THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Can Things Be Both Popular And Silenced?

The New York Times recently reported on various anti-PC thinkers as “the intellectual dark web”, sparking various annoying discussion.

The first talking point – that the term is silly – is surely true. So is the second point – that it awkwardly combines careful and important thinkers like Eric Weinstein with awful demagogues like Ben Shapiro. So is the third – that people have been complaining about political correctness for decades, so anything that portrays this as a sudden revolt is ahistorical. There are probably more good points buried within the chaff.

But I want to focus on one of the main arguments that’s been emphasized in pretty much every article: can a movement really claim it’s being silenced if it’s actually pretty popular?

“Silenced” is the term a lot of these articles use, and it’s a good one. “Censored” awkwardly suggests government involvement, which nobody is claiming. “Silenced” just suggests that there’s a lot of social pressure on its members to shut up. But shutting up is of course is the exact opposite of what the people involved are doing – as the Times points out, several IDW members have audiences in the millions, monthly Patreon revenue in the five to six figures, and (with a big enough security detail) regular college speaking engagements.

So, from New Statesman, If The “Intellectual Dark Web” Are Being Silenced, Why Do We Need To Keep Hearing About Them?:

The main problem with the whole profile is that it struggles because of a fundamental inherent contradiction in its premise, which is that this group of renegades has been shunned but are also incredibly popular. Either they are persecuted victims standing outside of society or they are not. Joe Rogan “hosts one of the most popular podcasts in the country”, Ben Shapiro’s podcast “gets 15 million downloads a month”. Sam Harris “estimates that his Waking Up podcast gets one million listeners an episode”. Dave Rubin’s YouTube show has “more than 700,000 subscribers”, Jordan Peterson’s latest book is a bestseller on Amazon […]

On that basis alone, should this piece have been written at all? The marketplace of ideas that these folk are always banging on about is working. They have found their audience, and are not only popular but raking it in via Patreon accounts and book deals and tours to sold-out venues. Why are they not content with that? They are not content with that because they want everybody to listen, and they do not want to be challenged.

In the absence of that, they have made currency of the claim of being silenced, which is why we are in this ludicrous position where several people with columns in mainstream newspapers and publishing deals are going around with a loudhailer, bawling that we are not listening to them.

Reason’s article is better and makes a lot of good points, but it still emphasizes this same question, particularly in their subtitle: “The leading figures of the ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ are incredibly popular. So why do they still feel so aggrieved?”. From the piece:

They can be found gracing high-profile cable-news shows, magazine opinion pages, and college speaking tours. They’ve racked up hundreds of thousands of followers. And yet the ragtag band of academics, journalists, and political pundits that make up the “Intellectual Dark Web” (IDW)—think of it as an Island of Misfit Ideologues—declare themselves, Trump-like, to be underdogs and outsiders. […]

[I’m not convinced] they’re actually so taboo these days. As Weiss points out, this is a crowd that has built followings on new-media platforms like YouTube and Twitter rather than relying solely on legacy media, academic publishing, and other traditional routes to getting opinions heard. (There isn’t much that’s new about this except the media involved. Conservatives have long been building large audiences using outside-the-elite-media platforms such as talk radio, speaking tours, and blogs.) In doing so, they’ve amassed tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of followers. What they are saying might not be embraced, or even endured, by legacy media institutions or certain social media precincts, but it’s certainly not out of tune with or heretical to many Americans.

The bottom line is there’s no denying most of these people are very popular. Yet one of the few unifying threads among them is a feeling or posture of being marginalized, too taboo for liberal millennial snowflakes and the folks who cater to them.

The basic argument – that you can’t be both silenced and popular at the same time – sounds plausible. But I want to make a couple points that examine it in more detail.

1. There are lots of other cases where we would agree there’s some form of silencing going on, even as a group has many supporters and rich, famous spokespeople

I know a lot of closeted transgender people. They’re afraid to come out as trans, they talk about trans people being stigmatized and silenced, and they clearly have a point. Does anyone disagree that it can be dangerous to be a trans person even in the First World, let alone anywhere else?

On the other hand, Caitlyn Jenner is on the cover of every magazine, won Woman Of The Year, got her own documentary and reality TV show, and earns up to $100,000 per public appearance, with a total net worth rumored to be around $100 million. She is probably one of the most famous and popular people in the world.

Only a moron would make an argument like “Caitlyn Jenner is doing very well, therefore there’s not really a stigma around transgender”. For one thing, your success is a function of how many people like you, not your net (likers – haters) total. For another, Hollywood is its own world and probably doesn’t correlate with any particular person’s social sphere. And for another, Jenner is popular partly because of how surprising and controversial her transition was – her story is at least partly a function of “look how brave this person is to defy social stigma this way”.

Transgender people complain of social shaming, silencing, and stigma. Some transgender people can become very famous celebrities who everyone agrees are rich and popular. And nobody finds this at all surprising or thinks that these two claims contradict each other.

(No, Twitter, I’m not making the claim “Sam Harris is exactly as marginalized as transgender people”. I’m saying that even groups who we all agree are more marginalized than the IDW can have very successful and famous spokespeople.)

Or what about the early US labor movement? They were faced with everything from Pinkerton goon squads, to industry blacklists, to constantly getting arrested on trumped-up charges; nobody seriously denies that government and private industry put a lot of effort into silencing them.

Yet they were very popular with their core demographic, and their most charismatic spokespeople remained famous and widely-liked. Emma Goldman would go around the country lecturing to packed halls, collecting far more energy and interest than Sam Harris gets nowadays when he does the same. If the papers of the time had said “Emma Goldman sure is popular for someone who says her movement is being silenced”, well, screw you and your dumb gotchas, that’s just a 100% accurate description of the state of affairs.

2. In fact, taboo opinions seem to promote a culture of celebrity

From Current Affairs:

There are dozens of well-known critics of social justice activists: Harris, Shapiro, Peterson, Brooks, Stephens, Hoff Sommers, Weinstein, Weinstein, Murray, Murray, Rogan, Chait, Haidt, Pinker, Rubin, Sullivan, Weiss, Williamson, Yiannopoulos, Dreger, Hirsi Ali. Who are their equivalents among the Social Justice Types? Who has their reach or prominence?

A few people have tried to answer the question – and certainly a few names like Ta-Nehisi Coates belong in any such list. But I think the overall point is basically correct. If so, what does that mean?

Consider this: how many neo-Nazi/white supremacist activists are famous enough that the average news junkie would know their names? Maybe two: David Duke and Richard Spencer. Okay. How many low-tax activists are equally famous? I think just one: Grover Norquist. There are some important people who happen to support low taxes among many other causes (eg Paul Ryan) but they don’t count – if they did, our list of famous “social justice types” would have to include Hillary Clinton and a hundred others.

Presumably we shouldn’t conclude that neo-Nazism is twice as common/popular/acceptable as tax cuts. But that means you can’t always measure how popular an ideology is by counting its famous advocates.

I’d go further and say that more taboo ideas are more likely to generate famous spokespeople. If you can’t think of any modern feminists with star power, you can always go back to the 1970s and find people like Gloria Steinem and Andrea Dworkin – who made waves by being at least as outrageous then as the IDW is now. If Ta-Nehisi Coates isn’t famous enough for you, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X certainly will be. Malcolm X didn’t get more famous than Ta-Nehisi Coates by being more well-liked, he got famous by being as controversial and threatening and feared as Coates is accepted. So the implication of the Current Affairs article – we mostly hear about well-liked people, and really controversial people never get famous – seems questionable at best and backwards at worse.

But why would more taboo causes generate more celebrity? Here are some ways I think this could work:

1. Controversy sells in general. Caitlyn Jenner is more famous than Bruce Jenner not because transgender is less stigmatized than running, but because it’s more likely to provoke debate.

2. All else being equal, if an ideology is taboo, it should have fewer loud open activists per covert believer than an orthodox ideology. But that means the field is less crowded. If feminism has 1 loud activist per 10 believers, and the IDW has 1 loud activist per 1000 believers, then the feminist activist will generally be speaking to a college club, and the IDW activist to a crowded lecture hall. This will catapult the IDW activists to greater celebrity.

3. Activists for taboo views need a skill that activists for orthodox views don’t – that of surfing controversy. The insult “edgelord” is basically correct – they thrive by being on the edge of what is acceptable. If you go completely beyond the bounds of what is acceptable, you fall from grace – either into literal ruin, or just having your fan base shift entirely to being weird alt-right people whom you hate and don’t want to be associated with. Only people who can continually surf that boundary – edgy enough to be interesting, restrained enough to get the New York Times to write basically positive editorials about you – are really able to make it. Most people correctly assume they would screw up and end up totally taboo rather than delightfully edgy. Once again, this makes the field less crowded, giving everyone who comes in more star power per person.

4. Orthodox ideologies tend to be well-represented within institutions, meaning that the ideologies’ leaders are more likely to be institutionally prestigious people. Taboo views are unrepresented within institutions, meaning their spokespeople kind of just arise naturally by being really good at getting attention and acclaim. The natural “leaders of feminism” might be Women’s Studies professors, Planned Parenthood directors, and whoever the most feminist person at the New York Times is. These people might be very good at what they do, they might even be very effective at promoting feminism, but they’re probably less good at getting attention than people who have been specifically selected for that trait. And with the institutional leaders sucking up all the status, it might be harder for some woman who’s just a very good writer and really in-touch with the zeitgeist to say “Yes, I am the leader of feminism, everyone please care about me now”.

5. Generic famous people will support orthodox causes, but not taboo causes. The absence of people famous for feminism is counterbalanced by a glut of famous people who happen to be feminists. Here is a list of actors who say they are proud to call themselves feminist, also just known as “a list of actors”. Famous people who are against feminism are more likely to keep quiet about it, creating a void for specific anti-feminist celebrities can fill.

6. Celebrity helps launder taboo ideology. If you believe Muslim immigration is threatening, you might not be willing to say that aloud – especially if you’re an ordinary person who often trips on their tongue, and the precise words you use are the difference between “mainstream conservative belief” and “evil bigot who must be fired immediately”. Saying “I am really into Sam Harris” both leaves a lot of ambiguity, and lets you outsource the not-saying-the-wrong-word-and-getting-fired work to a professional who’s good at it. In contrast, if your belief is orthodox and you expect it to win you social approval, you want to be as direct as possible.

I don’t know if these six points really explain the phenomenon. But I think there’s definitely a phenomenon to be explained, and I think “crowded field” is a big part of it. In my own experience, my blog posts promoting orthodox opinions are generally ignored; my blog posts promoting controversial opinions go viral and win me lots of praise. I assume this is because my orthodox blog posts are trying to outcompete the people at Vox (highly-polished, Ivy-League-educated mutants grown in vats by a DARPA project to engineer the perfect thinkpiece writer), and my controversial blog posts are trying to outcompete three randos with blogs that consistently confuse “there” and “their”. Winning one competition is much easier than winning the other – and the prize for winning either is “the attention of about 50% of the population”.

3. Fame lets people avoid social repercussions, but that doesn’t mean those repercussions don’t exist for ordinary people

Caitlyn Jenner can be as visibly and fabulously transgender as she wants, because being transgender is a big part of her job. She’s organized a lot of her life around being a transgender person. Any friends she was going to lose for being transgender have already been written off as losses. Anybody who wants to harm her for being transgender is going to get stopped by her bodyguards or kept out of her giant gated mansion. When she argues that transgender people face a lot of stigma, fear, and discrimination, she mostly isn’t talking about herself. She’s talking about every transgender person who isn’t Caitlyn Jenner.

Likewise, Sam Harris is pretty invincible. As a professional edgelord, he is not going to lose his job for being edgy. Whatever friends he’s going to lose for being Sam Harris, he’s already written off as losses. I assume he has some kind of security or at least chooses not to live in Berkeley. So when he’s talking about his ideas being taboo, he means taboo for everybody who isn’t Sam Harris.

I worry that this conversation is being conducted mostly by media personalities who write controversial takes for a living. They work for ideologically-aligned publications, and everyone knows that a few crazies hating and harassing you is a common part of the job. If you didn’t propose the death penalty for abortion and then get a job at The Atlantic, you’ll probably be fine.

Out in the rest of the world, if a rando on social media calls your company and tells them you’re a Nazi because [out of context tweet], the complaint is going straight to a humorless 60-year-old HR drone whose job is minimizing the risk of PR blowups, and who has never heard of Twitter except as a vague legend of a place where everything is terrible all the time. So if you write for a webzine, consider that you may have no idea how silenced or living-in-fear anyone else is or isn’t, and that you may be the wrong person to speculate about it.

Out in the rest of the world, if someone sends you a death threat, you might not be such an experienced consumer of Internet vitriol that you know it usually doesn’t pan out. You might not be so thick-skinned that “Go to hell, you fucking Nazi scum” no longer has any effect on you. You might not live in an bubble of intellectualism where people appreciate subtle positions. You might have friends and family who are very nice people but somewhat literal-minded, who have heard that only rapists oppose feminism so many times that they have no ability to create a mental category for someone who opposes feminism but isn’t pro-rape. And you might not really relish the idea of having to have a conversation with your sweet elderly great-aunt about how no, you really don’t think raping people is good. Seriously, imagine having to explain any of what you write on the Internet to your sweet elderly great-aunt, and now imagine it’s something that society has spent years telling her is equivalent to rape apologism.

(my father recently implied I had brought dishonor upon our family by getting quoted approvingly in National Review. I am 90% sure he was joking, but only 90%.)

Or maybe I’m wrong about this. Part of how silencing works is that nobody really knows how strong it is or isn’t. I had a patient who agonized for years over whether to come out to his family, only to have his parents say “Yes, obviously” when he finally got up the nerve. The point, is Sam Harris no longer has to worry about any of these things. So if your line of reasoning is “well, Sam Harris seems to do pretty well for himself, so I guess you can’t get in trouble for being controversial”, I don’t know what to tell you.

4. If you spend decades inventing a powerful decentralized network to allow unpopular voices to be heard, sometimes you end up with unpopular voices being heard

Sam Harris’ business model is a podcast with a Patreon, advertised by Internet word-of-mouth. This is pretty typical for the “intellectual dark web” figures.

The Internet promised to take power away from media gatekeepers and make censorship near-impossible. In discussing the many ways in which this promise has admittedly failed, we tend to overlook the degree to which it’s succeeded. One of the most common historical tropes is “local government and/or lynch mob destroys marginalized group’s printing press to prevent them from spreading their ideas”. The Internet has since made people basically uncensorable, not for lack of trying. More recently, crowdfunding has added the final part to this machine – semi-decentralized cash flow.

So, after hundreds of engineers and activists and entrepreneurs work for decades to create a new near-impossible-to-censor system, and some people who would never have gotten heard on any other channel are able to use it to get heard – well, it’s pretty weird to turn around and say “Aha, you got popular, that proves nobody is trying to silence you!”

I think this also explains why, even though people have been talking about these issues forever, it’s only becoming a “big deal” now. Before, people would either watch their mouths to avoid getting kicked out by major gatekeeper institutions – or they would go to explicitly right-coded spaces like talk radio where the gatekeepers already agreed with them.

What’s new is that there’s a third route in between “tame enough to be on CNN” and “conservative enough to be a guest on Rush Limbaugh”. The new brand of IDW thinkers are interesting precisely because – excluding Ben Shapiro (always a good life choice) – they’re not traditional conservatives. The thing that’s new and exciting enough to get New York Times articles written about it is that the anti-PC movement has spread to friendly coastal liberals. From the Democrats’ perspective, the IDW aren’t infidels, they’re heretics.

5. When the IDW claims they are threatened, harassed, and blacklisted, people should at least consider that they are referring to the actual well-known incidents of threats, harassment, and blacklisting against them rather than imagining this is code for “they demand to be universally liked”

Here are some of the stories in Weiss’ original IDW editorial:

A year ago, Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying were respected tenured professors at Evergreen State College, where their Occupy Wall Street-sympathetic politics were well in tune with the school’s progressive ethos. Today they have left their jobs, lost many of their friends and endangered their reputations. All this because they opposed a “Day of Absence,” in which white students were asked to leave campus for the day. For questioning a day of racial segregation cloaked in progressivism, the pair was smeared as racist. Following threats, they left town for a time with their children and ultimately resigned their jobs.

And:

Mr. Peterson has endured no small amount of online hatred and some real-life physical threats: In March, during a lecture at Queen’s University in Ontario, a woman showed up with a garrote.

And:

Dr. Soh said that she started “waking up” in the last two years of her doctorate program. “It was clear that the environment was inhospitable to conducting research,” she said. “If you produce findings that the public doesn’t like, you can lose your job.”

When she wrote an op-ed in 2015 titled “Why Transgender Kids Should Wait to Transition,” citing research that found that a majority of gender dysphoric children outgrow their dysphoria, she said her colleagues warned her, “Even if you stay in academia and express this view, tenure won’t protect you.”

And:

The University of California, Berkeley, had to spend $600,000 on security for Mr. Shapiro’s speech there.

So. Threats against a professor and his family forcing him to leave town. Another professor told that she would lose her job if she communicated research to the public. A guy needing $600,000 worth of security just to be able to give a speech without getting mobbed. Someone showing up to a lecture with a garrote. And Reason Magazine reads all this and thinks “I know what’s going on! These people’s only possible complaint is that they feel entitled to have everyone agree with them!”

Maybe I’m being mean here? But how else do I interpet paragraphs like this one?

The supposed ostracism they suffer because of their views ultimately comes down to a complaint not about censorship or exclusion but being attacked, challenged, or denied very particular opportunities. They want to say the things they are saying and have the marketplace of ideas and attention not only reward them with followers and freelance writing gigs but universal acceptance from those that matter in the academy and chattering classes.

I am nowhere near these people either in fame or controversialness, but I have gotten enough threats and harassment both to be pretty sure that these people are telling the truth, and to expect that the stuff that fits in one article is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

(Do other groups face similar pressures? Absolutely. Would people who wrote similar articles using those groups’ complaints to make fun of them also be antisocial? Absolutely.)

On a related note, what does the article mean by contrasting “excluded” vs. “denied very particular opportunities”? I understand the meaning of the words, but I am not sure the people writing about them have a principled distinction in mind. When Debra Soh faced pressure to quit academia, was she being “excluded” or “denied a very particular opportunity”? Would the 1950s version of Reason describe communist sympathizers as being “excluded”, or as “denied very particular opportunities” in the film industry? If, as the surveys suggest, 20% of philosophers would refuse to hire transgender professors to their department, are transgender people facing “exclusion”, or just being “denied very particular opportunities”?

[My position – if you decide not to hire someone based on any characteristic not related to job performance (very broadly defined, including things like company fit and fun to work with), you’re trying to exclude people. If you make up a really strained dumb argument for why some characteristic relates to job performance when it obviously doesn’t (“communist actors could try to hold a revolution on the set, thus making our other employees feel unsafe”), then you’re trying to exclude people and lying about it. You can say, as many throughout history have “I’m proud to be part of the effort to fight the Communist menace by denying them positions of influence”, and then you get points for honesty and (if the Communists were really as menacing as you thought) maybe utilitarianism points as well. But don’t say “What? Me exclude Communists? We’re just denying them very particular opportunities! Sure are a whiny bunch, those commies!” See also Is It Possible To Have Coherent Principles Around Free Speech Norms?]

6. The IDW probably still censor themselves

Another common point in this discussion has been that the IDW copies the worst parts of social justice – intense focus on the latest outrage, shoddy science, its own set of insults (“snowflake! triggered millennial!”), us-vs-them dichotomy, et cetera. And Despite Their Supposed Interest In Rational Discussion Actually They Are Very Bad At Supporting Their Points Rationally.

Here’s a site that hasn’t been in any “intellectual dark web” editorials and never will be: Human Varieties. You can Google it if you want, but I won’t direct-link them for the same way I wouldn’t build a giant superhighway to some remote forest village enjoying its peaceful isolation. Here’s an excerpt from a typical Human Varieties article:

I did look through the PING survey (age 3-21, N ~ 1,500) – which might not be very informative owing to the age structure. Going by this, Greg [Cochran] seems to be more or less correct about some of the endo[phenotypic] differences and probably about their origins. As an example, Figure 1 & 2 show the [black/white] diff[erences] for intracranial and total brain volume by age. ([African-Americans] are picked out for illustration since they are the largest non-White ethnic group, showing the biggest deviation from Whites.) And Figure 3 shows the relation between brain volume and ancestry in the self-identified [African-American] group; the results were basically the same for intracranial volume, etc. — and so not shown.

Read Human Varieties for a while, and you notice a few things:

1. They’re much more taboo and openly racist (in the Charles Murray sense) than almost anyone in the “intellectual dark web”
2. They are much less annoying and less likely to shout “TRIGGERED! SNOWFLAKE!” than almost anyone in the “intellectual dark web”
3. Nobody pays any attention to them at all

I think all three of these are correlated.

If you want to be Human Varieties, you can talk about the evidence for and against various taboo subjects. But nobody wants to be them, for two reasons.

First, somebody is going to have to present the evidence for the taboo subject, not just in an edgy “what if…perhaps this should not be suppressed?? or did i blow your mind??” way, but in a “here’s exactly what I believe and why I believe it” way. This isn’t just Sam Harris level edgy, this is way off the edge into the void below.

Second, if you do even a moderately good job, it’s probably going to sound exactly like the quote above, stuff like “this survey of intracranial volume endophenotypes might not be very informative, owing to the age structure” – and everyone will fall asleep by minute two. People will do lots of things to own the libs, but reading an analysis of the age structure of endophenotype data probably isn’t one of them.

“TRIGGERED! SNOWFLAKE!” solves both these problems. You avoid the object-level debate about whether taboo subjects are true, and it’s automatically interesting to a wide range of people. “That other monkey has status that should be my status!” – nobody ever went broke peddling that.

I think this model knocks down a few reasonable-sounding but on-reflection-wrong critiques of the way these issues are discussed:

“The IDW demands rational debate, but they never engage in it”. Somewhat true. If they engaged in it, they would move beyond the bounds of acceptable edginess. “We wish we were allowed to talk about X without massive risk to our reputations and safety” and “We are definitely not going to talk about X right now” are hardly contradictory; they follow naturally from each other. And I think this is more subtle than people expect – somebody may feel they can get away with making some arguments but not others, giving them the appearance of a skeletal but flimsy ideology that falls down on close examination. Or people might be willing to talk about these issues in some low-exposure spaces but not other higher-exposure spaces, giving them the appearance of backing down once challenged.

“The IDW focuses too much on triggered snowflakes.” Somewhat true – even independent of this being popular and lucrative. This is the least taboo thing you can do while still getting a reputation for being edgy. And winning the free speech wars makes it easier to talk about other stuff.

“The IDW says they’re being silenced, but actually they’re popular”. Somewhat true, even independent of all the arguments above. The things they complain about not being able to say, aren’t the things they’re saying.

7. Nobody in this discussion seems to really understand how silencing works.

If you say “We know a movement isn’t being silenced because it’s got lots of supporters, is widely discussed, and has popular leaders” – then you’re mixing up the numerator and the denominator.

Gandhi’s Indian independence movement had lots of supporters, was widely discussed, and had popular leaders. So did a half dozen Irish revolts against British rule. And the early US labor movement. And Eastern Bloc countries’ resistance to Soviet domination. And Aung San Suu Kyi. And every medieval peasants’ revolt ever. And…well, every other movement that’s been suppressed. Really, what sort of moron wastes their time suppressing a leaderless movement that nobody believes in or cares about?

Popular support and frequent discussion go in the numerator when you’re calculating silencing. Silencing is when even though a movement has lots of supporters, none of them will admit to it publicly under their real name. Even though a movement is widely discussed, its ideas never penetrate to anywhere they might actually have power. Even though it has charismatic leaders, they have to resort to low-prestige decentralized people-power to get their message across, while their opponents preach against them from the airwaves and pulpits and universities.

Scott Aaronson writes about the game theoretic idea of “common knowledge” as it applies to society:

If you read accounts of Nazi Germany, or the USSR, or North Korea or other despotic regimes today, you can easily be overwhelmed by this sense of, “so why didn’t all the sane people just rise up and overthrow the totalitarian monsters? Surely there were more sane people than crazy, evil ones. And probably the sane people even knew, from experience, that many of their neighbors were sane—so why this cowardice?” Once again, it could be argued that common knowledge is the key. Even if everyone knows the emperor is naked; indeed, even if everyone knows everyone knows he’s naked, still, if it’s not common knowledge, then anyone who says the emperor’s naked is knowingly assuming a massive personal risk. That’s why, in the story, it took a child to shift the equilibrium. Likewise, even if you know that 90% of the populace will join your democratic revolt provided they themselves know 90% will join it, if you can’t make your revolt’s popularity common knowledge, everyone will be stuck second-guessing each other, worried that if they revolt they’ll be an easily-crushed minority. And because of that very worry, they’ll be correct!

(My favorite Soviet joke involves a man standing in the Moscow train station, handing out leaflets to everyone who passes by. Eventually, of course, the KGB arrests him—but they discover to their surprise that the leaflets are just blank pieces of paper. “What’s the meaning of this?” they demand. “What is there to write?” replies the man. “It’s so obvious!” Note that this is precisely a situation where the man is trying to make common knowledge something he assumes his “readers” already know.)

The kicker is that, to prevent something from becoming common knowledge, all you need to do is censor the common-knowledge-producing mechanisms: the press, the Internet, public meetings. This nicely explains why despots throughout history have been so obsessed with controlling the press, and also explains how it’s possible for 10% of a population to murder and enslave the other 90% (as has happened again and again in our species’ sorry history), even though the 90% could easily overwhelm the 10% by acting in concert. Finally, it explains why believers in the Enlightenment project tend to be such fanatical absolutists about free speech.

One can take this further:

Bostrom makes an offhanded reference of the possibility of a dictatorless dystopia, one that every single citizen including the leadership hates but which nevertheless endures unconquered. It’s easy enough to imagine such a state. Imagine a country with two rules: first, every person must spend eight hours a day giving themselves strong electric shocks. Second, if anyone fails to follow a rule (including this one), or speaks out against it, or fails to enforce it, all citizens must unite to kill that person. Suppose these rules were well-enough established by tradition that everyone expected them to be enforced. So you shock yourself for eight hours a day, because you know if you don’t everyone else will kill you, because if they don’t, everyone else will kill them, and so on.

Suppose in the dictatorless dystopia, one guy becomes immortal for some reason. He goes around saying “Maybe we shouldn’t all shock ourselves all the time.” Everyone tries to kill him and fails. But if anybody else starts agreeing with him – “Yeah, that guy has a point!” – then everybody kills that other guy.

The don’t-shock-ists have 100% popular support. And they have charismatic leaders who get their points out well. But they’re still being silenced, and they’re still the losing side. Social censorship isn’t about your support or your leaders. It’s about creating systems of common knowledge that favor your side and handicap your opponents. Censorship = support / common knowledge of support.

Bret Weinstein said of his conflicts with Evergreen State: “I’ve received…quite a bit of support privately from within the college. Publicly, only one other professor has come forward to say he supports my position.” Freddie deBoer writes about how his own conflicts with callout culture have ended the same way: an outpouring of private emails voicing agreement, plus an outpouring of public comments voicing hostility, sometimes from the same people privately admitting they agree with him

This provides context for interpreting the Reason article’s last paragraph:

They want not so much any particular policy platform, political idea, or candidate to catch on as for more people to acknowledge that they are right. And that will always be a proposition that winds up making one feel aggrieved, because it’s an impossible one. To the extent that they are spouting marginalized or unpopular ideas, the only way to spread these into the mainstream is to put in the hard work of winning people over.

This is the equivalent of going to communist Czechoslovakia and thinking “Look at all those greengrocers with communist slogans in their shop windows! Clearly communists have won the war of ideas, and anti-communists are just too aggrieved to do the hard work of convincing people”. The other interpretation is that lots of people are already convinced and afraid to say so, and that convincing more people is less productive than building common knowledge of everyone’s convictions (maybe you should hand out blank leaflets). I’m not saying convincing people isn’t good and necessary, just that assessing how convinced people are is harder than it looks.

Here is a story I heard from a friend, which I will alter slightly to protect the innocent. A prestigious psychology professor signed an open letter in which psychologists condemned belief in innate sex differences. My friend knew that this professor believed such differences existed, and asked him why he signed the letter. He said that he expected everyone else in his department would sign it, so it would look really bad if he didn’t. My friend asked why he expected everyone else in his department to sign it, and he said “Probably for the same reason I did”.

This is the denominator of silencing in a nutshell. I think it’s a heck of a lot more relevant to this discussion than how many Patreon followers Sam Harris has, and I’m happy there are people speaking out against it and trying to make common knowledge a little bit more common.

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941 Responses to Can Things Be Both Popular And Silenced?

  1. panloss says:

    Wow, I feel kind of bad for being so bitchy about people with giant audiences being silenced. Here’s Eric Weinstein’s “intellectual dark web” site btw: http://intellectualdark.website/.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thanks.

      • Aapje says:

        The about page demonstrates the effects of silencing quite clearly:

        Who made this?
        I might choose to share that later. It’s hardly important. I have no affiliation with any of the people listed on this site, old media, new media or any political movement. I’m just a person who is trying to tell the truth.

    • MawBTS says:

      Wow, I feel kind of bad for being so bitchy about people with giant audiences being silenced.

      I’m growing to dislike words like “silenced” and “banned”, because they’re 1) emotionally-laden snarl words, and 2) lack clear referents.

      Social justice people often seem to use “silenced” to mean “someone criticised me, and made me feel uncomfortable speaking”, which is technically accurate while doing great violence to the meaning of the word and the English language. “Silenced” is a little like the term “WMD”, which lumps together weapons about six orders of magnitude apart in destructiveness.

      People on the right have similar rhetorical strategies, although they prefer the word “censored”. I won’t link to anything, but there was a recent fake “scandal” in science fiction where a writer announced his intention to attend Worldcon 2018 and publically break a rule he disagreed with. After Worldcon (of course) cancelled his admission, he went on a self-pitying publicity tour about how they’d CENSORED him, as he’d probably planned from the start (this might be a case of conservative/SJ crossover, as the man is also claiming they discriminated against him because he’s Hispanic.)

      I particularly dislike “banned”, which seems like the vaguest word of all. Technically, it’s a transitive verb. You must ban someone from doing something, or from being somewhere. You can’t just “ban”. Instead, we get countless “Trump bans Muslims!” news stories, as if that means anything.

      • Simon_Jester says:

        What word would be a better choice for the concept ‘silenced’ is being used to represent?

        Clearly, there is such a thing as a generally denounced/rejected opinion being kept on the down-low because anyone who expresses it will be the target of bad treatment or punishment that comes from socially approved institutions.

        We can agree here that here’s a real territory, so what name should it have on the map if we’re not calling it ‘silencing?’

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          “Ostracized” maybe?

        • liljaycup says:

          I think the only solution here is to taboo your words.

          It’s not a good idea to keep trying to plug in a new word to replace an old one. It’s a bit like saying, “this map doesn’t properly depict the size and shape of Texas–let’s fix the problem by renaming Texas ‘Louisiana’.”

          The issue here is not one where plugging in a new word will magically solve all your problems. The problems here are that the words are being used as shortcuts to different ideas for different people. The words have different definitions, connotations, and implications for virtually everyone who hears them. So instead of calling a thing “silencing,” why not just call it a phenomenon where “a generally denounced/rejected opinion [is] being kept on the down-low because anyone who expresses it will be the target of bad treatment or punishment that comes from socially approved institutions”?

          I think the solution is to take the time to say what you mean accurately and fully, instead of trying to find snappy shortcut words. You might be able to get your rhetorical community to agree on a shortcut word, but everyone else in the world will misunderstand your meaning every time you use it.

          Sometimes reducing an idea to fit on a map just confuses things more than leaving it off the map entirely. So you either have to “do it right” (depict it fully and accurately) or just leave it for some other mapmaker.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            So instead of calling a thing “silencing,” why not just call it a phenomenon where “a generally denounced/rejected opinion [is] being kept on the down-low because anyone who expresses it will be the target of bad treatment or punishment that comes from socially approved institutions”?

            While I respect the argument you’re trying to make, there is a practical and compact answer to the question you ask here.

            Namely, “because being able to defend oneself in political discourse is important.”

            Outside the realms of academia and academia-adjacent areas like blogs frequented by nerds, nobody will sit still for a definition as long as “the phenomenon by which ideas are kept on the down-low by fear of social pressure or punishment from socially approved institutions.” Certainly not if that definition isn’t connected to some term that can be used as a more compact abbreviation later in the same text.

            Which is particularly bad when the only people willing to sit still to listen to your definition of the problem are in academia and academia-adjacent spaces… and those are exactly the spaces afflicted by the problem!

            Political discourse about a thing is to a large part contingent on having a name for the thing. George Orwell was very insightful when he devised ‘Newspeak’ as a language for his dystopian state in 1984, because the process of mangling language so that important concepts cannot be expressed is in fact a very effective way of suppressing discussion of those concepts. Conversely, coining a proper name for a concept can result in huge leaps forward in our ability to talk about it.

            For example, the phrase “sexual harassment” dates back to the 1970s. Clearly, it was a thing that existed before that time- but there was no direct name for it. There were ambiguous names that didn’t clearly state that this behavior was crossing boundaries and interfering with the lives of the victims- phrases like ‘getting fresh.’ There were phrases that didn’t make it clear that what was being discussed was a kind of predation or aggression initiated by one person against the will of the other, like ‘horsing around.’ But what there was not, was a specific word or phrase that could act as the nucleus for a collective discussion of unwelcome, sexually charged conduct and how it affected those on the receiving end.

            It’s hard to talk about gay rights without a word that, at least right now, is a non-insulting word for homosexuals. It’s hard to talk about the Internet without the word ‘internet.’ It’s hard to talk about free speech without a specific phrase like “free speech,” as we are learning thanks to the efforts of some. And so on.

            In each case, it’s at least theoretically possible to have the necessary conversation without the key term. But it’s harder. And it cedes a large tactical advantage to one’s opponents if they are willing to come up with concise names for the key ideas and goals they advocate for.

          • shrikesnest says:

            But then your ideas aren’t as catchy, and nobody can have a simple conversation because they’re spending half their time rigorously defining things their audience already knows. There’s a tradeoff that needs to be made in word choice between accuracy and usefulness.

            If anything, I think the internet is already too pedantic. It’s so annoying that every article I read has to start with four paragraphs delimiting every single horrible thing they are not implying. If we could just read with some good faith it would improve the pacing of every essay.

        • gbdub says:

          I think “(attempted) marginalization” would work – the critics of the “IDW” are intentionally trying to drive the expression of “IDW” opinions out of “respectable” spaces, i.e. to the margins. Deliberate bubble-making / enforcing.

          • shrikesnest says:

            Unfortunately “marginalized” has a fairly set definition at this point. A definition that is guarded by many angry tigers. Trying to expand or change the usage is sure to be met with resistance.

        • Dack says:

          We can agree here that here’s a real territory, so what name should it have on the map if we’re not calling it ‘silencing?’

          It seems like the opposite of “signal-boosting” to me. Perhaps we could coin “signal-bashing” for this concept of silencing.

      • Tim van Beek says:

        “Silenced”, “censorship” or “banned” may be a poor choice of words.
        What the people of the “IDW” really want is

        1. constructive engagement based on a correct understanding of their viewpoint,
        2. no guilt via association.

        What they criticize is that they instead get consistently misrepresented, deplatformed, shamed via labeling, and lumped together with the people they talk to. Unless someone comes up with a better word to describe this, something like “silenced” seems to be a good approximation.

        I hope that mentioning the buzzword “Overton window” does not trigger any metaphysical allergic reaction?

        If not: The society of the USA has large subgroups that in respect to specific topics have disjunct Overton windows with considerable distance between them. Being popular and an outcast facing serious harassment at the same time is no contradiction in this situation.

        Denying this misses the point and won’t move the discussion forward.

        • shrikesnest says:

          Just more weird fallout from living in gigantic national and global communities instead of the strictly local communities that were the norm until just a few decades ago. I think we’re still catching up to what a gigantic change that was.

          • Tim van Beek says:

            Yep, I think that has a lot to do with it.

            I think people mostly discovered how different their worldviews are, it is not really a new development.
            Now social media have enabled and accelerated tribalism tremendously, with a tendency to move the core tenets of each group to the extreme, because outrage generates the most attention.

            We are all participants (and part time researchers) in a global experiment in social psychology.

        • sconn says:

          I think we absolutely do need to be talking about Overton windows. These people are trying to push open the Overton window to cover more extreme viewpoints, and their marginalizers are trying to resist this process. I’m kind of on the side of the marginalizers on this one. Especially if it’s true that these IDW people believe more extreme things than they say …. it seems we have to stigmatize the things they ARE saying enough that people won’t say the more extreme things they’re thinking.

          The question is how to do this, or is it possible to do this, without unfairly attacking individuals.

          • albatross11 says:

            sconn:

            Can I borrow the mind-reading machine you’re using to know what they’re thinking beyond their words? I’d like to know what’s going on in the heads of a few prominent CEOs so I can fine-tune my stock market allocations.

          • Tim van Beek says:

            I think we absolutely do need to be talking about Overton windows.

            I was just wondering if Scott avoided this buzzword in his post for some reason, as it seems to be very fitting to the meta-level of the debate.

            These people are trying to push open the Overton window to cover more extreme viewpoints, and their marginalizers are trying to resist this process.

            That is the core of the conflict. The “marginalizers” describe the process of moving stuff out of the Overton window (of whom exactly? the MSM?) as “progress”.

            I’m kind of on the side of the marginalizers on this one.

            The “marginalizers” do a fantastic job of misrepresenting the actual viewpoints of the IDW. I am sure they can’t help themselves. I would recommend that you listen to the “waking up” podcast of Sam Harris and some of the youtube lectures of Jordan Peterson, and read their books.

            …it seems we have to stigmatize the things they ARE saying enough that people won’t say the more extreme things they’re thinking. The question is how to do this, or is it possible to do this, without unfairly attacking individuals.

            One way to do this is called “rational discourse”. Another is “organize virtual lynch mobs via social media”. People favoring the latter don’t seem to understand the enlightenment, because if you apply Kant’s imperative only one of the two survives.

          • sconn says:

            Scott was the one who suggested there were more controversial things they wanted to say but were afraid to. I had not considered the possibility before, but if it IS true, isn’t it possible that the “marginalizers” are onto them, and are trying to stay one step ahead by marginalizing a wider set of topics than they otherwise would? If they figure out that most people say X also believe Y and might be sneakily trying to spread it, naturally if they hate Y they’ll go after X as well.

          • Aapje says:

            @sconn

            The problem with that reasoning is that there is never a reason to stop. There will always be an edge of the Overton Window. If you keep burning the witches at the edge, you will eventually burn everyone.

            Who are you protecting if everyone becomes your target?

            That reasoning seems no different from: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”

          • Fluffy Buffalo says:

            As a starting point, the IDW people are trying to push the Overton window back to a point where notions that are factually correct to the best scientific knowledge and that should not raise an eyebrow in a sane world can be expressed without fear of being chased by mobs with baseball bats. Before you decide to stigmatize them, please cite one thing stated by Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson, Dave Rubin or Bret Weinstein that you consider so reprehensible that it should be suppressed.
            Also: Peterson has stated that speaking is a way of thinking communally. How in the world are you supposed to make progress if no one is allowed to say things that might be wrong, but might just as well be true and important, but are considered “extreme” in the current climate?

          • Tim van Beek says:

            How in the world are you supposed to make progress if no one is allowed to say things that might be wrong, but might just as well be true and important, but are considered “extreme” in the current climate?

            I can’t help but think of the medieval and renaissance catholic church, whenever this “this knowledge is too dangerous, because some people may be led to dangerous conclusions” PC point is made. As a Jesuit employed by the Vatican you could think and talk about almost anything, as long as you did it in Latin and did not endanger the eternal salvation of the unwashed masses by peddling dangerous falsehoods to them.

            And of course never translate the Bible. Only consecrated priests may read and interpret it, for everyone else it is just too dangerous.

            Proof: Bible verses were used to justify slavery.

          • @Tim:

            This starts me imagining an alternate history story in which the Catholic church managed to maintain its control of Europe, England included, successfully prevented the spread of dangerous ideas such as evolution, …

            And the result was a more attractive world than we have, not less, because religion, which the developed world has largely lost, is a really useful falsehood.

          • Dack says:

            @David:

            Actually, the Catholic church has never been against evolution.

          • @Dack:

            In my proposed alternate history story they were.

      • Aapje says:

        @MawBTS

        there was a recent fake “scandal” in science fiction where a writer announced his intention to attend Worldcon 2018 and publically break a rule he disagreed with.

        I think that your write-up is uncharitable/biased.

        Jon Del Arroz declared that he was going to wear a bodycam to Worldcon for self-protection. The Worldcon staff seems to have interpreted this as a violation of their Code of Conduct, which in itself is debatable, since videotaping is allowed by the CoC, in public areas. So a good argument can be made that Del Arroz’s behavior was allowed by the CoC.

        Even if Del Arroz’s statement of intent violated the CoC, there is no evidence (that I’m aware of) that Del Arroz intended to violated the CoC knowingly.

        I’m personally wondering what the response by the Worldcon staff would have been if (for example) a trans person would have declared that he or she would be wearing a bodycam for self-protection. Would this then also be interpreted as a hostile act against others who visit Worldcon or would it be seen as a legitimate form of protection from hostile people? Would they have immediately resorted to banning or would they have tried to talk to the attendee about the issue?

        One of the ways in which authorities can assist in the oppression of people/beliefs/etc is to selectively enforce the rules and to be extremely uncharitable to some, but not to others.

        he went on a self-pitying publicity tour about how they’d CENSORED him, as he’d probably planned from the start

        Perhaps Del Arroz planned to go further and further until he got pushback. Perhaps he actually was afraid for his safety and yet didn’t want to capitulate to his critics.

        Regardless of what the truth is, the behavior by Worldcon seems biased and unjust in my eyes.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Would this then also be interpreted as a hostile act against others who visit Worldcon or would it be seen as a legitimate form of protection from hostile people? Would they have immediately resorted to banning or would they have tried to talk to the attendee about the issue?

          This is an interesting question. I’ve mentioned before that I live in a purple, upper middle class moderately racially diverse neighborhood with as many Trump signs as Clinton signs during the election, and after the election one of my Democrat neighbors put one of those “no matter who you are, you’re safe here” english/spanish/arabic signs in their yard.

          Is this meant to inform latinos and muslims who are legitimately in danger of violence from Trump supporters in the neighborhood that they may take refuge at that house, or is this sign meant as an insult to the Trump supporters in the neighborhood, implying they’re prone to violence against minorities? (Note, as far as am I’m aware, there are no illegal immigrants or muslims in my neighborhood, no one has been a victim of violence in my neighborhood, and no one has taken shelter from potential violence at my neighbor’s house).

          Is wearing a bodycam to Worldcon a legitimate security exercise, or is it simply an insult to other Worldcon attendees, implying they’re violent people who need to be watched?

          • oppressedminority says:

            In either case, placing that sign/ wearing the bodycam should be allowed.

            Banning someone for wearing a bodycam at a convention is just as offensive to basic freedoms as the police removing that sign.

          • Gossage Vardebedian says:

            I think we live in the same neighborhood

          • Aapje says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Is wearing a bodycam to Worldcon a legitimate security exercise, or is it simply an insult to other Worldcon attendees, implying they’re violent people who need to be watched?

            Does it matter?

            Imagine that Bob and Chris are enemies. Bob has a strong belief that it’s not going to rain tomorrow. Chris declares that it will rain and announces that he will carry an umbrella.

            No one can look inside the head of Chris to know whether his belief is genuine, merely reactionary or a bit of both.

            What we do know is that Chris carrying around that umbrella doesn’t harm Bob, except making him aware that Chris behaves in a way that demonstrates that he doesn’t share Bob’s beliefs. Why would Bob have a right to prevent this cognitive dissonance?

            Also, from a practical perspective, allowing the scenario play out will prove one of these people right. Either it will rain and Bob will get to laugh at Chris or it doesn’t, and Chris gets to laugh at Bob.

            Similarly, if Del Arroz had been allowed to walk around with his bodycam, either people would have assaulted him or such, proving him right; or they wouldn’t have and Del Arroz’s critics can laugh at him.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think it does matter, as far as Worldcon goes. It’s their event. If someone showed up at my pool party with a sign that says “Everyone here is a rapist” I’d ask them to leave. Is the body camera a legitimate act of self defense or is it an “everybody here is a thug” sign?

          • christianschwalbach says:

            Conrad. Yes, I readily agree that its their event, but there can/are issues with uneven enforcement of rules or poor publicizing of rules in many, many, cases. The victim may be in the wrong, and often is, “according to the rules”, but he/she can also make a case of obscure communcation/directed enforcement, etc…if it applies

          • Jon Gunnarsson says:

            Aapje writes:

            Similarly, if Del Arroz had been allowed to walk around with his bodycam, either people would have assaulted him or such, proving him right; or they wouldn’t have and Del Arroz’s critics can laugh at him.

            Him not being assaulted while wearing a bodycam would not necessarily mean that his fears had been laughable. After all, it’s possible that attackers would have been deterred by the bodycam, but would have assaulted him had he showed up without it. It might also have been reasonable to wear a bodycam if he merely thought that there was some significant risk of being assaulted rather than a certainty.

        • MawBTS says:

          I think that your write-up is uncharitable/biased.

          Maybe, but I don’t think it’s wrong.

          Jon Del Arroz declared that he was going to wear a bodycam to Worldcon for self-protection. The Worldcon staff seems to have interpreted this as a violation of their Code of Conduct, which in itself is debatable, since videotaping is allowed by the CoC, in public areas. So a good argument can be made that Del Arroz’s behavior was allowed by the CoC.

          I initially thought JDA was in the right, based on similar thoughts to yours. But then I saw tweets where he says he’s “excited to go to their con suite” (which would be a private area) and film them. This is potentially a violation of California state law, in addition to Worldcon’s policies (and if he felt threatened by these people, why would he specifically seek them out?).

          Jim C Hines has a collection of information on JDA. He seems like an obvious troll/bad actor to me. He hasn’t been able to substantiate his claims that that anyone is harassing or threatening him, and it seems that if he really thought his safety was endangered at Worldcon, he simply wouldn’t go. He has a history of lying and misrepresenting facts – for example, claiming that someone “doxxed” his child when (apparently) they only referenced facts that he himself brought up in a public Periscope stream. Worldcon made the right call.

          • mcd says:

            > and it seems that if he really thought his safety was endangered at Worldcon, he simply wouldn’t go.

            He would still want to go on account of it being a significant work conference for professional writers.

          • Careless says:

            Well, you managed to convince me that de Arroz was completely in the right, which makes at least three conservative writers screwed out of their positions this year, and pretty much requires that anyone who wants a decent field boycott the people behind these bans

          • John Schilling says:

            But then I saw tweets where he says he’s “excited to go to their con suite” (which would be a private area) and film them. This is potentially a violation of California state law, in addition to Worldcon’s policies (and if he felt threatened by these people, why would he specifically seek them out?).

            A: The con suite is no more a private area than any other part of the con. If you’re a member / paid attendee you’re as entitled to be there as you are in e.g. the dealer room or any of the panels, and with about the same expectation of privacy all around. It is not a private party, though there will be some of those going on as well.

            B: The California law you cite is explicitly about commercial photography, not journalistic or protective. So long as de Arroz doesn’t sell the photos or use them for advertising, there’s no legal issue. At least not under that section of California law; did you even read it before linking?

            C: You might as well ask why, if a black person felt threatened by the KKK, they would try to move to one of the neighborhoods where the KKK burns crosses rather than staying in one of the nice safe black neighborhoods where they belong.

            Worldcon needs to be laughed off the stage and fade into irrelevance. As does anyone who offers such a blatant defense of the heckler’s veto as has been presented here.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I’m growing to dislike words like “silenced” and “banned”,

        And neither of those words show up in Weiss’s article, either.

        For me, this pattern matches to:

        A: “Group X has had good thing 1 and bad thing 2 happen to them.”

        B: “A says Group X is suffering from bad thing 3! How can that be! I can prove they have had good thing 1 happen. What a bunch of lies!”

        A: “whut”

      • Scott Alexander says:

        If “microaggression” didn’t have such a bad rap, and if people weren’t going to think I was being snarky, I might 100% earnestly want to talk about “microcensorship” or “microsilencing” or whatever.

      • C. Y. Hollander says:

        I particularly dislike “banned”, which seems like the vaguest word of all. Technically, it’s a transitive verb. You must ban someone from doing something, or from being somewhere. You can’t just “ban”.

        Technically, being a “transitive verb” means it takes a direct object, such as “Muslims”, of your example. You’re trying to say it requires an indirect object, which isn’t what “transitive” means. Furthermore, it’s not true that the indirect object is always required: it can be omitted when it is clear from context, as witness the usage examples given by this dictionary.

        I do agree that “Trump Bans Muslims” is bad usage, as in that case, it is not clear what he bans them from. However, I don’t see a fundamental problem with the word “ban”.

  2. chaosmage says:

    “thin-skinned” – from context, I think you mean “thick-skinned” here.

  3. shakeddown says:

    Meta commentary: This was a really good one. Good focus on a specific aspect of a problem (rather than the falling into the trap of “discuss everything about the IDW”) and framing for light instead of heat.

    • skybrian says:

      It’s a good argument, but I think there’s some unnecessary heat here. (“moron” appears twice.)

      • yodelyak says:

        Edit: Leaving this comment here, but there’s apparently a whole why-pick-on-Ben-Shapiro thread below.

        The time spent celebrating an assuredly-shared, shibboleth-esque dislike for Ben Shapiro confused me. I halfway expected a “gotcha” at the end, where Scott would admit to having picked on Ben Shapiro to demonstrate the ease of picking on anyone, for an unspecified reason, even in an article about the need to not use shame/social pressure to explore ideas.

        Specific examples of edgelords getting edge-lord outcomes added clarity. An example not included is Milo Yiannopoulos being popular, but then cratering when his edge-seeking habit had him on record failing to disapprove of sexual relationships between minor teenagers and people 10+ years older than them. Examples like that add value. I don’t think there were any examples like that for Mr. Shapiro, just a lot of snide “always a good life choice [to avoid Ben Shapiro]” comments. (I’m not really familiar with Shapiro–my only exposure is that I saw something not-entirely-stupid that he wrote about how there are actual contents to the pro-life side of the abortion debate).

        • christianschwalbach says:

          Personal blogs include opinion. This is Scotts personal Blog. His opinion adds to the appeal of it, and better helps illustrate his perspectives.

          • yodelyak says:

            Yeah sure. Yet this isn’t usually a blog where opinions are expressed for expressions’ sake–it’s a place with thoughtful writing whose arguments I normally find intelligible, such that it’s possible to argue with them in a useful way. And the comments are where people express their opinions about the post, which I’ve done.

          • yodelyak says:

            Further note: Iain posted a link to a Nathan Robinson takedown of Ben Shapiro that I find explains the disconnect. Shapiro really has a massive history of being pretty terrible, and it was me who’d missed the fact.

  4. userfriendlyyy says:

    It’s an interesting point that was really first brought to the forefront in the absolutely amazing essay “Exiting the Vampire’s Castle” by Mark Fisher where he talks about the left’s tendency to be torn down by the identity politics people any time they get too close to class issues. It’s about how the norms of public discourse get enforced and how to try and break free of it.

    Side note, before he killed himself a year ago January Fisher wrote the amazing book Capitalist Realism (only like 86 pages) that is such a easy read and where he digs deep into the mental health aspects of living in modern capitalism, among other things. I’ll just leave the table of contents here:

    1: It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism
    2: What if you held a protest and everyone came?
    3: Capitalism and the Real
    4: Reflexive impotence, immobilization and liberal communism
    5: October 6, 1979: ‘Don’t let yourself get attached to anything’
    6: All that is solid melts into PR: market Stalinism and bureaucratic anti-production
    7: ‘…if you can watch the overlap of one reality with another’: capitalist realism as dreamwork and memory disorder
    8: ‘There’s no central exchange’
    9: Marxist Supernanny

    • WJP says:

      Yes, this occurred to me too. As well as the parallels between the idea of the “big other” as presented by Zizek etc., and the idea of “common knowledge” given by Aaronson. I remember reading that idea in Aaronson a while back and thinking, “oh, the rationalists reinvented an idea from the Marxist-Lacanians. I guess at least it’s couched in less jargon now.” (Mark Fisher was a good writer, though, without too much jargon. A very sad loss.)

    • Hazzard says:

      The Vampire’s Castle essay reminded me of this idea I heard the other day that the reason the left gets torn away from class and back to identity politics periodically is because it’s a lot easier to rally people behind race, or sexuality or something concrete than it is class.

      I’m torn between this and the COINTELPRO plan from the CIA to subvert leftist movements from talking about class and get them to collapse into infighting with the progressive stack.

      I’ve realised once you take the identity politics approach, you have a legitimised Ad Hominem ready for any argument. Last year I was at a party talking to a German girl who was bisexual and grown up in the countryside in somewhere Conservative. I think Bavaria, but I’m not sure, the exact place doesn’t matter, beyond she grew up in an area hostile to who she is.

      We had an argument about if men are controlling women, social norms, typical quick tour of everything intersectional feminism cares about.

      She told me that the calendar is set up the way it is to make it easier to control women’s breeding through knowing when periods are. I responded with the calendar also lining up with the moon. Or at least, it used to line up much better before extra months and days were added.

      Finally she responded with “But you’re a privileged white male.”

      There is no response to that. But that lets her counter an argument I make about the calendar while saying that I’ve only come to my conclusion as a result of innate characteristics and implicitly saying that I have an inferior lens to view the world through, because of who I am.

      Before coming to the University where I went to these kinds of parties, I thought of myself as solidly on the left. But it now seems like most of the left, in terms of people who care about politics, have abandoned class for the most party in favour of identity issues, where dialogue is pointless and you can count the privilege points to decide who’s “right” on an issue.

      But then, fixing structural issues that make people poor and their lives shit is always going to be easier than convincing people racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia is bad. And people don’t like thinking about how to re-engineer an entire economic system, especially when it’s going against the grain of economists.

      • Speaker To Animals says:

        One reason it’s easier to rally people around race or gender is that working class people are going to argue that spokes-people attending elite universities no more represent them than men in drag or black-face represent women or racially disadvantaged groups.

        • Clarence says:

          One of the great shocks on 2016 to me was finding out how much spokes-people attending and graduating from elite universities really despise working class people. I mean, wow. The mask came off and it was all out there in the open. And this from people who claim to be the helpers and liberators of the working class. It was really ugly and proud, unashamed, Archie Bunker style bigotry. I just never thought it existed like that or was so widespread.

          • Hazzard says:

            I don’t think this is a new thing. Orwell wrote a book called the Road to Wigan Pier, where he says in a very long winded way, Socialists don’t love the poor, they hate the rich.

            I think you can see this extended to many prominent leftists today. They act like they’re less interested in helping oppressed classes and more interested in tearing down their outgroups.

            https://www.quora.com/What-s-the-full-Orwell-quote-that-is-often-paraphrased-that-middle-class-socialists-don-t-care-about-the-poor-they-just-hate-the-rich-Where-was-it-written

          • AG says:

            @Clarence: I think it’s a side effect of universities and cities as a brain drain of the working class, though. Kids who don’t fit into the social norms of their small town long to take the midnight train going anywhere. But then bright kids who are neutral on class signifiers also go to college and then pick up what’s around them. And we have the age old jock-nerd conflicts that incentivize kids with a different intelligence from their peers to get out and resent their hometowns.

            It doesn’t help that said small towns, in their class-associated social norms, can lead to targeting gender/sexuality minorities. In turn, said minorities who “escape” may therefore reject their former class signifiers, such as in flamboyant camp Pride. And so the non-class demographics get prioritized over class solidarity.

            It’s also that the status rat race leads to the people in the same lower tiers using non-class demographics to shove some people lower than themselves to maintain a sense of self-dignity. An adjunct professor is poor, and they’re poor, but they’re also That Tribe, so they are inferior. They’re poor, and an immigrant is poor, but the immigrant is also That Tribe, so they are inferior.

          • M says:

            Road to Wigan Pier was first published in 1937. Socialists were hating the rich long before more than a tiny proportion of the population was going to college/university.

          • christianschwalbach says:

            M-Doesent mean they werent having discussions or meetings that set them apart from their working class contemporaries

          • Clarence says:

            Well up until recently I had never heard of Wigan Pier or was familiar with Orwell’s non-1984 or Animal Farm writings. I was just shocked at the utter hate for the working class among people who styled themselves its champions. They were all too willing to speak truth to the powerless.

      • Cerastes says:

        I had a similar thing happen to me (as many have), but notable in the level of humor I find in it. Like you, I was disagreeing with someone on the left over so something (I don’t even remember what), this time on a mutual friend’s FB. The individual was a gay male, and made this very clear from his profile photo and publicly available posts, and proceeded to dismiss my opinion by claiming I was just another white cis straight male. I pointed out that this was ad hominem and irrelevant, but also mentioned as an aside that he was wrong on at least one of those (I’m bi, but being married to a woman, this almost never comes up, and nothing on my FB is public).

        This guy had an absolute MELTDOWN that I had not disclosed this either in my profile or during the conversation, somehow trying to pin the blame on me for his false assumption, but clearly absolutely mortified that he’d both erroneously deployed his Privilege Ad Hominem Attack (insert anime effects here) against someone who was actually on the same “level” as him. Within a few minutes, he deleted the entire thread. My wife and I couldn’t stop laughing at him.

        • Simon_Jester says:

          Privilege is a great concept that some very clear-minded thinkers came up with to explain very real problems that impact certain classes of people’s ability to understand the world. It refers to a type of cognitive bias that is very real and at the same time hard to self-diagnose without someone calling you out on it from the outside.

          Unfortunately, the concept of ‘privilege’ has a tragic side-effect. Namely, it is physically possible to use it as a tool for social primates to play zero-sum status games.

          And anything humans CAN use to play zero-sum status games, they WILL use to play such status games, regardless of whatever other intended purpose it may or may not have been meant to serve.

          One of the hardest parts of human progress is taking a new concept and figuring out a way to make it useful for building the Golden Future, that doesn’t drown in people reflexively just taking it and using it to play zero-sum status games.

          • albatross11 says:

            +1

          • Cerastes says:

            Is there *anything* that social primates can’t play status games with?

          • Simon_Jester says:

            Is there *anything* that social primates can’t play status games with?

            No. Everything is flawed; there is a crack in everything.

          • Iain says:

            This is a good comment.

          • gbdub says:

            This is a good comment. I would add, broadly, that I have really never seen a good/productive discussion about privilege come out of applying the concept of privilege to an individual. “You, specifically you, are privileged, and therefore…” is almost always a prelude to a zero-sum status game.

          • Privilege is a great concept that some very clear-minded thinkers came up with to explain very real problems that impact certain classes of people’s ability to understand the world.

            Can you expand on that a little? It seems obvious that almost everyone gets a filtered view of the world which limits his ability to understand parts of that. But that applies to the poor person who cannot understand the world and problems of the rich just as it does in the other direction. “Privilege,” both from the meaning of the word and the way it is used, doesn’t seem to fit that–it’s unidirectional. I’m privileged and you are not.

            In what useful sense is that true? What does it add to the symmetric version of filtered vision?

          • skef says:

            Can you expand on that a little? It seems obvious that almost everyone gets a filtered view of the world which limits his ability to understand parts of that. But that applies to the poor person who cannot understand the world and problems of the rich just as it does in the other direction. “Privilege,” both from the meaning of the word and the way it is used, doesn’t seem to fit that–it’s unidirectional. I’m privileged and you are not.

            I find Graeber’s summary of the point to be short and relatable, without having any illusions that it can convince everyone.

          • John Schilling says:

            Privilege is a great concept that some very clear-minded thinkers came up with to explain very real problems that impact certain classes of people’s ability to understand the world.

            If there is a great concept buried in there next to the pony, “Privilege” is absolutely the wrong word to describe it. In every other context, “privilege” refers either to a thing that we agree someone else has earned and should be allowed to have even though other people aren’t (e.g. licensed drivers having the privilege of driving cars), or a thing that we agree someone else has not earned and which should be taken away from them and distributed more fairly.

            Social-justice privilege is never the first sort, and when it is used in the latter sense it is all too often used to describe the sorts of things like e.g. the “privilege” of walking the streets without being hassled by the cops, which should be extended to everyone rather than taken away from those that have it. And maybe at every object-level discussion of a specific “privilege”, everyone agrees on that point. The general class term nonetheless carries an implication that lowest-common-denominator Leveling is in the works, and will drive away anyone that isn’t already in the speaker’s bubble clapping at the applause lights.

            Oppression can be a real thing. Privilege is not its antonym.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Privilege, in the SJW sense, conflates what everyone should have (not being unfairly hassled by the police, for example) and what no one should have (being able to commit assault and get away with it).

            This is actually a useful conflation if you want to understand how the world is– some people have more privilege in both senses than others, and this can be stable.

            However, if you’re looking at policy changes, it’s dangerous to conflate both senses of privilege.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think of privilege in two different ways:

            a. Life looks different to you when you’re walking around in different skins, with differently-shaped bodies, different knowledge and life experiences, etc. People treat you differently, and the world makes more or less sense to you.

            This can be hard to see. If you’re a 6’2″ man walking around some neighborhood at night, it can be easy to miss that a 5’2″ woman has a very different experience in terms of likelihood of being hassled or mugged or something. This is a really useful insight, as a counter to the sense that “there can’t really be much catcalling of women happening in this town–I never see it.”

            b. There are some things that make your life a hell of a lot easier if you’re born with them. White skin is one, an educated family is another, and a high IQ is still another.

            The best way I know to think about this is in terms of Rawls’ “veil of ignorance.” If you found yourself standing next to God waiting to be sent off to live a life on Earth, and He offered you either a randomly selected life as a black guy or a white guy, which would you choose? How many sweeteners (random white guy vs rich black guy, random white guy vs smart black guy, etc.) would He need to throw in to get you to be indifferent to whether you were going to live a black or white life?

            By just about every statistic we have, you would be a fool to choose the black life unless He offered you some substantial offsetting advantages.

            The point of this is not that your advantages as, say, a high-IQ white guy from a wealthy and well-educated family impose some kind of obligation on you. It’s just to recognize that some people don’t have those advantages–that by everything we can see from public statistics, life’s quite a bit harder as a black guy than a white guy. (Note that the statistics are not nearly so clear for whether life’s better as a woman or man.)

          • John Schilling says:

            There are some things that make your life a hell of a lot easier if you’re born with them. White skin is one, an educated family is another, and a high IQ is still another.

            Careful; if you’re going to include high IQ you also have to include charisma and physical attractiveness. And that might lead to the sort of ideas that get “silenced”.

            But it’s not a useful grouping regardless. The benefits of white skin, can be extended to everyone, and for the most part without taking them away from white people. The benefits of high IQ can’t be given to anyone without high IQ, period. And it’s damnably hard to give them even equivalent compensating benefits. Mostly, you can just take the benefits away from high-IQ people and give them to no one, e.g. Harrison Bergeron style.

            If you group these together as “privilege”, make “privilege” the opposite of oppression, and say that we have to Do Something about it, there’s going to be a strong implication of doing the same thing for each manifestation of privilege. And that thing can’t be the uplifting sort of equalization, at least until we figure out IQ-uplifting. So you’re stuck with tearing down good things out of spite.

          • Aapje says:

            @albatross11

            Sure, but the catcalling experience of a pretty woman is probably going to be different from that of an ugly woman. It’s likely to differ based on her body language. The catcalling experience is probably going to differ between a woman that lives in a big city vs a small town. It’s likely to differ between regions in a city.

            The SJ narrative tends to claim, implicitly or explicitly, that you can predict people’s privilege based on (a subset of) their traits, ignoring the huge diversity in external circumstances that people can encounter.

            It’s (ironically) very clearly a feminine narrative in this respect, because it undervalues the agency that people have (because if you recognize the huge influence of the environment, you can then try to choose favorable circumstances as much as possible). I call this feminine, because women are encultured to undervalue their agency, while men are encultured to overvalue it.

            By equating people’s experiences with their traits, people’s lives are reduced to stereotypes. Because of the tendency to only look at a subset of traits and even then only a subset of privileges that result from those traits, it also tends to be very sexist and racist, using us vs them narratives that fit the agenda. For example, the advantages of maleness get way, way more attention than the advantages of womanhood. The way in which black people get treated differently by white people gets way more attention than the way in which black people treat black people. The ‘intersectionals’ talk a lot about black women have distinct experiences and it being unfair to reduce them to ‘women’ or ‘blacks,’ but you rarely see any recognition that it may be unfair to (for example) treat shy men as ‘men’ or ‘shy people’.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            Can you expand on that a little? It seems obvious that almost everyone gets a filtered view of the world which limits his ability to understand parts of that. But that applies to the poor person who cannot understand the world and problems of the rich just as it does in the other direction. “Privilege,” both from the meaning of the word and the way it is used, doesn’t seem to fit that–it’s unidirectional. I’m privileged and you are not.

            And yet, this is a very useful concept, in the sense that a word like “witchhunt” is useful.

            Having a compact way to say “this is an investigation that is so determined to find and destroy an evildoer that it will predictably overreach, is likely to harm the innocent, and is unlikely to do anyone any good in the long run” is useful.

            Having a compact way to say “I have a problem, and I know you don’t think it’s a real problem, but I’m serious this problem does exist and is invisible to you because subtle social factors mean you just don’t have to deal with it” is also useful.

            Whether the concept is used in constructive ways has little to do with whether or not it is a good/useful idea. The concept of a witchhunt can be used in good ways (denouncing attempts to rout out political heretics in academia) and bad ways (criminals denouncing attempts to investigate their crimes). Likewise, the concept of privilege can be used well or poorly, for good or evil.

            It’s still an idea worth having in our mental dictionary.

            Notice that in my earlier post, I specifically talk about how it’s a problem that the concept of ‘privilege’ can be used to play status games. In particular, it can be a way for one person to denigrate another and get away with it. And that’s bad… but it doesn’t invalidate the underlying concept that some people experience obstacles and troubles that other people don’t even perceive, because they have different circumstances that render them moot.

          • albatross11 says:

            Simon Jester:

            +1 on useful concept.

            Like many such useful concepts, it also makes a useful bludgeon in political battles.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I always thought that the definitions of privilege centered around things that gave an advantage that was socially determined, so to speak. If one sort of person gets treated better than everyone else for no other reason than baseless prejudice, that’s privilege.

            There are some things that are “real” advantages that also convey privileges. If someone is strong and muscular and they get treated better because everyone thinks they must have their shit together, that might be “strong privilege” – if they’re an utter wastrel who has no drive other than to spend time in the gym, no self-control other than the ability to maintain a diet consisting heavily of tuna and protein powder, no moral code other than always offering a bro in need a spot. There’s an baseless prejudice that they’re better than they are.

          • Sure, but the catcalling experience of a pretty woman is probably going to be different from that of an ugly woman.

            Not just pretty vs ugly. My wife, my daughter, and my daughter in law have all lived in the Bay area for many years. My daughter in law reports that she is often the target of cat calling, my wife and daughter that they have never experienced it.

            My daughter in law is tall, red headed, good looking, charismatic. My daughter, about the same age, is short, shy, and looks younger than she is.

      • J Mann says:

        CS Lewis called that “Bulverism,” and his essay is worth googling.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I noticed that identity politics rhetoric ramped up significantly after Occupy.

        If I were an evil agent of the capitalist overclass, intent on maintaining my unearned privileges and my boot on the necks of the proletariat, if I saw a bunch of people making loud noises about income inequality or the wage differential between workers and CEOs I would send in goons to crow loudly about racial income inequality, and get really angry that more of the oppressive CEO overlords aren’t women or POC.

        Not saying that is what happened, but it’s what I’d do if I were evil (or more evil than I already am).

        • Clarence says:

          Seriously? Blame The Other for identity politics? Totally ignoring the fact that left wing politics had clearly been heading that way for decades? That’s literally a conspiracy theory.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I kind of sort of agree with the sentiment waved at there.

            But not as a conspiracy, but rather just simple incentives.

            I think it started with harassment laws. These became tools in office politics; those best able to use them gained relative power.

            Fast forward a few years, and Sony is trying to use the same sort of tools to shut down criticism of a shitty movie remake, since the people in power have been filtered to understand and use this new tool.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            No, because I don’t think the capitalist class is intent on oppressing the poor as much as they are on enriching themselves, so as Thegnkald says, incentives. Wal-Mart sells Che shirts and the “Brave Girl” statue staring down the Wall Street bull is a piece of corporate art promoting a pro-feminist investment fund because capitalists want to make money off of lefties, too.

          • Aapje says:

            @Clarence

            There is no evidence for Conrad Honcho’s theory, however, we do have solid evidence that Russia did exactly that: promote culture war narratives to stoke internal division in the US.

            It’s not that far-fetched to think that a political strategy that has been provably been used by one party, could also have been used by another.

          • Clarence says:

            Facebook VP: “The Majority Of Russian Ad Spend Happened AFTER The Election”

            Left-wing identity politics has done more to divide us than anything those dirty foreigners could ever do. I remember watching Eric Holder testify in front of Congress assembled when he mentioned “his people.” I laughed it off – what the heck did he think he was talking about? “His people” are Americans! We’re all the same. What a maroon!

            Yeah, he was dead serious. I’m not laughing any more. Fast forward a few years and the ideas Holder spewed divide us more than ever. All the nice Afro-American ladies at my Mom’s work – previously solid Americans of the kind that would give you the shirt off their backs – started filling up their facebook feeds with race hate after “Black Lives Matter” started sowing division. Even non-controversial things like the flag and the Constitution are held up as dangerous markers of fascism.

            Russia in America now serves the same function as America in Russia. It’s a casus belli for delegitimizing the supporters of a free society as catspaws of foreign interests who must be suppressed.

          • Kestrellius says:

            @Clarence: Interesting; I interpreted Aapje as meaning the Soviet Union when he said Russia stoking culture wars — a la the things described by Yuri Bezmenov. (I don’t know if there’s any proof other than Bezmenov’s word to indicate what he’s saying is true — though if I was the Soviet Union, it’s what I’d do.)

          • Viliam says:

            Totally ignoring the fact that left wing politics had clearly been heading that way for decades?

            The Archipelago Gulag comes to support:

            The theoretical view of the suspect’s guilt was, incidentally, quite elastic from the very beginning. In his instructions on the use of Red Terror, the Chekist M. I. Latsis wrote: “In the interrogation do not seek evidence and proof that the person accused acted in word or deed against Soviet power. The first questions should be: What is his class, what is his origin, what is his education and upbringing? […] These are the questions which must determine the fate of the accused.”

          • mdet says:

            @Clarence

            I’m sorry to be the first to tell you this, but even in the 90s and early 2000s, many (most?) black people didn’t feel like we were a part of mainstream America. As far as I know, black people have always considered ourselves to have a kind of niche / subculture / outsider status — which isn’t at odds with being “solid Americans of the kind that would give you the shirt off their backs”!. Social media politics has almost certainly exacerbated this (as I say in a comment a little bit downstream), but BLM is not responsible for the idea among black people that we are our own sub-community within America. That idea already existed, social media politics just amplifies tribalism by making every group feel like they’re under siege.

            Don’t want this to take over the whole thread though.

          • Jesse E says:

            Yeah, it’s kind of hilarious people think there was some kind of racial peace in the 80’s and 90’s or whenever the days when there was supposedly less identity politics was.

            Honestly, it sounds like to me, “the five black kids at my suburban high school seemed happy, so I figured we’d fixed everything” school of thought, and now, these same people are actually learning the truth of the matter.

            In short, white America is now finally hearing what groups of minorities have said in their own backyards or barber shops for years.

          • Iain says:

            Yeah, this seems to be a big part of it. Compare Andrew Sullivan’s memories of his interactions with Ta-Nehesi Coates at the Atlantic:

            But then I remember a different time — and it wasn’t so long ago. A friend reminded me of this bloggy exchange Ta-Nehisi and I had in 2009, on the very subject of identity politics and its claims. We clearly disagreed, deeply. But there was a civility about it, an actual generosity of spirit, that transcended the boundaries of race and background. We both come from extremely different places, countries, life experiences, loyalties. But a conversation in the same pages was still possible, writer to writer, human to human, as part of the same American idea. It was a debate in which I think we both listened to each other, in which I changed my mind a bit, and where neither of us denied each other’s good faith or human worth.

            It’s only a decade ago, but it feels like aeons now. The Atlantic was crammed with ideological opposites then, jostling together in the same office, and our engagement with each other and our readerships was a crackling and productive one. There was much more of that back then, before Twitter swallowed blogging, before identity politics became completely nonnegotiable, before we degenerated into these tribal swarms of snark and loathing. I think of it now as a distant island, appearing now and then, as the waves go up and down. The riptide of tribalism can capture us all in the end, until we drown in it.

            … with TNC’s own description:

            I got incredibly used to learning from people. And studying people. And feeling like certain people were even actually quite good at their craft, who I felt, and pardon my language, were fucking racist. And that was just the way the world was. I didn’t really have the luxury of having teachers who I necessarily felt, you know, saw me completely as a human being.

            This extends not just from my early days as a journalist, but if I’m being honest here, from my early days at The Atlantic. You can go into The Atlantic archives right now, and you can see me arguing with Andrew Sullivan about whether black people are genetically disposed to be dumber than white people. I actually had to take this seriously, you understand? I couldn’t speak in a certain way to Andrew. I couldn’t speak to Andrew on the blog the way I would speak to my wife about what Andrew said on the blog in the morning when it was just us…. I learned how to blog from Andrew. That was who I actually learned from. That was who actually helped me craft my voice. Even recognizing who he was and what he was, you know, I learned from him.

        • christianschwalbach says:

          Social Media use also ramped up greatly after occupy, giving loud Identity types a platform. I didnt gain FB myself until 2012, and my High School years were devoid of social media usage.

          • mdet says:

            I definitely go with social media as responsible for the uptick in identity politics.

            The internet is a place where people regularly organize themselves into communities that are *really passionate* about some niche interest or aspect of life. Those communities are devoted to discussing said thing ad infinitum, and to getting into conflicts with *other* niche communities devoted to some rival thing (sometimes for fun, sometimes with real vitriol). This happens with everything, so it’s only inevitable that it’ll also happen with race / gender / sexuality / religion.

            Social media also turns people’s private opinions into public opinions, emphasizing how different other people’s worldviews are from your own, and it’s easier to attack strangers on the internet for their superficial characteristics / group identity than it is to actually listen to them and get to know them (so that you can attack them for their deeper flaws and insecurities). So no outside interference necessary.

        • Baeraad says:

          I really don’t think anything of the sort happened. What I do think happened was that there was an upswing in generally leftist sentiments, and that made all the identitarians come running to seize the opportunity to go, “yes, and just like the rich oppress the poor, so do men oppress women, white people oppress people of colour, straight people oppress gay people,” and so on and so forth. And because money is complicated (you have to distribute it) but outrage is simple (everyone can have as much as they want!), the whole thing with salaries and banks just sort of got outcompeted in people’s minds.

          • Aapje says:

            I think that the (left) elite greatly profited from the post-war economic growth. As meritocracy strongly linked intelligence+education to income, the left-wing elite became separated from the poorly educated lower-class, who became their far-group.

            Within that bubble of smart, well-educated people, everyone is quite competent and thus, failures logically seem to reflect either a lack of opportunity (which is the fault of the environment) or a lack of willpower (which is the fault of the person). So the logical consequence of this environment is a lot of concern about lack of opportunity and not so much about people who lack ability.

          • As meritocracy strongly linked intelligence+education to income, the left-wing elite became separated from the poorly educated lower-class, who became their far-group.

            This is very much along the line of worries expressed in The Bell Curve and mostly ignored in discussions of it. The authors were worried that, in a meritocratic society, the upper classes would not only think they were intellectually superior to the lower classes, they would be correct, since the smart children of past lower classes had now been pushed up. And that that situation would have negative effects on the society.

            And over time, the situation would get worse due to assortative mating.

          • albatross11 says:

            Another big part of that story was increasing centralization of power.

            Suppose the smart kids get vacuumed up and sent to top schools, they intermarry and get top jobs in industry and academia and government and media, and they only associate with each other. But decisions are still made at a local level. In that case, maybe the local decisions will tend to be worse because the natural leaders are off making a million bucks a year as real-estate attorneys, but the high-IQ class’ cluelessness about the rest of the world won’t matter much.

            But add centralization of decisions, and now you have the high-IQ class deciding that, say, algebra 2 should be required for high school graduation, because among their family and friends, there’s nobody around who would have had any problem with that. Or you make lots of complicated rules for doing anything, because to a person with a high IQ, complicated rules aren’t all that big a deal. Or….

      • Antistotle says:

        There is no response to that.

        Yes, there is.

        “Even if true, that is utterly irrelevant to the issue being discussed”.

        • Barely matters says:

          I mean, you’re not wrong, but good luck pulling it off.

          If you’re already surrounded by people who agree that fully general counterarguments are bullshit then Bob’s your uncle. But if you tried that anywhere within shouting range of HR or in any group that takes identity politics remotely seriously then you’re looking at Checkmate in 2.

          Tracy W is closer in noting that if you’re in public you need to roll CHA and blow it off really fast before they have a chance to dig in, or you’re going to be made to look like a huge asshole. I’ve once pulled off a deadpan “Did you just assume my gender?” and just enough people laughed that the person let the privilege angle go, but I certainly wouldn’t describe the relationship as ‘amicable’ from that point forward.

      • Tracy W says:

        But you’re a privileged white male.”
        There is no response to that.

        “I’m very lucky.”

    • Eponymous says:

      [T]he left’s tendency to be torn down by the identity politics people any time they get too close to class issues.

      Side note: I recently read a paper on the topic of geographical differences in intergenerational income mobility. One interpretation of their results (which they didn’t highlight) was that racial differences in income mobility are negligible once you control for a measure of cognitive ability (which they attribute to differences in early childhood environment).

      However, what struck me is that, while controlling for cognitive ability eliminated most of the racial gap, it increased estimated income mobility very little.

      I think a lot of people have a vague idea that, “Sure, the US has a lot of inequality, but that’s mostly about race, since poor people are disproportionately black, and black people face systemic obstacles due to their race. So we should focus on fixing racial gaps to tackle inequality.”

      But what if the truth is just the opposite? What if we live in a society with substantial class differences in opportunity, few of which have anything to do with race? Where in fact lots of people of merit fail to get ahead because of the circumstances of their birth, but where the Left is entirely focused on circumstances of birth that actually have nothing to do with this?

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Do you have a link to that paper? I was under the impression that cognitive ability did not entirely close the racial wealth gap. That is, an 85 IQ black person was still poorer than an 85 IQ white person.

      • christianschwalbach says:

        There is a lot of overlap between differing factors here though….hard to tease it out

    • wrinkledlion says:

      I love Mark Fisher! Would be very interested to see Scott’s take on Capitalist Realism.

  5. Sniffnoy says:

    Good post. Some additional points:

    1. You basically already said this, but when Robinson asks “Who are their equivalents among the Social Justice Types? Who has their reach or prominence?” the answer is, um, the entire scary illiberal social justice mob we Blue-Tribers live among. They don’t need celebrity promoters, and it’s certainly not celebrity promoters that are scary.

    2. Another thing worth pointing out here is, popular among whom? Silenced among whom? Some of these ideas after all would be quite common among the Red Tribe. But to a Blue-Triber, that’s just not the arena that they care about. If you’re a Blue-Tribe, “popular” means popular among the Blue Tribe. It’s expected that the Red Tribe will say awful things, and not noteworthy. The real threat the SJers have is to mark you as Red so other Blue-Tribers won’t associate with you. It’s the near outgroup that has to fear them, not the far outgroup. Their tools don’t even work against the latter.

    3. On that note, let’s talk about universities. A lot of times this sort of thing is dismissed with “Oh but that’s just at universities!” Whereas my thinking is basically, that’s the place that matters! To me it’s just like… of course most places are going to get things horribly wrong and not host serious discussions. But if academia — the one place that is supposed to focus on nothing but getting the right answer, which is supposed to have free and neutral debate as a basic principle — falls to this illiberalism, this demand to fall in line and not question, then what’s left? I mean, certain websites, maybe, I guess. 😛 But for the most part it just means that everywhere is going to be getting wrong answers.

    I guess #2 and #3 above are both — like, it seems to me that the SJers focus on what might be called society as a whole, you know? And talking about how popular various ideas are in that setting. Whereas to me it’s like… I don’t live in society as a whole. I don’t care about how things are in society as a whole. I live in that part of society that seems like the good part to me. But I don’t have unlimited filtering power to select that good part with. So when that good part starts to go bad, I get worried. Like, whenever I see all this SJ stuff about how bad society-as-a-whole is, I have to wonder — why are you living in such an awful place as society-as-a-whole? Why are you not filtering better?

    And, OK, maybe that’s a little unfair. Not everyone can necessarily filter so well; doing so requires some resources. But nonetheless, standard Blue-Tribe SJ discussion has this crazy, like, refusal to acknowledge that it exists. It has this constant refrain of “Why is nobody talking about this??” — when it seems like a huge fraction of the people I know are, in fact, talking about this. If I, who am peripheral to this stuff, is constantly seeing it, surely you who are deeper into it see it even more so? You know? That’s not just bad filtering — that’s something actively perverse. And indeed it seems to me that many of them are actually filtering quite well, and not actually having to deal with those they consider unacceptable — they’re just doublethinking, denying their own existence at the same time as the above. I dunno.

    Yeah I don’t really have a conclusion here.

    BTW:

    (My position – if you decide not to hire someone based on any characteristic not related to job performance (very broadly defined, including things like company fit and fun to work with), you’re trying to exclude people.

    Oh look it’s orthogonality again…

    • liskantope says:

      +1

      I suspect the most common sincerely-held SJ response would be that there’s no getting away from society as a whole (i.e. no matter how well immersed someone is in their university environment, they will always at some point come into contact with more mainstream -isms). On some level this will always be true, but I think the capacity to be almost completely immersed in liberal bubbles is greatly underestimated by those who make this argument. When I was a grad student at an American university in a small college town, that was about 95% of my world. And even to the extent that more traditional attitudes can occasionally infiltrate the life of someone in that position, it would seem like they’d be a whole lot easier to brush off?

      • Simon_Jester says:

        For economic reasons, only a very small minority of people can be grad students at universities in small college towns.

        More generally can’t ensconce yourself in a protective bubble of Blue people unless you have enough Blue people to build and garrison a wall between yourself and the Reds, and enough Blue people willing to interact with the Reds to maintain commerce with the outside world. Which means either having constant contact with Purple people who can tolerate the Reds, or having constant problems with Blue-Red friction.

        The reverse of this is also true, but not relevant to the discussion at hand.

        Long story short, people who want to not deal with corrosive opinions cannot form a big enough bubble to include only people without corrosive opinions, without effectively converting all of society into such a bubble and casting the bad people into the outer darkness. In the process of trying to do this with the literal bad people, much unfairness happens.

        • liskantope says:

          Absolutely, I agree (with the minor qualification that there are many other varieties of solid liberal bubble than student life in a small college town, so it isn’t incredibly hard to find, but it’s still hard enough that most Blue Tribers probably can’t find one). But as Sniffnoy said, it seems that the loudest SJ voices which complain the most about being the underdogs, as well as the majority of their audience, are people who have found their ways into these bubbles. This does feel like sort of a paradox.

          • Aapje says:

            Many of these bubbles seem extremely competitive and backstabby, so perhaps they are afraid of falling from their pedestal and landing in the dirt?

          • Simon_Jester says:

            There are two reasons why people might behave this way.

            The first is because they are trying to find protected enclaves within which to build secure firebases from which they can expand control of the ‘bubble’ where people are protected from corrosive opinions.

            For example, if your goal is to make America safe for transgender people, that is to say, safe from people who think they should be beaten up and excluded from society for general queerness… what do you do? Well, you start by going to San Francisco or Berkeley or some other stronghold of liberalism, gender-nonconformism, or both. A place where most of the population already agrees and you can exercise control of the social territory. You make sure that specific place is secure, with plenty of Blue Tribe social warriors willing to man (or woman or agender) the metaphorical social stockades against hostile Red Tribe social warriors.

            Then you set up your long range artillery and start shelling the parts of the rest of the country that are still attacking transgender people.

            Now, personally I consider this to be, on the whole, a “righteous shoot” for all involved. And this is genuinely part of what is going on.

            The other part is…

            Well, as Aapje speculates, the other reason people do this is that they are social primates attempting to play status games, because everyone is a social primate attempting to play status games. And people in secure bubbles of Blue Tribe cultural values protected by fierce legions of Blue Tribe cultural warriors play status games by competing to see who can most fervently express Blue Tribe cultural values, just as conservative small towns in rural Iowa presumably play status games to see whose church ladies can be the churchiest and ladiest.

          • Aapje says:

            @Simon_Jester

            Well, as Aapje speculates, the other reason people do this is that they are social primates attempting to play status games, because everyone is a social primate attempting to play status games.

            My argument is not that all of society plays status games (although they do, to some extent), but more that journalism, non-tenured academia and such are way more into status games and are way more competitive than average. I understand why a journalist would feel far less secure than a programmer.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            Honestly, I don’t think it’s so much that academia and journalism are super-competitive when it comes to status games. It’s that they play very unusual and different status games that are conspicuous to casual observation, whereas most people play status games that are much closer to ‘normal’ by our standards, and thus relatively invisible.

    • Hazzard says:

      1)
      I think this very much becomes a case of a fish doesn’t have a word for water. An idea that’s permeated the whole of society for the most part, such as say, people deserve 40 hour working weeks and a number of days off work a year, doesn’t have advocates, because everyone thinks it. The blue tribe mob that scares us doesn’t need prominent advocates for the mob, because it’s got plenty of other people with their own ideas that also advocate for the mob on the side.

      2)
      Is it accurate to say I feel silenced when I’ve become part of a community that is much more Blue Tribe than the population at large? The community is a subsection of martial arts, I think if you’re involved you’ll know which one. I am very careful about social media posts as a result. And when a friend who’s turned into a Fascist since I made friends with her had an argument about Feminism in the comments of a Facebook post I made with members of said community, I have received remarks that make me know I’m being judged for not cutting off contact with her for changing.

      • BlindKungFuMaster says:

        Just curious about the nomenclature: What do you concretely mean when you say that your friend turned into a fascist?

        • Hazzard says:

          She started reading the Daily Stormer, thinks Jews run the world, wants Europe to be white only. And reads the Daily Stormer and believes what it says.

          I use Fascist very conservatively.

      • Nornagest says:

        The community is a subsection of martial arts, I think if you’re involved you’ll know which one.

        I’m a martial artist, and some of the Bluest people I know, I know through martial arts, but I’m not sure what you’re alluding to here. Unless maybe it’s aikido? That seems to attract Blue ideologues more than any of the other arts I’ve been exposed to.

        • Hazzard says:

          It’s not Aikido.
          I don’t know why I was playing coy before.

          It’s HEMA. Historical European Martial Arts. And there’s this endless paranoia about the far right taking over. And if you push back you will be painted as a Fascist unless you’re prominent enough to defend yourself.

          As I write this, I see a parallel with the IDW.

          • Lambert says:

            So is this a preemptive response to the fact that HEMA and nazi/neonazi aesthetics draw from similar cultures (Medieval Europe, the Crusades, the Vikings)?

          • @Lambert:

            That should be true of SCA as well, which is considerably older than HEMA, but I haven’t seen the pattern Hazzard described.

            There was successful pressure to allow female fighters quite a long time ago, and more recently I think there may have been a case of same sex crowns (king and queen, both male), but the kingdoms I’ve lived in don’t feel any bluer than the surrounding society. Mostly the tension is between rules fitting historical institutions, such as women fighting in tournaments being close to nonexistent, and rules fitting widely accepted norms of the outside society, such as women being allowed in the same activities as men.

            If the same sex couples wanted to do it right, historically speaking, there would be a king and his male favorite—widely believed to be his lover.

          • Nornagest says:

            Ah. I haven’t done any HEMA, although I keep meaning to — one of the things I’ve studied is Japanese sword, and I’d be interested to see what’s different.

            Sword people tend to be eccentric, though. The guy that taught me fencing was big into Blue-flavored conspiracy theories.

          • Hazzard says:

            HEMA does have that allure to White-pride types, but I think the response tends to be disproportionate to the actual threat they pose.

            Arguing against this tends to get you painted as someone in that camp.

            The kinds of people who do it are definitely eccentric. In my club alone we have people doing all sorts of weird exercise regimes.

            I can’t speak to the SCA, so I won’t say anything about it.

            But saying blue tribe before doesn’t quite get it right. Because it’s an in person thing, you will get British, French, German, or American communities with some crossover, but the behaviour I’ve come across in the British community is what I would associate with the Blue Tribe.

    • toastengineer says:

      It makes sense if you interpret modern leftism through the I See Trad People lens; that modern leftism is basically hardcore civil rights movement LARP.

      They can’t admit they’ve won, that would fuck _everything_ up! For one, the whole reason they can justify being subversive auto-defecting jerks is that what they’re doing is necessary and they have no power, and if they admit that they have in fact accomplished the genuinely necessary social reforms they were pushing and have the power to do so, they’d no longer be able to justify their methods. If you’re the party in power, siccing two men in uniform with five weapons each on a guy for not baking a cake makes you the asshole; if the world is owned by an army of invisible gay-hating Klansmen then suddenly you’re the hash-tag #resistance.

      For another, admitting you have power would be breaking character; the leftists from the Good Ol’ Days weren’t the party in power, and they’re the Ultimate Good Guys, so doing something that makes you look so much less like them is unconscionable.

      • Simon_Jester says:

        Consider the statement “Leftists have a tendency to refuse to admit they’ve won.”

        The mirror image of the statement is also true, “Rightists have a tendency to refuse to admit they’ve won.” Because everyone tends to refuse to admit that they’ve won, by selectively noticing whatever parts of the victory are flawed, incomplete, or absent, and focusing on them.

        On the other hand, we can further extend the statement to note that sometimes, your side hasn’t in fact won, and feeling like it hasn’t is entirely correct.

        There are left-wing political agenda items which have been successfully completed in every other developed nation and which certainly appear to be working out rather well for those countries- but which have not been carried out in the US.

        There are minorities that are still systematically being pushed around, marginalized, and subjected to things that are a travesty even by the standards rhetorically appealed to by the right, such as “equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.” Such a standard might permit a lot of things, but it wouldn’t permit you to force a racial minority to live in the lead-rich parts of the city, then blame them twenty years down the road for the fact that their children tend to be more aggressive and less intelligent, as if that fault were in their selves and not in their stars.

        There are groups that it’s still popular to beat up for being ungodly. There are major political factions whose anarcho-corporatism is close to maximally obvious by the standards of any political system on the planet. Large portions of our political system are on track to remain in collective official denial about climate change until the Arctic turns blue in the face.

        From the left’s point of view, at least in the United States, this feels a lot more like the end of the victorious beginning than the beginning of the victorious end.

        Some of which may be because everyone is biased to refuse to admit they’ve won, and some of which is grounded in fact if you define ‘winning’ as ‘actually have what you wanted to get.’

        • oppressedminority says:

          I will grant you that the right is also quite capable of not admitting that they have won. However, the current situation is not even remotely symmetrical.

          The left right now is faced with having succeeded in taking all major levers of power (with the current notable exception of the presidency, where they are working hard to reverse the results of a democratic election), and still not having achieved socialist utopia. This seems to happen quite a bit (see e.g., USSR, Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, …)

          But instead of focusing their efforts on finding where their own ideology might have failed them, they are focusing their efforts on destroying any public disagreement with their ideology. This also happened in the USSR, Cuba… This dose of leftism was not strong enough, we clearly need to double the dose!

          Note that China is doing a lot better by allowing some capitalism to occur.

          SJWs think that the solution to end the abuse of trans people is to destroy the lives of anybody who doesn’t think Caitlyn Jenner is a “real woman”, that the solution to inner city violence is to smear anyone who mentions FBI crime statistics or the collapse of the African-American family under the welfare state as equivalent to the KKK, etc…

          Actually, that was not charitable. They dont think that. Anybody who behaves like SJWs doesn’t give a rat’s ass about trans people or African-Americans. They only care about their position of power attained by pretending to care about these issues, and their behavior reflects their desire to hold on to it by any means necessary.

          • Iain says:

            The left right now is faced with having succeeded in taking all major levers of power (with the current notable exception of the presidency, where they are working hard to reverse the results of a democratic election), and still not having achieved socialist utopia.

            Republicans hold the presidency, both houses of Congress, and a Supreme Court majority. (The last time more Supreme Court justices were appointed by Democrats than Republicans was 1968.)

            If the Democrats were in the same position, few people would claim that this didn’t count as a hand on the major levers of power, and nobody would believe the claim. Why should I take your assertion any more seriously?

            You have typed the words “the right is also quite capable of not admitting that they have won”, but it does not appear that you have internalized them.

          • oppressedminority says:

            I would gladly trade the presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court for the civil service, the academia, the mainstream media, and the entertainment industry.

            The former are all temporary while the latter are much more long lasting in nature, and have the ability to affect culture and (therefore) downstream politics.

            When some of the big wins of the left get reversed, I’ll consider that the right has regained some power. Until then, whatever power the right holds is illusory.

          • Eli says:

            I would gladly trade the presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court for the civil service, the academia, the mainstream media, and the entertainment industry.

            I’ll throw in full control of the Council of the Elders of Zion, while we’re giving you power over vague conspiracy theories in exchange for receiving actual power. Just typing those words indicates you’re betting everything on your belief that “politics is downstream from culture”, despite the fact that while in your view, the Left controls “the culture”, the Left find ourselves constantly frustrated and unable to achieve what we want for decades at a time.

            So it sounds like I can make a solid profit, so to speak, on testing your theory.

          • oppressedminority says:

            Politics is downstream from culture. The left controls the culture. But the left finds itself frustrated and unable to achieve what it wants because it goes about it by censorship and shaming.

            To the extent that what the left wants is reducing equality and ending oppression, I want those things too and I am very much not to the left.

            But the left today is not characterized by wanting to achieve such lofty goals, but by gaining personal power while appearing to want to achieve these goals.

            Just look at all left wing governments: their people live in tyranny and misery, while the leaders hold on to power like their life depended on it (it usually does). Just look at policies promoted by left wing parties, from taxation to immigration, all designed to increase their personal power without doing anything for the oppressed.

          • Iain says:

            When some of the big wins of the left get reversed, I’ll consider that the right has regained some power. Until then, whatever power the right holds is illusory.

            Hey, has anybody checked on how unions are doing lately? I haven’t heard from them in a while.

            If you want to feel set upon, it’s easy to define the grounds of contention such that your losses are paramount and your wins don’t matter. Just don’t go around asking for sympathy.

          • Tarhalindur says:

            Modern American politics in a nutshell:

            This dose of leftism was not strong enough, we clearly need to double the dose!

            This is an accurate description of modern Blue Tribe politics, and has been for the five to ten years.

            But let’s take the inverse of your statement:

            This dose of rightism was not strong enough, we clearly need to double the dose!

            This is an accurate description of modern Red Tribe politics, and has been for at least twenty to twenty-five years.

          • oppressedminority says:

            Hey, has anybody checked on how unions are doing lately? I haven’t heard from them in a while.

            Yes I know the left used to be about unions and worker’s rights, not about forcing Christians to participate in gay weddings or advocating for the right of MS-13 to enter the US illegally. It’s too bad really.

          • Eli says:

            Politics is downstream from culture.

            You believe that. I don’t. This may have something to do with the fact that it was a Breitbart slogan, and I’ve never been much of a Breitbart reader, whereas you may have some connections to the writers who coined it. I dunno.

            Either way, I don’t believe that, so I’m perfectly willing to, as it were, make money off your extreme confidence in what I believe to be a total falsehood.

            Hey, has anybody checked on how unions are doing lately? I haven’t heard from them in a while.

            In related news, the Supreme Court just ruled, “left-wing” as it is, that workers have no right to file class-action suits against their employers over labor issues. This has been hailed as one of the most significant blows to workers’ rights in years.

            Everyone I know on the Left is now advocating that yes, we need to unionize every workplace, which seems like fairly good evidence that the Left cares about these things.

          • oppressedminority says:

            Either way, I don’t believe that, so I’m perfectly willing to, as it were, make money off your extreme confidence in what I believe to be a total falsehood.

            Fantastic. Can I at least get a cut, like 10%?

            In related news, the Supreme Court just ruled, “left-wing” as it is, that workers have no right to file class-action suits against their employers over labor issues. This has been hailed as one of the most significant blows to workers’ rights in years.

            I dont recall arguing that SCOTUS was left wing, nor am I familiar with the details of that case, but any link you can provide would be appreciated.

          • dick says:

            @oppressedminority

            Just look at all left wing governments: their people live in tyranny and misery, while the leaders hold on to power like their life depended on it (it usually does).

            It seems like you’re using a very motte-and-bailey definition of “left”. If “left wing” includes Venezuela but excludes all of Europe and Scandinavia, then it emphatically does not dominate American culture and academia.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            When some of the big wins of the left get reversed, I’ll consider that the right has regained some power.

            Yeah. While the election of Trump seems to have enabled a noticeable change in the zeitgeist, I have trouble pointing to any issue where the Overton window has actually moved rightward. Is there any opinion that was mainstream left ten years ago that would be considered too far out now? (Hell, any opinion that was fringe-but-acceptable ten years ago?)

          • Republicans hold the presidency, both houses of Congress, and a Supreme Court majority.

            You are identifying the Republicans with the right and the Democrats with the left. If we think of left/right as defined by size of government, you will observe that no significant fraction of any of the groups you describe are trying to push total expenditure of all U.S. governments down from 38% of GDP towards the 10% that it was through most of the 19th century. The argument is over exactly where it should be–and the current Republican president is pushing it up, not down.

            Nobody is making any serious effort to abolish medicare, medicaid, social security, minimum wage laws, FDA regulation of medical drug innovation, … . The closest anyone comes to trying to abolish public schooling is to push for a voucher allowing private competitors in government funded schooling. Real per student spending has gone up by more than an order of magnitude over the past century, and nobody serious proposes lowering it.

            My father used to claim that the most successful political party in U.S. history was the socialist party. They never elected anyone to any position more important than mayor of Milwaukee, but most of the contents of their platform at the beginning of the century was in the platforms of the major parties by the end of the century.

            the Left find ourselves constantly frustrated and unable to achieve what we want for decades at a time.

            That suggests that your definition of “losing” is “only winning slowly.” What areas of law or culture that divide along right/left lines are there where things have become more nearly what the right wants than what the left wants over your lifetime?

          • MrApophenia says:

            Immigration? My understanding is there was no systemic, nationwide enforcement of immigration status in the interior of the US until the 90s. If you got past the border, you were pretty much cool to just live here for the rest of your life unless you committed an unrelated crime and got deported.

          • David Speyer says:

            My lifetime starts in 1980. Since that time:

            * Union membership dropped from 20% of employees to 10%.

            * Work requirements were imposed for welfare recipients.

            * The federal government began actively seeking out and deporting illegal immigrants, and made an agency dedicated to that purpose.

            * Restrictions on campaign financing were ruled unconstitutional. (I agree with this one, but it is a rightward move.)

          • Doctor Mist says:

            David Speyer-

            OK, this is good; thanks. Regarding union membership, I’m not sure what is the root cause of this. It’s hard for me to believe that it represents a philosophical shift as such. I would guess it’s more the result of the decline of the kind of “assembly-line” jobs where the point of the union is to prevent the worker from getting commoditized.

            I’ll grant work requirements for welfare, though it’s far from universal, and the other two.

            I’d still characterize these as slight widenings of the Overton window on the rightward side. I’d still like an example of what I asked for, a leftish position that has become unacceptable on the left. (But maybe you were answering oppressedminority rather than me.)

            Of course, the Great Sort and the growth of virtual communities may mean that we never see an actual Overton shift in either direction any more, because anybody with a fringe opinion has no trouble finding people who agree.

          • David Speyer says:

            @DoctorMist Yes, I was answering oppressedminority’s question.

            I thought about your question of a place where the Overton window’s left boundary moved rightward and don’t have an example. I think the right boundary has moved rightward on several issues: criticizing employed legal immigrants and defending torture of enemy combatants are the first ones that come to mind. But the window widened on those issues, it didn’t uniformly slide right.

            My only thought was the feminist anti-porn movement of the 80’s. That’s a left wing view you don’t hear any more. But it’s pretty marginal.

          • David Speyer says:

            Thought about this a bit more and there is an idea which was common on the left in the 90s and I never hear anymore: Boycotting or banning trade with countries with poor work conditions. I used to hear about buying New Balance instead of Nike, or buying GM instead of Toyota, on the grounds that the latter were made by workers under inhumane conditions. Krugman was arguing with people on his left twenty years ago when he wrote In Praise of Cheap Labor.
            The last time I can remember this sort of talk was NPR’s Foxconn story in 2012.

            Trade barriers are back in fashion, but I only hear about them from a right wing nationalistic perspective — the idea that we should protect foreign workers by forcing their governments and employers to raise standards seems gone to me.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’m surprised. I hear a fair amount about boycotting amazon because of poor work conditions, but it may be more a matter of individual choice rather than an organized boycott.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            David Speyer-

            Boycotting or banning trade with countries with poor work conditions

            Yep, I’ll have to give you this one. It’s still not quite what I wanted, because it’s not something that is currently actually outside the Overton window — nobody on the left who proposed it would be considered an embarrassment. But it’s better than anything I could come up with.

        • liskantope says:

          I feel that in your comment you’re focusing on left-wing causes as a whole, when what’s relevant for this discussion is the ones specific to Social Justice (with capital S and J). This excludes things like climate change, universal health care, workers’ rights, and so on. AFAICT the only part of your comment that mentions Social Justice causes is the following:

          There are minorities that are still systematically being pushed around, marginalized, and subjected to things that are a travesty even by the standards rhetorically appealed to by the right, such as “equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.”

          Wouldn’t you agree that, when we zoom out to view the grand scheme of things, the Left has mostly won this part of the ideological war (with the likely exception of transgender people and Muslims, where the broader battle is still in full swing)?

          • arlie says:

            If this were true, there wouldn’t be a need for Black Lives Matter. To my shame – I’m Canadian – Black Lives Matter even feels needed/important to Canadian blacks, whose situation doesn’t appear (to this white person) to be as bad as the situation in the USA.

          • AG says:

            https://www.autostraddle.com/health-insurance-gender-rating-costs-women-1-billion-every-year-135350/

            https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/lesbian-gay-bisexual-and-transgender-health#one

            https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/the-trump-administration-finds-that-environmental-racism-is-real/554315/

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5478215/

            The grand scheme seems to indicate poorer health outcomes, so the political power does seem more important than cultural. (That SJ often mixes up this priority can be considered one of its flaws, and intersectionality was supposed to introduce class back into the mix to fix those priorities, but has obviously failed at that.)
            That first website is unapologetically steeped in SJ concepts, but they also positively covered Conflict is Not Abuse, and most of the writers and readers seems to be lower class with financial issues, reflected in a lot of their content.

          • liskantope says:

            Without getting into an argument over the specifics of the situations of various marginalized groups, I want to emphasize (in response to the two commenters above me), my claim is that the broader ideological war has mostly been won. That is not to say that in practice we have reached anywhere near a fully just society for any of these oppressed groups.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            The original quote I was replying to was “modern leftism is… [description]”

            If other people won’t do me the courtesy of disaggregating the “social justice above all” movement, and specifically the ‘angry Internet activist’ wing OF that movement, from the left as a whole…

            …Why am I under any obligation to do it for them? If someone says “the problem with redheads is X” and I disagree because most redheads don’t have that problem, I’m unsympathetic to “well, this discussion is only about left-handed redheads, so let’s focus on them, okay?”

            At least, not until someone has admitted that it was mistaken to talk about all redheads as if they were left-handed.

          • Aapje says:

            @AG

            That first link correctly states that the same logic is applied to male drivers. They also pay more in insurance because as a group, they use the insurance more. However, the article argues that men deserve to be treated in the same way that women shouldn’t be treated.

            This kind of double standard is counter-evidence that women are “still systematically being pushed around.” To me, it seems more indicative that not getting better treatment is being interpreted as being treated unfairly.

          • @AG:

            Following your first link, I notice that they mention auto insurance but don’t mention that it is more expensive for young adult males than for young adult females. They object to women paying more for health insurance on the grounds that it’s only because they are more responsible about their health–and so cost insurance companies more.

            I didn’t follow your other links, but the first one is evidence that the private insurance market doesn’t subsidize women at the expense of men with regard to health; it also doesn’t subsidize men at the expense of women with regard to driving. And according to the article an increasing number of states are now forcing insurance companies to do the former (but not the latter). That sounds as though things are moving left, not right.

          • liskantope says:

            @Simon_Jester: All right, fair enough. You were right to point out that commenters before you were carelessly referring to a specific flavor of modern leftism as leftism. Given that the article we’re commenting on is addressing a situation regarding that specific flavor of leftism, though, I’ve been assuming by default that other commenters’ use of “leftism” is shorthand for that.

          • AG says:

            @Aapje: I believe that Men’s Rights groups deserve to exist. So I also believe that women’s rights space should exist, and that both spaces don’t have an obligation to right the wrongs of the other space.

            Also, the second paragraph of the article says, “The problem is that driving is an optional activity with measurable outcomes; simply living is not.” In addition, it’s not an article about how “women are penalized by auto-insurance because women drive badly, but ignore the young men drivers behind the curtain,” it’s about health insurance, with the auto insurance example to demonstrate what they mean. They don’t celebrate the latter, and if they really had it out for men they wouldn’t include the fact at all.

            @David Friedman:
            I’ll concede that movement on that front does indicate a shift. But that’s not the same thing as the ideological war being won, as per Liskantope’s claim, only that the gap is decreasing. The war is only won when the balance is met/tipped. Otherwise, it’s like saying you’ve won a game after hitting a grand slam, even though the other team was five points ahead, or that gay rights were won when DADT was passed in 1994. The number of states still allowing gender rating is still the majority.
            (And quickly back to Aapje: I would apply the same to Men’s Rights. They may win some important victories, but that wouldn’t mean the war was won for MR until balance is met/tipped. They might win strong rights to custody, but it wouldn’t be an ideological win until men do have custody as much as women in conflict cases.)

          • Aapje says:

            @AG

            I think that it is a very weak argument, to claim that driving is optional where healthcare is not. They themselves note that men seem to consider healthcare more optional than women, which is one of the reasons for the disparity in the first place.

            Secondly, driving is not that optional for a lot of people, especially in many parts of the USA.

            I would argue that both healthcare and driving have a spectrum of ‘optionality.’ While healthcare may more often be crucial, the extra healthcare that women get may actually be mostly at the more optional end of spectrum (or not, just speculating here).

            As for men’s rights and women’s rights, a common complaint by the men’s rights side is that the women’s rights groups have a tendency to claim to be for gender equality, while critics believe that they often fight for women’s interests instead. Furthermore, women’s rights groups have a tendency to claim that their approach to gender equality is the only valid one & valid for men as well*. This then often results in organized attempts to disband, silence or otherwise harm men’s rights groups & in general, a demand that they have dominion over the gender debate and organizations that deal with gendered issues (or even organizations that deal with issues that are claimed to be gendered, but where the science shows that many men are affected as well).

            I can’t remember ever seeing a men’s rights group make any organized attempt to disrupt feminist meetings or try to have feminists organizations be disbanded, aside from attempts to get illegal gender-segregation banned (like women-only network sessions). I have seen many organized attempt by feminists to disrupt meetings of men’s rights organizations, to prevent them from being recognized on par with feminist organizations (at colleges), etc.

            So IMO, women’s rights groups do not have to deal with the kind of threats to their existence that men’s rights groups have to deal with.

            * Despite generally having minimal representation and input by men.

          • The war is only won when the balance is met/tipped. …

            The number of states still allowing gender rating is still the majority.

            Otherwise, it’s like saying you’ve won a game after hitting a grand slam, even though the other team was five points ahead

            You seem to be defining “winning” as getting everything you want, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. In a game, one side wins and one side loses, so gains from losing by a lot to losing by a little don’t count. That doesn’t fit the situation here at all, so your grand slam point is irrelevant.

            From my standpoint, any state prohibiting gender rating is wrong, both because I believe in freedom of contract and because I think it is just that if women cost insurance companies more they should pay more, just as it is just that if young adult men are more risky drivers than young adult women they should pay more for auto insurance.

            More states prohibit gender rating than used to. That is evidence that the left is winning.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            In a game, one side wins and one side loses

            Only if the game is zero sum.

            One of the reasons why it is often seen as zero sum is because the battle is now often over group interests (men vs women), rather than principles (like: ‘should we help victim of domestic abuse?’). In a fight over principles, you will generally see that adopting a principle results in winners and losers of both genders, not one gender being victorious over the other.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            This kind of double standard is counter-evidence that women are “still systematically being pushed around.” To me, it seems more indicative that not getting better treatment is being interpreted as being treated unfairly.

            I would argue that in some areas this may be happening, but in other areas women are being pushed around in one of two ways.

            In one (diminishing) case, there is a straightforward assumption that women doing a thing is somehow worse or inferior than men doing the same thing. This is fading.

            In the other, we have holdover assumptions and configurations for a system that were set during the Age of Overt Sexism. While the assumptions can be applied in a nominally gender-neutral way, in practice they are not gender-neutral for the society we live in.

            As a fictitious example, suppose that cars were designed to be operable only by people over 5’6″ tall, in an era when only men were allowed to drive. Nearly all men would be able to drive the cars, but only a minority (or maybe half) of women could… if women were legally allowed to drive.

            Later, the Age of Overt Sexism ends, making jokes about women drivers becomes unacceptable and women start driving cars. However, many women still can’t drive because they’re not tall enough, and this puts them at a disadvantage.

            But it would be absurdly naive to say “oh, but the car design isn’t about whether you’re male or female, it’s about your height!” No; there are specific optional choices we made about how to configure the vehicle, and those choices affect whether it is equally useable by males and females..

        • sourcreamus says:

          The country is so divided politically that neither side can really implement its agenda, they can only stop the other side from implementing their agenda. Thus nobody gets their agenda implemented and both sides feel like they are losing.

          • yodelyak says:

            Recall Jane’s Law: “The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.”

            That was coined in ’03, and described a dynamic that was decades (centuries?) old. Since then we’ve had 15 years continuing the trend of geographic self-sorting, with both the right and the left each more likely to move to live in aligned communities. Now, you can be both arrogant and smug in the correctness of the power you have, and insanely desperate to acquire more power, all at once.

    • Eli says:

      And, OK, maybe that’s a little unfair. Not everyone can necessarily filter so well; doing so requires some resources. But nonetheless, standard Blue-Tribe SJ discussion has this crazy, like, refusal to acknowledge that it exists. It has this constant refrain of “Why is nobody talking about this??” — when it seems like a huge fraction of the people I know are, in fact, talking about this. If I, who am peripheral to this stuff, is constantly seeing it, surely you who are deeper into it see it even more so? You know? That’s not just bad filtering — that’s something actively perverse. And indeed it seems to me that many of them are actually filtering quite well, and not actually having to deal with those they consider unacceptable — they’re just doublethinking, denying their own existence at the same time as the above. I dunno.

      Speaking as a semi-Blue, definitely left-wing person who works in academia and nonetheless exists entirely outside the SJ echo chamber, well, I don’t know anybody Talking About This all the damn time. I think SJ people don’t realize that they’re something like CNN or Fox News viewers, constantly being pumped-up on outrage that only other CNN and Fox News viewers can get.

      What worries me is that I see this most with my left-wing friends who subscribe to Leftbook groups, versus my various other friends and family who are mostly left-wing but don’t subscribe to Leftbook groups. It’s a cult.

      • Michael Handy says:

        As a very left wing person who exists in what could be described as an SJW bubble, the general consensus is the SJW twitter warriors are insane. That said, my bubble trends slightly “Old Left” with Trots and Syndicalists and old Greenies.

        The attitude seems to be, “Identifying as something good, “Identities” bad and dangerous and anti-solidarity.”

    • christianschwalbach says:

      Discussion only within blue tribe isnt “everyone”. The reasonable blue tribers I know greatly do want to reach across the aisle in discussion, as difficult as that may be

    • Baeraad says:

      I guess #2 and #3 above are both — like, it seems to me that the SJers focus on what might be called society as a whole, you know? And talking about how popular various ideas are in that setting. Whereas to me it’s like… I don’t live in society as a whole. I don’t care about how things are in society as a whole. I live in that part of society that seems like the good part to me. But I don’t have unlimited filtering power to select that good part with. So when that good part starts to go bad, I get worried. Like, whenever I see all this SJ stuff about how bad society-as-a-whole is, I have to wonder — why are you living in such an awful place as society-as-a-whole? Why are you not filtering better?

      That is something I frequently wonder about also.

      For example, there is a double standard that promiscous men are studs and promiscous women are sluts – or so everyone tells me. The thing is, though – since everyone tells me that, who’s left to be actually upholding the double standard? Not anyone I know in real life! Not anyone I see on TV! Not even anyone I see on the Internet, possibly aside from YouTube comment sections (and while I am skeptical to claims that the Internet is not representative of real life, because I really think it is, I do prefer to think that YouTube comment sections are populated by a non-representative segment of the population – if only because if most people were like that, I don’t see how we ever progressed beyond hitting each other over the head with clubs). No one who is even remotely sensible thinks that – so why do feminists apparently hang out with the few remaining nitwits who do? Do they just love pain?

      And I feel like I should show some more understanding here, because aren’t I the one who tends to complain that feminists are too quick to write people off as “toxic” or whatever, instead of trying to accept their imperfections? But still, even I, who try not to be discriminating in who I interact with, manage to avoid dealing with fratboys and neanderthals, just by not moving in the kind of circles where fratboys and neanderthals could reasonably be expected to exist. It’s not actually very hard.

      You want a challenge, try dodging feminists with theories about how the world can only be saved by me hating myself more and right-wing pseudo-intellectuals with theories about how fecundity is the objective measure of individual worth, at the same time. That is damn nearly impossible. Which is why I have no end of sympathy for people who want to escape politics in general, but none for people who want to escape one particular type or the other. Those people, I must assume, actively go out of their way to get offended.

      • AG says:

        Every time I get really incensed at SJ, though, I end up reading personal accounts from people actually of the lower class, actually living under oppression such that they fear their parents, have out right been kicked out by their parents, have experienced racism at the hands of police, live in poverty, are getting fucked by all of the red tape of the welfare state, actually cried at landmarks of media representation, etc. All debates are Bravery Debates.

        So SJ seems to be another case of people who are actually silenced wanting to support the popular people who aren’t but speak for them, but then you have a whole crowd of middle/upper class wanting to support the silenced people and so are outspoken “on their behalf,” which leads to a majority being loud without personally needing to. Results of armchair activism being cheap, combined with a “you can’t do nothing” pressure.

        • albatross11 says:

          I think it’s really important to listen to people with whom you disagree, and especially to listen to what problems they’re concerned about. Often, even when you disagree completely with their solutions or their model of the world, the problems they’re pointing out are real ones that need to be solved.

          The SJW movement, as I understand it, seems like it very often points out genuine problems that I agree need to be solved, but they have what looks to me like a screwy model of the world that leads them to propose solutions that look ineffective or harmful or evil to me.

          Listening to the problems/observations is often worthwhile, even if you don’t agree with the proposed responses. This is true of feminists, MRAs, PUAs, BLM, animal rights activists, etc.

    • pierretrudank says:

      >the answer is, um, the entire scary illiberal social justice mob we Blue-Tribers live among.
      Can you explain this? What is “illiberal” about blocking people you don’t like on twitter and protesting some speech you do not approve of?
      It is literally the core concept of democracy and agency…
      Free speech also means freedom not to hear someone.

      > But if academia — the one place that is supposed to focus on nothing but getting the right answer, which is supposed to have free and neutral debate as a basic principle — falls to this illiberalism,

      Can you explain what you find “illiberal” about academic freedom? Why should they submit to your particular ideology, instead of reaching consensus with eachother?

      Can you demonstrate specific instances where academics are being “illiberal”? Can you note events or papers you think demonstrate “illiberal behavior”?

      • Aapje says:

        What is “illiberal” about blocking people you don’t like on twitter and protesting some speech you do not approve of?

        People are getting fired. There is evidence that there is substantial discrimination in at least some academic fields against wrongthinkers.

        Can you explain what you find “illiberal” about academic freedom?

        Academic freedom ought to give freedom to hold heterodox viewpoints and defend them with decent science. It ought not give the freedom to get activism/non-science paid for with tax money. It also ought not protect ‘scientists’ kick out the heterodox, in an attempt to create an ideologically pure kind of ‘science.’

        Can you note events or papers you think demonstrate “illiberal behavior”?

        A large percentage of social psychologists say that they would discriminate against other academics based on their political views, rather than the quality of their work.

        Another example (see the chapters called Method 5, Method 6 and Method 7).

  6. enye-word says:

    I liked this post, but it wasn’t very focused, which I didn’t like; it seemed like you were just throwing musings at the wall to see if any of them would stick. I especially thought this about section 2.

  7. RandomName says:

    “people showing up at their lectures with knives”

    I *think* this is referencing the previous point with peterson and the garrote, but a garrote isn’t a knife, it’s a cord. Are you using knife as a metonymy for weapons or something, or is this a mistake?

  8. tmk says:

    My initial feeling is that you (Scott) are being generous to these people (the “IDWs”) because you identify with them, and you would not extend the same generosity towards people you do not identify with. I.e. you explain their lack of intellectual arguments with the incentives they are facing. Do you have the same understanding for your political opponents when they act according the incentives they are facing?

    Otherwise, I thing the IWDs are claiming to be silenced because that is what attracts the audience. People like to be part of a special vanguard who knows the secrets.

    • Acedia says:

      I.e. you explain their lack of intellectual arguments with the incentives they are facing.

      Could you expand on this a little bit? As far as I can tell Scott doesn’t defend the content of their ideas in the piece, or even really mention it at all.

      • AG says:

        Compare, say, to how Scott has done link spams of articles propagating SJ views he disagrees with as evidence for how widespread those ideas are, as a part of a subtext that the people saying those views aren’t nearly as bad off as they claim minorities are treated in the US. Perhaps the people SJ supposedly champion are not as oppressed and silenced as they think, because lots of people write comments and blog posts about feminism on the internet?

        Or, as the points about Caitlyn Jenner in the post point out, maybe there are women and black people and gay people who have it pretty bad, even though there are some really famous feminists making lots of money on the internet by being Famous Feminist edgelords triggering conservative snowflakes.

        (This said even though I agree with a good deal those SSC posts on the subject. His actual point with those link spams is more about how said SJ articles are counter-productive in their advocacy, and yet are the favored form of presenting their ideas, because it’s more about the status signalling games than consequentialism. And yeah, the Fearful Symmetry post linked below is pretty great.)

        • Aapje says:

          @AG

          Scott has also done specific analyses of SJ claims, based on the best available scientific/statistical data. He is not just criticizing the methods of mainstream SJ.

          • AG says:

            @Aapje: I mostly agree with Scott’s takes on SJ. I was explaining how tmk might think Scott was being extra charitable in this article because he relates to the IDW more.

            If a feminist article did a similar link spam as Scott has done with SJ articles, it would probably be dismissed in these parts as a weak man.

      • MugaSofer says:

        6. The IDW probably still censor themselves says that IDW arguments may be weak because they’re hiding stronger arguments that are more taboo than the arguments they actually put forward.

    • Nick says:

      My initial feeling is that you (Scott) are being generous to these people (the “IDWs”) because you identify with them, and you would not extend the same generosity towards people you do not identify with. I.e. you explain their lack of intellectual arguments with the incentives they are facing. Do you have the same understanding for your political opponents when they act according the incentives they are facing?

      Scott plainly doesn’t identify himself with them, because they’ve practically offered him membership (I suspect that’s what all the podcast invitations would amount to) and he’s declined. Moreover, some of them are his political opponents on some front or another. What he has in common with them is his defense of free speech.

      I thing the IWDs are claiming to be silenced because that is what attracts the audience.

      How do you square this with the seven boldface reasons why Scott thinks they might claim it instead? Are those wrong? If so, why?

      • mupetblast says:

        If you’ve been offered membership and declined – and everyone knows this – then you’re effectively one of them anyway. It’s like Alice Dreger announcing to the world that she didn’t want to be included in Weiss’ column on the IDW. The subtext is “OK so you’re a member of the IDW.” It only ended up strengthening the link between her and the IDW in the minds of observers.

        Something similar is happening with Scott. But in slow(er) motion.

        My initial feeling is that you (Scott) are being generous to these people (the ‘IDWs’) because you identify with them.

        Ambiguity is the new affirmation. If dismissal is expected, a fair and balanced account of the matter is tantamount to an endorsement.

        • SaiNushi says:

          “If you’ve been offered membership and declined – and everyone knows this – then you’re effectively one of them anyway.”

          In what universe does “I am not a ___” translate to “I am a ___”? Seriously, if a person says they aren’t part of an ideological group, then they aren’t part of that ideological group. It’s called “freedom of association”, and it means you get to decide what groups you belong to, nobody else decides that for you.

          • Confusion says:

            In what universe does “I am not a ___” translate to “I am a ___”?

            In a polarized universe, where group A offering you membership means members of both groups A and B — and many others — will consider you a member of that group. For all practical purposes you are then a member of that group.

            Seriously, if a person says they aren’t part of an ideological group, then they aren’t part of that ideological group.

            It doesn’t matter what group you (dis)claim being part. What matters is which group you are perceived as being part of. In some cases the result is all involved groups considering you a member of one of the ‘other’ groups.

            Only an irrelevant minority listens to what people actually say and rejects the groupings as sensible.

          • Seriously, if a person says they aren’t part of an ideological group, then they aren’t part of that ideological group. It’s called “freedom of association”, and it means you get to decide what groups you belong to, nobody else decides that for you.

            I disagree. Your belonging to an ideological group is a fact about how I see the world, hence under my control, not yours.

            Consider Ayn Rand. She would certainly deny being a libertarian. But by almost any reasonable definition of “libertarian” other than the one used by her and some of her hard core supporters, she was.

      • tmk says:

        I am not saying Scott is part of the “IDW” grouping. He is clearly different from them in some ways, especially in not being deliberately edge-lordy.

        I am saying that Scott is part of the same social tribe. I think the “tribes” concept is very useful, although the red/blue/(grey) groups are insufficient, plain wrong or outdated. So, when Scott is considering the IDW:s, he can imagine himself in their shoes.

        With regards to declining membership, I would expect that a lefty intellectual gets invited to all kinds of angry communist podcasts. He probably declines most, not because he sees communists as his ideological enemies, but because they are too radical or not intellectual enough.

        In general, I hold that the question “who do you identify with?” is very important for understanding someone opinions. For example Scott’s opinions on trans issues are generally more left-leaning or SJW-like than you’d expect from his other opinions. I think this is because he knows several trans people. On the other hand he doesn’t know any muslims, and vaguely knows some anti-muslim people, so his opinions there is more right-leaning.

    • moscanarius says:

      Not sure I understand all you wrote, but I will try to comment:

      My initial feeling is that you (Scott) are being generous to these people (the “IDWs”) because you identify with them

      That is definitely a possibility, though I would say there is more than one reason for identifying/empathizing with someone. Maybe Scott simpathizes/agrees with their political views; maybe he simpathizes/identifies with their status as relative outsiders; maybe one of them looks like his father or talks just like a dear friend of his, I don’t know. These “identifications” don’t all carry the same implications. Which one do you have in mind?

      and you would not extend the same generosity towards people you do not identify with I.e. you explain their lack of intellectual arguments with the incentives they are facing.

      I can’t warrant it, but I think he would explain it this way most times. (Bad) Incentive structures and social signalling have been pretty recurrent explanations for most behavior on this blog.

      Do you have the same understanding for your political opponents when they act according the incentives they are facing?

      Do mean understanding in the sense of “sympathetic and forgiving”?

      Otherwise, I thing the IWDs are claiming to be silenced because that is what attracts the audience. People like to be part of a special vanguard who knows the secrets.

      That’s possible, but in the spirit of your comment let me ask: would you extend this to the other groups that often claim to be silenced (trans people, some strains of feminists, some strains of socialists)? If not, then you might want to explain why you think it’s for the audience in their case – instead of the other many reasons Scott brought up.

    • MasteringTheClassics says:

      Scott is keenly aware of his biases in this area, and he’s usually pretty good at compensating for them. Also, this.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I.e. you explain their lack of intellectual arguments with the incentives they are facing.

      Excluding Ben Shapiro (again, always a good life choice), who do you think in the “IDW” is lacking intellectual arguments? Sam Harris? Brett Weinstein? Peterson?

      The only one I’ve paid enough attention to to know is Peterson. I’ve watched his entire Maps of Meaning lecture series and his Psychological Significance of Biblical Stories series. I found them to be full of intellectual arguments.

      I will say though, that whenever I read a more mainstream media piece critical of Peterson, they do not address the hundreds of hours of intellectual argument the guy puts out, or the actual content of his best selling book of life advice. Instead they just rail about lobsters and hating the transgendered.

      The things Peterson fans are getting out of Peterson are his insights on social hierarchies, personal responsibility, mythology and symbolism, etc. But to hear his enemies tell it I’ve just been watching about 80 hours of a guy ranting about transgendered people. That’s not how I remember it, though.

    • cryptoshill says:

      I myself associate Scott with the IDW. I think that Scott on average has better *principles* than the rest of the lot, especially when it comes to the form of an argument. But he retains a few major characteristics:

      1. Upsetting the left, particularly by speaking frankly about issues the left thought they had pushed out of the Overton Window. This is basically the ur-quality that unites all of the IDW.

      2. Tendency toward rationality and reason, or at least to be more rational and reasoned than the rest of the space. While I won’t claim that the IDWers are “right” all the time or are inherently “more reasonable” than the average poster here – relative to the sort of lecture-hall talk-circuit pop-academia and competing against “Professional Demagogic Thinkpiece Engines” they seem to be more epistemologically grounded. Scott, in his own little sector of the world (weird internet subcultures that write about politics) seems to be more epistemologically grounded than all of modern politics full stop.

      3. Largely uninterested in mainstream media. IDWs say that they are unable to use the mainstream media because the gatekeepers are keeping them out, Scott seems to be almost completely uninterested in media attention.

      So I can see you making the presumption that Scott intellectually identifies with the IDW, but I honestly think that in order to be an successful IDW member (or to avoid buzzwording too hard: “incredibly popular speaker/writer who commonly engages in the culture war”) even though you are ostensibly against identity politics, your entire existence is informed by it. You do not need to go three more meta-levels up to find the object level disagreement, you can just refute the lower operating arguments, watch the enemy try to smear you or misquote you – then laugh at them. I think Scott is too principled for this sort of behavior, which is the exact sort of thing that’s being selected for in this group of people.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        1. I try to offend the left as little as I can while still achieving other goals; I get the impression the IDW tries to maximize this for its own sake.

        2. I don’t want to claim to be more rational than anyone else. My impression is that everybody but a few weirdos with philosophical commitments would like to think they’re the rational ones, but that making this a big point of your platform is like saying “And also, another good quality about me is that I am right.” I do think it’s important to be more meta about your rationality than some other people are, and to try to figure out ways to measure and improve it, but I don’t think this is an IDW quality.

        3. I don’t get the impression that the IDW is uninterested in mainstream media, I get the impression they usually can’t break into it.

        • Aapje says:

          3. I don’t get the impression that the IDW is uninterested in mainstream media, I get the impression they usually can’t break into it.

          If they were really uninterested, they wouldn’t complain about the media so much.

        • Hitfoav says:

          1. AFAICT Shapiro likes poking the left but will acknowledge virtues there as he does faults on the right. Peterson grouchily puts down the “far left idiots” he thinks are far left idiots. Rubin talks up the tribal lines a lot… But most of the IDW seems pretty uninterested, even nervous, of offending.

        • cryptoshill says:

          You make a good point. Although given the “left” (using this as shorthand for the Social Justice types that have taken control of Blue Tribe public discourse at this point) is incredibly easy to offend, I’m not sure what the control is for something like this. I get the impression that some members of the “IDW” go out of their way to offend the left and make hay on it, and others are just sort of thrust into the arena by the Toxoplasma of Rage (which hasn’t stopped being relevant, kudos on that particular post). The comparison I would make would be Ben Shapiro to Jordan Peterson.

          Uninterested was indeed not the correct word, I should probably correct that in my thinking to something more like “having their own separate, private discourse within something akin to intentional communities”.

          As far as you being more rational than anyone else – wasn’t suggesting you were making the claim that you *were* more rational than anyone else. Just that upon observation, your posts seem to put more thinking into adjusting for confounders, establishing baselines, and the sort of meta-level thinking that indicates that you have truly come to think these things and aren’t just parroting talking points. Comparing you to them on a one-to-one basis would be unfair and wrong, so I was drawing the comparison between you/other good posters on internet debate communities and IDW/other political commentators in the Culture War. I would also agree that “A good quality about me and my writing is that I am objectively correct” is potentially the most arrogant statement one could make. I did not mean to imply that you would make such a statement and apologize if that’s what you got.

      • Scott seems to be almost completely uninterested in media attention.

        I think Scott doesn’t want mainstream media attention, in part because he regards other people hating him as a minus, not a plus. As per his point 1 just above.

        On the other hand, I think his point 1 exaggerates the degree to which his point is true of the IDW people. Surely true of some of them, probably not true of others.

    • Brian Young says:

      Otherwise, I thing the IWDs are claiming to be silenced because that is what attracts the audience. People like to be part of a special vanguard who knows the secrets.

      They can both feel authentically silenced, as well as understand that declaring they are being silenced is an effective tool to gain market share or increase engagement.

      These aren’t mutually exclusive things.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “I.e. you explain their lack of intellectual arguments with the incentives they are facing. Do you have the same understanding for your political opponents when they act according the incentives they are facing?”

      I would replace “understanding for” with “understanding of”. I am able to model why some people do what they do because I’ve debated the same questions and come to some of the same conclusions – although I usually eventually say “screw it” and just go against incentives (see e.g. my Contra Grant article).

      I probably don’t have the same understanding of why people who face problems different from mine do what they do, but I would like to, and I agree it’s useful knowledge to have, and when they try to explain it I read it.

    • MNadolsky says:

      I’ve noticed that people who are critical of the IDW always make assertions about strangers’ motivations in those criticisms.

  9. carvenvisage says:

    Minor “logical rudeness” in the article

    “Reason‘s article is better and makes a lot of good points”

    -At this point in your article the case hasn’t yet been made that either article is bad, so the word “better” takes for granted a premise that hasn’t yet been established.

    • DutLinx says:

      I mean, you can have two good articles and also have one article be better than the other. I’m not sure I get the same implication from his phrasing that you do.

  10. Evan says:

    It’s funny because while today you made all these points about what it might mean for someone to be popular and silenced at the same time, yesterday Robin Hanson took to suggesting: Why Not Thought Crime?
    https://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/05/why-not-thought-crime.html
    His case is mob rule can be costlier than the rule of law, and if this is becomes the case with mobs going after people for saying certain things, making saying certain things illegal might work. That way when people are accused of illegal speech, they’ll have the opportunity to better defend themselves, and falsify the accusation, than is the case facing mob rule.

    • albertborrow says:

      “But obviously mobs think these acts are big enough to bother to organize to censure them. The cost of making mobs seems at least comparable to the cost of using law.”

      I think that’s the mistake in this post. Mob justice doesn’t have a cost in the same way that legal justice has a cost – mobs form because people like to form mobs and be correct, not because they like the idea of justice. That’s what makes them dangerous. If he meant the social cost of mobs, there are less inherently dangerous ways to mitigate that than legislation. The best way to succeed (in that both you get your justice and the law doesn’t have to restrict freedom of speech) is to cripple methods of mob organization in favor of smaller communities. This happens naturally on the internet through the process of evaporative cooling of group beliefs, but is artificially held back by other processes (uniting the groups against a common enemy, etc.) that large mobs have incentive to promote. One can imagine a society where any groups that exceed a certain critical mass are forced to break apart or respect the right of others to dissent. It would be easy to detect when they reach this critical mass because they would use mob tactics – forbid mob tactics (punish the person encouraging them in the pulpit, create social media networks where popularity has a very low impact on social efficacy) and you destroy the mob. Then the normal democratic process can filter signaling madness from actual shared sustainable cultural values. (this would require fixing the normal democratic process as well)

      I like this idea better than “if you provably say this you are arrested” because that process just selects for covert speech, and then we get back to dog-whistles and mob rule all over again. Chinese censorship of internet discussion is a good example of the first part, evolving rhetoric (especially in the modern right-wing) the second.

      • liljaycup says:

        Just because something is illegal doesn’t mean it suddenly isn’t subject to mob justice. Frankly, it just makes mob justice easier by signalling to everyone which people society has decided to punish.

        It seems pretty clear to me that if you look at how society treats felons and former convicts, you’d see that the serving of “legal justice” hasn’t stopped everyone else from exacting their own form of “justice.”

        Hanson’s proposal also seems to assume that the law as currently constructed is being applied evenly. Not true at all. The law tends to get applied in the areas that the mob cares about (sometimes in the areas that legislators care about, too–rulemakers want to enforce the rules to demonstrate their power).

        Not only that, but this assumes that everyone KNOWS what the law is. Go ahead, ask an American about hate speech or shouting fire in a crowded theater. See if they have any idea what the law actually is on these matters.

        What people are hungry for is CLARITY, and that’s natural. Clarity has plenty of benefits. But clarity in these matters usually means throwing context out. Here’s a sports metaphor:

        In ice hockey, goaltender interference used to be called when a skater had a skate inside the blue paint surrounding the goal when a goal was scored. But oftentimes, a goal would be called back when the player hadn’t touched, impeded, or even gotten in the sight-lines of the goaltender. Sometimes an opposing player would be shoved into the blue paint in order to try to negate an obviously upcoming goal opportunity. The rule was easy to implement, but it lacked context. It lacked “justice.”

        So they changed the rule. Now, a player can be in the paint all they want. They just can’t touch the goalie or “impede his making a save”. But now no one knows the difference between interference and a legal goal. It’s all judgment (was that bump enough to impede the save? Did the goalie have the ability/time to recover from being impeded?), and the league has been scrambling for a better definition/more consistent way of calling these plays. Conspiracy theories about the league fixing games have been flying around, too.

        In other words, clarity is a blunt instrument. It’s a hammer. And it comes with a price. That price is context, and without context, justice isn’t really being served. Innocent people will get smashed right alongside guilty people. Good goals get thrown out with the bad. On the other hand, if no one can determine what the rules are, then no one trusts the system and no one knows how to behave. It all feels arbitrary and relative to public opinion/mob justice.

        I don’t have an answer for this problem. But I think Hanson is proposing a pretty silly solution.

  11. liskantope says:

    Great response to the “If they’re so suppressed, why are they so popular?” argument. A minor nitpick:

    Winning one competition is much easier than winning the other – and the prize for winning either is “the attention of about 50% of the population”.

    The figure 50% seems to undercut the assertion that the ideas aren’t popular. Does anybody here really believe that the ideas presented in the most controversial SSC posts are appealing to fully half of the population, or at least the subset likely to come in contact with SSC? Or maybe I’m misunderstanding and the 50% only refers to the subset who are interested in debating culture war issues (even then I don’t think it’s half, but then my nitpick becomes even more nitpicky).

    A more substantial point that needs to be discussed (although I don’t have time now to expand on it fully, and I don’t have a full-blown thesis at the moment anyway) is why exactly the IDW seems to have emerged so prominently in recent years when PC and anti-PC have been warring for decades. This is addressed under bulletpoint (4), and the point made there seems like a good one, but it doesn’t fully satisfy my intuition. It seems from my point of view that the IDW has risen in response to a rise in (or a push towards minstreaming more extreme views in, to the point of becoming more objectively Objectionable than objectively valid) a certain opposing intellectual subculture. Yes, PC culture has been around for decades, but at least in my gut I’ve sensed a drastic change during the 2010’s. And the drastic rise in anti-PC rhetoric seems to have happened very definitely after it and in direct response to it. I think that should be better explored, as my perspective is perhaps skewed from having been an adult for only a decade or so (maybe there’s an equally “drastic change” every decade or so and I just wasn’t in a position to observe the other ones). Of course, it may be that this can be almost entirely traced to the rise in internet culture, which dovetails with the explanation under bulletpoint (4).

    • kingofthenerdz3 says:

      Yes, PC culture has been around for decades, but at least in my gut I’ve sensed a drastic change during the 2010’s. And the drastic rise in anti-PC rhetoric seems to have happened very definitely after it and in direct response to it. I think that should be better explored, as my perspective is perhaps skewed from having been an adult for only a decade or so (maybe there’s an equally “drastic change” every decade or so and I just wasn’t in a position to observe the other ones). Of course, it may be that this can be almost entirely traced to the rise in internet culture, which dovetails with the explanation under bulletpoint (4).

      Hmm. Something to think about. Is there any analysis of post-2010 SJW-ideas/intersectional-feminism and its intellectual ancestors?

    • Simon_Jester says:

      I will note that there was plenty of anti-PC rhetoric in the 1950s or such times, it’s just that it took a very different form in those days. Because it was comfortably ensconced in the armchair of mainstream sociopolitical thought and values, rather than frantically running around trying to hold off waves of Social Justice Commandos as they work their way ever closer to its command bunker.

      For example, if it is ‘PC’ to say ‘No one should be allowed to condemn homosexuality in a mass-market publication, because that hurts homosexuals unfairly,’ then today the ‘anti-PC’ argument would be something like “but you’re violating freedom of speech by saying that” whereas in 1950 it would have been a simple “[GLARE], what kind of degeneracy are you peddling, away with you into the outer darkness!”

      “Anti-PC” thought circa 1950 aimed against minority rights movements was “well obviously a certain amount of segregation of the races is necessary for an orderly society, and if you think otherwise, are you suggesting I should allow my daughter to marry one!?”

      “Anti-PC” thought circa 1950 aimed against feminism was “you obviously need a husband and some tranquilizers so you’ll stop complaining so much.”

      And so on.

      It’s not that these ideas are new, it’s that the mode in which they are expressed is new because now they are being expressed from a position of localized relative weakness rather than a position of comfortable dominance.

      • liskantope says:

        It’s not that these ideas are new, it’s that the mode in which they are expressed is new

        The ideas, as depicted in your 1950 vs. present examples, look starkly “new” to me. There’s a pretty significant difference between “you obviously need a husband and some tranquilizers so you’ll stop complaining so much” and pretty much anything that the IDW I’m familiar with would say (or even deep down want to say) about feminists today.

        • Iain says:

          Jordan Peterson:

          “So I don’t know who these people think marriages are oppressing,” he says. “I read Betty Friedan’s book because I was very curious about it, and it’s so whiny, it’s just enough to drive a modern person mad to listen to these suburban housewives from the late ’50s ensconced in their comfortable secure lives complaining about the fact that they’re bored because they don’t have enough opportunity. It’s like, Jesus get a hobby. For Christ’s sake, you — you — ”

          • It’s like, Jesus get a hobby.

            Linking the above to the UBI discussion …

            Perhaps middle class housewives whose children had grown up and left are the population we should be looking at to tell how people would behave if they could have a comfortable life without a job.

          • Baeraad says:

            Linking the above to the UBI discussion …

            Perhaps middle class housewives whose children had grown up and left are the population we should be looking at to tell how people would behave if they could have a comfortable life without a job.

            This was something I thought about replying with when that post went up, before deciding that I didn’t have the energy to argue on the Internet that day. I’m a proud card-carrying slacker, and despite that going unemployed for a few years was absolute torture for me. Being forced to spend a chunk of each day doing something you don’t particularly want to do seems to be a necessity for any healthy human being.

            I’m still on the UBI side for many of the reasons Scott mentioned (in particular the fact that some people simply cannot work for one reason or another, and you can’t filter those out without having the exact same cumbersome evaluation system that we have today, the removal of which is always listed as one of the benefits of UBI), but I did think he made an oversight in not recognising that many people would be psychologically better off with some meaningless paid make-work than with just some free money.

            I don’t know. Possibly if you a) made it a rule that everyone who could work would have to take a job that was presented to them, but also left it up to each individual to determine whether they were able to work, and b) paid a chunk more money to the people who took government-allotted jobs than what was included in the UBI? That way, you’d have both greed and conscience conspiring to make people get up in the morning and acquire some of those “you won’t believe the dumb thing my boss said today” stories that are the cornerstone of social bonding between adults…

          • Being forced to spend a chunk of each day doing something you don’t particularly want to do seems to be a necessity for any healthy human being.

            I’ve actually implemented that in my own life. My circumstances for quite a while have been such that I could spend most of my time playing–commenting here, reading books, making jewelry and furniture, experimenting with medieval recipes, … .

            Some years back I concluded that eating too much lotus was a bad idea, so committed myself to two hours a day seven days a week of work on my various writing projects.

        • AG says:

          It’s because of the I in IDW that the IDW are ironically more PC in their proposed solutions.

          “Get laid, scrub” is still a time-honored response happily deployed by both sides in the trenches.

        • Simon_Jester says:

          This is, again, the difference between an opinion sitting comfortably in its armchair dispensing what amount to orders, and an opinion that is frantically scrambling around trying to defend its last bastions as the social justice commandos close in on the command bunker. You have to be much more polite and willing to compromise with an opinion that has the upper hand and a social license to crush you for disagreeing.

          In 1960 a ‘gay rights’ argument that might at least not be run out of town on a rail would be something horrible to modern ears, something like “um, okay, I fully accept that this is an unnatural perversion but as long as the gays aren’t specifically going around corrupting the youth, maybe they shouldn’t be literally castrated and killed for practicing their admittedly unnatural perversions in the privacy of their own homes?”

          Because that’s how you have to talk when the anti-gays have all the high ground and all the artillery, and are free to zero it in on your position. And even then, advancing such an argument could get you ostracized if you made it in any of the anti-gays “safe spaces,” that is to say, anywhere in society other than several illegal gay clubs and a couple of mimeographed newspapers.

          Now the tables have somewhat turned around on this issue. An argument of the form “well, they’re obviously unnatural perverts, case closed” on the anti-gay side isn’t going to play, because the homophile side of the debate now has their own fortresses, artillery, and secure social territories from which to shoot back. And this comes across as “PC has run amok” from the point of view of people who used to have all the guns and are now wondering how the hell they wound up with only 25% of the guns or something.

          • I think you considerably exaggerate the situation c. 1960. The earliest LP platform is 1972, and it holds:

            We hold that no action which does not infringe the rights of others can properly be termed a crime. We favor the repeal of all laws creating “crimes without victims” now incorporated in Federal, state and local laws — such as laws on voluntary sexual relations …

            I had one gay friend in the late sixties, and I didn’t have the impression that he felt any need to hide it. Admittedly, that was in the University of Chicago neighborhood–I expect the situation would have been different in some other places.

            And even then, advancing such an argument could get you ostracized if you made it in any of the anti-gays “safe spaces,” that is to say, anywhere in society other than several illegal gay clubs and a couple of mimeographed newspapers.

            I don’t think that is close to true. Googling around:

            In the UK in the 1950s, the Wolfenden report recommended the legalization of “homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private”

            In 1962, consensual sexual relations between same-sex couples was decriminalized in Illinois

            If it was decriminalized in a major state in 1962, advocating decriminalization wasn’t outside the Overton window in 1960.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            My apologies. I was in fact exaggerating the extent of anti-gay discrimination circa 1960.

            However, would you agree or disagree that in general, and in a more abstract sense, anti-gay rights arguments and ideas held the cultural “high ground” at that time, making it an uphill battle to get pro-gay rights arguments considered?

          • However, would you agree or disagree that in general, and in a more abstract sense, anti-gay rights arguments and ideas held the cultural “high ground” at that time, making it an uphill battle to get pro-gay rights arguments considered?

            Certainly possible. I grew up in Hyde Park, the U of Chicago neighborhood, and went to Harvard, so not in a random population. Off hand, I don’t remember hearing arguments either for or against homosexuality, but my guess is that in the wider world the orthodoxy, outside of academia, was anti. I can think of three men I knew in the sixties who I suspected were homosexual, but in only one case, as I remember, was he openly so.

            There was also an ff couple one of whom was a close friend of my parents. At the time I don’t think it occurred to me that they were lesbians rather than just friends and roommates, but looking back at it I’m almost certain they were.

  12. Also, I would like to know what the article means by its distinction between “excluded” and “denied very particular opportunities”? I

    That makes some sense in the context of free speech. Free speech doesn’t guarantee the right to say anything on any platform.

    • Simon_Jester says:

      The problem is that one does not efficiently deny people free speech by denying them access to certain specific platforms (“very particular opportunities”).

      Typically, serious attacks on free speech are launched by targeting the speaker and trying to deny them access to ALL platforms (“silencing”). This is usually done with an intimidation campaign that threatens to harm the speaker if they continue to use the platform available to them, rather than by literally blocking off every conceivable platform on which speech is possible.

      • beleester says:

        Most no-platform campaigns are the inefficient kind, not the death threats kind – attempts to simply get as many big-name companies or colleges to stop associating with a person. Stuff like the #MuteRKelly campaign. They can be pretty darn effective, since big-name companies are both the most sensitive to their image and the most important platforms to deny.

        On this very page, you can find people arguing that getting blocked on YouTube or Facebook is equivalent to censorship, because that shrinks your audience to a tiny fraction of what it would normally be.

        Scott has wisely fixated on the unambiguous problems – people facing death threats or academics fearing for their jobs – but I usually hear more about speakers getting cancelled than speakers getting threatened into silence.

        Maybe it’s a toxoplasma thing – not many people argue in support of death threats, but more people will support firing (which is considerably less harmful than murder) and many, many more people will support banning from a website (which happens everywhere and is basically a necessary part of running a forum). So that gets more attention than the parts that are unambiguous problems.

        • Simon_Jester says:

          Okay, can I amend my point to include a broader definition of ‘harm’ than just death threats, and to include the option of threatening to harm others for associating with the speaker?

          If you threaten corporations with boycotts for carrying my message, you are, in effect, threatening to harm those who associate with me or provide me with a platform.

          At which point we circle back to my point that the real threat to free speech isn’t found in “denying people specific opportunities,” it’s in broad-spectrum shotgun blast tactics that deny ALL opportunities.

          • Aapje says:

            Silencing almost never means denying every platform/opportunity. It typically involves simultaneously increasing the costs of speech and decreasing its effectiveness. The combination of the two means that people stop wanting to pay the price.

            Under Stalin, a dissident could speak up at a local meeting and denounce Stalin. He would then be swiftly transported to the gulags. He would also not have access to national media to denounce Stalin in front of a huge audience.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            Okay, but is this actually a negation or refutation of what I’m saying?

            The effect of making it impractically expensive and ineffectual to speak out for or against a cause is that no one does speak for it. The platforms are all, in effect if not in principle, denied.

          • Aapje says:

            My point is that your argument that people are denied “ALL opportunities” can be used to deny that silencing is happening, by pointing to people who do have some, poor, opportunities.

  13. Meister says:

    Great post! I wish you had ended with some practical advice for people who feel silenced, though. Not everyone can have “career as a darkweb-intellectual figure” as their backup plan.

    At one of Jordan Peterson’s appearances — the famous one where protestors pounded on windows and one brought a garrot — an audience member asked for such advice. How does one decide when to speak up and risk career suicide vs keep your head down?

    If I recall correctly, he presented three arguments:

    1. The Butterfly Effect:
    There will be consequences in the short term. And they’re real, so prepare for them. But don’t discount too much your potential to accomplish long-term good. It’s impossible to know how many lives you touch by taking a conspicuous stand for truth. If you’re right, then many of your peers feel the same way. While they won’t support you openly, your example will inspire them to keep certain values closer to their hearts, and they’ll fight a little harder to project those values in their own lives. The waves we make ripple out, sparking more and more likeminded opposition in a hundred ways large and small. The cumulative effect of these personal rebellions can be massive. You just have to take the leap of faith and believe that the downstream upsides outweigh the downsides, even if they can never be quantified or attributed to you.

    2. Lesser of two Hells:
    If you don’t speak up, you’re condemning yourself to a life of inauthenticity. It may seem like no big deal at first, but each time you compromise on your principles you dig yourself into a deeper hole. Do you intend to go your whole life falsely supporting an ideology you find abhorrent? You’ll never climb to the top of Maslow’s hierarchy while carrying that kind of guilt. People — especially the most thoughtful types — have a deep need to say aloud what they have concluded is true. Suppressing this instinct leads to various neuroses. Nothing the mob can do to you is as bad in the long run as what you can do to yourself through silence.

    3. Argument from Filter Bubbles:
    From within your filter bubble, it seems like voicing certain opinions will lead to having literally zero friends. And you’re right, in a sense — those opinions may well drive off everyone you know. But there is a whole multiverse of bubbles out there, each undetectable from within your own. While you will lose some relationships, the new friends you make and the new communities who welcome you will be worth it. It’ll be a diverse group, too, which leads to interesting debates. Many of the figures mentioned in this article disagree on every political issue, yet they somehow get along due to shared values of free speech, open-mindedness, and civility. Finding a circle of people who give every idea a fair hearing — even if they always disagree with you — is more fulfilling than being part of a group you are 95% in agreement with but who make you afraid to speak. The belief that diverse open-minded communities exist is another leap of faith.

    Based on these arguments, the correct line of action to maximize happiness is to speak the truth as you see it and nothing less. This is assuming you’ve performed the rigorous introspection required to confidently state what you think the truth is, not to mention the practice you’ll need to competently defend it.
    ———————————————

    I don’t graduate for another year, so I haven’t been forced to test this theory in any high-stakes situations. Do any older commenters have wisdom to share? Is the idea of publicly holding controversial opinions in today’s socio-political environment hopelessly naive?

    • Aapje says:

      Is the idea of publicly holding controversial opinions in today’s socio-political environment hopelessly naive?

      I think that the answer is that it depends greatly on your talents, the environment you are in, how controversial those opinions actually are, sheer luck, etc. Peterson has many times the charisma and speaking ability of Damore, so he can build a career on being an edgelord/guru/whatever, while Damore can not.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        One also needs to account for the other baggage you’ve got in your life, skeletons in your closet, and avenues of attack on you for speaking what you believe to be the truth. If you can’t get Al Capone for bootlegging, get him for tax evasion. You may not get fired for your “controversial opinions,” you’ll get fired for “poor job performance” or whatever. They didn’t get Milo for stuff he said after he was run off campuses, they got him for one obscure statement about his youthful homosexual activities on some podcast years ago.

        Peterson notes that he has to be extremely careful about what he says, and that he’s very happy that he has mountains of past statements that do not contain heresy for which he can be nailed, and that he has the rest of his life and his family put together to support him. This is also his theory of the psychological significant of the Flood story. Noah was “perfect in his generations.” His home life was so well put together that when the cataclysm came, he was able to weather it, when if there had been anything else at all wrong, he would have drowned.

        • Simon_Jester says:

          Given how his sons supposedly behaved AFTER the Flood, I’m a bit suspicious of the idea that his home life was well-ordered BEFORE it…

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Well, they did live through a rather traumatic event. Everyone and everything dying and all. Might affect them a little bit.

          • Evan Þ says:

            On the other hand, it was only one of his three sons, and we don’t get a look at how everyone else’s sons were behaving beforehand…

      • AG says:

        But is Damore really homeless on the streets right now?

        • Aapje says:

          Damore seems to be out of work. Perhaps he can live on his savings. Perhaps his parents are wealthy enough to support him.

          Regardless, I think that most people would greatly mind being out of a job and the repercussions of that, regardless of whether that makes them homeless.

    • akarlin says:

      If you don’t speak up, you’re condemning yourself to a life of inauthenticity. It may seem like no big deal at first, but each time you compromise on your principles you dig yourself into a deeper hole. Do you intend to go your whole life falsely supporting an ideology you find abhorrent?

      Interesting. I haven’t read 12 Rules for Life, but I have been told JBP cited Solzhenitsyn extensively – clearly his stance of “living not by lies” was a strong influence.

    • Is the idea of publicly holding controversial opinions in today’s socio-political environment hopelessly naive?

      I have not found it to be so. Nor did my father.

    • vaniver says:

      My view: there are too many true heresies to publicly admit to all of them and maintain ‘edgelord’ status. First, don’t join any mobs or punish people supporting true heresies (for example, the psychology professor signing the letter), and have a strategy to deflect attention from your non-punishment if necessary. (If you have narrow interests, such that you don’t know which heresies are true or false, you may want to just get out of the heresy-punishing game altogether.) Second, determine how well-spoken / articulate / polite / etc. you are, and use that to determine how many heresies you are willing to publicly support. I think I’m pretty far out on that axis, and the number that I picked was 1. (There’s a version of ‘publicly support’ where you ask pointed questions but don’t make any positive statements, which I think I do for more things.)

      I came across an alternative strategy, which is to be sufficiently opaque that basically everything you say is a dog whistle (and thus you can be a coordination point, since people will only hear what you’re saying if they already understand it, and people who don’t understand it can slowly unfold it at a speed that doesn’t shock them). One downside of this is that it doesn’t really work in text–it mostly works in in-person conversations where your sentences are too long for most listeners to keep the whole thing in your head, or where you scatter the sentences “A” and “If A then B” throughout a long paragraph such that only people who are keeping careful track will notice that you believe “B”. I mostly don’t recommend this strategy, but might have some value.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I feel obligated to say “don’t”. Assume you’ve graduated, found yourself a well-paying job which pays the rent and the student loans and provides a little left over besides. Is it really responsible to risk job and possibly career just to put forth heterodox political opinions when doing so isn’t going to make a whit of practical difference? I think any cold rational analysis would say “no”.

      That said, the pull of #2 can be very strong. It IS hell having people running you down and blaming you and those like you for all the problems of the world, and not responding. Responding makes it much more tolerable. But the risk is real. I found another job, but it probably would have been better if I’d done so instead of responding.

    • Watchman says:

      I work in an international facing office in a UK university. I was one of only two of about twenty staff who (publicly, and I don’t believe anyone was hiding anything) voted to leave the EU, a vote which actually effects our funding and participation in various schemes. My colleagues seem fine with this other than the odd joking comments about it all being my fault.

      It helps that people know I have fairly strong views on lots of things and that I am prepared to defend them, so no-one sees this as a shock or a betrayal but rather as me being me. I think that is perhaps key in a workplace. Be yourself anyway and people will expect you to be you: don’t pick fights because that’s unprofessional, but don’t hide your views. And accept your colleagues views as you wish them to accept yours.as otherwise its not your beliefs that are the issue but you yourself (I suspect this underlies a lot of workplace tensions around atypical political views).

      Basically behave at work as you do in the comments here is probably the best advice for most people…

  14. harvey-ta says:

    There are few SJW leaders because they don’t believe in hierarchies. Anyone who has an independent thought would be pulled down or forced out. Crabs in a barrel.

    The closest thing to a leader would be a member of an “oppressed minority” who skilfully parrots the party line.

    • mdet says:

      Wouldn’t having some kind of official hierarchy *discourage* independent thought? A hierarchy by definition means that there is someone above you whom you have some obligation to follow / obey. It also implies some kind of criteria for promotion within the hierarchy, where those who don’t meet the criteria would fail to advance.

      • SaiNushi says:

        Original thoughts create opportunities for hierarchies, which form anywhere there’s an opportunity for them to form. Thus, there is no hierarchy, just the consensus, and you’d better follow the consensus or you are anathema.

  15. edanm says:

    Hey Scott,

    You seem to be *really* anti-Ben Shapiro. I’m not defending him, necessarily, but I’m wondering why you’re so opposed to him? Especially, have you written anything about him before? I’ve only heard of him recently, so I may have missed it.

    • joncb says:

      I noticed that as well… i mean i haven’t really listened to him but i don’t get an Alex Jones vibe. What i have heard is a mix of “massive freedom of speech wonk” mixed with a touch of “i’m mad as hell and i’m not gonna take it anymore”.

    • fightscenegrades says:

      Ben Shapiro’s not my particular cup of tea– a bit too strident– but from what I’ve seen I don’t fundamentally disagree with most of his positions or find him notably uncharitable, especially by pundit standards.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Ben called out his own audience when his audience booing someone becoming a citizen. There are gradients here, but that really doesn’t match “awful demagogue” for me.

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      I was also surprised: the level of dismissal and snideness [“awful demagogues like Ben Shapiro”, “excluding Ben Shapiro (always a good life choice)”] is almost off the charts for a blog as consistently careful-spoken as SSC. Regardless of the merits or demerits of Ben Shapiro, anyone with ~15 million followers ought to be taken seriously enough to be attacked directly or not at all. Otherwise, the very vehemence of your words undermines them: clearly you can’t expect everybody to agree with your premise (Ben Shapiro is awful) from the outset, so why are you trying so hard to slip it in as an aside, where it can’t be directly challenged?

      Either way, the phrasing seems so uncharacteristic for this blog that I have to wonder if there’s some personal animus at play behind the scenes.

      • AnteriorMotive says:

        When Scott’s trying to persuade an audience he drops tribal signifiers to lure them in.

        IDW-sympathizers will love this essay even if he insults them in it, the hard part is going to be getting Lefties to read it all before they catch on that Scott is an IDW-sympathizer himself.

        • phil says:

          +1

          7. Figure out who you’re trying to convince, then use the right tribal signals

          Your role model in this (and in nothing else) should be Donald Trump. Think about it. He supports Planned Parenthood, doesn’t want to cut entitlement programs, condemns Dubya and the Iraq war, supports affirmative action, supports medical marijuana, etc. If somebody were to tell you last year that a man with those policy positions would not only be leading the Republican primary, but leading even among the most conservative voters, you’d think they were crazy. The rest of the country has been trying to convince conservative Republicans to be more comfortable with those positions for decades, and we’ve failed miserably. Now Trump just waltzes in and everyone is like “Yeah, okay, sure”?

          The secret of Trump’s success is that most conservative Republicans don’t really care about medical marijuana (or whatever) for its own sake. They care because opposing medical marijuana symbolizes membership in their tribe, they feel like their tribe is persecuted, they have a fierce loyalty to their tribe, and darned if they’re going to support somebody who doesn’t use the right shibboleths.

          Trump throws them a bone. He says things like “illegal immigrants are rapists” that no moderate or liberal would ever say, things that would horrify them. He uses all the affectations of being working class. He may not quite prove he’s “one of us”, but he very effectively proves he’s not Just A Typical Outgroup Member. When Trump says “Legalize medical marijuana”, they don’t hear “I’m yet another RINO liberal pansy who hates Christian values and wants everybody to become reefer-smoking hippies”. So they only hear something boring about the regulations around pain relief medication – and who cares about those?

          Trump’s Law is that if you want to convince people notorious for being unconvinceable, half the battle is using the right tribal signals to sound like you’re one of them.

          For example, when I’m trying to convince conservatives, I veer my signaling way to the right. I started my defense of trigger warnings with “I complain a lot about the social justice movement”. Then I cited Jezebel and various Ethnic Studies professors being against trigger warnings. Then I tried to argue that trigger warnings actually go together well with strong versions of freedom of speech. At this point I haven’t even started arguing in favor of trigger warnings, I’ve just set up an unexpected terrain in which trigger warnings can be seen as a conservative thing supported by people who like free speech and don’t like social justice, and opposition to trigger warnings can be seen as the sort of very liberal thing that people like Jezebel and Ethnic Studies professors support. The important thing isn’t that I convince anyone that trigger warnings are really on the right – that’s a tall order – but that the rightists reading my argument feel like I’m working with them rather than against them. I’m not just another leftist saying “Support trigger warnings because it’s the leftist thing and you should be leftist and everyone on the right is terrible!”

          My reward was seeing a bunch of hard-core anti-social-justice types trip over themselves in horror at actually being kind of convinced, which was pretty funny.

          On the other hand, when I’m trying to convince feminists of something, I start with a trigger warning – partly because I genuinely believe it’s a good idea and those posts can be triggering, but also partly because starting with a trigger warning is a tribal signal that people on the right rarely use. It means that either I’m on their side, or I’m being unusually respectful to it. In this it’s a lot like Trump saying illegal immigrants are rapists – something the outgroup would never, ever do.

          (And that’s not just my theory – I’ve gotten lots of angry comments about the trigger warnings from people further right than me, saying that using them makes me an idiot or a pushover or a cuck or something. I am always happy to get these comments, because it means the signaling value of using trigger warnings remains intact.)

          Crossing tribal signaling boundaries is by far the most important persuasive technique I know, besides which none of the others even deserve to be called persuasive techniques at all. But to make it work, you have to actually understand the signals, and you have to have at least an ounce of honest sympathy for the other side. You can’t just be like “HELLO THERE, FELLOW LIBERALS! LET’S CREATE INTRUSIVE BIG GOVERNMENT AGENCIES TOGETHER! BUT BEFORE WE DO, I HAVE SOMETHING I WANT TO TELL YOU ABOUT THE SECOND AMENDMENT…”

          Which I guess means that being able to consider both sides of an issue sort of gives you superpowers. That’s pretty encouraging.

          http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/02/20/writing-advice/

          • Wrong Species says:

            Disagree on Trump. His actual policies so far have been based on pretty standard Republican talking points. Even when it’s not (trade), he’s not diverging too far from consensus and there’s even precedent. Reagan and Bush pushed some tariffs.

            Also, I think if you make it too obvious that you are using tribal markers to manipulate people, they’ll see through it and distrust you. You can’t just say that abortion is All-American and suddenly have the right agreeing with you. Even if they believe that you’re being sincere that still won’t automatically work, especially when it comes to positions that people hold strongly.

          • phil says:

            your disagreement seems beside the point,

            to the point, cynically, this strikes me as one of Scott’s clunkier uses of tribal signaling

          • yodelyak says:

            Assuming that you are right, and the Ben Shapiro knocks are just Scott’s lazy way of picking on the IDW so as to show he’s tribally connected to the left… they’re sloppy.

          • quaelegit says:

            If it’s a clunky signalling gambit, there’s still the question of why Scott chose Ben Shapiro for his clunky signalling gambit. (Apologies if this question might be answered lower in the thread, I’m just now reading it for the first time.)

      • christianschwalbach says:

        Ya’ll are reading waay too into this. Cant a guy dislike Ben Shapiro but still enjoy Rogan, Harris, etc…? I fall into this camp. Not everything has to toe the party line, even if you have expressed support for it

        • quaelegit says:

          For those of us unfamiliar with Shapiro it is surprising that Scott feels so strongly about it that he made so many asides in this post, so we are curious why does feel so strongly. (I think people have replied with links lower down in this post, and if they aren’t videos I’ll try to read them, so that might help me understand you or Scott dislikes him.)

    • J Mann says:

      I don’t read a lot of Shapiro, but he strikes me as a TNC of the right – a good writer with a strong world view, but willing to engage other arguments and basically good hearted.

      I’d be interested in Scott’s thoughts about why Shapiro in particular deserves a call-out.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I just can’t stand him after that Michelle Fields debacle. For a guy who’s supposed to be all “facts don’t care about your feelings” he went full White Knight when it suited him. Scott may dislike him for being the outgroup, but I dislike him for being a traitor.

        • fightscenegrades says:

          Yes, and the facts supported Michelle Fields being battered by Corey Lewandowski, lying about it, and then Trump covering for him. Using those facts, Shapiro stood on principle. Nothing unusual there whatsoever.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            “Battered” ugh. She stood in somebody’s way as they were moving, got brushed by, and then claimed she was “thrown to the ground.” There is video evidence. She was not thrown, she didn’t even stumble. Ben played along with the act because he’s a neocon NeverTrumper.

          • yodelyak says:

            @fightscenegrades, @conradhoncho
            The video the Guardian has clearly shows him reaching between people to get hold of and restrain her.

            Link.

            Any good law student could tell you his conduct was 1) intentional, 2) made intentional physical contact with her person, and 3) that conduct was harmful or offensive… and so his conduct pretty assuredly meets all the basic elements of the civil tort of battery. If she has any damages, she can sue to recover them and likely succeed, unless Lewandowski has a good defense for his behavior. (She probably would have a hard time getting more than one dollar unless she can show actual damages.) His conduct might also meet the elements for false confinement, which is the civil tort for, e.g., a frat brother who blocks the only door to force someone to remain at a frat who would rather leave.

            Lewandowski does have one potentially good defense, which is that Trump, who is ~80 years old, and who is a person with a security detail, and who, Lewandowski claimed, “flinched” at Ms. Fields movement toward him/touching of him. (No such flinch/ touch or otherwise is apparent on the video; rather the opposite actually.) If a jury were persuaded that Lewandowski reasonably believed he was acting to defend candidate Trump, Lewandowski could avoid liability.

            That all ignores that “battery” is a word that some/many/most (?) people normally use to describe inter-spousal abuse with thrown fists, broken bones, hospital visits–e.g. “battered wives” and so using it to describe somewhat forcefully restraining a journalist by their sleeve/wrist… as hyperbolic. A better phrase might be “technical battery” or just “pulled her by the arm.” We should expect nothing less than some good hyperbolic rhetoric from our news media, especially the ones that survive on clicks rather than memberships or subscriptions, so this doesn’t damn anyone, it just proves that sensationalism sells.

            The facts do support that Ms. Fields was generally honest about what happened, and that Mr. Lewandowski was not, at least to the point where there’s nothing damning about Mr. Shapiro finding himself personally persuaded that she was honest, and Lewandowski both over the line and lied about it.

            All told, if a jury got involved with this, maybe $10 or $100 or maybe, just maybe, $1000 would change hands. Everyone would lose more on the lawyer fees and lost time, and Ms. Fields and Mr. Lewandowski have, it seems, wisely found better things to do with their time. Let’s do likewise.

      • John Schilling says:

        I don’t read a lot of Shapiro, but he strikes me as a TNC of the right

        Someone who used to be worth reading, but has since gone off the deep end viewing everything in the world through a pair of blood-red rage-tinted glasses?

    • Clarence says:

      Here’s a quick 2:30 introduction to Ben Shapiro.

      For longer form, Dave Rubin interviews Shapiro. Good to listen while on a long commute.

      Frankly, I think real criticism of Shapiro would be his strident pro-Israel stance, even when they’re clearly wrong.

    • MasteringTheClassics says:

      I’m pretty Orthodox Republican in my political views, so I don’t tend to disagree much with Shapiro, but it is really weird that he’s on the list for the intellectual dark web (his distaste for Bannon’s Breitbart notwithstanding). The man is a bog-standard conservative pundit – if he’s on there then Ann Coulter probably should be too. If I had to bet on it, I’d say it’s some combination of AnteriorMotive’s point and the fact that he probably agrees with most of these people in a way that he really doesn’t agree with Shapiro.

    • Futhington says:

      Maybe Shapiro (a Red Tribe Jew) is Scott’s (a Blue Tribe Jew) outgroup? While the rest of the IDW types are his fargroup.

      • yodelyak says:

        Edited: below remains intact, but really just ignore me and go read Iain’s link to the Nathan Robinson takedown of Shapiro. Mystery solved; Shapiro really has just established a big pattern of awful.

        Playing the game of “which one is not like the others,” and having watched/read a little more of Shapiro than when I first read this… I’d say that Shapiro stands out for being much more conventional or standard-Republican than the rest of Scott’s examples of IDW types. Shapiro’s conventional-ness may be a symptom of Shapiro still expecting short inferential distances between what he thinks is true, and the actual world. (Perhaps he is simply very good at performing, and knows that small inferential distances are best for public personalities. The result is the same, for purposes of choosing where to get your ideas and information.)

        Shapiro is willing and even expecting to be occasionally surprised about a particular person’s character–perhaps he was shocked by the stuff we learned about Bill Cosby, for example. But Shapiro is not expecting to be surprised about other things. He is probably not inclined to say that the ‘me too’ phenomenon has changed his view of maleness. He is probably not deeply curious about radical life extension; nor choiceless mode; nor whether a “stream-of-consciousness” is really a single stream or 10,000 streams, massively parallel to each other, nor the fermi paradox or other anthropic-principle-adjacent puzzles, nor etc etc. That, in turn, means if you spend a lot of your time on earth mediating your information by way of a Shapiro-shaped filter, you are going to be systematically watering down all the surprises you might otherwise encounter.

        One really protective thing about being Shapiro-like is that it’s protective when interacting with someone who is smarter than you, and who likely does not have your interests at heart. All of us can at least imagine what it would be like to interact with someone much smarter than us. If you let that person persuade you into a new model of the world, how likely is it that in your new world there is something that person has–advice, a used car, a dietary supplement–which you now need, and need to pay for, and whose price previously would have seemed unreasonably high?

        That protection, however, comes at two costs. One, you give up the ability to swiftly update–that’s what it means to be conservative. Two, you strongly signal that you are dumb, because you are accepting a philosophy that is the necessary choice of dumb people… “I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it.” — John Stuart Mill

    • Iain says:

      Here’s Nathan Robinson’s takedown of Ben Shapiro. Given the number of articles he’s written in response to Nathan Robinson, I think it’s likely that Scott has read this one.

      I don’t follow Shapiro and can’t speak directly to the accuracy of the article, but if it’s accurate I think it would justify Scott’s dismissal. This part, in particular, paints Shapiro as a kind of anti-Scott:

      Ben Shapiro is lying to his audience, by telling them that he is just a person concerned with the Truth, when the only thing he actually cares about is destroying the left. “Facts don’t care about your feelings” is a fine mantra, albeit kind of a dickish one. But it’s worthless if you’re going to interpret every last fact in the way most favorable to your own preconceptions, if you’re going to ignore evidence contrary to your position, and refuse to try to understand what your opponents actually believe. The New York Times actually quoted a sensible-sounding ex-Shapiro fan, who said he realized over time that Shapiro was just concerned with convincing other people he was right, rather than actually being right. Shapiro is annoying because he claims to love speech and discourse, to believe you should “get to know people… get to know their views…discuss,” but if you’re an Arab he’s already convinced you’re a secret anti-Semite, and if you’re a poor black person he doesn’t need to know you to know that you’re culturally dysfunctional.

      • phil says:

        I was thinking about it, and my reactions to Robinson and Shapiro are actually very similar.

        When they’re writing something I already agree on, I spend a lot of time nodding along and thinking they’re making lots of great points.

        But, I’ve never had the experience of reading them and disagreeing at the start, and then having a different opinion (even small scale, just having a slightly more nuanced opinion) at the end.

        ——–

        in contrast to the author of this blog,

        and two other writers who seem conspicuously absent from dark intellectuals article, Sailer and Moldbug

        • Yaleocon says:

          Sailer? Really? Which articles from him did you see as “really convincing”? I don’t think my mind’s ever been changed by one of his articles, but then again, I might just be reading the wrong stuff.

          Moldbug, I agree, is definitely provocative. Even if you don’t agree with him, your worldview is likely to change just as a product of coming up with compelling counterarguments.

        • j r says:

          Can’t see how either Sailer or Moldbug are particularly interesting.

          Sailer is perhaps the perfect example of someone who consistently passes off trite, mediocre analysis as something other than that, primarily under the facade that it’s controversial.

          Moldbug does something similar, but with so many more words and really goofy metaphors, like the Cathedral and Cthulhu. And all those words just to make a case for monarchy, which would be an interesting and tempting idea if you’d never heard of King Leopold II or WWI.

          • phil says:

            I don’t agree with the trite mediocre analysis line, but I don’t think flawless analytic brilliance is the right way to think about this anyway.

            The better way to think about this is using Charles Munger’s idea of using mental models to increase worldly wisdom.

            Let me quote a little at length:

            “What is elementary, worldly wisdom? Well, the first rule is that you can’t really know anything if you just remember isolated facts and try and bang ’em back. If the facts don’t hang together on a latticework of theory, you don’t have them in a usable form.

            You’ve got to have models in your head. And you’ve got to array your experience—both vicarious and direct—on this latticework of models. You may have noticed students who just try to remember and pound back what is remembered. Well, they fail in school and in life. You’ve got to hang experience on a latticework of models in your head.

            What are the models? Well, the first rule is that you’ve got to have multiple models—because if you just have one or two that you’re using, the nature of human psychology is such that you’ll torture reality so that it fits your models, or at least you’ll think it does. You become the equivalent of a chiropractor who, of course, is the great boob in medicine.

            It’s like the old saying, “To the man with only a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” And of course, that’s the way the chiropractor goes about practicing medicine. But that’s a perfectly disastrous way to think and a perfectly disastrous way to operate in the world. So you’ve got to have multiple models.

            And the models have to come from multiple disciplines—because all the wisdom of the world is not to be found in one little academic department. That’s why poetry professors, by and large, are so unwise in a worldly sense. They don’t have enough models in their heads. So you’ve got to have models across a fair array of disciplines. ”

            https://old.ycombinator.com/munger.html

            One way to think about who you read in your free time, is not ‘is their logic flawless all the way throughout?’ but rather, ‘are they adding mental models that help me understand the universe?’

            Its worth noting here, that you get massive bonus points for originality, if I’ve heard it before, its already in my mental models.

            Robinson and Shapiro are both good writers, and sometimes their stuff is interesting to read.

            But, I went to college, I’ve known college republicans and dorm room socialists. Shapiro and Robinson are probably better thinkers and writers than the typical college republican and dorm room socialist, but they don’t significantly alter my mental models of how that sort of person analyzes the world.

            In contrast, prior to reading Sailer and Moldbug, I didn’t know anyone who thought about the world like they do, they were both legitimately new additions to my mental models of how people analyze the world.

            Which isn’t to say they don’t have their influences that shape their world views, (but I wasn’t familiar with them prior to reading them, [maybe the big difference is I was sort of familiar with Shapiro and Robinson’s influences before reading their work]).

            ———-

            Lots of people seemed baffled by the events of 2016.

            I think a big part of that was because they didn’t have the mental models that reading Sailer or Moldbug would have provided. It wasn’t just that they didn’t agree with those guys (fwiw, I don’t think I’m exceptionally in agreement with either one), its that they didn’t even have a mental model for those guys. They literal didn’t know any smart people who thought about the world like Sailer or Moldbug do.

            And they were really unprepared when people who had read those guys started showing up in the NYTs comments section, or on reddit, or twitter, or facebook.

            (another way to think of why Moldbug and Sailer are important, is that a massive amount of the meme-verse that was an important part of why 2016 was unique from other years, basically can be thought of as people parroting two somewhat distinct lines of thought that those two guys originated, they’re both hugely important to understanding 2016)

            ——–

            additional thoughts, it seems natural to lump Sailer and Moldbug together, but I actually think that they’re pretty different from each other, the main similarity is that they seem to elicit strong negative reactions from the same people.

          • Jon Gunnarsson says:

            And all those words just to make a case for monarchy, which would be an interesting and tempting idea if you’d never heard of King Leopold II or WWI.

            This is far too glib. One bad monarch and one destructive war in which some of the belligerents were monarchies is hardly a convincing argument against monarchy. In a hypothetical 22nd century post-democracy world, a commenter might just as easily dismiss democracy as being an interesting and tempting idea if you’ve never heard of Chancellor Hitler and WWII.

      • J Mann says:

        I like Robinson, but he has a tendency to round arguments up into something he can disagree with. Here he is characterizing a Shapiro quote (which, to his credit, he includes)

        The main thrust of the speech, though, is that America is the greatest country in the world, that there are no real injustices facing black people, women, and poor people, and that if you don’t do well economically here it’s entirely your fault. As he says:

        This country is an amazing place full of opportunity. Nobody, by and large, cares enough about you to stop you from achieving your dreams. That includes you, people who are shouting out there in the audience. No one cares about you; get over yourselves. I don’t care about you; no one cares about you…That means, in a free country, if you fail, it’s probably your own fault.

        Robinson includes the quote, so I think he honestly believes “it’s probably your own fault” is exactly the same as “there are no real injustices facing [you]” and “it’s entirely your own fault.”

        On the other hand, I think he is right that Shapiro is overstating his case in the Berkeley speech, and is probably smart enough to know better.

        • Iain says:

          That’s slightly unfair to Robinson. “There are no real injustices and it’s all your fault” is not his summary of the quote; it’s his summary of the entire speech. The quote is just an example. If you follow Robinson’s link to the transcript of the speech, you can find stuff like this:

          The idea that black people in the United States are disproportionately poor because America is racist; that’s just not true, at least not in terms of America’s racism today keeping black people down. It’s just not the case.

          Indeed, Robinson goes on to summarize and respond to Shapiro’s three arguments for this proposition.

          Robinson probably misrepresents Shapiro somewhere in this article, but I’m not convinced this is an example.

          • J Mann says:

            Thanks – I went back, and I’m still pretty much in the same camp.

            Shapiro’s speech is clear that he believes in remedying individual acts of discrimination, so “no real injustices” is IMHO, just plainly unfair.

            Ultimately, Shapiro’s speech is fairly dismissive towards the concept of structural discrimination. Read most charitably, Shapiro is saying that the most important determinant in most people’s lives is their effort, and that societal discrimination is at an all-time low. Read less charitably, he’s arguing against structural discrimination altogether.

            Robinson argues that Shapiro is arguing in bad faith because Robinson believes that if Shapiro knew about, e.g., Devah Pager’s experiments examining the effect of race and criminal history on job callbacks, Shapiro would ignore it. I think that’s a pretty aggressive leap from the speech Robinson offers. You can believe structural discrimination is less important than individual effort and still be operating in good faith – I’d be more interested to see a debate between Shapiro and someone else to see how he works with contrary evidence.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @J Mann:

            Robinson argues that Shapiro is arguing in bad faith because Robinson believes that if Shapiro knew about, e.g., Devah Pager’s experiments examining the effect of race and criminal history on job callbacks, Shapiro would ignore it. I think that’s a pretty aggressive leap from the speech Robinson offers.

            Yeah, my immediate reaction to that part was: for all we know, Shapiro knows about this stuff but also knows that when experimenters try calling employers with “black” names and “white” names that suggest similar socioeconomic status the result doesn’t replicate. My guess is that Robinson definitely does not know this, so he’s dinging Shapiro based on an uninformed criticism.

            There were a bunch of Robinson claims that had this dynamic – Robinson thinks Shapiro is ignorant or ignoring data but for all we know Shapiro might be ahead rather than behind a few moves in their chess game.

            Another one that really stuck out was, to paraphrase: “Over a decade ago, Shapiro wrote a column saying we should do X about the Arabs, which is a bad plan and he should feel bad. But sometimes in the last decade Shapiro seems to have CHANGED HIS MIND such that in a much more recent column Shapiro dismissed doing X about the Arabs…but he didn’t in THAT PRECISE COLUMN call out the fact that he used to believe X himself, so we should criticize him today for being a hypocrite (for having gradually changed his mind on some point, even if it was in a direction we approve of) as well as criticizing him for having believed something bad in his 20s that he no longer believes – the fact that he ever believed it means he is bad and should feel bad.”

            Under that logic, Ben Shapiro appears obliged to either never change his mind or if he ever does change his mind he is at least obliged to say “I once believed [wrong thing]!” every single time the topic in which he changed his mind comes up. Is that really what Robinson wants?

        • Baeraad says:

          Robinson includes the quote, so I think he honestly believes “it’s probably your own fault” is exactly the same as “there are no real injustices facing [you]” and “it’s entirely your own fault.”

          I’m not sure I can see much difference either. I mean, yeah, it’s a slight overstatement, since Shapiro said “probably.” So if you’re being entirely fair, you should sum it up as “there are no real injustices facing you and it’s entirely your fault unless of course you are part of the kind of statistically insignificant outlier that always exists and renders all broad statements technically inaccurate.” I mean, he’s basically hedging against the near-certainty that even if he’s basically right, there’s going to be at least one (1) black person who has faced some injustices and whose situation isn’t their own fault. Which is sensible of him, but it doesn’t really change the overall message.

      • yodelyak says:

        Wow. Nathan Robinson’s takedown has completely persuaded me, and I feel I was mistaken to defend Shapiro at all. I still think I did somewhere see Shapiro make a modestly reasoned argument that the shrill left is too dismissive of the pro-life right… but, uh, dang. I’m done defending Shapiro, and am no longer curious why Scott used him as a punching bag.

        • Glen Raphael says:

          Nathan Robinson’s takedown has completely persuaded me

          I found large sections of it weak. Robinson saw what he wanted to see, parsed things uncharitably and just generally failed to bridge the inferential gap. Large chunks of it seem to read as “I don’t understand the premises that led to Shapiro saying X, so I’m going to assume it’s ignorance, carelessness or evil.”

          For instance, Robinson says regarding race that Shapiro “pretends the statistics that suggest it does matter don’t exist.” And sure, it could be that’s what Shapiro is doing, but it also could be that Shapiro is in a different info-bubble that makes him aware of other studies which undermine the studies Robinson relies on. For instance, a couple of Robinson’s points/links are based on studies showing discrimination against black job applicants getting callbacks. Robinson doesn’t appear to be aware that these studies fail to replicate when an attempt is made to use more comparable names. [Yes, names can suggest racial status, but they can also suggest age, culture, and socioeconomic status. eg, “white” names like “Cletus” or “Billy Bob”.]

          (A Chicago Tribune article reporting one of the later studies was titled: Hiring Bias Study: Resumes with black, white, Hispanic names treated the same.)

          So is it Shapiro or is it Robinson who is “pretending statistics don’t exist” in this area?

          The thing about whether “Arabs like to bomb crap and live in sewage.” has a similar quality – Robinson doesn’t know what Shapiro’s tweet is about so he guesses, but guesses wrong in a way that reinforces his priors. Shapiro appears to be referring to things like Israel agrees to PA request to reduce Gaza electricity, a key aspect of the Gaza Electricity Crisis. From Shapiro’s perspective, Gaza is collectively choosing policies that prevent them from having enough electric power to fully run the sewage treatment plants, thus they are choosing to “live in open sewage”, a fact which seems so sad-but-unavoidable that bitter humor is the only reasonable response.

          To elaborate: There’s tax income available to pay for power from Israel, but the Palestinian Authority asked Israel to stop providing so much power because they don’t want to pay for it. Meanwhile Gaza has power plants of its own which they could run using fuel from Israel or Egypt but Hamas has bombed some of the relevant pipelines from Israel and has managed to piss off Egypt enough that Egypt doesn’t want to sell them more fuel. If the Arabs in Gaza (what Shapiro meant by “Arabs” in his tweet) really don’t want to swim in sewage, there are things they could do to fix that. On the Egypt side: stop the terrorist attacks against Egypt (and help/let Egypt catch the people who have already carried out such attacks), stop blowing up the infrastructure, and Egypt should be happy to sell you enough fuel to run your existing plants. Or on the Israel side: Use the tax funds designated for that purpose to buy the power you need; use that power to run the sewage treatment plants. Stop deliberately cutting power supplies to less than the amount needed, regardless of why you’re doing it. In sum, the tweet “Israelis like to build. Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage.” is a particularly Jewish style of wry humor, it’s a response to the reality that there seems to be no way to get Gaza to do the things that would naively seem to be in it its own collective best interest.

          (So either they want to live in sewage or they want a system of government which inflicts this on them or they are powerless to prevent such a system due to the mother of all collective action problems.)

          (The Israeli theory as to why the PA did this seems to be: (a) keeping locals angry at outsiders helps maintain local political power in a current power struggle with Hamas, (b) keeping locals desperately pathetic helps PR with the outside world, (c) not buying enough power means more money available for graft and tunnel-building and weapons.)

          • Doctor Mist says:

            This was very helpful; thanks!

          • INH5 says:

            Shapiro appears to be referring to things like Israel agrees to PA request to reduce Gaza electricity, a key aspect of the Gaza Electricity Crisis. From Shapiro’s perspective, Gaza is collectively choosing policies that prevent them from having enough electric power to fully run the sewage treatment plants, thus they are choosing to “live in open sewage”, a fact which seems so sad-but-unavoidable that bitter humor is the only reasonable response.

            From the article you linked:

            The Israeli government has agreed to cut down its electricity supply in the Gaza Strip, at the behest of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA), Israeli officials said.

            According to Yoav Mordechai, the Israeli head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), President Mahmoud Abbas requested Israel to stop supplying electricity to Gaza back in April.

            The PA declined to comment to Al Jazeera.

            Khalil Shaheen, a Ramallah-based political analyst, said the PA was applying heavy pressure on the Hamas government to relinquish its control over the Gaza Strip.

            “The PA is trying to whip up public anger from Gaza residents towards Hamas by various means,” Shaheen told Al Jazeera.

            “The decision to slash the salaries of PA employees in Gaza by 30 percent in addition to not paying for Israeli electricity is designed for Gaza to reach its breaking point, and for people to turn against Hamas,” Shaheen said.

            He also pointed out that these measures could be connected to Abbas’ willingness to prove to the US and international community that the PA is with them in opposing Hamas.

            So describing this as the Arabs in Gaza choosing to not have enough electricity seems like a bit of a stretch, to say the least.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            So describing this as the Arabs in Gaza choosing to not have enough electricity seems like a bit of a stretch

            I would accept expanding the collective making that decision to “Arabs in Gaza AND West Bank” if you prefer that.

            Yes, the Palestinian Authority has more power in the West Bank (so it’s not incorrect to call them West Bank-based) but the PA still also remains nominally part of the government of Gaza. This sub-brouhaha is a fight between two Palestinian factions: Hamas and Fatah. Hamas won most of the power in Gaza in 2006 but Fatah (dominant in West Bank) is still in the mix.

            What makes Shapiro’s tweet work is the contrast between “Israel” and these “Arabs”. See, Israel also has a government composed of many powerful factions which hate each other…yet somehow the Israeli factions tend not to resolve differences by blowing up schools or trying to starve each other of power (or food, or safe water). (Israel also has regular elections whereas Hamas got elected once (in 2006) and doesn’t seem inclined to schedule another one any time soon.)

            It’s a mess. Shapiro is in the unenviable position that he has to have a definite opinion and his opinion has to be logically consistent with the continued safe existence of Jews in Israel. Most of the rest of us have the luxury of not really being in that situation so we can just tsk-tsk at how sad it all is and say Somebody Should Do Something while being vague about what.

          • albatross11 says:

            When you’re judging whether some person (IDW or otherwise) is worthwhile to listen to, I think it’s not all that worthwhile to ask “is this a morally good person?” or “has this person said some things that are offensive to me?” Instead, it’s useful to ask “What is this person good at?” and “What can I learn from this person?”

            As a non-IDW example, I don’t have any reason to think Charlie Rose is any kind of a great thinker, and I gather he wasn’t much fun to have as a boss if you were an attractive woman. But he did some really excellent interviews in which the interviewee could and did express their own ideas clearly and well. I’d say Charlie Rose was/is really great as an interviewer. If you can find a video of him interviewing someone worth listening to, I recommend watching it. But this isn’t a statement about Rose as a human being or as a thinker–a hundred takedowns of his moral failings wouldn’t change that assessment.

    • mdet says:

      I tried getting into Shapiro — watched about two or three of his YouTube eps, read some of his articles — but I didn’t like him. I generally go with commentators who say “I understand where my opponents are coming from, and I think they have some insights worth hearing, but I still disagree for these reasons”. From what little I’ve seen, Ben Shapiro is pretty civil and intelligent when talking with someone he disagrees with, acknowledging their good points and criticizing the bad parts of his own side. But then he’ll get on his show / write in his column and say “Liberals are complete idiots, massive idiots, just whiny idiots, all the time. [Proceeds to only engage with weak-manned versions of liberal arguments]”. I wouldn’t go so far as to call him a demagogue who’s better off ignored, I think he is capable of good stuff. But as a liberal, I didn’t see the value in listening to someone berate liberals every few minutes, only to offer up the worst / weakest thing someone on my side said as evidence.

      But I maybe I just picked unrepresentative episodes of his show, and he’s more humble & charitable elsewhere

    • j r says:

      Is there a model of Ben Shapiro as good faith interlocutor that accounts for his Trayvon Martin Tweet?

      Trayvon Martin would have turned 21 today if he hadn’t taken a man’s head and beaten it on the pavement before being shot.

      It’s one thing to believe that George Zimmerman acted in self defense. But does that Tweet serve any purpose other than ingroup virtue signalling and edgelording?

      • J Mann says:

        I think it’s fair to argue that Shapiro is purposely edgy to build his brand, and if that’s the reason Scott doesn’t like him, I won’t argue.

        Here’s Shapiro’s longer answer on that issue. If I were reading as charitably as I could, I’d say that Shapiro means that on Martin’s 21st birthday, there were a lot of posts arguing that Martin was killed for being black, which Shapiro believes is (a) factually incorrect and (b) socially harmful, and that Shapiro believes that being provocative is the best way to get attention.

        If I were reading less charitably, I’d argue that Shapiro needs to be provocative to keep his brand up, and that he’s basically a younger Ann Coulter – smart, probably mostly sincere, but offending people sells ads, so that’s what he does.

        Alternatively, to go back to my description of Shapiro as a TNC of the right, maybe Shapiro just thinks it’s (a) true and (b) needs to be said. I was pretty disappointed when Coates was quoted as saying that he doesn’t expect Kevin Williamson to “see me or, frankly, a lot of [the Atlantic staff] as fully realized human beings.” Now, I’m sure Coates means something metaphorical that I might understand if I had read all his work, but the first time I read it, I was just offended. Like Shapiro, Coates presumably said it because he thought it was true and needs to be said, and I guess because it fits his brand.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Shapiro’s longer explanation is a good (bad) example of the lawyering that goes on in these pieces. His goal is to make his case sound as convincing as possible to his target audience, not to address truth. Take the references to Martin’s drug use, he establishes (if we take his claims at face value) that Martin used marijuana, but he does not establish that marijuana ought to be considered a mitigating factor or that it would increase the chances of Martin being violent. He further reports on the stories that Martin used other substances, codine + skittles, but again doesn’t address if this ought to be a mitigating factor, it is just assumed.

          Knowing what I know about drugs (which isn’t a lot and is probably incorrect in many areas) this is a dishonest representation. It is an attempt to make his case sound stronger by introducing evidence without substance to make his case appear stronger, but I feel very confident that had Martin been found to use PCP not only would it have been included but links or a description of the potential increase in violence for a PCP user would also have been included.

        • Aapje says:

          It may indeed be a response to tweets like these.

          It seems to me that this is really just the continuation of the debate over whether the black people who are held up as victims of police violence were mistreated or whether the police acted correctly.

          I don’t think that people from either side argue their position to be edgy, but because they believe that racial discrimination by the police played a big role or that it did not.

      • mdet says:

        Regarding Shapiro’s insightfulness, I think any analysis of Trayvon Martin’s shooting that doesn’t consider that *both of them were probably acting in self-defense* is blind. Zimmerman saw a kid he considered sketchy-looking wandering around the neighborhood at night, IIRC a week or two after there had previously been robberies in the area. It’s possible that race influenced his assessment of sketchiness, but if we put ourself in his mind then following Martin was a foolish but not entirely unreasonable movie. From Martin’s perspective, he was walking home from the store, IIRC high off weed, when he noticed a grown man with a gun stalking him for several blocks, was almost definitely afraid for his life, and made the foolish but not entirely unreasonable choice to strike first.

        As you say, it’s one thing to believe George Zimmerman was justified in pulling the trigger, it’s another to act like you wouldn’t also consider raising your fists against a grown man with a gun who stalked and pursued you for several blocks in the dark of night, or that both parties didn’t escalate.

        • dndnrsn says:

          That’s an interesting take, and one I hadn’t seen before. What I recall of the case, what really in retrospect stuns me is how the facts sort of got hammered to fit a narrative on either side of the case. It sort of got turned into a referendum, so to speak.

        • Aapje says:

          @mdet

          I think any analysis of Trayvon Martin’s shooting that doesn’t consider that *both of them were probably acting in self-defense* is blind.

          Zimmerman was not acting in self-defense when he decided to follow Martin.

          From Martin’s perspective, he was walking home from the store, IIRC high off weed, when he noticed a grown man with a gun stalking him for several blocks

          According to Zimmerman’s testimony, Martin noticed his gun during the beating and Zimmerman didn’t pull out his gun until he was already being beaten, so if this is correct, it seems unlikely that Martin knew he had a gun.

          It also seems unlikely to me that Martin would have decided to attack Zimmerman if Martin knew that Zimmerman had a gun, so his behavior suggests that he didn’t know at that time.

          [Martin] was almost definitely afraid for his life, and made the foolish but not entirely unreasonable choice to strike first.

          ‘Striking first’ is an escalation though. It is not reasonable to defend disproportionate escalation.

          According to Zimmerman’s testimony, he had already lost track of Martin and was returning to his car, when Martin confronted and attacked him. If that testimony is correct, then Martin’s attack doesn’t seem like self-defense to me, by any reasonable standard.

          • mdet says:

            Thanks for the corrections, it has been a few years. But in my mind it still makes a significant difference that Martin didn’t just assault some rando on the street, he chose to make a strike against a strange man who had been pursuing him in the night. Martin’s attack was a reckless escalation by someone who was high and already had some history of fighting/aggression, but I think we can still say that he was reacting out of a reasonable fear that we all might’ve had in that scenario. Which, to me, makes Shapiro’s tweet feel like a mischaracterization, even if Zimmerman was justified to pull the trigger.

          • Aapje says:

            Shapiro’s tweet doesn’t complain about Martin’s motivations though, it complains about his actions.

            Of course, you can complain that Shapiro doesn’t present the mitigation circumstances, but Twitter is designed to make people leave out context and nuance.

          • John Schilling says:

            Shapiro’s tweet doesn’t complain about Martin’s motivations though, it complains about his actions.

            But almost everyone believes that motivations matter. Shapiro may not, but his audience does and he knows it.

            If, e.g. Elliot Rodger’s first victim had managed to do some damage before dying, nobody on any side of the culture war would be posting anniversary tweets saying, “Katherine Cooper would have turned 21 today if she hadn’t taken a man’s head and beaten it on the pavement before being shot”. Bashing people’s heads is almost universally considered a contemptible act when done with some motives, laudable when done with others, and complaining about it carries a moral judgment on both the head-basher and the head-bashed.

          • albatross11 says:

            What’s Shapiro good at? Does he do especially good interviews? Cover the world from an interesting angle you couldn’t get anywhere else? Talk to extra-weird people from whom you might still learn something?

            I’m not all that concerned with whether he’s a nice guy or whether I agree with his politics, but I’d like to know whether I can learn something from him.

  16. holmesisback says:

    Scott, great piece and eloquent as always.
    But here’s my take and I largely disagree:
    One must take care to differentiate those spheres of society that operate by different standards (and thus stigma in one may not translate to other) and in our case, I think the key is to separate the universe of mass opinion from the world of academia.
    I can readily accept the notion that academia is extremely hostile to IDW ideas. But the whole idea of IDW isn’t targeted at academia. It’s a web based appeal to the masses. And as such, its premise is that there is exceptional IDW stigma amongst the crowds.
    I say exceptional because of course there is a lot of stigma and intolerance and that’s a simple fact of life. If you say something on either end of the spectrum that is disliked, you can accept a lot of a priori dismissiveness without being engaged on content. If you are famous/ unlucky you can also expect nut jobs sending you death threats etc. as well. So, the existence of such phenomena is not proof of exceptional stigma by themselves. The IDW needs to show more.
    But honestly I find it very difficult to believe that there is exceptional stigmatization of IDW ideas in the masses for the obvious reasons. IDW figures have extensive and highly engaged audiences. You try to sidestep this by staying that greater taboo correlates with increased viewing, rather than decreased. I disagree. Sure, taboo is interesting for a moment but it is not fascinating in the long term. For example, Milo the provocateur par excellence was ultimately a flash in the plan. If your appeal is solely shock then it is inevitable that your novelty and concomitant appeal will fade. As you said about your articles, the ones that are controversial cause a massive stir. But the reason that people like me come back again and again to read your stuff, is because it seems to us to be intelligent and true, not due to its controversial nature.
    Shapiro, Rubin, Peterson et al. are not taboo artists. They have strong long-term audiences. This can only be explained by the fact that their content is quite well-accepted and compelling to a massive audience. People don’t come back to things they disagree with. They return to the familiar and to what they feel is true. These ideas are most certainly not taboo in the masses.
    Sure, there are places where they would be not accepted and even reviled but so what? How well do you think Vox does in the Fox News audience bracket?
    In summary, I feel that there is a case to say that the IDW are portraying themselves as persecuted when in fact they are widely accepted. In academia, it is a different story but then their whole approach should be different.

    • Nick says:

      It’s a web based appeal to the masses. And as such, its premise is that there is exceptional IDW stigma amongst the crowds.

      How does that follow? Are you suggesting you can’t rightly complain about stigma from elites unless you’re talking to said elites?

      Sure, taboo is interesting for a moment but it is not fascinating in the long term. For example, Milo the provocateur par excellence was ultimately a flash in the plan.

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but he actually fell out of the limelight because he made remarks in an interview that sounded like approval of hebephilia. I’d say that better fits Scott’s model of leaving the edge for the unacceptable.

      • MawBTS says:

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but he actually fell out of the limelight because he made remarks in an interview that sounded like approval of hebephilia. I’d say that better fits Scott’s model of leaving the edge for the unacceptable.

        Milo Yiannopolous is like Wile E Coyote dashing off a cliff, into empty air. It took a while, but gravity reasserted itself.

        The hebephilia thing didn’t help, but that alone didn’t finish him. He had big media appearances after that, and profiles in major media outlets. His career was on a downward trend, but he was still somewhat in the public eye.

        Want to know what really sunk him? There was no business model in what he was doing.

        Nothing gets boring as fast as shock tactics with no substance. Milo had talent for self promotion, but no original ideas, no writing abilities (his articles/books are now known to be ghostwritten), and no depth to his shtick beyond “I’m a gay man saying things gay men don’t normally say!” How long can you stay entertained by that?

        He was like a kid who saw KISS perform, and thought “if I wear scary makeup, people will love me too!” Well, yeah, the makeup’s part of it, but it isn’t enough. You also have to write a “Detroit Rock City”. Milo never did. He never even wrote a “Beth”.

        He sold twenty thousand copies of his book, which he self-published. For a person with his brand, that can safely be called an abject failure. Lena Dunham’s autobiography sold ten times as many copies, and that was considered an ominous sign of reader fatigue.

        His news site, Dangerous, recently folded after the Mercer family cut off their capital. That’s how he was staying afloat. Other people’s money. Now it’s all gone. Sucks for the writers who were laid off, but I guess when you work for Milo you’ve got to plan on landing on your feet sooner or later.

        Now he has zilch, and there’s nothing left but to wait for the overdose and the death certificate.

        • MasteringTheClassics says:

          I really don’t think that’s true; Ann Coulter has more or less the same shtick, and she’s been around for decades (something similar could probably be said for VoxDay or Cernovich). I was following the commentary on Milo when the pedophilia comments came to light, and almost all the channels that would defend him off the edge of a cliff left him for dead in the void that week. He also lost his job at Breitbart and his book deal with S&S. The more main-stream media may have taken a couple weeks to catch on, but it was definitely those comments that did him in.

          • christianschwalbach says:

            Were those channels defending him or cashing in on his popularity? Money talks in this realm, and even if his popularity was diminishing, there was still money to be made off him.

        • AwaitingCertainty says:

          MawBTS I agree with exactly with what you say about Milo’s fall and where he is now EXCEPT I think Milo has a better spirit than you see and is perhaps more intelligent. I agree with his Catholic stances (I’m a convert who dislikes the current Pope a LOT), and he and I both agree with Mother Teresa’s sayings (am I going low brow?) such as these:

          It is a very great poverty to decide that a child must die, that you might live as you wish.

          and

          Abortion is a crime that kills not only the child, but the consciences of all involved.

          I think Milo (I never thought I’d see his star fall, but has it ever fallen!) could reinvent himself by entering the priesthood.

          [smiley face]

      • holmesisback says:

        I’m merely suggesting that if your aiming for reform in academia then make that clear and target those people. There’s no indication of that from IDW

        • Aapje says:

          Heterodox academy (Haidt) is quite explicit about this. It’s in the name.

        • Futhington says:

          That’s what college speaking tours and targeting of students is for. More broadly that’s what the outright hostility to academia is for: if you can turn the perception of academia from the enlightened gatekeepers of knowledge to a bunch of retrograde, censorship-loving brainwashers you can socially shame academics and maybe convince them to change their ways.

      • holmesisback says:

        And I also think the Milo downfall was because of more then that

    • SaiNushi says:

      In the past couple years, there’s been a few cases of SJW’s managing to get people fired for not being PC-enough. (James Demore leaps to mind, but I remember hearing about others that I can’t quite recall enough details to list.)

      I have not heard of any cases of people being fired for being too SJW.

      Youtube demonetizes any video that isn’t PC enough. Facebook suspends accounts for making anti ___ posts, but it started with anti-women and anti-homosexual, and people were shocked when they suspended a woman for her anti-man post. Two years ago, there was a twitter “blacklist”, which listed every MRA and every person who spoke out against conflicts of interest in gaming journalism, angling to get those people banned from Twitter. They came very close to succeeding.

      I have not heard of any cases of a major social media platform banning people for being too SJW.

      The point is that Academia is where people go to learn. When Academia is taken over by one side or another, everyone who goes through Academia will have strong leanings towards that side. When people graduate from a VERY biased institution, they will bring those biases to the world outside of Academia. Both sides are necessary. Both sides have their strengths and weaknesses. Each side has areas where it is right, and areas where it is wrong.

      • Aapje says:

        Tim Chevalier was fired from Google for being too SJW.

        Note that unlike Damore, Chevalier was told repeatedly to cut it out and was only fired when he ignored the instructions by his manager.

        • pilgrimoftheeast says:

          regarding Tim Chevalier there is probably strong case to be made that it was more about reaction to Damore’s lawsuit against Google which documented Google’s liberal bias…

          • Aapje says:

            That’s just speculation though. It could also be that he was not productive enough, was encouraging others to be too unproductive, that his politics were too extreme for the managers or for his colleagues (I don’t believe that even very left-wing spaces will accept all left-wing extremism).

            Anyway, it is a counter-example to SaiNushi’s claim.

        • SaiNushi says:

          Thank you.

  17. Tyler Cowen makes a similar observation in Ezra Klein’s latest podcast. The few academics who are able to voice these ideas – Haidt, Pinker, Peterson, Murray, Hoff Sommers – have built up enough equity to allow them to take risks. They have best-selling books and lots of citations and have sometimes even crowdsourced their own salaries. However, they are completely unrepresentative of academia at large; the vast majority of academics don’t have equity, and only face downside risk by speaking out.

    According to Cowen, there’s not only a major chilling effect going on, but real-world consequences for those who don’t toe the line:

    People like this talk to me all the time. The world does not know how many cases of this there are, including people who lose jobs, or lose promotions, or cannot become administrators… two years ago I didn’t think this, and now it strikes me as a significant worry.

    I listen to all of Tyler’s podcasts and I don’t think I’ve ever heard him bite his tongue so frequently. The whole conversation is worth listening to (relevant discussion starts at 18:00); also covers the recent Chetty paper and related issues.

    • Eponymous says:

      I’m a junior academic, and I’m definitely very careful what I say.

      Fortunately, my main work is mostly on innocuous topics. But I have side interests in topics about which I have quite non-PC views, so the potential for this environment affecting my research is definitely present.

    • Eponymous says:

      I clicked the link and started listening around the 17 minute mark. That’s right in the middle of a commercial where Ezra tells his listeners to call to get their “Free Will”.

      Nice of Ezra to offer existential services to philosophical zombies everywhere!

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      The discussion of silencing starts at 18:00 and ends at about 30:00 and I found it absolutely chilling.

      Of course, it’s only going to be convincing to someone who thinks silencing is actually happening, but Cowen isn’t naming names or subjects because that would put his sources at risk.

      The discussion mentions research that doesn’t happen, which I don’t think has been mentioned on this post.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Definitely. I wonder to what extent Cowen actually holds some of these taboo beliefs? He sounds like someone who does but you can’t be really sure of someone who refuses to engage at all with these questions.

        • albatross11 says:

          It seems to me that refusing to engage with them leaves a few different possibilities:

          a. He holds some taboo beliefs (or some beliefs that at least edge close to the taboos–the taboo enforcers aren’t known for their care in deciding whom to punish for taboo violations), and finds himself unwilling to lie about his beliefs in those areas, but prudent to remain silent about them.

          b. He believes these matters should not be discussed in public for the reasons argued quite a bit in the last couple threads, and so doesn’t engage with the ideas because he doesn’t want the world thinking about them.

          c. He doesn’t have strong opinions/beliefs one way or another on these beliefs, thinks the whole area is a tarpit of fuzzy thinking and bad data, and prefers to just avoid the matter as unprofitable.

          Fortunately, while Cowen would probably suffer some consequences from following Sam Harris’ path, he is at least not required by the existing taboos to lie about his beliefs–remaining silent and not engaging too closely with taboo thinkers is probably sufficient.

    • Wrong Species says:

      One thing he’s getting at but I don’t think he ever explicitly says is that not only do people who have the “wrong beliefs” not speak up but anyone who might be curious about a given subject suddenly has a reason not to. It’s easier to claim plausibility deniability when you are ignorant, and that has costs on its own.

  18. MawBTS says:

    Good article, contributive to the discourse, etc.

    I’m definitely uncomfortable with the “you’re not silenced, look at how many viewers you have!” take Nathan Robinson et al have on this. The unspoken thing there is that the viewpoints are being suppressed in some way, not necessarily the speakers themselves.

    It’s like the Harvey Weinstein/sexual assault scandal in Hollywood. Pushback developed along the lines of “you’re a rich, beautiful, universally idolized actress complaining because a film producer made you give him a massage once. Jeez, have a little perspective!”

    The obvious counterargument is “yeah, these women might be rich and famous, but it also happens to women who aren’t rich and famous, and nobody ever hears about them.”

    Similarly, nobody hears about Razib Khan of GNXP, who was fired from the Washington Post (on his first day, I believe) after some shitbird on Gawker wrote a story about how he worked for a publication that published a racist. To be clear, Razib wasn’t the racist. They simply made him guilty by association with a racist, Six-Degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon style.

    So it might be hard to feel too sorry for a guy making eleven billion dollars on Patreon a month, but there’s a lot of people saying the same stuff who aren’t so fortunate, and maybe Jordan Peterson is carrying the torch for them.

    Comedian Russell Brand once said “When I was poor and complained about inequality they said I was bitter; now that I’m rich and I complain about inequality they say I’m a hypocrite. I’m beginning to think they just don’t want to talk about inequality.” The same might apply to the rich complainers in the IDW. Obviously the megaphone-wielders with the biggest brands will be heard the loudest, but that’s just the way it goes. If they don’t get to complain, nobody does!

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Obviously the megaphone-wielders with the biggest brands will be heard the loudest, but that’s just the way it goes. If they don’t get to complain, nobody does!

      The destitute can also “speak out” in controlled ways. See BLM riots, riots against Trump rallies, etc. These people can’t be identified and fired because they don’t have jobs. So our political discourse is only open to those of independent means or the destitute. The middle and working classes have to watch what they say because they have enough to lose but not enough to not mind losing some.

      • MawBTS says:

        Yes, but the most visible personalities in organizing BLM (for example) were Shaun King, a serial entrepreneur with lots of experience running startups, and DeRay McKesson, who also appears to be wealthy and well-connected.

        And it gained lots of heat on Twitter from endorsements by black celebrities like Kendrick Lamar and Kanye. Without these big names, I don’t think we’d have heard of BLM.

        This is almost always the case – the group that started the NAACP were mostly white, the suffragettes were generally upper class women, etc. “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” is a good saying, but history paints a more nuanced picture.

    • New York Times, not Washington Post.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I’m definitely uncomfortable with the “you’re not silenced, look at how many viewers you have!”

      I heard people using that same argument in the 1980s, talking about black people.

    • Razib says:

      i’m part of the intellectual *darker* web 🙂

    • Jesse E says:

      The horrible result of Razib Khan being fired from the NYT is that he’s now…seemingly making good money doing his actual job in genetics, instead of getting some extra scratch from the NYT. This is not pushing me to believing the “OMG, normal people are having their lives ruined by the SJW’s” argument.

      • albatross11 says:

        As a thought experiment, suppose we Twitter-mob and fire the next several journalists who’ve been associated with antiwar movements over the last few years. How would you expect that to affect public discourse on the next war? Would that change if all those journalists eventually found reasonably well-paid jobs in other fields?

      • Razib says:

        *the new york times* thing is a problem. not an insurmountable one. but it’s probably a mild handicap professionally, though i like to think my skills can overwhelm it. but i know my views/politics are brought up as a problem in hiring because of the visibility of *the new york times* (i know this from people “in the room” who were annoyed that this got brought up since it’s unrelated to my “day job”).

        i also know that that event confirmed to many people that silence is the best individual policy (i think that’s true). i know because people ask my advice and i tell them to be quiet or just lie unless they have freedom (ie independently wealth). and of course there are ppl who refuse entreaties from the MSM because they follow me and saw that scrutiny and don’t want to be subject to it (i know these are true because sometimes people email me and wonder if they did the right thing ignoring/refusing). some of these people are far smarter than the stupids you have to read right now (and the smart ones just lie a lot because they are smart and know the incentives).

        anyway, it’s not the biggest thing in the world. if you are smart you know how people speak the truth between lines, and if you are stupid you shouldn’t know the truth i guess (seems like the elite consensus).

        anyway, all that really matters is power. take it, and impose your will on your enemies. they will bow, most are craven 🙂 liberalism is over.

        • Reasoner says:

          if you are stupid you shouldn’t know the truth i guess (seems like the elite consensus)

          I’m glad we are in such good hands

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Well that’s depressing. But I’m glad you’re doing well.

        • AwaitingCertainty says:

          “Without lying, do not speak the whole truth; there is nothing that requires more careful handling than the truth.”

          Saying of the “worldly cleric,” Spanish Jesuit Baltasar Gracian (1601 – 1658) – from The Art of Worldly Wisdom

      • MawBTS says:

        It’s not just the firing, but the reputational damage.

        Obviously, I’m not Razib and I don’t know how much of that he suffered. But I doubt having a Google search for your name dominated by “racist fired for racist racism” is a good look when applying for a job.

  19. Hackworth says:

    So if we are living in a first approximation of a dictatorless dystopia, where SJWs can “kill” almost anyone who voices dissent, kill them by making them lose their friends, their jobs and the status that comes with it, would fighting that dystopia not be achieved by making everyone a little less mortal? A guaranteed income, for example through UBI, would be a good start.

    Of course, UBI does not help with the loss of status that would come with the loss of, say, a job as professor, but it would help lower the baseline level of existential dread that comes with suddenly losing all income. It would indirectly blunt one of the weapons in the dictators’ hands, the threat of sending the out-of-context dossier to the humorless HR drone.

    • Jiro says:

      Most of the people who are being silenced would be perfectly capable of taking a McDonalds or other low-level job if they were to lose their normal job, so it’s not clear this would help at all. Also, one problem with online discourse is that people with lots of free time control much of it; I expect that with UBI, you’d get worse social justice mobs since with less of a need to work, there would be more people who decided that agitating for social justice is the best use of their time.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Also, I would expect UBI would eventually be ideologically tested. Common right wing rhetoric against welfare is that it’s supporting drug addicts or “welfare queens.” Charitably the right wing is angry about subsidizing bad behavior. Uncharitably they’re racists who don’t want money going to black people.

        What happens when it’s understood that some of the people receiving UBI are Damore-style witches? Or there’s another tiki torch march and when the twitter mob goes to identify the marchers to get them fired, discovers it’s their own tax dollars enabling them?

        • christianschwalbach says:

          Isnt that a benefit then? Understanding that to have certain freedoms they have to allow the tiki torchers and Damores to have freedom?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            No, no that’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works. The mobs will not say “this is the price of free(dom|money).” These are the people who want to punch nazis, and would definitely be strongly opposed to giving them money.

          • albatross11 says:

            Conrad:

            I don’t think any attempt to take away government benefits in retaliation for political actions or speech would work. There are decades of legal decisions on this stuff. I expect that government benefits will be the last thing to be taken in this way, long after (assuming we move in that direction) ideological pariahs find themselves unemployable.

      • albatross11 says:

        As a parallel, there was an NSA whistleblower who, in the end, didn’t go to prison. He just lost his career, spent his life savings fighting prosecution, and ended up working in some crappy retail job to pay the bills.

        Now, Drake survived and stayed out of jail. So it’s silly to say he’s been persecuted or that his treatment was intended to silence other, right?

    • An almost realistic UBI at present is something like six thousand dollars a year, which I think was Lady Jane’s suggestion. Going from an upper middle class income to that is a pretty severe sanction.

  20. Big Jay says:

    If you’ve actually read The Bell Curve (I have), you know that it’s much more like Human Varieties than it is like the media controversy it inspired. It’s about 600 pages of literature review, mostly of adoption studies, mostly correlating the life outcomes of white women (to avoid race + sex confounders) to those of their adopted and non-adopted children. He didn’t get around to black people until IIRC chapter 14.

    • MawBTS says:

      It’s worth remembering that Murray is on record as supporting a Universal Basic Income.

      There are a lot of people who have received their worldview through cultural osmosis, not through reflection and thought. Blue Tribers don’t need to have to have read The Bell Curve to know that it’s racist. Everyone in their NYC-based New Media kaffeeklatsch of thought leaders thinks that it is, so what else is there to know?

      • Ketil says:

        Blue Tribers don’t need to have to have read The Bell Curve to know that it’s racist.

        …and I realize I hold an(other) opinion of it, also without having read it. 🙂

      • brmic says:

        1) Does your talk of ‘NYC … klatsch’ add anything simply saying ‘Emanuel Goldstein’ wouldn’t have achieved? Are you saying anything beyond signalling to your in-group that you dislike the same people? If so, I didn’t get it.

        2) ‘Blue Tribers don’t need to have to have read The Bell Curve to know that it’s racist.’ Yes, obviously, it is perfectly possible for anyone, not just Blue Tribers to form correct opinions about stuff without having read the source materials. I’m like, huh, you didn’t know that? What are you really trying to say/saying?

        FWIW, on the matter at hand: Some twenty years ago, I read a lot of obviously stupid critiques, tracked down some detailed, non-stupid ones with extensive quotes, searched for and found defenses of about the same level of detail/quality of argument and concluded that the book’s critics had the better argument. This is more effort than I put into my belief in general relativity.

      • albatross11 says:

        In fact, it’s a good assumption to start with that most people haven’t read any of the controversial books on which they express the culturally-acceptable opinion. And this is doubly true for media talking head/pundit types.

      • Randy M says:

        My employer gave a class on statistics to the technicians once. The manager giving the lecture was careful to throw in a denunciation of the book The Bell Curve when he was forced to mention the shape taken by normally distributed data in general.
        Come to think of it, he pretty much spoke of it in the same tone, possibly the same words, as my mother used when warning me away from D&D books in the 80s.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Fact: the standard 3d6-or-4d6-drop-lowest stat generation in D&D produces a bell curve. Obvious link.

          • Randy M says:

            It’s possible my mother was trying to prevent me from internalizing racist tropes from gaming… but it’s about as likely as my employer thinking Charles Murray was a gateway to literal Satanism.

            (this is me recognizing your humor and responding with my own, in case it is instead read as a biting dismissal of said joke)

          • Lambert says:

            Doesn’t any n d m tend to a bell curve as n tends to infinity?
            (and m > 1, of course)

          • Randy M says:

            Basically the more independent events you have contributing to the population the more it resembles normal distribution. So yes.

          • dndnrsn says:

            To be fair, gaming tropes can pretty racist! List orcs as “always chaotic evil” and watch as players decide that, logically, crimes against humanity humanoidity (?) are a sad necessity.

            (I was going to say “teenage boys” but is that because something something teenage boys, or is it because they’re a lot of gamers? Terry Pratchett had a story about running a D&D adventure or something from some little old ladies – very quickly they were doing stuff like forcing captured goblins to walk ahead of them to set off traps)

            (this is me making the joke serious)

          • Randy M says:

            I’m certainly familiar with the evil Orc trope; I played with it here.
            Maybe in life or death situations you see what people are made of.
            Though that doesn’t explain why my first group was so quick to turn into slavers when they found orc babies. :/

          • Nornagest says:

            I know some people that’re very careful to use the word “species” rather than “race” to describe e.g. elves or dwarves in their roleplaying. Seems a little pointless to me.

        • AwaitingCertainty says:

          Me: 63-year-old white woman. Voted for Trump with relish. Straussian, Catholic convert, love JBP, Solzhenitsyn (have read him since I was 17 and someone handed me “The First Circle,” followed him and all the dissidents, special mention of Varlam Shalamov, all my life), Malcolm Muggeridge, Dostoyevsky. Own and have read Jung’s collected works in my 20s but don’t think he’s THAT big a deal (only thing I really got from him was the definition of a neurotic: “A neurotic is someone who refuses to LIVE their own suffering.” I take this to mean they make other people live it for them by constantly being hellishly annoying and never – *gak* – pardon this horrid formulation which should be illegal – looking inside).

          OK now you know who I am. (Oh, and I like Ben Shapiro and am glad for his defense of Jewish orthodox positions, since these positions ultimately defend us all, and far better than the Catholics are doing nowadays):

          I told y’all that to tell you this:

          I do not think ANYONE should be talking about IQ in relation to race. Ever. For any reason. I’ve lost interest in Stefan Molyneux for that reason. Treat people as individuals. I don’t find The Bell Curve observation re IQ defensible. Don’t hide utterly hurting others who have been utterly hurt behind your f-ing “objectivity.” SCIENTIFIC objectivity to boot. Life is short. Don’t be idiots. You’ve got better things to do and to talk about.

          • albatross11 says:

            Here and here and here are recent mainstream news storied in education, focusing on differences in black/white performance. (The last one is talking about racial balance in magnet school admissions.)

            None of these stories mention the IQ statistics. This adheres to your and Theresa’s beliefs about how public discussions should proceed. But in order to do that, all three articles omit a hugely relevant fact–one that basically explains the vexing issue the three articles are all running into.

            Judges and politicians and social scientists are reading these articles, and coming away with a broken model of what’s going on. They’re often assuming there must be some hidden discrimination or racism at the bottom of it. Because those respectable news sources omitted critical details about the situation.

      • Simon_Jester says:

        I haven’t read Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses, either. I nevertheless know that they are a list of criticisms of 1500-vintage Roman Catholicism, assembled by a German clergyman. Also, something something sale of indulgences.

        I haven’t read Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, or rather I skimmed it idly one day and in retrospect don’t really remember it. I still know it was a fiery condemnation of British rule of the American colonies and a piece of strong advocacy for the independence movement.

        I have read hardly a gram of feminist literature by the prominent women’s rights advocates of the mid-20th century. I still know that some of it was advocacy for the notion that women be treated as first-class citizens, and some of it was fiery condemnation of men for NOT treating women as first-class citizens.

        The process by which people become aware of the content and ‘role’ of a text without having read it is hardly unique to books you feel are misunderstood.

        • gbdub says:

          Does it matter whether or not the thing you believe about the thing you haven’t read is true?

          • Simon_Jester says:

            Out of sheer perversity I am tempted to say “no.”

            [rolls eyes]

            Of course it matters, the point is that this isn’t a process invented by or unique to Blue Tribe complaining about books they haven’t read. Very few people will ever actually read [i]ALL[/i] the seminal works of classical literature, history, modern science, and so on; a good deal of the results is only available even to the average intellectual in preprocessed form, because time is finite.

            Do I love that fact? No. But it’s a reality, and complaining about it only helps if something can be done about it.

        • RC-cola-and-a-moon-pie says:

          This is a complete aside, but is the verbal formulation “something something [word]” to denote an unspecified reference to the subject common, or is it unique to this web site? I see it all the time here (twice so far in this comment page alone) but have never noticed it anywhere else. Perhaps a generational thing, or maybe one of Scott’s personal usages that seeped into general usage here?

          • Lambert says:

            ‘something something broken arms’ was a tedious Reddit in-joke a while back.

          • quaelegit says:

            I feel like I see it a lot, both on the internet and (less commonly) in everyday speech. I’ve definitely seen is on Reddit, but unlike Lambert I don’t associate it strongly with the site (though i don’t spend much time on Reddit generally so perhaps I missed the start of the phenomenon and only noticed it when it became more widespread.)

        • albatross11 says:

          Simon Jester:

          If you want to contribute something useful to public discourse, I recommend not writing book reviews condemning any of those books without bothering to read them. _TBC_ was the first book I’d read where I saw how many reviews and public comments on them in respectable mainstream sources were written by people who clearly hadn’t read the book they were reviewing. It was instructive.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            Were I in the practice of writing such reviews, you may be assured that I would stop.

      • Big Jay says:

        Blue Tribers don’t need to have to have read The Bell Curve to know that it’s racist.

        Which is the problem- the ideas are so far outside the Overton window that the book is evaluated according to whether or not it expresses an acceptably non-racist opinion (it doesn’t) rather than whether it makes a solid, evidence-based case for its claims. The American Psychiatric Association commissioned a review to assess his evidence, and it reluctantly conceded his main points.

        Link: http://differentialclub.wdfiles.com/local–files/definitions-structure-and-measurement/Intelligence-Knowns-and-unknowns.pdf (see page 17)

    • Wrong Species says:

      And he never claimed certainty on genetics either. His most explicit claim was that environmental effects had previously been shown to not work on a large scale so we should be skeptical that it will in the future. This distinction has been completely ignored.

    • j r says:

      If you’ve actually read The Bell Curve (I have), you know that it’s much more like Human Varieties than it is like the media controversy it inspired.

      Eh. I read The Bell Curve a long time ago, but after I knew about it from the controversy. What I remember from my reading was wondering why Hernstein and Murray even bothered to include the race stuff, considering how little it figures in the overall thrust of the book. If you want to talk about IQ, you can talk about the effect of IQ differences without having to tie to race. The only answer that I could come up with was that it allowed them to make a ham-fisted argument for a bunch of policy suggestions that they really wanted to make. That’s speculation, of course.

      • albatross11 says:

        The explanation I remember (from something Murray wrote, but I don’t have a link) was that they thought that it would be leaving a huge hole in the discussion if they didn’t discuss how the role of IQ in society impacted race relations and policies surrounding race relations.

      • Iain says:

        In Ezra Klein’s podcast with Sam Harris, he points out that “the race stuff” makes up a small percentage of the book, but a much larger percentage of the publicity campaign surrounding the book:

        The way Murray often defends The Bell Curve is by saying, “Hey, look it only had this one chapter on race and IQ.” He’s completely, or actually a couple of chapters, but he’s completely right about that. The chapters where that is mentioned, they are not the bulk of the book.

        But I’m actually a publisher of pieces. I work with a lot of authors on book excerpts. The furor around The Bell Curve is not around the book, which it’s a long book, most people haven’t read it. It’s that the part of the book that he had excerpted on the cover of the New Republic under Andrew Sullivan — the cover of the New Republic, it just says in big letters, “Race and IQ.” The reason that is the part people focus on is that they pulled the most controversial part of the book and made it a huge deal. I know that authors, when they don’t want their most controversial part to define the work, they don’t let you excerpt that. So one, I don’t think Murray’s blameless there.

  21. onyomi says:

    I would have less of a problem with “you’re not being silenced, you’re just being denied a particular opportunity/platform to express yourself” argument if those who advanced it also accepted such arguments as “you’re not being discriminated against; you’re just being denied the opportunity to patronize a particular bakery.”

    • Aapje says:

      Or: “You can still shop, you just have someone watching you closely. You also have to behave better since your behavior is interpreted less charitably.”

    • Big Jay says:

      All opportunities are particular opportunities. As much as I would like to take advantage of opportunities in general, I find myself incapable of showing up to every potential workplace at once.

  22. joncb says:

    I find it a little saddening that internal emails that got leaked after the fact and thus could have in no way affected the “Day of Absence” itself get to be called “Opposition” these days. It’s no longer enough to not speak about the emperor’s lack of clothes, it is expected for you to positively comment about their hue and weave.

  23. moscanarius says:

    Great post.

    I have nothing very relevant to add, but still wanted to comment on one small other thing: to what extent do we really Keep Hearing About The IDW, as the writers you quoted state? I’m sure Nathan Robinson and the other political writers do it a lot, but then this is their job, they need to fish some controversies from time to time. In a world where Peterson and his followers were silenced twice as much as they are now, Robinson would still hear from them every week.

    Meanwhile, AFAIK most of the people who consume news casually still consume more from the traditional media, where folks in the NYT black list don’t have much of a chance.

    • albatross11 says:

      And far more ominously, a large fraction of people consume no news at all except what they get via social media channels.

    • AwaitingCertainty says:

      moscanarius, Respectfully disagree with “Meanwhile, AFAIK most of the people who consume news casually still consume more from the traditional media, where folks in the NYT black list don’t have much of a chance.” Personally haven’t watched MSM in forever (maybe a snippet or two of Gutfeld on YouTube). Give me styxhexenhamer666, Scott Adams, etc. Don’t even know how to turn on the TV with all the remotes – we only have one, in the basement…

      9:00 JBP: “In that VICE interview – It’s like it’s no bloody wonder the media’s dying. They’re going everything they possibly can to cut their throats and bleed out as fast as they possibly can.”

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9zZRTC6Ecs&t=602s
      Jordan Peterson Responds to VICE News, CBC & Mainstream Media at UBC
      260,993 views
      Lucas Baxendale
      Published on Feb 16, 2018

    • Tarpitz says:

      For what it’s worth, Peterson was on Chris Evans’s BBC Radio 2 breakfast show the other week. That’s about as mainstream and mass audience as UK media gets – in the order of 10,000,000 weekly listeners.

  24. nilkadnaquada says:

    Really excellent article here. One other thing I’d like to bring up is that, without wanting to come across as too preachy or anything, I do find it at the very least unnerving how often in this discussion I see people expressing an idea which I’d paraphrase as “Nobody has successfully stopped these taboo thinkers from getting their ideas out, so they have no reason to complain about the fact that lots of people are clearly trying to do so.”

    Regardless of whether a person has the tools or skills to successfully silence an opposing viewpoint, I think that making the attempt at all is a pretty not-okay thing to do, and one which should generally not be encouraged. The way I see it, successful censorship and silencing happens as a result of a person being in possession of two things; the willingness to perform the task, and the tools with which to do it. A large part of western civilization has put a lot of time and thought and work into destroying the tools with which it can be done, just in case someone willing to put in the effort comes along and decides to pick them up, and I’d argue that it’d be just as worthwhile out of the same sense of caution to teach as many people as possible that it’s not a good thing to try to do, just in case some powerful and difficult-to-destroy new tool for silencing gets made. Each half of the equation is useless without the other, but each half is also fully capable of cropping up suddenly and unexpectedly, so the best way to be safe, I think, is to try to get rid of both as much as possible.

    • Aapje says:

      Indeed. Also, no one actually knows about ideas where censorship is 100% successful. So in practice, we are always talking about partial censorship.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      It’s also counterproductive. Most of these people got famous because people tried to silence them. Nobody would know who Jordan Peterson is if there had never been a video of an angry mob screaming at him. No one would know Brett Weinstein if the mob hadn’t come for him. And during the campaign, every single time there was a riot against a Trump rally, the next day there would be dozens of posts on the Trump subreddit saying “I wasn’t paying attention before but having seen this I can’t stand it, I’m voting for Trump now.” See also: Streisand Effect.

      • dndnrsn says:

        There’s also a subset of people who were Jordan Peterson fans before he became a Culture War participant. He teaches (taught?) a very popular intro-level psychology course, I think; I know I had vaguely heard of him in the sense of “a friend of a friend really really liked that course and thinks the prof is great” or similar. Some number of these people became right-wing, or at least anti-left-wing, culture warriors when they saw their fave prof become the target of culture warriors and then become a culture warrior himself.

        Additionally, I would guess that this group includes a decent number of East Asians; he teaches on a campus that is disproportionately East Asian. When there’s campus free speech kerfuffles, there’s often two “pro-free speech” groups cited in the campus newspaper: one will seem more earnest and have East Asian spokespeople; the other will often seem a bit dicier and have people with names that sound like pseudonyms as spokespeople. (An alternative explanation is that East Asian students are more likely to be first or second generation immigrants who want to get their degree and get really put off by campus activists saying “if you just want to study and get your degree you’re choosing the oppressor”, “this is library!” style)

  25. fightscenegrades says:

    Excellent post again.

    I would add a phenomenon related to the ones from Current Affairs & Reason highlighted here: pointing at the results of a failed “silencing” as apparent evidence that no silencing ever took place.

    For instance, when Jeffrey Goldberg lured Kevin Williamson (who I think Scott did a disservice to here with his indirect mention, even though it was in the service of a cheeky joke) away from his longstanding NR job only so he could fire him immediately on a BS pretext served up to him by an online outrage mob, there was sufficient backlash & controversy about the firing that Williamson was given space to write about it in places like the Washington Post, as well as more ideologically sympathetic media places such as Commentary and The Weekly Standard. A few brain-genius pundits on Twitter (including some from Vox) sneered “oh, look at all the places he’s been published– that’s SOME censorship!!”

    Which would be like if someone was broke and held a successful Kickstarter to pay for their medical bills, and then after it was over I said “why is everyone saying she’s poor? She just got over $600,000 for free!”

  26. Cerastes says:

    Just a comment about “denied a particular opportunity” – for some people, that particular opportunity is all they have. It’s exactly that way for me. I have a very particular, very focused, very consuming interest in a particular topic/area, and my academic position is basically my only chance to every work on it in any capacity at all, ever. Were I to lose this position for saying something bad on social media, they would surely say “oh boo hoo, the wealthy cis het white male professor has to find a new job”, but I would be devastated to the point of just walking off into the woods until I was killed by a passing bear, as my sole animating cause would have been taken from me. So I only comment under a rotating series of opaque pseudonyms, avoid speaking up, and completely avoid any social media platforms. I dislike it, but am willing to put up with it to achieve my greater goals, just like I’m willing to not buy things I want so I can live within my budget. Besides, there’s no real reward, just a cost, or at least the reward is either diffuse or improbable enough to essentially be nonexistent.

  27. Rachael says:

    Very well said.

    When I read one of the anti-IDW articles (I think it was the Reason one), I thought “it’s just bravery debates again – both sides of the culture war feel like they’re the persecuted minority courageously standing up for their beliefs.” But this analysis is more subtle and accounts for the asymmetry, and so is better.

  28. Jaskologist says:

    Conor Friedersdorf’s take is also worth echoing:

    Here is a different interpretation: attempts to marginalize these folks are real but are failing & bound to fail.

    What’s under threat is not their ability to speak, but the viability of outlets intent on excluding them as commons where a broad cross-section of the public gathers.

    Put another way, just as MSM outlets lost the ability to act as gatekeepers for mainstream public discourse, demands for them to dramatically expand viewpoints deemed verboten intensified.

    This the wired spectacle of people saying it is dangerous to give, say, Christina Hoff Sommers a platform in a liberal arts college hall that holds 200 people… when she can go on Joe Rogan the next afternoon and reach 2 million.

    • Viliam says:

      This the wired spectacle of people saying it is dangerous to give, say, Christina Hoff Sommers a platform in a liberal arts college hall that holds 200 people… when she can go on Joe Rogan the next afternoon and reach 2 million.

      Denying her the platform in the college still sends a strong message… to the students.

      Now everyone in the college has the common knowledge that people with this kind of opinion are officially not welcome. If you agree with Sommers, you may suspect that some classmates would support you, but you don’t know for sure. But if you disagree with Sommers, you know that if you attack someone who agrees, the institution will be on your side.

      (Similarly, demonstrations against Peterson are mostly to send a message to classmates that it is definitely not safe for their health to try expressing similar opinions after he leaves.)

  29. thedufer says:

    Your first blockquote contains a minor typo – “Pateron”. I was for some reason curious as to whether it was accurately quoted, and found that the source misspelled the same word but in a different way – “Paetron”. What’s going on here?

  30. Walter says:

    You’ve tagged this ‘Things I will Regret Writing’, but I really hope you don’t. This needed to get written.

  31. jonmarcus says:

    The IDW is being treated like trans people! Well…not *really* like trans people, calm down everybody.
    The IDW is being treated like MLK and Malcom X! Well…except for the whole “being assassinated” part.
    The IDW is being treated like those under the Hollywood blacklist! Well…except instead of Joe McCarthy opposing it, it has Rand Paul supporting it.

    And finally, because of course you had to go full Godwin:
    The IDW is being treated like those who oppose Stalin/Hitler!

    If every analogy you reach for goes way too far…then maybe that should tell you something about your underlying point.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      MLK and Malcolm X had pretty long runs before they were killed. I hope this will continue to be a nitpick.

      • jonmarcus says:

        Yes, they had long runs during which they were assaulted, beaten and jailed by their opponents and by agents of the State. To say that MLK’s treatment was not comparable to Sam Harris’ (even before his assassination) is hardly a nitpick.

        And I second your hope that this distinction will continue, that no one will decide to start beating or jailing, let alone assassinating members of the IDW.

        Also realized I forgot to add Ghandi to that list of skewed analogies. Seriously, when the ills you’re pointing at pale before every one of the analogies you reach for, that might be a sign that those ills aren’t quite as horrid as you claim.

    • Simon_Jester says:

      The reason for deliberately picking extreme examples isn’t to say “A is exactly like B, which was terrible.”

      It’s to say “Look at B. We can agree B is terrible. The same dynamic is at play in case A, to a lesser extent. Does it become good in case A?”

      Or to say “Look, you say it’s impossible for C to happen. But under extreme conditions, C can in fact happen. This makes it at least worth considering that C might also happen under less extreme conditions.”

      Specifically, this post addressed the claim “it’s impossible for someone to be popular and oppressed/silenced at the same time.” The obvious way to refute this claim is to present examples of figures that were widely popular, and yet were oppressed/silenced.

      There’s a spectrum here, clearly.

      The point, though, is not “the least-bad cases on this spectrum are identical to the most-bad cases.”

      The point is “all these cases at varying points on the spectrum represent an underlying phenomenon, namely the one that people are claiming can’t exist.”

      • gbdub says:

        Yeah, “here is a clearer, more obvious example of the sort of thing I’m talking about” is kind of the whole point of analogies as a rhetorical device. Attacking Scott’s use of it here is special pleading of the worst sort.

      • christianschwalbach says:

        “The same dynamic is at play in Case A….” I disagree that this is applicable. Gandhi and MLK, etc….are pretty far from the same dynamic. I will admit, that if you stretch it far enough, there are similarities that can be made, but the comparison starts and stops at those limited similarities. This is the distinction that should be made.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      geysercomic.jpg

      (can someone actually find me the geyser comic, so I don’t need to keep saying this?)

      • Reasoner says:

        I think I agree with the geyser comic, and jonmarcus doesn’t seem like they are being fair. But do you think maybe there is some tension between the geyser comic and your worst argument in the world essay?

      • brmic says:

        What if, for charity’s sake, we assume jonmarcus and the writers of the articles whose arguments you claim to be adressing have actually heard of that Jesus guy and would concede he was both popular and silenced. That is, given an ‘in-principle’ framing and some time to think it over, we can assume most people would concede, yes, it is of course and unquestionably possible to be both popular and silenced.
        Then the New Statesman and Reason either rely on their reader’s failure to realize this, or, possibly, they work off a more sophisticated model. Like, for instance, the threats faced by the IDW figurehead are not that grave by comparison*, and the benefits of their bold truth speaking substantial. Or perhaps, they mean to say that if every public appearance nets you X more in terms of followers, influence and money and Y more in terms of enemies, hatemail and boycotts, then for some X > Y what is happening to you is no longer usefully described as silencing and more accurately described as pushback or opposition.

        * I do believe they do get death threats, nobody should get death threats, it’s certainly horrible and I can certainly understand anyone wanting to curl up in a ball and get off the internet forever after they get a death threat. However, it is my understanding that these days anyone who gets 1000 responses and possibly even 1000 views to anything vaguely controversial they do online is going to get death threats. I think in 2018 we essentially needs to assume the worst verbal offenses against anyone remotely public to be happening.
        Next is job safety, which is adressed in the post, next is physical safety and there I believe the IDW are a step or two removed from the likes of Kurt Westergaard and Salman Rushdie and further still from people like Malcolm X who have reasonable grounds to believe that not just a few nutters, but a substantial segment of society would rather see them dead.

    • Reasoner says:

      The direction is not the same as the magnitude.

    • Watchman says:

      It is tempting to ask if Jonmarcus knows how analogies work. Charitably it seems that this is a representation of an idea that somehow analogies have to share more values than just those that are analogous, which is something you do meet around the Web. This is mainly encountered amongst people who fail to understand the evidential purpose of analogies, and therefore demand they are treated as direct evidence.

      Alternatively this might be a bad faith meta-argument attempting to discredit Scott’s argument through attacking what could be employed as a weakness, although the same lack of understanding of how an analogy works still applies and would undermine the case. But then the same reply also makes the common logical error that assumes the activation of Godwin’s Law (which doesn’t apply to original posts anyway, just the subsequent discussion} is a proof the argument fails rather than an observed tendency in action, so this is possibly actually just a poor attempt at a gotcha.

      Either way, what comes through this post is a clear dislike of linking the IDW with figures generally held up as heroic, which also shows a worrying failure to grasp that he is viewing one set of figures through a lens of contemporary politics and the other through the lens of history. I doubt Malcolm X was seen in any more positive a light than Charles Murray is now by his contemporaries, but hindsight (I blame Spike Lee) gives him a positive spin. We don’t know how history will treat Murray. We do know how badly Jonmarcus presents arguments though.

  32. IrishDude says:

    I recently watched a conversation with Jordan Peterson and Jonathan Haidt where they talk about Haidt’s work on disgust. Haidt learned under a professor who analyzed the bodily reaction/emotion of disgust, but due to Haidt’s interest in morality, looked at how this emotion applied to morals. The disgust reaction is useful, for evolutionary reasons, to avoid impure or poisonous things, like poisoned berries or rats with plague; keep toxic things away from you or you might be seriously harmed or killed.

    Their discussion then gets into how some people (e.g., illiberal left or white nationalists) are trying to label or associate other people or ideas with toxic things: nazis, racism, misogyny, white supremacy, patriarchy, etc. You don’t want to engage with toxic people or ideas, as that could contaminate you and cause you harm, so you just avoid them all together. I’ve seen quite a few articles attempting to toxify IDW people, which sometimes successfully does silence them from certain quarters. Some people on twitter that see an out of context quote that seems to imply terrible things will say things like “I didn’t know who Jordan Peterson was, but yikes. I now know not to listen to anything he has to say.”

    On the other hand, sometimes these attempts to toxify or taint people backfires, where people see something terrible said about an IDW person, then with horrifying fascination watch their videos to find out more, and come away thinking “That person was supposed to be a monster, but they were even-tempered and actually had interesting things to say, even if I disagree with some of their ideas.”

    I’m not sure how the attempts to silence will work out on net, but just because some people still have an audience doesn’t mean attempts to silence aren’t being made, and that the silencing isn’t successful for some audiences of people.

    • albatross11 says:

      This is more-or-less what happened to me w.r.t. The Bell Curve. I read all these denouncements and thought “huh, must be some kind of crazy racist screed.” Then I read the book, and learned that a lot of prominent people spouting the socially correct opinions were either too lazy to read the book or too dishonest to report its contents honestly–in either case, that meant they weren’t really worth listening to.

      • christianschwalbach says:

        I would say that the Bell Curve also receives a lot of undue criticism due to Murray’s more recent associations and activities with more explicitly conservative organizations. Some of the backlash against this also gets aimed at the book

        • albatross11 says:

          Lots of conservatives write books. Occasionally some idiot calls them Nazis for being Republicans or something. But hardly any get death threats and riots and constant protests. I don’t know whether prestige publications routinely publish reviews of their books that are 100% wrong–I kind-of lost interest in most such writings after reading the reviews of The Bell Curve–but my impression is that Murray’s treatment was extraordinary, mainly because he went well outside the Overton Window on an issue that got a lot of people really mad.

  33. albatross11 says:

    The important thing going on here isn’t the Jordan Petersons making a zillion dollars on Youtube, it’s the thousands of people able to have real, substantive widespread public discussions on stuff outside the Overton Window of the people who run the big media outlets. Human Varieties and h**chick and Greg Cochran are all examples. Having discussions and arguing back and forth and presenting and refuting ideas is how people get smarter.

    • IrishDude says:

      Viewpoint diversity is critical to attacking ideas from all angles and seeing what stands up to scrutiny, hopefully getting closer to truth. It’s the scientific method of developing a hypothesis, then trying to refute it in as many ways as you can think. Only after withstanding the barrage of critiques should you start to feel more comfortable that your beliefs have merit.

      The downside to silencing or safe spaces is that ideas become flabby and unable to withstand challenge. You delude yourself into thinking you’re right without having to defend yourself from strong critiques, perhaps unaware that your ideas even have critiques.

      That’s why SSC is such a wonderful place, as it offers viewpoint diversity and norms of free speech and civility that allow ideas to clash without silencing or shaming people. It’s these norms that give us the best chance at getting a bit closer to truth and understanding, and it would be a wonderful thing if these norms could become more widespread in our culture.

      • Simon_Jester says:

        The downside to silencing is that it’s an attempt to make all the world into a ‘safe space,’ which reminds me of a quote by Shantideva:

        “Where would I find enough leather
        To cover the entire surface of the earth?
        But with leather soles beneath my feet,
        It’s as if the whole world has been covered.”

        But the problem here isn’t the idea ‘guard my feet from the hard ground with leather,’ it’s the implementation.

        Oppression of minority opinions is nearly ALWAYS an attempt to make society at large into a ‘safe space’ for the opposite, majority opinions. For instance, fear of pro-homosexuality opinions leads to an attempt to ban such opinions, and the gays themselves, so that all the straight people can live in a ‘safe’ world of collectively enforced homophobia. Which, if you grew up in a world of collectively enforced homophobia, aren’t yourself gay, and don’t have much empathy for gays, will sound pretty appealing.

        But there’s a huge difference between saying “I am going to try to cover the whole world in ‘protection for my opinion’ ” and saying “I am going to create a little enclosed space in which my opinion is protected.” The former is obnoxious and leads to evil no matter who does it, except when specifically being used to exclude someone who’s actively burning the commons. The latter is pretty much a necessity if we are to have a world everyone finds tolerable.

        • IrishDude says:

          There’s certainly advantages to safe spaces, as to constantly be engaged in debate can be tiresome and to gather with fellow compatriots can be uplifting. Just like many things, moderation is key. I agree that making the world a safe space is obnoxious, and having smaller personal safe spaces is necessary, but there’s still dangers for people that create their smaller safe spaces and choose to spend most their time there. At least they aren’t harming others, but I think they are ironically harming themselves.

    • James Miller says:

      I just did a podcast with Greg Cochran. It was on the genetic history of Europe. We stayed inside the Overton Window because I don’t think that tenure provides me with sufficient protection so before the interview I have to tell Greg that certain topics are off limits.

  34. Bugmaster says:

    AFAICT, this is exactly what the progressives mean when they are talking about “structural oppression” and “rape culture”. For example, this is why counter-arguments such as “then how come we’ve had a black President” fall flat: yes, this one rich and famous guy got to the top, but regular black people are still oppressed. The progressives may or may not be correct about this, but I can empathize with their position.

  35. LMNO333 says:

    Long time reader, first time commenter.

    “The IDW demands rational debate, but they never engage in it”. Somewhat true. If they engaged in it, they would move beyond the bounds of acceptable edginess… somebody may feel they can get away with making some arguments but not others, giving them the appearance of a skeletal but flimsy ideology that falls down on close examination. Or people might be willing to talk about these issues in some low-exposure spaces but not other higher-exposure spaces, giving them the appearance of backing down once challenged.

    Ok, sure, but isn’t that the very problem? Someone who bluntly says, e.g. “I am an avid white supremacist” or “1/3 of the human population must be killed to save the environment” has gone beyond the edge, so they couch their essays and arguments in lofty contorted language, or bury the lede in (often questionable) statistics and charts, all to stay on the side of “acceptably edgy” to get likes and clicks.

    But the heart of the matter is that their basic points ARE often (again, e.g.) “I am unapologetically anti-Semitic”. The ideology they publicly present may be flimsy, but it is intentionally so, because if they did give their entire belief system, it would push them past the point of being a revenue generator.

    So sure, they self-censor, because the things they’re afraid to say aren’t (still, e.g.) “there are demonstrable genetic differences among the human species,” it’s “black people are lesser humans than white people” – basically, they know their beliefs are over the edge, and deliberately alter their arguments to be more palatable.

    • Aapje says:

      @LMNO333

      The issue is that censorship pushes everyone to the edge. If your belief is barely outside the Overton Window, like a belief that racial IQ differences probably exist, but are minor; then the cost to openly state such an opinion is huge compared to how extreme your opinion actually is. So people with these opinions either shut up or they talk about it a lot (perhaps with the intent of broadening the Overton Window), putting them at the edge. The moderates are getting squeezed out.

      Because the actual radicals also go to that edge, you get a bunch of people who say similar things, but where some are radicals and where some aren’t. The censorship is eradicating the distinction between these groups and thereby causes the people who censor to be strengthened in their belief in censorship.

      If you don’t have censorship, it is much clearer who is actual radical and who has much more moderate beliefs, because people can actually say what they believe. This also allows debate for truth-finding, rather than debate with the intent to widen the Overton Window to make room for truth-finding debate.

      • J.R. says:

        If you don’t have censorship, it is much clearer who is actual radical and who has much more moderate beliefs, because people can actually say what they believe. This also allows debate for truth-finding, rather than debate with the intent to widen the Overton Window to make room for truth-finding debate.

        +1. I’d like to add: this creates conditions that justify the censorship to members of the in-group. Anyone who dares speak at the opposite edge of the Overton window from where I’m standing must be a member of the outgroup, and therefore must be silenced because their opinions are dangerous and wrong (otherwise, why would we censor them?). Meanwhile, moderates are increasingly cowed and resort to toeing the party line in public while keeping their true opinions to themselves.

        • christianschwalbach says:

          By denfinition, moderates are not at the extreme. Wouldnt they be able to speak the most freely?

          • Watchman says:

            Not if the censors are at the extreme. And by any rational assessment the likely location of any would be censor is towards an extreme as moderate views on a subject will allow for more accommodation of different views. Note amongst the supporters of the IDW there would be plenty who would love to censor as well and should the Overton Window move towards them moderates would still be in danger of censorship.

            Maybe we should envisage the Overton Window as moving with a shadow attached, that of censorship. At its smallest this trails far from the direction in which the Window is travelling as only really extreme views are picked on. But it can grow to cover parts of the Window itself, as views that are perfectly moderate and acceptable become targets for those on the leasing edge: the censors will ultimately seek to eradicate even perfectly normal views held by most people. The Soviet Union had a shadow that might have consumed the entire Window, as the government became detached from popular opinion.

          • SaiNushi says:

            But what they are arguing for is banning everybody who even flirts with the idea that maybe there is a difference in IQ between the races, even if their message is “So maybe we should try to do something about that” coupled with “Stop basing human value on IQ”.

    • Theresa Klein says:

      Exactly. Some of these people are really just closeted racists who think it should not be taboo to be racist. Some. There are some who are trying to discuss other subjects that have nothing to do with race, but there’s definitely a faction that wants it to be socially OK to say that black people are less intelligent than whites. Is that what we want? For it to be socially acceptable to discuss the relative intelligence of African Americans? Why?

      • Thegnskald says:

        As I understand the argument, and translated into an argument I can understand and relate to, the reason it is important to have this discussion is that the societal interventions necessary depend on the reasons for social disparity.

        So if we insist racism is the root cause, and discussing other possible causes is forbidden, we may end up missing that the problem is caused by, say, widespread lead poisoning, because the IQ difference caused by lead poisoning can’t by discussed and hence the root cause of the problem can’t be addressed.

        That is put in the most left-charitable terms possible. Less charitable-seeming arguments are that affirmative action cannot work at achieving equality of outcome the differences are biological; while a potentially valid argument, depending on the data which I have zero interest in (I think identity politics are a distraction from class politics, and the the IQ of an individual is a more relevant measure than the average IQ of a group), I don’t think most left-leaning individuals will ever see that as more than a flimsy pretext to get rid of affirmative action.

        In general, there is a strong cultural consensus against challenging certain social institutions, and this is very bad. Discussing relative IQ differences may seem stupid, but this is just selecting what matters; if average income matters, why shouldn’t average IQ? It just ends up looking like cherry-picking what you consider worth analyzing based on whether or not those things support the conclusions you already support.

        • oppressedminority says:

          The left has argued for years that group differences in outcome are evidence of discrimination. This can only be answered by verifying the assumption that absent any discrimination, groups would have the same outcome – for example, analyzing differences in IQ.

          It doesn’t need to be like this. If the left were to abandon the intellectually lazy shortcut of assuming discrimination from group differences, we could all focus on ensuring a level playing field, and completely ignoring group differences.

          • Randy M says:

            +1 to both of your explanations. There might be some–maybe many–who long for the freedom to say “lol, science says u r dumb.” Nonetheless, since we have the freedom to say “science says u r racist” we need to be able to investigate potentially hurtful alternate causes to, ie, primary school achievement gap, both to alleviate inequality and to avoid injustice.

          • AG says:

            But the left also argues that “ignoring group differences” is discrimination, such as in pharmaceutical studies with skewed demographics lead to medications being prescribed for the wrong people. Or see how there are new pushes to understand how mental disorders manifest differently per gender.

            So they’re not against the steelman of the topic. But the presentation of the evidence needs to be in their framing, and the solutions proposed shouldn’t keep ending up in Dark Hinting at Repugnant Conclusions. The left is all for accommodating different learning styles, which is basically conceding the point. The controversy is in insisting on those Dark Hints.

            It would also help if there was much more conceding by people who supposedly believe in IQ differences that meritocracy-like systems are bad (and that “I” do not Deserve/have not Earned my job fair and square). One of the aforementioned Dark Hinting is often, instead, that meritocracy is the best…but also some people just won’t make it, how sad, it’s not their fault.

          • Theresa Klein says:

            solutions proposed shouldn’t keep ending up in Dark Hinting at Repugnant Conclusions

            Sure. Why are some people so insistent on darkly hinting at repugnant conclusions? what’s so damn important to them about proving that black people are genetically less intelligent?

          • Randy M says:

            It would also help if there was much more conceding by people who supposedly believe in IQ differences that meritocracy-like systems are bad

            There are arguments for meritocracy that do not depend on giving people what they deserve; consider incentives, and how a genius being rewarded to make things people want improves the lives of others.

          • Aapje says:

            @Theresa Klein

            Why are some people so insistent on darkly hinting at repugnant conclusions, like that most of the things that white people/men/etc achieve are not earned, but are taken from others?

            Or really, not hinting at all, but just openly saying it.

          • Nornagest says:

            Why are some people so insistent on darkly hinting at repugnant conclusions? what’s so damn important to them about proving that black people are genetically less intelligent?

            You can read dark hints into a lot of things, but they often say more about the reader than about the subject. Bottom line, “my opponent believes X, X can be used to support Y, Y is repugnant, therefore X is repugnant” isn’t really a good look.

          • AG says:

            @Randy M:
            Not when most forms meritocracy still have people on the bottom tiers with really shit lives. If in a meritocracy people will get sorted to the bottom through no fault of their own, then the bottom needs to be better than poverty and eugenics. If people who believed in IQ differences and meritocracies also advocated strongly for noblesse oblige, it would be less worrying, but most of the time they seem to like the idea as a justification for no longer caring about the stupid.

          • lvlln says:

            If people who believed in IQ differences and meritocracies also advocated strongly for noblesse oblige, it would be less worrying, but most of the time they seem to like the idea as a justification for no longer caring about the stupid.

            Is this true? Charles Murray is probably the highest profile person who openly believes in IQ differences and meritocracies, and he’s also a strong proponent of the universal basic income. My personal experience also indicates there’s a high correlation between those 2 clusters of beliefs – if someone I know believes that IQ differences have some nontrivial genetic component, and they also believe that IQ is strongly predictive of life outcomes, then it’s almost certain that they also believe that we as a society need to work very hard, much harder than we are working now, to alleviate the suffering of people who end up with poor life outcomes due in part to their intelligence. (I’ve also experienced an inverse correlation, too, actually – people who don’t believe that IQ differences have strong genetic components and/or also believe that non-intelligence-related luck plays a bigger factor in life outcomes than intelligence does tend to be very disparaging of people who they consider unintelligent – this would make a lot of sense, since, if intelligence isn’t largely due to the genetic lottery, then low intelligence can be considered the responsibility of the individual).

            However, that is my experience, and it’s perfectly plausible to me that your experience is the exact opposite. But it’s hard to figure out reality from just a couple of anecdotes; are there any polls or studies that indicate if either correlation is true, or if something else is?

            Furthermore, for whatever correlation there is, is the correlation static and unchangeable?

          • albatross11 says:

            AG:

            So, what you’d want from someone thinking like that would be, say, writing an entire book about the bad results of the elites in the meritocracy separating out from the proles and writing them off? And maybe also writing a whole book advocating for a universal basic income? Perhaps also maybe writing a chapter in their book on IQ that talked about how to structure society so people at the bottom of the IQ distribution also had a decent place in it?

            Yeah, if only someone who wrote about differences in IQ would also do those things, I suppose people would welcome him to speak rather than mobbing him and chasing him off.

          • lvlln says:

            I found this paper where the abstract says the following:

            Many scholars argue that people who attribute human characteristics to genetic causes also tend to hold politically and socially problematic attitudes. More specifically, public acceptance of genetic influences is believed to be associated with intolerance, prejudice, and the legitimation of social inequities and laissez-faire policies. We test these expectations with original data from two nationally representative samples that allow us to identify the American public’s attributional patterns across 18 diverse traits. Key findings are (1) genetic attributions are actually more likely to be made by liberals, not conservatives; (2) genetic attributions are associated with higher, not lower, levels of tolerance of vulnerable individuals; and (3) genetic attributions do not correlate with unseemly racial attitudes.

            I don’t have access to the PDF or full text, and even assuming that this study was well done and rigorous, it’s just 1 study, but it points in the same direction as my personal experience.

          • Nornagest says:

            believed to be associated with intolerance, prejudice, and the legitimation of social inequities and laissez-faire policies.

            One of these things is not like the others…

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          and the the IQ of an individual

          Scott has turned us all into monsters.

        • Theresa Klein says:

          Nobody really has a problem with talking about IQ differences caused by lead poisoning. It’s the argument that the IQ differences are genetic and innate that people have a problem with. Plenty of people are talking about lead abatement – they even have a name for it: “environmental justice”. You can talk about lead poisoning as much as you want.

          Secondly, I’m a bit baffled sometimes why some people dislike affirmative action so much. I see it as mostly symbolic fiddling at the margins. Yet it seems to drive certain white people bonkers that a black person might occasionally get promoted or accepted to university over a more qualified white person. Like nobody in our society ever gets anything they don’t deserve due to luck or family connections or whatever.

          • IrishDude says:

            I’m a bit baffled sometimes why some people dislike affirmative action so much.

            For me, it’s because I think people should be judged on the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Also, I think policies that focus on race are more likely to perpetuate racism, even if done with the intent of reducing racism.

          • Thegnskald says:

            If you can talking about group IQ differences, you have banned talking about environmentally caused group IQ differences.

            I am not an adherent of the genetic belief structure; the Flynn effect is alive and well for black people, and has largely stopped for white people, which suggests to me that black people are still catching up on whatever causal factors are involved in the Flynn Effect. Which is to say, I expect all of this nonsense to become irrelevant over the next few decades.

            But when you push equality of outcomes, and refuse acknowledge factors that make that impossible, and ban people from talking about factors that make that impossible – if lead poisoning is a prevalent issue in black communities, then it will be a generation after we fix that problem before we can reasonably expect equality of outcomes – and then blame the discrepancy between your wishes and reality on a nebulous Other, in this case racists – then how in the fuck are you doing better than any of the other people in history who blamed social problems on convenient villains? That, I will remind you, definitely has historically atrocities attached to it.

            As for affirmative action – it goes beyond “this person gets ahead of where they would otherwise be”. In some fields, it has become a nightmare, in which many companies struggle to make minority hires, regardless of competency, to remain in compliance with the law. You call it symbolic – so you admit it doesn’t do what it set out to do – and wonder why people oppose a failed policy that imposes costs on them? It doesn’t work! It costs us money and time and effort! That is enough reason to end it.

            But sure. We just hate it because we might suffer a minor personal injustice. Isn’t that cause enough, given that it is just a symbolic thing?

            What reason do we have to keep it?

          • Aapje says:

            @Theresa Klein

            Secondly, I’m a bit baffled sometimes why some people dislike affirmative action so much. I see it as mostly symbolic fiddling at the margins.

            The reason is that is it is a core betrayal of enlightenment values, where people pretend to be progressive who aren’t.

            Once the goal is not equal treatment, but to threat one race, gender, etc better, this then becomes a political goal in itself. The advocates of affirmative action just don’t seem to actually believe in what they argue that they believe, based on their actions.

            Just look at the continued attempts to help female students over male students, even though female students are doing better. Affirmative action for men is anathema, even though it would be the logical thing to fight for, if affirmative action proponents actually believed in their arguments.

            Yet it seems to drive certain white people bonkers that a black person might occasionally get promoted or accepted to university over a more qualified white person. Like nobody in our society ever gets anything they don’t deserve due to luck or family connections or whatever.

            See, that is what I mean. Your belief in affirmative action has corrupted you into arguing that we shouldn’t object to more qualified people being passed over by others, who have the more desirable race.

            The left is talking themselves into the worst kind of racism more and more, while objecting to things that are far more benign, but that they perceive as worse.

          • Secondly, I’m a bit baffled sometimes why some people dislike affirmative action so much.

            At least two reasons:

            1. It violates the norm against racial discrimination, and some people think that it’s better to have a norm of “no racial discrimination” than a norm of “racial discrimination is fine as long as it is in favor of the right people.”

            2. It may injure the people it claims to help. A black kid who is better at math and related subjects than 90% of the American population would do fine at IIT, where he is about average, but ends up at MIT where he is in the bottom one percent of the highly selected student population.

            This issue came up in the context of law schools in California. People who objected to the argument acted to prevent the professor making it from getting information about bar passage rates that could have supported or refuted his claim.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Also, I keep seeing complaints from black people that white people just assume they’re affirmative action hires. This isn’t mind-reading– I’ve seen accounts of white people saying this to black people before there was any chance to evaluate whether the black person was competent.

          • Theresa Klein says:

            @Thegnsvald (and others),

            If you lead with “hey look, there’s IQ differences, I wonder why!” people are going to react negatively to that, but if you say “hey look, there’s a lot of lead poisoning in black communities, I wonder if this affects academic performance!” nobody is going to bat an eyelash. Because the first one really opens up the opportunity for the usual suspects to assert that blacks are less intelligent, and the second one bypasses that entirely.

            Also, I just want to note that I haven’t said I support affirmative action. I merely think that it’s not a big deal. It’s not any worse than dozens of other ways in which people get advantages in our society that aren’t strictly based on merit, and is undeserving of the fixation on it. It’s far from being the worst injustice in our society right now, or anywhere near it.

            I should also note that affirmative action is not mandatory with the exception of certain government contractors. What you’re complaining about is anti-discrimination laws. Now you can argue that it kind of works out the same way in practice, because there aren’t enough qualified black people, but at least legally, you’re not actually supposed to be discriminating in favor of blacks, you’re just supposed to not be discriminating against them. For most private employers “affirmative action” is voluntary, and most really just adhere to an “equal opportunity” standard.

            But let’s take a step back here, because this conversion is not just about anti-discrimination laws, it’s also about norms surrounding speech. if we got rid of anti-discrimination laws, how would the market or society at large try to make people not discriminate? Well, one of the primary mechanisms is shunning people who discriminate, and making it taboo to say racist things, and part of that process of making it taboo, is to make it taboo to say that black people are inferior, and that just maybe means making it taboo to say they are less intelligent on average. No ADL means probably a lot MORE shunning of people for taboo speech, not less. If you want to make it totally okay to say whatever you want, then you should probably be in favor of stronger anti-discrimination laws, because then you can say it doesn’t matter. People can say whatever they want and it doesn’t matter because discrimination is banned and strictly enforced. But what some people appear to want is not only for it to be totally legal to discriminate, but also for it to be socially tolerated and accepted. I.e. that shunning people for racial discrimination should itself be socially unacceptable – that you have to somehow silence the shunners and get them to stop shunning people in order to make the social space safe to be an uncloseted racist.
            And I realize that’s not what Scott is arguing – he just wants to enlarge the overton window and get a few of those people into the mainstream, and widen the space which is not taboo, but I do think that some of those people in the “IDW” and on the alt-right actually DO want that – they want to make it safe to be an “out” racist.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Theresa –

            I am going to try to restate your positions to be sure I understand them:

            Saying black people have lower IQ because of lead poisoning would be socially acceptable.

            Saying black people have lower IQ without specifying a reason would not.

            Affirmative Action (anti-discrimination laws) is largely neutral, and prevents people from getting fired for saying racist things, so removing it would make things worse.

            Are these understandings correct?

          • Also, I just want to note that I haven’t said I support affirmative action. I merely think that it’s not a big deal.

            But you did think that the possibility of a bright black kid not getting into medical school because someone believed in racial IQ differences was a big deal—despite the fact that the equivalent for asian kids happens routinely due to affirmative action and your version, so far as I can tell, never.

            I should also note that affirmative action is not mandatory with the exception of certain government contractors. What you’re complaining about is anti-discrimination laws.

            Part of the complaint about affirmative action is that permitting it means that anti-discrimination laws are being enforced dishonestly—discrimination is forbidden in one direction but not the other.

            For most private employers “affirmative action” is voluntary, and most really just adhere to an “equal opportunity” standard.

            Certainly not true of universities, which are the industry I happen to be familiar with.

            if we got rid of anti-discrimination laws, how would the market or society at large try to make people not discriminate?

            The primary mechanism on the market is economic. If there is no discrimination, choosing not to hire blacks doesn’t cost the firm much since they cost as much as whites and there are usually lots of whites to hire. But if there is significant discrimination, that means that better qualified black candidates are being passed over by other employers, so you can get better workers at the same price by hiring blacks.

            Well, one of the primary mechanisms is shunning people who discriminate, and making it taboo to say racist things, and part of that process of making it taboo, is to make it taboo to say that black people are inferior, and that just maybe means making it taboo to say they are less intelligent on average.

            Even if it’s true?

            Look at the other side of it. Suppose the average IQ of blacks is lower than of whites. Everyone feels obligated to deny it. But they observe that outcomes are different, so that proves that the whites are racist, and knowing that increases hostility between the races. And if you know a black employee will assume you are a racist, that’s a reason not to hire blacks.

            The male/female case is in some ways clearer here. We observe that in some fields, such as mathematics or physics, there are almost no women professors at top schools—much closer to zero than to fifty percent. What is the effect on the beliefs women hold about men if the required orthodoxy is that that must be due to sexism? If it’s actually not due to sexism but we insist it is, and Harvard feels it necessary to hire the best woman physicist they can even though they would never hire her if she were a man, what conclusion will the bright students who observe the results draw about male female differences?

            but I do think that some of those people in the “IDW” and on the alt-right actually DO want that – they want to make it safe to be an “out” racist.

            Define “racist.”

      • Futhington says:

        I think it ought to be socially acceptable to discuss whatever you like without having to get a Discussion License from mother.

      • akarlin says:

        For it to be socially acceptable to discuss the relative intelligence of African Americans? Why?

        American parochialism becomes more and more amusing the longer one is away. For instance, at a global level, this is only socially unacceptable in the US itself, and Western Europe.

      • mupetblast says:

        John McWhorter raised some of Theresa’s concerns here: https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/07/race-iq-debate-serves-no-purpose/

        • Theresa Klein says:

          Thank you that is indeed a very near exposition of my position on the subject.

        • albatross11 says:

          The McWhorter article is worth reading.

          My main disagreement with him is that I think that:

          a. Knowledge is good. The black/white IQ difference is extremely relevant for current political and social debates. For example, if you want to understand current issues in education (like why almost all the magnet students are white and Asian, or why tracking by ability in school tends to leave the bottom tracks full of black and hispanic students), knowing about the race/IQ distribution is really helpful.

          b. There is no inner party. There’s not some small circle of wise people who knows all the secret knowledge kept from the proles lest they get the wrong ideas. When the New York Times and Atlantic and the Wall Street Journal and NPR all spread comfortable lies instead of uncomfortable truths, the result is that the main decisionmakers in the society end up believing the lies by default. So there are federal judges making decisions on whether some racial makeup in magnet programs is proof of illegal discrimination, and their model of the world is that everyone is of equal intelligence and IQ is racist pseudoscience, and they make bad decisions as a result[1].

          c. Once you tell a lie, the truth is ever after your enemy. If you can’t allow the proles to hear about the racial IQ differences, you end up needing to omit other relevant facts, or spread other lies, to support your original one. Like you can’t talk about how much of the black/white school performance gap or income gap is explained by IQ differences. You can’t produce any coherent explanation about why there aren’t any black Fields medalists except racism or just not talking about it. You can’t really call too much attention to what the actual racial makeup of elite groups of students looks like, lest people notice that they’re like 60% Asian even though Asians are a small fraction of the population. And so on.

          [1] I’m assuming we can all agree that whatever comforting lies are told to the proles/clueless goobers/nobodies in flyover country, we’d like federal judges and college administrators and such to actually have access to good information.

          • albatross11 says:

            To see how comforting lies/lying by omission works, let’s try a thought experiment. We decide that the public must not have their literal interpretation of the bible undermined, lest they fail to understand the subtle arguments about metaphors and moral lessons and abandon morality and religion altogether. So we use social pressure to make sure that anyone trying to explain evolution or cosmology or geology to a lay audience is hammered so hard, that those discussions stay within paywalled academic journals behind a smokescreen of obscure terminology.

            a. Knowledge is good It turns out that understanding evolution is kinda handy for knowing about drug resistance, insects adapting to pesticides, etc. We can’t discuss that with the public, though. Or if we try, we can expect to hear a lot of denunciations about “atheistic pseudoscience.”

            b. There is no inner party. When the new congress is elected, they have to make a decision about what to do on some research funding. They looks carefully and discover that there’s a lot of funding of atheistic pseudoscience w.r.t. geological models and evolutionary biology. The specialists in these fields plead that their sciences are actually really valuable and true, but of course, the congressmen have spent their whole lives hearing about how this is all atheistic pseudoscience, so the funding gets cut.

            c. Once you tell a lie, the truth is ever after your enemy. It turns out that prehistory and even ancient history from the oldest sources contradicts a literal reading of the Bible w.r.t. the age of the Earth. So those mustn’t be discussed in public. Prehistoric migrations that populated the Americas and fossils of hominids and cave-paintings must all be ignored or rewritten with dates consistent with a 5000-year-old universe. Popular explanations of astronomy mustn’t talk about galaxies, because the universe hasn’t existed long enough for the light from them to get here.

            You started out with a really laudable goal–you didn’t want to upset people by telling them their understanding of their religion was false, and you didn’t want to undermine the moral codes on which they lived their lives. But somehow, you have found yourself unable to understand or respond to the evolution of drug resistance, cutting funding for science research, and lying about history and astronomy.

      • shenanigans24 says:

        It seems to me that if true things lead to a worldview that you don’t like than the problem is likely a faulty world view. I can’t imagine a value system that holds that fantasy is preferable to reality.

        One could say Christianity leads to good outcomes therefore it must be taught to everyone regardless of its truth. There’s no limit to the ideas that could be suppressed because they could theoretically lead to bad conclusions.

        • Theresa Klein says:

          That’s a bit simplistic. If I thought everyone was as rational as myself, I would have some faith that people would say “ok, maybe black people are less intelligent on average, but so what? There are overlapping variances, and everyone should be judged as an individual anyway”
          But people are not strictly rational – they are tribal, and I suspect strongly that most people would respond to that with a dramatic *increase* in tribal identity politics and racial discrimination, which would likely lead to some very bad results, both in terms of individual injustices that would be perpetrated on a daily basis, and a massive loss in social trust increases inter-racial violence, and a host of other bad things following from that.
          In other words, there might be truths that are too complex to grasp or to prone to misinterpretation, such that they readily get reinterpreted into hideous untruths that are simpler to understand.

          • Thegnskald says:

            And what makes you think you aren’t just parroting the beliefs that your tribe has imparted upon you?

          • I would have some faith that people would say “ok, maybe black people are less intelligent on average, but so what? There are overlapping variances, and everyone should be judged as an individual anyway”

            Some evidence that people do reason that way is that people on the right seem to have no problem respecting black people on the right. Thomas Sowell would be an obvious example in the academic world, Ben Carson in the political world. The obvious response to “he is black so he must be stupid” is “He is a black brain surgeon.”

          • Nornagest says:

            @David — Well, simply being on the right doesn’t necessarily imply that you buy aitch-bee-dee ideas re: IQ. And I don’t know how well respected Sowell and Carson et al. are among people that do.

          • albatross11 says:

            I can’t speak for everyone, but I find Sowell’s work really valuable. I very much recommend his Culture series (Migrations and Culture, Race and Culture, Conquest and Culture), and even more, his excellent book Knowledge and Decisions.

            Further, I’ve seen his work discussed in comment threads on Steve Sailer’s blog and Greg Cochran’s blog–in both cases, overwhelmingly positively. It seems to me that Sowell’s view of culture as having this pervasive multi-generation impact (Most of the brewers are people of German descent several generations after the large-scale immigration from Germany happened) are is really useful–I’d say it’s about as useful a model to have in your head as human b–diversity, and that the two models are often stronger together than separately.

            Sowell also expressed what seems to me to be the strongest (and simplest) critique of the idea of heritability of intelligence as a model for predicting the world–more educated/smarter people have been having fewer kids than less educated/dumber people in the Western world for several generations, and yet the Flynn effect continued until quite recently. This is exactly the opposite of what our model would predict. I’ve seen people try to grapple with this, mainly making the argument that the Flynn effect is probably not reflecting increases in intelligence, just increases in test-taking ability–but that raises a lot of other issues w.r.t. using IQ scores to think about the world and make predictions.

            To link this back to the IDW, Dave Rubin’s podcast recently had an interview with Sowell. I didn’t think the interview was particularly good, though–I wish Tyler Cowen would interview him, so we’d get deeper questions and more interesting discussion.

          • Tim van Beek says:

            But people are not strictly rational – they are tribal…

            Do you realize that this is a decidedly anti-enlightenment idea of man?

            In other words, there might be truths that are too complex to grasp or to prone to misinterpretation, such that they readily get reinterpreted into hideous untruths that are simpler to understand.

            And here you close ranks with the Inquisition.

            On a more tactical note with a look at empirical evidence, as you are interested in a time scale of a couple of years or a decade, do you think the PC idea of installing new taboos will work out? It appears that the only effect is a shrink-hardening of your filter bubble. You don’t change any minds, you just don’t get to know them anymore.

            Example: You read about a lot of projections based on polls that your candidate will win with a very, very high likelihood. Then the other candidate wins, the one who talks about all these taboo topics. This is what success looks like: No one bothered to tell your pollsters whom they were really going to vote for.

          • albatross11 says:

            Theresa:

            How do you balance that against the stories that blame the black/white performance gap on racist teachers or residential segregation or a racist society or something? Assuming the ultimate cause of the performance gap is the IQ gap, which seems very plausible given the relative sizes of the gaps, blaming racist teachers is spreading a lie that decreases social trust and cohesion.

          • Nornagest says:

            more educated/smarter people have been having fewer kids than less educated/dumber people in the Western world for several generations, and yet the Flynn effect continued until quite recently.

            Better childhood nutrition? Less environmental lead? Nootropics from Area 51 in the water supply? Intelligence might be largely heritable, but we know about all sorts of environmental stuff that can affect it.

            “Better nutrition” is probably the strongest option, at least through the Seventies — we’ve gotten taller over the last few generations too, and that’s a pretty good proxy for nutrition quality.

          • albatross11 says:

            Sure. I’m not saying Sowell’s argument is definitive. I am saying it is an attempt by someone who disagrees with the basic human b–diversity framework to engage with those ideas and note an issue that needs to be worked out.

            The cause of the Flynn effect is, as I understand it, under debate. Nutrition and better health seems almost certain to be some of it, especially early in the last century when malnutrition was more of a problem in the developed world, and that probably leads to higher intelligence/better functioning brains. But there’s a good argument that the effect has more to do with a society-wide version of “teaching to the test”–people becoming more familiar with the kind of abstract reasoning needed for IQ tests. And Flynn has postulated that society has changed in ways that allow smarter kids to self-select for environments that make them still smarter.

          • Theresa Klein says:

            @DavidFriedman,
            “Some evidence that people do reason that way is that people on the right seem to have no problem respecting black people on the right. Thomas Sowell would be an obvious example in the academic world,”

            The academic world is the cognitive top 1%. Do you think black people get treated respectfully by white people in the cognitive bottom 30% of the right?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Theresa Klein:

            Nitpick: the academic world probably draws from a lot more than the top 1%. 90th percentile is still 120; there are definitely academics with lower IQs than that. (In the subjects I don’t like, of course)

          • Do you think black people get treated respectfully by white people in the cognitive bottom 30% of the right?

            You mentioned Sowell but not Carson. I don’t have data on the bottom 30% but he seemed popular with a lot of right wing voters, and I don’t expect many of them were academics.

          • Aapje says:

            @Theresa Klein

            The difficulty with that question is that conservatives and libertarians tend to define respect more in terms of being free to choose and with experiencing the positive and negative consequences of your choices; while progressives tend to define respect more in terms of the outcomes that they favor and with helping people to overcome their limitations.

            This difference in views seems to result in a belief that the other side doesn’t respect people in a way that matters hugely.

      • Viliam says:

        there’s definitely a faction that wants it to be socially OK to say that black people are less intelligent than whites. Is that what we want? For it to be socially acceptable to discuss the relative intelligence of African Americans? Why?

        Under usual circumstances, debating the relative intelligence of any group is bad manners. Even if the hypothesis would be true. We already accept that there are differences in IQ between individuals, which in most situations is all we need.

        When I try to imagine a situation where discussing this topic is the right thing to do, I guess these are situations where something happened as a consequence of IQ differences between groups, and someone is looking at the result and asking “why?”. Especially, if in absence of a taboo-but-true explanation, an alternative explanation would be the only remaining option. And believing the alternative explanation would also hurt someone.

        For example, imagine that the hypothesis of racial differences in IQ is true. Then even if you would provide perfect educational opportunities for all kids, if you would measure their outcomes statistically, it would turn out that some races have better outcomes than other races. Why would then be important to mention the hypothesis of differences in IQ? Because the alternative explanation is that the teachers are racist. So, by denying a sad fact for political reasons, you have spared the feelings of some people, but at the same time you have unfairly accused some other people of a behavior that is generally considered very bad. Now it is no longer about minimizing pain, but about finding finding a scapegoat.

        Or to put it in a more nerdy way, if you have a fact “X” which is true but taboo to admit, you can make a statement “X or Y” and prove it experimentally to be true, and then leverage the taboo to ‘socially prove’ that “Y” is true — because “X or Y” is true, and no one is allowed to argue for “X”, so it obviously must be “Y”, there is no other legitimate explanation.

        To unpack it again, if the racial differences in IQ are real, but it is taboo to even consider such option, then our future will inevitably be filled by accusation of racism, because racism will become the only allowed explanation for the observed facts. Even if the society would somehow become 100% non-racist, people would still be angry about racism. Innocent people would be accused, and punished for being racist, because it would not be allowed to say “actually, no one is being racist here, the differences in outcome can be explained by the differences in IQ”. Does this (i.e. endless accusations of racism, and innocent people being punished) sound like a desirable future?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          An alternative explanation is that the school funding is racist, rather than the teachers.

          • Aapje says:

            Or that black kids are raised differently. Or many other environmental reasons.

          • albatross11 says:

            Nancy:

            Sure, that’s an alternative explanation. But I don’t think it is at all consistent with the facts. The black/white performance gap persists even within the same school, where different school funding isn’t an issue. (So does the white/Asian gap, for that matter.)

    • Wrong Species says:

      So sure, they self-censor, because the things they’re afraid to say aren’t (still, e.g.) “there are demonstrable genetic differences among the human species,” it’s “black people are lesser humans than white people” – basically, they know their beliefs are over the edge, and deliberately alter their arguments to be more palatable.

      And how do you know that?

      • LMNO333 says:

        Ask Scott, he brought it up.

        If they engaged in it [rational debate], they would move beyond the bounds of acceptable edginess

        • You may be assuming the bounds of acceptable edginess to be wider than they are.

          I feel comfortable arguing that it is unlikely that the distribution of abilities and behavioral characteristics is the same for men and women, or that there is no reason to assume it is the same across races. As it happens, I’m not very confident of what the differences are in either case, aside from the theoretical argument, which I think fits the data, for wider spreads in male distributions.

          But if I were confident that the principal reason blacks earned less than whites and were more likely to be in jail was the difference in genetic characteristics, I would be very reluctant to say so in public.

          That’s well short of your “lesser humans.” Do you think it would be within the bounds of acceptable edginess?

    • albatross11 says:

      LMNO333:

      How do you know when someone who makes only defensible comments like “there are demonstrable genetic differences among the human species” is really, in their heart of hearts, a Nazi? Inferring hidden evil beliefs on the part of people saying things you don’t like seems both very hard to get right, and very easy to abuse to bash people with whom you have a political or social disagreement.

      • LMNO333 says:

        Again, I’m just responding to what Scott said.

        • albatross11 says:

          It seems to me that this accusation is exactly the most common kind of attack leveled at people outside the Overton Window in a vaguely rightward direction. Alice says “I’m not sure the differences between women and men are 100% culturally determined,” and Bob responds with “Aha! Now we see that Alice is really all about keeping women barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen!”

    • shenanigans24 says:

      You’re claiming people can’t say true things because of some malevolence you’ve mind read onto them.

  36. Tim van Beek says:

    So when he’s talking about his ideas being taboo, he means taboo for everybody who isn’t Sam Harris.

    I never heard Sam Harris use the word taboo, but he did say that e.g.

    1. It is impossible to criticise Islam as a set of ideas without being labeled an islamophobe, or an isamlophobe and a terror apologetic at the same time (although by different groups),
    2. it is impossible to interview Charles Murray on the topic of genetics without being called a racist,
    3. it is impossible to run as a presidential candiate as an atheist.

    And all of this also applies to Sam Harris. There is empirical evidence for 1 and 2.

  37. baconbits9 says:

    I think there is an analogy here for financial markets. Everyone ‘knows’ that (say) Japan isn’t going to pay back its debts given their size and structure, but it is simultaneously low risk to buy Japanese bonds and high risk to short them. Or for a more familiar example in 2008 the markets crashed after the Fed didn’t move to lower rates, but that was 10 months into the technical recession and after other major events had occurred. Betting against the Fed was always high risk, and betting on the Fed was low risk, the Fed not making a move shifted the risk immediately and made it more clear where everyone’s opinion really was.

  38. oppressedminority says:

    Thanks Scott for writing this. Your posts tagged “things I will regret writing” are always the best.

    Once again you break ranks with your tribe by using logic and good faith.

    A couple of points:

    1. The powers that be are trying very hard to be able to censor even people using the Sam Harris podcast/patreon model. The gatekeepers are now very well installed at twitter, facebook, youtube, patreon, iTunes, and the filtering process is all being outsourced to the hyper-partisan and shrill SPLC. Expect even mild crimethinkers to be booted off these platforms in ever greater numbers (the process has already started). Alternative platforms will be surgically cut off from the internet (see Gab.ai being unavailable on iTunes for allowing content that was widely available in 2012 twitter). People are also starting to audit bitcoin transactions to crimethinkers to destroy the lives of people who contributed. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years people could lose their job over a $5 patreon contribution to Jordan Peterson the same way Brendan Eich lost his job for a contribution to support a position that was held in good faith throughout all of human history (minus the last 10 years)

    2. The double standard in how abuse hurled at the IDW vs abuse hurled at MSM is staggering. If a woman working for MSM receives any mean tweets, the mean tweeter is kicked off twitter and we get dozens of think pieces with hot takes such as “Why is it so hard to be a woman on the internet?”. But if you disrupt a speech by a mildly conservative speaker your gender studies professor will give you extra credits and a paid gig at a George Soros non-profit.

    3. The IDW represents the overwhelming majority. The SJWs represents a tiny but powerful minority. This is why Trump won. I’m very hopeful that Trump can dismantle the SJW power structure to liberate the overwhelming majority from the tyranny of the SJWs peacefully.

    • Aapje says:

      The IDW represents the overwhelming majority. The SJWs represents a tiny but powerful minority. This is why Trump won.

      Trump won with the minority of the votes & I think that it is silly to equate IDW with Trump.

      • oppressedminority says:

        Yes but it’s quite safe to assume that no SJW voted for Trump and many anti-SJWs voted for Hillary. Also, the ideas of the IDW and the excesses of the SJWs helped Trump’s popularity with moderates.

        So, I’m not equating the IDW with Trump. But I still think Trump’s win was facilitated by the culture war between SJWs and the IDW.

        • Simon_Jester says:

          So the argument is that IDW supporters voted for a corrupt, demented radical in hopes of signalling their opposition to the social justice movement, and against a candidate who’s mainstream to her toenails and who gets minimal if any recognition from the social justice movement for anything other than having ovaries.

          This is the kind of action that I’d expect to prove a blunder in the long run.

          • oppressedminority says:

            Paging Cathy Newman, “so what you’re saying is…”.

            No, the argument is that when one side is associated with “How dare you not find Caitlyn Jenner a real, beautiful, and brave woman you disgusting bigot”, a lot of people will start to not just consider the “muslim ban” and “build the wall” side but actively cheer for it.

            But never mind me, SJW excesses have absolutely no effects on voting patterns. If anything, Hillary lost because the left was not shrill and politically correct enough. The only solution is to double down and destroy the lives of even more people for not being sufficiently deferential to preferred minorities.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            I’m not saying the people angry about the social justice movement didn’t have a humanly comprehensible motive such as “to hell with those people saying nasty things about me.”

            I’m saying it’s the kind of decision that tends to backfire.

            Voting for the high-variance guy who just happens to say “to hell with those people saying nasty things about you” is a good way to end up with a government whose sole qualification is saying nasty things about people you don’t like.

            Given that the Trump administration has been to the social justice movement what a big jug of gasoline is to an open flame, I don’t think it’s even working very well as a specific weapon intended to somehow diminish or weaken the social justice movement.

            It’s the same thing I say TO the social justice movement: “Jeez, if you’re going to declare yourselves to have enemies and act to oppose their agenda, at least fight smart!

          • Baeraad says:

            Given that the Trump administration has been to the social justice movement what a big jug of gasoline is to an open flame, I don’t think it’s even working very well as a specific weapon intended to somehow diminish or weaken the social justice movement.

            Sad but true.

        • christianschwalbach says:

          Gonna need some major supporting evidence for point #1 up there. Who are these so called “powers that be?”

          • oppressedminority says:

            YouTube is demonetizing very tame videos from Steven Crowder and Dave Rubin. Bearing (whom I dont really know but as far as i can tell is moderate) just got booted from YouTube. Jordan Peterson had his entire google account including his youtube channel locked for a day.

            We know for a fact that the people at these companies are filled with SJW types who bully their coworkers and cry at HR if their bullying targets respond (see Damore lawsuit screengrabs).

            Patreon just booted Faith Goldy from their platform, despite promises from the Patreon CEO on Dave Rubin to allow free speech on their platform and just ban people who commit illegal acts.

            Facebook just removed Rebel Media’s page without explanation.

            At the extreme end you have Daily Stormer being basically unable to even host a website. You can claim that Daily Stormer is really bad and I would agree with you, but the SJW types who have this power dont seem to be interested in making distinctions between Daily Stormer and Jordan Peterson, and when they’re done with Daily Stormer they’ll move on to the next target, and on and on, until even SlateStarCodex is deemed to be anti-soviet propaganda, which needs to be purged from the internet for the glory of the proletarian revolution.

          • Baeraad says:

            Bearing (whom I dont really know but as far as i can tell is moderate) just got booted from YouTube.

            I would like to suggest the possibility that that had less to do with the content of his politics and more to do with him being a flaming butthole in the way he argued for them.

            Not saying that acting like a civilised human being keeps the hard-liners from hating you, but it makes it a lot more likely that the moderates will take a stand for you against them. You’d have to be a really passionate free speach advocate to take up arms in defense of a badly drawn cartoon bear whose arguments are frequently along the lines of, “hur hur, that stupid lefty bitch is FAT! Why you so stupid, fatty fat lefty bitch?”

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            For what it’s worth, YouTube still spends a lot of its time recommending Bill Burr videos to me.

    • MasteringTheClassics says:

      Once again you break ranks with your tribe by using logic and good faith

      In what sense is the IDW not Scott’s tribe?

      • Futhington says:

        In the sense that he very loudly and proudly shouts about being such a California Blue Tribe liberal that he outright wants to live in the Bay Area, and that he wrote a massive screed defending and endorsing HRC for president. Both of which are not exactly common things with the IDW types.

        • MasteringTheClassics says:

          he very loudly and proudly shouts about being such a California Blue Tribe liberal that he outright wants to live in the Bay Area

          Source on his claiming to be Blue Tribe? In the last section of this he pretty clearly says the blue tribe isn’t his ingroup. Also, this (especially section 3).

          Regarding living in the Bay Area – that’s where all his friends live. Of course he wants to live there.

          And Sam Harris was a vocal Hillary supporter. Is he not in the IDW?

        • SaiNushi says:

          I thought Scott was gray tribe?

    • AG says:

      Eich, Saccho, and Yarvin are doing just fine.

      In the worst case, people can mail cash to the people they want to support. People made money on the internet before Paypal or anything like it existed.

      • shenanigans24 says:

        A lot of Jim Crow was trivial inconveniences. We’ve heard about the indignities of being denied a hotel room, or having separate bus sections. If one of these is a huge ingignity the other can’t be a trivial inconvenience.

        One could point out for most of history busses and hotels weren’t options so living like most of the planet has always lived is no big deal.

        • AG says:

          Jim Crow was pervasive enough to cause a hostile environment where black people’s lives were worsened so much that they still haven’t closed the gaps. Segregation was struck down not because it was separate (trivial difference), but because it was meaningfully not equal (not trivial difference).

          Have the aforementioned 3 people gone down a class tier as a result of their job losses? (I will concede that Damore has not rebounded from his job loss.)

          • Aapje says:

            @AG

            Mozilla has a yearly budget of about $520M. Eich is now the CEO of Brave Software, which has $2.5 million in early funding. He also started a bitcoin startup that did an ICO for $35 million.

            So his new companies are combined a lot smaller than Mozilla, so one can argue that he dropped a tier on the CEO rankings and that he probably earns less now (assuming that salary increases with company size).

            Justine Sacco is now Vice President Communications at Match Group (Tinder, OkCupid, Match.com, PlentyofFish and others), which may be a parallel move from where she was when the scandal happened (IAC). IAC is a bit bigger, but her title at Match Group suggests that she has a better position. However, between IAC and Match Group, she spend two years at a smaller company. So it looks like she had to temporarily accept a step back.

            I don’t see any data that allows me to judge how much Yarvin was impacted.

  39. IrishDude says:

    Even if everyone knows the emperor is naked; indeed, even if everyone knows everyone knows he’s naked, still, if it’s not common knowledge, then anyone who says the emperor’s naked is knowingly assuming a massive personal risk.

    There’s a Rationally Speaking podcast episode called “Private Truths and Public Lies” that discusses preference falsification. People claim to support something publicly but privately don’t, and this can lead to societal problems. Preference falsification happens for a variety of reasons, but one of them is the common knowledge problem discussed here.

    The nice thing about the internet is that it makes it easier to find people that are willing to publicly claim things that you believe in private, helping break the veil of preference falsification. Unfortunately, the internet and social media also enable online mobs, creating strong incentives to obscure identity and post anonymously, which pushes in the opposite direction by maintaining a stigma on certain private truths.

    • AG says:

      Anti-anonymization measures have just resulted in stronger polarisation, though, not truth-seeking.

    • El Cid says:

      I was going to reference preference falsification but you beat me to it.

      One of the topics I think that the “marginalizers” are trying to keep stigmatized is race in the United States. The dominant narrative peddled by legacy media and in the academy has ossified into a sort of pseudo-religion, where people of color (even those not yet in the U.S.) are perpetually victims, and the U.S. needs to expiate its guilt for its original sins with regard to race by not only “browning” itself but also via enormous transfers of wealth and appropriations of limited opportunities to ensure racially just results. We have a certain creed that good white people (and, truthfully, any white people who want to be or remain employed in a white collar job) have to repeat on command. “Diversity is our greatest strength!”

      But it is clear when you look behind this to see how people in the United States actually live that most people – including white people – don’t really believe this. Even I dare say whites who would enforce the rules of the creed upon other whites for their blasphemy. Whites with wherewithal expend enormous amounts of energy to minimize the extent of their contact with underclass blacks. They erect elaborate, plausibly legally defensible infrastructure to segregate themselves away from underclass blacks in particular – euphemisms like “good schools,” “high quality municipal services,” “open space,” and the like come to mind.

      So what happens when vast numbers of people in all walks of life and inhabiting space all over the political spectrum don’t sincerely believe what they are made to say and what they are made to force others to say? I think for one you get surprises like Brexit and Trump – think about how Trump was able to build a successful political coalition from nothing simply because he took a popular but stigmatized position with regard to illegal immigration. And he was able to do this because the overton window on the issue had shrunk so narrow that the debate was solely between how generous the U.S. should be to non-citizen lawbreakers without a serious thought about the needs of actual citizens and voters beyond “enjoy your street tacos and shut up.” The party which should represent immigration restrictionism (if only to ensure its own continued existence in the near term) refused to field a plausible, qualified candidate who would take a broadly popular position with regard to controlling immigration into the U.S.

      Events like Trump and Brexit should be useful safety valves to dissipate anger and at the very least reset the terms of debate, but they’ve largely been frustrated by anti-democratic bureaucratic elements who had a hand in enforcing the taboos in the first place. I think the most interesting question is what happens after a Trump – what happens when a taboo is broken and true preferences revealed but anti-democratic forces refuse them?

      • baconbits9 says:

        Whites with wherewithal expend enormous amounts of energy to minimize the extent of their contact with underclass blacks.

        How many middle class or upper white people have you known to go live in the Ozarks? There are large clusters of poor white people in the US, and surprise surprise not poor white people also attempt to avoid them. Perhaps there is a larger avoidance for poor blacks (I would buy that) but it isn’t as if poor and rich white people are rubbing elbows.

        • dndnrsn says:

          How would one measure this? I suspect that the avoidance is fairly similar, once you account for geographical issues (eg, aren’t poor black people on average in places with higher population density than poor white people? Buying a summer home somewhere rural and kinda poor is probably not wildly uncommon). The major difference is that among well-off, educated white people it’s more socially acceptable to express disdain for poor white people than poor black people – at least, among the circles we lazily call “blue tribe” it is.

          In comparison, I think the statistics show that middle class and more well-off black people are considerably more likely to have poor neighbours, friends, and family than their white counterparts. I believe the explanation commonly given is that in various ways racism has kept them from separating in the way that better-off white people have from poorer white people. Additionally, being better-off doesn’t protect black people from various forms of harassment, so they have more empathy for poorer black people, sharing some of the same travails: I suspect that the gap in how the cops (or whatever) would treat me versus a poor white guy is greater than the gap in how they would treat a black guy with similar education, money, etc versus a poor black guy.

          • El Cid says:

            How would one measure this? I suspect that the avoidance is fairly similar, once you account for geographical issues (eg, aren’t poor black people on average in places with higher population density than poor white people?

            Is there a phenomenon in rural areas of people fleeing to avoid other white people on par with “white flight” from urban blacks? My surmise is that smart or motivated white kids from the Ozarks might seek out economic and social opportunities in and around larger cities for their own sake and in search of a lifestyle not available at home.

            We can “measure” whites fleeing urban blacks by the rate of suburban development in the 70s/80s/90s.

            You could also draw conclusions about younger whites raised in suburbs gentrifying cities after the abatement of the urban crime wave and the forms of aggressive policing and codified mandatory prison terms necessary for that to have occurred.

            These were/are massive lifestyle and demographic shifts but we can’t really talk about what instigated them.

          • dndnrsn says:

            What is the overlap between “smart kids in the sticks now more able to get into good universities” and the related sorting Murray writes about in Coming Apart, and the white flight from the cities to the suburbs? Would one of the former kids go direct to the suburbs after the 70s?

            Plus, I think it shows something that the white flight was to suburbs, often newly constructed, rather than to preexisting rural areas. There’s definitely an anti-rural bias among the people “blue tribe” gestures at; it even exists in places where the rural/urban split takes on a different character than in the US (eg, in Canada, you will see the rural areas stereotyped as right wing; there are however a lot of places where the majority of voters vote Liberal or NDP with the Conservatives winning due to vote splitting – and the Conservatives are to the left of the Republicans).

            Well-off white people want to live neither among poor white people nor among poor black people. It’s often more acceptable for them to express prejudice against the former; with the latter they have to use euphemisms (“good schools”).

            I think it’s also a bit hard to say exactly what caused the crime dip. Did aggressive policing and mandatory minimums help? Was it leaded gasoline getting phased out? We don’t know; it’s also far from clear what started the crime boom in the first place.

          • John Schilling says:

            Is there a phenomenon in rural areas of people fleeing to avoid other white people on par with “white flight” from urban blacks?

            J.D. Vance might have something to say about that.

            My surmise is that smart or motivated white kids from the Ozarks might seek out economic and social opportunities in and around larger cities for their own sake and in search of a lifestyle not available at home.

            That’s been a cliché for about as long as there have been white kids in the Ozarks, but as Vance and many others have noted, it’s as much about running away from what the Ozarks have to offer as running to what the city has to offer.

            The best that can be said about “hillbilly” culture is that it is passably good at promoting happiness in people who will never be prosperous or smart but who might do some good e.g. mining coal and raising a family, which is no small thing. But it is about as antithetical to economic or intellectual achievement as urban black culture, and as with urban black culture, any kid with the potential to do better will likely as not be pushed out by their own loving family at the first opportunity.

        • El Cid says:

          I don’t know any well-off people who went to live in the Ozarks among poor whites. Nor do I know of anyone from the Ozarks who became wealthy in the Ozarks but left to escape underclass whites. Incidentally, rates of violent crime even in the Ozark region populated by underclass whites aren’t comparable to rates of urban crime primarily perpetrated by blacks in places like Baltimore. So escaping the Ozarks isn’t as much a matter of personal safety as it is seeking out a more desirable place to live.

          So the issue isn’t one of actively seeking out underclass people of any race to live amongst, but rather the measures employed by people – their actual behavior – that conflict with their professed beliefs about race. My original comment was implicitly referencing a widespread phenomenon of suburbanization in the United States which accelerated in the 80s and 90s as a response to the urban crime wave beginning in the 1960s.

          White liberals go to great lengths to isolate themselves and their children from black dysfunction and its spillover effects while simultaneously alleviating the guilt about this by speaking the creeds publicly and doing things like bussing poor white’s children into majority black schools while educating their own in lily white private schools.

          My point is just that there is an obvious dissonance between what large swaths of people believe about race and what they’re comfortable saying, and that it’s probably healthier in a representative democracy if people could speak plainly and if beliefs that are widely held aren’t suppressed and forbidden to be spoken.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Nor do I know of anyone from the Ozarks who became wealthy in the Ozarks but left to escape underclass whites.

            Nor do I, but I do know someone from Pennsyltucky (kinda like the Ozarks, but not as picturesque) who become well-off elsewhere, would never go back, and holds underclass whites remaining behind in strong disdain.

            White liberals go to great lengths to isolate themselves and their children from black dysfunction and its spillover effects while simultaneously alleviating the guilt about this by speaking the creeds publicly and doing things like bussing poor white’s children into majority black schools while educating their own in lily white private schools.

            This is basically unfair. They isolate themselves and their children from dysfunction. For most, that it is “black dysfunction” or “Hispanic dysfunction” is not relevant. Where there are good schools with significant percentages of blacks and Hispanics, most of those white liberals are perfectly happy to use them. The issue isn’t hypocrisy; the issue is a matter of reality not matching their ideals, and when push comes to shove on the important issues they choose reality. I think to many this feels like hypocrisy and inspires guilt, but it isn’t.

            tl;dr “underclass” is doing the important work here.

          • El Cid says:

            tl;dr “underclass” is doing the important work here.

            Maybe so, maybe not. Whatever the reasons, blacks are vastly overrepresented in the underclass, and vastly overrepresented among perpetrators of serious crimes and other dysfunction. Lower class whites are more violent and prone to criminality than upper class whites but still don’t compare to blacks. Getting away from lower class whites primarily means avoiding tackiness, gauche behavior (like unironic displays of patriotism) and crudeness while creating a critical mass of upper class whites sufficient to support a market for things like exotic restaurants. It’s far less about fears of becoming a victim of a violent crime and being restricted in one’s daily activities for fear of same.

            When upper class liberal whites criticize whites a rung or two down the ladder of class and status for wanting the same things for their kids that the liberals do the liberals aren’t so generous with parsing their motivations and giving them the benefit of the doubt. In that case, they’re mercilessly hounded as irredeemable racists.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Getting away from lower class whites primarily means avoiding tackiness, gauche behavior (like unironic displays of patriotism) and crudeness while creating a critical mass of upper class whites sufficient to support a market for things like exotic restaurants. It’s far less about fears of becoming a victim of a violent crime and being restricted in one’s daily activities for fear of same.

            You’re understating the problems upper-class whites have with lower-class whites, especially when it comes to their children. Upper-class parents tend not to want their children involved in the sorts of delinquencies lower-class whites don’t think is such a big deal. Drunk driving, street racing, teen pregnancy, physical fighting, etc.

          • albatross11 says:

            Nitpick: The Lake of the Ozarks is a pretty major vacation home location for wealthy (presumably mostly blue-tribe) people from St Louis and Kansas City.

  40. nestorr says:

    A lot of these people get their views distorted by their supposed supporters as much or more than their detractors, if you look at the titles of most of the Jordan Peterson videos on Youtube, combined with the fact that the man has resting angry face, you’d think he’s some frothing at the mouth misogynist. Then if you actually watch “JORDAN PETERSON DESTROYS TWO FEMINISTS” you get a measured and polite debate between people making nuanced arguments rather than the promised cagematch.

    Combine that with most progressives’ fear of contaminating themselves by actually reading, listening or watching the arguments of the people they are criticizing (Seriously, I’ve lost count of the times people cheerfully admit they haven’t engaged the material they’re dismissing) and well… it can be understood how these folks believe people aren’t listening to them.

    • Clarence says:

      That’s because Jordan Peterson did a very smart thing: he didn’t set the flag on Youtube that prevents his work from being copied. Thus every Faiyaz, Neerav and Pranay out there can chop off a 12 minute piece, upload it with a misleading clickbait title, and profit. Thus far more exposure than would usually be the case if people had to go to JP’s channel to watch an hour and thirty minute academic lecture.

    • Tim van Beek says:

      On that note, the “reason” article that Scott cites links to a 18s excerpt of a conversation of Jordan Peterson that supposedly shows that he says that

      all feminists have “an unconscious wish for brutal male domination”

      I am very sceptical about people who don’t get suspicious that a 18s clip is probably a decontextualization. I get even more sceptical when the original material isn’t linked to. I get even more sceptical when the guy who posts the clip obviously does so in order to frame someone.

      So I went looking, here is what seems to be a more complete clip.

      Be my guest to make up your own mind if Elizabeth Nolan Brown mishandles her sources.

      To cite a Nobel Laureate:

      Don’t criticize what you don’t understand.

    • El Cid says:

      Combine that with most progressives’ fear of contaminating themselves by actually reading, listening or watching the arguments of the people they are criticizing (Seriously, I’ve lost count of the times people cheerfully admit they haven’t engaged the material they’re dismissing) and well… it can be understood how these folks believe people aren’t listening to them.

      But what we’re talking about here isn’t some cat lady barista with a women’s studies degree summarily dismissing Peterson or another – it’s people whose job is discussing ideas dismissing people like Peterson without a fair hearing and often by means misrepresenting his views. It’s the immense power of a very small number of people to marginalize popular ideas, force the mainstreaming of fringe ideas, and to prescribe the acceptable limits of debate of matters of immense public import to engineer their desired outcomes. It is to ask the question – what good is an academy if it can’t or won’t discuss ideas?

      It can’t be a coincidence that at least two of the prominent members of the “Intellectual Dark Web” are academics themselves pushed to the margins by weaponized marginal ideas and advocates of those ideas. Peterson objected to a legal regime requiring the participation in the fantasies of disturbed people, and Weinstein objected to being forcefully absented from his College’s campus because he is white. Any discussion of these men requires an embarrassing discussion about the rot in the academy and the gross excesses of campus activism.

  41. zima says:

    I think the analogies to the labor movement and Indian independence don’t work because the IDW and right more generally has both people power and institutional power. Trump is the president and most world governments are trending right. And nearly all laws against political activism in the US are targeted against people on the left; for example, it is illegal to boycott Israel but there are no laws against boycotting any left-wing institutions. Many left-wing academics and speakers were denied visas to come to the US during the Bush years; no similar actions against right-wing speakers occurred under Obama.

    • Balioc says:

      “for example, it is illegal to boycott Israel but there are no laws against boycotting any left-wing institutions”

      Sigh. This is pedantry, but facts are important —

      It is most definitely not illegal to boycott Israel. Lots of people, and lots of institutions like universities, do just that. The BDS movement is thriving and active.

      It’s illegal to become part of a foreign government’s boycott of Israel. (This legislation was intended mostly to cover American contractors working for other countries, on the theory that many governments would otherwise make “…and you can’t have anything to do with Israel” a standard condition of employment.)

      Now, to be clear, the existing law is terrible both legally and morally, and a decent Supreme Court would strike it down for being blatantly unconstitutional. But it’s also vastly narrower than you’re making out to be, and very differently motivated.

      • Iain says:

        Arizona requires any company that contracts with the state to sign a document certifying that it is not boycotting Israel.

        An equivalent law is currently being challenged in Kansas.

        This website claims that anti-BDS legislation has been passed in 24 states. This is a slight exaggeration — California, for example, had to strip out the BDS-specific parts of the law prior to passage due to concerns about constitutionality. But lots of other states didn’t bother.

        It is incorrect to claim that only boycotts led by foreign governments are prohibited.

    • Conrad Honcho says: