THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Open Thread 114.75

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

1,045 Responses to Open Thread 114.75

  1. Machine Interface says:

    Re: elements of “globalist” culture that are distinctly not American in origin.

    I’ve been trying to compile a list of such thing based on my own intuitions and asking some people around. It’s basically cultural items or concepts that you’d expect to be able to find in most big cities around the world and/or that you’d expect most educated/higher middle class people regardless of their country to be at least passively familiar with.

    Feel free to suggest more items/contest the items I’ve indexed so far.

    Andersen’s fairy tales.

    The Adventures of Pinocchio.

    Association football and most other sports with a strong international presence.

    Belgian, Swiss and Italian chocolate and confectionery (both artisanal and industrial).

    Black pepper and salt.

    British “popular” literature; JRR Tolkien, Arthur Conan Doyle, Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, Roald Dahl, JM Barrie, CS Lewis, HG Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, JK Rowling…

    Card and domino games. While local rules can varry enormously, we find the same families of games (trick-taking, ladder-climbing, fishing, etc) played all over the world.

    Chess; similarly: Checkers, Backgammon (though rulesets are less unified), and to a lesser degree, Mancala, Mah-Jong, Go.

    Cinnamon.

    Coffee and tea.

    East Asian food, notably Chinese and Japanese food (particularly sushi, but also instant noodles), as well as Korean, Thai and Vietanemese food to a lesser degree.

    European board games.

    European soft drinks like Orangina or Schweppes.

    French and Belgian comics.

    French or Belgian food items including bread, cheese, crepes, croissants, waffles…

    French and Italian languages’ significant contributions to international vocabulary, in the domains of arts, sciences, cuisine and politics.

    French “popular” literature: Jules Verne, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Alexandre Dumas, Jean de La Fontaine, Victor Hugo…

    French wine and champagne.

    The Grimms’ Fairy Tales.

    Haruki Murakami.

    Hello Kitty.

    Hindo-Arabic numerals.

    Indian-Pakistani food.

    Japanese video games, anime and manga.

    Latin alphabet; “default” writing system in many technical domains and in advertising/branding even in many countries where the main language uses another writing system.

    Latin-American folk music and dances, most notably tango and rumba (which are themselves the product of the admixture of many different traditions from various countries).

    Licit and illicit recreative substances; alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, cocaine, heroin, LSD, metamphetamine…

    The Matter of Britain.

    Mediterrenean food, including pizza, paella, kebab/shawarma, fallafels, hummus, greek yoghurt…

    Mexican food.

    The One Thousand and One Nights.

    Public museums and public libraries.

    Pre-European New World crops, notably potatoes, tomatoes, corn and chili pepper.

    Pretzels.

    Robin Hood.

    Shakespeare.

    Western music; this includes western classical music corresponding to the Common Practice Period, western systems of tuning, harmony and musical notation, western technical innovations on various instruments such as keys (clarinet, saxophone, concert flute), valves (trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn, etc), western-style free reeds (harmonica, accordion — the latter in particular displaced a huge number of traditional instruments in many countries during the 19th century), not to mention the industrial development of better metallurgy techniques which allowed the evolution of the piano in its modern form; the western violin has often displaced more traditional bowed instruments even within their own associated traditional genre of music. Guitars. Classical dance, ballet, waltz.

    • Nornagest says:

      Chinese food was discussed in the last thread, but lots of food tells a similar story. Sushi in its international form (or, at least, as I’ve seen it across the US and in the Philippines) is as American as it is Japanese, for example; elaborate maki rolls, especially, are a Japanese-American invention, with a half-dozen sushi joints in California claiming to have invented the California roll. Mexican food, too: its roots lie in Northern Mexico (Southern Mexican food is very different), but the modern burrito was invented in the Mission District of San Francisco.

      • Machine Interface says:

        Well again with the nuance that you won’t necessarily find the american variations outside of America — as far as I can tell most Japanese restaurant in France serve “normal” maki rolls; the only time I’ve seen californian rolls is in a sushi recipe book…translated from English.

        • Nornagest says:

          What’s a normal maki roll to you? I’ve never had sushi in Europe, but if the rice is on the outside, then it’s Americanized — that’s meant to hide the seaweed. Avocado, salmon, or crab salad as an ingredient is often a tell, too.

          • Machine Interface says:

            Yeah I’ve never had one with rice on the outside. And the ingredients are usually exclusively fish. And in fact in France they aren’t even served as “rolls” – you order sets of (multiple of) 6 pieces, typically.

          • Nornagest says:

            And in fact in France they aren’t even served as “rolls” – you order sets of (multiple of) 6 pieces, typically.

            It’s like that in the States, too, unless you order temaki, which are kind of like ice-cream cones full of rice and fish (and fairly rare these days). Thin rolls with few ingredients and the nori on the outside does sound traditional, though.

          • Robert Jones says:

            Where I come from (London), a roll with the rice on the outside is an inside-out roll.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Although this is true re: Mexican food, I’m inordinately proud of the fact that every chili in the world, across hundreds of cuisines and cultures, ultimately comes from Mexico. It’s an accomplishment matched by nothing else I’m aware of – nor rice, onion, potatoes, or maize – let alone a spice – has had such astonishing success.

        Note that I am excluding salt here, as its extraction and use don’t, to my knowledge, come from anywhere in particular.

        • vV_Vv says:

          It’s an accomplishment matched by nothing else I’m aware of – nor rice, onion, potatoes, or maize – let alone a spice – has had such astonishing success.

          I would say that black pepper (India) is a more ubiquitus spice than chili. Sugar is also ubiquitus, and it’s mostly made either from sugarcane (S.E. Asia) or sugar beet (Europe). Cocoa though is Mesoamerican.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            That’s an interesting comparison. I might actually buy the sugar one – I’m much less sure on black pepper.

      • Brad says:

        I’m interested to see how Korean food ends up getting Americanized. The BBQ is an obvious candidate flavor-wise but it’s pretty unwieldy in terms of running a restaurant (compare the number of hibachi restaurants to sushi restaurants).

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Some “globalist” culture came from the British Empire, not the United States. But as Nornagest said, “globalist” food is more American than you think.
      Also, France has been having a go of exporting its culture: the metric system, the French language in its former colonies, Vietnamese baguette sandwiches, the strongly anti-Church version of liberalism, etc.

      • Nornagest says:

        Indian food is kind of like Vietnamese food: the international version isn’t particularly traditional, but its Western influence is primarily British, not American. And it spread further from there: the Japanese got their curry from the Brits, making it a copy of a copy. (It’s also one of the few Japanese dishes that I can’t stand, although I like the Indian version and tolerate the British one.)

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Yes, yes, exactly. And Indians and Pakistanis play soccer and cricket.
          The British Empire laid a lot of groundwork that was convenient for corporations in the biggest Anglophone country to piggyback on.

      • Machine Interface says:

        Oh yeah I mean, that’s not a problem in my equation. It’s like how “Chess” is an indian game in origin, but the international version everyone plays was codified in Spain, Italy, and then France a bit later.

        A lot of globalist culture is indeed western infused, no problem here — it’s just not necessarily specifically american infused (although it often is).

    • Chalid says:

      The most important one is probably the English language.

      • 10240 says:

        I think American economic strength and culture was the most important factor in making it a global lingua franca, except in areas of the former British Empire.

        • Chalid says:

          The British commonwealth has 2.3 billion people. And many, perhaps most, of the people who learn English as a second language learn British English. (People in Europe all learn British English, while Asia is split.)

          • 10240 says:

            My teacher (in Hungary) often showed us both British and American spellings, I don’t know what less conscientious teachers teach.

            The main question regarding my comment is which country is the reason most of us learn English in school as a foreign language, Britain or the US. Which variety of English is taught in school doesn’t necessarily answer that question.

        • jhertzlinger says:

          The phrase “lingua franca” is an illustration of the ability of English to assimilate phrases from other languages and make them part of its own.

          Resistance is futile.

          • vV_Vv says:

            The phrase “lingua franca”

            Which, ironically, is the Latin for “French language”.

          • Lillian says:

            Even more ironically, the original lingua franca wasn’t French, it was Italian. Specifically Northern Italian mixed with Occitan and Catalan, both of which are more related to Spanish than they are to French. However it also had elements Central and Southern Italian, Berber, Arabic, and Greek. Later on it incorporated some Turkish, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. The core however was always the Gallo-Italic with Gallo-Narbonese.

          • Machine Interface says:

            This might confuse the effect for the cause though. Any language can and will absorb a lot of loanwords unless it is completely isolated geographically or its speakers make deliberate efforts to avoid loanwords in favor of native coinages instead (so Icelandic people don’t use a “telefon”, they use a “sími”, a word derivated from an archaic Norse word “síma” which simply meant “cord”, “rope”).

            It is not because English has a lot of loanwords* that English is the modern lingua franca: it is because it is the modern lingua franca that it has a lot of loan words. Its status as an international language exposes it to many other languages and has it used by speakers from many different background, so of course this seeps back into English.

            It’s similar to how, after the Roman conquest of the Gauls, we suddenly see a number of Gaulish loanwords pop up into late Latin. Then, a millenium later, when Medieval Latin was the first language of no one but the lingua franca of everyone, we find a language that is choke full of loanwords coming directly from the first languages of its european speakers — Cicero would have been quite puzzled in front of Medieval Latin words like “baro” (baron), “burgus” or “feudum”, all of Frankish origin.

            *: as I always say though, English has a lot of loanwords, and English has loanwords from a lot of languages, but english doesn’t have a lot of loanwords from a lot of languages. That is, the vast majority of loanwords in English come from French, Latin, Greek or other Germanic languages, leaving only 6% of loanwords from all other languages. English only borrows a handful of terms from most languages, and those loans tend to be found in other languages anyway (Nahuatl gave English “potato”, “tomato”, “chili”, “cocoa” and “chocolate” — but most other languages have those words too).

          • vV_Vv says:

            It is not because English has a lot of loanwords* that English is the modern lingua franca: it is because it is the modern lingua franca that it has a lot of loan words.

            English got lots of loanwords way before it was the modern lingua franca and in fact pretty much from the beginning, since it originated as a pidginization of Anglo-Saxon (a West Germanic language) with Britonic (a Celtic language) and Latin. Then it got further influences from Old Norse (East Germanic) and Old Norman (Romance with Frankish influences).

          • Machine Interface says:

            Sure but these Latin and French loanwords found their way into most European languages. It’s just that during the era of national awakening, many of these languages deliberatedly tried to get rid of their loanwords to make their vocabulary more native. German used to have a lor more French loanwords, which were then replaced by native coinages in the 19th century.

            I may be wrong but it seems to me that when people highlight the friendliness of English toward loanwords, they’re not just talking about French and Latin, but about all the relatively recent loanwords borrowed from Nahuatl, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic, Russian, Yiddish, German, Hindustani and what have you.

            (Also, the influence of Celtic languages over English is probably overstated; the core vocabularly and grammar of English are overwhemingly Germanic, with very few words or structures that can be pointed out as borrowed from a Celtic substrate).

          • A1987dM says:

            Sure but these Latin and French loanwords found their way into most European languages.

            The amount of French loanwords in English is vast, like, about 50% of the vocabulary — I doubt other Germanic languages ever came close to that. There are plenty of French loanwords in English for everyday concepts for which German, Dutch, etc. use Germanic words, e.g. “air”, “art”, “science” — and glancing at Wiktionary it doesn’t seem to me like “Luft” or “Kunst” or “Wissenschaft” are deliberate 19th-century coinages in order to replace them.

        • Simulated Knave says:

          There are two questions. First, WHEN English became the global lingua franca. Because up until about 1925, the British Empire was 25%-odd of the global population. Even now, I think it’s fair to say Indians learn English not because of America, but because of England. As someone else mentioned, the Commonwealth contains 2.3 billion people. Dismissing that overlooks something extremely important.

          The guy who wrote Three Men in a Boat commented on the growing prevalence of English as an international language in the late nineteenth century, and that was at least as much Britain as America. He blamed the English tourist’s complete unwillingness to learn any other language. Anecdotal, but still interesting, and I think a serious sign the process was well underway even then.

          US population only surpassed the English population in the late nineteenth century (and still hasn’t surpassed the population of the Empire, let alone the former Empire). The US economy only really started beating England’s very shortly before the First World War. Basically, if it was the lingua franca before about 1930, I think it’s fair to give the British most of the credit. Note that the Treaty of Versailles was signed in English in 1919 – before then everything was signed in French. To me, that strongly suggests that the change had happened before then.

          The other question is what you mean by lingua franca. In the sense of “if you learn it, you can go to any country and manage”, I think the British deserve more credit. In the terms of its utter social dominance, the Americans played a huge role, though it is a little chicken-and-egg (would it have worked as well if the British hadn’t already done a lot to lay the groundwork?).

          • 10240 says:

            WHEN English became the global lingua franca.

            Here in Europe, my impression is since WWII. Before then, French and German (the latter in Central Europe) were as important. (My point is not that German being spoken in most of Central Europe made German a global lingua franca, but that there was no global lingua franca in the sense English is today if, in a large region of Europe, most people who knew a foreign language spoke German and not English.) I may be wrong, though.

          • Simulated Knave says:

            @10240

            See, to me, if German and French and English were all equally successful in Europe pre-WWII, then that strongly suggests English was already the global lingua franca at that point. Post-WWII is just Europe recognizing what had already happened.

            Consider this – German was the language of everywhere there were Germans (which is most of Central Europe – it makes sense for Austria and its empire, Germany and its empire, etc). French was the language of diplomacy throughout Europe and had been for centuries. English, meanwhile, has no particular reason to be used in Central Europe – which to me suggests that even at that point it was already demonstrably the global lingua franca. It just wasn’t as dominant about it as it has since become.

          • cassander says:

            Because up until about 1925, the British Empire was 25%-odd of the global population.

            This is true, but 4/5s of them were indian, only a tiny fraction of whom learned english.

            The US economy only really started beating England’s very shortly before the First World War.

            When the US starts “beating” the english economy sort of depends on how you measure.

            US GDP pulls even with the UK around 1870, when the population of the countries are about 31 million for the UK and 41 million for the US.

            US per capita GDP hits parity around 1890, while the populations have grown to 37 million and 63 million, meaning that over those 20 years, the UK GDP has grown by about 50% while the US GDP has more than doubled.

            By 1913, the population is 40 million and 98 million. US per capita GDP is about 7% higher than the UK’s. By 1929, US per capita GDP is 25% higher, and it’s 40% higher by 1950.

            Basically, if it was the lingua franca before about 1930, I think it’s fair to give the British most of the credit. Note that the Treaty of Versailles was signed in English in 1919 – before then everything was signed in French. To me, that strongly suggests that the change had happened before then.

            The traditional date for the ascendency of English is the paris peace conference after ww1. I can’t recall if the formal treaty document was in french or english (I’d bet french) but I believe that the english language version was given co-equal legal status. And at the conference in general, english was spoken much more than french was by the delegates.

          • US GDP pulls even with the UK around 1870, when the population of the countries are about 31 million for the UK and 41 million for the US.

            At a tangent …

            Adam Smith, commenting on the American revolution, suggested that if the U.K. was not willing to let the colonies go they should offer them seats in parliament proportional to their contribution to the Imperial revenues. He then casually added that, if that was done, in about a century the capital would move to the New World.

            Published in 1776.

          • 10240 says:

            Simulated Knave My impression English was less common in Central Europe than German (rather than equally common), again, I may be wrong.

    • AppetSci says:

      Modern pop music?

      “The formula of successful pop music (of the past 20 years in particular) is no secret. Everything seems to go back to Abba. Abba in it’s time and to this date did something wild when it comes to the structure of modern pop. It revolutionized the concept of “producing” music that is formulaic, catchy and cross-cultural. A Swedish band became a global product not only because of the talent involved, (especially in production) but because of the business acumen of those involved. The Abba generation spawned a revolution in Scandinavian music production that was designed for a global audience; they put their heads together to create American pop music as we know it. A handful of middle aged Swedes and Norwegians and their American understudies have created pretty much every song that is “pop” in the United States. Karl Martin Sandberg, Stargate and their understudies like Esther Dean and some others will account for something like 60% or more of the songs in the US top 10 at any given moment.”

      • acymetric says:

        Well, it depends a bit on what definition of “pop” you are using. In some contexts it is used to describe basically any music that isn’t…”classical” (for lack of a better word) so includes a lot more than what you find charting on Billboard. As an example, in that usage Metallica, Iron Maiden, Mastadon (ick), Parliament, Tool, and Primus would all be “pop” (I was trying to think of the least “poppy” sounding bands I could).

        • AppetSci says:

          I’m guessing Metallica et al would be classed as “rock” even though they feature in the “pop” charts. Maybe the best description for the “poppy” sound would be “commercial pop”.

      • John Schilling says:

        I’m pretty sure ABBA doesn’t go anywhere without Phil Spector. And ’80s pop music without the ABBA influence would be different, but ’80s pop without the Wall of Sound would be unrecognizable.

        More generally, pop artists are almost interchangeable, it’s how you produce and market them that matters. The US and UK music industries have long set the standard in that regard, I believe.

    • AppetSci says:

      Burgers (Germany), Fries (Belgium), Pizza (Italy) have all been brought over to America by European immigrants, then appropriated(?) cheapened, repackaged, marketed globally and sold to the world as American fast food.

      • 10240 says:

        I don’t know to what extent pizza was spread to the rest of the world through America, rather than directly from Italy and Europe. I guess it came to at least part of Europe directly from Italy (though significantly changed, just like in America), in the rest of the world it’s more likely through America. Also not sure if American style pizza is cheaper than Italian style; in Italy, a cheap pizza (that serves one person) starts from around €5.

        • AppetSci says:

          I think if you ask most people worldwide what’s on a pepperoni pizza, you’ll get small American salami, not Italian bell peppers. Pizza hut is a global business and frozen pizzas I think are a more American invention than Italian, but I think Italy probably did export before American corps got involved.

          By cheaper, I mean lacking the artisanal style and tradition of Italian pizza (which I agree can be really cheap (not in Milan, but in Sicily definitely). The industrialisation of the process by a corporation, mass manufacturing, using bleached flour and processed cheese.

          • 10240 says:

            I think if you ask most people worldwide what’s on a pepperoni pizza, you’ll get small American salami, not Italian bell peppers.

            In the English-speaking world, maybe. In the rest of the world, many people probably won’t know (or guess bell peppers based on the sound of it).

            In Hungary we have a few Pizza Huts which are a clearly distinguishable style from other pizzerias which mostly belong to local chains and are somewhere between American and Italian style (with a few close to the Italian).

          • Winter Shaker says:

            I think if you ask most people worldwide what’s on a pepperoni pizza, you’ll get small American salami, not Italian bell peppers.

            Huh. I was caught out by that in the Netherlands recently. Still not sure what I should have asked for if I wanted what I think of as a pepperoni pizza. The menu listed ‘salami’ but for me that implies slices of a larger-diameter, coarser-textured sausage.

        • Basil Elton says:

          +1 to AppetSci’s point from experience in Russia. Me and most of my friends there whom I asked were genuinely surprised to learn that “true” Italian pizza has a thick crust, and thin crust is New York style pizza.

          • 10240 says:

            Huh? I live in Italy, and the typical pizza has a thin crust, except those rectangular ones sold by slice. Whereas Hungarian Pizza Hut sells much thicker ones.

          • Basil Elton says:

            @10240

            All I can say in my defense is that I’ve heard it from another person from Italy, and for the New York one I checked myself. I think by this point I’ll just give up, admit that I don’t know a shit about cooking and start referring to pizzas as thick- or thin-crusted, keeping toponyms for places on the map.

    • helloo says:

      I think you’ll need to be much more specific in both definition and scale.

      How far are you going to stretch the “distinctly in origin” part?

      As in, there’s various comments regarding foods that are distinctly non-American in a cultural sense might have American origins – ie. fortune cookies.
      However, you haven’t noted if that is a valid complaint in the first place. Most people would still consider fortune cookies non-American regardless of their actual origin.

      What about things that are largely (globalist) cultural because of America influence?
      Chop suey is mixed in that it is at best a local poor man’s cuisine that changed greatly to become a staple Chinese-American dish.
      Ketchup is another where they might have had a past link to Asian fish based sauces but tomato based ones originated and spread from America.
      Japanese animation was originally inspired by Disney art (particularly it’s large eyes and distinct movements).

      How far are you going to stretch the “culture” part?

      Famous non-American people and other various historical places and events?
      Vampires and other mythological creatures and beings?
      What about governments or languages?
      There’s also complications like mafia which are mixed in both the “traditional” Godfatherish mafia is Italian but there’s plenty of American prohibition style mafia elements in the connotation too.

      It might be an idea to see what each “cultural group” (like food, media, technology, etc.) has American and non-American elements, but you’ll need a lot more stricter definitions to be both practical and definable.

    • zqed says:

      I did a quick Facebook chat survey on 6 European friends (2 Italian, 1 German, 3 Hungarian) this morning. All of them university-educated, middle class men with a decent command of the English language. Your prediction was accurate, most of them were indeed familiar with the majority of these items. Notable exceptions:

      – Haruki Murakami. None of them knew the name, and none could identify any of his works.

      – Indian/Pakistani food. All of them claimed that they never had it, and none could name any representative dishes.

      – Roald Dahl. None of them knew the name. After prompting, most of them recognized “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” as a title, but were not familiar with the plot; they did not recognize “Matilda” at all.

      – Backgammon. The Hungarians were not aware of the game.

      • Machine Interface says:

        Well, the problem with “backgammon” is that variants of the game played in different countries typically have a local name more in the guise of “tabla” or “tavla”. A bit of research for Hungarian suggests “ostábla” (but it’s well possible that the game isn’t out of fashion in Hungary and thus not recognized by most people).

    • vV_Vv says:

      Off the top of my head:

      – Male suits (Victorian Britain)

      – Pajamas (India)

      – Boxing / Martial arts (Europe, Asia, South America)

      – Countless scientific discoveries and technological innovations

      – All major religions religions other than Christianity

      – Any language with >~ 50 million native speakers

      Btw, If you are going to include things that are ancestral to the American culture such as the Latin alphabet and the Indo-Arabic numerals, then you should also include:

      – The English language

      – The Gregorian calendar, week/hour/minute/second time units

      – Christianity (unless explicitely banned)

      – De jure (if not de facto) Westphalian sovereignty

      – Written laws, courts

      – Professional law enforcement and military

      – Professional government officials

      Human universals

    • b_jonas says:

      The Harry Potter books. David Morgan-Mar claims that they are elements of global cuture “http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/3285.html”.

    • Fitzroy says:

      Some additional thoughts for your list:

      Telephones
      Postage stamps
      Christmas / Valentine’s cards
      Penicillin
      Pencils
      The eradication of smallpox.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      tobacco

      I thought that was approximately as American as apple pie. Why does it make the list here?

      • Machine Interface says:

        Different meaning of “American”, native-american vs Usan. When I say “not american”, I meant the latter. Hamburgers are american because they were invented in the US. Tobacco is not “american” because it was invented hundreds of years before the US were a thing, and was diffused into the world before US culture went into existence (and its diffusers weren’t even English).

        • vV_Vv says:

          Hamburgers are american because they were invented in the US.

          Sort of. It’s speculated that hamburgers were first served on the ships of the Hamburg America Line, a German-owned transatlantic shipping enterprise.

        • John Schilling says:

          I would think that “American” in this context would have to include everything that was incorporated into the USA in 1776 regardless of which group of proto-Americans brought it to the current state. Otherwise we risk a standard where e.g. pizza doesn’t count as an Italian contribution to global culture because it predates Garibaldi.

          And even post-1776, things that were introduced to global culture, primarily through American cultural fusion, probably count as American. Same deal everywhere else there is cultural fusion going on.

          • Machine Interface says:

            While this is true, as far as I can tell the center of Tobacco culture when Europeans arrived was in Mexico, and it’s mostly the Spanish who brought it back to the Old World.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Hoopyfreud touches on this point early, but salt isn’t a part of culture, any more than ‘beathing air’ is a part of culture. Salt is a basic part of human survival.

      America is merely the most recent superpower. We weren’t even all that until about 110-120 years ago – long after “global culture” already existed. Global culture doesn’t get replaced by the most recent superpower, unless they are far, far more empire-minded than we ever were.

  2. Bamboozle says:

    I wanted to discuss a thought i’ve been mulling for a couple years that was brought up in the recent post on preschool. Namely the comment by Mr Doolittle and particularly the second point he made about how openly saying we are removing children from poor environments would be insulting and incredibly taboo, but essentially that is what we are doing and we just don’t talk about it.

    If any of you are familiar with playing MOBA’s you’ll know that there is often a back and forth within communities on how ranking systems should work. Hardcore fans often want a straight number or ELO and developers want to disguise this number with tiers so as not to be discouraging to people in lower ranks. When i played League of Legends regularly i was quite proud (at the time and in hindsight what a waste of time) to be in the top 5% of players. At the same time i could see on forums and other channels people claiming to be high elo giving endless grief to everyone below maybe the top 40%. Given the majority of the playerbase is bronze rank, bronzies was a typical insult. It made me think about the toxicity of the scene and ask myself why would anyone who wasn’t super good at this game stick around?

    I’ve often had this thought with professions that openly have leader boards (like i believe surgeons do?) where they rank everyone in the place in order of how good they are, and think if you were below average why would you stick around? Surely you’d leave and go somewhere else if you were repeatedly able to see exactly how unexceptional you are. Extending this to life in general, i know when i’m distinctly aware i’m pretty crap at something, i remind myself that i’m good at plenty of other things and my self esteem isn’t usually that affected. But then without going in to detail i know, as i’m sure many here are as well, i’m objectively pretty smart and successful relative to the average population.

    What about those who are objectively pretty crap at everything they try? How do people on the bottom of the “ELO curve of life”, i.e. those who statistically must exist who are just objectively pretty crap at everything, motivate themselves to get through every day? My answer is they just must not think about it and will have developed coping mechanisms, or they’d inevitably get depressed. If you were cursed by some ancient deity to just be terrible at everything you tried to do, would you not feel immensely suicidal?

    In a long-winded way i think what i’m trying to say is that sometimes having the “truth” open and available for all to see is a net-negative in terms of overall happiness for humans. We need lies to some degree in order for society to exist. Everyone wants to believe they are special. In this case, maybe trying to ascertain whether pre-school is marginally beneficial or marginally negative or whatever is wrapped up in political issues that are too uncomfortable for us as a population to admit, as Mr Doolittle said. We need ways to help those in “bronze tier of life” without coming outright and saying it as that would have the opposite effect and breed resentment. Case and point, when players in league aren’t at the tier they STRONGLY BELIEVE they should be, they often troll other players as a way to regaining control in a way. I believe the same applies in life as well.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      We need ways to help those in “bronze tier of life” without coming outright and saying it as that would have the opposite effect and breed resentment

      Help them to do what? That’s the great question of the industrial age, isn’t it? When education was made nearly universally-available for religious reasons, those who were too dumb for school could still be farmers, same as their ancestors for thousands of years. And before there were farmers, every woman was a gatherer and every man a hunter, and you didn’t need preschool to prepare you for 13 years of sitting in classrooms for that.

      • albatross11 says:

        How about trying to build our society so that people in the bronze tier, or even the lead tier, have a path to a basically rewarding and good life? That doesn’t mean everyone needs to become a dot com billionaire or an investment banker or something, it just means that there needs to be some way to live a rewarding life when you’re of average intelligence and talents.

        • Walter says:

          That is mad hard though. Like, how does that society look? Let me do the Feinmann thing and consider a concrete example so I can visualize what you mean.

          Consider Kelly. She’s a cousin of mine, lives in London. Never had a job in her life, everything paid for by our family or the gov (combination of the dole and a fake disability). Educated to the high school level, but just screwed around and didn’t pay any attention, so knows less than that would suggest.

          She’s got 4 kids, by 4 dudes, raising them how she was raised (none of the dudes are in the picture, the notion that they would be would strike her as ridiculous). She abuses pot, alcohol and prescription drugs, been to the hospital a few times for the reasons that that kind of lifestyle lends itself to.

          I don’t know of any hobbies or passions that she has, aside from self medicating, being around her kids and dunking on folks on social media. She used to go clubbing, but she’s a bit old for that now, mostly just stays in.

          So, what would it look like to help her? What could be done, or should be done, for her? She has the bare necessities, in spades. Roof over her head, fast food every day. Internet on tap. A boy any night she wants one. Friends and family visit a few times a year (mostly family). A ready supply of the kinds of drugs that aren’t ruinous, and no inclination or way to get the worse stuff.

          There are MANY folks who are worse off than Kelly, but she always comes to my mind when I talk about helping the unfortunate. Does she need help, and if so, what would it look like to help her? Would that scale?

          It is very hard for me to get from people’s desire to build our society such that she can have a rewarding/good life to the actual actions that you could take to change her lived experience.

          • christopher hodge says:

            It is very hard for me to get from people’s desire to build our society such that she can have a rewarding/good life to the actual actions that you could take to change her lived experience.

            I suppose this is because the fix isn’t to change her or what she’s given at a personal scale, rather to change the civilisation she’s sat in at large, so she can (must?) interact with it in a non-degenerate way. A much bigger ask and much more open-ended.

          • The Nybbler says:

            So she has all her needs and wants fulfilled and doesn’t have to work at all to do it? Why would she need help? She’s living the sweet life.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          Realistically based on the theory of the hedonic treadmill at least some portion of society needs to feel useless. Its comparative. What do you do? Segregate them somehow? Hide the fact that they are well below average? Basically the only option is some sort of obfuscation but no matter what some % of humans will know they are at the bottom.

          Brains adapt to circumstances. There’s nothing we can do about that. At best we can pick a standard of living that is the minimum materially and get people there. We can’t make them fulfilled and happy.

          • acymetric says:

            The idea that feeling useful is necessary to be happy is perhaps a problematic one. I’m certainly not sure it’s true, at least in the grandest sense (useful to society at large).

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            There are millions of ways to be “useful” that don’t require high ranking. Spending time with children or the elderly is generally low status, but quite useful to those who get social interaction instead of crushing loneliness.

            What we should worry about is separating corporate ladder-type competition from our notions of “useful.”

    • Machine Interface says:

      Aren’t you giving in a bit to typical mind fallacy here? I know a lot of people who enjoy games but don’t care about winning; I even know some who enjoy some games at which they always lose badly, because they enjoy a specific aspect of the game so much that they always end up pursuing it at the detriment of any chance of achieving a good position.

      Of course these people also tend to stay far away from competitive scenes.

      I enjoy watching speedrunners breezing through platform-hell rom-hacks of Super Mario World, and finishing in record time a game where I couldn’t even get passed the first level. Doesn’t prevent me from enjoying “vanilla” Super Mario World, even though I’m fully aware, by comparison, of how bad I am at it.

      • Bamboozle says:

        You’re probably right to be honest. But do people not care about winning because they are crap at things, or are they crap because they don’t care? Probably a mix of both.

        In life though don’t we as a society want everyone to buy-in to a certain extend though? I realise i’m taking this to an extreme but on some level throwing a game in league out of spite and shooting up your school are both trolling.

        • Machine Interface says:

          It’s true that there’s a strong societal discourse oriented toward competition, success and 1st place.

          But it’s also true that many people don’t buy into it — either because they don’t care, or because they’re already too busy about making it through the day to worry about “finishing ahead”.

        • Deiseach says:

          throwing a game in league out of spite and shooting up your school are both trolling

          But that only happens if you’ve “bought in” to the notion that you must be on the top tier or else your life is miserable and worthless, that if you can’t beat others to be on the top of the leaderboard there is nothing to be gained.

          Someone who doesn’t care if they’re 99 out of 100 on the board isn’t going to throw the game out of spite at not being number one. Someone who doesn’t think they should be dating the cheerleader and popular with everyone and getting straight As in every class isn’t going to shoot up the school for not getting what society ‘promised’ them they ‘should’ get.

    • dick says:

      [epistemic status: bloviating]

      I don’t think there’s an ELO of life, the way you’re describing. Is an IQ 85 bus driver with a loving family and a stable community in bronze or plat? How about an IQ 130 millionaire trapped in a loveless marriage who needs three double-vodkas to fall asleep? Someone who hates their 9-5 but loves their hobbies? Someone who excels at work but dreads the loneliness of their empty apartment?

      It might be fair to say there is something akin to ELO, in specific social milieus. If you go to an SCA meeting or a corporate boardroom or a prison yard and spend 15 minutes there, you can probably discern a pecking order there, which is not unlike ELO. But it’s very much a mistake to say that’s a feature of the universe, that the ranking is there because some people are better at things than others. It’s not – there’s no such thing as “best philatelist”. The ranking is just something that got bolted on by super-intelligent monkeys.

      Our ancestors lived in bands with strict hierarchies, and each individual knew their place in it, and knew roughly what activities would increase or decrease their standing. Our monkey brains still have all the hard-wiring to do that, we still retain the desire to understand our place in the world and to move up the ranks, but we no longer have a pack – just a weird and complex world full of overlapping pack-like structures, but with ever-shifting rules and no sure way to know your place. So to compensate, we just latch on to anything that looks a little bit like a pack hierarchy and treat it like it is one, kind of the way our brains are so good at analyzing faces that anything featuring two dots over a line gets interpreted as one.

      So, I think you’ve got it reversed: people don’t need coping mechanisms to deal with being low at life ELO, because there isn’t any such thing. We need coping mechanisms to deal with the lack of a life ELO, and one of those coping mechanisms is inventing games with clear rules and objective success criteria, which we can practice at and see measurable improvement in.

      • Aging Loser says:

        I agree — we want to understand our place in the world. I don’t know about the moving up the ranks part, but definitely the understanding our place in the world part. And the Divine Mind signifying Its satisfaction with the propriety of our placement. If we can imagine that, we’re okay. But it’s hard to imagine that now. So, as you say, Games.

      • quanta413 says:

        I think this way of looking at things is more relevant than the top level post.

        Almost all of us are going to suck even in our best areas compared to someone. There are so many humans out there. I don’t think you can hide that from people, but I don’t think you need to either.

        The sheer number of choices and whatifs? though can be confusing and even torturous. It’s a lot of effort to just figure out what to do and keep track of all these social structures.

      • Randy M says:

        I think life has not one but several metrics, which are correlated a fair bit. Some people get their self-worth by looking at their best score, others by looking at their worst.

    • What about those who are objectively pretty crap at everything they try?

      One solution is to put a lot of time and effort into a hobby that most other people are putting much less time and effort, thus becoming relatively good at that hobby despite less natural ability.

      Another is to associate mostly with other low skill people, and evaluate yourself, as most of us do, relative to the people you mostly associate with.

      A larger scale solution, in one sf book, was the creation of a bottom layer of fake people–AI’s playing games poorly enough so that not very able people usually beat them, but pretending to be humans for the not very able people to feel superior to. It works until someone finds out.

      • Bamboozle says:

        That SF example sounds very Iain M Banks to me, with the irony of an AI that is light years ahead in terms of intelligence explaining this to someone relatively smart so they can feel superior to those less smart than them.

        But like you said it works until someone finds out. I guess if Scott etc determine pre-school is pointless and that becomes public knowledge we’d just be eliminating an inefficient way of providing benefits. My concern is that any method of providing benefit will inherently become inefficient once it is publicly known to be a benefit.

      • dick says:

        Another is to associate mostly with other low skill people, and evaluate yourself, as most of us do, relative to the people you mostly associate with.

        I think something like this is more or less why there are so, so many niche hobbies in the world. When a club gets big enough, some people won’t want to join it just because the social structure is too well-established to break in and make a name for themselves. So they go off and decide to start their own club doing something else, and attract some people who think, “Well, I’m not hugely interested in this, but at least this group is small enough for me to get to know everyone, and it’s growing so there’s some a chance for some upward mobility, so maybe I’ll give it a chance.” Enough people doing that over a long enough time period, and you wind up with stuff like Locksport.

      • baconbits9 says:

        One solution is to put a lot of time and effort into a hobby that most other people are putting much less time and effort, thus becoming relatively good at that hobby despite less natural ability.

        Hence the popularity of Lacrosse, Ice Hockey and Ultimate Frisbee.

    • I notice that everyone is writing ELO, as if it was an acronym. I didn’t know what it was so googled it, and discovered that it is the name of the person who invented the system–Arpad Elo.

    • Plumber says:

      @Bamboozle

      “….We need ways to help those in “bronze tier of life” without coming outright and saying it as that would have the opposite effect and breed resentment…”

      Too late, I’ve already been seething with resentment and bitter envy for decades.

      All it took was the conditions of my schools and a short walk to U.C. Berkeley, using their restrooms, and sneaking into their libraries (the Morrison reading room was like heaven!) and comparing it to my schools.

      I felt the same way comparing East Palo Alto to Palo Alto decades later.

      You’d have had to induce severe fetal alcohol syndrome ala “Brave New World” for me not to notice the difference.

      I see no merit in this “meritocracy” designed by and for the “cognitive elite” caste, and if it was in my power to do so I’d cast you out of your Ivory Towers, take your books and distribute them to the rest of us and force your professors at gun point to teach all of us.

      I’d make your children go without nannies, take your gardeners away, let the tenants crammed in noisy moldy apartments with leaking roofs, those who sleep in their cars, those without any roofs at all live in your leafy suburbs and enjoy quiet instead of the screams of their neighbors and the sirens and gunshots.

      I’d have us all enjoy your wine and “artisanal” “organic” what’s it, but not for me now, because now is too damn late for me!

      I’m too old, give it to the young!

      Let them have the hoarded learning and comfort.

      “What if we helped, would we be resented?”

      You really think the resentment isn’t there already?

      We have eyes, we see, we don’t know all you know, but we know enough to see what we have lacked.

      • Aging Loser says:

        I “teach” about 200 working-class 18-22 year-olds per semester — Humanities-related classes — and with very few exceptions they don’t give a crap about anything and quite obviously never gave a crap about anything and never could have given a crap about anything.

        This is in NYC — people from everywhere in the world. With very few exceptions they don’t have the slightest bit of curiosity or sense of beauty or even of anyone else’s independent selfhood.

        I believe that you’re seething with resentment because you’re one of the exceptions.

        Oh — and on “using their bathrooms” — these people that I “teach” don’t flush urinals and toilets.

        On distribution of books “to the rest of us” — after it became apparent that they would never read any assigned material on their own I started making my own files of excerpts, distributing copies to them in class, and reading out loud to them. They look at their phones and computer screens.

        They don’t give a crap about anything, never did, and never could have.

        • johan_larson says:

          Why are these people in class? They are old enough that school is not just optional, but costs them money.

          • Protagoras says:

            I do some teaching at a community college, and while I’m not as down on my students as Aging Loser (or maybe my students just aren’t as bad), they are mostly there for credentials, not to learn things.

          • quanta413 says:

            The credentials game is pretty f’ed up most of the time. Bad for students, bad for teachers.

          • achenx says:

            See an older article, “In the Basement of the Ivory Tower”: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/06/in-the-basement-of-the-ivory-tower/306810/

            Apparently it was turned into a book, which I didn’t know until just now, but the article is good.

            “I teach young men who must amass a certain number of credits before they can become police officers or state troopers, lower-echelon health-care workers who need credits to qualify for raises, and municipal employees who require college-level certification to advance at work.”

            So, like the other replies said, credentialism.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Its not just lower end education.

            The same happened at my Alma Mater, including in the engineering department. And again it happened in law school.

            Education is mostly credentialism.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s worth asking whether the problem is:

            a. Future policemen, nurses, firemen, etc. not giving a f–k about classes relevant to their future career. (Future cops sleeping through classes on how to do investigations or how forensic techniques work, say.)

            b. Future policemen, nurses, firemen, etc., not giving a f–k about some irrelevant-to-their-lives required class that they are taking only because someone told them they have to, in order to graduate. (Future cops sleeping through trigonometry classes, or classes in American history, or English composition.)

            I spend most of my waking hours trying to learn new things from others, or trying to do research so I can maybe learn entirely new things from the universe. And yet my employer requires a number of classes every year involving safety, diversity, etc. I don’t sleep through them or play on my phone during them, because that would be rude, but I sure am not there because I find the subject interesting. (Though these days we’re moving to online training, where my bored eyes-glazed-over look won’t offend anyone.)

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            @albatross.

            Yes, exactly! Aging Loser says they care about nothing, but I am positive that isn’t true. I imagine they care about sex, and money, and their own hobbies. What they don’t care about is whatever Aging Loser is teaching. Humanities he says. I was usually pretty bored about that too at age 20, and I was always an intellectual.

            The problem is requiring kids to take this stuff that they don’t care about, and arguably wouldn’t do them any good even if they did pay attention. Too bad for both the teachers and the students. Hopefully they do pay attention for the classes they actually need to learn.

            Of course the point that Aging Loser was making, that most of these kids don’t give a crap about the books that Plumber was raving about, is totally true. OF course it is also mostly true for the 20 somethings going to the elite colleges too. Plumber over-stated his point, but the reaction of Aging Loser in response over-stated in turn. Maybe I am continuing the trend.

          • albatross11 says:

            There’s a huge difference between things you seek out to study and things someone makes you study that you don’t care about. I’d happily sit in a lecture hall for a class about immunology or population genetics. Someone else would be ecstatic to get a class about ancient Chinese history or Native American religions. But make us swap classes, and it’s pretty likely we’ll both be glazing over.

      • Incurian says:

        I’d cast you out of your Ivory Towers, take your books and distribute them to the rest of us and force your professors at gun point to teach all of us.

        To be fair, Berkley did try to teach everyone, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/03/06/u-california-berkeley-delete-publicly-available-educational-content

        Some schools do have all their courses up on the internet still though, https://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm is pretty good.

        I’d make your children go without nannies, take your gardeners away, let the tenants crammed in noisy moldy apartments with leaking roofs, those who sleep in their cars, those without any roofs at all live in your leafy suburbs and enjoy quiet instead of the screams of their neighbors and the sirens and gunshots.

        The nannies and gardeners might not appreciate that as much as you think. And I imagine most of the stuff you want to redistribute wouldn’t exist in the first place if we didn’t have a system under which people could hang on to their own stuff. Your ideal system needs to take into account how wealth is created, not just how it’s distributed.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I see no merit in this “meritocracy” designed by and for the “cognitive elite” caste, and if it was in my power to do so I’d cast you out of your Ivory Towers, take your books and distribute them to the rest of us and force your professors at gun point to teach all of us.

        And what makes you think all can or want to learn? You’re going to need to point those guns both directions.

        I’d make your children go without nannies, take your gardeners away, let the tenants crammed in noisy moldy apartments with leaking roofs, those who sleep in their cars, those without any roofs at all live in your leafy suburbs and enjoy quiet instead of the screams of their neighbors and the sirens and gunshots.

        Meh, never had a nanny as a child (and no children now). Nor a gardener; cutting the grass was up to the Nybbler with his hay fever (and this was before current-generation antihistamines), or his father before that. I have a landscaper now; not sure why you want to take away the livelihood of a Portuguese immigrant family and their employees.

        Take “those who sleep in their cars, those without any roofs at all” to live in my leafy suburb, and they won’t get peace and quiet. The neighbors will scream, the gunshots will come. The houses will be damaged or destroyed; certainly the roofs will leak. It’s not true individually that people create their own Hell, but it’s true collectively. Near me, East Orange, NJ, was once a wealthy suburb of Newark. After the 1967 Newark riots, exactly what you suggested should happen did happen to East Orange. And now East Orange is a poor and crime-ridden town.

        • Plumber says:

          @Incurian and @The Nybbler,

          Judging by some very terrible history in Asia and Europe you guys are very likely correct, and for the most part attempts at radical change makes things worse, but my larger point remains that the idea that more help will breed resentment in the helped is delusional, the resentment is already there, I’m living proof.

          • The Nybbler says:

            OK, so why would I be at all interested in helping these people who hate and resent me and would harm me if they could?

          • Incurian says:

            …but my larger point remains that the idea that more help will breed resentment in the helped is delusional…

            I’m not claiming that. I’m claiming that certain, specific things are not helpful and are probably counter-productive. I think many of the potentially genuinely helpful things are of the “teach a man to fish” variety, rather than the “give a man a fish” variety, though I don’t think many of them would be welcome.

            ETA: Diamond Age is a decent book on the subject.

          • Plumber says:

            @The Nybbler

            “OK, so why would I be at all interested in helping these people who hate and resent me and would harm me if they could?”

            I could post some claptrap about “A better world for your grandchildren”, but really?

            There’s no reason at all.

            You’ve probably seen “All Quiet on the Western Front”, “Johnny Got His Gun”, and/or “Paths of Glory”, or have at least read of the trench warfare of “The Great War”.

            What would be your opinion of recruiters into that?

            I have kinda the same opinion of those who encourage the young to be “activists” (especially if they don’t “walk the talk” themselves).

            My father fancied himself an “activist” and his was not a life ti be copied.

            While I have ideas and ideals for society, from one person to another my advice is to accommodate yourself to this society as it actually is, and to do what you may for your kids to be middle-class or better.

            Nicholas Bordoise never got a union wage.

            Don’t be a martyr.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          There are things we could do to support the working class, things that would raise my taxes that I would vote for.

          “Forcing them to attend schools that they hate” would be nowhere on that list.

          • albatross11 says:

            I suppose it’s worth pointing out that forcing the children of the middle/upper classes to attend schools they’ll hate is also a pretty bad policy.

      • I’d cast you out of your Ivory Towers, take your books and distribute them to the rest of us and force your professors at gun point to teach all of us.

        If anyone wants to take my course on the economic analysis of law, the videos of the classes are linked on my web page, as is the textbook. All free for anyone with web access. The same is true, to varying degrees, for four other classes–the older ones have audio recordings I made instead of video recordings made by the school, and two of them used textbooks that didn’t belong to me and are not, so far as I know, webbed.

        I don’t have recordings of my price theory course, but the book version is free on my web page.

        My guess is that, at most elite universities, a non-student who wanted to audit courses would find it easy to do it unofficially at no charge. My university library doesn’t check ID (the law school library I think does), so anyone who looks like a possible student could come in and read books from the shelves, although he couldn’t check out books.

        Getting an education is pretty easy for someone who really wants it and is willing to spend the time getting it. What’s expensive is getting the credentials.

        • Eric Rall says:

          My guess is that, at most elite universities, a non-student who wanted to audit courses would find it easy to do it unofficially at no charge. My university library doesn’t check ID (the law school library I think does), so anyone who looks like a possible student could come in and read books from the shelves, although he couldn’t check out books.

          That was all mostly true of the college I attended (a moderately prestigious state school), with the exception of auditing (which depended on professors: some insisted on formally registering as an auditor before sitting in so the department got credit for them for funding purposes). In addition, the university library was officially open to the public for reading books from the shelves, and non-students who lived in the same county could buy a card to check out books for a relatively modest fee (looks like it’s currently $60/year).

        • Plumber says:

          @DavidFriedman

          “If anyone wants to take my course….”

          1) David Friedman, you are awesome.

          2) In the ’80’s I could get into U.C.’s libraries, but not in the ’90’s after I was told “You have to show your faculty or student I.D.” which left a bitter taste.

          I felt a little better when the “Link Plus” system allowed me to (briefly) check out books from the C.S.U.’s, but then they dropped out of the system. Right now I have a book checked out through Link Plus from Santa Clara University, and another one from the University of San Francisco, both private universities that are kind enough to let the general public borrow books from them, but the public California universities don’t, which seems counterintuitive.

          Really I should be more grateful for the books I can borrow, still having once seen the garden…

          • Nornagest says:

            The UC Berkeley library isn’t on the Link+ network, but it does claim to be open to interlibrary loan requests from public libraries in California or elsewhere in the US and Canada. Maybe see if your local library can hook you up?

            It also looks like you can get a UCB library card as a CA resident, but it’s a hundred bucks a year, which strikes me as a little steep.

          • albatross11 says:

            MIT open courseware has some really amazing lectures available for free. Linear algebra and AI were both very much worth the time; I kind of got bogged down in the circuit theory lectures (partly from life and work constraints).

            iTunes U has a bunch of lectures, or did as of a year or two ago. I think you can get access with any iOS device.

            Khan academy has what are basically high-quality high school lectures on just about anything you’d like to remember from high school, including stuff that you might take in your first couple years of college. (Calculus, organic chemistry, etc.)

            I agree with David–credentials are harder to get than learning. Though I also think the main obstacle to learning is often time and mental energy–you can learn a lot when your full-time job is to learn; it’s harder when you’re trying to pick stuff up around the edges of a job and a life.

          • bean says:

            I once had a library card at UCLA, which was $80/yr (and being stuck on the UCLA fundraising list forever, but that’s another story). Gave it up because I lived an hour away, and was only able to check out books for two weeks, renewable once. It wasn’t worth all the driving. But if you’re close to UCB, then doing that might well be worth it. You get access to an incredible library. Or even see if there’s another college nearby that’s cheaper and will sell you a card. (I haven’t done this because I know my collection of books I care about is better than all but the very best colleges.)

          • John Schilling says:

            2) In the ’80’s I could get into U.C.’s libraries, but not in the ’90’s after I was told “You have to show your faculty or student I.D.” which left a bitter taste.

            Interesting. I’ve been able to walk into the UCLA stacks and reading rooms unrestricted from the ’90s to present, and I haven’t noticed any signs saying that I shouldn’t be doing this.

            Either UCB and UCLA have very different policies for some reason, or they both have an unwritten policy of challenging people who “look like they don’t belong” and I pattern-match for “probably a professor of something” better than you do.

            I’d really prefer public universities not be doing either of these things with books paid for with my tax dollars. OTOH, I appreciate the need for university libraries to not become the sort of de facto homeless shelters that some public libraries are turning into.

          • Nornagest says:

            The public libraries in downtown Berkeley are very much the de-facto homeless shelters you mentioned, and campus is backed right up to downtown, so that’s probably what’s driving this policy. I’ve been to libraries on several other UC campuses and none of them screen on entry, except for rare-books rooms and the like. It’s been a while for some of them, though.

          • I assume you know about Project Gutenberg, which lets you download a wide range of out of copyright books for free.

        • Polycarp says:

          I once led a discussion section on Heidegger’s Being and Time at the University of Chicago. It was a terrific group of undergrads. They were prepared and interested, the discussion was lively, we all learned a lot from each other. A few weeks into the quarter I discovered that one of the participants was not enrolled in the class and wasn’t even a UC student during that quarter. Neither I nor any of the other students had a problem with it. If you’ve read the material and are willing (and able) to join in the conversation, you’re welcome in my class.

        • Nick says:

          I’ve been reading your price theory book the last few months. Thank you very much for putting it online.

      • MTSowbug says:

        Plumber, I greatly appreciate your perspective on things (even if it’s hyperbolic), which comes from a distinctly different place from most other commenters here. Please keep posting.

      • Viliam says:

        Others have already mentioned that there are many free courses and books. I would add that you can also download about half of the non-free books illegally. So it’s not like the Guild of Academia could successfully hide the secrets of the Pythagorean Theorem from you, even if they tried.

        The real danger in acquiring knowledge is rather the abundance of stupid books and stupid topics, so the real reason to miss the Pythagorean Theorem could be that instead of it you are studying e.g. astrology. The least replaceable part of education is the “look here, don’t look here” outline. Also, having classmates, i.e. people who solve the same problems as you do, at the same time as you do.

        But I fully agree that some people have much better conditions to learn than others, which gives meritocracy its motte and bailey flavor. It seems like intelligence and hard work determine your outcome, but another huge factor is how much of that intelligence and hard work can you effectively spend on building your human capital, and how much will be wasted on overcoming various obstacles which are quite unevenly distributed.

        For example, some people use their high intelligence and hard work to become good at computer programming, which allows them to make a lot of money. Other people start with the same intelligence and hard work, but first they need to spend a lot of time and energy on getting their own computer and some uninterrupted free time to learn.

        • Incurian says:

          This is a serious question: why not leave California? Austin has an interesting mix of blue and red tribers, the cost of living is rather low (especially if you stay away from downtown), and people are less snobby in general. Also, though Austin has “traffic,” it has nothing you will recognize as such. There is a really nice Less Wrong meetup group here, too.

          • Plumber says:

            Thanks.

            I did leave California for Seattle,  Washington for some months back in ’99 (my wife grew up there).

            Seattle had some good bookstores, but I found it extremely disorienting, my sense of North-South-East-West was askew, the water tasted wrong, everything was “off”.

            I felt much the same way in different areas of California, while I worked a decade mostly in Santa Clara county (and some in San Mateo and San Benito county) it just never felt “right”, I could swear that the water and air tasted better every mile north from San Jose. 

            Because our older son had a visit from the case worker that is affiliated with the charter school that he’s nominally enrolled in so he may learn on-line and take community college classes instead of going to middle school), despite the smoke and bad air quality from the wildfires up north, I took our younger son to a playground in Albany, and to the Berkeley Public Library North Branch, and unlike the parts of Oakland and south Berkeley where I grew up (and the parts of San Francisco I work in) north-east Berkeley and most of Albany just look “right” to me like no other places I seen (except for maybe photographs of the “Cotswolds”) have.

            I’m not happy when the bungalows are torn down, to be replaced by oversized homes on undersized lots, or when long-time shops go out of business, and I’m really not happy that we couldn’t buy a house until both me and my wife were closer to 50 years old, then to 30, and we had to delay having children for so long (at the end of my 9,000 work hours plumbing apprenticeship my wages were over three times what they were at the start, but home prices went up more than five times and continued to climb and it was only the heaven sent crash of Lehman Brothers in 2008 and the subsequent short dip in prices that allowed us to buy).

            Things could be far worse, when I worked a construction job just north of Hollister I saw the people working in the tomato fields, and I could see why my grandfather wouldn’t touch a tomato decades after he worked in the fields, but even though out house is too small for a family of four, and there’s no way we could afford to move into a bigger one near here, as long as California law stays the same, it allows us to change our sons into something like the Ancien Régime aristocracy (hopefully no tumbrels will come for them!) as the property of taxes on the house will not rise to current market value and will instead stay closer to what it was when we bought the house, and that lower tax rate can be passed on to your heirs (yes it’s perverse, but I went to lousy California schools too long to not want payback!), plus what would I do for a living on Austin, Texas (or “There be Dragons”)?

            If there’s a prosperous enough local union near there I could probably get work as a “travel hand” but it’s been nearly a decade since I did construction work, I doubt that I could keep pace at my age, plus the codes and materials are different. 

            As of now my job with the City and County of San Francisco is relatively secure because I have some seniority and finding other people who still know how to repair the obsolete plumbing fixtures used for the court holding cells and up in the Jail is hard (if they remodeled to newer equipment they’d have an easier time, but they’d rather band-aid it for decades than spend the money).

            I may change my mind though after the octogenarian next door dies or sells his house (he’s one of the few other working-class homeowners left on the block) and some “tech” or University employee buying it and building up (in theory they couldn’t due to zoning laws, but “variances” seem to be granted more often than not).

            The neighboring houses being sold as “teardowns” or me suffering a crippling injury before I can collect a pension, are two of our biggest fears.

            Before we got our house we lived 17 years in an apartment in Oakland, and I never want to go back to living hearing the sounds of that neighborhood. 

            If anyone tells you “More money won’t make you happier” they’re lying to you, a quiet neighborhood without gunshots, reliable transportation, health insurance, a self defrosting refrigerator, not fighting with the landlord over a leaking roof, an oven that works, and most of all space for a family, these things very much help happiness.

            My main grievance is not getting those things decades earlier, and my fear that my sons will have to wait as long or longer.

        • I do.

          On the evidence of your comments here I disagree. You and Deiseach are the clearest examples here of intelligent self-educated people functioning in niches not usually occupied by such people.

          Both evidence of something wrong with the world and of something right with the internet.

          • Plumber says:

            Wow, that’s very kind (and a bit surprising since when I have too much tea or coffee I start to rant like a dimestore Pol Pot) thanks. 

            I should come clean that most of my “self education” lately is just reading the Paul Krugman (from the center-left) and Ross Douthat (from the center-right) columns and following the links (how I originally found SSC).

            Since I have your attention, and speaking of education, I have to thank an organization you’re affiliated with as their library kindly loaned my  local public library (through “Link Plus”) “Wage labor & guilds in medieval Europe” by Steven A. Epstein, which has been fascinating.
            In some other works on the subject, usually from the early 20th century, and most definitely “On the history and development of gilds, and the origin of trade-unions” by Lujo Brentano, which was from 1870, the link between the older guilds and the then rising trade unions is stressed, and while the “craft” unions certainly modeled themselves after the guilds (apprentice and journeyman status), in reading the later book it’s clear to me that corporations are the descendants of the guilds, more than trade unions.

            As much as it rankles some (okay me) given the material incentives, the development of capitalism does seem inevitable, which is sort of the old Marxist line, except they maintained that socialism and then anarchistic communism would follow afterwards, but feudalism or capitalism sure look more likely to me as what different material conditions will bring us to by default, other ideals and ways of societal organization (Jeffersonian agrarian “yeoman” republics, social democracy, “actually existing socialism”, plantocracies) just don’t seem to last.

          • Deiseach says:

            It is very kind of you, but no, I’m definitely Bronze Tier in life 🙂

            That’s part of why the assumption that, on the scale of “average intelligence as measured by IQ” people like bus drivers must fall on the lower end annoys me – no, sometimes we plebians just find our natural level.

          • Bronze tier in life but not in intellectual ability. That’s the puzzle.

            One of the points of The Bell Curve was that that pattern was much more common in the past. The mechanic might easily be the intellectual equal of the wealthy customer whose car he worked on. The graduate of a state university was substantially poorer and lower status than the graduate of Harvard but not significantly less intelligent.

            The authors argued that that was much less true at present, due to an increasingly meritocratic society—if you are very smart and also poor, Harvard lets you in and lends or gives you the required money. While there are obvious advantages to that change, there are also disadvantages. There are problems with more powerful people correctly believing that they are much smarter than less powerful people.

            Further, better sorting by ability leads to more assortative mating, which leads to a more unequal distribution of abilities, which also has problems. I think they were writing before the data indicated an increasing inequality of income, but that’s an obvious possible explanation.

            One of the things that irritated me about the treatment of that book and its surviving author is that it was making important points, points that should have been of special interest to the sorts of people who demonized the book without reading it.

          • Plumber says:

            @DavidFriedman

            “….One of the points of The Bell Curve was that that pattern was much more common in the past. The mechanic might easily be the intellectual equal of the wealthy customer whose car he worked on. The graduate of a state university was substantially poorer and lower status than the graduate of Harvard but not significantly less intelligent.

            The authors argued that that was much less true at present, due to an increasingly meritocratic society—if you are very smart and also poor, Harvard lets you in and lends or gives you the required money…”

            I read The Bell Curve back in the ’90’s, and I chiefly remember reading something along the lines of:“If you’re reading this book you went to  a private High School or an upper-middle-class (for some reason Americans are always described as “middle-class”, “upper-middle-class”, and occasionally “working-class” or “under-class”, as for some damn reason just ‘upper-class’ and ‘lower-class’ aren’t used) school district’s High School, and on reading that I bristled and thought “The Hell I did”, but I read further and saw “..or you went to a large High School that had students from different classes”, which was true and I calmed a bit.

            I thought Herrnstein and Murray way overstated their case of inherent “I.Q.” rather than circumstances mostly determining success, I know that I got far better grades in High School than my brother, but he got a college diploma not me (I helped pay his way!), I know my wife has a diploma as well and I don’t judge that much smarter than me (she may have a different opinion), and the one college graduate on my crew at work (our apprentice) is bright, but not the brightest. 

            I thought that the book also understated the cognitive demands of the non-college track, an effective auto mechanic or HVAC technician (for examples) can’t be stupid.

            Mike Rose’s excellent book The Mind at Work does a good job of illustrating the cognitive demands of “unskilled labor” (how much a waitress has to keep track of for example), a similar story is told in Matthew Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft about “blue collar” trades.

            I only skimmed Murray’s later book Coming Apart but the tale he tells there of lower class American whites falling to the pathologies that were previously decried in non-whites (“cultures of poverty”, et cetera) has a simpler explanation than the change in “morals” he bemoaned (that I believe previously explained the conditions of non-whites as well):

            From 1946 to 1973 the majority of Americans had rising fortunes, and afterwards an economic centerfuge occurred. 

            It’s economics and power, not morals, and not genetics.

            For almost 30 years the difference in “tiers” was becoming less extreme before we started our fall towards the inequality of the 1920’s, and while the argument that some inequality provides incentives for growth has some merit, the 1940’s, ’50’s, and ’60’s had plenty of growth and diminishing inequality, and while I’m very sympathetic to the idea of some of the cultural changes in the 1970’s being bad (the widespread acceptance of childrens parents getting divorced tops my list), but other nations had the same cultural changes without having so many fall into poverty, and we don’t have to just look at Scandinavian countries to see an alternative way, across the border there’s Canada.

            When I visited Ottawa no one asked me for “spare change”, and I saw no tents.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Except for the people who aren’t bronze-tier: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome

    • Randy M says:

      What about those who are objectively pretty crap at everything they try? How do people on the bottom of the “ELO curve of life”, i.e. those who statistically must exist who are just objectively pretty crap at everything, motivate themselves to get through every day?

      Hot take: isn’t that what video games are for?

      • Deiseach says:

        Hot take: isn’t that what video games are for?

        Also depression, Randy M. Have crying fits for no reason, get reminded constantly how you’re an absolute fucking failure by every metric of adulthood, have your nose rubbed in your lack of achievement by casual, not even directed at you and certainly not deliberate, little actions and speech of those around you, struggle with wanting to just throw yourself off a bridge or overdose and finally stop taking up space in the world you cannot justify your existence in taking up, still don’t understand why you haven’t done that yet, get up in the morning and do it all again.

        Down on the lower levels you get to know your place just fine, I realise it’s a real puzzler to our superiors as to why we continue to keep going (“if that were me, I’d kill myself rather than endure such a meaningless useless life!”) and all I can say is I have no idea why I haven’t done the rational and selfless thing of taking myself out of this life as yet.

        I get it that I am stupid and useless and unqualified and just sucking up resources, I really do. As I said, down here we get plenty of reminders. And I understand why people on the silver, gold and platinum tiers have no idea what “those down there” do with themselves – hmmm, they must play video games all day or something? who knows what the Morlocks do in their dank underground tunnels? not we Eloi up here in the sunshine and flowers!

        I can’t speak for the rest of my troglodytes about video games, as I was too old by the time these became mass culture to get into them – books were my soma (that is what you Upper Tiers want to know, right? How us Bronzies pass the time to drug ourselves into ignorance of our futility?)

    • helloo says:

      Before you think about doing anything, don’t you have to first resolve your paradox first?

      As in, why do those people stick around?
      If you can’t even answer that question for purely voluntary activities, I don’t think you should start pushing this to the human population in general.

      You might feel uncomfortable knowing about half the population being below average, but the fact is that they still exist and the only explanations you give are denial and depression (not particularly persuasive explanations either – they could make up most of that portion, but you haven’t really examined if they do).

      There are some other opinions like apathy or contentment, but similarly you’ll still need to evaluate how appropriate and in what amounts they can explain the situation.

      • Bamboozle says:

        If you are below the bell curve in general but really, really good at something that would be motivating and give meaning. I’m talking about people who are bad at everything. If you are bad at a game you change games, you go try to find something you’re good at, but if you’re bad at everything thing you try your hand at?

        I’m aware i’m typical-minding as reflecting on this i realised Mastery is a key part of what motivates me, and for others this probably isn’t so.

        • helloo says:

          I’m saying that reality is already in a way that is coping with these circumstances. And that you are being pretty pessimistic on how it is dealing with it or at least not convincingly “realistic” about it.

          We need ways to help those in “bronze tier of life” without coming outright and saying it as that would have the opposite effect and breed resentment. Case and point, when players in league aren’t at the tier they STRONGLY BELIEVE they should be, they often troll other players as a way to regaining control in a way.

          But as you mention, most of the players are bronze and I do not belief most of them are trolling others.

          Can you first answer what are you/society/game admins to do about bronze tiers players in just that game?
          Until you are able to put into perspective your worldview in this game and how it fits with reality, should you be trying to generalize it?

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          I’m talking about people who are bad at everything.

          There are many activities that are not zero-sum or competitive, at which many people can participate without diminishing others. Volunteering at a soup kitchen, for instance, takes very little skill and almost no long term commitment. People who recognize themselves at the lower rungs tend to congregate towards these activities, rather than competitive gaming (to use your example).

          Another obvious activity for the under-skilled are social games, like Yahtzee or Go Fish, where it’s more about spending time with others than maximizing strategy (since winning and losing often comes down to random chance).

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          but if you’re bad at everything thing you try your hand at?

          1. Post on SSC
          2. Watch The Good Place
          3. Drink hot chocolate
          4. Watch Thursday Night Football
          There’s also the Country Solution:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtMy5IBmX7E

        • Deiseach says:

          but if you’re bad at everything thing you try your hand at?

          Continue one day after another until you can’t do it any more (that’s what I’m currently doing, anyhow). Kind words from others on here won’t change the fact that I am bad at everything I try my hand at, and I’m sorry Bamboozle, I have no good answer for “so why haven’t you killed yourself yet?” or “how do you pretend you’re not a useless waste of space?” I suppose drugs and alcohol help with the latter, but I’ve had to stop drinking and I’ve never been around fun party recreational substances, so it’s mostly self-induced emotional numbness that keeps me going.

          Hope that helps answer your question! Sorry I couldn’t be more help! 😀 😀 😀 (have to keep up the facade, after all).

          EDIT: To be less depressing, I have a lack of ambition which does in some sense help – if I play a game, I don’t care if I’m playing badly or not grinding my way to Level 100, I care about “is this fun for me, am I enjoying it?” I’m not matching myself against a league table of other players or “do I get all the cool fun gear/can I complete this in the fastest time/will I hit Mega Diamond Ultra Platinum Supreme Rhodium Level”. That really takes a lot of the pressure off.

          Gold Tier people probably are marked by ambition, emulation, wanting to be Number One and being dissatisfied with anything less than the achievements and goals they’ve set, but when you know that “setting goals to Get Places in life and career” is about as realistic as “fly to the moon by flapping my arms”, not particularly caring that you’re not A Leader does help with that.

          EDIT EDIT: Just in case anyone thinks “Aw, you’re just saying that, you’re not that bad!”, how bad at everything am I? So bad, I couldn’t even get myself prescribed anti-depressants when I went to my doctor and admitted suicidal ideation, is how much of a failure I am! Considering “getting anti-depressants” is supposed to be “basically as easy as falling off a log”, and I’ve certainly seen other people getting them for simply turning up and asking, this is how much a fucking useless failure I am. There you go!

          • Apropos of another comment I made, you might try vitamin D. Doesn’t require a prescription, very cheap ($.03/day for 5000 IU’s on Amazon here), and one of the symptoms of a shortage is depression.

            I had that advice from a very prominent biochemist who believes a majority of Americans suffer from insufficient vitamin D. I ordered the pills for myself yesterday.

          • PeterDonis says:

            I had that advice from a very prominent biochemist who believes a majority of Americans suffer from insufficient vitamin D.

            As another anecdotal data point, I heard about this a number of years ago and got my doctor to add a vitamin D check to the blood work at my next physical. It indeed showed low. I have been taking 5000 IU/day since then and my level is back up into the normal range. I can’t say I have noticed any drastic change to my mood, but that wasn’t the main issue I was concerned with, it was the higher risk of other health issues. The pills are so cheap that it seems like an easy call.

    • JDG1980 says:

      I’ve often had this thought with professions that openly have leader boards (like i believe surgeons do?) where they rank everyone in the place in order of how good they are, and think if you were below average why would you stick around? Surely you’d leave and go somewhere else if you were repeatedly able to see exactly how unexceptional you are.

      This assumes that you derive most or all of your self-worth and self-image from your work. For a lot of people, work is mostly about the paycheck, and their self-image comes from somewhere else (family, hobbies, etc.)

      Also, if you’ve put a lot of time, effort, and money into training for a particular profession, then even being a mediocre member of that profession might still result in better value than giving it all up and starting over on something different. Even a low-ranking surgeon is still making well into six figures, and if that surgeon quit, he would take a massive pay cut while still being burdened with his medical school debt.

  3. Anatoly says:

    What is a thing you’ve been trying to achieve or learn, and failing, for more than five years?

    Why aren’t you quitting? Do you have a plan you think will work this time, and if so, why?

    • The Nybbler says:

      What is a thing you’ve been trying to achieve or learn, and failing, for more than five years?

      Retirement.

      Why aren’t you quitting?

      Because I can’t yet.

      Do you have a plan you think will work this time, and if so, why?

      My plan is “accumulate money until I have enough, then quit”. However, taxes and expenses and soon inflation push the goal out further all the time, so I suspect the plan will never, in fact, work.

      • cassander says:

        I’m curious, if you don’t mind my asking, what number are you trying to hit?

        • The Nybbler says:

          I’m curious, if you don’t mind my asking, what number are you trying to hit?

          Probably about $7M in post-tax money at the moment to live at my current standard of living for my likely remaining lifetime, but it goes higher all the time, as do the taxes to reach that much.

          • Eric Rall says:

            What safe withdrawal rate are you assuming? At the standard 4% rate, that would give you an inflation-adjusted income of $280k/year. At a more conservative 3% rate, it’s still $210k/year. That’s a pretty rich lifestyle, especially since you specified post-tax money.

          • The Nybbler says:

            4% is the normal withdrawal rate for people around age 65. I’m 46, and have a living grandparent in his 90s. So I ballpark $150K/year for 45 years, and assume (probably optimistically) that inflation and higher taxes won’t eat it up faster than that.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I thought 3-4% was the “live off the investment returns” rate? I’m at the “throw money into Vanguard and don’t watch it obsessively or you’ll be tempted to time the market” stage personally, so dunno how realistic a consistent 5-6% return is.

            Also damn your CoL is high. Expecting to put a lot into medical expenses or what?

          • cassander says:

            are you including housing wealth in that figure?

          • Eric Rall says:

            Inflation is already baked into the safe withdrawal rate studies: 4% rate means you withdraw 4% of your balance the first year and then adjust for inflation thereafter.

            And yes, the 4% figure is based on a conventional retirement, specifically for a 30-year retirement duration. But there’s only a very small difference in safe withdrawal rates between a 30-year retirement and a much longer retirement: “failed” retirements in the models are almost always driven by sequence-of-return risk (a market crash or period of high inflation right after you retire), and if that doesn’t happen you’ll almost always have more money at the end of 30 years than you started with.

            Bill Bengen, who did the 1994 study that established the 4% safe withdrawal rate, currently recommends a 4.5% safe withdrawal rate for a 30 year retirement, 4.3% for 35 years, 4.2% for 40 years, 4.1% for 45 years, or 4% for an indefinite time horizon. More here.

            By his recommendations, for a $150k retirement income on a 45 year retirement, you only need about $3.7M.

          • Brad says:

            I thought the rule of thumb for perpetual funds (e.g. endowments) was 2% of the trust every year (whatever the trust happens to be that year).

          • The Nybbler says:

            Also damn your CoL is high. Expecting to put a lot into medical expenses or what?

            I’m living in the NYC area, and moving someplace much cheaper isn’t going to happen. And of course the point would be to enjoy life, not to switch the problem of money-and-little-time for time-and-little-money.

            By his recommendations, for a $150k retirement income on a 45 year retirement, you only need about $3.7M.

            However, Bill Bengen isn’t going to be there for me if I run out of money, and neither is anyone else. (Also I don’t have $3.7M either)

      • A long time ago I met someone in an Objectivist special interest group in New York who wanted to write a novel and had concluded he first had to make a million dollars to support himself while doing so. As best I could tell he was already working on his second million, had not written the novel.

        • Randy M says:

          People who want to write are doing so already.
          People who want to write for a living… well, I think the joke about, iirc, board games applies, more and more as writing as a profession is getting harder to achieve due to increased competition in the form of self-publishing, other entertainment, and so on.

          How do you make a small fortune as [professional writer/game designer/other hobby turned occupation]? First, start with a large fortune….

    • Being good enough at WoW to be at least average, preferably better than average, in the raid group I was with. I eventually stopped playing after concluding that I was not going to succeed. I’m still not sure if the reason was not growing up with analogous games or not putting nearly as much time into playing WoW as the people I was playing with.

      • Atlas says:

        Somewhat same here, but with a different Blizzard game (Overwatch). (Also, more for like 5 months, so possibly not applicable to the OP, but in the mind of a teenager/young “adult” that might as well be 5 years.) Not having grown up playing a lot of competitive, multi-player, first-person shooter games, I felt/feel a certain neurotic compulsion to prove that I am at least average in native ability at them. (As opposed to other games, which I might well enjoy playing when I have some free time, but do not usually feel any sort of compulsion to play, finish or be good at.) I would say that, among young men of recent generations, aptitude at video games about shooting people is a source of pride/competition/shame fairly comparable to actual athletic competition.

        After spending, perhaps to say wasting, a considerable amount of my free time playing and studying the game over the past half a year or so, and especially during the summer, the results have been decidedly mixed. On the one hand, with my main heroes I can comfortably play in a skill range that is at or somewhat above the mean for the player base as a whole, and I think I am somewhat better than average at the game than the friends I play with. Additionally, the heroes I play are in the tank category, which I would regard as generally being easier/less glamorous/less respected than those in the DPS category and more difficult/glamorous/respected than those in the support category. And, while I’ve certainly picked much of the low-hanging fruit, I think I still have a fair amount of room for plausible improvement.

        This has had I think some salutary effects on my relationship with the game. My weekly play time has decreased considerably over the past couple months; to some extent that’s just a secular decline in time spent relaxing/gaming as the result of the beginning of the semester, but there’s also been a big proportional fall as well. I just generally think/worry much less about Overwatch now than I did over the summer. This could perhaps be vindication of William Blake’s aphorism “Dip he who loves water in the river,” because, while I’m not quite sure whether I achieved my goals or realized that I would never achieve them, I just care much less one way or the other than I did before.

        However, one thing that still does deeply bother me is my poor mechanical aim and my consequent lack of skill with DPS characters, who, as I mentioned, I think are generally the most respected and difficult characters to play. I’m not sure to what extent my poor aim is the result of not having practiced like quite a few Overwatch players for hundreds of hours beforehand in TF2/CS:GO and to what extent it’s the result of naturally poor fine motor skills/reaction time. In either case, it does frustrate me beyond what is rational, and I will probably continue to intermittently practice/play the game for some time to come.

        • cryptoshill says:

          @Atlas

          In terms of mechanical shooting ability – I was once an *excellent* counter strike player, by any standard (back in the days of 1.6) and now I am “bronze or lead” tier in the mechanical shooting aptitude in the current game me and my boyfriend play (Destiny 2). I have a feeling a lot of that has more to do with spending almost every waking moment that wasn’t spent on schoolwork (which was quite easy for me pre-highschool and early hs) playing Counter Strike.

          I call it the “make it a job or quit” point. You eventually come to realize that to make any measurable improvement in a skill area, it must consume at least as much time as a full-time job would. This seems true in any vaguely “competitive” hobby or skill.

      • Ventrue Capital says:

        I once asked you if you were interested in playing tabletop roleplaying games such as Dungeons & Dragons and you said that you preferred WoW.

        I assume that you’re still not interested in going back to tabletop rpgs — which can now be played online — but I *have* to ask.

    • Plumber says:

      @Anatoly

      “What is a thing you’ve been trying to achieve or learn, and failing, for more than five years?”

      To not be as bitter and resentmentful as I am, and to be more grateful for what I have.

      “Why aren’t you quitting?”

      Because I’ve not achieved serenity

      “Do you have a plan you think will work this time, and if so, why?”

      Yes, by pickling my brain in alcohol I’ll eventually forget what I’m angry about, or I’ll die trying, or I’ll work hard for my son’s to have a better life and get some comfort from that.

      • Incurian says:

        Can someone in Berkley please give this guy a hug?

      • sunnydestroy says:

        One strategy I’ve read about that can help some people is doing an end of the day active reflection on things you’re grateful for or were nice that day.

        That usually means having a little notepad n your night stand and writing 3 good things about that day.

        It’s easier for the human mind to focus on negative things, to the point where it can overshadow everything else, so this kind of exercise forces you to remember that not everything was terrible.

        • Plumber says:

          Thanks, feeling a bit better today.

          Had our Thanksgiving party at work, besides those of us in “Engineering” (building maintenance), Custodial pitched in, our old boss visited and said a prayer, a couple of bigwigs from the City Hall campus came, as well as some cops, and medical records staff (who have an office near our boiler room), some singing was had, and too much food. I used a sick day and a new Public Works plumber went up to do the work in the Jail in my stead, after I showed him some of the tricks for the antiquated building, and the only work I did was fix a sink in Homicide with him looking over my shoulder (he thought he’d have to drill something out, I showed him a work-around).

          Came home and my wife amazed me by understanding that the sounds our younger son was making were his words for “please give me that blanket”.

          A pretty good day

          • Deiseach says:

            our old boss visited and said a prayer

            Gasp! They permit this on government (well, state?) property during work time in California? I thought this kind of “forcing compulsory religion down the throats of the unaligned (i.e. anyone within a ten mile radius who might be presumed not to be religious)” was specifically banned! 😉

            Glad you enjoyed the party and had a good day.

          • Plumber says:

            @Deiseach 

            “Gasp! They permit this on government (well, state?) property during work time in California? I thought this kind of “forcing compulsory religion down the throats of the unaligned (i.e. anyone within a ten mile radius who might be presumed not to be religious)” was specifically banned! 😉…”

            City and County not State (our city is a county as well), and I suppose “technically” maybe prayers are banned on city properties, but it’s a bit hard when most of the City and County’s workforce were educated in Catholic schools, and/or are religious immigrants, who will momentarily forget how to understand English if you hassle them about it.

            Maybe the couple of law enforcement officers who were with us could have stopped it if they weren’t too busy having their heads bowed and making the sign of the cross. 

            “….Glad you enjoyed the party and had a good day”

            Thanks!

          • Plumber says:

            Oh wait, that didn’t come out right!

            Our old boss is retired, and that he said a prayer as a private citizen while current city employees happened to be nearby and silent in entirely coincidental.

            *whew*

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Good handwriting.

      I’ve mostly quit, but my girlfriend’s is beautiful, and I feel bad for not being able to write to her as beautifully as she can to me. I really should get back to practicing.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      The banjo. Admittedly I’m sufficiently inefficient at my work that I rarely have free time to practice, but I love the sound, when I get the chance. Though there is probably some aspect of the phenomenon whereby even as you get better, there is always someone better than you, even if you are a high-level professional, so an amateur dabbler is never going to feel like they have arrived.

      See also, all the languages of the places I expect to visit again, and would like to speak better (Dutch, Finnish, Bulgarian, Portuguese, others…)

    • Walter says:

      Losing weight.

      Not quitting because even failed diets slow the upward trend.

      Sure, this time I’ll just not eat so much and do more exercising. Definitely going to work.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Losing weight past a certain point. Going from “lots of fat, no muscle” to “some fat, some muscle” was pretty easy but losing fat past a certain point gets tricky – a diet will go for a while, stall, and then some of the gains will be reversed.

        Not quitting because I have been, by reasonable standards, successful: I get in the gym 4-6 days a week, I’ve gone beyond the “lose x% and keep it off for y years” that is supposedly only achieved by single digits or whatever according to the studies, I’m not even really fat by most standards any more. Plus, doing enough BJJ to have smooshed guys with abs is an ego boost.

        This time, I’m combining two things that seem to have worked in the past – intermittent fasting (of sorts) and daily weighing.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Also this. My goal is be a more muscular 175. Right now I am at a178, with a small amount of muscle, down from 208 and far too much fat.

        I probably am never going to get to the “muscle” % I want, in part because I am not measuring that and I have no defined goal, but at least it should keep pounds off.

      • Nick says:

        Just the opposite. I’ve been trying to gain weight.

    • Garrett says:

      A girlfriend/spouse.
      Because concluding that I don’t get to have kids is the end of meaning in my life; the daily grind is boring.
      No, because history. And I’m getting to the age where fertile women will say “don’t you think you are too old for me?”

    • axiomsofdominion says:

      Finishing my simulation side strategy game. Because I have no other major goals or desires that are achievable. Even if the game sucks I can at least code it and finish at some point.

      I don’t have a plan I think will work. I can push carts 10 hours a day always being on time and never missing work but even though I was a national merit finalist, didn’t have the GPA requirement, I am just totally incapable of doing something mentally difficult but also boring for a sustained period. Drugs are apparently mostly not effective on me at acceptable doses for some reason ADHD or anxiety wise. Therapy didn’t really work either. Shrink said sometimes it just happens that way. Bad luck.

    • Tarpitz says:

      Qualify for a Magic: the Gathering Pro Tour. I am (and have been for a while) good enough that I could plausibly catch a few breaks, spike a tournament and get there. I also know I’m capable of being a better player than I currently am, though it’s unclear to me how much better: I honestly don’t know if there is an amount of work I could do that would put me in the class of players who can actively expect to qualify, even from only a few events, and given that I don’t want to make the game a full time job I’ll never find out. Alternatively, I could buy more tickets, in the sense of entering more qualifying events. I fail to do this partly through disorganisation, partly due to brokeness, and partly out of an unhealthy fear of failure.

    • Deiseach says:

      What is a thing you’ve been trying to achieve or learn, and failing, for more than five years?

      Getting full-time employment in a decent job/having an actual career

      Why aren’t you quitting? Do you have a plan you think will work this time, and if so, why?

      I have quit. I no longer have any plans since all the plans I did use, constructed from all the advice about “how to get this thing you want”, didn’t work and I’ve finally accepted (having had it smashed into my face) that I am not worth anything; in the discussions on here about minimum wage and how employers will only pay the value of employees, I’m not even worth working for free – yes, I tried that as an offer and still couldn’t get anywhere – this was a tactic advised, back before the days of “unpaid internships”, to the likes of me looking for work:

      1. Offer to work for a trial period for free
      2. Your employer will see how great you are and offer you a paid job
      3. Profit!

      Step one went just fine, the problem was step two – as long as I worked for nothing, the employers were happy with my work and had no complaints over quality, the minute I went “so if I’m doing okay, how about a paid job?” it was “oh sorry, can’t keep you on anymore, you simply don’t have the qualifications” and I was out the door, so no step three I’m afraid.

      Most egregious example of this, though not the only one, was local pharma company where I applied for lab tech work (I actually had a three year diploma certifying me as a lab tech, this was back in the day). Sorry, can’t even take you on for summer work washing the glassware, we just don’t have the vacancies. Literally a week later, heard so-and-so got in the lab there. Oh, has she a degree? No, she’s not even interested in science, this is a summer job until she goes back to college. So how come she got hired on (completely unqualified, at full wages) when they told me there wasn’t even temporary summer work? Well, turns out she’s the daughter of the managing director, you see…

      I couldn’t have asked for a clearer signal from the Universe “Face it, you’re fucked. It’s never going to matter what you do, how much you try, what certificates you earn – you are not going to get anywhere because you Just. Don’t. Count.”

      • You write well. Have you thought about ways of getting paid for it, while doing whatever else you do? You could, for example, have a blog and either host ads or have a Patreon account. Find a niche of people who would be interested in your view of the world–a very small fraction of the world population is still a very large number of people–and target it.

        My daughter is a free lance online editor. It doesn’t pay very well but it does pay, and she has the additional benefit of feeling as though she is helping authors learn to write better (myself among them, at the moment). You obviously read a lot. Manuscripts by authors who are self-publishing are not as worth reading as the published works you read, but there is the benefit of actually having a hand in making them better.

        Or write a book yourself. Getting professionally published is very hard, but self-publishing at this point is essentially costless. Even if it doesn’t make you any significant amount of money, as long as some people read your book and like it you have evidence that you are achieving something of value.

        Your past experience suggests that you are poor at selling yourself to employers. Sell yourself to customers instead. Since any such approach might not work, find ones that don’t require you to give up your present job, at least until and unless it is clear that this one really is working.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Oh, has she a degree? No, she’s not even interested in science, this is a summer job until she goes back to college. So how come she got hired on (completely unqualified, at full wages) when they told me there wasn’t even temporary summer work? Well, turns out she’s the daughter of the managing director, you see…

        Oh yeah.

  4. Vermillion says:

    Everyday I’m Rumblin’
    Rumblin’ Rumblin’

    • Vermillion says:

      RUMBLE ROUND 2

      As the bell rings on the second round the 4 remanining heroes take a moment to seize each other up before springing into action. Well, 3/4ths of them spring into action Particle Man springs to his second sight and his gold medallion. He considers then rejects the idea of protecting himself, in either branch of reality and instead throws his considerable diplotatic force at either Gobbobobble or Subject4056, if GB should happen to turn on him.

      Subject4056 adopts a classic crane defense, devoting a substantial portion of his energy to this. But considering he’s still at full strength that leaves a comfortable surplus to tap into the Shared Life Force and then send a knee to honoredb and a quick backhand to the muttering Randy.

      Gobbobobble meanwhile has learned an important lesson about throwing himself with complete abandon at a single foe. Instead he takes a second to tap the SLF then throws about 42% of himself at honoredb leaving the rest for defense.

      honoredb for his part is finding his fists once again touched by the balancing forces of the universe. But while last time this force left him sluggish and flabby but surprisingly resilient, now he feels himself glowing with the white-hot energy of pure violence. Combined with that good old shared life force he unleashes a furious combination attack on all around him, perhaps hoping to end things here and now leaving just a token defense.

      This powerful attack manages to slightly overcome Subject4056’s practiced defense and the wise monk tastes pennies and suspects he might lose a molar, but is otherwise fine. Gobbobobble takes practically as strong a blow and with much less of his focus on defense the seismic slams stagger him but he stays on his feet for now. No such luck for Particle Man, between the almost incidental blow from Subject4056 and the concentrated rage of honoredb he falls, like so many laureates before him. Finally, as the glowing rage ebbs honoredb feels the force of the massive, diplomancy enhanced, blow from Subject4056 suddenly and totally and then he, like Jake before him, is little more than a wet smear on the arena floor.
      DOUBLE KO
      END ROUND 2
      ROUND 3 ALLOCATIONS DUE SATURDAY 9PM EST UNLESS THE REMAINING PLAYERS COME TO AN AGREEMENT NOW BUT WHAT DO I KNOW I’M JUST THE ALL-POWERFUL COSMIC FORCE RUNNING THE SHOW

      The nitty gritty
      Player: Particle Man/Randy M
      Starting energy: 47
      Powers activated: Branch (1), Diplomacy (46)
      Attacks made: none
      Defense: 0
      Attacks received: Subject4056 (2, +17 SLF) Honoredb (20, +17 SLF, +32 TOWBB)
      Damage taken: 88
      Energy received:0
      Ending Energy: -41

      Player: Gobbobobble
      Starting energy:67
      Powers activated: SLF (10)
      Attacks made: Honoredb (27, +17SLF)
      Defense: 30
      Attacks received: Honoredb (17, +17SLF, +32 TOWBB), SLF (17/3 =5 rounded down)
      Damage taken: 41
      Energy received: 0
      Ending Energy: 26

      Player: Honoredb
      Starting energy: 73
      Powers activated: SLF (10), The One Who Brings Balance
      Attacks made: Subject4056 (18, +17SLF, +32 TOWBB), Gobbobobble (17, +17SLF, +32 TOWBB), Randy M (20, +17SLF, +32 TOWBB)
      Defense: 8, -32 TOWBB = 0
      Attacks received: Subject4056 (7, +17SLF, +92 Diplo), Gobbobobble (27, +17SLF), SLF (17/3 =5 rounded down)
      Damage taken: 165
      Energy received: 0
      Ending Energy: -92

      Player: Subject4056
      Starting energy: 89
      Powers activated: SLF (10)
      Attacks made: Honoredb (7, +17SLF, +92 Diplo), Particle Man (2, +17SLF)
      Defense: 70
      Attacks received: Honoredb (18, +17SLF,+32 TOWBB), SLF (17/3 =5 rounded down)
      Damage taken: 2
      Energy received: 0
      Ending Energy: 87

      • Vermillion says:

        By the way, Randy only just got his allocations in before I posted this, and in fact I’d already starting writing up the results where he just devoted all his energy to defense. Funnily enough, the outcome was nearly identical (PM and honoredb both KO), but Gob had only 3 energy in that case.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Well, considering Subject4056 has more than double my energy and we’re both basically mortal, there’s nothing I can do!

        So uh, *hack, wheeze* hey there, dude. You, uh, you win ok?

        • Subject4056 says:

          Sounds fine by me, though our dastardly captor will have to give the rules on concession.

          Thanks for the game everybody! Looking forward to dying first next round.

        • Vermillion says:

          The all-powerful cosmic force came to the same conclusion about your chances and your dignified surrender will save us a lot of busy work, so thanks for that.

      • Randy M says:

        Ah man. Honoredb is down to -92. My attack added 92 to an attack against him, meaning I accomplished nothing. :/

        That Candy man and Balance Bringer made this one a brain burner.

      • honoredb says:

        Wow, good game! It came so close to running long, too…

      • Vermillion says:

        Thanks for playing all! Glad you guys had a good time, I quite enjoyed seeing it all unfold from on high and enjoyed the creative writing prompt. If there’s interest in another bout I’ll open up the applications again next OT.

  5. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Inspired by an old OT comment chain about My Little Pony having swerved to the Left in its latest season:

    Is there anything good for traditional parents to show little kids, or is it necessary to just (wo)man up and read them the classics?

    • WashedOut says:

      The films Up and Inside Out are fantastic. In general I would stick to the classics.

      MLP swerving left might be the least-surprising of all, given their fanbase. I recently had the misfortune of sitting around with friends and watching Netflix’s remake of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which a lot of my female friends grew up watching. Spolier: the producers went full social justice in the most trite and cringeworthy ways possible, hollowed out the raw entertainment value, draped a veneer of darkness/melancholia over it and called it a day.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Full SJ with a veneer of melancholy darkness? Uh, wow.
        I don’t know why corporations remake old shows like this. Why remind people that there’s a “problematic” old version for comparison?

      • gbdub says:

        Sabrina is much more of “full melancholy darkness with an SJ veneer”.

        The new Charmed on the other hand, is full SJ, and not in a smart or entertaining way, more like in the whatever you call the drama version of “clapter” way. Lots of earnest sloganeering.

        • woah77 says:

          Yeah, I’d agree with that description of Sabrina. Sure there was an SJ veneer, but it was almost comically childish. The dark and melancholy are far more prevalent themes.

          • gbdub says:

            Which boggled me. Sabrina the Teenage Witch was a teen comedy. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is just another dark gritty mediocre supernatural soapy drama for the teen set.

            The cat is supposed to wisecrack, dammit! Instead we get a Salem that doesn’t even talk, literal human blood sacrifice, and bar bs gur znva pnfg univat gb Byq Lryyre gurve fbhy-qrnq mbzovr fvoyvat.

            Also, I find the lead actress really off-putting. Something about the combo of her voice/inflection and the particular way the script makes her dialogue challenge the human and witch status quo, really comes off as the worst sort of snotty “well, actually…”. Witchsplaining, if you will *ducks*

            EDIT: if you found the SJ in Sabrina comically childish, definitely don’t watch the new Charmed. The SJ is a much stronger theme, while still being comically superficial/childish – worse, actually, they really beat you over the head with it and make everything SO on the nose. Which, especially given your target audience probably is already on board with all that, SHOW DON’T TELL.

        • Deiseach says:

          The new Charmed on the other hand, is full SJ

          (1) Wait, what? There’s a new Charmed?
          (2) It’s even more SJ than the original? I thought that had gone pretty full-in on the 90s niceness’n’equality’n’unjustly maligned minorities (witches are not evil crones making deals with the devil, they’re helpful candles and flowers Wiccans casting pretty spells to fight badness!) and you’re telling me they ramp this up even more?

          I have to wonder if the new Sabrina, having gone the “dark and gritty yes witches are evil crones making deals with the devil actually” path is trying to copy the American Horror Story look and feel?

          Honestly, all the revampings and re-imaginings of witches and witchcraft are making me more sympathetic to the Salem judges!

    • dick says:

      My Little Pony having swerved to the Left

      What does this mean? It sounds like Poe’s Law bait.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        Quoting my earlier comment from the thread in question:

        My Little Pony has been veering left lately. S08E06 “Surf and/or Turf” is a thinly veiled allegory for divorce, while S08E10 “The Break Up Break Down” has both gay and lesbian couples in the background. And have you read the leaks? When G4 ends next season and G5 starts, Applejack is going to be re-imagined as “a more hardscrabble, urban” character from the “wrong side of the tracks” because “she 100% should not be associated with anything country/farmy/western/hick-ish/etc” (those are all direct quotes from the e-mail).

        • Baeraad says:

          The first two things I give not a single solitary crap about. Good for them, I say. Divorce is a thing that exists, and what’s more it’s something that a lot of children watching the show might experience. Gay and lesbian couples exist too, and you may as well get used to it.

          But Applejack not being country anymore? Okay, that’s just wrong.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Isn’t there a suppressed premise here? These couples exist [and are good], so you’d better get used to it?
            Grown men pumping boys who have just had their first ejaculation and dumping them when facial hair starts to come in exist too, but that brute fact doesn’t tell us how to treat them.

          • Baeraad says:

            I don’t know about good in the sense that you should bounce up and down with glee because they exist, but they are certainly not bad either. They’re just a thing.

            But yes, you can put that caveat into my poo-pooing of your concerns if it makes you feel better.

          • Nick says:

            Well, is the message “divorce is a thing that exists,” or is the message “divorce is a thing that exists, and that’s bad,” or is the message “divorce is a thing that exists, and that’s good, and you kids should just learn to be more understanding about when mom and dad just can’t get along”?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Must…resist…culture war…gay…politics…complaining….

            And I fail. My problem with exposing little boys to the “gay is normal and natural” message is when they’re 14 and Kevin Spacey tries to rape them they’re at risk of thinking it’s normal and natural to have sex with Kevin Spacey. All else being equal I’d rather not do that, so no, I don’t want the “gay is normal and natural” message in my children’s propaganda.

            You can if you want. By all means, I’m not telling you what to tell your kids about homosexuality. But I’m not interested in sending that message to my kids. I’d rather imprint on them that boys and girls go together like mommy and daddy, and when they’re old enough we’ll explain that some people are different.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            The equivalence of homosexuality with rape here is… ungenerous and worrying.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            When a grown man (Kevin Spacey) has sex with a 14 year old boy, that is rape, correct? Same thing if a grown man has sex with a 14 year old girl, correct? Or a grown woman has sex with a 14 year old?

            ETA: this cognitive dissonance or intellectual dishonesty over pederasty is one of the other things that I strongly dislike about gay culture. Everyone says of course it’s wrong for an adult to have sex with an underage person. But then Milo Yiannopolous says it’s common in the gay culture for older men to “guide” young boys into the gay lifestyle and it was perfectly all right when that happened to him, and George Takei says it was just fine when his 19 year old camp counselor had sex with George when he was 13 because the counselor was “hot.” And the vast majority of the “pedo” problems in the Catholic Church are adult gay priests and seminarians having “consensual” sex with post-pubescent teenage boys.

          • acymetric says:

            @Conrad

            I think this is pretty much the same problem as high-fiving the 14-15 year old kid who sleeps with his hot (female) high school teacher. It isn’t a gay problem, it’s a cultural attitude problem: the assumption that men like to get laid by their gender of preference under any and all circumstances and this is totally fine and should be accepted or even encouraged.

            In other words, this problem has a lot to do with cultural attitudes towards men and men’s sexuality and very little to do with homosexuality. I certainly support gay rights, but I do not support 19 year olds sleeping with 13 year olds regardless of the genders involved. Unless you can convince me that this is uniquely a gay problem (I am fairly certain it isn’t) I’m not sure there is much weight to your concerns. By all means teach boys (and girls) what kind of touching isn’t acceptable, and boundaries, and so on (seriously, please do this). But the boys and girls should be taught not to allow that kind of touching by adults (or kids I suppose) of either gender so again, I just don’t see how this is a gay issue as opposed to a general child molestation issue (at which point the depiction in MLP doesn’t seem relevant to the discussion anymore).

            Additionally, at least based on the recap, it doesn’t even sound like homosexuality was actually discussed in the episode, it just showed some same-sex couples in the background which is pretty benign (kids will also see same-sex couples in the background during their daily lives).

          • Civilis says:

            It may be the anime fan in me over-riding my conservative values, but a same-sex background couple isn’t where I’d draw the line in a story with a substantial children’s audience. The issue is not that a male-male couple exists, but that we’ve gotten to the point where children are associating a pair in an ambiguous relationship (like two unnamed characters in the background of a scene) with sexual activity. A child, even one that’s had the birds & bees talk, shouldn’t be associating a couple in one of these stories with sexual activity, hetero or otherwise.

            I conceptually understand why foreigners consider us Americans to be strange for having stronger taboos about depictions of things in the ‘sex’ category than things in the ‘violence’ category, but this is a good illustration as to why that fence existed. That sex is assumed to be normal in relationships aids predatory behavior; if everyone else is doing it, it’s easy to shrug off warning signs.

            If you see a pair of male characters in the background and know they’re gay and not just close bromantic friends, there’s a problem. However, this also applies to straight couples. Yes, once kids learn the basics of reproduction, there will be the knowledge in there that ultimately a child character had to come from somewhere, but it’s almost always unimportant to the story being told and shouldn’t be something they think about. It’s why most of the older stories ended at the wedding, and if resumed, picked back up again with their children well after that phase of the relationship.

            The underlying problem, to me, as a conservative, is that the default assumption has become anyone in fiction in a relationship is having sex. Leaving relationships in fiction ambiguous helps everyone, contrary to the representation arguments of some of the more vocal intersectional progressives. This isn’t helped by the number of shippers in fandom, going back to Kirk/Spock, but keeping the shippers, whether straight or gay, away from the younger fans is something we should all agree is good.

          • acymetric says:

            @Civilis:

            All good points, but I think this is a bit of a case of adults projecting. How many kids are thinking about sexual relationships during that scene? Romance and sexual relationships seem more or less synonymous to adults, but I don’t think that is necessarily true to younger children (or at least I certainly agree that it shouldn’t be) although the age where this changes varies from child to child based on what they are exposed to in their personal lives, education, and in the media. Of course, again, this is a general culture issue that relates to straight and gay couples in media equally, so not a homosexual issue.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            Throwing my voice in on the side of, “this is more a problem with some men universalizing their predatory views abiut sex than about homosexual men being sex predators.” There are problems – big ones – in the gay scene, but they aren’t implied by homosexuality.

            @Civilis

            It’s difficult to talk about love without romance, and even harder to talk about romance without sex. I’m not advocating proactive “gorey details” sex education, but I would note that a culture in which children don’t know that sex exists is… aberrant, and possibly only achieved by small groups of Mormons. Ever. Attempts to keep romance out of media are, in my opinion, doomed. And as long as romance is there, the specter of sex will follow alongside it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I do not support 19 year olds sleeping with 13 year olds regardless of the genders involved. Unless you can convince me that this is uniquely a gay problem (I am fairly certain it isn’t) I’m not sure there is much weight to your concerns.

            No, I think it’s a uniquely gay problem because of the male libido and gay culture.

            Adult male, teenage female: While males tend to prefer young sex partners, we have strong cultural norms (and laws) against this, and generally teenage females are not desperate for a man, any man, to have sex with them. I would also oppose cultural messages that it’s perfectly normal and natural for a 14 year old girl to have sex with a 30 year old man.

            Adult female, teenage female: I’m not aware of any general predilection amongst adult lesbians for teenage lesbians. Women in general tend to be attracted to things in addition to youth and beauty.

            Adult female, teenage male: South Park “niiiiiice” jokes aside, most women are not interested in sex with teenage boys. Straight teenage boys might want to have sex with any woman who’ll let them, but the opportunity isn’t really there. The 22 year old teacher who has sex with her 14 year old male student is “man bites dog” news.

            Adult male, teenage male: This is where interests align. Men regardless of orientation have a predilection for young partners. Boys, regardless of orientation are very interested in someone, anyone of their preferred group to have sex with them. In the gay culture, a teenage boy having sex with an attractive older man is “Niiiiiiice” but it’s not a joke.

            It’s a uniquely male homosexual issue because it’s only in the male-male relationship that the interests of both parties align.

            ETA: Oh, and the gay culture either promotes these sorts of relationships, or disavows them with a big wink in public and then in the next breath says how great their relationships like that were. And the straights pretend they don’t see the winking because they cannot say there’s anything different between straight mating habits and gay mating habits. And this doesn’t happen with straights. You don’t have an awful lot of women who talk about how great it was when a 30 year old man had sex with them when they were 14.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            The recent season of Voltron on Netflix features one of the main characters in a gay relationship, but not in a way that most kids would even see a hint about. The only clue for adults was that the type of conversation happening (one character was leaving on a dangerous mission the other objected to) wouldn’t make much sense otherwise. That didn’t tip the scale for me into a problem, because there was nothing at all sexual in it. The fact that they had some sort of close relationship was obvious, but without the sexual aspect, it worked just as well for close friends as for lovers. I would have an objection to an obviously sexual straight couple, if depicted in a children’s show as well.

          • gbdub says:

            The hell is up with the assumption that gay man = pedophile? What percentage of gay men do you think actually participate in sex with underage boys?

            There are male and female straight pedophiles, and certainly lots of older men attracted to very young women. NAMBLA is a thing, but “barely legal teens” is a mainstream adult video category, so…

            EDIT: and what the hell does ANY of that have to do with whether or not two same-age same-sex cartoon ponies are interested in each other?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            We’re not talking about pedophilia (pre-pubescent boys/girls) but post-pubescent teenagers. As you said, “barely legal teens” is a common porn category, gay or straight.

            Men in general have a predilection for youth and beauty in a way women do not. There was study showing what age of people of the opposite sex people found attractive by age. Women frequently liked men about the same age as them or slightly older up until they capped out around the mid-50s. But men regardless of age were pretty much honed in on 22-year-old women. I can look for the study if this does not seem obvious to you.

          • gbdub says:

            This all started with you making the contention that MLP having two gay characters would make 14 year old boys more likely to think it’s okay when Kevin Spacey wants to bang them.

            Don’t move the goalposts back to “well, all I’m saying is both gay and straight men like sexually mature partners that look youthful”.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            14 year olds are post-pubescent (or at the end of puberty). But they’re not pre-pubescent which is what pedophilia is.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            I think you’re making some questionable SJW-style assumptions about men here, but leaving that aside…

            By your argument, straight men want to have sex with young girls (and contrary to what you say, young girls are famously available to their older idols), but showing “normal” age-appropriate relationships is OK because it normalizes the latter, not the former. But showing age-appropriate gay relationships is not ok because it normalizes the latter.

          • Randy M says:

            It’s difficult to talk about love without romance

            Perhaps this is due to a deficiency on the part of the English language. Other languages have more words for different kinds of love.
            I talk to my children about love without romance, though; in our relationship there is lots of former without the latter. This is true for most of the relationships they can observe (with each other, parents and children, grandparents and children, parents and uncles/aunts, etc.).

          • 10240 says:

            My problem with exposing little boys to the “gay is normal and natural” message is when they’re 14 and Kevin Spacey tries to rape them they’re at risk of thinking it’s normal and natural to have sex with Kevin Spacey.

            That’s not a good argument. By that logic, cartoons shouldn’t show heterosexual couples either, because when an adult man tries to have sex with a little girl, the little girl will think it’s normal.

            I think this is pretty much the same problem as high-fiving the 14-15 year old kid who sleeps with his hot (female) high school teacher.

            It’s very likely that he enjoys it, much more likely than in the case of a male teacher and a girl. IMO laws should treat the situations equally, but there is no use pretending that it’s actually symmetric.

            (kids will also see same-sex couples in the background during their daily lives).

            In liberal countries/places, I suppose. I’ve never seen one in Hungary or Italy (and I don’t really want to either).

            It’s a uniquely male homosexual issue because it’s only in the male-male relationship that the interests of both parties align.

            It looks like you are talking about consensual situations. If the boy (or girl) is old enough to actually want to have sex, and there is no pressure, are you sure that any significant harm comes from it (and that Milo and others are wrong when they don’t think so)? Boys can’t even get pregnant. Age of consent is 14 in many European countries, and I’m not aware that it causes any major problems.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Straight culture is full of memes warning young girls to not have sex at all and adult men not to have sex with underage girls.

            Gay culture does not have such memes.

            You understand there is a difference between gay and straight mating cultures, correct? This is the entire reason we acknowledge such a thing as “gay culture” exists. What’s the difference between gay culture and straight culture?

            And then there’s biology. Men, regardless of orientation, are more promiscuous than women.

            ETA:

            It looks like you are talking about consensual situations. If the boy (or girl) is old enough to actually want to have sex, and there is no pressure, are you sure that any significant harm comes from it (and that Milo and others are wrong when they don’t think so)?

            In the US we have “age of consent” laws because (ostensibly) we do not believe young teenagers are emotionally or mentally mature enough to meaningfully consent. So, no, a 14-year-old can not “consent” to have sex with a 30-year-old.

          • Civilis says:

            All good points, but I think this is a bit of a case of adults projecting. How many kids are thinking about sexual relationships during that scene? Romance and sexual relationships seem more or less synonymous to adults, but I don’t think that is necessarily true to younger children (or at least I certainly agree that it shouldn’t be) although the age where this changes varies from child to child based on what they are exposed to in their personal lives, education, and in the media. Of course, again, this is a general culture issue that relates to straight and gay couples in media equally, so not a homosexual issue.

            I agree with everything in this paragraph. And while the spread of social media means that its easier than ever to find the people obsessed with projecting relationships onto the characters, I still don’t think it’s that much of a problem, with one exception: we’re now seeing the showrunners themselves projecting relationships onto the story, not to advance the story but either to stick it to the man or to appease exceptionally vocal factions of their fanbase.

            It’s difficult to talk about love without romance, and even harder to talk about romance without sex. I’m not advocating proactive “gorey details” sex education, but I would note that a culture in which children don’t know that sex exists is… aberrant, and possibly only achieved by small groups of Mormons. Ever. Attempts to keep romance out of media are, in my opinion, doomed. And as long as romance is there, the specter of sex will follow alongside it.

            Most shows, especially kids shows, aren’t about love, or at least about Eros. You might have a point if we were talking about Beauty and the Beast or The Little Mermaid, but even those don’t get beyond romance. MLP is specifically about friendship; it’s right there in the title. Adding love into it damages its ability to stick to the primary theme of the series.

            It’s possible to project love / romance / sex onto anything (that’s the reason rule 34 (and a dozen other rules) exist) but actual stories about love and romance are pretty easy to distinguish. There’s a difference between knowing about sex and being accustomed to looking for it, and there’s a difference between looking for it and seeing it everywhere.

          • dick says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            Isn’t there a suppressed premise here? These couples exist [and are good], so you’d better get used to it?
            Grown men pumping boys who have just had their first ejaculation and dumping them when facial hair starts to come in exist too, but that brute fact doesn’t tell us how to treat them.

            This comment single-handedly turned a slightly-CW discussion about ideological content in cartoons into a super-duper-CW discussion about the alleged prevalence of predatory pedophilia in the gay community. It seems like Exhibit A for the case that comments of the form “I’d like to point out that your position would be wrong if exaggerated to an absurd degree” are bad. On top of that, choosing to graphically describe the pedophilia was absolutely unjustifiable.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            So to be clear, are people objecting to the factual claim that adult men having sex with young men / teenage boys is part of gay culture? Or are people objecting to the implicit condemnation of gay culture.

            It’s pretty easy to find population data and candid personal accounts which support Conrad’s factual claim. The moral significance is debatable but ultimately a separate question.

          • gbdub says:

            We’re objecting to the contention that “sex with underage boys” is such an intrinsic part of gay culture that any positive portrayal of gay relationships (even ones that involve age peers) in children’s shows puts boys at a significantly increased risk of being raped by older men.

            Plus this all hinges on the idea that gay kids won’t be gay if they don’t see positive gay relationships on TV, which is already offensive and almost certainly incorrect.

          • John Schilling says:

            So to be clear, are people objecting to the factual claim that adult men having sex with young men / teenage boys is part of gay culture?

            I am skeptical of the claim that it is presently a central part of gay culture, and if all you’ve got is that it sometimes happens, so what? Straight adult men sometimes sleep with 14yo girls, shall we stop normalizing straight romance?

            Once upon a time, yes, pederasty was central to gay culture. When Jeremy Bentham penned his famous defense of homosexuality, he literally could not conceive of any homosexual relationship that wasn’t pederasty. But, increasing social tolerance for homosexuality has resulted in a disproportionate increase in the number of healthy, adult homosexual relationships. And, the AIDS crisis was transformative, in that it killed off or scared off a significant fraction of the male homosexual community, and it was not a uniform cull.

            So I don’t think we should be applying the old stereotypes, however valid they might once have been, without more thought than I am seeing here.

            Also, if your problem is with gay adult men preying on 14yo boys, why are you complaining about e.g. TV shows showing healthy romances between adult gay men? Isn’t that what you should be supporting as an alternative? The gay adult men aren’t going away, and if they are going to be treated as degenerate perverts no matter who they are caught having sex with, then many of them are going to have sex with the more physically attractive and psychologially malleable adolescents. And the homosexually-inclined teenagers aren’t going away either; if the only people who will recognize them for who they are and treat them as anything but degenerate perverts are the predatory adult male homosexuals, then they are going to be easy prey.

          • Dan L says:

            It’s pretty easy to find population data and candid personal accounts which support Conrad’s factual claim.

            I’ve found it easy to find personal accounts attesting to the existence of non-predatory gay male relationship, so let’s talk about that population data. To Conrad Honcho and those who back the same argument: what do you think is the critical level of ephebophilia at which it is no longer acceptable to display even a healthy, functional example of a given culture? Genuine question, I’m eager to hear how this metric can be deployed in a consistent way.

          • gbdub says:

            +1 to John’s last paragraph (and whole post really) which does a better job of saying what I was trying to.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @dick: the point of explicitly describing ancient Greek homosexuality was to give a reductio of the sort of sexual behavior we could approve of. “They exist so better get used to it,” is empirically false. For any non-reproductive sexual behavior, society can celebrate or punish it in pretty much any way whatsoever. And this example arguably wasn’t pedophilia (since it started the day the boy hit puberty, rather than going after really little boys), which is why I was explicit rather than saying “pedophiles.”

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @John Schilling,

            I can’t answer some of your questions because I personally don’t see it as a particularly large risk. I’d be much more worried about a hypothetical daughter being groomed by straight men then a hypothetical son being groomed by gay men just on the weight of numbers. Even if ad arguendo gay men are more likely to be predators, they’re still only 3-5% of the male population. It would have to be an order of magnitude difference in rate of child molestation.

            What I wanted to push back against was what seems to me like an extreme disgust-based overreaction to Conrad’s more risk-averse position. Even if you disagree about whether the degree of risk is enough to justify shielding his children from gay culture, that’s fundamentally his decision to make and not yours.

            Parents try to protect their kids from all sorts of unlikely fates. Being groomed by your parish priest or drama teacher is at least as likely as a stranger luring children into their van with candy. If you think worrying about either is laughable that’s one thing but the response goes well beyond that into moral outrage.

          • rlms says:

            “Right-wingers in the SSC comments section are mostly just libertarians who think SJWs have gone too far, there aren’t really any traditional social conservatives”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Parents try to protect their kids from all sorts of unlikely fates. Being groomed by your parish priest or drama teacher is at least as likely as a stranger luring children into their van with candy.

            Exactly. I see the forced insertion of gay characters into kids’ shows and say “why are you doing this? Who is this for? Couldn’t you just…not?” Yes, you could have a cartoon that shows the kids being offered candy and puppies by a strange man in a van and they get in the van and enjoy the candy and puppies from the kindly man and then go on their merry way, but all else being equal I’d prefer you didn’t.

            It’s like memetic grooming. And no, it’s not the same with same-age straight romance on TV because of all the reasons I listed previously about the differences in sexual interests for different gender combinations and the memes warning girls off sex and men off sex with underage girls (“creepy old man,” “jailbait,” “she told me she was 18!”). When gays start shunning pederasts instead of waxing poetically about the time they were statutory raped we can talk. Until then….eh no.

            ETA: rlms, no one says that.

            ETA2:

            @Dan L

            To Conrad Honcho and those who back the same argument: what do you think is the critical level of ephebophilia at which it is no longer acceptable to display even a healthy, functional example of a given culture? Genuine question, I’m eager to hear how this metric can be deployed in a consistent way.

            I’m not really sure. I think porn is bad, so if you’re talking about “barely legal” genre porn that’s already out. Besides that I can’t think of examples, certainly not that are “healthy and functional.” In media a relationship between an older man and a teenage girl is almost always portrayed as either predatory on his part or exploitative on her part (“gold digger”).

            Oh and Neelix and Tom getting busy with Kes was always creepy. She was like 4.

          • Nick says:

            “Right-wingers in the SSC comments section are mostly just libertarians who think SJWs have gone too far, there aren’t really any traditional social conservatives”

            Whom are you quoting?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Just for clarity, my objection to Conrad’s position is that he seems to be arguing that homosexuals (who has has not here stated he has a fundamental moral objection against) ought to be kept out of sight, since their visible existence is a meme that may prime his children to be victimized by pedophiles.

            The risk aversion is not the part of this that disturbs me, but the logic behind it; Conrad is almost certainly not taking similar steps to protect his children from dangers that I regard as equivalent, so I am left with two possible conclusions. One, that he considers visible homosexuality much, much more dangerous than I do, or two, that he has other objections to homosexuals. I’m doing my best not to presume (2) because it would be in bad faith, but (1) seems so deeply contrary to my worldview that I cannot help but let some of (2) sneak in. For that, I apologize.

            Also, as mentioned above, my SJW bullshit meter goes off when people start talking about needing to avoid men because they’re just so damned rapey. It makes it a bit difficult to be objective.

          • 10240 says:

            In the US we have “age of consent” laws because (ostensibly) we do not believe young teenagers are emotionally or mentally mature enough to meaningfully consent. So, no, a 14-year-old can not “consent” to have sex with a 30-year-old.

            Just because your country has laws because people generally think X doesn’t imply that X is true. Just because you live in a jurisdicton where age of consent is 18 is hardly a reason to be more concerned about your 14-year-old child having sex than if you lived in a country where age of consent is 14. Having sex at 14 may or may not harm someone, but it doesn’t depend on age of consent laws. I suspect that it doesn’t as long as the teenager is old enough to know what sex is and want it, there is no pressure involved, no one gets pregnant, and the risk of STD transmission is not excessive (the last one depends more on being informed than on age). (You should be concerned about your 19-year-old child having sex with a 14-year-old because you don’t want him to go to jail.)

            Higher age-of-consent laws may be justified by the possibility of pressure on an unwilling teenager to have sex that they may be unable to handle properly. But the fact that mid-teenage girls are less likely to want to have sex than boys is irrelevant in that case.

            By the way, I find it weird, and detrimental to discussion, that legal language related to rape and consent has been picked up by colloquial language. (C.f. we don’t consider corporations person in everyday discussion, even if they are in some legal sense). Obviously a teenager can consent in the everyday sense of the world, even if their decisions may be slightly less sound than those of adults, and even if the law shoehorned the prohibition of sex with children into that of rape, and created a legal fiction around consent for that purpose. The focus on using redefinitions on consent to create prohibitions around sex (as opposed to creating separate crimes when we want to ban something) has shifted the discussion from “is it wrong/harmful?” (which should be the real question) to “is there consent?”, which is in turn hard to discuss because the legal definition has departed from the original meaning, and we don’t really have an everyday concept to match the legal definition to.

          • Nornagest says:

            There’s an strong argument (one I associate with social conservatives, actually) that one of the functions of having a cultural canon is to model prosocial behavior, especially when you’re dealing with people’s baser instincts. That people and especially vulnerable people, if they don’t have strong prosocial templates to follow in their situation, will tend to default to whatever feels good in the short term, which more often than not ends up causing a lot of problems.

            The cultures that e.g. incubated the AIDS epidemic of the Eighties and Nineties don’t look very prosocial to me in retrospect, but I think that reinforces the first point if anything — their participants didn’t have much in the way of cultural templates to follow, once privacy and geographical mobility had gotten to the point where those cultures could exist at all. The media culture at the time was busy pretending they didn’t exist, and where did that get them? And we could do a lot worse than apparently stable, monogamous, adult pairs, if we wanted to create such a template. It’s not like My Little Pony is showing pederastic couples or drug-fueled orgies in the background, unless it got a lot edgier when I wasn’t looking.

          • dick says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            I know exactly what purpose is served by inserting graphic descriptions of man-on-boy rape in to discussions about societal acceptance of homosexuality, thanks.

          • rlms says:

            It’s quite a common sentiment, here’s one example. And in fact I think it is correct, there are more libertarians here than social conservatives! It’s just that sometimes members of the latter group make such obnoxiously terrible comments they appear more prevalent than they really are.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Conrad is almost certainly not taking similar steps to protect his children from dangers that I regard as equivalent

            Like what? Keep in mind, the extent of my “anti-homomeme” activity is…not putting homosexual stuff in front of my kids. I’m not asking for anti-homosexual memes in kids show. I’m not teaching them that gays are bad, or that being gay is bad. I’m not mentioning homosexuality at all. For them, for now, it doesn’t exist, but I’m sure in a few short years some kid at school will call some other kid at school a “fag” and they’ll ask me “daddy what does that mean” and we’ll go from there.

            Exposing them to that stuff now can’t help them. It can really only confuse them. Similarly, I would not show them videos about how awesome it is to take get in the vans of men who offer them free candy. Just not really a good idea. But I don’t have to worry about that because there doesn’t seem to be some bizarre industry-wide push to cram pro-get-in-the-candy-van memes into kids’ shows.

          • Dan L says:

            Let’s try that again. What do you think is the critical level of ephebophilia within a given culture at which it is no longer acceptable to display even a healthy, functional example of that culture?

            If you’re calling out gay men as being part of a memeplex so inherently vile that they should not be recognizable where children can see, what metrics are you using? Because if we’re throwing people back into the closet on something more than anecdote, I have a few recommendations. Name your target.

          • Nick says:

            rlms, there’s a big difference between “there are more libertarians than social conservatives” and “there aren’t really any social conservatives.” I think the former is probably right, while I think the latter is obviously wrong and, I take it, hyperbole on your part?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I’m kind of bewildered by Conrad’s objection to gay couples on kid’s shows, but the objection does not make one anti-libertarian. It’s when he calls for banning the depiction of gay couples on television that there is a problem.
            Arguments about norms that do not revert to government force seem like a good alternative to government censorship.

            I don’t think we have much (if any) of the group of people calling for the FCC to censor everything crowd, and they definitely exist.

            In terms of conservative in culture wars, there are probably more than a few, but those people can still be libertarian in their relevant political outlooks.

          • ilikekittycat says:

            Holy shit this whole thread is terrible, and very close to plain old bigotry

            I can’t speak to all gay culture everywhere but not once in any of my interactions starting in around the year 2000 have I encountered queer or adjacent identity group people saying gross old men who want to have sex with teenagers is anything but gross old men wanting to have sex with teenagers (including in public high school gay-straight alliance, which is exactly the place where the hypothetical youths are getting their first information about being part of a gay or queer community)

            I know this community has a lot of Asperger cases who don’t necessarily interact with a wide a range people, but this whole deciding through pure logic and reason that “because gay men want sex with young partners, boys want sex with anyone etc. etc. therefore they must think X and Y” has no more merit than the 19th century race science people who have rarely interacted with black people in their lives going “black people obviously have jungle rhythms inside them, so we can’t expect them to hold some of the more focused, delicate jobs in white society.” You can’t presume to describe the actually existing community just through your understanding of the premises of the community and the major news headlines you’ve seen through the years

            Everyone here needs to stop turning their blind-spots into boogeymen

          • Nornagest says:

            I know this community has a lot of Asperger cases…

            If you want to convince this community to stop stereotyping people, this isn’t the way to do it.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @conrad

            My most generous estimate of the level of memetic danger you’d be exposing them to is “about on the same level as allowing them to be aware of the existence of priests, thieves, or guns, and slightly more than making them aware of the concept of a ghost.”

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            So here’s a great example of what I’m talking about:

            Holy shit this whole thread is terrible, and very close to plain old bigotry

            Conrad’s argument is logically sound and, if you assume a very low risk tolerance, seems to be empirically valid.

            It’s easy to disagree with his argument. I know because I disagree with it myself: that degree of risk aversion is very costly. It’s traditional conservative helicopter parenting and not any better on that account than liberal helicopter parenting.

            But the people arguing against him here aren’t engaging with that argument even to refute it. They’re outraged that anyone would even make the argument, or even that people would engage with it themselves.

            That’s absolutely toxic to debate and the exact opposite of the culture Scott is trying to cultivate here.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Conrad Honcho:

            “I see the forced insertion of gay characters into kids’ shows and say “why are you doing this? Who is this for? Couldn’t you just…not?”

            Who is it for?

            I don’t know if you’ve read anything about what life was like for gay people in the fifties, but their existence was pretty much culturally invisible, and it wasn’t good for them.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What do you think is the critical level of ephebophilia within a given culture at which it is no longer acceptable to display even a healthy, functional example of that culture?

            I guess…any? The only reason I gave Roy Moore a pass was because it was in a different time and place when girls got married right out of college instead of right out of high school and he was (according to his words and the accounts in his favor) a gentleman looking for a wife and not casual sex. Still furrows the brow and warrants a squinty-eyed side glance.

            But I can’t think of anything in our culture that approves of older men having sex with 14 – 16 year old girls. In media adult men going after 18 year old girls for sex are depicted as sleazy, immature, or unserious, and certainly not healthy. Below that is right out.

            What exactly are you thinking of and what’s your point with this?

            It’s when he calls for banning the depiction of gay couples on television that there is a problem.
            Arguments about norms that do not revert to government force seem like a good alternative to government censorship.

            I didn’t call for any kind of ban. I wish they wouldn’t put those things in, and I’m not showing those things to my kids, but I have no interest in government censorship.

            ilikekittycat:

            I apologize for being a moral monster because I am unwilling to propagandize homosexuality to my six year old.

            But as to the factual claim it is not difficult to find positive personal anecdotes from gay men about their teenage affairs with older men. See Milo Yiannopolous, George Takei.

            ETA:

            “about on the same level as allowing them to be aware of the existence of priests, thieves, or guns, and slightly more than making them aware of the concept of a ghost.”

            Well, let’s remove “priests” from that for obvious “different values” reasons, but when I make them aware of thieves and guns I do so with explicit warnings that these are bad or dangerous or situationally dangerous things they shouldn’t go near. So is it okay if I tell my kids about gays, but also include explicit warnings to stay away from gays?

            And ghosts are not real, so, eh?

          • ilikekittycat says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            The “actual rebuttal” would be something like “The types of boys who got tricked and raped by Kevin Spacey were a result of too little information about the existence of the gay culture and its standards early in life, not too much.” When you have gone until 16, 17 with no information but “it’s sinful, avoid” until you had to move out of HootNHoller Alabama and move to Los Angeles its a lot easier for an older predator (esp. one you get starstruck by) to convince you that “this is how gays do it, you just haven’t learned yet” instead of the actual behavior of the community and its messages (i.e., not entering into relationships where you are taken advantage of by power imbalances, etc.) If you are taught gay relationships are normal, boring things from a young age, and the standards of being a decent human being don’t differ significantly, you internalize it before you potentially fall victim to a manipulative or abusive partner.

            @Nornagest

            I can’t help but notice your entire discourse with me on this site has consisted of saying I’m mean, and need to correct my behavior. If that is going to continue to characterize your posts to me in the future, I would request that you conserve your effort, I will just assume you don’t approve of how I am posting in perpetuity.

            @Conrad Honcho

            Goalpost moving. The controversy in question isn’t the existence of gay pedophiles, which everyone knows to be true (indeed, adult predators who pray on child or teenage victims are a part of presumably every sexuality.)

            The idea that you can conceive of “propagandizing” homosexuality shows how ridiculous your position is. Do you have to “propagandize” children to drink water when thirsty, or like warm things when it’s cold out?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            I’m really truly doing my best to not make this about what you think of the gays here; I appreciate that you’re being attacked, but… please help?

            I’m going to regret writing this but… assuming that gays are pedophiles at a similar rate to which black men are criminals, and you consider exposing children to gays “memetic priming,” do you avoid letting your children watch shows with black characters so that they won’t be memetically inclined to fall in with black criminals?

            I don’t think there’s anything wrong with “kiddo that there is a creepy gay man, stay away from him.” It might be overprotective and insensitive, but I don’t see it as absurd. Similarly, “kiddo that’s a gun, they’re dangerous.” But if you let kids watch shows with guns in them and keep the homosexuals out, it seems to me that you think that exposing kids to homosexuals puts them at a higher risk of being molested more than exposing kids to guns puts them at a higher risk of gun crime, or exposing kids to depictions of thievery primes them to commit theft. I don’t understand why.

          • The fact that they had some sort of close relationship was obvious, but without the sexual aspect, it worked just as well for close friends as for lovers.

            I’ve just been rereading Lord of the Rings for the first time in several decades. The relationship between Sam and Frodo is very close and I can imagine a modern reader trying to see it as homosexual, but it quite obviously isn’t.

            Just for clarity, my objection to Conrad’s position is that he seems to be arguing that homosexuals (who has has not here stated he has a fundamental moral objection against) ought to be kept out of sight

            He isn’t arguing that they ought to be kept out of sight. He is arguing that fictional homosexual couples ought not to be gratuitously inserted into works targeted at children, and that he will therefor avoid showing his children works where they are.

            Keeping homosexual couples out of sight imposes a pretty substantial cost on them. Not showing his children works portraying such couples doesn’t.

            Having sex at 14 may or may not harm someone, but it doesn’t depend on age of consent laws.

            I strongly agree. Every culture is crazy about something, and this is one of things ours is crazy about. I also agree that using “rape” and “consent” in non-legal contexts with their legal definitions is a mistake. There may be good reasons to prohibit sex with 14 year olds, but whether it is anything like rape in its ordinary sense depends on the particular people and context.

            H.L. Mencken comments somewhere that he lost his virginity at fourteen with a girl of the same age who, he adds, is now a very respectable grandmother.

          • gbdub says:

            “I apologize for being a moral monster because I am unwilling to propagandize homosexuality to my six year old. ”

            This is where you go off the rails. You conflate any not-negative depiction of gay relationships with “propagandizing” homosexuality. Presumably you would not consider a depiction of a heterosexual couple “propagandizing” anything at all. It’s just a depiction of a thing that exists. Presumably you do not want to shield your child from any depiction of romance at all (it’s not like we talking hardcore vids here). And I note here you didn’t specify “propagandizing ephebephila”, but homosexuality period.

            This is only “logically sound” if you consider homosexuality ipso facto bad, even among consenting adults. And “fine for you, bad for my kid” is still “bad”.

            It’s only “logically sound” if you consider your child being targeted for sex by an older gay man a much higher risk than from an older heterosexual. And higher than other forms of sexual violence (empirically, this is wrong – most sexual violence is heterosexual and between legal adults).

            It’s only “logically sound” if you think shielding kids from depictions of gay relationships in media will prevent them from being gay, and consider that a positive thing. (Of course empirically this is wrong – lots of factors in homosexuality but “it’s not a choice” seems to hold true)

            Basically, you’re holding homosexuality to a different standard, trying to keep it out of sight and out of mind, because you think it’s bad if kids turn out to be gay. Which… hopefully you (and Nabil) can see why calling that “bigoted” rather than “rational” is not exactly crazy?

            EDIT: @David Friedman – “fictional homosexual couples ought not to be gratuitously inserted into works targeted at children”

            The trouble is he apparently considers any depiction at all to be “gratuitous, not okay for kids”, an objection he does not make for heterosexual romance.

            I agree about your annoyance over modern “clearly Sam and Frodo are gay”. They are close male friends who love each other in an asexual fraternal sort of way, we shouldn’t make the assumption that any friendship must be sexual.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @ilikekittycat,

            Thank you for posting your counterargument.

            I don’t know how well my tone is coming across here but I mean that sincerely. This thread has been depressingly light on real arguments and your point is something that people can actually build on.

            Edit:

            @gbdub,

            “You’re bigoted” isn’t an argument, it’s an epithet.

            Anyway, Conrad’s argument as I understand it isn’t hard to understand and isn’t what you’re saying it is.

            1. “Positive or neutral portrayals of homosexuality normalize gay culture.” Presumably you agree with this.
            2. “Adult gay men having sex with young men / teenage boys is a part of gay culture.” This is the most likely source of disagreement but also luckily the easiest to empirically validate.
            3. “Therefore, normalizing gay culture increases the risk of my son falling victim to an older gay man.” This follows logically from 1. and 2., given a very low risk tolerance.

            That’s not unsound given his stated preferences. It may be invalid, although you haven’t made much of an argument here. It’s also possible to disagree with his preferences. But throwing around epithets is neither.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @David

            That was unclear of me; I should have said, “he should do his best the keep homosexuals out of sight of his children.” Conrad is, clearly, not in favor of incurring any costs to the gays, but only to himself. I didn’t mean to imply the contrary.

            And while it might be petty of me, I’ll note that we both gave Conrad a much more generous interpretation of the word “forced.”

          • albatross11 says:

            ilikekittycat:

            This is sort of a sideways query here, not central to your point, but is there any data that tells us whether more or less openness about sex is likelier to lead a minor to end up having sex with an adult? I really have no idea where I’d start looking for such information, but it seems kind of interesting to know. (If I had to guess, I’d guess that more sheltered kids would be more vulnerable to exploitation simply because they wouldn’t have heard of such things, whereas more sexually aware kids might be easier to talk into a tryst with an adult looking to scratch his kink for underaged partners. But I really have nothing to base this on.)

          • albatross11 says:

            There’s a kind of interesting set of shifts in modes of reasoning here:

            a. A factual set of questions about whether gay male culture includes a lot of older men sleeping with teenage boys, what the actual risks are, etc.

            b. A moral reaction to some answers to these factual questions.

            As best I can tell, every time someone starts with a factual question and ends up with a moral reaction, they’re sabotaging their brain. Perhaps gay men are proportionally more likely to sleep with teenagers than straight men, perhaps not, but answering that question can’t be done in the moral mode of thinking–we’ll never learn a correct answer by considering the moral status of people who ask the question, or the moral status of the possible answers.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @albatross11: Right, apparently I’m getting called out here for defining ancient male homosexuality, with the unfortunate explicit terms involved. I said nothing about the % of contemporary male homosexuals who go after boys before their 18th birthdays, which I just don’t know. It could be that the gay subculture has changed such that >99% of them only go after males old enough for no power imbalance to exist: this seems to be the possibility @Nornagest was gesturing at with “modeling prosocial behavior, unlike the past.” The “gay marriage” campaign could be a huge propaganda program made by members of that subculture to change male behavior. Again, I don’t know.

          • RobJ says:

            1. “Positive or neutral portrayals of homosexuality normalize gay culture.” Presumably you agree with this.
            2. “Adult gay men having sex with young men / teenage boys is a part of gay culture.” This is the most likely source of disagreement but also luckily the easiest to empirically validate.
            3. “Therefore, normalizing gay culture increases the risk of my son falling victim to an older gay man.” This follows logically from 1. and 2., given a very low risk tolerance.

            Obviously I’m not who you are responding to here, but I’m not sure I’d agree with any of these steps.
            1. It may normalize the existence of gay couples, but I don’t think it necessarily follows that it normalizes gay culture. Homosexuality and gay culture are not the same thing.
            2. It certainly has been a stereotype of it and may have some truth to it (or had at some point). It certainly is not central or accepted in the mainstream part of that culture.
            3. Again, normalizing homosexuality is not normalizing “gay culture”, especially if the form of the portrayal (same age couple) is at odds with the part of the culture you are concerned with.

          • Nornagest says:

            I can’t help but notice your entire discourse with me on this site has consisted of saying I’m mean, and need to correct my behavior. If that is going to continue to characterize your posts to me in the future, I would request that you conserve your effort, I will just assume you don’t approve of how I am posting in perpetuity

            No thanks. Out of sight, out of mind.

            Plus, I haven’t been singling out out for criticism, and I’m certainly not going to single you out to avoid criticism. Go ahead and assume whatever you want of me, although I’d of course encourage taking my posts to heart.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Conrad Honcho, what do you think you’d do if you turn out to have a gay kid?

          • Dan L says:

            @ Conrad Honcho:

            I guess…any?

            A zero-tolerance threshold is tripped by every culture known to man. Try again.

            What exactly are you thinking of and what’s your point with this?

            I am sharpening a wedge.

            Nabil has provided a sketch of how your position might arise from protectiveness, conditional on a belief that gay culture disproportionately results in negative outcomes. If that’s your true objection, then even accepting the claim that this image constitutes homosexual propaganda you can presumably elaborate on how the threshold of acceptability lies between the experiences of gay men and the general population. We can extrapolate from there to see what other groups might prove unwholesome.

            Because if you can’t substantiate your position, while finding it easy to come up with convenient explanations for why the same logic doesn’t apply to any of your in-groups… well, your argument isn’t a particularly novel one. The reaction that it must be the product of bigotry instead of calculation is uncharitable to be sure, but it’s also a safe bet. This is your opportunity to prove you’re better than that.

            So, I invite you to do so.

            @ Nabil ad Dajjal:

            It’s pretty easy to find population data and candid personal accounts which support Conrad’s factual claim.

            Do it. Stop saying you can, and do it. Until then you’re still part of the problem.

          • Nick says:

            Nancy, that was the focus of the conversation when Conrad’s view on this first came up a few months back. His response was that he would encourage his son to go the “two gay dads, white picket fence, 2.5 adopted kids” route.

            I should note my disagreement with this. Since Conrad is Catholic, he ought to, in those circumstances, be encouraging his son to live a chaste life, which means no sex. (Being in a romantic relationship without being in a sexual relationship is not impossible, of course, but attempting it isn’t a good idea for most people either, first because proximal occasions of sin, second because scandal.) My obvious advice to Conrad here would be to stop trying to screen out homosexuality, especially since his risk calculations don’t actually add up, and instead screen for Christian treatments of homosexuality, which ideally would teach children alternative vocations to married life and the importance of close friends. I haven’t suggested this, though, because it’s a fool’s errand; as far as I know, nothing anywhere fits the bill. So, unfortunately, I don’t have any advice for what Conrad should be doing instead.

          • 10240 says:

            Of course empirically this is wrong – lots of factors in homosexuality but “it’s not a choice” seems to hold true

            «It’s not a choice» is not exactly the same as «it’s not influenced by childhood exposure». E.g. taste in food is not really a choice, yet my impression is that it’s significantly influenced by what you get used to in childhood. I’ve no idea where the current research stands on causes/influences of sexual orientation.

            this image

            Excuse me but I find kind of hard to determine a pony’s sex. Are MLP-watching kids perhaps better?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            The idea that you can conceive of “propagandizing” homosexuality shows how ridiculous your position is. Do you have to “propagandize” children to drink water when thirsty, or like warm things when it’s cold out?

            I think this statement shows you think you know things that you don’t, which is the cause of homosexuality or homosexual behavior. If you’ve got this one figured out, please publish your paper and collect your Nobel Prize.

            I’ve been over this with others on SSC before and it seems like an excellent candidate for an adversarial collaboration. My contention is that homosexuality is non-insignificantly a result of cultural and personal conditioning. There is no “gay gene,” there may be some uteran hormone influence, but there certainly exist cultures (ancient Greeks, many modern Arab tribes, Afghanistan) where pederasty is very common. Are they more “biogay” than neighboring, closely related peoples? If so, how? If not, what causes the difference in behavior? If it has something to do with culture, or personal conditioning/grooming then, well, that’s my whole point. Condition kids that “gay is okay” and pederasty follows.

            Now it’s not that incredibly likely that I’m going to lose sleep over it, but I also let my kid walk around the block without being terribly concerned about men in vans offering him candy. But I did instruct him to run screaming from somebody he doesn’t know trying to get him to get into his car, and I certainly wouldn’t show him videos that depict children getting into strange men’s cars as normal or good.

            I’m going to regret writing this but… assuming that gays are pedophiles at a similar rate to which black men are criminals, and you consider exposing children to gays “memetic priming,” do you avoid letting your children watch shows with black characters so that they won’t be memetically inclined to fall in with black criminals?

            This is pretty loaded. While yes pedos are disproportionately gay (caveats about reporting, which crimes are prosecuted, etc), my concern is not so much gay pedos molesting my 10 year old but “normal” adult gays seducing my 14-17 year old.

            Let’s save the “what would you do about black people” question for a different thread. Or just drop that whole thing all together as this thread is hairy enough as it is.

            But if you let kids watch shows with guns in them and keep the homosexuals out, it seems to me that you think that exposing kids to homosexuals puts them at a higher risk of being molested more than exposing kids to guns puts them at a higher risk of gun crime, or exposing kids to depictions of thievery primes them to commit theft. I don’t understand why.

            Because when I show him stuff with guns, we have also talked about how guns are dangerous, he should not handle guns at his age, and when he’s older I’ll teach him how to safely handle a weapon. The exposure to guns comes with lots of cautionary instruction. As horrible a person as I am for dodging exposing him to homosexuality, how much worse would you all think of me for telling him about homosexuality, but then warning him strongly against it because of the much greater chance of disease, drug and alcohol abuse, depression and suicide homosexuals experience compared to heterosexuals? Isn’t this the least bad I can do?

            You conflate any not-negative depiction of gay relationships with “propagandizing” homosexuality. Presumably you would not consider a depiction of a heterosexual couple “propagandizing” anything at all.

            No, both are propaganda. While sexual orientation is certainly biologically influenced, large swaths of sexual behavior appear to be social constructs. This is where I suggest the adversarial collaboration thing, because I think other posters are the nutty ones who don’t have much problem with attributing gender role behavior to social constructs but sexual orientation and behavior? Written in the stars, my friend! No. There are definitely cultural influences here.

            This is only “logically sound” if you consider homosexuality ipso facto bad, even among consenting adults.

            Yes, straight privilege is a thing. While straight people are no better or worse than gay people, and all are equally loved and valued in the eyes of God, being straight is objectively better than being gay. You can change my mind by showing me empirical evidence that homosexuals are not at a much greater risk of disease, drug and alcohol abuse, childlessness, depression and suicide than heterosexuals. All else being equal, knowing that, if you don’t hope your kid is straight rather than gay, then, well, I don’t think I’m the moral monster here.

            It’s only “logically sound” if you consider your child being targeted for sex by an older gay man a much higher risk than from an older heterosexual.

            I don’t think it’s very likely that my teenage son will be targeted for sexual violence by an older straight woman, no. But that’s a risk we’ll have to take given the preferred outcome that he be heterosexual. There’s no reason to take the homosexual risk, when that is not the preferred outcome for the obvious, objective reasons of statistically better health and happiness for straights.

            It’s only “logically sound” if you think shielding kids from depictions of gay relationships in media will prevent them from being gay, and consider that a positive thing. (Of course empirically this is wrong – lots of factors in homosexuality but “it’s not a choice” seems to hold true)

            I don’t think it’s a choice, but my review of the literature points to cultural or personal social conditioning as a definite factor. Again, this can be cleared up with an adversarial collaboration if anyone is interested in putting me in my infernal place.

            Basically, you’re holding homosexuality to a different standard, trying to keep it out of sight and out of mind, because you think it’s bad if kids turn out to be gay. Which… hopefully you (and Nabil) can see why calling that “bigoted” rather than “rational” is not exactly crazy?

            Given the empirically better outcomes for straights rather than gays, how is this not rational? If the outcomes were the same and I preferred one or the other, yes, that would definitely be bigoted. But when the outcomes are clearly different, preferring the better outcome to the worse outcome is rational, and pretending they’re equivalent is either intellectual dishonesty or moral cowardice.

            Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Conrad Honcho, what do you think you’d do if you turn out to have a gay kid?

            Sigh and develop an interest in show tunes.

            And Dan, can you drive your wedge in already? I have no idea what your point is. Outcomes are better for straights than gays. Sexuality has components that are socially constructed rather than purely biological or fated. The rational thing to do is to encourage the things that have the best outcomes, minimize the things that have the worst outcomes, and deal with them if they arise anyway.

            I’m not the irrational one here. The ones pretending two obviously, empirically proven different things are equivalent are the irrational ones. Now if you want to come out and say that yes, treating two different things as the same is your moral choice regardless of the irrationality, great, do so, but don’t pretend it’s rational or optimal.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Dan L,

            This is the first study I found once I got back from lab. It’s very recent but from what I understand it’s hardly the first or the only such study:

            A comparison of sexual behavior patterns among men who have sex with men and heterosexual men and women
            (Glick et al., 2017)
            doi:10.1097/QAI.0b013e318247925e

            Working from the values in Table I, 16.7% of homosexual Finnish men had their “youngest actual partner in the last five years” under eighteen years old as compared to 6.7% of heterosexual men.

            The tabulated numbers are a bit ambiguous, because the 5-year window allows for licit teenager-teenager relationships. The graph in Figure 2 paints a starker picture, with a typical under 18 homosexual man having an “oldest actual partner in the last five years” being a 25 year old man.

            Both homosexual and heterosexual men in the study expressed similar preferences for younger partners but in the words of the authors “[h]omosexual male participants reported a closer match between behavior and preferences than heterosexual male participants.”

            Anyway I’m tapping out of the discussion now. If you don’t like the study’s methodology or disagree with my interpretation of the results that’s entirely acceptable.

          • Nornagest says:

            There is no “gay gene,” there may be some uteran hormone influence, but there certainly exist cultures (ancient Greeks, many modern Arab tribes, Afghanistan) where pederasty is very common. Are they more “biogay” than neighboring, closely related peoples? If so, how? If not, what causes the difference in behavior?

            I’m not sure if the evidence shows that proportions of gay vs. straight people are consistent across time and culture, but I don’t think Ancient Greece or modern Afghanistan disprove it. As best we can tell, few of the men engaging in Greek pederasty (I know less about Afghanistan) were gay as we think of it: most had wives, and many had female as well as male lovers. The easiest way to render that into our understanding of sexuality would be to round it off to “bisexual”, but that doesn’t quite satisfy me: the qualities the Greeks found attractive in boys are all distinctly feminine, which doesn’t sound to me like an equal attraction to both sexes. There’s nothing like “bears” in Classical literature, at least that I’ve read.

            Still, those Greek dudes don’t just seem to have been settling; many of the same-sex Classical couples we see in history and literature were high-status people who’d have had plenty of choice. So maybe it’s possible to bend your preferences a bit if culture points that way, but that doesn’t show that cultural messaging’s responsible for that fraction of the population that’s exclusively gay, nor that it has any meaningful impact on your kid’s chances of ending up in a subculture centered around e.g. anonymous meetings in truck stop bathrooms. I know a few people who’ve tried to condition themselves to be bisexual (look up “bi-hacking” on the old Less Wrong site), and most of them have had some success but retained a strong preference that couldn’t be erased. And our culture certainly doesn’t lionize pederasty like Classical Greece sometimes did: it’s a major mainstream taboo, people like Milo Yianawhatsit notwithstanding.

            At most it might account for some of the guys calling themselves gay in our culture (male bisexuality’s got substantial stigma attached to it in LGBT culture), but I doubt they make up the hard core of any particular gay subculture, and in terms of actual attraction they’d be perfectly capable of participating in the het dating script. Which has its own problems, but that’s neither here nor there.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think the meta-issue here (not being discussed, but still hanging in the air) is the idea that the reason gays have worse life outcomes is stigma and non-acceptance.

            Now, I don’t know whether that’s true in general or not. It’s possible that gays will end up with overall worse lives even with full acceptance; it’s also possible that in a fully tolerant society, gays will end up with about the same quality of life as straights. We’re kind of running the experiment now–if we see a big improvement in life outcomes for gays over the next few decades, that will be pretty strong evidence that at least a lot of that difference was due to hostility/nonacceptance.

            Right now, in the current world, I’d rather my kids be straight than gay. I doubt I have much influence over that, but again, that’s an empirical question I don’t actually have an answer to. And again, we’re running an experiment here as a society. If societal acceptance and visibility of homosexuality leads more people to become gay, then we should see evidence of that over the next few decades.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think the meta-issue here (not being discussed, but still hanging in the air) is the idea that the reason gays have worse life outcomes is stigma and non-acceptance.

            I think everyone would agree that the stigma against gays has decreased by orders of magnitude over the last few decades. But from my understanding of the literature (again, totally willing to do an adversarial literature review with someone who wants to put me in my place), the numbers on outcomes have barely budged.

            My contention is simple:

            1) Being straight has empirically proven better life outcomes than being gay.

            2) Sexual orientation has significant non-biological influences, including cultural and personal/social conditioning.

            3) Therefore, it’s better on average to not expose a child to things that promote/normalize homosexuality. However, one should not stigmatize gays out of general kindness and an interest in hedging one’s bets against the possibility of heavy homosexual biological influence.

            And you can prove me wrong with data!

            Prove that (1) is false by showing that gays have the same or better life outcomes than straights!

            Prove that (2) is false by showing that homosexuality is purely biological with no social construction.

            Show that (3) does not follow from (1) and (2).

            In the meantime, I think the idea that gay = straight and exposing children to narratives supporting that idea is a moral decision and not a rational decision. And it’s a morality that I don’t understand, and don’t know where it comes from, preferencing hypothetical gays over your own actual children. Do what you will.

          • dick says:

            “I’m concerned that seeing two male cartoon horses holding hands might, in some subtle way as yet unknown to science, increase the chance of my child someday leading a lifestyle that some believe is statistically associated with elevated rates of negative life outcomes,” he said while playing a gun-themed game with his child in the country where the second most common cause of death for children is guns.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            “I’m concerned that seeing two male cartoon horses holding hands explicitly promoting homosexuality in multiple venues without caveats might, in some subtle way as yet unknown to science, in a completely obvious way evidenced by the unquestioned existence of cultures significantly more than gay than neighboring cultures increase the chance of my child someday leading a lifestyle that some believe is statistically associated with elevated rates of negative life outcomes,” he said while playing a gun-themed game with his child in the country where the second most common cause of death for children is guns while explicitly instructing his child on the dangers of guns and while his guns are all safely locked away lost in a tragic boating accident.

            Come on, dick, you can make a better strawman than that. I have faith in you.

          • Dan L says:

            @ Nabil ad Dajjal:

            Genuinely, thank you.

            (Glick et al., 2017)
            doi:10.1097/QAI.0b013e318247925e

            I mean, my main quibble is that that DOI goes to Glick et al, 2012 with no sign of a more recent paper by that name in her bibliography… but it still has some relevant data? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ It’s Seattle + other US cities in the 90s and 00s, but it’ll do for a first glance.

            There’s a fair amount to dig through there, but my first impressions:

            1) The average age delta between partners is within bounds that might be explicable purely through a restricted dating pool.

            2) The age at sexual debut data contradicts that though, with MSM being substantially lower. But the heterosexual results also show men starting substantially earlier than women… there’re some interesting dynamics here.

            3) More data is definitely needed, but a comparison across the decade hints at a very encouraging trend for anyone who wants gay men to match mainstream mores.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            I don’t blame you for not wanting to touch that argument – I don’t really either, on an object level. But I think it’s useful to consider, insofar as it involves justifying making strangers out of the people who live around you.

            I also continue to think that the odds of a gay pederast getting into your children’s pants and taking advantage of them are really not that high, and I don’t think that any Twitter anecdotes are going to convince me otherwise. I don’t really want to make a personal attack here, but based on conversations we’ve had I feel that you have a tendency to give weight to anecdotes that’s… at least a little unwarranted. Consider that nobody is ever going to share the story of how they weren’t seduced at the age of 14, and instead just sat in a classroom imagining running their fingers through another boy’s hair.

            I guess my point fundamentally is that, while it’s at least somewhat understandable that you don’t want your kids to wind up gay, I have to think that there are many, many things that carry just as much risk that you aren’t protecting them from any better. This is a marginal protection on a marginal risk, and although the real cost to your kids is small-to-nil, I do find it sad that, in your eyes, that vanishingly thin margin overcomes the value of all the art and all the stories and all the lives that gay men have produced or been a part of. It seems rather like tearing down a library because the books are so flammable*.

            *: Not that this is literally the case.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I do find it sad that, in your eyes, that vanishingly thin margin overcomes the value of all the art and all the stories and all the lives that gay men have produced or been a part of. It seems rather like tearing down a library because the books are so flammable*.

            So far, here are the actions I have taken in my “don’t intentionally expose my kid to gay stuff” project:

            1) Once my wife was watching Modern Family and I asked her to save that for when the kids are in bed.

            2) There’s a scene in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey where a pansexual dude propositions your character to have sex with him and a goat and I told my kid to leave the room for a few minutes.

            The horror. The absolute horror. How will Conrad Jr. ever recover?

            ETA: I declined the invitation to goat sex, fyi.

          • Dan L says:

            @ Conrad Honcho:

            And Dan, can you drive your wedge in already?

            Wedges are for separating formerly like things. If you continue to decline to be distinguished from your more odious comrades-in-argument, we can go from there.

            I have no idea what your point is.

            I have consistently challenged you to show not that it’s better to be straight than gay, but to instead show that you are rationally deciding that this is a battle worth fighting. That being gay (and male?) specifically falls below a previously-determined threshold of acceptability and that this is not a standard you’re pulling out of your ass for this express purpose. You continue to deflect, without even the grace of data.

            I’m not the irrational one here. The ones pretending two obviously, empirically proven different things are equivalent are the irrational ones.

            This is not the argument you are facing here. The specific argument that has provoked your umbrage is the notion that children be allowed to see that gay relationships exist. Not some sinister gay agenda, not a roving gang of leather-clad bears, but two barely-anthropomorphized characters sitting in a cafe on Valentine’s Day. I linked the image from the relevant MLP episode – if you want to pre-screen children’s entertainment further I can find you a link to the full episode and you can issue us a report on why it’s deplorable.

            And it’s a morality that I don’t understand, and don’t know where it comes from, preferencing hypothetical gays over your own actual children.

            In my experience, the easiest way for a Red Triber to get a firm grasp on the relevant perspective is to experience the suffering of someone they care about at the hands of a culture that believes gays are objectively inferior. The focused injustice is harder to dismiss when it hits closer to home.

            (You will notice that this is identical in form to the most common motivation behind charity. If that still seems foreign to you, well… do what you will.)

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            Like I said, the cost to your kids is virtually nil. I don’t have any real reason to think you’ve made them worse-off; it’s just that this kind of marginally-justified categorical exclusion makes me sad. It’s aesthetic more than it is ethical.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Mrs. Honcho is mean-mugging me for arguing this fervently on the internet so late so I’ll get back with you tomorrow. But this whole thing is ridiculous. “Don’t promote thing with worse outcomes while incurring no real downsides or cost” over “explicitly promote thing with worse outcomes for no reason” is a mind-numbingly obvious choice for anyone rationalist or rationalist-adjacent and yet here we are.

          • acymetric says:

            Can we pause for a moment to remember that, although there are merits to both sides in this argument generally, it was triggered by a totally innocuous, unobtrusive presence of an apparently (but not blatantly) homosexual couple in the background of a scene in a cartoon (such that most people probably wouldn’t have even noticed it and certainly children wouldn’t)?

            I feel like one side has successfully distracted from the point that was being made into some larger, more general point that people are more willing to engage with, but that isn’t what originally raised the issue and became a point of contention.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I’m really confused, I swear that I copied down the correct title, author and doi but somehow I got a completely different study. I literally have no idea how that happened.

            The one I was trying to link is (Antfolk, 2017). If you can’t access it, you can copy the link address and put it into SciHub. Hopefully now the figure and table references I made should make sense.

            I’m sorry about the mix-up. Again I’m baffled that I made such a weird error.

          • albatross11 says:

            Dan L/hoopyfreud:

            I’m curious about another wedge. Is your concern:

            a. Parents restricting media for probably-not-very-important criteria?

            Like some parents are really concerned about not showing their kids violence on TV, others are concerned about sexist images and ideas, some don’t want their kids seeing religious messages (or maybe religious messages from other religions than their own), etc.

            b. Parents worrying and overreacting in silly ways about risks that aren’t actually very large?

            Like stranger danger and all its offshoots.

            c. Parents doing these things specifically with respect to promotion/normalization/portrayal of homosexuality?

            My intuition is that the angry reaction is all about (c), for CW reasons, whereas the rational argument is all around (a) and (b). But maybe I’m missing something.

          • albatross11 says:

            Just as an aside, my impression is that stranger danger and its variants has probably done more to make kids’ lives worse than all the conservative parents blocking channels and installing web filters combined.

          • acymetric says:

            @albatross11

            For the record, those web filters don’t actually work (or more accurately, they are easily disabled). I suppose they are effective for less enterprising youths, perhaps.

            As far as your point, I think you are correct, but that it might be worthwhile to point out that it isn’t just that people are objecting to (c), they are objecting to the fact that this is basically the most benign, innocuous, unobtrusive version of (c) that could possibly exist and somehow has still drawn the ire of those who are concerned about such things. This could certainly lead one to believe that this indicates 0 tolerance for that particular demographic, which is a bit different from CW and SJW endless debates.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Re: the MLP picture and how to sex ponies

            Two boy ponies at the front table. Two girl ponies at the back table.

            The back table doesn’t strike me as suggesting anything because Ponyville is like 80% girl ponies anyway. I guess you could argue that the boy ponies at the front are a gay couple, but I’ve eaten lunch with a dude every day for the past two weeks. I suspect someone said “hey they are going to show gay couples” and that context is what’s informing us about those couples.

          • acymetric says:

            Think 6 year old kids picked up on that?

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, I suspect one reason why the damage of the web filters and channel blocking is limited is that teenagers interpret parental interference as annoying and route around it.

          • albatross11 says:

            So, on one hand, the whole inferring gay propaganda from kids cartoons thing mainly makes me think of the panic about satanic images/lyrics in music/culture when I was a kid. I’m sure a fair number of parents did, in fact, prevent their kids from listening to some music to avoid those threats, which were basically goofy.

            And on the other, parents do that all the time about everything. Being convinced that letting your child eat normal food instead of organic food is going to give them cancer/turn them gay/pare back their IQ enough to keep them out of the Ivy League is no less goofy, but it’s widespread enough. The whole country went crazy about stranger danger to the point that lots of parents were afraid to let their kids play outside unattended in safe suburbs. (Probably the same parents never twitched a brain cell about the swimming pool in the backyard.)

            I think the issue here is that the criterion Conrad’s using (or discussing–it sounds like he’s not actually doing a whole lot of enforcing of it on his kids) has a strong CW component. On one side of that is intolerance for gays, on the other is hostility to trying to raise your kids in a way that would have been the default assumption of how decent parents did things in most places, 30 years ago.

          • acymetric says:

            So, on one hand, the whole inferring gay propaganda from kids cartoons thing mainly makes me think of the panic about satanic images/lyrics in music/culture when I was a kid. I’m sure a fair number of parents did, in fact, prevent their kids from listening to some music to avoid those threats, which were basically goofy.

            A couple points. First: a lot of us are the kids who were blocked from “satanic” music (hint: it wasn’t actually satanic, our parents even retroactively enjoy some of it now). So we understand the panic, and are opposed to it on both the grounds of “we saw this back then and it was dumb” AND the grounds of “this seems silly when observed in isolation”.

            Possibly more important, while I don’t have any satanist acquaintances who were personally affected by the satanist panic, I DO personally have friends who are being affected by the apparently similar “gay” panic. Both are incredibly dumb, but the people who get harmed by the gay panic are way more sympathetic than those harmed by the (what I think has been agreed to be) paranoid and unnecessary satanic panic.

            The fact that this is the argument in favor means there aren’t really any arguments in favor, as best I can tell.

          • Nornagest says:

            Just as an aside, my impression is that stranger danger and its variants has probably done more to make kids’ lives worse than all the conservative parents blocking channels and installing web filters combined.

            I’d certainly agree with that. I mean, I’ve never found a web filter that I couldn’t route around with twenty minutes of work, but (a) this sort of thing is my day job, and (b) the chilling effects alone have probably done a lot of damage.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Albatross

            I think that a glance outside this subthread will show that I’m extremely anti-parents-limiting-media-exposure, and I kind of resent the implication that I’m just here to mindkill and muckdrag and don’t really care.

            That said, as previously mentioned, this topic particularly bugs me because I can’t understand why Conrad is going to the trouble. The logic at play is frustratingly hard to grasp, and the piece that I continue and continue to miss is, “why the gays? Why not [everything that is analogous]?” And because Conrad continues to respond, I continue to ask.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            For the record, I would not blacklist MLP from my kids over that image (or anything else from what I’ve seen of it, which is admittedly not much). What I did ban was “Modern Family” which has two grown men, obviously men, married to each other, and who call themselves “gay.” That’s pretty explicitly gay. It’s about the gayest thing you can have on TV. And the homosexual intercourse and goat sex in AC: Odyssey.

            That said, incrementalism. This season it’s ambiguously gay ponies in the background, and I will not be terribly shocked when next season they “bravely” announce their first openly gay pony.

            The logic at play is frustratingly hard to grasp, and the piece that I continue and continue to miss is, “why the gays? Why not [everything that is analogous]?” And because Conrad continues to respond, I continue to ask.

            Because I’m allowed to warn him about the “analogous” things. Yes, he is exposed to violence on TV and in video games, but we’ve had many talks about the difference between pretend violence and real violence and that real violence is one of the worst things you can do (we’ll talk about justification when he’s older), and that he should not ever touch a gun until he’s much much older and I’m there to help him learn how to handle it safely, and we go to church where we learn about how important it is to be nice to each other and not hurt each other. I would never show him such things if, for some reason, it were not socially acceptable for me to warn him off of violence, and I simply had to accept that the makers of media for children really want my kid to see violence and think it’s perfectly okay and I can’t correct that.

            But in the Culture War the rules of engagement do not permit me to show him homosexuality, and then warn him about how much less desirable this is than heterosexuality, and that he should stay away from older gay men who may have ulterior motives the same way my daughter should stay away from older straight men who may have ulterior motives so they don’t wind up doing something they later regret. See if I tell him that, and then he goes to school and says “gays are bad!” I get summoned to a parent/teacher conference for the wrongthink.

            As horrible a moral monster as I am for dodging the issue, how much further into the outer darkness would you be casting me if I did that? If I instructed him about all the bad things about homosexual behavior? Where’s the analogy here, where I’m showing him something bad, or with worse outcomes, and not explicitly warning him off them? I don’t show him anything racist, but if he saw something racist, I would immediately instruct him as to why racism is bad. But I’m not allowed to do that with the gay stuff so all I can do is try to prevent him from noticing it.

            Does this make sense now? All the gay media is positive. They don’t show anything critical, and it’s not socially acceptable for me to be critical, either. That’s the difference.

            Now then, let’s talk about consequentialism and your deontolgy. It’s a common SSC meme that no one is really a consequentialist. People try to do that, and then they encounter some repugnant moral conclusion and switch to “well can’t do that because of the icky.” e.g., eugenics.

            No one yet has argued with my assertion that gays have statistically worse life outcomes than straights. No one yet has argued with my assertion that sexual orientation and behavior is at least partially influenced by culture and conditioning. So a consequentialist would obviously conclude, “Oh, I should not do pro-homosexual influencing, and should do pro-heterosexual influencing.” (The extent to which the influencing is effective can’t be that big a sticking point when we’ll spend 10,000 words sifting through the extent to which Head Start does or does not get you 5% better graduation rates). But that’s apparently an icky conclusion to an awful lot of people so instead they go to the rules-based morality of “must pretend gay and straight is the same for reasons.”

            What are these reasons? Hoopy, in the discussion about Jordan B. Lobsterman, you said you are strongly opposed to unexamined beliefs or belief systems. How did you get this belief system? It doesn’t survive on first pass consequentialism. It’s not the wisdom of the ancients, handed down through the centuries of European civilization. It’s not even representative of those other cultures like the Greeks* or the Afghans, because they were about pederasty, and homosexual relations between two consenting adults were still verboten.

            Why is it so terribly shocking that not every single person subscribes to your brand new tolerance, acceptance, promotion, and prohibition on criticism of homosexuality deontolgy that appears to have been invented out of whole cloth 20 or 30 years ago?

            * Yeah, there was like one famous troop of Greek soldiers who had sex with each other but the contemporary writings show other people thought they were weird.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            @10240: Stallions are bigger and have square muzzles, while mares have pointy, rounded muzzles and eyelashes. This image Dan L posted is very low quality. You can see better secreenshots below.

            Crusaders walk past the Ponyville Cafe
            Apple Bloom talks to her friends at the cafe
            Lyra and Bon Bon exchange Hearts and Hooves presents
            Lyra Heartstrings and Bon Bon hugging
            Big Mac looking at Cranky and Matilda

            The gay and lesbian couples in the cafe’s background might be missable, but Lyra and Bon Bon are front and center.

            @Edward Scizorhands: You are missing some context. The episode is a St. Valentine’s Day episode (well, Hearts and Hooves Day, which is the pony equivalent). See all those heart-shaped balloons and decorations? It’s pretty obvious those ponies at the cafe are supposed to be couples. Furthermore, the lesbian couple is shown again in a montage of happy couples immediately following Bic Mac’s breakup with Sugar Belle.

            Here are the scenes in context. Sweetie Belle Thinks She Has a Secret Admirer and Big Mac Breaks Up with Sugar Belle. Look at them and tell me with a straight face that this episode doesn’t portray three homosexual couples, two in the background and one in prominent, if brief, focus.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            OK, I think I finally get it. A lot of the things you said earlier have finally clicked together.

            Honestly, I’d rather you show your kid and warn them. I wouldn’t approve, and I don’t agree with the premise, but I think the logic is internally sound and that it’s fundamentally less restrictive.

            Where did I get this belief system? I made it. Mostly out of Kant and Nietzsche. And no, I’m not contesting your proposition that straights are statistically better-off than gays. I just don’t really care. Experience matters a lot more to me. Art matters more too. Challenge and love and life, and how individual people experience them. I care about understanding other people and reaching towards the noumena of their consciousness.

            And finally, it’s not surprising in the least that you’re doing this; I’m much more surprised that you’re unwilling to talk to your kids about it. Maybe I have a rosier idea of the culture war than you do, but I wouldn’t expect this to be such a problem. I can’t really grasp your position, but I think that if I occupied it, I’d make a different choice.

          • Vorkon says:

            he said while playing a gun-themed game with his child in the country where the second most common cause of death for children is guns.

            I assume by “children” you mean 15-18 year olds, and by “guns” you mean suicide and gang violence, correct?

            Call me crazy, but I can’t think of any games that glorify or normalize suicide, unless your argument is that Mario having extra lives sends an unrealistic message to children about their ability to surive jumping into pools of lava. I dunno, “Planescape: Torment,” maybe? But that’s kind of a stretch…

            As for gang culture, yeah, there are several games that portray that, often ones where your character is a part of it, but they usually at least make an attempt to present a nuanced view of it, and make it clear that it’s not a good thing. This is hardly a good analogy for including gay characters and themes in children’s cartoons, where the intent is clearly to portray them as normal and natural. Also, if My Little Pony is too racy for him, I think it’s safe to say Conrad isn’t playing GTA with his kids.

            Seriously, I don’t agree with Conrad’s point here either, but you’re not doing yourself any favors, here. Every study I’ve ever heard of that purports to show this is either fundamentally flawed and dishonest, or is being interpretted dishonestly by someone else. I’d love to know where you got that statistic, so I can poke holes in it directly. Either way, if your kids aren’t at risk of joining a gang, and you take into account that they might choose a method to kill themselves other than your gun, OR if you’re only looking at actual children and not late teens, having a gun in the house is less dangerous than having a swimming pool in your back yard, or driving your kids to school every day.

            (To be fair, though, it’s probably still a bigger risk than My Little Pony leading to them being raped by Kevin Spacey! :op )

          • Randy M says:

            See if I tell him that, and then he goes to school and says “gays are bad!” I get summoned to a parent/teacher conference for the wrongthink.

            Unless and until it gets to the point where cps comes and takes your kids for bigotry, you need to work on your “I don’t care” attitude with regards to such meddling.

            I think you are correct about how you will be viewed by much of the culture at large for being explicitly heteronormative. I think you overestimate the practical effects of that contempt.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Here are the scenes in context. Sweetie Belle Thinks She Has a Secret Admirer and Big Mac Breaks Up with Sugar Belle. Look at them and tell me with a straight face that this episode doesn’t portray three homosexual couples, two in the background and one in prominent, if brief, focus.

            I think my primary obection is to a break-up being a primary plot point in a children’s movie/show/short/whatever this is. Tangled romantic drama doesn’t seem to be approritate kid plot, that’s best reserved for romcoms for tweens and teens. Toddlers and young children get princes and princesses and happily ever afters.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Experience matters a lot more to me. Art matters more too. Challenge and love and life, and how individual people experience them.

            In what way is this distinct from hedonism?

            And can you, in your efforts to understand the consciousness of others, conceive why they may not be satisfied with hedonism?

            ETA:

            I think you are correct about how you will be viewed by much of the culture at large for being explicitly heteronormative. I think you overestimate the practical effects of that contempt.

            I don’t see any reason to get a head start on the contempt, though.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            The sentence you left out is probably the most important one.

            Here’s where things go screwy, and where I usually stop talking because incommensurable worldviews are involved, but let me say, regarding hedonism, that I hold views very close to property dualism, and that I believe in a Neitzchean will to power. Within that framework you might be able to call me a hedonist, insofar as I believe that unwilled terminal values are empty shells that have been hollowed out by modernity, and that [ambition/desire/will] ought to determine, for each person, what those values are. I am not any sort of hedonic consequentialist, and I don’t believe that universalizable nonmaterialist hedonism is a coherent concept. Universalizable materialist hedonism I find horrifying.

            I think that parents should model their terminal values for their children, but I do not understand or accept that parents would try to control them. But I believe in will, and I feel that most here don’t, so… I won’t be surprised if thia argument and this distinction are incomprehensible. I do not have words to explain the difference, only bad German poetry. I can only comprehend a rejection of this philosophy as parents not caring about their children developing their own consciousness, though I can understand why others may not agree with this evaluation.

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t see any reason to get a head start on the contempt, though.

            I tend to keep my head down too, but there’s something to be said for your kids to see you calmly, rationally, kindly, but firmly stand up for your principles.
            And, if it comes down to persecution, I think the reasons for it are something to do with perseverance, maturity, and wisdom.

            Granted, I don’t think the demographic that mlp targets really needs to know of the inability some people develop to feel romantic attraction to the opposite sex.

            But when you say that you avoid approaching the issue as you would others largely because people will get mad at you if you do, I’ll challenge you to consider the relative importance of that.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Okay, knowing it’s Hearts and Hooves day, those are definitely gay couples and kids would probably get it, too.

            (The gay character on Voltron is completely missable. In a flashback we see Main Character fighting with another guy about how Main Character’s decision to go on Dangerous Long-Term Mission is selfish, and if he does go, “don’t expect me to be waiting here when you get back.” Adults get that, children won’t.)

            I don’t object to dating characters breaking up. I’ve seen people place too much emphasis on “my one first true love” and showing that you can break up, be sad, but eventually get over it can be a good lesson. I can see others disagreeing about it being too heavy for a kid’s show, but it’s not divorce. Assuming that Big Mac and Sweetie Bell didn’t get married at some point.

          • Nick says:

            “Hearts and Hooves Day”? I protest this erasure of Christian role models!

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I tend to keep my head down too, but there’s something to be said for your kids to see you calmly, rationally, kindly, but firmly stand up for your principles.

            And that will eventually happen. But there’s no reason to rush it, and curses on the media companies that are trying to rush it for me. Especially because little kids absolutely everyone on the planet has trouble with nuance, so trying to explain that there exist things that you should avoid or steer clear of but shouldn’t condemn other people over is difficult and easy to misunderstand.

          • dick says:

            @ Vorkon

            Seriously, I don’t agree with Conrad’s point here either, but you’re not doing yourself any favors, here. Every study I’ve ever heard of that purports to show [a link between violent video games and real-life gun violence] is either fundamentally flawed and dishonest…

            That is the exact opposite* of the point of that post. I’m not taking the “violent video games lead to kids getting shot” position, I’m comparing it to Conrad’s belief that putting gay people in TV shows will lead to more gay people. I’m not the Jack Thompson in this scenario. I’m saying, if it were true that this was purely a matter of safety and not homophobia, if he were just erring on the side of caution about media consumption that might cause harm, he would be turning off Halo as well as My Little Pony.

            @ Conrad

            So far, here are the actions I have taken in my “don’t intentionally expose my kid to gay stuff” project…”

            Did I miss the point where we moved from childrens’ cartoons to stuff made for adults? The transition to bestiality scenes in adult video games is not so much moving the goal posts as tearing down the old goal posts, driving over to Shelbyville, and constructing a new set of goal posts.

            * Or the 180 no scope, one might say if one were not treating this subject with the gravity it deserves.

          • skef says:

            I’ve been over this with others on SSC before and it seems like an excellent candidate for an adversarial collaboration.

            I’m up for this. Let’s do it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m saying, if it were true that this was purely a matter of safety and not homophobia, if he were just erring on the side of caution about media consumption that might cause harm, he would be turning off Halo as well as My Little Pony.

            Maybe because sex is different from violence. Also because we get an awful lot of additional information about how violence is bad, but you are not allowed to be critical of homosexual behavior. The rainbow flag waving is at “clapping for Stalin” levels of insanity and I don’t see it slowing down any time soon.

            Did I miss the point where we moved from childrens’ cartoons to stuff made for adults? The transition to bestiality scenes in adult video games is not so much moving the goal posts as tearing down the old goal posts, driving over to Shelbyville, and constructing a new set of goal posts.

            My original comment was never about MLP itself but about normalizing homosexuality in front of kids. As far as the goat thing that was in addition to the gay stuff. The character in the game wants your character to have sex with him, another dude, and a goat. It was also a little funny.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Okay skef, sounds like fun. Here are my contentions:

            1) By many important metrics, life outcomes are statistically worse for homosexuals as opposed to heterosexuals (i.e., “straight privilege exists”).

            2) The causes of homosexuality are unknown, and while there are probably biological influences, participation in homosexual behavior or identification as a homosexual has not-insignificant social construction.

            What do you disagree with me on?

          • skef says:

            I don’t have any interest in an argument about #1. Being a short man is also associated with relatively negative life outcomes, given a mix of social attitudes and, quite likely, non- or less flexible aspects of what humans tend to find attractive. That’s life. (What differences people tend to shrug about vs relentlessly moralize is a different, interesting question, also clearly tied to flexible social standards.)

            As for #2, why would we not be arguing the point that we were previously, and that you’ve been relying on in this thread? #2 could be true without exposure to depictions of homosexuality having any influence at all. That’s what have argued about in the past and what this current thread is about. Would you rather not discuss that?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m not sure I see what you’re getting at. You agree homosexuality is socially constructed, but disagree that positive exposure to homosexuality helps construct homosexuality?

            I’m not sure how that makes any sense or how you would demonstrate that. Being a baker is a social construct, but exposure to baking does not influence one to be a baker?

          • skef says:

            To be more specific about my attitude toward #1, there is a one “style” of discussion about homosexuality that implicitly treats gay men as what I would call “bisexuals”. Pressure them into relationships with women and they’ll wind up being just fine, rather than leading lives of quiet desperation punctuated by guilt-ridden cheating. (How shitty a deal this is for the wife tends to be passed over. “Let’s assume she’s a lesbian and the couple had a nice business-like handshake at the start.” What people will convince themselves of for more grandkids …)

            I consider homosexuals to be distinct from bisexuals, with the former being understood as having sexual and romantic feelings towards members of their own sex, with exceptions being possible but rare. Implicit in that conception is an inability to change that pattern of attraction — someone who could would be bisexual for these purposes.

            Perhaps there are no such people — that would be a different argument. But given this variety of human, the relevant questions about outcomes will be qua homosexual. This is true even for someone who sees homosexuality as a variety of “disability”.

            (I personally don’t see it as a disability, but as a mix of positives and negatives. One of the main positives being that it avoids the uncomfortable reality that, broadly speaking, men kind of hate women and women kind of hate men, which puts a drag on some aspects of heterosexual relationships. “What? Of course I don’t hate women! I have a girl friend!” Well, no — doesn’t work in this context either.)

          • skef says:

            Conrad, homosexuality could also be “socially constructed” by smothering mothers. Or, I don’t know, depictions of Judaism. Presumably if you kept depictions of Jewish life from your children in order to prevent them from becoming gay, other people would not be out of line in assuming your reasoning was more specific than “homosexuality is socially constructed”.

            You have been consistently focused on depictions of homosexuality rather than other “social factors”. So if we’re going to have an adversarial argument about the topic, you need to put forward a position that has some relation to your actions and reasoning.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t really have any opinions about homosexuals who marry women and haven’t given them much thought, so I don’t know what that has to do with anything.

            ETA: Just saw your other post.

            I’m not sure what to make of that. I wouldn’t rule out factors that exist in addition to the normalization or celebration of homosexuality in front of kids, but are you saying that has no impact? That is, it’s impossible that taking your son to a pride parade and waving rainbow flags and cheering when dudes kiss in front of him could ever possibly encourage him to kiss a dude?

          • skef says:

            For example, we could argue this proposition:

            Take as given that the causes of homosexuality are unknown, that and while there are probably biological influences, participation in homosexual behavior or identification as a homosexual has not-insignificant social construction. In that case there is sufficient reason to think preventing children from being exposed to depictions of homosexuality (positive or negative) will significantly reduce the chance that they wind up with a homosexual orientation.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            If the only point of contention is whether or not positive (or negative) portrayals of homosexuality increase homosexuality I’m not sure what we could find in the literature about that.

            But it seems naively true. Is there anything else where universally positive exposure to Thing does not make at least some people more likely to like, try, or want to try Thing?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nick: Well it’s a universe sealed off from the existence of humans, so no Jesus Christ or St. Valentine… unless God was incarnate as som kind of animal…

          • skef says:

            I’m not sure what to make of that. I wouldn’t rule out factors that exist in addition to the normalization or celebration of homosexuality in front of kids, but are you saying that has no impact? That is, it’s impossible that taking your son to a pride parade and waving rainbow flags and cheering when dudes kiss in front of him could ever possibly encourage him to kiss a dude?

            Social pressure against homosexuality can clearly influence entirely gay men into exclusive and generally unhappy long-term relationships with women. And part of the longstanding resentment between bisexual men and gay men is the sense on the part of the latter that social pressure will inevitably push the former into relationships with women. And what is and is not depicted is of course a huge part of that influence.

            As for “encourage”? Well, it depends on what is being built into that term. My main frame of reference on this particular question comes from time spent with 20s-or-so “socially enlightened” crowds in the mid-aughts. Many of the straight men in that group did seem to feel a need to signal their enlightenment by kissing each other. But a) they were very nervous about doing this to anyone gay-identified, to the point of carefully avoiding it and b) it was not at all a risk factor, statistically speaking, for any further actions.

            So sure, there is social leeway with respect to things like kissing, but I can’t get into the midset of someone who sees changes in that kind of social convention as some kind of disaster. That particular signalling was a temporary fad among a certain population, like dyed hair or tight pants. “No men were gateway-ed into fucking during the making of this picture.”

          • Randy M says:

            @Nick: Well it’s a universe sealed off from the existence of humans, so no Jesus Christ or St. Valentine… unless God was incarnate as som kind of animal…

            I wonder what kind of animal might make a suitable God for talking horses? Seems like someone should have considered that before now.

          • Nornagest says:

            A lion would be traditional, I think.

          • Nick says:

            Le Maistre Chat, fair point on St. Valentine, but if ponies are rational animals then there must be some means of salvation. There is precedent, but they weren’t separated from mankind, so it’s not parallel.

            ETA: Oh my gosh, you guys, the correct answer would obviously be a lamb.

            ETA2: Okay, for Randy’s more specific question, I would think angels could be pegasi, but their incarnation would just be a talking horse too. I’m sure they might be inclined to depict God artistically as a pegasus or a unicorn or something, though. I’ve watched basically none of the show, so I don’t know how the mythological creatures are worked into the setting.

          • skef says:

            But it seems naively true. Is there anything else where universally positive exposure to Thing does not make at least some people more likely to like, try, or want to try Thing?

            Throughout each argument on this subject, Conrad, you have repeatedly expressed:

            1) That you have no problem with homosexual, including if your kid turns out to be gay.

            2) That instances of acting on same-sex attraction are a big problem to be avoided.

            Your general approach to squaring these two positions is in reference to “negative outcomes”. That’s not irrational, but it doesn’t have much to do with the question of what causes homosexuality.

            On hearing you argue these points, my own impression of your thought process is:

            1) I would really prefer that my kids don’t every do this stuff.

            2) One way of lowering the chance that they do this stuff is by delaying their awareness that it is even an option.

            3) I’m a good person who has nothing against homosexuals per se.

            4) Therefore, my motivation for #2 is not to prevent someone with same-sex attraction from acting on it, but to prevent same-sex attraction from arising.

            I think this not from prejudice against all people with anti-gay attitudes — I don’t take most such people to think this way. The impression comes directly from the way the explanations and arguments vacillate back and forth. Your approach is well explained by your negative attitudes toward same-sex “behaviors”. The “causes of homosexuality” aspect is an epicycle on top of that. What makes it clearly an epicycle is how you keep circling back to “bad outcomes”.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            That’s a good summary of my position, skef. What’s the point of contention?

          • skef says:

            The point of contention is that your motives are irrelevant to the question of what causes homosexuality. If who one experiences sexual and romantic feelings for is beyond one’s control — and therefore only (some?) bisexuals are faced with a true choice between acting on their feeling with men or with women — most social pressures only have effect within those constraints. It can be “naively true” that this or that social change will affect behavior without having any reason to think that the change alters the patterns of sexual or romantic attraction.

            You can choose what pressures affect your children. You cannot choose that they will not be so attracted — that’s a factual matter. You have a theory about that, but the arguments for it seem to have more to do with social pressures and behavior than they do with desires.

            You can also not choose that there are not “really” homosexuals and only bisexuals, and therefore that pressures are only toward “better outcomes”. That could be true. We could argue about it. But it’s a different question. When people argue about what causes homosexuality they argue about what causes homosexuality.

          • Evan Þ says:

            The first coming, in humility, would be as a lamb. (Cf. how Equestrian sheep are sapient but discriminated against and near-universally portrayed as stupid.)

            The second coming, in glory, would be as an alicorn.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            When people argue about what causes homosexuality they argue about what causes homosexuality.

            There are probably biological influences, but also cultural or personal social influences/conditioning. This was my (2) contention that you agreed with.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think if you wanted to work out costs/benefits to your kids, they would be something like weighing increased risk of homosexuality (due to exposure to media/culture normalizing it) vs increased risk of difficulties coming to terms with their own sexuality if they end up gay (due to lack of exposure to media/culture normalizing it).

            I am not too confident that I could estimate whether that ratio is greater than or less than one.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Skef, you seem to be assuming that, unless Conrad can prove that exposing children to homosexuality causes them to become homosexual, he shouldn’t avoid exposing his children to homosexuality. But that doesn’t seem a reasonable assumption to me. After all, there are all sorts of cases where the causal link between X and Y is unproven, but we still avoid X just in case.

            Plus, it seems that the recent push to normalise transgenderism has coincided with a large spike in the number of children claiming to be transgender. Of course, this doesn’t prove that normalising homosexuality will have a similar effect, but I don’t see how you can dismiss the possibility when we have what seems to be a clearly analogous case working in precisely the way Honcho is worried about.

          • skef says:

            There are probably biological influences, but also cultural or personal social influences/conditioning. This was my (2) contention that you agreed with.

            Scenario A: A difference in social factors/influences results in a man who would counter-factually be attracted to other men not not experience such attraction.

            Scenario B: A difference in social factors/influences results in a man who is exclusively attracted to other men and would counter-factually have acted on that attraction to never act on it.

            In both cases, a man who might have acted on same-sex attraction does not due to social influences. I would not characterize the man in A as homosexual and I would characterize the man in B as homosexual.

            Examples of social factors/influences altering patterns of same-sex behavior are therefore not automatically examples of those factors/influences altering patterns of attraction. Given that the categories we have arrived at implicitly depend on inflexibility of pattern (except with (some?) bisexuals), there is reason to think that B scenarios are more common, generally speaking.

          • skef says:

            @ Skef, you seem to be assuming that, unless Conrad can prove that exposing children to homosexuality causes them to become homosexual, he shouldn’t avoid exposing his children to homosexuality. But that doesn’t seem a reasonable assumption to me. After all, there are all sorts of cases where the causal link between X and Y is unproven, but we still avoid X just in case.

            I hope you’re use of “prove” here is accidental, given that every discussion we’ve had over this issue has been about evidence and probabilities.

            Go go back to an earlier example, I take it that if someone were to prevent their children from seeing depictions of Judiasm in an effort to prevent their children from developing homosexuality, we could rightly question that person’s motives and reasoning.

            So if Conrad’s position is different, it’s because there is substantially better evidence for his theory. This is what I disagree with. All it has going for it is an immediate, unreflective plausibility that melts into magical thinking on inspection. The evidence for the smothering mothers theory was better, in that some people were probably noticing a real correlation.

            We haven’t got into this this time around, but Conrad’s position relies in part on dismissing studies correlating personality traits in young children with later orientation. (I believe he just puts that work on the “biology” side, but perhaps he thinks it’s all politically motivated — I can’t recall.) It also glides over the massive changes in homosexuality over the last 100 years (from “almost entirely avoided” to “consistently negative” to “mixed” to the present pattern of mostly-positive) as compared with the relatively modest changes in statistical trends.

            Is Conrad’s theory any more intuitive than a “role model” theory? Or hormone-mimicking pollutants? Or any factor at all tied to sex and gender?

            What Conrad can reasonably claim given what we know at present is the possibility of a small effect. His focus on this particular theory, and the way he overstates the evidence for it, are not reasonable.

          • DeWitt says:

            Maybe homosexuals have worse life outcomes because people like you want to scrub them from public view. Maybe they have worse life outcomes because there’s a slew of terrible people, yourself included, that want for them to disappear and rationalise it as ‘caring about my children’ or some other drivel that doesn’t hold up to any close scrutiny at all.

            Not caring whether your child grows up straight or gay isn’t a monstrous choice, in that framing, it’s refusing to capitulate. Even if you grant that gay people tend not to be as happy as straight people, joining up with the forces that are actively worsening their lives and causing all these bad things is a far more aberrant position than maybe, possibly, theoretically adding .01% to the odds of them turning out gay. Consider it one very real way in which letting Moloch have his way is going to turn out worse for all.

            And, before you even get started: you’re the guy arguing that gayness is, in some way, part of nurture. The poor life outcomes that come with being gay all have plenty to do with shared environment as well. Maybe I ought not let my kids hear rock music because people that listen to classical have better outcomes, or maybe kids who never once touch a piece of chocolate have better outcomes than those they do, but at that point I’d risk estranging my kids from me a whole lot more than I would lowering their QALY by some miniscule percentage.

          • dick says:

            Maybe because sex is different from violence. Also because we get an awful lot of additional information about how violence is bad…

            Even if you could prove on graph paper that video games don’t cause violence, there are a million variations on the same complaint. (veterans have high rates of depression and suicide, are you avoiding positive depictions of military service? pro football players do too, do you turn off the TV when a sitcom character wears a Cowboys jersey?) It doesn’t matter a lot, I’m not trying to prove you’re a hypocrite. The only point in bringing it up was to compare it to your assertion that putting gay people on TV will lead to more gay people. That’s a cornerstone of your whole position, and AFAIK there’s no evidence for it except that it sounds plausible, and the response to it is, hey, there are a million things on TV that could plausibly be harmful from Halo to McDonalds ads, so don’t kid us that the reason you’ve zeroed in on this one particular is not the obvious one.

            At any rate, it seems like a lot of this boils down to whether you think being gay is bad or neutral, which is probably not something one can constructively argue about, so that’s that. And this thread has left me in the dust while work intervened. However, there is one thing I still want to harp on:

            All the gay media is positive. They don’t show anything critical, and it’s not socially acceptable for me to be critical, either. That’s the difference.

            There are a lot of places in American culture and media where gays are still criticized. There used to be more; it used to be that homosexuality in American culture was universally feared and reviled. It used to be that open contempt and disgust were not just mainstream, they were ubiquitous. It even used to be legal to fire someone for being gay, up until the half-forgotten days of nineteen-oh-wait-it-still-is. So, from where we stand, one generation in to the “let’s try not treating gays like absolute shit” project, which not everyone’s on board with yet, I think it’s a little early to be moaning about how the culture has been so thoroughly conquered by the Left that you have to hide under a blanket to express a critical opinion to your son. And certainly it’s too early to say, ah well, we tried being nice to them and they’re still committing suicide a lot, guess that didn’t work.

          • dick says:

            But it seems naively true. Is there anything else where universally positive exposure to Thing does not make at least some people more likely to like, try, or want to try Thing?

            Video games where you shoot people with guns?

          • But given this variety of human, the relevant questions about outcomes will be qua homosexual.

            I don’t see why. Insofar as seeing homosexuality normalized makes someone more likely to end up in a homosexual relationship, I would expect the effect to be larger for a bisexual than an exclusive homosexual–the latter, in our society, will probably end up in homosexual relationships whether or not he sees them normalized in his childhood. So I take Conrad’s policy to be aimed more at protecting a son who might be “naturally bisexual” than one who was “naturally exclusively homosexual.”

            And I expect the real pattern is a continuous rather than discrete one, with his policy aimed more at the bisexual end of the innate distribution.

          • skef says:

            Yes, David, already we know you’re content to throw gay people under the bus for the sake of pressuring bisexual children into conventional relationships. You made that point more than once the last time around.

            No worries, you’re comfortably within the “racist grandparent analogue — will be dead soon enough” category.

          • Even if you grant that gay people tend not to be as happy as straight people, joining up with the forces that are actively worsening their lives and causing all these bad things is a far more aberrant position than maybe, possibly, theoretically adding .01% to the odds of them turning out gay.

            How would Conrad keeping his young children from watching cartoons with gay couples in them actively worsen the lives of gay people?

          • We haven’t got into this this time around, but Conrad’s position relies in part on dismissing studies correlating personality traits in young children with later orientation.

            I don’t follow that. I assume you agree that, insofar as sexual preference is innate, there is a more or less continuous range from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual.

            Conrad’s view seems to be that the probability of someone adopting a homosexual lifestyle is increased if such a lifestyle is normalized in what he sees in childhood. That’s consistent with the position on the range being entirely innate at birth. Someone at the extreme homosexual end of the range ends up either homosexual, celibate, or in a heterosexual relationship to which he is entirely unsuited, and the first is probably the least bad outcome—and, in our current society, the most likely. Someone farther towards the center has the probability of ending up as a homosexual increased by early exposure, and Conrad views that as a bad outcome.

          • DeWitt says:

            The part where he wishes it wasn’t a thing in general. The part where it’s one child with less of a concept what healthy gay relationships may or may not be because his dad is a homophobe with terrible priorities.

          • Dan L says:

            @ albatross11:

            I’m curious about another wedge. Is your concern:

            a. Parents restricting media for probably-not-very-important criteria?

            Like some parents are really concerned about not showing their kids violence on TV, others are concerned about sexist images and ideas, some don’t want their kids seeing religious messages (or maybe religious messages from other religions than their own), etc.

            b. Parents worrying and overreacting in silly ways about risks that aren’t actually very large?

            Like stranger danger and all its offshoots.

            c. Parents doing these things specifically with respect to promotion/normalization/portrayal of homosexuality?

            My intuition is that the angry reaction is all about (c), for CW reasons, whereas the rational argument is all around (a) and (b). But maybe I’m missing something.

            I harbor some concern about all of them I suppose, but they’re matters of different scope and intensity, with different sets of externalities. If I were to guess (hah) as to why (c) provokes the strongest reactions, it’s because suppression of homosexuality is something of a sore spot among many, not all of whom are necessarily themselves gay. It’s becoming downright unfashionable to express overt hatred of gays in polite society though, so most will have an excuse. Hence the inquisition.

            (To flirt with a separate can of worms, IMO this is the best defense of things like disparate-impact analyses w.r.t. protected classes – bigotry is fully capable of subtlety, and there’s a point where a society might rationally decide that less harm is done by flipping the burden of proof. No comment as to how that justification plays out in current practice.)

            It is not at all a coincidence that my challenge was designed to result in a set of empirical values disambiguating the three – if you can think of a better crucible, be my guest. To the degree to which Conrad has refused to answer, should I assume the worst? What else am I to make of his abject failure to substantiate his position, despite empty protestations to the contrary?

            @ Nabil ad Dajjal:

            No worries. If botched citations were nails in one’s coffin, I wouldn’t even bother with this whole vampirism thing.

            (Antfolk, 2017)

            Again, my main takeaways:

            1) Decent evidence that age preference is a product of the sex of the preferer, not their orientation or the sex of the object of their attention.

            2) Women have a narrower preferred age range centered on slightly-older-than-they. Men have a wider range in both directions which widens as they get older, and the lower threshold often stays around mid-20s. There is some evidence that men are also willing to go significantly older for short-term affairs (!), but this is sketchy for now.

            3) Where age preferences conflict, female preferences are confirmed to take priority (!). Where preferences do not conflict… *ahem*.

            That actually answers a few questions that I had after the last paper, and supports some of my theories while arguing against others. The fact that women tend to start having sex later than men (regardless of their orientation) actually argues against some of Antfolk’s proposed narratives, but it does suggest that some of the gay-straight gap among men is directly due to the influence of women. I’d kill for a few more then v. now comparisons, but I suppose I might have to actually go find those myself.

            @ Conrad Honcho:

            But in the Culture War the rules of engagement do not permit me to show him homosexuality, and then warn him about how much less desirable this is than heterosexuality, and that he should stay away from older gay men who may have ulterior motives the same way my daughter should stay away from older straight men who may have ulterior motives so they don’t wind up doing something they later regret. See if I tell him that, and then he goes to school and says “gays are bad!” I get summoned to a parent/teacher conference for the wrongthink.

            If someone has given you grief on the first or third, feel free to open the SJW toolkit and judo them for their problematic opinions. The second, yeah, you’re getting some pushback. Can you distinguish why one of those things might not be like the others?

            If I instructed him about all the bad things about homosexual behavior? Where’s the analogy here, where I’m showing him something bad, or with worse outcomes, and not explicitly warning him off them? I don’t show him anything racist, but if he saw something racist, I would immediately instruct him as to why racism is bad.

            Racism:homophobia as gang violence:STDs strikes me as valid, for example. Racism:STDs as black:gay, not so much. See above.

            All the gay media is positive.

            What the actual fuck? How many seconds has this been true for? Seriously, this is like claiming that the black guy usually lives through the horror movie.

            No one yet has argued with my assertion that gays have statistically worse life outcomes than straights. No one yet has argued with my assertion that sexual orientation and behavior is at least partially influenced by culture and conditioning.

            Hitchens’ Razor. Also, I’ve been asking you for your metrics for a while now.

          • skef says:

            How would Conrad keeping his young children from watching cartoons with gay couples in them actively worsen the lives of gay people?

            Conrad has consistently indicated that if and when it becomes clear that one of his children is gay he will adapt, making his position far more accepting than the one you have expressed just now and in the past.

            (Unless you think that Conrad will inevitably wind up projecting bisexuality onto the kid in question if and when it comes down to it. That could be the case, but it’s not what he’s said he would do, and I try to limit my speculation about “hidden” motives to explanations of dodgy reasoning and skip the wholesale attributions of bad faith.)

          • albatross11 says:

            Is there evidence about how exposure to pornography affects how often people have sex?

          • skef says:

            Conrad’s view seems to be that the probability of someone adopting a homosexual lifestyle is increased if such a lifestyle is normalized in what he sees in childhood.

            No, Conrad has made it clear over and over and over that his point is about the causes of homosexuality. You’re projecting a different view that you hold onto him. Read what he is saying.

          • albatross11 says:

            Mr X:

            Is there evidence of this kind for homosexuality as social stigma against it has decreased?

            In both cases, it’s hard to use casual observations to decide between:

            a. There’s more homosexuality now than before, as a result of less stigma and more positive portrayals of gays in media. (Peoples’ orientation is affected by subtle messages in media.)

            b. There are more people willing to engage in gay sex or be in gay relationships now, because of less stigma and social hostility. (The price of being gay went down so more gayness was purchased.)

            c. There’s the same number of gays and the same amount of gay sex, but now it doesn’t have to be hidden, so Adam and Steve no longer have to pretend to just be roommates. (The price of being out went down, so more gays came out.)

          • albatross11 says:

            skef:

            I’ll admit, I don’t see anything in David’s posts in this thread to suggest throwing anyone under the bus.

          • skef says:

            I’ll admit, I don’t see anything in David’s posts in this thread to suggest throwing anyone under the bus.

            So we discourage bisexuals from entering homosexual relationships by not “normalizing” such relationships, and this is OK because “an exclusive homosexual … in our society, will probably end up in homosexual relationships whether or not he sees them normalized in his childhood.”

            So what exactly does this “lack of normalization” consist of, that keeps the bisexuals away but is just neutral or whatever for gay people? Paint me a picture.

          • albatross11 says:

            In this conversation so far, it seems to consist of Conrad not letting his small kids watch a couple shows that portray openly gay couples.

          • skef says:

            albatross11:

            This specific discussion has recurred a number of times, and my responses to David Friedman relate partly to his contributions in past iterations. David’s views are more, shall we say, “game theoretic” than Conrad’s.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @albatross11:
            Nonsense. That’s merely an example of what Conrad objects to.

            He objects to his children seeing gay people, even fictional ones, at all for fear that it will (somehow?) make them vulnerable to being assaulted by gay sexual predators.

            In other words, he objects to his children being taught, nay even being tangentially exposed to the idea, that gay people are acceptable as equal and unexceptional members of society.

            Now, are we to assume that Conrad will teach his children absolutely nothing about people who are gay? If you believe that is the outcome which Conrad will genuinely pursue, I have a bridge in Brooklyn up for sale…

          • Vorkon says:

            @Dick

            I wasn’t trying to argue that “every study I’ve ever heard of that purports to show [a link between violent video games and real-life gun violence] is either fundamentally flawed and dishonest, or being interpreted dishonestly” (though that is true, too) I was trying to argue that “every study I’ve ever heard of that purports to show [that guns are the number 2 cause of death for children in America] is either fundamentally flawed and dishonest, or being interpretted dishonestly” for the reasons I described above: It is only true for “children” between 15-18 while people attempt to dishonestly imply it is true for all children, and even among that age group it is only true if you are including suicides, which would still be a problem if guns were unavailable, (albeit potentially a slightly reduced problem) and are also including gang violence, which is a cultural problem and not a gun problem, and is pretty easy to avoid by simply moving away from the places where it’s an issue, or otherwise keeping your children insulated from that culture. (Perhaps by encouraging them to participate in MLP fandom? :op )

            I apologize if I was unclear on that point in my original post. I can see how it might have sounded like the stereotypical “video games don’t cause violence” argument, since I was attacking the steelman of my own creation (that video games encourage the ACTUAL number 2 causes of death among 15-18 year olds, a combination of suicide and gang violence) rather than anything you actually said. It just irks me when I see anti-gun propaganda thrown out as a side-note, as if it’s self-evidently true, when so much of it is pure bullshit, and don’t like to let it go unchallenged.

            So no, I wasn’t accusing you of being the Jack Thompson in this scenario, I was accusing you of being the Dianne Feinstein. And as Scott’s election post pointed out, our position on Dianne Feinstein should be something we can ALL agree on! :op

            That said, although I get what you’re trying to say, I still think that you’re making a particularly bad analogy, for the same reasons I described in my GTA example. You’re trying to say that Conrad is making the same argument as people who claim that video games cause violence, but the situations aren’t analogous. In the case of depictions of violence in video games, the violence may be depicted, but it is always treated, at best, as something abnormal, that larger than life heroes and villains do, not as something it would be okay for the player to do themselves, and in many cases it is intentionally portrayed in a negative light. This can hardly be called “normalizing” it. In the case of depictions of gay characters in childrens’ media, those depictions are specifically intended to normalize the idea of being gay; to show children that they should expect to see gay couples all the time, and to let kids who may turn out to be gay themselves know that it’s not something they need to be afraid of and hide, like gay people have been doing to their own detriment until only very recently. The idea that depictions of things might normalize them, while it was argued very poorly by people like Jack Thompson, isn’t an inherently absurd notion on its face, but what arguments like his fail to point out is that the intent and context behind those depictions matters far more than simply what is being depicted. I may disagree with Conrad as to whether or not normalizing homosexuality is a bad thing, but you can’t argue that is not what gay ponies are intended to do, while you can certainly make the argument that even the most gratuitous video game violence is not intended to normalize anything.

          • skef says:

            Friedman expands on his game-theoretic views here. He does consistently portray it as a reasonable way for a parent to behave, and as what Conrad advocates (although it isn’t) rather than what he would do, although at “grandchildren” the mask slips.

            Presumably David is available to correct my impression. Perhaps he is as gnomic-ally disinterested as he always self-presents, those “additional medical risks” aside?

            then anything that diverts mate search away from partners of the opposite sex is in that respect undesirable.

            “The purpose of this experiment was to study the very nature of love itself.”

          • SamChevre says:

            Would thinking of depictions of smoking help here?

            Smoking is a lot like homosexuality:
            1) Legal, but widely considered undesirable
            2) Much more attractive to some people than others
            3) Strongly associated with bad outcomes

            But modern children’s media never shows people sitting around having a cigarette after dinner. It shows gay couples a lot.

            This makes sense if you think the reason for “homosexuality associated with bad outcomes” have to do with stigma against homosexuality, rather than anything inherent to homosexuality. It makes very little sense if you think that a lot of the bad outcomes are inherent.

          • Nick says:

            SamChevre, there are complicating factors with that comparison; see my response last time you mentioned this. I’d add now that since orientation is seen as more stable and less of a “choice” than smoking is—that is, by folks who see it as less open to influence—, there’s a kind of shift in priorities in how it’s portrayed, with intent to show a healthy lifestyle rather than discourage it outright. So some see discouraging it as just ineffective or futile, while others see it as immoral. After all, even if Conrad were right, some people are definitely ending up gay anyway—and when they don’t have those healthy portrayals, what happens to them?

            On the other hand, some of the same really could be said for smoking. Where we would be as a culture if our strategy had not been eliminating smoking from much of television but instead portraying healthier ways of smoking, like only smoking half a pack a day, or only vaping? Are we thereby condemning those smokers who are already addicted, or those few who are going to end up addicted anyway? Not intending a gotcha here, given the dissimilarities to homosexuality I’ve already noted; I’m genuinely interested in the rationale for this strategy.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @skef:

            Go go back to an earlier example, I take it that if someone were to prevent their children from seeing depictions of Judiasm in an effort to prevent their children from developing homosexuality, we could rightly question that person’s motives and reasoning.

            We already know that people tend to imitate what they see portrayed as good, so Honcho’s argument is based on a well-known fact about human behaviour (even though we don’t know for certain whether or not it applies in this case, it’s still not unreasonable to think it probably does). Conversely, I’m not aware of any causal mechanism which would make depictions of Judaism cause people to become homosexual, so your analogy isn’t actually analogous at all.

            @DeWitt:

            Maybe homosexuals have worse life outcomes because people like you want to scrub them from public view. Maybe they have worse life outcomes because there’s a slew of terrible people, yourself included, that want for them to disappear and rationalise it as ‘caring about my children’ or some other drivel that doesn’t hold up to any close scrutiny at all.

            There are plenty of socially-liberal gay-friendly countries, as well as socially-liberal gay-friendly parts of the US. Homosexuals have worse outcomes in these places as well. How do you explain that, if it’s all just a matter of nasty social conservatives persecuting them?

          • DeWitt says:

            There are plenty of socially-liberal gay-friendly countries, as well as socially-liberal gay-friendly parts of the US.

            Yes. I live in one of them; not one country let the gays marry before we did, things are generally considered fine.

            Homosexuals have worse outcomes in these places as well. How do you explain that, if it’s all just a matter of nasty social conservatives persecuting them?

            Because you’re an idiot who hasn’t stuck his head out the front door to see what things are like, and instead believe the people who praise Europe or God knows where else as some kind of paradise.

            A couple years ago, I worked inside of a warehouse for a couple months to help install a new floor over there. A couple weeks in, I was privy to a conversation that went something like so:

            Alex: DeWitt, you doing anything this weekend?
            Me: yeah, I’ve got a birthday coming up, what about you?
            Alex: oh I’m gonna go drink some beers with Ron and bash gays
            Me: .. er, wha?
            Alex: yeah, we’ll toss back a sixpack or two and then go to the parking lot of [club] late at night, they’re easy pickings

            This guy wasn’t even showboating; he spoke of it all very casually. It’s not an isolated incident: googling in my native language gives way to plenty people who do this. It’s a thing, if not Newton’s law of thermodynamics, and I have faith in society’s capabilities to solve issues like these.

            That is, if we agree the very real evil sorts doing the beating are the problem. Not some amount of people being gay, certainly not some random animators having boy and girl ponies in a gaudy show hold hands in the background. Gay people aren’t going away; people beating them up over it just might, if you could shrow a shred of courage and decency.

          • dick says:

            @ Vorkon

            I was trying to argue that “every study I’ve ever heard of that purports to show [that guns are the number 2 cause of death for children in America] is either fundamentally flawed and dishonest, or being interpretted dishonestly”

            I just googled and took the first thing I saw, which was about 10-14 year olds and definitely combined gun suicides with gun homicides (which is reasonable in this context but might not be in some other argument). The point isn’t affected by guns being the 3rd or 4th or 7th cause of death or whatever you think the right number is.

            the situations aren’t analogous.

            Both are “seeing X on TV will lead to more X” and both are plausible but neither has solid evidence either way. I’m not arguing that one is more true than the other, I’m saying that having a strong opinion that one is very likely true and the other is very likely false (which Conrad’s position rests on) is not supported by evidence.

          • skef says:

            Conversely, I’m not aware of any causal mechanism which would make depictions of Judaism cause people to become homosexual, so your analogy isn’t actually analogous at all.

            Ah, so presumably you are aware of a causal mechanism which “would” make depictions of homosexuality to become homosexual? Are you planning to publish?

            The model here, I presume, is something like depictions of firefighters making children want to become firefighters. Except given the early childhood evidence, there are personality traits associated with firefighter propensity — no big issue. But, of course, this window of firefighting consideration subsequently closes, and after that there are a few people who can be interested in firefighting or other jobs, but most never show an interest in firefighting again, while others can’t be interested in any other job no matter how much social pressure is placed on them. Indeed, people under the most social pressure are sometimes sent to reeducation camps, and even those that have internalized the social stigma to the largest extent, and on one level hate being a firefighter with all their hearts, just can’t seem to kick the firefighting thing.

            Checks out.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Ah, so presumably you are aware of a causal mechanism which “would” make depictions of homosexuality to become homosexual?

            I don’t know about causal mechanism, but there is the recent study that fewer than half of teenagers today identify as entirely straight. This seems to coincide with the widespread acceptance and propagandizing of homosexuality. That doesn’t mean they’re doing anything homosexual (in fact I think right now teenage sex is at the lowest levels ever recorded).

            As for DeWitt’s contention that the negative outcomes are because of society “treating them like shit,” we could also look to see if there’s any significant correlation between the vastly improved social acceptance of gays over the past two decades and changes in the poor life outcomes. To my knowledge there is not. And I don’t really see how people not accepting gays makes gays more likely to, say, get diseases.

            I speculate that the poor life outcomes for gays are inherent to the nature of homosexual relationships: short term pleasure seeking does not tend to lead to long-term health and happiness. Heterosexual pursuit of sex historically coincided with pro-social behavior like marriage and families. Today the heterosexual sex scene is degenerating, coinciding with the rise of hook-up culture. See the current issue of The Atlantic for various articles on the subject.

            Also, with regards to “portrayals make people want to do stuff” and violent video games, the difference is that violence, even in video games, is portrayed as exceptional, a necessary evil in response to worse violence from the villains. I wouldn’t be quite so circumspect about modern portrayals of gays in the media if one or two of the gays on Glee got hooked on party drugs, caught a venereal disease, committed suicide or something so at least it sort of reflected reality. And while I’ll let my kid heroically kill monsters in video games, GTA will have to wait until he’s much older.

            At the end of the day, I still think an awful lot of you are engaged in exceptional thinking because of some special status you’ve afforded homosexuality. If I said, “you know, all things considered, I’d prefer my kid be like the rest of my family, with professions in engineering, law, medicine, the military and the like. While I don’t have anything against carnies, don’t wish them any ill will, and have all the best wishes for them, I’m going to abstain from extolling the virtues of the carnie life to my kid, not take him to carnivals and cheer and wave flags for the carnies working there, and not show him pro-carnie propaganda. If, however, it turns out that his life ambition is to operate the Tilt-A-Whirl, so be it and God bless him” nobody would have any problem and no one would expect me to prove that unalloyed positive depictions of the carnie lifestyle might encourage a kid to try his hand at being a carnie. It would be accepted as obvious.

            ETA: Also, equating not letting your kids watch “Modern Family” to getting drunk and beating up homosexuals in a parking lot is a pretty good sign you’re engaged in a purity spiral.

            I’ve said before I’m not anti-gay, and get lambasted for being insufficiently pro-homosexual. I have close gay friends, support gay political causes, am opposed to the denigration of homosexuals, voted for gay marriage, but since all things considered I’d rather not expose my kids to it I’m the same as drunken violent thugs in a parking lot. Clapping for Stalin levels of insanity.

          • dick says:

            I wouldn’t be quite so circumspect about modern portrayals of gays in the media if one or two of the gays on Glee got hooked on party drugs, caught a venereal disease, committed suicide or something so at least it sort of reflected reality.

            Yeeeah, that’s my exit.

            edit to add: DeWitt didn’t compare you to thugs in a parking lot, he said that as a rebuttal to the idea that societal stigma against gays is a thing of the past. He made it very clear that he wasn’t accusing you of it, he was accusing you of being unaware of it.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ DeWitt:

            Because you’re an idiot who hasn’t stuck his head out the front door to see what things are like, and instead believe the people who praise Europe or God knows where else as some kind of paradise.

            I come from Europe and have lived in several countries over the course of my life, so you might want to come up with a different way of insulting me.

            This guy wasn’t even showboating; he spoke of it all very casually. It’s not an isolated incident: googling in my native language gives way to plenty people who do this. It’s a thing, if not Newton’s law of thermodynamics, and I have faith in society’s capabilities to solve issues like these.

            Define “plenty”. A large absolute number might nevertheless be an insignificant portion of the population of an entire country.

            That is, if we agree the very real evil sorts doing the beating are the problem. Not some amount of people being gay, certainly not some random animators having boy and girl ponies in a gaudy show hold hands in the background. Gay people aren’t going away; people beating them up over it just might, if you could shrow a shred of courage and decency.

            I see. So gay subculture encourages promiscuity and other risky sexual behaviours because some people sometimes beat up gays? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the causal mechanisms behind this.

            @ Dick:

            Both are “seeing X on TV will lead to more X” and both are plausible but neither has solid evidence either way.

            How on earth is it plausible that seeing Judaism on TV will lead to more homosexuality?

          • DeWitt says:

            since all things considered I’d rather not expose my kids to it I’m the same as drunken violent thugs in a parking lot.

            Would you say this is more or less charitable than considering ambiguously gay ponies on a kids’ show appearing in a background role the same as pederasty, suicide, and HIV? 80% as charitable, 30?

            Clapping for Stalin levels of insanity.

            Nah.

            I come from Europe and have lived in several countries over the course of my life, so you might want to come up with a different way of insulting me.

            It’s true for someone who’s lived in any country. ‘Several countries are liberal and gay friendly, CHECKMATE’ really is an idiot’s argument, whether you’re wrong about your own or someone else’s country.

            Define “plenty”. A large absolute number might nevertheless be an insignificant portion of the population of an entire country.

            The amount of people who think beating gay dudes’ teeth out with construction equipment is understandably not very well tracked. The amount of such violent incidents is tracked a little better, and even there the rate of reporting is low. The amount of people who are just as evil but not as dumb about it is likely higher. It’s enough, all in all, to have a very real chilling effect on the gay community.

            If this isn’t enough of an explanation for plenty, too bad. Come up with a better one if it bothers you.

            I see. So gay subculture encourages promiscuity and other risky sexual behaviours because some people sometimes beat up gays? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the causal mechanisms behind this.

            Pithy tone aside, yes, absolutely. If gays aren’t part of polite society, they don’t lose out by showing gauche behavior. If gays are part of polite society, shaming them for such behavior instead of shaming them for being gay on principle could be a strategy that actually works.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            edit to add: DeWitt didn’t compare you to thugs in a parking lot, he said that as a rebuttal to the idea that societal stigma against gays is a thing of the past. He made it very clear that he wasn’t accusing you of it, he was accusing you of being unaware of it. You owe him an apology.

            One person talking about beating up gays doesn’t prove that gays face a significant amount of stigma in their personal lives. If I overhear somebody saying “Man, I hate those poshos, let’s go to the rich part of town and throw stones through their windows,” would that prove that wealthy people are faced with crushing prejudice from the rest of society?

          • skef says:

            One person talking about beating up gays doesn’t prove that gays face a significant amount of stigma in their personal lives. If I overhear somebody saying “Man, I hate those poshos, let’s go to the rich part of town and throw stones through their windows,” would that prove that wealthy people are faced with crushing prejudice from the rest of society?

            But have you heard about Brendan Eich?

          • DeWitt says:

            One person talking about beating up gays doesn’t prove that gays face a significant amount of stigma in their personal lives. If I overhear somebody saying “Man, I hate those poshos, let’s go to the rich part of town and throw stones through their windows,” would that prove that wealthy people are faced with crushing prejudice from the rest of society?

            You didn’t ask for proof, you dumbly asserted that surely gays must be treated just fine outside of red tribe America so that when they have worse outcomes there it must all be their own fault. It’s a wrong belief, and I explained why that’s so; you’re very free to tell me how I’d go about proving that gays do in fact get treated like shit in most of the world, even the places some naive blue tribe kids think must be paradise.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Skef:

            Yes, because a major company imposing ideological tests on its workforce is exactly the same as a random warehouse worker punching people for fun.

            @ DeWitt:

            You didn’t ask for proof, you dumbly asserted that surely gays must be treated just fine outside of red tribe America so that when they have worse outcomes there it must all be their own fault. It’s a wrong belief, and I explained why that’s so; you’re very free to tell me how I’d go about proving that gays do in fact get treated like shit in most of the world, even the places some naive blue tribe kids think must be paradise.

            Firstly, I never mentioned “most of the world”, just socially-liberal gay-friendly parts of the world. If you’re going to contest the claim that such places exist, you’re going to need a lot more evidence than a single conversation you were allegedly involved in. And “naïve blue tribe kids”? I’ve told you already that I’m not an American. You’re clearly unwilling or incapable of reading what I’ve actually written, and since I have better things to do with my time than listen in on you arguing with figments of your own imagination, I think I’ll bow out of the conversation.

          • dick says:

            Both are “seeing X on TV will lead to more X” and both are plausible but neither has solid evidence either way.

            How on earth is it plausible that seeing Judaism on TV will lead to more homosexuality?

            That would be “seeing X on TV will lead to more Y” and I have no idea why anyone brought that up or thought it was relevant. I was responding to and quoting a post from Vorkon.

          • DeWitt says:

            Firstly, I never mentioned “most of the world”, just socially-liberal gay-friendly parts of the world. If you’re going to contest the claim that such places exist, you’re going to need a lot more evidence than a single conversation you were allegedly involved in.

            No. You prove that such parts do exist – not just ‘more gay friendly than rural Alabama,’ friendly enough that being gay is on par or better than being straight, any state-sized piece of land will do, and then we’ll see about the claim what this does for the QALY of gay dudes. As-is, you made a poor argument, decided mine was obviously wrong, and keep on refusing to provide evidence for your own claim. If you want to tell me N=1 is bad, fine, but so far you’re on N=0.

          • skef says:

            Yes, because a major company imposing ideological tests on its workforce is exactly the same as a random warehouse worker punching people for fun.

            You mean a major company imposing ideological tests on its chief executive, who as a result has been entirely deprived of his Silicon Valley career.

            You think it might be more of a “it could affect me, it won’t affect me” distinction at play here?

          • skef says:

            I have close gay friends, support gay political causes, am opposed to the denigration of homosexuals, voted for gay marriage

            “Close” as in visiting-the-house “close”? Do you establish “ground rules” or do they tend to get with the program without prompting?

          • (I think I have these responses in the right place, apologize if I don’t)

            It’s only “logically sound” if you consider your child being targeted for sex by an older gay man a much higher risk than from an older heterosexual.

            If the child is male, that seems plausible. I don’t have statistics, but the only cases I see of a male minor having sex with a female adult involve pretty old minors, typically a high school kid with one of his teachers.

            Skef writes (about me):

            He does consistently portray it as a reasonable way for a parent to behave, and as what Conrad advocates (although it isn’t) rather than what he would do,

            I think the relevant bit of the comment of mine he links to is:

            If children grow up seeing homosexuality portrayed in a generally positive way, more of them will end up either bisexual or homosexual.

            I think that was Conrad’s position, but he can correct me if I am mistaken.

            although at “grandchildren” the mask slips.

            I’m not sure what the mask was. When my children were growing up there was no television available to them (there was one kept in a closet for when their older half brother visited and wanted to watch sports games) but they had unlimited internet access. I had a generally negative impression of teen culture and was glad that home unschooling reduced their exposure to it, but that had nothing to do with issues of homosexuality. It’s true, however, that I would prefer my children to end up in heterosexual marriages, in part because I like having grandchildren

            Presumably David is available to correct my impression. Perhaps he is as gnomic-ally disinterested as he always self-presents, those “additional medical risks” aside?

            I’m not seeing much information in your post, other than the impression that you are not fond of me, so I don’t know what you want me to correct. I offered reasons why it might be reasonable for a parent to prefer that his children not be exposed to positive images of homosexual relationships.

            I see. So gay subculture encourages promiscuity and other risky sexual behaviours because some people sometimes beat up gays? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the causal mechanisms behind this.
            [reply]
            Pithy tone aside, yes, absolutely. If gays aren’t part of polite society, they don’t lose out by showing gauche behavior.

            I would have thought that being looked down on made one more vulnerable to the disapproval of the majority, not less.

            But in any case, it seems to me that the features of homosexual behavior being discussed have a much simpler explanation–gays are male. Males generally have a greater taste for promiscuity than females, and in the mm context an easy opportunity to indulge it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            DeWitt, I can’t resolve anything out of your comments other than your opinion that I’m evil.

            What exactly is it that we factually disagree about?

            You seem to think gays have it worse than straights in society. I 100% agree with you. That’s why, all else being equal, it would be a load off if my kid doesn’t turn out to be gay. He’s already white, American, male, Christian, upper-middle class, (by all appearances) cis, if he’s just straight, too, by God he’s got it made. If he were a superhero his alter ego would be “Captain Patriarchy” and his catchphrase “PRIVILEGE OVERWHELMING.” Sounds like a pretty good life, which is sort of the thing parents aspire to give to their kids.

            My reading of the literature is that the causes of homosexuality are unknown, but there also doesn’t seem to be any definitive biological cause. There’s no genetic test, or blood or hormone test for gayness. There also exist cultures far more or far less gay than neighboring cultures, strongly suggesting there’s a social construct component to sexual orientation. Do you disagree with this?

            If not, well it follows then that if you want the best outcome for your kid (which is objectively straight and not gay), and social factors play into whether your kid is straight or gay, then one should emphasize the social factors that tend towards “straight” and away from the ones that tend towards “gay.” We don’t know exactly what those are, but a big contender for the things to avoid would be propaganda that extols the virtues of the gay lifestyle while hiding the downsides.

            This has essentially zero cost to anyone. No gay is made worse off by me not showing my kid gay propaganda. My kid is not any worse off by not seeing gay propaganda. The “cost” of, say, not taking my kid to a gay pride parade is…negative. We get to stay home and play video games or watch movies or whatever. It seems like a really simple “do this, not that” scenario and yet here we are.

            Where can we go from here? Do we have any factual disagreements at all? Or is the only problem that, on the margin, I care more about my kid’s well-being than about gay politics?

            I am still really curious though if anyone can tell me how they came to this moral paradigm. Is unalloyed support of homosexuality the highest moral good? Is there anything at all higher?

            Female porn star August Ames killed herself after intense criticism because she refused to perform a sex scene with a gay man. Was she right to do so? I would have thought a good terminal value would be “a woman (or man) may refuse anyone entering her body for any reason or no reason at all” but is it not, if a homosexual might feel uncomfortable about her refusal?

            My child’s well-being is not a reasonable excuse to upset a homosexual. The woman’s preference in sexual partners is not a reasonable excuse to upset a homosexual. Is there any, at all, reasonable excuse to upset a homosexual?

          • skef says:

            It’s true, however, that I would prefer my children to end up in heterosexual marriages, in part because I like having grandchildren

            And so if parents would rather their child not marry a Jew, (and can convince themselves that the child would be unhappy married to a Jew), is it fine if they arrange for whatever portrayals of Judaism serving that purpose? In their own homes, of course?

            Edit: Sorry, I meant to say “divert their mate search away from Semitic genotypes.”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            skef, there’s a stereotype that Jewish mothers encourage their daughters to marry Jewish doctors.

            Assuming that stereotype is true, is it wrong for them to do so? Should they be publicly shamed for this behavior?

          • skef says:

            There is a lot of leeway in the word “encourage”. But if the encouragement approaches what might be called “emotional blackmail” or bringing economic pressure to bear on the daughter, yes, I would say that public shaming of the parent would not be inappropriate. In practice, obviously, what becomes public in the first place will depend on each of the parties chooses to tell someone else about. And of course these days the nature of “public” everything has become so extreme that many people are rightly choosing to keep issues out of it.

            But if a parent tells me they’re pressuring their daughter into marriage because “they know what will make her happy”, more likely than not I’ll give that person an earful.

            Parents can be shitty to their children in all sorts of ways, and I’m not moved by how some of those ways are socially preserved. I’m very happy to live in a culture where the first decision you get to make is well before choosing the flower arrangement for your parent’s funeral. I hope things move further along those lines worldwide. The benevolence of parenting is exaggerated.

            All this said, however, things are necessarily different when it comes to parenting minors, so I’m not sure my views on parents pushing around adult children are all that relevant. Broadly speaking, the topic of ongoing argument is whether and how it is OK to manipulate the epistemic environment of one’s minor children to promote desired outcomes. And in present day that means quite minor children, unless the idea is homeschooling + “extreme” acquaintance vetting. (I definitely object to that combination, but have no particular objections to the former alone. Regular school + extreme acquaintance vetting sounds silly.)

            Part of the problem (or perhaps “challenge”) of such manipulation is that you don’t just get to choose the consequences. To give a simple example, if you suppress the existence of homosexuality in your house, when your kids learn about it later they could wind up as unconvinced about your intentions as some of the people here are, no matter what you say. And that could have further implications in any number of directions, from them thinking you unfairly think badly of homosexuals to their thinking far worse of homosexuals than you do.

            Marrying someone with a serious physical disability can also be hard. You describe homosexuality in ways akin to physical disability. What would you feel free to do on that subject? Would a cartoon pony in a wheelchair count as propaganda?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nick:

            Le Maistre Chat, fair point on St. Valentine, but if ponies are rational animals then there must be some means of salvation.

            You and others already brought up the Lamb/alicorn/lion. I just wanted to say it’s a shame that MLP hasn’t used the word “Houyhnhnm.

            I’ve watched basically none of the show, so I don’t know how the mythological creatures are worked into the setting.

            This actually got pretty erudite. There have been flashbacks to before the rule of the Solar and Lunar princesses that showed pegasi as ancient Greeks and unicorns as a Central Asian civilization or even Chinese (which is less correct). Cerberus, Orthros, hydras, chimeras and manticores are among the fauna of Equestria, which contains the gates of Tartarus (Centaur Satan is imprisoned there, except for that time Cerberus wandered off to play, and they sent a Chaos deity to stop him due to the two’s history as frenemies. Cf. Paradise Lost II. 😛 )
            Griffons are copied from Herodotus* right down to the detail that guys called Arimaspi steal their gold (“The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone”, Season 5). Dragons also have their own country.
            Sphinxes and Aztec mythological creatures have shown up as exotic far-off creatures in episodes featuring Daring Do, an Indiana Jones/J.K. Rowling Expy (no, really…) The tech level and history implied by Indy-like travel to distant exotic lands is not very consistent with lands beyond Equestria being depicted as completely unknown in the movie where they opened diplomatic relations with the hippogriffs/hippocampi…

            *Except they don’t eat ponies. Family-friendly and all.

          • And so if parents would rather their child not marry a Jew, (and can convince themselves that the child would be unhappy married to a Jew), is it fine if they arrange for whatever portrayals of Judaism serving that purpose?

            I don’t think parents should lie to their children. But under the assumed circumstances, I think it would be OK for them to avoid suggesting that their children read Spinning Silver, which gives an attractive picture of Jewish culture, even if they share my high opinion of the book. Or The Joys of Yiddish, ditto.

            There is a couple who are friends of ours. She is Chinese American, he is Croatian American. Their parents knew each other professionally–hers ran Chinese restaurants, his were wholesale butchers.

            Both sets of parents did their best to keep the two kids apart. Hers thought American men didn’t treat their wives well. His thought the children of a mixed marriage would have problems. As anyone who knew the couple might have predicted, the parents were unsuccessful–the two are happily married with four children. We attended the wedding of their older daughter earlier this year.

            Ex post, the parents were wrong. But given their beliefs, I don’t think it was wrong for them to try to arrange matters in a way that would make it less likely that the two would end up falling in love and getting married. And I have seen no evidence that either of the two resents the parents’ unsuccessful efforts.

            But if a parent tells me they’re pressuring their daughter into marriage because “they know what will make her happy”, more likely than not I’ll give that person an earful.

            Is that because you think the parents are probably wrong or because even if they are right they shouldn’t try to influence the daughter’s choice?

            You don’t specify what “pressuring” means here. I think there are limits to what things it is proper for people to do with regard to each other, including parents and children–my view of the limits on how parents ought to behave is I think unusually stringent. But within those limits I don’t see anything wrong with parents trying to influence their children in ways they believe will be in the children’s interest.

            And I don’t think what Conrad describes himself as doing violates those limits.

          • skef says:

            You don’t specify what “pressuring” means here.

            No, I guess I didn’t in the particular sentence you quoted, but I did say

            But if the encouragement approaches what might be called “emotional blackmail” or bringing economic pressure to bear on the daughter

            Is that because you think the parents are probably wrong or because even if they are right they shouldn’t try to influence the daughter’s choice?

            Its because I think influence among adults should be limited to convincing, and manipulating through threats or emotional outbursts is inappropriate, partly because it is cruel. The ends don’t justify the means.

            And I don’t think what Conrad describes himself as doing violates those limits.

            I can say that I take you and Conrad to have made different points arbitrarily many times and you’ll just ignore them all won’t you?

            Look back. Conrad hasn’t referenced a creepy breeding program even once.

          • DeWitt says:

            What exactly is it that we factually disagree about?

            A couple things.

            Firstly, I disagree on the matter of gayness being influenced by social factors very much. The science can’t find a gay gene(possibly yet), but neither can it account for closeted or suppressed gays very well. Intuitively, I find ‘social pressure keeps gays from coming out or even accepting themselves’ a much more reasonable argument than ‘social pressure turns perfectly straight people bi or gay.’

            Secondly, I don’t agree that this will lead to bad outcomes for your or even anyone’s child. I don’t think straight people are going to end up gay because of gaudy boy and girl ponies shown holding hands. I think that, insofar gayness currently is socially determined, it’s about revealing preference more than developing it. The pressure on kids not to be gay is overwhelmingly stronger than the reverse is, and increasing numbers of gay people likely are more about them feeling safe and okay about accepting themselves than the environment genuinely making them gay.

            Unless, that is, we hide them from public view. Gay issues such as suicide, depression, what have you, are those I find much more likely to correlate with poor acceptance of gays than with something inherent about gayness.

            Which brings me to my third issue: it does hurt other people if and when gay people are not to be seen. Acceptance is a long ways off, and neutral portrayment of gays, not even the saintly kind some people argue for, should help with that.

            All that said.. I don’t think you’re an evil, or even a bad person. You’re obviously trying to be good, and I don’t know you nearly well enough to make judgements like so. I do think this one practice is a poor one, and I’d rather that you didn’t, but that really is all.

          • I can say that I take you and Conrad to have made different points arbitrarily many times and you’ll just ignore them all won’t you?

            Here is what I wrote when I noticed you making that claim:

            I think the relevant bit of the comment of mine he links to is:

            If children grow up seeing homosexuality portrayed in a generally positive way, more of them will end up either bisexual or homosexual.

            I think that was Conrad’s position, but he can correct me if I am mistaken.


            That is what you mean by ignoring it?

            Look back. Conrad hasn’t referenced a creepy breeding program even once.

            Wanting to have grandchildren is a creepy breeding program?

            Its because I think influence among adults should be limited to convincing, and manipulating through threats or emotional outbursts is inappropriate, partly because it is cruel. The ends don’t justify the means.

            Threats and emotional outbursts are inappropriate—and have no connection with anything either Conrad or I has been arguing for. He was talking about decisions that affect what works a child gets exposed to. In the case I described and you ignored, my guess is that both sets of parents conspired to try to minimize the degree to which the work their children were doing as part of the family firms put them together—scheduling him to make deliveries at times when she wasn’t there to receive them or the like. That’s only a guess—I don’t remember if my friends ever gave me a more detailed account. As best I could tell, their relationship with their parents remained cordial.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Sorry to burst into a thread without reading it.

            DeWitt wrote:

            I think that, insofar gayness currently is socially determined, it’s about revealing preference more than developing it.

            I’ve always been curious about the city-state Greeks with respect to this.

            DavidFriedman wrote:

            Wanting to have grandchildren is a creepy breeding program?

            Often enough the actions taken by (some of) the prospective grandparents to get those grandchildren is, yes.
            http://www.katsandogz.com/onchildren.html

            Issendai is a great place to see how extreme it can get, though this is after the grandchildren already exist: http://issendai.com/wp/estrangement/259/

          • skef says:

            Threats and emotional outbursts are inappropriate—and have no connection with anything either Conrad or I has been arguing for.

            I asked Conrad a question about portrayals of Judiasm, and he responded (without answering my question) with a related question:

            skef, there’s a stereotype that Jewish mothers encourage their daughters to marry Jewish doctors.

            Assuming that stereotype is true, is it wrong for them to do so? Should they be publicly shamed for this behavior?

            The comment you are referring to was my response to this question. Note his use of the word “encourage”, and my discussion at the top of the word “encourage”.

            Now, I don’t know how many Jewish mothers have tried to convince their daughters to marry Jewish doctors, and how they have gone about doing it. But I am familiar with the stereotype, which is what Conrad explicitly references in his question. And in that stereotype, the Jewish mother is not just making a dispassionate argument for marrying a Jewish doctor.

            So what I did, at the top of my response, was clarify the level of “encouragement” I was going to discuss further, and then I discussed that.

            Again leaving what actual Jewish mothers do about Jewish doctors out of the equation, more generally parents use those kinds of tactics on their children all the time. I have witnessed it personally and had many discussions about it. It is a mainstay of advice column letters.

            It would indeed be unfair of me to accuse Conrad of acting that way, because he has given no indication he would act that way. And my answering his question does not constitute any such accusation. It’s not there.

            Much of your career has rested on academic research. Unless that work is total crap top to bottom, which is not its reputation, you must be able to read with more comprehension than you’re managing in many of the these threads.

            You, like many other people here, probably think I am insufficiently respectful of certain views and regulars here. But there are two ways in which I consistently show respect that are directly relevant to what this venue at least claims to be about.

            The first is that I try to answer all the questions I am asked. I didn’t see Conrad’s question about treatment of adult offspring as necessarily relevant to what we were discussing, and I explained why, but I answered it first regardless. I did not just imply a response by asking another question. And I did not prattle on about how I “just don’t understand your mental model!” while repeatedly avoiding discussion of any examples, like you did on the tax thread the other day, probably because the examples were inconvenient and you’re a twat.

            The second thing I consistently do is to put a lot of effort into trying to respond to the specific arguments and claims people make. I don’t always succeed in interpreting correctly, but I always try. I may bring up hidden motives and alternative paths of reasoning for conclusions, but I label them as such and also discuss the reasoning offered. You are not making this effort, at least when it comes to what I post here. At all.

          • skef says:

            Here, DavidFriedman, is a separate followup on why I am so put off by your “bisexual calculating” (which, again, is not the view Conrad has expressed in this or earlier threads).

            That game-theoretic view is, of course, not at all novel. It seems to be a natural destination in the reasoning of many parents through at least the 90s. Unfortunately, other people out in the world calculate too. And the combined calculation has yielded little but misery.

            You are definitely right that a) bisexuals exist and b) they can be encouraged into heterosexual relationships. Indeed, more often than not they arrive at this conclusion for themselves without any need of explicit encouragement. I have met a number of self-proclaimed male bisexuals. None has been in what anyone would call a “relationship” with another man at the time.

            This background social situation is consistent enough to have yielded resentment on both sides. However things work out in practice (they’re not actually all that bad these days), gay men are generally looking for at least the opportunity of romantic attachment. Thus they are often suspicious of bisexual men, given the worry that they will eventually pair with a woman to have kids, leaving “other-woman analogue” as the best romantic possibility. Many bisexual men resent this assumption, because they are open to romance at the time and feel accused of “pre-crime”.

            Anyway, here’s the relevant point: Actual bisexual men already have a good idea of what their parents want, and don’t generally bring up their bisexuality with their parents. Or at least they don’t in pairing-related discussions. It might be approached later, maybe on someone’s deathbed.

            Gay men also know what their parents want, and are very worried about disappointing their parents. Thus — and this is common enough to be a cliche — at the point where the issue of same-sex attraction can’t be put off further, they often tell their parents that they are bisexual.

            Together, this means that in the past, although there are many bisexual men and also many gay men, most men who tell their parents that they are bisexual are gay. For the most part, bisexual men discuss their same-sex attraction with potential partners. Gay men who do not want to maintain fake heterosexual relationships or appear celibate don’t have that option, but they can claim to be bisexual.

            I hope it is clear where the combination of everyone’s calculating most often leads. The gay man does not want to tell the parents that he is gay, so he says he is bisexual. The parent, calculating as you suggest, then gives the gay man his or her unvarnished views on the nature of gay life.

            I have had many second-person discussions about these “talks”. “Thrown under the bus” is metaphorical, but does not exaggerate. These moments are among the very worst in the children’s lives. They create a rift in the relationship that is very difficult to overcome. And having a deep rift with one’s parents is one thing that can lead, as they say, to “poor outcomes.”

            I’ll note, once again, that nothing Conrad has said about the origins of homosexual attraction implies this particular calculation. That doesn’t mean he’s not at any risk of making the same mistake; what he thinks and is doing leaves the issue open. So I do not take anything I have said on this subject to reflect on Conrad, or as advice to Conrad more than it is advice to anyone that reads it.

          • The second thing I consistently do is to put a lot of effort into trying to respond to the specific arguments and claims people make.

            Effort I can’t observe. Results I can. That quote is from you responding to a comment by me in which I quoted my response to a point of yours that your previous comment accused me of always ignoring.

            Another part of the exchange was your accusing me of referring to a “creepy breeding program.” Either you really have no idea of why someone would want grandchildren or you are reading my comments through a distorting filter generated by your intense dislike for me.

            And I did not prattle on about how I “just don’t understand your mental model!” while repeatedly avoiding discussion of any examples, like you did on the tax thread the other day, probably because the examples were inconvenient and you’re a twat.

            I have no idea what you are talking about. “The other day” isn’t very specific, and an attempt to search this and the previous open thread produced no plausible answers. Nor did a general google search.

          • skef says:

            I’m referring to the extensive discussion that spanned two threads and happened less than a month ago. In which I asked you several times how your plan would apply to Apple as compared to a traditional manufacturing corporation and you primarily restarted your high-level position over and over and ignored my questions.

          • I’ll note, once again, that nothing Conrad has said about the origins of homosexual attraction implies this particular calculation.

            Correct. Nor do I see its relevance to anything I said.

            You are describing a particular mistake that parents of sons only attracted to males might make. You may well be correct–pretty clearly you have more relevant data than I do. But we were arguing about whether it was reasonable for a parent to avoid showing his young son images that normalized the idea of homosexual relationships, and I don’t see the relevance of your point to that.

            You say you are in favor of convincing not pressuring. That becomes an issue at a much later point. Do you think a parent who believes that ending up as a practicing homosexual has worse life results than ending up as a practicing heterosexual should conceal that belief from his adolescent son? If not, and if the son thinks well of the father, the son will want to believe that the more attractive option is open to him, leading to just the problem you described.

            The only sense I can make of your argument in the context of my and Conrad’s comments is that you think the attempt to think rationally about these issues leads to bad outcomes. That could be true, but I don’t know of a better way of thinking about such things.

            But that probably isn’t your point.

          • skef says:

            Do you think a parent who believes that ending up as a practicing homosexual has worse life results than ending up as a practicing heterosexual should conceal that belief from his adolescent son?

            For purposes of illustration, let’s just go ahead and lean on the disability model. Do I think that a parent of a child with a physical disability should be very careful about expressing disappointment about that disability, to the point of keeping some thoughts to his or her self? I do think that. And I think that similar considerations apply to the case you ask about, and “wanting grandchildren” is a poor excuse for making one’s kid feel like shit.

            One of the points I have been making is that thinking in these cases is not always as rational as claimed. The parent of the child with a disability will typically, in virtue of rational thinking, know better. But even when a son is explicit with a parent about his homosexuality, a parent’s desires often lead to his or her projecting bisexuality onto the son, and the conversation proceeds in the same way. That’s not rational thinking, it’s wishful thinking.

          • Do you think a parent who believes that ending up as a practicing homosexual has worse life results than ending up as a practicing heterosexual should conceal that belief from his adolescent son?

            Skef responded:

            For purposes of illustration, let’s just go ahead and lean on the disability model. Do I think that a parent of a child with a physical disability should be very careful about expressing disappointment about that disability, to the point of keeping some thoughts to his or her self?

            That’s not relevant to my question, because the issue was not expressing disappointment but conveying information. The information that a physical disability is a bad thing to have is unnecessary, since obvious, and also serves no function, since the disability is already there. The analogous case would be a father warning his son against some hobby which had a significant chance of leading to a disability, and pointing out why that would be a very bad thing to happen.

            The point of both Conrad’s argument and my defense of it is that, ex-ante, the father does not know that his son is or will be attracted only to males. Both of us are arguing that some sons will be somewhere between obligate homosexual and obligate heterosexual and some choices made by the parents will effect how likely the son will be to end up as a practicing homosexual. You can’t engage with the argument while ignoring that, which is what you are trying to do.

          • skef says:

            That’s not relevant to my question, because the issue was not expressing disappointment but conveying information. The information that a physical disability is a bad thing to have is unnecessary, since obvious, and also serves no function, since the disability is already there. The analogous case would be a father warning his son against some hobby which had a significant chance of leading to a disability, and pointing out why that would be a very bad thing to happen.

            The topic here is talking to offspring at least of the age where sexual attraction has come into the picture. You’ve just said that disability is not a point of comparison because “the disability is already there”. In doing this, you are either denying the existence of homosexuality as an orientation, or asserting that even a man exclusively attracted to other men should couple and pro-create with a woman anyway. The first is wrong, the second is selfish and callous.

            This is indeed the impression I picked up on from your initial posts on the subject, and have been responding to the whole time.

          • skef says:

            Since your second point rests on ambiguity, I’ll draw a different analogy.

            Suppose that your son has just experienced a serious sports injury. The doctor says that he might have a complete recovery, but it is likely he will walk slowly and with a limp for the rest of his life. Would that be a good time to share “information” about how that life will be different, and he will have many fewer opportunities than other people? Is there a good time for that?

            Suppose you think that effort in rehab will make a full recovery somewhat more likely, although it’s far from clear how much more. Is it then OK to scare your kid into that effort? What if it doesn’t work?

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ Skef

            You, like many other people here, probably think I am insufficiently respectful of certain views and regulars here. But there are two ways in which I consistently show respect that are directly relevant to what this venue at least claims to be about.

            One example from OT 113.25 — your response to David Friedman:

            This is what we’ve been talking about the whole time, so I don’t see how you can be asking this question is good faith. Don’t be an asshole.

            I’m one of those people who think you’re insufficiently respectful, and despite your self-congratulatory remarks above, I still think it. You also seem to behave extra poorly when it comes to interacting with David Friedman.

          • albatross11 says:

            ISTM that the core question here is about basically four different impacts of parenting intended to minimize the chances that your children will end up gay.

            Individual effects:

            a. Good: If your kid is in the range where he can be swayed toward heterosexuality by your parenting, then he gets better life outcomes.

            b. Bad: If your kid is not in that range, and is bound to end up gay, then that parenting might have a pretty negative effect. (Probably not if you just don’t show him pro-gay media messages, but quite plausibly if you spend a lot of time talking about how you’d disown any child of yours who turned out gay or something).

            Social effects:

            c. Lots of parents doing this may make homosexuality less common, presumably leading to better outcomes overall, if it dissuades other kids in the range where they could be pushed one way or the other toward heterosexuality.

            d. Lots of parents doing this may push social norms toward less acceptance of gays, making life harder for people who are going to end up gay no matter what.

            I think figuring out the likely impact requires having some idea of how large a fraction of kids are likely to be in the range where they could be pushed one way or another by parenting choices. And it also requires specifically talking about what parenting techniques are in question.

            FWIW, my guess is that the fraction who’s going to be affected by parenting styles enough to matter is pretty small (so that Conrad’s techniques probably won’t matter much), and on the other side that Conrad’s described techniques probably aren’t going to do much harm in the case that one of his kids ends up gay.

            I strongly suspect that several of the people reacting most strongly against his techniques are thinking about techniques much more likely to be damaging. *Lots* of gays had to face being essentially disowned and kicked out of their families when they came out, and while blocking pro-gay media messages isn’t going to screw up any kids you have who turn out gay, disowning them and never speaking to them again probably will.

            One way we might get some information about how susceptible gayness is to parental choices would be to look at adoption studies. If homosexuality among adoptive siblings (no genetic relation) is reasonably strongly correlated, that would suggest that parenting matters. If there’s little or no correlation, then probably parenting within the normal range of American parenting styles (which does sometimes include limiting access to media, interacting or not interacting socially with openly gay people, etc.) doesn’t have much effect.

          • skef says:

            You also seem to behave extra poorly when it comes to interacting with David Friedman.

            This is accurate, and comes from a bias on my part, but not a political one. This context is generally allergic to influence from authority or reputation except when it comes to David Friedman. The statements of our host get at least an order of magnitude more scrutiny than his statements do. That’s not his fault, but rather than lean away and pat down he just basks in it. It makes me ill and I overcompensate. His affected detachment doesn’t help.

            At this point it should be obvious that when I’m here, it’s not to make friends. From the very beginning, when my attitude was much more neutral and my contributions had more variety, there have been almost no favorable comments. By the two most reliable scores — favorable citations outside of a thread, and defenses from hyperbolic attacks (and there have been some of those — I’m basically at zero. Occasionally someone will agree with a point, basically no one has ever said they want me around. If I weren’t OK with that I would have stayed away for that reason long ago.

            Shouldn’t I, then, have learned my lesson from this by now? Yes. I’ve learned that this is the place where libertarian and various other rightish views are to be argued and, thus tested, demonstrated to succeed. That doesn’t really work with Fox morning show levels of fanaticism, and going on The View doesn’t help. You need an Alan Colmes, rest his soul! And I am not an Alan Colmes. Nor do I wish to be.

            I originally came here to pass the time through argument. The homosexuality-adjacent stuff is actually an exception to the rule that most of what I’ve said here is not much tied to any particular position I hold. (My response to Plumber was another recent exception.) And I was, honest to god, purposely sitting out this iteration of the ongoing Honcho Program debate, and then he went and suggested an adversarial collaboration. It’s on him the time, I plausibly claim.

            Good lord, after I was out of the picture a while you all started tone-policing HeelBearCub of all people. Almost no one called Matt M on his ongoing pattern of crap until he was banned, which prompted a dozen “yes, but!”s It would be funny if it weren’t sad.

            Added: I do not mean to imply that HeelBearCub is an Alan Colmes. Just that he is a gentle soul relative to myself.

          • skef says:

            I strongly suspect that several of the people reacting most strongly against his techniques are thinking about techniques much more likely to be damaging.

            Since I’m here I’ll clarify that the overwhelming majority of my part of the argument with Conrad Honcho on this subject is about the origin of same-sex attraction in the abstract. That is, I have been arguing about the facts of sexual orientation and not taking a moral stance about what he is doing as a parent. Part of that argument has involved accusations of motivated reasoning, as an explanation for some of the points he makes.

            I have also sometimes commented on ways that what he is doing could potentially be of harm. But I don’t have strong views on that subject. Compared to, for example, using emotional blackmail to direct outcomes, it’s not even worth mentioning. And my taking something as open to criticism should not be construed as taking it as something that should be prevented by force or even shaming. Nothing about his actions is a big deal, in my view.

            Many times people have taken me to be raising only moral objections and to be arguing about what Conrad should or should not be doing. I appreciate that Conrad himself has never done this.

          • you are either denying the existence of homosexuality as an orientation, or asserting that even a man exclusively attracted to other men should couple and pro-create with a woman anyway.

            I am doing neither. I am asserting the existence of various levels of bisexuality as orientations.

            If the son is obligate homosexual, then there is no reason to discourage him from becoming a practicing homosexual (from my standpoint–a Catholic might disagree). It might still be desirable to warn him about potential risks of that lifestyle, point out the advantages of long term commitment, provided he can find a suitable partner, over casual promiscuity.

            You complain that I’m not responding to you, but I have been making the point over and over again that the argument for avoiding inputs that normalize homosexuality is to make it more likely that someone who is not innately obligate homosexual will end up as a practicing heterosexual. It should be obvious that that has been Conrad’s point throughout as well–that whether someone ends up as a practicing homosexual depends in part on innate characteristics, in part on environmental ones, hence an environment that does not encourage him to do so will reduce the probability that he will–but of course not to zero.

            Suppose you think that effort in rehab will make a full recovery somewhat more likely, although it’s far from clear how much more. Is it then OK to scare your kid into that effort? What if it doesn’t work?

            Does “scare your kid into that effort” correspond to “explain to your kid why that effort is worth making”? If so, why shouldn’t you, assuming you believe it is true?

          • skef says:

            If so, why shouldn’t you, assuming you believe it is true?

            There is no problem with doing it that way, as long as you are careful.

            There are a number of differences between what you have been saying and what Conrad has described, but the most relevant in this case is that Conrad is omitting information about homosexuality, not supplying it. It’s just not the same thing at all.

            But clarification is easy in this case. You’re making a point about what it’s fine for parents to do. You have not indicated it is not something you wouldn’t personally do, and the commentary about the positive aspects of encouraging grandchildren indicate you would do something along the lines of what you describe. So give a scenario. What age are we talking about, what if anything prompts the discussion, and what would you say? Or what are you envisioning “a parent” saying?

            I’ve made a lot of hay about the “diverts mate search” statement (or tried to) in part because switching to that kind of pseudo-scientific language sounds creepy. And it sounds creepy because it’s euphemistic. People tend to retreat into that language when the plain thing sounds bad. And because it has a built-in motte — there’s always something completely innocent that falls under the description.

            So, to discuss this properly we need at least one example. Conrad’s point isn’t relevant to this — he’s not saying anything at present. Give an age and scenario, and show us how to nudge a son towards a heterosexual relationship.

          • Nornagest says:

            @skef —

            The statements of our host get at least an order of magnitude more scrutiny than [David Friedman’s] statements do..

            Scott’s statements get an order of magnitude more scrutiny than mine, too. Or yours. Or just about anyone else’s, as long as “everyone else” doesn’t happen to e.g. be named “Eliezer Yudkowsky”.

            That isn’t because Scott deserves it in some moral sense, and it isn’t because the rest of us are just that awesome. It’s because we’re all (well, mostly) here because we’re pretty impressed by Scott, and also because we’re all (well, mostly) obnoxious contrarians who would like nothing better than to make somebody we greatly like and respect look stupid in comparison to us.

            Scott’s the fastest gun in the West around here. David isn’t. That’s all.

          • skef says:

            Scott’s statements get an order of magnitude more scrutiny than mine, too. Or yours.

            Scott’s the fastest gun in the West around here. David isn’t. That’s all.

            I wasn’t clear about why I brought Scott in as a point of comparison, so I’ll expand.

            What I’m talking about might be characterized as an “initial degree of skepticism” about a given statement, generally followed by critical scrutiny considered on a 1:1 basis. Of course Scott’s views get a lot of total attention. But it’s still possible to judge that initial degree of skepticism on the part of individuals based on how they individually respond.

            Let me put the claim a different way: David Friedman routinely “gets away with shit” that a) newbies would be called out on, b) other regulars would be called out on, and c) Scott Alexander would be called out on. Much of this, but not all, seems to be of the “well, he probably knows what he is talking about” variety.

            This is the distinction I mean to pick out, which you or anyone is of course free to disagree with, but that would need to be on a different basis than you’ve raised here.

          • Skef (about me)

            His affected detachment doesn’t help.

            Meaning my failure to get mad and yell at you, even when you call me an asshole?

            In which I asked you several times how your plan would apply to Apple as compared to a traditional manufacturing corporation and you primarily restarted your high-level position over and over and ignored my questions.

            And I responded to that question:

            3) Roughly speaking, how your tax would apply to Apple.

            Apple would calculate its profit in the same way it does now. Instead of paying corporate income tax on that profit, as it now does, it would attribute all of it to its stockholders, each of them would report his share of it as income and pay income tax on it.

            Through most of the discussion, I was assuming that your objection was to the shift from the current corporate income tax to my proposed substitute. Since the problem of distinguishing reinvestment from production cost was identical for the two systems, that didn’t make any sense to me–as I said, several times over, without your ever explaining that that had nothing to do with the question you were asking. I explicitly asked you

            This sounds as though you think that isn’t already the case under the present tax law. Do you?

            And you didn’t answer the question.

            I finally concluded that you were not talking about my proposal at all but about an existing problem in measuring corporate profits, and since I had nothing much to say about that I said nothing much about it.

          • skef says:

            Meaning my failure to get mad and yell at you, even when you call me an asshole?

            I was thinking more of your repeated posting about Warren although naturally you have no opinions either way about her personally, and the way you link to that unflattering exchange whenever David Graeber comes up, purely to inform all of us of his potentially questionable reasoning, of course.

            Have I said “asshole”? I suppose I may have. “Twat” seems more proportionate.

            Since the problem of distinguishing reinvestment from production cost was identical for the two systems, that didn’t make any sense to me–as I said, several times over, without your ever explaining that that had nothing to do with the question you were asking.

            David, there was a whole discussion in the following thread that included Mark Anderson saying:

            Accounting rules do not allow you to capitalize salaries for developing intellectual property (that is, treat the salaries as an asset instead of an expense). The reason for this is that it would simply be too subjective, at least in most cases. It is theoretically correct to consider salaries that created IP as assets and not expenses, but that’s not how we do it. This is the rule for both book accounting (what gets published in annual reports) and tax accounting (what goes on the tax return).

            I wouldn’t use the term reinvestment for spending to create intangible property, but I suppose it makes some sense.

            You have said you want to treat reinvestment as profit. As I understand your position, it would be treated as conventional income for the shareholder, and taxed accordingly, and thus often taxed at around 30%.

            Suppose there are two kinds of “reinvestment”. One, akin to what are currently treated as capital expenses, is easy to measure. Another, akin to paying to create new intellectual property, is not easy to measure (as Mark Anderson notes). Paying to create new intellectual property is not currently treated as a form of profit. It is also not measured, because it is not differentiated from salary payed in service of other purposes.

            So further suppose that the idea is to tax easily measurable reinvestment as a form of profit at effectively around 30%, and — because it is not easy to measure — to treat reinvestment that creates new intellectual property as an expense, and therefore tax it at 0%.

            A system with this division would introduce a huge market distortion in favor of difficult-to-measure forms of reinvestment. Once it goes into effect companies that expand primarily through traditional capital investment will be much less tax-advantageous to investors than companies that expand by investing in new intellectual property. That pressure will encourage a move from one variety of investment into another.

            Given the relatively low amount of detail you have offered about your proposal, I am not sure it would include such a distortion. One good way to figure out whether it would is by example. A company buys a new factory: how in your system is that treated on a tax basis? A computer company pays to develop a new processor design: how is that money treated on a tax basis? By discussing a variety of specific examples, we could evaluate whether the system would suffer from market distortion.

            That is why I would like to discuss examples. Your saying “it would just be like it is already” is non-responsive. If you know what it is already like, it should be easy to fill in details like the above. How is a factory purchase taxed in your system? How is creating a new processor taxed in your system?

          • You have said you want to treat reinvestment as profit.

            This is hopeless. I have said that I want to treat profit as profit, and one of the things profit can be used for is reinvestment.

            For the seventy-third time, do you agree that the problems you raise are identical in the present system, where corporate profit is taxed, and in the alternative system I proposed, where corporate profit, defined in exactly the same way, is attributed to the stockholders and taxed as ordinary income?

            If so, why are you asking me about accounting issues that have nothing to do with my proposal?

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ skef

            Have I said “asshole”? I suppose I may have. “Twat” seems more proportionate.

            … probably because the examples were inconvenient and you’re a twat.

            David Friedman routinely “gets away with shit” that a) newbies would be called out on, b) other regulars would be called out on, and c) Scott Alexander would be called out on. Much of this, but not all, seems to be of the “well, he probably knows what he is talking about” variety.

            This is accurate, and comes from a bias on my part, … his affected detachment doesn’t help.

            Good lord, after I was out of the picture a while you all started tone-policing HeelBearCub of all people. Almost no one called Matt M on his ongoing pattern of crap until he was banned, which prompted a dozen “yes, but!”s It would be funny if it weren’t sad.

            You admit you can’t stand David Friedman, call him an asshole and a twat, assert that he represents himself dishonestly and that SSC readers are snowed by his arguments. Then, you frame your behavior as one of the few beleaguered leftists facing off against a horde of unreasonable commenters.

            Maybe it’s time to stop.

          • skef says:

            For the seventy-third time, do you agree that the problems you raise are identical in the present system, where corporate profit is taxed, and in the alternative system I proposed, where corporate profit, defined in exactly the same way, is attributed to the stockholders and taxed as ordinary income?

            What makes it difficult for me to answer this question is that I don’t think we have the same conception of what the current system considers to be “profit”.

            In my understanding, the “destinations” of corporate revenue can, at a high level, be divided into three categories: normal expenses, capital expenditures, and “book profit”. I do not consider the current system to treat capital expenditures as a variety of profit.

            Therefore, if the distinction you are asking about is between one in which book profits are taxed on the corporate side, and one in which book profits are taxed as a variety of shareholder income, then yes, the problems would be the same in the two systems, and such a system would pose no particular challenges, as book profits are relatively easy to measure, (ongoing lobbying pressure for loopholes aside).

            It doesn’t seem to me that this answer responds to your proposal, however, because from the start you have said that a feature of your system is that it taxes reinvestment as a form of profit. So if in your question above the category “profit” is meant to include reinvestment, then I think the systems do not face the same problems. If the capital expenditure system does not function as a measure of reinvestment, then it can’t be used to treat reinvestment differently in your alternate proposal. And anyway, a switch from asset depreciation to a 30%-or-so tax rate on the part of the shareholder — which I take it would be the result of stipulating that capital expenditures will serve as a measure of reinvestment, would be a drastic change, and would result in the kind of market distortion I have discussed.

            Does this answer your question? I’m not sure what else to say.

          • skef says:

            You admit you can’t stand David Friedman, call him an asshole and a twat, assert that he represents himself dishonestly and that SSC readers are snowed by his arguments. Then, you frame your behavior as one of the few beleaguered leftists facing off against a horde of unreasonable commenters.

            I can’t stand “DavidFriedman”. An aspect of this dislike is that I don’t think that persona has all that much to do with David Friedman.

            That “don’t be an asshole” comment was in response to his asking “You do realize that the corporate income tax is on profit, not revenue?” Given that at that point I had already, partly in an effort to answer other of his questions, given a high level description of the U.S. capital expenditure taxation system, I felt he was being an asshole as he asked that. “You do realize” is not a neutral phrase, and he was using it in the standard non-neutral way to indicate that I am a dumb-dumb.

            And no, I haven’t framed myself as one of the last remaining leftists. I don’t have any more views conventionally recognized as leftist than those that are conventionally recognized as rightest. Homosexuality, which for I think understandable reasons is one of my main bugaboos, doesn’t cut hard across that line anymore. And my earlier stated take on cake-baking wasn’t exactly hard-line. I’m taken by others as a leftist here because most of the discussion is, if not rightist, then “left-opposed”. (Feel free to take my anti-socialist comments in Plumber’s thread as criticism of Marxbro. I do.)

            Maybe it’s time to stop.

            But as I said before I don’t care what you think. There are the rules and the reign of terror and as long as I happen to stay to the one side of both I can log in and put words here.

            I have no plans of maintaining an ongoing Friedman crapfest. Even if he continues to use not filling in the tax policy case as an excuse not to fill in the talk-with-maybe-gay son case. I wondered in here against my — earlier — judgment because of Conrad’s collaboration offer and David wandered in after. We all three did this all before and I didn’t feel David put much effort into understanding what I or Conrad was saying the first time around. I know too many people genuinely harmed by a particular sort of thing that parents say.

            This isn’t a crisis, let alone a disaster, and you haven’t made yourself relevant to any of it anyway.

          • It doesn’t seem to me that this answer responds to your proposal, however, because from the start you have said that a feature of your system is that it taxes reinvestment as a form of profit.

            I have said over and over again that my proposal defines corporate profit in the same way as current law. I did not say that “a feature of [my] system was that it taxes reinvestment as a form of profit.” What I have said is that it, like current law, taxes profit. One of the things profit can be used for is reinvestment–accumulating capital assets for the corporation. I have never said or suggested that its treatment of profit that is reinvested would be different than the treatment under current law–that is a product of your imagination.

            The only sense I can make of the whole frustrating mess is that you noticed something I said in explaining profit that you thought you could disagree with. Doing so required you to ignore over and over again my pointing out that I was defining profit in the same way as current law defines it. So you did.

            Given the amount I comment here, it shouldn’t be that difficult for you to find something you disagree with and want to attack that is actually a position I argued for.

          • skef says:

            I have said over and over again that my proposal defines corporate profit in the same way as current law. I did not say that “a feature of [my] system was that it taxes reinvestment as a form of profit.” What I have said is that it, like current law, taxes profit. One of the things profit can be used for is reinvestment–accumulating capital assets for the corporation. I have never said or suggested that its treatment of profit that is reinvested would be different than the treatment under current law–that is a product of your imagination.

            Well, ok, then what I have fully failed to understand is the second paragraph of the very first post in the first sub-thread I linked to above:

            With my system, if the company reinvests the money the stockholder is taxed on it as ordinary income. He has a capital gain only if the increase in the value of the stock he sells is more than the amount of reinvested corporate income that he has already paid income tax on–and a capital loss if it is less.

            I read this as saying that money that the company reinvests is taxed in a certain way that is different from what happens now. I don’t think that is a crazy reading, and I definitely don’t think my focus on “reinvestment” is a whole-cloth invention of my imagination.

            Since I’ve been reading it so wrong, why don’t you explain what the quoted paragraph means, and everyone can put this whole thing behind everyone else?

          • skef says:

            On second thought, I don’t see that any interests are served by my asking for further explanation. The content of that paragraph was what I was trying to understand, and evaluate, in those two threads. I misread them, and because you didn’t seem to treat my initial questions about reinvestment as non sequiturs, I continued the discussion on the basis of that misreading. Given the overall situation, I have no reason to ask further questions about this.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @DeWitt

            Firstly, I disagree on the matter of gayness being influenced by social factors very much. The science can’t find a gay gene(possibly yet), but neither can it account for closeted or suppressed gays very well. Intuitively, I find ‘social pressure keeps gays from coming out or even accepting themselves’ a much more reasonable argument than ‘social pressure turns perfectly straight people bi or gay.’

            Then how do you account for significantly gayer cultures, like ancient Greece? Is that the “natural” amount of homosexuality in a society, and that, absent our society’s repression, we’d be like the Greeks?

            And if socialization doesn’t have anything (or much) to do with it, then what is the cause of homosexuality? I think we all agree it’s not “choice,” and science has failed to find any evidence of a gay gene (ruled it out, even?), and only weak biological/hormonal markers. This doesn’t leave much left besides socialization/culture.

            Now, for political reasons, interested parties have strongly pushed a “born this way” message, and harshly suppress anyone who suggests otherwise, but “politically correct” does not mean “actually correct.” If it were actually correct we wouldn’t need the word “politically” in there. We could just say correct.

            Secondly, I don’t agree that this will lead to bad outcomes for your or even anyone’s child. I don’t think straight people are going to end up gay because of gaudy boy and girl ponies shown holding hands.

            Unless, that is, we hide them from public view. Gay issues such as suicide, depression, what have you, are those I find much more likely to correlate with poor acceptance of gays than with something inherent about gayness.

            Seeing the boy ponies holding hands won’t make them gay, but gays not seeing boy ponies holding hands will make them kill themselves? You can’t do a “small stuff doesn’t matter” argument in one breath and then “small stuff matters enormously” in the next.

            Are you sure you’re not putting the cart before the horse? Perhaps the stigmas against homosexuality (which are common across cultures) arose out of observations of the poor outcomes and non-pro-social behavior of homosexuals, and was not merely lies invented by evil people for evil purposes.

            If homosexuals would like to demonstrate good-faith pro-social behavior, one really nice concept they could adopt would be one of “gay responsibility” that come along with the “gay rights.” So perhaps the responsibility to recognize that not everyone agrees with them, that’s okay, and to not force their views on other people’s children.

            I like Catholicism, but if the authors of MLP decided the ponies needed to convert to the One True Faith, get baptized and confirmed and welcome the Pony Pope to Equestria, I wouldn’t get super mad at non-Catholics and accuse them of anti-Catholic hatred for saying “thanks but no thanks” and turning off the shameless pro-Catholic propaganda. “Respecting other people’s boundaries, particularly with respect to what they teach their children” seems like a pro-social behavior, and it would be nice if the gays could develop that. Maybe instead of propagandizing how great they are they could just start acting great and other people might notice naturally.

            I think that, insofar gayness currently is socially determined, it’s about revealing preference more than developing it. The pressure on kids not to be gay is overwhelmingly stronger than the reverse is, and increasing numbers of gay people likely are more about them feeling safe and okay about accepting themselves than the environment genuinely making them gay.

            Again, so the ancient Greeks are the natural state of man then?

            It’s not hard to find accounts from US soldiers stationed in Afghanistan about how hard it was for them to stay silent and “respect the culture” of the Afghan soldiers they stationed with who habitually took young boys into their tents with them. Are the Afghan soldiers the one’s in accordance with natural biology, and the US soldiers are simply repressed? Should they be taking boys into their tents with them, too?

            Now, I’ll offer a theory on the behavior of the Afghan soldiers: when they were young boys, Afghan men took them into their tents, and now as men they do the same thing to other young boys. That sounds like a culturally transmitted practice, and not one emerging from biology, and that they were simply “born this way.”

            Which brings me to my third issue: it does hurt other people if and when gay people are not to be seen. Acceptance is a long ways off, and neutral portrayment of gays, not even the saintly kind some people argue for, should help with that.

            The portrayals we get are not neutral, though. Or rather, not counterbalanced. There are no evil homosexuals on TV (except maybe Kevin Spacey in House of Cards but he was bi, and kids don’t watch that), there are no consequences to gay behavior, and the only evil people on TV are the ones not completely enthralled with homosexuals and everything about them and applaud them for their bravery and kind hearts.

            I’m not on board with the “if you’re not with me then you’re against me” rhetoric, because we don’t apply that to other things. I’m not going to call someone anti-Catholic for not showing only unabashedly positive portrayals of Catholicism, and I’m not going to call someone anti-Muslim for not constantly extolling the virtues of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

            @skef

            I’m still open to the adversarial collaboration, but you still can’t tell me what we factually disagree about. DeWitt at least did. Do agree with DeWitt’s factual claims? We can’t consult the literature to determine that I’m evil, but if we have a disagreement of fact we can review the literature to see to what extent I’m wrong.

            Also, to answer your question without another question, yes, it’s wrong to denigrate Jews because for some reason or another you don’t want your kid to marry a Jew. That’s why I don’t denigrate homosexuals in front of my kid. I just don’t mention them. Not only because it’s mean to denigrate homosexuals, but also because if I said “gays are bad” that would make my kid ask “what’s a gay?” and then I’d have to explain the whole thing that sometimes boys want to be boys. I’d rather in his formative years he imprint on the idea that “boys go with girls.” And that seems to be what’s happening. There’s a girl in his class he talks about as being “really pretty” and everything else I see in his behavior is very male. He likes guns, fighting, competition, games, trucks, machines, computers, all that sort of stuff. Of course that doesn’t necessarily matter, as I know a gay guy who gets shit from other gays for being “too macho” with his leather jacket and motorcycle and all that. And when you ask my daughter what she wants to be when she grows up she says “a doctor and a mommy!” so that looks pretty good too.

            Also, I don’t consider it “tone policing” to ask you not to call people assholes and twats. Come on, man. Nobody’s calling you names.

          • albatross11 says:

            Small aside:

            It’s really, really hard to work out a way that a gay gene (or a zillion genes each with a small effect) could make any sense in light of evolution. You seem to either have to assume:

            a. The gay uncle hypothesis (gay men as helpers to their siblings’ children). But the math doesn’t work very well on this. Assuming being gay doesn’t make me superhuman, I can either do X amount of good for my kids (1/2 my genes) or for my brother’s kids (1/4 my genes). You can kind-of imagine some situation where this might work out (overpopulation or something), but in general, it won’t be a better strategy for my genes to improve your kids’ fitness rather than my own kids’ fitness. Also, if this were happening, it should be a well-known phenomenon everywhere, but it’s not.

            b. The same genes that make you exclusively gay in modern Western societies (so you have no offspring) didn’t decrease your number of offspring much in the ancestral environments in which we evolved (hunter-gatherer tribes, small farming and fishing villages, smallish nomadic herding bands). You can kind-of imagine this–maybe f–ing the other guys in your tribe on long hunting trips keeps the tribe more cohesive, so long as you still do your duty and have a few kids with your wife. But again, it’s hard to see how it would work out mathematically, given that men can have pretty-much unlimited offspring. When you have a chance at a tryst with either the hot young lady next door or the hot young man next door, which one do you prefer? One of those answers seems a lot more likely to leave offspring than the other. When your tribe defeats the other tribe and you have your pick of the civilians, do you choose a girl or a boy? Again, one choice leads to more offspring than the other.

            c. Maybe there’s a dual effect, so that having the gay genes makes men gayer but women more attractive or something. That seems like the best bet I can think of, but again, it has some mathematical problems, because women are extremely rate-limited in terms of offspring–the difference between a super-successful woman and a barely-reproducing one isn’t all that big, because (especially in a pre-tech environment) every childbirth is dangerous and takes a hell of a lot of resources. By contrast, a super successful man (in fitness terms) can be Genghis Khan and leave hundreds of offspring. So the payoff of making your sister the prettiest girl in the tribe is that she gets the most attractive husband and maybe makes three or four kids if she’s lucky; you end up gay and have none or maybe one thanks to doing your duty with your wife a few times. It’s hard to see that working out.

          • skef says:

            I’m still open to the adversarial collaboration, but you still can’t tell me what we factually disagree about. DeWitt at least did. Do agree with DeWitt’s factual claims? We can’t consult the literature to determine that I’m evil, but if we have a disagreement of fact we can review the literature to see to what extent I’m wrong.

            I think I’ve been pretty clear about my parameters for an adversarial collaboration. We’ve had this discussion many times now and every time it has focused on the causal relationship between presentations of homosexual content to young people and (later?) same-sex orientation. My willingness to collaborate depends on the proposition being debated being about that link.

            So, to give two examples, the proposition “Avoiding presentations of homosexual content to children is likely to substantially reduce the chance of their developing same-sex attraction” would qualify. We could then debate the evidence for that claim. On the other hand “We aren’t sure what causes homosexuality, so it is acceptable for me to prevent my children from seeing presentations of homosexual content” does not qualify. The question at hand in that proposition is moral rather than causal. The implications of the “so” are unclear — it could be acceptable regardless of whether we knew the causes of homosexuality, so what would arguments about the acceptability prove?

            Have we not, every time, been discussing that causal link? I think you’ve been extremely clear that your goal is not to “convince” a gay child to live a straight life (should that become an issue for whatever reason), but to stave off same-sex attraction in the first place. But your #2 suggested proposition above implied nothing about that link at all. Just put it all in a sentence or two and we can debate the evidence for the truth of that sentence.

            Also, to answer your question without another question, yes, it’s wrong to denigrate Jews because for some reason or another you don’t want your kid to marry a Jew. That’s why I don’t denigrate homosexuals in front of my kid. I just don’t mention them. Not only because it’s mean to denigrate homosexuals, but also because if I said “gays are bad” that would make my kid ask “what’s a gay?” and then I’d have to explain the whole thing that sometimes boys want to be boys. I’d rather in his formative years he imprint on the idea that “boys go with girls.” And that seems to be what’s happening. There’s a girl in his class he talks about as being “really pretty” and everything else I see in his behavior is very male. He likes guns, fighting, competition, games, trucks, machines, computers, all that sort of stuff. Of course that doesn’t necessarily matter, as I know a gay guy who gets shit from other gays for being “too macho” with his leather jacket and motorcycle and all that. And when you ask my daughter what she wants to be when she grows up she says “a doctor and a mommy!” so that looks pretty good too.

            I don’t see much significance to the typical boy/girl stuff given that the evidence I’m aware of is that that is what usually happens regardless, so your experience isn’t evidence for any view that you hold against any view that I hold.

            But putting that part aside, you’ve stated exactly what I thought your position to be and have always thought it to be. We got into the whole negative presentation deal because David brought that in, both before and in this thread. He has been reading you as saying that negative presentations would be fine, and I have been trying to convince him that a) no they are not, and b) that anyway that is not what you have been doing or supporting. I have always primarily had a factual argument with you and a moral argument with David, although I have occasionally strayed onto other topics, as people do in these threads.

            So yes, good. We understand each other’s positions and maybe David will understand your position now.

            Also, I don’t consider it “tone policing” to ask you not to call people assholes and twats. Come on, man. Nobody’s calling you names.

            But I didn’t say I was being tone-policed or that I had ever been tone-policed. I said that HeelBearCub had been tone-policed.

            Tone-police away. I’m on the record as beyond caring about that.

          • Quoting me:

            With my system, if the company reinvests the money the stockholder is taxed on it as ordinary income. He has a capital gain only if the increase in the value of the stock he sells is more than the amount of reinvested corporate income that he has already paid income tax on–and a capital loss if it is less.

            Skef then writes:

            I read this as saying that money that the company reinvests is taxed in a certain way that is different from what happens now. I don’t think that is a crazy reading, and I definitely don’t think my focus on “reinvestment” is a whole-cloth invention of my imagination.

            It wouldn’t be a crazy reading if I hadn’t, in the course of the thread, said about six times that corporate profit, which is what both my system and the present system are based on, was defined in exactly the same way in both systems. But I did. At no point did I say anything implying or even hinting that profit was calculated in a different way in the two systems.

            In your quote from me “the money” is the corporate profit. The point of the quote is that how the profit is used–whether to pay dividends, accumulate a stock of cash in a safe, or buy capital assets–isn’t relevant. It was in the context of the relevance to capital gains, since under current law if the corporation reinvests and that increases the stock value the stockholder eventually pays capital gains tax on the increase.

            The description of my proposal, in an earlier comment in the thread, was:

            Abolish the corporate income tax and tax stockholders on their share of corporate income, whether it is paid out as dividends or retained by the corporation.

            You may for all I know be correct in believing that there are sometimes practical problems in distinguishing, for purposes of taxation, reinvestment from costs of production. But since those problems had nothing to do with my proposal, I had nothing to say about them.

          • skef says:

            It’s really, really hard to work out a way that a gay gene (or a zillion genes each with a small effect) could make any sense in light of evolution.

            These (quite common) evolution-based arguments about genes and homosexuality seem to be based on something like this reasoning:

            1) Gay people don’t tend to have offspring, therefore they don’t tend to pass on their genes

            2) Any trait that tends to cause organisms not to pass on their genes is, by definition, a trait of negative selection.

            3) We would expect any trait of significant negative selection, and that does not confer some other substantial advantage to the group, to disappear from the population

            4) Therefore, we would expect homosexuality to disappear from the population.

            One can argue about anything, and therefore any of these. But what specifically is the reasoning behind #3?
            You would not expect such a trait to be prevalent. It would be surprising if more than half of a population had a trait that made reproduction unlike or impossible and that (unlike, for example, bees) didn’t confer any particular advantage. But would it be if it’s just a small percentage?

            Until relatively recently humans had quite high infant mortality. We’ve improved that situation (when and where we have) largely with technology. That’s a lot of wasted reproduction. There’s a standard theory that the high rate is related to brain size, and therefore to a significant advantage. But that doesn’t explain why our anatomy didn’t further evolve to compensate. Weren’t the babies that survived, and the mothers who lived to deliver more babies, less prone to the problem?

            In other words, why can’t a low rate of homosexuality just have resulted from a bunch of other changes that were advantageous for various unrelated reasons and that happened to have that result? Could that not happen at some evolutionary stage? If it were to happen, is there really a solid argument from evolution that you would expect further evolution to drive the prevalence to zero? And if so, at what expected rate?

          • skef says:

            It wouldn’t be a crazy reading if I hadn’t, in the course of the thread, said about six times that corporate profit, which is what both my system and the present system are based on, was defined in exactly the same way in both systems. But I did. At no point did I say anything implying or even hinting that profit was calculated in a different way in the two systems.

            When we started discussing this issue I and Lillian were asking about reinvestment as distinct from profit, and you said:

            The distinction between expenses and reinvestment is already there in the definition of corporate profits. If not, then any firm that failed to pay dividends would count as having zero profits.

            Why were we talking about this at all if it wasn’t relevant? If would certainly have been helpful in directing the conversation. The claim in this paragraph is what the rest of the argument was about.

            You seem to be saying that I should have realized the early part of the conversation was irrelevant because of the later part of the conversation, but not because anything in that early part was either retracted or labeled as irrelevant, only by implication. We had this exchange (me first, you second):

            To tax reinvestment as distinct from expenses there needs to be a standard for what constitutes reinvestment.

            This sounds as though you think that isn’t already the case under the present tax law. Do you?

            How was I supposed to know this was all irrelevant?

          • Nornagest says:

            Maybe there’s a dual effect, so that having the gay genes makes men gayer but women more attractive or something. [But …] women are extremely rate-limited in terms of offspring

            Homosexuality doesn’t seem to be 100% heritable, so there’s nothing saying the effects have to be split by gender this way. We could imagine a gene that does nothing in women, 90% of the time makes the guys carrying it 20% more reproductively successful by some mechanism, and the remaining 10% of the time makes them gay. That’d work out.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            So, to give two examples, the proposition “Avoiding presentations of homosexual content to children is likely to substantially reduce the chance of their developing same-sex attraction” would qualify.

            I think that’s too specific a question, though. I believe the literature would be silent on that one.

          • skef says:

            I think that’s too specific a question, though. I believe the literature would be silent on that one.

            Ok, but something like that is the reason you’ve been offering for what you’ve been doing.

            I want to be careful about delving into the past, so I’ll just say that I see the gist of your current stated view to be less specifically causal than your view at the time I was first drawn into this discussion. I see that kind of change as only good or bad to the extent it does or doesn’t reflect what else we know. Whatever my other faults, I don’t come here in the hopes of saying “nanny nanny boo boo”*

            Would it be fair to say that you’re preventing your kids from seeing depictions of homosexuality on a “better safe than sorry” basis? If so then I don’t see anything in the causal question worthy of an argument between us.

            * Technically I was raised in a “nyah-nyah NYAH-nyah-nyah” region, but “nanny nanny boo boo” looks better in print.

          • @ albatross11:

            Explaining why male homosexuality isn’t eliminated by evolution is an interesting puzzle. I think there are two categories of explanation:

            1. Homosexuality is a possible negative side effect of heritable characteristics that have another and positive effect—negative and positive being both in terms of extended reproductive success.

            A simple example of that sort of thing is sickle cell anemia. One copy of the gene makes you resistant to Malaria, two copies give you a very serious disease. This could be something more complicated along those lines.

            2. Ways in which being homosexual could sometimes increase your reproductive success.

            Following out your “uncle” example a little further, consider a harem society where successful males have multiple mates, unsuccessful males have none. The best the unsuccessful males can do is to help their sisters bring up their children by the successful males but a successful male won’t let another male that close to his mates unless he is reasonably certain that male is not a sexual competitor. The extreme version is using eunuchs as harem guards, but a less extreme version would homosexual preferences that were hard to fake.

            Ideally, that should be a version of homosexuality that could be turned off, with a time delay and with the change externally observable, since the mate supply situation might change. I don’t think real world homosexuality exhibits that pattern, however.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Skef,

            3) We would expect any trait of significant negative selection, and that does not confer some other substantial advantage to the group, to disappear from the population

            If it were to happen, is there really a solid argument from evolution that you would expect further evolution to drive the prevalence to zero? And if so, at what expected rate?

            You seem to be equivocating on whether “trait” means gene or phenotype. The gene might cause multiple traits, with different fitness; and, conversely, the trait might not be totally due to the genes. I think that yes, we should expect that traits of significant negative selection not to occur at all. But the argument is more powerful when we can observe that the trait really is partially genetic. You might not expect the trait to be driven to zero, but you should expect the heritability to be driven to zero. The Breeder’s Equation tells you how fast.

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ skef

            That “don’t be an asshole” comment was in response to his asking “You do realize that the corporate income tax is on profit, not revenue?”

            That almost made fizzy water shoot out my nose. I wonder if any other person in history has been declared an asshole for posing (sincerely or not) such a question.

            Anyway, it seems to me that there is a big difference between “I’m not here to make friends” and name-calling.* I think a lot of people here fall into the first bin, but they still have civil disagreements.

            * which seems misplaced now that you’ve conceded that the misunderstanding with DavidFriedman was on your part.

          • skef says:

            You seem to be equivocating on whether “trait” means gene or phenotype. The gene might cause multiple traits, with different fitness; and, conversely, the trait might not be totally due to the genes. I think that yes, we should expect that traits of significant negative selection not to occur at all. But the argument is more powerful when we can observe that the trait really is partially genetic. You might not expect the trait to be driven to zero, but you should expect the heritability to be driven to zero. The Breeder’s Equation tells you how fast.

            Earlier I posted and then deleted a question about this because I decided to go off and read about the issue.

            I’m still reading, but from the first high-level article and some more specific bloggy explanations, my initial reaction is that to invoke the breeder’s equation this way is to make use of a tool beyond its intended purposes. Making that argument in a general way would (at least) take a lot more reading and thought. But here is a schema:

            Suppose it were that simple, and the breeder’s equation is a reliable model for this issue. I suppose that doesn’t rule out kin selection, but it certainly puts serious limits on what forms of kin selection are viable long-term and what forms aren’t. And it doesn’t seem right to rule out those forms based on such a simple model.

            Now, there are separate arguments for why kin selection wouldn’t be a good model for explaining homosexuality. But that’s not my point here. It’s just that simple models akin to the breeder’s equation don’t have the generality to rule out any trait of high individual negative selection occurring with a stable frequency. “The Breeder’s Equation applies except in cases of kin selection” isn’t a clearly safe inference.

          • skef says:

            which seems misplaced now that you’ve conceded that the misunderstanding with DavidFriedman was on your part.

            Since you are portraying yourself as caring about this, I’ll just go with that.

            What I conceded was the relevance of reinvestment to his tax plan. It’s not clear why he phrased things as he did given that irrelevance.

            The subsequent argument was about whether current accounting methods can serve as a measure of reinvestment. This exchange is from an early part of that argument, again with me first and him second:

            To tax reinvestment as distinct from expenses there needs to be a standard for what constitutes reinvestment.

            This sounds as though you think that isn’t already the case under the present tax law. Do you?

            I did not think it was the case. David did, and used investing in a factory as one example. I focused on reinvesting money in the development of new intellectual property. I believe the subsequent discussion vindicated my understanding.

            I had dropped this, so I’m not sure who you think benefits from all this. Maybe it just feels good?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Skef, one model at a time. The breeder’s equation applies to the situation in your original comment. (Partially) genetic homosexuality cannot exist in equilibrium at the observed heritability, frequency, and fitness. It must be that we are out of equilibrium (new mores, hormones in the water, red queen) or the observed fitness is wrong. (Or the observed heritability is wrong, but that is easier to measure than the other two.)

            So people propose that the observed fitness is wrong. No one proposes that gays have secret children. The gay uncle theory proposes that the observed fitness is measured incorrectly, because it fails to include inclusive fitness. The breeder’s equation still applies. Other people propose that the gene has hidden fitness separate from the phenotype (Nornagest, above, or sex-antagonistic selection). Then the breeder’s equation breaks down because it mixes up phenotype and genotype. But we can just define the new trait to be the gene and the equation does apply. Now we need a new parameter, the penetrance (10% in Nornagest’s model).

          • skef says:

            Douglas Knight:

            I don’t see how “one model at a time” responds to the issue I raise.

            1) Do the Breeder’s Equation and the kin selection model indicate conflicting, if not contradictory, outcomes?

            It seems to me that they do.

            2) Does the Breeder’s Equation apply in every situation in which kin selection is not a factor?

            Well maybe, and this is what you seem to have relied on in your response, but it’s not obvious or, as far as I can tell, self-evident.

            Look at it this way:

            Kin selection is a model for explaining the evolution of altruistic behavior. A trait develops in which an individual has a trait that results in its not reproducing, but the trait occurs at a stable frequency. There is some careful thought, and it is proposed that the altruistic behavior makes the survival of kin more likely, and as the kin tend to share genes, the trait is stable.

            Suppose that instead there is a trait that also results, or tends to result, in an individual not reproducing. In this case there is no behavior that appears to be sufficiently altruistic. However, (to be a bit crude) a pair of parents with chromosomes that in one combination yield an individual with the non-reproducing trait, in different combinations tend to yield individuals with certain different traits, with various probabilities for the various combinations. And as it happens, those other trait/probability pairs, averaged out, tend to give a selection benefit to the other offspring comparable to that in the kin selection case.

            Now, given that kin selection is a life option, there’s strong reason to think you can’t just say “because Breeder’s selection, therefore that situation can’t be stable.” The other scenario is similar in a number of ways. It’s not obvious why it couldn’t arise, and there’s no clear reason to think it couldn’t be as stable as a kin selection case once it does.

            To evaluate whether the simple Breeder’s Equation model does rule out the second scenario, you need to understand the space of viable exceptions to it. We know there is at least one exception: Kin Selection. Is it established that it is the only one? What about the heritability model tells us that something like the second scenario can’t arise?

          • I wrote:

            To tax reinvestment as distinct from expenses there needs to be a standard for what constitutes reinvestment.

            This sounds as though you think that isn’t already the case under the present tax law. Do you?

            Skef replied:

            I did not think it was the case.

            Under present law, the corporate tax is on profit. Profit is revenue minus cost. Hence under present law there must be rules for distinguishing reinvestment from cost. If there were not, a corporation that didn’t pay dividends and used any money left over after paying its costs to buy assets would have zero profit and pay no tax.

            It may well be the case that making that distinction is hard and firms sometime succeed in classifying some reinvestment as cost for tax purposes. I am neither an accountant nor a tax lawyer, so that isn’t a question I either claim any expertise on or am interested in.

            And you still have not explained why, after I repeatedly said that the definition of profit in my system was the same as in the present system, you continued to make arguments that assumed it wasn’t.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Yes, “one model at a time” is a rejection of raising new issues. You seemed to ask a specific question and I answered it. You should understand that before thinking about kin selection.

            The breeder’s equation applies to kin selection if fitness is interpreted as as inclusive fitness. I would not call that an exception. A trait is stable if and only if the inclusive fitness is 1. That is not the breeder’s equation. The breeder’s equation is not about stability, but about dynamics. It is about how fast equilibrium is obtained.

          • skef says:

            Under present law, the corporate tax is on profit. Profit is revenue minus cost. Hence under present law there must be rules for distinguishing reinvestment from cost. If there were not, a corporation that didn’t pay dividends and used any money left over after paying its costs to buy assets would have zero profit and pay no tax.

            And you still have not explained why, after I repeatedly said that the definition of profit in my system was the same as in the present system, you continued to make arguments that assumed it wasn’t.

            I wasn’t sure how to pull that explanation together, but you’ve made it very convenient here. What I said several times was that I wasn’t sure we were using the same concept of profit.

            The first quoted paragraph above is, in essence, an a priori argument that (assuming reinvestment is a possibility) profit cannot be calculated without calculating reinvestment. Accordingly, I took you to be saying that a certain aspect of the current system was a necessary aspect of that system. And that was not my understanding.

            So when you were saying that the same notion of profit can be used in your system as in the present system, that didn’t resolve any issue in my mind. Given that you had claimed a feature of the current system is necessary, of course you would be able to rely on your system having the same feature. But, again, I didn’t agree about that necessity.

            As far as I can tell, your argument entails that a system that taxes what I have been calling “book profit” — that being revenue minus expenses of either cost or reinvestment — cannot be a tax on profit. My interpretation of the capital expenditure rules is not that they are intended to function as a measure of reinvestment, and isn’t a plausible substitute for such a measurement. If a) it is not such a measurement, and b) you are correct about the concept of profit, then the current system does not tax profit, no matter how the government might characterize it.

          • skef says:

            Yes, “one model at a time” is a rejection of raising new issues. You seemed to ask a specific question and I answered it. You should understand that before thinking about kin selection.

            I think I misunderstood how you were using “expect” in your first post on the Breeder’s Equation. I thought your point was “Because Breeder’s Equation -> therefore one should expect”. So I focused on exceptions. But I guess it was more like “because the Breeder’s Equation tends to apply, yes one would expect X to happen.”, which I do see is a solid first-glance take on the question.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Yes, “expect” is a slippery word. I do expect evolution to come up with solutions to big fitness costs. I think that my first usage matched your usage. But when I switched to the more powerful, quantitative argument based on measuring heritability, I should have switched to a different word.

          • As far as I can tell, your argument entails that a system that taxes what I have been calling “book profit” — that being revenue minus expenses of either cost or reinvestment — cannot be a tax on profit.

            Correct.

            And with such a system, a corporation that doesn’t pay dividends and spends all of its profit acquiring assets will pay no corporate tax.

            Is that what you believe to be the case?

          • skef says:

            David, before answering your question I’m going to revise something I just said.

            Quoting myself:

            As far as I can tell, your argument entails that a system that taxes what I have been calling “book profit” — that being revenue minus expenses of either cost or reinvestment — cannot be a tax on profit. My interpretation of the capital expenditure rules is not that they are intended to function as a measure of reinvestment, and isn’t a plausible substitute for such a measurement. If a) it is not such a measurement, and b) you are correct about the concept of profit, then the current system does not tax profit, no matter how the government might characterize it.

            This is not a realistic conclusion given how the relevant concepts work; the government’s characterization can still be correct by the strict economic definition.

            I’ve lived in at least one state with a sales tax that excludes food. If one were in a certain frame of mind, one could say this is not technically a sales tax, because look: here is a sale of a food item and it is not taxed. This is eye-rolling in at least two ways. One, it is being overly picky about the denotation of descriptions. Two, it is easy to patch up with some adjectives, yielding a precise description.

            Now when considering business taxes, the term “tax on profit” seems to be understood to contrast with “tax on revenue”, or some such. One could go down the road of folk-meanings of “profit” to vindicate this, but let’s stick with the strict economic understanding of revenue minus cost. Does a tax on revenue minus cost minus reinvestment count as a tax on profit? It does in this sense: every dollar (or whatever) taxed is a dollar (…) of profit.

            Unlike with the sales tax, this system is not easy to patch up into an exact definition using adjectives. But it’s otherwise similar. And I think in general, tax on X does not imply all Xs are taxed. An income tax with a standard deduction does not fail to be an income tax.

            Now, I was certainly not thinking all of this at the time of the earlier discussion. I was thinking, more or less, “the government says it’s a tax on profits, people commonly understand it to be a tax on profits, and David agrees it is a tax on profits, so why would I or anyone else disagree that it is a tax on profits?”

            I think what David is getting at with these last few questions is something like: If I understood how the system works and did not think it measured reinvestment, and I accepted that profit is revenue minus cost, then I should have said that the corporate tax was not a profit tax. And alternatively, at that point if David did not know the details of the system, he was accordingly entitled to assume the government somehow measured reinvestment because it claimed to tax profits. Even if he wound up being mistaken, I came to the wrong conclusion given the information available to me, and he came to the right conclusion given the information available to him.

            All I can say about this now is that I don’t think my trust in the conventional understanding at the time was misplaced. A tax on some profits is still a tax on profits, and therefore taxing profits does not entail measuring reinvestment.

          • skef says:

            And with such a system, a corporation that doesn’t pay dividends and spends all of its profit acquiring assets will pay no corporate tax.

            Is that what you believe to be the case?

            Well, no, it depends on the assets.

            Clearly a business should not and cannot go down to the bank, spend all its profits on dollars, and thereby avoid paying any tax. Maybe that’s not “spending” in a technical sense, but for the same reason it shouldn’t be able to spend its money on gold and avoid being taxed either. In that case the tax laws would be trivially meaningless. So there is no viable system in which spending can be a sufficient condition for not paying taxes.

            My understanding of the current system is roughly this: Spending on assets understood to be investments is largely “neutral”. The company spent the money but got back an equivalent asset, so it still owes the tax on that profit. Spending on tools and factories and so forth is where the capital expenditure rules kick in. That’s similar in one way, in that the money spent is not treated as an expense in that year. But it is different in that there are (more or less) standardized “depreciation schedules”, that allow the corporation to deduct the value of the asset from further profits over the following years. This is a kind of “simulation” of wear and tear on the capital asset, but generally much more favorable to the company than trying to measure actual wear and tear would be. (There is a related system of amortization of “intangible” assets.)

            So what I take this system as trying to address is not “reinvestment”, but the problem that much of what one can spend money on has monetary value. One hasn’t “lost” that value in spending it, the way a company loses the money it spends on the raw materials for its product (in the sense that it no longer owns those raw materials).

            Can this be interpreted as a measure of reinvestment anyway? Not (ironically) in the case of the investments, or at least that sounds wrong to me. A business buying an investment isn’t doing the businessing with that money — that’s the role of some downstream entity. With the capital investments — sure, one could say that. But it would be a lot more convincing if the depreciation wasn’t so artificial.

            Anyway, that’s my understanding of the relation of corporate spending on assets and corporate taxation at a high level.

          • albatross11 says:

            skef:

            It’s not that gay men leave zero offspring, it’s that we should expect them to leave fewer offspring than straights in just about any environment we can imagine. (Interestingly, the math is somewhat different for lesbians.) Even in a society where everyone is married off at 16 and expected to produce a couple kids for honor’s sake, the gay man is going to want to produce his required kids and then go find some similarly-inclined guy for pleasure. When there are chances for extra dalliance, or remarrying after your first wife dies, or the spoils of war (aka raping the survivors after you kill the other side’s soldiers), the gay man is going to behave differently from the straight man, in ways that change how many kids they leave behind.

            That means that if there is a gene[1] for being a gay man, that gene should be selected against–every generation, there should be fewer copies of it than in the previous generation, because the people who carry it have fewer offspring than the people who don’t, on average. Homosexuality has been around for a really long time, so there have been a lot of generations during which any genes for being gay should have become more and more rare. And yet, while I haven’t looked at historical data closely, it seems like there’s a pretty consistent fraction of the population who are gay.

            So if there is a gene/a set of genes for being gay, it’s an evolutionary puzzle. What would keep that gene from being selected out of the population?

            You could imagine some kind of kin-selection thing, like the gay uncles hypothesis, but the math doesn’t work out. You could imagine some kind of group selection thing where gay sex holds the tribe together, but that’s not too consistent with what I know of actual hunter-gatherer tribes or traditional societies, and also this is a situation where group selection is not going to work well because it’s pulling directly against individual selection. You could imagine some kind of genes with multiple effects–if it turns out being gay is substantially genetic, that would be my guess–but again, it’s not easy to see how this would work.

            If I had to guess a genetic mechanism, I’d guess that the ability to fall back into gay sex was a useful technique for holding some all-male groups together, as long as you go back to preferring girls as soon as you’re in their presence. Then exclusive homosexuality would be an instance of a complicated strategy breaking sometimes, the way our tendency to care for our helpless kids can get captured in raising pets and adopting kids[2].

            That would be consistent with the way lots of men switch over into homosexual behavior in all-male environments (prison, boarding school, the British navy[3], etc.). It would also be consistent with lots of social pressures against homosexuality–those would be societal adaptations to prevent this strategy being engaged when it was inappropriate.

            I’m not at all an expert here, but this seems like a genuine evolutionary puzzle.

            [1] I’m sure it wouldn’t be as simple as one gene, but I think the same logic holds for multiple genes each with a small additive effect or something.

            [2] By human moral values, definitely including my own, adopting children unrelated to you is a good thing. But in evolutionary terms, it’s mostly not.

            [3] We still need evolutionary explanations for rum and the lash, however.

          • Nick says:

            If I had to guess a genetic mechanism, I’d guess that the ability to fall back into gay sex was a useful technique for holding some all-male groups together, as long as you go back to preferring girls as soon as you’re in their presence.

            What about just a libido release when men are away from women a long time? I guess in our ancestral environment that means hunting, but were trips long enough to lead to that?

          • PeterDonis says:

            @skef:

            I have read through the entire exchange between you and DavidFriedman in the previous thread about his alternative tax system that you linked to. My key takeaways were:

            (1) I had no trouble understanding what his proposal was, even without him having to say over and over and over again that his proposal defined “profit” exactly the same as current tax law does. (I’ve read a number of his books and much of his blog and other online writings, so perhaps I’m more familiar with his writing style than you are.) Nevertheless, he did say that over and over and over again, without any apparent comprehension of that on your part.

            (2) During the entire exchange, you and he were talking past each other. He eventually realized it, made a post saying so, and stopped talking. You still don’t appear to have realized it.

            I also have two more general comments:

            (A) I have no idea why you think DavidFriedman is getting some sort of special credence given to his posts here. I see plenty of argument from other posters here in response to what he says. If he ends up getting the better of most of those exchanges (at least in my opinion he does), perhaps that’s because he deserves to.

            (B) I have no idea why you think the persona “DavidFriedman” here is so different from “David Friedman”. I don’t know David Friedman in person (do you?), but, as I said, I’ve read a number of his books and much of his blog and other online writings, and I don’t see any difference between what he writes there and what he writes here.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Nick:

            What about just a libido release when men are away from women a long time? I guess in our ancestral environment that means hunting, but were trips long enough to lead to that?

            It seems to me that masturbation ought to be enough for a libido release, and would avoid the various health risks associated with homosexual activity.

          • PeterDonis says:

            @skef:

            1) Gay people don’t tend to have offspring, therefore they don’t tend to pass on their genes

            This statement, while strictly correct as you state it, is not the right one to look at if you are trying to evaluate the fitness of a genetic predisposition towards homosexuality. A gay person who has no offspring still has copies of their genes in other individuals that might have offspring, so it’s still perfectly possible for a gay person to take actions that increase the number of copies of their genes in the next generation.

          • albatross11 says:

            Hence the gay uncle hypothesis, which would be great except it doesn’t work out in math terms (for kin selection, the gay uncles have to be twice as good at increasing their nephews’ fitness than they would have been at increasing their own kids’ fitness) and it doesn’t look at all like what we can actually observe (where there’s not some kind of widely noted phenomenon of gay men being super-dedicated uncles to their siblings’ kids).

          • skef says:

            You could imagine some kind of genes with multiple effects–if it turns out being gay is substantially genetic, that would be my guess–but again, it’s not easy to see how this would work.

            The second scenario parallel to kin selection in my discussion with Douglas Knight was an attempt to outline one way that could work.

          • skef says:

            PeterDonis :

            In writing that I was accepting a premise. I went on to make an argument similar to the one you just made.

            Note that I take the topic of this sub-discussion to be “To what extent are there a priori reasons to think that homosexuality is not genetic?” That is, starting from principles of natural selection, is the possibility ruled out? I’ve tried to outline one or two ways it wouldn’t be ruled out, as others have.

            The actual empirical evidence for homosexuality being mostly or entirely genetic seems to be weak.

          • PeterDonis says:

            for kin selection, the gay uncles have to be twice as good at increasing their nephews’ fitness than they would have been at increasing their own kids’ fitness

            This isn’t the relevant question. The units of selection are genes, not people, so the question needs to be asked from the gene’s point of view: can a particular gene increase the number of copies of itself from one generation to the next by having some of its copies in individuals that do not have direct offspring?

            To put it another way, we would of course not expect a “gene for homesexuality” to be present (at least not expressed in behavior) in 100% of the population; but the “twice as good at increasing nephews’ fitness” argument assumes that it would be. A “gene for homosexuality” whose equilibrium frequency (based on inclusive fitness) in a population was only 1%, would work, roughly speaking, if the presence of the “uncles” gave a 2% boost to the chance of making more nephews, as compared to zero frequency of the gene in the population.

            It’s also worth noting that the fraction of males in a given generation who have offspring is significantly smaller than the fraction of females (how much smaller depends on various social factors; in historical cases where harems were common the difference could be quite large). That means a “gene for homosexuality” in males might have a higher inclusive fitness benefit than in females, since it would have more chance of being expressed in a male who wouldn’t leave direct offspring anyway.

          • If I had to guess a genetic mechanism, I’d guess that the ability to fall back into gay sex was a useful technique for holding some all-male groups together

            Bringing back the gay uncle argument, the ability to fall back into a long term, perhaps permanent, commitment to exclusively homosexual preferences would be a useful technique as insurance against finding yourself in an environment where more successful men had all the women, so the only thing you could do to improve extended reproductive success was help with your nieces and nephews but the dominant men wouldn’t let you do that if they saw you as a sexual competitor.

            As in many cases, the equilibrium would not be for all men to carry the gene but for some to, since the more men follow that strategy the higher the payoff to the “do everything you can to be one of the successful males–never give up” strategy.

            If that’s right, then modern exclusive homosexual preferences would result from the combination of carrying the gene and finding oneself in an environment which the genetic programming interprets as “the more successful men have all the women, time to fall back on strategy B.”

            Which would make it both genetic and environmental.

          • skef says:

            I had no trouble understanding what his proposal was, even without him having to say over and over and over again that his proposal defined “profit” exactly the same as current tax law does. (I’ve read a number of his books and much of his blog and other online writings, so perhaps I’m more familiar with his writing style than you are.) Nevertheless, he did say that over and over and over again, without any apparent comprehension of that on your part.

            From very early in that conversation, the subtopic we were both discussing was whether current accounting policies measure reinvestment. That was the problem I saw in his proposal from the start, given the way he worded it. We debated this question.

            Since you’ve read over the thread, can you point to when and how that discussion ended? Because what you and David both seem to be saying is that it ended when he started saying that you can just measure profit the same way in both systems. But David was very clear at the start that measuring profit entails measuring reinvestment.

            So I take it the idea is that it’s churlish of me to expect David to wrap up that sub-discussion with some indication that perhaps current practices don’t measure reinvestment, and somehow address the a priori claim, especially to someone so loathesome as I. That would have really helped to make it clear how it was possible that profit can be measured at all, so that it can be measured in “the same way”. I just failed to understand that wrapping up that subject was simply intolerable under the circumstances, which is entirely on me.

            There is most likely no point in discussing your more general observations. Here is a nutshell of our context:

            Nick says:

            October 24, 2018 at 11:24 am

            For the record: I found that bit at the end of David’s post ridiculous too, and considered calling it out. I decided not to because I figured I was just seriously misunderstanding him. It looks to me from browsing the thread again that other folks took issue with it too, though, including skef and albatross.

            Where are we right now? It may not be obvious, but it also isn’t very mysterious. Take a number of sound and useful epistemic principles. Add Goodhart’s Law and shake vigorously. Let stand for a few years. And voila: a rhetoric video game. An important aspect of that game? One rule says that in contesting statements one should bring evidence to the table against such statements. Another says that one should apply the principle of charity to a person’s statements. Combined, these mean that everyone is free to lie within the constraints of available evidence. Presumably just about everyone is aware of this. It occasionally pops up as a subject of meta-discussion, if not in such stark terms. But it’s not a problem, it’s a feature; part of the fun!

            So how would we discuss this subject? It’s clear how it must be discussed: We’ll take the list of statements in question, evaluate each in their context according to whatever norms apply, and assign points. Oh look, I lose!

            I am fine with that. I am not playing. I am just, for whatever reason, here.

            It’s been established in past discussion that, based on reasoning from scarcity, Scott is morally obligated to provide a stable and engaging environment in which conservatives can debate. (This is only slightly hyperbolic! Do I need to find a link to one of those?) Look at me, being so openly and flagrantly unfun — it’s like I’m clubbing a baby seal. If you listen close, you can practically hear the antibodies scrambling around.

            I don’t have a program or a strategy. I don’t know what I will say next and with what tone — not in a life-of-the-party way but in the old boring sense. I do tend to answer questions, so if people keep bringing what I’ve already said up I’ll probably keep talking about it. Is that part of the idea — getting further “evidence” on record? Or is it just more of the usual rule-awareness signaling?

          • PeterDonis says:

            @skef:

            From very early in that conversation, the subtopic we were both discussing was whether current accounting policies measure reinvestment.

            No, it wasn’t. That was the subtopic you thought you were discussing. It wasn’t the subtopic David was trying to discuss; he was trying to discuss his alternative corporate tax proposal, which, as I noted before and will note again below, is a separate discussion that could have been had without ever discussing the issues with defining “reinvestment” that you were trying to discuss.

            Since you’ve read over the thread, can you point to when and how that discussion ended? Because what you and David both seem to be saying is that it ended when he started saying that you can just measure profit the same way in both systems.

            I didn’t say the discussion ended at that point. I just said he said that over and over, which he did. (See further comment below.)

            I said that David stopped talking after he realized that you and he had been talking past each other the whole time, and said so. That was much later on, after he had already said over and over that his alternative system was using the same definition of profit as the current system.

            But David was very clear at the start that measuring profit entails measuring reinvestment.

            His original wording could have been taken to imply that, yes, and evidently you took it that way. But as soon as he realized that that wording in his original post was causing confusion, he started saying, over and over, that his alternative proposal used the same definition of profit as our current system, so that the issues you were raising about *how* profit is defined, and what “reinvestment” means, were irrelevant to discussing his proposal (while still being valid issues to be discussed in a separate discussion). He kept on saying that until he finally realized that the two of you were talking past each other, said so, and stopped talking.

            to make it clear how it was possible that profit can be measured at all, so that it can be measured in “the same way”.

            I don’t think David ever said that wasn’t a valid question. He just said that discussing that question was a separate discussion from discussing his proposal. Clearly our current system taxes *something* that it calls “corporate profits”, and manages to get real money for the government doing so. So any alternative proposal can say “I’m doing that same thing” without being meaningless or ill-defined.

          • PeterDonis says:

            @skef:

            Here is a nutshell of our context:

            I’m afraid this doesn’t help, because I can’t tell what post of David’s this is referring to.

            Where are we right now?

            I have no idea what this and the rest of your post is about. I’m obviously missing a lot of context, probably because I don’t post here nearly as often as you do. Which is fine, I don’t need to have more context if you don’t want to supply it.

          • skef says:

            I don’t think David ever said that wasn’t a valid question. He just said that discussing that question was a separate discussion from discussing his proposal.

            I simply don’t agree with your reading. At the end of the first of the two threads, I again clarify the specific question I was asking.

            David responds:

            And as I thought I had explained several times over, the stockholder is taxed on it not because it is reinvested but because what was available to be reinvested was profit.

            And, not for the first time, why, in your view, does my proposal raise any accounting problem not raised by the present law, given that both are defining profit in the same way and taxing it? You keep ignoring that.

            David is not rejecting the issue of reinvestment here. He starts out once again with the a priori point “the stockholder is taxed on it … because what was available to be reinvested is profit”, and then asks me why I think the issue would be different in his system vs the current system.

            You’re reading this as saying the issue is not relevant. I read this as saying the issue is settled in either system by the definition of profit. But that is what we were arguing about.

            How do you reconcile your reading with the first quoted paragraph? At what point does he either give up on that claim, or indicate that the claim is not related to the issue?

          • skef says:

            I’m afraid this doesn’t help, because I can’t tell what post of David’s this is referring to.

            I don’t think anyone will be served at this point by my pointing to the discussion that message refers to. And anyway it was the sentiment rather than the context that was relevant.

            Rather than trying to restate those thoughts in another way I’m going to let that version stand.

          • PeterDonis says:

            @skef:
            I simply don’t agree with your reading.

            And I don’t see how to explain it to you any better than I already have. The things you point out that appear to you to support your reading, appear to me to support mine. So I don’t think we’re going to be able to make any progress. I don’t have any more to say on this particular topic at this point.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Skef is banned indefinitely.

        • harzerkatze says:

          OK, I am literally shocked that you consider “allegory for divorce” and “gay pony in the background” both a) problematic indoctrination of kids and b) the worst problem of MLP, but different culture and all that.

          But that reminds me: Do TV stations still play the old Pepé the Pew cartoons? The pretty much literal embodiment of sexual predatory behavior, made for kids?
          That should be pretty safe from being too leftish.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But isn’t the message of Pepe le Pew to avoid people like Pepe le Pew?

          • acymetric says:

            It’s been an awful long time since I watched that show (and it wasn’t one of my favorites even when I was a kid), but I don’t think so. Or at least, that message was too subtle for the age of the audience watching it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But in every Pepe le Pew cartoon, he’s chasing after the cat (thinking she’s another skunk) and she’s running away. From the wikipedia article:

            Pepé Le Pew storylines typically involve Pepé in pursuit of a female black cat, whom Pepé mistakes for a skunk (“la belle femme skunk fatale”). The cat, who was retroactively named Penelope Pussycat, often has a white stripe painted down her back, usually by accident (such as by squeezing under a fence with wet white paint). Penelope frantically races to get away from him because of his putrid odour, his overly aggressive manner or both, while Pepé hops after her at a leisurely pace.

            The message was never that Pepe’s behavior was good or natural or gets him what he wants. The cat always gets away and Pepe is left lonely or (cartoon) injured.

            This is completely different than a cartoon showing that everything is good, or normal or natural and works out fine from divorce or gay relationships or whatever other thing it is the authors are conveying.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            My impression of Pepe le Few was that it was all hopeless. The cat would never get any peace.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            They are all trapped in Hell.

            Sylvester will stay hungry for the rest of his existence, unable to fulfill his natural predator role, always emasculated in front of his son he is unable to feed. The mouse and/or bird will never have a moment’s peace.

            The Roadrunner is the only one not suffering, so by process of elimination he is Beelzebub.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Bugs Bunny tends to do okay for himself.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            But when it’s painfully, cartoonishly, obvious that the cat does not want Pepe’s attentions, how is it encouraging kids to grow up to be like Pepe?

          • acymetric says:

            Playing devil’s advocate, the show doesn’t exactly discourage acting like Pepe either.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But Pepe always fails and/or gets hurt. Isn’t showing someone doing A to get B and always ending in misery while never getting B dissuading someone from doing A?

          • LesHapablap says:

            But when it’s painfully, cartoonishly, obvious that the cat does not want Pepe’s attentions, how is it encouraging kids to grow up to be like Pepe?

            Because Pepe le Pew is cool. He’s not a bumbling idiot like many of the other looney tunes characters. The reason he doesn’t get what he wants isn’t necessarily because his behavior is wrong, it is because his target is actually a cat.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            it is because his target is actually a cat.

            So it’s really a polemic against race mixing?

          • Vorkon says:

            Sylvester will stay hungry for the rest of his existence, unable to fulfill his natural predator role, always emasculated in front of his son he is unable to feed. The mouse and/or bird will never have a moment’s peace.

            It’s even worse than that; I know there was at least one time he had a white stripe painted down his back, and needed to deal with Pepe.

          • LesHapablap says:

            It’s mostly about mocking French people

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I only watched a few MLP shows– just didn’t click for me– by I’m fond of Applejack. So far as I know, country characters are rare on tv, and I have nothing against an urban character, but I think that should be a new character rather than losing the existing Applejack.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            So far as I know, country characters are rare on tv

            Define rare?

            Non-stereotypical country characters are rare, and certainly country stereotypes can be unflattering, but unflattering stereotypes come with the territory of produced media.

          • gbdub says:

            My gut sense is that “country” characters who aren’t just a stereotypical butt of jokes are fairly rare, except in shows that are explicitly set in the “country”. But there are a number of shows that are…

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            In re country characters being rare on tv: I was going on a vague impression. I watch very little tv, and Applejack was the only one (especially the only non-stereotypical one) I’d ever heard of.

            TV watchers, tell me about any other non-stereotypical country characters on tv.

            Also, I like Applejack– she’s modest and sensible, which are also not the most common things to see on tv.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            What Nancy said about Applejack.

            The audience for children’s shows needs representation. And so if they need an urban character, so urban children can feel included, great, I applaud and encourage that. But don’t sacrifice the sole rural character, because rural kids need representation too.

            If you are okay with a massive inversion anyway, do it with Rarity. The billionaire kids will get by without representation. (If you want gentler changes, Rainbow Dash or Twilight Sparkle could also be made urban.)

          • dick says:

            TV watchers, tell me about any other non-stereotypical country characters on tv.

            Farmer Yumi in Paw Patrol.

          • gbdub says:

            Well, like I said, lots of “rural/country” shows: Justified, Longmire, Friday Night Lights, True Blood…

            I happened to have that SEAL show on in the background last night, don’t really know anything about it but one of the dudes on the team has a heavy good ol boy vibe, but not apparently in a butt-monkey sort of way.

            Can’t think of a lot of others offhand.

          • Nornagest says:

            They used to be a lot more common. Probably this has something to do with changing demographics and something else to do with changing mores.

            (Another point of evidence for my wild idea that the modern cultural environment started in the Seventies, by the way.)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: could you elaborate on that in a new top level comment?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            My impression is that MLP isn’t strong on world-building. Should an urban character have a city to be from?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Reading the pastebin, the urban-Applejack is for MLP G5, which they have yet to produce and create, so they can create an urban pony land for an urban character.

          • Nornagest says:

            could you elaborate on that in a new top level comment?

            The Seventies thing? I’m not confident enough in it to stick my neck out with a top-level comment, at least not yet. But I think my basic idea is that the Seventies brought a loss of faith in a whole bunch of institutions, including government, international politics, and military affairs but also including the counterculture as it had existed up to then, and that modern cultural alignments largely define themselves in terms of their reactions to that.

            The punchy way of putting it is “modernity began at Altamont”, but other landmark events include the oil crisis, the end of the Vietnam War, the end of Bretton Woods, Nixon’s removal from office, etc. If you look at graphs of cultural markers, you see a lot of elbows in them around that time. In film and TV (and in rock and pop music, but not in hip-hop or electronic), it’s the decade when most of the modern genre formulas first became recognizable. And so on.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nancy:

            My impression is that MLP isn’t strong on world-building. Should an urban character have a city to be from?

            They’re talking about rebooting the universe, so who knows? Current MLP is weak on world-building… there have certainly been recurring locations and populations introduced after the series premiere, but there’s no telling what the writers will latch onto (like yaks, or Tartatus) and what will be disappear through a hole in reality (like dog people, or slave cows).

        • acymetric says:

          Can someone explain how an episode about divorce would be a veer to the left? It seems more like “addressing a topical issue that they are almost guaranteed to experience sooner or later either personally or by way of a friend who goes through it”. I guess it could depend a bit on the presentation, but I’m still not sure what a left presentation of divorce would look like compared to a right presentation of divorce, starting from the assumption that the purpose is to show a divorce that actually happens.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            There has been a push to identify single-parent families as “okay” that ties very closely with the overall divorce topic. That’s certainly a left-right divide issue, especially in regards to religious objections to divorce.

            Not all depictions of divorce have to even touch that part, but most children’s media that goes out of its way to mention divorce seems inclined to soften the blow for kids. That’s well-meaning on the show-creators part, as helping kids with their parent’s messy divorce is intended to be a positive. The fact that it hits culture-war buttons may be incidental at that point, but still true.

          • Civilis says:

            I’ll try to handle this. The following is what I think a set of statements on divorce that should be equally acceptable (but not perfectly acceptable) to most conservatives and most moderates.

            1. In almost all cases, kids do better with male and female role models.
            2. In almost all cases, parents have more attachment to their own children than children that are not theirs.
            3. Given 1 and 2, children almost always do better with both their own parents than they do with one parent or one parent and a step-parent.
            4. Children with parents separated that they are otherwise good with is suboptimal, whatever the reason for the separation. This applies even to temporary cases (such as one parent being military and deployed overseas for a long period of time), and this definitely applies to joint custody arrangements.
            5. Given 3 and 4, children almost always do better with both parents living together, and divorce is almost always harmful for the children.
            6. ‘Almost always’ doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions. Further, even if divorce is harmful, it doesn’t mean the other options aren’t worse.
            7. Despite the existence of cases where divorce is the best option, divorce is sometimes used for bad reasons, and some marriages that ended in divorces could have been saved.
            8. It’s never right to put the blame on children for a divorce.
            9. If done delicately, you can disapprove of actions of a parent that led to a divorce without it transferring to the children.

            A kind conservative message to children about divorce would concentrate on the children of the divorce that are likely to be either the recipients of the message or come into contact with the recipients of the message: they did nothing wrong, and are likely in a lot of emotional pain from having their parents split up, so treat them kindly. This would make a point that divorce, even if the best option, is often damaging to the children involved, and, hopefully, by extension that marriage is not something to be entered into lightly. This seems moralistic, but it’s generally something you can derive from any ‘wicked stepmother’ cliche, even if it doesn’t directly involve divorce.

            Left wing messages about divorce that a conservative would object to would be anything that implies that divorce is easy or consequence free and by extension anything that makes marriage and parenting seem something easy to enter into. And this is always a problem for a kid’s show, since you generally can’t show the darker stuff and everything has to have a happy ending; a divorce, even when the right thing to do, shouldn’t be considered a happy ending.

          • 10240 says:

            None of your points seem to be obvious to me (though I don’t really understand 8 and 9). Perhaps because my mother was never married (nor lived with my father), and thus I never considered marriage an obvious default like most people do.

            That said, I entirely agree that marriage shouldn’t be entered lightly (if at all).

          • acymetric says:

            Left wing messages about divorce that a conservative would object to would be anything that implies that divorce is easy or consequence free and by extension anything that makes marriage and parenting seem something easy to enter into.

            I really don’t think that matches any widespread left wing views on divorce. That would be a pretty fringe take on divorce that I don’t think maps to political affiliation.

          • gbdub says:

            I don’t think “divorce is easy and consequence free” is a left wing view. But “there is absolutely nothing wrong with single parenthood, and in fact single mothers are superheroes that deserve encouragement and praise” does seem to be a view of social liberals. Given that divorce is one way to end up a single parent, I guess there might be some connection to downplaying one negative aspect of divorce.

            But I really doubt that a MLP storyline about divorce is likely to be presented in a way that makes kids more likely to want to be single parents though.

          • Randy M says:

            Given that divorce is one way to end up a single parent

            The other ways are also some assortment of tragic or foolish. Dan Quayle was right.

          • Nick says:

            Well, can social liberals answer me why divorce should be difficult or fraught with consequences? Restricting it is going to fall hardest on those who most need it, surely, if we’re going to accept that anyone needs divorce. We can rehearse arguments all day about long term social ills from liberalizing divorce laws, but we could do the same about abortion, and I don’t think that will change anyone’s minds about how accessible or easy it should be to obtain one. Indeed, it seems easy to me to imagine having conversations very like the ones we have over abortion, where Republicans are constantly trying to tighten up the laws at the state level, and the number of officials able and willing to sign the paperwork is dwindling, and Vox is warning us that the end of divorce is already here in flyover country.

            Epistemic status: just thinking out loud here.

          • gbdub says:

            To clarify a bit, there are ongoing arguments about whether the net cost of easy divorce on children outweighs the benefits of getting out of bad relationships. Same for (voluntary) single parenthood. Social conservatives are going to push back on “normalizing” either one.

            But those are fundamentally “adult” issues. Any children’s shows that portray divorce as anything other than “mommy and daddy are breaking up but it’s not your fault and they still love you and things will be hard sometimes but you’ll be okay” is going to piss off people on both sides of the aisle. Likewise any portrayal of single parenthood that isn’t “having only one parent doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, be nice to kids with only one parent”.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’m inclined to think that telling children fairly early about bad things (or denigrated things) is typically left-wing and shielding children from knowing about bad things is right-wing.

          • I’m inclined to think that telling children fairly early about bad things (or denigrated things) is typically left-wing and shielding children from knowing about bad things is right-wing.

            There is a fascinating exchange between George Orwell and Frank Richards, possibly the most prolific writer who ever lived, in which Richards, in his response to Orwell’s criticism of his work, makes the latter point.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          On the contrary, positive things about the current state of My Little Pony:

          The Apple siblings’s grandfather is in their lives now, and he’s William Shatner.
          The monster students are a welcome insight into the non-pony parts of a world that’s established many sapient species.
          Rare positive portrayal of a male with autism as a valid love interest (Pinkie Pie’ s autistic sister’s boyfriend) rather than a predatory creep.
          Spike’s familial relationship is now explicit (Twilight is his mom).
          There’s a neurotic Kirin who teaches an Aesop about avoiding hurting people’s feelings being a lousy terminal value.

          ?? Things:
          Pinkie Pie now believes that yak culture is superior in all ways to pony culture.
          Spike went through puberty (again). He’s still hitting on Rarity. I don’t know where to draw the line between pedophilia and Bizarre Alien Biology.
          In the new holiday special, Fluttershy and Discord engage in the same level of PDA as the mane character’s older siblings with their SOs.

          • Dan L says:

            Pinkie Pie now believes that yak culture is superior in all ways to pony culture.

            Treasure it while you can, Pinkie Pie – Cthulhu swims Eqwest.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Ekwhoa, that’s a bad pun. You deserve PIE in the face.

          • Vorkon says:

            Wait, Twilight is his MOM?!? How does that work? I know it was a random explosion of her magic that caused his egg to hatch, but “mom” seems like kind of a stretch. Also, why are we talking about gay ponies and ponies getting divorced, and not single parenthood involving dragons and ponies who are generally depicted as being way too young to be mothers?

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            For almost eight years, Spike’s relationship with Twilight was highly ambiguous. Twilight hatched him from an egg with her magic when she was a filly, he acts as her assistant, they live together, and they are obviously close, but some people saw them as just friends, others as adoptive mother and son, yet others as adoptive brother and sister, still others as boss and employee, and some even as owner and slave (this last one, of course, mostly tongue-in-cheek).

            Then along came S08E24 “Father Knows Beast”, the plot of which is that a dragon shows up claiming to be Spike’s father and starts taking advantage of him. This leads to a confrontation with Twilight, in which Spike pretty much tells her “You’re not my real mom!”, thus breaking her heart (literally!) and making her cry. At the end of the episode, Spike apologizes to Twilight and tells that he knows she is his real family.

            In other words, this episode makes it canon that Twilight is Spike’s adoptive mother.

            As for her being too young to be a mother, I imagine she did what young mothers have been doing since time immemorial and relied heavily on her parents to help her raise him.

          • Vorkon says:

            And Dan Quayle had NOTHING to say about this?!? :op

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Yeah, Season 6 started implying that the ponies’s parents play huge roles in their lives that were just never “on camera.” Like in “Flutter Brutter” everyone knows Fluttershy’s never-before-seen parents and brother. And a good thing too, because if not for that there’d be some really screwy mores like Rarity’s little sister being a latchkey kid.

          • Randy M says:

            And Dan Quayle had NOTHING to say about this?!? :op

            I know this is tongue in check, but since I was the one who last mentioned the unfortunate former VP, let me say that I see a significant difference between choosing to bring a child into the world when you are a modern single woman, and finding an orphan in a pre-modern society and doing your best to care for them with your meager resources magical powers.

        • tayfie says:

          I’m so late, but I have to respond that I think you are over sensitized to this kind of thing. I was worried about obvious preaching when the first episode this season and introduce the student six with each a different species and the antagonist was the “pony-first” education official, but the finale leaves that looking like a misdirection.

          Your first example was all about how choosing between two aspects of yourself is hard and you shouldn’t do it. They literally named the character “Terramar”, meant to be “Earthsea”. His parents are still on good terms, but chose to live in different environments after some huge changes in circumstances.

          Gay couples have been fanon for years because some ponies are placed next to each other all the time due to the background-fill computer program liking the combination of colorschemes. Lyra and BonBon were confirmed in season 5 to be more than friends, so nothing has really changed on that front.

          I’m mad about Applejack losing her rural aspect too, but I think it is more about the writers can’t write her character and it leads to her episodes sucking, so they want to try something else. I think urban AJ could work if they make sure she stays honest, stubborn, hard-working, and family-oriented. Poor isn’t a change.

          • cryptoshill says:

            @tayfie – I think it would change her character substantially, for CW reasons. That said – I am unsure of MLP’s general involvement in the CW on the whole, apparently it is nonzero but not enough for me to take the cynical view that “they changed AppleJack to an Urban stereotype because rural people vote Republican and we can’t have a positive portrayal of a Republican on our kids show”.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        jaimeastorga2000 reposted what he(?) meant the first time around.
        Basically, MLP started out as a standard little girls’s cartoon, maybe feminist in a Lowest Common Denominator way (“the mane six represent six right ways to be a girl”) that even right-wing women couldn’t object to. Then during Season 5, they had a villain who was a small-time Marxist dictator. Princess Twllight won her over to royalism with the Power of Friendship and she became a seventh mane character whose motivation was to make up for having been, in her words, “pure evil.”
        In retrospect that should probably be seen as a fluke. “Swerving to the Left” would just be standard-issue American cartoon writers moving past having accidentally written something conservative.

        • dick says:

          I read (here’s a phrase I never expected to type) an article in The Federalist summarizing the children’s cartoon in question, and it still smells like Poe’s Law to me. Do you, like, pre-screen your kids’ cartoons and books for ideology? I mean, even old stuff from the 50s where the kids punch each other and shoot squirrels still has a lot of “take care of each other” and “we’re all equal in God’s eyes” and so forth.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            I mean, even old stuff from the 50s where the kids punch each other and shoot squirrels still has a lot of “take care of each other” and “we’re all equal in God’s eyes” and so forth.

            …why do you think those are incompatible with traditional morality? “We’re all made in the image of God” != “we are all equally intelligent, athletic, handsome, etc… and any difference in outcomes is therefore a product of bias”. Nor does “take care of your neighbor” = “throw your neighbor under the bus in order to signal how holy you are for caring about some strangers you have never met over on the other side of the world”.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Those are positive messages, though.

          • christopher hodge says:

            Do you, like, pre-screen your kids’ cartoons and books for ideology?

            And if not you, then to whom do you trust this task?

          • woah77 says:

            I’d like to believe that I’d love my children no matter how ideologically misguided they become.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Christopher

            Them

          • Jaskologist says:

            Why is it that whenever somebody tries to discuss actually parenting their kids, somebody else always comes along to smear that as failing to love them?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Do you, like, pre-screen your kids’ cartoons and books for ideology?

            Co-screen, but yes? As an extreme, how happy would you be if your kids got hooked on some cartoon made in the image of /pol/ and started spouting nazi rhetoric about how Hitler did nothing wrong and we need a race war?

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            That’s evidence that you weren’t exposed to the right cultural artifacts as a kid. My standardized government-approved childhood enrichment product included a tale all about the folly of such an approach.

          • Randy M says:

            I’d like to believe that I’d love my children no matter how ideologically misguided they become.

            That is great, so long is it isn’t rationalization for “I don’t love my children enough to guide them ideologically.”

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Jaskologist

            I read that book too. Some time around the fifth grade. I was so angry at the children for how they treated Piggy that I fell asleep crying.

            I’m very glad that I read it when I did, and not at the tenth(!) grade level that a Google search says it’s recommended for. For one thing, it was much more relevant to my life, and for another, it was written in just such a way that it was easy, even at that age, for me to think about it.

            Finally, I’ll note that I feel much more strongly about this regarding books than nonparticipatory forms of media; it’s very easy for children to self-censor books, and very hard with a television.

          • woah77 says:

            @RandyM It most certainly isn’t. I do my best to impart values and guide them ideologically. But I don’t curate their entertainment in an attempt to form their ideology.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            How do you impart your values? Isn’t storytelling one of the age-old ways of imparting values?

          • Randy M says:

            But I don’t curate their entertainment in an attempt to form their ideology.

            But I don’t know why you would assume someone doing so is going to stop loving their kids, or even introduce it as a possibility here. Seems needlessly antagonistic.

          • woah77 says:

            @RandyM

            I’m not insinuating that someone curating their children’s entertainment would stop loving their kids. I was talking explicitly about myself. I’ve certainly seen families where the children decided to not buy into their parents’ ideology and it caused fractures in the family, but I wasn’t suggesting a cause-effect relationship at all.

            @Conrad Honcho

            I do tell stories, give advice, explain things as best as I know, etc. It’s just my opinion that everyone should be able to find their own way in the world.

          • Nick says:

            I do tell stories, give advice, explain things as best as I know, etc. It’s just my opinion that everyone should be able to find their own way in the world.

            If I can probe, what’s going on here exactly? Is it that (1) you feel that sort of journey is necessary for everyone, or is it that (2) you think different “ways” are best for different people, or is it that (3) you’re working about the risk of backfiring, or what? At first it sounded like (3), but what you say afterward sounds more like (1) or (2) or something else?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But we’re talking about young children. Like under 10. You’d be fine with them watching, say, Nazi propaganda, because it’s important for them to find their own way in the world, and if that’s being a goose-stepping Nazi, c’est la vie?

            To each their own, but I would put the kibosh on the Nazi propaganda for my 8 year old.

          • Randy M says:

            You’d be fine with them watching, say, Nazi propaganda

            That face when you know how all the rest of the thread is going to turn out…

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Oh come on, what did I say this time? It’s an extreme example, but to show that not ideologically screening your kids’ media is the extreme behavior. Everybody else screens their kids’ stuff. This is why we have explicit lyrics warnings and movie ratings and video game ratings and content warnings.

            ETA: Oh, and why people care at all about “representation” and “strong female characters” and all that stuff. Because people pick up messages, consciously or subconsciously, from media.

          • dick says:

            Co-screen, but yes? As an extreme, how happy would you be if your kids got hooked on some cartoon made in the image of /pol/ and started spouting nazi rhetoric about how Hitler did nothing wrong and we need a race war?

            As an extreme, what if you were so busy co-screening your kids’ cartoons that you forgot to lock the front door and CANNIBALS walked in and ATE YOUR FACE???? This kind of exaggeration doesn’t seem useful to me.

            To answer the unexaggerated version, I do screen my kids’ media, for age-appropriateness and commercialism (mostly this just translates to avoiding Disney). There’s nothing else in mainstream culture I find objectionable enough to worry about. I suspect your first response will be something like, “Well that’s easy to say when your side controls the media,” and there’s some truth to that – if for example it were super important to me to shield my kids from religious messages, I could still let them watch anything on the PBS Kids app – but it’s also true that I’m an atheist and my kids get exposed to plenty of religious stuff and I don’t care.

          • woah77 says:

            @Nick

            Mostly just (1). I think that developing your own identity and world view is important to being an independent individual. Not to make light of Conrad’s nazi spiel but if either of my teenagers were to be thoroughly invested in watching Nazi propaganda, I’d challenge them intellectually instead of attempting to prevent it. That said, I’m in a different position from Conrad, in that of my three children, two are teens and one is under 1. So I don’t really attempt to control what the teens watch (although it seems to be mostly YT personalities like Pewdiepie [or similar, I don’t know who’s hip atm] or spongebob), and my 10 month old isn’t exactly absorbing much other than how to make noise.

            I suppose if I saw them approaching extremism, I’d probably do something, but they’re as (or more) politically apathetic to the state of America as I am. I am certain there are things I’d rather them not watch, but I’m kinda at the intersection of observing 0 interest from them and having too little visibility to actually affect that outcome. AFAIK they aren’t using netflix to watch Human Centipede or other disturbing films behind my back, but even if they were, I expect it would result in a conversation instead of acting out.

          • albatross11 says:

            christopher hodge:

            Personally, I think the best choice is to allow multi-million dollar media companies full of famously ethics-free people make the choice of what ideas to feed to my small children. Ideally with the input of the equally ethical companies involved in advertising to children. Because I can completely believe that those guys have my kids’ best interests at heart. It’s hard to imagine how that could go wrong, really.

          • dick says:

            Oh come on, what did I say this time? It’s an extreme example, but…

            All positions are stupid when taken to extremes. That’s why responding to an exaggerated version of someone’s argument has a special name and is widely frowned upon.

            Edit: Also, out of curiosity, how do y’all know that the ponies/badgers/cars/etc in these cartoons are gay? Are they making out? How are your kids supposed to know these are gay couples and not just friends? Are Burt and Ernie part of this?

          • Nornagest says:

            Oh, and why people care at all about “representation” and “strong female characters” and all that stuff. Because people pick up messages, consciously or subconsciously, from media.

            There is a subtle but important distinction between the representation argument and the modeling argument I outlined here. The representation argument aims at helping people feel better: like they’re part of society, not like outsiders, like their troubles are understood. The modeling argument aims at helping people become better: showing how, in their situation, they can help themselves and their society. That usually comes with a side of feeling better, but it’s not the terminal goal.

          • albatross11 says:

            Bert and Ernie aren’t, but I’m pretty sure about that one teletubby….

          • christopher hodge says:

            @albatross11

            You raise some good points about Big Media but I personally agree with the guy further up the thread that lifting a finger to guide what media my children consume leads to… cannibalism or something, so now my eight year old son gets all his news and opinions from The Daily Stormer. Anyway I’ve got to run, there’s an angry mob trying to bash my front door in whilst I’m at work.

        • Civilis says:

          “Swerving to the Left” would just be standard-issue American cartoon writers moving past having accidentally written something conservative.

          It takes effort to make something that can’t be interpreted to support both conservative and progressive values. It’s nearly impossible if you’re trying to avoid cartoonish stereotypes. In order to write something that is only acceptable to one side’s values, you generally need to reduce complicated problems to one dimensional caricatures, and most people recognize that and turn away, even if they generally agree with the point being made.

          Although a conservative, I don’t have a problem with metaphors about divorce, despite my values being more critical of readily available divorce than the average American. I’ve also grown to expect subtle digs like background same-sex couples; that itself also doesn’t herald a major change to a product. From what I’ve heard, MLP fit solidly into the niche where both sides could find something to like in the series, and neither of those two developments change that.

          What worries me is the idea of re-writing a major character. It’s almost always a shift from artistic integrity to focus-group trend following, which always ends up damaging a work. The reason good series are good is that they stick with a consistent set of writing, art, and characters paired with universal themes. Meddling with that, whether for political propaganda or any other reason, is a sign that a series is going to go downhill rapidly.

          • Randy M says:

            I think this is a pretty reasonable take.

            Personally, I would like to screen divorce from my kids. They don’t need to incorporate that into their idea of marriage right now, nor should they have any worries about their own parents reliability in this regard. Sadly, that would mean they didn’t get to see any grandparents.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            My kids get enough subtle messaging about divorce from classmates with unstable homes. They don’t really need the TV telling them that divorce exists. The messaging at school is also sufficiently downbeat about divorce, as the kids dealing with it hate it. It’s led to some discussions and sympathy for the kids involved, which I think it where it should be.

            I think that actively teaching along the lines of “single-parent homes are fine!” is a net negative. We want to discourage that as much as possible, because it leads to some really bad life outcomes. It sucks for people who get stuck in those situations, especially beyond their control, but we should not try to make it seem like a good thing or even just neutral. It’s not.

          • acymetric says:

            Although I disagree with most of the complaints about MLP so far, rewriting the country character as urban seems pretty stupid to me. Although I see it more as a sign of demographic change than political alignment (more of the kids watching the show will identify with the urban pony than a rural one). Just add another damn pony though, it’s not like the number of ponies in the show is some kind of law of nature than can never be broken lest the souls of the dead pour through the gates of hell and engulf the Earth or something.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Wow, country!Applejack is getting a lot of support here. That’s actually kind of cool.

            For context, below is Meghan McCarthy’s e-mail in question.

            https://desu-usergeneratedcontent.xyz/mlp/image/1513/46/1513460505619.png

            https://pastebin.com/HtekX6Yp

          • Walter says:

            I gotta feel for the author of that email, just in terms of ‘bosses change timelines, womp womp’. That must bite. The fact that it seems like the rest of the team (merchandising folks griping about earth color pallet?) are getting creative input must also be interesting.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @jaimeastorga2000: wow, that email is… disgusting. “Let’s kill Applejack.” “She’s very polarizing” … The takeaway is that she should only be allowed to exist if she’s 100% never “associated with anything farmy/Western/hick-ish.”
            Rich leftists treating the people who feed them with that much contempt is more viscerally offensive than most of their ideological statements.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            @Le Maistre Chat: Yeah, no kidding. You can really feel the hate coming from that e-mail. There’s a reason why it inspired this comic.

        • Vorkon says:

          Then during Season 5, they had a villain who was a small-time Marxist dictator. Princess Twllight won her over to royalism with the Power of Friendship and she became a seventh mane character whose motivation was to make up for having been, in her words, “pure evil.”

          This was the main thing I wanted to ask about when the subject of My Little Pony “swerving to the left” came up. Just how hard did they try to disavvow the anti-marxism/anti-equality-of-outcome themes in that episode?

          I actually stopped following the show around the time they started talking about Twilight becoming a “princess” and announced that Equestria Girls show (My general feelings at the time were that the shark was that way <===, and that all the stuff in the previous season about some crystal city or whatever was pretty tedious, too) but I did watch that one set of episodes when everybody started talking about it, and thought it was pretty good. My expectation was that they'd try to do a hard about-face, however, since I don't think they actually INTENDED to write such a scathing condemnation of the innevitable results of pushing for equality of outcome, just that they weren't specifically thinking about politics and inadvertantly stumbled over a contradiction in the Narrative and were too wrapped up in writing a fun adventure story about celebrating your differences to notice.

          It sounds like they MIGHT have done so, but at the same time most of the examples we've heard so far about this "swerve leftward" have been pretty tame. Do you think they've specifically been trying to apologize for that one episode?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            No, I dont think they’ve ever disavowed the anti-Marxist message from the Season 5 bookends/Season 6. They kept hammering on the theme of Starlight Glimmer’s contrition (at one point she sheepishly admits she was motivated to learn the skill of mass-producing books to make copies “of a certain Manifesto”), and then her role just shrank because they introduced so many new characters.

          • Vorkon says:

            at one point she sheepishly admits she was motivated to learn the skill of mass-producing books to make copies “of a certain Manifesto”

            Ha!

            Maybe those themes were more intentional than I gave them credit for.

        • baconbits9 says:

          the mane six represent six right ways to be a girl

          Intentional pun?

        • tayfie says:

          Additional commentary on this: Mitch Larson wrote that episode and has talked about being a fan of Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron, so it is fairly safe to say the episode was explicitly modeled to have a similar premise and message (the focus on “equality” and how it must be enforced by violence and fear). At least some of the animators picked up on this and gave many of the visuals Stalin-esqe vibes.

          As for feeling vaguely rightish in outlook, they’ve long been ruled by immortal royals they clearly view as something similar to demigods. Their fundamental values and how they come together to create the terminal goal of harmony/order. There is much talk about destiny and finding one’s place in the world. The Crystal Empire is powered by a plot device that converts national pride to magic, and in the episode they sing a song about saving ponies with their history.

    • Aging Loser says:

      I redd my son the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Aeneid, the Lord of the Rings, and the Silmarillion. I’d have to start the next night a little before where I’d ended the previous night, because he’d fall asleep after a while. The project ended with Paradise Lost — the syntax is just too screwed up. More recently I’ve redd him the Phaedo, the Republic, the Apocalypse of John, the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, and Paul’s letter to the Romans (everything from Republic on while he was playing Team Fortress 2 on his laptop). I’ve run out of steam on this, though. I’m coming to terms with the fact that he doesn’t really care about Art and Ideas. He’s very interested in Chemistry, though (he’s in his first year of High School), and I’m glad about that — I just want him to be interested in something. And has joined the Dungeons & Dragons Club. Apparently he’s stuck in some kind of magical mirror and might have to suicide his character in order to rejoin his team, which hasn’t yet made it out of the first 9-room dungeon.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I redd my son the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Aeneid, the Lord of the Rings, and the Silmarillion. I’d have to start the next night a little before where I’d ended the previous night, because he’d fall asleep after a while.

        Good plan; I fell asleep reading the Silmarillion to myself. 😀

        • I’ve been rereading The Lord of the Rings for first time in several decades, impressed again with how good it is.

          The first time I read it I had to wait for The Two Towers to be published.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Are you noticing different things this time?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            LotR and The Hobbit are both great. I own the Alan Lee-illustrated hardcovers.

          • It’s been so long that it’s hard to remember what I didn’t notice. Also, I probably read it ten times or so in the first twenty years.

            One thing that struck me this time that I don’t remember noticing before is how subtly the Aragorn/Arwen plot line is introduced. You see them together in Rivendell, but no more than that. It’s only in Lorien that you get a clear signal if you are paying attention, and I’m not sure I would have noticed it the first time when I wasn’t looking for it.

          • acymetric says:

            I did the same thing. My first n readings were a little more recent, I think, and I defintely remember picking up new bits and piece each time through, but I’d be hard pressed to tell you which ones I picked up in pass 1 vs. pass 8 this far down the road. That is something that I love about re-reading good books (actually, I can get the same thing out of some long-running TV shows if I wait long enough to rewatch).

            There is nothing quite like the first time through a book, movie, or TV show though.

            Similarly, I love seeing live music of all types, and make a point not to check out a band I’m going to see in advance if I don’t know them well. With good musicians, that first time being full of unanticipated moments is really something special that can’t be replicated.

        • Deiseach says:

          Re: noticing different things on rereading – little things that you don’t realise until you come across sources elsewhere; for example, what was Arwen doing while Aragorn was out fighting? If we go by the book, only sitting at home weaving – such stereotypical “woman’s work” that the movies had to have her riding around on horseback and otherwise being active in order to justify her presence and show her as a “strong independent woman”.

          But unless you find out about weaving magic in Norse mythology, you won’t understand that this was the traditional division, that while the man was out on the battlefield with sword and shield, the woman at home engaging in magical weaving was also helping/hindering in war:

          A famous type of weaving that was used for protection was the Raven Banner: these banners were recorded to have been carried by Danes attacking Belgium and northern France in the 9th and 10th centuries, as well as to Vikings under Sigifrid in the British Isles in 878, and in the Icelandic manuscripts of the 12th and 13th century the Raven Banner is found connected with Sigurðr Hlöðvisson Dyri (the Stout), Earl of Orkney, or with King Harald of Norway. In all these accounts, the magical banner has the power to terrify foemen; the ground of the banner which at rest was seen to be a shimmering white turned black in battle, or else the figure of a huge black raven in flight appeared on the white fabric, which was seen to magically flap its wings. The magical banner is always woven by the mother or sister of the warrior in question, with the magic woven into the fabric as it was made to protect the son or brother. Victory was always assured to the man whom the banner was carried before, but the banner bearer was often doomed to fall in battle (Orkneyinga saga, ch. 6, 11, 14, 17; Njáls saga, ch. 157; Lukman, 135-150).

          This makes the black banner woven by Arwen and only unfolded by Aragorn at a particular time and place very different to the “oh Tolkien was such an old-fashioned sexist, all he could think of to do with his few female characters was have them sit at home doing womanly work!” attitude floating around a few places.

          • The raven banner didn’t work out very well for Earl Sigurd.

            Getting back to Tolkien, however, Galadriel, Arwen’s grandmother, also weaves, and she and/or her maidens wove the cloaks that helped to conceal Sam and Frodo on their journey.

            In my Salamander Ellen, the female protagonist, wears an amulet that protects her against insects. Its real function is to distract attention from the cord it is on, woven by her mother to absorb any spell cast on Ellen.

    • Atlas says:

      Do nature documentaries (like the ones narrated by David Attenborough for the BBC) count as a suitable, non-political entertainment substitute? (I personally find them entertaining, but then again I am also the kind of dork who finds listening to a Noam Chomsky lecture entertaining.) When I was a wee lad, there was nothing I loved more than learning about dinosaurs, and I watched and rewatched “Walking with Dinosaurs” many, many times.

    • Machine Interface says:

      There are hundreds, if not thousands of old Disney, MGM and Warner Bros short cartoons from the 30s-50s period, right now on youtube.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      There’s two useful approaches here.

      1. New shows are almost always to the left of old shows. Therefore, you will have more luck watching older shows. Remember that culture is not about aesthetics; old shows are often just as good as new shows, but with less brainwashing designed to make your children hate you.

      2. Anime is less pozzed than American cartoons. Japan is not immune to the leftward drift, but it tends to drift more slowly. Therefore, if you take an anime and an American cartoon from the same time period, the anime almost always has less prog propaganda than the cartoon.

      Combining these two principles, I’d recommend Heidi, Girl of the Alps (1974) and Marco, 3000 Leagues in Search for Mother (1976) as two great choices, both part of the wonderful World Masterpiece Theater series of adaptations of children’s classics into anime. Alternatively, if you want something a little more religious, you can opt for Superbook (1981-1982) and The Flying House (1982-1983). Or maybe branch out from anime to puppet shows? Japan has some good ones as well, such as Growing Children: Daisuke the Tiger (1984-1986) and Puppet Theater (1990-1991). And don’t forget live-action shows aimed at children! I remember Choujuu Sentai Liveman (1988-1989) making a deep impression on me; along with Saint Seiya (1986-1989) it was my introduction to masculine virtues like strength, courage, honor, loyalty, and sacrifice.

      (If you’re wondering why all my links are in Spanish, it’s because all these shows were broadcast in Latin America, which is how I became familiar with then, and I’m indulging in a bit of a nostalgia trip).