are completely different statements (total unemployment vs. black youth unemployment) and so could possibly have different truth values. Does somebody explain somewhere what makes them contradictory?

        • Gbdub says:

          The thing is I think both Trump and Sanders arrived at their numbers the same way – by looking at labor force participation rather than the traditional unemployment rate. Yes, Sanders limits himself to black populations, but either labor force participation is a valid measure or it isn’t.

          Seems to me the burden is on Politifact to prove why one gets “half true” and the other gets “pants on fire” when they seem to be making the same point with similar evidence.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The thing is I think both Trump and Sanders arrived at their numbers the same way – by looking at labor force participation rather than the traditional unemployment rate.

            You think wrong. Read the actual articles.

            http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/sep/30/donald-trump/donald-trump-says-unemployment-rate-may-be-42-perc/

            http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/jul/13/bernie-s/bernie-sanders-says-real-unemployment-rate-african/

            The official figure for black youth unemployment at the time of Sanders’s comments was 32%. The figure Sanders quotes does indeed come from the broader U-6 measure of labor force participation.

            The official figure for unemployment at the time of Trump’s remarks was around 5%, the broader U-6 measure was at 10%. Trump apparently got 42% from an off-the-wall metric which counts homemakers, students, retirees, and disabled people as unemployed.

          • suntzuanime says:

            The question is, how many people become homemakers, students, retirees, or officially disabled because of trouble finding work? The number isn’t zero.

            In any case, looking at the actual article, what Trump actually said was the highest number he’d heard for unemployment was 42%, he wasn’t claiming it was actually that high. Given that politifact tracked down the source of the 42% claim, it seems pretty plausible that 42% is a number Trump did in fact hear, so he should really be rated as “True”.

          • Theo Jones says:

            @suntzuanime

            I would of given it a mostly false. For the reasons you state it wasn’t totally pulled out of Trump’s rear end. But it was at least very misleading as presented and not a good representation of the level of unemployment. The U6 unemployment numbers attempt (imperfectly) to determine how many people have dropped out of the labor force due to market factors. And Trump’s number is well above the U6. And by repeating the number Trump was giving it some credence.

          • suntzuanime says:

            You can dispute the actual number Trump gives. He says “the unemployment rate is probably 20 percent”, fine, provide data and arguments that it’s lower than 20 percent. But that’s not what politifact is doing. They’re trying to say he was claiming it was 42 percent. That’s not what he said, he gave the number as an illustrative example of how much disagreement there was with the official figures floating around. He never endorsed that number, he only claimed that he saw it. And given that the number was available to see, politifact seems beyond disingenuous here calling him “pants on fire”.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            It is possible to grossly deceive or mislead your audience without saying anything that is literally false, you know. Repeating ridiculous falsehoods while attributing them to someone else is a pretty standard way of doing this. So I don’t think that’s much of an excuse.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Are we really going to treat people as endorsing every claim they quote while explicitly stating they disagree with it? Give me a fucking break.

            I don’t know why politifact is getting on Trump’s case for saying the unemployment rate is 42% when they themselves say the unemployment rate is 42%.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Are we really going to treat people as endorsing every claim they quote while explicitly stating they disagree with it? Give me a fucking break.

            Did Trump explicitly say that he didn’t think that the real unemployment rate was 42% at the time? It looks to me like he said it was probably 20% (also false) and then went on to insinuate that it might be as high as 42%.

            I don’t know why politifact is getting on Trump’s case for saying the unemployment rate is 42% when they themselves say the unemployment rate is 42%.

            Where are you getting this from?

          • suntzuanime says:

            Right there on the page, they say “If you run the numbers, ‘the real unemployment rate was 42.9 percent,’ Stockman wrote.” It is possible to grossly deceive or mislead your audience without saying anything that is literally false, you know. Repeating ridiculous falsehoods while attributing them to someone else is a pretty standard way of doing this.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Politifact quoted Stockman’s claim, then proceeded to show why it was false and no reasonable person should believe it. Did Trump do the same?

          • suntzuanime says:

            Again, the point is that Trump explicitly disagreed with the claim. No he didn’t extensively debunk it, because he’s not a factchecking website, he is a politician, and he was making a rhetorical point. But it’s very clear that he was not endorsing the claim, if you understand what the word “but” means.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            the point is that Trump explicitly disagreed with the claim. But it’s very clear that he was not endorsing the claim, if you understand what the word “but” means.

            I don’t see where you’re getting this from. Here is how Politifact quotes Trump:

            “The number isn’t reflective,” he said. “I’ve seen numbers of 24 percent — I actually saw a number of 42 percent unemployment. Forty-two percent.” He continued, “5.3 percent unemployment — that is the biggest joke there is in this country. … The unemployment rate is probably 20 percent, but I will tell you, you have some great economists that will tell you it’s a 30, 32. And the highest I’ve heard so far is 42 percent.”

            This looks to all the world like he is asserting (falsely) that the unemployment rate is probably 20%, while insinuating (falsely) that it may be as high as 30%, 32%, or 42%.

            Pants on fire!

          • hlynkacg says:

            @Earthly Knight
            You say…

            This looks to all the world like he is asserting (falsely) that the unemployment rate is probably 20%

            …and the politifact article says…

            We previously rated False a claim by Trump that “our real unemployment is anywhere from 18 to 20 percent.” So if 18 to 20 percent is false, how does 42 percent rate?

            So if you’re being honest, you ought to agree with suntzuanime that the “pants on fire” rating is unwarranted.

          • erenold says:

            @suntzuanime

            I have nothing to add to a technical discussion, but I also want to add that at least insofar as Donald Trump is concerned, he very often does exactly this thing whereby he says something unbelievably outrageous (Scalia was murdered), claims that he doesn’t know the truth value of it (people on the Internet are saying this but I don’t know) etc etc., but the point of it is so clearly to make exactly that assertion to his audience while leaving wriggle room for deniability; to the point where I consider it to be exactly as dishonest as if he had just come out and and said that thing in the first place. Perhaps more so, in fact. Is it possible that it is for this reason that WaPo are reacting more strongly to his artfulness as compared to Sanders’ equivalent claim?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Is it possible that it is for this reason that WaPo are reacting more strongly to his artfulness as compared to Sanders’ equivalent claim?

            Note that Sanders’s claim was in no way equivalent, for the reasons given above.

            @ hlynkacg

            I’m not sure what you’re trying to say, but I suspect it depends on the false premise that Trump never contradicts himself (or, more charitably, changes his mind over time).

          • Matt M says:

            erenold,

            Regarding Trump’s “I’ve heard people say…” or “I’m just asking the questions!” routine…

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elRxbGJuCw8

          • erenold says:

            Ah – I apologize, Earthly Knight. I was not following the technical aspects of the discussion as closely as I should have. My apologies.

            Matt:

            Yep – that’s exactly my interpretation of it. The moment that most struck me was the Scalia “was he murdered? I dunno all I know is what’s on the Internet” line, but there were several other instances that stuck in my mind. I’ll see if I can find them.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I’d be a lot more sympathetic to claims that he was trying to advance his position behind a stalking horse of what he’d heard other people say if he didn’t, in the same damn breath, state his actual damn position.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @Earthly Knight
            I’m saying that if you really think that Trump “is asserting (falsely) that the unemployment rate is probably 20%” you ought to concede that, as per Politifact, the claim may be false but it is not a “pants on fire” lie.

            Edit:
            @ suntzuanime, I know right?

          • erenold says:

            Sure, and I respect that, but the salient question is whether WaPo genuinely believe it – that Trump does that artful thing in Matt’s South Park video above. If so, is it possible that that would be a non-bad-faith explanation why Trump seems to incur more aggressive ratings from their Truthometer, rather than a specific animus towards him? Of course, I appreciate that an animus towards him would predispose them to believe that Trump does that in the first place.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I’d be a lot more sympathetic to claims that he was trying to advance his position behind a stalking horse of what he’d heard other people say if he didn’t, in the same damn breath, state his actual damn position.

            His actual position was that real employment is probably at 20% but maybe much higher like these other guys say. Endorsing a ludicrous claim as possibly true in the guise of innocently relaying the opinions of others is still dishonest.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Worse than those:

        Politifact on Trump on NJ celebration of 9/11: Pants on Fire

        http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/nov/22/donald-trump/fact-checking-trumps-claim-thousands-new-jersey-ch/

        Breitbart found the TV reports about the celebrations:

        http://www.breitbart.com/big-journalism/2015/12/02/trump-100-vindicated-cbs-reports-swarms-on-roofs-celebrating-911/

        Whether this is perfect vindication (as Breitbart claims) or not, it should at least pull Trump’s statement to “half-true”.

        Politifact doubled-down:

        http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2015/dec/02/new-information-doesnt-fix-donald-trumps-911-claim/

        (I’ve also heard about celebrations in Paterson, NJ, from someone who saw them)

    • Matt M says:

      This sort of thing is essentially irrelevant from a measurement standpoint as PolitiFact gets to choose what statements it does and does not evaluate. Not to mention that their ratings are usually, themselves, highly subjective.

      • Gbdub says:

        Yeah, I can’t claim to be a diligent reader of PolitiFact, but in my experience they can’t be treated statistically as seems to be the current fad. By only rating “contoversia” statements they are already getting a non representative sample. And while their long-form analyses are usually decent, their bottom line rating seems pretty subjective and inconsistent.

        • Matt M says:

          Right. I don’t suggest that Politifact is entirely useless – it can be a nice resource when attempting to evaluate the evidence behind a specific factual claim that is getting some play in the news cycle.

          But it IS useless for what a lot of people (including Jill right now) try to use it for – definitive and scientific proof that Republicans lie more often than Democrats. Or that Trump lies more than Hillary. Or whatever.

  11. Brett Bellmore says:

    There’s some truth in the saying that, if you hear the dog whistle, you’re the dog. My own theory is that “dog whistles” are actually a way liberals police their own membership.

    You take some phrases that conservatives will typically use in their perfectly normal sense, and assign them outrageous implications that have nothing to do with what the conservatives mean by them. Then, when a liberal inadvertently starts listening to something a conservative is saying, just as they might start to understand it, and risk agreeing, along will come a ‘dog whistle’, like some sort of linguistic mine, and blow up the conversation.

    The liberal will stomp off, outraged, and renewed in their conviction that conservatives are monsters, and actual communication will have been prevented.

    • onyomi says:

      A very interesting thought. As with many kinds of propaganda, it does seem to inoculate the intended listener against the opposition. The interesting thing is, as with many things, I don’t think anyone explicitly planned it that way, but that seems to be how it works out.

      The most proximate cause of the proliferation of “dog whistles,” I believe, is the fact that thinking of new ways to be offended by Red Tribe is a high-status, high-reward activity within Blue Tribe. But part of the reason why it is high-reward, I imagine, is precisely because people know subconsciously that it is inoculating them against the possibility of having the wrong opinions or being pressured, by cognitive dissonance, to change one’s mind.

      If one’s worldview is that Red Tribe is awful, then you will crave a steady diet of proofs of that proposition to inoculate you against any reasonable-seeming Red Tribe arguments or nice Red Tribe members. A new concept, like “intersectionality” or “dog whistle” is especially welcome, because it promises to generate new grist for that mill.

      And I think this is the problem a lot of people seem to have with Jill: it feels often like she is unreflectively reciting a Blue Tribe catechism. I believe her when she says she’s interested in genuine discussion and exchange of ideas, but the anti-GOP antibodies her Blue inoculations so rapidly generate seem to block much of that (Red Tribes, of course, have their catechisms, but we don’t have anyone here, so far as I can tell, who invokes them in so rapid-fire and unfiltered a fashion).

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I was actually thinking something different when I started reading your comment – dog whistles are ways people follow who is sufficiently in touch / fashionable with the political currents. If you can randomly designate a few phrases as forbidden, then somebody using those phrases marks them as an outgroup member who doesn’t stay up to date with your side’s trends.

      • onyomi says:

        Now I want an accompanying piece called “Against Cat Bell-ism.”

        (Related, some very Blue FB friends recently posted about a horrifying supposed online trend among anti-Semites of putting (((Jewish names))) in a series of parentheses and calling it “belling the cat.” Don’t know whether this is a real trend or mostly paranoia).

        • suntzuanime says:

          I haven’t heard it called “belling the cat” but it’s definitely a thing some people in the alt-right do. The origin of the trend was a browser extension that would automatically put the parentheses around Jewish names, it billed itself as a “coincidence detector” and the idea was that if you left it on while reading the news you would see how coincidentally disproportionately Jewish various elite elements of society are. I think it also might have been intended to detect coincidences in the authors of thinkpieces about white privilege? Anyway when the coincidences found out about it they wrote outraged thinkpieces and the broader alt-right took notice. They said “hey, this really freaks out the squares”, started quoting Goebbels, and ran with it. AFAICT, like most stuff the alt-right does, they mostly do it to watch the left’s horrified reaction.

          • Matt M says:

            I’ve heard (but haven’t bothered to confirm) that the parenthesis thing is now banned on Twitter as recognized anti-semitism…

          • suntzuanime says:

            I know that on Twitter a lot of Jews were putting the parentheses around their own names as a form of reclamation, so that would seem a little misdirected. (Even the SPLC was doing it, which came as new information to me.)

          • From what I’ve read about it, the browser extension didn’t automatically recognize Jewish names, it added parentheses to names anti-Semites fed it.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Yes, the natural way to make a browser extension automatically put parentheses around Jewish names is to give it a list of Jewish names to compare to. We should be glad that people at the forefront of AI research are not using their talents on deep neural net statistical Jew detectors, I guess.

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes, the natural way to make a browser extension automatically put parentheses around Jewish names is to give it a list of Jewish names to compare to. We should be glad that people at the forefront of AI research are not using their talents on deep neural net statistical Jew detectors, I guess.

            It probably wouldn’t be all that hard. Get massive list of names, some of them Jewish, flag them as Jewish or not, feed it into a neural net, train it until it can do something like 90% accurate coincidence detection on names it wasn’t already given.

          • Anonymous says:

            But you’d have to do it in yarvin’s incomprehensible urbit ecosystem for ideological purity reasons. Or maybe Terry Davis’ TempleOS, that might be an even better fit.

            Either way you are talking a lot more effort.

          • Anonymous says:

            But you’d have to do it in yarvin’s incomprehensible urbit ecosystem for ideological purity reasons.

            You realize Yarvin is a Jew, right?

          • suntzuanime says:

            I guess at that point you’re figuring it would be looking at features like “-stein” on the end? I’m no Jewish names expert but it seems likely to me that there are a fair number of names that you just have to learn by rote, rather than being able to generalize from their characteristics. I mean, what’s Jewish about the name “Cohen”? Just the “-en”? Sounds like you’d get a lot of false positives.

            Seriously people, I know it’s not cool or sexy, but sometimes a big fuckoff list that you compare to is just The Right Thing. Not everything needs to be machine learning.

          • I’m guessing, but I don’t think white supremicists want to live in a world of approximations.

          • Anonymous says:

            I didn’t realize Yarvin was Jewish, no. That must drive the Sailerite wing of the alt-right even more nuts.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            Sailer is ethnically half Jewish and was adopted by a Catholic family. I think Spielberg should have him consult on the upcoming Edgardo Mortara movie.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Yes, if “alt-right” was being used here (except maybe by STA, if Alt-Right means anything, it’s probably those specific guys he’s talking about) as anything but a catchall term for people who are not leftists, browse the web and post memes, that would be quite problematic for them.

            It’s not, so it’s not.

          • Garrett says:

            FWIW, I think that the nomination of Sarah Palin was that philosophy manifest into meat-space. A poor choice for the position, and fun to watch.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @suntzuanime: “Cohen” derives from the Hebrew word for “Priest”, along with variants (eg Cohn). Many characteristically Jewish names are German in origin, though.

  12. Charlie S says:

    Really now. Trump doesn’t use a dog whistle, he uses a bull horn. Perhaps that’s why your hearing is impaired. You cannot create a hostile workplace environment with degrading and sexist language and then somehow claim to be pro-women for the women you do hire (often times based on their appearance).

  13. Art says:

    The way I read Trump’s opinion of women is that he believes them to be different from men, and therefore inferior in some respects and superior in others.

    As for Livingstone, I think his position on Israel sounds similar to the position on Jews of an average citizen of the Reich, who would never support mass murder but would prefer that Jews were no longer around, and does not much care how that is to be accomplished.

  14. Jill says:

    It just dawned on me. Due to tribalism and living in bubbles, people can not see the cruelties done by their own tribe to the other. One tribe could be burning people at the stake, and members of that tribe would still be complaining about every minor slight done to them by the other tribe.

    Since the complainer is usually not being burned at the stake, nor burning others at the stake, the complainer doesn’t take that situation seriously. They don’t actually approve of burning people at the stake.

    But they are like moderate Muslims in the U.S.– they consider themselves members of “the religion of peace” or the political tribe of peace, in their own eyes. They are certainly not going to leave or disapprove of their tribe, just because some members of it are murdering the other tribe. They are horrified that Trump is proposing to ban their tribe from the U.S.– keeping Muslims from entering the non-Muslim bubble, in order to try to decrease terrorism and murder.

    Or a tribe may be horrified that someone is being called racist who is not, while Coulter, Limbaugh, Hannity and O’Reilly seethe with so much rage that federal wildlife officials were in danger of being killed by that Bundy guy, and other people are in danger of being killed by raging tea partiers, from time to time.

    I know the reply “Prove to me the connection between Coulter, Limbaugh, Hannity and O’Reilly raging and insulting and bashing liberals and Red Tribe members acting violently. You’re being illogical and irrational. Look at Scott’s rules about that. ”

    You continue “People can be filled up with adrenalin and rage and fear every day by the radio and TV and it never incites anyone to violence at all– not even the ones with the least self control. If 13% of Republicans think Obama is the Anti-Christ (Oh, no it’s actually only 12.9%, so that invalidates your whole argument right there. Pay attention to numbers, will you?), and they are also being filled with fear and rage daily by the TV, that’s no big deal.”

    It took 20 years after Gingrich got politics to be intensely focused on bashing of the other tribe (See article below) for the Blue tribe to react much. Yes, I know the reply I should expect to this too– “This was not the first time in history that politics was ever acrimonious in any way, so Gingrich is absolved of any responsibility for starting this wave of intense acrimony, and should be chosen as Trump’s VP, as his reward for his helping the GOP so much since 1994.”

    http://www.vox.com/2016/5/6/11598838/donald-trump-predictions-norm-ornstein

    So it was 20 years before the Left finally reacted in the extreme and began to go crazy with rage too. Toward the beginning of this time period, a Blue tribe president was impeached over a blow job, and the Red tribe president who came next, got away scot free after getting us into a long bloody expensive war, based on lies about weapons of mass destruction. But still the Blue tribe kept being long suffering. And the Red tribe didn’t think their tribe was guilty of anything bad.

    So after about 20 years, the Blue tribe finally began to react angrily toward the Red tribe — and even then, the reaction was mostly only by, or about, the subgroup of the Left that consisted of a minority group that was getting unarmed people murdered by police on a frequent basis.

    I know the reply I expect to hear to what I just said: “Prove to me how frequently this happens. Our tribe hardly ever murders people. This isn’t a big deal at all. Nor is it a big deal at all that our tribe’s TV and radio leaders are training our tribe to be more and more filled with fear and seething with anger, and that we also own tons of guns and keep buying more. It’s Blue Tribe’s comedians, and some Blue tribe people incorrectly labeling people racist that are the real problem.”

    Anyway, the thing is: People can’t see the cruelties, or even murders, done by their own tribe. Or if they do, they easily excuse them, because, after all, this is not typical of this wonderful political tribe of peace.

    I’ll bet Diesach blew a gasket after a zillion replies of the kinds I often get, and then actually insulted someone back, then I am sure that insult was more easily noticed than other people’s insults. Because Diesach was of the OTHER tribe, not of the tribe this board mostly consists of. Did Diesach get death by 1000 cuts and then finally strike back big time?

    Both of us may be a bit insane to come to a board of the other tribe. This is a very painful experience. Perhaps Deisach will be happier now? Will it be like hitting your head against the wall? I have heard that it feels very good when you stop.

    Well, at least I have learned about the culture I am a part of. Everybody is a wonderful person, a member of a wonderful tribe, no matter what pill they’ve taken, no matter which bubble they’re living in. Even if your tribe murders people, no biggie. It’s the people who took the OTHER pill who are causing all the serious problems.

    You don’t have “skin in the game” of being harmed or feeling hurt by your own tribe. You have “skin in the game” of feeling hurt or scared by the OTHER tribe. So when you have no skin in the game, then it just seems like nothing is happening at all. “What’s the problem, really? I don’t see anything.”

    Maybe I can even use rationality as a tool to nitpick someone to death with, as my revenge for their even hinting that there may be the slightest problem originating in anyone from my own tribe.

    • onyomi says:

      I don’t think D. is very Blue tribe, her blown gasket over that particular issue notwithstanding.

      • Anonymous says:

        She Irish. The red and blue tribes refer to two, mostly white, American cultures. The totalizing over the terms is just dumb.

        • onyomi says:

          Put another way, she doesn’t strike me as particularly left-wing for an Irish person. Rather more the opposite. Though defining her is rather… well difficult, which is I think part of what made her posts interesting.

    • Xerxes says:

      Still not getting it.

      It is well established and well known here that each tribe ignores the problems of their own members. Congrats on reaching square 1.

      Square 2 is to realize that applies to yourself and your own tribe as well. You seem entirely oblivious to this.

      Step 3 is to start to use various objective tools to try to seek truth. Not only are you not there, but you mock the very idea.

      As is the usual case for a brain being killed by tribalism, you blame your own failings on this board being filled with enemies. While there may certainly have been done drift, i beloved Scott’s most recent survey on the matter showed leftist ideologies as the most numerous.

      This is not a board of the other tribe. This is a board that doesn’t glorify the usual tribal nonsense. Which is the mode you are still stuck in.

      • Psmith says:

        This is not a board of the other tribe.

        It certainly as all hell is a board of an other tribe.

    • I learned the same lesson on a smaller scale during the recent unpleasantness about Hugos. People wildly underestimate the effect of the insults emitted by their own side. Insults from your side are based in truth and really, really funny. Insults from the other side are proof of deep malice and fundamentally irrational beliefs which can only as an excuse for malice.

      As for Deisach, I think there was something going wrong at her end– to my mind her posts were getting more repetitious and less interesting. Then we had a bunch of people complaing about the poor having any comforts or pleasures at all. Deisach is poor and has mental problems, and it isn’t surprising that she blew up at the idea that she should have a much worse life.

      • onyomi says:

        Yeah, I had that thought too. It felt more like an emotional outburst coming from a place of personal difficulty than malice. Hope she gets better.

        • Theo Jones says:

          I would have given a 1 wk ban if I were Scott. Enough to deliver the point that the rules will be enforced, but there wasn’t a reason to get rid of a productive poster over one outburst about a sensitive topic.

    • Jiro says:

      Toward the beginning of this time period, a Blue tribe president was impeached over a blow job

      He was impeached over a blow job because the Blues created unworkable sexual harassment rules and it never occurred to them that the (absurd) sexual harassment rules could be applied to one of their own. Surprise!

      The kerfluffle over Clinton’s blow job happened because the blues called up a monster that they couldn’t put down, not mainly because of red influence.

      (Not to mention that even now, people in this very thread are talking about Trump’s sexism. Surely actually being given a blow job by an intern has to be at least as sexist as making some comments.)

      • keranih says:

        He got impeached over a blow job because he was diddling a female employee in the workplace, and then *lied* about it.

        It might not have been the most world-shattering justification for legal proceedings in the history of the world, but it was over something Clinton actually did.

        • Mary says:

          Hey, it was against the law. And the reason they were able to get the evidence was a law that Clinton himself signed.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @kerinah:
          He was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice, not merely lying. Although, I think a fair reading of the facts is that he did neither, as the trial judge, IIRC, considered those charges and ruled against them. She did cite him for contempt of court for lying, though.

          Perhaps that’s pedantic. I just think the impeachment of Clinton was a gross breach of the norms required for effective governance.

          It’s certainly fair to say that Clinton’s behavior with Lewinsky could constitute sexual harassment, as Clinton almost certainly exploited an unequal power dynamic, but I think for that charge to truly hold weight legally you need Lewinsky to be a complainant.

          As to Trump compared to Clinton, Clinton does not seem to bring any sexual attitudes towards women into the political/public sphere. Trump does.

    • stargirlprincess says:

      What tribe was Deisach even in? As I recall she was a conservative Catholic. Her politics seemed to be heavily based on solidarity with the working class. She had a strong aversion to technocratic solutions. In general her views seemed complicated.

      Deisach did not strike me as fitting into any of the red/blue/grey tribes.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Well part of it is that she isn’t American so you shouldn’t expect her to map into the US usual tribal dynamics.

        In the broad sense though, she was socially conservative while being somewhat (but not very) economically liberal which in the US probably would have been a “blue dog democrat” but the blue dogs these days are a shrinking group that has been largely eclipsed / absorbed by evangelicals and neo-conservatives.

    • eh says:

      The last three books I’ve read were by Orwell, Dawkins, and Marx. Those may not be blue tribe authors in the current century, but I suspect a member of the guns-and-bibles red tribe would chew off their arm rather than read anything political by a socialist, a commie, or a capital A Atheist.

      The reason I say this is that I don’t find the comments section here to be at all hostile. However, Multi and Jill have both mentioned that everyone here seems very red. What is it that marks it as red tribe?

      • suntzuanime says:

        Orwell was a bit of a heretic socialist, e.g. the left wanted to bury The Road to Wigan Pier because of all the nasty things it said about them and Animal Farm was about how fucked up the Soviet Union was back before people were forced to admit it. There’s a certain type of guns-and-bibles red triber that takes 1984 pretty seriously and finds lots of parallels between it and Obama’s America. I’ll give you the other two, though.

        Basically Multi is an actual IRL communist, and Jill is (presenting as) a member of John Oliver’s Army. Everything looks very red when you’re wearing blue tinted glasses. Or, like, the exact opposite of that, but you probably take my meaning.

        • Anonymous says:

          Ha! The blue tribe is basically a giant revolt against Darwin.

          “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life” – now does that sound like something progressives would be happy to support or does it sound like something that might be a bit “problematic” in pansy tumblr speak?

          Darwin is the one who tells you that the terms “racist” and “sexist” are synonyms for “person who correctly perceives reality”.

          • Nornagest says:

            “Race” hadn’t fully acquired its modern connotations when Darwin was writing; at the time it was a loose synonym for “subspecies” or even “breed”. It would have been perfectly normal then, for example, to talk about races of cats or dogs or finches (and Darwin did).

            (That’s not to say that early Darwinian biologists didn’t talk about human races; they totally did. Some stuff they got right, some they got wrong. I remember reading one book, for example, that said humans were an unusually genetically diverse species, when the reverse is true thanks to the Toba bottleneck.)

      • Civilis says:

        I think the claim is not that the site’s readership is predominantly red tribe, but that it is predominantly from the libertarian wing of the gray tribe, which means politically it’s somewhat allied with the conservative red tribe in the Republican political umbrella, especially on economic issues and in opposition to Social Justice Progressivism on many cultural issues.

        • E. Harding says:

          I don’t think so. Sargon of Akkad and the Amazing Atheist (both Berniebros, one from the U.K., the other from Louisiana) are definitely in the gray tribe, though.

      • Frog Do says:

        There is also a libertarian affect that some people find more offensive than others: an almost sociopathic lack of empathy, extreme pedantry, belief that everyone who disagrees with you is stupid followed by a short essay on what they learned in Microeconomics 101. The punchline to this joke is “utilitarianism”, do ho ho.

        And as we all know, anything libertarian is practically fascist, in exactly the same way that everything President Obama does is Pure Islamic Socialism, made with 100% Juice.

  15. James says:

    My inner use-mention pedant thanks you for renaming this from “Against Dog Whistles”.

  16. Muad'Dib says:

    The blog post is somewhat incoherent; it tries to put too many things inside the dog-whistle framework, and doesn’t really succeed. I however agree with roughly where it ends up, though it’s incomplete. One should not fetishize “racism” and “sexism” by themselves; we should look at the person’s statements, past and present, and the plans they pushed. I would also add, for politicians and public figures, to look at the political forces behind them and the ones they are allied with. And by the same token, one must look at the forces behind the people pushing the dog-whistle anti-Semitism or sexism charge to see whether the charge makes sense.

    Let’s look a bit closer at the Trump vs Livingstone comparison. Let’s leave Naz Shah to the side and focus on Livingstone’s own comments. Notice that Livingstone never said anything about Jews per se; he was talking about Zionism and Israel. Even if Livingstone said “Hitler supported Zionism”, it would be anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic (since Hitler = evil by definition).

    In contrast, Trump is talking directly about women in places where Trump is being quoted, not say, feminism, or a profession like nursing where there are lots of women. So whatever your opinion about Trump being a misogynist or sexist, that has little to do with Livingstone’s case.

    Zooming out, it is obvious that much of the hysteria about Livingstone is simply partisan: notice that the hysteria over Labour anti-Semitism decreased by a factor of 10 after the elections – though this might just be the short news-cycle. And there is the matter of the divisions in the Labour party over Corbyn (who Livingstone is close to) and divisions over Israel.

    Similarly, much of the hysteria against Trump is for partisan purposes. Though I think the case for Trump being a sexist is much stronger. I’ll just note that looking simply at the statement by employees in Trump’s organization, as the Washington Post article did, or the statement in Trump’s Art of the Deal, would have a survivor bias: women who had a bad experience would perhaps leave and thus won’t be considered.

  17. Outis says:

    Isn’t the term “dog whistle” somewhat dehumanizing?

  18. Sorry if others have already mentioned it, but it seems like a counter argument might be that history shows that almost all wrongdoings of the racist and sexist categories give none of the obvious warning signals that you suggest we should look for, and therefore an attempt to somewhat obsessively look for non-obvious ones might be the only available option? For example, most all male boards probably don’t explicitly bring up the woman’s sex in their appointments. There’s just a series of comments and jokes about the person that help establish a general attitude or agreement that’s understood but plausibly deniable. Or, for a more in-your-face example, the leaders of most genocides don’t stand for election with a policy platform of genocide, but the participants often seem to get the idea that is the intention at some point just from the rhetoric involved. Comparison of rhetoric to historical outcomes does seem relevant in some way. In my experience sexism doesn’t need all that much to be said explicitly to go to work….

    That said, it does trouble me how ridiculously racism and sexism is used as a label to fight unrelated arguments these days. Your examples do seem reasonable, in that the evidence seems to make little impact on the arguments of dog whistling, and that the most frequent users of “dog whistle-ism” seem to be at least a little evidence adverse. I just don’t know if there’s a clear-cut approach to solve this one though.

    • Theo Jones says:

      Agreed. I’ve met a number of people who are pretty clearly racist/sexist/-ist but I’ve never had (except for a few internet trolls) someone admit to being -ist. Looking for dog whistles come out of this. -ists exist but are in denial about their beliefs, so, there are cases where you do have to read between the lines.

    • onyomi says:

      I’m not sure I agree that those who have committed genocide haven’t usually warned us ahead of time in non-subtle ways.

      In Hitler’s 1939 “Jewish Question” speech, for example, he doesn’t explicitly say “I think we should round them all up and gas them,” but he does say that Jews are destroying European civilization and that there was no room for them in Germany.

    • Mary says:

      The problem is that obsessive search will both turn up a lot of false positives and absorb a lot of time and energy. Unless you can reasonably say that the true positives are high enough to justify both, you should probably just assume innocence without strong evidence.

  19. Nicholas says:

    So no one else in some 751 comments thought to bring up that dog whistle is just a special case of Mott and Bailey, where the Mott is what your words literally mean, and Bailey is the message you would like to transmit, and anytime someone brings up the Bailey connotations of your comments you retreat to the Mott of calling them paranoids who over interpret simple messages?

    • onyomi says:

      Well, there seems to be variance in interpretation. Some have said that the point of the dog whistle is plausible deniability–black people may know you mean them when you say “urban,” but the word is neutral enough you can always deny intending any racial connotation. This is basically a motte and bailey, as you say.

      But a literal dog whistle, I believe, is supposed to be a whistle which only dogs hear. So, as some others have pointed out, the point of the “dog whistle” should be to sound unremarkable to the non-target audience, but to indicate something one can’t say in polite conversation to the target audience.

      In motte and bailey, the point is that you get to argue from the weak position and then retreat to the strong position when challenged; here, the idea seems to be more of a secret “code”: a way of winking and nodding to one group of supporters without alienating another: say, to secretly tell the racists and anti-semites that you’re on their side without losing all the support of non-racist, non-anti-semites.

      But on this definition, it becomes hard for me to think of any clear-cut, unambiguous examples. Maybe this is because I am not the target for any dog whistles and/or don’t see the ones aimed at me because their meaning seems clear. Or maybe it is actually mostly a myth. It seems largely like a bogeyman of liberal journalism+confirmation bias.

      • Nicholas says:

        When you know about them, I think they’re called shibboleths. For example: I don’t know if you spilled some sugar in your house or what, but you sure do seem to have a problem with reproductively viable worker ants.

    • Mary says:

      This would be a better argument if “dog whistle” was not thrown about with casual abandon by political opponents.

      What sort of “dog whistle” is heard only by non-dogs? Who have motivated reasoning to believe it?

  20. Mary says:

    Of course, the best reason to avoid looking for hidden coded messages in things your political opponents say is that sort of behavior is normally called “clinical paranoia” for good reason.

  21. Mary says:

    I don’t want to claim dog whistles don’t exist. The classic example is G. W. Bush giving a speech that includes a Bible verse. His secular listeners think “what a wise saying”, and his Christian listeners think “ah, I recognize that as a Bible verse, he must be very Christian”.

    Why is Bush’s use of a quote from the Bible a dog whistle at all? What reason is there to think that it’s not because he thinks is a wise saying that expresses what he wants to say?

    Did Martin Luther King Jr. also quote the Bible as a dog whistle? How about Gore (most famously, the time he got it wrong)? Are all Bible quotations dog whistles, and if not, how do you tell the dog whistles from the legitimate ones?

    • The Nybbler says:

      A dog whistle has to be heard by its target and (importantly) not heard by someone else. I’m not sure about Bush’s Bible quote; if it was a well-known Bible quote or if he mentioned it was a Bible quote (as he did in a some cases; if you say “In the words of the prophet Isaiah”, most people are going to assume you’re quoting some religious figure even if they don’t know the book of Isaiah), it certainly wasn’t a dog whistle. Most likely even if it was obscure it wasn’t a dog whistle, because to whom would it be important it NOT be recognized?

      Take, on the other hand, “urban”, often code for “black”. Suppose you’ve got some white politician campaigning for office in a large county near large and crime-filled city. The county includes blacks and whites, and the whites include some KKK types. This politician makes it a campaign point to talk about how they’ll keep “urban” crime out of the county. This signals to the KKK types that the politician is one of them and will assist in their racist ways. On the other hand, the non-KKK types including the black people (if it works) see this as a standard law-and-order pledge about keeping crime from the city from spilling over.

      • Mary says:

        And how do you know that it is not, in fact, a standard law-and-order pledge about keeping crime from the city from spilling over?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Only by breaking into his campaign headquarters and stealing his notes. Done well, you can’t know for sure.

  22. I think they’re getting to “being offensive is racist/sexist” through a different route than the one you describe:

    1. Making offensive remarks about minorities or women tends to make the minorities or women who hear them uncomfortable.
    2. If minorities or women are uncomfortable enough to avoid contact with the people who are offending them, this will close off the opportunities that may be around those people.
    3. Therefore, we owe it to minorities and women to avoid making comments which we should know they will find especially offensive.
    4. Therefore, if you do not avoid making offensive comments about minorities or women, you are not meeting society’s minimum standards for treating minorities and women as they ought to be treated.
    5. Therefore, saying that Hitler was a Zionist is anti-Semitic even if done out of ignorance, and alluding to Megyn Kelly’s menstrual cycle on national television is sexist even if you’re just as crass about everything else, because you are being ignorant or crass in an area where you ought to know to tread lightly.

    This is not so different from the logic behind the concept of a hostile work environment, except it’s socially rather than legally enforced, and thus rather more slippery and vague.

    • The Nybbler says:

      And that argument fails at #2. If you’re avoiding contact because someone merely says things which offend you, your opportunities are closed off as a result of your decision, not theirs. Your race and gender do not place an obligation on other people to walk on eggshells around you.

      People really tired of being silenced by variants of this argument are a Trump constitutency.

  23. BBA says:

    To me the central example of a “dog whistle” is the way some political figures refer to Dred Scott as the kind of decision the Supreme Court should overturn. Now obviously all decent people agree that Dred Scott was wrong in its holding that people of African descent could never be citizens, but it was quite explicitly overturned by the 13th and 14th Amendments and hasn’t been a political issue since then, so why keep mentioning it?

    Well, there’s a meme in the pro-life community that Roe v. Wade is our generation’s equivalent to Dred Scott – a radical imposition on freedom unsupported by the text of the Constitution. So whenever a pro-life pol mentions Dred Scott, the pro-lifers in the audience think of Roe and nod, while the rest of the audience is just confused.

    Now that’s a dog whistle, or was until pro-choice people started to catch on. (Full disclosure: I’m pro-choice.) To me the misuse of the term to ascribe sinister implications to anything your enemy says is a travesty, since the term is useful and describes something real.

  24. Jill says:

    People are already discussing it, but what is really fair and good to do and say in terms of gender, race, and religion? Just assuming that some people might desire to be considerate, rather than being at each other’s throats all the time.

    Maybe it’s just like the Dalai Lama says. “My religion is simple. My religion is kindness.” But kindness is unrealistic to ask of everyone. Well, back to fairness then.

  25. mtraven says:

    Scott says the essence of dogwhistle-detection is:

    Many public figures are secretly virulently racist and sexist. If their secret is not discovered, they will gain power and use their racism and sexism to harm women and minorities.

    But this misses the point entirely. It doesn’t matter a bit what politicians secretly harbor in their heart. They are public figures making public statements, and if they are any good at all they are perfectly aware of the implicatures of what they say. And the point of dogwhistle-detection is not to find out what secrets are in the innermost soul of some politician, it’s to uncover the politcal values and alliances they are trying to exploit.

    In any case, Trump is a ludicrously bad example. There’s nothing remotely muted about his sexism, it’s out there for all the world to see and has been exhaustively cataloged.

    So, here’s an actual somewhat famous dogwhistle: Reagan’s 1980 speech in Philadelphia Mississippi. The location (where civil rights workers were murdered in 1964) and his use of the phrase “state’s rights”, were either a very loud signal of racial politics, or not, depending on your preexisting sensitivities to such things.

    • Theo Jones says:

      In any case, Trump is a ludicrously bad example. There’s nothing remotely muted about his sexism, it’s out there for all the world to see and has been exhaustively cataloged.

      Agreed. I think Scott was way to soft on Trump. Trump didn’t just make one comment like the Megan Kelly one — he has a solid history of crude attacks on women. So many that it becomes hard to give Trump the benefit of the doubt.

    • E. Harding says:

      And yet, the only state in 1980 in which Carter won the majority of the vote was his home state -which was in the Deep South.

  26. Jill says:

    The whole overdoing of accusations of dog whistling is yet another symptom of the increased political tribalism in the U.S. and some other parts of the world.

    Some personal growth workshop leaders claim that you get what you focus on. I hope they are wrong, because we seem to focus a lot on Middle Eastern tribal warfare and terrorism, and on hating terrorists back for what they’ve done to us. The different U.S. political tribes are not quite terrorists yet. But no one could accuse us of not hating each other– or of being nonviolent when you look at what has gone on in both directions at some Trump rallies.

    We’ve been going down this road for a very long time in the U.S. Norm Ornstein at the conservative American Enterprise Institute dates it back to Newt Gingrich in the 1990s.

    The political scientist who saw Trump’s rise coming
    Norm Ornstein on why the Republican Party was ripe for a takeover, what the media missed, and whether Trump could win the presidency

    http://www.vox.com/2016/5/6/11598838/donald-trump-predictions-norm-ornstein

    Gingrich “delegitimized the Congress and the Democratic leadership, convincing people that they were arrogant and corrupt and that the process was so bad that anything would be better than this. He tribalized the political process. He went out and recruited the candidates, and gave them the language to use about how disgusting and despicable and horrible and immoral and unpatriotic the Democrats were. That swept in the Republican majority in 1994.”

    “The problem is that all the people he recruited to come in really believed that shit. They all came in believing that Washington was a cesspool. So what followed has been a very deliberate attempt to blow up and delegitimize government, not just the president but the actions of government itself in Washington.”

    So Gingrich and many Right Wing “news sources” have been doing this since the 1990’s. And, as noted above, this negative campaigning worked like a charm from the beginning, in 1994.

    And since it worked, eventually Democrats started doing it back to Republicans.

    Well, what could Democrats say to to fire back at Republicans who were saying Dems were corrupt, evil, disgusting and despicable? Why they could call Republicans racist, sexist, and prejudiced against various minority groups, of course.

    So now we have all this tribalism and people of various tribes insulting each other– slicing and dicing and misinterpreting each other’s words, to try to prove that the other tribe is corrupt. evil, disgusting and despicable.

    Here is the procedure.
    —Some politician of a different tribe says/does something
    –Think hard: How can you bend, distort, or misinterpret what they said or did, to use it as proof that they are weak, incompetent, immoral, corrupt, evil, disgusting, or despicable? How can you use it to prove that they are the Anti-Christ and hate America?

    This is no exaggeration. A lot of Fox News viewer types literally believe that Obama is the Anti-Christ.

    Scott has noticed the sort of dismemberment of college debating societies, brought forth by very aggressive minority group members. Since being an aggressive a**hole worked so well for more powerful people, minority groups started doing it too. And lo and behold, at least in colleges, it worked for minority group members too.

    I hope there is some way to stop this. But the problem is that it works for politicians, to win elections. And when politicians say it, their supporters say it too.

    This is kind of like how we are stuck with the kind of media that works to make money for media companies, instead of media that reports accurately. There’s apparently no money in accurate reporting. Kind of like that, we are stuck with the kind of societal behaviors that make money for the most powerful people in our society and who rule it.

    So Special Interest Big Money in politics pays politicians and political advertisers to bash the other tribe 24/7/365. And the politicians gratefully take the money, do the bashing, and carry out the wishes of the .01% once they are elected.

    And so the 99.99% are stuck with a steady diet of the kind of political advertising and “news” that works for those purposes. This turns out to be a steady diet of being pitted Republicans and Democrats angrily railing against each other’s supposed immorality, corruption, incompetence, weakness etc.

    Along come Twitter etc. and now everyone is angrily railing against everyone else.

    Another aspect of this is that this is a Divide and Conquer program that is wildly successful. How can the 99.99% not be able to cooperate to achieve things that are in our common interests, even though we are the vast majority of the people? Because we’re at each other’s throats, that’s why.

    No wonder The Hunger Games is so popular. It’s the story of our current society.

    • Xerxes says:

      So. Gingrich invented disparaging the opposition, and we’ve been animals ever since?

      Or maybe instead tribalism is a basic part of the human package, and we’ve been doing it forever?

      We’ve been like this. Before monied interests or Illuminati or whatever other bugaboos you conjure up to explain why we’re not all working together in Utopia already.

      Turns out, getting people to work together is a hard problem. Particularly if there is a big divide in what values to serve.

      Side note on the silly theory about Gingrich causing widespread racism accusations against Reps as a counter-strategy. Civil Rights Act of which year? Goldwater running for President in which year? Nixon southern strategy of which year?

      • Jill says:

        Of course it has happened before. And it’s been worse before. And it’s been better before too. Yes, it was better in the years just before the latest wave of acrimony that began with Newt Gingrich. If you read the article, Gingrich specifically and intentionally aimed to increase acrimony for the purpose of winning elections. And he did it. And it worked to win elections.

        Just because waves of this have happened before, is no reason not to point out the most recent wave of it. Because that’s what we are dealing with now.

        • Xerxes says:

          Gingrich specifically and intentionally aimed to increase acrimony for the purpose of winning elections.

          I’m honestly flabbergasted you think this was novel, or marked a departure from business as usual. I want to make sure that this is your actual claim before I point you to actual facts.

          • Jill says:

            That’s what the article I cited said, the one about the interview of the political scientist from the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Did you read it?

            Yes, if the political scientist interviewed there has his facts wrong, then cite me an article or 2 or your own.

            I am not saying that this never happened before. I am saying that this marked the beginning of the most recent wave of this.

    • William Newman says:

      “Think hard: How can you bend, distort, or misinterpret what they said or did, to use it as proof that they are weak, incompetent, immoral, corrupt, evil, disgusting, or despicable? How can you use it to prove that they are the Anti-Christ and hate America?

      This is no exaggeration. A lot of Fox News viewer types literally believe that Obama is the Anti-Christ.”

      Really? You’re not just saying that in order to distort or misinterpret what Fox News viewer “types” say or do? And, perhaps, in order to strive to drive the hive into apoplexy by composing those paragraphs consecutively and salting the second with “no exaggeration” and “literally”?

      (And if you would like to tell me that your “a lot of” construction is correct because it is true of, e.g., thousands of people, then please riddle me this: is there anything wrong with the claim “a lot of the votes for Democrats are fraudulent”?)

      • Jill says:

        One in four Americans think Obama may be the antichrist, survey says

        https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/apr/02/americans-obama-anti-christ-conspiracy-theories

        But William, please feel free to ignore all my comments, if that helps you to stay in your bubble. This bubble inhabiting is very normal for Americans in the current time. Not unusual at all.

        • Xerxes says:

          13% of respondents thought Obama was “the antichrist”, while another 13% were “not sure”

          https://slatestarcodex.com/2013/04/12/noisy-poll-results-and-reptilian-muslim-climatologists-from-mars/

          You regurgitate propaganda, and you don’t know the basics of reasonable thinking that Scott has already covered here.

          • Jill says:

            That is still a ton of people who either think Obama is the Anti-Christ or else are not sure whether he is or not. If you think that is unreasonable of me to cite that article, feel free to not read any more of my comments. I expect you will continue to think my other comments are unreasonable also.

          • Xerxes says:

            3 minutes was not enough for you to read Scott’s article on why you are entirely wrong.

            You spew noise and are unrepentant about it. That’s why you are meeting resistance. Not because “OMG so many libertarians and right wingers.”

          • Matt M says:

            Indeed. I wonder if it has occurred to her that a recently banned person probably shares her politics to about a 90% extent (and may be even more left on the other 10%) and was met with loud cries for the ban to be reversed because they were considered to be a pillar of the community.

            This community has shown it can be VERY tolerant of people with VERY opposed views. The fact that it isn’t tolerant of you should be something of a wake up call.

          • Jill says:

            Interesting. So you folks are VERY tolerant of some people with VERY opposed views, but not of others. And if this is supposed to be a wake up call, what am I to think about it?

            Am I supposed to be a clairvoyant who knows exactly what someone is referring to when they tell me my views are “progressive talking points” which would not make them wrong, even if they were. And when they present no evidence that these views are false, am I to go on a time-consuming hunting expedition looking for evidence that they are, just to please some people here?

            There are some very good people here, and some very intolerant ones. I like some people very much. Those of you who are bugged by me may get your wish though. I don’t know how long I will last here.

            Anyone who thinks what I am doing is easy, and that I am terribly rude or irrational, should try going to some Far Left Internet board and commenting there, to see how you fare– if there is one. When I look at the comment sections of Left Wing Internet sites, they often have more Right Wing commenters than Left Wing ones.

            We have a very Right Wing country, as anyone can see by the fact that the GOP dominates both Houses of Congress and that America’s “most trusted news source” is Fox.

          • Xerxes says:

            @Jill

            The vast majority of sites are full of propaganda, with people who care nothing about actual facts and reason, but just want to signal their tribal affiliation and the superiority of their tribe. Many of us try to keep a much higher standard. The fact that you think we don’t know how horrible they are out there is yet another sign of how out of sync you are. We’re completely aware.

            So, yes, the onus is on you to make sure you’re not just parroting nonsense. And if you just repeat some version of what you’ve read elsewhere, chances are very high that’s all you’re doing. Many of us don’t want that polluting our comments.

          • Xerxes says:

            Regarding

            We have a very Right Wing country, as anyone can see by the fact that the GOP dominates both Houses of Congress and that America’s “most trusted news source” is Fox.

            Here’s Pew’s typology of America as of 2014:
            http://www.people-press.org/2014/06/26/the-political-typology-beyond-red-vs-blue/

            2 groups solidly right (22% of the population)
            1 group moderately right (14%)
            1 group moderately left (13%)
            2 groups significantly left (27%)
            1 group solidly left (15%)

            and a disaffected group making up the remainder.

          • Anonymous says:

            I wonder if it has occurred to her that a recently banned person probably shares her politics to about a 90%

            If you think that’s true, you should have spent more time lurking.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ several

            Usenet had a great feature – “Killfile poster” — that would save long long threads insulting Jill.

            She makes some quite wise points, eg that a President Trump would probably have a Cheney doing the actual work, so in a prediction thread that is who we should be trying to spot.

          • Nornagest says:

            a recently banned person probably shares her politics to about a 90% extent

            Nah. D’s politics don’t fit cleanly into an American context; she’s highly religious and very skeptical of technological and social innovations (all Red-marked traits), but also broadly feminist, skeptical of American nationalism, and strongly supportive of social safety nets. And she seems sympathetic to populism, which isn’t too partisan but is definitely anti-establishment on both sides. I reckon she’d probably vote Democratic if she lived here, but she’d be far from the modal one. At least now.

            Jill on the other hand reads to me as a typical young American leftist.

            (No offense intended to either of you guys, if I accidentally stepped on something.)

          • The Nybbler says:

            Jill on the other hand reads to me as a typical young American leftist.

            Yes, but of the _wrong generation_.

          • keranih says:

            [Jill] makes some quite wise points, eg that a President Trump would probably have a Cheney doing the actual work, so in a prediction thread that is who we should be trying to spot.

            Two thoughts on this –

            Firstly, that I think a great deal of left-wing rhetoric was spent on trying to find some demonic figure to blame for [everything that went wrong] and that latching onto Cheney provided the opportunity to attack someone for this, instead of actually grappling with the multiple threads of events and influences that led to [everything that went wrong.] This isn’t limited to any partisan side – there are more than a few red-siders who do the same to Eric Holder on the part of Obama – but I think that it’s a) not helpful and b) the other side of the “Great Man Theory” of history which is so soundly rejected by left-siders, and I find it annoying.

            Secondly – when picking a leader, one wants someone who can lead – ie, someone who can influence other people. The term gravitas gets thrown around, probably to the point where it is diluted, but this is getting at something, I think.

            The American president is extremely important and influential, but the scope of the executive branch is such that even one twentieth of the whole thing eclipses the manpower and potential effect of independent nations. It should not be either surprising or alarming that powerful people are in those positions.

            (If the argument is that the elected officer (the president) was not providing sufficient oversight to his staff, well, that is a different thing. But to me, a lot of the concern was that a) there were powerful people in those positions and b) that Things Were Being Done which the particular observer did not fancy.)

          • It seemed like there were people who believed both that Bush went into Iraq because of his father issues and that Bush was Cheney’s puppet.

            It’s possible that I was just seeing them as unquestioned beliefs on the left, but that there was no individual who believed both claims.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ keranih

            In haste. Maybe I should have said “Cheney et al”.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ houseboatonstyx
            Postscript to my own comment above.

            Usenet had a great feature – “Killfile poster” — that would save long long threads insulting Jill.

            In Usenet, each individual reader could set zis own client to ignore posts from any certain individual, ie to ‘killfile’ them. That is what I meant here.

            An administrator could also ‘killfile’ an individual, but that’s not what I meant.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          I’ll see you that and raise you over half of Democrats believing Bush knew about 9/11 in advance.

          http://www.politico.com/blogs/ben-smith/2011/04/more-than-half-of-democrats-believed-bush-knew-035224

          The takeaway is that people say all kinds of dumb things to signal their political beliefs and neither “side” has a monopoly, or even a majority claim, on virtue.

        • William Newman says:

          “This bubble inhabiting is very normal for Americans in the current time.”

          Funny you should say that…

          FWIW, I guess it is better that you are repeating someone else’s claim tolerably accurately rather than jumping to the conclusion yourself, or exaggerating someone else’s claim beyond recognition. (It is fair to characterize twelve percent of the US population as “a lot”; yay.) However, as others have suggested, what you are repeating seems to be nonsense, and uncritically accepting nonsense politicized soundbites is a pretty effective way to stay in a bubble.

          On the one hand, we have the evidence of a poll sloppily reported by journalists. The journalists don’t quote the poll questions. The journalists don’t report anything else to limit the possibility of sleazy partisan push-the-outcome poll design or nonpartisan above-and-beyond mind-blowing poll sloppiness. The journalists don’t report the sample size. And the journalists merrily report the outcomes to two figures with no error bars. As Kimball Kinnison might have said, I could eat a shape-shifting alien reptilian zombie brain and *puke* better evidence than that.

          On the other hand, we have the evidence of our lying eyes.

          Do even 40% of Americans believe in the Bible in general and Revelations in particular sufficiently literally that they “literally believe” that the Anti-Christ will ever walk the Earth? I’m pretty sure not. I live near Dallas where that kind of stuff is supposed to be overrepresented, and everything I see either in the national public debate or in the local public debate suggests the fraction is subsstantially smaller than that. E.g., how often does a local politician ever win a majority anywhere, even in Smallestsmallville, on a platform appealing to Revelations as a literally true guide to the future? How often do people talk about Mutually Assured Destruction as though Revelations was a literally true part of their worldview?

          Do even half of those general believers also specifically believe the Anti-Christ is an identifiable public figure on Earth today? I’m pretty sure not: I’ve read probably several books worth of stuff about prophecy and mysticism touching on things like that, and seen nothing like a general confidence that it’s *right* *now* as opposed to maybe now, maybe later, and even people who queasily think it’s so imminent that the Anti-Christ has probably been born aren’t confident that he’s already a prominent public figure today.

          Do even half of *those* people believe that of the various public figures who might be the Anti-Christ, Obama is definitely The One? Possibly, but I doubt it. (Not the Pope? Not some figure in the mideast, and not some leader of a non-US major power? Not some sinister string-puller in political half-shadow?)

          So I get less than 10% with pretty high confidence. And as others have pointed out, our fearless blogger (may his mighty output ever enlighten us) has already led us to reflect on the confusion that can arise naturally when attempting to poll for such small fractions. As some disrespectful wag or other may have observed, three minutes might not be long enough to study the lizardman post (tremble before its mighty heft, even as we do); it is true. But even a single minute of study of your Guardian troll poll can also remind us of some of those difficulties. Indeed I expect it would remind *you* if you read it thoughtfully. (Go ask the Spartan ephors…) Or do you find it easy to believe that your poll not only establishes the truth of your gentle anti-Fox-News-“type” spin on the delicious Obama-as-Anti-Christ soundbite, but also establishes the curious fact that 4% of USAians literally believe that “shape-shifting alien reptilian people control our world by taking on human form”?)

      • Theo Jones says:

        A lot of the stuff that Jill is saying does exist. Quite a bit. However, she should be careful not to absolve people on the left of the same behaviour.

    • I admit: This is the first Jill post I’ve ever taken notice of, and only because of the long thread following.
      But if people really don’t like Jill’s thoughts, can’t they just… IDK, ignore them? I admit, I may be missing something–maybe a lot of somethings. But people seem to be coming down pretty harsh on someone who was probably well-intentioned.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Jill has been “probably well-intentioned” long enough. The sort of lengthy uninsightful tedium Jill typifies is more harmful to a community than most of the open trolls our host bans, since the open trolls are recognizable as such and don’t tempt people to make good faith replies to someone who was probably well-intentioned and drain the oxygen out of every discussion.

        I wouldn’t mind so much if Jill only posted top-level comments, those are easy enough to click “hide” and move on. But sometimes there will be an interesting comment thread, and then Jill will have something to say, and then the comment thread becomes about responding to Jill’s probable good intentions. I guess if everyone ignored Jill, Jill would be no worse than a penis drug spammer, but coordination is hard without a Czar to go on a Reign of Terror.

        • Glen Raphael says:

          To be fair, Jill is getting better. When she first showed up she spammed us with several easily-disproven talking points (eg, a claim that the Koch Brothers were spending [ridiculous sum of money] to control the next election). In response, I pointed her at Politifact’s debunkings of those same talking points, whereupon she stopped posting those links and now seems to be using Politifact as a supplementary information source. And sure, Politifact has a strong left-wing bias too, but (a) it’s better than wherever else she was previously getting informed, (b) it proves she’s listening!

          Now if somebody could just convince her not to post the same Vox link multiple times in the same comment section…

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I disagree. I think that in a weird community like this one, it’s incredibly helpful to have somebody bringing up the normal point of view to make sure we don’t get completely unhinged.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I agree

          • suntzuanime says:

            The normal point of view is the point of view of a US left-wing partisan? How WEIRD.

          • Evan Þ says:

            It’s a normal point of view, and I strongly oppose banning anyone arguing politely in good faith who is willing to change their view based on evidence.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            The normal point of view is the point of view of a US left-wing partisan? How WEIRD.

            As Evan states, it’s most certainly a normal point of view. The use of “the” is either a subtle signal of Scott’s tribal affiliations or just a poor choice of words, depending on your opinion on caliphal infallibility.

          • Agronomous says:

            @Evan Thorn: Wait, who the fuck said anything about banning? Are you just trying to stretch the Overton Window or something?

            @WHTA: You don’t get to have an opinion on Caliphal infallibility—the One True Caliph is infallible by definition! Are you some kind of Eliezerite heretic?

  27. The Nybbler says:

    The point of a dog whistle is the dogs can hear it and the people can’t. Pretty much no one except a few reporters could hear a dog whistle of “Jews” for “New York City values”, and they aren’t dogs. On the other hand everyone could hear the condemnation of “arugula-eating liberals”, so that wasn’t dog-whistle either, just an open signal.

    This finding of dog whistles in everything is a failure of ethics in journalism. And an intentional one; the idea is to make it so that if you step off the plantation of liberal values, everything you say is a code word for something racist, something sexist, something evil. Oppose Obamacare or higher taxes or Libyan intervention or whatever and you’re obviously not _actually_ concerned about those issues, you’re just a racist and a sexist who doesn’t need to be listened to.

    Further, the idea that Trump uses dog whistles is kind of ludicrous. Trump would never use a dog whistle when a megaphone was available. That’s kind of his whole thing.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Right.

      The Establishment is enraged at Trump because he says what he means, and they are terrified that other Americans will follow his example.

      • John Schilling says:

        Says things that his followers want to hear and want to believe that he means, which isn’t necessarily the same thing. But the Establishment has little reason to (openly) care about that distinction.

      • MugaSofer says:

        “He says what he means”

        I really don’t understand this. Not in smug sarcastic way some people say that way, I’m genuinely puzzled.

        Like, you’ve seen Trump flat-out deny things he said the day before, right? And make unquestionably false claims like having seen New York Muslims celebrating in the streets after 9/11? His constant lying is a huge part of his persona; how is it compatible with being “straight-talking”?

        • suntzuanime says:

          He lies like a boisterous uncle, not like a politician. He talks like he’s not calculating every little thing he says for maximum political gain and adherence to the talking point message. While that might lead to more contradictions and factual inaccuracies, it feels less manipulative, which is what people are talking about when they say he “says what he means”. Contrast it with Marco Rubio’s famous gaffe, where he may well legitimately believe that Obama knows exactly what he’s doing, but the way he kept repeating the same line the same way made it very clear it was a practiced talking point, not him saying what was on his mind.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            I have heard (anecdotally) that Mathematics departments have policies of not accepting people who look like they are particularly hard working because if they are stressing out over their masters degree they are obviously not world class intellects.

            I am reminded of this when Trump campaigns against Clinton who has a staff of hundreds and has literally spent the past 8 16 24 68 years planning her run.

            (I would love to hear if that math department story is true or not BTW)

          • Matt M says:

            “boisterous uncle” is a great analogy, I’m probably going to steal that phrase

            He approaches political issues the same way the average person does – by having a general framework of beliefs, and then formulating answers to specific challenges in his head, on the fly, when people ask him to. This does not ensure 100% consistency.

          • Matt M says:

            John Jay,

            I just recently was doing a lot of case interviews for some elite-level consulting firms. Some of the best advice I received was “It’s not about how quick or how accurate your answers are, it’s about looking like you got there really easily and without much effort.” I even had some people go as far as to suggest liberally sprinkling in words like “clearly” and “obviously” to suggest that things are going well – even if you don’t feel like they are.

            If they hire you, they can pretty much force you to put in an effort – but they can’t force your IQ up…

        • Jiro says:

          And make unquestionably false claims like having seen New York Muslims celebrating in the streets after 9/11?

          Someone already gave the reference to show this isn’t false.

        • The Nybbler says:

          And make unquestionably false claims like having seen New York Muslims celebrating in the streets after 9/11?

          Didn’t I cover this above? His claim was he saw Muslims celebrating in Jersey City. There were contemperaneous news reports of Muslims celebrating in Jersey City.

          It wasn’t thousands, which may be Trump lying, exaggerating, or mistaking reports of East Jerusalem with Jersey City.

  28. I’d never heard this variant of the joke. The versions I know all have a different punch-line. The newcomer takes the time to study the catalog of jokes and joins a session.

    “17!” says one fellow, to rousing laughs.

    That’s the one about the nun and the octopus, the newcomer thinks, and I’ve got the perfect follow-up. “103!” he calls out. Dead silence. “47!” No reaction.

    He slumps away, discouraged. One of the joke-swappers comes over and explains the response his efforts got: “It’s not just the joke: it’s the delivery.”

    • lvlln says:

      The variant I initially heard was, the newcomer says some number, not knowing the underlying joke but expecting laughs, and is shocked to see everyone glaring at him and a few tut-tutting under their breaths. He looks around in confusion, until someone pulls him aside and berates him: “Dude, that is NOT a joke you tell when in front of a lady!”

      I think both the all-new variant and the delivery variants might be better, though.

  29. HeelBearCub says:

    A chump might figure that, being a Texan whose base is in the South and Midwest, he was making the usual condemnation of coastal elites and arugula-eating liberals that every other Republican has made before him, maybe with a special nod to the fact that his two most relevant opponents, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, were both from New York.

    I’d like to actually explore this a little more. What to we think Cruz actually meant by “New York Values”?

    I agree that a NYC values = Jewish formulation is foolish, especially because ignores the fact that separate for Judaism, Jews and Israel are all very entrenched in the evangelical circles which comprise the base of support Cruz draws most heavily from. His primary strategy was to try and coalesce evangelicals and “establishment” Republicans once his establishment rivals had conceded.

    But saying New York Values clearly was intended to have some meaning, to call to mind something in the primary voters to which he was appealing. What was it? I mean “coastal elite” isn’t a set of values. Nor is “arugula eating” a value.

    What actual values does the phrase “New York Values” constitute? And if some of them are objectionable, why does Cruz not merely point that particular value as a deficiency of Trump?

    • Randy M says:

      I would say some combination of:
      -Overly materialistic (in both senses of the word)
      -selfish
      -conceited
      -inhospitable

      Mostly I’m keying off of Wall Street caricatures. I suppose there might be different negatives if I first thought of Broadway or Bronx. (After I got over reminiscing about Gargoyles)

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Materialistic, I’ll give you.

        The others seem more like characterization a than values. If we are going with characterizations, how about “urban”? NYC is the largest metro area in the country.

        • The Nybbler says:

          “Urban” is a dog-whistle for “black”.

          • Matt M says:

            Is it? Literally everyone knows urban means black. Major corporations use “urban” in their marketing pitches to black people.

          • onyomi says:

            I have heard it used sort of euphemistically, though one does wonder if it can be a “dog whistle” when black people themselves all know what it means and don’t object to it.

            I recall Paul Ryan making some comment about the plight of “urban youth.” The advantage of “urban” is it’s ambiguous enough that you can still claim to just be talking about “inner city youth” (which also sounds a little like a code for “black”…) if pressed, as he did.

            Part of the problem, though, is that there is almost nothing Paul Ryan could say about problems faced by black people without getting crap for it, so one almost has to talk in euphemisms and “dog whistles,” even if one has no particular desire to obfuscate.

          • Theo Jones says:

            @onyomi
            Because the point of a dog whistle is plausible deniability, not unintelligibility. While urban strongly points in the direction of race, the word still has other meanings.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I think “urban” probably was a dog-whistle at some point, but as you say, everyone knows it know. Except maybe the hipsters.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “Urban” is a dog-whistle for “black”.

            Well, this was sort of my point about how dog-whistles really work.

            We all know urban, inner city, “street” and some others are code used to refer to various elements of the real and imagined black community and culture.

            But then you get people (like Cruz) inveighing against “New York City values” and it’s a couple of steps removed from “urban” and even farther from “blacks and minorities”.

            To the extent dog-whistle has meaning it’s this, using ever more abstract terms to invoke the object of the voters animus.

            And like every use of euphemism, it’s going to be on a treadmill.

    • Skivverus says:

      I have no concrete answers for you, as I Am Not Now And Have Never Been A Member Of The Republican Party, but allow me to substitute some plausible speculation in its place as someone who has lived for a number of years in upstate NY.

      “New York Values” is an example of soundbite politics – it’s a dog whistle in the sense that it’ll mean different things to different people, and also in the sense that it’s intended to mean Cruz is “against something negative” to his supporters. It’s short enough to fit in a newspaper headline or clickbait title, can be ascribed both to his most-likely-at-the-time primary opponent and most-likely-at-the-time general election opponent (useful to avoid later accusations of flip-flopping), and does in fact unpack into a not-exclusively-positive set of associations, the main negative ones being, I think, “corruption”, “rules-for-the-sake-of-rules”, and “rudeness”. Some of this, particularly the “corruption” bit, may be the result of a blurring of associations between NYC and Albany.

      This particular dog whistle turned out to double as a cat whistle, though, and the cats hated that. /facetious

      The positive associations of “New York Values” I’d also say point to NYC: “opportunity”, “egalitarianism”, “straight talking”. Likely a good deal of this is a matter of perspective – two sides of the same coin, as it were.

      • Sandy says:

        “Some of this, particularly the “corruption” bit, may be the result of a blurring of associations between NYC and Albany.”

        Not necessarily. NYC was the home of Tammany Hall, after all.

        • Skivverus says:

          Despite the weasel word “may” usage, I do in fact appreciate the explicit addition of contrary evidence. Thanks.

        • Anonymous says:

          Not necessarily. NYC was the home of Tammany Hall, after all.

          Still is for a few more months – they’re in the process of demolishing the building to put in condos.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        If he had said NJ values, I’d give your corruption, but I don’t think people really see NYC that way. And I doubt people outside the Northeast are going to be particularly familiar with how bureaucratic NYC can be.

        I agree whole-heartedly with the idea that it is sound-bite politics.

        Rudeness, sure. Not sure if it’s a “value” though. Perhaps the absence of “politeness” as a value is being pointed at.

        Maybe it’s a point at “tax and spend”? I think people generally think of NYC taxes as high. That’s a statement about what you value in government.

        • Skivverus says:

          Fair enough; on the other hand, how much of a distinction is the average red-state voter going to make between New York and New Jersey?

          On the “rudeness” point, it makes more sense I think if you interpret “values” to mean “culture”.

          Overall, I think Squirrel of Doom has it about right.

    • Squirrel of Doom says:

      I assume he meant the general leftist politics. High taxes, over regulation, corruption, racial quotas, high crime, promiscuous life style, etc.

      These kind of things work a bit like the monster that’s never shown on screen.Each viewer can imagine what would be the scariest thing for them, which is worse, on average, than any concrete monster they could have designed.

      “Make America Great again” is another example. People have many different ideas about*what* has gone wrong in America, and can fill in their own favorite remedy. They will, on average, like that much better than any specific policy Trump could formulate.

      A lot of people dislike various things about New York, and if you take a stand against “New York” values, they’ll fill in their own pet peeve.

      • suntzuanime says:

        But then, if some of those things are Jews, wouldn’t it be fair and accurate to accuse you of playing to people’s antisemitism? It doesn’t seem like much of an excuse to say “oh, I was just playing to whatever hatred my listeners happened to have, without any particular intent that that hatred should be expressed towards groups that are societally taboo to hate”.

        • Sandy says:

          Seems too broad to be fair and accurate. In a British election, if someone said, for instance, that their opponent was a stooge for American foreign policy, would that be considered anti-Semitic or explicitly anti-Israel because defending Israel is basically a cornerstone of American foreign policy? Or could it be the case that there are many other reasons someone might dislike American foreign policy or specific elements of it that have nothing to do with Israel?

          Sure, it’s possible Ted Cruz might have been playing to some listeners’ hatred of Jews. It’s also possible he might have been playing to some listeners’ hatred of loud, self-satisfied elitists, which is a New Yorker stereotype that has some element of truth behind it.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Yeah, I can’t think Cruz meant anything anti-Semitic by it. It’s too much against his self interest and strategy in the primaries. The evangelical vote is explicitly pro-Jewish right now, and that is the base he was counting on.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        “These kind of things work a bit like the monster that’s never shown on screen”

        I like this. But then it really does make it a kind of Pavlovian dog whistle. Blow it and the voter starts to raise their hackles and growl, for various and random reasons having nothing to do with the actual content of the phrase “New York Values”.

        • Jill says:

          Yeah, there are some actual dog whistles, in addition to false accusations.

          NYC is a Blue city in a Blue state. And many Reds like to hate on Blues or put them down condescendingly. And vice versa too. E.g. Blues think that Reds are clinging to their God and their guns.

    • Hlynkacg says:

      I thought it was a pretty cut and dry case of suggesting that Clinton and Trump (who are both New Yorkers) are kind of lacking in the “Values” department

      • HeelBearCub says:

        But why would Republican primary voters associate that with being from New York?

        • keranih says:

          From New York City.

          Which is a place of high crime, rent control, high taxes, urbanism, single people, the fast life, bums, hookers, and drugs on every corner, Wall Street, corruption, and so on, and so on. And they’re rude, *and* they brag on themselves.

          You can’t fool us. We seen NYPD. We know how it goes.

        • Hlynkacg says:

          Because they’re both from New York, and the stereotypical (metropolitan) New Yorker is an arrogant, abrasive, know-it-all who’s somewhat shady.

          • Matt M says:

            Also overwhelmingly votes Democrat.

            Keep in mind that Cruz’s strategy at that point was to paint Trump as “not a real conservative” and imply that he was a closet liberal double agent trying to secretly help his buddy Hillary.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      “What actual values does the phrase “New York Values” constitute?”

      Donald Trump’s values.

  30. Trump is sexist says:

    Trump was attempting to cast aggressive questioning as irrational anger tied to a woman’s menstrual cycle. How does this not implicate him in sexism?

  31. Patrick says:

    Relevant to the Ted Cruz “New York values” part at the beginning: Cruz’s campaign manager, Jeff Roe, has used this kind of tactic before when he was in charge of the campaign of a Missouri congressman and ran an ad accusing his opponent of “San Francisco values”. In that case as well, I don’t think there was supposed to be any connection to Judaism, but rather “west coast liberals” and general liberal cultural values.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Of course there wasn’t any connection to Judaism. San Francisco is gay, not Jewish.

      • Anonymous says:

        Multi-frequency dog whistles!

        Anyway, now I’m starting to think about the problem more along the lines of Trickle Down Economics. You see, Trickle Down Economics is not a thing. It has never been a thing. There was never any economist who proposed Trickle Down Economics. There are no journal articles discussing the principles of Trickle Down Economics. There are no textbooks entitled Trickle Down Economics.

        Instead, there was a partisan attack on Supply Side Economics. You see, Supply Side Economics is a thing. Economists proposed it and wrote about it. It made concrete, testable claims like, “Removing barriers to or otherwise increasing investment increases real output.” Rather than argue against these claims, political opponents saw that if you squint hard enough, you can carry out most methods of increasing investment to a point where you can draw a circle around rich people. You can do this even for methods that don’t immediately seem all that focused on rich people. Consider IRAs. They have rather modest contribution limits; it’s not like rich people can drop millions into tax-advantaged accounts. Nevertheless, it is true that it is easier for a rich person to use the entire allowance compared to a poor person.

        Then, they were able to single out the disfavored group. “See!? They just want to give money to rich people! What do they think, it’s going to ‘trickle down’ to the rest of us?!” The more sophisticated could go so far as to adopt this attack so deeply to claim, “Supply Side Economics is just a dog whistle for giving money to rich people.”

        I think I’ve seen a lot of political attacks that work like this. Start from an intentional or accidental misunderstanding of your opponent’s position; draw a faintly-plausible line out to a favored/disfavored group; claim that their position is really just about that group.

        • DavidS says:

          I think you’re being misled by the fact ‘economics’ is being used to mean that this is (primarily) an attack on an abstract economic theory that might be written about in textbooks. Pretty sure it’s squarely at the political level and saying ‘if your policies to make the nation richer just make the top 1% richer, you can’t rely on this ‘trickling down’ to everyone else’.

          • Anonymous says:

            I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a clear cut example of someone not reading past the first paragraph.

      • Sandy says:

        I mean……the gay rights movement in San Francisco was spearheaded by prominent Jews like Harvey Milk and Dianne Feinstein, so it’s not like you couldn’t conflate gay San Franciscan values with Judaism if you really wanted to.

        • creative username #1138 says:

          Is there any significant movement in the US in the last 70 years that didn’t have some Jews prominent in it? if you use that logic you can conflate anything with Judaism (and plenty of people do).

          • Sandy says:

            The Tea Party, probably? Just on the basis that most Jews aren’t Republican. I take your point, I’m not actually saying you should conflate gay rights with Judaism or that it would be a good idea to do so; simply that a lot of the further-right associates progressive agenda items (gay/trans rights, mass immigration, etc) with the work of Jews because there is the belief that Jews work to weaken the traditional structures of European/Western society to a) destroy social trust in these societies and lessen the chance of a second Holocaust or b) destroy the homogeneity of European societies as revenge for the Holocaust or c) dominate the gentiles through divide-and-conquer strategies or d) pick whatever other theory you would prefer to believe.

            It does not help that a lot of these agenda items do in fact feature powerful, well-connected Jews in prominent positions.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            A bunch of the Volokh Conspiracy lads were involved in the con-law side of the tea party movement, weren’t they?
            I suppose it doesn’t really count when they’re officially part of a public jewish blogging conspiracy.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Like Nancy Pelosi, who has 5 children.

  32. xq says:

    Except of course the entire media, which seized upon it as a single mass. New York values is coded anti-Semitism. New York values is a classic anti-Semitic slur. New York values is an anti-Semitic comment. New York values is an anti-Semitic code word. New York values gets called out as anti-Semitism.

    Most of these links are just reporting on what two individuals, Geraldo Rivera and Jeffrey Toobin, said. All your quotes are just synonymous ways of describing these two responses. Even most of the criticism of the Cruz comment linked in these articles doesn’t focus on the possible anti-Semitic dogwhistle aspect. I really don’t think you’ve made the case that there was any sort of consensus among the media that the comments were anti-Semitic dogwhistles.

  33. Adam Casey says:

    Can I plug here the more general objection to “Argument From My Opponent Is An *-ist”. Diagnosing people with -isms is really easy. The problem is when we let those glib judgements guide out thoughts about their abilities to lead, or the correctness of their views on other subjects.

    If someone’s argument is unreliable because they have a history of making bad arguments for similar things then say so. Don’t do the lazy thing of claiming they are wrong/bad/should not be elected etc because you’ve detected signs of their prejudice.

    • Anonymous says:

      The ad hominem fallacy only applies to arguments. It makes no sense to apply it to who should be elected or who is a bad person.

      Trump: All men are mortal, Socrates is a man, Socrates is a mortal.
      Clinton: Trump molests little children, therefore Socrates is not mortal.

      Here Clinton is wrong, wrong, wrong.

      Trump: Vote for me!
      Clinton: Trump molests little children, don’t vote for him.

      Here Clinton’s premise may be incorrect, but there’s nothing wrong with the conclusion given the premise.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Isn’t there? I don’t see how being a child molestor makes you a bad president. Clinton wasn’t perfect, but his time in office is generally looked back on fondly and it would be hard to argue he wasn’t at least better than average.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          For many decades the President in office has made me look back fondly at his predecessor. It doesn’t matter whether the incumbent is Republican or Democrat. In 2016, I despise the incumbent with a white hot despite, but I fully expect to look back on him with fondness in a year or two, regardless of who is elected.

          This means I feel physically ill when I think about 2020, but there you go.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Doesn’t this say a lot more about you than it does about the various presidents?

            Yes, I think I know what your answer will be, that we really are going to hell in a handbasket. Let just say, I don’t think that is the most likely possibility.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Believe me, that has occurred to me. I do hope you are right. I don’t think you are.

          • Matt M says:

            I think a lot of this is just buying into the negative ads that candidates run against each other leading up to an election.

            Both sides say “if you vote for this guy, he will destroy the country!” No matter who wins, it’s a person for whom “this guy will destroy the country” is a meme that’s entered your consciousness, even if you don’t think you really believe it.

            But then 4/8 years pass and they didn’t destroy the country and you’re on to a new obsession over two new people, both of whom are going to destroy the country.

            The expectations for Presidents are so low that pretty much anything short of becoming a dictator or starting a nuclear was allows them to exceed the expectations that were set for them by their opponents.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Yeah, this is close. On even-numbered days I don’t actually believe we’re in the hand basket, but rather that I can’t seem to hold a grudge no matter how justified. When the current bastard has let go of the reins for a couple of years, and (as you say) he has not outright destroyed anything crucial, I can cut him some slack, especially when there is a new clear and present danger with his hand at the controls.

            Either way, my point is that there’s not much comfort to be had in observing that a bad President doesn’t look quite so bad in retrospect.

          • Matt M says:

            Isn’t there?

            Shouldn’t it be comforting that predictions of doom and gloom about past presidents proved to be false?

            One of the reasons I’m rooting for Trump to win is to see people reconcile how boring and uneventful his presidency will inevitably be with their predictions of unprecedented disaster.

      • Adam Casey says:

        Being a child molester is a very good indicator of poor moral judgment generally. Seems relevant in evaluating polticians. But less relevant than actual questions about their abilities, policies, and platform.

  34. Randy M says:

    Ah, I think I’ve found a place where there should have been a dog-whistle (but I didn’t hear it). Obama running for election did not endorse gay marriage, marriage equality, or anything of the sort.
    But when conservatives were denounced for, say, supporting proposition 8 in CA, they pointed out the President Obama held (or recently had held) the same position. The response in some cases was something to the effect of, well, we know how he really feels. And indeed, he does now support making m-w and m-m/w-w marriage legally equivalent.
    At some point there most likely would have been a dog whistle type statement Obama made to signal his real position.

    • suntzuanime says:

      The Case of the Dog That Didn’t Whistle

      • Randy M says:

        Well, yes, I am “assuming” (mostly for the sake of argument) that there is one there, though not without evidence, despite not hearing it myself.
        But, as I am neither in the intended audience, nor have a journalism degree, there’s no way I could have caught it.

    • Patrick says:

      I think the evidence in that case was that Obama had previously supported gay marriage and had only started opposing it once he was running for national office.

    • lvlln says:

      This actually reminds me of what I felt in 2004 when Kerry was running and explicitly said that he believed marriage was between a man and a woman. Being a progressive college student in Massachusetts, I was certain that Kerry was pro-gay marriage and was just refusing to publicly express an opinion that would make him un-electable. I was also certain that conservatives were smart enough to figure that out, and that Kerry wasn’t fooling ANYONE by “lying” that he was against gay marriage.

      Thinking back, I don’t think that was a case of dog whistling – at the very least, I can’t recognize what the dog whistle would be, which doesn’t make sense since I was the exact target audience for such a whistle. I think it was more a case of me projecting my own beliefs to the candidate who represented my tribe.

      • Matt M says:

        During 2008 I had several militant-atheist types as friends who wouldn’t hesitate to mock anyone for being stupid enough to believe in God. They were also all fanatical Obama supporters. When I challenged them on how they could vote for a Christian candidate, they were all 100% insistent that Obama was actually an atheist, he just had to say he was Christian because America was full of ignorant rubes who were stupidly biased against atheists.

        They were apparently 100% serious about this too. When I tried to suggest to them that when people on the red side accused Obama of lying about his religion it was considered racist, they didn’t seem to understand the comparison I was trying to make.

  35. suntzuanime says:

    I think there’s a problem here where you haven’t separated “it’s wrong to judge politicians by extrapolating their unexpressed natures from clues in what they say” from “it’s wrong to trust the perfidious media with its strong biases and lack of intellectual honesty to make delicate judgment calls accurately when it comes to whether a politician they disagree with is evil”. Your examples seem to be arguing against the latter more than the former.

  36. To offer a counter, Bush Jr. did claim to be against nation-building, and Bush Sr. promised no new taxes. I don’t know how anyone could have predicted the latter (it seems more like “things didn’t go as planned” rather than “Bush Sr. was intentionally deceptive about his plans,”) but I can see someone listening to Bush Jr. thinking “that sounds like bull; he is totally the kind of guy who would try to topple dictators and try to install democracies, but how can I prove it?”

    As always, a lot of things boil down to “sides” (or tribes.) If feminists and immigrants are both Blue Tribe, and Trump (red tribe,) is anti-immigrant (or anti-certain immigrants,) then by implication Trump is anti Blue Tribe, which includes feminists. And feminists assume that they hold a monopoly on being pro-woman.

    Or to use a more recent example, it is pretty clear that Islam is not pro-gay people, and the average American gay person would be much worse off if they suddenly lived in a Muslim neighborhood. But Gays and Muslims are both Blue Tribe, so LGBT people don’t want to vote for Trump because of his “hate-filled anti-Muslim rhetoric,” which makes them concerned that he is anti- other groups, like gays. They are sticking with their Tribe, Blues, even though it is pretty clear that in reality, Trump is much less of a threat to gay people than Muslims. But one couldn’t possibly anti-Muslims and pro-gays.

    (I suspect Trump is not pro-gay so much basically neutral, but he certainly doesn’t want to see them gunned down en mass.)

    Getting back to Cruz, I bet a lot of heartland Cruz-supporters don’t even realize that there are a bunch of Jews in NYC; for a dog-whistle to work, your audience has to understand it. Further, Evangelicals love Jews. Sometimes they’re annoying about it–Evangelicals are legendary for being annoying–and they often love Jews for reasons that Jews don’t like, such as wanting to convert them all to Christianity. But their love of Jews is still very strong, which is why they are staunch Israel-defenders and spend their spare time learning bits of Hebrew. It’s the most unrequited relationship in American politics, as Jews (who are based mainly in very blue NY and LA,) identify Evangelicals as Red Tribe enemies who say insensitive things and won’t shut up about Jesus and abortion and other things Jews don’t care much about.

    To sum long paragraph: Cruz’s voter base is staunchly pro-Jewish and doesn’t particularly identify Jews with NYC. The idea that a Red Triber would be anti-semetic is probably just due to Blue-Tribe loyalties or NYC-ers’ lack of experience with Red Staters.

    As for Labour, I get the impression that the Labour party is actually anti-Israel to some degree (though perhaps I am wrong because I am not a Brit and I don’t follow British politics.) Being anti-Israel or anti-Zionist could lead to some weird, garbled statements on the subject.

    • NN says:

      Or to use a more recent example, it is pretty clear that Islam is not pro-gay people, and the average American gay person would be much worse off if they suddenly lived in a Muslim neighborhood.

      That depends on where they currently live. If they live in an Evangelical Protestant, Mormon, or Jehovah’s Witness neighborhood, then moving to a Muslim neighborhood would be a significant improvement.

      (I’m assuming, of course, that you mean a Muslim neighborhood in America instead of, say, a Muslim neighborhood in Pakistan.)

    • Nornagest says:

      But Gays and Muslims are both Blue Tribe

      It’d be more accurate to say they’re part of the Left coalition, or part of the Blue ingroup. Blue Tribe itself is a culture, and insofar as we can identify separate gay or Muslim cultures, they aren’t Blue Tribe more or less by definition. Though there’s a certain amount of cultural overlap and code-switching going on.

      • arbitrary_greay says:

        Not even part of the Left coalition. Just the not-Red coalition, whenever that coalition is tactically relevant.

        Just as Trump has run on creating a not-Blue coalition, and his success has been as a result of people realizing that it’s a tactically relevant one, whereas most of the other Republican candidates were trying to shore up/recruit to the Reds.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      I agree with everything else you said, and would like to register that agreement before nitpicking.

      Getting back to Cruz, I bet a lot of heartland Cruz-supporters don’t even realize that there are a bunch of Jews in NYC

      This sounds extremely unlikely, on par with people not having heard that there are Jews in Hollywood. People call it “Jew York City” for a reason.

      • suntzuanime says:

        People who are specifically interested in tracking large concentrations of Jews call it “Jew York City” for a reason. Possibly people who care deeply about New York City would as well. But as someone from flyover country I gotta say that this did not describe the culture as I was growing up. To me, New York City was a big city, full of millionaires and financiers, that got made fun of in a salsa commercial. Maybe the second point was supposed to make me sit up and say “aha! Jews!” but that wasn’t really a dog whistle I could hear.

        • Sweeneyrod says:

          From the UK, my stereotype of New York is equal parts Jewish and Italian.

          • arbitrary_greay says:

            I’ve seen media-representation complaints of how NYC is depicted with Italian and Russian and sometimes Polish/Black/Asian factions, but not one Jewish character. This is often accompanied with the charge that Jewishness has been erased into the whitewashed morass.

            I guess it’s not a contradiction, per se, in that NYC Jews are thus invisible until it’s convenient to use a stereotype of them as dog-whistle fodder?

          • Sandy says:

            @arbitrary_greay: Really? That’s surprising to me. So many major pieces of pop culture set in NYC feature Jews as a distinct and identifiable part of New York’s cultural tapestry. The Law and Order franchise, for instance, or Seinfeld.

        • Nornagest says:

          From over here on the West Coast, my conception of New York is mostly as the default setting for superhero comics and romantic comedies. Big, capitalist, unique accent, pizza and spaghetti, had a rep as gritty and dangerous when I was growing up but that’s faded somewhat. “New York Jew” is a stereotype I recognize, mostly from Woody Allen movies, but New-York-as-Jewish isn’t.

          • Subbak says:

            Same thing here from Europe. “New York Jew” is a stereotype I’m aware of and recognize, but other than the prevalence of Bagel shop I wouldn’t expect to run into many typically Jewish things in NYC as I would in Israel.

      • Skivverus says:

        First I’ve heard it called that. For that matter, first or near-first assertion I’ve heard that there are a disproportionately high number of Jews in NYC. And I live in NY (albeit not the city), so similar or higher levels of ignorance of “heartland Cruz-supporters” strike me as quite plausible.
        (Of course, usual caveats on the difference between truth and plausibility)

        • MawBTS says:

          How old are you? This stereotype is decades out of date.

          In the 1950s New York had 2.5 million Jews. Now, there’s less than half of that number. NY now has far more blacks and hispanics than Jews.

          • http://jewishgeography.typepad.com/.a/6a01053639b2f5970c010536fa1536970c-pi

            I don’t know about the 5 boroughs, but it looks like a lot of Jews do live in what the rest of the country considers NYC (including Long Island and New Jersey.)

            ETA: from the same site (The Jewish Geography Blog): “New York City has the largest US population of Jews,numbering about 1.6 million, a full 25% of the entire US poulation. New York is second only to Tel Aviv, Israel as the city with the largest Jewish population in the world. Per capita however, Miami slightly outranks New York in the concentration of Jews.”

      • Thanks.
        I am often surprised by things people don’t know, even intelligent folks–it’s really hard to know everything.
        Some of the folks I knew growing up in flyover country certainly did know about Jewish settlement patterns. Others didn’t even know that “Cohen” and “Goldberg” are common Jewish last names; I’d wager they don’t know much more about NYC than “full of liberals” and “West Side Story.”

        (Seinfeld may have changed that, though.)

        • keranih says:

          didn’t even know that “Cohen” and “Goldberg” are common Jewish last names

          I realized that Cohen was a Jewish surname –

          – and not just ‘a’ surname, but the surname, one of the lines associated with high-mucky-muck rabbis –

          about six years ago. Before then, boo. Not a clue. Goldberg I knew, because of some pre-WWII propaganda (get it? “Gold-bug”! filthy rich Jews have so much money, it’s in their names! *eyeroll*) and “stein” I knew, but that to me had been more of a ‘the sort of people who came from Germany’ name, like ‘-ski’ meant ‘from Poland’.

          In defense of other fly over folks, there are a large number of people who are Jewish in ethnicity but not faith, and outside of the big city that means that their kids get married to non-Jews and some of *their* kids grow up Mormon, Catholic, Baptist, etc.

          But yeah. Jewish people don’t make up that big of a portion of the USA, and with a huge fraction of them in NYC – and another, smaller-but-still-huge chunk in LA, that doesn’t leave a lot for the rest of the country to bump into.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Priests, not rabbis. The Cohanim is the line of the priests.

            But Jews don’t have priests, you say?

            Yeah. It’s a complicated religion.

          • brad says:

            It’s interesting that ‘priest’ ended up being the translation in English for Cohen. The etymology of priest (from πρεσβύτερος presbýteros meaning elder) as well as the actual selection and role of Catholic priests is much more like a Rabbi than a biblical Cohen.

            English could easily have had a word derived from the Latin sacerdos or the Greek ἱερός hiereus but somehow didn’t.

          • keranih says:

            @ The Nybbler –

            Thank you, I stand corrected.

            (I did know that that there were priests – and that priest, prophet and rabbi all had different niches, and then there were judges…)

    • anonymous bosch says:

      >The idea that a Red Triber would be anti-semetic is probably just due to Blue-Tribe loyalties or NYC-ers’ lack of experience with Red Staters.

      The idea that all conservatives believe the thing is no less stupid than the idea that all liberals believe the same thing.

      This is, in fact, the point of a dog-whistle – to allow a politician to signal support for a segment of a political coalition while maintaining plausible deniability with segments of his political coalition who hate that group.

      See, for example, the internal liberal feud between pro-gay people and pro-muslim people following the Pulse shooting.

  37. Winstanley says:

    Just a quick point but the “the left has an anti-semitism problem” narrative is being driven more by a civil war in the Labour party between the recently ousted Blairites and the Corbynistas than anything of substance.

    See also Craig Murray’s analysis of the Nuneaton Council Elections.

    • Sweeneyrod says:

      Eh, I can see that it might be exaggerated, but it seems likely that Naz “the Jews are rallying” Shah and Malia “Zionist led media” Bouattia are indicative of some larger problem.

  38. blacktrance says:

    Regarding Trump, there’s a difference between him being a sexist and him enacting sexist policies. It’s certainly possible that he thinks that men and women should be treated significantly differently while being pro-choice and so on. If so, his non-sexism in policy is less reliable, because an issue could arise where he’d intuitively decide to take a politically sexist line, and also raises the question of how he’d conduct himself as president.

    • Tsnom Eroc says:

      “It’s certainly possible that he thinks that men and women should be treated significantly differently while being pro-choice and so on.”

      Do you treat men and women differently on a daily basis?

      Everyone does one way or another, particularly if a person is an attractive member of your preferred gender. So just saying “treated differently” probably implicates virtually everyone as some kind of sexist, when it really should not be the case.

  39. supplantedBearer says:

    From an Australian perspective, probably the top example that comes to mind regarding dog-whistling is our government’s policy on refugees. The stated aim of our policy (which forbids migrants who arrive by boat from being settled in Australia, and mandates that they be detained and processed offshore) is ostensibly humanitarian: to break the business model of people smugglers, who profit from human misery, and to prevent the deaths of migrants at sea. But our policy necessarily involves a hefty number of our own human rights abuses, which makes the argument that the policy is humanitarian quite shaky (and imo untenable). I am naive enough that I can probably believe that the otherwise-seemingly-reasonable politicians try their very hardest to believe sincerely in the humanitarian aim of the program. But there is another compelling reason for them to support it: they can dog-whistle for the support of the constituency revealed in the 90s by former MP Pauline Hanson, our local far-right, anti-immigrant nutjob. This constituency, which has usually proven to be shockingly large, doesn’t care about human rights, but it does care that foreigners shouldn’t be able to take over our culture, by “jumping the queue” and failing to integrate. And if migrants aren’t allowed to settle here, then they get their way.

    So here I would say that the deepest, darkest machinations of our politicians’ minds are not what is at issue. Like I said, I can plausibly believe that they do try to believe sincerely in the stated reasons for the policy, assuaging their consciences by focusing on the deaths at sea they are preventing, and the exploitation they are cutting off. But the dog-whistle is still blown, and blown merely for cynical political expedience. And that, I think, is much more of a problem than the examples Scott gives.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      But don’t the anti-immigration politicians say explicitly that they’re anti-immigration? Or are there Australian politicians claiming that they will allow immigration, but other people can figure out from their dog whistles that they actually won’t?

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        There are two areas of dark matter, from the voter perspective, where this matters. One is candidates’inside info: if many candidates sincerely believe offshore processing is humane, this raises my credence that it is. The other is future decisions: a candidate with sincere pro-immigrant values who favors offshore processing will likely adopt pro-immigrant policies on issues that aren’t in the radar yet.

      • supplantedBearer says:

        Hanson is still around, and she does readily admit to not wanting immigrants coming in. But the politicians from the major parties generally take great pains to emphasize the humanitarian angle, even as they are accused of egregious human rights violations. Both our main left and right parties support offshore processing, and yes, the left party (which is currently in opposition) does try to talk up its pro-immigrant, pro-human rights values in contrast with the government, but still insists that we should continue with the current policy (there seems to be a bit of a civil war going on inside the party over offshore processing, but for now they are in favour). The government uses that to claim that the opposition would actually weaken the borders, contrary to their claims (so, sort of the opposite of “politicians claiming that they will allow immigration, but other people can figure out from their dog whistles that they actually won’t”).

        Point is, we have some very plainly anti-immigrant policies in place, but I don’t think we have lots of politicians motivated by xenophobia.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          In other words, the conventional wisdom is so crushingly pervasive that politicians can only do the sensible thing — keep Australia from being overrun by Afghans and the like — by not mentioning that their goal is to keep Australia from being overrun by Afghans and the like.

      • eh says:

        The funny thing is that Australia doesn’t really have many prominent anti-immigration politicians, but it does have a great many anti-refugee politicians. The centre right party that led the anti-refugee rhetoric also increased the skilled migrant intake, while the centre left party which was ostensibly on the side of the refugees put in place most of the offshore processing.

        Of course, they both keep that reasonably quiet, presumably for fear of pissing off their voters. Still, it’s important to draw the distinction between “ewww swarthy foreign Mohammedans who will shoot ak-47s and eat hummus with our wives” and “ewww unskilled and traumatised subsistence farmers who will pay less tax than a Filipino accountant or a Keralan chemical engineer”.

        • supplantedBearer says:

          It is quite correct and pertinent to make the distinction between “anti-immigrant” and “anti-refugee.” I should’ve done that.

  40. entobat says:

    There’s an angle for the antisemitism claims that seems obvious to me but I haven’t seen mentioned yet, so here’s my go at it.

    Livingstone pseudo-defended Hitler by attaching to him an identifier (“Zionist”) that is generally used with a positive connotation, at least among people who support the existence of Israel. Maybe Livingstone is out there fighting the good fight by making sure that Hitler is slandered only as much as he deserves to be, and not more, by reminding everyone about Hitler’s good deeds at a frequency proportional to how many of his deeds were good. Or maybe Livingstone just thinks that Hitler is criticized too much (independent of whether or not he’s criticized more than he should be, due to his crimes). Or maybe Livingstone doesn’t like Jews all that much, and a win for Hitler is a loss for the Jews. Or maybe…

    i.e., there’s basically one scenario in which Livingstone’s state of mind that leads him to call Hitler a Zionist comes from some weird academic obligation he feels towards maintaining moral parity for Hitler criticisms, and all the others feel like maybe he just doesn’t like Jews. Compare “Hitler had some good ideas.” It doesn’t help that Zionism is the correct denotation but wrong connotation (given Hitler’s more Hitlery actions), so it feels like in addition to staking out a weird position he’s also trying to fool us with some verbal slight of hand. All of this combined does not a good picture make.

    The analysis I’m doing does have some disadvantages as a societal norm — it’s very difficult to genuinely discuss positive aspects of Hitler et al. without repeated disclaimers that you understand they’re terrible people. But having been on the internet once or twice, I don’t think that loss is big enough to match what’s gained.

    I think this generalizes to similar, but less strong, arguments about sexism.

    • yeahgoinganonforthisone says:

      Rests on the assumption it’s an out of the blue, bizarre position that he came up with all by himself. Which may not be true.

      “Hitler temporarily fooled some people into thinking he was OK to cooperate with despite his open anti-Semitism by supporting Zionism, before settling on extermination” is a reasonable simplification of the situation. If you grew up with that, “Hitler supported Zionism” is an obvious “even shorter” version.

      Not talking about Livingstone here since I’m unfamiliar with that context but in general: such an “even shorter” wording could even be meant as a callout to the denotation/connotation issue you mentioned, as in “Hitler supported Zionism (and we know what his reasons turned out to be).”

      • entobat says:

        “Hitler temporarily fooled some people into thinking he was OK to cooperate with despite his open anti-Semitism by supporting Zionism, before settling on extermination” is a reasonable simplification of the situation. If you grew up with that, “Hitler supported Zionism” is an obvious “even shorter” version.

        Uh, there’s a very big connotation difference between those two that you seem to have noticed 😛 . And you could forgive the unenlightened for hearing (2) and not assuming (1).

        • yeahgoinganonforthisone says:

          Not really.

          I have no clue what the fuck I’m supposed to be imagining other people reading into “Hitler supported Zionism” other than the historical facts, since I’M AWARE OF THE FACTS and so is Scott and so, I assume, are most people.

          If you know the facts, why WOULDN’T you assume it’s a reference to the facts? What the hell else are you going to assume?

          I’d better re-read your previous comment.

          …yeah don’t assume people who don’t have any opinion on Zionism (let alone people who oppose it) give it a particularly positive connotation. For me it’s neutral since I have no opinion on it. So when someone says “Hitler supported Zionism” I hear “Hitler supported [Neutral Thing X]” and what this makes me think of is the historical facts. Apparently when someone says “Hitler supported Zionism” YOU hear “Hitler supported [Wonderful Thing X]” and what this makes you think of is “Hitler apologia.”

          Why assume Zionism has such a distractingly positive connotation to everyone?

          BTW: A willingness to provide extra explanations targeted to your personal idiosyncrasies as part of a good-faith effort at communication, is not a concession that your personal idiosyncrasies are shared by the majority. Acting as if it were is a good way to look like you’re not arguing in good faith. It’s also a good way to discourage people from ever doing that again.

          • Jiro says:

            Hitler supporters have a type of doublethink where they say that Hitler didn’t do the bad things he’s accused of, but these things are really great anyway. That’s why people who think the Holocaust was a good thing nevertheless engage in Holocaust denial.

            This is just another case of that where the bad thing that Hitler is being accused of is opposing Zionism.

            Also, consider the noncentral fallacy here. Hitler is a non-central example of support of Zionism and is being invoked specifically because of that.

          • yeahgoinganonforthisone says:

            This is just another case of that where the bad thing that Hitler is being accused of is opposing Zionism.

            …did you mean supporting Zionism?

            And what is the “this” here? My expensive blue tribe private school’s attitude? My attitude? Livingstone’s attitude?

            You appear to be accusing me and my school of being “Hitler supporters.” For using a phrase that to us connotes no such thing. Then since I guessed the phrase may sound neutral to us because we’re neutral about Zionism, you appear to have transmuted “neutral about Zionism” into “against Zionism.” Huh? When I said neutral, I meant it.

            But maybe that’s not at all what you were trying to say. What were you trying to say?

            Hitler is a non-central example of support of Zionism and is being invoked specifically because of that.

            By Livingstone? Sure, maybe. I already said I’m not familiar with him.

            What I care about is that Scott, who I respect, and who has had his own trouble with superweapons, is here irresponsibly brandishing his.

            His brandishing is structured as “Here is the obvious disclaimer that I have to say.” He may be thinking that he needn’t take my concern seriously because “obviously” what he wrote was “just boilerplate.” But that’s exactly the problem: He thoughtlessly throws around such inflammatory language, as just boilerplate.

            No. “Hitler supported Zionism” is NOT “obviously” even weird, let alone offensive. It’s a completely normal summary of the historical facts. A casual aside that “Well obviously it was a really weird and offensive thing to say”…is irresponsibly brandishing your superweapon.

            Please, Scott, please change it. Acknowledge that there are plenty of people out there who aren’t even anti-Zionist (they’re just not pro-Zionist) to whom the phrase actually does sound perfectly normal. All you’d have to do is add a note that, whoops, the idea that it WASN’T normal was actually current only inside your bubble. The bubble whose existence you’ve already vividly described.

          • Anonymous says:

            It isn’t a completely normal summary of the historical facts and I don’t really believe the “expensive blue tribe private school” part. My guess is you misunderstood, misremember, or it wasn’t a blue tribe place to begin with.

          • yeahgoinganonforthisone says:

            Anonymous, it’s a blue tribe school in a very blue area, and if I misunderstood or misremember, the same is true of others who attended that school.

            You seem very determined to believe that blue tribe couldn’t possibly speak that way. Why? Is your logic “that phrase is anti-Semitic, and blue tribe isn’t”? Because if so, you might consider believing me when I say that no, that phrase is perfectly normal.

    • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

      Livingstone was not defending Hitler, he was using him to attack Zionism.

      • entobat says:

        Ah. Well, I’m sure arguments of the form “Zionism is stupid because it’s what HITLER liked” only ever come from well-meaning, intellectually honest individuals.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Livingstone was mayor of a city, London, that is becoming increasingly Muslim due to Britain’s immigration policies. It’s only sensible for a 21st century London mayor to side with Muslim views than Jewish views on the current conflict in the Holy Land. We just saw this in the latest mayoral election in which Sadiq Khan defeated Zac Goldsmith.

      If Jews don’t want this trend to continue, they should look toward making immigration policies more restrictive.

  41. yeahgoinganonforthisone says:

    A month or two ago a British MP named Naz Shah got in trouble for sharing a Facebook post saying Israel should be relocated to the United States. Fellow British politician Ken Livingstone defended him, and one thing led to another, and somewhere in the process he might have kind of said that Hitler supported Zionism.

    This isn’t totally out of left field. During the Nazi period in Germany, some Nazis who wanted to get rid of the Jews and some Jews who wanted to get away from the Nazis created the Haavara Agreement, which facilitated German Jewish emigration to Palestine. Hitler was ambivalent on the idea but seems to have at least supported some parts of it at some points. But it seems fair to say that calling Hitler a supporter of Zionism was at the very least a creative interpretation of the historical record.

    WHAT?!?

    OK, I’m furious with you right now. Sir, my expensive, blue tribe, secular private elementary school attended mostly by Jews and WASPs, taught that “everyone knows” that “Hitler supported Zionism.” Calling this position “not totally out of left field” is the epitome of damning with faint praise.

    Just because YOU PERSONALLY have never heard of this position DOES NOT give you the right to go around implicitly accusing holders of a perfectly ordinary position of anti-Semitism. Completely unintentionally in the process of attempting to say the opposite, I know, but sir, YOU HAVE A SUPERWEAPON. Kindly be careful where you point that thing.

    Ken Livingstone is tasteless, thoughtless, embarrassing, has his foot in his mouth, is inept, clownish and offensive, and clearly made a blunder of cosmic proportions.

    WHAT THE FUCK !@#$%^& yeah I’m literally shaking with rage right now.

    …the other person in the room with me right now just asked me if I was OK. Because I was shaking. Literally.

    That is a COMPLETELY ORDINARY POSITION if you have a problem with it the least you could do is give an actual reason for your objection.

    …little more on topic: so yeah we have a diverse society made up of many different groups with many different ideas of what is “an ordinary position” and what is “obviously offensive” and at this point yeah that is probably a more frequent cause of these incidents than actual hidden prejudice.

    • Anonymous says:

      OK, I’m furious with you right now. Sir, my expensive, blue tribe, secular private elementary school attended mostly by Jews and WASPs, taught that “everyone knows” that “Hitler supported Zionism.” Calling this position “not totally out of left field” is the epitome of damning with faint praise.

      Really, in elementary school? And presented as “Everyone knows Hitler supported Zionism” rather than “Nazi Germany considered deporting the Jews to Mandate Palestine before settling on extermination as a Final Solution to the Jewish Question”?

      I think maybe your parents should ask for a refund.

      • yeahgoinganonforthisone says:

        More like “Everyone knows Hitler supported Zionism before settling on extermination as a Final Solution to the Jewish Question.”

        Yes, really. See my last paragraph.

    • Sweeneyrod says:

      Your elementary school teacher was Lenni “Karl Marx was only being matter-of-fact when he remarked that ‘the Jews of Poland are the smeariest of all races'” Brenner? (He was the guy Ken Livingstone got the idea from). I agree that the idea isn’t by itself anti-Semitic — a few months before Ken put his foot in it, it was mentioned by Benjamin Netanyahu. However, there are issues with bringing it up in the context of defending someone accused (accurately) of anti-Semitism for saying “the Jews are rallying”.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Whatever you were going for, I don’t think it worked…

  42. MugaSofer says:

    >It’s stupid to care that Ken Livingstone describes 1930s Germany in a weird way qua describing 1930s Germany in a weird way; he’s a politician and not a history textbook writer.

    Except that it was a pretty clear Gowin of Israel in general and his opponents in particular. And, I guess, one might consider a politician’s knowledge of political history important.

  43. ad says:

    But my question is, is he anti-Semitic at all? Is there any sense in which his comments reveal that, in his heart of hearts, he really doesn’t like Jews?.

    Those two questions are not the same. The reason people suspect Ken Livingstone of anti-semitism is that he has a history of speaking up for anti-Israel terrorists, anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists, likening Jewish reporters to concentration camp guards, arguing that it is not anti-Semitism if you only hate Jews in Israel and so on.

  44. JuanPeron says:

    The thing that I find most frustrating about this is that there really are informative, worrying comments by politicians, and this endless, dishonest hype train conditions people to ignore them.

    When Richard Nixon pushed “state’s rights” as part of the Southern Strategy, it genuinely was a (lightly) coded racial message – it was a promise to stay out of the south’s way on racial issues. Lee Atwater was explicit about this, to the point where it is one of the Wikipedia page quotes for ‘Dog Whistle Politics’.

    When George Allen described a dark-skinned videographer at a campaign event with a racial slur (twice!) and “welcomed him to America”, it was not a subtle moment. Even this may not have been “open racism”, because that requires being openly racist, which he denied. But it was certainly an ugly moment which was genuinely grounds to reconsider how the candidate viewed minorities.

    These things do happen, and they are typically not very subtle. But by preaching a story where they happen all the time, to every candidate, and are often incredibly subtle (and easy to mistake for awkward wording, or a bad knowledge of history), the media discredits its own narrative. This is a shame when it distracts from real issues and taints the reputation of well-meaning people, but it is a tragedy when it stops us from recognizing real horrors as they happen.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think maybe there’s an important distinction between questioning a politician’s motives versus questioning their policies.

      I think it’s much more likely that a racist politician says “We should pass law X because of states’ rights” whereas actually it is because racism, rather than a racist politician saying “We should oppose law X, and also states rights”, but the states rights quote means he supports racism and will actually pass law X.

      The reason this is important is that it makes ferreting out politicians’ hidden motives irrelevant; if you like Law X for whatever reason, vote for him; if you don’t, don’t.

      • The thing is, politicians will face situations which they haven’t campaigned about, and that’s why voters are reasonable to care about what the politicians really want.

        The Flint water crisis would be an example of what politicians care about mattering.

      • xq says:

        The point isn’t to “ferret out politicians’ hidden motives.” The dog-whistle claim is about strategy, not the inner psychology of politicians. And understanding politics has value other than merely deciding on who to vote for. For example, it’s important to know whether the popularity of a politician who says “We should pass law X because of states’ rights” is due to racism or genuine belief in states rights if you would like to convince the people who vote for that politician to adopt a different position.

      • anonymous bosch says:

        Trump says that he’s in favour of women’s rights, but when asked about specific things people usually signal using “women’s rights”, like income equality, fighting rape culture, and abortion, he either deflects or flat-out states he opposes it. He also says boorish things which people allege are dogwhistles for the fact that his reason for this is sexism and/or fishing for the support of sexists.

        Similarly, the people who are accusing British politicians of anti-semitism are arguing that it explains specific policies of theirs – their position on Israel.

        I hadn’t heard about the Ted Cruz thing, and looking at your links, they all seem to be about a CNN reporter who thought Cruz saying “money and media” probably referred to Jews, and most of them aren’t sympathetic to his claim.
        This seems to me like a plausible honest mistake, and concluding that his motives must surely be impure based on this one thing he said seems unfair.

    • cassander says:

      >When Richard Nixon pushed “state’s rights” as part of the Southern Strategy, it genuinely was a (lightly) coded racial message – it was a promise to stay out of the south’s way on racial issues. Lee Atwater was explicit about this, to the point where it is one of the Wikipedia page quotes for ‘Dog Whistle Politics’.

      No, they weren’t. You should read the whole interview, not just the bit that gets endlessly quoted, because Atwater doesn’t way what you think. It’s quite clear that what atwater is saying is that shouting n**ger used to work, then it stopped worked so you had to find issues BESIDES race to motivate them. He goes on, explicitly, that Reagan had never done racebaiting, that Reagan had been campaigning on the same issues for decades, and that it was southerners who came around to him, not him dog whistling southerners. When he talks about a “southern strategy” he’s talking about the racial strategy that democrats used to use to win elections, but which doesn’t work any more.

      To quote him “But Reagan did not have to do a southern strategy for two reasons. Number one, race was was not a dominant issue. And number two, the mainstream issues in this campaign had been, quote, southern issues since way back in the sixties. So Reagan goes out and campaigns on the issues of economics and of national defense. The whole campaign was devoid of any kind of racism, any kind of reference. And I’ll tell you another thing you all need to think about, that even surprised me, is the lack of interest, really, the lack of knowledge right now in the South among white voters about the Voting Rights Act.”

      That Nixon or Reagan had some sort of southern strategy is almost entirely a myth.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        “More abstract” does not mean “something different and unrelated”.

        Atwater may have thought that moving to the abstract would eventually move the positions, step by step, away from being racist. But even he didn’t think that forced busing was unrelated to racism.

        And saying Nixon didn’t have a Southern strategy is just flat wrong. He had it. He executed it. He won the south.

        Reagan knew where he started his campaign. It wasn’t an accident. And it wasn’t designed to troll liberals.

        • cassander says:

          >Atwater may have thought that moving to the abstract would eventually move the positions, step by step, away from being racist. But even he didn’t think that forced busing was unrelated to racism.

          He says, explicitly, that he does.

          >And saying Nixon didn’t have a Southern strategy is just flat wrong. He had it. He executed it. He won the south.

          No, he didn’t. He lost it badly in 68, to segregationists, precisely because he wouldn’t peddle their line. He did better in 72, but he won 49 states in 72, so unless you think the entire country liked his whistling, you need a better explanation.

          >Reagan knew where he started his campaign. It wasn’t an accident. And it wasn’t designed to troll liberals.

          I’m going to go ahead and say 99% of voters have no idea what town Reagan started his campaign.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      “When Richard Nixon pushed “state’s rights” as part of the Southern Strategy, it genuinely was a (lightly) coded racial message – it was a promise to stay out of the south’s way on racial issues.”

      Nixon immediately forced school integration on the South in 1969-1970 after a decade and a half of delay against Brown v. Board of Education.

      In general, much of today’s conventional wisdom about recent history doesn’t align much with what I remember actually happening.

      • E. Harding says:

        And yet, Nixon’s best state (even better than McGovern’s performance in DC) in 1972 was Mississippi. But, considering McGovern won only one state, that tells us a lot more about McGovern than Nixon.

  45. Saul Degraw says:

    1. Why can’t it be both? I don’t like Cruz but he is a canny politician and he knows how to speak to an audience. His main audience is very socially conservative evangelical Christians who are no longer the mainstream but still a decent sized minority in U.S. politics. Lots of Jews are suspicious of Evangelical support for Israel because it can often be combined with their own unique ideas on the Book of Revelations. With friends like that, the Jews/Israelis don’t need Hamas. Cruz’s father is rather anti-Semitic. Also most American Jews are not Orthodox but Reform and Conservative and still overwhelmingly liberal and Democratic.

    2. I don’t agree with anti-Zionism but there is nothing inherently anti-Semitic about it. The problem with anti-Zionists is that they often fall so easily into old anti-Semitic stereotypes and accusations and it is hard to determine how much of this is unintentional or not. There was a demonstration at CUNY in the fall with accusations about how Zionist administrators were causing high tuition at CUNY. This is problematic because CUNY’s student body is largely poor and minority and I imagine many of the professors and admins are Jewish. But what does Zionism have to do with increases in tuition? They are basically using Zionist and Jewish interchangeably and going into old tropes about Jews controlling finances. This is not just a problem at CUNY. Stanford had some serious issues with anti-Semitism in the past few months and years.

    3. Trump rallies aren’t even dog-whistles. They are pure expressions of rage and hatred and sexism, racism in rather vulgar and crude terms.

    https://twitter.com/i/moments/742975954860052481

    “Tailgating in parking lots. Vendors selling Hillary Sucks But Not Like Monica shirts. General awfulness.”

    • Jaskologist says:

      With friends like [Evangelicals], the Jews/Israelis don’t need Hamas.

      Speaking of dog-whistles and expressions of hatred…

      • Saul Degraw says:

        It is not all evangelicals but there is a strong contingent and it should not be surprising that people don’t want to be pawns in someone else’s cosmic struggle.

        I am not hear to be part of someone’s weird interpretation of the Book of Revelation and neither is Israel.

        • Thursday says:

          So, people who have weird beliefs about your role in the end of the world are just as bad as people who explicitly want to kill you. WTF?

    • Wow, those tweets. 75% of them were basically “oooh, look at members of the outgroup showing off their membership in the outgroup, isn’t that awful?”

      I find it really hard to defend Trump per se, but I find it even harder to get upset that these (my) people finally have a candidate who doesn’t loathe them.

      • Saul Degraw says:

        I don’t think this is really a valid shutdown though the ingroup outgroup thing seems big in many circles.

        Sometimes out groups are out groups because they are horrible. There is a big difference between being in an outgroup because you a geeky kid who likes Dungeons and Dragons vs. being in an out group because you are willing to wear openly vulgar shirts in public that say purposefully offensive and horrible things.

        I don’t think someone should be judged because they can only afford non-designer jeans and shirts but actions have consequences and if you are going to wear a sexist, racist, homophobic shirt, be prepared for people to judge you on it.

        Also why shouldn’t I be shocked or angered by disproportionate responses. The dad did not have to get his kid an ice cream but using violence as a form of no when your kid asks for ice cream is completely unacceptable.

        • Xerxes says:

          Dad from a tribe that views spanking as a valid form of discipline does so. Outgroup member paints it in worst possible light, knowing their tribe views the other tribe as barbaric.

          • Saul Degraw says:

            I was spanked as a kid but it was never for asking for something like an ice cream.

            I don’t want to get into the whole debate about spanking v. non-spanking debate but physical violence for asking for an ice cream strikes me more about psychological and anger management issues.

          • Saul Degraw says:

            Also the author grew up in a dying working class industrial town.

          • Xerxes says:

            “Jared Yates Sexton was born and raised in Southern Indiana and received his MFA from Southern Illinois in 2008. He’s the author of three collections, a crime-novel, and works as a political correspondent and Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Georgia Southern University.”

            Blue Tribe.

            You’re very certain what happened at the event. Those damn barbarian other-tribers have anger and psychological issues, don’t they? How else do we explain their stupid opinions?

        • Anonymous says:

          Sometimes out groups are out groups because they are horrible.

          Oy vay the antisemitism!

    • Wrong Species says:

      The idea that evangelicals secretly hate Jewish people is one of those things that make sense if you don’t know a single thing about evangelicals. No one loves Jewish people more than them. Is their unceasing support of Israel no matter what just a really elaborate ruse? Because if it is, they are incredibly convincing. The probability of your statement being true is about the same as progressives actually hating homosexuals. That’s how wrong it is.

      • Urstoff says:

        This may just be my bubble speaking, but pretty much the only anti-Semitism I see is from the edgelord alt-right or the pro-Palestine left. I don’t think the enormous swathe of people in the middle give much thought to Jews in any capacity.

        • Wrong Species says:

          “60% of Evangelical respondents would want the United States to vote against a possible U.N. Resolution in favor a Palestinian state, while only 38% of non-Evangelical Republicans and 26% of all respondents would want the same.”

          http://forward.com/news/327697/new-poll-reveals-evangelical-christians-fuel-republican-support-for-israel/

          “Ladies and Gentleman, evangelical Christians support Israel because we believe that the words of Moses and the ancient prophets of Israel were inspired by God. We believe that the emergence of a Jewish state in the land promised by God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was ordained by God”

          http://www.patrobertson.com/Speeches/IsraelLauder.asp

          Evangelicals are why Republicans are as pro-Israel as they are.

          • Anonymous says:

            What do they think about Jews living in the United States? Do they think we all need to move to Israel before Jesus can come back? What about Jews living in the United States that aren’t Likudniks?

            They may not have any antisemitic bones in their body, but providing pro-Zionist quotes doesn’t prove that.

          • Jiro says:

            I fail to see how whether an American Jew follows an Israeli political party has any significance (unless you’re using “Likudnik” to mean “Jew I don’t like”).

      • NN says:

        Some Evangelicals explicitly support Israel because they believe that the state of Israel is essential for bringing about the Biblical apocalypse. Some of these people also believe that during this apocalypse, 2/3 of all Jews will be killed and the remaining 1/3 will convert to Christianity.

        I don’t know if that fits the precise dictionary definition of antisemitism, but it certainly isn’t very nice.

        • Randy M says:

          Believing something has zero impact on “niceness” quotient.
          What actions have these evangelical Christians taken that have harmed Jews?

          • To my knowledge, they aren’t currently dangerous.

            I’m not sure whether I’m reaching for an argument, but I do wonder whether they’re so irrational that if someone came up with a different biblical interpretation, they could very easily turn against Jews.

          • keranih says:

            Any chance we could tackle the cultural groups who are currently vocally and physically promoting the harming of Jews, instead of wondering if under the right circumstances some people who are currently vocally in favor of Jews might be convinced to change their mind?

            I mean, just in order of priorities?

          • keranih, if it’s any consolation, I don’t put a lot of work into that one. And I have no idea what to do about the obviously dangerous anti-Semites.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            “Any chance we could tackle the cultural groups who are currently vocally and physically promoting the harming of Jews, instead of wondering if under the right circumstances some people who are currently vocally in favor of Jews might be convinced to change their mind?”

            LOL

        • Two McMillion says:

          They also believe that the people responsible for killing 2/3 of the Jews will go to Hell, so it’s not like they’re going to try and get it started themselves.

  46. onyomi says:

    A meta-comment: have we considered the possibility that words like “racism” and “sexism,” like the word “poverty,” are continually redefined to allow their continued use?*

    Like “poverty” used to mean “may starve this winter.” Now, because we don’t get a lot of that in the US, it means, “can’t make my credit card payments.”

    Racism and sexism used to mean “believes people of other races/genders are inherently inferior”; now, because we don’t get a lot of that in the US, it means “says something gauche about women/black people.”

    *I’m not even necessarily saying this is bad; one could make a case that words like “poor” are meant to be somewhat relative in practical use.

    • Randy M says:

      I’m not even necessarily saying this is bad; one could make a case that words like “poor” are meant to be somewhat relative in practical use.

      I would say it is bad in as much as “that society has a lot of poor” is a value judgement, as is “He is a x-ist”.

      In other words, the words can be repurposed if we can drop the old connotations, but I don’t think that is possible on time-frames that avoid discord.
      Or maybe it is? See euphemism treadmill.

    • Matt M says:

      A term that is sufficiently vague AND emotionally loaded has all sorts of practical implications. Poverty and sexism are both good examples. Both cause strong emotional reactions (these are bad things and we must eliminate them) and both are vague enough to be manipulated to include whatever particular thing it is you want to have done/not done.

      Edit: “sexual assault” is another popular one these days, everyone hates it and wants to eliminate it, but there is a HUGE range of opinion as to what it actually is.

      • gbdub says:

        Sexual assault is a good example. I often see statistics like “90% of sexual assaults are unreported!” Which, if sexual assault means “forcibly raped in an alley” is horrifying. But if sexual assault means “got my ass pinched by a jackass in the bar”, well… Do you really want all of those to turn into court cases?

        Deliberate conflation of a mildly not good thing with a horrible thing to elicit the emotional reaction to the horrible thing; that seems dishonest and definitely an issue with our current treatment of racism and sexism.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Agreed.

          You can have “not good thing” being worthy of incandescent wrath that lays waste and ruins lives or you can have it be something broadly defined and as such somewhat innocuous.

          You don’t get to have both unless the whole “laying waste and ruining lives” thing is your explicit goal.

        • Sometimes normal use of language covers a pretty wide range– both the holocaust and not letting Jews into a country club would be described as anti-Semitic, and this was true before Social Justice was in play.

  47. JohnMcG says:

    1. I think for Trump to say what he said about his preference for women qualifies as sexist, because by saying it publicly and out loud, he is implying that his preferences matter. And since he has been in a position of power (which some may say is due to the patriarchy), some people will respond by conforming to his preferences as much as they can.

    2. I’m sure more than a few people have dismissed Livingstone noting his Jewish ex-girlfriends as the “some of my best friends are….” defense, which is an item on the dog-whistle bingo card. I wonder how many could explain why and it what context this is offensive.

    • Randy M says:

      “Wow, all this time I was down on breasts, but if Trump likes them, I guess they’re okay” said no man ever.
      That may be a strawman of your first point, but I think you point isn’t much more defensible.

      • JohnMcG says:

        Perhaps a more precise term for what Trump is doing with that statement is a kind of flaunting of privilege.

        Trump saying that suggests that people should give a damn about his taste in women. And, because he is in a position of privilege, people do care about his taste in women. And a non-null number of women will measure themselves against Trump’s taste in women.

        • Matt M says:

          The context of many of these quotes was that they were on pop culture-style talk shows back in the 90s before he had obvious political ambitions. Many of them came from Howard Stern, a shock jock radio show notable for being vulgar, sexually charged and politically incorrect.

          If you’re on Howard Stern and he’s asking you about women you know, then well, the direct implication is that people DO care about your taste in women. Most notably Stern himself, but indirectly his listeners as well.

          I recall reading an article that had all the same quotes that you see in the commercials, but immediately including (in the same font/size/style) where and when the quote was from, and finding the whole thing FAR less offensive or outrageous. Non-political celebrity says crass things about women on Howard Stern: Film at 11.

        • Randy M says:

          And a non-null number of women will measure themselves against Trump’s taste in women.

          “Gold diggers who hope to bump into Trump at some point” is a non-null set, sure. I remain unconvinced anyone else listening was affected, as men’s affinity towards noticeable breasts is news to no one.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Just so we’re clear, because I really do want to nail this down, are you saying that it is sexist to prefer larger breasts, or that it is sexist to say so out loud?

      I realize this sounds like snark or a trap question, but I’m having a really hard time trying to phrase this in a non-absurd way. Looking for a steelman.

      • Jiro says:

        Saying so out loud is correlated with being sexist regardless of whether the action of saying so is itself sexist.

        • Anonymous says:

          Why don’t we cut out the middleman? What we really want to say is that being a conservative is correlated with being sexist, regardless of whether the action of being conservative is itself sexist. Dat Bayesian evidence, dough.

      • MugaSofer says:

        The really weird thing to me is that this, like a lot of Trump quotes, seems incredibly weak material for attacking him compared to other things he’s said.

        I tracked down the source for that quote, and it’s from a talk show in 2005 where the host asked him to rate the cast of Desperate Housewives. Now, you can argue that rating the cast of Desperate Housewives on air is objectification or contributing to women’s sense of only being judged on their looks or what have you, but it’s certainly not unusually bad – I’m sure you could find similar quotes from random male and female celebrities on talk shows.

        But while rating them, he also said this:

        “Would you go out with Marsha Cross, or would you turn gay, Howard? … four to five.”

        Now isn’t that way worse then saying it’s “hard” and you have to be “absolutely stunning” to be a 10 with small breasts?

        The whole conversation does seem to imply that Trump’s 10 is everyone’s 10, which isn’t something I’m a huge fan of – I think that’s the most common reason people are upset? – but why go with the weaker quote? And they don’t even include enough context for you to conclude that he’s implying it!

      • danyzn says:

        I would say that saying so out loud is a way of being openly sexist, by saying “I don’t mind being considered sexist.” What the person really believes deep down is unknowable.

        • JohnMcG says:

          This is an interesting point.

          For a public figure to publicly say something widely considered to be sexist or racist (even if it in fact isn’t) is signaling that he doesn’t care about being called a racist or sexist. So, someone who, regularly went out of his way to throw the word “niggardly” around wouldn’t be guilty or racism, but is knowingly attracting charges of racism.

          Which is likely to increase his appeal to actual racists and sexists.

          Which, may not be racist and sexist itself, but is capitalizing on the racism and sexism of others.

          Which was the heart of the post — the “dog whistle.” It’s kind of a circular reasoning. Once something is considered offensive, it can be come in fact offensive based only on that basis.

          Which seems wrong, but I’m not certain it’s untrue.

      • JohnMcG says:

        I think it’s the saying it out loud. Or more precisely, saying it out loud and expecting anyone to listen. What I heart it saying is:

        * Women should want to be “10s.”
        * My opinion on what it means to be a “10” is definitive, or at least carries considerable weight.

        Now, what if he had said, “What makes a woman a 10 is a tender heart and a sharp intellect,” the above would still be the same, and most (including) me wouldn’t have a problem with it. So, yes, I have to admit that the inclusion of physical features, and in particular something like large breasts, pushes it into offensive for me.

        • Matt M says:

          In the context of a radio shock jock asking him to rate the characters on a show that is highly sexually charged, that would be quite a bizarre thing to say (and a nice way to guarantee you’ll never be invited back to the show hosted by a very popular guy in your city)

        • gbdub says:

          Why is intellect an acceptable attraction, but large breasts not? Both have both heritable and environmental components.

        • Jaskologist says:

          I’m having a hard time formulating a version of this that does not boil down to “It is unacceptable for men to be openly heterosexual.”

          • Agronomous says:

            I really, really, really don’t want to see any Straight Pride parades….

          • Anonymous says:

            Is it really so strange to have a norm against discussing publicly what types of woman you’d like to fuck?

            That’s been a bread and butter middle class norm in the US since we’ve been founded. At least among the Puritans, Quakers, and Cavaliers. Not sure about the Border Reavers.

          • JohnMcG says:

            We has humans have a variety of urges. There are appropriate times and places to act on them or express them.

            We might be tired, hungry, horny, etc. As children, we respond to these by crying so that our caregivers can help us.

            As adults, we should learn that these our balanced with other needs.

            The proper response to Trump saying his idea of a 10 should be, “Who gives a F?” That we don’t, and he knows we don’t is the fundamental problem, which he is flaunting.

  48. Fishriff says:

    Gentiles telling Jews what is and isn’t antisemitism. What else is new?

    • keranih says:

      Ok, shouldn’t feed the troll, but…

      How are we defining these terms? Can someone who is not an antisemite accurately identify the thought processes of a person who is bigoted against jews?

      Is a woman who accuses another person of sexism actually understanding what that person meant to say, or is that woman only reporting how the words/action made her feel?

      I think it’s a given that we don’t have accurate mindreaders, so we are not able to know what evil lurks in the hearts of men. But some judgement must be made.

      What is our metric for determining what is harmful/oppressive/badthought, vs what is not?

      (Please, let’s assume that It Is Known that for some people, it’s a version of “If a man/white/straight says it, and I object to it, then it’s wrong”, but we reject that reasoning, and go on from there, instead of wading through a bunch of tribal flag waving before we come to the heart of the issue.)

    • Urstoff says:

      Men shouldn’t even be allowed to debate abortion!

    • Anonymou says:

      Since when is Scott a gentile?

  49. danyzn says:

    It cannot be the case that people are always making unwarranted inferences from dog whistles to openly professed beliefs. Such inferences are warranted by the fact that people are always making them. I may think that “a person who is flat-chested is very hard to be a 10”, but I would never say that unless I intended to convey open sexism.

    “Jews stink” is not a statement of one’s olfactory experience with Jews but an expression of anti-Semitism. It is so just because everyone treats it as such. This is a really inefficient way to use language: there are so many redundant ways to express anti-Semitsm but zero ways to convey experience of bad-smelling Jews. That’s just the way it is.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I may think that “a person who is flat-chested is very hard to be a 10”, but I would never say that unless I intended to convey open sexism.

      So, does thinking that make you a sexist? Or is it OK to think at as long as you don’t say it? I don’t see how it’s sexist at all. Boorish, in most contexts. But merely having or expressing opinions on women’s beauty doesn’t make one a sexist.

  50. Daniel says:

    I’ve read every single post by Scott Alexander, and this is the first one that I completely disagree with

    The entire point on Ken Livingstone is absurd. It completely ignores the entire situation of what was happening in the Labour party at the time (http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/202104/anti-semitism-labour-party-corbyn). Additionally, it also ignores so much of what we know about anti-Semitism. People who question the Shoah aren’t just interested in history. People who call Israel Nazis aren’t just making a comparison. People’s delusional thoughts about Jews rarely ever are limited to one subject.

    Secondly, the article displays a complete misunderstanding for the entire idea of things being objectionable and racist. People rarely want to (or are going to be open about it) go on a pogrom about the oppositional group, or refuse to hire any of them, or things like that – but that doesn’t mean a person’s thoughts, actions or statements aren’t offensive to the point of being racist, sexist, or anything else. Your standard for what meets someone being racist/sexist etc. is so obviously completely different from what the common definition in society is. If you want to raise the threshold for racism and claim that racism/sexism only exists when one actively discriminates against a group, then do that – but that is a completely different conversation.

    If someone calls you a Kike, or says that Jews have no loyalty to the United States, are unclean etc; they might be still really nice to you, want to be your friend, hire you, maybe even date you, but they are still anti-Semitic.

  51. TD says:

    Politicians are often called liars, and this is true, but there’s a ceiling for that. You can’t run on an open platform of ultratraditionalist ultracapitalism, and then in your inauguration speech come out with “Joke. I’m a communist!” and start imposing Marxist legislation, because all your supporters would leave you instantly, your own party would block you, and the communists aren’t going to suddenly join you. You can’t bait and switch like this.

    Politicians can pretend to hold a more moderate version of their actual beliefs, with it going unsaid that this is the case, because it’s assumed that everyone who is on the moderate left/right is actually farther to the left/right than they’d admit from a position of vulnerability. You can run on a position of moderately socially conservative moderately unleashed capitalism, and then come out as being actually for ultratraditionalist ultracapitalism once in power, because the first allows you to get the moderates and the extremists as a base, and the second doesn’t alienate the extremists when you need them to be your shock troops and whips to keep the alienated moderates in line. You can soften your values, without any political spectrum bait and switch going on. This is a very risky strategy, but with a high reward for marginalized extremists, and accusing someone of using a “dog whistle” is a way of trying to scupper that.

    In order to correctly use the dog whistle accusation, you need to make sure you don’t use it too lightly or too much, because otherwise you’ll end up readjusting people to be more tolerant towards the thing you are trying to get them to oppose as your smears just become background radiation. So pick something with a very strong history as a dog whistle tactic (“urban youths” as a race euphemism for example), and also make absolutely sure that you pick the strategy from the second paragraph of this post, and not the first. Accusing a right wing party candidate of being a secret ultracommunist is out of order.

    The first two examples Scott gave fall into the category of bait and switch. Ted Cruz using “New York values” as a euphemism for Jewish is implausible because his party (this may change) is often enthusiastic about the shared values of Jews and Christians; you could call the Republican Party philosemitic even, and they would just block a secret nazi Ted Cruz in congress. Ken Livingstone over in the UK Labour Party is left wing, and while there’s a hatred for Zionism/pro-Israel positions, there’s nothing ethnonationalist about Labour or left wing parties in general, so the accusation is absurd for the same reasons.

    The accusation that Donald Trump is a misogynist is also absurd taken absolutely literally, but since he is a right wing candidate in a right wing party, and has hordes of traditionalist and nationalist extremists backing him up no matter what, it’s a lot more plausible that he’s downplaying the kinds of policies he’d be interested in getting passed. If he suddenly once President acquiesced to the social conservatives in his actual party, then he’d have no more trouble getting that legislation passed than an open social conservative. Accusing him of engaging in dog whistle tactics can be effective because it signals to moderate Trump supporters that they won’t be getting what they’re expecting. This helps prevent him getting into power in the first place. The media just happens to be doing this in a really really really inept way.

    • Randy M says:

      don’t use it too lightly or too much, because otherwise you’ll end up readjusting people to be more tolerant towards the thing you are trying to get them to oppose

      Eventually people start disbelieving in the wolf.
      Sometime later, they may start rooting for the wolf.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        Beautiful. I tried to say something like this up-page, and took orders of magnitude more words with inferior effect.

    • MugaSofer says:

      >Politicians are often called liars, and this is true, but there’s a ceiling for that. You can’t run on an open platform of ultratraditionalist ultracapitalism, and then in your inauguration speech come out with “Joke. I’m a communist!” and start imposing Marxist legislation, because all your supporters would leave you instantly, your own party would block you, and the communists aren’t going to suddenly join you. You can’t bait and switch like this.

      Trump appears to have developed a cunning solution to this problem, which to simply claim you were a communist all along and never said otherwise. It seems to work for him.

  52. James A. says:

    I don’t get it man. You understand perfectly well that when media elites and regular people are discussing person X (or statements made by person X), they use the terms “dog-whistle” in a way that essentially means “person X hasn’t actually made any explicit racistsexistantisemiticetcetera statements, but the logic/rhetoric X uses implies that they hold racistsexistantisemiticetcetera views.” Either that, or that they genuinely believe that the belief that “Hitler was supporting Zionism” is included in the category “antisemitic”.

    Why is this? Obviously it’s because these words are mapped to so many meanings that they’ve become useless. Perhaps members of the same in-group have a mutual understanding of the denotations and connotations of a particular -ism word (though based on personal observation, I haven’t found this to be true), but it doesn’t matter since members of different groups come together on the interwebs to argue about whether or not X is [something]-ist every day.

    I’m sure you know this to be obvious, that the word and the thing are not the same. And yet, this thread is full of very smart people asking very useless questions like “so is ABC antisemitic or not?”, and very smart people answering those questions with “well, maybe ABC is antisemitic if DEF, but not if FGH”. It’s an utter waste of time, and helps nobody.

    The only way to resolve this is to ensure that parties to a debate have an exact mutual understanding of the terms that they are using. Force people to unpack their words, or to just taboo them outright. If someone asks “is X antisemitic?”, say “define antisemitic”. Otherwise, progress on this very important topic will not be made.

    • moridinamael says:

      Yeah, it seems like everybody needs a refresher on 37 Ways That Words Can Be Wrong. I really thought we were well past these ungrounded arguments over definitions.

    • Randy M says:

      The only way to resolve this is to ensure that parties to a debate have an exact mutual understanding of the terms that they are using. Force people to unpack their words, or to just taboo them outright. If someone asks “is X antisemitic?”, say “define antisemitic”. Otherwise, progress on this very important topic will not be made.

      This doesn’t work for politicians. X can say “Y is sexist, as I define it thusly–thinking unequal treatment is ever justified.”
      Y replies, “Well then by that definition I am sexist, because I don’t want to draft women or give maternity leave to men. ”
      Headline or ad the next day: “Y is a self-described sexist! Hates women!”

      • James A. says:

        >This doesn’t work for politicians.

        I was talking about charitable debates between smart people. Trying to get polarized journalists to interpret their outgroup’s statements charitably is an exercise in futility.

    • lemmy caution says:

      this is the “rectification of names”.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rectification_of_names

      not going to happen

  53. onyomi says:

    I also want to suggest, again, that maybe some of this has to do with a simple paucity of descriptive vocabulary, though I’m sure much of it is designed to take advantage of the sensational nature of words like “racist” and “sexist.”

    For example, we had a debate not too long ago about whether the birther thing was “racist” or merely “xenophobic.” Part of my point was that the average person doesn’t know the word “xenophobic.” For them, what we call “racism” encompasses xenophobia.

    Similarly, we who are careful about terms may describe “sexism” as “the belief that women are inherently inferior to men.” But I think the general population defines sexism as “women+[is there an LW terms for the opposite of “applause lights”?]”

    • Randy M says:

      Boo light.

      It’s funny that by technically correct definitions, one can be a “misogynist” without being a sexist, provided you also are miso to men as well.
      (I use the prefix because I’m not sure if misogynist is means behavior, feelings, or both. Another point towards the paucity of language, perhaps)

  54. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    1) One tenet of Social Justice is that how people feel matters. Trump clearly doesn’t care how his comments make women feel. Similar goes for Livingstone, but if his gaffe was in the heat of the moment it’s less bad. I wouldn’t call it “open sexism” but it’s not great.

    2) You can use *ism as a weapon against your enemies without believing it yourself, and the effect is still rather unjust. Using period innuendo against a critic falls under this.

  55. onyomi says:

    “politicians’ beliefs and plans are best predicted by what they say their beliefs and plans are, or possibly what beliefs and plans they’ve supported in the past”

    I agree, and just want to point out, if it hasn’t already been said or isn’t already obvious, that it cuts both ways: due to tribal priors, people are strongly primed to believe bad things about politicians representing the other side, and so will latch onto any excuse to confirm that.

    But the opposite is also true: if tribal affiliations and/or personal charisma predispose you to liking a politicians, you will tend to read into his/her statements whatever you want to hear. Which is why vagueness+charisma is such a good strategy. Worked for Obama and is now working pretty well for Trump.

    Heck, I even kind of hope Trump may be in favor of smaller government.

  56. herbert herbertson says:

    I think it’s odd to insist that one needs to be on the Eliot Rogers spectrum to qualify as “sexist.” In the common vernacular, most men who are referred to as sexist aren’t irrational woman-haters. Typically, they are boorish men who are viewed as not respecting women.

    You correctly point out the flaws of the dog whistle discourse as applied to sexism and antisemitism, but the problem there isn’t the discourse of dog whistles, but its application to those issues. Dogwhistles are a symptom of a prematurely ended fight, an underground revanchism that results when the public discourse excludes a viewpoint that a lot of people actually still hold. It applies to race, because we went from a society with de jure Jim Crow to one where racism was publicly taboo within the space of a generation. Racists need dogwhistles to communicate with one another, and they do so because there’s still plenty of them out there–there’s a genuine and substantial community, a constituency, with a need for communication and an inability to do so openly. But there’s not plenty of antisemites, and there’s not that many Eliot Rogers. Everyone has women in their lives, so outright woman-hatred just isn’t that common, and antisemitism never had enough of an imprint in America (and really, the West in general) to have survived the backlash of the Holocaust.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      In the common vernacular, most men who are referred to as sexist aren’t irrational woman-haters. Typically, they are boorish men who are viewed as not respecting women.

      Which is part of the problem he’s highlighting.

      Not respecting women is bad, being boorish is bad. But conflating those things with rape, murder and oppression weakens your ability to condemn the latter in the process.

      We’ve seen how this can actually make women less safe: such as when feminists marched in Cologne in support of gang rapists, because the people opposing the attacks made the faux pas of talking about “our women” in the process. Or how any number of practical self-defense measures have been forbidden to be taught out of a misguided belief that they constitute victim blaming.

      If our priority is helping women, then using the terms developed to talk about systematic abuse and violation to scold people for impoliteness is a huge misstep.

      • herbert herbertson says:

        My point is that irrational woman-hating is exceedingly rare and not a significant contributor to harm-to-women when compared with the more mundane but infinitely more common forms of disrespect, which can easily morph into actual violence under particular circumstances (for example, a man like Donald Trump who is in the habit of disrespecting women, might, in the context of a deteriorating relationship and a botched medical procedure and the associated stress and chaos, violently force himself on his wife). Go browse a askreddit thread on “when did you finally decide to leave your SO” some time; you’ll read story after story of men who would never gang-rape a stranger, would never go postal on a sorority house, but who were nonetheless hell on the women in their lives through a fairly straightforward and “rational” (from an amoral perspective) egotistical lack of respect.

        And while it’s certainly tenable to deny the link between that, to say “disrespect is disrespect, and whatever association with rapeyiness is may have doesn’t change the fact that those are distinct and different actions”–but then you’re going to need to stop saying things like that a random march in Cologne that I’ve never heard of and probably can’t be fairly steelmanned as supporting gang rapists “actually makes women less safe,” because that shit is pretty tenuous.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          more mundane but infinitely more common forms of disrespect, which can easily morph into actual violence under particular circumstances

          The problem is, the numbers paint the opposite story.

          Most attacks on women, outside of wartime or ethnic struggle anyway, are purported by a small percentage of hardcore serial rapists and abusers. Opportunistic attacks by first-offenders are extremely rare.

          If we are willing to believe that casual sexism is the driver, then we would see the exact opposite pattern.

          that shit is pretty tenuous.

          Well then what about the self defense bit I mentioned?

          There’s a pretty good literature that most would-be rapists deliberately go after ‘soft targets,’ like most other criminals. Women who fight back and yell when attacked, and especially those who carry firearms, can protect themselves effectively. For that matter, simply not drinking to excess or going somewhere alone with a newly acquainted man sharply cuts down on the opportunities for sexual violence against them.

          Of course, mentioning this is victim blaming and propagating rape culture.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            I don’t agree with your take on the numbers. Most attacks on women come from intimate partners. Thank god, those are still coming from what is a relatively small minority of men, but we’re still talking about a large number of men who are acting on something less than an explicit ideology of woman-hatred or anything akin to it.

            I also disagree with your take on the self-defense aspect, although I don’t blame you for that one. Feminism has a point when it makes those arguments, and I by and large agree with it, but it’s a subtle and nuanced point to make and we’ve done a piss-poor job articulating it. Suffice it to say that I don’t think any feminists actually object to risk-mitigation/self-defense strategies, and where the rubber meets the road are often quite willing to teach them, but object to it having a large piece of the discussion or of being a broad solution.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Intimate partners is kind of a slippery term though.

            In general, crime statistics show that most crimes are committed by “acquaintances” which includes date rape. But the issue is that these aren’t by and large people you’re well acquainted with or close friends, so much as they aren’t perfect strangers. Obviously this pattern breaks for domestic abuse.

            As for men who commit these attacks not actually being motivated by hatred for women as such, that’s true but I’m not sure what to do with it. The dominant framing at least since the victory of second wave feminism has been that attacks on women by men are inherently misogynistic. Rejecting that framing takes a lot of our current opposition to sex crimes and abuse with it, which might be unwise.

  57. Blue says:

    Mostly true, and I am very strongly in favor of not deciphering politicians like a secret code. But!

    1) Anti-semitic or not, insulting broad groups is not and should not be okay. There are only 4 million Jewish people in America (including myself), but there are 8.4 million people in NYC (also including myself.) Dismissing the latter group as entirely having a corrupt value system is not ethically defensible.

    2) I find Trump’s repeated eagerness to define women’s attractiveness bad. It’s not merely boorish as in rude to everyone, it specifically treats women differently. “Openly sexist” might be too far to call it, but there should be a better term than boorish.

    3) I understand you’re taking aim at media that hyper-focus on claims of sexism and racism, but honestly, obsession with finding the “secret beliefs” of public figures goes well beyond those categories.

    • Blue says:

      Also, anti-semitism is a complex term. In some sense it’s specific to Judaism… but it can refer to other cultural things. Nations, especially the rural parts, often develop a paranoia about city dwellers – that they are over-educated, nebbish, creepy, disease-ridden, corrupt, manipulating money, and want to have their way with your pure women. This is a primal myth you see repeated in many places, that only sometimes targets jews specifically (I think Scott had a post about how mockery of neckbeards looks an awful lot like anti-semitism). It definitely reads as if Cruz was playing into that myth, one which is very often intertangled with anti-semitism so much as to be indistinguishable, even if he otherwise a friend of some Mideast state that wants to blow up other Mideast states.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        No, it’s not specific to Judaism at all, where are you getting this from?

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        > It definitely reads as if Cruz was playing into that myth

        That “definitely” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here, you realize.

        Also, it’s a bit rich to complain about anti-Semitism in one breath, and then breezily throw out “some Mideast state that wants to blow up other Mideast states” (wink wink!) in the next.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Agreed, I’m pretty sure at this point that the New York = Jew York thing is a distinctly blue tribe dog whistle.

          Media Talking Head: Obviously disliking New York City is the same as hating Jews because everyone knows that NYC is run by Jews!

          Random Mid-Westerner: Err whut?

      • Steve Sailer says:

        “Nations, especially the rural parts, often develop a paranoia about city dwellers – that they are over-educated, nebbish, creepy, disease-ridden, corrupt, manipulating money, and want to have their way with your pure women.”

        As Ben Stein pointed out decades ago in “The View from Sunset Boulevard” about the prejudices of screenwriter, a common theme of episodes of 1960s and 1970s detective TV shows was the hero leaves Los Angeles for a case in a small town that turns out to be a nightmare of smalltown crime and conspiracy against the innocent city-slicker.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Regarding 2, the guy judged beauty contests. Now, maybe you think those are bad, but let’s be up-front about the context and implications.

      • Blue says:

        He has through the primaries continued to describe women who support him as beautiful (somewhat normal behavior) and women who oppose him as ugly (pretty terrible).

        • Matt M says:

          So he is nice to his supporters and mean to his opponents, regardless of their gender.

          That may be mean, but it’s not sexist.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            Does he talk about how beautiful the men who support him are?

          • onyomi says:

            Is using different terms to praise and criticize men and women inherently sexist?

            (I’m pretty sure some think it is, but if you call a woman a “bitch” for behavior which, if a man did it, you’d call him an “asshole,” then that doesn’t seem sexist to me simply by virtue of the terms being gendered. Calling a woman a “bitch” and a man “assertive” for the same behavior, however, would be sexist.

            I do understand that the difference between “asshole” and “bitch” is arguably smaller than that between praising someone for their intelligence vs looks, but culturally, it’s conventional for men to compliment women on their looks more than other men; if you want to just generally express a positive feeling about a man, you might say he’s “terrific,” when you might call a woman “lovely,” for doing the same thing; this doesn’t strike me as inherently sexist).

    • Matt M says:

      “I find Trump’s repeated eagerness to define women’s attractiveness bad. It’s not merely boorish as in rude to everyone, it specifically treats women differently. ”

      For this to be true, you would have to compare it to how eagerly Trump defines men’s attractiveness. We certainly have plenty of evidence that he has done that entirely eagerly and willingly on the campaign trail (in that he mocked the appearance of his male GOP rivals constantly)

      You can say “it’s bad to judge people based on their appearance” if you want, but if he does it to women AND men approximately the same amount, it’s not sexism and it’s not “treating women differently” but rather, treating them the same.

      • herbert herbertson says:

        This is naive and/or ignores how tied up judgments of physical attractiveness are in gender relations. Women have, for a very long time, found their fortunes particularly and uniquely tied to their physical attractiveness in a way that men have not.

        “Trump, in his majestic equality, insults men as well as women as fat disgusting pigs.”

        • Matt M says:

          But this gets back to the original point of this post:

          It is not Trump’s responsibility to ensure that society puts the exact same level of weight of importance on the physical appearance of men and women.

          The question is – is he being sexist or not. If he treats men and women equally, then he is not. The fact that some other people might think that remarks on appearance towards women are more meaningful than remarks on appearance towards men is completely independent of Trump and not at all his problem.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            I think you, and to the extent that Scott agrees with what you’re saying here, he, are using overly formal and abstract definitions of “sexism” that are out of touch with the common vernacular understanding, which includes a failure to take into account of the historical and social context which makes it very different to call a woman vs. a man a fat pig.

          • Matt M says:

            That may very well be the case.

            My point would be that if the term “sexism” is not specific enough as to distinguish between so many various different definitions, it’s not a very good term and we should pick a different one.

            But perhaps the vagueness is a feature, not a bug, among those who choose to use it. Perhaps it’s considered a very large benefit to SJW types who can call Trump a sexist, knowing that many people will see that to mean “he hates women and treats them worse than he treats men” when all they can sufficiently prove is “he doesn’t go out of his way to work around societal constructs which exist independently of him for the sake of making women feel good about themselves”

            If a term cannot distinguish between behavior that virtually everyone finds incredibly repulsive, and behavior that is highly politicized such that half the country thinks it’s reasonably acceptable, then that term is a very poor descriptor and we should all work to avoid using it.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            It’s not a nefarious SJW motte and bailey, it’s a genuinely complex issue that is properly resisting your attempt to define it down into something that barely exists.

          • Anonymous says:

            @herbert herberson

            I think it’s very easy to be led astray trying to make sense of sexism as a single coherent concept, as doing so seems to lead to one of two absurd extremes.

            If you take seriously the idea that there shouldn’t be any average differences between the experiences of men and the experiences of women, you need to take a sledgehammer to the preferences of almost every man and woman alive.

            On the other hand, there really are problems that people face that they perhaps ought not to face, that sometimes have something to do with gender. Upon realising that ‘remove gender differences’ taken as a universal axiom would entail transforming humans into an asexual species against everyone’s will, and that this is maybe a bad idea, it’s easy to come to the opposite conclusion, equally silly: that everyone should act entirely according to what would make them most attractive to the opposite sex, that there are no gender-related problems in the world at all.

          • Wilj says:

            @hh

            No, I think it’s closer to being used as a “nefarious” motte and bailey.

            If you look at the “openly sexist” articles linked in the main post, you don’t see them delving into the nitty-gritty of varying definitions of sexism and how we ought to be careful to elaborate that Trump isn’t the “hates women in general” type but rather the “doesn’t go far enough in ensuring the negates structural disadvantages toward women” type. Instead, they freely equivocate between the two, if indeed they even hold the distinction, and delight in asserting how *hateful* toward women Trump *definitely* is.

            So if the complaint is that “sexism” is being misused, either by being applied at all or by being applied as a “concept that barely exists” while excused with the “genuinely complex” interpretation… it seems pretty reasonable to me.

      • Blue says:

        Okay, but if there is a difference in how he describes men and women, will you concede his behavior is sexist then?

        I honestly don’t recall him mocking the appearance of men, though because it’s Trump I’m going to assume you’re right and he’s said stupid things about that too. It’s probably more about specific traits, than ever fully summing up someone’s value and ranking it.

        For the record, I do not think Trump is, in his innermost soul, sexist or hates any particular group more than others. I think he is a cruel bully who attacks people’s weaknesses. Many women feel insecure about their appearance, and so that is how he attacks them (or praises them). In doing so he is part of a sexist structural system, and shows how women have it different than men in our society.

        This is negative behavior and should be harshly discouraged.

        • Matt M says:

          And I think Scott’s point here is that we can continue to harshly discourage negative behavior AND be accurate in describing it.

          The point is not “Trump is a nice and virtuous man” but rather “what Trump is doing does not meet the criteria of sexism, so let’s stop calling it that okay?”

          • Blue says:

            No, but it is sexism. It’s not the sexism of Trump’s soul showing itself for real – it’s the structural sexism of Trump’s defector-style behavior targeting women differently and worse than men. We should care about that, and we should want it to stop.

            Obviously there are some articles that insult Trump stupidly and bring bad analysis. But that does not free us from the responsibility to read Trump’s statements for the structural oppression they are.

            And all of this can be done without decoding secret messages or pondering what Trump truly feels deep inside.

    • candles says:

      About 1)…

      Ethically defensible or not, America’s coastal cities (like coastal cities throughout the world) are the centers of most of our national and international media, and thus have a very disproportionate influence on national conversations, especially when it comes to questions of values.

      When I was growing up as Mormon in a suburb in the heavily Baptist South in the mid-90’s, we as teens were all still watching and mimicking Saturday Night Live, random Hollywood movies, and a bunch of heroin addicts out of Seattle singing odes to their addictions. That culture / value flow was expressly one way; no one in those markets was on the receiving end of any culture from my local Southern Baptist mega-church (except, potentially, from their own childhoods before they fled to the coastal cities).

      I’m not saying that to suggest that insulting New York values is okay, but there is absolutely a kind of massive power imbalance there that reasonable people outside of coastal cities have deep problems with, a kind of colonization / coastal-man’s-burden that is pretty obvious to people on the other end of it.

      • Blue says:

        I agree that is a power imbalance, and that sort of red-state-resentment fuels a lot of political anger in this country. The ethical choice is to address the power imbalance. The short-sighted choice is to demonize the city-dwellers and try to unite your tribe around expunging them from the party.

        I am not someone who thinks an accusation of antisemitism should destroy your career (and in Ted Cruz’s case, it definitely did not.) But if we are not looking for secret messages, we should read the statement for what it plainly is: a view that big cities and their values are evil.

        • ad says:

          The ethical choice is to address the power imbalance. The short-sighted choice is to demonize the city-dwellers and try to unite your tribe around expunging them from the party.

          It is a pity, then, that the way to address a power imbalance is for the despised to ally with each other against the powerful. Which in this case would mean uniting your tribe against the city-dwellers.

    • Creutzer says:

      there are 8.4 million people in NYC (also including myself.) Dismissing the latter group as entirely having a corrupt value system is not ethically defensible.

      Nobody is dismissing every single New Yorker as having a corrupt value system. But I think it is perfectly alright to say that something is wrong with values that are prevalent in a certain region or among certain people. In fact, to call this “not ethically defensible” strikes me as bizarre. I mean, what else are you going to do? Agree that everything everybody does is fine? Say that only isolated individuals in the whole world do things that are not fine?

      • Anonymous says:

        They sure are happy to spend our tax dollars tho.

      • Blue says:

        Okay, but then this is just isomorphic to anti-semitism. You went from “most Jews are bad or have bad values” to “most New Yorkers are bad or have bad values”. Why would this be a good thing?

        “What else are you going to do?” Well, condemn specific actions, condemn systems of oppression, critique various statements of values, but resist from imagining that those evils come from “bad people” or vaguely defined groups of bad people.

        • Creutzer says:

          But there was not talk about “bad people”. Someone said they don’t “agree with New york values”. That was a convenient shorthand for a vague set of values prevalent among powerful people in New York. (Values generally come in vague sets, so it’s really difficult to disagree with concrete statements of them.) I just don’t think it’s reasonable to parse this as “New Yorkers are bad people” (let alone the really offensive “New Yorkers are bad people qua New Yorkers”). They were also not saying that New Yorkers should be disenfranchised and have no say in anything. In the context of a presidential campaign, saying that you don’t agree with New York values just means that you think the country, as a whole, shouldn’t be run on those values.

          Maybe I’m wrong about the particular case of Cruz. Maybe he wants all New Yorkers to be sent to ghettos or whatever. I’m just arguing that “I don’t agree with New York values” is not, per se and automatically, an offensive statement.

          I don’t buy the isomorphism to common instantiations of anti-semitism, although I must admit that anti-semitism, to me, is a very strange and incomprehensible thing that I don’t understand very well. I doesn’t seem to be well-summarised by “I don’t agree with Jewish values”, though. For one think, I have something of an intuitive grasp of New York values while I have no clue what Jewish values are supposed to be, except perhaps, stereotypically, literacy and its extensions, and why on earth would anyone object to that?

          • Matt M says:

            Let’s also keep in mind that at the time, Cruz wasn’t running a presidential race, he was running a race for the GOP nomination.

            Early on, Trump was mostly winning blue states (that he can’t be expected to win in the general) and Cruz was mostly winning red states. I think there’s a somewhat relevant argument to be made that the decision of who gets the GOP nomination should largely be made by people who are actually going to vote for the GOP come November.

            I think most of what Cruz was trying to say with “New York values” was “Trump is winning the blue states, who you’re supposed to hate, remember? I’m winning the good ol heartland where true patriotic Americans live!”

  58. Jaskologist says:

    My general policy is to assume that politicians are lying when they say things I like, and telling the truth when they say things I don’t. It seems to have pretty good predictive power so far.

  59. JakeR says:

    Scott, the way you point out how his opponents insist on painting him as sexist and racist instead of just as a boorish, childish simpleton reminds me of something that I’ve observed recently: There is a fundamental irrationality to our society’s attitudes of the kind of people we find acceptable. We live in a time where you can be the most genuinely offensive, rude and disgusting person in the world, and people will still tolerate you, but if you cross certain taboo lines then you instantly become socially toxic. For example, if I angrily started yelling at the black clerk at the customer service desk and calling her an idiotic, incompetent asshole who has the brain of a turtle, questionable parentage, and a masterful ineptitude of her worthless job, and I started threatening to get her fired, then people will just look at me like a jerk and I will suffer no serious consequences. But if instead of doing all that, I simply roll my eyes in frustration at her and quietly mutter, “Every time I deal with you people, something like this happens,” then I will be labeled a racist and be faced with much more serious repercussions. In other words, being a total and unmitigated jackass who treats people like shit is more more acceptable to our society than is being someone who is generally decent, yet politically incorrect.

    It’s the same thing with how they view Trump. He can be a jerk, a buffoon, and incontrovertibly intellectually lacking for the job of president. But all that doesn’t make him as unacceptable as being (perceived as) a racist or sexist.

    • DavidS says:

      I think you need to justify the claim this is fundamentally irrational. Off the top of my head, it’s much easier/cleaner to have a code of conduct which bars things than one which is based on complex and subjective assessments of just how unreasonable/offensive someone is being. Some level of calling someone incompetent can be the right thing to do, so we can’t just rule it out of order.

      In your situation, you’d definitely face more repercussions if you hit them, even if it was just say a slap to the face. Plenty of people will be a lot more upset/hurt by being shouted out and insulted in public than a slap, but again, the line’s easier to draw.

      Similarly with Trump, the question of having skills for President is complex whereas plenty of people would look at a single comment and say ‘OK, someone who says things like that is not someone I want to vote for’.

      On a factual point, I’m not convinced that you’d face serious repercussions if you said something racist like that. People might challenge you on it, but I think it would be very unlikely to go further (and I think both being challenged and a chance of going further would go with the generally being abusive alternative you mention).

    • MugaSofer says:

      >But if instead of doing all that, I simply roll my eyes in frustration at her and quietly mutter, “Every time I deal with you people, something like this happens,” then I will be labeled a racist and be faced with much more serious repercussions.

      Unless you’re saying this in front of someone who uploads it to Youtube and goes viral, almost certainly not.

      >his opponents insist on painting him as sexist and racist

      Except Trump is sexist and racist; people have posted unequivocally sexist and racist quotes from Trump here. That the media insists on instead paying attention to relatively innocuous statements and insisting they betray Secret Racism(tm) is annoying, but doesn’t actually betray a failure for liberals to correctly model Trump.

      • Matt M says:

        “That the media insists on instead paying attention to relatively innocuous statements and insisting they betray Secret Racism(tm) is annoying, but doesn’t actually betray a failure for liberals to correctly model Trump.”

        I’m genuinely curious as to why you think this happens.

        Most of the media that are driving attention to the innocuous statements are clearly anti-Trump, so why are they doing that? Are they all just that incompetent, or what?

        And as a a follow-up, for people who are neutral (or Trump supporters), is it reasonable for them to think something like “I can tell this media outlet is out to get Trump, yet it leads with fairly innocuous material, which leads me to believe this must be the WORST they have on Trump, so he must not be that bad.”?

        • MugaSofer says:

          Depends what you mean by “reasonable”. I certainly thought that, then I researched it, and having updated I now must conclude that my reasoning was flawed and untrustworthy.

          Scott has written about this phenomenon before in his “The Toxoplasma of Rage” post, but I never really bought it until Trump.

          Even now, I find it hard to believe media people would do it deliberately, yet also hard to believe they’re so incompetent as to do it accidentally. Perhaps it’s an evolved property of the liberal memeplex, to give people habits of thought that lead to them picking terrible examples all the time?

          • Nicholas says:

            They’ve bought into a narrative that murky controversy drives clicks, and clicks mean money. So they’ve adapted to only display the most toxoplasmic of stories, to create the narratives of most controversy, to generate the easiest clicks in the world.
            At least one small press journalist wrote an op ed a little while ago about how his boss would tell him “Write an article on something, and post it in the next 30 minutes.” That was never enough time to do any research that mattered, so he’d just pick something to be pissed about and go on a tear.

        • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

          It’s just habit. The media constantly interpret everything somebody of the outgroup says in a negative light, combined with their echo chamber they might even think that it works. In addition to his innocous statements, they also led with his actually racist statements, so it’s obvious they cannot get out of the habit (“People, this time the guy is REALLY racist”). This kind of reminds of a phenomenon in behaviourism. If you reward chickens on a particular behaviour for some time and then stop rewarding it, they actually intensify the behaviour in question. This is similar to what is happening now: They try smearing him, and rather than realizing that it’s not working and questioning their strategy, they smear him some more.

    • Two McMillion says:

      I feel like I’ve seen something similar, where the kind of things people say about other races/genders in private don’t pan out in how they treat people of that race/gender when those people are in front of them.

      I have a friend who’s basically a stereotypical SJW. Big into feminism, decoding racist things, etc, etc. And I used to really respect him for it. I disagreed, but I appreciated that he stood for something and had the courage to advance it. Then one day we went out to Starbucks, and the lady behind the counter messed his order up, and he just went ballistic. Lots of anger and demands that it be fixed at once; the poor lady was practically in tears by the time he was done.

      On the other hand, I have family members who are racist. For instance, my mom often makes comments about how all black people/Hispanics/etc are all dirty, criminal types. But when I brought a black roommate home from college for a weekend, she was perfectly nice and polite to him- I didn’t detect anything that could be construed as racist, and that friend has visited several times and told me how much he likes my family (we are sufficiently close that I believe he would tell me if he felt we were being racist against me- I’m going to be in his wedding in a few months).

      And it occurs to me that both my mother and my friend have the same problem, but I hazard that my friend’s problem is more serious. All of my friend’s good will is directed towards people far away from him, towards people he will never meet. All of my mother’s racism is directed at generic black people, not the ones she actually knows. My mother’s beliefs would be labeled “racism”, but from a consequentialist perspective, I find it difficult to maintain that mother’s fear of the outgroup is worse than my friend’s being a jerk to people he meets without regard to race.

      • Anyone have the quote from the Screwtape Letters handy? I’m thinking of the one about a devil recommending that people should be encouraged to push their benevolant impulses further and further from the people they actually deal with.

        • LHN says:

          “Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your patient’s soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbours whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary.”

        • “I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand!”

      • Dan T. says:

        The concept of somebody being fervent about social issues regarding arbitrary distant others while being mean to those close to them is the subject of the song “Easy to be Hard” from the musical Hair:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vz-ofKAC31s

        Especially people who care about strangers
        Who care about evil and social injustice
        Do you only care about the bleeding crowd
        How about a needy friend
        I need a friend

      • TheAncientGeek says:

        t. For instance, my mom often makes comments about how all black people/Hispanics/etc are all dirty, criminal types. But when I brought a black roommate home from college for a weekend, she was perfectly nice and polite to him-

        This sort of thing possibly has the consequence that people who belong to an obvious minority model the world as being less prejudiced than it is, than people who belong to a non-obvious one, because they never get to hear the between-ourselves *ism, whereas the person how is jewish or gay, for instance, gets to hear the material intended for consumption by presumptive straight white gentiles.

    • Anonymous says:

      This comment reminded me of Dan Piraro on obscenity:

      Here’s the bigger point: Americans (and maybe all humans, I’m not sure) are more obsessed with words than with their meanings. I will never understand this as long as I live. Under FCC rules, in broadcast TV you can talk about any kind of depraved sex act you wish, as long as you do not use the word “fuck.” And the word itself is so mysteriously magical that it cannot be used in any way whether the topic is sex or not. “What the fuck?” is a crime that carries a stiff fine — “I’m going to rape your 8-year-old daughter with a trained monkey,” is completely legal.

      I tend to agree; I think there is a tendency in American culture to have taboos on symptoms rather than the disease: on specific symbols rather than the things they represent, and similarly on specific acts or attacking specific groups of people rather than disrespect or violence in general. (I mean, violence is even sometimes seen as virtuous; ever heard of a superhero comic franchise that didn’t originate in the United States?) I think many people realise this on some level; what follows from this — and from the equally American tendency to not understand what the word “subtlety” means — is that in order to discredit someone, people tend to reach for the strongest taboos — which are about symbols/groups of people — never mind whether it makes sense in the context. The result is something similar to this:

      Bob: I want to commit genocide.
      Alice: The Nazis committed genocide.
      Bob: Really? What was I thinking? I can’t believe I was going to do something the Nazis did.

      This is a caricature, of course, and few people are going to directly admit to thinking like this, but this is how it effectively works.

  60. TheAltar says:

    I grew up in an area that had only one Jewish family in the area, so I effectively have zero opinion whatsoever about Jewish people. It is about the same as my opinion of Mongolians. I’ve read about Genghis Kahn, but I have no useful concept of what a modern Mongolian is like as a human being. There’s just an empty space in that slot.

    As an outsider who wants to avoid accusations of racism on things he has zero opinion about, where would I go to learn how to avoid anti-Semitism dog whistles?

    • Jiro says:

      Many of the things mentioned here might be considered slipups but aren’t really dog whistles.

      But that aside, I don’t think you’ll have a problem. Dog whistles about Jews are inherently going to be about subjects related to Jews. If you have no reason to talk about Jews, you probably won’t be talking about those subjects very much, so you are unlikely to say anything that can be accidentally mistaken for a dog whistle.

      And if you do want to talk about subjects related to Jews, your lack of knowledge about Jews will probably make you incompetent to talk about those subjects anyway.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        So, therefore, TheAltar, never ever speak about New York. Also don’t mention Hollywood movies, don’t have an opinion on the Federal Reserve, and don’t talk about “Seinfeld.” But also, don’t know why you aren’t talking about New York, Hollywood, etc.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Jiro advises:

          “Dog whistles about Jews are inherently going to be about subjects related to Jews. If you have no reason to talk about Jews, you probably won’t be talking about those subjects very much, so you are unlikely to say anything that can be accidentally mistaken for a dog whistle.”

          So, TheAltar, you should simply avoid talking about subjects that Jews are talking about. To be safe, don’t talk about anything that the media are discussing.

          That’s the route to relevance!

          Beekeeping is probably a safe subject to discuss. Golf course architecture would seem like a safe subject, too (although, now that I think about it, the one Jewish golf course critic got really angry at me for an apparently politically incorrect remark I made about how golf appeals more to straight men and lesbians than to gay men and straight women).

        • Anonymous says:

          On the other hand, if you *do* want to dog whistle antisemitism just mention Steve Sailer. As a failed journalist very few people in your audience will have ever heard of him, but those that have will know that you mean the guy utterly obsessed with da joos (and also transwomen).

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I mostly think of Sailer as “that other HBD guy” (as opposed to “that HBD guy”, JayMan), but I guess I didn’t learn about him through the usual means.

    • Randy M says:

      I would advise against gravatar, for starters.

    • arbitrary_greay says:

      Stay off of Tumblr. I’ve browsed some that attributed an incredible wide variety of seemingly innocuous descriptions of people to anti-Semitic roots, and obviously therefore maintain their anti-Semitic connotations in all applications today. Just like the term Gypsy and its derivatives!

      For example, using wordplays on the word rat to insult someone with a last name of Rothenberg.
      Or having a black woman deliver a pro-eugenics speech in a TV show.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think antisemitism just isn’t a thing in the U.S. to the same extent that it is in other countries. I remember when I was a kid learning that there were still people who hated Jewish people. It was such a shock. To this day, I still don’t understand it. Did a Jewish kid take your lunch money? Did you read Mein Keimpf and feel it was captivating? Do you just really hate Adam Sandler? Where does the hatred come from?

      • brad says:

        I would amend your statement with anymore. I’ve heard some pretty bad stories from my parents and grandparents.

      • Subbak says:

        Out of curiosity, do you find islamophobia or racism less shocking than antisemitism? Because obviously I agree antisemitism is ridiculous, but your post made it sound as if it was especially suprising compared to other forms of prejudice, which I don’t believe it is.

        • Civilis says:

          It might be that for most of us the Jewish people we know are almost indistinguishable from the normal American ethnic mutt. If the only visible differences are a Menorah instead of a Christmas tree in the window in December and a Bar Mitzvah instead of a Confirmation, then it’s easy to forget the history of ethnic hatred and think of Jewish heritage as no different than Irish or Polish heritage. For what it’s worth, we’ve forgotten the historical bias against other immigrant groups in America in the past.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      > As an outsider who wants to avoid accusations of racism on things he has zero opinion about, where would I go to learn how to avoid anti-Semitism dog whistles?

      I say don’t worry about it. In my experience anti-Semites are rarely shy about their opinions and are very easy to identify for that reason.

      This doesn’t mean there’s no chance of getting accused of whatever, but if someone is going to interpret a perfectly innocuous statement (or even an ignorant one) as a dog whistle, they were probably gunning for you anyway, and there’s nothing you could have done to avoid it other than never meet the person in the first place.

    • Psmith says:

      I’ve read about Genghis Kahn, but I have no useful concept of what a modern Mongolian is like as a human being.

      Asian sheep ranchers. Good wrestlers.

  61. naath says:

    Fellow British politician Ken Livingstone defended him,

    small correction – Naz Shah is a ‘her’ not a ‘him’.

  62. Anonymous says:

    Re: New York values
    There was an almost identical subplot on the West Wing in the 90s where a comment like that was aimed at a character that was supposed to be Jewish.

    At what point is the distinction between saying something you know will be perceived as antisemitic and actually saying something antisemitic meaningless? It isn’t like Cruz came up with the comment on the spot. It was a calculated comment that was undoubtedly workshopped with his team.

    • herbert herbertson says:

      I think you overestimate the degree to which most people make that association. Is this antisemetic?

      • Anonymous says:

        No I don’t think that’s antisemetic.

        But here’s the West Wing clip, which I guarantee you Cruz and all of his top staff have seen. You can’t have been a political geek between the ages of 15 and 45 in the 90s oughts and not have watched the west wing. Yes, even if you were conservative.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbgoAchOhEk

        • herbert herbertson says:

          I’m a political geek who was between the ages of 15 and 45 during the aughties. In fact, I used to live in DC and lived within easy walking distance of the White House for multiple years. I’ve never seen an episode of the West Wing, and have never seen that scene before.

          Edit: also, as a political junkie, I know that Cruz’s base overwhelmingly considers itself philosemetic (even if they don’t actually know jews) while the tiny number of Americans who would be open to an antisemitic appeal were overwhelmingly supporting Cruz’s opponent at the time that he made that statement. Clearly, it was a mistake, because some people did make that association, but I’m fairly confident that Cruz’s people weren’t anticipating it and instead intended it in the purely Pace-picante sense (or, possibly, as a homophobic dog whistle–I guarantee you that the rural cultural conservative’s image of the flaws of New York has far more gay pride parades than it does synagogues)

        • keranih says:

          For what it’s worth, I’ve already talked about not leaning D *and* liking The West Wing.

          That doesn’t mean that every thing they did was fair, or memorable, or accurate. Some of the things that most resonated with me didnt work at all for some of my friends.

          Even when we were working with a more limited Western Canon, reactions to evocation of symbolism varied.

          ***

          I grew up in the South. I did not know many New Yorkers – or even many Northerners – socially. But there were a fair number of snowbirds who stood out for their accents and dress, who were clearly strangers from a strange place. Their values and priorities were not as My Kinda Folks.

          It took me quite a while to realize what I was identifying as “typical New York values” were actually the habits and patterns of a smaller group of New York City Jews – that this was the habit of a people who strongly resisted taking on the habits of outsiders, and rejected the temptation to blend in with the local community.

          And it was quite a while longer than that, and well into my adulthood, before I recognized that at least a little of their rudeness and hostility was because they were in my part of the world, a place where they were uncomfortable, away from their own sorts of people (and food, and weather, and bugs) and amongst strangers. Which didn’t make them any less rude and short tempered, but had I known that, I would have exercised more patience with them.

        • Anonymous says:

          here’s the West Wing clip, which I guarantee you Cruz and all of his top staff have seen. You can’t have been a political geek between the ages of 15 and 45 in the 90s oughts and not have watched the west wing. Yes, even if you were conservative.

          I have a beef with this type of reasoning. It feeds into attempts to root out hidden racism/sexism/whateverism, but it’s also prevalent in other political discourse (MarcoBot can tell you that President Obama knows exactly what he’s doing).

          There are two fairly obvious objections. The first is Herbert’s. Sometimes, people just didn’t have the same experience.

          The second is one that keranih gets at. I don’t lean D, and I loved The West Wing. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t have in a million years made a connection from “New York Values” to that clip.

          I couldn’t imagine being a politician. You get called all kinds of names because something you said sounds vaguely similar to something shown to be offensive in one tiny piece of a pop culture reference from 10-15 years ago. What a friggin’ minefield.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          “This dog whistle plan is totally going to work, just as long as all skinheads watch The West Wing but no liberal journalists do.”

        • Anonymous says:

          The point isn’t that the people need to have seen the west wing to get it, the west wing did that bit for a reason. The dog whistle / euphemism / whatever you want to call it already existed at that point. Aaron Sorkin didn’t just pull it out of thin air.

          The reason I said that TC and his staff had seen the show was that even if they had somehow missed out on the overtones they would have had a chance to make the connection if they had seen that scene.

          For example, I didn’t know gyp was a racial slur until I got to college. But if it had somehow been a plot point in Jurassic Park than it would have been more reasonable to expect I would have known it before then.

          • Randy M says:

            The reason I said that TC and his staff had seen the show was that even if they had somehow missed out on the overtones they would have had a chance to make the connection if they had seen that scene.

            But you are assuming that they made the connection in the first place!
            I had heard Cruz’s remark but didn’t know it was considered anti-semitic until this post.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            I still don’t get what you’re accusing Cruz / his staff of. If this was the sort of thing that was featured as a dog whistle on the West Wing, do you think that makes it more likely to be a dog whistle in reality? Or just that they had atrocious judgment for using something other people would think was a dog whistle?

          • Anonymous says:

            I think “New Yorker” has in the past been actually used as a dog whistle / euphemism for “Jewish” in reality. It wasn’t a contrived scenario for the show. Ted Cruz knew or should have known that.

            Therefore either he intended that meaning to be latent or he had atrocious judgment in using something he knew other people would think was a dog whistle. (The third possibility is the “should have known”). And to circle back to the original point, the first two possibilities are not particularly distinct.

          • onyomi says:

            Why “should” he have known that? I’ve never heard of “New Yorker” being a euphemism for “Jew.” Some people may, at some point, have used it that way, but it’s definitely not common knowledge.

            New York is a place with a lot of Jews, but it’s also a place with a lot of other people, and I wouldn’t even think of the modal New Yorker as being Jewish.

            In terms of stereotypes about New York (City) the first thing that comes to my mind is more like this.

            My stereotype about the rest of the state is just too much snow.

          • Matt M says:

            “Therefore either he intended that meaning to be latent or he had atrocious judgment in using something he knew other people would think was a dog whistle.”

            Can I just say that I feel like we see this reasoning a lot in society and I think it’s really unfair.

            Any time we want to accuse someone of something, but we can’t quite prove it, we just accuse them anyway, then point to the fact that some people believe the accusation, then suggest that the accused must at least have “bad judgment” for putting themselves in a situation where someone might accuse them (i.e. any situation ever).

            It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that someone who does not, in fact, regularly associate with either KKK-level racists or hysterical media pundits constantly looking for a new way to bash Republicans, would not necessarily think that “New York values” = Jewish.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            So, what you are saying is that it’s anti-Semitic to not like New York because everybody knows that Jews control the New York national media, Wall Street, and Madison Avenue?

          • Civilis says:

            I, as someone that comes close to Ted Cruz politically, thought the statement as a mistake at the time because it would be interpreted as an attack against Blue tribe trendy upscale urban culture. New York, to me, has an association with that particular set of traits, which to my perspective overlaps a lot with the perception of both secular Jews (very Blue, very upscale, very urban) and the media. I suspect it also has, to the Red tribe way of looking at things, an association with Donald Trump, in the manner of socially liberal, crass and representative of conspicuous consumption.

            Certain cities seem to have associations in popular culture. If Cruz had talked about San Fransisco values or Chicago values or Detroit, Boston, Seattle, Denver, Las Vegas or Salt Lake City values there would have been a similar interpretation of his words as being against the stereotypical associations with that city, even if those represent a small part of the city itself.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I understand San Francisco (gay), Detroit (poor and black), Las Vegas (crass and commercial, immoral), and Salt Lake City (Mormon). But what would Boston, Chicago, Seattle, or Denver be standing in for? The only thing I associate Chicago with is corruption; Seattle maybe Greens, but the others?

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            I also suspect that Cruz made a tactical mistake for another reason: most of us in Red America, I believe, are proud of New York even if we consider it weird and don’t want our own towns to be like it.

          • Civilis says:

            But what would Boston, Chicago, Seattle, or Denver be standing in for? The only thing I associate Chicago with is corruption; Seattle maybe Greens, but the others?

            Again, just my opinion.

            There’s a difference between urban as code for black and urban as code for ‘doesn’t understand flyover country’, I’m thinking New York is code for the second.

            Detroit is also a code for Union.

            If someone talks about Chicago values, I assume they’re talking about political machines or corruption.

            Boston is either Irish or WASP; if someone is talking about Old Money, I assume it’s somewhere around Boston.

            Seattle is Green/Progressive; on further thought Portland would probably be a better choice in that matter.

            Denver, at least from the Red tribe perspective, seems to be the go-to example of people fleeing Blue tribe areas because of the over-regulation or cultural collapse and then voting to institute the same policies that caused the over-regulation or cultural collapse.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            Nobody’s posted View of The World From 9th Avenue yet?
            That Steinberg sure was crafty in his hidden antisemitism!

        • Hlynkacg says:

          Which seems more likely…

          That his comment was a simply a cheap dig in at his two chief competitors who were both New Yorkers? Or that it was some sort of elaborate West Wing “easter egg”, intended to signal is hatred of international jewery to the cognoscenti?

        • Cypren says:

          Here I will point up that, having grown up in the South, with two parents who were die-hard Republicans, and having spent pretty much all of my life around conservatives of one stripe or another until I was in my mid-20s, I had never heard of “New Yorker” or “New York values” as a reference to Jews until the Cruz flap. While I would no longer describe myself as a conservative by any stretch of the imagination, by and large this seems to be the reaction of most of the conservatives I still know.

          If this is a dog whistle, I’m pretty sure it’s only a dog whistle for liberals, not conservatives.

          (Also, despite having been fairly politically interested since the late 90s, I haven’t ever watched The West Wing all the way through, though it’s probably my wife’s favorite TV series of all time. Aaron Sorkin’s obnoxious political self-righteousness just grates on me too much to like his shows.)

    • Steven says:

      Let’s compare two scenarios here.

      1) Cruz and his team carefully crafted and workshopped a reference to The West Wing, in hopes that American right-wing anti-semites (who are not notably fans of that show, but are known for accusing people of “dual loyalty” to Israel) would notice this “dog whistle” and switch their support to someone whose record and rhetoric has always included staunch support for Israel.

      2) Cruz and his team carefully crafted and workshopped a reference to this appearance on Meet the Press by Donald Trump. Cruz and his team expected the New York-based national media would pick up on his slighting reference to New York, they would tell the media Cruz was referring to this Trump appearance on Meet the Press (which, in fact, they did), and the media would broadcast the video when covering the story, letting Republican primary voters see and hear Donald Trump speaking of his support for gay marriage and partial-birth abortion without the Cruz campaign having to go to the expense of buying a single second of ad time.

      Really, which seems more plausible?

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      >There was an almost identical subplot on the West Wing

      Given Sorkin’s argument style of “go on crack-filled rant full of lies while your opponent sits in scripted, speechless shock, followed by massive applause”… I’d say that supports Scott’s position.

  63. HeelBearCub says:

    This is very poor analysis for two reasons.

    1) Political dog-whistles are not supposed to be undetectable. They are substitutes. “Everyone” knows what they mean, but no one is allowed to say the thing it means. Because they are substitutes, this leads to eventual confusion, and so it looks like people might be trying to secretly signal, but that isn’t what is going on.

    “Death Eater” is a good example of how dog-whistles work. Except if, instead of tabooing the word, you tabooed the belief. “I’m against forced busing” meant that you were against white kids and black kids being in the same school together because you thought segregation was right, and, at the beginning, no one was unclear what this meant.

    2) The headline “Em drive will allow faster than light travel” does not mean that the Em drive will actually allow faster than light travel. Breathless headlines and breathless reporting are as old as reporting. Saying something doesn’t exist because you can find examples of a journalist hyperbolizing when reporting is extremely contra-indicated.

    • Vaniver says:

      Political dog-whistles are not supposed to be undetectable. They are substitutes. “Everyone” knows what they mean, but no one is allowed to say the thing it means.

      No, you’re thinking of euphemisms. See wiki:

      Dog-whistle politics is political messaging employing coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup. The phrase is often used as a pejorative because of the inherently deceptive nature of the practice and because the dog-whistle messages are frequently distasteful to the general populace. The analogy is to a dog whistle, whose high-frequency whistle is heard by dogs but inaudible to humans.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Yes, it’s analogous to a real dog-whistle. But the anology is not exact.

        But do you really think that in Atwater’s time, in 1968 or 1976, say, most people weren’t clear about what being opposed to forced busing actually meant?

        You can’t say “I don’t want my kids going to school with any n*ggers”, but you can say “No forced busing on my watch!” No one is unclear about what you are objecting to, it’s just a more palatable way of expressing it.

        Think about it, how are you going to transmit a secret code to only the true believers anyway? It’s nonsense.

        Dog whistles are “coded” language. The code IS a euphemism.

        • j r says:

          Dog whistles are “coded” language. The code IS a euphemism.

          Except what you’re describing isn’t what Atwater described in his quote. What Atwater is saying that by talking about bussing you are letting voters off the hook for supporting racist policies. That’s not secret code for “hey, I’m a racist too!” It’s telling voters, “Don’t worry. You’re not a racist. You just want the best for your kids.” And that is not how secret codes work at all.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @j r:
            I don’t think that is really correct. It may turn into something like that (which would make it a dog-whistle that even the target didn’t consciously hear).

            But when the original politician say “no forced busing”, it’s because, as Atwater says, it hurts you to say “N*****, N*****, N*****”, but that doesn’t mean that the core objection to segregated schools has been made secret. Everyone is clear that what is being objected to is forcing your white kids to go to school with black kids.

            Sure, 30 years on people want a return to neighborhood schools because they want Johny to be able to walk to school and they don’t remember why busing came in. But that isn’t where it starts.

        • cassander says:

          You should read the whole interview, not just the bit that gets endlessly quoted, because Atwater doesn’t way what you think. It’s quite clear that what atwater is saying is that shouting n**ger used to work, then it stopped worked so you had to find issues BESIDES race to motivate them. He goes on, explicitly, that Reagan had never done racebaiting, that reagan had been campaigning on the same issues for decades, and that it was southerners who came around to him, not him dog whistling southerners. When he talks about a “southern strategy” he’s talking about the racial strategy that democrats used to use to win elections, but which doesn’t work any more.

          To quote him “But Reagan did not have to do a southern strategy for two reasons. Number one, race was was not a dominant issue. And number two, the mainstream issues in this campaign had been, quote, southern issues since way back in the sixties. So Reagan goes out and campaigns on the issues of economics and of national defense. The whole campaign was devoid of any kind of racism, any kind of reference. And I’ll tell you another thing you all need to think about, that even surprised me, is the lack of interest, really, the lack of knowledge right now in the South among white voters about the Voting Rights Act.”

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            Reagan and Nixon both won massive chunks of the country, it seems silly to discuss them obsessively pouring over the south when they won just about everything.

          • cassander says:

            Between 68 and 88, republicans won an average of more than 40 states per election. That’s not a southern strategy but a whole country strategy. And over that Same period, the.Southern congressional delegation remained solid blue.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            And over that Same period, the.Southern congressional delegation remained solid blue.

            This completely misunderstands what happened. At the local and state level, the South remained Democratic. At the national level, the south stopped voting with rest of the Democratic coalition for President.


            The Solid South
            voted overwhelmingly Democratic for president from the end of reconstruction to 1964. From 1968 through today Democrats essentially have not won the south overall with the exception of Carter in 1976, and mostly haven’t won even individual states in the South. It’s a vast departure from the previous almost 90 years or so.

            But individual incumbent house members, senators or local legislative representatives mostly did not change their allegiance to the Republicans. The South only slowly shifted local representation from (D) to (R). U.S. Senate is a little bit of a more mixed bag, with some senators like Strom Thurmond changing parties, and people Jesse Helms changing parties to subsequently run for and win a Senate seat.

            Between 68 and 88, republicans won an average of more than 40 states per election.

            Yes, that is what happens when a bloc of states that used to be unassailably owned by the Democrats flip en masse to the Republicans. The Democrats flounder, which is exactly what LBJ was worried about.

          • cassander says:

            > At the national level, the south stopped voting with rest of the Democratic coalition for President.

            No, the pretty much the whole country stopped voting for democratic presidents.

            > From 1968 through today Democrats essentially have not won the south overall with the exception of Carter in 1976

            that’s because, with the exception of carter, they lost the whole country. democrats won 13 states in 68, one in 72, 23 in 76, 6 in 80, 1 again in 84, and 10 in 88 And, with the exception of 72, republicans did worse in most of the south than they did nationally.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:

            What would this 1960 map look like if you gave Nixon: TX, LA, AR, MS, AL, GA, SC, and NC?

            Nixon wins and Kennedy takes only 16 states.

            In 1964, Goldwater, as a Republican, wins LA, MS, AL, GA, SC, and NC (and his home state of AZ). Eisenhower, who absolutely blew the doors off both his elections only managed to take one of those states once.

            The south (roughly) flipped from Democrat to Republican for presidential elections in 1964. Yeah, 1976 against a very wounded Ford looks a lot like the 1960 Electoral map with Carter, as a Southern Governor running on an anti-government and outsider platform, but that’s the last hurrah for that map.

            It’s not a light switch and it isn’t the only factor. But, really, don’t throw away 90 years of precedent and knowledge of why the Democratic party ruled the South from the end of Reconstruction forward in favor of some theory that wants to ignore the effect of the CRA on Southern voting patterns.

          • cassander says:

            >Nixon wins and Kennedy takes only 16 states.

            Which is a lot more than any democrat won between 68 and 88.

            >In 1964, Goldwater, as a Republican, wins LA, MS, AL, GA, SC, and NC (and his home state of AZ). Eisenhower, who absolutely blew the doors off both his elections only managed to take one of those states once.

            >The south (roughly) flipped from Democrat to Republican for presidential elections in 1964. Yeah, 1976 against a very wounded Ford looks a lot like the 1960 Electoral map with Carter, as a Southern Governor running on an anti-government and outsider platform, but that’s the last hurrah for that map.

            Because, again, when you win 40+ states, everywhere looks red.

            >It’s not a light switch and it isn’t the only factor. But, really, don’t throw away 90 years of precedent and knowledge of why the Democratic party ruled the South from the end of Reconstruction forward in favor of some theory that wants to ignore the effect of the CRA on Southern voting patterns.

            I’m not ignoring that evidence. Up until 1948, the south is solidly democratic. the Dixicrats break in 48, but come back into the fold, despite Ike doing better than any republican in history and managing to chip away at the edges. LBJ had to steal In 60, the dixiecrats split again. In 64, they vote republican. In 68 they go back to the dixiecrats because the republicans won’t push their issues. in 72, everyone votes republican. 76 the south again goes to the democrats. in 80,84,88, almost everyone votes republican again. 92 and 96 the south splits. It’s not until 2000 that a republican wins the south without an overwhelming victory everywhere else.

            As we can see, the history is long and complicated, and cannot be explained by some sort of southern strategy. the south gets acclimatized to the idea of voting republican by a number of overwhelming republican victories, but don’t start to really distinguish themselves from the rest of the country until, at the earliest, the 90s. And if you look at any voting besides presidential, the evidence is even more against a southern strategy theory. Even Taking your strongest evidence, it doesn’t make the case for the conventional wisdom, as much as people like to believe it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            In 68 they go back to the dixiecrats because the republicans won’t push their issues.

            They vote Republican or American Independent Party (George Wallace) in ’68. They don’t vote in the coalition. Wallace runs on segregation as his main issue, first in ’64 (“Segregation now. Segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever!”) and then he runs 3rd party and he wins the South. This about as clear a marker as you can find about what is motivating the Southern voters in civil rights era. The weren’t hosing blacks marching on Birmingham in ’63 for no reason.

            As we can see, the history is long and complicated, and cannot be explained by some sort of southern strategy.

            I certainly never said history wasn’t long and complicated. You appear to be attempting to wipe away one of those “complications” as if it does not exist.

            And if you look at any voting besides presidential, the evidence is even more against a southern strategy theory.

            Asked and already answered. Presidential voting is a leading indicator. The same people, in the same one party that rules the South (the Democrats) continue to be elected. Very little party switching happens. The Southern Democrats are in the process of fracturing from the broad Democratic coalition. They don’t immediately stop being Democrats.

            the south gets acclimatized to the idea of voting republican

            Yes. And this is why they South stops being one party Dem and flips largely to one party Republican, on a state by state basis, over the next 50 years. This trails the Presidential vote change and reflects the fact that national Democratic coalition is no longer a very comfortable home for the kind of Southern Democrats who happened to not want the CRA to pass.

            There are other factors at work at the same time. I’m not denying that. But to argue that passage of the CRA didn’t have a fundamental effect on Southern presidential voting patterns is mystifying.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Dog-whistles could be steel-manned as “signalling.”

      That said, I’ve never seen an article purporting to decode a “dog-whistle” that wasn’t ridiculous.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        So, objections to forced busing weren’t primarily appeals to people who didn’t want there kids going to school with black kids? And, yes, primarily is doing work there. I understand.

        • TPC says:

          The forced busing was at least partially about ethnic white cultures being attacked and having their communities broken up by other ethnic whites. The black kids were the pawns. Forced busing was a way to avoid actually giving black kids equal access to resources. It was thought the threat of busing would open up pocketbooks and lead to segregated but equalized spending. This did not happen and things got very combative on all sides of this issue.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @TPC:
            Are we talking about the same time frame?

            I’m talking about forced busing in response to post Brown v. Board and post CRA requirements that schools be actually integrated, implemented by court order.

          • TPC says:

            Well, there isn’t one timeline. The forced busing and forced integration were to some extent due to a failure of the pocketbooks to fly open for segregated schools and were also due to the chances to score points and break ethnic whites due to anti-Catholic biases. There were competing factions for segregation but equalized spending and integration among both whites and blacks involved with the relevant civil rights movements and legislation.

            It’s hard to reduce it down to one thing, many different moving parts were going on during that twenty year or so period from Brown through the 1970s. It wasn’t, well, black and white back then, though it’s certainly portrayed very narrowly and simply now.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            In Los Angeles, where I grew up, forced busing in 1978 was largely a Jewish versus black issue, with most of the resistance to integrating San Fernando Valley public schools by busing over the mountains from South-Centra led by Jewish politicians like Democratic Rep. Alan Robbins and schoolboard member Bobbie Fiedler.

            The Jewish politicians lost, and Jews largely took their kids out of Los Angele public schools. This was one of the largest battles over school busing, and the LAUSD, the second largest school district, has never recovered from busing, but it has kind of disappeared down the memory hole for reasons of Narrative Awkwardness.

        • keranih says:

          Putting the Northern white vs Southern white conflict primarily in terms of Southern white attitudes towards Southern blacks completely misses the whole point of you ain’t the boss of me and you got no right to come down here and tell me what to do.

          This is a fundamental error, I think, in understanding (and repairing) the inter-regional rift.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Forced busing is way before my time. Everything I see these days which uses the phrase “dog-whistle” is along the lines of the Cruz thing.

          Kit: The letter K appears in this script 1,456 times. That’s perfectly divisible by 3.
          Freddy: So what? So what you saying?
          Kit: What am I saying? KKK appears in this script 486 times!

        • Doctor Mist says:

          So, objections to forced busing weren’t primarily appeals to people who didn’t want there kids going to school with black kids?

          Did pro-integration people respond in the form “I don’t understand: How can we achieve integration without forced busing?”? If so, then that was a genuine dog whistle, with segregationists knowing what is being said but integrationists hearing only the surface meaning.

          But I don’t think that was the response. I think both sides knew what was being said.

          The question in my mind is why it was felt necessary to pretty it up. I can think of a couple of possibilities. One is a ham-handed attempt at politeness: I don’t want my kids going to school with black kids, but the disadvantages to my kids in doing so are not the fault of the black kids per se, so why go out of my way to be insulting? Another is coalition-building: There may be integrationists who nevertheless feel that busing is a big hammer compared to more gradual approaches, like zoning reform and consciousness-raising, and this lets segregationists make common cause with them.

          (I feel that it says something about the Overton window that my browser flags “integrationist” as a spelling error but not “segregationist”. But I confess I’m not sure what. For that matter it also flags “Overton”, which really surprises me because it usually leaves proper nouns alone.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Doctor Mist:

            The question in my mind is why it was felt necessary to pretty it up.

            Because saying “No n*ggers or coons are going to school with my kids or yours” calls to my mind even worse possibilities like turning fire hoses on peaceable marchers or bombing little black girls in church?

            There are a broad range of people at the time who don’t want their kids going to school with black kids. Probably most of them just feel vaguely disquieted by it, the way a nervous pedestrian might be have felt uncomfortable by the sight of a black man in the 80s when “inner city crime” was the dog-whistle.

            They don’t want to say they are in favor of segregation, but they also don’t want their kids going to school with “those” black kids. You might even think of it as a kind of Nimby-ism. “Someone should integrate the schools, but not my school.”

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            One possibility is that the true motivation was “we don’t want our kids going to those crap schools the blacks have been saddled with”, but they knew it would be misheard as “we don’t want our kids in the same school with black kids no matter how good the school is.”

      • TheAncientGeek says:

        Signalling is not supposed to be esoteric.

    • cassander says:

      >1) Political dog-whistles are not supposed to be undetectable. They are substitutes. “

      This theory makes even less sense. It requires that there are millions of people out there who want racist/sexist/whatever politicians but don’t want those politicians to say that they are racist/sexist/whatever in plain language.

      • Randy M says:

        That’s pretty much exactly the assumptions behind the theory. Progressive culture has cowed the racists, but they lurk on the fringes, waiting for a candidate who can clue them in to his inner darkness without alerting the ever vigilant media.

        • cassander says:

          I realize that’s the theory, the problem is it’s nonsense. If there were that many racists they wouldn’t need to be secret and they wouldn’t be cowed.

          • suntzuanime says:

            They might. Could be a “belling the cat” type effect where any racist who speaks out is quickly crushed by the anti-racist minority. Even though the racists as a group could easily crush the anti-racists, they’re unable to coordinate thanks to the ever vigilant media.

            There’s also the issue of, of course a minority can oppress a majority, it’s happened many times in history. If the anti-racists control the money and the guns and the propaganda organs, the racists won’t do well to directly challenge their dominance, even if they have more warm bodies.

          • cassander says:

            >Even though the racists as a group could easily crush the anti-racists, they’re unable to coordinate thanks to the ever vigilant media.

            the media doesn’t get to vote. If being racist won elections, politicians would be racist, media or no.

          • Sandy says:

            >the media doesn’t get to vote.

            The media gets to shape reality. Simply voting as a way of influencing nations is passe.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I guess I was unclear. The role of the media in this scenario is to identify the racists who are trying to coordinate so that they can be crushed, leaving the racists uncoordinated and unable to use their power. Consider an analogous situation in labor relations. Management knows that it would have to make major concessions if its workforce unionized, so it goes to a lot of trouble to spot workers who talk of organizing and fire them on a pretext, because while the workforce as a whole may be able to fight management, management can crush the troublemakers before the workforce as a whole can coordinate against them.

          • cassander says:

            @suntzuanime

            the trouble with that is that the racists get coordination for free. If the media labels someone racist, they can all just show up and vote for him on election day, explicit racial appeals or not.

        • Luke the CIA stooge says:

          Oh I assumed everybody realized that was a core assumption of the “dog whistle” theory.

          It’s pretty much assumed by most college educated liberals that anyone with less than a college degree is a racist and that the only thing stopping the fourth Reich is a constitution (written by the best educated people in the 18th century, and amended by Lincoln and the 60s generation) and the hard work of university educated liberal arts and social science students.

          Did everyone else not notice all the left wing books (Handmaid’s Tale being the best example) about a dystopian future where right wingers are in charge!!! (and for some reason behave exactly like racist-nazi-death-eater theocrats instead of, you know, anything republicans actually want to do)

          But in short: yes. The vast majority of the left does seem to believe the right is nothing but racist-sexists who support social Darwinism, want to kill all the brown people and want to turn women into livestock while covering it up in code words.

          If you saw the Southpark episode where Cartman dresses up like a nazi and gets a bunch of people together to kill the jews while say “I think we all know what needs to be done” and screeching unintelligible German, with the other people mistaking it for a prayer group.
          Well that seems to be what most left wing people think the Republican party is: evil people screeching in code and stupid people following along.

          I used to be left wing and that was what I thought of Republicans at the time: truly evil people who knew they were evil on top, stupid people at the bottom. The left also tends to believe financial success is a function of being a psychopath. So they hear “business” as Hannibal lector.

          • Luke the CIA stooge says:

            I went from a fairly average liberal who though republicans were the source of modern evil to a a right winger who recognising that most liberals think republicans are the source of evil.

            On the left right divide it is only the left where we have college educated people assuming that the only way someone could disagree with them is by being stupid or evil. Educated conservatives don’t make that mistake because they are such a minority on campus that they aren’t able to create a bubble where the only people they respect are people who agree with them.

            Compare how the large cross section of the modern educated left thinks of big business: cartoonishly evil greedy bastards who will exploit, expand and destroy if heroic activists won’t stop them.
            With how the educated right thinks environentalists: good intentioned people who let their concern for nature cloud their judgement of necessary tradeoffs.

            Consistently I see the left wing atributing bad faith and evil intention to people whose arguments they do not understand and I do not see an equivalent hostility from the political right.
            The right thinks people, even educated people, can be mistaken or disagree whereas the left thinks any disagreement from their ideology must be the result of either ignorance (thus demanding they get proper education) or evil (if the person has been educated but does not see the OBVIOUS truth) or both.

            And you may think I have selection bias I read smart right wingers, and dumb left wingers clog up my Facebook feed: but that’s just the thing right wingers don’t link to “ingroup member crushes stupid out group members 5 arguments like dixicups!!!”.

          • Cypren says:

            Speaking as someone who went the other direction (partway), the stereotypes and cartoonish villainy are hardly exclusive to the left wing. I was more or less raised in communities of people for whom “Democrat” and “Satanist” were pretty closely related terms. There was a generally agreed understanding that white coastal liberals had a patron/client relationship with blacks and Hispanics aimed at disenfranchising and destroying the lives of regular middle-class Americans out of lust for wealth and power on the part of the former and racial hatred on the part of the latter. “Black” was a synonym for “probably a criminal”.

            The interesting thing about your comparison is that you talk about stereotypes among educated members of each faction. This is where the comparison does indeed break down, because while the uneducated members of both factions have laughably cartoonish stereotypes about each other, it’s pretty much impossible to get an education as a non-liberal (unless you go to the very rare exception school like Bob Jones or Liberty) without coming into close, constant contact with liberal ideas. As a result, college-educated conservatives do indeed have a much more clear appreciation for what college-educated liberals actually believe and how they think than vice-versa. (And Jonathan Haidt’s work has provided empirical evidence of this.)

            In some cases (such as mine), this contact is enough to make a person question their strongly-held tribal affiliation and break with the tribe. (Though it never caused me to fully go over to the Blue Tribe; I understand their thinking far better but still disagree with many of the premises and absolutely loathe the self-righteousness and gleeful oppression and even violence of the modern social justice movement. But I no longer think the Red Tribe has all the answers or is particularly virtuous either.) In other cases it simply causes a bunker mentality where the person clings even more desperately to their tribal affiliation as their core identity in a hostile environment.

            Incidentally, as someone who still has a significant number of non-college-educated right-wingers on their Facebook feed as a result of upbringing, I can tell you for certain that there are plenty of similarly cartoonish memes that get spread about how dumb/evil the Blue Tribe is and how obviously they’re trying to “destroy America” and ruin all white people.

            Of course, somehow I’m also more willing to forgive less-educated people spreading these ridiculous ideas than people with graduate degrees who are supposedly educated, traveled and cosmopolitan. I’m still not entirely sure if that’s latent tribal bias or a legitimate distinction.

          • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

            Ya I feel that distinction pretty strongly myself. I used to be alot more of a moderate and bounce around between center left, right and libertarian, I still follow some very left wing philosophy professors, but the big thing that really pushed me over the line was social justice, the purge of wrong think at the academy and just the smug style.

            Its like all the things that i liked about the left growing up: its anti-authoritarian streak, defense of free speech, broad-mindedness, contempt for bureaucrats, tolerance of other ideas and cultures, looking out for the little guy.

            These all became libertarian things.

            And even the good ideas the left has and ought be pushing have gotten drowned out in the hypocrisy and group think.

            The labour movement has become a conspiracy of rich old labour against poor young labour.

            The anti-racism movement has become a means of class warfare by wealthy college educated kids against uneducated old timers.

            Freedom of speech is now the enemy

            The Bureaucrats have been unleashed and are now writing their own laws

            Diversity now means tolerance of people who agree with me/ tolerating anyone but the outgroup

            And the little guy is fucked because the dems/labour/the liberal party, only look out for connected special interests now.

            Liberalism is where conservatism was in the 60s, ideologically bankrupt and in desperate need of some hard losses combined with new ideas. The thing is conservatism adopted the classical liberalism of Milton Freidman, Left Liberalism can’t adopt Libertarianism or the [death eaters] and those are the only ideological movements generating new ideas as opposed to new rhetorical tricks with which to attack people.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            Euros joke that the US has two right wing parties. Many ideas a standard on the European left are unheard of , or outside the current Overton windon, in the US. That means there is plenty of scope for the US left to reinvent itself in more european terms. For instance a left, based on labour rights, rather than minority rights, on universal provision rather than compensation and special pleading.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “The problem is assholes like you”

            This is almost never useful around here. You actually have a decent critique in that post somewhere, but it’s smothered by invective.

      • Theo Jones says:

        I see it as more of a baptists and bootleggers issue. A lot of policies have both racist and non-racist justifications. Non-racists have more votes, but racists have enough votes to be worth courting. However, explicitly using racism to court voters pisses off too many non-racists. But you can court the racist voters by bringing up policy issues that racists care about but which have some non-racist justifications.

    • Tracy W says:

      As a non-American, the notion that being against forced bussing meant being in favour of racial segregation strikes me as bizarre. For example, in NZ there has never been racial segregation of public schools but there are a lot of small (one-room) rural primary schools. Whenever the Ministry of Education proposes closing one of them due to a falling roll the locals object both because they don’t want young kids taking long bus trips each day and because the school is an important part of the local community.

      • The Nybbler says:

        The policy of “forced busing” in the US was (and may still be) specifically a policy of taking students from the school closest to them (where their racial group was in the majority) and putting them in another school, further away, where a different racial group was in the majority. Basically deliberately mixing black students and white students to combat the effects of geographical segregation. To say that it was wildly unpopular among the affected white families would be a serious understatement.

        • Tracy W says:

          Yes, in NZ the law currently mandates that local kids have first priority at their local state school.

          I first got interested in the forced busing thing when I was living for a few months in Boston. I once came across a Marxist analysis that the Boston forced busing was a deliberate plan by upper class whites to drive a wedge between working-class whites and blacks, which is perhaps the most plausible Marxist analysis I’ve come across. I struggle to imagine forced busing ever being a democratically-accepted policy in any country.

          • keranih says:

            I struggle to imagine forced busing ever being a democratically-accepted policy in any country.

            Which is why, in the USA, it had to be imposed by the threat of military force.

            This is one of the larger questions of the American experiment, I think – when is a failure of basic rights cause for the use of violence to correct the situation, and when should correction be limited to social pressure, shouting matches, and boycotts?

          • More generally, I believe that the left wing policy of favoring all blacks over poor whites and then blaming poor whites for being racists for not liking it is at least an example of people doing a superiority dance, though I’m inclined to think it’s a matter of poor whites being nearer competitors than poor blacks.

          • Tracy W says:

            This is one of the larger questions of the American experiment, I think – when is a failure of basic rights cause for the use of violence to correct the situation, and when should correction be limited to social pressure, shouting matches, and boycotts?

            It’s interesting that this is a question that is genuinely an American one. In NZ or the UK parliament is basically sovereign so I strongly suspect that any government trying to enforce something like the American forced busing policy would back down in short order.

            I understand that in America the elected institutions (eg Congress, the Senate, the Presidency) rapidly moved to an anti-forced busing stance.

  64. Vaniver says:

    It seems like the cleanest explanation for this is projection. Feminists are hideously sexist, anti-racists abhorrently racist, and so on–and so when they come across someone without those defects, they don’t know how to act except by saying “well, if I behaved that way, it would be because I buried my sexism / racism super deep and it was just poking through.”

    • Civilis says:

      There is another clean explanation, that most of the causes the left had endorsed have been so successful they’ve largely run out of problems to keep them going (and the donations coming in). The Progressive / Social Justice left are a combination of the Baptists in a Baptists and Bootleggers coalition and the March of Dimes against Polio. They’ve almost achieved their original objective, but unlike the March of Dimes, there’s no obvious next goal, so rather than admit success, they’ve doubled down on cracking down on Bootleggers and anyone that looks like they may be a Bootlegger.

      I think there is definitely an element of projection from some elements of the Black Lives Matter coalition and from the extreme La Raza Hispanic movement, but I think it’s too simplistic to see it all as just a case of projection.

      • Cypren says:

        While it’s almost become a cliche in Internet arguments at this point, this quote is evergreen:

        There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.

        — Booker T. Washington

        Identity politics and grievance-mongering usually start out with legitimate grievances, but the successful movements generate power, privilege and money for their leaders. The leaders then have considerable incentives to make sure the problem is never actually solved — by stirring outrage over ever-more-trivial things if necessary.

        Scott’s “Toxoplasma of Outrage” post is strongly correlated to this as well.

        • Anonymous says:

          “Spinoza knew that all things long to persist in their being — the stone wishes to be a stone, the tiger a tiger, forever.”

  65. Fazathra says:

    I think this misunderstands how insults like ‘racist’, ‘sexist’ etc work. We associate words like racism with very bad things such as slavery, Jim Crow, the KKK etc or, as Scott says:

    When I think of “sexist” or “misogynist”, I think of somebody who thinks women are inferior to men, or hates women, or who thinks women shouldn’t be allowed to have good jobs or full human rights, or who wants to disadvantage women relative to men in some way.

    These words therefore have very bad connotations. The idea then is to associate them with progressively less bad actions but maintain the connotations. So when Trump says something boorish about flat-chested women, it may or may not be sexist according to the definition, but that isn’t the point. The point is to associate Trump with a word associated with people who hate women and deny their human rights and get people to treat Trump as if he had said such things himself.

    Usually you need some kind of argument to claim that some innocuous statement is actually sexist/racist etc (but sometimes pure assertion will do the trick). Accusations of dog whistling skip this requirement by simply asserting that even if the statement does not seem sexist/racist, it secretly is.

    The genius bit is that it is almost impossible to defend against. With standard accusations of racism or whatever it’s possible to defend with things like the ‘my best friend is black!’ defense (though many have now bingo-carded this into a confirmation of the target’s racism). With a dog whistle you can’t do that, because of course they would deny it. The need for plausible deniability is why they were dog whistling in the first place!

  66. Patjab says:

    I agree that the media are often far too hungry and eager to “catch out” politicians and as such often read too much into their statements, but that doesn’t mean some politicians don’t also harbour deeply unsavoury views that they try to keep hidden from the general public. Ken Livingstone for example, I would hesitate to condemn as necessarily anti-Semitic just on the basis of the quote you have mentioned. However, as someone else mentioned above, quotes like this can be Bayseian evidence of anti-Semitism, particularly in the case of the kind of weird historical revisionist comments Livingstone made, because those weird historical views are especially common among genuine anti-Semites and pretty rare among the rest of the population. As someone who knew Livingstone’s history of making other not-very-nice-about-Jews comments I already had pretty high priors of him being moderately anti-Semitic and so this further evidence seems to make me pretty confident that he in fact is. Not to say he’s anti-Semitic in the “kick the Jews out of Britain, or make them wear gold stars” way you describe, but still in the “This person is Jewish and therefore I am immediately suspicious of them, associate them with my out-group and assume they are supporters of the evil Zionist regime of Israel, therefore I am likely to ignore their opinions and potentially ostracize them within the Labour Party, plus maybe use racial slurs or other rude stereotyping comments occasionally when caught off-guard” kind of way that characterizes quite a few people on the fringes of the British left at the moment. See the resignation of Alex Chalmers from Oxford University Labour Club for one example and the comments of the new NUS President for another example.

    The difficulty with discussing this anti-Semitism / anti-Zionism conflation is that opponents of Israel sometimes accuse its supporters of using “anti-Semitism” accusations as a way to silence criticism of Israel, whilst Jews sometimes accuse self-described “anti-Zionists” of using that phrase as cover for their actually anti-Semitic views. In reality, I think both of these are real phenomena – some people are unfairly accused of anti-Semitism when in fact they are making careful and specific criticisms of Israeli government policies, whilst other people really do have anti-Semitic views and instead talk about being anti-Zionist as a more acceptable way of signalling this to their in-group.

    I’m surprised given that you used Ken Livingston as an example that you didn’t also mention the campaign for the new Mayor of London that has just finished, where there was a much clearer and more widely used example of “dog whistle” politics, with the Conservative campaign being accused (with some justification in my view having followed the campaign closely) of trying to scare voters away from Sadiq Khan by using phrases such as “dangerous”, “radical” and “shared a platform with Islamic extremists” as not particularly subtle code for “he’s a dangerous radical Muslim extremist”. Again, the fact that this example was picked up on very quickly by most media just shows that its attempt to target its message only at receptive voters failed spectacularly. The campaign even tried writing some of its strongest messages to people with ethnically targeted surnames – e.g. a letter to anyone with the surname Patel (assuming they were Hindu and thus might dislike Muslims) saying Sadiq Khan threatened their family jewelry which the Conservatives rather naively assumed they must have hoards of. This approach might have worked well 30 years ago when direct mail had a greater monopoly of communication, but in the modern media age keeping the message targeted is much more difficult – all it takes is a few mis-targeted Patels to snap a photo of the patronizing letter and share it on social media and suddenly the dog-whistle is heard by pretty much the whole population.

    Also as has been noted above Naz Shah is a woman.

  67. Sebastian says:

    “Fellow British politician Ken Livingstone defended him”
    Minor nitpick, but, Naz Shah is a woman.

  68. TheAncientGeek says:

    1. The existence of false callouts for dogwhistle doesn’t imply the nonexistence of dogwhistle.

    2. Are any of these accusations regarded as accusations of dogwhistle by the accusers, in so many words?

    3. I thought dogwhistle was supposed to be coded. These comments aren’t so much encrypted (to be comprehensible only to a specific audience) as watered down.

    4. In fact, progressives should not be able to detect competent rightwing dogwhistle.

    5. So maybe it is something else…perhaps the microagression thing,thy idea that if you do a tiny bit of something bad, that is as unacceptable as doing a lot of it.

    • JBeshir says:

      On 4, I don’t think a reasonably competent dogwhistle requires literally zero detectability, just low enough that you can’t distinguish it from noise reliably. I think ramping up your sensitivity would let you react to them if you tolerate a ton of false positives, by e.g. reacting to anything sufficiently odd-sounding or unnatural sounding by assuming it means something sneaky is going on.

      I think this is probably part of what has been going on.

    • xq says:

      4. In fact, progressives should not be able to detect competent rightwing dogwhistle.

      The point of dogwhistles is to keep coalitions together. The goal is to signal your affinity with one part of the base without driving away another part that would respond negatively if the message were communicated explicitly. It is irrelevant if progressives can detect rightwing dogwhistles since they aren’t going to vote for the politician making them no matter what.

      • I am the Tarpitz says:

        Quite. Livingstone’s comments, for example, are part of a longstanding strategy to elicit support from anti-Semitic Muslim voters without alienating liberals/progressives. He’s the most prominent exponent of this strategy in Britain, but far from the only one.

  69. James says:

    I only want to say that “gaffes are the royal road to the unconscious” is hilarious.

  70. This is what Scott Adams repeatedly points us wrt Trump: once a narrative is established there is a huge confirmation bias and it acquires a life of its own.

    Trump is a Republican, from a fringe side of the Republican Party. Republicans are generally anti-feminist and their fringe is often misogynist. So everything that Trump says that can even hint at being misogynist will be interpreted that way. Same with Cruz and “New York values”.

    Similarly with Livingstone: Labour has had its share of fringe anti-Semitic members in the last few years (the European hard-left has a tolerance for anti-Semitism, which centre-Left parties have to be careful to keep at bay). So anything that a politician seen on the left side of Labour says that hints at anti-Semitism will be interpreted that way.

  71. Florin says:

    A lot of this is driven by the fact that just reporting what a candidate says and taking it at face value does not give a journalist enough opportunity to distinguish themselves and demonstrate their intellect and value. It is the ability to interpret which gives them the opportunity to distinguish themselves. And the more unique you make your take on what is “really going on” the more distinguished you become.

    You see this a lot also in academia. You won’t get anywhere in the English faculty if you say the author meant what it seems obvious they were saying. The curtains can never just be blue. Advancement comes from skill at interpreting creatively, which triggers a spiral of ever more creative interpretations.

    • Luke the CIA stooge says:

      Exactly!

      Combine this with the fact that the average journalist has little to nothing worth actually contributing and won’t bother researching to generate real expertise, and you get the modern media landscape.

      It’s actually genuinely terrifying that older journalist are defered to for they’re knowledge of history (Larry King being a prime example of someone other journalist would turn to for context) as this means the actual journalist can’t be depended on to actually learn the history and generate their own expertise without wheeling out the old guys.

  72. I think trying to identify dog whistles and SJWishness are efforts to address a genuinely hard problem– figuring out who you can trust.

    Scott has a point that it’s possible and common to get so caught up in trying to read people’s subsconsciouses that their overt behavior gets ignored.

    On the other hand, we live in a world where our reputations matter, and I think his piece about neckbeards shows he has a clue that insults add up. Also, insults wear on people, or at least a substantial proportion of people.

    Trying to lower the sexual opportunities of people who already don’t have great opportunities is an attack, and Trump does that to non-beautiful women. And saying that an angry woman is having her period rather than addressing her actual point is a way of not taking women seriously.

    This being said, Trump is overtly hostile to Mexicans (or Latinos in general?) and Muslims in ways that he isn’t to women.

    • MawBTS says:

      I think trying to identify dog whistles and SJWishness are efforts to address a genuinely hard problem– figuring out who you can trust.

      Maybe that’s some of it.

      But honestly, I doubt the journalists running hit pieces on Cruz and Trump are trying to figure out if they’re trustworthy. I think they made up their minds on topic a long time ago, and are looking for ammunition.

      In the 1980s, it was alleged that heavy metal bands were including hidden messages in their records, telling their fans to kill themselves and suchlike. That doesn’t sound like a well intentioned effort to find the truth. It seems like more like motivated reasoning by people who hated heavy metal.

      (I think it was Judas Priest that wondered why, if such things worked, they didn’t include hidden messages telling their fans to buy more records)

    • tcheasdfjkl says:

      And saying that an angry woman is having her period rather than addressing her actual point is a way of not taking women seriously.

      This. If Trump was in fact saying that Megyn Kelly was on her period, the point of saying so is to “explain” her anger at him and avoid engaging with her arguments – it’s not that I, Donald Trump, said something that could make a reasonable person angry, it’s that Megyn Kelly is on her period so of course she’s angry, nothing we should be paying attention to. This is a way of dismissing and delegitimizing a woman’s opinions and emotions – whenever a woman is upset with you, claim she’s on her period and you don’t have to listen to what she’s saying.

      (Maybe similar to an experience I had where when I was a teenager my feelings were sometimes dismissed with “of course you’re upset, you’re a teenager and your hormones are being crazy so of course everything upsets you, it doesn’t mean I need to change my behavior”. Part of the problem here is that feelings should be taken into account even if their root is irrational, but also it’s just not true that teenagers, or women on their periods, can’t make rational arguments that should be evaluated on their merits!)

      [Note that Trump says he was referring to her nose rather than her vagina, which is certainly possible. I’m just disputing the assertion that saying she’s on her period wouldn’t be sexist anyway.]

      • Flick says:

        I missed this news story and now I’ve tried to catch up and totally don’t understand it.
        Was she actually bleeding? Or is it a normal metaphor in the US to say that someone was so angry they were bleeding out their eyes or nose? I’ve never heard the saying before.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          “Blood coming out of their eyes” is a fairly well-known phrase to indicate anger.

          “Blood coming out of their [anything else]” is not a common phrase to indicate anger.

          • SUT says:

            If you can widen the context a little from just anger…

            “blood coming out of his ear”
            – has sustained a head injury and is too shocked to notice it.

            “blood coming from his nose”
            – either frail, tendency to get unexplained nosebleeds, or weak and has just been punched

            “blood on your hands”
            -you know this one…

            But I’d agree that what he meant was none of these. The larger point is that Trump is skilled in counter punching in today’s media environment, he shifts the attention from whatever point was being made, and now the egg’s on the journalist face, with plausible deniability.

      • Dank says:

        My thoughts exactly. I agree with Scott’s larger point point ascribing hidden motivations to people you dislike, and I agree about the Ted Cruz example (don’t know the background of the other one). But When Trump insinuates that a debate monitor was being hostile towards him because she was on her period, that’s not a dog whistle – it’s just blatant sexism.

  73. Antígrafo says:

    The problem I see with your argument that you are wrongly defining “dog whistle”. It’s not a way or effort to decipher the real beliefs of a politician by reading vague signs. It refers to a strategy in which a person tries to engage certain segment of the population by signaling fringe beliefs in a way that’s only recognizable to them. It doesn’t matter if the politician holds the belief or not, only that he is trying to exploit it for political gain.

    Id Est: It’s not about if Trump is a misogynist, but about his efforts to engage a misogynistic part of the electorate with veiled misogynistic comments. (I’m using the case of Trump because in my view the one from Ken Livingstone is, as you say, due more to idiocy than antisemitism )

    You are not talking about dog whistles but about something akin to the old sovietology.

    • MawBTS says:

      The problem I see with your argument that you are wrongly defining “dog whistle”.

      Why does it matter? The point the article makes has nothing to do with the exact definition of dog whistle. Who is this a problem for?

    • Emile says:

      There are two things under discussion:

      a) Veiled comments, meant to only be understood as part of the audience while offering plausible deniability to the speaker

      b) Slips of the tongue, where someone carelessly phrases something that could be interpreted the wrong way taken out of context.

      You’re saying Scott is using “dog whistle” to mean b) whereas it actually means a). I think his point is more that the media tend to hunt for instances of b) and accuse them of being a). It seems both you and Scott aggree b) are not dog whistles.

  74. Loki says:

    I mean dog whistles are a thing. But the phrase has become, imho, a victim of a failure mode that happens a lot, mostly in ‘soft’ sciences and political discussion but often in other fields as well.

    It goes like this:

    1: A bunch of people who know quite a bit about a thing, possibly because they’re some kind of Expert but maybe just because they read about and discuss it a lot, come up with a word or phrase that describes a particular phenomenon. Within the context of the group, where people know the context and have a working knowledge of the subject area, the word or phrase is useful.

    2: The media and/or People Who Are Wrong on the Internet pick up the phrase and, probably in good faith originally but with an eye to what gets the most attention, start overapplying and misusing it until it basically doesn’t mean anything of any use anymore.

    3: (optional) People notice that the word or phrase is totally useless and meaningless now, and start wondering why the group from #1 would come up with such a meaningless and divisive concept, and update their models of the usefulness of listening to that group accordingly.

    See also: ‘OCD’, ‘psychotic’, ‘hacking’, ‘safe space’, ‘sex-positive’, etc

    If anyone is not aware, dog whistles were supposed to refer to things that totally are covert references and are intended to be understood that way by a specific subset of the audience. They are absolutely not something anyone says by mistake. The nature of dog whistles is that once one is universally acknowledged enough to serve as an example, people are no longer really using it, because it won’t work any more as a dog whistle. People may still use it as a kind of euphemism. Examples in this category would include ‘Urban’ (African-American), ‘family values’ (Christian social conservatism), ‘States’ Rights’ (historically, pro-segregation policies), ‘concern for our youth’ or ‘moral concern’ (UK Thatcher era, means ‘supports Section 28‘).

    The idea is that in the heyday of their use – that is, before everybody associated these phrases with the policies in question – you could allude to your support for them in a way that would be picked up by a significant percentage of the intended demographic without scaring off more mainstream voters by referring to it directly, plus reporters won’t ask you questions about it because you never directly mentioned it.

  75. Jack V says:

    Wait, do you mean, that dog whistles DON’T happen? Because I only heard the term a few years ago, but it seems inevitable — surely any politician with support from a base, especially a potentially controversial base, has lots of pressure to appeal to them, but also lots of pressure not to say anything that would be controversial to everyone else.

    Or that they’re massively over-diagnosed? Because I hadn’t thought about that until you said so, but it seems likely — news and political opponents have every reason to seek them out whether they exist or not.

    • Fazathra says:

      Dog whistles do happen, but most of the time the media don’t recognize them because the whole point of the dog-whistle is that people not in the know don’t hear them and most journalists have appalling mental models of their political opponents. Instead they mostly just take random things and try to interpret them such that they are a dogwhistle and then use it as ‘proof’ of their latent racism/sexism/whatever.

      • Emile says:

        There’s a graduation on how “well hidden” a dog whistle can be – the stereotypical case, an actual whistle that only dogs can hear, is 100% undetected by non-dogs, but there is still use for intermediate cases, where the goal isn’t to go undetected but to offer plausible deniability. In which case it’s normal that the media reports on those.

  76. Joshua Fox says:

    There must be some name to the rhetorical trick that Livingstone used — purposely rephrasing something in the nastiest way possible, adding a bit of falsehood but leaving a tinge of truth so that the statement can be defended. What was his motivation?

    • Sweeneyrod says:

      I think it is the real-life, polarity-reversed version of being an Internet edgelord.

    • JBeshir says:

      My best guess is that it’s some kind of (probably intuitive) attempt to influence the bounds of what’s sayable; if you say it, you’re using your standing to assert you can say it, and setting out that everything less bad than it is within bounds for subsequent conversation.

      I’m not at all confident in it, because I can’t empathise with it properly and it mostly leaves me going “eurgh, stupid stupid stupid”. But it would go some of the way to explain why they don’t just *stop* doing it, or apologise much better than they do.

    • arbitrary_greay says:

      Using the terminology from these parts, it’s combination of maximum uncharitable interpretation with motte-and-bailey.

  77. Jiro says:

    Making comments about a woman’s appearance is Bayseian evidence that that person is sexist. People who are sexist are more likely to pay attention to a woman’s appearance than people who aren’t, even if paying attention to a woman’s appearance is something that non-sexist people can do.

    Of course it is also true that being a member of a minority group with a high proportion of criminals is Bayseian evidence that you are a criminal. We generally consider acting on that basis to be a form of prejudice that should be avoided. Acting as though a person is more likely to be sexist based on non-sexist Bayseian evidence is similarly a form of prejudice.

    But we need to recognize that the use of Bayseian evidence this way is logically valid, and that if it is unfair to attack someone based on a dog whistle it is unfair despite the evidence, not unfair because of the lack of evidence. People who say that Israel should be moved to America are anti-Semitic with higher probability; people who make remarks about female anatomy are sexist with higher probability.

    And at some point the probability may be high enough that it isn’t even a lot like prejudice any more. There aren’t minority groups whose members have a 50% probability of being criminals, but it’s entirely plausible that saying certain non-anti-Semitic things implies a 50% probability of being anti-Semitic.

    • j r says:

      “People who are sexist are more likely to pay attention to a woman’s appearance than people who aren’t…”

      That only works if you adopt a pretty circular version of the word sexist.

      • Anonymous says:

        There is no non-stupid definition for “sexist” because men and women are so tremendously different.

      • Jiro says:

        Noi, it works all the time. Remember how Bayseian evidence works: just because there are plenty of non-sexists doing it, it can still mean sexism is more likely.

        • j r says:

          So, where is the evidence that non-sexist people are less likely to pay attention to appearance? What’s the connection between superficiality and sexism other than they are both things we want to call bad?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            (Some) sexist men judge women’s worth based on their appearance.

            Ipso facto, they pay more attention to appearance.

            It’s not a “number of times I noticed what a woman looked like” calculation. It’s the amount of weight being given.

          • Randy M says:

            No, rather it is the context it which the judgement is being made.

          • eh says:

            HBC:

            It’s possible to find evidence in the vast majority of cases that a heterosexual man has preferences for which women he is interested in, because most humans have such preferences. If you refuse to consider such evidence as a general case for humans, and instead consider it on a case by case basis or only consider the case for men and not women, then you are making an isolated demand of the group in question.

            Trump will die, because Trump is a mortal, and mortals die. However, claiming that there is Bayesian evidence that Trump is more likely to die is misleading, because it hijacks the Bayesian evidence for general mortal deaths without setting good priors for non-Trumps.

      • gbdub says:

        I’m pretty sure a massive majority of non-blind heterosexual men, sexist or not, pay a great deal of attention to women’s appearance.

        Unless you’re being tautological and assuming “caring about appearance” is inherently sexist.

        • Tom Womack says:

          Caring is permitted. But there are acceptable contexts in which to mention it, and any kind of event at which journalists might be present is sufficiently a public event that you shouldn’t mention it.

          There are many contexts in which it would be entirely reasonable for me to say that I find Natalie Dormer more attractive than Gwendoline Christie; if I said that even to a journalist while running a booth at a trade show then I would be deservedly pilloried for unprofessionalism.

          • Matt M says:

            “Caring is permitted. But there are acceptable contexts in which to mention it, and any kind of event at which journalists might be present is sufficiently a public event that you shouldn’t mention it.”

            I think if you go back and look at all of the “sexist” Trump quotes, the vast majority of them occurred in contexts in which such talk was entirely appropriate (many of the worst offenders are from appearances on Howard Stern)

    • Flick says:

      Most people pay attention to other people’s appearances, both men and women. That’s not necessarily sexist because appearances can tell us a lot about a person. Judging a woman by her appearance, especially her sexual attractiveness, more than you would judge a man is sexism. Especially in a context where sexual attractiveness is irrelevant.
      I think the best example is politicians. We can all agree that politicians are mostly quite ugly compared to the general population. However, the Daily Mail doesn’t repeatedly run articles about the sexiness of male politicians on any given day, it does print loads of articles about female politicians necklines, breasts and so on.

      • Creutzer says:

        If, as anecdote would have it, appearance is a much larger factor in then sexual attractiveness of women than that of men, then your argument doesn’t quite work: The fact that male politicians are not critisised for their appearance does not show that they are not evaluated with respect to sexual attractiveness.

        On that sort of view, you might expect the media to pick up on inherent attractiveness characteristics of men other than appearance, whatever they are. However, the situation could still be worse: If sexual attractiveness of men is less tied to inherent characteristics than that of women, such as success in itself being attractive (and not only characteristics that correlate with success), then the sexual evaluation of male politicians is likely to be invisible insofar as it would, ipso facto, be reporting of their political standing.

        I’m not sure how plausible to find that story because I don’t really understand the importance of appearance in male attractiveness. Research suggests that it is smaller than in women, but it’s unclear to me whether the difference is sufficiently large to give rise to the picture I’ve sketched above.

      • neonwattagelimit says:

        We can all agree that politicians are mostly quite ugly compared to the general population.

        I can disagree with this. I’d argue that politicians are, on average, slightly more attractive than the general population, when adjusted for age.

        That last part is crucial because the most physically attractive group in society – the young – is pretty severely under-represented among politicians. But if you compare your average member of Congress to your average 50-or-60-year-old, I’d bet that the Congress member would look pretty good.

  78. Thursday says:

    If Trump is dumb enough to say out loud that he thinks women aren’t attractive without big breasts

    This is inelegant and (doubtless unintentionally) misleading. I think the most we can say from that quote is that Trump thinks women aren’t as attractive without at least average size breasts. I think most men would agree with him on that.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      Izumi Konata says otherwise.

      • suntzuanime says:

        I think you’ve seriously misread her. What she was trying to say is that there’s a substantial minority of men interested in women with smaller breasts and so she, with her substantially flat chest, is well placed to take advantage of this niche. It was framed as being supplemental to the understood default of “most men want at least average size breasts”, rather than replacing it.

        • Thursday says:

          Right, a non-trivial number of men have a preference for flatter chested women. That doesn’t negate anything I (or Trump) have said.

  79. benwave says:

    So I was going to write a comment on how I didn’t expect a president Trump to legislate in ways that disadvantage women and minorities (or at least not more so than another counterfactual republican president), but I Did expect more acts of racially motivated violence to happen if he wins. But then I realised that this impression I have is based almost entirely on how he treats race in his speeches, and I was conflating that with sexism. So, actually I don’t know enough about his position on women to make any useful comment!

    Agree that press poring over speeches for ‘mistakes’ probably is unhelpful, but in the end the news reading populace in aggregate are probably largely responsible for that – I really get the impression that news organisations are ridiculously constrained in what it is possible to write and still make a living from. (That’s actually a big issue for me. News organisations in the 21st century are clearly a gigantic market failure, I would very much like to see some kind of solution)

    • Tibor says:

      I find that the solution is to ignore the opinion sections of most newspapers (usually, after a while, you can tell what the columnist is going to write just by his or her name anyway and it is rarely very insightful) and delegate that to blogs like this – where you meet a variety of people of very different opinions (including ones I had no idea existed before, such as the one whose name is spam-filtered here) and where despite this, the discussion does not usually degenerate into a fight (sometimes I feel like some people are going close to that even here, but given how widely diverse the opinions here are, it is still an acomplishment that it only happens to that degree and relatively rarely).

      If you are looking for a “societal” solution and not just a personal one, I don’t know. State-run media are definitely not a better choice in my opinion. I do think that the BBC is actually better than many US new sources (although I basically only know the ones cited here and it is often as “look how terrible this journalist is”) although I do find some things annoying about them as well. More importantly, it does not prevent people to read The Sun (which I don’t know very well but I gather that it is a tabloid) instead. I think that subscription-based media ameliorate the problem a little, but still, at the end of the day, the media produce only that what they think their readers will read (not necessarily what they will like, or rather it is sometimes useful to write something they will be outraged about because it will make them share it all over the social media). In this sense it is hardly a market failure. It is just that most people don’t want to consume news to get a more accurate picture of the world or find out about what is happening but rather to feel better about themselves and their pre-existing views. The news outlets match that demand perfectly. Some of them are a bit better, because not everyone is like the people I described, but you cannot expect the journalists to be that much more insightful and thoughtful than the average person.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        > I find that the solution is to ignore the opinion sections of most newspapers

        Unfortunately, that’s been pages 1 through 78 for a while now.

        • Tibor says:

          Obviously, even reporters do not report in a completely unbiased way. A solution is to pick ideologically opposed (but not too ideological) new sources, compare how they report about the important events. If you can, you should choose some that don’t have a reputation of being dishonest (i.e. knowingly saying things which they know are not true). You can usually ignore anything that does not get a bigger coverage.

          In fact, I have some doubts about there being a point in reading the newspapers at all (I still do it, although I try to limit the time I spend doing that…I have an excuse for reading German media which is to practice my German but I am trying to limit even the BBC to skimming through the main events of the week on Saturday or something like that). It is maybe 10% useful information and 90% noise. One particular example of almost pure noise are the weekly polls about politics here in Germany (I don’t know if they are done with such a frequency elsewhere). So you can read stuff like “party x gained 1% since last week because of [an ad hoc explanation by the journalist] and party y lost 0.5% because of [a different ad hoc explanation]”. Given that those differences are well within the error bounds, this is just complete junk. But people like to read stuff like that because it makes politics look more dynamic (“our team is winning”) and therefore entertaining.

          • Tom Womack says:

            Bad financial journalism is even worse for that.

            The Financial Times is still reasonably competent, in that it has a body of journalists who together have a reasonable idea what the companies in the FTSE350 are doing and who have a clear sense of what’s signal and what is noise, but the BBC’s “market commentary” is just paragraphs of content-free reaction to each morning and each afternoon’s wiggle in the FTSE100 graph. The BBC has reasonable macroeconomic expertise, but the correct reaction to wiggles in the graph is silence.

  80. Emile says:

    I agree with the general point on dog whistles (there’s already plenty of things to discuss in people’s explicit statements, let’s not try to extrapolate even more), but to nitpick a bit:

    If Trump is dumb enough to say out loud that he thinks women aren’t attractive without big breasts, that says certain things about his public relations ability and his dignity-or-lack-thereof, but it sounds like it requires a lot more steps to suggest he is a bad person, or unqualified for anything, or would have an administration which is bad for women, or anything that we should actually care about.

    Well, lack of public relations ability, or of a filter between the brain and the mouth *does* seem like it could make someone unqualified for being chief spokesman of the Nation.

    • Anonymous says:

      Well, lack of public relations ability, or of a filter between the brain and the mouth *does* seem like it could make someone unqualified for being chief spokesman of the Nation.

      Unsuited, not unqualified. He is qualified.

      • tcheasdfjkl says:

        Why, what’s the difference? The ability to speak gracefully the way a president should is a qualification he does not have.

        • Anonymous says:

          From Wikipedia:

          Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the Constitution sets the following qualifications for holding the presidency:

          be a natural-born citizen of the United States;[note 1]
          be at least thirty-five years old;
          be a resident in the United States for at least fourteen years.

          Think of it like this – the asshole programmer from MIT w