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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. siduri says:

    [edit: Albatross11, I just want to thank you for your patience in continuing this (I think very interesting!) conversation, and to apologize for my apparent inability to get comment threading to work as intended >.<]

    It's NOT a new norm, though, is the thing! People have been getting fired for embarrassing their employers for as long as there *were* employers. The only thing that's different is the degree to which employers are now embarrassed about open anti-egalitarian views.

    Scott points out in this very post that currently "liberal" beliefs were once subject to the same censure: "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."

    And I'm saying, yeah, the norm itself hasn't shifted. Only the content of the beliefs that now invoke that kind of backlash. If you're standing in an ideological thinkspace that gradually shifts out of the Overton window, it's going to *feel* like social norms are radically changing around you, but ACTUALLY society is working the way it always has. (I mean, it's sort of funny that you invoke the specter of people getting fired for being openly queer in the workplace, as if that'd be a NEW thing…)

    • Tim van Beek says:

      And I’m saying, yeah, the norm itself hasn’t shifted. Only the content of the beliefs that now invoke that kind of backlash.

      Right.

      If you’re standing in an ideological thinkspace that gradually shifts out of the Overton window…

      There isn’t one Overton window, though.

      …but ACTUALLY society is working the way it always has.

      Right, it’s just that the overall media landscape and especially social media have tremendously increased tribalism and filter bubbles, so much so that your side has pushed science, truth and reality itself outside of its Overton window.

      As an example:

      The whole Damore situation wouldn’t have escalated the way it did without social media and, in general, the Web 2.0. Back in the day, only a hand of people would ever have read his memo, and those people would have had time enough to calm down and to actually try and understand it.
      Instead I got to read 50 pieces in major newspapers who all repeated the same basic errors, e.g. misrepresenting that “females score, on average, a little bit higher on the neuroticism scale (neuroticism is a technical term from personality psychology, from the big five)” as “Damore claims that women are too hysterical for a STEM career”.

      So that is new.

      And yes, the pillory is not a new invention, neither would be a new Inquisition or witch hunts. That observation isn’t a good argument for re-introducing those into the 21first century, though.

      And even if you don’t care about enlightement values, truth, science or the open society in general, it should give you pause that you put all of those into the hands of your opponents.

      That is a bad tactical move. I think that it will backfire really, really badly. I think it already has, actually (and I’m not referring to the fact that you lost people like me as potential allies).

  2. albatross11 says:

    (This thread is mostly dead, but I wanted to respond to siduri.)

    I think you should make a distinction between shunning in the sense of personal interactions and in the sense of firing someone from their job.

    Right now, we have at least something of a norm that says most employers don’t fire people for having offensive political or social beliefs. Some very high-profile employers seem to be pushing against that norm. If they succeed, we will wind up, as a society, with a lot less actual freedom to organize politically. It will become much more rare for people to be willing to go to political rallies, or express themselves about their beliefs. Only independently wealthy people and people whose employers are on their side will be comfortable with those things.

    That’s a recipe for a much worse world. If we’d had that world starting in 1980, gay marriage and marijuana legalization wouldn’t even be on the table as issues right now. There wouldn’t be much of a green movement or libertarian movement, either. Nobody would ever talk about rights for transpeople, because all right thinking people know they’re all freaks, and anyone who disagrees in public loses his job.

    It’s easy to justify this because it’s your side winning visibly right now. But once you establish that norm society-wide, it won’t remain just something done by your allies to your enemies. The country that keeps electing Republicans and elected Donald f–king Trump president has a lot of conservatives in it–a lot of people who are offended as hell at SJW ideas and antifa and trans rights discussions and atheism and all kinds of other stuff. The old norm about not firing people for non-work weird beliefs can go away, and then in red parts of the country, you just won’t dare say if you believe those things and you work for Wal-Mart, or you live in Jefferson City, Missouri and need to keep your job at the local diner.

    Alongside the making-the-world-worse problem, there’s a more basic one pointed out by Mill a long time ago: you don’t actually know the right arguments or ideas all the time. By punishing people for arguing against the views held by powerful people, you’re making it a lot harder for incorrect beliefs held by powerful people to ever go away. Perhaps it just so happens that the beliefs of, say, the middle 80% of Google employees contain all the truth, and so there’s no danger in shutting down any offensive jerk who wants to argue against those beliefs. But that doesn’t seem like the way to bet.

    This is a good way to win local ideological battles while making your whole society dumber and less able to respond to new information.

  3. siduri says:

    (Edit: Sorry, this was meant as a reply to albatross11)

    We can move toward a world where the norm is that employers check your social media accounts and fire you if you express political opinions that your employers disagree with off the clock. That could happen. If it does, the result will be a huge loss of practical political freedom. Nobody working for Wal-Mart gets to go to the pro-choice[1] or pro-gun-control rally without looking for another job first. Nobody from Google gets to go to the pro-life or anti-gun-control rally without looking for another job first. That would be a terrible place for our society to end up. We should push back against that.

    So this is interesting to me because it’s an argument against shunning as social enforcement mechanism. (Most of the other arguments center around whether Peterson or some other particular IDW person *deserves* shunning, which is a different argument.)

    But I would say that our society not only has already “ended up” in this place, but *has been there all along*, that this is fundamentally how societies *work*. People have been fired throughout history for saying socially controversial things. It’s not a new phenomenon. The only thing that’s new is that sexism and racism are now considered, in California especially, to be shunning-worthy offenses where previously they didn’t rise to that level. It seems to me *that’s* what the right leaning folks are really upset about–not that shunning exists as a punishment for fringe beliefs, but that THEIR beliefs have been pushed so far to the fringe that they are now experiencing shunning as a consequence.

    Scott himself argues for shunning as an enforcement mechanism. In “In Favor of Niceness, Community, and Civilization” he writes: “All I will say in way of explaining these miraculous equilibria is that they seem to have something to do with inheriting a cultural norm and not screwing it up. Punishing the occasional defector seems to be a big part of not screwing it up…I think most of our useful social norms exist through a combination of divine grace and reciprocal communitarianism. To some degree they arise spontaneously and are preserved by the honor system. To another degree, they are stronger or weaker in different groups, and the groups that enforce them are so much more pleasant than the groups that don’t that people are willing to go along…And this is good! We want to make it politically unacceptable to have people say that Jews bake the blood of Christian children into their matzah. Now we build on that success. We start hounding around the edges of currently acceptable lies. ‘Okay, you didn’t literally make up your statistics, but you still lied, and you still should be cast out from the community of people who have reasonable discussions and never trusted by anyone again.'”

    I think this is exactly how Blue Tribe feels about punishing racism and sexism. We punish defectors (those who advocate racism and sexism) because we believe that groups that do this are *so much more pleasant than the groups that don’t*. We believe that we are advocating for niceness, community, and civilization when we do this.

    Now, Scott has been making a series of posts where he suggests that the IDW should not be “cast out from the community of people who have reasonable discussions and never trusted by anyone again,” which is what they are experiencing in the liberal sphere right now. I think in order to do that, he will not be able to just argue against shunning in general like he clearly wants to do. Because he’s NOT against shunning in general–he’s absolutely for it, when applied to his own political enemies, like the “Andrew Cord”s of the world.

    What he IS against is using shunning as a punishment for racism and sexism. And in order to successfully argue that, I think he will have to identify those pieces of the IDW ethos that he either thinks aren’t sexist/racist but are unfairly perceived to be, OR argue that actual racism and sexism don’t deserve shunning either.

    And that last is not likely to be a winning argument in California, where that discussion is over and the open racists/sexists have simply lost. I get that it probably feels very bad to lose a culture war. But I’m on the winning team, so while I can (as I sad before) condemn violence and death threats, I really don’t see a need to condemn the kind of silencing that Scott is complaining about here. I think *that* is a natural consequence of losing a culture war, always has been and always will be, because that is how cultures work.

    • siduri says:

      And actually, to reply to myself, I will go farther and say that I think Scott’s refusal to punish racism and sexism is pretty much what defines the SSC comment sections, and leads some to find it the last safe bastion for edgy discussion on the Internet while others find it toxic and repugnant and awful. That is his right; he’s choosing his social norms. However to the extent that he finds himself increasingly boxed in with the IDW and suffering the same reputational costs that they incur, it’s because of this choice.

      So really I think he can:

      A) Argue that reputational costs for violating social norms shouldn’t exist–in which case very little of what he argues in “In Favor of Niceness…” can survive, and we’re left with a position that requires us to either engage respectfully with people who spread the blood libel or summarily shoot them in the head

      or

      B) Accept that reputational costs for violating social norms do and always will exist, that this is a *good thing* actually and lets us get to a place where we can shun the blood libel people instead of shooting them or affording them the dignity of respectful conversation. And then argue for why the IDW should not be treated the same way when they advocate for shit like enforced monogamy that sounds really, really, really fucking sexist.

      • Glen Raphael says:

        @ siduri:

        And then argue for why the IDW should not be treated the same way when they advocate for shit like enforced monogamy that sounds really, really, really fucking sexist.

        I feel like that example undermines the point you were trying to make, revealing a huge excluded middle between your options A and B.

        Your options both take it for granted that we can reliably know when somebody is violating social norms without first respectfully engaging their views. But…how can that be the case? Some people use academic language in conversation – an earlier example of this would be Peterson saying women are high in neuroticism. Some people use allegories or metaphors in their talks. People sometimes accidentally mis-speak, speculate, say something in a clumsy way that implies things they don’t mean, quote someone else’s argument they don’t themselves fully support, or even just change their mind such that a thing they said 20 years ago they no longer support today. So…let’s consider a different binary option. Pick one of these two:

        (A) It is okay to judge a person based on the worst conceivable interpretation of the worst thing they’ve ever said, devoid of context, as reported by somebody who hates them.

        -or-

        (B) Before judging a person, we should ask what they mean, confirm our suspicions are correct, interpret charitably, and give them an option to refine, clarify and/or retract if what we heard is not what they meant.

        Option (A) is a recipe for overbroad mob justice shaming campaigns; Option (B) is a recipe for actually figuring out what people mean. (B) is better because our initial guess as to what people are trying to say might be wrong.

        • Tim van Beek says:

          I feel like that example completely undermines the point you were trying to make…

          @siduri:
          Just in case it has to be clarified: the “Custodian of the Patriarchy” piece in the NYT does not connect in any way to what Peterson (the real one) actually says. It is a very good example of one of the points Scott is trying to make here.
          And, as it seems to be in need to be to be mentioned, too:

          So this is interesting to me because it’s an argument against shunning as social enforcement mechanism.

          No, that’s obviously not what Scott is trying to say.

          But I would say that our society not only has already “ended up” in this place, but *has been there all along*, that this is fundamentally how societies *work*.

          Of course, everybody knows that! No one is questioning that! What we question is if it is a good move from the left to try to shrink-shift the Overton window by employing uninformed mobs. It is not a black-and-white question of unbounded tolerance versus humanism.

          @siduri: AFAIK your post exemplifies your side of the culture wars very well. Unfortunately, one key aspect of your post and of your side is your inability to even remotely understand what other people (which you perceive to be on the other side, whether that’s accurate or not) try to tell you.

          A first step in order to understand each other is starting with the language by defining key terms. Please define “sexism” and “racism”.
          Is the following statement “sexist”?

          A: On average, men can run faster than women.

          Because it seems that there are people on your side of the culture war who parse this sentence in a way that prompts a reaction like this:

          What A is saying is that women cannot run and are therefore unfit to stand up for themselves! This is blatantly sexist!

          Meaning you are on your way to shun objective research.

          I am an humanist. I am also an engineer. I believe that in order to fix complex systems, you need to understand them first.

          Do you understand why you force me into the opposition of your view as you explained it here?

          Edit: When Mark Lilla argues that the left atomizes itself and therefore dooms itself with regard to political power, although he focuses on identity politics rather then “sexism” and “racism”, he means people like us. We should be allies.

    • Thegnskald says:

      You have to -win- first.

      Instead, we have a giant circular firing squad, having snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory with a sudden zealous pursuit of rooting out heretics. The IDW is mainly composed of -fellow leftists-, espousing leftist values, but speaking heresy that gets labeled as right-wing because anything that isn’t Left must be Right.

      But that’s fine. Really, it’s fine. At this point, I wash my hands of this parody of leftism; I just can’t care anymore. Go on, keep destroying yourselves. At a certain point, your participation in the system is just sanctioning your own destruction, and I just can’t maintain my sense of injustice when the gears of the machine start grinding up those who watched impassively when it wasn’t them – as it already has.

      Just remember as your institutions continue to collapse that you were told they would, and you insisted it was the right thing to do.

      • Tim van Beek says:

        Nooooo!!! Giving up is not an option.

        Go on, keep destroying yourselves.

        The problem is that they don’t destroy themselves, they destroy public discourse and the left’s ability to win elections. A movement whose signature move is trolling them has been elevated to the highest levels of the administration. This is getting dangerous, for real, and fast.

        Sorry for being blunt, but I also look at the SJW and PC movements, and the Trump movement, and the media landscape, and think they deserve each other. Unfortunately we are caught in the middle. The best solution would be to build a remote space station on the dark side of the moon where these three could battle it out, but it does not seem that Elon Musk is interested in financing that.

  4. pierretrudank says:

    >combines careful and important thinkers like Eric Weinstein with awful demagogues like Ben Shapiro
    Ehm, im not sure who that former is. But we don’t need to make a false dichotomy. For example, Jordan Peterson is between the two, and I am being extremely generous here. It is obvious to any non-brainlet he does not understand pomo 101.[1-4] He is himself, actually, quite postmodernist, by sheer act of criticism itself, and linguistic analysis of the status quo Progressives. The fact that he praises Ayn Rand is in of itself a reason to dismiss him entirely. Nevermind the fact that he engages with right-wing cult leader and pseudo-intellectual Stefan Molyneux. He might as well go on the Ralph Retort or Warski Live or infowars at this point.

    Charles Murray is an attention troll, while not himself a white supremacist, he kind of skirts the line with semi-dogwhistles and so on. I know guilt by association is a fallacy, but still, his core audience shares lots of overlap with /pol/ type figures. In book threads he sticks out like a sore thumb.

    >restrained enough to get the New York Times to write basically positive editorials about you
    Well, from a conspiracy point of view, we could argue it is a “false flag” to discredit reaction to progressivism by associating them with pseudo-intellectuals and e-celebs. The point is, in the end, it did WAY more harm than good. It literally turned the group into a meme to be made fun of.

    >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),
    No offense but thats setting the bar really low, most of Vox is plain shitposting,I don’t take much of it serious.

    I don’t think “censorship” is an actual problem much, it is exaggerated by conservatives (and others) who don’t have much of value to say. Twitter and Facebook don’t owe you anything. As a liberal, you yourself are a worshipper of technology, progress and modernity. It would be hypocritical to be upset about technology not favoring your way.
    It is a shame that actual thinkers and academics are left out of this public debate, such as Lee Jussim and Bo Winegard, who do the actual mental work, and are not braindead e-celeb edgelords.

    Of course, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying everyone associated with this “movement” or group is some kind of Milo Yinanoppolis (however you spell that), it is just they have a general anti-academic anti-intellectual tendency.

    >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.

    I agree this is a problem, but we should not oversimplify this debate. Academic freedom, and ethics of social rules are very complicated subjects. It is not as simple as “protect free speech”.

    >A guy needing $600,000 worth of security just to be able to give a speech without getting mobbed

    I will not defend such actions, but on the other hand, what possible benefit would the public have from hearing Ben “bootstraps neocon” Shapiro’s views? He is barely an average journalist, and thats being incredibly generous of me.

    I don’t know about “human varieties” blog, but I do know of Emile Kirkegaard blog, who is a scientific white supremacist, if that make sense. He openly did a interview with white supremacist Tara Mcarthy.[5] He does seem to be academically literate though, familiar with genetics, biology and statistics.

    We need to separate two things: the “free speech warrior” movement who have little of value, and actual problems related to academia where progressive ideology can be restrictive and oppressive.

    Even if progressives were more open to debate, it would not look good for the “free speech warrior” group. Imagine Jordan Peterson debating an decent progressive academic, he would get his ass handed to him no doubt. Peterson is completely oblivious to academic culture and terminology. For example, a progressive could use such basic things as standpoint theory and critical theory to completely dismantle Peterson’s arguments, and his only recourse would be something emotional, “but that would be insane! racism does not exist!”. He is philosophically illiterate, he should stick to his specialty of psychology.
    Free speech is a self-defeating mechanism, it creates a spontaneous order of ideological academic orthodoxy. Majoritarianism creates a status quo. “facts and logic” may reduce amount of progressives, but I sincerely doubt “free speech warrior” have any facts in their hands. Popular youtube videos and populist talking points are not intellectual arguments, rightfully so.
    Why would the masses feel a need to change something they do not understand? Why do you think a 16 year old trump supporting Peterson fan would have any knowledge about various academic subfields and their intricacies? It is no surprise then that Peterson calls to nuke any academic field he does not understand[6].

    Sorry for my pessimism, but this not intended to offend, it is merely my viewpoint, as a person who has no emotional attachment to many of these persons involved.

    If anyone is interested, I highly recommend a book[7] that gives you a quick overview of biases in academia, and you can read some research on top of that [8].

    [1]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSuEccEYvaE
    [2]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gy5j-Sm4Ur8
    [3]http://mixedmentalarts.co/jordan-peterson-doesnt-understand-the-relevant-philosophy/
    [4]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cU1LhcEh8Ms
    [5]http://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/?page_id=6743
    [6]https://www.macleans.ca/opinion/is-jordan-peterson-the-stupid-mans-smart-person/
    >“have to go,”and that sociology, anthropology, English literature, and education are all “corrupt.”
    [7]https://www.amazon.com/Politics-Social-Psychology-Frontiers/dp/1138930598/ref=nosim/nationalreviewon
    [8]https://heterodoxacademy.org/research/

    • albatross11 says:

      Just as an aside, have you read any of Murray’s books? He looks to me like a serious scholar, who may be wrong, or even wrongheaded, but who isn’t remotely an attention troll. I’d say Losing Ground, The Bell Curve, and Coming Apart were all genuine attempts to discuss some interesting and important things going on in our society.

      It seems like your overarching point is that we shouldn’t worry so much about the ability of the IDW types to speak, because they’re not really first-rate thinkers anyway. I’m not sure whether you’re right about their quality of thought, but I think that may be missing the point. We get smarter as a group by having real discussions on important issues. Most participants in those discussions won’t be the absolute leading intellectual lights in our society, but the discussions allow everyone to get smarter.

      Freedom of speech[1] is a principle that’s worth upholding even for the Ben Shapiros and Ezra Kleins and Jordan Petersons and Matt Taibbis and Ta-Nehisi Coates of the world. You don’t have to be a thinker at the level of, say, James Watson or Larry Summers to merit it.

      [1] In both the narrow sense of the US first amendment, and the broad sense of cultivating a culture that allows for wide variance of opinion and doesn’t spend a lot of time looking to punish heretical speech or thought.

      • pierretrudank says:

        No I have not read it, but I have read reviews and academic responses.
        To say that he is without controversy, is to tell a lie. I am not saying he is discredited, I am saying that he is controversial, at the very least.
        I agree they discuss interesting things, but his methods are flawed.

        > We get smarter as a group by having real discussions on important issues.

        This assumes people are rational and respond to evidence provided by an opponent, the research of political-cognitive biases has largely disproved this notion. If your theory is right, academia has more-or-less produced an accurate vision of reality, and things like Critical Race Theory, Gender Studies, post-colonial theory, etc. is a product of rational discussion between many academics, considering eachother’s evidence by their merit.

        https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/voices/the-real-problem-with-charles-murray-and-the-bell-curve/
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVXxR8VKLy8&feature=youtu.be&t=5m49s
        https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/5/18/15655638/charles-murray-race-iq-sam-harris-science-free-speech
        http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1994/12/01/the-tainted-sources-of-the-bell-curve/
        https://sci-hub.tw/https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00131729808983806
        https://books.google.com/books?hl=nl&lr=&id=1RXSBwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=bell+curve&ots=GKT0v0saT0&sig=akwN9pjL9ErWIa-rSYd5zcMAb4c#v=onepage&q=bell%20curve&f=false

        • albatross11 says:

          You said Murray was an attention troll. Now you seem to have changed your mind, and say that he discusses interesting things but using flawed methods. (Which I suppose you can’t really list, having not read any of his books.)

          You made a bunch of assertions about several IDW-ish people; one of those was someone I’d read enough to know you had no idea what you were talking about. This makes me a lot less inclined to value your opinion on the other people you similarly dismissed.

        • Aapje says:

          @pierretrudank

          This assumes people are rational and respond to evidence provided by an opponent, the research of political-cognitive biases has largely disproved this notion. If your theory is right, academia has more-or-less produced an accurate vision of reality, and things like Critical Race Theory, Gender Studies, post-colonial theory, etc. is a product of rational discussion between many academics, considering each other’s evidence by their merit.

          No, because these fields go out of their way to avoid examining their core assumptions and avoid engaging criticisms, because their core goal is activism, so arguments that (appear) to lead to unacceptable outcomes or at least unacceptable outcomes within a certain ideological framework, are vilified as morally impermissible, instead of being criticized by their scientific correctness.

          This is what they took from Foucault: you can set the terms of the debate and redefine what counts as truth if you have enough power. From Derrida they took the idea that if you are enlightened, you can ‘deconstruct’ just about anything to find ‘proof’ for your claims.

          For example, a progressive could use such basic things as standpoint theory and critical theory to completely dismantle Peterson’s arguments, and his only recourse would be something emotional, “but that would be insane! racism does not exist!”.

          Yet they don’t! The very insularity and curating of the debate that allows critical theory to go unchallenged leads to an inability to engage even poor arguers like Peterson with good logic.

          Why would the masses feel a need to change something they do not understand? Why do you think a 16 year old trump supporting Peterson fan would have any knowledge about various academic subfields and their intricacies?

          I think that many people recognize the excesses of SJ. So they were receptive to the ‘IDW’ because they (correctly) recognize that SJ is harmful and they go looking for answers.

          Mainstream philosophy is always going to be poor, because most people cannot cope with the complexity of good philosophy.

    • Tim van Beek says:

      Imagine Jordan Peterson debating an decent progressive academic, he would get his ass handed to him no doubt.

      I see Peterson debating people who base their understanding of his viewpoints on sources like your [6], and the first thing that he would say here is “no, I did announce that I would not use a student’s preferred pronoun if I were asked to, I protested bill C-16 which would make me pay a fine if I didn’t, and that is compelled speech.”

      In order to effectively criticise a viewpoint, one has to be able to faithfully reconstruct it first.
      Getting basic facts wrong that you can learn from the first Wikipedia paragraph about the man, in case you did not follow the events unfold, is not a good start.

      • pierretrudank says:

        Sorry, Peterson is plainly wrong on bill C-16

        https://torontoist.com/2016/12/are-jordan-petersons-claims-about-bill-c-16-correct/
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xb3oh3dhnoM&t=4m10s
        https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Jordan_Peterson#Bill_C-16
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=OusPT8j3Xik

        Also, my source is correct, he said it himself, he openly admits wanting to shut down academic fields he disagrees with:
        http://torontosun.com/2017/06/29/jordan-peterson-certain-university-disciplines-corrupted/wcm/9189041e-131b-4fb7-a501-0136e86790f3
        >“(The neo-Marxist) professors are playing these insane bordering on murderous intellectual games (with their students), he told a crowd of nearly 700 at the first free speech summit in downtown Toronto Wednesday evening.

        From his wikipedia:

        >He emphasizes that the state should halt funding to faculties and courses he describes as neo-Marxist, and advises students to avoid disciplines like women’s studies, ethnic studies and racial studies, as well other fields of study he believes are “corrupted” by the ideology such as sociology, anthropology and English literature.[64][65]

        The very fact he uses a oxymoronic term like “postmodern neomarxist” shows he is philosophically illiterate. He traces back the entire modern progressive movement to Derrida and Foucault, which is quite hilarious. He creates an imaginary bogeyman, out of very interesting philosophers peterson’s followers could learn a lot from.

        • Aapje says:

          @pierretrudank

          I have never seen any real science from any of the ‘critical theory’ fields and it seems to me that these parts of academia serve as little more than activist centers, which doesn’t seem like the purpose of academia to me, so I also support not funding this from public money.

          I am also not paid by a college to write this, which is fine, since I’m not doing science right now. It is not silencing to not pay people to be activists from tax money.

          He traces back the entire modern progressive movement to Derrida and Foucault, which is quite hilarious.

          The SJ movement has certainly taken their basic criticisms and ran with it, in a ridiculous way.

          He creates an imaginary bogeyman, out of very interesting philosophers peterson’s followers could learn a lot from.

          Does Peterson reject Derrida and Foucault or does he reject the philosophical tradition which is derived from it? My impression is the latter.

          One can also deride the Nazi ideology, including their idea of the Übermensch, while still respecting Nietzsche.

        • J Mann says:

          @pierretrudank

          It might be fairer to say that no one is sure whether C-16 will result in required pronoun usage, but that it can’t be ruled out. This stackexchange answer includes some cites where Canadian authorities have referred to misgendering as discrimination, so it at least seems possible.

        • Tim van Beek says:

          Also, my source is correct, he said it himself, he openly admits wanting to shut down academic fields he disagrees with:…

          That’s an interesting point, but you seem to think that I claimed that your source makes a wrong claim regarding it in my last post, which I did not (?).

          The very fact he uses a oxymoronic term like “postmodern neomarxist” shows he is philosophically illiterate. He traces back the entire modern progressive movement to Derrida and Foucault, which is quite hilarious.

          This is a good example of my point “you first need to understand a viewpoint” etc.
          A first step is understanding the language. In order to understand Peterson, you have to understand what he means by “postmodern”. If that’s what he calls his daughter, and him saying “it is bad” means that she serves a second term in prison because of armed robbery, than that’s what you need to engage with.

          Luckily other people have already asked this question, and he answered it. Here is my take, but I encourage everyone to study the source material, of course: Peterson’s use of “postmodern” refers AFAIK to a specific epistemology that denies objective reality, embraces subjectivity and puts the truth of feelings on par with facts. There is no rational discourse, everything is a power game. I think it mostly aligns with this source:

          [1] Stephen R.C. Hicks: “Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault”

          He is also quite aware that the term “postmodern neomarxist” is an oxymoron. That is part of the criticism: The “left” uses a subjective, relativistic view of epistemology to dissolve the argument of the opposition, in order to impose their own objective truth after that. This is an asymmetric use of their “postmodern epistemology” and therefore paradoxical. (Thta’s also a main point of [1], so, again, I think this is a good match.)

          The same applies to your criticism of his use of “the progressive movement”. He means professors in the humanities in the Canadian academic system, which I know almost nothing about, so no comment from me about that.

          But, as an analogy, when people say stuff like “Republicans are agains abortion”, it should be possible to infer from the context if the existence of one (or many, even) pro-choice-Republican(s) disproves the claim or is a misinterpretation.

          Be that as it may, I never see him refer to himself as a philosopher. Instead he quite often emphasizes that he is a clinical psychologist, so engaging him on philosophical topics would probably be missing the point, from his perspective.

          On a meta-level, I think our thread here demonstrates that a rational, objective discourse about the correct interpretation of Peterson is possible and useful, so: I win!

          P.S.: I agree that Peterson is not the most interesting intellectual on the planet, there are other reasons why he has become so popular.

    • Glen Raphael says:

      what possible benefit would the public have from hearing Ben “bootstraps neocon” Shapiro’s views?

      At the meta level – nearly independent of any specific views being expressed – students attending Shapiro’s talk get to learn firsthand that their institution actually values open discourse and diversity of views. We all know speech that everybody already agrees with doesn’t need protection from the mob – it’s speech people strongly disagree with that needs protection…but many of us rarely encounter such views in person. Shapiro’s speech attendees get to learn what it’s like to see people express views you strongly disagree with. They get to learn that you don’t actually curl up and die or need a support animal or experience injury to hear robust disagreement. They get a lesson in tolerance. Being ensconced in an intellectual bubble makes us fragile; exposing ourselves to contrary views makes our own views stronger. Tolerance is like a muscle; it can be strengthened with use.

      With regard to any specific views being expressed, Ben Shapiro is occasionally correct and because he represents an unusual outside perspective he will make arguments nobody else makes and reference facts few others report. If you disagree with him on some subject, you’ll learn what some people you disagree with are saying which will strengthen your own arguments. If you agree with him on some subject, you’ll learn arguments for your views you might not have otherwise encountered. At the end of the talk he takes questions from the audience – you can ask him to clarify his views. You might learn from the factual content of his arguments, you might learn from the structure of the arguments, or you might learn from the rhetoric of the arguments – those are all equally valid. Even learning that the arguments being made on some subject aren’t very good is still learning.

      (Personal note: When I was in college I was briefly fascinated by religious thinkers past and present. I wanted to know what they thought, what arguments they made. When I sought people to listen to in that context the most important thing was that they have a strong distinct point of view and are willing to rationally argue for it. Shapiro has that.)

      • albatross11 says:

        More to the point, this argument works for *any* speaker who isn’t a one-of-a-kind genius. If Barack Obama or George W Bush wants to give a public speech, and an angry mob shows up and shouts them down so nobody can hear their speech, then exactly the same argument holds. They’re just generic Democratic/Republican politicians, nothing new about that, so the students weren’t really going to learn anything….

        The only people for whom this argument wouldn’t work would be one-of-a-kind geniuses like, say, James Watson or Larry Summers. And certainly, nobody would silence *them* for making divisive, politically-unacceptable comments, so I guess we’re good.

  5. aNeopuritan says:

    In most societies, what poor people think is the majority opinion and completely absent from media. If that doesn’t mean “popular and silenced”, what could possibly?

    • engleberg says:

      @In most societies –

      Citation needed. You could probably do it, but I think you’d have to work around churches and mosques. I’d like to read it.

  6. benf says:

    This whole kerfuffle is not about silencing anyone. It’s about skipping the performative steps of the discourse and cutting right to the heart of the matter:

    1. In America in particular, talking about race like Charles Murray does is equivalent to yelling fire in a crowded theater. I present this as axiomatic.

    2. In that case, the ONLY defense would be that there really IS a fire in the crowded theater.

    3. Therefore, the right of alt-reactionaries to spread their views is predicated on their views being true and accurate.

    4. Thusly anyone who defends their right to speak is a. implicitly agreeing that what they say is true or 2. (from the point of view of the “silencers”) dangerously naive about the power such ideas have to destroy the lives of other people.

    5. Alt-reactionaries themselves are either a. bad-faith actors who deny the danger of the ideas they are trying to spread in order to sneak a razor in the apple or b. embarrassingly naive about the society in which they live and therefore probably not worth listening to on any social issues.

    All these interactions take 1 through 5 as clearly understood and immediately treat alt-reactionaries as such. Maybe it needed to be outlined a little bit more clearly.

    When it comes down to it, alt-reactionaries protest that there is no such thing as an immoral IDEA, that simply contemplating whether a certain conjecture might be true or not is always harmless, and those that stand in the way are overreaching. I’m less convinced.

    • Tim van Beek says:

      1. In America in particular, talking about race like Charles Murray does is equivalent to yelling fire in a crowded theater. I present this as axiomatic.

      “Axiomatic” means a starting assumption that is not to be discussed. Do you mean that?
      If not, why do you think this is true? Murray has been around for a while now.

      alt-reactionaries protest that there is no such thing as an immoral IDEA

      In case you mean “alt-reactionaries = IDW”, then this is not true. Since you refer to Charles Murray, and this post is about IDW, Sam Harris has spent ample time to explain this, i.e. where he draws the red line.
      Of course one fascinating aspect of the IDW reception has been that certain people on the “SJW” side parse the IDW side with a preconceived context that disables their ability to hear messages like that, to an extend that what is heard does not really connect to what has been said anymore.

      • benf says:

        I meant what I said by axiomatic. If there’s disagreement on point one then no further conversation is possible.

        I use a different word for IDW because I can’t stand that term and it reminds me that Bari Weiss got an amazing job with zero qualifications or talent and deigns to lecture the world about affirmative action.

        The reason people don’t take alt-reactionaries at their words is that nobody believes they are arguing in good faith, and alt-reactionaries get pissy because they’re used to being given that assumption of good faith without doing anything to earn it. Then smart people like Sam Harris suddenly just can’t wrap his brain around why people won’t just give a fair hearing to Charles Murray, literally the standard bearer for scientific racism in the 21st century.

        • Tim van Beek says:

          I meant what I said by axiomatic. If there’s disagreement on point one then no further conversation is possible.

          Surprised that you see it that way. Sam Harris has two podcasts about that topic that very much look like a conversation about it to me. But I guess you mean that no further conversation is possible with you?

          nobody believes they are arguing in good faith

          I must be nobody then 🙂

          But back to your original post: Would you propose legislation similar to the one which forbids yelling “fire” in a theater? Or rather, a better example, yelling “kill them” to a lynch mob? What would it look like?
          If not, what would a playbook look like that instructs people where to draw the line?

          To be more exact, what would be forbidden, in both cases, exactly?
          1. measuring cognitive performance or
          2. publishing the results or
          3. calculating averages of subgroups or
          4. comparing averages of subgroups or
          5. compare results of specific subgroups like “blacks” and “whites” (using colloquial terms for “race”) or
          6. compare results if they make specific

          oppressed

          subgroups look bad or
          7. doing any of this in public rather than exclusively within the relevant scientific community,
          or something else?
          From what I understand about the PC movement, many people draw the line at no. 6. Meaning you may do everything Murray does in the Bell curve as long as

          blacks score higher

          .

          • Tim van Beek says:

            Sorry, messed up the formatting, the last two “quotes” aren’t actually quotes.

          • Tim van Beek says:

            Addendum: Of course, comparisons to the German criminal code, ” incitement of the people”, which is §130 StGB, come to mind here, as an example.

        • albatross11 says:

          benf:

          So when two people disagree on whether some topic is so inflamatory as to need silencing, how should they resolve their differences, since you believe no discussion is possible? For example, it is no trouble at all to find a large set of people in the US who feel that the whole topic of gay rights is deeply offensive even to bring up in public.

          As far as *this* discussion here goes, you are assuming your conclusion in at least two places–first, in asserting that discussing racial IQ differences is equivalent to shouting “fire” in a crowded theater[1], and second, in asserting that there could be no reason for arguing for allowing people to discuss racial IQ differences except for a belief in those differences.

          The first assertion has been being argued here, in various forms, on several threads including this one. You may note that it’s not something that gets universal agreement.

          The second assertion pretty-much assumes away the whole free-speech movement over many centuries, which included stuff like the ACLU arguing for the first amendment rights of Nazis, on principle. It may be that those ACLU lawyers were wrong, but I’m about 99.999% certain they didn’t secretly think the Nazis were right.

          [1] The actual source of that quote was another place where some powerful people decided that certain ideas ought not to be discussed in public, for reasons that seemed good to them. You might want to look that up and see whether you agree with how they resolved the issue at hand.

        • Nornagest says:

          If there’s disagreement on point one then no further conversation is possible.

          It should be obvious that there’s disagreement on point one, so why are we bothering with the rest of this?

          • Tim van Beek says:

            It should be obvious that there’s disagreement on point one, so why are we bothering with the rest of this?

            Well, we could do a gedankenexperiment starting with the assumption that point 1 is valid as an axiom, in otder to find out what that get’s us. That’s what “axiom” means. It does not mean a univeral, proven truth, whose questioning is tabboo, which is what benf seems to intend to communicate with his use of the word.

    • Aapje says:

      @benf

      What about the alt-left, who seek to discriminate by race and gender?

      The ‘alt-reactionaries’ are a logical consequence of the left backing these extremists, rather than fighting them.

      • benf says:

        I don’t play the whataboutism game. Stay on topic.

        • CatCube says:

          Well, I’m taking it as axiomatic that you’re just trying to justify implementing a totalitarian state by simply defining your views as correct and therefore no debate can be had. Therefore, nothing in your post contains your “real” reasons for doing this, and Aapje is totally correct to refocus the debate on the true reasons that you’re saying these things.

        • Aapje says:

          @benf

          Your comment seemed to assume that only the (extreme) right has immoral ideas and that they need to be silenced, without recognizing that many people feel that the (extreme) left have immoral ideas. So I’m wondering whether you are willing to consider applying your beliefs to those on the left as well?

          This is not whataboutism, this is me checking whether you are willing to consider the possibility that your assumptions about what is dangerous is subjective.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      So if, say, Murray is not arguing in good faith, does that mean he knows he’s wrong? What’s his incentive then?

      And before you say “white supremacy,” keep in mind his proposed solution to the resultant poverty of those with low IQ (across the spectrum…race was a very small part of the book) in a meritocracy is UBI. I don’t think most white supremacists jump from “blacks are inferior” to “therefore let’s give them free money forever!”

      • RodoBobJon says:

        This severely misunderstands Murray’s views with respect to UBI. Matt Yglesias has written about this:

        Much is sometimes made of Murray’s support for the creation of a universal basic income program, but one must be clear that his thinking on this differs from that of most UBI proponents in three ways:

        One, he does not actually think that providing people with a UBI is a good idea. As he writes in his 2006 book, In Our Hands: “Imagine for a moment that the $2 trillion that the US government spends on transfer payments were left instead in the hands of the people who started with it. If I could wave a magic wand, that would be my solution.” The UBI is a compromise with the realities of public opinion, not something he backs on the merits.

        Two, his goal in promoting UBI is to make the welfare state less generous, not more generous. In exchange for creating a UBI, he wants to eliminate Social Security and Medicare, Medicaid and all other federal health programs, all means-tested social assistance (SNAP, Section 8 housing vouchers, TANF, and the earned income tax credit), and all federal assistance to students including veterans programs, Title I, and Pell Grants.

        Three, his UBI enacts a massive cut to total state spending on assistance — according to Murray, “as of 2014, the annual cost of a UBI would have been about $200 billion cheaper than the current system. By 2020, it would be nearly a trillion dollars cheaper.” To give a sense of scale here, all of Obamacare cost about $2 trillion over 10 years. Murray’s UBI would cut $1 trillion from social spending in one year. This is a plan to slash redistribution to the poor, not make it more generous.

        • Gary Wood says:

          That corrected absolutely nothing about Murray’s views.
          All he’s done is reframed them as a character attack rather than a rebuttal.
          He implies Murray doesn’t really believe it’s a good solution (which does NOT follow logically from the claim that it’s not the single best solution hypothetically available, he could perhaps think it’s the 4th best solution in a list of 100.)
          Secondly, he does some mindreading in claiming what Murrays goal actually is. Well Murray doesn’t agree to that goal at all.
          He’s confused indirect consequences with goals. One is driven by intention, the other isn’t. Murray’s goal is actually to make the welfare system more efficient and work in a way that creates an expansion of free markets. (he also claims it will address certain social and psychological issues).
          If it were to make it more efficient, then a reduction in overall funding would not necessarily mean less generous. That’s just a bad faith misrepresentation and is all entirely independent from whether his ideas would actually work or not.

      • albatross11 says:

        Nitpick:

        Murray’s ultimate goals do not actually have anything to do with whether his arguments are correct.

  7. AwaitingCertainty says:

    There’s incredibly intelligent and enlightening commentary here – I’ve learned a lot – not to mention Scott Alexander himself in this piece. Overall I thank him for his fabulous website/intellectu-site. Wow. It amazes me what one man has put in place here, for us all.

    As far as Scott’s ideas and questions in this piece, I think they’ve been covered and answered in some great ways.

    Some random thoughts I’ve wanted to address or see addressed (because I want answers and I believe in answers, or at least drilling down to find out what the questions are – If the QUESTIONS can be found, that itself is “striking oil”):

    (1) You’re a racist if ANYTHING out of your mouth exceeds “blacks have been mistreated and are still hated; they’re underdogs and more must be done for them!” But let’s go there. If you can be riled up you’ll go to the polls. If you’re convinced that you’re in danger as a minority from Republican actions, you’ll vote Democrat – Democrats are on your side, there to protect you and give you stuff you can’t possibly get on your own (due to “systemic racism” and the Republicans). (Don’t listen to the [black] man behind the curtain!)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phPXTWJhnYM
    Larry Elders to Dave Rubin on “systemic racism”

    Democrats also prevent you from standing on your own two feet and having the wholeness of a family – of being a protector and a provider. Statistics I’ve often seen quoted: 75% of black kids are born out-of-wedlock and grow up without fathers in the home. 33% of all abortions are black. (Planned Parenthood is said to advertise more in poor black neighborhoods, statistically speaking, than in more affluent white areas.) Perhaps thru affirmative action the Democrats have given blacks a needed step up. Has the time for that help passed? Wasn’t Sandra Day O’Connor going to give in 25 more years, in her famous decision?

    Not sure what I’m saying in the above – just asking. Just stating.

    (2) It’s never mentioned for some reason the WHY of the “pushing down” or “discouraging” or punishing of homosexuality and what used to be called “sexual deviancy.” Deviate: to turn aside, as from a route, way, course, etc. It has always had to do with (am I wrong?) NOT PROCREATING in societies that need to procreate men warriors for numeric reasons, for survival. In societies in the past, it was numbers which made one side prevail over another, in the main. I had my 2 gays neighbors ask me why the wider “Republican/gun” community in our Town harrassed and mocked them (one of these neighbor’s then ended up being a Town Selectman for a decade, so no serious prejudice, and he addressed being gay). I said what I said here: They found that consoling. A biological reason, not a rejection of them per se.

    (Will finish this within the hour I hope)

    (2) Women who can’t praise their men (in general they don’t anymore, it’s not even a concept):

    https://www.firstthings.com/article/2017/11/an-integrated-humanist
    Reading Thomas Aquinas…Senior became convinced that what is first learned from the senses is not an illusion but “the world’s greeting.”

  8. Kevin Vail says:

    One thing I’ve noticed.
    I’ve never met anyone and I mean anyone that said “political correctness is a great thing”. Everyone hates it, everyone makes fun of it and at the same time, everyone tows the line and it just goes on and on, getting more and more powerful… yet everyone hates it… it’s very weird.

    • Nornagest says:

      “Political correctness” is a dysphemism. The people that like the behaviors we point to with it don’t call it “political correctness”; they most frequently don’t call it anything at all, or only describe it with very vague positive language like “being a decent person”.

      And they’re right that it isn’t really a thing, although I wouldn’t agree with that framing. It’s a side effect of a thing, which is the focus on identity issues and the enforcement of nonthreatening contexts in contemporary politics, as well as the emphasis on language as a tool for discovering (or “discovering”) threatening attitudes.

      • albatross11 says:

        I’ve seen plenty of people make the argument that political correctness is just politeness, and what’s wrong with being polite. As best I can tell, this is usually a pretty classic Motte and Bailey. One example of that is Iain Banks’ quote

        Political correctness is what right-wing bigots call what everybody else calls being polite.

        • AwaitingCertainty says:

          albatross11 Iain Banks’ quote

          Political correctness is what right-wing bigots call what everybody else calls being polite.

          Where I KIND of start objecting is where hitting people over the head with bike locks is the Left, “being polite.” Those are a few outliers? Then why does it take $600K to protect a little man’s (Ben Shapiro’s) big mouth? Are they afraid of words?

  9. MereComments says:

    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.

    I somewhat agree with the followup points made, but I don’t think it’s the strongest argument. In fact, I think this is the wrong framing. The types with their reach or prominence are, say, the three lawyers (one internal, two external), HR manager, HR director, and diversity officer that came to my work to run us through the ever-updating Code of Blue Tribe Conduct that my company enforces. That’s real, actual reach and prominence for a given cultural viewpoint. Contrast this with some people who have made Youtube videos, or are on popular podcasts.

  10. RodoBobJon says:

    This whole controversy over “silencing” seems profoundly backwards to me. The fact is, prior to the Internet every “normal” person was “silenced” in the sense that they had no way to publish their own ideas in a way that anyone could find and read them. Unless you were a member of a small group of prominent intellectuals, authors, journalists, etc., then no one could hear what you had to say. To become a member of that privileged group, you needed to work your way through gatekeeping institutions like universities, newspapers, book publishers, political parties, etc. These institutions were controlled by a small number of wealthy and powerful people with only indirect accountability to the broader public. If your ideas pleased these gatekeepers, then you could have a prominent platform from which to disseminate them. If not, you were effectively silenced.

    I’m not some kind of techno-libertarian utopianist, but there’s no question that the Internet democratized speech platforms. Anyone can start a Twitter account, a blog, or a YouTube channel, and their content can compete directly with that of the New York Times in social media feeds. Gatekeepers have lost much of their power. If more people like my blog post criticizing Bari Weiss’ latest NYT column than like her column, then my view will be disseminated more widely on Facebook. This has resulted in a much-widened Overton window, both for better and for worse.

    There’s no question that for the privileged class of idea-havers, this shift represents a relative loss in their ability to express themselves without consequences. This explains the proliferation of teeth-gnashing op-eds about “silencing” that have come from established writers with prominent media perches. But lets not lose perspective: the range of ideas that can be successfully disseminated to the public is *far* broader now than it ever has been in human history. The part of this that establishment idea-havers don’t seem to like is that it’s also never been easier for “normal” people to push back on ideas that the elite idea-havers are writing about.

    • INH5 says:

      This whole controversy over “silencing” seems profoundly backwards to me. The fact is, prior to the Internet every “normal” person was “silenced” in the sense that they had no way to publish their own ideas in a way that anyone could find and read them.

      Apart from public access TV, ham radio, classified newspaper ads, printing out a bunch of flyers and placing them all over town, and maybe even publishing your own magazine/newsletter (fan fiction was distributed in “fanzines” decades before the internet came along). Sure, the chances of any given person’s self-published speech being noticed by the broader public was pretty low, but that’s also the case with the internet and social media today.

      There is no doubt that the internet has made self-publishing a lot easier and cheaper, but I’d be careful not to overstate your case. The pre-1991 world was not some kind of dark age where everything that we now do over the internet simply wasn’t done.

      • rabbitHutch says:

        In the US, amateur radio operators (hams) are not allowed to “broadcast” by FCC rules. There are some exceptions. But generally there must be a conversation, not a broadcast going on.

        In contrast, any idiot with money can attempt to enter the newspaper business.

        • INH5 says:

          I stand corrected. It looks like the internet was indeed a quantum leap forward for the publishing of time-sensitive (that is, news or politics instead of things like music, comedy, or educational material that doesn’t lose as much value when distributed on physical media) audio-only media. It probably would be accurate to describe podcasting as something that wasn’t available to the general public before the internet.

      • RodoBobJon says:

        The lack of geographic restriction with the Internet is a major factor that differentiates it from your list of pre-Internet media, which are all extremely local. Lots of ideas are too niche to organize any meaningful community or advocacy around with flyers on bulletin boards; what if there are only three people in your town that are amenable to your message?

        But three people per town, aggregated across all towns in the world, can organize on the Internet to push a previously obscure idea into the broader consciousness. In general, the Internet empowers niches: niche ideas, niche politics, niche sports, niche hobbies, niche pornography, etc. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that all of these niches were “silenced” prior to Internet, at least relative to today’s world. And mainstream non-niche things were commensurately over-empowered and now are experiencing a “silencing”, but only relative to the pre-Internet world.

  11. konshtok says:

    As the official spokesbot for the IDW movement I can state that the complaints about silencing are not about silencing
    They are about the total lack of good faith counter arguments and engagement
    who will debate Peterson? or Moldbug?
    did anyone in google (a company that is supposed to be made up of only smart people) bother to fisk the damore memo?
    Haigt has been going around literally begging for adversarial collaboration
    how’s that working out so far?

    It is not about the silencing of taboo ideas it’s about the silencing of response to those ideas

    • albatross11 says:

      As far as I can tell, everyone on Earth with access to any kind of recording equipment has interviewed Jordan Peterson. The guy must never sleep.

      • konshtok says:

        And?
        Name 3 (or even 1) mainstream intellectuals who engaged anyone in the IDW in debate

        • albatross11 says:

          Recent guests on Sam Harris’ podcast (since his interview with Charles Murray) include Ezra Klein, Cass Sunstein, Siddhartha Mukherjee, David Frum, Sean Carol, and Rebecca Goldstein.

          Recent episodes of The Rubin Report have had Thomas Sowell, John Kasich, and Steve Pinker as guests.

          Also, Dave Rubin was a guest on Tyler Cowen’s excellent podcast. And Jonathan Haidt was on a podcast with Jordan Peterson.

          By pretty-much any measure, all or most of those folks are mainstream public intellectuals. And appearing on a podcast with an IDW person is a pretty good way to engage with their ideas.

          • konshtok says:

            I stand corrected re sam harris
            I think the other example you gve are IDWs talking with each other but that’s irrelevant
            I asked for 3 examples of cathedralists engaging in good faith with IDW and you brought more

    • benf says:

      Nobody in the opposition believes for one second that IDW are arguing in good faith. See my comment below. For their part, the IDW does not seem to realize that they are not automatically entitled to a presumption of good faith and for the most part do not possess the ability to earn it.

  12. TomGrey says:

    I claim that having water thrown at you in a meeting, because of your views, is an attempt to silence you.

    I don’t claim Tomi Lahren is in the Intellectual part of the IDW, but she’s an anti-PC speaker. Who the Dems are trying to silence.
    http://www.startribune.com/trump-praises-fox-news-tomi-lahren-after-minneapolis-confrontation/483466411/

    If water throwing becomes normalized as an acceptable protest, more violent acid throwing is not far away.

  13. secondcityscientist says:

    What is happening here is that the various Blue Tribe institutions are drawing the same sort of boundaries that already exist in Red Tribe institutions. This is bad, because the Red Tribe’s boundaries are bad, but it’s not a huge disaster. The Red Tribe has survived just fine with those boundaries.

    You mention Rush Limbaugh, who I think is a good example. I listened to Rush occasionally when I was a kid and in the car with my dad – maybe he’s changed in the last 20 years, but I doubt it. Rush says more inflammatory shit in a week than Peterson, Harris, etc say in a month. No one cares unless it’s exceptionally inflammatory, though, because he stays in his Red-Tribe lane. Anything “taboo” that the IDW says has surely been a topic on Rush’s show, probably in an even cruder and more insulting manner. People care now because it’s getting promoted in the New York Times and the Atlantic. Almost all of the IDW views are completely standard Red Tribe views, and can be easily found on conservative talk radio or from the pulpit in conservative churches. They’re not some rare, celebrity prone views if you know where to look.

    The Blue Tribe hasn’t policed its boundaries very hard in the past. Andrew Sullivan edited The New Republic for several years and printed an excerpt from Charles Murray’s book, former elected Republican Joe Scarborough has a show in a plum time slot on MSNBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post have several conservative columnists writing for them. But now – probably because of Donald Trump’s election – Blue Tribers are getting cranky and demanding that their media have fewer conservatives.

    It’s struck me before that a lot of people who read this site are people who grew up in Blue Tribe places, went to school in Blue Tribe places and now live and work in Blue Tribe places – despite their dissent from various Blue Tribe orthodoxies. I suspect that description fits a lot of the IDWers too, and it for sure fits Bari Weiss, who wrote that big NYT article. That trans person who can’t come out? That’s pretty much the norm in Red Tribe areas, and it applies to a lot more than trans people, depending upon just how Red we are talking. Feminists, gays, even bog-standard liberals are better off keeping quiet if they want to avoid a big argument (or worse, including job loss). Now some conservatives are feeling silenced for speaking up in traditionally-Blue spaces? The Blue Tribe solution, carried out by thousands of gays, feminists, trans people and liberals over the years has been to move from Tulsa or Wichita or Cincinnati to New York or San Francisco. Silenced Red Tribers in Blue Tribe places should consider making that migration in reverse.

    • Garrett says:

      The down-side of this argument is that cities tend to be where there are a lot of other benefits, too. For example, the Green movement frequently advocates for high-density living because of lower environmental impact. There’s also more jobs and more easily-accessible jobs.

      Moving to a Red area typically means to move to a more rural area. But this is a major challenge for employment generally. Even in my industry, the software industry, where there are no physical needs for people being in direct contact, most companies insist that people be as co-located as possible.

      • secondcityscientist says:

        On the one hand, as I am a liberal you’re not gonna get me to badmouth or downplay Blue Tribe places. Of course they’re better than Red Tribe places – the Red Tribe sucks! I left because it sucked!

        On the other hand, if you’ve never been I’d say you’re underestimating Red areas. There’s definitely a market for software developers in Wichita or Tulsa or Des Moines or Omaha. And those places are for sure way more Red Tribe than bigger cities.

    • mupetblast says:

      Interesting take. Thing is, the biggest figures in the IDW are genuinely interested in free speech and open debate. Moving to some other place that’s hostile to free speech and open debate wouldn’t be appealing.

  14. Prussian says:

    I agree entirely with this, but I think that Scott understates the case.

    Yes, Sam Harris does face lies, ostracism etc. from the left-liberal establishment. But he also faces credible threats of death from Islamic fanatics. And we happen to know that these are the real deal, because of what happens to people who are more outspoken than he.

    Let me take someone I have a lot of disagreements with, Pamela Geller. Whatever you think about her, the fact is that she lives under 24 hour police protection, has been almost assassinated several times, and in response to this, the Daily Beast wrote a long story saying “HEY, YOU KNOW THAT WOMAN ISLAMISTS KEEP TRYING TO KILL? SHE’S GOT TWO DAUGHTERS, DID YOU KNOW THAT? AND HERE IS WHERE THEY LIVE AND WORK.”

    (I do wish Scott would acknowledge this element for once. Yes, there is a lot of silencing going on from the left-liberal SJW crowd. But there is a far greater silencing from the Islamist crowd, and that crowd does indeed back it up with bullets and knives)

    This is the key point – the IDW is important, not just because they are dissidents but because they can push back. I’m sure the Daily Beast etc. would like nothing more than to utterly ostracize Sam Harris and hope he was killed by jihadis, but that’s not an option here. Hence the frustration.

  15. rabbitHutch says:

    We don’t shock ourselves 8 hours a day.

    But we change the clocks twice a year, causing a nation-wide
    loss of sleep and productivity and a few deaths.

  16. Spot says:

    I generally like Current Affairs, but that article was not up to Robinson’s usual standard. Of course taboo movements give rise to a disproportionate number of prominent spokespeople. As Scott said: controversy sells, and the dearth of intelligent people advocating taboo views means that it’s much easier to stand out. That’s not to say that stupendously talented people (like, yes, Ta-Nehisi Coates) cannot build a celebrity brand on what are basically mainstream politics. But it’s a hell of a lot harder. You need to rise above a much larger crowd, which means you need to be much better or luckier than you’d need to be if you were advocating a politics at the edge of the Overton window.

    You don’t even need to go all the way back to Second Wave feminism to illustrate this dynamic: just take a look at New Atheism, probably the most high-profile, incendiary social movement of the aughties. I don’t think anyone would disagree that its representatives – Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, and even smaller fry like PZ Myers – are significantly less notable today than they were in 2006. Are we to conclude from this that atheism and secularism are on the decline in the US and Europe? Clearly, the data does not bear this out, and I can’t imagine Robinson would disagree. The difference is that their views (or at least a somewhat softer version of their views) are less controversial, and there are a lot more smart people expressing them openly.

    The thing is that all of this is pretty obvious. At the risk of engaging in armchair psychoanalysis, I think certain liberal writers are having a hard time dealing with the fact that their ideas are, in fact, mainstream, and that in their capacity as mainstream pundits they embody one of those hated “institutions” that they have constructed their whole identity around opposing. Laurie Penny (who I also generally like) circles around this theme quite bit, and her tweets and articles on the subject are always uncharacteristically half-hearted and unconvincing. Even Robinson, who I grant is quite a bit further left than mainstream liberal opinion, has at this point written two or three separate articles denying hegemonic liberalism, none of which were particularly persuasive.

    I dunno – it all has a whiff of “the lady doth protest too much” about it. Personally, I don’t think that institutions are inherently bad, and I think a politics premised on “dismantling institutions” or “resisting systems” regardless of their actual content is a little bit immature.

    • This reminds me of the story of the Mayor of Ithaca New York, while participating in a protest in Ithaca, saying that they shouldn’t allow the authorities to shut it down.

  17. ConnGator says:

    Wait, “human variety” sounds a lot like the banned HDB term from a few months ago. Guess it is good to be the king and not be silenced…

    • Nornagest says:

      The idea isn’t banned, as you can see in several threads above where people are talking about it and not getting banned. The term is banned, to keep this blog from showing up in Google searches for it.

  18. Heresiarch says:

    I usually enjoy SSC, but, sorry, no, Ben Shapiro is not an “awful demagogue”. Not even close.

    “You avoid the object-level debate about whether taboo subjects are true”

    That’s the core of the problem with people throwing around terms like racist and sexist in response to things other people say. What if there is truth in those things? Do people calling things by those labels get to assume the untruth of the things without having to argue about it? It feels to me like it’s burning out the words.

    • albatross11 says:

      heresiarch:

      Suppose Alice makes some statement, and Bob calls her a communist as a result. It seems like there are two ways forward:

      a. We can look at Alice’s statements to figure out where they are right or wrong, plausible or implausible, how her ideas have worked out in the past, etc..

      b. We can look at Alice’s statements to figure out whether they fit the definition of communist we’re using, and then if they do, condemn her on the basis of the actions and beliefs of other communists.

      I think (a) is almost always more informative than (b). Sometimes, this is useful because it keeps us from condemning Alice as a communist when she just wants to raise the minimum wage. More generally, though, it’s useful because not every idea associated with communism is identical. Maybe Alice is a communist in the sense of thinking that history is ultimately the story of class struggle and economic forces, but not in the sense of proposing a dictatorship of the proletariat with some Georgian with a big mustache getting to be in charge. Then we should think about her ideas about class struggle and economic forces without condemning her for all Stalin’s crimes.

    • Prussian says:

      Agreed. This is ridiculous. I’ve listened to Ben Shapiro, and… demagogue? Those words don’t mean what you think they mean.

    • J Mann says:

      There’s a discussion and some sources upthread with some sources. Your mileage may vary, but I was convinced that Shapiro is such a one-sided arguer, and so aggressive, that he’s not very useful or interesting. I wouldn’t go as far as to say awful or demagogue, but some people upthread were convinced.

  19. P. George Stewart says:

    Yes, it seems to be one of those “tipping point” things. Of course it’s a function of the Gramscian idea of cultural hegemony. If you can capture enough of the commanding heights of the “cybernetic industries” to create a buzz that some particular idea is what all the best people are thinking, then you can create a chilling effect where eventually everyone feels they have to virtue signal, for fear of losing their jobs, but nobody’s really in charge of making the chilling effect happen, it just happens spontaneously.

    And that’s what this peculiar cult, the PC cult, has done; it’s got enough teleoperated zombies ensconced in key positions in the mainstream media, the entertainment industry, in the diversity industry, etc., etc. that it can create the impression that some particular idea is what everyone believes – so everyone publicly assents to it for fear of being out of step.

    It’s all in the realm of persuasion, rhetoric, hypnotism, etc.

    Wouldn’t the idea of “common knowledge” be relevant here too? I know that you know that I know, etc.

  20. INH5 says:

    Generic famous people will support orthodox causes, but not taboo causes.

    Is that really true? Granted, I’m sure that there’s visibility bias here, but just off the top of my head I can think of Jenny McCarthy and the antivaxxers, Charlie Sheen expressing support for 9/11 Truthers in 2006 (something that I’m sure the 9/11 Truthers deeply regretted 5 years later), roughly half of everything that Kanye West has ever said (yes, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” was a highly taboo and controversial statement in 2005; trust me, I was there), and of course every celebrity Scientologist ever. Up until 2016, Donald Trump was also a generic famous person (who occasionally ran for public office as a publicity stunt) who was known to support taboo causes such as the Obama Birthers.

    I think there are enough counter-examples that this deserves a more careful evaluation, and we have to take into account that actors and musicians and other creative types who aren’t famous are also more liberal than average, so there’s a built-in bias when those professions produce a very disproportionate share of famous people.

  21. fr8train_ssc says:

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

    Fame lets people avoid social repercussions, but not even for certain opinions, even if they’re in the mainstream of Overton window. Just take a look at the media hysteria for Kanye West wanting to work with Trump, and how the media painted him as “crazy” and taking his “400 years of slavery” quote out of context.

  22. yossarian says:

    I think Scott is going too far in a search of things that are “BOTH POPULAR AND SILENCED”. It is possible to find such things much closer to everyday reality than some politically incorrect beliefs of some people. For example, almost no one ever would confess in a normal conversation: “Hey dudes, I like to fap to gang-bang tentacle porn”. And yet… somehow the pornsites’ owners make a lot of money and I, as a person whose work used to involve analyzing people’s browsing habits, was often hilariously disgusted by what kind of crap people tend to browse. The segment of current reality that is built on doublethink is significantly larger than most people would know or confess.

    • Reasoner says:

      Interesting, can you give more examples of things that are really popular which I might not know about?

      • Thegnskald says:

        Rape porn. Particularly among women, and, somewhat counterintuitively, particularly among feminists.

        This has been used to attack feminists occasionally, if you follow this sort of thing.

        In general, taboos make for strong sexual attractors, so I don’t find it that interesting, but I do find it annoying that equivalent taboos that attract male interest tend to be treated much more harshly.

        • Spot says:

          Beauty standards and physical preferences, particularly but not exclusively involving race/ethnicity, are another big one.

          Anything to do with sex, really. I’ve always had more time for Freud than most.

        • albatross11 says:

          How about slash[1] in fanfiction. As best I can tell, this is mostly produced by heterosexual women. I’ll admit, I don’t get the appeal, but I gather it’s pretty popular and widespread.

          [1] Imagining homosexual relationships between male characters in some commercial fiction–Han Solo and Luke Skywalker sleeping together, say.

      • yossarian says:

        A lot of things about sex, really. For example, incest porn – that shit is really popular nowadays, even though no one confesses to it. (let’s not talk about it too much though, so Scott doesn’t receive another million of “MY SISTER SO HOT” hits on his blog).
        If you want something that is not about sex – think war. My favorite example is WWI. Several million people (armed people, at that), no one of which wanted to die – yet they got together and started shooting at each other somehow, even though the official reason was really idiotic.

  23. Kurt Anderson says:

    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.
    …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.

    Thank you. I don’t know why this point is so hard for some people to grok.

    I happen to be one of those HR people (though I’m an ‘internet native’ and well-embroiled in online culture wars). And, in painfully recent memory, I’ve had to be the executioner because of this garbage.

    A now-former employee was once inconsiderate during an ill-advised Facebook exchange. This took place on his personal account, during his personal time, with someone unacquainted with the company (and, presumably, with him). A 3rd party screeenshotted the exchange and blasted it out to every “@mycompany.com” email they could find. The person even bragged about it before they sent the email; they told him “I’m going to get you fired.” (This is not an exaggeration. I’ve seen the exchange.)
    This person now no longer works at that company (and, from what I can tell, is still unemployed) because he committed the twin sins of (1) being unkind online with (2) an opinion that runs counter to that of the company’s geographic location in [current year].

    Hell, the fact that I had to log in with my name to write this comment is giving me anxiety – it’s a legitimate risk. And anyone who tells you it isn’t needs to get out of their bubble. They haven’t had to swing the axe (for fear of being swung at in turn); I have.

    And that, as far as I can tell, is what the bulk of the (hamfistedly-named) IDW personalities are fighting.

    • christianschwalbach says:

      This does differ based on organization though. In my company, people have been disciplined for Social Media issues, but its been for far more blatant mis deeds that occasionally condoned illegal activity. Perhaps the issue is more quality of co workers in a lot of cases as well.

    • benf says:

      I’m looking forward to Ben Shapiro taking a strong stand on making employees harder to fire for things not related to their work. This is an artifact of the long war against worker’s rights, not the overreach of the PC police. When you give companies total power over you, they use it.

  24. suitengu says:

    Muphry’s law strikes again.

    my controversial blog posts are trying to outcompete three randos with blogs that consistently confuse “there” and “their”

    Some transgender people can become very famous celebrities *whom* everyone agrees are rich and popular

    I’m saying that even groups *whom* we all agree are more marginalized than the IDW can have very successful and famous spokespeople.

    Please, Scott, you can do better than that. 🙂 http://www.esf.edu/writingprogram/tipsheets/whom.htm

    Edit: also

    “denied a very particular opportunity?

    is missing the end quotation marks.

  25. manwhoisthursday says:

    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!”

    Here is the great thing about being a traditionalist conservative: I don’t have to pretend I’m in favour of free speech at all. To me, obviously every society is going to have limits as to what is socially acceptable to say. For example, you currently can’t express pro-Nazi views and expect people not to penalize you socially, and I’m totally ok with that. Now, for pragmatic reasons, I tend to be in favour of keeping open a pretty wide window of opinion, mostly because I don’t think that clamping down hard really works in the long run, but that’s not because I think its inherently terrible for someone to be punished for their views.

    I’m generally a fan of Jordan Peterson, but he got caught out for hypocrisy with the Faith Goldy situation, where he and the other speakers excluded her from a free speech event for getting a bit too cosy with some Nazis in an interview. From my perspective, excluding Goldy is no problem.

  26. albatross11 says:

    Similarly, I think when I’m upset about SJW actions, it’s tactics I object to more than rhetoric. I mean, postmodernism seems kinda silly to me (though I haven’t studied it, so maybe I’m being unfair), and the little bit of critical race theory I think I understand seems like a pretty bad model for reality, but hey, the world’s full of people being wrong. I’m surely one of them, often enough.

    The tactics I object to are:

    a. Using violence or the threat of violence to shut down speakers.

    b. Trying to get people fired for their beliefs or political activities.

    c. Online mobbing, which always seems to suffer from context collapse and end up with people who don’t know who you are or what you believe sending you personal death threats and calling you a Nazi.

    • Viliam says:

      I also object to the logic that you cannot discus real opinions of people accused of being Nazis, because doing that would provide a platform to Nazi opinions.

      That means that accusation = proof, because after the accusation was publicly made, no defense is allowed. Afterwards, saying “but X is not a Nazi, here is the proof” becomes defending a Nazi. On the other hand, strawmanning the alleged Nazi becomes a virtue, because you have properly denounced them without providing undue space to their Nazi opinions.

  27. albatross11 says:

    Thinking about this a bit more, I’d say that to the extent that the IDW has anything in common besides appearing in the same newspaper article once, it’s not an ideology or an idea, it’s a set of tactics. Specifically:

    a. Doing an end-run around traditional gatekeepers of public discourse by using websites, blogs, podcasts, Twitter, books, public lectures, YouTube channels, patreon, etc.

    b. Discussing at least some ideas that are either outside the Overton window, or are in the process of being pushed outside the Overton window of the folks who’ve been the traditional gatekeepers.

    It’s a mistake to try to turn this into an ideology, because I don’t think it is.

    What is useful is to ask what their incentives are, and what they have to fear. IMO, the kind of internet fame enjoyed by Jordan Peterson is likely to be pretty short-lived, so he has a strong incentive to collect as much money / fame as he can right now, rather than waiting around until his fifteen minutes of fame are over and he’s back to being a pretty charismatic psychology professor who has written a couple of books. He also has an incentive to keep his audience engaged by shading his message in directions that will keep people interested or keep the donations coming in or whatever.

    I have no idea how much Peterson is responding to those incentives, but it seems like it’s a lot more interesting to think about that question than whether the whole IDW is wicked because some people are talking about some heretical idea that you can imagine signaling their commitment to some really evil ideology.

  28. Freddie deBoer says:

    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.

    can confirm

  29. Garrett says:

    Another thing to consider is the impact of the silencing which occurs. If I get less-than-stellar service at a big-box retailer because the employees decide they don’t want to associate with someone with my views, well, I can find stuff myself, watch tutorial videos, go to another store or buy stuff online. This may be a momentary inconvenience, but it isn’t significant.

    Compare instead the possibility that speaking out would cost me my job on short notice. One of my former co-workers was fired because of a viewpoint that he expressed. Further requests from management for clarification have been explicitly denied. There’s clearly one side of this issue which can be discussed with a fair degree of certainty while the other poses a high risk of significant life upset.

    So, yes, some of these people are famous for supporting these positions in public, but I suspect that’s a proxy for these people being unable to hold these positions in public themselves.

  30. psychorecycled says:

    In the penultimate paragraph of the fifth section, you are missing an ending quotation mark.

    When Debra Soh faced pressure to quit academia, was she being “excluded” or “denied a very particular opportunity?

  31. siduri says:

    I think this essay does a good job of arguing that a position can be socially toxic (at least in liberal bastions like California or university campuses) while also being bestseller-level popular in the country at large. However, I don’t think it makes any case for why the social pushback is undeserved, and I think a lot of your writing on this subject asks us to take on faith that it’s undeserved.

    You construct a thought experiment where the ‘silenced’ position is 100 percent prosocial (“Stop shocking yourselves”). But we are talking about positions that have a lot of capability for harm to vast numbers of people if we get them wrong. The left/SJW sincerely believes that many of these ideas espoused by the IDW are “Nazi-lite,” a cover for introducing outright Nazi propaganda. And then the argument gets bogged down in “is this racist or not” which I understand that you and the other IDW guys find very frustrating–and it must feel especially painful and unfair for you as a Jewish person to be accused of Nazi sympathy. I do get that.

    But when you write oblique articles that boil down to “we should not be shunned for saying some things that we are not, in fact, going to say because we would be shunned for them,” it’s not really a question that’s possible to settle without addressing the actual things that you are saying–or would be saying if you didn’t expect to be shunned.

    Because how then *should* we react to a position like forthright Nazism, which most people think is not only morally repugnant but dangerous to society in very real ways? The left/SJW position is “We do not advocate government censorship but we will push back against dangerous speech in every other possible way, including by shouting angry things and demanding that they be fired and even punching them if we see them on the street–the punching is a crime and we do still think assault and battery should be a crime, but sometimes committing a crime is still the moral thing to do.”

    I know you are flatly against punching, but your essay “Is It Possible To Have Coherent Principles Around Free Speech Norms” mainly defaults back to “Be Nice Until You Can Coordinate Meanness.” The left/SJW position is that we CAN coordinate meanness against Nazis and that it is right to do so. Be Nice Until… doesn’t have much to say to that except to dismiss the possibility of skinheads being a real danger in this country. (“There is no threat at all from pro-coordination skinheads except in the vanishingly unlikely possibility they legally win control of the government and take over.”)

    But how is that different from just telling your political enemies: “The things you are worried about are not real dangers, so you are not allowed to use effective means of pushback against them. You have the approval of a social majority (at least in the context of California workplaces and university campuses) but you are still not allowed to coordinate a defense against ideologies you find horrifying and frightening, not even a coordinated nonviolent defense like picketing. You are STRICTLY limited to Internet thinkpieces, and not too many of those either, because there’s a lot of you so it’s mob justice and cyberbullying.”

    Take a hypothetical that’s a little more evenly weighted than the “stop shocking yourselves” case. What if the social conservatives are right, and it turns out that gay marriage is a slippery slope to normalizing groups like NAMBLA? I personally have enormous sympathy for non-offending child-attracted people who literally seem to have been hit with the Worst Possible Curse from the fetish fairy, but what if the very phrase “non-offending child-attracted people” with its Oh So PC phrasing becomes the thin end of the wedge, and before long we have NAMBLA holding “love-ins” in Golden Gate Park? Is it morally acceptable then for the majority to rise up in outrage and say “no, we are not going to accept and normalize this–we are going to counter protest at all your events, we are going to boycott your employers until they fire you, we are going to write one million screamy Internet thinkpieces and call you the worst names we can think of. We can’t put you in jail unless there’s evidence that you’ve actually raped children, but this movement advocating in favor of adults being able to have sexual relationships with children is *terrible* and we are not going to have friendly, dispassionate arguments about it, we are going to shut that motherfucker down.”

    And if not, what should they do instead?

    • Hitfoav says:

      What IDW associated ideas do you personally consider anti social, dangerous or immoral?

      • siduri says:

        That’s not really the conversation I’m trying to have. My question is, can you imagine any ideologies at all that *would* deserve shunning/social shaming as a response from the majority. And if not, how should the majority respond instead, to ideas that they genuinely and sincerely consider dangerous and immoral?

        Must we dignify ALL ideologies, even the most toxic, with respectful engagement and friendly dialogue? Because if not–if there *is* a role for social shaming–THEN it would be time to talk about the specifics of what IDW believes and whether or not it deserves the backlash.

        • Hitfoav says:

          Well it depends on the specific methods of “rejection by the majority” – I don’t believe that someone else’s toxicity justifies an immoral or unethical response – but generally yes, and of course.

          The thing is that we need to be willing to engage in discourse to discover the difference between “unsettling because it upsets my/society’s worldview” and “unsettling because it is immoral/toxic”.

          Usually this can be discovered quite quickly – but it does require some courage and effort and time.

          (EDIT: excuse this last paragraph, I understand better what you were getting at now)
          Not everyone has the time/interest/proclivity to investigate every issue, but the purpose of my initial response, aside from sincere curiosity, was to point out that you’d written a long comment questioning” whether we ought to entertain their ideas” before or without citing any of their ideas.

          • siduri says:

            Their ideas aren’t a direct subject of this post. Scott’s whole point is that he can’t talk about them because he expects to be shunned for that, and he presents this to us as a bad state of affairs. My point is that we can’t decide whether it is or isn’t without engaging with those specifics, *unless* he’s arguing that shunning is always wrong.

            It does not sound like that’s what you’re arguing, though, so I agree that we have gone as far as we can go without getting into culture war specifics.

          • gbdub says:

            Scott isn’t the one telling you not to engage with the specifics. The people doing the (attempted) shunning / silencing are the ones trying to prevent you from making that determination for yourself.

            So if you consider deciding for yourself whether or not an ideology ought to be rejected by engaging with it on its specifics is a good thing, you should be on Scott’s side here.

          • siduri says:

            I actually don’t consider that a good thing at all! See my comment below about spam filters. I don’t *want* all ideas to have equal access to me, just like I don’t want everybody who sends me email to have equal chance of being promoted to my attention. I am in favor of reputational costs for fringe beliefs because they act as effective spam filters.

          • Aapje says:

            @siduri

            Would you be happy with a spam filter that removes both your best mails and the worst?

            If academics and other people with lots to lose refuse to make good arguments because it is dangerous & cede the ground to people who argue with politically correct lies, the non-fringe beliefs become a lot worse. You may not have to deal with Nazi McAsshole, but you also lose Professor McRight.

            Furthermore, the scrubbing of the truth from the mainstream may result in lots of attention being given to courageous defectors, even if they don’t argue that well.

          • albatross11 says:

            This process also undermines the willingness of rational people to trust the pronouncements of prestigious individuals and institutions. That has consequences far beyond the current issue you’re trying to push out of public discussion.

    • oppressedminority says:

      The left/SJW sincerely believes that many of these ideas espoused by the IDW are “Nazi-lite,” a cover for introducing outright Nazi propaganda.

      Bret Weinstein’s sin was to oppose a “Day of Absence” where white students/faculty were to be not allowed to be on campus. Is this what you believe to be “a cover for introducing outright Nazi propaganda”?

      Peterson’s sin was to oppose legislation which created an offense out of using the wrong pronoun. Is this also “a cover for introducing outright Nazi propaganda”?

      Also, I challenge you to find somebody actually claiming to be a Nazi. Nazi is a slur nowadays, not a party affiliation. Communist on the other hand is radical-chic, and there are people self-identifying as communists in this very comment thread. But I dont see the right (successfully) targeting actual self-identifying communists in any way that ressembles the violence and hysteria from SJWs against a Jewish, “deeply progressive” person like Bret Weinstein, for what you call the “Nazi propaganda” of opposing racial segregation.

      If people are going to be subject to violence and be called nazis for what Bret Weinstein did, to level the playing field the right should start calling anyone to the left of Richard Spencer communists and subject them to violence also. Or maybe the left should reign in their SJW shock troops.

      • siduri says:

        Again, I’m not trying to have the “were these tactics of social exclusion justified in this particular case” debate, but to ask whether they are EVER justified under the framework for social debates that Scott is proposing. Because it feels a little bit asking society to unilaterally surrender its tools for policing itself OTHER than recourse to the actual police.

        • oppressedminority says:

          The tools society has for policing itself is freedom of speech.

          • Hitfoav says:

            +1

          • siduri says:

            So you would say that shunning, exclusion, and shaming are never justifiable responses to someone articulating fringe beliefs, oppressedminority?

            I have a hard time imagining how else culture wars get resolved. Isn’t that just what victory *looks* like, in a culture war–that the reputational costs of articulating one side get higher and higher until the losers are marginalized out of “polite” society? I feel like that’s what’s happening now with people who genuinely feel that gays are a threat to the social fabric–their beliefs are sincerely held, but the cost of articulating those beliefs is likely going to be unemployment, ostracization, and loud pushback from the majority. It’s how we signal that the speech has happened, the conversations have been held, and society has reached a consensus on the question such that certain political positions are now shunned.

            I understand this process is upsetting for the losers but I’m not convinced that it’s *bad*. Certainly I can look to times when people articulated fringe political positions that were later accepted (like early gay rights advocates), and I think those people should be celebrated for speaking the truth as they saw it despite substantial reputational costs, but it does not make me condemn the fact that reputational costs for fringe political positions exist.

          • Theresa Klein says:

            Right … including Twitter mobs and outraged employers, and freedom of association and shunning, right?

            How do you propose to stop the SJW left from posting mean things on Twitter anyway? If you want to have a culture in which socially excluding people is not tolerated, how are you going to enforce it? Via social exclusion? Via laws officially creating protected classes of speech – speech which nobody is allowed to get mad at? What?

          • Lambert says:

            They wind up looking like the Flat Earth debate does now. Basically over on the basis that the arguments of one side are wrong.
            Note that this involves the content of the actual arguments, not just who is best able to worsen the lives of the other side.

          • siduri says:

            A Flat Earther on the board of a Silicon Valley tech company would get a ton of bad press and ridicule, and probably fired. Should we take the bad press, ridicule, and firing as evidence that they are being unjustly persecuted for their beliefs?

          • Lambert says:

            What about Steve Jobs?
            It’s an internet factoid that he never wore deodorant due to his ridiculous new age beliefs, leading to him smelling terrible.

            Perhaps he’s a noncentral example, but I can imagine most people who are board members are valuable enough for people to overlook something like flat-earthism.

            If you had to choose between hiring a flat earther or an otherwise identical believer in whatever the dumb three letter acronym (IDW?) is, which would most people choose, given that neither of them allow it to affect their work?

          • siduri says:

            “I can imagine most people who are board members are valuable enough for people to overlook something like flat-earthism”

            Ah, see, you and I have very different intuitions around what would happen if someone on Tesla’s board turned out be a prominent Flat Earther–or supporter of any belief set that counts as “extremely fringe” in California. I think they would be ostracized.

            Incidentally, I know a fair number of people who worked at Apple while Steve Jobs was still leading it, and none of them ever mentioned a smell. I have even been in the same room with Jobs myself, although it was a large room with a lot of people and I wouldn’t necessarily expect the smell to carry. I also know plenty of people who don’t wear deodorant and most of them don’t smell strongly unless they’ve been exercising. But perhaps Jobs reeked to high heaven–meanwhile, it’s still common for people who struggle with body odor to experience social ostracization, ridicule, and workplace discrimination.

            I think your point with Jobs was something like: “Right-wing beliefs are *uniquely* punished while other fringe beliefs like Flat Earth or new age woo woo are not”–is that right? My response is that a) I disagree with you on Flat Earth, I very much think it *would* be punished, and b) new age woo woo is of course considered less fringe by liberal culture than the corresponding forms of right wing extremism. I mean, of course! I’ll give you that one right off the bat!

            I’m not saying that Blue culture is “fair” in its punishment of fringe beliefs. What I’m proposing is that ALL cultures impose a reputational tax on public advocacy of positions deemed to be fringe, and that this tax gets higher and higher the farther you go to the margins. In liberal culture, new age woo woo is only mildly fringe, and therefore it’s only mildly taxed. Right wing beliefs are WAY fringe so they are associated with major reputational costs. The whole thing works the same way in reverse in Red culture areas like policing, where your fringe beliefs are going to find you socially ostracized to the degree that they deviate from Red social orthodoxy.

            I’m saying this is how cultures *work*, how they maintain internal coherence. I’m saying it’s not necessarily a bad thing, just a really human thing.

            Your second question asks about the same subject in a different way–so it gets the same answer, in a different way. If I was the hiring manager for a publicly traded company, I would attempt to avoid hiring people with any conspicuously fringe beliefs, or with B.O. for that matter! Those are all definite minuses. My willingness to overlook any of these traits would depend on how easy it would be to find another candidate with all of the plusses and none of the minuses.

            And a thing would be considered more of a minus according to how likely I judged it was to “become an issue.” It’s an issue for the company if it attracts bad PR and gossip; I don’t want that. So if I was forced to choose between two candidates with different “minuses,” making the judgement about which was worse would rely on factors like “well, how fringe IS the belief” (Flat Earth is more fringe than IDW) and “has the belief been in the news cycle lately” (IDW’s in the current news cycle so that would make me steer farther away) and “how likely is this guy is to write up an internal memo on his fringe belief and distribute it to the whole company, thereby MAKING it an issue.”

            All in all, I’d probably go with the Flat Earth guy over the IDW, but with *every* expectation that one of these mornings I’m gonna wake up to a snappy thinkpiece on Gizmodo about how my Flat Earther CTO proves the inability of techbros to distinguish science fiction from actual science is ineluctably warping Silicon Valley and will probably doom us all.

          • albatross11 says:

            siduri:

            Of course every culture has an Overton window and some positions that are weird/fringy enough to evoke ridicule or outrage. And that enforcement mechanism of acceptable opinions is indeed part of what makes a culture work. But it’s also true that:

            a. In every culture, that enforcement mechanism is a huge target for being subverted and used to win local political or social battles. (Think of using claims of heresy to remove political rivals, or rising in political power by denouncing a few alleged Communists in public.)

            b. Different cultures have different levels of tolerance for weird, fringy, silly-sounding beliefs. In some cultures, weird beliefs get you an appointment with a literal inquisitor or KGB agent. In others, they get you run out of town on a rail. In still others, they get an eyeroll and a laugh and then people continue working with you/trading with you, because who cares what oddball ideas you have in your off hours?

            c. I think the US in general, and US tech culture in particular, have been pretty far on the high-tolerance part of the spectrum. It’s pretty common in my experience to have coworkers and colleagues that have some oddball beliefs–people with weird religions, weird ideas about the right diet, weird political views, weird sexual practices, etc. A culture of coexistence with a lot of diversity of ideas is pretty valuable, since it keeps you from chasing away weird people who have a lot to contribute.

            d. A hell of a lot of human progress in every area has come from weird people with oddball beliefs thinking about weird stuff in ways that would offend the neighbors if they knew about it. Jeremy Bentham, Richard Wagner, Immanuel Kant, Nicola Tesla, Mark Twain–every one of them was a weird dude, with oddball and sometimes offensive ideas and strange notions. Societies that successfully shut those weirdos down probably have a lot more peace and quiet, but a lot less innovation.

            One reason I am very uncomfortable with the tendency to do the public shaming/get someone fired bit is that I think it’s likely to change the relatively tolerant American tech culture I’m talking about in (c), in ways that destroy the weird people and weird groups that are usually wrong and funny, but that sometimes lead to new ideas and new things. Ridicule and shame are *great* ways to enforce conformity, but they’re not great ways to get creativity.

          • Isn’t that just what victory *looks* like, in a culture war–that the reputational costs of articulating one side get higher and higher until the losers are marginalized out of “polite” society?

            I don’t know if that is how it does work, but I don’t think it is how it should work. If someone supports a position I think is obviously wrong that is evidence–usually weak evidence–that he isn’t very sensible, and I should take it into account in my interactions with him. But it’s not a reason to dislike him, still less a reason to make his life unpleasant so that he will stop defending his views.

            If someone’s views are sufficiently nutty he will suffer reputational penalties because other people will conclude he is a bit nuts and modify their interactions with him accordingly. But that’s very different from his suffering reputational penalties because people go out of their way to persuade other people that he is a bad person and they should not interact with him.

            So far as I know I don’t know any flat earthers. But I happened to discover that one of the people who goes to my wife’s church, an episcopal church in Silicon Valley, doesn’t believe in evolution. He is, as best I can tell, an intelligent, reasonable, nice person, competent at his profession. My guess is that he grew up in a context where not believing in evolution was the norm. It might be interesting sometime to discuss the question with him, but I don’t see why he should suffer “reputational penalties” for his beliefs. Or why a communist or Nazi should be punished for theirs.

          • siduri says:

            Edited to add: this reply is to albatross11

            *nodnod*

            Okay, that all makes sense and I’m fully with you so far–my own tribe is sci-fi/gamer geeks, so I tend to like the social oddballs and I do think that as long as they’re not hurting anybody, people should be let do their own thing weirdass thing, absolutely.

            But then Blue/California culture really celebrates zaniness in *that* sense–the Burning Man sense, say. People will roll their eyes at how much ticket prices are and how silly some of it is, but not you’re definitely not going to get fired because you went to Burning Man. The upshot I guess is that personal-freedom stuff is typically a Blue/liberal affinity, so I don’t see a big threat on that front from liberal culture generally. And I’m 41, so of a generation where it was really clearly the conservatives who wanted everyone to fit a certain social mold, and very clearly the liberals who were supportive of the rebels/counterculture types.

            Where I do see social opprobrium/exclusion/shaming being used against people who are just obviously harmlessly weird and not hurting anyone else in any conceivable way, I do try to push back against it (I try to signal boost stuff from the autism community, for example, and I’m all in favor of general genderfuckery). I think the default Blue tribe position is to be tolerant of personal weirdness but draw the line at beliefs that harm others.

            And I know that people here are definitely going to have conflicting opinions about *which* beliefs are harmful, which is why I created the NAMBLA hypothetical in my original post. The idea was to give people a way of saying “Yes, hypothetically, the NAMBLA movement is harmful enough that I would endorse coordinated meanness as a response,” or alternatively, “No, I do not support coordinated meanness under any circumstances.”

          • Aapje says:

            @siduri

            I think the default Blue tribe position is to be tolerant of personal weirdness but draw the line at beliefs that harm others.

            Pretty much all personal weirdness harms others, at some level. Judging what counts as harm and what doesn’t is actually one of the very popular tricks by which people legitimize their tribalism.

            It’s also not actually tolerance if you are not willing to endure a little harm. That’s just indifference.

            Finally, if people are willing to tolerate things that hurt others, but not accept things that hurt themselves or their ingroup, that is not a principled stand against harm, but a principled stand for the ingroup/self and against the outgroup/other.

          • albatross11 says:

            siduri:

            How does your community handle literal Marxists? Are they treated better or worse than literal Nazis? Or even Charles Murray / Steve Sailer types?

            In terms of body count, the Communists piles of skulls exceed even those of the the Nazis/fascists[1]. If the explanation of why some views get shunned and others don’t comes down to which ideas are likely to lead to horrible outcomes/hurt people, then we should expect Marxists to be at least as strongly shunned as fascists. Is that what we see in practice? If not, it seems like we need a better model for who gets shunned.

            [1] I think most of the non-Nazi fascists were pretty standard police states–bad places to be an opposition-party politician, but not nightmarish places like Nazi-occupied Europe or the USSR under Stalin.

        • I think there is a substantial difference between my deciding not to listen to someone, perhaps advising others to do the same, and my deciding to make it unpleasant for someone else to express his views in order that other people will not be able to listen to him. The former happens all the time–there are not enough hours in the day to investigated everyone’s ideas. The latter is the pattern being discussed here, and I do not think is ever justified.

          • psychorecycled says:

            I agree that there’s a difference between the two, but I think that there are interesting and valuable conversations to be had around where that line might be – I see them as points on a spectrum, and worry that your comment could be interpreted as ‘these are so different that this isn’t worth discussing’.

            I don’t have a great conception of what the line might look like – a quiet and peaceful protest of a speaker, for example, seems like it could be off-putting for a meek enough speaker to legitimately, although perhaps not rationally, feel unsafe and unable to speak.

            Do you have any intuition or heuristics? How confident are you in them?

          • Do you have any intuition or heuristics?

            Yes. That the question is the purpose.

            If you peacefully protest a speaker in order to spread the information that some people disagree with him, that’s fine. If your purpose is to make the experience unpleasant for the speaker and those who agree with him, it isn’t. If you try to prevent people from hearing him, for instance by shouting, it isn’t.

            It’s purpose, not act. Suppose I believe I have a persuasive counterargument to what the speaker is saying–so persuasive that it may well persuade him. So I interrupt him from the audience to make it. My purpose isn’t to make it harder for him to communicate with his audience, although that may well be the effect of my action.

      • lvlln says:

        Bret Weinstein’s sin was to oppose a “Day of Absence” where white students/faculty were to be not allowed to be on campus. Is this what you believe to be “a cover for introducing outright Nazi propaganda”?

        This isn’t accurate. White students/faculty were asked not to be on campus. Now, as anyone who’s seen a mafia movie knows, there’s asking and then there’s “asking,” but I haven’t seen any evidence that this was the coercive kind of asking.

        Not that asking people to exclude themselves merely on the basis of the color of their skin is all that great, either – in fact, as Weinstein himself implied in his email that got him in trouble, asking for that is far more Nazi-like than objecting to it.

        • oppressedminority says:

          Weinstein suggested on numerous occasions, including at least once on Joe Rogan, that this was “asking”, and not mere asking. Your presence on campus if you were white was going to be held against you. And considering their reaction to Weinstein’s email, I find that entirely plausible.

        • albatross11 says:

          One way to think about this incident is to flip the races and see how it plays.

          Suppose that one day a year at Liberty University, the White Students’ Association declares a Black Day of Absense–blacks are asked[1] to absent themselves from the campus, so that the white students can feel free to be themselves. A black biology professor decides this is nonsense and tells them to go pound sand, and in the massive explosion of outrage that follows, is ultimately forced to leave the college by (among other things) angry mobs threatening him and his wife.

          [1] In the Guido asking you to pay your protection money sense.

          • Iain says:

            This is an unhelpful way to think about this incident.

            The underlying claim of the Day of Absence is that white people and black people are not treated in the same way by society. If the differences in treatment are minor, then the moral implications of the flip should be similar; if the differences are large, then the moral implications will be different.

            Flipping the races doesn’t clarify anything. You can’t decide how heavily to weigh the implications of the race-flipped version without a good sense of how any differences in treatment are relevant to this case — but if you have the latter, you don’t need the former.

          • albatross11 says:

            Iain:

            I think this comes down to different assumptions about how we determine who’s in the right. I’d say if it’s morally wrong to demand that all blacks leave the campus for a day and punish any who stick around, then it’s also morally wrong to demand that all whites leave the campus for a day and punish any who stick around. I don’t see why I become better informed about the morality of that action, if I learn that, say, the white students are in a minority at this college and often feel isolated.

        • Fluffy Buffalo says:

          Now, as anyone who’s seen a mafia movie knows, there’s asking and then there’s “asking,”

          And as in the mafia movies, there’s a simple way of telling the difference: if you refuse the request and are faced with a bunch of thugs with baseball bats searching for you, it was probably “asking”.

        • Iain says:

          This isn’t accurate. White students/faculty were asked not to be on campus. Now, as anyone who’s seen a mafia movie knows, there’s asking and then there’s “asking,” but I haven’t seen any evidence that this was the coercive kind of asking.

          Having taken the time to actually go look things up, it is actually impossible for this to have been the coercive kind of asking.

          You can find the email chain between Bret Weinstein and Rashida Love here. The invitation includes the following paragraph:

          At the same time, off-campus, at the Unitarian Universalist Church (2315 Division St NW), we will host a full-day program focusing on allyship and anti-racism work from a majority culture or white perspective. Due to the capacity limits of the space (200 participants), we are asking those members of the Evergreen community who wish to attend the off-campus Day of Absence program to commit in advance by completing the registration form.

          As of 2016, Evergreen had just over 4000 students, of whom ~25% are racial minorities. Some simple math will show that 3000 is a larger number than 200. There could not possibly have been an expectation that every white person would leave campus as part of the Day of Absence.

          Love clarifies this again in her response to Weinstein’s infamous email:

          No matter who you are, participation is, and has always been, a choice. Every year there are POC and White people who choose not to participate for various reasons. We are asking people to register for off-campus programming because space is limited. No one is being forced to attend either event. There are, however, many people in our campus community who believe it worthy to dedicate 8 hours of their lives to engaging in conversations around racism, equity and inclusion. There is no need for a formal protest. You and others are free to choose otherwise.

          Weinstein’s complaint was fundamentally stupid. That doesn’t justify his subsequent treatment, of course, but there’s no reason to take his initial complaint seriously.

          @albatross11:

          This simplifies our conversation above. What does this situation look like with flipped races? It looks like a multi-racial planning committee inviting black people to attend workshops off-campus, and white people to attend workshops on-campus — that is to say, it looks exactly like the existing Day of Absence program that Evergreen held every year since the 1970s.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Having taken the time to actually go look things up, it is actually impossible for this to have been the coercive kind of asking.

            Unless you have more context than the emails I don’t think your interpretation is supported. You could interpret what is in the email chain you linked to mean that “the on campus program is for POC, the off campus program is for allies of POC, you are not required to attend either but non POC shouldn’t be on campus that day”.

          • Nornagest says:

            There could not possibly have been an expectation that every white person would leave campus as part of the Day of Absence.

            There could not possibly have been an expectation that every white person at Evergreen would attend the off-campus seminar. That doesn’t necessarily imply that they’d have been welcome on campus. Most likely they thought that only the wokest, most ideological white students would want to attend the seminar, and the rest would stay at home and play video games or something.

            I don’t think it even makes sense to think of it any other way. Why would you call it a “Day of Absence” and then limit it to 200 people? Like you said, it’s a school with 4000 students; you wouldn’t even notice 200 people’s absence.

          • J Mann says:

            Weinstein didn’t actually get mobbed until after the Day of Absence – do we have any records of whether white people were in fact welcome and present on campus?

            Love’s original email did in fact say that students were welcome to attend whichever program they wanted to, or none. Given what happened to Weinstein, I could imagine that maybe white students stayed off campus to avoid being mobbed as racist, but it’s also possible that the campus was full of white people that day.

            ETA: Here are some student comments before this blew up – it looks to me like there wasn’t actually any effort to racially cleanse the campus. The POC-designated sessions were on campus, and the white-designation session was off campus, but the only significant complaint seems to be that there should have been more space in the white session.

          • Aapje says:

            @Iain

            As of 2016, Evergreen had just over 4000 students, of whom ~25% are racial minorities. Some simple math will show that 3000 is a larger number than 200.

            Weinstein was not a student, though. It seems plausible to me that there may have been an expectation that white professors/teachers would attend, but not students.

            Companies that do diversity training also typically only do that for their staff and not for their customers. Students are customers of the university.

            Weinstein’s complaint was fundamentally stupid.

            His complaint is/was not that he was forced to be absent by the college, but that asking people to leave is oppressive and that they refused to protect him when student activists went after him:

            “There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and underappreciated roles (the theme of the Douglas Turner Ward play Day of Absence, as well as the recent Women’s Day walkout), and a group encouraging another group to go away,” Weinstein wrote. “The first is a forceful call to consciousness, which is, of course, crippling to the logic of oppression. The second is a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself.”

            Weinstein soon said that it was unsafe for him to be on campus, and he sued Evergreen for $3.85 million on the grounds of “hostility based on race,” alleging that the college “permitted, cultivated, and perpetuated a racially hostile and retaliatory work environment… Through a series of decisions made at the highest levels, including to officially support a day of racial segregation, the college has refused to protect its employees from repeated provocative and corrosive verbal and written hostility based on race, as well as threats of physical violence.”

          • Iain says:

            @baconbits9:

            Unless you have more context than the emails I don’t think your interpretation is supported. You could interpret what is in the email chain you linked to mean that “the on campus program is for POC, the off campus program is for allies of POC, you are not required to attend either but non POC shouldn’t be on campus that day”.

            Have you actually read the emails? Please point me to a sentence in either email from Rashida Love that can plausibly be interpreted to imply that non-POC shouldn’t be on campus that day.

            Keep in mind: this was just a race swap of an event that has been happening since the 1970s. There’s no way that the previous iterations of this event told POCs that they weren’t supposed to be on campus. I don’t believe this was Weinstein’s first year on campus; if he was paying any attention at all, he presumably noticed that previous instances of the Day of Absence didn’t actually involve a complete absence of non-white students. “Day of Absence” is just a name, based on a play from the sixties.

            @Aapje:

            Weinstein was not a student, though. It seems plausible to me that there may have been an expectation that white professors/teachers would attend, but not students.

            I don’t care what “seems plausible” to you in the abstract. Read the emails. Rashida Love is very clear that Weinstein was not required to attend.

            Seriously, folks. You are allowed to believe that Weinstein’s subsequent treatment was unacceptable — I agree! — without having to defend his bone-headed misreading of a completely innocuous workshop invitation.

          • lvlln says:

            It’s pretty clear from Weinstein’s email that Love’s email was merely the last part of a long string of correspondences between him and Love (as well as other members of the faculty/administration), much of which were done in person, and that Weinstein was responding to contents of the entire string, not just the latest email. Unfortunately, I don’t think recordings of those previous conversations exist.

            Maybe Weinstein’s objections were still misguided, but it’s literally impossible for anyone who didn’t have access to that missing information to make that call, or to make an accurate determination of what level of coercion was involved.

            It seems that Weinstein’s objection was to do with the symbolism of the flipping of the “Day of Absence,” not with any coercive element (which, again, I don’t think existed). It was traditionally a symbolic way for POCs to show their importance to the community by absenting themselves from campus, in a copy of some famous play where black people in some town did just that, and the town broke down, I think. Flipping the day clearly isn’t meant for white people to highlight their importance to the community by absenting themselves from campus; rather, it seems Weinstein interpreted it as a way for POCs to highlight how much oppression they face from white people and thus how important it is for white people to make space that’s exclusive to POCs by absenting themselves from campus.

            All this seems kinda silly, as it’s just symbolism all the way down, but then the silliness lies firmly at the foot of the whole concept of “Day of Absence,” rather than Weinstein himself. From reading interviews with Weinstein & his wife Heying, it seems that Weinstein butt heads with the administration for about a year before, in his objection to the way in which the new college prez George Bridges was going about implementing their Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity programs, which he saw as unlikely to lead to good outcomes for the advancement of those values (as an aside, learning this makes me think some cynical thoughts about the fact that Bridges told the head of campus security not to intervene when students were reported to have been roaming the campus with baseball bats in search of Weinstein).

            So it’s also possible that he was sensitized to the symbolism such that he overreacted relative to what was proper. Or he also might have been privy to context that we simply have no access to that shows just how dangerous the thing he was pushing back against was. The one thing that’s clear to me, though, is that no one without access to those correspondences has any standing to make the judgment call.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Have you actually read the emails? Please point me to a sentence in either email from Rashida Love that can plausibly be interpreted to imply that non-POC shouldn’t be on campus that day.

            It’s an email chain referring to an in person meeting and previous years events, hence the word ‘context’. The email refers to a reversal of the previous years policy, which is the point of contention and both parties know what that policy was but the readers don’t (from the email chain).

            However the fact that he thinks that it is necessary to declare that he will be on campus that day and there is no direct response to this in the follow up email allows for the interpretation that he later claimed.

          • J Mann says:

            As I said, in this case, the Day of Absence actually happened before anyone mobbed Weinstein. From everything I can tell, it doesn’t look like white students actually stayed off campus or felt pressure to. Given that, I feel fairly confident that Weinstein was mistaken. (Even he doesn’t claim he prevented some anticipated pogrom, as far as I know).

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ J Mann,

            The questions then become how many people were ‘mobbed’ for being on campus. If he was the only one (or one of a few) then why? If the expectation wasn’t that he was off campus then why the mobbing?

          • Iain says:

            @lvlln:

            It’s pretty clear from Weinstein’s email that Love’s email was merely the last part of a long string of correspondences between him and Love (as well as other members of the faculty/administration), much of which were done in person, and that Weinstein was responding to contents of the entire string, not just the latest email. Unfortunately, I don’t think recordings of those previous conversations exist.

            I assume you’re looking at this bit?

            When you first described the new structure for Day of Absence / Day of Presence at a past faculty meeting (where no room was left for questions), I thought I must have misunderstood what you said. Later emails seemed to muddy the waters further, while inviting commitments to participate. I now see from the boldfaced text in this email that I had indeed understood your words correctly.

            I don’t read that as saying that they had previously corresponded. Neither this email, nor Love’s response, look like a continuing conversation. With the exception of the paragraph I quoted above, there are no references in either of the emails to previous discussions, and both emails include substantial introductory preambles that would be unnecessary if this was an ongoing conversation.

            As far as I can tell:
            1. Love gave a talk at a faculty meeting. Weinstein attended, but did not have an opportunity to ask questions.
            2. Subsequent mass emails were sent out about the Day of Absence that were not clear one way or the other about white people leaving campus.
            3. The first email in this chain was sent out to all faculty.
            4. Weinstein responded with the second email.
            5. Love responded with the third.

            Given that Weinstein highlights the email beginning this chain as making it clear that he had understood correctly, it seems safe to assume that no earlier communication was more explicit about forcing white people to leave. In particular, if there was another email that more clearly applied undue pressure, he would surely have replied to that one instead, or at least quoted it here. (More cynically, if such an email existed, Weinstein would have a strong incentive to make it publicly available, and I would have been able to find it somewhere on Google. This NYT article, for example, would obviously have been strengthened by quoting an actual example of strong-arming.)

            I agree that the symbolism of using “Day of Absence” to describe an off-campus workshop attended by a fraction of the school’s students is a bit silly. But it’s the sort of silly that is trivial to see through — especially for a professor who had presumably witnessed previous Days of Absence.

            Like, at some point you’ve got to stop making excuses. Weinstein’s complaint was dumb. That clearly doesn’t justify anything that happened afterwards, but honestly I’m a little bewildered by how strongly some people here seem to desperately want to believe that Weinstein’s complaint was justified, despite a complete lack of evidence.

          • From everything I can tell, it doesn’t look like white students actually stayed off campus or felt pressure to.

            How do you know? I haven’t followed the case at all closely, but the only evidence I saw was that the arrangement for white allies only covered a small fraction of the white students. That isn’t inconsistent with other white students and faculty being expected to stay away.

          • Iain says:

            @David Friedman:

            First, because all of the correspondence to which we have access describes the event as voluntary. Nobody has turned up evidence of anyone pressuring white people to stay away. Given the level of media attention, it’s very unlikely that there were a bunch of photogenic white students with horror stories sitting around, but nobody ever got around to interviewing them.

            Second, because this event, which began in the 1970s, has historically involved black people leaving campus. There’s no way that the original version would have strictly enforced the absence of black people. We should therefore not expect that the race-swapped version would enforce the absence of white people.

          • Nornagest says:

            So, in short, you think that the people organizing Evergreen’s latest “Day of Absence” decided to flip the script on the traditional event and create, for a day, a on-campus space focused on the needs and interests of non-white students — by inviting 200 out of 3000+ white students and faculty to an off-campus event.

            Okay then.

            I doubt anyone expected to get their legs broken if they decided to show up to class, but it is just absurd to say that this event could accomplish its stated goals if the workshops were all there was to it. That implies some level of social pressure. Maybe not very effective — the articles upthread don’t give me a very good picture of what was actually going on, but they do seem to point to some confusion.

          • Iain says:

            @Nornagest:

            What? No.

            They held a bunch of workshops. They have only ever held a bunch of workshops. They have a set of workshops about racism from the point of view of white people, and a set of workshops about racism from the point of view of racial minorities, and this year they decided to swap the locations of those workshops.

            To the extent that they planned to create an “on-campus space focused on the needs and interests of non-white students”, they did so by booking rooms.

            It is called “Day of Absence” because it was named after a play from the 60s in which all the black people leave town and all the white people are sad. There is no indication that it has ever triggered a true absence of either race from campus, or indeed that this has ever been a real goal. The absence is symbolic. This is silly, to be sure, but completely harmless, and far from the silliest thing ever done by a campus group.

          • Aapje says:

            @Iain

            First, because all of the correspondence to which we have access describes the event as voluntary.

            The debate we are having, about asking vs ‘asking’ is about subtext, not text. So I find your singular focus on the text rather baffling. As I argued before, based on what Weinstein said, he seems to be objecting to the subtext and he fully recognizes that there is no explicit ban for white people to be present on that day.

            You told me to look at Rashida Love’s email, so let’s look at this bit:

            No one is being forced to attend either event. There are however, many people in our campus community who believe it worthy to dedicate 8 hours of their lives to engaging in conversations around racism, equity and inclusion

            The way I read these passages is: ‘I can’t force you to attend, but I believe that it is the duty of the staff to spend a day in a struggle session.’

            Of course, you may believe that ‘there are however, many people in our campus community who believe it worthy to dedicate 8 hours of their lives…’ is not a passive aggressive statement that oozes disapproval of those who don’t act as suggested, but it definitely reads that way to me.

            Here is another statements by Love that also disapproves of those who don’t act as suggested:

            Folks who choose to go off campus are showing solidarity by building community with each other to interrogate their own notions of race and identity and to work in tandem as allies.

            So according to her, those who are not going off campus are not showing solidarity, are not building community with the rest of the staff and are not allies.

            If my employer gave that feedback to me, I would start polishing my CV…

            Note that the theme of that year’s Day of Absence was: “Revolution is not a one-time event, your silence will not protect you.

            This can be read in two ways…

            Ultimately, the question whether Weinstein was asked or ‘asked’ depends strongly on context. “It would be a shame if something happened to that car” has a different meaning if it is said by a garage salesman or by a mafioso. I see a strong signals in Rashida Love’s writing that noncompliance will be judged based on an ‘you are either for us or against us’ view off the world.

          • baconbits9 says:

            There’s no way that the original version would have strictly enforced the absence of black people. We should therefore not expect that the race-swapped version would enforce the absence of white people.

            They didn’t swap the races, they swapped the venues. Consider the possibility that

            1. To give POC a place to safely vent their frustrations once a year we rent out an off campus venue and ask white students and faculty to respectfully stay away from this school sanctioned event. There will be activities on campus for white students and faculty as well as students and faculty OC who wish to engage with them on this day.

            2. This year we are reversing our venues, and we are designating the campus as the safe space for POC and are setting up an off campus event for white students and faculty and any students and faculty of color who want to engage them.

          • J Mann says:

            @DavidFriedman

            It’s certainly not conclusive evidence, but I googled Evergreen “day of absence” with a date filter of April 1, 2017 – May 7, 2017 to try to get contemporaneous but pre-mobbing coverage. Everyone talks about the sessions, but there’s no discussion that the campus was white-people free or that white people on campus that day need to be educated to attend next time. It sounds like white students weren’t super welcome in the black on-campus events, but if there was a general exclusion of white people on campus, no one seems to have mentioned it. (There is also a slow drumbeat against Weinstein in the student paper coverage).

            I’ll grant that it’s possible that white students got the message and stayed off campus, but if so, nobody seems to be mentioning it, or discussing how to discipline any scatted white students who presumably showed up in this hypothetical

            Here’s an example of people discussing the day.

            http://www.cooperpointjournal.com/2017/04/26/student-perspective-on-day-of-absence/

    • Theresa Klein says:

      Good comment. I do agree that some of the people labeled “IDW” do not deserve the treatment they are receiving. For that matter, it’s probably unfair to them to even include them in the same group as some of the other people under the IDW label.

      But it’s almost an intractable position to say that social shunning should never be used. After all, freedom of association cuts both ways and nobody has a right to be liked and socially accepted. If everything is to be tolerated, then people who genuinely think certain views are toxic and immoral and in need of shunning would have to be silenced, so as not to make the people expressing those views feel like they are being silenced, so now we’re back to square one. People have a right to get offended and to shun views that they consider unacceptable, and yell at each other at twitter and say mean things about one another. And unless someone is literally under threat of violence, I don’t see any way around that.

      • siduri says:

        See, this is about where I end up too.

        I can more or less get behind a blanket condemnation of violence and threats of violence (although the most I can get to in Richard Spencer’s case is a lukewarm “technically he should not have been punched but in a world where refugee children are drowning and people are dying of exposure on the streets every day I cannot bring myself to feel a great deal of actual sorrow about the punching; it is bad but there are so very, very many things that are worse and deserve our attention so much more urgently”). I can condemn harassment and death threats in a general way.

        But…I *do* think there are beliefs so fringe they should be disqualifying from public office and from leadership positions at major companies. I *do* think there are beliefs so morally abhorrent that they don’t deserve careful and respectful engagement. So hearing that IDW proponents are suffering major reputational costs for articulating their beliefs does not, in itself, tell me that the beliefs deserve better than that.

        • gbdub says:

          “hearing that IDW proponents are suffering major reputational costs for articulating their beliefs does not, in itself, tell me that the beliefs deserve better than that.”

          Which is exactly why the censorious types are so keen to intercept the speech of the IDW types before they get to you.

          Frankly, I think one of the “beliefs so fringe” ought to be, “I have the right to silence the speech of anyone I believe to be sufficiently fringe, by any means, including physical violence, necessary”.

          Anyway, there are certainly some beliefs that I consider too fringe for careful consideration. But I don’t trust you to select that set of beliefs on my behalf… and you shouldn’t trust me to do that for you! So better to let all the beliefs (and all the counter beliefs) be heard.

          • siduri says:

            Nobody has a right to my time and attention. There’s far too many kooks in the world for me to personally, rigorously evaluate literally all the competing claims floating around out there. I have spam filters, I have to. Like I everyone, I mostly pay attention to things that are promoted to me by the people around me and the people whose judgments I trust (my news sources and my personal network).

            When we talk about someone losing their platform or “reach”–being silenced in the sense that their ability to disseminate their views has been reduced, but NOT in the sense that anybody is physically coercing them or destroying their property–then basically we’re talking about someone losing their ability to bypass my spam filters. That’s not a basic human right, and I don’t mind if my filters drown a lot of people out.

            Edited to add: Scott is actually one of the people who CAN bypass my filters. When he writes a post saying “Here’s what I believe and why I believe it,” I will read it–and I will try to read it with the principle of charity in force. Instead what he’s done is write posts that say, essentially, “If I did believe something in this general fringe cluster, I would not be able to tell you about it because of the reputational costs I would incur.”

            To which my answer is…”Hm, all that tells me is that it must be a *really* fringe belief, if the reputational costs are so high. I wish I knew what it was because I’m curious now, but I’m definitely not SO curious that I’m gonna go trawling through the entire dark pond of fringe stuff over there to guess at which parts of it Scott might endorse. I wish he would just write a post about what he believes and why, instead of all these posts about how bad it is that endorsing fringe beliefs carries reputational costs. I mean it’s true that it does, and I see that it sucks for him, but still. At some point the tease has gotta end, right?”

            Double-edited to add: I don’t want to devote a standalone comment to this, but I DO want to point out that in this post Scott put a numbered list inside another numbered list, and that’s adorable.

          • gbdub says:

            I think you misread Scott. His position, as best I can gather, is that these positions are “fringe” in the sense that he would incur a large social penalty for expressing them or even engaging with them charitably but he really wishes this were not the case. That the “near end” of the fringe is worth exploring, but he’s scared of doing so openly because he fears he will be unfairly attacked.

            So in other words, if you trust his judgement, you should adjust toward turning down the sensitivity of your spam filters as they pertain to the “IDW” crowd.

            I get the idea of a “spam filter”. But I think the Left (admittedly fuzzily defined) is doing a poor job of filtering right now, in a couple of big ways:
            1) Failing to distinguish between trolls / outright bad actors and thoughtful, honest conservatives who are willing to surf the right edge of the Overton window. This is bad filter behavior – a better filter allows me to distinguish between Jordan Peterson (someone I might disagree with, but learn something from engaging with) and actual Nazis, who I ought to ignore/shun.

            2) It applies too much guilt-by-association. It’s one thing to shun a Nazi, and/or decide their ideas worth engaging with directly. It’s quite another to shun someone just because they prefer a looser filter and want to engage Nazi ideas more directly. Like, maybe I want to avoid Mein Kampf, but if I want to learn something from WWII I probably shouldn’t shun scholars who do the dirty work of reading Mein Kampf to get a better understanding of the ideology Third Reich.

            I worry that’s what will happen to Scott. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a Neo-Rxner, but the world is a better place for his charitable deconstructions of that ideology. I’m worried he wouldn’t do that exercise now for fear of inciting the Twitter Mafia.

            EDITED TO ADD: I do keep a spam filter on my gmail account, and I’m glad I have it. But I do occasionally go through my junk mail to make sure it isn’t throwing out anything good. Google allows me to mark something as “not spam” and adjusts its filter in the future.
            I’m worried that your “spam filter” lacks this corrective mechanism, and in fact the SJW crowd actively tries to punish people like Scott who engage in “checking the junkmail”.

          • siduri says:

            Hmm, your basic points here are sound and I agree these are real dangers of the liberal-bubble spam filter. I read Scott partly in an effort to review the material trapped by the filter.

            I did investigate Jordan Peterson after reading Scott’s basically positive review of his book, but the first article I read (which I admit was from the New York Times, and rather unpromisingly titled “Jordan Peterson, Custodian of the Patriarchy”) convinced me that I do not care to read more from him, and I prefer him to be in the “shun” category. I am open to revising that view in the future, but not open to arguing about it now, as that will bog us down in the culture-war specifics that I don’t want to fight about right now.

          • albatross11 says:

            siduri:

            One thing that makes the kind of article you’re referencing less valuable is the strong suspicion that writers for the NYT see part of their job as enforcing the bounds of acceptable discourse, rather than honest reporting. Which is great if you think the NYT have the right ideas about what views you should be allowed to hear, but maybe not so great if your goal is to discover what some controversial thinker actually says or believes.

          • Nobody has a right to my time and attention.

            When we talk about someone losing their platform or “reach”–being silenced in the sense that their ability to disseminate their views has been reduced, but NOT in the sense that anybody is physically coercing them or destroying their property–then basically we’re talking about someone losing their ability to bypass my spam filters.

            We are not talking about a listener choosing not to listen to someone. We are talking about someone deliberately making it harder for other people who want to listen to that someone to do so. That isn’t you maintaining your spam filter, it’s you modifying my spam filter to filter out things you don’t want me to hear.

            You don’t see the difference?

          • I did investigate Jordan Peterson after reading Scott’s basically positive review of his book, but the first article I read (which I admit was from the New York Times, and rather unpromisingly titled “Jordan Peterson, Custodian of the Patriarchy”) convinced me that I do not care to read more from him,

            You are easily convinced. It didn’t occur to you that Jordan Peterson might be a more reliable source of information about Jordan Peterson than the NYT?

            Or, for that matter, that Scott is?

          • albatross11 says:

            Thinking more about this, and about some of David Friedman’s comments, one thing that strikes me is that there’s a very big difference between:

            a. I think you have some silly or offensive beliefs, so I’m going to think less of you.

            b. I think you have some silly or offensive beliefs, so I’m going to shun you.

            c. I think you have some silly or offensive beliefs, so I’m going to demand that others shun you and shun them if they don’t.

            (a) and (b) feel more like simply refusing to associate with people with silly or offensive views. (c) is trying to enforce a social norm about which views are acceptable by punishing those who hold or express unacceptable views. Trying to get someone fired for their political views is (c).

          • psychorecycled says:

            We are not talking about a listener choosing not to listen to someone. We are talking about someone deliberately making it harder for other people who want to listen to that someone to do so. That isn’t you maintaining your spam filter, it’s you modifying my spam filter to filter out things you don’t want me to hear.

            You don’t see the difference?

            In perfect honesty, no, not as the categories are drawn. Could you explain more?

            My interpretation here – please still explain your perspective, don’t just correct mine! – is that I should be able to say things like ‘I think Alex sucks’, and I should be able to find groups of people who think that Alex sucks, and we should be able to say it loudly, in unison. That’s a freedom of speech thing, and it’s important. This might plausibly mean that Alex says fewer things, or that the things Alex says have less reach, but to restrict my ability to say unkind but true things about Alex – or how I feel about Alex – is to restrict my freedom of speech.

          • albatross11 says:

            psychorecycled:

            Most of the time, speeches are given in specific set-aside locations like auditoriums. If you show up at such a speech and make it impossible to hear the speaker, I think you should get exactly the same treatment as you get showing up during a concert and making it impossible to hear the musicians–you get thrown out and maybe arrested for disturbing the peace.

            The alternative is that anyone who can get 100 people together can shut down any speech anywhere. That seems like it leads to a world where nobody’s allowed to speak in public unless basically everyone agrees with them.

          • CatCube says:

            @psychorecycled

            ‘I think Alex sucks’, and I should be able to find groups of people who think that Alex sucks, and we should be able to say it loudly, in unison.

            The problem is that in many places, people seem to think that they have the right (and duty) to loudly say “Alex sucks” and blow air horns while Alex is speaking in a room reserved for the purpose of Alex speaking, so other people who want to decide if Alex sucks can figure that out for themselves.

            If they want to publish flyers, or rent a room over and give a speech about Alex sucking, that’s fine. Preventing others from hearing Alex is another matter. The current “no platforming” on college campuses that require extensive security for speeches is an example of the latter.

          • psychorecycled says:

            Albatros, CatCube, I don’t disagree with either of you. Shouting someone down isn’t free speech.

            However, in the context of this specific comment chain, I don’t think that’s necessarily what’s being discussed.

            But it’s almost an intractable position to say that social shunning should never be used. After all, freedom of association cuts both ways and nobody has a right to be liked and socially accepted. If everything is to be tolerated, then people who genuinely think certain views are toxic and immoral and in need of shunning would have to be silenced, so as not to make the people expressing those views feel like they are being silenced, so now we’re back to square one. People have a right to get offended and to shun views that they consider unacceptable, and yell at each other at twitter and say mean things about one another. And unless someone is literally under threat of violence, I don’t see any way around that.

            The specific case of shouting people down is over the line. But where is the line? If I publicly and clearly state that I’m not going to engage with anyone who thinks the things Alex is saying are worthwhile, and find other people who feel the same, have I silenced or denied Alex an audience? Depending on your answer to that question, what is the least that situation would have to change to swap whether it’s maintaining my spam filter, or forcing it on others?

            Disclaimer: I’m less interested in whether or not these actions are what a good person would do, and more interested in ‘what do you think justifies sort of intervention on the part of the government or another, similar institution?’.

          • Tim van Beek says:

            I did investigate Jordan Peterson after reading Scott’s basically positive review of his book, but the first article I read (which I admit was from the New York Times, and rather unpromisingly titled “Jordan Peterson, Custodian of the Patriarchy”) convinced me that I do not care to read more from him, and I prefer him to be in the “shun” category.

            That is a very good explanation of how and why this labeling thing works. But even in that article there are hints that could have gotten your attention, example:

            When Mr. Peterson talks about good women — the sort a man would want to marry — he often uses these words: conscientious and agreeable.

            Doesn’t is seem that Nellie Bowles does not know or does not care that “conscientious” and “agreeable” are technical terms from the psychology of personality, the “big five”? The way it is presented in the article should raise the “this is a recontextualisation” alarm, if you happen to know that Peterson is a psychologist.

            Anyway, the only thing one can learn from that article is how prejudice distorts perception. That people who are victims of it see themselves as warriors against prejudice seems to be a really good example of “projection” (this also in the technical sense used in psychology).

          • albatross11 says:

            When we talk about punishing speech (and particularly punishing anyone who doesn’t go along with punishing some speech), it’s important to remember that we’re not talking about an idea or belief system, we’re talking about a tactic–one that is usable by anyone with enough of the right kind of power.

            We can move toward a world where the norm is that employers check your social media accounts and fire you if you express political opinions that your employers disagree with off the clock. That could happen. If it does, the result will be a huge loss of practical political freedom. Nobody working for Wal-Mart gets to go to the pro-choice[1] or pro-gun-control rally without looking for another job first. Nobody from Google gets to go to the pro-life or anti-gun-control rally without looking for another job first. That would be a terrible place for our society to end up. We should push back against that.

            [1] Note that both abortion and gun control are issues where both sides are convinced that the other side’s policies are causing harm to others (or would cause harm to others, if implemented).

      • But it’s almost an intractable position to say that social shunning should never be used. After all, freedom of association cuts both ways and nobody has a right to be liked and socially accepted.

        Freedom of association implies that I have a right to shun someone, not that I ought to exercise it. There are lots of things I have a right to do but shouldn’t.

        If someone’s views make him unpleasant for me to interact with, that’s a reason for my not to interact with him. But I think what you are discussing is not that, but lots of people avoiding interactions with him not because they find them unpleasant but because they want to punish him for his views.

        Ultimately that means they want to keep other people from being exposed to those views–to win the argument not by offering better arguments for their side but by preventing arguments on the other side from being offered at all.

    • Viliam says:

      The left/SJW sincerely believes that many of these ideas espoused by the IDW are “Nazi-lite,” a cover for introducing outright Nazi propaganda.

      A few people on the left have this annoying habit to call everyone who disagrees with them a “Nazi”. Together with the “punch a Nazi” attitude it makes a very dangerous combination.

      To answer your question, if I would believe that I am surrounded by literal Nazis, I would probably use some methods I generally do not approve of, because desperate situations require desperate actions.

      But if I would ever happen to be in a situation when everyone who disagrees with me seems to me like a literal Nazi… then I wish I would be able to find a psychiatric help instead. And not e.g. a university that enables that kind of delusional thinking.

    • shenanigans24 says:

      I don’t believe people that say they are afraid of NAZIs returning if something like racial IQ is discussed. There’s a professor who actually advocated white genocide and wasn’t fired. If someone tells me they are concerned about racial discrimination but are only concerned about some theoretical call for discrimination in the future but not actual calls for racial violence now, or even actual violence now like in South Africa, or even for actual state sanctioned race discrimination on people occurring now I have to assume they are not telling the truth about their true concern.

    • Because how then *should* we react to a position like forthright Nazism, which most people think is not only morally repugnant but dangerous to society in very real ways?

      We should do our best to understand why people believe in those ideas–which is hard if we have no opportunity to talk with them.

      It’s not a matter of merely historical interest. If something like Nazism comes again, it probably won’t use a swastika or call itself Nazism. If we understand why that structure of ideas appealed to a lot of people, we will be better equipped to recognize it in a new costume and oppose it.

      Many years ago I was invited to a conference in Paris. A little before it was due to happen I was told that a lot of participants had withdrawn in protest against the fact that one of the invited participants was, in their view, a fascist–I think actually a supporter of Le Pen pére.

      My response was that if there was going to be a real fascist there that was a reason to go, since I had never an opportunity to talk with one. I went. The “fascist” had withdrawn in counter protest, but I arranged to have dinner with him.

      It was quite interesting. I don’t think he was in any clear sense a fascist, but he did believe that Europe in classical antiquity was a better society than modern Europe, the latter having been corrupted by Christianity. His view of the U.S. was more or less wall to wall McDonalds, so I had fun telling him about my hobby of medieval reenactment.

      Along somewhat similar lines, on a different trip I was able to have a long conversation with a woman from southern India who was in an arranged marriage and thought that institution made much more sense than ours.

      • benf says:

        We should do our best to understand why people believe in those ideas–which is hard if we have no opportunity to talk with them.

        I’m not even a little convinced that the best way to find out why a person believes something is to ask them why. People believe things, and tell themselves stories about those beliefs, and those stories are almost always post-hoc rationalizations.

        • Aapje says:

          Their rationalizations still often tell you something about their true motivations.

        • albatross11 says:

          benf:

          Do you think there’s any point to discussion at all? Because your description there seems like it implies that there’s no point in discussing issues in order to resolve differences–people just make up justifications for their beliefs anyway.

          If you believe that, I can see why you’d think allowing discussions of contentious topics would be bad (there’s no benefit to those discussions), but I think most people here think that there is a wide range of issues on which we can have fruitful discussions, and we can change our minds on issues based on those discussions.

          But then, if you believe that, I assume you’re also on board with suppressing discussion of LGBT rights and atheism. I mean, nobody changes their minds based on those discussions, and those discussions deeply offend some religious people, so let’s do away with them. Or do you have different principles that apply in those cases?

    • SaiNushi says:

      There’s a difference between picketing and preventing people from entering the building.

    • a reader says:

      @siduri:

      The left/SJW sincerely believes that many of these ideas espoused by the IDW are “Nazi-lite,” a cover for introducing outright Nazi propaganda.

      If they sincerely believe so, they lost touch with reality. Many people in the so-called Intellectual Dark Web are Jews: Jonathan Haidt, Steven Pinker, Bret and Eric Weinstein, Ben Shapiro, Dave Rubin (who is also openly gay); Sam Harris is half-Jewish (on his mother’s side) and Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a formerly muslim Somali woman. Look at them all here – you won’t find any Nazi:

      http://intellectualdark.website/

    • Baeraad says:

      This is me adding my two cents a full week after the discussion has ended, but oh well.

      Is it morally acceptable then for the majority to rise up in outrage and say “no, we are not going to accept and normalize this–we are going to counter protest at all your events, we are going to boycott your employers until they fire you, we are going to write one million screamy Internet thinkpieces and call you the worst names we can think of. We can’t put you in jail unless there’s evidence that you’ve actually raped children, but this movement advocating in favor of adults being able to have sexual relationships with children is *terrible* and we are not going to have friendly, dispassionate arguments about it, we are going to shut that motherfucker down.”

      No.

      No, really. I’ll bite the bullet here. Even then the mob is not allowed to rise up and try to enforce what it sees as justice because the actual authorities aren’t being heavy-handed and arbitrary enough for its taste. The mob may never ever rise up. The mob must stay down under any and all circumstances. There are no circumstances, there is no conceivable situation, where the torches and pitchforks are the morally correct solution.

      You’re worried about the kids? Vote for more police funding aimed at protecting them. Vote for stricter laws. Vote for lower barriers of evidence. Vote for whatever you think will work, but accept that whatever is done is going to get done by an official institution acting on consistent and explicit protocols which can be examined, debated and if need be changed, not by a bunch of idiots roaring on Twitter about how they know better than the law.

      Elsewhere, you mention freedom of association. You absolutely have that. As long as you are on your own time, you may shun whomever you want. Shun to the left, shun to the right, shun like a mean lean shunning machine, you are 100% entitled to do that! What you’re not allowed to do is tell anyone else to do the same, and you’re absolutely not allowed (in the world of me) to organise or participate any mass movements of shunning. If a person’s behaviour causes every single individual in the world to shun them, then may it so be; but this needs to each individual’s own choice, not something they have been bullied into.

      I would further like to state that when you’re acting in any kind of professional capacity, you no longer have (by which I mean that according me you should not have, irrespectively of what the law currently says) freedom of association. As a professional, you are there to perform some manner of service, and you are not allowed to discriminate about who you perform it to. YES, you need to bake that gay wedding cake; YES, you need to hire that UFO believer if he’s the one with the best job skills; YES, you need to examine whether that boorish guy who wrote the tonedeaf memo actually did anything wrong under the law or under the terms of his contract, not whether he sinned against your notion of common decency or whether he made some people uncomfortable.

      Because that is the other side of it. That is what makes official institutions qualified to deal with problems, whereas randomly forming mobs are not – the fact that institutions are impersonal and not blinded by subjective bias. And the fact that more and more, people are demanding that institutions become more like mobs may just be the one thing about our time that genuinely terrifies me.

      • rabbitHutch says:

        Mobs, no. Individuals, yes. Otherwise you are just falling back into the “I’m just a soldier of the system.” And that won’t fly.

        If the man doesn’t want to use his artistic skills to bake a cake for what he sees as an evil and twisted event, Mandrin You says he must pay the price. We have a lot of that going around. It’s like a Mandrin Mob.

  32. rationaldebt says:

    I’d suggest you reconsider your Ben Shapiro opinion. A good measure of evenhandedness is “praises trump for some things, condemns him for others”. Shapiro meets this threshold.

    On the entire internet, the two people I trust most to give honest estimates were you and Ben Shapiro. I’ve just updated on Ben Shapiro in your direction; I think you should in mine.

  33. no one special says:

    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.

    I think this is a great analogy. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, Feminism was a serious push by people outside the Overton window (or on the edge, anyway.) Today it’s bog standard. But the 2nd wave Feminist leaders were the Intellectual Dark Web of their era.

  34. Hitfoav says:

    Personal micro-anecdotes suggesting silencing/chilling is real:
    I have tended to avoid liking YouTube videos of IDW especially Peterson due to the concern I’d open YouTube around my leftist friends and have verboten content in my feed; I never share to social media and I’ve concealed Peterson’s book when certain guests come over.
    I find myself rather obsessively reading this thread as if I’m feeding on the evidence of other basically decent and rational people who like and/or respect IDW figures and thought. “It’s not just me…!”

    • Clarence says:

      That’s so sad. It’s like you’re hiding samizdat from the secret police in Soviet Russia. My heart goes out to you.

      • Hitfoav says:

        Sarcasm level unclear

        • Clarence says:

          Why would what I said be sarcastic? You’re hiding ideological materials for fear of them being discovered and you being punished for it. It’s so wrong that’s happening to you.

          • Viliam says:

            But the fact that the samizdats were printed and read is a proof that no one was really oppressed. Heck, this Solzhenitsyn guy complained a lot about lack of freedom in Soviet Union, and he got a book published! Probably got paid money for it, too.

            (Sarcastic, but I know people who would say a similar thing and totally mean it.)

          • Hitfoav says:

            Sorry for the suspicion and thanks for the empathy – brief expressions of sincerity on an internet forum with no knowledge of the writer, I didn’t know what to do with it.

    • lvlln says:

      I used to think and behave similarly until very recently.

      But I was convinced to change that from various things, such as Sam Harris’s and Jordan Peterson’s arguments about the value in always telling the truth, or Douglas Murray – who’s been demonized for his writings about Islam – mentioning that he’s experienced the fall from grace, and really, “the water’s not that cold.” Lindsay Shepherd said something similar.

      Obviously, one of the big points of this post was that most of us are not famous powerful figures able to withstand the slings and arrows like they have. But as long as you do your homework so that you can at least make a well-reasoned argument for why you do or believe the things you do or believe (i.e. what a liberal arts education is theoretically supposed to teach you to do) and also are willing to listen with a genuinely open mind in conversations, I think whatever consequences come your way due to that won’t be as bad as you might fear.

      I do think this sort of thing might come down to a common knowledge problem, and as far as I can see, the way to solve that is by chipping away at it one person at a time. Peterson said that when he made his infamous video about C16, that he did so not out of courage, but out of fear, that he was far more afraid of what might happen if he didn’t speak out than if he did. I think there’s something to that in the situation we find ourselves right now.

      That said, I don’t know your specific situation, and I know that there really are some people who really are in situations where deviation can lead to horrendous consequences. So don’t be stupid about it, but if you try testing the limits of your comfort and pushing the boundary by just a little at a time, I think it might be beneficial to you and to all of us in the long run.

      • Hitfoav says:

        Agreed, and thanks for the thoughtful comment.

        I am in part trying to be patient and avoid unnecessary conflict; my concern is for damaging relationships with foolish heated discussions of ideas. Context is that a number of my best friends are anarchists, and I am sympathetic to certain elements but not on board with large swaths of the program – we know we don’t share all the same values or ideas, but we generally get along very well. However I have had a couple minor brushes with the social enforcement of group norms and it was disturbing.

        You are right though, I think, in saying that a calm and appropriate expression of considered ideas will usually be met with minimal pushback; and further that in Petersonian terms, speaking the truth brings good.

        I guess I’m trying to pick my spots.

      • Hitfoav says:

        PS – this discussion is making me consider I may be acting overly fearful of conflict. Cheers for that.

        • Clarence says:

          Agreeability – a Big 5 trait. People who are too agreeable won’t stand up for themselves. Here’s a quick and dirty Big 5 test you can take that will show how agreeable you are.

          Being disagreeable is no picnic either. Disagreeable men won’t do anything they don’t want to do. They just say, “up yours. I’ll go home and play video games,” and “why should I work for you? I’ll just go have fun. I’ll do my own thing.”

          • Nornagest says:

            Every time I take one of these tests I’m struck by how my raw score on Agreeableness is fairly high but my percentile score for it is fairly low. Is everyone else rating themselves as the nicest people ever? And does that actually correlate well with in-person niceness? It seems to point to some calibration problems.

            Or I could just be a jerk, I guess.

          • Hitfoav says:

            Yes – I really ought to take that. And stick my neck out a little more to see if the elephants are really outside the tent or not.

      • AwaitingCertainty says:

        lvlln I think it’s beneficial to say what you think because then you tend to start being more around people who think like you. THEY are then the ones then to give you your future opportunities, opportunities that then involve being around MORE people like you, and like them. It’s nice!

        Why live on the knife’s edge of being shoved out of one’s circle all the time? That’s where the pervasive, never-ending, subliminal fear comes from.

        With people who are LIKE you, you can relax. Concentrate on TO DOs, not NOT TO DOs. Plus you actually LEARN things there, and can teach things that ears are open to.

        It’s nice. It’s living.

    • yekim50 says:

      Yeah man, weird shit, I do pretty much the exact same thing.

      I was speaking with my brother the other day and he asked me the following question, which I thought was funny and also revealing:

      “If you were on a date with a girl, what would be your level of discomfort (not yet knowing much about her) of it being revealed that you have read and enjoyed Jordan Peterson?”

      My answer was, obviously, a lot.

      • Hitfoav says:

        Revealing indeed.
        I’m fortunate in that my significant other is sympathetic. Interesting to watch her sort out the wheat from the chaff.

    • mupetblast says:

      That’s funny. I have the same concerns. I make sure to not watch Fox News YouTube live stream near to the time I might expect people to come over after the bar closes. Skews the home page, which is what people first see. I try to make sure to restrict it to Sky News and France 24 (the other ones I watch; unfortunately domestic cable news isn’t easy available via YouTube on Apple TV).

      I don’t really mind that they’ve seen I watched Celine Dion or Gloria Estefan vids though. Or Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, which while not a mood killer ala FOX is still kinda douchey.

    • Nornagest says:

      Suggestion: download a second browser and remove the links to it from your start menu or whatever your OS uses. Don’t use it to log on to any service you don’t have to, especially Facebook or YouTube and other Google services. That is your crimethink browser. Anything potentially embarrassing you want to open, you open there. Should be robust to casual inspection and even other people occasionally using your machine, as long as they don’t go digging into your filesystem.

    • theladyfingers says:

      I logged in for the first time in years just to say I do exactly that. I share playlists on my YT channel and I worry about casual friends seeing some of the stuff I watch because of the looming “nazi” accusations.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Do you all of you who have these problems live in cities or heavily Blue Tribe areas? My red Make America Great Again cap is on the hat rack by my front door. Hasn’t caused any problems.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I recall having an argument with an individual who, it was pretty clear, didn’t want to be convinced because people who believed that were ridiculed by his in-group. This in spite of the fact that nobody in our area cares about this particular issue – it was his internet community he was afraid of being ostracized from.

        There is a danger in a commitment to honesty, in that coming to believe unpopular ideas obligated you to becoming unpopular, so you better not believe unpopular ideas.

      • theladyfingers says:

        I’m in Australia, which is on the whole left of the USA, but I actually started a little secret facebook group to share stories relating to these taboo subjects with a select group of sympathetic friends.

        As an example of media/establishment vs popular consensus locally, there has been a sort of neoliberal agreement from both major parties here on growing the population here at all costs. For nearly a decade both Melbourne and Sydney have had 100,000 people each flood into them, and the infrastructure and accommodation are not keeping pace. Nobody wants it except the property and other rent-seeking industries. Press won’t touch it, and even the theoretically environmental Green party is scared of stoking xenophobia while tacitly accepting the terrible damage this growth is causing. I know people in the green sciences and they’re horrified.

      • Hitfoav says:

        Yes, city and one of my primary social circles is “far left”.

      • mupetblast says:

        Yes, Oakland.

  35. Jesse E says:

    The actual issue here is pretty simple – what we have is a bunch of largely very privileged people in very “Blue Tribe” communities upset they can’t say their somewhat heterodox opinions about things within these communities. Notice the milleiu of most of the IDW – professors, researchers, tech people in Silicon Valley, etc.

    But, the truth is, they know nobody actually cares about what amounts to turf wars in academia that in 1985 would’ve resulted in a bunch of snippy journal reports, etc. without the Internet and such to supercharge things. So, they make the argument, “sure, we’re OK, but normal people will be silenced,” but there’s a problem with that argument.

    Normal people aren’t being silenced. Even here in relatively blue tribe Seattle, I hear plenty of “politically incorrect” things being said out in the open by various people, that if I believed “classical liberal” Twitter, would result in those people being fired and their livelihoods destroyed. Except that’s not happening at all.

    Here’s the actual harsh truth, especially for some people here. If you walk into a community and start throwing bombs, red tribe, blue tribe, or something even non-political (walk into a bar during an NFL game and tell your politically incorrect opinion about concussions and see how well your free speech is welcomed) you should expect to get hit back. What it seems people are really upset by is the fact that they have to be quiet about their political opinions, because they’re outnumbered 9 to 1 at the break room at whatever tech job you happened to have.

    Welcome to life – if I worked in a Red Tribe type of job where everybody talked about the type of gun they’re buying this week, I wouldn’t talk too much about my personal belief in the 2nd Amendment and how it’s bunk. Partly because I’d realize it’s pointless, but also I because I realize that it would make my life difficult. I’m not being silenced by political correctness. I’m recognizing basic human psychology.

    So, an idea to everybody who is upset they can’t talk about the genetic differences of races after their graduate class. Become a plumber. You’ll probably make more money and be more free to speak your mind. Or hell, take a tech job in somewhere like Wisconsin or Texas.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Did you actually read the article? Your claim is the very thing Scott is arguing against. You can’t just repeat the original claim without making some kind of new argument.

    • cassandrus says:

      Indeed. I keep waiting for those complaining about “no-platforming” to rush to the defense of Colin Kaepernick. If the point of all this “silencing” being complained off is pour encourage les autres, then Kaepernick has many times the social salience of Peterson, Harris, or any other of these IDWers.

      Somehow I suspect we will be waiting a while for that particular Bari Weiss article…

      • Hitfoav says:

        Kaepernick is hardly undefended.
        And if I name another case of “silencing” that you didn’t mention, have I trumped your argument?

      • albatross11 says:

        Imagine the nerve of Weiss–writing the article *she* thinks is interesting instead of the one *you* think she should write.

        In case it matters, I think the NFL decision is a bad one, and I hope it backfires badly on them.

      • gbdub says:

        I also think the NFL decision on Kaepernick is dumb. But then again it is hardly unprecedented – the NFL has frequently limited the on-field speech of players (e.g. bans on eye-black messages etc.) The bigger issue in my mind is that they tend to do this unevenly and in a reactionary manner. Anyway I think every time this has come up on this blog, everyone in the “don’t fire people” camp was willing to bite the Keep Kaep bullet.

        The degree to which I am sympathetic to someone who gets fired for political views is somewhat moderated by the following factors (not intended to be exhaustive list), some of which could actually distinguish between Kaep and e.g. Damore:
        1) Was the political expression at work?
        2) Was the political expression directly related to the employer’s area of business?
        3) Did the employee use their position at their employer to emphasize/amplify their political expression?
        4) Is the employee in a “public face of X” position where their personal life could be reasonably expected to reflect on the employer?
        5) Does the political expression directly affect the employee’s ability to perform their job function (and not just because of a Twitter mob)?
        6) Is the restriction on employee political expression clearly communicated prior to the expression, and enforced fairly and content-neutrally?

        • shenanigans24 says:

          There was no “NFL decision” on Kaepernick. 32 teams decided not to sign him after he opted out of his last contract. A not unusual circumstance for a 30 year old running QB with an injury history and several lackluster years.

          • Iain says:

            This is the standard line, yeah. It’s also ridiculous.

            Here’s a Washington Post article comparing Kaepernick’s 2016 season to each team’s top passer in 2017. Kaepernick’s performance puts him solidly in the middle of the pack as a starting QB. You really think Green Bay was better off with Brett Hundley? That Denver was better off with Trevor Siemian?

            Last March, 538 looked at the time spent in free agency before being signed compared to the quality of a quarterback’s play in the previous year. Kaepernick was unusual at that point, a significant outlier when they revisited the question in August, and at this point is basically unprecedented.

        • Aapje says:

          @gbdub

          7) Did the employee get a reprimand after making an expression and thus the option to change their behavior? Did they then do so?

      • shenanigans24 says:

        Kaepernick wasn’t even no platformed. He asked to be released from his contract and nobody gave him another after several years as a sub par QB. He, however engaged in his protest up until he opted out. If I recall correctly he was the backup QB when he started protesting and was moved to starter mid season. So he actually received a promotion during his protest season.

  36. akarlin says:

    Great essay. My takes:

    The very idea of an intellectual dark web that does not include Steve Sailer (I am not even going to mention #frogtwitter – too esoteric) is absurd.

    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.

    Ha! The different struggles people face. Since I moved back to Russia, my equivalent of The Conversation with sweet elderly great-aunt has been explaining that Lenin was a bald syphilic and Stalin was a mustachioed BDSM master. Would still rather take than than have to justify rape and scientific racism (that I now need only do at my English language blog).

    • Scott Alexander says:

      My guess is if you did some kind of cluster or network analysis on all these people (maybe in terms of whether their fans are fans of each other, or whether they host each other on their shows), they would cluster together well and Steve Sailer wouldn’t cluster together with them.

      • Atlas says:

        As a fan both of the work of Steve Sailer and some of the “IDW” people like Joe Rogan and Sam Harris, my impression is that Scott is correct here: most people who are fans of the latter are not even aware of the existence of Sailer or people in his broad circle.

        However, if Anatoly (whose work I also admire, incidentally) is making the point that there is a web of thinkers even deeper/darker than the soi-disant IDW that are more worthy of the title, rather than that Steve Sailer is a part of the IDW as currently defined, I think this is definitely true. Nick Fuentes had some videos mocking the IDW from an all-trite perspective, agreeing with leftists that they aren’t silenced, but saying that the AR is the real IDW.

      • Levantine says:

        Eric Weinstein invented the term – and from then on he remains vague and vacillating about its use and meaning.

        Eric R. Weinstein, Jan 12: “Just making up an initial private list for myself as to who my “Intellectual Dark Web” would be. If you have a top 10 list you don’t mind sharing, I’d be super curious to know who y’all are listening to outside of institutional/corporate news, media and analysis.”

        (https://twitter.com/EricRWeinstein/status/951896899115630592)

        According to the above, any mainstream media personality with a social media account should belong to IDW as much as Sam Harris and Steve Pinker.

        Eric R. Weinstein, May 08: “Knowing @nytimes was working an IDW story, I’ve been quiet on a few things: A) Why the crazy name “Intellectual Dark Web”? B) Recent discussion w/ others. C) What constitutes basic guidelines for who core #IDW is? With this filed, that may change slowly:

        (https://twitter.com/EricRWeinstein/status/993918509762555904)

        Much of the controversy and the brouhaha about the term’s meaning is something that its initiator willingly tolerates.

        He never pronounced himself over whether anyone should actually to it belong or not in IDW generally, let alone about a “core.”

    • Hitfoav says:

      Good article. Religion is the elephant in the room wrt Peterson. It is to no small degree the source of his power; and rejection of a religious worldview is near the roots of the backlash.

  37. Alex B says:

    Even though she’s clearly very famous, until I read this I didn’t know Caitlyn Jenner was trans.
    I suspect her name always occurred in contexts which I filter out, like celebrity gossip, thus giving me a strong prior that information connected to her name was not salient.

    Celebrity doesn’t even necessarily cause people to pay attention. In my case, it caused me to pay negative attention and probably this is true for other people as well.

    More generally, fame isn’t respect. Famous people can be respected – sports stars are often respected, unless they took drugs, because by the time they are famous their career path has generated a personal epic. But that’s not true for all of them. The sports route to respect is difficult for trans people, for obvious reasons.

    I think normalisation of a demographic is linked to the appearance of people who are successful for other reasons than being of the demographic. In the case of trans people I can only think of Sophie Wilson, but she’s famous in limited circles.

  38. J Mann says:

    Thanks Scott, this is interesting, and it helps clarify for me what Weiss may have been going for with “intellectual dark web.”

    IMHO, there are a few channels that are particularly resistant to social pressure, like podcasting and niche publications. Some people end up there because they were silenced in other fora, some people are less vulnerable to being silenced because they’re in the “dark web.” You could probably do a continuum, where acedemia and public facing corporations are particularly vulnerable to shaming campaigns, and publications with fairly homogeneous audiences like MSNBC or the New Yorker are less so when preaching to their audience, and a random podcast is at the far end. Joe Rogan wasn’t particularly driven to podcasting by his political beliefs any more than Marc Maron was, but since he’s got a podcast and a sympathetic audience, he can talk about whatever he wants. (Maron too, for that matter).

    I guess that still leaves us with the question of whether there is silencing or not outside of the “dark web” and whether there should be. I agree with you that the success of a few individuals in the dark web doesn’t show that there isn’t silencing elsewhere – if anything, that’s Weiss’s point, that either silencing elsewhere pushes speakers and audiences to the IDW, or that the IDW allows viewpoints to thrive and find acceptance that wouldn’t elsewhere.

  39. sabre51 says:

    I posted some criticism on previous posts so it is only fair to be balanced: the last two posts have been fantastic! Thank you for your writing, no one will agree with everything but I am glad we have you.

  40. Wrong Species says:

    If common knowledge problems keep people from knowing what is and isn’t silenced, does that mean we’ll never know whether the IDK is being suppressed or not? If that’s true, does it mean that it’s pointless to talk about it one way or the other since any conversation is just going to be what is politically convenient?

  41. Hitfoav says:

    1. Great article, nuanced distinctions made clear – and for the benefit of figures and discourse that you yourself don’t seem to be a partisan for. Honourable shit right there.

    2. The main and most respected figures in the IDW do not seem to me to be edgelords – although you are right that they are skilled communicators and that’s what allows them to ride the tiger as well as they do, I do not believe that any of them are purposefully playing that game.

    I think they say/write what they think.

    3. Ben Shapiro is not so bad by half.

    • Thegnskald says:

      They say some of what they think. They omit the things that would push them over the edge.

      They aren’t edgelords by intent, but by action. They aren’t trying to be offensive; rather, they are trying to stay just inoffensive enough.

      • Hitfoav says:

        What makes you see it this way?

        • Thegnskald says:

          Observation and objectivity.

          I am not saying they are edgelords by design. That is important. However, they are “riding the tiger”, and that means they are riding the edge – which makes them edgelords by act.

          Effectively, I am saying that an un-nuanced observer can’t necessarily tell the difference.

          • Hitfoav says:

            I would make the distinction that a “true” edgelord acts as they do for the payoff of attention, but that is not IDW figures’ motivation, even though they may try to avoid falling off the edge for other reasons – is that the same distinction you are making?

            Or in other words – what do you think motivates them to stay inoffensive?

            Agreed that the difference can be unclear particularly when filtered through second and third hand exposure.

  42. gbdub says:

    Meta: You (Scott), in the second sentence, note that “IDW” is a silly label, but now you’ve got the whole commentariat using it when it more or less never has before. Perhaps you ought to propose an alternative?

    1) These voices are, tautologically, not being “silenced”. On the other hand, they are very much the targets of silencing tactics and attempted marginalization. Frankly that appears to be the form of the majority of opposition to them. I think that silencing / marginalization / deplatforming efforts are almost always bad thing, so I’m glad there are popular figures pointing out the (failed) attempts to silence them – they’ve got the “fuck you money/influence” to weather such attempts, but those tactics can make the “barrier to entry” for others with similar ideas unfairly high.

    2) Isn’t this a corollary of “All Debates are Bravery Debates”? And/or an effect of our culture making victimhood high status? People claim to be marginalized all the time, on all sides, at least in part because it’s effective. But also because it’s probably in some sense true – everybody is somebody’s outgroup. Consider that Evergreen College has a couple of “IDW” members who got that way by being against an event that was itself justified as necessary due to the alleged marginalization of the affected group (I think it’s fairly safe to say that if you can convince a college to engage in segregation on your behalf, you’re not ‘silenced’ on that campus…)

    3) I would argue that it is evidence for their attempted marginalization that these figures are known for free speech advocacy. Charles Murray and Jordan Peterson are not (or were not) primarily interested in free speech. But they’ve been forced into defending it because that’s the only battleground people engage them on (rather than debating their ideas, their opponents are trying to deny them opportunities to spread the ideas). “Incidental Free Speech Advocates (IFSAs)” might actually describe the group fairly well.

    • Hitfoav says:

      +1 on point 3

    • Thegnskald says:

      I have used this description, in explaining why monarchists and white supremacists and other odd political believers seem to have banded together. A loose coalition of people whose shared purpose is to be able to say what they think without facing persecution.

      Letting them speak would cause them to collapse into infighting immediately.

  43. Thegnskald says:

    Question, for those who don’t think there is silencing of any sort going on:

    Does the idea of these things being discussed openly frighten you?

    To pick a specific example, I am looking at Europe with some trepidation right now, because of what looks like growing anti-Muslim sentiment combined with censorship of those opinions. What specifically frightens me is that I think that, when that dam bursts, there is going to be some serious bloodshed; the sentiment is festering into something that is going to be far uglier for it, when it does finally burst out.

    Light is the best disinfectant. Does it look like there is some good disinfecting going on? If not, why?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I mean, the Stormer types quote that Kipling poem about the English beginning to hate because it’s what they want to happen:

      It was not part of their blood,
      It came to them very late
      With long arrears to make good,
      When the English began to hate.

      They were not easily moved,
      They were icy-willing to wait
      Till every count should be proved,
      Ere the English began to hate.

      Their voices were even and low,
      Their eyes were level and straight.
      There was neither sign nor show,
      When the English began to hate.

      It was not preached to the crowd,
      It was not taught by the State.
      No man spoke it aloud,
      When the English began to hate.

      It was not suddenly bred,
      It will not swiftly abate,
      Through the chill years ahead,
      When Time shall count from the date
      That the English began to hate.

      Particularly note the “it was not preached to the crowd, it was not taught by the state” part.

    • shenanigans24 says:

      It’s odd to me that the slaughter of innocent people by migrants in reality is less worrisome to you than the reaction to it in theory.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I would prefer to prevent both by not having migration.

        • Thegnskald says:

          At this point, and as much as I favor immigration, I’ve reached the conclusion that Europe needs to shut immigration down Right Now. Maybe I am wrong, maybe I am getting an over-inflated impression of how much anger there is, but it sure as hell looks like the situation is getting really ugly.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Europe needs to stop accepting immigrants, or Europe needs to boot out recent immigrants or Europe needs to boot out recent a less recent immigrants?

          • Aapje says:

            @Thegnskald

            The issue with migration is that once you have let people in without a credible way to make them leave again before too long, you’ve basically committed to a ~60 year project of integrating them, their children and their grandchildren into society.

            If integrating them goes poorly, there seems to be relatively little that one can do, but wait it out, while enduring the anger by the natives against the new group and the anger by the new group against the natives.

            Note that the first generation can be disliked for occupying jobs and housing, but that they generally seem to not be too criminal. If an ethnic migrant group becomes very criminal or even terrorist, it seems that the second and third generation tend to fall for this.

            So, stopping migration means that you reduce the friction over jobs and housing, but it has very little direct effect on migrant-related crime. If you stop migration of groups that integrate badly now, you may have fewer criminals in 15-30 years’ time.

            So the effect of reducing/ending immigration on popular opinion depends on why people are upset and whether people are OK with long term solutions or whether they want the issues to be solved soon.

            Finally, I want to point out that European countries are not the same. Eastern Europeans who object to migration generally fear the things they see happening elsewhere in Europe. In other countries, there are actual problems with established migrant groups. It seems to me that stopping migration from certain groups will generally satisfy the Eastern Europeans, but for other countries it may have a relatively limited mollifying effect.

  44. xq says:

    I think you’re conflating two arguments: 1) “IDW” isn’t being silenced because they have successful patreons and youtube channels 2) “IDW” isn’t being silenced because they are widely discussed and influential in mainstream institutions. I agree that argument 1 is missing the point, but I think argument 2 is basically correct.

    You make the comparison with transgender. But, while transgender has some stigma, transgender-supporting views are not taboo within mainstream institutions, and it’s perfectly legitimate to point out the number of magazine covers Jenner is on as evidence of this. Similarly, the number of articles in the NYT and other mainstream publications with positive takes on IDW is pretty good evidence that it’s not taboo either.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree 2 would be correct if its premises were true, but I haven’t seen any sign that they are. I was basing this whole discussion on things like “professors constantly worry supporting IDW ideas are a risk to their careers”. If that’s false, then I agree it’s a strong argument nobody is being silenced.

      • xq says:

        If we take Nathan Robinson’s list that you quote at the beginning of part 2, most of the people on it are employed by an elite university or media institution. These aren’t youtube celebrities.

        It’s possible famous people can get away with it but low-level professors cannot (or believe they cannot). But I think we need better evidence for this than claims about anonymous complainers. It would be more convincing if they acknowledged their substantial current cultural and political power–power that does not come primarily from bypassing gatekeeper institutions through the internet, but from their positions within those institutions.

      • Ketil says:

        Not quite a professor, but at least I work in science and teach at a university. I am not going to engage in any public debate on controversial topics like race, immigration, religion, or gender. Not that I am much afraid of losing my job, really. But those topics tend to attract vengeful and unstable people, and could possibly cause quite a bit of sound and fury, which would cost energy and possibly loss of reputation and social stigma.

        And the internet remembers. A few days ago, I was targeted by an anonymous smear letter – addressed to me as well as to my employer – containing ye olde generic metoo accusations. (How creative! Should I be grateful or insulted that my apparent enemies turn out to be of so limited faculties?) But in that case, I’m relieved to know that I’ve mostly kept any controversial views to myself. By ensuring that no seven lines of text on such topics are linked to my person, at least I have a chance of thwarting the Richelieus out there who are looking for something they can hang me for.

  45. Telemythides says:

    I am nowhere near these people either in fame or controversialness

    Really?

    You seem to jump into controversial topics at least as much as Sam Harris.

    You may not have been named in the article, but you’re one of them.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      The Eye of Sauron has not yet landed on Scott, and I’m pretty sure he’d prefer to keep it that way.

      • Telemythides says:

        Yeah, but I chalk that up to his being semi-anonymous and long blogs being less mass-appeal than podcasts, not to the things he says.

  46. yekim50 says:

    They’re much more taboo and openly racist (in the Charles Murray sense) than almost anyone in the “intellectual dark web”

    It kind of confuses when Scott calls Charles Murray racist in the same sentence where he provides a link to an old essay wherein he 1.) expresses skepticism of the validity of the concept of racism by belief, and then 2.) expresses his deep frustration with the mechanism by which people ascribe racism as a way to dismiss and dehumanize people like Charles Murray.

    I don’t understand this.

    • MasteringTheClassics says:

      He’s not calling Murray a racist; he’s qualifying his use of the term “racist”. Whether or not Murray merits that label is for you to judge, but it effectively defines how he’s using the term.

      • yekim50 says:

        Well, he’s kind of doing both. Like, he’s definitely calling Charles Murray a racist, but he’s qualifying his use of the word racist by linking to that essay. The issue, of course, is that in that very essay (Against Murderism) he provides a pretty thorough explanation of how the sense in which one might call Charles Murray a racist (definition by belief) is messy at best and useless at worst. This is also the same article where he says that continuously sloppy use of the word racist (in what I can identify as more or less this exact manner) “leads to a disaster”.

        So I kind of just think, well, if it leads to a disaster and you personally don’t think it’s a workable definition of racism, then why use it? Of course, this is where I officially move to “trying to read Scott’s mind mode” (so feel free to completely disregard any of this) but this feels like a signal-type, meta-example of what this exact article is dealing with.

    • Ketil says:

      I don’t think Scott thinks Murray is a racist, but rather that Murray is preceived as racist by many. In other words, he is referring not to his own opinion here, but to the phenomenon of applying the “racist” label to Murray. “They” are more outspoken on Murrayesque issues, but in convoluted and technical ways (if I remember the context correctly) so nobody cares very much.

      Does that make more sense?

  47. eqdw says:

    Popular things can easily be silenced if the legitimate institutions will not acknowledge them, or will suppress them, or will slander them, or whatever. This is roughly equivalent to what Scott mentions regarding common knowledge but I want to point it out explicitly as I think it is an important factor in this discussion.

    If a speaker goes around saying things that are massively popular, and they have tons of supporters, it would still be reasonable to call them “silenced” if mainstream authorities are actively opposing them. So, to use a convenient example on hand: It doesn’t really matter how many people support Jordan Peterson, if the New York Times is running hit pieces on him, because the NYT is used by a large chunk of the population to determine what is ‘legitimate’ and what is not. The NYT is setting the background context, the default assumption that people who are otherwise uninvolved will hold. The NYT is also defining the common knowledge, by virtue of the fact that it is considered a social authority by many.

    If you have a world in which an influential thinker has millions of supporters, but legitimacy-defining organizations like the NYT are writing hit pieces about him, then it’s absolutely reasonable for the thinker to perceive himself as silenced. Even if he has millions of supporters, as long as legitimacy-defining organizations are opposing him, each of those supporters will be supporting him with the tacit understanding that he is illegitimate. They will support him, but they will lack common knowledge of his support. Depending on the specific nature of commentary coming from legitimacy orgs, they might also possess common knowledge that he is a “bad guy” in the eyes of society, and that their supporting him is an act of rebellion.

    In fact, as the disconnect between the number of supporters and the perspective of mainstream institutions grows, this effect gets greater. So, for example, I think most people do not believe that neo-nazi ideologies are being silenced per se, but instead what looks like silencing is just a consequence of the fact that neo-nazi ideologies are abhorrent to most people, and that their support base is tiny. When the NYT refuses to advocate for neo-naziism, and defends this with “this isn’t silencing, we just disagree with you”, this seems reasonable and plausible precisely because neo-naziism is an absolutely miniscule movement. On the other hand, when you take someone like Dr. Peterson, who very visibly has a massive amount of support, and you make the same argument, it feels like a lie. Once you have a very obvious and visibly large group of people supporting this “silenced” viewpoint, mainstream institutions being against it starts to feel more and more like silencing in proportion to how disconnected from the popular opinion it feels.

    I just realized that this creates a bizarre dynamic where the more prevalent a viewpoint is, the stronger it will appear to be silenced. Even though, arguably, the more prevalent a viewpoint is, the less silenced it is. This could be powering a large chunk of the paradox of something being both popular and silenced.

    • arlie says:

      I thought it was obvious to all thoughtful readers that the NYT is kind of partisan. They’ve been in a mutual slanging war with the President of the United States, that’s even been reported on in other media. Now personally I enjoy reading all the nasty things they say about that POTUS. But calling them “the establishment” currently is a bit much; like all other news media, they reflect some combination of what their owners want to have said, what their owners/execs believe will make money, and what their reporters and commentators find interesting.

      They are “the establishment” only in the sense that pro-capitalism folks generally like – they dance to the tune of their owners, and to the tune of The Market (TM). And they’ve built up a lot of reputational capital over time – much the same as e.g. Coca Cola or Intel. I personally think they are squandering that capital right now – but OTOH, I *like* their idea bubble enough to consider giving them my money ::-)

      Yes, there’s a problem when the owning class agrees about something, and promotes that thing in all the news outlets they control – which is much of everything. But I don’t think that’s the case here. What does Fox News – an opposite-aligned media outlet – have to say about the IDW? Just because Fox has less reputational capital with people like me, doesn’t mean it’s not equally part of the establishment.

      • albatross11 says:

        arlie:

        If the New York Times doesn’t fit into your definition of “the establishment,” I’m not sure what would.

  48. arlie says:

    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?

    Of course. Groups and individuals who think they should have had even more attention do so all the time. Exhibit A has got to be those Christians who report themselves as oppressed and doubtless silenced every time someone wishes them “Happy Holiday” rather than “Merry Christmas”, or holds a Winter Holiday party rather than a Christmas party.

    • Randy M says:

      Scott meant “really” as in, “actually, legitimately;” you seem to be interpreting it as in “is it physically/psychologically possible for them to make the claim.”
      I think you realized this and are just taking the opportunity to laugh at an out group doing a laughable thing.

      • arlie says:

        I posted the above before reading the whole article, and perhaps I should have included examples from both sides of the ‘tribal’ divide.

        Doing that was an experiment. After reading the full article, I can see ways in which my example actually echoes some of Scott’s points, if you unpack it a bit.

        I know environments where people are legitimately concerned that expressing their Christianity will have negative repercussions. Some are major – it’s probably even worse to be Christian in the face of jihadist conquest than it is to be the wrong kind of Muslim – some are minor – such as fear of social pressure. In the middle we have concerns about risks to acdemic careers. And I’m sure that being loudly anything in public (especially on social media) will draw vitriol, including death threats, rape threats, and credible doxing.

        Yet the first thought from those outside these problem environments is exactly the kind of mockery I used. Sometimes the second thought too – e.g. something that unpacks as “You think you have troubles – try being black (transgendered, Muslim, immigrant, or whatever)”

        Probably some of those who sound, to outsiders, like they feel oppressed by being wished “Happy Holidays” are worried about more substantial things. But it’s flat out absurd to those without the life experience to unpack it that way.

        [Edit: And of course I was mostly trying to gently mock Scott for not saying what he meant.]

        • Thegnskald says:

          Could you try to specify the central concept you are trying to express here? I do not understand what you are attempting to argue.

          • arlie says:

            I think I’m just really really frustrated. I never appreciate people who say A and mean B. It gets worse when I’m expected to intuitively determine whether they mean B1, B2, or B3 and/or when they actually mean all 3, depending which is more advantageous to them right that instant.

            I’m feeling especially frustrated right now. I’ve just read the whole thread down to this point, after refreshing the page, and an awful lot of it seems to be people agreeing on the despicability of some some evil people called SJWs. As far as I know, SJW is a term only used about others, never about oneself, with an ever shifting meaning. But it basically means “someone on the left who the speaker considers unacceptable and wishes to silence/censor/mock/social pressure into shutting up/hold up as far worse than anything a member of the speaker’s own tribe would ever be or do.”

            I presume that the IDW category just refers to another kind of terrible people, quite possibly just as ambiguously defined as SJWs. Possibly this label is applied by those on the left, and has otherwise got a similar meaning.

            At the same time, I recognize that many people claiming they are being subject to social pressure to change and/or conceal their opinions, really are experiencing something unpleasant. And they nonetheless get mocked, because their language generally conflates everything from listeners showing visible boredom to outright physical violence. And when I’m in a bad mood, I’m ready to mock them myself… because I get so sick of shifting sands arguments, arguments based on emotional appeal, and just plain name calling.

            I don’t think this is one of Scott’s better essays. On the one hand, much of what he is saying is obvious enough not to need that much unpacking – and if it must be unpacked, it might either be better off much shorter, or displaying similar phenomena on both sides of the US political/tribal divide. (And if you can’t find similar phenomena afflicting folks on the left, I suggest you look at the too frequent results of posting online while visibly female. Or the treatment of prominent climate scientists for that matter.)

            Now I didn’t think all this through when I first posted. I just emitted a mild negative signal. It would doubtless have been more sensible to simply skip the thread – but I’m succumbing to a feeling that I am part of this community, and thus have the right/responsibility/privilege to make my opinions known. (It’s of course another question whether that style of response is appropriate to this community’s norms. But heh, I’m a newb, so maybe I screwed up.)

            Anyway, I hope that answers your question. From where I sit, *many* people claim to be being silenced, and most of them are both experiencing some attempts to shut them up, and at the same time having a community that supports them and agrees with them. The ones a given person is farthest from generally seem far more over the top than those who are closer – in some metaphor of social and ideological space.

            Given the other opinions expressed by those who seem to like the IDW position, or at least empathize with their claims of oppression, they are probably extremely far from me – to the point where I’m going to “silence” them by not bothering to find out what they are going on about 😉 Unless they are, e.g. encouraging people to commit ideologically based violence, they are welcome to preach to their various choirs, but not on my time. And if any of them want to whine that this is silencing them, well, I guess I needed a laugh.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Arlie –

            Very brief summary:

            If you, Person A, sabotage Person B’s attempts to communicate with Person C, you are being a bad person. This covers things like shouting over a speaker other people have come to listen to, or preventing people from entering the building where that person is speaking, or systematically attempting to get People B who communicate with People C fired for doing so.

            That is the whole of it. There is a lot of background information Scott glosses over here, but this is pretty much the core of what he is talking about.

            You aren’t obligated to listen, you are just obligated not to interfere.

            This is the substantive difference, by and large, between the IDW silencing and what you describe. You aren’t obligated to be part of the audience, and nobody is obligated to give anybody a soapbox.

            There are more borderline cases, such as Facebook or Twitter; these are harder cases to discuss, and your conclusions will depend heavily on your priors. (I have basically no opinion on these cases. I don’t care. I want those companies gone and regard them as a social disease, so it is hard to get worked up one way or the other about their activities.)

            Women being made to feel “unwelcome” on internet forums is a different kind of situation, and one which would require some very complex and subtle arguments about the validity of expectations of welcoming-ness. (Very short version: Women often interpret being treated as poorly as men as being subjected to sexism against women. Likewise, bystanders. Studies have been done, don’t care to have this discussion, somebody else here may oblige if you are interested)

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “As far as I know, SJW is a term only used about others, never about oneself, with an ever shifting meaning.”

            You are mistaken. I see people identifying as SJWs.

            I assume you’re hanging out in anti-SJW venues, so you think it’s an insult.

          • Iain says:

            @Nancy:

            Many insults have been reclaimed as self descriptions. That doesn’t mean they aren’t still insults.

            There are plenty of Trump supporters who proudly call themselves deplorables (and a booming industry in selling them t-shirts). Nonetheless, it would be concerning if “deplorables” became SCC shorthand for Trump’s base — especially if it was mostly used by Trump’s opponents.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Arlie –

            You had a reply that vanished.

            To address the basic idea, of death threats and more serious issues, as opposed to more basic levels of forum rudeness:

            I have a trail of crumbs attached to this username that could probably keep somebody engaged for a good few hours trying to figure out who I am. I did this because – hey, I take those potential threats semi-seriously, too.

            Women aren’t unique in getting death threats online. Ever hear of SWATing somebody?

            This is just another form of “Women expect to be treated better than men” – probably not explicitly, because the assumption seems to be that men just don’t experience it. No, we just ignore it, or quietly mitigate the risks.

            These behaviors are problematic, don’t get me wrong – but they don’t uniquely target women, or indeed any group. We all deal with them. IDW people deal with them more, on average.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I never heard of SJW until I saw people applying it to themselves, and they never said they were reclaiming it.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_justice_warrior

            Wikipedia has it that the term originated as an insult– all I can say is that I typically see it as a self-identification that people are happy with and not defensive about.

          • Iain says:

            This article by Conor Friedersdorf, in which he describes how guest-blogging for Megan McArdle changed his mind about whether online harassment hits women harder, seems relevant.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Iain –

            Whether or not it is a “Boo outgroup” doesn’t really matter; the term carves reality at a useful joint.

            Unless you are willing to give up the terms “racist”, “sexist”, etc.

            When you identify a group of people whose behavior is problematic, then it doesn’t matter what you call them, the term is going to become a “boo” light to anyone who observes the same problems.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Iain –

            He says in the same paragraph that the death threats he received is probably as bad as things get, then says that the targeted attacks are more disturbing.

            Mostly I am left bemused by this, since it is basically a statement that the difference is subjective.

            And I am not left much changed in my position on the matter, since I already know assholes tailor their attacks to be as offensive as possible. Care to guess what being openly bisexual nets you?

            (I do wonder if gay men get the castration/emasculation threats.)

            It is a problem. But pretending it is a gendered problem doesn’t make the problem any more tractable, it just annoys everybody who doesn’t buy into the idea that women are weak and need special protection for their sensitive dispositions.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Iain, thanks for the link. I recommend it.

          • Iain says:

            @Thegnskald:

            Unless you are willing to give up the terms “racist”, “sexist”, etc.

            I do not, to the best of my recollection, have a tendency to describe my ideological opponents in broad terms as “the racists” or “the sexists”. If you would like to point me to a post where you think I have misused those terms, I’m all ears.

            The SSC zeitgeist is a big fan of the idea that using “racist” and “sexist” as boo lights is a bad thing. Why is using “SJW” as a boo-light any better?

            He says in the same paragraph that the death threats he received is probably as bad as things get, then says that the targeted attacks are more disturbing.

            He says that death threats are perhaps, in the abstract as bad as things could get, but that his emotional response to these other threats was much stronger. You try to explain this away by saying that assholes target their attacks to their audience, but that doesn’t make any sense — why would attacks targeted at McArdle or Sullivan have a stronger effect on him than attacks targeted directly at Friedersdorf himself?

            The claim that being openly bisexual gets you targeted is not just compatible with Friedersdorf’s thesis, but further evidence in its favour. I would be very surprised if being bisexual on the internet did not subject you to worse abuse than being straight. That’s the entire point.

            And if you accept the possibility that being openly bisexual triggers worse treatment, then I don’t see how you can reject the hypothesis that being a woman on the internet really does, on average, make harassment worse. You can only “pretend” that it’s a gendered problem if it isn’t actually exacerbated by gender.

            (And if women really do have it worse, then pooh-poohing those concerns as “the idea that women are weak and need special protection for their sensitive disposition” is remarkably uncharitable.)

          • Thegnskald says:

            Iain –

            You miss both of my points: It isn’t about your opponents, it is about describing a class of behavior, in the former discussion.

            In the latter discussion, a tailored attack isn’t worse; rather, we think it is worse. That is an important distinction; the tailored attack is made worse, not by being objectively worse (death threat and all of that), but through blatant and obvious violation of social norms, in direct proportion to the strength of those social norms.

            This gives the attack a more visceral feeling – it makes the threat feel more tangible.

            To explain, consider two situations with the same rape threat made against somebody: In one, rape threats are regarded as the peurile domain of thirteen years olds trying to sound dangerous. In the second situation, rape is regarded as a serious social problem, and rape threats as horrible evil things only unhinged lunatics make.

            In situation one, a rape threat is laughable.

            In situation two, a rape threat comes across as an insane psychopath making a tangible threat.

            Which is to say, our social mores enable targeted attacks to feel more visceral and dangerous, without even being so.

            It is precisely an emotional response somebody making these attacks wants. I would hazard a guess these are the kinds of things that so upset the individual who wrote the article. It is an attack working, and it works precisely because of the way it violates our social norms.

            So, literally – unless you can solve the general problem of attacks, any exposure which gives rise to the possibility of targeted attacks will continue to give rise to targeted attacks. If we cannot solve the general problem, the specific problem of gendered attacks can only be resolved by dismantling the social norms that give them power – or enforcing anonymity of any targetable quality.

            Which is to say – you want to solve this problem, it is to treat it as stupidity, rather than treating it as dangerous.

          • Randy M says:

            The SSC zeitgeist is a big fan of the idea that using “racist” and “sexist” as boo lights is a bad thing. Why is using “SJW” as a boo-light any better?

            There’s a difference between giving a group a label so it can be spoken of collectively, and attempting to make a group synonymous with a preexisting slur that is already widely reviled. (“Social justice warrior” as a label is a little insulting in that it implies that the person in question overreacts or overestimates the value of their cause; it’s condescending, not libelous)

            People dislike sjw because of the things the group known as social justice warriors does. People dislike racists because they associate racism with lynching and Nazis.

            It’s not using boo words that get people upset. It’s choosing your boo words such that they can rile up angry mobs.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I don’t think the article covered the amount of elaborated fantasy rather than the nature and number of the threats.

          • Iain says:

            @Thegnskald:

            So, literally – unless you can solve the general problem of attacks, any exposure which gives rise to the possibility of targeted attacks will continue to give rise to targeted attacks. If we cannot solve the general problem, the specific problem of gendered attacks can only be resolved by dismantling the social norms that give them power – or enforcing anonymity of any targetable quality.

            Before we start talking about solutions, we have to agree that there is a problem.

            My claim is that, ceteris paribus, women face nastier harassment on average than men. (Similarly, gay men face nastier harassment than straight men, and Jews face nastier harassment than gentiles.)

            Do you disagree with this claim? Because it seems like you have transitioned from denying the claim to arguing that my proposed solution will not solve it. (That’s weird, because I have not proposed any solutions.)

          • Aapje says:

            @Iain

            I would argue that male gender norms make men more stoic and makes society judge abuse of men as less serious than similar abuse of women.

            The result of this is that if men and women get exactly the same threats, like rape threats, recipients and outside observers will judge the threats as (far) worse if the recipient is a woman.

            So this makes any subjective assessments of the seriousness of threats that men and women get suspect, because we cannot assume that people will use objective norms. AFAIK, studies that have been done on the subject suggest that when judged more objectively, the level of harassment is fairly similar, but that women mind much more One example.

            As for ‘SJW’, it seems to me that the more extreme SJ people tend to be fine with the term, because they actually believe that they are in a war where far-reaching tactics are needed.

            However, I think that more moderate SJ people will generally dislike the term, because they see themselves as reformers, convincers, etc; not as people who want to submit and/or destroy the other.

            So I would argue that it is probably fine to use the term when only referring to the former group, but that it should not be used for the more moderate SJ people.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Iain –

            Subjectively worse.

            If you define societal norms such that the worst thing you can say to a woman is worse than the worst thing you can say to a man, it doesn’t mean anything when women get “worse” things said to them by people whose goal is to say the worst possible things to people.

            This doesn’t seem complicated to me. Can you explain where the disconnect is here? What are you not getting?

          • Iain says:

            @Aapje:

            I would argue that male gender norms make men more stoic and makes society judge abuse of men as less serious than similar abuse of women.

            The result of this is that if men and women get exactly the same threats, like rape threats, recipients and outside observers will judge the threats as (far) worse if the recipient is a woman.

            Again, this does not engage with my point about Conor Friedersdorf’s article. Having been exposed to harassment targeted at himself, Megan McArdle, and Andrew Sullivan, he perceived a significant difference in the virulence of the attacks.

            (Aside: this is a commonly reported phenomenon. I’m focusing on Friedersdorf’s account because he’s hard to dismiss as a feeble-minded social justice warrior.)

            “Society thinks it’s worse when the exact same threats are targeted at women” is woefully insufficient to explain this. Do you think Conor Friedersdorf is a complete moron? That he perceives Megan McArdle as such a wilting flower that, faced with an inbox full of messages exactly as nasty as the ones he was used to, he completely misread what he was seeing? Give the man some credit.

            Furthermore, your pet theory also fails to explain the similar experience of reading Andrew Sullivan’s mail. Does society also have a similar urge to protect gay men?

            Your link does not seem to support your claim. It’s all about the number of people who have been abused at all. Where is the evidence about the severity of the abuse? The closest it comes is this paragraph:

            Men and women also differed in their responses to the abuse. Gorrie said a “‘she’ll be right’ … more relaxed” response was prominent among male victims, though a small percentage threatened physical violence or were violent. Women were more likely to respond to online abuse and harassment emotionally as well as to report serious instances to police.

            You choose to interpret that to mean that women are emotionally fragile. But it’s also exactly what you’d expect if women really did face worse harassment.

            @Thegnskald:

            If you define societal norms such that the worst thing you can say to a woman is worse than the worst thing you can say to a man, it doesn’t mean anything when women get “worse” things said to them by people whose goal is to say the worst possible things to people.

            Okay, I think I see where we diverge.

            Societal norms matter. Subjective experience matters. Putting quotation marks around “worse” doesn’t negate the psychological cost of harassment. Objectively speaking, all the words we say to each other are just air molecules bumping together, or pixels glowing on a screen, and none of those patterns are better or worse than others, but that’s a completely useless way to talk about human interaction. Telling people that they only feel bad because of societal norms doesn’t magically fix things.

            Society can say worse things about a bisexual man than about a straight man. (As you say: “Care to see what being openly bisexual nets you?”) This makes it worse to be bisexual online. Do you claim that this is utterly irrelevant? That there are no contexts in which we might care that bisexual men experience worse harassment than straight men?

            Similarly: do you honestly think that there is no value in noticing the same thing about women?

            Because if so, I disagree. For example: in his piece, Friedersdorf talks about how many of his female friends had given up on blogging because they couldn’t handle the harassment, and how female writers for the magazine he edited turned down the opportunity to write on certain topics for fear of harassment. Even if you don’t care at all about fairness, knowing about this market inefficiency — talented female writers looking weaker because they were dissuaded from writing online — could be valuable for a pragmatic editor looking to hire new talent.

            But first you have to be willing to notice that this phenomenon is happening at all.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Iain –

            Okay. Pause a moment. Stop thinking in terms of the victim, and think in terms of the perpetrator.

            Their goal is to cause emotional distress.

            Saying “X is beyond the pale” is just going to encourage them to use X; you are literally telling them what weapon to use.

            I want you to grok this. This is central to the issue. Whatever norms your society has about good behavior enables exactly the behavior we are discussing. Men are affected less by online harassment precisely because they expect it, it is more within cultural norms.

            Yes, I have received different attacks for being bisexual, but if you believe they are worse, you are focusing on the wrong aspect of the social interaction: They can only be worse insofar as I give them more credit.

            Women experience worse harassment only insofar as they expect not to receive it; it is perceived as worse only insofar as we expect women to be treated better than that. That is something you need to grok, as well: This is a situation in which women are literally being treated as poorly as men, and you argue disparate impact? The same argument could be posed against the deconstruction of any privilege – somebody who has the privilege of not being treated poorly is going to be much more impacted when they are. Which is exactly what we are talking about, here: People experiencing severe discomfort when they experience life without accustomed privilege, namely, the privilege of being treated with decency and respect.

            Which doesn’t imply we shouldn’t strive for decency and respect for fellow human beings. But it is kind of disgusting to argue that women’s concerns should be prioritized in this regard, given that the reason for arguing that basically amounts to “They are used to being prioritized in this regard.”

            And if you can internalize this, and understand the model, and argue understanding you are arguing for the perpetuation of privileged treatment – well, that is fine. But the argument that this is necessary for equality is just plain offensive to the notion of equality.

          • lvlln says:

            @Thegnskald

            Women experience worse harassment only insofar as they expect not to receive it; it is perceived as worse only insofar as we expect women to be treated better than that. That is something you need to grok, as well: This is a situation in which women are literally being treated as poorly as men, and you argue disparate impact? The same argument could be posed against the deconstruction of any privilege – somebody who has the privilege of not being treated poorly is going to be much more impacted when they are. Which is exactly what we are talking about, here: People experiencing severe discomfort when they experience life without accustomed privilege, namely, the privilege of being treated with decency and respect.

            Huh, this is a fascinating way of thinking about it, something that I haven’t thought of before. It sounds like you’re saying, that if we follow Iain’s point, then we would conclude that, say, a white person in a store who notices he’s being suspiciously followed even though he’s just innocuously shopping is being treated in some meaningfully worse way than a black person experiencing the same thing, because the white person has the privilege of living most of his life with the expectation that he wouldn’t be treated that way, while the black person doesn’t (or at least has less of that expectation). Do I have you right?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Lvlln –

            Potentially, yes. That particular example might not work – a black person could still experience greater harm because the black person expects it to be racism, whereas the white person might attribute it to “Well, I dressed really poorly today”.

            So there is a missing element in that example – effectively, a reason to take offense. This ties into another discussion we have here sometimes, that having a mental framework in which you expect people to hate you – and thus much more readily attribute poor behavior to that than other causes, such as the person being an asshole – can be harmful in itself.

            (Which is the reason I have been also focusing on “The person responsible wants to cause you emotional harm and will use any tools available to them to do so”)

          • Iain says:

            @Thegnskald:

            Women experience worse harassment only insofar as they expect not to receive it; it is perceived as worse only insofar as we expect women to be treated better than that.

            This is the factual point at which we diverge. Your entire argument depends on this description. I think this description is bullshit.

            To be clear: I’m not denying that this could be some small part of the effect. But for your argument to make any sense, this has to be the whole effect. The reason I do not “grok that women are being literally treated as poorly as men” is because I do not think that is true. I think women are, ceteris paribus, subjected to a more intense and personalized level of internet harassment than men.

            You have presented no evidence for your claim beyond repeated assertion. For the third time: this theory is not compatible with Friedersdorf’s account (which matches other accounts I’ve seen elsewhere).

            Conor Friedersdorf (a columnist for the Atlantic) gets lots of hate mail, including death threats. He was nevertheless viscerally shocked by the kinds of comments that Megan McArdle and Andrew Sullivan (also columnists for the Atlantic) received: “not just over-the-top invective, but intensely personal missives of hyper-sexualized hate.”

            Your response to this is presumably: these comments weren’t objectively worse; Friedersdorf just perceived them as worse because he expects women to be treated better than that.

            But that response fails. Even if I grant for the sake of argument the idea that Conor Friedersdorf is subject to some sort of white knight false consciousness where he expects women to be treated nicer than men, he didn’t just see a different level of vitriol in McArdle’s inbox. He also saw it in Sullivan’s.

            To make this work under your model, you’d have to claim that “gay men experience worse harassment only insofar as they expect not to receive it; it is perceived as worse only insofar as we expect gay men to be treated better than that.” That is self-evidently ludicrous.

            By far the most parsimonious explanation for Friedersdorf seeing nastier comments directed at McArdle and Sullivan is that they were, in fact, subjected to nastier comments.

            I understand that the offensiveness of an insult is socially mediated. But you can’t magically step outside society. Stoicism in the face of harassment is all well and good, but at some point it is worth noticing that some people are required to be more stoic than others. Again: I am not advocating any particular response to that fact. I am not proposing a strategy for dissuading the perpetrators. All I am arguing is that we should acknowledge the reality of the situation.

            Elsewhere in this comment section, you talk about a commitment to honesty. That’s all I am asking here. Stop arguing about the harmful implications of my evidence, and either accept it or provide me with evidence in the other direction.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Iain –

            I already talked about that; that is what “targeted attacks” are all about. This isn’t a single thing, it is multiple things. (But yes, that also applies to the gay man, in a culture in which attacking people for being gay is verboten.)

            If I wanted to harass you, and all I know about you is that you are a man, of course my attacks aren’t going to be personal. If I know you are gay, that allows an additional level of personalization. Likewise if I know you are a furry, or a Star Wars fan, or you have kids.

            None of these things are interesting, absent our belief that they are. More, they fall naturally out of the central premise: Assholes want to make you suffer, and will use the tools you give them in order to achieve this ends.

            Which is to say – yes. Any specific information about you will make attacks subjectively worse. It doesn’t matter what that information is – it allows attacks to be personalized.

            The interesting thing to note in that is that being a woman is personal information – when attacking somebody online, the default gender is male. You can take away from that what you will.

          • Iain says:

            @Thegnskald:

            None of these things are interesting, absent our belief that they are. More, they fall naturally out of the central premise: Assholes want to make you suffer, and will use the tools you give them in order to achieve this ends.

            Which is to say – yes. Any specific information about you will make attacks subjectively worse. It doesn’t matter what that information is – it allows attacks to be personalized.

            The interesting thing to note in that is that being a woman is personal information – when attacking somebody online, the default gender is male. You can take away from that what you will.

            Your argument is:
            1. Openly being a woman on the internet counts as personal information.
            2. Personal information will be used to make you suffer.
            3. There is no interesting sense in which women are harassed more than men on the internet.

            I give up. I guess we will just have to agree to disagree on the definition of the word “interesting”.

          • Nornagest says:

            “Women are harassed more” says to me that women carry a higher likelihood of receiving harassment, or receive it in higher volume. This isn’t necessarily implied by women receiving harassing messages which focus on their sex — their hate mail might have focused on some other thing if they were men or if their sex wasn’t apparent. It’s still an interesting fact that being a woman is seen by online harassers as an exploitable weakness, but you can’t use that by itself to say “more”, though I think it’s probably evidence for it.

          • Iain says:

            @Nornagest:

            You know, I had carefully written “harassed worse” instead of “harassed more” throughout this entire thread, and then failed at the final step. I’m not going to edit my post, because it would leave you hanging as a bit of a non sequitur, but please mentally replace “women are harassed more than men on the internet” with “women on the internet face worse harassment than men”.

            I think men and women on the internet are roughly as likely to receive harassment. I think women on average receive nastier harassment, for most reasonable definitions of “nasty”. I suspect that women also receive a higher volume of harassment, but my level of confidence on this is lower.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think you can make pretty much the same argument for “worse”. There aren’t that many people out there that don’t have some exploitable weakness.

            Alice is a woman, Bob is gay, Carl voted for Trump, Daniel likes furry comics, Eli is fat, Frank’s a Mormon. Put them all in a glass jar with fifty 4Chan trolls and shake it up to make them fight, and who ends up being trolled the hardest? Probably the furry, but after that I’m not very confident.

          • Iain says:

            So being a woman online is a disadvantage compared to being a man, being gay is a disadvantage compared to being straight, and being fat is a disadvantage compared to being thin? Careful there, partner — you’re edging dangerously close to intersectionality. (Furries aren’t a traditional focus of social justice, but there’s no reason they can’t fit into the same framework. I’m not aware of any trend of Mormons being disproportionately targeted for internet harassment, but if that’s true, then sure, welcome aboard.)

            The only thing on your list that I’ll quibble with is Trump voters. I’m sure there’s somebody out there who’s been harassed for voting for Trump, but I haven’t seen any examples nearly as bad as the harassment leveled at anti-Trump Republicans.

          • Nornagest says:

            Careful there, partner — you’re edging dangerously close to intersectionality.

            Don’t be snide. Intersectionality would be arguing that every combination of gay, fat, etc. poses its own unique challenges online. I’m suggesting that anyone showing a trait that’s seen as an exploitable weakness fundamentally faces the same challenges online, past superficial differences, and that almost everyone shows at least a few of those traits. Attacks are likely to be shaped to them when they come, but they don’t necessarily influence the severity of one or how likely you are to be attacked at all. If Guy is fat and gay, and Hank is just fat, then Guy will probably face a wider variety of trolling, but we can’t use that to show that he faces much worse or more without more information. A hypothetical spherical frictionless poster in a vacuum might draw less fire, but there aren’t very many of those.

            Really, the question comes down to how many trolls opportunistically target people from groups they hate, vs. how many develop grudges against a particular person and then go looking for things that’ll hack them off. Aside from a few small groups, like furries and Scientologists, that’ve developed their own self-perpetuating online hatedoms, I think there are probably a lot more of the latter than the former.

          • Aapje says:

            @Thegnskald

            My impression is that men also get targeted harassment. For example, the accusation of being gay seems to be a fairly typical insult lobbed at a man.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I’m suggesting that anyone showing a trait that’s seen as an exploitable weakness fundamentally faces the same challenges online, past superficial differences, and that almost everyone shows at least a few of those traits.

            I think there is something to this, but also that their are probably (definitely) tiers to this. I have seen people get trolled on basketball forums for being to unabashedly in favor of analytics, but it is also always been way below the sexual harassment/death threat levels that some people get. I would guess that certain things would be more alluring to attack.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Also I think one solution is obvious, but only one site have I seen put it into practice. You should have to pay to comment, that means a credit card and that means no more anonymity for direct threats and harassment.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Aapje –

            Entirely true, but it’s an unnecessary argument here and now. Sort of like Iain’s request for evidence; yes, I can provide it, and point to, for example, studies supporting my assertion that women and bystanders interpret women being treated like men as sexism, but it wouldn’t actually forward the conversation in any meaningful way. My purpose was largely to give some people a new model to view the world through, which I hope I have succeeded at.

            At some point I will need to condense my thoughts on the matter; I have an idea (whose credit is not my own, but the result of conversations here) I am tentatively calling the “Thirteen Year Old Boy Test”, which is something along the lines that, if a personal attack is the sort a thirteen year old boy playing Halo online might say to an opponent who killed him, it automatically fails to be meaningful with regard to judgments and assertions about anything broader. The reasons for this are pointed at here, I have just failed to be able to express them in a pithy manner thus far.

        • caethan says:

          it’s probably even worse to be Christian in the face of jihadist conquest than it is to be the wrong kind of Muslim

          Arguable: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genocide_of_Shias_by_ISIL

        • it’s probably even worse to be Christian in the face of jihadist conquest than it is to be the wrong kind of Muslim

          Probably not, unless the jihadists are bad Muslims. Under Islamic law Christians, Jews, and a third group usually identified with Sabeans, are permitted to live in land ruled by Muslims. There are some restrictions, but I think less serious than the consequences of being viewed as a heretical Muslim.

    • shenanigans24 says:

      Those greetings occur at Christmas though. If everyone starts rebranding MLK day as January day you would have to assume they don’t like things associated with that day. If people point that out they are not claiming to be oppressed.

      • arlie says:

        That’s just so wrong. There are a number of other holidays celebrated at roughly the same time. When the US was an aggressively Christian country, many Jews/atheists/whatever felt like it was safer to use the name for the majority holiday, lest they be outed as being a despicable immoral baby eating non-Christian. (Yes, I’m exagerating the likely reaction. But maybe not the *feared* reaction.)

        Now if I don’t know someone’s religious affiliation, and name the wrong holiday, they are likely to bite my head off. And if I’m not Christian myself, and don’t know (or care) about the other person’s religion, naming the Christian holiday seems pretty unnatural. And that’s before we think about people raised by parents who managed to cause them to hate the religion in which they were raised.

        Unless I’m one of those people – raised Christian, left the religion, and more anti-Christian than pro-anything else – it’s really unlikely I’m saying “Happy Holidays” because of anything to do with Christianity, or Christmas.

    • sharper13 says:

      I think the difference comes when people who say “Merry Christmas” are told “How dare you say that to me, you ignorant religious bigot!” and when all the public parties (Companies, schools, etc…) which for 150 years have been called the Christmas Party because it occurs near the traditional Christmas holiday date are renamed the Winter Holiday Party and any religious vestige of Christmas is deliberately purged from public festivities.

      At that point, then whether or not someone says “Happy Holidays!” or “Merry Christmas” starts marking them out as part of the anti- or pro-Christmas group, rather than merely expressing an innocuous neutral sentiment. There is a significant group of people who probably just think of “Happy Holidays” as a neutral expression which will offend less people, but to suggest that’s the only thing going on is to deny part of the last 50 years of American history.

      shenanigans24’s example of replacing an MLK holiday with January Day is a good example thought experiment. Hawaii converting Columbus Day into Discoverers’ Day was done with a similar vocal opposition to celebrating Columbus. That wasn’t enough for many, so now we have “Indigenous People’s Day” replacing it again in many places. Whatever you think of Columbus, I think it’d be disingenuous to suggest that the intent to silence the traditional usage and signal something completely different by replacing it with another as the “socially accepted” usage doesn’t exist.

  49. Theresa Klein says:

    There are, perhaps, some subjects that ought to be taboo. Maybe there’s some subjects where the potential harm that could be caused by making them not-taboo is vastly outweighed by whatever good might come from openly discussing them.

    If you have a bunch of people wondering why it’s so taboo to talk about certain ideas that have a history of being associated with everything from unjust treatment of innocent people to some really horrible atrocities, you have to wonder what good exactly those people think is going to come from making those subjects not taboo.

    • oppressedminority says:

      Can you provide an example of such a topic?

      The point of openly discussing topics is to arrive at the truth. Do you fear that the truth might be harmful to some, or do you fear that some people will get it wrong in some harmful way?

      Do you also consider the risk that by making some subjects taboo you let wrong opinions fester in isolated bubbles where they have the extra appeal of being forbidden? Or that by giving power to some to declare subjects taboo that this power might be abused?

      • Theresa Klein says:

        Yes. The idea that people of African descent are genetically less intelligent. Or more broadly, that “race” has a real biological meaning and there are racial differences in innate intelligence.

        Historically, ideas about racial differences in intelligence have been associated with things like slavery, racial segregation, apartheid, racial caste, eugenics, and genocide.
        All really bad stuff that has really happened. How much are you willing to risk a future genocide for the sake of being able to openly say that black people in America are less intelligent than whites?

        • Thegnskald says:

          Historically, suppression of ideas doesn’t have a great track record, either.

          • Theresa Klein says:

            What bad thing do you think is going to happen if we aren’t allowed to discuss which races are inferior or superior? Someone might get an undeserved promotion?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Theresa –

            People will assume the thing is true, because nobody bothers to censor ideas that aren’t dangerous, and ideas about data aren’t dangerous unless the data supports them; resentment builds up, and when belief reaches a critical threshold, and they have quietly taken over our institutions holding beliefs nobody knows about because nobody can talk about them, and a figure arises around whom a consensus of common knowledge can be built – say, a racist president gets elected – the switch abruptly flips and we are plugged in societal change aimed at implementing their preferred policies, which are much worse than they would otherwise be because of years of resentment combined with all the tools of censorship people like you helpfully built for them.

            Which reminds me, your support of censorship suggests to me you are racist, because if the data wouldn’t support racist conclusions, there is no reason to suppress it, and your dear of discussing it suggests your true beliefs differ from your professed beliefs.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What bad thing do you think is going to happen if we aren’t allowed to discuss which races are inferior or superior? Someone might get an undeserved promotion?

            I think a more equal world is better than a less equal world. I fear that if we do not accurately assess why outcomes are unequal, we will not be able to address the causes of inequality (that are addressable) and ameliorate them as best we can. In fact, our efforts may even be counterproductive, and increase human misery rather than decrease it.

          • Theresa Klein says:

            I’m agnostic on the subject of race difference in intelligence, because I don’t think it matters. People should be treated like individuals and not judged by superficial similarities based on morphological features and skin pigment. But human beings being generally fairly stupid, I believe that if many people think that race differences in intelligence exist, that that isn’t going to happen. White people are going to behave tribally and start stigmatizing and socially excluding blacks. Thus, there is a social utility in making the idea of race differences in intelligence taboo.
            And I really don’t buy the argument that “If you make X taboo, that inevitably means that lots of people are going to believe X and assume it’s true”, and the logic which follows from that. I also suspect that due to humans tribal nature, that people are predisposed to believe their own tribe is superior, which makes it likely that people will think it is true, even when it demostrably isn’t. In other words, many people WANT to believe they are racially superior, and you’re going to be fighting a losing battle against innate biases in the human mind to try to approach it like it was a neutral academic discussion. Racism is like smoking – it’s addictive and you have to make it taboo to overcome the addictive habit.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Theresa –

            So, assuming you are fully consistent in that position, your opinion is that affirmative action should be ended?

            That is the natural conclusion of disregarding statistics about the group in favor of the individual.

          • albatross11 says:

            Theresa Klein:

            Without being able to talk about the black/white IQ differences, it’s impossible to have a sensible discussion about the black/white performance gap in education, or whether the underrepresentation of blacks in magnet schools demonstrates anti-black discrimination or racism. You won’t be able to make good predictions about how NCLB will turn out, or about how affirmative action in Law School admissions will affect the relative bar exam pass rates of blacks vs whites.

            But there’s a more fundamental problem with your idea. We don’t have a group of incorruptible superintelligent angels we can put in charge of deciding what ideas should be suppressed. All we have are powerful people with their own agendas and ideologies and interests. To the extent we have mechanisms for suppressing discussions, those mechanisms will be used by people who want to suppress discussions that they find upsetting or offensive or counter to their interests. When they are wrong about something, they will impose their blind spots on the world by suppressing discussion of opposing views.

            If that power had been exercised 150 years ago, the offensive and morally subversive theory of evolution would have been suppressed. And indeed, many people did try to suppress it, but fortunately, they lost.

          • Aapje says:

            @Theresa Klein

            Racial IQ differences are a far weaker reason for people to hate black people than the higher crime rates for this group, which are a lot more obvious & which impact white people a lot more.

            Also, I would argue that the historical precedents that you allude to have actually mostly inoculated greater society against this level of extremism. Actual Nazis are really quite rare.

            So I would argue that the goal should be to not have taboos which potentially make solving the real problem, which is the main cause of anger at blacks, harder.

          • shenanigans24 says:

            Denying those ideas hasn’t worked out well either. Zimbabwe didn’t break out into racial harmony by engaging in egalitarian ideas. Egalitarian ideas as a whole may have a higher death toll than realistic ones.

          • Cliff says:

            “People should be treated like individuals and not judged by superficial similarities based on morphological features and skin pigment. ”

            This is a common canard. Often race, or sex, or any number of things, improve knowledge and understanding of an individual. For example, what medical treatment to provide may depend on what race the person is. If you say “we have to treat each person as an individual and not as members of a superficial race!” and therefore refuse to take race into account when deciding what treatment to administer, then people will die.

        • Clarence says:

          What if it turns out there are real, measurable differences in the races, and that expecting Afro-Americans to uphold an impossible standard is what’s causing all the problems? A kinder, more understanding treatment of their people would greatly contribute to harm reduction. History will curse us for bitterly clinging to an outdated view that intelligence is not heritable and causing unnecessary suffering.

          • Theresa Klein says:

            Do you seriously believe that African Americans are being harmed by people thinking they aren’t stupider than whites? Seriously?

          • Clarence says:

            Why don’t we let them make their own arguments, instead of a white woman making them for them? Do you have any idea of how tremendously condescending it is to presume you speak for them?

          • Iain says:

            Why don’t we let them make their own arguments, instead of a white woman making them for them? Do you have any idea of how tremendously condescending it is to presume you speak for them?

            It’s kind of funny. People on SSC like to complain about the evil SJWs making everything about identity, and yet the most blatantly content-free, identity-centric attack on somebody’s right to speak I’ve seen here in a long time comes from an anti-SJ crusader. Did we all swap sides while I wasn’t paying attention?

          • vaniver says:

            @Theresa Klein: It seems to me like people can be harmed by someone overestimating their intelligence. But let’s ignore race for a moment, and talk about specific people.

            Alice has an IQ of 145; Bob an IQ of 130; Carol an IQ of 115; Derek an IQ of 100; Elizabeth an IQ of 85; Frank an IQ of 70. All of them are high school students in their senior year; all of them are considering what they should do with their lives; you’re the guidance counselor trying to help all of them live their best life.

            Presumably Alice is the easiest person to advise. She likely has excellent test scores and is looking at highly selective colleges, and should choose whatever major suits her fancy. It also seems likely that Bob should be attending college, and is likely to get into multiple. Carol is where college starts becoming slightly questionable, but the local state school or community college is nevertheless a good fit, especially if she’s interested in a subject that has a broad case of employer demand. But what about Derek?

            Perhaps you know that about 20% of people with Derek’s test scores successfully complete community college. (The number is made up, but you should be able to find some score where that’s true.) Does it make sense to advise Derek to go to college? Should he think about technical school? Should he try to just get a job immediately, and then work his way up from the shop floor? (One of the differences between more and less intelligent people is not how much they know about their job, but how long it takes them to acquire that knowledge. Derek and Bob could both become excellent store managers, likely with different styles, but Derek will likely take several years longer at the same place to reach that level, and should be advised accordingly.)

            Now imagine your filing system got shuffled up, so that you gave Carol advice as if she was Derek and Derek advice as if he was Carol. It seems obvious to me that both of them would be made worse off–Carol underperforming her potential, and Derek overshooting his (and thus getting burned–perhaps he’s in the 80% that doesn’t make it through community college, and is then trying to get entry-level jobs he would have qualified for at 18 but instead is trying to get at 21 with more debt and less patience from his parents). This should be even worse the more mistaken the advice is–giving Derek advice meant for Alice seems like a recipe for catastrophe.

            Does this make it clear how someone could seriously believe that others would be harmed by misestimation of their intelligence?

          • Do you seriously believe that African Americans are being harmed by people thinking they aren’t stupider than whites?

            I think some African Americans are being harmed by affirmative action, for a reason I already sketched. Affirmative action is in part a result of people claiming that differences in outcomes by race must be due to discrimination, since there is no difference in the distribution of innate ability.

        • oppressedminority says:

          These ideas were quite common not too long ago and they were defeated thanks to the open discussion of ideas.

          You seem to be under the impression that freedom is more dangerous than censorship. I would disagree. The risk of genocide and other “really bad stuff” exists under censorship also, if not more so.

          The example you cite is actually believed by a not-insignificant proportion of people. If you hope to convince them that they are wrong, you should discuss it openly. If you hope to confirm their beliefs and develop their victim-complex, you should censor them.

          • Theresa Klein says:

            There is more on the line here than what people think about stuff right now. There are the lives, freedom, and social opportunities of millions of people who happen to have the wrong skin color. People who will have to endure a few more decades of being treated like dirt, being socially excluded and denied economic opportunities as a result. Their entire life. You’re talking about (at the least) taking that young African American male who might have chance to go to medical school, and making him wait 40 years until white people have had their open discussion to decide if he’s going to be presumed intelligent enough to do so.
            I want people alive right now to be treated like equals and have the opportunity to live a full life. Not 40 years from now when white people are finished debating the subject of race.

          • oppressedminority says:

            I dont want to seem glib, but you should be aware that not only are African-Americans currently allowed to go to medical school, they receive preferential treatment to get there.

            Also, your entire point is based on the ludicrous and obviously false notion that allowing a point being discussed will immediately lead to that point being accepted as conventional wisdom. It is in fact quite the opposite.

            Many people currently hold the view that blacks are not as smart as whites, and most of those choose to shut up about it because they know all too well the consequences of saying it out loud. So whatever hypothetical scenario you might want to imagine where some people hold that view, it’s playing out in real time right now.

            Censorship of that viewpoint only cements it in the minds of those who hold it. The only way to change people’s minds is to discuss things openly without fear of punishment for holding incorrect opinions.

            You’re not doing African-Americans any favors by arguing for censorship on their behalf.

          • Theresa Klein says:

            You know what I’m saying. If it becomes acceptable to believe that blacks are less intelligent, then discrimination against blacks will increase, and many more blacks will be denied opportunities because of racial prejudice. It has happened in the past and could happen again.

            You argument seems to be “we have to have more racism now, so we can have less in the future”. First of all, that sounds like a very tenuous assertion, and secondly, that discounts the right now experiences of million of people whose lives will be made worse if racism suddenly becomes socially acceptable in the present.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Theresa Klein

            If it becomes acceptable to believe that blacks are less intelligent

            I think more precision in the claim brings clarity: The average IQ for blacks is lower than the average IQ for whites, but the IQ distributions have significant overlap. This claim helps in understanding trends at the group level, while still giving little confidence in what the IQ of any given black or white person you meet will have. Therefore, you ought to treat people on an individual basis.

            An additional claim is that the average IQ of whites is lower than the average IQ of asians. Do you think this claim, if widely believed, would lead to discrimination against whites?

            From a broader perspective, do you think that people less intelligent than you have less moral worth? I don’t, and think it’s more important to spread norms of civility and respect to all individuals, regardless of intelligence, than it is to censor group-level IQ statistics.

          • gbdub says:

            Your entire premise rests on conflating knowledge of an observable fact about a race with racism against that race.

            These are not actually synonyms! The fact that you are unable to imagine a world in which they are separable speaks to the problem honest Murray-type scholars of these taboo ideas are trying to push back against.

          • Theresa Klein says:

            @IrishDude,

            I do agree with the nuanced argument that people should be judged as individuals, and that even if there are differences in intellgence between racial groups on average, it’s irrelevant.

            The problems is that most white people aren’t that smart. I don’t have sufficient confidence in the average IQ of any group for them to grasp the concept of overlapping variances, nor in their ability to overcome the racial tribalism that mainstreaming belief in genetic differences in intelligence would create.

            @gbdub, see above. Do you seriously believe it’s possible to have a public debate about the relative intelligence of black people and not have it descend immediately into ferocious tribalism? Academics like Murray are less than 1% of the population. Most people are totally incapable of separating “blacks are less intelligent” from “blacks are inferior subhumans”.

          • Clarence says:

            So: (1) there are no racial differences in intelligence. (2) white people aren’t that smart.

          • Nornagest says:

            An open thread or two ago we were talking about HIV. Now, gay men in the West have higher rates of HIV infection at a population level than straight people or lesbians, and certain sexual acts common among gay men carry much higher transmission rates than any others. These are totally uncontroversial facts in the fields they come from, now or twenty years ago, and they’re fairly widely known.

            But the mainstream social response to those facts has shifted over those twenty years from using them as as ammunition in the culture wars (“you’re going to get AIDS and die!”) to treating them as dry figures that’re only interesting if you happen to be working in public health, and which certainly don’t dictate your reaction to any particular gay dude. And that shift lines up pretty well with broader social acceptance of homosexuality. That’s hard to explain if those facts were driving homophobia, but it’s a good fit if people go looking for facts to justify preexisting homophobia but there’s not much causation running the other way.

            I think I might expect a similar pattern of response to IQ.

          • christianschwalbach says:

            The stronger the evidence against an idea is, the more applicable it can be to be used to support an argument. All censorship does is distort this argument and remove opportunities for people to use solid reasoning to refute an idea, which wins far more support than censoring it, which very often back-fires.

          • vaniver says:

            Clarence, to be fair, it seems entirely consistent to think that no racial group is smart enough that most people from that group would correctly reason about statistics.

            I think that’s the wrong standard, tho; I don’t expect most people to correctly reason about the benefits vs. detriments of private property, I expect most people to follow the laws against theft.

            I suspect a major issue here boils down to something like cognitive specialization of labor. Somehow, judges and philosophers and lawyers and others figured out that theft was bad and made laws against it, and most people don’t have to think about it (which is good, since they might get it wrong). A similar conversation could happen about discrimination or differences in racial intelligence, and there seems to be differences in opinion on whether 1) such conversations should be open and potentially verifiable by society as a whole, 2) such conversations are ongoing or have already concluded, 3) the defense of the resulting policies should include ‘lies to children.’

          • Randy M says:

            It’s not like we have a societal consensus that it is okay to harm unintelligent people more generally. I mean, for example *googles abortion rates of down syndrome*

            oh.

            I think I understand the taboo side a bit better. I don’t think it’s going to work, really, but, yeah, I guess there’s some real risk.

          • gbdub says:

            “Do you seriously believe it’s possible to have a public debate about the relative intelligence of black people and not have it descend immediately into ferocious tribalism?”

            Well not with that attitude it’s not! Seriously, I think it’s quite possible if both sides can approach it honestly. I’ll note that we seem to be having a discussion here without either side promoting genocide or a restart of the slave trade, and I doubt we are all the cognitive 1%.

            The trouble is you’ve pre-declared that you won’t approach it “honestly”, at least in the sense that you’ve pre-committed to suppressing facts you find inconvenient. Again, I don’t think you ought to so easily concede factual truth to the “bad guys”.

            If your ideology is vulnerable to inconvenient facts, then you ought to change your ideology to accommodate those facts, rather than fight a probably losing battle to suppress reality. I certainly don’t think detecting a (small) difference in average IQ between (admittedly fuzzy) racial categories ought to require us to reject legal premises of equality, any more than differences in average height between the same groups does. But it might better inform our attempts to correct for the negative societal impacts.

            In any case, the truth will out eventually. I’d say it’s better to get ahead of it by exploring it out in the open rather than trying to ignore it and getting blindsided when the bad guys come out with fully formed arguments backed by unopposable research.

            From a purely moral perspective, I’m frankly horrified by the idea of not turning a scientific eye toward certain dark corners just because we fear we might dislike what we find there. To do so is to betray the entire enterprise.

          • You’re talking about (at the least) taking that young African American male who might have chance to go to medical school, and making him wait 40 years until white people have had their open discussion to decide if he’s going to be presumed intelligent enough to do so.

            I haven’t read to the end of the thread, so it’s possible you have answered the question about your view of affirmative action, but all you have said so far is that you don’t understand why people seriously object to it.

            So it looks as though you are in favor of taking an Asian-American male who is better qualified for medical school, law school, or an elite university than many of those being admitted and keeping him out of it.

            That actually happens, routinely. Your case is wholly imaginary, since, so far as I know, no U.S. medical school discriminates against blacks on the theory that they are less intelligent.

            Nor would it make any sense to. Even if the admissions people believe that blacks are on average less intelligent, they aren’t admitting an average black, they are admitting a particular black who, if he is a serious candidate, has already demonstrated that he is well above average in the characteristics that qualify one for medical school.

            You are defending your argument for censoring a view from polite conversation on the basis of an illogical implication of the view you want to censor that implies behavior that we don’t observe.

          • @Randy M:

            Re Downs abortions.

            Most people who support abortion don’t view it as harming people, because they do not view a fetus, especially not an early stage fetus, as a person.

          • albatross11 says:

            Theresa:

            Why would knowing the difference in average IQs differs between blacks and whites make us less willing to let a given black guy go to medical school? We test medical school applicants as individuals. Most people of any race don’t belong in medical school.

            Here’s where knowing the IQ statistics matters: If we admit medical students based on IQ[1], then we should expect to see proportionally fewer blacks and proportionally more Asians admitted to medical schools than whites.

            If we decide we must have the same proportion of medical students from each racial group, then we will get black students with lower average IQs than white students, who in turn have lower average IQs than Asian students. Assuming IQ positively correlates with performance as doctors (like it does with every other job), that will leave us with black doctors who are less capable on average than white doctors, who in turn are less capable on average than Asian doctors.

            Now, there’s a cruel irony here. If we admit to medical school based on ability, then there are fewer black doctors, but a rational person will be equally happy going to a black doctor as an Asian doctor–everyone’s about the same on average. But if we have affirmative action in medical school admissions, then there are more black doctors, but their average quality is lower. So a rational person will be less happy going to a black doctor, all else being equal, than a white doctor. And he’ll be still happier with an Asian doctor. By making the proportions of doctors more equal, we’ve just created a rational incentive for discrimination.

            [1] We don’t–it’s based on grades and test scores. But both of those are strongly positively correlated with IQ, along with a bunch of other stuff. So this model isn’t quite right, but it’s at least somewhat close to reality.

          • albatross11 says:

            vaniver:

            The problem with “lies to children” is that it puts some people in the position of being the adults who decide what the children are to be told and what is to be withheld from them. Those people being human, they’re 100% certain to use that position in ways we’re not going to like.

        • Hitfoav says:

          Agreed that a half-baked or purposefully malicious interpretation of the research in question could prove to be of harmful use.

          However, a reasonably comprehensive understanding suggests nothing of the sort because:
          – race is not so simple (as you point out)
          – the statistics tell you virtually nothing about a given individual
          – IQ is only one factor of social success, let alone of human worth from an existential or religious viewpoint
          – we don’t currently as a society enslave or otherwise torment people with very low IQ (in fact we have many institutions to assist them and laws to protect them), why would we suddenly switch to doing such things to groups with moderate differences in average IQ?

          • Hitfoav says:

            Also regarding your smoking analogy – people quit smoking when they consider the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Not when it’s made taboo.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            In fact, making it taboo makes it more attractive to many people.

          • Theresa Klein says:

            Making it taboo helps a lot of people avoid situations where they are tempted to smoke. If you don’t see other people smoking you aren’t tempted.

          • Hitfoav says:

            I wonder if we’re not distinguishing properly between taboo and forbidden/illegal or non-approved.

        • Historically, ideas about racial differences in intelligence have been associated with things like slavery, racial segregation, apartheid, racial caste, eugenics, and genocide.

          “Associated with” is a pretty low standard. Slavery is a common human institution that has frequently existed in contexts where the slaves were of the same race as the slave owners. I don’t think German anti-semitism had anything to do with the idea that Jews were stupid—if anything the opposite. Your case would be better for the planned Slavic genocide, but that, fortunately, didn’t happen.

          Eugenics depended on the idea that characteristics such as intelligence were heritable–which happens to be true–but not on their correlating with race.

          I don’t think apartheid or the Indian caste system depended on the belief that some racial groups were less intelligent than others–the basis of the latter seems to have been religious—but perhaps you can offer evidence that one or both did.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’m not sure where the line is between mass murder and genocide, but the Nazis killed between 2 and 3 million Poles and about 3 million Soviet POWs. And maybe 6 million Slavs.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocaust_victims#cite_note-slavss-5

            More numbers:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties_of_the_Soviet_Union

          • SaiNushi says:

            @Nancy

            Nazi’s argument wasn’t “Jews, Poles, and Soviets are less intelligent than us”, it was “Jews control the economy, smash the Jews!” and got expanded to “Poles and Soviets are protecting the Jews. They’re enabling the Jewish Conspiracy, therefore, it’s okay to kill them too.”

          • Tim van Beek says:

            Nazi’s argument wasn’t “Jews, Poles, and Soviets are less intelligent than us”, it was “Jews control the economy, smash the Jews!” and got expanded to “Poles and Soviets are protecting the Jews.

            Sorry, but this is just wrong. The Nazis depicted the Slavs as Untermenschen. One defining trait of an Untermensch is lower intelligence.
            I saw interviews with German soldiers who were genuinely surprised that Russian engineers were able to design and deploy superior tanks (like this one https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-34), confessing that they had bought into the Untermensch propaganda.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @SaiNushi

            Their racial doctrines concerning the Jews were more complicated, but they absolutely thought that the Poles and many of the peoples making up the Soviet Union were inferior in intelligence and culture.

          • SaiNushi says:

            @Tim van Beek
            @dndnrsn

            Thank you for the correction.

      • vaniver says:

        Can you provide an example of such a topic?

        Anyone who describes the workings of a nuclear weapon in sufficient detail to assist someone else in building one is in violation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and thus presumably laws in various signatory nations of that treaty, and this seems like an example of a fairly serious taboo.

        Similarly, it seems to me like discussing detailed vulnerabilities of human civilization could potentially assist people in designing plans to destroy human civilization, and thus should be done with the utmost care. (To put this another way, there are varieties of weapons other than nuclear that we should not proliferate, possibly even by putting them on a list of weapons to not proliferate.)

        I note that these are technical topics, rather than moral / social / political ones.

        • Theresa Klein says:

          I submit that race differences in intelligence might just be one of those vulnerabilities in human civilization that could be used to destroy human civilization. Remote, but not entirely implausible.

          That is, imagine that the races really are intrinsically different. That we’re wired differently on some deep cognitive level, so that we can never ever completely understand each other. We’re like lions and tigers. We’re always going to have intrinsically different values and our societies will be based on intrinsically different principles . That means, in the end, that achieving consensus on the proper shape of human society, on the proper form of government might be impossible. if it came down to it – if it were for some reason impossible due to innate cognitive differences to agree on a form of government, then the only way to resolve that would be through violence. One group would have to wipe out or enslave the other.

          • christianschwalbach says:

            I kind of understand what you are saying, but the debate over IQ is far from settled or at consensus. Why not allow the debate to continue and see where it leads? Regarding the issues of nuclear secrets, or economic knowledge, these are ideas that have been implemented or at least proven in a manner that the consensus is stronger (or proven, in the case of tech), and thus can be taken down more effectively by opposing forces.

          • Randy M says:

            Only if both groups were convinced that the other was evil, rather than just different. It’s possible for multiple human cultures to coexist in the same planet; it’s probably quite possible for them to do so peacefully in the same nation, provided laws are applied fairly and there is a degree of liberty and/or federalism.

          • vaniver says:

            First, I want to note that I’m happy to have the conversation on the level of “would it be fine if this were true?” prior to the conversation of “is this true?”, and am glad that you moved to conversation in this direction.

            That we’re wired differently on some deep cognitive level, so that we can never ever completely understand each other. We’re like lions and tigers.

            This doesn’t seem like a serious impediment to continued civilization to me; I note that Indian society has held that there are five different types of people, with particular social roles to play and who should not interbreed, for over a thousand years. (Genetic evidence suggests that it became enforced more seriously about 1.5kya, but was invented something like 3-4kya.) Also important here is that it seems like each of the castes had an associated value system which held that it was good to be that caste, and do well according to that caste’s virtues, such that someone in the third caste isn’t forever cut off from growth (even if they are cut off from some avenues of growth).

            It could be that this is inconsistent with other properties we’d like civilization to have. But some of those properties are achievable (for example: would the worst bits of the caste system be fixed if there were a test you could take to change castes?), and others aren’t even in the world we have now. For example of the second, it would be nice if we could tell children that they would have equal expected success in any avenue of life, and let their tastes take them where they will; but in the actual world it seems like we have to point out which fields they are likely to find more or less success in. Sometimes your dreams of being a competitive swimmer really do rest on the shape of your arms relative to your body, not the amount of desire or dedication you have.

            We’re always going to have intrinsically different values and our societies will be based on intrinsically different principles . That means, in the end, that achieving consensus on the proper shape of human society, on the proper form of government might be impossible.

            I think cosmopolitanism is a good solution here; presumably there is some global consensus government that does very little, and then smaller and smaller regions that have more and more detailed consensus. It also seems like a form of cosmopolitanism that actually takes seriously differences in intelligence between people is more likely to treat its less-intelligent citizens well (by protecting them from predatory behavior they’re unlikely to be able to see).

            then the only way to resolve that would be through violence. One group would have to wipe out or enslave the other.

            This seems true for extreme differences–for example, in a fantasy world it might make sense for the elves to actually wipe out all of the orcs, given sufficient distance between elves and orcs. It also seems like the sort of thing that has been historically argued for–the “three generations of imbeciles is enough” of Holmes was an explicit argument for wiping out a particular subset of people.

            The place where this seems surprising to me, I guess, is that you wouldn’t want to settle the question of whether we’re living in the elves-and-orcs world or not. I’m not quite sure why that is. Is it that different people might have different policy responses? (If I think we’re living in an elves-and-orcs world, but that orcs should be allowed to live freely, perhaps I want to argue against that being the world we’re living in if I think most people would support orc genocide.) Is it that it seems likelier to you that we’re in the elves-and-orcs world than it does to me? (It seems hard to believe that a world that’s “elves-and-orcs” under the hood ends up looking like our world; any causal differences seem likely to be much smaller.)

          • Before getting back to arguing with her, I want to thank Theresa for being willing to offer a calm exposition of her views to a largely opposed audience. I don’t find it convincing, but it helps me understand a position that, whether or not correct, is widespread.

          • Aapje says:

            @Theresa Klein

            That is, imagine that the races really are intrinsically different. That we’re wired differently on some deep cognitive level, so that we can never ever completely understand each other. We’re like lions and tigers. We’re always going to have intrinsically different values and our societies will be based on intrinsically different principles.

            Note that this is a very different and way more far reaching claim than IQ differences between races, which don’t imply a ‘hard’ inability for races to ‘completely understand each other.’

            Furthermore, an inability to ‘completely understand each other’ doesn’t mean that segregation is necessary. People are very different on an individual level, so any society requires people to be tolerant of people with different values & for people to accept policies that don’t perfectly conform to their values.

            A good claim can be made that some groups cannot ‘completely understand each other’ due to biological reasons, but those groups would then be people with Asperger vs neurotypicals, thing- vs person-oriented people, perhaps men and women, children and adults, etc. If there are any biological racial differences in principles, they are absolutely minimal compared to the differences between other groups.

          • Theresa Klein says:

            Yes, I think this is sort of an extreme hypothetical, which makes for an interesting discussion, but maybe one without much real-world applicability, because there are really not many people actually saying that human “races” are that different.

            But just for the sake of argument, lets say that there really were those differences, not just intelligence but innate differences in behavior and psychology.

            For the past century or more, western civilization has been based on the premise that “inside we’re all the same”. Everyone’s fundamentally equal, the laws should be the same for all, and it is possible to reconcile our differences within one system because, since we’re all really alike, we ought to be able to reason our way to a conclusion. But if that’s not true, if we’re fundamentally different, then many of the philosophical foundations of Western Civilization start to fall down. The notion of “equal justice under law” for instance – if people are behaviorally quite different, then maybe you need different laws for different groups of people. Maybe you need a caste system, as vaniver suggests. If the laws need to be different for different groups of people, then how to you decide what those laws should be – maybe each group really needs it’s own government in it’s own geographic territory, maybe whites should just live in one area, and blacks in another. And now were getting pretty close to justifying racial apartheid and I doubt anyone wants to provide any ammo to any lingering defenders of that. But maybe that’s not inherently unstable. Well, it’s still pretty far from the civilization that we’ve all been born into and cherish (at least I hope so). So something would have to give, and I doubt it would be a peaceful non-violent transition from “equal justice” to “caste system”. So when I say “destroy human civilization”, I don’t mean “wipe out all humans on the planet”, I really mean, “destroy our current civilization as it exists at present”. Liberal individualism would likely cease to exist.

            And, to add, it wouldn’t even have to be true, it would just take enough people believing it to be true to disrupt the consensus our society is based on. So if someone really wanted to launch a subversive agit-prop type attack on Western Civilization, a really really insidious way of doing that would be to plant the idea of intrinsic cognitive differences between racial groups.

            ( Just to throw out another wild, speculative thought: What if this explains the Fermi paradox? What if you can really only have one intelligent species per planet, and even if you’re lucky enough to only wind up with one intelligent species, after a couple of million years, you eventually get speciation and then the different intelliegent species wipe each other out.)

          • albatross11 says:

            Theresa:

            I don’t think society has ever been build on “we are all the same.” We can build a decent society on “we all have the same rights and obligations under the law,” but it’s never been the case that everyone was the same. Do you think there were many people around the time of the drafting of the constitution who thought the village idiot was the same as Ben Franklin? Do you think any of the drafters thought that? That’s an assumption that’s falsified every time we interact with the rest of the world–it’s falsified in your comments about believing yourself to be smarter/more rational than the majority of Americans when arguing they shouldn’t be told the truth about IQ distributions.

          • Aapje says:

            @Theresa Klein

            Are you familiar with Pillarisation or with the Peace of Westphalia?

            Europe has plenty of experience with groups with strongly divergent beliefs, often based on religion. This has resulted in a lot of persecution, but also in solutions like granting different groups the right to define their own rules up to a point.

            Well, it’s still pretty far from the civilization that we’ve all been born into and cherish (at least I hope so).

            My parents were born into a pillarised society, so it is not really that far. Note that my country is/was renowned for being one of the most tolerant in Europe and a haven for persecuted Iberian Jews, French Huguenots, etc.

            Pillarised society was not the best and I’m happy that it is gone, but it was also not the kind of horror show that you seem to assume it is.

            It is definitely a lot better than the thing that SJW seem to be aiming for: trying to convert all of society to their ideals by force. That obviously can’t work and will lead to ‘war.’

            IMO, compromising and fact-based problem solving is better than segregation. However, segregation is better than ‘war.’

          • onyomi says:

            @Theresa Klein

            if it were for some reason impossible due to innate cognitive differences to agree on a form of government, then the only way to resolve that would be through violence.

            What about secession?

    • gbdub says:

      “Guilt by association” is generally considered a logical fallacy. And it can just as legitimately be asked, “if it is even possible that these ideas are provably factual, and believe that scientific exploration of fact is otherwise a very good thing, exactly what good do you think is going to come from forcefully suppressing any discussion of these possible facts?” Especially when you consider that you’re pretty much just guaranteeing that the only people willing to explore these questions will then be edgelords or worse. Generally not a good idea to cede truth to the bad guys.

      • Theresa Klein says:

        exactly what good do you think is going to come from forcefully suppressing any discussion of these possible facts

        Not having people get killed, enslaved, or otherwise oppressed because of their skin color.

        • gbdub says:

          How many slaves does Charles Murray want to own?

          “Open investigation and discussion of potential genetic differences between racial groups leading to unequal outcomes will probably lead to slavery and genocide” is a rather extraordinary claim that requires some equally extraordinary evidence.

          As others have said, censorship of science has a pretty nasty track record too. You’re going to have to provide some additional evidence of why your concern is particularly likely to occur in the current context, as opposed to pointing at how something sort of similar was associated with bad outcomes in very different historical contexts.

          • Nick says:

            In fairness, she didn’t say “probably.” Even a 5% chance of slavery or genocide is worth avoiding in almost any tradeoff.

          • gbdub says:

            Well in the 20th century you’ve got Lysenkoism in particular and communist censorship in general killing/making miserable a few tens of megahumans, so there’s that.

            I dislike the “pile of skulls” argument in general because there’s so many skull piles that everyone is adjacent to one or more, if you’re motivated to look for it. And also because lots of skull piles were created from creative new ways of skull pile production, so “non-skull pile adjacent” is no guarantee of goodness either.

          • Theresa Klein says:

            @Nick,
            Exactly – and while the probably of genocide is probably pretty small, the probability of broad systemic discrimination against blacks returning is probably quite high.

            Personally I find it hard to imagine that just making it totally socially okay to say that black people are less intelligent *wouldn’t* lead to some pretty negative social consequences.

          • christianschwalbach says:

            Last time I checked, the people that do openly try to state that Blacks are inferior arent exactly popular. And they are free to state as such.

          • albatross11 says:

            Nick:

            I would like to dub your argument “Pascal’s Veto.”

            In order to suppress any discussion you don’t want taking place, you claim that there is some small chance of an unthinkably horrible outcome if the discussion is allowed to proceed. Since even a small chance of an unthinkable outcome is really bad, we must immediately end the discussion.

            I can’t help but feel like there might be something unwise about accepting this as a general principle, however….

          • moonfirestorm says:

            In order to suppress any discussion you don’t want taking place, you claim that there is some small chance of an unthinkably horrible outcome if the discussion is allowed to proceed

            You can just tie this into the original Pascal’s Wager.

            Talking about how God doesn’t exist could cause someone to lose faith, which could send them to hell. Extremely low probability, but with so much suffering on the line, better not risk it!

            This one has a bonus in that arguing the magnitude of the risk is itself dangerous according to the argument: you can’t attempt to disprove it without first disproving it.

          • Theresa Klein says:

            @christianwallbach,

            Yes, they can say it, but not without being socially shunned. Which is what this entire thread is about. Which people should and shouldn’t be shunned for espousing what beliefs, if any.

          • Nick says:

            albatross,

            I would like to dub your argument “Pascal’s Veto.”

            In order to suppress any discussion you don’t want taking place, you claim that there is some small chance of an unthinkably horrible outcome if the discussion is allowed to proceed. Since even a small chance of an unthinkable outcome is really bad, we must immediately end the discussion.

            I can’t help but feel like there might be something unwise about accepting this as a general principle, however….

            Sounds right to me. I wasn’t endorsing its use; I just wanted Theresa’s actual position better understood. Reading it as “x will probably lead to y” is a serious misunderstanding.

        • dndnrsn says:

          @Theresa Klein

          Science insisting that a group is inferior usually follows bad stuff (enslavement, colonization, straight-up theft) being done to that group, rather than leading to it. People don’t need much more of a reason to beat someone up and take their stuff than the victims having nice stuff; they do however want justifications after the fact so they can feel that they were in the right, and not just the sort of people who beat people up and take their stuff because they can. In the case of slavery in the US, it predates the racist pseudoscience that was used to justify it. There were also other justifications for slavery and colonialism that didn’t involve scientific claims.

          • Theresa Klein says:

            I don’t know if there’s enough historical precedence to say “usually” about any of this, but in either case, maybe some of the current “science” on racial differences in intelligence really is just a subtle mechanism to justify the 1960s to present-day socio-economic exclusion of blacks. I’ve heard enough people say essentially that the science proves that the outcome differences aren’t caused by discrimination, therefore, discrimination should be totally okay, to notice that there’s a certain circularity about that.

          • dndnrsn says:

            All I know is the undergrad-level version, which is that Europeans didn’t start positing major differences between Europeans and non-Europeans (as opposed to differences between smaller groups; eg an Englishman would of course think an Egyptian is different, but so’s a Frenchman) until the point where due to some historical circumstance and a history of lucky breaks some European countries ended up in a very dominant position globally. I would agree that a good chunk of Horrible Banned Discourse is cart-follows-horse “the way things are is the way things should be naturally, actually” type stuff.

          • I’ve heard enough people say essentially that the science proves that the outcome differences aren’t caused by discrimination, therefore, discrimination should be totally okay, to notice that there’s a certain circularity about that.

            We may move in different circles–I’ve never heard anyone say that. If one cause of outcome differences is genetic, it does not follow that it is the only cause. And even if it is the only cause, it doesn’t follow that discrimination is OK. It could be a bad thing even if it didn’t result in lower average incomes for the targeted group.

            I don’t think there is any question but that there was discrimination against Jews in the U.S. in the first half of the 20th century, including discrimination in college admissions, but the outcome difference ended up positive rather than negative. Most people, I think, still believe it was a bad thing.

          • but in either case, maybe some of the current “science” on racial differences in intelligence really is just a subtle mechanism to justify the 1960s to present-day socio-economic exclusion of blacks.

            In which case the solution is to do the science right, not to suppress the conversation. Suppressing the conversation makes a lot more sense if the science really does support the position you don’t want people to believe.

        • AG says:

          People said the same thing as the reason why evolution shouldn’t be taught in schools instead of creationism. My own mom uses the “but teaching Darwin justifies social Darwinism” argument.

          Conservatives also believe that discussion of anything other than pure het marriages will lead to all sorts of horrible outcomes like dead children and the collapse of civilization, which is why no one should have any sex ed other than abstinence and gay people are the worst and trans people shouldn’t be in bathrooms.

          There is a reason slippery slope is usually a fallacy.

          Edit: wait, how has no one made a Roko joke yet? Where’s Musk/Grimes when you need them?

    • Are you proposing that we make discussions of Marxism taboo? That’s a set of ideas with a history of being associated with some of the largest atrocities in history. The connection between Marxist ideas and Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot is a great deal closer than the connection between the belief that different human groups have different distributions of heritable ability and southern slavery or the holocaust.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      This is an important point, and it deserves an answer, but I think answering it would be edgier than I’m willing to get. I have a very partial non-edgy answer at Part III here.

      But for now I would be happy if more people just admitted “Yes, we are silencing these opinions, and we believe that is correct”, instead of denying that it’s going on.

  50. dndnrsn says:

    Possibly relevant: the culture is more splintered; there’s more popular things, so it takes less for something to be popular. Consider the realm of TV shows: Back in the day when there were three channels or whatever far more people watched the top show than watch the top show today. I have met more people who disparage The Big Bang Theory than watch it, and have encountered more online who disparage it than watch it. Yet it has consistently been in the top 3 for years.

    Presumably, this carries out of entertainment TV. “More people dislike/hate than like/love this”, or “relatively few people like/love this” can coexist with “this is quite popular” and perhaps that is more the case now than in the past.

  51. Clarence says:

    The entire point of this post is not that the IDW is being silenced, which it is. It’s that it’s not completely being silenced. Their viewers still can find them. They just have to jump through hoops and are always at risk of being taken down by Youtube/Google/Facebook/Twitter/etc.

    A cartel of internet companies has achieved sufficient control over the social media platforms, search, hosting, DDOS-protection, and DNS services to be able to censor American political discourse. Although one could start an alternative site overseas, anyone excluded from a handful of American services and sites is effectively silenced, because the potential audiences have concentrated around the American businesses. Sure, you could start a site using Latvian hosting services on a Laotian domain, but if nobody can find your site by Google (censored out of the search rankings) or hear about it on Facebook/Twitter/Reddit (banned and scrubbed from the sites), you’ll never be able to reach an audience of any size; just being excluded from the big three (Twitter, Facebook/Instagram, and Google/YouTube) would be a major obstacle to most political messages. Some of the right have already been excluded from those companies’ platforms, and the opinion has arisen that such censorship is driven by SJW agendas pushed by the cartel of tech companies.

    They don’t feel the least bad when they censor. In their minds, they’re doing the right thing by protecting us from harmful ideas, which if listened to, might persuade people away from SJW ideas. They censor without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

  52. DocKaon says:

    At this point does SJW mean anything more than ungood for an increasingly reactionary rationalist community? Not that it was every anything more than an insult, but now it appears to just mean bad person who thinks discrimination exists in the world.

    • Lambert says:

      While I’m sure there’s plenty of reverse No True Scotsman going on, I’d say the main objections are authoritarianism and regarding privilege as Calvinist original sin.

    • Clarence says:

      It’s because SJWs get up to things like this: Classical Music’s White Male Supremacy is Overt, Pervasive, and a Problem

      Recognizing that Classical Music has implied White Supremacy for centuries is hard for those that study the art form. In fact, that correlating The Met’s continued programming of dead white men to the rise of White Supremacist tendencies in America is not a far stretch is starting to become apparent to those that follow and review the company’s season announcements.

      Knock that kind of thing off and SJWs can shake the doubleplus ungood label. But you won’t, though. It’s too set in stone at this point. You have serious, tenured professors writing books like this that make statements such as “the idea that objectivity is best reached only through rational thought is a specifically Western and masculine way of thinking”.

      How do you suggest I try and debate or talk to these people?

      • Theresa Klein says:

        Maybe the “SJWs” are just being edgelords on the other end of the overton window.

        • gbdub says:

          No, SJWs are explicitly attempting to narrow the Overton window. They may themselves be somewhat on the edge of it, but the desire to minimize the scope of allowable discourse is something that pretty much has to be included in any coherent definition of “SJW”.

          • Theresa Klein says:

            Well, the people saying “the idea that objectivity is best reached only through rational thought is a specifically Western and masculine way of thinking”, seem to be attempting to widen it, IMO.

          • gbdub says:

            So, an argument that anything “Western” and “masculine” is a priori problematic is trying to widen the scope of allowable discourse?

          • AG says:

            Yep, widening it leftward.

          • gbdub says:

            Someone who merely wants to expand things leftward, sure, no problem. It’s just that in practice I’ve usually seen that coupled with a push to shrink the right or even the middle portion of the window.

      • Iain says:

        This is a silly standard.

        According to their Facebook page, Scapi is “an arts magazine serving the Chicago area”. If I was allowed to cherry-pick the dumbest things said by people vaguely affiliated with your ideology in any venue larger than Scapi, and demand that you “knock that kind of thing off” before I was willing to treat your ideology as anything other than double-plus ungood, you would quite reasonably blow me off.

        The idea that an ideology can be rejected if any of its proponents — or even its most prominent representatives — say a dumb thing is obviously false in the general case. Conservatives on SSC are not regularly held to account for the Latest Dumb Thing said by Donald Trump or Rush Limbaugh. That would clearly be tedious and unfair.

        We are capable of separating the precepts of conservatism from the people who make authoritarian statements about how to implement those precepts. Why isn’t the same true for “SJWs”?

        • Thegnskald says:

          I suspect you would be less than sanguine about an openly racist professor teaching Horrible Banned Discourse to students as fact. No?

          • Iain says:

            Depends on what you mean by “Horrible Banned Discourse”, obviously, but sure: there are things that a teacher could say that I would oppose, in the same way that I would oppose the teaching of intelligent design.

            Nevertheless, I wouldn’t try to claim that the existence of this teacher proved that entire ideologies could be safely dismissed as double-plus ungood.

        • Clarence says:

          It wasn’t calling out Scapi in particular. It’s SJW thought in general. SJWs say dumb things all the time; it’s central to their ideology. These thoughts come out everywhere SJWs dominate. Here’s a Yale student expressing her need to be “safe” from Halloween costumes. Look at how self-righteous they get and watch the crowd applaud. Look on the expressions of the students in the background, they’re in favor of this. @6:00 student points her finger and screams, “BE QUIET!” at him. This is Yale, by the way. This is where our next generation of leaders will come from, unfortunately.

          New research indicates education – long thought to decrease prejudice – is actually increasing prejudice and lessening tolerance. SJWs have an inchoate theory of mind. They literally do not understand that their thoughts and beliefs and preferences are not universal, so they perceive their judgments to be features of the world rather than features of themselves.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m finding myself wanting to taboo “SJW” here and understand what group we’re really talking about. Sort of the way I’d like to understand whether alt-right means “Anyone who voted for Trump” or “those guys in Nazi uniforms marching in Charlottesville” before I have a strong opinion on the movement.

          • Iain says:

            SJWs say dumb things all the time; it’s central to their ideology.

            No, “SJWs” say dumb things all the time because they are people, and people say dumb things all the time.

            A conservative would not accept an assessment of conservatism that said “Dumb things are central to conservatism. Here, I pulled up a video of a Trump rally. Proof! The Deplorables have an inchoate theory of mind!”

            You would not accept an assessment of an ideology that you supported that said “Dumb things are central to Clarence’s ideology. Here, I pulled up a video of a university student saying a dumb thing! Proof! Clarence-ites have an inchoate theory of mind!”

            This is sloppy tribal thinking. You’re just looking for excuses to dismiss the other tribe, without having to engage with any good arguments on that side.

            We can and should do better.

            @albatross11:

            Yeah, that’s precisely the problem. “SJW” is used on SSC in the same way that “alt-right” is used in places SSC likes to complain about.

          • albatross11 says:

            Where would I look for an accessible, high-quality version of SJW ideas?

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s not hard to find high-quality or accessible, but it’s hard to find both at once. The theoretical background for SJW ideas comes mostly out of Michel Foucault, the Frankfurt Circle, and friends, and those guys were… not exactly aiming for accessibility.

          • christianschwalbach says:

            Im sure mr “Badgerpundit” on you tube is a totally unbiased source…

    • Scott Alexander says:

      For a while I used “person who does activism about feminism and antiracism from a particular set of philosophical precommitments”, but having a three letter version seems better. Are you arguing people should use some other term (if so, what?), or that nobody should talk about this cluster at all?

      • yodelyak says:

        Not the OP, but I like using phrases like “mind-killed identity politics left-wing” (bad SJW) and “person concerned with harmful prejudices and with inequality in society” (good SJW).

        Maybe “Jesuit-type social justice concerns for the poor/downtrodden” as distinct from “Occupy’s SJW-type hatred for the rich/privileged.”

        I admit these are not 3-letter labels.

      • tcheasdfjkl says:

        “SJW” is basically a pejorative exonym for the group, so every time you use it you’re signaling hostility and contempt. I agree “social justice” is a good umbrella word for the ideology, though; maybe “social justice people” for the actual people involved?

        • AG says:

          The weekly charity soup kitchen at a local church has its schedule posted under the “Social Justice” portion of the bulletin board, next to the flyers for anti-domestic abuse resources.

        • gbdub says:

          The problem with that is that it is perfectly possible to be an advocate for social justice causes without engaging in the anti-rational sorts of tactics that earned the “warrior” part of the label.

          And in fact I think it’s beneficial to draw a sharp line between “social justice advocates” and “social justice warriors”. The former have positions I might disagree with but hold and advocate them honestly and in a way that enlivens the marketplace of ideas. The latter seeks to purge society of wrongthink by any means necessary.

        • Clarence says:

          Seen recently on Reddit:

          Someone please explain to me why I wouldn’t want to be a Social Justice Warrior? It sounds badass and amazing.

          • Baeraad says:

            Whomever came up with the term wasn’t particularly good at coming up with insults, it can’t be denied…

            I would compare it with feminists using “Nice Guy” as an insult, but actually, no, even that makes for a better insult. Being called a warrior is inherently flattering, but being called nice sounds kind of like you’re being damned with faint praise even before you add the sarcasm. A sad state on either our culture or human nature itself, that.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I’ve seen people be pleased to call themselves SJWs.

        • Sniffnoy says:

          I just say “SJers” when I want a neutral term.

      • Nornagest says:

        I usually use something along the lines of “the social justice movement” or “community” or etc. when I care about signaling to people in that community that I’m not just trying to shit on them, but I’m not sure it’s buying me anything. The impression I get is that social justice enthusiasts generally don’t believe that such a community exists, and that they’re united not by a set of cultural tropes but by being Decent Human Beings.

      • ManyCookies says:

        SJW is too pejorative for that umbrella at this point. Do like… I dunno, social justice movement?

      • Error says:

        An acquaintance once suggested the phrase “Neo-Puritan”, though I don’t think he originated it. I think it captures some of the essence of the objection to the ugly side of the SJ movement (weaponized shaming and toxic santimony), and leaves out the accident (the egalitarian ideology).

        (As a bonus it points towards one of my small wishful-thinking never-going-to-happen fantasies where the SJW left and the religious right notice their shared interest in social control, realign themselves in a new party, and leave everybody else to form a coalition party that might be sane enough to vote for.)

        The context was some friends of mine objecting to the conflation of the two. Most of my social circle is well on the SJ left, and don’t like its idiot wing being used to weakman the movement as a whole.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      “Social-justice warrior” was originally a laudatory phrase. That’s more than you can say for “reactionary”.

    • Thegnskald says:

      It is much more specific than that.

      The “warrior” part is the key part of the acronym.

      (I am basically a communist, and I see them as a problem. Partly because this is the group that told me, in not so many words, “Stop talking about being raped because women raping men isn’t a social problem and you’re just trolling”, and partly because I have gotten fed up with identity politics being used by corporations to advance their interests at the expense of the lower class, and again partly because 99% of identity politics is just classism.)

      • AG says:

        An alternative term proposed at one point was “Keyboard warrior,” which could be amended to “leftist keyboard warrior” to differentiate them from a rightist one. I like this, since the term makes it more clear that the person talks the talk (types the type?) but doesn’t walk the walk.

        • gbdub says:

          It extends beyond the keyboard though, unless you don’t think Antifa or the people who mobbed Charles Murray fall under the “SJW” umbrella.

  53. 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.

        • gbdub says:

          “The state will not contract with companies who boycott Israel” is still very different from “it is illegal to boycott Israel”.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Only if you narrowly define “institutional power” to mean “the presidency,” and exclude the universities, the news media, the entertainment media, the entire primary education system, and the HR departments of every corporation. Which is essentially all institutional power that matters to people in their day-to-day lives.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Even with Republican control of the three branches of government, they still haven’t got much through. If you can’t build a goddamn wall(which wasn’t a radical suggestion until three years ago) then how much institutional power do you really have?

  54. 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.

  55. 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.

  56. 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.

  57. 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.

  58. 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.

  59. 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.

  60. 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.

  61. 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.

  62. 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.

  63. 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.

  64. Walter says:

    You’ve tagged this ‘Things I will Regret Writing’, but I really hope you don’t. This needed to get written.

  65. 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?

    • Bugmaster says:

      Nowadays, I just assume that any typos in Scott’s posts are deliberate gotchas of the the repeated word variety. Perhaps that was his master plan all along…

    • Aapje says:

      @thedufer

      The IDW is working on separate institutions to form their own pillar.

      We will have Paetron, Youtoob, The The Washington Post, etc.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Good catch.

      Copy-pasted it verbatim, noticed their typo, tried to correct it, apparently screwed up my correction.

    • christianschwalbach says:

      Petersons’ Patreon= Pateron

  66. 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.)

  67. 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.

  68. 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.

  69. 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!”

  70. nilkadnaquada says: