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OT82: Threado Quia Absurdum

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit, the SSC Discord server. Also:

1. Comments of the week: CatCube on how organizations change over time, Douglas Knight’s update on self-driving car progress, Tibor on gun laws in the Czech Republic. And Brad explains why comments are closed on some posts here better than I could.

2. I’m off social media for the time being to avoid Discourse. If you need to contact me, try email – on a related note, sorry for being terrible about responding to emails.

3. I’ll be at the Effective Altruism Global conference today. Come say hi. If nothing else, I’ll be at the Rationalist Tumblr Meetup (at least briefly) and Katja Grace’s 5:50 talk on AI.

4. Does anyone have strong feelings about who would make a good SSC moderator? Does anyone actually read all the comments here well enough to moderate them?

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2,164 Responses to OT82: Threado Quia Absurdum

    • dndnrsn says:

      Never really answers the question I immediately have upon seeing the opening picture, and it’s something that the article mentions a couple times after – how is a movement that is either white nationalist or not averse to it (I think that is a fair description of the alt-right) able to recruit people who aren’t white? If that crowd at the top is what a Patriot Prayer rally looks like, well, I’ve seen anti-racist protests that are whiter than that rally.

      Including because it’s kind of relevant: according to a recent NPR/PBS poll – feel free to attack the methodology; I find some of the results dubious but can not math good – Latinos as a group are (compared to the other two categories under race, “White” and “African American”) more favourable of white supremacy, white nationalists, and the alt-right. This seems… odd, and leads me to suspect some polling weirdness is going on.

      (I’m going to repost this last bit in the new OT; you might do the same for your link, since this one is cooling down)

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        Good question — are percentages here sufficiently different from “Lizardman’s constant” percentages? Those, I feel, are basically the statistical zero when groups of people are involved.

  1. fugasidhe says:

    I think the phrase you’re looking for is “Martian logic”. The logic may be sound, but the axioms are so disconnected from reality, or so myopic in scope that the conclusions can be tantamount to madness.

    FWIW Driving predators extinct has been tested. It was the official wildlife management strategy of the US Government until about 80 years ago. The extirpation of wolves and grizzlies from most of the US, led to overpopulation and disease among deer, elk, and moose. It also led to a marketed decrease in biodiversity among tree species, and very likely other ecological effects, apparent to field biologists and natural historians, that we have not even figured out how to measure yet.

    Some of those diseases such as winter ticks do not affect us but are now endemic among moose: you can track them in Maine by how they bleed in the snow. Others, such as Lyme do infect a significant number of humans every year and represent a chronic source of healthcare expenditure. There are other aggravating factors, aggressive logging for one, but it is certain to say that far more wild animals die from habitat loss and pollution than predation in many parts of the US. A recent PNAS study quantified this: even species populations noted “Least Concern” are shrinking at present. Killing predators to reduce prey suffering? May as well kill people suspected of being terrorists and do nothing to reduce deaths by heart disease or automobile accidents.

    To me this sounds a lot like paper clip optimization… it is not a stretch for intelligent people to see that local optimization risks repainting deck chairs on the titanic. A more moderate stretch is to realize that a lack of experience and familiarity with a complex system almost certainly guarantees that one’s “optimizations” will at best be local. As Feynman said “Perhaps it is that the horizons are limited which permit such people the delusion that the center of the universe of interest is man.”

  2. onyomi says:

    Keith Preston’s take on Charlottesville is the best I’ve seen so far. Can’t really summarize it, since it’s already bullet points.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      “Kaczynski accurately characterizes the Left as follows: “Leftists tend to hate anything that has an image of being strong, good and successful. They hate America, they hate Western civilization, they hate white males, they hate rationality.”

      That’s the best you’ve seen, huh.

      • onyomi says:

        Do you disagree with the following?

        Contrary to frequent misconceptions, the current Left/Right battle in the US is not between races, genders, sexual orientations, social classes or even ideologies as is often maintained. Instead, it is a battle between tribes representing certain psychological types.

        I think there are other bases to the ideological rift besides just psychological type (mostly historically contingent factors like whom your parents voted for), but see a strong kernel of truth to this.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          Yeah, I “disagree” (not necessarily in the sense of “this says X, but I believe NOT X”), but more like this is a type error, when it comes to good analysis of what is happening.

          This is a blogger hot take, not proper historical analysis. History is complicated, hot takes are simple.

          Aside from that, he just says a bunch of laughably stupid stuff. I linked a little, but there’s a lot more. “Leftists hate America.”

          The lens through which someone sees the world that would make them output that type of stuff is not a very good lens.

          • onyomi says:

            Do you find intellectual hipsters and metacontrarianism to be laughable? Because it’s basically the same idea as the first one you implied was laughable.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            I did not find or imply the first thing was laughable, I said it was superficial (hot take rather than analysis).

            I find “leftists hate America” laughable.

            Scott’s essay has nothing to do with finding human typology explanations for things.

          • onyomi says:

            I was talking about the Kaczynski quote. If you think Preston’s intent in quoting it is simply to claim “leftists hate America,” I’d suggest your reading of the piece is superficial. The essay I was comparing it to is by Eliezer, not Scott.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Preston simply had a large quote by Kaczynski and said it was accurate — that was the entire bullet point.

            I don’t know this Preston guy, and while it is possible he had some sort of subtle point to make, I don’t have time to decode his intent. I went with what he literally said. It’s on him to communicate clearly.

            If you want to be a real historian about events in Charlottesville, you ought to talk to as many people as possible who actually were there — that’s what I am trying to do. Not read hot takes on the internet.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            That’s a good thing to do. Have you been able to get a good cross section of views? That is, bystander/observer vs. UniteTheRight protester vs. Antifa counterprotester vs. Local/Non-Antifa counterprotester? Police perspective would be nice as well but may be difficult to get.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Not yet — it’s not so easy (and safe for someone like me) to talk to a representative cross section.

    • Montfort says:

      Let’s back up from the specifics of what psychology Preston finds in the left, right, and “ruling class behind the state.” This whole piece reads more like Preston already had opinions on what the left, right, and RCBTS were like and then decided to say that Charlottesville “proved” (edit: okay, “supported”, neither of these are actual quotes) them, without actually connecting the events to his conclusions. In fact, that’s literally what he does with the “hard left” – to paraphrase: “I wrote about them years ago, and these new events have proven me right in ways I will not specify. Allow me to repeat myself.”

      This doesn’t seem like a good “take” on Charlottesville, it seems like a “take” on the culture war you like, combined with many seemingly-unrelated observations about Charlottesville. Or, alternatively, some observations about Charlottesville you think accurate, plus some “and this, just like everything, proves me right about the nature of the right and left and ruling class behind the state!”

    • skef says:

      I think one point that Preston first missed in 5, but later updated, undermines some of the other analysis. The event on Friday was already violent. In part because “who actually initiated physical action” was “very difficult to determine”, the concerns on the part of the local authorities about the Saturday demonstrations are much more reasonable than he makes them out to be.

      Point 6 is somewhat undermined by the messaging of the event’s organizer, and the open criticism of some “alt-lite” groups that pulled out explicitly because of the racial angle.

  3. @ tscharf says:

    Showing up to this protest was idiotic. Idiotic. Hard to believe a fight broke out

    I agree. But it reminds me of something I did almost 20 years ago, at a similar protest/counter-protest.

    In this case, it was the KKK rather than neo-Nazis, versus a left-wing group who wanted to “shut down the Klan by any means necessary”. I was among a group of 100 peacekeepers, including many clergy, who stood between the two groups. Wonderful to relate, we prevented a riot.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Impressive!

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      In this case, it was the KKK rather than neo-Nazis, versus a left-wing group who wanted to “shut down the Klan by any means necessary”. I was among a group of 100 peacekeepers, including many clergy, who stood between the two groups. Wonderful to relate, we prevented a riot.

      The situation seems a bit unearthly. Why there was volunteers in the first place? Wouldn’t it be the job of the police (equipped with the protective gear) to maintain the separation? (And arrest persons responsible for inciting a riot?)

      This is already quite worn example everyone has heard about, but anyway, I can’t come up with better one either. If you see news pictures about a far-right rally from Germany, you always see that the police is always present in large numbers (because there’s going to be counter-protesters in large numbers, too). There’s occasionally more police officers than far right protesters. I can’t remember any news items about either side managing to get others killed in similar riots.

      If the police lets far right and far left to have their street battles, that’s a sign they more willing to root for one side or the other to win the fight instead of doing their jobs: that is, maintain the coordinated meanness a.k.a. monopoly of violence of the government and the established judicial system. Which, in turn, is excellent fuel to rhetoric of any extremist who promises “to stop this madness on streets” if the people just grant them some extraordinary judicial powers.

    • tscharf says:

      A very honorable thing to do. It takes a lot more courage to prevent a riot than start one.

    • J Mann says:

      Good for you.

  4. hls2003 says:

    Trump has been taking a lot of fire for his response to Charlottesville, from all sides. Of course, he has been taking a lot of fire generally ever since the election, for various things. And his approval ratings have slid to very low levels in recent polls. I’m curious, though, how much that will play out in a re-election campaign in 2020, which by nature is a binary choice. I remember a poll a month or two ago showing that Trump out-polled Hillary, if people were offered the hypothetical choice to re-run the election; Trump substantially outperformed his approval ratings in that hypothetical matchup. So are people really changing their minds, or is his approval just dropping because reality is always more disappointing than reality-TV-campaigning? I could imagine people disapproving of the circus Trump brings everywhere with him, because it seems to make the atmosphere so poisonous, but I can also imagine people blaming that on his opponents more than him when all alone in the 2020 voting booth. I’m not sure how many people will have actually been convinced to drop him.

    My question is threefold:

    (1) Did you (or anyone you know) vote for Trump?
    (2) If yes to #1, have you (or that person) changed your (their) mind and would not vote for him a second time?
    (3) If yes to #1 and #2, what was the thing Trump did or said that changed your (their) mind?

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      I know someone who voted for Trump and are now withdrawing from politics and voting in disgust.

      • hls2003 says:

        Can I ask (if you know) what was it that attracted them to Trump enough to pull the lever, but then changed or was outweighed by subsequent action?

        For example, I happened to think about this topic because of an up-thread comment back-and-forth about whether Trump’s Charlottesville responses put the lie to Scott’s “Crying Wolf” article. So I suppose one could imagine being initially convinced that Trump was no racist, but then being convinced otherwise by Charlottesville (or other).

        For what it’s worth, I know several people who voted for Trump; as far as they’ve told me, all would vote for him a second time, although all also disapprove of a lot of things he says and does (for various reasons).

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          That’s a good and complicated question. My guess: disillusionment with DC corruption, and then disillusionment with Trumps’ “fresh take” on dealing with DC. But I am very uncertain here — people are complicated.

    • The Nybbler says:

      1) No

      I did not vote for Trump, but his remarks on this event — the real ones, not the ones the press made up — make me more willing to vote for him. He’s a strange champion for freedom of speech and assembly, but he seems to be one nevertheless. Even if only by coincidence.

      • hls2003 says:

        I know more than one person who did not vote for Trump but has said they would now, just because they think doing otherwise would legitimize what they see as “tantrum politics” from the Democratic side. Obviously those couple of people don’t make or break elections, but I’ve found it slightly surprising that, given Trump’s sliding approval ratings, I don’t anecdotally hear of more defections away from Trump than tribal inclinations towards him.

        • gbdub says:

          Ugh. “Never interfere with your enemy while he’s in the process of destroying himself”.

          I really wish the media would take this to heart, because the “tantrum politics” are the only thing giving me sympathy for Trump, and I don’t want to have sympathy for Trump. I was totally ready to be disgusted at Trump yesterday, until I read the difference between what he actually said (bad enough!) and what he was said to have said.

          I’m going to steal Iain’s metaphor from upthread – it’s like they decided the best thing to do with the moral high ground was charge downhill.

          I voted for Johnson in a “pox on both their houses” way, but I also assumed Trump would end up with a more competent team reining him in, which so far has not materialized. But basically my opinion of everyone has gone down since November. So I don’t know. In a purely objective sense I’m thinking Hillary would have to be better, but I’d still feel pretty damn gross supporting that side, given how they’ve behaved since then.

          I’m thinking I’m going to register as a Dem for the next cycle to try to push a reasonably palatable candidate, unless Trump declines to run again and or there’s a realistic primary challenge.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            Probably the best approach is to just support whoever has the best tax policy. Barring total disaster that’s where most of the utility is.

          • hls2003 says:

            Most elections are decided by the least informed voters (E.g.) and so you could argue, strategically, that the media creating a generalized climate of “Trump is a disaster on every issue and we should all be ashamed” will be more likely to influence such voters by osmosis. They’re mostly resistant to facts and argument, by definition. On the other hand, some low-information voters will adjust their mental volume to tune out any negative news stories. Apropos of Scott’s “Crying Wolf,” now that the media – rightly or wrongly – wants to call Trump out for coddling literal swastika-carrying Nazis in Charlottesville, they may have trouble distinguishing that from the “coddling Nazis” he was accused of previously in cases not involving literal Nazis.

            2020 may be decided by which group of low-information voters is larger, the easily-led-by-general-atmosphere crowd, or the ignore-whatever-happens crowd.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I was pretty disappointed when, after Trump said this:

            TRUMP: … and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally – but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats – you had a lot of bad people in the other group too.

            REPORTER: I just didn’t understand what you were saying. You were saying the press has treated white nationalists unfairly?

            TRUMP: No, no

            And the next day on my phone I see a opinion headline from the New York Times that “Trump Unequivocally Signals Support For White Nationalists.” (I cannot find it now via google but I did show it to my wife and ask “does this headline say what I think it does?” and she confirmed it.)

            What Trump said is bad enough. Stop exaggerating.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Probably this.

            Mostly it’s upset that Trump gave antifa their share of the blame.

    • Matt M says:

      I think for the far right, voting disapproval for Trump now is basically a zero-cost way of trying to encourage him to go back to some of his campaign promises (build the wall, lock her up, rip up NATO and NAFTA, repeal Obamacare, don’t start a war with Syria, etc.)

      But there’s also basically 0% chance those people would vote for any candidate that might plausibly oppose him, so it’s basically meaningless.

    • Urstoff says:

      I’m almost certain some of my family voted for Trump because they hated Hillary. I don’t know what their attitudes will be like against a more palatable Democratic candidate and four more years of the DJT shitshow.

      • hls2003 says:

        One thing Trump seems to do very well is provoke extreme reactions – from everyone. He’s like a Bat Signal for tribalism, because his opponents end up indulging their own ideological extremes. Obviously Hillary had her baggage. The interesting question will be, can any Democratic candidate capable of winning the primary, also avoid counter-extremism sufficient to miss being tarred as “just as bad as Hillary”?

        • Urstoff says:

          They may call whoever runs “just as bad as Hillary”, but no one will provoke the visceral hatred in large swaths of conservatives like Hillary did.

          • hls2003 says:

            One hypothesis I have is that Hillary provoked visceral hatred in conservative voters of a certain age, and that age cohort happened to be the same age cohort that might otherwise have been temperamentally inclined against Trump’s schtick. Perhaps older voters would normally have been turned off by Trump but had sufficient memories of Hillary to make voting against her seem more pressing, thus lending key voters to Trump even though he didn’t particularly appeal to them. Basically, Trump could ignore the appeal to the middle of the Republican electorate (the part most disposed to dislike him), because that portion of the electorate already was disposed to dislike Hillary more.

          • MrApophenia says:

            Also, don’t underestimate just how shockingly bad Hillary Clinton is for running for office. She’s very good at being a politician, but she is just terrible at convincing people they should vote for her.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      1. Yes. I voted for Trump. The majority of my family voted for Trump and maybe 25-33% of my relevant friend group.
      2. Not to my knowledge.
      3. N/A.

      Trump failing to denounce Nazis in a manner fast enough for the 24 hour news cycle is not sufficient to bring me to vote for a Democrat.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      >I remember a poll a month or two ago showing that Trump out-polled Hillary, if people were offered the hypothetical choice to re-run the election; Trump substantially outperformed his approval ratings in that hypothetical matchup. So are people really changing their minds, or is his approval just dropping because reality is always more disappointing than reality-TV-campaigning?

      Sounds to me more of an indictment of Hillary than an endorsement of Trump. Opinion polls I’ve seen put him losing to just about every realistic Dem candidate.

      • hls2003 says:

        True on the Hillary part, but this far out, everyone hypothetical with no current prospect of power tends to look more attractive than the incumbent. I guess I’m starting from the position that Trump’s coalition was strong enough (and better-placed geographically) to win last time. Unless he loses some of those voters, my prediction would be in favor of that same coalition winning a second time. Of course he will lose some of his voters; but how many, and will they be counterbalanced? Anecdotally I haven’t heard of a lot so far, but have little data to go on.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Trump is going to get primaried, and those Republicans and also the Democrats are going to be going after the white-working-class vote hard.

    • MrApophenia says:

      It’s not exactly what you’re asking, but I do know someone who was planning to vote for Trump, but hit a disgust threshold and had his mind changed. My uncle (a rural conservative) hates Hillary Clinton. A lot. He wasn’t so much a Trump supporter as a hold your nose and vote for him over her kind of guy – maybe chortle at how much he pissed off liberals, too.

      His breaking point was attacking the gold star family. I remember I was actually in the room with him when he first saw that on the news – his face literally wrinkled in disgust and he said, “What an asshole.” After that he went back and forth between voting for Hillary or not voting, and landed on the latter.

    • tscharf says:

      1. Yes, I know many people. Trump carried WV by over 40%.
      2. No.
      3. N/A

      It’s really irrelevant as voting is a choice, not a hypothetical of running against an invented good Democrat. If the Democrats run another Hilary then they may very well lose again, for the same reasons. If they think demonizing white people is the path to victory they may very well lose again. If they continue to be out of touch with swing voters they may lose. If they don’t do these things then they may win. My guess is people are going to be hyper-sensitive to a “deplorables” attitude, so avoiding this at all costs would be a good idea.

      The media running out every 2 days and asking if people still like Trump and being mystified when most of them still do never fails to amaze me. How many times has the media opined that the latest circus show was going to change everything? Most people just don’t care much about the circus sideshow and when they see that is the only thing the establishment seems to care about it makes them wonder why others are so obsessed with it. The economy is in good shape, we aren’t in any new wars, illegal immigration is down, Trump at least pretends he cares about trade, a new conservative justice was placed, and he still won’t pander to the thought police. If you took a poll on which party respects fly-over country more, who would win? I drove though AL, IN, OH, and rural FL and Trump signs are still up as well as more US flags than I have ever seen.

      A belief that all this is overshadowed by exactly how fast he threw neo-Nazis under the bus is naive and wishful thinking. It is not sufficient to prove Trump has flaws and the left is not Trump. That already failed. You need to actually stand for something. Being “anti-hate” is pointless, nobody believes they are hateful and are convinced the other side is the one full of hate. Nobody on earth knows what the left’s position on immigration is, including the left. The person who seems to have the most sense on the left is Mark Lilla. That is the best path to victory.

    • Well... says:

      1) A bunch of people I know and respect voted for Trump. I did not.
      2) No idea. I’m confident that at least 3-4 of the people I know who voted for him would do so again. I can’t think of any who obviously would not, but I can think of one who wouldn’t totally surprise me if she said she would not.
      3) N/A, strictly speaking. Because my OCD can’t stand the idea of a question number without a datapoint next to it, I’ll throw out there that I’m still happy with my vote.

    • onyomi says:

      1. I did not vote for Trump, but I know a number of people, including family members, who did.
      2. They have not changed their minds and mostly just complain bitterly about how the left is out to get him.

    • J Mann says:

      (1) Not me, but I didn’t vote for Hillary either, and I still don’t regret it. I can think of three people who have told me they voted for Trump.

      (2) None of them have changed their mine. Two of them (middle aged white guys, very sweet and well meaning in their personal lives) did it basically to poke SJWs in the eye or because they thought liberals were eventually going to come for middle american and churches, and they don’t seem to have changed their minds. They wish Trump was smarter about achieving his goals, but they prefer him achieving nothing to Hillary achieving some of her goals. The third is a 20 year old who voted for Trump almost solely on pro-life grounds, and is disgusted by Trump personally. (She was also really turned off by her Bernie supporting friends, who she sees as unrealistic economically). Trump is slow on appointments, but his judges have been pretty solid from her perspective, so she got what she expected.

      (3) N/a.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Two people.

      For the one I’m in touch with, he’s moved from being pro-Trump to saying that both parties are the same. I don’t know what changed his mind.

      I don’t have a formal understanding of why he liked Trump, but at least part of it was fear of immigrants and terrorists. He also trusted everything bad that was said about Hillary.

      I haven’t cut off the other one, but it’s not convenient to stay in touch with him.

  5. pontifex says:

    If she’s pretty, I’d focus on ‘I’m a guy who thinks you are pretty’ when I deal with her. Girls like that. Not ‘you are wrong’. Nobody likes that.

    I think it’s totally possible for a guy to be friends with a girl, and have a reasonable political or religious conversation. Not easy, mind you, but possible.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      ” Not easy, mind you, but possible.”

      I think it’s easy, as long as at least one of you has a significant other, or has otherwise not indicated an interest in sexual relations with the person you’re talking to. Age may come into play on how easy this is.

      • James says:

        Would it be indecorous of me to reveal that, in the actual situation to which that remark refers (see thread above), we had been sleeping with each other about a year ago but I called it off?

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Nope! It just emphasizes that you’re talking about a specific and not a generality.

          That does seem a touchy circumstance! I had skipped over the prior thread.

  6. pontifex says:

    Wow, really negative responses here!

    This question is impossible to answer without actually knowing the person in question.

    I think a lot of people passively go along with the SJW stuff because it’s mainstream at the moment. It’s the same as religion really. There are a few really strong true believers, and everyone else just kind of shrugs and gets along with life. So figure out which category she really falls in first. The questioning needs to come from her first, and not from you.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      Thanks, interesting.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      The dehumanization scale using the Ascent of Man silhouettes is a cool tool. I don’t know how rigorous it is but very snazzy.

      That said, treating political views (even extreme views) as psychiatric disorders calling for ‘interventions’ rather than debate is profoundly unhelpful. This sort of research takes on a much darker tone if you put it side by side with the recent study on using oxytocin to improve attitudes towards migrants. Sluggish schizophrenia anyone?

      It is an excellent metaphor for modern American politics. It’s the manufacturing of consent taken to it’s logical extreme.

      • eyeballfrog says:

        The results of that dehumanization thing are…questionable. Hillary Clinton “less evolved” than black people? This doesn’t jibe with what I’ve heard from the hardcore race realists who actually believe in the idea of “less evolved”. This suggests they were using it as a proxy for “How much do you dislike this group/person?”.

        Also the lack of Asians as a category disappoints me. That seems like it would have been an interesting data point.

        • Deiseach says:

          The results of that dehumanization thing are…questionable.

          Yeah, when Hillary Clinton comes in dead last out of all the possibilities listed at 55% evolved, that is, less evolved than Jews, Mexicans, black people etc., there’s something more than merely “muh racial prejudices” going on there.

          Extrapolating from that to nicely coloured graphs and breathless dissections of the psychology of the alt-right makes me want to go “Guys, ever heard of the Lizardman’s Constant?”

        • Loquat says:

          A not-so-random sample of the dehumanization scores:
          White people: 91.8
          Europeans: 87.08
          Christians: 83.81
          Donald Trump: 82.82
          Republicans who refused to vote for Trump: 69.85
          Black People: 64.72
          Democrats: 60.38
          Journalists: 58.65
          Hillary Clinton: 54.83

          Yeah, I have to agree it was just being used as a proxy for “dislike”.

        • soreff says:

          Pet peeve:

          I really hate talking about “more evolved” or “less evolved” humans.
          If that phrase was going to mean anything at all, it would have to mean
          something like “how many generations (and therefore rounds of
          reproduction and selection) does this organism have since the first
          strand of DNA got copied?”. And by that criterion, the most evolved
          organism is going to be some microorganism. Replication times for
          bacteria can be less than an hour. Which beat out human
          replication times of decades by 5 orders of magnitude…

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I’m interested on how a sample drawn from Mechanical Turk is intrinsically skewed. Yes, there is the caveat of “convenience sample”, but I would really hope there is some rigorous analysis of how Turkers differ from a similar sample recruited via other means.

      With that said, there has been a lot of talk here about how alt-right != white nationalist/supremacist/etc. Assuming the above caveat has no significant affect, it sure looks like those who identify as alt-right really do skew that way.

      • Loquat says:

        I’d be interested in this as well – since MT is basically a site where you perform petty tasks for petty amounts of money, my intuition is that it’s primarily used by the unemployed, kids, etc. Pretty much nobody with an adequate cash flow thinks its worthwhile to take 15-to-30 minute surveys for 75 cents a pop.

    • Wrong Species says:

      In April, Forscher and Kteily got a sample of 447 self-identified alt-righters in an online survey on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (an online marketplace for gathering study participants and people for quick paid tasks) and led them through a barrage of psychological survey questions. They then compared the alt-righters to an online sample of 382 non-alt-righters. (See the demographic breakdown of the samples here.)

      A note on some limitations: This survey was not designed to be representative of the entire “alt-right” movement or to generalize to other right-wing-leaning groups. It’s a convenience sample of alt-righters on the internet who were willing to take a survey for a small cash reward.

      Pretty much invalidates the whole thing. All we know is that 447 people believe this.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Eh.

        Didn’t Scott do an MT survey recently? Or he linked favorably to one?

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Yep, he did one, and results were roughly consistent with another survey done using traditional techniques.

          But he also posts about lizardman constants, and if I got a chance to fill out an anonymous survey about my ideological enemies and get paid for it, hoo boy. It all depends where the link to survey got passed around.

      • Aponymouse says:

        > All we know is that 447 people believe this.

        We don’t even know that. There’s a reason “alt-right troll” is a thing.

  7. Thegnskald says:

    So I observe that the people who a few weeks ago were arguing that antifa violence wasn’t morally significant to Leftism as a whole, and that the failure of prominent leftists to speak against it wasn’t meaningful, have changed their tune now that they can use those argument against their enemies. Likewise, the opponents to the antifa violence are being obnoxious, albeit in a subtler way, arguing that the violence is mutual and thus somehow the right-wing violence is less morally significant. The arguments on both sides are staggeringly stupid tribal/moral posturing.

    Am I the only one tired of the tribal bullshit?

    First, this is the natural result of antifa violence. This shit is old hat in Europe, where there are have been murders by anti-anti-anti-fa groups. This shit should have been shut down months ago. The natural result of violence is escalation. Yes, this shit is the fault of violent antifa action, and the authority figures who made it clear they wouldn’t intervene. This doesn’t absolve the right-wing violence, mind; I can be morally responsible for putting a gun in the hand of a murderer without reducing the murderer’s own culpability.

    Second, neither side is innocent, and neither side is better. Attacking people on the basis of ideology is just as eroding to our civil society as attacking people on the basis of race, and both are terroristic in intent and nature.

    Third, this isn’t a matter of the good guys versus the bad guys. This is a matter of sociopathic assholes fighting one another. Neither is on “your” side, they’re both looking for an excuse to use violence – you know the stereotype of the gun owner who is hoping someone breaks into his home so he gets to shoot somebody? These are literally those people, people who are looking for an excuse to use violence in a socially sanctioned way.

    Knock off the tribal bullshit and notice that these assholes aren’t your allies, neither of them, and neither deserve either sanction nor sympathy. Shut this shit down. These aren’t mercenaries, exactly, but everything Machiavelli had to say about mercenaries applies. Their victories – either of their victories – are our defeat.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      “Yes, this shit is the fault of violent antifa action.”

      Yeah, ok. The young lady murdered by a car was not antifa. Harris was not antifa.

      How about we call a spade a spade, and notice that the guy who killed the young lady had a long history of hateful statements (easy to look up), that have nothing to do with antifa violence.

      The guys who beat up Harris have a history too (easy to look up for people already identified by name). One was was ex-KKK and served prison time. It couldn’t be clearer what is happening here — except to folks like you.

      This alt-right stuff actually poses a problem for conservatives, because they have a choice — be principled and renounce them and say they don’t want to do coalition politics with them, or downplay them and change the subject (and effectively push for normalization of fascism by playing coalition politics with fascists).

      I think we shouldn’t play coalition politics with fascists (actual fascists). Do you agree?

      If you are conservative and you agree, unfortunately alt-right is forcing some moves from you, specifically you have to loudly signal you won’t play coalition politics with them. Most elected republicans did so, by the way.

      • Matt M says:

        The young lady murdered by a car was not antifa.

        If antifa doesn’t show up – the police don’t break up the rally – and both the fascists and whatever peaceful counter-protesters stay confined to an area without a bunch of vehicle traffic and under tight police control.

        This does not excuse running people over in any way. That dude is still 100% responsible for his actions.

        But in a world where antifa doesn’t show up to deny right-wingers their constitutional rights by force, I think she’s still alive today.

        • Urstoff says:

          And if the right-wingers didn’t have a white supremacist rally at a confederate statue, which they knew would bring counterprotests, she would still be alive.

          • hls2003 says:

            And if she didn’t attend the counter-protest, she would still be alive. But we don’t blame her, and shouldn’t. There is a difference in law between cause in fact (or “but-for” cause) and proximate causation (or legal cause). Cause in fact simply means that an action was necessary to produce the result. It does not mean the action was sufficient to cause the injury. There are multiple (indeed, near-infinite) “but-for” causes for almost everything that happens; only some of them are taken into account in legal reasoning, and I think the same is true for moral reasoning.

          • Urstoff says:

            Right, which is why playing the but-for game is silly. The person at fault here is the driver of the car. Everything else is tribalism.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I think we shouldn’t play coalition politics with fascists (actual fascists). Do you agree?

        If you are conservative and you agree, unfortunately alt-right is forcing some moves from you, specifically you have to loudly signal you won’t play coalition politics with them. Most elected republicans did so, by the way.

        I think this is clearly acceptable, and that there’s still major disagreement about who can be described as a “fascist.”

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          There is major disagreement about who can be described as “fascist,” in general, I suppose.

          However, people who throw an actual Hitler salute, and people who wear swastikas, or carry actual swastika flags (or neo-Nazi equivalents), are shouting “Jews will not replace us,” etc. are basically fascist in fairly uncontroversial ways.

          As far as folks who aren’t that — they are apparently willing to play coalition politics with fascists. These guys are enablers/collaborators. I also think they are bad, but different kind of bad from actual fascists.

      • Skivverus says:

        It annoys me that I’m being partisan on this, but is there really no distinction between “alt-right” and “actual nazi”?

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          I know that there is a difference, but could we be more explicit about what precisely it is?

          • Wrong Species says:

            Milo is generally considered alt right but he is gay and isn’t anything resembling a white nationalist.

        • tomogorman says:

          At them moment it seems that alt-right (those that are not outright actual nazis) are the people who either want to form a coalition with actual nazis to achieve anti-left goals or want to employ nazi symbolism and tropes for the lulz/to piss off the left.
          If that is correct, why is it wrong for the rest of us to lump them in with nazis?

          • Urstoff says:

            If you’re okay marching with nazis, as those at Charlottesville apparently were, doesn’t that literally make you a nazi sympathizer?

          • kjohn says:

            If you’re okay marching with nazis, as those at Charlottesville apparently were, doesn’t that literally make you a nazi sympathizer?

            No being a literal nazi sympathizer involves literally sympathising with nazis. I would have thought that was decently obvious.

            In Europe, you’d be hard-pressed to find any left-wing march tht didn’t involve open Stalinists. Can we deduce that they all Stalinist sympathisers?

          • Urstoff says:

            What’s the difference between being okay with nazis being a part of your organized march and sympathizing with nazis?

          • kjohn says:

            What’s the difference between a raven and a writing desk?

            Things that are unrelated are unrelated.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Actual fascists occupying France, and collaborators in the Vichy government are different but not unrelated.

            People who want to form a coalition with fascists are not necessarily fascist themselves, but are definitely of direct relevance to the rise of fascism.

            If you say they are unrelated, the charitable assumption here is you are playing dumb for some rhetorical gain.

          • rlms says:

            “In Europe, you’d be hard-pressed to find any left-wing march tht [sic] didn’t involve open Stalinists.”
            lol

          • Urstoff says:

            Well that’s an egregiously terrible non-answer.

          • kjohn says:

            You’re talking about two completely different things. Not even bothering to draw the slightest reason why they would not be different and then asking me to name the difference. Its nonsense.

            To be sympathetic to nazis does not require or mply that one would allow them to join your marches. Allow them to bolster your march’s numbers does not require sympathy. Unrelated things and unrelated.

            Ilya: A more accurate metaphor would be asking for the difference between a communist sympathiser and the allies including communist Russia.

            rlms: Can you name a left-wing march that didn’t involve open Stalinists?

          • Urstoff says:

            Why they would not be different: this was a “Unite the Right” march, and by participating with nazis in a show of political unity at a statue commemorating people who fought to keep slavery, that would indicate that such people did have some sympathy with nazis. Other right-wing groups stayed out of it seemingly because of the presence of nazis and other white supremacists.

          • kjohn says:

            The reason General Lee fought was not because he wanted to keep slavery.

            Being sympathetic to Lee does not require one to be sympathetc to nazis. Therefore protesting the culture that demands the denouncing of Lee does not require being sympathetic to nazis.

            This is different from being sympathetic to nazis which does require being sympathetic to nazis.

          • gbdub says:

            What’s the difference between allowing communists, anarchists, and Palestinian terrorist supporters in your march, and sympathizing with the same? Because just about every left wing march has at least a token assembly of those yahoos.

            Of course, the difference here was that it was a Nazi march with maybe a few not quite Nazis, as opposed to a broad coalition march with a few extremist participants.

          • Urstoff says:

            Whataboutism is whataboutism. Leftist groups should not organize marches with communists or pro-terrorist groups. That much should also be obvious. When they do, they should rightly be charged with being sympathetic to such groups as well.

          • gbdub says:

            Eh, at some point I think it’s wrong to judge a group by the worst of its members. When you’ve got two major candidates, both are going to get some nasty wackos on their side.

            I guess there’s a difference between “joining a Nazi march” and “your not-Nazi march being joined by Nazis”. The former makes you a sympathizer, the latter not nearly so much.

          • rlms says:

            @kjohn
            Can you see any Stalinists in, say, this video? Can you provide any evidence of Stalinists at a left-wing march in Europe? Bear in mind that the hammer and sickle is clearly not conclusive evidence of Stalinism, based on the large numbers of non-Stalinists in the USSR.

          • Urstoff says:

            I agree that there is a difference. The case in point, though, is “participating in a march co-organized by nazis”.

          • kjohn says:

            Can I pick a stalinist out of a crowd om a vdeo? No. No, I cannot. Great insght.

            However, to give an example, a major organisor of left-wing marches in the UK are the Stop The War coalition a patron of which is Kamal Majid, a founder of the Stalin Society.

          • rlms says:

            Well, you asked for a Stalinist-free march. What did you want me to give you?

            Great, you found one (1) Stalinist. From this, you draw the conclusion that every single left-wing march in the continent of Europe is irrevocably tainted with Stalinism? And yet, apparently the idea that the Unite The Right rally that seems to have more swastikas than any other kind of flag might be more than a little bit Naziish is somehow ridiculous.

          • kjohn says:

            Well, you asked for a Stalinist-free march. What did you want me to give you?

            A march. I would have thought that was obvious. Not a minute-long video of a subset of marchers and told ‘pick out the stalinists’.

            Great, you found one (1) Stalinist. From this, you draw the conclusion that every single left-wing march in the continent of Europe is irrevocably tainted with Stalinism?

            No. You asked for any “Can you provide any evidence of Stalinists at a left-wing march in Europe” so I did. How much evidence do you need before you stop moving the goalposts and accept that you might be wrong?

            How much time do you demand from me before you accept a basic fact that no european lefist would find even slightly contraversial? A fact that is hardly crucial to the general point.

            Are all STW marchers stalinist sympathisers because they’re going to a march organised by a group with close Stalinist links?

            And yet, apparently the idea that the Unite The Right rally that seems to have more swastikas than any other kind of flag might be more than a little bit Naziish is somehow ridiculous.

            Unite The Right was very Nazi-ish. Its full of Nazis. I never suggested slightly otherwise.

          • rlms says:

            “A march. I would have thought that was obvious. Not a minute-long video of a subset of marchers and told ‘pick out the stalinists’.”
            I’m afraid that I am unable to give you a march. The only things I can communicate via the medium of the internet are text, images, video and audio (not physical objects like marches), and even if I knew your location I’m not sure if I could be bothered to organise a march at it. I assumed you were aware that that was the situation, and thus were asking for some sort of evidence of the internet-conveyable kind I listed above. Apparently I was mistaken.

            “No. You asked for any “Can you provide any evidence of Stalinists at a left-wing march in Europe” so I did. How much evidence do you need before you stop moving the goalposts and accept that you might be wrong?”
            Well, technically I don’t think you’ve actually provided any evidence, since for all I know Kamal Majid may never have gone to a march himself. But let’s ignore that, and grant that you have given the evidence I asked for. That does indeed show that not all marchers are non-Stalinists. I never disputed this fact (I just doubted, happily incorrectly, whether you had any basis for believing it). But that was not your original claim. You said that you would be “hard-pressed” to find a a march without Stalinists. To justify that, you don’t just need to show that there was a Stalinist at one march. You need to show that there are Stalinists at the vast majority of marches! The fact that you seem to have confused these things rather indicates that if any moving of the goalposts is occurring, it is on your part.

            “Unite The Right was very Nazi-ish. Its full of Nazis. I never suggested slightly otherwise.”
            This is peculiar! Do you mean to say that it was in fact a (neo)-Nazi dominated march? You have spent a lot of time pushing the argument that going to a march with some Nazis (but, crucially, by your statement that “Allow [sic] them to bolster *your* march’s numbers does not require sympathy.”, one that is still dominated by non-Nazis) does not a Nazi sympathiser make. Perhaps this is true! I would say it depends entirely on the number of Nazis, whether you are aware of their presence, and the general character of the march. But according to your most recent statement, the Unite The Right rally (the march under discussion) *was* dominated by Nazis! This doesn’t make your argument wrong, but it does make it irrelevant to the Charlottesville protests. I advise that the next time you want to discuss a hypothetical situation that differs slightly but crucially from the thing other people were just talking about, you mention that explicitly. Otherwise people will get confused.

          • kjohn says:

            I’m afraid that I am unable to give you a march. The only things I can communicate via the medium of the internet are text, images, video and audio (not physical objects like marches), and even if I knew your location I’m not sure if I could be bothered to organise a march at it. I assumed you were aware that that was the situation, and thus were asking for some sort of evidence of the internet-conveyable kind I listed above. Apparently I was mistaken.

            The phrasing I used was ‘ Can you name a left-wing march that didn’t involve open Stalinists?’ it was you who introduced the phrasing ‘Well, you asked for a Stalinist-free march.’

            If you are saying that your interpretation of ‘asking for a […] march’ is asking for the physical thing then you are simply lyng about the things that you are saying that I am asking for.

            You need to show that there are Stalinists at the vast majority of marches!

            Perhaps by asking you to name a single march free of Stalinists? A challenge you were unable to meet.

            I advise that the next time you want to discuss a hypothetical situation that differs slightly but crucially from the thing other people were just talking about, you mention that explicitly. Otherwise people will get confused.

            The principal that you are defending is that ‘If you’re okay marching with nazis, as those at Charlottesville apparently were, doesn’t that literally make you a nazi sympathizer?’ the ‘if’ itself is naturally hypothetical.

            Even if I had the view that everyone at the Charlottesville was a sympathetic to Nazis, Urstoff would still be wrong. It is being sympathetic to Nazis that makes one a literal Nazi sympathisor not who one chooses to march with.

          • rlms says:

            You want me to name a Stalinist free march? I mean you could just click the link I posted and read, but if that’s too much effort it was the Women’s March in London in January 2017.

            “The principal that you are defending is that ‘If you’re okay marching with nazis, as those at Charlottesville apparently were, doesn’t that literally make you a nazi sympathizer?’ the ‘if’ itself is naturally hypothetical.

            Even if I had the view that everyone at the Charlottesville was a sympathetic to Nazis, Urstoff would still be wrong. It is being sympathetic to Nazis that makes one a literal Nazi sympathisor not who one chooses to march with.”

            I don’t see how this in any way responds to what I said. My assertions are the following: you wrote an argument that was applicable only to non-Nazi-dominated marches; the Unite The Right rally was Nazi-dominated; putting forward an argument that looks like it’s about the recent events everyone else is discussing but is actually about subtly different events is silly. Which, if any, of those do you disagree with?

          • Urstoff says:

            It is being sympathetic to Nazis that makes one a literal Nazi sympathisor not who one chooses to march with.

            And voluntarily marching with nazis at an event co-organized by nazis seems like pretty good evidence that such a person is sympathetic to nazis.

          • kjohn says:

            You want me to name a Stalinist free march? I mean you could just click the link I posted and read, but if that’s too much effort it was the Women’s March in London in January 2017.

            The point was to satisfy you. You would not be satisfied by me demonstrating that members of stalnist groups were at that march. you wanted me to point out people on the video who were Stalinistst.

            It takes effort to find a list of the groups at a march, to go through the list checking if a Stalinist front, double-checking that; all just to confirm conventional wisdom. I’m not gong to do that for no reason, if there’s not the possibility of it moving the discourse forward.

            I don’t see how this in any way responds to what I said. My assertions are the following: you wrote an argument that was applicable only to non-Nazi-dominated marches; the Unite The Right rally was Nazi-dominated; putting forward an argument that looks like it’s about the recent events everyone else is discussing but is actually about subtly different events is silly. Which, if any, of those do you disagree with?

            How did it look like it was about the event. Because it was about ‘macing with nazis’, I think you will find that most direct arguments about whether marching with nazis is the literal definition of being a nazi sympathiser will involve arguments that include references to marching with nazis.

            However, it being very Nazi-ish and full of nazis dosn’t change the fact that I – and I think a large porporton of the media – would call it a white supremacist march. And the fact that the white supremacists were happy for the nazis to come is not logical/mathematical/tautological/a priori/whatever proof that the white supremacists were ‘nazi sympathizer’s as Urstoff states.

            Not any more than Churchll must have been a communist sympathiser because of their common Nazi enemy.

          • kjohn says:

            And voluntarily marching with nazis at an event co-organized by nazis seems like pretty good evidence that such a person is sympathetic to nazis.

            You’re making a different claim here. And ‘good’ is ambigious.

            It would be odd if the (non-Nazi) marchers were not more likely to be sympathetic to the nazis than non-marchers. And certainly if the average person who was turned off by the presense of the nazis was more likely to be a nazi sympasysor that would be odd (although perhaps those who are willing to march alongside nazis are true believers in the actual cause without time to think of Nazis whereas the going-outs are concerned with optics thinking that, despite their sympathies, the nazis are a bad look).

            Stlll, I think the number of people who are sympathetic to nazis is very small. The number of people who beleive in someting that they’ll ignore ‘but – but nazis’ is far larger. The number who will ignore actual literal nazis is smaller, but still far larger than the first group.

            The counter-protest was organised by a violent paramilitary group. Was everyone at the counter-protest a paramilitary-sympaphiser?

            Prominent members of BLM famously celebrate a cop-killer. Is anyone who goes to a BLM rally really a Chesimard-sympaphisor?

          • Matt M says:

            Stlll, I think the number of people who are sympathetic to nazis is very small. The number of people who beleive in someting that they’ll ignore ‘but – but nazis’ is far larger.

            Keep in mind that the entire point of this rally was basically, “all right wingers need to band together in order for us to have a chance against the left – let’s put our internal disagreements aside and unite against our common enemy”

            Assuming you believe that is an accurate statement or a good strategy, it necessitates being willing to stand and march with Nazis. Presumably, it would also mean being willing to stand and march with John Kasich or some RINO wimp. I’m assuming if John Kasich showed up and wanted to march, they wouldn’t have turned him away!

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            For once, I agree. Conservatives have a choice — collaborate with fascists or not. History is watching you.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Buddy, dudes running around with swastikas, throwing the Hitler salute, chanting about Jews, being concerned about racial supremacy, killing people are fascists.

          • kjohn says:

            Sure. But those guys are also Nazis and that’s a much scarier word.

          • skef says:

            I believe the alt-right position is something like “white males are oppressed because the overwhelming majority of us allow ourselves to be oppressed, and many of us outright join in with the oppressors hoping for favorable treatment – but if even a small amount of us stood up and actually fought for our rights we could stomp all the minorities, women, homosexuals, jews, and democrats into the ground due to our natural superiority”

            Presumably, it would also mean being willing to stand and march with John Kasich or some RINO wimp. I’m assuming if John Kasich showed up and wanted to march, they wouldn’t have turned him away!

            So cucks are part of the problem and part of the solution?

          • random832 says:

            seems to have more swastikas than any other kind of flag

            There was at least one kind of flag that I saw more of in the pictures that I saw.

        • Alt-right and actual nazi have non-trivial overlap. Although distinctions have traditionally existed between prison-Nazis and frog-Nazis.

          Alt-liters, who are less popular and a way bigger cohort than alt-righters (generally defined as /r/donald type people) are very distinct from nazis. This is a group with guys like Gavin M. and Lauren Southern, who embrace a softer western identity politics, but won’t say and probably don’t even believe in actual Racism (with a capital R). e.g. Gavin M. wouldn’t let his crew go to this rally.

          Probably the best way to classify alt-lite vs. alt-right is “What’s up with Jews?”

          I really don’t want the alt-liters to be radicalized.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Heh. I guess for folks with the epistemic hygiene of /r/the_Donald, what force is exactly stopping them from answering the “What’s up with Jews?” question in any particular way?

            Nothing, as far as I can tell. I mean what, they are going to say all this other awful stuff online, but suddenly stop here? Why would they?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      The big picture here is that, during the 2016 election, violent disruption of Trump rallies was successfully used to justify shutting them down. It was the classic heckler’s veto: if antifa or BLM threatens to show up and break heads at a right wing event, the city or campus authorities have an excuse to prevent it from happening. The media played along by talking about ‘violence at Trump rallies’ in the passive voice, implying that the victims were attackers.

      I would naturally rather that the police did their jobs or that organizers hired private security companies. Skinheads are unreliable (as we just witnessed) and using them as footsoldiers has bad optics. But it’s not obviously worse than passively accepting a beating any time someone with an R next to their name holds a speech.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I would naturally rather that the police did their jobs or that organizers hired private security companies.

        Trump did hire security for some events. The media complained about the protestors being manhandled as they were ejected from the events. Nothing short of yielding to the heckler’s veto will satisfy them.

        • Matt M says:

          To a certain extent, right-wing street brawlers are private security for right-wing speeches. So far, most of these nationally known brawls have been right-wing attempts to have people speak. Knowing that the police will not protect them, they bring their own protection.

          If the left would simply allow the likes of Milo, Lauren Southern, and Richard Spencer to speak in public, the right wouldn’t need to show up with mace and riot shields.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Surely this is a false dichotomy? Instead of bringing in the skinheads, why not just do stuff like this: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-uc-berkeley-chancellor-20170815-story.html

        (Incidentally, from a purely political point of view, passively accepting a beating is obviously better than using skinheads as foot soldiers. Remember, during the Civil Rights movement, the guys who got cleared away with fire hoses and murdered by good ol’ boys are the side that won.)

        • Wrong Species says:

          >(Incidentally, from a purely political point of view, passively accepting a beating is obviously better than using skinheads as foot soldiers. Remember, during the Civil Rights movement, the guys who got cleared away with fire hoses and murdered by good ol’ boys are the side that won.)

          They won because people sympathized with them. No matter how peaceful neo-nazis are, they aren’t going to win by just taking a beating because very few people are willing to defend them. Look at what happened to the enemies of the Nazi’s.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Additionally, fascism – and perhaps authoritarian ideologies in general – are really big on strength. Just from a practical standpoint, a movement that focuses on strength as a virtue is not going to accomplish anything getting beaten up. They will adopt martyrs, but ideologies focusing on strength and force don’t coincide with nonviolent resistance.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, the alt-right would definitely rather go down fighting than win via pity and sympathy

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            I agree that fascists can’t take the MLK approach for both practical and ideological reasons, but I’ve been informed that the alt-right are mostly not fascists.

            I mean, MLK was tarred as a communist, in a context where communists were hated as much as fascists are today. He didn’t say “well crap, guess we’d better call in the Red Guards”.

          • Nornagest says:

            One of the big things holding the alt-right together, even the most benign parts of it, is a general rejection of victimhood politics. This is not the same thing as the “politics of strength” that fascists are into — I don’t think aitch-bee-dee fans are into it because it makes them feel strong, for example — but it does rule out MLK-style civil disobedience.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            @Nornagest: I don’t think this would be victimhood politics in the relevant sense. Victimhood politics goes rotten when it becomes part of a group identity and the actual injustice gets more and more hazy and abstract. Non-violent resistance doesn’t do that, it just dares the system to act unjustly in the light of day.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Some people tarred MLKJ as a communist. But there was enough support among those in power to outlaw racial segregation. Can you imagine the government passing any kind of neo-nazi law today? Trump and some of his staff may have alt-right sympathies but that’s a strong difference from what these protestors want. And even if he did try something, he still has to deal with Congress. There isn’t even enough support from the federal government to build a wall, let alone promote some kind of white nationalist state.

            As far as the distinction between the alt-right and neo-nazis, I think they are conflated much more than civil rights protestors and communists ever were. Yes, people did call MLKJ a communist but people weren’t afraid to support him like today’s right-wing politician would be in supporting the alt-right.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I agree that fascists can’t take the MLK approach for both practical and ideological reasons, but I’ve been informed that the alt-right are mostly not fascists.

            Which alt-right? The groups at the rally would mostly be reasonably called fascists. The killer was even part of an organization which used crossed fasces as their symbol.

            The wider definition of the alt-right, which includes fascists plus everyone from Milo to the ants to anyone else the tar will stick to… mostly not fascists. But as far as the media are concerned we might as well be.

          • Brad says:

            @Nornagest

            One of the big things holding the alt-right together, even the most benign parts of it, is a general rejection of victimhood politics.

            Maybe I’m misunderstanding who the alt-right includes, but there’s plenty of people out there saying that some group of straight white men are the real winners of the oppression olympics. Not to put too fine a point on it, but they are well represented here.

            Aren’t they alt right? Or is that alt light now? Or? TBH I’m a bit confused.

          • Nornagest says:

            there’s plenty of people out there saying that some group of straight white men are the real winners of the oppression olympics

            I think this shows some misunderstanding of their motives. Certainly there are people on the right, some of them white, straight, and/or male, that think they’ve been done wrong by the government or media or some other aspect of The System. But they wouldn’t think of this as oppression, viz. construction of a class relationship with them as the underclass; they think of it as being hurt by specific people and under specific policies. Compare how the left and the right talk about their boogeymen: the left treats people like the Kochs as sort of avatars of the oppressor class, distinguished only in that their misdeeds (often exaggerated or invented) have come to light, while the right talks about specific stuff (often exaggerated or invented) that George Soros or Hillary Clinton are supposed to have done.

            There are a few exceptions — old-school MRAs (unlike redpill types, PUAs, and the rest of what used to be called the manosphere) are basically running regular gender politics with the valences switched around, for example. But they’re pretty uncommon and I’m not sure I’d call them rightist. Definitely not alt-right.

            The last time I saw victimhood politics having any prominence on the right, it was in the context of evangelical Christians and their alleged mistreatment under secular society. But that’s been a dead letter since about Obama’s first term, despite the zombie croaking we hear every holiday season.

          • Matt M says:

            Maybe I’m misunderstanding who the alt-right includes, but there’s plenty of people out there saying that some group of straight white men are the real winners of the oppression olympics. Not to put too fine a point on it, but they are well represented here.

            I think there’s a little bit of nuance here that you’re missing. I believe the alt-right position is something like “white males are oppressed because the overwhelming majority of us allow ourselves to be oppressed, and many of us outright join in with the oppressors hoping for favorable treatment – but if even a small amount of us stood up and actually fought for our rights we could stomp all the minorities, women, homosexuals, jews, and democrats into the ground due to our natural superiority”

          • Brad says:

            @Nornagest

            I think this shows some misunderstanding of their motives. Certainly there are people on the right, some of them white, straight, and/or male, that think they’ve been done wrong by the government or media or some other aspect of The System. But they wouldn’t think of this as oppression, viz. construction of a class relationship with them as the underclass; they think of it as being hurt by specific people and under specific policies. Compare how the left and the right talk about their boogeymen: the left treats people like the Kochs as sort of avatars of the oppressor class, distinguished only in that their misdeeds (often exaggerated or invented) have come to light, while the right talks about specific stuff (often exaggerated or invented) that George Soros or Hillary Clinton are supposed to have done.

            I guess I don’t see that. Yes, there are complaints about Soros or Clinton but there are far far more complaints about The Left, SJWs, The Media, or even just plain old ‘They’.

            What is so conceptually different between those and the 1% or the patriarchy?

          • Nornagest says:

            Those are outgroups, not oppressors. Everyone has outgroups, an oppressor is something more specific (see above re: class relationships).

          • J Mann says:

            Well, our hypothetical white nationalists who are smart enough to use non-violent resistance are probably also smart enough to reject anyone who shows up with the Nazi or Confederate flags. (There was a West coast guy who went on a teror rampage recently – a few weeks before that, he was kicked out of a free speech march for showing up with a swastika cape).

          • Brad says:

            white males are oppressed because the overwhelming majority of us allow ourselves to be oppressed, and many of us outright join in with the oppressors hoping for favorable treatment – but if even a small amount of us stood up and actually fought for our rights we could stomp all the minorities, women, homosexuals, jews, and democrats into the ground due to our natural superiority

            That sounds an awful lot like “if they could only break out of their false consciousness and unite, the proletariat could easily overthrow the decadent bourgeoisie an establish a workers’ paradise.” Even a lot of overlap with the boogiemen.

            If the point is supposed to be that they don’t use the vocabulary of the university crits, then I guess sure. But that doesn’t seem particularly essential to anything.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          If UC Berkeley holds to that policy and doesn’t use it as an excuse to prevent the invitation of alt-right speakers I’ll revise my opinion. The bit about billing hosting organizations for security seems like a good way to maintain a de facto ban.

          As for passive resistance, I’m not really seeing how that’s supposed to work without a sympathetic media. The press has if anything been complicit in these attacks. So it doesn’t seem like a viable strategy.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            Agreed that one shouldn’t count chickens before they hatch.

            I think I’m more sanguine about the media than you are. It’s 2017, the internet exists, Fox is the most popular news network, WSJ is a close second in print media, and if those aren’t right enough for you there’s Breitbart. Hell, the Muslim Brotherhood was able to pull off the “get publicly repressed until the public takes your side” strategy in Egypt, an actual, non-metaphorical police state.

    • The Nybbler says:

      At the “core beliefs” level, neo-Nazis are scum. I don’t know what the antifa’s core beliefs are; mostly they seem to be in it just to brawl (which probably could be said about a lot of the neo-Nazis as well). But that level is the least important at this point.

      The antifa are the ones who have and act on the meta-level belief that anyone whose beliefs are unacceptable to them must be silenced, if necessary through violence. That’s practically their raison d’etre. The neo-Nazis probably believe the same thing, but they aren’t yet acting on it. And there’s no need to hypothesize the slippery slope; the antifa have already slipped down it, causing violence at Milo events and attacking the Berkeley Trump supporters for instance. That makes the antifa the greater threat at the moment.

      Richard Spencer certainly isn’t my ally; make him dictator of the world and he has me killed. But the people who attack him — here in the real world, they’re more likely to attack _me_ just for going to see the wrong speaker. Yesterday Milo, maybe tomorrow James Damore.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Do you know of any essay-length pro-antifa stuff written by antifa people? I’m almost sure that they would resist this characterization of their meta-level beliefs, but I’m also not sure what exactly they would say.

        • gbdub says:

          Their meta level belief seems to be that “fascist/Nazi beliefs (for a very broad definition of same) are equivalent to violence, because they promote violence against oppressed groups. Therefore, physical violence against them is not only morally justified but necessary”.

          • MrApophenia says:

            It’s basically the logical extension of the end bit of “Against Murderism”:

            “Using violence to enforce conformity to social norms has always been the historical response. We invented liberalism to try to avoid having to do that, but you can’t liberalism with people who refuse reason and are motivated by hatred. If you give the franchise to green pointy-fanged monsters, they’re just going to vote for the “Barbecue And Eat All Humans” party. If such people existed and made up a substantial portion of the population, liberalism becomes impossible, and we should go back to just using violence to enforce our will on the people who disagree with us. Assuming they don’t cooperate with our strategy of violently suppressing them, that means civil war.”

            The conclusion he drew from this is that we should thus try really hard to believe there are no actual murderists. But this becomes much more difficult when the green pointy-fanged monsters start holding open murderist rallies.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            If such people existed and made up a substantial portion of the population

            Before you finalize the catering order for Liberalism’s funeral, I suggest you pay more attention to the emphasized part.

          • MrApophenia says:

            How substantial does it need to be to start getting worried? Presumably not the majority, Hitler didn’t have the majority when he got started out either.

            I’d personally suggest the point for getting worried may be somewhere around “There are enough to get multiple avowed members of the movement into high rank in the White House,” but maybe that’s just me.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            20% or more is when you start getting worried.

            Or are you asking at what point it is ok to point to the historical example of Hitler and say “Liberalism won’t work, we must abandon liberal principles in order to pre-empt worse outcomes”?

          • MrApophenia says:

            I mean, kind of, yeah. At minimum that is the antifa position. If it isn’t worth trying to engage in liberal democracy with people who actually are motivated by hate (to quote again from above), what’s the reasoned argument against taking action against the Nazis?

            (I am personally pretty ambivalent about punching Nazis, and strongly against punching random campus speakers you don’t like, but the question above was how you could argue the antifa position.)

          • Mark says:

            I’m not sure that the rise of Hitler could have been prevented by more leftist violence.

            If you’re going to use violence to enforce your will, you have to be either in a fairly strong majority, in which case the violence required will be small, or the violence you use must be terrible.

            Terrible violence risks losing you support and necessitating yet more violence.

            If I was a leftist, and actually, I am, I would be trying to increase the size of my majority through compromise rather than rushing straight towards the ‘terrible violence’ bit.

            Compromise. Milo Yiannopolis is not a Nazi. Border control isn’t Nazi. Donald Trump is not the most evil man the world has ever seen. These are easy places to start.

            Or we could just go straight into the terrible violence, but, as I said, I’m not sure that is such a great idea.

            In practice, I think there is a majority of people who find “Nazi-punching” abhorrent, and therefore they should be the ones using violence to impose their will.
            By putting antifa in prison.

          • rlms says:

            @Mark
            I think Hitler was charismatic enough, and the balance of power close enough, that killing him would’ve probably stopped the Nazis getting to power.

          • Matt M says:

            rlms,

            Do you think there’s one specific individual you could kill right now that would stop the spread of nazism in the US?

          • rlms says:

            @Matt M
            No, obviously not (if there was an American Nazi with even 10% of Hitler’s magnetism, considerably more people would’ve turned up to Charlottesville).

    • publiusvarinius says:

      Am I the only one tired of the tribal bullshit?

      No, e.g. I agree with you on all counts. Thanks for writing this down.

  8. skef says:

    I suspect it would be a very revealing exercise if the people who think Damore was “not fired for speaking truth to power, he was fired for mishandling a complex subject in a way that caused harm to his employer” were to offer their own, “well-handled” version. As in “I don’t agree with these points, but here is a respectful way of talking about them.”

    • J Mann says:

      Noteworthy:

      – Anonymous female Googler tells BusinessInsider that:

      “Some people at Google reacted by saying ‘well if he’s so wrong, then why not refute him,’ but that requires spending a significant amount of time building an argument against the claims in his document … I should not be forced into that kind of debate at work.”

      A lot of campus speech restrictions work on this principle too – “It’s exhausting to me to learn of your opinion, and I don’t have the time to debate you, so you should shut up.”

      If being exposed to his opinion is that upsetting, should we look at the culpability of the Googlers who reposted his essay from the sceptics’ board to the general board?

      • Well... says:

        Relevant part of the quote is “I should not be forced into that kind of debate at work.”

        I agree! Of course, being forced into debating is only implicitly necessary if punitive measures are taken against Damore, which they were. Alternatively, he could have been left alone, in which case nobody would have any moral obligation to provide counterarguments.

      • Rosemary7391 says:

        Should not the folks in charge of the diversity programs etc be reasonably aware of (some of) the relevant literature and be able to refute the arguments without a huge time overhead?

        • The Nybbler says:

          They did. “You’re fired!” is a perfectly valid argumentum ad baculum, and takes little time to accomplish.

    • Sam Reuben says:

      Reading the article, I have to say I agree with them. Taking the two commenters in context, the first is just saying: “If you’re going to criticize your employer’s practices, you probably shouldn’t be doing that in an open memo with your name attributed to it. If it’s on a sensitive subject, that just makes things even worse.” This is nothing new. A ton of the people who get onto the whole speak-truth-to-power deal tend to be miserable problems to work with, because they have none of the social tact to handle tough problems gracefully. It’s similar to jumping up the chain of command to complain about something: you’d better be really, really sure about the problem, or else you’re definitely getting fired. Damore didn’t jump slightly up the chain of command; he leaped entirely outside it. Think: if you had an employee who openly criticized your hiring procedure in a ten-page memo, would you keep him or her, no matter what the topic was about? I’d fire them, even if the memo was informative and helpful, because someone like that is going to decrease productivity by being a constant thorn.

      The second person quoted outright said that his views were common, and ought to be openly discussed. She also said that she didn’t want to have an intensive dialogue about gender at work, and can you blame her? Gender dialogue is tough at the best of times, and a nightmare at worst. She’s right to say that people at Google shouldn’t try to force that conversation on her, because her job is what she was hired for. Why should she be forced to do something else?

      I mean, I find Scott’s argument in that recent gender post, that there’s an interest (but not ability) gap between men and women, extremely compelling. There’s good evidence supporting a sane conclusion there, and I think it would help a lot of people to do some real research into it so that it can be developed as a major position. The problem about what Dramore did, outside of the obvious insubordination issue, is that it was set up in the context of an essay about discrimination against certain political views. Dramore felt that people with views like his were being discriminated against, which may or may not be correct (I suspect that it’s true, but closer to the microaggression scale than to any blatant oppression), and then linked that to the women-in-the-workforce policy and differences between men and women. This was rightly interpreted as a step in setting up a superweapon. Women become associated with oppression and inherent differences, which (with further development) can turn into “Women are inherently different and oppress men.” I don’t think I need to explain why that’s a bad thing.

      So, I think I have a pretty good idea of how Dramore could have approached this better. First, he could have focused on the discrimination issue by itself, and talked about how he felt the company was a little single-minded about a bunch of issues, political or other. If he did this tactfully, brought it up with like-minded friends, brought a modest petition up to management, and spread his message to the general company workforce, he would have succeeded in making a more open environment that he could speak freely in. Following this, he could talk with women about the women-in-tech issue, listen to their experiences, draft up a much more complete theory about the whole issue, and present it as a joint effort between different members of the company to figure out what’s going on at Google and to make sure everyone is welcome there. The thesis might look something like, “evidence suggests that a lower percentage of women are interested in working in tech, despite having equal competence to male employees, and we as a workforce want to figure out how best to ensure that they will have good working conditions despite being a minority.” Heck, you could even work in the wage-argument about lower assertiveness, and turn it into a resolution to standardize wages so that no unassertive employee can be taken advantage of. This kind of approach takes great pains to avoid constructing a superweapon, and as such, would stand a much better chance of success. It just takes a lot longer.

      There’s a lot of interesting gender work that goes on at this blog, and a lot of helpful intellectual tools get developed as well. I just think we’d be wisest to train them on ourselves, from time to time. I think the entire pushback against Damore can be summed up as a combination of the principles of simple authoritative coordination and superweapons. Those are arguments that I think we’ve been comfortable with in the past, and I see no reason to reject them here.

      • skef says:

        “evidence suggests that a lower percentage of women are interested in working in tech, despite having equal competence to male employees, and we as a workforce want to figure out how best to ensure that they will have good working conditions despite being a minority.”

        A good deal of the write-up was about hiring practices. Can I take it from your description that he would have to avoid approaching that question entirely?

        • Sam Reuben says:

          Basically, yes. An issue with hiring practices isn’t something you can ever push without the majority of the company at your back, along with other strategic choices. In no regimented group ever is a grunt allowed to question or criticize strategy openly across the group, barring through specifically permitted avenues. If that kind of questioning/criticism is allowed, it quickly spirals out of control, with everyone trying to play backseat strategist without the kind of view that the actual strategists have. Think about how much people criticize those in power in any democracy, and then imagine if you had that kind of constant criticism coming from those who are supposed to be working. It’s just not a good thing.

          If the topic had been, say, relative weighting of different college names in the hiring process, or something as non-inflammatory as that, Damore would likely have just gotten a sharp rebuke from his management. Since it was also a hot-button issue, and something that Google was being sued for at the time,* they fired him immediately.

          I take it that not too many people here have tried to lead teams of, shall we say, “independent-minded” composition. Anyone who thinks they know better than the boss, especially so much so as to write an open memo about it, is far more trouble than they’re worth. I’ve been the “independent-minded” person before, and boy howdy, do I now realize what a nightmare that can be.

          *Sued for paying women less for working the same jobs. They obviously didn’t want to risk controversy that could lose them the case.

          • skef says:

            I don’t disagree, but what this means is that he would still be fired for raising a “complex subject”, however he “handled” it.

    • Brad says:

      I don’t see how he could have made all the points he made in the essay and not get fired. Maybe if he wrote so incoherently that it never went internally viral, but that’s kind of cheating the hypo.

      On the other hand there are large subsets which could have been carved off into their own essays and gotten a different a result.

  9. HFARationalist says:

    Woo, Morality and the Dark Tribe.

    Warning: This post includes really disturbing hypothetical ideologies.

    In this LW memetic blind spots have been discussed. I personally believe that social consensus generally belong to the category of woo because it varies from society to society and is generally not factually true. I personally strive to remove all such woo for the purpose of rationality.

    However recently I began to find out why societies need woo. Of course leaders and advertisers can benefit from ignorance of the masses. However even a society with no demagogues still need woo. One reason is that it indoctrinate people with some form of ethics and prevent them from becoming sociopaths and harming the society.

    “Moral education” is an oxymoron because discussing non-facts should not lead to everyone supporting a particular version of it. If conformism to non-truths is a goal then what takes place is indoctrination instead of education. Of course moral indoctrination has to happen along with real education so that the educated does not realize that they are being indoctrinated. There is a reason why humans tend to confuse the morally just and the factually correct. This particular woo in fact protect morality-related memes from being discarded and lower the number of sociopaths.

    For example Social Justice can be seen as a form of secular post-Christianity. There is actually a reason why both the Blue Tribe and the Red Tribe reduce the amount of evil. Regardless of what moral values they have it is clear that neither tribe is morally nihilist. They both contain irrational woo. However such woo prevents people from joining the Dark Tribe.

    What is the Dark Tribe? I’m talking about real sadism and sociopathy. The SS in particular was basically amoral. In one of their anthems they openly sang a devil’s song and claimed that they couldn’t care less about the world. The modern Brown Tribe also contains an amoral faction hence we can claim that the Brown Tribe and the Dark Tribe overlaps.

    Dark Tribe ideologies are devoid of any form of morality and hence can be really dangerous. Those whose cognition is blinded by misapplication of morality tend to be unable to understand dangerous Dark Tribe ideologies. One hypothetical example I talked about is Exterminationist Selfism. Exterminationist Selfism is an ideology that for a sentient being to preserve oneself it should be completely self-sufficient and exterminate all other sentient beings. Among humans pure Exterminationist Selfism is hypothetical because it is impossible to realize. Exterminationist Selfism applied to groups is basically Exterminationist Tribalism which includes real Nazism in the late Third Reich. Using the concept of Exterminationist Selfism it is easy to understand the true motives of the Holocaust. The real goal of the Third Reich was to Germanize the planet. The greatest sin of Jews according to Nazism is that they are somehow un-Germanizable. Every non-German has to Germanize or disappear for the planet to be German. Hence Jews had to be exterminated. In this sense Nazism isn’t more advanced than head-hunting. Nazism was a product of rationality with no ethics instead of some distorted variants of morality hence it is not just Brown but also Dark.

    The Dark Tribe is truly dangerous. We need to promote reason and ethics. However ethics should not be used to blind cognition. It is beneficial for the morally just to be able to think about evil Dark Tribe ideologies without using them.

    • There’s a bunch of stuff about the need for myth in Yuval Harari’s Sapiens.

      There is a reason why humans tend to confuse the morally just and the factually correct.

      which is that they are both “what my tribe believes”.

      • HFARationalist says:

        LOL I see. Stupid tribes need to get lost though.

        I’m going to buy Yuval Harari’s book. It sounds interesting.

    • roystgnr says:

      For terminal values, “moral education” may be theoretically impossible, yes. But do you know your terminal values, precisely? I don’t think I do; attempting to determine them would be best described as moral education. Even holding terminal values fixed, though, figuring out what instrumental values are most consistent with them would count as “moral education”, I think.

      • HFARationalist says:

        I agree. However the common “moral education” practiced anywhere on this planet is really moral indoctrination. The Blue Tribe isn’t innocent in this respect either.

    • andrewflicker says:

      I think you’re ignoring the role in genetics / brain structure in explaining sociopathy. I think societies or subcultures can certainly encourage or discourage sociopathic behavior, but my understanding of the current science is that sociopaths are largely *born*, not made.

      • HFARationalist says:

        I thought that only psychopathy is born but sociopathy is not. I was wrong.

        • Nornagest says:

          There is not really a rigorous distinction between the two. Both terms come out of the same tradition of research and they’re probably gesturing towards roughly the same psychology, even if they draw their lines somewhat differently.

  10. Iain says:

    A while ago, somebody posted a link to the “Forensicator” analysis that claimed to show that the DNC hack must have happened from within, based on the timestamps on the files and the speed of a network connection. At the time I pointed out that the pattern was also consistent with an attacker creating one big zip file on the targeted machine, and exfiltrating that. Here’s Matt Tait, who has a lot more credibility than I do on the issue, making the same point, and going on to point out that the DNC server had APT28 malware on it, configured to use APT28 command and control servers.

    • hls2003 says:

      This is an issue where I have zero ability to understand the technical analyses. I did see the Nation story about the VIPS report challenging the CrowdStrike analysis. I guess my question is, is there any conceivable way that a non-tech-savvy layman with no computer knowledge can even begin to assess the likelihood of these two alternatives? Is there any down-the-middle-just-the-facts source that you know of which summarizes the arguments well enough for a layman to understand what’s allegedly going on? Or is it, for non-specialized-tech people, purely a question of finding a trusted source?

      • Brad says:

        I looked into a little bit and while there are some recipes out there that purportedly show how you can ‘prove it yourself’, I came away unconvinced that I could make heads or tails of the arguments. If I wanted to form a solid opinion based on the primary sources, I’d end up needing to teach myself digital forensics, and frankly I don’t have nearly enough interest in the underlying question.

        FWIW I’m a programmer and moderately familiar with windows, linux, and networking.

      • Iain says:

        Hmm. Hard question.

        Finding a good trusted source is important. I suggest looking for people who are active in the security scene, Matt Tait being one good example. Really, it’s the same approach you’d use for any technical area. Mainstream practitioners are more likely to be right than iconoclasts, or people who seem to have a specific axe to grind. A complete case is more compelling than a mere pile of evidence. Look at Tait’s explanation of how the Podesta hack is connected to the Russians, which shows a clear chain of evidence linking the attack to other attacks on targets of interest to Russia. Compare it to the Forensicator account. There are a lot of claims, but no clear explanation of how they fit together. (The other link from our last discussion is even worse.) If somebody can’t put together a clear explanation of the logic of the argument, it’s possible that they’re just bad writers, but — especially in politically charged issues like these — it’s quite likely that they’re trying to overwhelm you with chaff.

  11. Andy says:

    Is anyone else concerned that future advancements in natural language processing / stylography will allow programs to effectively doxx the Internet?

    • kjohn says:

      I think technology to hide those clues would also be invented, so people could still be getting anonymity if they want it.

      That wouldn’t help the pre-existing stuff, but I think that’d be dismissed as yesterday’s news.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      I’m seriously curious on how easy it would be to doxx people this way given the sheer number of people posting things on the net.

      There are various languages, various idioms, various topics, and various communication outputs, but there are absolute limits on the variety of these things. This is effectively a more complex version of the birthday problem.

      Outside of famous people, those in topically unique circumstances, or people who consistently divulge their identity already, I think this will be an intractable problem for the majority.

  12. MrApophenia says:

    So, uh, now that Trump just called a bunch of white supremacists very fine people and went so far in the direction of equivocating over whether Nazis are actually bad that even Fox News anchors were openly calling him disgusting on the air, I’m kind of curious whether Scott might revise his opinion that, “There is no evidence that Donald Trump is more racist than any past Republican candidate (or any other 70 year old white guy, for that matter). All this stuff about how he’s “the candidate of the KKK” and “the vanguard of a new white supremacist movement” is made up.”

    • AnonYEmous says:

      Well actually he said “some of them were white supremacists but some were very fine people”

      I mean, he was almost certainly wrong. In fact, having just watched the press conference, he seems to believe there was a general “confederate statue protest”, and there doesn’t seem to have been one at all – the protest was part of “unite the right”. But it doesn’t seem like he did this, or at any point equivocated over whether Nazis are actually bad.

      And Fox News anchors are not nearly as hardcore right as you’d think. Especially since they’re for views first and foremost.

      • INH5 says:

        Yeah, I’m leaning towards putting this one down under “stupid” rather than “evil.” Still, you have to conclude that he either watched videos of the protesters marching down the street chanting “Jews will not replace us” and thought “I bet there are some very fine people among that group,” or that he never bothered to watch any videos or even have a staff member watch some videos. Neither scenario speaks well of his qualifications to be Chief of State of the world’s sole superpower.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          It occurs to me that even if they were chanting “You will not replace us” (there’s some question on the matter) it’s presumably very anti-poc.

          • Rob K says:

            This isn’t the most relevant, but I’d been assuming that “Jews will not replace us” was a mishearing until watching a few seconds of the Vice report on the rally; it’s unambiguously audible during the march footage in the first half minute.

          • Al_P says:

            How is the insistence on not replacing the traditional White majority of the US anti-PoC? Would Israeli Jews opposing the demographic replacement of Jews in Israel be anti-non Jew?

            Moreover, if Jews are involved disproportionately in that replacement process, is “Jews will not replace us” a perfectly consistent thing for these people to say? (FWIW, it sounds like the crowd were chanting “you will not replace us,” and then some in the crowd shouted “Jews will not replace us.”)

            *edit* I meant to also point out that no one seems to have a problem with explicitly mentioning white behavior in general when it relates to Whites benefitting as a group from oppression of Blacks. Slogans such as ‘White silence is white complicity,’ ‘Whites must interrogate their own privilege,’ etc., come to mind. If Whites benefitting from white privilege means that it is fair to address whites as a group, would it not be consistent for people to address Jews as a group *if* Jews indeed benefit as a group from replacing Whites? (Personally, I don’t think either group benefits from either thing, but I don’t engage in identity politics, I just think that if some groups can do it, then all can and should if they want to survive).

            I’m not a white nationalist, but immigration and demographic policies that preserve the White majority in the US, and therefore the character of American culture and civic life, are well within the range of legitimate policies that we could choose to implement as a democratic society. Moreover, immigration policies which eliminate the traditional demographic makeup of the United States, and as a result the character of its society and culture, is also a perfectly legitimate thing to advocate, though it should not be instituted unless it has the informed approval of the population (and should not have been in 1965).

            White nationalists who do not favor elimination or expulsion of America’s traditional minorities who accept American values and the Constitution, or even just race-conscious civic nationalists, as well as multiracialists and multiculturalists have views that are not at all beyond the pale, and these issues should be discussed openly and politely.

            Trump is right to praise those on both sides who want their voices to be heard so that Americans can be informed of the type of future they’ll be leaving for their children and grandchildren.

          • The Nybbler says:

            How is the insistence on not replacing the traditional White majority of the US anti-PoC?

            Well, the only ways to do it would seem to involve discriminating against non-whites, so it seems pretty anti-PoC to me.

            Moreover, if Jews are involved disproportionately in that replacement process, is “Jews will not replace us” a perfectly consistent thing for these people to say?

            As the Spartans said, “If”. I mean, if you’re upset about Kiryas Joel, NY or Lakewood, NJ it would be consistent (though still obviously anti-Jewish). But for the country as a whole it just looks like anti-Semetic scapegoating.

            Trump is right to praise those on both sides who want their voices to be heard so that Americans can be informed of the type of future they’ll be leaving for their children and grandchildren.

            Seems I’ve heard something like that before. Something about securing the existence of our people….

          • Al_P says:

            “Well, the only ways to do it would seem to involve discriminating against non-whites, so it seems pretty anti-PoC to me.”

            How would it discriminate against non-White Americans to change immigration policies to not replace Whites, unless you consider the US not having complete, 100% open borders to be discrimination?

            “But for the country as a whole it just looks like anti-Semetic scapegoating”
            I’m perfectly willing to accept that argument as sincere, as long as you are willing to condemn any collective statement that ascribes responsibility to any group for discrimination that they are perceived to benefit from. I personally wouldn’t say, “Jews will not replace us,” if I were a white nationalist, but I would honestly state that it does seem Jews are involved in the process disproportionate to their percentage of the population if the topic came up.

            “Seems I’ve heard something like that before. Something about securing the existence of our people….”
            You can compare it to the 14 words, but that doesn’t really dismiss the question.

            If the Japanese government replaced the population of Japan with sub-Saharan Africans to the point that the next generation of Japan was only 50% Japanese (which could be done with minimal effects on African population growth), the country that the next two generations of Japanese would grow up in would be extremely different. Do you disagree with this?

            If future generations of Israelis would benefit from making Israel predominately African and Arab, then by all means, make that case, but it doesn’t seem realistic to just dismiss the idea that it will affect the future because some thug said words to a similar effect a few decades ago.

    • The Nybbler says:

      You:

      So, uh, now that Trump just called a bunch of white supremacists very fine people

      Trump:

      Excuse me, they didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis, and you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

      You know what? It’s fine, you’re changing history, you’re changing culture, and you had people – and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally – but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats – you had a lot of bad people in the other group too.

      So, he’s explicitly NOT calling the neo-Nazis fine people. He’s saying there were fine people among the counterdemonstrators, and that there were fine people among the demonstrators who were not neo-Nazis nor white nationalists. Now I have my doubts whether this latter group actually existed. But he’s not calling white supremacists very fine people, nor is he at all equivocating over whether Nazis are actually bad.

      Conclusion: “WOLF! WOLF!”

      • MrApophenia says:

        Even in this group, this hypothesized group of very fine people showed up at a protest, saw all the Klansmen and Nazis, and decided to join in and start chanting racist slogans along with them.

        Just calling those nonexistent guys fine people is nuts, and this level of equivocation about a white supremacist rally would not have happened under any other President in our lifetimes, or any of the other Republican candidates in 2016. Compare Ted Cruz’s response to Trump’s.

        Scott’s contention that Trump is not outside the Republican norm is easily disproved by comparing his reactions this week to literally every other Republican who has spoken on the subject.

        (The glowing praise from all the literal Nazis and Klansmen to his remarks is also instructive.)

        • kjohn says:

          You have video of every single person at the ralley singing racist slogans? Or somer trustworthy source to colloborate that every single one was doing racist slogans.

          Considering the protest was shut down an hour before it was to actually start, then I find it hard to beleve that everyone there for the protest can be said to have ben chanting racist slogans.

          • MrApophenia says:

            I don’t need that. Even if some protestors weren’t chanting, they weren’t bothered enough by being in a crowd full of Nazis chanting racist slogans to leave.

            If you join in a protest organized by Nazis, full of Nazis very clearly being Nazis, you don’t get to act shocked and offended when people think you’re a Nazi.

            And also, that is a minor side point. The actual point is the drastic difference in position here between Trump and all the normal Republicans. So far the last 2 Republican Presidential candidates, and several of Trump’s former competitors, have made statements specifically to clarify they don’t share Trump’s stance on this. Trump is not a normal Republican on this issue.

          • kjohn says:

            Did you deliberately limit your examples to losers, or have neither of the Bushes – despite their usual noisiness – not said anything in this issue?

            McCain is brain-damaged (and wasn’t even considered normal beforehand). To hold him up as the representative republican is simply snark.

            It wasn’t organised by an actual Nazi and nor were their reports of them acting like Nazis before people wll have gone to Charlotteville to join in the protest. The protest was then shut down before it started. It is literally impossible for them to have left the protest early or to react to the protest being full of Nazis.

            Plus we’re not talking about objecting to calling them all Nazis. We’re talking about objecting to Trump not calling them all Nazis.

          • Iain says:

            Fun fact! The Bushes jointly released a similar statement:

            America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms. As we pray for Charlottesville, we are reminded of the fundamental truths recorded by that city’s most prominent citizen in the Declaration of Independence: we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights. We know these truths to be everlasting because we have seen the decency and greatness of our country.

            Would you like to move the goalposts any farther?

          • kjohn says:

            I didn’t move the goalposts. What goalposts are you claiming that I moved?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Even in this group, this hypothesized group of very fine people showed up at a protest, saw all the Klansmen and Nazis, and decided to join in and start chanting racist slogans along with them.

          The hypothesized group would not be chanting racist slogans. Claiming they’d be bad just for being there with the Klansmen and Nazis is simply guilt by association, and ALSO means there were no good people on the other side because Antifa was there. This is clearly false. Hypothetical guilt-by-association is no more valid than real guilt-by-association.

          this level of equivocation about a white supremacist rally would not have happened under any other President in our lifetimes, or any of the other Republican candidates in 2016. Compare Ted Cruz’s response to Trump’s.

          And that, to belabor a point, is part of why Trump won. He’s not willing to acquiesce to Antifa shutting people down just because the people they shut down were odious. This is probably largely because there were people going to HIS rallies doing the same thing.

          • gbdub says:

            Post Charlottesville was a bad time to make this speech – this was a legit and obvious facist/neo-Nazi/white supremacist rally, and it was obvious enough about it that silent hangers-on are still outside a reasonable Overton window.

            And I say that as someone who hates Antifa and the normalization / encouragement of street violence that’s coming from their supporters. The trouble is that Antifa doesn’t limit their punching / rioting / bike lock assaulting to actual Nazis, as anyone paying attention to Berkeley is aware.

            We’ve gone around in circles over “who is worse”, but the fact is that Antifa are not nice people and I strongly condemn their tactics. But now their highest profile activity was against actual despicable Nazis, so if my FB feed is any indication they’re getting a total pass because “Anyone who criticizes a Nazi-puncher is a Nazi-sympathizer”.

            I feel like maybe there are a couple steps between “Nazis are bad mmkay” and “let’s all support street violence” that we’re skipping over here? But that’s a point that needs to be made with some nuance that Trump has not shown himself capable of.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The trouble is that Antifa doesn’t limit their punching / rioting / bike lock assaulting to actual Nazis, as anyone paying attention to Berkeley is aware.

            No, that is _not_ the trouble. The trouble is they’re punching, rioting, and bike lock assaulting at all. The main reason for this is that “don’t respond to speech with violence, except Nazis because fuck those guys” is not a Schelling point.

          • Nornagest says:

            @The Nybbler — If no one had died last weekend, or only the cops that went down in an accidental helicopter crash, I’d be right there with you. Street brawlers of any stripe are not a welcome addition to our political process, especially when they’re trying to shut down their opponents’ rights to speech and assembly. Even if those opponents happen to be literal Nazis. I’ve said that before, and I expect to say it again the next time something like Berkeley inevitably happens.

            But I’m not being too loud about it now, and the reason why is that these particular Nazis went beyond speech, assembly, and even regular brawling into murderous action. That is a much bigger deal than fists, pepper spray, bike locks and piss balloons. Morally, it means that the antifa side has the high ground here despite their usual tactics, and politically, it means that the most important thing going forward is to prevent a lasting escalation of violence. Neither moral nor political goals are served by drawing a false equivalence between the sides in this protest.

          • Matt M says:

            But I’m not being too loud about it now, and the reason why is that these particular Nazis went beyond speech and assembly into murderous action.

            You keep referring to “these” nazis in plural, as if more than one of them was responsible for running someone over with a car.

            Would you care to explain this?

          • Nornagest says:

            If you and your friend are robbing a bank, and you’re holding a bag with a big green dollar sign on it while your friend shoots one of the tellers, you may not have pulled the trigger but you’re both going down for murder. Similar principle.

          • Matt M says:

            But nobody was in the car with him. Nobody planned the attack with him. That’s not a good analogy at all.

            It’s more like “If you were standing near the guy an hour before he robbed the bank and happened to agree with him on some stuff, you both go to jail for murder”

            No, that’s not how it works.

          • kjohn says:

            I feel like maybe there are a couple steps between “Nazis are bad mmkay” and “let’s all support street violence” that we’re skipping over here? But that’s a point that needs to be made with some nuance that Trump has not shown himself capable of.

            Even if he is not capable of it. Is not the president standing up against a meda that demands violence to anyone who makes that point going to encourage people wo are capable of making the point to make it.

            Or at least would not the president collapsing to the pressure be discouraging to those capable?

          • Randy M says:

            If you and your friend are robbing a bank, and you’re holding a bag with a big green dollar sign on it while your friend shoots one of the tellers, you may not have pulled the trigger but you’re both going down for murder.

            But if you are at a sporting event, and one of the fans hits a fan of the opposing team on the way out of the parking lot, how much blame does the fandom collectively have?

            The devil is in the details, and it is more relevant here because the ideology of the speakers either makes killing outsiders morally licit, or because their worldview is preached in apocalyptic, us versus them tones that make violence sound allowable. Without an actual death, they can sort of be written off as Larpers who don’t really understand what they are saying; once there’s blood, one has to look closer to see if there is actual incitement or if this is a lone wolf taking actions that are unconnected to the movement (as it would be in the article I was chastised for bringing up up-thread).

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Antifa, as much as they are scum, have managed through some combination of luck and membership control, to stop any of their people from killing another person.

            With the car driver, there isn’t legal complicity like there would be in felony murder, where someone who participates in one of certain specific serious felonies is guilty of murder if one happens during the felony. But when you show up to a fight and someone on Your Side takes things Too Far, you’re going to be on the hook for the social consequences.

            Lots of far-right groups distanced themselves from Charlottesville before it happened because they didn’t want to be associated with neo-Nazis. It’s not that hard.

          • Nornagest says:

            But nobody was in the car with him. Nobody planned the attack with him. That’s not a good analogy at all.

            No, but a bunch of his fellow Nazis did decide, and most likely plan, to get involved in street fights with counter-protesters. Some of whom were looking for a fight too, yes, but they managed to keep lethal force in their pants this time.

            Now that I’ve had time to cool down a bit, I’m willing to grant that this was probably an unplanned, spur-of-the-moment thing. But it’s still murder, and I feel that everyone on the Nazi side who walked into that brawl shares some of the responsibility for escalating it to murder.

          • Matt M says:

            a bunch of his fellow Nazis did decide, and most likely plan, to get involved in street fights with counter-protesters

            A bunch of antifa decided to do this too. Do they also share any responsibility for the murder?

          • Nornagest says:

            See the rest of that paragraph you quoted for my answer.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Christopher Cantwell, one of the organizer of “Unite the Right” says in this VICE video:
            “The fact that nobody on our side died, I’d call that point for us. The fact that none of our people killed anybody unjustly I think is a plus for us

            The video appears to show someone striking that vehicle. When these animals attacked him again and he saw no way to get away except to hit the gas, and sadly, because our rivals are a bunch of stupid animals who don’t pay attention they couldn’t just get out of the way of his car and some people got hurt, and that’s unfortunate.

            I think it was more than justified.”

            So the idea that the other white supremacists are just bystanders to this doesn’t wash.

          • Matt M says:

            See the rest of that paragraph you quoted for my answer.

            I don’t think that’s logically consistent though.

            “The Nazis are responsible for this murder because they promoted street fighting, which is violence”

            “Antifa also promoted street fighting but they are not responsible in any way.”

            The fact that nobody from Antifa murdered anybody would suggest that promoting street fighting is not, in and of itself, sufficient to motivate someone to murder.

            So what did the Nazis do that antifa did not do which encouraged murder? You seem to be saying “Well a murder happened so they must have done SOMETHING.” I’m asking you to name the thing.

          • Nornagest says:

            “The Nazis are responsible for this murder because they promoted street fighting, which is violence”

            No. The Nazis aren’t responsible for this murder because they promoted street fighting. These Nazis are responsible for this murder because they organized, planned for, and entered a street fight without keeping a tight enough leash on one particular psycho with a Dodge to prevent the murder. I don’t know specifically what measures that would take, but if you’re going to walk into a fight, it is your responsibility to make sure your guys don’t get out of hand.

            If the antifa make a similar mistake in a few weeks or months, which is looking depressingly likely, then I’ll condemn them like I’m condemning the Charlesville Nazis now. But that hasn’t happened yet.

          • The Nybbler says:

            These Nazis are responsible for this murder because they organized, planned for, and entered a street fight without keeping a tight enough leash on one particular psycho with a Dodge to prevent the murder.

            They had neither authority nor power over the psycho with a Dodge. And their rally had been broken up by the police by the time the psycho with a Dodge did anything. I realize it’s nice to be able to point to this murder and say “checkmate Nazis” and therefore avoid the realization that they weren’t the only bad guys here, but it just doesn’t hold together.

            As for Cantwell, he’s wrong for justifying murder (or at least homicide; I’d give a ~1% chance of the killing being non-intentional, but 0 of justified), but still not actually responsible for it.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If some random Antifa goon breaks someone’s head open during a rumble and kills them, I’d definitely place some blame on the Antifas who arranged to show up at the rumble. Even if murdering goon isn’t necessarily Antifa: because when you go into battle masked so that your soldiers cannot be identified, you don’t get to cry when someone misidentifies a bad combatant as one of your soldiers.

            For the Charlottesville murder, assuming that it turns out to be a murder like we currently think, I place the groups here in order of blame, each above the one below it.

            1. Fields
            2. the goons on his side
            3. the goons on the other side
            4. the cops who let the goons rumble

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @TheNybbler:

            What about the next guy who runs down someone with a car because someone else dented it? Does he bear any responsibility for that?

          • InferentialDistance says:

            These Nazis are responsible for this murder because they organized, planned for, and entered a street fight without keeping a tight enough leash on one particular psycho with a Dodge to prevent the murder.

            Ah yes, when the Mayor decided to deny their right to peaceable assembly and the cops had forcibly evicted them from the park, the nazis should have physically restrained James Alex Fields, rather than letting him get into his car and leave. Because they should be prophetic, able to predict he would kill a counter-protestor instead of, I don’t know, driving home. And it’s totally okay for them to assault and restrain citizens who haven’t yet broken any laws.

          • Nornagest says:

            They had neither authority nor power over the psycho with a Dodge.

            Maybe not formal authority, but that just means the responsibility devolves to some diffuse set of Nazis with leverage over him rather than specifically to his boss. It doesn’t magically go away just because we’re talking about a mob rather than an actual organization.

            And these things aren’t that self-directed. I know people who’ve done organizational work for protests before (not Nazi ones, but they must work similarly). They have leadership, infrastructure, and security, and part of the reason they do is to make sure they do the damage you want them to do, to the people you want them to do the damage to. If you’re running security for an Occupy march and some Black Bloc guys slip the leash and torch a Chase branch, that is your fault. Same sort of thinking applies here.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            (not Nazi ones, but they must work similarly).

            i think this is false and also the greatest problem by far with the rally

            it was probably just a bunch of chucklefucks getting each other riled up, and oh no look what happened, who could have predicted

            like sure they had e-celebs there, but I don’t think they had any serious level of control. Maybe a few people as a makeshift posse, probably nothing more than that. (I don’t have any inside knowledge, but I’d bet a lot of money on this being true.)

          • Nornagest says:

            It takes a surprising amount of effort to get an undirected mob in shape: there is basically no such thing as a spontaneous protest. A protest without some fairly heavyweight coordination going on behind the scenes doesn’t look like an undirected mob, it just doesn’t happen.

            I’m willing to believe that the people running this thing didn’t have their shit together (the Right doesn’t have the institutional knowledge of this sort of thing that the Left does; the original Nazis were really good at it, but all the people behind Nuremberg were hanged at, uh, Nuremberg), but that just means it’s their fault through incompetence rather than malice.

          • kjohn says:

            And these things aren’t that self-directed. I know people who’ve done organizational work for protests before (not Nazi ones, but they must work similarly). They have leadership, infrastructure, and security, and part of the reason they do is to make sure they do the damage you want them to do, to the people you want them to do the damage to. If you’re running security for an Occupy march and some Black Bloc guys slip the leash and torch a Chase branch, that is your fault. Same sort of thinking applies here.

            But they mayor cancelled the protest?

            If some black bloc guys torch a Chase branch at the same time that you would have been having your protest had the mayor not cancelled it then surely the responsibility for that that can not lie at the hands of people organasing the cancelled protest?

          • Nornagest says:

            The organizers don’t exactly vanish in a puff of embarrassment if the government looks at them the wrong way. Occupy’s a great example, actually: its actions got redirected, “canceled”, or otherwise messed with all the time.

          • kjohn says:

            What are you actually suggesting? That they should have ressted the plice dispersing them? That after dispersing they should have organised an unpermitted gathering?

            What are the actual actions that they should have taken but incompetently failled to do?

          • gbdub says:

            This whole thread is exactly my point. The Charlottesville Nazis are super hard to defend, because they legitimately suck. I firmly believe in the right of anybody to non-violently assemble, even Nazi garbage, but mayyyybe we choose our battles a little bit when this battle involved actual Nazis, one of whom attempted mass murder.

            But Milo fans? Charles Murray? Generic Berkely Tumpers? Those are not “actual Nazis” by any definition except Antifa’s, and the fact that Antifa fails to distinguish between them shows that they are dangerous, despite being on the sympathetic side this one time.

          • John Schilling says:

            If the Right is willing to learn from its enemies, it is worth noting that the Left has of late gotten pretty good at keeping its streetfighters organized and disciplined. This goes back at least to the 1999 WTO protests, and it’s vital. And not just an American thing; I’ve seen very disciplined and effective protests from the left in e.g. Seoul. This is absolutely vital, and you all might want to look into how they do it.

            Part of it is the messaging, stressing the need for unity over individual action. Part of it is logistics, like having your people assemble at rally points well away from the protest site and bringing them over in groups. And for protests where you expect violence, try to only use people you’ve worked or trained with before, and find something harmlessly nonprovocative for enthusiastic newbies to keep busy with until you’ve gotten around to training them.

            The Right, by contrast, seems to favor the “leaderless resistance” model, and while that may shield the top peoplefrom legal prosecution it isn’t going to do much for their perceived moral culpability. If you’re going to encourage violence, you need to provide leadership – anything less is depraved indifference to human life.

            If the Right isn’t willing to learn from its enemies, on little matters like how to make sure nobody gets too excited and goes about murdering people, then the Right deserves to lose.

          • The Nybbler says:

            but mayyyybe we choose our battles a little bit when this battle involved actual Nazis, one of whom attempted mass murder

            Or maybe we shouldn’t, because once you’ve surrendered your principles you’re just haggling over the price, playing an arbitrary line drawing game, one which has already reached provocateurs Milo and Coulter, aitch-bee-dee type Charles Murray, Trump supporters (after all, isn’t Trump the next best thing to a Nazi? He said all those bad things about Mexicans and Muslims), Ben Shapiro, Dave Rubin, Christina Hoff Sommers, etc.

            @John Schilling
            How disciplined was Micah Xavier Johnson?

          • Nornagest says:

            but mayyyybe we choose our battles a little bit when this battle involved actual Nazis, one of whom attempted mass murder

            Or maybe we shouldn’t, because once you’ve surrendered your principles you’re just haggling over the price, playing an arbitrary line drawing game,

            I legitimately don’t see anyone surrendering their principles in this thread. No one here that wasn’t already on Team No Platform For Fascists is saying that the Charlottesville Nazis, slime though they are, should have been clapped in irons and shipped off to Siberia the moment they looked set to display potentially problematic symbols or assemble in groups of more than three. No one has said to my recollection that we should give antifa a free pass for street violence or reconsider our stance on Nazi-punching. The most I’ve heard anyone say (again, except those that were already uncomfortable with expansive free speech before this started) is that we might have bigger fish to fry right now, or that this is maybe not the best hill to die on if we’re looking to prove our anti-antifa bona fides.

            What exactly do you think I’m saying?

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            No one has said to my recollection that we should give antifa a free pass for street violence or reconsider our stance on Nazi-punching.

            Ilya, RLMS. I think that’s it though. I think Brad’s argument that non-violent counter-protesters being “laudable” is iffy when they seem to be coordinated with the violent ones in order to provide camouflage and top-cover for them, but he has said that the violent protesters themselves are bad, so I don’t think he counts.

          • John Schilling says:

            How disciplined was Micah Xavier Johnson?

            Johnson wasn’t part of anyone’s protest movement. Unless it’s your assertion that he was part of a secret master plan by the organized left to kill police officers without their being collectively blamed for it, in which case he was disciplined enough to not do his murdering at the site of an organized left-wing protest with a bunch of flag-waving leftists standing around to share in the credit.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Sorry, when did I say this?

            Battery is a felony, I don’t advocate committing felonies — that would be crazy.

            There are situations where I think it would be appropriate to use violence against fascism, but that would be something like an open formal war, as has happened in the past.

            I am ok with using violence to apprehend criminals, as the police are entitled to do so, and it’s a part of the social contract, etc.

            Self-defense is often ok, also.

            I think your headcanon of me is wrong.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            This goes back at least to the 1999 WTO protests

            I think it’s worthwhile thinking of this as on a trend line.

            Compare the organized violence of the union movement with the organized nonviolence of the bulk of the civil rights movement.

          • kjohn says:

            Johnson wasn’t part of anyone’s protest movement. Unless it’s your assertion that he was part of a secret master plan by the organized left to kill police officers without their being collectively blamed for it, in which case he was disciplined enough to not do his murdering at the site of an organized left-wing protest with a bunch of flag-waving leftists standing around to share in the credit.

            I don’t know if there were waving flags or not, but it simply was at the site of an organised left-wing protest.

          • rlms says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko
            I do not recall saying anything of that nature (nor Ilya, although I could be mistaken). For the record, I strongly condemn almost all* violence of the kind that has occurred. In fact, I probably take a harsher stand against it than most people here, since I don’t condone being violent to protect your property (if some thug wants to smash your camera, let them) or escalating violence even in self-defence (shooting someone who’s running at you with a club). If necessary, I condemn it in Charlottesville specifically! It’s a sad day when saying “No, those Nazis really were bad, that guy they were beating and the people rammed by the Nazi in a car weren’t somehow ‘asking for it’, really, Nazis are bad, why can’t you accept this?” is seen as a defence of thuggery on the other side.

            *Violence to defend against imminent physical danger, if running away is impossible and the danger is large enough that just taking the punch is too much to ask, is acceptable.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Ilya Shpitser

            Actually it _does_ look pretty one-sided, to a lot of people (me included

            When matt snarkily characterized your position was “a bunch of nazis started beating up totally peaceful people for no reason”, your correction was “oh they had a reason”. In other words, agreeing with “totally peaceful people”.

            I’ve taken your argument so far to be that, as far as you can tell, there exists no evidence that there was any violent activity at Charlottesville that was initiated by counter-protesters, and that any violent actions they did take part in were entirely justifiable justifiable self-defense.

            Have I unfairly summarized your position?

            EDIT: Sorry, you posted while I was trying to respond. These maximally nested threads get really annoying.

            Let us say for now that I am less convinced that it was one-sided than you are, which does not in any way detract from the blameworthyness of things like ganging up and curbstomping opponents or escalating to lethal force. I keep trying to find good video footage of the initial engagment (the point at which the two bodies of protesters clashed), but so far the ones I’ve found either are pointed -away- at the moment of engagement and then pivot back after, so you hear but don’t see it, or are choppily and obviously edited.

            I agree with you on the undesirability of coalition politics with nazis, and I’d do so on mmoral grounds even if there weren’t plenty of practical reasons to do so (see my responses to Matt M above).

            EDIT : @RLMS

            Fair enough, I think I’ve misinterpreted your position then. I apologize if I was being insufficiently charitable.

          • Matt M says:

            I’d also like to clarify that when I said “no reason” I meant to imply “no legitimate reason.”

            So responses like “Oh they had a reason, their reason was “because the guy was black.” is a little beside the point. That’s the same as “no reason” in my book, tbqh.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Trofim:

            I was talking about the beating of Harris, which I thought (and still do) was racially motivated. The reason was he was black.

            “I’ve taken your argument so far to be that, as far as you can tell, there exists no evidence that there was any violent activity at Charlottesville that was initiated by counter-protesters, and that any violent actions they did take part in were entirely justifiable justifiable self-defense.”

            What I did was present some evidence, and asked Matt M to present his (which he failed to do). I didn’t say evidence didn’t exist, I asked for it, and was willing to entertain it. Based on the balance of evidence _I have seen_, violence was pretty one sided in Virginia. I still believe this, but will update if evidence changes, of course.

            Extreme left-wing folks have initiated violence elsewhere, this is all well-documented, and undisputed.

            Now, you seem to ascribe to me a belief that we should give antifa a free pass for street violence, the precise quote is:

            “No one has said to my recollection that we should give antifa a free pass for street violence or reconsider our stance on Nazi-punching.”

            “Ilya, RLMS”

            I ask again, when did I say this?

            You have to remember, unlike you, I sign with my real name. It’s fine to not sign your name, that’s your choice, and signing my name is mine.

            But, please do me this kindness and not ascribe me things I did not actually say and do not actually believe. I put my name on the line in discussions here.

          • The Nybbler says:

            What exactly do you think I’m saying?

            You’re saying to give the antifa a free pass _this time_, because one of the Nazis killed someone. But then when it’s Milo, it’ll be, it was “well, Milo’s an outrageous provocateur who insulted a transwoman on stage”. There will be an excuse for every action.

          • BBA says:

            A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, “Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!”

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @The_Nybbler

            Not really helping.

            @Ilya

            Extreme left-wing folks have initiated violence elsewhere, this is all well-documented, and undisputed.

            Fair enough. I wasn’t entirely sure if you were disputing that or not.

            I’ll take you at your word that you’ll update based on new evidence.

            You have to remember, unlike you, I sign with my real name.

            Huh, I had assumed it was a pseudonym. What’s the etymology of Shpitser?

            For my part, I’m not afraid to own anything I write under my real name, and I’ve dropped more than enough information to “doxx” myself to anyone who bothers to look, since I’ve identified my employer and current town multiple times, the department I work at for my employer, and my current job, and sex. There’s only 3 supervisors in my department and I’m the only male one.

            I just prefer to save real names for one-on-one contact.

            But, please do me this kindness and not ascribe me things I did not actually say and do not actually believe. I put my name on the line in discussions here.

            Fair enough, I accept that I was mistaken in attributing to you that position, and apologize.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            It’s Spitzer (Yiddish/German name), but written badly in a way that replicates the German pronunciation of “Sp.”

            I appreciate your comment, thanks.

          • Nornagest says:

            But then when it’s Milo, it’ll be, it was “well, Milo’s an outrageous provocateur who insulted a transwoman on stage”. There will be an excuse for every action.

            I was involved in these discussions when the Berkeley riots were happening, and my position was that Milo should have kept his platform and the Black Bloc was acting appallingly. I still think they are, I just think they shouldn’t be on the top of our agenda when we’ve got an actual, not just rhetorical, Nazi on our plate who just ran a car into a crowd of people. Am I giving them a pass if I don’t preface every statement with “antifa are Literally The Worst, but…”? I thought we looked down on that style of argument around here.

            Perhaps you’ve mistaken me for some kind of social justice enthusiast; I assure you I’m not.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            I was involved in these discussions when the Berkeley riots were happening, and my position was that the Black Bloc was acting appallingly. I still think they are, I just think they shouldn’t be on the top of our agenda when we’ve got an actual Nazi on our plate who just ran a car into a crowd of people. Perhaps you’ve mistaken me for some kind of social justice enthusiast; I assure you I’m not.

            Said nazi is in police custody, has been charged with murder, and everyone who isn’t some flavor of white supremacist has agreed that what he did was horrible.

            I want to talk about the rest of that clusterfuck, and how 4 different groups made it happen. The violent thugs on the right spoiling for a fight. The violent thugs on the left happy to give it to them. The mayor, and the police, who worked together to violate the protestor’s right to peaceful assembly, forced them into close contact with the counter-protestors, and then stood by while violence erupted.

          • Matt M says:

            I just think they shouldn’t be on the top of our agenda when we’ve got an actual, not just rhetorical, Nazi on our plate who just ran a car into a crowd of people.

            And that guy is in jail and will never get out. If in a red state, he’d be executed.

            What more do you think needs to be done about him?

          • [Thing] says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            Antifa, as much as they are scum, have managed through some combination of luck and membership control, to stop any of their people from killing another person.

            No they haven’t [article about some Antifa, or at least quasi-Antifa, goons beating a guy to death because he wore a Confederate flag T-shirt to a concert]. I remember seeing that piece years ago, probably around when it came out in ’07, but I didn’t make the connection to this new “Antifa” thing I was suddenly hearing so much about until I saw discussions of Antifa’s roots in that whole “Nazi Punks Fuck Off!” business.

            That really helped crystalize in my mind why I fear and loathe these guys so much, despite being pretty left-wing (not radical by any means, but left-wing enough that I could name several lefty political blogs that I hardly ever found reason to disagree with, until just recently, when they came out strongly in favor of preemptive Nazi-punching; I’ve also been dismayed by the mendacity and nerd-shaming subtext of their Google Memo coverage in several cases).

            It seems like some guys just have a surplus of free-floating aggression and feel the need to crap up civilization for the rest of us, until they’ve gotten it out of they’re system when they hit middle-age. I tend to think of people like that as the natural enemies of people like me at a pre-ideological level, and funneling it through left-anarchism or anti-racism only makes them maybe 15-20% less scary to me than neo-Nazis and their ilk. (I’m a straight white non-Marxist gentile though, so I can’t blame other people for being much more scared of Nazis than I am).

          • [Thing] says:

            @Matt M

            And that guy is in jail and will never get out. If in a red state, he’d be executed.

            Not everyone is so sure. There’s even been some debate already about whether Fields could get off relatively easy right here in this thread.

          • John Schilling says:

            And that guy is in jail and will never get out.

            Bike Lock Guy is also in jail; he’ll presumably get out after a prison term appropriate for felony aggravated assault. So we’re done talking about antifa, right?

            Right?

          • InferentialDistance says:

            Bike Lock Guy is also in jail; he’ll presumably get out after a prison term appropriate for felony aggravated assault. So we’re done talking about antifa, right?

            Right?

            Only if we’re done talking about nazis too.

          • albatross11 says:

            The Nybbler:

            His shooting of a bunch of cops seriously and maybe irrevocably damaged BLM’s image.

          • albatross11 says:

            Some of this discussion reminds me of the sort of pattern you sometimes see of:

            a. ISIS-inspired terrorist attack kills a bunch of people.

            b. Group 1 (mostly liberal) “We mustn’t condemn all Muslims for this terrible act, Islam is a religion of peace, etc.”

            c. Group 2 (mostly conservative) Gets outraged.

            Steve Sailer entrtainingly refers to (b) as “frontlash”–basically media types trying to get ahead of anyone bashing on Muslims as a result of the attack.

            It feels like something similar is happening here. Trump supporters or aitch bee dee supporters or whomever get preemptively defensive, because they dont want to see normalization of “punch a Nazi,” where “Nazi” = anyone I don’t like on the right.

            There’s no inconsistency in noting:

            a. Nazis are bad.

            b. The protesters at Charlotville appear to have been largely bad people out to do evil.

            c. Most people on the right, most Trump voters, and most people who oppose removal of Confederate monuments are not bad people out to do evil.

          • Cauê says:

            Bike Lock Guy is also in jail; he’ll presumably get out after a prison term appropriate for felony aggravated assault. So we’re done talking about antifa, right?

            Right?

            Bike Lock Guy was doing a marginally more extreme version of something antifa regularly do, intend to do, plan for, and will likely keep doing. Not all of them? Probably not, but it still shows up every time, no nazis required on the other side.

            People have been talking as if that was also true of Car Guy, as if they as a group intended anything like it or welcomed it when it happened. I have to make a serious effort trying to imagine what it’s like to believe that, and it’s honestly scaring me how far apart people’s perceptions of basic things has grown.

            Also, I should already have put the “of course, f*** nazis” disclaimer by now, so here it is.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t think very many of them intended it; maybe just Car Guy. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them welcomed it when it happened, but most probably didn’t. But I don’t think that gets them off the hook, either.

            I take this stuff very seriously. Acting violently means you have a moral and often a legal responsibility for the results of that violence, even if they’re more than what you intended. Say some guy called your sister a whore and you hit him in the mouth. He fell, hit his head wrong on a table, there was swelling in his skull and he died before he got to a hospital. Probably all you meant was to give him some bruises, maybe break a tooth or two. Maybe he even deserved it. His death’s still on you.

            I think that applies on a group level too, not just an individual one.

          • Brad says:

            @Cauê
            You say of course f*** nazis, but you apparently think highly enough of them that you can’t even imagine how someone else could believe they intended harm or welcomed it when it happened. Guys invoking the third reich — the one that murdered millions of people — you can’t understand how anyone might might think they intended or welcomed harm? Really?

            Sure, I think most of these guys were basically LARPing. But publicly LARP fucking nazi and deny you are LARPing, and I’m not going to give the benefit of any doubts. Okay, you disagree, but you can’t even understand how someone would come down on the other side? Come off it.

          • Cauê says:

            I think that applies on a group level too, not just an individual one.

            kjohn asked above “What are the actual actions that they should have taken but incompetently failled to do?”. I also don’t understand how that’s supposed to work.

            Unless you mean they shouldn’t have had the rally at all? Doesn’t this just get us to a form of heckler’s veto? Most of the violence could have been prevented by police, and the car was so far beyond what has been happening at these clashes for years now that I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect people to foresee something like it.

          • Nornagest says:

            kjohn asked above “What are the actual actions that they should have taken but incompetently failled to do?”. I also don’t understand how that’s supposed to work.

            That’s not a question I can answer specifically, because I don’t know anything about how this event was organized or what leverage the various parts of it might have had. But as I and others have noted, the left equivalents of these guys have managed to keep their footsoldiers in check fairly well. These guys can do it too.

            Not all the same framing would work, of course. But the logistical stuff still would. Start and end outside of heavily populated areas. Have a backup plan, one that isn’t “let hundreds of angry Nazis off the chain and hope for the best”, for what you’re going to do if the city decides you can’t do what you were planning to (this is probably the single worst failure). Have people whose job it is to keep an eye on your guys and step in if they’re getting too rowdy, before, during, and after the event proper. If you expect a fight, keep the group together and put guys up front who you can trust. Emphasize discipline; I bet Nazis would love LARPing as soldiers.

            These are just some general ideas, and something totally different may have worked better on the ground. I’m not saying they’re morally on the hook for murder for holding a rally as such, but the fact of the matter is that they invited a few hundred Nazis — a group not known for its calm and saintlike demeanor — and then failed to maintain adequate security. If they weren’t capable of that, then no, they shouldn’t have attempted it: their right is to peaceable assembly, and they can’t guarantee the peaceable part.

          • Cauê says:

            Brad, please indulge an anecdote.

            I don’t know these people, and barely even see them even on the internet. But years ago in college I found myself arguing online against this guy who said he admired Hitler and the nazis. I don’t remember much, but he didn’t believe in the holocaust, and he thought Hitler had somehow been forced into war against his will. I never met him, but people who did seemed to believe he was sincere.
            His graduation thesis wasn’t about that, but it was about legal suppression of speech about that (this is not the US), and it was enough to cause a mini-scandal (simpler times…), with people denouncing his hatred and his defense of violence and genocide.
            Now I found myself arguing against that, because the numbf**k wasn’t defending Hitler’s violence, he defended Hitler because he somehow thought he had not been violent.
            This character that he liked in his head wasn’t the same character that everyone else understood and hated him for liking. This distinction has stayed with me since then, and it’s one of these things that’s everywhere when you start to look.

            Look, I don’t understand these people, I don’t know what’s in their shiny stupid heads, what they think they’re doing. But I’ve followed this thing closer than usually, seen it not only through the media but also through a couple of the organizers (mostly Pax Dickinson, though he doesn’t seem to fit there and I still don’t get what the hell he was doing there), and the planning for violence I’ve seen was exclusively in the context of preparing for antifa.

            Yes, it would surprise me very much to learn that the car was somehow planned or supported (clinging to the theory that it was a panic reaction isn’t quite the same thing). Maybe I’m being naive! It still scares me how overwhelming the opposite presumption seems to be.

          • Cauê says:

            @Nornagest

            But as I and others have noted, the left equivalents of these guys have managed to keep their footsoldiers in check fairly well. These guys can do it too.

            If you take away the car, no, they haven’t. At best it’s even. If you must count Fields, then I do think we’re at the point where you should be counting Micah Xavier Johnson as well.

            The rest of your comment was interesting. But the city deciding they couldn’t do it was a very small problem compared to the police not doing their jobs, and even pushing one side into the other. Now, maybe something like this was predictable enough that one could reasonably say they had an obligation to prepare for it, but I think that’s pushing it too far.

          • Nornagest says:

            The car is the whole reason we’re talking about this, so no, I’m not willing to take it away. But even if we restrict ourselves to the fists-and-baseball-bats style of fighting, I think the antifa still have a leg (somewhat) up on the Nazis, proportionally. That “proportionally” is key: there just aren’t very many Nazis. The last rally that crossed my radar was in Sacramento in early 2016, and there was serious violence there too. I’m willing to say they both suck, but I think there’s a pretty clear statistical signal for which sucks more.

            (If you think I’m being unfair to the Right here, I think that the mainstream GOP and the Milo wing of the alt-right both look a lot better by the same metric.)

          • The Nybbler says:

            @albatross11

            It’s not _pre-emptive_ defensiveness, because violent protestors have already bashed Trump supporters, Milo supporters, aitch-bee-dee supporters (particularly including Charles Murray), etc. We already _know_ their conception of “someone close enough to a Nazi to be worthy to bash” is rather wide. That they got actual neo-Nazis this time doesn’t justify them.

          • Iain says:

            I don’t think very many of them intended it; maybe just Car Guy. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them welcomed it when it happened, but most probably didn’t. But I don’t think that gets them off the hook, either.

            Anybody who hasn’t watched the Vice documentary yet should watch the Vice video. It includes extended interviews with actual organizers of the march. In particular, Chris Cantwell (a named speaker on the poster) is interviewed both before and after the rally. Start at 2:15 for the pre-rally interview:

            “White people are capable of violence?”
            “Of course we’re capable! I’m capable! I’m carrying a pistol, I go to the gym all the time, I’m trying to make myself more capable of violence. I’m here to spread ideas, talk, in the hopes that somebody more capable will come along and do that — somebody like Donald Trump [but] who does not give his daughter to a Jew.”

            The post-rally interview starts at 19:05:

            “I’d say it was worth it. We knew we were going to meet a lot of resistance. The fact that nobody on our side died — I’d go ahead and call that points for us. The fact that none of our people killed anybody unjustly I think is a plus for us. And I think that we showed our rivals that we won’t be cowed.”
            “But the car that struck the protester — that’s unprovoked.”
            “That’s not true and you know that it’s not true. […] The video appears to show someone striking that vehicle when these animals attack him again, and he saw no way to get away from them except to hit the gas. And sadly, because our rivals are a bunch of stupid animals who don’t pay attention, they couldn’t just get out of the way of his car, and some people got hurt and that’s unfortunate.”
            “So you think it was justified?”
            “I think it was more than justified. I can’t believe the amount of restraint our people showed out there. I think it was astounding.”

            Again, this is a promoted speaker at the rally, not some random cherry-picked hooligan.

          • Matt M says:

            Again, this is a promoted speaker at the rally, not some random cherry-picked hooligan.

            ehhhh, Cantwell is also a podcast host who is attempting to increase his fame and notoriety by going increasingly more “shocking” and has admitted in the past to “playing it up” for the media in order to increase the amount of attention they pay to him

            Your overall point isn’t wrong, but I’d say that Cantwell specifically has greater motivation/incentives to NOT apologize and to go for maximum shock value than some “random cherry picked hooligan”

          • Brad says:

            @Cauê

            This character that he liked in his head wasn’t the same character that everyone else understood and hated him for liking. This distinction has stayed with me since then, and it’s one of these things that’s everywhere when you start to look.

            In this case you’re on the one with the character in his head that isn’t the same as everyone else. When everyone* hears “neo-nazi” they think unstable violent musclebound guy, not a nebbish college kid with bizarre views about Adolf Hitler.

            Again, maybe you are more right about these guys than the other view, but I don’t think it should be puzzling or scary that the dominant view is the other way. Again we are talking her about people consciously and deliberately invoking the rhetoric and symbolism of actual literal nazis.

            * Well not everyone, there are some people that take the whole “no enemies to the right” thing very seriously. Some of them in this thread. But they generally just change the subject (Antifa!!!) rather than recasting the neo-nazis as misunderstood.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            and the planning for violence I’ve seen was exclusively in the context of preparing for antifa.

            There are a bunch of people who have successfully baited Antifa into committing crimes on camera. Here’s the first link I found, which contains unPC language but I don’t have time to dig more http://madworldnews.com/transgender-antifa-thug-man-bun/

            edit This is less offensive and has more context but it takes 9 minutes to watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUm4lbiAlwM

            He is successfully playing the game “bait the other person into violence because then they lose.” Sometimes you need to take a punch like a man.

          • But as I and others have noted, the left equivalents of these guys have managed to keep their footsoldiers in check fairly well.

            So far as ordinary violence is concerned–hitting people, smashing windows, and the like–left demonstrations have not kept their footsoldiers in check.

            The extraordinary violence in this case involved one person doing something that wasn’t part of the demonstration (driving a car into a crowd, not marching around with signs and fighting people). How is the failure of the demonstration organizers to prevent that any different from the failure of people on the left to prevent one of their “footsoldiers” from shooting up a bunch of Republican congressmen at a baseball practice?

            In each case you have a single actor who identifies with one side of the conflict taking an action that doesn’t involve the other people on that side.

          • Cauê says:

            @Iain, even there, I’m interpreting his blustering as preparing for violence against antifa, especially for being attacked by antifa. It makes much more sense in context (bragging to a journalist, ffs), and fits with the idea that “the right doesn’t start the fights” that I’ve seen organizers bragging about on occasion. On the car, what he’s saying was justified is this scenario he described of the guy getting attacked and trying to get away, not the murder that basically everyone else saw in the videos.

            @Brad, yes, and for all I’ve seen those guys were much closer to nerds LARPing than what you’re picturing. That wasn’t the Aryan Brotherhood out there.

            @Nornagest, I’m agreeing with David Friedman above, nothing to add beyond what I had said.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @Ilya Shpitser :

            I was talking about the beating of Harris, which I thought (and still do) was racially motivated. The reason was he was black.

            Are you sure the beating wasn’t retaliation for Harris initiating violence in swinging his club full force at someone’s head, someone who had been trying to march while holding onto a flag that Harris and his friends didn’t like so they were trying to take it from him?

    • BBA says:

      He’s not that much more racist than the baseline*, but he is perversely stubborn and narcissistic. He refuses to listen to anyone who criticizes him, because he thinks that means conceding that they’re right. He naturally thinks the alt-right are “very fine people” because they like him, and everyone telling him they’re bad is a hater, a loser, sad. The notion that there are greater issues at stake than Morning Joe being nasty to him has never occurred to him – or maybe he honestly believes that his own petty feuds are more important than anything else going on in the world.

      *The baseline is pretty damn racist.

      • Iain says:

        This is plausibly true, but insufficient. Trump might be defending white nationalists because he has white nationalist leanings himself, or he might be defending them because they like him and say nice things about him*. Either way, he is clearly more open to defending, endorsing, and encouraging white nationalists than any other prominent Republican politician. Even those who would like to pretend that he was just talking about the fine people standing next to the white nationalists should concede that no other Republicans are going even that far. Trump is an outlier. Scott’s conclusion was wrong, and he should revisit the thought process that led to it.

        *Left as a problem for the reader: why are white nationalists saying nice things about Trump?

        • qtip says:

          *Left as a problem for the reader: why are white nationalists saying nice things about Trump?

          This really is a fascinating question. A corollary to the so-called “Trump’s Razor” hypothesis would be that the WNs are dumb/out of touch enough that they don’t realize that Trump’s allies almost always suffer from making alliances with him. He’s box-office poison, in other words — even to the frickin’ Nazis.

          (A counter argument would be that these bozos are a small enough group that any publicity is good publicity, but I just don’t see that working out for them in the long term.)

        • eyeballfrog says:

          I would guess the reason they say nice things about him is that he’s the only politician whose position on immigration (which they care about a lot) is not diametrically opposed to what they want.

    • Mark says:

      What he actually said seems fairly reasonable, though it might be inaccurate.

      Thing is, I don’t know if there were people attending the rally who weren’t white nationalists, but I certainly wouldn’t trust the media to report truthfully on it.

      There seems to be a mind-control operation going on. Look at all the stuff in recent years, where these ideas suddenly appear from nowhere, and get everyone [actually, not everyone – just ‘news’ people] really excited about something that is actually a complex/ contentious topic.

      “Faake news”. Where did that come from? Putin and the Ukraine. Putin planned invasion of Eastern Europe. Coverage of Aleppo vs. coverage of Mosul. Illegal immigration. People drowning in the Med.

      I remember after Brexit, all of a sudden, there was this argument everywhere that “Brexit isn’t fair because young people voted against it, and they’ll have to live with the consequences for longer” and then, it just disappeared. Wasn’t gaining enough traction?

      So, I think it’s good to see the President blasting through the media narrative. Hopefully it’ll make people think a little rather than just making them angry.

    • Sam Reuben says:

      I think I have to agree with the above. Trump simply doesn’t seem to have the kind of mental stability and consistency to be what we’d properly call racism. He can say a lot of racist things, and he can be useful to a racist agenda, but I don’t think he comes to it from a position of believing in white superiority so much as a kind of blind narcissism. I’d be willing to bet that if he got a lot of praise from, say, a group of time-traveling Roman patricians, he’d be happy to defend their racism against those Gallic and Germanic barbarians. He’d probably side with hardline Cultural Revolution Maoists, if they’d only praise him.

      So I’ll agree that there’s a problem with Trump’s connection to the alt-right, but it’s not that he’s some kind of racist mastermind. He’s a very sick old man, and because he’s unfortunate enough to be so rich as not to be institutionalized, they’ve adopted him as their “leader” who’s incapable of refusing praise or understanding how it could be a bad thing.

      The reason I insist on separating this out is that Trump does, in fact, say different things to different people – basically whatever he can manage to get as much praise as possible. What this means is that a lot of people who voted for Trump did it not for racist reasons, but because he managed to dupe them with some of his rampant bull-ing. There are a lot of people who are really, really weak to that. I imagine that the reason why there’s an insistence to call Trump a racist, rather than mentally ill, is to say something about America and the voting populace: if America voted a racist in, then there must be a lot of racism. The alternative is to use Trump = racist as a way of proving Trump to be a bad person (and thus leader), and I really don’t think you need to convince anyone here of that tidbit. I don’t think that this analysis of Trump and America holds up, compared to the thesis that American voters are for some reason extremely vulnerable to being duped by a con-man in a bad suit. However, I would be interested in hearing what other reason you’d have for thinking it so important that Trump himself be a racist. I’m not sure it’s epistemic purity, because Trump’s instability is a very good explanation that doesn’t require him to be racist, so I’d be interested in what else it could be.

      • Accusations of racism are , or were, a superweapon, so they get used a lot. OTOH, they may be fading in usefullness.

        • Matt M says:

          They definitely are.

          And we’re on track for “white supremacist” to start fading as well.

          Jury is still out on whether they’re going to get away with calling everyone Nazis or if that will soon be the new “racists!”

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        To my mind, the interesting question is not so much whether Trump is bigoted as whether he’s dangerous to people he’s prejudiced against.

        He’s definitely dangerous to Muslims and Hispanics. I’d say he’s also dangerous to black people and suspects– he’s explicitly encouraged police brutality.

      • MrApophenia says:

        I actually agree with a lot of that. I don’t think Trump personally agrees with Nazism. For one thing, he seems genuinely fine with Judaism on a personal level.

        But that isn’t the question. The question is whether Trump is more supportive of white nationalism and racist movements than other Republicans. It’s very possible he is more supportive of them simply because they wear MAGA hats and vote for him, and thus he defends them, with no greater justification needed. But that still means he is more willing to support the white nationalist movement than other Republican politicians, which was the claim Scott says is crying wolf.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The question is whether Trump is more supportive of white nationalism and racist movements than other Republicans.

          Where “support” means “voice opposition for those who are violently breaking up their lawful assemblies”. In which case the answer is “yes”… and it’s laudable.

        • Matt M says:

          I don’t think Trump personally agrees with Nazism. For one thing, he seems genuinely fine with Judaism on a personal level.

          His daughter married a Jew, and Trump continues to appoint him to trusted, high-level positions. (something the ACTUAL NAZI part of the alt-right continually brings up)

        • Sam Reuben says:

          That’s a very good and very convincing point. Might I suggest, as what might be a better way of putting it, that we say that Trump is permissive towards the alt-right and racism? That rather than being an active supporter, he’s just too weak of a president and a person to resist anything done by them in the manner that a true leader of America ought to? I would be happy to accept that description, as it doesn’t allow a superweapon to be built against Trump supporters. I do believe we have a duty to avoid building superweapons wherever we can, because they’re the kinds of things which nurture conflict.

          I would say, here, that I disagree with the precise styling of Scott’s “crying wolf” argument. The nominal conclusion of it is that it takes legitimacy away from the claim, which I don’t believe quite follows. Trump is, for certain, far more permissive of open racism et all than any president in recent times, and it’s not wrong to point that out. However, calling Trump racist himself doesn’t appear to be correct, and it has the dangerous side-effect of building a superweapon against anyone who voted for him for any reason. The superweapon part does take away legitimacy from liberal voices, because nobody sane ever trusts anyone who’s building a superweapon against them (such as the intense opposition that even religious African-American communities have towards the also religious Republican Party).

          Thank you for clarifying your point, by the way. That was very helpful.

    • Urstoff says:

      Unequivocally denouncing nazis is literally the easiest thing to do in public discourse. The fact that he can’t do that is kind of mind-blowing.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Ding.

      • kjohn says:

        He did unequivocally denounce ‘nazis’*. If he does it again is there a point where he is allowed to criticise violent left-wingers out to stop and prevent peaceful protests that they disagree with again, or does Heyer’s death mean that Antifa have a complete by for the next seven years?

        *His first statement acknowledged that both sides acted poorly. His second statement however was all about the nazis. Then when the left cried about that he doubled down on acknowledging that antifa were there to crack skulls.

        Its a bit sad also that you think that he ‘can’t’ do the easy thing, rather than being too great a man to do the wrong thing.

        • Matt M says:

          I love how you can literally hear the assembled media collectively gasp, searching for the nearest fainting couch, whenever he goes off-script from the standard boilerplate PC apologia,

        • Urstoff says:

          Its a bit sad also that you think that he ‘can’t’ do the easy thing, rather than being too great a man to do the wrong thing.

          Why is that sad? Nothing in Trump’s previous behavior suggest he’s a “great man” doing the right thing; rather, it suggests that he’s a thin-skinned narcissist of average intelligence.

          • kjohn says:

            Billionaire Wharton graduate POTUS. Definitely a 100 IQer.

            I’m surprised you’re willing to grant him average intelligence. If you’re going into the realms of fantasy where Trump is unable to condemn nazis then you’d think that you’d go all the way.

        • beleester says:

          He doesn’t have to wait seven years to talk about Antifa. A few days would have been plenty. Come out strongly against the immediate event, because the immediate event was unequivocally bad and saying anything less makes you sound like you’re trying to minimize the tragedy. Then a few days later when people have cooled off a bit, you dial things back. “Charlottesville was a tragedy, but the real tragedy is the political climate that made it inevitable. Antifa and the alt-right are both to blame for yadda yadda yadda.”

          (By now, this is impossible, because Trump’s foot is so firmly in his mouth you’d need the Jaws of Life to get it out, but it could have gone that way.)

          Timing is everything in politics. The ability to read the context and current mood, and know what your audience will approve or disapprove of, is a basic political skill. Refusing to do so isn’t “the right thing” or a mark of greatness, it’s just being an ass.

          Does your moral code really say that denouncing antifa needs to be done right now, while one of their number is dead on the ground? That you can’t delay even a day to mourn before you start assigning blame?

          • gbdub says:

            Hell, you can even make a backhanded criticism of them, without naming them, something like “When crimes like this are committed, it is natural to want to answer violence with violence, but if we are to confront these despicable beliefs without corroding our own values, we must do so peacefully. America is stronger than these despicable bigots – let us demonstrate it”

          • kjohn says:

            Were the left spending the day mourning? Or were they tearing down statues and looking for fights?

            If a Nazi had died, can you genuinely say that you would have condemned anyone who falled to put aside any anti-nazism feelings?

            That the POTUS ought to stand up for the truth when people will condem him for standing up to the truth is a eleif I have. I have exceptions to that; condemning Antifa doesn’t fall foul o any of those. He wasn’t attacking Heyer, she wasn’t actually ‘one of their number’.

          • Matt M says:

            We choose to tell the truth, and to not bow to political correctness, and all the other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard 🙂

          • ManyCookies says:

            I mean you can unflinchingly illuminate the Truth against the rising darkness of political correctness and against social norms that would bury the Truth for the sake of comfort and all that jazz. But if you’re looking to change people’s minds and behavior, you’re shooting yourself in the foot by not having a bit more tact. Or waiting for an incident where the anti-antifa group isn’t way more at fault, rather than boldly dying on the hill of “The group the car rammed through did some bad stuff, yall shouldn’t act like this is so one sided!”

            Regarding Trump: While it’s literally true both sides had bad apples, saying so right after an incident strongly implies both groups were at comparable fault, which is a much stronger proposition that was clearly untrue in this case. It’s like when some left-wing papers/websites would run post-terror attack articles like “Well this terrorist attack wasn’t unavoidable, our foreign policy destabilized their country and galvanized extremist cells in our country, which our disenfranchisement of only made worse etc. etc.” The statement is literally true and perhaps even well meaning (“don’t hate this minority group for their extremist members, it will lead to more attacks”), but it still disingenuously places some blame on the victims rather than the terrorist group.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I mean you can unflinchingly illuminate the Truth against the rising darkness of political correctness and against social norms that would bury the Truth for the sake of comfort and all that jazz.

            I guess that makes your position clear.

          • ManyCookies says:

            Oh come on, the truth martyrdom comment absolutely deserved that snark!

            Snark aside, my positions are a. you can’t just say every truthful correct statement about a subject without any regard to context and expect to convince dissenters b. you can still be misleading and disingenuous even with face-value truthful statements, and Trump’s face-value true statements disingenuously applied a lot more blame to the antifa block than was proper in this particular case.

          • Matt M says:

            It’s like when some left-wing papers/websites would run post-terror attack articles like “Well this terrorist attack wasn’t unavoidable, our foreign policy destabilized their country and galvanized extremist cells in our country, which our disenfranchisement of only made worse etc. etc.”

            This isn’t half as bad as what they typically run, which is something more like “The REAL tragedy would be if this terrorist attack led to an increase in Islamophobia! Let’s make sure the police are ready to guard against that!”

          • Aapje says:

            @ManyCookies

            Sure, but part of that context is that the media have prejudiced narratives and will interpret everything through that narrative. When Obama made an even-handed statement that was interpreted as bridge-building, because the narrative is that he is a bridge-builder, when Trump makes an even-handed statement that is interpreted as defending Nazis, because the narrative is that he is in league with Nazis.

            I object to narrative-based media, especially when the narratives are based on weak evidence, rather than to take people’s statements at face value.

          • ManyCookies says:

            @Aapje And I agree Trump is getting more shit for this than he deserves, but it was still an awful phrasing of his sentiments both politically and (I would argue) factually.

            This reminds me of a controversy on the campaign trail. Trump had said something like “Obama founded ISIS” during a rally, and in context he pretty clearly meant Obama’s foreign policy was a catalyst to the rise of ISIS. Bad phrasing, but still unfair to quote out of context. But then he went on a conservative talk show, and the host was like “That was so clearly what you meant, right?”… and Trump repeated the same damn line without any further clarification! That was a comically easy smackdown had he just assented: “Of course I meant that, look at how desperate these liberals are for scandal!”. But instead he added more fuel to the fire, confused the people giving him the benefit of the doubt, and extended the story another day or so.

          • Iain says:

            @ManyCookies:

            You should consider the possibility that Trump is doing this on purpose. Ambiguity can be strategic. When Trump says “Obama founded ISIS”, some people hear “Obama’s actions in Iraq and Syria set the stage for ISIS”, and some just hear “Obama founded ISIS”. Moderate conservatives hear the former, and complain about the liberals who hear the latter. Meanwhile, a solid chunk of the base takes the claim literally and cheers him on. (Consider: this is a man — a consummate showman — who spent years claiming Obama was not American. There’s an audience for this stuff.) It’s a win-win-win for Trump — especially if he can manage to sustain the ambiguity.

            So maybe Trump refusing to clarify the ISIS statement wasn’t a mistake — it was a deliberate decision that the cost of confusing the metaphor camp was lower than the cost of losing enthusiasm from the literal camp.

          • Aapje says:

            @ManyCookies

            Trump is clearly a horrible communicator, weak on his facts and such.

            But that has been clear for a long time and is exactly why the media should not treat him as a mastermind who uses dog whistles to somehow usher in a new era of white supremacy.

            IMO, the most effective way to weaken how much his supporters like him is to simply keep pointing out how he is wrong or being too unclear. The current response is clearly heavily informed by animosity, resulting in a response that works on those who already believe, but not so well on those who don’t.

            A simplistic strategy to win in (no limit holdem) poker is counter-play: if the opponent is very aggressive, then play tight; if the opponent is very tight, be aggressive. Similarly, if a politician is highly hyperbolic and weak on facts, a good counter strategy is to be understated and strong on the facts, not to try and top him. When it’s shoutey against shoutey, a lot of people just tune out.

  13. BBA says:

    The Charlotte School of Law has abruptly closed after the ABA signaled it was going to revoke the school’s accreditation and the state government cancelled its license to operate. It was a for-profit institution founded in 2006, noted for having one of the lowest bar passage rates in the country – even after they started juicing their statistics by paying weaker students not to take the bar exam. Eventually it became too much for even the ABA’s notoriously lax accreditation committee to ignore and the school was put on probation last fall. This triggered the US Department of Education to cancel its eligibility for federal student loans, which drove its already precarious finances into a nosedive, and last week the ABA rejected its plan to turn itself around.

    I don’t know why, but I find it fascinating how institutions can break down like this. Clearly at Charlotte the rot had set in long before the authorities pulled the plug.

    • Brad says:

      Are there any even moderately prestigious for-profit tertiary educational institutions anywhere in the world? Maybe in the restaurant industry?

      • cassander says:

        Prestigious is the wrong word, but there are respected programs. University of Phoenix, for example, has an excellent business model. They go to large companies that have a need for large numbers of people with specific skills, like airlines and jet engine mechanics. They ask them what they want new people to know, build a program around it, then guarantee a job to anyone who manages to get through said program. The washout rate is high because anyone who wants can sign up and most people don’t make good mechanics, but it’s a great example of purposeful education that is sadly lacking in the U.S.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        I think some of the for-profit institutions offering the post-university education required to practise law in the UK (BPP Law School and particularly the University of Law) are reasonably prestigious, though not the most prestigious in the country.

        For reference: If you want to be a lawyer in the UK, you must either study law as an undergraduate degree or study another subject then take a one-year “law conversion course”. After this, depending on which sort of lawyer you want to be, you take either the BPTC (to be a barrister) or the LPC (to be a solicitor), both of which are one-year courses.

    • Well... says:

      Reminds me of ITT Tech.

  14. To me, the truth about reality is more important than morality. Does that make me evil?

    If someone values anything, for that matter, more than good outcomes or just behavior then is that person bad? What if someone cares very much about those things but they aren’t top of the list?

    • Well... says:

      I don’t understand. To what extent is morality not part of the truth about reality? (Or vice versa?)

      And, the heck ya mean “If someone values everything”? How does one value everything?

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      Interpreting you as saying “I think that discovering the truth about fundamental stuff like the Riemann hypothesis is more important than doing good works. Is that bad?”

      Under a maximalist interpretation of ‘good works’, yes, this is tautologically bad (but under that interpretation finding out truths about stuff is a good work). That’s not a very interesting question so I think you want to know something like “can a correct moral system require radical goodness” like the Comet King’s ethic in UNSONG.

      On the one hand, if we think there are moral facts, we’d better be prepared for moral surprises. In particular morality might require radical behavior like a sort of internal totalitarianism. On the other hand, we don’t derive our ethics from first principles, practical morality is mostly empirical and example-driven. This means we should be skeptical about extrapolating right and wrong too far beyond typical behavior, just like we should be skeptical that organic chemistry is going to work as usual in the core of the sun.

  15. onyomi says:

    Scott Adams made an interesting point re. Charlottesville:

    When you have two “sides” showing up at an appointed place and time, some from out of town, many wearing protective gear, carrying dangerous-but-not-too-deadly weapons, basically ready for a brawl… are we looking at a political conflict or a sporting event?

    Of course, there’s always been a sense in which many sports have acted like a kind of friendly substitute/outlet for war-like tendencies: the biggest, toughest guys from my town (or who are chosen to represent my town) meet up with the biggest, toughest guys from your town, they all crash into each other, we cheer and boo, and when our big guys win we all feel good about our town without the bloodshed, scalps, etc.

    War nowadays, of course, doesn’t look much like this. Though maybe that’s a relatively recent thing in the scale of things. Of course, there’s a difference between literally trying to kill each other and just hurling insults or even rocks and mace, but as we’ve seen, we’re kind of quickly getting there. And I somehow find the “sportification” of it more disturbing: I googled “antifa shirt” and found countless websites devoted to selling merchandise for both “teams” (no the anti-antifa aren’t Nazis or “fa,” they’re anti-communist, but clearly in a way that means “anti-antifa”).

    I’m not sure what my point is; also not sure where all this is heading, but I don’t think it’s good (though I still want the United States to break up, but ideally without a civil war).

      • onyomi says:

        Good (and frightening) point!

        Other question: is it a coincidence that what looks to me, at least, like the closest we’ve come to another Civil War, at least for the past 100 years, if not since the last one, is taking as a focal point… monuments to figures of the last Civil War?

        • J Mann says:

          My understanding is that the terrorism wave of the 70s was worse – Black Panthers, Weathermen, SLA, PLO, etc.

          • Brad says:

            Also, what about the civil rights movement? Particularly the tensions over desegregation. The jockeying between the state and federal governments looked a lot closer to civil war to me than anything going on right now.

          • onyomi says:

            I mean, maybe all that was worse. I’m not sure. I wasn’t there.

            My parents, who were there, seem to think there’s something qualitatively different about the level of widespread political acrimony currently going on as compared to anything they’ve lived through, though they may see their youths through rose-colored glasses.

            In particular, I don’t recall reading/hearing about/seeing pictures of the “spectator sport” and “branded teams” aspect of the civil rights movement and counterculture. I mean, obviously you could divide people into groups like “pro-integration vs. anti” or “anti-war vs. nationalists” or whatever, but this level of widespread sidelines involvement via social media, merchandising, etc. seems a bit new.

            Though, in any case, I’m not invested in the idea that we are now literally closer to a civil war than at any other time since the last one. Maybe we are, maybe we aren’t. It just strikes me as interesting that it’s not just issues related to the last civil war which are now coming into contention, but literally monuments to figures from the last civil war.

            My view of the problem is that the “meaning” of the Civil War has never really been fully agreed upon or pinned down by American culture and that peace between Red and Blue and North and South has been, to some extent, predicated on allowing for a little ambiguity. Now, to my mind, the left is pushing the issue really hard with the result of people violently taking sides on issues over which they probably always disagreed, but could agree to disagree.

            The disagreement over the “meaning” of the Civil War being: Blue Tribe and Northerners tend to view it as all about “slavery” vs “freedom.” To defend the Confederacy is to defend slavery. Red Tribe and Southerners tend to view it as, yes, somewhat about slavery, but also about states’ rights, self-determination, Southern culture, war heroes, a glorious lost cause…

            So when Northerners and Blue Tribe see Southerners and Red Tribe defending Civil War monuments they only see people defending slavery. But when Southerners and Red Tribe see Northerners and Blue Tribe insisting on taking down monuments, they see them as outgroup attacking all that other stuff above.

            This issue is clearly not definitively settled, and I don’t think it can easily be definitively settled in the near future. Certainly not by hitting people with cars or bike locks. Pushing the issue to attempt to reach some “final” agreement, it strikes me, is more likely to result in breakup of the US than achievement of such agreement.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I agree that things have changed. At least one driver is the idea from the left that everyone has a strong positive obligation to join them in active politics.

            One piece of evidence about anti-Southern sentiment (not just anti-Confederate) is mocking southern accents as evidence of racism. I haven’t seen as much of that in recent years as I used to.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            Those monuments (mostly) went up in the early 1900s as the KKK and legal segregation were in their ascendancy.

            The Confederate flag achieved its current cultural status in the South during the civil rights era, being formally adopted as a symbol by the Dixiecrat party in 1948 as symbol of resistance to the federal government. This was resistance to the idea that black people did indeed have equal rights.

            Yes, there is an “argument” about what the civil war meant. But the argument about these symbols isn’t really about the civil war. It’s about the 100+ years after the end of reconstruction.

            The people who are insisting that this is all about “heritage” don’t understand that the feeling of warm comradery they remember so fondly was the comradery of resisting civil rights.

          • onyomi says:

            @HBC

            I know all that about the history of Confederate monuments, flags, etc., but that’s not really what I’m talking about.

            The question is, what do these things mean to people now? They mean different things to different people. To some people a statue of Robert E Lee might mean “yay, slavery!” or “boo civil rights for black people!” but to most Red Tribe white Southerners today it means something like “yay, brave Southern military man!” Trying to force all of Southern Red Tribe to accept Northern Blue Tribe’s analysis of what Southern Red Tribe’s symbols “really” mean seems a bad idea, even if Northern Blue Tribe is right when they say that some of the people who say “states’ rights” are secretly saying “racism,” or that the original reason for the erecting of a particular monument was to signal opposition to civil rights.

            Actually, I think the post mortem of Charlottesville perfectly mirrors the still-failed post mortem of the Civil War: one side admitting that mistakes were made on both sides is not enough. One side admitting that hitting someone with a car is a lot worse than throwing rocks and macing people is not enough. Nothing short of absolute, unilateral condemnation will satisfy many on the left, just as nothing short of unilateral, unequivocal condemnation of the Confederacy and anyone ever involved with it will satisfy many in Tribe Blue. I’m saying that’s a bad way to reconcile differences.

          • J Mann says:

            @onyomi – to the red tribers I know (who are definitely not a representative sample), I don’t think they ever thought about the statues except possibly as art or landmarks.

            Some of them see the removal as offensive because it reminds them of the Taliban and Stalin, and because they see it as an effort to erase either American history generally or their culture specifically, and some of them see it as a slippery slope without a limiting principle. My father in law is pretty worked up about the proposal to remove the Stone Mountain carvings, and he’s a Yankee through and through.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            You originally said:

            My view of the problem is that the “meaning” of the Civil War has never really been fully agreed upon or pinned down by American culture

            But now you more seem to be making the argument that meanings are being forgotten.

            The people who put up those statues and flew that flag absolutely knew that they thought blacks were not equal to whites. And that it was a cornerstone of their culture.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            A small bit of evidence that things have changed.

            Something like ten years ago Garrison Kiellor (then host of Prairie Home Companion, an NPR variety show) made a joke about not wanting your child to marry a Republican. At the time, it was fresh and funny and I laughed at it.

          • onyomi says:

            Re. the meaning of Confederate symbols for Southerners: medical unit from Charlottesville, VA (!) celebrating Thomas Jefferson’s birthday on deployment in WWII.

            In other words, Southern Americans fighting actual Nazis flying the Confederate Flag.

          • Matt M says:

            I am very happy to take part in this unveiling of the statue of General Robert E. Lee.

            All over the United States we recognize him as a great leader of men, as a great general. But, also, all over the United States I believe that we recognize him as something much more important than that. We recognize Robert E. Lee as one of our greatest American Christians and one of our greatest American gentlemen.

            The comments of FDR at the unveiling of a Robert E Lee statue in 1936

          • HeelBearCub says:

            FDR’s power base was dependent on white, Southern, populist Democrats (allied with Northern Liberals).

            When Republicans describe Democrats as the party of the KKK, that is the Democratic party they are talking about.

          • onyomi says:

            @HBC

            FDR’s power base was dependent on white, Southern, populist Democrats (allied with Northern Liberals).

            Is it possible some of the Southerners FDR might have pleased by speaking glowingly of Robert E Lee might be pleased for reasons other than racism? And if not, what does it say about FDR if he’s willing to ally himself with racists to win? The press doesn’t seem very forgiving of that supposed fault in Trump.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            It says the US was, on the whole, a deeply racist country in the 30s, which shouldn’t be a shock to anyone if you know much about the following 30+ years.

            Which doesn’t make the US all that exceptional. Plenty of racism to go around in the world.

            And FDR was a politician.

        • Well... says:

          I think you’re watching the news too much. Their job is to make you think all this stuff is way more important and widespread than it really is.

        • tscharf says:

          Because one person got killed? I think you are using super powers of extrapolation. One party is very upset they are out of power and seem to think they are entitled to it. Not exactly a unique event in the annals of world history.

          Most people care much less than you probably realize.

        • gbdub says:

          Meh, ultimately the Nazis rolled out the red carpet for a big national rally and got a smaller crowd than the line outside an Apple store for an iPhone launch.

          Really we ought to just ignore them. If this hadn’t turned into a brawl, it would be forgotten in days. Hell even if it had, but a murderous nutjob didn’t drive his car into the crowd it would be out of the news cycle by now.

          I mean, this site gets accused of over-emphasizing the influence of SJWs, but now half the country seems to be convinced it’s time for Civil War 2 over a group that can count maybe a few thousand serious members. We’re supposed to ignore the threat of Islamic terrorism in America – this is on a similar order of magnitude.

          The Nazi’s want a fight, because that’s the only thing that makes them relevant. Can we be grown ups and not accept the invitation?

          • schazjmd says:

            I’ve been thinking the same thing lately. The problem with the counter-protests is those are what seem to provide importance and relevance to the alt-right in the public eye. I think it would be delightful for a town that issued a permit for one of their rallies/demonstrations to completely shut down while it was happening — nobody on the streets, nobody watching, no counters, no challenge…absolute indifference.

          • Witness says:

            @schazjmd

            Your comment reminded me of a story from my hometown. I was not present, but I have these details on pretty good authority:

            One time, the Westboro Baptist Church scheduled a protest in my hometown, of a military funeral. They applied for and got (grudgingly) the appropriate permits, with the caveat that they were to remain on the opposite side of the street from the actual funeral. When they arrived on the day, a city bus had been parked between their permitted area and the actual funeral.

            I think there is a lot of merit to this approach.

          • schazjmd says:

            @Witness exactly – creative obstructionism and removal of the responses they feed off of!

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Witness

            That sort of thing is the equivalent of a “free speech zone” (a place to isolate protestors away from the events they are protesting); it sounds great when you do it to scumbags, but it’s a serious erosion of freedom of speech and assembly.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            Freedom of speech does not imply freedom to afflict it upon specific listeners. Neither the people attending the funeral, nor the city, have any obligation to aid or facilitate the WBC in getting their message across to the funeral attendees.

            Anyone who wants to see the WBC are more than welcome to walk to the other side of the bus. Anyone who wants to listen to them is more than welcome to stay within earshot.

          • Randy M says:

            I think the term “free-speech zone” sounds Orwellian (for the principle of “the exception proves the rule”) also, but I don’t think freedom of assembly is supposed to mean you can assemble anywhere you want, but rather with whom ever you want and about whatever you want. At the least, people obstructing public roads should be removed however necessary. I know this runs into the heap problem–if one person has a right to pass out leaflets in front of the courthouse, why don’t 1,000 people have that right, even if it prevents the rest of the city from getting their business done–but I don’t think this is what assembly is intended for.

          • tscharf says:

            The government has a duty to treat all applicants equally. If another group applied for a permit to protest the following week and they didn’t park a bus in the way then they probably have some legal problems, especially if they are doing the bus parking and buses aren’t normally parked there.

            The Supreme Court is not going to put up with clever ways to not provide free speech.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, I don’t support the government parking a city bus to subvert a lawful protest.

            That said, I do recall there was some gang of patriotic bikers who basically went around the country “shielding” military families from WBC protesters at funerals.

            Private sector solution, yo.

          • Witness says:

            @tscharf

            If another protest was planned there a week later, there wouldn’t have been a funeral procession. Where would you like them to park the bus?

            (The state did in fact later pass a law requiring anyone picketing a funeral to keep enough distance that the bus would no longer be necessary.)

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Is, not Was. Patriot Guard Riders.

          • tscharf says:

            Where would you like them to park the bus?

            Where they normally park the bus, in the bus parking lot.

            You just can’t have different rules for different groups. Distance rules are a solution that may very well pass muster.

  16. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=3389

    Sarah Constantin (guest poster):

    “Work samples are easy to anonymize to reduce gender bias, and they’re more effective than traditional interviews, where split-second first impressions usually decide who gets hired, but don’t correlate at all with job performance. A number of tech companies have switched to work samples as part of their interview process. I used work samples myself when I was hiring for a startup, just because they seemed more accurate at predicting who’d be good at the job; entirely without intending to, I got a 50% gender ratio. If you want to reduce gender bias in tech, it’s worth at least considering blinded hiring via work samples.”

    I believe that crude methods like quotas are used because of mistrust that people can be honest about who they hire, and I wish more work were done of better methods of evaluation.

    • Brad says:

      Leaving aside gender entirely, the whole I’m gonna interview people using my intuition, half remembered stories about how Microsoft used to do it, and naive reasoning from first principles is so stupid, yet so prevalent, that it boggles the mind.

      There’s a literature on this. There’s a literature on everything. But almost everyone would rather make up an ad hoc procedure then actually serve the company they work for by going about that task in a professional manner just like they (hopefully!) go about their other assigned tasks.

      • Aapje says:

        @Brad

        I’d sooner blame the company, because how can you expect any different if the people who have to evaluate potential new coworkers don’t get the training to know what works, nor the time to properly prepare?

        Programming is one kind of job, doing assessments is a different job altogether.

        • Brad says:

          I guess that’s fair. Though if you are hired on as a manager, is expertise in hiring supposed to be part of the toolkit you bring to the job? (And yes I realize that brings up another the same question at another level about how whoever hired the manager did the hiring.)

          • Aapje says:

            Of course, ultimately the buck stops somewhere. It’s just that my personal experience is that I was asked to evaluate someone based on an interview. There was no standard method or useful materials provided, no real time given to prepare, no training, etc. I just don’t want to get blamed for the shitty job I did, which IMO is due the conditions.

            I think that it is the responsibility of the management to develop a good procedure and part of that is logically to do a literature review and find the most effective method, according to the latest insights. Management doesn’t necessarily have to know this or do this, but they need to have the skills to ensure it is done competently by their underlings or an external company they hire for it or whatever.

    • tscharf says:

      If the gender ratio of available applicants is 80% male, then the industry isn’t going to get to a 50/50 gender ratio. Perhaps my logic is flawed somehow.

      • InferentialDistance says:

        Sure it can! Just refuse to hire three quarters of viable male candidates.

        • The Nybbler says:

          If only this hadn’t been seriously proposed….

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          I believe this is in principle manifestly illegal. (IANAL.)

          Whether anyone would take a suit seriously that resulted from such a policy…anyone’s guess. Very hard to say how the interactions of social pressure against male complaints, laws as written vs laws as enforced, and even some of the precedent for one-sided discrimination law interacts.

          I do not think any competent HR department would want to find out the results, however; it’s certainly possible (I won’t speak as to probable) that the government would rule disastrously against you.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            If Google’s “give non-whites and non-men a second chance” policy doesn’t count as illegal discrimination on basis of race and sex, there’s nothing stopping anyone from stacking such things until you achieve the desired outcome. We’ll see how the fallout from the memo gets resolved, but it’s not currently looking good if Google’s legal department OK’d both the hiring policy and the decision to fire James after reporting it.

      • ayegill says:

        As long as the number of applicants is high enough (5 applicants per job), there’s no reason why not.

        • ayegill says:

          I don’t seem to be able to edit that comment, but of course you only need 2.5 applicants per job at 80% male (5 is if you want to only hire women).

          • roystgnr says:

            That works for the first job you need to fill.

            But after you and the rest of your industry have filled a swath of jobs, then your applicant ratio will stop being 4:1; e.g. if you’ve collectively hired half the female applicants and an equal number of male applicants, then your subsequent applicant ratio will be 7:1. The next step will be worse, especially as your current employees re-enter the applicant pool. If the employees in the industry match that initial 4:1 applicant gender ratio, then this process doesn’t return to a steady state until you have an industry unemployment rate r of at least 60%, at which point your applicant ratio will be (r+60%):(r-60%).

  17. Jon S says:

    Has anybody here done a review of the literature on male circumcision? There are a number of conflicting meta-studies.

    • Aapje says:

      What are you looking for specifically? Evidence of harm to men’s sex life? Benefits for STD transmission? The percentage of botched circumcisions? Its popularity?

      • Jon S says:

        Mainly benefits for STD transmission and reduction in UTI’s (or increase – I’ve seen a few sources claiming both directions there), specifically in the USA or other developed countries. Also any evidence of harm to sex lives.

        I’ve already found enough information on its general popularity… while there’s a wide range of estimates, they at least paint a reasonably consistent picture.

        I am curious to know how often doctors have their own sons circumcised in the US and/or other developed countries. Is their rate similar to the base rate in their region?

        • Aapje says:

          Here is a meta-analysis for UTIs for N > 400,000. Part of the conclusion:

          This shows that the benefit of circumcision on UTI only outweighs the risk in boys who have had UTI previously and have a predisposition to repeated UTI. As this analysis has used a conservative circumcision complication rate of 2%, if the complication rate were in reality higher the risk–benefit analysis may not favour circumcision even in the higher risk populations.

          In conclusion, the data we present do not support the routine circumcision of normal boys with standard risk in order to prevent UTI. However, our data suggest that circumcision of boys with higher than normal risk of UTI should be considered. As there is no direct evidence of the effect of circumcision on UTI in this group, confirmation through a randomised trial of circumcision in high risk patients would be beneficial.

          As for STDs, AFAIK no clear benefit has been found for anything but HIV, where huge effects have been found for transmission from an infected woman to their male sex partner in African studies. However, if you look at US statistics on HIV infections, it is quite clear that the primary infection vector is gay sex, a secondary vector is men with HIV who infect the woman they have sex with, while it is extremely rare for women with HIV to infect a man.

          So the African studies seem to have little relevance to the US, as a substantial reduction of a tiny transmission vector is still a minor benefit. It’s not even clear if the outcomes hold for the US, as African women are known to engage in practices like drying out their vagina with herbs and crap like that so create more friction. I would expect this to increase the risk of damage to the penis, which quite plausibly can be worse for uncircumcised penises. AFAIK this is not common in the West and it is quite possible that the benefit of circumcision is substantially less or even non-existent with more sensible sex practices. I am not aware of any studies in Western circumstances that show the same effect that was found in the African studies.

          Since gay sex is such a major transmission vector of HIV in the West, it’s hard to see circumcision as a clear benefit unless it provides a substantial benefit here. The amount of research into this seems insufficient for a proper meta-study, but what I’ve seen so far doesn’t show a clear benefit (page 38 for the last one).

          This meta-study looking into adverse effects on sexual function, sensitivity and satisfaction found no adverse effects.

          I am curious to know how often doctors have their own sons circumcised in the US and/or other developed countries. Is their rate similar to the base rate in their region?

          I consider this an uninteresting question, since if you look at smoking, there is no consistency worldwide in smoking habits of doctors vs the general population. In some countries they smoke less (like the US), in others they smoke more. If this is true for smoking, where the downsides are much stronger than for circumcision, then I don’t see how knowing the habits of doctors to circumcise their sons will tell us anything useful.

  18. Urstoff says:

    Are male->female transgender persons more common than female->male? I ask because it seems all the “high profile” transgender persons on youtube/twitter are M->F, but obviously that’s not remotely a representative sample.

    • Nornagest says:

      Population estimates vary wildly, but if Wikipedia’s trustworthy, individual studies of transgender prevalence have tended to find a transwoman:transman ratio of 3:1 to 4:1. I have no idea what you’d find if you included genderqueer, though.

      • gbdub says:

        Could this be evidence that men are actually held to more rigid gender roles? “Tomgirls” are more socially acceptable than “sissy boys” (I’d say bisexualism seems more accepted among women too, but that’s more questionable) – perhaps the marginal gender dysphoric biological female is more able to find a personal lifestyle that alleviates the dysphoria without transitioning?

        • Nornagest says:

          Maybe, but I don’t think we know enough about the causal mechanism behind any flavor of trans for this kind of speculation to be worth much.

        • rlms says:

          My theory is that Blanchard-Bailey is somewhat correct. Not necessarily that its mechanisms are correct, but that the groups of transwomen it points to are real, and that only one of them has a transman equivalent.

  19. HFARationalist says:

    Religious background

    How many SSC members are theists? If you are a theism what is the influence of your theism on your rational views?

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Scott does this survey annually. Check out https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/03/17/ssc-survey-2017-results/ for the 2017 results.

      • HFARationalist says:

        Thanks! Actually I have seen it before. I’m mainly interested in understanding which posters are theistic and how does their theism influence their posts about certain topics here.

    • J Mann says:

      Roman Catholic.

      I don’t think theism affects my rational views at all* – IMHO, faith is a choice, and it doesn’t require you to surrender reason. I think it would present a problem if I experienced what I perceived as divine instruction and had to separate it from mental illness/infernal trickery/etc.

      * On further reflection, I think I’m more sympathetic to religious viewpoints than I probably would be if I weren’t religious, but I don’t see that as conflicting with rationality. Also, I identify as rationalist-adjacent, whereas I’d probably say I was rationalist if I were atheist/agnostic, but that’s more a community instinct than IMHO related to thought processes.

    • rahien.din says:

      I’m a theist. I’ve gone through multiple phases (Southern Baptist, pseudo-Buddhist, am-I-atheist?) but ended up Roman Catholic.

      I ascribe to a sort of panentheism* which I derive from Michael Tkacz’ reading of Aquinas’ doctrine of creation ex nihilo and a kind of author-narrative relationship between God and the world.

      What this means is that I am more sympathetic both to scientific descriptions of the world (all actions and interactions within the world must be consistent with observation and natural law) and more religious or theistic descriptions (as God writes the story that God sees fit to write). I would like to think that this makes me more able to distinguish between the two, as well.

      As far as rationality is concerned, I am thus freed to pursue rationality without reservation. I am both theistic and rational because I have moved them onto orthogonal axes.

      * Maybe this is heresy? But I don’t think so.

    • JonathanD says:

      I am a theist, an Episcopalian to be precise. I don’t consider myself a rationalist and so I rarely post here, as it’s not really a forum intended for me.

    • Well... says:

      Karaite-ish Jew. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in the thread, my spiritual/religious thoughts are compartmentalized from my rational processes.

    • RDNinja says:

      Evangelical here, somewhere in the neighborhood of Baptist. I wouldn’t call myself a rationalist per se, because I believe there are truths about the universe that can’t be reached by reason and logic. On the other hand, Jesus did say to be “wise as serpents,” and I think something like rationalism goes a long way toward that.

    • Rosemary7391 says:

      I’m christian, methodist if you want to be more precise.

      I think having faith changes/clarifies where I want to go more than how I get there – thinking rationally tends to help with the latter. It gives me some axioms, like the value of life, knowledge of forgiveness, but consequences of those are still things to be derived.

    • Witness says:

      Don’t really like the term “rationalist”, at least as a descriptor for myself, though I don’t mind saying that I aspire towards rationality.

      My religion helps me maintain a respect for metis and knowing that there are true things that are difficult (perhaps impossible?) to articulate and/or measure.

      It also makes clear the imperative to stand against Moloch. Reason and empiricism are powerful tools toward that end.

    • tkolbe says:

      Catholic (Roman Rite)

      I’m convinced by the Aristotelian-Thomistic Cosmological argument for God and that rationalism -> critical rationalism -> pan-critical rationalism (see William Bartley) -> open to considering how well “tested” various religions -> Catholicism (based on its doctrinal consistency). Hence I converted as much because of my rationalism as anything. Dogmatically, a Catholic holds that faith cannot contradict reason and that reason is subordinate to faith in that faith accesses things which reason does not.

      My simplest explanation of this was from a mathematics lecture I heard once: the professor was a very eminent mathematician and as an aside to his lecture he noted that “a good mathematician can prove anything”–his point being the importance of the mathematics community to getting proofs done (he had worked on a very very important proof). Robin Hanson makes a similar point where we shouldn’t be “weird” in too many areas and we should normally just go with the expert consensus. So, Catholics accept the authority of the Church.

      I think the authority of the Church is evidenced by a variety of things: steadfast holding on to doctrine (that’s trickier to see unless you understand the Church well), its conformity to the natural law (again shown by reason), and the miracles. My understanding of miracles is (1) Hume’s objection assumes the consequent (2) Eliezer Yudkowsky parable of cool plates in physics class (see “A Technical Explanation of Technical Explanation”)–e.g. we should be bewildered by fiction–drilling down more particularly: it makes sense to talk about effects which are proportionate to a cause. Any given effect not proportionate to a cause does not prove anything in particular, but there’s lots of reasonably well-documented miracles (some appearing in scientific journals: e.g. Miracle of the Sun at Fátima, healing miracles at Lourdes) which establish the possibility of such wonders and others that have less documentation but fit very well with the theology.

  20. eyeballfrog says:

    I have heard in a few different places the idea that people with autism lack a theory of mind. I’m not exactly sure what this means. Is it a lack of intuitive ability that could still be made up for from other clues, sort like the way face blind people can still recognize that faces are different through focusing on, say, eye color? Or is it a total inability to understand the concept, like how a blind person cannot understand the color red no matter how much it is explained?

    • Hyzenthlay says:

      It probably depends on the person and the type of autism but I think it’s more the former. Autistic people usually understand that others are conscious beings, even if they may have difficulty predicting how others will react to things.

      There’s some debate about whether it’s really a deficit in empathy or more just that autistics think differently than neurotypicals–in other words, autistics may not understand NTs, but NTs are equally bad at understanding autistics.

    • HFARationalist says:

      As an autist I’m really not sure. I’m aware that other minds exist, however it is really hard to predict what other people think.

      My current default model of other humans is that all humans are self-interested quasi-rational entities. By quasi-rational I mean all humans should theoretically take some steps towards maximizing their self-interest. Due to time they may not necessarily be very careful in their interest maximization. I’m also aware that beliefs, including religious beliefs change how a human thinks about the universe. This model fails when the behavior of a human does not benefit anyone hence it does not make any sense to me. When that happens I label such a human irrational.

      All human behaviors have to either be rational or be recognizable distortions of rational ones or I do not process them.

    • HFARationalist says:

      As you can see, I almost always use 😉 to symbolize sarcasm. Otherwise almost everything else I say is 100% literal. Similarly if others do not use language that clearly indicates sarcasm such as ;-), 4chan-style “Implying that …..”, “muh “, etc I interpret everything literally.

  21. Deiseach says:

    I am presently reading a collection of essays and from this one, about James Ellroy Flecker, I discovered the following:

    Flecker’s time at Oxford ended somewhat ignominiously with a Third Class degree and for the next two years he had to take schoolmastering jobs via the offices of Messrs Gabbitas and Thring, the notorious educational agents.

    Such a Dickensian name made me look them up and yes, they really exist (though they’ve undergone a slight name change) 🙂

    • CatCube says:

      Training a cat to tolerate that is pretty impressive. Every one I’ve known would have turned the back of his neck into a bloody mess.

      • skef says:

        I’ve heard it’s partly about it being the right cat, but mostly about starting when they’re quite young.

        [That’s not me, of course. I just ran across that and thought, “Why aren’t I hiking beautiful canyons and meeting people and their cats right now?” I used to hike canyons fairly regularly … ]

      • Nornagest says:

        Depends on the cat. I’ve met a couple that not only tolerate being worn as a scarf but actually enjoy it.

  22. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    As I recall, there have been some complaints here about historical fiction whose characters seem all too modern.

    Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell doesn’t have that flaw, and is quite a strong fantasy novel. It’s about the magic in Regency England, with a good bit of snark about people thinking they’re better than they are, and yet it’s balanced with them sometimes doing useful things anyway.

    It won the Hugo and the Nebula in 2014.

    Anyone interested in discussing it?

    • Rob K says:

      Yes! One of my favorite fantasy books. A few (moderately spoilerific) things I think it does well:

      -storytelling involving dark, mysterious forces. We learn more about the Raven King as the book goes on, but not so much that he becomes fully comprehensible. Strange and Norrell’s magic, meanwhile, moves from almost cute at first to increasingly unsettling. The scenes with Strange in Venice are particularly good; it’s one of the better depictions I can recall of a character paying a heavy price to gain power.

      -Depicting the social reaction to said forces. Magic as it eventually reveals itself to be is outside the boundaries of social acceptability for its time. At first Norrell’s strict propriety keeps it seemingly inside the lines, so to speak, but practicality and necessity (Wellington has a war to fight and needs all tools at his disposal) overcomes that, and so society has to start adapting itself to a magic that’s following its own logic.

      And yes, Strange, Norrell, and others (Vinculus, Stephen Black) are all excellent and quite of their time (Strange being the most modern, I guess). The one friend I recommended it to who didn’t like it said it was “too British” for him.

    • dodrian says:

      I feel like I missed something with Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It was just so boring. I kept reading assuming that something interesting would happen, but it never did, and felt the same watching the first few episodes of the BBC adaptation (I gave up on that). Given the book won so many awards I have to assume that something about it went over my head.

      The use of ‘period language’ especially threw me. It felt like it was trying too hard to evoke the era, and perhaps I’m in the wrong on that, but reading literature written in that time never bothered me.

      Maybe it’s because I’m more of a Sci-Fi than a Fantasy fan, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying Lord of the Rings, Narnia and Lewis’ Cosmic Trilogy, His Dark Materials, Harry Potter and the Discworld series (reflecting on that list, maybe it’s because most are YA books?).

      What did you find enjoyable about it?

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I did like the language– the humor was funny and the descriptions were vivid.

        One challenge was that the book was actually fairly concise. If I spaced out, I’d miss too much, so I read it in fairly small chunks.

        I liked the eerieness, the sense that there’s much more going on than can be seen.

    • Iain says:

      I quite liked it, although I don’t know that I have anything in particular to say about it.

    • John Schilling says:

      It won the Hugo and the Nebula in 2014.

      Nit: Hugo and Nebula in 2005, after being published in 2004. And richly deserved, though do not believe it could win either award today.

      I otherwise agree, and would be interested in discussing it with the caveat that I haven’t read it since 2004 and my memory is a bit fuzzy on much of it.

      • Machina ex Deus says:

        And richly deserved, though do not believe it could win either award today.

        Is that a puppy whistle?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      My recollection is that it was a very odd book which I quite liked. It took it’s time.

      Honestly, I don’t even remember it having much of a plot. I would have to re-read it it discuss it properly. And it is huge and I don’t read quickly.

      I seem to recall that it was consciously echoing Dickens?

      • Deiseach says:

        I read it but didn’t like it as much as I expected I would (and I should have done, this is the sort of thing that is generally jam to me); I thought the story didn’t really get going until near the end.

        Sometimes a book really rings the bell for you, sometimes it doesn’t. Many people seem to have loved and to love this novel but I can’t get into it at all. That does not mean it’s a bad novel, though.

    • rlms says:

      It was pretty good. Have you watched the TV adaptation?

  23. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Any ideas about why the partition of India went so badly?

    • 1soru1 says:

      Probably the major reasons were that it was:

      1. a partition
      2. in India
      3. at the tail end of an empire.

      It’s not like other similar partitions went much better.

    • John Schilling says:

      The two big problems were that it happened too fast for anyone to prepare for it, and that the province/kingdom/whatever of Jammu and Kashmir was majority Muslim but was basically “owned” by a Hindu prince who wanted to be a big shot in India if he couldn’t be an independent sovereign.

      Indian popular sentiment at the end of WWII was such that Independence was going to happen Real Soon, or There Would Be Blood. That left no time to arrange a mass migration to put all the Muslims on one side of the line and all the Hindus on the other, no time to build the sort of institutions that might protect Muslim civil rights in India even when administered by Hindu civil servants, no time to do anything but cross a billion or so collective fingers and come up with theories like “The Indians won’t dare oppress their Muslim minority because then Pakistan would oppress its Hindu minority, so Deterrence!”

      Maharaja Singh taking “his” mostly-Muslim principality into India, except for the bits the Pakistani army wound up parked on, led to a frozen conflict that pretty much ended all the clever plans about how Indo-Pakistani politics would be carefully coordinated to minimize religious oppression and bigotry. The Pakistanis basically chased all their Hindus out of the country, and the Indians had little reason not to retaliate by oppressing their Muslims.

  24. Talker45 says:

    Long time lurker, first time poster.

    Many of my personal views do not align with the views often seen on this blog, but I continue to visit specifically to challenge my viewpoints. I have even changed my mind on some (mainly social) issues.

    After the violence in Charlottesville this past weekend, I saw a lot of people stressing the importance of free speech on social media. I was raised to believe that free speech was always a good thing.

    I was wondering if anyone had any coherent arguments AGAINST free speech. Are there any situations where we should not tolerate free speech? Are there any examples of societies that banned one type of speech and never descended into the dystopian pit of absolute censorship?

    I personally support free speech and also tend to think people who deify the Confederacy are stupid. They lost the war! Who wants to be on the losing side of anything ever??

    • The Nybbler says:

      I always found this so annoying because invoking free speech just seemed like a way to, ironically enough, avoid the argument at hand. (Notice how B never had to explain why racism and white nationalists aren’t bad.)

      B would probably concede that point. Free speech is the argument at hand. Nothing that happened at that rally was going to change the fate of the statue, except if it had been actually damaged during the rally. The meta argument — whether or not everyone, even neo-Nazi Confederate sympathizers, gets to have their say or whether the self proclaimed arbiters of virtue get to shut down all opposed by any means necessary — was (and remains) actually in dispute.

      • HFARationalist says:

        I agree. Let people say whatever they want in most cases even if the most unpopular speech appears.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      Probably no society has descended into the dystopian pit of absolute censorship (Spain might be an exception). Primary examples of states with restricted speech that still manage to detect the will of the people[*] are Great Britain and China.

      [*] This is obviously not a real thing but I’m leaving it until I have a better concept with which to replace it.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Probably no society has descended into the dystopian pit of absolute censorship (Spain might be an exception).

        Wait, what? Spain might not have been in the vanguard of free-speech-supporting countries, but I’ve never seen any suggestion that it was literally the most censored country in the world before.

        • rlms says:

          Inquisition era maybe?

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            That is what I was thinking. I have a vague impression that the Inquisition was in a censorship Goldilocks zone – state control tech was already strong but communication tech was still weak.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      The US doesn’t have absolute and total free speech either. We currently except:

      -Incitement (must pass the Imminent Lawless Action test): Short version is that rando on the internet writing a blog post about “we should go kick some ass at some point!” is protected, but same rando in charlottesville hyping up a crowd of his buddies while facing off against a similar crowd going “Alright guys, let’s kick their ass now!” is not.

      -False statements of fact (multiple, sometimes overlapping, tests): Aside from civil liability cases, the classic example is Defamation, which is pretty tough for public figures or private figures involved in a matter of public interest to claim. You generally need to show that the person you’re claiming defamed you knowingly spread false statements with either deliberate malicious intent or reckless disregard for their truth or falsehood, and sometimes also that there was in fact material harm done to you. That’s a tough bar to clear a lot of the time.

      -Obscenity (has to pass the miller test): I’m hopeful we’ll get rid of this one entirely at some point, but it’s still on the books, even if the bar has gotten higher over the years.

    • Mark says:

      Who wants to be on the losing side of anything ever??

      I think this is a really bad argument that hints at a barren internal life. Nobody wants to lose, but principles? Loyalty? If we abandon them, we lose everything.

      Free speech is a mechanism to undermine central power. Free speech might be bad if centralised power is necessary and under threat. So, when the philosopher kings know best?

      • Talker45 says:

        I think this is a really bad argument that hints at a barren internal life.

        This was uncomfortably accurate.

      • Matt M says:

        Agreed. I’m almost shocked at how much I’ve seen this reasoning in the past week or so.

        The very direct implication seems to be that either

        a. The “winning” side of a physical conflict must be the right/correct side
        b. It’s better to be on the winning side than the correct side

        Are people really that unprincipled? Like, I understand that bandwagoning happens for a wide variety of reasons, but do we really need to encourage it and mock anyone who doesn’t bandwagon? This strikes me as one of the crudest forms of “might makes right” imaginable.

        • John Schilling says:

          It’s better to be on the winning side than the correct side

          Why is this an issue now? The Literal Murderous Nazis of Charlottesville are not on the correct side, and they are not going to be on the winning side. Being on their side is a sucker bet for evil losers. Don’t be an evil loser.

          It would help if you could conceive of there being more than just two sides. Because if your world view is that there are always only two sides, and you’re going to be on the side that doesn’t have the Evil Social Justice Warriors, well, there are things far more evil than they. And by process of elimination, you’ll be on that side.

          The winning side will be either the side with the SJWs and Antifa, or the side that takes a separate stand against the Nazis. The correct side will be the side that takes a separate stand against the Nazis, unless that side is somehow marginalized by “us against them, no third way!”, in which side the correct side will then be the side with the SJWs and Antifa. Because Literal Nazis are worse.

    • kjohn says:

      Loose lips sink shps?

    • keranih says:

      I personally support free speech and also tend to think people who deify the Confederacy are stupid. They lost the war! Who wants to be on the losing side of anything ever??

      You probably didn’t mean for this phrase to be the thing that struck me most about your post. (welcome in, btw. It’s a great place, hope you like it.)

      I don’t want to assume your pov, but I’m willing to bet that very few people around you disagree with you when you say “Supporting the Confederacy is stupid! They lost! They’re losers!” Which is part of what makes that such a powerful statement, and why it’s so not a great idea to say that.

      My first reaction to that kinda statement is to quote Mal Reynolds – “Well, it was the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong side.” More on that in a bit.

      My second reaction is that when you go around calling people losers for supporting something, it does peel off some supporters – the more moderate, lukewarm types who were acting as a brake and a civilizing influence on the crazy hard core types. It also makes the hard core types double down, *and* it makes some lukewarm types get conviction. Whether or not this weakens the movement you’re opposing depends on a number of factors, *most of which you’re not going to know enough to judge.* Far better to use a more rational approach.

      Thirdly – and I think this is the most important, and I really wish more people thought this through (*) – I will only respect your views if you win a devastating and brutal war is actually a fairly shitty recipe for civil discourse. I don’t think we should be encouraging “might makes right” in this way.

      Another way to look at this – historical research shows that the vast majority of Africans shipped from Africa as slaves were war plunder from conflicts between African tribal groups. Which made them losers. At war. Does that justify the subsequent enslavement and loss of their human rights? Does losing a war justify losing *any* human rights?

      I keep going back to American history, and realizing that fewer and fewer people are actually quoting Lincoln anymore, with his emphasis on ceasing conflict, refusing to hold grudges, and letting the grass grow over the old shell holes and bloodstains. Humans gotta human, I know, but seriously, why deliberately listen to the worse angels of our nature?

      Another note – above, I paraphrased you, because what you actually wrote was “people who deify the Confederacy are stupid” – this isn’t either/or – one doesn’t either deify the CSA OR deify MLK. There’s a broad range of human emotion available, and from my experience, most Southerner’s pov on the Lost Cause is best characterized as “it’s complicated.” Until people start saying “you’re evil/stupid/deplorable for thinking that”. Then the feeling simplifies pretty damn quick.

      I said I would talk about Mal’s quote, and my inclination to doubt that the Confederacy was the wrong side. Lots of people get het up and start shouting at this point. To which I say – what is the point of shouting at me? I have my doubts – so, convince me that I’m not correct! What do you think works best – persuasion or shouting? Persuasion or property damage? What’s the point of tearing down old stone statues that have been there for over a century? The granite isn’t going to jump down and start beating on people. The granite surely hasn’t stopped America from electing an African-American president(**) (and far sooner than any one expected.) The granite isn’t shooting little kids as bystanders in drug wars. If what we’re going for is a society that is open to all sorts of people and has opportunity for all…maybe we should start by tolerating (not embracing – you don’t have to *agree*, you just have to not shout me down) free expression and free exchange of ideas.

      All ideas. Not just the ideas of non-losers.

      (*) other people thinking things through doesn’t mean they’ll end up agreeing with me, but a gal can hope.

      (**) If, however, one doesn’t want to ever see another African American president, one could do far worse than to overreach and start attacking the cultural touchstones of opposing sides/groups – just because right now, they’re “losers”. Way to go, encourage people who outnumber you to never ever be “losers” again. (This applies to so, SO many sides, so many groups. So many.)

      • 1soru1 says:

        I think this is a good example of the pros and cons of saying things because they are true, and saying things in order to get a desired effect.

        That the South was evil is pretty much about as unambiguously true as the fact that it lost. So anyone unable to accept those two facts is, as a matter of objective truth, either stupid or evil.

        But I bet you wouldn’t vote for someone who told you so. And neither would those who think like you, and there are enough of them that that is going to be, as a minimum, an influential voting block.

        I don’t have any answer to that particular dilemma in mind.

        • That the South was evil is pretty much about as unambiguously true as the fact that it lost.

          What does “the South was evil” mean? I think the relevant question was something like “were all people who supported the South evil?” Relevant to questions such as whether statues of Lee should be torn down.

          And I think the answer is pretty clearly no. I think the answer would be no even if we replaced the South with Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia. People do things for lots of reasons, depending on their circumstances, their beliefs, their options. Someone may heroically fight for an evil cause because he believes, perhaps reasonably believes, it isn’t evil.

          There is a line in John Brown’s Body, a verse novel about the Civil War, that runs roughly (by memory):

          “None of us ever owned slaves and never expect to. But we won’t lie down and let the North walk over us, about slaves or anything else.”

          That sentiment might be mistaken, but it isn’t evil.

          • Brad says:

            I disagree, I think it is evil. Nationalism is morally neutral at best, not a get out of moral jail free card.

            If your sense of nationalism is so strong that you pick literal nazis because they speak the same language as you or they sing the same drinking songs that’s a moral choice you make. It is entirely just for the rest of us to hold you morally responsible for that choice and its consequences.

            A moral person would prefer allies walking all over us to German nazis running the country.

          • lvlln says:

            A moral person would prefer allies walking all over us to German nazis running the country.

            Wait, is your contention that Weimar-to-WW2 Germany was filled with insufficiently moral people, and that the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened or would have been much more limited if that population of humans had just been made up of more moral humans instead? If so, what was it about Germany at that time or the Antebellum South that made those humans living in it particularly immoral relative to, say, the population of the allied countries who ended up defeating the Nazis or the population of the North who ended up defeating the Confederacy?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            A moral person would prefer allies walking all over us to German nazis running the country.

            But it’s legal to support Nazis in elections and treason to support a foreign army.

          • Brad says:

            @lvlln
            I don’t think I made any comparison to other populations or counterfactuals about what they might or might not have done.

            @Gobbobobble
            I’m not sure what you are getting at. Law and morality aren’t not one in the same.

          • 1soru1 says:

            > What does “the South was evil” mean?

            To a first approximation, that more or less every member of its leadership cadre was personally guilty of crimes that would attract a 30 year sentence in modern Norway.

            And then they started a war.

            And then they lost.

            You can avoid the word ‘evil’, if you want to reserve it as a reference for something that doesn’t exist. But if you are ever going to apply it to humans, or human systems, there exists no better place.

          • lvlln says:

            @Brad

            I don’t think I made any comparison to other populations or counterfactuals about what they might or might not have done.

            You did make a counterfactual:

            A moral person would prefer allies walking all over us to German nazis running the country.

            The obvious interpretation of this, from what I can tell, is that a German in WW2 who was a moral person would have laid down their arms and let their Nazi-run country be conquered rather than fighting to protect their homeland. Now, clearly not every German did that, so this would necessarily imply that not every German was a moral person. And it’s pretty clear that if every German had been a moral person as you described it, then every German would have laid down their arms, and Nazi Germany would have been conquered much more quickly with less bloodshed and less time for genocide to occur. So it follows that if the population of Nazi Germany had been made up of people who were sufficiently moral, the negative effects of the Holocaust would have been lessened.

            All this seems to follow clearly and immediately from your statement. If you think my reasoning is mistaken, I would appreciate the mistakes being pointed out.

            As for the other populations, I was trying to get a clearer picture, and I think I asked the wrong question. I apologize for that. What I’m wondering is if you do believe that the population of the allied countries in WW2 were made up of more moral people than those of Nazi Germany?

            Because your statement seems to imply that you believe that a moral person would not have supported Nazis coming into power in their nation (please correct me if I’m wrong on this), and clearly the population of the allied countries didn’t have enough people who were not moral – in this one way, at least – to cause Nazis to take over their country. And clearly the population of Nazi Germany did have enough people who were not moral to cause Nazis to take over their country.

            Obviously it’s possible that the population of, say, USA was just as immoral as that of Germany in the Weimar-WW2 period, but due to sheer luck and path dependence Americans just didn’t have Nazism or a similar political party to latch onto in a similar way. But if that’s the case, then it seems odd to call the Germans “evil” or not moral while not calling the Americans just as “evil” or not moral, just luckier.

          • Brad says:

            I think you are misreading this sentence:

            I don’t think I made any comparison to other populations or counterfactuals about what they might or might not have done.

            The ‘they’ refers back to ‘other populations’. I made no counterfactuals about what other populations (say those living in the allied countries) would have done.

            Your interpretation of the other sentence seems about right.

            In general, I don’t think “you would have done the same thing if you were in their shoes” is a valid retort. First, it is something we can’t know. Second, it boils down to rejecting the entire concept of morality. Like most nihilism through determinism it isn’t something anyone can disprove as such, but it means there’s no point in talking about that subject. Which means it is a rather self defeating argument.

          • lvlln says:

            @Brad

            In general, I don’t think “you would have done the same thing if you were in their shoes” is a valid retort. First, it is something we can’t know. Second, it boils down to rejecting the entire concept of morality. Like most nihilism through determinism it isn’t something anyone can disprove as such, but it means there’s no point in talking about that subject. Which means it is a rather self defeating argument.

            That is not an argument or retort that I made. I don’t know if you would have done the same thing in their shoes, and so I don’t claim as such. I was trying to understand what you meant when I interpreted your statement as claiming that Germans in WW2 were not moral people. It seems to me, based on your latest post, that your conception of it has more to do with “people who behaved in ways that are immoral,” rather than “people who are, in some intrinsic way, immoral,” in which case my question about the relative morality of populations of Germans vs. Americans is pretty incoherent. Germans just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that is enough to categorize them as evil, without invoking some sort of relative differences compared to other populations with respect to morality. This seems like a perfectly coherent way to understand morality, and I really have no issue with it.

            I guess I was interpreting your use of terms like “evil” and “moral person” in ways you didn’t intend.

          • Brad says:

            Yes, I wasn’t going for in some way intrinsically immoral. Sorry for the confusion.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @DavidFriedman:
          You are muddying the waters. There were undoubtedly many in the war who simply served their local hierarchical enclave (tribe), but that isn’t the question at hand.

          kerinah said she had an

          inclination to doubt that the Confederacy was the wrong side.

          Do you have inclination to doubt that Nazi Germany was the wrong side? Stalinist Russia?

          • Matt M says:

            One key difference that seems worth pointing out is that the Nazis and the Stalinists were expansionist by nature; whereas the South was simply attempting to retain sovereignty its homeland.

            They had no intention of permanently occupying Pennsylvania and imposing their will and instituting slavery there.

          • herbert herberson says:

            They had no intention of permanently occupying Pennsylvania and imposing their will and instituting slavery there.

            Not in Pennsylvania, no, but in the West and in Latin America they most certainly did. In formerly-Mexican Texas, this intention was fully successful.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            Along with what herbert said, the thing the South objected to the most was the failure to add new slave states.

            ETA:
            And regardless, if they just wanted to retain millions of chattel slaves in their own fairly large corner of the world, I still don’t think that gives us inclination to doubt that they were on the wrong side.

          • Matt M says:

            Along with what herbert said, the thing the South objected to the most was the failure to add new slave states.

            Because the setup of the federal union meant that once a critical mass of free states was achieved, they could legally abolish slavery in the south and boss them around in whatever other ways they wanted to as well (tariffs, etc.)

            Once they secede, that’s no longer really an issue.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            And?

            “I fear for the safety of my land so I must take over other lands” is always a convenient reason.

            Nor does it address the fact that they expressed specific interest in other expansion.

            Nor did you answer the second part, which is, why does that even matter as to whether you doubt the South was on the wrong side?

            The South also didn’t use gas chambers or mass extermination.

          • Randy M says:

            And regardless, if they just wanted to retain millions of chattel slaves in their own fairly large corner of the world, I still don’t think that gives us inclination to doubt that they were on the wrong side.

            Is slavery unique in this? At what point would we draw the line and say a country is progressive enough not to invade and put to the torch? Is it solely a practical issue? Would the Iraq invasion have been morally licit if it had been better planned and executed?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Randy M:
            I’ll accept the premise of “invading the country” for sake of argument, but I think it is wrong.

            I’m pretty comfortable in feeling that the regime of Saddam Hussein was the wrong side, even if there was no right side. On the eastern front, was Stalin “the right side”?

            As to “putting to the torch”, war is shitty and it never was a gentleman’s affair. We fire bombed Dresden, we nuked Japan. One can argue (justifiably!) about the morality of those actions, but no matter how you come out on that, it doesn’t mean the Axis was “the right side”.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I do think that seceding from a larger government because you fear permanently being outvoted and your needs ignored is a lot more moral than seeking to conquer that entire larger government.

            This was what the USA did after all, when they rejected British rule. Aside from the motives, do you think that secession is inherently bad?

          • Randy M says:

            @HBC:

            I’ll accept the premise of “invading the country” for sake of argument, but I think it is wrong.

            I didn’t mean to misrepresent the confederate state’s legal position. When you said “in their own fairly large corner of the world” I thought you were generalizing to other cases of sovereign states.

            As to “putting to the torch”

            The scare quote imply some disagreement with how I framed the Northern behavior in the Civil war, but I thought I was being pretty literal.

            One can argue (justifiably!) about the morality of those actions, but no matter how you come out on that, it doesn’t mean the Axis was “the right side”.

            Certainly not–the Axis were the aggressors–even against the USA. But you implied strongly that the aggressor could be regarded as on the right side, provided the other side held slaves. I’m just wondering at what point the line is drawn. The fact that “War is shitty” is pretty good justification not to start one.
            I’m not a Southron, and I’d be happier believing this was a case where the side of the angels is obvious. But it’s a damn shame we couldn’t do things more like Great Britain did, and if the North bears some blame for choosing the very bloodier path, so be it.
            It’s also, as I alluded, quite relevant today, with both parties happy to make war for the sake of social causes somewhat grayer than chattel slavery. I’m guessing you’d draw the line somewhere between the American Civil War and Operation: Iraqi Freedom, and I’m curious where.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:

            Aside from the motives, do you think that secession is inherently bad?

            Everything I have said has been about chattel slavery, so I’m not sure where you are getting “secession is always wrong” from anything I said.

            Whether secession is moral or not depends very much on why you are seceding.

            I know I keep repeating this, and pointing out that I am repeating it, and I worry that I sound like “timecube guy”, but rights/principles are in tension with each other. The war of independence was fought on grounds of self-determination and representation. That doesn’t mean that every assertion of self-determination in secession results in valid argument for secession.

            Even if we assert that there is some right to secession, it is counter-balanced by the rights of a generally just system of government. The properly elected government, and the citizenry represented, have valid claims on the territory that wishes to secede.

            Generally speaking, I think that if you secede unilaterally, you should expect to fight a war over it (or be in an impregnable position). So, the case for a moral unilateral secession needs to be as strong as one that would make for a moral war of aggression.

            Negotiated partition or separation is something else entirely.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Randy M:
            Those weren’t scare quotes, they were literal ones. You said “put to the torch”.

            But you implied strongly that the aggressor could be regarded as on the right side, provided the other side held slaves. I’m just wondering at what point the line is drawn. The fact that “War is shitty” is pretty good justification not to start one.

            Which is why it is particularly shitty that the South chose to start a war. That was my point of disagreement with your question:

            At what point would we draw the line and say a country is progressive enough not to invade and put to the torch?

            The South was the aggressor in seceding (and firing the first shots, to boot). There wasn’t a preexisting nation “US of C” that “US of A” invaded on the moral pretext of freeing the slaves. Indeed Lincoln was very clear that keeping slavery to keep the Union and avoid the war was exactly what he would have done, had it been possible.

            Remember, Lincoln wasn’t even in office yet when SC seceded.

            So, I don’t really think it’s valid to ask the question you are asking, as it is not applicable to the US Civil War.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I know I keep repeating this, and pointing out that I am repeating it, and I worry that I sound like “timecube guy”, but rights/principles are in tension with each other.

            It’s refreshing to hear I’m not the only one. Though I’m not sure if that makes it more timecubey or less 🙂

          • BBA says:

            They had no intention of permanently occupying Pennsylvania and imposing their will and instituting slavery there.

            No, they just wanted Pennsylvania to enforce slavery by extraditing any slaves found there back to the South, and prosecuting anyone who tried to help escaped slaves to Canada or another country that didn’t recognize slavery at all. And, of course, if a slaveowner brought his personal slaves with him on a business trip to Philadelphia, they shouldn’t be freed just because they happened to be in the North temporarily. But aside from that, the North can “abolish” slavery all they want, right?

            And don’t think just letting the South secede in a “velvet divorce” would’ve solved these issues. The Underground Railroad would’ve kept running, possibly with active support of Northern governments, and if the Confederacy couldn’t stop this sabotage of its economic lifeblood there would be a war, or an apartheid-style totalitarian state, sooner or later.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Is it solely a practical issue? Would the Iraq invasion have been morally licit if it had been better planned and executed?

            I for one believe that a sufficiently well-executed invasion and occupation of Iraq would have been justified. I don’t think it’s clear that such a thing was ever possible, and I do think it’s clear that it was never likely, but my objections are indeed pragmatic.

          • Randy M says:

            Those weren’t scare quotes, they were literal ones. You said “put to the torch”.

            Forgive the confusion, but you did quote 3 phrases, only one of which was an actual quote. I had reasoned from the pattern that you were using them around terms you were only granting for the sake of argument.

            The South was the aggressor in seceding

            When you said:

            regardless, if they just wanted to retain millions of chattel slaves in their own fairly large corner of the world

            I read that as expounding a principle that would be true in the hypothetical where they did not start the war. The word “just” there could be interpreted as modifying “wanted” in such as way as to suggest no further actions taken beyond the wanting, rather than no further desires were held beyond the specified one.
            Since this is apparently not what you meant, I’ll drop the hypothetical and bow out.

          • Controls Freak says:

            a sufficiently well-executed invasion and occupation of Iraq would have been justified. I don’t think it’s clear that such a thing was ever possible, and I do think it’s clear that it was never likely

            I’ve never understood this perspective. The US invaded an occupied a (not-completely-minor) country for a decade, and suffered ~5,000 dead in the process. Historically speaking, that is a massively successful military occupation. It takes a pretty egregious conflation between military and political success to make this type of statement.

          • Nornagest says:

            War is politics by other means. If the war didn’t achieve its political objective, then the war was a loss, no matter how badly we kicked the crap out of the other guys.

          • Controls Freak says:

            I can grok that, but perhaps I should refine. There were multiple political objectives in invading Iraq. The first was, “Stop Saddam Hussein from doing Saddam Hussein things.” That cashed out in various particulars, and they were generally successful. Downstream of that was an objective to set up a multi-cultural government that could bring together the whole of Iraq in some form of democratic self-governance. I’ll agree that was a failure. Now, going back to the original setting for the comment, which of these victories is important for whether initiating the war is moral?

            What’s particularly weird about this is that it concedes a classic casus belli. It’s like saying, “Sure, you should have punched that Nazi (whatever was going on justifies making that choice; oh, and you succeeded in stopping him from hitting your friend or whatever it was that provided the justification), but because you didn’t realize that the cameras were going to catch that moment and end up helping a bad cause in the end, you were morally wrong.” It’s just weird. (Though, my main point is that people who say, “It just wasn’t planned well,” tend to have the weirdest perspective about what actually happened in that war.)

          • Nornagest says:

            Well, “moral” is a lot murkier than “militarily successful”. I’m not sure I have a set of criteria for when war is justified other than in self-defense — I don’t think the answer is “never”, but most of the alternatives that flew around in the wake of the 2003 invasion are not now very satisfying to me either.

            But maybe we can find a starting point. I am not a utilitarian, but from a pure utilitarian point of view, we might look at the first question in terms of the expected death and misery from Saddam’s regime continuing (what’s the shelf life on a tin-pot dictatorship?), and the second in terms of the known death and misery in post-invasion Iraq. If the former’s greater than the latter, the invasion has utilitarian justification (which may not equal justification in other systems) despite the consequences. If not, then it wasn’t justified in our world but it may have been in a hypothetical better-run one. And yeah, justification only being determined post-hoc is kinda weird, but that’s utilitarianism for you.

          • Controls Freak says:

            I’m not a utilitarian, but I’m actually not a utilitarian, so I’m going to not engage in utilitarian reasoning.

            I agree that “moral” is murkier than “militarily successful”. But remember, the comment I replied to hinged morality (or, at least, “justification”, if you want to try to wedge another distinction in there) on whether it was “well-executed” (and otherwise conceded casus belli). That sounds a hell of a lot more like “militarily successful” than anything else we’ve talked about. Do you have a better way of interpreting this “well-executed” vocabulary? Perhaps Tarpitz can clarify, rather than us running of in a random other direction?

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            @Controls Freak: I don’t want to put words in Tarpitz’s mouth, but I think you are misunderstanding how the humanitarian justification for Operation Iraqi Freedom (lol) was supposed to work. It wasn’t “Stop Saddam Hussein from doing Saddam Hussein things”, it was “make it the case that no one is doing Saddam Hussein things.” The invasion failed by this standard, because it resulted in many people doing Saddam Hussein things.

          • Controls Freak says:

            It wasn’t “Stop Saddam Hussein from doing Saddam Hussein things”, it was “make it the case that no one is doing Saddam Hussein things.”

            Frankly, I pretty resoundingly reject this. For example, there are some “Saddam Hussein things” that North Korea was doing. No one really believed that stopping NK from doing those things was an objective of the invasion of Iraq… and they certainly wouldn’t have hinged the justification of the war on such.

            Still, I don’t see how you can get, “Stop others from doing Saddam Hussein things,” from, “well-executed invasion and occupation”. Can you fill in the gaps for me?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Controls Freak:
            Bottom line is that we won the war and lost the peace.

            The following is from memory and I am not a military buff, so I apologize if I get some if it wrong.

            Early in the planning of that war, the DoD said we would need a massive number of troops to ensure we kept the peace in the country.

            We then decided to go in light and fast, Rumsfeld’s preferred mode, and assumed that we could use the Iraqi army to keep the peace once we had beaten them.

            We beat them and then almost immediately disbanded the army, the ones we were counting on to prevent a massive power vacuum.

            Predictable things then happened.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Randy M:
            I’m sorry of that came off as terse. It wasn’t intended that way.

            I think I understand the confusion. The “just in their own corner” only referenced whether it was material that the South in fact wanted to expand slavery to other states (and territories/nations in the Americas). Even if they hadn’t wanted to expand, wanting to retain chattel slavery was still the wrong side.

          • cassander says:

            @Controls Freak says:

            Downstream of that was an objective to set up a multi-cultural government that could bring together the whole of Iraq in some form of democratic self-governance. I’ll agree that was a failure.

            in 2010, that objective had been achieved, despite earlier fuckups.

            @Nornagest says:

            Well, “moral” is a lot murkier than “militarily successful”. I’m not sure I have a set of criteria for when war is justified other than in self-defense — I don’t think the answer is “never”, but most of the alternatives that flew around in the wake of the 2003 invasion are not now very satisfying to me either.

            Hanging a leader guilty of multiple genocides strikes me as a pretty good CB.

            @hoghoghoghoghog says:

            I don’t want to put words in Tarpitz’s mouth, but I think you are misunderstanding how the humanitarian justification for Operation Iraqi Freedom (lol) was supposed to work.

            that you consider such an idea absurd on its face is not a good start.

            It wasn’t “Stop Saddam Hussein from doing Saddam Hussein things”, it was “make it the case that no one is doing Saddam Hussein things.” The invasion failed by this standard, because it resulted in many people doing Saddam Hussein things.

            How do you figure that? One, just stopping saddam from butchering people is a pretty big win. Even if something more ambitious was the goal, falling short of that goal but still stopping saddam is not exactly a failure.

            Two, what saddam imitators do you think came as a consequence of deposing saddam?

            @HeelBearCub

            Early in the planning of that war, the DoD said we would need a massive number of troops to ensure we kept the peace in the country.

            We then decided to go in light and fast, Rumsfeld’s preferred mode, and assumed that we could use the Iraqi army to keep the peace once we had beaten them.

            This is highly garbled. The US did not really go in “light”. The US sent pretty much its entire deployable army, 200k soldiers, plus 50k brits and a smattering of other allies.

            The US did, however, go in fast, because that is what everyone told us to do. Arab allies said do that, the state department said to do that, the iraqi “exiles” said to do that. absolutely no one wanted the political imagery that would come from the US occupying an Arab country. So the plan was, from the beginning, go in fast and hard, and get out quickly.

            We beat them and then almost immediately disbanded the army, the ones we were counting on to prevent a massive power vacuum.

            Again, not exactly. the old iraqi had more than a million soldiers in it. Pre-war planning called for a post-war iraqi military establishment of something like 50,000. even before you address the problem of the old army being complicit in the crimes of the previous regime, reducing the army by so much would be tantamount to abolishing it in any case. The trouble wasn’t trying to build a new army, the trouble was that the old army was done in a way that was foolish. had it not been for the insurgency (really not an accurate name, low level civil war or chaos would be better), it probably wouldn’t have been a problem, but it did exist and so getting rid of the army the way they did made things worse.

            For the record, the way the army should have been dealt with was all of the members 2 star levels or below (the others almost certainly being complicit) should have been told that the army as gone, but a new position had just opened up for them in the Iraqi re-construction corps at their old rank and 10% higher salary, then kept busy with makework until the new government was well established. That would have kept a lot of violence prone men off the streets and invested in the new regime instead of on them and angry at it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Gobbobobble:

            You one of my peeps.

          • Controls Freak says:

            I agree with the bottom line. However, I would be a bit more subtle than that. Militarily, we still did pretty damn decently through the occupation, but the political objectives during the peace were not realized. I think that’s reasonably unarguable. There were ebbs and flows in the COIN strategy, but the overall trend was toward a military victory.

            In fact, I agree that actions like disbanding the army hurt the effort… but that happened very early on, and it’s weird to forget the entire rest of the decade by just invoking that. Instead, we were able to contain the insurgency threat. What killed our political objective was Maliki and friends (and enemies). Both administrations thought that the military situation went in the right direction (post-surge). The political failure was pretty purely a political failure. And it fell apart many years after the invasion and the disbanding of the army. I still don’t see how your comment includes some justification of the invasion turns on whether it was “well-executed”. Do you really mean, “If they hadn’t disbanded the army, it would have been justified, but they disbanded the army, so it wasn’t”?

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            @ Cassander:

            Two, what saddam imitators do you think came as a consequence of deposing saddam?

            ‘Saddam Hussein stuff’ (SHS) is maybe too vague a notion to be terribly useful, but I would count the genocidal militias that ethnically cleansed sections of Iraq as doing SHS in the relevant sense. They are gone now but they should still tally into whether we consider the operation a success (in the long run we’re all dead, so one can’t only consider the end result). Had the invaders prevented this but otherwise gotten us to where we are now (ISIS included) I might consider the invasion a success on humanitarian grounds.

            @ Controls Freak:

            Do you really mean, “If they hadn’t disbanded the army, it would have been justified, but they disbanded the army, so it wasn’t”?

            This sounds less paradoxical if you rephrase it as “if they weren’t going to disband the army, it would have been justified, but they were going to, so it wasn’t.”

          • Controls Freak says:

            This sounds less paradoxical if you rephrase it as “if they weren’t going to disband the army, it would have been justified, but they were going to, so it wasn’t.”

            Is there a possibility that this decision was made post-invasion, in response to particular assessments of the situation at the time that the decision was made (post-invasion)? If there is such a possibility (whether or not they made the right decision), doesn’t your claim still seem pretty paradoxical? (I’m not particularly interested in claims as to whether it actually was decided post-invasion. I’m more interested in how the theoretical chain of justification works.)

          • cassander says:

            @hoghoghoghoghog

            ‘Saddam Hussein stuff’ (SHS) is maybe too vague a notion to be terribly useful, but I would count the genocidal militias that ethnically cleansed sections of Iraq as doing SHS in the relevant sense. They are gone now but they should still tally into whether we consider the operation a success (in the long run we’re all dead, so one can’t only consider the end result). Had the invaders prevented this but otherwise gotten us to where we are now (ISIS included) I might consider the invasion a success on humanitarian grounds.

            Given the death toll that prevailed in pre-invasion iraq, reasonable estimations of the the post invasion count, and the rather dramatic increase in standard of living that the post saddam iraq has seen, we almost certainly came out ahead on a pure deathtoll count. Granted, we spent a trillion dollars, so our ROI probably pretty poor.

            As for ISIS, you can’t lay that at the feet of the invasion. in 2010, iraq was stable, more or less democratic, with a lower rate of violence than mexico despite being a more poorer place. What allowed ISIS to rise was a combination of a civil war in syria and the obama administration abandoning our leverage over the iraqi government by withdrawing. Maliki, as you say, disturbed the equilibrium, but he was only able to do that because we left. His political arrests started literally the day after US troops left the country. Had the Syrian war not happened (or at least, had it been a brief affair) or had the US stayed, Iraq would be in vastly better shape.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            @CF:
            Yeah I see what you mean. I think it’s maybe better to separate “wrong” and “blameworthy”. The decision to invade was wrong because it led to lots of awful stuff, including the dissolving-the-army bit, but this was not understood at the time of invasion so does not prove that the invaders were blameworthy.

            Additionally, dissolving the army was apparently done with very little thought. This indicates that the invaders didn’t care enough about what happened after the invasion to plan about what happened after the invasion, which is blameworthy.

            (Additionally additionally, there is some evidence that the Bushies considered it virtuous to not think things through (“we create our own reality” etc.), which if true would upgrade them from sinners to satanists.)

            @cassander:
            Agreed that we did ok on the death toll, also agreed that ROI is the correct measure (this is probably the best general argument for passifism – by EA standards humanitarian interventions don’t look so good).

            ISIS is one of those things that doesn’t have a clear cause, but to muddy the waters I’d point out that ISIS includes many former Ba’athists in important roles.

            Finally, it’s weird to claim both that the US created a stable government and that Maliki was able to disturb the equilibrium the instant they left. Peaceful and democratic maybe, but clearly not stable.

          • Controls Freak says:

            I’m still not a utilitarian, so I won’t view it from a utilitarian perspective.

            dissolving the army was apparently done with very little thought

            I’m sure this is supported by a thorough understanding of bureaucratic record, rather than a casual politically-charged claim. (I say this as someone who was just involved in an extensive bureaucratic process which I think came to the correct result, even though someone on the outside could casually claim that it was done with very little thought (along a crony-sounding line)). No offense, but I know how much effort goes into far more minor decisions; I’m not likely to go for such throwaway claims in the absence of significant evidence (pretty much, I’m going to need historians combing through gobs of gov’t records).

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Cassander, can you give some evidence as to the pre-invasion death toll? Because even your number of 180,000 seems like a large amount.

          • cassander says:

            @hoghoghoghoghog says:

            Additionally, dissolving the army was apparently done with very little thought. This indicates that the invaders didn’t care enough about what happened after the invasion to plan about what happened after the invasion, which is blameworthy.

            (Additionally additionally, there is some evidence that the Bushies considered it virtuous to not think things through (“we create our own reality” etc.), which if true would upgrade them from sinners to satanists.)

            this is an inaccurate assessment of how the bush administration operated. As I said above, their post-invasion plans were not made because of an absence of thought. They were made in response to real problems and pressures. The solutions they chose did not work out as they hoped, but that wasn’t for lack of thinking, and certainly not because they willfully embraced or encouraged ignorance.

          • skef says:

            I can grok that, but perhaps I should refine. There were multiple political objectives in invading Iraq. The first was, “Stop Saddam Hussein from doing Saddam Hussein things.” That cashed out in various particulars, and they were generally successful. Downstream of that was an objective to set up a multi-cultural government that could bring together the whole of Iraq in some form of democratic self-governance. I’ll agree that was a failure. Now, going back to the original setting for the comment, which of these victories is important for whether initiating the war is moral?

            I think this is a very strange way of looking at the invasion of Iraq.

            There was one initial political objective of invading Iraq, which was to neutralize the threat of the Iraqi government’s weapons of mass destruction. To label there not being any such weapons “success” strains the imagination.

            The other objectives just sort of evolved spontaneously out of that fuck-up. We were there, so there was stuff we had to do. To this day I suspect that if we had found weapons we wouldn’t have been there nearly as long, or we wouldn’t have been focused on self-government, because then “Iraq” would have been “guilty”.

          • cassander says:

            @hoghoghoghoghog says:

            Finally, it’s weird to claim both that the US created a stable government and that Maliki was able to disturb the equilibrium the instant they left. Peaceful and democratic maybe, but clearly not stable.Report

            It was stable like a moving bike. The US presence evened things out, reassured all sides, and kept the military apolitical. Take that away, or tike the rider off the bike, and it quickly fell over.

            By 2010, the US presence was not particularly costly. US forces had stopped going on combat operations and their roll was restricted to training and advising Iraqi units. Having a couple brigades in iraq instead of saudi arabia or bahrain would not have had a serious marginal cost. And contrary to popular myth, Iraqi politicians were not eager to get rid of US troops and did not force us out.

            @skeff

            There was one initial political objective of invading Iraq, which was to neutralize the threat of the Iraqi government’s weapons of mass destruction. To label there not being any such weapons “success” strains the imagination.

            This is decidedly not accurate. read the iraq war resolution. WMD features prominently, but so do iraq’s support for terrorism, it’s violation of the cease fire and Saddam’s brutal tyranny. All of these reasons were discussed openly at the time. “it was all about WMD” only became a headline critique after chemical weapons weren’t found.

          • Controls Freak says:

            There was one initial political objective of invading Iraq, which was to neutralize the threat of the Iraqi government’s weapons of mass destruction.

            I’m pretty sure GWB gave five reasons, not one, in a landmark speech. I’m also pretty sure that Congress passed an AUMF that cited more than this one item. I think it is your way of looking at history that is “strange” and “strains the imagination”.

            EDIT: Ignore that. I know people live in a post-fact universe on this topic. I really don’t want to argue it. The comment I initially responded to conceded casus belli and claimed that it would have been justified if it was “well-executed”. Can you support this claim?! Or are you simply claiming that it wasn’t justified since the intel assessments of Iraq’s WMD programs were wrong (a very different claim)?

          • skef says:

            I’m pretty sure GWB gave five reasons, not one, in a landmark speech.

            This is not how politics works.

          • skef says:

            EDIT: Ignore that. I know people live in a post-fact universe on this topic. I really don’t want to argue it.

            Uh huh.

            The comment I initially responded to conceded casus belli and claimed that it would have been justified if it was “well-executed”. Can you support this claim?! Or are you simply claiming that it wasn’t justified since the intel assessments of Iraq’s WMD programs were wrong (a very different claim)?

            No, I don’t think the invasion would have been justified by any of the explicit early or later standards if things had gone better by normal standards.

            Now, if the underlying rationale was really what Thomas Friedman arrived at, that’s harder to judge. I don’t agree with that rationale, but it’s a viable political goal that might have been realized by a better, less costly invasion.

          • Controls Freak says:

            Ok. Since we’ve agreed on that (and I got some sleep) I’ll say my piece on the other thing. I’ll likely leave it at that, because I’m going back on travel tomorrow and am going to get busy today in the process of preparing for it.

            I don’t think Thomas Friedman was quite right. That would be a good explanation for Afghanistan. I think it was as I described before – stop Saddam Hussein from doing Saddam Hussein things. The first analogy is North Korea. No, there is little expectation that action in Iraq was going to change what NK did, but it was probably already too late for that. As was bitterly argued back in ’94, there was a decent argument for going into NK and stopping the Kim Family from doing Kim Family things. There was a decent argument against it (the still-predicted humanitarian and political problems if we intervene). As of today, we’ve reaped the benefits and the consequences of stopping Saddam Hussein from doing Saddam Hussein things and of not stopping the Kim Family from doing Kim Family things. (Fact is, counterfactuals are nigh impossible to shove into some utilitarian calculation when it comes to global politics.)

            In the second analogy, I’ll even focus on weapons programs, because most people hinge their “not justified” argument on “no weapons programs”. Let’s make a casual analogy to criminal law. It’s one thing for the police to find probable cause of illegal weapon possession, obtain a search warrant, and then go into a house to search it. Upon not finding anything, people can second guess, “Oh, was the evidence good enough,” or whatnot. Anyway. It’s an entirely different thing for the police to say, “This person has clearly violated the terms of their probation, and it has prevented us from determining whether they’re possessing illegal weapons,” then using that justification to enter a person’s home and arrest them. In that case, even if there are no weapons found, the underlying offense still holds. I’d argue that that is more akin to claim against Saddam. He had already been found to be in gross violation of the international order, and as such, he was on probation – we’ll let you continue operating in the world, so long as you demonstrate to us that you’re no longer doing X, Y, and Z. He refused to appropriately demonstrate that – for example, even his own generals were convinced that he had an ongoing weapons program. The fact that we later discovered that he didn’t have one does not invalidate this underlying rationale.

            I will maintain that most people are living in a post-fact world when it comes to the justifications for the Iraq war. You blew off both the President’s landmark speech and Congress’ AUMF (though you refused to quote that part of the sentence, as if you didn’t even recognize it as a thing that exists) by just saying, “That’s not how politics works.” Well, then, please enlighten me about how politics works. When determining why the USG went to war, where should I look other than the public declaration of the President asking Congress to approve war powers and Congress’ public declaration providing said war powers? I see options which can range from “somewhat politically-stained media that are willing to ignore things in order to make a political point” to “totally politically-stained media that are willing to ignore things to the point of baldly asserting that we invaded Iraq for oil”. Can you guide me on this journey?

          • Tarpitz says:

            Well, that generated a lot of follow-up before I got back to it…

            Short version, I absolutely include the occupation and political decisions in “execution”, not just the military campaign, and am broadly in favour of a utilitarian-ish or at any rate consequentialist approach to evaluating decisions big enough for such analysis to be worthwhile. I am pretty much in agreement with pretty much everything Cassander has said in this thread (including cost-effectiveness – one hypothetical but in practice impossible way the invasion could have been more justified would be if it had cost an order of magnitude less), with the caveat that we should also factor in some significant likelihood of a bloody Iraqi civil war subsequent to Saddam’s death from natural causes further down the line in our estimate of what a no-invasion world looks like.

            With Cassander, the most notable poor decisions seem to me to be the disbanding of the army and the withdrawal of US forces. My understanding was that at least the former was bitterly opposed by the British and Israelis, so at least some parties to the discussions saw it as a bad idea at the time.

          • skef says:

            When determining why the USG went to war, where should I look other than the public declaration of the President asking Congress to approve war powers and Congress’ public declaration providing said war powers? I see options which can range from “somewhat politically-stained media that are willing to ignore things in order to make a political point” to “totally politically-stained media that are willing to ignore things to the point of baldly asserting that we invaded Iraq for oil”. Can you guide me on this journey?

            Sure. You would judge based on the proportion of attention given to the various different issues that might lead to war up until the decision is made. Since the news media is suspect, a better measure would be public statements by politicians at the national level, including press conferences, hearing, and press appearances. What this would isolate are those issues that were the basis of public support for the war, which is how politics works.

            I obviously can’t produce this evidence unilaterally, sitting here at my keyboard. But for those who want a memory jog (if they were around at the time), how about: “Blix”. You know, that period leading up to the invasion where the news was pretty much all Blix, all the time, because of all the argument on the part of politicians over whether Blix needed more time, or was being duped, etc.?

            [Not to mention how the phrase “weapons of mass destruction” entered the public imagination during that period. Before that time I don’t remember people conceptually lumping chemical and biological weapons in with nuclear weapons. The latter had until then been seen as in their own, uniquely destructive category. It generally takes a lot of emphasis to shift conceptual categories that way.]

          • skef says:

            I don’t think Thomas Friedman was quite right. That would be a good explanation for Afghanistan. I think it was as I described before – stop Saddam Hussein from doing Saddam Hussein things.

            I don’t agree about Afghanistan. I half agree about Iraq.

            We were in Afghanistan very quickly after 9/11. The motivation was to find and kill those directly responsible. Afghanistan also lacked certain features needed to make a “suck on this” point, such as a reasonably well-funded national-level military. (I’m assuming part of the T. Friedman point is “your country is not safe it if harbors this sort of thing”.)

            With Iraq, I think it is likely that some T. Friedman-like thinking was common once Afghanistan wasn’t going very well. But little speculation was necessary because Iraq was already the target that made sense for other reasons. Basically, “suck on this” was what motivated the connection of Iraq to 9/11 in particular, but there were already many reasons why Iraq was seen as an appropriate target.

          • John Schilling says:

            Is there a possibility that this decision was made post-invasion, in response to particular assessments of the situation at the time that the decision was made (post-invasion)?

            The wikipedia article matches what I have read elsewhere – that the original intent was for the Iraqi army to be retasked with infrastructure work and the like to keep them out of trouble, plus a bit of security work for the ones with relatively clean hands. But the planning for this was clearly inadequate, and when Paul Bremer took over on short notice he promptly changed course and disbanded the Iraqi army on what looks like his own initiative.

          • cassander says:

            @John Schilling says:

            The wikipedia article matches what I have read elsewhere – that the original intent was for the Iraqi army to be retasked with infrastructure work and the like to keep them out of trouble, plus a bit of security work for the ones with relatively clean hands. But the planning for this was clearly inadequate, and when Paul Bremer took over on short notice he promptly changed course and disbanded the Iraqi army on what looks like his own initiative.

            Paul Bremer’s version of events, while obviously not disinterested, has always been consistent, at least. One, the army was complicit with the crimes of the old regime. Two, that even if it had been desirable to preserve the army, it was no longer possible to do so. The Iraqi army had been utterly defeated, its facilities destroyed. The people conscripted wouldn’t return if called to service, no one was willing to force them. Records were lost, destroyed, or never existed.

            This logic is not entirely unreasonable. My understanding (which is pieced together, I’ve never seen good figures on this front) is that Iraqi units tended to dissolve rather than surrender and I doubt that US troops were encouraged to take prisoners when they could let them do so, so we didn’t have the army interned the way the german army was in ww2.

            If your goal was having an army that did something useful, these objections were perfectly reasonable and compelling. The trouble was that keeping the members of the former army, even a minority of them, busy and invested in the new regime was at least as important as anything productive it might accomplish, and this benefit wasn’t considered.

          • John Schilling says:

            I doubt that US troops were encouraged to take prisoners when they could let them do so, so we didn’t have the army interned the way the german army was in ww2.

            That would be a big part of the “clearly inadequate planning” I was referring to. Someone sets out to wage and win a war, and their plan for dealing with the Enemy Army is to hope that after a few fights it will just go away and stop bothering them?

          • Rob K says:

            @cassander I’d recommend Tom Ricks’ book on the early years of the invasion, which includes a lot of information from interviews with military and diplomatic leadership. (Combined with his book on the Surge, it’s a good introduction to a number of now-prominent leaders earlier in their careers.)

            I’ll quote a bit here.

            [The army already having disbanded was] not the way many others remembered what happened. “We were working with the amry when we were told to disband them,” recalled Marine Maj. Gen. Mattis.

            …The report made no sense to [Col. Paul Hughes, an officer working on long-term strategy under Garner]. At Garner’s behest he had spent the previous several weeks working on the future of the Iraqi military. Before going on leave he had been meeting ever day with a group of Iraqi generals, and with them had developed a list of 125,000 former Iraqi soldiers.

            The decision was another significant departure from what Garner had discussed with Rumsfeld and others before leaving Washington for Iraq.

            …Central Command was taken aback by the announcement. “We were surprised at the dissolution of the army,” said Maj. Gen Renuart, adding mildly, “so that gave us a challenge.” …Agoglia, working as the military liaison to Bremer, told his boss, “You guys just blindsided Centcom.” That was the day, he recalled, “that we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and created an insurgency.”

            There’s more, but the summary is that many military leaders felt that Bremer’s actions (this, deeper de-Baathification than original plans had called for, and firing all Ministry of the Interior employees including the police) undermined what postwar planning had been done and created a ready leadership and rank and file for the insurgency.

          • cassander says:

            John Schilling says:

            That would be a big part of the “clearly inadequate planning” I was referring to. Someone sets out to wage and win a war, and their plan for dealing with the Enemy Army is to hope that after a few fights it will just go away and stop bothering them?

            Well one, that did happen. the iraqi army was defeated and went away. the problem came 6 months later when situations on the ground had changed dramatically and the new government was unable to impose order.

            @Rob K says:

            There’s more, but the summary is that many military leaders felt that Bremer’s actions (this, deeper de-Baathification than original plans had called for, and firing all Ministry of the Interior employees including the police) undermined what postwar planning had been done and created a ready leadership and rank and file for the insurgency.

            I’ve read it. And I didn’t mean to imply that the decision was uncontroversial or to say it was wise policy. It was controversial and I think it was a flawed policy. That said, it didn’t come about because of some lack of planning, it came about as a response to genuine concerns and issues, and wasn’t the knee jerk decision made for no good reason that it is often portrayed as,.

          • Aapje says:

            @cassander

            Yes, the decision was made because of real concerns, but the weighing of the concerns was of a level of stupidity that shouldn’t happen.

          • John Schilling says:

            Well one, that did happen. the iraqi army was defeated and went away.

            I didn’t think it was necessary to explicitly add “permanently”, but OK, permanently.

            Anyone who holds their victory celebration when the enemy army retreats over the horizon or disperses into the woods, deserves defeat, degradation, and death when said army reappears in whatever time, place, and form best suits their goals. These people are literally too stupid to live, except insofar as the can sometimes be clever enough to send other men to die in their place.

            If you plan to actually win a war, you need a clear and specific answer to the question, “what are these people going to be doing six months from now, two years from now, ten years from now, and why are they going to be doing that thing instead of the whole killing-us thing they are happy enough with today?” Bush, Bremer, et al never had that plan for Iraq. And they got off light.

      • Rob K says:

        The granite isn’t going to jump down and start beating on people. (etc)

        This stance always confuses me. What, exactly, do people think is the purpose of public monuments? They’re how we tell ourselves a story of who we are as a society. Who we honor tells us what we have collectively deemed worthy of honor.*

        The confederate monuments in this country were overwhelmingly erected in two waves; one in the wake of redemption, and one as the civil rights movement was rising to challenge that order. The story they tell is straightforward; we as a society believe that the Confederacy was right and worthy of honor, and we celebrate the accomplishment of imposing Jim Crow.

        Given the intense sensitivity conservatives in this country have shown of the power of e.g. cultural depictions in the media, it baffles me that this (entirely central) role of public monuments never merits acknowledgement.

        *A favorite story: In Forest Park, in my hometown of St. Louis, for instance, there’s a statue of the unremarkable general Franz Siegel, who commanded at Pea Ridge. Really, though, it’s not there because he was much good at generaling, but because he serves as a metonym for the German-American contribution to the war effort, and the substantial St. Louis German-American community wanted a monument to what they’d done.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        If, however, one doesn’t want to ever see another African American president,

        I’d like you to note the hidden assumption here: Black people are on the other side from you, and intrinsically so, that no black person could win the Republican nomination, or if so, the presidency.

        I’m not sure I have the time to touch your “You need to convince me the South wasn’t wrong” statement. If you want to find it, it’s easy to determine that secession was about keeping slavery, that it was the central issue in the mind of the South. And Lincoln wasn’t even proposing abolition. The South was unwilling to accept a Presidency that was opposed to slavery but made no proposals to yet end it.

        This is because they were losing the argument about whether slavery was moral and just. Eventually, slavery would have been ended and they knew this and would not accept it. But as an independent nation, they would have been able to keep slavery for the foreseeable future.

        I agree that having love and compassion is a better way to convince someone to change their mind.

        • that it was the central issue in the mind of the South

          The South didn’t have a mind. It was the main political issue in the minds of the politicians who voted for secession. It doesn’t follow that it was the central issue to the men who actually fought on behalf of the Confederacy–who I think are mostly the ones honored by statues.

      • Talker45 says:

        I don’t want to assume your pov, but I’m willing to bet that very few people around you disagree with you when you say “Supporting the Confederacy is stupid! They lost! They’re losers!”

        Absolutely correct.

        Does that justify the subsequent enslavement and loss of their human rights? Does losing a war justify losing *any* human rights?

        I never said that the confederate sympathizers should lose any human rights (unless not being called a loser is a human right?). I go to a university named after Robert E. Lee. I have seen many students rep confederate flag laptop stickers or flags in their room. I’m sure some of them are doing this because they have valid reasons to support the confederacy. I would never call these people losers. My “confederates are bad because they lost” argument applied more to the people who (I perceived) were supporting the confederacy because they thought it was cool. This made no sense to me because losing is very uncool. So, different arguments for different people i guess?

        • Matt M says:

          This made no sense to me because losing is very uncool.

          Situational.

          As a non-political example, the Chicago Cubs were known for being the biggest losers in all of sports, and yet, supported one of the largest fanbases in all of baseball, significantly larger than the other team in Chicago who had recently won a world series.

          • ManyCookies says:

            A vlog of a one legged puppy futilely hopping around the house would have a shit ton of viewers rooting for it, but I don’t think that makes the puppy “cool” by any stretch of the imagination.

        • This made no sense to me because losing is very uncool.

          Thermopylae? The Sacred Band? Karbala? The Comanche? Masada?

          Heroically losing is worse for the ones doing it than heroically winning, but it often produces an image that other people find admirable and inspiring.

          • random832 says:

            You forgot the Alamo.

          • Talker45 says:

            Who decides which losses are heroic and which are just losses?

          • Matt M says:

            The Comanche?

            Yeah, native american tribes came to mind for me. I feel like people who display native american symbols are not often confronted with loud hecklers saying “LOL WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO ASSOCIATE YOURSELF WITH THOSE LOSERS?”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Who decides which losses are heroic and which are just losses?

            One big factor is that your cause has to be seen as just. Also, making a doomed last stand against overwhelming odds is always good, especially when you know you’re doomed but make a stand anyway.

            Then up spake bold Horatius, the captain of the gate:
            “To every many upon this earth death cometh soon or late;
            And how can man die better than facing fearful odds
            For the ashes of his fathers and the temples of his gods?”

            Of course, Horatius himself ended up ruining things by surviving, but the principle is sound.

      • herbert herberson says:

        I know you’re mostly making a larger point, but you did include:

        I said I would talk about Mal’s quote, and my inclination to doubt that the Confederacy was the wrong side. Lots of people get het up and start shouting at this point. To which I say – what is the point of shouting at me? I have my doubts – so, convince me that I’m not correct!

        and for some reason I happened to have a comprehensive breakdown of why I think the Confederacy was not only the wrong side, but one of the wrongest sides of all time:

        A.) The South’s pretenses to uphold some abstract principle of state’s rights, with slavery being some incidental aspect of the larger issue, are spurious. Even if we didn’t have texts like the Cornerstone Speech, the South’s actions before the war speak just as loudly. The South eagerly trammeled the rights of Northern states to not participate in slavery by passing the Fugitive Slave Act and supporting the Dred Scott decision.

        B.) Furthermore, even if we were to accept for the sake of argument the idea that there was anything just or even just understandable about the idea of seceding to protect slavery, slavery was not under threat. There were no bills or Amendments pending. Lincoln’s dislike of slavery was well-established, but he was not a radical abolitionist–if he had been, the Emancipation Proclamation would have been issued far earlier. The issue that was near and dear to his Illinois heart was really the Free Soil cause. But the South wasn’t satisfied to peacefully sit and practice its disgusting lifestyle–it demanded expansion, had always demanded expansion, and even a distant and inchoate threat to that expansion was enough to cause it to do something it knew could very possibly lead to war, unilaterally and before the new President was even inaugurated.

        C.) It has become convenient to both sides to act like the North started the war in response to secession. The North gets to at least implicitly claim it was crusading against slavery; the South gets to say “we were just defending our lands.” But, in addition to the provocation of unilateral session, the South shot first. The shelling of Fort Sumter was ordered by the governor of South Carolina, so it wasn’t incidental or accidental.

        D.) It is tempting but sloppy to look at history and apply present-day morals to historical actors. Often, this is used to defend Southern slavery, suggesting that they were simply people of their time. However, this was not ancient Rome, one brutal state in a sea of peoples who looked at the world the same way. This was the only English-speaking holdout, soldiering on decades after their peers in the North and in the Caribbean had finally done the right thing. Abolitionism had been around for a long time by 1861, every slaveholder had heard the arguments–but the arguments only hardened them, as demonstrated by the progression from the widespread ambivalence of the southern Founding Fathers to the passionate and unrestrained advocacy of the likes of Calhoun.

        The only good thing that can be said about the Confederate cause was that by idiotically and petulantly starting a war to oppose vague threat to its expansion, they ultimately ended slavery earlier than it would have otherwise gone.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Arguments should never appear one-sided.

          Doubly so when it is historical, triply so when it is one-sided in favor of the victors.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Not my job to plead on behalf of a society built on the buying and selling of human beings, on raping them, on depriving them of knowledge, on destroying their families, and on living lives of luxury via stolen labor. Plenty of other people around to do that.

            edit: (for clarity’s sake, I’d initially said something around the lines of “your argument against one-sided arguments is one-sided” before I opted to edit it to be something more on topic; Thegnskald caught the comment before I did so)

          • Thegnskald says:

            Then it is an argument against itself, and thus not one sided at all.

          • Thegnskald says:

            And the other 70-90% of the population?

          • herbert herberson says:

            a.) Morally, they should have rejected their elites’ wars. It’s a lot to ask, but West Virginia and the State of Jones did it.

            b.) Politically, the governments that led the South into the war were democratic as applied to free whites, so to some degree all free whites–and certainly the Southern Democratic voters–share the responsibility of the elites.

            c.) Looking back in retrospect: I accept the idea that, subjectively, a lot of (certainly not all) common Confederate soldiers were fighting to defend their own soil without necessarily approving of slavery and its expansion. But they were wrong. Their sacrifices should be regarded as tragic, not noble, and at any rate a flag associated with the government that deceived them should not be used to celebrate them.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I think you’re eliding the important point when it comes to why the South saw Lincoln and the Free Soil movement as threats to their independence. Which is doubly important because it’s the same reason why people still use Confederate symbolism today.

          Lincoln’s election proved that you could win the Presidency without the support of a single Southern state. And the Free Soil movement was attempting to add even more states to the union in a way which would have led to the South being permanently outvoted in both houses of congress.

          Obviously this was about slavery. The Planter aristocracy had almost all of their wealth tied up in slaves and, as history proved, abolition definitively ended their way of life. Which is why they felt staying in the union offered no future for them: the writing was on the wall that they were no longer represented within the American federal government, and the American Revolution prescribed a clear solution for that state of affairs.

          So why do people today, many of whom aren’t even Southern, display the Confederate battle flag? It’s not because they’re in favor of overturning the 13th amendment. It’s because they feel that the American government doesn’t represent them or their interests. That the system is rigged against them.

          It’s ironic because tearing down their statues does an excellent job of reinforcing that message.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Lincoln’s election proved that you could win the Presidency without the support of a single Southern state.

            * when the vote is split between four candidates. The South, as demonstrated by the last 60 years, could have easily opted to be the senior partner in a major party coalition. Additionally, their post-war political power was also enough to preserve segregation for over a hundred years. The North didn’t even have the political will to follow through on Reconstruction–which, of course, was more about the devastation of the war than rights for blacks.

            The South could have waited for an abolitionist amendment to make its move; it could have waited for the first Free state to enter the Union without an accompanying Slaver state; it could have waited for Dred Scott (which established that abolition was subject to the takings clause) to be overturned. But it didn’t. It struck first, and while much of what I say above is hindsight, pre-emptive (or, to use the parlance of ten years ago, preventative) strikes can and should open up the aggressor to critiques based on hindsight, because no one should ever start a war pre-emptively unless they’re reasonably sure they know what they’re doing.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It’s ironic because tearing down their statues does an excellent job of reinforcing that message.

            The “American governement” isn’t tearing down the statues.

            Mostly, the local municipal governments are moving the statues off of the public commons. The citizens of the city want to take the statues down. It’s the outsiders who want the statues to stay up…

          • gbdub says:

            So why do people today, many of whom aren’t even Southern, display the Confederate battle flag? It’s not because they’re in favor of overturning the 13th amendment. It’s because they feel that the American government doesn’t represent them or their interests. That the system is rigged against them.

            This is one of the better arguments, but it’s still very hard to separate the flag from the fact that it’s peak postwar popularity has usually coincided with efforts to be really racist. “I just want to show that I’m a ‘rebel’, I’m independent, I don’t want to submit to rule by some far away person that doesn’t represent me”. That’s a fine sentiment, but when so many of the people who shared that sentiment under that flag mostly wanted to use their independence to be nasty to black people, that’s a little more troublesome. A little more complicated than the swastika maybe, but I’ve come around to the idea that that’s a difference in degree, not form. Even if you don’t think people ought to think it’s racist, it’s very clear that a pretty sizeable portion of the population sincerely does, so displaying it outside some very limited contexts is more or less a declaration that at a minimum you don’t care that you’re offending people. In bird culture, this is considered a “dick move”.

            Besides, if you want “independence” with fewer racist connotations, the Gadsden Flag and the Moultrie Flag are fine substitutes (although I must admit, from a purely aesthetic standpoint the CSA battle flag is a superior design).

          • Matt M says:

            The “American governement” isn’t tearing down the statues.

            Mostly, the local municipal governments are moving the statues off of the public commons.

            Another great example of selective federalism in action. Anything the left wants to be decided locally is allowed to be decided locally. Anything the right wants to be decided locally is forbidden by federal policy.

            Here’s a brain teaser for you. When the mayor of Charlottesville decides to deny a disfavored group its constitutional rights in direct conflict with the orders of a federal judge, under the logic that he knows what’s best for his city and that there is an urgent threat to public safety, whose behavior is he emulating?

            If only there was some lionized historical Virginian who fought a war over an issue like this. Who said that these matters should be decided locally rather than by Washington. Wait, don’t tell me, it’ll come to me eventually…

          • HeelBearCub says:

            There is no commitment to federalism on the conservative side either. This is a false argument.

            But, if you think local governments moving statues is a sign that the federal government is tearing down “your” monuments…

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @herbert herberson,

            I mean, sure, they’re hardly blameless. Beyond literally firing the first shots the Civil War they had been courting the possibility of a war for decades. Their strategy was one of deliberate escalation to force concessions and when that strategy failed it failed very dramatically.

            But by the same token, your stance on the morality of pre-emptive strikes is very unrealistic.

            We agree that the writing was on the wall: this was a question of when and not if the north would end slavery over southern objections. The Planters correctly viewed this as an existential threat and, naturally, they disagreed with you as to the moral necessity of destroying their society. So how exactly would you respond to the knowledge of the inevitable destruction of your way of life?

            @gbdub,

            This is one of the better arguments, but it’s still very hard to separate the flag from the fact that it’s peak postwar popularity has usually coincided with efforts to be really racist. “I just want to show that I’m a ‘rebel’, I’m independent, I don’t want to submit to rule by some far away person that doesn’t represent me”. That’s a fine sentiment, but when so many of the people who shared that sentiment under that flag mostly wanted to use their independence to be nasty to black people, that’s a little more troublesome.

            If you’ll permit me to complete your thought, what it sounds like you’re saying is this:

            They want to live by their own customs without interference from you. But their customs are abhorrent and you can’t allow them to.

            That’s a perfectly fine argument in favor of cultural imperialism. I endorse it myself in cases like female genital mutilation.

            But you don’t get to have it both ways: if people are only allowed to have their culture when it meets your approval, then you’ve forbidden them from having their culture. That might be the best thing to do! Some cultures are awful. Just don’t expect them to thank you for it.

          • Matt M says:

            I think in blue cities in red states you have an interesting dynamic wherein any policy that is decided locally will end up very blue, any policy that is decided at state level will end up very red, and federal policy will flip back and forth every 4-8 years depending on what happens in Ohio and Florida.

            So what is “the will of the people” vis-a-vis confederate statues and which portion of the people is the relevant group to ask? The city? County? State? Nation?

            And why is the answer to this different for statue removal than it is for marijuana legalization? And why is the answer for that one different than it is for gay marriage?

            I think if you chart a lot of these issues, you’ll find a strong correlation between “which group gets to decide” and “which group is the most left-wing”

          • The Nybbler says:

            They’ve gone after the Gadsen flag as racist also. Not the (hideous) Moultrie flag yet, but at some point it make sense to decide that your opponents don’t get to choose your symbols.

          • herbert herberson says:

            We agree that the writing was on the wall: this was a question of when and not if the north would end slavery over southern objections. The Planters correctly viewed this as an existential threat and, naturally, they disagreed with you as to the moral necessity of destroying their society. So how exactly would you respond to the knowledge of the inevitable destruction of your way of life?

            I actually don’t agree with that. I don’t think the North would have ever mustered the will to go through with it if the abolitionist cause hadn’t managed to form a coalition with the “fuck the assholes who just started the bloodiest war we have ever or will ever experience” cause. (I know this is heterodox, and that other nations like Britain did peacefully end it, but I think the relative scale of slave capital as compared to other capital in the US, the Constitutional protections afforded to property-holders, and the historical ability of the South to avoid the sorts of large slave revolts that whittled the practice down in Brazil, would have collectively been too much)

            That said, if accept the premise for the sake of argument, and imagine myself as a slaveholder who disagrees with the above paragraph: sure, I might have advocated the same thing. But when the political and material realities of your unjust system naturally lead you to start a unjust war, that’s not a morally-relevant excuse to me. Choose to be evil for stupid reasons or choose to be evil because you can’t accept the costs of being good; either way, you’re still evil.

          • John Schilling says:

            This is one of the better arguments, but it’s still very hard to separate the flag from the fact that it’s peak postwar popularity has usually coincided with efforts to be really racist.

            Is there, perhaps, actual data on the popularity of the Confederate Flag over time? Because I’m thinking peak postwar popularity may have coincided with generically rebellious but non-racist southerners and the nigh-obliteration of the 1969 Dodge Charger.

            Vexillological bonus points for properly distinguishing the Confederate Flag from the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia in this endeavor.

          • 1soru1 says:

            > So how exactly would you respond to the knowledge of the inevitable destruction of your way of life?

            Quite plausibly badly. So?

            Not sure what moral standard you are calling for here. No-one can be judged on their motives, because other people might have similar motives, but different tactics. And no-one can be judged by their tactics, because other people might have similar tactics, but different motives.

            And no-one, outside that situation, living in the modern era with the facts of the matter freely available, can be judged for choosing to identify with the people with bad motives and tactics?

            Is there some subtle distinction between that and moral nihilism I’m missing?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @1soru1,

            Is there some subtle distinction between that and moral nihilism I’m missing?

            Yes.

            You can have morality without having moral certainty. It’s the original application of Cromwell’s rule: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.”

            Your opponents almost always believe that their positions are morally justified. Many of them are just as intelligent as you are and some moreso. So why do they believe these things?

            If you can’t answer that question persuasively I will not trust your moral judgement. Because if you really think that your enemies are slavering monsters then you lack the perspective to understand when you are doing something monstrous.

          • 1soru1 says:

            Take a room full of Southern leaders, and answer the questions:

            1. How many of them had personally raped someone?
            2. How many had personally, or directly ordered, the killing of someone for their personal profit?
            3. As above, for maiming or severe beating?
            4. As above, for credible threats of one or the other?
            5. Were they successful in achieving their goals?
            6. If not, was their failure unforseeable given the information they had?

            The answer to those questions that happens to be factually accurate is the correct one.

            You don’t get to pick a different one because it would be fairer.

          • John Schilling says:

            The answer to those questions that happens to be factually accurate is the correct one.

            Agreed. Do you have knowledge, based on evidence you can share, as to what the factually accurate answers to those questions are? Or are you just going to assert that it is 100%, obviously, because they were all evil slaveholders?

            Questions like these, I genuinely would be interested in having accurate answers to. But at times I think I am the only one.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @1soru1,

            So when can we expect the statues of the Founding Fathers and the Betsy Ross flag to come down then?

            Every one of your questions can be just as easily applied to the founders of the USA as to those of the CSA. Yet unless I’m very mistaken your “factual” moral evaluation is going to give very different answers in those cases.

            Let’s put this another way: abortion. I support it’s legality, I have my justifications for why that’s moral. Should opponents of abortion feel comfortable saying that since I’m clearly a monster, evil as a simple matter of fact, they can brush those justifications aside? Or should they stop and think as to why a mentally-sound and intelligent man is advocating something which they see as an obvious evil.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            Or should they stop and think as to why a mentally-sound and intelligent man is advocating something which they see as an obvious evil.

            In the case of slavery, there is no mystery: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” The abortion debate has a very different character, since there is little money directly at stake.

            @John Schilling: The hard one to adjudicate is going to be 4. That’s the one where plausibly most of the ladies will become guilty, but there is a reasonable sense in which every society that relies on coercion runs afoul of it. Probably needs to be clarified before we get factual about this.

            There was recently a book that tried but probably failed to quantify the relationship between brutality and profitability in the slave economy, which would have helped answer 4 (alas the authors seem to have badly misunderstood some agricultural science). So people are working on this but it’s not ready for prime time.

            Incidentally I believe one of the major punishments was breaking up families: “if you resist I’ll sell your wife down the river and you’ll never see her again.” That one should probably be on the list.

          • 1soru1 says:

            > Yet unless I’m very mistaken your “factual” moral evaluation is going to give very different answers in those cases.

            My evaluation would be different to the extent that the answers to those kind of questions are different; no more no less.

        • slavery was not under threat

          I don’t think that’s entirely correct. The question of new states being slave or free wasn’t merely a matter of slave owners wanting more territory, it was also affecting the balance of power in the Senate.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Amend it to “direct threat,” if you wish. But we’re several steps removed at this point:
            – Free soiler president leads to…
            – possibly more free soil states (popular sovereignty was the name of the game at that point, very easy to imagine several states still opting for slavery), which leads to…
            – possibly passing abolitionist legislation (very possible that the highly motivated South might have still managed to prevail legislatively over a more-numerous-but-less-motivated North, much as, e.g., gun rights advocates do today), which leads to…
            – possibly being unchallenged legally (absent a buy-out, which would have been prohibitively expensive absent significantly changed conditions, abolition was unconstitutional under the case law of the time), which leads to…
            – possibly being implemented (would the northern abolitionist government had the will to send in the feds to impose their new law? would they even have had the institutions to do so, if it was before the formations of federal police forces and/or a standing army?)

            Each one of those steps is a more justified caucus belli than the one before it. The South was at least as premature as, e.g., a hypothetical January 2017 Calxit out of fear of Trumpian mass deportations

          • Eric Rall says:

            As I understand it, there were three big things that southern Fire-Eaters were concerned about from a Lincoln (or other Republican) Presidency:

            1. Lincoln and future Republican presidents could use spoils-system patronage to bankroll an abolitionist movement within the South. This wasn’t an entirely unreasonable concern, since there were nontrivial fringe abolition movements in most of the border states (especially Missouri), and since federal patronage was a big part of how campaigns and political parties were financed at the time.

            2. The Republican/Whig economic program would enrich the Northeast and Midwest at the expense of the Deep South. Too much has been made of this in some circles (arguing, incorrectly IMO, that this was actually the primary reason for secession), but the plantation economy of the Deep South did have seriously divergent economic policy interests from the rest of the country.

            3. Anti-slavery sentiment in public discourse would encourage slave rebellions and an anti-slavery administration would fail to do its utmost to prevent and suppress slave revolts. Slave revolts were a constant fear in the Deep South, and it was widely believed that speaking out against slavery anywhere a slave might get wind of it would encourage slave uprisings. In particular, the Harpers Ferry raid by John Brown in 1859 was seen by many in the South as a preview of things to come, with militant Abolitionists, given encouragement under-the-table support by the more respectable anti-slavery types, working to organize slaves to rise up and kill their masters.

    • Thegnskald says:

      I tried to research it once, although didn’t get very far, but I have been told a major reason for continuing Confederate sympathies into the 20th century was that the South was disproportionately targeted by drafts, which is also why the military tradition in the South is so much stronger (and, if true, is also probably a major reason for the modern Southern industrial revolution).

      • AlphaGamma says:

        There was a stronger military tradition in the South than in the North pre-Civil War (for assorted cultural reasons). The disparity in number of military academies between South and North in 1860 was almost as great as the disparity in industry between North and South.

    • Anon. says:

      I’d say Singapore has a successful censorship regime. They’ve banned stuff like The Satanic Verses and the film The Last Temptation of Christ. It’s a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society with very little in the way of ethnic or religious tensions/identity politics.

    • rlms says:

      “Are there any examples of societies that banned one type of speech and never descended into the dystopian pit of absolute censorship?”
      Yes, many. For instance, holocaust denial is illegal in a large number of European countries, few of which have become dystopian hellholes. Other Western countries (the UK, Australia) have laws against “hate speech”. Several European countries have or had (in the last few decades) blasphemy laws. Singapore has fairly draconian restrictions on speech, but is still regarded as one of the nicest places to live.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        >Other Western countries (the UK, Australia) have laws against “hate speech”.

        The jury is still out on whether the UK will not end up a dystopian censorship pit.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Free speech is a levy on a floodplain; demolishing the levy doesn’t cause a flood, it means floods aren’t held back when the rains come.

      • gbdub says:

        Didn’t Germany just allow the prosecution of a private citizen for making a joke about another county’s president?

        I’d rather not have that, even if it means that people who are going to be nasty anti-Semites either way can be slightly more open about their weirder conspiracy theories.

        • rlms says:

          Yes, and similar (from my perspective) undesirable uses of these laws are relatively common. But they don’t noticeably endanger civilisation, and I don’t think unjust hate speech prosecutions are even a particularly high proportion of all unjust prosecutions.

          For the sake of argument, you could have a country that has laws against holocaust denial but not against generic hate speech. I’m don’t think there are any like that, but it’s fairly plausible and means you can stop nasty anti-Semites without negative side effects.

          • gbdub says:

            For the sake of argument, you could have a country that has laws against holocaust denial but not against generic hate speech. I’m don’t think there are any like that

            The fact that you don’t have any country like that seems to be fairly strong evidence that the slope is in fact rather slick.

            I am not convinced that anti-denial laws are effective at reducing anti-Semitism, nor am I convinced that lack of such laws are a marker of civilizational collapse. You would need pretty strong evidence of these claims – do you have any?

            Also, consider that denial of the Armenian genocide is pretty common, as are denials of culpability for the Holodomor and the Great Leap Forward famines. I don’t agree with these denials, but so far civilization remains uncollapsed.

          • Jiro says:

            If there aren’t any like that, maybe human nature is keeping it from being fairly plausible after all.

          • rlms says:

            @gbdub
            The slope might be slippery between holocaust denial laws and hate speech laws, but there seems to be something stopping people going further down it. I don’t know whether or not anti-denial laws are effective (my instinct is that they probably have very little effect either way in modern times), but that’s not what I’m arguing. I probably confused things by using the phrase “endanger civilisation” to refer to the dangers of anti-free-speech laws when in this context you would expect it to be applied to holocaust denial. My thesis is that nothing terrible (like descent into totalitarian madness) is likely to come from minor infringements on freedom of speech like hate speech laws. I’m not arguing that terrible things *will* come from the absence of those laws; that seems obviously false since nothing awful seems to be happening in the US (or at least nothing that excessive freedom of speech can plausibly be blamed for).

            So the question of denial of Soviet crimes is irrelevant, but on that subject I was interested to learn from the Wikipedia page on holocaust denial laws that many Eastern European countries also have explicit anti-Soviet-atrocity-denial laws.

          • gbdub says:

            My point is they’ve already gone farther down the slippery slope than I’d like. Your line may be different.

            My thesis is that nothing terrible (like descent into totalitarian madness) is likely to come from minor infringements on freedom of speech like hate speech laws.

            I think throwing someone in jail for joking about Erdogan (or Johnson) is pretty terrible. Especially if you’re the guy in jail. As Aapje notes, people find are going to find a way to express their ungoodthink. So if the laws are ineffective anyway, throwing even one person in jail for violating them seems sufficiently terrible to not have those laws.

          • rlms says:

            Charges against that guy were dropped, but I agree that the prosecution was pretty bad even though it was unsuccessful, and e.g. the case where another German guy was fined for having anti-Christian stickers on his car was also bad. But comparing case to case, I don’t think these examples are much worse than commonplace prosaic injustices like people getting punished too harshly for nonviolent drug offences, or let off too lightly for fraud. And in aggregate, I think there is probably a lot more prosaic injustice.

        • Aapje says:

          @gbdub

          Didn’t Germany just allow the prosecution of a private citizen for making a joke about another county’s president?

          Anecdote time: during the Vietnam war, Dutch protesters had signs saying ‘Johnson murderer,’ but they were prosecuted. So they changed the signs to ‘Johnson miller.’ In Dutch, miller and murderer are fairly similar looking words (molenaar vs moordenaar). Because calling Johnson a miller was nonsense, everyone knew what they really meant, but they were in the clear legally.

          Even during WW2, various occupied people found all kind of covert ways to signal resistance in plausibly deniable ways. For example, Norwegians wore paperclips stuck to their clothes*.

          So while I oppose most censorship laws, I also think that they are usually rather ineffective. If you really want to control what people think, you need propaganda, not censorship.

          * So clearly we need to produce a lot more paperclips, rather than humans… for freedom!

    • herbert herberson says:

      I don’t have any argument for the legalistic side of things, which tends to focus on “you can’t trust the state with the power to regulate speech.”

      But for the more philosophical side of things, the marketplace of ideas and all that? Made perfect sense to me as a kid, but 15+ years of discussing things online has made me realize that if you want to have a remotely productive discussion, you need mods. Often, you need a lot of them. That, combined with updated knowledge about the thousand ways that rational thought can be purposefully or accidentally short-circuited, has lead me to stop considering free speech a particularly important end in itself (again, outside the legal sphere).

    • piato says:

      >I was wondering if anyone had any coherent arguments AGAINST free speech. Are there any situations where we should not tolerate free speech? Are there any examples of societies that banned one type of speech and never descended into the dystopian pit of absolute censorship?

      I was raised in Europe, and as a result my intuitions about free speech, in the U.S. sense, to be very different – my views are likely more changeable than my intuitions, but I find the universal enthusiasm for Free Speech here to be one of the more confusing and surprising aspects of the S.S.C. community worldview.

      The obvious example of a Free Speech issue, from a European perspective, is holocaust denial. In 1945, the evidence was overwhelming and plain to the world – it made sense to be very, very sure that the holocaust had happened. But that certainty was guaranteed to diminish with time, as survivors/camp liberators/etc died off.

      I consider it a very clear moral good that people should have high epistemic confidence about the holocaust having happened. Such confidence might potentially save millions of lives. It’s really hard for me to come up with any counter-arguments to that, even when I try to put myself in the shoes of a Free Speech advocate and steelman the argument – the best I can come up with is “but what if we found out that it really hadn’t?” which is an argument for using censorship very rarely and only in cases where the danger from misinformation is very great and our confidence we’re right is very great.

      So my second attempt to steelman this position (which I’d like to understand better!) would be a slippery slope one – certainly it’s bad when the ruling cabal get together and say “we have extremely high confidence that Snowball was a traitor and it’s vital to the farm that everyone agree”. This could be an argument against the practice of “allowing censorship as a governmental norm”. But it’s not an argument against particular acts of (to me, quite sensible) censorship as practiced in Germany, etc.

      A third attempt would be “censorship cause more, not fewer people to believe the forbidden thing.” That would be a conclusive argument, to me, if it were true, but I haven’t seen any evidence for it.

      This view seems extremely heterodox within the SSC community, to the extent that I’m sure I’m missing something. But to me the situation is one where censorship appears to work better than free speech.

      • Talker45 says:

        At the risk of sounding like I speak for all Americans, I can say that I have never seen anyone argue against free speech. Yet at the same time, most people would probably agree that holocaust denial laws are a good thing. I have also never seen anyone get really amped up about the fact that I, as an American, cannot write a book about having sex with children (obscene speech.) It is surprising that the so-called “free speech absolutists” aren’t bothered by this.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Yet at the same time, most people would probably agree that holocaust denial laws are a good thing.

          Most Americans? I’ve actually never seen a poll.

          I have also never seen anyone get really amped up about the fact that I, as an American, cannot write a book about having sex with children (obscene speech.)

          Lolita was published in 1955, and is still in print. It was not banned in the US. I don’t know of current law holding that _any_ purely written fiction is obscene.

          • Talker45 says:

            Most Americans? I’ve actually never seen a poll.

            Ok, fine. Some Americans.

            Lolita was published in 1955, and is still in print.

            This doesn’t negate the fact that obscene speech isn’t protected under the first amendment.

          • gbdub says:

            I am strongly opposed to Holocaust denial.

            I am also strongly opposed to prosecuting Holocaust denial. We recently had a poster on here link a Holocaust denial video, and there was significant discussion of it. I had no real interest in that debate, but are you comfortable with the idea of putting that poster in prison?

          • Protagoras says:

            I’m also fairly certain that at least for the past half century or so there have been no successful prosecutions of purely written fiction that did not involve real persons and so invoke threats/harassment/stalking laws. Not to say those prosecutions involving real persons always seemed the most justified or best conducted, but prosecuting written material for being obscene without any additional excuse seems to have almost totally ceased. There do seem to be a couple of cases in relatively recent history that have gotten to courts before the courts threw them out, which perhaps shouldn’t be completely ignored due to the chilling effect of threats of prosecution even if the prosecutions fail, of course. But, overall, prosecution for written obscenity is, as Nybbler says, not really a thing in the U.S. any more. It has to have pictures for there to be any significant chance of the authorities getting involved.

        • I call it Obvious Exception Syndrome. Absolutists believe in absolute application of a rule apart from the obvious exceptions.

        • Nornagest says:

          Obscenity doctrine is incredibly narrow — or, rather, the exceptions to it are so broad in current interpretation that there basically are no examples not covered by them. IANAL, but I really doubt you could get an obscenity challenge to a hypothetical modern-day Lolita to stand up in court, even if you suck as a writer compared to Nabakov. (Almost everyone does.)

          Being able to find a publisher is another matter.

        • Brad says:

          I’d be curious to know when the last obscenity conviction was. I vaguely recall an attempt during the GWB administration to prosecute some porn director but I don’t remember if it was successful or not.

          There was a crush video law that made it up to the Supreme Court in 2010. One of the government’s arguments was that the videos were obscene, but the court rejected that argument and all the others, and struck down the law.

          It may be that the obscenity exception, like the fighting words exception, is a dead letter.

          • Protagoras says:

            The one you vaguely recall is probably Paul Little (aka Max Hardcore), who spent two and half years in prison for obscenity from 2009-2011. I also don’t know of any more recent cases, but that is fairly recent.

          • Matt M says:

            Max was a visionary. Ahead of his time. Stuff that was considered extreme and beyond the pale such that he was the only one recording it is now part and parcel of the industry and is mostly met with a yawn.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Matt M, Really? I can’t claim to have a thorough knowledge of everything that’s going on in porn by any means (like most people, I only really go out looking for the stuff that turns me on), but I haven’t really encountered anyone else doing stuff like Max Hardcore used to do, which makes me suspicious of the claim that it has become common.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          I will happily argue that they are a bad thing, and I criticized the existence of the obscenity exception just up-thread. And there are actually quite a few free speech advocates are in fact bothered by this and have fought cases to defend the right of people write books about having sex with children. You may have read Lolita, for example. They also defend the right of people to draw pictures of people having sex with children, create computer-generated imagery of people having sex with children, and in some cases even photo-shopped and faked photography that appears to show people having sex with children.

          They are able to draw a line between this and photographs and video recordings of the act of someone having sex with a child, because unlike the examples above, someone has to actually engage in the problematic act in order for these photographs and video recordings to be produced.

          There is some argument on the issue of photoshopped/edited/faked photographs/videos because of the possibility that people will actually have sex with children, and then simply claim that it is fake. This has not stopped the existence of a great many purveyors of “Hot Teens Love #$%!! Vol. 23”* (*=all participants are at least 18 years of age at the time of filming. This product complies with Title xx USC xxxx etc etc).

          • Brad says:

            The current state of law contained in New York v. Ferber (1982) and Osborne v. Ohio (1990) is that a state may criminally punish the mere possession of child pornography. That’s not the case for regular old obscene material. See Stanley v. Georgia (1969).

            The logic is that banning the possession of child pornography is necessary to dry up the market for the production of child pornography, which as you say necessarily involves a crime.*

            The Court declined to extend that reasoning to so-called virtual child pornography in Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition (2002). Laws against that have to follow the rules for obscenity (i.e. can’t ban mere possession, must use the lacking serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value definition).

            *Well sort of. It’s illegal to produce child pornography, so in that sense it always involves a crime. But it is a bit of a logical puzzle that it is illegal to film some sex acts which are themselves legal.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Ashcroft is the case I was thinking of when suggesting that in fact there -are- free speech advocates who defend some forms of child porn, thank you.

            I write most of my comments on lunch break at work and post them when I get home, so I’m time and research-time limited.

            I am…unfond of the stuff personally, but I believe that my principles obligate me to defend it as long as no kids were harmed, since I also think that the evidence is that the stuff (like the rest of the porn discussed above) doesn’t increase the rate of sexual abuse of minors and might in fact act as a pressure valve.

        • Garrett says:

          As a free speech absolutist I will (in hushed tones) argue that the distribution (though not creation) of actual child pornography ought to be protected.

          • schazjmd says:

            If it’s illegal to produce, there’s nothing to distribute or possess. If you distribute or (knowingly) possess an illegal item, aren’t you complicit in the crime of production?

          • Matt M says:

            I’m pretty sure the point here is that child pornography is de facto illegal to produce because producing it necessarily involves statutory rape, or at least child endangerment or something.

          • publiusvarinius says:

            If it’s illegal to produce, there’s nothing to distribute or possess. If you distribute or (knowingly) possess an illegal item, aren’t you complicit in the crime of production?/

            Illegal-to-produce item does not necessarily mean illegal item. See e.g. European drug laws, which have a long history of successfully distinguishing between possession, use, distribution and cultivation.

          • Protagoras says:

            @schazjmd, So making and distributing a true crime documentary should be illegal because if there hadn’t been a crime, you couldn’t make the documentary, so the makers of the documentary are complicit in the crime? Obviously, it would (and should) be illegal to pay someone to commit a crime to make a documentary about it, but extending it to the case where the distributors of the product did nothing to encourage the crime that made it possible seems to go much too far.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I think the thing you’re missing is that there’s a reason why the First Amendment guarantees both freedom of speech and forbids the establishment of a state religion.

        Part of the notion of freedom of speech is that the government shouldn’t be responsible for codifying and promulgating an Official Truth. The responsibility for distinguishing right from wrong and fact from fiction belongs to each individual and to civil society as a whole.

        After all, if you really believe the people are so depraved or so ignorant that they cannot distinguish truth and falsehood then government by and for the people is madness.

      • dndnrsn says:

        @piato

        How does censoring denying something improve people’s confidence that the thing happened? Holocaust denial is historically untenable and epistemically terrible, and is easily argued against, by someone who has a decent historical knowledge of the Holocaust. The bafflegab, lies, and Gish Gallops of Holocaust deniers are not convincing to someone who has an adequate knowledge of the subject, but if someone’s knowledge of the Holocaust doesn’t go beyond “teacher put Schindler’s List on one class” it’s a different matter. Mandating that it be taught competently seems more likely to prove that it happened.

      • powerfuller says:

        @paito

        As you said, government censorship in general seems like a bad idea, especially for Snowball, but can seem like a good idea in particular instances, like stopping Holocaust denial.

        The free speech absolutist would say the problem with this is that you’re giving the government the power to decide what warrants censorship (i.e. deciding when “the danger from misinformation is very great and our confidence we’re right is very great”). I believe standards like those are very easy to be abused, and any government eventually will abuse them. People say the same about climate change (danger + confidence), and are seeking to censor those deniers as well.

        I don’t defend Holocaust deniers because I think they might actually be right about the Holocaust and I can learn something from them; I defend them because I want to reserve the right to hold an opinion about some other subject that I think actually is true, but that many/most right-thinking people would consider abhorrent. The quality or value of the Holocaust deniers’ speech is irrelevant to this.

      • Aapje says:

        @piato

        1. We actually have an enormous amount of evidence. Thanks to video recording, the testimony of survivors/camp liberators/etc will never go away. I dispute that more than a tiny number of people need to actually talk to a living person to be convinced. If they have ignored all the other evidence already, then why would that make a huge difference?

        2. I dispute your claim that the certainty that the Holocaust happened is guaranteed to diminish with time. The status of the Holocaust as the worst evil has become dogma (among Western white people at least), not to be challenged by sensible people. Such social pressures preserve dogma, where most people never look for actual evidence, but just take the societal consensus as a given.

        According to your logic, faith in Jesus or Mohammed would have decreased over time. Actual history shows that Christianity and Islam were actually at their smallest during the lives of these prophets and shortly after their deaths, when people who spoke to them still lived. These religions have grown enormously since.

        3. Censorship itself can easily be seen as evidence of a truth being hidden by conspiracy-minded people. Is there evidence that this effect is smaller than the upsides of banning Holocaust denial? My (subjective) feeling is that this is not the case. I think that the Streisand effect is very strong and the upside of censorship in a non-oppressive society is small because:

        4. If you ban public discussion, people who doubt the Holocaust won’t stop discussing it, they just will do that on Stormfront or in other bubbles where only one side is presented, rather than in places were the weaknesses in their argument will be pointed out.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I favour a more expansive view of “what speech should be restricted on grounds of being harmful” than the standard of imminent harm the US has. However, I dislike the methods of restricting speech that are the norm in Canada and Europe – they’re too subjective; whether or not something is deemed “hate speech” depends on who is doing the speaking and against whom, and I am against laws that are applied based more on who the supposed lawbreaker is than the law being broken (eg, I am also against drug laws that are applied extremely unevenly).

      Of course, whether or not a standard past imminent harm would be fairly and evenly applied is an open question. Is, though, the imminent harm standard fairly and evenly applied anyway? I have to hope there’s something between “speech laws applied unfairly and unevenly” and “guess we have to let people preach ideologies that have never not resulted in eight-figure body counts.”

    • carvenvisage says:

      I was wondering if anyone had any coherent arguments AGAINST free speech. Are there any situations where we should not tolerate free speech?

      There isn’t a clear divine between speech and threats, or between threats and violence.

      Some types of speech are purely malicious. Maybe it’s possible (if extremely difficult) to quantify additional types of speech which are categoricaly damaging, like yelling fire in a crowded theater or hiring an assassin to kill a legitimate business competitor.

    • qtip says:

      Stanley Fish argued pretty convincingly that no one* really takes an absolutist position on free speech in practice. He takes it a step further and argues that it’s best to be honest about what kinds of speech we’re excluding from legal protection — instead of engaging in legalistic trickery like saying “that’s not really speech” or citing imminent threat or whatever.

      * I’m sure there are some people here who would count themselves exceptions.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Stanley Fish argued pretty convincingly that no one* really takes an absolutist position on free speech in practice.

        I know how that one goes:
        “We’ve established that, now we’re just haggling over the price.”

        No, I will not abandon the principle just because someone’s found some case way on the edge somewhere that he thinks no one will support.

        • So you will be campaigning for absolute free speech in the US?

          • Wrong Species says:

            I think that because the exceptions are well defined and haven’t changed, then it’s best to keep it that way. If we decide to start restricting more speech, we don’t know where it’s going to lead.

          • Well Wrong Species has accepted that absolute free speech doesn’t exist. Now we just need to find out about The Nybbler.

        • qtip says:

          Fish’s argument is more sophisticated than just citing “edge cases” and crying hypocrisy.

          To spoil it a bit (“spoil” in two common senses of the word): defining the boundaries of “free speech” is a political act that reifies the actor’s conception of what’s good and what’s bad — not just what’s acceptable or unacceptable. Appealing to the principle as something separate from larger politics/ideology is a fundamentally dishonest move in the game.

          It’s a powerful move, and worth keeping in one’s arsenal. But at a meta-level we shouldn’t kid ourselves that we’re standing on principle.

  25. Andy says:

    Does anyone know mainstream/famous people who publicly follow SSC? Off the top of my head I’m aware of Steven Pinker and Paul Graham.

  26. purplepeople says:

    Draft for a petition. Please let me know whether the wording is good, whether there is anything I should add/delete/modify, and most of all whether you support it (Note that in the actual draft a few of the sentences are hyperlinked to articles):

    Few issues directly pertaining to politics can expect to gain bipartisan support, but the idea that safeguarding the integrity of the electoral process is essential for the functioning of a democracy is one of these issues. One way to move further in this direction is to require all precincts to use paper ballots in their elections.

    To understand why even a perceived threat to the integrity of elections can be so dangerous, consider the following situation:

    The 2020 U.S. Presidential election had been a close one; pundits and pollsters had agreed the race was so close, even bad weather in a key precinct or two could be enough to change the result. Finally, the results came in – and sure enough, the election was won by a hair. But a few days later, social media had erupted with embittered citizens claiming that in Pennsylvania, North Korean hacking had managed to compromise EVMs, and the election results were therefore invalid. Government officials realized there was no way to prove that the integrity of the EVMs was not compromised, and so could merely claim that this was the case, without iron-clad proof. Over the next few years, a significant percentage of American citizens refuse to accept the legitimacy of the putative administration.

    One may claim that this eventuality is remote and unrealistic, but considering the damage this might do, and the relatively simple solution available now, it is difficult to argue that requiring paper ballots is not worth the time or effort.

    Furthermore, the probability that the integrity of U.S. elections may be called into question by a significant number of citizens in the future may not be as low as it has been in the past. For example, at the 25th DefCon, hackers compromised U.S. voting machines within 35 minutes. This is public information, available to U.S. adversaries. Also, as 17 intelligence agencies confirm, the 2016 Presidential election saw attempted interference by Russia, and there is no reason to believe Russia will not follow suit in 2020. Finally, it would be conservative to assume that 2020 will see an unprecedented scale and quality of misinformation campaigns on social media and in the news. If nothing else, we will most likely see an unprecedented ability to create fake yet realistic videos of public figures saying arbitrary things. This would plausibly lead to an overall decrease in trust in the United States, increasing the chance that allegations against the integrity of the election results will be leveled by a significant number of voters.

    When one is faced with the risk of a highly net-negative event, and when the effort required to significantly mitigate that risk is small, it is often wise to do so, even if the chance of the event occurring is small. The risk of actual or perceived damage to the integrity of the electoral process, and the potential concomitant unraveling of our already divided nation, is such an event. It would be wise, responsible, and common-sensical to require the use of paper ballots for all precincts as soon as possible.

    • Well... says:

      Needs an executive summary of 3-5 bullet points, one short sentence each.

    • Incurian says:

      I miss the old days when we had paper ballots and no elections were ever corrupt or contested.

      • purplepeople says:

        True. I should discuss issues with paper ballots and explain why they are still the better option. I hope that doesn’t make the argument less convincing to many people.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think you definitely will have to address the ‘hanging chads’ argument because that whole debate in Florida demonstrates that sufficiently motivated people can and will argue over anything, and if we’re coming down to trying to decide should Tweedledum or Tweedledee get this vote based on “is the piece of paper all the way hole punched or not?”, then we have problems.

          You will have to decide what type of ballot you’ll use and how it will be marked – punched, marked with pencil, what way? And there will be arguments for and against any method. We still have the paper and pencil ballot in Ireland because when they tried to introduce electronic voting machines there were objections over how the votes could be tracked in the absence of a paper trail and if they were automatically wiped once counted, hacking and fraud possibilities, etc.

          Mostly because nobody from any political party trusted The Other Lot, when in power, not to fiddle with the machinery to tilt any dubious or doubtful votes in the favour of their party’s candidate(s) 🙂

          • beleester says:

            To be fair, the Florida butterfly ballot design was awful: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4e/Butterfly_Ballot%2C_Florida_2000_%28large%29.jpg

            Who thought it was a good idea to interleave the options like that?

          • random832 says:

            In my part of the US, we have paper ballots that are counted by machine, so you get the efficiency benefits without wiping out the paper trail. Since everyone’s had to deal with “fill in the entire bubble for your answer to be counted” forms since elementary school, there’s little concern of any difficulty with using the ballots correctly.

            And you fill them out with a pen, not a pencil, because no-one trusts that pencil marks can’t be tampered with.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            In my part of the US, we have paper ballots that are counted by machine, so you get the efficiency benefits without wiping out the paper trail.

            I believe these are the best solution, and have since I worked at the BOE.

            There are some arguments made for electronic interfaces having to do with the ability to prevent the voter from doing something invalid (like, marking two candidates in one race, or not realizing they can vote for multiple candidates in another), but I don’t find the tradeoff to be worth it.

            Electronic interfaces also depress turnout, because each machine is far more expensive than all of the paper ballots required for 100% turnout in a precinct for many elections. Thus, machines aren’t purchased in sufficient number to handle populous precincts.

            The number one thing a voting system has to do is let people cast their vote. Co-equal to this is ensuring the confidence of the voter and the public that their vote was counted accurately.

          • random832 says:

            There are some arguments made for electronic interfaces having to do with the ability to prevent the voter from doing something invalid (like, marking two candidates in one race, or not realizing they can vote for multiple candidates in another), but I don’t find the tradeoff to be worth it.

            You could have the machine (in my state they’re machines that scan the ballots immediately and then drop them into the box, rather than dumb boxes and central scanning, though that’s a cost tradeoff) validate the ballot, and kick it out if there’s an error.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @random:

            Yes, we do it in my county this way as well. A poll worker is standing next to the machine asking you to wait to make sure there is not an overvote.

            It won’t kick back for undervotes, though, which means it will not kick back for an insufficient clear mark.

            But, as I said, I think that is a worthwhile tradeoff.

        • Incurian says:

          I think it is vitally important to your argument to prove that paper ballots are better, not merely that electronic ones are hackable. In the absence of that, my reaction was a) what I wrote above, and b) [perhaps uncharitably] Hillary supporters are very sore losers.

    • beleester says:

      What about electronic voting machines that produce a paper printout as they go? There’s several models that do this, AFAIK. Logically, those shouldn’t be any more risky than electronically-tabulated paper ballots – they both provide an electronic count and a paper ballot you can use to validate that count.

      While we’re on the subject, my personal hobbyhorse for electronic voting is “No touchscreens in electronic voting machines!” Every damn election, there’s a story about how “Voting machines are flipping votes from Democrats to Republican!” which inevitably turns out to be “Someone miscalibrated the touchscreen, and it was reading all taps slightly off-center, so if you tapped Kerry it would think you tapped Bush.”

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      It is much easier to make electronic systems in multiple languages. It terms of accessibility, electronic entry beats paper entry.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Not if you define accessibility to include time spent waiting to vote…

        Electronic machines have pros. I don’t think they outweigh the cons.

        Usually ballots don’t have much in the way of instruction on them anyway, and the names don’t need to be translated.

  27. purplepeople says:

    I have a draft for a petition: let me know whether the wording is good, whether there is anything I should add, and most of all whether you would support it:

    Few issues directly pertaining to politics can expect to gain bipartisan support, but the idea that safeguarding the integrity of the electoral process is essential for the functioning of a democracy is one of these issues. One way to move further in this direction is to require all precincts to use paper ballots in their elections.

    To understand why even a perceived threat to the integrity of elections can be so dangerous, consider the following situation:

    The 2020 U.S. Presidential election had been a close one; pundits and pollsters had agreed the race was so close, even bad weather in a key precinct or two could be enough to change the result. Finally, the results came in – and sure enough, the election was won by a hair. But a few days later, social media had erupted with embittered citizens claiming that in Pennsylvania, North Korean hacking had managed to compromise EVMs, and the election results were therefore invalid. Government officials realized there was no way to prove that the integrity of the EVMs was not compromised, and so could merely claim that this was the case, without iron-clad proof. Over the next few years, a significant percentage of American citizens refuse to accept the legitimacy of the putative administration.

    One may claim that this eventuality is remote and unrealistic, but considering the damage this might do, and the relatively simple solution available now, it is difficult to argue that requiring paper ballots is not worth the time or effort.

    Furthermore, the probability that the integrity of U.S. elections may be called into question by a significant number of citizens in the future may not be as low as it has been in the past. For example, at the 25th DefCon, hackers compromised U.S. voting machines within 35 minutes. This is public information, available to U.S. adversaries. Also, as 17 intelligence agencies confirm, the 2016 Presidential election saw attempted interference by Russia, and there is no reason to believe Russia will not follow suit in 2020. Finally, it would be conservative to assume that 2020 will see an unprecedented scale and quality of misinformation campaigns on social media and in the news. If nothing else, we will most likely see an unprecedented ability to create fake yet realistic videos of public figures saying arbitrary things. This would plausibly lead to an overall decrease in trust in the United States, increasing the chance that allegations against the integrity of the election results will be leveled by a significant number of voters.

    When one is faced with the risk of a highly net-negative event, and when the effort required to significantly mitigate that risk is small, it is often wise to do so, even if the chance of the event occurring is small. The risk of actual or perceived damage to the integrity of the electoral process, and the potential concomitant unraveling of our already divided nation, is such an event. It would be wise, responsible, and common-sensical to require the use of paper ballots for all precincts as soon as possible.

  28. KristinJanz says:

    I’m a long time SSC lurker, but I thought some people here might possibly be interested in this. (Especially since we’ve just been talking about science fiction.)

    My husband and I independently published an anthology of Christian-themed speculative fiction last year (Mysterion: Rediscovering the Mysteries of the Christian Faith), and we’re currently running a Kickstarter to raise funds for a second volume. By “Christian-themed” we mean “stories that explore the successes and failures of flawed humans confronted by the mysteries of the Christian faith, in an authentic way”, not “stories you might find at a Christian bookstore”. In fact, the first anthology had 2 Jewish authors, 1 atheist, a bunch of Christians, and a bunch of others we don’t know about, because we didn’t ask. We’re more interested in stories that ask interesting questions than in stories that have an axe to grind re: Christianity (in either direction).

    Also, we pay pretty well, as these things go (6 cents/word), which adds up, which is why we’re doing a Kickstarter.

    We’re both fantasy / science fiction writers who’ve had short stories published in various places, also both Christians (hence the theme of our anthology series). One of us is a conservative, the other is a liberal, which hopefully gives us some defense against excessive bias in either direction among the stories we select. As we say in our submission guidelines: “We shouldn’t be able to spot the villain by his politics or religion” (and that should be “their politics or religion, but anyway (you can probably tell which of us is the liberal)).

    Anyway, if this is the kind of thing you might be interested in, check out our Kickstarter! (We only have 4 days left to go.) The first volume is available from Amazon and other places (paperback and ebook).

    p.s., SSC is one of the few places on the internet where I actually find it worthwhile to read the comments, so thank you to all of you for being a part of that.

    • RDNinja says:

      As a fellow Christian SF author, this sounds right up my alley. I actually wrote a short novel featuring a medical missionary on an alien planet, that’s sort of a cross between House, MD and Firefly. I even have a prequel short story I never found a home for, so you might need to keep an eye out for that in your submissions.

      Do you know of any online communities for this kind of stuff? Most ofnthe SF spaces out there are pretty anti-religion in general, and most of the Christian writing communities I’ve seen are focused on romance or children’s fantasy.

      • KristinJanz says:

        Yes, there’s a private Facebook group for Christian authors of speculative fiction, with over 800 members, and I highly recommend it. You have to apply for membership, and they have been having a lot of trouble with bot applications recently, so make sure you sound like an actual person with a genuine interest in the group. 🙂 (I don’t think membership is restricted to Christians, as I’ve seen one poster there who claims to be an atheist, but that’s definitely the focus.)

        It’s a good community, and I would say even better than SSC (which is high praise) at being a place where people can discuss and disagree about controversial topics without descending into flame wars and death threats. It does tend to skew more conservative than I, a Canadian liberal, am always comfortable with; but I’m certainly not the only progressive Christian in the group, either.

        The Facebook group is associated with an annual Christian speculative fiction conference, which is also very good, although (I think) a little on the pricey side. (By “Christian speculative fiction”, I mean, “speculative fiction written by Christians, not necessarily–though not excluding–the kind of thing you’d find at Christian bookstores”; and they’re also willing to bring in instructors, speakers, agents, etc. who don’t identify as Christian at all.)

        Your short story sounds really interesting! Definitely send it to us once we’re open for submissions (as long as it’s less than 10,000 words). We have a submission guidelines page on our website (which you can keep an eye on to see when we re-open), and there’s also a page where you can subscribe to our newsletter if you want to be notified when that happens. If our Kickstarter isn’t funded (and I doubt it will be, at this point), it will be longer before we re-open, and we won’t be doing an anthology, but we do intend to keep publishing fiction in some format.

        Also, the Codex forum, although not Christian, is less anti-religion than many online SF spaces (perhaps due to having quite a few religious members). They have membership qualifications though, so you can’t get in unless you’ve published some stuff in sufficiently high-paying markets (or earned above a certain threshold from self-publishing, or attended one of the prestigious audition-only writing workshops in the field … there are a couple other ways to qualify, but those are the typical ones).

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          https://www.facebook.com/groups/eastoflaughter/

          This is a group for discussing R. A. Lafferty, who was a notable Catholic author (science fiction, horror, humor, realistic, and just plain weird fiction).

          Slow Tuesday Night— this will give you some idea of whether you like the way Lafferty wrote.

          • KristinJanz says:

            Thanks, for the recommendation! I haven’t read R. A. Lafferty yet, but I’m building up a list of great Christian speculative fiction writers of the past that I need to check out. I bookmarked “Slow Tuesday Night”.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      So looking at the kickstarter I wasn’t really able to narrow down what sort of Christian perspective these stories are coming from beyond nondenominational Protestantism.

      I would imagine, though I may be wrong, that Christian sects would approach SF from different angles due to their distinct exotheology. A Catholic who believes that aliens may be free from original sin and a Mormon who believes God lives on or near planet Kolob are probably going to take different tacks when it comes to first contact.

      (I’m really not trying to pick on Mormons. I mean they seem to be doing pretty well for themselves so obviously they’re doing something right. But Joseph Smith said some seriously weird shit.)

      Is this something which is actually important in practice or does it all wash out in the end?

      • KristinJanz says:

        We’re open to publishing stories from all Christian perspectives, and would like to see more fiction submissions from Catholic, Orthodox, and others who don’t fit into the category of “nondenominational Protestantism”. (But if you call something “Christian” without narrowing the focus, evangelical Protestant is largely who notices and sends you stories.)

        We almost published a Mormon story, but it was too similar to a Jewish story we liked better (we’re open to occasionally publishing something from the perspective of another religion, if it gets at some of the same questions we find interesting about Christian philosophy, but probably 95% or more of what we publish is going to be about Christianity).

        We’d also be interested in fiction that deals in a thoughtful way with differences and conflicts between Christianity and other religions, but we both have a strong aversion to “look how horrible one side is to the other!” narratives.

        Our goal is not to police the boundaries of what counts as “Christian”, but to publish high-quality speculative fiction that explores interesting questions that are connected in some way to the Christian faith.

        I don’t know whether I’ve answered the question you were asking or not…

  29. ALK says:

    So, I wrote a comment that turned into a bit of an essay. I’ll break it up into chunks:

    It seems like many people here in the rationalist community are showing a tendency to see the “blue tribe”’s hostile response to the Google memo and its defenders as an expression of some kind of quasi-aesthetic attachment to beliefs in biological sameness of the sexes along certain dimensions, in a way that makes those reactions look pretty senseless. Both the author of the Google memo, James Damore, and Scott Alexander, in his defense of some of its claims, emphasize that none of the theses there presented are attacks on women, sexual equality, and so on. So what’s left to explain the hostile reaction? A-rational-at-best groupthink with no connection to reality? Secret funding by Crusaders Against Truth?

    I think that many people have not been adequately paying attention to what might be called interest-based aspects of these issues, which I think can help explain the “blue tribe”’s reactions here, especially those of its female members. Not only that, considerations of interest seem important on their own, and so we should be talking about them more anyway.

    Where there is lashing-out, there is usually pain, or fear. My main claim is this: it is reasonable to fear that the widespread acceptance of some of the scientific claims made in the Google memo and defended by members of the rationalist community could be harmful to the interests of women. I do not mean this to say that we therefore shouldn’t accept the scientific claims, if they are true. But we should do it knowing and acknowledging that doing so involves some risk to the interests of women. Because these claims have that potential, I think it makes sense to treat them carefully, both scientifically and rhetorically. A righteous and snarky tone in this context, I think, falls somewhere short of virtuous.

    First, before we go on, it is important to point out that despite the euphemistic language of the memo, and of many people defending it, the traits being attributed to men/women as populations here are not value-neutral. Or at least, they will not be considered value neutral by most people. In particular, the difference in interest in systematizing/analyzing vs. empathy is not value neutral, and it is rightly read as disingenuous to pretend that it is. Scott’s words betray this pretense, when he says:

    Silicon Valley was supposed to be better than this. It was supposed to be the life of the mind, where people who were interested in the mysteries of computation and cognition could get together and make the world better for everybody.

    It was supposed to be the life of the mind. One of the trait-clusters being attributed disproportionately to men/women by the studies cited in the memo is obviously more associated with the intellectual (vs. the emotional) and with intelligence in the sense in which we standardly use that term. Yes, we periodically talk about emotional intelligence. But there’s a reason we have to use a prefix for that one: “intelligence” sans prefix means “systematic/analytic intelligence”. So I think it’s fair to interpret the claim being made as: women are, as a whole, less intelligent than men.

    No-we’re just talking about interests here, someone may reply, not abilities! Many will not think these two types of feature have been kept apart or can be kept apart. For one thing, the language of systematizing vs. empathizing used in the memo and in Scott’s article naturally suggests a difference in abilities, since empathizing is a capacity, not something we usually understand as an interest or hobby. (And I took the online EQ test associated with the difference–it definitely asks about ability.) Moreover, it should be noted that lacking interests in systematic and analytic thinking is also a way of being deemed unintelligent in a relatively standard way. Not only does someone without interest in these things fail to develop ability with regard to them; even just having great interest in these things is considered a sign of intellect. Curiosity, as we say, is an intellectual virtue. Boredom at and disinterest in systems is associated with a certain kind of dullness, at least by many people. To be more interested in astrophysics than in watching NASCAR is not neutral with regard to the way we think of Intelligence.

    Something analogous can be said about being more vulnerable to anxiety/stress, which will be not-crazily read as code for ‘weakness’ by many. But for the sake of space I’ll leave discussion of that out, and focus on the systematizing-empathizing difference.

    Now, because the Google memo implies that differences like these account for enough of the gender gap in tech to justify the claim that Google’s affirmative action policies are fruitless and unjust (otherwise how are the two parts of the memo connected?), the claim has to be that the difference is relatively substantial. If women were only very slightly less intelligent than men on average, it would be irrelevant to the policy recommendations made there, since sexism, broadly construed, would still then be playing a major role. Therefore, the claim being fought over, stripped of its euphemisms, must be that women are substantially less intelligent, on average, than men, and that the reasons for this are largely biological.

    • ALK says:

      Second half:

      Okay, now back to interests.

      The second risk to the interests of women of having claims like this accepted comes from the fact that claims of biological differences between populations have, and seem like they could be again, used to justify the subjugation of some groups under others. Claims like this were, of course, routinely made about non-whites in western countries until the latter half of the last century. The Eugenics movement is likely to spring to mind for many In this domain. And as Scott notes, claims of women’s biological inferiority along some dimensions (even while it was said that they were biologically superior along others, e.g., in beauty, child-tending) were quite commonplace before the woman’s movement, and coincided with women not working in any field with any modicum of status. This does not show that claims of women’s weakness and intellectual inferiority were were causing their oppression, but it does show that in people’s minds these things are very related. The idea that women are weak and intellectually inferior to men was part and parcel with women’s bona fide oppression—not only with regard to work, but in not being able to vote, file for divorce etc., because they justified women’s views not being taken seriously. So these are some associations that will leap to mind for an average reader.

      Now, you might say that this represents quite a leap: even if women are, on average, less intelligent than men, this wouldn’t mean that they deserve any less moral respect or that their interests are any less important morally. There is no way such a claim could justify oppression of any kind! I agree with that. So does Peter Singer when he argues in All Animals are Equal (1972) that all beings’ interests are equally morally important to protect, regardless of any feature of the being whose interests they are, be it intelligence, moral character, or species. But this should just serve to show us that most people do not share this view. This is why most people think it’s okay to torture and kill animals for food; they think that people’s interests are more important than animals’—why? Because animals are stupid compared to us. And this is also why it’s okay to torture a pig but not a chimp, but it’s okay to keep an innocent chimp in a cage but not an innocent human, even if that human is mentally disabled; we think that a being deserves greater and greater respect the more intelligent its group is. This may be the wrong moral view, but it appears from our practices to be the dominant moral view. And since we can see from history that claims about biological inferiorities among certain groups of humans have been used to justify oppression—clearly in the case of race, and suggestively in the case of gender–, people may be rightly worried that if it is accepted that women are as a whole less intelligent than men, some form of subjugation might once again be considered justified. I’m sure no one is worried we’ll be keeping women in cages, but it may not be out of the question that we could go back to thinking that the best stewards of women’s interests are not women themselves but their husbands and their fathers, as we did less than a hundred years ago.

      And I think it should not be surprising if women are especially sensitive about this. Women are free by the mercy of men. I’m serious about this. If men were to decide, as a group, to subjugate women again, women could not stop them. Men have much greater physical, economic, and political power than women. There is almost nothing they could not take by force from women if other men didn’t oppose them. Morality is woman’s only protection; the idea of her deserving equality is the only thing that ensures her material equality, such as it is. Any threat to that idea is therefore very fearsome, for she has no other protection.

      It will be doubly fearsome if that threat at the same time could serve to undermine her ability to argue for her moral equality, because it threatens her credibility too, as being equally rational and analytic (for moral philosophy is an analytic discipline) as a man.

      Finally, I think some of the hostile reaction from the left is because of confusion and suspicion about the particular role that the claim that the sex-differences posited here are biological in origin Is playing. Readers might notice that it is not necessary for James Damore to invoke biology in order to make his point, if his point is that Google should stop using affirmative action out of guilt and should stop shooting for 50-50 gender parity. All he needs for that is the claim that women aren’t interested becoming programmers, because of whatever reason, as long as the reason isn’t sexism in tech (and there are plenty of possibilities). Therefore the fact that he draws upon biological differences is particular is likely to seem to imply to many allegiance to a considerably stronger thesis than the one he explicitly defends. Perhaps they interpret him as claiming that women are naturally less systems-oriented than men, and that therefore it Is totally fine that there have been dramatically few women systematizers throughout history. And I am not so sure this is a bad interpretation, since it makes sense of James Darmore’s drawing on biological claims in his argument.

      Moreover, many will not understand, and I admit I do not understand, how a trait could be a biological sex difference and yet not be near-universal. People will think of the other biological sex differences: women have vaginas; men have chest hair, women are shorter than their brothers, etc., and note that all of these differences are near-universal, and where they are not (as in the case of Asian men sometimes having no chest hair) there is a clear biological explanation of why that is (in this case, lower levels of conversion of testosterone to DHT by 5a-reductase, according to my hasty google search). But there is no clear explanation offered in the Google memo or in Scott’s article of how there could be a biological difference between men and women with regard to systematicity, and yet have it not be the case that it is likely that any woman off the street is less analytic/systems-oriented than any man off the street (as Darmore says). Women are likely to hear ‘biological difference’ to mean that there is a very high probability that the feminine traits posited in the memo belong to them personally. Thus they may see this as a potentially destructive contribution to their own self-interpretation. That is pain. I believe James Darmore that this is not entailed by the claims he made– in which case there must be some explanation of why in this case of sex differences they aren’t near-universal, but since it’s not explained how this is possible, we should not be surprised if many people will not take this aspect seriously.

      My overall point is this: despite the euphemistic language and the hedging on the part of James Darmore and some of those defending him, many people will not-unreasonably, not-crazily, and not-randomly read these claims as a threat to the status of women. So it’s serious business, these claims. Yes, we ought to speak truths! But in addition, we ought to take potential consequences of our actions—for speech, even of truth, is an action —seriously. If we are going to be champions of the claims made in the Google memo, because we believe them to be true, we should also be champions of all the accompanying truths that may help contain their effects. Let’s someone explain whatever the reason is that this doesn’t show anything about you’re average individual. Let’s acknowledge explicitly that there are lots of ways of accounting for women being badly represented in particular domains besides sexism in the workplace and biological differences–that there’s a whole world out there of plausible explanations. And let’s be really really insistent that these biological claims, even if true, should do nothing to undermine a basic commitment to the moral equality of women and men. Because they do have the potential to be harmful to the interests of women, even if in Singer’s perfect world they wouldn’t be. We shouldn’t kid ourselves about that.

      • Mark says:

        Women are free by the mercy of men. I’m serious about this. If men were to decide, as a group, to subjugate women again, women could not stop them. Men have much greater physical, economic, and political power than women. There is almost nothing they could not take by force from women if other men didn’t oppose them. Morality is woman’s only protection; the idea of her deserving equality is the only thing that ensures her material equality, such as it is. Any threat to that idea is therefore very fearsome, for she has no other protection.

        You could say exactly the same thing about any group of people that doesn’t constitute a power majority.
        I’m a poor man. If all the rich, influential men decided to throw me in the sea, I wouldn’t be able to stop them. Blah blah blah.
        For anyone who lives in society your only protection is morality, since no individual can constitute a power majority.
        The important point is to protect morality, not to protect the status of some particular group.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          Society is constantly in the state of moral lapse. I guarantee you that you think that the United States of America does immoral shit all the time — the only way you don’t think that is if you don’t really believe in morality.

          Given that, are you surprised that people are not eager to trust in morality per se to defend themselves?

          • Mark says:

            It would surprise me.

            I feel kind of baffled in general by all of this stuff.

            It’s like, we have some rule against throwing people in the sea. But, some rich guy writes a report saying he wants to stop people getting in the sea, and it seems like poor people prefer swimming in the sea because it’s cheaper, so maybe we should build more swimming pools. And then, I start shaking, because he said I prefer swimming in the sea, and that’s obviously a pretext to start throwing me in, so we have to throw *him* in the sea, because I’m powerless and helpless before him… so… let’s get rid of the rule against throwing people in the sea?

            It’s too complex for me. I don’t have time to deal with this stuff. Can’t we just have a rule against throwing people in the sea, please? It works and it is easier.

            [The less power you have the more general you should want your moral rules to be. If you are any kind of individualist, you have little power and should want the rules to be absolutely general.]

        • ALK says:

          I agree with you. Poor people are in a similar position. But this discussion was about this particular event, which was about gender, not class. I shouldn’t have said “especially.” If people made claims about the inferior intellegence of poor people (like, they’re poor beause they come from less intelligent family lines, or something), that would likely provoke a similar reaction (if not a more drastic one).

      • InferentialDistance says:

        I wish even a tenth of the empathy asked for in your posts was applied to the people accused of causing the gender demographic disparity by discrimination.

        • ALK says:

          Me too– I’d be saying something analogous to the blue tribe people with their accusations of sexism and so on if I were on their open threads. The thing is, here wouldn’t be the place to do it!

      • Aapje says:

        @ALK

        My objection to your framing is that you are presenting a disparity of interest as a threat to women, but are not recognizing that the feminist narrative can be a (greater) threat to women (and men).

        If more women than men truly become unhappy from being a programmer, then if you force a 50/50 gender distribution, you’ll have more unhappy women and men, who don’t get to do what makes them most happy.

        People will also logically resist these attempts to make them less happy, so then you will have to engage in some serious oppression. So to enforce this 50/50 gender distribution, the proponents will likely have to engage in oppression. So by not opposing these people you don’t just reduce the risk of one kind of oppression, you enable another kind of oppression.

        Ultimately you are defending irrationality, where you demand the impossible: that people prove that they don’t have hidden motives. This cannot be done, because we cannot (yet) literally read people’s minds. We have seen the reaction to Damore, who did all that you asked and yet this was ignored and people on a large scale misrepresented his arguments and claims, stripping all the things which you argue are important to assuage people’s fears. So who then is fear mongering and causing this anxiety? Damore or those who misrepresent Damore’s argument?

        There is a level of oversensitivity where no level of hedging or assuaging language works anymore. At that point the solution cannot be that those who trigger angry responses moderate their words, because no moderation is possible that make the message acceptable to the other side. That actually makes it much harder for moderate voices to speak out, as they will be treated just as badly as extremists. Moderate usually have more to lose than extremists, so then the debate is ceded to the extremists, leaving truth as the victim and thus leading to bad outcomes, where ‘might makes right’ wins out over ‘right makes policy’.

        The only thing that can work is for the oversensitive people to be put in their place when they cry wolf and bully, not to keep enabling them by apologia.

        • ALK says:

          @Aapje,

          I should have made more clear that I am not disagreeing with the idea that we should not go for 50-50 in programming. I agree that that depends on a lot of empirical facts, including the science. And if the science that Damore is presenting is accurate, then we should not go for 50-50 in programming. I meant my comment to be an explanation of one reason people may be reacting the way they are. And I actually do think that people could be doing more to insulate their claims from possible bad effects, and that they have a responsibility to, even when the ‘other side’ are being assholes. Leaving aside Damore for a moment, I am thinking of Scott– I thought his post was good, but it was blatantly snarky and strawmany (“imagine that your female coworker was just your female corworker instead of a “powerful grrl programmer who stands for everything good in the world””, etc. ), and I feel like if anyone is a moderate, it’s Scott. I guess I have a bit more faith that people can listen to reason if you don’t present it with little threads of “fuck you” sewn in, but people are VERY sensitive to those little ‘fuck you’s.

        • John Schilling says:

          If more women than men truly become unhappy from being a programmer, then if you force a 50/50 gender distribution, you’ll have more unhappy women and men

          What if we redefine “programmer” to mean someone who e.g. spends more of their time in meetings with customers talking about desired features, and conceptually designing the look and feel of the user interface, and less of their time actually writing code? It should be possible to come up with a job description that is modestly appealing to both genders.

          Doing so while still getting useful amounts of tolerably functional code might be another matter.

          • Deiseach says:

            What if we redefine “programmer” to mean someone who e.g. spends more of their time in meetings with customers talking about desired features, and conceptually designing the look and feel of the user interface, and less of their time actually writing code?

            Isn’t that something like what one of the higher-ups at Google said about engineering not being just about programming?

            The trouble is, you’re smuggling “gender stereotypes” (remember, a firing offence!) back in under that – the ‘soft skills’ that women are supposed to traditionally be better at (dealing with people, creating nice environments with design) are the areas they’ll be shunted into and the men will still end up doing the coding (the maths/STEM ‘hard’ technical stuff not the ‘soft’ making nice with clients and choosing pretty pastels for the UI).

            If you get 50/50 gender parity for “programmers” or “engineers” but within that 80% of your coders are guys and 80% of your client-wranglers are women, you’re not helping the “women can too code as gooder as men!” which all the yelling is about.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          If more women than men truly become unhappy from being a programmer, then if you force a 50/50 gender distribution, you’ll have more unhappy women and men, who don’t get to do what makes them most happy.

          You’re ignoring quite a few hypotheticals. Here are a couple:
          1) There are fewer programmer jobs compared to the number of people who would be happy doing them – no matter what gender distribution you have in programming you will have an equal number of unhappy people who don’t get to do what makes them most happy.
          2) Hypothetically more men than women are happy programming, but of those men a proportion are even more happy doing job X, while the proportion of women who prefer job Y to programming is less than the proportion of men who prefer job X to programming. These proportions balance out so that an equal number of men and women have “programmer” as their #1 dream job. (This is assuming no social pressure toward men or women to “prefer” programming or to “prefer” some other career instead of programming, which is a bunk assumption.)

      • Hyzenthlay says:

        If men were to decide, as a group, to subjugate women again, women could not stop them.

        Men cannot decide anything as a group because men are not a hivemind. Given that men are individuals with their own goals and are often busy struggling with each other over their disagreements or conflicting interests, the idea that all men will (or could) spontaneously decide to subjugate women is absurd.

        That’s not to say stereotypes can’t have an impact on how people are treated, or that women (or men for that matter) are not in danger of losing certain legal rights if a large shift in public opinion happens. But that’s a much slower, messier, more complicated process than what you’re talking about.

        Men have much greater physical, economic, and political power than women. There is almost nothing they could not take by force from women if other men didn’t oppose them. Morality is woman’s only protection;

        Again, this view only really makes sense if you consider men and women to be hiveminds.

        Women make up half the world’s population. The political and economic power structures that make up society only function because women voluntarily cooperate with them. Unless you’re living in a really repressive country where women are only permitted to leave the house with a male guardian or whatnot, many of the jobs that are necessary for society to function are occupied by women. Women are doctors, teachers, lawyers, politicians, cops, etc. etc. Same goes for men, of course, but the idea that such a large group of people has no genuine power and that the goodness of men is the only thing protecting them from enslavement is not only absurd, it’s pretty insulting.

        If, overnight, all women were stripped of their jobs and rights and thrown into pits to serve as breeders, do you imagine that society could still function? It would be chaos. Once you have a society where men and women are expected to participate fully as citizens, it’s not that easy to revert back to the way things were before, because the entire political structure, as well as the culture, has changed.

        It’s true that there is a small group of people at the top of society with a disproportionately large amount of power (billionaire CEOs, etc), and that small group of people is mostly male (and white), but that doesn’t mean the average man has more power than the average woman.

        I can understand more proportionate concerns like “if these ideas become popularized it might make it harder for me or other women to get a job in certain tech industries.” Which is why I do think it’s a good idea to push back against those ideas and (if they aren’t true) to try to discredit them.

        But among feminists there seems to be a lot of hyperbolic terror about “if these ideas become popularized we will be thrust into a nightmarish Handmaid’s Tale situation.” That isn’t going to happen.

        And, obviously, I don’t want that to happen. I like being able to vote, own property, run my own business, etc. I have zero fear that I am going to lose any of those basic rights because some guy at Google wrote an article claiming that women have less interest in STEM fields.

        • Men cannot decide anything as a group because men are not a hivemind.

          An important and general point in this context and many others.

          Part of the argument above is that what prevents men from oppressing women is morality.

          Consider that it has long been obvious to a lot of people that war, on net, makes us worse off. So if the logic of “group X has the power to do something that would make them better off, and only morality keeps them from doing it” were correct, we would have to conclude that only morality keeps humans from ending war.

        • ALK says:

          My comment did not assert or depend on the idea that men can decide things as a group because they are a hive mind. To think that someone could beleive that is almost as absurd as the statement itself. But it is not meaningless to speak of groups, such as genders, races, professions, political parties, movements, and classes, having levels of power, having views, and ‘doing’ things– this does not require them being a hive mind, only having certain kinds of interactions.

          Consider the statement “The Christian Right has successfully injected the idea of there being a “war on Christmas” into the national conversation.” Is this statement’s truth or falsity dependent on the idea all replublican christians constitute a hive mind? No.

          • What requires the hive mind assumption is an argument of the form:

            Group A would be better off if X happened.

            If all members of group A did Z, X would happen,

            So X will happen.

            Or, in an alternate version, “if X does not happen, it is because of moral constraints on the members of group A.”

            If the argument were correct, all industries would be cartels, absent moral constraints on the firms to prevent it.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            Consider the statement “The Christian Right has successfully injected the idea of there being a “war on Christmas” into the national conversation.” Is this statement’s truth or falsity dependent on the idea all replublican christians constitute a hive mind?

            The Christian Right is a much smaller, more organized, and more homogeneous group than men or women. There’s still a fair amount of variation among them, but speaking generally, they’re bound by similar ideals and similar goals. The same can’t be said of a gender or a race; those things are non-chosen identities, not specific ideologies.

            Even so, I’d say there’s still a bit of hivemind-thinking and oversimplification present in that example. Maybe “the Christian Right” only looks homogeneous to me because I’m outside of it, and there are actually a lot of conflicts within it. Maybe only some of them were pushing the idea of “a war on Christmas” and others really don’t like the phrase. In any group, the noisiest people tend to take the microphone and create a distorted picture of what its members are actually like.

            Everyone makes these kind of generalizations about other people to some extent, and sometimes it’s necessary to talk in general terms, because otherwise we’d constantly get bogged down in details and caveats. But I think it’s important to remember that these groups don’t act as a single unit with a single will, and when we say stuff like “the Christian Right has done X,” we’re speaking figuratively.

            And, as absurd as it might sound, I have encountered people who seem to genuinely believe that men are a hivemind and that some men somewhere having a need means that other men elsewhere will automatically move to provide it: i.e., “If men really wanted a male birth control pill they would just invent it, because most scientists are men. So obviously they don’t want it.”

            And of course this goes the other way too–Freud famously asking, “What do women want?” assumes that all women have a single core desire, when the answer to that question really depends on the individual. Some women want a Marxist revolution. Some want to stay inside and play Dragon Age.

            And even if we make the rather large assumption that all/most men have some desires or goals in common as far as what kind of society they’d like, trying to get them all to act in tandem in order to achieve that goal would be nearly impossible, because it would require them all to selflessly sacrifice for The Cause. In reality, most men (and people in general) are going to act in a way that benefits them individually rather than in a way that furthers the ultimate goals of their group.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I think throwing a religion into the equation makes things different. A political movement, similarly. These things are characterized by usually similar views to some degree, otherwise you wouldn’t see belief in the religion or the political principles. At best, being black gives you similar views on black issues to other blacks, and this isn’t even close to always the case.

          • ALK says:

            So, I agree that my above comment was not a good one- that it was unfair and that the comparison was not fair. And that passage in my original comment was probably not helpful. I do think that a pretty loose affiliation between members of a group can make meaningful statements about what “they” could do or think, e.g., “in the 60s women became dissatisfied with being confined to domestic life” or whatever, where this doesn’t imply all women, just the movers and shakers and their followers. But I think in the case of my comment it signaled a skewed view of inter gender relations to use a collective term that way.

    • cassander says:

      So what’s left to explain the hostile reaction? A-rational-at-best groupthink with no connection to reality? Secret funding by Crusaders Against Truth?

      What’s wrong with “people enjoy the feeling of moral superiority they get from clutching their pearls and saying “well I never!”?”

      many people will not-unreasonably, not-crazily, and not-randomly read these claims as a threat to the status of women

      Is voicing the claim that women are on average shorter to men a threat to the status of women? If not, I don’t see why the claim that female ability is more normally distributed is.

      And let’s be really really insistent that these biological claims, even if true, should do nothing to undermine a basic commitment to the moral equality of women and men

      Who isn’t saying this?

      . Because they do have the potential to be harmful to the interests of women, even if in Singer’s perfect world they wouldn’t be. We shouldn’t kid ourselves about that.

      If truth is a threat to the status of women, then it should be women who have to move, not truth. because that’s the thing about truth, it doesn’t stop being true just because you ignore it.

      • ALK says:

        I did not at all say that the truth should have to “move,” whatever that would mean. I’m explaining why many people will feel that the embrace of this truth, if it is one, could be a threat to their interests. I even explicitly said that doesn’t mean that we should not beleive this truth.

        As to your shortness comment, you can get an explanation of the disanalogy from my comment: we commonly base moral status on intellegence, much less commonly on shortness.

        I think “my interest are threatened” is a more plausible reason for objecting to something than whatever sentiment is expressed by “well I never!”

        • Matt M says:

          As to your shortness comment, you can get an explanation of the disanalogy from my comment: we commonly base moral status on intellegence, much less commonly on shortness.

          What’s missing here is that the claim isn’t “women are dumber than men” but that women have a tighter variance. But it’s unclear that having a tighter variance is “good” or “bad.” It’s just a difference.

          Feminists would point to this as some sort of smokescreen or excuse used to justify the lack of female CEOs or nobel prize winners.

          But similarly, it’s also presumably the reason for the disproportionate amount of men who are homeless, imprisoned, autistic, etc.

          It’s unclear to me whether if we could say, via genetic engineering, grant women the same “variability” as men, if that would be in their best interests or not.

        • Aapje says:

          @ALK

          I think “my interest are threatened” is a more plausible reason for objecting to something than whatever sentiment is expressed by “well I never!”

          Anti-feminists have been arguing for ages that most feminists are not truthful when they claim to fight for equality, but instead, that they fight for women’s interests.

          A lot of the anger is not so much that they are doing this, but that they are so deceptive about it & are actively fighting against both those who fight for men’s interests and those who are truly egalitarian.

          You argue that this is different from being senseless, but most feminists believe in an edifice of fallacies, cherry picked data, motivated reasoning, etc, etc, which is exactly why they react with such fear to facts that threaten to topple this ungainly monstrosity. The framework is wrong and sexist at the core, which is why it must not be assuaged or coddled too much, because it can never result in good conclusions by small tweaks. It has to be replaced with a solid conceptual structure that is not based on false history, bias against men, stereotyping, cherry picking of what oppression ‘counts,’ etc, etc.

          You seem to think that you are revealing a truth that makes the rationality community more friendly to feminists, but many those who are unfriendly to mainstream feminism are themselves fearful and are sick and tired of rationalizations where it is OK for the ‘oppressors’ to suffer for the benefit of the ‘oppressed.’ Especially when it turns out that the ‘oppressors’ are frequently quite downtrodden, while the ‘oppressed’ are often extremely privileged.

          When those in power legitimize oppressing others by claiming to be in fear, oppressed, barely safe from oppression themselves, etc, etc; it matters little that they are genuinely deluded.

          • ALK says:

            I’m sorry I won’t be responding to every aspect of this comment- there are a bunch of them! I just want to address the ending:

            I do object to the idea that women (or do you mean “the feminists,” including male feminists?) are “in power” and oppressing men (if that’s what you mean). I agree a lot of mainstream feminists do do things that are bad for men and unjust toward men (and I hate this), and that lots of anti feminists do things that are bad for men and unjust toward men for that matter (like calling them girl’s names when they are perceive as weak, or whatever). But I think it is similarly engaging in delusions of being ‘in fear, oppressed, or barely safe from oppression” if you think that you men are oppressed as a group by a female power-group. Men hold almost all the positions of genuine political and especially economic power worldwide. I don’t know how this is possible if they are being oppressed by “those in power.” But perhaps that’s not what you meant to say?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Men hold almost all the positions of genuine political and especially economic power worldwide.

            in a democracy, the demos rules

            and women are the majority voters

            in an economic-ocracy, the spenders rule

            and women are the majority spenders

            so, there’s all of that

          • InferentialDistance says:

            “Men holding positions of power” is not at all the same thing as the actual case, which is “the people who hold positions of power are men”. I, as a man, have almost no influence on law or policy.

            Mary Koss, as the feminist advisor to the CDC, had substantial power, which she used get the CDC to erase male rape victims by defining heterosexual intercourse to which men did not consent as “made to penetrate” (under sexual assault).

            The Duluth Model of domestic violence, which asserts that domestic violence is perpetrated by men against women as an expression of patriarchal control of women, has been widely adopted as a domestic violence intervention and a model by police for use when determining who the perpetrator in a domestic dispute is. I’m pretty sure its founders, Ellen Pence and Michael Paymar, are feminists. And the research on domestic violence finds that half of the perpetrators are women, and half the victims are men.

            Or when Obama proposed a stimulus plan in response to the 2008 recession, the feminist lobby complained because the majority of jobs the stimulus would create were in male dominated fields. However, the majority of jobs lost in the recession were in male dominated fields (80% of the jobs were lost by men). But the stimulus plan changed, and resulted in 40% of jobs created in female dominated fields. Resulting in male unemployment being 2.5% (absolute) higher than female unemployment.

            Fuck, New York City police were even arresting people for “manspreading”, until someone pointed out they were all racial minorities and whoops.

            You don’t look at who’s sitting in the chair. You look at what laws are getting passed. What policies are being enforced. Who gets to set the narratives. And when it comes to gender favoritism, feminists are dominating politics. Hard.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            I’m intrigued that people have been arrested for spreading their legs out. I remember seeing signs on the subway asking people not to do so, but no threats of gulag. I also did not know that there is a feminist lobby; do you know the name of their organization?

            Incidentally, I think a plausible measure of who has the most power in society would be a weighted average of elected officials, bureaucrats, judges, prosecutors and police. By this measure women might come out on top, but they also might not.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I also did not know that there is a feminist lobby; do you know the name of their organization?

            You haven’t heard of NOW? They were involved in the 2008 stimulus criticism I believe, as were the NWLC and the IWPR

            The administration’s response is here (reference to the criticism is at 4:16). I can’t comment on the rest of the post, but I’m pretty surprised you haven’t heard of NOW at least, I would have put them somewhere in the top 20 lobbyist groups in the country, maybe the top 10.

          • Evan Þ says: