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Some Groups Of People Who May Not 100% Deserve Our Eternal Scorn

Or “Contra A Convergence Of Lefty and Far-Right Twitter Making Fun Of The Same People”. I’ll mostly be using Current Affairs articles as foils, not because they’re especially bad, but because they’re especially good and well-written expressions of what many other people are saying. Sorry if this is a little snarky and maybe not 100% fair.

1. Celebrities Who Speak Out Against Donald Trump

No, celebrities are not going to single-handedly change the world. Yes, celebrities are often annoying, and almost by definition out-of-touch. Yes, a Democratic campaign needs to have some substance beyond “look, celebrities!”

But from the celebrities’ own point of view, they’re doing the best they can. If Kim Kardashian wants to help the cause, what do you expect her to do? Write policy white papers? Go door-to-door canvassing? Or would you rather she just stayed silent and didn’t do anything?

Also, I think the “out-of-touch” critique sort of misses the point. Unemployed high school dropouts aren’t going to read Paul Krugman editorials, and they might or might not go to Bernie Sanders rallies. But I guarantee they know who Kim Kardashian is. Now, maybe you don’t develop your opinions by listening to weird-looking people who seem to be famous for no reason, and maybe you’re proud of that fact. But judging by the amount of money people will pay celebrities to endorse their products, a lot of people do develop their opinions this way. And these people are probably the less-educated working-class folks whom the Democrats most need to reach.

Or maybe I’m just being classist and nobody listens to celebrities. Fine. I still think that a celebrity who speaks out about something they think is important is more virtuous than one who doesn’t. By all means criticize tone-deaf celebrities like Lena Dunham who “help” the cause by speaking up in offensive or counterproductive ways. But criticizing celebrities’ activism in general doesn’t seem like a good political strategy.

2. People Who Compare Political Events To Harry Potter

See eg here.

Comparing politics to your favorite legends is as old as politics and legends. Herodotus used an extended metaphor between the Persian invasions of his own time and the Trojan War. When King Edward IV took the English throne in 1461, all anybody could talk about was how it reminded them of King Arthur. John Dryden’s famous poem Absalom and Achitophel is a bizarrely complicated analogy of 17th-century English politics to an obscure Biblical story. Throughout American history people have compared King George to Pharaoh, Benedict Arnold to Judas, Abraham Lincoln to Moses, et cetera.

Well, how many people know who Achitophel is these days? Even Achilles is kind of pushing it. So we stick to what we know – and more important, what we expect everyone else will know too. And so we get Harry Potter.

“But a children’s book?” Look, guys, fantasy is what the masses actually like. They liked it in Classical Greece, where they had stories like Bellerophon riding a flying horse and fighting the Chimera. They liked it in medieval Britain, where they would talk about the Knights of the Round Table slaying dragons as they searched for the Holy Grail. The cultural norm where only kids are allowed to read fantasy guilt-free and everybody else has to read James Joyce is a weird blip in the literary record which is already being corrected. Besides, James Joyce makes for a much less interesting source of political metaphors (“The 2016 election was a lot like Finnegan’s Wake: I have no idea what just happened”)

Harry Potter is not the national mythology I would have chosen. Probably I would have gone for Lord of the Rings. I’m not sure we as a nation deserve The Silmarillion, but a man can dream.

But Harry Potter is at least better than some things (we could have ended out with our national consciousness being shaped by Twilight!), and the point is that comparing your politics to those of a more interesting fantasy world is a natural human urge and probably not indicative of some sort of horrible decay.

3. People Who Like Hamilton

See eg here.

Look. Hamilton was a pretty good Broadway play. It wasn’t the best thing that ever happened. It didn’t single-handedly reinvent America.

On the other hand, it’s also not the source of all evil. It’s not some sort of giant glowing tribute to national elitism where everyone gathers together and eats arugula and talks about how much they prefer symbolic gestures involving identity to actual systemic change. It’s just a pretty good Broadway play.

4. Vox

See eg here.

I think the main complaint is that “explaining the news” is fundamentally condescending. Real Americans personally read all 9,800 pages of Obamacare regulations before forming an opinion on health policy.

Or maybe the complaint is that they’re pretending to do it from an objective point of view instead of admitting that they have a liberal bias? I will take this complaint seriously when I meet any person anywhere in the world who is not aware that Vox has a liberal bias. The aboriginal people of the North Sentinel Islands have been completely isolated from the rest of civilization for thousands of years, yet every single child in their tribe knows that Vox has a liberal bias. SETI believes that if we contact aliens, we will have to determine their language through universally known truths like prime numbers or the digits of pi, but if for some reason the aliens have different mathematics than we do, we will still be able to communicate over a shared understanding that Vox has a liberal bias.

This is fine. All attempts to explain the news are going to end up with some bias, and I’m okay with this as long as they try to minimize it, present the truth as they understand it, and give more light than heat (though see here)

And that’s where my experience with Vox has been reassuring. I’ve occasionally argued with them, or made fun of them, or SHOUTED AT THEM THAT THEY ARE SPREADING DAMNABLE LIES. And every time, I’ve been impressed by their kindness, their openness to criticism, and their willingness to pay attention to me even though I can be very annoying.

Fredrik deBoer has a theory that everybody secretly hates Ezra Klein but publicly pretends to like him because he’s powerful. And I keep wanting to protest that I like Ezra Klein, before realizing that deBoer’s theory predicts I would say that. So I’ll just add that my interactions with Klein have consisted mostly of me yelling at him for being wrong about everything, and him politely listening to me. A few times he’s admitted he was wrong and promised to do better (and has). Other times he’s stuck to his position while continuing to give me way more of his time and energy than I would expect the head of a big media company to give a random and somewhat-confrontational blogger.

This has also been more or less my experience with Dylan Matthews, German Lopez, and Sarah Kliff, the other Vox people I’ve engaged with.

A year or so ago, the media got really interested in neoreaction and published a bunch of thinkpieces, all of which parroted an error-ridden Breitbart article without checking any of its claims. Dylan Matthews wanted to write one for Vox, and he actually took the trouble to contact me, an Internationally Known Expert On Neoreaction. I corrected a few of the worst Breitbart errors and gave him the email address of a couple of neoreactionaries; Matthews actually interviewed them and included their comments in his article instead of relying on third-hand speculation about who they might be. I have heard legends that ancient times there was an arcane art called Juru-Na-Lism which allowed its practitioners to gather information from the furthest reaches of the world, and although I understand it is mostly forgotten this gives me some glimmers of what it could have been like (and for an even clearer example of the same pattern, compare this and this).

Also, Stuart Ritchie is a scientist at the University of Edinburgh who studies intelligence and who makes fun of terrible articles about intelligence in the media. Vox actually worked with Dr. Ritchie to write a series of articles, and ended up with some of the only popular explanations online that someone with a psychology background can read without laughing hysterically.

I disagree with Vox about a lot of things, but they’ve generally impressed me in ways that some other news sources haven’t. Also, let’s be honest. Their competitors are places like Salon and Vice. My standards here are dirt-low, and Vox frequently meets them.

5. Matt Yglesias

Related; see eg here:

The worst of Yglesias’ mischievous endorsements of horrendous moral stances was his column on factory safety. Immediately after the 2013 collapse of the Bangladesh garment factory that killed over 1,000 people, Yglesias took to Slate to explain why workplace safety regulations actually inhibited the operation of free markets. Yglesias explained that high-risk jobs have high compensation, and just like people might choose to be lumberjacks, they might choose to work in highly dangerous garment factories for a premium. Thus “it’s good that different people are able to make different choices on the risk–reward spectrum.” The article was accompanied by a photograph of Bangladeshis loading dead bodies onto a truck.

The column was classic Yglesias, in managing to be both ignorant and appalling. Appalling since Yglesias published it the same day as the factory collapse, as the rubble was still being cleared. Ignorant because Yglesias adopted the most delusional Heritage Foundation economic myth, that somehow people in Bangladesh work in dangerous garment factories because working in dangerous garment factories is what they most want to do. As Mark Brendle summarized:

Yglesias champions one of the most horrifying and widespread implements of oppression and misery yet conceived—factories taking advantage of cheap labor, lack of environmental regulations, and a disregard for human life by those who profit most from having those factories in their countries—then pretends that it exists in a vacuum, where people in “those countries” are happy for these jobs, instead of acknowledging the closed system of the global economy, where those conditions are not only systemic, but inevitable and structural, in order for the wealth and prosperity of the “first world” to exist at all.

When confronted with this outrage, Yglesias simply wrote another explanation of why his original work was justified, admitting that his reaction to the criticism “as a writer and a human being” was annoyance. (It should go without saying that if one’s first reaction “as a human being” to being asked to show a little compassion for dead Bangladeshis is “annoyance,” then one is not a human being at all.) Here is Vox-ism in a nutshell: it is impossible to stop explaining and think, impossible to understand that there are more questions in heaven and earth than “What do the data say?” (Like perhaps, “Am I a good person?”)

One day soon, there’s going to be an Islamic terror attack in the United States, maybe committed by a refugee. The news is going to show pictures of mangled innocents, sobbing relatives, mothers who have lost their children. And maybe Current Affairs, as a good leftist publication, is going to want to say that this is terrible but doesn’t mean that we should ban all refugees or hate all Muslims.

And they won’t be able to, because they’ve already declared that if something tragic happens, then anyone who tries to put it in context, or say that some policies can have occasional awful results while still being beneficial on net, is a moral monster.

And if they try to protest that no, approximately 0% of refugees are terrorists, immigrant crime rates are lower than native crime rates, all of the fear-mongering you’ve heard is a lie, et cetera et cetera – then ah, that’s just worrying about “what the data say” – and how can you worry about something as bloodless as data when there are families literally sobbing over the deaths of their children right there?

Trump should be ultimate proof that the other side is better at the “my righteous indignation is more important than your puny data” game than you are. Don’t even try.

6. Pundits Who Failed To Predict Trump

See eg Michael Tracey in How Pundits Get Everything Wrong And Still Keep Their Jobs:

As the 2016 presidential campaign should have conclusively demonstrated, this pretense of expertise is a fabrication. Far from being especially prescient about matters of public affairs, members of the Pundit-Commentariat Industrial Complex are actually incredibly ill-suited to the task of accurately gauging the political sentiments of their own nation. By virtue of the various self-destructive pathologies that perpetually dull and distort their analytical acuity, it turns out that “pundits” are among the least qualified to accurately predict how far-off events will unfold. Surveying a random selection of Twitter trolls would probably yield one better information than scanning the output of the most revered professional prognosticators […]

For normal people, even the tiniest mistakes often result in drastic consequences. They don’t just get to ignore those failures and barrel forward as if nothing happened. And yet that’s how we permit the pundit class to operate. In the case of Bouie and Beutler, it wasn’t merely that they made erroneous predictions; anyone can mistakenly guess that something might pan out, when it does not. Rather, their entire analytical framework was drastically, catastrophically faulty. If any other American worker had performed his or her job so poorly, they could expect to receive severe sanction—docked pay, unfavorable scheduling, or termination. But in the world of punditry, there is no price to pay for failure. Instead, the American pundit class simply carries on as before, rattling off self-assured predictions about future events.

It would be really fun if I could dramatically reveal that (shock! horror!) Michael Tracey has himself been wrong about things. Alas, he admits it, saying in an earlier article, We Must Demand Pundit Accountability, that he’s made some predictive mistakes himself. For example, he wrote about Why Ted Cruz Could Win In 2016, how Chris Christie Isn’t Dead Yet and Why Jim Webb Poses The Biggest Threat To A Hillary Clinton Presidency. He asks to be judged not on these isolated mistakes, but based on his record as a whole. He provides a (self-curated) list of accurate predictions, which indeed seems very impressive.

Likewise, Current Affairs, which published Tracey’s article, has admitted that its article saying “good riddance” to Trump since he “will not be president” was a bit premature. But once again, they plead that instead of dismissing them the same way they recommend we dismiss other failed predictors like Paul Krugman and Matt Yglesias, we take into account that they also made a bunch of much better predictions, like this one in February predicting that Trump would win unless the Democrats nominated Sanders. I think it’s a good piece and proves that good punditry is indeed important; if people had listened to that maybe we’d be in a better place right now.

But there’s still a tension between their treatment of other pundits’ mistakes (proof that they’re incompetent and that the whole system must be burned to the ground) and that of their own mistakes (worth viewing in the context of a long-term record of good predictions). Might Paul Krugman and Matt Yglesias also believe they have a long-term record of good predictions? Don’t they deserve to be judged on this record instead of on a single event where they missed the mark by barely 1% of voters?

I don’t know much about Yglesias’ record, but I can speak up for Krugman. A team from Hamilton College analyzed the predictions of various pundits over sixteen months to evaluate relative performance; Krugman was judged most accurate of all twenty-six pundits studied.

The moral of the story is stop trying to draw sweeping conclusions from one data point. This also solves the problem where, having discredited everyone who predicted a Hillary victory, we determine the only trustworthy sources of political commentary to be PrisonPlanet.com, the Dilbert guy, and all 372,672 subscribers of r/the_donald.

If you’re really interested in well-founded judgments of your own accuracy relative to other people, there’s an established way to make that happen. Make specific predictions, which are clearly flagged as predictions and can’t be disavowed later. When possible, try to predict the same events as other pundits, so that you can compare accuracy. Assign a probabilistic confidence level to each. Keep track of whether each did or didn’t come true. Use some kind of scoring rule to evaluate your calibration. Then report on long-term aggregated statistics of how well you did.

I’ve been doing this for the past three years (2014, 2015, 2016). Last January, I predicted an 80% chance that Trump would lose. He didn’t. Does that mean I’m incompetent person who deserves to lose his job but won’t because he has “pundit tenure”? I don’t think so. Over the past three years I made 37 predictions that something would happen with 80% chance, and of those, thirty (81%) did happen. In other words, over the long run, the things I say have a 80% chance of happening, happen 81% of the time. I have pretty close to the exact right level of certainty in everything I say.

Of course, life would be even better if I could be 100% sure about everything and be right 100% of the time. And the great thing about this methodology is that if there’s someone else like that, they can prove that they’re better than I am. In fact, we’re trying this – over on Arbital, about a hundred people have entered predictions on the same set of sixty-one events that I did. At the end of the year we’ll check results. If other people do better than I do based on something like a Brier score, and if they can keep doing better than I do consistently, I’ll admit they’re a better “pundit” than I am and defer to their expertise.

If Robinson and Tracey want to demonstrate to the world that they are trustworthy pundits in a way that Yglesias and Krugman aren’t, I would invite all four of them to formally keep track of their predictions and see how they do relative to one another. I’m happy to help with this if they’re interested, and I bet Arbital would be too.

6.1. Pundits Who Failed To Predict Trump, Because They Are Out Of Touch With Real Americans

I think the argument is supposed to be that if they had ever left their comfortable Beltway offices and gone to talk to real people in the Midwest, they would have recognized the deep vein of anger in the American people and known that Trump was going to win.

Whoever you are, my “talking to real people in the Midwest” credentials are better than yours. I am a psychiatrist. I work in Michigan. My job is pretty much talking to former industrial workers about all the ways their lives have gone wrong, eight hours a day, every day. I am aware that these people are very angry.

But is it the level of anger where 46% of them will vote Trump? Or the level of anger where 48% of them will vote Trump? Because Hillary got about 47% of the vote in Michigan, so those two points are the difference between Trump winning the state and becoming President, versus losing the state and fading into ignominy. I do not think there is any level of deep connection to the collective consciousness of Michigan that allows you to distinguish between a 48%-Trump level of anger versus a 46%-Trump level of anger. Which means that even if you psychoanalyze Michiganders eight hours a day you still have to read the polls like everyone else. And the polls said that it was more like a 46% level of anger. And they were wrong.

But shouldn’t people who left their Beltway offices have at least realized that there was a significant amount of anger in the American people, and so Trump had a fighting chance? Yes. But all the polls also showed that there were a lot of Trump voters and that he had a fighting chance. If you were so confused that you didn’t realize that lots of people were angry and Trump had a fighting chance, I’m not sure that leaving your Beltway office would have helped much. In fact, I’m glad you didn’t. You probably would have wandered dazed into the street and gotten hit by a truck or something.

(or, if you made it to the Midwest, grain entrapment)

I guess there’s a version of this argument I endorse, which is that people who left their Beltway offices and talked to Real Americans might have realized that Trump voters were human beings with legitimate concerns and not just all alt-right Nazi KKK members. But again, if it takes a round-trip ticket to Peoria to convince our elites that people who disagree with them are not inscrutable hate-filled monsters, we have failed in a way more profound than not giving them that round-trip ticket.

7: People Who Are Worried That The Russians Hacked The Democrats To Influence The Elections

“Can you believe that the Democrats are trying to spin a narrative about foreign bogeymen out to get us?”

Okay, but did you look through the evidence that Russia was involved in the hacking? And don’t you agree it’s pretty strong?

“Yeah, but remember when the Republicans were the party of McCarthyism? And now this is totally the same thing!”

Okay, but did you look through the evidence that Russia was involved in the hacking? And don’t you agree it’s pretty strong?

“And just think, the CIA getting all upset about foreign powers interfering in an election! Pretty hypocritical, huh?”

Okay, but did you look through the evidence that Russia was involved in the hacking? And don’t you agree it’s pretty strong?

“And Hillary Clinton was such a terrible candidate, I bet it feels pretty good to be able to just blame everything on the Russians instead of admitting that you goofed by nominating her.”

Okay, but did you look through the evidence that Russia was involved in the hacking? And don’t you agree it’s pretty strong?

“There was that one guy on Twitter who posted a really cringeworthy rant about ‘game theory’. Can you believe that weirdo?”

Okay, but did you look through the evidence that Russia was involved in the hacking? And don’t you agree it’s pretty strong?

“Did I mention how funny it was that now the DEMOCRATS are the party of McCarthyism! Oooh, bogeyman Putin out to get you!”

Okay, but did you look through the evidence that Russia was involved in the hacking? And don’t you agree it’s pretty strong?

“Look, lay off, I’m not saying it’s false, I’m just saying we have more important things to talk about.”

And yet I checked your Twitter feed, and every tweet for the past two weeks has been you making fun of that game theory guy.

“I’m just saying that we’re focusing on Russia to the exclusion of everything else. Could there possibly be anything more pointlessly distracting from the real work that we’ve got to do?”

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845 Responses to Some Groups Of People Who May Not 100% Deserve Our Eternal Scorn

  1. Loiathal says:

    Re point 6: Following Nate Silver on Twitter shows just how insanely common this is. Apparently, saying Trump only have a 30% chance to win the election means every prediction you make should be ignored.

  2. johnmcg says:

    These may all be worthy of joining Laurie Penny as recipients of the “probably not the literal worst” ribbon.

    I think a thread that runs through a lot of these targets is a characteristic lack of humility.

    The Oscars flub highlights this. The industry spends the evening congratulating themselves and running down Trump. And then… they can’t even get announcing the best picture right.

    Now, this is a human mistake that can happen to anybody. But coupled with the immense self-regard, it grates.

    I don’t necessarily blame pundits for being wrong about Trump. (And I don’t necessarily blame them for being wrong about Iraq (or credit them for being right) — I think a pundit’s job is more to be persuasive than to predict).

    So you lose a game. There’s two ways to respond — say your plan and players are sound and you were screwed by the refs, or take a hard look at your roster and game plan.

    What I see a lot of these people doing is whining about the refs — that’s what a lot of the talk about the Comey letter and emails! and now the Russian panic strikes me as.

    This is kind of annoying when the LA Clippers do it. When the stakes are as high as these pundits like to say they are with the Trump presidency, it gets worse. The fate of the world is at stake, people are suffering, and you’re not willing to re-think your strategy? You don’t want to talk to those icky Trump voters? You’re not willing to tweak your approach a bit to respond to their concerns? Remind me why I’m listening to you again…..

    This doesn’t mean they’re wrong about everything. The Russian interference may indeed be concerning. But people certainly seem to be promoting this to avoid some unpleasant conversations.

  3. pyroseed13 says:

    As a frequent libertarian reader of Current Affairs, I will add my two cents:
    1. Regarding the failure of pundits, the problem is not that they were wrong but their ignorance of evidence that would lead a reasonable person to revise their prediction. Nate Silver, to his credit, at least tried to argue that there was enough uncertainty to suggest that a Trump win was not out of the realm of possibility, which if you had been reading predominantly liberal news sources, you would have been lead to believe otherwise.
    2. Regarding people who are “out of touch,” the problem was not so much that pundits failed to realize why some voters would find Trump appealing, but that they failed to recognize why Clinton was so unappealing. Trump primarily won the Midwest because a lot of Obama voters chose to stay home. There was an assumption that Trump was so awful that these voters would feel compelled to vote for the opposing candidate, and that turned out to be false.
    3. On the Russian hacking, no I don’t find the evidence very compelling. Why is it that we already two months into this Presidency and no report has been issued by the CIA regarding the Russian “hacking?” And even if they did “hack,” I’m sure what an appropriate response would be. Do we really want Trump of all people to take a more aggressive posture with Russia?
    4. I do not agree with Current Affairs that it is a near certainty that Sanders would have beaten Trump. I admit, I did feel on Nov. 8 that this was likely, because I’m fairly confident he would have held onto Michigan and Wisconsin. But would he have won Pennsylvania? Florida? Other Midwestern states that have already been trending red such as Iowa and Ohio? Would he have even won Virginia? The point is, no one really knows, because he was not the Democratic nominee, and it’s difficult for me to imagine how his history of supporting Communist regimes would not be liability in the general election.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Regarding people who are “out of touch,” the problem was not so much that pundits failed to realize why some voters would find Trump appealing, but that they failed to recognize why Clinton was so unappealing.

      I think this is a similar bias when it comes to the “Trump is a Putin puppet” narrative. It’s impossible for the pundits to imagine any reason Putin or any other interested hacker would be against Hillary. I mean, who could possibly be against Queen Hillary?! Therefore the hacking must be by Putin to benefit Trump.

      Alternative hypothesis: Putin (or someone else who wants to avoid WWIII) hacked the DNC and Hillary’s campaign to hurt Hillary, not to help Trump, and would have done the same thing if the Republican nominee had been Rand Paul.

  4. Rhand says:

    Vox is the worst. The site’s articles are very similar to partisan systematic reviews or advocacy meta-analyses in that they use an insidious mix of omissions and small lies to lead you to their viewpoint.

    The problem? You cannot refute a partisan systematic review unless you have a strong familiarity with the medical literature being discussed. Even then, it will take a much greater amount of energy to refute the bullshit than to create it, so most people don’t bother.

    I am afraid my knowledge of the world is too limited to challenge all the nonsense Vox throws at us, but I think I can come up with an example to illustrate my point.

    http://www.vox.com/2015/7/2/8884885/american-revolution-mistake

    The author states that America would be better if it had been a British colony, because of slavery being abolished earlier, less native persecution, and a parliamentary as opposed to a presidential system. Summed up, the author’s argument is:

    “Generally speaking, when a cause is opposed by the two most vulnerable groups in a society, it’s probably a bad idea. So it is with the cause of American independence.”

    The author uses a very selective history to arrive at this point. He paints the British Empire as a champion of the oppressed and vulnerable, conceding that while it wasn’t an angel, America wrought a special kind of evil because it hurt Blacks and Indians more than the British would have.

    What the author fails to state is that “divide and rule” is a standard tactic of every despot that has ever lived. And simply because it happens does not mean that the group being elevated will be better off than it would have been. The author asserts that point without evidence.

    ———

    To demonstrate my point, let’s talk about Blacks and the American labor movement. Sure, Black workers today don’t do as well as White workers. Sure, plenty of Blacks were brought in as scab labor when White workers went on strike. Does this mean the labor movement was wrong, because it was opposed by a vulnerable group of people? Does this mean that Blacks today would be better off working 70-hour weeks for lower pay?

    ———

    But we can find another, more blatant, display of the author’s intellectual dishonesty.

    The author claims that slavery was abolished a few decades earlier in the British Empire than in America. What he forgets to mention is that Apartheid existed in British colonies decades AFTER it was (de jure) ended in America, a point that completely undermines the author’s case for the British Empire being better for Blacks.

    ———

    And this really gets to the heart of what Vox does. Most people have not studied American or British history to any significant degree. Most people have not examined how empires maintain their power. This allows Vox to step in with its mix of half-truths and omissions, and dupe impressionable liberals into arriving at its conclusions.

  5. ksvanhorn says:

    “Okay, but did you look through the evidence that Russia was involved in the hacking?”

    So, is the plan to just steadfastly ignore the fact that Assange has repeatedly stated that the Russians were not the source of the emails? And that former British ambassador Craig Murray has stated that *he* delivered the emails to WikiLeaks, and that this was a *leak* from a disgruntled Democratic Party insider, not a *hack*?

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4034038/Ex-British-ambassador-WikiLeaks-operative-claims-Russia-did-NOT-provide-Clinton-emails-handed-D-C-park-intermediary-disgusted-Democratic-insiders.html

    • Brad says:

      My prior for Assange telling the truth is very low. I don’t know much about Craig Murray but the article says he’s a close associate of Assange, so …

      Also, Daily Mail.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Doesn’t WikiLeaks have a 100% record of truthfulness? On the other hand, I literally cannot remember the last time the CIA told the truth about anything. So when you have the 100% history of truthfulness WikiLeaks saying the leaks did not come from Russia, and the CIA which lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, etc etc saying it was the Russians… Given that no one has presented proof one way or the other, what makes you decide to trust the CIA and that WikiLeaks is the deceptive party here?

        • Anatoly says:

          The evidence that the DNC and Podesta were hacked does not come from the CIA, it comes from at least two independent security companies, well-respected in the business. There’s evidence (phishing emails, the bit.ly account’s logs, pieces of malware inside the DNC network) and there’s the connection that points at the same actor being behind the DNC and Podesta hacks, which makes the claim about a leak – actually given with zero evidence by a highly motivated individual – very unlikely.

          • ksvanhorn says:

            See my previous comment about the weakness of such evidence. Bottom line is that if your methods are never exposed to a reality check, there’s no reason to have any confidence in them.

            https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/02/23/some-groups-of-people-who-may-not-100-deserve-our-eternal-scorn/#comment-471720

            See also this:

            https://medium.com/@jeffreycarr/the-dnc-breach-and-the-hijacking-of-common-sense-20e89dacfc2b

            Also, Scott mentions the same evidence for Russian involvement 6 times, and mentions the counter-evidence 0 times. I thought a good rationalist was supposed to consider *all* the evidence, and not engage in cherry picking.

          • ksvanhorn says:

            “the claim about a leak – actually given with zero evidence by a highly motivated individual”

            Testimony by parties involved in an event *is* evidence. It may not be absolutely conclusive evidence, because people can lie or misremember, but it is a far cry from “zero evidence.” It’s not like Assange and Murray are random individuals with no connection to the release of the emails.

          • Anatoly says:

            >if your methods are never exposed to a reality check

            Huh? What the hell are you talking about? The DNC malware was analyzed independently by two highly respected security companies, and then was reanalyzed by several more independent security companies that confirmed the findings [example]. You’re comparing the strength of that evidence unfavorably – you’re literally saying “no reason to have ANY CONFIDENCE” – with an associate of Assange saying “trust me, it was a leak, not a hack”. This is insane.

            The two pieces by Carr you linked to are primarily critiques of the attribution of APT28’s hacks to Russian government by way of lots and lots of empty sophistry. The reports by the security companies actually list the sort of (necessarily indirect) evidence they use to assess that such and such groups are linked to such and such governments. Things like profiles of malware used, unity of command-and-control IP addresses hardcoded in them, spread of targets, coincidence of focus on a target with a particular political involvement of said target, etc. etc. It’s possible to criticize nearly all such evidence, and it’s at least a reasonable claim that perhaps even the totality of many such independent indirect pieces of evidence provides a more tenuous claim than the security companies pretend. But the pieces you link don’t deal with any of that; they basically say, since Russians will never admit it was them, to make such a claim is the same as to ask the reader to believe on faith. That’s just stupid.

          • Anatoly says:

            Also, in the context of the DNC/Podesta leaks, what many remain unaware of is that the primary group involved, “Fancy Bear”, had been claimed by researchers to be connected with the Russian state for 1.5-2 years prior to the DNC revelations. This is actually pretty important, because it shows that, while opinions may differ on how strong that claim is, at the very least it was not born in the heavily politicized and motivated atmosphere of the election. If security companies were saying “we think the DNC was breached by this group, and although nobody said that about it before, we actually believe it’s connected to the Russian government”, that would have been much more suspicious. But no, it’s a fact that the group had been claimed to be linked to Russian government before the election campaign, before the primaries, before the DNC was breached for the first time. When Carr quotes an October 2014 report about APT28 in his second Medium piece you linked, he unwittingly confirms and underscores this important fact.

          • ksvanhorn says:

            Anatoly: None of what you describe constitutes a reality check. A group of “highly respected” people who share common opinions or come to similar conclusions does not constitute a reality check. A reality check is where you test out your assessment criteria by applying them to cases where the answer is *known*, and seeing if they produce the right answer.

            By way of analogy, for decades arson investigators had a set of universally accepted criteria for determining whether a fire started accidentally or was arson. People were sent to prison or even to death row based on these assessments of “highly respected” arson investigators. But their criteria turned out to be bogus when someone finally tested them experimentally. Fires started from, say, an electrical short, produced the same burn patterns that arson investigators had long claimed were clear, unequivocal signs that an accelerant (such as kerosene poured on the floor and walls) had been used.

          • ksvanhorn says:

            Anatoly writes: “You’re comparing the strength of that evidence unfavorably… with an associate of Assange saying “trust me, it was a leak, not a hack”.”

            Not just any associate — he was the man who actually DELIVERED THE EMAILS TO WIKILEAKS. That’s a BIG difference.

            Also, I never actually compared the strengths of the two pieces of evidence. My points are that (1) assessments based on untested criteria do not constitute “pretty strong” evidence (using Scott’s phrase), and (2) that a significant piece of contrary evidence is being utterly ignored.

            I’m open to the possibility that Russian hacking may have been involved in obtaining the emails delivered to WikiLeaks, although I wouldn’t assign it more than a 30% probability. You, on the other hand, seem unwilling to consider any other possibility.

          • an associate of Assange

            Craig Murray.

            Assuming the Wiki article on him is accurate–it’s possible that he is sufficiently obscure so that he could get a friend to bias it–he has a record that suggests he might be worth trusting. He apparently got fired as British ambassador to Uzbekistan due to refusing to go along with obscuring the nature of its government. More generally, he comes across as someone unusually unwilling to bow to pressure and convention.

            It’s worth reading the account.

      • Murray sounds like an interesting fellow, at least on the basis of the Wiki piece about him.

  6. sebnickel says:

    (This probably came up in some form in the long thread about celebrities.)

    I still think that a celebrity who speaks out about something they think is important is more virtuous than one who doesn’t.

    I agree with this, but only on the assumption that they are being responsible in picking out which views to defend. And I’m not optimistic that this assumption often holds. If they are reckless in deciding what direction to exercise their influence in, then I think there are good reasons to expect their judgement to be worse than random. I also think there are good reasons to expect them to be reckless.
    Note: This is not specific to celebrities at all. Celebrities are just unusually influential, and with great power comes great responsibility, as anybody in the sudoers list will know.

    I’ll refer to Mike Huemer’s paper “In Defense of Passivity” for an actual defense of what I’m saying. Scott, if you have important disagreements with that paper, I think many people would be very interested to hear about them.

    • Deiseach says:

      The problem is not “celebrity speaks out for cause they believe in”. They have as much right as anyone does to do so.

      The problem is “celebrity in itself is presumed to be sufficient cause to sway you”.

      ‘You’re thinking of voting for Trump? Don’t you know Josh Whedon says that’s bad?’

      (Though Whedon may be a poor example, I see a lot of criticism for his poor feminist utterances/anti-feminism online).

      I don’t know if this is post-irony hipster awareness or actual ‘no really we do believe you are that dumb’ but transcript from video:

      And the only way we can prove that to you is by having lots of famous people, lots of famous people, lots and lots of famous people, just a shit ton of famous people repeating how important, important, important, important, important, important, important, how important it is

      (that you register and vote).

      I mean, it’s done in a funny, i know you know way, but the point still is: we’re famous, vote for our gal because we’re famous and we tell you to do so.

  7. daniel says:

    Well, it’s really hard to to argue when the bar is set so low. Groups of people 100% deserving of our eternal scorn are pretty rare, I think the groups mentioned aren’t getting any eternal scorn as it is. Since the title of the post is a hyperbole, what is the actual claim? that society’s level of scorn for said groups is probably larger than it should be?
    OTOH, I didn’t know about some of these trends, so thanks.

    About celebrities one may argue that they really should remain quiet about political issues. The fact that someone is a good actor (or a decent actor with a pretty face, a good agent, and stupendous luck) doesn’t suggest their opinion on policies is any better than unemployed high school dropouts.
    But as opposed to said dropouts people listen to celebrities, and they listen for the wrong reasons. Basically the celebrities are using the halo effect bias to garner more votes for their cause. Sure, this devolves quickly into a general critique of the democratic method, but this that would be decent critique to make and the fact that everybody manipulates the public doesn’t make it much more moral.
    At least in the case of candidates it’s almost their job description.

    Re Vox, surely we’re allowed to be upset with something being sub-optimal. So Vox isn’t the root of all evil, we’re allowed to make fun of how biased they are as long as they present themselves as objective reasoners, and their condescending attitude doesn’t seem to limit itself to the mission statement of explaining the news but extend to referring by default to anyone who disagrees with their analysis as hypocritical idiots (as in the terrorist-chair comparisons). Correcting themselves after the fact is cheaper than not being jerks.

    I could get on board with a claim that spending a lot of time criticizing Vox at the moment is counter productive because perfect is the enemy of good, that’s at least actionable.
    (disclaimer: I mostly know about Vox from this blog, based on old posts my image of it was very negative and is only slowly adjusting to a more positive one)

  8. Emerich says:

    What would be really interesting is a well-research story about how Russia has meddled in U.S. affairs of all sorts. Elections, yes. But also energy policy debates, defense policy, Iran negotiations, technology, science, who knows? Russian interest in U.S. politics and industry didn’t end with the conviction of the Rosenbergs.

  9. Art Vandelay says:

    I think the argument about Yglesias is pretty weak

    “And they won’t be able to, because they’ve already declared that if something tragic happens, then anyone who tries to put it in context, or say that some policies can have occasional And if they try to protest that no, approximately 0% of refugees are terrorists, immigrant crime rates are lower than native crime rates, all of the fear-mongering you’ve heard is a lie, et cetera et cetera – then ah, that’s just worrying about “what the data say” – and how can you worry about something as bloodless as data when there are families literally sobbing over the deaths of their children right there?”

    A defence of Muslims and refugees in such a situation would be inherently unbloodless because it would be based on the idea that these Muslims and refugees are real people and don’t deserve our hatred or us turning our backs on them despite their dire need because of something beyond their control.

    An equivalent argument would be “OK immigrants or refugees might kill people sometimes but they also provide very cheap labour which means you get good and services at a lower price which makes it all worth it”.

    • It sounds to me as though you are misreading the argument in defense of sweatshops. It isn’t that they provide us with less expensive goods but that they provide very poor people with jobs considerably better than they would otherwise have, even if not nearly as good as the jobs we have.

      The argument on immigration would be “yes, a few Americans may be worse off, in some cases even tragically worse off, as a result of much freer immigration, but tens or hundreds of thousands of very poor foreigners will be much better off. A closer parallel would be to start with the possibility that a few of the immigrants will be much worse off, perhaps beaten up or killed by hostile natives.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        This gets to a problem with utilitarianism– the fact that the loss to natives would be small compared to the gain for immigrants meant that it was tempting to ignore the loss.

  10. tgr says:

    In other politicized-Harrry-Potter news(*): spectacularly corrupt Hungarian politician (who asked for a 90% cut from the EU funds whose distribution he controls) insists on his collaborators addressing him as “Lord Voldemort”. Conversation gets taped by investigators; headlines become much more interesting for a while.

    (*) okay, this actually happened half a year ago, but seemed appropriate to bring up.

  11. kusterdu says:

    I’m a little confused. Is the link to the Politico article about Bannon’s reading list supposed to be an example of good journalism?

    • arabaga says:

      No, it’s supposed to be relatively bad (in contrast to the Vox article), at least with respect to MM.

      • kusterdu says:

        Oh, OK. I saw another article from that same site claiming MM was in contact with Bannon. It’s kind of ridiculous that they don’t double-check or ask for confirmation.

  12. FishFinger says:

    Is Finnegans Wake the most misspelled book title of all time?

    Last January, I predicted an 80% chance that Trump would lose. He didn’t. Does that mean I’m incompetent person who deserves to lose his job but won’t because he has “pundit tenure”? I don’t think so. Over the past three years I made 37 predictions that something would happen with 80% chance, and of those, thirty (81%) did happen.

    It would seem easy for someone to inflate such a number by making lots of “the sun will rise tomorrow” predictions. Not saying that’s what you’re doing, of course.

    • That works if the predictions are with 99.9% certainty. But if you predict the sun rising tomorrow with 80% certainty … .

      • FishFinger says:

        Well, you can instead make the annual prediction that the Summer Olympics won’t happen next year with 75% certainty. You’ll be right 75% of the time and if you throw in some more controversial predictions about politics then it won’t look as bad on your record if they fail.

        I kind of understand your point intuitively – if someone predicts that the sun will rise tomorrow with 60% certainty then he is a fool or a liar, even though technically he would never make a wrong prognosis. It makes sense to me why the certainty percentage should match the frequency of correct predictions, although I can’t articulate why.

        At the same time, if someone makes 20 predictions with 95% accuracy and 19 of them come true, then it would follow from the above that if the 20th prediction comes false it would make him a better predictor than if it comes true, and that seems absurd.

        If anyone has any reading material on this specific topic they could point me at, I’d appreciate it.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          If you can find things that are as surefire as “the sun will rise tomorrow”, but people who care about prediction calibration don’t know this, you have found a bigger secret than how to game prediction calibration.

        • At the same time, if someone makes 20 predictions with 95% accuracy and 19 of them come true, then it would follow from the above that if the 20th prediction comes false it would make him a better predictor than if it comes true, and that seems absurd.

          Why? His prediction included the probability.

          In your example he is only a little worse, since if the true probability is .95 getting twenty out of twenty isn’t very unlikely. But if he predicted with .6 probability and the prediction came true the next twenty times, you would conclude that he is a poor predictor.

  13. onyomi says:

    Regarding poor people getting their political opinions from celebrities: this seems to be bad on consequential grounds.

    Generally, though I know not all agree with me, I think uninformed people voting is a bad thing. People who are not informed would do better to stay home than to just pull a random lever or vote for whomever Kim Kardashian told them to, because their votes dilute the votes of people who were paying attention to the issues. And unless Kim Kardashian is paying close attention to the issues, her telling people to vote, and whom to vote for, is having a bad effect.

    Which is not at all to say poor people shouldn’t vote, but rather that they should pay attention to the issues and vote on that basis, rather than pay attention to Kim Kardashian and vote on that basis. Likely? No. But preferable? Yes.

    Also, celebrities constantly pontificating about politics, especially if they aren’t especially politically engaged outside election season (someone pointed out to me, for example, that Samuel L. Jackson was a political activist before even becoming an actor, so I think he gets a bit more of a pass) also has the detrimental effect of politicizing aspects of life which used to be relatively neutral.

    I absolutely won’t watch the Oscars this year, for example, because last year’s was intolerable due to all the political grandstanding, and I can’t imagine how this year’s could fail to be worse. The Oscars used to be for all Americans who like movies (and people around the world who like American+a few foreign movies). Now it isn’t. If you don’t think it’s good for the US to increasingly divide against itself (and I don’t take it as a given that it’s not, since I’m in favor of secession movements, though most do), this is a bad thing.

    • TomA says:

      I would add that celebrities expressing sound-bite opinions is purely about cashing in on their popularity in order to have a disproportionate impact on elections (Pied Piper effect). Taken to extreme, all voters would eventually devolve into clannish voting blocks in which the incentive becomes “tyranny of the majority” rather than rational governance.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      People who are not informed would do better to stay home than to just pull a random lever

      I think you are weak-manning here.

      I mean, yes for down ballot races you get a very slight bump if you are listed first on the ballot. There is some voting that is essentially random.

      But most people pull the lever for actual reasons. You may think they are poor reasons, but they are actual, real reasons. They invest as much into voting as they do on many other things in their life.

      • onyomi says:

        I don’t see what I’m weak-manning. I didn’t say that people don’t have many different reasons for voting how they do, nor that those reasons are all bad if they disagree with me.

        I didn’t make any claim about the proportion of ill-informed voters relative to informed voters. I’m only claiming that for ill-informed people to vote is bad. I’m assuming (maybe incorrectly) that Kim Kardashian is not well-informed about political issues; therefore, people voting for someone just because Kim Kardashian said so are also ill-informed, because if they were well-informed they’d make up their own minds and/or take their cues from better-informed commentators.

        Can you think of a case in which it would be good for an ill-informed person to vote? (I am defining “ill-informed” here as “doesn’t pay attention to or understand the issues likely to be in play in a given election”; if you voted in the last election and are now surprised that Trump is taking a tough stance on immigration (not because you didn’t believe him, but because you literally weren’t paying attention), for example, I’d say you were ill-informed).

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @onyomi:
          You said that they pull the lever “randomly”. This implies that they have literally no reason for preferring one candidate or the other.

          You are now making a very different argument, that they have not put enough thought or study into who they are pulling the lever for.

          That’s a really different argument. Hence the first one is a weak-man.

          • onyomi says:

            I would say that to pull the lever randomly is a type of ill-informed voting.

            In the recent election I did not cast any vote on e. g. propositions I didn’t know anything about and didn’t think I could reasonably evaluate on the basis of the text. I also didn’t pick between two people of the same party if I didn’t know anything about them and there was no other party affiliation (I would not define voting along party lines per se to be ill-informed because you may be well-informed about what, e. g. the Republicans or Democrats are likely to do in your state if they win more seats, even if you don’t know the particular candidates well.)

            But if there are only two Republicans or two Democrats running for dog catcher and I don’t know who either of them is, I just don’t vote on that question at all. Many people probably made a choice at random. I would say that such a choice is ill-informed and only served to dilute the votes of people who were familiar with the case at hand.

            And if the only additional information I have is “Meryl Streep endorsed A for Dog Catcher,” but I don’t have any good reason to believe Meryl Streep knows what she’s talking about, I should probably still not note vote on the question at all.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            How many contests in a typical election do you think you are now describing?

            For instance, here are the most recent election results from a county in NC.

            Note how many contests there are. Note how many can simply decided based on a party preference. Note that the countywide ones which are party neutral have significantly lower vote totals than those which don’t.

            Note also that your argument doesn’t apply to the high profile contests people would assume you were talking about to begin with.

          • onyomi says:

            For me it wouldn’t apply because I was relatively informed about the high-profile contests–painful as it was, I watched all three debates plus the VP debate, for example. And of course I read Scott Alexander’s opinions on the subject, among other informed commentary.

            But some people are not even informed about the high-profile contests. Sure, I could have been more informed, but I don’t think my vote was so uninformed as to constitute random noise and/or pure ill-informed tribal signalling, as it would have been had I watched zero debates, read zero commentary, but just decided I would vote for whomever my favorite TV star mentioned. I don’t know how many actual voters that applies to, since if you’re that apathetic there’s a good chance you stayed home; I’m just saying that I’m glad those people stayed home.

            My point is, if you’re not informed beyond “Meryl Streep said to vote for this person and she was great in Devil Wears Prada,” you probably shouldn’t vote at all. And not voting isn’t bad! Being able to not pay attention to politics is a good thing! In the DPRK or former Soviet Union you did have to pay attention to politics or it would pay attention to you. That was bad. I’m not making the claim that, as citizens of a democracy, everyone has a responsibility to be informed and vote.

            I’m only asking that if you do choose to vote, which is, after all, an expression of political power over me, please do a little homework and don’t just do it because some celebrity of public service announcement told you it was the right thing to do.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I find “I don’t care who you vote for, just vote” really irritating. There also seems to be an implication of “I don’t care whether you’ve put in any thought or research, just vote”. or at least there’s no campaign to get an informed electorate compared to just getting people to vote.

      • random832 says:

        I find “I don’t care who you vote for, just vote” really irritating.

        I don’t think they really mean it – As I understand it, “encouraging voting in general” advertising is in a different category (for campaign finance etc) from campaigning, and they’re relying on their assumptions about their audience demographics to mean that most of their audience has put in some thought and will vote the same way as the outcome the celebrity / media outlet would prefer. It’s also an effort not to alienate their fans who don’t support the candidate they do.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          It is a wide-spread meme that it is every citizen’s duty to vote. If they don’t mean it they are making a good imitation of it. Of course the meme also says that one should study the issues, but that is an additional duty, not a prerequisite. I have suggested in a local policy forum that people that haven’t paid any attention to the issues should not vote, and I’ve been treated as if I was arguing against democracy from offended posters. It is a really terrible meme to push voting regardless of interest and knowledge.

          • Protagoras says:

            Democracy relies on politicians having an incentive to respond to the needs of their citizens. Giving politicians opportunities to instead simply ignore some citizens incentivizes them to try to manipulate and expand the class of citizens that can be safely ignored. I think that providing more such opportunities to politicians is more dangerous than having uninformed people voting, so I think the goal should be maximum voting. I guess I’m a proponent of your really terrible meme.

  14. Gilmore says:

    “”did you look through the evidence that Russia was involved in the hacking? And don’t you agree it’s pretty strong?””

    Yes, I have; and no.

    – There’s evidence that a group that may have included “Russians” (or been working at the direction of the Russian govt) were involved in some malicious online activity; the problem is that the very same group ALSO targeted thousands of governmental and non-governmental people in the same various bursts of activity; the few incidents that have been sold as “hacking the election” were at best ‘trolling for information’, information which, when disclosed to the public, everyone agrees was actually ‘factual’ and newsworthy.

    Basically, if you think breaking into John Podestas Gmail account and releasing some of his ickier emails is “Russian Hacking”, you might as well call the US media agents of the Russian govt for helping distribute their intelligence-product.

    – The same behavior that the FBI report documented as part of some scary Russian cyber campaign was actually documented in far greater detail by security firms…. a year earlier, when the election was just getting started =

    https://www.f-secure.com/documents/996508/1030745/dukes_whitepaper.pdf

    Basically, the FBI “evidence” was thinner than already-available public information on the same events. And their evidence was only scary when you purposely omitted the fact that it was consistent with behavior going back many years, and wasn’t at all new to this election.

    Sure, the ‘dukes’/APT29 may have some connections w/ Foreign Govt intelligence. There is reason to believe they probably are. But then, the NSA also hoovers up all the traffic on the internet. I’m not sure why people think what the Russians do to hoover up information is supposed to be scary and concerning, while our own is supposed to be benign and reassuring.

    Basically, people who wet their pampers about Russia are fools, as far as i’m concerned.

  15. onyomi says:

    Part of the difficulty cutting pundits some slack is that most of them outside the rationalist sphere don’t have the decency to rate their level of certainty for the reader. Most of them tend to talk like they’re telling you what WILL happen, not what they predict is very likely to happen, or more likely than not to happen or could maybe happen.

    And then there’s Scott Adams who gives numbers, but sometimes ones which don’t seem realistic. He predicted a 99.9% chance I believe of a Trump “landslide.” Trump won, though not in a landslide. Does Adams’ credibility go up or down? For me, it’s up, but only because I always took him to be saying, in a sensational way, that he thought Trump would win. If I had taken his numbers seriously my confidence in him should arguably go down.

    But lots of pundits talk like everything they say is 100%. This means, in theory, that they should lose all credibility after getting one thing wrong. But of course we take pundits’ certainty with a grain of salt because we know they either aren’t as confident, or don’t have a right to be as confident, as they seem to be. But that’s bad. Demanding a little epistemic humility from pundits seems reasonable, rather than just letting them continue to take a victory lap every time one of their implied 100% predictions come true and sweep it under the rug when they don’t.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Any updates I have on Adams would need to be othoganal to up and down. I can’t take him seriously at all. Anything he says that makes it past my (mental) filter at this point is just a reason to update my filter.

  16. Joyously says:

    I am 70% convinced a group connected to the Russian government was responsible for hacking the Democrats, and 90% convinced it was some group looking out for Russian interests, if not the government itself. However, the problem with McCarthyists was not acknowledging that there were Communists working against the US–that was true–but in how they responded to this fact.

    To me, Trump-opponents go too far when they claim the Russian hacking “illegitimized” the election in any meaningful way (the most extreme examples of this are people insisting we should get a “do-over” election somehow, or even Michael Moore asserting that the Supreme Court should declare “the winner of the popular vote” the president instead.) In 2012 Barack Obama was unquestionably the friendlier-to-Russia candidate. If we learned that the Russians had hacked some server, stolen Mitt Romney’s “47% video” and released it, it wouldn’t have made Obama’s subsequent victory illegitimate.

    There’s also a lot of very McCarthyite hyperventilation–that Trump is a “Russian asset” or that the Russians must “have something on him”, all of which strikes me as completely paranoid absent harder evidence than anything has currently come to light. If nothing else, he still hasn’t lifted Obama’s late-term Russia sanctions (probably, I’d guess, because of pressure from Republican senators).

    • Anatoly says:

      >To me, Trump-opponents go too far when they claim the Russian hacking “illegitimized” the election in any meaningful way

      Agreed, but these aren’t central examples of how Trump opponents treat the Russia issue.

      >There’s also a lot of very McCarthyite hyperventilation–that Trump is a “Russian asset” or that the Russians must “have something on him”, all of which strikes me as completely paranoid absent harder evidence than anything has currently come to light.

      I don’t understand why it’s so completely paranoid to speculate whether the Russians “have something”on Trump. I agree there isn’t any hard evidence, but there’s plenty of indirect evidence, the biggest piece of which is the bizarre insistence of Trump on praising Putin throughout his campaign and beyond. This behavior never played to his base, it never helped him in his campaign, and was in complete opposition to his behavior wrt to all other nations (casually insulting allies, sabre-rattling and threatening others etc.).

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Trump’s attitude towards Putin is not bizarre or inexplicable. If you something nice about Trump, Trump says something nice about you. If you say something mean about Trump, says something mean about you. Putin said something nice about Trump, so Trump said something nice about Putin. This gets run through the media spin machine to be “Trump praises Putin.”

        As for the base, most Trump supporters don’t see any real reason we need to be enemies with Russia. Particularly when they’re bombing ISIS. What seemed more inexplicable to people is the bizarre hatred for Russia. When Putin is bombing the bloodthirsty murder cult that’s behind the slew of horrific terrorist attacks in western lands, threatening to establish a no-fly zone for his planes and punching him in the nose seems preposterous. Unless you understand the financial interest Clinton’s backers have in a pipeline competing with the one backed by Putin, but Trump voters care for more about destroying ISIS than further enriching Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

      • Joyously says:

        Trump likes (or doesn’t dislike) Putin because a) Putin called him a “genius” once, and Trump is *extremely* susceptible to flattery, and b) he sympathizes with Manly Authoritarianism. It really isn’t that complicated. If the Russians “had” something on him he’d be friendlier to Iran, and he wouldn’t be allowing Normal Republicans (TM) to push him in a relatively tough-on-Russia direction once he took office.

  17. lemmycaution415 says:

    The Savar building collapse was a stupid example for Yglesias to use since they were already violating Bangledeshi safety rules. They built the building 4 stories too high then loaded up the upper floors with heavy equipment.

    “[The day before the collapse,] a TV channel recorded footage that showed cracks in the Rana Plaza building. Immediately afterward, the building was evacuated, and the shops and the bank on the lower floors were closed. Later in the day, [the building owner] said to the media that the building was safe and workers should return tomorrow. Managers at Ether Tex threatened to withhold a month’s pay from workers who refused to come to work.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Savar_building_collapse

  18. MostlyCredibleHulk says:

    For me, just saying “Vox is biased” is like saying “Pravda” was biased. True, but does not fully describe the situation properly to an external observer. Vox is not just a bit leaning to the left, it is a fully partisan outlet. When reading Vox “explaining the news”, one always needs to be aware that what is being explained is a partisan viewpoint of (some part) of the Left, not somebody trying to be objective and maybe failing because we are all humans. I think it’s a qualitative difference.

  19. houseboatonstyxb says:

    Trump voters were human beings with legitimate concerns

    Clintonista here. Hillary’s policy was “The old jobs cannot come back but we will help you fit into the coming industries.” Trump’s was “The old jobs can come back if we do XYZ.” I agree with Hillary’s policy but it does not require anger or craziness to agree with Trump’s policy.

    I don’t know why the polls were so far off in 2016, but I wonder if the pollsters were asking too many questions about feelings and not enough about dull practical stuff.

    • Iain says:

      The polls were better in 2016 than in 2012. It’s just that the error in 2012 meant that Obama won by more than expected, while the error in 2016 meant that Clinton did not win at all.

    • Alraune says:

      >Hillary’s policy was “The old jobs cannot come back but we will help you fit into the coming industries.”

      Hillary’s policy was to move forward with the “blue state model”, which crushes the land value of areas that formerly housed productive industries, refits them into cheap retirement communities for FIRE workers, and when you die from an opiate overdose on Disability, gives your house to a Section 8 voucher family so that their tenement back in the city can be gentrified so a Real Person can live there.

      This cure is worse than the disease, and is precisely what the Trump voters were voting against.

      • Deiseach says:

        Hillary’s policy was “The old jobs cannot come back but we will help you fit into the coming industries.”

        I don’t agree at all that Alraune is correct on that was what Hillary’s policy was, but her campaign pledges page was vaguely promising “good paying jobs for Americans” with the implication that it would be the same kind of old-style industrial and manufacturing jobs, nothing about “the coming industries” (except talk about “green energy”):

        A 100-days jobs plan: Break through Washington gridlock to make the boldest investment in good-paying jobs since World War II. Hillary will fight to pass a plan in her first 100 days in office to invest in infrastructure, manufacturing, research and technology, clean energy, and small businesses. She will strengthen trade enforcement, and she’ll say no to trade deals like TPP that don’t meet a high enough bar of creating good-paying jobs. And she will make the U.S. the clean energy superpower of the world — with half a billion solar panels installed by the end of her first term and enough clean, renewable energy to power every home in America within 10 years of her taking office.

        A pledge by businesses to keep jobs and investment in America: Businesses participating in Hillary’s strategy would pledge not to shift jobs or profits gained from “Make it in America” incentives to other countries by outsourcing production, or “inverting” to move their residence abroad and avoid paying their fair share of U.S. taxes. Hillary’s plan embraces economic patriotism, and will support companies that invest in their workers and good-paying jobs here in the U.S. But it won’t support companies that walk out on America. When America’s incredible innovators come up with an invention or design, we should also build it here.

        Lots of fightin’ talk about challenging the Chinese, for instance, which I took to be jumping on the populist bandwagon where in the minds of ordinary people, the manufacturing jobs were all outsourced to China and this would bring them back:

        Pursue smarter, fairer, tougher trade policies that put U.S. job creation first and that get tough on nations like China that seek to prosper at the expense of our workers – including opposing trade deals, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that do not meet a high bar of creating good-paying jobs and raising pay

        Crack down on foreign countries, like China, that cheat the rules: If foreign countries dump products on our markets, like China is doing right now with steel, Hillary’s administration will take countervailing action. She will appoint a new trade prosecutor to keep other countries honest. She will take on foreign countries that keep their goods artificially cheap by manipulating their currencies, and expand our toolbox to include effective new remedies to respond, such as duties, tariffs, or other measures. And Hillary opposes China’s efforts to be recognized as a “market economy,” which would defang our anti-dumping laws.

        4. Crack down on companies shipping jobs and earnings overseas – and create incentives for companies to bring back jobs to the U.S.

        As I think we all more or less agree, the old jobs are gone. Hillary’s campaign wasn’t laying it out that the new economy was going to require different skills and higher levels of education. I’m not sure if she was going to rely on a government make-work scheme to get a lot of construction/heavy industry jobs going again via infrastructure investment (I’m not particularly opposed to this since national infrastructure everywhere needs updating and this is the kind of blue-collar work that paid decently which the Rust Belt areas are missing) but, as we all know, her victory never happened.

        Manufacturing is coming back. … My job as your president will be to do everything I can to create more good-paying jobs, to get wages rising again for American workers and families.
        Hillary, November 29, 2015

        Hillary believes that manufacturing matters because workers who build things here are the heart of our economy. Well-paying manufacturing jobs support families, and making things in America here is critical to our innovation and prosperity. Throughout her career and in this campaign, Hillary stood up for American manufacturing.

        As Senator, Hillary fought for workers and manufacturers in New York. She stood up to China when they tried to put tariffs on New York’s exports. In communities across the state, from Buffalo to Rochester to Albany, Hillary brought together government at every level, workers, and businesses large and small to join and invest in good-paying jobs and production in the state. Today, in Syracuse, Hillary is providing more detail on her vision for American manufacturing, with a $10 billion investment in “Make it in America Partnerships” that will take her strategy to stand with manufacturers in upstate New York nationwide. This new proposal will be largely paid for based on revenues from Clinton’s previously announced “clawback” proposal that would rescind tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs abroad.

  20. tscharf says:

    Pundits Who Failed To Predict Trump

    If Trump had ~25% chance of winning the election, shouldn’t 25% of pundits have predicted he would win? Too much group think here, and too much internal social pressure to attempt to influence the election, not just report what people are thinking.

    It was nearly universal that pundits thought Clinton would win. The complaint is that their bias colored their views and predictions, or more aptly that this result is prima facie evidence of their bias or incompetence as a group and why they should not be trusted to give balanced views on what people are actually thinking. They aren’t good at their day jobs. Perhaps this is a one off error, but the punditry class was not well positioned to accurately portray Trumpster thinking, and I think they did a very bad job of it.

    • Iain says:

      If Trump had ~25% chance of winning the election, shouldn’t 25% of pundits have predicted he would win?

      No. There is an 83% chance of rolling higher than a 1 on a six-sided die. If you ask a bunch of pundits to predict the outcome of a die roll, it is correct for each of them to predict a roll higher than 1. Why would any pundit pick the 1/6 case over the 5/6 case?

      You have to look at the confidence level of predictions. Nate Silver giving Clinton roughly 2:1 odds is much better than Sam Wang giving her a 99% chance of victory. If somebody predicted that there was a 99% chance of rolling higher than 1 on a six-sided die, you would be justified in ignoring them, even if they turned out to be right.

      • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

        I’m not sure I even understand what’s the difference between 60% and 99% for an one-time event. I mean, if we had 10 Clinton-vs-Trump elections, and Trump won 4 of them and Clinton won other six, we’d say ok, the 60% guy was right and 99% guy was way off. But we only have one. Unlike the dice, we have absolutely no idea about the nature of the underlying process. What’s the point in these numbers then, is there any practical difference between them?

        • Iain says:

          Look at the margin of victory. If Clinton had won by 20 points, then Sam Wang’s 99% prediction would have looked good, and Nate Silver’s 70% prediction would have looked overly conservative. If Clinton had won by one vote, then Nate Silver would have looked better than Sam Wang.

          We only get one Clinton-vs-Trump election, but we also got an Obama-vs-McCain election, and an Obama-vs-Romney election, and we will hopefully continue to have more elections in the future. In those future elections, based on the results of this one, you should put more credence in Nate Silver’s model, and less credence in Sam Wang’s.

          • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

            Well, if both claim to have generic models, then yes, the model that performs better over the course of several elections is probably better, if we assume there are methods that can be applied to every election (which I think is only partially true, but willing to admit that the true part may be big enough to make models distinct) and the model is kept static in the meantime. However, this answers the question “is Silver’s model better than Wang’s?” but not the question “what numbers ’60’ and ’99’ mean and how we know which one was more correct?” If we evaluate the model on binary or margin prediction grounds (i.e. either “won-didn’t win” or “won with X votes and model predicted Y votes, take distance, average, get model quality”) – that is quite clear. But none of these need or explain the 60% and 99%…

          • Gazeboist says:

            It’s a (literal) way to say “I think it’ll break this way, but would(n’t) bet the farm.”

        • registrationisdumb says:

          Two I can think of off the top of my head:

          There are lots of one-time events. If you make all of your predictions at 99% confidence, but are only right 50% of the time, there’s definitely something wrong, especially since you’re presumably getting paid to make prediction.

          Methods. On something like an election, the predictions are mostly made from polls of likely voters, demographics on voter turnouts, etc. If you predicted a 99% chance of Clinton winning due to a statistical reason, your data was either very bad, you misinterpreted it horribly, or you used a bad method.

          Basically, there are 300m people. Let’s say you poll 300k of them. This gives you a good but not perfect estimate of how people are going to vote. Using statistics, you know roughly how confident you can be in your data for a popular vote (assuming those people are honest, don’t change their minds, etc). Since we have an electoral college instead of a popular vote, you either need to do this for every state, or find a model that correctly interprets how different states will vote. This introduces more error on either side of the equation. Then you can ultimately get a prediction on who will win a big poll, by doing lots of mini-polls.

          It is arguable whether political polling pre-election even has a good purpose, but if the data is right, and the interpretation is right, you should be able to end up with a Nate Silver-like prediction that is somewhat close to the truth.

          • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

            > There are lots of one-time events.

            True, but those events are completely different. You’re essentially saying that when a pundit says “it’s 99% chance of Clinton winning” it’s actually “I think Clinton will win, and there’s 99% chance I am a prophet who knows the future”. Which would be fine if prophets existed (or at least probabilistic prophets, e.g. people that are reliably correct with certain probability, just as a 6-side die is more or less reliably producing “1” with probability 1/6). But that’s not how it works. A person can make completely wrong claims in one area, because he is affected by some kind of bias, and be completely right in another area, because he understands it right, and summing up those and calling it “probability” makes no sense at all.

            > especially since you’re presumably getting paid to make prediction.

            Getting paid to bloviate about something is not connected with being good at something in any way I could notice.

            > If you predicted a 99% chance of Clinton winning due to a statistical reason, your data was either very bad, you misinterpreted it horribly, or you used a bad method.

            The problem here is that I don’t even see how you can make that conclusion. If Turmp had 1% probability of winning and he won, it’s completely within the model – otherwise he’d have 0% probability of winning. So I don’t see how you can say anything about the model here, let alone say which of the two models – the 60% or the 99% – worked better. If you;re talking about margins of error, that’s fine – you can say “we predict that if our sample is representative Trump will have from 40% to 60% of votes”. Which would be very true and very useless. But I’m not sure which practical sense the “probability” here has.

          • tscharf says:

            The biggest flaw is the assumption that past voter behavior and current polls accurately predicts current voter behavior. After you run the numbers you must adjust them using black magic to tune them to current political conditions. It is this black magic where systemic bias can creep in. Hypothetically things like “of course black turnout will be the same for Clinton and rural turnout will be the same as Obama” could be easily colored by bias and wishful thinking.

        • John Schilling says:

          I’m not sure I even understand what’s the difference between 60% and 99% for an one-time event.

          A presidential election is a one-time event that can be broken down into either 540 or ~100E6 discrete events, and that’s a useful statistical sample. Even if the pundit isn’t mathematically explicit enough to put error bars on popular vote estimates, “Hillary 60% to win” is roughly equivalent to “Hillary’s expected popular vote margin in swing states is +0.26 standard deviations”, and “…99% to win” goes to “+2.32 standard deviations”.

          If the actual popular vote (or electoral-college vote if the pundit goes that route) is outside the pundit’s explicit or reasonably-inferred 1SD error bar, this is grounds for suspicion. If outside the 2SD error bar, you can probably dismiss them for a fool unless there is strong evidence in the form of successful long-odds predictions elsewhere.

          TL, DR: If all you know about them is that they claimed an 85-97% probability for one thing that didn’t happen, be skeptical going forward. 98% or above, ignore them.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Good post.

            Very minor nit pick, it’s 538 (not 540). Unless the extra two are something I am not thinking of, in which case I am interested.

        • ksvanhorn says:

          “I’m not sure I even understand what’s the difference between 60% and 99% for an one-time event.”

          That’s because you’re thinking of probabilities as frequencies of occurrence. What we’re talking about here are *epistemic* probabilities — the degree of credibility warranted by the evidence. The kind of probabilities that Bayesians work with.

      • tscharf says:

        It’s a good point, you are likely right here. We would need to go back to previous elections and see what the distribution of pundit predictions were compared to what the polls say, especially those where the Republican was favored by a similar amount. Alas…too much effort…ha ha.

    • Mr. Breakfast says:

      If Trump had ~25% chance of winning the election, shouldn’t 25% of pundits have predicted he would win?

      If Trump had a ~25% chance of winning the election, shouldn’t all well-calibrated pundits have predicted a Hillary win with ~75% confidence?

  21. tscharf says:

    If Meryl Streep showed up at McDonald’s and the very best cashier started berating her about their particular political views she would likely not appreciate it.

    Celebrity political activists are a non-sequitur. They are misappropriating their ability in one talent to influence something they likely have no particular talent in. Being a good actress doesn’t make one politically astute and a good case can be made they are in a very poor position to have meaningful views.

    If they want to show up at charity or political events that is fine and worthy, what is not worthy is to use a platform such as the Academy Awards to shove unwanted political opinions down people’s throats who are watching for other reasons.

    • Deiseach says:

      If Meryl Streep showed up at McDonald’s and the very best cashier started berating her about her acting, her natural response would be “And what do you know about acting?”

      That should be the idea to keep in mind about celeb opinions: they can have them, they can express them, but outside their own field those opinions are no more special than anyone else’s.

  22. anonymousskimmer says:

    And they won’t be able to, because they’ve already declared that if something tragic happens, then anyone who tries to put it in context, or say that some policies can have occasional awful results while still being beneficial on net, is a moral monster.

    Come now, F this crap. The proper response is to preface your economic analysis with a “this is a horrible, tragic event, and not the best of all possible worlds. That said, here’s an analysis”. Even Trump gets the first clause right.

    THE issue with the refugee situation is that YES, some refugees or immigrants somewhere in the US has, and will kill innocents. But stopping refugee migration, and even normal immigration, even in a targeted manner, is just as guaranteed to kill innocents. And this has been documented.

    So the context is not: Deaths versus monetary gain (pace Picante Yglesias [ 😀 ]); But Deaths versus Deaths (or well-being versus well-being, to take a non-survival bent to the issue). And given the impact of higher pay on death rates and more general well-being, this is how Yglesias should have spun it if he was of higher sufficient moral caliber (to pontificate on the issue).

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      THE issue with the refugee situation is that YES, some refugees or immigrants somewhere in the US has, and will kill innocents. But stopping refugee migration, and even normal immigration, even in a targeted manner, is just as guaranteed to kill innocents. And this has been documented.

      And so we must choose, which innocents do you put at risk? Your countrymen, or foreigners? For right-wingers this is a practical issue: the purpose of my government is to put the interests of myself and my countrymen over those of foreigners. For the left it is a moral issue: the government should sacrifice some of its own citizens for the benefit of foreigners. I’m not sure why this is moral, but apparently it is.

      • Evan Þ says:

        It’s a moral issue for the Right, too: we have a special moral obligation to our fellow citizens, just like someone has a moral obligation to support his family before giving money away to charity.

        Meanwhile, the Left denies that moral obligation and says that someone starving in Mexico is just as important as someone who might have a slightly tougher life here in America.

      • rlms says:

        Are you unwilling to accept *any* harm to citizens for the benefit of foreigners? Would you not accept a mote in the eye of a citizen even if it stopped 1 billion foreigners dying?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Not if you can help them without putting unwilling citizens at risk. For instance with Syrian refugees, it’s far more cost effective to set up safe zones just outside Syria and care for them there. No, the left insists we must bring them into red states, forever. This tells me the humanitarian effort is a pretext for demographic political warfare.

          If you want to care for foreigners, great! Go on a mission trip, donate to relief charities. But you don’t get to put your neighbors at risk to enact your morality.

          • rlms says:

            Where exactly do you mean by “just outside Syria”? Iraq isn’t exactly much better. Since there are already millions of refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, it seems likely that it would be more cost effective to take a few refugees into the US rather than somehow construct a “safe zone” in Lebanon. Perhaps you think that the danger these refugees would pose to existing citizens outweighs the efficiency benefit. But you need to actually do an analysis of how likely a refugee is to be a terrorist versus how much their life would be improved by coming to the US, unless you want to claim that even a 0.0000001% chance of terrorism and a 100x life improvement is not acceptable.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It’s not the job of the US government to improve the lives of foreigners. The job of the US government is to protect the lives of Americans. Does bringing Syrians into the US protect the lives of Americans? Nope, it does just the opposite. So, it shouldn’t do it.

          • Nornagest says:

            The job of the US government is to protect the lives of Americans. Does bringing Syrians into the US protect the lives of Americans? Nope, it does just the opposite. So, it shouldn’t do it.

            That’s one of USG’s jobs. Another is to improve the lives of Americans; a third is to improve American prestige and support American interests internationally.

            You could argue that neither of these is worth any imaginable risk to American lives, but if you do, I’m gonna laugh at you, and then I’m going to point out all the cases where USG has risked American lives, with substantial popular support, to pursue one or the other of those goals.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I can give you “improve the lives of Americans,” but only up to the point the government is doing things the people cannot reasonably do themselves. However, moving foreigner ghettos into their neighborhoods does not improve the lives of Americans. And as for “prestige” and “interests,” this is meaningless. You can justify anything so long as it improves what is in your opinion “prestige” or “interest.”

            People want to live their lives, do their jobs, raise their families, go to church on Sunday. To satisfy your morality you want to move foreigner ghettos in next to them. And when these foreigners who never should have been in the US rape and kill some innocent American, you barely hear of it because the media doesn’t talk about it because it’s not in their corporate interest, and they don’t want to be called “racist.” If you do hear about it, eh, it was some poor a-holes in flyover country and their shattered family is a small price to pay so you can post on FaceBook about how good of a person you are for importing these people.

            It’s like a moral externality. All the virtue, non of the cost. No one’s telling you not to help the Syrians. But you don’t get to force others to bear the cost of your morality.

          • Nornagest says:

            You think the political establishment gives one single solitary shit about anyone’s conscience but their own? If they are importing Syrian refugees, it’s precisely because they think it’ll improve American lives in one way or another. Not necessarily directly. Maybe because we need cheap resources and importing some refugees is part of the deal we struck to knock over the tinpot dictator standing in the way of them; maybe because they’ll work for cheap and for some reason we can’t use Mexican migrant labor like we usually do. Maybe because the country that would have taken them otherwise threatened to do something we don’t want if we didn’t take some of them. Maybe it really is all to buy votes with a cheap feel-good move, but it’s not like they don’t think they’ll be using those votes wisely. Everyone’s in it for the power, but everyone also rationalizes that desire.

            They also care very much about American interests, but that really just reduces to improving American lives in indirect ways — getting better trade deals, not getting into shooting wars over tiny stupid islands, that sort of thing.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            No, of course the establishment doesn’t import these people because conscience. That’s how they sell it to the voters. They do it because cheap labor for business, votes for democrats, and because when you add diversity you add conflict which justifies expansion of the state. It’s exactly what I said originally: demographic political warfare.

            So we’re agreed then, right? Importing Syrians is cynical politics/economics for the elite, and only supported because leftists are naive?

          • Nornagest says:

            Those are all real benefits! We might not want to think too hard about it, because let’s be real here, it doesn’t feel good to know we e.g. dropped a JDAM into some poor schmuck’s tent and permanently separated him from his fleas because he might eventually have contributed to closing his nation’s borders to resources we need or making life inconvenient for a geopolitical ally who may or may not have some torture chambers buried under their ugly baroque-revival mansions. But at the end of the day, it keeps us in bananas and rare earth minerals, and those keep us rich, and being rich keeps our kids from dying of pellagra at age five. Maybe it’s worth it. Maybe it’s not. But someone, somewhere, thought it was when they pulled the trigger.

            The point is, you can’t say something’s bad for America by digging up a few politically sexy deaths or injuries and saying “see, bad for America”. The good of America is bigger than that. Maybe accepting refugees really is a bad policy — nothing I’ve said here proves otherwise. But this is a piss-poor argument for that.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            So you think the neocons/neolibs are altruistically dropping JDAMs on camel herders, out of noblesse oblige for us little people, and not because it’s profitable for their corporate backers? Huh. All right then, thanks George W., thanks Obama, and I’m SO MAD Trump isn’t invading Iran RIGHT NOW. Ya know, for the kids.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think they think they are.

          • John Schilling says:

            You think the political establishment gives one single solitary shit about anyone’s conscience but their own? If they are importing Syrian refugees, it’s precisely because they think it’ll improve American lives in one way or another.

            Improve American politicians’ lives. Which makes it a safe bet that 51+% of American politicians believe that 51+% of voters in their districts will not perceive any harm in the next 2-6 years, but that still leaves some wiggle room for mischief.

          • rlms says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            “No, of course the establishment doesn’t import these people because conscience. That’s how they sell it to the voters. They do it because cheap labor for business, votes for democrats, and because when you add diversity you add conflict which justifies expansion of the state. It’s exactly what I said originally: demographic political warfare.”

            To date, the US has taken in a few tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. So population growth from all the Syrian refugees since the start of the civil war is eclipsed by population growth from native births since approximately last Tuesday. It therefore seems unlikely that allowing refugees is motivated by any of the things you said, since it occurs on such a small scale.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Syrians are a very small part of the much larger non-European immigrant (legal and otherwise) influx.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Conrad Honcho:

            How many Americans have been raped, murdered, or raped and murdered by refugees?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            More than zero, which is too many.

          • rlms says:

            Whoosh! Is it it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s the goalposts!

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I would say that the government should:

          (1) Promote the interests of its citizens, provided that
          (2) It doesn’t actively wrong foreign citizens.

          So, for example, invading a country to turn it into a Belgian Congo-style colony might well benefit the citizens of the homeland; but it would quite clearly require wronging citizens of the country we invade, so the government shouldn’t do this, no matter what benefit it might bring back home. On the other hand, not letting people immigrate doesn’t actively wrong citizens of other countries, so if the government thinks that tightening up immigration restrictions would be better for its citizens, it should do so.

      • And so we must choose, which innocents do you put at risk? Your countrymen, or foreigners?

        The way you put it makes it sound as though it’s an all or nothing matter.

        Suppose your best estimate is that if you let the refugees in, two Americans will be killed, and if you keep them out, ten thousand foreigners will be killed. Is the answer still clear?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          So it’s basically the trolley problem with more bodies on the tracks. The answer is I still don’t pull the lever. The 10,000 foreigners saved are cold comfort to the families of the two Americans killed, whose government betrayed them. If you care that much about the foreigners, find some way to help them in which everyone involved is risking their own neck, not the neck of someone else’s child.

          Sacrifice is virtuous, so long as it’s by choice. Today was the Bishop’s Stewardship Appeal at Mass, where we were asked to sacrifice some of our treasure to benefit the poor, the schools, and the seminarians. I wrote the check out of my bank account, not my neighbor’s.

          • Brad says:

            So it’s basically the trolley problem with more bodies on the tracks. The answer is I still don’t pull the lever. The 10,000 foreigners saved are cold comfort to the families of the two Americans killed, whose government betrayed them.

            It’s unclear to me whether you subscribe to the action/inaction distinction or you’d decide a trolley problem based on the nationality of the people on either side of the switch.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Both, actually.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            can i pause to note that most of the problems related to this topic are in no way reminiscent of the trolley problem anyhow

            just saying.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            In no way reminiscent? ISIS is steaming towards 10,000 Syrian refugees. If you do nothing, they will surely die. If you intervene and move them to the US, the refugees will almost certainly rape or kill 2 innocent Americans. Do you intervene or not? It’s practically the same problem.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            In no way reminiscent? ISIS is steaming towards 10,000 Syrian refugees.

            No they’re not. That’s the whole point! Those refugees are already in refugee camps. Unless ISIS is so colossally foolish as to attack refugee camps – and I haven’t heard of them doing that yet, in all the time this war has raged on – they are perfectly fine.

            And yes, I get that this was an attempt to discuss the underlying principle, of Americans > other people, or people of our nationality versus people who aren’t, or nationalism versus globalism. But just saying – this problem isn’t really that bad, not currently.

            Oh, and even as a nationalist – no I am not in favor of 10,000 deaths for two lives saved. That’s stupid. I know what kind of arguments you will have for it and I reject them.

          • I don’t think it is the trolley problem, although the reason isn’t exactly action/nonaction.

            Suppose a congressman votes for a bill that shifts a million dollars of expenditure from police protection to medical services. Further suppose that he correctly believes that the result will be two more people being murdered, ten thousand fewer people dying of some disease.

            Is that a trolley problem too? I don’t think so. The reason is that his action isn’t murdering the two people, it’s failing to prevent other people from murdering them. Part of what gives the Trolley problem its bite is that the person at the switch is the last link in the causal chain, making his responsibility for the deaths unambiguous.

  23. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    I don’t disagree with anything here, but I worry that you think you’re pulling a rope sideways but are in fact largely pulling alongside Team Liberal against the Leftists.

  24. po8crg says:

    The sports analogy for 6.1 – which might be useful for the sort of people who would otherwise dispute it – is that the difference between a .250 hitter and a .300 hitter is one hit a week. Even if you watch every game, you still have to count the hits to actually be able to tell.

  25. The original Mr. X says:

    Comparing politics to your favorite legends is as old as politics and legends. Herodotus used an extended metaphor between the Persian invasions of his own time and the Trojan War. When King Edward IV took the English throne in 1461, all anybody could talk about was how it reminded them of King Arthur. John Dryden’s famous poem Absalom and Achitophel is a bizarrely complicated analogy of 17th-century English politics to an obscure Biblical story. Throughout American history people have compared King George to Pharaoh, Benedict Arnold to Judas, Abraham Lincoln to Moses, et cetera.

    Dunno about medieval with Arthur, but the Greeks and Romans thought that the Trojan War as recorded was basically accurate. (Even Lucretius, who didn’t believe in divine intervention, uses incidents from the war to illustrate his arguments in De Rerum Natura.) Similarly, I’d be surprised if Dryden didn’t think that the Biblical account of Absalom is accurate. So, I don’t think that comparing politics to Harry Potter, a work which is known to be fiction, is an apt analogy here.

    ETA: And I’m guessing that the guys who make comparisons to Pharaoh, Judas, and Moses think that they were real people too.

  26. akidderz says:

    My biggest disappointment with Vox was the (seemingly) recent shift in Vox videos to articulating this same bias.

    I used to spend a fair amount of time defending Vox by saying that at least the videos were great and did an excellent job explaining some issues. Recently, the videos have gotten much worse and many more of them fall into the “I might as well be an MSNBC segment” of videos.

    For recent excellent videos: On Making Planet Earth

    South China Sea Islands

    But more commonly now: Hollywood, Stop Making Muslims Terrorists

    and How Trumps Immigration Ban makes Fighting Terrorism Harder

  27. The Element of Surprise says:

    The article feels a bit like meta-hipsterdom. To exaggerate:

    “Well ordinary people may praise celebrities for speaking about issues but I am above that and see that celebrities have neither relevant expertise nor any noteworthy stakes in the situation”
    –> “Well slightly less ordinary people may complain about celebrities being praised undeservedly but I am above that and see that this is just celebrities fulfilling their function in society”

    I feel one could produce a few of these from this.

  28. JulieK says:

    And maybe Current Affairs, as a good leftist publication, is going to want to say that this is terrible but doesn’t mean that we should ban all refugees or hate all Muslims.

    And they won’t be able to, because they’ve already declared that if something tragic happens, then anyone who tries to put it in context, or say that some policies can have occasional awful results while still being beneficial on net, is a moral monster.

    I wish I could expect that much consistency from the media…

  29. sohois says:

    Seems like if people are going to compare an american election to legends, it would probably be better to use american legends instead of one rooted in the British public school system, or one rooted in nostalgia for the British countryside and King Arthur myths.

    Though I suppose there isn’t really enough American mythology so it makes sense to borrow from the closest cultural country that does have some.

    • Sandy says:

      The extent to which analogies from European history were dragged in astonished me; everyone was all in for the Mussolini/Berlusconi/Hitler comparisons, but few mentioned the outrageous American populists with whom Trump shares closer political DNA. Some of his spokesmen (Giuliani, for example) compared him to Andrew Jackson, but the closest fit is probably Huey Long. The few who did compare Trump to Long tended to be older commentators, which leaves me wondering how familiar younger commentators are with American history.

      • secondcityscientist says:

        Is Long that well known outside of the South? In the Midwest, we didn’t get much more than a passing reference to him in our US history. We had a lot of William Jennings Bryan, though – enough that the Free Silver movement still somewhat colors the way I think about politics. In terms of decades-old politics, I thought the Harding administration was a better analogy for how the Trump admin might go; indeed, other people are also making that connection.

  30. Alraune says:

    I may have missed someone pointing this out already, but there’s a simpler tactical reason to jump straight to vicious mockery when anyone brings up Russia, and it’s that the damage, to Americans, from Russia continuing to know all of the internal business dealings of US political parties is far less than the damage from granting the entrenched intelligence community the powers necessary to solve this alleged problem.

    If Russia knowing what the DNC & RNC e-mails are lets them influence elections the way excuse-seeking Democrats claim it did, then the same is true of granting that power to the FBI, NSA, CIA, etc., and handing any of those forces electoral power is far more dangerous to the freedom and safety of Americans than Putin is.

    • Anatoly says:

      This is a bizarre non-sequitur. Nevermind that “jumping to vicious mockery” is a stupid recipe for stupid people to follow; who exactly is saying that in order to investigate the problem of Russia influencing the elections the FBI NSA etc. need to be given more power than the very, very extensive powers they already have?

  31. People Who Are Worried That The Russians Hacked The Democrats To Influence The Elections

    I have no problem with people who believe that the Russians got at, and publicized, some emails from Democrats in order to influence the elections, since very likely it is true.

    But the only reason I can see to describe that as hacking the elections is in order to imply, without actually claiming, that the Russians successfully accessed voting machines and changed the vote, for which there seems to be no evidence at all.

    • 1soru1 says:

      The other, and far more plausible, reason is if Putin has, whether by hacking, human intelligence or mutual agreement, sufficient compromising information on Trump to control his actions on key issues.

      If you have a team of hackers, and you go up against a bank, and you acquire the capability to withdraw money from the bank, you have hacked the bank. Even if not everything you did was typing.

      There is plenty of circumstantial evidence to support this, and nothing that would make it implausibly difficult. Consequently, there are by all accounts serious investigations into the possibility. There are reasons Irish bookmakers are quoting low odds on Trump being impeached within two years, and only on of them is because they like the publicity.

      • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

        > The other, and far more plausible,

        When “more plausible” means “not a shred of evidence but I’d like it to be true so it is”.

        > There is plenty of circumstantial evidence to support this

        No there’s not unless you use conspirologist’s standard of evaluating the evidence, aka “if I can imagine this happening and it suits my theory, it happened, if it doesn’t suit my theory, it didn’t happen”.

    • Anatoly says:

      The same press that often went with the “hacking the elections”slogan also widely publicized that there’s no evidence voting machines had been compromised, the whole recount story etc.

      “Hacked the elections” is a pithy slogan, it’s more concise, stark and pithy than “hacked the Democrats to influence the election”. Many pundits adopted the pithy slogan (though I think the mainstream news stories were careful to avoid it). It is also true that polls of Clinton voters in December showed about half believed that Russia influenced voting. But is there a hard causal link between the two, or is the slogan just easy to blame because there’s a plausible story? In a counterfactual universe where the press was always careful to say “hacked the Democrats to influence the election”, what percentage of Clinton voters in December do you think would have agreed that Russia influenced voting? Consider that more than half of Clinton or Trump voters believe all kinds of ludicrous things, and that “Russia hacked” and “voting machines” were going to be in the news anyway. My guess is that in that counterfactual situation, the percentage would *maybe* move from 50% to 45%, and probably not even as much.

  32. Prussian says:

    Okay, my comments seem to be wandering into the ether – someone please let me know if they know what’s going on.

  33. SUT says:

    If I were Putin, would a Bernie Sanders win not be the best possible outcome?

    Assuming my M.O. is to build Russia into a world power by aggression and brinksmanship that the West can’t stomach (Ukraine, Syria, …?), and continually building up my military with cheap modern weapons. And assuming Sanders policies would continually divert defense spending toward social spending while greatly increasing scrutiny for any foreign intervention.

    There’s also the very reasonable hypothesis that as Putin, my main motivation is simply to create the conditions that maximize kleptocracy for me and my cronies; what looks like nationalism is simply the best cover. In this case, Trump, especially a compromised one, but even just an amoral quid pro quo dealer could be the best counter-party to advance my agenda.

    Finally there’s the possibility that I’m playing 5-D chess and think Trump’s promise to MAGA will cause America “to punch itself out” or even lead to a total collapse economically, or in social morale and cohesion. But that seems dubious that if I want to flex on the world stage, my best option for an adversary is a strong man with deep red tribe support, who makes grand promises to increase military investment.

    In summary, has anyone considered the possibility that DNC hacks weren’t designed to help the republicans/Trump, but to discredit the Clinton/hawkish-neoliberalism leaving Sanders/democratic-socialsim ascendant?

    • lemmycaution415 says:

      The DNC leak was on July 22, 2016. That was too late to help Sanders any

    • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

      You should not assume Putin is some kind of super-genius or even understands US politics properly. Judging from his past speeches, he actually has quite distorted understanding of how US politics works, and while he’s not an idiot, he’s also not exceptionally smart. His affection for Trump is probably a mix of his approval of Trump’s image as hyper-macho “problem solver” (which is how Putin sees himself too) and his personal dislike of Clinton, which probably stems for his generic dislike of US political establishment, in which Clinton is a prominent member. That doesn’t mean either that Putin somehow controls Trump or that he’s capable to sophisticated 5-D-chess-like games within US political establishment.

      Also note that his feeling for Trump can – and most probably, will – change drastically as soon as he realizes Trump is no more willing to lift the sanctions and legitimize Crimean conquest than Clinton is.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Putin is probably as smart as most politicians are – they generally fall into the mid-120s to mid-130s, don’t they?

    • gbdub says:

      Russia’s motivations seem most likely to be “cause chaos”, “discredit American institutions”, and “get some juicy blackmail material”.

      It’s not clear why they’d actual want President Trump. I’m not sure what exactly he’s going to do that’s supposed to be good for Russia. He will likely come down harder on Iran and boost the American oil industry. From Russia’s perspective, these are both significant negatives compared to Obama’s (and presumably Hillary’s) policies.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        It’s not clear why they’d actual want President Trump. I’m not sure what exactly he’s going to do that’s supposed to be good for Russia.

        Hillary’s funders in Saudi Arabia and Qatar backed a pipeline from Qatar -> KSA -> Syria -> Turkey -> Europe. Putin backed the pipeline from Iran -> Iraq -> Syria -> Med. Assad chose Putin’s pipeline, and so Assad had to go. This is why Hillary’s State Department and the CIA funded/backed the moderate beheaders to overthrow Assad (the “pro-Democracy moderate rebels” are a few guys who stand in front of cameras and say “we totes want democracy, now ignore the thousands of clearly non-Syrian men behind us with the Korans and the black standards sticking out of their packs”). Trump doesn’t care about any of this stuff, and if anything is furious about Hillary killing 400k Syrians, creating ISIS, and the migrant crisis that threatens to destabilize all of Europe. Putin didn’t want Trump so much as “not Hillary.” I don’t think the evidence Putin was behind the DNC/Podesta leaks is persuasive, but if he did it, he would have done the same thing if Hillary’s opponent had been anyone else who wasn’t anti-Assad, like Rand Paul. Putin isn’t pro-Trump he was anti-Hillary.

  34. Prussian says:

    Okay, but did you look through the evidence that Russia was involved in the hacking? And don’t you agree it’s pretty strong?

    Yes, yes I did, and no, no I don’t. I really don’t.

    Courtesy of Wikipedia, here’s the definition of the ‘hacking’:

    The US intelligence community has stated that “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Hillary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”[4] Further, the US intelligence community stated “Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump […] The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), representing 17 intelligence agencies, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) jointly stated that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and leaked its documents to WikiLeaks.[6][7][8] In early January 2017, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper testified before a Senate committee that Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign went beyond hacking, and included disinformation and the dissemination of fake news often promoted on social media

    If anyone has any substantial difference to this account, please let me know. Now enjoy this mini Q&A:

    The Russians hacked the election!

    Cool. How did they manage to get inside of all the voting machines in the U.S.?

    They didn’t do that – don’t strawman me. They just got documents from the DNC and leaked them.

    You mean the way Deep Throat leaked against Nixon or Joseph Wilson testified against Bush?

    But the Russians showed contempt for democracy and free elections!

    Actually, if they though they could get their guy elected through releasing info to the free press, I’d say that they have a tremendous appreciation for democracy and free elections.

  35. Jugemu says:

    Brief responses:

    1. Celebrities Who Speak Out Against Donald Trump

    Mostly agreed with you on this one. The problem is more that celebrities’ non-specialist opinions are given too much weight by society, not the celebs themselves.

    2. People Who Compare Political Events To Harry Potter

    Fine in small doses, but this really seemed to be reaching absurd levels recently.

    3. People Who Like Hamilton

    Much like HP, there was a period of time when this was over-done/over-hyped on social media, but otherwise fine.

    4. Vox

    Others covered this one. Explainers are fine, but Vox doesn’t seem intellectually honest. You say they respond when you yell at them, but I’d prefer a news source that doesn’t need to be yelled at. (Agreed there are others that are even worse, but I don’t read those either).

    5. Matt Yglesias

    Basically agreed. There’s something to be said for tact in the immediate wake of a disaster, but if one side is already pushing bad policy as a result, it’s probably good if someone takes the other side.

    6. Pundits Who Failed To Predict Trump

    Agreed in the general case, but you ignore that a lot of pundits wrote off Trump far too easily. Not everyone was as careful as eg Nate Silver (who was actually attacked for giving Trump more than a snowball’s chance).

    6.1. Pundits Who Failed To Predict Trump, Because They Are Out Of Touch With Real Americans

    Somewhat agreed, but I think you might be too breezily glossing over the value of actually seeing and talking to the people you disagree with, in terms of how that can influence your less conscious thoughts and models.

    7: People Who Are Worried That The Russians Hacked The Democrats To Influence The Elections

    Disagree with this one – the phrase “Russia hacked the election” is fundamentally dishonest because it strongly implies direct interference in the actual voting.

    • random832 says:

      Disagreed with this one – the phrase “Russia hacked the election” is fundamentally dishonest because it strongly implies direct interference in the actual voting.

      I remember reports that there was apparently a correlation between precincts that used electronic voting machines and lower democratic numbers in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

      More generally, if there was direct interference, and given the party that is the supposed beneficiary of the hacking ended up in control of the executive branch and both houses of congress (regardless of if it affected the outcome or not), and is not particularly interested in a clear-the-air investigation, how much evidence do you expect to appear?

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        I remember reports that there was apparently a correlation between precincts that used electronic voting machines and lower democratic numbers in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

        It turned out to be a lot of nothing. Nate Silver debunked that one rather convincingly, as did the Decision Desk HQ guys.

        As a side note, election wonks tend to be pretty straight shooters, maybe because if the actual demographics are being rubbed in your face all day it’s harder to fool yourself. The Decision Desk HQ, Nate Silver, and (I’ve heard) the Daily Kos elections desk come across as quite honest folks.

  36. manwhoisthursday says:

    The Vox explainer on the alt right isn’t as horrible as it could be, but I’ve been around the nascent alt right for over a decade and it’s still a really bizarre and distorted piece. MMbug is an obscure technocratic thinker. That sort of thing may be the part of the alt right that the technocratic thinkers at Vox (and perhaps here) can most relate to, but it is absurd to spend the whole first third of the article on somebody who is so utterly marginal to the phenomenon as a whole. The alt right is, not surprisingly, animated more by primal identity concerns such as race, religion and sex than wonky stuff like neocameralism. Notably, the Vox piece doesn’t even mention Steve Sailer, who is basically the hub around which the the whole alt right revolves.

    It’s tough to know what Breitbart piece you are criticizing, but the alt right explainer by Bokhari and Yiannopoulos is by far the most comprehensive and accurate guide to the overall alt right phenomenon out there. If that is the article you are criticizing, I am presuming you object to the idea the MMbug and his ilk came out of the LW community. I don’t know LW as much as you, but I believe B&Y got this wrong. From my recollection, MMbug actually got his start commenting at the arts blog 2Blowhards. (I’m real life friends with the proprietor “Michael Blowhard” and remember MMbug’s initial comments there.) That particular mistake may stand out to people here for personal reasons, but shouldn’t detract from the rest of a long and otherwise dead on piece. I’d defy anyone to point out other errors.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      Being informed by left-liberal journalists that some guy you’ve barely heard of is your leader is a common occurrence when you’re on the right, alt- or otherwise.

      • manwhoisthursday says:

        Exactly. The people most comprehensible and interesting to you on the other side are not necessarily the ones with the most appeal to people in the movement.

    • The Nybbler says:

      You can say “Moldbug”. You just can’t say “neoreaсtion”.

    • Sandy says:

      I noticed that many of the liberal journalists and commentators writing about Yarvin’s supposed link to Steve Bannon highlighted a sentence from UR where he wrote “….while I am not a white nationalist, I am not exactly allergic to the stuff”. Which, I mean, you could have figured out by reading his opinions about colonialism and neurogenetics, but there was an effort to lump him in with the more blood-and-soil elements of the alt-right even though most of them still support democracy and the core of Yarvin’s ideology is that democracy is evil.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        “….while I am not a white nationalist, I am not exactly allergic to the stuff”

        At heart I’m a libertarian. The problem is the only people who seem to have any interest in libertarianism happen to be white.

        • Sandy says:

          By far the most laughable aspect of movement libertarianism is its failure to notice how its survival is more dependent on demographics than any other branch of the “conservative coalition”. Nonetheless you’ll see libertarians advocate for open borders.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Why is having principles laughable? Are libertarians supposed to defend closed borders and declare “libertarianism in one country”?

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @dndnrsn,

            Why not?

            The third world and the second world do not have classical liberal traditions as such: the closest you’ll get is the upper crust of some former British colonies. Even if democracy didn’t exist, importing huge numbers of people from postcolonial and postcommunist nations means diluting the ethos of personal freedom they support.

            If you have a fairly reasonable view of things being 50:50 nature and nurture, or even a blank slate view, a limited amount of immigration combined with aggressive libertarian proselytizing is justifiable. But closing your eyes tightly and insisting that immigrants will leave their illiberal cultures at the border is unreasonable.

            Open borders is the best evidence I’ve seen for the “libertarians as corporate shills” viewpoint. It makes no sense from a perspective of increasing liberty, but is ideal for the wealthy who profit from undercutting native wages.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “Open borders is the best evidence I’ve seen for the “libertarians as corporate shills” viewpoint. It makes no sense from a perspective of increasing liberty, but is ideal for the wealthy who profit from undercutting native wages.”

            Freedom to travel, reside, and work aren’t freedoms?

          • Open borders is the best evidence I’ve seen for the “libertarians as corporate shills” viewpoint.

            Opposition to open borders is some of the best evidence that liberals are hypocrites. They claim to be in favor of helping the poor, but reject a policy that would produce enormous benefits for very poor people on the grounds that it might produce much smaller losses for much less poor, the low end of the U.S income distribution being pretty high on the world distribution.

            You may remember Bernie Sanders attacking the Koch brothers for their support for open immigration.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            Do liberals in general (Sanders being an exception, and more a commie socialist than a liberal) oppose open borders? There have been plenty of discussions here about how liberals don’t say they support them, but their opposition to any deportation and support for periodic amnesties is tantamount to it.

            Personally I think the ideal libertarian position is open borders, but first you need to eliminate the welfare state AND to figure out some way to keep your immigrants from voting it back in.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Dr Dealgood:

            If you make an argument for keeping out “those incapable of libertarianism”, why not start stripping the right to vote away from those within the borders who don’t support libertarianism? Seems like a weird road to go down if liberty is the goal.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            This may be unfair of me, but I think liberals are much more interested in helping people than in getting out of the way of people who can take care of themselves.

          • Do liberals in general (Sanders being an exception, and more a commie socialist than a liberal) oppose open borders?

            There might be some liberal somewhere who supports them, but I don’t think I know of any. In contrast, it’s a common position among libertarians.

            Sanders was trying to appeal to left of center voters in his campaign, not just socialists, so if he thought support for open borders was a common position I don’t think he would have attacked the Koch brothers for being in favor of open borders.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @dndnrsn,

            If you make an argument for keeping out “those incapable of libertarianism”, why not start stripping the right to vote away from those within the borders who don’t support libertarianism? Seems like a weird road to go down if liberty is the goal.

            Actually, I’ve heard numerous libertarians make that exact argument in earnest. Thiel’s “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible” is the highest-profile example.

            Most libertarians, as far as I’ve seen, don’t consider voting in itself to be a freedom. Rather, they’d say that it’s just one of several possible mechanisms to ensure freedom. I have a lot of sympathy for that view: having a largely theoretical 1/350,000,000th claim to ruling America is much less valuable to me than my freedom to walk around the park at night.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Dr Dealgood:

            “Freedom will be ensured by removing democracy” sounds about as plausible as “the vanguard party will hand over power once the revolution is secure.”

          • Most libertarians, as far as I’ve seen, don’t consider voting in itself to be a freedom. Rather, they’d say that it’s just one of several possible mechanisms to ensure freedom.

            Certainly my view, and I think common among libertarians.

            “Freedom will be ensured by removing democracy” sounds about as plausible as “the vanguard party will hand over power once the revolution is secure.

            The idea isn’t to remove democracy but to remove government. People would be free to use democratic decision making in voluntary organizations if they so wish.

    • Jugemu says:

      >Notably, the Vox piece doesn’t even mention Steve Sailer, who is basically the hub around which the the whole alt right revolves.

      I wouldn’t have considered Steve Sailer alt-right and I don’t think he would have either, though he might have drifted that way more recently.

      There seem to be several vaguely “alt-right” groups without a single hub or clear figurehead.

      • manwhoisthursday says:

        Alt right just means that you are a right winger who is outside mainstream conservatism, and Steve Sailer is certainly that. He has long been associated with alt right friendly outlets like VDare and Taki’s and I believe he even published with Richard Spencer’s original Alternative Right web magazine.

        The other thing is that if there is one writer on the alt right just about everybody reads, it’s Sailer.

        • Jugemu says:

          >Alt right just means that you are a right winger who is outside mainstream conservatism

          That’s basically what I meant – the “alt right” isn’t really a coherent movement in the way that the MSM thinks it is.

          Sailer is certainly influential but that’s not the same as him being a leader, or even a member, of anything.

          • manwhoisthursday says:

            Who said he was a leader? He’s certainly not involved in actively organizing anything. He’s just the guy everybody reads. That makes him a major hub, perhaps the major hub of the alt right.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            >Notably, the Vox piece doesn’t even mention Steve Sailer, who is basically the hub around which the the whole alt right revolves.

            you sure that’s not being biased as a result of him commenting here? Which by the by is hot fire, and all. But the hub? He’s just a writer fam.

          • manwhoisthursday says:

            I’ve been reading Sailer for over 10 years now.

          • bsixsmith says:

            I very much doubt that many of the posters from 8Chan, The Daily Stormer and The Right Stuff read iSteve.

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            “I very much doubt that many of the posters from 8Chan, The Daily Stormer and The Right Stuff read iSteve.”

            Why?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I’d at the very least expect that a sizable part of the people in TRS read iSteve.

          • Sandy says:

            I very much doubt that many of the posters from 8Chan, The Daily Stormer and The Right Stuff read iSteve.

            You’d be surprised. Certainly a lot of the 8chan/frogtwitter crossover people read Sailer.

        • Alt right just means that you are a right winger who is outside mainstream conservatism

          Are you arguing that libertarians are part of mainstream conservatism, are not on the right, or are part of the alt right? Those seem like the only alternatives, given the quoted comment.

  37. TomA says:

    I’m guessing that this post is some sort of rant, and that you’re fundamentally advocating for the exercise of rational moderation in the perception of current affairs and prevailing media-generated opinion. I imagine that in the practice of psychiatry, it is important to get the patient to calm down somewhat before you can hope to be of any help. So let’s jump to the finish.

    Hand-wringing about Trump’s tweets is missing the forest because of the trees. He is strategically (and cleverly) stealing away a major cohort of traditional Democrat voters (white working class, union members, and hardworking bottom-tier minorities) by appealing to their sense of abandonment and disillusionment. Insults and ad hominem invective is not a winning strategy in the heartland and yet that is the prevailing public image of the Democrat rage currently sweeping the country. Elect Keith Ellison as DNC chair and you can kiss the 2018 election recovery goodbye and the death spiral will continue unabated. The enemy is not the Trump voter, it’s the arrogance that views them as endemically inferior.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      Insults and ad hominem invective is not a winning strategy in the heartland and yet that is the prevailing public image of the Democrat rage currently sweeping the country.

      It’s really not clear what Democrats can do about this. The biggest protest recently was about Trump’s immigration travel ban, and those protesters were not carrying signs that say “we hate rednecks.” If conservatives want to interpret that as rage it’s their prerogative.

      • Sandy says:

        Many of them were carrying signs with statements to the effect that immigration restrictions are only supported by despicable racists who don’t want America to receive the cultural enrichment that Europe’s been enjoying lately; I’d say that could be called ad hominem invective.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        i think the issue is that it’s being framed as this big moral thing when over half the country supports it as per recent public polling

        the framing, as Sandy also discusses, is preaching to the choir while not really inviting anyone else into the church. that’s already unpleasant and often even actively messed up, but now it’s progressed to extremely stupid too because those not invited can vote in any president they so choose, as evidenced by the fact that the most unpopular president in history was voted in.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          the fact that the most unpopular president in history was voted in.

          I hope this was meant ironically, because it is pretty funny in that case. If it was not meant ironically, it is kind of like the so-called Yogi Berra’s statement about the restaurant that no one goes to anymore because it is too crowded.

          • rlms says:

            Not really. A president can be unpopular (in the sense of widely disliked) and yet still be elected. Indeed, the most unpopular president in history will be voted in every time the two candidates are the worst ever.

      • Randy M says:

        It would have helped if this protest hadn’t come on the heels of two previous protests that seemed to be over “We lost the election and want you to know it!” rather than any likely pending policy.

      • tscharf says:

        My favorite is all the calls for immediate impeachment without bothering to state any particular crime. I suppose the crime is being Trump. It’s hysteria and if I was from the left I would be worried that too many are going into full sprint mode when what is needed is a marathon.

        The main message I get is they still hate Trump and anyone who voted for him. I appreciate they disagree with Trump’s immigration stance but I couldn’t articulate what the left’s stance on immigration actually is, it sure doesn’t seem to be for open borders. We know they are against everything Trump, but that doesn’t tell us what they are actually for.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          My favorite is all the calls for immediate impeachment without bothering to state any particular crime. I suppose the crime is being Trump.

          Kind of like when Obama got a Nobel prize for not being Bush.

      • Jaskologist says:

        The protest of the travel ban was an example of a protest done right. It was aimed at a specific policy, and lo and behold, even seems to have met with some success, even if it involved some very questionable judicial rulings.

        The Women’s March? I can’t figure out what that was protesting* beyond losing the election. Protesting an election seems pretty shady, and it’s really starting to look like the left judges electoral legitimacy entirely on the basis of whether or not they win (and have difficulty conceptualizing even the possibility of losing). I think the left needs to develop a theology of loss yesterday. What makes an election or law legitimate? What is the proper response to laws you don’t like? How can we arrange things so that it doesn’t suck too much to be on the losing end? And do make sure you’ll still be happy if the right adopts the same answers you gave.

        * I had one Facebook friend declare that she was marching in spirit because women are paid 70% what men are, tampons are taxed as non-essentials, and the pill requires a prescription while condoms don’t. I didn’t know what to mansplain first: statistics, federalism, or who was president for the past 8 years when these same circumstances held?

        • random832 says:

          I’d start with the fact that the tampon thing is in the UK. (They’re taxed in most states in the US, but there’s no untaxed “essential” category that includes other hygiene items that they can/should reasonably be placed in)

          • Loquat says:

            We may not have an untaxed “essential” category, but that doesn’t stop people in the US from complaining that it’s “unfair” to tax tampons and petitioning state governments to specifically exempt feminine hygiene products from sales tax.

          • rlms says:

            The reason that tampons are taxed in the UK is because EU regulations only allow a certain set of products to be taxed at a lower rate: those that were untaxed/taxed less when we joined the EU. Tampons weren’t in that group then, so it is not legal for them to be put in it now. But after Brexit, we can do what we want! (This is why feminists overwhelming supported Ukip).

          • random832 says:

            The Snopes article claims that France did so in 2015. Is this an EU law that applies to the UK and not to France?

        • Deiseach says:

          the pill requires a prescription while condoms don’t

          The pill requires a prescription because older formulations of it could fucking kill you and also because it is actively changing your hormone balances so your doctor needs to check out your physical condition first, while condoms just cover your dick and unless you have a latex allergy are not going to do anything to your health.

          And then people wonder why some women are sick to the back teeth of pop feminism. Sometimes I feel the need to tell my fellow women “stop being so bloody ignorant and go hit up a pop science/medicine article by using Google to get some basic information”.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          As Snopes say, in 2015 France cut its tampon tax, but it did not cut it to zero. It reduced it from 20% to 5.5%. Fifteen years earlier, the UK reduced its own tampon tax to 5%, the lowest allowed by the EU. I don’t know why France stopped at 5.5%, but they tax lots of necessities at that price.

      • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

        Maybe not “we hate rednecks” literally, but a lot of discussion pretty much postulates that anybody who is for stricter immigration law enforcement or for more stringent controls of immigration from places they perceive to be high risk are doing it for either racist or religious bigotry. Even separating “being against immigration” and “being against illegal immigration” – which should be as clear a difference as one between “being against sex” and “being against rape” – is a task that majority of discussions I’ve observed fail miserably.

        The problem here people who want stricter immigration controls for non-racist reasons *know* they want it for non-racist reasons. Calling them racist won’t convince them. It may temporary silence them but then they’d just go and vote for Trump.

        So that’s what Democrats can do about it – stop mixing racism, hate for immigrants in general and enforcement of the immigration law. Not just stop doing it – but start to actively resist attempts to mix it, such as calling Trump’s travel restrictions “ban on Muslims”, etc. Start instead conducting a sane discussion, acknowledging the other side may have valid concerns that needs to be addressed.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        It’s really not clear what Democrats can do about this.

        Address working class need instead of lecturing about morality. Democrat response entirely seems to be of the form “we have to explain to poor white people why they it’s good for them to die off, be replaced by indifferent or hostile foreigners, and lose their jobs” rather than implement policies such that they do not die off, be replaced by indifferent or hostile foreigners, and lose their jobs.

        A poor white person who votes Democrat must hate himself. Democrats seems only concerned with better ways to convince poor white people to hate themselves rather than adjusting their policies to appeal to poor white people.

  38. Schibes says:

    [Not drawing sweeping conclusions from one data point] also solves the problem where, having discredited everyone who predicted a Hillary victory, we determine the only trustworthy sources of political commentary to be PrisonPlanet.com, the Dilbert guy, and all 372,672 subscribers of r/the_donald.

    Let’s not forget about Allan Lichtman over at American University. He’s moved on from predicting Trump’s win to predicting his impeachment. What are the latest odds on that, I wonder?

    • AnonYEmous says:

      Better than the odds of me not wanting to be an American Idiot

      ——

      But yea : while it’s entirely fair to not want to give any credence to Paul Joseph, the detested-by-me Scott Adams, and Centipedes, that’s because they predict with their heart and obnoxiously too. A lot of people, myself included, feel that many people on the left did this, and only barely tried to justify it with numbers, many of which turned out to be garbage. That’s why I don’t fuck with either of these two groups. Perhaps group B is worse than group A, but it’s still a difference of degree, not pattern of behavior.

  39. MawBTS says:

    “The 2016 election was a lot like Finnegan’s Wake: I have no idea what just happened”

    “Bigly” and “yuge” both sound like words from Finnegan’s Wake.

  40. keranih says:

    Here’s a thought – maybe there aren’t really any groups of people who 100% deserve all our eternal scorn.

    (There are reasons why I am occasionally quite cranky about the examples I see of all of those groups, and I think each group is deserving of some scorn – probably even more than the average scorn.)

    I’m far less willing to argue against the idea that no one ever deserves 100% of our scorn, but that’s more because I’m lazy and figuring out a defense for each maladjusted toad out there is too much like work. But I’m pretty sure that starting from the premise that any group – even groups who are wrong, completely wrong, and spend their days basking in a pool of wrongness whilst ruminating upon a belly full of wrongness – is completely without any virtue or admirable quality is A Bad Idea. (And factually incorrect.)

    I mean – elites, rubes, kulaks, slackers, leaches, red-blooded-back-bone-of-the-nation, whoever, it doesn’t matter, if that group doesn’t realize that people who disagree with them are not inscrutable hate-filled monsters then we-as-the-nation are deeply, deeply fucked.

    I don’t think we are, yet. But I wish I had actual evidence to base that hope upon.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      luckily i have invented a complex ideology to explain why the people I hate (S-J-W) are not evil but simply led to be that way by the ideology itself and emergent properties of it

      take that, you.

  41. pipsterate says:

    1. Celebrities Who Speak Out Against Donald Trump

    My issue with this is less that I feel they’re abusing their power than it is that, as someone who is also strongly opposed to Trump, I wish they were doing a better job at it. I think that when celebrities carelessly and smugly give political opinions, it feeds into the old stereotype of the “limousine liberal”, which is convenient for Trump’s campaign strategy.

    2. People Who Compare Political Events To Harry Potter

    I think there is a difference between classical mythology/religion and children’s literature, even if they both happen to frequently contain fantastical elements. I also wish that fantasy was more respected in our culture and that more fantasy was written for adults. But, regardless, I think it’s worth pointing out that Harry Potter wasn’t. It was written for children.

    3. People Who Like Hamilton

    Ok, I can agree to this.

    4. Vox

    I actually used to be quite a fan of Vox, until I started reading this blog. So I’m not sure what to think now.

    5. Matt Yglesias

    I agree with this.

    6. Pundits Who Failed To Predict Trump

    I pretty much agree with this also. It’s not like I predicted Trump either. I don’t think Trump even predicted Trump. But still, I think there is some difference between those who gave Hillary 60% odds of winning and those who gave her >90% odds, and I think it says something about the quality of our pundits that so many of them seemed to give her >90%.

    7: People Who Are Worried That The Russians Hacked The Democrats To Influence The Elections

    Eh. . . Ok, I guess I can stop making fun of the people freaking out about Russia. I don’t think the hacking excuses Hillary’s loss, but the election is far behind us now, and maybe it’s time to stop playing the blame game. The fact that Russia influenced our election at all, and now seems to have considerable influence with the current president, actually is pretty worrying.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      it feeds into the old stereotype of the “limousine liberal”, which is convenient for Trump’s campaign strategy.

      Is your problem that you disagree that the stereotype is valid, or object to the fact the stereotype is fed into? Wealthy celebrities who live in walled estates with armed security lecture poor people who cannot afford to move out of their neighborhoods when illegal immigrant drug gangs move in about the immorality of gun ownership or opposition to illegal immigration. Are you mad because the celebrities are wrong, or because they appear wrong?

      The fact that Russia influenced our election at all, and now seems to have considerable influence with the current president, actually is pretty worrying.

      Are you concerned by Saudi Arabia funding Hillary’s campaign? By Canada and the UK condemning Trump during the election? By Obama speaking out against Brexit? Are you opposed to one nation’s politicians influencing another nation’s elections, or just Russia and Trump?

  42. Atlas says:

    Wow, this is such a good post. (Or at least I really strongly agree with its points and so reading these points articulated more elegantly than I could made me feel good.) My only quibble of any sort is that, while I quite like Harry Potter, dislike people being snobby towards people who enjoy it, and think political analogies with it are often valid:

    1) Some adults can get a little LARPy about it, like that one protester holding up a sign saying “Hufflepuffs against Trump.”. (To be clear, I also think it was kind of cringe worthy that e.g. Alexander the Great, awesome as he was, pretended/thought that he was literally the descendant of Achilles.)

    2) While Harry Potter is good, it would be kind of nice if in addition to comparing politics to Harry Potter, people could also sometimes compare politics to some of the many great works of Western literature produced over the past three thousand years or so. (E.g. I like how Jeet Heer makes a lot of on point references to both popular and high culture in his writing.)

  43. Mary says:

    And they won’t be able to, because they’ve already declared that if something tragic happens, then anyone who tries to put it in context, or say that some policies can have occasional awful results while still being beneficial on net, is a moral monster.

    Why not?

    Even if they get called on it, most people will ignore it.

  44. Eric Zhang says:

    Out of curiosity, why did you remove Scott Adams from your blogroll?

    • AnonYEmous says:

      hopefully it’s because he is the worst and his unique perspective is actually just him finding new and exciting ways to mold the narrative into his chosen shape.

    • wintermute92 says:

      Having Adams since he was writing business books, he’s gotten way weirder lately. Not just “pro-Trump”, not just “4d chess”, but outright delusional.

      He’s had a ‘thing’ lately about experts, arguing that they’re often wrong, and everyone else is unqualified to evaluate their work. Apparently no one ever explained the idea of approximations and best guesses to him, so he aggressively advocates treating anything complex (e.g. global warming) as not just unknown but unknowable.

      The culmination was probably his post about estate tax, in which he concluded that since all of law and foreign policy is complex and uncertain and experts disagree, he can know nothing and draw no conclusions. But since he understands estate tax (he’s against it, for simplistic reasons), this is literally his sole piece of knowledge and he will vote accordingly.

      It’s all pretty clearly a bit, or at least exaggerated for clicks, but the “Trump is a master persuader” stuff is actually more lucid than most of his recent stuff, which seems to be almost morally opposed to truth and knowledge.

  45. foragercorner says:

    I’m consistently surprised that people hate Yglesias for things like that sweatshop piece and not how he came out against the Freedom of Information Act. A move criticized by many other outlets.

  46. cassander says:

    On Vox, and why it’s terrible and everyone should hate it.

    >I’ve occasionally argued with them, or made fun of them, or SHOUTED AT THEM THAT THEY ARE SPREADING DAMNABLE LIES. And every time, I’ve been impressed by their kindness, their openness to criticism, and their willingness to pay attention to me even though I can be very annoying.

    And yet, at no point, have they retracted the lies. I can be perfectly polite to people while stabbing them in the throat, that doesn’t make me virtuous.

    >Fredrik deBoer has a theory that everybody secretly hates Ezra Klein but publicly pretends to like him because he’s powerful.

    I don’t secretly hate Klein, I openly and publically hate him. Ezra Klein thinks he’s Josh Lyman. He’s not. If the knowledge level of actual experts is 7, and that of the average reporter is 3, Klein sits on 4 and thinks he’s on 8. He, and vox in general, will know just enough about a topic to sound like they know what they’re talking about to sling a good story (one they absolutely buy themselves) but not enough to actually have a seriously considered opinion on the subject. Their opinions are utterly conventional progressivism, and they dress that up as eclectic wonkery. It’s nothing of the sort. I know wonks, and klein is no wonk.

    That wouldn’t be so bad, most people aren’t wonks, but Klein combines being shitty at his nominal actual job (wonkery) while be amazing at his actual job, self promotion. He’s a year or two older than me, and vastly more successful, and that is annoying beyond words.

    And even there, that’s not really why I hate him. it’s that the thing he’s pretending to do, be a policy expert, is actually really important, and he’s dragging it through the mud. So it’s not just that he’s bad at his job, it’s not that he succeeds despite that, it’s that he succeeds by ruining something I care about personally, professionally, and morally.

    I wouldn’t piss on him if he were on fire.

    Yglesias isn’t great either, but him, at least, you can mug if you see him. He doesn’t mind.

    • Sandy says:

      I find it really funny how the left and the right have coalesced around the shared belief that Yglesias is a Jeb!-tier sadsack.

      • Spookykou says:

        I don’t read Vox(but I am aware of it thanks to SSC) and know nothing about Yglesias except for what was presented above, but I found the quoted section rather endearing.

    • Deiseach says:

      Don’t hold back, cassander, tell us your real opinion 🙂

      • cassander says:

        Careful now, if you encourage me I might say some uncharitable things about President Clinton’s Wife.

        • Deiseach says:

          You mean President Rodham Clinton the Real President because that orange fraud stole it from her, don’t you? 🙂

          I am honestly surprised I haven’t seen any references to her being the ‘real’ president online; it may just be that I have not been fortunate enough to stumble across such places, or that people are keeping quiet since she retreated to sulk in her tent like Achilles take a well-deserved rest.

  47. Alraune says:

    Comparing politics to your favorite legends is as old as politics and legends.

    There are no people whose favorite legend is Harry Potter, just people who haven’t read enough legends.

    • johnvertblog says:

      I agree, the only people who can really enjoy legends are disaffected academics who specialize in the field and have grown apart from their home culture.

  48. Incurian says:

    “More culture war comments, please.”

  49. Steve Sailer says:

    Off-Topic, but related in form to earlier topics like the White Death: Here’s an alarming but largely unexplained trend that might be of interest to statistical experts to take a crack at unraveling: traffic deaths in 2016 in the United States were 14% higher than in 2014. That’s roughly 5,000 more people killed on the roads in 2016 than in 2014 despite new cars constantly featuring safety innovations.

    Some of it is more traffic miles being driven, but there seem to be a wide range of possibilities to account for the rest of this unexpected change. I offer a couple of possibilities and my commenters dozens of others, but what the real answers are, I don’t know.

    http://www.unz.com/isteve/is-the-traffic-death-spike-like-the-homicide-increase-also-a-ferguson-effect/

    My commenters and I have so far just scratched the surface of this important topic, so we’d appreciate any ideas or analyses you might bring.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      pokemongo

    • Nornagest says:

      First thing that comes to mind is that some percentage of traffic deaths are likely to be unproven suicides. 5000 sounds a little too high for that, though.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Miles driven went up by 6.7% in that period. But you’ll need to wait a couple of years for that detailed NHTSA data to be in NFARS to find out anything interesting. (if the NHTSA data does not show the same trend as the NSC data, that would be very interesting indeed)

    • Murphy says:

      Stats for the past:

      http://static5.uk.businessinsider.com/image/5717dc82dd08950a218b4693-1200-900/traffic-fatalities-cotd.png

      I’d be interested to see the last 2 years stats in the same graph.

      A certain amount of jitter is to be expected.

    • tscharf says:

      Texting. Distracted drivers.

      • Randy M says:

        Is that more common this last year or two? My state (CA) has been increasingly cracking down, and I think there is increasing awareness about the hazards. Sounds more like a cause of a 2012 increase.

        • Vorkon says:

          I don’t think that texting and driving is likely to be significantly more common than it was in 2014, but it does occur to me that law enforcement has been cracking down on texting and driving far more lately than they did a few years ago. I can’t help but wonder if maybe some of the accidents are caused by people trying to hide their phones while they text and drive, rather than holding their phones up where they can still see the road in their peripheral vision.

        • tscharf says:

          Only a theory, looking at the graph it could just be random noise.

  50. J Milne says:

    I’m glad you called out that Matt Yglesias hit piece, it was nasty and uncharitable and put me off reading anything else in Current Affairs.

  51. liskantope says:

    I can’t resist linking to my own blog post here on how agency does not imply moral responsibility, because I was trying to address an issue there that I believe lies at the heart of Scott’s Russian hacking example. Is there evidence that Russian hacking of DNC emails contributed to Clinton’s downfall? Yes (at least to the best of my knowledge). Is there evidence that about a dozen other circumstances (choosing an uninspiring Decocratic candidate, etc.) contributed to Clinton’s downfall? Also yes. Does that mean that we shouldn’t put resources into investigating the Russian hacking? Not at all. There’s no reason a priori to privilege any one of the circumstances that created the election outcome over the others, so they should all be investigated independently. We should neither talk about one of them as though it’s somehow singlehandedly morally responsible for this catastrophe, nor should we interpret every call for investigation into one of them as a pronouncement of ultimate responsibility.

  52. birdboy2000 says:

    With regard to the allegations regarding Russia, I think if elections mean anything at all, voters have to know who they’re voting for, and what they really believe and intend to do once elected. Voting for politicians who disguise their intentions and act differently once in office than they claim they will during the campaign may get you listed as a “democracy” on wikipedia, but it’s hard to consider it democratic in any reasonable sense of the word. The information Wikileaks released is certainly argued to be pertinent – if it was irrelevant, there’s no “hacking the elections” to begin with, because it didn’t change enough minds.

    If Russian “covert ops” consist of releasing pertinent information to the American public, who cares? It may be an act of hostility towards a particular politician or political party, but it’s an act of friendship towards the American people; I wish all foreign powers would act this way.

    • Nyx says:

      The problem is not the nature of the information they released, but rather, the source. If Putin wants to accuse Hillary Clinton or the DNC or her subordinates of impropriety, well, he’s a powerful figure. He can call a press conference and make that accusation personally, or release a statement to the press, or anything. Instead, the Russians deliberately obfuscated their own part in the leaks, because they (correctly) assumed that people would take those leaks less seriously if they knew the source. (Obviously, journalistic protection of sources has a purpose. But that purpose is not apparent when the source is one of the most powerful governments on the fact of the planet.)

      If Russian “covert ops” consist of releasing pertinent information to the American public, who cares? It may be an act of hostility towards a particular politician or political party, but it’s an act of friendship towards the American people; I wish all foreign powers would act this way.

      But they release information selectively, and hide their own involvement. I certainly think that it was pertinent that the Russians were trying to influence the US election. So clearly, the Russians aren’t just benevolent do-gooders trying to pay it forward to their old friends.

    • MugaSofer says:

      I was significantly moved away from supporting Clinton’s election over Trump’s by those revelations.

      In retrospect, however, it seems likely that there were equivalent revelations about the RNC that were not released, and that I should instead have simply lowered by general opinion of politicians even further.

      Selectively publicizing dirt about your political opponents is not a public service. It actively deceives people into incorrect views of the world.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Secret RNC communications about Trump would have revealed that they didn’t want him and were conspiring against him, which would have only furthered his “the system is rigged” narrative.

      • Sandy says:

        The Republican establishment was quite open about the fact that they were conspiring against Trump. Cruz and Kasich tried some harebrained Hail Mary deal during the primaries to boost each other’s campaigns in select states, just to stop Trump from getting his delegates.

  53. birdboy2000 says:

    With regard to Vox, I’m pleased that your experience with them has seen you “impressed by their kindness, their openness to criticism, and their willingness to pay attention to me.” However, I will submit that they may have acted this way because you’re Scott Alexander – a reasonably well-read, intelligent blogger and a fantastic writer – and not as a general rule.

    I’m a former ant – former because I felt it had lost its effectiveness as a movement and been sidetracked into irrelevant culture war bullshit, NOT because I came to disagree with its initial goals. It has not been mine. It has not been close to mine. It has not, as far as I can tell, been the viewpoint of anyone remotely involved in that movement – and I’ve seen occasional praise for even Kotaku’s Jason Schreier for the occasional honest attempt at a story. If any of us got interviewed by Vox, I didn’t see it, and there certainly weren’t attempts at actually asking us, as a group, what we thought.

    What I’ve seen from Vox was circling the wagons around an industry blacklist and demonizing any critics of its subsidiary company, Polygon, as dangerous misogynists, while simultaneously refusing to report on any retaliation or harassment against said critics. And what I’ve seen from a Polygon editor in response to criticism was trying to get one of his critics fired from a minimum-wage position – if he apologized, I sure didn’t see it.

  54. The Big Red Scary says:

    About 7. Yes, I did spend a long time looking at the “evidence”, and found it wanting. The link that is provided claims to show that some group specializing in things of interest to the Russian government tried to phish email accounts associated with the DNC. It doesn’t seem to claim that these attempts were successful or that, even if they were successful, that success led what we saw from Wikileaks. The prior probability is very high that the Russian government, or someone working for the Russian government, would try to hack both the Democratic and Republican parties. The prior probability is also very high that many other groups in the world would try to do that. So if the question is whether Russian intelligence agencies or subcontractors tried to hack the DNC, I really don’t even require evidence. I would say that if they *didn’t* try to do that, then they are just not doing their jobs and are going to get replaced by people who will try to do it. But whether the Russian government had anything to do with acquiring the documents that were given to Wikileaks seems to be a rather different question that is not being addressed. On the other hand, Wikileaks say they have reason to believe they acquired the documents through an inside leak. The prior probability that they are telling the truth is rather high.

    Incidentally, sometime ago I read some critiques of this “evidence” pointing out that things like “Threat Group 4127” are hypothetical constructs, comparable to clusters of symptoms rather than diagnosible diseases (common techniques, common TOR exit nodes, common targets, and so on). I will try to find such a critique when I have a chance and post it here. I myself am not knowledgeable about this.

    But when all is said and done, the real point is the content of the documents, which no one is seriously denying are authentic. With respect to Clinton the documents only confirm what reasonable already knew. But that the documents give proof that the DNC conspired against Sanders can only be in the public interest, if only people would act on it.

    • Anatoly says:

      >The prior probability is very high that the Russian government, or someone working for the Russian government, would try to hack both the Democratic and Republican parties. The prior probability is also very high that many other groups in the world would try to do that.

      I find this sort of armchair philosophizing really weird. I mean, we have a complete dump of Podesta’s email, and in that dump we have the phishing email that caused him to give out his passwords and his email to be hacked. But what we don’t have there is *lots more* phishing emails from all other hacking groups from other governments in the world. People argue themselves into believing that *of course* government hackers try to breach all other governments’ sites and political organisations’ networks all the time. But the actual evidence that we have is that the DNS and Podesta fell to phishing, and there aren’t hundreds more of other such attempts in their email archives. The evidence is that at least on this hacking front, the actual successful attempt was not one of many. But somehow, people just know that *of course* everyone is trying to hack everyone all the time and what Russians did to the DNC and Podesta doesn’t stand out at all.

      >whether the Russian government had anything to do with acquiring the documents that were given to Wikileaks seems to be a rather different question that is not being addressed.

      Maybe you didn’t spend a long time looking at the evidence after all? The DNC leak and the Podesta leak are linked to the same agent via the bit.ly evidence; if email archives of both were given to Wikileaks by some other source, the staggering coincidence that it’s exactly these two entities that were hacked-or-leaked by that source would have to be explained somehow.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Didn’t the bit.ly evidence and the DNC hack evidence point to completely different sources? The DNC hack went to a VPN in Russia, but the bit.ly link was a Ukrainian IP, and the software involved was a freely available script-kiddie tool.

        Also, how do you determine there were no other phishing emails? I don’t recall anyone making a big deal out of other phishing emails, but they seem like the sorts of emails people scanning the trove for dirt would easily ignore (it’s literally what everyone is trained to do with phishing emails: ignore them). But has anyone determined that the email that phished Podesta was the one and only phishing email in his box?

        • Douglas Knight says:

          There were three separate attacks on the DNC. There were two persistent infections on the DNC network, attributed to “Fancy Bear” and “Cozy Bear,” said to be GRU and FSB working independently and in ignorance of each other. It is not clear that the DNC email was on the DNC network. The same bitly account that attacked Podesta (and 100 other Clinton employees) attacked several DNC employees. The bitly account is said to be Fancy Bear, though I don’t how this assessment was made; I doubt that the gmail password was used to infiltrate the network.

        • Anatoly says:

          >Didn’t the bit.ly evidence and the DNC hack evidence point to completely different sources

          No. The security companies that analyzed the DNC network found malware they could attribute to two separate groups, “Cozy Bear” and “Fancy Bear”, and the bit.ly account used for phishing Podesta and thousands of other targets belongs to Fancy Bear and has been tracked for a while by one of the companies, Crowdstrike. To be very precise, there’s no direct evidence that the DNC was broken into by phishing. But the combination of: 1) FB’s malware in the DNC network since April 2) FB’s phishing campaign, tracked through their bit.ly account, occurred at that time and targeted DNC employees, and it is even known that several of them clicked their phishing links – makes it very likely that both the DNC and Podesta were compromised by the same phishing campaign of Fancy Bear.

          The malware installed by the hackers in the DNC network was not script-kiddie level; when someone repeats that it’s spin (a piece of malware released in the DHS public report was identified as a known script-kiddie level PHP shell, but independent confirmations exist [example] that the totality of malware in the DNC systems, never publicly released, was quite sophisticated).

          The bit.ly account is not linked to Ukrainian IPs as far as I remember – you may be confused because the phishing email Podesta saw claimed that someone had logged into his account from such-and-such Ukrainian IP – but that was just the phishing email’s false claim.

          >Also, how do you determine there were no other phishing emails?

          I didn’t personally go over the entire archive, but plenty of people have and such an email would have been an instant news item.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I didn’t say the DNC malware was script-kiddie level, I said the Podesta phishing email/catcher was script-kiddie level, and directed Podesta to a Ukrainian IP, not Russian.

            And there’s no reason to believe a random phishing email that was not the one Podesta clicked would be “big news.” I would be shocked, actually, if he didn’t receive any other phishing emails during that time, because everyone receives phishing emails constantly.

  55. Acedia says:

    I don’t care at all about Harry Potter or Star Wars being written for children, what bothers me about them being our culture’s favoured myths is that they’re vulgar wish fulfilment fantasies about unearned superiority. The reader/viewer gets to identify with a Chosen One, lost royalty, born with great powers that make him the center of attention and ensure him a place at the top of the social hierarchy.

    Lord of the Rings would be better not because it’s better literature (though it is) but because Frodo is a much better representative of life as an average human. He isn’t special, he’s a harmless nobody from his world’s equivalent of a backwoods redneck town who suffers terribly in pursuit of virtue and never receives any great reward or status for it. All he gets at the end is to go back home, and even his triumphant homecoming is depressing in the books because of what happened while he was gone.

    • Randy M says:

      Your comments remind me of David Brin’s critiques of Star Wars as anti-democratic.

      • Nyx says:

        I think any story of individual heroism can be construed as potentially anti-democratic, but we would hardly be left with much else if we threw them out.

        • Randy M says:

          I guess that’s job security for a science fiction writer 😉
          I hadn’t meant to be exhaustive, in fact I haven’t read him in some time, but I just found the original piece here

      • Kevin C. says:

        @Randy M

        Or the umpteen-hundred essays out there condemning superhero comics as fascist. (One of my favorite rejoinders was an essay I can’t find again arguing that no, Batman isn’t “fascist”, he’s feudal; Dark Knight, Caped Crusader, Bruce Wayne is the Lord of Gotham, providing protection and justice to the people of his fief.)

        • 1soru1 says:

          This is literally true when you consider the predecessors to Batman like Zorro, the Leopard, the Scarlet Pimpernel and Robin Hood, who are all masked noblemen righting wrongs.

          (Ok the Leopard isn’t about that; it’s about the protagonist _not_ doing that).

          • Nornagest says:

            Robin Hood’s debatable. The later stories give him a title, but the earlier ones have him as a member of the yeoman class (small landholders but not gentry). But we could arguably go beyond even that, since he’s got all the earmarks of a peasant hero: he lives in the woods on the literal margin of society, he mostly fights aristocrats for mostly economic reasons, he hangs out with miller’s sons and itinerant friars, and the weapons he’s known for using are the bow and the quarterstaff, both lower-class arms.

    • Jiro says:

      There actually is almost nothing which makes Harry Potter a chosen one except for circumstance (and a prophecy that recognizes the circumstance). He isn’t royalty nor is he born with or receives great powers.

      He has magic, of course, but everyone in his peer group and pretty much everyone around him, period, has magic.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Except that because of the prophecy – which was made before his birth – the story opens with his already being a celebrity. He’s never an everyman.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          The fact that he gets random gifts of expensive (the Nimbus) and/or rare (the invisibility cloak) magical items dropped on him for nothing he accomplished really sticks out to me as him being a Chosen One.

          • liskantope says:

            I guess I agree with your invisibility cloak point. The Firebolt was given to him as a present essentially to make up for his never having received real birthday presents as most children do, and it never actually winds up being used to fight evil, so I don’t think that’s really a fair example.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Doesn’t he also inherit a vast bank account full of wizardly gold at the same time he receives his invitation to Hogwarts

          • Nornagest says:

            Doesn’t he also inherit a vast bank account full of wizardly gold at the same time he receives his invitation to Hogwarts

            He does, but it never becomes a plot point. I’m pretty sure it’s only there because the people that want to read about washing dishes to pay for wizard school are reading the Kingkiller Chronicles instead.

      • MugaSofer says:

        Harry Potter can speak to snakes, has a telepathic connection with Voldemort, an aura of love that burns Voldemort and protects him from harm, an inherited Cloak of Invisibility, and a vaguely-described connection involving wands that makes him immortal. These are all rare and, in several cases, entirely unique abilities.

        He’s also the best flier of his generation (seemingly a trait he inherited from James); and an adult-level duelist who can defeat professionals in single combat and teach self-defence better than the teachers; and possessed of innate virtue that allows him to summon the Sword of Gryffindor and the Philosopher’s Stone and wield the Resurrection Stone and repel Voldemort’s possession and instantly befriend various people and magical creatures.

        • Harry Potter can speak to snakes, has a telepathic connection with Voldemort, an aura of love that burns Voldemort and protects him from harm, an inherited Cloak of Invisibility, and a vaguely-described connection involving wands that makes him immortal. These are all rare and, in several cases, entirely unique abilities.

          I don’t think Harry is immortal for general purposes, rather, under specific circumstances Voldemort wasn’t able to personally kill him. And, on the second such occasion, he loses the ability to speak to snakes, which wasn’t “his” to begin with.

          But I agree that Harry is no ordinary wizard kid.

          • baconbacon says:

            You could make the case that James was the next great wizard. Someone creates the Marauders map, and learns how to become an animagus as a high schooler (and even teaches a poor student how to do so, outstripping Harry’s teachings in DA). We meat the other 3 marauders and none are that gifted in person, further Voldemort chooses the Potters despite the Longbottom’s being high end wizards, and the Potters escape him 3 times. James toys with Snape (a gifted student and duelist himself) and is the direct descendant of at least one historically great magician (and maybe Gryffyndor aswell).

            Is this deep storytelling where hints are left implying that James is the next great Wizard on par with Dumbledore/Voldemort, or is it lazy story telling where four students are able to accomplish amazing things that outstrip the students we meet to further the plot?

            If you take the gifted story teller approach then Harry is brave, loyal and with enough gifts to accentuate those qualities. If you take the lazy story teller approach Harry is bound to get out of any mess, so just make up an obstacle for him and then invent a way through it without him hurting anyone.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Great points.

          Though admittedly, teaching self-defense better than the teachers isn’t so hard when they’re either incompetent bureaucrats or outright terrorists.

      • VolumeWarrior says:

        Harry’s scar is extremely useful. http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Harry_Potter's_scars

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Acedia: Actually, the outcome for Frodo is worse than you say– he goes home, and finds he was too damaged by what he went through (what would now be called PTSD) that he can’t even enjoy his home.

      This being said, he isn’t exactly an ordinary person to start out with. He’s richer and better educated than the vast majority of hobbits, though neither the wealth nor the education are much by the standards of the larger world.

      Sidetrack: one of the realistic things about LOTR is that Frodo’s major injury is a result of a small fight against the Nazgul at the beginning of the book, something that could just about be forgotten compared to the large events… except that he never fully recovers from the shard of the Nazgul’s blade.

      Jiro: Harry Potter is extraordinary not so much for his magical ability as for his determination and loyalty. Rowling refers to this as love, though I’m inclined to think that devotion is a more exact word.

      Earned and unearned superiority is an interesting topic. Star Wars is about extraordinary abilities that very few people have, but there’s still the choice of how to use those abilities.

      The Harry Potter books are weird in that the reader is encouraged to identify with people who have magical abilities that no human has, and who despise and misuse people like the reader.

      Aragorn is the one true king, but he also takes the responsibility very seriously and knows a lot of the history and geography needed for the job. His ability to raise a military force is strikingly beyond what the Steward of Gondor can manage…. and this isn’t just because Aragorn is a Numenorian. A lot of Numenorians were bad rulers, though I think this just comes out in the Silmarilion, which also makes the Elves considerably less wonderful than they appear to be in LOTR.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      I don’t care at all about Harry Potter or Star Wars being written for children, what bothers me about them being our culture’s favoured myths is that they’re vulgar wish fulfilment fantasies about unearned superiority. The reader/viewer gets to identify with a Chosen One, lost royalty, born with great powers that make him the center of attention and ensure him a place at the top of the social hierarchy.

      To be fair, that’s not really unique to our culture. About half the Greek myths feature some king being abandoned at birth and reared by peasants until his innate nobility and kingly bearing give him away.

      • Jiro says:

        It’s also more realistic. If the dark lord could be taken down by an ordinary person with no special abilities, why is he still in power with all those ordinary people around?

        (And Harry Potter is actually one of the better series on this. His unearned gifts play a relatively minor role. It’s not as if his invisibility cloak or his parents’ gold empower him so much that you think he would have been instantly killed if he didn’t have them.)

    • Michael Watts says:

      he’s a harmless nobody from his world’s equivalent of a backwoods redneck town who suffers terribly in pursuit of virtue and never receives any great reward

      Well, to be totally fair, he becomes immortal and leaves with Bilbo and the elves to live forever in Paradise.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Despite the strong implications in LOTR, Frodo actually doesn’t become immortal – as you find out from Silmarillion and as Tolkien explained in his letters, “It is not the land of Manwë that makes its people deathless, but the Deathless that dwell therein have hallowed the land; and there [mortals] would but wither and grow weary the sooner, as moths in a light too strong and steadfast.”

        Yes, going to the Terrestrial Paradise for several decades is a great reward – but it’s just about the only one Frodo gets.

      • Deiseach says:

        Well, to be totally fair, he becomes immortal and leaves with Bilbo and the elves to live forever in Paradise.

        No, no, no, no, NO!

        (a) Remember Ar-Pharazon’s doomed invasion of Valinor? Heck, remember the reason why Numenoreans were banned from trying to sail West anyway, even to visit the Elves in Tol Eressea? Because mortals are tempted by immortality and wrongly think that by going to Valinor they will themselves become immortal, when it is rather that immortals by nature, like the Elves, and those who for whom ‘death’ is not even a category, like the Powers, live there and there is no specific virtue or power to make you immortal in the land itself.

        (b) Valinor is not Paradise; in one sense, it’s the Earthly Paradise but never for Men (who did not arise there and have never – save with a few special exceptions – come there, nor even for Elves whose origin was in Middle-earth in Cuivienen).

        (c) Death is the Gift of Iluvatar to Mortals and the Valar believe they have no right to interfere with it, so they do not try to make mortals immortal. Hobbits are a branch of the human race and so are mortal (that’s why Hobbits and Men can live together and get along together in Bree, the Small Folk and the Big Folk are both human).

        (d) Bilbo and Frodo – and Sam, who was also a Ring-bearer – were given special grace to go to Valinor for healing before their mortal deaths. Gimli is an edge case since Dwarves were not created directly by Iluvatar but by Aule, and moreover created in Valinor itself. He too got a special exemption by the favour of Galadriel who interceded for him. Doubtless he too will die at the appropriate time for Dwarves.

        The movies, good as they were, made a huge amount of changes and alterations (and I’d argue in some cases Jackson simply did not understand Tolkien’s intent) in order to fit in with a modern audience’s capacities and expectations.

        • Bugmaster says:

          FWIW, my interpretation of the books, in light of the Silmarillion, was that Fëanor was maybe 90% correct. Valinor is not life eternal, it is the afterlife — which, for the Elves, is the same thing as the before-life. It is a gilded cage. The reason death is considered to be a gift (by everyone except the people who actually die, of course), is because it possibly allows humans to maybe escape the afterlife, and go on to exist somewhere closer to Iluvatar or something. Humans generally don’t find that very persuasive, but some Elves do, because they know first hand what Valinor is like.

          Fëanor rebelled in part because he wanted the Elves to live actual lives, which could not be done in Valinor (well, that, and he was obsessed with the Silmarils, but still). Frodo goes to Valinor because, due to his direct exposure to the essence of the most powerful Maya ever, he can no longer exist in Middle-Earth; he cannot live that life, no more than the Elves can, anymore. Unlike Galadriel, Frodo has no choice; he is too damaged to go on.

        • itsabeast says:

          “No, no, no, no, NO!”

          Jesus.

  56. falstaffAZ says:

    1. If they are acting as public figures–political figures, even (assuming they’re trying to change political outcomes)– then they invite criticism for propagating what those of us who are not Democrats regard as shallow, sloppy, sometimes immoral ideas. I assume they are criticizing Trump because they think his ideas are bad too.

    One important difference between the ~95% Democratic entertainment aristocracy criticizing Trump and the ~95% Republican Joe Internets criticizing these Trump critics is that each celebrity has an exponentially larger audience than any given Joe Internet. So, those among us who feel compelled to correct the record know that it takes a great deal more noise to effectively refute a dimwitted celebrity’s claim than it does for the celebrity to make the claim in the first place.

    2. It’s not so much a problem when someone uses Harry Potter to illustrate a complex issue in terms that everyone (having read/watched Harry Potter) can understand. It’s the sense that this is the *only* book that a given writer/Tweeter (particularly if they earn their wages as a member of the intelligentsia) seems to have read and absorbed, or the underlying presumption that JK Rowling’s morals and sensibilities are as universally shared as those of some other, earlier book of common denominator. (As an atheist, I’d prefer that neither Rowling nor Yahweh had a cultural monopoly on moral authority, but such is life.)

    3. I assume this is a proxy for class-based attacks, as you suggest — i.e. “If you can afford to attend the $x,xxx/$xx,xxxx culturally-appropriating hip hop musical in Manhattan, you are the kind of person Scott is defending in Group 6.1.” It might also be that the cast injected themselves into politics by publicly denouncing Mike Pence for (what they assume to be) his desire to persecute LGBT Americans.

    4/5. You are correct to rank Vox with Salon and Vice, all of which I consider roughly on par with their ideological opposites The Daily Caller and Breitbart. I find Matt Yglesias and a few of the less established Voxers to be much nastier (Gawkerish, even) than Ezra Klein or Sarah Kliff. I view the latter two as upper-class careerist Democrats of mediocre intelligence and insight, whose success seems mostly based on their role as early spokesmen for the millennial wing of the Obama coalition.

    6. No dispute…
    6.1. …except that underlying both the predictions and the analysis is the apparent conviction that Trump should fail. This seems obvious to me, though I did not vote for Trump and very much expected him to lose.
    I spend enough time on Twitter that I also find some of this sneering at coastal elites to be tiresome, and I agree that merely sending more reporters to western Michigan or central Pennsylvania would not have significantly improved pre- and post-election coverage. Nor can the solution be telling the disproportionately Democratic press corps to adopt right-wing priors. I guess I’m saying I don’t know what the solution is. Make extra careful sure not to spread delicious-but-false information about Republicans if you’re a journalist? Even that is probably too little too late.

    7. If we assume Russian agents hacking DNC officials’ emails helped Trump win, then I’d say it’s fair to claim NBC was trying to help Clinton win by sitting on the eleven-year-old Billy Bush tape until early ballots had already gone out. This, along with the simultaneous emergence of the twenty-odd women Trump allegedly assaulted (now all but forgotten) who found nothing sufficiently objectionable about Trump from June 2015 through September 2016 to come out and plead their fellow citizens not to vote for this man, even though they uniquely knew him to exhibit Bill Clinton-like behavior not becoming of the President of the United States. This, along with the journalists at CNN and elsewhere who Wikileaks revealed were working with the Clinton campaign at the expense of the Sanders campaign and all of the Republican campaigns. This, along with the millions donated to the Clinton Foundation by regimes less savory than Russia, whose influence we all know would not be receiving the scrutiny from virtually every media outlet that Russia currently is had Hillary won. (I’ll concede that Congressional Republicans would likely be more explicitly concerned in this counterfactual.)

    In other words, Republicans know Democrats aren’t playing in good faith, and many of them don’t feel obligated to play fair anymore either. Many of Trump’s early supporters said as much: it’s not that he merely isn’t PC, it’s that he doesn’t politely acquiesce to concern trolling from the disproportionately Democratic media, as most Republicans do.

    Okay, but did you look through the evidence that Russia was involved in the hacking? And don’t you agree it’s pretty strong?

    I don’t know if anything I’ve read would qualify me to discern whether or not Russia was involved, but I’m willing to grant that it was. (It’s not like this activity is new — see the less-discussed but really more serious OPM hack of 2015.) The worst this would suggest is that, absent Russia-sponsored Wikileaks, Americans would have had to cast their votes without understanding the Clinton campaign’s shady tactics and unseemly relationship with the DC/NYC press corps. (Am I missing some other content that was leaked? Was there anything distinctly Russian about the information that was leaked, or could an American have conceivably performed the same hack, in which case everyone would presumably be fine with it? Like, we wouldn’t call for congressional investigation into the guy who surreptitiously recorded Romney’s 47% quip, since that guy affect the election, right?)

    In that case, the only reasons they would have not to vote for her would be her unsecured, FOIA-dodging private server and destruction of evidence thereafter, her assertion that 25-50% of her desired constituency were irredeemable, the impromptu tarmac meeting between her husband and the AG ostensibly prosecuting her, her record as Secretary of State, a position she earned by virtue of her role as US Senator (representing a state in which she’d never previously lived), a position she earned by virtue of having been married to the President. There are other reasons, I suppose, but neither of us have all day.

    I think that in reality, this is like the idea of prosecuting the second Bush administration for war crimes or impeaching Bill Clinton for perjury — or, for that matter, the Benghazi investigation: whatever the merits of the case, it has an obvious partisan dimension of trying to de-legitimize the leader of the opposition party that makes the defendant’s fellow partisans reluctant to break ranks.

    Perhaps the CIA will determine that Trump is a Manchurian candidate a la Russ, and overthrow him, along with Pence, Bannon, and the rest of the gang. Even if they do this with legitimate evidence, I’m not sure I’d be easily persuaded it was a good idea, and I’m certain millions of other Americans wouldn’t. Assuming that proving foul play by Russia would topple Trump might be a comforting though to Democrats who assume that History will resume right where Obama left it once Trump is gone, but I think that sounds like the beginning of Civil War II.

    TL;DR: Our cultural institutions are disproportionately staffed by Democrats, whose partisanship has become increasingly apparent (“Democracy Dies in Darkness”) and this often bothers people who are not Democrats, but want to enjoy (or at least not be insulted by) our cultural institutions.

    • Deiseach says:

      I think the main rejoinder to “Did you know the Russians hacked the election?” is that we already know that under the Obama administration, American intelligence agencies hacked Angela Merkel’s phone so, you know, pot and kettle there?

      It seems to be generally accepted that everyone is spying on everyone else, including their allies, and trying to use that information to their best advantage. It’s not great if Russian state agencies or the highest level of government (which we don’t know) try to meddle in elections, but that’s really the most overt way of doing it unlike the discreet “we know via our intel gathering that Ambassador X or Minister Y has expensive tastes for hookers and blow and if we drop a few hints obliquely about what a shame if a national scandal erupted over that due to an informed source leaking it to the media in our next trade negotiations…”

  57. Besserwisser says:

    By now enough people should have heard about the butterfly effect and understood it enough to draw the conclusion how prediction is hard. And the butterfly effect was originally about weather, basically things getting pushed around which you might think we understand by now. Punditry is basically taking what people agree is the most complex thing in the universe, the human brain, then multiply it by several millions and expect to predict what happens.

  58. manwhoisthursday says:

    Good article here on progressives’ love of Harry Potter.

  59. manwhoisthursday says:

    I tried to comment on 4, but am assuming I can’t because of filters. Would be good to know.

  60. Sandy says:

    I can’t remember where I read it, but someone else pointed out that you can’t go for LOTR as the liberal mythology because LOTR is about the invasion of a foreign horde bent on destroying and remaking an idyllic civilization, whereas Harry Potter is about Nazis.

    Re: Russia, you might hope this would be cause for some introspection, à la “A foreign power interfered in our election! Now we know what the rest of the world feels like. We should stop interfering in the political processes of other countries to further our own agenda!”. There’s been some talk like this from the left (Greenwald, Lee Fang etc.) but most of the talk from mainstream Hillbots I’ve seen on Twitter so far has involved frothing about the fact that Moscow isn’t a bombed-out ruin yet.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      “Foreigners are morally considerable” is a minority position, hence slogans like “America first.” Unfortunately the left is no exception – witness the Sanders-ites who get into a froth about offshoring to poorer countries (there’s usually a fig leaf about labor protections in those countries but I find it unconvincing).

      I don’t know how to change this, but the Russia controversy (“serves you right”) is politically inexpedient. So even politicians who do feel this way would be fools to admit it. In a better world they’d save their energy for ending the Yemen blockade, but of course there is no sign of that either.

    • Jiro says:

      It’s not hard to read Harry Potter as about how it’s easy for the government to be taken over by evil special interests who have their personal enrichment in mind. That’s a decidedly anti-left-wing reading.

      • Sandy says:

        It might be anti-left in America, with the limited government movement, but I don’t know how anti-left it is in Europe, where Rowling is from and whose history she mined for the series (like naming the progenitor of the Slytherin house after a Portuguese dictator). There doesn’t seem to be as strong an anti-government sentiment among the European right. They don’t want to tame the state, they want to shape it in their image, and the left wants to do the same thing.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Here in the UK the Conservatives are (at least in theory) anti-big government, and I for one always interpreted the series’ politics as being right-of-centre.

      • Protagoras says:

        Government, and authorities and the establishment generally, are almost always corrupt, incompetent, or otherwise completely ineffective in tales of adventure, and doubly so in stories for a younger audience. If the powers that be were actually effective, they would be taking care of the problem (whatever it is), and so the heroes wouldn’t be needed. Effective authorities certainly wouldn’t be letting children try to solve the problem.

    • valiance says:

      @Sandy There’s definitely something to your idea that LOTR is inherently more easily used to bolster conservative arguments. See:

      Michael Moorcock‘s LOTR critique Epic Pooh: http://www.revolutionsf.com/article.php?id=953

      China Mieville‘s socialist critiques of LOTR: http://socialistreview.org.uk/259/tolkien-middle-earth-meets-middle-england

      and Gene Wolfe‘s paean to LOTR The Best Introduction to the Mountains (and Wolfe is specifically in favor of the conservative values he sees LOTR as defending): http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/10/the-best-introduction-to-the-mountains-2/

      • Deiseach says:

        I like a good deal of Moorcock’s writing but he did have a particular set of political views and is grinding enough axes to fill an armoury in that piece. Much the same with Miéville who can write well, but whose universes I find loathsome places and whose politics I do not agree with. I would rather live in Hell than someplace Miéville considers a good state.

        Wolfe melted my brain (but in a good way) back in my late teens so I can’t have an unbiased opinion there, either 🙂

  61. Lawrence D'Anna says:

    You’re wrong about vox. They aren’t just biased. They do the same thing as the New York Times and Fox News, where they intentionally, maliciously deceive, but are careful to avoid outright lying about verifiable facts. I will never trust a word they write. Facts won’t save you if the devil gets to choose what facts you get to see.

    PS. When I got to Matt Yglesias I was SO SURE the criticism was going to come from the right, not the left. But then it was the left instead. So I guess if both sides don’t like him then he must be doing something right, even though he does work for Vox.

    • Aapje says:

      So I guess if both sides don’t like him then he must be doing something right, even though he does work for Vox.

      Or he is so bad that both sides feel disgusted by him 🙂

  62. eqdw says:

    My response to this:

    1) This is actually reasonable and I never thought of it this way before. There is still some element of it that sits very uncomfortably with me, but until I know what it is, I won’t opinionate.

    2) This is also reasonable, and I also never thought of it this way before. But I know why this bothers me: straight up elitism. Comparisons to Harry Potter bother me because they are oversimplified and basic, they seem frustratingly stupid to me, and I’m in-general concerned that bad bases for decisions result in bad actions. An uncharitable rephrasing of this is “eqdw is an asshole who thinks everyone is dumb”.

    3) I haven’t seen Hamilton. I haven’t heard Hamilton. I know almost nothing about Hamilton. But what I have seen is the reaction to Hamilton of the people around me. And to hear them talk about it, “Giant glowing tribute to national elitism” is 100% bang on. Whatever Hamilton is, the upper-middle class urban millennials I know in SF are pretty much unanimous in promoting it as exactly the straw man you’re arguing against. And I think that attitudes like that are bad thing and worth opposing.

    4) The ONLY people I know who think Vox is biased are the readers of your blog. EVERYONE ELSE AROUND ME is absolutely convinced that Vox is the gold standard of objective honest informative reporting, and that we would all be better off if we uncritically accepted everything they write as gospel.

    Vox is a particularly alarming one to me because it is so blatantly biased. I mean, I don’t have to give examples because you already write up better ones than I ever could! But it’s incredibly alarming to me when I observe blatant lies, lies that will have disastrous consequences if seriously acted on, presented as truth and accepted as such.

    I have yet to read a Vox article that I didn’t find incredibly objectionable. Please please please, if you have counterexamples, can I see them?

    5) I don’t pay enough attention to Yglesias to have an opinion. I have this vague emotional affect around him that “yeah, I think I remember liking him” but couldn’t speak beyond that.

    6) Reaction against “pundits who failed to predict trump”, I believe, is peoples’ hands-flailing-wildly attempt to paper over the obvious media bias that has been briefly revealed in the wake of the election. So, for example, I think it is less to do with “oh these idiots can’t predict anything”, and more to do with “these people adopted an attitude of smug overconfidence that was incredibly insulting, and when they were proven wrong they didn’t even so much as apologize for this”

    Especially given that one of the big factors accounting for Trump’s victory is that he tapped into Middle America’s resentment towards smug elites telling them they were wrong, this seems a valid thing to criticise.

    (Note: I am reading a lot into this and if I’m wrong, I’m wrong. The object level criticisms are for the most part just wrong. If pundit X gives trump a 10% chance of winning, and he wins, that’s how statistics work. That is not evidence that the pundit was wrong.)

    6.1) I think this is trivially true, assuming my charitable interpretation of anti-pundit outrage listed above. For a glowing example of what I think is _good_ reporting and punditry on this, check out Chris Arnade https://twitter.com/Chris_arnade

    7) The russians probably did try to hack the election. They probably did try to influence it. I don’t know if they succeeded, but they tried.

    The democrats pulled shenanigans to try and win. The republicans did. Trump did. Various grassroots groups did. EVERYBODY DOES THIS and as someone who, at least when I moved to the US, still believed in democracy for its own sake, it is deeply disturbing to me that all kinds of things I consider “corruption” are normalized here. FFS I was approached five times, once by a person formally affiliated with the Sanders campaign, and pressured to vote illegally. The fact that people openly did this, without any hint that it might be, oh I don’t know, illegal and immoral, speaks volumes.

    I think that there is some legitimate criticism of “the Russia narrative” but to me, the criticism is “people are focusing on the Russia narrative so you don’t notice all the things they tried to do”. I agree that the object level discussion on this is ridiculous and that everyone should stop.

    —-

    Overall, as an outsider who has lived through this (my _first_ US election), the reaction to this election makes perfect sense to me. There were people in charge. They got used to being in charge. They considered themselves the elites who deserve to be in charge. Then they lost. Now everyone is falling over each other desperately scrambling in the aftermath to, at minimum, justify why they still deserve to be in charge, and at maximum, to overthrow the current government.

    And I get it. I’m not thrilled he won either. The USG is probably going to renegotiate NAFTA and I will lose my work visa and get deported. I’m not happy. But I’m not willing to systematically raze every social norm to the ground in a last-ditch effort to stop that.

    Jesus christ everyone, turn the hysteria down

    • Mr. Breakfast says:

      The democrats pulled shenanigans to try and win. The republicans did. Trump did. Various grassroots groups did. EVERYBODY DOES THIS and as someone who, at least when I moved to the US, still believed in democracy for its own sake, it is deeply disturbing to me that all kinds of things I consider “corruption” are normalized here. FFS I was approached five times, once by a person formally affiliated with the Sanders campaign, and pressured to vote illegally. The fact that people openly did this, without any hint that it might be, oh I don’t know, illegal and immoral, speaks volumes.

      FWIW, I have been a US voter for 9 election cycles with a very politically engaged peer group for at least half of those, and no one has ever suggested voting twice or voting illegally to me or in my presence. It is common knowlege that the GOTV workers in a few more corrupt areas do this sort of thing (sometimes quite blatantly), but it is not common across the US.

      One time at a major deep-Blue City polling site I saw the guy handing out Democratic party voter guides* blatantly disregarding the restrictions on proximity of politicking to the official polling activities. That is it.

      *I don’t think the guy meant to do anything vicious, when we spoke, he seemed to have no concept that a non-Democrat might be voting there.

  63. Bittercup says:

    It is disconcerting that 1 through 6 get comprehensive arguments, but 7 only gets a faux-dialogue. In addition, the faux-dialogue manages do a better job of arguing against the People Worried About Russia.

    (And, for whatever it’s worth, the non-strawman-y response to “Okay, but did you look through the evidence that Russia was involved in the hacking? And don’t you agree it’s pretty strong?” is generally “No, I think it’s quite weak,” or “I have looked through the evidence and I believe that it does not support the kind of coverage that it is getting.”)

  64. birdboy2000 says:

    With regard to Yglesias, my loathing of his views isn’t based *solely* on the fact that Rana Plaza collapsed. Sweatshops are terrible things even when they remain intact, because we’re still talking about an economic structure which takes advantage of desperate poverty to make people labor in long hours in awful conditions to enrich the people who own sweatshops.

    That this particular sweatshop happened to collapse, after workers who complained about safety were threatened with firing if they stayed home, and that he defended it anyway certainly makes Yglesias look even more ghoulish. But make no mistake; it’s not the entirety of my loathing for him, nor that of other people on the left.

    • 1soru1 says:

      What definition of ‘left’ are you using here? Opposing government regulation of worker safety in favor of letting the free market discover an optimal clearing price for dead workers doesn’t seem to match any of the 10 or so most common definitions.

      • birdboy2000 says:

        Other people on the left are the people who also loathe Yglesias; I don’t consider Yglesias left. Apologies for my ambiguous grammar.

      • Corey says:

        This is also true in full context. As a fan of Matty, I think the best way to describe him is “liberaltarian”: generally libertarian-ish, but thinks poor people have nonzero moral worth. His two biggest hobbyhorses are getting density restrictions out of the way of the housing market, and getting (some) occupational licensing out of the way of the job market. Neither of those are particularly “left”.

        • generally libertarian-ish, but thinks poor people have nonzero moral worth.

          Does anyone think poor people have zero moral worth?

          • skef says:

            “Moocher/parasite” rhetoric ascribes negative social worth to people based on an economic analysis. (I suppose technically that’s also “non-zero”.) I suppose what could prevent that from also being a moral assessment would be a separate deontological scale on the side (“He’s a moocher, but he’s good to his kids*”).

            So maybe: technically, “no”, but close enough?

            [Or maybe I should say “nice to his kids”, since on this view he’s not really providing for them but giving to them what he’s stolen from others.]

          • IrishDude says:

            Poor people aren’t equivalent to ‘moochers’. You can be a poor person that gives more than takes, and a wealthier person that takes more than gives.

          • “Moocher/parasite” rhetoric ascribes negative social worth to people based on an economic analysis.

            What does that have to do with whether someone is poor?

          • skef says:

            Nothing intrinsically, but if the measure of contribution is, for example, federal income tax (or credit), then poverty is going to closely correlate (perhaps making the additional assumption that the poor people in question don’t return their “credit”).

            The “skin in the game” talk of 2012ish did not itself amount to this, but some people are ignorant or lazy enough to think this way.

            (One would hope that, at a minimum, state and local income, property, and sales taxes would factor into the balance for people who think this way, but that doesn’t always happen.)

          • Nothing intrinsically, but if the measure of contribution is, for example, federal income tax

            ???

            Why would you expect libertarians to evaluate someone’s contribution by how much tax he pays? We’re the ones who ask not what the government can do for you but what the government is doing to you.

          • skef says:

            @DavidFriedman

            You asked “Does anyone”.

          • @Skef:

            True enough, and I can imagine someone thinking that people who don’t pay much in taxes are of no moral worth, although with difficulty, since there are lots of other ways of contributing to even nationalist objectives.

            But I was initially responding to your:

            generally libertarian-ish, but thinks poor people have nonzero moral worth.

            That implied that thinking poor people have nonzero moral worth made him less libertarian, hence that libertarians in particular thought that poor people were of zero moral worth. When asked to justify the claim you responded with

            “Moocher/parasite” rhetoric ascribes negative social worth to people based on an economic analysis.

            When asked to justify that with

            but if the measure of contribution is, for example, federal income tax (or credit), …

            The only sense I could make of the chain was that you were claiming that libertarians in particular thought poor people were of no moral worth, that one reason was that poor people made no economic contribution to the society, and that economic contribution was measured by things like federal income tax paid.

            The only interpretation I can see of your most recent response is that you are unwilling to either defend that claim or admit that it was wrong, that you were taking the opportunity to insult libertarians without bothering to think about whether what you implied was true.

            You were taking advantage of my “does anyone” to avoid the relevant question, which was “do libertarians?”

          • skef says:

            @DavidFriedman

            But I was initially responding to your:

            generally libertarian-ish, but thinks poor people have nonzero moral worth.

            Different conversant — I was just responding to your question.

            Should I make hay here about just who thought talk of calling people moochers and parasites slid so naturally from the subject of libertarians, or can we just back off and call all this an honest misunderstanding?

            (If it helps your position, I do think that people who hate the poor on a kind of intuitive Social Darwinist view* often subscribe to a sort of laminated card cartoon version of libertarianism. But every widespread political stance has these self-inflicted caricatures that don’t stand up to a moment’s scrutiny, and what they reflect poorly on is the people who hold them, not what they are cartoons of.)

            * Compare with “I like the ones that don’t get caught”.

          • Should I make hay here about just who thought talk of calling people moochers and parasites slid so naturally from the subject of libertarians

            The answer is that you did.

            Your previous statement clearly implied that libertarians considered poor people of zero moral worth. Your parasite/moocher comment was a response to my challenging that.

            Since you now appear to be claiming that your response to being challenged on that claim had nothing to do with libertarians, do you have a different explanation of why you think libertarians believe poor people are of no moral worth?

          • Montfort says:

            David Friedman, it remains unclear if you have realized that skef and Corey are two different people.

          • skef says:

            In fairness, I’m not sure I can fully defend that use of “conversant”.

            “interlocutor”? “guy”?

          • @Montfort:

            Thank you. I was indeed misremembering that the post that started the thread was by Skef when, as you point out, it was by Corey.

            My error. I should be blaming Corey, not Skef, for offering a random insult and never defending it.

            On the other hand, I take Skef’s “moocher/parasite rhetoric” to be a reference to Rand, who I’m pretty sure used those words–but not as a description of poor people in general, so not a reason to suggest that she thought poor people of no moral worth.

            So I am still curious as to Skef’s point.

          • skef says:

            So I am still curious as to Skef’s point.

            I take myself as having clarified that point fairly well in my subsequent responses, particularly the part where I talk about caricatures of political views that some people mistakenly hold. So here I’ll just suggest that those responses might read differently when separated from Corey’s, and say that I’ll be happy to answer specific questions in light of them.

          • Corey says:

            Sorry, I was away for a while, “zero” is a bit harsh I’ll admit. A more charitable phrasing would be “isn’t a social Darwinist”.

          • A more charitable phrasing would be “isn’t a social Darwinist”.

            Are there social Darwinists, libertarian or otherwise? My impression was that social Darwinism was mostly a hostile misrepresentation of Herbert Spencer’s actual views.

            Can you point at a libertarian who you think fits the description?

            It’s tempting, on all sides of the political spectrum, to say “I know your policies would have the following consequences, so those must be the consequences you want.”

          • Corey says:

            I though social Darwinism was just just-world fallacy + markets writ large, e.g. it’s people’s desert to be poor so interfering would be immoral. From your post I’m guessing there’s more to it.

            I’ll meet you in the latest OT and ask that you post the Official Libertarian Stance Towards The Poor so I’m not unintentionally strawmanning.

    • Cliff says:

      “we’re still talking about an economic structure which takes advantage of desperate poverty to make people labor in long hours in awful conditions to enrich the people who own sweatshops.”

      Alternatively, we’re talking about a system that allows desperately poor people to get the food they need to survive. In the absence of an adequate return on capital, none of these jobs would exist. Sweatshops pulled hundreds of millions of Chinese people out of dire poverty and into the modern age, so they can’t be all bad… right?

    • IrishDude says:

      Sweatshops are terrible things even when they remain intact

      …in relation to 1st world country standards, and represent increased opportunity in relation to 3rd world country standards.

      If you could snap your fingers and make the sweatshops disappear, so that workers go back to what they were doing before the sweatshops came, would you do so? Do you know what most of the sweatshop workers were doing before the sweatshops came?

  65. Thomas E. A. says:

    “People Who Are Worried That The Russians Hacked The Democrats To Influence The Elections” Let’s say it’s true. What does it matter if the Russians turned up something that the media might have turned up with some assiduous effort, but didn’t (or didn’t publish their findings) because they’re mainly pro-Democrat? Think of it as countervailing power, a la Galbraith.

    • 1soru1 says:

      The more problematic aspect is that the same entity that hacked the DNC also hacked the RNC, and _didn’t_ reveal the results.

      There is a picture entirely compatible with all known facts, and containing no implausibilities, whereby that entity has a solid blackmail-based hold on the current US President. A hold sufficient to have him impeached at a time of their choosing.

      That would seem to pass even the most conservative threshold for a thing mattering.

      • Sandy says:

        The more problematic aspect is that the same entity that hacked the DNC also hacked the RNC, and _didn’t_ reveal the results.

        Is this actually true? Because from what I heard, the DNC fell victim to a trivially simple phishing operation that either Podesta or some stupid intern couldn’t see through. An attempt was made to hack the RNC, but I heard it didn’t succeed because the RNC’s digital security managed to pass the meager threshold required to avoid getting phished.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          There are undoubtedly constant attempt by other states to gain access to private communications of American politicians.

          I have trouble believing both these things simultaneously:

          1. It is impossible to figure out if the RNC was hacked by the Russians because the Russians are so sophisticated. They could have been hacked and we’ll never know!

          2. It’s incredibly easy to figure out that Podesta was hacked by the Russians because the Russians made stupid mistakes when they dumped Podesta’s corpus on the internet.

        • MugaSofer says:

          >Because from what I heard, the DNC fell victim to a trivially simple phishing operation that either Podesta or some stupid intern couldn’t see through

          I think you’re thinking of the Podesta emails. The DNC emails were accessed using more sophisticated methods.

        • tscharf says:

          The DNC ignored warnings from the FBI for 7 months that they were being hacked because they didn’t think the guy on the phone was the “real FBI”.

          Naturally the DNC response was to blame the FBI.

          The DNC should just have done their work in the Russian Embassy to save everyone a little time.

      • John Schilling says:

        The more problematic aspect is that the same entity that hacked the DNC also hacked the RNC, and _didn’t_ reveal the results.

        What results were those? If all the hackers got from the RNC was the master “Secret Santa” list for the office Christmas party and some already-public donor information, I can see why they wouldn’t bother releasing that regardless of their affiliation. Which, yes, was probably Russian, but this isn’t the evidence you’re looking for.

        The moral of the DNC hacking story isn’t that Leon Podesta was really, really, stupid in falling for that phishing scam. He really was that stupid, and more. There’s always someone that stupid, or arrogant. And there are usually other vulnerabilities, thanks to stupid/arrogant coders.

        The moral is, because there’s always someone that stupid and/or arrogant, SOME THINGS DON’T GET SENT BY EMAIL, EVER. That’s what smoke-filled rooms are for. Or SCIFs, but just keeping it verbal in a closed room or dead-tree archived in an office safe is enough to force an uncomfortable degree of risk and exposure on most attackers.

        It is entirely possible that the probably-Russians penetrated the RNC’s servers just as deeply as the DNC’s, but because the GOP has more people from the national security world (and more geezers who have no truck with these newfangled intertubes), their damning shenanigans weren’t there to be found and leaked.

        • random832 says:

          …their damning shenanigans weren’t there to be found and leaked.

          If the DNC had real damning shenanigans, why did we get Pizzagate instead?

          • Nornagest says:

            Toxoplasmosa.

          • johnvertblog says:

            So, if PizzaGate turns out to be a real thing, what exactly happens to the decision-making systems of everyone with this response?

          • skef says:

            @johnvertblog

            If you won the lottery, would you conclude you’re good at predicting the numbers?

          • johnvertblog says:

            At what point does a bad prediction suggest a change is needed to the predictor’s fundamental epistemology?

            Coincidences happen all the time, but if you’ve become convinced that things fall up when dropped, and dismiss each result to the contrary as a weird but insignificant coincidence, you’re not a very good rationalist.

          • skef says:

            @johnvertblog

            The problem with that answer is that we already know enough both about epistemic warrant and about this particular case that appeals to induction aren’t called for. It’s not like the pizzagate folks took some emails into a room and came out later and announced “Pizzagate!” We have a good deal of visibility into the chains of reasoning used and the problems with it. Just pizzagate turning out to be right doesn’t change how the conclusion was arrived at.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I assure you, I will be seriously reevaluating my powers of prediction if pizzagate turns out to be real.

          • Iain says:

            Forget your powers of prediction. If Pizzagate’s claims about child abuse in the basement of a basementless restaurant turn out to be true, we’ll all have to reconsider the basic laws of physics.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I’m amazed how successfully we got derailed into pizzagate. Good work, everybody!

        • 1soru1 says:

          This might be a stronger point if one of the things contained in the selected summary of the DNC leaks wasn’t one intern saying to another ‘I love you, no homo’.

          Are you seriously claiming that, try as they might, the hackers could find no examples of a Republican intern referencing a meme that might theoretically be counted as dubious by a sufficiently earnest liberal arts sophomore?

          That’s actually less likely than Trump’s tax returns containing nothing other than regular payments from above-the-board business deals in countries with working legal systems…

        • Iain says:

          Did the DNC or Podesta hacks actually reveal any “damning shenanigans”? What is the smoking gun, there? That the DNC was internally convinced that Sanders wasn’t going to win, late in the campaign (along with anybody else capable of doing basic math)? That some Democrats don’t like other Democrats?

          There was plenty of stuff that could be used in attack ads, but I can’t think of anything that rises to the level of DOESN’T GET SENT BY EMAIL EVER.

          PS: Podesta’s first name is John, not Leon. Are you thinking of Leon Panetta?

          • John Schilling says:

            Yes, John Podesta, and I believe you have pegged the thinko there.

            But the bits where the DNC colludes with Clinton campaign officials about developing strategies to use against the Sanders campaign, that’s the sort of thing that if it gets out means a few million Sanders supporters don’t vote for any of the DNC’s candidates. This went far beyond just being convinced that Sanders wasn’t going to win, this was making sure Sanders wasn’t going to win.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            iain you may have some reasonable points there

            (may, I don’t recall everything in those e-mails so you might’ve missed a bombshell)

            but you have to also factor in how other people feel about those type of things and your aggressively reasonable post, while of a style that I enjoy, doesn’t really do that.

            John has put in his Schilling’s worth and explained most of it; I think there was some other stuff but fuck me if that wasn’t too long and event-packed an election cycle for me to remember what at this point

          • Iain says:

            Here’s a rundown of the “worst” of the DNC emails. It includes such extraordinary malfeasance as “7) Wishing Sanders would just end it” and “10) Flippant chatter about donors”. If you read closely, you will notice that all of the discussion about ending the Sanders campaign is from late April and early May, at which point Sanders was clearly not going to win. At the point when it’s clear who the nominee will be, it’s not unreasonable for the party apparatus to start quietly working to reduce the damage the nominee takes from friendly fire. It’s not the kind of thing you want shared broadly, but it’s the kind of thing the DNC should be doing.

            More relevantly: I have a hard time believing that there were no similarly “incriminating” emails — that is to say, reasonable in context but politically awkward — on the RNC servers. You think nobody ever said anything bad about Trump? Really?

            I can understand the belief that the RNC might not have been hacked. I can understand the belief that the DNC hack didn’t have a material impact on the result of the election. But I just don’t understand how anybody sensible could think that the fluff that was released in the DNC emails was meaningfully more damning than whatever fluff remains hidden on the RNC servers.

            PS: “Aggressively reasonable” might be the nicest thing anybody’s ever said about my posting.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Here’s a rundown

            no, here’s a Washington Post article. I don’t trust that as far as I can throw it. Plus I’m all out of articles for the month, even though I tried to quit them cold turkey after I stopped trusting them. Which is to say I can’t read it, but I bet it sucks anyhow.

            this one has a couple of goodies (and anyone can read it). that’s just my google machine too

            http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/damaging-emails-dnc-wikileaks-dump/story?id=40852448

            also I am still user AnonEEmous. Forgot that wasn’t evident. But yes I do enjoy it.

          • random832 says:

            If you’re going to disagree with his assertion that most/all of the anti-Sanders stuff was in April/May, you could have at the very least found an article that doesn’t give dates that line up perfectly with it.

            The atheism thing, the only one that seems truly objectionable to me, is the first one quoted in his link. The first one in your article is… well, maybe he wasn’t actually lying, but the article doesn’t bother claiming that to be the case, so… calling a liar a liar. Damning. (It also appears in the WaPo piece, though the “A–” [are we five?] quote does not.)

            Sanders was an independent and had no chance to win the nomination by that point. His campaign continuing had no chance to accomplish anything except to damage Clinton. Is it really unreasonable that actual party members lost their patience with him?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Here’s a rundown of the “worst” of the DNC emails.

            If the leaked emails didn’t reveal anything nefarious, then the Russians leaking them didn’t affect the election at all.

            Glad we cleared that one up.

          • random832 says:

            We’ve already gone over this. The effect was to allow a lot of noise to be generated by people asserting that there was something damning there, whether by suggesting that what was there was somehow damning, or by making up bizarre threads like Pizzagate, and therefore moving low-information voters away from Clinton.

            It’s the same effect as Comey’s sudden announcement that they were reopening the investigation – “where there’s smoke there’s fire”.

          • herbert herberson says:

            That assumes people needed to understand the e-mails to be influenced by them.

            How many people do you think thought the e-mail leaks came from the servers HRC kept while she was Secretary of State?

          • John Schilling says:

            Here’s a rundown of the “worst” of the DNC emails. It includes such extraordinary malfeasance as “7) Wishing Sanders would just end it”

            Is there a reason you skipped to #7, when there’s really no reason to go past “1) Targeting Sanders’s Religion”?

            That’s the sort of thing that would normally be considered a foul even if it had come from the Clinton campaign. But, to be fair, it did come from the Clinton campaign and that’s the meta-problem: that the DNC was an arm of the Clinton campaign (see #4).

            The DNC has assumed the responsibility of running a fair election to determine the Democratic candidate for POTUS. They didn’t have to do that; they could have just done an all-superdelegate convention like they did in the Good Old Days(tm). But if you accept the responsibility of running an election, and it comes out that you’re actively campaigning for one of the candidates from behind the curtains, you lose legitimacy and you lose the public trust and you lose the next election.

            Is there a Machiavellian argument to be made that, at some point, it is “not unreasonable for the party apparatus to start quietly working to reduce the damage” to the heir presumptive? Sure. By e.g. attacking someone’s religion? If I recall my Machiavelli, he would have been on board with that too. But people who practice Machiavellian power politics through a commercial-grade email server, are one of the groups that do 100% deserve our eternal scorn. And ridicule.

          • Iain says:

            I skipped to #7 because I was deliberately picking silly ones. My entire point was that even a list of the ten worst emails (out of nearly 20K in the dump) had to stretch to include some obvious duds.

            Actually attacking Sanders for being an atheist would be a clear foul. One guy bringing it up once and being ignored is — yet again — politically unwise, but not actually a big deal. I’d like to think Machiavelli would have higher standards.

            Again: do you seriously believe that the contents of this dump are significantly worse than whatever was on the RNC servers?

          • John Schilling says:

            My entire point was that even a list of the ten worst emails had to stretch to include some obvious duds

            Had to, or chose to? And who said they needed to provide a ten-worst-emails list anyway?

            If someone were to put together a top-ten list of Benedict Arnold’s Ten Worst Deeds, it would basically come to 1: conspired to sell out his country to the enemy in wartime, 2: consorted with a teenaged hottie Loyalist, 3-10: weaksauce stuff, praising with the faintest of damns. Gee, I guess he wasn’t a reprehensible traitor after all. How can a man be all that bad, if his faults don’t fit into the form of a witty listicle?

            See also Iscariot, Judas.

            Again: do you seriously believe that the contents of this dump are significantly worse than whatever was on the RNC servers?

            Almost certainly the RNC e.g. conspires to attack politicans’ religious beliefs on a regular basis. But it is entirely plausible that they keep that sort of thing behind closed doors in smoke-filled rooms, where it belongs. The Republicans are the Evil Party, not the Stupid Party, remember?

          • tomogorman says:

            But that article of the worst seems to prove Iain’s point.
            Hell one of your examples of the four worst is just the DNC chair calling Sander’s campaign manager an asshole in an internal email; that is like the platonic example of nothing.
            The absolute worst things in thousand of emails recovered were some spitballing of ideas (mostly not followed through on) to force Sanders to concede and bring the primary to a conclusion at a point when Clinton lead Sanders by a little under 300 pledged delegates with roughly 1000 pledged delegates still outstanding. Given the proportional allocation rules Sanders would have to win the remaining delegates by 65% to take the pledged delegate lead. At that time he was polling at winning approximately 45% of those remaining pledged delegates (about what he had been doing overall throughout the primary) a 20 point deficit. As of May 2016 it was not plausible that Sanders would win, and its pretty normal for the party apparatus to reflect that (I would bet that there are similar in tone emails about Clinton’s long primary in 2008).
            So the emails aren’t really important, but they are embarrassing – just like it would be embarrassing if someone hacked my emails and found out rude comments I had made about work colleagues/friends/family to other friends/family in private. The kind of material in them is common, but not commonly public.
            What is concerning in the context of elections is that this tactic can distort the vote in that selective disclosure of embarrassing but not really newsworthy emails makes it appear as if only one side has them. Even if on reflection its obvious that the RNC is going to say the same kinds of things in their internal emails, just like my personal email has stuff I wouldn’t want made public, it doesn’t appear that way. A foreign power using illegal hacking to pursue this tactic to advance their preferred candidate is dangerous because, yes, the information is true – but that doesn’t mean its not distorting. I am not sure what a good response to this is, but it is a real problem.

          • Iain says:

            @John Schilling:

            Okay, but even the worst things on that list are praising with faint damns. Oh no — some guy made a dumb suggestion and everybody ignored him! The DNC is trying to maximize the chances that the Democrats win the presidential election? Get out the torches and pitchforks, guys!

            Benedict Arnold and Judas Iscariot would presumably be no more impressed by the depth of the DNC’s perfidy than Machiavelli. C’mon, give them some respect. They took their treachery seriously. The DNC is amateur hour.

            You might think that the Republicans have better security practices. I would point out that Sean Spicer has accidentally tweeted his own password — twice.

          • Deiseach says:

            You think nobody ever said anything bad about Trump? Really?

            Yeah, but the conventional wisdom was that the Republicans loathed Trump. Them trash-talking him would have been on a par with “grass is green, water is wet”.

            The Democrats on the other hand are supposed to be all one big happy inclusive party of rainbows and unicorns working for the good of all, so petty back-stabbing and “Can we make a big deal of Sanders being an atheist?” would have more of a negative effect on perception (presumably also among those who like to think of the Democrats as their relief from the religious zealots in the Republican camp, think of the Democrats as the ‘intellectual, like science and books and education’ party and/or who identify as atheist).

            The problem is the two sets of emails which got tangled up together. The internal DNC was, in the end, amusing but not relevant (except to any innocent wallflowers who thought political parties were all earnest seekers after the highest and best). The real problem was Hillary’s private server but we’re flogged that horse down to the bare bones and I don’t want to re-hash that all over again.

          • IrishDude says:

            Didn’t the emails show a member of the media passing primary debate questions to Clinton in advance? That level of collusion is unseemly.

          • Mary says:

            It showed a lot of reporters actively colluding with the campaign, vetting their stories with it. A grave breach of professional standards.

            Notice that except for the woman who shared the questions, they all still have their jobs.

        • Mediocrates says:

          In partial, heavily caveated defense of Podesta, the New Yorker has a long piece on the Russian election meddling that claims he actually did ask an IT guy to check that phishing email, and IT guy inexplicably, unpardonably gave it a green light.

          Also, apparently Andropov’s KGB actively worked against Reagan’s reelection in ’84? To the extent that they tried to infiltrate both the DNC and RNC headquarters? They didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory with that caper considering Reagan went 49/50, but maybe they kept Minnesota out of his hands.

  66. P. George Stewart says:

    Re. the celebrities thing, it’s mainly that their endorsements are so incredibly dumb – e.g. Trump is used to firing people so he might fire nuclear weapons. lolwhut

    Also it’s the lockstep thinking and the greylist exclusion of other views that’s behind the united front.

    The question that tickles me pink is, if Trump is so thick, how come he’s able to lay traps like “you guys didn’t report terror attacks” that have the press scurrying to demonstrate that they did indeed report some terror attacks, but also underreported others, thereby keeping the thing in the public mind – that type of thing. He does it all the time, in lots of variations, and they fall for it every time.

    Or with the Sweden thing – either he’s just dumbly lucky that there were riots in Sweden shortly after he mentioned Sweden, or he has a better understanding of what’s going on in Sweden than the press do. The latter, obviously. “Crooked Hillary” was another variation – of course she’s crooked, she’s been notoriously, demonstrably crooked for years, so crooked stuff was almost guaranteed to come up.

    I wouldn’t go as far as “4th dimensional chess”, but he clearly loves to bait people and to make them think he’s dumber than he actually is, so that they underestimate him.

    I must admit, I’ve warmed to him quite a lot since I first saw our great God Emperor descending the escalator and announcing his candidacy way back when. As a UK person I was only peripherally aware of him, and my natural snobbish reaction to his appearance and apparently sketchy grasp of language, was, “My God, what a buffoon”. But at the same time it seemed to me the most obvious thing in the world that he was absolutely, sincerely a patriot. (Plus it’s stupid to twit a billionaire for being dumb anyway, especially someone who makes money actually building stuff, as opposed to solely via financial/political shenanigans and whatnot.)

    I reckon his tax cuts and regulation cuts, if they’re carried through, will do wonders.

    • Deiseach says:

      he’s just dumbly lucky that there were riots in Sweden shortly after he mentioned Sweden

      Well, if we believe he’s the Anti-Christ/Satan/Even Worse Than That, maybe he caused them to happen by his nefarious devious occult powers of evil 🙂

      • hlynkacg says:

        I prefer the “Trump is a time traveler” hypothesis.

        There was no terrorist attack in Bowling Green but the FBI did foil an attempted attack there back in 2011 and Trump’s memories are from a different (unaltered?) timeline. Having seen the future he already knew about the riots in Sweden but fumbled on the precise date. 😉

      • mupetblast says:

        “Well, if we believe he’s the Anti-Christ/Satan/Even Worse Than That, maybe he caused them to happen by his nefarious devious occult powers of evil…”

        You laugh, but http://bit.ly/2miuii3

  67. John Schilling says:

    Three fine but I think important distinctions:

    1. People who are worried that the Russians hacked the Democrats, vs people who are worried that the Russians hacked the election.

    Well, OK, even the former is silly in that worrying about how Russian spies made the Democrats look bad with their hacking is like worrying about how Gravity made Hillary look bad by stumbling when she had pneumonia – there’s a problem, but this will lead you to looking for technically implausible solutions. But, especially if you take up the mantle of informing people who don’t have time to research issues themselves, there’s no excuse for “Russians hacked the election!” claims that will lead the casual reader to believe that e.g. the voting machines were rigged and Hillary would have won otherwise.

    2. Celebrities who oppose (or support) Trump, vs. people who care who celebrities oppose or support. So long as there are people who believe celebrity political opinion is worth paying attention to, sure, it’s a reasonable thing for celebrities to do. I think we went through this w/re Emma Watson’s speechifying a while back. But the people who make it reasonable for celebrities to do this, again, deserve a level of scorn for their poor choice in sources, and doubly so if they expect me to care. If I even know what Celebrity X thinks about Issue Y, someone has misunderstood their audience.

    3. Pundits who failed to predict Trump, vs. Pundits who predicted Not-Trump with 98% confidence or the rhetorical equivalent thereof. You need a really, really good list of accurate prior predictions to remain credible with that one on your resume, and I don’t know of anyone who qualifies. And admitting to the obvious error after the fact only goes so far.

    • Deiseach says:

      Yeah, I’d agree. Celebrities are perfectly entitled to express their opinions as much as any other citizen. Their celebrity does not, though, make them an expert (if it is on something outside their field: I will happily yield the palm to Kim Kardashian on knowing what is in style and how to make money out of fashion) or grant extra weight or import to that opinion more than that of any other citizen.

      “Hi, I’m That Guy Whose Face You Know, You Know Him, He Played The Navy SEAL Who Took Out Kim Jong-Un In That Movie, and I want you all to realise the dreadful effects kale is having on the national health. With your help, today we can make kale the Forgotten Vegetable! You know you can trust me on this, after all, I am That Guy Whose Face You Know!”

  68. nelshoy says:

    Having black characters in Hamilton (James Armistead might have worked well), black actors playing white characters, and slavery in the same rapid-fire musical would have been waaayy too confusing for audiences. It’s hard to see if they could have done things differently without making the founding fathers white instead of deliberately casting non-white actors.

    In the counterfactual universe where this happened, leftists still hate Hamilton for appropriating and gentrifying hip-hop.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Doesn’t theater constantly race- and gender-bend?

      • nelshoy says:

        Not a theater expert, but I saw Hamilton with people who were already confused enough by the pace, choreography, and character switching. I think if you were going to do it, you’d need to apply it consistently. I don’t think you’d see men randomly playing women in a suffragette play unless (for some reason…) all the roles were reversed.

      • Nornagest says:

        I’m not really a theater guy, but I watched a production of Othello once where everyone was black except for Othello, who was white.

        So, probably.

        • nelshoy says:

          Right, that also makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is raceblind casting, since race is a important aspect of the play.

          • MugaSofer says:

            I mean, did Shakespeare even use a black actor for Othello?

            Just do something with costuming or makeup so Othello is obviously different in some way. Masks, horns, whatever.

          • rlms says:

            Eh, it’s important that Othello be different, but not necessarily racially. You could have him being the only guy with ginger hair, or do a version where everyone else is female or something.

          • nelshoy says:

            As long it’s meaningful to the audience and doesn’t take the place of other identities like gender.

          • Montfort says:

            Mugasofer, I don’t think we know that, though they certainly wouldn’t have been shy about making a pale actor darker. I believe in those days Othello was often played in some kind of North African/Middle Eastern costume (despite the fact that he’s an officer in the Venetian military), probably at least a little swarthy so the “black ram” line and similar made sense.

            (Actually, I haven’t read the literary criticism on the subject, but the word “black” was figurative enough back then I bet you could construct a reading where those lines all make sense even if Othello were chalk-white).

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I mean, did Shakespeare even use a black actor for Othello?

            They probably used black-face.

            Eh, it’s important that Othello be different, but not necessarily racially. You could have him being the only guy with ginger hair, or do a version where everyone else is female or something.

            Well, his race is mentioned several times in the play. Whilst you could have an alternate play where Othello is different for some other reason, if you’re going to perform the play as written it would seem pretty confusing to have Othello not be a different race.

          • uncle stinky says:

            Nah, what’s important is that Othello be ludicrously credulous. “Hankie with strawberries on? It’s murderin’ time”.

          • Tarpitz says:

            There’s a fair amount of debate as to whether by “black” and “Moor” Shakespeare meant sub-Saharan African or North African. It doesn’t seem like something we’ll ever be able to definitively settle (my personal inclination is probably the former); we do know that he would have had the opportunity to encounter high status North Africans in person, thanks to the 1600 visit of a Moorish ambassador to Elizabeth’s court.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            I read “Othello” carefully about 15 years ago to try to figure out what Shakespeare meant by “Moor of Venice.” At the time, the term “Moor” was applied fuzzily to just about everybody from the continent of Africa. My impression was that the textual evidence ran 80-20 in favor of Shakespeare conceiving of Othello being a black sub-Saharan African (although perhaps half or three-quarters white) rather than an olive North African.

            Black Africans were rare but not unknown in the port of London in the early 1600s. They would have attracted attention, and Shakespeare, who was interested in everything, probably would have gone to see a few.

            Clearly, Othello’s difference from most other people in Venice is racial rather than religious (he’s a Christian). It’s possible that Shakespeare was fascinated by the moderate racial differences between Italians and North Africans, but it seems more likely that, with his showman’s instinct, he would have homed in on the bigger white versus black difference as being more interesting for audiences.

    • gbdub says:

      They should still hate Hamilton for appropriating and gentrifying hip-hop. Yeah, Lin-Manuel Miranda isn’t white, but I rather doubt there were a lot of rap battles at Wesleyan.

      And it’s frikkin’ Broadway! There’s nothing Broadway won’t appropriate and gentrify.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        Yeah, Lin-Manuel Miranda isn’t white

        Why not? Because his name sounds like a flower arrangement?

        • gbdub says:

          He’s Puerto Rican (so hip-hop is still not racially his culture, but cultural appropriation mostly gets complained about when white people do it. Incidentally I find it very difficult to explain cultural appropriation without sounding like an ethno-nationalist)

          • AndrewH says:

            Hip-hop was mainstreamed by African Americans but the Latin (especially Puerto Rican) practitioners have been foundational and around since the beginning. There’s a tremendous amount of interplay and fluidity in the culture leading up to Kool Herc playing funk and Latin drum breaks on loop, rewarded by frenetic quasi-gangs of kids from NYC’s not-most-glamorous neighborhoods reintegrating familiar dance and motion into their generation’s new idiom. It’s always been an art and culture that challenges and critiques American racialization, and often subversively, which is naturally Hamilton’s twist on the textbook narratives.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            I’ve found it interesting that in the later 1970s, the leaders of Blondie, Debby Harry and her husband Chris Stein, took the leader of Chic to his first rap concert, where he was upset that his riff for “Good Times” was being sampled without him being paid royalties.

          • rlms says:

            Rapper’s Delight doesn’t sample the Good Times bass riff, they rerecorded it.

        • po8crg says:

          Because he is not granted the privileges associated with whiteness in US society.

          That’s what the slogan “race is a social construct” means – that society as a whole has an agreement on who is in which race, that, other than a few ambiguous cases, people have no real choice as to which race they are counted in. And Lin-Manuel Miranda is brown and is counted as Hispanic. There are white Hispanics who can choose to be counted as white if they lose the accent – Martin Sheen to pick a famous enough name that you can google a picture easily – but Miranda is not one of them.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Because he is not granted the privileges associated with whiteness in US society.

            Which ones? I doubt he was stopped in the street when driving a nice car or something. And as far as looks go, he looks whiter than most italian-americans. So what’s the deal? How is he not white by anything other than choice?

          • po8crg says:

            I may be misreading America – I’m British, so that’s always on the table – so you may well be right.

            I’ve always understood, by Americans talking about Mediterranean-looking people as “brown” that the shade needed to qualify as white is a lot lighter than it is here. But perhaps I’m just wrong?

          • Sandy says:

            American racialism is confusing, but not all of it is because some people are “denied the privileges associated with whiteness in US society” — some of it is because people like Jorge Ramos and Randy Falco, who in all likelihood do not have a single drop of non-European blood in their veins, have realized that being the spokesmen of a large ethnic group is quite lucrative.

            That and the largest white ethnicity in America is German, followed by the Irish and various English/Scottish types, so the white population in America is predominantly descended from North-West Europe. They genuinely are lighter than what would still be considered white in parts of Europe.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            “Because he is not granted the privileges associated with whiteness in US society.”

            Lin-Manuel Miranda comes from a privileged and talented family from the Puerto Rican elite.

            By New York City standards, Lin-Manuel is, I would guess, slightly right of center. His political consultant father was in charge of wrangling Puerto Rican votes for Mayor Ed Koch, who was considered a relatively conservative Democrat in NYC.

            His great-uncle moved to NYC from Puerto Rico in 1936 to defend the P.R. nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos, who was kind of a fascist. His followers wore black shirts in the Mussolini / Oswald Mosley mode of the era.

            Here’s my review of Stephen Hunter’s book “American Gunfight” about when the Miranda family’s allies damn near assassinated Harry Truman in 1950:

            https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0743260686/vdare

            It’s not at all surprising that Miranda will return to the stage to play “Hamilton” in a benefit for the PR Independence terrorist leader recently pardoned by Obama.

            It is a little distasteful that Miranda will make his return to the stage in the very same Chicago theater that the terrorist leader’s followers blew up in the 1970s.

            But blood is thicker …

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Looking at Lin-Manuel Miranda’s upscale nuclear family (his father was a political consultant to Mayor Koch, his mother is a doctor), I would roughly guesstimate he’s about 7/8ths white:

          http://newyorklifestylesmagazine.com/images/content/2016/05/linmanuel/linmanuel_01.jpg

          He might be all white and have a tanning salon prescription.

          He’s the great-nephew of the founder of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, Gilberto Concepción de Gracia, who moved to New York in 1936 to defend the quasi-fascist PR nationalist Pedro Albizu Campos in whose name terrorists almost assassinated Harry Truman in 1950. His great-uncle was also involved with the quasi-communist New York Congressman Vito Marcantonio.

      • nelshoy says:

        Much more angry, I should say. And I don’t see appropriation and gentrification in this instance a problem whatsoever.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        For 60 years the great Nuyorican musical has been “West Side Story” by a bunch of gay/bisexual Jews.

        Now there is finally a high quality musical about a great New Yorker by a talented straight Nuyorican, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and based on a Ron Chernow biography, so it’s hardly surprising that all the past and potential Treasury Secretaries in New York are going nuts over “Hamilton.”

        A big part of “Hamilton” mania is that American historiography has traditionally underplayed New York City’s importance. For example, “Albion’s Seed” pretty much ignores NYC. Yet, NYC is, obviously, very important.

        Finally, two proud New York City boys, Chernow and Miranda, have combined for a musical about another New York City man, the reactionary genius Alexander Hamilton.

        So all the rich people in New York City are going crazy over the show.

        Besides, in recent years rich people have pretty much dropped the mask of pretending that they care about not-rich Americans, so why not pay $450 per ticket, or whatever the minimum is, to adulate the plutocratic Manhattanite Hamilton?

    • po8crg says:

      You could cast all the slaves as white, I suppose. But you’d have to adjust the way the King works.

      • gbdub says:

        That doesn’t work at all, because you’re going to feel sympathy for the slaves regardless of who they are.

        Making the slaves white would require either:
        1) making them unsympathetic
        2) creating a play where black people are racial oppressors

        The latter would be potentially interesting, but not at all where they wanted Hamilton to go.

        • rlms says:

          I don’t think it would cause 2 any more than the actual play (where black actors play slaveowners Washington and Jefferson).

        • 2) creating a play where black people are racial oppressors

          The latter would be potentially interesting

          Heinlein did it, but not in a play. And not one of his better books.

        • Deiseach says:

          I know nothing about Hamilton (the person or the musical) apart from the squeeing over it on Tumblr, but I was amused that nearly everyone got cast as non-Eurocentric – except the Bad Guy, who had to be played by an unmistakeably white actor.

          Had they had George II played by Okieriete Onaodowan, now that would have been innovative! 🙂 But it would have spoiled the political point about “immigrants – we get stuff done”, even though the House of Hanover was also a foreign importation to the society of England.

          • nelshoy says:

            I saw it in Chicago and King George was played by a Chinese guy, but I think he was the understudy. That’s probably a metaphor for something.

            You should check out the soundtrack if you don’t mind a little leftism and a few liberties with history in your art. It’s good music and really a lot of fun.

  69. akarlin says:

    Harry Potter is not the national mythology I would have chosen. Probably I would have gone for Lord of the Rings.

    How about Kirill Eskov’s The Last Ringbearer? That seems to be the more appropriate template for the age of fake …tidings.

    • Nornagest says:

      Too Russian.

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        Too Russian and too damn obscure. Only certain small number of literary LoTR fans have ever heard about it.

        The realistic other candidates would be the other popular media, or at least the kind that everyone is familiar with. (Thinking about Narnia.)

  70. fortaleza84 says:

    “But from the celebrities’ own point of view, they’re doing the best they can. If Kim Kardashian wants to help the cause, what do you expect her to do?”

    Celebrities may think they are trying to help, but in reality they are just virtue-signalling. And yes, ignorant virtue-signalling is worse than silence.

    What would I like her to do? I would like celebrities to make real personal investment in their causes. Spend a week in an immigrant neighborhood in Malmo, Sweden with no bodyguards or police protection to demonstrate to the world how safe it is. Either that or admit that they are unwilling to do so because they know it would be highly dangerous for an unaccompanied woman to do such a thing.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Pretending To Actually Try.

      Also, I notice that your one suggestion is for her to get herself killed. That seems a bit unfriendly.

      • Jiro says:

        He isn’t really suggesting that she should get herself killed. He’s suggesting that the fact that she won’t get herself killed shows that she knows that the beliefs she signals don’t match reality.

        • Garrett says:

          As a counter-argument, would a high-level male celebrity be able to do the same thing? It’s possible that the risk for women is much higher than men. But if the risks for unguarded celebrities is even higher, it doesn’t prove anything.

          Also, would it matter what they are known for? Vin Diesel might get jumped by guys trying to prove how tough they are, but Martha Stuart might just get a lot of annoying requests for floral arrangement assistance. So someone like Kim Kardashian who’s substantially known for her “sex appeal” might be at much greater risk than the average women, making the experiment worthless.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          “He’s suggesting that the fact that she won’t get herself killed shows that she knows that the beliefs she signals don’t match reality.”

          My guess is that Kim Kardashian has never thought about Sweden in her life and has no opinion on the criminality or not of refugees there.

          Even if she did, there’s a lot of difference between “Irish people seem generally okay, I guess”, and “go live in the bad part of Limerick”.

          • One Name May Hide Another says:

            My guess is that Kim Kardashian has never thought about Sweden

            Well, she is married to Kanye, and Kanye did say he was going to run for president in 2020 2024. So, who knows, maybe the two are talking about these things: Kanye needing to bounce ideas off of someone, etc. =)

      • Deiseach says:

        Scott, as far as I can make out, the Kardashians are famous for being famous – their father was one of the lawyers in the O.J. Simpson trial?

        She may be a perfectly nice, intelligent young woman but I see no reason to be particularly more convinced for or against something by her than by any other nice, intelligent young woman who doesn’t have her nip slip covered in pop culture media.

      • youzicha says:

        Oh come on. There were 10 murders in Malmö in 2016 (an all-time high). The per capita murder rate of e.g. New Haven, Connecticut is 2.5 times higher. The chance of being killed from living there is surely tiny?

        • AeXeaz says:

          According to Brå there were 12 murders in 2010, so the 10 last year weren’t an all-time high.

          I also think it would make more sense to compare the murder rate to that of other Scandinavian cities. There were 5 murders in Oslo last year, and Oslo (pop. ~650k) is almost twice the size of Malmö (pop. ~350k). To be fair, if you go back and look at the last decade the average is closer to 10 a year, but that’s still quite a big difference. In Copenhagen (an even bigger city at ~750k) there were 11 murders in 2015 (couldn’t easily find the numbers for 2016).

    • nelshoy says:

      For a lot of celebrities their pulpit is their most valuable asset. I think there’s lots of room for charity in assuming they generally care about issues they talk about instead of just assusing their subconsciously trying to look good. Speaking of charity, money is the unit of caring (and time), and I see plenty of celebrities donating both.

      Tangent, but isn’t it weird seeing the huge use (and overuse) of the term “virtue-signalling” outside the rationalist-sphere? Apparently this guy thinks he invented it, but far all I know he may be responsible for the recent spread. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, but it’s a good case of a word rapidly spreading If it fills a good niche.

      • Deiseach says:

        I think there’s lots of room for charity in assuming they generally care about issues they talk about instead of just assuming they’re subconsciously trying to look good.

        That kind of self-regarding celebrity was skewered in 90s British comedy as Smashie and Nicey, who do a “lodda work for charidee” (but don’t like to talk about it).

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      She’s already experienced what it’s like when her bodyguards can’t be trusted and is unlikely to do so again.

    • tmk says:

      Every single time I have read the term “virtue-signalling” it has meant “stating a liberal opinion”.

      • Brad says:

        Same here.

        Take the above sentence “Celebrities may think they are trying to help, but in reality they are just virtue-signalling.”

        How does fortaleza84 they are just virtue-signalling rather than trying to help? Is he a mind reader? And if it is supposed to be signaling, where is the high cost?

        It isn’t like angry young right men on the internet needed another term to throw at the hated enemy. I’d prefer that they leave this one alone.

        • Jiro says:

          How does fortaleza84 they are just virtue-signalling rather than trying to help? Is he a mind reader?

          The same way one infers any person’s thoughts from their actions. You’re not really questioning whether signalling is real, you’re questioning whether one can infer anyone’s mental state at all. Humans do it all the time.

          And if it is supposed to be signaling, where is the high cost?

          Signals don’t need to have a high cost. They just need to be perceived as having a high cost by the intended audience. Celebrities and leftists who speak this way are routinely seen by the audience as taking brave, principled, personally dangerous stands against right-wing evil. The fact that they are not actually doing anything dangerous is beside the point.

          And even aside from that, such signals have a cost in the sense that they demonstrate commitment to a position and make it expensive to take a different position later on.

        • Corey says:

          It’s easier to believe that one’s ideological opponents don’t actually believe what they say.

        • Michael Watts says:

          if it is supposed to be signaling, where is the high cost?

          You’ve confused “signaling” with “signaling wealth”. Wearing a green shirt on St. Patrick’s Day is signaling. Not wearing one is also signaling. Obviously, most people aren’t bankrupted by the cost of having to either wear green or not on St. Patrick’s Day.

          You can signal wealth (monetary or genetic) by paying a high (monetary or fitness) cost, but that’s because of the nature of wealth, not the nature of signaling. The nature of signaling requires only that other people perceive your signals, and celebrities making public announcements meet that requirement in spades.

          • Montfort says:

            You’ve confused “costly signaling” with “signaling wealth.” You can signal your allegiance to the cult of Cybele without spending any money at all or appearing wealthy, but all the same the signal is quite costly.

          • Michael Watts says:

            My point was that signals of wealth, and no other kind of signal, have an inherent link with high costs. You’ve said nothing to contradict that.

          • Jiro says:

            As I pointed out above, signals have a cost in the sense that they commit you to a position and foreclose the option of taking a different stance.

          • Montfort says:

            I don’t know why you would think so. There are costly signals of most things. Are you of the opinion there are no cheap signals of wealth? Are you using the word “wealth” to mean an abundance of or possession of anything, including abstract things like “faithfulness” or “commitment” or “advance knowledge of a major political event”? Or do you just mean paying a high price in some way trivially demonstrates that you had resources equal to the price you paid?

          • My point was that signals of wealth, and no other kind of signal, have an inherent link with high costs.

            I would have said that, for a signal to work, it has to be costly if false.

            Driving an expensive car, wearing expensive clothes and jewelry, are expensive things to do if you are not rich, so effectively signal wealth. They are expensive in dollar terms if you are wealthy, but if you are wealthy the utility cost is low and the utility benefit, signalling aside, is still substantial, so the net cost, signalling aside, is low or negative.

          • Brad says:

            Wearing a green shirt on St. Patrick’s Day is signaling. Not wearing one is also signaling.

            “Virtue signaling” is supposed to be a term of art. You can’t break down a term of art by looking up the definitions of each word of the term and picking whichever one you like.

            I say supposed to be, because as mentioned above, it is often now just used as an empty insult by people on the right for people on the left.

          • Michael Watts says:

            I would have said that, for a signal to work, it has to be costly if false.

            This makes sense, but I’m pretty sure it’s not true.

            When Barack Obama was campaigning (probably in 2007?), one of the things that happened was that he gave a speech or interview or something (I’ll get to what I consider the point of this) at Google, at least part of which made it onto Youtube.

            In the introduction to this, the facilitator asked him (quotes approximated), “It’s tough to become President of the US. It’s also tough to get a job at Google. How would you sort a list of one million integers?”

            And Obama replied, “I don’t know, but I think the bubble sort would be the wrong way to go”. (This was correct; bubble sort is famous, among the people who like sorting, as an intuitive-but-slow sort.)

            I’m confident that Obama has never studied sorting algorithms and that this was a canned, prepped answer. In my eyes, it’s purely an act of signaling — specifically, signaling group membership to people who do know about sorting algorithms. And it had the intended effect on me; I liked Obama more after hearing it, despite knowing that the signal was in fact false. I doubt I was alone in this.

            Brad, as I understand the term, “virtue signaling” is a transparent extension of the term of art “signaling”, where what you’re signaling is your personal virtue. It is precisely analogous to e.g. a peacock’s glorious, fitness-reducing tail. Do you understand something different?

            Montfort, I agree that there are costly signals of most things, and that there are cheap signals of wealth, such as mentioning that you went to Cambridge or that your last name is Walton. There is an inherent link between high costs and wealth signals because the fact that something has a high cost is sufficient to make it a signal of wealth, and many wealth signals consist of basically nothing other than the high cost. Wealth signals are the only signals where it makes any sense to assume that a high cost is necessary (it isn’t) or likely (it is).

          • Brad says:

            @Michael Watts
            I take signaling in the economic sense to be more than just any communication at all.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I think Obama was indicating that he’s very widely read, not that he was a computer programmer.

          • I think Obama was indicating that he’s very widely read, not that he was a computer programmer.

            The interesting question to me is whether it was true, whether he actually knew something about bubble sorts or was only pretending.

            The clearest evidence of whether politicians are as well educated as they pretend to be occurs when a politician has to respond to things in real time. Biden demonstrated quite striking ignorance of history in an interview when he claimed that, when the stock market crashed, Roosevelt got on television to speak to the nation. He demonstrated less striking but, given his position, surprising ignorance of the Constitution when he insisted that “Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that’s the Executive Branch.”

            Biden isn’t an educated man, he merely plays one on TV. To what degree the same is true of Obama, I don’t know. It’s possible that he knew what a bubble sort was, also possible that he had been told the questions in advance and prepared accordingly.

          • rlms says:

            @DavidFriedman
            Regarding Biden, there are two parts to his alleged ignorance — thinking FDR was president at the time of the crash, and thinking that the president would have made a television broadcast. I think the latter is very minor. Steelmanning, it is perfectly possible that the the president could have appeared on television in 1929, it’s just that very few people would have seen it. I think it is more likely that he misplaced the popularisation of TV by a decade or two, but that is in my opinion highly forgivable. Knowledge of the history of media technology seems like an unimportant thing for a politician to possess (in comparison to, say, knowledge of Syrian geography!) Thinking FDR was president is a bigger mistake, but if that “demonstrates striking ignorance” I dread to think what “Aleppo?!” shows.

            Regarding Obama and bubblesort: I think it’s overwhelmingly likely he was fed the answer. If you have done CS 101 and know that bubblesort is bad, you also know that heapsort, quicksort and mergesort are reasonable choices. It is possible that “bubblesort is bad” is the only thing Obama remembered from CS 101, and I would love to think that he wanted to make a comment along the lines of “well, if the million integers are drawn from a relatively small range (as seems plausible) then a counting-based sort is likely to be more efficient than a comparison based sort” but only had time for a pithy comment against bubblesort. But I think a pre-prepared question and answer is most plausible. Of course, just because Obama is not educated about CS doesn’t mean he is not educated in general. I imagine that if you asked him (or W. Bush for that matter) what Aleppo is, or when FDR was elected, they would answer correctly instantly.

          • youzicha says:

            Of course Obama was fed the answer. He acknowledged that himself, if the same exchange:

            Obama: I think the bubble sort would be the wrong way to go.
            Schmidt: [laughs] Who told him this? I didn’t see computer science in your
            Obama: We’ve got our spies in there.

            (As for how they were able to guess this, someone on Quora suggests it’s because John McCain had been asked a similar question when he visited Google earlier the same year.)

          • Thinking FDR was president is a bigger mistake, but if that “demonstrates striking ignorance” I dread to think what “Aleppo?!” shows.

            You have it backwards. That FDR was not President when the stockmarket crashed is a crucial fact in one of the most important episodes of American history, the Great Depression and New Deal. It meant that Hoover got blamed for the Great Depression and FDR elected in a setting where, even when things went very badly wrong, that was seen as despite his policies rather than because of them.

            Thinking FDR was president in the crash is like thinking Lee fought for the Union or George Washington was a Tory.

            Aleppo is a Middle-Eastern city of no great historical or commercial importance that happened to have been in the news, due to current conflicts in the Middle East, when Johnson was asked about it. Not recognizing its significance is like not recognizing the significance of whatever baseball team just won the World Series–although I expect the number of Americans who don’t know that is smaller.

          • Montfort says:

            Aleppo is a Middle-Eastern city of no great historical or commercial importance that happened to have been in the news, due to current conflicts in the Middle East, when Johnson was asked about it. Not recognizing its significance is like not recognizing the significance of whatever baseball team just won the World Series–although I expect the number of Americans who don’t know that is smaller.

            You seem to want to avoid saying that not knowing “Aleppo” demonstrates striking ignorance, but your comparison proves nothing of the kind. Just as thinking FDR was president during the market crash is “striking ignorance of [pre-WWII American] history,” not knowing the winner of the most recent world series would demonstrate “striking ignorance” of baseball, and not knowing “Aleppo” would, at that time, demonstrate “striking ignorance” of current foreign affairs.

            Now, the difference is that most people would say that baseball is not really in the president’s (or vp’s) purview. And many people probably believe at least some degree of knowledge of pre-WWII American history is important for American politicians. But I imagine at least as many think foreign affairs are important, given how much attention is paid to foreign policy during campaigns.

          • Just as thinking FDR was president during the market crash is “striking ignorance of [pre-WWII American] history,” not knowing the winner of the most recent world series would demonstrate “striking ignorance” of baseball, and not knowing “Aleppo” would, at that time, demonstrate “striking ignorance” of current foreign affairs.

            Agreed. But the question I was asking was whether politicians were well educated, not whether they were well informed about current world affairs. Knowing about bubble sorts doesn’t have much to do with the President’s job, but appearing to know about it made Obama appear to be more widely educated.

            Not knowing about Aleppo did not show Gary Johnson not to be well educated. Nor would not knowing what team won the World Series. Those are not the sorts of things we expected educated people to know.

            Thinking FDR was president when the stock market crashed did show Biden to be poorly educated–and both that and the TV part and his claim in another context about the job of the VP showed not only that he was not very well educated but that he didn’t recognize his own ignorance, believed he knew things he didn’t.

            A major party politician who has some significant chance of getting elected ought to be up on current world affairs, but nobody, including Johnson, thought Johnson had any real chance of winning. He was hoping, first, to do well enough in the polls to get into the debates, and later to get over five percent in the election. The ultimate objective was to spread libertarian ideas.

        • Achieving beneficial outcomes as the outcome of an outcome motivatrd by a desire to show off is perfectly posdible. One of the mistaken assumptions of this sorry drbate of is that virtue signalling and actually doing good are necessarily disjoint.

      • guizzy says:

        No, it’s pretty obviously used to describe people whose stated opinions don’t match what their actual actions betray about their real belief, and the poster you’re answering to used it correctly. The left is currently doing a whole lot of it, but they’re far from the only group that can do it. Imagine a red tribe person who says he’s convinced that radical islamic terrorism is the biggest single threat to mankind, but makes weak excuses when asked to put up and go serve in the military. Or someone who says that illegal immigration is ruining the country, and then explicitly goes out to hire illegal immigrants to build his deck. That’s virtue signaling too.

        Most of it, on both sides, could be better avoided if people started stating their real confidence honestly when talking. If the celebrity claiming Sweden is perfectly safe claims to be 99,99% certain of it, then yes, it’s pointless virtue signaling if they are not also willing to put up and test it. Obviously, if they are not willing to test it, they aren’t *that* sure of themselves. However, the celebrity that refuses to go live a week in Malmo might be honestly thinking it’s more likely that it’s safe, say at 75%, and refuse to test it. Because 25% chance of dying or serious bodily harm is not a lottery you’ll get to play often in your life, and ideally not for petty reasons like an argument. The problem is, in nowadays’ politics, it’s always all or nothing; something is 100% sure or it’s absolutely impossible. No allowance for the possibility that, maybe, the other side could be right.

        • Tatu Ahponen says:

          “If the celebrity claiming Sweden is perfectly safe claims to be 99,99% certain of it, then yes, it’s pointless virtue signaling if they are not also willing to put up and test it. Obviously, if they are not willing to test it, they aren’t *that* sure of themselves. However, the celebrity that refuses to go live a week in Malmo might be honestly thinking it’s more likely that it’s safe, say at 75%, and refuse to test it. ”

          Or, ya know, any normal person (let alone a celeb) has better things to do than to drop everything they’re doing and live a week *anywhere* just to prove a point in an Internet debate.

          • guizzy says:

            Proving that the person they seem to consider a mashup of Hitler and Voldemort a big fat liar would probably be worth some effort.

            Unless again this is just virtue signaling: they’re telling people (poorer in both money and social capital) that they need to resist him with every fiber of their being, some even suggesting insurrection, and yet it’s not worth taking a week long vacation to oppose him? Maybe they don’t really believe he’s nearly that bad, then, and they’re just opposing him to look good to their other celebrity friends. There’s a few of them I’d give credit to; Shia Labeouf obviously has some problems up there, but he’s also shown that he’s usually willing to follow through.

          • John Schilling says:

            If Kim Kardashian were to spend a week in Malmo, would any significant number of her critics actually change their beliefs and say, “Kim was right; Muslim immigrants aren’t that bad and Donald Trump is a big fat liar”?

            I greatly doubt it, and would not be willing to invest a week of my time finding out.

          • Jiro says:

            If Kim Kardashian were to spend a week in Malmo, would any significant number of her critics actually change their beliefs and say, “Kim was right; Muslim immigrants aren’t that bad and Donald Trump is a big fat liar”?

            No, but I would then believe that Kim Kardashian sincerely thinks that immigrants in Sweden are not dangerous. It’s being used to test whether her belief is genuine, not to test whether her belief is true.

          • John Schilling says:

            No, but I would then believe that Kim Kardashian sincerely thinks that immigrants in Sweden are not dangerous.

            But why should she care? Why should she care what a million people like you think, people who are not and never will be her adoring fans and whose political beliefs are unaffected her appeals, that she should spend even one week of her time to sway the opinions of the lot of you?

            There are people for whose good opinions Kim Kardashian will, quite rationally, make sacrifices. None of those people, care whether she spends a week in Malmo. It’s a silly request.

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            …which celebrity are we talking about, again? If it’s Kim Kardashian, a quick Google search shows no statements by her that would say that Trump is a “mashup of Hitler and Voldemort” or that he should be “resisted with every fiber of being”. She’s posted a chart of statistics as a reply to Trump’s travel ban and apparently been privately critical of Kanye’s brief dalliance with Trump. That’s pretty much it.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            I’d give pretty decent odds that Kim Kardashian voted for Trump.

            She only claimed she was voting for Hillary after reports emerged she was “on the fence.”

            http://www.vanityfair.com/style/2016/09/kim-kardashian-voting-for-hillary-clinton

            Those reports sound pretty credible to me.

            Trump appeals to individuals who are cunning and not respectable, which is a pretty apt description of Kardashian.

        • Brad says:

          No, it’s pretty obviously used to describe people whose stated opinions don’t match what their actual actions betray about their real belief, and the poster you’re answering to used it correctly.

          If that is the usage fortaleza84 intended then it is one that is totally unmoored from its roots in economics.

          We have the word ‘hypocrisy’, why ruin a useful phrase just to have another insult that means means the same thing? Because its sounds more sophisticated and science-y?

          • gbdub says:

            Yeah this bothered me too – virtue signaling doesn’t require hypocrisy or even insincerity. It’s more an accusation of shallowness than falsity.

            A president ending a speech with “God Bless America” is still virtue signaling even if he’s religious and sincerely wishes for God to bestow His blessings upon the country.

          • To my mind, “virtue signaling” doesn’t require hypocrisy but is consistent with it. It consists of saying or doing something in order to make people believe something good about you. The something might happen to be true, but that isn’t the motive.

            I have lots of odd interests, such as medieval cooking and Islamic law. If I bring one of them into a conversation where it is irrelevant in order to show off how much I know, that’s analogous to virtue signaling, save that it’s about knowledge not virtue. Even though what I am signaling happens to be true.

            As with other forms of signaling, it’s more persuasive if sending the signal is more costly if it is false. “Costly” isn’t about money costs in particular. It includes the cost of the risk of being detected in hypocrisy, the cost of having to do things you don’t really want to do in order not to be detected in hypocrisy, and the like.

          • lvlln says:

            I, too, never understood “virtue signalling” to imply any sort of hypocrisy on the end of the signaller. Which made it bizarre to see people saying, “I’m not virtue signalling, I’m just stating my (virtuous) beliefs,” as if those 2 were at all inconsistent. Virtue signalling is just that, signalling one’s virtue by stating opinions that they believe that the audience would perceive as virtuous. Usually also when the signalling would serve no other purpose, e.g. arguments generally wouldn’t be called virtue signalling, although one could make the case that they would fit.

            So a politician’s “God bless America” certainly counts, whether or not the politician is an atheist or someone who believes in a god and is truly making a statement of earnestly asking that god to bless America at that very moment. Or almost any tweet complaining about how SJWs or the alt-right lack basic human empathy, regardless of whether or not the tweeter believes that SJWs or the alt-right have or don’t have basic human empathy.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I would say the frustration with virtue signaling is not so much about hypocrisy as it is about thoughtlessness or obliviousness as to who pays the price for the signaler’s virtue. It’s easy to welcome Somali refugees on FaceBook when they’re not building the new Section 8 Somali ghetto next to your home. It’s easy to chastise “paranoid” gun owners who live in trailer parks when you’re a Hollywood celebrity with armed guards for your walled mansion. It’s easy to say “choose life” when you’re not the one knocked up, single and poor. The cost of acquiring Virtue Points is Sacrifice Points, and annoying virtue signalers are those who expect Virtue Points while expending someone else’s Sacrifice Points.

          • rlms says:

            I think hypocritical virtue signalling is a subset of the whole. But also, virtue signalling means more than just literally signalling virtue. I think there is emphasis on the “signalling” part, i.e. that talk is cheap. Someone who dedicated their life to helping poor orphan kittens would be signalling virtue if they said “I think it’s important to help poor orphan kittens”, but they wouldn’t really be virtue signalling.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Everyone I know who I describe as “virtue signalling” is, if not hypocritical or deceptive, at the very least lacking self-awareness. gbdub says it’s more “shallowness than falsity” and I think that sounds about right. It is entirely possible that “virtue signalling” has taken on other connotations (and, a caveat: some people describe everything as “virtue signalling” and this is dumb).

            When the friend of mine who actually is involved in volunteer work says “it is good to support this thing” that is not hypocritical, deceptive, or shallow. If we’re taking orphan kittens as an example: someone who has taken in orphan kittens and volunteers at the kitten shelter and says “guys you should help orphan kittens” that’s 100% A-OK. Even if I’m some heartless kitten-hating bastard, it doesn’t annoy me when I see it on Facebook. There are friends whose political views I think are bad and dumb, but if they walk the walk, it doesn’t really bug me that much.

            On the other hand, someone who could afford to adopt an orphan kitten and doesn’t, could afford to give money to the kitten shelter or give time to volunteer there, etc, and makes the same post? That’s annoying. More significantly, I think I see a pattern (and could entirely be imagining it, because confirmation bias) where the people who actually walk the walk don’t talk the talk that much, and those who don’t walk the walk really talk the talk. The guy who could afford a kitten or could give money to the shelter or could volunteer there, but doesn’t, is the guy condemning others for not being devoted enough to those poor starving kittens. The person who does do those things is just posting “hey, let’s all do what we can to help kittens!”

            Now, I think a lack of self-awareness can be the issue rather than setting out to deceive. The guy boldly crusading on Facebook against the kitten-haters may not see what he is doing (getting warm fuzzies condemning others, getting likes, while not having to clean up the litterbox and not getting woken up at 4am by a cat deciding that shrieking is a great idea) but he would if he had some self-awareness.

          • Brad says:

            @dndnrsn
            But why does it have to be a pejorative? Why do you set ‘A-OK’ up as an antonym for virtue signalling?

            As I’ve been trying to say, there was no need for another mostly empty pejorative and in the process of creating it a phrase for an interesting concept (helping to explain e.g. religious rituals) and thus an opportunity for spreading knowledge of that interesting concept was lost.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Brad:

            I wouldn’t say it’s an empty pejorative necessarily, but, yeah, you’re right. For whatever reason it’s taken on negative connotations.

    • po8crg says:

      She could equally make the argument that it would be dangerous for an unaccompanied famous rich woman to spend a week unprotected just about anywhere.

      She got mugged in an expensive hotel in Paris, for goodness’ sake.

      I’d be content with a serious intellectual investment. If they’re at a point comparable to any other public-media spokesperson, then that’s fine. But if their interviewers are being more generous to them because of their celebrity status than they would be to anyone else, then that’s a problem. The seriously engaged – the Bonos and Bill Gates and Emma Watsons and Ashton Kutchers and Meryl Streeps and Susan Sarandons of this world – should be engaged with seriously (several of those are people I strongly disagree with, but I don’t think their opinions are unserious). The ones who are throwing off a casual half-considered opinion (just as most non-celebrities do) should be taken unseriously. I rather admire Taylor Swift for her decision to keep out of politics because she doesn’t know enough to engage seriously and doesn’t have the time (or doesn’t care enough) to change that.

      But it’s more of a criticism of the fawning coverage that celebrities get for poorly thought-through opinions than it is a criticism of the celebrities for having those. Most non-celebrities do too.

      The only exception is people who have political power conditioned on their neutrality – judges and royals, most obviously. They have a duty to keep their mouths shut.

    • MugaSofer says:

      Spend a week in an immigrant neighborhood in Malmo, Sweden with no bodyguards or police protection to demonstrate to the world how safe it is. Either that or admit that they are unwilling to do so because they know it would be highly dangerous for an unaccompanied woman to do such a thing.

      How dangerous would this actually be?

      My intuition is that even in high-crime areas (IDK anything about Sweden, just in general), overwhelmingly many people don’t get hurt in any particular week, even given the risk factors you note … although there would be risk of publicity leading people there to hunt her down, and the language/culture barrier to consider.

      Anyone want to put some numbers on this?

      (I imagine if you actually proposed this to her, she’d point out that succeeding would change almost no minds, while failure definitely would.)

      • AeXeaz says:

        The idea is that the reason people don’t get hurt every week in high-crime areas is that those who don’t “belong” don’t go there, and that a lot of crime (short of murder) goes unreported. I’m rather skeptical myself, but there are plenty of videos of journalists being chased out of the so-called “no-go zones” in Malmö and Stockholm.

        • Fossegrimen says:

          The journalists are going in asking provocative questions. I’ve spent quite some time in “no-go” zones in Malmö and not been bothered in the least.

          People usually don’t die even during riots.

          EDIT: I would probably be a lot more worried if I was female, perhaps not of death but of rape.

    • Sandy says:

      A while back there was a petition circulating urging Emma Watson to spend a week in the Calais migrant camp without bodyguards “to show how pro-feminism these migrants are”. A neighborhood is a big place, an unaccompanied woman could theoretically handle herself there, but a camp seems like a different scenario altogether.

      • random832 says:

        Is there something she’s supposed to have said about “how pro-feminism these migrants are”?

        The petition says “I reject wholeheartedly the notion that North African and Middle Eastern migrants are unsafe, and rapists” which seems to be framed as if it were a quote, but I can find no attribution not connected to the petition.

    • uncle stinky says:

      What is it with people thinking Malmo is like downtown Mogadishu? It’s a damn sight safer than much of urban America, Sweden’s crime rate has been pretty steady over the last ten years and it sounds like an OK place to live. I think your celebrity would be fine. Here’s a piece from someone who has lived there:-https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/20/sweden-donald-trump-crime-muslim-immigrants.

      TL;DR, the spike in violence is, as usual, related to the illegality of drugs.

      • He lived there more than thirty years ago. His report on its current status seems to be based on a brief visit and listening to someone else interview people.

        His claim is that “There has been a huge rise in recorded violent crime in Sweden in the last 40 years, but it is still a very much safer place than the US, UK and indeed most of Europe.” He goes on to suggest that it is due to second generation immigrants (and others) and the drug trade.

    • JulieK says:

      I think it would be more helpful if she would invite some random refugees to live in her house. She must have extra rooms, right?

  71. spottedtoad says:

    Look, I like Harry Potter. I went with my wife to wait for the release of the sixth book at midnight at the Park Slope Barnes-and-Noble (really, how disgustingly bourgeois can you get?!) Jim Dale has been intoning the audiobooks from one or another of my kids’ rooms more-or-less continuously for the last decade. We brought the first movie with us the first time we went camping as a family, and my oldest then belted out “Cabot Draconis” at the tent flap whenever she went in and out. One of my more insane bouts of dad-dom was getting my oldest to read the book, five pages a night, out loud to me the summer before she started school. I highly recommend the new editions of the books, illustrated by Jim Kay, which are coming out once a year in the fall.

    My point in the post wasn’t mainly to mock the people quoting it as much as to ask why it was entirely coded as a liberal book. Now, obviously Rowling herself is a center-left liberal, but her various words describing the books as a “continuous plea for tolerance” and other liberal values aren’t entirely convincing to me- Harry and his friends are *slightly* more in line with liberal values than the Slytherins, but the books (and the School Story genre they draw so successfully from ) aren’t really objectively “left” in their narrative structure or content. (In the comments here, for example, Bruce Charlton defends the books as essentially conservative and Christian ). I’ve written elsewhere about why I think the books’ appeal to women draws as much from an essentially conservative, maternal perspective (Lilly Potter is the “invisible narrator” of the books / ) as from Hermione’s appeal as a Mary Sue or agent of empowerment.

    All that said, even if you just say, as Scott does here, you gotta have myths and Harry Potter is our myth, you have to ask why it is liberals are the ones quoting and referring to it. Maybe that’s because liberals (as a group) read more than non-liberals. (Trump certainly doesn’t seem to read a lot.) Or maybe they have an identity that is more in line with identifying with books, or with education, or with certain kinds of authority over others. But that’s itself interesting, and suggestive of the ways, that as Scott wrote in one of my favorite posts, that “right is the new left.”

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yeah, sorry, I didn’t mean to imply your post was wrong, just use it as the best collection of liberals-quoting-Harry-Potter and other people thinking of it as some kind of weird phenomenon.

      • spottedtoad says:

        Don’t apologize. I’m unironically honored to be included in the list of “Current Affairs and some guy with a wordpress” links.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      For yet another angle, I see the books as somewhat anarchist. Institutions mostly don’t work (except for Gringotts and the O.W.L.S and N.E.W.T.S tests, for some reason). Small group loyalty is what works.

      • phil says:

        that’s sort of an interesting angle

        ‘the institutions are captured by the bad guys’ seems like a metaphor pretty much any side can pick up on at will and use

        sort of like Scotts observation, that nearly all sides think the media is biased against them

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          It’s not just institutions being captured by bad guys. Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic strike me as pretty slapdash and inept.

          • phil says:

            yeah sure, “They don’t win anymore!”

            I’m pretty sure a motivated Trump supporter could go through and find all sorts of interesting HP metaphors

            (disclaimer, my command of the HP universe is not that good)

          • Sandy says:

            Given the scale of the deception that they have to perpetrate on the outside world, including concealing dragon attacks on Muggles and hiding giants in the mountains, the Ministry is actually one of the most hyper-competent organizations in the world.

          • DavidS says:

            MoM yes. Hogwarts is clearly meant to be fantastic (though readers can choose to disagree!). It’s hard to read Harry Potter as anti-Hogwarts as a book…

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I found I was more upset at Hogwarts being threatened than for the fate of any particular character.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Given the scale of the deception that they have to perpetrate on the outside world, including concealing dragon attacks on Muggles and hiding giants in the mountains, the Ministry is actually one of the most hyper-competent organizations in the world.

            Then, having taken these devious pains to conceal their existence from Muggles, they turn around and invite their kids to attend Hogwarts. You couldn’t ask for a better distillation of the conservative/libertarian view of government.

          • Nornagest says:

            Then, having taken these devious pains to conceal their existence from Muggles, they turn around and invite their kids to attend Hogwarts.

            To be fair, they seem pretty good at assimilating those kids. I don’t think the series goes into much detail on how their parents are usually handled, but if Harry’s hilariously abusive stepparents get off with what amounts to a stern warning, that seems like a bigger hole in the system than the mere fact of accepting magical kids — we hear about uneducated magical kids spamming spontaneous magic, after all, which would be an even bigger threat.

            The series seems to treat conventionality as something pretty close to a force of nature. Maybe that’s what they’re leaning on.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Also consider Trump’s war with the media. The mainstream wizard media was universally wrong, and the Quibbler might as well be InfoWars.com.

      • Institutions mostly don’t work (except for Gringotts…

        Gringotts, notwithstanding its claim and raison d’etre of impregnability, was successfully robbed by the protagonists.

    • massivefocusedinaction says:

      I suspect it provides a way for secular readers to attach to Calvinist themes without requiring speaker or audience to be familiar with Calvinist doctrines that are still in the deep parts of Anglo culture. The more religious right either rejects Calvinism (for Arminianism or Catholicism so doesn’t need Potter to explain anything) and can expect familiarity with the religious source material (so also doesn’t need Potter to provide an analogy base).

    • MugaSofer says:

      Just a guess, but it’s well-known that a bunch of rightists tried to (and in some places successfully did) suppress the book for fundamentally stupid reasons. I’ve personally talked to a number of people whose parents refused to let them read Harry Potter as kids because it had “witchcraft” in it. Hell, I’ve talked to at least one person who still believed it contained/was based on “real magic”, although that was a few years back and he was pretty young.

      If I was attempting to make a point to a right-wing audience, or even just to signal in-group-y-ness, I would be much less likely to choose something that it was (and in some circles still is) a right-wing shibboleth to hate.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        @ MugaSofer
        Just a guess, but it’s well-known that a bunch of rightists tried to (and in some places successfully did) suppress the book for fundamentally stupid reasons. I’ve personally talked to a number of people whose parents refused to let them read Harry Potter as kids because it had “witchcraft” in it.

        There’s kind of a cycle. First a new thing is denounced (often in chain email letters) as a tool of the Devil; then later the same people take it up as a good thing.

        D&D taught kids how to summon real demons.
        Star Wars 1977 had “The Force” as rivaling religion by filling the viewers’ “God shaped hole”. The Potter series taught magic in a school. Then a few years later, the same work is handed out in Sunday School comics.

        Iirc there was such a reaction, in a few churches, to the Narnia books, as teaching paganism (and including a witch and a magician) .

        • D&D taught kids how to summon real demons.
          Star Wars 1977 had “The Force” as rivaling religion by filling the viewers’ “God shaped hole”.

          One of these three claims is different from the other two.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            Unpack?

          • The first and third claims are false, since neither D&D nor Harry Potter teaches real kids to do real magic.

            The second claim is a plausible description of how Star Wars works, by providing the emotional equivalent of religion for people who were not having those emotional needs filled by actual religions.

            It’s at least arguable that a fictional world satisfying those desires is a substitute for real religion, just as stuffed animals or actual pets are a substitute for real children, hence that it makes viewers less likely to adopt a real religion.

            Of course, one could argue it the other way around–that having identified with the religious impulse in fiction makes it easier to identify with it in reality.

            But “filling the viewers’ God shaped hole” is a reasonable comment on the Star Wars movies, unlike the other two considered as comments on their subjects.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ DavidFriedman
            The first and third claims are false, since neither D&D nor Harry Potter teaches real kids to do real magic.

            Yes. Perhaps I should have written something like this:

            [ Those critics claimed that ] D&D taught kids how to summon real demons, [ and that ] the Potter series taught magic in a school.

            [ One of their claims against ] Star Wars 1977 had “The Force” as rivaling religion by filling the viewers’ “God shaped hole”.

    • deconstructionapplied says:

      A pretty obvious reason why liberals instead of conservatives would use Harry Potter is because the latter have the Bible.

      • They also have Tolkien.

        I think the first positive review I read of Lord of the Rings was by a traditionalist conservative in a conservative publication, well before the book became famous. The article was titled “Words like Castles” and I still remember the final line:

        “I would not recommend this book to any friend of mine, lest he like it not and the friendship so perish.”

        • DavidS says:

          Not sure Tolkein belongs to the right! He was always very popular among hippies who are not traditionally thus classified. I agree the values of the Shire are very much those of ‘leave people alone and let them do stuff’, but also it’s evil for people to indulge in free enterprise/industry with horrors like ‘a new bigger mill’ etc.

          He’s a sort of romantic anti-modern I guess?

          • Deiseach says:

            it’s evil for people to indulge in free enterprise/industry with horrors like ‘a new bigger mill’ etc.

            It’s not evil for people to do that, what the evil was (a) Ted Sandyman was not engaging in free enterprise/industry, he was a collaborator with an invading force that had first used a puppet ruler and later usurped rule, in a completely autocratic fashion and without any consent and alien to the customs and traditions of the Shire, which included not having any one centralised ruler (b) the new, bigger mill wasn’t actually achieving anything – it wasn’t producing more flour to serve the needs of the Shire, it wasn’t producing more flour for export trade, nobody quite knows what exactly is going on:

            What’s the matter with the place?’ said Merry. ‘Has it been a bad year, or what? I thought it had been a fine summer and harvest.’

            ‘Well no, the year’s been good enough,’ said Hob. ‘We grows a lot of food, but we don’t rightly know what becomes of it. It’s all these “gatherers” and “sharers”, I reckon, going round counting and measuring and taking off to storage. They do more gathering than sharing, and we never see most of the stuff again.’

            And looking with dismay up the road towards Bag End they saw a tall chimney of brick in the distance. It was pouring out black smoke into the evening air.

            ‘Take Sandyman’s mill now. Pimple knocked it down almost as soon as he came to Bag End. Then he brought in a lot o’ dirty-looking Men to build a bigger one and fill it full o’ wheels and outlandish contraptions. Only that fool Ted was pleased by that, and he works there cleaning wheels for the Men, where his dad was the Miller and his own master. Pimple’s idea was to grind more and faster, or so he said. He’s got other mills like it. But you’ve got to have grist before you can grind; and there was no more for the new mill to do than for the old. But since Sharkey came they don’t grind no more corn at all. They’re always a-hammering and a-letting out a smoke and a stench, and there isn’t no peace even at night in Hobbiton. And they pour out filth a purpose; they’ve fouled all the lower Water and it’s getting down into Brandywine. If they want to make the Shire into a desert, they’re going the right way about it. I don’t believe that fool of a Pimple’s behind all this. It’s Sharkey, I say.’

            What’s going on in the Shire is not Progress (though it advertises itself as that) and certainly not Capitalism; it’s good old Soviet-era centralised planning and production 🙂

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Tolkien was a nineteenth-century born traditionalist Catholic. Read his thoughts on women. Consider the female characters in LoTR. I would love to hear the argument by which Tolkien belongs to the left.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @Daiseach

            >What’s going on in the Shire is not Progress (though it advertises itself as that) and certainly not Capitalism; it’s good old Soviet-era centralised planning and production

            What I remember of reading Tolkien’s biography and other Tolkienography, he certainly viewed most of the industrial progress as such, not only the Russian one. There was a real old mill where he spent happy summers; such mills and other signs of idyllic pastoral life (that Tolkien approved of) did not disappear in Britain because of the Soviets. Certainly Soviet-style planning didn’t have monopoly on industrial pollution of rivers. And finally, he does not contrast the Saruman’s treatment of the Shire with a capitalist industry, but more of a pre-modern way of living that is restored after the removal of Saruman. (And it’s an aristocratic way of life, even; Frodo and Bilbo are fairly rich gentlemen who mostly spend their time eating and drinking and smoking tobacco and maybe studying and other such leisurely activities before the call of adventure.)

            Saruman fells trees for the purpose of industry and power; in Tolkien’s story, the trees rise and destroy the Isengard. I think the technology of Morgoth is usually presented as Numenor’s ultimate downfall.

            But the reason I think that Tolkien does not belong to neither right or left is because the idea of divine birthright of kings as a legitimate force of government (and relatedly, ancestry and bloodlines playing so important part in everything) is too alien, even for even the conservatives today. So practically nobody reads any political or other subtext in it and so isn’t angry with them or sees any point in opposing them (compare accusations of witchcraft and Harry Potter), and everybody can rightly enjoy them as literature.

          • Chilam Balam says:

            Tolkien was a paleo-paleo conservative, who felt more at home in the ideology of Medieval Catholic theologians then any modern political movement of the 20th century. He seems to have believed by the end of his life that the best government consisted of a king (given divine right to rule by god) + a small court, was a devoted pacifist, opposed industrialism in almost all forms, and also you know, was waiting for the end times in the book of revelations believing things can only get worse since the fall until the end of days.

            He referred to himself in letters as both “an Anarchist” and a “Monarchist”. He voted Tory, but did not much like it, and disliked Churchill quite a bit.

            Pretty much no one today agrees with any of this, so Tolkien can rather be read any which way. Which of course is what he wanted, he hated any suggestion that any of his work should be taken as (direct) allegory.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Pretty much no one today agrees with any of this, so Tolkien can rather be read any which way. Which of course is what he wanted, he hated any suggestion that any of his work should be taken as (direct) allegory.

            Allegory is more specific than just “a story with a message”. LOTR wasn’t an allegory in that the things in it weren’t meant to correspond to specific things in the real world: The Shire isn’t England, the Ring isn’t nuclear weaponry, Mordor isn’t Nazi Germany, or Communism, or whatever. That doesn’t mean that the books don’t have a specific point of view, or that any interpretation of their POV is equally valid.

            (It’s a bit like when people ready CS Lewis saying “The Narnia books aren’t a Christian allegory” and misunderstand him as saying that he wasn’t trying to convey a Christian message with them. The books were Christian, and deliberately so; but you can’t draw one-to-one parallels between characters in the books and characters in the Bible.)

            (If this seems a little pedantic, bear in mind that Tolkien and Lewis were both English Professors.)

          • Kevin C. says:

            @nimim.k.m.

            “the idea of divine birthright of kings as a legitimate force of government (and relatedly, ancestry and bloodlines playing so important part in everything) is too alien, even for even the conservatives today.”

            Ahem. *points to self*

            @Chilam Balam

            “waiting for the end times in the book of revelations believing things can only get worse since the fall until the end of days.”

            And how about those who agree with the “can only get worse” part, but not the divine salvation/final victory bit?

            “Pretty much no one today agrees with any of this”

            I agree with at least some of it.

          • Chilam Balam says:

            @The Original Mr. X:

            I don’t think it’s pedantic. Tolkien meant to draw a distinction between “allegory”, which as you say is that X is Y and U is W, but wanted “applicability”, which allows you to draw connections as you see fit (See the Forward to the 2nd Edition of LotR, 1966). Which I think is what you’re thinking of on, sorry for my imprecise language, you’re right that “any which way” is the wrong phrase. Many ways. I do think that it’s hard to fit him exactly on any modern spectrum and I think there are valid ways of interpreting his work on the left and the right, if only since few people have a large subset of the view.

            I do find it frustrating that people interpret Tolkien as often less Christian than Lewis, when I think they’re about the same really, it’s just that Tolkien is less obvious. Which, personally, is why I never enjoyed Narnia as much – I find LotR gives me more to chew on and is more “applicable”, Narnia seems too direct. But that’s taste, I know there are many who disagree.

            @Kevin C.

            Sure, there are lots of people who hold a subset, I just think those who old even a majority are a very small minority. Which is part of what gives it such longevity! You can read Tolkien as a hippy-creed against development, a struggle of absolute good vs. absolute evil, a paean to older ways, a screed for the divine right of kings. All of these are there.

          • LHN says:

            I’d say it’s not as simple as divine right of kings. Aragorn is the rightful king, and that’s important. But he also has to earn it in a way that in “lesser lands”[1] would likely get him offered the crown (or the presidency) regardless of blood. (Especially after providence helpfully removes two of the people who might have contested it, while the third isn’t interested.) And his line of descent includes plenty of people with the same pedigree as his who acted disastrously.

            [1] I always wondered if that bit about stewards only becoming kings in lesser lands than Gondor was an intentional slam at Scotland and/or the Carolingians.

            Tolkien is also notably careful to show Aragorn developing conventional political assets like the Prince of Dol Amroth, along with public opinion the Vale of Anduin and, of course in Minas Tirith itself. (Both in great ways like raising the siege, and small ones like “the hands of the king are the hands of a healer”.)

            In an only slightly more cynical book, Aragorn could be largely the same hero and king with more doubts about the authenticity of his dynastic claims.

          • random832 says:

            LOTR wasn’t an allegory in that the things in it weren’t meant to correspond to specific things in the real world: The Shire isn’t England, the Ring isn’t nuclear weaponry, Mordor isn’t Nazi Germany, or Communism, or whatever.

            Well, to my understanding, Tolkien always maintained that Middle Earth was supposed to be prehistoric Western Europe, which would make The Shire very literally England. You’re right on the other things though.

      • DavidS says:

        Well, liberals have the Bible too: Rowling herself quotes from it in Harry Potter and indeed centres the story around it in many ways.. But yes, in current era in US people do more often refer to the Bible to support (certain aspects of) conservatism than liberalism

        • deconstructionapplied says:

          I don’t disagree with regards to the Bible and non-conservative ideologies. Just found it odd that spottedtoad was casting from which conservatives could draw on for mythology.

    • The Element of Surprise says:

      I would say that HP is successfully coded as a left-liberal book because it presents a world in which left-liberal ideas are true? No biodeterminism (the pure blood ideology is refuted by Hermione and Voldemort being among the most powerful wizards; the difference between groups is only superficial, not from differences in temperament or hard-to-change cultural factors); no scarcity of resources that would justify difficult tradeoffs (so “this might sound bad but it is the best we can do” kind of arguments would always fail – the bleeding heart liberals are right!); differences in wealth seem to be entirely based on inheritance and/or oppression, not on differences in productivity or effort; there is almost no crime besides Voldemort and Deatheaters (at least they are the only prisoners we hear about); discipline and authority are entirely worthless. The main characters get powers from diversity and from giving second chances; the people who rely on things-that-worked-in-the-past and the assumption that a persons presentation and standing in life is evidence for their character turn out to be factually wrong in-universe.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        No biodeterminism

        Counterpoint: the House-Elves, Hagrid, Harry (his parents were powerful wizards, and so is he, albeit he’d too lazy to really excel at school).

        differences in wealth seem to be entirely based on inheritance and/or oppression, not on differences in productivity or effort;

        Then again, I don’t recall any suggestions that it was somehow unfair for Harry to have inherited a huge pile of gold, or that he should give any of it away to the less-well-off.

        discipline and authority are entirely worthless.

        But the authority of the government is even more worthless, which doesn’t bode well for big government programmes.

        The main characters get powers from diversity

        Do they really? Sure the main characters come from different backgrounds, but I don’t recall that ever having much of an effect on the story. In fact, Harry and Hermione both seem eager to drop the Muggle world like a hot potato and assimilate into wizarding society as much as possible.

        the people who rely on things-that-worked-in-the-past and the assumption that a persons presentation and standing in life is evidence for their character turn out to be factually wrong in-universe.

        “It is our choices, Harry, far more than our abilities, that show who we really are.”

        • DavidS says:

          Yeah, biodeterminism Hagrid tells Harry ‘yer a wizard’ but then ‘and a damn good’un too, I’d wager, given who your parents were’ (paraphrased from memory). So more ‘the particular form of popular racism in the society is incorrect. Also, goblins are a clearly different and in many ways not very likable race.

          In terms of discipline and authority, McGonagal has great discipline and authority. Dumbledore does actually too. So not sure where the idea it’s worthless comes from. The issue is with misused/illegitimate authority of the Umbridge type.

          Also, on the claim about no crime: Mungus is a criminal, there are references to rare animal smuggling etc, you have the Department of Magical Law Enforcement etc.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Come to think of it, Arthur Weasley’s main job is chasing down petty criminals, isn’t it? When he’s not engaging in a bit of petty crime himself, that is.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            My recollection is that Weasley’s main job was abusing his official position to pursue his vendetta against Lucius Malfoy. Been a while since I read ’em, though.

          • The Element of Surprise says:

            Harry ignores McGonagall’s and Dumbledore’s authority quite a few times, and he usually turns out to be right in doing so. In the later books all the good people are the ones who fight the “system”.

        • The Element of Surprise says:

          I guess there are a few counterexamples re biodeterminism, but DavidS makes my point quite well: the particular forms of racism, and general right-wing thought, of today’s society are wrong. Maybe if written in the age of slavery the Houseelve thing would sound very dodgy today, but they are put in the ‘not human’ category by the book, and don’t undermine the books message of “all humans are equal, regardless of cultural or genetic background”.
          (ETA: … well one could also read the wizards as an elite class that selects itself purely by genetics and has a standard of living far above the other people. But the books don’t seem to make this point, for most parts of the story, muggles could just as well not exist.)

          Similarly, Harry’s wealth is just some wishfulfillment for the orphan after a lifetime of abuse (similar to suddenly being invited to the wizard school). I’d say it doesn’t factor into the story as much as the “good people” Weasleys being poor and the “bad people” Malfoys being rich. I don’t even remember what Harry did with his money, weren’t all his expensive gadgets gifts from other people anyways?

          Authority: To me, Harry and friends going out after curfew and ignoring school regulations feels more left wing. Maybe because I have the impression that the kind of authority the left is more comfortable with is taxation for redistribution and government institutions, while the right is more comfortable with imposition of “law and order”.

          The diversity thing: I think I remember that when the Deatheaters took over, they started suppressing the Goblins, which then became allies of Harry? Don’t remember that part very well though.

          Harry and Hermione assimilating well is a left wing dream.

          “It is our choices, Harry, far more than our abilities, that show who we really are.” this sounds very left wing to me? Contrast “some people are inherently different with regard to abilities or morals; these differences correlate with other observable traits”.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I guess there are a few counterexamples re biodeterminism, but DavidS makes my point quite well: the particular forms of racism, and general right-wing thought, of today’s society are wrong. Maybe if written in the age of slavery the Houseelve thing would sound very dodgy today, but they are put in the ‘not human’ category by the book, and don’t undermine the books message of “all humans are equal, regardless of cultural or genetic background”.

            I still don’t know about that. All the muggle characters we get a good look at are portrayed negatively (the PM is stupid, the Dursleys are evil and bigoted). Plus the Slytherins (somewhat ironically) are portrayed as all evil from the start (when Harry looks at them across the hall and thinks they look like a nasty lost) to the end (when they all run away from the big fight against Voldemort).

            Similarly, Harry’s wealth is just some wishfulfillment for the orphan after a lifetime of abuse (similar to suddenly being invited to the wizard school). I’d say it doesn’t factor into the story as much as the “good people” Weasleys being poor and the “bad people” Malfoys being rich. I don’t even remember what Harry did with his money, weren’t all his expensive gadgets gifts from other people anyways?

            Wish fulfilment or not, there’s never any suggestion that Harry ought to have earned the money instead of just inheriting it.

            Authority: To me, Harry and friends going out after curfew and ignoring school regulations feels more left wing. Maybe because I have the impression that the kind of authority the left is more comfortable with is taxation for redistribution and government institutions, while the right is more comfortable with imposition of “law and order”.

            Every time the government gets involved in running Hogwarts, it’s portrayed negatively. Having the government involved in setting standards and policies for schools is something the left generally supports more than the right.

            The diversity thing: I think I remember that when the Deatheaters took over, they started suppressing the Goblins, which then became allies of Harry? Don’t remember that part very well though.

            One goblin temporarily does, then Harry et al. cheat him out of a sword and the subplot is dropped, IIRC.

            Harry and Hermione assimilating well is a left wing dream.

            Expecting immigrants to assimilate is very much a right-wing thing nowadays.

            “It is our choices, Harry, far more than our abilities, that show who we really are.” this sounds very left wing to me? Contrast “some people are inherently different with regard to abilities or morals; these differences correlate with other observable traits”.

            It seems to me that the first example is just an example of the second: Different people are inherently different (“who we really are”), and these differences are shown by (correlate with) observable behaviour (“our choices”). There’s no suggestion that our choices actually shape or mould who we are; quite the contrary, in face.

          • Randy M says:

            Maybe if written in the age of slavery the Houseelve thing would sound very dodgy today, but they are put in the ‘not human’ category by the book, and don’t undermine the books message of “all humans are equal, regardless of cultural or genetic background”.

            Oh, enslaving sentient beings is Not Problematic if you dehumanize them first? That seems… not the defense I’d run with.

          • The Element of Surprise says:

            @ Mr X
            I guess ‘the Slytherins even look evil’ is something team ‘we are tolerant and accepting’ would say, in the same sense that ‘white people are bad’ is something team ‘against racism’ says – it might be hypocritical when going by strict definitions, but it expresses the feelings of the relevant subgroups quite clearly. Would you say a hypothetical book that portrays men as evil and women as good is by that virtue right-wing, because it is ‘clearly sexist’?

            About assimilation: To me “there are inherent differences between people that cannot easily be bridged” sounds like a right wing opinion; a story in which this is not a problem at all would make a left-wing case. The characters who have a problem with people ‘immigrating’ from different cultural backgrounds are not only wrong, their opinions are absurd in-universe. Liberals are against forced assimilation, so if the muggleborn were forcefully assimilated, and if this were portrayed as something net-positive, it would be a right-wing point.

            Maybe the Dumbledore quote is one of these “wise” sayings that people read into what they want. I would interpret it as saying that ‘choice’ comes before “really being” someone (morally worthy), i.e. that people can always choose to be good, regardless of history or background.

            @ Randy
            Clearly. But 10 year old me wasn’t reading these books with gaping mouth about the atrocities being displayed, but with indignation about the bigots who make life difficult for clearly good people just for having different backgrounds.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I guess ‘the Slytherins even look evil’ is something team ‘we are tolerant and accepting’ would say, in the same sense that ‘white people are bad’ is something team ‘against racism’ says – it might be hypocritical when going by strict definitions, but it expresses the feelings of the relevant subgroups quite clearly. Would you say a hypothetical book that portrays men as evil and women as good is by that virtue right-wing, because it is ‘clearly sexist’?

            Not sure what your point is here. Harry dislikes the Slytherins (who, let’s not forget, make up 25% of his new society) almost immediately, and nothing in the later books suggests that he’s wrong. Writing off a full quarter of the population as evil hardly sounds like an extended plea for tolerance.

            To me “there are inherent differences between people that cannot easily be bridged” sounds like a right wing opinion;

            The current fashionable leftist ideology is that trying not to let race affect your decisions is itself racist. Do try to keep up, Element. 😉

            The characters who have a problem with people ‘immigrating’ from different cultural backgrounds are not only wrong, their opinions are absurd in-universe.

            Are they? Pretty much everything the Slytherins say about Hagrid is true, for example. And really, the whole “Slytherins hate muggles” seems to be more of an informed attribute than anything: discounting the Death Eaters, Malfoy calls Hermione nasty names a few times, but that’s about it.

            Maybe the Dumbledore quote is one of these “wise” sayings that people read into what they want. I would interpret it as saying that ‘choice’ comes before “really being” someone (morally worthy), i.e. that people can always choose to be good, regardless of history or background.

            Actually it was made in response to Harry’s worry that he really belongs in Slytherin. “Oh no,” says Dumbledore, “your choices show that you’re a good person, therefore you don’t belong in Slytherin”. See above, under: dismissing 25% of the population as evil at age 11.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @The original Mr. X

            I don’t say all your points are wholly invalid, but I think they are more of a case of ‘unfortunate implications’ and ‘unintended message’ caused by author not thinking through the worldbuilding and narrative structure.

            Actually one good thing that can be said about Rowling is that sometimes some story elements at least run on their own narrative logic, not being straight expys of real-life issues even if it would be convenient. House-Elves are their own thing, inspired more by similar European mythological creatures than American South, and Hermione reading the situation as a case of chattel slavery and trying to free them is portrayed as misguided.

            Regarding government, I think Rowling has a strong dislike for petty bureaucrats (Umbridge) and cold careerists (Barty Crouch Sr.) and ineffective, corrupted politicians (Fudge, Malfoys). But the decent people can win the forces of evil and if they were running things it would go swellingly.

            >Every time the government gets involved in running Hogwarts, it’s portrayed negatively. Having the government involved in setting standards and policies for schools is something the left generally supports more than the right.

            C’mon that’s not really fair: it’s not like the standards and policies imposed by the government are really your regular school-related standards and policies. It’s portrayed negatively because it portrays a political officer trying to do political censorship during a time of covert warfare between racist conspiracy and good underground vigilantes, and includes actions such banning a particular newspaper and freedom of assembly amongst pupils. For example, normal school stuff like the standardized exams are deemed fair and reasonable.

            >And really, the whole “Slytherins hate muggles” seems to be more of an informed attribute than anything: discounting the Death Eaters, Malfoy calls Hermione nasty names a few times, but that’s about it.

            I’d recommend reading the books again. First, if you are working on the basis of named characters, there aren’t that many students in the school at all: dozen or less per year per house. In other words, there isn’t much Slytherins left after you discount the Death Eater junior league. Secondly, remember the unsubtle plot contents. One of the founders stored a muggle-born student killing ancient monster in the cellar for his heirs’ use (only reason that nobody dies is that author was still writing for kids at that point), and no, his name wasn’t Gryffindor. Guess who are told to have approved of the changes in the curricula in the final book, and taking joy in the ability to inflict officially sanctioned and magically magnified public school discipline on their fellow less pure students? And then there’s the Battle of Hogwarts. The few adult Slytherins are not exactly heroes either.

            Rowling isn’t exactly subtle; the adults that keep telling Harry and co. that the Slytherins are not evil seem to be in the wrong, all things considered. Whether this is the intended message, I don’t know.

          • Aapje says:

            Regarding government, I think Rowling has a strong dislike for petty bureaucrats

            She was on welfare, which tends to give people such a dislike.

          • Umbridge isnt some generic bureaucrat, shes Margaret Thatcher.

          • Salem says:

            No, she’s Mary Whitehouse.

      • spork says:

        I think you’re on to something, but I think the patterns you describe go beyond Harry Potter. Pretty much all new fantasy and scifi obeys similar narrative rules. Collectively, it makes the impression that biodeterminism, etc. is not just false in the actual world, but also in every imaginable world. This thought hit me hard when I finished Cixin Liu’s “Three Body” trilogy, which obeys many but not all of these modern Western rules.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          And yet all Klingons are warriors, all Ferengi are swindlers. “But I’m an X, therefore I must Y!” is standard sci-fi/fantasy trope.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        The way Hermione’s efforts to help house elves fall flat seem more like either a conservative attack on liberals or an SJW attack on liberals, depending on whether you focus on house elves not especially wanting to be freed or Hermione losing interest.

        There’s biodeterminism in the sense that magical talent is innate. It’s just that it can’t be accurately predicted from parentage.

        I’m not sure about the scarcity of resources argument. The Weaselys are definitely poor and it does impact their lives, just not ruinously. I’m not sure whether that should be read as a liberal understanding of poverty or conservative smugness. Or just being sensible because some moderately poor people are like that.

        • The Element of Surprise says:

          A conservative presentation of poverty would probably be as a family of people who are lazy or morally failing (taking drugs, being small time criminals). The portrayals of the magical world as a world of overabundance, and the Weasleys as just as good as anyone else (sometimes better), makes their poverty appear more like an inherent injustice brought upon them by evil people through oppression.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            There are different sorts of conservative smugness– the Weasleys aren’t criminal (um, depending on how you think about the twins), but they’re inept with money. They’re slightly outsiderish, but they’re content with their lot.

            Sidetrack: one of the great disappointments for me from the series was that the twins didn’t use their prank magic in the big battle.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Conservatives don’t think poverty is a moral failing so much as they don’t agree with liberals that it’s a virtue.

          • random832 says:

            You’ve just moved from straw conservatives to straw liberals.

            The claim isn’t that conservatives think poverty is itself a moral failing, it’s that at some level they don’t believe that good people can be poor – which is as much a belief about economic facts as about morality: the factual belief anyone can lift themselves up through hard work, alongside the moral belief that to be a good person you must be someone who will do so.

    • JulieK says:

      Do liberals like Harry Potter better than conservatives do, or are conservatives less likely in general to compare current events to pop-culture stories? I feel like a conservative who tried would be scorned for trying too hard to seem with-it.

      On the other hand, we could have fun deciding which current events these plot points resemble:
      1) Hermione permanently disfiguring the girl who snitched on the DA.
      2) Stan Shunpike being arrested.
      3) Lily jilting Severus in favor of James.
      (I don’t blame Lily, but HPMOR seems to think she did wrong, so I included it here.)

    • The original Mr. X says:

      My point in the post wasn’t mainly to mock the people quoting it as much as to ask why it was entirely coded as a liberal book.

      FWIW when I first read the books, I thought they were quite right-wing in politics. All the stuff about the bumbling Minister for Magic trying to intervene in Hogwarts and just making things worse seemed like an example of the sort of interfering nanny state that the Daily Mail is always complaining about.

      • DavidS says:

        It wasn’t ‘bumbling’ it was a power play. And it was an attack on intefering education Ministers, specifically as it happens a Labour one (although I’m sure she’d have had fun with Gove!)

        • The original Mr. X says:

          “Bumbling” was meant to be a general description of the Minister, not of his power play specifically.

    • DavidS says:

      Well, it is Christian: she’s Christian, and it’s shot through with Christian imagery/concepts. I mean, from the start, we have the concept that the most powerful force being love and love-in-sacrificing-your-own-life in particular. The last book’s christian imagery isn’t Narnia level but fairly blatant.

      I think the books are a fairly constant argument for tolerance. You can argue that the goodies aren’t that liberal, but they’re much more pro-diversity (on Muggleborns as the main issue, and to a degree on things like house elves) than the baddies, and the baddies attitude towards muggleborns is constantly presented as central to their evil.

      It’s not a plea for big government – the government is small (well, at one level it seems to hire half the population but that’s partially that her economic/social model is basically confused), venal and incompetent, and bureaucracy only becomes visible in the form of evil (Umbridge, mostly). It’s not like she makes clear that the wonders of Hogwarts are possible because of progressive taxation etc: in fact, I don’t recall any reference to tax at all. I get the vague sense that Hogwarts is probably self-funding based on huge endowments. And that the Ministry probably makes money off tarrifs etc. rather than income tax.

    • VolumeWarrior says:

      I don’t understand how the HP universe can be considered liberal.

      Harry Potter inherits limitless wealth from his parents, which he essentially doesn’t have to share with the other children. He attends an expensive private school. You also have to be born with special mojo to get in. Then, you never have to share your magical powers with the Muggles. You could eliminate world hunger but PSYCHE it would be too annoying to do magic for them all the time. The world is very much for-wizards-by-wizards.

      The Weasleys, while extremely poor, refuse charity and prefer to bootstrap. The father works and the mother is a homemaker popping out 999 children. Oh and they live in the middle of nowhere just like our beloved rural flyover redneck biblethumpers. But as far as we can tell, the Weasleys are portrayed as an extremely virtuous family.

      … and as if his fantastic wealth wasn’t enough, Harry Potter and his friends gets tons of goodies and hand-me-downs from Dumbledoor. Like they get to wield artifacts like the time turner and invisibility cloak *just because of who they are*. You kind of can’t fail to be excellent with this many resources being thrown at you. Harry Potter has ultra privilege and is successful because of it.

      Then at the end everyone pairs off into a stable two parent household.

      Plus he’s good at sports!

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Nitpick: Hogwarts isn’t an “expensive private school”. There’s no evidence of any fees, and the school’s governance seems basically the same as that of most British state schools.

        • VolumeWarrior says:

          You’re right! There is no tuition fee (Rowling tweet confirms). https://twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/622118373061709824?ref_src=twsrc^tfw

          I guess I was remembering all the vignettes in Diagon Alley where Ron is too poor to afford any good school supplies and Harry is like “Yeahhh I’ll have all these free books from Lockheart and another free ice cream sundae cus I’m famous and rich”.

          Being able to afford books and cauldrons and wands and stuff is de facto a part of tuition. Ron even breaks his wand and has to do gimp-magic for a while!

          I don’t know how expensive school supplies are in an absolute sense. It might be on the order of $200, which might be challenging for Ron’s family but is hopefully manageable for most wizarding folks. We actually don’t have a good view of the socioeconomic status of normal wizards, but it would be strange if most wizarding families struggled to send their kids to Hogwarts.

        • liskantope says:

          Dumbledore also mentions a fund for students who can’t afford school supplies in book 6.

          While VolumeWarrior makes some good points, I’m tempted to make several counterarguments. For instance, Harry is clearly very underprivileged by other measures (lost his parents as a baby, grew up in an abusive household, basically marked as the number one target of the most dangerous madman alive); things like inheriting a fortune (which for the most part he doesn’t actually take advantage of) only go so far to counteract all that. Moreover, the Weasleys are portrayed as virtuous in large part through their liberal views on Muggles and Muggle-borns, while it’s implied that the views Ron grew up with concerning house-elves and giants take away from his virtue.

          • VolumeWarrior says:

            Harry is clearly very underprivileged by other measures (lost his parents as a baby, grew up in an abusive household, basically marked as the number one target of the most dangerous madman alive)

            I agree. Living with the Durselys is certainly a source of very negative experiences. However, it’s later revealed that his living situation with the Dursleys is actually a net boon. He even has the option to move in with the Weaselys but Dumbledoor orders him to stay put. Harry is born protected by powerful magic that virtually no one else has access to. Voldemort can apparently just teleport to your house and murder you, unless you’re Harry Potter.

            You’re also right that being hunted by a mass-murderer superwizard is a big negative. But many other people were hunted by Voldemort and died easily. Harry has more support than any other wizard in history in his fight against Voldemort. Though this is somewhat muddled because no one dies for Harry because they *like* him, but because they think Harry is their Keanu Reeves.

            Moreover, the Weasleys are portrayed as virtuous in large part through their liberal views on Muggles and Muggle-borns, while it’s implied that the views Ron grew up with concerning house-elves and giants take away from his virtue.

            Mostly agree. Although the Weasleys’ primary virtue is just being nice. Nice to basically everyone who isn’t a huge jerk. This strikes me as very Christian.

            But the range of opinion on muggles ranges from genocidal to bemused xenophobia. The decision to keep magic within the Wizarding community is definitely a closed-borders anti-immigration theme. The primary debate is on whether to accept high-skill immigrants. Immigrants who happen to integrate completely without bringing a bunch of cultural baggage along with them. That’s some extreme vetting.

            Harry Potter isn’t 100% liberal or right wing. But certainly there would be many ways in which Harry would be stripped under modern liberal ideology. Maybe this is an artifact of modern liberalism being much more radical than vanilla 90’s liberalism Rowling likely espouses. 90’s liberals just wanted a higher minimum wage and more money for education. They didn’t talk about social justice or privilege. So maybe revise my thesis to: “Harry Potter is a moderate white suburban middle-class narrative that conflicts more with the outrage-addicted Left than emergent Rainbow conservatism.”

          • Tekhno says:

            @VolumeWarrior

            than vanilla 90’s liberalism Rowling likely espouses

            I feel like she might have updated to liberalism 2.0 by this point.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Rowling has her own brand of liberalism at this point. People who fake a war service record to get unearned recognition and respect are said to have “stolen value.” Rowling has “stolen virtue.”

            The culture war for gay tolerance/acceptance was fought during the late 90s and 2000s while Rowling was making her billions. People spoke in support of gay marriage or gay rights knowing that they might very well lose business or fans, and they did it anyway because they thought it was the right thing to do. Having an openly gay character in a Y.A. novel would have advanced the cause of gay rights, but would have likely cost millions in book sales and movies tickets. But those who did speak and act changed people’s minds. You can look at popular opinion polls and see support for gay marriage changing from ~25% support in the late 90s to over 65% by the time it was mandated by the Supreme Court. And as soon as being pro-gay is a PR benefit as opposed to a risk, and the books are already sold and the movies already released, “Oh, yeah, Dumbledore was totally gay the whole time!”

            Beeeeeeeeeeeeee Essssssssssssss. Might as well photoshop yourself into marches with Dr. King. Stolen Virtue.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I was shocked that how well students can do at the extremely important sport of Quiddich is strongly influenced by how expensive a broomstick they have. At some point, Lucius Malfoy buys expensive broomsticks for the Slytherin team (from memory), but this is unusual. I don’t think it was viewed as cheating.

        America isn’t exactly egalitarian, but I believe sports equipment is supplied equally by the school to everyone who gets on a team.

        • Nornagest says:

          I was on my university’s fencing team in college, and I ended up buying most of my own equipment. For intercollegiate use I could have gotten away with school-provided safety equipment (masks, jackets, etc.), but their stuff was old and uncomfortable, and once I started going to FIE competitions, we were required to use more expensive, Kevlar-reinforced gear that the school didn’t have. Competition-grade weapons weren’t in the budget either way. That’s an obscure sport in the US, though, and I didn’t go to a particularly sports-oriented school.

          Not that it mattered much. Better weapons don’t win matches, better fencers do.

        • Randy M says:

          Yes, but our real competition is between schools, not within. Now, I don’t think there’s many sports where the contribution by equipment is all that great, but when Preppy Academy beats Hillbilly High at golf, there may be an analogous effect there.

    • Civilis says:

      As I think is demonstrated by the various threads about the HP franchise in this post, any work that attracts a large number of followers across the political spectrum will necessarily have content such as story or themes that can be identified with by both sides of the political spectrum. On the other hand, if your story is so narrowly written to be only interpreted one way, it’s likely so stilted as to be boring. The real world is complicated, and real people aren’t one-dimensional cutouts made to fit a story, and any story that only works if it reduces real people to one-dimensional protagonists and antagonists is doomed to fail.

      Most of the books which were written to a specific ideological slant are unreadable to a person outside that worldview. A politically undecided and unaware person not likely to pick up and finish ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ or ‘The Fountainhead’ unless they’re already headed down that political path or are pushed that direction. The handful of political works that have overcome this distinction are true gems. Despite their original political slants, both sides now see the antagonists in ‘1984‘ and ‘V for Vendetta’ as representing the other political side. From the right, the only thing more laugh-inducing than nonsensical HP references are references to Animal Farm made by unrepentant communists that don’t acknowledge the history of the work.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I was going to say something of the sort. The politics in Harry Potter are conventional, which is to say, not entirely coherent. There’s plenty for a wide range of people to feel comfortable with. There’s no radical change.

        Which reminds me of another disappointment…. I was really interested in political consequences of what happened in the series– there was a huge mess and a lot of betrayal, but the epilogue doesn’t cover political effects at all. It’s almost as though I’m only expected to be interested in people and not care what happens to systems.

        • liskantope says:

          Agreed. The most frustrating thing for me was the fact that systems were addressed somewhat during the story (as well as evolving dynamics between the supporting characters and many, many other things) and then were dropped immediately after Voldemort was killed. I think there was literally one sentence’s worth of mention of what happened in the Ministry in the immediate aftermath, and then nothing. I consider this my single biggest complaint out of the whole series about how the writing was executed.

      • Tarpitz says:

        Also worth noting: left/right in Britain is not identical to left/right in the States, so a certain amount of cutting across team lines is inevitable anyway.

  72. Jiro says:

    1. Celebrities Who Speak Out Against Donald Trump

    Celebrities using their celebrity influence is dark arts, so this boils down to the general objection to using political dark arts. Scott doesn’t seem to object to dark arts very much (he deliberately waited until after the election to refute anti-Trump arguments, so that nobody would vote for Trump on that basis) but others may disagree.

    2. People Who Compare Political Events To Harry Potter

    There’s a reason why arguing by fictional evidence is considered bad. The fact that it’s a children’s book just makes it more obvious that it’s bad.

    Furthermore, adults know that children are told about the real world in simplified terms; and many ways of invoking a children’s book politically amount to deliberately throwing away nuance. Children’s books have villains who are dark lords devoted to evil; and Scott knows that depicting your enemy as the epitome of evil is bad in real-life politics.

    3. Vox: Or maybe the complaint is that they’re pretending to do it from an objective point of view instead of admitting that they have a liberal bias? I will take this complaint seriously when I meet any person anywhere in the world who is not aware that Vox has a liberal bias.

    Just because their attempts at deception have failed doesn’t make them right.

    Also, even transparent attempts at deception cause problems. Even if someone knows that Vox is biased, he can pretend to take Vox at face value as an unbiased source and put the burden of proof on you to prove it’s biased.

    6. Pundits Who Failed To Predict Trump

    Time to steelman this better. Pundits who failed to consider a Trump win a reasonable possibility. If you don’t know whether 46% or 48% of them will vote Trump, then you should be saying “there’s a big chance Trump will win, but I’m not sure exactly how big”. You don’t say “Trump is a sure loser”.

    7: People Who Are Worried That The Russians Hacked The Democrats To Influence The Elections

    You can make a true statement which contains the words “Russia” and “elections”, but that doesn’t mean that the beliefs about Russia and the elections that many anti-Trump people actually have are reasonable.

    I find it unlikely that Scott would give the same benefit of the doubt when Trump or Trump supporters say something that is false as written but is based on a grain of truth. (Example: Trump’s statement about Muslim attacks in Sweden.)

    • Randy M says:

      There’s a reason why arguing by fictional evidence is considered bad. The fact that it’s a children’s book just makes it more obvious that it’s bad.

      Notice that a lot of the examples of other cultures making analogies to then current events were comparing to history. Now, it might have been distorted, romanticized versions of history, and HP may be a particularly deep and true to life book, but nonetheless, it is a stronger case to say “Look how similar our actions are to past events, what can we learn from that” than “here’s a neat sounding story, what can we learn from that?”

      I suspect the real criticism of “aren’t we like Harry Potter” articles would be shoehorned in pop-culture references in a click-baity way.

      • Jiro says:

        I still think the children’s book nature of Harry Potter is part of it. Children’s books have antagonists who are EVIL! Comparing a real-life person to such a children’s villain is saying “He must be destroyed at any cost” and is as bad as comparing him to literal Hitler. At least literal Hitler once existed.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Also, literally Hitler had more nuance than Voldemort. Scott (correctly) objects to comparing Trump to Hitler, but finds comparing Trump to fictional, absolute evil less objectionable.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            more like he doesn’t find it much worse than comparing Trump to Hitler. people seem to think it is several times worse because ‘children’s book’ or whatever objection they have to harry potter and he is pushing back against those objections

      • Mr. Breakfast says:

        Because fiction feels informative ONLY to the extent that it resonates with our pre-existing biases. A reading of history, even a slanted one, is or was open to factual counterargument and so its capacity to misinform is to some extent blunted. Introducing fiction as evidence establishes a feedback loop to reinforce bias.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      I find it unlikely that Scott would give the same benefit of the doubt when Trump or Trump supporters say something that is false as written but is based on a grain of truth. (Example: Trump’s statement about Muslim attacks in Sweden.)

      I think a bunch of your criticism is valid, but unlikely or not, Scott actually does this, so I don’t think this is a fair assessment.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think celebrity endorsements work insofar as people trust celebrities. I don’t think that’s quite “dark arts”. I trust eg Tyler Cowen to be a smart person who shares my values, so I take his opinion into consideration when he’s thought more than I have about things. I’m not sure if people think celebrities are smart, but they do seem to think they share values.

      I don’t think it was “argument by fictional evidence”. I think it was two people who both disliked Trump saying “This is like Voldemort, isn’t it?” not people trying to convince other people to dislike Trump because he was like Voldemort.

      The people I actually observed were criticizing focusing on the DNC hacks, etc. I do think Trump has a point that Middle Eastern crime in Europe is high and riots are common, though I don’t understand why he consistently expresses that through false statements when there are so many true ones he could have used (unless this is some weird strategy to get media coverage which can then be refocused on the true statements).

      • Jiro says:

        I trust eg Tyler Cowen to be a smart person who shares my values, so I take his opinion into consideration when he’s thought more than I have about things. I’m not sure if people think celebrities are smart, but they do seem to think they share values.

        You’re thinking like an intellectual. Most people are stupider than you. Most people listen to celebrities because of an extended version of the halo effect. And that’s what celebrities are taking advantage of when they use their position as celebrities to do politics.

        I think it was two people who both disliked Trump saying “This is like Voldemort, isn’t it?” not people trying to convince other people to dislike Trump because he was like Voldemort.

        Pretty much all such statements are aimed at the ingroup anyway and are pretty bad at convincing other people of anything. Comparing Trump to Hitler isn’t going to convince anyone to dislike Trump because he’s like Hitler. Does that make that okay too?

      • Tekhno says:

        @Scott

        unless this is some weird strategy to get media coverage which can then be refocused on the true statements

        The much purported “4D chess” maneuver.

        What I’d like to see is a list of how many times this has happened. It needs to be catalogued and analyzed properly. We have the recent case (I think you’re alluding to) where he claimed that Sweden had undergone a terrorist attack and it hadn’t, but then a big riot happened right afterwards in Malmo, and the media started focusing more on the Swedish situation. There’s also the case during the campaign where he posted some false stats relating to black on black inner city crime, and the media responded by posting the true statistics which were still appalling. There’s several other cases that I can’t quite recall.

        How we interpret this is a large dividing factor between the “Trump is a lucky moron” Vs “Trump is a super secret genius strategically pretending to be a moron” theories. A third alternative that might be true is that Trump is a buffoon, but he’s listened to some smarter people say correct things on certain subjects, and then later, when recalling this, found fake facts to back up his belief in those positions, or even outright made stuff up (this would imply some truly interesting magical thinking). We could call this “being dumb in the right direction”. It could also be that he’s a dumb guy with a weird knack for drawing smarter people into his influence, and he absorbs their general positions and strategies (the right direction), while getting the details and facts totally wrong, and not caring to practice any rigor about it (the dumb).

        • Sandy says:

          The fourth alternative is that various branches of governments and media have been deliberately lying about things like Malmo and inner city crime for so long that they genuinely believe what they’re saying, and when Trump clumsily stumbles upon such topics, they respond by magnifying focus on the issue in an attempt to be the first to prove him wrong. But if you magnify focus in this way, it becomes evident to onlookers that you’ve been lying about it for some time.

        • dndnrsn says:

          A fifth alternative is that his opponents are not, on the whole, more competent than he is, and are just as capable of screwing up as he is. Every situation where a boxer tires out trying to knock their opponent out was not that opponent pulling off a rope-a-dope.

          The Sweden comments are a good example. I don’t think Trump laid some kind of perfect trap. Instead, his opponents managed to blunder into a trap they set for themselves. Here’s a transcript of what he said (according to Vox – note that he doesn’t say there was a terrorist attack, contrary to what Tekhno says above). :

          Here’s the bottom line. We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening. We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this. Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what’s happening in Brussels. You look at what’s happening all over the world. Take a look at Nice. Take a look at Paris. We’ve allowed thousands and thousands of people into our country and there was no way to vet those people. There was no documentation. There was no nothing. So we’re going to keep our country safe.

          The best way to have responded to this, if it should have been responded to at all, would be to focus on a positive tactic, and point out that the US is not letting people in without vetting and documentation. That’s a provably false statement. It might have been better to say nothing, because arguments about the situation in Europe will either be “they have problems but we don’t” (which still makes refugees/asylum seekers out to be scary) or “Europe doesn’t have problems either” (which ends up arguing over details of European crime statistics, which is always going to lose out to a simple narrative like the one Trump is pressing).

          Instead, they went with “ha ha he said there was a terrorist attack last night alternative facts ha ha what a dummy.” Even if there hadn’t been a riot shortly afterwards, bringing up the whole thing would lead people to start asking “what is happening in Sweden?”, causes people to remember the Nice attack, etc, and involves claiming that Trump said there was a terrorist attack (there wasn’t). They managed to give his narrative free publicity, and to do it in the worst way possible.

          But it’s not as though Trump knew there was going to be a riot in Sweden. I don’t think it’s possible to think that many moves ahead in something as complex as politics. In chess, yeah, but chess is very finite and predictable compared to politics.

        • Mr. Breakfast says:

          He doesn’t need to be a genius, he just needs a toolkit of a few unusual but effective techniques.

          Trump’s claimed management style revolves around his skill as a judge of talent and ability in others; that he “hires the best people”. Maybe just take this at face value; he is a person of less-than-stellar analytic capacity who is good at taking the measure of the people who are trying to influence him. The result is that he decides with a high degree of accuracy whose claims are correct without necessarily groking the object-level arguments.

          So what if its just a static technique like “take an example and magnify it’s scope or severity to get attention”? Once Trump learns that there is something going on with refugees in Sweden and is convinced based on his appraisal of the competence of the source, then all he has to do is open his mouth and say “‘Sweden’ + ‘refugees’ + [superlative] + [recent timeframe]”, and the media takes care of the rest. This could work just as well for “‘Chicago’ + ‘murders’ + [large number] + [superlative]” and so on.

        • Tekhno says:

          Why did I think Trump had claimed there had been a terrorist attack? I got the info second hand this time, and hadn’t read Trump’s statement, but when it got passed to me it looked like “he said there was a terrorist attack”. I guess we really shouldn’t trust the media, or the mob (enough not to go and read the firsthand account anyway).

          • dndnrsn says:

            Presumably, a lot of people jumped to the conclusion “terrorism” because, first, he said “you look at what’s happening last night” – suggesting some singular thing happening (he wasn’t saying “look at what’s been happening, look at all the crime”), and second, his line has been “refugees are a terror risk” instead of saying that they are prone to more mundane criminality. A terrorist attack is also a singular event it would be easy to prove hadn’t happened – as compared to something like the Cologne sex attacks, where the information only came out some time later. So people kind of assumed he was saying whatever was the dumbest thing he could have said – fabricating a terror attack. Plus, the whole Bowling Green attack that never happened…

            There was a long debate here over what he really meant. I think it seems likely that he meant that he’d seen the Fox thing the night previous – that makes the most sense – but doesn’t excuse that if that’s what he was trying to convey he did it in a really backwards manner.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @dndnrsn I think a lot of the disconnect between Trump supporters and detractors is over the importance of facts vs. narrative. Detractors spazz over an incorrect fact (that something happened in Sweden in the night before), but supporters forgive the wrong fact while acknowledging the true narrative (migrant crime is a significant problem. Google “grenade attacks in malmo”). Forests vs. trees.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Conrad Honcho:

            So, I don’t buy the “everything in Sweden is going to the dogs because they let in immigrants” narrative. I just don’t think the facts support that drastic a conclusion. I think the facts support the conclusion that Sweden is experiencing some significant problems relating to immigration, and it’s going to have to deal with them (it’s probably going to have to change a bunch of policies) but nowhere near the extent of problems that some people say.

            However, the decision of some other people to take as a narrative that there are no problems … that is a problem. Because when the government, the respectable news sources, etc are perceived as not telling the truth, or not telling the whole truth, that’s a big opportunity for the people who are pushing the “Sweden is a disaster” narrative.

            When the response to “hey, looks like there are some problems” is not “yeah, there are some problems, we gotta fix those, and here’s how we’re going to fix them” but instead “there are no problems! NONE!” … that’s why the far right is far more popular than it was 5 or 10 years ago in Europe. I think Europe had a shot at making multiculturalism and immigration really work (in, say, the same way that they have in Canada), and I think Europe needs immigration, but I worry that they blew that shot by pretending that things that could have been viewed as teething problems and dealt with accordingly weren’t happening.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            How did you develop the opinion that Europe needs immigration? Did you arrive at that opinion independently, or did you get it from the same media and government that censors information about immigrant crime so people won’t object to immigration?

          • Sandy says:

            Canada’s immigrants are largely from East Asia and the Indian subcontinent; Europe’s immigrants are largely from the Middle East and North Africa. I don’t know why people think Canadian multiculturalism is a model that can easily be followed across the West; Canada’s black and Arab populations are trivially small, and 86% of the country is still white.

          • Montfort says:

            How did you develop the opinion that people with different opinions from you are mostly indoctrinated into it by the media and government? Did you arrive at it independently, or did you get it from the same people who disagree with mainstream opinions and so would like a convenient way to discount them as baseless propaganda all at once?

          • Tarpitz says:

            I mean, I feel like I got the idea that Europe needs immigration from looking at population pyramids and some priors about how dependency ratios work.

            That doesn’t mean a reasonable debate can’t be had about how much of what sort of immigration from where and how managed would most benefit which European countries.

          • Tekhno says:

            @Tarpitz

            I mean, I feel like I got the idea that Europe needs immigration from looking at population pyramids and some priors about how dependency ratios work.

            Isn’t this the sort of thing that won’t be a real issue until the 2050s? I would have thought we’d have automated away most of the problems created by greying populations by then.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Conrad Honcho:

            I’d appreciate not immediately jumping into stuff about how I’m indoctrinated by the media. My views on this matter are sufficiently heterodox that if I’m indoctrinated by the media, they did a poor job.

            Europe needs immigration for the reasons Tarpitz lists: Native Europeans have mostly stopped having children at or above replacement rate, and nobody’s proposed a way to increase it significantly that doesn’t involve stifling social conservatism of the sort people are worried about immigrants bringing with them. You need to get people from somewhere – Tekhno, even if you can replace workers with robots and so forth, a society where the population is increasingly elderly is not desirable, for a whole bunch of reasons.

            @Sandy:

            Canada is, as I have noted before, in a geographically favourable location as far as immigration goes. Further, we have a culture that is fairly malleable in a way that “Old World” cultures aren’t. It’s not a model that can easily be followed. However, there’s a difference between “can’t be easily followed” and “can’t be followed”.

            Europe’s immigration policies have been basically incoherent. Most European countries did not really want to face the hard, but necessary, task of integrating immigrants, so they pretended it would not be necessary: The French decided to pretend that your ancestors being conquered by the French made you French, the Germans decided to pretend that the guest workers were all actually temporary, the Swedes seem to have sincerely come to the belief that Sweden is such a perfect land that moving there is magic. When this didn’t work out, the “solution” seems to have become “don’t talk about this in public”, but ballot boxes are not public, with the result that the far right has experienced a huge boost. Europe needs immigrants, but it doesn’t really want the actual immigrants; some European countries really like the idea of immigration, but less the actual people who who show up, and none of them want to do the hard work.

            Add the refugee/asylum seeker/migrant crisis, caused/enabled largely by Western (mostly American) bungling in the Middle East and North Africa, and things just get messier. The bureaucracy in various countries was not up to the task of screening and processing that many people showing up. Germany in particular appears to really be shitting the bed – their security services come off as woefully impotent after the Christmas Market attack, and it seems to have come as a surprise to Merkel et al that when you say the welcome mat is out, people might actually show up. Again, the response of many European countries to being faced with a hard situation appears to be to pretend that the situation isn’t hard. There’s a lot of other stuff going on here, too, but this is getting long as it is.

            Europe could pull it off: secure the borders, bring in a points system for economic immigrants, and bring in refugees in an orderly fashion, processing and screening them in the refugee camps that have sprung up in the countries surrounding the war zones. It would, as you noted, not be as easy for Europe as it is for Canada (and even here our refugee system is an underfunded mess), but who said that things were ever easy?

            (Additionally, your stats for Canada are off; the country is 75% white)

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            @dnd.. +1. You didn’t have answers in your discourse, but I like how you laid out the problems.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Mark V Anderson:

            Well, “be more like Canada” is a path to a solution. Obviously, changing the geography isn’t an option. However, the Canadian immigration system is basically: most immigrants get in on the basis of their language skills, education, and work experience. A smaller number get in as part of family reunification programs. A smaller number still get in as refugees.

            Bringing refugees from overseas works, generally, well. Plenty of vetting gets done. The system tends to prioritize intact families, women, and children over young men. There’s a public/private split that in practice is mostly about religious institutions sponsoring refugees. Where things start to break down is the system for claiming asylum in Canada – it is underfunded and backlogged, along with the system for dealing with immigration violations, etc. Because it’s backlogged, someone who does not qualify for asylum can often hang around for a long time because the system is slow; conversely, someone who does qualify can basically live in limbo for far too long, because the system is slow. It is often arbitrary, too – whether someone gets asylum or not can often depend more on who is in charge of the decision than the facts of the case.

            Canada can (and, I think, should) take more refugees but I don’t think that’s realistic unless the system is fixed. A whole bunch of things could be done.

            That said, my ideal solution for Europe (taken as a whole) would be something like this:

            1: Secure the borders and step up enforcement within the EU. This step is necessary if what you want to encourage (qualified economic immigrants and legitimate refugee claimants applying overseas) is to replace the current situation (a mixture of legitimate and bogus asylum claimants entering Europe, to the detriment of the former and gain of the latter).
            2: Figure out what qualifications are needed where (for the economic immigrants) and what refugees (what qualifies someone for refugee status) will be taken in where – the current European reality of some countries refusing asylum claimants and others having to deal with lots is politically untenable and a problem on a whole other bunch of levels.
            3: Set up refugee processing centres outside Europe. This would probably involve setting some up in camps already existing in certain places, and setting up some camps in other places – probably new camps would be in North Africa.
            4: Promote the new reality of the economic immigrant program and the refugee program around the world. Make it clear what the standards are, and who qualifies. The current situation features stuff like human smugglers lying to people about what they can expect in Europe – the prospects of employment, the social welfare available, etc.
            5: Really work on integrating immigrants (both economic and refugees). Don’t just throw a welfare cheque at them and hope things sort themselves out. Don’t think “out of sight, out of mind”. Parts of town where one ethnic group is predominant are fine as long as it follows the good pattern of this: you have American or Canadian cities where there was the Irish or Italian part of town back in the day, then it became the Chinese part of town, then the Vietnamese part of town, etc. Even if mostly people of one ethnic group live in a certain part of town, everyone goes there to shop, eat, etc. This is infinitely preferable to ghettoization.
            6: In the long view, figure out how European countries can have a changing ethnic mix while keeping at least some of what makes them European. Victory condition is if, for instance, what “German”, “Italian”, “French”, etc is changes somewhat, but would still be recognizable to someone today, instead of ceasing to exist.

            5 and 6 are the hard parts, honestly. I don’t think integration and changing culture and so forth is a uniquely European problem. “Old World” countries are harder to integrate people into: let’s say you have a couple who come to Canada from China – they will become Canadian, or their kids will; their grandchildren certainly will be Canadian. Were I to get married to someone not of Chinese background in Canada, then move to China and have kids there, I would not become Chinese, nor would my children become Chinese; depending on who my kids had kids with, my grandchildren might.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @dndnrsn

            “5: Really work on integrating immigrants… This is infinitely preferable to ghettoization.”

            Yes, except what is the model for doing so, except somehow “be more like America and Canada” without specifying specifically what those nations did to integrate their immigrants that Europe isn’t doing; what makes the difference between “Little Italy” or “Chinatown” and the banlieue ghettoes? And further, you point to the examples in North America “where there was the Irish or Italian part of town back in the day”; I’d note that the cultural “distance” between these immigrants and the native culture (over which integration/assimilation needs to act) was much smaller than that between present-day Europe and its immigrant masses.

            “6: In the long view, figure out how European countries can have a changing ethnic mix while keeping at least some of what makes them European.”

            You admit that “5 and 6 are the hard parts”, but I think you seriously underestimate how hard. I ask you, what if your #6 is effectively impossible, such that Europe cannot import the large-scale immigrant populations and still remain (culturally) Europe. Then we seem to have three options:
            1. Let the ethnic displacement happen; Germany ceases to be German, France ceases to be French, etc., and European culture as we know it is wiped forever from this earth.
            2. Europe learns to adjust economically and in welfare-state programs to a shrinking population, following a similar path as Japan
            3. Embrace “stifling social conservatism” of the old-fashion European sort as better than the more alien “stifling social conservatism” of option #1 or the “graceful decline” of option #2.

          • Tekhno says:

            @dndnrsn

            Tekhno, even if you can replace workers with robots and so forth, a society where the population is increasingly elderly is not desirable, for a whole bunch of reasons.

            Why? Literally the only reason we need huge amounts of immigrants is because someone needs to spoon grandmas soup into her mouth in the old folk’s home of 2050 when there are more decrepit people than young people to look after them. (And yes, the taxbase side of it, but automation helps us with that to).

            If robots do all that instead, the old can peacefully die off, and we can enjoy the benefits of a smaller population with none of the economic drawbacks to productivity.

            It’s in my interests to reduce the population of my country if I want lower prices for fixed resources like land, and the country is already too overcrowded to maintain the permissive laws I prefer, so in my mind, the only good immigrants are the ones who help us automate faster. Everyone else can STAY OUT!

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Kevin C.

            First, regarding 5, what Canada or the US has done will be harder for Europe. I’ve acknowledged this. Europe has got to try something different. The current situation is not working very well.

            It is not, however, the case that Europe has never successfully united disparate groups together. Not as disparate as now, perhaps. Spitballing: a revival (would it really be a revival?) of civic nationalism? Find some way to tie the younger generation together – conscription seems to have united all the varied national-origin groups that make/made up Israel pretty well. I don’t know.

            I think you are also underestimating the degree to which things in Canada and the US were hard, and the degree to which the Italians, Irish, Chinese were viewed as foreign, unable to be assimilated, criminal, etc.

            With regard to 6, yeah, it’s hard. I’m not underestimating it. However, take this as an example: Canada 100 years ago was extremely, extremely Anglo. Not just white, but Anglo; you can find references to even north-western European immigrants that contrast them with “white” people – people of English stock. French Canadians used to be told to “speak white”.

            If you were to tell an Anglo-Canadian back then “in 100 years, Canada will be 75% white, and getting less white; the largest urban area will be at most 50% white; and this includes all Europeans as white” they would undoubtedly be horrified, and would assume that this meant the end of Canada as they know it. And, yeah, Canada is different in many ways, but you can look back and clearly see the common factors. Kids of Chinese background – back then, the Chinese were absolutely despised; somewhere along the lines they became the model minority – learn about Vimy Ridge, which after all happened in 1917, in school. What it means to be Canadian has changed, but there is still such a thing as a Canadian, and such a thing as Canada.

            The fact that something that 100 years ago would have been seen as surely causing the death of Canada hasn’t should count for something. What it means to be a Frenchman, or an Italian, or a German has changed, historically, hasn’t it? National identities are also to some extent created: if you went back a few hundred years, would people say they were Germans, or French, or whatever, or name their local province, their kingdom, their town?

            To me, the victory condition is that in 100 years Europeans are of a variety of different shades, while still fulfilling the stereotypes that we think of as marking European countries: painting with a grossly broad brush (it’s OK, I’m stereotyping Europeans, so it’s not offensive), the Frenchman of Moroccan origin will still be a snob with an inflated sense of his country’s importance in the world, the German of Iranian origin will still be punctual and naggy about the money people owe her, the Swede of Nigerian origin will be a hyper-feminist who secretly writes all the American pop music, whatever. You get the point, hopefully.

            Your option 1 is most likely if Europe continues down the path it has now, which is basically, have an incoherent immigration policy, fail to integrate immigrants, and pretend there is no problem. Option 2 I think is far less likely than my hopeful vision of the future: Japan is an island, and Europe isn’t. 3 I also think is unlikely: it is very hard to put cats back in tubes and toothpaste back in sacks. Europeans are not going to force women out of schools and professional careers, ban birth control, etc for the sake of keeping Europe European. That’s about as appealing as keeping immigrants out by making your country so shitty people don’t want to get in.

            I also think it is unrealistic to say that “European culture will be forever wiped from the earth”. Cultural artifacts have a way of sticking around, and the heavy lifting of keeping European musical culture specifically alive seems to increasingly be done by East Asians anyway (look at the orchestras in North America…)

            @Tekhno

            What is the extent of what robotics can do? There seem to be a lot of tasks they can’t do… I’ll think about this more later.

          • Tekhno says:

            @dndnrsn

            I’m assuming we’ll have cracked artificial intelligence, fully versatile robotics, and closed loop automation, by the middle of the century, but yeah, if we haven’t then we just let all the young foreigners in. I think we have time to find out, since the demographic problem is a long term one, and we have time to find out if long term solutions are going to work. Perhaps we get immigrants to look after us when we’re all old, and then they are the ones who finally get to have robots doing it in 2100 or whenever.

            Of course, if it turns out that all the futurists and rationalists are totally catastrophically wrong, and artificial intelligence is hundreds of years off, then even the immigrants won’t help if they also start to breed below replacement rate, and the greying/replacement rate problem goes global. In that scenario, either socially conservative natalist measures are implemented, or the “old folk’s home” becomes a euphemism for the place where they kill grandma.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Tekhno:

            I don’t know anything about AI, and this has probably been discussed to death here – it’s the kind of discussion I skip, because I don’t know anything about it – but if we make synthetic lifeforms that can replace us, won’t they just, y’know, replace us?

            I can see it now – the transition from “we need immigrants to keep the labour force going and take care of the elderly” to “we need immigrants to provide soldiers to fight the endless war against the robots.”

            I am being semi-facetious. My personal view is that we should make decisions based on the situation we have plus obviously forseeable future developments. Mechanization continuing in the vein it has – a “force multiplier” in some industries, making jobs obsolete in others – is likely but anything beyond that is speculation.

            And, yes, immigrant birth rates do drop. My “victory condition”, in which guys with names Hans Ayad fit into German society along guys with names like Hans Schmidt, go to mosque services 2x a year and feel very virtuous about only drinking beer and wine, eschewing liquor – and give up beer for Ramadan! – and have Opinions about those dang PIGS countries being lazy debtors – never should have let them into the Neo-Eurozone? It also features Europeans of non-European or only partial European origin wringing their hands about the birth rates of the next wave of immigrants, arriving from wherever. That has been the Canadian and American experience.

            If a sub-replacement birth rate becomes a global phenomenon, that will require some other fix. It will probably be easier to address the issue then, because “we can just bring in people from somewhere else” won’t be an option.

          • Tekhno says:

            @dndnrsn

            My personal view is that we should make decisions based on the situation we have plus obviously forseeable future developments. Mechanization continuing in the vein it has – a “force multiplier” in some industries, making jobs obsolete in others – is likely but anything beyond that is speculation.

            Isn’t economic trouble specifically because of age demographics just as far off and speculative though? What’s the data say about when we should start worrying about dependency ratios? IIRC it’s in a similar timeframe to typical automation predictions. I haven’t looked for a while though.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Tekhno:

            Automation predictions are predictions, whereas people getting older and being less capable of taking care of themselves, less capable of contributing to the economy, requiring more medical care, etc, is something that we know happens, has always happened, and we cannot stop from happening.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @dndnrsn

            “To me, the victory condition is that in 100 years Europeans are of a variety of different shades, while still fulfilling the stereotypes that we think of as marking European countries: painting with a grossly broad brush (it’s OK, I’m stereotyping Europeans, so it’s not offensive), the Frenchman of Moroccan origin will still be a snob with an inflated sense of his country’s importance in the world, the German of Iranian origin will still be punctual and naggy about the money people owe her, the Swede of Nigerian origin will be a hyper-feminist who secretly writes all the American pop music, whatever. You get the point, hopefully.”

            Yes, I get the point. And I’m saying it can’t be done!!. The “Frenchman of Moroccan origin” isn’t going to be a snob, he’s going to be Moroccan; the “German of Iranian origin” won’t be “punctual and naggy”, she’ll be Iranian; and the “Swede of Nigerian origin” will be about as far from “hyper-feminist” as present Nigerians. Swedes are culturally Swedish because they’re ethnically (genetically) Swedish, and so on. HBD renders the above a hopeless pipe-dream.

            “The fact that something that 100 years ago would have been seen as surely causing the death of Canada hasn’t should count for something.”

            And similarly, the fact the fact that the Luddites fears didn’t fully materialize proves that “technological unemployment” is an impossibility and all the folks here talking about it are economic ignoramouses committing the “lump-of-labor fallacy”. Because “this time is different” is never, ever a valid argument, right?

            “Cultural artifacts have a way of sticking around”

            Handfuls of “cultural artifacts” do not a live culture make. There are plenty of “cultural artifacts” of the Roman Empire around and about, but that does not mean that the Empire is not fallen and its culture not dead.

            “keeping European musical culture specifically alive seems to increasingly be done by East Asians”

            First, may I object strongly to this modern tendency to reduce all of culture to “arts and heritage”, a “folkloristic display” of costume, music, and food, which are frankly fairly peripheral compared to deeper norms of personal interaction, family structure, life histories, and so on. Secondly, is this supposed to be a comfort to those being replaced in their own homelands (and recall the discourse on “cultural appropriation”)? Would you tell a dwindling Native American tribe, their last small generation marrying out and assimilating that, sure, your descendants will mostly come from a foreign stock and will have utterly forgotten practially all of your ancestral ways, but take heart, because some distant foreigners will occasionally sing a few of your old songs?

            “Your option 1 is most likely if Europe continues down the path it has now, which is basically, have an incoherent immigration policy, fail to integrate immigrants, and pretend there is no problem.”

            But what does ceasing to pretend there’s no problem, and a “coherent immigration policy” mean if I’m right about the impossibility of assimilating the newcomers, in the numbers involved, to European norms, so that bringing in immigrants in the numbers “needed” really does mean cultural replacement?

            Oh, and as an aside, I would dispute at least somewhat your contention that the Canada of 100 years ago is still fully around. At the very least, I recall listening to one Canadian “aquaintance of an aquaintance” making statements about Vancouver being no longer Canadian (thanks mostly to the Chinese).

          • whereas people getting older and being less capable of taking care of themselves, less capable of contributing to the economy, requiring more medical care, etc, is something that we know happens, has always happened, and we cannot stop from happening.

            It’s something that has always happened, but we may be able to stop the relevant parts from happening in the future, most obviously if we come up with a cure for aging.

          • Swedes are culturally Swedish because they’re ethnically (genetically) Swedish, and so on.

            The history of the U.S. provides massive evidence against that claim. Consider the descendants of Chinese and Japanese immigrants to the U.S. They are culturally American–in most cases you wouldn’t know their ancestors were East Asian if you weren’t seeing their faces.

            HBD may imply that if we get a lot of East Asian immigration the IQ distribution will be a little higher, if we get a lot of sub-saharan African immigration a little lower–though in the latter case it probably depends on where in Africa they come from. But American culture isn’t determined by the exact distribution of IQ.

            Can you offer any evidence, or any theoretical arguments, for the claim that culture itself is genetically rather than culturally heritable?

          • Chilam Balam says:

            The culture of all European nations has changed dramatically in the last 200 years, even ones that have remained genetically homogeneous, like the Fenno-Scandinavian countries (to make this very explicit, let’s compare, say, 1770 – 1970, which misses most of the modern wave of immigrants to Sweden). There are of course lots of similarities, but surely you see the enormous differences? Sexual mores, family mores, political mores, language all are quite different, and yet most of the people are descendants of those in 1770. Do you think that what is conserved over this period is the essence of those countries?

          • Kevin C. says:

            @DavidFriedman

            “Consider the descendants of Chinese and Japanese immigrants to the U.S. They are culturally American–in most cases you wouldn’t know their ancestors were East Asian if you weren’t seeing their faces.”

            My experience at (heavily Asian) Caltech says differently.

            “culture itself is genetically rather than culturally heritable?”

            “Culture itself” is not directly genetic, but it is dependent on genetic tendencies, such as ability to delay gratification, impulsiveness, agression, tendency to resort to violence, susceptability to peer pressure/social shaming and the impulse to conform, “clanishness” and relative weighting of kinship altruism vs. reciprocal altruism, tendencies to individualism vs. communalism, relative frequencies of introversion vs. extroversion and other Big Five or HEXACO traits, IQ, age of onset of puberty, genetic variations in the level of sexual dimorphism in certain traits, frequency of genes associated with increased risk of autism, ADHD, or other such things (I recall reading about one gene variant associated with increased ADHD risk whose utter absence from the Chinese gene-pool must be a product of selection), religiosity, and all the other human behavioral traits that constrain what cultural norms a group is capable of adopting and making work, given that most human behavioral traits are at least somewhat heritable, with the bulk somewhere near 50%.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Chilam Balam

            “The culture of all European nations has changed dramatically in the last 200 years”

            Yes, for the worse.

            “Do you think that what is conserved over this period is the essence of those countries?”

            To a great extent, yes. Remember the term is “nation-state”, where “nation” ultimately comes from Latin nātiō, meaning “birth; nation, people; race, class”, related to the verb nāscor “I am born, begotten; I arise, proceed, grow”, and ultimately derived from the PIE root ǵenh₁-. So in terms of defining human geography, in talking of entities like “France” and “Germany” as something uther than arbitrary chunks of land, I would indeed put ethnicity somewhere above culture (and both well above the government and political system); however, my point is that you cannot entirely disentangle the two, because of gene–culture coevolution; the genetic predispositions I outlined in my comment above set limits upon the forms a given group of humans’ culture can take and on the directions in which that culture can change, but that culture is, in turn, a significant part of the selection environment, and in turn puts selection pressures upon gene frequencies (ex. ADHD genes and China).

            And on this point more generally, I would point to a bit from the JayMan post I linked above:

            This background environmental variation has big implications for phenotype expression. Just as a seed planted in one type of soil will yield different quality of fruit than if planted in another type of soil, broad environmental changes can lead to large differences in behavioral traits even in the absence of genetic change. This is a sticking point in discussion of heritability of behavioral traits. Certain commenters (such as recently Dennis Mangan and Heartiste) have noted that there have been distinct changes in behavior over the last century, particularly, such as a marked increase in single motherhood, something which is highly heritable today. Like with secular increases in average height, average BMI, and average IQ, this sticking point ignores the fact that the general environment has changed. In the case of single motherhood and divorce, social mores have changed to make this more acceptable, so, those with genotypes more susceptible to exhibiting this behavior have done so, hence, a change in phenotypes.

            That said, as racial differences in IQ demonstrate, there is only so much of a difference environmental changes can make. It’s not exactly a straightforward matter to engineer the environment in such a way to get exactly the phenotypes you want with a given set of genotypes. Certain behavioral traits are simply to be accepted as inevitable and dealt with accordingly.

            More generally on this topic, consider the arguments about preserving the spotted owl from the threat of the incoming barred owl, with which fertile hybrids, dubbed “sparred owls” by some, are a growing population. Just apply those very same arguments, and some of the proposed solutions to preserve the spotted owl, to human beings, and particularly the situation in Europe. (Recall also arguments about how polar bear interbreeding with grizzly bears threatened the former, as a sign of the harm from global climate change.)

            And I’d like to quote a bit from The Mad Monarchist’s recent comments on Sweden:

            For a country with so small a population as Sweden, the amount of non-Swedish immigrants that have already been taken into the country is well beyond the point that the total extinction of the Swedish people has become inevitable in the long term barring drastic measures that most in modern, Western Europe today seem to view as unthinkably horrific, by which I mean mass-deportation of these people to their actual homelands (yes, I know, “the horror”) and that is something most seem unwilling to countenance. The Swedes, of course, would not be the first people to succumb to death by demographic drowning (see if you can find a Manchurian these days) but they do stand out in being so willing to sacrifice themselves and their descendants to oblivion. No one is forcing Sweden to do this. No one is holding a gun to their head. They are, as things stand, willingly allowing themselves to be displaced in their own homeland, willingly giving the land of their ancestors to the descendents of people from a foreign culture, a foreign religion, even foreign continents. That is rather unprecedented.

            Some, I have noticed, seem to have no sympathy for the Swedes because of that, even holding them in contempt because of it. I am certainly not among them. Their plight may be their own fault but it is no less tragic in my mind for that. The majority in Sweden seem to have taken liberalism to its ultimate, unfortunate, conclusion and are embracing death purely for reasons of self-image. They seem to think it makes them morally superior to sacrifice themselves for the less fortunate peoples of other lands. That is not something to hate them for but rather something to pity. The Kingdom of Sweden is a part of the rich tapestry of western civilization and I do not wish to see the kingdom nor the Swedes themselves depart from the world. Evidently, saying that, makes yours truly quite an evil person in the eyes of many but so be it. Sweden is more to me than lines on a map. It is for that reason that the level of crime, while certainly terrible and worth talking about, is not finally the point.

            In any talk about immigration or the “migrant crisis” or the “refugee crisis” you will usually hear a great deal about how it would all be okay if only the immigrants would, in this case, learn Swedish and adopt Swedish values and customs and assimilate into Swedish society. For me, that is ultimately irrelevant because Sweden is more to me than a language or a name on the map of Europe. As I have said before about France, Sweden, without Swedish people, would not be Sweden to me. There have been many changes in Sweden since the reign of King Eric the Victorious but the Swedish people have always been Swedish, not Arab or African or Pashtun and that is how I would wish it to stay. Such a sentiment should not be sufficient to warrant the label of “racism”. Has the world changed so much in my lifetime that wishing to preserve a people from extinction is “racist” rather than believing your own people are inherently superior to all others? It seems fantastic but, for many, it seems to be the case. Again, so be it.

          • skef says:

            My experience at (heavily Asian) CalTech says differently.

            You have experience at “CalTech” and you’re inter-capping Caltech?!?!

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Kevin C.

            Yes, I get the point. And I’m saying it can’t be done!!. The “Frenchman of Moroccan origin” isn’t going to be a snob, he’s going to be Moroccan; the “German of Iranian origin” won’t be “punctual and naggy”, she’ll be Iranian; and the “Swede of Nigerian origin” will be about as far from “hyper-feminist” as present Nigerians. Swedes are culturally Swedish because they’re ethnically (genetically) Swedish, and so on. HBD renders the above a hopeless pipe-dream.

            Ah, so the French have the snobbery gene, the Germans have the punctuality and nagginess genes (I guess the notoriously lackadaisical Austrians are genetically completely different from Germans), and the Swedes have the feminism gene? Why are Europeans of today different from Europeans of 100, 200, 300, 400, 500 years ago? Did their genes change?

            I also question the depth of your knowledge about Iranians … Persians are as “white” or moreso, visually speaking, as some Europeans we consider white, and are clearly capable of building and sustaining a civilization; plenty of Iranians and people of Iranian origin or partial Iranian origin have integrated into German society (half-Iranian Sahra Wagenknecht is getting yelled at by other members of Die Linke for not being open borders, even!) Iran was fairly cosmopolitan until the Shah fell, and the Shah was only in power because Western intelligence agencies came and fucked things up.

            And similarly, the fact the fact that the Luddites fears didn’t fully materialize proves that “technological unemployment” is an impossibility and all the folks here talking about it are economic ignoramouses committing the “lump-of-labor fallacy”. Because “this time is different” is never, ever a valid argument, right?

            OK, but now we’re talking opposing examples, not “the sky is falling” when there are plenty of examples of similar stuff happening and the sky not falling.

            First, may I object strongly to this modern tendency to reduce all of culture to “arts and heritage”, a “folkloristic display” of costume, music, and food, which are frankly fairly peripheral compared to deeper norms of personal interaction, family structure, life histories, and so on. Secondly, is this supposed to be a comfort to those being replaced in their own homelands (and recall the discourse on “cultural appropriation”)? Would you tell a dwindling Native American tribe, their last small generation marrying out and assimilating that, sure, your descendants will mostly come from a foreign stock and will have utterly forgotten practially all of your ancestral ways, but take heart, because some distant foreigners will occasionally sing a few of your old songs?

            Would Swedish, German, French personal interaction, family structures, life histories look remotely like those of hundreds of years ago? That my lifestyle would horrify my European peasant ancestors – should they instead be happy their genes have continued on?

            But what does ceasing to pretend there’s no problem, and a “coherent immigration policy” mean if I’m right about the impossibility of assimilating the newcomers, in the numbers involved, to European norms, so that bringing in immigrants in the numbers “needed” really does mean cultural replacement?

            Then we’re fucked. But I think your idea that it is impossible to integrate newcomers is wrong. People are not immutable.

            Oh, and as an aside, I would dispute at least somewhat your contention that the Canada of 100 years ago is still fully around. At the very least, I recall listening to one Canadian “aquaintance of an aquaintance” making statements about Vancouver being no longer Canadian (thanks mostly to the Chinese).

            You’re failing to differentiate between Chinese-Canadians and the first-generation immigrants and non-resident Chinese real estate speculators who are snapping up land in the area. I went to school with second or third generation South Asian, East Asian, Middle Eastern immigrants who were, culturally, indistinguishable from me. There were also foreign students, who were clearly different.

            EDIT: I will repost this if you’ve already answered, but: I don’t think what happened to the original inhabitants of the Americas with European colonization is something you can draw an analogy from. Smallpox and ethnic cleansing are not equivalent to population %s changing.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Skef

            “You have experience at “CalTech” and you’re inter-capping Caltech?!?!”

            Damnit, I hate my new MacOS’s autocorrect. Fixed. Thanks.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @dndnrsn

            “Ah, so the French have the snobbery gene, the Germans have the punctuality and nagginess genes (I guess the notoriously lackadaisical Austrians are genetically completely different from Germans), and the Swedes have the feminism gene?”

            A strawman simplification; see my other comments, and read JayMan.

            “Why are Europeans of today different from Europeans of 100, 200, 300, 400, 500 years ago?”

            A pernicious cluster of memes, a mind-virus, made it past the cultural immune system and is now conquering the planet to the ultimate detriment of those it has infected.

            And I’ll admit, Persians are perhaps a bit more assimilable than your other examples, but it’s not going to be limited to just them (plus there’s that whole Islam problem). I shouldn’t have just riffed from your comment so directly, and admitted this nuance. But it does not obviate my overall point.

            “Would Swedish, German, French personal interaction, family structures, life histories look remotely like those of hundreds of years ago?”

            No, and that’s a bad thing! We need to go back to those forms.

            “That my lifestyle would horrify my European peasant ancestors – should they instead be happy their genes have continued on?”

            First, this is where I’ve got to get a bit Confucian. That your lifestyle would horrify your ancestors, to whom you owe an inborn, permanent, non-dischargeable duty of respect and obedience, should fill you with great shame, and you should always be striving to be more acceptable in their eyes. Second, while the ideal is to have both one’s culture and one’s bloodline propagated together into the future, my own instincts, and those of my tribe, lean perhaps a bit toward the latter. That said, what good is preserving the bloodline over a changing culture when the changed culture makes it difficult to impossible to further propagate the bloodline?

            “Then we’re fucked.”

            That is my point. We’re fucked. And see the JayMan quote above. While people are not completely “immutable”, nor are they blank slates, clay to be molded any which way. There are limits, and differences between peoples that “are simply to be accepted as inevitable and dealt with accordingly.”

          • skef says:

            Cheater! Imposter!

            Papa, der ist der morder. Morder! Morder!

          • Kevin C. says:

            “3 I also think is unlikely: it is very hard to put cats back in tubes and toothpaste back in sacks. ”

            People say this, but why can’t a sufficiently-determined and willing government, with sufficient support amongst the armed forces and police, “force women out of schools and professional careers, ban birth control”; restore the Houses of Hohenzollern, Habsburg, Orléans (or Bonaparte), etc.; restore cuius regio, eius religio, bring back the Inquisition, and so on?

          • skef says:

            People say this, but why can’t a sufficiently-determined and willing government, with sufficient support amongst the armed forces and police, “force women out of schools and professional careers, ban birth control”; restore the Houses of Hohenzollern, Habsburg, Orléans (or Bonaparte), etc.; restore cuius regio, eius religio, bring back the Inquisition, and so on?

            I believe this variety of art falls under the rubric of “nation building”.

            I think your view is that we know these particular government forms are well tuned to those genetic mixtures, so just wind up the society to the right starting point and it will just need some maintenance. Social memory doesn’t work like that; plenty of groups burn with hatred over slights that occurred hundreds of years ago. Parents tell their kids things, and society where you could stop that entirely would not be even remotely close to the societies you’re trying to reconstitute. To wipe away the more recent past you’ll need some sort of soap to wash everyone’s brains with. I don’t believe we’ve quite got that yet.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @dndnrsn

            A strawman simplification; see my other comments, and read JayMan.

            Behavioural traits, sure. But what genetically-derived behavioural traits are responsible for Austrians being sloppier about showing up to things on time than Germans? I would note that the stereotypes of different peoples change with time – the stereotypes of Chinese are different today than they were 100 years ago, for example.

            Sweden has adopted an insistent but incompetent multiculturalism: they are worse than Canadians at actually doing it, but seem far more insistent that it is the right thing to do; saying “we should take a step back on multiculturalism” is almost certainly more acceptable in Canada than it is in Sweden – even though it’s going way better here than it is there. Is this due, in part or in whole, to something inherent to Swedes? Or is it due to differences between Canada and Sweden that are quirks of geography and history? If it’s both, how do you divide it up?

            A pernicious cluster of memes, a mind-virus, made it past the cultural immune system and is now conquering the planet to the ultimate detriment of those it has infected.

            What is the ideal form of human society, before it all went wrong? What led to this development?

            No, and that’s a bad thing! We need to go back to those forms.

            So, in order to stave off demographic defeat, the solution is to go back to ways of life basically the same as those you are trying to compete with? What makes a Christian, European society that denies women an education, denies people significant control over how many children they have, discourages laypeople from reading scripture (only clerics can be trusted to do it right!), etc better, more deserving of existence, than a Muslim, non-European society that does those things? Peoples are to be preserved, to stay where they are, just because?

            First, this is where I’ve got to get a bit Confucian. That your lifestyle would horrify your ancestors, to whom you owe an inborn, permanent, non-dischargeable duty of respect and obedience, should fill you with great shame, and you should always be striving to be more acceptable in their eyes. Second, while the ideal is to have both one’s culture and one’s bloodline propagated together into the future, my own instincts, and those of my tribe, lean perhaps a bit toward the latter. That said, what good is preserving the bloodline over a changing culture when the changed culture makes it difficult to impossible to further propagate the bloodline?

            So, because my lifestyle would be upsetting to medieval NW European peasants, I should be ashamed? They did things differently than their ancestors did – should they be ashamed? Should the Protestant parts of my heritage be ashamed that their Catholic ancestors would be horrified? Should all the Christians be ashamed that they adopted a Jewish-Greek-Roman religion instead of their traditional gods? Should we all be ashamed that we’re not hunter-gatherers?

            Why do I owe fealty to my ancestors? Why do I owe a debt of fealty to my ancestors at any particular point in time, why 1500 AD and not 500 AD, or 500 BC? Why to homo sapiens instead of australopithecus? Why to the great apes instead of the lesser apes? You get the picture. I owe my existence as much to some sort of ancient rodent as I do to NW Euro peasants – how do I get to pick and choose? I think people owe some kind of loyalty to “their people” – their family, their fellow citizens, etc – to an extent that is probably a little weird, if not worryingly reactionary, by the standards of wider society. I owe my ancestors respect, just as I owe respect to some others who are not currently living and have not been for some time (I think Remembrance Day ceremonies are a fine and good thing). But why do I owe my ancestors obedience?

            That is my point. We’re fucked. And see the JayMan quote above. While people are not completely “immutable”, nor are they blank slates, clay to be molded any which way. There are limits, and differences between peoples that “are simply to be accepted as inevitable and dealt with accordingly.”

            I don’t think people are blank slates; I am considerably less blank-slate than the average person. However, I think that HBD is far less convincing than at first it appears to some: because the opposing team has refused to take the field. Let me explain what I mean.

            Let’s say an HBDer says, as they do, that this ethnic group is more intelligent than that one, inherently – it’s genetic. The logical way to argue against this is to question the tests, question the samples, look at the role of environmental factors over genetic factors, etc. However, the opposition to this concept has by and large decided that genetics have no role in intelligence or components of intelligence, or that it is impolite (at best) to point out group A doing better at tests than group B, or that intelligence is not “set” (by genetics, by nutrition in the womb and as a child, etc), or that intelligence doesn’t exist (“IQ is just how good you are at taking tests”).

            This isn’t limited to intelligence. You find some people who deny that there are physical differences caused by testosterone vs estrogen – there are some who think that sex (as opposed to gender) is a social construct. I even recall reading something about a single scholar who believes that men are only taller than women because parents are led by social conditioning to feed girls less than boys.

            So, HBD arguments look more convincing than they should, because nobody’s picking them apart. It’s as though only one baseball team showed up because the other decided that bats and balls are social constructs.

            And if you’re right, and we’re (I’m assuming you still mean Europeans) fucked, then so is everyone else; there’s no reason to believe that people are immune to the social dynamics that have resulted in falling birth rates because they are Muslim, or African, or whatever. I know plenty of people who are not Europeans who are irreligious, largely cut off from their ancestry and traditional culture, unlikely to have more than two children tops, etc. Perhaps humanity will die out because of this, or perhaps we’ll find some other way to wipe ourselves out, or something out of our control entirely will wipe us out. But it is likely that we, as a species, will one day cease to exist, as many other species have before us. We had a pretty good run.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Kevin C.

            People say this, but why can’t a sufficiently-determined and willing government, with sufficient support amongst the armed forces and police, “force women out of schools and professional careers, ban birth control”; restore the Houses of Hohenzollern, Habsburg, Orléans (or Bonaparte), etc.; restore cuius regio, eius religio, bring back the Inquisition, and so on?

            But what will cause the government to want to do that, what will cause the armed forces and the police to support them? How do you pick what time period to go back to?

          • Why are Europeans of today different from Europeans of 100, 200, 300, 400, 500 years ago?”

            A pernicious cluster of memes, a mind-virus, made it past the cultural immune system and is now conquering the planet to the ultimate detriment of those it has infected.

            So if a pernicious cluster of memes can radically change the culture of a population, why do you take it for granted that a different cluster of memes cannot convert the immigrants to modern American culture–especially after observing multiple examples of it happening over the past century or two?

          • Tekhno says:

            @dndnrsn

            Automation predictions are predictions, whereas people getting older and being less capable of taking care of themselves, less capable of contributing to the economy, requiring more medical care, etc, is something that we know happens, has always happened, and we cannot stop from happening.

            It’s always happened, but the prediction this time is that below replacement birthrates mean the dependency ratio gets way too high to manage, and there are more decrepit people who can’t work than people to look after them, and tax revenue to fund such programs.

            That itself might not happen if birthrates and thus the age composition of the population changes between now and the far off point where it is supposed to doom us. It might be that the solvency problems of these programs causes radical fiscal conservatism to take over and they are slashed like never before as well.

            So I think it’s just as reasonable to point out that automation and artificial intelligence is predicted by various groups/Universities to be greatly advanced on a similar timeframe (I can go and get some of the studies and throw them in here, but this is not unfamiliar to SSC readers).

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Tekhno:

            Someone (Aapje?) here pointed out that if birth rates rise in the near future, that won’t result in more adults to support the elderly until after it results in kids and elderly relying on the adults.

            I don’t know if slashing social programs supporting the elderly is a full solution – with fewer adult children to support them, and no money from the government, that’s hardly a good situation…

            My point is that while there’s a chance the experts are wrong about technological development, there is a far greater chance that people will continue to age at the same rate they always have. It’s like somebody predicting “I will be able to find a job after graduation” – even if they’re learning something in demand, there’s a chance they won’t be able to – versus “predicting” “I will need to pay for life’s essentials”.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Kevin C.

            “First, this is where I’ve got to get a bit Confucian. That your lifestyle would horrify your ancestors, to whom you owe an inborn, permanent, non-dischargeable duty of respect and obedience, should fill you with great shame, and you should always be striving to be more acceptable in their eyes. ”

            A good many of our ancestors changed their culture voluntarily. Why should we undo their work?

            Also, you mention restoring the Inquisition. Some of your ancestors were inimical to my ancestors. I don’t know what my ancestors would think of me and the modern world, but they might like it better than the deal they had a couple of centuries ago.

            As for the Confucian thing…. you’re reminding me of those who say “rights imply responsibilities”. They probably do, but why is there always such a short jump to “and I get to say what your responsibilities are”?

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Kevin C.
            why can’t a sufficiently-determined and willing government, with sufficient support amongst the armed forces and police, “force women out of schools and professional careers, ban birth control”;

            I don’t suppose you want any crumbs of cheer (How are things in Marshwiggleland?) but here’s one anyway.

            The falling Western birthrate might be falling down a U-shaped curve. It’s conceivable for a family to go from “one mouth, two hands” (ie subsistence farming} — to “the fewer kids the more/bigger paychecks” — to “yay, now we can afford more kids”.

            (Well, probably it would take a generation or two or more.)

      • Deiseach says:

        I trust eg Tyler Cowen to be a smart person who shares my values, so I take his opinion into consideration when he’s thought more than I have about things.

        Which is a good basis for taking his opinion on something you haven’t considered, but not the same as “Tyler Cowen is a Big Name Blogger, so whatever he says I will take as Gospel!” and that is what the Celebrity Endorsement Effect boils down to in the end. To use the Kim Kardashian example, I have no idea if she has carefully examined the topic from all angles and made a decision based on her own evaluation of the evidence, or decided to row in based on the fact that it’s something in the public eye and as someone in the public eye herself she needs to have an opinion on it to keep her fame levels up.

        She may be a perfectly nice, intelligent young woman, but let’s face it: when we think “Kim Kardashian”, to me at least the mental image that arises is “tanned, boobs, slinky dresses, famous for being famous” not “smart and successful student of politics and governance” (even though she is successful so that must mean she is smart in some way).

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          @Deisearch. But I think that anyone who takes the view of Kim K for their own doesn’t WANT to think about the issues. Scott and everyone on this blog LIKE to think about issues, and we tend to have contempt for those who don’t think for themselves.

          But I think most of the people in the world HATE this kind of discussion. They might find it fun to talk about who should be the next quarterback for the Rams, or what’s the best movie of 2016, or what celebrity wears the trashiest clothes. But political issues are like going back to school — most people treat that like I do the dentist; avoid it whenever possible.

          I don’t know exactly where I am going with this, except that I think people taking on the viewpoints of others without thinking it out themselves is inevitable and cannot be avoided. I suspect this would be a large majority of people if you include those that accept the point of view of what might be be more socially acceptable practice of accepting a famous politician or economist point of view without thought. I’m not sure if I consider it worse when someone takes on Kim K’s point of view than if they take on Paul Krugman’s. The results are probably about the same.

          So if most people in the world determine their political opinions based on some famous person, is it worse to use a celebrity or a pundit? I don’t know that I have an opinion on the matter.

    • Nornagest says:

      There’s something ironic about using the phrase “dark arts” in a political context and then condemning political Harry Potter comparisons in the same post.

    • Deiseach says:

      Does anyone think that celebrities speaking out against Trump are genuinely risking anything? I know there is the perception that the Trump administration are all keeping track of who said what and waging war against the media and conducting grudges and feuds, but does anyone think the reaction to Meryl Streep is “Well, you’ll never work in this town again”?

      I’m sure most of the celebs are genuine in their opposition and distaste. I’m also pretty sure none of them are going to get in trouble for expressing an unpopular opinion.

      • Tarpitz says:

        I’m pretty sure you could impair your work prospects in British theatre, film and TV pretty severely by endorsing the Tories, and even more by endorsing UKIP. I am extremely wary of revealing my approximate classical liberalism to colleagues, and I don’t think this is paranoia. I suspect Hollywood is not so very different in this regard. Endorsing Trump might end Streep’s career (though she’s probably too big to be vulnerable full stop) but attacking him never could.