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OT55: Thready For Hillary

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread. There are hidden threads every few days here. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. Also:

1. I think some named users are posting more controversial comments anonymously. I’d like to request people not do this, because I IP ban anonymous accounts on a hair-trigger, and if I IP ban your anonymous account then your real account also suffers. I think this is why a lot of people’s posts haven’t been showing up lately. I try to take people’s past history of posting interesting things into account before I ban them for a single violation, but if you’re anonymous I can’t do that and you’re kind of out of luck.

2. I’m actually considering banning anonymous commenting on here, because getting rid of the crappy anonymouses sometimes feels like trying to fill a leaky bucket. How angry would this make people?

3. It would also help if I knew how to make Akismet (the anti-spam program) realize that someone with a thousand previous good posts probably isn’t going to start being a spambot today just because they cited a few links. This seems like the absolute basics for a Bayesian spam filter, but I can’t seem to get Akismet to figure it out. I’d be willing to buy a premium account if it had this function. Does anybody know anything about this.

4. Can anyone think of any soft “nudge” style ways to steer open thread conversation here away from specific topics without banning them completely. Right now the best I can do is censor some of the most annoying words and force anyone who wants to discuss annoying things to come up with trivially inconvenient workarounds, but that’s a pretty irritating solution.

5. Comment of the week is by Z, who went through that Romanian study a whole lot more thoroughly than I did, though without any clearer result.

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2,121 Responses to OT55: Thready For Hillary

  1. Jill says:

    I wonder if Scott started a Thready for Hillary because he is voting for Hillary? Anyone know? Has he said?

    • Saint Fiasco says:

      I think he is voting for Hillary. At the beginning of each year he makes predictions to calibrate his confidence, and he predicted “Conditional on me voting and Hillary being on the ballot, I will vote for Hillary: 90%”.

  2. AnthonyC says:

    I recently re-read “Fish- now by prescription” and “Sleep – now by prescription” in a somewhat different light. Basically, the opposite market failures also happen. In the past year and a half, I’ve been prescribed vitamin D (which I’m told is actually a different form than the OTC one, but still) and omeprazole (same dose as OTC). I compared with the OTC options to check prices. In both cases, with my insurance (high deductible plan, so my charge for prescriptions is not just a copay), the prescription version cost 10x less than the same-dose OTC version. I’m at a loss for why that should happen.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      By fluke, insurance covers prescription drugs and not non-prescription drugs.

  3. Kyrus says:

    I was thinking about Scotts piece on white redneck culture and how we might preserve it while listening to Thomas Sowells book “Black Rednecks and White Liberals”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vbOUTNs66o

    He argues that black culture today has its root in white, southern, redneck culture. Take this together with Scotts article and you get: Because nobody cares about shitty, white culture being eradicated, white people might be doing better than black people today. maybe we just have to be as hostile to shitty black culture, in order to advance blacks.

    • LPSP says:

      It’s a growing body of thought among black people, and entering greater legitimacy among white people. I think I first encountered the idea about 3 years ago, and let me tell you, it was a breath of fresh relief to hear a black person say that “black culture”, as defined by propaganda, is worthless.

      For the sake of interest, as an english person I find american “black culture” much nearer to our local chav culture than to rednecks. There’s a clear lineage between redneck and chav, but chav and black culture have both adapted to the urban environment (travelling in gangs, car scrumping, exploiting benefits) to a greater extent than rednecks.

    • I can’t speak for any knowledge of black culture today, but a while ago, I read “Honor and Violence in the Old South” (which detailed Southern culture around violence and dueling across various social classes in the pre-Civil War era) and “Manchild in the Promised Land” (which discussed both growing up in the ghettos of Harlem in the 1940s, and featured extensive discussion of parental attitudes), and it was uncanny how similar the vices and failure-states of one culture were to the other.

      • Jill says:

        Interesting. I read Manchild in the Promised Land. Very interesting for those of us who might otherwise be clueless about that subculture. People’s beliefs and habits can be incredibly different in different subcultures. And since each is so used to their own, people from different subcultures tend to miscommunicate and misunderstand one another, even more than most humans do.

        It’s good to understand what a subculture is actually like, and maybe to understand why also, before forming any opinion as to whether it sounds worth preserving or if it might be a disaster where everyone might benefit if it were lost.

        Of course there is the Iraq problem. If you lose one destructive system (e.g. rule by Saddam), something is going to replace it. And you can’t guarantee that if you lose a destructive system, that the one that replaces it won’t be even more destructive. Looking only at a subculture’s flaws, you might not realize what positive functions it serves. But you may realize the functions only too late, having gotten rid of it. Cultures and subcultures are likely to keep following some kinds of beliefs and habits, even if some part of what they have is destroyed. And bad can possibly turn to worse, if one goes in and subtracts things without adding enough worthwhile things, not understanding what’s going on, as in Iraq.

        • I think we even got some examples of the Iraq problem in the book itself. Lack of respect for law, lack of care for long-term goals, lack of value for education, and pride in capacity for personal violence came together in a really bad combination, but just pulling out the pride-in-violence lead, according to the author of the book, a lot of people to embrace junkie-dom. The author describes how some people made the conscious decision to become junkies, because there was no soceital expectation that junkies react with violence when disrespected.

          In some cases, you can make things worse by going into a bad-but-stable system and removing what looked like bad elements.

          • Jill says:

            Yes, very much so. One of those cases that before trying to change anything, one should definitely look at why those parts of it work, that do work, in the eyes of the people doing them. Things like becoming a junkie– or even a terrorist– may seem like, or be, a “problem” to us. But to the person who does the behavior, it seems like a “solution.”

  4. Jack V says:

    I would vote for, “ban posting under ‘anonymous’, allow anonymous posting, but choose a consistent nickname for one post”

    That allows people to occasionally say “I know about this but I don’t want to be harassed about it”. But cuts down on “I want to randomly say something banworthy.”

  5. Sick of this says:

    Some months back multiple online accounts of mine, on unrelated sites, were apparently simultaneously hacked and the passwords changed. Sadly this is not the only problem I’ve had recently and I’m at a loss as to an reasonable explanation.

    I keep my letterbox locked with a padlock, and am religiously careful about keeping it locked and closed. I ordered a copy of the census (which for the first time has a unique ID, and there is major punishments if you don’t do and return the census with accurate answers). The census is going on tomorrow, and it was to be delivered to this letterbox, and so was particularly conscious about locking it this week. Today I went to check it and found that the letterbox was wide open with the padlock *still locked*, and the letterbox totally empty (despite the usual copious load of rubbish that gets shoved in there). There is no way the box can be opened without removing the padlock, there is no possibility it was open before, and there is no damage to the mailbox. Either someone has got hold of my key, or they have have opened the padlock using other means. This has not happened before (had it for years, don’t usually get really important stuff delivered there), and I find the timing especially bizarre. This alone is no cause for alarm exactly, but…

    I’ve also recently returned to my car several times to find it has been tampered with, such as windows I never use being down, the radio I hadn’t used being on etc etc. Obviously like everyone I forget stuff, and so I’m not in a hurry to jump to conclusions about this stuff.

    But as I mentioned, this is all on top of some pretty serious hacking not that long ago, as well as multiple other things that offer no real explanation. Thing after thing like this has happened. I don’t think ‘they’re after me’ or anything like that, but as it’s simply not possible that I’ve got it mixed up, I’m struggling to find an explanation for these increasingly blatant things happening again and again.

    YEARS ago I was involved with the environmental movement doing a large number of hours of work. The movement was mostly just normal people, but there’s plenty of people with radical views spread through it too. Some people I met claimed exactly this sort of thing happened to them after they began political/activist campaigning. I thought they were a bit odd at the time, and I guess people will probably be skeptical about my story like I was of theirs. Since then I’ve read a lot that this sort of thing is quite common. I suppose I was much more left wing in those time, and I mixed in a movement that included occasional people that were pretty nuts, but even in those days I never did dangerous stuff or advocated anything extreme or violent (even then I sometimes got accused of being a “neo-liberal” by the lefties in the movement). So while the ideas that environmentalism pisses powerful people off does provide one fairly neatly fitting explanation, it’s really hard for me to picture that happening to someone with views as soft as mine. There’s *large* sections of the community, let alone all the radical nutcases out there, that carry on with what I consider extreme views all the time. I am a bit of a contrarian that likes to adopt weird views (especially when I was at uni), but generally people tell me my views are actually too nice and that I try to please everyone too much. I’m (now) very privacy conscious, quite well read on politics and IT, into unusual futurist topics, I have a blog with very small readership, and I still support protecting the environment. I don’t see anything especially weird in any of that? I’ve also openly criticized the authoritarian-left online multiple times. It just doesn’t make sense to me that significant time would be spent on a centre-left/centrist person. Would they dilute the effectiveness of stuff that’s meant for extremists on somebody like me? Would someone seriously waste time on doing things like this to moderates? Did I just get put on the extremist list for some trolly thing I said at some point and no-one can be bothered to take me off? What am I missing here?

    I’m not panicked or anything about this, and it’s hard for me to really fathom that someone would want to waste so much time doing this, but I’m lost for rational explanations other than the above. As it’s a fairly aggressive thing to do to someone, and I mean I don’t really want to start throwing serious accusations around (I never asked to be in this position), but I’ve got plenty of other challenges in life and don’t need this. It’s getting really frustrating and ridiculous.

    I’m trying to decide on a rational response. I’d like others advice on rational responses.

    • Lumifer says:

      Set up a webcam or two pointed e.g. at your letterbox and at your car. Read a few espionage thrillers and set some traps and tell-tales (leave a hair on a handle kind of thing). Will you be able to tell if your computers and/or smartphones are clean or pwned?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Well, one explanation is that someone’s messing with you. Another explanation is that nobody is. Perhaps the best move is to have someone you trust set up concealed security cameras covering your car, letterbox and any other things which are being messed with.

      Also, if a bunch of unrelated accounts of yours were hacked at the same time, the common element is you, or your computer. This isn’t necessarily personal at all; just spammers and other criminals collecting useful accounts.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Another possibility: Carbon monoxide poisoning. Just throwing that out there, because this reminds me a lot of that.

    • John Schilling says:

      Rationally, it is going to be very hard for you alone to distinguish between “I am paranoid” and “They really are out to get me” on this one. Both ought to have very low priors, but everything that explains the observations you report will have low priors, and you cannot e.g. absolutely trust your own memory of having padlocked the letterbox.

      If there are people you can trust to help you sort this out, preferably more than one and unconnected to each other, that’s your best asset. Barring that, physical evidence. As others have noted, a hardwired camera-based security system, set up to a non-networked computer or dumb recorder that you control.. Tamper-evident seals on things like the letterbox, car doors/windows, etc, and a logsheet where you (always, strictly) record when you place and break the seals – and don’t forget to put seals on the computer or recorder for the cameras.

      With a substantial body of evidence, you ought to be able to go to the local police for further assistance.

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      If I may offer another suspect….

      Distinguish between “They are out to get me” and “Some person is out to get me.” The local mischief suggests a local person. THRUSH is unlikely to spend the money to hire a local person (or send someone in to do the local mischief).

      Here’s a theory that would eliminate, (or shrink) several coincidences.

      1) The local mischief maker also knows enough hacking (means) to do the recent minor hacks ..
      .
      I sometimes got accused of being a “neo-liberal” by the lefties in the movement). [….]

      2)… and holds a grudge (motive) against you for being too moderate in the activism.

      3) Timing might be the key to opportunity. How often have you and he been within mischief distance of each other?

      One coincidence that could be shrunk a lot, is the car mischief happening timed with the other things. Windows down, radio station, etc sound like joy-riding, which is very common.

      Either someone has got hold of my key

      How possible is it to get hold of the key, at least long enough to have it copied?

    • Sick of this says:

      Thanks to everyone that’s provided advice. Others feel free to add thoughts, and in the meantime I’ll think about what I can do. Thanks.

  6. Mr Mind says:

    This is a sci-fi hack of baseball. Comment and correct at will.
    You are a member of the Rebellion, and your squad’s mission is to disrupt the construction of the Imperial Giant Superweapon of the Week before it’s completed.
    The problem is that the construction site is surrounded by a cloud of search-n-destroy space-drones: they are incredibly fast, able to outmanouver any Rebellion ship, and incredibly deadly, armed as they are with lethal Aptly Colored Lasers. As soon as they sense your ship, you are dead. Your only options is to lie on an asteroid or on a planet somewhere, with all your systems switched off, and hoped to be confused with the background noise.
    Their only weakness is that, being so small, their energy reserve is limited.
    Indeed every x cicle, an Imperial Ship of Refilling comes to the yard, connects with a Master Relay and starts pumping plasma and sensors updates, that the Master Relay will then redistributes to the other drones.
    This is your only chance: when the refilling starts, you have your occasion to send a Disruption Signal. If the Disruption Signal’s Harmonics match precisely those of the Refilling Ship, a cascade of malfunctionings will spread over the network, temprarily disabling every drones.
    In this short amount of time, your squad must quickly jump to action and fly to other planets or asteroids on which to rest, before the drones compensate for the errors and reactivate. Who is caught still flying when the drones become operative, is Eliminated from the Game.
    The ships that are able to reach the Superweapon in the center can Score by striking with their missiles, with enough attempts (and some luck) the Empire will be defeated!

    • Montfort says:

      A worthy effort. However, I spot a few places for improvement:

      1) I like the model of batting as disrupting a transfer, but this version runs into difficulties because the fielders don’t have to return the ball home (its original destination) to stop the runners, but instead to the next base. Also presents difficulties with explaining stealing.

      Perhaps the ball could be interpreted as an arms shipment. Regular deliveries of arms are necessary to maintain martial law on rebellious worlds and prevent them from launching unauthorized spacecraft. When such a transfer is disrupted, it has to be recovered by Imperial field agents, giving the plucky pilot a window to take off. If the weapons are ready and waiting when a rebel tries to land at a waystation (or brought to bear by an agent directly on the rebel ship), the rebel becomes another hero on the walls of HQ.

      And in either system, walks are fairly easy to explain – balls are just partially-failed transmissions, if there’s enough (4) then the drones are rendered briefly inoperable / the Imperials run out of supplies. Foul balls and strikeouts are kind of difficult, though.

      2) There’s no explanation for why the bases are run in a set order (and why the final one is where you start), nor why one runner can’t overtake another or share a base.

      This one is tough, but here’s my take. The batter is an ace smuggler, sent to acquire a large quantity of an extremely volatile chemical to deliver to saboteurs at HQ. HQ has charted a path of safe space (relatively free of cosmic rays and energy fields that might set off the chemical) to friendly chemical plants. Each of the chemical plants provides one substrate of the finished product, and each stage of the reaction can be done in flight. Three in total are needed. Smugglers must take care not to get too close to each other, lest one mishap destroy both their ships.

      3) Pop flies and tagging up

      This is major and abstract enough I think explaining it is in scope (as opposed to, say, balks, infield fly rule, or equipment rules), but realistically I don’t think it can fit gracefully. Would like to be proven wrong, though.

  7. Jill says:

    Here are 2 fascinating sounding books about people with Asperger’s and autism, just recommended for my local book club to read:

    “Imagine being trapped inside a Disney movie and having to learn about life mostly from animated characters dancing across a screen of color. A fantasy? A nightmare? This is the real-life story of Owen Suskind, the son of the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind and his wife, Cornelia. An autistic boy who couldn’t speak for years, Owen memorized dozens of Disney movies, turned them into a language to express love and loss, kinship, brotherhood.The family was forced to become animated characters, communicating with him in Disney dialogue and song”

    Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism (ABC) Paperback – July 12, 2016
    by Ron Suskind
    https://www.amazon.com/Life-Animated-Sidekicks-Heroes-Autism/dp/1484741234/ref=la_B001I9RR1C_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1470622549&sr=1-1
    —————————

    And the 2nd book:

    “In 2007 John Elder Robison wrote the international bestseller Look Me in the Eye, a memoir about growing up with Asperger’s syndrome. Amid the blaze of publicity that followed, he received a unique invitation: Would John like to take part in a study led by one of the world’s foremost neuroscientists, who would use an experimental new brain therapy known as TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, in an effort to understand and then address the issues at the heart of autism? Switched On is the extraordinary story of what happened next.”

    Switched On: A Memoir of Brain Change and Emotional Awakening Hardcover – March 22, 2016
    by John Elder Robison (Author), Alvaro Pascual-Leon (Introduction), & 1 more

    https://www.amazon.com/Switched-Memoir-Change-Emotional-Awakening/dp/0812996895/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1470622974&sr=1-1-spell&keywords=Seitched+on

  8. Utopn Naxl says:

    Eh. You *can* get rid of anonymouse commenting. What follows is the same thing that follows whenever anonamouse comments are banned.

    Positive:

    1. Less low effort comments.

    2. Less trolling.

    3.Less flame wars

    Negative:

    3. More conformity in opinion.

    4. Less people actually speaking and thinking their minds on issues. I think this one can *sound* like trolling, but the problem is IRL lots of genuine thoughts seem like trolling.

    Really, I would suggest a method of keeping out commentators of low quality. Probably a basic email registration system. Something like only one comment per thread if one does not have an email.

  9. Jill says:

    Here’s an interesting point of view regarding federal deficits and inequality, from a Modern Monetary theory web site. I had not thought of the federal deficit in this way before.

    “It is more than a coincidence that federal deficits and inequality have grown simultaneously. The upward flow within the private sector links them. For the democracy to remain a healthy, ways must be found to limit the upward flow and redirect it toward the vast majority of the country’s population. MMT could become a more powerful tool for bringing this about by expanding analyses of the sectoral financial flows to show the flows between layers within the private sector. It may also show more about the causes of business cycles and how to break what appears to be a trend toward ever larger federal deficits.”

    Full article here:
    http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2016/08/another-dimension.html#more-10530

  10. jordan says:

    Scott,

    (or someone else with medical knowledge)

    What do you think about Todd Rider’s DRACO anti-virus drug research at MIT?

    Read through it, but my lack of technical know-how limited my comprehension. The biggest red flag I saw was that it seemed to claim to fix EVERYTHING and to have no problems, which is basically not true of any treatments or drug in the history of the world, ever.

    Still, I found it very exciting when this research got popular in 2011, and was glad someone in medicine was trying to “take on viruses” rather than simply accepting them as our permanent parasitic companions. If you get a chance, let me know if you’ve researched this and have any answers for me.

    Thanks,

    Jordan

  11. Jill says:

    A neuroscientist explains what may be wrong with Trump supporters’ brains

    http://www.rawstory.com/2016/08/a-neuroscientist-explains-what-may-be-wrong-with-trump-supporters-brains/

    I know, I know. The title article might offend some people, so some folks here are about to exhort me once again to treat people of the Right Wing with kid gloves, even while so many of them are stomping on me with army boots. But I have decided against that policy. What is the point of being one more wimpy liberal who is too nice to ever authentically call things as she sees them? The country is filled with liberals like those. They’re not getting anywhere.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Jill, you’re part of a tribe whose “wimpy, too nice” members have no problem defending violent rioters, shredding due process rights, and driving people from their jobs for supporting the wrong side of a political campaign. I have no idea what bizarre parallel universe you come from, but it’s clearly not the one that the rest of us inhabit.

    • Glen Raphael says:

      @Jill:

      A neuroscientist explains what may be wrong with Trump supporters’ brains

      Not much there there. The article puts forth these options:
      (1) Dunning-Kruger: Trump supporters are ignorant and don’t know what they don’t know. (Alas, this is an all-purpose accusation – you can apply it to any group in any circumstance.)
      (2) Conservative brains are broken in that they have an outsized fear response. (I’m pretty sure most MRI studies claiming brain differences between liberals and conservatives have been casualties of the replication crisis (eg), so this point should be presumed bogus.)
      (3) “Terror Management Theory” – evolution makes us act stupidly in the face of existential threats. (Wikipedia says many psychologists challenge/question the entire basis of TMT. Which in any case would seem to explain Hillary support similarly well if they perceive Trump as an existential threat.)
      (4) “High attentional engagement” which is to say Trump is much less boring than other candidates. (Well, yeah. But did we need a neuroscientist to tell us that?)

    • SP says:

      It seems to me, Jill, that you are torn between two goals. On the one hand you are genuinely distressed by America’s tribal cultural warfare. Inter tribal communication matters a lot to you. On the other hand, you seem equally if not more distressed by the too nice way your fellow Blue tribe members are acting (not disputing this for the moment).

      Unfortunately I think this means you’re stuck. Inter tribal communication sometimes means being really nice to people who think that you are the devil. It means communicating really nicely with people who just told you that there is something wrong with your brain because of your political beliefs. That’s incompatible, as far as I can tell, with not being nice to people of another tribe because you are concerned about said too-niceness.

      For my part, whether you decide the first goal is your priority over your second goal (or not) I hope you stick around. I disagree with almost everything you say, and I imagine myself to be someone you think is some form of evil or stupidity or both, but you are nonetheless the most interesting thing to have happened to this board in a while. So I’m rooting for you to enjoy yourself here, and excited to see both how you and this board changes as a result of your involvement.

    • Jiro says:

      A neuroscientist explains what may be wrong with Trump supporters’ brains

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulverism

      I wish I’d expected better of you.

    • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

      Jill proclaims [intemperately]  “I have decided against that policy [of discourse that is rational, respectful, and empathic] What is the point of being one more wimpy liberal who is too nice to ever authentically call things as she sees them? The country is filled with liberals like those. They’re not getting anywhere.”

      Among young people especially, rational, respectful, and empathic discourse *is* getting somewhere. See for example, the traditionally conservative aggregator RedState’s latest broadside: “Trump In 4th Place, Behind BOTH 3rd Party Candidates, With Young Voters In New Poll“. 🙂

      Doesn’t neuroscience teach that changing minds is not a matter of deductive ratiocination, but rather is founded upon the physiological and cognitive reparcellation of social cognition? So changing peoples minds is inherently a slow process, isn’t it? A process that requires long-term sustainment of empathic practice, right?

      What does it matter, if the far-right (or the far-left too) responds with their characteristically toxic blend of intemperate anger, juvenile abuse, willful ignorance, and ineffectual repression? “Soft responses” that “turneth away wrath” catalyze the rejection equally of the far-right and the far-left, thereby ensuring the long-term triumph of Enlightened Modernity with young people especially.

      So let’s embrace Jeeves as our role model! More Spinoza, please! And in the meantime, my write-in vote will be going to a pair of Enlightened Modernist Moderates … Jim Webb and Al Franken! 🙂 🙂 🙂

      • Jill says:

        Interesting ideas and links. To be clear, I certainly never said that I have decided against that policy [of discourse that is rational, respectful, and empathic.] Those words inside his parentheses were Uncle Ilya Kuriakin’s, not mine. I simply am talking about authentically calling things as I see them, which does not in any way preclude rationality, respect, or empathy– except in the eyes of those who desire me to treat them with kid gloves.

        With the exception of SJW’s I find most liberals to be pretty wimpy, not even normally assertive, much less aggressive. It’s no wonder at all that the GOP controls both Houses of Congress, most state legislatures, most state governorships, and SCOTUS until very recently.

        It’s still amazing to me that people who want to rebel and say a big Eff You to the establishment, are deciding to do so by voting for the party that controls both Houses of Congress, most state legislatures, most state governorships, and SCOTUS until very recently.

        Although the particular candidate that they are voting for claims to be anti-establishment, he is surrounding himself with lots of economic and political establishment type people.

        Trump’s economic team has a lot of billionaires, very few economic experts
        http://www.vox.com/2016/8/5/12387698/trump-billionaires-economists

        • Jill says:

          In fact, I think the reason why SJW’s have gotten so aggressive is that most liberals are so wimpy that they have laid down and become door mats to the SJWs, just like they have to the GOP.

    • The Dunning-Kruger effect isn’t as big a deal as a lot of people think.

      The article leaves out the “let it burn” Trump supporters, but I have no idea how common they are.

      As for how much anger it’s worth showing, I haven’t wanted to do the work of sorting out who’s been offensive about what, but what I’ve seen is Jill being apparently polite in terms of not doing overt insults and right-wingers/red tribe members expressing a lot of anger at her without being specific about what she said that they were angry at. So now Jill is also showing a good bit of anger.

      Being specific about what’s going on is *work*, and it’s hard to do when people are angry and it might not get a friendly reception. I’m reminded of a lot of what goes on with SJWs.

      I’m fresh out of advice. Have a classic video (not related to American culture wars) about people being driven to “incomprehensible” rage.

      • Also, there are people who are planning to vote for Trump because they can’t abide Clinton– they’re not going to be psychologically the same as people who actually like Trump.

    • Sandy says:

      Yes, the side that’s been calling Trump the reincarnated amalgamation of Hitler, Mussolini and Vlad the Impaler is “too nice to call things as they see them”.

      • The Nybbler says:

        They’ve called him a vampire, but I don’t think they ever related him to directly Vlad Dracul. They’ve also called supporter Peter Thiel a vampire, but “they” was Gawker and I think we know why they’re a bit sore.

    • The Nybbler says:

      As Jiro says, this is just Bulverism. It considers all the possibilities but two: That Trump is actually on to something that his supporters like, and that Hillary Clinton is completely unacceptable to his supporters.

      Out of immense frustration, some of us may feel the urge to shake a Trump supporter and say, “Hey! Don’t you realize that he’s an idiot?!

      Here’s the problem: Trump’s not an idiot. A lot of people said W. was an idiot, and that’s almost believable; he did have the entire Republican party backing him. But even ignoring his business career, Trump has just managed to take the Republican nomination against the wishes of that same Republican party apparatus. That doesn’t square with “idiot”.

      This article basically breaks down into “here’s some pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo to reassure you that Trump supporters are paranoid idiots with a short attention span”. This is what many mean when they talk about the “arrogance of the left”.

      • Aegeus says:

        Trump has proven he is incredibly good at getting Republicans to like him, which requires some sort of talent, but every time he talks about policy, I keep landing on words like “idiotic” or “ignorant” or “blatantly lying.”

        I know that the conventional wisdom around here is that IQ is generally applicable and that smart people tend to be smart in general, but it really seems like Trump only uses his intelligence to find more ways to appeal to his base. If he was skilled at political strategy in general, you would expect him to do strategic things like, say, not interrupting the news about your rival’s latest scandal to attack the parents of a dead soldier.

        Basically, I’m not sure if he was clever enough to identify an unmet need in the Republican party and become its face, or if he just ran on his ideology and was pleasantly surprised to find it filled an unmet need in the Republican party.

        • Jill says:

          He is entertaining, and a bully, and is ignorant about just about everything except real estate dealings. And he knows how to work a crowd entertaininly. So he has great appeal to people who like to be entertained, are ignorant about most things, and who see a bully as being “a strong leader.” That’s about all there is.

    • John Schilling says:

      I know, I know. The title article might offend some people,

      I doubt it would offend anyone here.

      It will annoy us. It will annoy us because it is an insulting waste of our time. It will annoy us because just about everyone here has heard countless variations on “our political opponents have something wrong with their brains, here is a Genuine Scientist giving the Science Reason why our political opponents are literally insane or brain damaged!”. From both sides, though I think it’s more common on the left on account of their otherwise-laudable desire to be the science-friendly ideology. And pretty much every time we’ve bothered to follow up on such claims, we have been left dumber for the experience. The rational choice for all of us is to ignore all such claims unless they are backed by extraordinary evidence, and really to not even bother with the evidence unless it comes from a highly credible source.

      Which you aren’t. A credible source for something like this would be a person with a proven track record for delivering accurate and insightful analysis of contentious issues, and the awareness to open with “Look, I know you’ve heard things like this many times before and it’s always been wrong, but here’s why I think this one is different and doesn’t repeat the mistakes you’ve all seen before”. Someone like Scott could pull that off. As, indeed, he has.

      You can’t. Not yet, maybe not ever. From day one, you’ve been presenting us with arguments we’ve all heard many times before, supported by links to work no better than we’ve all considered and rejected before. I don’t know whether you think these things are new to us, or that one more repetition will be somehow persuasive to us, but what we are mostly persuaded of is that a Jill-link or a long Jill-post is so unlikely to be worth our time that we should probably just skip it.

      And you aren’t alone in being on the usually-not-worth-engaging-with list, but you are here and you seem to be trying to do better. But if you want to build the level of credibility that lets you accomplish anything with posts like the above, it’s going to take time. I’d recommend focusing, for the time being, on subjects that are closer to your areas of personal expertise and experience, and farther from the usual realms of political debate. Perhaps more importantly, I’d recommend a whole lot more time and effort spent trying to understand what other people here actually think, before you set out to change their minds.

    • Jill says:

      To be clear, I certainly never said that I have decided against that policy [of discourse that is rational, respectful, and empathic.] Those words inside his parentheses were Uncle Ilya Kuriakin’s, not mine. I simply am talking about authentically calling things as I see them, which does not in any way preclude rationality, respect, or empathy– except in the eyes of those who desire me to treat them with kid gloves.

  12. Over in the links thread, there’s a long discussion of choosing children’s names so as to avoid the child getting bullied over that, at least.

    It seems to me that if anti-bullying policies work, then it’s a much stronger strategy to put the child in a school where bullying is strongly and effectively discouraged. Does anyone have experience of anti-bullying strategies working?

    • John Schilling says:

      I very much second Nancy’s question and am reluctant to interject in a way that might derail the thread before getting answers. Please, if you have experience one way or another, let’s hear it.

      That said, however strong a strategy it may be, most parents aren’t in a position to decide the range of anti-bullying policies in place at the schools within geographic and financial reach maybe ten years, two jobs, and a move in the future. Deciding on a name that doesn’t invite bullying seems like a decent backup plan, and at least some relevant trends can be predicted with fair reliability a decade or two out (e.g. “A Boy Named Sue” being written fifty years ago and needing no explanation when brought up here).

      • Luke the CIA stooge says:

        It always seemed to me that bullying almost definitionally could not have effective policy to counteract it because bullying isn’t the core phenomenon. Bullying is either A the result of a semi-agressive culture which some just do not have the ability to compete in (think teenage guys ripping on each other and the weird kid can’t cope) and/or B. Confining a sizable population in a status competition they aren’t allowed to leave.
        Creating a peaceful non-predatory school is about as difficult as creating a peaceful non-predatory prison, because from a social perspective their the same institution (right down to confrontations in the cafeteria). The prize of competition (social control over the environment you can’t leave) is simply too great.

        Sure you can restrict the methods of competing (declare stabbings above waste attempted homicide and threaten to add infinity to there sentence, or declare snarling each other over facebook cyber bullying and threaten expulsion and you’ll get more ass stabbings/snarling in person) bit fundamentally the competition will not stop, there might be lulls or temporary equilibriums but the incentive is right there waiting to temp everyone once the situation changes.

        Ask yourself: does work feel that much different from highschool? baring changes in YOUR status. Probably not, because it’s an environment your stuck in with strong penalties for leaving and massive benefits for winning the status game. Bullying is just what happens when one party’s massively outgunned or the natural logic of escalation is played out. If humans still exist as rational individuals in 40000ad then bullying will still exist.

        This is basic Hobbes: human nature isn’t evil or good it’s rational. And God made a world where evil is rational.

        • Jill says:

          What an interesting view, where much of it is new to me, but it mostly makes sense.

          Some schools have far less bullying than others. And some workplaces. Probably the ones that are more cooperative and less competitive and cutthroat and authoritarian, I would think? And/or perhaps the opposite too, very authoritarian and the punishment for bullying is severe. I think the local community outside the school itself makes a huge difference too. How harsh, competitive, cutthroat, authoritarian is that environment vs. cooperative or kind?

          Evil is most rational in the most authoritarian competitive cutthroat environments and least rational in environments where it’s mostly safe to relax and have fun and where mutual cooperation is bringing many benefits to people.

  13. Emily says:

    If you’re currently reading this from a computer lab/apartment office in a big DC apartment building, my husband just saw you reading and did not say “my wife is a big fan as well, want to come over for board games sometime,” but I would have.

    • cassander says:

      I’m in a big DC apartment building….

      • Emily says:

        Cool! Shoot me an email at heterodox.jedi@gmail or find me on Reddit if you want to get together sometime. Or, idk, leave a note in the laundry room?

  14. Slajov says:

    I have a non-political topic:

    Is there anything (books or survey papers especially) worth reading in nutrition science as it stands today? In particularly I’m looking for something that would would appeal to rationalists or members of adjacent subcultures.

    I’ve gotten the impression that everything is hopelessly confounded, and we have no idea what’s causing the rise in obesity, whether changing one’s diet in any way can increase one’s lifespan or health, etc. At the same time, I’ve seen a few rather counterintuitive assertions, like a claim that removing sugar from one’s diet has about the same impact on your dental health as flossing or brushing (so that many hunter-gatherer tribes have perfectly fine dental health with no modern medicine), and I’m not sure how to evaluate them.

    • Jill says:

      Here’s one an M.D. at my chruch recommended for our book group to read.

      Eat fat, get thin : why the fat we eat is the key to sustained weight loss and vibrant health
      by Hyman, Mark

    • Nornagest says:

      like a claim that removing sugar from one’s diet has about the same impact on your dental health as flossing or brushing (so that many hunter-gatherer tribes have perfectly fine dental health with no modern medicine), and I’m not sure how to evaluate them.

      I’d believe that one, with the caveat that sugar doesn’t always mean refined sugar. In the archaeology of the pre-Columbian Americas, we can tell which peoples ate a lot of maize (and when it started to become a staple crop) by looking at skeletons’ teeth: maize is rich in sugars relative to most other staples, and the cultures that ate it have much more tooth decay than those that didn’t.

    • Glen Raphael says:

      Is there anything (books or survey papers especially) worth reading in nutrition science as it stands today?

      It’s not strictly “in nutrition science”, but I can recommend Penn Jillette’s new book (just released this week!): Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales. Over the course of a series of meandering stories, Penn describes what he did to lose a third of his weight and dramatically improve his general health situation. The more science-y book covering this material is still being written – it’ll be a book called _Our Broken Plate_ by Ray Cronise. (Meanwhile, there are some papers, most notably the one on Metabolic Winter.)

      • I haven’t read Jillette’s book, but I’ve listened to an interview where he said he was very consistent about saying “I” and not generalizing to other people.

    • Agronomous says:

      I’ve gotten the impression that everything is hopelessly confounded, and we have no idea what’s causing the rise in obesity…

      My theory is that committing crime burns a lot of calories, so as the crime rate goes down, the obesity rate goes up.

      Note that this is probably not actually the least-well-thought-out theory in the world of nutrition.

      • dndnrsn says:

        CrimeFit, the most intense workout you could have, and if it goes wrong, some dudes get absolutely jacked in prison?

  15. Jill says:

    Am just realizing that much of the time, I don’t know precisely what the issue is that some other commenters have with my comments. I don’t remember using the words “malice” or “greed” but have been accused of saying these are characteristic of the GOP. I do find that the characteristics that many people here ascribe to Dems are pretty ugly. But I’m not wanting to play “Both sides do it.” I want to be fair to people, even if they are not fair to me.

    However, I am not going to pretend e.g. that I think the GOP restricts voting rights in order to prevent voter fraud. I don’t believe that. And there is no evidence for it. Such laws always greatly decreases minority voting, and minority opportunities to vote. And that’s why SCOTUS has been striking these laws down.

    Voting Rights on the March
    Lower courts are emboldened by a 4–4 split and the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling to strike down specious voting laws
    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2016/08/why_courts_are_striking_down_voting_rights_restrictions_right_now.html

    I am trying to be fair, but not treat people with kid gloves or pretend not to notice what the GOP is doing, in order to satisfy Right Wingers here who may believe the GOP can do no wrong.

    Inter-tribal communication is almost impossible. But, for the time being, I am willing to keep trying. However, I’m not willing to swallow other people’s explanations for things when the truth of them looks quite different, and quite obvious, to me.

    I don’t see any point in pretending I see eye to eye with people, when I do not.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      If you want to “stick” around here (by which I mean have a pleasant enough experience that you want to continue posting) allow me to suggest the following.

      State your positions as arguments, rather than facts. If it helps, you might even consider framing each position using the phrase “I assert”. And try and keep your assertions quite specific. Don’t refer to this board as a whole, or even conservatives on this board, or even conservatives in general, if you mean, say, elected GOP officials or other people in positions of influence.

      This will allow people here to engage with you more dispassionately and not throw themselves under a blanket that perhaps should not cover them.

      For example:
      I assert that GOP officials are primarily concerned with suppressing the legitimate votes of those who vote for Democratic candidates, rather than believing that voter fraud is a particularly viable concern.

      • Jill says:

        Thanks for your suggestion. I’ll think it over.

      • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

        Please allow me to agree with Jill, that HeelBearCub’s suggestion is worth trying … and so let’s try it. In reflecting upon two maxims of Alexander Pope,

        Some people will never learn anything, for this reason, because they understand everything too soon.

        Since it is reasonable to doubt most things, we should most of all doubt that reason of ours, which would demonstrate all things.

        we find two reasons to doubt the capacity of Trump-supporting rationalists, to learn from the ever-increasing class of reasons that convey doubt regarding inherent cognitive and emotional capacities of Mr. Trump to fulfill the grave responsibilities of Presidential office that he seeks

        These grave responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the unrestricted, unilateral, immediate authority to launch nuclear attacks anywhere on the globe.

        In the present as in the 1960s, once nuclear attack orders are given, the attack itself is entirely governed by strictly rational procedures. Hence it is crucially important, to reduce the probability of a dubiously rational initiation order, to the lowest feasible level.

