THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

OT97: Dopen Thread

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread (there are also hidden open threads twice a week you can reach through the Open Thread tab on the top of the page). Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server. Also:

1. Comment of the week is John Schilling on Google X Prize. There’s also a lot of good discussion in the free energy thread, though I can’t pick just one.

2. New ad for brain preservation company Nectome – see eg this article about their head researcher winning the Brain Preservation Prize. If you’re interested in helping, there’s an link for joining their team at the bottom of their site.

3. Nobody is under any obligation to comply with this, but if you want to encourage this blog to continue to exist, I request not to be cited in major national newspapers. I realize it’s meant well, and I appreciate the honor, but I’ve gotten a few more real-life threats than I’m entirely comfortable with, and I would prefer decreased publicity for now.

4. I recently put a couple of responses to an online spat up here because I needed somewhere to host them, unaware that this would email all several thousand people on my mailing list. Sorry about that. I’ve deleted some of them because of the whole “decreased publicity” thing, and I would appreciate help from anyone who knows how to make it so I can put random useful text up in an out-of-the-way place without insta-emailing everybody.

5. Thanks to Lanny for fixing this blog’s comment report function. You should now be able to report inappropriate comments again. If you can’t, please say so and we’ll try to figure out what went wrong.

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1,264 Responses to OT97: Dopen Thread

  1. ast ron says:

    1. Can someone recommend a good book on evolution? I have a background in physical chemistry if that makes any difference.

    2. (conditional on this not being covered by 1): What’s your mental model of evolution? Someone on the subreddit invoked a gradient descent metaphor, where I’m guessing you imagine a species as some point on a manifold, you imagine selection as a gradient towards a more fit species, and evolution (with respect to some fixed environment) corresponds to discovering local minima. While I’m sure there are a lots of things wrong with this, it at least helped me think about questions I hadn’t thought of before. I’d like an even better metaphor.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      A sieve. When we look around we see lots of rocks (from planets and all the way down to sand and gravel), because rocks tend to stick around. Same with humans – through some quirk of natural laws, we’re right now, in this context, a rather stable form of matter.

      It’s definitely not a tower building up or anything. Though one can’t help but see some local concentration of negentropy, and it might be that your real question is why this happens. I don’t know.

      As for books, I’m sure there will be better suggestions, but I liked a lot “Homicide” by Daly and Wilson. It’s about a specific subject, but I guess this just makes it a more hands-on approach rather than dry.

    • Toggle says:

      Lots of researchers in evolutionary biology use fitness landscapes as a useful abstraction: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitness_landscape

      The gradient descent framework is pretty decent, but it fails to engage with some of the more interesting questions if the gradient itself is held constant. Fitness landscapes are basically a dynamic version, where you get to play with feedback between position *in* the landscape, and the shape *of* the landscape.

    • Anon. says:

      Can someone recommend a good book on evolution? I have a background in physical chemistry if that makes any difference.

      You need to be a bit more specific. It’s an enormous field. If you just want some general popular reading, then maybe The Selfish Gene?

      • ast ron says:

        Here are some questions I’m interested in finding the answer to. I’m pretty sure they’re all very basic, so I guess I’m looking for a very basic book:

        What does the evolutionary history of a given extant species ‘look like’ — do you draw a straight line from bacteria to whatever its current form is, or is it more like long periods of stability with intervening periods of rapid change?

        I have a rough idea that evolution proceeds through small, random mutations, and any time such a mutation happens to increase fitness, the offspring of the organism carrying it outcompetes the rest of the species. Is this accurate? Can you trace the evolution of a given extant species as a sequence of most-recent-common-ancestor organisms in this way?

        When I think of a human having some sort of mutation, I tend to automatically think of something bad, like a missing limb or something. Is there a good example of a fitness-increasing mutation that we’ve seen in the past hundred years or so? Or how often should we expect to see such things?

        • Alsadius says:

          I have a rough idea that evolution proceeds through small, random mutations, and any time such a mutation happens to increase fitness, the offspring of the organism carrying it outcompetes the rest of the species. Is this accurate? Can you trace the evolution of a given extant species as a sequence of most-recent-common-ancestor organisms in this way?

          To my understanding, that is mostly correct. Sometimes an evolution can result in it outcompeting other species, though – if different species have different ranges, an increase in the fitness of one can push others away by taking their food or whatnot.

          When I think of a human having some sort of mutation, I tend to automatically think of something bad, like a missing limb or something. Is there a good example of a fitness-increasing mutation that we’ve seen in the past hundred years or so? Or how often should we expect to see such things?

          The most notable fitness-increasing evolutions in recent human history are alcohol and lactose tolerance. Both increase your available sources of calories, and alcohol is also an antibacterial, which gets more relevant as humanity got more common and thus human-infecting pathogens started to be more common. Both were in the last tens of thousands of years, not the last hundred, but think this through. That’s about 4 generations, in a species that only has a handful of children. Even if everything went perfectly, a mutation from a hundred years ago would only be present in a few dozen people today at most.

          • Desertopa says:

            Even if everything went perfectly, a mutation from a hundred years ago would only be present in a few dozen people today at most.

            On the one hand, in representative cases, a mutation from a hundred years ago wouldn’t usually be present in much more than a few dozen people. On the other hand, this clearly isn’t the best case, at most. Gengis Khan’s lineage was purportedly represented by over 20,000 individuals by one century after his birth.

          • Alsadius says:

            Fair. I should probably have said “even if everything went unusually well”, because the perfect-case scenario is in the thousands as you say.

        • Anon. says:

          What does the evolutionary history of a given extant species ‘look like’ — do you draw a straight line from bacteria to whatever its current form is, or is it more like long periods of stability with intervening periods of rapid change?

          This is a bit contentious, at minimum it’s safe to say that the evolutionary process works at different speeds at different times.

          I have a rough idea that evolution proceeds through small, random mutations, and any time such a mutation happens to increase fitness, the offspring of the organism carrying it outcompetes the rest of the species. Is this accurate?

          This sort of thing is generally covered under the rubric of population genetics, I’d recommend Principles of Population Genetics.

          Can you trace the evolution of a given extant species as a sequence of most-recent-common-ancestor organisms in this way?

          Theoretically at least, sure. In practice the fossil record is a bit spotty, we haven’t even found the common ancestor of chimps and humans. But we can use genetics to do this tracing to a certain extent.

          When I think of a human having some sort of mutation, I tend to automatically think of something bad, like a missing limb or something. Is there a good example of a fitness-increasing mutation that we’ve seen in the past hundred years or so? Or how often should we expect to see such things?

          This stuff is mostly covered in population genetics, too. De novo mutations are almost always either deleterious or neutral. The most famous example of a recent fitness-increasing mutation is probably lactase persistence, which actually arose independently (and with different mechanisms) 3 times and spread extremely quickly. 100 years is just 4 generations, not enough time to spread widely.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Do you agree with wikipedia’s claim that punctuated equilibrium is a theory? Do you defend it against the charge of not even wrong?

          • Anon. says:

            If we ignore some of the sillier stuff Gould has said, it basically boils down to a claim that evolutionary change has tended to cluster in time. Seems like a perfectly reasonable hypothesis to me…

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Silly things like: this can be observed in the fossil record? At some point when a theory has been reduced to trivialities, it’s not the same theory. Perhaps it’s not even a theory at all.

          • Ketil says:

            I just read the WP article on punctuated equilibrium. Does anybody know what the real criticism are? It seems like the obviously correct description to me¹, and the criticism section in WP consists mostly popular scientists making assertions and name-calling each other. I do hope it runs deeper than that.

            ¹ If you view evolution as a gradient ascent process optimizing each species’ fitness, it makes sense that each species will sooner or later end up in some local maximum. Unless something drastically changes the fitness landscape, it makes sense that we would see very little evolution, since the gradient will be negative in all directions – i.e. a Nash equilibrium. So long periods of stability, until a volcano erupts, a dam breaks, an asteroid strikes, or a disease wipes out most of a species. One way to corroborate this would be if several species showed rapid evolution simultaneously. Do they?

          • baconbits9 says:

            If you view evolution as a gradient ascent process optimizing each species’ fitness, it makes sense that each species will sooner or later end up in some local maximum. Unless something drastically changes the fitness landscape, it makes sense that we would see very little evolution, since the gradient will be negative in all directions – i.e. a Nash equilibrium

            This is a bad model for evolution. The fitness landscape is always changing, the ‘gradient’ will change every time you attempt to get closer to that hypothetical maximum. A behavior or adaptation that was bad or neutral a century ago can find itself good. It is also a mistake to view all (and maybe even most) changes as small. Sexual reproduction, and especially sexual selection within that, can lead to novel outcomes well outside what you would expect from individual mutation rates within a generation.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            I just read the WP article on punctuated equilibrium. Does anybody know what the real criticism are?

            My take is that nobody really says it’s wrong; it’s clear that evolution can sometimes take place very rapidly. The objection is mainly that Gould presented this idea as if nobody else had ever noticed it before and as if it turned conventional Darwinianism on its head, which many others felt was overstating the contribution.

            There’s a lovely short book called Dawkins vs. Gould: Survival of the Fittest by Kim Sterelny that I found very illuminating back when I noticed how much they seemed to despise each other.

          • An entertaining comment on Gould by someone I tend to disagree with on other subjects:

            What I encountered were quite a few references to Stephen Jay Gould, hardly any to other evolutionary theorists. Now it is not very hard to find out, if you spend a little while reading in evolution, that Gould is the John Kenneth Galbraith of his subject. That is, he is a wonderful writer who is bevolved by literary intellectuals and lionized by the media because he does not use algebra or difficult jargon. Unfortunately, it appears that he avoids these sins not because he has transcended his colleagues but because he does does not seem to understand what they have to say; and his own descriptions of what the field is about – not just the answers, but even the questions – are consistently misleading. His impressive literary and historical erudition makes his work seem profound to most readers, but informed readers eventually conclude that there’s no there there. (And yes, there is some resentment of his fame: in the field the unjustly famous theory of “punctuated equilibrium”, in which Gould and Niles Eldredge asserted that evolution proceeds not steadily but in short bursts of rapid change, is known as “evolution by jerks”).

            (Paul Krugman)

          • Ketil says:

            This is a bad model for evolution. The fitness landscape is always changing, the ‘gradient’ will change every time you attempt to get closer to that hypothetical maximum.

            Yes, the landscape changes, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad model for evolution, and I think the system would still tend to end up in some equilibrium. Alternatively, I suppose it could get trapped in an evolutionary cycle (any evidence for this?), or keep gradually changing forever (which would indicate an absence of fitness maxima or deviation from gradient ascent, I think – both seem very unlikely to me).

          • Loris says:

            I’m not really following this, only scanning it. But I’d just like to make a quick comment here.

            Yes, the landscape changes, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad model for evolution, and I think the system would still tend to end up in some equilibrium. Alternatively, I suppose it could get trapped in an evolutionary cycle (any evidence for this?), or keep gradually changing forever (which would indicate an absence of fitness maxima or deviation from gradient ascent, I think – both seem very unlikely to me).

            Cycles do happen on some sort of level. For example, side-blotched lizards. There are three different types of male, and they out-compete each other scissors-paper-stone style.
            This is evolution in the sense that changes in allelic frequencies is evolution (i.e. it is, in that this is what evolution is made of, but a lay-person might need persuading since it doesn’t involve larger-scale change).

            If you want ‘larger’ cycles, I think they’re perhaps harder to find, for various reasons. They may tend to be less cyclic and more repetitive, in that it involves an evolutionary trajectory ending in extinction, rather than a change within a lineage.

        • Toby Bartels says:

          Can you trace the evolution of a given extant species as a sequence of most-recent-common-ancestor organisms in this way?

          Along these lines, I like The Ancestor's Tale (Richard Dawkins, 2004), which traces back everybody's favourite species Homo sapiens. Definitely pop science, and given the paucity of the fossil record, it's not so much about the actual common ancestors as the larger groups of cousins that share these ancestors with us. But it really gives one a sense for the sweep of history, besides pointing out what it is that makes each of our clades special in its own particular way.

        • WarOnReasons says:

          any time such a mutation happens to increase fitness, the offspring of the organism carrying it outcompetes the rest of the specie. Is this accurate?

          Not quite. Most beneficial mutations are lost through “bad luck” (e.g., a mutant hare with a more effective digestion system is eaten by a fox before leaving offspring). It was estimated by Haldane that a mutation that increases by x percent has a 2x chance (for small values of x) of spreading through the population.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          “and any time such a mutation happens to increase fitness, the offspring of the organism carrying it outcompetes the rest of the species. ”

          It’s at least as plausible that the offspring with the beneficial mutation outcompete the rest of the species locally.

          Or the organisms with the mutation might move into a different niche, leaving the original version more or less in place. (I think this is right– let me know whether it’s wrong.)

        • engleberg says:

          @I have a background in physical chemistry.
          @I’m looking for a very basic book.

          On the ‘background in physical chemistry’ end, I recommend Brooks and Wiley, Evolution as Entropy. On the ‘looking for a very basic book’ end, I recommend Arthur, The Origin of Animal Body Plans. Evolution as Entropy obviates a lot of middlebrow twaddle about evolution being some kind of Jedi goodness that fights the eevil of entropy. The Origin of Animal Body Plans is a fun read.

          • Psychophysicist says:

            Chris Adami’s Introduction to Artificial Life is a fun one on the “background in physical chemistry” end.

        • SamChevre says:

          I have a rough idea that evolution proceeds through small, random mutations, and any time such a mutation happens to increase fitness

          One thing to note is that fitness and environment interact; a mutation/genetic variance can be extant, but rare, for a long time, and then suddenly come to be dominant because of environmental change makes it much more important to fitness. The standard example is bacterial resistance to penicillin. There were probably always variances from bacterium to bacterium, but for a long time it made little difference; then penicillin became a widely-used drug, and now some degree of penicillin resistance is fairly common.

          This is one explanation for the ‘punctuated equililbrium’ observations: it isn’t that mutations happen in bursts, but that high-stress environments changes selects aggressively among extant variances, and does this for many species at one.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I’ve heard people say that if humanity stopped using a given antibiotic for 10(?) years, that the bacteria lose the resistance to it, because maintaining the resistance to it has an energy cost and bacteria that don’t would outcompete and replace those that still do.

            How true is this?

          • keranih says:

            how true is this

            The principle is largely true but varies greatly from pathogen to pathogen, drug to drug, and adaption to adaption. Some recent adaptions have actually been more efficient.

            As antimicrobial drugs have fallen from common use – often because of resistance but also because less toxic or more convenient drugs have been discovered – resistance to those drugs decreases, sometimes to the point of making them useful again.

            Tends to take more like twenty years, not ten, and some don’t ever recover.

            Also, getting control of drug use world wide is… not terribly easy.

          • Randy M says:

            Tends to take more like twenty years, not ten, and some don’t ever recover.

            I imagine the more effective it is initially, the longer it would take for the evolved resistance to fade.

          • Loris says:

            I’ve heard people say that if humanity stopped using a given antibiotic for 10(?) years, that the bacteria lose the resistance to it, because maintaining the resistance to it has an energy cost and bacteria that don’t would outcompete and replace those that still do.

            How true this is depends quite a bit on the nature of the bacterium, and how the resistance works.

            If the resistance is ‘innate’ – that is, due to a change in whatever the drug is interacting with, then it may be lost after selection is removed. If there’s a fitness cost involved then it’ll probably go away for the most part.

            If the resistance is due to a mechanism to get rid of the drug (altering the molecule, or exporting it), then it’s relatively easy to regulate if there’s a cost – for example tetracycline resistance imposes a fitness cost on the cell; there has evolved a regulatory system which turns off the resistance gene when tet isn’t around. This makes the resistance genes relatively ‘cheap’ to carry.

            Whats worse is that this second type of genes are often carried by plasmids, or other mobile elements which can spread from cell to cell. This means that almost all bacteria can lose the plasmid (and resistance), but it can rapidly spread through the population when selection is turned back on.

        • Ketil says:

          One thing to bear in mind when making analogies is that evolution works on populations, not individuals. So concepts like “most recent common ancestor” is really an abstraction, there wasn’t necessarily any such species, and certainly not an individual. I tried to describe this a while ago, and am curious whether you find it useful or interesting (or misleading and wrong – feedback appreciated either way).

          http://blog.malde.org/posts/evolution.html

          • ast ron says:

            I don’t think I understand. Given two organisms, can’t you construct two family tree, note the lowest point at which the trees have a node in common, and call this the MRCA? Is the MRCA of all living humans not found by constructing ~7 billion family trees and choosing the lowest point where all trees have a node in common?

          • Ketil says:

            ast ron: yes, you could do that (except for the practical difficulties), and I guess it is a meaningful definition of MRCA. That family tree may not be representative of anything in the genetic material, however, and it isn’t what you get from genetic methods – especially not those focusing on a small part, like the Y-chromosome or mitochondrial DNA.

          • tgb says:

            One difficulty, ast ron, is that the MRCA might not be unique. Trivially, the MRCA for me and my sibling is either of our parents. You can make well-defined ones by things such as looking for the mitochondrial MRCA or the y-chromosome MRCA.

            When considering “family trees” for genetics purposes, it’s often smart to think of a tree for a specific locus in your DNA. You can look at each locus and say that it came from one specific grand parent or the another. Then you can ask what the MRCA between you and I are for that specific locus – this is well defined because I received that locus from one parent, one specific grandparent, one great-grandparent, etc. and so did you. Eventually these were the same. However, we will have different MRCAs for different loci.

            Interestingly, since you have two copies of each chromosome, you can ask what the MRCA is for the same locus on on each of your two copies of a chromosome. This in general will be quite far back and will take very different paths for different loci (thanks recombination!). In fact, this means that one person is about as good an information source as two people are when it comes to probing backwards into time and that researchers can do things like reconstruct the population size of various sub-populations by taking the DNA of just a single member of that population.

        • Squirrel of Doom says:

          I’ll start by recommending The Selfish Gene. It’s a classic for a reason!

          One thing I learned from it is that it often makes more sense to think about evolution from a gene perspective than a species perspective. Some things are understood better that way. Bear in mind that most genes occur across many species.

          Mutations are rare, but species are quite diverse. Humans are one “specie” but we carry millions of different competing genes among us already. So evolution is rarely that one brand new mutated gene appears and takes over some niche, but more that some rare gene or combination of genes that already existed rise up due to whatever reasons.

          I could say more, but I’ve probably already said enough half truths 🙂

      • Lambert says:

        Bind Watchmaker is also good. Dawkins’ biology books in general really.

        • Peter says:

          The Blind Watchmaker is very much written as an introduction to evolution for the curious reader, whereas The Selfish Gene is Dawkins’ particular take on a particularly intriguing area of evolutionary biology. IMO his early books are better than his later ones.

    • Alsadius says:

      > What’s your mental model of evolution?

      Wikipedia is the closest analogy to most people’s real-world experiences. A change is made semi-randomly – if it’s a good change it stays, and if it’s a bad change it gets wiped away quickly. What counts as “a good change” will depend on circumstances, and on time, but there’s usually a fairly obvious direction of what “good” entails given circumstances.

      (This is also a pretty decent explanation of business formation in a capitalist economy)

    • Deiseach says:

      selection as a gradient towards a more fit species

      The difficult thing is to get it through your head that nobody or nothing is optimising or selecting for anything. Environmental pressures drive species to extinction all the time, and this is as much part of evolution as “a more fit species results and survives”.

      We have to use some means to talk about it and language is all we have, so that things keep slipping in that sound like “meaning” or “purpose” even if we constantly remind ourselves “Nature is blind, there’s no thought at work there, even vast impersonal forces are not aiming for or away from anything, they are just rubbing up against what’s out there, the same way the sea smooths rocks”.

      My very, very crude model: there is this bunch of living stuff in a place and there are all kinds of things happening in that place and some of the living stuff goes on living and some doesn’t because of that, and over very long times the living stuff differentiates. And we can track the changes to a greater or lesser degree and say “this living stuff here now is related to that living stuff back then, and got this way because of this is how”.

      • Anonymous says:

        The difficult thing is to get it through your head that nobody or nothing is optimising or selecting for anything. Environmental pressures drive species to extinction all the time, and this is as much part of evolution as “a more fit species results and survives”.

        Hey, you’re forgetting divine intervention!

        • Deiseach says:

          Secular evolution. The creation of the entire universe and all that is in it, visible and invisible, is not under discussion here 🙂

    • zz says:

      I’ve enjoyed The Princeton Guide to Evolution. It covers the whole field as minimally as possible, such that you get the broadest overview of everything while still getting content that is useful and true, and ends each section with extensive references for bits you want to go deep on.

    • christhenottopher says:

      Not a book, but personally I really refined my intuitions on how evolution works listening to Dr Robert Sapolsky’s lectures on Human Behavioral Biology which as a dude who got a liberal arts degree, I was able to follow pretty well. For what you seem to be interested in, lectures 2-9 are the most useful though later lectures do build off these.

      • Enkidum says:

        He’s also recently published a book called Behave that is clearly very closely based on those lectures, which is also worth reading.

        FWIW, he’s not really explaining evolution per se, rather he’s interested in explaining why behaviours happen, from both a proximal (i.e. neurons, hormones, etc) and a distal (culture, evolution) perspective. So evolution gets discussed, but it’s certainly not a guide to it or anything like that.

    • JamesLambert says:

      1) I found Darwin’s Dangerous Idea by Daniel Dennett to be one of my favourite books on evolution. Dennett views evolution as an algorithmic process, he was a computer scientist before becoming a philosopher, and the whole book is wonderfully clear and playful. He’s also commendably absolutist; for Dennett evolution explains everything from the origins of life to consciousness and and culture. He’s quite blunt in his disappointment with other writers whom he feels give too much ground to dualism and the like. He’s also a virtuoso thought experimentalist.

      See also Bacteria to Bach and for the more philosophy of mind focussed: Freedom Evolves.

      2) Gradient ascent for me. I doubt I test it enough to know if it’s a good model.

      • I’m fairly sure Dennett has no formal background in CS, which barely existed in his undergraduate days. He may well be the sort of philosopher who teaches himself to code out of personal interest.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      My mental model of evolution is selection working on variation, leading to weirder than hell. The results of evolution make sense in some sense, but they aren’t very predictable except when they are. Not that you can predict those little islands of predictability.

      It isn’t *always* weirder than hell. Sometimes you get a lot of similar-looking species of little brown birds. I have a simple faith that one of those little brown bird species will turn out to have some very strange feature which will get mentioned by science journalism.

    • Fluffy Buffalo says:

      Book recommendations: Douglas Futuyma, “Evolution”, for the biological aspects. Daniel Dennett, “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea”, for the philosophical implications.

    • lambdaloop says:

      I’m surprised Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo by Sean B. Carroll hasn’t been mentioned yet. Mixing developmental biology and evolution provides a wonderful perspective on evolution. A lot of the morphological changes in evolution are due to changes during development, so understanding how these interact helps provide a clearer model of biological evolution.

      We can now concretely see what genes and regulation factors exactly change throughout time, and explain the variability across organisms.

      The metaphor evoked by this book would be something like a function with a small number of parameters that generates another function, which itself is evaluated for fitness. Having a generating function in this way makes it much easier for mutations to cause high-level changes (like sprouting another set of limbs, different scales, or eyes in a different place / shape).

    • pontifex says:

      1. Can someone recommend a good book on evolution? I have a background in physical chemistry if that makes any difference.

      I enjoyed Stephen Jay Gould’s “The Structure of Evolutionary Theory.” It sums up a lot of the ideas he pursued during his career. One of them is punctuated equlibrium. Another is the importance of randomness in the history of life: random events such as asteroid strikes may have had a huge impact on the history of life. Still another idea is that the past evolutionary history of species helps to shape their future. This is tied in with ideas about evo devo and “body plans.” Most controversially, Gould discusses hierarchical and species selection theories.

      Gould also delves into the history of evolutionary thought in great detail. For example, he explains what the Modern Synthesis was, and why people don’t agree with it today.

      I’d also second the recommendation for “Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo.” It gets into the nitty gritty of how evolutionarily adapted organisms actually work, at a programmatic level. Like, there are hormones which control each stage of development, and an overall body plan which gets built during gestation.

      2. (conditional on this not being covered by 1): What’s your mental model of evolution? Someone on the subreddit invoked a gradient descent metaphor, where I’m guessing you imagine a species as some point on a manifold, you imagine selection as a gradient towards a more fit species, and evolution (with respect to some fixed environment) corresponds to discovering local minima. While I’m sure there are a lots of things wrong with this, it at least helped me think about questions I hadn’t thought of before. I’d like an even better metaphor.

      I think gradient descent is a very bad metaphor for evolution. In gradient descent, you have a fixed fitness function that you are optimizing. Evolution isn’t like that. Organisms interact with each other. For example, flowering plants require pollinating insects. You can’t consider the “fitness” of flowers and bees in isolation, because they’re all part of an ecosystem. Even if you could consider the fitness of organisms in isolation, the environment is constantly changing, and adaptations that are good for one environment might be quite bad for another.

      Function-minimization type thinking tends to lead you into what Gould would call the “Great Chain of Being” fallacy, where you try to stack-order every organism by how good it is. Human at the top, obviously, and bacteria at the bottom. But there’s nothing to suggest evolution “works” this way. Bacteria may be quite more successful than humans in many Darwinian ways.

    • quanta413 says:

      This may sound like a dumb suggestion, but as long as you don’t mind missing out on the genetic side of things (or better, supplementing it with a second book) I recommend The Origin of Species. It’s not actually a very difficult book, and it covers a great deal of the sort of evidence that a geneticist probably won’t cover as well (some will, but some won’t). It’s full of great empirical examples, and the mode of scientific inquiry in it is somewhat distinct from physics and chemistry and a good thing to get contact with. I think it’s also very well written. I would recommend it even if it wasn’t considered a classic of the field.

      The ideas covered in it are also still surprisingly fresh. There has been progress since then, but it’s not like reading Newton’s Principia. It was written in English and is still relatively close to modern work (except for the total lack of knowledge of genetics).

      I’ve noticed a lot of the above responses also focus on the selective side of evolution. But the mutation side of evolution is extremely important. Stochastic effects are also very important- like genetic drift (Kimura’s neutral theory of molecular evolution is important as a baseline for understanding what happens absent selection).

    • Peter says:

      Things like gradient descent, or simulated annealing, or hey, let’s have genetic algorithms for meta value, are all very well in a way, but aren’t the whole story. Interesting things start to happen when the environment isn’t fixed. Partly there’s environment change caused by geological changes, there’s evolution and migration of interacting species such as predators, prey, competitors, there’s within-species stuff, if you like to use landscape metaphors (as in gradient descent) then the landscape changes.

      “Within-species stuff” – species evolve, individuals don’t. But if you think about the environment of an individual within a species as including many of that individual’s conspecifics as mates, children, competitors, herdmates etc., then as the species evolves the environment experienced by individuals within the species changes, altering the selection pressures.

      How you think about the changing landscape IMO is shaped by which particular area of biology catches your mind. For a paleontologist, the fossil record is long and has poor time resolution. Arguably what you see in the fossil record has more to do with the way the (local) optima change over time than progress towards those (local) optima. For an ethologist, interested in animal behaviour in the wild… behaviour often doesn’t fossilise well so the time resolution of the fossil record is less of a concern, and the within-species stuff is really important.

      If you’re interested in the grand sweep of evolutionary history, then the phrase “random walk” comes up quite a bit. I think the idea is that natural selection causes species to track changes in the evolutionary landscape, and the changes in the evolutionary landscape are what causes a lot of the movements seen in the fossil record. So a model for large-scale evolutionary history might be an explosion of branching random walks. Covering a much bushier space than a random walk caused by genetic drift without selection would cover, of course.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      “What’s your mental model of evolution?”

      This has turned out to be a really great question. The answers have been generally accurate, but still very different from each other.

      It wouldn’t surprise me if what various people emphasis says something about their general approach to things, like preferred level of abstraction and how interested they are in change vs. principles.

    • keranih says:

      It took me a while to come round to it, but I now think of life to be a thick, slowly moving viscus current, as deep as the oceans, as tall as the skys, broad as all the world and as long as time.

      The life river is made up of genes instead of drops of water, and the genes stick tight into packets that we call individual organisms and the organisms tend to clump together into species. Tend to. The genes are constantly copying themselves (with errors and with out) and wandering away from their home organism/species and trying to glom onto another such. Sometimes two different clumps merge. Some times several clumps just fall apart.

      Mitochondria ended up in our cells like this. Same-same we ended up with wheat, and bananas.

      And all the while the river is slowly moving on to the future.

    • wiserd says:

      Ewald is my favorite writer on the evolution of infectious disease virulence. I read “The Evolution of Infectious Diseases” two decades ago. I imagine he has something better out by now.

      Also, Raup’s book “Extinction” is an interesting quick read about what drives species extinct.

      My mental model for evolution is similar to what you describe except I’d specify that ‘fitness’ is entirely dependent on environment. Changing the environment changes the fitness. Like a fish out of water.

      Though responses to environmental stressors can be generalized. Dodos ‘evolved’ (not devolved) to become flightless when they lacked predators. Why waste energy? The constant stress of predation from one species prepares an animal for predation by other species. Evolved defenses against dessication prepare an organism to survive in outer space.

    • maksimm says:

      You could try Koonin’s “The Logic of Chance” (at least the first few chapters).

  2. ast ron says:

    4. I recently put a couple of responses to an online spat up here because I needed somewhere to host them, unaware that this would email all several thousand people on my mailing list. Sorry about that. I’ve deleted some of them because of the whole “decreased publicity” thing, and I would appreciate help from anyone who knows how to make it so I can put random useful text up in an out-of-the-way place without insta-emailing everybody.

    medium.com seems popular for this.

  3. Radu Floricica says:

    > I recently put a couple of responses to an online spat up here

    If it helps, it was a really fun read. Felt good to see this pattern of debate happen to other people too. Next move would classically be a sharp turn sideways coupled with a subtle ad hominem.

    Reading the patterns in this gave me a lot of piece of mind. Just recognising stuff like “generalizing specific statements” now makes me one a lot more amused than frustrated.

    • liskantope says:

      I wish I hadn’t deleted my emails so quickly and knew where to access this back-and-forth…

    • JulieK says:

      Yes, I hope you will continue sending these pieces to the mailing list.

    • JulieK says:

      My comment on “Against Murderism”:
      By framing the question as “Are A, B and C racists?”, you’re accepting the premise that racism is a cardinal sin. I’d rather see us trying to discuss, without using the word “racism,” “Was what A B or C did wrong?”

      • You don’t even need “wrong.” “Was what A, B, and C did part of a pattern of behavior with regard to race that has consequences some of which we disapprove of?”

    • Said Achmiz says:

      The Schopenhauer book you linked to (Die Kunst, Recht zu behalten a.k.a. The Art of Controversy [most common English translation of the title] or The Art of Being Right) is also available, in a more readable form, here. (And it is a truly excellent—and entertaining—read; I heartily recommend it to everyone here. It’s rather short, too.)

  4. Arvin says:

    You seem to be using jetpack for your mail subscriptions right?
    Here’s a bit of info on how to customize it.

    You probably want something like this in the functions.php of your theme:

    add_filter( 'jetpack_subscriptions_exclude_these_categories', 'exclude_these' );
    function exclude_these( $categories ) {
    $categories = array( 'category-slug', 'category-slug-2');
    return $categories;
    }

    Perhaps one could add it as a very small plugin so as to keep it separate.
    Anyway, I’m available on reddit (arvinja), e-mail (arvin@arvinja.com) or discord (Arvin#3914) if you should need any help.

  5. medusawearsyogapants says:

    A couple of months ago, Scott linked to an article in the Times which discussed the possibility of “insta-curing” phobias with a mix of the beta-blocker propranolol and exposure therapy. He also asked if anyone with a phobia and access to propranolol wanted to try it and let him know how it works. It so happens I came up with this very idea on my own a couple of years ago while trying to get over my phobia of talking to women. The result was a familiar one: no panacea behind door number 87546, just another goddamned goat.

    I watch the psychiatric literature like a hawk. Nobody gives a shit about this. I know we’re in your consulting rooms. Does nobody wonder what exactly this neurosis is? Where are the evolutionary psychologists at? A psychological condition with the primary effect of preventing gene propagation? I’m the only one that thinks this odd?

    Toss out some theories, Scott. I’m sure there’s plenty of wizards reading your blog that have thought about this. Maybe if we put our pathetic virgin heads together we can come up with some ideas. If not, women are stuck with the Henrys. And if I’m too scared to put myself out there, how can I fault them for it?

    • FeepingCreature says:

      Anxieties and phobias may not be the same thing.

    • SaiNushi says:

      I think social anxiety is mostly a learned behavior. Everyone I’ve met who has it who has opened up to me (or the internet where I could read it) has had lots of experience with being teased for being different, or lots of frustration at being unable to find people to relate to due to a high IQ and/or somewhat unique way of looking at the world. So you’ve discovered that lots of people are difficult to get along with, hence you’re wary about meeting new people that are likely to be difficult to get along with.

      Throw in the current climate of “listen and believe” with women throwing accusations around like they don’t matter (because of having been told that nobody takes accusations seriously, despite the evidence to the contrary), and I don’t blame any intelligent man for being hesitant to approach a strange woman. I’m amazed that any approaching of strange women happens at all.

      • Zorgon says:

        lots of experience with being teased for being different

        I pulled this out as it is murderously important. Every single person I’ve met with social anxiety has either an extensive history of bullying or a specific traumatic incident to cite. It simply doesn’t seem to happen absent of these factors. Correlation may not equal causation, but sometimes it really does waggle its eyebrows very suggestively.

        • Matt M says:

          Eh, I think I have mild social anxiety (i.e. not serious enough to have sought professional help) and can’t really think of any particular incidents or pattern of teasing/bullying.

        • Manu says:

          I have never been bullied, I’ve had no troma growing up and am in my mid-thirties. I’ve always been nerdy but social, had plenty of girlfriends, I would go clubbing regularly, until about two years ago. Now it takes me an hour of stress and anxiety before going out to a simple appointment. I believe this has been triggered by the loss of a friend, two years ago. I went from a social person to a total recluse who fears going outside.

          Maybe “a specific traumatic incident” works but I would certainly not associate it to bullying, from my specific personal experience.

        • I am fairly strongly socially anxious and have never been bullied or had any similar experience.

        • Matthew S. says:

          Joining the chorus:

          I used to have quite severe social anxiety, but I faced very limited (and almost entirely non-physical) bullying as a child, and “teased for being different” didn’t really describe it.

        • Zorgon says:

          Counter-examples noted. It occurs to me that, as a once-bullied individual with PTSD (not connected to the bullying), I probably implicitly select for those individuals with (social anxiety) & empathy(bullied | traumatised) and select against others due to the obvious availability heuristics.

          • ilikekittycat says:

            There’s definitely a class of what I call “not allowed to watch the Simpsons” kids who were raised by grandparents, or by very traditional Mormons, etc. etc. that are totally inoffensive people that don’t get bullied or even really acknowledged by peers and end up socially anxious because they make it to 18 and enter the real world without ever having had the foundation to establish bonds outside the family

        • liskantope says:

          I might as well provide a data point here as having been bullied extensively but not having any social anxiety at all EXCEPT for a rather severe phobia of approaching women in a romantic/sexual way or initiating anything non-platonic (merely talking to women is no problem for me and I befriend women, including very attractive straight women, all the time). I can’t think of any traumatic incident in my past where approaching a woman non-platonically went badly that may have caused this, it’s just the way I’ve always been. Of course having been around the constant feminist rhetoric that revolves around how tired women are of being approached the wrong way… well, that’s definitely not helping, but it wouldn’t be honest of me to characterize that as the root of my problem when it was clearly already there to begin with.

          I don’t blame any intelligent man for being hesitant to approach a strange woman. I’m amazed that any approaching of strange women happens at all.

          @SaiNushi, I think it’s easy to underestimate how dependent our level of exposure to that particular feminist point of view is on what social/professional bubble we’re each immersed in. I suspect a lot of men (and women) aren’t much exposed to it at all. And as for the men who are but are bold and aggressive anyway… let’s just say from my observations many of them firmly believe in not pausing to consider much of anything at all before zeroing in on their targets.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            I have social anxiety and was bullied when I was young. It started around puberty, and I definitely remember the anxiety developing as a direct result of the bullying. Before that point, I don’t think I ever felt shy or anxious around other people. I was always an introvert, but back then it just a preference to be alone or engaging in quiet one-on-one play. Then after it started I developed an aversion to social contact and started becoming more and more withdrawn.

            And the effects never really went away. I’m in my thirties and I’ve still got that tendency to withdraw. It’s a lot less severe than it used to be, but any situation where I feel uncertain about what the “correct” behavior is makes me really anxious. I feel like I can’t really be myself, like I need to follow scripts or present an image, because just speaking off the cuff is way too risky.

            And regarding the current climate around gender relations…yeah, I have to say I’m really glad to not be a heterosexual male in the dating market right now. With my issues, I’m pretty sure I’d be a nervous wreck.

      • medusawearsyogapants says:

        The “bad experiences with peers in one’s formative years” hypothesis is true as far as it goes, but I have to say I don’t think it is very far. Ever read the statistics on fear of public speaking in the general public? Were wedgies really that ubiquitous? It doesn’t add up to me. I can only speak from personal experience but I was never bullied. Sure I had my personality quirks and idiosyncracies but my whole life I’ve had (male) friends and I’ve done well working at jobs where there is a substantial, if not high degree of meeting and greeting with strangers, networking, etc.

        I’ve read a lot of subjective accounts and descriptions of anxiety/phobia. I do think there is a difference. When people describe social anxiety as “constantly worrying what other people are thinking about them” and all the usual stuff, I frankly have no idea what they’re talking about. I don’t “worry” what girls think about me–at least not when I’m in a social situation with one. I can’t. My brain shuts down entirely. I don’t have thoughts about what people are thinking about me, what I feel is purely affective and can only be described as terror. The feelings come before the thoughts–probably why I’ve never had any luck with CBT.

        Anyway I guess anxiety is a very personal thing and people experience it differently. Your points about the current “listen and believe” climate are well taken and Aaronson’s comment 171 was as beautiful, accurate, and courageous an analysis of the societal factor as I’ve ever read. Still, obviously it has to be only one component or else our species would be in grave danger indeed…

        • SaiNushi says:

          (really a response to all previous comments)

          Well, I did specify that it was everyone I’d met who was able to open up to me, and gave two different reasons as an either/or.

          I have met a lot of people, from many different walks of life, with many different world-views. Not all of those with social anxiety that I’ve met have been willing to open up, and most of those were on irc at the time. What I gave was a hypothesis based on pattern-matching my own experiences. I’m definitely interested in finding out if those of you who said you were never bullied had other issues with relating to your peers in your younger years, as per the second half of what I said.

          And as Chalid says below, it’s possible that the social anxiety existed first, and caused weird behavior which led to bullying. I know that I didn’t have social anxiety until I was bullied, because I moved between states right before first grade, and had lots of friends before I moved. In first grade, I was far behind my peers, since I wasn’t taught to read in kindergarten like they were, so was teased, which I wasn’t expecting and didn’t know how to deal with. Another move between first and second grade, and in second grade I wasn’t behind my peers but was still bullied, and I gave up on making friends. Lack of experience with talking to new people and having a positive reaction led to social anxiety, which is mitigated any time I get a bunch of experience with socializing. But of course, I’m only one data point, and I was weird to my classmates before they teased me.

      • Chalid says:

        Stating the obvious here, but you can’t rule out the possibility of the causation going the other way, that people who have social anxiety or predispositions in that direction are more likely to be teased.

      • azhdahak says:

        I wasn’t teased or bullied in school. The teachers and administrators didn’t like me very much, with predictable effects relating to my trust in institutions, but I was pretty popular with the other kids for a while. Playground games can get sort of hierarchical — it was basically improv, with some people creating and shaping the scenes and some people following along. I wasn’t really the king of the playground, but I did make a point of peeling off a subculture and being king of that whenever I bounced from one small elementary school to another (i.e. got expelled for disciplinary issues), and I was pretty good at that.

        Then I went to a huge public middle school in the inner city and that didn’t work anymore, so I retreated to the internet and did the same thing there for a decade or so. I recently decided that I have to stop living on the internet and deleted everything, and now I feel like absolute shit — I’m not the cult leader of the playground anymore! I never learned to deal with that! And maybe that’s where it came from — I read “not at least locally high-status” as “universally despised”, and “not effortlessly literate in the local social norms” as “a hopelessly incompetent impostor with no right to be there”, because I didn’t get acclimated to it when I was young.

        The one peer-related problem I ran into was that the other high-status boys sometimes hated my guts and politicked against me, with probability approaching 1 over time (and now high-status men sometimes do — it’s always men (well, cis men or trans women; IME, social dynamics tend to go by ASAB), I have no idea why), and I was never good enough at politics to be secure in my position, or to mount a decisive counterattack. Over time, I started figuring it wasn’t worth it and retreating, but that was and is a conscious calculation that takes effort to maintain.

      • Ben Thompson says:

        I think a strong feedback loop is involved. It’s no secret that women like confidence — I’ve never even heard a woman deny it, as they often do with other traits that are demonstrably attractive. The other side of that is that if a man lacks confidence — for any reason– the lack of confidence itself makes him less likely to succeed.

        I got beaten up a lot as a child, and I was teased for being weird pretty much all my life. As a teenager I was no good at approaching girls, and that’s persisted for decades. I have many of the traits that are said to be attractive (tall, fit, reasonably handsome, well-groomed, courteous, kind, highly intelligent, professionally successful). I have the feeling that I just lack the skills, skills I can’t develop if I don’t succeed now and then. I feel that I could reverse the cycle if I just had a good teacher, but society treats any such teachers and their students as barely better than rapists.

        (And yes, this “listen and believe [women]” lunacy doesn’t help.)

    • Zenos says:

      Social psychologist Brian G. Gilmartin has coined the term “love-shyness” for this and I think it used to have a Wikipedia article (now only a short article in German). I don’t know if there’s any useful research in that thread.

      “Where are the evolutionary psychologists at?”

      I don’t know about any real evolutionary psychologists, but here is my just-so explanation: In small tribal societies where everyone knew each other making overt sexual or romantic advancements could result in social punishments if rejected, so it made sense to have a trait for sexual cautiousness – especially towards strange people, as they were part of the neighboring/rivaling tribes. Men would have essentially be forced to get familiar with every woman of their own tribe and advance more gradually. Modern cities generally encourage making faster and more overt sexual advancements. Someone on the tail end of sexual cautiousness could plausibly struggle in modern world.

      …or maybe it’s about more general genetic predispositions (social cautiousness?) that can be domain-specifically disproportionately magnified by learning? It would make sense that your genes would allow you to adapt in a wide range of different cultures, so maybe your genes have “misinterpreted” that you live in an arranged-marriage culture on something. Smart and/or generally cautious etc. people might pick some cues more easily than others. I like this latter hypothesis better.

      • Toby Bartels says:

        I think it used to have a Wikipedia article (now only a short article in German).

        I can confirm that an English Wikipedia article existed, and I can get a copy of it if anyone wants it, or even a copy of the entire edit history if you want that.

      • medusawearsyogapants says:

        I have Gilmartin’s book on my shelf. It’s been years since I read it but I don’t remember being particularly impressed. Still at least it was on his radar as a distinct condition.

        Your evolutionary explanations make sense to me, but as is my usual gripe with EP, the therapeutic value of the paradigm seems to be insufficiently worked out. I get that science is aimed at explaining, rather than treating, but you would think clinicians would have done more with these ideas since the whole EP craze kicked off a few decades ago.

    • Whalefallen says:

      I’ve been very interested in fear extinction (which I think is the same thing as what you’re referring to) these last couple of years due to trying to cure some highly distressing conditioned anxiety. Something that might be worth trying is black seed oil, it’s a pretty potent HDAC inhibitor which has some evidence for working to permanently lessen conditioned anxiety. It’s good for you in lots of other ways too, though it messed up my digestion a bit, so you might want to be careful in dosing at first.

      • medusawearsyogapants says:

        Thanks for the tip, I will look into it. I actually meant to read up on black seed oil a while ago because a co-woker mentioned it had done wonders for his blood sugar. Anything new I want to try demands a bit of research as I am on an irreversible MAOI, but I will definitely read up on it when I have some free time this week.

        Anything else interesting you’ve learned in your fear extinction readings you care to share?

        • outis says:

          “Black” is not a plant. What the heck is “black seed oil”?

        • Whalefallen says:

          Oh, okay! Yeah, definitely look into any possible interactions. It’s pretty serotonergic and has a bunch of other actions, and I think HDAC inhibitors often interact in weird ways with other compounds.

          Disclaimer: No neuroscience background, just really need to learn about this for my own benefit.

          Here are some other things with varying degrees of evidence for fear extinction (mostly when coupled with exposure to the fearful stimuli):
          1. Other HDAC inhibitors, including dietary ones like curcumin and sodium butyrate, as well as more powerful pharmacological ones like Vorinostat and valproic acid. Ketone bodies too. I’m just a layman but HDAC inhibitors seem to be the most promising category of fear extinction agents to me. Black seed oil probably deserves special consideration here since it’s been used as a general health tonic for hundreds of years in many parts of the world (i.e. considered pretty safe), is quite a powerful HDACi of the correct subtypes (all the relevant ones implicated in fear extinction, I believe) and also is pretty GABAergic, which should help by lowering your acute anxiety reaction even while ”recording” the resulting habituation to conditioned stimulus to your epigenome. I haven’t seen any studies looking at it specifically in regards to fear extinction, but there are some interesting anecdotes circulating.
          2. Hunger. In mice, fasting for at least 16 hours increases fear extinction.
          3. Methylene blue
          4. D-cycloserine
          5. Not quite the same thing as fear extinction, but playing Tetris shortly after a traumatic event reduces fearful memories of the event
          6. I think Fluoxetine may be alone among SSRIs in facilitating fear extinction, rather than just masking the symptoms?
          7. Meditation and hypnosis (can’t find a link right now, sorry) supposedly cause epigenetic changes via HDAC. Could maybe be why they help with getting past bad experiences for some people. I mean, hypnosis helps some people quit smoking, and that’s another big use of HDACi’s – removing drug addiction from your epigenome.

          Would love to see the list added to if anyone else knows more about this stuff.

          • azhdahak says:

            Curcumin? Would turmeric tea work? I have more ground turmeric lying around than I know what to do with, so if there’s no reason why it shouldn’t, I’ll make a batch and start drinking it regularly to see what happens.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Could bullying from inside the family be part of it?

      I have no evolutionary theory, it just seems to me that some families will scapegoat a child, sometimes in ways which seem to be aimed at damaging the child’s reproductive chances.

      • medusawearsyogapants says:

        My nuclear family consists of a mother that has never re-married or dated since divorcing my father and a sister who refuses to speak to my father, as far as I can tell, mostly out of loyalty to my mother. Both comitted feminists. I can’t say I felt bullied by them, but I did get the distinct, implicit message my whole life that “maleness” was an essentially bad thing thing that ought to be repressed for the good of oneself and the world.

        I certainly was something of a scapegoat, but this in many ways this was far from unreasonable. My sister was a straight A student and I (just barely) graduated from high school with a heroin addiction. Can’t really get indignant about being the black sheep when you’ve jumped in a vat of ink…

        Anyway I don’t know if you were asking about my specifics or drawing inferences from your own life but yes, I’m sure family dynamics play a role in later romantic sucess (or lack thereof).

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Actually, I wasn’t thinking about myself specifically (and I’m not inclined to write about the relevant details here) or you specifically.

          The details which come to mind for me is a couple of women whose families put a lot into hammering on them being ugly. (Both were kind of average, I’d say.) One of them has had a love life but no children. The other has had neither.

          I can’t help wondering whether your black sheepness had something to do with your immediate family being prejudiced against you– not necessarily a matter of revenge, maybe a disinclination to bother because no first-class reward is being offered.

          • medusawearsyogapants says:

            I’m not really sure I see the woman with a love life but no children as in some way having a problem, unless of course she wants children and is unable to make that happen for reasons x, y, and z. Obviously her sister is less fortunate. I know plenty of people that lead fullfiled–often even more fulfilled–lives without having children. I cannot say the same for someone with a conspicusous absence of a love life. (Except in cases of asexuality, volunary celibacy and the like I guess.)

            I’m don’t really understand your comment about my black sheepness having to do with revenge or disinclination to bother. Either way, today I am coming up on seven years sober and I am a straight A student in university majoring in neuroscience. I’m a few years older than most of my classmates, but better late than never is my attitude. My sister dropped out of university her sophmore year and has yet to go back or really find a career path or an aim in life and my mom talks to me at times about how she worries about her. Life is funny. Most of my extended family seems to think I’m a paragon of mental health and emotional stability (without ever wondering why I’ve never brought a girl home for thanksgiving???)

            I say this to point out that family dynamics are a lot less static than most people assume. Some black sheep get it together, some get it halfway together. But if you’re going to take healing seriously, I think you have to at least question the assumption that family (peers, bullying, etc) is(/are) destiny. This problem does not exist in my past. It exists for me now. Today. As I type this, it is my problem. Is it worth investigting the past to for clues to the present? Always, but to get stuck examining seems to me both to err pragmatically, in terms of addressing the problem, as well as a moral failing for avoiding my reflection as it exists today.

        • LibertyRisk says:

          I can’t say I felt bullied by them, but I did get the distinct, implicit message my whole life that “maleness” was an essentially bad thing thing that ought to be repressed for the good of oneself and the world.

          This sounds a lot more serious to me than you make it out to be. I hope I avoid coming across as hyperbolic when I say this… I can imagine a lot of different childhood experiences that could lead an adult to write that sentence and I don’t know the details of your particular experience. That said, I suspect I’d view a large fraction (> 30%) of childhood experiences that would lead to that sentence as abusive.

    • fr8train_ssc says:

      I understand what you’re going through is difficult, and what works for one person may not necessarily work for others. For me, CBT and Mindfulness helped me overcome my depression and social anxiety related disorders 10 years ago.

      Since you mentioned reading a lot of literature, I will assume you’ve at least tried mindfulness exercises without much avail. I don’t know if you’ve also done meditation, but I can recommend at least one “double-action” that may at least help you: take up knitting.

      Knitting can help reduce stress and improve fine motor skills in addition to helping your brain activity http://shine365.marshfieldclinic.org/wellness/benefits-of-knitting/ You’ll also find that knitting groups are predominantly (though not entirely) female. I would recommend you not focus on trying to build an intimate relationship and instead just spending the first few months practicing and exposing yourself to different knitting groups. Eventually, you’ll gain confidence in knitting, and any improvements to your mood will be able to spill over into confidence. In addition, you’ll be building your social networks. While there are many SJW sociopaths in any scene, there are many knitting groups/yarn-shops/fiber artists that are struggling (economically and socially) and would be happy to accommodate any new student regardless of gender/identity/sexuality. You can leverage this social network to talk to women outside of a courtship context (gaining more confidence) and also use those contacts to try indirect-courtship (“Hey, I’m single. Do you know any single friends?”) If the social climate concerns you, I know that there are many knitters that span the entire political spectrum, and it’s very easy to screen for them.

    • Doesntliketocomment says:

      I have to wonder do you have male friends who you are comfortable enough with that they know the extent of your problem? If I was your friend I would be interested in trying to see if I could do some sort of exposure therapy, find some very nonthreatening woman and see if you could talk to her. Maybe use a script.

      Do you have this issue talking to women in non-social settings, stores and the like?

    • BBA says:

      In my case, it doesn’t feel like anxiety or phobia so much as an absolute certainty that no woman could ever possibly find me attractive, so there’s no point in trying.

      I realize this belief is irrational and probably false, yet something in me continues to believe it all the same.

      • Aapje says:

        @BBA

        It’s one of the unspoken of advantages* for women that being pursued far more often provides a much better idea of how attractive they are. I personally have a tiny number of ambiguous data points that might suggest that on a shallow level I was not completely unattractive in the past. It’s…not very encouraging.

        * Of course, there are also disadvantages (#metoo)

        • liskantope says:

          I experience the exact same feeling as BBA; it’s been gradually creeping up on me over the years and is now about 90% engulfed me.

          @Aapje: the “unspoken of advantage” you speak of is indeed an advantage for many if not most fairly young women, but one could argue it’s a disadvantage for women who are perceived as less attractive who, in not being pursued, receive evidence of that fact more easily than men do.

          • Aapje says:

            @liskantope

            I think we need to separate out the impact of feeling unattractive and the impact of being unloved.

            Being unreasonably optimistic about one’s attractiveness is presumably good for the ego in itself, but also probably harmful to one’s ability to attract mates by lowering standards or improving oneself, which is bad for the ego. So men might have a boosted ego on average due to the one effect and a depressed ego due to the other. What effect is stronger is then unclear.

            Also, the gender disparity in sexual needs may enable women to attract much more attractive partners for sex (or even just any partner), compared to men, which may be an ego boost that is less available to men. Although as I’ve argued before, that may cause women to then be too optimistic about their attractiveness as girlfriends, causing unreasonably optimism on that front.

          • rlms says:

            @Aapje
            There is also a boost in attractiveness from increased confidence to consider. I would wager that that usually balances and possibly outweighs the disadvantage of working off incorrect information about your attractiveness when searching for a mate.

      • I was very similar to how you describe yourself for a long time, including knowing it was irrational but being unable to stop. but was eventually able to overcome it. So don’t give up hope of changing, I guess.

  6. liskantope says:

    [Warning: useless stream-of-consciousness and general silliness.] The timing of this open thread really worked to my advantage in being able to post one of the first comments (in fact, I could easily have posted the very first comment but chose to eat lunch instead). But of course the more hurried I am in trying to post one of the earliest comments, the less insightful and Necessary my comment is likely to be.

    On the one hand, comments that are higher up in the comments section are more visible and therefore more likely to bring productive interactions; on the other hand, less insightful and Necessary comments (such as this one) are less likely to get a response at all, let alone a worthwhile one. For each of us, given an open thread that we see the instant it first appears, I suppose there’s a function of how long we wait before commenting which can be maximized at a certain time; maybe one day I’ll find that optimal timing, but that day is not today. 🙂

    • Well... says:

      less insightful and Necessary comments (such as this one) are less likely to get a response at all

      Purely in the interests of proving you wrong, I will confess to having solved this dilemma once or twice by preparing posts in advance and then pasting them into the “Reply” field the moment a new OT becomes available.

      • Nick says:

        I sometimes wait for the next open thread too. I always feel bad for people who post something interesting right before I know a new thread is going up. Of course, they can always repost it if they really want to.

        • Well... says:

          Ditto. For a day or so after a newer OT has gone up I’ll sometimes check for replies to my comments on a now-old OT, but I never check for new top-level posts on old OTs.

          Seeing an OP that starts “Continuing from discussion…” is always A-OK in my mind.

  7. Andrew Simpson says:

    Before I go any further I want to say I hope Nathan Robinson and Scott work together in the future, because I would happily pay to read their back-and-forth. (I already pay separately for Nathan Robinson’s site and this one, and would pay extra for regular exchanges between them.) I also want to mention that I deeply admire Scott for risking such a hard discussion held in such a public way.

    Nathan suggests that Scott may not have engaged with the best conceptual analysis of racism, and Scott opened the door to reading suggestions, so I want to offer one article that changed the way I think about racism in the US, and which may advance the back and forth: Cheryl I. Harris, Whiteness as Property, 106 Harv. L. Rev. 1707 (1993). I read it as a first-year law student, while I was taking property, criminal law, and constitutional law, and it made each come alive for me in a special way. (I thought about it again when I read “Against Murderism,” and once more recently when I read Briahna Joy Gray’s “The Politics of Shame,” which ran in Current Affairs but makes the Scott-like point that shaming identified bigots is cathartic but of extremely limited effectiveness.)

    A lot of constitutional thinking about racism imagines it as crime-like or tort-like: to prove that a Racism happened, you must show the guilty mind, the guilty act, and the harm of it all. But that often totally misses the point and makes a lot of racist injustice invisible to the law in horrifying ways. (On this, check out McClesky v. Kemp, 481 U.S. 279 (1987), where the Supreme Court rejects the argument that the death penalty is unconstitutional because of its disparate racial impact. Especially check out Justice Brennan’s dissent, which is a soaring defense of using reason and evidence to demonstrate racist patterns of injustice.)

    As Harris discusses, in the US context at least, it’s less like we have little racism-crimes all over the place and more like we have a property-esque institution called “whiteness,” which hands its owner a bundle of valuable claims that the owner can pull out and use to their advantage. People can own whiteness, rent whiteness, use it as capital, consume it, and sometimes you can even sue for a kind of trespass on your whiteness. (Many 20th century US courts said that a false assertion that a white person is black was defamatory, for instance.)

    This property model is akin to Scott’s racism-by-consequences but different because it is more flexible: racism happens where we have a basis for expectations about consequences that follows from race alone.

    The Whiteness-as-Property model also seems to avoid many of the problems of definition-by-consequences that Scott raises in About Murderism. (Whiteness can cause things, whiteness is almost always bad, whiteness is detectable before all the consequences of an act are known.) It’s also practical because it lets us describe things like redlining or segregation or police abuses as “racist.” It complicates talking about a racist /act/ or /belief/, but doesn’t nix it. Maybe a Klan rally is a way of saying “do not dare to tread on my whiteness,” for instance. When someone uses race as a heuristic to detect danger or merit, we can understand it as making a claim against their whiteness policy. If this all seems like a strange kind of property right, imagine elite airline status or VIP membership schemes or the difference between students and non-students at a university. (I admit Whiteness as Property doesn’t let us talk about a racist /person/, but since nobody’s model can make sense of that kind of talk, maybe it was in error anyway.)

    In light of this, I hope Scott or one of the readers here will consider Whiteness as Property as a substitute for his definition-by-consequences, and maybe address it someday.

    • rlms says:

      Interesting model! I think it probably works better in addition to Scott’s definition-by-motive (which covers shouting racial slurs, explicitly not hiring black people etc.) rather than as a replacement.

    • Toby Bartels says:

      whiteness is almost always bad

      Did you mean to write this? Is it not OK to be White?

      (But otherwise, I agree with much of what you say, and find the rest intriguing and not obviously wrong. Except that, as rims already noted, use definition-by-motive to define racist people, who are now rare but do still exist.)

      • Andrew Simpson says:

        For the avoidance of doubt, this Whiteness-as-Property model does not call for or implicate white genocide. A reading that does have that implication is a misreading. Instead, it says that invoking the property-esque construct of whiteness almost always brings bad and unjust consequences, in the same way we intuitively expect “racism” to be nearly always a bad and unjust thing. I almost wrote “racism is almost always bad,” but changed it to “whiteness” to be clear that I was invoking the Cheryl Harris idea and not something else. I did not mean “white people are almost always bad.”

        I think The Pachyderminator and many others picked up on what I meant to convey, but I think your question was in good faith and I am happy to have an opportunity to expand.

        • Toby Bartels says:

          With dndnrsn's explanation below (now far below!) of the difference between ‘whiteness’ and ‘being white’, I now see that you were never saying that there's anything wrong with being white. And don't worry, even without that understanding, I never had any of those more extreme interpretations! Rather, I found that particular sentence of place, and I knew that either I had misunderstood or you had misspoken. (It was the former, but I suspected the latter.)

          • Andrew Simpson says:

            Yeah, it took me a while to find dndnrsn’s comment but I think that’s the best explanation of the distinction.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I knew that D&D analogies would be good for something someday!

    • Deiseach says:

      racism happens where we have a basis for expectations about consequences that follows from race alone.

      Hmmm. What about instances where it’s hard to distinguish “Bill is an asshole which is why he treated Ben badly” from “Bill is white which is why he treated Ben, who is black, badly”?

      “Racism is expectations based on race” sounds like the kind of tidy explanation that would indeed better explain things like “it is racist to say ‘Asians are good at maths’ or ‘Ben is very articulate'” than the usual back-and-forth about this, but I wonder if perhaps it’s not a little too tidy to work very well? I find the concept of “whiteness” is something that is very vague in parts, and I don’t find it any more helpful when the discussion goes along the lines of “white people invented the notion of whiteness and used it to mark off others as non-white (so they could be racist in colonialism and exploitation and feeling superior)” where “if there was no whiteness, nobody would be black” – where does that leave all the work on “blackness”, then? Or are we really claiming that without the concept of whiteness, nobody anywhere would ever notice or remark upon or create a definition of “them over there do not look like us over here”? No Chinese saying Nigerians look different (and vice versa) and making assumptions and generalisations on that basis?

      I think it’s a concept that works in a Western context where you’ve a lot of particular limitations hedging it round, but I still think that racism outside of whiteness has not been explored (if anyone knows otherwise, tell me) and so there are no neat answers. EDIT: That is, I think it would work well as a model if (hypothetically) Chinese firms investing in African nations prefer to import their own, fellow-Chinese, workers rather than employ locals because “they’re stupid and lazy”. That would be an example of “racism happens where we have a basis for expectations about consequences that follows from race alone”, but I don’t think too many Western theorists would go within a mile of touching that for various reasons (are there any Chinese theorists doing work on Chinese racism?)

      And basically I also think too many people still like to flip from the meta, conceptual, societal level definition to the “you hate black people and want to lynch them, you KKKer!” definition when arguing online or in the media in order to show how horrible awful terribad their opponents are – not that Bill is profiting from renting whiteness, but that Bill is a dreadful violent hateful and hating person who wants to hurt, harm and exterminate non-whites (and then flip back when someone says and can back it up that “But Bill doesn’t want to do any of that!” to “No, you misunderstood me, I meant Bill is a racist on the “possession of whiteness” level”). So until we get that tendency sorted out, I think new models won’t make much headway anyway.

      • Toby Bartels says:

        No Chinese saying Nigerians look different (and vice versa) and making assumptions and generalisations on that basis?

        One thing that I sometimes do is to distinguish racism in the sense of modern notions of race —where all people are divided into four or so broad classes by ancestry, paying particular attention to skin colour to start with— from the more general notion of ethnic division —which can be based on any number of factors and which we've had forever. Chinese people don't have to go to Africa to find people who look different; they can find them right there in China. But racism puts the difference between Chinese and Nigerian people on a fundamentally different level than the difference between Han and Miao or between Chinese and Japanese —a difference in kind rather than just degree—, but it's not clear to me that anybody would see it that way without the influence of modern theories of race that came out of Europe and privilege Whiteness.

        • Deiseach says:

          But racism puts the difference between Chinese and Nigerian people on a fundamentally different level than the difference between Han and Miao or between Chinese and Japanese —a difference in kind rather than just degree—, but it’s not clear to me that anybody would see it that way without the influence of modern theories of race that came out of Europe and privilege Whiteness.

          I was thinking more along the lines that nobody would really say the English were “racist” about the Germans despite fighting two wars, because that’s one white nation fighting another white nation. Similarly, Han Chinese discriminating against another Chinese ethnic group isn’t quite the same thing; it’s discrimination, prejudice, persecution, all the rest of it, but to call it racism is putting it too strongly.

          But when you get Chinese versus Nigerians (and this is just pulled out of the air, I have no idea what the Chinese opinion of Nigerians is) then yes, there is enough of a large difference, a difference “on a fundamentally different level” – and okay, I accept that modern race theory does come out of thinking about interactions between Europeans and others. But 13th Chinese could have been ‘racist’ in the accepted definition of that about 13th century Africans without any white contact or influence to lead them to divide up people into the social construct of race.

          I think what I was groping towards was to counter “racism is an inherent property of whiteness (and whiteness alone)” as it often seems to be presented with “no, racism is an inherent property of humanness, and you can replace ‘whiteness’ with ‘blackness’ or ‘brownness’ and it will still come out the same in the wash”.

          • ilikekittycat says:

            Xenophobia is an innate human property. Racism requires scientific categorization and other qualities of an advanced society that mean its not really innate to humans. Grunting ape-men on the savanna weren’t racist

          • kingofthenerdz3 says:

            Some context from Singapore which might be relevant to your discussion on Chinese/Nigerian differences.

            As everyone knows SG is majority comprised of people of Chinese ancestry with a small but significant amount of people with Indian and Malay descent.

            There does seem to be some sort of attempt by some to import the idea of ‘white privilege’ as ‘Chinese privilege’. I’m not fully sure how these two should be different though.

          • Toby Bartels says:

            True, the Chinese doubtless would have come up with a lot of ideas that Europeans in fact did come up with, if the Ming dynasty hadn't been so inward-facing; racism may well be among them. If they had sent out explorers to Africa and the Americas, seeing the greater variety of humankind than they would ever have met with near home back in China, then they probably would have wanted to classify people; and if they hadn't done so by skin colour, then they would probably have just done it some other way. On the other hand, if you just suppose that a Nigerian wandered into China in the 13th century without any European help (not that the Europeans would have had much help to offer back then anyway), then I don't think that the Chinese would have come up with racism just from that.

            So ethnic prejudice is an inherent property of humanness, racism as we have it is about whiteness, but an alternate history featuring Chinese instead of European hegemony during the relevant centuries would probably have a version of racism that's not about whiteness.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Grunting ape-men on the savanna weren’t racist

            [Citation Needed]

            The monkeys came down out of the trees, and the monkeys from the one tree hated the monkeys from the other tree and vice versa and they murdered each other for resources and monkey girls. That’s pretty much the story of humanity from 2 million BC until now.

            Racism requires scientific categorization and other qualities of an advanced society that mean its not really innate to humans.

            So everyone was getting along and then scientists convinced people to have racial and ethnic hatred and conflict? You sure the hatred and conflict didn’t always exist, and the scientists didn’t just describe it? I think you’re getting carts and horses mixed up here. Newton didn’t invent gravity, he just described it. The forces were at work long before Sir Isaac came up with the Law of Universal Gravitation.

          • rlms says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            Read the first part of that comment: “xenophobia is an innate human property”. I’m pretty sure ilikekittycat agrees (as do I) that hatred of groups that are different to you is pretty innate, but that’s more general than racism. Modern racism involves prejudice based on groups that are pretty arbitrary: it just so happens that at this point in time people (i.e. mainstream Americans) use the categories white/black/Asian/Muslim rather than distinguishing between English and French (or Ingaevones, Herminones and Istaevones) or grouping white and Muslim into caucasoid.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            Black or white skin color is a rather obvious physical difference and one that is passed on genetically, so I disagree that ‘modern racism’ is arbitrary.

            I would argue that the main thing holding back racism in the past was that people were far less mobile, so people generally didn’t actually see other skin colors very much. I also think that people had smaller identities, closer to tribe-level, so outgrouping entire races was on a different scale to the kind of discrimination that they found useful.

          • rlms says:

            @Aapje

            I would argue that the main thing holding back racism in the past was that people were far less mobile

            That’s exactly what I mean by “arbitrary”. The racial categories people use and therefore discriminate based on are defined by society (one could say that they are “socially constructed”).

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Conrad:

            “The monkeys came down out of the trees, and the monkeys from the one tree hated the monkeys from the other tree and vice versa and they murdered each other for resources and monkey girls. That’s pretty much the story of humanity from 2 million BC until now.”

            You just implied that females aren’t real members of their own species.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            Only if you’re looking for a “gotcha”. Gotcha opportunities are hard to avoid when writing colloquially (I’ve had much practice, not here).

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            I wouldn’t necessarily call it ‘arbitrary’ when the circumstances determine what how people discriminate, as it can be fully deterministic based on the circumstances, but you probably have a different definition of ‘arbitrary.’

          • I would argue that the main thing holding back racism in the past was that people were far less mobile, so people generally didn’t actually see other skin colors very much.

            The slave trade from Africa into the Islamic world existed quite early, with the result that Muslims in the ninth century were familiar with the black/white distinction. A number of prominent figures were identified as black and there was a major black slave revolt at one point, as well as a black military unit that played a role in Egyptian political disputes.

            Blacks would have been less familiar in Christian Europe, but the “Chanson de Roland” does include a description of black African troops.

          • rlms says:

            @Aapje
            The thing I’m saying is arbitrary is the specific groups people use at a given time (for instance, white/black), not the general concept of such groups. The point is that people often act as though white/black/Asian/Muslim are universal/objective/natural categories like male/female/other, when they are actually the result of societal happenstance.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            You just implied that females aren’t real members of their own species.

            No, I’m stating it’s been almost entirely the males doing the murdering and raping throughout human (and monkey) history. Am I incorrect, and all these wars I thought were fought by men were actually fought by women?

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            I would say that the lines are arbitrary in the same way that borders are arbitrary. They still tend to very often end up at natural barriers, because that is usually way more convenient.

            Similarly, it is just very convenient to discriminate by skin color & less convenient to discriminate by ethnic group & even less convenient to have no clear distinction. The Nazi’s looked at ancestry, required people to carry identification and made Jews put a mark on their clothes. Quite a bit of work.

      • David Speyer says:

        One of the particularly awkward cases is “Bill is an asshole who would like to treat everyone badly, but knows he can only get away with treating blacks that way.”

        • Alsadius says:

          Oh god, that’s one designed to piss off absolutely everyone. (Bill is doing his job properly, clearly…)

          • Deiseach says:

            Equal opportunity assholishness, he has no expectations about race save that being an asshole to people of one race gets him into less trouble than being an asshole to people of another race. Lessen/increase the punishment for being an asshole to the same for all races, and Bill will be/won’t be an asshole to anyone!

        • Andrew Simpson says:

          Bill’s mental state and culpability shouldn’t matter. If he’s leaning on a race distinction, racism is implicated.

      • Bugmaster says:

        Hmmm. What about instances where it’s hard to distinguish “Bill is an asshole which is why he treated Ben badly” from “Bill is white which is why he treated Ben, who is black, badly”?

        One possible solution is to institute a social standard of “don’t treat people badly, for any reason”, while deprecating the rule “don’t be racist”. Note how I said that the solution was “possible”, not “easy” or “even remotely probable”…

    • jw says:

      You might be a communist if you think whiteness as property is an answer.

      Since the communists “solution” is to confiscate property. Defining whiteness as property gives you something to take.

      Except that whiteness isn’t property. To take whiteness away it to take the skin off of the whites. Oh, that sounds drastic and shockingly violent. That’s because it’s the outcome your “whiteness as property” will deliver.

      • Manu says:

        Communism has many flaws but if you reduce it to “confiscation of other people’s property”, then yes, I guess that fits your strange wacky world view.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Are people of Italian or Jewish ancestry white?

        • Alsadius says:

          Today, yes. A century ago, no. This is one of the more obvious cases of race-as-social-construct.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            What do you mean by “white”? They certainly were considered white at the time.

          • albatross11 says:

            If Jews weren’t white a hundred years ago, how on Earth did Judah Benjamin convince the Confederate government to let him be Secretary of State?

          • @ albatross11:

            Judah P. Benjamin was Sephardic. I associate the view that Jews were foreigners, like Irish and Italians, with the later, poorer and much larger Ashkenazi migration. I don’t think “not white” quite captures that attitude, but it was at least something in that direction.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I’m not /pol/ so, sure, why not.

          The problem with this “trump card” is that it’s a double edged sword. Since my ancestors weren’t considered white when they came here, and they didn’t have anything to do with slavery or segregation, then why the fuck does this all come out of my pocket?

          By your logic I should be the creditor and not the debtor in this situation.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            No, they were not considered white then. My Italian and Czech and even my German ancestors weren’t part of the dominant “race” of their time.

            Nonetheless, I became a shareholder in the company. Personally, my liability is limited. Nonetheless, the corporation in which I hold ownership is liable.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Nonetheless, I became a shareholder in the company.

            How?

            I can’t speak for your family but I can speak for mine. My father came here after the end of legal segregation and lived in a poor predminantly black neighborhood. He had to deal with gangs, poor education, and non-existent medical care just as much as anyone else there did. But he kept his nose clean, he worked like an animal and saved every penny he could, and he lived as healthy as lifestyle as you can while pulling sixty to seventy hour work weeks. The same is true for those members of my family who came here earlier: they didn’t have anything when they arrived and nobody gave them anything they didn’t earn through blood sweat and tears.

            I’m middle class because of that sacrifice, not because Whiteness Incorporated handed me a check on my eighteenth birthday. I’m willing to bet that you never saw a check either.

            So again, if we’re shareholders in Whiteness then it hasn’t paid out a penny in dividends in either our or our parents’ lifetimes. Given that the shares are evidently non-transferable, they seem pretty worthless and hardly a source of envy.

          • Toby Bartels says:

            But you're ignoring your White privilege here.

            Now maybe you want to deny that you have such a thing, but I mean that you're not even engaging the arguments of those who claim that you do. Your family went through a lot to give you the opportunities that you have, and you don't owe anything to anybody else; but a Black family would have had to go through even more to get you to the same position. That's what you get for being White.

            Or so the argument goes. Maybe you disagree; and you did say that your father ‘had to deal with gangs, poor education, and non-existent medical care just as much as anyone else there did’ (emphasis added). But do you claim that all down the line, as your ancestors sacrificed for you, Black ancestors would not have had to sacrifice any more than your White ancestors did to achieve the same result?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Now maybe you want to deny that you have such a thing, but I mean that you’re not even engaging the arguments of those who claim that you do. Your family went through a lot to give you the opportunities that you have, and you don’t owe anything to anybody else; but a Black family would have had to go through even more to get you to the same position. That’s what you get for being White.

            This isn’t the fundamental claim of white privilege though, as this would clearly separate minorities into groups where blacks in the US have privilege over blacks whose ancestors lived in impoverished African countries not in the US for years, or for other minority groups who moved from terrible conditions to the US.

            White privilege works under the assumption that the structure in the Western world exists and generates wealth independently of its participants actions and that any group that doesn’t get its ‘fair’ share must have done so because of repression.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Toby Bartels,

            Being white doesn’t actually count for very much. Especially not when you’re poor and foreign. So no, I don’t think that my family had it any easier on account of their race.

            We can play Oppression Olympics and see how Russian pogroms or the Irish Potato Famine stack up against black slavery but at that point we might as well argue about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

            In living memory nobody in my family has benefited from their supposed “white privilege,” and before that they were in another hemisphere entirely. Why do I or people like me have to pay for things we didn’t do and never benefited from? It’s just scapegoating the successful to salve the egos and line the pockets of the incompetent.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal:
            Do you have any trace of foreign accent? If so, what is that accent? If not, is there anything that marks you obviously as the child of recent immigrants?

            What about your child, if you have one?

            Once you or your heirs are indistinguishable from the current majority “white” ethnicity, then you or they are “white”. No one will make any particular assumptions about you merely based on your skin, hair and morphology.

            Compare that to someone who grew up in that same black neighborhood, but happened to be black.

          • John Nerst says:

            This could be greatly improved by substituting “blankness” for “whiteness”, a better description of what it means (the motte version).

            Few people would have a problem with “destroy blankness” because they would have to pause and wonder what it meant and find out that it’s not bad.

            It isn’t (unlike “whiteness”) wearing another concept’s hat, and therefore it’s jargon that fails gracefully – when the message isn’t coming through properly it fails completely and cleanly instead of arriving in a garbled and vulgarized form.

            Of course: no misunderstanding = no weapon = no toxoplasma = little adoption.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Nerst:
            That is not a bad substitution, but I think it has a few issues.

            1) There are plenty of people who are arguing FOR “blankness.” They (sometimes in good faith, sometimes not) object to the idea that heritage or background has any place being recognized as important.

            2) It also doesn’t address the concerns of those who object to discrimination against those who are “Black”, “Hispanic”, etc. Destroying “blankness” would fail to address this in any meaningful way.

          • ilikekittycat says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            Being white doesn’t actually count for very much.

            The argument about white privileges isn’t that they have to count very big, or for very much, just that they give more options. The fact that (most) poor American blacks have to eat from the stores around them in urban areas, whereas the poor whites in Appalachia get a lot less suspicion/harassment about having guns where they live and can go and shoot deer or whatever to supplement their calories is a white privilege. It doesn’t mean that life is good and easy in Appalachia for whites

          • The fact that (most) poor American blacks have to eat from the stores around them in urban areas, whereas the poor whites in Appalachia get a lot less suspicion/harassment about having guns where they live and can go and shoot deer or whatever to supplement their calories is a white privilege.

            No. It’s an Appalachian privilege, applying to both poor blacks and poor whites in Appalachia.

            I’m white and not poor, live in an urban area, and I not only can’t shoot deer near me, I can even use my air rifle to shoot the squirrels that steal my apricots from the tree before they get ripe.

          • Nornagest says:

            I can even use my air rifle to shoot the squirrels

            “Can’t”, surely?

          • John Nerst says:

            @HBC

            I’m not sure what you mean by 1). To me “destroying blankness” (as in, not having any particular ethnicity being the norm or the unmarked) is pretty much the same thing as extending it to everyone, which is desirable. If “destroy whiteness” is supposed to mean anything other than that (breaking the link between white and blank) then I might have granted the proponents of the term more charity than I should.

            On 2), neither would “destroying whiteness” AFAICT if that still keeps those other ethnic identities in place, so I don’t quite get the objection.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Nerst:
            1) The proponents of “destroying whiteness” (generally) want white to mean nothing, and everything else to mean about as much as “Italian”, “Irish”, “German” do today (with some context, which we will get to in 2.)

            There are others who say (sometimes genuinely, sometimes disingenuously) that they don’t see color. The claim there is (roughly) that racism was already completely defeated and its effects erased by the time the post CRA generation made it to adulthood.

            Thus “destroying blankness” still looks like an attack on them, and will be treated as such. It doesn’t do the work you want.

            2) “Destroying blankness” also seems to say that there aren’t currently any negative connotations associated with minority ethnicities. That the real problem is that we aren’t treating “whites” as individual ethnicities. Thus the framing of blankness also doesn’t really do the work you wan’t to defray objections to the framing on the left.

          • Deiseach says:

            The fact that (most) poor American blacks have to eat from the stores around them in urban areas, whereas the poor whites in Appalachia get a lot less suspicion/harassment about having guns where they live and can go and shoot deer or whatever to supplement their calories is a white privilege.

            Wait a minute – you are going to argue that white privilege consists of people in urban settings not being able/permitted by law to go up to the Phoenix Park and shoot a deer for their dinner? If somebody wants a pork chop or a pound of mince or a joint of bacon for their meal they have to – oh the horror! – go to the shops and buy meat ready prepared by the butcher and pre-packaged!

            I think I’ll just sit here and admire that remark from all angles. Further comment on my part would, I think, be gilding the lily.

          • “Can’t”, surely?

            Correct. My typo.

            Strictly speaking, I can, but it would be illegal, both because it’s illegal to kill squirrels and because it is illegal to use the air rifle. Also, perhaps more important, my wife disapproves of the idea.

          • mdet says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            The way I like to conceptualize White privilege is to make an analogy with attractiveness. I think everyone agrees that being physically attractive means that you make a better first impression, you’re more likely to get the benefit of the doubt, people might be more likely to ascribe other positive qualities to you, etc. That doesn’t mean that attractive people don’t also work hard or suffer hardship, and being attractive doesn’t automatically get you a check on your 18th birthday. But we still consider attractiveness to be a significant enough force that we all try to look our best when we go on dates, job interviews, important meetings, etc. When people talk about White privilege, I imagine it as having a similar set of benefits to those of being a good-looking, well-dressed person vs someone else who is only average looking.

            I think this makes a little more sense than the “shareholder” analogy and is easier to conceptualize than the invisible knapsack, because attractiveness is something we all acknowledge on a daily basis. And it’s easily distinguishable from class, unlike point about the food deserts.

            For the people who are willing to consider White privilege as a plausible concept, does this improve your understanding? Where does this analogy fail and what are its weaknesses?

            Edit: I didn’t see Nabil’s comment further down where he expands his position a little more.

          • Nornagest says:

            White privilege is not hard to understand. Ben Franklin could wake up from his 250-year nap, roll the rock away from the mouth of his cave, and get hit in the head with a hard-copy collection of Think Progress articles that somebody threw away, and he’d come away with an accurate if not exactly comprehensive understanding of the concept just from the table of contents. All this business of coming up with new and ever-more-strained analogies for it buys us nothing. There is no magic analogy that’ll make the scales fall from the eyes of everyone who isn’t already into grievance politics. The underlying facts are… not uncontroversial, unfortunately, but the controversy around them is well-mapped and well-trodden and is not illuminated further by analogy.

            And what the hell is with this habit of capitalizing “white”, anyway? The only other people that do that are from Stormfront.

          • mdet says:

            Sorry about the capitalization. I mostly just do it to keep a stylistic consistency with the capitalization of other races / ethnicities (eg Asian, Native American, Iranian, Romani, Punjabi, White, Black). If doing this is going to get me associated with SF, then I’ll stop.

            You say it’s easy to understand, and yet there’s always a persistent category of response that’s “If white privilege exists, then how come I / my ancestors still have to struggle and work hard? Explain THAT”. This was the kind of response that I felt Nabil gave with his comments here (although he expands more in his comments downstream). I agree that there are other, stronger criticisms of the concept of privilege, but on the principle of steelmanning, I think we need to establish the most coherent and useful version of privilege before we go attacking it.

            In general, I agree with dndnrsn’s position that social justice jargon is deliberately unclear, vague, and misunderstandable so that they can smuggle more emotional punch into their arguments, but that there are still some useful concepts and insights once you learn to translate.

          • Aapje says:

            @mdet

            I think that the detractors generally don’t oppose the idea that white people have certain advantages, but rather object to how big these advantages are made out to be, how the impact of other circumstances is often ignored, how eagerly problems by black people are blamed on oppression, how the morality of white people is attacked, how Moloch is ignored, that it’s ignored that historic disadvantages to black people and advantages to white people are very unevenly distributed, that in specific circumstances there can be a (even substantial) advantage to being non-white, etc, etc.

            I very commonly see people judging overall ‘privilege’ of a person merely by their race (and/or gender) and/or not acknowledge the advantages and disadvantages that individuals within racial groups have, which often dwarfs whatever bonus of penalty their race confers.

            I think that ‘white privilege’ is often used by people to rationalize helping the the relatively advantaged who belong to their ingroup, ignoring the disadvantaged who belong to their outgroup.

            Imagine:

            A white guy who was forced by the government to serve in Vietnam, got PTSD and became homeless. The services to help him are poor, often putting him in violent and dangerous situations, when he tries to get base necessities, like food and a place to sleep. Then you have people who argue that this person should not be helped, because he has ‘white male privilege.’

            He might have some of that, but probably in a very insignificant way. The ways in which he has been harmed and the suffering priority that we should put on helping him have very little to do with race. The very act of equating ‘who are we going to help’ with race, rather than looking at a far broader set of causes of suffering, is in itself extremely offensive to me.

            I agree with dndnrsn’s position that social justice jargon is deliberately unclear, vague, and misunderstandable so that they can smuggle more emotional punch into their arguments

            No, it’s far worse than that. It smuggles in extremist claims about how some groups as a whole are oppressing other groups as a whole, that only some groups have issues that can and should be addressed by greater society, etc.

            If it was merely emotional manipulation, it would be far less offensive.

          • albatross11 says:

            Here’s my understanding of white privilege in its simplest form:

            If you could choose, from behind the veil of ignorance, whether you were going to live your life in the US as a black person or a white person, all else being equal, you would almost certainly want to choose to be a white person. You would expect your life to be a little easier that way, as is reflected in just about every kind of outcome we can measure in US society–income, life expectancy, disability, jail time, marriage, etc.

            Further, if you were going to be given such a choice where you’d be about equally willing to live the black life as the white one, you’d want some offsetting advantages–being a black guy with a wealthy family, or a high IQ, or outstanding talent in music, or great physical attractiveness might be more appealing than being a random white guy. But you’d want that offsetting advantage.

            IMO, that’s the core insight. Life is likely to be easier for you if you’re white than if you’re black. That’s a statistical advantage–just as men are taller than women on average, yet there are 6’2″ women and 5’6″ men, there are blacks who have a privileged life that’s easy all the way, and whites who have a terrible path in their lives. Malia Obama probably has an easier path ahead of her than 99% of whites, but that doesn’t contradict the fact that the average black kid has a harder path ahead of him than the average white kid.

            This doesn’t tell us anything about causes (which could be anything from overt discrimination to genetic differences to subtle structural stuff about how society is organized), and there’s a whole argument you can make about whether you as a white person owe some kind of debt as a result of this privilege you have. (IMO, the exact same argument applies when you consider the advantages you get in life by being very smart or very attractive. You didn’t earn your 150 IQ anymore than you earned your white skin.)

          • John Nerst says:

            @HBC

            Re 1) I see no reason “white” should mean nothing and “black” mean something? “Blankness” is what separates them and without it there is no legitimate difference. You can replace them with “European” and “African” in the style of “Asian” and “Hispanic” and it’s all symmetric.

            I think “I don’t see color” should be interpreted as an ideal, something to strive for, and not as something people actually believe. The idea isn’t that race-related biases don’t exist in society, but that as long as you do your best to treat everyone equally (“not see race”), on a personal and an institutional level, you’re not culpable.

            Destroying something is always going to be an attack on someone (and I’m unsure about when it is and when it isn’t reasonable to demand that a norm be abolished), but it this case it reduces the disagreement to being about an indentifiable claim, which is a win. (Note that blankness is not an exclusively racial term, it exists everywhere there is a norm/an expectation that means some things are considered to be a property and another the absence of one).

            “The work I want”, in this case, is the ability to meaningfully talk about the negative consequences of one ethnicity being the norm, without smuggling in the ability to attack that ethnicity for existing and being the norm.

            About 3) I take you as saying there are negative connotations about specific minority ethnicities that don’t specifically follow from them being simply not-blank (and therefore would not improve if “white” ceased to be blank). Well, yes there are, but that’s is a separate issue that doesn’t really have anything to do with “whiteness” either, unless I’m misinterpreting you. Negative connotations about specific groups of “others” are pretty much a human universal, no?

            Part of the point is to see this as a set of separate issues, which it is, and not as one giant fluffy ball of terrible mess.

          • onyomi says:

            Life is likely to be easier for you if you’re white than if you’re black.

            Is that still true if you control for all the factors other than race: e.g., from behind the veil of ignorance you get to choose whether to be a white guy or a black guy with:

            120 IQ
            Two parents of collective income 90k year
            Living in a school district of quality x
            Living in a neighborhood with crime rate y, etc. etc.

            The answer seems a lot less clear to me, especially when you consider that the black kid in this example can probably get into Harvard, while the white kid probably can’t.

          • mdet says:

            @Aapje

            I agree with everything that you just said. And at the same time, I thought Nabil’s “I’m middle class because of [my family’s] sacrifice, not because Whiteness Incorporated handed me a check on my eighteenth birthday…[Whiteness] hasn’t paid out a penny in dividends in either our or our parents’ lifetimes.” was a very weak and naive statement that I didn’t think anyone in the thread had successfully rebutted yet. (I was reading top to bottom, so I hadn’t yet noticed dndnrsn’s comments, all of which I agree with). On the Vietnam vet analogy and the claim that social justice types believe that “only some groups have issues that can and should be addressed by greater society”, while I DO know some people who act like you describe, I also know many other social justice-types who would vocally criticize those people for being blind, callous assholes. So while I don’t think you’re strawmanning, I don’t personally consider those people my central example of social justice.

            @onyomi
            As someone who is an upper middle class, hopefully-pretty-intelligent black guy, I’d like to point out that what I think the concept of “white privilege” captures that your analogy doesn’t is that I often get treated like I’m some kind of “exception”, some kind of “outlier”. Or maybe I’m not treated that way, and I’m just treated like “any other” black person. Or sometimes going somewhere and being acutely aware that I’m the only black person in the room, feeling a little out of place, having experiences that I can’t share or ideas I can’t communicate because of cultural barriers.

            I don’t know that there’s a solution to this. And it’s entirely fair if you weight “being able to get into Harvard more easily” as being a much larger benefit. But I want to have some way to communicate “Even IF we are comparing me to a white American who looks exactly the same on paper, that person would probably still have an easier time navigating social interactions and fitting in and just being a *normal* person”. It’s the idea that black Americans have been here for hundreds of years, and even the most well-off of us still feel like we’re recent immigrants, making our way in a society that isn’t really “ours”. “Privilege” probably isn’t the best term to describe this, but it’s the term I have. And I’m sure that there are white people out there who’ve had similar experiences! I agree that this term ignores that white people aren’t a homogenous group, and that many people will have experiences that parallel mine in some way.

            I recognize that anecdotes aren’t accepted as well as data here, but the whole point is that this is something that the data can’t capture.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Let’s approach this from a different angle, and attack the concept from the left, so to speak: talking about “white privilege” ignores that different groups that don’t have it actually experience significantly different disadvantages. Thus focusing on the advantages white people (actually or ostensibly) experience reinforces white-as-norm.

            Example: an Asian man is going to have a different list of complaints than a black man. Both are stereotyped, but the former’s stereotype is allegedly positive (hardworking, smart, studious, etc) which means people are less likely to try and dismantle the stereotype; the former’s stereotype is extremely negative. Asian men are desexualized while black men are hypersexualized: not since the early 20th century have any white men feared that Asians were going to take their women and that was mostly concerning East Asians, was concentrated along the west coast, and also tied into the early 20th century drug panic (the usual line went something like “the wily Oriental is using opium to enslave white women!”). Asian men often seem to have the opposite complaint: that white men go after their women (who are, if not hypersexualized, then at least sexualized in a certain way).

            Materially, their situations are very different. Asians tend to do significantly better than black people, and than white people, academically; incomes vary significantly among Asians (and it’s hard to make good comparisons due to the combination of low-earning recent immigrants and high-earning Indian-American tech worker visa types) but it’s generally higher than black people, and the pattern is of going from impoverished hardworking immigrant to successful. Black people have had a very different experience, as mdet describes: the overall impression I (not an American historian or anything like that) get is just a long string of dickings-over, with the occasional boost, but also with the occasional “well-intentioned-white-people-try-to-help-but-bungle-it” situation.

            Black people are incarcerated significantly more than the average and succeed academically significantly less than the average; we can argue about the reasons for this but regardless of the reasons, it frames their experience. It’s the opposite for Asians, but they are sometimes punished for their success: a lot of universities quite clearly discriminate against Asian applicants, because if you let people in only on academic merit, they’d make up a huge % of the campus population.

            Black people have the complaint that people pay too much attention to them – eg, the cops, or the store security, or whatever – Asians the opposite, especially East Asians: Asians are sort of ignored much of the time witness environments (Silicon Valley, some university campuses) with significant Asian populations described as “too white” or “overwhelmingly white”. The former is especially apparent in the fact that opposition to AA usually gets framed as “oh dear Becky didn’t get into UT how sad” when in fact it’s Ivies using the same tricks that kept the Jewish population of the schools down in the past to keep the Asian population down now that’s a major issue: when it can be quantified, Asians (especially East Asians) get hurt by AA policies more than white people do.

            So talking about “white privilege” erases these wildly different experiences and, again ironically, shoves everyone who isn’t white into one big “Other” category. It also has the result of erasing bigotries that fit a different model, like anti-Semitism: Jews have more than once had the experience of thinking that everything is cool and they’re fitting in and life is good and then oh shit. Breaking things down more by group seems far more intellectually productive, but is rhetorically less potent.

          • Aapje says:

            @mdet

            And at the same time, I thought Nabil’s “I’m middle class because of [my family’s] sacrifice, not because Whiteness Incorporated handed me a check on my eighteenth birthday…[Whiteness] hasn’t paid out a penny in dividends in either our or our parents’ lifetimes.” was a very weak and naive statement that I didn’t think anyone in the thread had successfully rebutted yet.

            The problem is that the privilege or disprivilege of the individual is fundamentally not really knowable or comparable. Isn’t this why critical race theorists tend to flee into anecdotes and demand that their subjective view of their own experience is accepted as true? Perhaps in an alternative history, black Nabil would have had an experience that severely damaged him. Perhaps not. It probably depends on whether the butterfly flapped his wings. So his statement is not right or wrong, it is nonsensical.

            BTW, your comment make me realize that disprivilege can* even drive people to (a kind of) success. For example, I would characterize the male gender role in large part as coercing men into behavior that is desired by others, through denial and the lack of choice.

            A brilliant book about the male gender role is Character, by the Dutch writer Bordewijk. The book is about a violent, ruthless father who never allows his son any love or comfort. The son is forced to either use all his capabilities to survive or he will fail horribly. The middle ground is not an option. At the end of the book, the son has become much like his father, successful and esteemed, but without a true capability to love or be close to others.

            Of course, the son could also have given up or not have had the ability to meet the challenge and be destroyed.

            Not that I’m arguing that there is always a silver lining to being disadvantaged, but it’s also not true that disadvantage always merely causes harm.

          • onyomi says:

            @Mdet

            I’m sure that there are white people out there who’ve had similar experiences!

            Well, as a white person living in Asia, I think I can say I have! Of course, it’s not exactly the same since, as you say, black people have been in America in significant numbers for hundreds of years.

            Nevertheless, I don’t think “privilege” is quite the word for it; what you’re talking about sounds to me like an unavoidable part of being a minority. Based on my experience being a minority in Asia, I can say there are upsides and downsides. The upside is you never just blend in; you’re always a little “special” or remarkable. The downside is… you never just blend in; you’re never just “normal.”

            But I also don’t think I would describe the Asians in Asia as “privileged.” Sure, some things are easier and more convenient for them than they are for me. And, on rare occasions, someone will just outright treat me badly. But I think it would be a little unfair for me to come to a place full of Asians and then say “hey, it’s so unfair how you’ve created this society that really caters to the needs of Asians!”

            On the flipside, I’ve also lived most of my life in majority-black US cities and have lived in mostly-black neighborhoods myself. And in those places I’ve felt out of place, or even looked upon dismissively on occasion as well, though not often. But I think it would also be weird for me to say, in a mostly black neighborhood “you know, it seems to me you guys need to do more to make sure white people feel at home here.”

            Overall, it seems like there are some downsides and, sometimes, a few upsides to being a minority anywhere.

            Which is not to say it makes no difference what specific race you are; obviously there are different stereotypes, deserved and undeserved, about different races and in different parts of the world.

            Insofar as I think “white privilege” is a thing, I think it would simply mean something like “being treated by strangers on the basis of positive stereotypes people have about white people” (of course, there are also some negative stereotypes people have about white people). On this score I can understand why someone would say it’s a disadvantage to be born a race about which there is a somewhat higher expectation of criminality (somehow this rarely gets cited as a disadvantage of being born a man, though my prior on not getting mugged by a woman of any race is way higher than my prior on not getting mugged by a white person).

            Thing is, you can’t stop people seeing patterns and people have to have some heuristics they use to deal with the great mass of humanity they don’t have time to get to know. Otherwise you spend time interrogating elderly Asian ladies at the same rate as young Muslim men when your goal is aviation safety, and that isn’t the kind of sacrifice I’d personally think is worth it to avoid making young Muslim men feel bad (and again, I’m sure that sucks! I’m not saying it doesn’t; I just don’t see a better solution).

            I think where a lot of white people have gotten really tired of it of late is because it’s been drilled into our head from a young age to not stereotype, not treat people badly just because of their group membership, etc. etc. and the vast, vast majority of us actually make an effort to do so insofar is as reasonable, yet it not only doesn’t seem to help, it seems like resentment has only grown and grown in recent years… which leads to the suspicion that what is really desired, at least on some broader level, is not for white people to try harder to be nice, but just naked power.

          • Randy M says:

            White privilege seems to me to basically be the relatively small level of kin preference that European peoples have, aggregated across their larger share of the population in countries settled by European peoples.

          • Jiro says:

            The way I like to conceptualize White privilege is to make an analogy with attractiveness.

            Then you should call it something neutral like “the effect of being white” rather than “white privilege”. Calling it “privilege” implies that it can’t ever be harmful. Notice how we don’t say “attractiveness privilege”?

          • mdet says:

            not only doesn’t seem to help, it seems like resentment has only grown and grown in recent years…

            I don’t want to sound more authoritative than I am but if you’re a kind person who doesn’t stereotype, etc, then I don’t think the average black person will have a problem with you, personally. The hardcore social justice types will complain about microaggressions, but I think there’s actually much less tension between the average black person and the average white person than the political discourse would lead us to believe (as you seem to attest to when you briefly bring up having lived in a black neighborhood). Obviously black people are frustrated with our socioeconomic position, as anyone would be, and while this is a hard problem, it does seem to be steadily improving. There’s much less crime, many more college degrees and middle-class jobs than there were a generation ago.

            The other thing I was trying to get across is that it is just challenging to be in a demographic minority, even without any bigotry or socioeconomic differences. Like, being successful as a black person usually requires learning how to integrate into White America in a way that a successful white person doesn’t really have to move into a black neighborhood, or climb the ranks at a majority black business. And any product marketed to a mainstream, general audience inevitably means “marketed to white people”. We’re a niche market, so it can be hard to see ourselves as part of “mainstream” “normal” America. I’m not even really upset here, I think America is on the right track overall in this regard, but change is slow, and people’s perceptions of change are even slower.

          • onyomi says:

            @Mdet

            I don’t really share your perception things are getting better between black and white Americans. Most of the economic stats I can find don’t look very good (black education and income may be up a little in the past 40 years, but considering hidden inflation of money and the value of college degrees, it may not mean much, especially when the gap between blacks and other groups, especially in household wealth, seems not to be closing at all; there do seem to be fewer blacks living in extreme poverty, which is an undeniably good thing, but may constitute a kind of “low-hanging fruit” already picked at this point if it refers to e.g. very rural blacks living without electricity), but if you can show me some reason for more optimism, I’d be interested.

            And in my hometown, where previously uncontroversial Civil War monuments recently became a big, angry debacle, there is certainly a widespread perception of more tension between blacks and whites. The day after Trump’s election there was widespread vandalism–not something that would have happened in the past just because a Republican won.

            Sure, most of my interactions with black Americans are fine, but that’s true of all groups; if I go from 99 out of 100 interactions are comfortable to 9 out of 10 interactions are comfortable, that’s still a very bad trend. Question is, would I feel more or less comfortable living in a black neighborhood today than ten years ago? I think I’d probably feel slightly less comfortable. Don’t know how a black person would feel about living in a white neighborhood today versus ten or twenty years ago; maybe you can tell me.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Replying before I’ve read everything.

            To my mind, privilege exists, and is a fair point to make about disparate outcomes– not that privilege is necessarily a complete explanation, but it’s frequently in play.

            For example, Federal housing policy really did give a substantial advantage to white people and disadvantage to black people from 1934 to 1968, and this had effects on wealth accumulation.

            However, what went wrong in my strongly held opinion is that privilege morphed into an obligation for privileged people to feel bad all the time, and constantly acknowledge that everything good in their lives was gotten unfairly.

            Oh, you’re not supposed to *feel* bad, and certainly not to mention it. You’re just supposed to serve without complaining.

          • The Nybbler says:

            For example, Federal housing policy really did give a substantial advantage to white people and disadvantage to black people from 1934 to 1968, and this had effects on wealth accumulation.

            This is presumably a reference to redlining. My direct ancestors (and most of my relatives, in fact) lived in red or yellow areas during that entire period. This is probably quite common for descendants of “ethnic” whites and/or immigrants between the late 19th and early 20th century. The redlined areas were not close to a clean black/white split.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Yellow areas?

            I’m not sure what you mean. Is it that a lot not-exactly white people were able to buy houses in areas where they weren’t supposed to?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            Redlining wasn’t what Ta-Nehisi Coates implies it was. While it was a racist policy, it wasn’t about who got loans nor about who could live where. It was about which neighborhoods would qualify for FHA-insured loans. There were four categories A-D, where A was coded as green on maps and labeled “Best”, B was blue and “Still Desirable”, C was yellow and “declining” and D was red and “hazardous”. Being a black neighborhood was usually sufficient to get a “D” rating, but there were plenty of non-black “D”s and “C”s. The area my paternal grandparents lived in at least part of the time was a D; according to the writeup it was 0% black but 80% “foreign”.

          • keranih says:

            …and the reasons why FHA loans weren’t extended to specific regions was because the resale value of homes in that area tended to be very low – lower than the loan value. The resale values were low because people with enough money to buy houses preferred to not buy houses in those areas.

            Which is still largely true – houses on streets with “lower class” people living next door linger on the market long after houses just around the corner sell for twenty-five percent more. Sink that house into a majority African American neighborhood and the difference is even more striking.

            A variety of reasons could play into this, depending on the individual home-buyer: wanting to live where the neighbors share the same values and tastes in churches, food, holidays, music, pets and lawn decoration; wanting to live where people put money into house upkeep; wanting to live in a neighborhood where most of the families have married parents who keep the boy-kids more-or-less inline, so that there is little drug use and less housebreaking and joyriding; wanting to live in an area where the neighbors don’t have offensive dark skin even if all other aspects of their lives are the same as the home buyers.

            One narrative is that the last one trumps everything else. To me, that’s not accurate, and one can’t understand the “redlining” phenomenon while clinging to the idea that it was just that black people couldn’t buy houses in parts of town.

      • The Pachyderminator says:

        You might be a communist if you think whiteness as property is an answer.

        How on earth does that follow?

        To take whiteness away it to take the skin off of the whites.

        It’s obvious that the whole point of this discussion is to conceptualize an abstract social reality, so I don’t know (if your confusion is genuine) where you got the idea that “whiteness” = “the actual pigmented epidermis on people’s bodies”.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I don’t know (if your confusion is genuine) where you got the idea that “whiteness” = “the actual pigmented epidermis on people’s bodies”.

          This seems like the Mother of All Baileys. You’ve got activists in the street screaming “kill whitey,” “smash white supremacy,” demanding people check their “white privilege” and condemning them as racist for any affront to “people of color,” and then it’s pointed out it seems as though maybe you don’t like white people and it’s “how did you possibly get the idea we’re talking about skin color!?!”

          I dunno. I’m skeptical.

      • Andrew Simpson says:

        Undoing whiteness as property doesn’t require killing all the white people any more than getting rid of American Airlines Executive Platinum Status requires killing all the people with American Airlines Executive Platinum Status. Getting rid of a club good doesn’t require—or even suggest!—killing all the people in the club.

        In fact, one of the things I liked the most about Whiteness as Property is that it’s got no time for blame or guilt. If you take the Harris view as I understand it, all the culture-war morality plays are totally beside the point. The problem becomes practical, consequentialist, evidence-responsive. It appears in a solvable form.

        • bean says:

          Why do you want to get rid of Executive Platinum? Do you work for AAL?

          • Aapje says:

            Triggered.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            If he does, I have many bones to pick with him; my SEA -> DFW -> JAX trip yesterday was pretty fucking terrible. (SEA -> DFW had the worst seat pitch I’ve even had to fly, for one thing.)

          • bean says:

            @Andrew
            You got one of the 737MAXs, didn’t you? That’s something AAL did because they seem to be managed by schizophrenics. For the pitch specifically, you could have flown Southwest…

        • baconbits9 says:

          If being an AAEPS member was a biological outcome getting rid of the group of AAEPS members would require either killing them all or preventing the genetic transfer of those traits to a future generation.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Undoing whiteness as property doesn’t require killing all the white people

          That’s because “whiteness” isn’t property; as others have pointed out, it has almost none of the characteristics we associate with either personal property or real property. Whiteness is “a” property of a person, one which is inextricably bound up with their skin color. It’s the thing that impels “anti-racists” to say such things as “By being a white male you are in a privileged class that is actively harmful to others, whether you like it or not”. And the only way you’re getting rid of it is getting rid of white people.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, nobody seems to be answering the simple question of: “What, specifically, might I do to divest myself of my ‘whiteness’ such that I am no longer deemed to posses it?”

            Property that you cannot get rid of is no property at all. It’s an innate characteristic.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Your skin color is an innate property.

            What that skin color has meant, legally and culturally, is certainly not an innate property. You seem to refuse to engage with the actual argument here.

            People aren’t asking for you, personally, to get rid of your membership card. Your membership card is innate, and you can’t get rid of it.

            They want the club itself to be expanded so that everyone gets in. And they want the club renamed to “human”.

          • Nornagest says:

            They want the club itself to be expanded so that everyone gets in. And they want the club renamed to “human”.

            I doubt there’s anyone at all that accepts racism as a valid concept but doesn’t want everyone to enjoy full membership in society. Where we start coming apart is how well that goal is served by the white privilege model (and that’s what we’re talking about; OP is basically recapitulating the “invisible knapsack” concept).

            And frankly it doesn’t look good. Framing something as a “privilege” does not suggest inclusion. It’s an inherently adversarial word, with deep class connotations: it doesn’t say “something we should extend to everyone”, it says “an unearned boon that the authorities can and maybe should take away” (viz. “a privilege, not a right”). And the way it’s used in rhetoric follows that: it’s never used to mark a state that some are unjustly denied, always as a way to shout down dissenting viewpoints, or at best to urge speakers to second-guess themselves. This even though it largely unpacks, once you get down to the object level, to things like “not being hassled by the cops for no good reason” that we definitely should extend to everyone.

            Repackaging it in terms of property, or as Executive Platinum Status or whatever, still seems to leave most of the same issues.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            They want the club itself to be expanded so that everyone gets in. And they want the club renamed to “human”.

            Are they planning to get rid of their membership cards to the black club, the Jewish club, the Latino club, etc?

            I don’t think they have any interest in doing that when those cards are still useful for privileged treatment.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nornagest:
            “I doubt there’s anyone at all that accepts racism as a valid concept but doesn’t want everyone to enjoy full membership in society.”

            Let’s assume this is correct for a second. The the argument is entirely about whether this has already occurred. If you think that ethnic minorities are still subject to lesser membership society, but don’t like the terms “structural racism” or “white privilege”, do you really think “minority disadvantage” or some other term won’t cause the same frictions?

            Secondly, what about the people in this thread who are arguing that discrimination against blacks really is warranted because they really are lesser? Are you saying those people don’t accept that racism is a valid concept?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Conrad Honcho:
            There are very few people, certainly not the mainstream of the left, who want the “Irish Club” torn down. Thus what we are arguing about is mostly about whether those who are in the “Black” club are currently disadvantaged.

            I’m (at least) Italian, Czech, German, and French-Canadian. My cousin’s children are (at least) Black, Irish, Czech, Italian.

            How many people are willing to grant them access to the Irish, Czech and Italian clubs?

          • Nornagest says:

            If you think that ethnic minorities are still subject to lesser membership society, but don’t like the terms “structural racism” or “white privilege”, do you really think “minority disadvantage” or some other term won’t cause the same frictions?

            I think we would be better served by identifying specific areas where ethnic minorities are subject to lesser membership in society and talking about those. “Racial profiling”, for example, is pretty inoffensive, but it’s hard to imagine an umbrella term for society being unfriendly to minorities which completely avoids the sort of adversarial framing I’ve been talking about. That said, I prefer “structural racism” to “white privilege”: its framing is still adversarial, but at least it’s negative.

            Secondly, what about the people in this thread who are arguing that discrimination against blacks really is warranted because they really are lesser? Are you saying those people don’t accept that racism is a valid concept?

            I could have been clearer about this, but no, I don’t think the aitch-bee-dee folks etc. think racism applies to their analysis. They don’t think of themselves as being motivated by race, they think of themselves as having identified concrete grounds for discrimination which just happen to correlate with race. (This is obvious rationalization in some cases, but I think others really are trying. They could still be wrong, of course.)

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          But availing yourself of the privileges of Executive Platinum Status requires a deliberate act of some sort, doesn’t it? Even if you don’t have to whip out a card or give them a frequent-flyer number, at the very least you have to sign up for it. This seems to land us right back in the blameworthy territory of bailey-racism.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            If your membership card was actually an RFID tag, you could walk freely everywhere in the airport without making a conscious assertion of your membership.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Fair enough; but now we’re back to the familiar idea of white privilege, in which the supposedly clarifying concept of property (“a bundle of valuable claims that the owner can pull out and use to their advantage”) is, as far as I can tell, doing no work at all.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Paul Zrimsek:
            If you walk up to a door in the airport, it opens automatically for you, you sit down in a comfy chair, have access to fast WiFi and have someone bring you a complimentary beverage … is this not valuable?

            If there are others for whom that door does not open, does this have no meaning?

          • Deiseach says:

            If there are others for whom that door does not open, does this have no meaning?

            Yes, but it’s as much or even more a class-based meaning as a race-based one. Like the example of poor urban blacks versus poor Appalachian whites and sourcing food above – there are also poor white people in cities around the world, yea even in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave its very self, that have to rely on stores and can’t go out and fish/hunt/shoot extra meat (and let’s leave out the vegans having fits of the vapours at the very notion of killing for food right this minute).

            If we’re seriously going to argue that, then poor white Joe in New York is less privileged than a Bushman in the Kalahari, but it’s not to do with race in that instance – it’s to do with money, education, access to good jobs, the argument about ‘food deserts’ and the rest of it.

            (I end with a “won’t somebody think of the children” plea – if you’re going to discuss a topic like racism, can you please remember that other countries than the US exist? Or if confining your examples to the US, that you are discussing a particular and not a general case? Please?)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Deiseach:
            We are talking about the US primarily, because it has unique issues on this front, for several reasons, the legal status of black persons throughout most of its history being primary.

            A conversation around racism that involved the treatment of, say, the Roma, in Europe is possible (and sometimes people attempt it).

            As to whether this is mostly a class based thing, the treatment of an motorist who is both black and well to do vs. a motorist who is Appalachian and poor will differ (on average) and not in the way you would have us predict. Yes, Appalachia has issues related to class. Indeed if you look at liberals/progressives, you will see that they broadly recognize and are concerned with addressing those issues.

          • rlms says:

            I posted this as a top level comment, but it’s relevant here.

    • uau says:

      racism happens where we have a basis for expectations about consequences that follows from race alone.

      That defines completely valid expectations to be racist. For example, if you select a completely random white person out of all people in the US, and a random black person, it is correct to expect the black person to the more criminal, or more likely to have committed a serious crime, or more likely to commit such in the future. If you want to use this definition for racism, then you need to admit that all correctly-thinking people should be racist, and “non-racism” is only for naive idiots who can’t face reality. Since I don’t really believe this is what you intend, you need a (much) stricter definition of “racism” if you want it to be something that could be called “bad” or “incorrect”.

      • Matthew S. says:

        The crime rate among US blacks is higher than among US whites, but a large majority of both whites and blacks are non-criminals, so the correct expectation of both a randomly selected white and a randomly selected black is “this person is probably not a criminal.”

        Conflating “somewhat more likely relatively” with “absolutely likely” makes you the one failing to engage with reality.

        • uau says:

          the correct expectation of both a randomly selected white and a randomly selected black is “this person is probably not a criminal.”

          No, this is intentionally obfuscating the reality. It is not the same expectation for both. You should expect more criminality from a random black person in the US just based on race.

          It seems you’re trying to downplay the correct expectations you should have based on race as somehow “insignificant”. But that does not really work. A lot of expectations that are relevant in practice are smaller in effect than that. If you want to argue for a definition of “bad/not-factually-true” racism based on that, you absolutely need a qualifier like “racism is when the expectations you have based on race alone are many times as big as what is justified in reality” or something like that.

          Without any qualification, if you only consider something like 50% likelihood threshold for “probably not a criminal”, you reject significant expectations that are absolutely considered valid in other contexts. For an exaggerated example, consider “has committed murder before”. I’d expect that across all such people, less than 50% are going to be committing more murders. But sane people will still reject the notion that there should be “no expectations” about the risk of further murders, even if it’s less than 50%.

          • rlms says:

            You think the proportion of black people who are criminals is similar to the proportion of murderers who are repeated?

          • Adam Berman says:

            For an exaggerated example, consider “has committed murder before”.

            You think the proportion of black people who are criminals is similar to the proportion of murderers who are repeated?

            really making me think there, rlms.

          • Toby Bartels says:

            @rlmns :

            You think the proportion of black people who are criminals is similar to the proportion of murderers who are repeated?

            You mean the proportion of murderers who repeat, not the proportion of murderers that are repeaters. And no, the proportion of Black people that are convicted criminals is higher!; murder recidivism rates are very low. But we should really consider the proportion of murderers that are repeat offenders, not repeat murderers, and now that is higher.

            Source: looking up statistics on the Internet and comparing them, which is not very reliable. But I'm not worried about that, because my real point is: what if the proportion of future criminals among Black people was higher than among former murderers? What if I'd said so and backed it up with impeccable citations to airtight statistical analysis? Would it change your views on affirmative action and the value of workplace racial diversity? It wouldn't change mine; and if wouldn’t change yours either, then I think that you're arguing about the wrong thing now.

          • rlms says:

            @Adam Berman
            The parent comment appeared to be making quantitative claims (that’s the only interpretation I can see for ‘Without any qualification, if you only consider something like 50% likelihood threshold for “probably not a criminal”…’. So if the example isn’t somewhat similar to the actual issue, it’s pointless.

            @Toby Bartels

            You mean the proportion of murderers who repeat, not the proportion of murderers that are repeaters.

            They are the same, no? (people who murder >1 person)/(people who murder >=1 person)

            And no, the proportion of Black people that are convicted criminals is higher!; murder recidivism rates are very low.

            I assumed the original comment was talking about repeated murderers in general, not just those who were convicted, released, and murdered again. I assume the proportion there is a lot higher (and the parent comment presumably did too, since it compares it to 50%).

          • uau says:

            @rims

            The parent comment appeared to be making quantitative claims (that’s the only interpretation I can see for ‘Without any qualification, if you only consider something like 50% likelihood threshold for “probably not a criminal”…’. So if the example isn’t somewhat similar to the actual issue, it’s pointless.

            That was in response to Matthew S., who wanted to deny the relevance of expecting higher criminality based on race, and wanted to sweep the expectations under “this person is probably not a criminal.” (which would apparently apply to anything up to 50%). My point was that this is a flawed way to view the issue, and rates below 50% do matter.

          • rlms says:

            But why 50%? Why not 0.005%, or 95%?

          • Deiseach says:

            You should expect more criminality from a random black person in the US just based on race.

            No. You should expect increased likelihood/better odds that random black person might be a criminal as compared to the odds for white/Hispanic or whatever term we’re using today/Asian etc. but you can’t point to a black person at random and say “definitely a criminal!”

            This is the same kind of thing James Damore was accused of saying – “women less likely!” when he did not mean “any and every random woman will never want to be in STEM/will be as good as a guy in STEM”, he meant taking the general population and averaging it out.

          • uau says:

            @rims

            But why 50%? Why not 0.005%, or 95%?

            Those would not be reasonable interpretations of “probably not a criminal”. If you want to claim that everything which can be put under that phrase is “the same”, then 50% is the only really natural interpretation – if you claim such grouping and try to make up some other exact percentage which makes your claim look better (without even specifying it up front), that’s not really a credible argument.

            @Deiseach
            I think “should expect more criminality” is a reasonable phrasing, and does not imply that every individual separately would have to be a criminal. Think of it as “expected value is higher” (of either number of crimes committed, or of 0/1 classification of non-criminal/criminal).

          • Toby Bartels says:

            @ rlms :

            They are the same, no? (people who murder >1 person)/(people who murder >=1 person)

            Heh, yeah, I guess so. I thought that you were trying to say (murders committed by people who murder > 1 person ever)/(murders), which is not the same, but it's not what you or I ever said either. Fortunately, math makes it clear.

          • beleester says:

            @uau

            It seems you’re trying to downplay the correct expectations you should have based on race as somehow “insignificant”. But that does not really work. A lot of expectations that are relevant in practice are smaller in effect than that.

            Such as? What concrete action would you take, at the individual level, if you knew that the person you met has a 0.01% chance to be a murderer, instead of a 0.002% chance?

            You accuse Matthew of lumping anything under 50% as the same thing, but that implies that the actual probabilities are anywhere near 50%.

          • Anon. says:

            Why restrict it to the individual level? Policy isn’t made there.

          • John Schilling says:

            What concrete action would you take, at the individual level, if you knew that the person you met has a 0.01% chance to be a murderer, instead of a 0.002% chance?

            Be fair; a random African-American adult male has a ~1.0% chance of already being a murderer(*), not 0.01%, and a similar chance of committing murder in the future. That’s at the level where you might start taking concrete action.

            Except that nobody ever actually meets random African-American adult males, and if you can’t accurately adjust that ~1% estimate by an order of magnitude or so in the first five minutes, you’re not trying. You can start by asking questions like “was this particular African-American adult male actually in prison when I met him?”, which is a huge discriminator.

            * Using the FBI’s definition for criminal homicide generally

          • alef says:

            > You should expect more criminality from a random black person in the US just based on race.

            As I’d expect more (violent) criminality from a random man than a random women chosen at large. To deny this would be to deny robustly-reported deny statistical facts, and no one is a racist for believing things like this. Does anyone really dispute this?

            The moral problem (let us not say racism, it would apply as much to discrimination against men based on criminality) is any implication that these facts can or, even worse, should have any great utility in real life.

            I’m never dealing with a random black or random man, and very much not so when I am considering offering a job, renting a place to someone, or on a jury. If I think “random black” is the ever right reference class to use in such cases (or indeed, most social interactions), I’m guilty of up to three things. First, an intellectual failure: I don’t know what statistics tell us or how, mathematically, to use them. Second, in many cases, stupidity because I may be acting against my interests. Third, some degree of immorality because, if it’s important, it is a virtuous thing to strive to learn more about a person as an individual so as to undercut the applicability of very broad and adverse group statistics. Treat individuals as individuals. (And if it’s not important, why not be as charitable as possible?) Yes, it’s not always possible or wise to ignore the coarse numbers entirely (I might not be able to learn enough to fully undercut a ‘murderers often reoffend’ concern) but when possible we should strive, mightily, to avoid treating people adversely based on statistics from some group (especially, a big group) they belong to.

          • Aapje says:

            @alef

            It is true that you usually dealing with an individual, but it is also true that you usually have imperfect information. It is pretty normal and gives utility, to then make assumptions.

            These assumptions are on a spectrum of correctness and/or how much benefit they give. Then people choose a cutoff where they stop assuming. However, I don’t think that people will ever give up assumptions altogether nor that they should.

            Some of these assumptions are correct 99+% of the time. Some of the increased accuracy caused by making these assumptions provide great benefits. There would be a huge cost to never assuming anything. It would be like giving everyone enormous social anxiety.

            So IMO, the only reasonable thing is to argue where the cutoff should be and/or that we should have a higher threshold for making assumptions based on certain information (like skin color), but not to never make assumptions based on such facts.

          • alef says:

            @Aapje

            > It is true that you usually dealing with an individual, but it is also true that you usually have imperfect information. It is pretty normal and gives utility, to then make assumptions.

            True! But what assumptions? I’m going to over-formalize this, to try to keep things more concise. We have some very broad population statistic P(Criminal|Black), but were are in a nontrivial social interaction with an individual and have learned a fairly rich set of information about him, “I”. We want something like P(Criminal|Black and I).

            So here’s an assumption: assume the information I statistically undercuts evidence from blackness: P(Criminal|Black and I) = P(Criminal|I). Well, before you yell, it is an assumption – which is what you (rightly) asked for – and does let us make progress.

            So now you can try to tear apart the reasonableness of this assumption, and you’ll find it easy. Except: I think that – in situations of the type above – you’ll often (not universally!) find that any other assumptions (that are simple enough to help you make progress) are yet more easily attacked, less workable, and less effective as tools of approximate rationality.

          • Aapje says:

            @alef

            Except: I think that – in situations of the type above – you’ll often (not universally!) find that any other assumptions (that are simple enough to help you make progress) are yet more easily attacked, less workable, and less effective as tools of approximate rationality.

            You have lost me at this point. What are you referring to when you say “any other assumptions”? ‘I’ or blackness or something else?

          • alef says:

            > What are you referring to when you say “any other assumptions”?

            I think I’ve misread you, or you me, on what ‘assumptions’ mean in this context. I’m not sure how to clarify that expect by resorting to an over-formalism that even I find misleading.

            We have statistical facts, e.g. P(C|B). They come nowhere near close to determining P(C|B&I) – so we must either give up or make assumptions, including assumptions about statistical relationships, to find an answer. And by ‘an answer’ I don’t mean a ‘right’ answer, but just something approximate, utility-justified, helpful, good enough, practical, that lets us get on with things.

            So back to the over-formalizaiton. P(C|B&I) = P(C|I) is clearly a simplifying assumption – not about the ground facts, but about statistical relationships. But here’s another: P(C|B&I) equals (or should be dragged towards) P(C|B), because for the latter we have reliable statistics (not strongly evidential, but by golly the numbers are right) whereas P(C|I) is just so terrribly compicated so let’s assume it’s largely ignorahble. So that’s an assumption: we can discount/ignore things we don’t know with confidence in favor of less relevant things we do know more precisely. Or consider another different but also very simplifiying assumption: evidential independence. Whatever you think “I” tells you about criminality (yes, that’s hard, uncertain, “messy”), assume “B” tends to add (in a log-likelihood sense, literally does add ) on top of that since it’s convenient to assume it’s independent evidentially.

            These are the sort of ‘assumptions’ that let us go from ‘I am in a state of uncertain knowledge, here’s what I know – (including, at least: the the particulars (B &/or I), the limited reliable statistics I have on hand such as p(C|B)., and my human wisdom) to a practical answer.

            That’s what I mean by assumptions, if it helps.

            Suppose (a different world?) where blacks were far, far, more likely to be criminals than others. You are a well-known expert and proponent of Bayesian reasoning, but somehow you are picked as a juror on a trial with a black defendent. Do you not see that it would probably be wrong (not just a moral wrong, not just an affront against fairness and law) to count her blackness againt her? Restricting the question just to rational decison makiing, no, make that approximate and heuristic decision making, would you not agree that this bias is rationally unsound.

          • Aapje says:

            @alef

            Whether it is culturally wrong depends on the agreement that society makes about how justice should be administered. The current standard for judging guilt incorporates a Schelling fence*, where we accept reduced (possible) quality of decision making, to get other advantages:
            – legitimacy in the eyes of certain groups
            – reduced ability to use the system as a weapon against the disfavored
            – reduced impact of incorrect prejudice
            – etc

            The willingness to accept a high cost to get these advantages resulted in the famous one-liner: “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”

            However, it is doubtful whether most people are actually willing to go that far in practice. Also, in the case of war, we see that state-sanctioned enforcers are allowed to kill with relatively low standards of evidence, often causing many innocents to suffer, because the circumstances are deemed to make it impossible to use higher standards.

            So I would argue that the cultural agreement would not be sustainable if 99.99% of black people would be criminal, but that the support for the principle of color-blindness in law is in fact conditional on the level of black criminality being below a certain level.

            * There are many other Schelling fences in policing & justice as well, like those that defend privacy

            Furthermore, we see that the principle of blindness to born traits, even if those improve decision making on average, is not consistently observed by society, with two famous examples being higher premiums for male drivers and affirmative action.

            When a principle is held as sacred and critics attacked as racist/sexist/etc when some groups bear the burden, but that same principle is dismissed when other groups are negatively impacted, then that principle is not actually sacred.

            So given that people seem to rarely actually believe in the principle, but instead believe that it is justified in some circumstances, the logical debate to have is to argue the circumstances, not the principle.

          • alef says:

            Thanks @AApje. Useful. I was trying to make the case for a Schelling fence (thanks, new term to me) for trials and lesser such matters, purely in terms of rationality (i.e. that in the real world it will tend to increase the ‘quality of decision making’ you think it might reduce) – entirely independent of the social considerations you list. Trials are/should be an easy case for my argument: I honestly don’t believe anyone could, in any way, use a black criminality statistic (as it is, not 99.9% because the logic changes very much then) in a trial at all sensibly (and granted the usage has to be approximate and heuristic and assumption-laden), even if all other Schelling-like restrictions were off the table.
            But even if my case has some strength to it, I’ve clearly made it very poorly, so enough. But thanks.

      • herbert herberson says:

        Anti-racism is the preposition that the (ultimately pretty limited, for the reason Matt points out) utility people derive from your observation is outweighed by the injustice done to individuals who neither asked to be born a particular race nor contributed to the statistics driving that prejudice.

        I’d add that, by your logic, misandry is like racism, only far more rational and true. If you would agree that misandry is less of an animating force in our society and history than racism, the reasons for that distinction might be informative/illuminating.

        (if you would not agree, then we’re starting from vastly different views of the world and no further discussion is likely to be useful)

        • uau says:

          You can hold an “anti-racist” view of that definition while still being “racist” by the “expectations based on race” definition. For example, you can (correctly) expect that black applicants for a position will do a worse in the job on average, but still give them as many interview opportunities as while applicants. So you don’t really seem to address the content of my post.

          Expectations based on race can be factually correct. If you call that racism, then either you need to agree that racism is a good thing, or you oppose reality itself. Policies based on directly on race can depend on more factors, and you can have better reasons for opposing those. But that’s shifting the goalposts from the initial attempt at defining racism.

          I wouldn’t be ready to directly forbid policies based on race either – or at least not policies that end up corresponding to race. For example, if a community is more criminal, harsher policing has a better payoff/cost ratio. So IMO it can for example be justifiable if blacks end up under more invasive police scrutiny. When making decisions at a higher level (such as which areas/cities to target in general), you can almost certainly do better based on other statistics than race directly (but the result will end up significantly correlating with race); when doing decisions on the street, race can be a valid factor for police officers that do not have much other information.

          • Matt M says:

            I wouldn’t be ready to directly forbid policies based on race either

            Well, neither are the “anti-racists.” They don’t exactly want to see an end to affirmative action or diversity quotas.

        • JulieK says:

          the utility people derive from your observation is outweighed by the injustice done to individuals who neither asked to be born a particular race nor contributed to the statistics driving that prejudice.

          “The social norm against stereotyping, including the opposition to profiling, has been highly beneficial in creating a more civilized and more equal society. It is useful to remember, however, that neglecting valid stereotypes inevitably results in suboptimal judgments. Resistance to stereotyping is a laudable moral position, but the simplistic idea that the resistance is costless is wrong. The costs are worth paying to achieve a better society, but denying that the costs exists, while satisfying to the soul and politically correct, is not scientifically defensible.”

          Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (chapter 16)

        • dndnrsn says:

          @herbert herbertson

          I’d add that, by your logic, misandry is like racism, only far more rational and true. If you would agree that misandry is less of an animating force in our society and history than racism, the reasons for that distinction might be informative/illuminating.

          This is an extremely good point, in both parts. The first part especially – isn’t gender of far greater predictive force that, say, someone on the street late at night might be trouble, than race? Age and intoxication status are also pretty big.

          • Matt M says:

            Well, I don’t think anyone disagrees with that. I doubt many conservative-minded people cross the street when they see a 50-year old black woman walking towards them.

          • albatross11 says:

            Matt M:

            Indeed, I’m pretty sure that even the most virulently racist people don’t feel any great urge to do so.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            However, this place doesn’t have a lot of talk about how it’s right to be suspicious of young men, etc etc, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen people here take affront to the concept of Schroedinger’s Rapist.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            However, this place doesn’t have a lot of talk about how it’s right to be suspicious of young men

            Is anyone disputing that young men are far more violent? The statistics seem clear on that.

            I’m pretty sure I’ve seen people here take affront to the concept of Schroedinger’s Rapist.

            The metaphor betrays a complete misunderstanding of what Schroedinger’s cat is about, so it is a deceptive use of words that smart people will interpret differently than intended. So it is a linguistic affront.

            If we do take it as intended, then we see that NISVS data strongly suggests that adult men are not significant more rape-prone than women.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje

            The Venn diagram of “people who think crime differences justify police discrimination against black people” and “people who think crime differences justify police discrimination against men” are not a circle, though.

            With regard to Schroedinger’s Rapist, it uses the colloquial understanding of Schroedinger’s Cat. Which is, I’m pretty sure, a misunderstanding. But it’s a catchy way of saying that a woman can’t be sure whether any given man is safe.

            With regard to the NISVS, it doesn’t include people who have been in prison recently, right? So male-on-male sexual assaults are probably undercounted. I buy the reading in which “made to penetrate” is counted as rape, which puts men at about 1/4 of rape victims in the US, but even if most male rape victims had female perpetrators, you’d need a lot of female-on-female attacks to have the male and female attackers even, wouldn’t you?

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            Catchy and wrong is a good way to deceive people, so I’m not a fan of that combination.

            As for NISVS, the survey data shows that the 12 month victimization statistics are roughly similar, with men having male perpetrators more often, but still close enough that the perpetrator ratio is not that different (in my eyes).

            The lifetime survey data is more disparate, which can be because women are far more often victimized before adulthood or it can be an artifact of socialization making men forget events far more often or both.

            Whatever may be the reason, if we assume that Schroedinger’s Rapist is invoked by an adult, then I think that the 12 month statistics are most relevant for their actual risk at that point in their life. The NISVS data suggests that for an adult American, risk of rape is roughly similar for each gender, with both men and women being most at risk of getting raped by a person of the opposite gender.

          • albatross11 says:

            dndnrsn:

            If you’re trying to avoid trouble on a dark street, I’d absolutely recommend assigning young men the highest threat level and little old ladies the lowest, regardless of race. That should inform things like whether you decide to duck into that one restaurant for a couple minutes to avoid a possible confrontation. And if you want to understand crime statistics in the US, similarly, it’s helpful to understand that violent crime is overwhelmingly a young man’s game.

            Knowing more is almost always better than knowing less, for making decisions.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Aapje, I think it’s not so much that people forget sexual assault (including rape), it’s that they’re apt to discount it.

            What I keep seeing is people (both male and female) saying that they were generally frightened and depressed after a sexual event, but they would tell themselves that it wasn’t really the other person’s fault so it can’t have been that bad.

            Lately, there’s been a social shift to say that sexual events which lead to trauma are that serious.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            However, this place doesn’t have a lot of talk about how it’s right to be suspicious of young men, etc etc, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen people here take affront to the concept of Schroedinger’s Rapist.

            When it comes to assessing a stranger, “is male” should absolutely raise the probability of their being violent/criminal. It’s not debated because I don’t think anyone objects to it, and I’ve seen it pointed out several times in prior threads on other topics.

            However, what that has in common with the talk about race as a factor for analysis is that if you’re well-calibrated, not even “male” should raise your confidence of criminality/malicious intent to 50%. Nor does “Black”. Or even “Young + Black + Male”.

            I think it’s reasonable to critique anyone who said “Well, if I see a young black man on the street at night, I cross the street, because you just can’t know if they’re a law abiding citizen or would-be mugger looking for a victim”. In this case ‘you just don’t know’ is a colloquial way of saying “there’s at least a 50-50 chance that young black man is a mugger”.

            The problem most people have with the “Schrodinger’s Rapist” argument (which I’d never heard called by that name before but I like), is that it sounds to them like the people using it are making that exact same claim with regards to men as my example above about the young black man at night: “You just don’t know”, or in other words “As a base starting point, you should have about a 50% confidence interval that any given man is a sexual predator.”

          • In this case ‘you just don’t know’ is a colloquial way of saying “there’s at least a 50-50 chance that young black man is a mugger”.

            The relevant question is how high the probability has to be to make it worth crossing the street, and the answer is surely well below 50%. If I say that I don’t know if it is going to rain tomorrow, that doesn’t imply that I think odds are 50-50.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            Answering affirmatively to the survey doesn’t require ascribing ill intent to the perpetrator, but merely that one didn’t want the sex. A person can blame themselves for causing the situation and still answer that one didn’t want the sex & this would be counted as a rape/forced to penetrate.

            But you are correct that I was sloppy.

            A more accurate way of putting is that men may be especially prone, especially for long ago events, to alter their memory to edit out the non-consent. After all, victim-hood is inconsistent with the male gender role, men are supposed to be good at seducing women, are supposed to always like sex, etc. So there are a lot of incentives to think: it still counts (although for some reason I feel sad when thinking about it).

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            Is “you can’t be sure” necessarily something that defaults to 50-50? Something that a prudent woman will do (and, honestly, anyone prudent should do) is before going on a date or being alone with someone for the first time or whatever is make sure that someone knows where they are, is expecting a call by x time, whatever.

            If they only did that with someone they were 50-50 on whether they are safe or not… That’s a situation anyone would be wise to avoid – if you think someone is 50% likely to attack you, you should avoid them. It’s more “the chance might be 1% or 5% but the bad things that could happen are really bad”.

      • Bugmaster says:

        I’m going to bite the bullet and agree that, strictly speaking, “all correctly-thinking people” should take race into account when making their decisions, but only when doing so would actually lead to more correct decisions.

        For example, when a doctor is prescribing certain kinds of medicine, he should definitely take the race of the patient into account (until genotyping each individual patient becomes practical, at least). On a more trivial level, band-aid and sunscreen manufacturers should take skin color into account when marketing their products. If people fail to do this, then patients will die, companies will lose money, and everyone will be generally worse off.

        The problem with saying “all black people are criminals” is not that the statement is immoral, but that it is incorrect. If you make decisions based on such a grossly incorrect belief, then, once again, everyone will be generally worse off — including yourself.

        • Toby Bartels says:

          The problem with saying “all black people are criminals” is not that the statement is immoral, but that it is incorrect.

          Fair enough, but the statement ‘More Black people are criminals than White people are, proportionally.’ is correct, so how do you propose to handle that information?

          • Bugmaster says:

            It depends on which question you are trying to answer by using this information. For example, if the question is, “I see a black person, should I call the police ?”, the answer is “No”, because, while P(criminal|black) > P(criminal|white), P(criminal) << 1.

          • CatCube says:

            That might be statistically true, but irrelevant in most facets of life. If you’re dealing with an individual black person (or even a small group), you can just judge them on, well, them. There are far more accurate ways of determining if they’re criminals than simple race. Put in the effort. I don’t hold truck with most left-wing screeching on this issue, but they’re right that some people lazily round off “black people are more likely to be criminals” to “just rake all black resumes into the trash to be safe”, which given the actual odds for an individual is mostly pretty stupid.

            The only place the “differing rates of crime” factoid is relevant is if you’re discussing social policy in aggregate; there, when discussing aggregate rates of success or failure, the fact that in aggregate there is more crime in one group or the other may have explanatory power.

          • Toby Bartels says:

            I agree with these replies, of course (at least, it feels as if it should be of course). But this still leaves room for racist behaviour at the margin. That is, while most decisions can be made on the basis of better information than race, sometimes there will be close calls in which race is the deciding factor.

            So if racial diversity is a goal, then I think that you have to take ‘affirmative action’ (to coin a phrase) to ensure this result. Even if it just amounts to ignoring certain statistics, you have to make the decision to ignore them (at least once you've learnt about them), lest they make a difference some time.

          • albatross11 says:

            Toby Bartels:

            I think there are places where this makes sense, but we need to do it explicitly. The public discussion needs to accept the available facts and then say “yes, we could get better outcomes in some ways by making this judgment on race, but we’ve decided not to because that would lead to worse outcomes in other ways.” You could make a pretty decent argument against racial profiling along those lines, for example. Yes, the police can probably do better at catching criminals with racial profiling, but that has a lot of unpleasant downstream effects, so we’ve decided we’d rather accept slightly lower police effectiveness in exchange for not having blacks getting disproportionately hassled by the police.

            But this is an explicit tradeoff, and I think it’s really important to surface it. The common way this sort of thing is discussed in prestige media outlets in the US hides half the relevant facts and turns the discussion into a good guys/bad guys story.

          • Tatterdemalion says:

            I think that that information should be excluded from virtually all decision-making, for several reasons.

            Firstly, and by far the most importantly fairness: I think that it’s deeply unfair to treat people who have behaved identically in all ways relevant to the treatment differently. That’s exacerbated when it’s always the same group of people getting the thin end of the stick, rather than everyone getting unfair advantages sometimes and unfair disadvantages other times. At the point where someone says “you are treating me badly solely because I am black; if I my behaviour had been identical but I had had white skin then you would have treated me better”, and you can’t give a loud clear “no I’m not” as your answer, you have some very, very serious explaining to do, and “I can improve the accuracy of my test by a few percent by doing so” is not nearly a good enough excuse.

            Secondly, people are far more likely to support imposing onerous burdens on others in order to increase security if they don’t have to face them themselves; if you allow the majority to vote for a minority to be targeted with stop-and-search or increased security at airports or longer jail sentences or what have you without having to face those costs themselves, you can’t expect the majority to trade off their security against someone else’s liberty fairly.

            A slightly more questionable reason is utilitarian. One of the reasons black Americans have worse life outcomes, and commit more crimes per capita, than white Americans, is that if you believe that “the system” is on your side you’re more likely to opt into it by trying to get an education and job, obeying its laws, and respecting those who enforce them, than if you believe that it is unfairly rigged against you, and in many senses actively hostile to you. Most black Americans, sadly reasonably, believe the latter, and a pretty essential first step to reducing the prevalence of that belief will be to render it false. So even if racial profiling helps fight crime in the short term, it may well provoke more crime in the long term.

            I don’t have any kind of quantitative argument here, but even in the least-convenient-world where racial profiling would prevent more crime than it provokes, I think the other arguments are more than sufficient.

            In some narrow cases something vaguely similar may be justifiable – if you’re searching for a specific suspect, it’s legitimate to only stop people who match their description – but in general, with e.g. police stopping and searching people because they suspect them, the police should be required to apply the same standard of suspicious *behaviour* to justify stopping black and white passers by, even if they could increase the rate of criminals stopped per innocent citizen stopped by using racial profiling.

          • I think that it’s deeply unfair to treat people who have behaved identically in all ways relevant to the treatment differently.

            The way you put it shouldn’t limit it to race. We treat twelve year olds differently with respect to all sorts of things–drinking, driving, voting–even if the particular twelve year old has behaved identically in all ways relevant to those particular issues to an adult. Do you disapprove?

            What does “relevant to” mean here? If I have reason to believe that, on average, twelve year olds are less likely to drive safely than adults, is age relevant? If it is, then the same applies if, on average, blacks are more likely to commit crimes.

            Young adult men pay higher rates for car insurance than young adult women or older men and women. That is true even for someone who has shown no evidence of being a dangerous driver. Is that also “deeply unfair”?

            Your second reason is a better argument.

          • rlms says:

            Is that also “deeply unfair”?

            I would definitely say yes, although something can be both deeply unfair and a sensible decision for efficiency reasons.

          • albatross11 says:

            rlms:

            It seems to me that a lot of the really hard problems w.r.t. organizing a society come down to tradeoffs between fairness and efficiency, or between two different, equally-valuable notions of fairness or of efficiency.

          • Tatterdemalion says:

            In response to David Friedman, several posts above, or possibly below (am I the only person who struggles with the limits on the threading here?):

            The way you put it shouldn’t limit it to race. We treat twelve year olds differently with respect to all sorts of things–drinking, driving, voting–even if the particular twelve year old has behaved identically in all ways relevant to those particular issues to an adult. Do you disapprove?

            No, of course not – provided everyone has to wait til the same age to do these things, fairness isn’t an issue here because everyone is being treated the same, and you can cut straight to the discussion of utility.

            What does “relevant to” mean here? If I have reason to believe that, on average, twelve year olds are less likely to drive safely than adults, is age relevant? If it is, then the same applies if, on average, blacks are more likely to commit crimes.

            With “relevant to” I was talking specifically about behaviour. The thought process was inspired by the discussion about a few weeks back about what things it is and isn’t legitimate to feed into an algorithm used to determine parole; my view is that in that context the only information the algorithm should be given is stuff related to culpability – even if e.g. single people are more likely to reoffend than married people, that shouldn’t be factored in, because it’s unjust to punish differently people whose behaviour has been identical in all ways relevant to culpability and rehabilitiation.

            “Relevant to” is an intentionally weaselly shorthand, because while I think the idea I’m trying to convey could be defined more rigorously, I think doing so would be both tedious and unenlightening, and I hope “relevant to” is enough to enable the reader to reconstruct the gist of it.

            As I’ve said above, I don’t think that treating everyone the same at each stage of their life is at all analogous in terms of fairness to treating people differently throughout their lives.

            Once you’ve gotten past the fairness argument then yes, using statistical information from age is equivalent to using statistical information from race (although the former is a much stronger predictor), but apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, how was the play?

            Young adult men pay higher rates for car insurance than young adult women or older men and women. That is true even for someone who has shown no evidence of being a dangerous driver. Is that also “deeply unfair”?

            Yes, I think that that’s an excellent example of the kind of thing I’m characterising as unfair, and I’d prefer it if it didn’t happen, but it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as discrimination on grounds of race, because as I said I think that if everyone sometimes benefits and sometimes loses from unfairness that’s less worrying than if it always goes the same way.

            It’s just as bad a violation of principle, but should not be nearly as high up a list of “priorities for things to change to make modern society better”.

          • @rlms:

            I find it useful to think in terms of two views of morality, the God’s eye view and the man’s eye view. From the former it makes sense to say that people ought to get what they deserve, so it is unfair if someone works hard and fails or succeeds due entirely to luck. That make’s sense from God’s viewpoint both because He has perfect knowledge on which to base his view of deserts and because he has unlimited resources with which to reward the deserving.

            From the man’s eye view, it makes more sense to think in terms of what Nozick called “entitlement” (in contrast to “desert”). If I obtained something without violating other people’s rights or injuring other people, I am entitled to it, and “you injured me by not giving the something to me” doesn’t count as injuring.

            For the very simplest case, consider a bet. We agree to bet ten dollars on the flip of a coin. You win. It makes no sense to say you deserved to win, since you didn’t deserve to have the coin come up heads any more than I deserved to have it come up tails. But it makes complete intuitive sense to say you are entitled to win, and to get my ten dollars, that being what both of us agreed to in advance. If I was a good person who badly needed the money and you a rogue with lots of money it might make sense to say that it was unfair for you to win—God should have made the coin come up tails.

            Does that help? The fact that young men are dangerous drivers and the insurance companies can’t recognize the ones who are not is unfair to young men who are good drivers, just as the fact that women live longer than men is unfair to men. But neither is unjust—I’m not entitled to get insurance at a price that is fair given the actual risk in a world where an insurance company cannot measure that risk. The fact that one bad driver is in a terrible accident and another equally bad driver isn’t is unfair in the same sense. Also the fact that some people get cancer for no good reason and some don’t.

          • Aapje says:

            We live in a world of imperfect information, so there is always going to be unfairness to individuals.

            Let’s assume that people’s performance when taken exams varies around a mean. Bob’s mean is (barely) a failing grade, while Alice’s mean is (barely) a passing grade. However, during one specific exam Bob over-performs and Alice under-performs, so Bob gets a passing grade and Alice a failing grade.

            In one way, this is unfair to Alice, since her actual qualities are higher than Bob’s, yet Bob gets the advantages that go with passing the exam.

            However, in another way this is not unfair to Alice, since performance on the exam does correlate with people’s actual quality and we can do no better than use an imperfect proxy to determine people’s actual qualities. Given many exams and many Alice’s and Bob’s, it is far more fair to judge them by their performance on the exam(s), than not to do so.

        • BlindKungFuMaster says:

          Imagine you own a museum and you give guided tours. But some valuable item(s) isn’t/aren’t well secured, so you’d like to be reasonably sure that you don’t give a tour to a group that contains one or more criminals.

          Now, math will tell you that while the difference in probability of being criminal between a random black person and a random white person is small in absolute terms, the probability of a group containing not a single criminal quickly diverges between groups of whites and blacks.

          To make the point with some random numbers:
          0.98**10=0.817
          0.90**10=0.348

          So, what is the museum owner supposed to do with that information?

          • Gil says:

            The groups in the museum are most likely not a collection of random people. I’d say that the probabilities that any person in the white group is a criminal is much lower than the average for the whole population, and the same is true for the black group. It’s probably more like 0.999 and 0.997 or something if we’re just throwing around random numbers.

            In other words, it won’t provide much useful information.

          • albatross11 says:

            One aside from this discussion (already discussed on Marginal Revolution):

            We have two identifiable groups, A and B. A have a substantially higher crime rate overall than B.

            In World #1, employers are allowed to do criminal background checks.

            In World #2, employers are forbidden to do criminal background checks.

            In which world would you expect more members of group A to be hired?

        • albatross11 says:

          Bugmaster:

          It seems to me that the balance here is:

          a. You should incorporate statistical knowledge about racial groups into your decisions because that’s how you make the best decisions.

          b. You should remember that humans have tribalism burned in by a million years of evolution, so you need to be really careful you don’t let your brain get hijacked by the tribalism to the point where you let knowledge of those statistics lead you to bad decisions.

          c. At a societal level, we may explicitly decide to make less optimal decisions to accomplish other goals. As an example, in the US, the police aren’t allowed to use evidence they gathered illegally against you in a trial[1]. That’s a decision we’ve made–illegally-gathered evidence would make the police more effective, but it woul also encourage more illegal searches, so we’ve decided to accept the inefficiency in order to avoid lots of illegal searches.

          [1] The exact way the law works here is subtle and I don’t claim to understand it well–IANAL!

          • Bugmaster says:

            At a societal level, we may explicitly decide to make less optimal decisions to accomplish other goals.

            That sounds like a contradiction in terms; by definition, optimal decisions are those decisions that allow you to accomplish your goals most efficiently. Of course, sometimes some of the goals can be mutually incompatible; for example:

            in the US, the police aren’t allowed to use evidence they gathered illegally against you in a trial

            In this case, we have conflicting instrumental goals: “put guilty people in jail” vs. “keep innocent people out of jail” and “maintain privacy”. Allowing the police to gather evidence illegally leads to all kinds of abuses of power which degrade the latter two goals, so we have to settle for letting some guilty people go free sometimes.

            It’s a tradeoff, and we can measure the results. If we put absolutely everyone in jail, crime will go down to virtually zero, but we’d be living in North Korea. If we disband all law enforcement organizations, abuses of power will go down to virtually zero, but we’d be living in the Thunderdome. The correct setting for this slider is somewhere between these extremes, and it depends on how much we value e.g. privacy vs. security.

            The problem I see with discussions of racial bias in statistical predictions is that it’s almost always discussed in absolute terms. I would be perfectly fine with a rule like, “we should artificially down-weight race by X% because we want affluent white customers to subsidize Y% of poor black customers”, or something to that extent — provided that someone can explain the reasoning they used to arrive at X and Y. But I think that stating outright, “we should completely ignore race, or anything that can be used as a proxy for race, because if we don’t then we’re evil”, is the kind of thinking that lands us in North Korea or the Thunderdome.

          • Aapje says:

            @Bugmaster

            Exactly. I think that the costs of such policies should be recognized and that people should be allowed to speak out against having to endure those costs, without being called racist or otherwise having their human worth questioned for desiring a different balance.

      • a reader says:

        For example, if you select a completely random white person out of all people in the US, and a random black person, it is correct to expect the black person to the more criminal, or more likely to have committed a serious crime, or more likely to commit such in the future.

        Not always. If it happens that your randomly chosen black person is a woman and your white person is a man, there are more chances that the white man is or will be a criminal than the black woman – the gap in criminality between sexes is larger than between races.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States#Gender

        2010 Incarceration rates by race and gender per 100,000

        White non-Hispanic:
        Male 678
        – Female 91
        Black non-Hispanic:
        – Male 4,347
        Female 260
        Hispanic of any race:
        – Male 1,775
        – Female 133

      • Civilis says:

        That defines completely valid expectations to be racist. For example, if you select a completely random white person out of all people in the US, and a random black person, it is correct to expect the black person to the more criminal, or more likely to have committed a serious crime, or more likely to commit such in the future. If you want to use this definition for racism, then you need to admit that all correctly-thinking people should be racist, and “non-racism” is only for naive idiots who can’t face reality. Since I don’t really believe this is what you intend, you need a (much) stricter definition of “racism” if you want it to be something that could be called “bad” or “incorrect”.

        On the flip side, you’re very rarely likely to encounter someone in a situation where race is the only thing you are able to tell about them. I’d wager that there’s a stronger correlation between male and criminal than black and criminal, and yet we don’t treat every male we encounter as a potential criminal. We assume the person is not a potential criminal unless there’s other more strongly linked markers more commonly associated with criminality.

        If someone is black and has none of the other markers more commonly associated with criminal behavior (such as poor or low status) and you assume ‘potential criminal’, you’re demonstrating racial prejudice.

        “Black is more likely to be poor, and poor is much more likely to be criminal” is a logical train of thought, but shortening it to “black is more likely to be criminal” fails when you’re dealing with someone who is black and you have reason to believe isn’t poor.

        • uau says:

          I’d wager that there’s a stronger correlation between male and criminal than black and criminal, and yet we don’t treat every male we encounter as a potential criminal.

          Remember the original context, it was attempting to define racism as “expectations about consequences that follows from race alone”. People certainly do have various expectations that are based on gender! I don’t think this works as an argument in that original context.

          Also, if you want to consider risk of being “potential criminal” in particular, “black male” is then a significantly higher-risk group, even if “black female” or “white male” aren’t particularly concerning. If the only information you have access to is race and gender, race still seems very relevant.

          If someone is black and has none of the other markers

          You can have more accurate expectations if you get more information, but I don’t think that’s much of a justification for the attempted definition. Expectations based on race are still correct, even if you can refine them when you have other information available.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      jw beat me to it but it’s an important question:

      If Whiteness is property, how exactly do you plan on disappropriating white people short of mass murder? Contrary to your implications, there aren’t actually any legal privileges for being white: every advantage either comes from being raised in a somewhat-functional culture or from heritable traits like IQ and conscientiousness. I suppose that worsening the culture and deliberately giving people lead poisoning might work but that’s probably not what you’re thinking of.

      Another obvious question:

      Everything that is currently classified as White Privilege, from supposedly disproportionate academic success and wealth down to overrepresentation in government and underrepresentation in prison applies ten-fold more to the Jewish/Gentile gap as it does to the White/Black gap. So when are you going to start talking about Jewishness as property?

      You can twist yourself into pretzels trying to deny that the situations are analogous, but genocide is the inescapable conclusion of privilege theory. There is no way to equalize fundamentally unequal things except to destroy one or both of them.

      • Anonymous says:

        If Whiteness is property, how exactly do you plan on disappropriating white people short of mass murder?

        Mandatory miscegenation.

      • dndnrsn says:

        @Nabil ad Dajjal

        Those who like to use the term “whiteness” usually draw some kind of line between “being white” and “whiteness”; the latter being more of a social construct than the former (race is a social construct more tenously based in biology than many think, but “whiteness” is a social construct built around that social construct, making it doubly a social construct). This is my understanding, at least.

        Those who are intellectually honest and acting in good fith (ie who don’t strategically equivocate between the two, or speak vaguely so it isn’t clear, or just playing with words to get a better job in the faculty lounge/some HR department/whatever) will say that, if white is no longer taken to be good/normal/expected/unmarked/whatever, that’s “whiteness” over and done with.

        Historically, prior to colonialism and the trans-atlantic slave trade and this that and the other thing, Europeans didn’t really see themselves as “white” – they defaulted to “smaller” identities. You used to be far more likely to see people talk about “the English race”. There’s an interesting transitional period – where, for example, English people trying to describe India try to describe it by way of analogy to Europe (eg, there are descriptions of India as “ruled by priests” whose “priestcraft” is like that of the Catholics in France or wherever – they’re like Catholics, but moreso!).

        Let’s go with a dorky nerd analogy. Old-timey D&D had humans, with three or four classes (the thief/rogue was originally an optional thing, so there’s some trivia right there) and a few other races, which each amounted to a class: elves were kind of fighter/mages with some extra noticing-stuff ability, etc. Humans were able to be multiple things, each demihuman was just one thing – marked in a way humans weren’t. Then, later on, they made it so everyone could have a race and a class – this meant adding racial abilities which previously had been subsumed in the elf, etc “class” – humans got the ability to get to any level in any class (or, depending on how you look at it, were freed of level restrictions). Dual-classing vs multi-classing similarly separated humans from others. Then, 3rd ed, they did away with all that: no level restrictions, humans actually got “special abilities”, multi-classing for all, with non-humans having their multi-classing hampered a little more than humans. One could see this as humans being the default in the original version, and by 3rd ed, “humanness” is no longer the default. When people pissed and moaned that they wanted to play an elven fighter, or that dual-classing/multi-classing didn’t make a lick of sense, or that level caps were stupid, the designers changed it so that humans were just one of many races. They didn’t have to say “ok nobody gets to be a human any more.”

        However, once it hits the streets and the internet, and once it percolates out and becomes another factor in faculty politics or campus-activist politics, and so on, a lot of subtlety disappears. That’s not the fault of the concept.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I don’t for buy the argument “Whiteness is different from being white” for one second and neither should anyone else. It’s the same kind of nonsense as “love the sinner; hate the sin.” Their hate is impossible to ignore.

          That said, if the argument was to embrace more accurate ethnic identifications I would be all for it. I’m extremely proud of my German heritage and I don’t see much of any similarity between myself and Anglo-Saxons beyond a shared language. The problem is that the anti-racists still want me to pay reparations for things my ancestors and my ethnicity had no part in. If I’m going to be treated like shit for the actions of totally unrelated people centuries ago then those people’s descendants are natural allies.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, if these people actually believed this nonsense, they’d have enthusiastically embraced and celebrated Rachel Dolezal as one of their own. “Cultural appropriation” would be applauded rather than treated as an unpardonable sin.

          • Tenacious D says:

            German heritage … Anglo-Saxons

            Some deep-rooted similarities there, no?

            /pedantic

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nabil al Dajjal

            You can say “‘love the sinner, hate the sin'” is bogus, but still recognize that “love the sinner, hate the sin” is what they say, or say they’re saying. It’s different from if they were just straight up saying “hate the sinner, hate the sin.”

            Personally, I think it would be great if our society no longer saw white as the “default” and advanced to 3rd edition standards, to continue to use my analogy. That said, the subtlety gets lost and all that, and would-be rent-seekers are always ready to pop out of the woodwork.

            Saying “we should stop treating white as the default” is different from “we should have people pay reparations” – is support for reparations universal?

            @Matt M

            Except that they saw Dolezal as someone who had advanced her career – which, I can’t remember a lot of the specifics, but I remember getting that impression – by pretending to be something she’s not, and by extension, maybe got bennies that should have gone to people who actually were that.

          • Matt M says:

            Except that they saw Dolezal as someone who had advanced her career – which, I can’t remember a lot of the specifics, but I remember getting that impression – by pretending to be something she’s not, and by extension, maybe got bennies that should have gone to people who actually were that.

            Well, the very notion that people can advance their careers by claiming not to be white would sort of discredit this entire enterprise, would it not?

          • dndnrsn says:

            There are different bubbles. Being black might hurt someone overall, but give them a boost to employment or whatever if they’re within certain circles, certain contexts. This is one of the criticisms of affirmative action type programs: they help middle-class black people, but don’t do much to help poor black people.

            Ironically, I’ve seen some people (the only example I can come up with off the top of my head is Ozy, I think) say that in gender studies, being male can be a career boost – because most scholars in that field are not men, and they want to be able to say “look, we have men!” Who’d have thought that one of the places being male would help you was hiring in gender studies faculties?

          • Matt M says:

            Eh, I’d be willing to take an admission of “yes, being non-white provides a significant boost to one’s education and career prospects” from the types of people who criticize “whiteness” as a pretty big victory in the broader culture war.

            Because those are like, not trivial pieces of modern-day existence.

          • dndnrsn says:

            But which education and career prospects?

            You could, and probably do, have a situation where most black people take a hit in their educational prospects, but the ones who can go to university – remember, for the population as a whole, 20-30% people go to university, maybe including college, and it’s probably lower for black people – there’s an admissions boost. Which doesn’t help most black people, and may not even help those who get the admissions boost (google “mismatch theory”; it’s unproven, but it might be for real). To put it cynically, the Ivies etc want to be able to have black students so they can try to get people to overlook the question of “how much of that endowment, originally, came from the slave trade, eh?”

            You could, and probably do, have a situation where most black people are discriminated against in employment, but in getting an academic job, or in some government positions, there’s a boost – but that’s still a minority. Or, hell, a black woman who knows how to code – you telling me Google doesn’t want that so they can shout “see we’re not racist” to the rooftops (to be cynical again)? But most black people are not in the running for those jobs.

            What there is right now, in the US and elsewhere, is attempts to correct discrimination that benefit a minority of the members of groups discriminated against. They’re not doing a good job of reducing discrimination in general, it would appear.

          • The Nybbler says:

            What there is right now, in the US and elsewhere, is attempts to correct discrimination that benefit a minority of the members of groups discriminated against. They’re not doing a good job of reducing discrimination in general, it would appear.

            Because that battle was already won decades ago. Vanishingly little of the remaining differences in outcome are due to discrimination, and in fact many of those differences occur despite discrimination in favor of the less-successful group.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The Nybbler

            I think that statement requires a lot of proof. Didn’t Scott look at the numbers and conclude there were areas in the police/court system where black people were definitely discriminated against?

            Anecdotally, guys I know who don’t dress or act different than me – they dress preppy, not sketchy, and they’re not squirrelly (by which I mean the vibe that some people give off like they’re on drugs, having mental health issues, or just psyching themselves up to fight someone), but unlike me, they’re black. Middle-class, like me. They describe stuff – getting hassled by cops, store staff following them around, people crossing the street to avoid them – that I’ve never experienced, and I can’t think of any variable other than race that would have this make sense.

            For some reason, I remember a point made by, of all people, Mike Cernovich, before he went full alt-lite huckster. He basically said “imagine what it would be like to have to deal with the TSA as a normal part of life – that’s what it can be like for black guys.”

          • Except that they saw Dolezal as someone who had advanced her career – which, I can’t remember a lot of the specifics, but I remember getting that impression – by pretending to be something she’s not, and by extension, maybe got bennies that should have gone to people who actually were that.

            Also, for a more prominent case, the obvious complaint about Elizabeth Warren.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @dndnrsn

            I’m white. I’ve been twice arrested in the course of a traffic stop, and I’ve certainly been followed around in stores. I’m well aware that when the huge guy walks into your personal space and says “May I help you?” he’s not a salesman and he means “get the hell out of the store”. Can I present this as evidence of discrimination against white people? Of course not, because your prior of that is near-zero and your prior of discrimination against black people is near-one.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Saying “discrimination is over” is a big claim. Again, I point back to Scott’s article (I think we can safely assume Scott is not a left-wing activist kinda guy) in which he concludes

            There seems to be a strong racial bias in capital punishment and a moderate racial bias in sentence length and decision to jail.

            There is ambiguity over the level of racial bias, depending on whose studies you want to believe and how strictly you define “racial bias”, in police stops, police shootings in certain jurisdictions, and arrests for minor drug offenses.

            There seems to be little or no racial bias in arrests for serious violent crime, police shootings in most jurisdictions, prosecutions, or convictions.

            Overall I disagree with the City Journal claim that there is no evidence of racial bias in the justice system.

            My anecdotes, while proving nothing, to me raise the question – what’s the difference between me and these other guys? I don’t know anything about you, I don’t know the vibe you give off, so we can’t say “well, what’s a black guy who otherwise is pretty similar to you get treated like?”

          • The Nybbler says:

            Saying “discrimination is over” is a big claim.

            And I did not say that. I said “that battle was won decades ago”. The battle in question being “doing a good job of reducing discrimination in general”. To deny that is to deny that there has been significant reduction in discrimination (against black people) since the days of Jim Crow and before the various Civil Rights Acts. You can argue that there’s just as many racists-by-action around nowadays, doing their discriminatory thing whenever they think they can get away with it, but

            1) I think _that_ is the extraordinary claim.

            and

            2) Even if it were true, you would also need to show they get away with it nearly all the time.

            And yet the disparate outcomes remain. Discrimination has become a God of the Gaps; we can rarely find evidence of it, but we know it must be there. I reject that.

          • dndnrsn says:

            There certainly is less discrimination. But there still is discrimination. Moreover, the reduction in discrimination has been very uneven: it has not been across the board for all black people, regardless of class; it has primarily been for middle class and up black people.

            There are fewer people who are racist by action, but there are still people who are racist by… Let’s say omission, rather than commission. It also manifests less in terms of consciously held racial biases. There are plenty of people who don’t actually hold racist opinions – their opinions may be very woke, in fact – who behave like racists, in some ways.

            I think part of the issue can be blamed on people who ignore the impact of class. Ironically, many of these people think they are fighting the good fight – but given that the black people who have it the worst are poor black people. I’d attribute this at least in part to the way that a certain variety of left-wing politics has become the standard-issue politics in most of academia, with the converse being that academia has had increasing influence over left-wing politics. There are very few poor people present in academia, so, the interests of the poor (of whatever race) are not going to weigh very big. Even the interests of the lower-middle-class are not that represented.

            I think that’s the case in many social injustices: the attempts to remedy them have often primarily helped the members of those groups that are, relatively speaking, the best off.

          • Iain says:

            @David Friedman:

            Also, for a more prominent case, the obvious complaint about Elizabeth Warren.

            Oh, come on.

            We’ve been over this before. There is simply no evidence that Warren ever gained an advantage from claiming Native ancestry, and plenty of evidence to the contrary. (Do you think that the people on the hiring committee who said they had no idea of her ancestry were lying?) This is a dumb argument, and you diminish yourself by making it. You’re better than this.

          • albatross11 says:

            dndnrsn:

            How would we know whether your model of the world was accurate or not? What evidence would allow us to decide whether we live in a world where there is still substantial hidden discrimination, or one where there is very little hidden discrimination?

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            Isn’t this what you’d generally expect? Discrimination in favor of a race/gender/etc will generally benefit those with the background that lets them take advantage of opportunities, letting them make up for their lack of natural skill with smart maneuvering; while discrimination against a race/gender/etc will generally harm those without the acumen to get out of the way.

            In general, one of the main advantages of being from a higher class is knowing what’s what.

            That’s why I don’t believe in ‘positive discrimination’ because in practice it mainly seems to decrease social mobility even further, while distracting much of the left into thinking they are helping the poor when they surround themselves with (a bit) more ‘diversity.’

          • Aapje says:

            @Iain

            I think that Mr Friedman was referring to how Warren was/is seen by some, independently of whether that perception is true.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @albatross11

            Well, one place to start would be better-designed tests of that sort of thing. The IAT might be nonsense, and attempts to show discrimination in, say, renting or hiring are often poorly designed and have a lot of confounders – usually having to do with class.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje

            Well, if a system of positive discrimination is intended to help the black middle class – say, help the lower-middle class become middle-class, or the middle-middle class become upper-middle class – and it does that, well, it works. That may be a good policy objective. And, who knows, there may be an indirect effect – having a larger, better-off black middle class may help poor black people, indirectly.

            But is it sold as that? If a program that, by design or not, does that, but was sold as helping all black people, or as helping poor black people, directly… I think part of the issue here is that a lot of white people – well-meaning or not – tend to do what I was pointing at with my D&D analogy. They see “black people” as one unit, while they break down “white people” into poor, middle-class, rich, urban, rural, etc. It’s outgroup homogeneity bias, of sorts. It’s the same reason that a lot of white people will get nervous around black guys who are not remotely sketchy, when they’re able to differentiate sketchy vs un-sketchy white people.

            Of course, there are groups other than “white people” and “black people” so this is very simplified.

            Overall, though, I take exception to the idea that because, in some spheres, some black people (generally, the well-off ones) get some kind of preferential treatment of some sort (be it a university quota-type system, or a recruiter who knows that the tech industry is getting flak for being too white – which now apparently also includes Asians, for the purpose of the tech agency – and male) that this proves general, overall preferential treatment for black people. Further, this is the kind of place where people will say stuff like “the people on top being mostly male doesn’t help most men” – and I think this is a similar issue. That a black person with a computer engineering degree would be like candy to a Silicon valley recruiter doesn’t really mean much for most black people, etc.

          • There is simply no evidence that Warren ever gained an advantage from claiming Native ancestry, and plenty of evidence to the contrary.

            She listed herself as a minority on a database used by law schools in the hiring process, and the only basis ever offered for doing so was native American ancestry. Having been involved in the law school hiring process, I can assure you that being considered a minority candidate is an asset.

            Two universities she worked at described her as a native American. They got that belief somehow and obviously regarded it as a positive feature. Whether she would have been hired without that neither you or I (nor she) knows.

            I quote from the Snopes piece on the controversy:

            and it is true that while Warren was at U. Penn. Law School she put herself on the “Minority Law Teacher” list as Native American) in the faculty directory of the Association of American Law Schools, and that Harvard Law School at one time promoted Warren as a Native American faculty member.

            Snopes

            (Do you think that the people on the hiring committee who said they had no idea of her ancestry were lying?)

            I don’t know. Given that it was in the context of a political controversy, it would not be astonishing. And even if it did not come up when she was first hired by Harvard, the fact that Harvard believed her to be Native American would have been an asset thereafter.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            I don’t see how it can achieve the goals without decent inflow from the bottom. If people who currently control the left mainstream continue to ignore and even worsen the condition of the precariat, then at most they can increase the percentage of black middle and upper middle class a bit by stemming the outflow from the middle class to the lower class. I think this has little gain and high costs, as both the white and black lower class become resentful and may often blame it on racism against themselves.

            Negative attitudes against blacks have been decreasing for a long time, but they seem to be stagnating or even ticking up again. This data also suggests that 43% of black people believe that racial equality can never be achieved in the US, while 57% of whites think that discrimination against white people is as big a problem as discrimination against blacks.

            You treat this as a stable situation where a minor shift caused by these policies is a boon, but I see these policies as highly destabilizing (and not in the way that pro-black activists would like, except for the (tiny) ‘alt-black’).

            Quite a few topics have already become so polarized in the US that both sides assume bad faith all the time, resulting in stagnation. Stagnation is bad for progressives, obviously, so this seems like a bad strategy.

            That a black person with a computer engineering degree would be like candy to a Silicon valley recruiter doesn’t really mean much for most black people, etc.

            Exactly. The narrative that the nasty white Silicon Valley people are keeping out blacks is not going to achieve very much, except for making the left seem insane in the eyes of many on the right and the center, who notice that Asians are both not white and quite successful in the Valley.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje

            I’m not arguing for or against affirmative action policies or softer versions of that – let’s save that for another time. I’m arguing that specific cases where there’s discrimination in favour of black people don’t prove much regarding the big picture of what discrimination exists in the US right now.

          • JulieK says:

            If having a tiny bit of Native American ancestry did in fact help Elizabeth Warren get a position at Harvard, I think that Harvard is more blameworthy here than Warren. It says that when making a “diversity hire,” the main goal is simply to be able to say, “Look, we have a diverse faculty!” regardless of whether or not the new faculty member actually adds any cultural diversity to the campus experience.

          • Iain says:

            @JulieK:

            This is actually one of the main reasons that we can be confident that Warren’s claimed ancestry did not help her get a position at Harvard. If you compare Warren’s hiring announcement to the equivalent announcement for the first black woman to get tenure at Harvard Law three years later, it is obvious that Harvard didn’t know or care about Warren’s purported Native American roots. Nobody makes a diversity hire and then keeps it secret — that defeats the point.

          • it is obvious that Harvard didn’t know or care about Warren’s purported Native American roots.

            At most, that they didn’t care about them when she was first hired.

            Of 71 current Law School professors and assistant professors, 11 are women, five are black, one is Native American and one is Hispanic, said Mike Chmura, spokesperson for the Law School.

            Although the conventional wisdom among students and faculty is that the Law School faculty includes no minority women, Chmura said Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren is Native American.

            In response to criticism of the current administration, Chmura pointed to “good progress in recent years.”

            (Source)

        • Toby Bartels says:

          Those who like to use the term “whiteness” usually draw some kind of line between “being white” and “whiteness”; the latter being more of a social construct than the former (race is a social construct more tenously based in biology than many think, but “whiteness” is a social construct built around that social construct, making it doubly a social construct). This is my understanding, at least.

          So like the difference between sex and gender? It's as if one said ‘maleness’ for having a male gender and ‘being male’ for having a male sex? Although the actual term most analogous to ‘whiteness’ as the terms are actually used is probably ‘masculinity’.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think it’s still a bit different. Maleness, masculinity, isn’t the default to the same degree that whiteness, being white, is in our society. But, kinda. And this is my interpretation of what I’ve seen. I’m not a huge fan of social-studies, critical-studies type jargon; I’m not a fan of that whole worldview. But I do think that a world where you recognize that an elf can be a cleric is a good one, so to speak.

        • MB says:

          So sort of like the difference between “being pedantic” and “pedantry”? As in “there is nothing wrong with being pedantic, but pedantry is ridiculous and a terrible waste of time”.

          In other words, I think those who make such distinctions are being pedantic and are passive-aggressively attacking people who identify as “white”.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It’s critical studies type jargon/concepts. I think it’s gonna be alien to a lot of people here; it’s kind of alien to me. But my understanding is that “black” and “being black” are different from “blackness” and “white” and “being white” are different from “whiteness” when it’s used in that context.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @dndsrn:
            I can respect the fact that a different field from mine own has different jargon; but only up to a point.
            1). Do the separate concepts of “being X” vs. “X-ness” help us make more accurate predictions about anything, as opposed to just having the unified concept “X” ?
            2). Do most people, when they use those words, use them in the strict academic context — or do they just mean the unified concept “X” ?

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think it’s a rather poor (easily misunderstood, easily misunderstandable, too equivocable – if spellchecker tells me equivocable isn’t a word, well, it is now; language is a social construct) way to say “in a society that is majority, or even plurality, white, being white is taken as the norm in a way that increases stereotyping of everyone else, and has other detrimental effects.”

            Part of the problem is that it’s really easy to not use these words in a strict academic concept, and the cynical part of me thinks that’s part of the reason that the social-studies crew talk like that – they can get emotional punch and weight and put them into what otherwise would be sociological concepts. “A system of racial prejudice and discrimination” doesn’t have the same oomph as “racism.”

          • Robert Jones says:

            If somebody chooses (out of the infinite number of possible terms) to use two terms which are synonymous in natural language for distinct concepts, I have to conclude that that person does not care at all about clarity.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Robert Jones

            Yes, I think one can safely accuse that corner of social sciences academia of lacking clarity. One might even accuse them of having incentives to lack clarity. I know I do.

          • ilikekittycat says:

            @Robert Jones

            On the contrary. I think the philosophical style of “appending further explanation/definition to a natural language word that gets across most of the meaning” is much clearer (assuming a good-faith charitable read) than hammering out a new neologism or complicated jargon phrase wherever possible. Especially when you have to read it over and over again in the course of an essay

          • In my view, what is being represented here as the common language meaning of “racist” is already a distortion. A racist, to my ear, is someone who hates other people because of their race, is happy if bad things happen to them. Someone who merely believes that members of some other race are less intelligent or honest or hardworking than members of his race is racially prejudiced, not racist.

          • rlms says:

            That definition is at least as silly (in terms of distance from how the word is commonly used) as “racism = prejudice + power”. I expect that quite a lot, if not a majority, of Southern slave owners didn’t hate blacks, they just thought they were vastly inferior to whites. Were they not racist?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @ilikekittycat

            The issue is that in a lot of cases there’s a great deal of confusion – the word as colloquially used doesn’t convey well the new academic meaning, in several cases. The field of social sciences, or part of it, doesn’t appear to be averse to new jargon, tortured writing, etc, either, so appealing to crisp and trimmed-down writing doesn’t really fit.

          • Jiro says:

            The issue is that in a lot of cases there’s a great deal of confusion

            “There’s a lot of confusion” is sort of like “mistakes were made”–when it’s phrased that way you don’t have to say who created the confusion or made the mistakes.

            I would blame the confusion on the party who decided to use a word that is nearly a synonym for evil in a technical way that seems designed to create such confusion.

          • MB says:

            The most charitable interpretation I can think of is that “white” is the skin tone, whereas “whiteness” is a set of cultural norms and practices (identified by their opponents as being) most common among “white” people.
            Then, as soon as everyone is thoroughly reeducated and renounces these specific practices associated with “whiteness” (e.g. reading stories to children at bedtime), the opponents will declare victory through the “abolition of whiteness”.
            In this analysis, “whiteness” is a reincarnation of the older “bourgeois morality” and “middlebrow taste”. White leftists have been projecting their “revolutionary morality” and “avant-garde taste” on people with different skin tones for so long that this association has become thoroughly accepted in their circles. “Petty bourgeois” is passé, “whiteness” is the new and clever rhetorical trick.
            I’m not very charitable, am I.

        • gbdub says:

          Those who like to use the term “whiteness” usually draw some kind of line between “being white” and “whiteness”;

          Then they should pick another, less aggressive word for it. But I think they see the motte and bailey opportunities as a feature, not a bug.

          If “racism” is just a nebulous, structural thing that’s a pervasive subtext to our entire culture, fine – but then it makes no sense to label any particular person a “racist”, because the degree to which any individual can contribute to or detract from that culture is negligible.

          EDIT: I missed that Andrew covered my second point in a parenthetical in the OP. That said, while I appreciate his willingness to bite the bullet and admit that his framework precludes labeling racism as a personal failing, I don’t think that willingness is common.

          • dndnrsn says:

            As noted above, I think that corner of social sciences academia lacks clarity, often seemingly on purpose. The feeling I get is that they have an incentive to be unclear – in the case of “racism”, “white supremacy”, etc they can take a word with a colloquial meaning and a great deal of emotional punch, and then create an “official” definition that’s very easy to apply. When they apply it, they still get a bit of the colloquial meaning’s punch.

            I think this is confusing and honestly pretty sleazy at times. I’m not a fan of the softer social sciences. But if you strip off the obfuscatory language, use of terms that already have an emotionally charged colloquial meaning, and all that stuff, you do have some useful concepts. It’s just that, for a variety of reasons, the incentives in those areas of the social sciences reward obfuscatory language, that sort of posturing, etc over clear use of language. I’m sure if one searches, one could find journal articles about how the concept of “clear use of language” is itself problematic, etc.

          • The Nybbler says:

            But if you strip off the obfuscatory language, use of terms that already have an emotionally charged colloquial meaning, and all that stuff, you do have some useful concepts.

            There are some theories under all that. But their usefulness, I’d say, is disputable, and much of the point of all the rest of that stuff is to avoid those theories being put to the test.

        • Andrew Simpson says:

          Thank you and I endorse pretty much all of this.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          White:

          Words in general and charged words in particular are 95% self-reflections and 5% reflections of reality. I don’t try to construct my own definitions but infer meaning of words by how they’re used and the motives of the parties in question.

          Historically, I think white was more of an ingroup-outgroup identifier for which north-west Europeans were self-perceived as the center of gravity (With anglos dead center). Certain groups that are European but not northwest European might or might not be considered white depending on the circumstances. (Whether or not they ‘are’ is a complete misunderstanding.

          Americans with European heritage have traditionally used it as the ethnic term to describe themselves in contrast to blacks, amerindians, mestizos, etc. Owing to the fact that the distinctions (physical and otherwise) between various northwest european (NWE from now on for short) nationalities are relatively smaller.

          What happens naturally is that who you consider part of the out group depends on who you come into contact with and who you regard as a threat or not. ‘White’ has no meaning in a world where you only see and interact with people of european ancestry.

          WRT to the “Irish weren’t considered White” – It’s useful to address that here. Remember that the first naturalization acts [talking about the US here] restricted naturalization to free white men of good moral character, later on [some] exceptions were made for free blacks. the Irish had a presence in the US prior to the founding and continued throughout the 19th century. The massive increase in Irish presence in the US and the natural tendency of large ethnic minorities to cluster, to avoid assimilation, and to become ‘noticeable’ by the native population may have prompted some people to view the irish as outgroup and therefore not-white.

          In general The late 19th century saw the presence of large groups of non NWE whites, (poles, jews, russians, czechs, etc.) that were large enough to become distinguishable from the native population in a way that previous flows and types of immigrants did not. These groups (in contrast with the chinese who were barred) were not prevented from immigrating to the US but in the 1920s a national origins quota was established to preserve the NWE ethnic character of the US (probably too little too late)

          The NWE and non-NWE whites have largely intermarried into a more singular unit and can’t distinguish from each other as easily (physically, behaviorally, culturally). They’re also not as divided as they used to be about religious differences that were often geographically bounded (Catholic, Lutheran, anglican, etc.) — So when people use the Term white nowadays they either mean ‘European’ or ‘European Gentile’ (i.e. my fellow white people)

        • Mwncsc says:

          The D&D analogy has implications that I think would trouble the people arguing that they don’t want white to be the default in the same way that humans were in earlier editions of D&D.

          In 3rd edition, racial attributes include penalties to Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Some races are inherently more intelligent than others. If we think of classes as occupations, any race might pursue any class, but some will be better suited to certain classes than others by virtue of their innate abilities. If some races are better suited to certain classes, then there is potentially a best race for a given class, in the sense of complementing and optimizing the most useful abilities.

          Many later RPGs that include different races or species often take pains to ensure that racial differences involve very minor, often cosmetic abilities. Alternatively, the races may have different physical attributes, but no differences in cognitive ability.

          This might be taking the analogy too far, but seemed to be exactly the sort of problem people had with the racial allegory of Netflix’s Bright.

          • dndnrsn says:

            You’re bringing the deeper D&D analysis. I like. Obviously, the analogy isn’t perfect, since nobody seems to get any extra feats.

            (As an aside: anyone how would one set up a characteristics-rolling system to change the curve but still have outliers, eg, have there still be elves with 18 CON, but have the elf CON curve shift to the left of the human?)

          • Montfort says:

            @dndnrsn,
            The easy-but-unsatisfying answer is to roll percentile dice and consult a lookup table. Exploding dice will spread out the distribution of results, but I wouldn’t suggest actually using them.
            Maybe the best bet would be something ugly like 3d6 – 1d4 + 1 (and hard floor at 3, or reroll if under 3, depending on your taste). Needless to say, think twice before giving PCs a stat that skews low (whining and character rerolls will result).

          • Mwncsc says:

            @dndnrsn
            On the contrary, I’ve known some people who are both Persuasive and good Negotiators with little or no training. Likewise, many Olympians naturally have Athletic and Quick Reflexes, with Skill Focus from their class levels. I recall thinking some splatbook Feats merely gave a character the opportunity to perform a niche or cool action that seemingly anyone would be able to attempt.

            I’ve often seen it argued that Humans are the best race for virtually any class by virtue of their extra Feat, especially when you consider that their number and variety increased with every additional splat.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The d20 open license was the height of splatbookery, though in my heart no splatbook will ever replace the 2nd ed Elf book, the entire point of which was “elves are better than everyone else at everything“.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        “White” has always been arbitrary, and continues to be arbitrary. White is the follow on to “Anglo-Saxon”when you stop being able to claim “Anglo-Saxon” is synonymous with “superior and therefore more powerful”.

        • albatross11 says:

          So after that whole military defeat in 1066?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It doesn’t have to be scientifically accurate, just affixed in the popular mind. This is simply further affirmation that “white” is constructed, rather than endemic.

            Julian Carr’s speech at the dedication of “Silent Sam”:

            The present generation, I am persuaded, scarcely takes note of what the Confederate soldier meant to the welfare of the Anglo Saxon race during the four years immediately succeeding the war, when the facts are, that their courage and steadfastness saved the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South – When “the bottom rail was on top” all over the Southern states, and to-day, as a consequence the purest strain of the Anglo Saxon is to be found in the 13 Southern States – Praise God.

      • herbert herberson says:

        In legal circles, property is (properly, imo) recognized not as an objective thing, but rather as a bundle of rights and entitlements to state power.

        From that perspective, jw and your objections look pretty silly.

        • Andrew Simpson says:

          Right exactly. I got steeped in the law’s concept of property the same semester I read this paper. And then property and (American) racism both started to make a lot more conceptual sense to me.

      • rlms says:

        Contrary to your implications, there aren’t actually any legal privileges for being white: every advantage either comes from being raised in a somewhat-functional culture or from heritable traits like IQ and conscientiousness.

        You are badly misunderstanding/ignoring your opponents’ arguments. Anti-racist activists mention discrimination not infrequently.

      • every advantage either comes from being raised in a somewhat-functional culture or from heritable traits like IQ and conscientiousness.

        I think that’s an overstatement. Advantages might also come from statistical discrimination by other people.

        Consider a Hispanic vs a White, both living near the Mexican border. The Hispanic is much more likely to be hassled on the suspicion that he is an illegal immigrant, since almost all illegal immigrants there are Hispanic.

      • albatross11 says:

        The optimal solution is to basically hand out whiteness certificates to everyone. The best direction for race relations to go in the US is toward a society where everyone is effectively white–that is, nobody gets any extra kicking around for being black or hispanic or Asian or whatever, everyone gets the same treatment and the same rules, etc.

      • Andrew Simpson says:

        If Whiteness is property, how exactly do you plan on disappropriating white people short of mass murder?

        I say this to jw above, but getting rid of a club good doesn’t even kind of suggest killing all the people who are in the club. I get the sense that people are jumping to this because they’re reading other, loopier “anti-racism” rhetoric into Harris’s piece.

        Contrary to your implications, there aren’t actually any legal privileges for being white: every advantage either comes from being raised in a somewhat-functional culture or from heritable traits like IQ and conscientiousness.

        Every advantage? Interactions with the police? We may have a straight-up empirical disagreement here.

        Everything that is currently classified as White Privilege, from supposedly disproportionate academic success and wealth down to overrepresentation in government and underrepresentation in prison applies ten-fold more to the Jewish/Gentile gap as it does to the White/Black gap. So when are you going to start talking about Jewishness as property?

        I don’t see huge waves of gentiles rushing to convert to Judaism or to be perceived as Jewish because it’s the only way to get ahead. There are network benefits to belonging to all kinds of in-groups, but I am going to claim the ones that come with whiteness are especially systematic and pervasive and harmful, and that the ones that come with belonging to a persecuted but successful religious minority are not. At least in the US.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I say this to jw above, but getting rid of a club good doesn’t even kind of suggest killing all the people who are in the club.

          There isn’t any whiteness club. White Like Me is funny, but utterly fictional.

        • Matt M says:

          I don’t see huge waves of gentiles rushing to convert to Judaism or to be perceived as Jewish because it’s the only way to get ahead.

          Aside from Tim Whatley, I guess.

    • John Schilling says:

      Cheryl I. Harris, Whiteness as Property, 106 Harv. L. Rev. 1707 (1993). I read it as a first-year law student, while I was taking property, criminal law, and constitutional law, and it made each come alive for me in a special way.

      And here I thought libertarians took the prize for finding ways to twist everything into a property-rights framework :-)

      To be fair, it does offer an interesting perspective on the legal treatment of race, in the era where the white “race” was explicitly privileged under the law. But trying to relate it to race in the contemporary United States is an implausible stretch. Things like,

      “White workers often identify primarily as white rather than as workers because it is through their whiteness that they are afforded access to a host of public, private, and psychological benefits”,

      really need to be supported rather than just asserted. If you ask most people in the modern world to give an open-ended description of their identy, they are far more likely to mention their job than their race or ethnicity. Even in non-FtF interactions where their race isn’t apparent, or if they are of some ethnicity(*) like “Jewish” or “White Hispanic” which isn’t obvious from appearance. And where the benefit under debate is having a middle-class lifestyle with a house and two cars and reasonable financial security, I’m pretty sure “…because I have a good job at the factory/office and I work hard” is going to come in way ahead of “because I’m white”.

      Then we get to,

      “Affirmative action begins the essential work of rethinking rights, power, equality, race, and property from the perspective of those whose access to each of these has been limited by their oppression.”

      That discussion began a long, long time ago, and I’m pretty sure it began before affirmative action was a thing.

      So this reads to me as a discussion of the problems and issues of the past, and if it brings an interesting perspective to those problems then it is one that can’t help but carry the implication that those problems are history. Which isn’t entirely true, so if you want to discuss the problems that remain you’ll probably do better with a different framework.

      Also, as you note it doesn’t let you describe some people as Racists and other people as Not Racists, which makes it useless for most of what people seem to care about in the present.

      * Race and ethnicity being hopelessly intermingled, and if you tell me there’s a heirarchy where race is clearly more important than job but job is clearly more important than ethnicity I’m going to be very skeptical.

      • Randy M says:

        “White workers often identify primarily as white rather than as workers because it is through their whiteness that they are afforded access to a host of public, private, and psychological benefits”,

        really need to be supported rather than just asserted. If you ask most people in the modern world to give an open-ended description of their identy, they are far more likely to mention their job than their race or ethnicity.

        Hmm, random thought:
        White:English::Working Class:Carpenter ?

    • racism happens where we have a basis for expectations about consequences that follows from race alone.

      I think that’s too broad. Here are two expectations about consequences that follow from race alone:

      1. Someone of sub-saharan African ancestry who spends time in the sun in summer without adequate protection is less likely to get sunburned than someone of Scandinavian ancestry who does the same.

      2. Someone of sub-saharan African ancestry who lives in Sweden and does not take vitamin D supplements of some form is more likely to suffer from vitamin D deficiency than someone of of Scandinavian ancestry who does the same.

      I don’t think you would want to describe either of those as evidence of racism. Nor, I think, would you want to describe as sexism either the fact that women can get pregnant and men cannot or the fact that women have a longer life expectancy than men.

      But there is then a problem drawing lines. David Skarbek has a very interesting book on prison gangs. By his description each is, in effect, a non-geographical nation with the equivalent of a government and a population, and it is important for the functioning of the system that one can tell who is a member of which gang. That can be done with tattoos, but it is often, and perhaps more conveniently, done by visible characteristics of race. So if you are white you do not have the option of joining the black gang, and similarly in the other direction. The reason need not have anything to do with beliefs about race, merely the existence or non-existence of a convenient marker of membership. Does that qualify?

      Finally, does statistical discrimination qualify? Suppose you correctly believe that some characteristic is significantly more common in one racial population than another. You are recruiting for a job which depends on that characteristic, there are lots of candidates you could interview and interviewing is costly, so you preferentially choose people to interview in the population more likely to have that characteristic. The result fits your definition–do you want to call it racism?

      At a tangent to all of this, I’m bothered by the use of “racism” as the label for a phenomenon that, while real, doesn’t fit the moral and emotional connotations of the term. It feels like linguistic grade inflation, using a strong label for a much weaker related pattern in order to carry over the reactions appropriate to the former to the latter, for which those reactions are not appropriate.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Actually, a fairly high proportion of women can’t get pregnant, mostly due to age. It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s a third, heading towards a half as lifespans increase and birthrates go down.

      • Randy M says:

        At a tangent to all of this, I’m bothered by the use of “racism” as the label for a phenomenon that, while real, doesn’t fit the moral and emotional connotations of the term.

        That’s not a tangent, that’s a major point, since without the emotional/moral resonance inherent in acts like lynching or using the police to separate school children, the debate over whether someone has a slight advantage in applying for some positions has less urgency to it.

      • LewisT says:

        Nor, I think, would you want to describe as sexism either the fact that women can get pregnant and men cannot

        No, that’s transphobia.

        (sarcasm)

    • Robert Jones says:

      I’ve read the article. As you mention, it is very much grounded in a US context, both historically and legally. For instance, the author quite rightly notes that chattel slavery gives rise to a tension between the slave’s status as property and their status as a person: I think it might have been informative to consider how this tension was treated by other slave owning societies. Similarly, the question of whether something is property has a specific significance in US law because a person’s property is protected from confiscation without due process by the 5th and 14th amendments of the US Constitution.

      This, AIUI, led to the argument of the plaintiff’s counsel in Plessy that the plaintiff had been deprived of his property of whiteness contrary to the 14th amendment. The court did not accept that argument, and I am confused by Harris’ confusion on this point: quite clearly the 14th amendment does not protect a person’s racial identity.

      The law (including in the US) has always distinguished between personal (in personam) and proprietary (in rem) rights, i.e. between the rights which are vested in you as a person and the rights that you have by ownership of a certain (possibly intangible) thing. It is inherent in saying that someone has any sort of legal right that the right must be capable of vindication by a court. To say that something is a property right because it is recognised by the court seems to me to collapse all rights to property rights and therefore erases the distinction being made.

      That said, there is no disputing as to definitions. If Harris choses to define “property” in a very broad way, then, sure, whiteness is property. But that argument is purely semantic. It doesn’t tell us anything new about whiteness or race generally. This may go back to the point made by our host about “motte and bailey” arguments. I’m not sure that that particular term really nails the problem, but it does seem to me that there is something of a tendency in social justice discourse to expand definitions but then to equivocate with the original narrower definition. This could easily be avoided if people would just clearly and explicitly state their definitions at the outset.

      What certainly is true is that the property of being white (however defined) historically conferred certain practical and legal advantages in the US (and elsewhere). What is debateable (or at least debated) is whether the property of being white per se confers such advantages now and whether historical disadvantages justify or require present redress. This I think is the same as the argument about structural or systemic racism: that the history of oppression of black people by white people has given rise to structures/systems which advantage white people and disadvantage black people.

      Robinson says that scholars “speak of individual racism and systemic racism”, which seems to acknowledge that those are two things (and also seems quite similar to Scott’s point that in practice we use a combination of the definitions). It’s tempting to think that answers the original confusion (i.e. in “Social Justice and Words, Words, Words”): we all participate in systemic racism but only some people (like Donald Stirling) are individually racist, and all we need to do is be a bit clearer about which type of racism we’re referring to. But that doesn’t work because then we should all be able to agree that a black person can be individually racist against a white person, despite the fact that the former and not the latter suffers from systemic racism, which is the very point our host makes in III of SJ&WWW.

      That said, I do think that the taxonomy of definitions in “Against Murderism” is deficient in not addressing the historical context. I suspect that’s because Scott likes his definitions to be context independent, and I strongly sympathise with that view. Nevertheless, it seems like a failure to engage with the actual discourse of race theorists, which is very much historically contingent (the Harris article being a case in point).

    • Bugmaster says:

      People can own whiteness, rent whiteness, use it as capital, consume it, and sometimes you can even sue for a kind of trespass on your whiteness

      How would I accomplish some of these things ? For example, let’s say I wanted to use my whiteness as capital. As far as I understand, doing so would involve trading my whiteness for a share in some corporate venture. At the end of this deal, I will no longer have my whiteness, but I will own the share; the original owner of the share will now have my whiteness, instead.

      Mechanically speaking, how does this work ? Do I have to get a suntan and maintain it year-round ? Does the owner of the company in which I’m investing get a “certificate of whiteness”, which legally obligates everyone to treat him as white ? What if he was white already ? Or is the word “capital” being used metaphorically here; if so, what’s the point ?

      • Robert Jones says:

        I believe this is part of a trend towards talking about “human capital”. It makes a certain degree of sense from the point of view of a business. You make some profits and you can either distribute them to your shareholders or reinvest them in the business (capitalise them). You can invest your profits in capital goods as traditionally understood but you could also invest them in improving your workforce, by providing training or going on a recruitment drive, which can be understood as increasing the human capital of your business. This only goes so far though: your accountant isn’t going to agree to record your training budget as capital expenditure.

        It can get a bit silly when people talk about “personal capital” as including not only capital as conventionally understood but also individual capabilities, even when innate, i.e. absolutely anything which might possibly generate a return. In this sense talking about whiteness as capital merely asserts that white people have an economic advantage.

        • Bugmaster says:

          It looks like the answer to my last question is, “yes, the word ‘capital’ is indeed being used metaphorically”. But then, I have to ask my followup question again: what’s the point ?

          • jml says:

            Harris apparently considers certain non-transferrable things as property:

            “A medical or law degree is not alienable either in the market or by voluntary transfer. Nevertheless, it is included as property when dissolving a legal relationship.”

            As for what it means for something to be capital if you can’t really spend it, maybe the idea is that someone without whiteness would need to invest extra time/money to get something that someone with whiteness already has, and that affords the person with whiteness a certain kind of capital, in a sense?

          • Brad says:

            That’s true in NY. After it abolished most alimony, judges started using an equitable distribution theory to divide the value of a degree earned during the marriage, and even in one memorable case (Elkus v. Elkus, 169 AD2d 134 (1st Dept. 1991)) an opera singer’s voice.

      • Glen Raphael says:

        @Bugmaster:

        For example, let’s say I wanted to use my whiteness as capital. As far as I understand, doing so would involve trading my whiteness for a share in some corporate venture.

        I dunno about using whiteness as capital, but it has definitely been possible for some people to use blackness as capital. Given a regulatory environment in which the government favors “minority-owned businesses” and “female-owned businesses” for various contract opportunities, people who want to jump the queue to get, say, a broadcast license for a radio station, can often do so by finding a person who possesses an attribute such as “blackness” and giving that person a 51% share of the company for 6 months.

        These deals mostly go to people who are already celebrities, eg Magic Johnson. It’s rare that an utter nobody would find such a deal. (Or maybe we only hear about the deals involving celebs, because…celebs? Dunno.)

    • onyomi says:

      Though I’m generally skeptical of the usefulness (to say nothing of the feasibility) of “taboo-ing” certain words, I definitely think the word “racism” should now be taboo-ed from all truth or consensus-seeking discussion because:

      1. Everyone has to explain exactly what they mean every time they use it, meaning it serves no useful communicative function.

      2. It is the equivalent in the current discourse of “counter-revolutionary” in Cultural Revolution-era China. You may be able to offer precise, sensible definitions, but you can’t change the fact of it’s being used as a catch-all denunciation of any kind of wrong-think.

      • Matt M says:

        Agree and propose the addition of “sexual assault” for basically the same reasons.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Perhaps, but that’s going to make conversations uncomfortably explicit, especially if we taboo a four letter word for generic Canola as well.

      • Bugmaster says:

        I agree, but IMO any discussion regarding any kind of a culture war has to start with tabooing basically all the commonly used terms — because all of them have become little more than verbal weapons at this point.

      • Andrew Simpson says:

        I’m sympathetic to both points, but there are some very real and long-running harms behind the word, and I would like some kind of shorthand for describing them. The culture war poisons everything, but I still want to be able to talk about the underlying problem. Would you likewise taboo “whiteness?” What about just “white” or “black?”

        • onyomi says:

          “White” and “black” are pretty old and, so far as I can tell, still pretty neutral terms. “Whiteness,” on the other hand, like “person of color,” I find overwhelmingly tendentious in its usage and not particularly useful for productively referring to anything one couldn’t just as easily refer to with a more neutral term, like “white,” or “European ancestry,” or something (and “black,” “Hispanic,” “Asian,” “African American*,” or whatever, instead of “PoC”–my problem with that term being that it implicitly singles out one group by its non-inclusion; I think Jews would have reason to be suspicious of anyone frequently employing the terms “Gentile” and “Jewishness” for similar reasons).

          *I still remember when we made the shift from calling black people “black” to needing to say “African American” to sound enlightened (I do know some who prefer “Afro-American” to emphasize the “American” part). I wonder if that was the first death knell of the “melting pot” dream of cultural diversity? The day people (white or otherwise) start calling white Americans “European Americans” might be its last?

          • LewisT says:

            Interestingly, we seem to have regressed on this point. A century ago, most progressives (Republicans and Democrats alike) were opposed to so-called “hyphenated Americanism.” During WWI, Teddy Roosevelt became one of its most vocal opponents:

            The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic … There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.

            If you replace “German-Americans,” “Irish-Americans,” etc., with “African Americans,” “Hispanics,” etc.; and eliminate the concern about foreign sympathies, this could almost have been written today.

          • onyomi says:

            Good point; I am not old enough to remember when the different European identities making up white America were a big deal; though I am not a huge TR fan, I think he’s right here: insofar as America is to be a coherent culture and successful democracy (I think the former may be a prerequisite for the latter), any kind of “hyphenated Americans” trend is a detriment to that goal.

          • Iain says:

            This is compelling as rhetoric, but I think it is empirically false.

            Canada is more open to hyphen-Canadians than our neighbours to the south. We also have less tension about immigration and multiculturalism: for example, our conservatives compete for immigrant votes just as much as the other parties. To be clear, I’m not claiming a causal link: as dndnrsn likes to point out, Canada’s geographical location lets us pick and choose who gets in. But at the very least it seems clear that hyphenation is not actively detrimental.

            Indeed, I think it helps with integration. If you can be considered fully Canadian while maintaining a connection to your ancestral culture, it lowers the stakes, with less of a feeling that you have to choose between your family and your country.

          • dndnrsn says:

            There’s an argument that multiculturalism helped Canadian national unity by taking pressure off Anglo vs French Canadian tensions.

          • onyomi says:

            Canada is more open to hyphen-Canadians than our neighbours to the south. We also have less tension about immigration and multiculturalism

            I don’t know about TR’s times, but tension in the US today is primarily along racial, not ethnic lines. There is no tension in the US today between white Americans of Italian and German descent. Canada is not very racially diverse compared to the US so I don’t think it proves much that the majority white population is able to live harmoniously with small numbers of culturally diverse non-whites or even large numbers of culturally diverse whites. When Canada is able to take in large numbers of non-white immigrants without tensions flaring, then I’ll be impressed.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @onyomi

            Canada was 72.9% white in 2016; the US was 73.6% in 2015. “White” in the US Census data includes people who by the Canadian data wouldn’t be considered “white” but unless the numbers of those groups was quite large, I don’t see much evidence for your statement that Canada has significantly fewer people who aren’t white than the US.

          • John Schilling says:

            There is no tension in the US today between white Americans of Italian and German descent.

            What about white Americans of Mexican descent?

            Tension in the US today is along both racial and ethnic lines, because Americans mostly treat “race” and “ethnicity” as synonyms.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Plus, by US Census definitions, Hispanic is a cultural category – one is either a Hispanic or a non-Hispanic person belonging to some other category. But colloquially it is treated as a racial category.

          • Iain says:

            When Canada is able to take in large numbers of non-white immigrants without tensions flaring, then I’ll be impressed.

            To add to what dndnrsn has already said: according to the 2016 census, more than 50% of the population of Toronto, Canada’s largest city, is non-white. This is about as relevant to local politics as it would be if, say, more than 50% of voters were Catholic — it affects how you tailor your message, sure, but it’s not a significant issue in its own right.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Toronto is a good example. It’s not a city marked by ethnic strife. Rob Ford – who gets compared to Donald Trump, or rather, Trump to Rob Ford perhaps – won with a vastly more diverse voter coalition than Trump did.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @dndnrsn

            but unless the numbers of those groups was quite large

            They are. Hispanic white is around 10%; there’s a little bit for middle-eastern and North Africa.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Is, say, 60% vs a bit over 70% a huge difference, though?

          • onyomi says:

            I am interested to learn that the demographics of Canada have changed faster than I thought. I do think it makes a difference that Canada has more immigrants from e.g. China, who historically do pretty well wherever you transplant them, but I am more curious to learn how this works out on the political level.

            For example, when it comes to e.g. mayoral elections in Toronto, how does that play out at the coalition level and do the final results, in the form of city government seem functional, as opposed to a bunch of sops to various groups? Is there any sense that everyone shares some kind of “core” Canadian values despite their identity as “hyphenated Canadians”?

            Since I have never been to Toronto I am also curious how this works out at the neighborhood level: are there neighborhoods where e.g. white people would be afraid to go at night?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @onyomi:

            With regard to safety in Toronto, it depends who you ask. General consensus is that there seems to be there’s a few rough-ish areas, but if you’re not doing anything really reckless you’re fine. This is the same as most Canadian cities. Canada doesn’t really have cities with significant pockets of “don’t go there” or entire cities that are like that with pockets of “OK”, to anywhere the degree the US does. Winnipeg is kinda dicey though, I hear.

            With regard to city politics, the real divide in Toronto is the inner suburbs versus the city core. Megacity saw a bunch of municipalities combined together. The suburbs don’t like being taxed for services they don’t get to the same extent as the urban core, while the urban core doesn’t like the sense that the suburbs get a say in how the urban core is managed. Sops to ethnic and cultural groups tend to be fairly piddling; the real sops are stuff like badly-planned public transit expansions out into the suburbs. So it’s geographically-based politics more than ethnic/cultural politics. The inner suburbs elected Rob Ford, who ran on a platform of “respect for taxpayers” and “stopping the gravy train.” The city government is less functional than it could be.

            On a federal and provincial level, the Conservatives are much stronger in the outer suburbs than they are in the urban core – in the urban core, the contest is mostly Liberal vs NDP. The 2015 election results are a bit deceiving, because the Liberals did really well – going from third place (a pretty bad defeat, historically) to a majority government. Also, bear in mind that with 3 major parties and first past the post, it’s the norm for a riding to be won by a plurality.

            “Core Canadian values” include fretting about what constitutes “core Canadian values” and whether it’s OK to have “core Canadian values”, and also a sense of smugness over anything we do better than the US. And Tim Hortons.

        • albatross11 says:

          The problem with “racist” in normal practice (not racial theorists, just random people) is that it might mean any of several incompatible things. For example, if someone decries the US criminal justice system as racist, do they mean:

          a. The system is full of whites who hate blacks or want to keep them down for political/social reasons, and so those whites conspire to put lots of blacks in prison?

          b. The system is biased against blacks in some way that leads to worse treatment for blacks than for whites doing the same thing, not primarily because of intentions but rather because of some other stuff built into the system? (For example, if urban police departments in mostly-black areas tend to be harsher or more corrupt, or if mostly-black jurisdictions tend to have fewer resources for public defenders and the like, you might see blacks getting worse treatment even without anyone trying to get to that outcome.)

          c. The system is racist in the sense that it disproportionately locks up blacks, regardless of the reasons or whether or not that represents equal outcomes for equal behavior?

          This is a reasonably common thing to read or hear in a political discussion, and its meaning is unclear in ways that matter a lot for trying to decide how to respond. If blacks are disproportionately in prison because of policemen and judges and prosecutors who hate blacks, then we need to get rid of those people and put people in who will treat everyone equally. If blacks are disproportionately in prison because of where most blacks live or having a lower average family wealth, that’s a different kind of problem, and the solutions would look very different. If blacks are disproportionately in prison because they are committing crimes at a much higher per capita rate than whites, that leads to still another set of possible solutions.

          If you can’t decide which of those you mean, you can’t even start thinking clearly about the problem.

      • albatross11 says:

        This is pretty much the situation in which a word should be tabooed in a discussion, right? Basically we notice a pattern wherein some word either:

        a. Has multiple shifting/unclear meanings so that when you use it, your disagreements end up being about the definition as often as about any actual material disagreement. Sometimes people use those shifting definitions to win arguments, but probably at least as often the shifting definitions lead to ambiguity in the minds of the arguers.

        • albatross11 says:

          (Apparently we can’t edit anymore, and I managed to double-post. Great.)

          b. The word has enough emotional/moral weight that it becomes very difficult to think in its presence.

          Like, if I want to discuss the idea that by growing in the US in the 20th century, you probably absorbed some unconscious attitudes w.r.t. race that you wouldn’t accept if you thought them through, and I start using the word “racism” for that, then we’re probably going to spend all day arguing past each other because we don’t mean the same thing with the word, or arguing because I’ve just told you you’re a racist which in your mind maps to “horrible asshole who wants to mistreat members of other races.” So in that discussion, I’d be better off tabooing the word “racist” and trying to use some other word to get the idea across.

          • Brad says:

            > This is pretty much the situation in which a word should be tabooed in a discussion, right?

            Probably. But I can’t help but see based on the posts above that there insistence on tabooing the phrase is an attempt by one side of an ideological debate to win policy goals outright. For many of the above posters, widespread tabooing of the word racist, especially without anything much to replace it, would in and of itself be considered a victory, because they are very hot and bothered about being called racists.

            In a larger sense, I don’t think the conversation between the sociologists of race and whatever-you-want-to-call the dominant position on race here is the kind of truth seeking discussion that the concept of tabooing was developed in the context of. The two groups don’t seem to have any much of if any mutual respect on which discussion can be based.

          • Matt M says:

            “Don’t call me racist” is not the only, or even the main, policy goal that red tribe seeks.

            I fail to see how a taboo on the word racist would inevitably result in, say, the elimination of all affirmative action programs.

          • albatross11 says:

            Brad:

            I’m not saying we should eliminate the concepts described by racism, I’m saying we should stop using “racism” as a shorthand for seventeen incompatible definitions in conversations, because we can’t seem to get anywhere having those conversations because we get hung up on the definitions or the emotional connections of the words. Add new terms as needed to cover the different concepts.

            I think for just about any racial issue in the US, the multiple incompatible definitions of racism make it harder to think straight about the issue. And one result of that is that it’s harder to get to any kind of solution.

          • albatross11 says:

            Matt:

            On the other hand, if you can define any open discussion of IQ differences by race as racist and thus morally / politically out of bounds, you can basically make any kind of sensible discussion of affirmative action policies impossible.

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            But I can’t help but see based on the posts above that there insistence on tabooing the phrase is an attempt by one side of an ideological debate to win policy goals outright.

            If a group can only win by using a slur, but not using rational argument, then this presumably means that they can only win by invoking falsehood and probably, by oppression.

            Doesn’t that group then deserve to lose (or more realistically: be forced to come up with more reasonably claims and demands)?

          • Brad says:

            @albatross11

            I think for just about any racial issue in the US, the multiple incompatible definitions of racism make it harder to think straight about the issue. And one result of that is that it’s harder to get to any kind of solution.

            My point, and isn’t especially nice but I think it is necessary and true, is that I don’t think the Matt Ms of the world are trying in good faith to get any kind of solution. They don’t even see a problem, well they do but it is the exact opposite of the problem that the people they are critiquing see. In such a situation there’s no reason to change the jargon that’s working for the people that actually in productive dialog with each other.

            It’d be like saying that the Catholic Church should taboo transubstantiation because Sanskrit doesn’t have any similar word and so it is getting in the way of Catholic-Hindu dialog. But there is no meaningful Catholic-Hindu dialog, so why bother?

            @Matt M

            “Don’t call me racist” is not the only, or even the main, policy goal that red tribe seeks.

            You listen to country music, go to church regularly, watch NASCAR, and drive a pickup truck? Why are you talking about the red tribe?

            @Aapje

            If a group can only win by using a slur,

            I reject your premise.

          • Matt M says:

            You know Brad, there’s a lot of people here who aren’t me that also think this is a good idea. It wasn’t even my idea in the first place.

            And as far as suggesting that I’m not red tribe enough, well, that may be true, but I highly doubt red tribe proper really cares about your opinion on the subject. Just in case you’re really interested in learning more about me, I grew up on country music (going tonight to a country concert at a rodeo no less!). Learned to drive in my dad’s pickup truck. Dabbled in both NASCAR and religion but neither of them really stuck.

          • Brad says:

            I’m sure the red tribe proper doesn’t care about my opinion on this subject. I’m also sure they don’t care about what words sociologists of race use. I don’t know why you brought them up in the first place. My guess was as some kind of self-aggrandizing attempt to speak for a larger group.

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            I reject your premise.

            I assumed that you would be able to understand that my argument doesn’t actually assume that as a premise. Let me write it out a bit more:

            If one can win by using a word that has strong negative valence, but not by using rational argument, then it is the valence that makes one win, not reason.

            If one can win by using reason, then one doesn’t have to use the word that has strong negative valence, so then it is reasonable to taboo the word, no?

            So my argument is not based on the premise that one or the other have to be true, it is an argument that covers all possibilities.

            Unless you believe there is a flaw in my argument, in which case it would do better to point it out, rather than make a weird rebuttal that suggests that you fail to understand my argument.

          • onyomi says:

            @Brad

            there’s no reason to change the jargon that’s working for the people that actually in productive dialog with each other.

            Who is currently in productive (“mistake theory”) dialogue about the word “racism” today? And even if sociology departments are able to hold productive discussion with anthropology departments about “racism,” is it not also a concern that Blue America can’t productively discuss “racism” with Red America?

            Re. the “transubstantiation” example, a closer analogy would be you have a bunch of Catholics and Hindus all living in the same country and the Catholics are always telling the Hindus how “sinful” they’re being. The Hindus say “hey wait a minute, based on the definition I heard you give of sin last week this thing I just did is not sinful, so stop calling me a sinner.” Catholics respond “look, I don’t know what you Hindus’ problem is: we Catholics have been having all kinds of productive, nuanced discussions about sin for centuries and we totally don’t find it ambiguous.” In such a case, if the Catholics actually care about living harmoniously with the Hindus, as opposed simply to cowing them into feeling bad, they would probably do to come up with some new ways of categorizing and explaining “sin” that make sense to Hindus, even if those didn’t seem necessary when talking among only Catholics.

          • Brad says:

            @onyomi

            Who is currently in productive (“mistake theory”) dialogue about the word “racism” today? And even if sociology departments are able to hold productive discussion with anthropology departments about “racism,” is it not also a concern that Blue America can’t productively discuss “racism” with Red America?

            I think you are extrapolating inappropriately. It’s no doubt frustrating when Scott talks to someone, he hears racist, and he doesn’t know if the colloquial or academic definition is meant. But isn’t a problem at the level of “blue tribe” and “red tribe”. Overwhelming majorities of all political persuasions mean the colloquial definitions when they say racist. When my left wing but not especially thoughtful coworker says Trump supporters are racist he means bigoted against black people or Hispanics, not embedded in a racist power structure. (BTW he would think most of the people in against murderism would qualify and are actually monsters). So in that sense most of the two tribes are speaking the same language, they just don’t agree with each other on the facts.

            In terms of productive dialog, the systematic racism folks are currently trying—not especially successfully—to make inroads in the left of center mass of the country. The problem isn’t the word racism. It’s easy enough to deal with a word with multiple meanings and even non Christians are familiar with the notions of “we are all sinners” which means that being called a sinner isn’t necessarily an attack. No, the issue is that the sociologists of race just haven’t convinced very many people yet. When someone writes a book “why I don’t talk about race” she isn’t frustrated with having too conversations with people like Matt M. She frustrated from talking to people on the left that haven’t accepted the systematic racism paradigm, like that coworker. That’s where the at least potentially productive conversation are going on.

            There’s no point in making accommodations in that conversational space for the kind of far right views on race that populate the SSC comment section. They aren’t part of the conversation and they aren’t ever going to be part of the conversation. Scott could be, but not Sailerites.

            Going back to the first point, if the blue tribe is eventually converted over than there is going to have to be some kind of new shared vocabulary worked out to talk to the red tribe. And that may end up not being the jargon used by the academic sociologist, who will long since lost control of their ideas. But that’s well down the road, if ever, and in any event no accommodation will ever need to be made with the gray tribe because it is and will stay too small to matter.

          • keranih says:

            There’s no point in making accommodations in that conversational space for the kind of far right views on race that populate the SSC comment section. They aren’t part of the conversation and they aren’t ever going to be part of the conversation.

            Good to know.

          • Brad says:

            I stand by that. I don’t see any point in engaging with the “race realists”, sailerites, white nationalists, or so on, and as a predictive matter I don’t expect them to be within the Overton window in the mainstream blue or red tribe within my lifetime.

          • keranih says:

            If I was willing to talk to you – because after a statement like that, I’m not – I would point out that the issue isn’t deciding to exclude people with perspectives and viewpoints so far out of your own world view that you can’t actually hold a conversations with them.

            The problem is how 1) you don’t limit your exclusions to the far outsiders, 2) you also refuse to exchange ideas with near outgroups, and 3) you keep redefining near group as far outsiders.

            But all that’s beside the point. You’ve made your choice, and placed your bets.

          • Jiro says:

            For many of the above posters, widespread tabooing of the word racist, especially without anything much to replace it, would in and of itself be considered a victory, because they are very hot and bothered about being called racists.

            The whole reason you’re being asked to taboo the word is that it’s being abused. If it’s being abused, there’s someone whom it’s being abused against.

            I suppose you could call that a victory, but a victory over not being abused isn’t the same thing as a victory in which you win an argument. (A nontrivial one, anyway. Of course you can argue about whether it’s okay to abuse words.)

          • Brad says:

            Is that apophasis? I think that’s apophasis.

            The whole reason you’re being asked to taboo the word is that it’s being abused. If it’s being abused, there’s someone whom it’s being abused against.

            The original conception of tabooing wasn’t about words being abused against anyone (nice question begging btw) and wanting to stop that, it was about debates over definitions getting in the way of mutual understanding.

            MD5: b06298a2eedfe5aa42945b15a18a869d

          • BBA says:

            @Brad

            They aren’t part of the conversation and they aren’t ever going to be part of the conversation.

            I wish I shared your optimism. (Otherwise agreed.)

          • I don’t see any point in engaging with the “race realists”, …

            If I correctly understand your terminology—perhaps I don’t—a race realist is someone who believes that the distribution of abilities differs significantly from one race to another—for instance that the average IQ of sub-Saharan Africans is lower than that of Europeans and of East Asians higher.

            If so, it is a defensible claim and might well be true. Is what you are saying that you are certain that it is false, that if it is true you don’t want to know it so would prefer to avoid arguments that might persuade you of it, that you think it might well be true but don’t want other people to believe it and so want to keep the argument from being heard, or some other alternative that has not occurred to me?

          • Brad says:

            @DavidFriedman

            If I correctly understand your terminology—perhaps I don’t—a race realist is someone who believes …

            No, a race realist is someone that identifies as a race realist. Taking every opportunity to quote, echo, or link with approval prominent writers that themselves identify as race realists is decent evidence that someone is at least a crypto-race realist. Like neo-nazi I don’t think it is something you can accidentally stumble into.

            People have all kinds of beliefs on all kinds of subjects. How someone chooses to identify and what beliefs he chooses to talk about is a much better way of drawing categories than on the basis of possibly inchoate beliefs.

          • @Brad:

            So you define “race realist” as someone who calls himself a race realist and associates with other people who call themselves that.

            Does it matter to you whether what they believe is true?

          • Brad says:

            @DavidFriedman
            Is self identification circular? If so, is that a bad thing?

            What’s wrong with defining Nazis as: 1) people that call themselves Nazis and 2) people that going around all the time quoting Mein Kampf and have a curious passion for knee-high leather boots?

            That definition seems far preferable to me than one popular contemporary one which is basically “someone I don’t like”.

            Does it matter to you whether what they believe is true?

            Which beliefs? The benefit of this definition is that it is resistant to the motte and bailey tactic. It captures all the characteristics of the group that chooses to so-identify, not just the most innocuous, defensible, narrowly drawn version that might be trotted out in front of unfriendly audiences.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            So, what’s the status of people who hold “the kind of far right views on race that populate the SSC comment section” but don’t choose to identify as race realists? In the conversation, or out?

          • What’s wrong with defining Nazis as: 1) people that call themselves Nazis and 2) people that going around all the time quoting Mein Kampf and have a curious passion for knee-high leather boots?

            What’s wrong is that it includes Hitler fanboys whose picture of what they admire is wildly wrong, hence wouldn’t support actual Nazi policies, and excludes people whose views are essentially the same as those of the Nazis but who have the sense to realize that calling themselves Nazis will make people less willing to accept those views.

            What was wrong with the real Nazis wasn’t what kind of boots they wore, it was what they believed and did. The lesson we should draw is suspicion of people with similar views, not people with similar dress.

            That definition seems far preferable to me than one popular contemporary one which is basically “someone I don’t like”.

            That is damning with faint praise. It’s also better than defining Nazis as men with mustaches.

            It captures all the characteristics of the group that chooses to so-identify, not just the most innocuous, defensible, narrowly drawn version that might be trotted out in front of unfriendly audiences.

            You are saying that the two important characteristics of Race Realists are that they call themselves race realists and associate with other people who call themselves that? Nothing to do with the views that label represents?

            That is, pardon the expression, crazy.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I am frankly more amazed that Brad has spoken out many times against painting certain (left-wing) groups with a broad brush & for making this space less hospitable to them and now advocates for the opposite for other (right-wing) groups.

            Regardless of whether it is useful to ignore race realist arguments, rather than address them, I would argue that Brad has now completely jumped the shark with his hypocrisy.

          • Brad says:

            I would argue that Brad has now completely jumped the shark with his hypocrisy.

            Feel free to quit responding already, since I have zero interest in reading endless numbers of sanctimonious, bad faith posts from the Dutch alt right.

          • rlms says:

            And people think the lack of left-wing SSC commenters is a mystery…

          • Brad says:

            @DavidFriedman

            What’s wrong is that it includes Hitler fanboys whose picture of what they admire is wildly wrong, hence wouldn’t support actual Nazi policies, and excludes people whose views are essentially the same as those of the Nazis but who have the sense to realize that calling themselves Nazis will make people less willing to accept those views.

            As far as the former go, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, I’m content to call it a duck even if that might capture some animals that are just really into cosplay.

            In terms of the latter, you’ll notice that my list is not exclusive to “race realists” (N.B. the scare quotes were there in the original). I also mentioned Sailerites, white nationalists, and etc.

            That said, I don’t think beliefs, standing by itself, is nearly as important as you make it out to be. Someone that believes that Jews are a menace that ought to eliminated is not a big worry if he never says or does anything on the basis of these beliefs.

            Since it seems to be your underlying question, I’ll just go ahead an answer it–I do think that spending a lot of time talking about racial IQ differences is Bayesian evidence (evidence, not proof) of racism in the animus sense. Whether or not it turns out to be true, doesn’t make a difference to the question of whether or not that correlation (i.e. between enthusiasts of racial IQ differences and animus racists) exists today.

          • Barely matters says:

            @rlms Because they (The ones that post frequently) can’t hack it with actual discussion and descend into personal attacks frequently and without consequence? This is embarrassing.

            Seriously Brad, I want to agree with you here, but you’re fulfilling so many straw lefty stereotypes that I wish you wouldn’t. That you keep doing this and getting away with it is starting to really highlight the special treatment we’re getting because Scott is worried other leftists will come after him. Even if you can’t be civil, can you at least be less proud about being completely unwilling to engage with people who disagree?

          • quanta413 says:

            And people think the lack of left-wing SSC commenters is a mystery…

            There isn’t a lack of left-wing commenters. It’s just a space where the left isn’t a majority.

            Unless by “left”, you mean socialists of the old-school variety. And yeah, there aren’t many of those, but they got ejected from most “left-wing” spaces too.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m gonna agree with Brad here. This is a place where we talk a lot about people’s consciously hidden or subconsciously self-deceptive motives: let’s consider that someone promoting “race realism” or whatever may not, in fact, be driven entirely by a pure-as-the-driven-snow dedication to The Truth?

            @Barely Matters

            Having some liberals, not leftists, post here, isn’t some kind of protective talisman. The sort of pseudo-leftists Scott is worried about will come after each other, after liberals, after actual leftists. Being a party member in good standing won’t help. The idea that Scott tolerates more from people who are, I must reiterate, centre-left, because that’s some kind of protection, is thus odd. Brad is a high-quality poster who can get a little bit snippy sometimes, but there are plenty of high-quality posters here who can get a little bit snippy sometimes. Anyway, it’s supposed to be 2 of true, necessary, kind, not 3.

            EDIT: @quanta413

            There’s a few actual socialists here. Honestly, actual socialists are probably overrepresented among the left here versus their prevalence in the left overall.

          • albatross11 says:

            Brad:

            What if I’m less interested in who’s on which side than I am in who has a better model of reality, and so can make better predictions about how various proposed policies will work out, or can propose new policies that are more likely to work out well? In that case, it seems like I should prefer people who express beliefs about reality that are correct, regardless of whose tribe those beliefs support.

            If you want to decide who hates blacks, yes, people talking all the time about the black/white IQ gap probably have a disproportionate number of members who also hate blacks. And yet, if you want to find someone to make a good prediction about how, say, the No Child Left Behind program was going to work out, or to make an accurate prediction of how it would work out to set aside 1/8 of the positions in the math olympiad for blacks (and some much smaller fraction for Asians), then you should also look for people who know what the IQ statistics look like for those groups.

            Similarly, if you want to figure out who secretly hates America, finding the ones who predict that our next glorious invasion and occupation in the Middle East will turn into a bloody, expensive boondoggle that never ends is probably a pretty good way to do it–among those who say such things, a disproportionate number will be secret America haters. But they’re probably also the ones with the most accurate predictions, too.

          • Iain says:

            As far as the former go, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, I’m content to call it a duck even if that might capture some animals that are just really into cosplay.

            This really should have been “walks like a goose”, and I am upset that you missed out on such a clear opportunity.

            PS: While I’m sure most of us have a mental list of people who are not worth engaging with, I am unconvinced that making those opinions explicit is either kind or necessary.

          • JulieK says:

            What’s wrong with defining Nazis as: 1) people that call themselves Nazis and …

            What’s wrong is that it if someone is wondering, “Why does everyone agree (modern-day) Nazis are monsters?” it does nothing to answer their question.

            This reminds me of the time shortly after I came to study in Israel that I asked someone to explain to me the difference between the national-religious and ultra-orthodox and he told me that in one group the men wear knitted kipas and in the other, black hats. The problem with is definition is not that it was inaccurate (it wasn’t) but that it didn’t tell me what I wanted to know, namely why is this distinction so important in Israeli society?

          • rlms says:

            @dndnrsn

            There’s a few actual socialists here.

            Name three. Possibly you could if you looked through a few previous threads, but I certainly couldn’t come up with three off the top of my head, or from posters in this OT. I think it might be easier to find commenters who are members of David Friedman’s immediate family than ones who think nationalising industries is a positively good idea (or ones who identify as part of the feminist movement).

          • Brad says:

            @albatross11

            I’ll admit that I mixed positive and normative claims together, but I think positive claims predominate.

            I’ve claimed:

            – The two groups [sociologists of race and whatever-you-want-to-call the dominant position on race here] don’t seem to have any much of if any mutual respect on which discussion can be based.

            – there’s no reason to change the jargon that’s working for the people that actually in productive dialog with each other

            – In terms of productive dialog, the systematic racism folks are currently trying—not especially successfully—to make inroads in the left of center mass of the country. The problem isn’t the word racism. … No, the issue is that the sociologists of race just haven’t convinced very many people yet.

            – There’s no point in making accommodations in that conversational space for the kind of far right views on race that populate the SSC comment section. They aren’t part of the conversation and they aren’t ever going to be part of the conversation. Scott could be, but not Sailerites.

            – no accommodation will ever need to be made with the gray tribe because it is and will stay too small to matter.

            This, I think, is a coherent argument rooted in positive claims. Boiled down: that the debate right now is between advocates for the concept structural racism and the larger left and center left in the United States. That this debate would not be more productive for anyone by the inclusion of whatever-you-want-to-call the people bearing population IQ studies. And further, I predict that the latter group will never become large or influential enough that they will need to be reckoned with. On the other hand what we call the “red tribe” will need to be brought on board if it is ever to become a national consensus, but doing so now is premature, because they haven’t even convinced the blue tribe yet.

            I think(!) you are pushing back on “would not be more productive” by advancing the idea that if they are right than there are important policy implications that we’d be better off taking into account. But I don’t think that’s sufficient, you haven’t said whether you think dialog is realistically possible. If not, what’s the point of speculating about if it would be productive were dialog possible?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @rlms

            Multiheaded, Freddie, and herbert herbertson have all posted in this thread, and Multiheaded is definitely a socialist; I believe the latter two are also. So, there’s three in this OT. There’s other socialists who are part of the broader rat/adj community as well.

            What does it mean to “identify as a member of the feminist movement”?

            EDIT: In any case, I’d wager that 3 socialists in however many left wingers is probably a higher % of actual socialists than you’d get in a random sample of American left wingers, or whatever. There aren’t very many real socialists these days.

          • rlms says:

            Fair enough, although I think this is the first thread multiheaded has posted in for a long while, and none of them are particularly prolific commenters (Freddie and multiheaded are disproportionately prominent for how much they write due to their blog and commenting in the Good Old Days respectively).

            Say someone identifies as part of the feminist movement if they call themself “feminist” without qualification, and that isn’t misleading.

          • Iain says:

            I would call myself feminist without qualifications. Not sure how isolated that makes me.

          • dndnrsn says:

            If we were to describe the major trends among frequent commenters, there’d be

            -a large chunk of people whose politics would probably get considered mainstream American centre-to-centre-left, overall, except for their (in my view excessive, often extremely) negative response to “social justice” or “identity politics” or whatever you want to call it
            -some American centre-right people, but in a way that doesn’t shout “normal Republican.” Less socially conservative, if not less hawkish then less bellicose.
            -some people who would get considered by most far-right, but not [sniffs, drinks tea with pinkie out] vulgar about it, at least compared to the standard of vulgarity among the internet far-right. I gather there were more far-right people before I showed up; they were also more vulgar, or at least, more aggressive.
            -some centre-left people who are lukewarm about the stuff that absolutely terrifies the first group. I consider myself in this group.

            There’s not enough socialists/commies to really make up their own “group” here, yeah, but they’re a minority in the real world too.

            The first group is the largest, and gets coded as right, because here the “are ya right or left, stranger?” question is basically “do you fear the hairdye NKVD”. The other 3 groups are, I don’t know the exact proportions; I haven’t been keeping track of who has what opinion.

            As for the other issue – what’s “qualification”? This is kind of the question – if someone says they’re “a feminist, except for x” are they not a feminist?

            To be more general – the thing that makes me lukewarm about whatever-you-want-to-call-campus-activist-left stuff is that I think the increasing tightness of parts of the left with academia and with student government has been bad for both, I think there’s a decent chunk of people who adopt such positions hypocritically (eg decry racism but have an all-white friend group), I think the decreasing focus on class has had bad effects… But when I consider their positions in plain language instead of social-studies jargon, I find that I see a lot of sense there, and the stuff that doesn’t make sense is often artifacts of the stuff I don’t like rather than anything about the concepts in and of themselves. See my attempts to spell out what “whiteness” means using plain language and D&D analogies: if I’m correct that my interpretation is the general idea, I think that “this society assumes whiteness to be the unmarked, default norm in a way that is harmful” is a useful and true concept. In conclusion, all political thinking should be expressed in D&D analogies.

            EDIT: The vast, vast majority of feminists are not social studies-inflected. If my mom’s a feminist, then by the same standard, I’m a feminist. If she’s not a feminist, well, that will come as a surprise to her.

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            Unless you’re classifying libertarians as center-right or far-right, you’re missing a huge chunk of commenters here.

            Some people who call themselves libertarian could maybe be classified as center-right, but that wouldn’t be the standard example. Far-right doesn’t make sense as a classification for libertarians since that group also would include commenters who disagree with libertarians on most issues.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I was mostly bundling them into the “centre-right” because this place is, economically, probably more libertarian-ish than the norm. They’re not part of the far right around here, really.

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            Fair enough. I agree. I think this place skews heavily economically towards “libertarian” or “neoliberal” or what-have-you.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Say someone identifies as part of the feminist movement if they call themself “feminist” without qualification, and that isn’t misleading.

            Is there such a thing as Ingroup Homogeneity Bias?

            Unless you’re classifying libertarians as center-right or far-right, you’re missing a huge chunk of commenters here.

            I’d say it’s fair to claim that the central case of libertarian is centre-right, and I’d also say that “libertarian-ish” is pretty descriptive of the typical center right commenter here.

            That being said, the coalition of non-american right wingers is a non-negligible part of the commentariat and we demand to be taken seriously!

          • dndnrsn says:

            On the internet everyone’s an American.

            [a beaver cries a single maple syrup tear]

          • Protagoras says:

            Also feminist, so we’re up to at least two, though perhaps I am not a particularly prolific commenter.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            Economically speaking, I’d also note that there’s a population of people here who accept that the market works in roughly the ways that free marketeers say it works, but who still favour, say, social welfare programs. The response is “well, I guess we have to design better social welfare programs”.

            For example, this is the kind of place where you might encounter someone who thinks that the government should just give people money instead of having programs that give them goods or services. Or who might have an idea for promoting affordable housing using government spending that doesn’t involve public housing or rent controls or whatever.

          • albatross11 says:

            Brad:

            I’d say:

            a. I don’t think mainstream dialog on race in the US is particularly productive. See the discussion I posted elsethread about rhetoric about our racist criminal justice system for an example of why. Or just turn on the TV.

            b. Many of the statements of fact that commonly get labeled as racist (and almost always bring a suspicion of some kind of racial hatred) are immediately relevant for understanding the world, and for figuring out how to actually address existing social problems.

            Specifically, if you want to talk about the performance gap in education between blacks and whites, but you don’t know about (or can’t mention) the large difference in average IQ scores, you are missing critical information for understanding what’s going on, and that’s going to lead you to a bunch of erroneous conclusions and bad policy prescriptions. (Note that the thing IQ scores are designed for, and are best at, is predicting educational performance.) Mainstream discussions of educational policy, and actual educational policies, ignore this *all the time*.

            Something similar happens with crime rates. If you want to understand why so many black men are in prison, or why blacks are shot by the police at a higher rate than whites, it’s *really important* to know that black men commit crimes at many times the rate of white men. If you don’t know that (or can’t mention it out loud), you’re not going to understand any of what’s going on there.

            If you want to productively address any kind of social problem, you need an accurate picture of the world. Ceding the accurate picture of the world in those areas to the alt-right/h.bd types seems like a really awful idea.

          • Since it seems to be your underlying question, I’ll just go ahead an answer it–I do think that spending a lot of time talking about racial IQ differences is Bayesian evidence (evidence, not proof) of racism in the animus sense.

            True.

            But if there is good evidence for the differences and social pressure for pretending there isn’t, it is also Bayesian evidence of honesty.

            In the same way that attacking people who point out such evidence is Bayesian evidence for dishonesty–for wanting people to believe things that are not true.

            Whether or not it turns out to be true, doesn’t make a difference to the question of whether or not that correlation (i.e. between enthusiasts of racial IQ differences and animus racists) exists today.

            Correct, but the better the evidence is the weaker your correlation is and the stronger mine is.

            Part of the problem is that the respectable orthodoxy isn’t “we don’t know whether there are significant heritable differences,” which might possibly be true, it’s “we know there are not significant heritable differences,” which is clearly false. That assumption is needed for the routine jump from the existence of differing outcomes to the existence of discrimination.

            Would you be willing to agree that the existence of differing outcomes–black/white income, for example–is Bayesian evidence for the existence of innate differences as well as Bayesian evidence for the existence of discrimination?

          • Barely matters says:

            @dndnrsn

            I didn’t see any of True, Necessary, or Kind in there.

            To tell you the truth, I think Aapje embodies progressive ideals of equality and compassion a whole lot better than Brad does, so calling him the Dutch Alt Right is a pretty serious slur.

            At this point I think you’re being intentionally obtuse about the fact that labeling someone ‘far right’ for being anything more conservative than Gawker is a veiled threat in respectable circles. I take a lot of exception to people trying to edge out someone like Aapje who by all appearances is advocating for everything the left actually stands for, but disagrees with their methods, by labeling them as the hated enemy.

            Seriously, if one’s metric takes someone who openly advocates for intersectional equality among races, genders, classes, etc, and still codes them as ‘far right’ because they think that the current leveling methods will make things worse if IQ turns out to be hereditary and differ along racial lines, then their metric is idiotic. That is not the kind of leftism that I want to be a part of, and I don’t appreciate the idea that falling in line this way is somehow intrinsic to being a good progressive, and thus anything else is ‘far right’. This is something I hope everyone else is watching and taking account of, especially Scott, because if this labeling can be thrown at Aapje, it can be thrown at any one of you next.

            Otherwise, I actually agree with you that Brad is a high quality poster. He also has a habit of frequently attacking people, often being completely unprincipled, and sometimes being straight up dishonest. I’d hope to encourage the good and push back against the latter parts.

            You personally were quite outspoken about nerdy groups policing their own for bad behavior in the previous thread. So how about living up to the ideal for which you were just advocating? This is what it actually looks like from the inside.

          • Brad says:

            @Barely Matters
            If you want to adopt the position that anti-feminism and enthusiasm for H BD are the real progressive positions, I can’t stop you. You’re using a definition seemingly held by only two people on this planet, but I suppose that’s your right. You occasionally see black guys on street corners in NYC preaching the message that African-Americans are the real Jews and the white people that claim to be Jewish are all frauds. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

            But there’s no slur involved in using the definitions of words that are in popular circulation rather than Barely matters’ private definitions.

            Moving on, I’m not sure your what this crusade of yours is supposed to be about. You seem to constantly want to invoke Scott as if you think he is closely reading this thread and will take your not very subtle suggestion to ban me. That’s not how this works. I’d suggest instead using the newly fixed report button or emailing him.

            In the unlikely event that these posts are intended to convince me of anything, all I can say is that you are far from persuasive and getting further away by the minute.

          • Aapje says:

            For the record, I believe that there may possibly be non-negligible group-level racial differences and very probably non-negligible group-level gender differences. So I do not believe that equal outcome on the group-level can necessarily be achieved by having equal & fair treatment on the individual level. Basically, nature is to some extent fundamentally non-egalitarian.

            I do believe that there is a substantial cultural influence that produces greater inequality than what is natural & that lessening this will generally improve human well-being. However, equality is ultimately a tool to achieve an end and should not be an end in itself. I also believe that humans are fundamentally not rational & may quite possibly need things like excluding identities, gender roles, enemies, etc, etc to be happy. If so, the best option is probably to redirect these needs to relatively safe avenues as much as possible (like spectator sport may do for some of these), because completely suppressing them might not merely cause unhappiness, but probably a very dangerous backlash.

            I see those who try to maximize equal outcomes at all costs similar to how I see Marxist-Leninists: Utopian thinkers who deny that nature binds their choices/possible outcomes. I believe that the disconnect between reality and the ideal, cannot but corrupt the Utopians, both in their actions and their reasoning. It’s not a coincidence that communist societies tend to be very corrupt and murder-prone. It is not a coincidence that SJ people tend to so often have prejudices about race and gender that are strongly divergent from scientific fact & that they so often fail to act consistently with their ideals.

            On economics, I agree with Marxist-Leninists that capitalism is coercive and creates a hierarchy where people with certain traits are getting treated better. I disagree that given the restrictions of the natural world, we can in the short term do better without capitalism. Instead, we can do not much better than to have moderate capitalism. It is also very hard to predict what interventions will do and we need to move carefully, accepting that change is difficult and takes time. We should constantly check whether the interventions actually work: ‘Measure Twice, Cut Once.’

            On social issues, I have a very similar point of view, where I favor trying to move towards the ideal, but with the understanding that we may not be able to do better than some level of equality.

            From my perspective, I am very moderate, yet get accused of being an extremist, because I do not accept absolutist, non-scientific claims. Perhaps that makes me a radical moderate?

          • Barely matters says:

            @Brad

            No Brad, what I’m saying is that being against the current methods of feminism is not the same as opposing it, and likewise with other aspects of the progressive endeavor. My point is that *you* are the one trying to smear ‘does not immediately shut down any HB D talk’ into ‘enthusiasm for HB D (Probably with horrible cryptoracist intentions)’, and that is a seriously dirty move that I, and many other people who would like to make things better, would like to see a whole lot less of.

            If you’re trying to tell me that labeling people like Aapje as ‘Alt Right’ isn’t a slur, then I invite everyone else reading to note an instance of Brad being painfully dishonest in his culture warring, and decide for themselves if they think this is someone they would like to encourage.

            As I’ve said before, I don’t want you banned, I just want a) for it to be common knowledge that this is scummy behaviour, and b) ideally for you to cut it out. I invoke Scott because I think “Labeling otherwise good people as ‘alt right (probably cryptoracists)’ for their disagreement with modern progressive methods” is the single most likely behavior to have this blog shut down and its author’s life destroyed, and so I want to push back hard against it being normalized.

            As is often the case Brad, I know I’m unlikely to change your mind here. This is for everyone else. If everyone else reading is actually cool with what you’re doing and wants more of it, then I suppose I’ll just shrug too and go along on my way.

          • Brad says:

            @David Friedman

            But if there is good evidence for the differences and social pressure for pretending there isn’t, it is also Bayesian evidence of honesty.

            In the same way that attacking people who point out such evidence is Bayesian evidence for dishonesty–for wanting people to believe things that are not true.

            Honesty and dishonesty are not entirely symmetric. Outside of some special contexts, like testimony for example, we general don’t consider silence to be dishonest. Further, while I agree that saying a true thing is Bayesian evidence of honesty, in the general case it is rather weak evidence. Most people say many true things throughout every day of their lives once they can talk.

            For something to be stronger evidence we need, at the risk of being reductive, if saying a particular truth is expensive. That’s individual and context dependent.

            Would you be willing to agree that the existence of differing outcomes–black/white income, for example–is Bayesian evidence for the existence of innate differences as well as Bayesian evidence for the existence of discrimination?

            Yes.

            @albatross11
            I think much of what you’ve said and much of what I said that you are responding to are not in direct contradiction of each other. One may think it is unfortunate if we live in a world where both sets of claims are true, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t.

            The bottom line is that if you want to taboo ‘racism’ you need to convince the people that are using the term ‘racism’. It does no good to convince the people they aren’t. If you want to convince such people you need to step into their shoes, and understand that they think they are correct just as you think you are correct. For the overwhelming majority of people, on any side of any issue, “do this thing because it’ll make it easier for me to convince you that I’m right and you’re wrong” is not very compelling. Not even most self identified Rationalists I bet, even though that should be right up their ally.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Barely matters

            As I understand it, Brad’s beef with Aapje is that Brad thinks “is as does” regarding posting – what people post about reveals what’s important to them, rather than what they say they believe.

            Personally, I think more that calling it left or right is tricky, but that clearly one of the defining questions in this place is “how do you feel about modern-day social justice-type progressivism”?

            I’m also not sure at what point being opposed to methods crosses over in being opposed to goals.

            Regarding rudeness, or whatever, I don’t really see Brad be rude other than the occasional snippy one-liner, which again is pretty dang good by the standards of the internet. That’s “quotes Monty Python” level, not “drives women out of the D&D group with harassment” level. I also don’t think that identifying someone as far-right here marks them as the Insidious Enemy, in this context.

            @Brad

            You occasionally see black guys on street corners in NYC preaching the message that African-Americans are the real Jews and the white people that claim to be Jewish are all frauds.

            Hey, who knows, with all this Mallory-Farrakhan business, maybe this idea will be the next big thing in woke circles?

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            what people post about reveals what’s important to them, rather than what they say they believe.

            This is clearly not true in my case, since riding my racing bike is pretty important to me and I’ve not talked about it very much here (because certain topics are not for certain audiences or even something that I’d want to comment on, rather than do).

            What’s important to a person is also informed by their needs and emotions, which are often linked to their beliefs, but which are not the same thing. A person who likes to talk about sex doesn’t necessarily have political beliefs centered around sex. That person may just be very horny, much of the time.

            Also, certain topics may be common in a person’s comments because that person struggles with them, while other very strong beliefs are not something that the person cares to discuss. For example, I favor very strict gun control (although in part because of the Dutch circumstances), but I find the many topics on gun control here very boring.

            Also, I have had some extensive debates about climate change, but somehow Brad doesn’t seem to think that this is important to me and disbelieved me when I said that I voted for the Greens. When people seem to get a false sense of how strongly and how often I debate certain topics, because they confuse their own emotions when reading my comments for my emotions, the entire idea of judging my true beliefs by my comments becomes projection.

            I’m also not sure at what point being opposed to methods crosses over in being opposed to goals.

            It’s even more complicated when you think that people cannot achieve their goals with their methods.

            Anyway, there are many reasons to make comments and ‘exhaustively explaining your entire worldview’ is not a common reason for me. I am an asshole contrarian, so I like to question things. Some topics also deserve a lot of questioning…

          • Further, while I agree that saying a true thing is Bayesian evidence of honesty, in the general case it is rather weak evidence. Most people say many true things throughout every day of their lives once they can talk.

            For something to be stronger evidence we need, at the risk of being reductive, if saying a particular truth is expensive. That’s individual and context dependent.

            Correct and immediately relevant. Making true statements that are strongly disapproved of by the current orthodoxy is expensive for some but not all people. If you live somewhere in the rural South where all your white neighbors believe, whether or not they say, that blacks are stupider than whites, offering evidence that average black IQ is lower than average white IQ isn’t costly for you, although citing evidence that East Asian IQ is on average higher than white IQ and Ashkenazi higher still might be.

            But if you are a professional academic, or a Silicon Valley coder, or in any of a wide variety of other roles, it can be very costly. Hence saying it, assuming you have reason to believe it is true, is evidence of honesty. Examples would be James Damore, Charles Murray, or James Watson.

          • quanta413 says:

            Hey, who knows, with all this Mallory-Farrakhan business, maybe this idea will be the next big thing in woke circles?

            Yeah, Jews are pretty pale. I don’t know how long they’ll be able to stay on the good side of the woke movement at this rate. What with Israel moving to annex more of its settlements and getting busy deporting African migrants.

            Obviously, little will actually change, but the lead in was too easy. And Farrakhan’s been an anti-semite and a marginal influence at most at the elite level since forever. Nothing real is going to change.

          • LadyJane says:

            Honestly, at this point, I’m just going to assume bad faith of anyone calling themselves a race realist or espousing race realist ideas, unless there’s overwhelming evidence that they’re actually just genuine truth-seekers and not edgy anti-SJW contrarians or dyed-in-the-wool racists looking for an excuse to justify their racism. As a general rule I try not to assume bad faith of anyone, but there are exceptions; I’m not going to engage bona fide Nazis or Stalinists in good faith, for instance. And I consider race realists, at best, half a step above actual self-identified white supremacists and neo-Nazis and tankies.

          • Brad says:

            @DavidFriedman
            I don’t have much doubt that those three believe the things they said are true. Dishonesty in that sense isn’t an accusation I’ve frequently seen made against them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it exists somewhere.

          • My point wasn’t that they were not dishonest but that their behavior was positive evidence of honesty–in contrast to people who agree about the evidence but keep their mouths prudently shut.

            Someone who refrains from saying something that is true because doing so would be costly isn’t actively dishonest, but he is less positively honest than someone who says the same thing because it is true. And the former position shades into the position of someone who doesn’t explicitly deny the true statement but takes care to imply that he doesn’t believe it.

          • Barely matters says:

            @dndnrsn

            Personally, I think more that calling it left or right is tricky, but that clearly one of the defining questions in this place is “how do you feel about modern-day social justice-type progressivism”?

            Man, you’re the only one saying this, and it completely gerrymanders the categories. “how do you feel about modern-day social justice-type progressivism”? ignores everything about ones stance on gun control, abortion rights, redistribution, equality, social services, immigration, drug criminality, other criminal justice etc. And because it ignores 90% of the political space it’s absurd to the point where I don’t know how you can say it with a straight face. Do you think it promotes clarity somehow to label otherwise clearly left thinking people as ‘the right’ in opposition to their own identification? Why would you think that’s the defining line?

            I’m also not sure at what point being opposed to methods crosses over in being opposed to goals.

            I’d say that line is crossed when the goals specify the methods, and not before. As an example, there is a current dustup in Alberta with their paramedic’s association. They’ve recently made a huge heel turn with the provincial takeover of Alberta Health Services that many paramedics think is lowering the standard of care provincewide, translating to real harms for their constituents. The College of Paramedics has responded with official communications stating that criticism of the regulating body is ‘dishonouring the profession’ of paramedicine, and could be professionally punishable as such.

            These situations are directly parallel. I love my job, and I care about my patients, and me advocating for them, even when the problem is coming from the governing regulatory body – Especially when the problem is coming from the governing regulatory body – is not betrayal of that duty, no matter what they might say to shut down the criticism. I sincerely hope you don’t disagree here.

            Regarding rudeness, or whatever, I don’t really see Brad be rude other than the occasional snippy one-liner, which again is pretty dang good by the standards of the internet.

            Ok cool, how about I keep pointing them out when I see them then, and the degree to which that becomes really, really annoying will indicate the frequency?

            That’s “quotes Monty Python” level, not “drives women out of the D&D group with harassment” level

            Are you sure you’re not giving special treatment just because you agree with him here? Because I’d wager if someone told a woman in your gaming group “You’re a shit gamer and I don’t take anything you say seriously!”, you’d react a little more strongly than you are. If not, why not?

            I also don’t think that identifying someone as far-right here marks them as the Insidious Enemy, in this context.

            Well I’m sure it’ll make Scott feel much better to hear that. Nothing to worry about at all then! Needless to say, I don’t think this one stands up to any scrutiny whatsoever.

            edit:
            Hooboy, this one doesn’t look any better, given that in the next few comments another poster has stated:

            And I consider race realists, at best, half a step above actual self-identified white supremacists and neo-Nazis and tankies.

            Hopefully “espousing race realist ideas” has a tighter definition and requires a higher standard of evidence than for someone like Brad to declare someone as having an “Enthusiasm for HB D”, but right now it’s not looking good for the “Far right does not mark someone as an Insidious Enemy” case.

          • Brad says:

            @DavidFriedman

            My point wasn’t that they were not dishonest but that their behavior was positive evidence of honesty–in contrast to people who agree about the evidence but keep their mouths prudently shut.

            Someone who refrains from saying something that is true because doing so would be costly isn’t actively dishonest, but he is less positively honest than someone who says the same thing because it is true. And the former position shades into the position of someone who doesn’t explicitly deny the true statement but takes care to imply that he doesn’t believe it.

            First a technical point, you said “refrains from saying something that is true” but I think that should have been “refrains from saying something that he believes to be is true”.

            On the larger issue, I think where we diverge, at least if I’m reading the implied connotations correctly, is that I don’t think saying things one believes to true is always admirable. Silence is often a virtue and in some circumstances even saying something one believes not to be true can be virtuous.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @barely matters

            Man, you’re the only one saying this, and it completely gerrymanders the categories. “how do you feel about modern-day social justice-type progressivism”? ignores everything about ones stance on gun control, abortion rights, redistribution, equality, social services, immigration, drug criminality, other criminal justice etc. And because it ignores 90% of the political space it’s absurd to the point where I don’t know how you can say it with a straight face. Do you think it promotes clarity somehow to label otherwise clearly left thinking people as ‘the right’ in opposition to their own identification? Why would you think that’s the defining line?

            You’re misunderstanding me. I’m talking about here. On SSC, the question “so how you feel ’bout them student activists scream-crying at Bret Weinstein or whoever” is what divides people. “Left” vs “right” is an inadequate way of putting it, but the left-vs-right thing has had problems for a long time. If someone says “oh man SSC is so right-wing” they’re not saying that in terms of the opinions around here on climate change or gun control or what form of healthcare is best or abortion rights or redistribution or anything like that. They’re saying it based on the fact that this is a space where the general attitude is against the campus-activist-style left or whatever you want to call them.

            I’d say that line is crossed when the goals specify the methods, and not before. As an example, there is a current dustup in Alberta with their paramedic’s association. They’ve recently made a huge heel turn with the provincial takeover of Alberta Health Services that many paramedics think is lowering the standard of care provincewide, translating to real harms for their constituents. The College of Paramedics has responded with official communications stating that criticism of the regulating body is ‘dishonouring the profession’ of paramedicine, and could be professionally punishable as such.

            These situations are directly parallel. I love my job, and I care about my patients, and me advocating for them, even when the problem is coming from the governing regulatory body – Especially when the problem is coming from the governing regulatory body – is not betrayal of that duty, no matter what they might say to shut down the criticism. I sincerely hope you don’t disagree here.

            I don’t disagree. I think of it this way – someone might sincerely think, say, that second-wave feminism was on the right track, and that the third-wave and onwards trends in feminism have been a blind alley. But if they spend far more time carping on the latter than talking up the former…

            Ok cool, how about I keep pointing them out when I see them then, and the degree to which that becomes really, really annoying will indicate the frequency?

            Sure.

            Are you sure you’re not giving special treatment just because you agree with him here? Because I’d wager if someone told a woman in your gaming group “You’re a shit gamer and I don’t take anything you say seriously!”, you’d react a little more strongly than you are. If not, why not?

            The standards for face-to-face communication are different from online communication. The tone here is vastly better than most of the internet, but it’s still more aggressive than in-person. That’s just how it is. And it isn’t necessarily about anonymity making people rude – I find this place much more pleasant than arguing on Facebook.

            And there’s a lot more people here. My gaming group is half a dozen people. I have to deal with a couple of problems – no harassment, but one interpersonal problem and one gaming-related problem – and it’s really worrying me. Here I could just resolve to ignore someone.

            Well I’m sure it’ll make Scott feel much better to hear that. Nothing to worry about at all then! Needless to say, I don’t think this one stands up to any scrutiny whatsoever.

            I’m talking about here, again. Scott doesn’t worry about the people here deciding he’s some crypto-deplorable and hounding him out of police society. Likewise, having the right opinions in a space with the wrong opinions won’t protect you – “sure, I was in that place full of witches, but you see I was arguing against witchcraft” won’t protect anyone. On the left, on the right, in cases where it isn’t even coded, often knowing too much about the bad guys is itself cause for suspicion. That’s certainly the case with the kind of left-wingers people around here are often afraid of.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If someone says “oh man SSC is so right-wing” they’re not saying that in terms of the opinions around here on climate change or gun control or what form of healthcare is best or abortion rights or redistribution or anything like that. They’re saying it based on the fact that this is a space where the general attitude is against the campus-activist-style left or whatever you want to call them.

            I’m going to have to go with Abe Lincoln here and say that calling a “tail” a “leg” doesn’t make it so. A pro-choice, gun control supporting proponent of single-payer healthcare and a large UBI supported by a high and graduated income tax is not right wing, no matter what they think about the “hairdye NKVD”. One’s view on Social Justice does not cleave the left wing from the right wing. It cleaves a section of the left wing from the rest of the left wing and everyone else.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Let me give the opposite example: is someone who – despite describing themself as a leftist, a radical, etc – never expresses any serious anti-capitalist views or demands for radical change in that regard (they shittalk capitalism but it’s all window dressing), if an American they at most want the US to have a social welfare system like Canada’s, but is 100% on board with the most strawmanperson of strxw version of critical studies-style social views and worldview a left-winger? How far left? Are they a leftist or a radical?

            Further, is there an “absolute” left/right scale? How do we norm it? If we norm it by the standards of the US, are the Canadian Tories a centrist party, the Liberals a left-wing party, the NDP a bunch of frothing Bolsheviks?

          • Nornagest says:

            is someone who […] never expresses any serious anti-capitalist views or demands for radical change [..] but is 100% on board with […] critical studies-style social views and worldview a left-winger? How far left? Are they a leftist or a radical?

            I’d call them a left-winger, since it seems pedantic to limit the modern left (at least in the Anglosphere) to the economic centralization axis. They’re probably not a socialist, through that might be a function of the local Overton window; a lot of the people like this that I’ve met have been happy to cheerlead for bona-fide socialism historically or abroad, and I’d expect them to go for it if it ever got any traction at home.

            I might be happy with calling them a radical, too, depending on exactly how far they’re going with the identity politics thing. There are certainly flavors of Critical Studies ideology that call for radical change along the axes they’re interested in — overthrowing the patriarchy is not much like seizing the means of production, but patriarchy as they conceptualize it is so widespread and so foundational to culture that it’s hard to imagine it being much less disruptive.

          • dndnrsn says:

            My point is that most people, when judging the question “are they left, and how far?” would focus on that one thing, instead of saying “well there’s one outlier but they’re pretty dishwater for the most part.” A lot of people here talking about them would call them a radical, far-left, a leftist, etc. I’d call them centre-left, on the whole.

            I’d also note that a lot of people whose stated preferences include radical-sounding stuff like “destroying the patriarchy”, when you examine what they say and what they show themselves to want point-by-point, are barely even reformists, let alone radicals.

          • Nornagest says:

            In this context it might be correct both to call them center-left and a radical, with the caveat that their radicalism’s limited to identity issues. “Radical” is more a description of methods than of positions, after all.

            But a bigger issue in this context is that while the left wing’s a big enough tent to include someone with milquetoast progressive views on some things and radical views on others, I’m not sure the alt-right is a big enough tent to include someone with milquetoast progressive views on anything. It’s a smaller group to begin with, and it’s almost defined by its hostility to compromise.

          • a reader says:

            @dndnrsn:

            I think of it this way – someone might sincerely think, say, that second-wave feminism was on the right track, and that the third-wave and onwards trends in feminism have been a blind alley.

            Afaik, the first wave feminism was on the right track; the second wave already had a branch of radical feminists, some of them with really mad ideas, like Valerie Solanas with her SCUM Manifesto. Probably, in the second wave, the normal feminists still outnumbered the radicals; but now, after the targets of normal feminists were mostly accomplished in the western world, the radicals clearly dominate the stage and the word “feminist” became associated with these extreme types – and that’s a pity, imo.

          • dndnrsn says:

            You’re right about that – but to many people, including people here, their milquetoast-y other positions wouldn’t come into it.

            There’s also a chance they aren’t really a radical. This ties to what Freddie was saying elsewhere in this thread – that you’ve got a situation where “Marxist iconography but liberal beliefs is the order of the day” – I think there’s a parallel to that. Being a radical is cool. You’ve got people who say they want to smash the patriarchy but when you look at what they actually want, some of what they’re saying wouldn’t be out of place in the Victorian period (I’m thinking specifically of people whose analysis of gender relations paints women as fragile, nonagentic victims).

            Brad’s one liner was snippy. I don’t think Aapje is part of the alt-right. But I agree with Brad that it’s not just the overall content of someone’s views, but what they spend more versus less time on.

            @a reader

            See above; I don’t think they’re really radicals. “Let’s get rid of gender and everyone wears identical jumpsuits and we take drugs to suppress sex differences” is radical. (True fact: the RPG Paranoia is, in fact, radically feminist) “Men and women are so irreconcilable that they should just live in two separate societies and negotiate to deal with producing children” is likewise radical. A lot of third-wavers think they’re radical, but all they’re bringing to the table is a shitty liberalism informed by a worldview born of certain social studies ideas and a little bit of percolated-in second-wave radical feminism.

            I’d also question your idea that the goals of “normal feminists” were completely accomplished.

            Plus – first wave feminists had some wacky ideas, like “throwing yourself in front of a horse is a great way to get attention“, and Prohibition.

          • On the larger issue, I think where we diverge, at least if I’m reading the implied connotations correctly, is that I don’t think saying things one believes to true is always admirable.

            I agree that it is not always admirable, although I suspect I view the exceptions as rarer than you do. Telling a burglar where you have hidden your money, for example, is not admirable.

            But it is evidence of honesty–one might almost say compulsive honesty.

            The way I usually put your point is that there are some statements that are both true and dangerous–and this is one of them.

            The question then is whether beliefs about the racial distribution of abilities are in that category. I think they are not, I suspect you think they are, or at least that if they are true they are still dangerous.

            Suppose it is true that the average IQ of Afro-Americans is somewhat lower than that of whites and of East Asians somewhat higher. What bad consequences follow from people believing it? In contexts such as college admissions or employment people usually have much better information than given by race, so don’t have to use race as a proxy. The black with high SAT scores is probably smarter than the white or the Asian with somewhat lower scores and will be viewed as such.

            Supposing it is true, what bad consequences follow from people believing it is false? The obvious one is identifying racial differences in outcomes as due to discrimination when they are not. That has some fairly obvious undesirable results—if not obvious we could discuss them.

            Further bad consequences follow from people believing that anyone who denies that it is false is a bad person and should be subject to (at least) social pressure to make him not deny it.

            If the belief actually is false, on the other hand, if the distribution of abilities is about the same for all racial groups, then the belief that it isn’t does have bad consequences.

            So I don’t think this one fits the category of “true but dangerous” even if it is true.

          • Barely matters says:

            @dndnrsn

            You’re misunderstanding me. I’m talking about here. On SSC, the question “so how you feel ’bout them student activists scream-crying at Bret Weinstein or whoever” is what divides people. “Left” vs “right” is an inadequate way of putting it, but the left-vs-right thing has had problems for a long time. If someone says “oh man SSC is so right-wing” they’re not saying that in terms of the opinions around here on climate change or gun control or what form of healthcare is best or abortion rights or redistribution or anything like that. They’re saying it based on the fact that this is a space where the general attitude is against the campus-activist-style left or whatever you want to call them.

            I understand your stance perfectly. That’s not what I was asking though. What you’re saying isn’t just “The way it is”, it’s just the way you’re asserting it is. And I asked you *Why* you’re saying it should be that way? Do we gain some kind of clarity by calling people who act consistently with being left wing and identify as left wing as “Far right”? There are some major, major downsides to this plan, and I don’t see any upside. Fill me in.

            I think of it this way – someone might sincerely think, say, that second-wave feminism was on the right track, and that the third-wave and onwards trends in feminism have been a blind alley. But if they spend far more time carping on the latter than talking up the former…

            Go on, finish your sentence instead of making implications.

            The conclusions you seem to be drawing here make about as much sense as a lifeguard concluding that everyone he sees at work must be part fish, because they spend 90% of the time he sees them in the water. Even closer, it’s like someone who only sees you at martial arts classes who calls you a thug and a wife beater because 100% of the times he sees you, you’re punching and choking people into submission! (And if it walks like a wife beater, and chokes like a wife beater, then maybe we should spread that around and warn the neighborhood, right?)

            In reality, we know that we’re only seeing people in a very specific environment, and understand the limits of our own knowledge about the rest of their life. Thinking we can make judgements about how they are the rest of the time accurate enough to discount their own reports is pure hubris. When that crosses the line into labeling them using terms that could get them fired or ostracized, and that they don’t even agree with, it’s at best reckless enough to be reprehensible, and at worst a deliberate attack.

            The tone here is vastly better than most of the internet, but it’s still more aggressive than in-person. That’s just how it is.

            Again, no way. This comment section is nicer than facebook specifically because we have a norm that if you want to hang here, you have to be nice (And if not, you bring evidence. See the previous section on why evidence isn’t being brought here). It’s no more appropriate to make personal attacks on people here than it is in person, and I’m actually amazed that this is even in dispute.

            Don’t burn down the commons just because it helps advance a point you agree with. This is how we lose rare good spaces like this one.

            I’m talking about here, again. Scott doesn’t worry about the people here deciding he’s some crypto-deplorable and hounding him out of police society.

            If you want to talk about ‘here’, how about using a different term that’s not easily confused for something more sinister? Call me a little protective, but I get pretty annoyed when I see what looks like people sharpening the very sticks that their allies throw at our host. So, if it’s just a matter of differing definitions and you’re really not trying to play shitty games like threatening and undermining people by assigning them membership to groups a large plurality of people are onboard with punching on sight, then would you mind changing up your wording a little bit to make the distinction clear and eliminate the confusion? This seems like a reasonable and small request, given the nature of how this plays out.

            “Wow, this place really hates identity politics and campus socjus!”, works fine and is much more accurate than “Wow, this place is far right.”

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            But I agree with Brad that it’s not just the overall content of someone’s views, but what they spend more versus less time on.

            Perhaps, but you have to keep in mind that ‘narcissism of small differences’ is a thing. Or outgroup vs fargroup as we tend to call it.

            I don’t think that this is merely a fallacy, because:
            – it is correct to give less concern to very toxic, but very weak groups, because while their ideals are very bad, what they themselves actually accomplish is minimal (disproportionate responses may actually often do more damage). A less bad ideology with far more power to actually achieve their goals causes more damage.
            – it is correct to incorporate your ability to effect change in what you debate. I can criticize the lack of gay rights in Russia all day long, but I think it would accomplish very little, compared to criticizing Western issues. After all, the audience here is very Western and the inferential distance with Westerners is a lot smaller than with Russians.
            – those with problematic opinions who are closer to you do actually have a bigger impact on your life, so it makes perfect sense to care more about combating them, if you are not purely altruistic (and who is?)

            Also, given that others also have a voice, it makes sense to focus on issues/PoVs that:
            – are under-discussed*
            – you can advocate well for

            * Of course, you can argue that I sought some level of comfort by seeking a space where some of my opinions are not under-discussed locally as they are in other contexts, but then we are getting back to me not being purely altruistic, but concerned about my own well-being.

            Also, I see writing down one’s thoughts and having people comment on them as a way to examine the limits of certain beliefs. The debate environment dictates the topics where this process works best, so it makes perfect sense to filter the comments that one makes based on this, not just by what one wishes to discuss.

            I certainly decide against making certain comments here.

            @DavidFriedman

            Suppose it is true that the average IQ of Afro-Americans is somewhat lower than that of whites and of East Asians somewhat higher. What bad consequences follow from people believing it?

            It can prejudice people against believing that individual black people they meet are competent, which one may consider undesirable altogether. Also, even if you think that it is fine that people make decisions based on group-level facts, they may still have a tendency to weigh evidence about the person too weakly, because cognitive dissonance may make it hard for people to hold both beliefs at the same time.

            If purporting to achieve equality of outcome was not a strong political goal of some groups, I would be a lot more sympathetic to the idea that commoners should be shielded from some truths a bit.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I understand your stance perfectly. That’s not what I was asking though. What you’re saying isn’t just “The way it is”, it’s just the way you’re asserting it is. And I asked you *Why* you’re saying it should be that way? Do we gain some kind of clarity by calling people who act consistently with being left wing and identify as left wing as “Far right”? There are some major, major downsides to this plan, and I don’t see any upside. Fill me in.

            I would, personally, prefer to abandon the left-right definition on this, because whether or not one fears the gender studies department doesn’t really have a great deal to do with old-timey French parliament sitting patterns, or whatever the left-right terminology game from. But to most people outside this space, “anti-social justice” and “neutral or pro-social justice” maps to left-right, or whatever. I don’t think Aapje is far right, myself. But I can see why someone might think he was.

            Go on, finish your sentence instead of making implications.

            I think people should try to diversify what they post about so everyone can have a fuller picture of everyone’s opinions. Imagine if, say, DavidFriedman only posted about climate change. He would no longer be “David Friedman, economics guy, ancap, SCA enthusiast” – he would be “that guy who doesn’t think climate change is real”, or whatever. We should have a diversity of posts. One of the reasons this place isn’t a garbage fire is that people talk about other stuff, and when we’re talking about roleplaying games, fantasy novels, battleships, people who usually disagree are nice to each other. The idea that you can be friendly with the other side when politics aren’t being discussed tends to be an unpopular idea for ideologues on both sides.

            In reality, we know that we’re only seeing people in a very specific environment, and understand the limits of our own knowledge about the rest of their life. Thinking we can make judgements about how they are the rest of the time accurate enough to discount their own reports is pure hubris. When that crosses the line into labeling them using terms that could get them fired or ostracized, and that they don’t even agree with, it’s at best reckless enough to be reprehensible, and at worst a deliberate attack.

            So, this is a good point. I hadn’t thought of it like that. I would hope, however, that people here would adjust their posting to try and reflect their full character better. I used to bitch a lot more about the annoying kids I know from university; I realized that I was doing it too much, so I resolved to represent my own largely left-wing views more, and to bitch about the annoying kids only in relation to how I felt they were contributing to “the left” as a broad group shooting itself in the foot. Just kidding! Mostly I just started posting about roleplaying games more, ramped up the dumb jokes, and made more of an effort to shit on Wehraboos.

            To continue your analogy: martial arts gyms often have “that guy” who people avoid because he is an asshole, or is prone to doing dangerous stuff in an attempt to “win” a sparring round, or whatever. And there’s a great deal of socializing outside of trying to break someone’s arm off. The guys who push me into the ground know I do other stuff, likewise I know the people who push me into the ground do other stuff.

            I don’t, however, think that somebody would get ostracized or fired based on someone here calling them something here – it’s not “huh, this person looks like a witch; let’s see what the other people who hang out in witch territory think of them”.

            Again, no way. This comment section is nicer than facebook specifically because we have a norm that if you want to hang here, you have to be nice (And if not, you bring evidence. See the previous section on why evidence isn’t being brought here). It’s no more appropriate to make personal attacks on people here than it is in person, and I’m actually amazed that this is even in dispute.

            Don’t burn down the commons just because it helps advance a point you agree with. This is how we lose rare good spaces like this one.

            OK. Granted. I make an effort to be nice. I might be too nice. You think that rudeness messes up the commons, and it can. I also think that if this becomes, more than it is, “a place where people go to hate on social justice”, that too messes up the commons. SSC is one of the few places I know of where the issues we discuss here get discussed without either everyone ritually denouncing witches in case someone thinks they’re a witch, and without the place being overrun by the bad kind of witches. It’s not a place where one “lets down the team” by mentioning uncomfortable facts, whether that team is Team Hexenhammer or Team Let’s Make Babies into Levitation Ointment.

            I don’t think that’s entirely, or even mostly, because of standards of politeness. To be brutally honest, it’s probably largely because enough people here have the weird kind of brains where we don’t grok that teams are basically how most people do things. I bet that of the people here who watch sports, we’re probably more likely than the norm to think it’s fair when the ref/ump calls our guy/team on a foul. Right now we’re a place where, sure, some people think we’re witches, but you can also easily find far-right people talking about how this place is full of commies, how it’s cowbirded all to hell and gone, etc.

            If you want to talk about ‘here’, how about using a different term that’s not easily confused for something more sinister? Call me a little protective, but I get pretty annoyed when I see what looks like people sharpening the very sticks that their allies throw at our host. So, if it’s just a matter of differing definitions and you’re really not trying to play shitty games like threatening and undermining people by assigning them membership to groups a large plurality of people are onboard with punching on sight, then would you mind changing up your wording a little bit to make the distinction clear and eliminate the confusion? This seems like a reasonable and small request, given the nature of how this plays out.

            OK. Let’s put it this way. I don’t think being anti-socjus or idpol or having a distaste for hairdye outside of anime or however one wants to put it makes one far right, necessarily. But a lot of people think it does. More seriously, to me, there is a tendency for people who feel threatened by that sort of thing to drift towards dicey people on the far right, or, depending how you look at it, those dicey folks know that this is a good recruiting strategy. My opinion is that the backlash in response to the obnoxious campus activists is more dangerous than they are.

            “Wow, this place really hates identity politics and campus socjus!”, works fine and is much more accurate than “Wow, this place is far right.”

            I prefer the former, yes. In terms of splitting the SSC comment section into “teams”, “anti-socjus” vs “pro-socjus” often provides more information than “left” and “right”. I think this place, everyone should focus a little bit less on socjus, and more on battleships, or roleplaying games.

          • Brad says:

            @DavidFriedman

            But it is evidence of honesty–one might almost say compulsive honesty.

            I’d very much agree. But my prior is to have a negative reaction to “compulsive honesty” (to be adjusted one way or the other depending on circumstances) not a positive one.

            The way I usually put your point is that there are some statements that are both true and dangerous–and this is one of them.

            Again I would like to insist on maintaining the distinction between true and sincerely believed to be true.

            The question then is whether beliefs about the racial distribution of abilities are in that [true and dangerous] category. I think they are not, I suspect you think they are, or at least that if they are true they are still dangerous.

            With the caveat above regarding ‘true’, I’d also quibble with dangerous. Dangerous implies a universality, or close to it. Something like the the design of a hydrogen bomb. The question here is more about context, forum, and for-lack-of-a-better-word proselytizing.

            If a man likes his sexual partner to bark like a dog during sex, that’s true, something he believes to be true, and in no way dangerous. But nonetheless it is something it is only appropriate to discuss in very limited circumstances, e.g. in private conversation with a sexual partner.

            So what we really have here is three sets of beliefs: 1) belief in the underlying facts of the matter, 2) that the speaker thinks his what he believes to be true ought to be common knowledge, and either 3a) he feels strongly enough about #2 that he is willing to pay high costs to try to make it so or 3b) for whatever intrinsic personality reasons (e.g. “compulsive honesty” or “likes to be seen as contrarian”) those costs are outweighed for reasons not specific to the issue at hand.

          • he would be “that guy who doesn’t think climate change is real”, or whatever.

            (about me)

            Not relevant to the points of your post, which on the whole I agree with, but my view is that climate change is real. What’s wrong with the current orthodoxy is the (conservative!) assumption that change is necessarily bad.

          • The way I usually put your point is that there are some statements that are both true and dangerous–and this is one of them.

            Again I would like to insist on maintaining the distinction between true and sincerely believed to be true.

            The first time you said that I agreed with you, although I didn’t bother to say so since the point was obvious. This time I don’t.

            The fact that a statement that is sincerely believed can be dangerous isn’t in the least surprising–consider a sincere belief in a bogus cancer cure. The fact that a statement that is actually true can be dangerous, that we are sometimes better off having people not know true things, is less obvious and so more interesting.

            So what we really have here is three sets of beliefs: 1) belief in the underlying facts of the matter, 2) that the speaker thinks his what he believes to be true ought to be common knowledge, and either 3a) he feels strongly enough about #2 that he is willing to pay high costs to try to make it so or 3b) for whatever intrinsic personality reasons (e.g. “compulsive honesty” or “likes to be seen as contrarian”) those costs are outweighed for reasons not specific to the issue at hand.

            Your 2 is what my “true and dangerous” point is about.

            Getting back to the race realism issue … . If we were not in a society with strong and legally enforced norms of non-discrimination, it’s possible that knowledge of different IQ distributions (assuming they are real) would do net damage due to human irrationality, although I don’t think it’s obvious that it would. But in our society, it’s like the effect in a hospital of everybody insisting that normal body temperature is 101°F and requiring all doctors and nurses to act on that belief.

            At a tangent, my standard example of “true but dangerous” is the moral case for jury nullification.

          • Randy M says:

            I would hope, however, that people here would adjust their posting to try and reflect their full character better.

            I don’t plan to do this anytime soon (assuming character means “range of interests and values” and not “virtues and vices”).
            Mostly I post on topics other people start with things that haven’t been said that I think are defensible and interesting or humorous and inoffensive (with local modifiers applied for all those criteria, of course).

          • dndnrsn says:

            @DavidFriedman

            My apologies. I couldn’t recall whether it was one of those or “global warming is real and probably bad but nonanthropogenic” – I tend not to follow the nitty-gritty of climate change stuff.

            @Randy M

            Perhaps “post on a wider number of topics of interest” is a better way to put it.

          • Aapje says:

            I’ve found that on various topics that interest me, no people or very few are interested in engaging. That is:
            – fine
            – a reason for me not to post on these topics

          • My apologies. I couldn’t recall whether it was one of those or “global warming is real and probably bad but nonanthropogenic”

            Not that either. My guess is that it is in substantial part anthropogenic, although climate is sufficiently complicated to make allocating causation hard. Even the lower estimates of climate sensitivity imply that the increase in CO2 should be having some effect.

            The problem is that climate change has both good and bad effects, both large and uncertain, and I don’t believe we know enough to sign the sum. That was my view of population growth forty years ago and events since then fit that better than they fit the then popular orthodoxy.

          • Barely matters says:

            @dndnrsn

            I would, personally, prefer to abandon the left-right definition on this, because whether or not one fears the gender studies department doesn’t really have a great deal to do with old-timey French parliament sitting patterns, or whatever the left-right terminology game from. But to most people outside this space, “anti-social justice” and “neutral or pro-social justice” maps to left-right, or whatever. I don’t think Aapje is far right, myself. But I can see why someone might think he was.

            I agree with the first part, but you’re really tapdancing around the point. This is either about ‘here’ or it’s not, you can’t just equivocate between the two whenever it’s convenient. If we’re talking about things in relation to this space, and we agree that left/right doesn’t make sense in this space, and we double dog swear that we’re not trying to torpedo people with snarl labels *outside* this space, then we should probably stick to terms that actually cut at the joints locally.

            I think people should try to diversify what they post about so everyone can have a fuller picture of everyone’s opinions.

            In an ideal world where I had infinite amounts of time, wifi, and other people’s interest, I’m right there with you. It would be nice, but I’m way out in the frozen swamp of a wasteland on a job, so I can load comments to read, but only get a few minutes to write back in the evenings. I’m entirely with you that building bridges is a worthwhile endeavor, and I can resolve to do that more when I get some time.

            That said, there is something to be said about utilizing the point of a given space. I don’t think the other people at the boxing gym want to hear about pickup strategies, they just want to throw on their gloves and punch. The comparative advantage this place has is that it has essentially cornered the market on being a space where one can voice opinions they consider important but otherwise socially suppressed with people who aren’t complete mouthbreathers. I’m sure I could find people at a pro life rally or r/thedonald who aren’t into socjus, but I want to hang with that crew even less than the campus hairdye warriors, (Who, as annoying as I find their politics, still comprise much of my in person friend group). The only other place I’ve found where people talk like this is, of all the unexpected possible places, burning man afterparties. And even there people approach this like they’re playing the Russian Spy game.

            To continue your analogy: martial arts gyms often have “that guy” who people avoid because he is an asshole, or is prone to doing dangerous stuff in an attempt to “win” a sparring round, or whatever. And there’s a great deal of socializing outside of trying to break someone’s arm off. The guys who push me into the ground know I do other stuff, likewise I know the people who push me into the ground do other stuff.

            Yeah, but I’m presuming that’s not you, and that sure as hell isn’t Aapje. That’s what makes the label that much more insulting. If you were going out of your way to give your holds an extra squeeze after they tapped, then sure, maybe the guy would have a point. But people who do the equivalent here while being on the anti socjus side of the spectrum get banned almost instantly. If you notice an example where that isn’t happening, point me at it and I’ll stand right beside you in imploring that they cut that shit out.

            OK. Granted. I make an effort to be nice. I might be too nice. You think that rudeness messes up the commons, and it can. I also think that if this becomes, more than it is, “a place where people go to hate on social justice”, that too messes up the commons. SSC is one of the few places I know of where the issues we discuss here get discussed without either everyone ritually denouncing witches in case someone thinks they’re a witch, and without the place being overrun by the bad kind of witches.

            Sure, and for what it’s worth, I think your tone is exemplary when it comes to defusing and deescalating conflict. If everyone else argued with your style, this whole thread wouldn’t have even occurred. My original issue was that it seems like someone is accusing people of being witches, which is the fastest way to destroy that tenuous balance we’ve otherwise struck.

            I do have some trouble with the way some of our people argue by stringing together content free snarl words, and I have even more trouble because it always seems to come from the same side. Even worse that it’s the one that I generally consider myself to be on. It’s never the shitlords who call something ‘a vitriolic, hate filled screed of bile and…’, then when you remove the fnords you notice the sentence is empty. That’s twitter posted on facebook tier and I wish I could convince people to knock it off and argue actual points, because in my understanding, arguing actual points is what we do at SSC. This is why I’m so often disappointed and think that the people who I usually disagree with absolutely run circles around some of our best speakers. Which in turn is why I’ve bothered to speak up at all.

            OK. Let’s put it this way. I don’t think being anti-socjus or idpol or having a distaste for hairdye outside of anime or however one wants to put it makes one far right, necessarily. But a lot of people think it does. More seriously, to me, there is a tendency for people who feel threatened by that sort of thing to drift towards dicey people on the far right, or, depending how you look at it, those dicey folks know that this is a good recruiting strategy. My opinion is that the backlash in response to the obnoxious campus activists is more dangerous than they are.

            For real, I’m with you 100% on this point, but I think you’re mixing up the cause and effect. I feel this one firsthand, because seriously, I feel a lot of pressure to go to that side. I’ve yet to be called a Nazi or an Alt Right whatever personally, but I’ve seen a lot of people in my social circle say things that I think are extremely reasonable, be labeled problematic, and be excommunicated. And every time it happens it hammers home “I’m only still in good standing because I know to keep my mouth shut. These people would hang me if they could.”. I feel a lot of pressure to sympathize with the other side, because compared to my ‘compassionate’ progressive friends, they’re a lot less likely to attack anyone who doesn’t fall in line.

            If you don’t want people who agree with you to cross the floor to the dark side, stop pushing them that way, and even more topically relevant, stop actively forcing them into that box when they don’t want to be there in the first place.

            I know people who have done this, and it’s terrifying to see the slide from decent person, to troll, to legit national socialist. I get the sense that you think this just happens out of some kind of personal failing, but from this angle, it looks a lot like the Brads are pushing the process along. He probably even means well, but assigning people the name of your enemy against their will is the “drone double tapping a terrorist’s funeral” of left wing internet culture warring.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I agree with the first part, but you’re really tapdancing around the point. This is either about ‘here’ or it’s not, you can’t just equivocate between the two whenever it’s convenient. If we’re talking about things in relation to this space, and we agree that left/right doesn’t make sense in this space, and we double dog swear that we’re not trying to torpedo people with snarl labels *outside* this space, then we should probably stick to terms that actually cut at the joints locally.

            I’m talking about here. I don’t assign people “far right” or whatever based on disagreements with them. And I think what was at stake here was a snippy one-liner. I don’t think Brad was trying to work some dark arts. Also, see the end of this post.
            I think people should try to diversify what they post about so everyone can have a fuller picture of everyone’s opinions.

            In an ideal world where I had infinite amounts of time, wifi, and other people’s interest, I’m right there with you. It would be nice, but I’m way out in the frozen swamp of a wasteland on a job, so I can load comments to read, but only get a few minutes to write back in the evenings. I’m entirely with you that building bridges is a worthwhile endeavor, and I can resolve to do that more when I get some time.

            OK. Pick a topic for future reference:

            1. Battleships.
            2. Medieval Arabic recipes.
            3. BJJ/weightlifting: should you do it? (Yes)
            4. RPGs: do they have enough numbers?
            5. Fantasy/sci fi without sex scenes that actively make sex look bad.

            That said, there is something to be said about utilizing the point of a given space. I don’t think the other people at the boxing gym want to hear about pickup strategies, they just want to throw on their gloves and punch. The comparative advantage this place has is that it has essentially cornered the market on being a space where one can voice opinions they consider important but otherwise socially suppressed with people who aren’t complete mouthbreathers. I’m sure I could find people at a pro life rally or r/thedonald who aren’t into socjus, but I want to hang with that crew even less than the campus hairdye warriors, (Who, as annoying as I find their politics, still comprise much of my in person friend group). The only other place I’ve found where people talk like this is, of all the unexpected possible places, burning man afterparties. And even there people approach this like they’re playing the Russian Spy game.

            But the thing that keeps this place from becoming “nothing but bitching about socjus, 24/7″ which can very easily lead into “let’s use our magic to lame some cows!” is the other stuff. Every battleship post helps keep this place from turning into an all-culture-war-all-the-time cesspool.

            (As an aside, one might find people talking about pickups in a martial arts gym, on the basis that the kind of takedowns that most people just call “takedowns” plus a few others are called “pickups” sometimes in judo. Although they’ve been removed from the competition rules.)

            Yeah, but I’m presuming that’s not you, and that sure as hell isn’t Aapje. That’s what makes the label that much more insulting. If you were going out of your way to give your holds an extra squeeze after they tapped, then sure, maybe the guy would have a point. But people who do the equivalent here while being on the anti socjus side of the spectrum get banned almost instantly. If you notice an example where that isn’t happening, point me at it and I’ll stand right beside you in imploring that they cut that shit out.

            Who on the anti-socjus spectrum gets banned instantly? There were some Death Eaters way back, most I think before I started posting here, who got banned, but they were way more abrasive and rude than Brad, or anyone who posts here now, ever has been. Often they took shots at Scott or his relationship. There was one Holocaust denier who got banned for arguing in bad faith – he came in with the usual “oh I found this interesting website does anyone want to critique it”, started playing hole-in-the-bucket, and was found elsewhere talking about his clever plan to redpill the normies. There was a WN-aligned alt-right guy recently who I think got banned, but he was pretty clearly doing the trolling tactic where one makes short statements, asks questions, waits for other people to do their homework, then dismisses it with a word – again, bad faith. People of the hairdye crowd who behaved the way they do in, say, videos of them screaming at professors, would get banned very, very quickly. They don’t come here, because they don’t like the epistemic standards around here, just like we don’t go chill with them, because we don’t like their epistemic standards.

            I do have some trouble with the way some of our people argue by stringing together content free snarl words, and I have even more trouble because it always seems to come from the same side. Even worse that it’s the one that I generally consider myself to be on. It’s never the shitlords who call something ‘a vitriolic, hate filled screed of bile and…’, then when you remove the fnords you notice the sentence is empty. That’s twitter posted on facebook tier and I wish I could convince people to knock it off and argue actual points, because in my understanding, arguing actual points is what we do at SSC. This is why I’m so often disappointed and think that the people who I usually disagree with absolutely run circles around some of our best speakers. Which in turn is why I’ve bothered to speak up at all.

            Who’s “our”? And the “shitlords” have plenty of stupid meaningless snarl-words. I’m sure that if you went and expressed some centre-y opinions on their territory, you wouldn’t get carefully worded intellectual defences of their positions. They’d say your eggs were getting kicked out of your nest by a mysteriously large hatchling, or just be anti-Semitic, or whatever.

            For real, I’m with you 100% on this point, but I think you’re mixing up the cause and effect. I feel this one firsthand, because seriously, I feel a lot of pressure to go to that side. I’ve yet to be called a Nazi or an Alt Right whatever personally, but I’ve seen a lot of people in my social circle say things that I think are extremely reasonable, be labeled problematic, and be excommunicated. And every time it happens it hammers home “I’m only still in good standing because I know to keep my mouth shut. These people would hang me if they could.”. I feel a lot of pressure to sympathize with the other side, because compared to my ‘compassionate’ progressive friends, they’re a lot less likely to attack anyone who doesn’t fall in line.

            If you don’t want people who agree with you to cross the floor to the dark side, stop pushing them that way, and even more topically relevant, stop actively forcing them into that box when they don’t want to be there in the first place.

            I know people who have done this, and it’s terrifying to see the slide from decent person, to troll, to legit national socialist. I get the sense that you think this just happens out of some kind of personal failing, but from this angle, it looks a lot like the Brads are pushing the process along. He probably even means well, but assigning people the name of your enemy against their will is the “drone double tapping a terrorist’s funeral” of left wing internet culture warring.

            OK, this is getting kind of jumbled. Anyway.

            So, pushing people, being pushed, how do we define this? I have repeatedly stated I don’t like the campus activist left types, for various reasons (tl;dr: many exhibit self-serving motives and focus more on that than on what they say they’re doing, general habit to ignore class, optimized for campus and activist-left environments in a way that’s creating a much scarier backlash out in the real world – I’m way more scared of actual Nazis than obnoxious college kids). I think they have no sense of optics, for the third reason (optics is “respectability politics” after all).

            But one has to be pushed. And I think there is a personal failing going on there. The failure to realize that annoying college kids who might get you fired are nowhere near as bad as actual Nazis (or white nationalists, or white supremacists, or their mitlaeufer). You’re blind if you think that these guys are less likely to turn against people who don’t fall into line. Right now they have no power, but fuck sake, enough of them are talking about “the day of the rope” and “helicopter rides” and “6 million more”. The Nazis “committed” themselves to work peacefully within the system, until they took control of it, and fairly soon started putting people in prison camps and murdering wayward elements within their own party, old opponents with whom they had a score to settle, and one guy who happened to have the same name as someone they meant to kill. It got worse after that.

            Brad is, as I am, centre-left. Liberals, who, after all “get the bullet too.” If the hairdye NKVD rolls in and finds out that folks here been hoarding grain and some own upwards of two pigs, they’re not gonna say “well done, comrades! You have infiltrated the nest of the hated Pepe-Kulak counterrevolutionary-fascist elements!” You’re right of centre (aren’t you?) and you talk about being afraid of the, uh, undercut Chekha. So’s everyone. I’ve heard people in academia with very left politics talk about “Jordan Peterson making some good points about how it’s an echo chamber” but only in private. I remember seeing an article after the mosque shooting in Quebec about how “mass shootings are done by white men” in which it gave 4 examples of mass shootings (so, not actual statistics) and only 2 of the shooters were white – so even cherrypicking stats the article was saying that mass shooters in Canada were less white than the norm. Couple people on Facebook posted it. I’m probably going to vote NDP (wild-eyed commies by American standards) in the next federal election, Liberal in the next provincial (to keep Doug Ford out), I’m not even a Conservative (centrist Democrats by American standards), and I know full well if I point out “one, this is the opposite of good statistics, two, even without good statistics, it’s proving the opposite” I know I’m in for some shit, so I didn’t. It’s stifling and obnoxious. Some of these people are super reasonable one on one, but when there’s an audience, it’s all factually inaccurate preening and the most tissue-thin propaganda. But I ignore it, because being annoyed is a minor thing, and the Nazis are much worse. “Out of the frying pan, into the fire” is a bad call when the frying pan is barely even on the stove. Imagine everything was the opposite, and your choice was obnoxious-ass 2003-vintage “why do you hate America so much that you don’t want us to invade a country on flimsy pretext you moonbat” Republicans, or tankies.

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            Brad is, as I am, centre-left. Liberals, who, after all “get the bullet too.” If the hairdye NKVD rolls in and finds out that folks here been hoarding grain and some own upwards of two pigs, they’re not gonna say

            This language is rather silly but whatever. The hairdye NKVD in America is basically center left with some Marxist stylings. Yeah, there are a few true Marxists in there somewhere, but they are outnumbered by the less pure center left types. The Marxist stylings are mostly shed when they graduate, whether they transition into campus administrative positions or corporate equality and inclusion offices or just get bored and go do normal people things.

            So of course they are only annoying to you and Brad. They’re ~ 3/4 ideological allies, and they aren’t going to try to get you fired.

            Of course, actual Neo-Nazis (not Trump, I mean guys with 1488 tatoos etc.) probably would try to deport or murder a solid chunk of us given a shot (I’m going to be either deported or shot and buried if they decide that all your ancestors have to be from Europe), so the Neo-Nazis are morally worse. But they have 0 influence in any public or private institution. There is racism that hurts people, but the vast majority of incidents are not due to Neo-Nazis (although Neo-Nazis are overrepresented as perpetrators of course, since even if there are only a few thousand of them it is their thing).

            @Barely Matters

            Way back in the thread at this point. But I think anyone who slides into National Socialism just because they got ostracized from a few spaces is a menace. They’d end up on the other side of crazy as Antifa foot soldiers given a few tweaks. I do my best to avoid people of either variety.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            This language is rather silly but whatever. The hairdye NKVD in America is basically center left with some Marxist stylings. Yeah, there are a few true Marxists in there somewhere, but they are outnumbered by the less pure center left types. The Marxist stylings are mostly shed when they graduate, whether they transition into campus administrative positions or corporate equality and inclusion offices or just get bored and go do normal people things.

            Oh, definitely. They’re not real Marxists or radicals or whatever. That’s one of my hobbyhorses – they’re shitty liberals (liberals who don’t believe in free speech, for example).

            So of course they are only annoying to you and Brad. They’re ~ 3/4 ideological allies, and they aren’t going to try to get you fired.

            I think you’re underestimating how savage that quarter difference can make things. Bret Weinstein is/was “deeply progressive” – did that help him?

            Of course, actual Neo-Nazis (not Trump, I mean guys with 1488 tatoos etc.) probably would try to deport or murder a solid chunk of us given a shot (I’m going to be either deported or shot and buried if they decide that all your ancestors have to be from Europe), so the Neo-Nazis are morally worse. But they have 0 influence in any public or private institution. There is racism that hurts people, but the vast majority of incidents are not due to Neo-Nazis (although Neo-Nazis are overrepresented as perpetrators of course, since even if there are only a few thousand of them it is their thing).

            Obviously Trump and actual WNs, etc, aren’t the same thing. And the WN groups and so on aren’t releasing their membership numbers, so we don’t know if they actually have gotten a shot in the arm. The backlash isn’t big, right now. Trump was getting elected was not primarily about, say, young white guys who’d ordinarily be boring democrats getting pissed off by some of the stuff they encountered at university, or whatever.

            But I think history shows that some seriously scary customers can go from “fringe, nobody listens to those guys, are you nuts, they’re nobodies” to “wait, they got how much of the vote?” or “huh, they’ve seized the parliament” awfully quickly. And I think part of what makes me a wussy centre-left milquetoast is because I think the real gap is between “far” and “centre” not between left and right – I think Republicans are definitely too right-wing for my tastes, certainly by Canadian standards, they’re bad, but they’re a stable sort of bad. People who think Republicans are just less Nazi Nazis worry me, because, what if we’re heading for the second-time-farce version of the centre-right deciding that they like their chances better with the sketchy tattoo crowd, and the centre-left deciding that they don’t want to ally with those to their left because they don’t like getting called “social fascists”? I might be imagining things, of course. But the failures that are possible belong to lots of people, and people in the centre have made bad calls about what tiger they can ride, or can ride out, before. It’s not just “those meanie lefties made us think our buddies were these guys with the striking colour schemes.”

            If you go back to a lot of cases where things went really, really bad, not that many people saw it coming.

          • Barely matters says:

            And I think what was at stake here was a snippy one-liner. I don’t think Brad was trying to work some dark arts.

            Eh, given his response of darkly hinting that sometimes hiding the truth is a virtue, I kinda do at this point. YMMV, but I’m happy that people who saw this thread will be more likely to keep an eye out for further shenanigans. That’s fine as a resolution as far as I’m concerned.

            Who on the anti-socjus spectrum gets banned instantly?

            I mean, there was the guy last week who got banned within hours of his first post because of a ‘snippy one liner’ that used the word ‘hatefacts’. Dan something?

            And the “shitlords” have plenty of stupid meaningless snarl-words.

            Yes, obviously. I don’t see them on SSC. When was the last time you saw someone whip out the word ‘c.uck’ here and not be banned? Same goes for echoes and permutations of Soy.

            I’m talking about the weird verbal tick common to our leftword friends of using every bodily disgust signifier they can think of, and then forgetting to include an actual point. How even a politely worded disagreement with what they’re saying becomes “spewing hatred filled bile while on a crusade of sexist, racist, ***ist, ***phobic lies”. We have that here frequently. Again, I can point it out for you next time I see it. Give me a heads up the next time you see someone use c.uck.

            So, pushing people, being pushed, how do we define this?

            The typical was this plays out is when people are excluded from the camp for disagreement on the fine details. The best example writ large is the last election, with team Hillary telling the BernieBros “You will fall in line! You will vote for her or you’re human garbage.”, and enough of them said “Well, ok then I guess…”, and the rest is ridiculous, tragicomic history.

            I’ve gotta say for the rest of your paragraph though, I’m happy for you that you’re in a good environment where you’ve never seen this stuff, but man are you lacking empathy for people who have been on the receiving end. The guy I’m thinking of specifically who is all but lost at this point was on the receiving end of some pretty serious targeted campaigns that would be unambiguously harassment if it were coming from anyone without complete immunity. It was made worse by the fact that his career was in social work and he needed up to date background checks to continue working, and as soon as they learned that, it was trivial to get a few complaints on his record. I really wish that rabbit hole wasn’t what he took out of the ordeal, but I can absolutely understand why he did. To answer Quanta at the same time, if things were different and it was some skinhead group who was targeting him in the same way, I wouldn’t have held it against him if he’d become a crazed Antifa heavy.

            Beyond that, man, I’ve seen people threaten to self harm and call the cops on guys I know. I’ve heard the phrase “Who do you think they’re going to believe?” without joke or irony, and I consider myself lucky that it’s never been pointed at me.

            Again, I’m glad you’ve never seen it, but fuck dude, playing it down to “They’re getting upset over some mean words from harmless college kids!? What a bunch of whiners!” is a serious failure of understanding. Once the justice system is involved and wielded as a cudgel, it’s not a matter of just not being able to sit with the cool kids in the lunchroom anymore.

            Obviously an actual nazi is worse than some SJ powerplayer. There are also two orders of magnitude fewer nazis than hardcore SJs, more if you filter for who is actually in power and writing laws. I’m against both, but I draw the opposite conclusion than you do, in that I think it’s more important to stand up the the group that is actually advancing their agenda. I’m willing to bet everything I have plus my life that nazis will never be a serious threat again, and that you might as well be afraid of Huns or Mongols kicking down your wall and burning your village. I’m well aware of the prewar history here, and I’m sure you know all about the nazis specifically using attacks against them to galvanize public opinion in their favour.

            You’re right of centre (aren’t you?)

            Not by any metric besides “Is against people who use ‘social justice’ as an excuse to be shitheads”. I’m left of the canadian center in just about every category, as a lifetime NDP voter and occasional activist. In my younger days, I called Bush Jr. a “Baby Eating Nazi” during a CBC interview at a protest outside the parliament. Cringeworthy as that one is, I don’t think my left wing bonafides are lacking.

            I really wish you’d quit being dramatic to try to trivialize this. We both know neither of us are going to be ‘up against the wall’ in front of a campus firing squad. There are actual things going on that are bad enough to warrant attention without having six figure death tolls. One of them is just the complete missed potential to actually achieve the (quotes omitted) social justice movement’s stated goals, which I think are excellent and worth fighting for, even if I think the current group wearing the mantle is doing it so terribly that they’re doing their opponents’ recruiting work for them.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I mean, there was the guy last week who got banned within hours of his first post because of a ‘snippy one liner’ that used the word ‘hatefacts’. Dan something?

            That was in a thread where someone – who honestly, I think was probably trolling, given a level of repeatedly misinterpreting something, having it explained, doing it again – was getting dogpiled by several people. It was a polite dogpile, as the ones around here tend to be. But while everyone else was saying “you’re wrong, you’re misinterpreting this, here’s why, here’s some facts” one guy just posted what amounted to “hatefacts lmao” – if he’d provided some content, and tacked on a snarky bit about “hatefacts” at the end, would he have been banned?

            Yes, obviously. I don’t see them on SSC. When was the last time you saw someone whip out the word ‘c.uck’ here and not be banned? Same goes for echoes and permutations of Soy.

            I mean, are there any actual campus-activist-left-style people here? The style of snarl words they use doesn’t seem to pop up a great deal here, in my experience.

            I’m talking about the weird verbal tick common to our leftword friends of using every bodily disgust signifier they can think of, and then forgetting to include an actual point. How even a politely worded disagreement with what they’re saying becomes “spewing hatred filled bile while on a crusade of sexist, racist, ***ist, ***phobic lies”. We have that here frequently. Again, I can point it out for you next time I see it. Give me a heads up the next time you see someone use c.uck.

            Do we see that here frequently, by common posters, not by the people who show up for a thread or two then disappear, or reappear under a different name?

            I’ve gotta say for the rest of your paragraph though, I’m happy for you that you’re in a good environment where you’ve never seen this stuff, but man are you lacking empathy for people who have been on the receiving end. The guy I’m thinking of specifically who is all but lost at this point was on the receiving end of some pretty serious targeted campaigns that would be unambiguously harassment if it were coming from anyone without complete immunity. It was made worse by the fact that his career was in social work and he needed up to date background checks to continue working, and as soon as they learned that, it was trivial to get a few complaints on his record. I really wish that rabbit hole wasn’t what he took out of the ordeal, but I can absolutely understand why he did. To answer Quanta at the same time, if things were different and it was some skinhead group who was targeting him in the same way, I wouldn’t have held it against him if he’d become a crazed Antifa heavy.

            Beyond that, man, I’ve seen people threaten to self harm and call the cops on guys I know. I’ve heard the phrase “Who do you think they’re going to believe?” without joke or irony, and I consider myself lucky that it’s never been pointed at me.

            Again, I’m glad you’ve never seen it, but fuck dude, playing it down to “They’re getting upset over some mean words from harmless college kids!? What a bunch of whiners!” is a serious failure of understanding. Once the justice system is involved and wielded as a cudgel, it’s not a matter of just not being able to sit with the cool kids in the lunchroom anymore.

            That’s more fucked than anything I’ve seen, yeah. But I’ve seen people whose opinions aren’t anything outside of the Conservative mainstream – not even the right wing end of the Conservative mainstream, like, not even people who backed Leitch – get publicly denounced, with the assumption being that they’re racist borderline-fascists. There’s people I’ve stopped engaging with, or stopped engaging with publicly, because it’s like walking on eggshells; anyone who disagrees with them is evil.

            And, I’m not saying “they’re getting upset! Whiners!” but the damage the septum-piercing Stasi can do is… I guess it’s like airplane crashes vs car accidents, right? You can worry about the former, and feel bad for people who die or lose relatives in airplane crashes, but car accidents are much more of a threat that we have to deal with. I’m not analogizing the latter to anything, though.

            Obviously an actual nazi is worse than some SJ powerplayer. There are also two orders of magnitude fewer nazis than hardcore SJs, more if you filter for who is actually in power and writing laws. I’m against both, but I draw the opposite conclusion than you do, in that I think it’s more important to stand up the the group that is actually advancing their agenda. I’m willing to bet everything I have plus my life that nazis will never be a serious threat again, and that you might as well be afraid of Huns or Mongols kicking down your wall and burning your village. I’m well aware of the prewar history here, and I’m sure you know all about the nazis specifically using attacks against them to galvanize public opinion in their favour.

            Oh, the next time there’s right-wing totalitarians, they’re probably not gonna look like the right-wing totalitarians we’re on the lookout for. Ditto left-wing totalitarians, although would-be left-wing totalitarians get tolerated a bit more than their right-wing counterparts. But the reason the Nazis got into power was that people couldn’t rub their crystal balls and see “huh this ain’t gonna go well; they actually do mean that stuff they’re saying”.

            And I’m totally agreed that part of the reason shit went so bad was that the conservatives ended up deciding they would side with the far right, and the liberals etc just sort of figured they didn’t want to team up with the far left. I said as much earlier. But this is what I mean when I say the backlash is worse: the KPD was extremely unlikely to get into power, but fear of them brought the NSDAP into power.

            Not by any metric besides “Is against people who use ‘social justice’ as an excuse to be shitheads”. I’m left of the canadian center in just about every category, as a lifetime NDP voter and occasional activist. In my younger days, I called Bush Jr. a “Baby Eating Nazi” during a CBC interview at a protest outside the parliament. Cringeworthy as that one is, I don’t think my left wing bonafides are lacking.

            So, then, we’re in the same boat, I guess.

            I really wish you’d quit being dramatic to try to trivialize this. We both know neither of us are going to be ‘up against the wall’ in front of a campus firing squad. There are actual things going on that are bad enough to warrant attention without having six figure death tolls. One of them is just the complete missed potential to actually achieve the (quotes omitted) social justice movement’s stated goals, which I think are excellent and worth fighting for, even if I think the current group wearing the mantle is doing it so terribly that they’re doing their opponents’ recruiting work for them.

            This is fairly close to what I think, and I’ve said as much elsewhere. A lot of lefty activist types, when you pay attention to what they actually do, aim all their activity at enhancing their position in campus politics, shooting for campus jobs, or in corporate speaking or HR gigs, or in professional activism (in Canada, the whole CFS-to-PIRG pipeline and so on) And I know a surprising number of people who have left-wing bona fides, but the annoying campus people upset them to a degree where I worry they might cut off their nose to spite their face.

          • Barely matters says:

            @dndnrsn

            if he’d provided some content, and tacked on a snarky bit about “hatefacts” at the end, would he have been banned?

            No idea. Given that the previous poster had just articulated that certain facts were xxxist and thus off the table for discussion, I, having never heard it before and being unaware of the term’s history of use, thought the it was pretty on the nose.

            Do we see that here frequently, by common posters, not by the people who show up for a thread or two then disappear, or reappear under a different name?

            I notice it frequently with the star poster of this thread. There are a few others, but you’re right that this space is a lot better about it than most.

            The damage the septum-piercing Stasi can do is… I guess it’s like airplane crashes vs car accidents, right? You can worry about the former, and feel bad for people who die or lose relatives in airplane crashes, but car accidents are much more of a threat that we have to deal with.

            I think they’re different from plane crashes in a very specific way; that they’re intentionally used to chill the behaviour of huge swathes of people, with the threat that it can happen to anyone who doesn’t fall in line. So, in the most egregious case of the past year and a half, the one where a girl was straight up caught trying to blackmail a friend of mine that if he didn’t come and talk to her, she would hit her head against his door and call in a domestic abuse in progress.

            a) The dude is lucky that his friends were there to witness it, because what are the odds that anyone would believe him? (Usually when I tell this story, the first response is “Well, how do you know he didn’t actually do it, huh?” We believe survivors, and all.)

            b) Nearly as bad, when my girlfriend (Who knows the guy better than I do) tries to warn people that she did this, the response from our hairdyed compatriots is frequently “Oh her? Yeah, she did this to her last boyfriend too”, and “Ah well, she’ll figure herself out eventually”, as if she’s the one we’re worried about here. Bluehair don’t care.

            So what’s the takehome, and what’s the recourse in this situation? Just never do anything that might make a woman angry, and if you do, just accept that you’re going to tangle with armed police?

            The fact that we all recognize that this is a systemic hole, where any guy this happens to is going to be put into a straight up Kafkan nightmare, and this can be done by any woman who happens to decide that she wants to ruin someone… and still no one in this group cares enough to stand up to a known repeat offender because it might harm the narrative?

            In short, this sounds less like plane crashes, and more being stalked by wolves (And the wolves are now freely roaming your streets. They’re also designated ‘endangered’, so it is a crime to retaliate against them)

            And I’m totally agreed that part of the reason shit went so bad was that the conservatives ended up deciding they would side with the far right, and the liberals etc just sort of figured they didn’t want to team up with the far left. I said as much earlier. But this is what I mean when I say the backlash is worse: the KPD was extremely unlikely to get into power, but fear of them brought the NSDAP into power

            I’m with you here. Out of curiosity though, who are we counting as the ‘far left’ that the liberals didn’t want to team up with?

            A lot of lefty activist types, when you pay attention to what they actually do, aim all their activity at enhancing their position in campus politics, shooting for campus jobs, or in corporate speaking or HR gigs, or in professional activism

            They do, but it’s bigger than just campus jobs. Similarly to the previous case, they have the edge in a small absolute number of places, those places are selected intentionally and are the top of, well, just about everything. The best, highest paying job sectors are captured, the best schools, government positions, courts, and legislators. Police even to some extent around here. I keep hearing from my peers who are trying to join that the current stance for RCMP recruiters is ‘if you’re white and male, don’t even bother’.

            In terms of cutting of one’s nose to spite their face, I think there may be good reason to do so if you’ve got skin cancer. If a genie offered me the choice to take Mary Koss out of her office at the DoJ, but in exchange it would put 10 legit typical neonazis onto the streets, I would take it in a heartbeat, because I think she does more distributed harm than those 10 tiki torch pricks possibly could.

            To give a counteranalogy, SJ’s to Nazis are like Mosquito bites vs Sharks attacks. One is big and scary but is contained, the other is small and annoying but manages to cause colossal amounts of widespread human suffering.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The damage the septum-piercing Stasi can do is… I guess it’s like airplane crashes vs car accidents, right? You can worry about the former, and feel bad for people who die or lose relatives in airplane crashes, but car accidents are much more of a threat that we have to deal with.

            I think they’re different from plane crashes in a very specific way; that they’re intentionally used to chill the behaviour of huge swathes of people, with the threat that it can happen to anyone who doesn’t fall in line. So, in the most egregious case of the past year and a half, the one where a girl was straight up caught trying to blackmail a friend of mine that if he didn’t come and talk to her, she would hit her head against his door and call in a domestic abuse in progress.

            a) The dude is lucky that his friends were there to witness it, because what are the odds that anyone would believe him? (Usually when I tell this story, the first response is “Well, how do you know he didn’t actually do it, huh?” We believe survivors, and all.)

            b) Nearly as bad, when my girlfriend (Who knows the guy better than I do) tries to warn people that she did this, the response from our hairdyed compatriots is frequently “Oh her? Yeah, she did this to her last boyfriend too”, and “Ah well, she’ll figure herself out eventually”, as if she’s the one we’re worried about here. Bluehair don’t care.

            So what’s the takehome, and what’s the recourse in this situation? Just never do anything that might make a woman angry, and if you do, just accept that you’re going to tangle with armed police?

            The fact that we all recognize that this is a systemic hole, where any guy this happens to is going to be put into a straight up Kafkan nightmare, and this can be done by any woman who happens to decide that she wants to ruin someone… and still no one in this group cares enough to stand up to a known repeat offender because it might harm the narrative?

            In short, this sounds less like plane crashes, and more being stalked by wolves (And the wolves are now freely roaming your streets. They’re also designated ‘endangered’, so it is a crime to retaliate against them)

            I think you’re conflating a couple different things. That, in the right context, a false accusation of domestic abuse or similar can be ruinous – that’s not a new thing, and that’s not the same thing as “student scream-crying at professor because said prof committed a brutal microinvalidation”. Which is a pretty current thing – it’s become a lot more noticeable in the last 5 or 10 years.

            And I’d note “the right context” – in some places, based on the people concerned, not much might be done in response to such accusations. One can find both horror stories of obviously innocent people who got their lives wrecked, and horror stories of obviously guilty people who got away with it again and again. The narrative in which women are saintly, fragile creatures, who would never lie, and need to be protected against the brutes, isn’t a new one either – one can find it at many points in the past; it’s a basic element of patriarchal norms: “women need good men to protect them from the bad men” (what gender are the cops and the prison guards, mostly; what gender are the legislators?)

            I’m with you here. Out of curiosity though, who are we counting as the ‘far left’ that the liberals didn’t want to team up with?

            The KPD (commies). I’m being a bit lazy in calling the SPD “liberals”, as while I think by the late 20s they’d moved away from actual socialism, “liberal” can have several meanings. When actual leftists, or pseudo-leftists, use “liberal”, they usually mean “wussy centre-left person who doesn’t realize that in order to fight The Enemy one must do everything I want pronto”. (No, I’m not being very charitable) I say “pseudo-leftist” because I don’t think the scream-crying crew are actual leftists – they don’t actually want very radical change, they just want 10 mil for a student centre at which they will be employed, or whatever.

            They do, but it’s bigger than just campus jobs. Similarly to the previous case, they have the edge in a small absolute number of places, those places are selected intentionally and are the top of, well, just about everything. The best, highest paying job sectors are captured, the best schools, government positions, courts, and legislators. Police even to some extent around here. I keep hearing from my peers who are trying to join that the current stance for RCMP recruiters is ‘if you’re white and male, don’t even bother’.

            Again I think there’s two different things going on here. It’s not that, for example, the RCMP is dominated by gender studies majors or whatever. It’s that the RCMP is praying that if they hire more women and more visible minorities, the sexual harassment problems in the RCMP and the RCMP’s history of racism will go away, or at least people will be distracted. It’s a bandaid solution.

            In terms of cutting of one’s nose to spite their face, I think there may be good reason to do so if you’ve got skin cancer. If a genie offered me the choice to take Mary Koss out of her office at the DoJ, but in exchange it would put 10 legit typical neonazis onto the streets, I would take it in a heartbeat, because I think she does more distributed harm than those 10 tiki torch pricks possibly could.

            Again, I wouldn’t put Koss into the same bucket. She’s been doing her thing for decades. She’s an influence on some of the current zeitgeist – she’s part of the late-80s movement that saw ideas often associated with radical feminism percolate into liberal feminism. It’s become a big part of pseudo-leftist stuff, and it’s all grossly retrograde: a patriarchal worldview in which men are big scary beasts (with agency) and women are fragile innocent victims (without agency) is not dismantled by advancing those same notions. There’s a lot of patriarchal norms cloaked in a bit of left-wing talk floating around, and those definitely cause a lot of harm, but that’s not a complete overlap with obnoxious campus leftist types. Laws and social customs that treat men as responsible for their actions and women as inherently less capable of taking responsibility aren’t actually left wing, any more than Jim Crow lynch mobs were feminist on account of being “community response to gender-based violence” or whatever.

            EDIT: I suppose this makes more sense if I mention that a concept I consider pretty key is that there are certain things – patriarchal norms, say – that recur commonly among human societies. Either there’s something biological going on, or historical conditions led to millennia of socialization, depending on if you’re a biodeterminist or a social constructionist. Or, very probably, a mix of the two. These recurring features are thus “baked in” in a way that’s very hard to defeat, and are influential, and so those who think they are dismantling them often reinforce them, without really knowing it. In this case, someone may think they’re smacking gender roles upside the head, but if their ideology amounts to girls being sugar, spice, etc, and boys being snails, puppy dog tails, etc, they are likely doing very little to actually break down gender roles.

        • Barely matters says:

          @dndnrsn

          I think you’re conflating a couple different things. That, in the right context, a false accusation of domestic abuse or similar can be ruinous – that’s not a new thing, and that’s not the same thing as “student scream-crying at professor because said prof committed a brutal microinvalidation”. Which is a pretty current thing – it’s become a lot more noticeable in the last 5 or 10 years.

          I think that most of all this comment has been clarifying. I think that most of our misunderstandings are stemming from us talking about completely different groups of people when we say SJW/HairdyeNKVD. Everything that we’ve talked about makes way more sense to if you just mean the actual college crybullies themselves. Of course they’re smalltime enough not to worry about. I’m about as worried about them as I am about 4chan basement dwellers or incels rising up to wreak havoc.

          When I use the term, I’m talking about the larger group who is making policy. I’m talking about the Kosses, the Trudeaus, the leadership of NOW, the Title IX courts, the groups that empower google’s HR department enough that the company itself is terrified to cross them.

          I’m talking about the people who make it so that my boss can openly provide substandard medical resources and cannot be removed because of the understanding that she’ll get the band together and protest the pipeline running through their sacred lands if the prime contractor fires us.

          I’m talking about the group that has amassed enough power to scare the goddamn Mounties enough that they’re willing to hamstring their effectiveness by rejecting applicants of the local majority, just in the vain hope that they’ll be left alone.

          And I’d note “the right context” – in some places, based on the people concerned, not much might be done in response to such accusations.

          Right, but I don’t live the the bible belt or on an Amish commune, so can you think of any situation I might find myself in where I’d be safe in the case of an accusation? I can’t actually think of any.

          Again, I wouldn’t put Koss into the same bucket. She’s been doing her thing for decades. She’s an influence on some of the current zeitgeist – she’s part of the late-80s movement that saw ideas often associated with radical feminism percolate into liberal feminism. It’s become a big part of pseudo-leftist stuff, and it’s all grossly retrograde: a patriarchal worldview in which men are big scary beasts (with agency) and women are fragile innocent victims (without agency) is not dismantled by advancing those same notions. There’s a lot of patriarchal norms cloaked in a bit of left-wing talk floating around, and those definitely cause a lot of harm, but that’s not a complete overlap with obnoxious campus leftist types. Laws and social customs that treat men as responsible for their actions and women as inherently less capable of taking responsibility aren’t actually left wing, any more than Jim Crow lynch mobs were feminist on account of being “community response to gender-based violence” or whatever.

          Yes, this exactly. This is exactly what I mean when I say SJW. This is why I say that someone like Aapje upholds actual left wing principles better than the group you just described, and get sneered at for using ‘a definition seemingly held by only two people on this planet’. My problem with SJ stuff *is* that they’re fiercely regressive under the guise of fighting the good fight. If this is not what you term as SJW, do you have a better, convenient term that describes this group? I would be perfectly willing to switch to that if it promotes clarity in communication and helps avoid tarring ‘the left’ with an unfairly broad brush.

          I suppose this makes more sense if I mention that a concept I consider pretty key is that there are certain things – patriarchal norms, say – that recur commonly among human societies. Either there’s something biological going on, or historical conditions led to millennia of socialization, depending on if you’re a biodeterminist or a social constructionist. Or, very probably, a mix of the two. These recurring features are thus “baked in” in a way that’s very hard to defeat, and are influential, and so those who think they are dismantling them often reinforce them, without really knowing it. In this case, someone may think they’re smacking gender roles upside the head, but if their ideology amounts to girls being sugar, spice, etc, and boys being snails, puppy dog tails, etc, they are likely doing very little to actually break down gender roles.

          Yes, we’re very much on the same page now.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m about as worried about them as I am about 4chan basement dwellers or incels rising up to wreak havoc.

            In today’s climate, political violence is not much of a thing in the US. On the left, it’s groups committing very, very low-level violence, of the show-up-and-shoving-match-and-maybe-someone-gets-punched – there’s no alt-right Horst Wessels, because nobody’s been killed; Richard Spencer is backing down in the face of relatively minor resistance. On the right, there’s occasional lone-wolf and very rarely organized killings – the far right has a larger body count than the far left in the US today – but it’s still small potatoes compared to all other homicides in the US. But today’s climate is actually pretty good. If there’s serious economic problems that put lots of currently-employable people out of work, result in lots of military personnel getting “laid off”, hyperinflation, whatever, that will be something to worry about. Right now even the hottest “culture war” stuff is just LARPing.

            Right, but I don’t live the the bible belt or on an Amish commune, so can you think of any situation I might find myself in where I’d be safe in the case of an accusation? I can’t actually think of any.

            I’ve snipped a bunch here. A few thoughts.

            a. Most of what you’re describing is, well, energy that could go into threatening the system being coopted by the system. For example, Title IX scariness is just universities switching from “the easiest way to defend the university’s interests is to tell rape victims to shut up” to “the easiest way to defend the university’s interests is to defenstrate the occasional guy.”

            b. The activist left has a book about dealing with sexual assault and harassment within its own bubble. There’s definitely people getting away with all sorts of shit, everywhere. Whenever some big-name Male Feminist (including cishet white guys) gets outed as an abuser or whatever, it’s usually something that goes back a ways, not the first incident going public. There’s usually people, within those feminist circles, covering for men who abuse women (and, when you look at various stats, consider how many must cover for women who abuse) – this seems to be something peculiar to sex-related offences; I can’t imagine anti-racist activists covering for a “we need to be good white allies” type if they were a vicious racist in private.

            Yes, this exactly. This is exactly what I mean when I say SJW. This is why I say that someone like Aapje upholds actual left wing principles better than the group you just described, and get sneered at for using ‘a definition seemingly held by only two people on this planet’. My problem with SJ stuff *is* that they’re fiercely regressive under the guise of fighting the good fight. If this is not what you term as SJW, do you have a better, convenient term that describes this group? I would be perfectly willing to switch to that if it promotes clarity in communication and helps avoid tarring ‘the left’ with an unfairly broad brush.

            So, two things:

            a. “Social justice warrior” is basically an idiom. “Social justice” likewise is an idiom. I don’t use the term, or the acronym, because it’s coded – I’m not the sort of person who calls people that. Which is why I like to use silly synonyms, or if I’m being more serious, just gesture vaguely at “that kind of campus-style lefty activist, you know, that kind.”

            Two people I know who themselves are involved in lefty activist circles have in my presence referred to someone as an “SJW” – the shorthand was, this is someone who has a certain set of beliefs and a certain worldview (“social justice” being a form of left-wing politics heavily informed by critical studies and focusing relatively less on class and relatively more on race, gender, etc) and pursues them in a certain way. Undertones that this is a person who is personally not very pleasant, and has found a convenient banner to march under (one of these friends was referring to someone who is extremely difficult to deal with and wields accusations of one or another sort of “problematic” behaviour within activist groups to get the upper hand in either jockeying for position or in personal disputes). In both cases, that these left-wing activists were calling others “SJWs” indicates they don’t think of themselves as such. It’s about meta-level principles and worldview more than object-level policy proposals, and it’s as much about attitude and milieu as anything else – and my emphasis is on attitude; one of my friends was describing someone where on paper the two of them look really similar; and yet one is someone I’m friends with who I could discuss something contentious with, and the other is someone who makes agreeing with them seem like you’re stepping awfully close to saying the wrong thing.

            b. So, let’s say you’ve got two people, both say “I liked [social movement] up until 1985, then it jumped the shark”. If one spends a lot more time defending the pre-1985 version, and the other attacking the post-1985 version, that doesn’t necessarily prove anything, but it’s a clue. A lot of “I liked this then it got crappy” is just a smokescreen – it’s like how Republicans like to quote prooftexted bits of MLK to make it sound like he’d support them these days. It’s why I dialled back my easily-expressed annoyance at the rent-seekers and hypocrites (and hypocritical rent-seekers, don’t forget them) I encountered in university, and focused instead on trying to argue my left-wing politics more around here. The former is just more snarl noises if it’s in a vacuum, while the latter is “this is what we should do instead, guys.”

          • Barely matters says:

            @dndnrsn

            In today’s climate, political violence is not much of a thing in the US

            Yep, agreed

            For example, Title IX scariness is just universities switching from “the easiest way to defend the university’s interests is to tell rape victims to shut up” to “the easiest way to defend the university’s interests is to defenstrate the occasional guy.”

            Right, the problem is that the people who said “Let’s just throw women under the bus to keep ourselves in the clear!” were total shitheads. I was (and am) against them when they said that. The fact that they’re no better now is of no comfort at all, especially given that their reach has been expanding thanks to the interconnected nature of the modern world.

            The reason I asked for examples of places where it falls the other way is because I can’t think of too many. Religious cults, third world countries, extremely rich and powerful abusers. For all intents and purposes, there is no balance here, it’s just advantage: accuser as far as the eye can see.

            There’s not a whole lot wrong with the final two paragraphs, but it still leaves us without a term to talk about the edifice of people being regressive shitheads under the banner of left wing progress. My understanding was that this is what people mean by SJ (Which includes, but is not limited to the campus hairdye crybullies), though I know that this is not how you parse the term. I feel that this group needs to be addressed frequently, and think that saying the full length ‘regressive shitheads hiding under the banner of left wing progress’ would get me reflexively labeled as alt right even faster than ‘essjaydubs’.

            I’m with you that one has to actually argue for what they want to see, but we do that, and frequently.

            Add funding to male social services to match the existing female only infrastructure. Allow male only clubs to the same extent that we do female only clubs. Recognize ‘made to penetrate’ as actual rape. Start prosecuting clear cut false rape accusations as perjury under oath. Still take accusations as serious and cause for investigation, be more fucking diligent with storing and analyzing rape kits. Open up the study to include all missing and murdered native *people*. Acknowledge that power is, was, and will forever be local, so groups of minorities can absolutely be racist or sexist towards the majority. Fix the antiquated marriage and commonlaw equalization laws (In this case, so that my girlfriend and I can move in together without me being on the hook to give her half my income if she should later change her mind) to recognize and uphold spousal contracts. Ditch the Duluth model and recognize that women are perpetrators of domestic assault at rates similar to men. Ditch the default of women being presumed to be the custodial parent. Do some real research into HB,D stuff so we can actually understand what is going on and get a better picture of why racial dynamics are so resistant to being helped by every solution we’ve tried (And at best, rule out the effects of racially innate IQ differences as a cause once and for all), while moving away from the current connection equating IQ and moral worth. If we’re going to call ourselves the ‘pro science’ party, start actually fucking updating our beliefs when presented with new evidence, even (and especially) when it goes against the narrative. Engage with and discuss problems with people instead of writing them off as ‘the enemy’, because this is how we get on the same page and come to agreement; dubbing someone your enemy is the fastest way to make them your enemy. Be intersectional if you want, but take it all the way, even if that means realizing the people who were ‘oppressors’ before are usually dispriviliged on some axis (Even if this makes it hard, because you really, really want to collectively shit on someone as a bonding ritual with your friends). Look into UBI programs and hope to find a way to make the numbers work, even if it means raising taxes substantially.

            I feel like I/we talk about, propose, and advocate for positive solutions like these all the time. It’s just so trivial for the ‘”GroupName_TBA, Formerly SJW” crew to say “Oh, just an MRA, no need to listen”, “Oh, just a race realist, don’t bother”, “Just another angry white dude alt right troll, don’t feed him”.

            This is why I think it’s important to cover both bases. Advocate strongly, and express that those kind of (Often race and gender based) identitarian shutdowns aren’t welcome.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Right, the problem is that the people who said “Let’s just throw women under the bus to keep ourselves in the clear!” were total shitheads. I was (and am) against them when they said that. The fact that they’re no better now is of no comfort at all, especially given that their reach has been expanding thanks to the interconnected nature of the modern world.

            But they weren’t saying it because they’re bad people. They’re saying it because most people – probably including us – are in CYA mode. Protecting the institution is more important than protecting the little kids or the co-eds, and it’s more important than protecting people who might be falsely accused, or whose behaviour is shitty but not criminal.

            The reason I asked for examples of places where it falls the other way is because I can’t think of too many. Religious cults, third world countries, extremely rich and powerful abusers. For all intents and purposes, there is no balance here, it’s just advantage: accuser as far as the eye can see.

            Every social circle has someone who gets away with this kind of shit. I can name several guys I know from university who behaved badly towards women in ways that could in theory be prosecuted by the legal system – I know there are whispers about them, which I believe. The amount of flak for it depended on their social status within the community, not on what they were accused of: the guy few people likes will get hit harder for being a groper than the popular guy will for rape. This was in a left-wing university context, where being a fairly ordinary conservative is pretty much out of the Overton window. At least one of these guys is a noisy wokeman nowadays.

            If men get away with it, women do even more (although they probably do “it” less). There was one person, she treated her boyfriend in a way that, had it been the other way around, we would have recognized it as abuse. Not terrible abuse, but definitely abuse. Mostly our response to this was to make fun of him for being whipped, and later I realized, man, that was shitty of us.

            I feel that this group needs to be addressed frequently, and think that saying the full length ‘regressive shitheads hiding under the banner of left wing progress’ would get me reflexively labeled as alt right even faster than ‘essjaydubs’.

            I don’t think that’s the case. It’ll get you marked as concern trolling, probably. Perhaps sarcasm is the best approach: “ah yes, you’re right, we must indeed keep Those Men, You Know The Kind, away from our women. Why, only last week, one of them had the temerity to glance at my unsullied virgin daughter! Of course, I horsewhipped the brute.” Say this in a Foghorn Leghorn voice.

            [snipped a bunch]

            a. probably more social services are needed for men, but I doubt it needs to be 1-1. Regardless of stats involving levels of abuse, more serious abuse (the kind that puts people in the hospital or the morgue) is largely male-on-female. Combining everything from savage beatings to low-level emotional abuse into an “abuse” category often obscures things. A lot of what’s needed is “cultural tools” – eg, people should recognize that behaviours that are abusive in men are also abusive in women. And people need to recognize that there isn’t some switch that gets flipped from “100% A-OK behaviour” to “abuse” – someone’s behaviour can be shitty without rising to the level of abuse. That isn’t about funding. But here I am saying that it’s hard to change culture, for whatever reason – so, I’m not sure what to do.

            b. I’m of the opinion that Horrible Banned Discourse is tripe. It looks stronger than it is because those who would be expected to stand against it have decided that IQ isn’t real or is entirely environmental. I predict that if intelligence is studied it will be found to be probably about half genetic, and that significant ethnic differences by and large do not exist. I question your statement that racial dynamics are resistant to being helped – there are some stereotypes that have changed drastically over the past 100 years (the stereotype of East Asians was not “wow, they’re really smart!“), there’s that whole thing where you had at least one expert saying, shrug, “the Irish just have a lower IQ than the English and there’s nothing can be done” and that gap disappeared all of a sudden, etc.

            I can see why some people want it to be verboten, though. A lot of its adherents certainly seem to have motivations other than pure-hearted truth-seeking, to say the least. You can’t have a debate over the truth with someone who’s acting in bad faith. There’s some people who really want to get to the bottom of genetics and intelligence, but there’s also a long history of the cart pulling the horse with regard to justifying oppressive social norms, conquest, etc.

          • Barely matters says:

            But they weren’t saying it because they’re bad people. They’re saying it because most people – probably including us – are in CYA mode. Protecting the institution is more important than protecting the little kids or the co-eds, and it’s more important than protecting people who might be falsely accused, or whose behaviour is shitty but not criminal.

            I don’t know, man. Ruining people’s lives for your own convenience is pretty much how I’d define ‘bad person’. I personally think this accounts for some 95% of all the evil in the world. YMMV though.

            Every social circle has someone who gets away with this kind of shit.

            Ok, so being that you keep answering a different question than I’d asked, I’m going to take that as an answer in and of itself. It’s not that you’re saying there are actually any environments in the modern world (cults and the third world excluded) where a woman’s claims won’t be blanket privileged, it’s just that certain powerful and charismatic people can still get away with it. That’s less an indicator of some kind of balance and most a subset of ‘powerful people tautologically get away with things’.

            If men get away with it, women do even more (although they probably do “it” less)

            People behave as a function of what they expect to get away with. For a few years I worked in a club that had women dancing on the top floor and men downstairs. Seriously, the way the average female audience member behaved would have had her escorted out on a stretcher if they had been a guy watching the girls.

            I don’t think that’s the case. It’ll get you marked as concern trolling, probably.

            I wish I could agree with this, but it fits right into the ‘the left are the real bigots’ bingo square and can be reflexively ignored. I honestly think EssJay is the lesser evil here, because even if people don’t like the connotation, essentially nobody denies that there are bad faith actors hiding out on the left, and everyone has a vivid picture of what that looks like.

            And yeah, sarcasm works to a point, but that’s already frogtwitter’s domain because the Left Can’t Meme.

            a. probably more social services are needed for men, but I doubt it needs to be 1-1. Regardless of stats involving levels of abuse, more serious abuse (the kind that puts people in the hospital or the morgue) is largely male-on-female.

            I mean, when it comes to shelters, homelessness would be the relevant stat, and men have been on the losing end of that one forever. The typical justification for battered women’s shelters over male or co ed shelters is that women are less financially able to house themselves than men, which is flat out not the case anymore. If the argument is that women generally have lower incomes than men, then make shelters for low income people, and they’ll naturally serve more women anyway (Provided that justification is correct, I personally don’t think it accurately predicts need of social services)

            This is my solution for most programs that currently utilize racial metrics for determining need. If you want to help blacks and hispanics because they’re typically poorer, then just fucking make your program available to the poor and it’ll disproportionately serve minority populations naturally, while also helping the members of other groups who don’t seem to have as much ‘privilege’ as their gender and ethnicity would suggest.

            A lot of what’s needed is “cultural tools” – eg, people should recognize that behaviours that are abusive in men are also abusive in women.

            This definitely. In the modern day, I think culture changes one lawsuit at the time. This is why the thing I worry most about is these old cultural biases being enshrined in law. If it becomes legally allowable to openly discriminate against men or whites, then I think the culture becomes much harder to shift back into balance. This is one thing that I’m grudgingly glad for Trump on, in that I think if Hil had gone to Washington the US supreme court would have been stacked with one of exactly these people, with downstream effects continuing for decades.

            This is why above everything else, I think the “prejudice + power: It’s not bad when we do it” meme is the most dangerous of everything floating around. Even if we assume that the current people using it are acting in good faith (Which is doubtful), once it becomes law other less scrupulous actors will flood in to utilize it.

            b. I’m of the opinion that Horrible Banned Discourse is tripe. It looks stronger than it is because those who would be expected to stand against it have decided that IQ isn’t real or is entirely environmental. I predict that if intelligence is studied it will be found to be probably about half genetic, and that significant ethnic differences by and large do not exist.

            Absolutely, and that would be a win. So let’s fucking crack this case open and put it away once and for all.

            I question your statement that racial dynamics are resistant to being helped – there are some stereotypes that have changed drastically over the past 100 years (the stereotype of East Asians was not “wow, they’re really smart!“)

            Sure, and I’d concede that some stereotypes have been more stubborn than others, and also that some are just there for weird realpolitik reasons (Heard any ‘Pollacks are stupid’ joke in the last decade?) and dry up as soon as the situation changes.

            That said, the AZN stereotype sure didn’t change because of affirmative action or any social intervention. Same goes for the Italians, ditto for the Irish, and double that for Jews.

            I think the argument ‘”science” has said things like this before, and it’s always been wrong (and usually racist)’ is a really strange one. It’s a fully general counterargument, because literally any scientific idea fits this criteria: People were wrong, until they weren’t (we think). We wouldn’t dream of saying “Ok, we’ve had cosmology wrong every time before, and always for weird religious reasons involving crystal spheres and heliocentrism. I know this time it sounds better, but look at our track record”. If the argument is that this time our models of the allow us to make accurate predictions, then… *jazzhands*

            Personally, I think HB.D ends up being another lesser evil, in that it lets us resolve the ‘problem’ of extreme Jewish achievement without resorting to either denial or conspiracy.

            I’m not ready to concede that you can’t debate facts with people who aren’t arguing in good faith, because *gestures to the aforementioned group* (Edit: Woah, I mean the EssJays, not Jews) this would mean that the dominant force in modern society is largely unreachable and the only solution is /pol style war and underground psyops. I don’t really want to have to start digging a bunker quite yet, so I’m inclined to try to reason with them as long as possible. There’ve gotta be some people out there who actually believe in the principles themselves, rather than just attacking the people the cool kids attack.

          • I predict that if intelligence is studied it will be found to be probably about half genetic, and that significant ethnic differences by and large do not exist.

            I’m curious why you predict that. Visible heritable differences, such as height or skin color, vary with race. Lots of stuff varies with gender, including things not directly related such as height.

            It’s hard to be confident about ethnic differences given both lots of noise in the signal and the pressure against an open discussion, but why would you expect them not to exist? Gender differences you would expect, a priori, to probably exist, since we are as if optimized for reproductive success and the genders differ precisely in their role in reproduction.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I don’t know, man. Ruining people’s lives for your own convenience is pretty much how I’d define ‘bad person’. I personally think this accounts for some 95% of all the evil in the world. YMMV though.

            Certainly, and I agree with you that most evil in the world is not by people who set out to do evil, but I think that various examples show that it’s due to people being placed in positions where evil is beneficial, required, etc, not due to some flaw in their own character. Those who don’t do evil when it’s beneficial or whatever, or don’t simply look the other way (that’s more common than actually doing evil, are the least common ones – they’re morally especially good, rather than most people who do evil being morally especially bad.

            Ok, so being that you keep answering a different question than I’d asked, I’m going to take that as an answer in and of itself. It’s not that you’re saying there are actually any environments in the modern world (cults and the third world excluded) where a woman’s claims won’t be blanket privileged, it’s just that certain powerful and charismatic people can still get away with it. That’s less an indicator of some kind of balance and most a subset of ‘powerful people tautologically get away with things’.

            Cultures where wife-beating or whatever is still either acceptable, or “unacceptable but we don’t talk about it”, are still common enough worldwide that it seems odd to write them off. To phrase what I was saying more clearly: the amount of power and charisma you need to get away with being a rapist or an abuser is not that big. You don’t gotta be a bigtime CEO, just a well-liked guy on campus, have some kind of seniority in activist circles, whatever.

            I mean, when it comes to shelters, homelessness would be the relevant stat, and men have been on the losing end of that one forever. The typical justification for battered women’s shelters over male or co ed shelters is that women are less financially able to house themselves than men, which is flat out not the case anymore. If the argument is that women generally have lower incomes than men, then make shelters for low income people, and they’ll naturally serve more women anyway (Provided that justification is correct, I personally don’t think it accurately predicts need of social services)

            Homeless shelters and domestic-abuse shelters are kind of different cases, aren’t they? I don’t know that anybody argues that homeless men are better able to afford shelter than homeless women. The arguments I’ve seen, beyond simple emotive “women deserve protection more” rhetoric (which is, as with many other things, an old patriarchal norm, not something feminists came up with in the 70s), is that women sleeping rough are more at risk than men. For domestic abuse shelters, it’s usually that women are at a higher risk of getting murdered by partners than men.

            This is my solution for most programs that currently utilize racial metrics for determining need. If you want to help blacks and hispanics because they’re typically poorer, then just fucking make your program available to the poor and it’ll disproportionately serve minority populations naturally, while also helping the members of other groups who don’t seem to have as much ‘privilege’ as their gender and ethnicity would suggest.

            I favour universal programs, actually; with regard to means-tested stuff, they have the disadvantage that they require bureaucracy, create perverse incentives (take a job that will put you above the cutoff? No way!), and embitter those a tad above the cutoff (lower middle class people, mostly). Racially-based programs lose the perverse incentives (cases of people claiming to be a different race to get benefits are pretty rare) but the embittering factor is bad. Probably better to avoid having pissed-off lower-middle-class white people waiting for a demagogue who actually delivers.

            That said, the AZN stereotype sure didn’t change because of affirmative action or any social intervention. Same goes for the Italians, ditto for the Irish, and double that for Jews.

            With regard to AA programs, what were they meant to do? They seem to have helped social mobility within the black middle class: LMC becoming MMC, etc. If they were meant to help poor black people, they haven’t helped that well. They haven’t created perverse incentives for users in the way that some other contemporary social programs did (badly-designed needs-tested stuff). They have created some perverse incentives for employers and clients.

            I think the argument ‘”science” has said things like this before, and it’s always been wrong (and usually racist)’ is a really strange one. It’s a fully general counterargument, because literally any scientific idea fits this criteria: People were wrong, until they weren’t (we think). We wouldn’t dream of saying “Ok, we’ve had cosmology wrong every time before, and always for weird religious reasons involving crystal spheres and heliocentrism. I know this time it sounds better, but look at our track record”. If the argument is that this time our models of the allow us to make accurate predictions, then… *jazzhands*

            It’s not “science was wrong when it said phlogiston existed, so science is always wrong”, it’s that in some cases the tail wags the dog. Theories of racial difference (hell, theories of the existence of races in the way we understand them today) followed from the sudden profitability of colonialism, slavery, etc: they were primarily a way to justify things already done, to salve the consciences of those doing them, and justify further things in that vein. Likewise, models in which everything orbited the earth were heavily driven by religiously-derived ideas about the earth being special because, well, we’re on it, aren’t we? And we’re certainly special.

            Personally, I think HB.D ends up being another lesser evil, in that it lets us resolve the ‘problem’ of extreme Jewish achievement without resorting to either denial or conspiracy.

            And yet the group “those advocating for horrible banned discourse” has significant overlap with “people who believe anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.” Their conspiracy theories tend to be a bit different from both the religious anti-Jewish conspiracy theories of yore (which were heavily based around blood libel) and early-20th century anti-Semitic biological theories (which had to simultaneously claim that this group was inferior and pulling all the strings, and which still hold on with the racists who can’t bring themselves to acknowledge someone might be smarter than their group). The anti-Semitic conspiracy theories popular among the aychbeedee crowd tend to be something like “they’re superior, and they know it, and they’re covering up that fact, and shutting down anything that leads there.” It’s still a conspiracy theory, and it’s still pretty ugly, because “well, sure, they’re smarter, but there’s not many of them” goes nowhere good.

            I’m not ready to concede that you can’t debate facts with people who aren’t arguing in good faith … [nb: above bit is from earlier in your post] This is why above everything else, I think the “prejudice + power: It’s not bad when we do it” meme is the most dangerous of everything floating around. Even if we assume that the current people using it are acting in good faith (Which is doubtful), once it becomes law other less scrupulous actors will flood in to utilize it.

            What do you mean by “bad faith”? I think you can say there’s five levels of “faith” rather than just two:

            1 (most-good): someone actually believes something on the basis of the facts or whatever, and it hurts them
            2: someone believes something, and it’s neutral
            3: someone believes something, but coincidentally it happens to benefit them
            4: someone thinks they believe something because it’s true, but they’re fooling themselves; they really believe it because it benefits them – the tail is wagging the dog
            5: someone pretends to believe something they don’t, because it benefits them (or because they’re trolling or whatever) – they’re an outright bad actor.

            Most people fall into 2-4; people who believe something entirely for the purest of motives and it’s something that harms them are very rare. Someone who is false-flagging or trolling or whatever is at 5 – they’re certainly acting in bad faith. Most people of whom I disapprove on epistemic grounds (and this includes most horrible banned discoursers, I think) fall into 4, because people are generally very good at self-deception, and self-deception works better than intentional deception. You could potentially collapse 2 and 3. I’m also not sure where you’d fit in “pious frauds”.

            If you find you can’t argue with someone of the “campus left activist” style, they aren’t necessarily a 5. People of that variety usually have adopted a rather different system of epistemology than people here. Their reasons for adopting it may be good or bad, and they may be fooling themselves; but our reasons may be good or bad, and we may be fooling ourselves. Very few people there or here are sitting there chuckling to themselves “ha ha, little do they know my belief in subjectivity and lived experience/objectivity and hard facts is in fact a ruse to benefit myself!”

            (Of course, taking this a level further – clearly my belief that people subconsciously choose their opinions to benefit themselves was chosen because it benefits myself by letting me think of myself highly for having “cracked the code”)

            (And of course my recognition that this might be the case for myself is just blowing smoke up my own ass squared or cubed)

            @DavidFriedman

            I buy the explanation that the uncommonly high intelligence of humans is primarily about dealing with social interactions, and while the environments of different groups of people have varied, the need to deal with social interaction hasn’t. As for the comparison with gender, the “toolkit” needed for any group to survive anywhere varies less (especially considering that social interaction/status game requirements are pretty static) probably varies less than it does between the genders in the same place. That’s my impression at least.

            More anecdotally, that some posited innate ethnic intelligence differences have disappeared before leads me to believe that they were not measuring actual innate intelligence, and that this will continue to be the case in future.

          • Barely matters says:

            Homeless shelters and domestic-abuse shelters are kind of different cases, aren’t they?

            Not really, as far as I know. The shelter that I worked at was a Men’s general (Ie, the only kind available for men), but later opened up to accommodate battered women as well. There’s significant overlap between shelters, and really the defining factor of some women’s shelters is that men are specifically excluded (Both on the staff and as tenants).

            I don’t know that anybody argues that homeless men are better able to afford shelter than homeless women.

            As far as I’ve ever known, that’s the standard go-to. The idea is that if a man needs to flee his home, he’s expected to check into a hotel. This option is available to women (Especially women with kids) as well, but the objection is that women often don’t have the means to pursue it, whereas men do (if you squint and don’t look too hard)

            I favour universal programs, actually; with regard to means-tested stuff, they have the disadvantage that they require bureaucracy, create perverse incentives (take a job that will put you above the cutoff? No way!), and embitter those a tad above the cutoff

            Amen to this.

            Racially-based programs lose the perverse incentives (cases of people claiming to be a different race to get benefits are pretty rare) but the embittering factor is bad. Probably better to avoid having pissed-off lower-middle-class white people waiting for a demagogue who actually delivers.

            And it’s relative badness slides on a scale depending on how well those lower-middle-class whites are doing. If there aren’t too many who are in dire straights it’s probably net positive, but you’d better hope things are going as well for the privileged class as the rhetoric says, because if not it’s going to drive a whole lot of negative sentiment that comes out in the ballot box.

            With regard to AA programs, what were they meant to do?

            The take that AA programs aren’t meant to help poor minorities, rather are to help middle class ones is definitely a new one for me.

            Theories of racial difference (hell, theories of the existence of races in the way we understand them today) followed from the sudden profitability of colonialism, slavery, etc:

            I don’t think I buy into that quite as much as you do. People have always hated other tribes, and have always noticed groups from different places look and act differently. Slavery has always been profitable as far back as we have written history and presumably beyond. The world is tighter and more interconnected now, so I have sympathy for the idea that there was no ‘racism’ per say when no one traveled more than 50km from their home at any point. After that point, y’know, once sailing became a thing people did I’m pretty sure racial stereotyping has been relatively constant, and by and large along lines we would recognize today.

            And yet the group “those advocating for horrible banned discourse” has significant overlap with “people who believe anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.”

            I think this is another one of our points of minor disagreement. I really don’t care if bad people also think something. Hitler and I both love dogs and icecream. HB.D doesn’t in and of itself rule out conspiracy, but without it, I can’t see any way to get around it (Or at least some form of structural societal privilege).

            Given that a group is achieving way, way higher than one would expect, you really only have a few possibilities. 1) They’re just unusually talented, 2) They are being propped up and given advantages that others don’t have, 3) They’re not actually excelling and you’re antisemitic for saying so.

            3 was the typical route that has been pushed, and until the internet came along you could kind of get away with it. The echos group might be toxic, but their ‘coincidence noticer’ really got its point across. At this point Scott et al. are happy to point out Jewish achievement in nobel prizes, chess, income, essentially every worthwhile field.

            So now here we are, unable to deny the success. If you try to third way it, like saying “Oh, they just have a really good ‘culture’ of setting themselves up for success, so that’s ok”, then the obvious response is that the success of other whites over minorities is equally likely to be ephemeral ‘culture’ or whatever other mechanism you propose. Trying to contort the definition of ‘structural’ privilege to apply to the majority, but not a group that holds like 20 times more prestigious awards than their numbers would suggest and out earns practically everybody is just insane.

            Honestly, I think Ashkenazim as a group probably are just about a standard deviation smarter than the average white, with predictable effects at the thin tails of the curve. There are obviously also network and ingroup effects (I mean, just try to work in acting without running into a few of those), but I think HB.D is the most likely case for most of the discrepancy.

            One thing I’m glad for, is that thinking another race is smarter than my own clears me of being racist XD

            What do you mean by “bad faith”? I think you can say there’s five levels of “faith” rather than just two:

            Now, this is another neat bit of inferential distance. I wasn’t thinking of ‘bad faith’ as ‘doesn’t believe their own argument’. I’d always understood it as ‘Belief that the other person is the enemy and does not warrant a fair hearing.’ People pulling the ‘arguments are soldiers’ thing are in a case where there is overlap between our two definitions, wherein they both don’t necessarily believe their stance (Although you’re correct that people seem easily able to believe whatever they need to), and are actively using the argument as a cudgel to destroy an enemy first and foremost.

            I find with the campus activists it’s just the most obvious version of bad faith (Outside of intentionally adversarial systems like law or actual war), because their system openly encourages this by promoting *ahem* “epistemologies” that attempt to ignore majority voices as a point of virtue. It’s all autoethnography from here on out.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The take that AA programs aren’t meant to help poor minorities, rather are to help middle class ones is definitely a new one for me.

            I’ve seen this claim made before – or, alternatively, the claim that they worked for the black middle class, but not the black lower class.

            I don’t think I buy into that quite as much as you do. People have always hated other tribes, and have always noticed groups from different places look and act differently. Slavery has always been profitable as far back as we have written history and presumably beyond. The world is tighter and more interconnected now, so I have sympathy for the idea that there was no ‘racism’ per say when no one traveled more than 50km from their home at any point. After that point, y’know, once sailing became a thing people did I’m pretty sure racial stereotyping has been relatively constant, and by and large along lines we would recognize today.

            First, why do people hate the other tribe? Because they have stuff we want to take, or we have stuff they want to take, or vice versa. Preferring your own kind to strangers is one thing, but really disliking the stranger requires there be a reason beyond “they ain’t us.” Second, consider “race”. Go back enough and you’ll see people saying “English race”, “French race”, etc; you won’t see the more recent conception of there being three or four or five races. The boundaries were drawn differently: Compare seeing a room of people and saying “well, there’s one Englishman, one Chinese, one German, one Ethiopian, one Italian, one Korean, one Senegalese” versus saying “well, there’s three white people, two Asian people, and two black people”. If we develop to the point that we go out and conquer the galaxy and encounter aliens, or if aliens come and try to kick us around, suddenly there will be an incentive for us to make it “humans” and “aliens”.

            [snip]

            So now here we are, unable to deny the success. If you try to third way it, like saying “Oh, they just have a really good ‘culture’ of setting themselves up for success, so that’s ok”, then the obvious response is that the success of other whites over minorities is equally likely to be ephemeral ‘culture’ or whatever other mechanism you propose. Trying to contort the definition of ‘structural’ privilege to apply to the majority, but not a group that holds like 20 times more prestigious awards than their numbers would suggest and out earns practically everybody is just insane.

            Usually the cultural explanation is the one: the logic goes “a group that’s successful but not the majority must have a culture that helps them out, because they don’t have the ability to rig the game in the same way that the majority can.”

            I also think you’re wrong assuming that people on the left can’t do the sort of typographic-symbol based stuff. There’s a history of left-wing anti-Zionism shading really easily into anti-Semitism, before Stalin died there was an anti-Semitic campaign in the USSR that would likely have gotten worse had he not died when he did (rootless cosmopolitan” is primarily a Soviet slur, not a right-wing slur; the charges – that they were loyal to them and theirs worldwide rather than to the USSR – are indistinguishable from a lot of contemporary and more recent anti-Semitism), there’s a history of anti-Semitism among African-Americans (who generally get coded as left-wing unless they are Republicans; people frequently forget that black nationalism is still nationalism) that’s flared up most recently in this business involving Women’s March organizers having some links to Farrakhan. There’s also simultaneously been a complete ignorance when convenient of the history of discrimination, including the world’s worst genocide still within living memory, against Jews – when Bret Weinstein says “hey maybe I don’t like being ordered to leave the campus because of my ethnicity” he’s just some entitled white man who doesn’t understand what discrimination is. As the Holocaust, and de facto discrimination against Jews in schools, employment, etc fades into out of memory and into history, I think we will start seeing people on the left go from “this [department/workplace/industry] is too white” to “gee, you know what else this place is, too?” Because it’s probably going to get codified in some social-studies department instead of an imageboard, they’re probably going to use highfalutin jargon instead of punctuation marks and dank memes.

            Now, this is another neat bit of inferential distance. I wasn’t thinking of ‘bad faith’ as ‘doesn’t believe their own argument’. I’d always understood it as ‘Belief that the other person is the enemy and does not warrant a fair hearing.’ People pulling the ‘arguments are soldiers’ thing are in a case where there is overlap between our two definitions, wherein they both don’t necessarily believe their stance (Although you’re correct that people seem easily able to believe whatever they need to), and are actively using the argument as a cudgel to destroy an enemy first and foremost.

            I find with the campus activists it’s just the most obvious version of bad faith (Outside of intentionally adversarial systems like law or actual war), because their system openly encourages this by promoting *ahem* “epistemologies” that attempt to ignore majority voices as a point of virtue. It’s all autoethnography from here on out.

            Noted reliable source Wikipedia defines “bad faith” as

            double mindedness or double heartedness in duplicity, fraud, or deception.[1] It may involve intentional deceit of others, or self-deception.

            and goes on to say

            People may hold beliefs in their minds even though they are directly contradicted by facts. These are beliefs held in bad faith. But there is debate as to whether this self-deception is intentional or not.

            Someone who says “you are the enemy, my holy books/expert sources say you are the enemy, you cannot be negotiated with, gonna smite ya” is not acting in bad faith. If they don’t really believe you’re bad but want to smite you so they can take your stuff, that’s bad faith. If they believe you’re bad and can’t be negotiated with, but raise a flag of truce and pretend to negotiate so they can get some other guys to sneak up behind you and smite you, that’s bad faith.

          • Barely matters says:

            First, why do people hate the other tribe? Because they have stuff we want to take, or we have stuff they want to take, or vice versa.

            I don’t think it even requires that. My understanding of the Robber’s Cave experiment is that it demonstrates that all you really need for groups to hate each other is to be vaguely aware that the other group exists

            It seems like this works with any identifier, intentional or innate, and race is just one of those that is extremely hard to change or fake (For most people)

            Go back enough and you’ll see people saying “English race”, “French race”, etc; you won’t see the more recent conception of there being three or four or five races.

            All I see there is the priorities changing, complete with all the humanity of weird alliances of convenience. If aliens were to attack tomorrow, I’d fully expect that you’re right and we’d all pull it together and be a globally unified community to fight them off. And then as soon as the last xeno was thoroughly liquefied, the old feuds would come roaring back. If it’s not these races, it’s more specific gradations. If it’s not at the national level, it can be warring city states. If the community isn’t large enough to support cities, families can feud for generations in exactly the same way. I think this is an innate human tic of conflict with whoever we define as ‘other’ today.

            Usually the cultural explanation is the one: the logic goes “a group that’s successful but not the majority must have a culture that helps them out, because they don’t have the ability to rig the game in the same way that the majority can.”

            Two things here. First, I think this stance completely ignores how centralized and top down power is today. With government and corporate structure coming down from the top as it does, it doesn’t take very many people in the right positions to dominate. See South Africa for a good example, while thinking about the adage “Give me control the money of a country and I care not who makes its laws.”.

            Secondly if we are going to stick to the line that having good culture that results in systemic advantage is only bad if one is the majority, independently of whether they occupy a disproportionate share of the top positions, why does this flip so easily when we start talking about misogyny/misandry? Men are clearly not a majority of the population, being a hair under 50% by their 20’s, and less to whatever extent we think the nonbinary crowd comprises more than a rounding error. If we’re talking about tails wagging dogs, it seems really convenient to equivocate back and forth as we feel like. White men Men are valid targets for oppressor status, despite being only ~31% of the US population because they hold disproportionate power, and 1/3 is enough to rig the game. Jews aren’t, they clearly hold even more disproportionate amounts of power but they’re not the majority. And to be clear, I don’t think either group deserves oppressor status.

            I also think you’re wrong assuming that people on the left can’t do the sort of typographic-symbol based stuff. There’s a history of left-wing anti-Zionism shading really easily into anti-Semitism

            Oh, I didn’t mean to give them impression that I think people on the left are immune here. Completely the opposite. To reiterate, I think that acceptance of Jewish achievement without HB.D as an explanation practically requires antisemitism when coupled with notions of disparate impact and aggressive privilege theory. I’m not surprised at all that universities are starting to clash with Israel more and more.

            Noted reliable source Wikipedia defines “bad faith” as

            double mindedness or double heartedness in duplicity, fraud, or deception.[1] It may involve intentional deceit of others, or self-deception.

            Well by that definition I’ve been using the term completely wrong then!

            So in the example I gave of treating one’s interlocutor as an enemy to be destroyed by hook or by crook, it would only be bad faith if there were a pretense of civil discussion. Which I can see how I would make that error, being that this is the case in virtually all the places I’ve seen claims of bad faith applied. Today I Learned.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Just quick thoughts in general.

            1. There still has to be some sort of proximity. Tell the English back in the middle ages about the Japanese, or vice versa, and what hoot do they give? Move it up to the 30s, and all of a sudden they’re butting up against each other. My point is that concepts of racial difference/supremacy are usually ad hoc explanations to justify the way things are in a society, the nasty stuff we want to do to other people, etc. It doesn’t go “these people are inferior, so it’s OK to take their stuff”, it goes “these people have stuff we want that we’re pretty sure we can take, so, they’re inferior”. Just world fallacy.

            2. Power relations in society are really complicated and we all want to make them easy to understand. Everyone gets confused when it’s not easy to understand. Every now and then you have a situation where the polarities flip, or where there’s massive inconsistency: eg, the Woke know that accusations by white women against black men in the Jim Crow South were all fake, but an accusation by a white woman against a black man now must be believed, right? Meanwhile, that same case will be where American right-wingers all of a sudden give a hoot and a half about black guys getting due process.

            3. What you’re saying still doesn’t explain that horrible banned discourse and anti-Semitism seem pretty tight. Sure, it’s a different kind of anti-Semitism from the late 19th/early 20th century kind that lives on among some neo-Nazi types – the horrible banned discourse anti-Semites have dropped the dissonance-inducing “they’re inferior so how are they pulling the strings?” But they still think there’s some kind of conspiracy or something similar – it’s become “these people are superior and pull the strings but they don’t want to admit it/they’re lying to themselves about it“.

            I think it’s entirely plausible we’ll see two strong anti-Semitisms at the same time: one horrible banned discourse as described, one left-wing “they say their disproportionate presence in rich powerful groups is due to studying hard and other positive values, but really they’ve rigged the game“.

            4. I think that this ties into 2 – the epistemology of the critical studies crowd, they might have a point there. “Play by the rules, let’s be polite, let’s discuss this rationally” can be pretty sleazy if it’s said by someone who just picked your pocket. There’s clear cases where people purporting to be objective and so forth weren’t; often they were fooling themselves too. That said, a focus on anecdotal evidence (“lived experience”) runs into the problem that if you poll American Christians they’ll often say they’re more oppressed than Muslims, or American white people they’ll often say they’re more discriminated against than black people. Both of which claims, when you look at statistics and so on, are on the whole bunk. But how do you know whose anecdotes to listen to? The “lived experience” model seems to rely on received wisdom to figure out whose anecdotes are true and whose anecdotes are bogus. This seems significantly less effective than looking at the statistics, because duelling statistics is easier to resolve than duelling received wisdom. But I can still see where they’re coming from.

          • Barely matters says:

            Replies to quick thoughts in general.

            1. There does have to be some proximity, you’re right. I think “I want their stuff” misses the mark to a degree, but it can happen that way. I also don’t think they’re entirely ad hoc justifications. A lot of it strikes me as being the outcome diminished social trust and cultural legibility, iterated over many interactions. My own ‘people’ are legible, and I have an idea of how to act, what is likely to make them happy or angry, what the local norms are. When two cultures share space but don’t understand one another, misunderstandings frequently turn hostile. If I hold the door for you because that’s a nice gesture in my culture, but I don’t realize that in your culture holding the door implies ‘you’re too weak to do this yourself, also fuck your mother, swine!’, and you rise to the insult, it’s not going to take long before stories circulate and your culture gets a reputation for unpredictable violence. From there it can become a self fulfilling prophecy. Double that when there’s a language barrier, and triple that when religion or other things people care very strongly about but can’t be checked via empirical fact is involved.

            2. I think the groups are just unprincipled and inconsistent. I don’t think it’s actually more complicated than people playing at ideals for effect, and maybe even believing them as long as they don’t cost much to uphold, but then folding on them when they become inconvenient them and being exceptionally good at ignoring cognitive dissonance. I find people, ideologues especially, get the most angry when you say something that provokes cognitive dissonance. Way more than if you just said something counter to their view.

            3. I can’t say this strongly enough: I really, really, REALLY don’t care if bad people also think something that I think is correct. It’s enough of an alarm to double check your math and proceed with caution, but it’s certainly not enough to change my mind about an idea in and of itself. I think some absolutely awful people are big into consent culture, but I’m not going to abandon it it just because they’re reprehensible. In my experience from people I’ve spoken with, HB.D concepts are expressed by plenty of people who aren’t in your horrible groups (Unless you make the argument completely circular and claim that holding those views at all makes one racist or otherwise horrible).

            With that point in mind, I also don’t think it’s acceptable for groups to attempt to push ideas out of the overton window, and then complain that the people who hold the view are dirty rotten deplorables, which proves that the idea is bad in the first place. Weren’t we just talking about ad hoc justification?

            I completely agree with you on multiple types of antisemitism, and even extend that dynamic to racism/sexism/otherisms, wherein the movements fighting against monsters end up becoming monsters themselves as we discussed earlier. People just really suck at not abusing power.

            4. I would not grant them a point here, because I think this ignores the bigger picture. Politeness and rules is an imperfect system, but the other options are worse. Ironically more than worse, they’re exactly the systems the crit studies crowd are trying to fight, just with different groups of people holding the power.

            By eschewing the system of rules and politeness, you’re left with picking winners and losers. And the way those are chosen is straight up bias of who the chooser prefers. This alone should tell you that there’s a game afoot. One does not go to fight an opponent they think is more capable of inflicting damage undermining the restrictions on causing damage. Iraq isn’t going to the UN saying “And you know what? Even if we don’t have them, we think nuclear armed countries *should* be able to throw them around wherever they want!”, and if they did, I would be really suspicious about hidden centrifuges deep in caves.

            The fact that this group is arguing to replace a system of rules with a system of fiat, tells us that they expect to be the ones with the power to make the choices. If I replace “received wisdom” with “Whoever is more charismatic and has the support of more powerful people” then I’m with you.

            The sad reality as I see it, is that a lot of the grievance studies crowd doesn’t have a whole lot going for them, and know that if they play by the rules they’ll be outcompeted hard and wind up as 40 year old baristas with PhD’s. Which understandably doesn’t give them much incentive to play fair. When it comes down to it, the rust belt Trump supporting factory deplorables and career acedemics who can’t make tenure have pretty similar job and life prospects unless they can “change the system”. The factors jobs aren’t coming back, and no one wants to hire someone with a degree in critical race studies (And there sure aren’t enough professor positions for every lifetime academic). So I can see why they would prefer to burn it all to the ground, rather than just suck quietly, but it doesn’t mean I support either of them doing so.

            “If we play fair I can’t win!” is a shitty justification in any context I can think of. Even if they go one step meta and yell “I’m not cheating, YOU’RE cheating!” as they flout the rules.

          • dndnrsn says:

            1. Outside of subtle situations like that, though, we’ve got a long history of “these people have stuff we can take/these people are trying to take our stuff; they must have failings past having nice takeable stuff/being jerks trying to take our stuff.”

            2. Yeah, most people are unprincipled and inconsistent, and we all gotta be careful we aren’t being.

            3. I’m not saying that the truth or falsehood of a position has to do with the people holding it. I’m saying that I don’t think your position that aychbeedee provides a way to think about these things that doesn’t lead to anti-Semitism reflects reality, because people who hold horrible banned discourse views tend to be more anti-Semitic than the norm.

            4. So, I think we need to break this down into two things. One is the position that boils down to you say it’s a fair game, but it’s not a fair game.” Like, say, playing Monopoly with someone who starts off with more money than you: even if the rules are fair – they aren’t sneakily rerolling their dice or whatever – they’ve still got an advantage. And if you start to suspect they’re fudging with the dice… One way this position manifests is in its epistemology: “let’s have a reasoned, fair debate” can be seen as something supported by people who have an advantage in reasoned, fair debate. Or, it can be seen as something supported by people who have an unfair lead and want to distract you, or are outright cheating, and want to snooker you. These are different worldviews, and I don’t think one is so manifestly correct that the other can just be written off.

            On the other hand, there’s the behaviour of rent-seekers who use that rhetoric to seek benefits for themselves like you see on campuses, among a lot of professional-activist types, etc. Imagine if all of a sudden America started thinking about the plight of poor Appalachian whites: not poor whites in general, but the mostly Borderer-descended poor Appalachian whites who can be regarded as having gotten a pretty shitty deal in a way that goes beyond “they’re poor”. There would be a difference between poor Appalachian people saying “look, right now we can’t compete fairly with you, because you’re not being fair to us; we don’t have the resources, you have a fair start, and when you say it’s fair, that’s bogus!” and middle-class people of Appalachian or partial Appalachian descent busting into the college president’s office screaming that they want ten million dollars right now to build an Appalachian Student Centre and they want expansions to the Appalachian Studies Program. Which, of course, will both mean some jobs for themselves, but probably won’t do anything for the folks back in the hollers.

            I think there’s a difference between saying “hey, this game is rigged, unrig the game!” and trying to play the game underhanded yourself.

          • Barely matters says:

            2. It’s pretty hard. We do what we can while trying to keep stock of our limits.

            3. I don’t think that follows. My stance is that of the people who believe in a) disparate impact (Ie, that differential outcomes are prima facie evidence of systemic oppression), b) that systemic oppression, defined as prejudice plus power, should be redressed through social and legal policy, and c) that Jews have rates of achievement and occupy positions of power at some 15x the per capita rate of white men, all of them will either advocate for solutions we would consider antisemitic or are being unprincipled on at least one of these axes. This doesn’t seem to be a problem for most of the people who believe in a) and b), as I’ve yet to meet one that can apply these in a principled way without arbitrarily picking and choosing winners.

            Just because AichBeeDee provides a path to an internally consistent worldview that doesn’t punish Jews (And Asians), doesn’t mean it frequently does, as the people on the other side aren’t terribly principled either. It could also have to do with the fact that failure to denounce AichBeeDee fast enough has intentionally been made a thoughtcrime in much of society, so it’s not entirely surprising that the people still willing to talk about it skew shitward. Again, it’s dirty pool to create a situation, and then use that situation as proof that creating it was justified.

            4. The problem is then that the argument is completely circular, and only serves to further convince people who already agree with it. I think there is prejudice and discrimination. I do not think there is prejudice and discrimination fueling many of the problems where it is claimed. If you want to claim that groups have an unfair lead, you have to go and actually convincingly show that. You can’t just assert it, and then claim that being asked to show it is part of the unfair system. The answer to an unfalsifiable position isn’t ‘that’s right’ or ‘that’s wrong’, it’s a recognition that we can’t know until we devise a better test to falsify one way or the other.

            And when someone is arguing an unfalsifiable position, and saying that the solution is to just shut up and start giving them money and benefits until they tell you to stop, I’m inclined to suspect something underhanded is going on.

            This, I think, illustrates a sorta tragic but good sense part about life. Ties go to the status quo, because we know that the status quo is viable (If not perfect, and definitely having some weaknesses). If you want to change the status quo, you *Should* have to bring better than even justification, because this creates better outcomes than in the counterfactual where anyone can bust in with a just so story and and change things to benefit themselves at the expense of others.

          • dndnrsn says:

            3. So, you’re saying one will lead to bad stuff, and the other only leads to bad stuff because people think it’s witch territory, leading to being full of witches?

            4. Well, I think that in a lot of cases, it’s not incredibly hard to show that there’s discrimination or whatever. Whether that’s by statistics, or even by intellectually honest use of anecdotes (eg, let’s say one of our hypothetical Appalachians has a story about getting treated badly because they’re a Borderer. If they get hassled by cops, and know their Cavalier, Puritan, and Quaker buddies don’t, even when otherwise they’re behaving the same, that’s at least a clue there’s some anti-Borderer bias going on. If what they complain about is something that they and all their friends experience, it seems rather odd to ascribe it to that bias).

            It’s not a “well we can’t prove this so LOOK OVER THERE” situation. Part of it is an epistemic approach that comes out of social studies departments, some areas of philosophy, etc that devalues hard statistics and such. Part of it is that rhetorically being able to spit out a few dozen compelling stories, even if those stories are a teeny tiny drop in the bucket, beats being able to say “based on evidence, Borderer-Americans are 27% more likely than the average to be wrongfully convicted” or whatever. Statistics get used as punctuation or for effect rather than in an enlightening manner. Of course, this second bit isn’t just limited to the parts of the left we’re talking about – “anecdotes plus out of context statistics” is incredibly common.

          • Barely matters says:

            3. I’m saying that the one leads to bad stuff, because it locks the movement into mandatory inconsistency and mental gymnastics to avoid doing bad stuff, (which I’m also considering to be ‘bad stuff’)

            I think on the other side that people don’t need a reason to hate on historically hated groups, so they’ll find a way in spite of whatever data is in front of them. AichBeeDee can definitely lead to persecution jews coupled with different axoims. Like if instead of “We need to hunt down privilege and level it” they subscribed to “They mentally outgun us, so we need to take them down now before they get a chance to definitively rule over us”, then they could absolutely make antisemitic hay out of a positive group IQ difference.

            I’m saying that the people who think Blacks are less intelligent, and thus we should rule them, but Jews/Asians are more intelligent, thus we should destroy them are, aside from just being straight up self interested warmonger pricks, being just an inconsistent in their attempts to pick and choose winners and losers by fiat as the EssJays.

            I place a lot more stock in internal consistency than I think most people do (It is my impression that the fans of SSC tend to do so as well, for good or for social suicide).

            And to finish, this is not “People think this is witch territory”, it’s “This has *Intentionally* been made into witch territory so as to stifle conversation”. I’m really not going to believe that this taboo is just some strange organic quirk that happened to fall together.

            4. Yes, and I’d heartily agree with you. In all those cases where it can be convincingly shown, I’m up for getting people out and leveling that shit. If black people are being discriminated against for jobs by virtue of blackness alone, then let’s break down that wall. Likewise if women are getting overlooked because of their gender alone, we fix it. I’m also adamant about this.

            But when they start moving up meta levels, and saying “ok, a black person who is in all ways similar to a white is now treated equally or even slightly better off, but because fewer blacks perform to the same level, the standards are RACIST!”, then count me out. Anyone who says “Meritocracy” is a microaggression can fuck themselves. At that point, they’re not asking for equality, they’re asking for special treatment and lower standards, to the detriment of anyone who relies on the service being provided.

            I’m even somewhat sympathetic to the idea that certain groups still have lingering disadvantages from past wrongs. If we could come up with a plan to say “Ok, this is how we’re going to redress the problem, and then we’re fucking even steven”, I’d be onboard. As long as it’s “Just keep giving me stuff until I say stop”, then I think we both know that it’ll never be enough, because minorities are people, and people are shitheads when they’re given blank cheques.

            I think it actually is worse than “I can’t prove it…And look over there!”, when it’s usually done as “I can’t prove it, and fuck you you racist! White men like you don’t get to define what racism is!” (I saw this exact argument put forward today on FB, and wished there were a “Love this for the irony alone” button)

          • dndnrsn says:

            3. Well, some people outright say “we should be on top, because we’re us, checkmate” or have views that boil down to that. They usually don’t extend to other people the same courtesy. I imagine they’re the sort of people who think that cheating is OK if the ref doesn’t see it, except when the other guy cheats and gets away with it.

            As for why it’s witch territory, it’s almost entirely a reaction to the bad shit that got done under the banner of “science” in various places – not just Germany – in the early-middle 20th century. It’s not like people sat down and schemed to make it unacceptable. It’s a pretty normal reaction.

            4. There’s 4 arguments against meritocracy, or against justifying things as meritocracy:

            a. “This isn’t a meritocracy, but it could be – however, we’re fooling ourselves if we think it is now, and pretending it is now is harmful”
            b. “This isn’t a meritocracy, and it can’t be, because the people on top, whoever they are, will always rig things and then say it’s a fair game”
            c. “The very concept of meritocracy is offensive because you can’t actually say anything has more merit than anything else”
            d. “Meritocracy is dangerous because if it works, it will result in a society where those on top truly are the most capable, able to completely dominate those below them”

            Most left-wingers today fall into b or c. d is what one finds in The Rise of the Meritocracy, which I always shill hard here. I think a worrying tendency is the tendency to go to c the hardest. In general, I think it’s bad that certain parts of academia and left-wing politics, especially a certain sort, have gotten more and more entwined: bad for academia and bad for the left.

            This has kind of drifted. Should we continue in 98.25?

          • Barely matters says:

            3. Yeah, there’ll always be those people. The strong point of a ‘universal culture’ as Scott puts it is that by keeping those people in check we can all enjoy the benefits of a diversity of fringe cultural strengths.

            It’s a knee jerk reaction, and a poor one as far as I’m concerned. We’re circling back around to the point we talked about earlier how ‘science’ always gets it wrong until it eventually gets it right, and in any case where the outcome actually matters, people will be hurt by the mistake. The answer isn’t to lock down discussion to stop ‘science’ from trying again, because the opposite of a mistake isn’t likely to be correct either.

            Imagine if we looked back and said “You know, Medicine is just… always wrong. Think of all the people who died due to treppaning people to release evil spirits. Or how we tried to balance their humors and ended up bleeding them to death. Don’t even get me started on electroshock therapy that’s still practiced today! Horrible things have been done to people in the name of “Medicine”. Anyone who wants to cut people open because they think it makes them better (Check out this fucking guy) is a sadist and needs to be stopped. There’s no way they can think they’re right this time after being wrong so many times”.

            Now, the goofy part about this is it’s not even wrong. There are a ton of interesting examples of interventions that we’re finding out now, might not actually be helping anyone at all. Prehospital is my field, so that’s where my examples come from, but for instance: some services don’t use rigid boards for spinal immobilization after trauma, and incredibly, their patient outcomes don’t seem to suffer for it. There is mounting evidence that Rapid Sequence Intubation, (Putting in a breathing tube before getting to the hospital. I get the sense that you already know this, but just in case) doesn’t actually lead to better rates of patients surviving to discharge, though it sure as hell helps the rates of survival to the hospital.

            So even our modern medicine is wrong in ways that literally kill people despite our best efforts. Just the same, tabooing even trying to get a better picture of what is going on because of those deaths is so much worse.

            4.

            Those all seem so easily dismissed though. A and b are just “This meritocracy isn’t meritocracy enough”, which isn’t a fault with meritocracy, it’s a fault with our current system. And I would completely agree that those are problems that we need to solve for meritocracy to work.

            c. is just nihilism. Unless someone is at the point where they totally deny the existence of any value or utility at all, then ‘merit’ can be defined in terms of whatever brings that value. There not being a single, clearly defined measure of value that is preferred by all people doesn’s stop the concept of people being rewarded commensurately for providing that subjective value.

            d. is dismal, but it’s also the best possible case. What is their alternative? That power be vested in the incompetent so they can use it unwisely, so that when they fuck it up everyone can form teams and fight them out of power to replace them with other incompetents? Even more people will suffer that way than in the worst case of an oppressive caste system! Help me out here, because that seems flat out unhinged.

            I agree with you that c is probably the worst here, because that just obfuscates things into complete chaos, which then creates a vacuum for power to fill however it wants.

            This has been all over the place. I’ve had fun though. Thanks. Catch you on the next one.

      • albatross11 says:

        This is pretty much the situation in which a word should be tabooed in a discussion, right? Basically we notice a pattern wherein some word either:

        a. Has multiple shifting/unclear meanings so that when you use it, your disagreements end up being about the definition as often as about any actual material disagreement. Sometimes people use those shifting definitions to win arguments, but probably at least as often the shifting definitions lead to ambiguity in the minds of the arguers.

      • ilikekittycat says:

        Disagree. The alternative to dealing with one term that occasionally mutates confusingly (in the way common words do in any language) is a euphemism treadmill, where a bunch of alternatives come into fashion and then get replaced just as quickly. “Retarded” is a charged and unclear word (Are we talking Down Syndrome? Is Aspergers included? Severe ADHD?) but we’re not better off for having 5 years of discussion about “mentally handicapped” and then 5 years of discussion about “differently abled” and then 5 years of discussion about “developmentally disabled,” especially for people rereading these terms in the future without our cultural contexts.

        • Hyzenthlay says:

          You’re right that just coming up with more and more euphemisms isn’t a great solution, but just keeping the same flawed concepts forever isn’t great either.

          I think the solution is to get more specific and clear with language. If someone has ADHD, say ADHD. If they have a low IQ, say that. I’m not sure if we gain a lot from having a vague umbrella term for a variety of unlike conditions, it just contributes to stereotyping.

          Granted, “disabled” can be a useful legal concept when people can’t work fulltime for various medical reasons and are getting financial assistance from the government. But outside of those contexts, I’m not sure a term like “intellectually disabled” contributes much.

          • christianschwalbach says:

            I agree with avoiding blanket labels here. As someone who works with those considered developmentally disabled or disabled by way of mental handicap, the onus is on us (the service providers) and the general public to understand the details of each conditional label, ie ADHD, Asperger’s etc… plus the particular way that condition manifests itself in the person, or if there are co morbid conditions as well that play a role

    • Humbert McHumbert says:

      I’d like to see more exchange between Scott and Robinson as well, although there is one annoying factor on Robinson’s end that seems to make their exchanges less productive than they could be. (I say this as someone who agrees with Robinson’s basic claim that Scott isn’t sufficiently charitable to SJ activists.)

      The problem is that Robinson is prone to elementary logical errors that it’s hard to imagine Scott ever making. For example, Scott wrote:

      I know that Definition By Consequences is the really sophisticated one, the ones that scholars in the area are most likely to unite around. But I also think it’s uniquely bad at capturing the way anyone uses the word “racism” in real life. … By this definition, many racist things would be good. Suppose some tyrant wants to kill the ten million richest white people, then redistribute their things to black people. This would certainly challenge white supremacy and help minorities. So by this definition, resisting this tyrant would be racist. But obviously this tyrant is evil and resisting him is the right thing to do.

      In response to which, Robinson wrote:

      The usual approach is to draw a distinction between racist “consequences” and racist motivations and explain the ways that both matter differently. It’s true that if you adopted a pure consequences approach you would, as Alexander says, quickly run against common usage: it would mean that David Duke wasn’t a racist. But scholars don’t adopt a pure consequences approach: instead, they speak of individual racism and systemic racism.

      So in short, Scott says “It’s obvious that the consequence picture of racism is wrong, because racially disparate consequences aren’t a sufficient condition for racism–an act (like sparing the lives of rich white people) can have disparate racial consequences without being racist.”

      Robinson rebuts by saying “I agree the consequence picture of racism is wrong, because racially disparate consequences aren’t a necessary condition for racism. An act can be racist without having disparate racial consequences if it is prejudiced.”

      Then Robinson seems to think he has shown Scott’s objection is beside the point. But it isn’t, because on the view of racism Robinson advocates, disparate consequences are still supposed to be sufficient for racism. And Scott’s example still shows that disparate consequences obviously aren’t sufficient.

    • Hyzenthlay says:

      If I’m understanding it correctly, this seems pretty similar to the “unpacking the invisible knapsack” model of white privilege, which isn’t new. It’s the entire basis of the social justice concept of privilege, and they apply it in the same way to traits like maleness, straightness, etc.

      And I think it’s pretty flawed. Whiteness is a vague, subjective, ever-changing identity category, not a definable resource. A property or resource can be sold or given away, but “whiteness” is entirely defined by other people’s perceptions of you (generic “you,” since I don’t know if you’re white); it’s not something you possess so much as a label that society assigns you. And it can’t be renounced, because it’s not within your control to begin with.

      And look what happens when someone, like say Rachel Dolezal, tries to pass as a POC. People did not like it. Indeed, she was accused of “appropriating” other people’s identity, which would seem to suggest that–at least in some social circles–blackness rather than whiteness is perceived as a commodity or resource, and someone who tries to claim it inappropriately is regarded as engaging in a type of fraud or theft.

      I don’t think this is a great way of thinking about race, in general.

      • Iain says:

        Consider the concept of human capital. It’s obviously not a perfect analogy to financial capital: for example, I can’t sell my human capital or give it away, and I don’t know what it would mean to renounce it. Nevertheless, it is a useful thing to talk about. Why can’t the same be true of “whiteness”?

        This is a relatively innocuous example of a problem I see throughout this whole thread. If you can find a bit of conceptual murkiness, you are somehow justified in throwing out the whole shebang. Similarly, the existence of people who will yell at you to check your privilege invalidates the entire concept.

        We don’t apply these same standards to other issues. When we’re talking about the War on Nerds, nobody asks for peer-reviewed papers showing statistically significant anti-nerd bias, or dismisses the entire notion because it’s hard to draw a line between nerds and geeks. A poll about conservatives feeling uncomfortable in tech will be accepted at face value; the equivalent poll about black people or women would have its methodology dissected under a microscope.

        It’s easy to see when your own group is being treated unfairly. It’s a lot harder to notice when it’s happening to somebody else. This is normal. Empathy is hard.

        That’s a powerful cognitive bias. Especially if you want to think of yourself as a rationalist, you should be leaning into that bias as hard as you can. You should be scrutinizing every argument, to make sure you aren’t just falling into the same old trap. Your standards for concluding that there is discrimination against your ingroup should be twice as high as discrimination against your outgroup.

        Right now, it seems like a lot of us have them set half as high.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Taking into account Rachel Dolezal (or whatever) specific case, blackness was seen as a valuable asset in certain circles, in certain fashions. NOT whiteness.

          Like, I would agree with you on the nerds and conservative pieces, but I’d say they’d only face discrimination in specific contexts and specific areas. A conservative in suburban Kansas is not discriminated against, even if a conservative in academia might be. A nerd might have a realllllllll tough time getting a date, but a nerd’s obsessive interest might be a benefit in getting a better job with more money, and would be an asset if you are in a SV firm.

          I’d say I’d prefer not to be born black in modern America, but if I could simply swap my skin color right now, holding everything else equal? I think I’d be in a pretty good spot if I were black, and disadvantaged if I were Asian and trying to get into either Northwestern or U of C. And if I painted my face black to try to PASS as black, people would be REALLY pissed.

          • Iain says:

            1. I predict that you would not enjoy the outcome of swapping your skin to black, particularly if you are a bigger man. Obviously neither of us have any way to prove our side, though, so we can agree to disagree.

            2. I don’t know anything about your life, but in the general case “holding everything else equal” does quite a lot of work. As just one example, the average white kid in America is in a significantly better school than the average black kid.

            3. I assume that your confidence about doing well as a black person is at least partly based on the ability to take advantage of affirmative action, a situation in which blackness is plausibly an advantage over whiteness. Rachel Dolezol is another case in which being black might count as an advantage. These are, in large part, exceptions that prove the rule.

            Take Dolezol first. The circle in which being black was a “valuable asset” for her was as president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP. This is a counter-example to a general trend in the same way that the ubiquity of conservatives as leaders of the College Republicans proves that there’s no problem with conservatives on campus. If a liberal feigned conservative principles so she could put “President of the College Republicans” on her CV, you’d likewise expect people to be pissed.

            Affirmative action is interesting because the argument is so circular. Affirmative action exists because people agreed that being white was an advantage, and it seemed necessary to counterbalance that advantage. Using that counterbalance as evidence that blackness is advantaged is therefore silly, particularly when it is used as evidence that affirmative action should be abolished: “Because we saw a problem and put a program into place to address it, that problem must not exist and we should abolish the program.”

            Blackness is an advantage in specific contexts that have been explicitly designed to help black people. Whiteness is a general set of advantages that permeate society. These two ideas are not mutually exclusive.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            “Holding all else equal” is intended to do a lot of work, because we’re looking at race-as-capital in specific situations. How the advantages to certain races in certain situations accrue doesn’t really make a difference that certain races have certain advantages in different situations.

            Affirmative Action was invented in a different political and social context. It’s perfectly possible that conditions on the ground have changed in a way that no longer reflects the conditions in which it was implemented, and the whole institution simply remains a vestigial institution like, say, behavioral interviews.

            AA is a program poorly adjusted to handle society-level discrimination in the way structural racism exists. If the police state is biased slightly against black people and therefore throws a bunch of black people in prison, it does not follow that a young black man from an intact black family in a successful neighborhood needs a leg up from affirmative action.

            To the extent this happens, this is an unearned gain for the young black man. It does nothing to lessen, increase, argue against, argue for, or affect in any other way, systemic oppression against OTHER black people.

            That’d be totally expected from a society that is both classist AND racist, because you would have entrenched classes AND races, and blacks within the higher class would enjoy unearned privileges in some contexts.

            The other problem of AA is that institutions that believe strongly in inclusion probably don’t NEED the AA, and institutions that don’t believe in inclusion won’t PRACTICE AA. The two aren’t correlated, they are inversely correlated. Like, 1960s AA probably isn’t going anywhere without strict government mandates, 2010s “diversity” probably has more buy-in. This doesn’t prove that the 1960s was less racist than 2010 because it may have practiced AA less, and actually suggests the opposite.

            Suggesting that white is strictly dominant over black in all contexts at all times is really an incredibly strong claim. I don’t have any confidence in supporting that.

          • Iain says:

            Suggesting that white is strictly dominant over black in all contexts at all times is really an incredibly strong claim. I don’t have any confidence in supporting that.

            That’s a stronger definition of white privilege than I think is necessary. I would instead suggest: “being white is a general advantage over being black in enough contexts that we should be concerned about it”. And, hey, you don’t even have to embrace that watered down version wholeheartedly. All I’m saying is that, as a matter of epistemic hygiene, you should hold yourself to a high standard of proof before rejecting that hypothesis.

            PS: With respects to affirmative action, note that there’s no contradiction between thinking that:
            A) whiteness is generally an advantage and blackness is an advantage in certain narrow contexts; and
            B) affirmative action as currently implemented is ineffective.

            I don’t have a strong opinion about affirmative action programs one way or the other. I suspect that the benefits are smaller than their supporters believe, and the harms are smaller than their detractors claim. My only point about AA here is that its existence can’t reasonably be used to disprove the concept of white privilege.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Nevertheless, it is a useful thing to talk about. Why can’t the same be true of “whiteness”?

          It could be, but it isn’t; in practice “whiteness” is used to obscure or to stigmatize rather than reveal.

          Similarly, the existence of people who will yell at you to check your privilege invalidates the entire concept.

          Trying to examine the concept results in invalidating it. “Whiteness” and “privilege” are just these invisible amorphous things supporting white people above black people, regardless of actual circumstances; if (black) Darnell got a minority scholarship to Harvard and (white) Cletus got a felony record for poaching a deer to feed his family on his 18th birthday, Cletus is still a beneficiary of this “whiteness” and “privilege”. Even if you go back to the original “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” examples, you find many which weren’t true at the time, and more that aren’t true now.

          • Iain says:

            Imaginary counter-examples are not proof.

            Moreover, your imaginary counter-examples don’t even work. The concept of privilege doesn’t say that black people can’t ever succeed, or white people can’t ever fail. It says that when Darnell gets to Harvard on his minority scholarship, he’s going to have subtle disadvantages relative to Hunter, who got in on a legacy scholarship, and when Cletus goes to prison he’s going to have subtle advantages over Jamal, who got busted for selling pot.

            Is that true? Maybe. Is it such a stupid idea that merely examining the concept suffices to invalidate it? I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Like I said, invisible amorphous things.

          • The Nybbler says:

            So it notes that at some prisons, time spent in solitary varies between races of prisoners, but fails to provide any evidence one way or another whether or not the frequency or severity of violations resulting in time spent in solitary varies between races of prisoners at those prisons. The linked Armstrong paper is all speculation with a side of Implicit Association Test. There’s nothing there.

          • Aapje says:

            @Iain

            That can have different causes. One possibility is that certain ethnic groups may behave more aggressive. For example, because they more often have a macho cultural upbringing and/or because criminals within certain ethnic groups may more often be part of aggressive criminal subcultures (like gangs). It’s possible that poor people are more aggressive criminals and/or cannot conform with prison life well & that certain ethnic groups have many more poor criminals. It’s also possible that the guards are racist. It can also be a combination of causes. The article assumes that racism of the guards is the only and entire cause, which is exactly the kind of jumping to conclusions, based on prejudice, that we unfortunately see often.

            We’ve seen in the past that similar prejudiced assumptions about discrimination by those in power led to applying blinding in the recruitment process, generally with minimal results or even causing fewer minorities to be hired.

            Note that if (for example) a macho upbringing is a cause, then that is not an injustice perpetrated by one ethnic group against the other or by the state against citizens, but done by parents to their children. I would not consider that the fault of the system, although possibly society/the government can convince some macho parents to become non/less-macho parents.

          • Randy M says:

            but done by parents to their children.

            Heh, don’t we mean “done by their peer group”?
            Or is perception of machisimo one of the few things parenting can affect?

          • Iain says:

            @The Nybbler:
            I assume you are not deliberately trying to prove my original point, but honestly it is kind of hard to tell. Again:

            When we’re talking about the War on Nerds, nobody asks for peer-reviewed papers showing statistically significant anti-nerd bias, or dismisses the entire notion because it’s hard to draw a line between nerds and geeks. A poll about conservatives feeling uncomfortable in tech will be accepted at face value; the equivalent poll about black people or women would have its methodology dissected under a microscope.

            In what world is “although I have no evidence to prove it, I can imagine an alternative explanation for this data; therefore, it’s all nonsense and I can safely ignore it” a reasonable approach?

            For reference
            :

            The disparities were often greatest for infractions that gave discretion to officers, like disobeying a direct order. In these cases, the officer has a high degree of latitude to determine whether a rule is broken and does not need to produce physical evidence. The disparities were often smaller, according to the Times analysis, for violations that required physical evidence, like possession of contraband.

            Yeah, definitely nothing there. You are a rational observer, making an unbiased assessment of the data.

            Edit to add
            @Aapje:
            I honestly couldn’t care less whether there are alternative explanations for the specific claims in this specific article. I care about a consistent pattern of thought in the SSC comment section, in which certain types of claims are subjected to much stricter analysis and rejected on much weaker grounds than others.

          • The Nybbler says:

            In what world is “although I have no evidence to prove it, I can imagine an alternative explanation for