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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. ameliaquining says:

    Re: Vox and the argument that it’s okay that they have a liberal bias because everyone knows it: Topher Hallquist made a similar comment in a Facebook thread awhile back. I’d like to cross-post my responses:

    Vox’s editorial voice is that of a smart, knowledgeable observer giving reasonable fact-based explanations of complicated phenomena, thereby making their viewers more informed citizens. Furthermore, much of the time they *actually do that* and these pieces are widely linked by other smart, knowledgeable people, which gives (or at least gave) them a lot of credibility. Then they use the exact same editorial voice for their left-wing opinion pieces. This is why many people I know who care about truth-seeking get *really frustrated* with them.

    I’m not necessarily claiming that Vox is particularly bad for society or anything, just that I personally find them a lot more frustrating than, e.g., Daily Kos. And the reason for that is that I can *trust* Daily Kos to be biased and epistemically unvirtuous, whereas Vox is on the side of truth and reasonableness until they’re suddenly not. Frequently I read one of their articles, it starts off as a good like-Wikipedia-but-more-engagingly-written explanation of some controversy, and then halfway through they start repeating one side’s moral claims as statements of fact and I feel a sudden urge to slam my head against the wall. And I’m nearly certain that I’m not alone in this.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Do you have any examples? (I realize this is unfair and there’s no reason you should have an example in front of you)

      • ameliaquining says:

        That’s a fair question. Here’s one that I thought was a pretty bad offender: “The Battle Over Identity Politics, Explained”.

        It makes like it’s going to inform confused audiences about what this “identity politics” controversy is and why everybody is yelling about it. Then it says “The bigger battle isn’t about restricting speech on college campuses, but who exactly is accepted in America.”, without giving any clue that this is a moral claim made by one side that the other would say is simply wrong.

        • Galle says:

          I think this is getting into the question of “both sides” reporting versus reporting that just tries to print the objective truth and is willing to accept that they might end up giving a biased account. In many controversies, one side is simply objectively correct. If you’re trying to present an unbiased account of these controversies, do you acknowledge that fundamental truth, or do you try to present both sides of the argument and let readers draw their own conclusions? If you’re writing an article about creationism, do you or do you not mention that it’s not true?

          It’s certainly a fact that identity politics as a conflict is a hell of a lot bigger than “restricting speech on college campuses”, and is much closer to being about who exactly is accepted in American society. It’s true that one side of the debate would very much like the debate to be about nothing more than restricting speech on college campuses, but much like people who would very much like the abortion debate to be about controlling women’s uteruses, they’re letting self-serving bias blind them to the objective fact of the matter.

          So is it necessarily biased of Vox to print that fact? Or is it just responsible journalism?

          • ameliaquining says:

            I think there’s an important sense in which what Vox printed here wasn’t “the objective truth”. The way that sentence tells it, the debate consists of progressives vs. white nationalists (or rather, people who may or may not identify as white nationalists but who want minorities to not be accepted in America, which seems like a fairly reasonable definition of white nationalism). This is a common progressive framing of the debate (for obvious reasons), but it’s not true; there are lots of people invested in the issue who don’t support either of those positions.

            The sentence “the bigger battle isn’t about restricting speech on college campuses” is literally true, but its function in the paragraph is to set up a strawman. The message they’re trying to send here is, “Sure, there might have been a few times when the left side of the political spectrum did some things that maybe arguably might have caused some collateral damage, but none of that stuff is important. The only actually relevant question is whether having minorities in America is a good thing or a bad thing.” Which is not any kind of “objective fact”, it’s the progressive side’s moral claim and conservatives have many reasonable arguments against it, but Vox presents it as an objective fact.

          • Galle says:

            I guess that, strictly speaking, it would be more accurate to say that the fight over identity politics is about the question, “What is the fight over identity politics about?”

            That said, I’ve reviewed the arguments and evidence from both sides, and come to a rational conclusion. I know for a fact that I’ve genuinely managed to come to a rational conclusion, because I had to undergo the rather traumatic process of changing my mind. Once I managed to overcome my confirmation bias and emotional baggage, I found that the only reasonable conclusion to draw on the issue is that the progressive side is objectively correct.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            “That said, I’ve reviewed the arguments and evidence from both sides, and come to a rational conclusion. I know for a fact that I’ve genuinely managed to come to a rational conclusion, because I had to undergo the rather traumatic process of changing my mind. Once I managed to overcome my confirmation bias and emotional baggage, I found that the only reasonable conclusion to draw on the issue is that the progressive side is objectively correct.”

            Well I did the opposite and came to the conclusion that the progressive side is objectively incorrect.

            I mean, what issue are we even discussing here? You wanna go into more detail?

          • nydwracu says:

            If enacting the progressive agenda is what ‘accepting minorities’ looks like, no one in Thailand is accepted but the king.

      • mutt says:

        Maybe this isn’t an exact fit, but in this article on the Black Panthers, Victoria Massie tells us that J. Edgar Hoover described the Black Panthers as “the greatest threat to internal security of the country” and goes on to write “A lesser-known fact about that quote is that the Panthers were considered a “threat” because they used to give free breakfast to children.”

        The link is to a 162 page document detailing the Black Panther “service to the people programs” which does describe the free breakfast thing but provides no evidence for the assertion that the BPs were considered a threat *because* of the free breakfast.

        So we shift quickly from “info about the BPs and the US govt response” to an unsubstantiated assertion that the govt hated the BPs *because* they were so wonderful. They tweeted links to the article months after this was pointed out to them.

        I also like Vox btw, but I this kind of stuff is irritating.

      • alwhite says:

        Here is an article published by Vox that is one huge opinionated rant about Safe Spaces and the University of Chicago.

        Most annoying to me is that the author referred to the University’s statement (a 50 word paragraph) as a “screed” (3 times) and a “diatribe”, while the article itself is over 1900 words and is much more similar to a diatribe that the University’s statement.

        This is supposedly put into Vox’s First Person category which is intended to be provocative narrative essays. I don’t know if that let’s them off the hook for this particular piece but I do think it fits the idea as stating moral claims as statements of fact and utterly failing to engage with the reality of the situation.

        • ameliaquining says:

          That particular article is unambiguously an opinion piece, not an “explainer”, so not the thing I was complaining about. Although I do wish they’d put the “First Person” disclaimer at the beginning of the post instead of at the end.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Yeah I agree. When Vox says something, they don’t distinguish between things that have a really strong factual evidence for and things that are more contentious. Of course, no one believes that they have poor evidence for their beliefs but I think most of us are self aware enough to know some of our arguments are stronger than others.

      • wintermute92 says:

        Yes, this is my complaint too. A Vox political-issue piece is pretty much guaranteed to consist of citing 5+ good-looking studies with articulate analysis, and rebuttals of common counterarguments.

        Unfortunately, this is true regardless of what they’re saying. Their pieces pushing controversial claims using failed-replication social psych nonsense look exactly the same as their pieces explaining universally-accepted ideas via robust evidence.

        I don’t dislike Vox because it’s so bad, I dislike it because it’s often good. They’re an “explainer” site, except that unless I already have extensive knowledge of the topic I can’t tell when they’re utterly misleading their readers.

    • AlphaCeph says:

      I find Vox a lot more traumatic than the Daily Kos. Subtle lies mixed with truth are a lot more dangerous than blatant lies.

      And even though “everyone” knows that they are left biased, they keep very quiet about it. E.g.

      > Vox explains the news. From the economy to Game of Thrones, we empower people to be informed, helping put your world in context.

      Maybe it’s because when they started out, I was very enthusiastic about them and didn’t realize that they were going to carry a political bias?

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        And even though “everyone” knows that they are left biased, they keep very quiet about it.

        Yeah, it reminds me of an argument from several years ago…

        A: Why are you spending all your time criticizing the United States, when the people the United States is fighting right now are a million times worse?
        B: Everyone knows those guys are a million times worse, so I don’t need to waste my time saying it.

        The problem is, if nobody says something, then how is anyone new going to ever find it out? “Everyone knows” becomes “older people who lived through it know” becomes “a couple of widely-ignored cranks who read moldy old books know” becomes “nobody knows.”

        • tmk says:

          I think the difference is that there is nothing wrong about having and sharing opinions, which is what is means to be biased left or right. Unbiased/neutral reporting is also very valuable, but not a moral duty.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            There’s nothing wrong with that, absolutely. But someone claiming to express a neutral, objective point of view when they do very much have those opinions, and allow those opinions to color their writing and their choice of subject matter, deserves to be objected to.

            In this particular case “everyone knows that Vox is liberal” doesn’t really excuse Vox claiming to not have a political viewpoint.

        • valiance says:

          @ThirteenthLetter

          Your theory that we have to remind people of the obvious ever so often lest they forget, reminds me of this Greg Cochran post: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/it-must-be-said/

          There are facts that were once known, sometimes generally known, that are now known to but a few. Some of this information loss is caused by changes in occupational patterns – farmers automatically know something about heritability, clerks and workers in dark satanic mills, not so much.

          But mostly these facts are unpleasant, at least to some ears. People who mention such facts are punished – generally in terms of their careers, not being invited to parties, etc. That’s enough to cause a 10 or 20-fold drop in visibility, which ought to tell you something about how brave people are. Many people assume that everyone is secretly aware of those unpleasant facts, but that is not the case. A generation that has grown up never hearing those facts will be almost entirely unaware of them, in part because their personal life experiences don’t impinge on those patterns much. This means that they can and sometimes do make serious mistakes that those ‘secretly aware’ types never would.

          …you have to state important facts every so often, or nobody knows them anymore.

          • 27chaos says:

            I really liked the comment there by albatross:

            Even among those who know the unspeakable facts, not being able to talk about them has a cost. For speakable facts, we can have discussions, lively debates, gather data, run experiments, etc. The result is that everyone involved gets smarter–we get to benefit from others’ insights and ideas and expertise and knowledge. We can discuss their implications for politics or personal choices or whatever. For unspeakable facts, we can quietly notice and observe things, but we can’t talk them over with many people, and so we mostly won’t think through their implications, we won’t notice where we’ve misunderstood something. This is something the internet is changing, I think–it’s possible to find smart people discussing whatever is unthinkable in your community, somewhere on the internet.

            And thinking too clearly and deeply about the unthinkable also has a cost. You stop being able to just parrot back the party line without thought–your own thoughts get in the way, your facial expressions and unthinking first reaction to something will give your doubts away. You’re like an atheist somewhere where falling away from the Church equals becoming an outcast. If you allow to friends that you sometimes have doubts, you can stay a member of the community, but if you start trying to think through the full implications of your lack of belief, you are almost guaranteed to find yourself an outcast.

            I think that one reason conservative arguments are worse is that conservative positions are anathema in academia, so conservatives don’t get pointed at helpful connections to past literature and philosophy and studies on the subject, and conservatives are forced to do a lot of their thinking from scratch. This also occurs in conversations about conservative ideas: liberals can outsource their opinions to specialized editorial writers, while conservatives have only uneducated hacks to appeal to. This all makes conservatism appear artificially weak, which is not a good thing for apartisan truth seekers.

      • Corey says:

        It’s probably not possible to do explainers without a political bias. Otherwise you’re susceptible to hacking via intentional creation of epistemic nihilism (e.g. “opinions on the shape of the earth differ.”) A set of explainers can’t try to straddle divergent realities, they’re going to have to pick one and stick with it. If it’s not the reality you prefer to live in… *shrug*

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Well there’s one good technique that I know of, at least in scientific literature reviews.

          Get groups of smart well-informed proponents* of both sides of a contentious question into a room. Have them work out all of the aspects they agree on and present those as the consensus view. Then they can lay out the aspects which they disagree on, and how each side explains what’s going on.

          (E.g., a good example on dynamin. I know that doesn’t sound contentious but people who care will fillet you if you disagree.)

          That way, a layman can get a good sense of what the common knowledge is and where the real disagreements lie. They can then make an informed judgement whether the weight of evidence favors one side or another.

          *“But there are no smart well-informed Skub supporters! Hah!” There, now that I’ve made that cheap shot nobody else needs to.

          • Jiro says:

            *“But there are no smart well-informed Skub supporters! Hah!” There, now that I’ve made that cheap shot nobody else needs to.

            You laugh, but there are subjects for which it is true. Go ahead, and try to find some smart, well-informed homeopathy supporters or young-Earth scientific creationists.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Jiro,

            I worked for a geneticist who was a (closeted) young earth creationist back in undergrad. He was a very sharp guy and a solid researcher, not to mention one of the most statistically numerate biologists I’ve met. I’m proud to have had the opportunity to know him.

            That’s not to say the guy wasn’t wrong about YEC. He was wrong, and obviously wrong at that. But he exists and that’s enough to disprove your point.

            Edit: In case it isn’t clear, I don’t think Vox or anyone else are required to hedge on whether evolution is real or not. But if you’re doing an explainer specifically on evolution vs creationism, you should probably at some point involve a creationist in the writing process. I’m more than confident that the weight of evidence supports evolution.

          • Jiro says:

            “He is generally a smart and well-informed person” and “he is smart and well-informed with respect to the subject of creationism” aren’t the same thing. People have a way of compartmentalizing their bad beliefs and he could easily be ignorant about the science needed to properly analyze creationism while knowledgeable about enough other things to be able to be a geneticist.

            Creationism is so poorly supported and based on such elementary misconceptions that the degree of wrongness needed to believe it precludes being smart and well-informed on the relevant science.

          • ashlael says:

            I don’t know about homeopathy but I would argue Dr Jonathan Sarfarti is a smart, well informed young earth creationist.

          • tgr says:

            Of course, to run a media outlet without going bankrupt, the cost of an article has to stay below whatever ad money the pageviews bring in. So organizing a scientific symposium for every article might be a smidgen unrealistic.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            I’d like to see a norm where, if it’s not possible to profitably write an article that correctly describes the state of the field without political bias, they don’t write the article. Perhaps Vox could write about football or something instead?

      • Hyzenthlay says:

        Subtle lies mixed with truth are a lot more dangerous than blatant lies.

        +1

        I do generally like Vox and consider them to be among the better liberal sources. But that habit they have of casually slipping in heavily biased POVs as if they’re facts is really frustrating.

    • Rough and Toothless says:

      The problem is not that Vox is liberal but that they add very little value to the liberal line of the day. A lot of times Vox reads like the leader of a high school girls clique telling her betas – OK, today we don’t like the girls in the [fill in the blank] clique and here’s why.

      In short, the little in Vox that’s original is rarely any good, and the little that’s good was rarely original. That goes doubly for Yglesias since he joined Vox, whatever good he may have been before.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        The problem is not that Vox is liberal but that they add very little value to the liberal line of the day.

        Don’t they, though? What other left-liberal news sources would you say do a better job at it?

      • spottedtoad says:

        I think Vox is useful as a straight-down-the-middle picture of where conventional, center-left perspective is right now. It’s the voice of the Democratic Party talking to itself, working through issues, thinking out loud. I think if you read Vox consistently, you wouldn’t be surprised by anything Hillary Clinton or her campaign said or did.

        The reason that Vox is hated, though, is exactly that- to a lot of people, the Democratic Party was (perhaps is) very close to a quasi-permanent hold on power and the installation of a fairly radical view of society and people’s relationship to it. To have a prominent media outlet so fully articulate a certain world view that seems to be the consensus view of academia and government and what is an “acceptable” point of view on Facebook or other social media is disturbing in its own way, especially since Vox has risen so far so fast so recently. When I updated my iOS on my phone recently, its build-in News App began showing notifications until I turned them off, and they were seemingly all Vox articles. The sense that the day to day, moment to moment fabric of our lives is wedded to a single perspective and that that perspective is also what holds the keys to all prestige and the instrumentalization of power is what I think is upsetting to people about Vox. In Scott’s words: “It’s about the feeling that a group of arrogant, intolerant, sanctimonious elites have seized control of a lot of national culture and are using it mostly to spread falsehood and belittle anybody different than them. ” That’s Vox in a nutshell.

        I imagine that this feeling has faded since the election (it has for me certainly). And it’s true– I actually like Klein and Yglesias in some ways. The quote about Yglesias’s remarks on Bangladesh is pretty unfair; as the recently departed Hans Rosling points out in this excellent video, Bangladesh has made enormous progress over the last few decades, and it’s hard not to think that some of the rapid capitalist development that Yglesias applauded and that Current Affairs sees as entirely invalidated by the factory collapse is a significant reason for that progress.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          in other words you are saying that Vox functions primarily as a voice.

          god how did no one notice that

          Anyhow, to the argument: Matthew Yglesias is very clearly paid to write bad takes. Like, no offense. He does his job well. That’s his job.

          And so many people were just super-sure that Trump couldn’t win. Polling in particular wasn’t that close until the end and many ignored it, so don’t give me that. People who massively mis-predict a single data point in that way just totally fail to impress me. Also, not sold the Russian Hacking had or has enough to really worry me.

      • skybrian says:

        This is kind of a weird criticism because Vox is (often) in the summary business. For example, I mostly read Vox sentences, which is a pretty good daily summary of the issues of the day and has interesting links.

        Maybe like Wikipedia, they should strive to be less original?

    • gbdub says:

      “Everyone knows Vox has a liberal bias” except, apparently, the writers of Vox. A bit of snark here obviously. I’m sure Ezra Klein knows he’s a liberal, it’s just that the writing lacks self-awareness of this fact (or deliberately obscures it, if you want to be less charitable).

      Vox is part of a movement in media toward more accessible data-driven reporting/analysis. This is a good thing! Unfortunately, they are also part of a trend toward blurring the line between straight reporting and editorializing, which is a bad thing. There needs to be a clearer distinction between “here’s the data” and “here’s the conclusion we reach based on the data” (preferably there would also be “here are our priors” and “here are some alternative explanations that have been proposed”, but baby steps).

      Additionally, and this is pure feels, Vox often comes off as condescendingly smug. This is probably a personal failing of mine, by I’m always more put off by smugness than earnestness or stridency. At least the religious zealot knows his beliefs are faith-based!

      • ashlael says:

        A demonstration of that lack of self awareness – Klein explicitly argues Vox is not biased in favour of the pro-choice worldview: http://www.vox.com/2015/8/26/9212591/why-vox-didnt-run-a-piece-endorsing-the-repugnant-conclusion

        • Hyzenthlay says:

          What surprises me is that their main objection to the “repugnant conclusion” is that people might interpret it as being against birth control and abortion.

          I mean, the idea that all people are morally obligated to have as many children as possible is insane in a way that goes beyond the pro/anti abortion/BC debate. I’d think even most people who are against abortion would consider that idea pretty weird.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You say it’s insane, but it’s a rough approximation of the official position of the Catholic Church.

            I mean yes, they allow the rhythm method. But still, it’s not very far from there to the “Quiverfull” folks.

            I honestly don’t know if Catholicism can be actually linked to the reputation for large families that go along with the Irish and Italian (American) stereotypes. The term “Irish twins” does exist for a reason, though.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            Even if the Catholic church is against all forms of BC (though most of their followers don’t adhere to that, I’d say) they at least would say that someone can remain abstinent if they don’t want a family. Not a great option, but it’s an option.

            Whereas this moral argument seems to be saying that even if someone’s not interested in sex or procreation, they’re ethically obligated to rut like bunnies and pop out as many units as possible in the interest of maximizing the potential net happiness of the human species.

            Which, I probably don’t even need to make a case for why that’s nuts, but even if you accept the shaky premise that more people is an intrinsic good, the human population continues to rise every year without the encouragement of moral philosophers. “How do we convince the small minority of people who don’t want kids that it’s their moral obligation to have kids?” doesn’t seem like a good use of anyone’s time, if what they’re actually concerned about is the utilitarian goal of increasing net happiness.

            (Of course, when people try to encourage other people to breed more, it’s usually not that they want more people in general, but that they want more people who share their culture/values/ethnicity/whatever.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hzelanthy:
            Even the Pope thinks that there is a view inside the church that couples are obliged to “breed like rabbits”.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Even the Pope thinks that there is a view inside the church that couples are obliged to “breed like rabbits”.

            Which is, of course, completely different from it being “the official position of the Catholic Church.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The original Mr. X:
            Note that I said it was a rough approximation. In other words, it’s not the actual position, but people, adherents of the faith even, make the mistake of thinking it is the official position of the church. This happens often enough that the pope felt it desirable to comment on.

            The official stance on abortion is that it is better for a child to be born, no matter what life they will be born into. Better to exist than not. This is, I believe, literally the first step in the proof of the repugnant conclusion.

            And then I mentioned the Quiverfull movement, which is really, really close to “You are morally obligated to create as many children as possible”.

            There are people who take “be fruitful and multiply” very seriously.

            The difference between that stance and the actual repugnant conclusion is a belief in God rewarding the righteous. A belief in infinite rewards eliminates the actual repugnant conclusion. (Well, perhaps not when you do the math, as infinite punishment plus a belief in the inherent wickedness of man …. but that is probably too pedantic).

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Note that I said it was a rough approximation.

            It’s directly contradicted by the Pope, and by St. Paul’s teachings on celibacy (which can be summarised as “Celibacy is best, but if you really can’t do without sex, I guess you should get married”).

            In other words, it’s not the actual position, but people, adherents of the faith even, make the mistake of thinking it is the official position of the church.

            So? People can be badly mistaken about what a religion teaches, even if it’s their own religion.

            And then I mentioned the Quiverfull movement, which is really, really close to “You are morally obligated to create as many children as possible”.

            As far as I know, those guys are Evangelicals, not Catholics.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Original Mr. X:
            You seem intent on attacking a position I do not hold. The original comment that I was responding to is this:

            I mean, the idea that all people are morally obligated to have as many children as possible is insane in a way that goes beyond the pro/anti abortion/BC debate. I’d think even most people who are against abortion would consider that idea pretty weird.

            This means that the opinion of the lay people matter quite a bit, and how the actual technical official position matters far less.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            This means that the opinion of the lay people matter quite a bit, and how the actual technical official position matters far less.

            Then why say “it’s a rough approximation of the official position of the Catholic Church” if you weren’t actually talking about the official position?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Original Mr. X:
            Really, already asked and already answered. You keep ignoring the clear implication of my using rough approximation. In my original post I even wondered whether the stereotypes about Italian and Irish families actually did or did not having anything to do with their Catholicism. I was clearly concerned with how doctrine is received by the laity.

          • I mean, the idea that all people are morally obligated to have as many children as possible is insane

            It’s not a position I agree with, but how do you determine whether normative beliefs are insane? Do you believe that there are objective standards of right and wrong? If so, can you offer a way of proving to someone who disagrees that he is mistaken?

            It’s worth noting that the Amish position, although not, I think, quite as extreme as Quiverfull, is pretty close. They don’t use contraception, have an average of about seven children per family, and have a functional society.

            Unlike the Catholics, the Amish clergy–unpaid amateurs with a lifetime position selected by nomination plus lottery–are not celibate. My guess is that a single man, or a married man without children, would be unlikely to be nominated. So closer than the Catholics to the position being described.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ HBC:

            Really, already asked and already answered. You keep ignoring the clear implication of my using rough approximation. In my original post I even wondered whether the stereotypes about Italian and Irish families actually did or did not having anything to do with their Catholicism. I was clearly concerned with how doctrine is received by the laity.

            Pretending you said something different to retroactively make your statement less wrong isn’t a game I’m interested in playing.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            It’s not a position I agree with, but how do you determine whether normative beliefs are insane?

            If everyone took the belief to heart and started having way more children than they wanted or were capable of taking care of, the poverty rates would skyrocket, people would be unhappy, the children would’ve receive adequate care, etc. If an ethical rule results in more harm than good, I consider it to be insane (or maybe just irrational or unworkable).

            I don’t know much about the Amish, admittedly; they might have some unique social setup that allows this to work. And of course, in the past when infant mortality rates were much higher, it made sense to have more children because you were probably going to lose a few.

            But the fact that there are a few small subcultures that can make an arbitrary moral rule workable doesn’t mean that it would work as a universal norm, or even that it’s necessarily beneficial for that group on the whole.

            I mean, let’s say there was a subculture where it was normal for every boy to have his left hand cut off once he reached puberty, as part of a religious ritual, or whatever. I’m sure that a society with this rule could still function, if they provided adequate support to the boys who had their hands cut off. That doesn’t mean the rule makes sense or that they wouldn’t be better off with different norms. And unless people were raised within that culture and taught that it was the only acceptable way to live, it’s probably not something they’d choose.

            Most people, given the choice, want some amount of control over when/if they have children, and how many children they have, and also tend to suffer if they’re not given this option.

        • xq says:

          Can you quote where he “explicitly argues that Vox is not biased in favor of the pro-choice worldview”? I don’t think he does so in your link.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            Near the end:

            I’m personally pro-choice, but Vox doesn’t have a policy against publishing pieces that are pro-life. Back in January, for instance, we sent two reporters to a pro-life rally for a piece that was simply portraits of pro-life protesters, as well as their reasons for being pro-life and attending the protest. The piece was basically 10 arguments for being a pro-life protester, and it was a great article.

            Vox also doesn’t have a policy against hiring pro-life writers. We’ve made job offers to at least two pro-life political writers. These hires didn’t ultimately work out, but the fact that their pro-life views would be reflected in their work had nothing to do with it. (Some of Vox’s current staffers are pro-life, though their coverage areas don’t intersect with the issue much.)

          • xq says:

            That’s not a claim that Vox is not biased in favor of the pro-choice worldview. Many publications with particular ideological stances have some writers with opposing views. Anyways, I don’t see any reason to doubt those two specific claims; Vox has published pieces that go against its biases.

    • Urstoff says:

      I sympathize with this; Vox does seem to be actually trying fairly often, unlike, say, Salon or Slate (the latter of which strikes me as “Vox for dumb people”).

    • LCL says:

      I notice that I am surprised by people taking offense to an “explainy” editorial voice. This is much different from my own preference.

      I wonder, are you really offended by the editorial voice itself, rather than its application to persuade people of something you think is wrong? Do you still dislike it when writers use it to argue in favor of positions you support?

      If so, what about it do you find offensive?

      • gbdub says:

        “Explaining” and “persuading” are two different things. Conflating the two is what makes it offensive.

      • Nornagest says:

        A friend of mine wrote a Facebook post recently outlining different approaches to conversation. I’m at work and don’t want to pull an exact quote, but one of his types involved Alice communicating information to Bob from a position of authority, and another involved Alice and Bob mutually trying to reconcile conflicting perspectives.

        This doesn’t map perfectly to the journalism world, but once you adjust for the one-sided nature of journalistic communication, the former looks more like conventional reporting to me and the latter looks more like an op-ed. I think this largely accounts for the traditional difference in voice.

        • 1soru1 says:

          A general thing about the online world is that there is no kind of visual marker or cue as to what is reporting versus editorial versus ‘lifestyle’ advertorial.

          Reading most of a multi-section paper in order, perhaps skipping certain parts, is an entirely different experience than getting someone’s curated selection of links to stories designed to push a particular agenda.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        It certainly is the smug, explainy tone that drives me up the wall, like a professor lecturing to students in a remedial class. It seems to not admit any room for disagreement or varying interpretations or even people having fundamentally different principles: the data is X and Y and Z, therefore Barack Obama is awesome, and you’re a racist who hates science if you aren’t 100% on board. It’s just the frosting on the cake when they’re also hilariously wrong on the facts, like that infamous bit about there being a bridge between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

        I like to think that I’d be just as pissed off at something written in a similar tone that I agreed with. In reality I probably wouldn’t, because I’m a human being, but, you know.

        (Though along those lines, it’s hard for me to think of examples of that sort of writing on the right at all.)

      • ashlael says:

        My problem with Vox is that I can read a long piece explaining a controversy and be completely misinformed about why anyone disagrees with them.

        E.g. If you relied on Vox to understand the Obamacare debate, you would think the debate was between spending government money to help poor people have insurance versus saving government money.

        You would not be aware that a big big part of opposition to Obamacare is the fact that it has made a lot of ordinary people’s health insurance much more expensive.

    • LearnedAx says:

      And I’m nearly certain that I’m not alone in this.

      And you can only be nearly certain because Vox has no commenting feature. I think that comment sections allow for a measure of feedback and accountability that is important for minimizing bias. While I understand that a significant fraction of internet comments are worthless or misleading, if Vox was actually interested in a thorough examination and explanation of wonky topics they could display a curated set of comments like the “NYT picks”. Instead they’ve decided on a format where there are no contradictory viewpoints. In my book that deserves moderate scorn and zero Adwords impressions.

      Edit: I understand that they have a feedback feature, but I doubt it achieves the effects or participation that a commenting section would.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        I once e-mailed a vox writer talking mad shit. He responded. But I was totally right and he was full of shit, so flex up

    • dansimonicouldbewrong says:

      I wonder how many people who think Vox’s liberal bias is just fine because everybody knows about it, feel equally comfortable with the well-known conservative bias of a certain news network whose name sounds an awful lot like “Vox”…

        • ashlael says:

          I feel pretty equal scorn for both but I actually read Vox while I don’t watch Fox so I complain about the former more.

          In all fairness to Vox they do a lot of things right that are not related to being fair and unbiased. I’m pretty strongly right wing and on the few occasions I have tried to watch Fox News I just found it unbearable.

    • wintermute92 says:

      Seconded.

      I don’t object to Vox’s liberal bias, I object to Vox’s tendency to advance great arguments and terrible ones under the same format. They’ll write two similar-looking, extensively-sourced articles, and one will be solid while the other will ignore a bunch of missed confounders and contradictory studies to make its evidence look passable. If you aren’t already a domain expert, there’s no good way to distinguish their accurate content from their accurate-looking content.

      Vox has a lot of really good articles; I’m just scared to take them as substantive without a bunch of independent research.

  2. hoghoghoghoghog says:

    Regarding Harry Potter as national mythology: I took a pretty excellent intro to philosophy class in college where the first Harry Potter book was required reading, as an argument-by-thought-experiment for virtue ethics versus deontological or consequentialist ethics (don’t worry, we read Aristotle too.) Really not a bad national mythology.

    In case anyone cares, the point was that Dumbledore, as moral leader of his school, doesn’t discover and promulgate moral laws or do any sort of cost-benefit analysis. Instead he identifies a virtuous person, gives him the ring of Gyges, and does what is in his power to increase said person’s practical wisdom.

    • mingyuan says:

      I did care, thank you for sharing!

    • spottedtoad says:

      That’s very interesting, and seems right to me. Do myths in general tend to be virtue ethics-based rather than consequentialist or deontological? I guess something like Aesop’s fables are deontological, and something like Oedipus Rex (where he brings the plague upon the city despite only meaning well) is in a way consequentialist, but I don’t really know.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        How would you classify the myths about not boasting that you’re better at something than a god is?

        Now that I think about it, are such myths common to many cultures, or is it just the Greeks?

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Huh, good question. I’d provisionally call the Torah consequentialist (it’s obsessed with rules, but they’re justified by divine consequences). Confucius is a deontological culture-hero but I’m not aware of a lot of stories about him, so maybe this is evidence that deontology doesn’t lend itself well to stories. EDIT: and if Confucius counts then probably John Stuart Mill also counts. But one man’s modus tullens is the other man’s modus ponens…

    • Nornagest says:

      I feel like this metaphor goes off the rails every time Harry pulls out a win by luck or the intervention of other, more competent characters rather than through his virtue, which happens pretty much every book.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        But a virtuous person who is himself conscious of virtue ethics chooses his friends carefully and relies on their virtues! So the theory is in the clear. (Luck is a bigger problem for this.)

    • Murphy says:

      I have a soft spot in my heart for the section of the fanfiction community who view Dumbledore as an extremely morally dubious individual.

      He knowingly abandoned a child with abusive adults without any protection. Later he returned that child to their care… still with little or no protections in place. No calls from CPS, not so much as someone having a very firm word with them that it would be a bad idea to mistreat him further. Harry is left to fend for himself having to rely on lies and trickery to try to ward off physical abuse.

      The even darker interpretation is that Dumbledore wanted to create a particular type of person and knowingly allowed the abuse of Harry towards those ends.

      not sure how that meshes with the various ethics systems.

      • Deiseach says:

        No calls from CPS

        Because Harry Potter starts off as a version of the Cinderella story. There aren’t any calls to CPS in Cinderella either, but the Fairy Godmother makes it all come out right in the end. Whatever about the later books in the series, the first one was pretty much in the standard mode of children’s fiction.

        So Harry being made sleep in a cupboard under the stairs, for example, is like Cinderella being made to sweep out the ashes, and the Dursleys are carrying out their duties as wicked step-parents in the approved manner.

        It’s not a YA morality tale where the “problem of the day” (teen pregnancy! am I gay? why is she popular and I’m not?) is written up in a semi-realistic manner and then solved with the moral of the day (the 80s and 90s were probably the hey-day of this particular genre, nowadays YA fiction leans heavily to SF/Fantasy and dystopias). Were it the “teen problem” book, then Harry’s problems would be solved by somebody calling the CPS (possibly Hermione or her parents), being moved in with new supportive foster parents, etc. There would be no magic or Hogwarts or Voldemort.

  3. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Hey– is this thing working? I’d have expected fifty comments by now.

    Anyway, even if the pundits were adequately careful about Trump’s chances, it seems as though most of the public was convinced of a Clinton win until we slipped into the wrong timeline it didn’t happen.

    I’m not recommending eternal scorn, but *something* went wrong with people’s estimations.

    • drabiega says:

      Humans are generally bad at intuiting statistics, even when trained in them, but I don’t think that’s even needed in this case.

      He was definitely elected, but every time I hear Trump talk I still have a hard time believing anyone would vote for him.

      • One Name May Hide Another says:

        every time I hear Trump talk I still have a hard time believing anyone would vote for him

        So if you were to take the Ideological Turing Test to see if you understand the positions of any subgroup of Trump voters, you actually think you’d fail it?

        • Dan L says:

          Beyond running an actual ITT being more work than I’m willing to do on a lark, I seriously doubt I could pass as an “average” voter for the person I voted for. But I do think I could at least beat the Obama-is-literally-the-Antichrist-but-what-the-hell people.

          (That raises an interesting point – would the truly average entry look more like a blog entry, or a YouTube comment?)

          • Gazeboist says:

            What is a YouTube anti-comment? That is, the thing that is said by the people who *don’t* go down into the comment section and have at it? I think that’s what the “average” entry would be for most elections, though both 2008 and 2016 stand out to me as elections where the average would be more involved.

            (It’s weird – 2016 is in a few ways a weird mirror of 2008 and 2012 sort of glued together. I see people publishing these unhinged rants on Trump and it reminds me of Birther shit, except these are people I respect, or at least people who are part of groups I respect. Or it’s my parents talking about how the apocalypse has hit – I now have a lot of sympathy for moderate conservatives or libertarians with Fox-news-only parents.)

      • AnonYEmous says:

        every time I hear Trump talk I have a hard time believing that I can criticize him at all

        that is a serious statement by the way, take it, it is a data point

    • Fossegrimen says:

      Recently (Monday? ) I heard an interview on the BBC world service with a pollster from Kansas. Turns out that when they got “unrealistic levels of Trump support” from the rural areas, they weighted up Kansas City.

      The worrisome thing about this is that a lot of people read the polls or at least articles about the polls and I suspect that a lot of people went “it’s all over, Hillary will win no matter what I do, so I’ll just stay home and not vote”

  4. Brad says:

    Regarding “Pundits Who Failed To Predict Trump” and possibly “Pundits Who Failed To Predict Trump, Because They Are Out Of Touch With Real Americans” can we make a special exception for Sam Wang at Princeton who aggressively defended his 99% number days before the election?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think that’s covered in “make predictions with confidence levels”. If you fail at a 99% confidence level and don’t get your next 99 predictions right, that should be pretty obvious.

      Until people get better at formally listing their predictions, I’m totally okay with the heuristic of “this guy got a big thing wrong at 99% confidence, I haven’t heard of him being unusually right about other things, so he’s probably bad”.

      On the other hand, he said he “would eat a bug” if Trump won the election, and he did eat a bug on live TV, which shows some level of virtue.

      • arabaga says:

        Just some more evidence that Sam Wang is not very accurate with predictions:

        Harry Enten (538) and Nate Cohn (NYT Upshot) had an interesting discussion with Fareed Zakaria November 6 (before the election): http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1611/06/fzgps.01.html

        Enten and Cohn both thought that Sam Wang was being overconfident, and they each gave an example of him being overconfident/inaccurate in the past. Going by their word:

        Enten: “But if you go back to 2010 and you look at Sam’s House predictions, he had a very small margin of error and basically said that Republicans were going to pick up something like 53 seats, plus or minus two. And they ended up picking up 63 seats. So it was well outside of his margin of error.”

        Cohn: “I think that Harry’s right that, historically, there’s a tendency for that model to be overconfident, including in the 2014 midterm elections when I believe Mr. Wang gave the Democrats a 95 percent chance of holding the Senate in September.”

        Also note that his prediction wasn’t just 99%, it was actually at least 99.5% (his website at one point displayed 100% due to rounding; he later switched that to >99% and that’s what it showed the day of the election).

        For what it’s worth, I believe both The Upshot (15%) and 538 (29%) had reasonable predictions for Trump’s chances given the information available at the time. As far as I know, the parameters for their models were chosen months in advance and they did not change them ad hoc to align with betting markets for example. Those are definitely the two models I will be taking the most seriously next election.

        • eccdogg says:

          Yeah I think Wang was terrible and it was obvious even before the election.

          Another point I will put in 538’s favor is that they were more bullish Trump than betting markets and before the election explicitly said that Trump’s actual paths to victory ( a region all breaking the same way and EC not popular win) was a scenario that could happen.

  5. Anonymous says:

    What? There’s actual evidence that Russia hacked the election? o_O

    • Scott Alexander says:

      There’s evidence they were involved in the hacks of Podesta and the DNC, not that they hacked the election itself. I’ll clarify.

      • Anonymous says:

        OK. That’s orders of magnitude more believable.

        • Deiseach says:

          Problem is, people take the evidence for the DNC and Podesta hacks and run with it as “the Russians could have hacked the actual voting machines” and then that gets turned into “the Russians hacked the voting machines which is why Hillary didn’t win even though she won the popular vote!”

          Me, I’m currently enjoying the events in my own country with the slow-motion political assassination of Enda Kenny as leader of Fine Gael, due to massive public and political dissatisfaction over his handling of an ongoing mini-scandal. The contenders for the leadership are popping up all over, the former rebels who tried two previous coup attempts are still there and still jockeying for the job, and Enda has been strongly encouraged to name a date when he’ll step down as Taoiseach and leader of the party, which he has finally done – he’s going after Easter (or so he says) – he’s decided to jump before he was pushed, but I forecast revenge being wreaked on those who would supplant him as he goes!

          • Bugmaster says:

            What’s even sadder is that it doesn’t take a hardcore Siberian team of crack Russian hackers to hack the voting machines; a drunken squirrel could do it in 15 minutes. The security on those things is purely symbolic.

          • John Schilling says:

            The security on those things is purely operational. They are a distributed non-networked system, so you have to physically put a drunken FSB agent(*) in each precinct whose results you want to alter. That they only need fifteen uninterrupted minutes each is mostly irrelevant; the risk is in getting them in and out, and by the time you’ve hacked enough machines to sway an election you’ve got enough jails full of FSB agents to make it clear the election needs a do-over and Moscow needs a nuking.

            *Not a squirrel. Squirrel works with Moose, against the Russians

          • Bugmaster says:

            Right, but the problem is, it doesn’t have to be a super-secret FSB agent (named Natasha, naturally). It could be any 13 year old kid with a USB stick. Or a disgruntled campaign staffer. Or pretty much anyone else.

          • Aapje says:

            And the actual smart move is to break into the storage unit for the machines way before the election.

            That way you can hack a large number in one go and only run a risk one time.

          • John Schilling says:

            It could be any 13 year old kid with a USB stick.

            Only if that USB stick is loaded with software prepared by professionals, or very skilled and dedicated amateurs. This doesn’t happen spontaneously on any significant scale, nor even the version with disgruntled campaign workers.

            When e.g. Donald Trump says that millions of immigrants illegally voted for Hillary, there’s at least a plausible mechanism in that if you check the wrong box on your drivers’ license application or default to “yes of course I am a citizen!” when the official-looking white person with a clipboard stops you on the street, you wind up getting a packet in the mail with instructions to go vote at this place at this time, it is your civic duty. Millions is presumably an exaggeration, but we can poke at what the number is and whether it might be enough to swing a close election.

            Thirteen-year-olds deciding for grins and giggles to acquire professional-grade target-specific malware and then going out to do a meatspace black bag job at a local election precinct? And consistently tailoring their attacks to be below the threshold of obvious statistical significance, never programming the machines to go 100/0%, or 90/10 Clinton in a small rural town, or give lots of votes to a joke/3rd party candidate? This is not a credible threat.

            13-year-olds doing this in significant numbers because a team of FSB recruiters groomed them for the task (presumably posing as uber-cool 17-year-old l33t haxxor doodz), sure, if they don’t mind the way that inevitably ends. Which is to say, enough of them brag about it to 13-year-old girls that they are trying to impress that you now have jails full of adolescent election fraudsters with email logs pointing back at the organizers. We don’t, so they didn’t.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @John Schilling:
            It doesn’t take professional-grade milspec cyberwarfare ninjas. It just takes some basic knowledge; probably a lot less than is needed to mod your X-Box. Sure, developing the initial hack would take a lot more work, but less work than one might think. Yes, voting machine security really is that bad.

            What’s worse, we have ample proof that political parties in the US don’t need any FSB encouragement to tamper with elections; they are perfectly willing to do it on their own initiative.

          • John Schilling says:

            It can’t be done in the blind; you need access to the machine or its (closed) source code, which requires extraordinary effort or access for your stereotypical 13-yo hacker.

            The ability to code exploits and the ability to hack real systems are not the same thing, and if you can find a teenager to do the former you may still need someone like the FSB to do the latter.

      • random832 says:

        While I actually agree with both, it’s worth pointing out that generalizing to it being important enough to be worth reporting on to the degree it has been and the tone it has been, kind of also embeds two more assumptions: that this was likely to have influenced the election result and that such an influence was “bad” – i.e. contrast if there were real misconduct that was revealed by the leaks causing high-information voters to make a well-considered choice to not vote for Clinton. Instead we got pizzagate and (IIRC) emails about scheduling TV appearances being interpreted as improper collusion with the mainstream media (I suppose Kellyanne Conway just shows up instead of emailing anyone. It’s amusing to imagine her being turned away at the door though.)

        • MartMart says:

          I think the important question there is whether or not they did their influence with Trumps knowledge and approval. A foreign power attempting to influence public opinion by release previously secret information isn’t that big of a deal.
          A presidential candidate complicit in a foreign power breaking to law for his benefit is a different story altogether.

          • drabiega says:

            I know that you’re probably referring to whether or not he secretly had direct communication with them, but so what if he didn’t? He publicly encouraged them to continue doing so, so he definitely had their approval.

      • ilikekittycat says:

        I think “And don’t you agree it’s pretty strong?” is overselling the evidence, which is that the hacks occurred roughly during Russian working hours and the hacker once nicknamed themselves after a Russian secret police guy and used the Russian equivalent of gmail. It’s definitely criteria of “reasonable suspicion” but nowhere near what I’d consider strong enough to satisfy “preponderance of evidence” or “beyond a reasonable doubt”

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            That shows it wasn’t one random teenager. But it also doesn’t show it was the KGB. If it was the KGB, wouldn’t they have at least deleted their own phishing email before dumping the information?

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Well, it also focuses on people relevant to geopolitics and the Russian regime. So it was either Russia, or someone very big trying hard to frame Russia.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Based on that comment I no longer think you understand the evidence at the link.

            The link shows that it was someone doing the hacking at scale and targeting enemies of Russia. The KGB is one party that meets that definition, but there are a lot of others.

            Doing things “at scale” doesn’t mean you need to be the size of the KGB. You don’t even need to be “very big.” This wasn’t someone’s first major phishing campaign, but the silly mistakes showed that it was neither their 20th. They’d done this a few times before, but only a few. They didn’t even take their own phishing email out of the corpus they released.

            Two motivated and moderately technical people who don’t care about being arrested could have pulled this off.

            (You can count any mistake as “deliberately misleading to throw us off the trail” but that leads to crazy town where evidence against X becomes evidence for X.)

          • Murphy says:

            @Scott Alexander

            euck. Any chance you’d be willing to switch to using the primary source instead of a twitter link in future?

            https://www.secureworks.com/research/threat-group-4127-targets-google-accounts

            I’m trying to find the cite but I remember an old slashdot story about a hack pulled off by a couple of teenagers in Florida which was initially blamed on China. Basically there used to be a big chunk of unused IP ranges assigned to china that would get used by hackers for relays.

            Same claims were thrown around “far too sophisticated” “targeted” etc etc etc being thrown around by some politicians. Turns out to be a couple of florida teenagers doing it “for the lulz” who’d happened to use some chinese IP addresses.

            There have been a few others over the years with a similar pattern.

            You learn to be leery of the term “sophisticated” when it gets used by politicians, generals etc in reference to anything IT related or by anyone with a political agenda.

            Kids like that have grown up, now they’re not willing to do that kind of crap without getting a paycheck but their code has improved.

            It could be a russian agency, it could also be a few guys making money selling gossip to newspapers, maybe even someone making money selling gossip to russian newspapers.

            Still, remember that this is a company with a strong interest in playing up threats, they’re selling security as a service and they’re trying to sell to US companies and government agencies. So a thought, you see a random gmail account in a list. PudgyDaddy82@gmail.com or whatever. indeed 1800 of them, how do you figure out what the real world identity of that individual is? This is specific to peoples gmail accounts.

            So that graph almost certainly isn’t representative of the 1800 accounts, it’s going to be a subset of ones they could google which are more likely to be public figures.

            problem with the narrative

            I was curious whether the list of emails that were hit had been published. They included an example email with the base64 encoding. Searching for the name in that address yielded as one of the hits a word document of email addresses.

            xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/20668454/1467722391/name/senator_reid@reid.senate.gov

            it’s one of those generic lists of world leaders lists used by crazy people who think if they just bcc the pope and everyone else they’ll get someone to listen to them

            My gut feeling is that someone grabbed a list like that and tried spear phishing every name on the list but with @gmail on the end in the hope of hitting some real world leaders personal email addresses. The list is sorted into international organizations and military world leaders etc ie the kind of people they say were being targeted.

            Bit.ly almost certainly limits how many links individuals can create so I’m guessing they had multiple accounts and I wouldn’t be surprised if some turned out to have other names from this same document along with others from various “lists of world leaders” type documents.

            The categories in the document around the example email even kinda match the categories they list as the targets.

          • ksvanhorn says:

            “It’s important to know that the process of attributing an attack by a cybersecurity company has nothing to do with the scientific method. Claims of attribution aren’t testable or repeatable because the hypothesis is never proven right or wrong.”

            https://medium.com/@jeffreycarr/faith-based-attribution-30f4a658eabc

      • Adam Berman says:

        Could you link to this evidence? Or is it the more typical kind of “evidence” where only trusted pundits are given access to it and really we should be grateful they were have such great pundits to interpret the boring evidence for us?

        Last I saw were a bunch of “anonymous inside sources say…” junk. I’ll freely admit that I don’t follow the news as reported, though.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          See above.

          • Adam Berman says:

            Thanks; I was drafting my post when you posted that link.

            In the interest of better info, here’s the underlying article he is (largely) basing his tweets on:

            https://www.secureworks.com/research/threat-group-4127-targets-google-accounts

            I hadn’t really read this piece before and it’s a pretty good circumstantial argument for Russian Government involvement in the hacks, if it’s not completely fabricated (seems unlikely).

            My % on “Russian Government hacked the DNC” is up from like 60% to 80% or so.

          • Rick Hull says:

            It seems to me that this shows the hackers have an interest in Russian affairs. How much does information specific to the target reveal about the hackers?

            Wouldn’t it be just as sensible that U.S. Republicans ordered the hack, being interested in both DNC and Russian affairs?

          • Nornagest says:

            Wouldn’t it be just as sensible that U.S. Republicans ordered the hack, being interested in both DNC and Russian affairs?

            I don’t think anyone in the American political establishment outside of the intelligence community really cares about Russia besides a vague Cold War hangover, but insofar as they do, I’d expect that, on both sides of the aisle, to take the form of (a) an interest in keeping Russia somewhat unstable so as not to take another stab at superpower status, (b) an interest in keeping Russia at least minimally stable so as not to let five thousand nuclear warheads fall into unspecified but likely unfriendly hands, and (c) pretty shallow pro-market pro-democracy stuff. The right probably cares more about e.g. religious persecution, the left probably cares more about e.g. feminist issues, but that doesn’t matter at this granularity.

            In any case, none of that would lead them to target e.g. human rights organizations in Russia.

        • Ronan Nobblewit says:

          I have met someone who claimed to have been involved in this hacking. This person is a Russian national resident in a different Asian country, and had been a Trump enthusiast and Clinton hater. The person is also probably capable of having done it, but generally untrustworthy by my assessment. So I have no idea if the claim was true – if true, I guess my assessment would be that the Russian government wasn’t necessarily involved but the person in question definitely is associated with a shady web of Russian money and politics.

          • Deiseach says:

            Yeah, I’m not entirely convinced this was a direct Russian government operation, but there are enough Russian gangs and dodgy cybercrime and murky politically-connected friends of friends that a gang doing a bit of hacking American political targets for fun and profit and selling the results on to interested parties/trying to use them for blackmail or scams seems plausible enough:

            The Russian-language cybercrime market is known all over the world. By ‘Russian-language market’ we mean cybercriminals who are citizens of the Russian Federation and some former USSR countries, predominantly Ukraine and the Baltic states. Why is this market known worldwide? There are two main factors: the first of these is frequent global media coverage of the activity of Russian-language cybercriminals. The second is the open accessibility of online platforms used by the cybercriminal community for communications, promoting a variety of “services” and “products” and discussing their quality and methods of application, if not for making actual deals.

            … The cybercriminal market usually comprises a set of “services” and “products”, used for various illegal actions in cyberspace. These “products” and “services” are offered to users of dedicated online communities, most of which are closed to outsiders.

            …All of these “products” and “services” are bought and sold in various combinations in order to enable four main types of crime. These types can also be combined in various ways depending on the criminal group:

            – DDoS attacks (ordered or carried out for the purpose of extortion);
            – Theft of personal information and data to access e-money (for the purpose of resale or money theft);
            – Theft of money from the accounts of banks or other organizations;
            – Domestic or corporate espionage;
            – Blocking access to data on the infected computer for the purpose of extortion;

            According to Kaspersky Lab experts, the theft of money is currently the most widespread type of crime. The rest of this report therefore focuses on this segment of the Russian-language cybercrime market.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I see no reason to trust that guy in particular, but some Russian citizen or small group who decided to free-agent and target anti-Russian sources makes the most sense.

          • ashlael says:

            “Russia hacking the DNC and reading their emails” seems to me the exact sort of thing that I would expect to happen all the time. Why would Russia abstain?

            I’m at about 95% that Russia hacked the DNC (and the RNC too for that matter). I’m more like 40% that it was them and not someone else who leaked the emails.

      • The debate over Russia interfering in our election has long ago left the realm of reconcilable discussion.

        If a party chair member has their password and emails phished in a trivial email by someone that seems like they could be a Russian party official, but also might not be, does this constitute anything remotely close to a secret Russian plan?

        Or does a secret Russian plan require clear direction from leaders, as well as a concerted effort to disrupt an election?

        This wasn’t a team of elite hackers trying to help Trump. It seemed more like a crew of phish-kiddies spamming phishing emails to all the most powerful people in the US. Maybe to sell the info? Maybe on behalf of Putin? Maybe unrelated?

        • Brad says:

          This wasn’t a team of elite hackers trying to help Trump. It seemed more like a crew of phish-kiddies spamming phishing emails to all the most powerful people in the US. Maybe to sell the info? Maybe on behalf of Putin? Maybe unrelated?

          You mean like a spokesperson for the Ukrainian prime minister? Or Russian human rights advocates? That kind of most powerful people in the US? Did you even look at the evidence presented?

          There was clearly a Russian nexus or a very elaborate attempt to create one. That doesn’t mean Putin ordered it or whoever did it was directly on the state payroll, but this wasn’t a crew American teenagers trolling .gov emails.

        • AndrewH says:

          Best case for alarm: FSB/cyber- intel/war type ops are not centrally driven by the Kremlin such that they hack specific targets like Ivan Drago training to fight Rocky. It’s more like the shady guys who skulk around domestically in Russia building kompromat files. Goons who have careers shadowing the daily life of politicians and powerbrokers, wielding a generic license to surveil from the state but no set agenda other than anticipating ways to benefit the regime. Destabilizing the informational universe in intricate ways is not an exotic mode for Putin’s excercise of control, but in fact something he’s proven exceptionally adept at in his near abroad for decades. No one who has been paying attention should put it past him.

          Best case for Nixon 2.0: Assuming the Russian component, the suggestion that something seriously collusive happened could be read into the targeting and timing of data dumps from WikiLeaks. It is surprising that Russian hackers would know to probe the DNC and phish John Podesta, and then understand how to leak that information to effectively impact the campaign. It is less surprising if one speculates consultation with Roger Stone or Paul Manafort or Carter Page or Russian monsters who lived and ran dirty operations in Trump Tower (this is verifiably true) or some other dirty trickster in the Trump camp (of course (D)s have theirs, as well) on how to maximize the chaos.

          TBH my belief is the myriad cyber ops from Asia over the past half dozen years could all trace back to shadowy pockets of capable operators, like pirates colluding with governments a few centuries ago. So the case for ‘alarm’ is solid enough that it should be investigated seriously, and even more so made a featured point in national security – even if nothing is proven we should have an awareness of institutional vulnerabilities. The case for ‘Nixon 2.0’ is tantalizing and under investigation but I can’t honestly say it’s more than speculation. Marco Rubio, not my politics but at times superbly insightful, I think has issued the appropriate bottom line no matter what may come – it happened to (D)s this time but it may happen to (R)s next time and we _have_ to treat this as seriously as wartime espionage.

      • jooyous says:

        Could you compile a Russia evidence post somewhere? I’ve been following your link posts, but it seems like there’s currently no thing to link at people who are .. scorny.

      • Bugmaster says:

        As far as I understand — and please correct me if I’m wrong — the Russian DNC hacks consisted of downloading all of their emails and internal documents, and forwarding them to Wikileaks. On the one hand, a hack is still a hack. On the other hand, perhaps the results would not have been nearly as disastrous if the hacked documents revealed that the DNC were generally working hard to uphold the standards of their own party, the will of their constituents, and basic common sense. As opposed to what they were actually doing, that is.

        • random832 says:

          As opposed to what they were actually doing, that is.

          Which is…?

          • Bugmaster says:

            Sabotaging their own party’s candidates in direct violation of their own rules, selling political appointments for cash, and general venal stupidity.

            Which is not to say that the RNC doesn’t engage in the same kind of behavior — probably they do — but that makes the problem worse, not better.

      • wintermute92 says:

        This equivocation is why I have been making fun of people talking about how “Russia hacked the election”.

        There’s been an aggressive, seeming conscious, effort to conflate “the Podesta/DNC leaks probably have a Russian origin” with “the Podesta/DNC leaks are a Russian government smear campaign that shouldn’t be trusted” with “Putin directed hacking of the US election, possibly changing the voting outcome”. The stonewalling you parodied in the piece definitely happens, but so does the bizarre doublethink of:

        “The DNC emails were just a Russian manipulation attempt, so we should ignore them!” “So they aren’t real, even though the DNC has accepted that they are?” “Well no, but Russia leaked it so we shouldn’t hold people accountable for their contents!”

      • eh says:

        There’s evidence that a series of spear-phishing attempts were made by a pro-Russian actor. There’s a gaping lack of evidence between “pro-Russian” and “the Russian state”.

        Consider the scenario of a wealthy Russian oligarch funding a hacking group to further business interests, or of Ukrainian separatists who are kinda-sorta-Russian-funded setting out to fuck with the US, or of a particularly bored group of particularly nationalist nerds doing the same thing. All of these scenarios are plausible, but they’re not what I imagine when I read “hacked by Russia”.

        I understand that it’s likely impossible to get strong evidence, but that doesn’t mean holding out the weak and non-specific evidence that we do have while waggling our eyebrows suggestively is a good argument.

        • AndrewH says:

          Following the dissolution on the Soviet state, a mad dash to private enterprise did not leave Russia with a highly developed culture of business ethics. Putin played his cards to succeed Yeltsin at the turn of the century, and on the next deal had an impossible hand to beat. After Putin threw Khodorkovsky in jail and repo’d his oil production assets in ’03, the oligarchs realized the length of the leash allowed by the state. Time after time in the following decade and a half, for oligarchs, journalists, political opponents, or disloyal officials, Putin has shown that one may serve their own interest, but must serve his. The consequences of stepping out of line range from humiliation to homicide.

          So the scenario you describe is very much in the domain of how the state operates in Russia. It’s likely enough that the relationships only partially map onto e.g. the US gov’t military or bureaucratic org charts; that’s true of how power is networked.

      • GregQ says:

        There’s evidence that the NY Times illegally got ahold of some of Trump’s tax information, and published it. If Hillary had won, would the appropriate line be that “Hillary won because of criminal actions by the New York Times”?

        The claim the Russians “Hacked The Democrats To Influence The Elections” assumes much that isn’t proven:
        1: That the Russians would not have tried hacking those emails if not for the election. I’m pretty sure the Russians are trying to hack anything and everything related to the US political process, all the time. I’m also pretty sure we’re doing the same to them.

        2: The Russians thought that releasing the information could cause Trump to win. Because you don’t do something “to accomplish X” unless you actually think doing it will accomplish X. So you’re assuming that the Russian intelligence officials had a better assessment of the campaign than just about anyone in the US.

        3: Can we all agree that Russian hackers got copies of every single email that went through Hillary’s insecure private email server? If they wanted to make her lose, why didn’t they release any of those?

        A far more rational assessment of the situation is that Putin used the WikiLeaks releases to let Hillary know he could dump her emails at any time, making her easier to blackmail once she was President.

        If you’re anti-Russia, you should be down on your knees thanking whatever God(s) you believe in that Hillary isn’t the US President.

    • T says:

      Having read this comment chain so far, this is my understanding:

      – It is quite possible that Podesta was originally compromised by someone who is affiliated with Russia. This does not mean the government. It doesn’t even have to mean a citizen. Obviously a lot of articles are still completly unfounded based off of this (The Russian government collaborated with Trump to HACK OUR ELECTION!”). For some evidence in favor, see Scott’s link above. Also take note that various users of 4chan were able to compromise Podesta’s Twitter account without giving it too much effort.

      – The DNC emails were given to Wikileaks by someone that, to Wikileaks’ knowledge, had no affiliation with Russia. A potential candidate for this is Seth Rich, who was killed around this time and was a prominent member of the DNC party, however I don’t think there’s conclusive evidence for or against it, but you can look this up if you are interested. There’s a lot of other potential scenarios as well, but I don’t think there’s anywhere near conclusive evidence that it was ‘Russia’.

      Even when there is compelling evidence, it’s difficult to say. False-flagging in this area is really easy. Get some Russian IPs. Get some Russian-government-related malware or signatures or otherwise leak disinformation. More difficult, but considering the importance of this, entirely feasible. And one could go much further. I think it’s difficult to say, and it’s a messy situation to be in to begin with. I would suggest being cautious about things like this regardless, even if the evidence seems in favor of one side, due to how easy a well-motiviated party can completely skew this evidence.

      The vast majority of articles I have seen about this have been very very poor, just like everything else having to do with the US election. From a computer security standpoint, some of them are outright ‘fake news’ or bullshit, whilst others just use very biased wording (see above example). There are better examples of evidence in favor though, and Scott linked one of those above.

  6. Freddie deBoer says:

    Again, you are bizarrely resistant to a common sense application of how human power works: people are afraid to criticize powerful people in any industry, media included.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m not denying that some people are afraid to criticize Ezra Klein. I agree that probably there are people afraid to criticize any important person. This is different from saying either that Ezra has done specific things to quash criticism, or that there’s positive evidence that most people secretly dislike him.

    • drethelin says:

      Counterpoint: from what I can tell on facebook and twitter approximately half the country now has a full time job criticizing Trump, Spicer, Flynn, et al, who are arguably the most powerful people in the world right now.

      • John Schilling says:

        Powerful in some contexts, but they don’t actually have much ability to hurt individual American citizens who criticize them, and I think most of their critics understand that.

        • batmanaod says:

          …whereas Ezra Klein…does? Am I missing something?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I mean, he might? He’s the head of Vox, and founder of the JournoList. If you’re in the biz, he seems to have enough power to actually damage you, whithout being to far up to hear you, and without checks and balances to prevent him from doing so.

            I mean, I’m doubtful he has actually used this power to harm someone, but it exists.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        To be fair, I think it’s reasonable to implicitly expand “powerful people” to “powerful people within my specific environment”.

    • JulieK says:

      People are *afraid* to criticize powerful people? I think it’s human nature to admire powerful people. Which, if I understand correctly, was the original meaning of the phrase “power corrupts.” (See also, people taking their political cues from celebrities.)

      • wintermute92 says:

        On a weird level, I think “people are afraid to criticize the powerful” is actually too optimistic. You can get most of the observed results via “people instinctively support the powerful even when it doesn’t benefit them”.

    • HoustonEuler says:

      To be perfectly fair about not getting how power works: you’re the guy who thinks we can seize the means of production, hand them over to unspecified people, and live happily ever after.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      i think that’s because it falls into the category of accusations that can’t really be disproven and if you were in that situation you would want that charity

      not that this functions epistemically necessarily but that’s how I feel and I bet that’s how scott feels too

  7. MartMart says:

    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

    I’ve been wondering about a related subject. In theory, democracy is supposed to work like this:
    We all have some semi unique set of preferences, and each one of us goes out and picks a candidate whose position is closest to our preferences, and the candidate that can satisfy the most preferences is then given a crown and a mandate to rule. The whole democratic republic thing changes things a bit, but not too much. The fact that so many people choose candidates based on tribe membership changes things further, but mostly in terms of making “he is part of my tribe” a very important preference. In the end, the idea is that people choose a representative who mostly embodies their ideas.
    But what if that’s not the way things work at all? What if its all memetics (or at least what I understand memetics to be)? Each candidate is a meme (more so than person) and whichever meme manages to infect the most (sort of, because districts) minds wins the election and gets the crown. People aren’t picking a candidate that satisfies their preferences, rather people alter their preferences, or re write them all together to fit the meme?

    I live in a strongly pro trump part of the country, and know many Trump supporters, and have known many for a very long time. There was always some degree of tension about illegal immigration, but it was always very mild. Most people wanted some sort of humane solution. Very few people considered it to be a most urgent problems. People from Mexico, who spoke broken English, weren’t really considered an outgroup. Fast forward to today, where there are cries of joy at the idea of immigrant expulsion squads, strong support for the idea of confiscating immigrant property, and a huge level of support for the wall. Again, this is from people who would not have uttered such a thing 5 years ago. What happened?

    If it is a case of an idea infecting minds, then it does no good to say that vast majority of Trump supporters are not alt-right. They weren’t alt-right, but many may well be now.

    Which is rather scary.

    I suspect that if Bernie was running for president many people would start identifying as socialists who wouldn’t have dreamed of doing so before hand.

    • Wrong Species says:

      It’s also possible that they did believe illegal immigration was that bad before but didn’t want to say anything.

    • massivefocusedinaction says:

      I live in a strongly pro trump part of the country, and know many Trump supporters, and have known many for a very long time. There was always some degree of tension about illegal immigration, but it was always very mild. Most people wanted some sort of humane solution. Very few people considered it to be a most urgent problems. People from Mexico, who spoke broken English, weren’t really considered an outgroup. Fast forward to today, where there are cries of joy at the idea of immigrant expulsion squads, strong support for the idea of confiscating immigrant property, and a huge level of support for the wall. Again, this is from people who would not have uttered such a thing 5 years ago. What happened?

      I grew up in a county that has rapidly grown in Hispanic population over the last 4-5 decades. Among the white young people, the attitudes that you mention arising today were very common as far back as the 80s, but were only expressed quietly, lest an authority figure overhear and opposing diversity was taboo then, what has changed is people are more comfortable expressing these beliefs openly after the election.

    • falstaffAZ says:

      It had crossed my mind that Bernie is the first major presidential candidate since the Bolshevik Revolution to identify as a socialist. When asked, Debbie Wasserman Schulz could not distinguish between the Democratic Party platform (the development of which was her job) and socialism. Most of my left-leaning friends (almost all of whom preferred Bernie to Hillary) think socialism gets an unfairly bad rap.

      I’d like to think this will be a problem for the Democrats in the coming decades, but it probably won’t, so it will likely be a problem for America instead.

      • Brad says:

        The problem, inasmuch as it is a problem, is that European welfare state liberals wanted to keep the some variant of the word ‘social’ in their party names even though the parties themselves had ceased to be socialist. Sanders compounded the mistake by dropping the democratic part and just leaving socialist. Given his background he really ought to know better.

        But I’ve seen nothing to suggest he or any non-trivial number of his supporters want to abolish private property, socialize the means of production, enact a dictatorship of the proletariat, or similar.

        • gbdub says:

          Given his background he really ought to know better.

          Are you sure he doesn’t? Bernie Sanders the person seems like he was, at least at one time, an actual dictatorship of the proletariat Socialist.

          Bernie Sanders the politician would be unlikely to govern that way, because it’s America. But at heart I think he is or was an honest-to-Engels socialist.

        • po8crg says:

          This is a semantic argument. There’s a case for tabooing “socialism”, because different people mean different things by it.

          But if we don’t, then I want to put the case for the European socialists ahve having a fair case for calling themselves socialist.

          If you read Marx, you’ll find a great deal of his writing is criticising earlier socialists because they don’t want to abolish private property, socialise the means of production or enact a dictatorship of the proletariat. That rather implies that there is a form of socialism that predates Marx.

          European socialists are much more connected to that history, and it seems that the European definition of socialism has seeped across the Atlantic into the Bernie Sanders movement. That’s a form that is entirely compatible with democracy, but doesn’t require democracy – but that’s true of just about all non-liberal political philosophies.

          I think both of you are using a definition of socialism that requires it to be Marxist, and that is certainly was the prevalent use in the US until recently, but that’s certainly not universal, nor is it the main historical use. And it gives up the useful distinction between the broader socialism (which includes Marxist-style communism, anarcho-syndicalist-style communism, and the many varieties of democratic socialism and even state-accepting socialism) and the narrower communism.

          For instance, Poland in 1980 was a socialist revolt against a communist government – Solidarność was a union and thus definitionally socialist – but using the American definition that conflates the two terms onto a single meaning, you have no means to express that thought.

          Finally, socialists aren’t necessarily liberals. Socialist movements tend to contain more liberals than conservative movements do, because it’s easier to reconcile liberalism with moderate socialism than with moderate conservatism (though that’s not impossible – cf David Cameron). But there are plenty of illiberal moderate socialists. You can be a socialist and be pretty nationalist (no, I don’t mean Nazi) and anti-immigration, and not even slightly bothered about the rest of the world. Imagine a political movement based out of the rustbelt white working class, calling for jobs and welfare, and better workplace safety, and making hard to fire people, and pensions (all Democratic), but also calling for shutting down immigration and protectionism and being hostile to LGBT rights and supporting Christianity and opposing international aid (all Republican)… and in things neither party proposes, calling for politicians to come from the working class. That would be an illiberal socialist movement – something like a version of Trumpism, that explicitly hated all elites, not just the cultural one, but elites of wealth (obviously, including Trump himself) and political power.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @po8crg

            Vis-à-vis the breadth of “socialism”, and of non-Marxist socialism and illiberal socialism, there’s always the example of the rather atypical position of American Socialist George Fitzhugh (1806-1881). If you’re ever looking for an example of the difficulty of placing figures from the past on the modern political spectrum, he’s quite the specimen.

          • Brad says:

            po8crg:

            Appreciate this reply. I’m going to do some more reading on pre-Marx socialism.

    • Mr. Breakfast says:

      I live in a strongly pro trump part of the country, and know many Trump supporters, and have known many for a very long time. There was always some degree of tension about illegal immigration, but it was always very mild…. Fast forward to today, where there are cries of joy at the idea of immigrant expulsion squads, strong support for the idea of confiscating immigrant property, and a huge level of support for the wall. Again, this is from people who would not have uttered such a thing 5 years ago. What happened?

      I think the last few years of progressive crowing about the upcoming “Permanent Democratic Majority” due to demographic shifts combined with a presumed leftward bias of all brown people had a lot to do with this.

      Helpful advice that struggling rural people should just give up their lifestyle and communities and move to coastal cities or give up their “Guns and Religion” to become hyper-specialized atomic cosmopolitans probably didn’t help much either.

    • kathy says:

      Do you think it could be that as the left pulls more left, the right feels that they need to pull more right to provide a counterbalance? Sometimes I wonder if someone were to say, “you know, I can understand why you are concerned about too many people coming into the country illegally and there are some negative ramifications that that has had. Lets try to work together to find a solution that can correct the problem but remembers the human element”, that compromise might be possible. It is the “Open borders are the morally correct thing to do and we are going to shove it down your throat whether you like it or not” attitude that perhaps makes people more extreme in their thinking. Just a thought.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        But it’s not just an “attitude.” The DNC had illegal aliens up on the stage talking about how great it was they broke they law and everyone clapping about how wonderful all of this was. It’s not a perception issue. The policy makers in the DNC don’t have any problem with moving the entire population of Somalia into Iowa and seem to believe the only reason Republicans might have a problem with this is horrible evil irrational hatred.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yeah, I think a substantial portion of the left don’t understand that what many in the right object to in “illegal immigration” is the illegal part, they focus on the immigration part and conclude it’s all racism and xenophobia.

          Obligatory disclaimer: not all the left and not all the right, but I was harrumphing at a much-shared clip/quote from a debate where Evil White Republican Dude was referring to illegal aliens and Heroic White Democratic Woman was rejoining with “As Elie Wiesel says ‘no human is illegal'”.

          See? The implication here is if you disagree, you are opposing yourself to a Holocaust survivor, what are you, a Nazi or something?

          • Evan Þ says:

            Meanwhile, it doesn’t help that the alt-right really is vigorously opposed to immigration, and that mainstream conservatives are also rather concerned about getting the immigrants we do have to assimilate – which is a very good thing, but can be misinterpreted in this context.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Deiseach

            People who had no place to go to when they needed to escape the Holocaust died as a result.

            This argument isn’t just about Wiesel having status as a Holocaust survivor, it’s about real world consequences of refusing to admit refugees.

          • Sandy says:

            I don’t think refugees fall under the category of “illegal aliens”, given that they are extensively documented before they’re imported into the country. At best that’s an attempt to conflate Syrians fleeing the war with Mexicans hopping over the border.

  8. tmk says:

    Also, if you don’t want celebrities in politics, don’t elect a reality TV star as president.

    (Sorry for the short comment, but it seems like the obvious answer to that particular complaint)

    • ilikekittycat says:

      Reagan AND Trump, with honorable mentions to Governor Schwarzenegger and Mayor Eastwood. The right is objectively further down the rabbit hole of elevating show-business airheads than the other side. Lena Dunham wouldn’t be elected mayor of Berkeley

      • John Schilling says:

        Lena Dunham wouldn’t be elected mayor of Berkeley

        Senator from Minnesota, maybe? You’re right that the Right is the leader in that particular area, but Dunham is a weaksauce example. Likewise Reagan, who was long retired from acting and had built a legitimate career in first Hollywood politics, then California politics, before going national.

      • Have to jump in to say that Schwarzenegger is no air-head. I assumed as much until I read a little more about his background and listened to some longform interviews, but it turns out he’s an incredibly shrewd operator. He was a self-made millionaire before he got famous, speaks multiple languages, and is arguably a polymath; conquering four different fields of bodybuilding, business, acting, and politics. All of this despite growing up in an abusive, poor household with an alchoholic father who was a one-time member of the Nazi party.

        While most people wrongly assumed he was a dumb musclehead lunk, this was something he deliberately encouraged:

        “I never argued with people who underestimated me. If the accent and the muscles and the movies made people think I was stupid, it worked to my advantage”.

        No idea about the detail or effectiveness of his policies as the Governator though.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          They certainly weren’t effective for the California GOP, which essentially has ceased to exist in the years since his Governorship. (Though my perspective towards California is that of someone rubbernecking in at a horrible car accident on the freeway; perhaps others would have more accurate views.)

          • Stationary Feast says:

            Schwarzenegger was interesting for a while, but for his reelection campaign was basically him endorsing four ballot propositions that would have taken on pretty much every public-sector union in the state.

            He got reelected, but none of the four passed. The governor’s mansion has been a snoozefest ever since. We currently have Jerry Brown back in the governor’s mansion after a long hiatus, and the executive branch has been as boring as it’s ever been.

        • Nornagest says:

          I didn’t follow his governorship that closely, but conventional wisdom at the time was that he butted heads with the legislature and didn’t get much done. He was also one of the people involved in popularizing the legislation-by-astroturfed-ballot-measure pipeline that dominates so much of California politics these days, and that procedure’s almost unquestionably been a bad thing for the state, but I’m not sure if I should condemn him for it or just write it off as exploiting an already-broken feature of the state government.

          I’ve got a lot of respect for the guy, though, for about the same reasons that you do.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            ballot-measure pipeline that dominates so much of California politics these days, and that procedure’s almost unquestionably been a bad thing for the state,

            I often hear that, but usually from light brained me-too leftists. I would agree that California government is dysfunctional in a lot of ways, but my impression it has little to do with ballot measures. The two things I think of first is the terrible shape of pensions and the mega billion rail planned. I think neither of them relate to ballot issues.

          • John Schilling says:

            California’s $10 billion $100+ billion high-speed rail program was established by Proposition 1A in 2006. The authority of pension funds to play the stock market was granted by Proposition 21 in 1984. I believe many specific pension commitments were made by local city- or county-level initiatives, but I’m not going to track those down now.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Thank you John; I hadn’t known about these ballot initiatives.

            Yes it does appear that Californians agreed to $10 billion of high speed rail, although as you imply the project has since exploded well beyond the extravagance of the original proposition.

            On the other hand, Proposition 21 that you linked to is the opposite of a bad ballot initiative. This proposition allowed CA to invest more than 25% of their investments outside of bonds, and also allowed stock investments beyond blue chips. Allowing that diversity of investment was very much a good financial decision. The terrible state of CA pensions cannot be blamed on this good initiative.

          • John Schilling says:

            Allowing diversity of investments may be a good thing, but allowing the pension board to decide what rate of return they are going to pretend those investments will deliver when committing to future pension payments is very much not. If you are limited to 25% blue-chip stocks and 75% state bonds with a set 4% rate of return, you may not be making as much money for your pensioners as you might, but you know damn well who is lying when they say something like “we can guarantee our prison guards 100% of their final year’s salary for life when they retire after 20 years because our pension fund investments will deliver 9% average net return over the long term”.

            It is in theory possible to run a financially sound pension system around a diversified stock portfolio, but the necessary rules won’t fit in a typical ballot proposition and won’t be understood by the typical voter. This is a job for professional legislators and bureaucrats, and California will suffer greatly for imagining it a virtue to delegate it to the public at large.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            @ John S.

            Well yeah, I agree that having a referendum on investment strategies is pretty strange. But the citizens made absolutely the right choice here, so it certainly isn’t an argument against referendums. I presume it was a referendum because it was in the constitution and only changeable by referendum, or something like that. Not a good practice to ask citizens to make decisions like that, but it worked out this time.

            Investing in 75% bonds and only blue chips stocks is financial negligence as far as I am concerned (although less so in 1984 when the referendum happened). I agree it is fraudulent to guarantee workers some return, but that has zero to do with the referendum.

          • John Schilling says:

            I agree it is fraudulent to guarantee workers some return, but that has zero to do with the referendum.

            Defined-benefit pension plans must guarantee the workers some rate of return, if nothing else as a claim against future generations of taxpayers. That’s Federal law, IIRC, beyond California’s ability to change. The rate of return can be 0%, stockpiling cash in vaults, but nobody actually does that.

            If you want to claim that this is inherently fraudulent, fine. Prior to 1984, California was committing the minor fraud of guaranteeing pensioners, say, 4% rate of return on a portfolio of 4% state bonds and some blue-chip dividend stocks. The voters of California were hornswoggled into changing the rules to “promise the pensioners anything you want, back it up however you want, and tell us that you’re being really really careful”, which allowed much bigger frauds.

            That, not maintaining someone’s retirement fund in bonds and blue-chips, was fiscal negligence.

        • valiance says:

          I also made that same assumption about Schwarzenegger, but Bill Burr of all people opened my eyes to how undeniably impressive Arnold’s pre-politics career has been.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldIwEG9xQ-M

          The whole bit is genius but this is the money shot:

          Anybody here think they could move to Austria, learn the language, become famous for working out, then be a movie star, then marry into their royalty, and hold public office. How many life times would you need? I’m on my third attempt at Rosetta Stone Spanish, right?

        • Corey says:

          Franken’s got the same kind of thing going on: he’s a wonk.

  9. rlms says:

    No, Hamilton is a really really good Broadway show, not just a pretty good one.

    • Tarpitz says:

      I have not seen the show, it being still (for the moment) on the far side of the Atlantic, but I have heard the songs and second Nichols’ characterization of the lyrics. It may well be that – like Les Miserables – it is a compelling theatrical experience with terrible lyrics (certainly the tunes are catchy) but for my purposes that is neither here nor there. I am totally uninterested in its political implications, whatever one takes them to be.

      It bothers me not in the slightest that America or any country should be run by people who like Hamilton. I fully expect atrocious taste in the arts from the people who run countries. What bothers me is that people in my industry in my country – including writers and directors of real ability – like Hamilton solely on the strength of the songs. It’s frankly terrifying.

      • rlms says:

        I think that to an extent it is similar to Les Mis, which is made up of mostly mediocre songs that get put together to great effect in One Day More, in that a major part of the brilliance of Hamilton is how tightly woven it is. Motifs like “My name is Alexander Hamilton”, “Helpless”, “Satisfied”, “Wait for it” etc. aren’t particularly musically or lyrically impressive by themselves, but they are repeated and combined in clever ways.

        However I also think Nichols’ mischaracterises the lyrics. Any song looks stupid if you write out the lyrics including little interjections like “yo”, and the snippet Nichols includes is pretty much the only bit in the show that uses an AABB rhyme scheme (which is effective in context but looks somewhat simplistic in isolation). But there are some lyrics that I think are clever in isolation:

        “We need to handle our financial situation
        Are we a nation of states? What’s the state of our nation?”
        “Corruption’s such an old song that we can sing along in harmony
        And nowhere is it stronger than in Albany
        This colony’s economy’s increasingly stalling and
        Honestly, that’s why public service
        Seems to be calling me
        I practiced the law, I practic’ly perfected it
        I’ve seen injustice in the world and I’ve corrected it
        Now for a strong central democracy
        If not, then I’ll be Socrates
        Throwing verbal rocks at these mediocrities”

        and other lyrics that are simple but very effective combined with the music. Lyrical quality is pretty subjective though. What musicals/songs would you say have great lyrics?

        • Tarpitz says:

          Anything by Sondheim – Franklin Shepherd, Inc. from Merrily We Roll Along being maybe my favourite example. Ashman was a great lyricist. Hammerstein at his best had a gloriously elegant simplicity. Lerner. Ashman. Parker and Lopez, among the current generation. I like psychological insight, good characterization, good jokes and surprise, basically.

          I think a lot of my objection to Hamilton come down to it being a bit story theatre for my liking – too much telling, not enough showing.

          • johnvertblog says:

            I pretty much entirely agree with your taste, with the exceptions of

            * I love Miranda’s work (at least on Hamilton and to a lesser extent Moana, still haven’t gotten a chance to see/listen to In The Heights)
            * I have gradually come to entirely loathe Lopez’s lyrical work.

            I do find it interesting that I agree with every other musical theatre lyric opinion you list.

  10. registrationisdumb says:

    This entire post is tilting at straw-men. 0.0000000001% of people express distaste at those things for the reasons listed above, if at all.

    Also a side of sneer “I know you better than yourself.”

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Good work staying off Twitter for the last few months; mind telling me how you managed? It would make me so much more productive if I could do the same.

      • random832 says:

        Are you sure what you’ve observed on Twitter isn’t the product of a filter bubble?

          • registrationisdumb says:

            First half of those links were not against Harry Potter analogies, /pol/ is always a strawman and calls everything degeneracy, so it should never be used as a credible source of public opinion, especially considering your earlier arguments that can be paraphrased ‘pol and neo-nazis are a very tiny fringe’, and the rest didn’t point towards a degradation of culture, but rather a mockery of retreating to simple Good vs Evil narratives as propoganda.

          • Svejk says:

            The trouble with twitter is that it’s a filter bubble for journalists, and so, like Katamari Damacy, it traps more and more people in the same stupid sticky bubble. Most of my favorite bloggers and journalists were good – and often more creative – before twitter.

            Don’t try to get off twitter using willpower, just try to want something else.

          • valiance says:

            Yet another “liberals only reference Harry Potter argument” but I think this one is a tad more interesting. Less “liberals are dumb” and more “liberals have lost the common language of the Western canon.” Whether convincing or not, at least it’s another piece of evidence Scott isn’t crazy when he says this “liberals only know Harry Potter” argument is everywhere (look at the url, this is an RPG blog I found this on!):

            http://therpgpundit.blogspot.com/2017/02/harry-potter-and-way-millennial.html

            It’s because Harry Potter is literally all they collectively know.

            Schools don’t teach history anymore.
            They no longer teach the canon of Western literature.
            They certainly don’t teach the Bible.

            So Millennials literally have no points of common reference. It’s not that they all just want to look like complete morons by infantilizing their political metaphor to the level of a children’s book, it’s that they have no other choice.

            They’re literally bereft of the allegorical language of the West. I’m sure there’s some Harry Potter monster analogy I could use to explain it to them, how it’s like monsters have come along and literally stolen their ability to speak, their common language, and their birthright.

            They can no longer express or understand the set of references we have from our past, our most prized stories, and our culture’s religious quotations. They can’t do Shakespeare, Milton, or even Mark Twain because they’ve never learned any of these while they were being taught Indonesian multicultural dancing and given participation awards. They don’t know what happened at Hastings in 1066, at Runnymede in 1215, or even at Sarajevo in 28th June 1914, because they were being given feminist diversity training instead of learning the history of their civilization. They certainly don’t know what “the least of these” refers to or where it comes from, as a recent event with a White House staffer proved.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Modern people tend to have a lot of popular culture in common.

          • Montfort says:

            Schools don’t teach history anymore.
            They no longer teach the canon of Western literature.
            They certainly don’t teach the Bible.
            […]
            They can no longer express or understand the set of references we have from our past, our most prized stories, and our culture’s religious quotations. They can’t do Shakespeare, Milton, or even Mark Twain because they’ve never learned any of these…

            Vallance, I know you’re not explicitly endorsing this essay, so I’m not aiming this at you, but I’m a little upset that the author didn’t even bother to glance at the common core guidance packet, and maybe ctrl-f for some names. Because I’ll tell you now, Shakespeare is namedropped multiple times, and is literally a requirement (one of the very few specific author/work requirements). Mark Twain also makes an appearance, as does the Bible. No Milton, to be fair, but there are a number of other classic writers to choose from (e.g. Keats, Percy Shelley, Frost, Dickinson).

            I really don’t think I’d call it interesting, though. It seems like a fairly standard combination of “kids these days,” and “people don’t pay enough attention to things I happen to like.” “Young people don’t learn the classics anymore” has actually been a thing people have been complaining about and blaming things on since the days of the trivium and quadrivium, if not earlier. I guess he gets extra cliché points for working “participation awards” in.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        127.0.0.1 twitter.com twimg.com

        I’ve done this in the past, I’ll likely do it again.

      • Randy M says:

        I recommend a combination of children, video games, and blogs with longer form content in lieu of twitter.
        I do have a twitter account, and follow Scott, but I check in about once a month due to the short form being rather irritating and somewhat anti-informative.

      • registrationisdumb says:

        Same way you avoid McDonalds.

        Just don’t bother with it and you will never have a single urge to use it.

      • Stationary Feast says:

        I’d recommend a less-popular microblogging network. Maybe Mastodon? Or, when it finally launches, micro.blog.

  11. Mengsk says:

    Regarding point 7, the thing that irked me the most about the coverage of the DNC is that they were framed as “Russia Hacking the Election”, which in a vacuum means something very different from “Russia leaked hacked communications in order to influence public opinion”, and was happening right after the Democrats had been wringing their hands about the possibility to that Trump might challenge the legitimacy of the election results.

    • Leonard says:

      “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 hacked the election? And don’t you agree it’s pretty strong?

      “Well, they did nothing to the election. Even assuming they did those hacks, they did them to the DNC and whassiface, Podesta.”

      Okay, but did you look through the evidence that Russia hacked the election? And don’t you agree it’s pretty strong?

      If it was them, then they did us a favor by revealing all sorts of corruption in the Democratic party. The DNC probably stole the primary from Sanders, the media were bending over backwards to help the Democrats, and the emails revealed the Clinton Foundation as totally corrupt.”

      Okay, but did you look through the evidence that Russia hacked the election? And don’t you agree it’s pretty strong?

      “Honestly, no to both questions. The point is that the emails were real, and what I cared about is what they showed about America’s politics and politicians, not Russia’s. I live here.”

      Okay, but did you look through the evidence that Russia hacked the election? And don’t you agree it’s pretty strong?

      “Why do you keep saying ‘hacked the election’? Nobody hacked the election. Somebody stole and made public a bunch of emails that were really embarrassing to Hillary and the Democrats. These are different things.”

      Okay, but did you look through the evidence that Russia hacked the election? And don’t you agree it’s pretty strong?

      “No! I just told you that! I am not interested in the provenance of the emails! Please stop pushing your bogus narrative. It’s insulting.”

      Okay, but did you look through the evidence that Russia hacked the election? And don’t you agree…

      Click!

      “I think I’ll go read about those riots at Berkeley. Rioting to shut up political opponents! In America! Now, that’s a serious problem! There’s some real work that we’ve got to do! … Milo Yiannopoulos? Huh, better google him to see what he’s about…”

      • crescentsmom says:

        Great comment, articulates perfectly what I never could about the “Russians hacked the election” claim. Whatever the merits of the actual case against the Russians, the term “hacked the election” is a frustrating example of Scott’s “Non-Central Fallacy.” What the Russians did, even assuming that they did it, still is nothing like the voter fraud or voting-machine tampering that the phrase “election hacking” immediately calls to mind.

      • pdbarnlsey says:

        “the emails revealed the Clinton Foundation as totally corrupt”

        I don’t think this is true (certainly “totally” feels like a stretch, since, by volume, basically all of their money went to tasks associated with helping poor and/or sick people) but welcome evidence to the contrary.

        But, even were it true, I think you need to be alive to the risk that, by receiving access to only one side’s dirty laundry, you (and the voting public) will make a skewed assessment of the options available.

        Donald Trump’s foundation, we know based only on it’s public filings, is totally corrupt, in the sense that it doesn’t really seem to donate any money to anyone who is not either a Trump or conducting an investigation of one. We don’t know what we would know about it if someone had leaked all of Trump’s correspondence, but your working assumption probably shouldn’t be “everything would be revealed to be totally above board”.

        So I don’t think “the leaked material is all true” is a complete defence of it’s likely impact on the election, any more than my (truthful) claim that “Leonard fails to deny dog rape accusations” is a good summary of your comment, especially in a low-information environment.

        • since, by volume, basically all of their money went to tasks associated with helping poor and/or sick people

          That might be true, but I don’t see how you could know it is true. How do you distinguish spending a million dollars helping poor people from spending a million dollars employing loyal retainers in positions which purport to help poor people, in order that those loyal retainers will be willing to work for you politically?

          I’ve looked at the webbed Clinton Foundation tax documents, but I didn’t see anything that broke down as “dollars given to poor people” vs “dollars spent on project X.”

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            There are, I believe, some impact assessments of individual Clinton foundation projects, which place it broadly towards the top of the spectrum of charitable effectiveness.

            It is, of course, possible that other projects are less effective and simply a means of employing, what are we saying, Clinton campaign workers, to supervise the employees in Kigali, but really they are conducting oppo research on Republicans. Anecdotally, I can say that I work in an adjacent sector and have seen job adds tailored to the “charity” rather than “secret campaign organisation” side of things, but it may be just an extremely detailed charade.

            I imagine that if we ever gained access to emails from Clinton’s inner circle, all of that would quickly come crashing down and we could identify the purely political functionaries within the health care charity.

  12. Anon. says:

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

    Of course it has always happened, but the interesting part is what it tells us about the culture. Cultures choose works that represent their values as their source of fictional metaphors and mythology. The Greeks could never produce Harry Potter.

    What does the widespread use HP tell us? Our culture views the world through a child-like, Manichean lens. Same reason Star Wars is so popular.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      …what plausible mythology wouldn’t tell us that? Do you think the Arthurian legends proved that medieval Britain viewed the world through an escapist, child-like, Manichean lens?

      Also, how do you interpret the observation that the other thing everyone is comparing politics to is “Game of Thrones”, which is pretty much the opposite? (gritty, “realistic”, morally ambiguous, etc) and that in fact it’s often the same people making both comparisons?

      • Anon. says:

        …what plausible mythology wouldn’t tell us that?

        Homer? Book of Job?

        • PDV says:

          Homer was absolutely escapist and morally simplistic, for its time. I don’t know much about the cultural context of Job.

          • Anon. says:

            What a simplistic Homer would look like: the Trojans are evil, kill babies, dress in dark robes, look like snakes, and paint snakes & skulls on their bodies. After a small setback, the Greeks steamroll them in a glorious cloud of patriotic fervor and save the world.

            Actual Homer: Hector is the noblest and most sympathetic character; people on both sides question the morality of their people, weighing personal interests against social obligations; rejects saccharine notions about the afterlife; portrays the brutality of war with gritty, bloody realism while also finding beauty in the vitality and greatness of the heroes. And I haven’t even gotten into mortality, art, the gods, etc.

            Simply compare the Iliad to the modern work that most resembles it (and was most inspired by it): War & Peace. Tolstoy is a small-minded, short-sighted jingoist compared to Homer. His momentary deviations (e.g. Nikolai Rostov sparing the French officer) only reveal his inability to match his master.

          • Caecus says:

            Have you actually read Homer or familiarized yourself with Homeric scholarship? If so you would know that just isn’t true. And “for its time” is basically just Homer and Hesiod. Not much else has survived from pre-classical times. If you mean the time in which the Homeric epics are set, the Mycenaeans didn’t write any prose at all, much less poetry.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Anon., What you describe as a simplistic Homer would in fact be a simplistic modern Homer. The values of the ancient Greeks were in some respects quite different, and Homer did a lot more pandering to them than challenging and exploring them.

          • DavidS says:

            @Anon: I basically agree. But do we know that Homer rejects saccharine view of the afterlife, as opposed to just being from a culture that didn’t have one to reject at the time? The Achilles in Hades always read to me as ‘turns out that ‘Death and Glory’ is a bad deal after all’ rather than ‘Dammit, turns out the Elysian fields are a con’.

          • Deiseach says:

            Homer was absolutely escapist and morally simplistic, for its time.

            Priam appealing to Achilles for the return of his son’s body? An episode which was used by the Irish poet Michael Longley when writing about the IRA ceasefire in 1994 which led into the declaration of the cessation of military operations and eventually the Peace Process and Good Friday Agreement:

            Ceasefire

            I

            Put in mind of his own father and moved to tears
            Achilles took him by the hand and pushed the old king
            Gently away, but Priam curled up at his feet and
            Wept with him until their sadness filled the building.

            II

            Taking Hector’s corpse into his own hands Achilles
            made sure it was washed and, for the old king’s sake,
            Laid out in uniform, ready for Priam to carry
            Wrapped like a present home to Troy at daybreak.

            III

            When they had eaten together, it pleased them both
            To stare at each other’s beauty as lovers might,
            Achilles built like a god, Priam good-looking still
            And full of conversation, who earlier had sighed:

            IV

            I get down on my knees and do what must be done
            And kiss Achilles’ hand, the killer of my son.

          • wintermute92 says:

            This summons all of my usual frustrations with people talking about the morals of old writing. Scott’s “Reading Philosophy Backwards” piece is at least somewhat helpful here; what looks like complex moral ambiguity from our vantage point is often a simple story using “blue and orange morality”.

            The Iliad certainly isn’t Manichean and simplistic to a 21st century reader, but that’s almost entirely missing the point. Suggesting that putting likable characters on both sides makes it morally complex misunderstands a group-loyalty morality where fighting heroically for one’s side and allies is right even if their cause is wrong – “my country right or wrong” taken to a level completely unintuitive to us. Suggesting that graphic bloodshed complicates the idea of heroic violence requires a modern notion of the inherent immorality of violence; from an internal view the moral crisis comes not from violence but from Achilles’ desecration of a body. And the list goes on.

            (If you want an ancient actually grappling with this, jump ahead to Vergil, who completely reframes Achilles’ “short life and long fame” during the scene in the underwold.)

            None of this is to say that Harry Potter is on par with Homer. The Iliad is a brilliant work that deserves its enduring fame, and it’s not morally trivial (though again, moreso than the Aeneid). But the comments here are overwhelming mistaking unfamiliar morality for moral complexity, which is a standard error with any work more than a few hundred years old.

      • Svejk says:

        I did not care to finish the first Harry Potter book, or the fifth, which I tried in case the series improved, but if the Potterverse has a character comparable to Morgan le Fay, I might give it another shot.

        The ability to observe our society through truly child-like lens would be a wondrous thing. Children’s fantasies are much more Arthurian, Lovecraftian, or Ted-Chiang-ian than they are like Harry Potter, until we wring it out of them.

        • DavidS says:

          Not sure what you’re looking for in terms of ‘comparable to Morgan le Fay’, Or what the common component of Arthurian and Lovecraft are (don’t know Ted Chiang). I’m not sure the evidence suggests children were browbeaten into liking Potter though: it was a bit of a word of mouth hit.

        • thehousecarpenter says:

          Maybe some children have more sophisticated fantasies than others. I remember mine; they were very much Harry Potter-ish and not H. P. Lovecraft or Ted Chiang-ish.

          I did resist Harry Potter to some extent when I was little (I was 2 years old when the first book came out). I think this was due to contrarianism; many of my peers were into it, and I was a weird enough kid that this made me not want to read it, because I wanted to be more “unique”. But by my early teens I was enjoying the books without reserve.

  13. dodrian says:

    Of course celebrities should be able to use whatever platforms available to them to promote whatever they want (be it a shoe designer or their views on the cause célèbre [ahah] of the week).

    What annoys me is when this is reported on as news, and as if said celebrity has some authority or particular insight into the issue.

    Example: JK Rowling tweets that Donald Trump is worse than Voldemort. Left wing media outlets report on this and praise her astute political observations.

    Counter example: JK Rowling tweets that Jeremy Corbyn needs to step down from leadership of the UK’s labour party, and takes time to spell out a couple reasons why. Right wing media outlets gleefully report on this and praise her astute political observations. Left wing media actually posts some responses, some expanding upon and some arguing against her tweets. Debate is enriched (disclaimer: I didn’t actually read these articles, it’s possible that debate wasn’t enriched, but at least there more substance to them than LOL FAMOUS PERSON SAYS TRUMP EVIL).

    • Vorkon says:

      Let’s be fair, if there is anyone who could be considered an authority on who is or isn’t worse than Voldemort, it’s JK Rowling.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        “Voldemort actually not that bad” claims Harry Potter writer.

      • Jiro says:

        Being able to compare X to Voldemort requires both knowing about Voldemort and knowing about X. Rowling is an authority on the “knowing about Voldemort” part, but other people may do better overall because they are better than her in the “knowing about X” part.

        If Rowling spoke out against vaccines on the grounds that they are worse than Voldemort, I hope nobody would trust her just because she knows about the Voldemort half of the comparison.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Don’t we generally agree that mass murderers are worse than non-mass murderers? Voldemort murdered many people. Nothing suggests Trump has committed even a single murder. This leads me to believe Rowling has no reasonable insight into politics.

        • John Schilling says:

          I don’t know that there is a general agreement that mass murderers are worse than serial rapists; at very least I’d expect lots of people to ask, “OK, but are we talking ten murders vs. two hundred rapes?”

          Infliction of the most extreme sorts of emotional distress is often considered an evil in the same league as murder. See, e.g., non-ironic usage of the phrase “fate worse than death”. See also, e.g., terrorism. And there are certainly people who claim that Trump is inflicting that level of emotional distress on half a nation, though one may suspect a bit of hyperbole or motivated reasoning there.

        • Tarpitz says:

          Many people do, but it’s not entirely clear, at least from a consequentialist perspective, that we should. There’s a brilliant passage early in Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal in which a golem explains to con man (and thoroughly likeable and well-intentioned hero of the story) Moist von Lipwig that he is responsible for something like 2.3 deaths in aggregate, breaking down some of the causal chains involved. A man as wealthy and powerful as Trump could easily be responsible for many more deaths than the Ted Bundys of this world without ever killing anyone, even before becoming President.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            There’s a brilliant passage early in Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal in which a golem explains to con man (and thoroughly likeable and well-intentioned hero of the story) Moist von Lipwig that he is responsible for something like 2.3 deaths in aggregate, breaking down some of the causal chains involved. A man as wealthy and powerful as Trump could easily be responsible for many more deaths

            I haven’t read it, but I think it’s entirely reasonable to draw a moral distinction between intentionally committing murder and inadvertently, indirectly causing a death through some chain of causality that you couldn’t possibly have predicted. Or through not constantly trying to prevent deaths that are occurring independent of your actions.

            I mean, right now I could be selling off my possessions or working a second job so that I had more money to give to charity and help the starving people of the world, and you could argue that by not doing that I am inadvertently causing deaths right now. But in this sense, almost everyone (or at least everyone who is not actually dying of starvation) is responsible for countless deaths, because no matter how much someone is doing they could always be doing more.

            Or even if you don’t count death-by-inaction and instead only count deaths that were indirectly caused by an action, that’s extremely broad. Like, maybe you get into an argument with some rando on the Internet, and later that day when they’re driving home from work they’re thinking about the argument and getting angry and distracted, and that distraction causes them to get into a fatal accident.

            Or maybe you notice your coworker at Walmart stealing money from the register and report them to the manager, and that person loses their job, and they’re depressed because they’ve already lost a bunch of other jobs and consider themselves a hopeless case, so they hang themselves.

            If you take the attitude of “only consequences matter,” I think that inevitably leads to the conclusion that murder isn’t actually that bad because we’re all “murdering” each other all the time anyway, and it’s pretty much unavoidable, because our actions impact each other in a lot of complicated and random ways, and trying to trace the chains of causality would probably involve some kind of super-intelligent AI.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree that the news should care less about this, though (see number seven) it would be pretty far down on my list of things the news should care less about.

      • dodrian says:

        “What celebrities say on Twitter” is pretty high on my list of things reporters should care less about.

        If mainstream editorial news sites (eg. HuffPo, Daily Mail) didn’t report so much on “What that celebrity said on twitter and why you should love/hate them” would Yiannopoulous have half the audience he has now? Would Trump have even made it through the first months of the Republican primary?

        I would argue (as Current Affairs did) that journalist misuse of twitter is a big thing to be concerned about.

        • Brad says:

          I agree, but even further down the list should be “what hashtag is trending on twitter”. I have no problem with twitter being a place for reporters or other industry clusters to hang out, trade ideas, point out articles or what have you. But as a source of news it should pretty much be Donald Trump’s tweets and nothing else. And I wish we could ignore even that.

          • Randy M says:

            I will happily sign on to the “make news about things other than what some one said” bandwagon. I blame the obvious a 24/7 news cycle and the daily need for new click bait outrage.

        • falstaffAZ says:

          This is another counterpoint to the argument that the media elite needs to leave the Acela corridor and visit flyover country: they’ll spend all their time on Twitter either way.

      • daniel says:

        The question is in which direction does a causality flow?
        Does news care too much about nonsense or do people care too much about nonsense causing news sources to change practices / go out of business / be taken over by more profitable management?

        I think we suspect the latter and in that case talking about what “the news” should do is rather pointless. I mean, if we would only read news sites that don’t mention celebrities the problem would be solved twice.

  14. drethelin says:

    Hamilton is very good, but it’s also a pernicious example of rewriting popular history to make it fit progressive narratives.

    • rlms says:

      I broadly disagree. It does (understandably) portray Hamilton in a very sympathetic light, but (at least as I interpret it) it portrays Washington as both a hero and a slaveowner, rather than condemning him or ignoring his slave ownership. Jefferson is less heroic, but although Hamilton the character sometimes uses his slave ownership to get at him, the play doesn’t condemn him for it (when he’s portrayed negatively it’s for being scheming and disagreeing with Hamilton, not owning slaves).

      • cassander says:

        It’s easy to hate on slave owners today. After all, almost none of us benefit from slavery and we live in a society that has spent more than 150 years condemning slavery as the worth thing ever.

        Washington by contrast, personally benefitted from slavery. He came from a society where slavery was accepted as perfectly natural, even virtuous, and where the highest status people were almost all slave owners. It would have been very easy for him to rationalize away any moral concerns he had about slavery, to accept pleasant fictions that the other members of his society told themselves about it, but he didn’t. And unlike Jefferson, who couldn’t be bothered to personally sacrifice for his beliefs, Washington worked hard in his last years to make sure that he could afford to emancipate his slaves on his death.

      • bbeck310 says:

        I don’t object to the play’s treatment of slavery (and I really enjoyed it), but I am bugged by the attempt to glorify Hamilton as a poor immigrant/man of the people/progressive forerunner when he was one of the most conservative and elitist of the Founding Fathers. Similarly the portrayal of Angelica Schuyler as proto-feminist/suffragette is ahistorical and unnecessary. Madison also gets treated rather unfairly.

        I strongly object to people who use Hamilton characters or songs to make partisan points about modern politics (with an exception for Lin-Manuel’s line in his SNL monologue that the play is about two New York politicians engaging in incredibly nasty fights, “so, you know, escapism.”) Especially the people who were posting video of “One Last Time” as a tribute to Obama; I pointed out that for conservatives, Obama’s more appropriate song and role would be King George in “What Comes Next?”

        • johnvertblog says:

          It baffles me that one of the things the Hamilton cast did to mock Mike Pence was have King George sing What Comes Next directly at Mike Pence. Uh, hello? You do realize you’re playing the villain of this piece, right? And you’re addressing the scrappy revolutionaries? Mocking them for thinking they can do things their way?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Well, there is a revisionist line which holds the American Revolution was unjustified, an independent United States a mistake (mostly because slavery), and the world would have been a whole lot better off if Hamilton et al just knew their place.

          • Deiseach says:

            It baffled me that the Hamilton cast tried political satirising of Pence when one of the songs in the show is Never Gonna Be President Now about the over-confident, arrogant character whose ambition is torpedoed by something he’s written and that gets disseminated widely to his discredit, made even worse by the apparent fact that he does not realise writing “I wasn’t involved in peculation, I was banging another dude’s wife and cheating on my own wife!” is not the sterling defence of character he had hoped.

            You would have thought this irony would have occurred to the Hillary fans, but it seems they emulated their lead character in “No, I see nothing problematic here, why do you ask?”

          • Loquat says:

            In fairness to Alexander Hamilton, it’s pretty much a no-win situation when admitting to adultery is the only way you can prove you didn’t commit a serious crime, and the Long Black Veil option tends to be unappealing IRL.

          • cassander says:

            @johnvertblog

            the ability of the left to eternally imagine themselves as scrappy underdogs standing up against powers that be no matter how much worldly power they accumulate is one of their more irritating traits.

          • rlms says:

            Yes, it’s irritating how they fail to realise their total societal dominance. They control the presidency and both houses of congress, how difficult can it be to tell?

          • Deiseach says:

            admitting to adultery is the only way you can prove you didn’t commit a serious crime

            There’s the defence of necessity where you reveal as little as possible, and it seems Hamilton was being blackmailed with the connivance of both spouses, and there’s “I wasn’t plotting with Mr Reynolds to steal public money, what I did was pay blackmail during the time that, with the connivance and knowledge of her husband, I was having an affair with Mrs Reynolds, oh and by the way, I’ll give you full details of how I cheated on my wife that will remind you that I was the father of a young family and took advantage of her absence with our kids to visit her father to sate my lustful urges – wait, why are you all looking at me like that?” I know he wanted to give all the details so there couldn’t be any whispers about “yeah, but what really happened?” but he went a bit too open and transparent.

            Funnily enough, a similar political sex scandal (having an affair with a married woman with the knowledge of her husband because he could get favours from the politician, until eventually all was revealed) was what ended the career of an Irish politician, Charles Stewart Parnell.

            I think we’ve had a conversation on here before about how is it important men can’t seem to keep their trousers buttoned and their knowledge of the world gets overridden by the itch in their pants?

  15. reytes says:

    I think probably 90% of the reason that people dislike Vox is because Vox has a pretty marked technocratic liberal point of view, and people on the left and right disagree with technocratic liberalism for various and sundry reasons. Similarly, people on the left disagree with the emphasis on Russian hacking because they feel their substantial critiques of Democratic policies and tactics are a more significant part of the reason that the Democrats lost the election. And largely the same, mutatis mutandis, for the other examples.

    In other words: I think 90% of this stuff can be explained by (a) substantial disagreements on political views combined with (b) the fact that political disagreement on the Internet issues into mockery and parody because that’s how the Internet works (fortunately or unfortunate). It’s not really surprising, I don’t think. People might be wrong in their objection to Vox’s technocratic liberalism – I would certainly expect you to think so – but it’s not intrinsically surprising that people have those disagreements or that they make jokes about it.

  16. Deiseach says:

    Or would you rather she just stayed silent and didn’t do anything?

    Yes? Even celebs who come out in support of things I like, approve of, or support? Because it may be that my wiring is connected up wrong, but I find it as cringey as when you get the “Drink Pop-Sa-Fizz because Fame McFamous drinks it!” Especially when you know Famey hates that crap and is only appearing in the campaign for the $$$$$$$$$.

    Like the footballers with boot endorsements who then show up to training wearing their real favourite boots which ain’t the ones made by the firm they’re being sponsored by 🙂 But I am inclined to forgive them that because God bless ’em, we only want them to be able to run fast, tackle, and occasionally kick the ball into the opposition net, not for brain surgery or rocket science.

    Dear Celeb: I admire your work as a singer/actor/writer/looking very pretty in glam clothes, and as long as you stick to that, I’m happy. But your opinion on geopolitics, the proper way to cook bacon and cabbage, or how to pronounce “tomato” is of no greater weight than that of Joe “Macker” McGovern, brickie on the building site, jumbo breakfast roll and a cuppa tea there love, thanks.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Do you begrudge me explaining my political views and who I think people should vote for?

      If not, why is it worse when a celebrity does it?

      • Jiro says:

        You don’t have an audience full of millions of people who will believe something you say just because you are famous.

        People are stupid. Many of them will in fact decide to believe something, without analyzing it, simply because Kim Kardashian does.

        • It’s of course true that (many) people are, in fact, stupid.

          But when your argument and model of the world is build on and centers around this statement, it’s a strong signal that something has gone wrong in your reasoning.

          • Kevin C. says:

            “But when your argument and model of the world is build on and centers around this statement, it’s a strong signal that something has gone wrong in your reasoning.”

            How so? Particularly if, as you admit, it is indeed true?

          • Because, you can use it as a causal reason to explain almost anything.

            Q: “Why did the US adopt such a stupid policy on marijuana criminalization?”
            A: People are stupid.

            Q: “Why did US foreign policy under Bush take such a disastrous turn?”
            A: People are stupid.

            etc etc.
            It’s not a causal or specific model, it is a one-size fits all approach that simply appeals to a universal failure of the human brain.

        • Jiro says:

          When my argument about people who pay attention to Kim Kardashian’s political pronouncements is built on and centers around this statement… not much has gone wrong.

        • Deiseach says:

          I find myself in agreement with Jiro because for quite a few years now, my motto has been “Humans: we’re stupid“.

          (And that includes this human here as well).

          • poignardazur says:

            That’s a zero-information koan.

            I don’t think “humans are stupid” is a deep observation about the underlying nature of humanity. I see it as people mistaking their flawed map (we frequently assume people understand the things we understand) for a flawed territory (people must understand nothing).

            Saying “humans are stupid, and so am I” isn’t much better; you’re basically patching your broken map with a generic broken-map-fixer (remembering that you’re not better than everyone) which doubles as humility-signaling; your map still fundamentally broken.

          • Jiro says:

            “Humans are stupid” is not zero information. It means “there is enough stupidity among humans that human stupidity becomes a significant factor in analyzing how humans behave in the real world”.

          • Aapje says:

            One can also subdivide stupid into sub-stupids, that can be further analyzed.

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          @ Jiro
          You don’t have an audience full of millions of people who will believe something you say just because you are famous.

          Otoh, if Sidney Poitier had endorsed George Wallace, SP would have lost some of the fans he had. So a fan who admired SP’s judgement career-wise, might well think “SP wouldn’t alienate fans without some good reason, so I’ll look into this.”

      • phil says:

        celebrities tend to be distinctly non-representative of the general electorate

        a lot of the concerns and worries of the general electorate don’t affect celebrities

        its annoying to be told what to think by people who seem to be in a position of privilege (some celebrities are good about graciously sharing their political prospective, most are not)

        celebrities also seems to get media brownie points for their political opinions in 1 distinct direction

        Lebron James is taking a bold stand, Tom Brady gets hounded about “why hasn’t he disavowed the guy he was friends with”

        idk, begrudge seems like a strong word, I do roll my eyes at nearly everyone you listed

        can I go with ‘they 10% deserve some indeterminately timed scorn’?

      • Deiseach says:

        I don’t begrudge you because you are not appearing on TV slots earnestly intoning that we should vote for X because you, Famous Psychiatrist and Blogger, radiate the glow of your aura of fame, celebrity and success upon us if we do so.

        You explain why you think people should vote for X, but we’re perfectly free to argue back at you that X is a looper and Y is the non-gendered being to lead us into Utopia. We don’t get to argue that back at the likes of this* (though I will say this much for modern social media, including Twitter: we pixel-stained technopeasant wretches can argue back against our betters).

        In the end, you’re a private citizen like the rest of us (for the moment, until your ascension amongst the elite) and your opinion may be respected but is not weighted as meaning more than our various opinions.

        I’ll come back at you on this: should we all follow Kim Kardashian’s lead if she endorsed homeopathy? Or at least her medicine recommendations before the FDA smacked her on the wrist about a morning sickness remedy endorsement?

        *I am delighted and proud to say I don’t recognise a single one of the “celebrities” in that production.

        • hlynkacg says:

          @ Leonard & Garret

          Agreed on all counts.

          @ Deiseach

          The only one I recognized was Elizabeth Banks (AKA Effie Trinket) I’d like to think she was aware of the irony, but that may be asking too much.

        • poignardazur says:

          I 95% agree with your post, except for the last part. “Not being aware of mainstream culture” isn’t something to be proud of.

          • Deiseach says:

            To which I grumpily rejoin that if mainstream culture is a bunch of whitebread Yanks yodelling about how marvellous they are, I’m quite happy to be ignorant 🙂

            Anyway, if Scott wants to do a commentary on the Fine Gael leadership election, which also means the selection of the next Taoiseach of our country, and he wants to advise us over here in the Emerald Isle – well, it’s not who we’ll vote for because it’s internal party vote, but who we should wish to see leading us onwards, I’d be happy (I could use a laugh).

            Like this article, optimistically titled “Openly gay minister of Indian origin could be Ireland’s next PM” – Leo would love to be leader and Taoiseach but I don’t know if he can pull it off. There is one particular co-rival for the job who has a solid geographical base upon the support of which to plot and scheme, and the problem is compounded by the fact that it won’t be a straight race between the two of them, there are a few more convinced they are the Man or Woman Of The Hour putting themselves forward to serve the people.

            My problem is not “celebrities shouldn’t express opinions” or even “celebrities should not attempt to persuade/convince you of something, e.g. support this charity or get involved in this activism”, it’s the notion “celebrities by virtue of their celebrity can and should convince you for no other reason” (e.g. Kim Kardashian said I should ring my congress person to protest – um, something? Sure thing, Kim!)

            It may be a very good idea to ring your congress person and threaten them not to vote to confirm Betsy deVos, else in the upcoming election you’d vote for their rival (as I saw one campaign online urging people to do), but the conviction should not rely on “the fame of this famous person makes me accept whatever they say because they are famous”.

            While I respect Scott’s opinions, that does not mean that I would vote for someone based purely on “The Rightful Caliph has spoken, what more needs to be understood?” That’s mainly what I’m complaining about, the attitude that because X is Famous, that means they are qualified to speak on the subject and moreover that their views are more weighty and convincing.

          • Synonym Seven says:

            “Not being aware of mainstream culture” isn’t something to be proud of.

            But “paying money to entities x, y, and z solely because greater-than #% of the local population has, and has as-such elevated (?) it to “mainstream pop culture” somehow is? That’s a tiny, tiny step from “I bought/did solely because it was advertised during the Super Bowl”.

            My leisure time is a finite resource, and the percentage of leisure time devoted to consumption is, by nature, a fraction of that. I find it more rewarding for myself – and more admirable in others – to occupy that time digesting books/music/movies I find interesting, rather than reading Harry Potter or watching Keeping Up With the Duck Dynasty, chaining myself dutifully to the top-40 solely to somehow better understand the deluge of empty, brainless references to said products. Because otherwise, gosh, however would I suss out that Voldemort is a bad guy or when someone says “Duck Dynasty” they mean “backwoods hicks” or that Kim Kardashian, uh, exists?

      • Garrett says:

        I think a core part of the problem is that as a group, celebrities have little more acumen in politics than the average person on the street. So listening to a celebrity go on about their political position isn’t likely to be any more informative (or welcome) than unwillingly listening to a taxi cab driver rant about politics. Maybe they have astute observations and solid, multipart arguments. Likely not. The celebrity is likely to come across as entitled to respect, however.

        Your writing stands on its own. Other than that you are possible to dox and associate with a real person with a real identity, it’s otherwise quite possible that everything you’ve said is manufactured. But your arguments stand on their own. Perhaps I agree. Perhaps I don’t. But my thinking is enriched by having done so.

      • Leonard says:

        Celebrities ought to know they are relatively ignorant, assuming that they are. (Yes, I know, big Dunning–Kruger fail there, but that was in ought-land.)

        Even if they don’t know if they are ignorant, I would hope they would at least suspect it enough to keep their mouths shut. (Yes, I know, Dunning–Kruger fail again!)

        You know you are not relatively ignorant. Or at least your readers know that — hint: we read you for a reason — and as such, do not begrudge your politicking.

        • poignardazur says:

          For the record, Dunning-Kruger may or may not exist, and is probably not what you think it is.

          I’m personally wary of quoting popular psychology/sociology experiments, because I know I could as easily believe them whether or not they’re true, and I’m pretty sure “exciting news spread faster than boring rectifications” is a thing. (see also the Stanford Prison Experiment)

      • pedrodegiovanni says:

        In my case it’s for two main reasons:

        First, I read your blog because I value the way you think and analyze stuff. I think that your thoughts about politics are a subset of your broader opinions and part of what I want to read from you. Moreover, you deal with rational arguments, not with feelings.

        More importantly, it inflicts a negative externality on me. When an artist express publically (and without a speck of subtlety) their poltiical views it paints their artistic production in a different light and mixes spheres of my life that I wan’t politics. I once was in a concert where the lead singer dedicated a song to ‘the best president we’ve ever had’ to receive a mix of boos and cheers, and it severely hurted my experience.

      • Fossegrimen says:

        We come here and read your opinions because they are coherent and thoughtful. We watch/listen to Madonna because she’s pretty and has a good singing voice.

        One of those are better for political commentary than the other.

        • Tarpitz says:

          Where do we stand on celebrities who are famous to some degree because of their gift for political satire? Trey Parker would probably still be one of the great comic writers of this or any age if he never touched anything that could be construed as political, but in reality his work seems pretty clear evidence that his view on political matters is likely to be a good deal better informed and more insightful than that of the average person. How should we weight a putative unexplained endorsement by Parker? How about some lesser satirist who still presumably spends a great deal of time consuming and thinking about political news?

      • If not, why is it worse when a celebrity does it?

        Because the reason people take you seriously is that you are unusually intelligent, careful, and fair minded in forming your opinions, which is relevant to the worth of your opinions, not because you starred in a movie or helped win football games, which isn’t.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        If a celebrity put as much effort into arguing for their political views as you do, I for one wouldn’t have a problem.

  17. tcheasdfjkl says:

    I like how per the title of this post Matt Yglesias is a group of people.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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?

  21. 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.)

  22. 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.

  23. 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!”

  24. 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

  25. 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.

  26. 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?

  27. 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.”)

  28. 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.

  29. 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 🙂

  30. 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 🙂

  31. manwhoisthursday says:

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

  32. manwhoisthursday says:

    Good article here on progressives’ love of Harry Potter.

  33. 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.

  34. 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