        In a two-kernel nutshell, Mr. Trump is both (1) too irrationally self-confident and (2) too unwittingly ignorant, to be safely entrusted with immediate, unrestricted, unilateral nuclear launch authority.

        In regard to open public discussion of these issues, Army Gen./Dr. H. R. McMasters’ required-reading history (within the US military, anyway) Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam (1997) has this to offer:

        “To say that the most momentous issues a nation must face cannot be openly and critically discussed is really tantamount to saying that democratic debate and decision do not apply the the questions of life and death. … Not only is this position at odds with the principles of democracy, but it removes a very important corrective for governmental misjudgement.”

        Yes indeed … this mode of expression is rational, respectful, informative, democratic, and refreshing (and to very many folks, including me, it is entirely convincing).

        Thank you HeelBearCub.

      • Mistake Not ... says:

        It’s not terrible advice, but it’s sad that we need a special set of rules for left leaning posters that non-left leaning posters certainly don’t follow.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          I do pretty much the same thing by double-checking my posts and adding “I think” anywhere I’m not confident I could find an absolutely ironclad source to back it up within five minutes.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          They aren’t rules.

          It’s merely recognizing the terrain and mapping out a path that has you walking on the high-ground and not wading through the mud. Wading through mud is tiring and seems to last forever and you feel like you have made no progress at all.

          Jill has been fighting her battle on two fronts or more and I’m trying to help her close the front that is taking most of her effort (and is a losing battle, especially given Jill’s stated goals.)

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        @ HBC
        State your positions as arguments, rather than facts. If it helps, you might even consider framing each position using the phrase “I assert”. And try and keep your assertions quite specific.
        [:….:]
        For example:
        I assert that GOP officials are primarily concerned with suppressing the legitimate votes of those who vote for Democratic candidates, rather than believing that voter fraud is a particularly viable concern.
        >

        I assert that your idea is good, but ‘assert’ is not a good word for the purpose. I assert that ‘assert’ suggests that the speaker has 100% confidence in the predicate, and replying with “But I assert with 100% confidence that just the opposite is true” is, er, not often seen in polite circles.

        I assert that better phrases for the polite padding are terms like: “I think”…”I wonder if”…”I guess”…”But what about”…”I’m afraid you’re forgetting”…”IMO” — and many others of the same level of generalization as the original claim.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I don’t disagree with any of this.

          I wa trying to emphasize a thought process that might put one in the mindset of philosophical argument. Here is my position, counter-arguments are welcome and expected. That approach is fairly respected here, in my experience.

          But softening modifiers can also be very useful.

    • Lumifer says:

      Jill says:
      August 5, 2016 at 4:07 pm ~new~

      I’d be lying if I said that I see no signs of greed or malice in any GOPers. I don’t think they’re all that way.

      And merely two hours later:

      Jill says:
      August 5, 2016 at 6:03 pm ~new~

      … I don’t remember using the words “malice” or “greed” but have been accused of saying these are characteristic of the GOP.

      You don’t remember what you posted two hours before?

      • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

        Thank you lumifer, for providing further occasion to appreciate Jill’s gracious comments, and to thank her for them.

      • Jill says:

        Both of those 2 posts were sequential replies by me, to an earlier post by someone who said I saw greed and malice where there was none, in the GOP or the Red Tribe. To be perfectly precise, I should have said that I didn’t remember using those words prior to the post by the person who referred to my “characterizations of greed and malice in the GOP” in posts.

        Every single instance of imperfect precision by me here, seems to be jumped on immediately. This doesn’t seem to happen to anyone else here. Oh the joy.

        • Jiro says:

          Every single instance of imperfect precision by me here, seems to be jumped on immediately.

          Well, the point of discussion is to try to become correct. Of course incorrectness will get noticed. Mistakes are a bad thing.

          I think you’re still confusing this with other forums. Being careless about your information sources or saying fake but accurate things is frowned on here.

      • Dahlen says:

        Hey, please stop quoting “~ new ~” (with no spaces). Ctrl+F-ing those characters is just about the only way to make sense of the SSC comments section.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          It’s 2016, bro, use the sidebar thingy.

          • The sidebar thingy is good if you’re not terribly concerned with reading comment threads as relatively coherent wholes. ~ new is good if you have a lot to catch up on.

          • Dahlen says:

            Just noticed it, and it still doesn’t seem to be a better system than what I’m currently using. I’d rather type two characters in and lazily press Enter, instead of keeping track of who’s who.

    • Outis says:

      Sometimes the view from outside can help put things in perspective. Having grown up in Europe, the lack of voter ID in the US strikes me as one of those weird and exotic American traditions, like carrying weapons everywhere or not having a national health service. In fact, in terms of how obviously reasonable, appropriate and non-contentious it ought to be, I rank voter ID above both gun control and socialized health care.

      Just my €0.02.

      • Mistake Not ... says:

        Keep in mind we don’t have national IDs because it’s some kind of boogiemen. Clearly it wasn’t necessary for pervasive surveillance but try telling that to the black helicopter crowd.

    • Seth says:

      Am just realizing that much of the time, I don’t know precisely what the issue is that some other commenters have with my comments.

      I’m finding the reactions pretty interesting from a sociological point of view. I don’t think there’s a single issue, but multiple minor factors adding up to more significant friction.

      1) The SSC-commentariat-swims-right problem. It’s not that there are no left-leaning posters, but I believe (note qualifier) that the median is significant Libertarian-right.

      2) Communication style. It’s really obvious to me that Jill comes from a different social group than most people here. It’s straight out of all the theory about how different groups use language.

      3) Not quite the same as #2, but the jargon and shorthand has mismatches with what most people expect.

      I don’t suggest that the above is exhaustive. It’s just things which have caught my eye here with someone who has a just a bit more deviation than standard from the local central peak (note example of how I’m using jargon there).

  16. Jill says:

    Newt Gingrich historical quotes, for those of you who question whether he is responsible for our latest wave of bashing politics.
    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/04/newt-gingrich-greatest-rhetorical-hits?page=2

    • The Nybbler says:

      Petition to ban Jill for linking to an article containing language which could evoke mental imagery of Newt Gingrich having sex.

    • Glen Raphael says:

      @Jill:
      Did you catch my response to your Gingrich schtick (aka “Evil Wizard Theory”) in the prior links thread? It’s here.

      Skimming the MJ reference links, I was impressed with a quote from this one – Gingrich said:

      “Oh, this is just the beginning of a 20-or-30-year movement. I’ll get credit for it…As a historian, I understand how histories are written. My enemies will write histories that dismiss me and prove I was unimportant. My friends will write histories that glorify me and prove I was more important than I was. And two generations or three from now, some serious, sober historian will write a history that sort of implies I was whoever I was.”

      I think he got the near-term entirely backwards – it seems like it’s his enemies who are writing histories that glorify him and prove him more important than he was!

      • Luke the CIA stooge says:

        Would that we could all have the honour

      • Jill says:

        He was pretty darned important in the most recent wave of the politics of bashing, partisanship, tribalism, and lying big time.

        Thanks for pointing me back to your comment on the other thread. Threads get so long here, that I sometimes lose track.

        • Jill says:

          Glen, here’s my reply to what you said on the other thread:
          “If Evil Wizard Theory were true, identifying Gingrich as the Evil Wizard might cause his influence to disappear in a puff of smoke whereupon everybody who has read that article you kept linking would wake up in a daze and decide to, I dunno, vote for Hillary?”

          No, it wouldn’t. Propaganda still works even if people are told who is doing it and what they are doing– at least if that propaganda has been going on for decades. If it’s only been going on for a few weeks, there is some chance that exposing it would de-activate it though.

          Goebbbels has been quoted as saying “Say something once and it’s a lie. Say something twice and it’s a lie. Say it a thousand times and it’s an eternal truth.” Right Wing “news sources” have told lies and bashed Dems many thousands of times over past decades. I can’t do much as an individual to counteract that. But I do what little I can manage.

          “But here’s my question for you: what if Evil Wizard Theory isn’t true? Or if it is, what if Gingrich *isn’t* the relevant wizard but is just one more sad sack operating under the influence of a spell cast by a different wizard?”

          In this case, I think it is true. And there may be wizards higher in status than Gingrich. But Gingrich looks like a major wizard to me, and to Ornstein.

          “When you post links to an Evil Wizard Gingrich essay, what outcome are you hoping to achieve? Do you see any evidence that you’re getting that outcome?”

          Just some discussion, for the time being. I know it won’t change anyone’s mind here. Right Wing media has repeated many many lies about the Left Wing, about everything from saying Hillary murdered 100 people to small things like Obama being divisive when dealing with those oh-so-cooperative GOPers.

          I would not see evidence of what I want to see. I have to do it without evidence. What I am doing is exposing Right Wingers, some perhaps for the first time in their lives, to Left Wing points of view, from the point of view of someone who knows certain things to be true and valuable– not from the usual point of view people here are used to hearing– that of Right Wing media deriding these views as stupid, silly, evil etc.

          People here do deride me as being those things, just like their Right Wing media sources have done before them. But at least those who can deal with the fact that I am not a troll, may eventually admit to themselves that some people do believe these things, even thought their own tribe does not.

          • Jill says:

            People in the U.S. have been incredibly easy to Divide and Conquer, because we are such an active nation and so non-reflective. Propagandists seem like Evil Wizards, who couldn’t possibly exist.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            As I said in another thread somewhere, it seems to me you cannot simultaneously accept the claim that running a polity by popular vote is a good idea and the claim that the populace can be manipulated en masse by clever people with money to spend. They just cannot both be true.

          • The observation that humans can be manipulated by advertising seems uncontroversial. But if a polity isn’t to be run by humans, what’s your alternative?

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @Jill:

            Propagandists seem like Evil Wizards, who couldn’t possibly exist.

            Calling somebody an Evil Wizard is great propaganda – it lets you shut off your brain and dismiss out of hand a vast array of enemy claims made by a vast array of enemies without having to think them through and come up with any actual counterarguments. You can just say “Oh, they only believe that because they’re in thrall to the Evil Wizard!”

            But consider for a moment the possibility that Gingrich isn’t an Evil Wizard. Maybe he was successful because his arguments were popular. Maybe his arguments were popular because they were actually correct. Or maybe they were popular because he was riding a popular zeitgeist – lots of people were thinking similar things at the same time.

            One argument for one of those latter options is that I myself came to many of the same conclusions at a similar time independently of Gingrich and with essentially no exposure to “right wing media” of the sort you’re thinking of – only from having read a few of the same books he had read.

            Norm Ornstein thinks Gingrich “delegitimized” government, which presumes government was “legitimate” prior to his influence. But the people whose writings most “delegitimized” government for me included Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) and Lysander Spooner (1808-1887). Are they “wizards” too? Or did Gingrich perhaps go back in time to convince them?

            Or consider other, more recent thinkers Gingrich was riffing on and bringing to his students. Have you read, say, Hayek’s The Road To Serfdom? Has Ornstein? Do you have any arguments against Hayek’s core claims? Does Ornstein? Identifying Gingrich as a middleman who helped popularize the ideas of people like Hayek is no substitute for engaging with the underlying ideas.

            In short: you say he’s an Evil Wizard; I respond “okay, but was he actually wrong about anything in particular?” If he was wrong, we should dismiss those claims whether or not he was an Evil Wizard. If he was right, we should accept his claims regardless of whether or not he was an Evil Wizard. So calling him one is beside the point.

          • John Schilling says:

            it seems to me you cannot simultaneously accept the claim that running a polity by popular vote is a good idea and the claim that the populace can be manipulated en masse by clever people with money to spend

            What if you accept that clever people with money to spend are always going to be running the show no matter what? Popular vote makes people feel better about it, and puts at least some bound on the level of overt villainy and/or incompetence the overlords can get away with.

            There are some assumptions in there that I am neither confident of or comfortable with, but it’s not obviously wrong.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            The observation that humans can be manipulated by advertising seems uncontroversial.

            Okay, with caveats. Advertising can communicate to me things I might not have known about the candidate any other way; does that count as “manipulation”? And advertising can appeal to my feelings in ways that a Vulcan might be immune to; does that count as “manipulation”?

            The argument Jill is making seems stronger than that — that advertising can control the outcome of an election regardless of the thoughts and feelings of the populace. Like Glen I have my doubts about that.

            But if a polity isn’t to be run by humans, what’s your alternative?

            On even days, I deny that my fellow voters are so easy to manipulate.

            On odd days, either anarcho-capitalism or Moldbuggian formalism.

            Popular vote makes people feel better about it, and puts at least some bound on the level of overt villainy and/or incompetence the overlords can get away with.

            Does it? The myth of popular sovereignty, that the vote legitimizes whatever the hell those in power decide to do, strikes me as tending to remove those bounds rather than enhance them.

            Yes, those in power need to fear being voted out of power. But by assumption, that threat is negligible because those in power are Evil Wizards who can control the outcome of the vote.

            If they just exercised their power nakedly, they could still use their Evil Wizardry to convince people of their right to do so, but they would have to do that from first principles.

            There are some assumptions in there that I am neither confident of or comfortable with, but it’s not obviously wrong.

            Heh. I hear you, brother.

  17. Jill says:

    I’ve been doing my best here to role model commenting even if one is Left Wing. I am glad that other Left Wingers are feeling free to comment too.

    I value comments from all tribes, especially inter-tribal and intra-tribal analysis attempts.

    This is difficult and people can get their feelings hurt and/or hurt other people’s feelings. And there are ways to do it in a more civil manner that can be learned. I certainly am not perfect in doing it either. But it’s a worthy endeavor that could yield good results.

    We really can’t analyze the polarization and tribal identity stuff that is perhaps the most significant block to progress in the U.S. currently, unless we have a decent number of representatives of different tribes. If it’s heavily one way, it doesn’t go very far.

  18. Jill says:

    Thinking about red pill brute strength sometimes now. There is so much belief in being “alpha” in American culture right now, that it seems like lots of people think that the best way to be is to beat their chest and brag and insult and bully other people. I can understand why some people are scared right now in the U. S. about the economy and immigration and other issues. But maybe the way some people try to become strong isn’t working that well.

    Anyway, this guy, from WWE, is different. He has a ton of red pill brute strength, but has a kind of self-deprecating humor that I find particularly funny because it’s so rare nowadays.

    http://www.cagesideseats.com/wwe/2016/8/4/12382506/john-cena-the-late-show-with-stephen-colbert-interview-shade-aj-styles

    If you really ARE a strong person, rather than a scared person pretending to be strong, maybe you don’t need to stomp on and destroy everybody who disagrees with you in some minor way. There are times for competition, and this guy’s a competitor in the ring. But he can leave that aside and “come home from work” and relax, once he’s out of the ring. Maybe it’s all an act. But even in things that are all an act, we rarely see humble acts any more.

    Anyway, he seemed fun, entertaining and a nice guy.

    • John Cena is funny and charming, and I recommend the video.

      However, I don’t think we know why (anecdotally) people who weight train might find their politics drifting rightwards.

      Notes from the videos: The world clearly needs a Trump impersonator doing professional wrestling. Or does this exist already?

      There’s a recommendation to not eat anything that’s green *and* breathing because it will be rotten, but there’s always sloth, not to mention mallard heads.

      • smocc says:

        There is already a Donald Trump impersonator in professional wrestling. His name is Donald Trump.

        I have sometimes claimed that if you can’t understand why people enjoy professional wrestling, you won’t be able to understand why some people find Trump’s personality appealing (personality only, not necessarily politics). He’s a perfect heel.

        Personally I enjoy some professional wrestling but can’t stand Trump’s personality because I know the former is an act but the latter seems to be completely sincere.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I can’t tell what’s real any more.

          • I’m having that problem myself. I keep having to check on whether some headline is from a real or fake news source.

            This being said, I would still like to see a bout between a Trump impersonator and practically an anyone else impersonator. Trump impersonator vs. Clinton impersonator might be too surreal or possibly not.

            What I really want is the moment when Trump is defeated and the victor is parading around triumphantly waving Trump’s toupee. We probably don’t want a Hillary impersonator for that. Suggestions?

          • The Nybbler says:

            What I really want is the moment when Trump is defeated and the victor is parading around triumphantly waving Trump’s toupee. We probably don’t want a Hillary impersonator for that. Suggestions?

            Bill? Ted Cruz?

          • hlynkacg says:

            The Onion turned into sober, hard-hitting journalism so slowly that I didn’t even notice.

          • smocc says:

            Kanye West.

    • Nornagest says:

      I think the “bully has low self-esteem” angle is overrated.

      I am a serious martial artist and formerly a competitive one. I’ve known strong fighters who were chest-beating assholes. I’ve known strong fighters who were quiet and soft-spoken. I didn’t notice any particular correlation. It seems to be more a matter of base personality and maybe culture than ability.

      There are certain types of chest-beating that are found only in people who can’t actually back it up — what rap artists call “fronting”, basically. But you can’t assume that anyone who looks “alpha” is doing that.

      • Jill says:

        It seems to me that strong fighters who are chest-beating assholes are less emotionally mature, than strong fighters who are quiet and soft-spoken, or than strong fighters who are assertive but not pugnacious.

        The way I see it, if one is really strong emotionally, one can relax and have fun and enjoy life and other people– and not have to constantly prove one’s toughness by pushing on other people and trying to dominate them 24/7/365.

        Do you see it differently?

        • Nornagest says:

          Okay, that’s a different kind of strength than I thought you were going for. But I still suspect there might be some kind of no-true-Scotsman action going on here.

          Thing is, a lot of people like trash talk and overt pugnacity. The process of it, not the dominance aspect. It’s fun for them; it helps them bond with each other; it psychs them up and gets them into the headspace for whatever they’re doing. But it’s a two-player game. It only works if someone else is playing.

          Emotional maturity is such a subjective thing that I don’t hold out much hope of convincing you, but I’m reluctant to label this a mark of immaturity in itself. In my experience, a better test is not how initially belligerent someone is, but how they react when they lose, and whether they’re capable of adopting other modes when it becomes clear that someone doesn’t want to play.

          • Jill says:

            “a better test is not how initially belligerent someone is, but how they react when they lose, and whether they’re capable of adopting other modes when it becomes clear that someone doesn’t want to play.”

            I see what you mean. That makes sense to me.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          I see what looks like typical mind fallacy. Constantly proving one’s toughness by pushing on other people and trying to dominate them sounds exhausting to you, yes?

          To other people, that’s their natural state of being; it is exhausting to try to not do that thing.

          You should carefully consider what it means that your concept of “emotional maturity” has little to do with maturity, and everything to do with core personality.

          • Jill says:

            Well, I see this only in the sense that, to some other people, it may seem exhausting or stressful not to count all the cracks in the sidewalk, not to be physically violent, or not to give in to taking hard drugs etc.

            To go another way than the way you have learned to habitually go may be stressful or even exhausting. But that doesn’t mean it’s emotionally mature or healthy.

          • jimmy says:

            Yes, engaging in dominance games to “prove” ones toughness can be fun and rewarding. However, if you see people doing it in cases where it doesn’t fit (e.g. their toughness is already proven and it’s just making people dislike them), then they are doing something that is bad for themselves despite it being a bad thing to do.

            Maybe they’re doing it because of an insecurity that blocks them from realizing that they’d be respected for their toughness even if they took a chill pill, or maybe it just literally never occurred to them that they can stop. Either way “emotional immaturity” can be a good label for things like this.

            However *local* emotional maturity is different than *overall* emotional maturity, and there’s always more than one way to do things wrong. So someone beating his chest may still be overall more mature than someone who doesn’t. Or maybe the chest beating is the healthy response in that context and the person who *doesn’t* beat their chest is emotionally held back from the healthy response. And maybe “core personality” is just a way of saying which types of errors you’re likely to make before you just do the *right* thing in every context.

            But that doesn’t mean Jill is typical minding or that “emotional maturity” isn’t a well defined and useful concept here.

          • orkin style says:

            Jill “should carefully consider” how ” typical mind fallacy” biases her against “constantly proving one’s toughness by pushing on other people and trying to dominate them”.

    • Jiro says:

      If you really ARE a strong person, rather than a scared person pretending to be strong, maybe you don’t need to stomp on and destroy everybody who disagrees with you in some minor way.

      That sounds like a version of No True Scotsman. Those guys who stomp on everyone? Well, they’re not really strong.

    • wtvb says:

      Game theoretically, it might make sense to act tough. All battles end with both sides losing a bit with the loser losing much more. If you establish your strength in some intervals you are likely to reduce the number of challenges you get, reducing your loss over time.

      As a real life example I can give Murad IV. His bans for alcohol and smoking were ruthless, however there are some stories about him having a great sense of humor and forgiving people who outplayed him during his undercover inspections.

  19. lesser spotted anonymous says:

    A bot relevant to fans of Unsong (via King James Programming): Markov sentences composed from drug diaries and tech recruitment emails.

  20. Jill says:

    Here’s another Jill here. Jill Stein. Running for president. I thought she stood up for her policy positions quite well on Fox News here. So what do folks think of her policies?

    Jill Stein Appeared on Fox News, Made Their Heads Explode
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECH9xwzN1Mw

    • Sandy says:

      I got 1 minute and 30 seconds in before starting to believe she is some kind of loon. I agree that student debt is a boiling problem that has to be addressed, but why would a $1.3 trillion “bailout” energize the economy? Or put millions to work? I mean, she talks about young people who can’t “pursue their dreams” because of debt, but if you run up $250,000 in debt on an arts degree, I’m inclined to believe taxpayers shouldn’t have to suffer for your idiocy. But personal politics aside, there are some fields that are heavily saturated and enabling more degrees to come rushing in will not help. Law school debt is massive and crippling, but the legal market is also extremely oversaturated and wiping away all that debt at a stroke will just make the problem worse by convincing more young people to pay massive sums and attend law school.

      Now I’m 4 minutes in and this woman is clearly insane. “Young people were hoodwinked because they were told there would be jobs for these worthless degrees”? Do young people not know how to use Google? Also, “Wall Street crashed the economy so they reneged on their end of the deal”? Wall Street made agreements with students? Before 2008, jobs were plentiful and prosperous for these degrees?

      At least Trump theoretically has a governing apparatus at his disposal in the form of the Republican Party. Is Jill Stein a fair representation of the Green Party, generally?

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        If people were hoodwinked by these degrees, it sounds like the college industry should be destroyed at the very least, and people put in jail. Can we some up with some snide name for them, like “banksters” for “bankers”?

        • Corey says:

          You may have unintentionally said something smart – a lot of recent debt comes via for-profit colleges, which are usually scams that sell hope to the hopeless.
          ETA: that sounds mean – I just mean I know you were snarking.

          • brad says:

            I understand why people like to point to the for profit sector which contains the highest concentration of bad actors, but there are some really terrible supposed charities but really run as employee co-ops out there. Southern New Hampshire University, for example.

            I think maybe it’s a partisan thing. For profit university executive reads Republican while “non-profit” university president, even making seven figures, reads Democrat.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            No offense taken.

            The for-profit schools are merely the most obvious examples, but there’s absolutely no reason why a “non-profit” can’t be just as scummy. And greedy, too. “Non-profits” still have budgets and salaries.

          • Lumifer says:

            Yeah, I don’t think dividing the higher education into for-profit and non-profit sectors is terribly meaningful. They do look very very similar (except that the really bad obviously scammy ones are usually for-profit).

            The thing is, the whole higher ed industry discovered that the price elasticity they are facing is really really low, so why not charge as much as the market (financed by the Federal government) will bear? I think the bottom-tier schools will be in a great deal of trouble soon, but the “highly selective” schools will continue this trend for a while.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’d like to know how much, and how hopeless, before I get out the torches and pitchforks.

          • cassander says:

            There are plenty of excellent for profit education programs. Many will literally guarantee you a job as, say, a jet mechanic if you get through the program. They also tend to have the opposite model of most traditional schools in that they let anyone who wants show up, then fail out people who can’t cut it, rather than being very selective with who they take then working to make sure they don’t fail. It’s hard to make an enough of an apples to apples comparison to really say which sector is worse.

      • She starts off with the very dubious logic of “you spent large amount of money on $thing, therefore you can spend large amount of money on $otherthing”. Maybe, maybe not.

        I have more sympathy for the students than Sandy does– I have a impression that a lot of them signed up for practical degrees, but the jobs weren’t there. Especially for those who got degrees before 2007, it wasn’t obvious that the economy would tank, and it can be hard for people to become cynical enough. As for googling, sometimes the hardest part is realizing that one needs to do it.

        I do think student debt is a disaster, but I’m not sure what a good way out is. How about forgiving the interest?

        Also, in Stein’s plan, who’s left holding the bag? The universities? The federal government? The collection agencies?

        • Corey says:

          I have more sympathy for the students than Sandy does– I have a impression that a lot of them signed up for practical degrees, but the jobs weren’t there. Especially for those who got degrees before 2007, it wasn’t obvious that the economy would tank, and it can be hard for people to become cynical enough.

          Agreed, it’s a pet peeve of mine that people implicitly assume careers can be sorted a priori into valuable and valueless. In this thread we have law as a good example – it was the archetypical practical-mercenary career, then the bottom fell out.

          There is quite literally nothing “safe” – it’s contrary to capitalism (safety breeds inefficiency) and capitalism can’t be displaced. Healthcare? Either price controls will turn it into a crappy job (e.g. Ireland) or they won’t and demand will collapse because nobody can afford anything. Any “knowledge work” is vulnerable to Big Data and/or India (Big Human?)

          • Once it’s obvious to everyone that some credential is an obvious way to make money, people will flood into that occupation.

            As I recall, petroleum engineer was the (joke?) secure and renumerative occupation. Now that the price of oil is way down, how’s that doing?

          • Gil says:

            Some comments

            One theory behind ‘Valuable’ and ‘Useless’ is as follows. Certain degrees teach information and skills which is directly relevant to particular jobs or lines of work. Others have no direct job applicability but due to the academic rigor one can infer the ‘smarts’ of a graduate by the school x level of academic attainment.

            Of course if the number of college graduates increases and the *average* smarts of, say, an English major declines. Combined with secular stagnation and a glut of more mature workers, your modern day English major has a much harder time in the job market.

            My other theory is that STEM is somewhat harder to ‘dumb down’ then liberal arts, and STEM fields are more naturally insulated from labor gluts in non-stem industries, whereas liberal arts and social science degree majors may involve more sloshing around.

            Safety exists in degrees, and certain industries can be protected one way or another from the kinds of break-neck speed automation that displaces work. Analyst jobs can be automated to a certain extent

            Almost everyone I know who went to reputable schools who got STEM are doing reasonably well. Those who are crushed by debt right now seem to be in one of the following categories:

            1. Got a STEM Degree at Degree Mill / Scam institution
            2. Liberal Arts or Social Sciences [There are very rarely jobs for these
            3. Prince or Pauper degrees like ‘Business’ or ‘Law’

            People were told that a bachelors degree was both a necessary and sufficient condition for getting a job.

            I oppose any kind of debt forgiveness by the likes of a stein or a sanders, but only because too many people view funneling tens of thousands of dollars per child per year into the modern furnace of post-secondary is a reasonable expenditure that merely needs to be born to a greater degree by the taxpayer. They never ask what a valuable knowledge and efficient knowledge stream would look [or cost] like in a modern information economy.

            If a movement was set up to build a genuinely affordable college program that could be mass produced, and valid for job applications, I would reconsider.

          • Any “knowledge work” is vulnerable to Big Data and/or India (Big Human?)

            I am really curious if there are any SSC readers that actually have a positive experience outsourcing to India.

            The universal impression, across dozens of close friends, is that outsourcing ANY knowledge work to India is about as intelligent as outsourcing nuclear planning to Skynet.

            This cannot be the universal experience, otherwise so many companies would not outsource so much to India.

            Really interested if anyone at SSC has positive experiences and can shed some light on why they are positive.

          • Matt C says:

            I worked for some guys who outsourced quite a bit of their programming work to India and kept it up for some years. I interacted with the Indian devs some and they were OK. Not much different than I imagine working with a stateside body shop would be. I wasn’t wowed and I wasn’t appalled. This wasn’t precision work and it wasn’t a fussy company, it seemed to be an decent match.

            I worked with another group that hired a solo guy from Pakistan. I didn’t interact with him as much, but he was OK, at least not incompetent, and he seemed to have settled in by the time I left (a few months after he started).

            Another guy I worked for hired some Indian help and got the more stereotypical results of poor communication, work done incorrectly, and a project abandoned half-finished.

            I don’t say it was the single determining factor, but I bet it made a difference: in the first two cases the groups interacted with their offshore devs pretty much daily. In the last case the work was handed off with looser supervision and less frequent communication.

            If I was in a position to hire a software developer, I’d consider hiring a solo dev from offshore. I wouldn’t hire an offshore body shop, but I wouldn’t hire a local body shop either.

        • Lumifer says:

          I have a impression that a lot of them signed up for practical degrees, but the jobs weren’t there.

          I think this impression is false. The unemployment rate for people with bachelor degrees is very low. It’s people who don’t have one that are screwed.

          • How well do the jobs pay?

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Nancy Lebovitz

            What they always paid, more or less? Your point was that recent college graduates were blindsided by lack of jobs — that doesn’t look to be so. If you want to argue that these jobs pay much less than what the college grads reasonably should have expected, do you have evidence to support this?

          • ReluctantEngineer says:

            How well do the jobs pay?

            About $50k/year, it looks like, though it varies a lot by major.

        • Jill says:

          There indeed may be a problem with universities “preparing” naive students for some fields where there are no jobs. And some colleges that are just overall scams. And a student loan debt problem. And a problem with college affordability, even if students choose fields that have jobs. If Stein is wrong about how to deal with these problems, then what is the real solution?

          • Corey says:

            There might not be one, sadly.

            Path dependence causes major problems with any scheme to “disrupt” the university system – if employers don’t recognize degrees conferred by Uber4BSes then it doesn’t matter if they’re as good and/or cheaper.

            Though I heard a possible counterexample to this once – consider, say, Amazon makes an Amazon U to educate their employees, then opens it to the public once the bugs shake out. (That’s how some Amazon stuff like the AWS “cloud”, which accidentally makes them a lot of money, got its start). It starts out with cred amongst tech employers then filters out to the rest of the noosphere…

          • If you’re willing to consider outside the US box (and ignore the practical problem of getting from “here” to “there”) there’s always our approach: Government regulation. Any prospective new University (whether private or public) has to demonstrate that it will meet a need the existing ones don’t.

            (That is, without approval you can’t call yourself a University and your students won’t get subsidies or student loans. As far as I know you could still teach an undergraduate course if you could find anybody willing to pay. I don’t think you’d be allowed to issue degrees. I think there’s also some special regulation around businesses that teach English to foreigners, but I don’t know the details.)

            We are also discouraged from enrolling too many students. If we exceed our quota, the extra students aren’t subsidized – and that has to come out of our budget, we can’t charge the students more. (In fact, I gather that it’s worse than that, if we exceed our quota by too much the Government doesn’t just stop adding money for each additional student, they actually start taking it away.)

            … whether any of this actually helps is unclear to me. We don’t seem to have the same sort of problem as the US, but that may be for other reasons.

            (Disclaimer: while I do work at a University, I don’t deal with the financial side of things, so this information is secondhand and may not be entirely accurate.)

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Harry Johnston

            If you didn’t have price controls, that system of restricting university slots would drive the price way up. Since it seems you do, you’re rationing university admission, though by what criteria I don’t know. Seems unlikely to fly in the US.

          • Agronomous says:

            @Harry Johnston,

            What you’re describing sounds like the Certificate of Need system we have for hospitals in the U.S. My impression is it’s a very good system for ensuring hospitals are profitable, and a very poor system for controlling costs. (Scott has a post somewhere about how he thinks hospitals are where the excess amounts Americans are spending on health care/insurance are ending up.)

            (Do you mind saying which country you’re from? I assume from your name it’s one of the English-speaking ones. But then I assume from your spelling that it’s the U.S., so clearly I’ve gone wrong somewhere.)

          • @Agronomous, I’m from New Zealand.

            As for controlling costs, it’s my understanding that we’re strictly limited in how much we’re allowed to increase our fees each year. I’m not sure whether that’s true for private Universities or just the public ones, but I guess the private ones can’t charge too much more than the public ones or nobody will go there.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I guess the private ones can’t charge too much more than the public ones or nobody will go there.

            That’s not really true if demand outstrips the number of public slots. Even if public university was absolutely free and otherwise exactly equivalent to private, that doesn’t matter to someone who can’t get a public slot.

          • @Nybler, that doesn’t seem to happen here, at least as far as universities go. (I don’t think any of them actually are private, though I can’t swear to it.) I presume there simply isn’t enough excess demand, and the quota system means that nobody is motivated to try to drum up demand amongst potential students who wouldn’t really benefit from it.

            (Just looked up some statistics; about 177,000 university students and a birth rate on the order of 61,000 per year; if we suppose the average student studies for 4 years, that’s about 70%. Don’t know how that compares to other nations, but it doesn’t seem unreasonably low.)

            I’m not sure about the more specialized providers, but I expect they’re dealing with a limited demand to begin with.

            As you say, this probably wouldn’t work in the US.

        • Agronomous says:

          @Nancy Lebovitz:

          I do think student debt is a disaster, but I’m not sure what a good way out is. How about forgiving the interest?

          A good way going forward is to have the colleges put some skin into the game. Right now, student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy (!). What if, when someone with student loans goes bankrupt, we made them 50% dischargeable, with the other 50% being assigned to the college(s) that they paid for?

          For that matter, what if we just made colleges back all loans that go to pay their tuition? The interest rates would stay low, because colleges don’t go out of business anywhere near as frequently as they should often, but the administration may find innovative ways to, um, steer students away from some majors and toward more-useful ones. I’m sure they’d spend at least as much time and effort on presentations and programs to prepare the students for the workforce as they now do on politically-favored topics.

      • Jill says:

        I don’t know if she’s a fair representation of the Green Party, generally. Do we have any Green partiers here? A friend just sent me this who knew I supported Bernie until he stopped running, because there is some overlap in their policies.

      • For those who haven’t been around long enough, or who couldn’t remember the title, Scott posted on this subject on June 6, 2015 under the title “Against Tulip Subsidies”.

  21. Tom says:

    I just noticed the link to Scott Adams weird blathering has been removed from the left side links. Any special recent reason, or just finally getting around to it?

  22. Agronomous says:

    I just had to share this, in case you read it:

    Basically, a Joel Osteen tweet — and a Joel Osteen sermon, which is just a collection of Joel Osteen tweets — is exactly what you’d get if L. Ron Hubbard wrote fortune cookies. Or if Yoda and Dr. Phil had a baby, and then the baby attended too many Tony Robbins seminars.

    (And if you do, you’ll know I’m thinking of you, and all the miles in-between.)

  23. Andrew says:

    Can we go full SA? $5 fee to sign up for an account, registered accounts only to comment, fees go to Scott’s EA charity of choice, ban at the drop of a hat?

  24. Matt C says:

    I don’t think banning anon* is going to help much. I don’t object to giving it a shot, but I think the guys who are deliberately trying to be assholes will barely consider it a speed bump.

    I would support restricting posting to permanently registered commenters only. I acknowledge there are downsides to this, but the sprawling mess of a comment section we’ve got now has a lot of downsides too.

    Also, and I know this is a pipe dream, but does WordPress support a comment limit per user? I think this would be a better board if most people were limited to, say, 2 comments a day. (Don’t waste them on bickering or snarky little quips.) Favorites of Scott could get more.

    • Just as a data point, if I were restricted to 2 comments a day, I wouldn’t comment at all. And probably wouldn’t read the comments either, and would be inclined to stop reading the blog altogether, though Scott’s writing is probably compelling enough to keep me here.

      • Matt C says:

        I don’t think most people would like the idea, and I don’t expect it to be taken up. But IMO the signal to noise ratio has dropped a lot since I started reading (which wasn’t all that long ago–maybe a year?). Mostly because there is so much more noise these days.

        (And yes, I would say that bitching about how the comments aren’t as good as they used to be counts as noise. I don’t exempt myself.)

        I’m in favor of trying out experiments, at any rate. Make a change, run with it for a month, see how it works out. It’s too bad Scott is so busy, he might find it fun to use us as lab rats under other circumstances.

      • Jiro says:

        Restricting people to X comments a day, where X can be easily reached, is easy to game. Once someone posts their last comment, you can say anything you want in reply, secure that they can never refute it.

        It also makes it much easier to gang up on someone,

        • Matt C says:

          You can always get the last word in if you are willing to wait a day to do it.

          If getting the last word in doesn’t seem as important when you have limited comments to spend, well, that’s a feature, not a bug.

          I doubt a limited comments policy would get people get ganged up on any worse than we’ve seen so far.

          • Jiro says:

            If getting the last word in doesn’t seem as important when you have limited comments to spend, well, that’s a feature, not a bug.

            Sometimes getting the last word means defending yourself against an attack, or correcting a factual error. It’s not a feature that you have to wait a day to do this.

            I doubt a limited comments policy would get people get ganged up on any worse than we’ve seen so far.

            The more gameable the system is, the more benefits accrue to people willing to game the system rather than have an honest discussion.

            In other words, having a gameable system facilitates ganging up.

          • Matt C says:

            Everybody feels like their comment is worth adding to the pool. But many people (most?) think the pool is getting overcrowded with uninteresting comments.

            > Sometimes getting the last word means defending yourself against an attack, or correcting a factual error.

            And when the other guy feels the same way, you get a death-grip bickering match that goes on for 10 or 20 posts that nobody else cares about.

          • Jiro says:

            I think the answer to “your system makes it hard to correct misrepresentations and mistakes” should probably not be “allowing people to correct misrepresentations and mistakes is a bad idea anyway”.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            The likeliest result of limiting comments is that people post monster omnibus comments addressing ten subthreads at once, and conversations become even harder to follow.

    • If it was enforceable, the comment limit thing would be ok by me if it was say 3 comments. I rarely post more than that, and I think it would reduce pointless low-effort contrarianism that plagues discussions in all quasi-intellectual forums. I don’t mind high effort contrarianism, because there is often something to be learned from reading it, but low-effort contrarianism is just annoying. Not sure about its overall effect exactly, same with registration. Perhaps it would be good to try it out for specific posts of Scott’s, but I’m not sure how that could be implemented.

      • Matt C says:

        Sure, 3 might be a good number also.

        Mostly I’d like to see experiments done. The problem of a discussion forum getting good, attracting a lot of people, and then sliding downhill isn’t unique to SSC. I’d like to see new ideas tried out for pushing back against this. Of course fostering good discussion to the point of snowballing growth isn’t that common, either, so I’m expecting only slow progress.

    • Lumifer says:

      Limiting people to a small numbers of comments per day would make it impossible to have conversations on SSC. And I find conversations to be more interesting than just shouting out your views to the world.

      • Matt C says:

        You can still have conversations, just more slowly, and (the hope is) more thoughtfully.

        • You’re reminding me of apas (Amateur Press Associations). They were paper collections of fanzines (a fanzine is whatever writing and/or drawing a person wanted to do that they weren’t getting paid for) that were put together by a central person and mailed out as a (usually stapled together) packet.

          They typically came out once a month or less frequently, though APA-L was weekly.

          Conversation happened.

          Alarums and Excursions (mostly about gaming) still comes out on paper.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amateur_press_association

  25. Orphan Wilde says:

    So, I think the primary issue with socialism today is that “socialists”, as far as I can tell, read Marx to get ideas on how to create a more powerful bourgeoisie.

    Quick, go read you some Marx. I’ll wait. Or read the cliff’s notes. Or don’t. Whatever.

    I can sum up the issue with one word: Lumpenproletariat. If you don’t know what this word means, it’s a very nasty way to refer to the welfare class. Marx was against them (or perhaps it would be fairer to say he had a very complicated opinion of them), and regarded them as the natural allies of the upper classes, who acted as the upper class’s enforcers and allies to keep the working classes down.

    Really, do I need to say more? Trump is probably the closest thing running to a Marxist right now.

    • Lumifer says:

      Lumpenproletariat

      Let’s find the actual description by Marx, there is so much flavour in this quote : -)

      Alongside decayed roués with dubious means of subsistence and of dubious origin, alongside ruined and adventurous offshoots of the bourgeoisie, were vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, escaped galley slaves, swindlers, mountebanks, lazzaroni, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers, maquereaux [pimps], brothel keepers, porters, literati, organ grinders, ragpickers, knife grinders, tinkers, beggars—in short, the whole indefinite, disintegrated mass, thrown hither and thither, which the French call la bohème.

      • Orphan Wilde says:

        Marx was the original alt-right.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          Whoa.

          Yeah, there was more than a little whiff of Moldbuggery in that paragraph, wasn’t there?

        • Nornagest says:

          Anytime you start analyzing society in terms of class interests, you’re gonna end up with some of the same tropes. And I don’t know about the broader alt-right, but Moldbug is definitely making a class-interest argument at heart; his Cthulhu theory even bears a certain resemblance to Marx’s future history, just with the emotional valence swapped around.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Moldbug’s history is Whig history with the valence reversed: the Whigs caused everything. “Cthulhu always swims left” sounds more like an empirical claim than something with theoretical support. Other N℞ people make claims more along the lines of historical materialism, eg, “Leftism is just an easy excuse [to seize power].”

          • Seth says:

            Basically, nowadays, liberals (not leftists) are absolutely terrified of analysis based on class interests. But right-wingers embrace it, they just favor a different class than Marxists. This is famously demonstrated by Mitt Romney’s “takers” and “makers” analysys.

            http://mediamatters.org/research/2012/09/18/makers-vs-takers-romneys-47-percent-rhetoric-ec/189987

            That’s a liberal site denouncing the rhetoric. But if you read it for the material itself (rather than whether it’s moral or immoral), it’s a straight-up catalogue of class interest based analysis.

            Though Trump isn’t close to Marxist, unless you think class interest analysis itself is Marxist.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Seth –

            The proletariat are the base Trump is appealing to.

          • Seth says:

            Populist argument aren’t the exclusive preserve of Marxists. Trump is very explicitly nationalist in his statements. This is so foreign (pun intended) to our current political framework that it frequently gets slotted into some vague identification of anything that isn’t about kicking labor when its down must be Communism (which is kind of revealing if you think about it).

          • Jill says:

            Seth, interesting comment there. Food for thought. Perhaps we American capitalists are so rabidly anti-Communist that we compulsively beat on labor when it’s down. People can go from one extreme to the other.

            Ayn Rand certainly did– growing up in a Communist country, being traumatized by it, and then going to the opposite extreme of thinking that anything that was the total opposite of Communism must be flawless in every way. And many modern day Libertarians seem like they take after her in that.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Jill –

            Ayn Rand didn’t hate the working classes. She hated the people who pretend to represent the working classes.

            They’re the same people who have convinced you that she, and libertarians generally, hate the working classes.

            It’s critical not to confuse the people who claim to represent X, with X itself.

          • Jill says:

            Orphan Wilde, I never said any of that. But I understand how you could have thought I did, because inter-tribal communication seems to be almost impossible.

            I simply said that Rand went from one extreme of growing up in Communism, to the other extreme of thinking that the exact opposite of Communism must be perfect.

            Where do you get “hatred” of anybody out of that statement by me?

            There are many possibilities in the world that are neither extreme Rand type Libertarianism nor Communism.

            One doesn’t have to jump from one extreme to the other extreme. But perhaps that is the common way to do that. One can keep everything in simple black/white terms that way, without having to bother with nuance or complexity. You just switch who wears the black hat and who wears the white hat. And you’re all set up again, good to go, simple as that.

            Very few American capitalists are Randians. But many Americans and American politicians do tend to beat on labor when it’s down. Hence the huge suicide and drug addiction problem among working class whites.

            That’s par of how we got Trump, because he uses the strategy of claiming to be labor’s benefactor– much like the previous false promises of other Republicans– but more intensely and colorfully and emotionally and entertainingly. He uses it so vividly, that many people are convinced that this time the promises are genuine. They’re wrong.

            Anyone can check politifact.com and see how frequently the man lies.

          • Jill says:

            What do I think of Ayn Rand’s attitude, actually toward Labor? I find myself asking. I think she totally ignores them. Not a hatred so much, as just not noticing their experiences, needs etc. Oh, she makes up laborers to put in her books sometimes. But her books aren’t about them and they’re just throwaway characters. Mostly they are there by implication only– since you know that the corporate bigwig she idolizes must have laborers working for him, or else he couldn’t have a corporation to rule over.

            So I don’t think she considers laborers at all. Current day GOP Americans are kind of like that– pursuing the goal of leaving the working classes without health care, without protection from pollution or poisoning, without consumer protection etc. But that’s not hatred either, at least not of workers. It’s simple hatred of paying taxes and of taking any tiny amount of responsibility for one’s community or for anyone else in it.

            It’s not intentional kicking around of labor. It’s mindlessly unintentionally kicking them out of the way, on the way to the goal of not having to pay any taxes.

            People go more and more nowadays into their electronic devices, and less and less into their community. And more and more into being an island, grabbing any money and other benefits one can get, unable to relate to the concept of “giving back”, except as an investment where you expect to get more back than you give, and to get it very quickly.

            There are, of course, exceptions, but that is the general rule.

          • cassander says:

            @Jill

            >So I don’t think she considers laborers at all. Current day GOP Americans are kind of like that– pursuing the goal of leaving the working classes without health care, without protection from pollution or poisoning, without consumer protection etc. But that’s not hatred either, at least not of workers. It’s simple hatred of paying taxes and of taking any tiny amount of responsibility for one’s community or for anyone else in it.

            As has been explained to you elsewhere, this absurd caricature you have of the GOP is not accurate. Please stop repeating it. It’s fine to be wrong, it’s not fine insist that you’re right in the face of mounting evidence. The last GOP president expanded medicare, increased environmental regulation and “slashed” taxes to…their historical average.

          • Skivverus says:

            While we’re all engaging in retroactive/necromantic telepathy –
            I took Rand’s message more as “the moral principle (of receiving money only for things you actually did to help other people) also applies to laborers, they just don’t have as much power to be dramatic about sticking to it (or avoiding it).”
            That is, the reasons for focusing on the “executive” sorts of people rather than the people who work for them are mostly narrative. A slice-of-life story with the same moral message probably wouldn’t get quite the same kind of attention.

            @Jill
            The “not having to pay any taxes” part I suspect has very different emotional connotations to different people, depending on how (cost-)effective the people in question find their government to be – which one presumes at least correlates to how cost-effective the local government actually is. Though on the other hand I don’t think the GAO gets all that much attention.
            I think a reasonably-charitable approach to the perspective against taxes-for-services is to say that, in contrast to job perks, insurance, or one’s neighbors, there’s no honest way to “opt out”, nor any attempts on the part of the taxers to create one.
            This is not (necessarily) to say that we shouldn’t have any services without a way of opting out – certainly I’m not going that far! – but that it’s deceptively easy to take “there ought to be a law!” too far.

          • Jill says:

            I wasn’t talking about presidents. I was talking about everyday Americans. If my characterization is incorrect, then how is it incorrect?

            What do you see differently? I don’t understand what you are asking me to stop doing, because I don’t know what you are seeing differently– other than your talking about GOP presidents and me talking about everyday American capitalists.

            Inter-tribal communication is almost impossible. But let’s give it a try.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Jill –

            Your understanding of Ayn Rand’s positions is subject to the same inter-tribal communication issues.

            http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/UsefulNotes/Objectivism <- This is the clearest description of Ayn Rand's actual philosophy I've encountered. I'm not sure if it's clear enough to survive, however.

            But you'll notice elsewhere here I've hinted that Marx's views aren't well-represented by what we call communism. Marx's conceptualization of communism looks a hell of a lot like libertarianism, in fact, and for good reason; both were reacting to and attempting to resolve the same core set of problems.

            Ayn Rand's reactions came to some of Marx's solutions not actually solving the problem, however; progressive income taxes, one of the solutions he proposed to help gradually eliminate the rentiers, didn't solve the problem of the rentier class, they exaggerated it, by giving the rentier classes a tool to suppress up-and-coming competitors with. The progressive income tax is class warfare by the richest segment of society against everyone else – which is why it's an income tax instead of a wealth tax.

            Ayn Rand's attitude towards actual communists was one of admiration of people fighting for their principles; that was a major component of We The Living. She didn't make a big deal of advertising this, however, because she was more interested in fighting the communism-in-name-only that was what actually existed. And if you look at her "communist" characters, she doesn't attack them on the basis of their communism, but rather on the basis that they are merely power-brokers who wear communist clothing.

          • Nornagest says:

            Inter-tribal communication is almost impossible.

            It’s a lot easier if you don’t believe — or, barring that, at least don’t loudly profess your belief — that the other side is defined exclusively by greed, malice, callousness, or something equivalently simple and easy to use as a bludgeon.

          • Jill says:

            I’d be lying if I said that I see no signs of greed or malice in any GOPers. I don’t think they’re all that way.

            I see sort of what you mean. I don’t want to be unfair. But I don’t want to commit the chief sin of liberals in being too nice and glossing over what I see.

            Many people on this board are reasonable and/or nice people. But some are so insulting that I don’t think I could even be capable of matching their incivility. I’ve gotten piled on and beaten up a lot on this board. So even here I see some malice.

            If I am assuming more greed or malice than is there, I am sure tons of people will point that out, since I am far far outnumbered by Right Wingers here. I certainly sometimes see greed or malice in some Left Wingers also.

          • Nornagest says:

            The main problem with talking about greed and malice is not that they don’t exist (they do, though I think about as much in the Dems as in the GOP), but that as soon as you mention them, the conversation becomes exclusively about greed and malice and not about any of the underlying facts that might actually make a policy a good or a bad idea.

            This is boring. It’s pointless. And once you start an argument over it, it never goes away until the participants get bored or frustrated and leave; no one is ever going to say “yeah, I’m greedy as shit” or “yeah, my party did this to screw over $DEMOGRAPHIC”, and there’s always an endless supply of anecdotes and character witnesses to support either view. And to make matters worse you’re liable to get a bunch of new people jumping in all the time, because hey, you did just kinda diss half of America, and people tend not to like that.

            Don’t want to get dogpiled? Don’t do this. The most right-leaning people on this board would get dogpiled if they did this — and they do, though the dogpile mostly takes the form of complaining about representation.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Jill –

            Part of the issue here is that the norms of communication in my tribe look like hostility to your tribe.

            If you throw three libertarians together on a board of a thousand left-leaning people, there’s going to be an obvious fight with many epithets flying: Over what libertarianism actually is.

            And we’ll all still be on relatively good terms when the fight is over.

            Me treating you like I’d treat a member of my own tribe would actually feel far more hostile to you than me treating you like I normally treat opposing tribe members.

          • cassander says:

            @jill

            >I wasn’t talking about presidents. I was talking about everyday Americans. If my characterization is incorrect, then how is it incorrect?

            Everyday Americans voted for bush, twice.

            >What do you see differently? I don’t understand what you are asking me to stop doing, because I don’t know what you are seeing differently– other than your talking about GOP presidents and me talking about everyday American capitalists.

            You can start by not calling the facts people point out that contradict your opinions “talking points” and actually engage with them. If you want to dispute the facts, fine, do that, show how they’re wrong, don’t just ignore them and skate blithely by. For my money, the behavior of republican presidents who get re-elected seems like reasonably good barometer of what the republicans who voted for him want. If you disagree, articulate reasons why. And I would address your accusations of greed, et. al, but Nornagest already did a perfect job there as well. Stop assuming the other tribe is evil.

          • Jill says:

            Nornagest, I’ll have to go back and look in my comments to see if I can figure out what you are referring to in them as comments about “greed” and “malice.” I didn’t use those words. If you already know, please tell me.

            I am still dealing with the quandary still of not wanting to treat other people with kid gloves here. But I don’t want to be unfair either.

            There are a lot of situations like this in inter-tribal communication, where we are not exactly sure precisely what each other are talking about or referring to.

          • Jill says:

            Orphan W

            “Me treating you like I’d treat a member of my own tribe would actually feel far more hostile to you than me treating you like I normally treat opposing tribe members.”

            That must mean in person? Because, here, on line, on this mostly Right Wing board, I don’t notice other people getting piled on the way I have been here.

          • Jill says:

            Cassander “For my money, the behavior of republican presidents who get re-elected seems like reasonably good barometer of what the republicans who voted for him want. ”

            It does not, to me. Candidates of both parties sometimes promise voters things to get elected, and then do the opposite once in office– either because of what their donors want, or for some other reason. I see plenty of people who say they want to pay no taxes, or far less taxes, and say they want smaller government, voting GOP. But the candidates they vote for don’t seem to ever do that.

            Both parties spend tons of money. And I guess they can get away with that, because there is no popular party that seems to spend less in government, once elected– unless it’s the Democrats, since Obama has curtailed spending in various areas and hasn’t put any major wars on the U.S. credit card.

            What do you see as me talking about “greed and malice/” Saying people don’t want to pay taxes?

          • cassander says:

            Jill,

            >It does not, to me. Candidates of both parties sometimes promise voters things to get elected, and then do the opposite once in office– either because of what their donors want, or for some other reason.

            A fair point.

            >I see plenty of people who say they want to pay no taxes, or far less taxes, and say they want smaller government, voting GOP. But the candidates they vote for don’t seem to ever do that.

            I doubt you see many of people who want to pay no taxes. I daresay almost everyone you meet would prefer to pay fewer taxes. “Republicans don’t want to pay taxes” is a standard, and incorrect, caricature.

            > unless it’s the Democrats, since Obama has curtailed spending

            And here you fall back on more caricature. Obama did not cut spending. Obama dramatically expanded spending, and then when the republican congress reigned him in, he spent years complaining about the fact. Now takes credit for a budget deal he was forced into much against his will.

            >hasn’t put any major wars on the U.S. credit card.

            Except the war in Afghanistan, you mean? The one where he spent almost as much as bush did in Iraq? And that’s before we even start thinking about what the catastrophes of libya and syria are going to cost. Still want to claim that you get “all the relevant facts” from your daily sources?

            >What do you see as me talking about “greed and malice/” Saying people don’t want to pay taxes?

            No, the part where you say “American capitalists are so rabidly anti-Communist that we compulsively beat on labor when it’s down.” or “I’d be lying if I said that I see no signs of greed or malice in any GOPers. I don’t think they’re all that way. ” If I said to you,”American leftists are so rabidly anti-capitalist that we compulsively beat on small business people when they’re down” or “I’d be lying if I said that I see no signs of Stalinism in the left, but they’re not all that way” you’d be offended, and I would be guilty of gross generalization.

          • Jill says:

            Cassander, the GOP did break unions. I do consider that, efforts to keep poor people from getting health care, and various other measures and intentions to slash the social safety net, to be kicking workers. You of course disagree, but that’s the way I see it.

            Many many people here are far far from treating me with kid gloves, and far far from characterizing the Blue Tribe or the Dems in non-insulting ways. And I’m not about to coddle the GOP or the Red Tribe either.

            I will do my best to be fair and not to be insulting. But I call things as I see them. As others do also– and there are tons of comments here that are fairly insulting to Dems and to the Blue Tribe.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’ll have to go back and look in my comments to see if I can figure out what you are referring to in them as comments about “greed” and “malice.” I didn’t use those words. If you already know, please tell me.

            Ctrl-Fing for your comments in recent threads, I would have been better off putting that in terms of “fear and anger” than “greed and malice” — I’m seeing some of the latter in the context of race and taxation, especially re: rich GOP donors, but you mention the former almost every time the GOP comes up.

            But the overall point should still hold, I think. Don’t accuse one side of being driven entirely by emotion (especially negative emotions), because that’ll be interpreted as an insult and because it’s impossible to determine rigorously until we have some way of polling people’s brains. Even personal perceptions of emotion are incredibly susceptible to bias, and that’s before we get into sampling issues (which would be enough to render them useless on its own).

            If you think a policy was a bad idea, attack the policy, don’t litigate the mental state of the people that supported it. This is not the kind of board where that will go well — well, unless you’re talking about SJWs, but we’ve all got our folk devils.

          • cassander says:

            @jill

            >Cassander, the GOP did break unions. I do consider that, efforts to keep poor people from getting health care, and various other measures and intentions to slash the social safety net, to be kicking workers. You of course disagree, but that’s the way I see it.

            You might think that, they do not, and when talking about their motives, what they think matters more than what you think. Again, if I said “democrats support unions because they hope to stage a worker’s uprising and set up a bloody reign of terror.” you would not take me seriously, nor should you. What you are saying is just as absurd, just from your tribe’s point of view. If you want to know what their motives are, just ask them! there are plenty of people around here who will happily tell you what they are if you ask, and none of them will say “kicking poors for funzies.”

            >I will do my best to be fair and not to be insulting. But I call things as I see them. As others do also– and there are tons of comments here that are fairly insulting to Dems and to the Blue Tribe.

            YOu can start by not assuming that tribes other than yours are motivated any more by greed, stupidity, or malice than your own is.

          • LPSP says:

            “Part of the issue here is that the norms of communication in my tribe look like hostility to your tribe.

            If you throw three libertarians together on a board of a thousand left-leaning people, there’s going to be an obvious fight with many epithets flying: Over what libertarianism actually is.

            And we’ll all still be on relatively good terms when the fight is over.

            Me treating you like I’d treat a member of my own tribe would actually feel far more hostile to you than me treating you like I normally treat opposing tribe members.”

            Wisdom right here from Orphan Wilde. A lesson I learnt for dealing with certain people during my teens, and to a lesser extent one episode in my early twenties, involved realising that the set of behaviour I had developed for dealing with people I didn’t particular respect at arm’s length was genuinely liked – endearing-tier liked – compared to the deliberate behaviour I instead had as a way of saying “let’s be friends”, tail-wagging having a laugh. At key points I would be impressed enough with someone that I’d slip into the latter behaviour, and it would end up aggravating the other partner and, whether immediately causing a fight or leading to an awkward wind down and optional later argument, would sour things up. It definitely happened the other way, and in instances where I explicitly asked people to keep acting X way for my sake, using metaphors like cooking a steak rare – “it’s just my preference, it’s not undercooked, I’m fine with it” – I got a response more like I was asking them to freeze my steak and chunk it down on the plate with unwashed taters.

            Relaxing can be pretty intensive sometimes!

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Jill –

            I’m not piling on you.

            I’m one of many people having a conversation with you.

            And if getting the shotgun approach from a dozen different opposing perspectives isn’t what you desire, quit posting so many things that inspire exactly that response? I mean, it’s not like you don’t know what you’re getting into when you continually post political stuff.

    • Cord Shirt says:

      Trump is probably the closest thing running to a Marxist right now.

      Well, that’s sure what Sarah Hoyt et al. have been saying.

      I think the primary issue with socialism today is that “socialists”, as far as I can tell, read Marx to get ideas on how to create a more powerful bourgeoisie.

      You seem to be implying that “a more powerful bourgeoisie” is a bad thing. *Is* that what you think? If so, why do you think so? (My jury’s out on this one, always curious to hear others’ arguments.)

      • Orphan Wilde says:

        You seem to be implying that “a more powerful bourgeoisie” is a bad thing. *Is* that what you think? If so, why do you think so? (My jury’s out on this one, always curious to hear others’ arguments.)

        My goal is to stir a congealing pot, to shake up belief systems.

        I write for my audience, not myself. There’s an element of truth in everything I write – I wouldn’t write falsehoods, because I’m not here to troll – but pretty much nothing I write is written to represent my true beliefs.

        Marx is precisely the alt-right, for a different era. A lot of the same rhetoric comes up; the coming collapse, which would unleash social forces which would reconstruct society in a more stable and prosperous configuration after sweeping away the capitalists/cathedral (they’re the same thing, if you pay attention to what Marx was actually saying, as opposed to what the modern Cathedral tells you Marx was saying – look very closely at Marx’s description of the rentier class, for instance), is a theme I find vaguely amusing to see repeated in the alt-right.

        I don’t find either ideology to be particularly dangerous. The danger is how the establishment uses the ideology to establish new narratives for the same old behaviors; Soviet Russia hung communist signs on mercantile feudalism. As far as Marx went, the rentier class was the problem; the bourgeoisie were merely -comfortable-, and didn’t want the system to change. Communism has always had the same pattern; the rentier classes publicly punishing the bourgeoisie for their comfort in order to accumulate greater power and privilege for themselves.

    • hlynkacg says:

      I made a very similar argument in one of the subreddit’s “culture war round-ups” a few months back and our resident Marxist troll was quite offended. I don’t know what bothered him more, the argument itself or the fact that I had apparently read more Marx than he had.

    • Outis says:

      I can sum up the issue with one word: Lumpenproletariat. If you don’t know what this word means, it’s a very nasty way to refer to the welfare class. Marx was against them (or perhaps it would be fairer to say he had a very complicated opinion of them), and regarded them as the natural allies of the upper classes, who acted as the upper class’s enforcers and allies to keep the working classes down.

      That’s what makes you think of Trump? Doesn’t it describe the Democratic party to a T?

  26. Has anyone come across any interesting non-political/partisan list of social theory concepts? I’m interested in things similar to stuff like the Peter Principle, Chesterton’s Fence (well this is a bit political), Goodhart’s law etc etc. I don’t care if the principles are sometimes used by left or right wing as long as the writing itself is not mainly politically motivated/biased. I’ve read bits of all the usual political camps (ew boring), just looking for mostly standalone principles (eg Peter Principle) that aren’t part of the partisan political/social/intellectual gridlock, and therefore might be both interesting and unknown to me. Any thoughts? Any particular principles worth a mention?

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      Murphy’s Law and Other Reasons Why Things Go Wrong is basically a (mostly humorous) recollection of this type of concepts, but it’s just the concepts, with no deep theorizing behind them.

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      All social theory is political. If it doesn’t look political, that’s just because it pattern-matches pretty well with your own politics.

      • I don’t subscribe to that sort of epistemological relativism. Some theories are motivated by a desire to push a political agenda, some are a result of a search to accurately describe society and how it works. I’m interested in the second.

        Obviously most theorists claims to be in the first group, so it’s not trivial, but with good judgment and a bit of knowledge you can quite often spot the difference. That’s why I’m asking in a forum where there is a higher than usual % of people who claim to put truth-seeking before their politics.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          First, assume ALL theories are of the second sort. This is called “charity”.

          Second, assume all theories are created by people with limited perspectives of society, limited perspectives which give rise to political biases and social theories which unintentionally promote those same political biases. There’s a name for this, too, but it’s not useful to give it because it implies I’m right without actually making a case.

          That is, you’re assuming Marxists sit down and try to think up Marxist social theories. No, the same information that causes them to think Marxist is the right way forward also causes them to create Marxist-oriented social theory.

          It’s more true that all social theories are true, than it is true that any one social theory is true. But both are false. Social theories are merely helpful abstractions for thinking about issues.

    • cassander says:

      I suppose you could categorize pretty much all of management and org theory in that category. It’s never expressly political, but it also tends to have hefty political implications if you think about it .

      • Yeah I’ve read some of it, probably to go into much more depth and look for stuff I’ve missed, which is likely a lot. Thanks.

      • Jill says:

        Well, yes, there are tons of parallels between theory of management of a business, and theory of management of a nation.

        Some say that the personal is always political, that almost everything has some political implications. E.g. we had that long discussion on Hamiliton. Even– probably especially– if you didn’t think about it when seeing it, it’s political in that it has implications/suggestions for what kind of government and economy we ought to have today.

        It really can open your eyes to read a good text on propaganda. For example, Taking the Risk out of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty (History of Communication )Dec 1, 1996 by Alex Carey,an Australian author.

        It makes some good points relevant to our discussion of when and whether violence/nonviolence works to cause social change. Apparently, violence often causes the perpetrator to win the battle but lose the war, as the English did in India, for example. Public opinion is against violence. Therefore, groups and corporations lose in the court of public opinion when they are violent. Because of this, one big manipulation that was done to decrease unionism was for corporations to hire people to pretend to be on the side of union members and to have them act violently, thus turning public opinion against unions.

        https://www.amazon.com/Taking-Risk-Out-Democracy-Communication/dp/0252066162/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1470416120&sr=8-1&keywords=taking+the+risk+out+of+democracy+corporate+propaganda+versus+freedom+and+liberty

        The U.S. is a highly active, and not very reflective, culture. Which is why most good books on propaganda were not written in the U.S. But I am reading Psychological Warfare, which was written in the U.S., due to someone’s recommendation here, and it is very good. Thanks for that reco.

  27. Anonymous says:

    I am officially sick and tired of the incessant Red Tribe vs. Blue Tribe debates.

    Anyone else?

    • Montfort says:

      Yes. But mind-killing subjects how they are, I’m sure I’ve probably been keeping them alive despite my stated preferences.

    • Zombielicious says:

      Imo, the whole thing would go over a lot better if people focused on policies instead of tribes and ideologies. Something like e.g. debating the consequences of Paul Ryan’s budget proposal can be productive discussion. Explaining why Paul Ryan’s budget is representative of everything wrong with some ill-defined mass of people like the 1%/the nanny state/red-or-blue staters/etc absolutely never is. Once you remove the budget proposal entirely and the conversation becomes an attempt to psychoanalyze the warped psychology of your ill-defined group of opponents and why they’re stupid and evil, you’re basically shitting where you eat.

      I wouldn’t mind an informal rule along the lines of, “You’re only allowed argue for/against the policy, not for/against the group that supports or opposes it.” With possible exceptions, e.g. certain threads where the rule was suspended and anything was fair game again.

      • cassander says:

        the problem is that you can’t really discuss the efficacy of policy without talking about the goals you’re trying to achieve, and goals inevitably are based on tribal morays. On the ryan budget, for example, it would be awkward at best to really talk about whether or not it’s the best way to cut entitlements without ever mentioning the desirability of cutting entitlements.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          Would a “tribal moray” be the way that tribe eels about things?

          Anyway, it’s certainly possible to talk about the desirability of cutting entitlements without making sweeping generalizations about the sort of person who wants to cut|not cut entitlements.

          • cassander says:

            Sweeping generalizations can be avoided, but not discussion of what you’re trying to accomplish by cutting entitlements, or why you prefer cutting them to other methods.

        • Zombielicious says:

          @cassander:
          See my reply to Tekhno. The thread got kind of screwed up, but I tried to address this there.

        • Agronomous says:

          tribal morays

          That’s goin’ in the list.

    • Tekhno says:

      @Zombielicious

      Imo, the whole thing would go over a lot better if people focused on policies instead of tribes and ideologies

      The (specific)tribes thing is a product of a representative democracy system where people have to form into large coalitions or “wings” of the people they hate the least in order to stop all the people they hate the most.

      The only way you could change the political culture so drastically as to make people detach policies from “left and right” would be to transcend representative democracy to a system where people are voting on policies instead of parties, which I’d imagine would be a very very direct democracy (this might require some new technology) rather than a representative one. The whole of the populace would have to be able to act as the legislature somehow.

      As someone who doesn’t fit easily on the political spectrum, and can’t find a party, a direct democracy would suit me personally just fine, as I’d be able to vote on the specific things I want passed into law or repealed that are either “left” or “right” conventionally and hard to find together in a single party.

      Unfortunately, I think such a system would be too chaotic to work effectively and would decay back into a representative system (iron law of oligarchy). I think tribal thinking is going to be with us for a while yet, at least until we can all turn into space faring randian cyborgs.

      • Anonymous says:

        The only way you could change the political culture so drastically as to make people detach policies from “left and right” would be to transcend representative democracy to a system where people are voting on policies instead of parties, which I’d imagine would be a very very direct democracy (this might require some new technology) rather than a representative one. The whole of the populace would have to be able to act as the legislature somehow.

        You could also get rid of voting.

      • Tekhno says:

        @Anonymous

        Only if you have enough automated drones. Democracy is a product of the gun.

      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        But that only shows that the tribes need to exist– not that we need to talk about them here.

      • Zombielicious says:

        I’m not sure that this is necessarily required for representation, especially not on the range of issues that we see discord on. People’s short-term goals may differ a lot (e.g. does my portfolio go up or down if this tax is increased?), but long-term people’s desires tend to converge. People don’t disagree on stuff like regulation or taxes or a stimulus plan because some people want the economy to grow and others want it to stagnate – they disagree because they can’t reach consensus about the best solution to problems they all agree should be solved.

        I’m not actually sure there are issues with goals that people would disagree on in the longest term. Everyone pretty much wants a long, happy, wealthy life in a stable and prosperous society. Even with something like religious motivations, you could argue those people really want the same things, just have multiple disagreements about the best way to achieve them.

        Anyway, regardless of whether that last paragraph is true or not, even on the issues people should be able to find consensus on, people shift from finding the best policy to picking which policy they support based on which group they hate the most. People who don’t know anything about the healthcare debate still hate Obamacare just because liberals support it; people who don’t know anything about gun control legislation still support it just because it’ll piss off conservatives. To reach consensus on the best policy options, ones where you do agree on the broader goals, you have to be able to discuss stuff, and focusing on policy over tribes and ideologies is the only way I can think of to force people out of the “support what my outgroup hates!” thought process into actual discussion about the efficacy of the policies themselves.

      • cassander says:

        @Tekhno

        >Only if you have enough automated drones. Democracy is a product of the gun.

        Democracy is the product of capitalism, not guns. Guns were around for hundreds of years before we started getting anything like democracy coming out of them. Capitalism, however, has had a strong tendency to produce at least republican government going back millennia, and pretty much as soon as we started getting mass capitalism (countries were large numbers of people relied on markets for food instead of growing their own) we started getting mass democracies.

        @zombielicious

        >they disagree because they can’t reach consensus about the best solution to problems they all agree should be solved.

        This is true for a relatively small list of economic concerns, but that is hardly all of politics.

        >I’m not actually sure there are issues with goals that people would disagree on in the longest term.

        Abortion would seem the simplest and most obvious. There’s not a lot of middle ground between murder or medical procedure.

        >To reach consensus on the best policy options, ones where you do agree on the broader goals, you have to be able to discuss stuff, and focusing on policy over tribes and ideologies is the only way I can think of to force people out of the “support what my outgroup hates!” thought process into actual discussion about the efficacy of the policies themselves.

        What makes you think that’s possible?

        • Zombielicious says:

          This is true for a relatively small list of economic concerns, but that is hardly all of politics.

          Abortion would seem the simplest and most obvious. There’s not a lot of middle ground between murder or medical procedure.

          I don’t think abortion is actually an exception for most people. Once you cut out the tribal outgroup hatred, the main disagreement over abortion isn’t whether murder is great or medical procedures are evil – it’s when a fetus counts as a living human whose interests should be protected, which is largely a medical question. You do get people who think that even a single-celled zygote or embryonic stem cell counts as a human life and it’s murder to destroy it, or people who argue for “after-birth abortions” up to some given age, but those are still just people interpreting evidence in a way that I’d think is kind of nutty (putting it mildly), not people who disagree on the general goal of (loosely stated) “save human lives.”

          What makes you think that’s possible?

          To paraphrase Michael Huemer, irrationality in politics is one of the world’s great problems, because it prevents us from solving most of the other ones. So even if it’s a difficult project, it is an important one.

          • Lumifer says:

            it’s when a fetus counts as a living human whose interests should be protected, which is largely a medical question

            How in the world defining a human is a “medical question”? It certainly should be informed by biology, but it’s no more a medical question than, say, deciding that “three generations of imbeciles are enough”.

          • Zombielicious says:

            All relevant facts to when something qualifies as human (or other creature with qualities such that it has moral interests) are biological, whether the answers to those questions are currently known or not.

            The map is not the territory etc.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Zombielicious

            Huh? Whether some{thing|body} is a human is a question of definition. It’s not a fact (“currently known or not”) and is entirely a function of the definition.

            The map is indeed not the territory. Notably, the territory does not contain the answer to the question of what is a human.

          • Zombielicious says:

            This actually seems to make my point, though. Definitions are one thing that it should be possible to build consensus on, at least when there is enough relevant information about the subject matter to do so. If you don’t think that’s possible, then you have bigger problems than just agreeing on politics, since most of science, math, and philosophy go out the window too. A word may be widely used despite being currently ill-defined, but it doesn’t mean definitions themselves have no real meaning.

            So no, I don’t think it’s that it’s fundamentally impossible to reach consensus on such questions, so much as that those questions are currently poorly stated, based on inconsistent or nonsensical definitions, or the information to do so currently isn’t available, or that people debating the questions are engaged in some kind of emotionally charged motivated reasoning (e.g. “hate what the outgroup supports”) which prevents further progress. Not that some people just want to kill babies or force rape victims to endure unwanted pregnancies as their terminal values. You’re either defending some kind of anti-realist view that truth does not exist, or else that people have such fundamentally different terminal values that they can never agree on a majority of policy issues.

          • Lumifer says:

            You can certainly build a consensus around definitions (that’s how languages work, after all). What I was objecting to is the idea the the definition of a human is a “medical question” and that the answer can be found in the territory.

          • Agronomous says:

            You do get people who think that even a single-celled zygote or embryonic stem cell counts as a human life and it’s murder to destroy it,

            No, nobody claims an embryonic stem cell counts as a human life. We claim that the (human) embryo that is destroyed (killed) to “harvest” that embryonic stem cell counts as a human life, and killing innocent humans counts as murder.

            (You may not have any idea how hard I’m trying to be nice, here.)

          • Zombielicious says:

            Thanks for edifying me on your position. Feel free not to bother next time either if that kind of snide parenthetical aside is the best you can do as far as being “nice.”

          • A merciless and silent disaster says:

            I wish to formally accuse your entire school of thought of inconsistency.

            First, embryonic stem cell research uses embryos made for in vitro fertilisation (IVF). These embryos would die either way. Yet many countries ban embryonic stem cell research but do not have laws limiting embryos produced per IVF cycle or mandating donation of embryos to couples, or restrictions on IVF similar to those on abortion. This saves no embryos at all.

            More importantly, embryonic stem cells are derived from blastocysts, which are a pre-implantation stage. Roughly 30%, maybe more of embryos fail to implant. (Kennedy, 1997; Wilcox et al., 1988)

            Of those that do implant, again roughly 30% miscarry (McNair & Altman, The Johns Hopkins Manual of Gynecology and Obstetrics, p. 438 in the 4th ed). If you think moral relevance begins at the blastula stage or earlier, then you think at least half of human beings die of these natural processes, usually even before their mother knows they exist.

            Efforts to reduce abortion, IVF, or embryonic stem cell research, are opposed by people who want those things. Nobody is opposed to research on preventing early miscarriage and making implantation more likely.

            Where is the charity that funds this research, and why haven’t I heard of it?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Roughly 100% of people die sooner or later. That doesn’t make murder OK. ETA: Nor does it make someone a hypocrite if they campaign to reduce the murder level but not to increase funding for cancer treatment — or to pass more car safety regulations, or to spend more effort searching for a cure for Alzheimer’s, or any one of the other myriad causes of human deaths. The above post is a classic case of whataboutery, and almost certainly made in bad faith.

          • A merciless and now noisier disaster says:

            When I ask anti-murder activists “How come I never hear of an anti-malaria or anti-cancer charity?”, they answer “Do you live under a rock? Here are hundreds.” I can (and do) argue about the relative effort spent on each cause, but the reaction isn’t “How dare you bring that up?”.

            Wait a minute, that’s what’s going on, isn’t it? Nobody can say “What about spontaneous miscarriage? Let’s start a charity” because “What about spontaneous miscarriage?” is a slogan of the enemy side. Hundreds of millions of babies dying because of partisan politics. Shit shit shit shit shit

          • The original Mr. X says:

            You could try Tommy’s. They’ve even recently opened a National Miscarriage Research Centre.

            And, since we’re playing this game, I’d like to formally accuse every pro-choicer who isn’t also a libertarian of inconsistency. Why is it that “choice” is sacrosanct when it comes to terminating your unborn child, but not when it comes to spending your money as you see fit, or educating your child (assuming it’s survived pregnancy, of course) as you see fit, or buying a gun, or drinking a large can of fizzy drink, or working for less than the minimum wage, or only hiring people who look like you, or…?

          • Saint Fiasco says:

            It’s not that pro-choicers believe choice to be sacrosanct. They see it as a nice thing that counts as a benefit in a cost-benefit calculation.

            They are willing to sacrifice choice to reduce things like drug abuse, if they think an increase in drug abuse costs more than the benefit of being able to choose to use any drug.

            Problem is, they don’t see death of unborn as much of a cost.

          • A slightly more merciful disaster says:

            Thanks, threw £30 their way.

            Yeah, what Saint Fiasco said. I think abortion should be permitted because I don’t think embryos are people yet; I’d place the limit at maybe 14 weeks. I also think we should develop artificial wombs as soon as possible, to avoid the whole issue.

            In the violinist thought experiment, where it’s definitely a person… I might be willing to concede that there’s some abstract philosophical way that you have a right to kill the violinist, but if you actually do it you’re despicable and I will use my right to ostracise you.

            I don’t think the violinist-killing philosophy is libertarianism. They both permit underpaid racist soda guns, but libertarianism would not murder a baby (I guess you’d demand payment when it’s grown up) or educate a child in a way it doesn’t want.

          • Agronomous says:

            Feel free not to bother next time either if that kind of snide parenthetical aside is the best you can do as far as being “nice.”

            When I’m being snide, you’ll know it.

            It was an honest report. Go back and read what I wrote. What failed the niceness test? Is there any nicer way to say what I said without changing the meaning?

            What would your reaction be if I misstated your side’s position on something to that degree?

          • LHN says:

            I also think we should develop artificial wombs as soon as possible, to avoid the whole issue.

            While the tech would be great to have for any number of reasons, I think this is extremely optimistic.

  28. Kevin C. says:

    I’m not sure if I’m reading these biology papers/abstracts correctly, involving “sex role reversal” and adult sex ratios in various species. First, we have ones like this about birds from order Charadriiformes: The evolution of sex roles in birds is related to adult sex ratio. To quote from the abstract,

    Classic theories suggested ecological or life-history predictors of role reversal, but most studies failed to support these hypotheses. Recent theory however predicts that sex-role reversal should be driven by male-biased adult sex ratio (ASR). Here we test this prediction for the first time using phylogenetic comparative analyses. Consistent with theory, both mating system and parental care are strongly related to ASR in shorebirds: conventional sex roles are exhibited by species with female-biased ASR, whereas sex-role reversal is associated with male-biased ASR. These results suggest that social environment has a strong influence on breeding systems and therefore revealing the causes of ASR variation in wild populations is essential for understanding sex role evolution.

    But in contrast, we have this one about pipefishes: The operational sex ratio influences choosiness in a pipefish.

    In the pipefish (Syngnathus typhle) females compete for males, who are choosy. In nature OSRs are typically female biased, but may occasionally be male biased. In a series of experiments, males were allowed to choose between a large and a small female under a perceived excess of either males or females. Under female bias, males preferred the large female: they spent more time close to her than to the small female; they courted the large female sooner than the small; and they tended to copulate sooner and more often with the large female. Under male bias all these differences vanished and males mated at random with respect to female size. Males reproduced at a faster rate under male than under female bias because they received more eggs in their brood pouches. Thus, males switched from maximizing mate quality (i.e., being choosy) to minimizing the risk of not reproducing (i.e., being quick) as the OSR became male biased.

    So one argues that sex role reversal is (in birds at least) associated with the breeding population skewing male, and gives an evolutionary theoretical model predicting this. Yet the other gives, for pipefishes, the reverse correlation. Am I understanding this correctly?

  29. Jill says:

    Here are some points to add to the discussion we were having about why Obama failed to keep some of his promises. I don’t believe that voting doesn’t matter, as this article subtitle states. But there are some other people calling the shots– making some decisions that most voters thought were up to the pres and Congress.

    Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change.
    The people we elect aren’t the ones calling the shots, says Tufts University’s Michael Glennon
    https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/10/18/vote-all-you-want-the-secret-government-won-change/jVSkXrENQlu8vNcBfMn9sL/story.html

    • Walter says:

      It’s super weird to see you write this, Jill. I mean, I totally agree with it, but I’m a very right-of-center guy, and I sort of thought that this was a thing we believed. Like, whining about unelected mandarins regulating all the things is kind of our song, right?

      • meyerkev248 says:

        My mental model has that as alt-right.

        In fact, the bits where they start talking about the mechanisms by which that happens are the interesting bits that make me not completely drop them at all.

        Actually, let me correct myself.

        Everyone thinks that to some degree, whether they be left, right, center, or lizard people.

        The alt-right is the ones with the most developed vocabulary to talk about the means and ways by which that happens in large part because they’ve been talking about how Democracy is terrible, so OK, what do we replace it with and how, which in turn means doing a lot of thinking about the very nature of people and systems and…

        /And it’s always super-entertaining to read a Vox piece and go “Wait, is this a 10-page article groping towards the concept of anarcho-tyranny? Because we already have a word for this.”

        • Sandy says:

          It seems fairly mainstream right. The Supreme Court Justices are the typical model for “unelected mandarins”, especially when they point at the Constitution and say, “Look, it clearly says abortion is a fundamental right”.

          • gbdub says:

            Don’t forget the entrenched bureaucracy, and public “servants” lean heavily left outside the DoD.

          • Nornagest says:

            DoD and police departments. The latter are big enough — there’s about a million police employees in the US, most of whom are officers — that they shouldn’t be glossed over in an analysis like this.

            Wasn’t it Rudy Giuliani who pointed out that he has an army about the size of Belgium’s (i.e. the NYPD)?

          • cassander says:

            The DoD isn’t exactly right wing, except by the standard of the rest of the civil service.

          • gbdub says:

            Police departments are a bit weird, because on the one hand they are (obviously) pro-law-and-order, probably socially conservative, but also almost all strongly unionized with a lot of the sympathies that go along with that. They seem more like your traditional blue-collar working class Democrat than the sort of people we talk about as “leftist” here.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ gbdub

            I don’t know about weird. LEOs are strongly authoritarian (no surprise) with all the consequences. As to unions, it’s just naked self-interest.

          • Jiro says:

            LEOs are strongly authoritarian (no surprise) with all the consequences.

            The rank and file police also strongly support the right to bear arms and oppose gun control.

            Considering that police get to carry weapons regardless of whether there is gun control, this support is squarely anti-authoritarian.

        • Jill says:

          I hadn’t known there were more than a couple of people who thought that democracy is terrible, until I came to this site. There are some truly unusual people here. For those 3 or 4 of you in the U.S. who do think this, you certainly have your work cut out for you in finding very many other people to join you in your distaste for democracy and plans for alternatives.

          I’d like to see Congress and the pres really be in charge of the things they are supposed to. And I’d like to see Citizens United reversed and have public funding of elections.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Jill – “For those 3 or 4 of you in the U.S. who do think this, you certainly have your work cut out for you in finding very many other people to join you in your distaste for democracy and plans for alternatives.”

            I’m a pretty big fan of democracy, but in my more pessimistic moments I find their analysis interesting. The big question comes back to the two points of view from In Favor of Niceness, Community and Civilization. It is certainly possible that cruelty and tribalism out-compete everything else, and if so, Democracy is probably just a transitory stage on the road to something much nastier. I rather hope not, though.

          • Nornagest says:

            Democracy is probably just a transitory stage on the road to something much nastier

            Plato thought that democracy would inevitably give rise to tyranny (a word with less pejorative connotations in his day than ours, though; “autocracy” might be a better fit). On the other hand, democracy in Plato’s time was so different from ours that you could argue it was functionally a different system.

          • roystgnr says:

            “Democracy is the worst system of government, except for all the others” is a pretty famous paraphrase of Winston Churchill; “two wolves and a sheep voting on dinner” is Ben Franklin. I wouldn’t be surprised if “distaste for democracy” (without “plans for alternatives”) was a more common sentiment than not.

          • Seth says:

            I hadn’t known there were more than a couple of people who thought that democracy is terrible, until I came to this site.

            Sadly, that says more about the filter-bubble theory than this site. The view that democracy is terrible is fairly common among several types of people – e.g. techs, the wealthy, the conservative (hardly exclusive categories, and not meaning to be an exhaustive list either). Allow me to introduce you to the political thinking of Peter Thiel, who is not a obscure blogger, but recently spoke at the Republican convention.

            http://www.cato-unbound.org/2009/04/13/peter-thiel/education-libertarian
            “Most importantly, I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible. “

          • hlynkacg says:

            The question is which form of the word “democracy” do you have in mind? Are we talking about majority rule/will of the people and all that? or are we talking about democracy as a political institution?

            “Pure democracy” is simply “mob rule” with more syllables. A lynch mob is democratic. It might just be the purest expression of democracy there is. The “will of the people” stripped of all pretense or restraint.

            That is exactly why institutions, and “rule of law” are so important. They are the buffer that allows “freedom” and “democracy” to coexist and they are what most people really have in mind when they talk about democracy as a institution.

      • Jill says:

        I identify as Left overall. But I honestly try to read a lot of things and figure out the truth. What is proposed in the article sounds probable to me.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Jill – Yeah, this is a huge concern for people on the right, and it extends beyond just the security branches as well; my understanding is much of the executive branch is like this, and it’s growing in power the further into the era of the “imperial presidency” we move. If you read into the background of the Bundy standoff awhile back, the red-tribe version was that it was over these sorts of issues: an unaccountable, ham-fisted federal agency using its power to grind under foot anyone who got in its way.

          You also mentioned in the links thread that people should worry less about the president and more about congress, since it’s congress who writes the laws. The problem is that it’s the executive branch that chooses whether and how to enforce them, and the record over the last several presidents, democrat and republican, is not encouraging.

          You’ve linked Ornstein’s analysis of the origins of distrust of government; this is a big part of the picture I feel Ornstein misses. A lot of the fury against government on the right comes from red-tribe people realizing over the last forty years or so that the government is not their friend, and executive-branch abuses have had a huge role in that. Gingrich lassoed that bull, rode it for a while and undoubtedly spurred it on, but he didn’t create it out of whole cloth, and it doesn’t go away without him. For an awful lot of Americans, the government is seen as one of the most obvious threats to their way of life; the main split between Blues and Reds is which parts of it are the threats and which parts are the vital, necessary tools of good governance.

          • Randy M says:

            The problem is that it’s the executive branch that chooses whether and how to enforce them, and the record over the last several presidents, democrat and republican, is not encouraging.

            That’s part of it, but another is congress delegating a lot of the decision making to executive agencies, such as have EPA set various standards and so forth.

          • cassander says:

            It’s important not to conflate the presidency with the executive branch as a whole. Outside of the realm of foreign policy, the president has very little control over the executive. He’s a CEO who can’t fire or promote the vast majority of his employees, can’t move money around, can re-organize his departments, and can’t even make department heads on his own.

            The power of the executive is vast and imperial, the power of the presidency is not.

      • cassander says:

        Tue or not, The right/alt-right position is at least logically coherent. At the most basic level, it’s the claim that there’s a permanent bureaucracy, an overton window, and that the former does a lot of work in shaping the latter. If you’re on the right and have spent a couple decades electing republicans who campaigned against gay rights, immigrants, entitlements, environmental regulation, only to see the those things all increase, I can see why such a theory would be compelling.

        What I don’t understand is how someone on the left can read that article, then immediately turn around and advocate giving more money and power to a system they think is controlled by their ideological enemies. It’s just almost as bad the underpants gnome theory on the far left that evil corporations/republicans control the government, so we need to make the government more powerful to stop them

        • Tekhno says:

          It’s just almost as bad the underpants gnome theory on the far left that evil corporations/republicans control the government, so we need to make the government more powerful to stop them

          It’s more like the idea that the government can help everyone, and the way the corporations control government is by making it too small to help everyone else, but enough to enforce their interests. The corporations are paying for the government even if they control it, so the idea is that giving the government more power requires taxing them more, reducing their power and increasing income equality.

          • cassander says:

            >reducing their power and increasing income equality.

            You aren’t reducing their power if you give an entity they control more money and power.

          • Nornagest says:

            That seems to presuppose that the Secret Masters can control the magnitude of government but not its direction, which seems questionable to me.

            I suppose I could steelman it by saying that there’s no cartel here, only individual industry lobbyists, and they have no shared interest in redirecting money to any particular industry but do have a shared interest in keeping the general level of regulation low… but then that shared interest gets correspondingly weaker. What does a software company in California care about clean water in Kentucky?

          • Tekhno says:

            @Nornagest

            That seems to presuppose that the Secret Masters can control the magnitude of government but not its direction, which seems questionable to me.

            I think a lot of equation between the government and The People is going on in a lot of far-left analysis, so the corporations could be said more to be holding down “the government” rather than controlling it pe se. I do think this is very questionable.

            I think some leftists realize this, and their response is to go farther left and become communists, because they understand that just giving the government money is useless if its a bourgeois government. The radical solution is removal of the bourgeoisie so then there can be no corporations to control the government, and the government can only be The People, leading the way to the dissolution of the idea of government all together (pure communism = anarchism) in favor of the free association of communes in a confederation which is totally not a government honest led by instantly recallable delegates who are servants and totally not leaders.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Nornagest –

            What makes you think corporations want to keep regulatory levels low?

            Regulations increase corporate profits, they don’t decrease them.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Orphan Wilde

            “Corporations” are a very diverse set of entities, but let’s assume we’re talking about large ones.

            I would say that they are mostly interested in skewed (in their favour) regulation. As to absolute levels, I suspect it depends on how effective their regulatory capture is : -/

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Lumifer –

            Insofar as people talk about corporations, they’re generally not talking about LLCs protecting a mom-and-pop shop from lawsuits.

            But I think the case holds in general; even entirely neutral regulations impose legal burdens which disproportionately affect smaller companies.

            Mind, I’m a near-religious capitalist. I just don’t think corporations are capitalism; they’re deliberate government interventions into the market that violate rule of law by exempting certain political structures from common law liability rules. From a pragmatic perspective, they may be an improvement, but the solution should have been to correct the general issues with liability laws, not to exempt classes of fictitious entities from those rules.

            So I’m a pro-capitalist, anti-corporatist, and I think other free marketeers should take up this perspective. Corporations sure as fuck aren’t our allies, and we spend way too much time defending their bullshit.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Orphan Wilde

            even entirely neutral regulations impose legal burdens which disproportionately affect smaller companies

            I agree, though I think it’s just a special case of the smaller companies being more fragile in general.

            I just don’t think corporations are capitalism; they’re deliberate government interventions into the market that violate rule of law by exempting certain political structures from common law liability rules.

            That doesn’t look right to me. First, do you have any real-life large-scale examples of successful capitalism without limited liability? Corporations are basically a structure that is remarkably successful at mobilizing capital from risk-averse people who don’t want to run a business. That is a very important function for capitalism and I’m not sure how do you think it will work without it. A semiconductor fab costs a few billions of dollars to build — how will you achieve the necessary concentration of money? Pure debt financing has its own problems.

            Second, why do you set common law and government intervention as opposites? Common law is not distilled ancient wisdom guaranteed to be pure and true — it is, basically, just judicial tradition. By now limited liability is part of it.

            And, by the way, you speak of “exempt[ing] classes of fictitious entities from those rules” but limited liability exempts investors from liability and those investors are not fictitious entities most of the time.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Lumifer –

            I think we agree on the regulation aspect.

            I don’t have claim to demand this, but I’d like you to think about what corporations are, and their role in capitalism.

            I spent far too much time in the early part of my political debate career defending corporations. It was frankly quite liberating to realize corporations didn’t really belong to capitalism; their history is pure mercantilism, after all – early corporations were literally government-created independent financial entities.

            Their later history (which IIRC was the US version of corporations, which only later started to be adopted elsewhere) was a patch on a flawed patchwork of legal liability issues which made investment incredibly risky.

            I understand the problem that is being solved there – risk profiles of investment are completely different between “You could lose the money you’ve invested” and “You could be sued for money you never intended to invest”.

            The issue is that that risk profile isn’t limited to business – the liability laws which provoke this issue in business are part of the common law, and the problem could just as easily have been solved there. Why do we treat the owners of a business entity which owns an ice skating rink differently than we treat the owners of an ice skating rink?

            Corporations are a century-and-a-half solution to a problem that originated in jurisprudence that originated in a British empire that no longer exists. Maybe there’s a better solution to that particular problem.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Orphan Wilde

            early corporations were literally government-created independent financial entities

            Sure, the British East India Company and such. But it’s hardly relevant for the current situation.

            are part of the common law, and the problem could just as easily have been solved there

            But if you want to solve the problem there (if I understand you correctly, make limited liability apply to all forms of business), then you would effectively make “corporations” out of single proprietorships and partnerships. And then the question becomes what is it that is wrong about corporations that you want to abolish? If you change the liability laws, aren’t you just creating more of them?

            Maybe there’s a better solution to that particular problem.

            So don’t be shy, propose one.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Lumifer –

            Well, one solution would be to change common law to limit liability for everyone; the “make everyone a corporation” strategy.

            What makes this different from existing corporate law?

            Everything else about corporate law. Fiduciary duty, for one example. Double-accounting requirements. Requirements (varying by state) to have a CEO and CFO (among other positions).

            Corporate law basically means the technology of doing business is, to a significant extent, stuck in a century-old rut. I’m not going to say “X would definitely be better”, because X is probably worse; but the whole point of capitalism is, like science, to test ideas out and see what works.

            Instead, we’ve made it substantively illegal to test out new ideas. It’s insane, and it’s also insane that we as capitalists have somehow been shoved into the position of defending this statist monstrosity.

          • Nornagest says:

            What makes you think corporations want to keep regulatory levels low?

            Regulations increase corporate profits, they don’t decrease them.

            Within an industry, sure, provided the regulations are structured such that fixed costs dominate marginal ones (very common) and the industry’s structured such that small players cut into big ones’ profits more than compliance costs do (not rare, but not universal).

            But if you’re the kind of company that can afford lobbyists, you want your vendors and customers to be unregulated (so that you can buy their stuff cheap and sell to them easily; note that this is a marginal cost), even if you want your own industry to be regulated (so you don’t need to worry as much about being disrupted by a startup with a better business model). And that goes for all companies, hence “common interest”.

            This predicts individual lobbyists pushing for (or “grudgingly” suggesting) regulation in many but not all cases, and Chamber of Commerce-type entities weakly supporting deregulation. That seems to fit empirical reality pretty well, from what I’ve seen.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Nornagest –

            Suppose, for a moment, you make steel I-beams; that’s what you do. You don’t make the steel, you make the beams. Suppose also that futures don’t exist; they don’t substantively change any of this on the whole, but they make analysis a hell of a lot more complicated.

            Suppose your profit margin is, like most industries, somewhere between 5-20% of expenses. Let’s say 10%.

            If the price of steel rises by $10, such that all your competitors’ prices must rise as well, what happens to your long-term profits?

            Well, that’s complicated, and it mostly depends on whether there are viable alternatives to steel I-beams – that is, how elastic demand for steel I-beams is.

            Which means you don’t want regulations that harm steel production, specifically. But a regulation that makes all competing products slightly more expensive?

            Well, everybody’s profits get a little bit higher, because 10% of $110 is a little bit more than 10% of $100.

            Again, stuff like futures make all of this insanely complex, and substitutions exist for many products – but regulations that harm everybody about equally are generally in the large corporations’ best interests.

          • Nornagest says:

            That’s not how that sort of broad-based regulation translates into economics, though. You are not decreeing that everything will now cost 10% more; you’re imposing some cost on everybody, probably a fixed one. How they deal with that cost is up to them. Most of them will raise prices to cover it, with the magnitude of that increase depending on the ratio of the new cost to their earnings; for some, that’ll either destroy their profit margin or push their prices up enough that they’re no longer competitive, and they’ll go out of business.

            So what does this mean to a single large company? Demand goes down a bit because you have to charge more, but you don’t have as much competition anymore either, so that’s compensated by bigger market share — the same dynamic you’d see in an industry-specific regulation. But unlike that scenario, your marginal costs have gone up too, and there’s no structural reason for that cost to be covered.

          • Jiro says:

            Everything else about corporate law.

            Most people who complain about special corporate privileges complain mainly about limited liability. If you are fine with limited liability and object to something else about corporations, you’re at odds with the movement. It is no longer “why the people on my side oppose corporations”, it’s “why I and pretty much nobody else oppose corporations”.

            Of course, this is your prerogative. Just be aware of it.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Jiro –

            Among those I argue with, most complain about fiduciary duty, although in my experience most of them aren’t aware that’s what they’re complaining about. (They tend to get very quiet when you explain that the government does in fact require corporations to put profits first.)

            I’ve never encountered anybody who complained about limited liability. I can think of a few who probably thought that’s what they were complaining about, but dealing with corporate negligent homicide isn’t actually what limited liability is about.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Orphan Wilde

            Everything else about corporate law.

            Well, then you aren’t complaining about corporations, really. You are complaining about business regulations. A very valid complaint and I would probably agree with much of it, but that was an unexpected turn of events. As Jiro said, when you say “I’m against corporations”, pretty much everyone will assume you have a problem with limited liability.

            Fiduciary duty exists in other contexts as well, e.g. in partnerships. And, by the way, it also is a pretty important factor in the collect-the-capital-from-passive-investors process. Those investors want not only the assurances that they won’t be sued for everything they own, they would also like some legal protection from being marks in a shell game.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Lumifer –

            In a sense, yes, I’m complaining about business regulation.

            But in a very critical sense, corporations ARE business regulation, and the worst kind: Exceptions carved out of normal law.

            If you asked me whether I’m for privatization, I’d say yes, immediately. But if you pointed to any actual case of privatization that has happened, I’m almost certainly against it, because privatization, like everything in government, is pretty much always done in an anti-capitalist way. Soviet privatization, in which state assets were sold for peanuts to politically-connected individuals while leaving much of the anti-competition law in place for everyone else, is the perfect example. Us free-market people have a bad tendency of completely ignoring our principles when the right buzzwords are used to describe the shit we normally decry.

            I’m less familiar with partnership law, so am incompetent to comment on it.

          • Anonymous says:

            (They tend to get very quiet when you explain that the government does in fact require corporations to put profits first.)

            Perhaps because they are embarrassed for you. You are parroting an overly-simplified version of the holding of a court case from Michigan in 1919. It’s relevance to modern corporate law approaches nil.

          • John Schilling says:

            They tend to get very quiet when you explain that the government does in fact require corporations to put profits first

            The government is very explicit about the fact that the corporation I presently work for is not allowed to make any profit at all. Back when I used to own half of a corporation, the government didn’t care whether my partner and I even tried to make a profit. Your understanding of “fiduciary responsibility” is I think critically flawed.

            The government enforces contracts. If, and only if, a company makes a contract with its investors saying “we will make as much profit as legally possible”, the government will recognize that a fiduciary duty exists to put profit first. If a company makes some other contract with its investors, maybe “we will make as much profit as possible while Not Being Evil (in some legally definable way)”, or “We will perform this service while making no profit whatsoever”, then the government will enforce those contracts instead.

            And this has nothing to do with corporations as such. If you set up an ice cream shop as a sole proprietorship, but ask your brother-in-law to invest some start-up funding, whatever contract you sign with him has about the same status under the law. So even if you imagine some sort of non-corporate capitalism, you’re still going to have fiduciary duties. Which may or may not be “profit uber alles”, depending on the priorities of the capitalists in question.

            The bit where almost all real investors chose to put their money with the companies that make legal promises to maximize profits and warm fuzzy non-binding press releases about Not Being Evil, that’s not something you can pin on governments either.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Orphan Wilde

            If you asked me whether I’m for privatization, I’d say yes, immediately. But if you pointed to any actual case of privatization that has happened, I’m almost certainly against it, because privatization, like everything in government, is pretty much always done in an anti-capitalist way.

            So you’re for privatization except for how it always actually happens in real life? That’s a pretty big mismatch between your ideas and reality, and I don’t think reality cares about it.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            John Schilling –

            I’m simplifying a lot of what I’m talking about here, because it’s a complex subject. There are many different ways to incorporate, and in addition to federal laws, there are also state laws; I’d hazard a very rough guess that there are around four hundred “types” of corporation, if we treat a “type” as an intersection of applicable state and federal laws that shape how a business does business. It wouldn’t surprise me if that number is greater than one thousand, though.

            Simplifying to the point of damn-near lying, however, there are three types of corporation: Private, public, and nonprofit.

            Some subtypes of private corporations can convert to public corporations later; some can’t. In general, private corporations are subject to the least number of rules, and largely exist as a stopgap so that “ordinary” people can get the advantages of incorporation. Some of them are businesses, some aren’t. Sensible mom-and-pop stores are incorporated, at the very least as an LLC.

            Public corporations are governed more stringently, and have fiduciary duty – there are kind-of, sort-of ways around this, but they’re generally not retroactively available. (Companies which utilize these techniques usually self-describe as not-for-profit, and, while IANAL, I believe they have to be part of the corporate charter. I don’t -think- they can be voted in by shareholders later.) Public corporations are subject to a levy of different regulations, commonly including a requirement to have a CEO, CFO, and board of directors. (This part varies slightly by state law). All of the common elements we recognize as being part of a “corporation” are, in fact, “Legal obligations of publicly-held corporations”. The fiduciary duty rules don’t say “Maximize profit”, but rather say that the interests of the shareholders should come first; since the primary interest of shareholders in a common public corporation is financial, that becomes the responsibility. The standard, like most of law, is what a reasonable person would do. Unfortunately, it’s a tort, meaning in the US it can be very expensive to defend yourself, and worse it’s a personal tort – you as CEO can personally be sued under the law in most states – and it’s considerably safer to err on the side of caution.

            Non-profit corporations are handled somewhat differently; they can be public or private, but enjoy certain tax benefits, and the relief of [ETA: profit-based] fiduciary duty, in exchange for a requirement that they do not accrue profit on a corporate basis. Non-profit doesn’t imply, however, the corporation doesn’t exist to make money; it just doesn’t exist to make money for its shareholders. Non-profit corporations have been used by very wealthy people to effectively avoid paying estate taxes; they establish a non-profit to provide jobs for their descendants.

            That’s the much-simplified version, which I’m mostly writing to say “Yes, I understand this is more complex than I’m representing, but the core of the issue I’m bringing up is still an issue.” I can’t address all the complexity and still address the issue – there’s too much complexity going on.

            Which is itself an issue.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Lumifer –

            I’m against paperclip maximizers in the general case.

            I’m for privatization for reasons other than maximizing-privatization-of-the-economy. It’s a means to an end – a more-free market.

            If the actual result is reduced market freedom – say, because a state monopoly with democratic controls became a private monopoly with no controls – I’m not for what happened.

            To be for what happened would be to ignore the principles I actually have in favor of the principles my ideological enemies accuse me of having. I prefer not to let my enemies define my position.

          • Jiro says:

            Among those I argue with, most complain about fiduciary duty

            I don’t think that counts as complaining about special corporate privileges. The fact that a corporation might have a fiduciary duty isn’t a privilege of being a corporation, it’s a restriction on being a corporation.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Anonymous –

            I’m disinclined to write fifty pages just so that you can’t find anything I didn’t mention as “proof” of my ignorance. Particularly when you reference a law which doesn’t even exist in most states; indeed, its explicit inclusion in Delaware is one of the reasons Delaware is so popular for incorporation.

            Mind, there is a weaker version of the same principle at play in Federal law, but the weaker version isn’t actually unique to corporate law, and is just the application of the “reasonable person” common law standard, which applies in any case where a tort evaluates somebody’s performance of duties and responsibilities (read: tortuous negligence).

            It’s not a great standard, and can force people to make suboptimal decisions because it requires people to do what a reasonable person in their position would do – which if you happen to be an exceptional person, means you’re limited by the average person in your profession; Scott Alexander has referenced a lot of situations in his field where he’s not allowed to make improvements, such as offering Russian drugs, because that would open him up to tortuous liability because that’s not what a “reasonable” person would do in his position. But I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a better legal standard than that, so, eh.

          • Lumifer says:

            make improvements, such as offering Russian drugs

            I just like this expression : -D

          • The Nybbler says:

            An anonymous relying on an argument based on reputation. How cute.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Anonymous –

            You’ve yet to demonstrate any actual knowledge, and as far as I can tell you’re trolling. The only reason I’m even bothering to respond to you is that I need somebody to respond to in order to finish up the point I was making, and you provide a useful foil to continue to elaborate, since nobody apparently noticed that I left a giant bloody hole in my logic where public corporations can put things other than profit motive in their corporate charter.

            I left the hole there deliberately, and if you knew what you were talking about, you’d know both to look for it, and what trap I laid there (the trap is set by the body of the rest of the text). You’d also know how to disarm the trap, and then we could have a nice little discussion on how complex the whole bloody edifice is, which was the next point in the series.

            Instead you’re engaging in low-effort trolling, so I have to make do with making the point about the retarded degree of complexity in US corporate law implicitly. But meh.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Orphan Wilde
            You handled, that much better than I would have. You’re doing good work.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:
          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Anonymous –

            I’m glad the things I have written elsewhere here have provided entertainment for you, and that you’re kind enough to point other people towards them.

            ETA:
            Whatever Happened to Anonymous –

            403 Forbidden from my side, unfortunately, because a quick search on the title of the JPEG suggests I’d find it entertaining.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Anonymous –

            ETA: Hm. The reply this is replying to vanished. I suspect it has been deleted. Oh well, time to go eat lunch.

            You’re not even pretending not to troll at this point.

            Look, I get it. Cynicism is way easier than intelligence, and most people can’t tell the difference. Plus cynicism never makes you feel stupid; the solution to being proven wrong is just to become even more cynical, to never say anything of meaning.

            But the people who can’t tell the difference tend to play the same substitution game, and the whole enterprise leads to you stagnating as a person. Cynicism never requires you to grow, and indeed, leaves you unwilling to grow, to change; if you never depart, you go from a cynical teenager to a cynical adult, to a cynical old person, and then you die.

            And that’s kind of tragic, because everything between the teenager years and death never really mattered. You might as well have died young. Nothing you do here matters; it’s the dull life of a dull person whose creative spark is directed towards annoying people.

            If you’re going to troll, troll with something more original than “Your ideas suck.” My ideas do suck, but they tend to suck in novel and interesting ways, which is what I’m all about. It’s just stale and disappointing. Oh, you’ve insulted me – I’ve never been insulted on the Internet before!

            But I bet nobody has ever told you that your cynicism is a trap for the intellectually lazy before; see, that requires considering you as a human being, and dismissing that human being’s merits as a person, which your anonymity is supposed to protect you from. I’m not supposed to be able to criticize you as a person when you provide no personhood for me to criticize, right?

            The idea might be wrong. You can claim that it’s wrong. The thing is, I don’t care. And among the observers, no few are going to believe I just burned you in a significant way, with some cause. The extent of the damage, of course, will be unknown to anyone but you – at least you hope.

            Because you can pretend to be another person tomorrow, so what other people think doesn’t matter. But if what other people think doesn’t matter, why be anonymous in the first place? Why hide your face as you insult?

            Because you actually care a lot about what other people think. You’re upset; I can tell you’re upset, because you’re now attacking people bluntly and blatantly, without even the hint of finesse you used before. Nobody even knows who you are, and it bothers you that they think you’re wrong.

            You’re not cut out for trolling. Find a better hobby.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            I’m pretty sure it was just someone trying to get anons banned. That would explain the surge in particularly bad anoning on this post.

            Edit: yup, 99% certain now.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Eh. About normal, for an internet comment thread populated with a high percentage of cranks, I’d guess. You’re the idiot arguing with the crazy person, I must point out. What are you trying to convince a crazy person of? Or are you also performing for an audience you insist doesn’t matter or exist?

            You’re mistaken if you think I’m trying to convince anyone of anything; you just said I sound crazy, so why are you looking for “sane” motives for my behavior?

            “Stirring the pot” is a metaphor whose meaning is apparently lost on you: It means my goal isn’t to shift people to my side, but to disrupt their normal way of thinking about things. To shift metaphors in the hopes of conveying something to you, I violate the conversational scripts constantly; frequently I start talking about the script as I perform it.

            I’m not trying to convince anyone corporations are evil; I’m violating part of the libertarian script. Why am I violating the script? To make people aware the script exists. To illustrate, a common prompt: “Corporation X killed people in country Z!” The response? To look into it and argue that such a thing never happened, or that the situation was more complicated than that, or – well, to disagree.

            That script doesn’t serve libertarian interests. It’s just tribalism. The whole thing about Marx being alt-right? There’s truth, there – it wouldn’t be an effective violation of the script if there weren’t truth there – but the primary purpose is to break a script, the right-versus-left thing. They’re the same goddamn thing, separated by people performing their roles. The vast majority of Democrats and Republicans basically agree on abortion – it should be legal up to a certain point, then illegal after that – but the Republicans focus on the part that they think should be illegal, and the Democrats focus on the part that they think should be legal. The moral outrage is mostly a performance.

            You’re playing a script, too. The implication that I don’t have a life outside this in a vain attempt to try to regain some sort of trolling high ground? I’ve only heard that one a few hundred times before. Again, I’m the crazy one – you’re the one arguing with crazy. Who needs to get a life, again?

            (That was me violating another script – that I pretend to care what you think of me.)

            ETA:
            Homo Iracundus –

            Possibly. I see opportunities to express certain concepts, though, and avail myself of them.

          • Tekhno says:

            It’s pretty clear from just this thread alone that anonymous commenting should be purged. It’s primarily used for sniping without having a reputation that requires backing up your claims.

            Anonymous is a “tragedy” of the commons, which actually works great on places like [x]chan for the sheer chaotic fun factor, but the problem is that anonymous commenting makes every form of discussion that doesn’t sound like [x]chan impossible. The general tone is lowered and hoity toity kind of discussions are drowned out. Over time, all anonymous discussion converges on chan culture and trolling.

            If we want to preserve our unique posting culture, anonymous posting must be purged! All glory to Scott!

    • Jordan D. says:

      I don’t agree with the article’s vague outline of this being a dire situation that nobody noticed. I mean, it’s clearly discussing a real thing which happens, but I don’t think we’re yet at risk of the FCC laughing off a sitting President’s agenda- most agency heads are appointed by the President at some point during his term, after all.

      (Also, plenty of people have noticed the rise of administrative agencies, although they then mostly rail against them in scholarly legal texts that only 0.001% of the population ever reads.)

      But a word in defense of Congress. Consider the following model of Congress:

      As a Congressperson, you’ve got a pretty simple set of jobs: keep your constituents happy and keep the country from going to pot. It’s not an easy task to juggle, but you’re honest, and willing to hear out the other side, and fairly bright. You keep things moving.

      Now one day it comes to light that MegaOil Company wants to build a pipeline from Delaware to California for some reason. Immediately there’s a huge split in Congress between people who have constituents who love the idea and people who think it will destroy the earth. You review the proposals and think that it’s a good idea but needs some changes and oversight to work out.

      Problems:
      1) You’re not a pipe-engineer or whatever. The company has engineers who inform you very credibly that this pipe needs no changes, but the environmental groups also have renowned engineers who tell you that this will be ruinous. You’d like to hire some engineers to give you an unbiased take, but that’ll just be reported as ‘Congressperson gives self $300,000 extra for crony staff while people starve on streets’, and you’ll be left with a report that anybody can dismiss as political, partisan hack-work.
      2) Even if your constituents agree with this project as a whole, it’ll be a wedge issue that your opponent can attack you on in March.
      3) Seriously, this thing is probably going to require eminent domain at some point, and then young Challenger Chad will have ads consisting entirely of widows grieving about you callously taking their homes.
      4) The benefits of the pipeline are kind of nebulous, but if there’s even a single spill, your name will be dirt.
      5) The majority of your constituents favor modest regulation of projects like this; but the company has the money to seriously threaten you if you try to write into law anything they dislike.

      No matter what you do, you’re looking at a lot of ways things could go badly for you. So what’s the solution? Establish the Federal Intercontinental Pipeline Commission! FIPC can do the studies, hire the engineers, make the unpopular regulations and authorize the eminent domain… and it’s all at least a step removed from you! Sure, people can say ‘Well, Congressperson voted for FIPC, and then the-‘ – OOPS! Too complicated! None of the voters care! And the best part is that since you’re writing the organic statute for FIPC, you can basically ensure that they do or do not authorize the pipeline to whatever degree of regulation you’d like.

      So Congresspeople do that. They do it a lot, and it works really well for them. If a job is too small to call for its own agency, that’s no problem- ‘There is established within the EPA a Commission on This One Valley I Care About’. Or just write a law ordering the EPA to look into this issue and figure it out.

      I think this is why agencies continue to expand- because they’re a way for the legislature to duck gridlock, evade blame and ensure that something like their policy preferences get enacted without the base being able to call them compromisers.

      • Salem says:

        This is an excellent and perceptive comment.

        The driving force behind the growth of the US executive is that Congress, quite rationally, does not want to take responsibility.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Yeah, the Founders were betting on our branches of government being motivated primarily to amass power. They didn’t consider that they might instead be motivated primarily to avoid blame.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I guess it comes down to the difference between the branch as a whole and individual members of it. If you’re an incumbent congressman, given the incumbent advantages the best way to secure re-election is probably to avoid attracting too much controversy. Setting up a regulatory agency to handle some potentially controversial thing might result in a diminution of Congress’ power, but by making re-election more likely it helps to maintain/increase your own personal power.

      • Schmendrick says:

        It occurs to me that a lot of this is the consequence of purely local projects being kicked upstairs to the federal government simply because locality itself can’t muster the capital.

    • benwave says:

      Is what the article described a big problem though? I would expect that experts within their given fields have a better ability to make decisions regarding that field than does a president, and there are always going to be limitations of the real world, things outside a president’s control.

      I dunno, maybe I would find the general case more troubling than the specific example given in the article, but I can imagine the scenario. A president campaigned on a particular goal. Shortly after having taken office he had to choose between the plans available, made by the military experts before he was president. He chooses one of them, and going forwards sets new goals for the military experts. The military experts make options in the future which more closely align to those goals. None of that seems particularly objectionable to me?

      • hlynkacg says:

        The problem comes when the “power” of the federal government is no-longer vested in the electorate.

        IE Where do I vote to fire the head of the IRS for using thier office to harass anti-tax advocates. Where do I vote against the ATF smuggling guns into Mexico, or vote to fire the head of the VA for being fantastically bad at their job?

      • Agronomous says:

        I would expect that experts within their given fields have a better ability to make decisions regarding that field than does a president

        Provide information about that field? Yes. But decision-making?

        You say “make decisions regarding that field,” but really the decisions that need to be made are policy decisions on which that field impinges. Presidents have to balance different interests: coal miners’ jobs vs. mine runoff, say. Experts don’t, and they tend to think the things they know about are more important and should win. I’m betting it’s hard to find environmental scientists who say things like, “Yes, cleaner stream water is a good thing, but we have to balance it against the short-term economic interests of these people I’ve never met.” Whereas if you find someone saying, “The situation that leaves everyone best-off is to reduce runoff, but only by half,” I’m going to say he’s an economist.

  30. Some Troll's Legitimate Discussion Alt says:

    How does one deal with sudden political-tribal alienation? Specifically, finding that you had fundamentally misunderstood your tribes ground level principles, built a series of beliefs from the midunderstood principles, and only then learned that all your allies are semi-secrerly aliens who drink baby blood?

    Gething involved with obscure movents and random 3rd parties that are functionally irrelevant to politics as a whole but actually do map to what I believe is working out OK, but if there’s some other solution I’m missing out on just because I haven’t asked, that would be unfortunate.

    • Two McMillion says:

      You’ve got three choices: conform, flee, or become stronger.

      Conform is the easiest. Stop talking. Adopt the opinions of the herd. Keep your head down. Don’t make waves or cause trouble for the group.

      Flee is the second easiest. Ignore politics. Say you don’t want to talk about them. Hang out with people who ignore them. Move, in the most extreme case. Stop following the issues and do what you want to do.

      Becoming stronger is the hardest. It means you have to work to ground your beliefs in the most stable way you can. You have to learn how your tribe works and learn to love it, to love it so much you want it changed for the better. Study. Learn how they think and why. Learn how they think and why. Learn how to talk to them. Learn how to change minds. Stand and be proud of what you believe. Stand for what you think is right. Don’t be ashamed of it. Play the long game, and take satisfaction that you didn’t betray your principles.

      I don’t know of any other options.

      • Lumifer says:

        Another option: become a cynic.

      • Bugmaster says:

        If “becoming stronger” and proudly standing up for your beliefs ends up with you unemployed, homeless, or dead, then my advice would be to become stronger in some other way.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Bugmaster – it doesn’t. “Learn how they think and why. Learn how they think and why. Learn how to talk to them. Learn how to change minds.” is the reason why.

        • Two McMillion says:

          Well, I for one would rather die on my feet than live on me knees. There are some things that are genuinely more important than food, clothes, and life. Fortunately, I don’t believe that any of my principles are really incompatible with those things, only perhaps with getting them as comfortably as I would like.

    • Urstoff says:

      My preferred solution is to care about politics less.

    • wtvb says:

      Talk less, smile more. Don’t let them know what you’re against and what you’re for.

    • Jill says:

      Some Troll’s Legitimate Discussion Alt , I looked back at your question and realized that I wasn’t sure exactly what you were asking about. What to do about leaving or staying or getting along with the tribe you have gotten alienated from? Or finding new tribes? Or dealing with the emotional shock of what you realized about the tribe you were in? Or what?

      Did whatever you were asking about, get covered here by those who posted answers to your question(s)?

      Both the Red and the Blue tribes are said to be semi-secretly aliens who drink baby blood– or something equally as bad– if you view either tribe through the other’s eyes. So it is easy to get into the position you describe, if you are one of the rare people who doesn’t live constantly in your own tribal bubble, and hears the other side’s view occasionally.

  31. Fossil says:

    What’s the risk of getting into trouble by buying prescription nootropics online under one’s real name? Isn’t one’s real personal (financial, etc.) data required for an online purchase?

    I’m asking for a friend. Please redact/delete if this question was a very stupid move on my part, I’ll get the message.

    • Anonymous says:

      If you are worried about getting arrested, you shouldn’t be. The odds are very low for that. The answer might be different if you are worried about something else, e.g. getting a security clearance. (I don’t know either way as to that.)

    • Anonymous says:

      The danger of ordering modafinil with a credit card is negligible in most places SSC readers live. There is a chance, varying highly between countries, that the package will be stopped by customs and you will receive a note asking you to bring a prescription to pick it up. Just abandon the package. If this happens repeatedly, you might have trouble. But if you live in a place where this happens a lot, the supplier will reject your order.

      Most drugs are of even less concern than modafinil. Don’t order amphetamine by credit card, but you won’t have much opportunity to do so, anyhow.

  32. Jill says:

    Pertinent to some of what we’ve been discussing about BLM and SJW and crime and race, here’s another Vox article. If you hate Vox because you think it’s liberal biased, then suggest an article for me to read at Breitbart or somewhere and I’ll read it, even though I consider the site to be biased, and even though I may disagree with the article as much as you may disagree with Vox. I like Vox because they quote studies and statistics.

    Thanks to the people who read the previous Vox articles I have cited in the past, even if you didn’t agree. We have a problem in our society if almost everyone reads/views/listens to only those news sources that reflect only the facts and opinions that are consistent with their OWN tribe’s narrative– and if those sites exclude all facts and opinions that might sound consistent with the OTHER tribe’s narrative. We have gotten to where we have no consensus reality– even on the basic facts– not attitudes, facts– about our society, culture and government.

    We can’t fix policing without talking about race. This cartoon explains why.
    http://www.vox.com/2016/8/2/12316922/police-legitimacy-cartoon

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      Jill –

      If you’re not a right-wing troll subtly making fun of left-wing positions, you’re bloody hard to tell apart from one at times.

      ETA: My apologies. Apparently that’s the absurdly poorly-chosen title of the Vox article.

      • Anonymous says:

        Come on man, that comment amounts to just an insult. I don’t think hounding Jill’s every post with low-effort stuff like this is the right strategy here.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          Jill is posting political post after political post after political post, half of which in this particular thread are laments about how tribal everything is, and the other half are “Look my tribe is clearly correct”. This is both at the same bloody time.

          Toss “This comic will convince you of my worldview” on top of that, and for me, I just can’t suspend my disbelief anymore. That’s over-the-top bad.

          ETA: More than that, I think there are alt-right people who visit here who understand tribal dynamics well enough to know that a sockpuppet leftist who makes convincingly bad arguments would shift opinions away from the left, and I think at least one of them works in sufficiently bad faith to engage in exactly that strategy.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          I legitimately don’t understand what they’re reacting to. That’s a damn charitable post. From what I’ve read of the article so far, it seems like a reasonable starting point for a discussion, and Jill has precommitted to look at opposing sources.

          Gentlemen, take a step back, take a couple deep breaths, and try again. You are going off half-cocked. Scott links Vox articles too, and we engage with them. Why is this one different?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Because it contains the word “comic” as a self-descriptor?

            If I had to guess, that is what Orphan was reacting to, and maybe without clicking on the link.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Accusing somebody of being the sort of person who posts comics to prove political points is not a charitable thing to do, is the problem.

            And it doesn’t fit with the rest of the post. The first paragraph is perfect. The second paragraph is perfect. And then it closes with “Your worldview is so simple and unfounded on information that this comic will change it.”

            The person who writes the first two paragraphs does not write the last thing; there’s an incompatibility in world-model there. Which suggests the first two paragraphs were written with a different world-model than the last couple of sentences; the first two are genuine, the last is a right-wing model of what a left-wing person would say.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            HBC is correct. I reacted too quickly. My apologies.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            well, in your defense, it’s a pretty bad title. Clickbait, too, is the mindkiller.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @FacelessCraven:
            I agree it’s a bad title.

            But I wish everyone would realize that every single title is a bad title these days, or, hell, ever. “You can’t judge a book by its cover”, as an idiom, dates back to at least 1860.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Orphan Wilde:
            I just want to acknowledge a retraction done in a gracious way.

    • Nornagest says:

      I’m not totally sure this is directed at me, but I did say some stuff to you about Vox links, so: if you rounded my previous comments off to “I hate Vox because it’s liberally biased”, you’re badly missing their point. But I’m not going to try a fourth time in this thread.

    • Two McMillion says:

      As a conservative, I read Vox articles as part of my daily internet routine. That one was interesting, but I’m a bit burned out on race stuff atm.

      • Dahlen says:

        I’m now envisioning a sort of dystopian Smart Media of the near future that has algorithms for determining which genre of outrage you’re currently burned out on, so it can assign the outrage machine to give you a different kind of story to get up in arms about!

    • TomFL says:

      Unfortunately since SJW’s have completely taken over the social sciences the studies used by a sympathetic media are almost totally worthless, but not completely worthless. How to tell the good ones apart from the bad ones is pretty difficult and I can’t do it very well.

      Invariably the problems are sins of omission, especially by the media, and by what is chosen to study, followed by what the media chooses to highlight.

      For example, this story from the NYT which apparently uses the same data(?) as the Vox article has an important different take.

      Surprising New Evidence Shows Bias in Police Use of Force but Not in Shootings
      http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/12/upshot/surprising-new-evidence-shows-bias-in-police-use-of-force-but-not-in-shootings.html

      Why one would feel the need to report this as “surprising” is a debate for different day. There was an urgent rush to “debunk” this finding as one would expect.

      The sins of omission fall into data either not reported or chosen not to study. Things such as normalizing the data for racial disparities in violent crime rates (obvious) or reporting on whether black and white officers show these disparities differently is important.

      Things chosen to not study/report are things such as rates of resisting arrest, disrespectful behavior, etc., or the reverse statistics of how many officers are shot by black people proportionally.

      It is well known that the media uses a “flood the zone” approach to push an agenda. It is what they leave out, what they choose to shut their eyes toward (black dysfunctional culture, white shootings, black on black crime) where the bias mainly exists.

      Every comment thread on these articles has people repeatedly quoting FBI violent crime statistics and yet this “detail” is usually left out.

      Another example is that many SJW’s assert that violent crime statistics are really just a reflection of poverty, not race. However they don’t seem very interested to see if police enforcement disparities are also just a reflection of “poverty”.

      I’d like to trust this science, or know how to, but I don’t.

      • Anonymous says:

        SJW’s have completely taken over the social sciences

        Citation needed.

        disrespectful behavior

        You think disrespectful behavior justifies violence?

        It is well known that the media uses a “flood the zone” approach to push an agenda.

        Citation needed.

        many SJW’s assert that violent crime statistics are really just a reflection of poverty, not race.

        Citation needed.

        • Two McMillion says:

          disrespectful behavior

          You think disrespectful behavior justifies violence?

          Yes. *kills Anon*

          • Two McMillion says:

            I intended the above as a joke. If anyone was offended, I will glad take whatever steps are necessary to rectify that.

            If you were asking if jokes about death as un-Christlike generally, no, I do not believe that they are, but your comment has made me consider that perhaps this is not the best audience for them.

          • Anonymous says:

            Not so fast, kid.
            *Teleports behind you*

          • Two McMillion says:

            Not so fast, kid.
            *Teleports behind you*

            OH NO THE ANONYMICE CAN TELEPORT NOW *runs*

          • DrBeat says:

            That’s not how you respond! You’re supposed to teleport behind him!

            This is BASIC Zwee Fighting, people!

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            You have to unseathe your katana first.

        • Dahlen says:

          This style of arguing is all the more annoying considering it’s replying to a comment about possible bias in science.

          • brad says:

            I agree that it’s a very annoying style of response. But I also think it was responding to an annoying type of post.

            There’s a thing on here where people write up long posts that are written to sound as if they are incisive, neutral analysis. But when you actually read them closely you find that they have very little content. They boil down to stating the author’s prejudices as if they were facts. It’s worse in many ways than just repeating anecdotes because they are camouflaged.

            Something like “social sciences have completely been taken over by SJW” is painting with a giant brush and dismissing out of hand the life’s work of thousands of people. It deserves push-back, if not necessarily in quite such a passive aggressive manner.

          • TomFL says:

            Maybe we should debate it on a forum or something, ha ha.

            I gave a very specific example of a sin of omission and discussion of other areas which I feel are neglected and included evidence of a political bias in this field of study as the possible cause.

            Flood the zone:

            NYT search results:
            Unarmed black = 1227
            Unarmed white = 28
            Unarmed hispanic = 7
            Unarmed asian = 0

          • TomFL says:

            That’s useful, thank you. I’m still reading it.

            I looked him up and found this:
            http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/20/magazine/toward-a-unified-theory-of-black-america.html

            I think he is asking the right questions. Pardon my confirmation bias, but it also included this (circa 2005):

            “Fryer well appreciates that he can raise questions that most white scholars wouldn’t dare. His collaborators, most of whom are white, appreciate this, too. “Absolutely, there’s an insulation effect,” says the Harvard economist Edward L. Glaeser. “There’s no question that working with Roland is somewhat liberating.”

          • Dahlen says:

            @brad:

            I agree that it’s a very annoying style of response. But I also think it was responding to an annoying type of post.

            There’s a thing on here where people write up long posts that are written to sound as if they are incisive, neutral analysis. But when you actually read them closely you find that they have very little content. They boil down to stating the author’s prejudices as if they were facts. It’s worse in many ways than just repeating anecdotes because they are camouflaged.

            Something like “social sciences have completely been taken over by SJW” is painting with a giant brush and dismissing out of hand the life’s work of thousands of people. It deserves push-back, if not necessarily in quite such a passive aggressive manner.

            I didn’t say Tom’s post was anything worth writing home about, either, but I didn’t bring it up because 1) didn’t want my criticism to come from a “you both suck” high horse, 2) people with a chip on their shoulder about SJW meddling in the social sciences are standard fare for this board, and I absolutely can’t be bothered to get involved in those discussions and face the consequent dogpiling, and 3) as someone who doesn’t know shit about scholarship and references, and cannot access basically any study without paying through my nose, I have a deep and personal dislike for lazy “[citation needed]” challenges and would like to see less of it.

          • TomFL says:

            Here is where Vox drops the ball:

            The paper:
            Partitioning the data in myriad ways, we find no evidence of racial discrimination in officer-involved shootings.” (actually whites are 26% more likely to be shot per capita in this data set).

            So Vox reports the disparities on use of force from this paper, but then ignores the shooting data in this paper ENTIRELY, instead using a different report. The NYT reports it correctly.

            The use of force disparities look real, and there are controls for things such as low and high crime areas. The raw numbers show that blacks have force used 50% more often which is then reduced to about 20% after controls.

            He is silent on any cause-effect relationship with violent crime rates which wasn’t examined I think. Perhaps this explains some of the disparity (police paranoia due to experience)

            I’m no expert at academic paper analysis, but I can tell when Vox decides to not report things (…that don’t fit their agenda…). Anyone reading this forum regularly will know this isn’t the first time Vox has done this.

          • Nornagest says:

            cannot access basically any study without paying through my nose

            Old(ish), famous, or well-cited studies can usually be found un-paywalled through Google Scholar: the first result often isn’t, but click “All versions” on the results page and/or search for PDFs. You’re likely to have less luck finding anything obscure, or which came out this year and isn’t all over the news, or which is more than twenty years old.

            You may also have luck searching DOAJ or OAIster, which archive open-access (i.e. non-paywalled) journals.

            There used to be some SSC regulars with institutional accounts who were willing to pirate them, too, but I don’t remember who and don’t know if they still do.

        • TomFL says:

          I think I support a ban on anonymous comments after all, ha ha.

          Social science bias against Republicans.
          http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/social-psychology-biased-republicans

          Political diversity in social sciences > 10:1 Liberal.
          http://heterodoxacademy.org/2015/09/14/bbs-paper-on-lack-of-political-diversity/

          • Anonymous says:

            Neither article says anything about so-called social justice warriors. Do you wish to restate your claim?

          • Nornagest says:

            Liberal, sure, even radical in a lot of places (humanities and social science departments are about the only place you can call yourself a Marxian in the States without anyone batting an eye), but that doesn’t establish SJW.

            It’s hard to describe, and I definitely can’t support it by citation, but I always got the impression that SJ ideology is kind of a crystallization of academic leftism. In academia, you get people applying many different modes of analysis — feminist, Marxian, postcolonial, and so forth — but there’s an underlying appreciation that these are approaches to the subject, still subject to examination or reinterpretation (from another left-leaning perspective, if you want to get published, but still), not definitive proofs. When it filters out onto Tumblr or Twitter, though, that fluidity is lost and the results become part of an unquestioned muddle of Problematic.

          • TomFL says:

            I don’t think SJW has any formal definition I’m aware of. For the purposes of this debate it is something like “supporting an ideology that racial disparities are uniquely and almost entirely a byproduct of external forces, namely white systemic racism”.

            Fill in one’s own definition as appropriate. The point being that only one side of this argument is typically presented academically and through the media. The field that most depends on non-causal inferences through statistics fail to see it in their own profession.

          • Alejandro says:

            I think defining “SJW” by a theoretical belief like the one you propose is unwise. If the W in SJW is supposed to have any objectively usable meaning, other than “my ideological opponents are Bad People”, it is supposed to reflerct an attitude, not just a theoretical belief.

            My own definition would be something like “someone who defends left-wing ideas, especially on race, gender and related topics, in a way that is strident, devoid of nuance, and very uncharitable to ideological opponents”.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Disrespectful behavior doesn’t justify violence, but “police overreact to disrespect” is very different from “police are racist,” and demands a different response.

          • TomFL says:

            Disrespectful behavior is probably a poor choice of words, but the intent is to study why police officers feel disrespectful to the community and whether the disrespect is justified due to the bad behavior of the community (and is not race related, but behavior related). I have not seen data on this but it seems like an obvious question. So either I missed it, they didn’t study it, or it wasn’t reported in the media sources I use.

    • cassander says:

      You still haven’t answered my question about black white murder rates vs. black and white killings by police Jill, figures that don’t seem to be brought up in the article you just quoted. Why not do that before starting new threads on the same subject?

      >We have a problem in our society if almost everyone reads/views/listens to only those news sources that reflect only the facts and opinions that are consistent with their OWN tribe’s narrative

      Yes, we most certainly do. But I haven’t given up hope for you yet.

  33. Two McMillion says:

    Regarding banning anonymous posters:

    I used to be an internet troll. It was a period of my life that lasted about three years, from age 13 and fading out around age 16. I did some hurtful and stupid things, and I deeply regret them now. And these days, I have to be super careful not to do anything that would reveal me as that troll. That’s more true in some corners of the internet than in others, of course, but really you never know. Usernames change and people migrate to new places. My point is that when I was trolling I never thought it might come back to bite me one day- that I might one day regret having done those things and not want to be associated with them. If I’d been more careful to maintain complete anonymity, I probably would still have done those things, but I also wouldn’t have to look over my shoulder the way I sometimes do.

    I don’t know if that’s a point in favor of banning anons or not, but there it is.

    • What was the process that led to you to not troll?

      • Two McMillion says:

        My parents audited my internet use and confronted me about it.

        • Thank you. I’m curious about why people give up trolling because that seems to be very rare, while trolling is a real plague.

          • Lumifer says:

            why people give up trolling

            It gets boring. Shooting fish in a barrel is only fun for the first hundred times or so and eventually you want to go find dolphins and play with them rather than shoot them as usual.

          • Anonymous says:

            Perhaps it is rare for people to talk about giving up trolling, but that tells you very little about whether they do. In fact, the base rate of people talking about their history of trolling is rare. Most such essays I have read are by ex-trolls and do explicitly talk about giving it up.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Lumifer –

            On that note, I once knew a guy who would play GTA for hours on end, just finding a spot that the police couldn’t shoot back, and sniping pedestrians and police and military endlessly.

            Some people some incapable of boredom.

          • sabril says:

            I think a lot of people grow out of it. When I was in that age range (13-16) the equivalent was making prank phone calls.

          • Two McMillion says:

            Maaaaaybe. I think “growing out of” something is largely a function of either changing social expectations and/or increased requirements on your time pushing an activity to the fringes. The latter probably reduces rates of both prank calls and trolling, but I’d be willing to guess that the former is much less effective at stopping trolling than prank calls. The reason is that it seems to me that trolling is much easier to hide from others- short of someone examining your internet usage in detail, it’s really hard to know if someone is trolling. Changing social expectations can’t really touch a part of your life that nobody you know in meatspace knows about. For that reason, I’d expect the forces that stop trolling as someone ages to be weaker than those that stop prank calling.

          • Cadie says:

            Same here, sabril, though it was more in the latter half of my teens. (Didn’t have much Internet access before that.) Most of what I did online was benign, but I spent some time trolling and getting into flame wars for fun, too. Then I grew up a little more and decided that trolling and flaming were a waste of time.

            I do still enjoy dishing out small doses of sarcasm when it’s a reasonably appropriate place to do so, like when I’m on my own blog writing a critique of a book or article. I’m not quite a saint. I just don’t go around trying to stir up drama or piss people off, and I try to restrict the meanness to occasional mild snark instead of hostility.

  34. Fishchisel says:

    Hi,

    Can anyone suggest to me some good criticisms of ‘the 10,000 year explosion’? I’m reading it at the moment and while it is interesting, there are certain areas I am wordlessly sceptical of or uneasy about. Rather than thinking through and developing those points myself I am hoping that someone else has done it for me!

  35. Jill says:

    This pair of articles is interesting, in view of the SJW discussions here. The 2nd article is a critique of the 1st one. The 1st one was later revised, perhaps in response to the 2nd one, although the claim is that it was updated to reflect news developments. Anyway, the 1st article no longer says all of the things that the 2nd article refers to. But apparently, it did originally.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/10/opinion/sunday/what-white-america-fails-to-see.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region&_r=0

    http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2016/08/dallas-exposed-blood-libels-police-whites-new-york-times.html

    I think that the SJW stuff is interesting. It’s a kind of extreme of political correctness. And it seems to come from white privilege sort of guilt of liberals, often in universities. Liberals are generally nice, and passive, people. They bend over backwards to be nice to minorities. They go too far sometimes, putting up with the extreme SJW type stuff.

    To think that the average liberal is as rageful and mean as some of the more extreme SJWs is a big misconception. What you have with liberals on the whole is a whole lot of people trying to be nice, and their niceness aspirations cause them to put up with some few extremists who are wreaking havoc.

    Everyone thinks groups should rein in their extreme members. But few people do this. Sometimes they can’t. Muslims can’t know about and stop every suicide bomber, although sometimes they do report suspicious activity to police. Christians can’t always stop every abortion clinic bomber. Right Wingers can’t stop every violent Tea Partier, and don’t usually try to. Most Liberals don’t try usually to rein in extreme SJWs because they are afraid of being seen as not nice– as being politically incorrect or biased themselves.

    How do we get out of this state of groups giving up and letting extremists wreak havoc?

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      How do we get out of this state of groups giving up and letting extremists wreak havoc?

      “Extremist” usually just means “somebody who takes what the group is saying seriously”, as opposed to everybody else, who just nods along and doesn’t do anything about the supposed atrocities the world is full of.

      In the case of social justice warriors, fundamentally the issue is this: The weapons they’re utilizing are rhetorical weapons. A social justice warrior is somebody who actually believes in the rhetoric of the social justice superweapons. And once you believe in the rhetoric of the superweapon, it’s immoral not to use it.

      • Two McMillion says:

        “Extremist” usually just means “somebody who takes what the group is saying seriously”, as opposed to everybody else, who just nods along and doesn’t do anything about the supposed atrocities the world is full of.

        Here’s where that breaks down, though: Eric Rudolph thinks abortion is bad, and he’s placed bombs at several abortion clinics. That’s why he’s in jail now. What belief of Eric Rudolph’s made him think that placing those bombs was a good idea? I contend that whatever that belief was, it clear wasn’t his belief that abortion is bad. Lots of people think that, and very few of them blow up abortion clinics. In fact, lots of people are very dedicated to being against abortion: they go on protests, try to talk to people outside abortion clinics to stop them from going in, and give money to pro-life causes. Saying that these people don’t take being against abortion seriously seems like it’s missing something. It really looks like they do take it seriously; that’s why they devote time and money to the cause. Do you think that every person who offers free ultrasounds in a van outside an abortion clinic wishes they could be Eric Rudolph, and is only prevented from blowing up that abortion clinic by cowardice or a lack of knowledge or opportunity?

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          Do you think that every person who offers free ultrasounds in a van outside an abortion clinic wishes they could be Eric Rudolph, and is only prevented from blowing up that abortion clinic by cowardice or a lack of knowledge or opportunity?

          Do you think people who park vans outside abortion clinics and offer ultrasounds aren’t extremists?

          Keep in mind who gets called an “extremist” as far as the social justice movement goes.

          • Two McMillion says:

            No, I don’t think they’re extremists. I think Eric Rudolph differs from them not just in degree but in kind. One reason I know this is because I was once in a pro-life group where someone kind of obliquely suggested that maybe Eric Rudolph had the right idea, and they were immediately shot down with about the same level of vehemence as you’d expect someone who suggested that maybe racism isn’t so bad in a social justice friendly circle would be.

            (By the way, this seems like a difference between left-wing and right-wing extremists. I have a hard time imagining a person who suggested sterilizing white males being as strongly corrected in a social justice friendly group. See what Jill said above; a lot of left wing people are afraid of being labeled racist.)

            Part of your point seems to be that “extremist” is flexible and can be applied to anyone you want to tar and feather as a bad person. Fair enough, but I understood you to be making a more general point than that.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Part of your point seems to be that “extremist” is flexible and can be applied to anyone you want to tar and feather as a bad person. Fair enough, but I understood you to be making a more general point than that.

            The two points are compatible.

            From a leftist perspective, the people who heckle women going into abortion clinics, or who try to shame women out of getting an abortion with creepy van shenanigans? They’re extremists. This is what my response to you was indicating.

            The existence of Eric Rudolph doesn’t eclipse them into normality; they’re still outside the pale of what is considered acceptable behavior in our society. They’re still regarded as extremists.

            My broader point, however, is that Eric Rudolph makes perfect sense for a person who thinks we’ve institutionalized murder. From that moral perspective, every abortion clinic is morally no better than a concentration camp; the people who picket abortion clinics are also taking their beliefs seriously, and they’re also regarded as extremists. Given that you believe abortion is murder, however, the appropriate moral reaction isn’t to stand by and do nothing.

            But most people don’t take their moral beliefs too seriously. This is a good thing, because most people’s moral beliefs are paperclip morality.

          • Anonymous says:

            You can take your moral beliefs seriously and still choose not to do the socially unacceptable things they naively lead to. A line of argument against christians is that if they believed in hell, they should be trying to convert and save as many souls as possible, but as they usually don’t try that nowadays they’re not real believers. This fails in that if they did that they’d maybe get a few more converts short-term but longterm they’d all be seen as obnoxious assholes, hurting the movement. Bombing clinics fails in the same way, ultrasound is kinda borderline but on the defensible side.

          • Two McMillion says:

            My broader point, however, is that Eric Rudolph makes perfect sense for a person who thinks we’ve institutionalized murder.

            Not necessarily. Regarding concentration camps, I recently put a poll in a pro-Life Facebook group asking if bombing concentration camps during WWII would be morally wrong; a strong majority of respondents (~66%) answered that it would be. Given the way WWII is viewed in Red Tribe heavy groups, it would not surprise me if a lot of people who said it would be right are just carving our a moral exception for the concentration camps. But more generally: Not everyone is a utilitarian. Most people, I think, agree with the proposition that just because something is wrong emphatically does not justify you doing absolutely anything to stop it. This is in addition to the strategy point anon raised above.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            I recently put a poll in a pro-Life Facebook group asking if bombing concentration camps during WWII would be morally wrong

            Can you explain what the question was meant to indicate? Because I can’t figure it out.

          • Fahundo says:

            From one of Orphan Wilde’s comments upthread:

            My broader point, however, is that Eric Rudolph makes perfect sense for a person who thinks we’ve institutionalized murder. From that moral perspective, every abortion clinic is morally no better than a concentration camp;

            I think the question was meant to indicate whether people who believe abortion is murder but bombing abortion clinics is still morally indefensible are being consistent with how they view acceptable responses to other forms of institutionalized murder.

        • TomFL says:

          He obviously thought he was saving lives. From his view if he prevented one abortion then it was a win. This is the hardline view that abortion is murder and murder is wrong. I may disagree with this, but there is understandable logic here. He is preventing murder. I’m sure he considers himself a hero and warrior for the unborn, etc.

          I’m all pro-choice, but I definitely understand the other side’s point of view. The fundamental question of when do humans become humans is not something settled by science or experts. That’s why it is legitimately controversial.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            This is what makes utilitarianism a terrifying morality to me.

            If you’re a utilitarian who takes your beliefs seriously, you should be vegetarian; even a slim chance that your utility function would generate negative utility for eating meat should outweigh your preference for meat. More, you should be spreading vegetarianism as rapidly as possible, for the same reasons. And on factory scales, maybe meat eating should be banned (except for special cases of disability which require it, maybe).

            But the small chance a fetus morally matters has some implications, too.

          • Jiro says:

            If you’re a utilitarian who takes your beliefs seriously, you should be vegetarian; even a slim chance that your utility function would generate negative utility for eating meat should outweigh your preference for meat.

            That would be falling victim to Pascal’s Mugging.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Jiro –

            No. It shares superficial similarities to Pascal’s Mugging – the existence of large utility values multiplied by small probabilities to produce an incentive to action – but Pascal’s Mugging has distinct faults. First, the invocation of infinite, or at least uncountable, utility. Second, the [edit: improper] promotion of a hypothesis to salient attention causing us to be unable to properly consider its probability.

            Neither of these faults apply in this case, and immunity to the fully-generalized problem of low-probability high-utility-impact choices renders one sub-optimally rational; it would lead one to ignore existential risks without regard to their danger, and also to fail to partake in lotteries with positive rates of return.

          • Tekhno says:

            @TomFL

            The fundamental question of when do humans become humans is not something settled by science or experts. That’s why it is legitimately controversial.

            I think far more moral questions than people are willing to admit cannot be settled by science or experts.

            @Orphan Wilde

            You have to edge carefully carefully on those things though. Even if utilitarians should be spreading vegetarianism as fast as possible, trying to spread it too fast and forcefully might cause backlash and lead to vegetarianism becoming associated with authoritarianism and thereby becoming less popular. You could perhaps argue that utilitarians should be vegetarians that spread their belief in vegetarianism at the optimum speed between not fast enough and too fast that it backfires leading to slower adoption though. Given they can’t measure what this would be, there’s a need for a principle of general caution.

            There’s still consequentialist grounds for pragmatism in order to achieve utilitarian outcomes effectively. A group that tried to propose banning meat now would be laughed at, and a group that tried to engage in terrorism for vegetarianism would most likely make it more unpopular. Vegetarianism hasn’t reached some sort of critical threshold where enough people take it seriously for terrorism to be effective. This sort of “yet” probably isn’t very comforting, admittedly.

            Thankfully, most utilitarians are completely inconsistent moderate their utilitarianism with deontological thresholds!

            (As an aside: meat from a living animal almost certainly will be banned in the future. When artificial meat replacements taste and feel good enough, there will be little argument to kill animals for meat.

            Eventually, they’ll look back on the meat companies of our times as moral monstrosities a few steps less bad than slavers. Once everyone’s comfortable with fabricated steaks, that is!)

          • Jiro says:

            As an aside: meat from a living animal almost certainly will be banned in the future. When artificial meat replacements taste and feel good enough, there will be little argument to kill animals for meat.

            Also, homosexuality will be banned in the future once we manage to be able to rewire people’s brains so they can get satisfaction without being homosexuals. (Not.)

            “Oh, by the way, my tribe is going to win out because (insert argument for my tribe)” is an obvious case of motivated reasoning.

          • The Nybbler says:

            When artificial meat replacements taste and feel good enough, there will be little argument to kill animals for meat.

            Unlikely. When artificial meat replacements are CHEAP enough, perhaps. But I wouldn’t hold my breath. Farm animals are really great machines for turning vegetable matter into tasty meat, and beating them at all (let alone at lower cost) will be quite difficult.

            Anyway, to a lot of us meat-eaters, there’s zero ethical problem in killing animals for meat, so even the presence of a good and cheap substitute wouldn’t support an argument for a ban.

          • Zombielicious says:

            Unlikely. When artificial meat replacements are CHEAP enough, perhaps. But I wouldn’t hold my breath. Farm animals are really great machines for turning vegetable matter into tasty meat, and beating them at all (let alone at lower cost) will be quite difficult.

            I’m expecting Tekhno’s prediction to come true, not because of lab-grown meat, but because of imitation meat products made from plants. The quality gets better all the time, and the long-term economics favor plant-based “meats” due to the expense of animal agriculture. Especially once the global population hits ~10 billion.

            Anyway, to a lot of us meat-eaters, there’s zero ethical problem in killing animals for meat, so even the presence of a good and cheap substitute wouldn’t support an argument for a ban.

            I know this will probably sound cliche, but people thought literally the exact same thing about slavery once. Not talking 200 years ago in the South, when it was already dead or dying in most of the rest of the world, but back in pre-Middle Ages times. Slavery was intrinsic to most every civilization in history, fundamental to the economy, and only a few outliers like the Stoics opposed it. It still died out eventually, once slaves were replaced by cheaper sources of labor (e.g. automation, primarily).

            I’m guessing a similar moral trajectory for livestock.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m guessing a similar moral trajectory for livestock

            You’re free to guess such a trajectory, but until it actually happens, assuming it is equivalent to saying “I’m right because I’ll eventually be proven right”.

          • Tekhno says:

            @Jiro

            Also, homosexuality will be banned in the future once we manage to be able to rewire people’s brains so they can get satisfaction without being homosexuals. (Not.)

            That could totally happen, but the difference is that there’s no reason to expect it from where we are sitting.

            Most people already pay some respect to vegetarianism by bothering to ethically justify why eating meat is okay. Very few people today think that animals should be hurt for trivial reasons, whereas that wasn’t necessarily true in the medieval ages.

            If a good meat substitute comes along that is identical to regular meat for the consumer, the opposition to vegetarianism should be expected to fold, because the only argument left will be; “I like to have more suffering occur to get an identical product”.

            I think even I’d have to give in, and I fully value tasty meat more than the lives and comfort of millions of animals. If my pleasure is rated 1000, and the animal suffering issue only rates -10 on the scale running against it, then as soon as an identical product that produces no suffering can be produced in a commercially viable way for an at least equivalent cost with distribution as widespread as existing meat, then I’d be buying the fake meat instead of seeking out real meat just because… reasons.

            At that point, animal suffering would have to rate as having positive value in order for someone to choose that option over the alternative.

            “Oh, by the way, my tribe is going to win out because (insert argument for my tribe)” is an obvious case of motivated reasoning.

            Animal rights people and environmentalists aren’t my tribe. The only thing that stops me proposing to bulldoze 7/8ths of the Amazon and turn it into theme parks and shopping malls is the issue of removing such a big Oxygen farm, and the very faint possibility that reducing jungle biodiversity is going to doom us in some catastrophic non-recoverable way.

            I’m basically a Humanazi, dude.

            @The Nybbler

            Unlikely. When artificial meat replacements are CHEAP enough, perhaps. But I wouldn’t hold my breath. Farm animals are really great machines for turning vegetable matter into tasty meat, and beating them at all (let alone at lower cost) will be quite difficult.

            Yes, I should have said “when artificial meat tastes and feels as good, and costs as little to produce, and has just as widespread distribution” because that’s the idea I was getting at.

            Anyway, to a lot of us meat-eaters, there’s zero ethical problem in killing animals for meat, so even the presence of a good and cheap substitute wouldn’t support an argument for a ban.

            There’s a difference in saying there’s no net ethical problem with killing animals for meat, and saying there’s no ethical problem with killing animals for no reason at all – and not just killing but confining in the conditions rendered necessary by industrial scale production.

            Even if you or I wouldn’t support a ban (I wouldn’t because I’m biased against encouraging banning things), I still predict a ban.

            Vegetarianism isn’t a generally progressive cause yet, because most people are meat eaters and it has little political weight. I just expect that to change once meat alternatives are viable in all of the ways current meat is viable. There’s going to be increasing support for legislation as meat alternatives stop being jokes, and increasing opposition while meat alternatives are still distinguishable from real meat, but once the threshold where this is no longer so has been reached, those who are for banning natural meat will start to win.

            It’ll go down like gay rights and the rest did.

          • Zombielicious says:

            @Nornagest:
            Geez, you must absolutely hate the idea of prediction markets.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Zombielicious

            imitation meat products made from plants. The quality gets better all the time

            So, show me a fake steak made out of plants which “got better”.

          • Jiro says:

            Most people already pay some respect to vegetarianism by bothering to ethically justify why eating meat is okay.

            I’m pretty sure that most people, when faced with people who think of homosexuality like vegetarians think of meat eating, would try to ethically justify why homosexuality is okay.

            For that matter, most people when faced with creationists would try to justify evolution.

            (Of course “most people” must be qualified, but those qualifiers apply in all the cases. Most people, who aren’t vegetarians/homophobes/creationists themselves, and who are willing to engage in rational discussions at all, and don’t think the other guy is impervious to reason, etc.)

            If a good meat substitute comes along that is identical to regular meat for the consumer, the opposition to vegetarianism should be expected to fold, because the only argument left will be; “I like to have more suffering occur to get an identical product”.

            Either that, or “the amount of suffering is pretty small, and I don’t like to be Pascal mugged.”

            Furthermore, your argument requires that it be exactly the same price as real meat, neither more nor less, which I find vanishingly unlikely.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I for one view homosexuality exactly like I view vegetarianism. Personally I think you missing out, and frankly find the whole concept kind of weird and unnatural. That said, whatever floats your boat, floats your boat.

            It’s the crusaders that worry me, the folks who are ready who pick fights with anyone who isn’t 100% on board with their particular kink that make me want to go home and clean my guns.

          • Zombielicious says:

            @Lumifer:

            So, show me a fake steak made out of plants which “got better”.

            Steaks aren’t exactly the low-hanging fruit of plant-based meats, due to difficulty of imitating the texture, vasculature, fat distribution, etc (among other problems I’m probably missing). The closest current products I know of are beefless strips and tips (for reference) – not sure when they were first introduced, but it couldn’t have been before 2009. There are companies working on plant-based steak, separate from in vitro meat. The only prototype I’ve heard of so far is from Vegetarian Butcher in Holland, and they haven’t taken it to market yet. I’m sure the other bigger companies like Gardein, Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, etc, are similarly working on it, so I’d expect them to show up within ten years at most.

            In any case, it is a definite step up from the “steak” recipes you see online (such as), made from anything from seitan, to mushrooms, tofu, cauliflower, etc.

            Chicken and burgers are a better example of “quality getting better.” A few years ago, the only vegetarian burger options were Boca burgers made from soy. Now there are dozens of significantly better products, also made from stuff like quinoa, beans, rice, millet, etc. Those aren’t even the top of the line options – see for instance this article for something state of the art.

            Plus the number of items offered is continuing to grow (e.g. seafoods – crab, shrimp, tuna, calamari… didn’t exist commercially a few years ago, afaik), more companies and startups working on it, larger market share, etc. Not sure how I’d want to bet, in the long run, between in vitro meat and plant-based products, but plant-based seems to have a decent head start as of now. The first in vitro burger produced a few years ago cost $300,000+. Even halving in price every year since then, it would be another ~12 years from now before it breaks the $10/burger mark.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Zombielicious:
            “People thought the same about slavery” isn’t an argument. The fact that some things once nearly-universally thought normal were later nearly-universally thought abhorrent doesn’t mean another thing now thought normal will undergo the same transformation. (c.f. “They also laughed at Bozo the Clown”).

            @Tekhno:
            I don’t think most meat-eaters bother to justify why meat-eating is OK. Not unless some vegetarian confronts them, and often enough not even then. And I think banning meat would be more akin to requiring homosexuality than legalizing gay marriage.

            I’ve heard about the next great plant-based meat substitute for years. It’s always not quite, but almost, entirely unlike meat. Those who feel they ought to be vegetarians can often convince themselves it’s more like meat than it is. (I mean seriously, coconut oil as a replacement for beef fat? Not fooling anyone)

          • Zombielicious says:

            @Nybbler:
            You asserted:

            Anyway, to a lot of us meat-eaters, there’s zero ethical problem in killing animals for meat, so even the presence of a good and cheap substitute wouldn’t support an argument for a ban.

            To which I posted a counterexample. At least once in the past, a widespread practice foundational to the economy, which almost no one in history had any ethical problem with, was outlawed after “good and cheap substitute[s]” became available.

            No one just said “but slavery, therefore vegetarianism” with no supporting evidence. Two arguments were already given for a general trend culminating in an eventual outcome, whether you found them convincing or not. (Though I could really have elaborated mine more. It was meant to be a quick comment, not a dissertation.)

          • Anon. says:

            If you’re a utilitarian who takes your beliefs seriously, you should be a meat eater; even a slim chance that your utility function would fail to generate positive utility for farm animals existing should outweigh your preference for plants. More, you should be spreading meat eating as rapidly as possible, for the same reasons. And on factory scales, maybe plant eating should be banned (except for special cases of disability which require it, maybe).

            After all, we must imagine Sisyphus happy. Why can’t Sisyphus be a cow?

            Utilitarianism is fun!

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Zombielicious

            My point is that for meat that I like to eat — steaks, ribs, etc. — the plant-based alternatives are nowhere near the real thing. Not in the the same ballpark, not in the same city, not in the same country. I really don’t expect plant-based fake steaks to arrive in the near future, especially at the same price and without fancy chemicals with unknown long-term effects. In-vitro, we’ll see, but replacing soy with quinoa isn’t getting you anywhere.

          • Jiro says:

            To which I posted a counterexample. At least once in the past, a widespread practice foundational to the economy, which almost no one in history had any ethical problem with, was outlawed after “good and cheap substitute[s]” became available.

            He said that the existence of a cheap substitute wouldn’t support an argument for a ban. If slavery was meant to be a counterexample to that, it fails, because slavery is a case where a cheap substitute is followed by a ban.

            In order for cheap substitutes for slavery to support an argument for a ban, someone would have had to have said “slavery used to be okay because the benefit to the slaveowner is very important and outweighs the harm to the slave, but now that we have cheap workers, slavery causes harm and no benefits so we should ban it”. Nobody said that; opposition to slavery was based on the idea that slavery is bad, period. There is no slavery equivalent to balancing animal suffering against benefit to humans.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Slavery was intrinsic to most every civilization in history, fundamental to the economy, and only a few outliers like the Stoics opposed it.

            The Stoics didn’t oppose slavery. They said masters should treat their slaves nicely, but I’m not aware of any who opposed the institution itself.

          • Zombielicious says:

            Nobody said that; opposition to slavery was based on the idea that slavery is bad, period.

            No, since slavery wasn’t considered particularly bad until sometime around the start of the Middle Ages. And re: substitutes, while slavery was sort-of-technically dying out during the medieval period, serfs weren’t viewed substantially differently, just with a few extra rights following the Roman trend of eliminating the worst abuses, while the actual abolitionist movement didn’t get started until their labor was made largely obsolete by the Industrial Revolution, and even then mainly just in places where that condition was met (i.e. not around the cotton industry of the Southern U.S.). The presence of cheap substitutes was not coincidental to the shifting moral opinions on slavery and serfdom.

            There is no slavery equivalent to balancing animal suffering against benefit to humans.

            Most people (in this thread at least) have made arguments about how their preference for meat outweighs any cruelty to the animals. People aren’t okay with torturing animals in general, except when it’s done for farming, apparently. Just as, again, how ancient peoples didn’t think slaves were some kind of philosophical zombies that couldn’t feel pain, or that their lives weren’t generally terrible – they just considered it the natural order that slaves should exist and they should benefit from them. See the shift from “slaves are part of the natural order” to “slaves deserve some basic rights” to “we need to justify slavery with pseudoscientific arguments about their inferiority and need for control” to abolitionism. There is a parallel with views on the treatment of animals.

          • Jiro says:

            Abolitionists never said “slavery used to be okay, but now that slaveowners don’t benefit from it you can no longer argue that it’s okay”.

            That’s what you’d need in order for slavery to be a counterexample to that statement.

            What you’re describing is “we shifted to opposing slavery once slavery became uneconomical.” That’s not the same thing, and isn’t a counterexample. You are failing to distinguish between “would support an argument for” and “would lead to more people making an argument for”.

          • Wency says:

            Prediction:
            In a world where people pay heavy markups for sea salt or Himalayan salt or some other salt because of purported differences that are undetectable by the human tongue, people will cease to prefer meat that comes from animals (as opposed to inscrutable biochemical purposes) approximately never.

          • Wency says:

            Prediction:
            In a world where people pay heavy markups for sea salt or Himalayan salt or some other salt because of purported differences that are undetectable by the human tongue, people will cease to prefer meat that comes from animals (as opposed to inscrutable biochemical processes) approximately never.

          • Fahundo says:

            Sea salt does taste different to the human tongue though.

          • Andrew says:

            And I bought Himalayan salt once to impress visually- not orally.

      • Peter says:

        There’s a key point in the second article.

        I think there’s a big difference between “Too many black people get killed by the police and it’s time to do something about it” and “The white race is conducting a “war on blackness.”” – the latter one was a point that the second article was complaining about.

        Somewhere between statements that there are wrongs to be righted, and outright physical violence against persons, there’s the sort of inflammatory rhetoric that includes the things that the article calls “blood libels”.

        I think there’s the sort of person for whom that sort of rhetoric is… an expression of anger. If you call them on it you’re unlikely to get very far, if you point out that the things they’re saying are untrue you’ll be told to stop being such a literal-minded pedant, or “it’s symbolic, innit, are you so stupid you don’t get that?” (see for example the discussion over “hands up don’t shoot”); also, a lot of the rhetoric is too vague to be shot down easily. These sorts of people won’t spontaneously admit to exaggerating, but if you manage to catch them in a clear exaggeration then they’ll point out some exaggeration that you or someone like you has made.

        Where this sort of stuff is allowed to slosh around, then it’s not surprising if some people take it to be actually literally true, and take the obvious course of action based on that.

      • Viliam says:

        A social justice warrior is somebody who actually believes in the rhetoric of the social justice superweapons. And once you believe in the rhetoric of the superweapon, it’s immoral not to use it.

        I believe there are at least two kinds of SJWs.

        The majority are young inexperienced people (the usual cult recruitment material) who simply want to make the world a better place. They swallow the Big Happy Idea hook, line, and sinker; and they try to contribute to making the world a better place. Their mistakes are overconfidence, and throwing the ethical injuctions out of the window. Because the Big Happy Idea and its proponents told them this was the morally right thing to do.

        The minority are abusive people who realized that as long as they use the proper rhetorics, they can get incredible power over the former ones. Any nasty behavior can be excused, any criticism deflected, as long as they remain part of the orthodox core. They also get their personal army against outsiders.

        This happens over and over again, on scales both large and small.

        • Daniel says:

          I used to be the first kind, the true believer, in high school. I was only exposed to it online, not in real life, and I consider the online exposure to be much like a vaccination.

        • BBA says:

          Then there are those of us who didn’t totally agree with every detail, but felt it wasn’t nearly as bad as the alternative. Even now, after the Aaronson incident convinced me that Social Justice is emphatically Not On My Side, I’d still go full SJW in a second if the choice was between that and going alt-right.

          And oftentimes it feels like it is.

          • cassander says:

            >And oftentimes it feels like it is.

            How is that? The alt right is a tiny fringe movement completely without power and utterly marginal, dismissed by all right thinking people.

          • There is an applicable quote by (I think) Cliff Pervocracy about this sort of thing, which I will paraphrase below.

            They: “Are you a feminist?”
            Me: “Well, that’s a complicated question. The word covers a multitude of waves, interpretations, and behaviors, and quite a lot of actual negativity and unfairness gets swept under the rug by the-”
            They: “Because I don’t think women should be allowed to work outside the home. Or vote.”
            Me: “…I’m a feminist, and also fuck you.”

        • cassander says:

          You’re definitely not wrong, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t dangerous. The people you speak of in group one are same sort that gave Stalin nuclear weapons.

        • Bugmaster says:

          I think there’s at least one more kind: someone who experienced some genuinely horrific trauma, and now instinctually hates everyone who looks like the perpetrator. The Social Justice framework legitimizes such hatred when its target belongs to the oppressor class.

    • Two McMillion says:

      Well, I think we have to start by acknowledging that some people are always going to slip through the cracks, and at least extremists are always going to be out there. I tend to think that in these cases, the actual ideology adopted is more or less irrelevant. Anyone who believes in right and wrong can eventually come to believe that violence is necessary to promote right. So when these things happen, we’ve got to stop using them to take cheap shots at our political opponents. Every time it happens, we see people say, “[group] may not officially approve of [crazy person’s] actions, but their ideologies led to it.”

      And herein lies the problem. Most of us genuinely believe that the other side’s beliefs do lead to the world becoming a worse place. Most of us really do think that if the other side’s beliefs were acted out to their fullest possible extent, then these kind of horrible things would be lauded. Be honest- when the Orlando shooting happened, did you think to yourself, “Man, that’s awful. I wish that wouldn’t happen. I wish there weren’t people out there saying that being gay is awful and a sin and makes you go to hell. Maybe if there weren’t, this wouldn’t have happened”?

      And you know what? I bet that’s even true. I bet that if there didn’t exist any anti-gay rhetoric in our society that the nightclub shooting wouldn’t have happened. I bet if there weren’t any Muslims calling the west the Great Satan then there wouldn’t be Muslim terrorists either. I bet that if nobody was saying that not being racist was really important than we wouldn’t have an angry social justice movement. The first problem is that most of us genuinely believe that some level of force is justified in backing up our beliefs. And the second problem is that this belief is in fact correct. If something is true, then there do in fact exist circumstances in which that truth will compel you to live it out through force. Ultimately, the urge to use violence to proclaim a particular belief is an extension of the urge to use it in self-defense, and it is justified for the same reasons.

      The world is violent and ugly and always has been and probably always will be. We have to recognize that the choice to meet violence with peace is inherently an act of faith. I do not mean that organized religion is required to do so; I mean that you must, on some level, believe that violence has qualities that make it undesirable even in cases where it is effective (extreme and provocative claim #1: you cannot be a consistent consequentialist and also tell people they are wrong for using violence to advance their goals). You have to believe that things will somehow “work out” if our problems aren’t instantly solved. Some people do this because they believe God guides history, but you might also do it because you believe that history has a flow and progress always eventually wins, or something of the sort (extreme and provocative claim #2: You cannot be an consistent effective altruist without at least being open to killing people who criticize effective altruism in public). You might, of course, try to say that violence is never effective, or some such, but I think the evidence is against that- the Civil War seems to have effectively ended slavery and WWII seems to have ended the Holocaust.

      So I think the solution is to saturate your society with the message that good has to win in the end. Except, of course, that good doesn’t, and doing this is going to slow work on fixing real problems in your society. So you’ll have to make society perfect, first, and then you can do this. Good luck doing that without violence.

      • Jill says:

        Thanks for your thoughts here. Ghandi was nonviolent and won. The Civil Rights movement was nonviolent and won. The peace movement to get out of Vietnam was nonviolent and won. Nonviolence can work.

        One big challenge is to express oneself forcefully enough to be heard but not to incite violence.

        • Jiro says:

          It is availability bias to point to people who were nonviolent and won. If they were nonviolent and lost, what’s the chance you’d have heard of them?

          • Two McMillion says:

            We know of a few people who nonviolently resisted Hitler. I mean, they tended to die horrible deaths, but they did resist him nonviolently.

          • Peter says:

            It’s a mistake to think that if nonviolence can sometimes win then it can always win. It is also a mistake to think that if nonviolence sometimes can’t win, it can never win. It is yet another mistake to think that if nonviolence can’t win, then violence can, and another mistake still to think that if violence won then it’s a sign that nonviolence couldn’t have won.

            Possibly also some nonviolence comes with a faint implicit threat: “make a deal with us now, or you may have to deal with our violent counterparts later”.

            I’m not sure whether Jill was saying “nonviolence can always win” or “nonviolence can sometimes win, and violence can often lose, or ‘win’ in a way that makes the win pointless (‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss’), or come at too high a price, so let’s commit to nonviolence”. If the former, I think a point to you, if the latter, a point to Jill.

          • Two McMillion says:

            I’m excluding the empirical fact about whether or not violence, in a given situation, would actually work or not or if it would have undesirable consequences. For me, the more important question is, “If violence could in fact work, why shouldn’t we use it?”

            And for me the answer is that you can’t separate the path to a goal from the goal itself. How you do things matters at least as much as what you’re trying to do. Even if your goal is completely just, and even if the amount of harm caused by violence to solve a problem is less than that caused by the problem itself, it still doesn’t follow that violence is justified as a solution. There is a right way to do right in addition to there being right to do. The wrong path taken to the right goal will not lead you to the right goal at all. Both your hands and your heart have to be kept clean, or you’re dirty all over.

          • Jiro says:

            We know of a few people who nonviolently resisted Hitler. I mean, they tended to die horrible deaths, but they did resist him nonviolently.

            I’m not saying the chance of you having heard of them is zero, but clearly most of them are not household names the way someone like Gandhi is.

        • Two McMillion says:

          Ghandi and the Civil Rights movement, to the extent that they were nonviolent, worked because of a shared culture that was kind of skeptical about violence to begin with. Part of my point is that nonviolence can’t really succeed unless that kind of culture exists. (see: non-violent resistance to Hitler.)

          I do not believe that this shared culture that frowns on nonviolence currently exists in the United States and I do not know of any way to restore it.

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          @ Jill
          Ghandi was nonviolent and won. The Civil Rights movement was nonviolent and won. The peace movement to get out of Vietnam was nonviolent and won. Nonviolence can work.

          It can work in some circumstances but not in others. Ghandi was working against the British, with massive support from his own culture. MLK and the Vietnam protesters were working against the US establishment (off-spring of the British) and in a period where the establishment was not prepared for the whole world watching on television.

          So I don’t think that those successes of physical non-violence are much support for verbal non-violence working against verbal violence now.

          Hm, maybe we’re meaning different things by ‘verbal violence’. You said in a different comment: What do I mean by inciting others to verbal violence? I mean things like inciting one’s Twitter followers to pile onto someone for not being quite politically correct enough about race or gender. Or inciting one’s Twitter followers to pile onto someone, or for writing a non-flattering article about Melania.

          What I’m calling ‘verbal violence’ is the tactics that some SJW use in debate [examples needed] which amount to undeclared attacks on Enlightenment Values. These are shocking and silence opponents the first time we hear them, but when someone calls them out as being attacks on Enlightment Values, that turns on the light of sanity again.

        • Anonymous says:

          Ghandi was nonviolent and won. The Civil Rights movement was nonviolent and won. The peace movement to get out of Vietnam was nonviolent and won. Nonviolence can work.

          The first two of these are taking the opposition’s stated values and weaponizing them, to be used against them. Gandhi took the will of the Indian peoples, and waved it in front of the democratic British – “are you going to let my people go, or are you in fact a bunch of hypocrites who only *say* they act in accordance with democracy?” Same with the Civil Rights movement, on egalitarian grounds this time, rather than democratic.

          The third seems more like the USG deciding to accept that they’ve lost that war (which they did), peace movement or no peace movement.

    • Jill says:

      A lot of our political culture is based on bashing the Other tribe. If we each spent even 10% of that time that we spend doing that– and instead focused it on holding our own tribe to high standards of nonviolence, including verbal nonviolence– so that we are not inciting physical or verbal violence in others– then our country would be a far better place. After we do that, we could even say to the Other tribe– Look, I have role modeled this behavior here, the behavior that I am asking you to do. I’m holding my tribe to high standards. Would you please hold your tribe to high standards too?

      What do I mean by inciting others to verbal violence? I mean things like inciting one’s Twitter followers to pile onto someone for not being quite politically correct enough about race or gender. Or inciting one’s Twitter followers to pile onto someone, or for writing a non-flattering article about Melania.

      • Orphan Wilde says:

        I don’t think you and I have a common definition for “violence” here.

        • Lyyce says:

          She is talking about “verbal violence”, and it doesn’t change the argument which is interesting (it’s mostly the same idea as Scott’s In Favor of Niceness, Community, and Civilization)

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Niceness and civility are luxuries that victors permit themselves until those who don’t replace them.

      • The Nybbler says:

        After we do that, we could even say to the Other tribe– Look, I have role modeled this behavior here, the behavior that I am asking you to do. I’m holding my tribe to high standards. Would you please hold your tribe to high standards too?

        I’ve tried that. I’ve seen others do it better than I can. The Other Tribe says (to a close approximation) “fuck you, due to your inherent characteristics and heretical beliefs, you deserve whatever abuse we give you. And your mere existence is more violence (and to better people) than we could possibly hand to you”.

        At that point, uncompromising enmity is all that’s left.

        • Anonymous says:

          The other guys are evil mutants. It’s not just that I watch and read too much bad fiction and want to escape into a Manichean universe with good guys and bad guys. Not that at all!

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Anonymous – or, possibly, tit-for-tat with forgiveness is actually a good strategy.

          • Nornagest says:

            The frustrating thing about polarization is that the more extreme it is on a population level, the more justifiable it is on an individual level. There aren’t that many actual DefectBots out there, but an opponent who’s convinced you’re a DefectBot may as well be one as far as strategy is concerned.

          • Jiro says:

            Some people are evil mutants. The fact that you can refer to an essay saying “evil mutants do not exist” doesn’t change this.

        • Two McMillion says:

          And now you know why Christians believe in Hell.

      • Loquat says:

        …holding our own tribe to high standards of nonviolence, including verbal nonviolence…

        Doesn’t that usually get dismissed as concern trolling and/or tone policing, though?

    • Peter says:

      The trouble – one of the current troubles, in some areas – is that there’s been a lot of anti-anti-extremist rhetoric in some circles at the moment. People who don’t spontaneously come up with extremist rhetoric themselves, but if you criticise extremist rhetoric, they’ll react very angrily – and they’ll broadcast generic anti-anti-extremist stuff on Facebook or whatever saying how absolutely terrible the people who disagree with the angriest voices are. The term “concern troll” is one of the milder reprimands dished out to vocal moderates.

      This doesn’t seem to be universal – for example, every now and again someone posts a thing to Facebook saying, “All these Muslims went and marched against ISIS and the press didn’t cover it”.

    • TomFL says:

      I don’t think you can hold any group responsible for herding their own cats. A simple denunciation is good enough, generally you just get silence (passive resistance) which is also OK. There is no reason to expect or desire consistent messaging from a group of people. People screaming past each other that the opposing side has extremists (and thus everyone is an extremist) is very tedious.

      The left has kind of allowed an SJW virus to take hold. This virus exploits the tribal rulebook to bully its members into submission by effectively playing the race card intra-tribally in order to acquire power. I think a problem is there are no lines for when minority support turns into majority intolerance. For example, arguing that “white privilege” is counterproductive to winning elections is a no-go area. Majority intolerance cannot exist by definition in this twisted view.

      • Orphan Wilde says:

        This virus exploits the tribal rulebook to bully its members into submission by effectively playing the race card intra-tribally in order to acquire power.

        Yep.

        I’m terribly amused watching the whole thing, because the dominant narrative from the SJW movement is that their opponents are right-wing. Well, they weren’t.

        • ChetC3 says:

          Well, from the SJW perspective, they were. In other words, even those who did move farther right had a starting point that was already right of center. Not to mention, it’s easy enough to find people telling the opposite story: anti-SJW rhetoric is what caused them to be sympathetic to SJWs in the first place. To me, it looks like this boils down to an inferential distance problem.

    • onyomi says:

      I think a key point Bill Maher makes with respect to radical Islamic terrorism is this: sure 99% of Muslims aren’t terrorists and will never kill anyone for their faith; nevertheless, surveys of majority Muslim countries like Egypt apparently show shockingly high moral support for the actions of Muslim terrorists. In other words, if only 1% of Muslims will actually commit an act of violence for their faith, but 50% of surveyed Muslims think violence is an appropriate response to insults to the faith, or express sympathy with groups which use terrorism to advance Islam, then that means that there is a bigger problem. Not just with 1% of Muslims, but with 50% of Muslims.

      Now arguably large percentages of many or most groups could be accused of supporting something evil. As many Muslims probably think US foreign policy is evil, and that violence is the appropriate response, there are many Americans who say things like “why don’t we just nuke them all” or “make the sand glow,” which is clearly also not a just response.

      Overall, I think the solution, to the extent one is possible, is for everyone to take to heart the lessons of “In Favor of Niceness and Community,” part of which includes denouncing members of your ingroup who use evil or violent tactics to try to achieve even goals you agree with. Being a radically anti-government libertarian, for example, it would be difficult for me to loudly condemn someone who blew up an IRS building, because there’s a part of me which, while I would never personally try to blow up a government building, nevertheless thinks the IRS is evil and that extreme measures to fight government tyranny are understandable. But I should condemn that act. As radically pro-life Christians should condemn abortion clinic bombings.

      If you really believe abortion is murder, then, even if you wouldn’t bomb an abortion clinic yourself, you might be strongly tempted to quietly or even loudly express your support for those who might. But that way lies the breakdown of society, because as soon as you make an exception: “me and my group are justified in using violence to achieve our most important ends,” you open the floodgates to every other group using violence to achieve their priorities.

      So the radical pro-life Christians should condemn attacks on abortion clinics (not hard to do on Christian grounds–two rights don’t make a wrong, turn the other cheek, etc.), the Muslims should condemn the Muslim terrorists, the people who are against gay marriage should condemn violent attacks on gay people, etc. etc.

      So long as we agree on the underlying “niceness” principle, we can tolerate almost any other peaceful disagreement; as soon as we make an exception, we are in trouble (which is not to say I think only total pacifism is permissible, ethically, but trying to toe that line in all but the most extreme cases seems a good general principle).

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I’m with you right up until you got to complete intolerance of any deviation. That just sounds like guaranteed failure of the approach.

        • onyomi says:

          Well, like I said, there may be extreme circumstances in which violence is justified, but the problem is, if you start making exceptions like “well, this particular issue is important enough to justify violence and deception and abusive behavior,” then how do you draw the line? How do you justify to everyone else with different priorities that your top priority is important enough to justify violence and abuse, but theirs aren’t?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m with you on the violence part. Violence is not acceptable.

            But I read you as saying that failure to condemn violence by me was grounds for defection by you, and that is what I was objecting to. If that is not what you meant, then I think I agree with you.

      • Maware says:

        Except that the point of many of those groups is breaking down society. Christianity is an outlier in this, because its doctrines distrust political power as a solution and tend to talk about giving secular governments secular obedience and God spiritual obedience. The “niceness” you want in many ways is a reflection of that Christian duality of needing to save the unbeliever.

        A group that doesn’t have that in its doctrine wants to change the world and has no real desire to play nice like that. They want society to fall and be refashioned, no matter what the pain.

    • Agronomous says:

      Right Wingers can’t stop every violent Tea Partier, and don’t usually try to.

      What violent Tea Partiers?

      • Homo Iracundus says:

        I think one of the guys cleaning up the park after their rally threw some trash, like, violently once. Like he was pretending it was Obama and they were having a symbolic lynching. At least that was the MSNBC analysis.

      • hlynkacg says:

        McViegh and Roof are probably the most recent examples of “Right wing” violence, but neither were “tea partiers” in any realistic sense.

        There was also that guy who shot that abortion doctor a few years back but got shot in turn because seriously who the hell is dumb enough to shoot up a church in redneck country?

        • Winfried says:

          In a different reality, McVeigh is less competent and doesn’t get more than a handful of people killed. A few decades later, he ends up a professor and is the mentor of a future presidential candidate.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Reminds me of another meme.

            It’s a good thing righties aren’t nearly as violent as lefties seem to think because when righties get violent they tend to be really good at it.

    • LPSP says:

      A “kind of extreme political correctness” is literally and explicitly SJWism in a nutshell. There’s a direct etymological line. The entire angle of framing everything in terms of some arbitrary and authoritation “acceptable social justice” is just a step up from the polite-company angle of PC.

  36. Two McMillion says:

    Regarding replication studies of psychological studies: consider the candle problem.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candle_problem

    Now, my father was one of the subjects of one iteration of this (I’m not sure of exactly the year). The wikipedia article says, “The test presents the participant with the following task: how to fix and light a candle on a wall (a cork board) in a way so the candle wax won’t drip onto the table below”, and later, “Many of the people who attempted the test explored other creative, but less efficient, methods to achieve the goal. For example, some tried to tack the candle to the wall without using the thumbtack box, and others attempted to melt some of the candle’s wax and use it as an adhesive to stick the candle to the wall. Neither method works.”

    I first heard about this test when my Dad told me a story about it. “When I was in college,” he said, “I participated in some psychological experiments for money. One of them was they gave you a box of tacks, some matches, and a candle, and they told me to stick the candle to the wall. I heated one of the tacks in the candle, stuck it into the bottom of the candle, and stuck it to the wall. The guy doing the experiment came in and said, ‘That’s not correct’. All I could think of was that it was some test of if you changed something that was right when somebody told you to, so I didn’t do anything.” I became interested and googled the experiment and showed him the wikipedia article. When I read the line from the above wikipedia article to him, “to fix and light a candle on a wall in a way so the candle wax won’t drip onto the table below”, he exclaimed, “What?! That isn’t what they said at all!” Apparently the original experimenter hadn’t said the part about not dripping wax onto the table. Once he heard that part, he was able to describe the solution in seconds.

    It makes me wonder how many other experiments of this sort were plagued by unintentional experimenter error that we know nothing about. Probably the people conducting the experiment on my dad were grad students who didn’t really understand what the problem was about themselves. If they really didn’t present the problem correctly, that seems pretty significant.

    • Elias says:

      I don’t remember any details of this, but at some point I took a survey in response to some questions I was asked. Midway through the survey I suggested some methodological improvements, and the grad student took them onboard and implemented them immediately without asking me to retake the survey. The methodology affected the way I responded to the survey, and I’m just wondering if he ended up controlling for the change, discarded the first half of my survey along with everyone else who took it using the old methodology, or if he willy nilly just changed it and left it at that.

  37. Dahlen says:

    4. Can anyone think of any soft “nudge” style ways to steer open thread conversation here away from specific topics without banning them completely. Right now the best I can do is censor some of the most annoying words and force anyone who wants to discuss annoying things to come up with trivially inconvenient workarounds, but that’s a pretty irritating solution.

    Roll your eyes at people when they bring it up and imply more-or-less politely that they’re stupid and they suck for wasting their own and everybody else’s time on such silly topics. This requires that 1) you don’t bring them up yourself and 2) you manage to select for the right kind of hivemind who has an allergy to them.

    Where direct, forceful interventions might seem ham-fisted and ineffective, culture/soft power/social power/the coolness factor can do the job better and more smoothly.

    What I’m getting at here, is that you can’t blog about politics and tribalism a lot (since I suspect the topics you find undesirable come from that direction) and then politely request that commenters find other things to focus on in the open threads. And the suggestion above only works when it’s not applied hypocritically or dishonestly, and at the cost of having a bit of a hivemind. Otherwise, without being actively dismissive of said topics — start being politically boring, and maybe in three years or so the kind of people for whom the Kulturkampf is catnip will stop reading this blog and migrate elsewhere. Although I wouldn’t hold my breath.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Roll your eyes at people when they bring it up and imply more-or-less politely that they’re stupid and they suck for wasting their own and everybody else’s time on such silly topics.

      Probably won’t work all that well here, because such tactics are characteristic of the outgroup.

      • ChetC3 says:

        You just have to dress it up a bit. For example, instead of saying “my political enemies are needle-dicks”, say “I am exploring a hypothesis that being my political enemy correlates with lower levels of prenatal virilization.” Same meaning, same connotations, but no one can object to the second without running the risk of being labeled an enemy of science and rational inquiry.

      • Dahlen says:

        You know, on one level, I totally get what you’re saying. In Favor of Niceness, Community, and Civilization. People being dicks to each other is a bad thing, and one that Scott has condemned since the dawn of time. Once a community stumbles upon good discussion norms, it should work to conserve them. Etc. etc.

        On another level, I have to wonder if you hear yourself talking. People getting all gung-ho about ingroups and outgroups is exactly what got the SSC commentariat into this mess in the first place! That’s not the lesson you’re supposed to draw from learning about tribalism, people! Designating some collection of people or another as an outgroup is exactly what makes them fair game in your mind for mean tactics, and if you try to be clever and tell me that your ingroup is defined as precisely the kind of people who are IFoNCaC and don’t pull that shit, and that this is totally consistent with calling everyone else an outgroup, well, you know what? I’m not going to believe you. Nobody can hack human social behaviour that well.

        And I’ll be damned if this comments section isn’t proof of that. For all the mutual back-patting and fist-bumping about how successful SSCers have been in transcending exchanges of interpersonal hostilities between each other and how this forum is one-of-a-kind on the otherwise mean internet, the actual norms of discussion fall quite short of that ideal. Sure, SSC is not homogeneous enough to have much in the way of self-aware hivemind-y hostile-tone enforcement of norms (which you associate with the SJ left), except in the case of the SJ left, and it’s technically only Scott that enforces norms of his making. But don’t come and tell me that the social unpleasantness of a mode of interaction (within reasonable limits) is grounds for convincing people here not to engage in it.

        Also, something that might have not been clear: my advice was not meant to be taken at face value. The “roll your eyes and call people stupid” was just the most evoking depiction of social pressure at work that I could think of, and I brought up social pressure to contrast it with the less effective method of employing admin powers and setting rules for people/banning words, which Scott has used so far. I know it goes against the spirit of SSC and Scott’s ethos and was not saying it with the expectation of it being followed. Heck, it doesn’t make for the kind of atmosphere I’d like to participate in either. But there are few tools as magically effective as social pressure, if you’re able to build it.

        • Two McMillion says:

          Almost everybody thinks the corner of the internet they’re invested in is exceptionally nice and all the rest is mean.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I think you’re reading a lot more into my comment than I intended. I was pointing out that the tactics you suggest for soft-enforcing norms are likely to be pattern-matched (by their targets) to tactics used by the SJ Left, and therefore not work well.

          Knowing about tribalism doesn’t make it go away. And probably shouldn’t.

          • Dahlen says:

            Yes, I probably am reading quite a lot into it. I’ve realised that about into my third paragraph, when your own comment was only a line long. I still chose to dedicate so much jabber to it because the inferential distance there was not resolvable in just a few words.

            Namely, the idea that “knowing about tribalism does not make it go away, and probably shouldn’t” (!). I mean, it takes a truly contrarian reading to reach that conclusion. Normally, people read about the e.g. Robbers’ Cave experiment and then think of instances in their own lives when they’ve succumbed to something similar, and feel a little ashamed and try to avoid that pitfall, at least for a couple of days. Just like with most other biases. But here, folks are smarter than that, and think up elaborate justifications for tribalism involving kin selection and social cohesion and the need for an unconditionally dependable community. And so, when Scott proposes some loosely-defined archetypes of political constituencies with cultural features attached, people just eat it up. Red Tribe Blue Tribe, My Tribe Best Tribe.

            I don’t think you (and other people who play right into these constructs) realise just how much unnecessary toxicity this injects into an online community. Out of all the bullets to bite, the biases to embrace, it had to be this one. Again I have to extend another invitation to this crowd to tone it down with the whole “tribe” thing. There’s a whole lot to be criticised about things that vaguely look like shaming tactics and callouts (which, btw, have been with us for the whole history of H. sapiens sapiens and have in no way been invented by SJWs) without the complimentary side dish of inter-subcultural animosity.

            If I were to have a tl;dr of the grandparent comment, it would be, basically: it’s incoherent to be both willingly prejudiced (to the extent of explicitly using the term outgroup) and against people being mean to each other, and you can’t even use the loophole whereby you claim to be prejudiced against people being mean to each other. That’s what an outgroup is, people who are fair game for bad treatment.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It is probably true that tribalism is a bad thing. And one who is using a super-rational (in the game theory sense) strategy would not act tribally.

            But tribalism works; one who avoids tribalism will be at a disadvantage compared with one who acts as a member of a tribe. Non-tribalism is not stable, because when a tribe forms, it has an advantage. Which is why merely knowing about tribalism doesn’t and shouldn’t make it go away; it’s often rational to act tribally.

            There’s a whole lot to be criticised about things that vaguely look like shaming tactics and callouts […] without the complimentary side dish of inter-subcultural animosity.

            There are, but inter-subcultural animosity isn’t a side dish; it’s the main dish. It’s the #1 reason “nudging” people away from topics using content-free signals of social disapproval is unlikely to work here. That analysis doesn’t require you to believe that this is a good thing.

            That’s what an outgroup is, people who are fair game for bad treatment.

            No. If you take the narrow definition of “I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup”, it’s a group with proximity and small differences to your in-group. That essay indicates the usual attitude towards such an outgroup is hatred. But whether that means they are “fair game for bad treatment” is a separate question, one which depends on your own ethics (or perhaps that of your in-group). That means it is not incoherent to both have an outgroup and to be against being mean to people; it just means you have to be against being mean to people you hate.

  38. Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

    Ross Douthat on Twitter:

    https://twitter.com/DouthatNYT/status/760120529592266753

    “I’m saying: Imagine a race where the choices were an unfit, paranoid, unstable Democratic nominee and Rick Santorum.”

    • erenold says:

      The entire tweetstorm is well worth reading.

      There was a fun parlour game in his mentions afterwards about who a 2020 “Trump of the left”might be. I thought the guy who suggested Kanye West ought to have won, but in seriousness everything I’ve read about Alan Grayson worries me as well.

      • HircumSaeculorum says:

        >everything I’ve read about Alan Grayson worries me as well.

        Why, in particular? His Wikipedia article makes him sound pretty good.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Alan Grayson specializes in throwing “red tofu” to the liberal masses. His salient feature as a politician is bombast.

          I honestly don’t know how substantive or even how numerous his policy proposals are, but what I have seen of his style strikes me as far less than ideal. I’m not sure I would say worrying, but I see red-flags.

        • erenold says:

          Because both Trump and Grayson are equidistant from my ingroup.

          Wait, shit, no, I don’t think I was supposed to say that out loud. Let me try that again.

          In seriousness – because both men strike me as literally amoral in the truest sense of the word. Utterly bereft of any true principle, and yet – or perhaps thusly – remarkably adroit at whipping up passions at the opponent of the day. They remind me of Lord Birkenhead, who was supposed to have joined the Tory Party on a coin toss. It’s not difficult to imagine a parallel universe in which the Trump of the left was… Donald Trump himself. Similarly, it’s not difficult to imagine Grayson, freedom fighter extraordinaire, turning on a dime.

          That’s what I disagreed with the people putting forward Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn etc as 2020 left-Trumps. These people are true believers. They’re obnoxious, perhaps – but they believe. (God only knows what Yeezy believes, though.)

          (Oh, and also because Trump is an arse to his wives, and so is Grayson. My priors are that this is not coincidental. Character counts.)

          • cassander says:

            >In seriousness – because both men strike me as literally amoral in the truest sense of the word. Utterly bereft of any true principle,

            But Hillary Clinton doesn’t strike you this way? I don’t mean this as partisan snark, I’m genuinely curious. Granted, no one would accuse her of being good at whipping up the masses.

          • erenold says:

            I wouldn’t have taken offence even without your disclaimer. I think it’s a fair comment, and I anticipated a response in that vein, truth be told.

            Before I begin I want to just show deference to the fact that you guys, right or left, who actually are her constituents are going to be the better judge of everything than me. It winds me up no end when Westerners talk complete rubbish about my country without ever having stepped foot into it. So I suppose it says something about me that, even knowing how annoying distance long-distance armchair commentary can be, I can’t stop myself from partaking in it!

            Substantively – I *think* Hillary is not like that. At her core, she is not a demagogue. That is not merely a stylistic thing. Nor is it just her inability to do it well. I think she really does care about stuff.

            I like watching her come alive when she’s discussing, e.g., bringing down the number of deaths from respiratory ailments from dirty woodstoves in the Third World. That’s the kind of governmenting that I most believe in, and I think she’s genuinely interested in that.

            Maybe she lacks integrity. You’d be the better judge of that than I. But I think it’s a stretch to extrapolate from that that she truly cares about nothing and no one. I *think* she’s fundamentally akin to Obama, which is both why a fight between them had to become so bitter and why they became such close allies afterwards. That is, she’s a liberal technocrat to her core.

          • cassander says:

            Hillary’s definitely not a demagogue, but what gives you the impression that she cares about anything besides Hillary? I see her as someone absolutely desperate for the presidency, and, with one very minor exception, willing to say practically anything to get it, as witness by the fact that she’s spent the last year or so running against both her husband’s administration and big chunks of her tenure at sec state. Again, definitely not a demagogue of any sort, but there are many ways to be unprincipled that don’t involve demagoguery. Hillary does have a fair bit of wonk in her (though, sitting at immense distance, she strikes me as an excessive micromanager), but she’s never let it get in the way of getting elected.

            As for obama, he’s just about the opposite of a technocrat, someone who’s always preferred soaring rhetoric to the gritty compromise of actual policy. Hillary, I get the impression, loathes campaigning (and, having done it, I understand why, it’s terrible) Obama definitely seems to prefer it to governing.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      [11-12] But it was only a few months ago smart liberals were arguing Trump would be better than Cruz or Rubio, for same reasons liberals would be horrified at Santorum.

      Really? I don’t remember that. I remember liberals being horrified by Trump continually for the past year. Maybe they’re equally horrified by Cruz, but Rubio?

      • Jordan D. says:

        Yeah- I’ve heard that about Cruz, but never Rubio. I thought Rubio was basically one step removed from a Romney or a Bush.

        Consistently throughout the primary, the ‘oh my god are you serious’ comments from the Left seemed to be primarily about Trump and Cruz, with a few flyover states like Carson and Fiorina showing themselves for only a few political minutes.

        • E. Harding says:

          Yglesias, who occasionally, though by no means always, looks at actual policy, wrote pieces on why Rubio worried him more than Trump.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Here. Thanks!

            In contrast to Rubio, Trump is more prone to offering simply ignorant remarks but also has considerably more restrained instincts.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        @ Douglas Knight
        >> [11-12] But it was only a few months ago smart liberals were arguing Trump would be better than Cruz or Rubio, for same reasons liberals would be horrified at Santorum.

        > Really? I don’t remember that.

        I do. I was one of them. Of course it was theoretical, as I’m Clintonista. But his stated policies on Social Security etc were more liberal than the other GOPs’, and his rhetoric seemed more rhetorical then.

  39. JustAnotherShitlordAnon says:

    For those who propose using a burner email account for comments registration, please note that this is harder than it once was.

    (1) Someone above mentioned hotmail, but (as I recall) they now require a phone number or alternate email account before you can open a new account. Gmail has similar requirements.

    Thus, for these accounts, one either needs a burner phone or you must already have an email account that you don’t mind associating with this new burner account (which defeats the purpose).

    (2) Yes, one option is mail.com. However, in my experience, they arbitrarily close accounts, so they’re not reliable.

    (3) Additionally, for all email accounts I know of (including mail.com), one cannot register via Tor. This is due to the various CAPTCHA/Turing tests that you need to pass, but do not function in the Tor browser.

    ——–

    Finally, at Scott: IMHO I’d be okay with a requiring people to avoid using the anonymous handle, but I would urge you to avoid comments registration.

    Even if it stops a (relative) handful of hurtful comments, the solutions comes at the steep price of potentially killing some of the most interesting and useful conversations.

    If multiple postings are the issue, then anonymous users who do that should just be ignored until they learn to use a unique (but still anonymous) handle.

    • Jiro says:

      Can you use mail.com and then use that to get a hotmail.com/gmail.com address?

      • brad says:

        Google, at least, now uses opaque heuristics to determine whether or not to insist on a mobile number before allowing you to create a gmail account. Coming in from tor is almost certainly a trigger. These tactics are all part of the war against email spam.

        Personally, I think the concern is overblown. With registration it would still be easy to be psedoanonymous to Scott and to readers of the site. The only thing that would be tougher would be staying anonymous to someone armed with a subpoena. As to that: first, I doubt very many posters here use sufficient op-sec every time to be anonymous to them anyway. Second, I don’t see much value in making this a friendly place to people worried about subpoenas.

        I don’t see what intersting or useful conversations this is going to end. The closest I can come up with is some of the discussion of drugs (modafinil, anabolic steroids). I can’t think of any time I’ve seen a discussion on here where someone leaked government secrets or anything like that. It’s not that type of place.

        • Corey says:

          I think the major worry is about socially-conservative views that are considered anodyne or maybe a little edge-lord-y today. I’m assured that we’re not far from people who hold those views getting rounded up into camps for orderly disposal. The fact that about half the country holds them is no comfort.

          • Jiro says:

            Don’t assume that just because half the country holds those views and therefore we can’t prosecute all of them, there is no danger. Selective prosecution is a thing, and it becomes really easy for the government to retaliate against anyone if it knows that everyone is guilty of some crime.

            Just imagine, you piss off some politician 15 years form now and he subpoenas Scott for information which proves that you’ve made anti-black remarks, thus supporting a discrimination claim made against you….

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @Jiro: So, like Paula Deen?

            (And as sick as some people are of hearing about Brendan Eich, he certainly is an example of someone who received years-later retaliation for something that, at the time he did it, over half the state agreed with him on.) (I disagreed with him. But I don’t support him being run out of his job over it.)

          • brad says:

            The politician would have to have reason to believe that Scott had responsive information in the first place. Also, Scott or wordpress would still have to have the logs in 2031. And even then the politician would still have to subpoena google and the phone company to connect the comment back you. And they’d have to have kept the records.

            It just doesn’t seem very likely. For anyone that is worried about this: do you currently only ever comment on SSC while logged on through a scrubbed VPN or tor?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Cord Shirt:
            The only relevant population to Eich is (roughly) the user base of Mozilla, which is very different than the population of the state of CA.

            I imagine people here would feel different if they found out Eich had donated to a 501c3 dedicated to lobbying for the Patriot act, even if Mozilla actually had great privacy protections built in.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ HeelBearCub

            I imagine people here would feel different if they found out Eich had donated to a 501c3 dedicated to lobbying for the Patriot act

            I imagine not.

            The issue isn’t Eich’s personal beliefs, the issue is whether the particulars of his beliefs (which are well within the Overton window) justify firing him from his job.

          • Mistake Not ... says:

            Said job being the CEO, and so face of, a large charitable organization that depends in no small part on the efforts of hundreds of volunteers. Not being fry boy down at the local McDonalds. There was exactly nothing wrong with what went down there.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @HeelbearCub

            I imagine people here would feel different if they found out Eich had donated to a 501c3 dedicated to lobbying for the Patriot act, even if Mozilla actually had great privacy protections built in.

            Nope! Not even the tiniest bit. I personally wouldn’t have endorsed this series of events if he was an actual Stalinist. (Though it is darkly amusing that, for someone in tech, being an actual Stalinist is a much safer political position these days than opposing gay marriage.)

            @Mistake Not…

            Said job being the CEO, and so face of, a large charitable organization that depends in no small part on the efforts of hundreds of volunteers. Not being fry boy down at the local McDonalds. There was exactly nothing wrong with what went down there.

            Let’s unpack that. The claimed reason why Eich had to go was that his holding this opinion made some of these volunteers unwilling to work with him. Isn’t the fact that these volunteers can’t tolerate the presence of a dissenting political opinion — one, let’s not forget, a political opinion held by a near-majority of the American population and almost certainly a solid majority of the world population — a problem with the volunteers, not of Eich? Even if cold utilitarian calculation says that the intolerant volunteers are more important than Eich and therefore Eich must go, there’s nothing “right” or “moral” about it.

            Also this is the bit where we ask, if Eich was black and the volunteers had a problem with a black CEO, would there still be exactly nothing wrong with what happened.

          • You seem to be eliding the distinction between holding an opinion and attempting to give that opinion the force of law. I’m not saying that necessarily invalidates your conclusion, but I think your argument should address it. At a minimum, I think it would be preferable if you didn’t actively misrepresent the situation, whether or not you personally think the distinction is important.

          • On second thoughts, cancel that. I suppose by definition a “political opinion” is an opinion that you want to give the force of law, so perhaps I just wasn’t reading carefully enough. Sorry.

            There is I think still a distinction between someone who simply holds a political opinion and someone who has actually taken action to promote it. But I’m conflicted on the question of what an acceptable level of response is, so I should probably have kept quiet.

          • Mistake Not ... says:

            @M
            Not the mere presence, the overall leadership of, the organization. That is not just another job.

            I think it’s somewhat admirable that you are consistent and would extend the same attitude to a Stalinist. However I don’t share your radical views on tolerance. I think at the end of the day they sacrifice too much at the object level for not enough at the meta level. I don’t find unlimited tolerance in the social and economic sense to be a virtue. Nor do I think this sort of unlimited tolerance is a long standing liberal or leftist principle so attempts to frame it as hypocracy do not convince me.

            To my mind the criticism of McCarthyism were not that communists should have been allowed to stay in the state department but rather over tactics that were 1) indifferent to false positives 2) incentivized or compelled people to betray others and 3) did not take into account that people could change their minds.

            The Eich situation doesn’t include any of these elements.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Mistake Not …

            I don’t find unlimited tolerance in the social and economic sense to be a virtue.

            Unlimited tolerance? Let me remind you what the post you’re replying to said and what you didn’t contest: “a political opinion held by a near-majority of the American population and almost certainly a solid majority of the world population”.

            Let me suggest an alternate interpretation: the people who pushed Eich out are highly intolerant and demand ideological purity from everyone around them.

          • Mistake Not ... says:

            I think you are conflating two different axes. One is what range of opinions you tolerate and two is the strength of the response. One can be intolerant of a very big group of people but limit his response to dirty looks. Another can be intolerant of only a tiny minority group but be actively trying to kill them.

            What I am rejecting as a virtue is taking social and economic consequences are off the table completely as consequences for expressed ideological views.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @Mistake Not …

            With regards to McCarthyism, I agree with your assessment of it in pretty much every detail, but the question has to be, to what extent is the view we wish to be intolerant of relevant to the mission of the organization. If the mission of the government is to oppose Communism, it’s reasonable (at least on a basic level! Maybe there’s some other reason why it would be counterproductive) to demand that its functionaries not be Communists. It’s reasonable for Planned Parenthood to demand that its functionaries support abortion rights, it’s reasonable for the Republican Party to demand that its functionaries not be Democrats, et cetera, et cetera.

            The stated mission of Mozilla is not to legalize gay marriage; it’s to keep the Internet “open and accessible to all.”. The arguments that somehow that extends to ensuring that gay marriage is legalized everywhere, to the extent that a leader cannot hold a dissenting political opinion while off the clock, were a) rarely even made and b) when they were, they were tenuous and penumbra-y to an extent that would embarrass the Warren Court.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            “I imagine people here would feel different if they found out Eich had donated to a 501c3 dedicated to lobbying for the Patriot act”

            …no?

            …I’m a time-traveler from the past when we all agreed someone’s job didn’t control the rest of their life. When we all agreed that being “the face of an organization” didn’t come with a responsibility to alter your politics, or even your personal life, according to the organization’s values.

            (Remember all the criticisms and boycotts of the Salvation Army’s anti-LGBT hiring discrimination? Even though it’s a church that just hires people to help out with its charitable operations, and “marriage is heterosexual by definition and homosexuals should be celibate” is one of its religious tenets?)

            In my grandparents’ day, employers often pried into and demanded control over employees’ personal choices. (My grandmother and her brilliant sister were quite affected…story redacted.) People a bit younger than my grandparents and a bit older than my parents…a generational position rather like millennials’, come to think of it…fought *hard* to shift American culture to get people’s jobs *out!* of their political and personal lives.

            (Here’s where I’d really like to link to Alison Bechdel’s old strip illustrating generations of gay activists, with the circa-1960 activists dressed conservatively and carrying a sign saying “Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is IMMORAL”…but I couldn’t find it online.)

            My parents were on the tail end of that fight–they grew up hearing about infractions going “On Your Permanent Record,” a similar issue, and were the same age as some of those circa-1960 activists. And then came the baby boomers and gen-xers, who grew up generally expecting to be free of that kind of employer intrusion.

            Well. All I can say is, I’m very sorry for having taken that aspect of our culture for granted. AFAIC, your job has nothing to say about your political opinions or even personal life.

            (I’ve sure never fired anyone for “making the company look bad through their political choices.” Incompetence, yes. Anything else, no.)

            HBC’s / Mistake Not’s interpretation of the situation isn’t the only possible one, is my point. American culture has shifted on this before, and can again.

            I agree with my (metaphorical and actual) aunts and uncles on this one: You can’t have political freedom when you need to fear losing your job because of your political opinions/contributions/votes.

            (That’s a “positive rights” type argument, so a traditionally liberal position–but w/e, there’s no rule saying all liberals have to hold it or no non-liberal can. Not accusing anyone of “hypocrisy” here.)

            I also agree with Justice Thomas’ Citizens United opinion. (Too bad about his lack of empathy for women. It’s a serious, dangerous character flaw. I still agree with this legal opinion.)

          • Corey says:

            @all re: Eich, yeah, it sucks when someone loses their job over political controversy, but about 1.2% of US employees lose their jobs each month *for no reason at all* related to themselves, so… meh. (BLS seasonally adjusted layoff data, recent)

          • brad says:

            What does any of this have to do with whether or not it is safe to put a throwaway email address that is validated with a mobile number into the email field at SSC?

            Are we going to hear about donglegate next?

          • Anonymous says:

            @Corey
            People do not get outraged when a tornado destroys their house, but they do get outraged when a bulldozer does it. There’s good reasons for this.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            You seem to be eliding the distinction between holding an opinion and attempting to give that opinion the force of law.

            Any time you vote, you are attempting to give your opinion the force of law. Should Eich have been canned if he had merely voted for Proposition 8?

            I swear to God, I do not understand the point of view that spending your own money to express an opinion is coercive, but voting is not.

          • @Doctor Mist, I had already retracted that comment.

            However, I think it depends on how you view democracy. One vote is just one vote. Paying money to experts on manipulating public opinion gets you lots of votes, so depending on your viewpoint it may seem like cheating. (Obviously, however, that’s an emotional reaction, not a rational argument.)

          • Doctor Mist says:

            @Harry

            I had already retracted that comment.

            Heh. So you had. Also a ton of other people had other interesting things to say. I should resist replying to a comment that far down the page without reloading first.

            One vote is just one vote. Paying money to experts on manipulating public opinion gets you lots of votes

            Going door-to-door with pamphlets or setting up a soapbox in the park gets you more than just one vote, but these are the paradigms of Concerned Citizenry. (If Eich had done these things he’d still have been in trouble, but I hope you and I can agree that this would have been unfair.)

            Somehow people think that adding money to the mix taints the whole process, which I just don’t get. To come at it from another angle: Suppose for the sake of argument that “experts on manipulating public opinion” really are capable of some kind of Jedi mind-trick that makes people vote against their better judgment. Is that an argument for forbidding political advertising, or an argument for the inherent senselessness of trying to run a society by having all these manipulable saps vote?

          • Well, humans aren’t perfect, but they’re the best option we’ve got for the time being. : – )

        • smocc says:

          One thing about the Eich case is that it’s unusually easy to turn around. Just imagine that public opinion is slightly different and he got fired for donating money to a gay-marriage-legalization advocacy group.

          I view the whole thing as a good illustration of the difference between “should” and “should be allowed.” Should this sort of thing be allowed to happen? Probably, because it would be hard to write a comprehensible law that doesn’t go to far in restricting someone else’s freedom. Should this sort of thing happen? Absolutely not.

          • An interesting and telling point, in that I have to work hard to think objectively enough to consider the two situations at all comparable.

            I think I’m pattern-matching the Eich case to an attempt to have the state enforce a religious law, and I guess I’m triggered by theocracy, even in small amounts. (To be honest, I don’t really understand how it could be anything else, so the best I can do is to blindly apply Principle of Charity.)

            By comparison, your hypothetical just seems like a legitimate attempt to shape public opinion in favour of the interests of a minority group. No religion involved.

          • smocc says:

            It is interesting that it seems incomparable to you, because it seems nearly exactly the same to me. They’re both political opinions right? Opinions on how the government should operate w.r.t. marriage. One group wants to change the law to explicitly include same-sex marriage, one group wants to change the law to explicitly exclude same-sex marriage. Anything about “religious law” or “theocracy” or “minority groups” is extra detail that probably isn’t justified.

            (For example, one does find non-religious people opposed to same sex marriage, and one could imagine people supporting same-sex-legalization for religious reasons.)

          • Well, it seems that most people who oppose gay marriage do so for religious reasons, and while I don’t know for certain that this was the motivation in this particular case, given his religious beliefs it does seem very likely. My judgement of the probabilities here is presumably biased by the fact that I haven’t been able to develop any alternative explanation, not counting sheer prejudice, of course.

            (That is, all of the arguments I’ve seen invoke either religion or prejudice, or just don’t make any sense to me. As I said, all I can do at that point is blindly apply charity.)

            I’m not sure whether I “should” attempt to disregard motivation as a consideration when thinking about the Brendan Eich incident – surely motive matters? – but I am sure that it is difficult to do so.

          • smocc says:

            As far as I can tell, you seem to be saying that the difference between the real situation and the “flipped” situation is that the motivation for the political belief is different? Does that difference make it okay or not okay for him to be fired for his political opinion?

            I’m having a hard time seeing how the argument isn’t essentially “it’s okay for him to be fired because his political opinion is one I disagree with.”

            What if Eich were, say, Episcopalian and his religious beliefs compelled him to contribute to lawsuits attempting to overrule state same-sex marriage bans, and he gets fired for it. Would this be bad or not?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            So wait, why is supporting a law for religious reasons worse than supporting a law for some other reason? If Eich had opposed gay marriage because he was a utilitarian and thought that on balance the negative utils would outweigh the positive ones, why would that be better?

          • So wait, why is supporting a law for religious reasons worse than supporting a law for some other reason?

            I’m not sure that it is, and I certainly wasn’t attempting to argue that is is.

            I mean, if I was trying to make that argument, I suppose I could blither something about the separation of church and state as being essential to a free society, perhaps point at the US constitution, that sort of thing. If I’m not convinced that the argument is valid, I’m not entirely convinced that it isn’t, either.

            But that wasn’t my point. I just thought it was interesting that smocc’s hypothetical so clearly established why exactly I find it so difficult to consider the incident in question dispassionately.

            What if Eich were, say, Episcopalian and his religious beliefs compelled him to contribute to lawsuits attempting to overrule state same-sex marriage bans, and he gets fired for it. Would this be bad or not?

            Well, it’s bad either way, really, the only difference is whether I can raise any real sympathy for him or not. But … I don’t know. That hypothetical doesn’t raise any hackles, any more than I object to people contributing to charity because they think it’s their religious duty. That may be because of the other asymmetry here: one case is asking the government to actively interfere in people’s lives, the other is just asking the government to butt out and stop interfering. I’m not a libertarian by any means, but I do think that the burden of proof generally lies with those who want to make something illegal.

            Or perhaps that’s just a rationalization. Hard to say.

          • I could make a case that supporting a law for religious reasons is bad because that means a peroson is less likely to be swayed by considerations of practicality or kindness, but I’m not sure it works out that way in practice.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I mean, if I was trying to make that argument, I suppose I could blither something about the separation of church and state as being essential to a free society, perhaps point at the US constitution, that sort of thing. If I’m not convinced that the argument is valid, I’m not entirely convinced that it isn’t, either.

            Well, if “separation of Church and state” is interpreted to mean that nobody doing politics is allowed to have religious motivations, I think that the Founding Fathers would disagree with you: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…”

            That may be because of the other asymmetry here: one case is asking the government to actively interfere in people’s lives, the other is just asking the government to butt out and stop interfering.

            One of the main arguments given by gay marriage advocates is “We want preferential tax status, societal approval, adoption rights, etc., too.” Whatever you may think of such an argument, it’s not really compatible with “All we’re asking is to be left alone.”

          • I think that the Founding Fathers would disagree with you

            Isn’t that just a figure of speech? I notice it doesn’t say which creator. But in any case not being an American I feel no particular need to defer to their opinions. And as far as the US constitution goes, wasn’t this pretty much exactly the reason Intelligent Design was shot down – because it was motivated by religion?

            One of the main arguments given by gay marriage advocates is “We want preferential tax status, societal approval, adoption rights, etc., too.”

            That seems … disingenuous. Saying “we’ll give people special privileges, but only if they meet our religious criteria” is hardly “being left alone”. (ETA: besides, they’re not particularly special privileges in the first place; most of them should probably apply to all couples, married or not.)

            (Reminder: I’m still in explanatory mode. I’m not attempting to construct a logical argument here.)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Isn’t that just a figure of speech?

            No, it’s a reference to Locke’s idea that we all have rights because God made us and gave them to us.

            And as far as the US constitution goes, wasn’t this pretty much exactly the reason Intelligent Design was shot down – because it was motivated by religion?

            I’m not sure Supreme Court decisions several centuries later are necessarily a good guide to what the original Framers intended — after all, the SC once declared that growing stuff to use on your own farm counts as “inter-state commerce”, which I suspect would come as a surprise to the people of 1787.

            Saying “we’ll give people special privileges, but only if they meet our religious criteria” is hardly “being left alone”.

            Huh?

            (ETA: besides, they’re not particularly special privileges in the first place; most of them should probably apply to all couples, married or not.)

            Why should they?

          • I’m not sure Supreme Court decisions several centuries later are necessarily a good guide to what the original Framers intended

            But they’re a good guide to how the constitution is interpreted now, which is all that would matter to me if I wanted to invoke it to make an argument.

            Why should they?

            Why shouldn’t they? What’s so special about marriage? (But if you want to discuss specifics, you’ll need to specify which specific “privileges” you’re talking about; it isn’t as though I’ve looked up a list. I might well think some of them are silly or shouldn’t be relevant in the first place. For example, I seem to recall someone mentioning estate taxes as an issue, but my opinion is that they should be outlawed, which would make the question of how they should be applied to non-married or gay marriage couples moot.)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            But they’re a good guide to how the constitution is interpreted now, which is all that would matter to me if I wanted to invoke it to make an argument.

            If the Constitution is nothing but what nine men can twist it into saying, why is disagreeing with it such a big no-go area?

            What’s so special about marriage?

            Bringing the next generation of people into the world, and raising and socialising them to be good citizens.

            (But if you want to discuss specifics, you’ll need to specify which specific “privileges” you’re talking about; it isn’t as though I’ve looked up a list. I might well think some of them are silly or shouldn’t be relevant in the first place. For example, I seem to recall someone mentioning estate taxes as an issue, but my opinion is that they should be outlawed, which would make the question of how they should be applied to non-married or gay marriage couples moot.)

            Tax breaks, freedom from inheritance tax, hospital visiting rights, and so on.

          • If the Constitution is nothing but what nine men can twist it into saying, why is disagreeing with it such a big no-go area?

            “Twist” seems unnecessarily pejorative. But in any case you’d need to ask an American.

            Bringing the next generation of people into the world, and raising and socialising them to be good citizens.

            But you don’t have to be Officially Married (TM) in order to do any of those things, so it is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

            Tax breaks:- you’ll need to be still more specific. (Here in New Zealand there are no tax advantages to being married that I’m aware of, certainly not for the typical household. In fact I’m told that getting married originally disadvantaged two-income couples, though that was before my time.)

            There have been proposals that couples should be allowed to split their income for tax purposes rather than each paying taxes based on their own income. Is that the sort of thing you’re thinking of? (If they had been implemented here, they’d almost certainly have applied to de-facto and civil union couples as well as the Officially Married.)

            Freedom from inheritance tax:- I mentioned this one before; IMO, nobody should have to pay inheritance tax as it is manifestly unjust.

            Hospital visiting rights:- IMO, you should absolutely have visitation rights to your SO regardless of marital status, with the only obvious complication being providing evidence of your relationship. But I’m not sure I understand why visitation needs to be restricted at all; are you talking about people in comas or something?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            “Twist” seems unnecessarily pejorative. But in any case you’d need to ask an American.

            It is indeed pejorative, but not, I think, unnecessarily so. When the Supreme Court argues with a straight face that growing crops for consumption on your own farm counts as “inter-state commerce”, “twisting” is quite a reasonable description of what they’re doing.

            But anyway, you originally said:

            I mean, if I was trying to make that argument, I suppose I could blither something about the separation of church and state as being essential to a free society, perhaps point at the US constitution, that sort of thing.

            –as a reason why you might think that supporting a law for religious reasons was bad. But if the constitutional argument just boils down to “Nine individuals don’t like people supporting laws for religious reasons,” then frankly, why should we care what these nine individuals think? What authority do they have to dictate which motivations are and aren’t acceptable?

            But you don’t have to be Officially Married (TM) in order to do any of those things, so it is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

            Marriage is uniquely geared towards those things, which is why the government recognised it in the first place.

            I’m afraid I can’t be more specific about tax breaks, because (a) I don’t know anything about the US tax code, and (b) most of the people agitating for gay marriage are pretty vague about the matter, presumably because they realise that talking about the minutiae of tax regulation is a pretty good way to get people’s eyes to glaze over, and they don’t want that for obvious reasons.

          • But if the constitutional argument just boils down to “Nine individuals don’t like people supporting laws for religious reasons,” then frankly, why should we care what these nine individuals think?

            Nine experts, at the very top of their profession, working on the basis of over two hundred years of precedent. If I were arguing with someone who doesn’t like them, I guess I’d have to abandon that line of approach. But it doesn’t seem to me to be an inherently poor argument.

            Marriage is uniquely geared towards those things

            Official Marriage (TM) no more so than the unofficial sort, IMO. YMMV.

    • Lumifer says:

      I have a number of gmail accounts and only one of them is associated with a phone number (or another email). Google tries to trick you into giving them your mobile number on a regular basis, but so far when told to fuck off it fucks off.

      Of course these are pseudonymous accounts, not anonymous.

  40. Elias says:

    What do you think are some attributes that make you an unlikely SSC reader? Any other NCAA athletes out there fanatically pursuing their sports?

    Also, has Scott publicly deliberated over whether supporting Gary Johnson is a good idea or not this election?

    • Two McMillion says:

      To clarify, you’re taking a poll about what attributes people think ought to put them outside the demographic of SSC readers?

      • Elias says:

        It’s not as formal as a poll, but yes. I’m curious what attributes people think are uncommon amongst SSC readers/ LW etc. I’m wondering if them not “fitting in” makes them less inclined to interact with the SSC community, and if so Anonymous commenting might be useful in not thwarting such voices.

        • Two McMillion says:

          Well, I’m a fundamentalist evangelical Christian. I doubt I’m the only one, but I can’t imagine that’s common in LW circles.

        • Trying it out says:

          I have three kids, which I have been assuming isn’t the norm here, but I guess I don’t actually know.

          I’m also experimenting with anonymous posting on this comment.

        • Trying it out says:

          I have three kids, which I have assumed isn’t the norm here, but I don’t really know.

          Apologies if this comes up twice; I’m trying out an anonymous post.

    • I’m female and over 60, which at least makes me demographically unusual.

  41. Cord Shirt says:

    I think some named users are posting more controversial comments anonymously. I’d like to request people not do this, because I IP ban anonymous accounts on a hair-trigger, and if I IP ban your anonymous account then your real account also suffers. I think this is why a lot of people’s posts haven’t been showing up lately. I try to take people’s past history of posting interesting things into account before I ban them for a single violation, but if you’re anonymous I can’t do that and you’re kind of out of luck.

    Welp, I can see the writing on the wall here. 🙁

    Scott, I really think this is a warning sign.

    I think people are doing this because your behavior has convinced them you will ban them for expressing an opinion on a controversial topic.

    People generally make predictions about others’ behavior on an “actions speak louder than words” basis. You can *say* “Oh, well, you’ll actually have more chance of avoiding banning by not posting anonymously,” but your *behavior* has already convinced them otherwise.

    Similarly, your past behavior has made me hesitant to state the fact that :deep breath: if you ban anonymous commenting by requiring registration by e-mail, I won’t be able to post, since I don’t have an e-mail I’m willing to associate with comments here.

    Why am I hesitant? Because you talked about the “little list” you’ve got of people you actively look for the flimsiest possible excuse to ban. You said that. And your banning behavior supports it. I’m afraid I may already be on that list, and if I am, then obviously what I just said won’t discourage you from requiring registration, it’ll only encourage you.

    Yes, I know, you (ISTM) intended to “charmingly admit a human foible” when you said that. But actually…actually, you have power, and when someone with power says something like that, it stops being charming and turns into a threat. (See also, Deborah Tannen on how differently the same remark is received depending on whether it’s seen as coming from a peer vs. from someone with power over the hearer.)

    ISTM the root problem in all this is that you’re more comfortable seeing yourself as “just some guy,” even as your blog posts earn you more and more respect, even as more and more people come to value the community that has grown up here…IOW, even as you gain more and more power over more and more people. You have power, and you’re not using it deftly or tactfully, and ISTM that’s because you’re in denial about even having it at all.

    …whatever, JMO.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      @Cord Shirt – “Similarly, your past behavior has made me hesitant to state the fact that :deep breath: if you ban anonymous commenting by requiring registration by e-mail, I won’t be able to post, since I don’t have an e-mail I’m willing to associate with comments here.”

      …why not just use a burner hotmail account? There’s no way I’d be willing to attach any of my actual email addresses to this handle, but a burner would be fine for me.

      “I’m afraid I may already be on that list, and if I am, then obviously what I just said won’t discourage you from requiring registration, it’ll only encourage you.”

      I have read every comment in every open thread for the last two years, and I would be willing to bet a hundred dollars that you aren’t on the short list. I don’t really understand why you think you would be; I mean, I believe you that you do, but I’m pretty sure that your belief is not accurate.

      • Cord Shirt says:

        “…why not just use a burner hotmail account?”

        An anon explained.

        I hardly expect the world to end tomorrow, but I *am* a small business owner, and so out of an abundance of caution…

        “I don’t really understand why you think you would be”

        You…want me to lay out a case for Why Scott Should Want To Ban Me? 😉

        Since you’ve read all the open threads, you may remember this.

        IOW, it’s because of how unpredictable I find his banning decisions. And the fact of even having a list, as explained in the previous comment.

        Like. Maybe we want to keep people with diverse opinions and perspectives here instead of banned so that we can talk with and learn from them. But if, in order to keep them here and not banned, we have to chill them to the point that they never *express* the more unusual/eccentric of their opinions and so we can never even *hear* let alone *discuss* them…well then what good does that do?

        I mean, but maybe we *don’t* want to keep people with diverse opinions and perspectives here instead of banned? If so, I mean, it’s Scott’s blog, he can do what he wants…*but* that *is* what I came here for.

        And it really does seem like the diversity of backgrounds has been dropping–as in, mean inferential distance has been reduced, not through everyone learning from each other but instead through banning the people whose backgrounds were too different from the majority’s.

        S4stan the veteran with extended family from the middle east who summarized his upbringing as “home schooled in foreign countries by adherents of a weird cult.” D3iseach the Irish Catholic philosopher of religion. Dividualist the geekily sincere Euro-atheist on a quest to integrate his “secular reasons to respect religion” into his life. The people who’ve been banned are people whose background and resultant worldview was different enough from the majority’s here to make them (IMO) interesting and worth learning from.

        And, I think, different enough to increase the likelihood of the kind of cultural clashes that may have led to their bannings…but…I just…had thought we were trying to prevent that result.

        Guess I agree with the others, it really depends on what Scott decides are his goals for the blog.

        • Montfort says:

          Cord Shirt, when you say the bans are unpredictable, can you elaborate a bit? Because, for instance, one of the people you mention was banned for posting (among other things) “FUCK YOU TOO AND THE HIGH HORSE YOU RODE IN ON”, which to me looks like an easily-predicted ban.

          Anyway, intellectual diversity, in the narrow sense of “many commenters here believe different and unusual things” is not, by itself, what’s valuable here – in my opinion, obviously, but I think maybe you would agree. It’s easy to imagine such a place where just about every post is something like “typical green tribe hubris…” or “people like you should be exiled.” Another key component of the community here is that it’s a place where people can post their opinions and get a reasoned counter-argument back, or something polite, at least, not content-less fury or insults.

          In a perfect world, we would have high diversity and high charitable-engagement, but as you can see, sometimes contributors to the former interfere with the latter, and vice versa.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Montfort
            Because, for instance, one of the people you mention was banned for posting (among other things) “FUCK YOU TOO AND THE HIGH HORSE YOU RODE IN ON”, which to me looks like an easily-predicted ban.

            Iirc, the only reason that Scott gave was that she had attacked a polite opponent along with a harsh opponent whom he banned at the same time.

          • Montfort says:

            houseboat, the only person she attacks in that post (ban announced here) is the same one the “FUCK YOU” is directed at, who was not later banned. She does attack the other banned one (I know who you mean) in the same thread, but not in the post Scott replied to with the ban notification.

            Downthread I’ve seen mentions of Steve Johnson, who would qualify as unpredictable. (I’m tempted to say that Steve Johnson’s eventual ban was probably anticipated by some, but even if that’s true, it wasn’t foreseen by most, and definitely not the timing of it).

          • Cord Shirt says:

            See my reply to onyomi.

            Frex note the “too” in the example you gave–“Fuck you *too*” is very obviously a response to provocation. Why does provocation matter for most other angry comments but not that one?

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Montfort
            houseboat, the only person she attacks in that post (ban announced here) is the same one the “FUCK YOU” is directed at, who was not later banned. She does attack the other banned one (I know who you mean) in the same thread, but not in the post Scott replied to with the ban notification.

            Thank you for the links. Apparently I was conflating two or more of D’s comments. Scott seems to have considered at least two of them to support the same ban; see his later comment at
            https://slatestarcodex.com/2016/06/14/three-more-articles-on-poverty-and-why-they-disagree-with-each-other/#comment-372693
            Apparently I mis-remembered Scott’s reason for favoring Al…s over Xe…s: on re-reading, it seems to have been about Al…s’s topic rather than tone.

          • Montfort says:

            Cord Shirt, thanks. I disagree on some of the details (“looking for an excuse” could plausibly mean “this commenter has a bad history,” I don’t think provocation really counts for much in his decisions, or else he’s looking for a high level of provocation), but at least that seems more understandable now.

            You could take the “too” as proof of “provocation”, but you have to consider whether the post she was responding to is adequate provocation for that kind of response. A—-‘s opinion was expressed in fairly reasonable terms.

            Houseboat, yeah, that one seems to be what people remember most of the exchange.

        • onyomi says:

          “But if, in order to keep them here and not banned, we have to chill them to the point that they never *express* the more unusual/eccentric of their opinions and so we can never even *hear* let alone *discuss* them…well then what good does that do?”

          I’ve never seen anyone get banned just for expressing a weird opinion politely. Nearly all the bans I’ve ever seen on here have been for simple rudeness. There are a few exceptions with opinions like “all women secretly want to get raped,” but well, if you want to express an opinion like that in a place that values “niceness, community, and civilization,” I think you have to be prepared to walk on eggshells a bit.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            “I’ve been looking for an excuse to ban you for awhile” = the only reason the person was banned was for rudeness?

            Not for getting on the “I’m looking for an excuse to ban you” list and then being the kind of “rude in response to provocation” that Scott usually lets pass?

            I’m not even the first person to say this.

            Scott says he usually takes provocation into account. With the bannings, he suddenly…doesn’t. The result is that these comments are indistinguishable from many others that were let pass. This makes it hard to be sure what is and isn’t acceptable.

            Or…they’re indistinguishable in degree of rudeness. There does seem to be one pattern in who gets banned: They tend to be socially conservative, economically what-the-US-calls-liberal or both. It may be just an issue of “Scott’s less aware of what even is provocation to a social conservative / economic liberal,” or even just, “A post is more likely to get reported to Scott if its author is a social conservative / economic liberal”…

            But it winds up giving the impression that expressing socially conservative and/or economically US-liberal opinions is what gets you on the list.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Cord Shirt – I stand corrected, both on the burners and on your worries. : / …good luck, eh?

    • Tedd says:

      … Why do you think this? There is a registry of bans (for named bans, mind, not anons). Does it really give the impression that people are getting banned merely for expressing controversial opinions, as opposed to expressing opinions of any degree of controversial in an exceedingly obnoxious way? (With the sole exception of Steve Johnson.)

      It is also a very short list at 59 total bans, given that there are in excess of a thousand comments a week these days. Let us be generous and suppose that an even dozen of those were for an opinion and not its expression. Given that there are well in excess of 120,000 comments on SSC across all posts, this means that a comment needs to be in the top 0.01% of controversy among the already highly controversial commentariat here to warrant a ban. Frankly, you’re not that special.

      • Anonymous says:

        The list is not exhaustive. And the reasons for the ban are often somewhat vaguely worded (“for a general posting style exemplified by this thread”) or not specified at all. This doesn’t inspire confidence.

        • Tedd says:

          The registry includes almost all named bans and generally links to comments which are quite clearly uncivil or otherwise bad, not merely controversial. If you don’t think this is so, you ought to give some reason or examples of why you think as you do.

          • Nornagest says:

            Given that you’re talking to an anon, I reckon “named” is the sticking point here.

          • Tedd says:

            @Nornagest, OP’s concern was specifically that named posters would face censorial bans, so… .

          • Anonymous says:

            It also lists Steve Johnson being banned for literally no reason:

            Steve Johnson is banned for reasons of total personal caprice. Let it be known that he has not broken any rules and the ban is not his fault. Also, this is the beginning of a Reign of Terror. Govern yourselves accordingly.

            This doesn’t inspire much confidence either.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            I mean, we’ve been under the reing of terror for like one year now, it probably doesn’t get a lot more terrifying.

          • Tekhno says:

            When does the Thermidorian Reaction start?

          • Cord Shirt says:

            I mean, a Thermidorian Reaction is exactly what I’m worried about. I’ve been online long enough to have seen those before. :shrug:

      • Cord Shirt says:

        What Anonymous said:

        The list is not exhaustive. And the reasons for the ban are often somewhat vaguely worded (“for a general posting style exemplified by this thread”) or not specified at all.

        “You’re not that special.”

        Eh, that’s what people always tell themselves so as to dismiss their worries. Worries that, in my experience, often actually turn out to be founded.

        I agree that it’s often appealing to reassure oneself with that thought, but IMX it’s also usually a mistake. I’m with Gavin de Becker: If you’re worried, there’s a reason.

        • Tedd says:

          “I am worried that you will do a thing I have absolutely no evidence to suggest you will do other than my worry itself” is not a persuasive argument. If you have a reason, what is it?

          In particular, you said several things:

          You can *say* “Oh, well, you’ll actually have more chance of avoiding banning by not posting anonymously,” but your *behavior* has already convinced them otherwise.

          And your banning behavior supports it.

          which suggests you have some reason to believe that named posters are at risk of bans merely for expressing controversial opinions, and I’m wondering what that reason is. The fact that you are worried cannot itself be a reason for you to be worried.

          • Jiro says:

            This was a blatant case of banning by putting arbitrary restrictions on someone that can’t be followed with 100% accuracy by a normal human being, so Scott has an excuse to ban him when he doesn’t follow them.

            And this was Scott admitting he was looking for an excuse to ban someone.

            And the Steve Johnson ban was already brought up.

          • Tedd says:

            John Sidles’ comments practically jumped off the page with their unusual formatting; it’s a little disingenuous to call this “can’t be followed with 100% accuracy by a normal human being”. Moreover, I gather he’s now posting again under a different handle while respecting Scott’s “please format your comments in a reasonable way” restriction, and has not been subsequently banned.

            That comment is not the only place Scott has said he harbors personal dislikes, but given the comment which earned the ban, I don’t think this is any evidence in favor of the proposition that you can be banned merely for expressing controversial opinions.

            I mentioned Steve Johnson in my original post, and accept that his ban is nonzero evidence that you can be banned just for expressing controversial opinions sufficiently often. But, given the sheer volume of comments here, and that it is the only such ban in the multiple-year lifetime of this blog (and how long Steve Johnson posted before getting banned, and his posting behavior in general), I’d expect someone expressing a belief as strong as the OP’s to have at least some other reason.

          • Nornagest says:

            Moreover, I gather he’s now posting again under a different handle while respecting Scott’s “please format your comments in a reasonable way” restriction, and has not been subsequently banned.

            Has, actually — he returned under a filtered handle that starts with “LWN”, and was banned by Scott here on “strong suspicion that he is John Sidles”.

            I’m fairly confident that both Ilyushechka and Uncle Ilya Kuriakin are the same person. He changed names and emails here, but you can see the continuity of style and even of argument. Not sure why; “Ilyushechka” is not a filtered phrase, which points against a third ban, but then again neither is “John Sidles”. Think there was some time as a B&W anon somewhere in there, too.

          • Jiro says:

            John Sidles’ comments practically jumped off the page with their unusual formatting; it’s a little disingenuous to call this “can’t be followed with 100% accuracy by a normal human being”.

            Scott’s description of what John was not permitted to do could be violated either in obvious ways that could reasonably be avoided, or in unobvious ways that could not. It so happened he violated it in an obvious way, but the proscription was broad enough to cover a lot more.

            Analogy: Someone is constantly referring to “the Jews”. Scott tells him “if you post anything containing the word ‘the’, you will be banned.” He posts another rant about “the Jews” and is banned. Was that a fair reason to ban him? The actual behavior that resulted in the ban was a fair reason to ban him, but the broad rule under which it fell is likely to trip people up.

            That comment is not the only place Scott has said he harbors personal dislikes, but given the comment which earned the ban, I don’t think this is any evidence in favor of the proposition that you can be banned merely for expressing controversial opinions.

            It doesn’t mean you can be banned merely for expressing controversial opinions, but it does mean that expressing controversial opinions can lead you to be banned for other things that would be otherwise allowed. Even though the ban isn’t directly for controversial opinions, it still has the same chilling effect as if it were.

        • Anonymous says:

          I don’t understand this comment.

        • another anonobot says:

          I’m with Gavin de Becker: If you’re worried, there’s a reason.

          I think there’s a rather obvious tautology here. If you’re worried then you must have good reason to be, assuming your sense for these things is working properly — i.e., that you’re not just paranoid. But saying that your concern is justified, given that you know you’re not paranoid, is begging the question.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            Gavin de Becker’s argument is that if you’re worried there’s *a* reason, not necessarily a *good* reason. 😉 IOW you’re noticing *something*. Then you do have to look into it, figure out what you’re noticing and whether you’ve done enough to address it etc.

            De Becker’s argument is that you should *do that* investigation rather than immediately reassuring yourself with “Oh I’m not that special” or etc.

            Think of the two opposing adages in medicine: “If you hear hoofbeats, think zebras, not horses,” vs. “Patients can have as many diseases as they please.” De Becker says sure, first think horses…but if you keep getting signs that it’s a zebra…freaking well investigate them. Don’t just keep reassuring yourself that since horses are more common, it’s *got* to be a horse.

            As far as my own needs go, I can handle that investigation just fine. This thread really isn’t about me. Rather, I’m using myself as an example of someone who’s been chilled out of contributing more to the discussions here. I’m an example of a way some people are reacting to Scott’s past modding patterns. I believe the increased frequency of [word on the list]s is a sign that others are also reacting this way. What Scott does with this info is up to him.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            [That author]’s argument is that if you’re worried there’s *a* reason, not necessarily a *good* reason. 😉 IOW you’re noticing *something*. Then you do have to look into it, figure out what you’re noticing and whether you’ve done enough to address it etc.

            [That author]’s argument is that you should *do that* investigation rather than immediately reassuring yourself with “Oh I’m not that special” or etc.

            Think of the two opposing adages in medicine: “If you hear hoofbeats, think zebras, not horses,” vs. “Patients can have as many diseases as they please.” [That author] says sure, first think horses…but if you keep getting signs that it’s a zebra…freaking well investigate them. Don’t just keep reassuring yourself that since horses are more common, it’s *got* to be a horse.

            As far as my own needs go, I can handle that investigation just fine. This thread really isn’t about me. Rather, I’m using myself as an example of someone who’s been chilled out of contributing more to the discussions here. I’m an example of a way some people are reacting to Scott’s past behavior. I believe the increased frequency of anons is a sign that others are also reacting this way. What Scott does with this info is up to him.

        • SP says:

          Maybe Scott should institute a year of Jubilee. After seven years of internet time, all SSC bans are lifted. Of course, if these people misbehave again upon the lifting of the ban they should be banned again, but they get to look forward to reintegration into the community during the next year of Jubilee.

    • Viliam says:

      The paradox of censorship is that the less censorship there is, the more people complain about censorship.

      As a big natural experiment, you can probably take any post-communist country. A few decades ago, people were afraid to speak their minds about almost anything, because it could have cost them their jobs, maybe even their freedom or their lives in the more serious instances. So they were quiet. Today, people complain on facebook about how in the evil capitalism they have no freedom of speech… not realizing that expressing the same kind of criticism about the society the few decades ago would get them (and their families!) into big trouble, while today no one cares unless they start posting e.g. some Nazi stuff, and even then usually no one cares.

      Analogically, the mere fact that the owner of the website bans someone for repeatedly breaking the rules, and then people publicly complain about how that was unfair, how the person contributed to diversity or whatever, and how now they are afraid to talk here anymore…

      Uhm, if you would be really afraid to talk, then you probably wouldn’t. At least this is what most people do in situations with real censorship.

      • Cord Shirt says:

        That argument seems like it’ll lead you to dismiss any concerns that people might consider important enough to take risks to express.

        In fact I actually do post a whole hell of a lot less than I write due to the chilling effect of Scott’s banning patterns. I’ve already said so on an earlier open thread. (‘Course that gives you an opening to assert that I’m just paranoid so there *still* isn’t any actual problem…)

        I actually like this community and don’t want to see it implode as I’ve seen others implode in my quarter-century on the internet–some risk-taking is called for.

        But sure, I’ll give your analogy a shot: Multiplying anons here is a warning sign akin to increasing amounts of samizdat. People want to share their thoughts. Not everyone who self-publishes is doing it because they feel it’s a *safer* way to share their thoughts, and neither is every anon. But a sudden increase in self-publishing, or in anons, can be a warning sign that people feel increasingly unsafe sharing their thoughts in more traditional ways.

      • Anonymous says:

        today no one cares unless they start posting e.g. some Nazi stuff, and even then usually no one cares.

        I live in a post-communist country and that is false. Promoting Nazism and/or communism is a big deal here, in several European countries it is literally a criminal act, and relatively few people apart from neo-Nazis themselves seem upset about it (Germany is particularly infamous for it; my perception is that the overwhelming majority of complaints are about banning Nazi symbolism from video games). Hell, we don’t even have negative commercials in my country, never mind more controversial examples of pushing boundaries in freedom of speech. The “not even the Nazis should be denied speech” mindset is a distinctly American thing.

    • Liskantope says:

      if you ban anonymous commenting by requiring registration by e-mail, I won’t be able to post, since I don’t have an e-mail I’m willing to associate with comments here.

      I’d appreciate some clarification: is there an easy way for anyone who views our comments, even Scott himself, to find the email addresses connected to our pseudonyms? I don’t really want to associate my comments here with my email either…

      • Lumifer says:

        Scott, as well as anyone with sufficient access to logs, obviously knows the emails.

        Other than than, you have a custom gravatar image, which implies that you registered your email with Gravatar, which is potentially a trace to be followed.

        I also suspect that sufficiently interested (or sufficiently bored) people can brute-force the auto-generated gravatar images which are basically hashes of emails.

        ETA: An interesting discussion of Gravatar and privacy.

  42. Harkonnendog says:

    Culture evolves so quickly and privacy is already so fragile, let anons be anons, warts and all. Posts are forever. Letting people post without having to worry about a comment being used against them years from now is good. Maybe you could allow a few of the older, more respected members carry some of the burden of moderation?

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      Forget “years from now”. People are being purged for things they said that were perfectly respectable months ago, or posting eggplant emojis that were later declared problematic by Jezebel.
      If you post under your real name, you’re fucking insane.

      • BBA says:

        Forgive me for thinking this might be hyperbole, but can you give some examples of these recent purges? (Yes, I already know all about Brendan Eich.)

        • JDG1980 says:

          Here’s a thread about someone who was banned from Github for an eggplant emoji.

        • Homo Iracundus says:

          Girls who wear Three Blind Mice Halloween costumes getting investigated and disciplined by Bias Response Teams?
          Does news of that not percolate to your part of society? Or is it just normal now, and part of the whole “political correctness just means Basic Human Decency” meme?

          • FWIW, according to Campus Reform, the University in question denies that there was any investigation or disciplinary action. So it seems somewhat short of a “purge”.

            Insane nonetheless.

  43. Jill says:

    I don’t really understand why some people are so attached to Anonymous handles. Why don’t they just call themselves something else, since there are too many anonymice to keep track of? It’s easy enough to put an animal name or whatever, Coyote or something.

    Then people could have a continuing conversations with you if they wanted. Or they could avoid reading your comments e.g. if you are one of those control freaks who demands that other people in discussions dig up all kinds of particular facts that you are interested in, just because you commanded them to, because you think that others exist just for the purpose of satisfying your demands.

    • Anonymous says:

      there are too many anonymice to keep track of

      This is almost the entire point of using an Anonymous handle. Judge the post, not the poster.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        No good, as anonymice attempt to have stateful conversations where they ask and answer questions, etc.

        The only thing a truly anonymous handle is good for is one off posts, and I think that is against the spirit of this site.

        • Anonymous says:

          No good, as anonymice attempt to have stateful conversations where they ask and answer questions, etc.

          Why? You can just answer the question. It’s a public discussion anyway, so it doesn’t matter that much whom the answer reaches. If the original poster doesn’t want to read it, it’s their problem.

          Well, unless you want to ask a question which only the anonymous poster can answer. But then, they probably doesn’t want to maintain an identity precisely because they don’t want to answer such questions.

          I think that is against the spirit of this site.

          “Charity over absurdity”? I don’t see how.

          • Nicholas says:

            It doesn’t work because WordPress doesn’t support the >> inline post citations. If Anonymous is commenting on Anonymous’ rebuttal to one of Anonymous’ points, then it sometimes becomes very unclear which person he is engaged in dialogue with.

        • LPSP says:

          It’s no problem for 4chan.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      @Jill – “I don’t really understand why some people are so attached to Anonymous handles.”

      This article is the best answer to your question that I’m aware of. Note that my handle is a variant of “anonymous coward”, since there was already an Anonymous Coward here when I started posting; both names are variations on Anonymous. Numerous other posters here use similar variations, all of which track back to the same handful of sources.

      • I nominate the link about 4chan as the most interesting link I’ve seen in a while– it’s about the advantages of a social group where there are no identities and no possibility of being shamed.

        Not that I’m doing the work, but I wonder whether the tone of the place would be improved by adding a wider range of insults.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Nancy Lebovitz – Ha! glad someone read it! You might check out some of Kazerad’s other articles on that same blog; they wrote a lot about being rational, and the upsides and downsides to group manipulation. Very thoughtful, very charitable, a generaly-social-justice-adjacent writer talking about maintaining honesty and decency and how individuals can and should fight against abusive group behavior.

          “Not that I’m doing the work, but I wonder whether the tone of the place would be improved by adding a wider range of insults.”

          ham doctor is always an option.

          I used to hang out there a lot; I quit mainly because it was too much of a time sink, much like reddit. In my experience, though, once you’re in Anon mode, the tone is just fine. There is no you to insult, after all. Everyone is a [redacted] [redacted] [redacted] [redacted] equally. It’s really a hell of a thing.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            I read it back when you linked it on Ozy’s blog. 😉

            The thing about what kazerad describes is, say that I really like something, so as an anon I comment that I do. And all the other anons pour scorn on it, as mentioned in the article. Kazerad says, no problem, I can just become another anon and claim I never liked it. But–I still did like it…and what I really wanted was not to “agree with the group on what to like,” but rather…to *find someone else who also likes it.* In that case being an anon doesn’t help me.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Plus, the last bit about “scapegoating” 4chan makes no sense. Like, literally none.

            Anything horrible that happens on 4chan isn’t happening as a way to scapegoat 4chan, it’s precisely one of the things that 4chan is intended to enable. He is just redescribing the exact same features which he praises as liberating earlier and then saying people are “scapegoating” 4chan.

            That looks a lot like a “No true 4channer” argument.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Cord Shirt – “And all the other anons pour scorn on it, as mentioned in the article. Kazerad says, no problem, I can just become another anon and claim I never liked it. But–I still did like it…and what I really wanted was not to “agree with the group on what to like,” but rather…to *find someone else who also likes it.*”

            …But if other anons pour scorn on it, they have no identity to enforce that scorn. There’s no way to verify that the replies you’re getting aren’t just one edgelord sockpuppeting like mad, for instance. The scorn they give matters or doesn’t matter to the exact extent you want it to. On the balance, I think being anon reduces the social barrier to making connections to people on a similar wavelength, and it’s a lot less scary to stand up for your opinions even if there’s no one else. There’s no real consequences whatever you do, so the absolute worst thing that can happen is you decide to shut up or leave, so let your freak flag fly.

            @HeelBearCub – “Anything horrible that happens on 4chan isn’t happening as a way to scapegoat 4chan, it’s precisely one of the things that 4chan is intended to enable.”

            Whether something horrible is happening on 4chan is the question. a bunch of Anons deciding to raid somebody is one thing. A person sock-puppeting as a bunch of anons claiming a raid is in progress when none exists is another thing, and sock-puppeting to try to draw participants into a raid they’ve organized separately is a third thing.

            My understanding is that *chan-Anon culture has largely turned against raiding post-Project Chanology. You still have groups like /baphomet/ that exist to organize harassment, but they’re a subculture all their own that’s actively hostile to anyone and anything not themselves. During The Ants, you had numerous cases of anons singly attempting to initiate raids within the culture, and the collective massively shouting them down and/or sabotaging their ability to spread their message. That’s about the clearest signal you can get that the community as a whole is siding against mob action without demanding that the community dissolve itself.

            In short, the question is whether anon culture is fundamentally about harassment, and the answer appears, at the moment at least, to be no. My estimate would be that it has orders of magnitude better anti-harassment norms than, say, tumblr at this point. No one is amassing personal social capital by organizing hate of another person on the chans, tumblr doesn’t seem to have a “not your personal army” meme, nor does it have the institutional history of purging itself of raid culture that the chans do. of the two, I’d much rather deal with Anons than tumblrites in a professional capacity. I’d much rather be harassed by anons than tumblr too, come to think of it.

        • LPSP says:

          4chan truly has no tone. When it was introduced to me and I spent some time on an interest board, it took me maybe a few days to realise that the diversity and freedom of expression there is astoundingly high. Not unlimited – each board does have its own culture and certain threads *will* crop up time and again – but thus far nothing I’ve ever encountered matches it. 4chan thrashes its competitors, Reddit and Tumblr, as well as its predecessor, SomethingAwful.com. It was this that convinced me to become a regular.

      • bluto says:

        I always figured you were a fellow refugee from /.

        • brad says:

          Ah for the days when the bitter debates were free software vs open source, the trolls wanted to pour hot grits on Natalie Portman, and a five digit uid meant something.

        • Cord Shirt says:

          I read /. in a former life. I was there for Jon Katz’s “Voices from the Hellmouth” and the ensuing giant thread.

          Later, Katz wrote books about his dogs, and…boy did they cause controversy among those who use stockdogs. And some people mentioned “the friend who fixes my computer” etc. who “said Katz’s old stuff on bullying was awful too.” And others wisely nodded their heads: “We all knew Katz was horrible in every way.” (To be clear, that “friend” wasn’t me–I have no opinion on Katz.)

          …uh…

          …small world, I guess is my point.

  44. Mark says:

    Does triplebyte place in NYC or just SF? Their website doesn’t seem to say.

  45. Not Anon Anymore says:

    TRIGGER WARNING: Relationships

    Assume you’ve asked someone out x time ago. How long does x need to be (months, years) before you should ask them again? (maybe a more sharpened question would also have a ‘minimized effect of prior interaction’ clause, but let’s keep it simple and just ask if you need clarifications.)

    For specifics, it’s 3 different, 2 of them were only a few times as things shift at work while the other one was a co-worker but I left that place a year ago and didn’t really keep any contact.

    Maybe a better question is “how long until first impressions wear off”. I dunno.

    Sorry for a possibly annoying and flamebait-inspiring question and I know I’m grasping at straws.

    • Nornagest says:

      Depends on too much for me to say: how often you’re interacting with the person, how they’re interacting with you, how they reacted the last time, what’s changed in your life and theirs.

      Calling someone up out of the blue who’s previously turned you down is basically never a good idea no matter how long it’s been, but if circumstance has brought them back into your life a year later and they’re being at least a little bit flirty, you might be okay. If you’ve stayed in touch in the interim, depends, but if you have to ask the answer’s probably no. In any case, be careful. First impressions can sometimes prove wrong, but it’s uncommon to grow attracted to someone you previously weren’t.

      Oh, and could you drop the trigger warning, please? Best practice here is not to use them, whatever impression you may have gleaned from recent comments.

      • Not Anon Anymore says:

        Thanks!
        I don’t really have a number, so I might be forced to use the psuedo-stalkish plausible deniability way of arranging a possible but not guaranteed meeting. I didn’t keep in contact with them at all and it makes me curios if I’m even remembered at all and to what degree. I’ll might be ‘yet another name from x’ or might be ‘the police aren’t doing their job’.

        I can’t drop the trigger warning because there’s no edit button.

        • Nornagest says:

          From what I’m reading between the lines, then, it’s probably not a good idea. Engineering a meeting is similar to, or worse than, a cold call; circumstance as I described it has to actually be circumstantial. People can tell.

          Sorry.

          (You should have an edit window of one hour after initial posting, but WordPress sometimes likes to eat your session.)

    • Philosophisticat says:

      Unless there was some specific condition relevant to their rejection of you that you know has changed (for instance, they were in a relationship and now they are not), I think there’s very little chance that they will have changed their minds, and being asked again after already having been rejected is likely to make them uncomfortable around you even if you do it with maximum tact. I’m not sure if it’s that first impressions are particularly important, or if it’s just that impressions tend to be stable.

    • Lysenko says:

      Indefinite period of time. You should not ask again unless and until they have come back into your life on their own, and have seen fairly strong signals that their view of you has changed.

      You can attempt to game or manipulate this, but doing so A) runs a risk of making someone you apparently want in your life hostile, and B) my general suggestion is to reserve attempting to game or manipulate only people who you are already hostile towards. It is a hostile act and if detected will be reacted to as one.

    • LPSP says:

      “How long do first impressions wear off” is a pretty interesting question. If the impression you give someone is that you’re the kinda person that cares about first impressions, it’ll probably be a long time. If it isn’t, what first impression? Regardless, the first time you behave in a way that soundly contradicts the old impression is probably the first. Gotta ask yourself: would acting that way be contrived and unnatural for you?

  46. Anatoly says:

    Sam Harris on Trump (partial transcript of his podcast)

    I thought this was well-said, in particular:

    “And the core of this, the core of what bothers me about Trump, is the vacuousness of his speech. He will literally say the same thing three times in a row – and it was meaningless the first time. The problem is that the caricatures of him are true. He’ll say “It’s going to be amazing. You won’t believe how amazing it will be. It will be very, very amazing”. This is an intellectual problem. Smart people don’t talk this way. When people are speaking, they are thinking out loud. I am thinking out loud at this moment. If you listen to my podcast for a few hours you know how I think. So when people don’t make sense, it’s not like they are thinking brilliant incisive thoughts in the privacy of their minds, and then just sound like dummies when they open their mouths. Generally speaking, what you hear is what they’ve got. Yes, it’s true that not every smart person is a great public speaker. And you can find greater public speakers who are essentially just reading what some smarter person wrote. But it is significant, that Trump never manages to utter a single extemporaneous string of sentences that is deep, insightful or even interesting. This reveals something about him.

    Imagine you have an urn, and every time you reach into it you pull out another piece of junk – you just got broken glass, and zip-ties, and bits of bone – nothing of value. It might seem unlikely, but it’s not impossible that something of tremendous value is also in there. You could pull the Hope Diamond out of there, if you just keep fishing around long enough. That’s possible, because what you pull at each round out doesn’t really indicate what else is in there. Minds are not like that. Ideas are connected. The ability to reason well is transferable from one domain to another – and so is inability to reason. A desire not to seem incoherent is something that intelligent, well-informed people tend to have. When you hear someone speak at length on topics that are crucial to the most important enterprise they are engaging and all they’ve got is bluster, and bombast, and banality, strewn with factual errors, it is quite irrational to believe that there is a brilliant mind behind all of that just waiting to get out. Trump is not hiding his light under a bushel – he is all bushel.”

    • Psmith says:

      Speaking of.

      The Language Log links are good too.

    • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

      It provides a certain comfort that some things never change. It’s 2004 all over again. A gentry class out of touch with reality and unable or unwilling to exercise just a teeny tiny bit of empathy in order to even consider that Trump just might prioritize winning an election over sounding smart to Sam Harris. Allthough to Sam Harris, this is probably enough proof of one’s stupidity.

      • Philosophisticat says:

        It’s conceivable that Trump is a deeply thoughtful, intellectually curious person who has carefully and presciently cultivated this persona for decades before he sought public office, concealing his intellectual depth even to audiences that would respond to such depth favorably in order to preserve the purity of that image, and leaving no paper trail behind. Is that a more plausible explanation than “if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck…”, though?

    • E. Harding says:

      Trump’s convention speech was infinitely less vacuous than Clinton’s.

    • SilasLock says:

      I listened to this a few days ago, Sam Harris has repeated nearly the exact same speech about Trump a couple times now. It sounded so impromptu the first time I heard it, though, I giggled a little when I listened to him say the exact same thing at another outlet.

      He’s absolutely right, though. The chances that Trump is hiding a world-class genius behind all his remarks are next to none.

      • Nuclear Lab Rat says:

        World class genius? Of course not. But then, to the best of my knowledge we have never had a world class genius (say, IQ>150) as a president. My guess for Trump? About 115, ~ same as the last two presidents.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Source for ~115 for previous two?

          • Nuclear Lab Rat says:

            Sorry, ~125 rather than ~115. Those are Sailer’s rough estimates.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Ah, that’s much more believable. I’d guess that US presidents and probably a lot of national leaders in general tend to the mid 120s to mid 130s range.

          • LPSP says:

            So Bush, Obama and Trump are all about 1/100 in terms of IQ rarity? Must be something beyond that in the selection process for presidency.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            So Bush, Obama and Trump are all about 1/100 in terms of IQ rarity? Must be something beyond that in the selection process for presidency.

            Um. Yes, of course there is. Does anybody believe otherwise?

            Partial list:
            1. Desire to be President in the first place. (Rules me right out.)
            2. Conviction from early in your career that such a goal is remotely plausible.
            3. Ability to raise funds.
            4. Charisma.
            5. Height.
            6. Luck.
            7. Not yet indicted.

            Okay, I’m getting cynical. In days of yore I’d have included things like “A calling to public service” and “a spotless reputation”, but these are clearly no longer required.

          • LPSP says:

            If cynical is another word for very literal, then yes you certainly are getting cynical.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            If cynical is another word for very literal, then yes you certainly are getting cynical.

            Well, so then, what was your point? I took you to mean that such an estimate of candidate intelligence was implausible because a person with such mediocre intelligence could not possibly be selected as a candidate. My response was that intelligence was not the only, or in fact even the primary, criterion. Did I misunderstand?

        • E. Harding says:

          More likely in the upper 120s for both previous presidents.

    • Elias says:

      Am I the only one who thinks Trump seemed smarter 30 years ago? I notice that most attempts by The Internet at defending Trump involves some clip of a more unassuming and a less ostentatious Donald on some 80s talkshow. He doesn’t quite seem like the same person today as he was then.

      • Gil says:

        The idea that he’s actually at the level of his primary-type-vocabulary reading level [as an upper bound on his intelligence] is superficially comforting but has two problems. If it’s true, it reflects terribly on the vast financial and intellectual firepower that has been thus far unsuccessful at sinking his campaign.

        Second is historical precedent. He’s communicating to a different audience. Consider that in general the reading level of presidential speeches has declined consistently since the founding; likely a combination of a growing electorate and a declining level of command over the English language. Many of his rhetorical techniques match those advocated in his book. I won’t deny that talent plays a role here, but I also think it’s foolish not to believe that there isn’t any thought that goes into it.

        As far as saying that the acceptance speech was unspecific, are they comparing it to other acceptance speeches, or state of the union addresses? It seemed to me as specific as it could have been given the breadth, audience, and venue
        .

        • Winfried says:

          Someone who has come out on top of the markets, bested the GOP establishment, and runs circles around the media may not necessarily be a genius but he is certainly not a moron. Or perhaps he is just insanely lucky.

          At some point, you have to realize that he’s either a freakish outlier or that people are using proxies for competence and intelligence to judge him that are wrong, perhaps even broadly so.

      • onyomi says:

        This happened with GW Bush. There’s a pretty well-known old clip of him on Youtube debating in a Texas gubernatorial election and he seems to speak so much more knowledgeably and eloquently than he ever did as president. I think it’s a combination of: mental decline with age is more serious than people think (listen to HRC at Wellesly; it’s mostly her voice that’s changed, but really it’s a very different experience), and, more importantly, it seems like talking like this is what’s effective, arguably especially for the Red Tribe audience.

        Some have argued that Trump’s tweets, spelling errors and all, are intended to make his audience feel he’s “one of them,” and when I read them it certainly does strike me as being of the quality of “wish my old, grumpy uncle hadn’t learned how to use Facebook.”

        • LPSP says:

          On a tangential note, I’m glad to see people talking about the effect of aging on IQ. I think it’s highly underrated and misunderstood as a phenomena. That the age of our elected leaders has been growing into the elderlys non-stop should be a cause for concern. Perhaps legislation should place limits on the age of candidates, or the combined age of all officials in power?

          • Peter Lund says:

            Age limits would probably improve the general quality of politicians. So would anti-dynastic measures (you can’t be related by birth or by marriage to other politicians).

            On the other hand, Manmohan Singh seems to have done a fantastic job in India (PM from the age of 71 to 81) and Pitt the younger was an extremely competent Prime Minister of Great Britain/The United Kingdom (Chancellor of the Exchequer at 23, PM at 24).

          • Sandy says:

            Manmohan Singh was a terrible Prime Minister, although that wasn’t because of his age so much as the fact that he was largely a puppet for his party’s leadership figures. His tenure as PM was plagued by so many corruption scandals and law and order issues that by the end of it, a coalition of parochial right-wing groups including some literal fascists swept into power so decisively that Singh’s party barely managed to retain enough seats in Parliament to qualify as a national organization.

            I don’t know much about Pitt the Younger.

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      This may not apply to Trump, but repetition can be a deliberate tool in rhetoric. Sarah Palin (whom I greatly admire) used it. At first it shocked me; then I recognized her speech pattern as a common rural style for projecting one’s content through a noisy channel, as when speaking to a crowd in a wooden frame building without amplification.

      Speaking at a large rally could have the same problem. Hm, maybe that’s one reason Hillary doesn’t do large rallies; she wants to fill every moment with wonkish content, not waste time with rhetorical padding.

    • SUT says:

      Watch some videos of Angela Merkel immediately after Brexit. There is nothing reassuring – she mumbles wonkish platitudes that mean nothing to anyone who’s not an economist or market observer. What is clear to normal people by her non-verbal communication is that she has been wounded, is reeling and confused. But in public she’ll never say this – she’ll continue to to portray her mindset, in as lawyerly language as possible, as totally-knew-this-was-gonna-happen with a can’-t-lose-plan. This dissonance drives people nuts.

      Moreover, this isn’t just a problem for the German PM, but a general attitude that invaded EU-type politics. It says “Let the grown-ups handle this, all you need to know is grandma is in heaven now and is very happy”, to which people keep asking, if that’s true, and this a good thing, why are the grownups acting upset?

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        @ SUT

        Speaking of possible rule tweaks, here’s one that would not require any programming other than adding a few more words to WordPress’s existing censor list: ie fnords, and personal insults below PhD reading level.

        With programming, a line could be drawn between, say, 1 use of a fnord per 140 characters … vs 2 per 140. But no mercy toward two or more fnords in the same sentence referring to the same thing. And extra penalties for inserting a neutral word between two fnords, as in ‘mumbles wonkish platitudes’.

    • Phil says:

      http://gizmodo.com/has-donald-trump-ever-used-a-computer-1762376695

      beyond the sort of hilarious implication of this article that you might not be qualified to be president unless you’re addled with internet addiction

      in the photo, I see a desk covered with reading material

      as well as what appear to be stacks of books in the background of his office

      • The Nybbler says:

        I wonder if one of Trump’s staffers suggested this story. It’s so obviously a nothing that it appears to have been created just to talk about Trump. I mean, who cares if Trump uses a computer? I’m sure as head of the various Trump organizations he has people for all the important things most of us use a computer for, and if he becomes President he’ll still have people for that.

    • LPSP says:

      The incognisant smugness of that excerpt is killing me. I’ve had people try to insult me by calling me an IQ snob, and there is a grain of truth in that (a grain, no more), and I can’t stand the idea that because Trump is “talking less good!” than the author would have it, he is deeply wrong as a human and must never be respected. It’s that exact attitude that leads people to flock to Trump.

      Nevermind the insubstantiated claim that smart thought ==> smart words every time. If you were ever a teenager, you know that’s not always true.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        Trump is making mistakes in fourth grade level grammar — which a rich family would use at home, and normally a child would pick up proper usage from family. Also he went to good (Ivy?) schools. If he was slipping into such bad grammar in his business dealings, he would have hired people to handle that problem.

        So his tweet grammar isn’t just a grammar problem, it’s a judgement problem: sending tweets out without the usual editing.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          You’re assuming it’s a problem rather than a strategy.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            Perhaps he deliberately gave his editor the day off, or his grammar is really normal and he deliberately composed the bad grammar? Or it was normal til now, but he recently had a stroke (or something), perhaps from the strain of the campaign.

  47. Anon. says:

    Seriously people. Just stop feeding the trolls, and they will stop coming. Don’t reply when you are provoked or outraged or incensed, that is what they are looking for. Just don’t take the bait.

  48. Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

    Question: The crown I got on my tooth a little over a year ago cracked over the weekend.

    I’ve moved since getting the crown, so the dentist where I got it at is about 2 hours away. I went to a local dentist to see about getting my crown replaced and they said that my insurance won’t pay for the replacement, so I would have to pay over $1,000 out of pocket.

    I could see about driving the 2 hours to go to the original dentist, but now that I think about it, this is at least the 3rd or 4th time that this crown has broken and the original dentist has had to replace it repeatedly.

    Should I pay the out of pocket expense for (hopefully) a more robust crown, or try to get it replaced for free at the original dentist? I’m leaning towards just coughing up the $1,000 so that I don’t have to worry about my crown breaking (AGAIN) but I don’t feel like shelling over $1,000.

    Also, the new dentist at the local place is really hot.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Ask the new dentist out on a date, see if you can get to the point where s/he’ll give you discounts before the inevitable breakup? (It’s true, relationships based on tooth pain never last)

      • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

        This would be the ideal situation if I were more of a sociopath and less of an aspie.

      • Nornagest says: